Best Books of Jul-Aug-Sep

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I’ve been rounding up my favourite books every quarter, as some of the books I read and love don’t quite make it to my end of year list. This is the third blog post I’ve done, which means we’re about three-quarters of the way through the year. At this rate, it will be almost Christmas! So here are the books I’ve really liked in the last three months, ones I’m not sure that will make the final list.

These books are in no particular order.

1.

Girlhood by Cat Clarke

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Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; but Harper can’t escape the guilt of her twin sister’s Jenna’s death, and her own part in it – and she knows noone else will ever really understand. But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Then Kirsty’s behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper’s? And why is she so obsessed with Harper’s lost sister? How can Harper get back to the person she wants to be, and to the girls who mean the most to her? – from Goodreads.com

I managed to get an ARC of this book on NetGalley. If you don’t know what NetGalley is, it’s a website where you can apply for and download advanced reader copies granted by the publishers. Cat Clarke’s latest book gave me some serious Pretty Little Liars vibes!

2.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil. But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed. – from Goodreads.com

I found my copy of this book in an Oxfam Bookshop and read a decent chunk of it on the train home! The friendship between Sophie and Agatha really reminded me of Elphaba and Glinda’s relationship in Wicked. Good and Evil! Not sure whether I’ll read the rest of the series but it was still super fun!

3.

Aurabel by Laura Dockrill

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It has been two years since Rory drowned, and Lorali is in Hastings, living the quiet life of a normal teenage girl. But her safe life on land won’t last for long. Life in The Whirl has become a hotbed of underwater politics and as the council jostles to oust the king, one Mer in particular has her eye on Lorali as the key to her own rise to power. Meanwhile, Aurabel, a lowly Mer from the wrong side of the trench, is attacked by sea beasts and left for dead – and without a tail. Raging with righteous anger, she rebuilds herself a mechanical tail and reinvents herself as a fearless steampunk Mer seeking revenge. But she never expected the most important job that was about to drop into her lap. – from Goodreads.com

Lorali by Laura Dockrill holds a special place in my heart, as it’s set in a nearby town to me called Hastings! Not many people know about our little corner of the world, and so when we get a starring role, especially in a book about mermaids, it’s hard not to resist! So when the ARC for Aurabel was available to request on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance!

4.

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin

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When Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a nightmare accident, she must relearn everything from walking across the street to recognizing her own sisters to imagining colors. One of seven children, Emma used to be the invisible kid, but now it seems everyone is watching her. And just as she’s about to start high school and try to recover her friendships and former life, one of her classmates is found dead in an apparent suicide. Fifteen and blind, Emma has to untangle what happened and why – in order to see for herself what makes life worth living. – from Goodreads.com

I’d had this eBook on my Kindle for a long time, but it was actually the audiobook on OverDrive that spurred me on to read it. It was amazing to hear about Emma’s story, and how the feelings of loss and bereavement could be applied in this situation.

5.

STAGS by M.A. Bennett

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Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, the students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school… – from Goodreads.com

STAGS was another NetGalley ARC and was quite a hyped release on Goodreads and Booktube. Again, it gave me Pretty Little Liars vibes and was quite an exciting read. I felt overall it needed more pace but it’s certainly in the same vein as Cat Clarke in terms of mystery and thrills! A definite must-read for fans of Clarke’s books.

So this concludes my list of books I really enjoyed in the last three months. Did you read any of these books? Or do you want to recommend some you think I’ll like? Let me know in the comments!

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Writing a Book: My Tips & Tricks

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I have written a book, which is a phrase I never thought I would say, no matter how much I wanted to. It’s always been a headliner on my bucket list, and last November after a grueling attempt at NaNoWriMo, I managed to tick it off.

I have not ever published a book, but I’m working on it, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to tick that off the bucket list too. But after four years of would-be-novel writing, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to help you on your way to a finished manuscript.

1

Make a list of genres/narratives/plot devices/settings you love.

I sat in front of my bookshelf, looked up at all of my well-loved books and asked myself “what is it about these books that I love?” Here were some of the answers I came up with:

The sea, lyrical writing, boarding schools, room mates/flat mates, no parents, freedom and independence, letters, philosophy, candidness of feeling, metaphor, living in sections/houses/districts/factions, snow, road trips, epic romances, being stuck somewhere, elements, magic, mystery, royalty, marriage, death/grief, group dynamics, history and many more.

2

Make a list of names for characters you love.

You can do this by either going on a baby name website, or for something more periodic you could always go and look at the gravestones of people from a certain time period. This may spark some thoughts as to the identity behind the name, or character traits. Some names I love and plan on using are:

George, Corey, Greta, Matthew, Sasha, Kendra, Laurie, Harry, Lisel, Brodie, Annalise, Catelynn, Ida, Lydia, Teddy, Karen, Shay, Daya, Torin, and many more.

3

Make a summary or short synopsis of your story.

Take the plot devices and the names you have just picked out and try to construct a story idea from the elements you’ve chosen. Don’t worry too much about your story sounding like something that’s already been published, some people believe there are only seven basic plots in the world. If we all worried about whether our story was original or not, we wouldn’t have much time for writing! See also: the thirty six dramatic situations.

For example, I could write a story about Laurie, a college freshman and History student, who writes letters to her future self about the lessons she learns from life, whilst slowly falling in love with her room mate.

4

Buy a notebook, small enough to fit in your bag/pocket and big enough for your ideas!

If you are a writer, then there is a large chance you are also a stationary fiend. Writing a book gives you license to go to your local retailer and stock up on pens, post-it notes, highlighters, paper clips and a notebook (or a few). If you carry around your notebook with you at all times, you can write down an idea when the moment strikes, which is handy if you are particularly forgetful.

When I was working on my NaNoWriMo project, I had my notebook with me at all times!

5

Write an outline, however vague or detailed.

My outline was similar to a script format. I detailed where the scene was taking place, who was there and important factors worth noting. I also wrote the bare bones of the dialogue between the two characters, or bare description of what a character was doing in the particular scene. After I had done this for the beginning, middle and end of the book, I went back through it and added in description, building the image of my scene from the ground up. The structure I had gave me something to work with, which really, really helped during my writing period.

And lastly, set yourself a goal. Whether you aim to write a hundred words a day or a thousand, it’s important to stay focused and disciplined.

I hope this little article has helped inspire a few of you to get writing. Let me know down in  the comments if any of these tips work for you!

Top 10 YouTube Channels

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Having a YouTube channel has become a firm staple in a social media identity, and is the perfect platform for the weird and wonderful to host their ideas, opinions and discussion. Watching YouTube used to just be a place for me to watch videos, but now catching up with my subscriptions has become part of my daily routine, which is why I bring you my top ten favourite YouTube channels that I like to watch regularly.

 These channels are in no particular order.

1

ABookUtopia

(Sasha Alsberg)

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Sasha is one of the biggest book vloggers in the BookTube community with over 250,000 subscribers. Sasha is so enthusiastic about books and every video of hers is like a little ray of sunshine. Sasha has serious bookshelf goals, and frequently updates us with her thoughts on the newest releases. Sasha is also affiliated with EpicReads and rounds up our book-to-movie adaptation news each month.

2

Liza Koshy

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Liza only started her YouTube channel six months ago, but already she has banked a million subscribers in that time. You may recognise her from her Vine account, where she has 4.5 million followers and over one billion loops. To add to her achievements, Liza’s most hilarious series Driving with Liza has earned her over two million views on one video alone. Make sure to check her out for hilarious videos, which are guaranteed to make you laugh out loud!

3

WhittyNovels

(Whitney Atkinson)

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Whitney is another book vlogger from the BookTube community, but also vlogs often about her hobbies, like journal-ing and music. Whitney also hosts the Cram-a-thon every December, speaks German and has just completed her first semester at college. Is there an end to her talents? I don’t think so! Whitney also manages to read a tonne of books each month which she also reviews on her channel.

4

ItsWayPastMyBedtime

(Carrie Hope Fletcher)

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Carrie is another vlogger with endless talents. Not only is she a YouTube-r, she’s a writer, a singer, an actress, a songwriter, a musician and also a Disney lover. Carrie has spent the last two and a half years performing in the West End as Eponine in Les Miserables, and has just published her memoir All I Know Now. Carrie is currently working on her first fiction book On the Other Side, due to be published this July. I’ve been watching Carrie for ten years, and with every video I fall more and more in love with her.

5

HailsHeartsNyc

(Hailey Leblanc)

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Hailey is another book vlogger from Canada, and one of my favourites. She is currently embarking on a creative writing and publishing degree, and frequently uploads videos detailing her book lists each semester. Hailey uploads book reviews, unboxings and discussions, and every year hosts Bookmas!

6

LaurDIY

(Lauren Riihimaki)

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Lauren started out primarily as a DIY channel, and has since included lifestyle and life hacks into her catalogue. She is one of the front runners in her field with almost three million subscribers. My favourites of hers are her organisation hacks, room decor and clothing DIY ideas. Also, check out Lauren’s Instagram page, as she has a serious eye for photography.

7

PadfootandProngs07

(Raeleen Lemay)

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Raeleen is another book vlogger that I frequently watch, who also reviews new releases, old favourites, and participates in reading challenges. Raeleen also provides us with recommendations on topics such as LBGTQIA and uploads a tonne of fun reading tags with her other bookish friends.

8

CrashCourse

(Hank Green, Phil Plait, Craig Benzine, Adriene Hill, Jacob Clifford, John Green)

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Crash Course massages my inner nerd. I frequently watch their playlists on Literature, Psychology, History and Astronomy, which all areas that I find really interesting. The channel has over 4 million subscribers and aims to help educate it’s subscribers with information and knowledge for free. If you are able to donate to help further the work Crash Course does, you can donate here.

9

Vlogbrothers

(John and Hank Green)

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I became a fan of John Green when I first read Looking for Alaska back in 2011, then I realised he had a YouTube account with his brother Hank that stood independently from his life as a writer. Both John and Hank vlog about topics that occur in their daily life, and fund and create projects like Crash Course, Mental Floss and so many more. Their subscribers call themselves Nerdfighters, as we fight to decrease World Suck.

10

Ariel Bissett

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Ariel is another book vlogger that not only uploads reviews of books, but also hosts the yearly YouTube-a-thon. In 2015, Ariel was one of the Man Booker vloggers, and frequently brings her opinions to her channel, as well as her love of George Orwell. Ariel is a writer herself, and documented her progress with NaNoWriMo this year, and her tips to lead a fuller writing filled life.

That concludes ten of my favourite YouTube channels. I hope you’ve found some previously undiscovered gems in this list, and let me know down in the comments of your favourite channels!