Book Review: The Graces By Laure Eve

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

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What the heck did I just read?!

Ok, so I don’t really want to just throw the words “this was just like Twilight” around, but.. This was just like Twilight in so many respects.

The Graces follows the new girl in school, River (Bella), who is, along with everyone else at school, infatuated with the Graces (Cullens). The Graces are a threesome of super attractive teen siblings, that are supposedly witches (vampires). For one reason or another they choose River to be their new best friend and together they navigate love, loss, magic and betrayal.

Unfortunately I felt like this book completely lacked atmosphere, and although I believe it was the authors intent to create deep, dark and emotional characters, they mostly just came across as down right pretentious. The pacing was completely off! Nothing happened plot wise for the first 300 pages, by which time, it felt like a dam burst and we were flooded with a lot of information and a really obvious plot twist.

River as a character was horrible! I am really over reading stories about young, hateful girls who rip other girls to shreds because they differ from them. Not to mention her complete and utter adoration of the Graces was cringe worthy! The Graces themselves felt very one dimensional and, for lack of a better word, completely unbelievable and uninteresting. I had absolutely no strong feelings for any of the characters, they all felt completing lacking in substance.

The unoriginal characters are accompanied by unoriginal dialogue. The supposedly “deep” conversations just come across as weird and unbelievable and having to read about River fawning over Edward Cullen’s, oops, I mean, Fenrin Grace’s “crooked smile” and how he smelt “like a thicker, manlier kind of vanilla, was down right nauseating.

I really don’t know how else to describe how I feel about this book. The ending felt really unsatisfying, which I assume is because it’s meant to lead you into reading the squeal. However, due to the first half of this book being totally boring and the last half feeling like it was just too little, too late, I won’t be reading any further. It felt like the author was trying too hard to push the dark and moody vibes of the story that, in the end, it didn’t quite hit the mark. Because of this, I am giving The Graces 1 star.

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.

How To Host A Bookstagram Giveaway

Chances are if you’ve been on the Bookstagram community a while, you’ve seen people hosting giveaways! A “giveaway,” for those who don’t know, is essentially when you host a mini competition with the prize being something bookish! To make things easier, when I host a giveaway, I’ll usually make the prize a book from Book Depository to the value of, say, $20 Australian. Giveaways are a great way to expand your follower base and get your content seen by a wider range of people. Please note however, that they are not a necessity and you are under no obligation to host a giveaway. But if you are interested in hosting one and have no idea where to start! Below are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way!

Giveaway Rules

All giveaways have rules! You aren’t exactly giving something away for nothing, you’re offering people the chance to win something if they follow a certain set of rules to enter the competition. For the sake of not getting too in depth, I am going to assume you already know the basics of how instagram works! A common set of giveaway rules would be as follows.

1. You must be following me, do not follow to unfollow later.

2. Like this post.

3. Post about the giveaway in your stories and remember to tag me.

4. Comment “done” on this post when you’re done! (This is an important step as this will be the list you use when choosing your winner)

Some people then go on to create another list of optional requirements that will allow an entrant to gain more entires into a giveaway. Some of these include things such as

1. Tag some Bookstragam friends who might be interested in this giveaway, each person you tag is an extra entry.

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2. Share this giveaway post to your feed and tag me for an extra entry.

I would also recommend having a look at some of your favourite Bookstagram accounts and see if they have hosted any giveaways, look into what kinds of rules they applied and mix it up to suit you.

Be Aware Of What Hashtags You Use

When hosting a giveaway on Bookstagram, you want your target audience to be other book lovers. People who aren’t going to unfollow you as soon as your giveaway is over! Because this is the case, you need to be very aware of what hashtags you’re using and try not to be too general with them! Instead of just tagging your post with #giveaway, try using #bookishgiveaway or #bookstagramgivaway. This allows you to target your preferred audience, instead of people who aren’t really interested in books and only want free stuff. I could even argue that hashtags aren’t necessary if people are posting about your giveaway to their stories. This gives you a far more organic “word of mouth” reach without having to worry about hashtags. Another way around this is to include a disclaimer in your giveaway that only Bookstagram accounts can enter.

Choose Your Winner Fairly

When it comes to choosing a winner, I believe you need to be as fair as possible. I find taking the time to be thorough with your entires is of the utmost importance. Once you have your list finalised, you are then able to input the names into a random name picker (you can google this and you’ll find plenty)! I find this to be the most efficient and fair way of choosing a winner without it being influenced by myself. After this, I check that the winner has satisfied all the entry requirements and if it looks like they have, I announce the winner on my stories! Once they reply I get them to check out the book depository to see what book(s) they would like and I have it shipped to them! This could very well be the most important step! Follow through with the giveaway guys!

In my time on Bookstagram, this has easily been the most effective way to gain a following, however I would suggest keeping your giveaways to a milestone or special event. If you host too many, it may get a bit tiresome for you and your followers!

Happy Bookstagramming! You can find me on Instagram @readingsumpton.