Great Reads: Non-Fiction

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I wouldn’t say I’m very well versed in non-fiction, but it’s something that has been creeping up on my TBR during this last year, so now I have a great plethora of recommendations for all your non-fiction reads. Here are the top five that I’ve chosen for you today.

These books are in no particular order.

1.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

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Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them? Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. – from Goodreads.com

Caitlin’s memoir was one of the first books I read this year. It’s compiled of hilarious personal essays on different subjects related to being a woman. It had me laughing out loud!

2.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. – from Goodreads.com

This little gem is only 64 pages, so there’s no excuse not to read it really. Adichie’s fantastic conversational style makes this easy to gobble up in one sitting and really highlights a conversation we should all be having.

3.

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales

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It’s 19 September 2010, and 21-year-old Rachel Lee has emerged from Los Angeles Superior Court, having just been sentenced to four years behind bars. A few months earlier, she had been running the Bling Ring: a gang of rich, beautiful, wild-living Valley teens who idolised celebrity, designer labels and luxury brands. Who, in 2009, became the most audacious thieves in recent Hollywood history. – from Goodreads.com

Investigative journalist, Nancy Jo Sales, researched in depth the burglaries made by the infamous Bling Ring. She interviewed the teens themselves, the families and the celebrities targeted, and made a very, VERY interesting interesting case for why people are so obsessed with celebrity.

4.

Unnaturally Green by Felicia Ricci

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In January of 2010, a wide-eyed English grad went from peddling software in NYC to understudying the lead role in WICKED the musical — her first professional theater gig (ever). UNNATURALLY GREEN is the humorous account of the entire journey, from her pit-stain-filled audition to the bittersweet closing night. – from Goodreads.com

WICKED: The Musical is one of my absolutely favourites and so when I saw this in the memoir section, I absolutely had to read it! I love the OZ books too, and Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series which is an elaboration on L. Frank Baum world. Felicia Ricci not only gives us a backstage glimpse of the musical Wicked, but also what it’s like to be a musical theatre performer.

5.

How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

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How To Be A Heroine is Samantha’s funny, touching, inspiring exploration of the role of heroines, and our favourite books, in all our lives – and how they change over time, for better or worse, just as we do. – from Goodreads.com

I absolutely gobbled up this book, and I have also identified with many literary heroines throughout my reading life. It made me want to go back and re-read all my favourite literary heroines to see what I thought of them now. Something that I feel should not be encouraged as I have a TBR pile as tall as my ceiling!

So that concludes my top five non-fiction great reads! Have I manged to sway you? Or are there some you feel I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

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#NaNoWriMo – Week 3

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Apologies for being slightly late with week three’s update. Life seems to have run away with me at the moment, but despite this I’m still making good progress. Let’s see how I’ve been doing.

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I’m yet to complete my words for today (23rd) but I’m confident that I will by midnight at the latest. I have passed the 30k mark, and even the 35k mark as well, and I am ever nearing the 40k mark with each day. As I said last week, I wanted to have 40k by the end of week three and I’m almost there, so only over 10k left to write in the last week. I’m confident that I can win NaNoWriMo again this year.

I’ve been continuing to jump around with scenes which has really freed me up and helped me get the words down. It’s also helped me flesh out the other scenes that I haven’t had at the forefront of my mind just yet. I’m still not even half way through my story and so I’m thinking my final product is going to be much longer than 50k. It will be the longest story I’ve every written, as the most I’ve ever achieved is 50k, which was last year’s effort titled The Last Four Years.

So we’re coming into the fourth and final week, and I’m hoping to just continue writing as much as possible each day. I don’t want to worry about writing loads and loads each day, as long as I can get the daily word count done, I’ll be happy. So 50k is the goal regardless of whether my story is finished or not. I’ll have plenty of time to finish it over Christmas.

Here’s to the last week!

Series I Won’t Finish

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As Frank Zappa once said: so many books, so little time, and unfortunately due to real life getting in the way I’ve had to cull a few books from my illustrious TBR shelf, and cut a few series along the way too. So I’ve put together the top five series that I regrettably won’t be finishing (anytime soon).

These books are in no particular order.

The Uglies Series 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. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever. – from Goodreads.com

I read the first book in the Uglies series for one of my classes at university and quite enjoyed it. So then I decided to read Pretties, which was book two, but enjoyed it significantly less. I don’t think I’ll be embarking on the third book, Specials, any time soon.

The Pretty Little Liars Series by Sara Shepard

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Three years ago, Alison disappeared after a slumber party, not to be seen since. Her friends at the elite Pennsylvania school mourned her, but they also breathed secret sighs of relief. Each of them guarded a secret that only Alison had known. Now they have other dirty little secrets, secrets that could sink them in their gossip-hungry world. When each of them begins receiving anonymous emails and text messages, panic sets in. Are they being betrayed by some one in their circle? Worse yet: Is Alison back? – from Goodreads.com

I have never heard of a series having so many books attached to it. The Pretty Little Liars series has sixteen books in total which must be a world record. I have read eleven of them in total but felt that after that amount, the books were a bit same-y.

The Jennifer Jones Series by Anne Cassidy

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Three children walked away from the cottages on the edge of town toward Berwick Waters. Later that day, only two of them came back. Alice Tully knows exactly what happened that spring day six years ago, though it’s still hard for her to believe it. She’ll never be able to forget, even though she’s trying to lead a normal life-she has a job, friends, and a boyfriend whom she adores. But Alice’s past is dangerous, and violent, and sad, and it’s about to rip her new life apart. – from Goodreads.com

I really enjoyed the first book in Anne Cassidy’s duology, but the second book Finding Jennifer Jones didn’t live up to the level of the first, and around a quarter of the way through I decided to put it down and preserve my love for the first book instead.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett

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Dear Reader, I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in you hands is extremely unpleasant.It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children.Even though they are charming and clever,the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. – from Goodreads.com

Unfortunately I completely missed the boat with this one, having read it only last year at the tender age of 24 when I should have read it ten years earlier! I love the movie and am really looking forward to the upcoming Netflix series, but I won’t be continuing with the books as I feel I’m a little bit too old now.

The Fallen Series by Lauren Kate

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Seventeen-Year-Old Luce is a new student at Sword & Cross, an unwelcoming boarding/reform school in Savannah, Georgia. Luce’s boyfriend died under suspicious circumstances, and now she carries the guilt over his death with her as she navigates the unfriendly halls at Sword & Cross, where every student seems to have an unpleasant—even evil—history. It’s only when she sees Daniel that her life looks a little better. But Daniel has a secret which will put their lives in danger… – from Goodreads.com

I enjoyed reading Fallen, especially in the setting at Sword and Cross. So when I found out that the next book in the series, Torment, moves away from the school and focuses on (in my opinion) the weakest element of the series (the romance), I decided not to continue with the series.

So that concludes the series that I won’t be finishing. Are there any on this list you think I should rethink? Or do you agree with my choices? Let me know in the comments!

#NaNoWriMo – Week 2

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We are officially half way through NaNoWriMo2016 which is a crazy, crazy thought. Let’s see if I’m on track to win by the end of the month. week2

I’m a day late in posting this update because I was consumed by writing last night. I have still been struggling with some scenes, and although I wanted to write the story in it’s linear timeline, I’ve decided it would be best if I jumped to the scenes that were burning at the forefront of my mind.

Whilst I’ve been mulling over this story, there have been scenes that I’ve had ready to be written, so I think it’s the best for my progress to write those scenes down first and then fill in the blanks. It certainly helps with my word count and it stops me from feeling blocked when trying to write other scenes.

I successfully reached 25,000 words on the 15th day which means I’m on target to win by the 30th. I’m not half way through my story yet, probably a third, so I’m expecting the finished product to be at least 60,000 words, which will be the most I’ve ever written for a manuscript. I don’t think I’ll complete 60k by the end of November, but I’m sure the story won’t be 100% finished by the 30th.

By the end of week three, I’d ideally like to have achieved 40,000 words, leaving a leisurely 10,000 words for the last week, but I’m not sure whether that will happen. I’ll strive for it though. That’s all I can do.

Popular Books I’ve Not Read (Yet!)

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When talking about books, so many people love to gasp in horror that I’ve not read their favourites, but in my 25 short years I guess I just haven’t got around to it yet! Here are the top books that I haven’t had the chance to pick up (yet).

These books are in no particular order.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

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In a sleepy village in the Shire, a young hobbit is entrusted with an immense task. He must make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ruling Ring of Power – the only thing that prevents the Dark Lord’s evil dominion. – from Goodreads.com

The amount of people that have told me I MUST read LoTR, especially since I am such a fan of fantasy, but I completely missed the boat when it comes to this series. It has such an incredibly large following and many dedicated readers, and I know one day I’ll finally get around to picking this series up.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

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Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. – from Goodreads.com

A few years ago this book BURST onto the scene, and garnered the same popularity that Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train earned in it’s wake. To be honest, I don’t know why I haven’t got round to reading it yet because it’s right up my alley, so perhaps I’ll place it higher up on my TBR from now on.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? – from Goodreads.com

Again, speaking of Gone Girl, it’s another book I haven’t gotten around to reading yet which is crazy because I love mystery/thrillers. I have seen the movie adaptation though which was a crazy ride in itself, but I’m hoping to complete the experience by reading the book one day.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

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Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with her foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. – from Goodreads.com

Just about everyone and their mothers have read this book and I can understand why, it is narrated by death after all, which is enough to make me pick it up too. It’s just a case of ‘so many books and so little time’ but it’s definitely one I’ll be eyeing up once my TBR pile gets a bit lower.

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

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When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? – from Goodreads.com

Like many other hardcore Potterheads, I ran to my nearest bookstore and pre-ordered The Casual Vacancy when it was announced. Soon, the gorgeous hardback was in my hands but then the reviews started to roll in and I got scared. I didn’t want anything to tarnish my precious JK Rowling, so I put the book down, un-read and waited… and waited… and never picked it back up again. I know I’ll read it one day and I know I’ll probably love it as it’s similar to one of my favourite movies Hot Fuzz, so I’m quite happy that this little gem is waiting for me for a rainy day.

So these are the top five books I’ve got on my ‘long list TBR’. Do you have them on yours too? What other books have you not gotten around to reading yet? Let me know in the comments!

 

Preparing for #NaNoWriMo2016

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I never thought I would ever finish my book, let alone have written two before I turned 25. That’s a crazy achievement for me, and it’s all thanks to NaNoWriMo. Four years before I first participated, the thought of doing a month long writing sprint filled me with anxiety. But once I found ways to prepare and manage my idea, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. So here are a few tips and tricks to get you going.

  • Find an idea you’re happy with

Writing your novel won’t be enjoyable unless you genuinely like what you’re writing! If you’re stuck for ideas, or simply want some help to guide you through the writers block, see my blog post on writing a book here.

  • Make an outline

Some people are pants-ers, some people are planners. I am personally a planner, and I feel so much more relaxed when I have an outline of a scene in my head ready to be written. Sometimes I’ll even write the dialogue in script form, just so I can get it down on the page and then convert it to prose later on.

  • Make a schedule

This is coming from a certified planner! However, designating time in your day to sit down and write will help you achieve the 1,667 words you need to win. It could be an hour before you go to work, on your commute, during your lunch break, after work or even before bed. I always find I work better in the late afternoons/evenings, so I always make sure I’m sitting poised and ready to write by then.

  • Enter in your novel

On the NaNoWriMo website, you can start entering in your novel from early October. The sooner you do it, the more committed you will be to the project. You can even upload a book cover as well, so until November comes you can get creative and make something that fully represents the novel you intend to write.

  • Add your friends!

Something that kept me going during the first NaNoWriMo I did was seeing how my friends were progressing throughout the month. Whether it’s a healthy competition or just checking in and talking through ideas, having friends by your side always makes the experience more enjoyable.

Add me to your buddy list here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/clareholmanhobbs

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Either add me to the buddy list or let me know down in the comments what you intend on writing this year. Happy writing!

National Novel Writing Month begins on November 1st and continues until November 30th. Each participant aims to write 50,000 words in a month, which averages out at 1,667 words a day. You can find all the information on the project at the website: nanowrimo.org

Reading Classics: My Tips and Tricks

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Reading the classics can sometimes be a chore, especially when you’re in school and are being forced to study the dullest novel that makes you want to fall asleep the moment you open the book. Or, perhaps you desire to be well read and want to finish the classic that everyone tells you that you should have read by now. Either way, I like to give reading classics a go, and have developed a few tips and tricks to make the whole experience a lot easier.

  • Watch the film adaptation.

I know… sacrilege! But watching the visual adaptation of the story may make it easier to follow when reading the book. For example, if a novel or play has a lot of characters, it might be easier to apply a face to the name. Think about it, you can read Romeo and Juliet whilst picturing Leonardo DiCaprio’s face the whole time. Bliss!

  • Read the reviews.

Sometimes, I feel like going into a book prepared makes the whole thing easier. If a friend of yours has said the first third of the book/play is challenging but the rest of it is worth it, you can rest easy knowing that however difficult the book may be, the ending will make up for it.

  • Read around your favourite genres.

If you love a good dystopian novel like me, read 1984 or A Clockwork Orange. If you love mystery and thriller, read through Agatha Christie’s bibliography. If you love historical fiction, why not try some Jane Austen.

  • Read from authors you’ve enjoyed before.

If you studied Catcher in the Rye at school, why not try Franny and Zooey. If you’ve studied A View from a Bridge, why not try The Crucible. Some authors might be well-known for one particular bestseller, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have more up their sleeve.

  • Read up on SparkNotes or CliffsNotes.

Reading a detailed summary, or giving context to a particularly difficult novel can make the reading experience so much more enjoyable. You can even look up the themes and symbols whilst you’re there if you really fancy a detailed reading. Besides, if you’re studying the book in school it will help with your book report or essay. (But don’t forget to cite!)

So, these are my tips and tricks for reading the classics. Remember, they’re supposed to be classics for a reason, there to be enjoyed, discussed and thought about. Sometimes it can feel laborious, but with time and effort, classics can be fantastic, and might even be some of your favourites.

Do you like reading classics, or like me, have you had trouble over the years? Let me know in the comments!