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!

 

 

Big Books: Over 500 Pages

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As I said in my Quick Reads post: I like big books and I cannot lie. I don’t always like to read books with lots of pages, as sometimes they can be quite intimidating, but occasionally I can’t resist and sit down for the long haul. Here are some of the bigger books that I’ve absolutely loved and want to share with you.

Please note that the number of pages is subject to the edition.

1.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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Number of Pages: 593

Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father. On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid. The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality. – from Goodreads.com

One of my favourite reads from last year, Pessl’s Night Film is not only told in prose but also articles and web pages, which makes it stand out from the rest in its field.

2.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

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Number of Pages: 802 

Sweeping from a harsh land of cold to a summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, A Game of Thrones tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. – from Goodreads.com

I don’t think there’s a person on the planet that hasn’t heard of Game of Thrones, and whilst you wait for season seven to start, why not go back to where it all began with the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

3.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

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Number of Pages: 608

One beautiful March morning, a student goes to school with guns instead of books, and starts shooting. Ten people are killed, and the local town is left reeling. In the search for justice and explanations which follows, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case is the state’s best witness – but she can’t remember what happened in front of her own eyes. Or can she? – from Goodreads.com

This was the first ever Picoult book I read and I absolutely adored it. The way the book was crafted and woven together was magical to watch and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

4.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Number of Pages: 1,463

Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. – from Goodreads.com

Perhaps for the most dedicated fans of Les Miserables The Musical or the 2012 film, the original works that inspired both is nearly a beastly 1500 pages. I have read it and I loved it!

5.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Number of Pages: 512

This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. – from Goodreads.com

Retellings are very common, but finding one as sublime as Sittenfeld’s Eligible is slim. This is another book I read last year and absolutely loved! Now it’s the top of my recommendation list.

So these are my top five books that are definitely worth your time, despite how big they seem. In a lot of these cases, the pages are just a number so you’ll end up flying through them. Do you have any big books you think I’ll love? Let me know in the comments!

Getting Out of a Reading Slump: My Top Tips

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Being in a reading slump is the worst possible state for a reader. You sit there wanting to read all the books on your shelf, and nothing captures your interest, even one of your most anticipated reads. Sometimes it can last a few days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, but to give you a helping hand, here are a few of my top tips on getting out of a reading slump.

  • Try a quick read.

Reading a short, fast-paced book might just be all you need to propel you out of a reading slump. It might be a haiku, a poem, a short story, a novella or even a novel. Maybe even try a quick read in a different genre if you’re feeling adventurous, like non-fiction. If you’re searching for something to read, you can check out my blog post on quick reads for a few suggestions.

  •  Go to a bookshop and read some blurbs.

Getting yourself in a new and exciting book environment might get you into the right reading place again. So head on down to your local bookshop and start browsing! You don’t have to buy anything, but of course, we wouldn’t blame you if you did! Picking up a handful of books that make your bookish ears prick up might just give you the inspiration and interest to get reading again.

  • Take a break from reading.

If nothing is working, take a break. Don’t force yourself or feel guilty about not reading, or not being able to read. Reading is our most favourite and beloved pastime. Ultimately, reading is fun and it shouldn’t be a chore or something you put yourself through, so take a break until you find a book that gets you excited, or makes you feel that spark again.

  • Watch the movie first!

I know. BOOK BLASPHEMY. But if you’re really struggling to get into a particular book, you can watch the film before reading the book so you can get to grips with the story. This might be a good idea if you’re looking to read classics in particular, as there are lots of different adaptations to choose from, and the style of writing might be quite difficult to get into.

  • Re-read an old favourite.

Sometimes, it’s just best to go back to what you know and love. Re-reading something that is comfortable and familiar might just make you feel better about reading again. And who doesn’t love a good re-read every now and again?!

So these are my top tips for getting out of a reading slump. Are you in a reading slump right now? Do you have any go-to ideas for when you’re falling out of love with reading? Let me know in the comments!

Quick Reads: Under 200 Pages

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I love big books and I cannot lie. But sometimes there’s nothing better than a quick read, a fast-paced story to keep you going. Whether you want something to take away with you on holiday or you’re looking to keep up that Goodreads goal, quick reads work for everyone. Here are a few of my favourites.

Please be aware that the number of pages listed is subject to the edition. 

1.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

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Number of Pages: 188

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. – from Goodreads.com

One of my favourite classics, and a rich and beautiful story too.

2.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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Number of Pages: 194

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. As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. – from Goodreads.com

The YA pick of the bunch. Rosoff manages to create such a layered world in such a small amount of pages.

3.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Number of Pages: 102

Orwell wrote the novel at the end of 1943, but it almost remained unpublished. Its savage attack on Stalin, at that time Britain’s ally, led to the book being refused by publisher after publisher. Orwell’s simple, tragic fable, telling what happens when the animals drive out Mr Jones and attempt to run the farm themselves, has since become a world-famous classic. – from Goodreads.com

Only just coming up to 100 pages, this novella is simple and easy to read, whilst also having political undertones to make you think.

 4.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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Number of Pages: 106

As drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other – and a dream that they will one day have some land of their own. Eventually, they find work on a ranch, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie becomes a victim of his own strength. – from Goodreads.com

Another entry that only just graces 100 pages. Arguably, Steinbeck’s most famous work and the gentle, yet heartbreaking tale of the lengths one goes to for friendship.

5.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

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Number of Pages: 174

The terrible spectacle of the beast, the fog of the moor, the discovery of a body, this classic horror story pits detective against dog. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on the wild Devon moorland with the footprints of a giant hound nearby, the blame is placed on a family curse. It is left to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to solve the mystery of the legend of the phantom hound before Sir Charles’ heir comes to an equally gruesome end. – from Goodreads.com

One of four Sherlock Holmes novels, but by no means the shortest. In some editions, A Study in Scarlet is only 108 pages!

So this concludes my top five list of quick reads under 200 pages! Are any of these in your favourites list? Or do you have a few recommendations for me to read in time for my next quick reads post? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Classics

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic. – from Goodreads.com

Not only one of my favourite classics, but also one of my favourite books of all time. I really, really recommend this book to anyone looking for a master class in writing, and also the representation of mental health in literature.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed and the promise of new beginnings. – from Goodreads.com

I never studied The Great Gatsby but I wish I did. Scott Fitzgerald’s well known novel is ripe with metaphor, imagery and symbolism which makes the whole reading process that much more enjoyable.

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

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This is a hardboiled crime novel, and a true story. In 1944, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, then still unknown writers, were both arrested following a murder: one of their friends had stabbed another and then come to them for advice – neither had told the police. Later they wrote this fictionalised account of that summer – of a group of friends in wartime New York, moving through each other’s apartments, drinking, necking, talking and taking drugs and haphazardly drifting towards a bloody crime. – from Goodreads.com

This was the book that inspired one of my all-time favourite films Kill Your Darlings, which fictionalised the murder of David Kammerer. This book, and the film, provides so much more context to the Beat Generation and the writers who created some of their most prolific work in this era.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele — Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles — as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. – from Goodreads.com

Kaysen’s memoir is similar to that of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which is probably the reason why I love it so much. Kaysen spent two years in a psychiatric hospital and goes into a lot of detail about her life there which makes the piece incredibly fascinating.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

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The shocking thing about the five Lisbon sisters was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear. – from Goodreads.com

The tale of the Lisbon sisters is a tragic one, but fascinating to read none the less. I love how the story is told through the romanticised eyes of the boys that lusted after them. It’s such a unique device that really makes the book stand out.

So these are my recommendations for classic books, if you’re looking to expand your library more. Have you got any favourites you would like to recommend to me? Or have I missed out a few on your list? 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!