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.

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.

And

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.

14 Years Later: My Thoughts On Twilight By Stephenie Meyer (Chapters 1-5)

Please note: due to the large amount of commentary I seem to have on this book so far, I have decided to split these blog posts into parts! Chapters 6 through to 24 will appear in later blog posts.

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It was the year 2005. my hair was black and I wore more eyeliner than anyone ever should in their entire lifetime. I lived in skinny jeans, hoodies and converse sneakers. I was fifteen years old the year Twilight hit the shelves and it was really the first YA novel I ever read. And let me tell you, I was obsessed! I was in love! It was all encompassing and true!

I have since watched the movies of course, the nostalgia gets the better of me at times and although the acting is subpar and the idea of a 100+ year old vampire being attracted to a teenage girl does send up some red flags, I still, somehow, enjoy them for what they are. I have not however, picked up these books since those fateful teenage years all those moons ago. So here it is, I have challenged myself to reread Twilight. Yes, only the first one, I’m not some masochistic lion, you guys.

Below are my thoughts on Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. 14 years since I last read it.

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Chapters 1-5

If you haven’t read or watched Twilight, you’re probably the luckiest person in the world and if you have read or watched Twilight, my condolences. Here is a quick synopsis for the aforementioned luckiest people alive.

Bella Swan is your super average teenage girl who has decided to move to a town named Forks to live with her father, Charlie. She goes to school and meets a family of vampires. She falls in love with one of them. Ridiculousness ensues. 

So to start with, it appears, in my opinion, that Bella Swan is a wet blanket of a human being who is so self involved and self deprecating that it makes me want to gouge my own eyes out so that I won’t have to read one more word about how badly she “doesn’t want to be noticed” or how she “doesn’t communicate well.” Not to mention I couldn’t help but liken her to a freshly born calf, tripping over its own legs with the amount of times she references her clumsiness!

Now I tried to enjoy the first five chapters, I really did! But not only was Bella completely unlikable, but there was also quite a few times the author used words and phrases that could only be described as problematic. Some of these gems are as follows.

(Regarding Bella’s father, a police officer, no longer removing the bullets from his gun when he gets home)

“I guess he considered me old enough not to shoot myself by accident, and not depressed enough to shoot myself on purpose” 

and this zinger

(Regarding Edward talking to Bella)

“He enunciated every syllable, as if he was talking to someone mentally handicapped”

Eeeeekkkkk….

There was also a point where Bella actually thinks that her too pale, white skin will cause her to be noticed and ridiculed. As a white woman myself, I’m not even going to touch that one, but it certainly reeks of ignorance. Now not only is Bella extremely self conscious, she also comes across as extremely pretentious! At one point, the character Jessica is trying to befriend her and she literally thinks the following:

“I couldn’t remember her name, so I smiled and nodded as she prattled about teachers and classes. I didn’t try to keep up.”

Wow. Just, wow.

Bella is so incredibly self involved that all she really cares about is how everything around her is going to impact her life. She has little to no care for anything other than herself. Oh. Well, that is until Edward Cullen makes his appearance. In which their first interaction quite literally only involves him “glaring down” at her, no words are exchanged at all. But from that moment on, she is infatuated. She is so ridiculously emotionally involved that she then starts having all these weird dreams about a guy she’s known for maybe a month and for most of that time he is actively trying to avoid her. But hey, he’s hot right? That means it’s ok when he’s being a jerk! Edward eventually decides he doesn’t want to stay away from her anymore, however he makes a point of constantly telling her that he isn’t a good guy and that she should be scared of him. (GIRL, RUUUUUN!)

But again, he’s like, so hot right?

Chapters 6 – 10 coming soon. Whenever I can bring myself to continue reading this garbage.

Book Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

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There is always a sense of trepidation when knowing you will be reviewing an absolutely stellar books sequel. All too often the first book in a series is the most compelling to me. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about Thunderhead. It seems rare that I find the second book in a series more than just a “bridging novel.” Thunderhead didn’t give me the same gripping, intense love that Scythe did and I am finding it hard to pinpoint exactly why it feels that way. (Speaking of which, If you haven’t already, and would like to read my spoiler free review of Scythe, you can do so by clicking here.)

Thunderhead picks up a year after the events of Scythe. We are introduced to new characters from the get go, which felt a little bit like “starting fresh” rather than a continuation of the original plot. I understand that these characters, one in particular, will have a bigger role in future novels, however I just felt that Thunderhead was, for lack of a better word, a little boring for the majority of its pages. It took me at least 200-300 pages into a 500 page novel before I started to enjoy the book as much as I did with Scythe. I never felt that “drive” to keep reading like I do with so many other books.

The main characters from Scythe, particularly Rowan, didn’t get much airtime until later in the book which was upsetting because his chapters where the ones I found most compelling. And although we are specifically told that certain characters serve a bigger purpose in the corrupt world of the Scythes, it’s not really explored all that much in this novel and again, felt like a set up for the following book. There was however, a couple of great moments throughout the book. Times where I did find myself on the edge of my seat or being blown away at how well the author can turn us in circles before we know what’s really going on! But like I said they were few and far between or were towards the end of the novel.

The “Thunderhead” itself is described as being essentially like the “iCloud” of today but has advanced enough to become a conscious being, which acts as a virtual “mother” so to speak, to the Earth and its inhabitants. I did enjoy this books exploration into how drastically humanity relies on technology, a sentiment that resonates with us even in reality, and what happens when that technology can no longer sit idly by when the corrupt begin to disrupt the peace and order it has maintained.

I will pick up the next book, if only because the last two hundred-ish pages were action packed enough for me to want to see what happens to these characters. We are left with quite a cliffhanger and some really brilliant and tragic revelations. I just wish I could have felt that same intrigue for more than just the last half of this book. That is why I’ll be giving this book 3.5 stars.

Bookish Gift Guide For Readers

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Ringing in the new year means a whole host of birthdays once again coming our way. I have often found it hard to find the perfect gift for certain loved ones in my life, but when it comes to bookworms, I’ve got you covered! So if you have a book lover in your life, why not try to find them something they will really love! Below are just a few ideas of gifts that every bookworm will be ecstatic to receive!

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Bookmarks

Save your book lover from using a receipt, business card or tissue as a bookmark! There are plenty of beautiful bookmark companies out there! Ink and Wonder is just one of these many companies, but it is easily my favourite! They have created what they call a “woodmark” which is made of very thin, ethically sourced wood. They have a whole range of beautifully vibrant and incredibly designed products, not just bookmarks, including tote bags, enamel pins and stickers!

Game of Thrones Woodmark from Ink & Wonder

Book Sleeves 

Chances are your bookworm carries a book with them everywhere they go. This often means throwing said book into their bag or even onto the back seat of their car! Book sleeves keep their books safe when they are on the move! A quick google search will have you covered in this category! There are plenty of beautifully handmade book sleeves on Etsy! A couple of wonderful book sleeve companies  I enjoy are Bookbeau and Thumbelara!

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Bohemian Book Sleeve from Thumbelara

Bookish Candles

I know what you’re probably thinking! “Candles? Really? That’s what I buy my mother when I don’t know what else to get her!” But these candles are different! They are themed! Themes usually range from different books/series to things bibliophiles love (like bookstores, cafes or the great hall from Harry Potter)

If your book lover is also an avid instagrammer (or bookstagrammer) candles also make fantastic props! A few of my favourite candle companies include Flick the Wick, Spark and Sparrow, In The Wick Of Time and Alchemy and Ink!

The Raven Cycle Candle from In The Wick of Time (Owlcrate exclusive)

A Book Subscription Box

A book subscription box is a monthly subscription, delivered to your door, full of amazing bookish content, including a book! This is on the pricier side, especially if you choose to subscribe for longer periods of time! However, one off purchases are available and it’s essentially a “lucky dip” for book nerds! Owlcrate, Fairyloot and The YA Chronicles are just a few of these fun boxes!

A Coffee/Tea Mug

Give me the name of one book lover who doesn’t enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while they are reading?! I’ll wait!

Seriously though, you can’t go wrong here! Especially if you find out if they have a particular book or series they absolutely adore and you find a mug that coincides with that book! I received the below Harry Potter themed mug in an Owlcrate subscription box and have been in love with it ever since!

Harry Potter Mug (Owlcrate exclusive)

A Reading Journal

a reading journal is a fun way for bookworms to track and plan out their reading for the week, month or even year! There are a lot of beautifully designed journals and a quick google search will have you on your way! A journal is a far more intimate and personal way for your book lover to track their reads as opposed to sites like Goodreads.com (which I also love)!

So there you have it! If you have a book lover in your life and you have no idea what book to buy them next, why not skip buying them a book or voucher all together and get them some fun bookish merch!

5 Books Every Little Girl Should Have On Their Bookshelf

I am the mother of a fairly new human being. That human being happens to be a little girl and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to create an environment for her where she knows that girls can do and be anything they choose to if they work hard enough.

My daughter is currently only six months old, I know, I know! “She can’t even read yet!” You’re right, she can’t! But this book loving Mama has to prepare because an appreciation for books is in this little girls blood, I just know it!

Below are my top five books that I believe every little girl should have on their book shelves!

1. Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

This beautiful book is easily my number one pick when it comes to books for my daughter! Each page has a quick, easy to read story about a famous woman throughout history! Such women include Michelle Obama, Frida Kahlo and Amelia Earhart! The illustrations are beautiful and the stories are perfect for a quick, before bed time adventure!

Age range: according to the Rebel Girls website this book is best for girls/woman between the ages of 4 and 101!

2. Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone by JK Rowling (illustrated edition)

It wouldn’t be a Reading Sumpton list if I didn’t include Harry Potter! These books are full of amazing female characters! The likes of the phenomenal Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood and Minerva McGonagall grace these pages! This is a story, at its very core, of love and friendship and I would hope that one day my daughter and I will be able to read these books together! I have only included the first book on my list, but all of them are fantastic.

Age range: technically the Harry Potter series is a categorised as a middle grade read (9-12 years) but for the sake of every human being my age who is still flicking through these pages, I’d say ages 9 and up!

3. My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can A Little Girl Dream by Jennifer Fosberry

This short, fun book is all about a little girls journey to self-identity through women’s history! Throughout the book Isabella imagines being different woman who changed the world, choosing different characteristics that she admires about each. Until one day she realises that being herself is actually pretty great too and that she already encompasses all those wonderful traits herself!

This is a sweet and beautifully illustrated book that teaches young girls that they are capable of doing whatever they set their minds to, just as women before them have done!

Age range: 4 to 8 years.

4. Matilda by Roald Dahl

So this one could just be because I am a nineties baby and grew up both reading Roald Dahl and watching the movie Matilda constantly. But this incredibly funny and inspiring book is one I would highly recommend having on your little girls shelves! Matilda is an incredibly smart, funny and quick witted little girl who overcomes the many struggles she faces in her life. She has a tenacious spirit and a flare for revenge against those who have wronged her! This is the kind of laugh out loud book that I will definitely be introducing my daughter to!

Age range: Ages 7 and up!

5. Strong Is The New Pretty: A Celebration Of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker

Now this one is a little different! Girls are fearless, smart, wild and powerful! This collection of photographs showcases real girls, being their authentic selves, in their element proving this! This inspiring work aims to show readers that girls aren’t just “pretty” but that they are so much more than that! This book is a “celebration of girls being themselves” and I think thats possibly one of the most important things we can teach our daughters!

Age range: Ages 4 and up.

That wraps up my top five books that every little girl should have on their bookshelf! Whether the women in these stories are fictional or not, I hope that they inspire more girls to reach for the stars and know that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.

How To Gain Followers On Bookstagram

I am sorta new to Bookstagram. If only because most of the time I have had a Bookstagram I was also pregnant with my daughter and had a heck of a lot to think about, which means instagram went by the wayside for a little while. But! If you are completely new to Bookstagram (hi, lets be friends!) Bookstagram is an Instagram account dedicated to, you guessed it, books! My account grew from 0 followers to 600+ within the first month I started. I am in no way an expert and there are accounts with tens of thousands of people following them that probably know a lot more than I do. Below are just a few tips I picked up along the way. Had I been more consistent in my first year I would probably have had more growth than I do now. However, below I will discuss my first few months on Bookstagram and things I learned when I got started.

Choose A Theme By Letting It Come Naturally

When I started my Bookstagram or even my personal account (years ago) I never really decided on a set theme which made it hard for me to dive right in and decide what I wanted my Bookstagram to look like. However, I encourage you to take a look at your personal account, if you have one. What colours do you favour? Do you use a particular filter to make all your photos look similar? I went into Bookstagram with an aim of creating photos I enjoyed the look of. For me that means a lot of neutral tones, natural light and a little bit of what feels like ‘home’ when I look at them! For others, it can mean the total opposite. But I encourage you to let your theme develop naturally. You don’t want to be half way through posting and realise you aren’t enjoying your content at all because it isn’t really “you” in any way! Your style may slowly change over time, but as long as you are focusing on what you like and not trying to determine what other people want you to create, you’ll do just fine!

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Your theme will change and develop over time. (@readingsumpton)

Interact With Fellow Bookstagrammers

This one’s easy and in my opinion, the most important! Talk! Comment, message, like people’s content, but above all, be sincere. Don’t just comment “great pic :)” on every picture you see. Be engaging! This platform is as much for making friends as it is for getting your content out there and seen! I know I have made some wonderful friends on Bookstagram and you can too!

Don’t Ask For Shoutouts, But DO Ask For Advice

Don’t go to big accounts asking for a shoutout, they won’t like it. These people have worked damn hard to get that many followers. But if you have a question for them, whether it be “How did you manage to expand your follower base? Do you have any tips for someone starting out?” or “I love your photos, just wondering if you could let me know what camera you use?” most people won’t mind this at all and it builds relationships with more successful bookstagrammers! I have been lucky enough to have some of my more successful friends give me shoutouts and its honestly, the most wonderful thing in the world when it comes naturally and they are not feeling forced into it!

Camera Or Iphone, It Doesn’t Matter

I know a lot of people use DSLR’s to capture their Bookstagram content. You want to know what I use? Well it’s your lucky day because Imma tell you! I use an iPhone 7 Plus. Yep, I use an iPhone! I have even had people ask me what camera I use for my photographs before! So don’t be hesitant to start your gram purely because you feel your camera isn’t good enough! I would however, get accustomed to using the iPhone camera settings! Make sure you learn how to control the exposure and focus of your iPhone camera (its as easy as a tap on the screen, but get friendly with it and learn how to capture the best photo you possibly can)! I started my Bookstagram with the intent of it being fun and easy, this meant, pointing and shooting with my iPhone!

Make Good Use Of Hashtags

If you look at any number of accounts with a higher follower count, you will notice that nearly all of them use hashtags to ensure their content has a wider reach. Below are just a few of the tags I have seen and used! By using hashtags you are expanding the amount of people who can see your content from just the people who follow you, to people who browse and follow certain hashtags!

#bookstagram, #bookstagrammer, #bookish, #igreads, #yareads, #reader, #bibliophile, #booklover, #booktography, #instabooks

You can find the more popular hashtags by checking out the accounts of Bookstagrammers you follow and seeing what they are tagging their pictures with. This really helps expand your reach.

Host A Giveaway (Optional & Not Necessary)

When I got to 500 follows, I decided to host a giveaway! This is totally optional, but it is a huge part of why my follower base climbed from 500 – 800 in about 2 weeks! I will organise another post on how to run a giveaway later, but if you plan to do one, I encourage you to research as much information as you can before you decide to open a giveaway! Look into other peoples giveaways and check out some bookish blog posts about it. It can be tricky to strike a balance as you don’t want people outside the Bookstagram community entering, only to unfollow you when the giveaway is over! So as I said, I highly recommend doing your research before you host a giveaway!

Most Importantly, Just Have Fun

So those are my tips for anyone looking to join the Bookstagram community! My follower count is still steadily growing, but above all I am having fun. Bookstragam should be a way to get to know more people who enjoy the same things as you. Don’t obsess over the number of followers you gain or lose. Just focus on creating content you are proud of and make some friends! If you are interested in following my account, I am @readingsumpton.

See ya round friends!