My Literary Trip to Oxford

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In a blog post earlier in the year, I made a list of bookish places to visit in England, the first of which was Oxford, one of the most literary places in the world. It is home to the famous literary group, the Inklings, who amongst it members were C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Roger Lancelyn Green, to name a few.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I, by rights, would consider C.S. Lewis one of my favourite authors, as his Chronicles of Narnia are some of my best loved go-to comfort reads. For the past twenty years, I have read and re-read those tales that provided (along with Tolkien and many others) the cornerstones of children’s fantasy. I like many others travelled with the Pevensies and poured my heart into the destruction of the White Witch. For Narnia, and for Aslan!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

But how much did I know about the man behind the magic? Who was C.S. Lewis? So this was reason number one why I decided to visit Oxford, where Lewis spent a large chunk of his life. The Kilns, where Lewis used to live, gives tours by appointment and is situated in Risinghurst, just outside of the city center. Not only can you find Lewis’s home there, but also his parish, which is only a ten-minute walk away. The church is also his resting place, as people flock from all over the world to pay their respects to the author who transported them through the wardrobe. His brother, Warren Lewis, affectionately known as Warnie, who died ten years later, is also buried with his brother, who liked to be known as Jack.

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Taking a tour of the Kilns was like being reacquainted with an old friend. I knew bits of trivia about Lewis’s life, but our guide shed light on just what an imaginative, gracious and fun-loving person he really was. One story stood out to me in particular. After his cat, Tom, had lost his teeth, Lewis’s wife, Joy, wanted to have the cat put down. Lewis would hear nothing of the sort, and every third day went to the market to get fish for Tom to eat, which he ground small enough so the cat didn’t have to chew, and declared it would be Tom’s pension. As he passed Tom in the garden, he usually doffed his hat, citing to a baffled friend, “Tom’s a pensioner, don’t you know. We treat pensioners with respect.”

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Oxford history doesn’t just hold references to Lewis’s life and works, it also plays host to a large chunk of filming locations, particularly for the first Harry Potter film, directed by Christopher Columbus. I visited the Divinity School in the Bodleian Library, where the scenes for the Hogwarts Infirmary were filmed, and also Christ Church, where the Golden Trio meet again after the events of Philosopher’s Stone. Finally, I also visited New College, where a particular scene from The Goblet of Fire was filmed. Visiting New College was like stepping into Hogwarts itself. It’s safe to say this trip was filled with magic!

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

I was only in Oxford for four days but I absolutely loved every minute of it! I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a big literary geek like me!

Has my blog post convinced you to visit Oxford? Or are there other places on your 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.

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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(c) teleport.org

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.

Another 25 Facts About Me

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Considering the last 25 Facts blog post went down so well, I thought I would do another… just in case you don’t know me well enough already! So here are another 25 facts about me.

  • My second novel is titled Losing Lola and it’s a contemporary murder mystery.
  • My Ilvermorny house is Horned Serpent.
  • I try my hardest to buy cruelty free products where possible. Boots (UK) own-brand products are always affordable and good quality, as are Superdrug.
  • My wand is 10 and three quarter inches, made from Willow with a Unicorn Hair core.
  • I enjoy reading physical books and eBooks. Some readers seem to prefer one or the other, but I like both.
  • I am currently learning French on Duolingo (as part of my Promises and Wishes list), and am currently 30% fluent.
  • A portion of the books I own I bought whilst I was travelling on my gap year, so I have the international copies instead of the UK editions.
  • I adore all three of Charlie Simpson’s solo albums (Young Pilgrim, Long Road Home and Little Hands), and I never get tired of listening to them.
  • Whenever I travel to a new country, I try to buy a postcard as a memento.
  • I love listening to audio-books, namely the Chronicles of Narnia series and the Harry Potter series.
  • I have a warm skin tone and I look best in bright, crisp and clear colours.
  • I have written two books and I have vague outlines for at least another two, one of which I hope to write this November during NaNoWriMo.
  • Some other series that I love are The Lunar Chronicles, The Divergent Series, The Hunger Games and The Heather Wells Mysteries.
  • I have a passion for photography and usually take pictures on my phone when the inspiration strikes.
  • I love writing letters to people and have pen-pals who I write to regularly.
  • I have a very small, very faint birthmark in the shape of a diamond on my stomach.
  • Before I was born and all throughout my life, my nickname has been Hubble.
  • Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree is one of my favourite albums of all time. It reminds me of when I began to develop my own music tastes.
  • This year, one of my dreams, that Busted would get back together and reunite on stage, was completed. My friend Rob and I saw it happen with our very own eyes at Wembley Arena.
  • Another of my favourite albums is Paramore’s Brand New Eyes. It was the first time someone had perfectly summed up the angst I felt about the world. I won’t ever forget how free it made me feel.
  • I love to draw, and often draw costumes, blueprints and ideas for my books.
  • I recently got another tattoo on my wrist of the letter H in my father’s handwriting. Those who know me well will know the significance.
  • The series I want to start soon are the Name of the Star series by Maureen Johnson, the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas, and the Comoran Strike series by JK Rowling.
  • I really love reading and watching non-fiction pieces on True Crime.
  • I am participating in the 2016 Classics Challenge and have currently read 12.

So that’s all for my latest 25 facts about me. Let me know in the comments section if you want to see more of these types of posts and whether you share facts in common with me!

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 Favourite Books

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At the age of (almost) 25, I have read a lot of books. I have read books I’ve loved, books I’ve hated, books that left me feeling ‘meh’, and books that I’ve abandoned. In my first quarter of a century, I’ve accumulated many books that I declare among my favourites, but these are the fifteen most loved ones that I want to share with you.

These books are in no particular order.

1

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

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I’m seven years old, accompanying Lucy Pevensie through the wardrobe and into the Western Wood. I try to reason with Edmund as we walk towards the Witch’s castle. I sharpen my blade with Peter as we prepare for battle, and I fight alongside Susan, shooting my arrow through the hearts of Narnian traitors. As I grow older, I ride alongside Shasta and Aravis as we made the journey across the desert into Archenland. I’ll see Narnia come to life, hearing the sweet sound of Aslan’s song, singing the world into creation with Digory and Polly.

2

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

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I’m eleven years old, getting my Hogwarts letter with Harry in the cupboard under the stairs. We get the train together at 11 o’clock on the 1st September, and meet Ron and Hermione along the way. I defeat Voldemort with Harry, once, twice and three times. I escape to the Burrow with the Weasley’s way too often, and tag along to the Quidditch World Cup. I stand by Harry through the rise of Voldemort and fight along side him in the Battle of Hogwarts.

3

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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It’s 2011 and I’m in Treehugger Dan’s bookshop in Budapest, Hungary. I’m 19 years old, nearly no longer a teenager, my childhood soon to be over, marked by an epic InterRail experience before university. I’m in the sale section, I see a book called Looking for Alaska by John Green for 200F, equivalent to about 50p. What draws me in is… well, everything about it. I buy it and head back to my hostel, a cute, quirky loft converted from an old town house. I sit in the bay window and devour Looking for Alaska in one sitting. I realise why I want to be a writer. I realise that grief will never leave me. I continue to seek my Great Perhaps.

4

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

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I have now “become” an adult. I’m twenty years old. I’m in my first semester of university and I have just been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, both of which I’ve read. Somewhere online, I find that the Phantom of Manhattan is the unofficial sequel to Gaston Leroux’s original novel and I fly through it in one sitting. It becomes my guilty pleasure, and much to my enjoyment, enables the musical-sequel Love Never Dies to come to fruition.

5

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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It’s the summer of 2012 and I’ve just completed my first year at university so I head into Waterstones to celebrate. I browse the shelves, when this book catches my eye. I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie, and once I read the synopsis I’m sold. I buy this in a two for one deal along with Fifty Shades of Grey, which I soon regret, but this novel serves as a reminder why picking Creative Writing as my degree is a good decision.

6

Paper Towns by John Green

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After I realise John Green has written not one, but four other books, I head to Amazon and go on a book binge buy spree. I buy An Abundance of Katherine’s, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars, his latest novel. Paper Towns arrives first, and on that first page, John Green becomes my second Auto-Buy author. Sitting in my porch/bedroom, as Spring turns to Summer in 2013, I delve into Q’s world, sitting next to him in the mini van as we make our way along the East Coast to find Margo.

7

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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It’s Christmas 2013 and I’m in New York. I head into Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue and browse the shelves aimlessly. Outside it’s snowing, and I know we have to get the Croton-Harmon train back before peak times but I can’t tear myself away. Most people are gazing up at the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center, but I’m gazing up at the rows of books before me. I’ve always wanted to read The Bell Jar, and so I buy it there and then before I could talk myself out of it. I read it on the train all the way to Tarrytown.

8

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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It’s 2014 and I’m in my final semester of university. In our Creative Visions module, we’re exploring futuristic words and thus my love for dystopian fiction is born. I spend my time trying to escape the pain of assignments and dissertation talk by curling up with this book, finding a whole new definition of the word escapism. As I read, Tally and I hover board along the skyline, wondering what exactly it is that makes a person “pretty”.

9

Flowers in the Attic and the Dollanganger Saga by VC Andrews

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Despite trying to escape talk of my pending dissertation, I can’t, but I find respite in “reading for research”. Flowers in the Attic is the first book in the Dollanganger Saga, and fills my head with rich, luxurious, gothic mansions, plot twists and betrayal. I lap it up, and am reminded that my final piece for my degree is MINE, and take notes on delicious description from Ms Andrews.

10

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

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I’ve finally left university. My dissertation is handed in and now I’m waiting on my results. Now I can read whatever books I choose, and the thought of that alone is so liberating. When I hear that Divergent is to be made into a movie, I figure it’s just another book series jumping on the coat tails of The Hunger Games, but after I decide to read the series, I realise it’s so much more. Tris goes on a journey unlike any other. She questions what it means to be selfless and brave, and questions her identity along the way. The ending to the Divergent series is heartbreaking, but proves it’s not just another book series. It’s a social commentary on human nature.

11

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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Three years worth of assigned reading stopped me from buying any new books, so as my graduation fast approaches in the Autumn of 2014, I look for exciting books to catch my eye. Rediscovering authors seems to be a habit of mine. Many years ago when I was in secondary school I read a booked called The Boyfriend List, now nearly ten years later I find We Were Liars by the very same E Lockhart. It’s my first trip into psychological thrillers and I LOVE it. I don’t realise the twist and it blows my mind.

12

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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I’m at my very first Writing Weekend as an alumni of the University of Winchester, and Belzhar has been my most anticipated read of 2014. A YA novel, inspired by The Bell Jar, set at boarding school, and it’s right up my street. Sometimes I wish I could go back to school, just so that I could choose to go to boarding school. Or sometimes I wish I could move back into Halls of Residence, where life was much more simple.

13

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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My graduation has come and gone. I really am a full fledged graduate, so I retreat to a place that makes me feel safe. I’ve spent much of the past ten years online. Not just online but ONLINE, participating in forums and chat rooms, writing in online journals, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought anyone would understand my “life online”, and I didn’t know how to communicate to anyone what that time in my life meant to me, but Rainbow Rowell does it with one swift novel: Fangirl.

14

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

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It’s almost Christmas again and I’ve just finished watching Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe. I quickly become obsessed with the Beat Generation and haul a tonne of books from that era. This book is the fictional account, similar to the Kill Your Darlings, of the murder of David Krammerer and the Beat Poets growing up in the underbelly of New York City. I adore this book the moment I read the first page and the moment I read the last.

15

Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I’m twenty three going on ten years old again. I’m scouting the scrapyard for junk metal with Cinder and Peony when she gets taken. I’m running with Cinder to warn Prince Kai about Levana. I’m sitting in the cell with Dr Erland when he tells her she’s the lost Princess Selene. I’m reminded that you’re never too old for fairy tales.

Did I mention any books in this list that you love too? Let me know in the comments.

Top 5 Ways to Organise Your Bookshelves

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As I’ve established before, I’m a Virgo. I am a Virgo how loves to organise, or faff, as I call it. I faff with my books mostly, and because I have so many it usually takes a lot of time, but still I’ve faffed with my books every which way. So here are my top ways to organise your bookshelves.

1

A-Z

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So this seems relatively straightforward, but if you’re constantly looking through your bookshelves then this may be the most effective way to catalogue them.

2

By Spine Colour

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Whether you decide on a book rainbow, black and white alternating or an explosion of colour, this is a great way to use your books as art.

3

By Genre

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The genres I tend to use when shelving this way are: classics, YA series (which usually are fantasy or dystopian), YA standalones, plays, poetry, non-fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, gothic fiction (which sometimes crosses over to the classic genre), letters and journals, special/collectors editions, and many more!

4

By Themes or Other

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Fairy tale re-tellings are a firm favourite with me, along with Tudor era books, magic realism, time travel, dystopian worlds, road trips, multiple POV narrative, first person narration, stories in verse, stories in journal form, and many more!

5

Favorites First

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Sometimes the best way to show off your books is to put your favourites up front. I love to show off my Harry Potter books as well as my little Chronicles of Narnia paperbacks. I also love showing off my cool Divergent: Special Edition copy and my Looking for Alaska first edition copy, too. This really gives your bookshelf a unique twist, and shows just what you love in the world of reading!

Let me know in the comments how you like to shelve your books. At the moment, I’ve gone for rainbow theme, but to be honest, with all of these options, I’ll be forever changing them!