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My 2015 Book Wishlist

December 11, 2014 in Books, Fiction

What’s on your 2015 Reading Wishlist? I’ve chosen 8 books that are scheduled to be published during 2015. Some are part of a series, some are stand alone, but I’m excited to get my hands on each of them. I’ve linked to their Goodreads pages so you can have a read of the blurbs over there.

2015 books final

  1. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon, January 2015. – Book 2 in The Bone Season series.
  2. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, February 2015.
  3. Golden Son by Pierce Brown, January 2015. – Book 2 in The Red Rising Trilogy (I’m actually reading book one right now)
  4. Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman, April 2015. – Book 2, you can find my review of book one, Prisoner of Night & Fog here.
  5. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, April 2015.
  6. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, February 2015
  7. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, May 2015. – I’m a huge fan of her Throne of Glass series (review of book 1 here).
  8. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, January 2015.

What books are you looking forward to in 2015?

Christmas Gifts from ToxicFox

November 28, 2014 in Christmas, Gifts, Promotion

It’s that time of year again… time for Christmas shopping! The seemingly endless search for that perfect gift. Whether you love the challenge or loathe the process, the look on your loved ones’ faces when they open that present on Christmas Day is a special moment.

toxic fox

Recently the lovely folk at ToxicFox, a one-stop shop for gift buying, got in touch and asked us if we’d like to review some of their gifts. One look at the site and naturally we said “yes please”. They really do have something for everyone on their website and we were lucky enough to be offered the chance to design two personalised gifts. So without further ado, here they are.

ToxicFox have a wide range of products in their Typography of Love range, each of which are customisable so you can really make that gift special.

We personalised the Special Moments framed print, and I have to say I love it! The website makes it quick and easy to do. You get to choose 10 words to add to the print, and the colour of the text. What’s more you can view a preview so you can really get it to look just as you want it.

I particularly love this gift idea as you can add any language you want to it. We added some Gaelic to ours as that’s really important to our family, but really you could add whatever you want.

The print comes framed and ready to hang. It’s a fantastic gift. This one will be going to my parents and I just know that they are going to love it!

Next up is possibly my favourite item, a personalised ClaireaBella bag. If you haven’t heard of ClaireaBella before you are in for a treat.

 

ClaireaBella have a range of products available, but we were offered the chance to design a personalised Jute Bag. As soon as I saw this I knew it would be perfect for Kirsty! Each bag is HAND-PAINTED and individually decorated with your customisations. You get to choose hair colour, style, eye colour, skin tone, outfit and add a name to the bag too.

Like the Typography of Love print, you personalise your jute bag on the website. It’s really easy to do and there are images to help you with the personalisation process.

Isn’t it just gorgeous? I love all the wee added details like the ribbons, glitter and silver charm.

bag collage

ClaireaBella Jute Bag Details

 

I am so impressed with this product. It’s of fantastic quality, a truly unique, beautifully detailed and perfect gift. Just a quick note though, as they are all hand painted you’ll probably want to get your Christmas order in soon as I imagine these will be really popular this year.

ToxicFox also threw in a couple of extra goodies into our parcel. As well as customisable, personalised products, they also have a huge range of other gifts. The website really does have something for everyone and it’s easy to navigate, plus they have some Christmas gift guide videos on the site too if you are in need of inspiration.

So, like I said, they included a couple of extra goodies for us, pampering ones!

The Retox Pamper Pack comes with four sachets: a pomegranate & paw paw invigorating and nourishing face mask, grape & ginseng really revitalising eye gel pads, an almond oil leave in hair mask and a shea butter & peach kernal softening intensive foot cream.

All of the products are made from 100% natural ingredients and wow they smell good! I’m generally not a fan of sachets, but that aside you get plenty of product in each sachet. I’ve only tried the face mask and foot cream so far but they were both lovely, smell fantastic and there’s more than enough product left to use them again.

 

Last but not least we were sent a Beautiful Bath Bomb Christmas Cracker from Bomb Cosmetics. The cracker is really cute and comes complete with three bath bombs – a Fresh Berry Blaster, an It’s Xmas Blaster and a Cherry Bathewell Blaster. These smell absolutely incredible! In fact I have two of them sitting in my room waiting to be used and you can smell them as soon as you walk into the room, lovely!

I’ve only tried one of the bath bombs so far but I really liked it and can’t wait to use the other two! A great stocking filler and beautifully packaged too.

So there you have it, some Christmas gift inspiration from ToxicFox. I am so impressed with everything and I can’t wait to see what my parents think of their Typography of Love print.

Finally, ToxicFox have kindly provided us with a discount code so that Strupag readers can get 10% off their order. Just input the code ‘TFBlog’ at checkout.

Remember to check out their voucher codes page on the site too as at the moment they are offering £5 off the Typography of Love Personalised Frames and £5 off the Large ClaireaBella Jute Bags too!

Thank you so much ToxicFox for sending us over these fantastic gifts!

Happy Shopping!!

Thank you to ToxicFox for providing us with these beautiful gifts free of charge. All opinions expressed in this post are, as always, completely honest and entirely our own.

Prisoner Of Night And Fog by Anne Blankman

November 20, 2014 in Books, Fiction

prisonerofnightandfog

Munich in 1931 is a dangerous place, no matter who you are.

For Gretchen Muller, Hitler is ‘Uncle Dolf’ and he’s always been there for her throughout the turmoil of her family’s past. But no, as his hold over Germany strengthens, he will be forever changed in her  eyes. She will do anything to uncover the truth, even at the risk of everything she’s ever known…

The blurb on the back of the book instantly had me intrigued, and I have to tell you once I started reading I found it hard to stop!  So what’s it all about? Well Gretchen lives with her mother and her brother in a boarding house in Munich. Her mother runs the boarding house, their livelihood since the death of Gretchen’s father 8 years ago.

Her father was a member of the National Socialist Party and was a close friend of Adolf Hitler. He died a martyr, killed by bullets that should have struck Hitler. Her father’s death has ensured that the Mullers have the protection of Hitler and his party.

Gretchen has always called him Uncle Dolf. He’s always been there for her, bringing her gifts, teaching her about the arts, taking her for days out. He has educated her on the ways of the world; warned her about the dangers that the Jews pose to Germany.  She has been brainwashed, although of course she doesn’t realise that.

Then one day she meets a Jew. A Jew who tells her that her father didn’t die so that Hitler may live; he was murdered. Gretchen’s world is turned upside down. Can she believe what this Jew is telling her? After all she has been well warned by Uncle Dolf as to how poisonous the Jews are. But if there’s even the slightest chance that it’s true, shouldn’t she find out? Shouldn’t she know the truth of her father’s death?

She knows that she absolutely cannot be seen talking to the Jew, who by the way has a name, Daniel, and seems really nice. So she proceeds to investigate her father’s death, in secrecy, with the help of Daniel. She uncovers far more than she ever expected and the whole foundation that she has built her life upon is broken. She’s been lied to. She’s been brainwashed, and Uncle Dolf certainly isn’t that kindly uncle that she always thought of him as.

Anne Blankman has certainly done her research for this novel. Although the Muller family, and various other characters, are purely fictitious, the story is built around real historical events. Personally, I think Blankman has done this beautifully. She has seemlessly combined fact and fiction, and for me, really captured how a young German girl raised under the Nationalist Socialist Party might feel.

The character of Gretchen is a fascinating one. Blankman develops this character beautifully from Hitler’s pet, a girl who has never spoken to a Jew, to a girl who realises that Jews are people too and that perhaps Hitler isn’t exactly who she thought he was.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I enjoyed the fast pace, the historical background, the mystery and psychological aspects of this book.  In fact I am desperate to read the next one but we’ll have to wait until Spring 2015 for that.

Thank you to Headline Books and Bookbridgr for sending over a copy for review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and, as always, completely honest.

A Day For Remembering

November 11, 2014 in Personal

Today is a day for remembering. Remembering those who have fought for our country, those who still fight for our country. A day to remember those who have died and a day to remember those whose lives changed forever.

Since words fail me on this day I’ve chosen to share three of my favourite poems with you.
 
My first is so famous it requires no introduction.
 
In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
 

My second is An Iolaire / The Iolaire by Iain Crichton Smith. On the 1st January 1919 300 men were heading home to the Isle of Lewis after 4 years at war on board the HMY Iolaire. Less than a mile from home the ship  got into trouble and sank. 205 young men who had survived WWI lost their lives within sight of their home island.

 
The Iolaire
Iain Crichton Smith
 
The green washed over them. I saw them when 
the New Year brought them home. It was a day
that orbed the horizon with an enigma.
It seemed that there were masts. It seemed that men
buzzed in the water round them. It seemed that fire
shone in the water which was thin and white
unravelling towards the shore. It seemed that I
touched my fixed hat which seemed to float and then
the sun illuminated fish and naval caps,
names of the vanished ships. In sloppy waves,
in the fat of water, they came floating home
bruising against their island. It is true
a minor error can inflict this death
that star is not responsible. It shone
over the puffy blouse, the flapping blue
trousers, the black boots. The seagulls swam
bonded to the water. Why not man?
The lights were lit last night, the tables creaked
with hoarded food. They willed the ship to port
in the New Year which would erase the old,
its errant voices, its unpractised tones.
Have we done ill, I ask? My sober hat
floated in the water, my fixed body
a simulacrum of the transient waste,
for everything was mobile, planks that swayed,
the keeling ship exploding and the splayed
cold insect bodies. I have seen your church
solid. This is not. The water pours
into the parting timbers where ache
above the globular eyes. The lsack heads turn
ringing the horizon without a sound
with mortal bells, a strange exuberant flower
unknown to our dry churchyards. I look up.
The sky begins to brighten as before,
remorseless amber, and the bruised blue grows
at the erupting edges. I have known you, God,
not as the playful one but as the black
thunderer from the hills. I kneel
and touch this dumb blonde head. My hand is scorched.
Its human quality confuses me.
I have not felt such hair so dear before
not seen such real eyes. I kneel from you.
This water soaks me. I am running with
its tart sharp joy. I am floating here
In my black uniform, I am embraced
by these green ignorant waters. I am calm 
 
My final poem is also a well known Gaelic song. It was written in memory of Gordon MacPherson, a 21 year old from Argyll who lost his life in the Falklands War, in June 1982.
 
It’s one of my favourite Gaelic songs, you can listen to is here under “Eist”.
Nam Aonar Le Mo Smaointean 
(Alone With My Thoughts)
 
 
Nam aonar le mo smaointean
‘S a’ ghaoth tighinn bho thuath,
Grian òr-bhuidh’ mar ghrìosaich
Cur teine air chuan;
Na caoraich sholt cho sàmhach
Len àl sa chnoc mhòr,
Ciaradh feasgair cur a glòir
Air faileas dubh le òr.

 
Na sabhalan fàs gun mullach
Na taighean bha làn,
An-diugh cho fuar ‘s cho falamh
Am fearann dol bàn;
Gun chrann ann, gun speal ann
Gun lìon ann, gun bhàt’,
Èigheach cogaidh a thug bhuainn
Na balaich thuit sa bhlàr.


Ma chlaoidh sinne nàmhaid
An-dràst’ faic prìs buaidh,
Cridhe màthar cràidhte
‘S na gillean san uaigh;
Cha dèan cliù no onair
Treabhadh dhuinn no buain,
Cianail, falamh, sìth a’ bhàis
Cha till na fir chaidh uainn.

 
Aig uaigh fhuar Mhic a’ Phearsain
‘S an sneachda air Peighinn Phùir,
Chluich a’ phìob port thuiridh
Am peilear bhrag cruaidh;
An cogadh faoin nam Falklands
Thuit Gòrdan ro òg,
‘N-uiridh, balach san sgoil àrd;
An-diugh, a bhàs ar leòn.

 
A’ ghrian tha dol sìos oirnne
Air prèiridh cur blàiths,
Oidhche tha gar dùnadh
Dùsgadh do chàch;
Aig feasgar dorch ar cùrsa
Feith’ dùsgadh là mhòir,
Ciaradh maidne cur a glòir
Air faileas dubh le òr.


Iain MacLeod
 

 
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.”
For The Fallen, Laurence Binyon

 

The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah

November 7, 2014 in Books, Fiction

The Telling Error

All she wanted to do was take her son’s forgotten sports kit to school.

So why does Nicki Clements drive past the home of controversial newspaper columnist Damon Blundy eight times in one day? Blundy has been murdered, and the words ‘HE IS NO LESS DEAD’ daubed on his wall – in red paint, not blood. And though Blundy was killed with a knife, he was not stabbed. Why?

Nicki, called in for questioning, doesn’t have any of the answers. Nor can she tell the police the truth, because although she is not guilty of murder, she is far from innocent. And the words on the wall are disturbingly familiar to her, if only she could remember where she has heard them before…

This is the first Sophie Hannah novel I’ve read, and I have to say that I did really enjoy it. Nicki Clements is a wife and mother. When her son forgets his PE kit Nicki sets off to deliver it to him at school. However on the journey she finds that traffic is being stopped by the police, and one of those policemen is him. She doesn’t want to see him, can’t face him after what happened and so she does a u-turn and takes a long way to the school.

It turns out that the police were questioning people about the murder of newspaper columist Damon Blundy, and by performing that u-turn she has caught the attention of the police. Desperate to avoid getting into trouble with the police, and to keep her secrets hidden from her husband, Nicki lies to the police. It’s this lie, this error, that further focuses the police’s attention onto her.

First things first, this is a clever book. I like the way the story builds. The unanswered questions accumulate, and as a reader I found myself trying to piece it all together. I failed by the way. However, I found Nicki Clements to be an incredibly irritating character. Obviously she is meant to be on edge, nervous of being found out and this comes across well. It’s just I felt like there were almost too many unanswered questions about her, and reference was being made, repeatedly, to these ‘things’ she had done. Of course there are two sides to this, building up the curiosity, the reader’s mind going into overdrive trying to figure out Nicki’s secrets, but I think there’s a point when it becomes too much and I felt that with the character of Nicki.

That said, I really enjoyed the mystery of the book. I loved the way it was structured, with some of Blundy’s articles included, as well as the email correspondence of other characters. We don’t ever meet Blundy but by reading his articles we start to see some glimpes of his personality and I think that’s a really clever addition.

Despite feeling irritated by Nicki I couldn’t put this book down; I had to know the answers! Once I finished the book and had the answers I then reflected upon the story and realised just how well crafted this novel is. It’s a good read, and when I got passed the phase of wanting to punch Nicki in the face, I enjoyed it.

Thank you to Bookbridgr for sending over a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely our own and completely honest.