YA

Wildest Dreams Book Box: Female Voices

This week my first ever Wildest Dreams box arrived. Wildest Dreams is a UK based book subscription box that aims to be a more affordable option. Starting at £18 a month, the box contains a book, tea, a bath/body product and maybe a few extra little bits too.

Each month there is a theme and this month’s theme was Female Voices. I’d been meaning to give Wildest Dreams a go and this theme caught my attention. Without further ado, here’s what was in this month’s box.

I really liked how everything was packaged. Everything came in a smaller box compared to the other subscription boxes I’ve tried, but that didn’t stop it being all neatly presented. The contents was wrapped in tissue paper and the book itself was wrapped in brown paper – giving it that extra little bit of protection and making it more fun to open.

The first thing I saw was the tea. The tea is called Reset Yourself, it’s chamomile and lemongrass and is made by Rosie Lea Tea. It also came with disposable teabags which is always helpful as so often when you receive loose leaf tea in a subscription box, you don’t have anything to actually make it in if you don’t possess your own tea strainer. This tea was chosen by author Holly Bourne which is pretty cool.

The bath/body product included in this months box was Bone Season inspired soap. It’s a handmade dusky sole and almond soap, it’s blue, yellow and red, and it smells like sweets! I’ve honestly been sniffing it a lot as I’ve been writing this post like a right weirdo. The soap was made by the Glasgow Soap Company.

The book included was I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter. First of all I love the cover, it’s such a beautiful colour and image of a broken moth (or it could be a butterfly) is striking, and second of all, it’s a book I’d never heard of before.

Reading the blurb, it sounds like a hard-hitting but important contemporary YA book. It’s about Ellie, who just wanted to blend in, but that’s until popular Caleb tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it. Ellie’s not sure if she actually likes Caleb because the way he treats her, showing her with love one minute then ignoring her the next, his possessive tendencies and harsh tone. Then one-night Ellie learns what kind of monster her boyfriend really is. She’s not the first girl Caleb rapes, but she as the first she murdered. Now Ellie’s trapped, unable to move on, and stuck watching Caleb do the same thing other girls. Ellie’s powerless and alone, and she just hopes that someone can help her.

I’m especially interested to see how the story presents Ellie being dead but still present, seeing Caleb’s actions. I think I Stop Somewhere has the potential to be a really sad story but I would like it to also offer a sense of hope to Ellie and the reader.

In this box there were also a couple of Holly Bourne-related stickers, some chocolate chip and vanilla biscuits (which I’ve already eaten, and they were very tasty), a bookmark, a letter from the author and signed bookplate.

I really liked the Wildest Dreams Book Box. It’s a simple but well put together subscription box. As someone who enjoys all the goodies you get in subscription boxes but very rarely uses them all, I think this box is great as the soap is something I will definitely use and, if I don’t like the tea, my friends at work love tea so it can find a good home with them. I don’t think I’ll be getting the Wildest Dreams Book Box every month, as while it definitely one of the cheaper subscription boxes, I don’t really have the money to pay for a subscription box every month – plus, I want to make a dent in my large TBR pile before I regularly get subscription boxes again.

Wildest Dreams’ June theme is Love YA and it’s always a good idea to follow their Twitter as they often give out discount codes to make the box even cheaper! They’re awesome like that.

Advertisements

REVIEW: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Best friends Charlie, Taylor and Jamie are heading to SupaCon! Charlie is a blogger and actress promoting her first film at SupaCon and it’s her chance to show the fans she’s completely over her breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When she meets super famous online personality Alyssa, Charlie begins to think her long-time crush isn’t as one sided as she thought. Taylor’s more reserved than Charlie. Her brain is wired differently making social situations often terrifying and a fear of change makes her constantly re-evaluate what she wants from her best guy friend Jamie. But when she enters a fan contest to meet her favourite author, Taylor begins to rethink her lifelong goal of always playing it safe.

Queens of Geek is a super quick read, I flew through it. It’s all set during one weekend at a fan convention called SupaCon so there are a lot of geeky references to comics, cosplay and fandom in general. It’s kind of a love letter to fandom, and how people can find safety and comfort in fandom and the TV shows/films/books that people can bond over. It’s a nice looking into the world of comic cons and how they can be very overwhelming but also be a place to meet likeminded people and make new friends.

The story is told in alternate perspectives, Taylor and Charlie’s. Taylor has anxiety and Asperger’s and it’s insightful hearing her explain how she feels in certain situations and about life in general. She’s almost constantly struggling but still loves her friends and her fandom. Taylor is bisexual and has had a past relationship with a boy and during her time at SupaCon gets to know Alyssa. Their romance is really sweet and they both talk about how their past relationships have affected them and what they’re looking for going forward.

The amount of communication between Taylor, Jamie, Charlie, and Alyssa (and all combinations of thereof) was extraordinary. Any misunderstandings are more likely to last a couple of paragraphs than a couple of chapters. It’s both great to see a solid group of friends or a potential love interest be so open about their thoughts, feelings and fears with one another, but also a bit disconcerting as it’s something that is (unfortunately) so unusual in fiction, and often in real life as well. So often one character gave an encouraging speech to another character that it felt unrealistic.

Queens of Geek is definitely a character driven book. There’s not really any plot twists or big moments, instead it highlights various important diverse topics like sexuality, mental health, body image and unhealthy relationships. All these topics are handled well but the story sometimes felt like it had been put on the backburner in order for a character to say their piece about a certain topic.

Queens of Geek is a cute, quick read with some great characters who really support one another. Jamie, Charlie and Taylor have a solid friendship and each of their personalities shines through. However, it’s not a memorable read for me as it felt like it was trying so often to tick as many important, diversity boxes as possible that it didn’t end up grounded in reality. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

Grace is the preacher’s daughter and the new girl in school. Rosina is bold and outspoken and dreams of music rather than working at her family’s restaurant. Erin is often misunderstood but her love of science and order doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel. The three of them are brought together by the idea of changing things, of justice for Lucy Moynihan – a girl who was run out of town for accusing the popular guys at school of gang rape. Together, Grace, Rosina and Erin form the Nowhere Girls, an outlet for their rage and a place of strength and decide to avenge the rape of a girl none of them knew.

The Nowhere Girls is a phenomenal book. It’s like Asking For It meets Moxie but it’s its own thing and what a powerful, heartfelt thing it is.

The Nowhere Girls is told in alternating perspectives, so you get to be inside Grace, Rosina and Erin’s heads, as well as see glimpses of what other girls at their high school think and feel. Having these moments from other characters points of view, some of which are unnamed characters, shows the wide scope of feminism as one black girl muses the movement must’ve been started by white girls because if a black girl did it they’d be seen as disruptive, while a trans girl wonders whether or not she’d be included in the group or would be seen as a spy.

All three main protagonists are well-rounded characters with their own problems at home, whether that’s an over-bearing parent or a family member with dementia, but they form a unique bond over their passion to change things. They are also a diverse group of characters. Rosina is Mexican-American and a lesbian, she’s comfortable with her identity but she’s not sure if she’ll ever tell her mum about her sexuality, Grace is fat and has a lot of faith in God but not necessarily in people and Erin has Asperger’s and is reserved but smart and is trying to live her own life.

What Grace, Rosina and Erin do together is start a movement in their school for the girls. It crosses the boundaries of normal high school cliques, as girls come together to talk openly about sex and boys and how both make them feel – the good and the bad. It’s a very open and honest take of girls’ sexuality and it’s refreshing to see girls talk to one another about it and share their experiences. Through this movement, the girls at the high school become empowered and have a sense of unity that crosses social circles like they never had before – it’s wonderful to see.

The ending of The Nowhere Girls made me cry because it was so hopeful, emotional and inspiring. Grace, Erin and Rosina start something amazing but it’s every other girl in the school, and some boys too, who stand up and stop letting the boys who say sexist or racist or homophobic things getting away with it.

The Nowhere Girls is so great I read it in three days. I couldn’t put it down as I longed to give these girls a hug and to tell them how amazing they are, seeing the strength of the solidarity between young girls was just brilliant. It is one of those books that everyone, especially young people, should read. The Nowhere Girls does deal with a tough topic, but it’s handled well and sensitively, and shows there is hope that justice can prevail. 5/5.

REVIEW: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

At seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to marry a man she did not choose, a man who is the son of the Emperor. But her journey is cut short when her convoy is attacked by the Black Clan – a group of bandits and thieves who were hired to kill Mariko before she could reach the palace. But Mariko survives and vows revenge on those who want her dead. Disguised as a peasant boy, she infiltrates the Black Clan, becoming one of them, impressing them with her wit and ingenuity. But as she gets closer to her enemies, Mariko begins to discover a web of lies and a history of secrets that will change everything she thought she knew.

Flame in the Mist is set in Feudal Japan but there’s also some magical elements in it too. I really in the liked how the historical was entwined with the magic and myths, both seemed very groundedses characters reality. When this book first came out I heard it was a Mulan retelling or inspired by Mulan, and it’s really not. The only similarity to Mulan is that the main protagonist is a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to further her aims. Mariko’s goals are very different to Mulan’s. Mariko is very smart in terms of academia and alchemy, but is incredibly naïve when it comes to life outside her gilded cage. She doesn’t know how to hunt or cook or fight and often gets into verbal sparring matches with those around her to try and hide her failings.

Mariko likes to think she’s good at reading people, and has learnt to be underestimated, being a daughter of a prominent Samurai, but when she meets Ōkami she has a much harder time getting a read on him. The dynamic between Mariko and Ōkami is an interesting one and they bounce of each other really well, managing to intrigue and unsettle one another at the same time. Ōkami is just the sort of character I end up really liking. He’s slow to trust but loyal, has a deadly set of skills and is smart. He and Mariko make an unconventional partnership.

Flame in the Mist was a bit slow to pull me in. While it kicked off straight away with the attack on Mariko’s convey, I found it took a while to connect with her and her story. As the story progressed, more characters began to reveal themselves, their political aspirations and loyalty, slowly showing that Mariko was caught up in plots much bigger than herself. The second half of the book sped along though. There was a lot of action, fights and secrets revealed and it became a proper page-turner.

Flame in the Mist is the first book in a duology so natural there’s a lot of threads left hanging, though there was some good character stuff throughout the book. While I won’t be rushing out to get it as soon as it’s released later this year, I will be picking up Smoke in the Sun at some point as I did end up enjoying Mariko as a character and am interested to see how all the plot threads are wrapped up, especially the political ones. 3/5.

REVIEW: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah has everything figured out. She’s on her way to study computing and coding at Stanford and has no interest in her mother’s attempts to find her the “Ideal Indian Husband.” When the opportunity to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers arises, her family must know what her principles and goals are really… right? Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when he hears from his parents that his potential future wife will be heading to the same summer program as he is – he’s totally on board. But when the two of them end up meeting, it doesn’t go the way either of them thought possible.

One of the things I was worried about going into this book, was that Dimple and Rishi wouldn’t be on equal footing because he knew something she didn’t and there was the risk for it to become a bit creepy and manipulative. I’m so happy that wasn’t the case. The first time they meet, right at the very beginning of the book, Dimple learns what’s been going on, so they are on the same page from pretty much the outset. This allowed their potential relationship to develop on their own terms, spending time with one another as friends (or more than friends) and actually getting to know each other in an organic way.

Dimple is a great character. She’s headstrong, focused and smart, though she can appear to be a bit selfish but that’s mostly down to her belief that she can’t have it all – that it’s impossible to have both a successful career and a fulfilling and loving relationship. Rishi on the other hand, is so soppy and romantic, wanting to please his parents and being a huge follower of tradition, that it’s almost a surprise when he shows some backbone. I think that’s the interesting thing about Rishi, he grew on me as the book progressed. He’s not just someone looking for love, he’s caring, smart and protective. Dimple and Rishi look like opposites on paper, but their personalities end up complimenting each other.

Dimple’s friendship with her roommate Celia is wonderful. They are a friendship of today, meeting on the internet and arranging to room together before they’ve even met face to face! There’s a quote that I absolutely loved that came from a conversation between Dimple and Celia; “But I still want to be your friend. I think we should still stick together and be each other’s moral support. But maybe it’s okay if we’re not friends with each other’s friends.” I thought it was brilliant because it’s true. You can be friends with someone but not really be friends with their friends, and it’s quite a mature way of looking at relationships and recognising their differences.

When Dimple Met Rishi is a sweet, delightful story. It’s a bit predictable in the romance but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It’s a rom-com in book form and it embraces all the usual clichés that come with that. That being said, the characters and their relationships are wonderful and you fully root for them by the end of it. When Dimple Met Rishi is a fun quick-read, but it probably won’t be that much of a memorable one for me. 3/5.

November’s Illumicrate Box

This months Illumicrate box arrived this weekend and I when I opened it I was so pumped! But first things first, let me do the usual spiel at the start of a subscription box unboxing. Illumicrate is a quarterly UK based YA subscription box that unlike some subscription boxes doesn’t have a theme each time so you can get a real eclectic mix of goodies in the box each time. It costs £29.99 per box, with free shipping to the UK, it ships internationally but it does have a shipping cost that varies depending where in the world it’s travelling to. There’s always at least one book (though the last few boxes have included an ARC) and 4-6 goodies.

Now onto the box! I loved everything in this box – the goodies and the books(s) are all great and just the sort of thing I will actually use/appreciate.

First the goodies – and all but two of these things were Illumicrate exclusives. The first thing I saw was a bookish tea towel designed by Evannave Illustration which is lovely, and I will be taking it with me when I move to a new place in a couple of weeks. Then there was a print with a quote from J.K. Rowling from Nutmeg and Arlo and a moon and stars necklace from Oh Panda Eyes, which I’ve given to a friend because I knew she’d love it. There was a candle from Meraki Candles called Reading in Bed and it smells of hot chocolate and is a pale yellow with pink glitter on it and it smells divine. There was a 2018 Unicorn Journal from Prism Of Starlings which I will definitely be using. It’s a week per page (just how I like my diaries) and what’s really cool is it not only has the usual holidays already printed on the right day, but it also has various authors birthdays printed in it which is a nice touch for a book lover. There were also two samplers on for This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada and one for Iron Gold by Pierce Brown.

Now onto the books. The first book I saw was an advanced reader copy of The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty. I’d seen this book a bit over Twitter recently and I like how it’s set in eighteenth century Cairo and has magic and spirits. I’m looking forward to reading it even if it’s a big chunk of a book! Now the other book got me seriously excited! It’s Artemis by Andy Weir! I adored The Martian so much and I’ve been looking forward to Artemis a lot but because I don’t pre-order books I hadn’t realised it was now out. This copy is an exclusive Illumicrate edition with black sprayed edges and it also came with a bookmark and a travel brochure which I thought was a very nice touch. I honestly can’t wait to read Artemis and it’ll probably be my next read.

I really love everything in this quarters Illumicrate box and I definitely think it’s worth the price tag. I may have to cancel my subscription as I’m moving to a flat and while I know there’s post boxes for each flat, I’m not sure what happens to parcels – but I have three months to figure that out.

October’s FairyLoot Box – Villainous

This months FairyLoot box arrived on Monday – after some confusion with a lack of tracking number (my email with a tracking number actually arrived after my parcel did) this month’s box still arrived in good condition and I couldn’t wait to open it. I love a baddie so was looking forward to seeing what sort of goodies and book(s) (yes books plural!) were inside.

The first thing I saw was an exclusive candle from Meraki Candles, it was named Maleficient after the witch from Sleeping Beauty and smells and looks great. It’s lime green in colour and has purple glitter in it too (I may have spilt some of this glitter when I first opened it, I’m not used to glitter candles) and smells of jade orchid and lotus blossom – it’s a really subtle, fresh smell. Then there was an enamel pin in the shape of the Dark Mark of a Death Eater from House of Wonderland that is surprisingly cute for something so evil. There’s a pocket mirror made by Little Inkling Designs with a quote from The Young Elites by Marie Lu – a series I’ve been meaning to try forever! – and a coaster inspired by Moriarty made by Evie Seo. There was another goodie from Evie Seo, a print featuring a quote from The Aeneid by Roman poet Virgil, and a second art print inspired by Night of Cake and Puppets by Lani Taylor.

Now onto the books!

The first book I saw was The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo. This an exclusive edition of the book, it has red where there’s normally gold, and it looks gorgeous. From what I can gather this is a collection of short stories, or fairy-tales, set in the Grishaverse. I’ve read Six of Crows but as of yet haven’t finished that duology nor read the original trilogy. Still, this is a gorgeous book with some wonderful illustrations on just about every page and I’m looking forward to delving into this world again. Especially as you don’t need to know anything of the main story to understand these tales. The book also came with a set of postcards featuring art from the book.

The second book was Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao – a book whose cover I’d seen on social media a lot but hadn’t really looked into it much before. It sounds intriguing though, with it being a retelling of the Evil Queen from Snow White’s story but set in Eastern Asia. I’m always interested in retellings, seeing how they’re familiar to what we know but if and how they forge their own narrative. The books came with a letter from the author and a signed bookplate as well.

I was really impressed with this months FairyLoot. I don’t get a box every month, instead seeing what a theme is and purchase a box if it’s a theme I’m interested in. I liked that the goodies were varied, my favourites are the pin and the candle, and that there were two books this month! I’m looking forward to reading them both (hopefully) very soon.