Best Books of Apr-May-Jun 2017

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At the end of March, I wrote a blog post about the top books I had read in the first three-month period of the year. This is owing to the fact that when I do a yearly round-up, a lot of the books I read, I have enjoyed but because I only do a top ten, they miss out on the list. So I’ve decided to do a three-month roundup, to make sure those books I really enjoyed get their honourable mention that might narrowly miss out on my yearly list. So here are the books I’ve chosen from April, May, and June.

1.

The End of Oz by Danielle Paige

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My name is Amy Gumm. When a tornado swept me away to the magical land of Oz, I was given a mission: Dorothy must die. But just when we thought it was safe to start rebuilding the damaged land of Oz, we were betrayed. Now I’m following the Road of Yellow Brick as it helps me escape toward the mysterious land of Ev, where the Nome King rules a bleak and angry world. I thought my job was over, but it’s only just beginning. – from Goodreads.com

I can’t believe this series is over! I originally picked up Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige in 2015, right at the beginning of when I started book blogging. I really liked it, and there were minimal retellings of the Oz books at the time, and so ended up waiting with bated breath for The Wicked Will Rise to be released in 2016. Now, we’ve had the last ever book in the series and I’m still struggling to accept the fact that there will be no more books!

2.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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When aging brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help with chores around their farm, Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, neither is prepared for the feisty and imaginative redheaded girl who is mistakenly brought to them instead. Nor are they prepared for the way in which she will change their lives. Through a series of hilarious misadventures, Anne’s uncompromising spirit makes her a striking presence in the close-knit village, bringing new friendships, first crushes, and, for her foster parents, a love and openness unimaginable before her arrival. – from Goodreads.com

Anne of Green Gables has been on my radar for a while, but my urge to read it increased when I watched the Netflix series Anne with an E, which is based on the novels by L. M. Montgomery. I found Rachel McAdam’s narration to be simply charming and I loved reliving the story of Anne and the Cuthberts. I can’t wait for season 2!

3.

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C Hines

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Cinderella – whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (Nee Danielle de Glas) – marries Prince Armand. But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia – otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty – comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away. That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting. Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains? – from Goodreads.com

This was another book that I picked up really early on in my book blogging journey and I’ve ONLY just gotten around to reading it! As you know, I love retellings, and so the Princess novels, of which there are four, encompass quite a few fairy tale characters, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and many more. It was such a fun read and I’m really looking forward to moving onto The Mermaid’s Madness, where the Little Mermaid will make an appearance!

4.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. – from Goodreads.com

Thanks to Netgalley I was able to secure an advanced reader copy of this book to read on my e-reader. It was really fast paced, really fun and I was quite surprised at the ending! It’s definitely going to be up there with the top mysteries of the YA genre when it gets released.

5.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp

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If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This edition is a copy of the volume in Hogwarts School Library, where it is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis. – from Goodreads.com

I don’t ever remember reading this companion novel when I was younger, so I decided that during @readbyzoe’s #averypottersummer read-a-thon, I would FINALLY pick it up. I absolutely love Rowling’s companion novels. It’s such an eye-opener into the wizarding world and goes to show just how much depth J.K. has gone into over the years writing the Potter books. I loved it and it’s a must read for any Potter fan!

So these are the best books of April, May, and June! I can’t believe we’re half way through the year now. So it probably won’t be long before I’m rounding up another three months at the end of September. Have you got any books you read and loved in the last three months? Or maybe you read a few of these as well? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Top 5 Places I Want to Travel To

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I’ve done my fair share of travelling in my time, but there are plenty of places I have my eye on for future wunderlust adventures. Here I’ll list my top five places I want to travel to before… well, before I die, hopefully!

These places are in no particular order.

1

Amsterdam

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I want to visit the ‘Dam (or more commonly known as Amster-dayyum) for a number of reasons. One of the biggest draws for me is the Van Gogh museum, as he is one of my favourite artists, couple this with staying in the Van Gogh hostel next door and you’ve pretty much ticked every box. I would also love to visit the Anne Frank Haus (it’s kind of blasphemy not to when travelling the ‘Dam), and, of course, it’s one of the settings for one of my favourite books The Fault in Our Stars.

2

Agloe, New York

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Another pin on the map (see what I did there…) from man himself, John Green. I have technically driven past Agloe when I traveled around New York state a few years ago, but I would love to go back and spend some time there, get a photograph with the famous sign and relive the experience of Paper Towns.

2

Franklin, Tennessee

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Yet another place in America that I didn’t get the opportunity to visit. Franklin is a small town south of Nashville, home to one of my favourite all-time bands Paramore. They grew up here, went to school here, created their first album here, and their roots are still very much planted in this lovely little town. I would love to go and soak in the atmosphere that made Paramore the band they are today.

4

Disneyland California

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Quite a specific location, don’t you think? Well there is method in my madness. I’ve been to Disneyland Paris, once, when I was ten years old, and two years ago I went to Disneyland Florida, specifically to MGM studios, and had an amazing time. My next Disney-themed trip, I hope, will be to the California resort, just to complete the golden trio. Also, Disneyland California is host to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, one of my favourite Disney princesses!

5

Hahei, New Zealand

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Again, this pick is literary themed. I would love to visit Hahei, specifically Cathedral Cove, where a lot of the exteriors for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian movie were shot. Every time I watch this movie, I am completely breath taken by the landscape and would love to visit myself, and step into a real (almost) Narnia.

These are my top five picks (so far!) let me know if you think I’ve missed any vital photo ops down in the comments.

Great Reads: Retellings

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I absolutely love a good retelling, whether it be a twist on our classic fairy tales or an interpretation of an old classic, they’re one of the first things I reach for on any bookshelf. I’ve read a fair amount in the past few years and so here are some that I consider to be the best.

These books are in no particular order.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. – from Goodreads.com

I only started reading this series about a year ago and it’s already one of my favourites. Each book in the series is a retelling of a classic fairy tale, but also interweaves with the bigger over-arching plot. Cinder is based on Cinderella, Scarlet on Little Red Riding Hood, Cress on Rapunzel and Winter on Snow White. There’s even a fantastically Evil Queen involved too!

The Dorothy Must Die Series by Danielle Paige

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I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling. – from Goodreads.com

Again, this is another series I didn’t start reading until a few years ago but has already become one of my favourites. A lot of readers might already be familiar with the hit musical Wicked which tells the backstory to the Wizard of Oz and how Elphaba Thropp, nicknamed the Wicked Witch of the West, escaped the clutches of the Wizard of Oz, and how the Scarecrow became a Scarecrow, how the Woodcutter became Tin and how the Lion became Cowardly. Danielle Paige goes one step further, whisking Amy Gumm off to Oz and showing her that even Elphaba Thropp can’t help her, and Oz really isn’t what it seemed to be.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

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In The Bloody Chamber, Carter spins subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales and legends like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” giving them exhilarating new life in a style steeped in the romantic trappings of the gothic tradition. – from Goodreads.com 

Angela Carter is the Fairy Tale Retelling Queen. It’s a well known fact. In this anthology she has a collection of short stories that are entirely devoted to rewritten fairy tales, and not only that but they’re bloody marvellous too.

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice by Natasha Farrant

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Lydia is the youngest Bennet sister and she’s sick of country life – instead of sewing and reading, she longs for adventure. When a red-coated garrison arrives in Merryton, Lydia’s life turns upside down. As she falls for dashing Wickham, she’s swept into a whirlwind social circle and deposited in a seaside town, Brighton. Sea-bathing, promenades and scandal await – and a pair of intriguing twins. Can Lydia find out what she really wants – and can she get it? – from Goodreads.com

Natasha Farrant’s story is perfect for young readers to get into classics. It follows Lydia’s perspective throughout the events of Pride and Prejudice, giving the reader a taste for the time period whilst also taking them on an exciting journey.

Bluebeard by Angela Carter

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Angela Carter’s playful and subversive retellings of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tales conjure up a world of resourceful women, black-hearted villains, wily animals and incredible transformations. In these seven stories, bristling with frank, earthy humour and gothic imagination, nothing is as it seems. – from Goodreads.com

As I said, Angela Carter is the Queen of Fairy Tale Retellings and in this little chapbook, Carter has rewritten a collection of Charles Perrault’s writings, polishing them off in true Angela Carter style.

So these are a few of my go-to retelling recommendations! Are there any of your favourites on this list? Or have I left out ones you would also consider to be great? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Classic Disney Films

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Disney films are the closest thing to real magic (except for Harry Potter). In my expert opinion, there is nothing better than laying down in bed, with a nice hot mug of coffee/tea/hot chocolate/beverage of choice and a good Disney movie. Even the idea alone will turn a bad day into an extremely, awesome, very-good day. 

There are SO MANY Disney films to chose from, so for this list I’ll be examining the classics only. Just to clarify, there won’t be any films on this list released after the year 2000. Maybe I’ll do another list including more recent films, but anyway, here are my top ten favourite classic Disney films.

10

 

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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After being snubbed by the royal family, a malevolent fairy places a curse on a princess which only a prince can break, along with the help of three good fairies. – from IMDb

Sleeping Beauty is my favourite Disney ‘Princess’. Why I here you ask? Her sole want in life is to marry a man she met once and only has around twenty minutes of dialogue in the whole film. I believe there is much more to Aurora than the film presents. Also, in terms of retellings (which are a firm favourite of mine) there is so much more scope for development and exploration for her character. The film itself is visually stunning, the three fairies are fairy godmother goals af, and Maleficent is probably one of the best villains out there.

9

 The Aristocats (1970)

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With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country. – from IMDb

Cats. Cat burglars. Cats receiving inheritance. On paper, you would be laughed out of your film pitch meeting. In practice, coming from Disney, it’s certified genius. With jazz music aplenty (played by cats), a road trip from the outer French countryside back to Paris (because cats have excellent navigation skills), and saving the day by sending the mean old butler off to Timbuktu (outwitted by many cats), this cat-crazy-classic is one you won’t forget easily.

(Did I mention it’s got cats in it?)

8

Peter Pan (1953)

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Wendy and her brothers are whisked away to the magical world of Neverland with the hero of their stories, Peter Pan. – from IMDb

How many children have dreamed of being visited by Peter Pan in the middle of the night and swept off to Neverland for fun, frolics and flying!? Just don’t mention the pirates… or the crocodile… Anyway, despite being based off of JM Barrie‘s original book, Disney‘s image of Peter Pan is what makes this film bonafide classic in it’s own right.

7

Mulan (1998)

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To save her father from death in the army, a young maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process. – from IMDb

Mulan is my favourite Disney ‘Warrior’. Notice I didn’t say she was a Princess, because she isn’t, and that’s why I love her. Mulan is an ordinary girl who goes to extraordinary lengths to defend her family and her country. Her passion and drive is something I admire in her, and coupled with her feel-good friend Mushu (my personal highlight of the film) this film is Disney at it’s finest.

6

Aladdin (1992)

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When a street urchin vies for the love of a beautiful princess, he uses a genie’s magic power to make himself off as a prince in order to marry her. – from IMDb

My love for Aladdin stems for my love of Robin Williams. Even though the film is called Aladdin, it’s the Genie voiced by Williams himself, that steals the show. One of my favourite trivia facts from Aladdin was that Disney had over sixteen hours of material from Robin Williams ad-lib-ing throughout the recording. Also, it’s a very bittersweet feeling knowing we can keep Robin Williams’ memory alive through watching this film, knowing our genie, is in fact, free at last.

5

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

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Alice stumbles into the world of Wonderland. Will she get home? Not if the Queen of Hearts has her way. – from IMDb

As we’re getting into the top five now, it’s difficult to detach my personal feelings from the following films. Created from Lewis Carroll‘s bizarre novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this adaptation serves as one of the most recognisable. Despite a lack of structure, and flitting from one sub-plot to the next, it’s Alice in Wonderland‘s scatty charm that makes this film so appealing.

4

Robin Hood (1973)

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The story of the legendary outlaw is portrayed with the characters as humanoid animals. – from IMDb

Cheeky Robin Hood and charming Little John are the perfect double act. But it’s the community that suffers under the reign of King John that makes this film such a classic. The story of robbing the rich to feed the poor is one we can all sympathise with, and it’s Robin Hood determination to end the poverty of his friends that strikes a chord in the hearts of the viewers.

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The Sword in the Stone (1963)

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The wizard Merlin teaches a young boy who is destined to be King Arthur. – from IMDb

The tale of King Arthur and Merlin is one that is so well known that it’s almost not worth repeating, but it’s this particular adaptation of the tale that I find myself watching again and again. If it’s not the endearing grumpiness of Archimedes the owl, or the scatty charm of Merlin, it’s the childhood wonder of Arthur, or Wart, that makes this film one of my top three.

2

Mary Poppins (1964)

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A magic nanny comes to work for a cold banker’s unhappy family. – from IMDb

I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t have Mary Poppins in their top ten. This movie musical captured the hearts of many when it was adapted from the original novel by PL Travers. This adaptation process was documented in the incredibly crafted Saving Mr Banks, which made me love the film even more than I already do.

And finally at number one…

1

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

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An apprentice witch, three kids and a cynical conman search for the missing component to a magic spell useful to the defense of Britain. – from IMDb

You may find my number one choice to be a slightly strange one, but I’ve already said how difficult I may find it to stay impartial when choosing my top five. My ultimate go-to Disney film is Bedknobs and Broomsticks, just filled with such song-driven delight, a mixture of animation and life action, with a rich depth of history and mystical happenings.

I’ve so enjoyed making this list! Let me know if you’d like to see more top ten’s, and get talking in the comments if you agree or disagree with me.