Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Favourite Fictional Female Friendships

Following on from our recent post featuring diverse readswe thought we'd delve into another favourite of ours - favourite fictional female friendships (that's a lot of Fs.) We've chosen some that, in canon, are platonic and between women who have healthy friendships, especially not based upon their relationship with a man. Let's just say these all pass the Bechdel Test and are the epitome of squad goals. We hate seeing female characters who only exist to belittle each other and see each other as nothing more than competition. Here's to many more women finding comfort in each other, both in fiction and reality.

Goodreads | Book Depository

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
'Verity' and Maddie

This book is a historical fiction novel set during World War II and it follows two best friends as they crash land in a Nazi-occupied France. Maddie was the pilot who must now do what it takes to survive and 'Verity' is taken prisoner, knowing that her fate is sealed and all she can do is tell her story. Their friendship was a bright light in this heartbreaking novel as Verity tells us the story of how they met all the way to the last time they see each other. Until the end, they are two girls with a strong bond whose only aim is to save each other. 

Goodreads | Book Depository | Review

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
Manon Blackbeak & Asterin Blackbeak

We first meet Manon and Asterin in the third book of the Throne of Glass series, Heir of Fire, and they definitely became fast favourites of mine. Manon is the heir to the Blackbeak witch clan and leader of the Thirteen, and Asterin is her cousin and second in command. The two have their differences and arguments, but Asterin's loyalty to and belief in Manon cannot be shaken, and when Manon realises the extent that Asterin has protected her over the years, she literally sacrifices everything for her cousin. These two will do anything for the other, no matter what personal sacrifices it takes. 100% family goals.

Goodreads | Book Depository

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Nina Zenik & Inej Ghafa

Not only are these girls amazing in their own way, they also have the cutest and most beautiful friendship. Throughout both books, they look out for each other, tend to each other's wounds and protect each other. Being the only two females in the Dregs, they often stand up for each other against the boys and take zero shit from them which lifts me up where I belong. I can just picture these girls meeting up regularly for waffles and moaning about Kaz but although they're cute, they could kill you in a blink. Literally.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Review

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin
Yael & 'Comrade Mnogolikiy' 

I won't say much about these two (and am purposefully using an army code name from the book) to avoid spoilers, but let's just say that Comrade Mnogolikiy has been watching over Yael for a long time, and Yael doesn't quite realise just everything that she's gone through to protect her. When these two are reunited, they are an unstoppable force, and have the most perfect sister-like friendship. These girls could destroy the Third Reich of this duology together, their bond is so strong.

Goodreads | Book Depository

The Spinster Club Series by Holly Bourne
The Spinster Girls

This series features three main books (and more recently, a 3.5) focusing on three girls - Evie, Lottie and Amber. These three women are the queens of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Each book is centred around their stories - Evie struggling with mental illness, Amber struggling with family problems and Lottie starting a war against sexism.  They help each other through everything, they support each other and they're bloody hilarious. They still manage to have romantic relationships on the side but it never gets in the way of their friendship which they always put first. We still need a petition for this series to be compulsory reading in secondary schools.

Goodreads | Book Depository

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
The Women of 300 Fox Way

We can definitely say that the main friendship in this series is the Gangsey, however, the relationship between the psychics in 300 Fox Way is just as important. Blue, Maura, Calla, Persephone, Jimi and Orla. Some of my favourite scenes in this series was the moments of domesticity between these women - they all had their little oddities and their little skills and of course there was bickering but there is a huge respect for one another. It made me so happy that Blue grew up in a house full of women and you can definitely see how they have influenced her.

Goodreads | Book Depository | Review

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Owl & Pepper

A beautiful friendship turned mother-daughter bond between Jayne 23/Pepper, a young girl raised by AIs with no idea of real life and Owl, a computer-programmed AI who becomes a guide, friend and mother to a little girl who stumbles upon her ship. The two form a bond that lasts a lifetime and even when Owl is seemingly lost, Pepper doesn't stop to find and restore her. Owl teaches Pepper everything, from how to eat and how to speak and essentially raises her and in return, Pepper shows Owl love no AI is used to. They save each other.

Goodreads | Amazon | Review

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Alex & Peekay

This was one of my favourite reads of 2016 and a real stand-out was the friendship between Alex, a girl with murderous tendencies and Peekay, nicknamed for being the Preacher's Kid. They meet volunteering at an animal shelter and despite being very different people, immediately form a close bond. Peekay brings out the softer side to Alex and in return, Alex teaches Peekay confidence, especially in standing up to the opposite sex. Definitely one of my favourite female friendships in contemporary fiction. 

Goodreads | Book Depository

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Daenerys & Missandei

When making this list, we thought there must be a lot of female friendships in such a big series but unfortunately, there is not apart from these girls. Daenerys struggled to find and keep allies throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but the one person she can always rely on is Missandei. The two first meet in A Storm of Swords, when Missandei is gifted to Daenerys by a slave trader. Daenerys immediately offers Missandei her freedom, which I suppose is a good way to begin a friendship. Although Missandei is no longer a slave, she chooses to stay with Daenerys as a close adviser to her, and soon becomes one of her closest confidantes. "All men must die, but we are not men."

Are there any female friendships in fiction that really stood out to you? 
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Illumicrate November Unboxing

This month I received my first ever Illumicrate box and to make things better, it arrived on my birthday so it was a surprise gift. Illumicrate is a UK-based book subscription box that is sent out every three months - this makes it handy if you can't afford other subscription boxes every month. It features a newly release book and other bookish goodies and it's obvious the creators put a lot of thought and effort into it. So here's what I received in November's box - 


| A Coffee Cosy by Sparrow + Wolf |
This was designed exclusively for this month's box by the amazing Sparrow + Wolf (which incidentally is a name of one of my favourite songs.) This Cosy is perfect for putting on your travel mugs when you've got to go out in the wintery months. Unfortunately, I don't own a travel mug and I don't like coffee but I did put it on a normal mug so you could see the beautiful design. 

| 'AIDAN' Candle by Meraki Candles | 
I have been meaning to purchase a candle from this wonderful company for a while as the designs and scents look beautiful and it's also UK-based. The one included in this box was also another exclusive for Illumicrate and is based on a character from this month's book. It smells of bergamot, sandalwood and mercy (ooo) and my mother has already stolen it and lit it. 

| Evil Plans Notebook by House of Wonderland |
Okay, so if you know me, you know that the design of this notebook is everything I could have asked for and although I've got a house full of them, one can never have too many notebooks, especially for scribbling in your evil plans. This is another exclusive for Illumicrate! It has blank pages, the cover is shiny and it's good quality and it's a nice little size. 

| Striped Socks by Happy Socks |
As much as I love socks, I was cursed/blessed with very small feet so I was afraid they weren't going to fit but they did and they are so comfy! A straight forward design but with bold colours, these are perfect and made from cotton so they aren't too thick. Perfect addition to the box in this wintery weather.

| The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid |
This was the book we got in this month's box. A newly released sci-fi novel following the story of a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager with only one task: kill in order to protect the person you've been created for. This book has been on my radar for a while but not enough for me to purchase it. I'm a huge fan of science-fiction and I love ruthless, anti-heroic characters. The book also came with a signed book plate, letter and bookmark. 


The box also included little added extras such as Wolf by Wolf stickers, an ARC snippet of The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr, a Christmas gift tag and some posters/postcards from Replica, Caraval, All the Bright Places, Holding Up the Universe and Unconventional.


Friday, 25 November 2016

Fairyloot November Unboxing: Royals and Rogues

I was so excited for November's Fairyloot box, and it didn't disappoint! Here's a quick look at what I received in this month's box (spoilers below the photo!):


+ Queen of Books mug from Read at Midnight

I'm so glad that there was a mug included in this month's box, and I love the lettering on this one! This is an exclusive item to November's Fairyloot box.

+ Royals & Rogues Tea from The Tea Leaf Company

So, I have a confession... I don't actually like tea. Yes, I am British. Yes, I'm aware it makes me the worst Brit to ever exist. But anyway. Despite the fact that I won't drink this, I love the packaging and I'm sure I can feed it to someone else on the rare occasions that I have guests round.

+ Calipha Pocket Mirror from Bookworm Boutique

I love The Wrath and the Dawn, and this Calipha mirror is so cute! I love the colours!

+ Queen of Terrasen Notepad from Alexis Lampley

The design on this mini notepad is so pretty, and I can't wait to leave my husband notes lying around on pieces of paper with "Queen of Terrasen" in the header ;)

+ Scented Spectorium Soap Crystals from Crafty Ragamuffin

These soap crystals smell so good, and are named after an important item in the book featured in this month's box!

+ Double-sided Red Queen Print from Lovely Owls Books & Book Otter, & Wolf by Wolf Print

I'm honestly not the biggest fan of Red Queen, but I think both sides of this print are gorgeous regardless and I'll definitely be putting it up on my wall! The lettering side is by Lovely Owls Books, and the drawing of Mare is by Book Otter. I absolutely love the Wolf by Wolf print, as well!

+ A Court of Mist and Fury tote from Lovely Owls Books

I actually loved this quote from ACOMAF so much that I got Rhys's mountains and stars tattooed on my arm, so this is basically the perfect tote for me. Aren't the colours gorgeous, too?

+ Nemesis by Anna Banks & Extras

This month's book is Nemesis by Anna Banks, and came with a bookplate signed by the author, a letter from her, a bookmark with info about the book and a little sketch of a parani, one of the creatures found in the book. I'll be reviewing Nemesis once I've finished it!


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

The Bear and The Nightingale is a beautiful, fairytale-like story set around 14th Century Russia. Inspired by many Russian folklore tales, specifically the story of Morozko the Frost King, it follows the life of Vasya. It's a story of family, the rising of orthodox Christianity in a pagan land that still worships household spirits, sacrifice, and wild untameable girls. The Bear and the Nightingale perfectly weaves fairytale into reality, incorporating traditional Slavic spirits - such as the household protective spirit, the domovoi - with harsh Russian winters and the day to day life of a family living by the forest in Northern Russia in the Middle Ages. 

A quick summary of the book - Vasya is born to Marina and Pyotr, and Marina predicts that Vasya will be different, as her mother was (a woman who many believed to be dabbling in witchcraft). Marina dies giving birth to Vasya, but pleas with Pyotr to protect her, telling him that she is special. The years pass, and Pyotr travels to Moscow to find a husband for his eldest daughter Olga, and a new wife for himself. When leaving the city, a stranger threatens Pyotr's son, and in exchange for his life, bids Pyotr to give his youngest daughter (Vasya) a necklace embedded with a precious jewel. Pyotr is unwilling, and gives the necklace to the household maid, Dunya, to gift Vasya with. Dunya recognises the necklace for what it is - a gift from the Frost King Morozko - and pleads with him to let her keep the necklace safe until Vasya is grown. 
Meanwhile, the Priest Konstantin arrives in Vasya's village. Anna, her stepmother, tells the Priest that she sees demons everywhere, and Konstantin makes it his mission to rid the village of their pagan ways. In turn, Vasya discovers that she must protect these demons - actually the Russian protective spirits of the household, horses etc - in order to protect her family. As Vasya grows into a young woman, Konstantin is constantly tempted by her, whilst at the same time believing her to be a witch. What follows is a battle against darker forces than either Vasya or Konstantin expected to be up against, in the dark Russian midwinter.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - I've always been a huge fan of Russian folklore and modern day novels inspired by it, and this book introduced me to a traditional Russian tale that I haven't come across before. Vasya was the perfect main character - she was elusive, brave and plucky, and as wild as the author made her out to be. In my opinion, the balance between mythology and reality was absolutely perfect; the two were expertly blended and neither felt as though it was overpowering the other. I enjoyed the relationship between Konstantin and Vasya - the way that he was drawn to her whilst at the same time almost repulsed by her, and the way she constantly felt the need to protect him even though she believed that he would cause the downfall of her village and her people. This was such a complex, magical book, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoy Russian mythology or similar slow-building fantasy novels (for example, Uprooted by Naomi Novik).



Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Diverse Reads

Our biggest goal whilst creating this blog was to encourage any viewers to read. No matter how long the book is or how short, what genre, what rating - it doesn't matter, any reading is important. Now we are nearing towards 10,000 views, we thought it was about time to dedicate a post to diversity. These are books that are written by or featuring POC and some also have LGBTQ characters. We think it is so important, especially in YA fiction, to feature diversity and it is the one thing we look for when reviewing a book. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Genre: Historial Fiction, Adult Fiction
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Homegoing is the debut novel of African author Yaa Gyasi. A historical-fiction novel that follows the story of a family though generations starting with half-sisters, Esi and Effia, two women with very different destinies - Effia marries an English slave trader and Esi herself is sold into slavery. They never meet and yet the generations that came after them tell their stories. The book gives us a look at the colonialism and slavery that took place across Africa and America over the course of 250 years.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Genre: Contemporary, Adult Fiction
Release Date: October 11th, 2016
This is the story of Ruth Jefferson, a black nurse who is accused of the murder of a newborn baby after his father didn't want her to care for him. This father, Turk, who we also follow the story of, is a White Supremacist alongside his wife. Our third character is Kennedy, a white lawyer who handles the case. It is the story of racism and how it affects not just daily life but how it is 'ignored' in court. Ruth was singled out because of her skin colour and she wants that to be known. 

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Release Date: February 25th, 2016
Told by Frances Janvier, a bisexual POC, we follow her story as a girl known as a study-machine focused only on getting high grades, being head girl and getting into university. We follow her during her school year and find out that she has a secret obsession - a Youtube podcast called Universe Citywhich tells the story of a glove-wearing detective living in a monster-infested university. Nobody knows who the creator is until Frances is contacted to design art for the show. What begins is her journey towards friendship, acceptance and realising she can be who she wants to be. 

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
When Shahrzad's best friend is chosen to be Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan's new bride and doesn't return, Shazi immediately volunteers to be his next bride. Khalid is famed for marrying a new girl each night and having them killed the next morning, and Shazi is determined to stop this cycle, stay alive and get revenge for her lost friend. However, as Shazi spends the nights weaving stories to Khalid as a bargain for her life, she begins to discover that Khalid has dark secrets, and reasons for his actions. Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights.
Read our full review here.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, LGBTQ
Release Date: February 21st, 2012

A story about sexuality, friendship and family. We follow the lives of Ari and Dante, two POC who meet at the local swimming pool as they begin a friendship that changes everything. Despite being two very different people - Ari being angry at the world and with an older brother in prison and Dante, a boy who looks at the world differently - they bring out the truth in one another. 

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: February 21st, 2017
After 'borrowing' her father's credit card without permission, Margot finds herself having to work in the grocery store owned by her family as punishment and to pay off her debts. Margot is desperate to maintain her fought-for reputation at her private school, and refuses to let her family get in the way of her attending the ultimate beach party. The Education of Margot Sanchez looks at class and cultural issues, family secrets, and the building of new relationships whilst trying to maintain old relationships, with friends who could never understand the situation that you're in. 

The Blazing Star by Imani Josie
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Release Date: December 6th, 2016
Portia is used to being the overlooked sister, what with her twin Alex being a genius. However, when she finds an Egyptian scarab beetle, she finds herself (and her sister) transported to Ancient Egypt. What follows is a story of family relationships, and the two girls trying to find their way home whilst history literally comes alive around them and they discover the reasons that they are linked to the past that they've been transported to.

It's Not Like It's a Secret by Misa Sugiura
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Sana is used to keeping secrets - from secrets as small as the irritation she feels when she's ignored by her friends, to her knowledge of her father's affair. Sana's own secret, though, is that she has a crush on her best friend. When Sana moves to California and meets Jamie, she knows that she has to admit that she has feelings for her. Unfortunately for Sana, she couldn't have anticipated what would happen once she stops keeping it a secret...

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana 
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Release Date: July 18th, 2017
Princess Amrita has sacrificed herself, offering herself as a bride to Emperor Sikander in order to save her kingdom of Shalingar. However, she soon finds herself a fugitive, stranded with an oracle named Thala who had been one of Sikander's slaves. Amrita attempts to journey home to warn her people of the dangers coming to them, but Thala tries to convince her that she should search for the Library of All Things instead, where she can reverse their fates, ensuring that Sikander never entered their lives. Amrita must choose between changing her past, or taking the path through her unknown future.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: February 28th, 2017
Starr's life balances between two worlds: her poor neighborhood, and her rich prep school. When Starr sees her oldest friend, Khalil, get shot dead by a police officer despite him being unarmed, the balance between Starr's worlds tips. When Khalil's death hits national news, everyone wants to know what really happened, and only Starr can answer their questions. For Starr to tell, though, could shatter her community and endanger her life. Based on the Black Lives Matter movement and the awfully similar real life events that have been taking place in our world.