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:

Synopsis:
"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."

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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’.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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




Date Read: October 29 - 31 2016
Date Released: October 4 2016
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours."

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Jennifer Niven has such a knack for writing engaging contemporaries. All the Bright Places is one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read - it’s so impactful and really stuck with me. Niven’s HUtU also struck a chord in me.

I really loved Libby’s character. Previously known as “American’s fattest teen” she returns to high school in a much better mental and physical state than she was previously in. I really admired Libby’s strength - she tries not to let people get to her and puts on a good front. Like any human being, some of the hurtful comments get through and affect her but she retaliates with brave acts to promote body image. I loved how opinionated she was and she wasn’t afraid to voice those opinions. She’s smart, resilient and overall just a character I really enjoyed reading.

I’m not sure how I feel about Jack. I thought it was interesting how his prosopagnosia was portrayed. I didn’t always feel like he didn’t recognise the person, but as someone who has no idea how the condition works I can’t vouch for the accuracy of its portrayal. His character lacked a bit of dimension in my opinion. While he was always trying to please people or giving off a eat-shit-I-don’t-care attitude - which is understandable given his need to cover up his inability to recognise people - he came off as not really having an opinion or unwilling to defend his beliefs. To me that’s a weakness of character which meant I didn’t warm to Jack as much as I would have liked to.

The plot was kind of a typical contemporary where our two characters navigate their way through high school with challenges from each other and those around them. There’s cute dancing, family troubles, high school bullying (why do people need to be so horrible to others just so they can make themselves feel better? Ugh) and of course romance.

The romance was cute but I do not believe love is a cure for diseases. Love is a wonderful thing, it can make people happy, it can chemically release hormones to make one feel things. But I don’t think it’s a cure. And that’s where Holding Up the Universe fell flat for me. High school love was used as a cure and it made what could have been a lovely book about appreciating one’s self, into a story I scoffed at.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. Niven is a skilled writer; her style is engaging and I flew through the past-faced story. I liked the diversity and Libby’s strength in standing up to horrible people who have nothing better to do than pick on others to make themselves feel better.

I think books like this drive home how society degrades women and we can never just BE. We’re either too fat or too skinny or too tall or too short or too something (I think Niven mentions this through Libby in the book, I can’t remember). Believe it or not, I was bullied in high school for being too skinny. I was constantly being asked if I was bulimic or anorexic or just blatantly called “ano”. I’d have my mum write notes to excuse me from swimming carnivals because of the horrible stares and comments I’d get whenever I wore a swimming costume. Anyway, this isn’t about me looking for pity/sympathy. It’s my way of telling you that you’re perfect the way you are and screw society. I’ve learnt to accept myself.

Despite the books use of romance to make everything seem better (which it doesn’t), Holding Up the Universe is an important read reminding ourselves that no matter what society says, you are wanted and loved. You be you.