Best Books of Oct-Nov-Dec

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I can’t believe it’s soon to be the end of the year, and I’m not only going to be wrapping up the best books of this quarter but in a few weeks, I’ll also be listing my best books of the year! How time flies! For today, I’ll be talking about the top five books I’ve read in the past three months.

These books are in no particular order.

1.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. – from Goodreads.com

I absolutely love a YA fantasy series, especially one set in a boarding school with a supernatural/retelling element. That’s pretty much my favourite mix! I really, really enjoyed reading this and hope to continue with the series.

2.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

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The Christmasaurus is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus. It’s about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure. It’s about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music, and magic. It’s about discovering your heart’s true desire and learning that the impossible might just be possible. – from Goodreads.com

I have loved Tom Fletcher since his days in McFly, and ever since he started to release children’s books, I’ve bought them one by one. Then he announced a live show of The Christmasaurus and I knew I needed to get on reading it before I see the live show! It was such a cute story that really got me in the Christmas mood!

3.

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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“I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known…and I will be Queen of England.” Katherine of Aragon. Daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine has been fated her whole life to marry Prince Arthur of England. But tragically, aged only fifteen, Arthur falls ill and extracts from his sixteen-year-old bride a deathbed promise to marry his brother, Henry; become Queen, and fulfill their dreams and her destiny. – from Goodreads.com

I’ve wanted to read Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Novels for a really long time as I love the Tudor period, and The Constant Princess did not disappoint. It’s such an interesting point in history, and I feel like Gregory had a lot of fun filling in the blanks.

4.

The Cormoran Strike Series by Robert Galbraith

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When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case. A war veteran wounded both physically and psychologically, Strike’s life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger – from Goodreads.com

Considering that most people know that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling, I’m gathering you realise that even if this wasn’t a crime thriller, I’d still read it. I’d read JK Rowling’s shopping list and enjoy it! I actually read the whole series recently and really loved every book. I can’t wait for Lethal White, the fourth book in the series, to come out!

5.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. – from Goodreads.com

John Green is another author who’s shopping list I’d read in a heartbeat! And as soon as John announced he was going to be releasing another book, I pre-ordered that damn book in seconds! It is 100% going to be on my favourite books of 2017 list. Without a doubt.

So these are the books I read and loved in the last three months. Did you guys read any of these books? Or did you read different ones? Let me know in the comments!

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Snowy Reads for Winter!

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Christmas is fast approaching and you might want to get into the festive spirit by reading books that are all things winter-y. I particularly like reading books that feature snow, because let’s face it, everyone dreams of a white Christmas, so let me show you some of my favourites, with a readership level varying in ages.

These books are in no particular order. 

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

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A wordless story. The pictures have “the hazy softness of air in snow. A little boy rushes out into the wintry day to build a snowman, which comes alive in his dreams that night. – from Goodreads.com

One of the most classic Christmas stories (bar the Nativity), with the TV adaptation repeated on Christmas Day year after year. It’s a fantastic short story for very young readers, and a good book to read as a family.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

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The Snow Queen is a story about the strength and endurance of childhood friendship. Gerda’s search for her playmate Kay–who was abducted by the Snow Queen and taken to her frozen palace – from Goodreads.com

For slightly more capable readers, the Snow Queen is one of the original adventure stories, set against a wonderful snowy landscape. Many editions have wonderful illustrations and some are abridged for readers less confident in their reading abilities.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

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They opened a door and entered a world–Narnia–the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Lucy is the first to stumble through the back of the enormous wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old country house, discovering the magic world beyond. At first, no one believes her. But soon Edmund, Peter and Susan, too, discover the magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. And in the blink of an eye, they are changed forever. – from Goodreads.com

Perhaps the most famous winter-y read in the world of Children’s Literature, and my personal favourite. This story came second to Winnie the Pooh in David Walliams’ countdown of Britain’s Favourites Children’s Books, and perfect for readers aged seven to eleven.

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. – from Goodreads.com

Three of the biggest YA authors on the market come together to write an interweaving anthology set entirely around yule tide festivities. Each story interlinks, which bridges the gap between an anthology and a co-authored novel. This work is suitable for teen and YA readers.

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

A graphic novel suitable for older and mature readers that touches on a few tentative subjects. Blankets details elements in Craig’s life in a semi-autobiographical way, and is illustrated beautifully throughout.

This collection of books are just a few of my favourites that I like to read to get me into the Christmas spirit. (Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much, but it’s a good excuse nonetheless.) Let me know in the comments if I missed out a few of your favourites, and which ones from the list you’ve already read and like the most.

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

Top 15 Favourite Books

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At the age of (almost) 25, I have read a lot of books. I have read books I’ve loved, books I’ve hated, books that left me feeling ‘meh’, and books that I’ve abandoned. In my first quarter of a century, I’ve accumulated many books that I declare among my favourites, but these are the fifteen most loved ones that I want to share with you.

These books are in no particular order.

1

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

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I’m seven years old, accompanying Lucy Pevensie through the wardrobe and into the Western Wood. I try to reason with Edmund as we walk towards the Witch’s castle. I sharpen my blade with Peter as we prepare for battle, and I fight alongside Susan, shooting my arrow through the hearts of Narnian traitors. As I grow older, I ride alongside Shasta and Aravis as we made the journey across the desert into Archenland. I’ll see Narnia come to life, hearing the sweet sound of Aslan’s song, singing the world into creation with Digory and Polly.

2

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

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I’m eleven years old, getting my Hogwarts letter with Harry in the cupboard under the stairs. We get the train together at 11 o’clock on the 1st September, and meet Ron and Hermione along the way. I defeat Voldemort with Harry, once, twice and three times. I escape to the Burrow with the Weasley’s way too often, and tag along to the Quidditch World Cup. I stand by Harry through the rise of Voldemort and fight along side him in the Battle of Hogwarts.

3

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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It’s 2011 and I’m in Treehugger Dan’s bookshop in Budapest, Hungary. I’m 19 years old, nearly no longer a teenager, my childhood soon to be over, marked by an epic InterRail experience before university. I’m in the sale section, I see a book called Looking for Alaska by John Green for 200F, equivalent to about 50p. What draws me in is… well, everything about it. I buy it and head back to my hostel, a cute, quirky loft converted from an old town house. I sit in the bay window and devour Looking for Alaska in one sitting. I realise why I want to be a writer. I realise that grief will never leave me. I continue to seek my Great Perhaps.

4

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

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I have now “become” an adult. I’m twenty years old. I’m in my first semester of university and I have just been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, both of which I’ve read. Somewhere online, I find that the Phantom of Manhattan is the unofficial sequel to Gaston Leroux’s original novel and I fly through it in one sitting. It becomes my guilty pleasure, and much to my enjoyment, enables the musical-sequel Love Never Dies to come to fruition.

5

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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It’s the summer of 2012 and I’ve just completed my first year at university so I head into Waterstones to celebrate. I browse the shelves, when this book catches my eye. I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie, and once I read the synopsis I’m sold. I buy this in a two for one deal along with Fifty Shades of Grey, which I soon regret, but this novel serves as a reminder why picking Creative Writing as my degree is a good decision.

6

Paper Towns by John Green

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After I realise John Green has written not one, but four other books, I head to Amazon and go on a book binge buy spree. I buy An Abundance of Katherine’s, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars, his latest novel. Paper Towns arrives first, and on that first page, John Green becomes my second Auto-Buy author. Sitting in my porch/bedroom, as Spring turns to Summer in 2013, I delve into Q’s world, sitting next to him in the mini van as we make our way along the East Coast to find Margo.

7

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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It’s Christmas 2013 and I’m in New York. I head into Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue and browse the shelves aimlessly. Outside it’s snowing, and I know we have to get the Croton-Harmon train back before peak times but I can’t tear myself away. Most people are gazing up at the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center, but I’m gazing up at the rows of books before me. I’ve always wanted to read The Bell Jar, and so I buy it there and then before I could talk myself out of it. I read it on the train all the way to Tarrytown.

8

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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It’s 2014 and I’m in my final semester of university. In our Creative Visions module, we’re exploring futuristic words and thus my love for dystopian fiction is born. I spend my time trying to escape the pain of assignments and dissertation talk by curling up with this book, finding a whole new definition of the word escapism. As I read, Tally and I hover board along the skyline, wondering what exactly it is that makes a person “pretty”.

9

Flowers in the Attic and the Dollanganger Saga by VC Andrews

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Despite trying to escape talk of my pending dissertation, I can’t, but I find respite in “reading for research”. Flowers in the Attic is the first book in the Dollanganger Saga, and fills my head with rich, luxurious, gothic mansions, plot twists and betrayal. I lap it up, and am reminded that my final piece for my degree is MINE, and take notes on delicious description from Ms Andrews.

10

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

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I’ve finally left university. My dissertation is handed in and now I’m waiting on my results. Now I can read whatever books I choose, and the thought of that alone is so liberating. When I hear that Divergent is to be made into a movie, I figure it’s just another book series jumping on the coat tails of The Hunger Games, but after I decide to read the series, I realise it’s so much more. Tris goes on a journey unlike any other. She questions what it means to be selfless and brave, and questions her identity along the way. The ending to the Divergent series is heartbreaking, but proves it’s not just another book series. It’s a social commentary on human nature.

11

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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Three years worth of assigned reading stopped me from buying any new books, so as my graduation fast approaches in the Autumn of 2014, I look for exciting books to catch my eye. Rediscovering authors seems to be a habit of mine. Many years ago when I was in secondary school I read a booked called The Boyfriend List, now nearly ten years later I find We Were Liars by the very same E Lockhart. It’s my first trip into psychological thrillers and I LOVE it. I don’t realise the twist and it blows my mind.

12

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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I’m at my very first Writing Weekend as an alumni of the University of Winchester, and Belzhar has been my most anticipated read of 2014. A YA novel, inspired by The Bell Jar, set at boarding school, and it’s right up my street. Sometimes I wish I could go back to school, just so that I could choose to go to boarding school. Or sometimes I wish I could move back into Halls of Residence, where life was much more simple.

13

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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My graduation has come and gone. I really am a full fledged graduate, so I retreat to a place that makes me feel safe. I’ve spent much of the past ten years online. Not just online but ONLINE, participating in forums and chat rooms, writing in online journals, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought anyone would understand my “life online”, and I didn’t know how to communicate to anyone what that time in my life meant to me, but Rainbow Rowell does it with one swift novel: Fangirl.

14

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks… by Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs

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It’s almost Christmas again and I’ve just finished watching Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe. I quickly become obsessed with the Beat Generation and haul a tonne of books from that era. This book is the fictional account, similar to the Kill Your Darlings, of the murder of David Krammerer and the Beat Poets growing up in the underbelly of New York City. I adore this book the moment I read the first page and the moment I read the last.

15

Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I’m twenty three going on ten years old again. I’m scouting the scrapyard for junk metal with Cinder and Peony when she gets taken. I’m running with Cinder to warn Prince Kai about Levana. I’m sitting in the cell with Dr Erland when he tells her she’s the lost Princess Selene. I’m reminded that you’re never too old for fairy tales.

Did I mention any books in this list that you love too? Let me know in the comments.

blue butterfly – #18.03

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Hello love.

 

every night I dream

It’s Christmas, I dream you

take me home to your family

who say

“It wasn’t the same without you.”

We laugh, and agree, as if

the world didn’t feel quite right

without our lives

intertwined.

My Top 10 Movie Musicals

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The “movie musical” is a genre that has become increasingly popular over the years. With West End shows more popular than ever, it seems every director is jumping on the all-singing, all-dancing bandwagon. Recently, classics such as Les Miserables and Into the Woods have taken the leap from Stage to Screen starring big names like Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep. I’ve watched a fair few myself, taking pride of place in my illustrious DVD collection, so I’ll be ranking my favourites from ten to one. As always, I’ll only include films I’ve seen and can vouch for, and I’ll only include titles that have appeared on both the stage and the screen.

10

Sweeney Todd

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The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, AKA Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett. Based on the hit Broadway musical. – from IMDb

The Burton/Depp/Bonham-Carter conglomerate has been a bit hit and miss (let’s not talking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but Burton definitely got a hit with his re-imagining of the Tale of Sweeney Todd. The cinematography is sufficiently creepy, with fantastic performances from Sacha Baron Cohen as Pirelli, Jamie Campell Bower as Anthony, Ed Saunders as Toby, and Alan Rickman (RIP) as Judge Turpin.

9

Les Miserables

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In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter. The decision changes their lives for ever. – from IMDb

One of the more recent movie-musicals to hit the screen, and one of the most incredible all-star casts since Love Actually. The only reason this film doesn’t chart higher on the list is because it’s so long! The stage musical itself is generous in length, but I often don’t watch the DVD because I don’t have time to watch it in it’s entirety. Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks give standout performances, and it’s interesting to observe these stars singing live, which has never been done in a movie-musical before.

8

The Sound of Music

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A woman leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower. – from IMDb

On paper, this film shouldn’t work. Singing nuns, seven children, clothes made out of curtains, yodeling, goats and Nazis! But there’s something familiar and warm about the Sound of Music, and Julie Andrew’s portrayal of the naive and feisty Maria. In my house, it’s practically tradition to watch this ever Christmas.

7

Love Never Dies

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10 years has passed since a fire broke out in Paris – leaving only a mask behind… As the love story continues in Coney Island, NY. – from IMDb

This musical is my guilty pleasure. It seems like someone has turned Phantom of the Opera into a sticky soap-like fan-fiction, and is loosely based off of The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, the unofficial sequel to the original novel by Gaston Leroux. I’m not quite sure what Andrew Lloyd Webber was on when he wrote this musical, but there’s something beautifully bizarre that keeps me coming back.

6

Billy Elliot

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A talented young dancer has to learn to fight for his dream despite social and parental disapproval. – from IMDb

So this is a slight cheat here. Billy Elliot the original film had music in it, but wasn’t necessarily a musical. It was adapted to stage in 2005 and most recently, the live production was streamed out to hundreds of cinemas around the country, and was released on DVD. I’ve seen Billy Elliot in London four times, and I love having a piece of it to watch at home.

5

The Phantom of the Opera

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A disfigured musical genius, hidden away in the Paris Opera House, terrorizes the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégée whom he trains and loves. – from IMDb

Okay, slight cheat numero dos. I haven’t ever seen The Phantom of the Opera film starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum (can you blame me? I’ve only heard bad things), so I prefer to watch and listen to the 25th Anniversary Live performance with the Holy Trinity (Karimloo/Boggess/Fraser). I know some parts were tweeked from the stage version normally shown in London, but I really enjoy watching the Holy Trinity at their best.

4

Into the Woods

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A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree. – from IMDb

This film was my most favourite of 2015, with another all-star cast, all of whom had fantastic voices and an imaginative reworking of Sondheim’s classic tale. Meryl Streep’s performance as the Witch particularly stands out, and Corden and Blunt’s chemistry leaps off the screen, perfectly complimented by Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. The list is endless for reasons why I love this film.

3

Rent

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This is the film version of the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in the East Village of New York City struggling with life, love and AIDS, and the impacts they have on America. – from IMDb

This film was what kick-started my love for Rent. I know this ensemble doesn’t contain entirely the original cast, but having most of the originals there made it so much more special. The screenplay was also written by one of my favourite writers Stephen Chbosky who famously wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book and screenplay).

2

Jersey Boys

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The story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons. – from IMDb

My Jersey Boys obsession has been a recent discovery, as last year I saw the musical for the first time when it came nearby on tour. There’s something so electric and charming about these four guys and their dynamic that keeps their story timeless. The movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and instead of casting well known actors in the roles, Eastwood decided to cast actors who had played the roles on the stage, including John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for his performance as Frankie Valli on Broadway.

1

Mary Poppins

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A magic nanny comes to work for a cold banker’s unhappy family. – from IMDb

Mary Poppins is probably one of the greatest musicals ever written. Originally adapted from the book written by PL Travers, into the Disney Classic we know and love today. The story was then adapted onto the stage, starring a young Carrie Hope Fletcher, and closely resembled the book, rather than the sugary-sweet practically-perfect Mary that we were closely affiliated with. To me, Julie Andrews is at her best in this role and is my all time favourite movie-musical.

What do you guys think about my top ten? Have I missed any out? And do you agree or would you rather see a different film take the top spot? Let me know in the comments.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2015 (10 & 9)

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This blog post marks the beginning of a new end-of-year series I’m doing, where I count down the top ten books I read in 2015. Each post will have two books from the list, and I’ll go into detail as to what I thought of them and why they’re in my top ten.

First up we have, Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham at number ten.

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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 Shark Girl,” as she passes. – from Goodreads.com 

The first thing I loved about this book was that it was written in verse. I absolutely adore vivid, imaginative, story-telling poetry, and this book served it in abundance. One of the things that struck me was how relatable Jane was. I don’t know anyone who has lost a limb due to a shark attack, but Jane’s depression and grief at the loss of her arm was portrayed in such a way that it was difficult not to relate to her. I gave this book five stars.

Next up at number nine we have, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan. 

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Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. – from Goodreads.com 

This book was such a unique read. I absolutely adored the references to Macbeth, which is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and reading from the perspective of an albino character was so interesting. I really enjoyed the alternate narration between Duncan and Tim, and the setting of the Irving School, which both characters board at. Something I want to do in the coming year is re-read this book and examine the book’s themes, metaphors and symbols on a deeper level. I gave this book a four out of five stars.

Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at the books that made it to number eight and seven on my favourites list of 2015.