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!

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Top 10 Books of 2016 (1&2)

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So, here you have it. My top two books of 2016. Here we go!

2.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father. On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality. – from Goodreads.com

I first heard about this book from PadfootandProngs07 on book-tube (and also here) and boy was it a recommendation and a half! What drew me to the book in the first place was that it was told partly in mixed media, in articles and webpages etc as well as prose. The hype that Raeleen gave this book totally lived up to the real thing, and it became my go-to recommendation for the mystery/crime genre.

1.

Winter (and The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

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Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long. – from Goodreads.com

That’s it! Fairest, Winter and Stars Above absolutely take the top spot of my 2016 favourites without a doubt. I absolutely loved this quartet and can’t quite believe that the series is over. I only finished it this year and I’m already planning a re-read, or hoping for some kind of TV Series or Movie to fill the Lunar hole.

So that concludes my top ten books that I read this year and I’m so excited to start compiling my to-read list for 2017. Do you have any recommendations for me? Or have I swayed your opinion on a book in my favourites list? Let me know in the comments!

Snowy Reads for Winter!

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Christmas is fast approaching and you might want to get into the festive spirit by reading books that are all things winter-y. I particularly like reading books that feature snow, because let’s face it, everyone dreams of a white Christmas, so let me show you some of my favourites, with a readership level varying in ages.

These books are in no particular order. 

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

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A wordless story. The pictures have “the hazy softness of air in snow. A little boy rushes out into the wintry day to build a snowman, which comes alive in his dreams that night. – from Goodreads.com

One of the most classic Christmas stories (bar the Nativity), with the TV adaptation repeated on Christmas Day year after year. It’s a fantastic short story for very young readers, and a good book to read as a family.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

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The Snow Queen is a story about the strength and endurance of childhood friendship. Gerda’s search for her playmate Kay–who was abducted by the Snow Queen and taken to her frozen palace – from Goodreads.com

For slightly more capable readers, the Snow Queen is one of the original adventure stories, set against a wonderful snowy landscape. Many editions have wonderful illustrations and some are abridged for readers less confident in their reading abilities.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

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They opened a door and entered a world–Narnia–the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Lucy is the first to stumble through the back of the enormous wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old country house, discovering the magic world beyond. At first, no one believes her. But soon Edmund, Peter and Susan, too, discover the magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. And in the blink of an eye, they are changed forever. – from Goodreads.com

Perhaps the most famous winter-y read in the world of Children’s Literature, and my personal favourite. This story came second to Winnie the Pooh in David Walliams’ countdown of Britain’s Favourites Children’s Books, and perfect for readers aged seven to eleven.

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. – from Goodreads.com

Three of the biggest YA authors on the market come together to write an interweaving anthology set entirely around yule tide festivities. Each story interlinks, which bridges the gap between an anthology and a co-authored novel. This work is suitable for teen and YA readers.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith. – from Goodreads.com

A graphic novel suitable for older and mature readers that touches on a few tentative subjects. Blankets details elements in Craig’s life in a semi-autobiographical way, and is illustrated beautifully throughout.

This collection of books are just a few of my favourites that I like to read to get me into the Christmas spirit. (Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much, but it’s a good excuse nonetheless.) Let me know in the comments if I missed out a few of your favourites, and which ones from the list you’ve already read and like the most.

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!

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!

blue butterfly – #17.12

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New York is just a feeling I get

when the cold air hits my face, the thought of getting ice cream

as the snow falls around, is just a fairy tale dream

I once lived, the feeling of your fingers on my skin,

we flashed fake diamond rings.

 

We got drive-thru coffee and marriage

made it official in the parking lot, we talked

about our wedding, trying to warm our cold feet.

We were the American

dream, running through the Catskill’s

hills, in the dead of night, moonlight like a spot light,

the night light of the fire flies, as we dance home,

ready to take flight. We acted like everything was

alright, like we had it all figured

out. Steak and fries.

Dinner and show,

It will be the greatest dream I’ll ever

remember

I know

 

knew.