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.

Great Reads: Dystopia

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The dystopia genre has become increasingly popular thanks to the likes of The Hunger Games and the Divergent Series. Many authors have followed in their book-ish footsteps, some riding on the coattails of the dream, and others being established in their own right. I’ll be giving you a comprehensive top five list of great dystopia reads for you to get your teeth into.

These books are in no particular order.

1

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. – from Goodreads.com

This was probably the first dystopia I ever read, and I didn’t even realise it was a dystopia! This collection of books were exciting and action packed beyond belief. A really good starting point for someone looking to get into the dystopia genre.

2

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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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. – from Goodreads.com

This book perfectly captures not only the horrors of World War but also the hope for a better life that comes afterwards. Besides, who wouldn’t want to hole up in an idyllic house in the countryside? Me, please!

3

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world– and it isn’t very pretty. – from Goodreads.com

I was a bit skeptical at first upon reading the synopsis for this book, as I thought it would all be a bit obvious. However, I really, really enjoyed reading Uglies and thought the world that Westerfeld created was very vivid. It’s a book that gives a great message and is a well developed dystopia too.

4

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim. – from Goodreads.com

In the short time it took to read this book, I was in a perpetual state of disgust and fascination. There most disconcerting thing about this novel was that this could definitely be our future! That is a very, very scary thought.

5

Never Let Me Go by Kauzo Ishiguro

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As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. – from Goodreads.com

I never thought of this book as a dystopia, but it is set in the future and a strange one at that. It oddly mirrors the world we know today except with the appearance of clones. It certainly makes a comment on how we live our lives and what it means to be human.

So these are my list of great reads for the dystopia genre. Have you read any of these? Or do you have a few you’d like to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top 10 Films of 2016

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Continuing my end of year traditions of wrapping up my favourites finishes with my top ten films of this year. I’ve rated these films on the ones I’ve enjoyed the most, not on what I think objectively makes it a good film because I’m sure my ideas on what makes a good film differs to the next persons, and besides I am not a film expert. So let us get into the top ten films I loved this year!

10

Deadpool

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A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humor is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge. – from IMDb

I thought Deadpool was hilarious. Although I don’t like gruesome films (and Deadpool has plenty of it) I managed to look past it and really enjoy myself! Ryan Reynolds is absolutely hysterical.

9

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

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Two hard-partying brothers place an online ad to find the perfect dates for their sister’s Hawaiian wedding. Hoping for a wild getaway, the boys instead find themselves out-hustled by an uncontrollable duo. – from IMDb

Once again, another comedy that got me in absolute hysterics. Anna and Aubrey, coupled with Zac and Adam was just a recipe for success. I laughed out loud for the majority of this film, and the actors natural chemistry together was just infectious.

8

Nerve

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A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.” – from IMDb

From doubling over with laughter to something slightly more sinister. I had never heard of Jeanne Ryan’s YA novel Nerve before I heard it was to be adapted, but once I saw the trailer for this film I knew I had to see it. Thrilling is the only word I can use to describe this, and the relationship between Emma Roberts’ character and Dave Franco’s character was just so sweet to watch.

7

X-Men: Apocalypse

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After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, world-destroyer Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan. – from IMDb

I understand that a lot of die-hard X-Men fans didn’t like this film. But as someone who first came into the X-Men franchise with First Class, I liked it as an exciting action packed movie, and still really enjoyed myself. I think all of the recent X-Men movies are really exciting, and this one is no different.

6

Bridget Jones’s Baby

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Bridget’s focus on single life and her career is interrupted when she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch … she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby’s father. – from IMDb

It was the film we had all been waiting for! Finally the third Bridget Jones film was released and boy did it not disappoint. In fact, I’m glad they waited so long, because I feel as though the production really made an effort to get it right rather than make something heartless that they knew would do well at the box office. Bravo!

Now let’s see what movies have made my top five!

5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies. – from IMDb

Yes, you read that correctly. Pride and Prejudice AND ZOMBIES. And yes, it is absolutely as nuts as it sounds. But it’s nuts in a good way, and the cast of this movie really bring the characters we love so much to life. And there are also zombies, which is quite a massive departure from the classic period drama pieces we’re used to.

4

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

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After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago, to finally discover the shocking truth of the world around them. – from IMDb

This entry is more of a personal one for me, as Allegiant wasn’t quite the finished product we were expecting. I absolutely adore the Divergent Series but Allegiant has confirmed the declining status of the franchise. I won’t go into detail about Ascendant possibly becoming a TV movie, but I will say I have fond memories of this movie just because I love the series so much.

3

Now You See Me 2

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The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet. – from IMDb

This was on of my most anticipated films of this year and WOW did it live up to my excitement. I think this film was better than the first (obviously not considering the sad departure of Isla Fisher) and really went bigger and better with the tricks / backstory / character arcs. I’m really hoping they make a third!

2

Star Trek Beyond

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The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test. – from IMDb

When they announced this movie, I could not have been more excited. I adored the first two Star Trek movies and I hoped and prayed that Beyond would be just as awesome. Guess what? It’s the best of the three! I didn’t expect that!

And my number one movie of this year is of course:

1

Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them

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The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. – from IMDb

This was my MOST anticipated film of this year, and now will be the most anticipated film of next year and the year after, and the year after that. I absolutely adored this film, with all the creatures and the characters too. I’m even more proud that Newt Scamander is a HUFFLEPUFF! #HufflepuffPride!

Anyway, this concludes my top ten films of 2016. Did I list on of your favourites? Or have I missed out one of the best? Let me know down in the comments!

Top 10 Young Adult Book to Movie Adaptations

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I’ve already counted down my favourite YA standalones and series, so it only seems fitting to count down those that have been made into films. Most successful YA authors usually sell the rights to their books pretty quickly, but some get shelved for years before production gets underway. Having said that, the popularity of adapting YA has increased in the recent years. Some we can see why, and some we probably wished had stayed shelved.

It would be very easy to examine which films were closely adapted from page to screen, but using that template sometimes doesn’t always make a good film. I’ll be trying to take into account not only the “adapting” part of the film process, but also what makes the end product a great film in it’s own right.

I’m also deciding not to include the Harry Potter films in this list because they would take up eight of the ten! Don’t forget, I’ll only include films I’ve seen and can vouch for.

These are the books that have gone from page to screen, counting down from ten to one.

10

How I Live Now

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An American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finds love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her. – from IMDb

As with most adaptations, a lot from the book gets lost/cut in the translation. Osbert was written out, and a certain character death was added in, but these are small prices to pay for seeing our beloved books getting worldwide success. How I Live Now is an excellent film, and a brilliant re-imagining of the original.

9

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

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As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance. – from IMDb

As I said in my 2015 film wrap up, I had a few issues with the final Hunger Games film. In my opinion, the film was too closely adapted from the book (which I wasn’t a fan of), and a lot of things didn’t make sense. Having said that, it was a brilliant action movie and good installment to a fantastic series!

8

Insurgent

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Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side. – from IMDb

Once again, as I said in my 2015 film wrap up, Insurgent was a difficult book to adapt. It’s so fast paced which allows the reader to fly through the narrative, but on film can look messy. A lot of changes were made to try and accommodate the nature of the book. Some say it worked, some disagree. For me, it was still pretty exciting to see my favourite book from the series be adapted into film.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

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Katniss Everdeen is in District 13 after she shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage. – from IMDb

For some, this may be the least popular Hunger Games film, but for me it perfectly captures the calm before the storm. Katniss spends a lot of time underground with District 13, and for me this is where the real revolution begins and we see Katniss, not only have a personal journey, but also she her turn from tribute to victory to Mockingjay!

6

Paper Towns

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After an all night adventure, Quentin’s life-long crush, Margo, disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends follow on the journey of a lifetime. – from IMDb

Another one I’m repeating from my 2015 wrap up is Paper Towns, John Green’s second venture into the world of cinema. I really enjoyed the adaptation, and I loved that the production decided to stay true to the themes of the book and not give into Hollywood. Bravo! The chemistry between all the actors and actresses that worked on the film really made it special to watch.

And now for my top five:

5

The Hunger Games

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Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death. – from IMDb

Yes, the original Hunger Games movie starts off the top five with a bang. It’s a wonderful adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s book, who puts Katniss in the arena for the first time to fight for her life.

4

The Fault in Our Stars

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Two teenage cancer patients begin a life-affirming journey to visit a reclusive author in Amsterdam. – from IMDb

The first John Green adaptation that got the ball rolling for Paper Towns. I don’t think this film could have been more perfect, the casting, the narrative, the soundtrack, everything. I came away feeling incredibly satisfied.

3

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. – from IMDb

I know what you must be thinking. Why is the second Hunger Games movie higher than the first? For me, Catching Fire is the best Hunger Games movie. I know it draws similarities from the first film, as we see Katniss and the gang go back into the arena, but for me, everything was bigger and better.

2

Divergent

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In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late. – from IMDb

When Divergent dropped, many people wrote it off as a Hunger Games Wannabe, but after the movie was made, it established Roth’s faction-based dystopia in it’s own right. I absolutely loved the book and film version of Divergent, and the adaptation between the two was seamless.

1

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world. – from IMDb

Perks is my number one book to movie adaptations. I’m not sure whether it’s because Stephen Chbosky wrote the book and the screenplay, or if it’s because Charlie’s story is one that touches us all right in the feels. But there’s something about this book/film combo that speaks to all the wallflowers inside of us.

And that concludes my top ten list of young adult book to movie adaptations. Do you agree? Have I left any off the list you would consider worthy of a title? Let me know down in the comments.

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.

Top 5 Ways to Organise Your Bookshelves

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As I’ve established before, I’m a Virgo. I am a Virgo how loves to organise, or faff, as I call it. I faff with my books mostly, and because I have so many it usually takes a lot of time, but still I’ve faffed with my books every which way. So here are my top ways to organise your bookshelves.

1

A-Z

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So this seems relatively straightforward, but if you’re constantly looking through your bookshelves then this may be the most effective way to catalogue them.

2

By Spine Colour

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Whether you decide on a book rainbow, black and white alternating or an explosion of colour, this is a great way to use your books as art.

3

By Genre

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The genres I tend to use when shelving this way are: classics, YA series (which usually are fantasy or dystopian), YA standalones, plays, poetry, non-fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, gothic fiction (which sometimes crosses over to the classic genre), letters and journals, special/collectors editions, and many more!

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By Themes or Other

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Fairy tale re-tellings are a firm favourite with me, along with Tudor era books, magic realism, time travel, dystopian worlds, road trips, multiple POV narrative, first person narration, stories in verse, stories in journal form, and many more!

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Favorites First

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Sometimes the best way to show off your books is to put your favourites up front. I love to show off my Harry Potter books as well as my little Chronicles of Narnia paperbacks. I also love showing off my cool Divergent: Special Edition copy and my Looking for Alaska first edition copy, too. This really gives your bookshelf a unique twist, and shows just what you love in the world of reading!

Let me know in the comments how you like to shelve your books. At the moment, I’ve gone for rainbow theme, but to be honest, with all of these options, I’ll be forever changing them!

Top 10 Young Adult Series

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Young Adult series are my thing. I love the excitement, picking up the first book and drowning myself in a new world, new characters, new ships, then waiting until the next book arrives in the post, giddy with glee over what may or may not happen next. I’ve read quite a few in my 24 years, so here are my top ten favourites.

These books are in no particular order.

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

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Harry Potter is the holy grail of YA. Ask anyone who likes to read and they will tell you the same thing. It doesn’t matter when you were born, whether you’ve read the books or seen the films, whether you read them to your children or read them yourself, Harry Potter is a series unlike any other.

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

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I find a lot of ‘Top YA Series‘ lists leave off The Chronicles of Narnia, and perhaps this is just a personal thing, but these books are so special to me. I remember reading them as a very young child, then re-reading them as a teenage and now re-reading them as a young adult. I never tire of these stories, particularly the audio books, which to me is story-telling at it’s finest.

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

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I had to read Divergent when I was taking a class in dystopian fiction, and I completely fell in love. A lot of people were likening it to The Hunger Games, but for me, the themes and characters are completely different, and to compare them would be to disservice both books. Divergent is a solid YA dystopia story, but after reading Insurgent and Allegiant as well, I’m convinced that the Divergent series is one that stands out from the dystopian world cliche.

The Hunger Games Saga by Suzanne Collins

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Once again, I read The Hunger Games for a class in children’s fiction, and really, really enjoyed it. I stormed through Catching Fire which I thought was just as brilliant, but I felt Mockingjay let down what would have been a fantastic end to the series. That being said, we wouldn’t have the magnificent Hunger Games films if we did not have the books in the first place, and the original trilogy of books really fired up the popularity of YA, and for that I am extremely thankful.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I have only just recently read The Lunar Chronicles and Cinder was one of my favourite books of 2015. I adore fairy tale retellings, and Marissa Meyer did a fantastic job being so creative with the original structure of the tales. Before reading The Lunar Chronicles, I didn’t really read a lot of Science Fiction, but now I would be open to reading further into the genre. Having said that, The Lunar Chronicles has set the bar, so hopefully there are lots of good Sci-Fi novels of the same caliber.

Dorothy Must Die Series by Danielle Paige

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Another retelling, but instead of the series being based on fairy tales, the Dorothy Must Die series is based on the popular book-to-film adaptation The Wizard of Oz. In keeping with the success of popular musical, Wicked, the Dorothy Must Die series shows a side to Oz that we may not have originally thought of, where Good Witches are bad and Bad Witches are good. This series is so imaginative and exciting that it’s difficult not to love it!

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Apart from Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, the Noughts and Crosses series was probably one of the first series I ever read. Malorie Blackman’s tale of Sephy and Callum mirrors that of Romeo and Juliet, but with a clever twist, raising questions about inequality and race in the alternate society within the books.

The Heather Wells Mysteries by Meg Cabot

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This is a quintet that some may not know about. The Heather Wells mysteries chronicles the story of a Residence Hall Director, come amateur sleuth, who’s job is jepoardised by deaths happening at the New York College dormitories where she works. It’s fun, fast paced, exciting and full of brilliant characters. What more could you want?

Jennifer Jones Series by Anne Cassidy

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Looking for JJ and Finding Jennifer Jones make up the Jennifer Jones duo-logy, written by Anne Cassidy about the title character’s juvenile delinquency, new identity, and feelings surrounding ‘what happened that day at the Berwick Waters’. A thrilling, gripping, exciting duo of books that all YA lovers will enjoy.

Pretty Little Liars Series by Sara Shepard

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Not many people know that the original story of Pretty Little Liars started out as a book. Most of you will know the title Pretty Little Liars from the Freeform series of the same name. Although the TV show takes inspiration from the original books, these quick reads will be just what you need to keep your pretty little thirst at bay between seasons.

That concludes my top ten YA series. I tried to include a variety of different genres and only include ones I had read and could vouch for. Perhaps in the coming years I’ll do an updated version and there will be even more competitive list.

The Children of Darkness by David Litwack – Review

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The Children of Darkness by David Litwack is the first book in a brand new dystopian series titled The Seekers, and having been given the Seal of Excellence by Awesome Indies and winning the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for Best Science Fiction, this book already sits apart from others in it’s genre.

The novel poses the weighty question: “But what are we without dreams?”, which is true enough. Everybody has dreams, whether they remember them or not, and there has been many debates whether what you dream about reflects your wants and desires, hopes and fears, or what kind of person you are subconsciously.

Litwack’s novel tells the story of the Darkness. A thousand years ago the Darkness came–a time of violence and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they kept the madness at bay with “temple magic,” eliminating the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.

Orah and Nathaniel, grew up in a tiny village, longing for more from life but unwilling to challenge the status quo. When Orah is summoned for a “teaching”—the brutal coming-of-age ritual that binds the young to the Light—Nathaniel follows in a foolhardy attempt to save her. In the prisons of Temple City, they discover a secret that launches them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, where a truth from the past might unleash the potential of their people, but may also cost them their lives.

When I first began reading this book, I was pleasantly surprised. The opening section of the novel has such a haunting feel to the writing, similar, I felt, to The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Also, the dynamic between Orah, Nathaniel and Thomas gives a sense of deja vu, as we as young readers, are also trying to find our place in the world. This made me immediately connect with the characters, and identify myself within them. Having said that, Thomas’s tricky character post-teachings made the perfect mystery subplot. The beginning sections that describe Little Pond sounded idyllic, and secluded, perfect for a creeping, haunting read such as this. Although I found it difficult to get hooked initially, there were so many layers to this book, waiting to be stripped back.

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

Praise for David Litwack.

“A tightly executed first fantasy installment that champions the exploratory spirit.”Kirkus Reviews

“The plot unfolds easily, swiftly, and never lets the readers’ attention wane… After reading this one, it will be a real hardship to have to wait to see what happens next.”Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“… a fantastic tale of a world that seeks a utopian existence, well ordered, safe and fair for everyone… also an adventure, a coming-of-age story of three young people as they become the seekers, travelers in search of a hidden treasure – in this case, a treasure of knowledge and answers… a tale of futuristic probabilities… on a par with Huxley’s Brave New World.”Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite

“The quality of its intelligence, imagination, and prose raises The Children of Darkness to the level of literature.”Awesome Indies

“…a solid fantasy-dystopian offering, one that is not merely written by some author looking for a middling entry to the genre, but excellently crafted by an artist looking to make his mark… A timely novel beautiful in the simplicity of its writing and elegant in its underlying complexity.” — Eduardo Aduna for Readers’ Favorite

“I found the world-building surrounding the people of the Ponds so descriptive that I was transported to their homes and way of life, and when the trio embarked on their journey, I could clearly picture them every step of the way. If you’re looking for a classic fantasy quest wrapped in a fascinating, dark archaic world, then this novel will not disappoint you.”K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

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Top 10 Films of 2015

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Going to the cinema is one of my favourite pastimes. So loved, in fact, that I have recently purchased a Cineworld card. I saw lots of films in 2015, some I had planned to see and some were spontaneous surprises, but which films made it to my short list? As usual, I will only list films that I’ve seen and can vouch for.

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Far From the Madding Crowd

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I was excited for this film for two reasons. One, Carey Mulligan. Need I say more? Two, I thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation of the adaption of this book… I am, of course, talking about Tamara Drewe, which was based off of a graphic novel, based off of the original book Far From the Madding Crowd written by Thomas Hardy. I wouldn’t say this film was my brand new favourite period drama, but it was certainly entertaining to watch.

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Paddington

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Ever since Paddington THE MOVIE was announced, I had been on the edge of my seat waiting for a release date. I got even more excited when Colin Firth was announced as the voice of Paddington, and deflated when I heard he had parted from the project. Having seen the movie, and being blessed with hindsight, I can see that his voice would have been a bit too mature for an endearingly naive bear like Paddington. This film was always going to be a win for me, and even now I still wish I had my very own Paddington. (Although as long as he stays out of my bathroom, we’re alright.)

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Pitch Perfect 2

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I don’t think this has ever been said before, but, I enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2 more than the first Pitch Perfect movie. There. I said it. The first movie for me was good but the second installment, of what will now apparently be a trilogy, was much more entertaining. I’m not sure whether it was the growth of the characters, the depth of the dynamic between the girls, or the rags to riches… to rags again, and back to riches, story of the Barden Bellas, but something about this movie did more than just click.

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Cinderella

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After the success of Maleficent, Disney’s announcement of more live-action-remakes made me feel a bit on edge. Disney had it so right with original animated classics, that a lot of them felt untouchable, but when Cinderella became first on the list, I felt warmed to the idea. Cinderella is the quintessential Princess story, but on review the original story seemed to lack depth, something which the new live-action-remake totally makes up for. We see more of a back story to Cinderella’s past and are blessed with a new moral-of-the-story mantra, “have courage and be kind.” 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

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One of my most anticipated films of the year falls outside the top five? Yes, unfortunately it does. I wasn’t totally disappointed by the last film in the Hunger Games quartet, but I did have some problems with it. Another thing that I never thought I would say: it was too closely adapted from the book. Yes, I know that sounds ludicrous, and that’s what book-to-movie-adaptation fans yearn for, but the Mockingjay book was a complete let down for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books and the three films that were conceived as a result. I actually thought, dare I say it, the films were better, so my expectations for Mockingjay Part 2 were high, and unfortunately weren’t met. Having said that, I did really enjoy watching the film and it was really sad to have the series come to the end. I’m still in denial that there’s not going to be another Hunger Games film. Don’t touch me. I’m grieving.

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Insurgent

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Another one of my most anticipated films of 2015 was the second installment to the Divergent series. This set of books really got me well and truly into the dystopian funk and Divergent the movie was an absolute cracker. Insurgent, in my eyes, was a very strong but complicated book and I didn’t envy the screenwriters when the time came to adapt it. Trying to repack a book into a film is like getting a leopard to change it’s spots, and when the negative reviews for Insurgent came flooding in, I wasn’t totally surprised. However, I do feel as though all of the changes made in the translation were for the good of the story. They weren’t changing things just because they could, the writers tried to make a complicated book into a streamlined visual narrative. I admire their effort, but this film wasn’t up to the standard of it’s predecessor.

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Inside Out

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I didn’t know about this film until my great friend GracieActually told me how amazing it was, and we took my Mum along to revel in the joy (literally) of this film. What stood out most for me was Joy and Sadness’ relationship, and how closely it mirrored my own relationship with my Mum. As many of you know I’m currently battling depression, so to see a character like Sadness be sad, and yet completely lovable and charming, was so amazing for me and my self esteem.

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Paper Towns

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Picture the scene. I have just recovered from the emotional roller-coaster that was The Fault in Our Stars, and almost immediately afterwards it is announced that Paper Towns, another of John Green’s books, it due to be adapted to the big screen. Well, it took me a long time to stop screaming with excitement. Once again, this was one of my most anticipated films of the year and I was lucky enough to attend the Paper Towns Movie event in London ahead of it’s release and see twenty minutes of the finished movie before anyone else. I knew from those twenty minutes that I was going to love the movie, and when I finally got to see it in it’s fullest form, I was not disappointed. Many people said the film was “anticlimactic” which to me was kind of the point. Q had made Margo up in his head to be this wild and precious being, when really she was, in fact, a girl. The fact that the producers chose to end the film in that way, rather than have Q and Margo drive off to New York City as the sun sets, and keep the original themes of the book shows a massive step forward for future adaptations.

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The D.U.F.F

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Is it surprising that this is another YA book-to-movie adaptation? Probably not, but I actually didn’t like the novel The D.U.F.F written by Kody Keplinger. I gave it one whole extra star on Goodreads.com because I was SO HAPPY that someone had coined the term. I have spent my whole life feeling like I was The D.U.F.F and to potentially have some strong YA female bad-ass characters to commiserate with made excited. The book was a let down, but luckily the film was everything the book was not. Mae Whitman was the perfect choice for Bianca and Robbie Amell’s charisma oozed from the screen. He was the Wes I’d been waiting for, and his and Whitman’s double act type chemistry made this an amazing film.

This leaves the top spot, the number one film I watched this year, which was…

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Into the Woods

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Disney. Musical. Fairy Tale Retelling. James Corden. Meryl Streep. Emily Blunt. Anna Kendrick. The list titled “Why I Love This Film” is endless. When I heard that Sondheim’s classic Into The Woods was going to be made into a film, not just a film, but a film with an all-star cast, I was ecstatic. I had seen a version of the stage show that did not paint the story in a very flattering light, so I had high hopes for the film, and I was no disappointed. This film was so well crafted, with talented all-around performers and was nothing short of perfect in my eyes. It was everything I wanted it to be and more!

And that concludes my top ten list. Did you get a chance to see any of these this year? And did any of them make it to your top ten? Let me know in the comments down below what you think.

Show Time by Phil Harvey – Review

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Harvey’s Show Time, a grotesque social commentary bridges the gap between The Hunger Games and Stephen King. It examines human nature, our morbid curiosity and our ever declining sensitivity towards violence. With the rise of social media, reality TV (sometimes “reality” TV), violent video games and the YouTube generation, our access to potentially harmful content is at it’s peak. Popular dystopian futures, like The Hunger Games and Divergent, often provide similar commentaries, but Harvey’s Show Time gives us a raw, gritty, darker side to these worlds, and shows an inevitable step up from the previous YA bestsellers.

Phil Harvey’s recent work is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although Suzanne Collins opened the door to this genre of YA, readers are now thirsting for something deeper, and arguably more violent, which is exactly what Harvey provides, both in the novel’s synopsis and reveals some truth in the underlying message about human nature. Show Time tells the story of a world where future viewing audiences have become totally desensitized to violence and are eager to escape their boring workaday lives. This addiction is nurtured by the media with graphic portrayals of war and crime and with so-called reality programming. Now, TV execs have created the ultimate reality show: Seven people, each bearing the scars of his or her past, are deposited on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. Given some bare necessities and the promise of $400,000 each if they can endure it. The three women and four men risk death by starvation or freezing as the Great Lakes winter approaches. The island is wired for sound, and flying drones provide the video feed, so everything the contestants do and say is broadcast worldwide. Their seven-month ordeal is entirely unscripted, they can’t ask for help or they forfeit the prize, and as far as the network is concerned—the fewer survivors the better.

The opening prologue to Show Time does not disappoint, delivering a grisly gut wrenching moment that aims to set the whole tone of the book. Although the rest of the novel fell a little flat for me, the true horror was that Show Time depicts a world that one day could be our future.

From 28th October till 3rd November, Show Time by Phil Harvey will be 0.99 FOR THIS LIMITED TIME ONLY. Get your copy at:

Amazon – iBooks Barnes and Noble

Additionally, Gumroad are selling electronic copies of Show Time and an exclusive short story Across the Water: Tales of the Human Heart for only $1.99. Get your copy here: https://gumroad.com/l/ShowTime

Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Find out more about Phil Harvey and his upcoming releases at: http://philharveylit.org/ 

Praise for Show Time

“Show Time is erotic and chilling in its portrayal of human survival. Entertainment serves government by dishing up the ultimate reality program to sate a nation of voyeurs and ensure the continuance of our most civilized of societies. Check your calendar—the future is already here.”Sal Glynn, scriptwriter, and author of The Dog Walked Down the Street

“Show Time is a gripping page-turner. Reality TV has never been more frighteningly real.”John Fremont, author, Sins of the Fathers

“A vision of the future that is laugh-out-loud, until we realize how much it looks like the world we live in now.”Frank S. Joseph, award-winning author of To Love Mercy

“A thrilling immersion in the emotional, physical, and sexual reality of characters who thought they were playing a game but find they must fight to survive.”Linda Morefield, senior review editor, The Washington Independent Review of Books

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