Review: “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

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“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams around from place to place.”

Five-year-old Celia Bowen arrives at the doorstep of the famous magician Prospero the Enchanter, claiming blood ties as his daughter. Discovering her knack for shifting objects with her mind, he takes her in and begins training her, bringing her along on his travels and performances around the world.

Marco Alisdair is plucked from an orphanage in London by a man in a grey suit, and his skills of manipulation and creating illusions are developed over time and countless pages of books.

A challenge is put forth. The players are assembled. The Circus their playing field. Separated by lands and oceans, Celia and Marco are bound to each other in a way they both do not understand, and it is only when they meet and tumble into a love tied to their fates does the game begin to make sense and the world unravels.

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To me, The Night Circus is first and foremost a story about dreams and the cost of chasing after them. It is about people who are determined to re-write pre-determined fates, and create a future solely their own. While the story revolves mainly around Celia and Marco, it also focuses on the lives of the people in the Circus and those who long to be a part of it. Each of these characters carry their dreams and their heart on their sleeve, and pursue them with such earnestness and child-like determination. The book is filled with complex characters that are each given space to develop as well as conceal as they wish, and they greet readers with a delightful sense of both innocence and ancient wisdom. I loved the cast of characters that played a part in crafting the mysterious tone of the book. They work hand in hand with the Circus as stories to wander through and discover page by page.

I absolutely love the tone of writing that takes me back to a time of bowler hats and canes and fancy dresses. The Victorian era and steampunk theme is so well intertwined with every word presented that the world jumps right off the page for me. There was a lot of attention to detail of not just the clothes and furniture, but mannerisms as well.

Celia is presented as both gentle and composed, as well as strong-willed and determined. She holds herself with such dignity and class that inspires me as a lady. I also love the description of her dresses with all its textures, fabrics and ribbons. Despite her being quite withdrawn and quiet, I love the glimpses of her mischievousness and madness, such as when she stabs her own hand in front of Marco only to heal it before his eyes.

As for Marco, well. I don’t think I’ve encountered an introverted male protagonist I didn’t fall for. His character is revealed more through his dialogue than descriptions of him, and even then, he proved to be an earnest, stable, solid force in the Circus and as a person. He is passionate about everything he does and so passionately in love with Celia that it makes my soul ache. Some of my favorite parts of the novel have to be descriptions of his various living quarters, and the chaos of many, many books that are a constant feature. I can just imagine him, awake at un-Godly hours, ink-stained fingers scribbling plans into his journals by candlelight.

“Everything I have done, every change I have made to that circus, every impossible feat and astounding sight, I have done for her.”

The descriptions of the actual Circus are fantastical. I love the variety of tents and attractions that Morgenstern has imagined up for us. Even circus snacks and smells are given a respectable moment to shine, and often times I find myself craving a cider or chocolate coated anything while reading.

What makes this novel stand out more than it’s whimsical language is it’s use of first, second and third-person accounts. It is mostly written in present tense, which at first unsettles in its rare appearance in books, but gives readers a sense of being right in the midst of the plot whilst living several decades away – as the novel takes place in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. This corresponds with Celia and Marco’s relationship as two entities who, even when together, are separated by the game. It brings to mind John Keat’s poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, which laments of lovers who are forever frozen in the moment right before they kiss, their lips never touching. It is an image that tortures and tugs so very bittersweetly on one’s heartstrings, and this feeling is presented to readers through their very relationship as a reader to a book. While they read, they are brought right into the middle of the scene and yet can never forget that they are simultaneously at the edge, barely holding on to it all, merely grasping at a page of a book.

The semi-voyeuristic effect pairs together with the cryptic edge of Morgenstern’s writing to enhance the mystery of the entire novel. Journeying through the words will recreate the feeling of visiting a circus – there is always an air of mystery and concealment. This is further perpetuated through the first, second and third person narrative. The novel is mostly presented in third-person, however at times addresses the reader and takes us through areas in the Circus. Also cleverly interjected between chapters are first person “newspaper clippings” from a significant character in the novel that describe his feelings for the Circus. All of this comes together to present a unique reading experience that takes us on a magical journey from the first to the last page.

Overall, I absolutely adored The Night Circus. It was magical, whimsical, cryptic, heartbreaking and hopeful. The last few chapters will grip you as an already invested reader and shatter your heart before putting it back together. My only problem with the novel  would be that unlike in the story, my memory can’t be erased to experience reading it for the first time all over again. I have only the bittersweet aftertaste to accompany me on many, many more re-reads of this fantastical book.

“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.
You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”

Winter of Whimsy

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It’s been a hectic two months filled with essays and exams that began right after my birthday. Metaphorical tears have been shed and exasperated sighs released as I make my way through the end of my university semester. With my final paper being this Tuesday, I thought it was time I prepared my December TBR – for the moment when I can let go of all the books I’ve been required to read through the term, and finally crack open the spines of the books I’ve been dying to read.

2016 has been the year I re-discovered my childhood love for reading fantasy books, and fell deeper in love with the genre. I also cultivated an infatuation with classical history (mainly Greek plays and epics) and classical texts. While I’ve always read contemporary to satisfy my literary sweet tooth, I have always been and may always be a magic and fantasy genre sort of girl at heart. I have a feeling I’ll be putting aside Christmas contemporaries this year to make time for other books that I really want to read, and this will form the spine of my December TBR. Hopefully, I have the time to completely all these titles and more!

This time of year with it’s gloom, rainy days, white photo aesthetic and atmospheric music is definitely the best time for quests, adventures and magic. I’ve compiled a list of books that I’m hoping will quench my thirst for such stories late into the night. Disclaimer: many popular titles will be included, because I finally have the time to get to them, read what they’re all about and form my own opinions. Excitementtttt!!!!


December TBR

1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Not gonna lie, I’ve been withholding claiming myself to be a true SJM fan because I have yet to embark upon this highly-acclaimed series. Better-received than the Throne of Glass books and with a whole new cast of characters that have now inspired countless fan fictions and works of art, I know that I won’t regret diving into this at all. Maybe once I read it I can justify all the candles I want to buy inspired by ACOTAR as well. 77493_original.jpg

Synopsis:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Mass

Need I say anything more? These two books have been staring at me from my bookshelf for the longest time, and I’m definitely reading one after the other.

Synopsis:

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I have yet to read a book by Leigh although I have a couple of her works on my shelf. I’m not ashamed to say I haven’t caught on all these hyped books because as much as I know I’ll love them, I definitely want to read more classics and intellectually stimulating novels as well. YA fantasy will always be a genre close to my heart, but with everyone on bookstagram going on about it like a trend, I’ve stayed away for awhile. I’ve always been one to read a book only after the hype dies down, mostly because I want the experience to feel solely my own. With that being said, I have been dying to get to the Six of Crows duology and have had suggestions to read the Grisha trilogy first.I’m also extremely impatient to finally meet the Darkling.

shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024.jpgSynopsis:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I have heard nothing but amazing things about the writing in this book. I haven’t read too much into the plot in hopes of being pleasantly surprised, so I’m really holding out for this and can’t wait to read it for the first time and note my thoughts and feelings as I journey through it.

us-uprooted-e1433948641794.jpegSynopsis:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Vicious by V. E Schwab was one of my favourite books of 2015. Schwab hailed it the book of her mind, while A Darker Shade of Magic was the series of her heart. I mean, if you aren’t convinced by that line, really – embark on a writing adventure and experience the catharsis that is bleeding a story out from your soul. The hardbacks are pretty expensive but so beautiful. If you’re a little tight on cash like I perpetually am, the paperbacks are a lot more affordable on book depository (which you can access using my link which helps me earn 5% commission with no extra cost on your end).

Synopsis:

Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. .

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I read the first chapter or so of this book about a year ago and put it down before I got to more of it. Having heard so many great reviews, I’m really anxious to see what this series is all about.

cover_uk.jpgSynopsis: 

Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.

The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.

A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

7. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

This has to be one of those reads where you’re convinced it’ll be good merely by how many bookstagrammers have tweeted and raved about it.

Synopsis:

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

 And that’s my December TBR! There’s quite a number of lengthy books on my list, so fingers crossed that I can check them off and end the year with an amazing stack of stories that I love. I hope that this post has inspired you to plan your holiday TBR as well. As always, I’m very open to your book recommendations, so please do let me know if you’ve come across an amazing read!
xoxo, ali

An Autumn/Halloweeny TBR

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Besides December, October is the best month of the year for me. It’s the month when the rain pours relentlessly on our tiny island, the air gets a little hazier and the scent of the forest fires from our neighbouring country just surrounds us and chokes us to death brings me back to winters on the farm as a child, sitting next to a large fireplace and inhaling the scent of freshly-chopped burning logs.

It’s also my birthday month (15th). And it’s also Halloween.

I’m not raving mad about this holiday, mostly because of my faith. And consumerism. But I do like the idea of a month of slightly spookier, gloomier things so that I can whip out my cup of tea and pretend to huddle indoors with my favorite book. Not to mention all the candy being sold at the stores (!!!)

Just so you know, the spiritual realm is very, very real. Demonic spirits and all that. It’s only by the grace of God that I’ve not encountered any… in visible forms. My mom once saw a demon-possessed man as a child but… I digress. Let’s not get into that. If you want to know more about Jesus I’ll be happy to share with you my life story, just shoot me an email! But for now, back to my birthday month TBR whoop whoop.

Of course colder months stir up a need for fantasy and dystopia and magical realism. I’ve gathered a couple of titles that I’m hoping to get to in the month of October, and let me know if you have any other recommendations! I take recommendations very seriously, and you have no idea how much I want people to recommend me good books, since I barely have time out of my uni schedule to search out the lesser-known tomes of genius to embark upon.

I’m currently reading The Secret History (It’s taken me three weeks can you believe it? Uni readings are no joke). After which, I plan on reading Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms and knowing how much I procrastinate, that’ll be my September TBR. The books I’ve chosen for October will be a mix of strange, surreal and late-to-the-party mainstream.


OCTOBER TBR

1. Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows
I know I know… where have I been? Possibly procrastinating under a pile of uni homework, making copious amounts of extra bitter coffee, reading things for school, lying on my bed doing nothing or serving in church. I finally have this book in my hands so it’s ABOUT. TIME.

six-of-crows-coverGoodreads synopsis: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

2. Ali Shaw – The Trees
Can we please talk about this cover, because it’s definitely first a cover-buy before it’s anything else. But the story itself sounds extremely creepy and captivating. Trees taking over the world? Yes please.

the-trees-by-ali-shaw-front-cover-667x1024Goodreads synopsis: There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly, a chinking shower of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins…

There is no warning. No chance to prepare.

They arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Buildings are destroyed. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves.

Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures out into this unrecognisable world. Michelle, his wife, is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether the trees have come for her too.

Then Adrien meets green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb. Together, they set out to find Hannah’s forester brother, to reunite Adrien with his wife – and to discover just how deep the forest goes.

Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves.

3. Angela Carter – The Bloody Chamber
This is a collection of gothic short stories that’s been around for awhile. I read Carter’s retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” (renamed “The Werewolf”) in my creative writing seminar and knew I had to have it immediately. A dark twist is given to each retelling of a fairytale which is perfect for Halloween. It doesn’t hurt that this book has inspired tons of rather macabre illustrations that I LOVE.

9780143107613Book Depository synopsis: Angela Carter was a storytelling sorceress, the literary godmother of Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, J. K. Rowling, Kelly Link, and other contemporary masters of supernatural fiction.

In her masterpiece, “The Bloody Chamber” which includes the story that is the basis of Neil Jordan s 1984 movie “The Company of Wolves” she spins subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales and legends like Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, and Beauty and the Beast, giving them exhilarating new life in a style steeped in the romantic trappings of the gothic tradition.

 

4. Saša Stanišić – Before The Feast
I first saw this stunning book on Pushkin Press’ website. The vague synopsis and beautiful cover illustration drew me in immediately (you can tell orange, foxes and autumn are synonymous in my dictionary). It’s a German book that’s been translated to English, and I’m way too keen to over-analyze the translations like the critic I’m totally not.

86cb771c46a088d8835352646a13c0c9Goodreads synopsis: It’s the night before the feast in the village of Fürstenfelde (population: an odd number). The village is asleep. Except for the ferryman – he’s dead. And Mrs Kranz, the night-blind painter, who wants to depict her village for the first time at night. A bell-ringer and his apprentice want to ring the bells – the only problem is that the bells have gone. A vixen is looking for eggs for her young, and Mr Schramm is discovering more reasons to quit life than smoking.

Someone has opened the doors to the Village Archive, but what drives the sleepless out of their houses is not that which was stolen, but that which has escaped. Old stories, myths and fairy tales are wandering about the streets with the people. They come together in a novel about a long night, a mosaic of village life, in which the long-established and newcomers, the dead and the living, craftsmen, pensioners and noble robbers in football shirts bump into each other. They all want to bring something to a close, in this night before the feast.

5. Malcolm McNeill – The Beginning Woods
Another book sent to me by the lovely folks at Pushkin Press. I had no idea they had this book until they suggested it to me, and I’m so glad they sent it over. I’m suffering from Stranger Things withdrawal and this book sounds like the perfect thing to help me get over it.

9781782691372-660x1024Goodreads synopsis: A MYSTERY NO ONE CAN SOLVE

The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.

A BABY NO ONE WANTED

Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.

A SECRET THAT COULD SAVE THE FUTURE

To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.

But can he bear the truth – or will is destroy him?

A STORY THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER WORLD

Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…


And that’s my TBR for October! I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to get to all of these books since October is one of the busiest months of school and I’ll spend every free moment I have crying over my essays. But cheer me up and tell me what books you plan on reading this Halloween. I’d love to know!

xoxo, ali

Weekend Warrior #1

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I’ve decided to introduce an old tradition from my past blogs – a series of blog posts dubbed the Weekend Warrior entries. They’re basically a weekly wrap-up of favorites and new discoveries to add a more personal aspect to this space (and to ensure that if I procrastinate on blogging, at least I keep this weekly rhythm up).  The Weekend Warrior posts will all fall under this eponymous category on my blog so it’ll be easier to find them. I hope it’ll be interesting for you guys!


Jamming to: When am I NOT listening to Alex Turner? Never. The answer is never. His soundtrack for the movie Submarine is lyrical enlightenment and every song speaks to my soul.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of Alice Kristiansen’s covers since discovering her this year. Her voice is as beautiful as she is, and I’m obsessed. These two have been the most replayed lately: Ocean Eyes (Billie Eilish) and Higher (Rihanna). She also just released a new music video so… eeeeeep.

(p.s shameless plug but if you like the above songs, you can check out a playlist on 8tracks I made here.)

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Currently reading: I just finished The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, and I’m taking my time to craft a review because a) I’m new to writing reviews and really want to give it my best shot b) This book is too special to brush pass with a few click-clacks of the keyboard. Highly recommend picking up The Raven Cycle if you haven’t, but I suggest going in blind and letting the story greet you as it is, in its pure and untainted form. Whatever you do, try not to look up any reviews of this before reading it. Just trust me on this.

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Admiring: The beauty that is a hardcover signed first edition of NEVERNIGHT BY JAY KRISTOFF NEXT TO ME ON MY DESK. THANK YOU ST. MARTIN’S PRESS I’m so excited to review it!!!!!

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Synopsis (Goodreads):

The first in a new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author.

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Does this sound like a thrilling pre-Autumn midnight read or what? How will I ever desire sleep again until this book has been devoured?

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Munchin’ on: Coconut water and avocado everything. Have you ever tried rubbing raw garlic onto your toast, and then layering avocado, olive oil, salt&pepper and a sprinkling of chili flakes? No? Well now you know what’s for brunch next weekend. (You’re welcome).

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Pondering: I’ve been a very happy student musing at the ease with which I’ve obtained my perfect timetable this semester. Whilst my friends had to choose courses out of obligation, I feel blessed that not only did I get all the modules I bided for, but that they add up to a glorious 3-day uni week. I’ll admit it took a lot of fretting and patience and panicky emails sent to administrators that never gave a reply, but slowly the waiting list caved in and the emails about course allocation updates dropped in. Most of these modules had zero vacancy, so I’m still wondering where the miracle came from. However it happened, #thankyouJesus!

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Generally relishing: The ache between my shoulder blades and along my calves, the groggy mind and droopy eyelids that signify a Saturday well spent. Also, the aftertaste of cold watermelon on my tongue.

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Excited for: Star Trek Beyond. I won’t go as far as to say I’m a Trekkie because I never watched the originals. But the reboots have to be some of my all-time favorite movies of the last couple of years. The chemistry of the cast, the soundtrack, effects and all around boss-ness of the last film (largely owing to Cumberbatch’s fabulous acting, me thinks) have solidified my love for this media franchise in a way Star Wars never will, and 2001: A Space Odyssey almost did.

Also excited for: The first proper week of second year at uni commencing Monday! Despite the horrendous two-hour journey ONE WAY, I love being at uni. I love being surrounded by bright minds and self-driven individuals. I recently found out that my uni ranked one of the top 15 universities globally for 2015/16 (for privacy’s sake, I won’t mention which rank and what uni) and I was like omgomg look at what I did ma!  Also, I just kinda miss the affordable yummy food and Nespresso machine in the library. I like the feeling of working hard and reaping what I sow. Now, if only I could transfer this motivation over to my workout routines.


And that’s all for this post! Let me know your opinion about such entries. I might do them as bi-weekly posts or if I’m feeling it, every.single.week. Have a great rest of the weekend lovelies.

xoxo, ali.

#Bookstagram Advice

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The question i get DM-ed and asked about the most on my Instagram (@crimeofrhyme) is usually my filter choices, editing style and tips on how to navigate the labyrinth that is the bookstagram community. (For those of you who stumbled upon my blog, #bookstagram is bascially the ‘gram community dedicated to the love of all things bookish and literary. Its a wonderful circle to be a part of, and you can check it out here.) I never know how to properly answer this question without churning out an essay, so I decided that it’ll be more fitting for a blog than squeezed into a comment on Insta.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way considered a professional photographer or social media expert. These tips and tricks just work for me and you can approach them as a guideline, but not something to be duplicated in its entirety. Experiment and see what works for you!

Books – Okay this one is pretty fool-proof. In order to have a Bookstagram account and to ensure its longevity, you’ll need books. The community is made up of people who generally prefer buying and collecting books to grow our collection, and if you are a part of this, then chances are, you do too. However, it’s also important not to be too influenced by the vast number of pretty (and some incredibly large shelves) and the many book hauls that you are exposed to on the ‘gram. Purchase books when you can afford it! And never feel insecure about the size of your library. It’s different for everyone, and I’d rather have a quality collection than one of quantity. Many people also feature e-books, e-readers, thrifted and library books, and not only do they add variety to your photos, but they help you save money for that gorgeous hardback you’ve been eyeing for weeks. Bottom line is: books are the soul of this community, but they can come in many forms.

Lighting – This is probably the most important tip that I can offer. Lighting is everything in a photo. This is especially so for people who don’t have professional cameras. Good lighting will complement your device’s camera and ensure that even if you’re not using a DSLR, your camera shoots at the best of its ability. I tend to go for indirect indoor sunlight, as direct sunlight makes everything appear extremely contrasted. And because your camera is most likely able to pick up the subtle nuances of changing light, the time of day also has a part to play. The setting sun tends to give everything a slightly warmer, golden tone while rainy/cloudy days, early mornings and moments right after sunset give everything a cooler, blueish tone. Its all up to you to decide what sort of mood you’re looking for, and to experiment from there.

Composition – For this, I’d say just play around with your angles and environment and find a style that appeals to you! The bookstagram community is filled with many different photos, all composed differently. If you’re not sure what you like, you can always browse online and gain inspiration. I like playing around with flat lays and straight photos, while some love taking photos at extreme angles to feature the deckle edges of a book that a flatlay can’t capture. I’m not one to use too many props in my photos, but the trend now would be to feature Pop Funkos (which I think are pretty cute but student life = broke life). However, I do like featuring tea and candles because I’m a crazy candle lady!

Setting – I prefer for photos to be composed in different environments, such as cafes, libraries and bookstores. Don’t just stick to a single theme such as a white/plaid blanket or the same table, or (don’t hate me for this) even a hundred photos of your bookshelf! You can if you want, but the sad truth is that people will more likely follow someone who they know will keep them guessing what their next photo will look like.  My favorite backdrop would definitely be the outdoors, but I live in the city so it’s pretty hard to find gorgeous trees and flowers and fields. (So just fyi – if you take tons of outdoorsy photos, I’m probably already following you ;))

Engagement – People join the bookstagram community to meet people who are just as passionate about books and photographs of books as they are. If you want to grow your account, or even just find it worthwhile to be a part of this, you’ll definitely need to make friends. Liking other accounts’ photos will be more beneficial to you than them, as many accounts have a large following and its impossible to see who exactly likes your photos. However, we do read comments, tagged photos and direct messages! Comment on other photos and they’ll most likely comment on yours. Join a book club, follow others on Goodreads or start a conversation over DM. You’ll find #Bookstagram a lot more meaningful with friends, and what’s cool is that these friends hail from all over the world.

Editing style and #Aesthetic – The million dollar question guys. (Which I believe I’ve actually answered before!) If you want to build a feed that tells a story, or at least flows sort of seamlessly, theming your account would be a good idea. By that I mean choosing certain colors and environments to focus on and bring out in photos. For example, an outdoor theme or a bedroom theme, or cleaner photos that mostly feature some white in them. Not changing up your editing style too drastically from one photo to the next will also make your account more pleasing to the eye. Like the majority of you, I use VSCO to edit my photos. I’m constantly changing the filters I use, but the A1-A9 collection is my personal favorite. Even if I change up the filters, I try to feature some flowers/trees (ma great love) so that the theme runs consistently. And then I just fiddle around with saturation, brightness, tone, fade etc. Another thing – if you want to post a non-book related photo every now and then, DO IT. It gives us a glimpse of who you are behind your account, and I love the variety of photos that flood my feed. Personally, I’m always posting photos of gorgeous trees that I come across and have never received any hate for it.

Dedication – And so we come to the last tip to ensure the longevity of your account. As long as you are dedicated to posting and engaging followers regularly, your account will grow without a doubt. Take the time to really think about how you want your photos to appear. Take multiple shots of your set-up in different angles, try different editing styles and build your collection of photos to be something you’re proud of. I love taking photos of everything, not just books. And my mind is constantly aware of new environments and props that I can use to play around with for my photos. It might seem a little tiring, but its something I personally enjoy and is my form of de-stressing (besides reading of course).

And that’s all the tips I can think of! Let me know in the comments if this helps, and if you have any other questions. The most important thing is for you to enjoy what you’re doing, take photos you love that reflect who you are, and definitely make friends with people in the community. It’s always nice knowing that you have people to share your passion for books with.

xoxo, ali.

 

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intro

I’ve bulldozed my way through countless blogging experiments only to find my way back to WordPress. It’s good to be back. I have missed your easy interface and pretty, minimalistic themes. Hello again, writing motivation.

The first post is always the most directionless. I never know what to write, because the About Me page should be a satisfactory introduction. Should I tell you what to expect from this space? I wouldn’t know it myself. I find that I like being surprised by my own writing. Whatever is in my head just flows through my synapses and to the pads of my fingers. Not a very good foundation for an aspiring book reviewer, but then again, I always saw myself as more of an impulsive poet. That’s another thing – my best poetry is hidden in blogs I’ve long forgotten the url of. I’m not sure why, but penning poetry – not with ink but with my macbook – is surprisingly, extremely cathartic to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if I start a post intending to write a book review, only for it to take a massive detour into iambic pentameter.

Just kidding, I’ve never written anything in metrical feet. I almost didn’t make it out of my first year at uni alive, let alone attempt to replicate Shakespeare.

SEE. I’m easily distracted. I can’t even focus long enough to write a proper introduction. Let’s start again.

My name Ali and you probably know me from my Instagram account, @crimeofrhyme. I’m hoping that by the time my hundredth visitor reads this, at least one person will know me from somewhere else. I wouldn’t want to be defined solely by my activities on a single platform. With that being said, I’m extremely grateful for all the experiences and friendships gained ever since I joined the Bookstagram community last year. I never would have expected my love for reading to take me any place except for the bookstore. But here I am. And here you are. And here, I write.

Like I mentioned previously, this blog will be an experimental expedition into the deeper levels of the literary world and perhaps, my writing potential. I study English Literature at uni, so I’ll need all the practice I can get (and daily sacrifices to the bell curve lord). I love books, travelling, music and vegan recipes, so I guess you can expect that. And expect a lot of it on rainy days when the cold coaxes my soul to life.

…And I guess, whatever else the big 2-1 decides to throw at me. And one day, I’ll look back at this space and think, “wow, I came up with all of this?”

Or not. I have no idea what I’m doing. But whatever becomes of this, thank you for reading it, and thank you for all your support. Here’s to a slow, hopeful ascend to self-actualisation and friendships the world over.