The Queen of Blood / Sarah Beth Durst

Title / The Queen of Blood 
Author / Sarah Beth Durst
Publication Date / 2016
Page no. / 368
Overall Star Rating / ★ 

 

Goodreads synopsis: Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms. With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

 

“Don’t trust the fire, for it will burn you.
Don’t trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
Don’t trust the water, for it will drown you.
Don’t trust the air, for it will choke you.
Don’t trust the earth, for it will bury you.
Don’t trust the trees, for they will rip you,
rend you, tear you, kill you dead.”

 

This is the first book in the Queens of Renthia trilogy.  I’ve had my eyes on this book for quite some time before I picked it up. In that time I was debating whether or not to pick it up – I thought it was a YA book and I haven’t had much luck with them recently but I finally decided to give it a go for some holiday reading. I am really glad I did. Firstly, I loved the setting. It is one of my favourite things about this book. The concept of every village, town and city being built on massive tree branches is a really cool idea. I think the idea of spirits is also done really well and the world felt very immersive. World building is so important in fantasy books so I’m happy to say that it’s done well in this book. It is definitely a strength of this series. I liked that it isn’t the traditional medieval setting and appreciated the unique nature of this world. If you are looking for new and unique fantasy settings than I would check this book out. I’ve not read many fantasy books with a similar setting. The only thing I would say is that I imagine that this world took inspiration from Lothlórien from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien, but it is still it’s own world – it’s not a copy.  The writing is easy to get into and the plot is compelling. There were quite a few occasions of late night reading while reading this, because I was so engrossed in the story. Certain things I did see coming but there were other things I didn’t. Either way it was still an enjoyable reading experience. It is pretty bloody and nasty at times, but these moments felt well thought out. Sometimes I think nasty moments can be used just to shock you but that isn’t the case with this book – these moments progressed the plot well. Basically I found both the world and the plot immersive, and I’m excited to see where things will go in the next books.

 

I love that the main character Daleina isn’t the most powerful person in this book, she just works really hard. I think that is quite relatable – for me at least, I don’t know about you guys. It’s nice to see a character in a fantasy book that struggles. I feel like in alot of fantasy books the main character, whether their male or female, is the most powerful magic user and adept at using magic within a short time of finding out they have magic. It’s good to see a character that has to work hard for it. Of the heirs, she is probably the worst and that’s quite refreshing. I’m sure there are many people out there with things that don’t come naturally and so they have to work hard for it – I am definitely one of them. All of the other characters are just as well written. I found the Queen to be a very interesting character due to her position. The Queen is the one person in power and that creates a fascinating look into what that type of power can do to a person. Another aspect I loved is the female friendships in this book. As previously mentioned in the goodreads synopsis, the queen is surrounded by heirs. All of these heirs are women and so they live closely with each other as they train. It’s great to see female friendship where they support each other and are there for each other. One thing I hate to see in any book is girl on girl hate for no other reason than their girls, so it was so nice to see these great friendships. I also really liked that the romance is very much in the background and is not a huge part of the story.

 

Overall I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I would definitely recommend checking this out, especially if you are a fan of fantasy. Personally, I’ve not read many books like this one and I appreciated that. I am very excited for the second book, The Reluctant Queen, which is already out. I think this is going to be a trilogy, but please correct me if I am wrong. Have you guys read this book? What did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

 

Eagles of Rome trilogy / Ben Kane

Title / Eagles At War, Hunting the Eagles and Eagles in the Storm
Author / Ben Kane
Publication Date / 2015, 2016, 2017
Overall Star Rating / 
Goodreads synopsis of book 1: In the summer of 9 CE, Publius Varus, the Roman governor of Germania, and Lucius Tullus, a centurion garrisoned on the Rhine, march east with three legions. As they prepare to return to their winter quarters, they are lured off the road and ambushed by German warriors. The Germans are led by Arminius, a chieftain who is a trusted ally of Rome—and a man who has been secretly planning to betray the empire since childhood. Trapping Varus’ legionaries between a hillside and a marsh, and thereby preventing them from forming up or using their artillery, Arminius and his warriors wreak a terrible slaughter. The Roman defeat is overwhelming, but it is not until the third day of the massacre that the scale of Arminius’ victory becomes clear. Three legions, upwards of 14,000 men, have been annihilated, and three treasured Eagle standards have been lost. Just a few hundred legionaries, including Tullus, manage to escape. Nor is the survivors’ ordeal over. Pursued to the last Roman fort east of the Rhine, they are besieged by thousands of bloodthirsty tribesmen. Only the gods can save them now.

 

I picked up the first book up on a bit of a whim as I wanted to try out more historical fiction. I’m glad I did, although it take me a while to get into the first book. I thought this trilogy was a fantastic military historical fiction depicting the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD (the first book). Now I knew very little about this time period before reading this book, so I can’t so much about the accuracy of the historical elements, but I thought this was a fantastically realised trilogy. Personally, I felt that you could really tell that the author had done his research for these books. The world felt very authentic and from the beginning of the first book I was immersed in this world. The level of detail in this trilogy really lends itself to creating a very vivid world but at the same time it is very readable. It is not bogged down by all of the details. As I have briefly mentioned before, I do not know a lot about this time period, so I cannot comment on its accuracy. I can only say that the world Kane created is a vivid one. After reading this trilogy I am definitely interested in trying more historical fiction set in this time period.
The writing is great and so easy to get into. Kane does a fantastic job at creating tension and the overall atmosphere throughout the trilogy was so well done. It adds so much to the reading experience. This means that even if you know the history behind this time period and battle, you will still enjoy the book, despite knowing what will happen. The narrative does switch between a few perspectives (mainly switches between Arminius and Tullus), all of which are engaging but it’s perhaps something to be aware of if you are not normally a fan of multiple perspectives. The characters are all well written, if a little wooden at times. Having said that, I thought their progression throughout the trilogy was good. I will say that these books are quite battle focused and have a fair amount of violence in them, so if you’re a little squeamish than I would probably avoid this trilogy. The second book didn’t quite have the same intensity as the first and third book, in my opinion. I did still enjoy it, but it felt a little lacking. These books were pretty quick reads for me though, as the plot is engaging. There were a few instances of the plot dragging a little bit but the writing and world meant it was still gripping. Basically I thought this was an enjoyable historical fiction trilogy and I would definitely recommend checking it out.

 

Overall I thought this was a fantastic military historical fiction trilogy. I didn’t know much about this time period before reading this and I would definitely say you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy this trilogy. I think these are great reads for any historical fiction fan. I am interested in trying more books by this author. I’m sorry this review is quite short but hopefully it means that it’s concise :). Have you guys read these books? What did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Mini Reviews: Fantasy

Hi guys I hope you are all well. It’s time for my first review post for August and surprise, surprise I’m going to be talking about some fantasy books :). Today I thought I would do some mini reviews and talk about some first books in a series, so I have 3 mini reviews for you guys. I don’t know if I’ll continue on with each of these series – one of them I don’t think I will. We have a assassin fantasy book, an urban fantasy and one which I’m just going to call regular fantasy… I don’t really know what else to call it. Anyway let’s get started.

 

The Sentinel Mage / Emily Gee / ★★★
For the most part I thought this was a sold first book in this trilogy, although it definitely has some flaws. It’s probably somewhere between 2.5/3 star rating. I didn’t know a lot about it before reading it but I ended up quite enjoying it. For the most part, it is pretty predictable and it is nothing new in terms of the fantasy genre, however I still found it to be an engaging and enjoyable read. The romance is entirely predictable and kind of annoying.  If you are looking for new and unique fantasy books than this isn’t the book for you. If you still enjoy traditional fantasy than it may be worth a read. It was an easy and quick read that has a magic system that I liked. There could have been more character development but perhaps that will happen more in the next two books. The women especially, I wanted more depth from them. It felt like we were only brushing the surface of each character, which makes it a little trickier to connect with them. I think this book could have been shorten a little bit without removing any important information or enjoyment. Overall I liked it, but it wasn’t perfect – I am interested in continuing with this trilogy at some point but it won’t be a priority for me. So who knows if I’ll actually ever continue with this trilogy…

 

 

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A Dance With Cloaks / David Daglish / ★★
To be honest this was quite an average read for me. Don’t get me wrong I liked it, but I wasn’t blown away by it and I didn’t love it. It was quite a predictable read to me and I never felt fully invested in the characters or plot. The world building was generally good, but could have maybe done with a bit more depth. I found the characters to be quite inconsistent at times and Aaron kind of bugged me a little bit. There are quite alot of characters to keep track of, which becomes a bit of a chore and it makes it hard to fully understand what is going on. Overall I liked it, but it also fell a little flat for me. At the moment I very much doubt that I’ll continue with this series – it’s a six book series and I just can’t see myself committing to that after not loving the first book. This one just fell quite flat for me. Also if you’re squeamish about anything eye related than maybe avoid this as there is some eye gouging.

 

 

Rivers of London / Ben Aaronovitch / ★★★
I’ve had my eyes on these books for a while as my sister enjoys them and I trust her judgement. I finally decided to pick the first book up recently and I thought this was a great urban fantasy book. I haven’t had much luck with urban fantasy before but this one was really good. The mix of the fantasy genre and the crime/mystery genre was mixed very well. The characters were great, the plot was engaging and it was easy to get into. Overall this was a fun, quick and entertaining read and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you are a fan of urban fantasy. I will be continuing on with this series – I think it currently has six books out but I don’t know if more are planned.

 

 

That’s all I have to talk about today. I’d love to know if there are any fantasy books you think I should read or any you want a review of. I am always interested in trying out new fantasy books. Have you guys read these books? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

 

Pippa

 

 

Daughter of the Empire / Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Title / Daughter of the Empire
Author / Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts
Publication Date / 1987 (first published)
Page no. / 528
Overall Star Rating / ★ 

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Goodreads synopsis: Enter the mysterious and exotic world of Kelewan…
Mara, the youngest child of the ancient and noble Acoma family, is about to take her pledge of servitude to the goddess Lashima when the ceremony is disrupted by news of her father and brother’s death in battle. Despite her grief, as the only surviving member of her house, Mara must now take up the mantles of Ruling Lady. But she soon discovers betrayal at the heart of her family’s loss, and the Acoma’s enemies have brought her house to the brink of utter destruction. Mara, an inexperienced political player, must draw on all her wit, intelligence and cunning to navigate the ruthless Game of the Council, regain the honour of House Acoma and secure the future of her family. But with assassins waiting around every corner, it might take everything Mara has simply to survive. Daughter of the Empire is the first in Feist and Wurts’ wonderful epic trilogy – one of the most successful fantasy collaborations of all time. The trilogy continues with the second book, Servant of the Empire

 

I picked this up after searching for some Asian inspired (specifically East Asian) fantasy and this series came up. I didn’t know much about it and had never heard to talked about in the bookish community but I thought I’ d try it out. I am so glad I did as I ended up really enjoying this one. First off the world, this is set in a Japanese style world called Kelawen. The world is one of the main strengths of this book, in my opinion but in many ways it is also a weakness. It is such an interesting world and it has so much potential that wasn’t fully realised. I found it to be quite insular because it focuses very much on the immediate world around Mara, but I would have preferred a broader insight into the world as a whole. It could have used a little more depth (by that I mean I wanted more information) at times – for example a new species is introduced early on and are very important for about a chapter but then we don’t hear from them at all. As I’ve already mentioned, I wanted to know more of the world as a whole, not just the world Mara experiences. Perhaps we will get this in the later books… I hope we do. I think this world is also linked to some of Feist’s of works so maybe there is more information in those… I don’t know for sure on that though. This book would be a good one to read if you like fantasy with little magic in, as it has very little magic in.

 

I think the characters are all fantastically written. Mara is a great female protagonist, although I think she did suffer a little with the perfect main character trope thing. What I mean is that she seems immediately able to deal with the politics and know what to do – yes she does have some doubt but she slips quick easily into the world it seems. I wanted her to seem more vulnerable and unsure of herself, then again she has grow up in this world and presumably knows what to expect. There were only a few moments of doubt and she’s only supposed to be 17 but I think she felt older to me. Having said all that, I really liked her as the female protagonist. There are many other interesting characters around her too and they are all well written. The only one I felt a bit unsure of was Bunto as I thought his character was inconsistent at times – also he’s just not very nice most of the time. Although there are quite a few characters, it was pretty easy to keep track of them all. In terms of the plot, I think it progresses very well. I’ve seen this described as political fantasy and I would definitely agree with that – it is heavy with politics and intrigue. This means this is quite a slow fantasy books, because it focuses more on the characters and their standing in society, instead of having many action scenes. Personally I really enjoyed this but if you are looking for an action packed fantasy book than this one isn’t for you. There are definitely a few plot holes in this book but I’m not going to go into too much detail with them because… spoilers. There were just a few things that I questioned a little bit but I found that I could look past these and so it didn’t affect my overall reading experience/enjoyment of the book. At times things also seemed to happen a little too neatly, if that makes sense.  The thing to note is that if you are not interested in behaviour and manners (from an Asian inspired culture), than this is again probably not for you. There is a lot of writing about the way someone should be referred to, or the hierarchy, or filial piety, or even how low to bow to certain people etc. This all makes up an important part of the culture within the book and so is heavily mentioned – personally I liked this but I don’t think everyone will.

 

Overall I thought this was a fantastic introduction to this new series. If you enjoy politics and intrigue, and Asian inspired fantasy, then you should definitely check this book out. It was seriously really good – OK so it wasn’t perfect but I still really enjoyed it. I will definitely be picking up the next book as soon as possible.  Maybe I need to read the other Feist books to get a better understanding of the world… if any of you know please let me know :). Have you guys read this book? What did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

 

A Tale For The Time Being / Ruth Ozeki

Title / A Tale For The Time Being
Author / Ruth Ozeki
Publication Date / 2013
Page no. / 422
Overall Star Rating / ★  

 

Goodreads synopsis: In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

 

I have been meaning to read this book for quite some time now and so I finally picked it up this month. I am so glad I did as I thought this was a fantastic book. From the very beginning I could tell that I was going to enjoy this book, mainly due to the writing style. Personally I find I can take a little while to get into a book by a new author but I didn’t really have the issue with this book – I found it so easy to get into. I liked the inclusion of Japanese words, which are explained using footnotes. I find footnotes can become a bit of a chore in some books but I liked in this book that they were just dotted throughout and weren’t added too much. Some people may find it a little jarring though, so it may be something to be aware of going in. In many ways this book lacks a bit of plot. Don’t get me wrong you do have the basis of a plot but it’s not very plot driven book. It is about what is happening (or happened) to the two main characters, Nao and Ruth. It mainly follows Nao as she grows up in Tokyo and Ruth who finds and reads Nao’s diary – in that way it is a bit of a meandering plot which contains stories Nao chooses to tell us. I hope that makes sense. One small critique I have is that this could have been a little bit shorter, in my opinion. Having said that I never felt bored, or that it dragged.

 

I will say that this is quite a hard book in many ways. If you have or are struggling with suicide or bullying, then I would only recommend this to you if you feel you are in a strong place, as this may be quite triggering. Also a trigger warning for depression and rape. Although this does touch on these hard topics, I felt that it was done well and in a respectful way, if that makes sense. It is a little heartbreaking at times though.  I definitely found Nao’s quite a bit more compelling than Ruth’s but both perspectives are important and they are both well written. I loved the way Ozeki wrote Nao’s chapters, as if she was talking directly to us at times. In this way I think it’s almost natural that we are perhaps more attached to Nao (at least I was anyway), because her perspective is more personal. Ruth seems more distant and perhaps preoccupied. I just preferred Nao’s perspective – I also found Ruth a little frustrating at times, although this didn’t affect my overall reading enjoyment. I think the characters are so well written and complex. There are elements of both that I didn’t really get along with but that is true of real life and I think it shows Ozeki’s skill at creating fleshed out characters. It’s not black and white with them – they both have good and bad traits in them.

 

Favourite quote: “Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren’t tears. She wasn’t crying. They were just the memories, leaking out.”

 

Overall I thought this was a fantastic book and I can’t believe a left this long to read it :). I will definitely be checking out more of Ozeki’s books – I think she has two other books out so I will be checking those out. As you can probably tell I highly recommend checking this book out, especially if you are interested in Japanese culture. I know this wasn’t a very long review but hopefully that means I was concise and I just wanted to review this book anyway as it was really good. I definitely think this won’t be for everyone though, as I think some may find this too hard to read or perhaps a little boring. If you guys have read this book, what did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Flame in the Mist / Renee Ahdieh

Title / Flame in the Mist
Author / Renee Ahdieh
Publication Date / 2017
Overall Star Rating / 

 

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Goodreads synopsis: The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath. So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

 

When I heard this being pitched as a possible Mulan retelling I was immediately interested in it as Mulan has always been my favourite Disney film and the live action film (2009) is also really good.  I really wanted to love this but unfortunately it didn’t work me. First off I wouldn’t call this a Mulan retelling – for one thing it’s set in Japan, not China and for another the only similarity is that the main character pretends to be a boy. I found the writing to be quite overly dramatic at times, as well as being a little to descriptive. Other than that, I had no issues with the writing. The world building, on the other hand, could have been better. One of the main things that drew me to this book was the world as it is set in Feudal Japan and I was a little disappointed by it. It wasn’t awful by any means but I wanted some much more depth from it. I mainly wanted more of the politics of the world so I could have a better understanding of how this world works and the hierarchies. Unfortunately I didn’t feel like I got that.  Another aspect that I thought was lacking is the magic system. There is literally no real explanation as to what, how, why etc. I want a magic system that I can understand , at least a little of it and there is no information about it in this book – it’s just there and we’re supposed to accept it. Moving on to the plot. It’s super slow, kind of predictable and a bit boring at times. That may sound a little harsh but nothing about the plot had me hooked and it left me feeling wanting so much more. I think the plot idea had some potential but for me it just didn’t work. I think the pacing didn’t help it. Throughout this book the pacing is slow – it never really picks up. As I’ve said in previous reviews I don’t mind slower pacing as the world, plot or characters will pull you through those times, but in this book that wasn’t the case. Speaking of characters, I didn’t like any of them. I went into this expecting to love the main character, Mariko, but dear god is she frustrating and some of her decisions are absolutely ridiculous. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes at her a few times while reading it. I understand that she’s young and may make mistakes but Ahdieh continually tells us that Mariko is super smart and I just really didn’t see it. I felt in this case it was more telling than showing in terms of the writing.  All of the characters were flat and so lacked development, especially Mariko. To be honest I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I guess I should also mention the romance… oh why did there have to be a romance? I don’t understand why it seems in every fantasy YA book there has to be a romance. This one was entirely predictable and comes out of nowhere, in the sense that it happens very quickly. They literally know each other for maybe a few days and they’ve fallen for each other – commence eye rolling. I wouldn’t have minded it so much had they actually spent time getting to know each other and it had developed slowly. At least there’s no love triangle in this book. The final thing I’m going to mention is what I see as a lack of research in some places. Now I am by no mean an expert in Japanese culture and history, in fact I know very little but I felt that there were possibly a few things missing (e.g. names, manners, hierarchy etc.) and perhaps that this wasn’t particularly well researched. I may be wrong on that though – I don’t know the research she did.

 

Overall this definitely had potential to be a good book, but for me it really didn’t work. Don’t let me dissuade you too much though as I’ve seen a lot of great reviews over on goodreads. Maybe YA just isn’t working for me at the moment as I haven’t had much luck with it recently. I think I’ll stick to my adult fantasy for a while. Anyway have you guys read this book? What do you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

5 reasons to read the Shardlake series

Hi guys, it’s time for another review – you guys know the routine by now :). So I thought I would do another review in the form of 5 reason to read type review. I find sometimes these types of review is a great way to organise my thoughts. Today I am going to be talking about the Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom. Granted I have only read the first two books (it’s a six book series), but I have enjoyed those books so much that I thought I’d do this anyway. Let’s get started.

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  1. There are so easy to get into. I was hooked from very early on with both of these books and I fully expect to the same with the next books.
  2. The characters are fantastic, especially Shardlake. He is such a brilliant main character and the others are just as good. Sansom does a great job at creating complex characters – I’ve really enjoyed his portrayal of Cromwell. Yes he is cunning and ruthless but he also has good qualities and it really shows that he is a product of his time. Basically he writes characters wonderfully.
  3. The plot and the mystery incorporated into it are (again) fantastic. The building of tension throughout the two that I have read really lends itself to the mystery/crime genre of this book. The plot will keep you on your toes and you’ll be constantly wondering who’s the culprit.
  4. If you are a big reader of historical fiction, then you need to check this series out. The two I have read are fantastic and crime elements are done so well.
  5. In my opinion the second book was even better than the first, and that bodes very well for the rest of the series. I am so excited to continue on with these books.

 

If you haven’t already guessed I am a big fan of this series, or at least the two books I’ve read of it so far. I will definitely be picking up the third book very soon as I want to see how things progress now that a certain character is gone (no spoilers). Have you guys read this series? Before I go I wanted to ask you guys if you have any review requests – do you guys mind that I review primarily fantasy? Or do you want more variety? I would love any feedback you guys have. Thanks in advance 🙂 I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa