Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: November 2016 FairyLoot

Two posts in one week? What is wrong with Jaz you must be thinking. Well I'm on annual leave because IT'S THE FESTIVE SEASON and I also really wanted to share my thoughts on my first ever FairyLoot box!

FairyLoot is a YA book subscription box that centres on sci-fi/fantasy books and they're based in the UK. As with OwlCrate, I made the plunge to try out FairyLoot for November because birthday muahaha. What really drew me to them was their concentration on SFF and what seemed like every box included a book plate (I'm a sucker for signed merch).

Ok let's get right into it.

Month: November 2016
Theme: Royals & Rogues
Price: ~$70 AUD (£26 single purchase + £15 shipping to Australia = £41)
Delivery: Shipped November 19 arrived November 29 (10 days to get to Australia)

My Rating:

The Royals & Rogues themed box included:
  • Hardback copy of Nemesis by Anna Banks
  • Signed Nemesis bookplate
  • Nemesis bookmark
  • Nemesis print
  • Letter from Anna Banks
  • Royals & Rogues themed tea + tea filters by The Tea Leaf Co
  • The Wrath and the Dawn mirror by Bookworm Boutique
  • Queen of Terrasen notepad by Drop and Give Me Nerdy
  • Wolf by Wolf quote print by Read at Midnight
  • Queen of Books mug by Read at Midnight
  • Red Queen art print + quote (double sided) by Book Otter and Lovely Owls Books
  • Spectorium soap crystals by Crafty Ragamuffin
  • A Court of Mist and Fury tote by Lovely Owls Books
  • FairyScoop
Not gonna lie I nearly shit bricks in excitement when I opened my box. Never have I been so pleased with a book subscription box.

Opening the book bag...
I hadn't heard of Nemesis before but I've read Anna Banks' earlier stuff, and based on what I read of the blurb, this is another mermaid type book which I'm quite keen for. BOOKPLATE. I am so freaking trash for bookplates. Signed guys. SIGNED. This was enough to draw me in to the box haha. It's extremely hard to get signed stuff in Australia so I always jump at the chance. There's also the matching bookmark for Nemesis, a sketch of some... thing... creature... from the book and a letter from Anna herself (I've yet to read this). This all came in the black book bag FairyLoot have started to put their books in to keep them from being damaged. Another lovely idea because my books always get damaged in my bag and I'd been using the Aesop cloth bags up until now. LOVE LOVE LOVE. So that's all the 'official' Nemesis stuff! The FairyScoop which is a newsletter also included an interview with Anna which was really fun to read.

I was a bit wtf at the Spectorium crystal soap (by Crafty Ragamuffin) until I read the interview with Anna Banks in the FairyScoop and the Royals & Rogues card to determine what it was. At first I thought it was candy and I was like wow that's a really huge chunk of candy haha. I'm not entirely sure how to use this (rub it all over myself?!) or if I'll even use it at all as I'm not a soap user but we shall see! It smells really good though. Like candy actually. Yeh if I wasn't told it's soap, I definitely would've taken a lick leeeeeel.

The art/quote prints are really pretty and I especially love the Mare illustration from Red Queen (Book Otter is so talented I was like wooooow). There's a cool Red Queen quote on the back by Lovely Owls Books. The Wolf by Wolf quote print was designed by Aentee omgggg I was flailing when I found out GO YOU AENTEE.

Speaking of Aentee (aka Read at Midnight). THAT MUG. Queen of Books. I'm totally taking it to work with me IT IS SO GORGEOUS. YOU GO FAIRYLOOT. I adore mugs. As a tea lover I am always using mugs and on the lookout for pretty ones. The design is quite floral which is so me and UGH is there a more perfect mug for a book lover? I think not. Apparently mugs have never been done in a box before and it's seriously such a good idea! What's next, drink bottles/thermos?

Tea (by The Tea Leaf Co)! With tea filters/bags to put the loose leaf tea in. I love it when people consider these things. Sadly for me I hate Earl Grey leeel so I'll probably take it to work and share it around. I still think it's really cool though that FairyLoot got tea Royals and Rogues themed :D

As a massive Throne of Glass fan the Queen of Terrasen (by Drop and Give Me Nerdy) notepad really appealed to me but it's so pretty I don't wanna use it *stares at it for life*

Then there's the mirror WITH A WRATH AND THE DAWN QUOTE (by Bookworm Boutique). Y'all know how much I adore that duology? Shazi and Khalid for life. "My queen is without limitations. Boundless in all she does." *SOBS* All the feels.

And then. AND THEN. Sweet baby Jesus I was squealing and nearly screaming when I saw the tote. THE TOTE. THE. TOTE. Designed by Lovely Owls Books it is hands down the BEST tote I now own because RHYSANDDDDDDDDDD. *Heavy breathing* RHYSRHYSRHYSRHYS. ACOMAF ACOMAF <3 Rhysand is book boyfriend #1, A Court of Mist and Fury is my #1 fav book of all time so this was utter perfection. The quote is absolutely perfect and makes me want to cry whenever I think of the scene it happened "That I will bow before no one and nothing but my crown." Shit this breaks my heart. Can't even right now. You guys don't know the feels this brings out in me.

Item price breakdown time:
  • Nemesis hardback $24 AUD on the Book Depository
  • Crafty Ragamuffin soaps ~$9 AUD on their Etsy store
  • The Tea Leaf Co Earl Grey tea £6.99 = ~$12 AUD on their site
  • Bookworm Boutique mirror ~$5 AUD ? Guesstimate
  • Lovely Owls Books ACOMAF tote ~$27 AUD (RedBubble pricing)
  • Read at Midnight mug ~$20 AUD (society6 pricing)
  • Prints ???
Total ~$97+ AUD so definitely got my money's worth. This did not include the prints.

Welps this review turned out to be more flailing and screeching than actual reviewing... Royals & Rogues has been so well curated, each of the items fitting the theme (I'm mega mega happy that both the ToG and ACOTAR series made it in the box along with TWatD). The mug is so useful and the tote absolutely blows me away.

How much did I love this box? Enough to take out a 3 month subscription (they're not paying me to say this either). I highly recommend giving FairyLoot a try, because despite how expensive it is, I find that the bookplate and the extra items they pack in make it really worth it. Maybe I was lucky with my first experience and all the extras they included were for books I adore? It definitely added to my love for the box.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: November 2016 OwlCrate

OwlCrate is a YA book subscription box (I believe THE first YA book subscription box) that I've wanted to buy since its inception back in 2015. The boxes have always been filled with wonderful bookish goodies and a hardback YA release, but THE SHIPPING oh lordy.

I finally made the plunge in October for the November book because 1) November was my birthday and I thought it high time I treat myself and 2) with the theme being Wonderland (I think every second book subscription box was this) I knew it was Heartless and OWLCRATE DID AN EXCLUSIVE COVER

I'll now go through the items in the box and compare it to how much it cost, the shipping and delivery time.

Month: November 2016
Theme: Wonderland
Price: $45.49 USD = $62.51 AUD (based on AMEX exchange rates for that day + my bank's international transaction fee)
[$25.50 USD ($29.99 USD with a Flipping Through Pages 15% off discount code) + shipping ($19.99 USD) for 1 month subscription]
Delivery: Shipped November 19 arrived November 26 (1 week to get to Australia)

My Rating:

The Wonderland themed box included:
  • Hardback copy of Marissa Meyer's Heartless with an exclusive OwlCrate cover (white as opposed to the standard black)
  • Letter from Marissa Meyer
  • Heartless quote card
  • Alice in Wonderland pin/badge
  • Alice in Wonderland bookmark by Authored Adornments
  • Alice in Wonderland magnet by EvieBookish
  • Mad Hatter's Wonderland Elixir tea by Riddle's Tea Shoppe
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Rock Paper Books exclusive cover
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Rock Paper Books matching bookmark
I absolutely love the hardback of Heartless by Marissa Meyer. Having read the book I knew I wanted a copy; I'd seen the naked book and it is STUNNING underneath. When I heard that OwlCrate would get an exclusive cover I knew I had to have it. I'm immensely pleased with the white cover, it adds a real twist.

I was also really pleased that OwlCrate essentially gave 2 books for November, as a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was also in the box. The cover is designed by Rock Paper Books and I believe exclusive to OwlCrate, there's also a matching bookmark which is really cute.

There's a tin of tea (called Mad Hatter's Wonderland Elixir) by Riddle's Tea Shoppe also made exclusively for OwlCrate. The tin itself is sooooo pretty, is one of those dedicated tea tins to keep the scent, and re-usable. What I really loved is that the tea isn't loose leaf, they've put them into little tea bags which makes my life so much easier. The tea seems like a blend similar to Earl Grey which I admit I'm not a fan of. However, it seems fruiter so I am keen to try!

Also included is a bookmark by Authored Adornments and the little glass has an Alice in Wonderland quote inside. There's an Alice magnet by EvieBookish too as well as a Heartless quote card and letter from Marissa Meyer.

As nearly all these items are exclusive to the box, I believe they're priceless (especially that cover!) but let's try valuing the items (I know it's weird but I'm the type of person who likes to know they're getting value for their money):

  • Heartless hardback $26 AUD on the Book Depository
  • Riddle's Tea Shoppe tea $24 USD ~$33 AUD according to the sites they sell on
  • Authored Adornments bookmark ~$20 AUD based on the price of their other goods on Etsy
  • EvieBookish/Seo magnet ~$3 AUD
  • Rock Paper Books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland $9.99 USD ~$14 AUD
Total ~$96 AUD in value. I definitely got my money's worth. Note: some of the prices such as the tea and bookmark are guesses so the total value is an approximation, give or take.

I would definitely recommend if the theme for that month REALLY appeals to you and you want to try the box out like I did. I took out a 1 month subscription (there is no single box purchase) and cancelled after the next billing cycle (the first of the next month). While I say you get your money's worth, it doesn't take away from the steep price especially if you live overseas and in a country where the currency is below parity to USD e.g. Australia.

I give it a 3.5 - 4 stars based on how much I wanted the Heartless cover, the speed of delivery and total value of the items but I'm not going to lie, this is a only-splurge-once-in-a-very-long-while-if-i-really-like-the-theme thing.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

On Branching Out From YA

It's one week until Christmas which means 2 weeks until the new year (did you know New Year is exactly 1 week after Christmas?) and on top of thinking of what I'll pack for my overseas trip, I've been reflecting on the books I read in 2016.

I will always love YA. ALWAYS. No matter how old I get, YA is a demographic with a variety of genres that I can always go back to. That being said, I've branched out this year. The books that really stuck with me and left an impact were all 'adult' fantasy and science fiction.

Looking back I started off with The Final Empire back in 2014 which was the first time I really tried adult fantasy. And I loved it so much I went out and bought the rest of Mistborn and all of Sanderson's books. Even with his writing prowess, there's only so many books Sanderson can write in a year though and I've read all the ones I wanted to thus far (mind you I still need to tackle Words of Radiance in preparation for Oathbringer in 2017).

2015 was spent navigating my way through Sanderson's books and it wasn't until this year that I discovered some really amazing reads (props to Crini for a lot of the recs actually). One of the many reasons why I don't read 'adult' fiction books is because I can't connect to the characters. Their experiences aren't something I can relate to - divorces, the drama and a lot of family centric issues just don't interest me. I'm really glad I found the adult fantasy and sci-fi genre which transcends these themes.

Let's talk about these books (and here begins my book pushing - ha did you think I'd go a post without trying to book push?) and my thoughts on them. Emily May on Goodreads put in a few words exactly what these books makes one feel - they make us feel small. It's sort of scary at how these authors can elicit such a feeling in the space of 300 pages. Reading these I was struck by the epicness of the universe.

The Martian by Andy Weir - I was very late to the game on this, only reading it when the movie came out (I still haven't seen the movie and don't think I plan to lol). Weir is a genius and I could easily tell he's a scientist. As we follow the main character on his journey being stuck on Mars there's feelings of happiness when it seems he's going to make it and then the disintegrating hope when it all goes wrong. Because as soon as something goes wrong he's screwed. He has nearly no resources, Mars air is unbreathable and there's a nearly 2 year wait until someone can come save him. I couldn't put this down it was so fascinating. It's a very quick read as they're journal entries. The science goes over one's head sometimes but yes, good stuff.

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson - of course there's Brandon Sanderson in one of my fantasy/sci-fi post. This whopper is over 1000 pages and daunting af. It took me ages to bring myself to commit to reading and it took me 3 weeks but so worth it. This is the epitome of epic/high fantasy. The Stormlight Archive joins Sanderson's Cosmere which connects his books into one sort of universe/greater world system. There's multiple perspectives from a scholar, slave soldier, brother of a king, all linked by the magic system which is essentially infusing gems with the power of storms (hence Stormlight). I would always recommend people start with Mistborn for their first Sanderson but damn Stormlight is sooooo epic.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel - I could not believe this was Neuvel's debut because this totally blew my mind. I finished this one in like 2 days and it was utter, brilliant, mind fuck. A girl uncovers a gigantic metal hand as a kid and the book talks about just what this discovery could mean. Its makeup is impossible as the compounds go beyond human discovery and history. It's another one with a lot of science but I was fascinated with what this hand could possibly be. Neuvel takes the story in a totally unsuspecting direction and I cannot wait for Waking Gods in 2017!

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth trilogy #1) by NK Jemisin - this stuck with me for the unique style it's written in. We follow 3 females - a young girl, a young woman, and a woman in her early 40s. The plot centres on the world ending and a power called orogeny that some people possess where they can manipulate kinetic energy around them to cause seismic movement. There's heaps of intrigue and it's a wonderful set up for the next book which I'll be reading in January.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - this left me totally mind blown (I know I've said this about all the books in this post but seriously) like wow how do people come up with these ideas? Our protagonist Jason Dessen is professor with a wife and son he loves. One day he gets kidnapped, asked "are you happy with your life?" and wakes up as Jason Dessen but the life he knows is gone. He has never married, never had a son and he's an award winning physicist. Dark Matter is not just a sci-fi book, it's a story that makes one question their choices in life. Would you change your decisions knowing where you'd eventually end up? Does that one small regret from a past choice make you wish for something else? I still can't get over how impactful this book was.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bookmas Gift Guide 2016

It's Decemberrrrrr which means it's the season for giving and *throws confetti* I love buying presents for people but what do you get a booklover who seems to have ALLLLL the books? Well I've put together a little gift guide with some suggestions to help you on your gift buying journey!

Bookmarks $3.50 - $8 AUD

Every booklover's necessity is a bookmark! Say no to using receipts/scraps of paper to mark those beautiful pages. Nevermind if they already seem to have heaps, one can never have too many bookmarks! I mean personally, I only use Book Depository ones to mark my pages and buy HEAPPPS of pretty ones which I just keep for aesthetics BUT NEVER MIND THAT. There's heaps of booklovers out there who sell fandom bookmarks and they're stunning.

Skinny Hues is probably my favourite bookmark store. She creates gorgeous watercolour bookmarks on thick textured paper and they're just so lovely I love touching them and staring at them heeeh (psst she also does custom orders)

Ink and Wonder Designs are an Aussie based store that sell woodmarks which are really thin wooden bookmarks with beautiful designs. I love that they're thin enough not to dent the pages but are strong and durable at the same time. Shipping is free within Australia (and $3 worldwide!)

Obvious State have this beautiful Blooms collection which are quotes from Romanticism poetry with pretty floral backgrounds

Book Boy(girl)friend Lip Balms and Soaps $4 - $9 AUD

What better way to be close to your fav book boyfriend/girlfriend than to have them on your lips or wash yourself in their scent?

The talented Gina at Behind the Pages has created lip balms (and scrubs) and soaps inspired by characters from books. She takes the scents described and puts them in a tangible form.

My personal favourites are Rhysand (citrus and jasmine, so fresh!), Chaol (vanilla, hay and cashmere totally luxurious) and Ron (chocolate, vanilla and Howler which is very Christmas-y).

Mugs ~$15 - 18 AUD

Sit down with a good book and a cuppa. I feel like mugs are another thing a booklover can never have enough of.

There are so many artists on society6 who do gorgeous fandom mugs, one of my favs is Evie Seo.

[Image credit: Society6]

Funko Pops $18.95 AUD

At $20 a pop they're a decently priced Christmas present that you can buy at a your local bookstore (Kinokuniya and Dymocks sell them in Australia in stores and online, as well as Popcultcha). The range is massive and hell if you're at a loss, get them a Harry Potter or Disney Princess Funko Pop. I MEAN EVERYBODY LOVES HARRY.

Candles $20+ AUD

Candles are a fickle thing as everybody likes different scents and I very nearly didn't put this in but I know so many people (myself included) who loves candles. If you know the person you're buying for well enough, then you could probably get them a scent you think they'll like.

Glasshouse Fragrances are an Australian brand that, while aren't bookish, do really wonderful scents that I think cater for everybody. As someone who likes fresh and floral smells my favourites are Amalfi Coast, Manhattan and Positano.

I've seen lots of awesome bookish candle makers out there such as Form and Flux (Aussie) and Novelly Yours (US based, been meaning to try but omg that shipping).

These are just some of my suggestions and I tried to include international stores while still having an Aussie focus. It's actually really hard getting bookish merch here because shipping omg. Other suggestions include tea (T2), apparel (hoodies and t-shirts from society6), tote bags (society6), stationery (journals and planners from Kikki K)~

Tell me what are some of the things you love giving and receiving at Christmas?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Firstly, thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: November 19 - 27 2016
Date Released: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

"Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself."


Wow what a beautiful book! I’ve never read anything like The Star-Touched Queen before and now I want more. As YA fantasy goes, this sits up there on the scale with The Wrath and the Dawn and Cruel Beauty. It had the quality of an epic story where worlds are hanging precariously in the balance which I’m fascinated with.

The story opens with our protagonist Maya (Mayavati) a princess of the kingdom of Bharata who is shunned by all for her cursed horoscope. The stars dictate that her life and marriage are plagued by death and despite being a princess, the court shies away from her. She gets treated horribly by the harem wives, is basically bullied, mentally and physically abused. I mean I’d be bitter too if I was Maya. I think through everything she’s tried to grin and bear it. My favourite protagonists are those who are all about the doing. And that’s what Maya does. Words mean nothing to her, it’s all in the actions. Make a mistake? Go out and fix it. And if you want something done, go and do it yourself. I admired her loyalty and compassion. Maya’s just the kind of heroine one needs and wants to read from in these types of books.

There’s the mysterious Amar, supposedly a king, who comes and sweeps Maya off her feet and at first I was like OMG IS THIS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. And then I was like I WANT AN AMAR FOR MYSELF. Where do I get one? He is so sweet and holy gosh the stuff he says might seem far-fetched from a common dude’s mouth but from him it’s beautiful with a touch of edginess (like this sharpness that he possesses). He has secrets though. To trust or not to trust? That is the question. But like he shows her skies split into night and day, he gives Maya a room full of stars where she can hold the galaxy in her hands. LIKE WOOOOW?

Hnnnnnng the romance. MY FEELS. I SHIP THIS. I ship it so hard all I want is my ship to sail on into the beautiful sunset. Alas if only it was that easy. There’s storms to weather and whirlpools that get in the way (figurative speaking… somewhat). The romance is sweet, but edged with something harsher because Maya and Amar aren’t soft. No, they’re both edged in blades, Maya because of her upbringing, Amar because… reasons?! The romance tugged at my heart strings and made me swoon. Will they ever get together? Who knows (I do, but you won't unless you read the book).

The plot was very interesting and I know nothing about Indian folklore so I’m not sure if this is a re-telling and if what happened is expected. I don’t care. I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of intrigue, secrets hidden behind every door and lots of questions about who to trust. There’s this whole world-ending aspect which made it feel so epic and wonderful.

What I loved about TSTQ was that it mentioned concepts and they weren’t just myths, Chokshi made them possible in the story. Reincarnation, horoscopes, magic, demons - they had a part to play in the story. This really enhanced the world-building which omg was sooooo fantastical. The world was a phenomena in itself. From split skies to palace halls with doors leading to other worlds, to rooms that contain whole galaxies and pools that lead to another life, I was stunned at how much could happen in one book.

All this was accentuated by Chokshi’s stunningly gorgeous prose. No I am not exaggerating. I’ve never read a style like that. Admittedly, a little OTT sometimes but eloquent and luxurious nonetheless. All the senses explode with her descriptions and it’s like seeing, tasting, hearing and feeling the world in a different way. There’s almost a synasthaesia-esque aspect to the way things are portrayed. Different and takes a while to adjust but once I did, I sort of wanted to drench myself in the words.

You know when you read a book and you’re left with this feeling of wonder at how big the world is (even if it’s not real) and you feel small but complete because such epic could happen in a book? It leaves a mark. The book becomes memorable and every time I think of TSTQ I’m just like ‘wow, this is why I love fantasy’.