Top 10 Books to Read in 2018

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At the beginning of every year, I always put a list together of books I want to read. I don’t have to necessarily stick to it, but it’s always good to go through my TBR list and pick out the ones I want to bring to the top. Here are my top ten picks for 2018!

These books are in no particular order.

1.

Magic Study by Maria V Snyder

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With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic – or face death – Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician’s Keep. – from Goodreads.com

I read the first book in the series, Poison Study, in January 2017, and so it seems only fitting that I would read the sequel in January 2018! This series was an excellent surprise, and I can’t wait to get cracking with book two.

2.

Wires and Nerve, Vol 2: Gone Rouge by Marissa Meyer

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Iko – an audacious android and best friend to the Lunar Queen Cinder – has been tasked with hunting down Alpha Lysander Steele, the leader of a rogue band of bioengineered wolf-soldiers who threaten to undo the tenuous peace agreement between Earth and Luna. Unless Cinder can reverse the mutations that were forced on them years before, Steele and his soldiers plan to satisfy their monstrous appetites with a massacre of the innocent people of Earth. And to show he’s serious, Steele is taking hostages. – from Goodreads.com

Wires and Nerve Volume 1 was my second favourite book of 2017, second only to that of John Green’s latest release (which was, honestly, always going to be top!). The Lunar Chronicles has been another favourite series of mine in the past few years and this graphic novel companion series is just the icing on the cake.

3.

Red Hood’s Revenge by Jim C Hines

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Roudette’s story was a simple one. A red cape. A wolf. A hunter. Her mother told her she would be safe, so long as she kept to the path. But sometimes the path leads to dark places. Roudette is the hunter now, an assassin known throughout the world as the Lady of the Red Hood. Her mission will take her to the country of Arathea and an ancient fairy threat. At the heart of the conflict between humans and fairies stands the woman Roudette has been hired to kill, the only human ever to have fought the Lady of the Red Hood and survived-the princess known as Sleeping Beauty. – from Goodreads.com

Another fairy tale retelling series! Again, I read the first two books last year and really enjoyed both of them, so now that I’m halfway through the series, I must continue and find out what happens!

4.

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

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It’s been a year since the shocking death of August Moriarty, and Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken. Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for. Until strange things start happening to him. Strange things that might mean nothing at all—or that someone is after him again. Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex. Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows that her Watson can’t forgive her. – from Goodreads.com

Can you tell I love retellings? This is the final instalment of the Charlotte Holmes series, and the final showdown where everything gets tied up. I need to find out whether Charlotte and Jamie get together – but let’s face it, they probably will!

5.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist: Break into the notorious Ice Court (a military stronghold that has never been breached). Retrieve a hostage (who could unleash magical havoc on the world). Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it). Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.
 
– from Goodreads.com

Even though this book was published in 2015, there is still such a hype surrounding this book. It’s been on my TBR for a year now and I must get around to reading it and seeing what all the fuss is about.

6.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

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The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew. Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both. – from Goodreads.com

Another Marissa Meyer book on the list comes as no surprise, as after the release of Heartless, she was bumped up to my auto-buy authors list. I’ve never read a book about superheroes before so this book will be my first.

7.

Psycho by Robert Bloch

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Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates Motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can’t help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife. – from Goodreads.com

One of my favourite TV series, Bates Motel, finished this year and I’m getting serious withdrawal! In an attempt to fill the Bates Motel hole, I’m planning on reading the book. Not usually a fan of horror but this one has me interested.

8.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister… – from Goodreads.com

I’ve read all of Ruth Ware’s books (In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10) except The Lying Game, but I aim to read it in 2018. I really, really love reading mystery/thrillers and 2018 will be no different.

9.

My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews

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Audrina wanted to be as good as her sister. Her sister was so special, so perfect — and dead. Now she will come face to face with the dangerous, terrifying secret that everyone knows. Everyone except… Sweet Audrina. – from Goodreads.com

A few years ago, I read the Flowers in the Attic series as research for my dissertation and fell in love with Andrews’s tone and writing style. Andrews only wrote six books before she died, the five books in the Flowers in the Attic series and My Sweet Audrina. I’d love to give this book a read and see if I enjoy it as much as her others.

10.

A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin

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Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over and age of enforced peace are dead…victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. – from Goodreads.com

I read the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, last year and loved the rich world building. I really need to get into the series again and start reading A Clash of Kings. Then I can get on with the TV series too!

So this concludes my top ten books to read in 2018. What’s on your list? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 #YALit Ships

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One thing that YA literature does so well is romance! Whether it be a subplot, or from the romance genre itself, the relationships included in YA books are always exciting. Having said that, some are susceptible to insta-love, some are triangles or even squares, but overall, the good romances far outweigh the bad. So here are my top five that I want to share with you.

These ships are in no particular order.

1.

Cinder/Kai

(from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer)

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Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation. – from Goodreads.com

Even though Cinder is a Cinderella retelling, and so it would be obvious she ended up with the Prince, I was still rooting for Cinder and Kai from the moment they met at Cinder’s repair shop. There was something so un-Prince like when Kai was introduced, and I love how he accepts her for who she is.

2.

Hazel/Gus

(from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)

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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. – from Goodreads.com

The one thing I love about The Fault in Our Stars is that there is no love triangle. The romance is totally focused on Hazel and Gus supporting each other through difficult times, spending time together and having fun. Of course, this story is heart-wrenching, but Gazel‘s love even transcends time, which makes it pretty epic to me!

3.

Charlotte/Jamie

(from A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro)

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The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar. From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. – from Goodreads.com

If you’re an avid watcher of the BBC series Sherlock, you might be aware of the intense Holmes/Watson shipping that has been born from the show. This intense relationship has definitely translated into Cavallaro’s novel based on the detective duo! Once again, the on and off, friends or more relationship is just as fast paced as the story, and keeps you gunning for the couple, right up until the end. I’m sure we’ll find out whether Charlotte and Jamie get together in The Case for Jamie, scheduled to be released in 2018.

4.

Gwenyth/Gideon

(from The Precious Stone Trilogy by Kerstin Gier)

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Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century. – from Goodreads.com

Although there was no doubt in my mind that Gwen and Gideon would end up together, there was certainly lots of back and forth from the both of them throughout the trilogy, enriched by their witty banter and natural chemistry. There’s something about this time traveling couple that has me begging for a sequel!

5.

Rose/Dimitri

(from The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead)

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Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them. – from Goodreads.com

I saw the Vampire Academy film before I read the books (shock horror) and loved how Rose and Dimitri’s chemistry leaped off of the screen. I was also happy to find the same for the book and was impressed about how Mead navigated the, always awkward, student-mentor relationship. This was one of the first ships that I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, and really kept me on my toes right up until the last book!

So these are my top five ships from the YA Literature scene! Are these some of your favourite ships? Or do you have some you think I’ll like? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Preparing for #CampNaNoWriMo2017

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I absolutely love participating in NaNoWriMo whether it be the Camp edition in April/July or the regular write-along in November. There’s something so infectious about setting time aside to write and celebrating the art of words with people all over the internet.

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time last April and really, really enjoyed it. What I liked was that the Camp edition has the added bonus of cabins, which means you get put into a chat room with other writers where you can spur each other on, ask questions and get feedback. This is something that isn’t available in the November challenge.

This April, I’m going to be working on a brand new story! The last three attempts at a NaNo challenge, I’ve written completely new ideas. So I’ve begun to structure my first writing project of 2017 in preparation. As usual, I like to break it down, usually into three parts, and I give myself 20,000 words per part. That way, I have a 10,000 word grace period if I’m feeling stuck. (And sixty goes into three better than fifty does!)

Also, following the trend of my last few projects, I’ll be tackling a new genre. This time I’m going to try and combat magical realism, but it will of course be YA because I can’t stray too far from who I truly am as a writer. I, so far, have never written magical realism before, even though I’ve had this seed of an idea in my head for years. I’m looking forward to the new challenge.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot yet but it’s certainly going to be mysterious, because again, I can’t stray too far from who I am. I love mystery! And packed full of drama. I also have a working-title too: The Elementals.

I’ve also dedicated a new notebook to this entirely new project which is always exciting for us stationary fiends. I’ve been carrying it around with me and filling it up with new ideas for the book, letting my imagination run wild and really mulling over the story before I put it down into words. I’ve been dreaming it up before I go to bed, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil and whilst waiting for a train. In my opinion, it’s in those blank spaces of life where we write our best work.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to in the run up to Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ll be doing weekly updates here as usual, so I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about my (hopefully, fruitful) progress.

Are you going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing this year? A new project or an old favourite? Are you waiting until November to get your write on? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Mystery

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The Crime/Mystery/Thriller genre is one of my absolute favourites! In my opinion, you can’t beat a good who-dun-it, or an exciting, fast paced thriller. So, with that in mind, here are my top five books I’d recommend to you that got the cogs in my brain turning!

These books are in no particular order.

1

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back. Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen party arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage – the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her best friend, to put the past behind her. But something goes wrong. Very wrong. And as secrets and lies unravel, out in the dark, dark wood the past will finally catch up with Nora. – from Goodreads.com

I wasn’t sure whether I would like this book at first, as I have been scorned by some contemporary mysteries in the past but boy was I wrong! I really loved it and it really is a twist-y, turn-y mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end.

2

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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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, driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid. 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

This book was one of my absolute favourites last year and I would recommend it to anyone who was looking for a thrilling mystery that will leave you confused in the best way. It’s also partially told in printed articles, webpages and photographs which I always find ups the reading experience.

3

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion. – from Goodreads.com

Agatha Christie is the QUEEN of who-dun-its and her most famous novel And Then There Were None is probably one of the most prestigious mystery novels ever written. I would agree that it is a) incredible and b) unique and is an absolute must read for any fans of the genre. Having said that, it will ruin other mystery novels for you because your standards will be incredibly high afterwards!

4

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

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The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other. – from Goodreads.com

This is another book I read last year and LOVED. I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and if you’re looking for something to fill the hole that Cumberbatch’s Sherlock has left then I would certainly recommend this book to you. It’s a great introduction to the mythology of the Holmes legacy as it makes many references to the original story.

5

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neahaus

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On a wet November day, Detectives Pia Kirchoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to the scene of a mysterious accident. A woman has fallen from a bridge onto the motorway below. It seems that she may have been pushed. The investigation leads them to a small town near Frankfurt, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer. On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls, Laura and Stefanie (also known as Snow White), vanished without trace from this same village. In a trial based entirely on circumstantial evidence, Stefanie’s boyfriend, handsome and talented, Tobias Sartorius, was sentenced to ten years in prison. He has now returned to his home in an attempt to clear his name. Rita Cramer is his mother. In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. But when another young girl goes missing, the events of the past repeat themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a dramatic race against time, because for the villagers, there is soon no doubt as to the identity of the perpetrator. And this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands. – from Goodreads.com

This synopsis speaks for itself, really. Firstly, it’s not set in England which is something very different, as most of the mystery novels I pick up happen to be set in the UK. Secondly, it is an expertly crafted novel with lots of different characters with thrilling twists and turns the whole way through. Its exciting and has a great pace, so I would definitely recommend it.

So these are my top five books that I would recommend to you in the mystery/thriller/crime genre. Are you excited to read any of these? Or do you have any recommendations for me to get stuck into? Let me know in the comments!

 

Great Reads: Dystopia

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

These books are in no particular order.

1

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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

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

2

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. – from Goodreads.com

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

3

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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

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

4

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

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

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

5

Never Let Me Go by Kauzo Ishiguro

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

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

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

 

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.

4

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.

5

Never Let Me Go by Kauzo Ishiguro

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

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.

Author Interview: A Solitary Romance by Violet Sparks

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Are you looking for the perfect summer contemporary? Something to read on holiday, on a sun lounger, cocktail in hand? Look no further.

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Violet Sparks has released her debut romance novel, A Solitary Romance, and the first book in the Only Love series, which follows Katrina Crimshaw and her double life. An auditor by day and jewelry blogger at night, she meets the man of her dreams and her life becomes even more complicated. Juggling success under a pen name with her day job and continued encounters with Robert, a man from her past that she adored from afar, proves complicated for the shy bean counter. When an attractive museum director enters her life, all bets are off as the day dreaming Katrina tries to make sense of her predicament.
When passion flares in this second chance romance, will she let love slip through her fingers again?

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Violet on the ins and outs of being an author.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I generally write in the third person limited or omniscient style.  I have to say, I begin by the seat of my pants and allow my characters full reign.  About one-third to half-way through the book, I’ll sit down and outline the rest of the novel to keep things on track.  At this point, I’ve got a good idea where all the personalities will end up.

How did you come up with the title?

The main character, Katrina Crimshaw, is a jewelry aficionado.  She runs into a man from her past, someone she found incredibly attractive but was too shy to pursue.  I combined the idea of a solitaire ring, representing her love of jewels, with the loneliness that sometimes accompanies someone who is fearful or shy, and came up with A Solitary Romance.

What books have most influenced your life most?

The Bible has had the biggest impact on my life.  The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who lived in the 1600s, is an amazing book that I can read over and over.  Coming Out of the Ice by Victor Herman also affected me—it’s a wonderful tribute to the human spirit.  I can’t leave out the books by Dickens, Austen, and the Brontë sisters, which I read in my youth.  Their works definitely lent an idealism to my mindset (which does not seem to belong to this century!), and shaped my ideas of what romance and love should be. 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice to other writers is to keep on writing!  Find a good editor you enjoy working with and don’t rush your writing process.  Read and write as much as possible and do not allow others to discourage you. 

What books/authors have influenced your writing?

I’ve always loved how Charles Dickens could weave a story together with unforgettable characters and intersecting plots.  I appreciate how he inserted humor in his books as well.  I admire the way William Faulkner packed a punch and how the Brontës created amazing atmospheres, including unexpected twists in their stories.  The contemporary author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, is a master of characters, atmosphere, and storylines.   

What genre do you consider your book(s)?

A Solitary Romance is a sweet, or clean and wholesome, romance.  It is book one of the Only Love Series, which currently consists of three books.  I have also written mysteries under a pen name.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I haven’t yet had a serious writer’s block.  With every book, I do come to a place where I just have to grind out the story.  I don’t particularly enjoy this part of my writing process, but I’ve yet to escape this phase.  Luckily, it only lasts for a chapter or two, and then I’m over the hump.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

I would not say that I’ve hated any of my work.  Anything can be polished, rewritten, examined with a fresh eye, or edited for improvement.  I do go through some fear each time I start a new book.  Will I be able to come up with anything funny?  Can I do the characters justice?  Will unnecessary details hinder the story?  In other words, how can I possibly pull this off?

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

I cannot pick a favorite a genre.  All of my books have at least a hint of romance, so maybe that’s my top choice.  The Only Love Series is straight-up romance, although the third book, A Calculated Romance, has a touch of suspense and mystery.  I like to incorporate a twist or even several unexpected events in my novels, so that’s a theme to look for.

Where did your love of writing come from?

I have always loved storytelling.  My mother used to catch me as a toddler making up stories for my own entertainment.  She fostered my love of writing by introducing me to classic literature in grade school, and I won writing awards as a teen.  Then, life and career got in the way.  I always hoped to return to writing, and the encouragement of a friend got the ball rolling for me. 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part of penning A Solitary Romance was just taking the plunge.  I experienced a personal loss around the time that the idea started to sprout.  I think this book provided a much needed distraction during those first, early stages of grief.  With its overall light tone, the writing allowed me a welcome reprieve from reality.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

A Solitary Romance is ever so slightly autobiographical.  I enjoyed reliving my early career days and the fun I had with one of my girl pals.  Also, because everything in the book felt familiar, it required little research.  I appreciated how my writing could flow without stopping to investigate other subjects.  Because I love the arts, I savored drawing on my experiences at a major auction house.  There’s a scene in the book where a character helps her friend squeeze into a gown in a dressing room by very creative means.  This actually happened, and my friend managed to fit me in that tight, red dress by the same method!  Just thinking about that little episode brings a smile to my face!

Do you write every single day?

I find I produce my best work when I am writing every day.  I aim to write six days a week, although I’ve slipped off a little this summer since my children are out of school.

Which writers inspire you?

So many authors inspire me.  At the top of the list are Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and Irène Némirovsky for her spectacular, unfinished, Suite Française.  I went through a stage where I only read history or biographies, and I greatly admire the work of David McCullough.  His books read like novels and bring the people of the past alive.  I always appreciate any writer who can surprise me with a plot twist or unexpected outcome.

What are you working on at the minute?

I am beginning the research for a novel set in the medieval period.

What is your latest book about?

My latest book is third in the Only Love Series, A Calculated Romance.  This is the story of Katrina’s assistant, a young rock hound named Landi, and what happens when her path crosses with that of James Crimshaw.  James is featured in the first three books of the series.  He is Kate’s brother and a naval intelligence officer.  Both he and Landi have murky pasts and a strong attraction to each other.

A Solitary Romance is available to buy from Amazon

Find out more about Violet’s books at: https://violetsparksauthor.com

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