Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, Maggie Stiefvater, how I do love thee. (I blame Cait at Paper Fury for my new found love.) Shiver is the most adorable and simultaneously stressful book I have ever read.

My relationship with Shiver starts at the end of December, in Shakespeare & Company in Paris. The shop was absolutely packed, way too packed for perusing. Doesn’t anyone know that you can’t peruse a book shop when it’s rammed?

At the back of the shop, they have a very small young adult section. And by small, I mean one bookshelf and I had read a big chunk of them, as they stock the most popular ones. I was ferreting around on my hands and feet, hoping that viewing the bookshelf from a lower angle would somehow mean more books just magically appeared. Poor Tom was stood there patiently (he’s a saint, I swear), when he pointed to Shiver and said “what about this?” I paused, saw Maggie Stiefvater’s name, inner Cait told me I must get it, and that was that.

Like, The Raven Boys, Shiver consumes you and drags you into it without you really noticing. It’s only when you put the book down that you realise you were in a completely different world, and now you have to have the real world which doesn’t involve adorable werewolves. I adore Maggie’s world building skills; her descriptions are so rich and detailed without ever being suffocating. Her descriptions of a sweet shop had my mouth watering and me hankering (I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘hankering’ before, but it feels right here.) to go and sniff a sweet shop to find out if I’m part werewolf.

Our main character’s, Grace and Sam, are well developed with good backstories, making it easy for you to just fall into their lives alongside them. Grace is snarky and exactly the kind of person I would be friends with; I think I would be Olive as she’s obsessed with photography. Sam is much more sensitive, and that seems to balance Grace’s dry humour.

I’m pretty sure it’s not a spoiler for me to tell you that their relationship is adorable. It’s your typical sweet YA romance; well if your typical sweet YA romance involves a boy who might turn into a werewolf when it gets cold out.

It’s adorable and hopeful, which makes the whole thing so stressful because you need to find out what happens next. I was glued to the last third of the book (screw revision) and I think I actually did the whole “held a breath she didn’t know she was holding in” thing several times because ANTICIPATION! I needed a rest after the end.

The secondary characters are just as interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else we might find out about the pack. I’m sure Shelby has a couple of interesting stories to give up.

To my delight, Shiver wraps itself up quite nicely. Of course, it is part of a series (and I’m looking forward to reading Linger) but everything is wrapped up quite neatly.

Unfortunately, I started reading Shiver just before exams so I didn’t read it as fast as I normally would have done, so I can’t tell you that I tore through it in a couple of days. What I can tell you is that while I was revising, my brain was trying to distract me and get me to pick Shiver up. It was longing to know what happened next – so if I fail my exams, I’m blaming Maggie for distracting my brain. Those are extenuating circumstances, right?

I have done a lot of fangirling about Shiver so far, but it does have niggles:

  • Conveniently non-existent parents – WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
  • Some more conveniently absent parents – some major plot points relied on the fact that the parents were not in places they should be.
  • Why does no one care that Grace suddenly isn’t at school?
  • Or that Olive suddenly isn’t at school?
  • WHY DOES NO ONE CARE ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!

 


In short

Shiver consumes you all at once and completely, dragging you into this adorable and stressful world as you hold a breath you didn’t know you’d been holding in, desperately hoping that everything turns out OK for Sam and Grace while the parents are conveniently absent.

What was the last book you read?

Shiver Maggie Stiefvater book rating - new favourite

Shiver Book Cover Shiver
The Wolves of Mercy Falls
Maggie Stiefvater
Young adult, fantasy, romance, paranormal, werewolves
1st August 2009
Paperback
Shakespeare & Company

 When a local boy is killed by wolves, Grace's small town becomes a place of fear. But Grace is fascinated by the pack, and finds herself drawn to a yellow-eyed wolf. There's something about him - something almost human. Then Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away...

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Last week, I decided to take the 30-day vegan challenge and I’m pleased to say that the first week has been really fun.

I originally planned to do a bit of a food diary but I completely forgot, so instead I’ll give you a little overview of how the first week has been.

My biggest weakness is cheese, but to my amazement I haven’t craved it or felt like I was missing out. I’m so impressed with this because I definitely ate way too much cheese before.

In general, I haven’t found a vegan diet to be very restrictive. The only time it has felt a little restrictive is when I went to Costa Coffee to meet my friend – I didn’t spot a vegan option. I tweeted Costa though, and apparently their fruity crumble is vegan, so I’ll keep an eye out for that next time I go – I’m hoping I just missed it. 

There are a couple of things I’ve eaten during the past week that have become absolute favourites for me and I cannot get enough of them:

  • Peanut noodles
  • Thai pasta from Mayam Bialik’s Vegan Table
  • Bliss balls – I started out with Kayla Itsines recipe, but ended up just doing my own thing, throwing in desiccated coconut and more cocoa powder

So far, so good and I’m looking forward to another week of discovering new, delicious meals.

 

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Why you should visit Paris before you're 26 / when you're a student

Paris’ allure puts it fairly high on many people’s travel wish list, and there are considerable savings to be made if you visit the City of Light when you’re 25 or under, or if you’re a student.

Though you won’t save money on your airfare, hotel, or food just for being youthful (though you might find these tips for saving money when booking a holiday useful), you can save a good chunk of money on things to do. Unlike here in the UK (not sure what it’s like elsewhere), the French give students and those 25 or under considerable discounts on admission or travel, or completely free access to some attractions.

If you meet either of those criteria, make sure you keep your student card or some form of identification that has your age and nationality on it to hand, because you’ll be using it a lot. (The reason you might need something showing nationality is that some free admissions are only for those who live in countries that are part of the EU.)


Transport

There are no savings to be made on the Metro or the RER, but both of them are cheap enough anyway. However, if you need to travel out of the city / across Europe, you can save money on the TGV if you’re under 26.

If you want to navigate the city by water, the Batobus is a great way to get around and see the city at the same time, plus savings can be made if you’re a student.


Discounts on / free admission

Admission to attractions / museums is where you’re going to be able to save the most money. On average, full price admission to museums is probably roughly the same price, or slightly cheaper than here in the UK. But, if you’re a student / youthful you can save a few euros or even get through the turnstiles without handing over a single cent.

This is by no means an extensive list, but here are some of the main attractions you can make savings at:

  • Eiffel Tower: reduced rate if you’re 24 or under.
  • Tour Montparnasse: reduced rate for students and those 20 or under.
  • Pantheon: free if you’re under 26-years-old and live in the EU.
  • Louvre: free for under 18s, and those 25 and under who live in the EU.
  • Arc de Triomphe: discount for students and those 25 and under. Free if you’re 17 and under.
  • Notre Dame tower: free for those 25 and under living in the EU, and student discount available.
  • Musee d’Orsay: free if you are 25 and under living in an EU state, or reduced rates for under 25s who are citizens of non-EU countries.
  • Catacombs: free if you’re 17 or under, reduced rate for 18 – 25 year olds.

What if I’m not a student / or am over 26?

All is not lost! Some attractions may have free admission on certain days of the week / month for everyone. For example, Musee d’Orsay is free on the first Sunday of the month.

On top of that, there are some attractions that are always free such as Sacre-Coeur or Notre Dame (note that the tower or crypts are not free), and there are lots of free things you can do in Paris such as explore the gardens or eat crepes by the Seine.

Additionally, the Paris Pass, or the Paris Museum Pass may be something that’s worth while if you plan to visit a lot of attractions during your stay, but that’s something you’ll need to weigh up by comparing prices of the pass and what you get for it, with the prices you’d be paying for admission.

A trip to Paris doesn’t need to be expensive, and a little bit of planning can help you save.

As I mentioned above, if you’re booking a trip to Paris, here are a few tips to help you save on your booking.

 

Have you visited / would you like to visit Paris?

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Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer audiobook Rick Riordan

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer was definitely a worthy first book to complete in 2016.

I actually started it at the beginning of December. I was in a mega reading slump, depsite having a handful of good books on the go, and I thought that trying out an audiobook might help, so I signed up for an Audible trial. It turns out, audiobooks and me don’t get on too well (that’s a story for another day), but I really enjoyed Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer.

In November, I finished off Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, and after discovering he was writing a series about Norse mythology, it was a no brainer; I had to read it.

Essentially, Magnus Chase follows the same formula as Percy Jackson; someone discovers they are the child of a god and they have magic powers. They meet some other magic-powered people and set off on quests to do stuff for other people, to find out where other people are who want them to do things for them, to eventually defeat someone evil.

It would have been easy for this series to be a rinse and repeat, but Rick Riordan did a fantastic job of making it stand out on it’s own and creating a wonderful world that I wish I could explore myself.

 

Why you need to read this book

  • The characters; they’re quirky, snarky, have good back stories. Jack is brilliant. Samirah is wonderful. Blitz and Hearthstone are fantastic also. THEY’RE ALL REALLY GOOD, OK?
  • The friendship; I am so happy that Rick Riordan focused on friendships, rather than romance. He did that pretty well in the Percy Jackson series too.
  • The humour; “babes before blades,” is the best line I’ve read in a book in a while. It’s a book that had me chuckling at so many points.
  • Pop culture references; I always enjoy it when a fantasy world makes reference to pop culture. For example, in Magnus Chase, Thor streams TV in HD on his hammer – he’s about to start Game of Thrones.
  • The world; I’m a big fan of Norse mythology, and the world Rick Riordan creates is so immersive that I wish I could hop on a plane and explore it myself.
  • Percy Jackson references; If you’re a Percy Jackson fan, you’ll be happy to know there are a couple of references to series and one character from the series even makes an appearance in Magnus Chase. You can probably guess who from the last name…

The only negative feelings I have about this book are that perhaps it’s a little longer than it needs to be. There were points towards the end of the book where it felt like things were being dragged out a little unnecessarily, but it wasn’t a massive annoyance for me. I think it would have been less of an annoyance if I’d read it, because I could have read those parts faster than the narrator read them.

 

A bit about the audiobook

Since the narration is pretty important when it comes to an audiobook I wanted to quickly touch on my thoughts on that. I wasn’t overly impressed by Christopher Guetig‘s narration, mostly because I felt his voice did not sound like that of a 16-year-old; his narration reminded me a lot of the voice used for the first Percy Jackson book which I listened to. Magnus did not sound like a 16-year-old boy.

I was pretty disappointed with the voice used for Samirah also because he also made her sound really young, but I don’t think he got a great handle on her tone of voice in general. Everything she said was said in exactly the same way, and most of the time it made her sound a bit weak, even when she was saying something she was annoyed about, or being fierce about.

Also, the accents were pretty bad. Especially the Irish one.

 

In short

A fun blend of Norse mythology, adventure, pop culture, and wonderful characters.

 

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer book rating - really good

I love Norse mythology so if you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer Book Cover Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
Rick Riordan
Fantasy, Adventure, Mythology
October 6th, 2015
Audiobook

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .

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Sunset behind the Eiffel Tower

Every time I see a sunset, I make a vow to become a morning person. There’s something so calming and hopeful about watching a new day break, and it’s somehow even better when you get to watch the sunrise behind the Eiffel Tower.

On our first morning in Paris, I had every intention of getting up early to watch the sunrise behind the Eiffel Tower, but I slept through my alarm. Luckily for me, I’d forgotten about the one hour time difference between Paris and England so when I rolled out of bed at 08:20, pink was just beginning to creep into the sky.

I nudged Tom and got a response that didn’t really sound like words, so I got dressed quickly, grabbed my stuff and raced out of the hotel.

We stayed in the Mercure Tour Eiffel, which is about a 2 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. As soon as you exit the hotel, you can see it imposing on the skyline, dominating everything around it.

Pink sunrise by the Eiffel Tower from Champ De Mars

Unlike the night before, Champ de Mars was free of men selling tacky light up statues and probably stolen bottles of wine. Instead, the odd tourist milled around, faces full of joy as they watched the sky change colours behind  the Eiffel Tower. On the grass, birds picked at the bits of hot dog and churros left on the floor by people who had been enjoying the market the night before.

On the other side of the road, at the Jardins du Trocadero, was where the photographers were out to play. Everyone there had tri-pods and DSLRs; I was pretty sure that if you were to turn up with a compact camera you would have been stared at until you burst into flames.

Sunrise behind the Eiffel Tower

I’ve seen so many photos taken from the same place and I don’t think I will ever get enough of them. Seeing the Eiffel Tower standing strong against a flaming sky was one of those moments that filled me with bliss; I felt privileged to be watching the sunrise while around me, locals were too preoccupied with getting to work on time. 

Christmas tree sunrise in front of Eiffel Tower

Sunrise Paris

That’s one of those things that I always think about whenever I visit somewhere. All around you, the locals are hurriedly getting on with their lives; maybe they’re running late for work and haven’t had time for breakfast, are thinking about what they’ve got to do today, or perhaps they’re excited about seeing that guy / girl they like when they get to school. Meanwhile, you’re taking in every inch of their town or city with hungry eyes and you just can’t possibly understand how they can go about their everyday life and not stop to stare at the beauty that surrounds them.

Are you a morning person?

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How a planner stopped me losing my s**tPaper Plum planners day to day view

Last October, I began to feel like my memory was turning into a sieve. With university, work, blogging, reading, and generally living, everything was becoming a bit too much and I kept forgetting things, so I decided I needed to get a planner.

I would try to write things down, but there would be bits in my phone, bits on emails to myself, bits in different notebooks, so I needed a way to pull that all together.

The ironic thing is that I went to a high school where they gave every student a planner, and it was compulsory to use it. You had to keep track of what homework you had been given, any projects, and even note down how much time you spent on your homework. And I hated it.

I didn’t like using it at all, and I think it’s because I’m one of those people who has to understand why you need to do something rather than just being told to do something. A few years down the line, I can definitely see the benefits of using a planner.

Paper Plum monthly highlights Paper Plum planners monthly overview

With so many things to juggle, your average planner was not going to cut it. I began searching the interwebs and came across Paper Plum on Etsy. They sell a range of highly customisable planners for students, teachers, families, wedding planning, general planners, and fitness planners, and the way these planners looked and the whole feel was just so me.

The main thing I was drawn to was how customisable their planners are. I chose the student planner, which gives you:

  • Monthly goals
  • Weekly to do lists
  • Weekly lists of tests of quizzes you need to prepare for
  • Sections for each subject

You can start the planner on any month, and let it run to any month, so mine is November to October. In hindsight, I should have done November 2015 to December 2016, but you live and learn.

Paper Plum planner blog annual plannerPaper Plum planner blog statistics pagePaper Plum Planners sponsors page

They sell lots of add-ins too, including a blog section which has pages and prompts for planning posts, keeping track of statistics, information about sponsors, and things you want to get done on your blog each month – you can see a few of those above. I like that it encourages me to think about things like any little bits that need doing on my blog, rather than letting it stew in my brain and getting done whenever I happen to think about it while at my laptop.

There’s a whole load of other things you can add to make your planner suit your life, such as: to do lists, fitness planning, cleaning chart, a baby section, sticker sheets, and so on.

 

How has my planner helped me?

I guess that’s the key point here; has it been worth it? Was it worth the £34 price tag? Definitely.

  • I feel a lot less stressed and up in the air because I know when things are happening
  • I’m keeping on top of my to do lists – and actually making them, and getting things done
  • I feel a lot more prepared in general because I’m aware of what’s happening, when; which lets me split things up instead of leaving it all until the last minute
  • I’m on top of my reading and note taking for classes
  • I can plan my time better
  • I can identify monthly goals – I used to hate doing this at school and college, but I’m all about it now

 

Is there anything I don’t like?

The only thing I would like to be improved in some way (and I don’t know how, because there’s so much crammed in there already) is a slightly larger to do list space. It can get cramped and look a little messy quite easily, so a bit more space is the only improvement I can think of.

 

How has it held up?

You should know that I am not one of those people who inexplicably manages to keep stationery pristine despite using it every day; that is my best friend. I am the kid in school who ends up with pencil led over everything in their pencil case, despite trying not to.

In the past couple of months, this planned has been rammed in and out of my university, along with text books, notebooks, lab coats, and snacks, and it’s held up perfectly. The plastic front and back covers protect it and keep it looking neat and clean in general. The ring binders are sturdy and are still looking as good as the day it arrived, so there’s no bent or wonky wires to be seen.

 

In short: This planner has been so helpful to me and has stopped me losing my s**t. I’ve felt a little stressed a couple of times with deadlines, and I’m certain that I would have turned into a crying mess hiding under the duvet if I did not have this. If your plan is to get more organised in 2016, I cannot recommend Paper Plum’s planners enough.

 

Do you use any kind of planner?

This is not a sponsored post; I just love this planner so darn much.

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Barry M Showgirl Extra Volumising Mascara

Oh I think I’ve finally found the mascara that was meant for me; enter Barry M Showgirl Extra Volume  Mascara.

I’m pretty fussy when it comes to mascara; I don’t want super long lashes, what I really want is just something that makes my eyelashes black and gives them a little extra volume. That’s not to say that that is all Showgirl does, because it does give a fair bit of extra volume.


Barry M Showgirl Extra Volume Mascara wand

Packaging & application

The sleek, metallic tube makes Showgirl look and feel more expensive than it’s £4.99 price tag. It’s a pain to try and photograph (but how many customers really have that “problem”?), but it looks so pretty and screams glitz and glam to me. It almost feels like a crime to stick it in my makeup drawers; I feel like it should be on display.

When it comes to mascara, the wand can make or break a product; a brush that’s hard or harsh on your eyelashes and eyes can make application painful and tricky. This isn’t the case  at all with Showgirl; it’s easy to use and gives good product payoff first time around.

 


Wearing Barry M Showgirl Extra Volumising Mascara

Product

Showgirl only comes in black and has a really good, non-clumpy formula, so there’s no need to try and pick clumps out of your eyelashes before you blink and POOF, mascara all over your face.

As I mentioned above, the product payoff is brilliant first time around, and it adds volume without it looking over the top. If you’re going out or just want more volume, you can easily build up layers to add volume.

It lasts all day long, and I’ve had no issues with it flaking and coming off everywhere. Removal is easy and it will come off no problem with whatever cleansing products you use.

To top it all off, Barry M are a cruelty free brand and at £4.99 this isn’t going to break the bank.

 

What’s your go-to mascara?

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