Best Books I read in 2018!

GlamNYEClips_0012_13

 

Happy (almost) New Year Everybody!         _BirthdayQueen_0028_29

Are you as excited to  begin 2019 as I am!

Have you any New Year’s resolutions ready?

I’m determined to make this year the year that I take control of my health and fitness.

_BirthdayQueen_0029_30

I know it’s a cliche, but for me this is a priority. Every day is a gift to me now, and I want to take advantage of every moment and squeeze as much joy out of it as I can!

 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

Did you get any new books?

lvebksstack

I had a lovely Christmas. It was a quiet one with my husband and our boys this year. They’re getting older now so we don’t have all the preparation for santa’s visit, or the early mornings to contend with, so it was a lovely relaxing one, with no rush, no appointments, and no stress. Perfect! aqua-bath-flower1

Believe it or not, I didn’t open  a single book for Christmas this year. My husband waited until the day after and then dropped me off at my favorite Barnes and Nobel store, and let me immerse myself in the luxury of being able to choose whatever I wanted. I bought a wide selection of both novels and inspirational reads, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

What’s your favorite book of 2018?

I had a fabulous reading year, and pretty much enjoyed every book that I read. So I thought that I’d share some of my favorite reads of the year with you today. I could do a countdown, but I just can’t wait. Lets just get straight to it. Drum roll….The most outstanding book of 2019 for me, was N0S4R2 by Joe Hill.

IMG_6006

THAT BOOK! It was not only my favorite read of 2018, but it has even hit a high place on my all time top ten reads EVER! If you love a good horror story, go and pick it up. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I think it’s good to go in without a map. But lets just say that if you take a creepy old man who drives around in his antique car, abducting young children, and promising to take them to ‘Christmas land’; it’s going to be a book that you cannot put down.

GlamNYEClips_0017_18

This year I’ve made a special effort to  pick up work from authors that are new to me. I don’t know about you, but I’m a creature of habit, and tend to stick with the same pool of authors that I’ve read for years. Thats the beauty of Bookstagram- I learn about different authors and new works that I may have otherwise overlooked in a book store.

GlamNYEClips_0016_17

One outstanding author that I turned to this year was Wilbur Smith. Growing up, he was my dad’s favorite author, and he bought Smith’s books as soon as they came out. There was no Instagram back then, and so I always thought they were ‘men’s’ books- aimed at a male audience. So I didn’t venture as far as picking one up back then. AutumnFairytaleClips_0002_1

however, a few weeks ago I was in a book store and I noticed the Wilbur Smith books winking at me from the shelf, so I picked one up out of nostalgia and curiosity. They’ve updated the covers and they’re just beautiful. Just holding the book set off many happy memories for me of my Dad, and I figured ‘why not?’

key

I decided to buy some, thinking of it as a wonderful way of connecting with him across time and space. I chose the Egyptian series since I love anything to do with ancient Egypt.

The first book was ‘River God‘ and was centered around the life of the  slave Taita in ancient Egypt, and his relationships with his mistress and the Pharaoh. It is an epic story, that is made so much more interesting as it  has so much fact woven in with the fiction. The second book ‘The Seventh Scroll ” jumps forward to more contemporary times, and to an expedition to find the lost treasures of the aforementioned Pharaoh and the slave Taita based on the story of the first book. Both books were fantastic reads with action and adventure along with great historical interest and lots of mystery and suspense woven in. I loved them. There’s actually six in the series and I am so excited to pick up book number three.

IMG_6014

Smith has written so many books and so many series that I’m now really looking forward to reading. I hope you give him a try!

_BirthdayQueen_0005_6

Anther notable author for me this last year was Grady Hendrix. He seems to have exploded onto the horror scene with a slew of amazing books. My first read of his was ‘ My Best Friend’s Exorcism‘, followed by ‘Horrorstor” and of course his non fiction catalog ‘Paperback’s From Hell‘. I am looking forward to reading ‘We Sold our Souls. Hendrix’s writing style is really unique in the genre. He manages to scare the bejeebas out of you and yet give you warm fuzzies at the same time. His work is part nostalgic, 1980′ s vibes, and part supernatural suspense. Whatever you want to call it, it works.

 

Other outstanding books that I’d recommend this year are:

GlamNYEClips_0015_16

Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker . Get it HERE

IMG_6019

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay . Also from HERE 

IMG_6018

For children’s books, I’ve finally discovered Mary Downing Hahn books which they LOVED. These are all suspense and spooky books but not too scary. Click to follow the links.

The Ghost of Cratchfield Hall

One for Sorrow

The Doll In The Garden

and Closed For the Season 

GlamNYEClips_0016_17

So, to highlight some of my best reads this year. Here are some of the others that I read this year and loved. I’ve tried to include lots of different genres here, so that there’s something that might take your eye:

Best Vintage book has to be Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon

IMG_6010

Best Biography Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

IMG_6012

and I also loved this YA Biography of Mary Shelley ‘The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s creator Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

IMG_6017

Best Debut YA book Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

IMG_6013

Best Historical Fiction The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.

IMG_6011

 

I could go on and on, because I read so many superb books in 2018. If you want to see more, then just pop across to my Instagram feed which is linked on the right, and see if you agree with my thoughts on the books I have read.

Do you have any you want to recommend to me? drop me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful new year, stay safe. Remember to stick with a friend if you’re out partying. Male or female, you’re safer in a group.Charge up your phone, wrap up, and have fun!

Lots of love and best wishes for 2019 xxx

GlamNYEClips_0013_14

Instagram: Accepting the new Algorithm?

 

set 1

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.

books

 

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.

teapot

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

rug

 

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.

set 5

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.

book blue

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.

alloween witch 28

 

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.

book shelf 1

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.

cat

 

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.

classics 18

 

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.

doggy

 

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.

11

 

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.

blanket

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.

3

 

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?.

garland

 

 

* 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

set 9

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

Lots of love, Sally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my very first soak Sunday!

I am a girl who loves to take a long hot bubble bath as often as possible. The tub is my ‘Me time’, my escape, my sanctuary from the world. So when I take a bubble bath, I pull out all the stops.

img_0894

I mean I prepare.

 

I’m talking about finding the perfect candle, the perfect cup and flowers and cupcakes and my latest book. I choose the most relaxing music that suits my mood, and I wallow in prettiness for hours.

card4

Now a couple of days ago I was looking for inspiration for my Instagram pictures. Sometimes that well of inspiration runs dry- the muse is MIA.

lilac-girl-alone

So as I was thinking this, my thoughts led from ‘well-is-dry’ to ‘Soak Sunday’ and so my new weekly hash tag was born.

img_0886-1

Now bathing beauty addicts are not new. I follow so many beautiful feeds that have helped to inspire my bathing ritual for a long time now. (Kindly check out my Instagram and see who I follow for details) I often toyed with the idea that it may be fun to start a new feed to share my bathing addiction, but the truth is, I love my book account so much that I don’t want to be distracted from the love that I pour into it. I figured there must be a way to incorporate my other loves into my book feed. And the more I thought about it, the more fun ideas that I had. Playing on the popular tag of #socksunday I came up with #soaksunday I could still share my love of books, cups and candles, but also my love of Lush, and Bath & body Works, The Body Shop etc.….

img_0892

I really hope that some of you guys take up the tag and play along. Please let me know what you think about it. Any ideas are most welcome.

 

planner-girl-clipart-28

Right now I’m reading ‘Heartless” by Marissa Meyer.

img_0889

This is a really fun read. I’m about half way through it and thoroughly enjoying it. I would describe it as a fairytale mashup of Alice in Wonderland, and it’s almost as funky as the original. Many of your favorite characters are there in cameo roles, others taking on larger parts like ‘Hatta’ Our protagonist is Catherine or Cath. Cath is the daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of the city of Hearts. Her parents are determined that she will marry the King and be the next Queen of Hearts. But Catherine has other ideas. She wants to make her childhood dream of owing her own bakery come true. Catherine is the best baker in Hearts. Everybody loves her lemon tarts, her macaroons and her pumpkin pie…Ahhh yes, The pie… and this is where the story gets complicated.

alice2

We have lots of twists and turns, some love interests, some villains, some quirky characters who will make you laugh out loud. It is a riot! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

alice-hatter

This beautiful cover design was limited to Owlcrate subscribers.I feel very lucky to have snagged one.I hope you enjoy my new tag. The full video is on my instagram story for the next 24 hrs so kindly pop over and check it out before it’s gone. I hope you can see the connection I have tried to make from my #soaksunday story to the book. Each week I will try to improve on it!

 

 

img_0892-2

 

I hope you have a super Sunday, and manage to get lots of relaxation time in. I will see you soon.

alice-rabbit-1

Lots of love Sally xxx

f3

Game Of Thrones Book Review

 

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

 

dragonknight_0012_13

 

Game Of Thrones is arguably a book that almost everyone has heard of, especially in the bookish community. It is so popular that HBO channel made a T.V. series out of it. There is merchandise in all good bookstores, etsy stores and Amazon that supports fans of this saga. It was a ‘must read’ for all lovers of fantasy and adventure.

dragonknight_0008_9

I just knew that I had to put it on my #tbr list, and I bought a copy a year ago. Sadly, there it stayed until just last week. Of course I wanted to read it, and it kept winking at me from the shelf. I would see Instagram posts that honored George R.R. Martin and I kept telling myself that I had to pick it up soon. I guess I was a little intimidated by it.

What if I personally didn’t like it?

What if I couldn’t finish the 694 pages?

I felt pressured, by whom? – Myself.

I SO wanted this book to live up to its hype, so I guess I delayed reading it for far too long.

dragonknight_0004_5

I needn’t have worried. The book was epic in every sense of the word! The plots and sub-plots, the Royal houses, the huge array of characters, each of whom, I had strong feelings for in one way, or another. Every character had a story and a purpose. I was riveted.

dragonknight_0015_16

The first hundred pages of any book are always a climb in my opinion. By this I mean, it is the creation of the backstory, the stage, and the framework before the real action begins. Some authors can get right into the middle of the action on the first page, but I always give a book the honor of reading the first hundred pages before I mentally calculate whether I’m going to enjoy it or not.

 

dragonknight_0001_2

 

However, with this book you need those first hundred pages to get to know all the characters fully. Each has a story of their own to tell, each has their own cross to bear (some coping with the weight better than others) George R.R. Martin is insisting that you understand why these characters are driven to act the way they do/ Even those that I want to despise have my understanding when they act in ways I really wouldn’t normally be able to comprehend.

dragonknight_0003_4

I took my time with this book. It refused to be rushed. It is not a book that can be speed read if you want to get the best out of it. You need to fully immerse yourself into the story. This means, no distractions. Hide yourself away in a place where you will be left undisturbed for a couple of hours at a time. Throw yourself into a land where there are Kings and Queens, Knights and Ladies.

 

 

 

dragonknight_0006_7

The synopsis reads in part:

 

“Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdoms protective wall. At the center of the conflict lies the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of Lords and Ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens”

 

dragonknight_0016_17

My take on this:

 

We first meet the Starks who are a large and close-knit family. They are the Lord and Lady and their children who run Winterfell. Their lives are hard, in the cold, bleak kingdom, but they are at peace and are content until a visit from the King shakes up their formerly happy existence. At once everything changes and will never be the same.

Conflict enters almost immediately, and a breathtaking adventure takes shape. We get to know the King and his family and all their secrets- secrets that will change lives. We see King pitted against King, we see how one wrong move brings the hammer down on all within its reach, and we see how the ripples affect everyone I some way large or small…

But the story is just beginning. This is only book one.

dragonknight_0007_8

The reader is left with such a major cliffhanger. I really cannot wait to find out where this epic saga will go next. The author leaves us with hope and fear and wonder. I really wish I could say more but you really do need to read this for yourself.

 

One thing I was determined to do was to read the book before I watched the T.V. show, so last night I settled down to watch the first series. I think it stayed very true to the book, but I’m so pleased that I waited and read it first. I’ll stop watching the show as soon as it catches up to the book, and I will resume watching it once I’ve read the next installment.

dragonknight_0002_3

I hope that you do pick it up. I highly recommend it. If you have already read Game of Thrones, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. You can comment at the top of the page. You won’t see it immediately as I have to read it first. I hope my review was helpful.

dragonknight_0013_15

Have a great day.

Love Sally