Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A Shadow Bright and Burning [Book Review & Giveaway!]

Hello there!

Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1)
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House
Published Date: 20th September 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

*Thank you to the Sunday Street Team for the review copy*


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Synopsis: I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?

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Review: I was especially looking forward to A Shadow Bright and Burning because of that cover. It caught my eye so much. The rose burning… and then the title itself. I felt like this could have the Girl on Fire kind of effect from Hunger Games but then unique as it’s a fantasy novel and magic is playing into things as well. And yes, this novel managed to nail it and be a whole lot of fun to read.

What I liked most about this novel had to be Henrietta herself. As the novel progresses we get to see her complete transformation into who she is. In the beginning she is timid, she is shy and she is younger. Her thoughts are less well shaped and she is more so impulsive. Even though the book doesn’t stress her character development and growth, it was something I could appreciate and see clearly as a reader.


As we all as the main character herself, the secondary characters are done incredibly well in this novel. Perhaps it did bother me a little bit that these were mostly males who were vying for her attention in one or another (even if that wasn’t their initial goal in getting to know her), but Henrietta ended up with more admirers than I was expecting her too. I did like how unique they were though. I loved Magnus’s attitude and the playful banter-like manner he had of speaking. I also, loved Blackwood’s uptightness because I felt like I could relate to that too. The best thing was that because of the synopsis we keep waiting for someone to betray her… and you’d think it is a spoiler but it really isn’t. Because of course, Cluess was cleverer about it than that. That’s all I’ll say on the matter!

As for the plot, this novel has a good plot going on which carries through the whole novel. There is conflict and issues which need to be overcome – which aren’t overcome too easily. But it does follow the formula of a normal fantasy first book in a series. We’re given a bit of an introduction into the new world, which is necessary as there are some creatures that need explaining to the reader. It never gets info-dumpy. We also get the taming or learning of her powers to a certain extent and then some conflict at the end. A bit usual, but the formula is good and then in the second book things usually become a bit more flexible.


The world building left me wanting a little bit. I especially love this about fantasy novels and although this book was slightly different from the usual England, it wasn’t as far off as some fantasies can be. It didn’t take a lot of description for me to figure out how things worked in the world, but I would have enjoyed a bit more setting description and imagery. The novel wasn’t lacking in the slightest! But it’s more so what I would have enjoyed.




Oh, and how could I almost forget? This novel deals with the theme of feminism a lot! I loved that Henrietta was the only female and she knew it. She wasn’t afraid to challenge those who decided to look down on her because she was a woman. Women are generally not accepted as magicians in this novel as well, so she has that issue to handle as well. I loved her sass and I felt proud of some of her statements. Secondly, there is a lot of ‘being born into a certain birthright’ in this novel. Henrietta constantly challenged the hierarchy system and I couldn’t help loving her a little more for that too!


Overall, a brilliant beginning to a series and I’m so excited to read book two as soon as it comes out!

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Gif Summary:


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Giveaway! Enter to win an ARC copy of A Shadow Bright and Burning, for US entries only. 


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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: What makes you feel most at home?


Olivia-Savannah x       

Saturday, 17 September 2016

My Sweet Vidalia [Book Review]

Hello there!

Title: My Sweet Vidalia
Author: Deborah Mantella
Publisher: Turner Publishing
Published Date: 6th October 2015
Rating: 4 Stars

*Thank you to the author for the review copy*


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Synopsis: On July 4, 1955, in rural Georgia, an act of violence threatens the life of Vidalia Lee Kandal's pre-born daughter. Despite the direst of circumstances, the spirit of the lost child refuses to leave her ill-equipped young mother's side.

For as long as she is needed―through troubled pregnancies, through poverty, through spousal abuse and agonizing betrayals―Cieli Mae, the determined spirit child, narrates their journey. Serving as a safe place and sounding board for Vidalia's innermost thoughts and confusions, lending a strength to her momma's emerging voice, Cieli Mae provides her own special brand of comfort and encouragement, all the while honoring the restrictions imposed by her otherworldly status.

Vidalia finds further support in such unlikely townsfolk and relations as Doc Feldman, Gamma Gert and her Wild Women of God, and, most particularly, in Ruby Pearl Banks, the kind, courageous church lady, who has suffered her own share of heartache in their small Southern town of yesteryear's prejudices and presumptions.

My Sweet Vidalia is wise and witty, outstanding for its use of vibrant, poetic language and understated Southern dialect, as well as Mantella's clear-eyed observations of race relations as human relations, a cast of unforgettable characters, an in-depth exploration of the ties that bind, and its creative perspective. My Sweet Vidalia is a rare, wonderful, and complex look at hope, strength, the unparalleled power of unconditional love, and a young mother's refusal to give up.

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Review: My Sweet Vidalia was a pretty quick and heart breaking read. The book centers on Vidalia, who is married to JB. JB is not a nice person. He leaves his wife to rot and constantly abuses her, both physically and verbally. It broke my heart to read this book and see the way she was treated. What made it even worse was how sweet natured Vidalia herself was. And innocent. I don’t think a book has truly been able to show me the torn emotion between wanting to try and make an unhealthy marriage work out, and truly believing this is the norm for all marriages. This really opened my eyes to probably, how some women must really feel.


Not only does this book focus on Vidalia, but it does a wonderful job of portraying all the secondary characters in the novel. The author doesn’t leave a single one behind so that we soon get the insight into all of the secondary character’s backgrounds too. If they have encountered Vidalia in her history, we’re also shown their past time with the use of flashbacks. I loved the detail we got into all of the secondary characters, and the way they really made the story.

The most interesting secondary character of them all had to be Ruby. Ruby is a black woman who is in charge of her own home and garden. This is set in 1955, and crosses the time of the bombing of the church in which four little girls were killed in history. We also get to see a lot of Ruby’s life and history, especially towards the end of the novel. This allows the novel to touch upon the life of being black in America at the time, and the way they were treated. Again, this further broke my heart. Even though it isn’t the center of the story like Vidalia’s plot line was, it still emotionally caught me.


This is really a character driven novel as a lot of historical fiction tends to be, and I can’t stress that enough. If you’re looking for plot twists and action, you won’t find that here. But if you’re looking for a touching story about friends, family, and a journey into understanding what is good for you in life and the cost it might take you to get there, then this is the kind of novel for you.


Another aspect of this book that truly intrigued me was the point of view the novel was told from. Celia is an unborn child, and yet she is the one telling the story. In fact, she is an unborn child that is miscarried before she is able to come to life. Yet her ‘spirit,’ if I may call it that, watches over Vidalia – her mother – throughout the roughest period of her life. And therefore her voice is the one telling the story. I liked the unique point of view, and it never became too strange that I questioned the author’s choice or the story because of it. It simply fit perfectly. I liked it a lot.


All I can say is, that this book was really good. It’s emotional and beautifully written. It really does portray the message of the fact that in life, sometimes we deserve better than we are given. At times we can change this ourselves. At times we can’t. It’s so important to know the difference between the two.

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Gif Summary:

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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: What’s your favourite “baby” name?

Olivia-Savannah x 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Forget Me Not [Review & Giveaway!]

Hello there!

Title: Forget Me Not (Ceruleans #2)
Author: Megan Tayte
Publisher: Heaven Afire
Published Date: May 2016
Rating: 4 Stars   

*Thank you to the author for the review copy*


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Synopsis: IN THE FACE OF DEATH, SHE MUST PROTECT THOSE SHE LOVES. 

The Ceruleans: mere mortals infused with power over life and death. Five books; one question: If the might of the heavens were in your hands, would you be sinner or saint? 

Death is stalking Scarlett Blake. As if the encroaching darkness in her head wasn’t enough, she’s become disturbingly accident prone. Falling off a cliff isn’t ideal when all you want is as much time as possible to live, to love. 

Her fate is horrifying. Unbearable. And inescapable. No one can save Scarlett from The End that’s looming. Not Jude, the Cerulean who is intent on Claiming her. Not Luke, the boy who is intent on loving her. 

The clock is ticking, louder with every heartbeat. Now Scarlett must decide how best to protect the people she loves. Will she trust in Jude and the life-after-death he promises? Will she stand against the Fallen, who have her sister captive? Will she carry the burden of her death alone – every headache, every hallucination, every wrenching, aching emotion? 

And when the clock falls silent, when the darkness eclipses the light, will Scarlett fight for life? Or will she have no choice but to surrender?

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Reviews: After having read and enjoyed the first book in this series called Death Wish, I was curious to see how the second book would turn out and what their situation was going to be after all that happened. And with so much having happened in the first book, I was pretty stumped as to what would be next. I needn’t have worried, seeing as Tayte followed through with what I expected and so much more.


In the first book of the novel grief had been a theme that ran all the way through it, as the main character was missing their deceased sister. Yet, that theme of grief tinges the novel all the way through this one too. However, now it is different and morphed into something else as Scarlett is trying to make every moment of your life counts. She wonders about life and how to live when you know you don’t have all the time in the world. Whether it’s best to leave those you love before they get hurt, or if you should love them to the very end. I guess those are some pretty relevant and deep questions, and it was interesting seeing her inspect them and try to find her own answers. But it did affect me as the reader too, and I could feel her pain.

As well as that, we have the same good old characters returned to us in this novel. The secondary characters in this novel are so well developed that it makes me think they are just as relevant as the main characters. Especially as this series is clearly shaping up to be a character driven one, because although the plot is progressing it takes its time and doesn’t rely on action and plot twist. This story heavily relies on emotions and toying with those of the reader.

I love Scarlett’s passion for surfing. It keeps coming up, alongside her love for the ocean and it just makes her character all the more real for me.



As I was saying about the plot, it really does move slowly and build up. The author sets up this unavoidable situation, but I kept wondering if she truly was going to go through with it in the end or not. Because if the author did, it stumped me as to what would happen next in the series. Which is why I desperately need the third book, in order to keep on reading and figure out what on earth that ending meant for Scarlett and all the characters involved in this book.

I’ve made this book sound like a really dark and depressing drag, but it isn’t anything of the sort. Because despite the theme of grief and love and loss being so present in this novel, there is also the theme of hope. Of healing. Of magic and the future too. Characters in this novel change from how they were in the first one. Some become better, some shape up to be not so good. This is a series I highly recommend, and I should stop doubting. I’m pretty sure book three is going to be just as epic.

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Gif Summary: Did the author did just do what I thought she did? Yup...


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Giveaway: Enter to win a paperback copy of the first book in the series, Death Wish! Open internationally, so make sure you enter this one :D

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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: If you’re brain forgot everything it had ever seen or learned or experienced but only remembered one thing from your life, what would it be?

Olivia-Savannah x 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Sticks & Stones [Review & Giveaway]

Hello there!

Title: Sticks & Stones
Author: Abby Cooper
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published Date: 12th July 2016
Rating: 5 Stars         


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Synopsis: A feel-good middle grade debut with just a hint of magic about a girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body.

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just "cute" and "adorable," but as she's gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like "loser" and "pathetic" appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like "interesting," which she's not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she's starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying "I know who you are, and I know what you're dealing with. I want to help." As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

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Review: I wasn’t quite sure to expect when I started to read Sticks & Stones. I had seen it compared to Wonder by R.J. Palacio which I had only finished reading months before starting this one. It made me incredibly wary because that novel was so unique and incredible, I was entirely sure this one shouldn’t be compared to it. It would have some pretty big boots to fill.


But this one was pretty different from Wonder, and I think it can stand quite alone. Wonder is based on a physical deformity while this one was based on a fictional condition which wouldn’t happen in the real world. The center of this novel is the cruel things people say, why they say them, and how that can affect us. Because when someone says something nice about Elyse, it shows up on her body. And when they say something cruel, it turns up too. Now, I know this seems like it is only a verbal issue but it turns into physical too. Because when someone calls you UGLY and that’s planted on your arm, you don’t exactly want to flaunt that around. I found it incredibly clever how Cooper managed to cross the bridge between verbal and physical bullying in that manner.

I also really liked the characters in this one. You have nice characters (overly nice ones, in some cases), cruel ones and also those who kind of fall into the grey area in between. The novel is set in a grade of school where the children are all growing up and changing, which adds some spins to this novel as well. It was mostly about the relationships between people and the motives they each had behind doing things. Which is why the secondary characters really made this novel for me. We got to see their situations and backstory too, which was exactly what we needed.


It was also interesting to see that same method of knowing the backstory and their motives applied to Elyse’s family. Her father is pretty distant, while her mother is overly close. I was curious as to why things were like that, and as the novel progresses you learn more and more. It was so intriguing and kept me turning pages.

This is a middle grade book, so occasionally it did have that young feel to it. But I didn’t really mind at all. At times I felt like it kind of shifted into the YA feel for a little, and then back to MG which ended up being pretty confusing, but that was the only vague issue I had with this novel…


It was a really enjoyable read and I would recommend it to all kids who are entering into secondary or high school, as well as to any age who want to learn the importance of the words we say and why they matter so much.

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Gif Summary: 


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Giveaway: Win one finished copy of Sticks & Stones. Open to US & Canada only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about you?

Olivia-Savannah x

Friday, 9 September 2016

Inspire Fandom [Appreciation Post & Giveaway!]


Hello everyone!

Today I have an appreciation post of a company that sells fandom jewelry and items. Enjoy!


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On instagram, there are always rep searches being held. I really was curious about the one for Inspire Fandom because they were a company I had never heard of before, but it seemed like they made some really cool stuff that a nerd like me would really be able to appreciate. So of course, I applied and then sat with my fingers crossed. Until I heard that I was chosen, and exploded into giddy happiness.


However, that doesn't make this post biased at all. Because Inspire Fandom has some wonderful items that I would buy whether or not I was a rep now. I received their July box, and the content of this was amazing. I was impressed for how much jewelry and items they offered for such an affordable price.


This month they are currently selling a Doctor Who box which I would definitely get if you are a Whovian like me. I mean, Doctor Who is a wonderful show but even the bag it comes in looks like a TARDIS! Epic? I think so too.


The picture below is of the contents of their July box. It has a little bit for everyone. If you're into superheros, then the item of the month was the Superman necklace. You have to love the Harry Potter key chain and the Rabbit Alice in Wonderland Earrings too. As a Supernatural fan I loved Dean's Necklace wine glass charm, and then there is even an Orphan Black Pin.





And these items are other items you can find in their shop. If you like Doctor Who, Merlin, Supernatural, Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter, then you'll approve of these :D


And lastly, I wanted to give a mention to one of my favourite items of theirs. That would be the So Many Books, So Little Time necklace. It looks like a clock, has a lovely golden tinge to it and also is protected by a glass dome. It's like perfection for a bookworm in a necklace. ;)


So what are waiting for? Go here and buy your own box or items now!

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I'm also hosting a giveaway because a while ago I reached 2500 followers on Pinterest but didn't have the money to fuel a giveaway. But now I do! And now that follower count is at 2650+! Thank you for all the love you show me over there. I will keep pinning, and as the numbers keep growing expect to see more giveaways :D

Giveaway: Enter to win a paperback copy of The Boy in The Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera, with a Salt to Sea bookmark and an Into the Dim temporary tattoo! Open internationally. 


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Olivia's Question: What's your favourite fandom shop?

Olivia-Savannah

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Smash & Grab [Review & Giveaway!]

Hello there!

Title: Smash and Grab
Author: Amy Christine Parker
Publisher: Random House
Published Date: 19th July 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

*Thank you to the author for the review copy*


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Synopsis: LEXI is a rich girl who loves a good rush. Whether it’s motorcycle racing or BASE jumping off a building in downtown Los Angeles, the only times she feels alive are when she and her friends are executing one of their dares. After her father’s arrest, Lexi doesn’t think twice about going undercover at his bank to steal the evidence that might clear his name. She enlists her hacker brother and her daredevil friends to plan a clever heist.
 
CHRISTIAN is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The local gang has blackmailed him and his friends into robbing banks, and he is desperate for a way out. When the boss promises that one really big job will be the last he ever has to do, Christian jumps at the chance for freedom. In fact, he’s just met a girl at the bank who might even prove useful. . . .
 
Two heists. One score. The only thing standing in their way is each other.
 
Told in alternating points of view, this caper is full of romance and fast-paced fun. Hand to fans of Perfect Chemistry, The Conspiracy of Us, and Heist Society.

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Review: Smash and Grab was a novel I was eager to have my hands on as soon as I saw the cover. And then I read the synopsis and my eyes practically formed into heart shapes. Really. This is no joke.

Just imagine all the fangirling that happened when the book finally landed on my doorstep.

All fangirling aside, I managed to really enjoy this book. I read it as I was traveling in summer and it was just what I needed. Something light and a lot of fun to read. The main character, Lexi, is a girl who doesn’t let the term ‘girl’ define her. She’s dropping off buildings, she knows her way to sneak around and she loves a challenge. And when that challenge is to help clear her father’s name, she’ll do anything. I love how she channels her anger to let it fuel her when it comes to her adrenaline rushes and getting revenge. I found her personality to be a lot of fun and I really liked the relationship she and her brother shared.


Then we also have Christian. He was another main character I really liked. You can tell he is part of the gang for all the wrong reasons, and really just wants to find a way out which is safe. But in those kind of scenarios, when you’re in it’s pretty hard to come back out again… He really was caught and you could tell that he loved his family and friends a lot. I liked that he had his affinity for reading and was quick on his feet. He was a pretty cool love interest.

The point of view switches between them two, but you still get to meet quite a few of the secondary characters. The relationship between Christian and his best friend Benny is incredibly nice. Lexi has her group of friends, and then Christian has his gang. We meet all of them, and get a bit of backstory on them, but it doesn’t go to deep… Which is just fine for a light quick read like this.


The plot of this book was pretty solid. Maybe you would question if this would ever really happen, but it is plausible and possible. I really liked the fun behind it, and all the undercover work that had to come with it. It was fun to follow and I always wanted to know what would happen next which is important for me to enjoy the book. I especially liked the ending. By that point I was hooked because we’d been building up to the heist throughout the whole novel, and so many things were going wrong that it seemed like they wouldn’t be able to pull it off!  

On top of that, the romance was perfect. I liked the rising tension between her and Christian. They were both playing and using each other, which was a funny game that they were caught up in. There was plenty of banter and plenty of flirting to keep me entertained as well. I wondered if they would ever be able to get together outside of the heist and how they both needed to keep things distant but close at the same time to get what they wanted from the bank. I actually think that that the flirtatious romance was just what I needed. And they were so well suited to each other that I love idea of them together.


In conclusion this was the perfect light, cheeky romance with a wild plot to keep me intrigued!
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Gif Summary: 

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Giveaway! Enter to win a signed poster of Smash & Grab, a $20 Visa Giftcard and swag! Open internationally!


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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?

Olivia-Savannah x

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Monthly Wrap Up ~ August 2016


Hi guys! 

It's time for my monthly wrap up here on Olivia's Catastrophe. Apologies for this being a week late!


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August has been a jam packed month for me. In the beginning of August I was in England with my oldest sister who lives there. She has been working for the past year which means she doesn't get as many holidays to visit us. It was nice spending time with her there, and seeing my family. I also did quite a bit of shopping and practically spent all my money (whoops)


I came back hope for the space of a day before my family and I went on a trip to Germany! We went to the Rhine Valley and it was really beautiful and peaceful there. We did things like visit cathedrals in Cologne, go to a salt grotto for a relaxation session and went on a hike trail. It was really nice to have all my two older sisters on holiday with us once again, seeing as they no longer live at home. 





I've been putting extra effort into doing a workout or yoga every day. I started an instagram page called yogidragoness where I'm tracking my yoga progress and clean eating. Yes, I've decided to go on a lifestyle change and hopefully can maintain clean eating for a while to come. I'll be having some posts up about clean eating and yoga every now and again, when I get organised. 

I had some more wisdom teeth out, so now all four are gone... It was a bit worse this time round than before but it was still pretty good. Maybe it took a little longer to heal because I decided to skip the whole soup and yogurt thing, eating solids for dinner after having them out >.> (My sister made homemade chicken pie. NO WAY was I missing out on that meal).


I went on a day trip to Amsterdam with my friends, and that was really nice. Especially as I have been doing summer homework, so it meant time having an adventure and going outside of the house for a bit. There was also a beach trip to a manmade beach in the Netherlands with my family. I loved relaxing there.

And lastly, holiday bible camp happened at my church. It's always nice to volunteer and help in that program. It's mornings for five consecutive days and then the following Sunday as well. I was in charge of running the games and the drama skit (as well as being part of it). It's probably the last year I get to do it because if I do pass my exams this year, I'm hoping to go back home to England to study. 


If you want to follow my lifestyle adventures more closely, just add me on snapchat. My username is ocatastrophe :)


I read nine books in August! I guess I had time to up my usual six a little because it was holidays. I also read more physical books than ebooks, which is always my aim :D So I'm very satisfied with this month.




Smash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker is one I have a review coming of tomorrow, so I won't say much else than it was very enjoyable and a quick, light-hearted read. I also read 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett and that book affected me something fierce. I was reading until late at night in my room in Germany, and reading whenever I could. The voices were so strong and real, and the story was so meaningful. Brilliant. 

The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde was a poetry collection recommended by my sister. I loved it. The culture was rich within her words, as well as the themes of feminism and independence. Amazing use of techniques and beautiful language.

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel was AHMAZING. I have my review of that one first thing in October, which is still quite a wait. But meanwhile, just go and buy it. It was that good. I was up till 2am because of that one. 

You can see my reviews for Tesserae by Mathias B. Freese, The House of Kane by Barbara Casey, Captivate Me and Fight for Me by S.J. Pierce and There Once Were Stars by Melanie McFarlane.




My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry - Frederik Backman 
Fireworks - Angela Carter 
The Dragon of the Month Club - Iain Reading 
My Sweet Vidalia - Deborah Mantella




Popsugar 2016 Challenge:29/40
2016 #BustleReads Challenge: 11/20

Olivia's Question: How was August for you? What did you get up to? What did you read, and what do you plan to read in September?

Olivia-Savannah x