Unexpected Favourites

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I’ve been thinking a lot about books I’ve marked as favourites and why I love them so much, and a few books popped out at me as selections that I didn’t necessarily expect to love but did. I love those types of books that creep up on you in the best way, and here are a few of the biggest surprises.

1.

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

Before reading Blankets, I’d never really read a graphic novel before and certainly not one of that size. (The book comes in at just under 600 pages!) But I absolutely gobbled this story up and loved every minute of it. I would definitely consider reading more Craig Thompson books and I’d like to branch out in my graphic novel exploration and read more of the genre too.

2.

Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews

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It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake–a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father. So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic. Just for a little while… – from Goodreads.com

I was guided to read this book for my dissertation but quickly fell in love with the story and read all of the books in the series. This book, at the time, wasn’t something I was particularly interested in but the gothic tone and style of writing really drew me in. It’s such a shame that Virginia didn’t write more books before her untimely death, as her ghostwriter isn’t quite up to the standard that Andrews set out.

3.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The spirit of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon describes her murder, her surprise at her new home in heaven, and her witness to her family’s grief, efforts to find the killer, and attempts to come to terms with what has happened. – from Goodreads.com

The Lovely Bones has such a unique style of writing that I wondered whether I would take to it, but really I didn’t need to worry. The Lovely Bones swept me up and before I knew it I had finished it. I did absolutely love it and I’ve gone onto read Lucky, which is Alice Sebold’s memoir, and I adored that too. On my TBR, I have her latest book, The Almost Moon, which I can’t wait to read!

So that concludes a few of my unexpected favourites. I’m sure this blog post will be one of many, as the books I read quite often surprise me! Do you have any unexpected favourites? Has my list of glowing reviews made you add these books to your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

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!

Current Favourites: Albums

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Like with books, I go through periods of obsession with different albums. It happens every time a favourite artist of mine drops a new record, but sometimes I discover something new and it sticks in my “recently played” list for a few weeks. So, without further ado, here are the albums I’ve been loving recently.

These albums are in no particular order.

Lady Antebellum – 747

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Lady Antebellum’s latest record takes a slight departure from their country roots and takes on a heavier tone, punctured with guitar licks and their soothing harmonies that they’re renowned for.

Songs I Love: Long Stretch of Love, Bartender, Lie with Me, One Great Mystery, Damn You Seventeen, 747, Just a Girl, All Nighter (Deluxe Edition), Falling for You (Deluxe Edition).

Rascal Flatts – Greatest Hits Vol 1

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Everyone knows the song “What Hurts the Most”. Everyone has drunkenly sung it at Karaoke and most people have used it in their ship fan-vids. It is an absolute tune after all, but who knew that Rascal Flatts had even more corkers in their repertoire? 

Songs I Love: Feels Like Today, What Hurts the Most, Bless the Broken Road, Life is a Highway.

Beyoncé – Lemonade

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Probably the biggest album to drop this year, and Beyoncé’s second visual album in her catalogue. It was inspired by a speech her Grandmother made, saying “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade,” and charts the journey of a woman “through self-expression and healing.”

Songs I Love: Don’t Hurt Yourself, Sorry, 6 Inch, Sandcastles, All Night, Formation.

Charlie Simpson – Little Hands

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For his third effort, Charlie brings us collection of intimate, acoustic songs that had been recorded in the six years prior to it’s release. It’s a sort of album, bringing brand new songs and old faces to give us the chilled out, mellow vibe that Charlie’s solo career is becoming known for.

Songs I Love: Emily, Little Hands, Walking with the San, Barricades of Heaven.

Taylor Swift – Speak Now

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It’s an old-y but a good-y, back when Taylor was making the shift between country and pop, and starting to establish herself as the fantastic story teller and lyricist she has become. 

Songs I Love: Mine, Sparks Fly, Back to December, Speak Now, The Story of Us, Enchanted.

So these are the five albums I’m absolutely loving at the moment. Are any of these on your list of favourites? Or do you have another five in mind. Let me know in the comments!

Top 20 Albums I Love (1-10)

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I started developing my own music taste around the age of twelve years old. This also coincided with the exposure of Busted, who were my first music-based obsession, closely followed by McFly, their prodigies. I am now aged twenty four and my music taste has changed a lot since then, (well, not THAT much. I still love Busted and McFly), and I wanted to compile my top 20 albums that I love.

These albums are in no particular order

Pioneer by The Maine

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I love the story of this album just as much as I love the album itself. In the wake of their success of ‘the difficult second album‘ Black and White, The Maine still felt dissatisfied by their experience of working with a major label, and made their third album, Pioneer, in secret. When they eventually revealed the album to their record company, they decided to part ways and were released from their contract. Ever since, The Maine have been doing it for themselves, and have gone from strength to strength under their self-management/label 8123, and have toured around the world with another two albums.

Songs to Love: Time, Some Days, Don’t Give Up on Us, When I’m At Home, Jenny, Like We Did, Listening to Rock and Roll.

American Candy by The Maine

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This album is the latest to be dropped from The Maine and shows their growth as musicians, not only from Pioneer, but also from their first album Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, which was released back in 2008. What I love about The Maine is that every album contains and different sound, a different perspective, shows maturity and tells a story, so it was so difficult to only pick two for this list. Whilst this album goes back to their earlier pop-rock roots, The Maine have established themselves as staples in the alternative rock genre.

Songs to Love: Same Suit Different Tie, My Hair, English Girls, 24 Floors, Diet Soda Society, Am I Pretty?

The Final Riot! by Paramore

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I am a listener who loves live albums, and The Final Riot! by Paramore is one I have listened to on repeat. This album perfectly sums up their first two records, and shows just how incredible the band sound in a live venue. The crowd goes wild, the band goes wild, and even though Hayley Williams rocks the show like it’s her own, this record proves that Paramore IS A BAND.

Songs to Love: That’s What You Get, Here We Go Again, crushcrushcrush, When It Rains, My Heart, Decoy, Pressure, Emergency, Misery Business.

Brand New Eyes by Paramore

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The last album before the in-famous depature of the Farro brothers and showed just how fraught things became between them. Although the band insisted things were better, the cracks were clear with this album that detailed the intense feelings of judgement that the members were placing on each other. One thing I particularly love about this album is that it captures so candidly the no man’s land between growing up, and the frustration at the world as one matures.

Songs to Love: Playing God, Brick by Boring Brick, Turn it Off, Looking Up, Where the Lines Overlap, Misguided Ghosts, Decode.

Paramore by Paramore

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I know what you’re probably thinking. Three Paramore albums in one list?! But I couldn’t do a top twenty album list and NOT include this beauty. A lot of Paramore fans, including myself, worried about what the sound of Paramore would be like PF, (post-Farro), as a lot of the melodies were written by Hayley and Josh. Their chemistry, their love, which unfortunately came to an end ,(and probably was partly to blame for the Farro’s depature), was what fueled the spark of Paramore, or so we thought. The truth was, we didn’t have to worry. Paramore came back live and kicking without the Farro brothers and gave us the gift that was their self-titled album. Mixing pop/rock/funk was something I never thought I would see on a mainstream album, and I don’t think I ever will again.

Songs to Love: Daydreaming, Ain’t It Fun, Last Hope, Still into You, Anklebiters, Proof, Hate to See Your Heart Break.

Big Skies by Nick Santino

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Another prodigy from 8123, Nick Santino released his solo album Big Skies after being a part A Rocket to the Moon before they split. This album captures the ache of unrequited love and plays it out on this up-tempo, slightly western-infused acoustic-come-rock album that gives Nick Santino his unique sound.

Songs to Love: Bad Taste, I Can’t Say I Miss You, Long Way Home, Mood Ring Eyes.

Young Pilgrim by Charlie Simpson

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Like many, I found Charlie Simpson through his success in Busted, and although I was devastated when his departure split up my love affair with the band, I’m (in a round about way) very glad he did. See, if Charlie had never quit Busted, then he may never have had a solo career, and made this fantastic album, that showed everyone what Charlie was really made of. This acoustic-based album with beautiful poetic lyrics is one of my all time favourites.

Songs to Love: Down Down, Parachutes, All At Once, Thorns, Hold On, Sundown, Riverbanks.

Long Road Home by Charlie Simpson

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Charlie’s not-so-difficult second album is just as good as his first. It shows a slightly more mature and refined sound but has just as many hits on it as it’s predecessor. Charlie’s voice is unmistakable, whether you’re a Busted fan, a Fightstar fan or just a fan of old Charlie boy himself, it’s this album that allows him to make his mark as a solo artist.

Songs to Love: Long Road Home, Comets, Emily, Haunted, Blood, Still Young.

The Dance by Fleetwood Mac

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As I said before, I love live albums, and I consider this to be one of Fleetwood Mac’s hidden gems. Recorded in 1997, The Dance showcases the band behind the mask, behind the headlines and the stories, the real people who made music just because they loved it. They play all the hits, they talk the talk and walk the walk. This album is one that delivers time and time again.

Songs to Love: The Chain, Dreams, Everywhere, Rhiannon, I’m So Afraid, Temporary One, Big Love, Landslide, Say You Love Me, Silver Springs, You Make Loving Fun, Go Your Own Way, Tusk, Don’t Stop.

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

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It would be sacralidge to do a ‘favourite albums’ list and not include one of the most well know, well loved albums of all time. This record is certified Diamond (yes, I didn’t know it was a thing either), and has sold over twenty eight million copies to date. Impressive, even more so, as this was the album the masked the lies, the drugs and the breakups that Fleetwood Mac is renowned for. I’ll let it’s legacy speak for itself.

Songs to Love: Dreams, Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way, Songbird, Silver Springs, The Chain, You Make Loving Fun, I Don’t Wanna Know.

Stay tuned to part two of my list of favourite albums coming soon!

Reliving the Magic: Why I Re-Read Books.

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As an experiment, ask someone near and dear to you what their favourite film is. I bet you most answers will be something along the lines of “Back to the Future” or “The Sound of Music”, or “Anchorman” depending on their generation. I have way too many favourite films to pick just one, but I can tell you exactly why I love each and every one of them. They usually remind me of a certain time in my life, or a certain someone I’ve lost, or perhaps I just want to relive the magic and the memories of watching it the first time.

This is exactly how I feel about books.

I absolutely love to re-read books, and my love of it began with (you guessed it) Harry Potter. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve read that series, and The Chronicles of Narnia too. It brings me such comfort and joy to delve into those worlds again, no matter how much of it I know off by heart. They still thrill and excite me to this day, and maybe when I’m feeling nostalgic or have heartache, Harry will comfort me as any medicine would.

I also recently re-read one of my all time favourite books Looking for Alaska by John Green. I was really nervous beforehand, as I worried that the magical words that had touched my heart the first time I read it would be gone, but I was met with the same warm and fuzzy feeling I felt inside like I had before. I could just see myself back in the Aventura hostel in Budapest, curling up in my window seat with the Hungarian sun streaming in. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever. Even though it had been years since I’d picked the book up, it still managed to have the same effect on me, I still thought all the same wonderful things about the story, the characters and John’s writing. So it’s still one of my favourite books and I’m really, really happy about it.

Another collection of books I’ve re-read are the classics I was forced to read in school. The fact that they were compulsory reading made me fail to recognise the true strength of novels like Frankenstein, An Inspector Calls and Cider with Rosie. Now, I consider these among my favourites, and if you’d asked 15 year old Clare if she felt the same, she would have laughed in your face. The same goes for mystery novels. I like to re-read them after I know the ending, so I know what clues to look for, to sort through the red herrings and the plot twists. It makes it so much more interesting!

So these are the main reasons why I re-read books. Firstly, because I love to relive the magic, secondly because I love to revisit the memories and thirdly, because I love to gain a new perspective on books I’d long forgotten. Of course, this does make it difficult to get through my hefty TBR pile, so I don’t like to make a habit of it. Never the less, whenever someone tells you what their favourite film is, I’m sure it would be very interesting to ask them just why that is.

Do you often read books? 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.

Feeling Craft-y: Journaling Ideas

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I never realised until recently, but I’ve been journaling my whole life. Even before I knew what journaling was, or before I could write, my mum has been keeping chronicles of pictures I’ve drawn and notes I’ve written throughout my years.

I then kept diaries when I was an angst-y teenager, which I eventually ended up throwing away or ripping up because I was too embarrassed about my feelings and thoughts. But now I’m older, and have developed a love of writing, and have gained confidence in owning my own feelings and thoughts, I have found a beloved hobby in journaling.

I love nothing more than putting on some music, or a film, sitting back with a pen or pencil, and letting my hand roam freely across the page. Sometimes when I’m on a train, I’ll put my headphones in and write down my thoughts and ideas, or how I’m feeling today. It’s great to look back on, especially when the pages are linked to significant life events, or strong memories.

So what do you journal about? I agree that there is nothing more daunting than a blank page, but that shouldn’t be what restricts you, it should be what frees you. You can put anything you want to on that page. But just in case you get a bit stuck, here are some ideas for pages in your journal to get you started.

About Me

What’s your name? When is your birthday? Where were you born? Are you left handed or right handed? What colour are your eyes? What colour is your hair?

Journaling is all about YOU and everything connected to your identity, what you think, what you feel, how you see the world and more. Don’t be afraid to be selfish with your journal.

Bucket List

Before you die, what do you want to have achieved? Do you want to donate blood? Sky dive? Milk a cow? Learn a language? Ride an elephant?

Journals are a great way of keeping focused on an idea or thought. You can dedicate a whole page to the idea that someday you want volunteer or own your own house. You could even fill your page with wallpaper samples!

Wish List

If you had all the money in the world, what would you buy?

Journaling is also about escaping reality and letting your imagination roam free. If you wanted, you could buy a quad bike to ride around your mansion. The possibilities are endless and your responsibilities don’t exist inside your journal.

Things to Learn

Knitting? Photography? The Off-Side Rule? Perhaps you just want to write down the definition of a difficult word that you keep forgetting.

Things to Buy

The latest season of your favourite TV show, or the dress you’ve had your eye on the past few weeks? Even if you can’t afford it, money knows no boundaries in your journal.

Road Trips to Make and Countries to Visit

Do you fancy trailing along Route 66, or driving across Europe and back again? Where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere?

Job Titles I Want

Professional bed tester? Professional tea and coffee taster? Professional Netflix watcher? I know these are three jobs I would jump at the chance to do.

Those are just a handful of the pages I have in my journal, along with lots of free writing, strands of poetry, novel ideas, character names, narratives, letters to various people, list of books I want to read, films I want to see, notes, plans, ideas, favourite foods, my favourite types of coffee, celebrities I love, wishes, hopes and dreams, and much more.

Ultimately, journals are all about having fun. Let me know down in the comments if you love to journal, and what is your favourite page?