Another Fabulous Giveaway for you!

 

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Hello Peeps, and a huge ‘Welcome’ to my latest giveaway!

I’m really excited about this one,This time around, I decided to give you more choices of prize packs. There will still be one main winner and a handful of consolation prize winners, but you now have the choice of which one of three themed packages that you would prefer!

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I know everybody always loves Harry Potter, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t? so I guess he’ll be included in almost all my giveaways, but I thought it would be nice to add a Bookish themed choice too, and also a Horror themed pack. That hopefully covers a larger proportion of my followers different tastes and will hopefully encourage more of you to join in. So here’s some more details:

hydrangea 5The reason I chose the ‘Bookish’ themed pack is that I noticed that some of you live in places where it is quite difficult to find cute props for your #bookstagram habit. Here in the U.S. it seems that we have a ton of places to rummage around in and find crafty props for our photo’s, but in other countries, I’ve heard that it’s not always so easy.

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So if you live somewhere where it is difficult to find faux flowers and shells etc, then perhaps you might like this themed pack the best. I’ve chosen as carefully as possible. You will see below that I have picked several faux long-stemmed flowers that can be placed as a lovely frame around your pictures. I’ve also added some scatter style packs of flowers in different colors that can be placed strategically too.

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I picked up some beautiful butterfly props (and you will see that I’ve been using this type lots lately) and I’ve added some starfish props for any ocean themed pictures, for those of you who may not live near the water.

 

Seashells_15I’m also including a fun notebook and a cute sleep mask. Some of the items in my giveaway were exclusive to a particular subscription box, that are now sold out, but I’ve added them here and there, so hopefully you may see something that you missed out on!

Whichever package you choose, you will receive some battery operated string lights, which look gorgeous on pictures.

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The second pack is a ‘Horror’ themed pack.

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I’m including two freaky funko pops from the hit movie ‘It’, a fabulous ‘It’ themed mug (which I personally love) some horror themed pins/ badges and a patch.

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The winner will also receive a copy of the latest Stephen King books.’The Body’ is a paperback and ‘The Outsider’ is hardback. Here’s the best bit; if you live in the U.S, I will include a U.K copy and if you live in the U.K I will  send you a U.S copy! How amazing will that be?

I’ve included a ‘Decomposition notebook, some ‘hocus Locus’ themed items (bookmark and bracelet), an ouija board photo print and some fabulous witchy art cards by @Terrifoss . There’s a 10×8 horror print, and a bracelet which is unisex. If something else catches my eye, I’ll be adding it!

 

And that brings me to the Harry Potter option.

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Included in this pack is an adorable Christmas themed HP mug by Nerdy girl designs (because it’s not that far off you know) A hardback anniversary copy of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ in the Slytheryn edition, with a paperback copy in Gryffindor house. A Gryffindor patch,

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There’s also a wand book, some themed snitch earrings, some muggles socks and a Quidditch themed Ron Weasley funko pop. Even better, I’ve found a fabulous tree that looks just like the Whomping Willow!

 

And what about the book pouch, the badges, and the candles which were in the Christmas candle box from A Court of Candles. I’ve even included some notebooks. So much in this giveaway, whatever theme that you choose. I hope you love it.Harry.png

 

So, here’s what you do. On Monday 11th June 2018 my giveaway will go live. Expect this to be around 12p.m EST or 9a.m PT. That’s 5p.m U.k time and 6p.m for France, Germany Etc.

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All I need you to do is:

** like the post**

**Follow me**

**tag two friends who may be interested**

**repost the picture of your choice of themed pack  on your main feed(swipe through the giveaway post pics for the pack of your choice) with the tag: #bookscupsandcandlesga

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Closing date is midnight Florida time on Sunday 24th June 2018!

FOR EXTRA ENTRIES:

**Follow this blog**

**Like this post**

**leave a comment (and don’t forget to add your Instagram name) **

 

You can also gain extra entries for sharing the giveaway on your story. Each story share is an extra entry!

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RULES:

**Must be a public account**

**no giveaway accounts**

**must be over 18 or have parental permission**

**not affiliated with Instagram**

**must leave repost picture up until closing date when you will see me ‘like’ your picture. This means it has been counted!**

**winner will be announced within a week of the closing date**

That’s it! Good luck everybody. I can’t wait to see what you choose!

 

Lots of love, Sally xxx

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Instagram: Accepting the new Algorithm?

 

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Hi Bookworms!

Today I’m daring to dip my toes into some pretty dangerous waters- those of that touchy subject in the bookish community, namely the new algorithm and how it’s affecting us all on #bookstagram. In the next couple of weeks I’ll be talking about some of the highs and lows that we bookworms have experienced while feeding our addiction, and what we can do to keep our feeds relevant and entertaining.

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In today’s post I want to focus on what we can do about the new algorithm that we all love to hate; and later I’ll be sharing a post on the subject of how the #bookstagram addiction can easily run away with you if you’re not careful. So pop the kettle on (if you’re British) or crack open a soda (if you’re not) and snuggle down in a pile of bookish pillows mugfor a while because this is a long post.

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So… The algorithm. I don’t want to just moan. There’s been so much of that already. I’ve been churning this over in my mind for some time now about how it is affecting us and how we can head it off, and I think I’ve now gathered enough information to feel confident to finally comment about it.

 

Like many people, my feed was hit hard after the introduction of the new algorithm, as my follower count and likes first began to drop, and then levelled out but became pretty stagnant. When reading through the posts of the people I love to follow, time and again the algorithm was cited as being the cause of this, and so many ‘instafriends’ felt like they no longer wished to be part of this fabulous community, because their  posts were  going unrewarded with the likes  that they expected. I could see their point entirely. It sucked. After all their hard work to build up their feeds, it appeared that the rug had suddenly been pulled out from beneath them, and they had to start all over again.

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Along with feeling a little despondent like many of you, from time to time; I wondered what I could be doing wrong, and how I could remedy it. If it’s broke you fix it right? So I sat and pondered, how best I could approach the issue. I’ve been reading many articles from other unhappy ‘grammers’, and interviews with the Instagram staff, and what I’ve gleaned from it all is that we are basically stuck with the algorithm as it stands. Instagram seems to think that it works and they’re not in any rush to change it back again.

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So what can be done to work with this problem?

We need a solution.book girl glasses1

 

It breaks my heart to see some of my favorite feeds comment that they’re stepping away from the site because they’re not getting the interaction and growth that they are working so hard for.

So I’ve been closely monitoring the feeds that I love to follow, and also those that have huge growth in spite of the new algorithm and I’ve picked up a few clues that could help us to do the same.

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Firstly, the most obvious one is that the feeds that are making the best growth are those that are already well                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                established, and have follower counts in the tens of thousands. Because they are already so well established, many of them feature lots of different product endorsements  for companies that they may or may not love, and they in turn, are featured by those companies, which has a domino effect. Call it compounding. Unfortunately there’s not much we can do if we ourselves are late to the show, except to turn up everyday and keep trying. And of course we should continue to  pat our friends on the back for the success that they have achieved with their tenacity. After all, a rising sea lifts all boats.

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Secondly, we have the feeds that really pull out all the stops. Feeds that use photo shop and are extremely creative, are doing amazingly well. Flying books, miniature people in bottles, reading while hanging upside down from a tree, you name it! You have to applaud these guys.

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These feeds are so impressive! I love to see these pictures and I eagerly await each new photo just to see how astounding it will be. In short, the bar is being raised higher and higher every day. I realize that unless I make an effort to understand my photo shop software, I’m never going to be able to keep up. These feeds deserve all the likes and follows that they gain, because they make such a huge effort to entertain us. Many, many hours of set up and editing are invested before they post such impressive content.

Now let’s look at another tool that the most successful feeds use: their Instagram stories. Every successful feed that I’ve researched, posts an Instagram story on a daily basis- many post several times per day. I don’t know about you, but I love to see these glimpses of people’s lives. What’s going on behind the scenes? The irony is that we don’t REALLY want the full picture, but a candied version of the poster’s life. At heart we all love nosing into other peoples  windows at night.

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You don’t have to make yourself vulnerable in order to do this. We don’t need you to share EVERYTHING. You can pick and choose, but definitely give us SOMETHING. For example, I usually choose to post videos on my story of my picture set ups. I do this so that my followers can see close up details of what’s in the picture, that may not be prominent in the post. I tag everything that I can think of, but I leave out what I know my followers don’t want to see- all the mess behind me. Let’s face it, we say we want to see behind the scenes, but really we just want to lift the curtain just a little. We don’t really want to see that pile of books and props that are strewn around you. For goodness sake don’t break the spell! You can protest but you know deep down that it’s true.

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So, to sum up: Work harder, be more creative, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Here’s a funny story: Yesterday I woke up with the most ridiculous thought- what if I posted about the book ‘Rumplestiltskin’ and photographed my messed up bed, with my hand holding the book, and captioned it : ‘Rumpled sheets Skin’  (oh my goodness, this obsession is really getting to me! ) I didn’t act on it, because after I’d woken up completely, I dismissed it with a laugh and got on with my day. THEN, later my instabuddy (the lovely @oasisgirlmd) posted a beautiful picture themed on the fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin, and I just HAD to tell her about my waking thoughts. She laughed too but thought I should definitely create the post. Maybe I should. Just to be ridiculous. Just to step out of my comfort zone and do something different. The truth is, do what you feel in your gut. It may work out, and if it doesn’t, then you can just hit that delete button.

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I haven’t mentioned interaction yet. This is very important. To me, this is the best part of the community. I love the friendships that I have made through Instagram, and being able to share my love of the written word with likeminded people. My real life friends and family unfortunately don’t share my love of everything bookish, so I have to contain myself around them, and then fangirl with my bookstagram buddies. slippers

 

New accounts especially need the love. We’ve all been there, so please get to know the newbies. Follow and comment and refer. Build each other up. We all started with a zero follower count and hoped that people would take a chance and follow us.

 

When scrolling through my feed each day (and sometimes several times per day- lets be honest) , I may have lots of time or my time may be limited. I ‘like’ the pictures and comment on as many as I can, enjoying being able to cozy up in my little world of books. Sometimes, I can only have time to post one word or a couple of emoji’s, but I’ve interacted and it means something. It’s impossible to see every new picture that is posted each day, but I try to see as many as possible. I scroll as many as I can, but when it’s time to leave and enter the real world, I try to like at least another ten pictures before I step away. Every little helps.

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Lately (doing my research) I’ve been checking who likes my pictures. It’s usually the usual suspects, with one or two new ones in between. Thanks guys, you know who you are!!! But so many people follow and never like. Why is that? It confuses me. I’m personally very trigger happy. I suggest you look into your own feed and see who regularly makes and effort to show love and who doesn’t. It’s quite an eye opener.

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Finally, and this is very important- acknowledge the comments. Please. You may not be able to answer everyone right away, but try. I’m just as guilty of giving late replies sometimes, when life gets busy; but I try to go through my feed later and respond to everyone. It’s my pet peeve when some of the accounts that I’ve been following for a couple of years and used to love, begin to grow and then stop replying to their followers. They post and ask a question but then never respond when we answer. They want the followers but not the work. Soon that will show in their numbers because nobody wants to be ignored. There’s two accounts that I follow that have become like this, and I have just stopped trying to interact with them, after making the effort for so long with no acknowledgement. I still love their content, but I know I’m wasting my time answering their questions because they won’t respond. It’s so sad.

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So there you are. Lets just end this on a positive note, You absolutely CAN continue to gain likes and followers, but you need to switch things up a little sometimes and put some effort into not only your own account, but in the effort that you make towards those whom you follow.

To sum up. In short, we can complain about the algorithm as much as we want but it isn’t going to change anytime soon. So we need to suck it up and play our best game, because the field is full of talent and we need to push ourselves harder and give it our very best shot- otherwise we’ll be benched, and that’s no fun, is it?.

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* Post more creative content,

*post more often,

* post regularly on your stories,

*comment on other people’s posts

*respond to comments made on our own posts

*support the newbies

*share a little of your world behind the scenes

*pull yourself out of your rut

*take creative risks

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I can’t wait to see what you do. Tag me please!

Lots of love, Sally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter Giveaway!

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Guys it’s been SO LONG! I’m sorry!

But guess what?… I have a giveaway running on my Instagram account. Have you entered it yet? You can win a ton of Harry Potter themed goodies, and it’s INTERNATIONAL!!! I’m also adding a few Harry Potter themed candle to give away at random afterwards to you if you stick around.

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You know, up until a couple of days ago, I had only read the first and last book of the series. Shock, horror! So at the end of last year I made a promise to myself to read the whole series from start to finish. I just finished the last book and OH. MY. GOODNESS. I am in pieces! I’d heard that this series was an emotional rollercoaster, but I still wasn’t prepared for how many up’s and down’s there would be. But I am SO pleased that I read the books because the movies cut out so much stuff.

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I mean, Ginny, for instance! In the movies you barely see her, but in the books she’s a fully formed character. And a couple of the Weasley older brothers are either cut out completely or have a cameo. Not cool! So you NEED to read the books to get the full picture.

harry potter 15I find it almost impossible to choose which book is my favorite. Once I think that I’m reading my favorite, then I pick up the next one and it changes again. Like magic! It’s probably easier to pick my least favorite. I think that would be ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’. I saw the movie and was so confused in many parts. It seemed to skip bits,  (which of course was true, huge chunks were missing) yet I had no idea what it was skipping, because I hadn’t read the books. So when I finally got around to reading it, I was kind of spoiled. I wish they’d done a two parter like the last movie.harry potter 4

But now that I’ve finally read the series, all I want to do now is pick up the first book and start all over again! It was phenomenal !

So, to my giveaway…

You can win so many lovely Harry Potter themed goodies but you need to be quick. to enter, just pop over to my Instagram account and follow me. Then tag two friends who may be interested in winning too, and repost the giveaway picture with the tag: #bookscupsandcandles10K  . Full details are on the post.

HarryYou could win:

* two anniversary edition house books in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.

*a butter beer candle from @northavecandles

*a Ginny funky pop – the new design on a broomstick

*A book sleeve with in monster theme

*a pack of magnets for your fridge

*a Hufflepuff woolly scarf

A Syltheryn tie

*a demented repellant kit

*a Harry Potter badge/ pin

*Some Wizards brew Tea & candle from @acourtofcandles

And MORE!

And I’ve just posted my 100th post so I’ve also added a fabulous scarf!

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So don’t miss out. It’s closing soon. I’m accepting entries up until 14Th April 2018, so HURRY.

Have a super magical day guys, and I’ll be back real soon.

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lots of love, Sally xx

Book review: ‘What the Valley Knows’ by Heather Christie

 

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What the Valley Knows by Heather Christie.

Today I want to share with you my review of Heather Christie’s first book. I was lucky enough to be one of the chosen few, who were given a finished copy to read, in advance of publication, and I am so pleased that I was, as I really enjoyed it. Actually…

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I have to say that I loved this book. Actually I more than loved it.

 

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At first sight, it appears to be a sweet romance between high school sweethearts, and aimed at young adult readers. But this book is so much more. It has hidden depths. It is a beautiful ‘coming of age’ novel which draws you in from the very first page. It is the perfect blend of drama, suspense, and yes, romance. You’re gripping your seat one moment, whilst dissolving into puddles of emotion the next. Here is the book’s synopsis. I will give you mine below it.

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Synopsis:

“Millington Valley is a quintessential small Pennsylvania town: families go back generations. Football rules. Kids drink while adults look the other way. High school is a whirlwind of aspiration and rivalry, friendship and jealousy.

When smart and pretty Molly Hanover moves to town and attracts the attention of the football team’s hero, Wade Thornton – a nice guy with a bad drinking habit, longtime friendships are threatened and a popular cheerleader tries to turn the school against Molly.

The young couple’s future is shattered when Wade, drunk, wrecks his truck and Molly is thrown through the windshield.deer-head

She wakes from a coma to find her beauty marred and her memory full of holes. As she struggles to heal, she becomes sure that something terrible happened before the accident. And there is somebody in the valley who doesn’t want her to remember.’

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The book is written from multiple perspectives, as seen through the eyes of the main characters. This is expertly done, and allows the reader to fully experience the emotions of each character in the lead up to their worlds colliding.

Molly is a sweet only child. Her father died when she was a young girl, and her memories of him are bitter-sweet. She feels guilt as well as grief at his passing, because she blames herself somewhat for his death, for reasons that become clear later.

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Ann is Molly’s mother. She is finally finding her feet after years of fighting to pay bills and keep out of debt, after her husband’s shock death left them almost destitute. Now Ann has an opportunity for a fresh start in a new town, with a super job offer as a paralegal and a beautiful rental home that seems almost too-good-to-be-true. It apparently is…

Wade is the popular kid, and high school football star. His life is a dream. He has a huge bunch of friends, he can take his pick of all the pretty girls, and his future football career seems settled. Wade gets everything he wants, and it comes easy. But he is not happy. A little drink now and again, helps to ‘take the edge off’ and it’s okay, because Wade is in control of it…until he isn’t. When Molly walks into his life, he suddenly feels that he has finally found ‘the one’, someone who loves him for himself and not for his achievements.

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Unfortunately there are some people in town who want something from Ann and Molly that they just cannot give. These people have their own agenda’s and are hell-bent on getting what they want,to such a point that Ann and Molly’s lives are now in serious danger.

One night everything tragically changes, and Molly now has a huge decision to make.

If she reviled her secret, it’s going to cause so much pain to those she loves. If she doesn’t, then other people may be in danger. She meets up with Wade with the intention of sharing her burden, but before she has a chance, they are in a car accident, and Molly is in a coma….

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I love seeing how Christie writes with such  empathy, and draws the reader into the thought processes and feelings of her characters. I understood Molly, I understood Wade, and I understood Ann, and I could see all their differing points of view. The romance was so sweet and the mystery and intrigue kept me on tenterhooks while I stormed through the story.

I found myself constantly dipping in and out of the book through the day, while I was supposed to be busy doing other things, but I just HAD to find out what happened next. Luckily for me, the chapters were not too long, and I could pick up easily where I had left off. However, I wasn’t satisfied until I had turned the very last page!

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I just love it when I find a book that grips me like this. I really can’t wait to read more from Heather Christie, and I will be first in line to buy the next book that she has published. A super read, I wholeheartedly recommend it!

 What the Valley Knows will be published in January, but the author has a super preorder incentive campaign running right now. For more details, go HERE FOR DETAILS

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Fabulous Finds for Fright Nite (a.k.a HaLloWeEn

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Hello Peeps,

I hope you are all doing well and having fun planning for Halloween.

I thought I’d pop up a Halloween post for you today, sharing some of my favorite reads, merchandise  and other super treats, old and new.

Let me start by saying that I just LOVE Halloween; and in this house it comes second only to Christmas. We tend to decorate inside the house more than outside, but each year we add more decorations to our growing scary collection.

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What we have discovered is that by being savvy (very strong willed) and only buying AFTER the holiday is over, we get some amazing deals on items that otherwise would be out of our budget. I mean how do you justify spending $200 on a statue that is good for just one day each year?

So by waiting until the day after, or even a couple of days we have snagged some great deals.

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For example, look at these fabulous figures that we picked up last year from Home Depot. Our Hip Witch was originally just under $100 prior to the holiday. We got her for $29 two days later! Our butler, who has animatronics and whose eyes turn red and has spooky sounds started off at $129 then went down to $64 and then he was only $44.50 when we picked him up!

I have my eye on one for next year that I am praying doesn’t sell out.

And of course Halloween is the perfect time to pick up a good horror book to read. I am a great one for horror stories, and don’t need Halloween as an excuse to scare myself silly, but I do love to match my reads to the season, and I have some classic horrors and some super new Witch and magic themed books that I want to share with you today.

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First up is by my favorite author Alice Hoffman. Alice wrote the amazing Practical Magic which was made into a cult movie starring  Nicole Kidman & Sandra Bullock, way back in 1998.

 

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Well Alice has come up with a prequel to Practical Magic, and it’s just as fabulous. This is a perfect read if you want a nice magical story and not horror.

 

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For true horror lovers I would have to recommend the King. Yes, Stephen King. I’ve read just about every book he has ever written and loved every one, but those I recommend most for this holiday are: #drumroll … ‘Salems Lot’, ‘The Shining’ and ‘ Night Shift’. These are my favorite cover designs too. The glossy black covers are gorgeous. I hope they bring every book out with this cover design. I finally had to donate my original King paperbacks to charity as the pages had all begun to turn yellow- I didn’t have the heart to  throw them away.

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Of course the true icons of Halloween/ horror has to be Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Poe’s  collected works. I love these particular copies, both by Barnes & Nobel

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If you’re a #bookstagrammer then you can find some delicious scented candles from the lovely Amanda North Ave Candles easy store. Amanda has candles to match many books,  including her most recent Merlot one which is the perfect companion while you are reading  Dracula.

 

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If you prefer a more contemporary Vampire and Witches story, I absolutely LOVE All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness I have the single editions and also this beautiful boxed set, which is currently $40

 

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If you like the more adult Witch themed merchandise, then how about gifting this set along with some beautiful element candles from Unicorn Manor

 

 

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There is ‘Earth,’ ‘Fire’, ‘Air’ and ‘Water’ along with the ‘Samhain’ one which I light most evenings. These are truly stunning to gaze at, and smell delicious. Perhaps you can cast a romance spell…

 

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If its Art you are really looking for, then look no further than Terri Foss’s Etsy store

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I’ve been collecting Terri’s art for more than a year now. She has hundreds of prints available in many sizes, and all priced perfectly. Terri also regularly has original art pieces in her store, such as the one’s above. But you have to keep checking as they sell out fast. I mean, as soon as she lists them. I snagged these gorgeous ones this year.

 

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So what about some spooky Halloween reads for children? I guess  the most obvious choice would be the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay. Any of these three editions by Jim Kay are beautiful, and really bring the stories to life. I can’t wait to one day have the completed set.

 

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And don’t forget that Amanda also has awesome  Harry Potter candles too

 

 

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If you already own every Harry Potter book, then the  other children’s scary Halloween recommendations that I would strongly suggest, are any of the Goosebumps sets. They are scary fun but not too scary. I’m loving this limited edition vintage style tin of books. This would make a super present. It’s in my cart as we speak! Another by the same author is the Fear Street series by R.L Stine.

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I love all the retro style covers.

 

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Moving on to really scary books based on true stories.

I would suggest that The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is a must read! I bought my copy as a scratch and dent from the Book Outlet, but I see they don’t have any left so you can find it HERE

And finally in books, I will recommend the only book that ever gave me real actually nightmares for two nights in a row (I never get nightmares). This is The Soul Collector This is apparently a true story, and it gave me the total creeps. When I say nightmares, I mean waking up in a cold sweat thinking there are Demons in the room. I shook with fear! Read it at your own risk!

So…

Moving on to some Halloween Merch.

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For some cute Halloween gifts for friends and family, how about these cute PocketBac Sanitizers from Bath and Body Works

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And these matching hand creams

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halloween witch 6They are priced so well too! Right now you can pick them up reduced to $3 for the hand creams and packs of five hand sanitizers for around $5

 

 

 

So what other merchandise can we add to our gift boxes for our Halloween loving friends and family?

Well, I figure that some spooky Halloween themed Funko POPS

IMG_0682Funko’s are usually priced between $9.99 and 12.99, although larger one’s can be more expensive. These are a few of the one’s that I have collected over the last two years. Freddie is my favorite! (Though Rowens Ghost is a close second.

 

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This has turned out to be a long post. I hope you have enjoyed it, and hopefully have discovered some new ideas to make your own Halloween rock! there are still a ton of things that I’d love to share with you, and if I find time in the next couple of days, I’ll add another post showing my collection of Tarot cards. I collect so many and I’d love to share some of them with you.

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So until next time, thanks for reading. If I don’t talk to you before..Have a happy and safe Halloween xxx

Love Sally

Happy Birthday to me…Birthday Haul part one!

 

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Hi everybody, I hope you are all well and that life is good!
I’m so sorry that it’s been so long since I last posted, time has just slipped away from me. I have had words with myself and I promise to do better in future.

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So much has been happening lately; from Hurricane Irma, to vacationing in Colorado; life has been crazy busy here. But I’m back, and I have so much good stuff planned to post.

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But first, I wanted to share with you some of the goodies that I’ve hauled recently. It was my birthday last week and I was gifted so many lovely things that I can’t wait to share them with you. Also, I’m sharing goodies that I’ve recently treated myself to, as I know you’ll be interested, as many are bookish themed.
So lets get right to it shall we. I’ll link as many as I can, so you can treat yourself too, if you like them.

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So first off, I want to share with you two gorgeous new planners that my husband bought me. These were from Kikki.K I got to choose though. I chose the large lemon planner for all my home organization files. This can be left on my desktop and can be referred to by either of us, when we want to check up on home or work appointments. This one here is perfect, and it was also in the sale. He even had my initials monogrammed on the cover

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The baby blue one is also gorgeous, and has a fine gold polka dot pattern all over it. Find it HEREplanner blue close up

 

I’ll be able to pop this one in my purse and carry it around with me, and I can add appointments and update throughout the day, and then I can sync it with my large planner every evening (the old fashioned way).I do have planner apps too but I just love stationary and the feel of real paper and decorative accessories. It’s kind of like reading real books versus e book readers. It’s just a preference of mine.

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The accessories that I chose are the planner zip-lock decorated pockets, pastel bull dog style clips for adding any magazine clippings that I want to save. I love the page holder notes, and I added an Inspiration kit to add interest to the pages and to keep me motivated! Finally I purchased so bullet planner stencils and  Huhuhero fine liner pens from Amazon. So I’m totally set up!

I can’t wait to start playing with these.

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So, moving on to candles now. Now my favorite upmarket candles are most definitely those from Unicorn Manor If ever I want to truly indulge myself, I head right over to Emi’s store and pick a new candle. But luckily for me, Hubby gave me some birthday money to choose a whole bunch of candles for my birthday, so I was in candle heaven!_BirthdayQueen_0024_25

 

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I mean just LOOK at all this loveliness! #sigh

Let me show you some close ups. So first of all I took advantage of Emi’s offer to make a custom candle for me. I requested a candle to promote healing as I’m sick right now and waiting on surgery, so I hope to light it every day after my surgery to encourage fast healing. So Emi created this one for me.

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It’s stunning and smells delicious. She created a tailored crystal candle with her signature rose scent (like her love spell candles) infused with certified organic pink and red roses, certified organic Aussie grown lavender, cherry blossom, homegrown bay leaf, Rose Quartz and magic. If only you could smell it!

Now as I have quite a sweet tooth, I also feel madly involve with her new limited edition candles in conjunction with Daisy’s milk bar. Wait until you see these!

First we have the salted caramel candle  which is infused with tiger’s eye crumble, rose and of course, her magic. It totally blows me away. It smells good enough to eat. Definitely a beautiful caramel aroma.

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Next I had to order this adorable candle which is based on a childhood favorite cereal, fruit Loops  This one is infused with amethyst crumble, rose and magic. This smells really sweet, and exactly like candy.fruit loops candle

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The next one just has to be my favorite of all as it’s raspberry and I just LOVE raspberries. Infused with rose quartz crumble, rose and Magic!

 

 

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Finally I bought a Love spell candle, because I love it. this has the rose quartz, rose magic, and also jasmine. I purchase this one in the wax melts version too.love spell wax melt

If you are on a budget, these wax melts are perfect for treating yourself without feeling guilty afterwards. And if you want to REALLY indulge yourself, then light these beautiful candles around your bath and add some of this magical Bath crumble into your bath. This is infused with sew almond oil, rose absolute, cerfified organic rose, lavender, jasmine, rose quartz and of course MAGIC. Perfect for pampering. I can’t wait.

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So that’s it for part one of my birthday haul. I’ll continue with part two next week and share with you some more of my gorgeous girly gifts. I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing in my fun. Have a super week, lots of love, Sally x

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Thrillers: ‘Never Look Back’ by Clare Donoghue.

 

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This week on my Instagram feed I’m going to be devoting my reading time to thrillers.

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I’ll be posting a brief round up of the latest books that I’m reading in this genre, along with my recommendations for the best thrillers to pick up if you want a good scare. Not to be confused with Horrors (which I will be tackling very soon), thrillers are fast-paced roller coaster rides that should leave you feeling breathless with your heart beating like its outside of your chest because, it could happen to you!

So today on the blog, I want to focus on Clare Donoghue  and her 2014 debut thriller ‘Never Look Back’ which is  published by Minotaur Books. Paperback version HERE

 

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‘NEVER LOOK BACK”

 

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‘Three young women have been found brutally murdered in South London, their bodies discarded in plain view, the victims only yards away from help during each attack. And each time, the murderer gets a little bolder.police hand cuff (2)

Detective Mike Lockyer is the head of homicide on the south London police force, and with three bodies on his watch and a killer growing in confidence, he and Detective Sergeant Jane Bennett are frantically trying to find the link between these seemingly isolated incidents. Slowly, the case is also invading Lockyer’s life outside the office, and the fact that his daughter matches the victim profile is putting a painful strain on their already fragile relationship. Meanwhile, Sarah Grainger has a shadowy stalker following her every move.police robber mask

Once an outgoing London photographer, Sarah has begun locking herself away, almost too afraid to leave the house. Now her stalker’s actions are escalating. He’s desperate to tell Sarah a secret…a secret that Lockyer needs to know.’

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This author debuted in 2014 with this book, which I am pleased to discover, was the first in a series featuring Detective Lockyer and his investigation team.

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I really enjoyed this read. It was fast-paced, and action led, but still managed to create an empathy in the reader for the characters. Donoghue expertly manages to build up suspense as the book follows the story of Sarah, a victim of a stalker, and Lockyer and his police team as they investigate a serial killer; and leads their paths to converge in a dramatic final showdown.

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Donoghue’s writing style is a ‘no-frills’ approach so don’t expect much descriptive along the way, but this is more than made up for in the action and suspense which keep you turning the pages long after your bedtime. This first book in the series would have made an excellent stand alone, but it also manages to set the foundation for the future books, so that we can see the development of the main characters and their personal growth. I give this a solid 4 stars and a good recommendation.

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Further books in this awesome series can be found HERE and HERE

 

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Summer Y.A. Contemporary Reading recommendations: ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend.

 

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Don’t you just love summer?

I love the long days and lazy evenings; kicking back in the backyard at the weekend with the grill fired up, retro songs on the turntable outside and a cool refreshing drink in my hand and a plate full of doughnuts beside me. This is what I call perfection! Of course it’s even better if there’s a book in my other hand too, but I try to be sociable.

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I always find that I turn to contemporary books in the summer. I like to be able to dip in and out of a read during these lazy days when quite often friends will drop by and linger, with us on the patio, or we will load up the car and head to the beach. My favorite reads for these days are YA contemporaries. They fill the gap in the days quite nicely and as a bonus, usually their dust jackets are a feast for the eyes too.

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So this week I wanted to pull up a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed so far this summer. I’ve discovered some fabulous authors that are new to me and of course, some super characters to root for as they navigate their way through life. I hope you enjoy them too. Let me know if you’ve read them, and why not add a recommendation of your own too?

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Okay, so first up, today we have ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend  Published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

Here’s the official synopsis:

‘The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself…
DUMPED by her best friend Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.”
DESERTED by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.
TRAPPED in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.
STUCK at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.

But what if all isn’t lost? What if Anna’s mom didn’t exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna’s stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn’t such a bad fit after all? With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.’

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 My take:

Don’t dismiss this book as the lighthearted synopsis suggests, it tackles some deep issues, but handles them delicately and empathically. While I would say that this book is aimed at a middle school audience, it is also a super good read for all ages above this.

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Our protagonist, Anna is thirteen, and has hung out with her best friend Dani since Kindergarten. Her life is safe and predictable, but then it isn’t. Out of the blue Dani no longer wants to hang out with Anna. She feels that they’ve grown apart. Dani wants to be more popular, and Anna is no longer cool enough. Okay, so Anna is confused and upset, but she thinks Dani may change her mind and come running back, if she gives her time. As we read this, we assume that the story is going to be cute and sweet, but it does get much darker as we read on.

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Anna’s parents have recently divorced, but within months, her father has remarried and his just -out-of-college new wife has given birth to a baby girl. Anna is struggling to cope with her new place in his world, and having to divide her time between his new house and her home with her mother. Unfortunately things go from bad to worse when Anna’s mother attempts suicide, and leaves her reeling, and with no other choice than to move in with her father and his new family, while her mother recovers. donut girl book 1

This book touches on many different issues throughout: Divorce, remarriage, the birth of a new sibling, depression, loss of friendship, and grief. It offered much more than I anticipated, and I thought that the author handled these issues well. Anyone over age thirteen will certainly have experienced at least one of these issues, and I’m sure they will relate.

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I empathized with Anna as she was pushed from pillar to post, but I enjoyed seeing her character grow through these pages.

I’d give this a solid four stars for a sweet, Ya read.

I hope this review has been helpful to you. I’ll be back later with another summer Y.A book recommendation.

 

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with love, Sally xxx

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my Soak Sunday Week 8

 

 

aqua bath grl 3Hi guys, I hope you’ve all had a super weekend, I did! My husband had to work both days but I got to go to the mall and treat myself to some pamper products and new clothes, and then we went out to eat together both days. Then this afternoon we did something that we promised each other we would do one day; and that was to go on a bike ride!

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He bought me a new retro style bike that I had fallen in love with and we coasted through our subdivision. I loved it! especially the feeling of the breeze through my hair. It was so relaxing. But I was more than ready for my bath tonight.

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This week’s #soaksunday is all about summer. Right now I’m reading through my contemporary novel shelves, and some of these covers are simply good enough to eat.

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I haven’t been very diligent about with posting my Sunday soaks recently and I apologise. I’ve had my family over from England and we’ve been spend the last three weeks seeing all the attractions and the beaches here in Florida, and when we arrived home I just was too exhausted to pull out the camera. I’d just soak and try to sty awake. But it’s back to business as usual now and I hope to be able to supply you with some bath eye candy to wrap up your weekend.

So today I chose Jay Asher’s book ‘What Light’. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?

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Here is the synopsis:

“A beautiful story of love and forgiveness.”
—Stephen Chbosky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

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Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

 

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For the bath I chose a cocktail of these products:

Firstly I used Lush shower gel in Yummy Mummy I followed this with a strainer of crushed Lush Candy Mountain and Unicorn Manor’s Bath crumble. If only you could smell how delicious these scents were together, they were heavenly. I added a bath bomb from Hip Modern Soap, in ‘Carnival’ and then I was ready for a luxurious soak with a great new read.

 

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The candle I used is a new one from Amanda at Northavecandles which is so gorgeous. It’s ‘Cherry Trees & Apple Blossom and the title speaks for itself. I really love it! If you would like to save ten percent on your first order, just use the code: BCC10 at checkout. How cool is that?! Amanda is one of my favorite candle makers, along with Unicorn Manor, and I use their candles daily; so its a pleasure to showcase their products.

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My bathroom smelled so floral and sweet, like I was bathing in a candy store.

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I feel so much more relaxed after my soak and I think I’m going to go on more bike rides now, they’re so much more relaxing than runs but still a super way to keep toned. Maybe I’ll alternate! I hope you’ve enjoyed my eighth soak Sunday post, and I hope it inspire you to create your own. If you do please tag me @bookscupsandcandles won’t you.

Lot of love, Sally xxaqua-grl-turban

Non-spoiler book Review: The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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I was delighted to receive an advance reader’s copy of ‘The Bedlam Stacks “ by Natasha Pulley to review, along with her first book: ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ from Bloomsbury Publishing.

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I have to say that I really enjoyed both books, but today I have just finished ‘The Bedlam Stacks’ so I will focus on a review this book first while it is so fresh in my mind.

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The synopsis:

bedlam leaf large 2        ‘In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall, England, with an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pine explodes, and his brother accuses him of madness.bedlam leaf large

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch Quinine- essential for the treatment of Malaria- from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

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Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merricks grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.’

My strongest reaction after reading this book is how beautiful the author writes. To me, it is reminiscent of reading a classic, in both language and description. The story is set in 1859 and by goodness Pulley transported me there within the first chapter. This really was a book that I couldn’t put down!

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We are initially introduced to our protagonist Merrick, while he is back living in a tumbledown Country Manor house, which was inherited by his elder brother, Charles. Merrick was forced to give up his life as an explorer and an expert on botany, after he suffered an accident, which inhibited the use of one of his legs. Charles enjoys playing Lord of the Manor and seems to have little time for Merrick. He appears to enjoy pointing out all of Merrick’s perceived shortcomings. Merrick however, puts up with this treatment with little resistance, preferring to mind his own business and focus his attention on immersing himself into assisting the remaining gardening staff with the care and keeping of the grounds.

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After stumbling upon the old neglected greenhouse that his grandfather installed many years prior, Merrick takes refuge there and finds comfort away from his brother’s bullying and his own feelings of uselessness culminating from his leg injury.

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I loved Pulley’s description of the Manor and grounds. I could easily picture the dilapidated Mansion with the hole in the roof.

 

“Now there was a little carpet of pine needles over the middle of the floor. I twisted round to see upward. Although there were, on my side, three floors to the house, on this side it was just galleries off the staircase. The ceiling was the roof. Being windowless, it was usually gloomy, with deep shadows between the vaults of the rafters, but now there was quite a big hole. Right above it was a rotten branch still attached, just, to the old pine tree. It had been defying gravity for months.”

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Merrick seeks refuge in his greenhouse, and once there, he notices that a statue that was watching over his father’s grave has moved. This has happened more than once but nobody believes him since the statue is much too heavy to be pushed or lifted by any person or persons on a whim. On this particular day Charles joins him in the greenhouse, and when Merrick ponders out loud over the moving statue, Charles suggests that Merrick is showing signs of madness and comments that he ought to have him committed to an asylum! This is not a comment to be taken lightly, since Charles had their mother committed several years earlier.

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So when an old friend and colleague visits him later with a proposal he can’t refuse- to take Merrick with him on another expedition, this time to Peru; Merrick agrees, despite his disability. Thus begins a chain of events that will see Merrick face action and adventure, mystery and magic; and find friendship in unexpected places, all the while growing as a person. Merrick discovers that he has untapped strengths despite his leg wound, and his only limitations are those that he chooses to see as such.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’ll stop sharing the story here, but let me tell you that this is just the beginning of a super story that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

 

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I love that Pulley doesn’t rush the story. She takes us step by step with Merrick through the Amazon and into danger. She builds up the atmosphere page by page, and gives us a slow burn of mystery and intrigue with a generous dose of magic mixed in.

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I liked Merrick so very much. He was only in his late thirties yet I pictured him as being much older due to his mannerisms and thought processes. Whether this was because of his limitations of mobility or just his old fashioned ways, I can’t be sure, but he was immensely likeable from start to finish. I was routing for him at every moment. It seemed that he was the type that people like to bully, and the reader has to watch helplessly as his friends and family members push him against his grain in order to suit their own agendas.

 

This is not a fast paced adventure; so don’t expect instant gratification. Read it like a classic, enjoying the nuances of the language, the broad descriptive and the journey rather than the destination.jungle Elephant

However, when you arrive at the destination, you will not be disappointed!

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‘The bedlam Stacks’ was a fully immersive read for me, into the culture and history of Peru from the point of view of an upper class Englishman who had fallen on hard times and had been offered one more chance at adventure and redemption.

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Pulley writes so convincingly as a man that I have to applaud her.

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While this book is a stand alone, I can see plenty of scope for it to become a duology. I feel there are still some outstanding questions that I would like to see answered, and I believe there is more room for development left open- or perhaps that is wishful thinking on my part!

 

If I had one criticism, and to be honest I don’t -but lets just invent one and put it out there anyway for sake of balance- I would say that I wanted more chapters of the English home after the Peru adventure. Any further description of life in a sprawling English Country pile is heaven for me.

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I unreservedly recommend this book. I wouldn’t ever have imagined that I would be interested in Peru as a setting if you had asked me in advance; yet, I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the journey through the Amazon. I would so LOVE to tell you about the magic (oh the magic) but it would break the spell, and we can’t do that.

 

The Bedlam Stacks is due for release in August 2017. Please put it on your #TBR