Believe Me – Social Media Tour

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I will admit that when I’m looking for a new read thrillers are rarely my go to. In fact, they’re never my go to. But when Quercus contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in receiving a review copy of JP Delaney’s Believe Me, and I read the marketing blurb, I was intrigued.

From the Quercus website:

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation

One aspiring actress from the UK pays for her acting class in New York the only way she can: as a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers, hired to entrap straying husbands. When the police begin investigating one of her targets for murdering his wife – and potentially others – they ask her to help lure the suspect into a confession.

But with the actress pretending to be someone she’s not, differentiating the decoy from the prey becomes impossible – and deadly.

I’ve tried to step outside my reading comfort zone a bit more this year and here was an opportunity to do so again.

I’m so glad I did.

I started reading Believe Me as soon as it dropped through my letter box and it did not take long for me to feel completely hooked by the story. The opening pages set up a disturbing scenario, which you can’t help but want to understand, but the thing that really drew me into this narrative was the way in which the main character, Claire’s, interactions are, in part, presented like scripts. It really pulled me into the character’s mind seeing how her actor’s perspective influences how she experiences the various aspects of her somewhat unusual life, and these scripted interactions actually hold much greater significance than is initially apparent. Her theatrical tendencies were so appealing and there was one early description of being backstage that was particularly evocative, brilliantly illustrating Delaney’s skills as an atmospheric writer, as well as a storyteller.

This compelling atmosphere becomes more intricate as the story progresses, building in layers as the mystery and tension set by the original scenario thickens. Descriptions of Claire’s acting classes add almost a sense of magical realism to the twisting tale in which she becomes entangled. This is only emphasised through the excellent use of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) as a central plot device. Both beautiful and terrible, Baudelaire’s poems capture the essence of the evil Claire is confronting whilst increasing the enigma of who, exactly, is at its root.

The story only becomes more compelling as it unfolds because it doesn’t actually unfold at all – it folds itself in tighter and tighter. Every time I though I was getting a sense for what was going on, something else happened that made me question what I thought I had just begun to figure out. There are so many twists in this tale that I began to feel I was getting whiplash! Each twist, often coming out of nowhere, is brutal and begins to paint an increasingly disturbing picture. At times I wanted to stop reading because what was being revealed seemed so horrifying but I just couldn’t put it down.

By the end, I felt disturbed and relieved in equal measure because, although the mystery was unravelled and the loose ends tied up, I was left with the discomfiting feeling that all was not quite well, and I couldn’t help but wonder what path Claire’s life would take following her deep entanglement with such horror.

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Believe Me was a quick and compulsive read which I didn’t know what to expect from, even after I’d finished. If you’re after an easy but addictive story, with more twists than your average rollercoaster and and edge of tension that will linger after you turn the final page, then I recommend you pick up a copy.

 

Thanks to Quercus for the review copy. You can find out what some other fabulous bloggers and Instagrammers though of Believe Me by following the Quercus Social Media tour. 

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The Long Awaited Music Of Words

Being a mood reader, there are not often books that I eagerly anticipate the release of; that I cannot wait to get my hands on and that I clamour for an early copy of. I usually browse in bookshops or see what takes my fancy on Bookstagram and pick up what takes my fancy. But this is one of those rare books I have been waiting for for a long time.

This week saw the release of C.G. Drews’ (aka Paper Fury‘s) A Thousand Perfect Notes, into the wild. I have followed Cait’s blog for years and she never fails to make me smile and always makes me want cake. Her blog is full of enthusiastic shouting about books, relatable moaning about the misunderstood difficulties of bookworm life, lots of extolling the virtues of desserts and the odd insight into her writing life. I have lurked in the background (no, it’s not creepy, I promise), watching her tenaciously work towards her dream of becoming a published author. This year that dream became a reality and I am over the moon for her. I also could not WAIT to get my hands on her book baby and devour every word.

I was amazingly blessed to be sent an ARC but, I’ll be honest, I had a moment of panic. What if I didn’t like it?! Here was a book I had been eagerly anticipating from a writer who, unlike most other authors I read, I actually occasionally interact with on her blog and on social media. If I didn’t like it what would I SAY?! It turns out I needn’t have worried. I read it practically in one sitting (that pesky thing called work got in the way of a true binge read) and I absolutely loved it.

Here is a story that is shot through with passion, heartache, friendship, and hope. The characters sing off the page, along with Beck’s music, and the relationships between them were so heartfelt and real. The Maestro, Beck and Joey’s violently obsessive and overpowering mother, is a truly terrifying figure but she also has such a believable vulnerability that begins, ever so slightly, to bleed through her vicious exterior, that even whilst I wanted to run screaming from her I also wanted to reach for her and try to bring that humanity out.

Beck is so lost within his incredible talent, heartbreak, and longing for a dream of his own, that I wanted to take his hand and hold him tight. I was so moved by his uncertainty and passion, and his relationship with his sparkly little sister is just so beautiful. A fabulously rendered sibling bond; equal parts love and irritation.

When August bounced across the page it was like a crescendo and a splash of colour. She is such a beautifully vivid character and I loved the glimpses into her quirky life:

“There are a few cats and a goat but we’re only babysitting the llama.”

“Naturally.”

August is a much needed balm to the pain and heartache of Beck’s reality and their unlikely but burgeoning friendship is so wonderful to read.

There were highs, there were lows, there were points when I wanted to climb in between the pages, squeeze myself into the story and find a way to make everything ok. I laughed out loud. I cried. And when it was over I kept trying to turn the page in the hopes there would be more. This is one of my favourite reads so far this year. If you’re on the hunt for an immersive YA contemporary read, this is it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Hachette for the ARCs.

Share a Story

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Hello lovely people. It’s been a whole month since I last spent any time in my little corner of the internet; I kept thinking about writing various posts but never actually managed to get around to doing it, partly because it’s been ridiculously busy and partly because I’ve had a bit of a rough mental health patch (ironic since my last blog series was all about mental health). But I’m here at last because it’s World Book Day and I couldn’t let it pass without a post.

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World Book Day is one of my favourite days. A whole day dedicated to celebrating books, and stories and reading – what more could a bookworm ask for? Aside from maybe the day off work to read…(a girl can dream). This year, I’m looking forward to my first World Book Day as Whole School Literacy Coordinator. We’ve not got anything spectacular planned but I’m still excited that my job for the day will be to talk about books, read with students, and do what I can to encourage staff and students alike to share stories. It’s absolutely freezing outside and curling up with a good book and a mug of something warm seems like the ideal way to spend these snowy days but if I have to leave the house I’m glad it’s to do something book related!

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The theme for this year’s World Book Day is “Share a Story” and I think it’s such a lovely concept. I’ve had great fun designing some lessons for KS3 and KS4 classes to get them thinking about the power of storytelling. (Shameless plug alert: if you’re planning last minute lessons you can get the powerpoint here and here.) I’ve been thinking a lot about how storytelling has evolved over time and how we are in fact surrounded by stories. Everyone and everything has a story and tells a story, from the history of the wheel that eventually evolved into the car or bike or bus you are getting to school or work in, to the ways we choose to dress or decorate our homes, stories are woven inextricably into everyday life – they are both mundane and magical. It’s so fascinating when you stop to think about all the millions of tiny stories that intersect with your own. I feel a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole when I consider it and I both want to keep on falling and worry that I might never stop!

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As usual, my own winding way of storytelling on this blog has lost it’s thread a little, but I hope you will take the time to consider the myriad of stories surrounding you today. You never know, you might discover something wonderful and unexpected.

I will be talking to students and colleagues about reading, and doing some reading and writing of my own. How will you be sharing stories today?

Sacred Stories

Every now and again we come across a story that sticks with us. Words or characters that speak to our experiences or our hopes or our fears; a tale that brings us comfort or inspiration. For me, finding a story like that is akin to a spiritual experience: in the moment that story moves me or speaks to me, I feel a deep connection with something beyond myself. “It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone.”

When I’m asked what my favourite book is I can never answer, because there are just too many. I could list ten…or maybe twenty…favourite books and series but narrowing it down beyond that is simply impossible. There are, however, undoubtedly some books that really stand out. One of those, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the Harry Potter series.

I put off reading this series for a long time when it first came out, unconvinced that it would be for me. When I eventually gave in, the first three books had been published and I was quickly hooked. I devoured those first books and waited impatiently for the next…and the next and the next and the next. I loved them because here was a world I could completely immerse myself in and characters I could relate to. But it was not on first reading that I came to adore this series. Or even the second. In fact, it is probably only in the last few years, on my umpteenth re-read (I have no idea how many times I’ve actually read them now – I stopped counting after 10…) that they have some to mean so much to me. Because reading them now, as an adult, not only do I still love immersing myself in that magical world, not only do the characters seem so relatable, but the story itself speaks to me on a whole new level. There is so much wisdom and comfort in it and I keep finding new things to love.

The first time I read it The Deathly Hallows was one of my least favourite books of the series but on my last re-read it was one of my favourites. There’s always something more to find and I always seem to find what I need.

I’ve recently discovered (and been binge listening to) the Harry Potter and The Sacred Text podcast which has opened up yet another incredible layer of these amazing stories to me. I absolutely love it. Working from the question “What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred?“, the hosts , Vanessa and Casper, are reading through the Harry Potter series and looking at one chapter each episode through a given theme. They then use traditional practices from different religions to examine the text as if it were sacred.

I have always taken great joy in finding connection and meaning in the stories I love and that shape my life, and listening to this podcast has given me a new opportunity to do this with a series that has brought me so much comfort and inspiration already. It feels very communal, especially since Vanessa and Casper invite their listeners to contribute their own ideas, and actively listen and respond to those contributions. I often wish I were in the room with them whilst they discuss the chapter. I strongly recommend any HP fans to give the podcast a listen. It really is fabulous and brings the magic home.

Are there any books or series that are especially important to you? Have you ever read a non-religious/spiritual text as though it were sacred? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

2016: A Year of Books

It’s that time again; we’re saying goodbye to the old year and hello to the new. There has been a lot about 2016 which has been unpleasant, worrying, and sad, and I’m making an effort to remember that it hasn’t all been bad by any stretch. We’ve had some wonderful adventures and happy news throughout the year and I have been blessed, as I am every year, with opportunities and love. It’s also been a brilliant year for reading! (So it definitely can’t have been that bad.😉) At the beginning of the year I set myself a challenge to read 100 books, and I managed it (just)! I’ve actually just finished my 101st book of 2016 so I even managed to beat my goal. I thought I’d share with you my reading year and recommend some of my favourites. Here’s a round up of my year in books (be warned, it’s lengthy!)…


I started the year with some brilliant books: I devoured Illuminae and read the whole thing cover to cover on New Year’s Day. It’s definitely one of the most original books I’ve read in terms of execution of an idea and I found it compelling to read a story told in such an unique way. 

I also read, and adored, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I so enjoyed heading back to this world (Rothfuss is a genius of the genre) and I found this tale told from Auri’s perspective to be haunting and moving. It’s not an continuation of the Kingkiller Chronicles and I know many were disappointed because of this, but I found it utterly enchanting and a true testament to Rothfuss’ skill and imagination. 

Another favourite was Uprooted, a truly engrossing fantasy. I loved how unusual the magic was in this story and loved the characters and how they developed throughout. I’ve lent this to many people, all of whom have loved it. (It’s also one of the most beautiful books on my shelves!)

I enjoyed revisiting an old favourite series  in The Black Magician trilogy – The High Lord is one of my favourite characters. 

Bird by Bird was one of my favourite reads of the year. It really made me want to write more of my own and made me feel like it wouldn’t matter if it turned out to be utter tripe, as long as I had the courage to actually write it! I haven’t done as much writing as I had hoped but thei book certainly spurred me on to write more than I’ve ever managed before.

My mum lent me a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth and I thouroughly enjoyed it. A fantastical world filled with entertaining word play. A great fun read!

A couple of highly recommended books on bookstagram that made my reading list this year were Queen of Shadows and Shatter Me. I really enjoyed Queen of Shadows, in fact I loved the whole series – Caleana is a great character! Unfortunately, I did not feel so positive about Shatter Me. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just didn’t grab me. I normally enjoy reading YA but this one just felt too young, somehow. I know many people loved it though and it’s an interesting premise so I’d still give it a go.

I enjoyed The Martian immensely and it’s one of the few books that I have read AFTER I’ve seen the film. It’s funny and somehow still profound: I just love Watney’s dry humour. I’d also highly recommend the film as a really try interpretation of the book – Matt Damon is excellent!

The Catcher In The Rye is on that I have been meaning to read for an absolute age and the couple of times I started it I just wasn’t in the right mood. Not the case this time! I always think it’s worth persevering with classics if they don’t quite grab you the first time, as I have found with many that when I eventually get my brain to engage then I really enjoy them.

Ah, so many good ones in this little batch! The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet is a compelling and original story which Infound incredibly thoroughly gut provoking. It’s sci-for as I’ve never read it before and I completely fell in love with the crew of the Wayfarer. I’m excited to read the sequel in 2017!

I finally got around to reading a couple of children’s classics which I had never read before: Peter Pan and A Little Princess. Both were wonderful! Peter Pan is wonderfully weird and fantastical but the classic story which many of us grew up with (regardless of whether you’d read the book or not) doesn’t fail to engross, even as an adult reader. A Little Princess is completely enchanting and has some of the most beautiful lines and turns of phrase in it. I grew up loving the film adaptation of this book, my favourite part of which was always the magical transformation of the attic – it was just as magical, if not more so, in the book! Loved it!

I also have to mention Girl of Ink and Stars – this book is utterly wonderful. You cannot help but fall in love with the characters and the island, and the storyline strikes the perfect balance between being vividly real and disturbingly fantastical.

Two more favourites from this year were Rebel Of The Sands and The Reader On The 6:27. Rebel Of The Sands is magical and bursting with imagination. It’s so brilliantly written that everything leaps out at you – you can almost feel the heat rippling off the page and constantly expect to find grains of sand trickling into your lap. Read it.

I continued my re-reading of Harry Potter over the summer which is always a favourite of mine. If you’ve not yet read this series then you should give it a go.

Queen of The Tearling was a great new fantasy read and, again, I’m excited to read the next in the series in 2017. 

The Red Notebook is a really lovely story – great for fans of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry!

I am not normally one for non-fiction or biographies but I had to give I am Malala a chance and I was not disappointed. I already knew something of Malala’s story but reading it in her own words was truly moving and made me feel proudly fortunate. I was also so struck by what an incredible man her father is – we need more men like him in the world.

I was excited to receive The Graces in my Illumicrate box in July and really enjoyed reading it. I felt it took a little while to get going but was one of those I couldn’t quite put down.

Sleeping Giants was initially a cover but (so pretty!) but I was really pleased to have picked it up. It has echos of Illumicrate but is adult sci-if rather than YA. I also enjoyed reading a sci-fi that was set entirely on Earth!

I had so much fun reading all the new wizard of world books released by Pottermore this year – I loved reading a bit more about some of my favourite characters, particularly McGonagall. If you’re a HP fan and haven’t read these yet then you should go and read them. They’re inexpensive, quick to read, and a delightful trip back to the wizard of world.

Other favourites from this bunch were Ted Hughes’ poetry collection, Crow, and the recently published Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, which it inspired. Both were dark, profound and deeply moving. Anyone who has grieved will find something of truth in these pages and it is strangely comforting.

Pax is one of my absolute favourites from this year. A thoroughly moving story about a boy and his best friend, who happens to be a fox. It’s a lovely tale but the thing that struck me much was how TRUE the pages from Pax’s perspective felt. That might sound strange, after all how on earth would I know what a fox’s perspective would sound like, and yet it felt completely right. It wa the perfect autumn read.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises joins Pax on my absolute favourites of 2016 list. This book was charming, magical, relatable, and laugh-out-loud funny. I have bought at least 3 copies to give to other people and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Probably the most controversial book I’ve read this year is Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. I have seen such mixed reviews about it: some love it, some hate it, some have gone so far as to say they feel betrayed by JK for putting her name to it(?!). As far as I’m concerned it was great fun! It was NOT the 8th Harry Potter book but I never expected it to be. It was fun to return to Hogwarts; it was fun to imagine the possible futures of my favourite characters; it was fun to see something of the next generation of witches and wizards. Yes, there were some slightly questionable plot points, yes, it did read a little like fan fiction – but, honestly, I still loved it. I would happily read it again and I really, really hope I get to see the play at some point.

My last big batch of reading from 2016 included some of my Christmas favourites: A Christmas Carol is to this day the only Dicken’s book I have read all the way through. I hope to change this in 2017 as I really do love this book and although Dicken’s writing is incredibly wordy I think it is beautiful.

Chasers of the Light was a Christmas present and I absolutely loved it. Simple, but stunning, poetry typed on found paper – a joy to read.


My 100th book of the year was The Snow Child which has been on my bedside table for 2 years waiting to be read. This tale is achingly sad but beautifully written. It is a haunting tale and Ivey perfectly evokes the ethereality of deep winter and human desire for connection and love.

As well as reading my 100 books, I’ve also had another great fun year on bookstagram! Here are my #bestnine from 2016…


There’s clearly a favoured theme since I haven’t stuck to one theme all year but these all got the most likes. I haven’t decided what I might do with bookstagram in 2017 (to stick with one theme or keep a messy feed, that is the question…) but I do know that I still love this online bookish community. The pictures are beautiful and inspiring and the people are kind and encouraging. It’s a great little creative outlet and I look forward to another bookish year being a par of it.

So there you have it, my year in books! I hope you had a wonderful year, whether it was bookish or not. Please leave any of your own recommendations/favourite reads of 2016 in the comments.

Whatever your 2016 was like I wish you all the happiest of New Years, and love, peace, and joy for 2017.

Armchair Travels


Mega, mega excited for the deliver of the first ever Fernweh Fiction box! It’s been a tough few days and this has brightened up my week no end. I’ve only had chance to have a quick look through the contents but I’m already impressed: the book is one I’ve never come across and looks brilliant, the additional gifts (of which there are many!) are thoughtfully selected and each beautiful, functional, fun, or delicious in their own right. 

If you want to see what’s inside check out my Instagram story for a full unboxing, but if you’re still waiting for your box then avoid the spoilers because unwrapping the contents was so much fun!

I’m super impressed with The Travelling Reader’s first book box and can’t wait to nestle down with the book. If you’re not already subscribed then sign up quick at fernwehfiction.co.uk.

Watch this space for more photos of what’s inside!

Wisdom for the Week

Image found here via Pinterest.

Now coming to the end of a busy second week of the new school year, this quote seems very apt! After the luxury of a long holiday it can feel like a bit of a shock to the system when the working days and weeks are flying by and it seems I barely have time to eat and sleep, let alone anything else. But reading is important. Reading teaches us things and reminds us of things we know but might have forgotten. Reading takes us out of ourselves and helps us reflect on ourselves. Reading is an adventure and a quiet space to rest in. So we must make time to read, no matter how busy life gets.

How I Fell in Love with Reading

  
Last week I shared the questions we had been asking students at school, to celebrate world book day. I promised you my answers so here they are:

1) What is your first memory of reading?

Honestly, reading has been part of my life since before I can remember. So much so that there isn’t a specific memory that sticks out because reading just was. I have many memories, all blurred together, of reading with my mum, my dad, and my gran, in particular. Bedtime stories were the norm. Morning stories were the norm. Mid-afternoon stories were the norm! 

I remember Mum reading Tubby and Tootsie to me and my brother in the car when were parked up somewhere, early in the morning. Mumhated that book but she still read it with all the enthusiasm necessary to make telling a story an enchanting experience…which is why I asked for it again and again!

I remember sitting with all my cousins, cosied up in the duvet on the big double bed in the spare room at my gran and grandpa’s house, eating toast squares and listening intently as Granny read aloud from The Children of Cherry Tree Farm for the umpteenth time. We all used to imagine what it would be like to have a squirrel for a pet or to meet a wild-man named Tamylan living in the woods nearby. 

I remember Dad reading bedtime stories as he tucked me in for the night. I couldn’t tell you what story, but I can tell you how safe and loved I felt in those moments. Strong hands tucking my duvet in. Deep soothing voice intoning whatever my chosen story was, or speaking of clouds to lull me to sleep.

I have so many precious memories around reading but it wasn’t just the books and the stories I loved, it was the experience of reading with people I loved that made it so special.
2) What is your favourite story?

I don’t think I could answer this question if I tried! I have so many. But I suppose what I love is the story where good wins; where things aren’t perfect but people are happy anyway; where truth is discovered; where corruption is challenged; where evil is overcome; where love is found; where different worlds and times and cultures come alive and dance off the page. My favourite story is the one I can get completely lost in.

3) What book(s) have you read that you think I should read?

This could be a very long list… I’ll give you a few but this is by no means an exhaustive list!!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Harry Potter

His Dark Materials

Jane Eyre

Winnie the Pooh

The Night Circus

Mist Over Pendle

Bird by Bird

To Kill A Mocking Bird

I Capture The Castle

…I’m going to stop now or we’ll be here forever.

4) What book, story or character has changed your life?

(Why did we make these questions so hard?! They’re killing me!!)

Again, I could list so many and for so many different reasons. I’m going to try and restrain myself and just mention 2. Firstly, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a really important story for me because its ideas of difference, identity, and mental health just hit home. Although my personal experiences were nothing like Charlie’s, I could still empathise so much with his character. His story spoke to me. Secondly, Mist Over Pendle as this was the first book that I remember being really enchanted with the language and the crafting of words. I think this is where my appreciation for beautiful writing, not just stories, began.

5) Is there a place you would like to visit, or a journey you would like to go on, based on a book you have read?

Lots probably, but the one that springs to mind is Prague, which I have wanted to visit since reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It just sounds like the most amazing place and I’m dying to see the astronomical clock!

6) How did you fall in love with reading?

I guess my answer to question 1 answers this one too! I fell in love with reading through the love of stories and books my parents and grandparents shared with me. Through the experience of togetherness I had when being read to or read with, I came to love stories for just that: an experience. Through the wide range of stories told to me, and books I was introduced to as a child, I came to love them for the words and the worlds they contained. I continue to fall in love with reading everytime I pick up a book; the look and the feel of the book itself, the smell of the pages, and the enchantment, wisdom, and illusion that unfolds from the letters printed within. (Who knew you could create such beauty from black squiggles on a page?) 

How else can you travel the world and beyond, or see into the minds of great thinkers of the past without leaving the comfort of your home…or even your bed?! Books and stories are such an incredible gift and I thank all the people who have brought, are bringing, and will bring these things into the world. You are truly magicians. 

I’d love to know your own responses to any or all of these questions. Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Happy reading. 😊

 

World Book Day

   
 
Today was World Book Day, aka the best day in the year! Our theme at school was Nostalgia: how I fell in love with reading. It was so much fun spending the day as Sophie from the BFG, working alongside Matilda, Tintin, the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Fern from Charlotte’s Web. (Yes, I do in fact have the most awesome colleagues ever!)

To go alongside our fabulous interpretations of our favourite characters, we spent the day asking staff and students about their reading experiences, and now I’m going to ask you the same questions!

1) What is your first memory of reading?

2) What is your favourite story?

3) What book(s) have you read that you think I should read?

4) What book, story or character has changed your life?

5) Is there a place you would like to visit, or a journey you would like to go on, based on a book you have read?

And finally:

6) How did you fall in love with reading?

I’d love to hear your answers. I’ll be sharing mine tomorrow so be sure to pop back! 

Happy reading everyone. 😊