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Thursday, 25 December 2014

'Tis the Season Book Tag

Another booktuber video book tag that I have stolen for my own personal blogging use!

1. Do you have a favorite winter read?
I don't actually, unless it's a book that I've enjoyed since childhood (we have an awesome book copy of The Night Before Christmas, and Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas). I have a seasonal read under the tree though, so I'm looking forward to reading that.

2. Find a book with blue on the cover!
Ok. so we're lucky I'm home for this...I raided my books and found the bluest.

I swear my copy of Citadel is blue not green or even turquoise.

3. Find a book you’d use as the star on a Christmas tree!

It's just so golden and shiny!

4. Pick one fictional place that would be perfect for a winter vacation!
I've never wanted to go somewhere cold for a holiday? Apart from Russia, I guess, and I wouldn't go there for Christmas. However, I would definitely like to spend Christmas at Hogwarts!

5. Pick one fictional character you’d take with you on your winter vacation! 
I suppose Harry, Hermione and Ron would already be at Hogwarts so I don't need to pick them! It would have to be someone I'd enjoy either snuggling up to in front of a fire, or having a snowball fight with. Maybe Hunter from the Wicca series by Cate Tiernan, or Jem, Jace or Will from The Shadowhunter Chronicles.
Alex P was always Hunter, and then Jace, in my head!

6. Name one book on your wish list this year!
The Bane Chronicles! And it's under my tree!

7. Favorite holiday drink, treat, & movie?
I love myself some mulled wine or cider. I love my moms Christmas dinner, and also the Heroes chocolate box, and Christmas film wise Love Actually is incredible :)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Christmas Song Book Tag

This tag is originally a booktuber one from youtube, but I have stolen the questions for my blog :) I listened to the songs on the list (the ones I had!) whilst answering them, whilst sitting next to the Christmas tree, so it all felt very festive!

“You’re a mean one Mr Grinch.”
Name a villainous character you couldn’t help but love.

This is the ‘Loki’ character, isn’t it? I can’t think of any book characters! I’m sure there are some! TV wise, I was always a Damon rather than Stefan fan (the Vampire Diaries) but I didn’t like the books…I always liked Rosalie in Twilight but she wasn’t a villain…lets pick *SPOILER* Cal from the Wicca series (Cate Tiernan) and both Richard and Luc from the same authors ‘Balefire’ series.

“All I want for Christmas is you”
Which book do you most want to see under your tree?

This year I’ve bought myself three books that I sent straight home, and I actually wrapped them and put them under the tree. They are: The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare (well, other authors but her ‘Shadowhunter universe’), I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins. Which book would I most like someone else to give me? I need to read Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, and I have about 375 books on my amazon TBR wishlist, so any of them!

“Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer”
Name a character who overcomes major obstacles and learns to believe in themselves.

Fire, in the book Fire by Kristin Cashore! She is so full of guilt and self-disgust at the start of that book, and she is in fact an amazing character.

“Santa Claus is coming to town”
Which character would be top of the naughty/ nice list.

Top of the naughty list would be The Darkling from the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo…I don’t really want to say anymore in case you skipped my spoiler warning :P
Top of the good list would be…(I am struggling to pick a ‘good’ person here because I generally love characters who are a bit of both, and I can’t pick Fire again). Lets go for Peter from Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series (begins with Rivers of London). He’s not an angel, but he’s a good guy and an awesome character.

“Frosty the snowman”
Which book just melts your heart?

The first book that comes to mind is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack, but I don’t think it is the right kind of ‘melt your heart’. The Book Thief gives me all of the emotions, but I’m fairly certain this is meant to be a ‘squishy feelings’ type of book…I’m going to go back an ag range from my norm (think very young YA) and pick the Agent Angel (it used to be called Angels Unlimited) series by Annie Dalton. These books are very cute!

“Feliz Navidad”
Name a book that takes place in a country other than your own.

I’m guessing it has to be this world? Many of my books are set in alternate worlds! I had to trawl through my amazon orders for the last year to check this. Purely because of their being loads of YA authors there, the USA seems to be a place with many books I have read but none stick to mind! I’m going to go with Scotland, and pick Outlander (called Cross Stitch in the UK) by Diana Gabaldon (and The Falconer book by Elizabeth May). I know Scotland is in the UK, but it IS a different country to England J

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”
Which holiday book do you use to spread the Chrismas joy.

Well, I haven’t read many Christmas themed books. My True Love Gave to Me is under the tree, but I haven’t read it. Lets go for Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs! I know the Snowman is more famous, but I have always loved this book J

“Sleigh Ride”
Which fictional character would you choose to spend the holidays with?

Ooooooh the romance questions. Erm, can I choose Jamie from Outlander? If not…there aren’t many guys I’ve fallen for this year. I’ve gone for the awesome ladies instead. Lets throw in Mr Darcy, and Ian from The Host.

“Baby it’s cold outside”
Which book would you sacrifice and burn to keep yourself warm?

Breaking Dawn. I hate that book with enough fiery passion it already keeps me warm. Burning it would be an added bonus.

“Do you hear what I hear?”
What book do you think that everyone should read?

I think that lots of people haven’t read The Host because they are anti-Twilight, but it’s a really great book that I recommend. I also reaaaaaally enjoyed Witchlight by Susan Fletcher, and Stolen by Lucy Christopher. These books deserve more fans!


I hope everyone has had a fantastic Christmas Eve, and that tomorrow is amazing :D Enjoy your Christmas!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Review: Rivers of London and the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch

Although I am (again) in a car I thought I’d write a book review for the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch.

This series is about a young policeman called Peter, who works in Central London. Without any prior exposure to the supernatural world he stumbles into a case involving a ghost in Covent Garden. The series of books follows his continued progression into the supernatural division of Scotland Yard, and his relationships with various people who are a part of this community.

The plot of the books is fast paced, exciting and interesting, but what I love most about it is the combination of humour and serious plot progressions. There are so many references to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings that after each book I could die a happy nerd. What is clear from this series is that the main character (and the author!) is an unabashed fan of all things deemed ‘nerdy’. I loved the Harry Potter references (by Peters cop friend) that Peter should be embarrassed because Dumbledore could drink him under the table, and this type of humour carried on throughout the story. However, serious issues were also addressed. Peter himself is a back Londoner, with parents from Sierra Leone, and there are referrals to the prejudices he faces as a black british man. Because of this I not only found the stories laugh out loud funny, but also engrossing. Throw in the supernatural elements (river Goddesses and Gods, ghosts and the fae) and I was in heaven. There’s also  bit of romance thrown in for those (myself included) who enjoy it, but the love story, whilst benefitting the plot, definitely does not lead the way. Peter is a fun character who you really care about, without having to learn an entire back story about. As a reader I effortlessly fell into the story, taking on his perspective of the story and routing for him. 

In case you hadn't already noticed, the covers of the books are also rather fantastic. They are all maps (of London, except for the final book), and in fact in one of the books I can even see the place I live. The maps are all covered in small labels, with information about the local area. They're really interesting and tell you a lot about the area, which I love.

If you're interested in learning more about the series, check out http://www.the-folly.com/
The first book is called Rivers of London in the UK, and Midnight Riot in the USA.

It's a Christmas Miracle!

The internet has finally been returned. Although, typically, it came back 10 minutes before we left to go to Wolverhampton to see family members for a Christmas meal. So I am writing this in the car, and will upload it when I get to my aunts house J

I actually haven’t read any books since the holidays have started, but I have been very busy! School finished on Friday, which of course meant to teacher celebrations in the evening. Then on Saturday I had a late breakfast, watched the finale of The Fall (has anyone else seen it?!) and then went to the Winter Festival on the Southbank with my housemates. On Sunday I packed to go home, caught the train and within one hour of being back mom and I were at a Christmas Carol Concert at the closest church (there are at least 5 ancient churches within a 10 minute walk from our house). I’m not religious, but my mom raised us Catholic, and Christmas services (carols!) are the only ones I enjoy going to. I do feel it’s important to at least appreciate why we celebrate Christmas.

Yesterday was a lovely day spent having lunch and shopping in Peterborough with my mom. I was absolutely exhausted – a side effect of working flat out for the last 4 months! In the evening we walked to a beautiful pub and had lots of mulled wine and cider.

Today is also going to be great – a big pub lunch with my moms side of the family. Last year my brother, cousin and I undertook an eating challenge which I won. Bring it on for this year.!

- I never did upload this! We were too busy eating, drinking and being merry (we played Cards Against Humanity) for me to get my laptop out. And then, on the journey home, we managed to get a flat tyre. Because of that I wrote two *basic* reviews that I will be uploading this evening :)

Monday, 22 December 2014

So much for more posts...

There is no wifi at home. What?! Ok, true, this means I can focus more on Christmas things with the family, but I wanted to post more review and tags whilst I was home. My only option, until the internet is fixed, is to write many and then upload them all once I have access. It may mean I spend some of Christmas Eve in a cafe with wifi, drinking festive drinks!

If you want to see what I'm doing in the meantime, my Instagram is Clairbear1989. Expect many cat photos.

Monday, 15 December 2014

A Quick Mention

Term is nearly over, which means that soon I will be posting longer, more interesting blogs here. I just wanted to mention how much I love the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. I've just finished the newest in the series, which came out a few weeks ago. I LOVE THESE BOOKS. Check him out.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

2015 Challenge

I'm not setting myself an amount challenge for 2015, but this looks pretty awesome:

I'm not sure which rules I'm going to set myself for this one (I don't know if I'll let myself tick more than one box for a single book). All I know is that they are not going to be re-reads.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

+ What I have read!

Following from the post I just added about why I have been absent, here is a post actually about books.

Somehow, amongst all of this, I have actually managed to read.

The Grisha Trilogy

As you can see, these are extremely attractive books. Written by Leigh Bardugo, the story is set in a fantasy land where people are either 'normal' or 'Grisha'. The Grisha possess a variation of (often elemental) magical powers, such as control of the wind or appearance, and most are employed by the King as part of an army. This army is led by a mysterious character known as the Darkling. The story follows Alina Starkov, a teenager who is part of the Kingdoms regular army (although, as in most fantasy worlds, the idea of being a teenager doesn't seem to really exist and people seem to be either children or adults). It follows her sudden immersion in the Grisha world, and the dangers that this new world brings.

This book was purchased from amazon.co.uk after I saw it recommended by booktubers who enjoyed it, and I must admit it stuck in my head because the name of the first book (Shadow and Bone) reminded me of 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' by Laini Taylor (which I loved!).
Looking at the covers, and the main characters name, I imagined the setting to be very similar to Russia or North Eastern Europe. In my mind the buildings and fashions took on those seen historically in Russia, and this definitely helped me to picture the setting more clearly. Overall, I enjoyed this series more than I predicted I would, especially whilst waiting for book three to be delivered. I spent a couple of nights trying to predict what was going to happen. In fact, I made a prediction about a particular part of the story only halfway through the second book, which was revealed to be true at the end of book three. I felt very proud of myself.

I would award this series 4 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed it more than expected and was keen to know the end result. I am not giving it 5 out of 5 as I did not feel fully immersed, and didn't get the sense of addiction I often get from favourite series. I would however recommend it to others as it at was exciting to read.

Exquisite Captive

This book, I think was spoken about on another booktube channel. Set on our earth, with flashbacks to 'alternate world', this book is one of the only ones I've encountered that takes on the theme of genies, or 'jinni'. The 'exquisite captive' is a girl who was once part of her worlds Royal family, but following a rebellion was sold to earth as a slave jinni. She is forced to work for her 'master', who has bought her from the 'Dark Caravan' and makes her work by granting his clients wishes. She meets a rebel jinni who needs her help in order to save their home world.

I will be honest, I will not be continuing this series (I assume there are more to come) as I did not really enjoy my read. There were some good ideas, and a lot of potential, however I felt the plot focused too heavily on a love triangle that really did not need to exist, and that the writing was not strong enough to hold my attention. That being said, I wouldn't avoid the author entirely as I do believe she has a brilliant idea in her retelling of the genie theme. Because of all of this, I'm going to give the book 2.5 out of 5 stars. It isn't good enough to be ok, but it wasn't bad enough to deserve a 2.

Gone Girl

Wow, so I finally got hold of Gone Girl. This book was intense. It was also completely different to books I have read for the last few years. It is a definite thriller/ crime ish genre book, and I am definitely a fantasy/ science fiction lover, even though I love TV shows like NCIS. 

I think we all know the vague plot? I can't give too much away, obviously. Man, who may or may not be happily married, discovers his wife has gone missing, and she may or may not be presumed dead. He is a suspect. Did he kill her? Dun dun dun!

As mentioned, an intense read. I couldn't read it fast enough. And I say this literally because...I actually gave up reading the entire thing. I'm such a failure! The first half I read so precisely, just so I could try to spot any clues and to make sure I missed nothing. In the second half, I needed to know what was going to happen. So I skim read. I skipped some pages, and it didn't really hurt the story. I read huge chunks, then skipped random parts in between so I could have it finished. It was a very good plot, very intense, with so many twists and turns...but it just wasn't my style of book. I like books where you can feel passionately about the characters, even if they confuse you and make you feel conflicted. I like to feel a part of the story. In Gone Girl I felt like I was just trying to get to the conclusion. 

Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Half of these stars is purely because of the texts and phone calls I got from my mom after I gave it to her. She felt very strongly about many things, and read it in 3 days. She even had to cancel plans with her boyfriend, because like me she just had to know by the end of that evening. I almost wish I hadn't read the book, and had just seen the film (which I still haven't managed) because it is the type of story I love to watch but can't read.

Finnikin of the Rock

I am very angry as I type this because I haven't actually finished it. I lost it on the tube! I was about 3/4 of the way through! So I am not going to leave a review (yet...I am going to have to buy another copy or find an epub). I just want to express my annoyance. I was enjoying it so far though!

I forgot to mention - comment if you have any recommendations or thoughts based on the books I've read. I'd love to hear about what you thought of them, or if you disagreed completely. Also let me know if there is anything in particular you think would help my blog or my reading :)

Clair x

Where I've Been

I'm sitting here trying to think of how to make the last few weeks sound exciting. The truth is, they've been pretty busy (both work and at the weekends) but there has been no reason for me not to write something here, apart from complete exhaustion.

On a Sunday evening, after a weekend off, I am still exhausted.

My last post was on Halloween, and I done quite a bit since then.

One weekend, my friends Eleri and Rhiannon came to visit. They didn't actually come to London with the purpose of seeing me; instead they came for the live Welcome to Nightvale session. I used to listen to episodes of the pod series when I did my make up before heading to placement in the summer, but then once I had caught up I forgot to carry on. Even though they didn't come to visit me, I met them before hand at Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush, where we had dinner and then I shopped (aaah) afterwards. Then they headed to mine afterwards and we stayed up most of the night talking ~retro sleepover vibes~ which I think annoyed my housemate (sorry Claire! I blame very thin walls!). Then the next morning we went for breakfast. Of course, by the time they went it was 3pm and most of my weekend had been spent very pleasantly, but very little to show.

The next weekend I was meant to have a friend visit on the Saturday, but she missed her train and I was ill (/hungover). Then on Sunday I spent the day showing my mom the Poppies at the Tower of London (just in time - most were still there but they were completely gone 24 hours later). Then we did a mini Christmas shop and had dinner in her old haunt (back from her 21 year old nannying days), Covent Garden's Punch and Judy. She left for home at 6pm, and that was another weekend that had been enjoyable (minus the illness) but not really a recovery from the week!

I've also spent many weekends attempting to sort out my room, which is a task that never seems to end. I don't have the right type of storage for some of my belongings (imagine a large plastic box holding all the contents of my desk, and a broken wardrobe with no rail) and to add to that there has been a sudden increase in damp. I have to keep cleaning mould off shoes and a coat, and now there is mildew on my rose fairy lights, and a horrible creeping damp patch near my bed :(

They have been good weekends (apart from the mould) with most Friday evenings spent having drinks in the pub with some of the girls I work with (Lets ignore the night I had too much to drink, on no food since midday, and spent the next day very ill). It's just after a full week of teaching children and planning lessons until 9pm at night at the earliest I wish there was an extra day off every week; especially as at least half a 'day off' is spent planning more lessons.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween in London

Less books, more of a celebration of the weather today in London! It's the last day of October, more than half way through an abnormally mild Autumn (if you count Autumn as September, October and November - I do!) The average Halloween temperature in the UK is somewhere around 13 or 14 degrees celsius, and today it hit 24c!

Anyways, have some random photos of my day in London...
A house in Kensington dressed up for Halloween.

Green Park looking Autumnal.

Buckingham Palace.

Myself at Trafalgar Square.

Big Ben and the London Eye from Westminster Cathedral.
Trafalgar Square!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The sad task of choosing which books to take and which to leave...

Only until Christmas though, so I suppose it isn't too sad.

Today I am heading back to London so have to decide which books I take back with me. I have room for a fair few, but unfortunately I am not Thor, and do not have super strength. My big suitcase is already packed with heavy items that are necessities, so I am left with a bit of room in the small suitcase my brother will carry for me.

My options are basically ANY of my unread books (this really makes more sense, as I can't change them from unread to read if they're sat on a shelf 90 minutes away) or ANY of the books on my main shelf. I have so many to choose from, it hurts my head. HOW TO CHOOSE?!

Here is the pile of unread books...

A chance to look at them all a little closer...

Wool by Hugh Howey
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
The Wise Mans Fear by Patrick Rothruss
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas
The Resurectionist by James Bradley
Delilah by Eleanor de Jong
Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

Here are my non-fictions...can you see the theme?
Sisters to the King by Maria Perry
A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
An Utterly Impartial History of Britain (or 2000 years of utter idiots in charge) by John O'Farrell
She-Wolves by Helen Castor
The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

And some more fiction I haven't read:
My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgewick
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Aaaagh too many choices, I'm sure you'll agree!

I had already decided on these two books, so completely forgot to take photos

Awful photo of the Winter Palace, but I chose this because it fit the theme - I wont be home until Christmas so any Winter or Christmas books are coming with me!
I started reading How to be a Woman during the summer (I met Caitlin Moran in June!) but it got misplaced during moving. Time to continue!

So, plus the Winter Palace I settled on these books. The Snow Child seemed perfectly seasonal, apparently Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is becoming a TV series, and The Night Circus has been eyeing me up for a while ;)

Now, I haven't finished packing yet but if there is room I will be packing these books that I have already read:

I packed The Host because I adore this book, and feel I could reread it very quickly.

The Bone Season because I want to reread it before The Mime Order is released.

Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho because they are London based and awesome!

Also, check out this on the front of the Moon Over Soho...
A recommendation from the author of Outlander, linking it to Harry Potter! How could this be more perfect?!

Right, it's back to lesson planning, packing and watching Phantom of the Opera for me :) Have a great Thursday!

Clair x