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.

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Top 10 Books of 2017 (6&5)

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And now, we hit the halfway mark in my 2017 book wrap up! If you haven’t been following my previous blog posts, I’m counting down some of my favourite books that I’ve read this year, and now I’m going to tell you my numbers five and six.

6.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Jonas, a sensitive twelve-year-old boy, had never thought there was anything wrong with his Community, until one day. From the moment Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory at The Ceremony, his life is never the same. Jonas discovers that The Community is not as perfect as it seems. Although they appear to have everything, they are missing something of great importance. It is up to Jonas, with the help of the Giver, to find what long ago had been lost. And so Jonas embarks on an adventure to save the world as he knows it. – from Goodreads.com

First published in 1993, The Giver is one of the original dystopian books before the genre hit the big time thanks to the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent. This was such a beautiful story, very short and yet left a lasting impact. I definitely wanted to know more about Jonas and his exciting journey and was hoping for a sequel. Alas, the next book in the Giver series is a companion.

5.

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart

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Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. A bad romance, or maybe three. Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her. A girl who refuses to be the person she once was. – from Goodreads.com

E Lockhart is one of my favourite authors. I’ve been reading her books for years! So when I heard she was going to bring out a book this year, it quickly went onto my most anticipated books of this year. Lockhart did not disappoint! This book is told BACKWARDS, that’s right, backwards and it still manages to make sense by the end of it. It’s so cleverly crafted that I really couldn’t stop thinking about it for a long, long time. I can’t wait for her next one!

So, that introduces the beginning of my top five books of 2017, kicking off with E Lockhart at number five. Tomorrow, I’ll let you in on books number four and three.

Top 10 Books of 2017 (8&7)

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Following on from yesterday’s post, here I’ll be counting down the numbers eight and seven on my list of top ten books of 2017. Without further ado, here we go!

8.

Animal by Sara Pascoe

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Women have so much going on, what with boobs and jealousy and menstruating and broodiness and sex and infidelity and pubes and wombs and jobs and memories and emotions and the past and the future and themselves and each other. Sara Pascoe has joked about feminity and sexuality on stage and screen but now she has a book to talk about it all for a bit longer. Animal combines autobiography and evolutionary history to create a funny, fascinating insight into the forces that mould and affect modern women. – from Goodreads.com

As I said, I’ve been on a real non-fiction kick this year, particularly memoir and this book (and the next one) were really up there with the collection I’ve read. I’ve only seen Sara Pascoe on panel shows, and not many either, so when this book was recommended to me over and over again, I was a bit hesitant because she wasn’t on my radar. However, after my Mum got a copy and lent it to me, I’m so glad I read it. Pascoe’s take on the female body and perspective is hilarious and brutally honest! I would especially recommend listening to the audiobook!

7.

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

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Before her Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes was an expert at declining invitations others would leap to accept. With three children at home and three hit television shows on TV, it was easy to say that she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. In the before, Shonda’s introvert life revolved around burying herself in work, snuggling her children, and comforting herself with food. And then, on Thanksgiving 2013, Shonda’s sister muttered something that was both a wake-up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Then Shonda, the youngest of six children from a supremely competitive family, knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her. – from Goodreads.com

Another memoir which I adored this year. Shonda Rhimes is the creator, writer, and producer of one of my most favourite TV shows, How to Get Away with Murder. I didn’t realise she had written a book, but when I did I knew I had to read it immediately. I wasn’t disappointed. Rhimes talks about more than just her life in showbiz, but also her about her family, her home life, her anxiety and depression and other struggles. It truly is an inspirational tale!

Join me tomorrow for numbers six and five of my best books of 2017. The book that just missed out on the top five and the other book that just scraped through.

 

Top 10 Books of 2017 (10&9)

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If you are a newcomer to my blog, you won’t be aware of my Christmas tradition, where I count down the best books I’ve read this year. They don’t need to be new releases, they can be older publications that I’ve just gotten around to reading, but as long as I rate them in my top ten, they’re on this list. Today, I’ll be telling you my tenth and ninth favourite books of the year, tomorrow the eighth and the seventh and so on. So here we go!

10.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

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(Honourable mentions go to Shockaholic and The Princess Diarist, also by Carrie Fisher)

In Wishful Drinking, adapted from her one-woman stage show, Fisher reveals what it was really like to grow up a product of “Hollywood in-breeding,” come of age on the set of a little movie called Star Wars, and become a cultural icon and bestselling action figure at the age of nineteen. – from Goodreads.com

We lost dear Carrie on the 27th December 2016, and in the new year, I vowed to read her memoirs, to help get to know the woman who inspired so many. Carrie had her own struggles with mental health, and as you may or may not know, I’ve struggled with mine. I wanted to hear what this beloved icon had to say and I wasn’t disappointed. She wrote with a rare charm that I found completely infectious. I read all three of her memoirs this year.

9.

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

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On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives. For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. – from Goodreads.com

I was approved by NetGalley to receive an ARC of this book, which I was desperate to read. I have a sickening fascination with books like this, and I’ve been on a particularly strong non-fiction kick this year so Klebold’s memoir has ticked all the boxes for me. Klebold’s writing was so raw and honest, and at times very, very painful to read. Not only did she speak so frankly, but she also spoke a lot about mental health which was very interesting to me.

So these are the first two books on my top ten list of 2017. Stay tuned tomorrow for books eight and seven!

Promises and Wishes: 2017 Edition

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(Me in January and December of this year)

Once again, we find ourselves at the time of year where nostalgia and reflection overcome us! Every year on Christmas Eve, I round-up my yearly achievements and set some goals for the new year. To say I made a tonne of progress is an understatement!

Here’s my list from last year:

  • Learn to drive.
  • Go abroad again.
  • Visit Stonehenge.
  • Write another book.
  • Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

Let’s see how much I achieved:

Learn to drive.

Erm… the less said about that the better.

Go abroad again.

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(Dan, Brendan and Me)

Does going to Scotland count as going abroad? Some might agree, some may not. I didn’t use my passport, let’s just say that. But going to Scotland has definitely satisfied some of my wanderlust and has also given me the travel bug. In fact, Dan, Brendan and I are planning to go away in 2018 as well. We got to see a lot of Harry Potter and Outlander sites as well as some historical ones, particularly to do with Mary, Queen of Scots. (More on that later!)

Visit Stonehenge.

Nope. Didn’t happen.

Write another book.

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Yes. NEARLY. I did CampNaNoWriMo this April and managed to write fifty thousand words of a first draft for a book titled The Elementals. I also re-wrote another draft of my mystery novel Losing Lola. A 100k word count for 2017 ain’t bad!

Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

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Well, yes, Part Two anyway. I had a ticket for Part One but I couldn’t get the time off work, so I could only go and see Part Two, which I loved. Good job I knew what happened in Part One!

So, three out of five! Not too bad in my opinion.

Now, here’s my list for 2018:

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.

I really, really need to get around to doing that. Really, really.

  • USE MY PASSPORT.

As I said, Brendan, Dan and I are thinking about going on holiday again together in 2018, and there are a few European cities on the list so who knows!

  • Get into full-time work.

I’m already working part-time in schools which I’m absolutely loving. Ideally, I’d be looking to move into a full-time teaching assistant position. Let’s keep those fingers crossed.

  • Write another book.

If I could write a book a year. I’d be happy with that. I’m aiming to do NaNoWriMo 2018 and have an idea still developing in my mind, so I’m sure this would be an achievable goal for me.

  • Read 100 books. 

I’ve read 100 books the last two years and I really want to keep this number up, even if I’m going to be trying to get into full-time work. Reading is my greatest passion, and I want to keep my favourite hobby going at all costs!

So, let’s see what 2018 brings! What’s on your bucket list for this year? Let me know in the comments!

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!

My Literary Trip to Scotland

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Ever since I wrote about my top literary places to visit, I have been chomping at the bit to get exploring! I’m always drawn to places where people lived/live that I admire. For example, in August, I visited Oxford, home of CS Lewis, Tolkien, and various Harry Potter filming locations, and this October just passed I visited Scotland! I was drawn to Edinburgh in particular because of its literary links but also for its historical element, as it was the home of Mary Queen of Scots. (Blog post about her coming soon!)

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Above: On the train journey to Scotland.

Scotland is home to one of my favourite series, Harry Potter, as JK Rowling lived (and still lives) in Edinburgh whilst she was writing the stories. We went to various locations around the city that held history for Harry. The first stop we went to was the Greyfriars Kirkyard filled with graves which Rowling stole names from for characters for the series. We managed to find Tom Riddle, a McGonagall and a Scrimgeour! Victoria Street, just around the corner from the graveyard, also claims to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Above: McGonagall, Riddell and Scrymgeour graves and Victoria Street.

We also visited The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote a lot of Philosopher’s Stone and also another cafe named Spoon. But Rowling isn’t the old city’s claim to fame. Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of Sherlock Holmes, was born in Edinburgh, in the home of 11 Picardy Place. To commemorate, there is a statue of Sherlock outside the home which has now become a restaurant. Across the road, there is also a pub, named the Conan Doyle, after the author.

Above: The Elephant House cafe, the Sherlock Holmes statue, and the Conan Doyle pub.

We also visited the Writer’s Museum (which is also free to enter!) which chronicled the lives of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Having only read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he was the only author that I knew a little bit about but still didn’t know his full story. The museum was also doing an installation on Ian Rankin, another Scottish novelist.

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Above: The bust of Robert Louis Stevenson inside the Writer’s Museum.

There was so much to see and do in Edinburgh when it came to literary themes, not just history. There were even historical walks that lead you through the lives of writer’s, but we didn’t get a chance to go on that, and it’s something that I would really recommend any literary fiend doing.

As I said in my blog post on literary places, I’m hoping to work my way through them and so next on the list is hopefully Haworth where the Bronte’s lived!

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Or have I made you want to take on your own literary pilgrimage? Let me know in the comments!