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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Top 5 #YALit Ships

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One thing that YA literature does so well is romance! Whether it be a subplot, or from the romance genre itself, the relationships included in YA books are always exciting. Having said that, some are susceptible to insta-love, some are triangles or even squares, but overall, the good romances far outweigh the bad. So here are my top five that I want to share with you.

These ships are in no particular order.

1.

Cinder/Kai

(from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer)

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(c) Hamabee

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation. – from Goodreads.com

Even though Cinder is a Cinderella retelling, and so it would be obvious she ended up with the Prince, I was still rooting for Cinder and Kai from the moment they met at Cinder’s repair shop. There was something so un-Prince like when Kai was introduced, and I love how he accepts her for who she is.

2.

Hazel/Gus

(from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)

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(c) IMDb

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. – from Goodreads.com

The one thing I love about The Fault in Our Stars is that there is no love triangle. The romance is totally focused on Hazel and Gus supporting each other through difficult times, spending time together and having fun. Of course, this story is heart-wrenching, but Gazel‘s love even transcends time, which makes it pretty epic to me!

3.

Charlotte/Jamie

(from A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro)

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(c) Epic Reads

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar. From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. – from Goodreads.com

If you’re an avid watcher of the BBC series Sherlock, you might be aware of the intense Holmes/Watson shipping that has been born from the show. This intense relationship has definitely translated into Cavallaro’s novel based on the detective duo! Once again, the on and off, friends or more relationship is just as fast paced as the story, and keeps you gunning for the couple, right up until the end. I’m sure we’ll find out whether Charlotte and Jamie get together in The Case for Jamie, scheduled to be released in 2018.

4.

Gwenyth/Gideon

(from The Precious Stone Trilogy by Kerstin Gier)

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(c) IMDb

Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century. – from Goodreads.com

Although there was no doubt in my mind that Gwen and Gideon would end up together, there was certainly lots of back and forth from the both of them throughout the trilogy, enriched by their witty banter and natural chemistry. There’s something about this time traveling couple that has me begging for a sequel!

5.

Rose/Dimitri

(from The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead)

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Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them. – from Goodreads.com

I saw the Vampire Academy film before I read the books (shock horror) and loved how Rose and Dimitri’s chemistry leaped off of the screen. I was also happy to find the same for the book and was impressed about how Mead navigated the, always awkward, student-mentor relationship. This was one of the first ships that I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, and really kept me on my toes right up until the last book!

So these are my top five ships from the YA Literature scene! Are these some of your favourite ships? Or do you have some you think I’ll like? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Great Reads: Historical Fiction

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The appeal of historical fiction lies in the ability to be nostalgic for a time long ago, whether you yourself were present or not. I love the occasional historical fiction novel, and I’ve read a few in my time that I’ve loved, so these are the ones I want to share with you.

1.

A Little in Love by Susan E. Fletcher

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As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls’ paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive. – from Goodreads.com

I think most people have heard of Les Miserables, and even more know the story. But do you know Eponine’s story? If no, fear not, Susan E. Fletcher has got you covered. Written from Eponine’s perspective, this companion novel chronicles her journey in Victor Hugo’s classic novel.

2.

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

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A spirited, witty and fresh reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! 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

Similar to A Little in Love, Natasha Farrant’s Lydia narrates the story of Pride and Prejudice from Lydia Bennet’s perspective. We know she runs away to Brighton and ends up marrying the devilishly handsome George Wickham, but what do we know about what she got up to there? In Farrant’s novel, we can certainly find out!

3.

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

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Judith can’t speak. Ever since the horrifying trauma that left her best friend dead and Judith without her tongue, she’s been a pariah in her close-knit community of Roswell Station; even her own mother won’t look her in the eye. All Judith can do is silently pour out her thoughts and feelings to the love of her life, the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember – even if he doesn’t know it – her childhood friend, Lucas. – from Goodreads.com

When I first picked this book up, I didn’t realise that it was historical fiction. I’m not sure where I first read the synopsis but my brain assumed it was a contemporary, and so when I began reading the opening pages, I was definitely surprised. Having said that, the book gripped me from the first page and I still think about this book a lot even to this day, even though I read it two years ago. I definitely haven’t read a book like it since!

So these are my recommendations to you for historical fiction. Have you got any for me to try out? And are you going to put these books on your TBR pile? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 Classics I Want to Read

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There are some classics that are forced upon us, and some that we think “hey, that actually sounds quite good!” This list is the latter: classics I actually want to read!

These books are in no particular order.

1.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. – from Goodreads.com

If it’s one thing I love it’s a good crime story, even better if it’s true crime! I’ve not read any other of Truman Capote’s books but this book has shot to the top of my TBR pile and has been recommended to me so many times already.

2.

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

As a Bates Motel fan, I think it would be a crime (boom boom!) to not read the original novel. I’ve been really getting into a horror/thriller mood recently, having read Carrie by Stephen King, and I think Psycho is going to be another great addition to my genre experiment!

3.

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fizgerald

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Between the First World War and the Wall Street Crash the French Riviera was the stylish place for wealthy Americans to visit. Among the most fashionable are psychoanalyst Dick Diver and his wife Nicole, who hold court at their villa. Into their circle comes Rosemary Hoyt, a film star, who is instantly attracted to them, but understands little of the dark secrets and hidden corruption that hold them together. As Dick draws closer to Rosemary, he fractures the delicate structure of his marriage and sets both Nicole and himself on to a dangerous path where only the strongest can survive. – from Goodreads.com

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite classics, and arguably Scott Fizgerald’s most famous work. This novel is probably his second best known, and so I’d love to see how it compares to the masterpiece that is The Great Gatsby!

4.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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For years now the Ramsays have spent every summer in their holiday home in Scotland, and they expect these summers will go on forever; but as the First World War looms, the integrity of family and society will be fatally challenged. To the Lighthouse is at once a vivid impressionist depiction of a family holiday, and a meditation on a marriage, on parenthood and childhood, on grief, tyranny and bitterness. – from Goodreads.com

A few months ago I went to visit Virginia Woolf’s property, Monk’s House, in Rodmell, Lewes. It was so eye-opening and inspiring to be in the same room as where Virginia lived, and not too far away from the spot where she died either. To the Lighthouse is one of her books that appeals to me the most, and I can’t wait to get reading!

5.

The Town and The City by Jack Kerouac

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Kerouac’s debut novel is a great coming of age story which can be read as the essential prelude to his later classics. Inspired by grief over his father’s death and gripped by determination to write the Great American Novel, he draws largely on his own New England childhood. – from Goodreads.com

Another writer whose work I’ve read before! I read On the Road by Kerouac last year and loved it, and so I really want to read his autobiographical novel, The Town and The City.

These are the top five classics I really want to read. Are these on your list too? Or do you have some you’d like to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Books in Verse

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Books in verse are few and far between, but in my opinion, they are an absolute gold mine when you find them. I absolutely adore poetry, so when a book combines my love of verse into its pages, I’m always a fan. So here are some books in verse that I think are great!

1.

One by Sarah Crossan

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Grace and Tippi don’t like being stared and sneered at, but they’re used to it. They’re conjoined twins – united in blood and bone. What they want is to be looked at in turn, like the truly are two people. They want real friends. And what about love? But a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead for Tippi and Grace. One that could change their lives more than they ever asked for… – from Goodreads.com

I knew this book would be heart breaking, and guess what it was! I loved the story of Grace and Tippi and the end almost brought me to tears! The book is quite hefty in size, but honestly, it passes so quickly because you’re so swept up in the story. An absolute must read for lovers of Jandy Nelson!

2.

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

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On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything, absolutely everything, changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, “That’s her! That’s the Shark Girl,” as she passes. In the meantime there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? – from Goodreads.com

I have never, ever, read a book about someone who gets bitten by a shark! (But Jaws is on my TBR pile!) It was truly one of the most unique reads, and coupled with it being told in verse makes this book absolutely one of a kind. Jane deals with a huge loss that brings out symptoms of depression, which makes for really interesting reading considering Jane’s unique circumstances.

3.

Far from You by Lisa Schroeder

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Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn’t quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife. But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she’ll face issues she’s been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful. Perhaps she’s not so alone after all…. – from Goodreads.com

Being a bereaved child and having a step family made it very easy to identify with Alice, and the need to believe in Angels and Spirits. This was another heartbreaking verse book that filled my heart right from page one!

This concludes my recommended reads in verse! Are any of these on your TBR list, or have I just convinced you to go on an Amazon binge spree? Let me know in the comments!

No Physical Checks Needed: Talking about sexual health.

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I’ve always been quite confident about my sexual health. From the age of 16, I bought condoms and went on Microgynon, the contraceptive pill. Then, when I was 19, I decided to switch to Nexplanon, the contraceptive implant which I’ve been on for the last six years.

I used to go to my GP for all my sexual health needs, but recently, the local authority has built a health center nearby where I got my first implant put in. Getting an appointment was quite tricky because you either had to ring up on the day to get an appointment, which was problematic if you had work or school, or drop-in to the center, which again was problematic if you had work or school. It seemed like accessing these services wasn’t easy, despite how important it is for young people to see health care professionals.

So when it was time for me to have a sexual health screening, which I do every year, regardless of my sexual activity, I thought ‘there’s got to be an easier way to do this‘. So I Googled: where can I have a sexual health screening near me?. Not only does Google pick up on centers nearby depending on your location, but it also showed me that the NHS website has a page dedicated to finding sexual health centers near you. I put in my postcode and looked through the list of options.

Most were just the local GP surgeries, but to my surprise, there was a health center connected to the local hospital that did a drop in session, one afternoon a week, from 5:30pm till 7:30pm. Brilliant! If anyone was looking to go somewhere local to my town, after work or school, this was the place! And I hadn’t even known it existed! So I went down there, expecting to join the throng of people waiting to be seen, but instead, the place was empty. I got there early in fairness, and I was only there for twenty minutes, so people could have arrived after I’d left, but I was still surprised.

As I approached the desk, I didn’t even need to ask for anything. The nurse gave me a laminated list with statements for me to check off, to show her what I needed. I checked “I need a routine sexual health screening“, but noticed another statement below, “I have been sexually assaulted or raped.” My heart went out to the people who had to check that box, but at least they didn’t have to say it out loud. The nurse then handed me a swab for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, which I did in the privacy of a toilet cubicle, and handed it back. Then I went and had a very informal chat with a health care professional who asked me all sorts of questions.

Do you need to do any physical checks?” I asked, wondering if I was going to have to drop my trousers.

Nope,” she said with a smile. “Just emotional ones.”

She asked me if I was safe, at home and with my relationships and friendships. Luckily I am, but she still reassured me that everything was confidential. I thought back to the box someone would check if they had been assaulted or raped, thankful that free services like these exist on the NHS. So as I left, I wondered, do enough people know about these kinds of services. Like I said, I was only in the clinic for twenty minutes – you could do it on your lunch break!

So this is me telling you about the wonderful service that I had, entirely for free, without having to leave my town, with health care professionals who made me feel safe and comfortable. Ultimately, getting yourself checked for infections, diseases, and pregnancy is as important as taking antibiotics or paracetamol. It’s all about keeping yourself healthy and happy. It might be a difficult subject to talk about, but the sooner we start talking, the easier it’s going to become for young people to get checked. The more we educate, the healthier we will be!

#HarryPotter20: One of the greatest friends I’ll ever have.

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In 2000, sitting on the carpet as an innocent and naive year 3, (approximately aged 8 for those international folk), our substitute teacher decided that for the last ten minutes of class she would read us a few chapters from a book she was reading. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. She got out her copy, which was the adult edition, with a black and white steam train on the front, and began to read. Safe to say, I was hooked and pleaded with Mum to get it from the library, along with Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both which had been released.

Every night, Mum would sit by my bedside and we would read about the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and what they got up to at Hogwarts. By the time that Goblet of Fire was released that summer, just before I was due to turn 9, I wanted to start reading them independently, as a few chapters a night wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I HAD to know what happened next.

I had all four books in my collection, but as the three years without a new Harry Potter book passed, I had a lot going on in my home life that caused me to miss the release of Order of the Phoenix. My father was getting ill, we had to move from our lovely patchwork home that I’d grown up in, to a bungalow which was so unlike my previous home, and I’d started High School. It was an eventful year, and before I knew it, I’d been at High School for two years and Half Blood Prince was being released.

My brother, sister in law, and nephew were going on holiday to Spain to see my niece, and taking with her a copy of Half Blood Prince for her to read whilst she was traveling, and she wanted the UK edition to match the rest of her collection. I decided I would buy a copy too and read it on the plane over, but first I had to read the Order of the Phoenix and find out exactly what had happened where I left Harry, Ron, and Hermione nearly five years ago! Cue my first ever binge read!

So I was all caught up and ready for the final book in the series to be released! The Deathly Hallows! I had to wait two more years before I could get my hands on it but boy was I ready. At midnight, I went to Tesco with my niece and got in line with everyone else from my small town. We purchased Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and went home to read it immediately. Three days it took me because I paced myself and because I didn’t want it to end. My boyfriend at the time managed to read it in 8 hours whilst he recovered from tonsilitis. And suddenly, as the epilogue finished, the series was over, and the hole in my heart that I already had from losing my father grew bigger and bigger. Yes, I still had the films to watch, which was exciting of course, but it wasn’t the same.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been escapism for me, to help me through a time in my life that was truly terrible. How would I be able to cope without knowing another book was coming? Perhaps I needed to confront the hole in my heart instead of trying to fill it? And that’s what I did.

Long story short, twenty years on, I’ve come back to the series which I loved so much and read it again, eighteen years on from that day when I first heard those opening chapters. I loved it then and I love it still, and opening those books will always feel like a respite from the world. But now I don’t read them to fill the hole in my heart, I read them to remember what it feels like to love and have lost, and most importantly be human. Harry’s pain and grief validated my own, and having that transcend above all else means more to me than I could ever fathom.