Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth By Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $29.99 AUD | $32.99 NZ
Publication Date: 2nd July 2019
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with gorgeous and haunting illustrations.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.

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This was incredible, heartbreaking and thought provoking. I think I may be one of the only people left on the planet that hasn’t watched the Pan’s Labyrinth film, but after reading the book, I’ll definitely be watching the movie. This was a beautifully dark, magical journey from start to finish and I loved every second of it! Written by the film director and Cornelia Funke, this book gives new insight into the 2006 film.

Pan’s Labyrinth (for those few, like me, who haven’t seen the film.) is a dark fantasy tale that follows 11-year-old Ofelia. After picking up her life, along with her pregnant mother, and moving to the secluded home of her new stepfather, the tyrannical and sadistic Captain Vidal, Ofelia finds herself drawn into a world of fairytale fantasy. But, like most fairytales, all is not what it seems.

This book was a-ma-zing! Each scene was written in such a way that you felt as though you were a spectator in these characters lives, like you could be walking in and out of this world watching their every move. The world building was rich and atmospheric and had an incredible knack of making me feeling completely uneasy. From the very beginning I found it hard to discern who to trust and who to fear most. It was done so well, that the feeling of unease seemed to stick with me well after I had put the book down. It even chased me into my dreams on a few occasions!

I would like to mention that this book is not for the faint of heart. Set in 1944, in Nazi-held Europe, there is a lot of brutal content that could make some readers feel uncomfortable. However, it all combines perfectly to create a dark and menacing read. The characters felt completely raw and real, which I think is what this book is all about at the heart of it. Human emotion, good, bad and truly evil.

Honestly, I cannot fault this book. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s probably one of my favourite reads of the year! The beautifully written story, along with some truly gorgeous illustrations combine to create a mesmerising reading experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and bawl my eyes out some more.

Book Review: The Rift By Rachael Craw

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

For generations, the Rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against horrors released by the Rift. Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the Island is facing a new threat that not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?

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I need more! This book was incredible and I need more!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did! I don’t really know what I was excepting, but this book took me back to the feeling of reading The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater for the first time and it was amazing! I knew it was going to be one of my new favourite books when I got about 3/4 of the way through and was frantically googling if there was a sequel in the works! Please, please, please let there be a sequel in the works!

The Rift by Rachael Craw is told from two different points of view. That of Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with rare abilities living on Blackwater Island and responsible for the safety of an ancient herd of deer, coveted for their antlers magical healing properties. And Meg Archer, the daughter of the Master Ranger swept away to the mainland by her mother to live a “normal life” after a terrible childhood accident. Upon Megs return to the island the pair must navigate their way through their growing attraction for one another all while facing their greatest fears to save the island and the Old Herd from disaster.

This book took the term “magical realism” and ran like hell with it! It felt incredibly magical and rich. The world building was so atmospheric and engaging, I could have looked up from my book and been on Black Water Island, surrounded by thrumming lay lines, hell hounds and ancient mythical deer, and I wouldn’t have been surprised. The pacing of the plot was brilliant, I was never once bored with the story and ended up burning through this book in a matter of hours.

The characters were really likeable and despite possessing rare, magical abilities, they still felt completely authentic and real. The slow burn romance was perfection and the interactions between Cal, Meg and other minor characters was really fun and enjoyable.

Overall, The Rift was incredibly whimsical and original. It felt a little murky and confusing to start with, but the more I read, the more clear everything became, and I was able to understand the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to deduct any stars from this review. I really, truly, LOVED this book and I will definitely be reading any future sequels. Now, excuse me while I go to the store and purchase every other book Rachael Craw has ever written.

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!

Book Review: The Hearts We Sold By Emily Lloyd-Jones

Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

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I very nearly didn’t finish this book. It was a huge disappointment for me which I found to be a little surprising as most of the reviews I have seen for it are fairly good. There wasn’t really anything I liked about this book, except maybe the fact that they had some diverse character representation and that it finally did end. It’s such a shame to say, but I really, really, really, didn’t like this book.

Demons have come to Earth and they are making deals! They don’t want money as payment though, they want human limbs. The Hearts We Sold follows Dee Moreno, who is looking to make a deal to escape her less than ideal home life. The demon doesn’t want just any body part though, it wants her heart. Dee is thrust into a two year contract working for the demon where she, and her fellow heartless, get far more than they bargained for.

The premise itself is original and fantastic, but the execution was sloppy and underdeveloped. I had very little attachment to any of the characters and found myself unmoved by even the more drastic plot points. The story felt sluggish until the very end, where it felt like the author decided to drop everything on us at once and rush to a conclusion, leaving several questions unanswered. The ending however, was probably the only part of the book that I felt even a little bit for the characters. But unfortunately, an ‘alright’ ending doesn’t negate the fact that the rest of the book was slow, boring and a little repetitive.

The characters themselves were very bland. Even our main character, who’s back story was fairly interesting felt like cardboard. The character interactions felt forced and there seemed to be a severe lack of chemistry between the romantic pairing. So much so, that when they finally kissed, it felt weird and out of place for me. The story felt like there was just a whole lot of nothing happening at all times. It’s sad to say, but it was a down right chore to continue reading this book.

Over all, I wouldn’t recommend The Hearts We Sold. There was very little character or plot evolution which made the whole story feel stagnant and underdeveloped. The whole story felt very flat and one dimensional and quite honestly, it felt like a huge waste of time. Because the ending didn’t totally suck, this book has gained an extra half star from me, giving it a rating of 1.5 stars.

Why I Will Never Use An Electronic Reading Device

I can already hear what you e-book lovers are about to say! “But it’s so much easier” you’d protest. “What if you’re traveling?!” you’d scream, “You have hundreds of books right there in the palm of your hand!”

Well, as a girl who happily lugged at least 10+ books (yes, mostly hard covers) back from her last trip to America, I can assure you, I cannot relate. Physical books rock my world and I will never use, buy or borrow an electronic reading device. You can’t make me and below are a few reasons why!

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Smelling The Pages

Yeah, ok, don’t act like you’re above it! If you’re an avid reader, chances are you either do, or have done this at some point. But I cannot help but fan through the pages of a book, my nose pressed right up against the edges, breathing in that glorious ‘new book smell.’ Although ‘old book smell’ also has its merits, it isn’t quite the same for me. Perhaps it stems from my very real love of book stores, who knows. Speaking of which…

Perusing Book Stores

Have you ever stepped into a book store and had the overwhelming smell of ink on pages greet your sense? Because I have and it’s amazing. Not to mention, buying physical copies of books from your local book store helps keep them in business. There is nothing quite like spending hours in a book store perusing the shelves for your next read, or, lets be honest here, the next book you’re going to throw on that ever growing TBR (to be read) pile that you may or may not get to before you die of old age or it falls and crushes you to death.

The Feeling

Ok, so I might be getting a little pompous about it all here, but come on, the act of getting more than half way through a book and being able to feel when the pages you’ve read get thicker than the pages waiting to be read is the best. I don’t want to be told what percentage of the way through a book I am. I WANNA FEEL IT. The physical act of turning the pages is perfection and I will not give it up!

Also, what bookworm do you know that doesn’t carry a book with them everywhere they go?! That comforting thud, thud, thud of the heavy book whacking against your side because your bag is now 10x heavier than it should be, is glorious.

Public Libraries

LIBRARIES! Aren’t they the best!? Whether at home or at a dedicated establishment, libraries are just THE BEST. But public libraries are special! Much like second hand book stores, it’s nice to ponder at who read the book before you! What did they think of it? Did they dog ear like a savage and not use a bookmark? Did they spill coffee or accidentally smear orange Cheeto dust on one of the pages? It’s like a murder mystery only without the murder! Unless someone does the aforementioned savagery to your personal home library books, in which case, I have a tarp and a shovel.

So you see, physical books are the best. I won’t deny that there are merits in using an e-reader, but they just aren’t for me! I won’t judge you though, go ahead and use your soulless brick. In all seriousness though, read on whatever you like! At the end of the day, at least we’re all reading, right?