Great Reads: Books in Verse

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Books in verse are few and far between, but in my opinion, they are an absolute gold mine when you find them. I absolutely adore poetry, so when a book combines my love of verse into its pages, I’m always a fan. So here are some books in verse that I think are great!

1.

One by Sarah Crossan

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Grace and Tippi don’t like being stared and sneered at, but they’re used to it. They’re conjoined twins – united in blood and bone. What they want is to be looked at in turn, like the truly are two people. They want real friends. And what about love? But a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead for Tippi and Grace. One that could change their lives more than they ever asked for… – from Goodreads.com

I knew this book would be heart breaking, and guess what it was! I loved the story of Grace and Tippi and the end almost brought me to tears! The book is quite hefty in size, but honestly, it passes so quickly because you’re so swept up in the story. An absolute must read for lovers of Jandy Nelson!

2.

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

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On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything, absolutely everything, changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, “That’s her! That’s the Shark Girl,” as she passes. In the meantime there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? – from Goodreads.com

I have never, ever, read a book about someone who gets bitten by a shark! (But Jaws is on my TBR pile!) It was truly one of the most unique reads, and coupled with it being told in verse makes this book absolutely one of a kind. Jane deals with a huge loss that brings out symptoms of depression, which makes for really interesting reading considering Jane’s unique circumstances.

3.

Far from You by Lisa Schroeder

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Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn’t quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife. But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she’ll face issues she’s been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful. Perhaps she’s not so alone after all…. – from Goodreads.com

Being a bereaved child and having a step family made it very easy to identify with Alice, and the need to believe in Angels and Spirits. This was another heartbreaking verse book that filled my heart right from page one!

This concludes my recommended reads in verse! Are any of these on your TBR list, or have I just convinced you to go on an Amazon binge spree? Let me know in the comments!

My Literary Trip to Oxford

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In a blog post earlier in the year, I made a list of bookish places to visit in England, the first of which was Oxford, one of the most literary places in the world. It is home to the famous literary group, the Inklings, who amongst it members were C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Roger Lancelyn Green, to name a few.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I, by rights, would consider C.S. Lewis one of my favourite authors, as his Chronicles of Narnia are some of my best loved go-to comfort reads. For the past twenty years, I have read and re-read those tales that provided (along with Tolkien and many others) the cornerstones of children’s fantasy. I like many others travelled with the Pevensies and poured my heart into the destruction of the White Witch. For Narnia, and for Aslan!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

But how much did I know about the man behind the magic? Who was C.S. Lewis? So this was reason number one why I decided to visit Oxford, where Lewis spent a large chunk of his life. The Kilns, where Lewis used to live, gives tours by appointment and is situated in Risinghurst, just outside of the city center. Not only can you find Lewis’s home there, but also his parish, which is only a ten-minute walk away. The church is also his resting place, as people flock from all over the world to pay their respects to the author who transported them through the wardrobe. His brother, Warren Lewis, affectionately known as Warnie, who died ten years later, is also buried with his brother, who liked to be known as Jack.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Taking a tour of the Kilns was like being reacquainted with an old friend. I knew bits of trivia about Lewis’s life, but our guide shed light on just what an imaginative, gracious and fun-loving person he really was. One story stood out to me in particular. After his cat, Tom, had lost his teeth, Lewis’s wife, Joy, wanted to have the cat put down. Lewis would hear nothing of the sort, and every third day went to the market to get fish for Tom to eat, which he ground small enough so the cat didn’t have to chew, and declared it would be Tom’s pension. As he passed Tom in the garden, he usually doffed his hat, citing to a baffled friend, “Tom’s a pensioner, don’t you know. We treat pensioners with respect.”

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Oxford history doesn’t just hold references to Lewis’s life and works, it also plays host to a large chunk of filming locations, particularly for the first Harry Potter film, directed by Christopher Columbus. I visited the Divinity School in the Bodleian Library, where the scenes for the Hogwarts Infirmary were filmed, and also Christ Church, where the Golden Trio meet again after the events of Philosopher’s Stone. Finally, I also visited New College, where a particular scene from The Goblet of Fire was filmed. Visiting New College was like stepping into Hogwarts itself. It’s safe to say this trip was filled with magic!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I was only in Oxford for four days but I absolutely loved every minute of it! I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a big literary geek like me!

Has my blog post convinced you to visit Oxford? Or are there other places on your list? Let me know in the comments!

No Physical Checks Needed: Talking about sexual health.

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I’ve always been quite confident about my sexual health. From the age of 16, I bought condoms and went on Microgynon, the contraceptive pill. Then, when I was 19, I decided to switch to Nexplanon, the contraceptive implant which I’ve been on for the last six years.

I used to go to my GP for all my sexual health needs, but recently, the local authority has built a health center nearby where I got my first implant put in. Getting an appointment was quite tricky because you either had to ring up on the day to get an appointment, which was problematic if you had work or school, or drop-in to the center, which again was problematic if you had work or school. It seemed like accessing these services wasn’t easy, despite how important it is for young people to see health care professionals.

So when it was time for me to have a sexual health screening, which I do every year, regardless of my sexual activity, I thought ‘there’s got to be an easier way to do this‘. So I Googled: where can I have a sexual health screening near me?. Not only does Google pick up on centers nearby depending on your location, but it also showed me that the NHS website has a page dedicated to finding sexual health centers near you. I put in my postcode and looked through the list of options.

Most were just the local GP surgeries, but to my surprise, there was a health center connected to the local hospital that did a drop in session, one afternoon a week, from 5:30pm till 7:30pm. Brilliant! If anyone was looking to go somewhere local to my town, after work or school, this was the place! And I hadn’t even known it existed! So I went down there, expecting to join the throng of people waiting to be seen, but instead, the place was empty. I got there early in fairness, and I was only there for twenty minutes, so people could have arrived after I’d left, but I was still surprised.

As I approached the desk, I didn’t even need to ask for anything. The nurse gave me a laminated list with statements for me to check off, to show her what I needed. I checked “I need a routine sexual health screening“, but noticed another statement below, “I have been sexually assaulted or raped.” My heart went out to the people who had to check that box, but at least they didn’t have to say it out loud. The nurse then handed me a swab for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, which I did in the privacy of a toilet cubicle, and handed it back. Then I went and had a very informal chat with a health care professional who asked me all sorts of questions.

Do you need to do any physical checks?” I asked, wondering if I was going to have to drop my trousers.

Nope,” she said with a smile. “Just emotional ones.”

She asked me if I was safe, at home and with my relationships and friendships. Luckily I am, but she still reassured me that everything was confidential. I thought back to the box someone would check if they had been assaulted or raped, thankful that free services like these exist on the NHS. So as I left, I wondered, do enough people know about these kinds of services. Like I said, I was only in the clinic for twenty minutes – you could do it on your lunch break!

So this is me telling you about the wonderful service that I had, entirely for free, without having to leave my town, with health care professionals who made me feel safe and comfortable. Ultimately, getting yourself checked for infections, diseases, and pregnancy is as important as taking antibiotics or paracetamol. It’s all about keeping yourself healthy and happy. It might be a difficult subject to talk about, but the sooner we start talking, the easier it’s going to become for young people to get checked. The more we educate, the healthier we will be!

#HarryPotter20: One of the greatest friends I’ll ever have.

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In 2000, sitting on the carpet as an innocent and naive year 3, (approximately aged 8 for those international folk), our substitute teacher decided that for the last ten minutes of class she would read us a few chapters from a book she was reading. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. She got out her copy, which was the adult edition, with a black and white steam train on the front, and began to read. Safe to say, I was hooked and pleaded with Mum to get it from the library, along with Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both which had been released.

Every night, Mum would sit by my bedside and we would read about the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and what they got up to at Hogwarts. By the time that Goblet of Fire was released that summer, just before I was due to turn 9, I wanted to start reading them independently, as a few chapters a night wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I HAD to know what happened next.

I had all four books in my collection, but as the three years without a new Harry Potter book passed, I had a lot going on in my home life that caused me to miss the release of Order of the Phoenix. My father was getting ill, we had to move from our lovely patchwork home that I’d grown up in, to a bungalow which was so unlike my previous home, and I’d started High School. It was an eventful year, and before I knew it, I’d been at High School for two years and Half Blood Prince was being released.

My brother, sister in law, and nephew were going on holiday to Spain to see my niece, and taking with her a copy of Half Blood Prince for her to read whilst she was traveling, and she wanted the UK edition to match the rest of her collection. I decided I would buy a copy too and read it on the plane over, but first I had to read the Order of the Phoenix and find out exactly what had happened where I left Harry, Ron, and Hermione nearly five years ago! Cue my first ever binge read!

So I was all caught up and ready for the final book in the series to be released! The Deathly Hallows! I had to wait two more years before I could get my hands on it but boy was I ready. At midnight, I went to Tesco with my niece and got in line with everyone else from my small town. We purchased Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and went home to read it immediately. Three days it took me because I paced myself and because I didn’t want it to end. My boyfriend at the time managed to read it in 8 hours whilst he recovered from tonsilitis. And suddenly, as the epilogue finished, the series was over, and the hole in my heart that I already had from losing my father grew bigger and bigger. Yes, I still had the films to watch, which was exciting of course, but it wasn’t the same.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been escapism for me, to help me through a time in my life that was truly terrible. How would I be able to cope without knowing another book was coming? Perhaps I needed to confront the hole in my heart instead of trying to fill it? And that’s what I did.

Long story short, twenty years on, I’ve come back to the series which I loved so much and read it again, eighteen years on from that day when I first heard those opening chapters. I loved it then and I love it still, and opening those books will always feel like a respite from the world. But now I don’t read them to fill the hole in my heart, I read them to remember what it feels like to love and have lost, and most importantly be human. Harry’s pain and grief validated my own, and having that transcend above all else means more to me than I could ever fathom.

Tackling Tinder: Dating Online

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This is a blog post about my experience using the app Tinder. I am a cisgendered heterosexual female, and this is my experience. I am not speaking on behalf of everyone using Tinder, and don’t wish to speak or comment on anyone else’s experiences using the app. All comments, stories, and experiences are welcome and appreciated. Also, I am not sponsored by Tinder. This is just an account of my own experiences.

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I’ve been on Tinder twice in my life. Once, right now, and the second time was six months ago. Before signing up, I was really nervous, because of the reputation that Tinder has for being an app primarily for hookups and dick pics. Still, I thought I best give it a chance, as if I never try I won’t know.

So six months ago I made an account and started swiping. First of all, most of the guys on there seemed like genuine profiles, and quite a few of them had stated in their bio section “not just here for hookups” which I was surprised about. Another thing I was surprised about was that I actually matched with people. I was quite liberal with my ‘right swipe’ thinking “oh, he’s cute. But he probably won’t match with me” and it turns out a lot of them did. In my first week on Tinder, I racked up about fifty matches. As someone who has always been quite self-conscious and awkward in the dating game, it’s safe to say it was a massive ego boost.

And I actually met someone too! Carter*, who was gorgeous, funny and into all the same things as me. I’ve never hit the ground running with someone as much as I did with Carter and we had a really good time getting to know each other. It didn’t work out romantically but we remain great friends, and he was part of the reason I decided to go back on Tinder. If I could find someone like him, who I clicked with so instantly, then surely it would be worth going back and seeing who else I could meet.

So I did. I re-downloaded the app and remade a profile.

Clare, 25, Supervisory Assistant, Studied at the University of Winchester.

Once again, most of the guys on there were genuine, looking to meet people and talk, nothing serious but nothing casual either. People like me, seeing who’s out there. The first three days I was on Tinder again, I matched with about twenty people, which I was very flattered and boosted by.

Would I recommend Tinder to a friend? Absolutely. Although I have a life, I lead a simple life. I get up, go to work, come home from work, potter around the house, maybe do some laundry, maybe go to Tesco… but of course, I’m not looking for a potential match in Tesco. I’m staring at a jar of green olives and a jar of black olives, wondering which one I should get and asking myself why they don’t do a tin of mixed olives?! So Tinder, in some ways, seems like the way forward. I get to meet and chat with people I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t signed up. People from a few towns over whose paths I would never have crossed.

I think that’s pretty awesome.

(I will, however, mention that most profiles I’ve seen, people really love to travel, love to ski and snowboard and like to put their height in their bio section! Some people might not write anything at all, and if you match with someone, they might not ever message you. And with some profiles, thanks to pictures with more than one person in, you might not know who said profile belongs to!)

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*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Top 5 Books Next on My TBR

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This year, I’ve been doing pretty well as far as reading goes, but I still like to round-up a collection of books I want to get to in the next few months. So here are the top five books on my TBR pile.

These books are in no particular order.

1.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

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Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price – from Goodreads.com

I got on okay with Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass series, so I’m looking forward to seeing how A Court of Thorns and Roses fairs in my estimations. Ever since the first Throne of Glass book was released 2012, Maas’s books have been incredibly hyped upon their release and the A Court of… books have been the same!

2.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried. Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor. – from Goodreads.com

The first Rainbow Rowell book I ever read was Fangirl that was released in 2013, and I somehow missed the release of Eleanor and Park which was also released in the same year. Never the less, I absolutely love Rainbow Rowell’s writing, considering I’m not much of a contemporary fan! So I can’t wait to get my teeth into the YA beauty.

3.

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it. It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers. – from Goodreads.com

I first heard of this book when Sasha Alsberg and Ben Alderson spoke about it in their Scotland Vlogs. It sounded like a really cool story, so I’ve picked up a copy to satisfy my fantasy craving!

4.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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This is a thrilling ghost-hunting teen mystery as modern-day London is plagued by a sudden outbreak of brutal murders that mimic the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper. – from Goodreads.com

I heard about Maureen Johnson through her affiliation with the Green brothers, and I actually met Maureen at The Fault in Our Stars Tour. As you know, I love retellings and I love crime thrillers, so this combination is perfect for me, and I can’t wait to read it!

5.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. – from Goodreads.com

This book has been on my radar for a while now, and with the sequel coming out in September, I need to hop to it and read the first one so I can get on with the series. If you know me, you know I love fantasy, and also magic, so I’m guessing this book is going to be getting a good review from me!

So this concludes my top five books that are at the top of my TBR. Have you read any of these? Would you recommend them to me? Or are these books at the top of your TBR too? Let me know in the comments!

Shows to Binge-Watch This Summer on Netflix (UK)

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Who doesn’t love a good binge watch? I know I do! And if you’re getting a break this summer, you’ll have lots of time on your hands to sit down and catch up on all you’ve been missing. Here are the top five TV shows I think you need to start watching.

These TV shows are in no particular order.

1.

Orange is the New Black

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The series revolves around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a woman in her 30s living in New York City who is sentenced to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary, a minimum-security women’s federal prison in upstate New York. Piper had been convicted of transporting a suitcase full of drug money for her then-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), an international drug smuggler. – from Wikipedia

The infamous prison drama, based on Piper Kerman’s real-life experiences in Danbury Minimum Security Federal Prison, is back this June with its fifth season. With only thirteen episodes per season, it’s easy to catch up in time!

2.

Riverdale

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The show features an ensemble cast based on the characters of Archie Comics, with KJ Apa in the role of Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, his next door neighbor who also happens to be crushing on him, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, his new love interest that just strolled into town and Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, his ex-best friend and the narrator of the show. The show also features Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy, the lead singer of the Pussycats, and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom, the twin sister of Jason Blossom, who is at the centre of the series’ mystery. – from Wikipedia

Another adaptation, this time based on the Archie comics. We see Archie and his friends come to live in Riverdale, a PLL-meets-OTH murder mystery, and will certainly fill the hole that Pretty Little Liars leaves in its wake when the show ends this June. Riverdale also has only thirteen episodes, and has just been renewed for season two!

3.

Stranger Things

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Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy by his friends, older brother and traumatized mother and the local police chief, amid supernatural events occurring around the town including the appearance of a psychokinetic girl who helps the missing boy’s friends in their own search. – from Wikipedia

Although Stranger Things isn’t based on a pre-existing idea, it certainly takes influence from Stephen King novels and movies like The Goonies. This show is another one with only a few episodes in its first season and has been renewed for a second coming this October.

4.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmit

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The series follows 29-year-old Kimmy Schmidt (Kemper) as she adjusts to life in New York City after her rescue from a doomsday cult in Indiana where she and three other women were held by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) for 15 years. Determined to be seen as something other than a victim and armed only with a positive attitude, Kimmy decides to restart her life by moving to New York City, where she quickly befriends her street-wise landlady Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), finds a roommate in struggling actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), and gains a job as a nanny for the melancholy and out-of-touch socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). – from Wikipedia

This show gets the award for most catchy theme tune ever. You’ll be singing it for days, guaranteed! Kimmy Schmit is written and produced by Tina Fey and has just released its third season. Each episode is only twenty minutes long, so it really doesn’t take very long to get through. The trouble is, if you binge-watch it, you’ll have to wait another year for season four!

5.

Orphan Black

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Starring Tatiana Maslany as several identical people who are clones, the series focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of one of her fellow clones, Elizabeth Childs, after witnessing Childs’ suicide. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning, and its effect on issues of personal identity. – from Wikipedia

Another science fiction pick from me, Orphan Black is a master class in acting from Tatiana Maslany, as she takes over twenty identities, some only as pictures but characters none the less. It’s quite incredible and definitely up there on my recommendation list!

So that concludes my list which I hope you will find helpful! Have you got any recommendations for me this summer? Let me know in the comments!