Best Books of Oct-Nov-Dec

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I can’t believe it’s soon to be the end of the year, and I’m not only going to be wrapping up the best books of this quarter but in a few weeks, I’ll also be listing my best books of the year! How time flies! For today, I’ll be talking about the top five books I’ve read in the past three months.

These books are in no particular order.

1.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. – from Goodreads.com

I absolutely love a YA fantasy series, especially one set in a boarding school with a supernatural/retelling element. That’s pretty much my favourite mix! I really, really enjoyed reading this and hope to continue with the series.

2.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

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The Christmasaurus is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus. It’s about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure. It’s about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music, and magic. It’s about discovering your heart’s true desire and learning that the impossible might just be possible. – from Goodreads.com

I have loved Tom Fletcher since his days in McFly, and ever since he started to release children’s books, I’ve bought them one by one. Then he announced a live show of The Christmasaurus and I knew I needed to get on reading it before I see the live show! It was such a cute story that really got me in the Christmas mood!

3.

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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“I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known…and I will be Queen of England.” Katherine of Aragon. Daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine has been fated her whole life to marry Prince Arthur of England. But tragically, aged only fifteen, Arthur falls ill and extracts from his sixteen-year-old bride a deathbed promise to marry his brother, Henry; become Queen, and fulfill their dreams and her destiny. – from Goodreads.com

I’ve wanted to read Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Novels for a really long time as I love the Tudor period, and The Constant Princess did not disappoint. It’s such an interesting point in history, and I feel like Gregory had a lot of fun filling in the blanks.

4.

The Cormoran Strike Series by Robert Galbraith

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When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case. A war veteran wounded both physically and psychologically, Strike’s life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger – from Goodreads.com

Considering that most people know that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling, I’m gathering you realise that even if this wasn’t a crime thriller, I’d still read it. I’d read JK Rowling’s shopping list and enjoy it! I actually read the whole series recently and really loved every book. I can’t wait for Lethal White, the fourth book in the series, to come out!

5.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. – from Goodreads.com

John Green is another author who’s shopping list I’d read in a heartbeat! And as soon as John announced he was going to be releasing another book, I pre-ordered that damn book in seconds! It is 100% going to be on my favourite books of 2017 list. Without a doubt.

So these are the books I read and loved in the last three months. Did you guys read any of these books? Or did you read different ones? Let me know in the comments!

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My Literary Trip to Oxford

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In a blog post earlier in the year, I made a list of bookish places to visit in England, the first of which was Oxford, one of the most literary places in the world. It is home to the famous literary group, the Inklings, who amongst it members were C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Roger Lancelyn Green, to name a few.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I, by rights, would consider C.S. Lewis one of my favourite authors, as his Chronicles of Narnia are some of my best loved go-to comfort reads. For the past twenty years, I have read and re-read those tales that provided (along with Tolkien and many others) the cornerstones of children’s fantasy. I like many others travelled with the Pevensies and poured my heart into the destruction of the White Witch. For Narnia, and for Aslan!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

But how much did I know about the man behind the magic? Who was C.S. Lewis? So this was reason number one why I decided to visit Oxford, where Lewis spent a large chunk of his life. The Kilns, where Lewis used to live, gives tours by appointment and is situated in Risinghurst, just outside of the city center. Not only can you find Lewis’s home there, but also his parish, which is only a ten-minute walk away. The church is also his resting place, as people flock from all over the world to pay their respects to the author who transported them through the wardrobe. His brother, Warren Lewis, affectionately known as Warnie, who died ten years later, is also buried with his brother, who liked to be known as Jack.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Taking a tour of the Kilns was like being reacquainted with an old friend. I knew bits of trivia about Lewis’s life, but our guide shed light on just what an imaginative, gracious and fun-loving person he really was. One story stood out to me in particular. After his cat, Tom, had lost his teeth, Lewis’s wife, Joy, wanted to have the cat put down. Lewis would hear nothing of the sort, and every third day went to the market to get fish for Tom to eat, which he ground small enough so the cat didn’t have to chew, and declared it would be Tom’s pension. As he passed Tom in the garden, he usually doffed his hat, citing to a baffled friend, “Tom’s a pensioner, don’t you know. We treat pensioners with respect.”

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Oxford history doesn’t just hold references to Lewis’s life and works, it also plays host to a large chunk of filming locations, particularly for the first Harry Potter film, directed by Christopher Columbus. I visited the Divinity School in the Bodleian Library, where the scenes for the Hogwarts Infirmary were filmed, and also Christ Church, where the Golden Trio meet again after the events of Philosopher’s Stone. Finally, I also visited New College, where a particular scene from The Goblet of Fire was filmed. Visiting New College was like stepping into Hogwarts itself. It’s safe to say this trip was filled with magic!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I was only in Oxford for four days but I absolutely loved every minute of it! I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a big literary geek like me!

Has my blog post convinced you to visit Oxford? Or are there other places on your list? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Books to Read in 2017

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So with an incredibly successful reading year for 2016, I intend on having 2017 be just as fruitful when it comes to books. I’ve made quite a dent in my TBR pile, but not enough that I’ve lifted my book buying ban! Onwards and upwards I say, and here are the top ten books I want to get around to reading in 2017.

These books are in no particular order.

The End of Oz by Danielle Paige

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At the end of Yellow Brick War, Amy had finally defeated Dorothy. Just when she and the rest of the surviving members of the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked thought it was safe to start rebuilding the damaged land of Oz, they realized they’ve been betrayed—by one of their own. And Dorothy might not have been so easily defeated after all. – from Goodreads.com

This is the last book in the Dorothy Must Die series and I can’t wait to see how it ends! These books are so much fun and I’m sure it will carry on to the fourth and final instalment.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

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‘You can’t get around Kate Battista as easily as all that’ Kate Battista is feeling stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but the adults don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner. – from Goodreads.com

After reading Eligible this year, I’m branching out in the intervention genre and not just reading fairy tale retellings. This one is a reworking of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and will probably be similar to one of my favourite films 10 Things I Hate About You.

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

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Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers. – from Goodreads.com

I read A Study in Charlotte not too long ago and really, really enjoyed it! I absolutely love all things Sherlock Holmes and all things mystery, so this really was a hole in one for me. In 2017, the next book in the series is coming out and I can’t wait to read it!

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

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Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control. Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa? – from Goodreads.com

This is a book that has had a lot of buzz this year, but it’s only out in the USA and Australia, which means getting hold of a copy can be quite expensive if you’re on a minimal budget like I am. I’m hoping a UK publisher is going to pick it up and start distributing because the need to read this book is becoming unbearable!

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown. – from Goodreads.com

The Three Dark Crowns Series is new from Kendare Blake and is an epic fantasy tale reminiscent of a Game of Thrones. This is a book I haven’t had a chance to pick up yet but it sounds so incredibly exciting, and will hopefully quench my thirst for a really good fantasy!

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

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On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not — their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world? – from Goodreads.com

This was my most anticipated read of 2017, but as the reviews came back it seemed there was some problematic content that needed to be addressed. I would still like to read this book to see what the problematic content is, to educate myself on why it is problematic and how we can erase these harmful descriptions and properly represent anyone and everyone.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer

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In her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure — with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team. – from Goodreads.com

Anything that directly, or indirectly, involves the Lunar Chronicles I AM THERE. Winter was my most favourite read of 2016, and so the fact that we have something else to look forward to in the Lunar Chronicles universe makes me very, very happy!

The Heiresses by Allison Rushby

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When three teenage girls, Thalia, Erato and Clio, are summoned to the excitement of fast-paced London–a frivolous, heady city full of bright young things–by Hestia, an aunt they never knew they had, they are shocked to learn they are triplets and the rightful heiresses to their deceased mother’s fortune. All they need to do is find a way to claim the fortune from their greedy half-brother, Charles. But with the odds stacked against them, coming together as sisters may be harder than they think. – from Goodreads.com

This is another book I’ve been pining after for years! The synopsis of this book sounds so exciting, and opposite to Three Dark Crowns when the triplets are coming together not tearing each other apart! In fact, it will be interesting to see the dynamics between the two.

Katherine of Aragon, the True Queen by Alison Weir

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In all the romancing, has anyone regarded the evidence that Anne Boleyn did not love Henry VIII? Or that Prince Arthur, Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, who is said to have loved her in fact cared so little for her that he willed his personal effects to his sister? Or that Henry VIII, an over-protected child and teenager, was prudish when it came to sex? That Jane Seymour, usually portrayed as Henry’s one true love, had the makings of a matriarch? There is much to reveal … – from Goodreads.com

I am completely fascinated by the Tudor period, especially Henry VIII’s six wives. You might think this subject has been done to death, thanks to Philippa Gregory, Antonia Fraser, Margaret George and many more, but I personally really love each individual interpretation, and this collection looks as though it’s going to be a different spin.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

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The discovery of a dead infant in an Amish barn shakes Lancaster County to its core. But the police investigation leads to a more shocking disclosure: circumstantial evidence suggests that eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher, an unmarried Amish woman believed to be the newborn’s mother, took the child’s life. When Ellie Hathaway, a disillusioned big-city attorney, comes to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to defend Katie, two cultures collide — and for the first time in her high-profile career, Ellie faces a system of justice very different from her own. Delving deep inside the world of those who live “plain,” Ellie must find a way to reach Katie on her terms. And as she unravels a tangled murder case, Ellie also looks deep within — to confront her own fears and desires when a man from her past reenters her life. – from Goodreads.com

I am also fascinated by the Amish and their way of life, so when I realised Jodi Picoult had written a book that delves into the world of the Amish, I knew I had to read it. I haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet, but hopefully I’ll get around to it this year.

So this completes my list of books I hope to read in 2017. Are there any books here you’re looking forward to reading? Or have I missed off one of your most anticipated? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Now I’m not very well versed in Science Fiction and Fantasy, unless you count The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter, both of which I am experts in! So particularly this year, I tried to branch out of my comfort zone and read up on those genres that I’m lacking. Here are my favourites so far!

These books are in no particular order.

1

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

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Audrey Niffenegger’s dazzling debut is the story of Clare, a beautiful, strong-minded art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: his genetic clock randomly resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. – from Goodreads.com

As debut novels go, Audrey Niffenegger pretty much hit the big time with this one. A stunningly unique account of time travel, packed in with a heavy load of romance and spanning across Clare’s lifetime, including her ups and her downs. This story is truly unforgettable and one of a kind.

2

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks. She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English. But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead. – from Goodreads.com

The therapeutic boarding school is reminiscent of many young adult novels, but this one goes a step further, introducing Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar into it’s reading list. The students are encouraged to write a journal and from there the (literal) magic unfolds.

3

Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

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At the Manhattan School for Art and Music, where everyone is “different” and everyone is “special,” Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. She’s the kind of girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of Spider-Man, so she won’t have to talk to anyone; who has a crush on Titus but won’t do anything about it; who has no one to hang out with when her best (and only real) friend Katya is busy. One day, Gretchen wishes that she could be a fly on the wall in the boys’ locker room–just to learn more about guys. What are they really like? What do they really talk about? Are they really cretins most of the time? Fly on the Wall is the story of how that wish comes true. – from Goodreads.com

E Lockhart’s novels are always different, but when I read the synopsis of this book I thought: “surely not. Surely she doesn’t actually turn into a fly”. But, as always, E Lockhart manages to pull it off with style. I suppose in my younger years, I had probably wished to be a fly on the wall, although in some ways I’m glad I didn’t get my wish. I can’t imagine the feeling is very pleasant.

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast. – from Goodreads.com

I was once given a copy of Ender’s Game as a present because it was “the corner stone of Science Fiction” and I can’t argue with that. It’s wonderfully simple and yet so rich in it’s world building that it’s hard to believe the whole book starts from a six year old’s perspective. I would definitely recommend it to people wanting to get more acquainted with the genre.

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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

This was one of the first Science Fiction books I read, and of course being the heathen that I am, I saw the film first. I spent a lot of time being VERY confused as to what was happening. Was Ruth searching for her mother? If they were made from prostitutes and tramps I just figured Hailsham was some kind of foster boarding school. Anyway, once I realised OH THEY’RE CLONES, I got much more understanding of the story, and really, really would recommend it.

So these are my top five recommendations on the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. Do you think I’ve missed anything out? Or have I included your absolute favourite? Are there any you can recommend to me? Let me know in the comments.

#NaNoWriMo – Week 1

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It’s that time of year again where we all hunch over our computers and try to bash out a novel in a month! Does it sound mad? Yes. But there’s method in our madness. Have a look and see how I did in my first week of NaNoWriMo2016.

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When I realised NaNoWriMo was coming around again, I knew for definite that I was going to be participating. I’d been mulling over an idea in my head for a few months and after developing it in a notebook, it was finally time to unleash it in a word document. I wasn’t at all apprehensive because I knew I had completed a 50k NaNo Project twice already, and so knew I could do it again.

The story I have decided to write this year is a futuristic novel set in a regressive society that mirrors Elizabethan England. World War three has destroyed the earth and the humans left over are rebuilding society from the World’s previous blueprint. Beatrice, the rightful Queen of the Republic of Karelia returns to her Kingdom to reclaim her throne since she has come of age, and must neutralise a threat of invasion from her neighbouring Kingdom.

My aim was primarily to keep to the word count for everyday and get ahead on words if possible so that on the days where I’m feeling less inspired I don’t have to torture myself into completing the required amount. I did hit a few issues especially during the middle of the week. For me the problem wasn’t finding time to write, it was typing the standard “housekeeping” scenes and and trying to push through to get to more exciting scenes where the action rose. I also have never written a story that involved world building before. It was a lot of fun building my own world in the preparation stage, but putting it into a story and making it work was entirely different altogether. I struggled not “info dumping” or leaving out the world building all together (and so thus confuse the reader), and have tried to keep it in a healthy balance.

This first week I completed nearly the first quarter of my book, which is brilliant progress! By the end of next week I hope to have achieved the half way point at twenty five thousand words.

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!