Best Books of Jul-Aug-Sep

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I’ve been rounding up my favourite books every quarter, as some of the books I read and love don’t quite make it to my end of year list. This is the third blog post I’ve done, which means we’re about three-quarters of the way through the year. At this rate, it will be almost Christmas! So here are the books I’ve really liked in the last three months, ones I’m not sure that will make the final list.

These books are in no particular order.

1.

Girlhood by Cat Clarke

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Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; but Harper can’t escape the guilt of her twin sister’s Jenna’s death, and her own part in it – and she knows noone else will ever really understand. But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Then Kirsty’s behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper’s? And why is she so obsessed with Harper’s lost sister? How can Harper get back to the person she wants to be, and to the girls who mean the most to her? – from Goodreads.com

I managed to get an ARC of this book on NetGalley. If you don’t know what NetGalley is, it’s a website where you can apply for and download advanced reader copies granted by the publishers. Cat Clarke’s latest book gave me some serious Pretty Little Liars vibes!

2.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil. But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed. – from Goodreads.com

I found my copy of this book in an Oxfam Bookshop and read a decent chunk of it on the train home! The friendship between Sophie and Agatha really reminded me of Elphaba and Glinda’s relationship in Wicked. Good and Evil! Not sure whether I’ll read the rest of the series but it was still super fun!

3.

Aurabel by Laura Dockrill

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It has been two years since Rory drowned, and Lorali is in Hastings, living the quiet life of a normal teenage girl. But her safe life on land won’t last for long. Life in The Whirl has become a hotbed of underwater politics and as the council jostles to oust the king, one Mer in particular has her eye on Lorali as the key to her own rise to power. Meanwhile, Aurabel, a lowly Mer from the wrong side of the trench, is attacked by sea beasts and left for dead – and without a tail. Raging with righteous anger, she rebuilds herself a mechanical tail and reinvents herself as a fearless steampunk Mer seeking revenge. But she never expected the most important job that was about to drop into her lap. – from Goodreads.com

Lorali by Laura Dockrill holds a special place in my heart, as it’s set in a nearby town to me called Hastings! Not many people know about our little corner of the world, and so when we get a starring role, especially in a book about mermaids, it’s hard not to resist! So when the ARC for Aurabel was available to request on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance!

4.

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin

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When Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a nightmare accident, she must relearn everything from walking across the street to recognizing her own sisters to imagining colors. One of seven children, Emma used to be the invisible kid, but now it seems everyone is watching her. And just as she’s about to start high school and try to recover her friendships and former life, one of her classmates is found dead in an apparent suicide. Fifteen and blind, Emma has to untangle what happened and why – in order to see for herself what makes life worth living. – from Goodreads.com

I’d had this eBook on my Kindle for a long time, but it was actually the audiobook on OverDrive that spurred me on to read it. It was amazing to hear about Emma’s story, and how the feelings of loss and bereavement could be applied in this situation.

5.

STAGS by M.A. Bennett

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Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, the students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school… – from Goodreads.com

STAGS was another NetGalley ARC and was quite a hyped release on Goodreads and Booktube. Again, it gave me Pretty Little Liars vibes and was quite an exciting read. I felt overall it needed more pace but it’s certainly in the same vein as Cat Clarke in terms of mystery and thrills! A definite must-read for fans of Clarke’s books.

So this concludes my list of books I really enjoyed in the last three months. Did you read any of these books? Or do you want to recommend some you think I’ll like? Let me know in the comments!

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National Trust: Literary Edition

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Days out with the National Trust are always good fun, especially when they help maintain lots of houses and estates where famous writers once lived! From my experience, they really maintain the authenticity and atmosphere of the times, which always makes it a really rewarding experience. Here is my list of National Trust places I want to visit.

1.

Bateman’s, Burwash

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I’ve actually already visited Bateman’s! This gorgeous Jacobean house was once home to Rudyard Kipling, the writer of The Jungle Books. At Bateman’s, Kipling wrote his first major work, Kim, and soon visitors will be able to see Park Mill after some extensive restoration. Also, Bateman’s has a collection of gardens which makes it a great place to visit in the summer. Bateman’s is open all year round from 11-5pm and costs £10.40 for a standard adult ticket.

2.

Monk’s House, Rodmell

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This 17th-century house was once home to Leonard and Virginia Woolf, before her death which occurred at River Ouse, not too far from the home. After her body was found, it was cremated and buried beneath an elm tree in the gardens of Monk’s House. I’ve just been to visit this house, recently, and it was amazing to see where Virginia lived and wrote. She even had a “room of her own”, her writing room, at the end of the garden. Monk’s House is open Wednesday through to Sunday, after lunch until 5 pm, until the last week of October. A standard adult ticket costs £5.75

3.

Greenway, Devon

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This grand estate was home to the famous crime writer Agatha Christie and was specifically the holiday home for her and her family. Like Bateman’s, there are lots of gardens that make it perfect for going on walks, and dogs are also welcome according to the website. Greenway is open from 10:30-5pm, every day until November when it only opens at weekends through to December. A standard adult ticket is £11.00

4.

Hill Top, Cumbria

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This 17th-century farmhouse was home to Beatrix Potter, and resides in the northern part of England, compared to the rest of my other picks. Ms Potter bought the Hill Top farmhouse with the proceeds from her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Those wanting to visit, be mindful that entry to the house is ticketed to prevent overcrowding. Tickets cannot be bought in advance and a sell-out of tickets is possible. Hill Top is open every day until November, from 10-4:30 pm and standard adult tickets are £10.40. Access to the gardens and shop is free during opening times.

5.

Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset

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Thomas Hardy, the writer of Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, was born in this cottage in 1840. It was built by his grandfather and has been maintained ever since, and Hardy actually wrote Far From the Madding Crowd in this very house! Thorncombe Woods is nearby, providing a beautiful picturesque walk for all who visit. Hardy’s Cottage is open every day up until November, where it only opens Thursday-Sunday. Opening times are 11-5pm and a standard adult ticket is £6.30.

I’ve put all of these National Trust estates on my list of places to visit. Have I managed to sway you too? Let me know in the comments!

Top 20 Albums I Love (11-20)

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Continuing on from my post yesterday, here are the rest of the albums I consider to be in my top twenty favourites.

Almost Here by The Academy Is…

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This marks the first album of band The Academy Is… who were one of the many Fueled by Ramen bands that dominated the alternative rock scene. At just over thirty minutes long, this bite sized album stepped apart from other alt-bands in the rise of the “scene phase” that gained popularity in 2005. William Beckett’s smooth vocals and powerful lyrics gave the band a steady foundation to build another two albums on. It might be far back in the music archives, but it’s one well worth listening to.

Songs to Love: All of them. There are only 10.

From Under the Cork Tree by Fall Out Boy

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The album that bought alternative rock to the mainstream chart. Fall Out Boy fell into the deep hole between Pop and Rock and built up an empire from the ashes. Although this wasn’t their first album, it was their first to make them household names and help them revolutionise guitars-and-drums musicianship.

Songs to Love: “Our Lawyers Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued”, “Of All the Gin Joints in All the World”, “Dance Dance”, “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”, “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year”, “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More “Touch Me”, “XO”.

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out by Panic! At the Disco

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Signed to Pete Wentz’s label, Decaydance, his prodigies went one step further than Fall Out Boy with the critically-acclaimed album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. This record defies genre or definition, at times feels like a concept album, and breaks the mould musically and lyrically. I don’t believe there has been another album quite like it, before or since. Another Fueled By Ramen alumni, along with Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is, Panic! (as their name is often shortened to) were standout musicians with this breakthrough record.

Songs to Love: The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage, London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines, Camisado, Time to Dance, Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off, I Write Sins Not Tragedies, Build God Then We’ll Talk.

Like Vines by The Hush Sound

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Hands up anyone who has heard of The Hush Sound? No one… well, that’s not really surprising. The Hush Sound were another of Fall Out Boy’s proteges, groomed in the same way Panic! At the Disco were, to make unique, and sometimes slightly odd, sounding music. They too were signed to Decaydance records and spawned three albums over their short lived time as a band. Like Vines was produced by Patrick Stump, who clearly gave it a little touch of magic, as it was by far their most popular.

Songs to Love: We Intertwined, Sweet Tangerine, Don’t Wake Me Up, Where We Went Wrong, Magnolia, Wine Red, Out Through the Curtain.

American Idiot by Green Day

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In a similar vein, Green Day’s American Idiot is unlike anything before or since. The social commentary concept album surrounding post-9/11 America and war ideologies went on to create the ground-breaking musical of the same name. Although at times the music is schizophrenic (see: Jesus of Suburbia), this album is really musical story telling at it’s finest, and on paper is simply poetry.

Songs to Love: Jesus of Suburbia, Holiday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Are We the Waiting, Wake Me Up When September Ends.

Hopes and Fears by Keane

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Keane are my homeboys, from Battle, East Sussex, not far from where I live. These guys put East Sussex on the map and wrote and recorded their album in the area. They’re out claim to fame, and we’re so proud to see them win awards and sell records doing what they love. Their first album, Hopes and Fears, not only put them on the map but was considered among the best British albums of all time.

Songs to Love: Somewhere Only We Know, Bend and Break, We Might as Well be Strangers, Everybody’s Changing, This Is the Last Time, Bedshaped.

+ by Ed Sheeran

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Ed Sheeran was an underground star before he ever released his first album, but the commercial success of + put him on the map. All Sheeran uses is a guitar and loop pedal when playing live and everything else is down to him. He’s a true musician and this album is proof that whatever he touches turns to gold. (Or ginger.)

Songs to Love: Drunk, Wake Me Up, Small Bump, This, The City, Lego House, Kiss Me, Give Me Love / The Parting Glass.

21 by Adele

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Who does not have a copy of this album? Who does not love Adele? I defy you to find a person guilty of both. Adele’s second album is a masterclass in how to write a breakup record and do it with grace, dignity and honesty. Need I say anymore? The album speaks for itself when I say it has sold over thirty two million copies world wide.

Songs to Love: Rolling in the Deep, Rumour Has It, Turning Tables, Set Fire to the Rain, Take It All, Someone Like You.

Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson

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From one strong female to another, Kelly Clarkson’s album Breakaway was probably the soundtrack to every female adolescent. It spawned hit after hit and remains Clarkson’s bestselling album to date.

Songs to Love: Breakaway, Since U Been Gone, Behind These Hazel Eyes, Because of You, Gone, Where Is Your Heart, Walk Away, You Found Me, Beautiful Disaster.

4 by Beyonce

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And from two strong ladies to another, it was difficult picking just one Beyonce album to feature, (not because they’re not all amazing, but because I’ve come to the end of my list), especially after she dropped her self-titled album as a complete surprise, fully formed with accompanying music videos. But 4 has my heart, as it’s the perfect blend of pop, r’n’b, soul, and a tonne of hits.

Songs to Love: 1 + 1, Best Thing I Never Had, Party, Start Over, Love on Top, Countdown, End of Time, I Was Here, Run the World (Girls).

That’s it, this concludes my list of top twenty albums I love. Let me know down in the comments if you agree or think I should have added a few more. Which one from this list is your favourite? Happy listening.

Being a Good Samaritan: Places I Like to Donate To

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I have a complex where I have an inexplicable desire to help people, and I recently gave blood for the first time to help fuel my conscience. I also like to donate to various places, and I’m going to list down below where and why. The purpose of this post is to give those areas in need more exposure, so that others may volunteer or donate to them as they see fit. These services have helped so many people in my area of East Sussex and all over the country, even the world, so it seems right that they get the recognition and the exposure they deserve.

Counselling Plus

I had the opportunity to have 16 weeks of talking therapy at Counselling Plus over in Hastings, East Sussex, and found the experience to be so fulfilling and effective that I would recommend them to anyone and everyone thinking about having counselling. It’s run by a large amount of amazing people, some who volunteer their services and time selflessly without payment. In the waiting room, there is a book sale, with books donated and bought by those who pass through, and each book is 50p. All proceeds from the book sale go towards the charity so I like to donate the books I un-haul to the cause.

Bexhill Food Bank

My local Tesco and Sainsbury’s supermarkets offer a service so that you can donate food to the local food bank easily whilst doing your shopping. I like to donate one item a week to those less fortunate than me. I’ve never had to use a food bank myself, but one day I may have too, and I’ll be thankful for everyone donating and allowing me to use the service.

CrashCourse

Crash Course is a YouTube channel that educates its viewers in a range of different subjects, from World History, to Astronomy, to Literature and Politics, and many more. I constantly watch the videos on their channel and find that the way they explain the subjects to be very easy to understand and informative. At the moment, I only donate $1 a month via Patreon but I hope to donate more as the years go on. Crash Course also aim to create study worksheets and content for the underprivileged.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army do lots to help out people in need. Although the foundation began primarily linked to the Christian church, they go over and above the call of God with the charitable needs. I love to take the clothes I don’t want or need anymore and donate them to the clothes bank, which are situated in various places throughout the country. The Salvation Army then distribute those clothes to those who need them, sometimes to the homeless, sometimes to children in foster and care homes, or sometimes to third world countries. They do much more than just giving and receiving clothes, so if you’re interested in knowing more, I recommend you check out their website.

So these are my favourite charities to donate to. Do you have ones you love to support? Let me know in the comments.