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!

Great Reads: Classics

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic. – from Goodreads.com

Not only one of my favourite classics, but also one of my favourite books of all time. I really, really recommend this book to anyone looking for a master class in writing, and also the representation of mental health in literature.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed and the promise of new beginnings. – from Goodreads.com

I never studied The Great Gatsby but I wish I did. Scott Fitzgerald’s well known novel is ripe with metaphor, imagery and symbolism which makes the whole reading process that much more enjoyable.

And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac

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This is a hardboiled crime novel, and a true story. In 1944, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, then still unknown writers, were both arrested following a murder: one of their friends had stabbed another and then come to them for advice – neither had told the police. Later they wrote this fictionalised account of that summer – of a group of friends in wartime New York, moving through each other’s apartments, drinking, necking, talking and taking drugs and haphazardly drifting towards a bloody crime. – from Goodreads.com

This was the book that inspired one of my all-time favourite films Kill Your Darlings, which fictionalised the murder of David Kammerer. This book, and the film, provides so much more context to the Beat Generation and the writers who created some of their most prolific work in this era.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele — Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles — as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. – from Goodreads.com

Kaysen’s memoir is similar to that of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which is probably the reason why I love it so much. Kaysen spent two years in a psychiatric hospital and goes into a lot of detail about her life there which makes the piece incredibly fascinating.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

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The shocking thing about the five Lisbon sisters was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear. – from Goodreads.com

The tale of the Lisbon sisters is a tragic one, but fascinating to read none the less. I love how the story is told through the romanticised eyes of the boys that lusted after them. It’s such a unique device that really makes the book stand out.

So these are my recommendations for classic books, if you’re looking to expand your library more. Have you got any favourites you would like to recommend to me? Or have I missed out a few on your list? Let me know in the comments!

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 Books I’ve Studied

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I’ve been in education for more years than I’ve been out of it, and with a love of books as passionate as mine, I’ve spent a lot of time studying them. Some I’ve grown to love, some I’ve grown to hate, so here are the top 15 books I’ve studied over my time in school.

15

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

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Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past. – from Goodreads.com

My Dad always carried around a copy of Cider with Rosie, and when he passed away it was bequeathed to me. I took ownership of his battered, well-read, well-loved copy and actually chose to study this book in A-Level Literature.

14

The Go-Between by LP Hartly

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Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years. – from Goodreads.com

I studied The Go-Between alongside Cider with Rosie, and wrote an essay on childhood innocence using both these books. I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC adaptation that was released this year, and it brought back so many wonderful memories for me.

13

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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The greatest love story in English, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a play of star-crossed lovers who take a valiant stand against social convention, with tragic consequences. – from Goodreads.com

Although this is probably the most famous love story of all time, I actually struggled to get on with this play originally when I studied it at GCSE. However when my teacher showed us Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the film, where he put such a unique spin on the tale, I really grew to love it, and to this day his adaptation is one of my favourite films.

12

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. – from Goodreads.com

One of my old favourites from GCSE English. I was completely swept up in the tale of George and Lennie, and once again, watching the film cemented my love for the story.

11

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. – from Goodreads.com

Similarly to Romeo and Juliet, the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy has become somewhat clichéd. When I studied this book at A-Level Literature, I was reminded just how quick we are to judge others, especially romantically, and how Elizabeth is the perfect, head-strong heroine who we could all learn from. Also, to start as we mean to go on, I watched both adaptations by Joe Wright and also the BBC, both of which are favourites.

10

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller

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In A View from the Bridge Arthur Miller explores the intersection between one man’s self-delusion and the brutal trajectory of fate. Eddie Carbone is a Brooklyn longshoreman, a hard-working man whose life has been soothingly predictable. He hasn’t counted on the arrival of two of his wife’s relatives, illegal immigrants from Italy; nor has he recognized his true feelings for his beautiful niece, Catherine. – from Goodreads.com

Another favourite of mine from GCSE English. A wonderful commentary on immigration that is still relevant in today’s world.

  An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley

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The action of the play occurs in an English industrial city, where a young girl commits suicide and an eminently respectable British family is subject to a routine inquiry in connection with the death. An inspector calls to interrogate the family, and during the course of his questioning, all members of the group are implicated lightly or deeply in the girl’s undoing. – from Goodreads.com

Probably the first “mystery” that I ever read in GCSE English, and ignited my love for the genre. Seeing how every member of the family tied into the story of the dead girl was literary craftsmanship at it’s best. Another honourable mention to the BBC adaptation released earlier this year.

8

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. – from Goodreads.com

Another one from GCSE English with a fantastic movie to go along with it. Many people refer to Frankenstein as the monster, not the man who created him, and I think that says a lot about our morbid curiosity and just how momentous Frankenstein’s creation was.

7

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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Perhaps the single most influential work of English drama, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a timeless tragedy of the conflicted loyalties, madness, betrayal and terrible revenge. – from Goodreads.com

Along with another awesome adaptation from Mr Branagh himself, Hamlet, which I studied at Literature A-Level is my second favourite Shakespeare play. Which brings me nicely onto…

6

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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Promised a golden future as ruler of Scotland by three sinister witches, Macbeth murders the king to ensure his ambitions come true. But he soon learns the meaning of terror – killing once, he must kill again and again, and the dead return to haunt him. – from Goodreads.com

My favourite Shakespeare play! Witches, prophecies, killing, war, all the things that make a tragedy a tragedy in my eyes. With, surprise surprise, an awesome adaptation to go along with it.

Which brings me into my top five:

5

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. – from Goodreads.com

My Gramps once said that education really begins after you leave school, and he was so right. I didn’t actually study The Great Gatsby whilst I was at school. My A-Level Literature teacher, Robert Hastie, gave me his copy of The Great Gatsby that he used to study with whilst at university. I’ve cherished his copy ever since, as it has his own notes and comments in. I recently read and studied this book by myself, and added in my own notes and comments along with his. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. Also, note the awesome film.

4

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. – from Goodreads.com

This play/film is pretty much the reason why I’m so fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials, and charts once again the morally complex tale of John Proctor, knowing he will be sentenced to death if he denies his involvement with the devil, or live a life of damnation if he admits.

3

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

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Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation. – from Goodreads.com

This was another book that I didn’t study whilst in education. JD Salinger’s novel is considered to be the corner-stone of YA literature and one of the first young adult books to be recognised in the genre. I love a good unreliable narrator as much as the next person, and listening to Holden narrate his experiences was so entertaining. Salinger captures the no man’s land between childhood and adulthood, and everything in between.

2

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

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The Bloody Chamber is an anthology of short fiction by Angela Carter. All of the stories share a common theme of being closely based upon fairy tales or folk tales. – from Goodreads.com

This anthology couldn’t be more up my alley. I first read this collection of works at university when doing a module on Fairy Tales. Carter poetically and vividly re-tells some of our best-loved folk and fairy tales, with a dark and sexy twist.

Which leaves my number one choice:

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature. – from Goodreads.com

This choice may be somewhat cliché, but for me, the themes and symbols of the novel are what makes this book stand out for me. The moors, the ghosts, the appearance of the double, repetition, nature vs culture, social class and, above all, love. When I first read Wuthering Heights, I found it to be really dense and difficult to get into. But after I watched the ITV series, and once I understood the story, I found I could really unearth the layers of the novel. And that is why this fantastically gothic novel is my number one.

So there we have it. Do you agree with my top fifteen, or would you like to have seen some other books make an appearance? What would be your top fifteen? Let me know in the comments.

 

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I have officially completed #CampNaNoWri2016. I can hardly believe it. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to, but as the word count got higher an higher every day, I fought to complete it. I constantly said to myself “I’ve come this far…” and that was what spurred me on. I found this week so challenging, mainly because I was writing without any real outline, just a vague idea of what I wanted to happen, and although that was kind of liberating, I found it extremely difficult. I think for future projects, I’ll make sure to have an outline first.

NaNoWriMo runs three times a year, once in November, once in April and once again in July. I don’t know if I’ll be participating in the July edition, but I’m looking forward to starting something new and creative again in November!

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#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 3

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Only one week left of the summer installment of NaNoWriMo and I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. I’ve found keeping my pace quite difficult this week, as I’ve been struggling with how to end my story. With most ideas, I often have a beginning and a middle, but the ending sometimes doesn’t come to me for a while. Also, with my story idea being a murder mystery, I have to be able to tie all of my loose ends up and solve a murder. With that being said, let’s have a look at my stats for this week.

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I achieved my goal of wanting to write between 35-40,000 and I wrote a total of 36,720, which leaves me 13,280 for the last week, which averages out at around 1800 a day. Next week will be significantly less busy than this week, so I’m hoping to finish my manuscript on time and complete my second ever NaNoWriMo challenge!