Owlcrate review

In my post about best bookish gifts I mentioned the wonder that is book subscription boxes, specifically Owlcrate. Created by Korrina and Robert, this is one of the first book subscription services I caught wind of and I’m so glad I did. For months I followed them on instagram, jealous of everyone posting all the wonderful things that they received every month. Still I told myself that, as a student, I needed to spend my money on my university books and food and all those important things – but it was November that I cracked. As soon as they said the word ‘myth’ I was there, desperate for a bookish box that revolved around the theme of myths (come on, I’m a Classics student, give me a break).

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So my wonderful parents indulged me with the November box for Christmas, then I happened to get the December box, but forced myself to not get the January box as my money was running low, then talk of Valentines hit and as soon as I saw ‘Sci-Fi Love’ as a theme – well, you know what happened. Now I know I’m not particularly artistic photo-wise (if that’s what you’re after, then I’d definitely recommend hitting up Instagram as those photos make me salivate almost as much as chocolate makes does), but I tried.


I mean, seriously, how cute is that? Reminds me of that wonderful binary solo in ‘The Humans are Dead’ by Flight of the Conchords who, if you haven’t already heard of, you should definitely look up.

Back to Owlcrate, the first item included was a beautiful wooden engraved Tardis by vector engraving, which made the Whovian within me squeal. Memories of watching David Tennent and Billie Piper every week all rushed back – a perfect item for the Sci-Fi theme.


Next up we have a classic Tote Bag – and now with the 5p bag charge in England, this couldn’t have come at a better time. It features all of the couples that are found in the Lunar Chronicles series, which I take as a sign to spend some more money so I can start that series. After all, I now have the bag.


Now as you may or may not know, Owlcrate sends out one recently released YA book every month, so imagine my complete glee to find that there were two books in this month. Definitely worth my money (or so I convince myself as I eat baked beans on toast for dinner). A beautiful copy of The Time Machine by the legendary H.G Wells, from the company ‘Rock Paper Books’, which has now become a new favourite for me. That is one huge plus for me concerning Owlcrate – the independent businesses they feature deserve the attention they get, and I always find something new that I desperately want in my life.


Then, finally, we get to the book of the month, The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry. A book I haven’t yet heard of, but can’t wait to read. It even came with a gorgeous little signed sticker and the most uplifting note I’ve ever had from the author, which now holds pride of place on my wall.

Overall, a fantastic box with so many beautiful things and you can see the amount of thought and care that goes into it. Unfortunately for my bank account, it has only made me more hooked on the service and with March’s theme being ‘Writers block’, I think we can safely say that I’m going to be giving up nice food for another few weeks just to feed my addiction.


So, if you’re after a bookish treat for yourself, or even for a friend as you can give them as gifts, then I would highly recommend you check out Owlcrate. If you’re still not 100% sure, then check out their website (link included earlier) and you can have a little look at their story and past boxes – one of which you can buy with a 20% discount! (Go on, I know you want to)



A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Sometimes you can forget just how much power a book can have – at least, that’s how I felt after reading A Little life. A story about love, friendship, and life – which sounds completely vague, but it’s hard to go into detail without breaking down into tears. I finished this book on the first day of this year and finally I can post a review.

When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome – but that will define his life forever.



Hanya Yanagihara made the Man Booker nominations with this novel, and it’s easy to see why. From the very first page she offers up beautiful descriptions and some great lines, but what drives this story is the extraordinary character development. The book follows a group of four friends: Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm. We follow them through their lives, starting when they’re in their early twenties, and it’s difficult not to care about them when you spend over 700 hundred pages with them. Even now when someone mentions the name Willem or starts humming ‘Hey Jude’ by the Beatles, my heart hurts.

Willem is the handsome, wannabe actor that you fall in love with, JB the outspoken artist who will offend you yet still manage to charm his way in, Malcolm the uncertain architect, and finally Jude, who is the real mystery. You watch them as they make their way through the spectacle that is life, dealing with jealousy, success, relationships, and more. Jude is the only character who is entirely closed off, with an unspeakable past which will have you guessing – and, let me tell you, when you find out the details you’ll wish you could turn back the pages and not know. You want them all to have their happy ending, and you never know whether or not Hanya is going to give it to you.

There are few bits that might irritate you – such as the lack of insight to any female character whatsoever. There are a few secondary characters that happen to be female, but they are not at all necessary for the main story. As much as this irritates me, it’s hard to dislike being so completely immersed in the lives of these four men. I would have liked to see some stronger female characters, as every female character in the book is normally partnered up with a man who has a much bigger role – it definitely shows when I can’t remember a single female character name now, but I still can name Harold, Ezra, Richard, and more. You get the idea.

Harrowing, desperate, utterly heart-breaking – just a few words I’d use to describe this whirlwind of emotions. It’s painful, but brilliantly so. The book tears you down just to put you back together again, only to tear you down even more than the first time. It brought me to tears, made me smile, made me laugh, made me want to put it in the freezer and run far, far away where it can’t hurt me. You’ll want to scream at these characters, hug them, laugh with them and, yes, sometimes punch them in the nose. I’d forgotten how much a book could make you feel and can safely say that this was an experience unlike any other, I can’t recommend it enough. I would advise though that you carve out time for this book and make sure that you’re in a very happy, stable state when you start it because you’re going to need strength to get through it all.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I’ve found that I can finish the books I buy on my Kindle within a day, sometimes two if I really need to get some sleep. When it comes to ‘proper’ physical books, I find that it takes me a lot longer. Normally it can take me anything from one week to one month, depending on how much work I’ve got to do and whether or not I actually like the book. Although as well as reading the book, I’ll often have a couple books on my Kindle at the go. Then I discovered a beautiful book called Uprooted by Naomi Novik with an absolutely stunning cover, and luckily my Dad followed through and bought me a copy for Christmas. I picked it up towards the end of January, on a Thursday night, and by Saturday night (or, should I say, Sunday at 1am) I had finished it. Seeing as I had university on Friday and work all day Saturday, it was pretty impressive.

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

One thing I have to say is that you can’t really tell how beautiful the cover of the book is from the above photo, as it has shiny bits which are really very underrated these days. I know everyone goes on about not judging a book by its cover, but when a book is this beautiful you just have to get it. It would be wrong not to.

Inspired by old legends and folk tales, this book is everything you could possibly wish for in a fantasy book. I knew almost nothing about this book outside of the blurb, but with a wizard called Dragon and an enemy in ‘The Wood’, how could I resist? Although I did have Meryl Streep’s voice saying ‘Into the Wood’ every time it was mentioned.


Agnieszka is an interesting heroine, and we’re introduced to her with the belief that she isn’t the heroine, just the girl we follow. In her world, the wizard Dragon takes a girl every ten years to serve him – not that anyone knows what he truly needs from these girls or, shall I say, what he takes. Agnieszka’s best friend Kasia is the girl who everyone believes the Dragon will take this time around, but as is revealed in the blurb – and what you can probably guess without even starting the story – ‘it is not Kasia he will take with him’.

The concept of having the mysterious Wood as the enemy was fantastic and worked brilliantly, and having a kind of anti-heroine in Agnieszka was wonderful to read – she isn’t the most beautiful, or the most talented, but ends up being the ‘chosen one’. There’s not much more I can say without spoiling the book, but I will say that there is a reason I finished it in three nights – the combination of a brilliant, intricate plot, wonderfully dynamic characters, and a beautiful writing style made this one of my favourite books.


SPOILER SECTION – I will not reveal the end, but there are a few topics I’d like to discuss which will spoil parts of the book. You have been warned.


It’s safe to say that I adored this book, but there was a particular element that didn’t work for me. But let’s start with the positives first. Kasia easily became my favourite character, which was quite the surprise to how I felt at the beginning. Clearly Agnieszka is the one you prefer at the beginning, being the clutzy girl who isn’t all that interesting. After she’s chosen, she soon becomes this surprisingly powerful, but still stubborn, character that you still love, but Kasia’s development as a character was stunning to watch. She starts off as the ‘perfect’ one, but after the Wood takes her everything seems to change. Naomi Novik was very clever in revealing Kasia’s flaws, and I especially loved the jealousy of Agnieszka that is revealed. As the story goes on and Kasia has her new-found gift thanks to the Wood, she turns into this strong – physically and mentally – woman who is ready to fight for friendship and protect those she loves. In all honesty, I just want a Kasia side story to read, a novella will do – just something, please Naomi?

Now onto the part that I didn’t like. I do firmly give this book 5 stars, but in honesty I think I’d give it 4.8 stars if that was possible. Although I grew to love the moody Dragon, in no way did I enjoy the romance that was added between him and Agnieszka. Their first ‘romantic encounter’ was not even the slightest romantic, and felt entirely forced like it couldn’t be helped as they were consumed by their magic yada yada. I absolutely understand where Naomi was going with it, what with the connection formed by doing joint magic, but the relationship between these two characters didn’t need to progress to a romantic one. At no point did it feel natural or comfortable, and I would have far preferred it if the romance was left out entirely. Perhaps if there were a few softer moments, such as a calmer scene between the two, but all we have are a few scenes that don’t even escalate to being a romantic scene; one second they’re practising magic and the next they’re kissing and Dragon is playing out the standard mysterious love interest trope of saying that it’s not right, he’s not good for her, she needs to stay away from him, he’s trying to protect her blah blah, ok, right-o, we get it, move on.


Apart from that, I stand by my opinion that this book was beautifully woven together and artfully told, with a new, interesting plot with legends and tale adaptations that were new to me and great to read.

January Wrap Up

I actually read a ton of books last month, and although some are a bit ‘cheaty’ I’m still bloody proud. I’m having two different tallies, as my main goal is to read 50 books – but in my head, by 50 books I mean I want to read 50 proper books and not count the quick, easy-to-read, often-one-day kindle reads that I usually get for free or for until £2. So Goodreads is my ‘proper 50 book’ record and I have a little ‘what i read’ book (thanks to the beautiful December Owlcrate box) which I write down everything, warts and all.


In the month of January, I read 6 *ahem* proper books and another 2 kindle reads on top of that. Now I say 6, but really it’s more like 4 and a half – first of all because one of the 6 was very small and another I merely finished in January, whereas in reality I read the vast majority of it in December. Oh well, according to Goodreads it counts (and on that note, you can find me on Goodreads at http://goodreads.com/Stammydodger).

So the first book I finished in January was the beast that is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – a full review of this will either be popping up on this blog or on a friend’s website very soon! To sum up my thoughts: it was beautifully heartbreaking. If you follow me on Instagram @Stammydodger (so much plugging today, it’s not true), you will have seen the various photos when I finished the book and the note a friend wrote me whilst drunk to help me deal with finishing it. It was heartbreaking and it gutted me, yet I’m so glad that I stuck with it and managed to finish. A book has never felt so powerful to me before, and I completely understand the concept that characters are the ones who drive the plot. In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you the plot of this book outside the fact that it follows these four friends and their lives. Five stars, no doubt.


After that, I wanted something easy to read and decided on The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which ended up being kind of sad and bittersweet as well! Alas, a very sweet and lovely book to read, one that I’ve been meaning to read ever since my dad bought me a copy when I was a young teen. I awarded it four stars.

Now for the first Kindle book of the year, called The Score by Elle Kennedy, which was a light-hearted, easygoing romantic comedy which I gave a relieved-it’s-not-sad three stars.

Following that was Waterstone’s rediscovered classic of the month A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which I also gave three stars – but a very different kind of three stars to The Score. See, I find it very very very difficult to rate books against each other, so in my head I rate them according to their category. If I were to talk about style and sophistication of writing, these kindle books I gobble up would be 1-2 stars with Hemingway at 5, but alas, that’s not how I work. Moveable Feast is very beautifully written, a non-fiction set in Paris after the war, but the man is just an arse. Never have I read something where there is name-dropping on what feels like every other page.

Then we get to another kindle read, Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre which I’m still not 100% sure about. There were a few isolated scenes that, on their own, were very good and fun to read, but the relationship between the two main characters just never seemed to work in my head. There’s a very good way to do the Frenemy trope, but it wasn’t within this book. In all honesty, there were a few times I wanted to give up with this book as it felt quite unnatural and uncomfortable, but still an ok read to wind down. And really, that’s the kind of book I download on my kindle – something that is easygoing, not difficult to read, and I can just relax.

Now for The Martian by Andy Weir – and I see what all the fuss is about. I was going to post a review for this, but I’ve decided I’d like to see the film first to see how they manage to transfer the brilliance of the book into film. What a fantastic read, five stars without a doubt, with a surprisingly hilarious narrator yet packed with scene after scene of action.


One of my university reads now, Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and I am unashamed to say that I did indeed picture Lady Mary from Downton Abbey travelling with a husband around Turkey because, really, it made for a much more interesting read. I’ve never read any travel writing before, so don’t even ask me why I’m doing eighteenth century travel writing, but I still found it very interesting.

Finally we get to the last book of January, and what a book, Uprooted by Naomi Novik which I absolutely adored and will definitely be posting a full review for. I always forget how much I love fantasy, despite it being the genre I read the most, and this appealed to me to no end. I mean, one of the main characters is called ‘The Dragon’ – how could I not like it? I read it in three nights – literally, three nights, as I stupidly started it before I went to sleep and ended up reading until the early hours of the morning, only putting it down to get some kind of rest before work. There were a couple of elements that made me lean towards four stars, but I can’t help it, I just love it too much to not give it five stars.


That brings me to 6/50 for this challenge, and a total 8 books for this year. I highly doubt February will be as successful, considering the addition of university work and reading of articles that I can’t count as books along with essays (oh man), but I’m pretty chuffed with my 2016 reading so far. Not sure if any month can beat A Little Life, The Martian, AND Uprooted, but I’m willing to try.

Book Resolutions

I made a post of my twin blog (alwayslovetowrite) about my resolutions this year, and one of those was to read 50 books. I wanted to take this moment to mention a few things about what I hope to do in the near future with this blog.

It’s not a secret that I started up this blog just so that I could have a space where I talk about books and all things book-y. If I had the guts, I would start up a Youtube channel and join the ‘Booktube’ community, but the thought of some people watching me on Youtube makes me feel ill – along with the fact that I tried it once, and when I look back at the videos today I do, indeed, feel very, very ill.


Anyway, avoiding conversations about how ill I feel, my goal for this blog was to reach a point where I had enough followers and subscribers that I could reach out to publishers and request copies of books to review. If successful, not only would I save some money (every book lover and student’s dream), but it would mean I will have reached a point where my blog and my thoughts are deemed important enough to facilitate.

That’s why, this year, I hope to start accumulating more followers – which means, on my side of things, I need to make a serious effort and dedication to keep everyone reading interested. I want to be the person proud to ‘plug’ their blog because they think it’s good, rather than just forcing all my friends to click that follow button to help me out. I think that’s one of the reasons that I don’t ever post my blog on facebook – I mean, sure, I’ll shove it into my description on Twitter and Instagram, but other than that I try not to draw attention to it. I want to know that people are reading it because they chose to, not out of obligation to my incessant ‘plugging’.


Back to resolutions, I’m going to try and keep you all updated on how I’m getting on – and get some reviews to you as well. I already owe you a review for ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman (it’s good, people) and ‘A Little Life’ (it’s sad, people) although the latter may or may not be appearing on a friend’s website, but I’ll keep you posted.

So far this year, I’ve finished ‘A Little Life’, ‘The Little Prince’, ‘The Score’ and am currently reading ‘A Moveable Feast’. After I’ve finished this by Hemingway, I’m going on to ‘The Martian’ which I am ridiculously excited for and not at all embarrassed that I bought it for my Mum for Christmas 1. Because I knew it was a great book and 2. Because I wanted to read it. If I manage to finish the Martian this month, that would mean a total of 5 books (Despite the fact that ‘The Little Prince’ was very short). That sounds like progress to me, alright.


Finally, I want to know what you think. So let me know what you want to see from me – be that reviews, posts about kindles, discussions on reviewing books for websites (man do I have stories about bad books from that), or other odd posts, such as the previous best booky gifts.

Good luck to you all for the New Year, especially if you’ve set your own book goal – let’s make it a good one.

Best bookish gifts

Long time no see! Due to some health issues, I haven’t been able to write anything for the past week – and that’s the excuse I’m going with. Instead of a review, and because Christmas is almost upon us, I thought I’d write about my favourite book-related gifts. The plan was to take pictures of my booky things, but of course I’m at my parents and don’t have them with me. I’m such a pro at this. Ah well, on with the show! (Don’t worry, I’ll include links to websites for your shopping needs)

  1. A witty book mug

Because who doesn’t love a good bit of wit when it comes to books and gifts alike? I love my book mug – especially when I’m reading, because then you’re just picture perfect. Everyone will think you’re the coolest kid in town, and with a fantastic mug like that, what’s there to lose?

2. Fantasically cute bookmarks

Fantasy Mini Magnetic Bookmarks - Owl Crate Collab (Mini 3 Pack)

I love the magnetic bookmarks from craftedvan (the link above is to their etsy page). These bookmarks have become my new favourite, and I’m just so thankful that I can have a book in my bag that has a bookmark that won’t fall out every few steps, leaving me to desperately find where I had stopped reading. Anyone with a soul knows that folding the corners of pages is the worst thing a person can do.

3. Beautiful book jewellery

These book earrings are my favourite, and top tip: if you want them to be complimented on, then go to any bookshop. Seriously. It’s great. I love wearing them at work (for those of you who don’t already know, I do in fact work in a bookshop. It’s a good time).

4. Terrific t-shirts

Unfortunately I can’t find where this was original from, possibly because there are none left in stock, but any t-shirt that is book-related is a good shout! Then, if you’re feeling really booky, you can wear your top with your earrings, make yourself a cup of tea in your mug, and settle down for a nice read.

5. Candles that smell like books (I know, right?)

This one still baffles me, to be honest. I just think it’s incredible – smell is the sense that I think is most difficult to ‘imagine’ per se. Companies like ‘From the Page’ create scents, such as ‘Peeta’s Cakes’, ‘Daenerys’ Dragons’ etc based off of things discussed in books. There are also candles that smell like books – no, I’m not joking. You want that ‘old book smell’ filling up your house? Well, you can have it.

6. Book subscription boxes

Subscription boxes aren’t just for Christmas (unless you just order the December box). There are some fantastic book boxes at the moment – Owlcrate, Uppercase, YA Chronicles – so you can choose which one you think would be best. The majority offer a newly released book along with some booky items, so basically a selection of what I’ve included above!

So, I hope if you’re stuck for ideas for book-loving friends or, let’s be honest, yourself, then I’ve helped! If not then you could always just buy a book. That works too.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

‘Original’ is a word I really don’t like, mainly because it’s the word my lecturers use. ‘Try and have an original idea’, ‘All you have to do is have something original’, ‘You need something original’. I mean, what even is original? I want to say yes, of course, let me just grab my hat of original ideas and pull one out for you. Is anything really original any more? Most books and films and essays and what-nots have been inspired by other books and films and essays and what-nots. You can’t stop yourself from being influenced or inspired by something.

This is the mindset I approach when reading most books. As a writer and a reader, I’m always interested to see if I can see what inspired them or what the book is like. For example, earlier this year I read Vicious by V.E Schwab and in my review I mentioned how incredible it was to recognise the retelling of Frankenstein. Then you have Frankenstein itself which is inspired by the myth of Prometheus. Everything is just one beautiful cycle.

Then came Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children;, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here – one of whom was his own grandfather – were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I’ve been meaning to pick up this book for a while, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for over a month now. As it’s main genre is ‘horror’ (at least, that’s where we shelve it at work), I decided it would be a great read for Halloween – and that’s the day that I finished it, funnily enough.

The book astounded me, to put it lightly. I just found it so clever, and mesmerising, and enchanting, and just beautiful. The writing is fantastic, and the concept of the book is just so, dare I say original, that I just fell in love with it. However I was completely unaware that all of the weird and wonderful photos that are spattered throughout the book are actually real. Yes, the photo of a girl floating and the baby levitating are real. And somehow, Ransom Riggs collected all of these marvellous photos and managed to weave together a story out of them. It’s just so incredibly imaginative and new and exciting. I want to meet the author just to shake his hand and tell him that I think he’s a genius and one day I want to be him. Well, like him, but you get the idea.

I seem to be getting into the habit of not knowing that much about the books I start to read. All I knew for this one is that it was about children who had some kind of gifts, like X-Men, and it was classed at Waterstones as horror. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I started the book, but as soon as you start to see photos and hear descriptions of the peculiar children you’re completely swept away. There is also a later concept introduced in the book called a ‘loop’, and so I don’t spoil anything I just want to say to those of you who do know the book: how bloody clever an idea was that? Again, I just want to say that Ransom Riggs is a genius. And I want his talent.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the protagonist of the book. There were times where I wanted to like him, but most of the time I just wanted to yell at him. He just annoyed me for some reason, the exact justification for it still unknown to me, but that didn’t particularly detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Usually for me, if I don’t like the main character I’m set against the whole book. I think it was probably because this book doesn’t feel just like Jacob’s journey to discovery, but our own. I was desperate to know about his grandfather’s history for my own benefit, not Jacob’s. Never mind whatever drama you’re dealing with, let’s just keep exploring and – no, Jacob, why are you going back to town? Get your arse out of bed and go find out what’s going on because I swear if you whine one more time I’m going to find my way into the book and shake some sense into you.

If you’re interested at all in a book like this, and even if you’re not, you should read it. The photos really add such depth to the book, and for moments I can’t help but puzzle over what their true story is – Ransom sells this story, so I like to think that something similar actually happened. At least one thing is for sure – if there is such a thing as an original idea, this is it.