My favourite blog posts of April 2019!

Hey everyone! You might have noticed that I skipped this blog feature last month and I’m truly sorry for that. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly; it gave me great anxiety and guilt at not being able to promote other bloggers, but I was just so overwhelmed by life and I wasn’t even up to date with all of the posts in my WordPress reader. So I had to give it a miss. But I’m back and ready to share some great posts this month!

favourite blog posts of the month


favourite reviewsJaime wrote a very passionate review of Wicked Saints.

Krysta reviewed Lovely War, which was one of the April releases that had caught my attention!

The Captain wrote a great balanced review of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World.

Rachel wrote a great review of one of my university favourites, Maus by Art Spiegelman.

LaRonda reviewed A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares and gave it a firm shove higher up my TBR list.

Melanie wrote a fantastic review of Katrina Leno’s latest book, You Must Not Miss.

Nandini reviewed Kindred by Octavia Butler and got me excited to read this one!

Destiny reread The Hunger Games and now I want to do it too!

Hayley reviewed The Ringmaster and convinced me that I need to try Vanda Symon’s books.

Chaima wrote an incredible review of K. Ancrum’s The Weight of the Stars.

Ali reviewed Miracle Creek and I’m surprised how much I like the sound of it!


favourite discussionsAshleigh talked about audiobooks and how they’ve helped with her anxiety.

Aurora started a great new blog series that she is calling the Female Gaze Project and started by sharing some of her favourite mother/daughter stories!

Savannah opened up a discussion on elements of addiction in YA novels. Go and tell her your thoughts!

Rebekah talked about things she finds life-giving and life-draining. I definitely need to do this for myself!

Deb wrote an interesting piece on the pros and cons of writing book reviews.

Jackie raised the issue of bloggers writing reviews not for the benefit of authors or publishers, but other readers.

Ally wrote a fascinating discussion on cancel culture in the bookish community.

Alex shared what she has learned about blogging so far.

Margaret told us why she would rather write a positive book review than a negative one.

Julianna shared her favourite things about blogging that I think we can all relate to.

Marie advised us all how to stop playing the comparison game, and made me a bit emotional haha.


other fun postsSara shared her favourite graphic novels – check them out!

Callum read the entire Women’s Prize longlist and shared his thoughts and predictions!

Jenn shared some advice on requesting ARCs from publishers, which I’m sure will be valuable to so many people!

Lydia recommended some books based on her favourite musicals – I loved this post!

Asha shared her incredible reading wrap up from her trip to Japan!

Briana listed some tips for reviving old blog content.

Nicole participated in my Alphabeticals meme and shared her favourite authors, books and characters beginning with G!

Drew shared a guest post from the author of The Pale Ones and got me super intrigued!

Zuky told us about an amazing book warehouse in Hemel Hempstead and I’m now making plans to move there, ok bye.

Hannah told us the most outrageous things she’s done for the love of books and I RELATE.


Wow, I think that’s the longest favourites post I’ve ever done! You guys absolutely smashed it this month with all the quality content and I could genuinely have shared every post. Please don’t be disheartened if I haven’t shared your posts this time round; I thought I’d better stop or this post would be 5 years long haha. I also managed to blog-hop more this month so I wanted to share some of the great new-to-me bloggers that I discovered! Can’t wait to see what you all come up with next monthsignature (2)

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‘You Asked For Perfect’ spoiler-free review!

Ok everyone. Brace yourselves, because this one is going to get personal.

you asked for perfect


synopsis

Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.


my thoughtsWow. It has taken me a while to get this review together because I connected with this book on such a deep level. As soon as I started reading it, I related to that panicked feeling of needing more time, of trying to squeeze as much into each day as possible just to stay on top of things. Before I talk more about that, I want to mention the things I loved about this book.

I really enjoyed the insight into Jewish culture that this book provided. There were some particularly amazing foodie bits, which I’ve mentioned previously is something I love in books! And I, like Ariel, am a fan of sour candy 😉

It was lovely to see a great family setup for once and not the usual absentee parents we are used to. Ariel’s family are incredibly supportive when they realise what their son is going through. They also have great banter, which is another element that will make me love a book, particularly a contemporary.

I also have to mention the romance. The whole tutor/stuent situation gave me serious Autoboyography vibes and I adored it. These two boys were too cute. The Harry Potter references did get a bit much at times but I can understand why they were used, as it is something the target readership of this book will massively relate to. I also related even further to Ariel thanks to his excellent taste in music 😉

Aside from everything I enjoyed about this book, I did find it a difficult read. Watching Ariel’s struggles gave me all of the emotions. The spiralling thoughts, the crippling anxiety that makes you feel physically sick, I related so hard it was painful. I was the girl at sixth form studying for 5 A levels instead of the standard 3, as well as trying to fit in band practise for the school musical, extra-curricular music theory exams and volunteering. The pressure on young people these days to have their whole lives figured out before they leave school is too much.

Honestly, I had to stop reading this book at one point because I found myself in tears, feeling Ariel’s emotions radiating off the page. I knew I would relate to this book but didn’t expect to find it so triggering (and that’s not an issue I often have with books). That horrible feeling of time running away from you and the worry of sacrificing time with friends and family to get things done is something I feel like I’ve been living with for the longest time.

I’m really glad that this book exists to show young readers that the grades you get in school are not the be-all and end-all, and that there is more to life than studying. As much as I found it hard to read, I see it as a hugely important and valuable contribution to the YA literary market. I just wish it was around a few years ago when my study-related panic attacks started.

you asked for perfect

Have you read You Asked For Perfect? I’d love to hear from you! x

Music Monday: I See The Light (Tangled)

Happy Monday everyone 🙂 Back to a bit of Disney today as I’ve had a special request for this one.

‘I See the Light’ was composed for the movie Tangled, a Disney adaptation of the story of Rapunzel and their 50th animated feature film. The song was written by Alan Menken, who composed many songs for Disney, and Glenn Slater wrote the lyrics.

The song was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for best original song but didn’t win.

It is performed in the film by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

Enjoy!

The Sunshine Blogger Award!

I was recently tagged by Rita for the Sunshine Blogger Award – thank you so much! These tags might not hold the same significance for everyone but to me, they are a huge validation. Knowing that people think enough of me to acknowledge me for a moment makes me so happy!

sunshine blogger award tag

Here are the rules:-

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/blog

Rita’s Questions!

Have you ever read a book set in the place where you live?

I currently live in Northern Ireland. As far as I can recall, I haven’t read any books explicitly set here? But I’ve got a pretty famous one on my TBR – Milkman by Anna Burns, which won the Man Booker prize last year!

 

Do you often read translated books (that is, a book not originally written in English and/or your mother tongue)?

I definitely don’t read as much translated fiction as I would like to, or as I should. I occasionally try to make more of a conscious effort to pick up a translated book. Leave me your recommendations below please?!

 

What is your favourite book trope?

I’m going to be really boring here and say friends-to-lovers. Or enemies-to-lovers. I’m not fussy really, I just want a great ship to sail.

 

What genre will you *never* read?

Honestly, none of them! I’m willing to give almost anything a go. I’m not likely to ever pick up anything published by Mills and Boon but that doesn’t mean I’ve written off the romance genre as a whole. And I’m more than happy to push myself out of my comfort zone with sci-fi and other genres!

 

Where do you get your books from?

I used to shop mostly online but after all the bad things I’ve heard, I’m making more effort to support bookstores. Sometimes I still have to shop online out of necessity but a book shopping trip in Belfast is now something I make a point of!

 

Have you ever lent a book to a friend and then not gotten it back?

I mean, I recently let a work colleague some books and haven’t gotten them back yet… but it hasn’t been long enough for me to get worried yet! I have faith I will see them again!

 

What stories/books did you grow up reading?

Some of my very first books were by Enid Blyton and Dick King Smith. I loved Milly Molly Mandy. Then of course came Harry Potter, which was a total gamechanger. In my teenage years, I also loved The Princess Diaries and the Angels Unlimited series!

 

Be candid: what’s your most controversial book opinion?

I try really hard not to be controversial! Haha. I’m too much of a people-pleaser. Maybe one of the opinions I voiced in this recent post? 😉

 

Do you tend to read more female or male writers?

Definitely female! It’s not something I make an effort to do, it just tends to happen that way!

 

What is a fictional world you NEVER want to visit?

Panem! The dystopian world of The Hunger Games would terrify me.

 

Choose a character to switch places with for a week!

*Must not pick Hogwarts, must not pick Hogwarts*

Nope, I’m stumped. There are very few characters I’d want to swap places with – most of the books I read have some unpleasant kind of drama going on that I want no part of hehe. I’d want to swap with some minor character in the Harry Potter series so I could experience the magic of Hogwarts for a week! Wouldn’t we all?


Here are my questions!

  1. Which author, living or dead, would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
  2. What is the most popular book or series that you have no intention of reading?
  3. Have you ever caused irreparable damage to a book?
  4. How do you organise your bookshelves?
  5. How many unread books do you own?
  6. What is your most anticipated release of 2019?
  7. What is one backlist book you *must* read this year?
  8. What was your favourite childhood book?
  9. How do you get yourself out of a reading slump?
  10. Which of your blog posts are you most proud of?
  11. What is your favourite book cover?

 

And I’m going to nominate:-

Marie // Jenna // Kristin // Jaime // Sara // Jules // Nicole // Jenna // Melanie // Kelly

If you’ve already done the tag or you don’t want to answer my questions, that’s totally fine! But if you do fancy it, I’d love to read your answers! ❤

‘Stanley and Elsie’ spoiler-free review!

Hey lovely people! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson. This is a delightful historical fiction that is being published by Duckworth Books on May 2nd! I’m very grateful to them for sending me an ARC.

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synopsis

The First World War is over, and in a quiet Hampshire village, artist Stanley Spencer is working on the commission of a lifetime, painting an entire chapel in memory of a life lost in the war to end all wars. Combining his own traumatic experiences with moments of everyday redemption, the chapel will become his masterpiece.

When Elsie Munday arrives to take up position as housemaid to the Spencer family, her life quickly becomes entwined with the charming and irascible Stanley, his artist wife Hilda and their tiny daughter Shirin.

As the years pass, Elsie does her best to keep the family together even when love, obsession and temptation seem set to tear them apart…


my thoughtsWhen I started reading this book, it immediately struck me how nice the prose was. It had such a lovely flow and it really drew me into the story – I read this book in 2 days! I was completely swept away by Upson’s depiction of country life.

Stanley and Elsie is a fascinating portrait of married life. The book features some very witty dialogue, as well as more poignant moments. I will admit that some of the characters’ decisions infuriated me; I felt so much sympathy for Stanley’s wife, Hilda! I loved her character and was sad to see what she had to go through. There are definitely both likeable and unlikeable characters in this book.

The story looks simple on the surface but dig deeper and it is a truly captivating historical fiction with lots of interesting meditations on family life. I also loved the descriptions of the paintings and the artistic process as a whole; it’s something I also enjoyed about Jessie Burton’s The Muse, so I’d recommend this if you enjoyed that one!

I find it fascinating that this book is based on a real person and I definitely went digging after I finished the book! From what I can tell, Upson has remained fairly faithful to Stanley Spencer’s actual life story; I almost feel like I know the man now and I would love to go and view an exhibition of his artwork!

These are some of the works that are referenced in the book! (Taken from the Stanley Spencer website which I highly recommend browsing through.)

That’s Elsie!! I’m so nerdily excited that these things exist hehe.

Anyway, if you hadn’t guessed it, I really enjoyed this one! I’d recommend it for historical fiction fans.

stanley and elsie


Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour if you want to find out more about this book! And you’ll be able to grab a copy for yourself on May 2nd 🙂 Thanks again Duckworth for a great read!

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‘The Devouring Gray’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Today is my day on the social media tour for The Devouring Gray and I’m delighted to be bringing you a spoiler-free review 🙂 Huge thanks to Titan Books for sending me a free copy of the book and promotional tarot cards!

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synopsis

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.


my thoughtsWell, this was certainly good and spooky! I love me an atmospheric read so I was living for this. The book has a nice creepy opening and I enjoyed the world-building. I would have liked it to go further with the scene setting but that’s a personal preference and I think Herman did a great job with her debut.

I would say that this is quite a character-focused book. I was immediately intrigued by Violet, being a piano player 😉 I liked watching her try to find her feet in a new town. Harper was also fascinating, with her righteous anger and hurt, and her missing arm which she didn’t let hold her back in any way. I also liked seeing the boys’ character development; everyone went through a transformation in this book!

“People could hurt each other without being monsters. And they could love each other without being saints.”

The book is quite slow-building as a whole, with lots of introductory details and scene setting. Things took a very dark turn around halfway through and I couldn’t put the book down. I do think that things wrapped up quite quickly compared to the build-up, but the cliffhanger was sufficiently brutal that I’ll be looking out for book two!

I haven’t read The Raven Boys or seen Stranger Things, which this book has been compared to, so I can’t say how those comparisons hold up. But I would recommend this one to readers who enjoyed The Wicked Deep or Sawkill Girls!

devouring gray.jpg

Have you read this one yet? x

Music Monday: Lewis Capaldi/Calum Scott Mashup!

Hello everyone! I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend 🙂

I’ve had a lot of requests for both of these songs and when I realised they were both in the same key, I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a mashup! Honestly, it comes out differently every time I play it hehe.

Lewis Capaldi’s ‘Someone You Loved’ is currently getting a lot of airplay in the UK, having been number one for seven weeks.

Calum Scott’s cover of Robyn’s ‘Dancing on my Own’ was released after his performance on Britain’s Got Talent and while it only reached number two in the charts, it was the best-selling song of summer 2015.

I hope you enjoy this little mashup! I’m thinking of putting the full versions of both songs up at some point so do let me know if that’s something you’d like!

The ‘Spring Cleaning’ Book Tag! [With some possible unpopular opinions!]

Ok, confession time. I was tagged for the ‘Spring cleaning’ book tag by Steph – LAST YEAR. I have shame. Honestly, I had started to draft up this post and then time got away from me and it was no longer Spring and therefore no longer seasonally appropriate. So I’m finally doing it now that it’s Spring once again! Thank you Steph for the tag ❤

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The Struggle of Getting Started: A Book or Series You Struggle to Begin Because of its Size

It used to be A Song of Ice and Fire but I successfully ticked that off my list. Now it’s probably Outlander. Or the Cassandra Clare books. There are so many books in the Shadowhunter world, I’m probably never going to bother with them, let’s be real.

 

Cleaning Out the Closet: A Book or Series You Want to Unhaul

Following on from my previous answer, I’ve had the Mortal Instruments boxset sitting on my shelf for a few years now and I’ve never once felt inclined to crack it open. I think the time has probably passed for me to get interested and I honestly can’t be bothered to try and catch up now. So as Marie Kondo would say, thank you but you do not bring me joy. Please don’t hate me, Cassie Clare fans!

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Opening Windows and Letting in Fresh Air: A Book That Was Refreshing

Honestly, I can’t think of an answer for this one? I don’t know that I’ve ever finished a book and thought “oh, that was refreshing”. What does this even mean?!

 

Washing Out the Sheets: A Book with a Scene You Wish You Could Rewrite

I don’t know that I’ve ever wished I could rewrite a scene. They all contribute something to the story, even if they don’t take things in the direction I was hoping for. I guess I’d stop certain characters from being killed? Particularly a certain somebody in the Harry Potter series!

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Throwing Out Unnecessary Knick-Knacks: A Book in a Series You Didn’t Think Was Necessary

Definitely The Empress by S. J. Kincaid. The Diabolic worked perfectly well as a standalone; the sequel changed all of the characters into people I didn’t like and whose motivations I couldn’t understand. There has been no information about the third book so I don’t know if it’s even still happening, but I’m probably not going to read it.

 

Polishing Doorknobs: A Book That Had a Clean Finish

I really loved the way Muse of Nightmares ended. It tied everything up nicely and answered my questions but also left me with the hope of potential future books set in the extended universe!

 

Reaching to Dust the Fan: A Book That Tried Too Hard to Relay a Certain Message

The Surface Breaks tried so hard to tick all the feminist, #metoo, body positive boxes (and more besides) that it just ended up not tackling any of the topics with the sensitivity required. I’m still upset about this book.

buffy squint

 

The Tiring Yet Satisfying Finish of Spring Cleaning: A Book Series That was Tiring but Satisfying to Get Through

I guess I’ll go full circle and refer back to my first answer in this post. For so long, I was intimidated by the A Song of Ice and Fire series but I took the plunge and loved it! It took me months to get through the books but I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of them.


What did you make of my answers? Have I mortally offended anyone by saying I’m not interested in Cassandra Clare’s books?! Leave me a comment below! x

 

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Goblet of Fire

Hey everyone! I’ve been continuing my first reread of the Harry Potter series in a decade and I’m enjoying documenting my thoughts and reactions. Please proceed with caution as there will be some spoilers in this post!

If you missed my previous posts, you can find them here:-

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Initial Thoughts…

This is already so much darker than the previous books, I love it.

Voldemort’s servants should “give their right hand”, should they? Hehehehe

I love that Harry gets letters delivered by tropical birds instead of owls.

Honestly, the build-up to the Quidditch World Cup is so much more interesting than the game itself, am I right?!

Winky breaks my heart!

I think I have a bit of a bookish crush on Bill Weasley, please tell me I’m not the only one?

The ‘mundane’ details about lessons at Hogwarts are some of my favourite bits of this series.

“Harry, did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?” CALMLY. Dumbledore asked CALMLY.

Snape is so awful to Hermione, omg.

I would actually slap Rita Skeeter.

Hedwig is one of the best animal sidekicks in any book, ever.

Krum has a Gregorovitch wand? Ooooh.

Dumbledore finding the room full of chamber pots when he needs the toilet during the night – is this the Room of Requirement?! Honestly, Rowling’s foreshadowing blows me away.

As if we’re only just discovering that Hagrid is half giant? I kind of took it for granted that we just always knew that.

And Dobby gives Harry the gillyweed? I forgot they changed that in the movie.

There’s so much backstory we don’t get in the movies!

Omg Nifflers. Heart eyes.

So sad about Neville’s parents 😦

It warms my heart when Mrs Weasley and Bill turn up in place of Harry’s family.

Guys, this book is DAAAARK.

Man, Voldemort likes the sound of his own voice.

I forgot that it was Fawkes who provided the tail feathers for the two wands!

Dumbledore’s speech at the end is so sad 😦

“What’s coming is coming and we’ll meet it when it does” – I love this quote.

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Thoughts Upon Finishing…

So as you can see, I had quite a lot of thoughts on this one! Though I suppose it helps that the book is so much longer than any of the first three.

This book is where the plot arc of the series is really starting to ramp up. Right from the start of this one, you can feel that things are much darker and it is so awful to know that not everyone is going to survive. I remember being so shocked reading this as a child that Rowling would kill off her characters; it wasn’t something I’d ever seen before.

The characters develop wonderfully in this instalment and Rowling does a great job of capturing the teenage angst that would have accompanied all of those hormones! Her portrayal of the struggles of puberty is very nuanced. Even though I’m no longer experiencing these things along with the trio, I was still feeling all the empathy for them.

Once again, I absolutely loved this book (perhaps even more than I remembered) and I give it all the stars. And now I’m bracing myself for the heartache to come in book five…

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What are your thoughts on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Is it one of your favourites in the series? Anyone else a fan of Bill Weasley?! x

 

 

Alex’s Alphabeticals: E

Right. This blog series is being resurrected. (For real this time, I know I said this in the last post which was months ago now, oops).

Thank you to those of you who have been participating in this little idea that I created! If anyone else is interested, here are the rules:-

  1. Credit/link back to me so I can see your posts!
  2. List your favourite Authors, Books and Characters beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet
  3. Do as many or as few letters as you want

Authors beginning with ‘E’

Shea Earnshaw

Ok, so she only has one book published right now but I absolutely loved it. The Wicked Deep is an atmospheric witchy story that I read last year and that I am itching to reread.

 

Gavin Extence

Gavin Extence wrote one of my favourite books, which is grossly underrated – The Universe vs Alex Woods. I have another of his books on my shelf that I’m hoping to get to this year.

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Books beginning with ‘E’

Eclairs for Tea

First of all, I want to give a shoutout to indie author Julia Blake whose short story collection I read last year and really enjoyed. There’s definitely something for everyone in here.

 

Equal Rites

The third book in the Discworld series and remaining one of my favourites that I’ve read so far. I love the sassy witches and Pratchett’s tongue-in-cheek humour.

 

Egg and Spoon

I love books set in Russia and this one was super unique. I described it in my review as Studio Ghibli meets The Prince and the Pauper.

 

Even the Darkest Stars

This is the first book in a duology (I’m still to read the conclusion, of course). I loved that the story centred on a journey, and the Tibetan-inspired world building was amazing.


Characters beginning with ‘E’

Elia Lear

I read The Queens of Innis Lear last year and it was one of my favourite books of 2018. I loved all of the characters, particularly the three strong women at the heart of the story. Elia was glorious.

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Erik

He might be a serious anti-hero (you could even call him the villain) but I have a major soft spot for the Phantom of the Opera.

 

Eril-Fane

It just shows how skilled Laini Taylor is at her craft that she can make me feel so many emotions for minor characters. Her exploration of Eril-Fane’s PTSD in Muse of Nightmares was outstanding.


What are your favourite authors/books/characters beginning with E? I’d love to see your posts if you’d like to participate in Alex’s Alphabeticals! x