I got an Illumicrate subscription!

Has it been ages since I wrote a blog? It feels like its been ages… The beauty of drafts!
Anyway, hows it going? You all good? Cool.

So, anyone who follows my adventures on YouTube may already know that I love watching subscription box unboxings and not any kind of subscription box unboxing, but bookish subscription box unboxings. I suspect you also already know that there are a lot of subscription boxes out there for all sorts of things and I was determined, having watched enough of them, that I wanted a slice of that pie. So, I started looking into different boxes and settled on buying myself a Fairyloot box, as they’re based in the UK and do one off boxes, as well as subscriptions, for my birthday to test it out.

You can take a look at that here. You know, if you want.

After a month or so had passed, I started getting the itch again and went back to my subscription box research and discovered Illumicrates, which are also based in the UK and are quarterly rather than monthly. The main reason why I was umming and ahhing about the boxes in the first place was the price, but the notion of only paying the £30 they cost a few times a year, rather than every month was a big draw, so I brought myself a subscription, because treat yourself and oh my god, it was the best box ever.

Now, I’m not putting Fairyloot down at all, I enjoyed that box too, but the Illumicrate was a whole other level!

Check it out below

This box arrived literally the day after I received notice it had been shipped (unlike the previous box, which arrived a week after) and because it wasn’t themed, there was a range of interesting items, all of which are amazing! I’m very excited to receive my next box in February! If anyone else is a subscriber of a box or has any other ideas for me to try out, please let me know!

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November round up

Guess what, I’m as shocked as the next person that it’s pretty much 2018 now. Wtf? Anyway, at least now its socially acceptable for me to wear jumpers all the time.
So, what did I get up to this month? Well… Not a lot. Its cold and dark out, so I’ve spent most of my time lying in a pile of blankets watching Netflix. Sorry, not sorry. To be honest, after that tiny mental breakdown I had in September that then leaked into October and November this month has mostly been me recovering, so the majority of my socialising has been at group CBT… But anyway, on with the round up.

What I read this month:

Here we are now – Jasmine Warga
I adored Jasmine Warga’s first book, My Heart and Other Black Holes, so I was super excited to get a chance to read a proof copy of this. What we have here is a very different story, set over the course of five days, we follow Tal as she finally meets her father at the age of sixteen and discovers not only is he a celebrity, but he’s entered her life now to introduce her to her dying grandfather, so an adventure to say the least. You can see a full review here.

The Other Half of Happiness – Aiysha Malik
This is the second installment of Sofia Khan’s life, I read Sofia Khan is not obliged back last year and LOVED it and after seeing Aiysha Malik at YALC this year, I made it my mission to find and read this. This is just as fun as the first book and I didn’t realise how much I missed her until I picked this up. The only thing I will say about this is the covers don’t match and that upsets me!

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
Pretty much every booktuber that I watch loves this book, so I finally thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. At first I was a bit unsure, the writing style is very flowery, using five words where you only really need one, but once I got used to that I fell in love with this book and in particular, Tric, I must find and devour Godsgrave at the first opportunity! I don’t think this book is for everyone, but I think you should give it a go!

The Undercover Princess – Connie Glynn
I know, YouTuber books, I know, but I read a sample of this back in the summer and I liked what I read and you know what… why am I defending my love of fairytales? Though I am really not the intended audience for this book and it is written for much younger readers, I did rather unashamedly love this from a purely nostaligic point of view, it reminded me so much of all the boarding school stories I used to devour as a child.

It only happens in the movies – Holly Bourne
Another book that I got a sample of while I was at YALC, I actually think this might be my favourite of Holly Bourne’s books that I’ve read so far! I enjoyed every second of it, from the exploration of unhelpful tropes in romance novels, to the fact that the book’s “bad boy” character actually listened and respected the MC in her wishes and the portrayal of friendships and relationships and being strong and independent. Audrey was probably my favourite of the cast of strong female characters that Holly Bourne is known for and of course, being a bit of a film fan myself, it was great to see holes poked in all those romance films and discussion around that.

Films I watched this month:
You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter, have been keeping up with my Film reviews in 10 tweets or less posts or this video, that I really like films and that I spend a lot of time watching them, so here are all the films (some new, some rewatches) that graced my television/ cinema screen this month!

  • Murder on the orient express
  • Hunt for the Wilder People
  • Justice League
    Man, that CGI top lip was something else!
  • Spiderman – Homecoming
  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bone

TV I watched his month:

  • Riverdale
  • Mindhunter
    I still don’t know if I like this or not… Anyone else seen it?
  • Peaky Blinders
  • Punisher
  • Unemployable Me
    I know someone on this show!!

My favourite Instagram posts this month:

Accidental weasley cosplay ⚡️

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Changed my drink order

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when you go to the library but then your @illumicrate turns up!

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What I did on YouTube this month:

What I loved on YouTube this month:

Ok, first off, Dan and Phil and Dogs was perhaps the greatest thing on the internet, they hung out with a Shib. I was unable to even. Continuing the Dan, Phil and dogs theme, they also made a video with a sims dog and of course we have PINOF this month. I also want to mention Hannah Witton’s Hormone Diaries. 

Here We Are Now

Here We Are Now – Jasmine Warga

After absolutely loving My Heart and Other Black Holes I jumped at the chance to read Jasmine Warga’s next book and this didn’t disappoint!

Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.
Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.
With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

Essentially this book is two separate threads of the same story, we have Taliah’s story of finally meeting the absent rock star father, of going on a trip with him to meet the family she has never known where we see her insecurities and anxieties play out in this situation. Alongside that, we get the backstory, the tale of her parents, how they met, how they came together and how they ended up where they are now, we learned the story alongside Taliah which made me feel like I could really get immersed in the story. Also, much like her first book, which beautifully tackled the subject of depression, this book realistically portrays Taliah’s anxieties and insecurities in a relatable and understandable way and her friendship with Harlow had me nodding along and going SAME every time she examined it further.

This doesn’t have quite the same emotional impact as My Heart, but is still a story that tugs on the heart strings. The book essentially ends, just as Taliah’s story is beginning, creating a wonderful tableau for the rest of her life. There is an argument that this is a bit style over substance, but you really don’t mind when the characters are as interesting as Tal and her family. Also, you’ve got to love a story with a diverse cast, Tal is biracial, having a Jordanian mother and white American father, her best friend Harlow is a lesbian. There were a lot of references to things like Hamilton which I wasn’t sure if I liked, like, I love Hamilton and I love a good reference, but also having it mentioned several times made me feel a bit… odd.

Overall though, this was just very cute and a bit fluffy and on these cold wintery nights, that’s all you want.

The Year they Burned the Books

The Year they burned the books – Nancy Garden

It has been far too long since I’ve read a book by Nancy Garden, I read Annie on my Mind about a million years ago and although it was a little dated, I did enjoy it and am a little ashamed its taken me this long to pick up another of her books. As this book from the nineties is being re released I grabbed a copy from Netgalley!

When Wilson High Telegraph editor Jamie Crawford writes an opinion piece in support of the new sex-ed curriculum, which includes making condoms available to high school students, she has no idea that a huge controversy is brewing. Lisa Buel, a school board member, is trying to get rid of the health program, which she considers morally flawed, from its textbooks to its recommendations for outside reading. The newspaper staff find themselves in the center of the storm, and things are complicated by the fact that Jamie is in the process of coming to terms with being gay, and her best friend, Terry, also gay, has fallen in love with a boy whose parents are anti-homosexual. As Jamie’s and Terry’s sexual orientation becomes more obvious to other studetns, it looks as if the paper they’re fighting to keep alive and honest is going to be taken away from them. Nancy Garden has depicted a contemporary battleground in a novel that probes deep into issues of censorship, prejudice, and ethics.

I am sad to say that there are still people who have to live in this kind of community, where their education and their rights are diminished every day by fundamentalists, so even though this is a rerelease of an older book and feels a little dated in places, this is still a little bit too fresh in terms of the rampant homophobia that Terry and Jamie experience throughout the book.

What we have here is the perfect starter novel for anyone looking for YA LGBTQA+ fiction, Nancy Garden presents such interesting characters in these books. Jamie, our main character, is an intelligent high school student who decides to start running her own paper alongside the school paper to try and keep the town informed on the news she isn’t allowed to report on due to the censorship imposed by an extreme church group. The book deals with her struggles, not only with her sexuality, but with the issues of truth and opinion and the difficult line between the two, as well as the ideas of community and what brings people together and tears them apart. All tropes that Nancy Garden does so well.

Though this isn’t necessarily ground breaking or diverse, especially when surrounded by books released more recently, The Year They Burned the Books is still sadly relevant and is a story that needs to be told.

Also, that cover is vewy nice.

October round up

Firstly can we just take a moment to appreciate that Emmerdale are doing ace representation now? Like that’s awesome! I did applaud them when they introduced a bisexual character and actually had them say they were bisexual. But then they ruined it by having them cheat on their wife with a guy who became his husband but then cheated on him with his ex wife’s sister and I’m like aaargh stop. Fingers crossed they do the ace storyline better. Anyway, this month has been… interesting. Lol. I experienced a proper posh meal which was super nice and had foam on it, but did also make me think of this Nick Miller moment:

What else happened this month? Well, Bake off broke my heart by not allowing Liam to win. Like seriously guys, wtf was that? Riverdale gave me anxiety while we wondered who would be the man in the hood’s next victim and Brooklyn 99 cheered my cold dead heart. I’m sure some other stuff happened, but honestly, I spent most of this month watching TV and avoiding going outside in the dark and rain!

What I read this month:

The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Renee Ahdieh is a fantastic writer and the rich descriptions were amazing, but the story itself… Not so much… I don’t know, I guess I just have a bit of a problem with the slightly rapey moments and I feel like the romance was introduced far too quickly considering that our protagonist initially married the king to avenge her bff and all… This is a retelling of 1,001 Nights and having not read it, I don’t know how true a retelling it is, but I did enjoy reading about the magic and its always nice to read about a place that’s different to what you’re used to. Mostly, Khalid’s backstory mostly made me think of this Brooklyn 99 moment:

The Rose and the Dagger – Renee Ahdieh
I didn’t hate the first book enough to ignore the sequel, but I had much the same problems as I did with the first one. This book at least showed us more of the magic and we got to learn more about the world which I enjoyed and well, the lovers were separated for much of it, so that bit couldn’t annoy me as much!

Secrets for the Mad – Dodie Clark
I know we’re all supposed to hate YouTuber books, I know I hate any book that has  been pushed out because the creator is super popular and publishers love making money as much as the next person, but I was actually really interested to read this after seeing Dodie talk so candidly about her mental health struggles. Honestly, I was honoured to have an advanced copy. See my thoughts here. 

The Librarian of Auschwitz – Atonio Iturbe
This was an ARC provided for me by Netgalley and is based on real events taking place in Auschwitz featuring a host of interesting people, both prisoners and guards that I’ve learned about during trips to the camp and in history lessons. This is the English translation, which made me ignore the few grammar issues, and it was genuinely interesting and also heartbreaking because I know what happened to people like Fredy Hirst. Read the review here.

Otherworld – Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller
There were ARCS of this book available to be won while I was at YALC and as I didn’t get one, I thought I’d missed my chance to read this and that I’d have to wait until it was onsale, only then I saw it was available on netgalley. I have seen a couple of films with Jason Segal (and of course HIMYM) and it turns out he writes books too, I had no idea! See my thoughts on this here.

Help – Simon Amstell
Right, lets preface this with the fact that I adore Simon Amstell’s stand up and his sitcom Grandma’s House. I just find it funny to watch someone who talks about depression and loneliness and being awkward in front of people you fancy because same. This was described by Russell Brand as being all the warmth of Simon Amstell without the inconvenience of his face and I think that sums it up perfectly. This is a very introspective memoir as Simon strives for happiness and the things he found that helped him along the way.

The Year they burned the books – Nancy Garden
I loved Nancy Garden’s Annie on my Mind when I read it years ago and to be honest, its a bit bad on my part that I’ve not gotten around to reading any more of her work, so when I saw this available for request, I had to have it! Its a story that I’m ashamed to say is still a reality for a lot of people but I didn’t find it as hard hitting as Annie, but I would still recommend, stay tuned for my review.

Films I watched this month:
You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter, have been keeping up with my Film reviews in 10 tweets or less posts or this video, that I really like films and that I spend a lot of time watching them, so here are all the films (some new, some rewatches) that graced my television/ cinema screen this month!

  • Mary poppins
  • The other boleyn girl
  • Me earl and the dying girl
  • Bladerunner 2049
  • Scorch trial
  • Crimson Peak
  • Thor: Ragnarok

TV I watched his month:

  • Great British Bake off
  • Neo Yokio
  • Riverdale
    Jesus that opening episode!
  • Brooklyn nine nine
  • Stranger Things

My favourite Instagram posts this month:

went to the poshest place i’ve ever been for dinner with @georgiecasling!

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birthday book haul.

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What I did on YouTube this month:

What I loved on YouTube this month:
All the Buffer Fest entries started appearing at the beginning of the month and there were so many wonderful things from creators, such as this short film from Melanie Murphy and this animation from PJ. PJ an Chris also reunited for this which was very long overdue. This from Amazing Philwas hilarious and I can’t not mention Dan Howell’s video for World Mental Health Day the pair of them made a video for their new game which was also pretty funny and their annual baking video.

The Librarian of Auschwitz

The Librarian of Auschwitz – Antonio Iturbe (translated by Lilit Thwaites)

You probs already know this, but I will read anything and everything about the events of WW2, the rise of the Nazis and the extraordinary bravery displayed by those that were persecuted under Hitler, so naturally when I saw this, I had to pick it up. Also, its a translation and I’ve never read anything that wasn’t originally published in English before. (At least I don’t think I have…)

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz. 
Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

This is a mostly fictionalised account of the lives of a selected number of prisoners living in the family camp that was created as part of Auschwitz-Birkenhau, it features some of the notable inmates that I learned about when I visited a few years ago (maybe that’s a story for another time) as well as some of the more infamous names from the SS. It mostly follows the story of Fredy Hirsch, who managed to convince the commanders to allow him to set up a school in the camp and into which some books were smuggled, which were looked after by 14 year old Dita. Most of the inhabitants of this part of the camp were arrivals which had been marked for ‘special treatment’ and was one of the few places where children were allowed to live, rather than being sent straight to their deaths. It was a place of particular interest to Dr Mengele, who if you haven’t heard of, I recommend looking up, especially if you need a face to put to the word evil.

Like I said at the beginning, this version is a translation, so there are a few moments that feel like they’ve lost their context or features a strange word choice, I kind of wish I was more proficient with languages so I could read the original, but alas, languages aren’t really something that schools focus on in England. More’s the pity. I think this might be the first book I’ve ever read that has been translated into English and I’d love to expand my reading habits into more translated books if any of ya’ll can think of some to recommend.

The Librarian of Auschwitz is endlessly fascinating and heartbreaking and bitter sweet. It gives a detailed account of camp life and is unapologetic in its telling of the more harrowing moments the prisoner’s endured there. We learn about these incredibly brave people, like Fredy Hirsch, who wanted to make life as normal for the children in his care as possible and like Dita Kraus, who miraculously managed to survive the camps and after the war made her way to Israel. I wish there were more books like this telling the stories of those who were voiceless for so long and it is so important that we remember and we learn from these events, so we can make sure that such horrors are not repeated.
It is certainly a great book for those studying the period or with a particular interest in Nazi Germany and the occupation of Europe, it’s also interesting as many of the characters you come across in this book are of Romani descent, as well as Jewish and it also gives a little insight into places like Prague, which are often left out of history lessons.