Best Books of Apr-May-Jun 2017

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At the end of March, I wrote a blog post about the top books I had read in the first three-month period of the year. This is owing to the fact that when I do a yearly round-up, a lot of the books I read, I have enjoyed but because I only do a top ten, they miss out on the list. So I’ve decided to do a three-month roundup, to make sure those books I really enjoyed get their honourable mention that might narrowly miss out on my yearly list. So here are the books I’ve chosen from April, May, and June.

1.

The End of Oz by Danielle Paige

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My name is Amy Gumm. When a tornado swept me away to the magical land of Oz, I was given a mission: Dorothy must die. But just when we thought it was safe to start rebuilding the damaged land of Oz, we were betrayed. Now I’m following the Road of Yellow Brick as it helps me escape toward the mysterious land of Ev, where the Nome King rules a bleak and angry world. I thought my job was over, but it’s only just beginning. – from Goodreads.com

I can’t believe this series is over! I originally picked up Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige in 2015, right at the beginning of when I started book blogging. I really liked it, and there were minimal retellings of the Oz books at the time, and so ended up waiting with bated breath for The Wicked Will Rise to be released in 2016. Now, we’ve had the last ever book in the series and I’m still struggling to accept the fact that there will be no more books!

2.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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When aging brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help with chores around their farm, Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, neither is prepared for the feisty and imaginative redheaded girl who is mistakenly brought to them instead. Nor are they prepared for the way in which she will change their lives. Through a series of hilarious misadventures, Anne’s uncompromising spirit makes her a striking presence in the close-knit village, bringing new friendships, first crushes, and, for her foster parents, a love and openness unimaginable before her arrival. – from Goodreads.com

Anne of Green Gables has been on my radar for a while, but my urge to read it increased when I watched the Netflix series Anne with an E, which is based on the novels by L. M. Montgomery. I found Rachel McAdam’s narration to be simply charming and I loved reliving the story of Anne and the Cuthberts. I can’t wait for season 2!

3.

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C Hines

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Cinderella – whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (Nee Danielle de Glas) – marries Prince Armand. But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia – otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty – comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away. That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting. Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains? – from Goodreads.com

This was another book that I picked up really early on in my book blogging journey and I’ve ONLY just gotten around to reading it! As you know, I love retellings, and so the Princess novels, of which there are four, encompass quite a few fairy tale characters, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and many more. It was such a fun read and I’m really looking forward to moving onto The Mermaid’s Madness, where the Little Mermaid will make an appearance!

4.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. – from Goodreads.com

Thanks to Netgalley I was able to secure an advanced reader copy of this book to read on my e-reader. It was really fast paced, really fun and I was quite surprised at the ending! It’s definitely going to be up there with the top mysteries of the YA genre when it gets released.

5.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp

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If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This edition is a copy of the volume in Hogwarts School Library, where it is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis. – from Goodreads.com

I don’t ever remember reading this companion novel when I was younger, so I decided that during @readbyzoe’s #averypottersummer read-a-thon, I would FINALLY pick it up. I absolutely love Rowling’s companion novels. It’s such an eye-opener into the wizarding world and goes to show just how much depth J.K. has gone into over the years writing the Potter books. I loved it and it’s a must read for any Potter fan!

So these are the best books of April, May, and June! I can’t believe we’re half way through the year now. So it probably won’t be long before I’m rounding up another three months at the end of September. Have you got any books you read and loved in the last three months? Or maybe you read a few of these as well? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Bookish Places to Visit in England

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I love travelling as it is, but what I love more than that is travelling to places of literary interest. London is a great place to begin, it being the capital and all, especially as there are so many blue plaques to find. But there are many more places outside of London that you can visit. Here are a few I hope to get to in the near future.

Oxford

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Oxford is probably one of the most literary places in England! The origins of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and even Lewis Carroll who attended Christ Church College. You might be aware of the famous Inklings who, together with Lewis and Tolkien, met often at the Eagle and Child pub to share their work. To top it off, even a few scenes of Harry Potter were filmed around the city.

Yorkshire

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Yorkshire is world-famous in particular for the Bronte family. Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three sisters who wrote some of the most prolific and well-loved classics, and they lived with the rest of their family in Haworth, a small town not too far from Leeds where their father was the priest there. Another noteworthy literary site is the burial place of Sylvia Plath in Heptonstall, which also resides not too far from Leeds.

Edinburgh

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I didn’t realise that Edinburgh was as literary as it is, but in fact, it is very literary! Arthur Conan Doyle was born and raised here, in 11 Picardy Place, where there is a Sherlock Holmes memorial statue and the Conan Doyle Pub to celebrate the writer’s life. JK Rowling also wrote the majority of the first few Harry Potter books in and around Edinburgh. The Elephant House Cafe boasts that it housed the writer as she was drafting the famous Potter books.

Dublin

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Dublin is home to many, many literary greats! Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and James Joyce to name a few! It’s picturesque and hygge aesthetic is enough to set any blogger’s and book lover’s hearts alight! Joyce even based a short story anthology around the city he loved so dearly, titled Dubliners. If you’re looking for a bit more information on Dublin Writers History, there’s even a Writer’s Museum to get you clued up.

Devon

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In particular for fans of Agatha Christie, whose holiday home Greenway is now owned and maintained by the National Trust and well worth a visit if you’re a hardcore fan. Devon was also home to Sylvia Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, and was also the setting and inspiration for the popular Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

These five places are on top of my literary bucket list, and hopefully after this post, they’ll be on yours too. Is there anywhere you’d like to go and visit? Literary or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Plays

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I love going to the theatre as much as possible, but when I can’t make it, just simply reading a play will do. Here are my top five favourites that I think are GREAT!

These plays are in no particular order.

1

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

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A group of strangers is stranded in a boarding house during a snow storm, one of whom is a murderer. – from Goodreads.com

I first saw this play on tour when it came to Eastbourne and then I saw it in London where it is the longest running play ever, and has been running for 64 years! Also THAT PLOT TWIST THO

2

An Inspector Calls by JB Priestly

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The action of the play occurs in an English industrial city, where a young girl commits suicide and an eminently respectable British family is subject to a routine inquiry in connection with the death. An inspector calls to interrogate the family, and during the course of his questioning, all members of the group are implicated lightly or deeply in the girl’s undoing. The surprising revelation, however, is in the inspector… – from Goodreads.com

I studied this play at school, as one does, and was also completely blown away by the ending! I’ve not ever seen it live on stage but the BBC did a fantastic adaptation of it with David Thewlis as the Inspector, and it’s definitely worth a watch!

3

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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The enduring classic drama of the Salem witch trials was inspired by the political witch-hunting activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the ’50s. Though set in the 17th century, “The Crucible” presents issues still gnawing at modern society. – from Goodreads.com

Another that I’ve never seen live but the movie with Daniel Day-Lewis is outstanding! This was another play that I read and studied in school and I still love it even to this day.

4

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

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It is 1890’s England and two young gentlemen are being somewhat limited with the truth. To inject some excitement into their lives, Mr Worthing invents a brother, Earnest, as an excuse to leave his dull country life behind him to pursue the object of his desire, the ravishing Gwendolyn. While across town Algernon Montecrieff decides to take the name Earnest, when visiting Worthing’s young ward Cecily. The real fun and confusion begins when the two end up together and their deceptions are in danger of being revealed. – from Goodreads.com

Again, I’ve never seen the Importance of Being Earnest on the stage but I’ve read the play and seen the film starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth which is brilliant! A definitely must for fans of the play, or for someone looking to know the story better.

5

Blood Brothers by Willy Russell

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A Liverpudlian West Side Story: twin brothers are separated at birth because their mother cannot afford to keep them both. She gives one of them away to wealthy Mrs Lyons and they grow up as friends in ignorance of their fraternity until the inevitable quarrel unleashes a blood-bath. – from Goodreads.com

I first studied this play in GCSE Drama which ignited my love for it. Blood Brothers by Willy Russell was the basis for the musical of the same name, which I saw when I was in the US and cried my eyes out. It’s such an amazing piece of work and I would recommend it to anyone!

So those are my top five dramatic recommendations. Do you read plays a lot? Do you have any on your list you’d like to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

Underrated BookTube Channels

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There seems to be a big divide between those who are “Youtubers” and those who have YouTube channels, the former having subscribers coming out of their ears and the latter being uncovered diamonds. Success is not a bad thing AT ALL, but there are a lot of hidden gems that you’ll thank me for signposting your way.

All of these channels have under 100,000 subscribers.

WhittyNovels

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Whitney is a no nonsense kinda gal (with hysterical snapchat updates that are usually daily!), and speaks openly on gender studies, diverse books and has no problems calling out authors on problematic content! (See her review on Goodreads of November 9 by Colleen Hoover). She’s hilarious, inspiring and is incredibly creative. Check out her journal flip-throughs if you need convincing.

HaileyInBookland

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Hailey recently changed her YouTube channel name from HailsHeartsNYC to HaileyInBookland to reflect her deep love of Alice in Wonderland. In fact, you should subscribe purely for her Alice memorabilia haul. It’s awesome! Hailey posts regular videos such as hauls, reviews and unboxings. It’s a crime she hasn’t got more subscribers!

TashaPolis

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I’ve decided that Tasha is Queen of the Fangirls. Not only does she read a lot, but she also is a great lover of Once Upon a Time, one of my favourite TV shows. She uploads unboxings, reviews, hauls, tags, vlogs of book-ish events and so much more. You need to check her out because she is GOALS!

PadfootandProgs07

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Raeleen has a fantastic mix between YA books, graphic novels and adult books. One of my favourite reads Night Film by Marisha Pessl was down to her recommendation! She’s un-apologetically honest about disliking some books, particularly those that are over hyped. Raeleen paves her own way in the BookTube community and that’s something that should be celebrated!

LucyTheReader

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Lucy is not only the Queen of Contemporary, she’s also the Queen of Classics too! Her recommendations and reviews on all books, but particularly her classics, makes it inspiring to read books which we might find difficult. Lucy is such a pioneer of the UKYA book scene and her passion and love for books deserves to be recognised!

So these lovely ladies are the top five that I would pick for you to subscribe to. They really are a fantastic bunch with lots of differing opinions on books and all bring something unique to the BookTube table. Are any of these channels your favourites? Or do you have a favourite channel you think I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Dystopia

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The dystopia genre has become increasingly popular thanks to the likes of The Hunger Games and the Divergent Series. Many authors have followed in their book-ish footsteps, some riding on the coattails of the dream, and others being established in their own right. I’ll be giving you a comprehensive top five list of great dystopia reads for you to get your teeth into.

These books are in no particular order.

1

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. – from Goodreads.com

This was probably the first dystopia I ever read, and I didn’t even realise it was a dystopia! This collection of books were exciting and action packed beyond belief. A really good starting point for someone looking to get into the dystopia genre.

2

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. – from Goodreads.com

This book perfectly captures not only the horrors of World War but also the hope for a better life that comes afterwards. Besides, who wouldn’t want to hole up in an idyllic house in the countryside? Me, please!

3

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world– and it isn’t very pretty. – from Goodreads.com

I was a bit skeptical at first upon reading the synopsis for this book, as I thought it would all be a bit obvious. However, I really, really enjoyed reading Uglies and thought the world that Westerfeld created was very vivid. It’s a book that gives a great message and is a well developed dystopia too.

4

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim. – from Goodreads.com

In the short time it took to read this book, I was in a perpetual state of disgust and fascination. There most disconcerting thing about this novel was that this could definitely be our future! That is a very, very scary thought.

5

Never Let Me Go by Kauzo Ishiguro

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As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. – from Goodreads.com

I never thought of this book as a dystopia, but it is set in the future and a strange one at that. It oddly mirrors the world we know today except with the appearance of clones. It certainly makes a comment on how we live our lives and what it means to be human.

So these are my list of great reads for the dystopia genre. Have you read any of these? Or do you have a few you’d like to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

 

Why I Buy Multiple Copies of Books

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book lover is expected to hoard many editions of the same book. I am one of those book lovers, in fact, I like to bump my title up to ‘book collector’ because that’s exactly what I do. I collect books, and in this blog post, I’ll be telling you why. As an example, I’ll be using one of my favourite books Looking for Alaska by John Green as an example.

First Editions

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If you rank a book high enough on your list of favourites, when you see a first edition for the right price it should be made illegal not to buy it. Whenever I tell Bob or Sally that ‘I have a first edition of Book Title by Author’ they always say, ‘oh my god you can sell it on EBay for X amount in a few years. That’ll be great!’, and I say ‘No Sally, take your blasphemous mouth out of my bedroom’ as I proceed to nap with said book in my arms for the rest of time. You heard it here first.

Paperbacks

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You have two options, you have the general paperback or the mass-market paperback. I personally am a fan of both. I love the chunky little books that fit snugly in my rucksack next to my wand and invisibility cloak. If I’m conducting a re-read, I don’t want to take my first edition hardback out of it’s shrine and lug it around where people could sneeze on it or spill their coffee on it. No thank you. I’ll buy a paperback which I can ruin (in a controlled, artistic way) to my hearts content.

Collectors Editions

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Collectors editions, illustrated editions, anniversary editions, you name it, I’ve got it. Quite often, they are not just a reissue with a different cover, some actually have extra content which is always exciting! For example, the anniversary edition of Looking for Alaska has questions and answers with John Green and deleted scenes. That’s gold for a fan-girl like me!

Audiobooks

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I am personally a huge fan of audiobooks and the fact that you can now upgrade your ebooks with audio for cheap is something I am delighted about! Having the audiobook in your library is not the same as a physical book. It just means you can do things hands free and read at the same time!

EBook

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To be honest, now that you can upgrade with audio, it’s even more of a reason to get the e-book on your Kindle, just in case your favourite novel gives you the option to (most do!). Also, if you’re a Kindle/E-Reader kind of person, you can literally carry around multiple books in your pocket, and you need an e-version of your favourite in case you feel the need for a spontaneous re-read.

Editions to Annotate

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This is more of a personal one. I love annotating my books and so I don’t particularly want to deface my most loved first edition or my collectors edition, so for someone like me who loves to highlight and scribble, it’s worth getting a second hand paperback to do with as I please.

Edition to Lend to Friends/Family

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Quite honestly, lending books to people is like ripping out a piece of my soul. It’s like parting with a child. Like saying goodbye to a loved one before a long trip. My way of loosening the heart strings is to buy a dog-eared second hand copy to lend to people. That way, if that person never gives it back, then not only can they be sent to a special place reserved for book steal-ers but you can also rest assured that all of your copies are safe in your shrine, ready for you to pet them gently.

So that is why I buy multiple copies of books! Not that I have to justify myself or anything because I’m an adult and I can do what I want. Do you buy multiple copies? What book do you have multiple copies of? Let me know in the comments!

Places to Buy Cheap Books

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The way I see it, you can spend roughly £6 on a nice new paperback, which isn’t that expensive at all. Or you can go to a charity shop and buy 4-6 almost-as-good-as-new copies for the same price. I understand that when you buy books second hand, the author doesn’t get paid as they would if you bought from a main stream retailer, but some people cannot afford to buy books full price. That’s not a criticism against them, that’s just a fact of life.

I like to buy a mix of new and second hand books, because I like to support charities as well as authors. So buying books is one thing, but buying books cheaply, or on a budget is another matter entirely. Whatever your reasoning, I’m going to let you in on some of my book buying secrets I’ve found over my twenty-four years of book loving.

(I would just like to mention before we start that I live in the UK and so I can only speak for shipping to and from the UK, not other countries. I also HAVE NOT been sponsored by any of these companies. I just buy my books from them most of the time!)

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Amazon Market Place

This might seem relatively obvious, but Amazon Market Place is great and isn’t just for used books, it has a new option as well. It even grades how acceptable the copy is, and if you’re like me and you don’t mind a well-loved, battered, slightly annotated copy then this option is for you. Many smaller companies like  World of Books and Book Depository (both wonderful places to buy second hand or new books, see WoB’s 3-4-2 deal on their website and BD has free shipping!) both sell through Market Place so you can still buy through a name you know and trust. Most used books go for 1p on the Market Place, with £2.80 postage, so you’re likely to find something you like, in good condition, for a fraction of the price you would pay usually. Amazon also fulfills the postage options on some books so you can buy it alongside other Amazon products and combine the postage charge.

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Ebay

Most people associate Ebay with bidding for items, and that sweat-drenched countdown that occurs in a bidding war. Actually, there are many “buy now” options that also give you a good deal. Once again, World of Books and Book Depository and other book outlets also sell through Ebay so you’re likely to find you’re buying from a company you trust rather than an individual seller. That being said, a lot of people buy books, read them once and then sell them on for a fraction of the price, or alternatively a lot of unwanted Christmas books go up in the New Year so you could find an amazing deal.

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The Works

So, this may only be relevant if you’re a UK resident but The Works is a great place to buy cheap books. It’s billed as a craft store, and sells How-To and DIY books, but it also sells a good amount of fiction books too. On their website they recently had a deal for six fiction books for £10, which averages out at £2 a book, which is cheaper than Amazon Market Place and certainly cheaper that some charity shops. Which brings me onto my next topic…

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Charity Shops

Again, this may only be relevant if you’re a UK resident but charity shops are a massive thing in England (particularly the South, I think) but in America you might call them thrift stores, or maybe just second hand stores. In Bexhill, where I live, we have 24 charity shops (and counting) and I often like to wander the shelves and see what people have been reading. Once again, you find the books are often in mint condition, having been read once and then given away for the charities to sell. Big names include Oxfam who have stores dedicated to books! I have bought books for 10p ranging up to £2.50-£3 depending on the shop.

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Amazon Kindle

I know. I KNOW. Some people may feel that this option is sacrilegious to our beloved books. We cover their little ears when we talk about the controversial e-book, but hear me out people. HEAR ME OUT. E-books can, not always, but can be cheaper than physical books. I’ve downloaded a vast amount of free e-books, some being 10p, some 20p, some 50p, some £1 and they’re all relatively newly released books that you can have and to hold and read to your hearts content. AND You don’t need need to buy a Kindle to read them, you can just download the app (for free) and read book after book after book without having to carry them around with you. Kindle always offer Daily Deals too, and now that Audible is part of the Amazon family, you can upgrade your e-experience with an audiobook too. Just to give you a little taste of heaven, I bought E Lockhart’s We Were Liars on Kindle for 99p and then upgraded with audio for 99p. That’s a book and an audiobook for under £2!

So these are my trade secrets of the book world, take them, use them, abuse them (nicely) and go forth and buy books my young friends! Let me know in the comments if you get any good deals!