Witchy Instagram Giveaway!

Witchy Instagram Giveaway!

witch giveaway 1Happy Friday my wonderful readers!  I just wanted to make a quick post to let you know about an awesome giveaway I am running on my Instagram to celebrate reaching 10,000 followers!  The prizes include: A large Star Tarot wall hanging, a moon phase fabric banner, a moon phase bookmark by Louise Makes Believe, Two Tarot prints by Punky Bunny and a notebook from Sostrene Grene.  Head over to my Instagram to find out how to enter!

 

Also, keep an eye on my blog because there are some pretty exciting things coming up! witch giveaway 2 Along with some epic upcoming artist collaborations and book reviews, my next blog post is an interview with the lovely ladies behind the Night Worms horror book subscription box and the #promotehorror movement!

Subscribe to my blog to make sure you stay up to date and never miss a post!

Whatever you are up to- have a fantastic weekend!

A Guide to Instagram: My How to Guide on Taking Pictures & Building a Profile.

A Guide to Instagram: My How to Guide on Taking Pictures & Building a Profile.

Happy New Year! It’s my very first post of 2019 and I am really excited for the year ahead…so many books to read, stories to write and people to meet!  I decided to start the year with my personal ‘How To’ guide to Instagram.  I have been asked so many times what filters and applications I use for my images, how I have built my profile etc, so I thought the simplest and easiest thing to do would be to create this blog post with all the bits and pieces you need to know to get started, or to improve the profile you already have.  Let me caveat this by saying I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I the biggest account out there with millions of followers.  What I have done however, is organically grow my account to over 10,000 followers in less that two years.  I have created a profile which I am proud of (check it out here).  Every Instagrammer has their own techniques and tricks of the trade, and these are simply mine, imparted to you in the hopes that you may find them useful.  I would also like to say, that even after 20 months, I am still learning myself so feel free to comment with your own tips for the benefit of myself and my readers.

Let’s start with how to build your profile then at the end I will give you the specifics on how I create my own images including the apps I use etc.

  1. Find your Niche.

Instagram has something for everyone.  Whether you are a fitness freak or a book worm, how to 2a traveller or a fashionista, there is an account out there for you.  I, as a writer and avid reader, naturally gravitated towards the Bookstagram community.  The trick is to base your profile around something you are passionate about.  There are some accounts out there which have a little of everything too, but I have found the ones which cater to specific hobbies or interests are the most successful.  Create images and captions about the things your loves and interests, and your passion will shine through.  Finally, I would suggest choosing a profile name which clearly demonstrates what the account contains, so people can easily identify it as one containing their hobby or interest.  For example, my name is @bookishmarie, clearly identifying mine as a book based profile.

2. Find your style.

I learned early on how important it is to have your own style on Instagram and to stickhow to 5 to it.  However, I also learned very quickly just how hard that can be.  My moods and tastes change so often and my photos can often reflect that.  If you go to my profile and swipe through from the beginning to now, you will see my style has changed dramatically over 20 months.  It took me a good while and hundreds of pictures to discover my own personal style and even now, that continues to evolve.  It’s ok if you aren’t sure what you want your style to be, you can experiment until you get it right.  Again, just like picking your theme, this will involve looking at your loves, your hates and your interests.  I love all things vintage, so my profile was always going to have a retro vibe to it.  Perhaps you love all things vibrant and bright or maybe you are all about tasteful monochrome.  Start with what makes you happy and work from there.  The most successful profiles have clear styles.  You can identify a picture as belonging to them from one quick glance- that’s the aim!

Once you settle on a style you like, stick to it!  The more successful profiles not only have a distinct style but their style is also consistent.  An easy way to do this is to have a colour scheme, for example my page is mostly muted autumnal tones.  You will find your style will naturally lead to a colour scheme anyway.

3. Make the Effort with your images.

I work very hard on each and every one of my images, placing every item carefully, how to 3moving and shifting until it’s just so.  If I’m not 100% happy with an image, I won’t post it.  It’s clear to anyone swiping through the millions of images on Instagram when a photo has been half assed.  Why in that case would they bother to read the caption, like it or follow you?  Instagramming can be quite time consuming so it’s not for everyone, but if you really want to build a profile then you’ll have to work at it.  But as with everything, practice makes perfect.  Most importantly, have fun with it and create the type of images you want to see.

4. Interact with your fellow Instagrammers.

It sounds obvious, but a lot of Instagrammers simply post images without interacting with their fellow users.  The best way to organically grow a following and to get people to visit your page, is to find other users with similar tastes, interests and styles and to interact with them.  For clarification, when I say interact with them, I mean in a genuine way.  Don’t just copy and paste ‘nice photo’ under countless images.  If you see an outfit on a fashion page you really like, then tell them.  If you see a beautiful creature with perfectly applied makeup, let them know how great they look.  Ask questions, discuss common interests and most importantly be kind- no one will follow you if you are a critical jerk leaving snide comments under their pictures.  It’s a great way to make new friends and to in turn, have people check out your profile who maybe wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I also find engaging under your own pictures is a great way to meet new people and grow your profile. Don’t just post an image and leave it at that, ask a question, start a discussion or present an idea. Give people a reason to comment and to continue coming back to your page

5. Hashtags.

Whilst only around 10% of visits to my images are from hashtags, they are still a great how to 4way to promote your post and to drive traffic to your page.  The best way to find the hashtags that will work for you, is to find accounts similar in theme and topic to yours and check out what hashtags they are using on their images.  Instagram will allow you to use up to 30 hashtags per image.  I advise taking note of the amount of images related to each hashtag and using a mixture of more popular hashtags and less used or newer hashtags.  For example, #bookworm has 13.1 million pictures using it as I type this blog post.  That is a lot of images and whilst that makes it popular for people to search by, it also means your image could easily become lost amongst the millions of others.  The hashtag #bookishgirl on the other hand only has 104,000 images at this stage, so it is more likely your image will be spotted and your page visited.  I also recommend participating in photo challenges, as they are not only a great source of inspiration for your images, but a great way for people, mainly the others participating in that challenge, to see your page.  There are also feature accounts on Instagrams.  These are literally accounts which feature the best of a particular theme or topic.  In order to get featured, you more often than not need to use a certain hashtag.  Some of these accounts have HUGE followings and it’s a great way to get noticed by users who otherwise wouldn’t have encountered your image.  Finally, searching relevant hashtags is also a great way to do research and to see what’s out there, what is working and what’s not.  Instagram gives you the option to follow certain hashtags and I recommend doing so in order to get regular inspiration.

6. Tag People.

how to 6I am not advocating tagging dozens of random people in every post you put up, but tagging relevant people can be a great way to get your account noticed.  Being a bookstagrammer, I most often tag authors, publishers and businesses which sell bookish merchandise.  This has lead to large businesses re-posting my image of their product, ensuring it’s seen by thousands of new potential followers.  Publishing houses, publicists and authors who I have tagged have approached me to review and feature their books.  It also helps spread the word and promote small businesses to a wider audience and provides them with lovely images for their own page or stories, so it’s win win for everyone.  Don’t get me wrong though, if you are going on Instagram just to get free stuff, you’re joining for the wrong reasons.  This is mostly about community spirit and mutual promotion and while free stuff is great, it shouldn’t be the driving force behind your account.  The beauty about Instagram is that it creates a way to connect with individuals and businesses you otherwise would never have discovered.

7. Be Patient.

how to 8This is the most important piece of advice I can give you.  Instagram can be a fickle place.  People will follow you just to unfollow you a day later.  I have had 10 new followers and been very pleased, just to check my phone a few hours later to find my follower count down by 15….one step forwards, two steps back.  It can be frustrating and confusing and on more than one occasion, I wanted to pack it in.  I didn’t explode overnight or go viral, gaining thousands of followers in a matter of weeks and whilst that is possible and I’m not saying it can’t happen to you (well done if it does), it’s more likely that you will gradually grow and build a following over time.  Like I said, it took me 20 months to gain 10,000 followers and I am so grateful for every last one!  You can of course buy followers but frankly I don’t understand why you would.  To me, that’s like ‘winning’ the marathon by taking a short cut…it’s a hollow victory.  Just persevere and keep doing what you do, and you will get there in the end.  Remember what Instagram is really about. It’s about community and friendship and discovery. The follower count doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The most important thing to do is to have fun with it.  If you aren’t enjoying it, then why bother in the first place?

 

So How do I take my images?

Equipment: All of my pictures are just taken on my Samsung Galaxy phone.  On a sidehow to 1 note, one of the things I love about smart phones is that you can have a high quality camera everywhere you go now, so it’s easier than ever to take up photography.  Whilst specialist equipment isn’t needed, I do use a photo box for my flat lay images.  For those of you unfamiliar with these, they are basically like a small portable photo studio in a box, with bright lights on the inside and a black out fabric covering complete with little magnetic openings of various shapes and sizes at various points around the box to allow you to take a picture from various angles whilst maintaining consistent lighting.  They aren’t overly expensive (I think mine was around £80) and are available on Amazon.  But you don’t need to buy one of these to get consistent lighting.  You can buy small photographic lights now fairly cheap or you can simply the area in your house which gets the most light and work out what time of days is best to take your images so as to get maximum lighting.

Apart from my phone and photo box, my other essential items of equipment are my many and varied props.  My antique typewriter is one particular prop which features very frequently in my images, but I have a vast collection of random knick knacks and thingamabobs which I have gathered over the years.  I find the right prop can really bring a photograph to life and give it real depth and interest.  You don’t have to spend a fortune either.  The vast majority of mine came from charity shops and literally cost pennies.  Alternatively, you can use things you already have lying about the house or even find them in nature, for example another of my most frequently used props is my collection of dried autumn leaves and pine cones I collected from my local park.

Boostagram 2Applications and Filters: I personally don’t use the filters on Instagram.  I prefer to use the application Snapseed to do the basic editing of my images, such as cropping and rotating.  I like it because it’s super easy to use and features lots of great ways to tweak the image, like the ‘healing’ option allowing you to effectively erase small parts of the image and cover it over with a sort of ‘mirror’ of the surrounding area which I use regularly to fine tune my images.  I then use good old VSCO to add filters.  The best way to find the style you want to use is to play around and see what you like best.  If you change your mind, that’s ok.  Every now and then, I change the filters etc I use as do many of the largest accounts out there, so you can evolve and learn over time…practice makes perfect.

As I said in the beginning, I’m no expert but this is my attempt to impart a little experience with all of my lovely readers and I really hope you find it useful, even in some small way.  If you have any tips or advice of your own, I would love to hear them!  Just leave me a comment.  If you have Instagram but we have never had the good fortune to cross paths, or if you start a new account, please give me a little follow (@bookishmarie) so we can stay in touch!  Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all my latest posts and book reviews.  Happy Instagramming!!

 

Book & TV Show Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Book & TV Show Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Hello readers and Merry Christmas!  This week, I will be reviewing The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, but before we get into reviewing the book, I thought I would do a quick review of the television show too, since watching that is what led me to read the book which inspired it.  Although the TV show does not have the same story line or characters as Jackson’s novel, it’s influence is evident after reading.

the-haunting-of-hill-house-wideSo What’s the Netflix original show about?  The story follows the Crane family, Hugh and Olivia and their five children Steven, Shirley, Theodora, Luke, and Eleanora.  Moving between past and present, we see the family as young children moving into Hill House while their parents renovate and flip the property, only to be haunted by increasingly violent and terrifying paranormal activity, then later as adults trying to cope with the tragedies that befell them at the property as well as the ghosts, both real and imagined, which haunt them still.

I absolutely adored this series and quite honestly I could gush and gush about all the reasons it was so incredible.  First of all, the writing and directing by Mike Flanagan is utter perfection.  This series could have been filled with cheap, jumpy scares and horror cliches, but instead the show has a slow burning tension, building to some genuinely scary scenes which stay with you long after you switch off.  Flanagan’s decision to include a multitude of ghosts which have no part in the storyline or reason for being there, only adds to that sense of unease as the viewer constantly feels they are being watched.  I love his slick and subtle directing style.  Of note, is the constant, unedited and seamless shot of episode six at the funeral home which left me in complete awe (I cannot begin to imagine how much work and how many takes that took to pull off, but it was completely worth it).  The show is undoubtedly modern and yet it maintains that sense of old fashioned, gothic horror.  The switching between past and present maintains the suspense, giving the viewer just enough of a taste each episode to have them coming back for more.  The cinematography, set designs and costumes all need their own round of applause and the acting is exceptional, with every single character being perfectly cast and played.

I have read a lot of complaints regarding the ending, with people calling it predictable and hammy, but truthfully I loved how it ended.  With so many horror movies and shows these days ending that same ‘The end…or is it?’ kind of way, I was glad that there was a definite conclusion and I’m ok with it being a happy ending of sorts, because by the time the series ended I genuinely liked the Crane family and I was emotionally invested in their story.  I was glad to see it worked out, for most of them anyway.  But even with the finality of this nicely rounded conclusion, there are just enough questions left unanswered to allow for further series unrelated to the Cranes.  What is the deal with Hill House?  Was it built like that or did it become that way through tragedy of circumstance?  Who are those other ghosts and what are their stories?  And what of Mr Hill himself?  Why did he build such a home?  I for one am excited to find out and cannot wait for season two.

hauntingAfter watching the series, I was excited to read the story which inspired it.  I have often found that a really amazing book can inspire an incredibly bad adaptation, but I have rarely experienced it the other way around, with a show or movie being better than the book.  On this occasion, I loved the book as much as I loved the Netflix reimagining and as I said, whilst they are so different in so many ways, they have all of the important bits in common.  So what’s the plot for the book?

Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely assistant; Luke, the future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own. Twice filmed as The Haunting, and the inspiration for a new 10-part Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House is a powerful work of slow-burning psychological horror.

Jackson is an incredible writer and way ahead of her time.  From the first chapter, she creates an unnerving atmosphere leaving the reader ill at ease throughout.  Whilst the tension builds slowly to its final and terrible conclusion, there is just enough action and paranormal activity throughout to keep you in suspense and make you almost impatiently want to continue reading.  The characters are so well written, particularly the narrator Eleanor and the books exploration of mental health is so beautifully done, that it leads the reader to question whether any of it was even real.  The house is so perfectly evoked and created by her wonderfully vivid descriptions, that it becomes a character in of itself, a living and breathing entity toying with its inhabitants.  Finally, the perfectly creepy and beyond strange Dudley’s constantly warn the visitors and indeed the reader of the dangers that lurk, whilst never specifying what those dangers actually are.  All you know is that something is very wrong with Hill House and at times, you wish the characters would heed those warnings.  What I liked best about this book is that the scares aren’t obvious or cliched, but rather a slow and intense feeling of something being wrong.  Her writing evokes an atmosphere that stays with you long after you have put the book down.

And that brings me to why I think this reimagining was such a success.  There are things in common between the TV series and the books.  Hill House is at the centre of both, of course, and the series keeps the Dudley’s as the housekeepers, uses the same names for the main characters and even lifts direct quotes from the book, but in terms of plot and characters, the two could not be more different.  Unlike the book, where the visitors to Hill House go there knowing and indeed hoping to encounter paranormal activity, in the series the Crane family have no idea what awaits them there.  But what Flanagan was able to do so perfectly, was to capture the ambiance and eery atmosphere of Jackson’s world.  Despite its many differences, the series captures the same suspense and tension as the book as well as the same general feeling of unease.  That’s why I was even more impressed with the TV show AFTER reading the book, because Flanagan has managed to recreate the feeling and vibes of Jackson’s incredible book, whilst updating it for a modern audience.

Both the book and the TV series get Five stars from me! Read and watch immediately.

Harry Potter Christmas Giveaway & Free Kindle Book Offer!!

Harry Potter Christmas Giveaway & Free Kindle Book Offer!!

Merry Christmas guys! To say thank you to all my lovely followers and subscribers, I am running an extra special giveaway.  For the next four days, my novel ‘Broken Mirrors’ is FREE on Kindle!  Yes, a FREE book…can you think of anything better?  Well, as an extra special treat, anyone who downloads their free copy of my book will be entered into a Harry Potter prize draw to win a whole bunch of festive goodies!

giveawayprizeThe prize includes: A Hogwarts House set of Christmas Baubles and a set of Hogwarts fluffy bed socks, both from Primark, a set of two magical notebooks by the fabulous Lit Emporium (One Book of Potions and one Book of Dark Forces), a Deathly Hallows bag, two bags of tea from Riddles Tea Shoppe (Candy Kreacher tea and Voldemort’s Gingerbread cookies tea) and a teabag tea infuser from Sostrene Grene.  Everything featured in the photo here could be yours!

To win, all you have to do is download a FREE copy of my novel from Amazon (UK residents can get theirs here and US residents here) and email proof of download to mariemcwilliamsblog@outlook.com.  That’s it!  You will be entered into the prize draw to win all of these magnificent goodies!  Good luck everyone!

There are even more ways to win on my Instagram page (@mariemcwilliamsauthor) so head over and check out my Giveaway post!  Thanks for participating!!

Christmas gift Inspiration for Book Lovers and Bibliophiles.

Christmas gift Inspiration for Book Lovers and Bibliophiles.

It is the first week of December and Christmas shopping mania is in full swing.  Just step into any shopping centre or High Street in the country and you’ll find yourself mobbed and stampeded by hundreds of frantic shoppers, desperately seeking the perfect gift for their friends and loved ones.  Christmas is of course, as the song says, the most wonderful time of the year.  But it can also be stressful.  I for one, love nothing better than finding the perfect gift for that special someone.  To see their face light up when they unwrap the paper fills me with all the Christmas joy and it was worth every second of panic buying induced stress.  But it can be tough going at times.  The streets can become franticly busy with shoppers and with so many shops and businesses literally at your fingertips online, how can you possibly find the time to properly peruse the sites and find that perfect pressy?

Well, since I love you guys so much, I thought I would put a little list together of some of the best gifts out there for book worms and bibliophiles (hey, they say write what you know, right?). There is something on here to suit every taste and every budget, so put your feet up and relax, because I got your back!

Book Boxes

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept (where have you been living, under a rock?) a subscription box is a box full of specialised goodies posted through your door each month.  You can get one to suit every taste and hobby, from Golf to whiskey, foodies to fashion, there is a box to suit everyone.  But, as this is a list for book worms, I will of course be focusing on the book variety.  I love the idea of a subscription for a present because it’s essentially a gift that keeps on giving long after the turkey has been eaten and the tinsel taken down.  Most boxes come in a single month, three month or six month subscription and there are a variety of boxes available to suit every readers taste. These are just a few of my personal favourite.

wdboxoctThe Wildest Dreams Book Box: This is a UK based Young Adult book box.  Each month’s box features a newly released YA book along with a bunch of other bookish goodies, such as bookish themed tea, beauty products and book marks.  At £18 per box or £50 for a 3 month subscription, these boxes are great value for money.  Plus, I have had the privilege of being their rep for the past 3 months and can personally vouch for how amazing these boxes are (check out previous blog posts for full unboxing and product details) and my rep code MARIE15 still works until the end of the month for 15% off!

My Chronicle Book BoxAnother UK based box, this time released every 3 months.  You chronicles 1have a choice between a regular ‘crime and mystery’ themed box and a ‘science fiction and fantasy’ themed box or one off boxes such as the ‘A Discovery of Witches’ box.  Each box contains THREE books, most of which are signed or contain signed book plates, along with a bunch of themed goodies.  Again, I have had the privilege of representing this box and I can personally vouch for how fantastic they truly are.  Again, have a look on my blog for full unboxings and even an interview with the box’s creator.  At £35 per regular box and £55 for specialist boxes, they are great value for money considering how much is in each one and you can use my rep code MIRRORS10 for 10% off

GoscribblerGoScribbler box: This subscription box is designed for us aspiring writers and authors and is curated by actual best selling authors.  Not only do the boxes contain beautiful items but they are also a great resource to help writers with everything from writers block to publishing tips.  I have literally spent hours drooling on Instagram over their boxes and hope to find one under my tree this year (take the hint Santa).  Each box features curated Writerly Gifts, a new Release Fiction Novel, an Inside Look at the Publishing Process, an Exclusive Invitation to Chat with a Publishing Professional and a Collectible ‘Writing Passport’ from a Bestselling Author Teaching You How to Master a Writing Topic.  Boxes retail at $29.99 for an individual box, with 3 month, 6 month and one year subscriptions available.  Photo by @mybookishbones.

Now as I stated, there are plenty of boxes to cover specific genres out there such as Fantasy and Romance, but I am going to explore some boxes in my favourite genre…HORROR!  Fans of the macabre and spooky such as myself, love nothing better than a horror themed gift under the tree!

night wormFirst up, Night Worms book box:  This is a fairly new, US based subscription service created by the hugely talented horror Bookstagrammers Sadie Hartmann (aka @Motherhorror) and Ashley Saywers (aka @Bookishmommy).  This is not a book box in the traditional sense.  Instead of random merchandise you may never use, each month the subscriber will receive at least 2 Horror books, original artwork and exclusive content such as discounts and swag direct from the publishers.  Having been long term fans of these badass ladies on Instagram, I am genuinely excited for their company and the energy and philosophy behind it.  They genuinely care about promoting Horror fiction and have even collaborated with rival horror boxes (including the one featured below) to support and promote one another rather than getting caught up in all the petty rivalry! Like I said, Badass!  Boxes retail at $27.99.

Next up, we have the UK based Abominable Book Club: Another box fairly new to the abominablemarket and another member of the #promotehorror club mentioned above, these monthly boxes feature 2 horror reads.  There is their featured book release and also a randomly selected, gently used book sourced and supplied by the box’s mysterious Brother Usef, Head Curator of the Accursed Library.  As well as these lovingly chosen book, you will receive a delicious snack and hot drink to enjoy while reading.  Perfect!

Bookish Candles

I LOVE candles and I have several in every room in my house.  They smell good, they create a warm and cosy atmosphere and there’s something heartwarming about reading a literary classic by candlelight.  These are some of my absolute favourites:

GunndeanGunn Dean Candle Company: I cannot express in words how stunning these candles are! Each one is handmade in the US, using all natural soy wax and Phthalate Free fragrance oils.  Most importantly for me, they are guaranteed to be vegan and cruelty free.  Everything about this candle company gets me excited…their delicious scents, their bookish themes and their stunning packaging!  The best part?  They even have their own epic subscription boxes featuring their candles, exclusive prints and other bookish goodies (also known as heaven in a box).  Candles retail at $14.00 for a 4oz jar or $19.00 fr an 8oz jar and the subscription box is $39.00….SANTA!! You know what I want!  Photo by @novelscript.

Alchemy and Ink: These stunning candles are all about luxury and beautiful aesthetic. alchemy The alluring scents are blended by hand and poured into recycled glass jars featuring drool worthy labels.  The love and care taken over these candles really shines through with every package including a handwritten note, a lovely bag of tea and hand stamped packaging.  This company also creates some of the most drool worthy bookmarks and enamel pins I have ever seen so definitely a great stop for Christmas shopping!  Candles retail at $18.00 for a 10 oz jar.  Photo by @paperbackbones.

MCBB Nov 6Bookworm Candles: Bookworm candles and crafts is a UK based one stop shop for hand poured bookish candles and all sorts of awesome bookish accessories, ranging from bookmarks to enamel pins.  Featuring adorable packaging and delicious scents, these candles are wonderful and at prices starting at only £6.50 for a 5oz jar, they are a great bargain and make a perfect stocking filler or little extra for your book obsessed chum!

 

Book Sleeves

Every book worm considers their books to be precious cargo when out and about, and a dog eared page or a wrinkled cover can be a disaster to someone (like me) who likes to keep their books in good order.  Thus, a book sleeve is a bibliophile’s best friend!  To those unfamiliar with the concept, they are essentially little sleeping bags for your books, to keep them cosy and safe in your bag and as these shops show, they can be beautiful as well as practical.

Cosy Sleeves: These stunning hand knit book sleeves really live up to their name. cosy sleeves Made in Norway and available in an array of wonderful colours, all the sleeves are little chunky knit jumpers for your books, truly keeping them safe and cosy!  I love the artisanal style of these sleeves especially this time of year when they give me all the winter feels.  Best news?Occasionally hats are also available in the same style so that you and your favourite book can match! Heaven! Sleeves cost £26.75 and are available on Etsy.

booosbreatheBooks Breathe Magic: This Irish shop creates stunning handmade book sleeves in an array of designs to suit all reading tastes and preferences.  Featuring sleeves celebrating every fandom from Harry Potter to Raven Boys, as well as as some featuring stunning patterned fabrics, everyone is catered for.  My personal favourite features skeletons on a black fabric background.  Also, this year there is even a Books Breathe Magic calendar, perfect for under the tree!

sweetsequelsSweet Sequels: This shop features hand painted, drool worthy original art on everything from t-shirts and blankets to book sleeves and stockings.  Featuring every fandom from Harry Potter to Narnia, Tolkien to Shakespeare, there is literally something for everyone here and trust me when I say, you will fall in love when you see what’s on offer.  There is something to suit every taste and every budget.

My Dream?  To one day own one of those epic bookish blankets…one day!

Bookmarks

The obvious gift for a book worm and the perfect size to slip inside a stocking, a book mark is a bibliophile’s best friend!

My Book Mark: These quirky, fun book marks are all hand made and are guaranteed tomybookmark put a smile on anyone’s face.  Their most famous, are the ones with little legs sticking out of your book but there are so many designs and styles available as well as lots of fandoms and themes.  Is your bookish buddy a fan of Harry Potter?  Why not get them the book mark featuring quidditch boots in their team colours.  Are they obsessed with the world of Tolkien?  Get the bookmark featuring hairy little hobbit feet.  But since it’s Christmas, why not grab a Santa or Ginger bread man?  These stunning book marks retail at $25.00 and are a guaranteed gift hit! Photo by @melinwonderland.

strangerA Stranger Dream: This is a one stop book mark shop for all fans of horror and macabre.  Each bookmark features an original design, lovingly printed and cut just for you.  My personal favourite are the ‘doll’ bookmarks.  Featuring everything from Stephen King to Scream, these bookmarks really will make the day of any horror fanatic.  Check out her awesome Christmas themed ones, like this spooky ginger bread man!  Bookmarks retail for less than a fiver so they are a real bargain and the perfect stocking filler.  If you live outside the US, you can DM her for cheaper postage too (that’s what I do).

Bookish Art

I have discovered that Instagram is an unending source of incredibly talented people, including an array of fantastic artists.  There is something to suit every style and taste, so have a look out there, but I have selected two of my absolute favourites…well, let’s face it, I chose them because I want these under my tree!

Caitlin McArthy art: Caitlin is an incredibly talented artist from the US, whose hauntinglycaitlin beautiful images immediately appealed to me.  In fact, I loved her work so much, I will be collaborating with her on an upcoming short story.  Her work is utterly divine and I hope some day to have more than one piece hanging on my walls.  For book worms, her image, ‘Bury me in books’ is the embodiment of our love of reading.  Head to Etsy to check her out, where you can purchase prints for as little as £12 or original pieces of art from £80 to £130 if you feel like splashing out!

wornkeyWornkey Emporium: This shop is a must for all Potterheads out there.  Remember that scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, with all the flying keys?  Well, this shop produces unique, handmade flying keys all of which look beyond magical.  The keys come in all sizes, colours and shapes so vary in price depending on which one you go for.  It’s blatantly obvious to anyone who see them, just how much love and work goes into every single one and again, I hope some day to have a little key of my own…or a bunch of them!

 

And finally…

I have two honourable mentions which do not fall into a main categories above.  These are shops I personally own products from and who I continue to visit and purchase from over and over again….

Lit Emporium:  With a vast array of bookish goodies including t-shirts, jewellery, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnotebooks, prints, bookmarks, enamel badges and everything in between, this is literally your one stop shop for all things bookish.  I am a huge fan of this shop and use it regularly.  This shop has all the presents and stocking fillers any book lover could ever possibly want.  And the best bit?  It’s great value for money as well!  My personal favourites are the Gothic Literature and classic penguin enamel pin badges (£7.00 each), this Jane Eyre sweatshirt (£26.00), the magic book notebooks (a bargain at £4.00 each) and the Frankenstein heart necklace (£15.00).  Check them out now…you know you want to!

adagioAdagio Tea: This is a tea company close to my heart as I currently rep for them on Instagram.  They have a huge range of tea flavours to suit every taste as well as stunning brewing essentials like teapots and cups.  But that’s not why I am featuring them here.  No, I’m featuring them on this list because of their epic fandom ranges.  They have teas inspired by every fandom you can think of, from Sherlock to Harry Potter, Tolkien to Austen and Game of Thrones as well as non literary fandoms like Supernatural, Star Wars and Doctor Who.  My favourite are the fandom sampler tins.  They look great and it’s an amazing way to try all of the flavours available in that fandom.  Sampler tin sets are £19 for 6 tins.  For the full range of fandoms, I recommend using the US version of the site.

So that’s it folks, I hope you find it useful!  I basically made a blog post out of my own Christmas list and I sincerely hope that Santa reads it.  What about you bibliophiles?  What are you hoping Santa brings you?  What are your favourite bookish shops?  Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Toast by Matt Marinovich.

Book Review: The Toast by Matt Marinovich.

This week, I was delighted to partner with Adaptive books for the promotion of The Toast by Matt Marinovich.  They very Kindly sent me a copy of the book, along with some very cool photo props, in exchange for an honest review.  So what’s the book about?

toast 2The Toast is a novel about sibling rivalry that knows no bounds. For as long as they can remember, the Krider brothers have only found true meaning in their war with each other. Bred to viciously compete from an early age by their deranged father, they have upped the ante to dangerous extremes. But the Krider brothers have always obeyed the three sacred rules of the game: No mortal injury. Wait your turn. No end to the game.

On a sweltering day in early July, Rob and Rebecca Krider drive toward the wedding of his younger brother, Craig. A hundred guests have already arrived for the ceremony at the Old Field House. It’s a perfect day for a wedding, but before the morning is over, an unexpected tragedy will strike one of the Krider brothers and a frightening toast will be delivered by one of the guests.

As a shattered widow retreats to her home in Westchester, the surviving brother is increasingly confident he will finally get to live a normal life without the game. At first, it seems like he might be right, but as the months pass, he suddenly realizes that strange coincidences in his everyday life might have a more sinister cause. Could it be that the game he thought was over is threatening to destroy his life again? But who’s pulling the strings now that his only archrival is dead? It’s clear that one last turn is being taken, and all the old rules are being broken, except for one: there is no end to the game.

Anyone who has a brother or sister will know that sibling rivalry, most often palyful, can sometimes get a little out of my hand.  I have a little sister and we had our fair share of screaming matches and even physical fights, but the Krider brothers take that rivalry to a truly screwed up and outright disturbing level.  That’s what this novel does so beautifully- it takes the known, the everyday, the average and twists it until it’s deformed beyond recognition and for that alone, it’s a fantastic read.  From bumping into someone in a doctor’s waiting room to a flat tyre, everything is a move in a bigger game and nothing is what it seems.

Flipping between the perspective of the younger Krider brother Craig and his sister in law, the now widowed Rebecca, we learn about the ever escalating game and the toll it’s had on those participating.  As a result of this back and forth perspective, the reader is constantly left wanting more and the tension remains high throughout.  I have read plenty of thrillers and more often than not, they can lose a little of their pace along the way.  That is not the case with this book, which has just enough action to keep the pace steady, just enough questions raised to make the reader want to turn to the next page to find their answer.

The characters are all wholly unlikeable, but for once that’s not a problem.  Rob delights in the psychotic game he is playing and seems like he is evolving into his sadistic father quite nicely.  Craig comes across as slightly pathetic at times, wishing to escape the game but at the same time actively participating in it and producing just as many awful moves as his twisted older brother.  Rebecca, who unlike the brothers, willingly enters into the game rather than being bred into it by a parent, flits between being as cold and nasty as her husband Rob and being one of those pathetic women who desperately clings to the hope they can change a man.  However, the author depicts their internal struggles brilliantly, explaining why they are the way they are and how they came to be at this incredibly low point in their lives, so that I as a reader, whilst being disgusted by these characters and the things they do, found myself genuinely hoping there could be some kind of happy ending salvaged from the wreckage of their lives.  The game is the true star of the novel, showing what terrible things human beings are truly capable of doing, even to the people they love most in the world, and the participants of such a game could never be honest and kind.

My only criticism is that, one of the narrators actively lies to the reader.  I always hated it in ‘who done its’ and crime fiction, when the detective would solve the crime right at the end and reveal the murderer based on information and clues the reader was never provided.  It feels like cheating when the reader cannot guess what is happening in a book based purely on lies or withheld information.  Saying that, on this occasion, the idea of the author somehow ‘cheating’ the reader fits perfectly with the nature and subject matter of the book.  Perhaps we too, are a part of the game.

This is an incredibly dark and original book and at under 200 pages, it’s a quick and enthralling read.  I give it five stars out of five and whole heartedly recommend it.  So what do you think, do you want to join in with the game too?

 

UnBoxing & Interview: My Chronicle Book Box.

UnBoxing & Interview: My Chronicle Book Box.

Hello readers!  It’s Sunday afternoon here in Ireland and boy do I have a treat in store for you.  For this weeks blog post, not only will I be unboxing November’s My Chronicle Book Box, which is one Hell of a box by the way, but I will also be featuring an interview with the creator of and force behind the book box, the lovely Louise.  So, make yourself a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy….

mcbb-nov-2This month’s box features not one, not two, but THREE books, two of which are hardbacks.  First up and with a truly drool worthy cover, we have The Corset by Laura Purcell:  Dorothea and Ruth.  Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless.  Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.
When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted to have the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.  The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality, and the power of redemption.  Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer? 

Next, we have Believe me by J.P.Delaney:  Claire Wright likes to play other people.
A British drama student, in New York without a green card, Claire takes the only job she can get: working for a firm of divorce lawyers, posing as an easy pick-up in hotel bars to entrap straying husbands.  When one of her targets becomes the subject of a murder investigation, the police ask Claire to use her acting skills to help lure their suspect into a confession. But right from the start, she has doubts about the part she’s being asked to play. Is Patrick Fogler really a killer . . . Or the only decent husband she’s ever met? And is there more to this set-up than she’s being told?  And that’s when Claire realises she’s playing the deadliest role of her life . . .

Last, but not least, we have Cold Breath by Quentin Blake:  Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head.  Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together – too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man’s past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience – or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.  Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.

As if this wasn’t good enough, we get a signed book plate from two of the authors (Laura Purcell and Quentin Blake) to make them extra special.  All three of these books are right up my street and are perfect for curling up with under a warm blanket and getting lost between the pages.  I love nothing better than a good crime thriller during a cold winter’s day, what about you?

MCBB Nov 5Along with these gorgeous books, there is a whole host of specially selected bookish goodies.  First up, there is this fabulous Phrenology print inspired by one of the featured books, The Corset by Laura Purcell.  I have a bit of an obsession with all things Victorian so this one will be going right on my wall. 

Next, we have a divine smelling candle by Bookworm Candles and Crafts called ‘Cosy Winter Reads.’  Perfect to set that cosy reading atmosphere, this candle smells and looks beautiful.  Finally we have two bookmarks- first a set of Murder Mystery page markers by That Company Called IF.  Each one features a crime based image, with my personal favourite being the chalk body outline!  Second, we have a cute little 2019 crime themed calendar bookmark, perfect for keeping track of the days lost in reading.

This is the second My Chronicle Book Box I have received and it’s even better than the last one.  It is so evident the amount of care and thought put into every one, from the way each book is individually wrapped, to the wax sealed letter, to the beautiful items themselves, I am seriously impressed.  I have got a lot of book boxes over the years and this one truly is exceptional.  Check them out now and use my discount code MIRRORS10 for 10% off now…trust me, you won’t regret it.

So who is the incredible woman behind this amazing book box?  I had the pleasure of getting to know Louise while we have been collaborating and the more I got to know her, the more impressed and inspired I was…she is basically superwoman!  She has been kind enough to let me interview her for this blog post, so you could get to know her too….

mcbb-interview.jpgTell us about the MCBB team.

Primarily the MCBB team is well… me! I do get a lot of help and support from my wonderful husband whose many talents extend to website design and the technical side of operating our business/website.  I recently resigned from my sensible, secure job in accountancy to concentrate on My Chronicle Book Box and I spend my days selecting books, liaising with wonderful publishers, authors and suppliers, wrapping books, packing boxes, and taking care of my three childre

What inspired you to start My Chronicle Book Box?

I am a devoted book lover and spent much of my spare time reading and reviewing a wide variety of books. I loved the whole idea of book subscriptions and helping others discover new books and authors. I watched and read about many unboxings on social media and yet I never subscribed to one. I got to wondering why not and realised that most of the unboxings I had seen were focused on young adult fiction and that many of the subscriptions available were not focused on my favourite genres. The majority of the books on my bookshelves are crime novels or science fiction and fantasy based, or a diabolical combination of the two!

From the nebulous idea that I would like a book box tailored to my own interests the idea for My Chronicle Book Box grew. I began thinking about what I would like in my own book box and through chatting with friends and family I found I was not the only one who would like to buy such a subscription box for themselves or as gifts for others.

Add to that a long-held desire to run my own business and here we are!

What makes it different to other subscription boxes?

There are a few things that give our box its own character and set us apart from some of the other subscription boxes. We only include the latest releases and every box has author exclusives such as signed books, signed book plates, interviews and letters making the boxes extra special.

I like to give the boxes a personal touch each containing a personalised letter and envelope sealed with a wax seal which we stamp ourselves. I also gift wrap every book that goes into the subscription boxes and take great care on the packing so that every box is like receiving a gift.

The genres we offer set us apart from other boxes too, you can choose between crime & mystery and sci-fi & fantasy (my favourites!).

How do you decide what books and bookish goodies to include in your boxes?

This is a crazy juggling act and really, really difficult! There are so many great books and bookish goodies out there all of which I would love to include 😊

I spend a lot of time reviewing publisher schedules, reading ARCs, finding out author availability, drinking tea, chatting with book-loving friends, reading book blogs and keeping up with industry news to identify trends and possible book choices.

Then I have to consider what combination of books will work together, what will physically fit in the box, the budget (unfortunately), the time frame needed by suppliers, etc, etc…

I do have a few guiding principles for my choices:

  1. I read all the books that go into the boxes before making the final decision.
  2. The books have to be new releases preferably in the 3 months prior to be boxes shipping which reduces the risk of subscribers having already read the books.
  3. The books also must be standalone, I don’t want to include books that would require our subscribers to go and read previous books in order to enjoy the book they receive from us.
  4. In terms of goodies I like them to add to the reading experience and I like to include things that tie in to the selected books and/or the genre of the boxes whenever I can.

Speaking of which, if authors and businesses wanted to be in your awesome box, can they approach you?

Absolutely! Authors, designers, makers and suppliers are always welcome to drop us an email at contact@mychroniclebookbox.comor contact us via social media letting us know what they can offer or suggesting how we could collaborate.

What’s next for MCBB?

We have grown a lot in the last year or so and as I say I am now focussing on the business full time (or as full time as three young children allows!). This should allow me to share my love of books and reading with more and more subscribers while maintaining the charm and personal touch of our boxes.

I’m also planning more single purchase special boxes celebrating books, authors and series that we are already in love with by commissioning special items to accompany new releases. Our A Discovery of Witches special edition book box was the first of this kind and went down a storm – we had to curate a second batch it proved so popular!