Great Reads: Short Stories

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Sometimes, a bite-sized read is just what you need. Whether you’re on the bus or just want to digest something quick before bed, short stories can really hit the spot. Here are a few I’ve read that I think should be recommended!

These books are in no particular order.

1.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

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Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they’re working as sheep herder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer. Both men work hard, marry, have kids because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it. – from Goodreads.com

The story that inspired the famous film with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and coming in at only 55 pages, or just over an hour if you listen to the audiobook like I did. The story of Ennis and Jack is a beautiful one and really makes me love the film even more.

2.

Bluebeard (and other Fairy Tales) by Angela Carter

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Angela Carter’s playful and subversive retellings of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tales conjure up a world of resourceful women, black-hearted villains, wily animals and incredible transformations. In these seven stories, bristling with frank, earthy humour and gothic imagination, nothing is as it seems. – from Goodreads.com

In this little collection, Angela Carter manages to rework, and reignite, what keeps us going back to the classic fairy tales again and again. This collection includes Bluebeard, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty in the Wood and Cinderella!

3.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

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If you broke Elena’s heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she’s expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does. What she’s not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectable Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels. – from Goodreads.com

Rainbow Rowell wrote this short story for World Book Day 2016. I don’t think it would be selfish of me to ask for a full-length book based on this little snippet, as lots of people seem to love it as much as I do!

4.

Different Seasons by Stephen King

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This gripping collection begins with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” in which an unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge—the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Next is “Apt Pupil,” the inspiration for the film of the same name about top high school student Todd Bowden and his obsession with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. In “The Body,” four rambunctious young boys plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. This novella became the movie Stand By Me. Finally, a disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death in “The Breathing Method.” – from Goodreads.com

My first experience with Stephen King was watching The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me in English class, so when I realised that these films were based on actual short stories, I thought I better get around to reading them. The films captured the essence and tone of King’s short stories perfectly, and these are amongst my favourites!

5.

Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. – from Goodreads.com

In the same vein as Angela Carter’s revised fairy tales, JK Rowling has compiled a collection of stories most loved by wizard children, that had been passed down in wizard families from generation to generation. It was interesting to read and compare to our own fairy tales and see their differences and similarities.

So these are some of my favourite short stories that I think you should all read. Got any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 10 Books of 2016 (1&2)

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So, here you have it. My top two books of 2016. Here we go!

2.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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

I first heard about this book from PadfootandProngs07 on book-tube (and also here) and boy was it a recommendation and a half! What drew me to the book in the first place was that it was told partly in mixed media, in articles and webpages etc as well as prose. The hype that Raeleen gave this book totally lived up to the real thing, and it became my go-to recommendation for the mystery/crime genre.

1.

Winter (and The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

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Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long. – from Goodreads.com

That’s it! Fairest, Winter and Stars Above absolutely take the top spot of my 2016 favourites without a doubt. I absolutely loved this quartet and can’t quite believe that the series is over. I only finished it this year and I’m already planning a re-read, or hoping for some kind of TV Series or Movie to fill the Lunar hole.

So that concludes my top ten books that I read this year and I’m so excited to start compiling my to-read list for 2017. Do you have any recommendations for me? Or have I swayed your opinion on a book in my favourites list? Let me know in the comments!

Snowy Reads for Winter!

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

These books are in no particular order. 

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

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

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

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

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

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

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith. – from Goodreads.com

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

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

Great Reads: Retellings

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I absolutely love a good retelling, whether it be a twist on our classic fairy tales or an interpretation of an old classic, they’re one of the first things I reach for on any bookshelf. I’ve read a fair amount in the past few years and so here are some that I consider to be the best.

These books are in no particular order.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. – from Goodreads.com

I only started reading this series about a year ago and it’s already one of my favourites. Each book in the series is a retelling of a classic fairy tale, but also interweaves with the bigger over-arching plot. Cinder is based on Cinderella, Scarlet on Little Red Riding Hood, Cress on Rapunzel and Winter on Snow White. There’s even a fantastically Evil Queen involved too!

The Dorothy Must Die Series by Danielle Paige

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I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling. – from Goodreads.com

Again, this is another series I didn’t start reading until a few years ago but has already become one of my favourites. A lot of readers might already be familiar with the hit musical Wicked which tells the backstory to the Wizard of Oz and how Elphaba Thropp, nicknamed the Wicked Witch of the West, escaped the clutches of the Wizard of Oz, and how the Scarecrow became a Scarecrow, how the Woodcutter became Tin and how the Lion became Cowardly. Danielle Paige goes one step further, whisking Amy Gumm off to Oz and showing her that even Elphaba Thropp can’t help her, and Oz really isn’t what it seemed to be.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

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In The Bloody Chamber, Carter spins subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales and legends like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” giving them exhilarating new life in a style steeped in the romantic trappings of the gothic tradition. – from Goodreads.com 

Angela Carter is the Fairy Tale Retelling Queen. It’s a well known fact. In this anthology she has a collection of short stories that are entirely devoted to rewritten fairy tales, and not only that but they’re bloody marvellous too.

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice by Natasha Farrant

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Lydia is the youngest Bennet sister and she’s sick of country life – instead of sewing and reading, she longs for adventure. When a red-coated garrison arrives in Merryton, Lydia’s life turns upside down. As she falls for dashing Wickham, she’s swept into a whirlwind social circle and deposited in a seaside town, Brighton. Sea-bathing, promenades and scandal await – and a pair of intriguing twins. Can Lydia find out what she really wants – and can she get it? – from Goodreads.com

Natasha Farrant’s story is perfect for young readers to get into classics. It follows Lydia’s perspective throughout the events of Pride and Prejudice, giving the reader a taste for the time period whilst also taking them on an exciting journey.

Bluebeard by Angela Carter

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Angela Carter’s playful and subversive retellings of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tales conjure up a world of resourceful women, black-hearted villains, wily animals and incredible transformations. In these seven stories, bristling with frank, earthy humour and gothic imagination, nothing is as it seems. – from Goodreads.com

As I said, Angela Carter is the Queen of Fairy Tale Retellings and in this little chapbook, Carter has rewritten a collection of Charles Perrault’s writings, polishing them off in true Angela Carter style.

So these are a few of my go-to retelling recommendations! Are there any of your favourites on this list? Or have I left out ones you would also consider to be great? Let me know 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

My Top 5 Auto-Buy Authors

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The term auto-buy has been coined by many in the bookish online community, and refers to an particular author whose books, regardless or topic, theme or genre, you will automatically buy upon release. In my time of reading, specifically since I began buying my own books, I have accumulated many auto-buy authors who, should they publish it, could re-write the yellow pages and I would read it. Simples. So here are my top five authors who I await with baited breath for books.

These authors are in no particular order.

JK Rowling

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I know this one seems like an obvious choice, but it’s obvious because in my eyes there is no one greater than Ms Rowling herself. From Harry Potter to the Casual Vacancy, to Robert Galbraith’s Comoran Strike novels, JK just knows how to write.

John Green

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Again, another obvious choice, but do I care? No. John Green has not failed me yet, which makes the anticipation for his next novel even greater. Nothing has been confirmed, but Mr Green recently did take a social media hiatus to further his writing progress, which only makes the wait for his next release all the more agonizing now that we know something is in the works.

Marissa Meyer

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Cinder was my number one book that I read in 2015, and the news that Marissa Meyer is releasing another retelling in 2016 bumped her up to auto-buy status. Yes, November 2016, Heartless will be released, a retelling of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, and I think it’s my most anticipated release of 2016.

Dorothy Koomson

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I read my first Dorothy Koomson book over ten years ago, and I’m still reading her catalogue to this day. Dorothy started out predominantly a romance writer, and has made a steady shift to more thriller-type novels and found commercial success when her novel The Ice Cream Girls was adapted into an ITV series. (The less said about that, the better. ITV changed the ending completely, which is fine, but it didn’t make sense.)  That being said, I love how quickly Dorothy churns out her books (usually one a year) and they are always an incredible standard.

E Lockhart

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E Lockhart is another author I’ve been reading for many years. I read The Boyfriend List when I was in school, and then We Were Liars dropped and I was catapulted back into E Lockhart’s writing once more. Frankie Landau-Banks was in my top five books of 2015 and I then went onto read Fly on the Wall which is was odd but charming and completely intoxicating. I can’t wait for what E Lockhart releases next!

So that is my top five, are there any on my list that are also on yours? Have I missed out anyone you think is worthy of the title? Let me know in the