Unexpected Favourites

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I’ve been thinking a lot about books I’ve marked as favourites and why I love them so much, and a few books popped out at me as selections that I didn’t necessarily expect to love but did. I love those types of books that creep up on you in the best way, and here are a few of the biggest surprises.

1.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith. – from Goodreads.com

Before reading Blankets, I’d never really read a graphic novel before and certainly not one of that size. (The book comes in at just under 600 pages!) But I absolutely gobbled this story up and loved every minute of it. I would definitely consider reading more Craig Thompson books and I’d like to branch out in my graphic novel exploration and read more of the genre too.

2.

Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews

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It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake–a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father. So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic. Just for a little while… – from Goodreads.com

I was guided to read this book for my dissertation but quickly fell in love with the story and read all of the books in the series. This book, at the time, wasn’t something I was particularly interested in but the gothic tone and style of writing really drew me in. It’s such a shame that Virginia didn’t write more books before her untimely death, as her ghostwriter isn’t quite up to the standard that Andrews set out.

3.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The spirit of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon describes her murder, her surprise at her new home in heaven, and her witness to her family’s grief, efforts to find the killer, and attempts to come to terms with what has happened. – from Goodreads.com

The Lovely Bones has such a unique style of writing that I wondered whether I would take to it, but really I didn’t need to worry. The Lovely Bones swept me up and before I knew it I had finished it. I did absolutely love it and I’ve gone onto read Lucky, which is Alice Sebold’s memoir, and I adored that too. On my TBR, I have her latest book, The Almost Moon, which I can’t wait to read!

So that concludes a few of my unexpected favourites. I’m sure this blog post will be one of many, as the books I read quite often surprise me! Do you have any unexpected favourites? Has my list of glowing reviews made you add these books to your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 10 Books of 2017 (4&3)

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We are almost at the end of my 2017 best books countdown! If you haven’t been following my previous blog posts, I am posting every day with two books from my top ten of 2017. Now, we are well within the top five now so here are with numbers four and three.

4.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. – from Goodreads.com

I started reading this in tandem with the Hulu series that also came out this year. It was such a great TV show and I absolutely adored the book too. It’s definitely up there with my favourite modern classics! It’s quite scary to think that one day this could be our society, and Atwood definitely has seen something in our future and brought it to light. Now we must do all we can to prevent it and make better lives for ourselves and others. Let’s consider this a warning, as all good dystopian books are.

3.

Cross Stitch (Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon

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(Honourable mention to Dragonfly in Amber, also by Diana Gabaldon)

In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds. A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. – from Goodreads.com

I began watching the TV show and knew immediately I had to stop and read the book. It was a story so captivating and beautifully set that I knew I must read it immediately. I wasn’t disappointed! I adored Outlander/Cross Stitch and went on to read Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the series, which I enjoyed, although it was not to the standard of Cross Stitch in my opinion. I then went back to watching season one and two.

Tomorrow, I’ll be concluding my top best books from 2017 with numbers one and two on my list.

#NaNoWriMo2017 – Week 1

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So the first week of NaNoWriMo kicked off on a Wednesday this year, so I spent every night after work writing down those words needed to get to the fifty thousand benchmark. Let’s have a look at my stats!

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I kicked off this writing month completing almost 2,000 words in the first couple of days, which has given me a massive head start on my word count. As I said before, I’m reworking an old manuscript that I worked on last year for the Camp edition of NaNoWriMo. Having something concrete to work from has definitely helped give me a foundation, and I’d recommend it to anyone to enter into NaNo with as much material as possible, whether that be a thorough outline or a first draft like me, I’ve found it really, really helps.

Something I did struggle with this week, particularly on Saturday, was writing outside of my routine. I found that coming home from work and sitting down to write every day made it much easier for me to get into the groove. When I tried to write on a Saturday afternoon, I found it hard to get my head in the right space to write, so I’m going to try and keep it the same each day to keep with a routine. Whether I’ll be able to do that or not, I don’t know but I’m hopeful.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What’s your progress like? And what genre are you writing? Let me know in the comments!

Most Read Authors

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Ever since I started reading independently, and choosing books for myself, I’ve racked up quite a few books by the same author. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than waiting with bated breath for an author to release their new book and sliding it onto your shelf alongside their others. So over the years, here are the authors I’ve read (and loved) the most.

These books are in no particular order.

(Disclaimer: I’ve tried not to include authors whose series I’ve read)

1.

Dorothy Koomson

 

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Fiction and storytelling were still a HUGE passion of mine and I continued to write short stories and novels every spare moment that I got. In 2001 I had the idea for The Cupid Effect and my career as a published novelist began. – from Goodreads.com

My sister bought me The Cupid Effect when I was a teenager and I gobbled it up. Luckily, Dorothy Koomson is one of those authors than manages to release a book every year, so I didn’t have to wait long for my next read. I got a bit out of sync with the releases whilst I was at university, but so far I’ve read eight of her twelve books!

2.

Jacqueline Wilson

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One of Jacqueline’s most successful and enduring creations has been the famous Tracy Beaker, who first appeared in 1991 in The Story of Tracy Beaker. This was also the first of her books to be illustrated by Nick Sharratt. – from Goodreads.com

I, like most young kids, was introduced to the world of Jaqueline Wilson thanks to the TV show of Tracy Beaker on CBBC. Cue me reading every single Jaqueline Wilson book ever released! I don’t think there was a kid in my school who didn’t read and love JW books. They became a cornerstone of a 90s kid’s childhood!

3.

E Lockhart

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E. Lockhart is the author of Genuine Fraud, We Were Liars, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The Boyfriend List and several other novels. – from Goodreads.com

The Boyfriend List was gifted to me when I was 14 by my Mum and I absolutely adored it. I didn’t read another E Lockhart book until We Were Liars, released in 2014, but I made the effort to go back and read all of the books I’d missed. I haven’t caught up with the Ruby Oliver series yet, but Lockhart’s latest, Genuine Fraud, is down to be one of my favourites of the year!

4.

Roald Dahl

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His first children’s book was The Gremlins, about mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore. The book was commissioned by Walt Disney for a film that was never made, and published in 1943. Dahl went on to create some of the best-loved children’s stories of the 20th century, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach. – from Goodreads.com

All of Roald Dahl’s books were published before I was born, so after reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first, I methodically went through and read all of Dahl’s books throughout my childhood. I haven’t read all of them, but some of his stories are my absolute favourites, and I hold a soft spot for Dirty Beasts and Revolting Rhymes. I think it’s where my love of poetry was born!

5.

John Green

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John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. – from Goodreads.com

John Green’s Looking for Alaska really kick-started my love of YA when I first read it in 2011. I didn’t actually get into YA properly until 2014 but this book always held a special place in my heart, and still does! Then, when The Fault in Our Stars was released in 2012, I quickly ordered the rest of his books and went on a binge reading spree to get caught up. I’m so excited for Turtles All the Way Down to be released this October!

So these are the authors whose books I’ve read the most! Are any of these authors on your list? Or do you have different authors whose books you’ve read the most? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 #YALit Ships

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One thing that YA literature does so well is romance! Whether it be a subplot, or from the romance genre itself, the relationships included in YA books are always exciting. Having said that, some are susceptible to insta-love, some are triangles or even squares, but overall, the good romances far outweigh the bad. So here are my top five that I want to share with you.

These ships are in no particular order.

1.

Cinder/Kai

(from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer)

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(c) Hamabee

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation. – from Goodreads.com

Even though Cinder is a Cinderella retelling, and so it would be obvious she ended up with the Prince, I was still rooting for Cinder and Kai from the moment they met at Cinder’s repair shop. There was something so un-Prince like when Kai was introduced, and I love how he accepts her for who she is.

2.

Hazel/Gus

(from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)

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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. – from Goodreads.com

The one thing I love about The Fault in Our Stars is that there is no love triangle. The romance is totally focused on Hazel and Gus supporting each other through difficult times, spending time together and having fun. Of course, this story is heart-wrenching, but Gazel‘s love even transcends time, which makes it pretty epic to me!

3.

Charlotte/Jamie

(from A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro)

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(c) Epic Reads

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar. From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. – from Goodreads.com

If you’re an avid watcher of the BBC series Sherlock, you might be aware of the intense Holmes/Watson shipping that has been born from the show. This intense relationship has definitely translated into Cavallaro’s novel based on the detective duo! Once again, the on and off, friends or more relationship is just as fast paced as the story, and keeps you gunning for the couple, right up until the end. I’m sure we’ll find out whether Charlotte and Jamie get together in The Case for Jamie, scheduled to be released in 2018.

4.

Gwenyth/Gideon

(from The Precious Stone Trilogy by Kerstin Gier)

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Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century. – from Goodreads.com

Although there was no doubt in my mind that Gwen and Gideon would end up together, there was certainly lots of back and forth from the both of them throughout the trilogy, enriched by their witty banter and natural chemistry. There’s something about this time traveling couple that has me begging for a sequel!

5.

Rose/Dimitri

(from The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead)

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Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them. – from Goodreads.com

I saw the Vampire Academy film before I read the books (shock horror) and loved how Rose and Dimitri’s chemistry leaped off of the screen. I was also happy to find the same for the book and was impressed about how Mead navigated the, always awkward, student-mentor relationship. This was one of the first ships that I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, and really kept me on my toes right up until the last book!

So these are my top five ships from the YA Literature scene! Are these some of your favourite ships? Or do you have some you think I’ll like? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Great Reads: Historical Fiction

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The appeal of historical fiction lies in the ability to be nostalgic for a time long ago, whether you yourself were present or not. I love the occasional historical fiction novel, and I’ve read a few in my time that I’ve loved, so these are the ones I want to share with you.

1.

A Little in Love by Susan E. Fletcher

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As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls’ paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive. – from Goodreads.com

I think most people have heard of Les Miserables, and even more know the story. But do you know Eponine’s story? If no, fear not, Susan E. Fletcher has got you covered. Written from Eponine’s perspective, this companion novel chronicles her journey in Victor Hugo’s classic novel.

2.

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice by Natasha Farrant

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A spirited, witty and fresh reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! Lydia is the youngest Bennet sister and she’s sick of country life – instead of sewing and reading, she longs for adventure. When a red-coated garrison arrives in Merryton, Lydia’s life turns upside down. As she falls for dashing Wickham, she’s swept into a whirlwind social circle and deposited in a seaside town, Brighton. Sea-bathing, promenades, and scandal await – and a pair of intriguing twins. Can Lydia find out what she really wants – and can she get it? – from Goodreads.com

Similar to A Little in Love, Natasha Farrant’s Lydia narrates the story of Pride and Prejudice from Lydia Bennet’s perspective. We know she runs away to Brighton and ends up marrying the devilishly handsome George Wickham, but what do we know about what she got up to there? In Farrant’s novel, we can certainly find out!

3.

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

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Judith can’t speak. Ever since the horrifying trauma that left her best friend dead and Judith without her tongue, she’s been a pariah in her close-knit community of Roswell Station; even her own mother won’t look her in the eye. All Judith can do is silently pour out her thoughts and feelings to the love of her life, the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember – even if he doesn’t know it – her childhood friend, Lucas. – from Goodreads.com

When I first picked this book up, I didn’t realise that it was historical fiction. I’m not sure where I first read the synopsis but my brain assumed it was a contemporary, and so when I began reading the opening pages, I was definitely surprised. Having said that, the book gripped me from the first page and I still think about this book a lot even to this day, even though I read it two years ago. I definitely haven’t read a book like it since!

So these are my recommendations to you for historical fiction. Have you got any for me to try out? And are you going to put these books on your TBR pile? Let me know in the comments!

#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.