Book Review: The Diabolic By S.J. Kincaid

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator’s daughter, Sidonia. There’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have – humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire

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This book took me just over two weeks to read. Which, with my reading turn over, may as well be a couple of months! I’m not really sure why, because I enjoyed the overall premise and found it entertaining enough! There were things I really enjoyed about this book and things I found that didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Mostly I’ve found myself with little interest in continuing the series and I’m not sure if this is because the story itself wrapped up fairly well or because the book fell a bit flat for me.

The Diabolic is a Young Adult Sci-fi novel that takes place in a world where Diabolics, humanoid creatures created and grown in a lab using human DNA to be stronger, faster and more viable than regular human beings, are issued to the elite families of the Empire to protect them at any cost. Our main character, Nemesis, is one of these ‘creatures.’ Nemesis is assigned to Sidonia, the daughter of a galactic Senator hell bent on insulting the power-hungry Emperor with his heresy against the Helionic faith. Once the Emperor gets wind of this, he summons the senators daughter to his galactic empire to meet her fate as retribution against the senator. Due to Nemesis’ innate nature to protect Sidonia, she is sent to impersonate her.

I found this book a little hard to review. I think because I was told this was originally a stand alone, but it ended up getting a couple of sequels. The story was great, but felt a little slow and I didn’t find myself gaining much of a connection to the characters. It felt like a lot of information was given and I could understand how the characters fit together, but I couldn’t really understand why they would want to. This could either be a very clever tactic by the author in getting the reader into the mindset of a Diabolic, or a total fluke. I’d like to believe it’s the work of great writing, but I think the only way to know for sure would be to read the sequels and I’m not sure I’m really that interested.

The characters themselves were interesting enough, I enjoyed the touch of romance. However, it was probably the least romantic romance I’ve ever read in a YA novel. But again, this has probably got more to do with the main characters lack of emotional understanding. I also feel like the author did a disservice to a few of the characters by either, killing them off really flippantly or dedicating only a couple of lines to what could have really been a fantastic, diverse back story! This could be due to the fact that it was originally a stand alone and the author didn’t have much time to truely delve into their character. There is a lot of senseless brutality within this book. I understand the author trying to paint certain characters as tyrants, but a lot of the brutal scenes felt a little unnecessary.

I really did enjoy the world in which this story was set. I suppose the use of the word “world” is used rather loosely as most of this novel is set on a space ship/station in the middle of the cosmos! But I really loved learning about the advanced technologies and the way in which these characters lived in a galactic environment! The advanced technology and physical enhancements gave me a little bit of a Hunger Games vibe, which I really enjoyed!

Because Diabolic was fairly brutal at times and the numerous twists and turns were lacking in suspense for me, I’ll be giving this book 3.5 stars. It was entertaining enough, but I’m still undecided as to whether I will read the sequels.

My (Super Easy) Guide To How I Edit My Bookstagram Photos

There is nothing more satisfying than looking at your Instagram feed and seeing a cohesive group of pictures that blend so well together that the overall effect is like you’re looking at one picture. It’s similar to one of those artistic photos that, when you look close enough, are actually made up of hundreds of different smaller photos.

So I know you probably haven’t been wondering, but if you have and would like to know, below you will find a (super easy) guide to how I take and edit my Instagram photos as of late! Keeping in mind that my feed has changed a lot since I first started Instagram, but I do feel like I have finally found a theme that suits me!

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Equipment & Editing Apps

Lets start with the easy stuff! What I use to take my photos. I don’t use anything special! No big bulky camera, not lighting set up. I just use my iPhone XS and I make sure I take all my photos right next to a big, open window, with lots of natural light streaming in! I always try to shoot when the lighting is the same, otherwise I end up having to tweak my photos more to keep their uniformity.

Once all my props are set up, which can take anywhere from about 5 minutes to an hour, depending on how creative I feel that day, I generally take about 10 photos before I get the one I’m most happy with. This can vary though, again, depending on how creative I feel and If I’m happy with my initial set up! I have also made sure to get really familiar with my Iphone’s camera settings so I know how to adjust the exposure and focus while shooting. I’ll usually shoot with ‘portrait’ mode when I’m not doing a flat lay because it gives the photos a really nice, almost professional, quality.

After sorting through the photos I’ve taken, I choose my favourites to edit. I start by using the in phone editing options to crop or realign a photo. After this I drop it into:

Colourtone

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Price: Free (with optional in app purchases)

Colourtone is my all time favourite editing app. I don’t want to bother with creating my own filters or paying big bucks for a subscription to an app I may not even use! I am much happier using presets! And boy, does this app have some beautiful preset filters!  The app itself is free and a select few of the filters are free also! However, the filter I use, I purchased in a pack for no more than, I believe, about $2.99 Australian.

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After I’ve thrown on the filter I like to use, I then move on to checking where it will fit in best on my feed by using:

UNUM

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Price: Free (with optional in app purchases)

UNUM allows you to plan out your entire feed, and the best part about it, is that it’s FREE! Well, you can purchase an upgrade, but I’ve never found I needed it. I import all the photos I have edited into UNUM and start moving them around to see what photos I want to upload to Instagram and in what order I’d like to upload them. This is a much easier way of creating an overall aesthetic, rather than uploading to Instagram and then finding out later that the photo doesn’t really fit with the rest of your feed! Or worse, uploading, then taking it down, then uploading, then taking it down… You get the picture! It’s annoying for both you and your followers!

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Once I’ve decided what order I want to post my content I move onto Instagram! In Instagram, I usually only ever use the sharpening tool to really make the foreground pop! Other than that, I don’t make use of any of the other editing tools or filters within Instagram.

At the end of the day, your content should reflect your personality. Create content that you love and are proud of, but don’t be afraid to try something new! Happy Bookstagramming everyone!

February Reading Wrap-Up

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I can’t believe we’re already wrapping up February! This year has been flying by. This month wasn’t the best for me in terms of reading. In theory it was looking like it’d be amazing, but after reading The Hearts We Sold, I slipped into a weird reading slump and it’s been taking me a good two weeks to finish the book I am currently reading! Here’s hoping I can get through it and smash my March TBR!

So the short of it is that I spent most of February buying more books than I have been reading, but I suppose thats pretty great too.

My Review System

5 Stars: This. Book. Blew. My. Mind. I’d read it again and again and would highly recommend it.
4 Stars: The book was great! I enjoyed it and I may read it again.
3 Stars: I could take or leave this book. It had some interesting moments, but nothing too captivating.
2 Stars: Not a very good book, I’ll more than likely forget about its existence once it’s lost in the expanse of my book shelves.
1 Star: A book I wish I didn’t waste my time on. I did not enjoy it at all and would definitely not recommend it.

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Title: Four Dead Queens (4.5 stars)
Author: Astrid Scholte
Genre: YA Fantasy/Dystopian/Murder Mystery
Find it on Book Depository

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: I was lucky enough to receive an advanced readers copy of this book from Allen and Unwin Publishing and I am so grateful because this book was fantastic! I would recommend it to YA fantasy lovers with a soft spot for smart mouthed, theives! The book has a really well executed “whodunit” aspect to it with a touch of dystopia!

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Title: Emergency Contact (3.5 Stars)
Author: Mary H. K. Choi
Genre: YA Contemporary
Find it on Book Depository

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: This book was so tough for me to review. I both loved it and disliked it immensely! For some weird reason, I feel like I might re-read it some time despite this. In the end I did come to love both the main characters and I recommend this to anyone looking for a cute but equally as quirky YA contemporary romance.

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Title: The Wicked King (5 stars)
Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA Fantasy
Find it on Book Depository

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: Do I even need to write anything here? I am trash for Cardan Greenbriar, High King of Elfhame. These books are amazing, go read The Cruel Prince and follow it closely with The Wicked King, then find me on instagram and fangirl with me.

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Title: The Hearts We Sold (1.5 Stars)
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Find it on Book Depository

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: Uuuuhhhh… I really disliked this book. It had a terrific premise, but it wasn’t executed well at all. I had no strong feelings for any of the characters and a lot of their interactions felt really forced. Nothing really happens until the very end of the book. As such I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

5 Popular YA Books That Were Given Really Terrible Covers In The Beginning

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“Don’t judge a book by its cover” your mother would say. Which, when it comes to people, is great advice! But when it comes to books, is easier said than done.

Below I have complied a list of really popular YA books/series that were given terrible covers in the beginning! Thankfully a lot of these books ended up getting new covers over time, but how anyone (myself included) picked them up to start with I have no idea!

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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So it might just be me, but I absolutely hate when books have realistic looking character  portraits, or worse, an actual photograph of a person on the cover. I don’t need you filling my head with ideas of what these characters look like, I want to read the story and do all that for myself! The Throne of Glass series is one of my most highly recommended reads. Thank goodness it was given top notch covers after this debacle!

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

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So the original covers for this whole series where pretty terrible, but this one takes the cake for me! I remember I fell in love with this series despite its covers being horrible (and despite a certain weird plot twist at the end of book one! KEEP READING IT’S NOT TRUE!) These books were given a revamp fairly recently and are now much easier on the eye! Unfortunately I have the whole 6 book series in the above cover style though and I can’t bring myself to spend the money to get the new covers for books I already own.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

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Eeeeek… I hate these covers. I hate everything about them, there really isn’t much I can say I like! I guess the font is ok and of course I didn’t mind the story! Well, It was ok, I read the first couple of books years ago and I didn’t mind them. Sadly, even the new covers for the Vampire Academy series are pretty average, but thank goodness they decided to ditch the models!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games series had the biggest ‘glow-up’ I have ever seen when it comes to book covers! Once the movies came out the covers were changed, but not in that horrible “movie cover” way, where they chuck pictures of the actors on the front and call it a day. These books got some really beautiful editions! I’ve had my set with the original covers (above) on my bookcase for years! Until recently when I found the trilogy, second hand, in the most beautiful editions I have ever seen for just $3 each! I couldn’t resist and snapped them up right away! If I have successfully peaked your interest, you can find a picture of these editions on my instagram, here.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

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So I read the first book in this series on a plane from New York City to Los Angeles and I loved it. I then promptly left it in the back of a taxi, along with a number of my other belongings, never to be seen again. But I can tell you now, I would not have picked this book up if it had had this cover. Once you start putting people on the covers of books, I lose interest really quick! Not to mention, this cover has very little relevance to the book in my opinion. I’m not sure what they were thinking here! This series did end up getting some really lovely covers though, which is probably what got me to buy the book in the first place!

So I know in the end it doesn’t really matter what the cover of your book looks like, it’s the story that matters! But I’m sure most book lovers would agree, a pretty cover sure does help!

Bookstagram Behaviours That Are Making You Look Like An Idiot

If you’ve been on Bookstagram for any length of time, you’ll probably have noticed that some people are just out there looking for a “follow back.” They aren’t always easy to spot, but generally as a Bookstagrammer, if some big, beefy fitness guy who only ever posts mirror selfies follows my account, I can almost guarantee he’s doing it for the follow back and he’ll be unfollowing me within a day or so.

Unfortunately though, it doesn’t seem to end there! For some reason the Bookstagram community is now like this weird, post apocalyptic, dystopian world where we trade in likes and follows and we’re all really wary of giving away too many, without gaining in return. The more followers we have, the more successful we feel and the more we feel like our content matters.

There are a million reasons why I disagree with posting content solely for the purpose of gaining followers, my main reason being, it should be something you actually enjoy, not a chore. But that’s a whole different blog post altogether. Below I have compiled all the ridiculous follow-hungry behaviours that are prevalent in the Bookstagram community today and how they are making you look like an idiot.

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Asking Popular Accounts For Shoutouts

People work hard on their content and more often than not, it’s taken years of dedication for them to have gotten that follower count. Don’t contact popular Bookstagram accounts, or accounts bigger than yours begging for a shoutout, they won’t like it and it makes you look desperate and silly. Instead, enjoy the community and interact with people who share the same love of books as you!

Liking Someones Entire Feed, But Not Following

You know the ones, when someone randomly likes your last 30 posts in the span of a couple of minutes but they don’t follow you. They must like your content enough to sit there and like your posts, right? Oh, but not quite enough to follow your account. This tactic is so transparent and ridiculous, it’s actually quite clear you don’t really like the content, you’re just looking for someone to make their way to your page in hopes that you’ll end up with a new follower. How about next time, if you like that many of someones pictures, give them a follow, maybe even ask them about some of the books you can see in their photos! Trust me, you’re far more likely to make friends this way.

Playing The Follow, Unfollow Game

This one is the most annoying in my opinion. I’ve even had a fairly popular author use this method on me! I noticed because I got rather excited to see an author follow me! I thought “No way! She likes my content!” only to have her unfollow me the next day after she realised I’d followed her back. The ‘follow, unfollow’ method is the epitome of viewing your ‘follows’ as some weird form of currency! People don’t want to be following more accounts than the amount of followers they have. It’s ridiculous. If you like someones content, follow them, if you don’t, bugger off and leave them be. Not to mention how time consuming for you, when you could be using that time to create your own content! Or in the case of that author, I don’t know, writing more books!

Leaving Generic Comments

So I get it, you want people to make their way to your account. You want people to see all your hard work. But why don’t you actually pay attention to what peoples captions say? Chances are in the Bookstagram community, the post you’re about to comment on is worthy of more than just your generic “great content :)” comment. Interact, answer questions, ask questions! But please, for goodness sake, don’t leave a generic emoji comment hoping that you’ll get a follow. If you want to comment, make sure you mean it and you care about the topic being discussed!

There are so many more ridiculous things that go on in this community. It can be thoroughly disheartening when most of us joined Bookstagram to make friends and talk about the books we love. When social media becomes more about instant gratification and numbers, it gets less fun for not just you, but everyone else too. So next time you’re about to leave a generic comment or you’re getting your thumb ready for another round of follow-unfollow, maybe just, don’t. Go leave meaningful comments, start a discussion and enjoy the community. Don’t get so caught up in the numbers that you make yourself look like an idiot.

3 Easy Steps To Ensure Your Children Grow Up To Be Readers

From the moment I found out I was pregnant I had visions of my child sharing my love of literature. They would be someone who would happily sit on my lap and let me read to them and of course someone who would, eventually, jump at the opportunity to be sorted into their Hogwarts House (come on Bub, be a Ravenclaw, just like your mother!)

So along comes my beautiful baby girl. A lot like Harry Potter in the respect that she looks very little like her mother and very much like her father, but hooray! She got my eyes! My daughter is still just a baby so she doesn’t understand what I’m saying, but I read to her anyway! Below are 3 easy steps I’ll be taking (and you can too) to ensure my daughter and any future children I have, grow up to love reading.

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Give Them Easy Access to Books and a Cosy Place to Read.

Whether the books are purchased and kept on a shelf at home or you take a walk to the local library and get yourself a library card, books should always be made easily accessible for your children! Reading shouldn’t be a burden, so having access to books is key to having children that want to read! I can vividly remember being taken to the library as a child and it certainly felt like a magical place to me! I am now lucky enough to have been able to create my own personal library at home that I add to every so often. So I guess taking me to the library worked wonders for my mother in sparking my interest in books!

Now, this part isn’t completely necessary, but I think it helps! Set up a reading nook! Somewhere that is cosy and quiet, where you can sit and read to your kids, or if you have older children, somewhere they can sit and read without interruption. There are some really wonderful children’s reading chairs on the market if you’re looking to make it extra special! One of my favourite children’s chairs is from IKEA. It can be found here.

Start Young and Make Reading Fun.

Make it an event, make it theatrical and make it fun! As I said, my daughter is only young so story time isn’t so much about the story as it is about mum making funny faces/voices while she holds up pretty pictures. However, despite not having a clue what I’m saying, she laughs, giggles and squeals! Making story time a time for laughter and enjoyment is something I strive towards. I want my daughter to associate reading with enjoyment and I believe that starts now, while she is young.

If you have older children, try putting an emphasis on using their imaginations! Maybe ask them what they think certain characters look like, or how they picture the landscape the author is describing! Making a fun discussion out of it and taking the time to share your thoughts is, not only a great way to bond with your kids, but also a way to make reading more dynamic and interesting! Reading a book can be as good as going on an adventure or watching a movie and it makes for great family time too!

Make Sure They See You Reading For Fun Too!

And lastly this step, to me, is the most important to ensuring children grow up to love reading. Now I know the saying goes “do as I say, not what I do” but how often has that ever rang true. Children are our mirror image and, especially when they are young, they learn by watching us. Our behaviours, interactions and how we communicate is what shapes them as people. By making time to read yourself, you’re showing your kids that it is important.

My daughter is only little, but it doesn’t stop me for putting a book in her hands for a few minutes while I read a chapter of my own book next to her. She doesn’t read yet of course, she would rather be chewing the corner of her book. But I’d like to think that eventually, as she grows up, she will see the joy I get from reading and perhaps emulate that herself!

Maybe she’ll even ask if we can read Harry Potter together, one can only hope! Fingers crossed!

Book Review: The Wicked King By Holly Black

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for the first book in this series: The Cruel Prince. You can find my spoiler free review here. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do. It’s fantastic!

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

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This book is going to give me such a hangover.

Have you ever had a book lull you into a complete sense of security only to have it rip it out from under you like some old woven rug with the very last page? BECAUSE I HAVE AND I AM NOT OK! This book wrecked me. To say I loved it just doesn’t feel like enough! I want to go back in time and stop myself from reading The Cruel Prince so that I wouldn’t have to deal with waiting a whole year for the last book to come out. The Wicked King was everything I had hoped for and maybe a little more.

The Wicked King picks up five months after the events of The Cruel Prince. Cardan Greenbriar, High King of Elfhame now resides on the throne. However, it is Jude Duarte, his mortal seneschal, who holds all the power! Jude has become increasingly distanced from her family and is well and truly caught up in the power she has over the King and his court. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is vying for the throne, while Jude and her Court of Shadows continue their scheme to keep Cardan on the throne until Jude’s younger brother, Oak, is old enough to take over.

This book was absolute perfection! Holly Black has such a knack for story telling that she honestly makes you feel that if you were to look up from the page, you’d be in Elfhame along side Jude. She takes the term “twists and turns” and knocks it out of the park! There were schemes on schemes on schemes and I was living for it. Jude and Cardan where EV-E-RY-THING! Their love-hate relationship  had me completely enthralled. The snide banter, sexual tension and slow unraveling of feelings was amazing. I quite honestly, wouldn’t have minded more of their interactions throughout the book. It was that slow development of trust for each other over time that was my undoing when I read those last few pages.

I am wholeheartedly invested in these books and it is going to take everything in me to not wail at the thought of having to wait another year to read The Queen of Nothing. So until then, you’ll most likely find me rocking back and forth, a copy of The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King in my arms, muttering hysterically about how much I love Cardan Greenbriar despite him being, in fact, rather wicked.

This book is very easily a 5 star read for me. The whimsical nature of the world of Faerie, the snarky, sexy character interactions and the seamless extension and execution of the plot all come together to create a truly incredible read. I need the last book, like, yesterday please.