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All the books I remember reading in 2020!

Hello, bookish friends! Long time, no speak!

It’s been over a year now since I last wrote on this blog, and I’ve thought at times about giving up on blogging completely. I was feeling so uninspired, not just about writing posts, but about reading books too.

I feel like I’ve been in a year long reading slump. I *have* read some good books in the past 12 months, but I’ve read way more forgettable ones, and I’m reading at a much slower pace now compared with how voraciously I used to devour books.

I’ve been trying my best to read when I can, and not worry/put pressure on myself about the pace. I’ve read almost 30 books so far this year, and I’m pretty proud of that considering what a shitshow 2020 has been for each and every one of us. How can we be expected to concentrate?! (I’ve spent a considerably larger amount of time doomscrolling on Twitter, or playing Animal Crossing New Horizons in my pyjamas, than I have reading books, but I can’t be alone in that, surely?!)

I was going to do a post with my quick thoughts on all of the books I’ve read so far in 2020, however when I looked back at my list, I realised I’ve forgotten a lot about most of them! One of them I had no memory of reading at all! (Sorry, All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth!)

So, with that being said, I’m just going to talk to you today about some of the books I ACTUALLY remember reading this year! Without further ado…


The Night Country by Melissa Albert

This is the sequel to The Hazel Wood, and I loved how dark and twisty it was. I liked the way the fairytale aspects were interwoven into the urban setting, but my favourite parts took place in the fairytale world of the ‘hinterland’. Such a creepy, messed up world, and so exciting to read about. I can’t say much as this book is a sequel, but if you’re interested in finding out more about the series you can read my original review of the first book here.


The Little Book of Self Care by Joanna Gray

This sounds kinda harsh, but ugh, I hated this book! It had no substance to it, and the self care advice was stuff like ‘buy yourself a new lipstick’. Oh sure, that’ll cure my crippling depression, thanks!


The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray

I read this because I was considering giving up alcohol at the beginning of the year, but then there was a whole global pandemic and I decided I needed to keep wine in my life. This is the memoir of a woman who was an alcoholic, detailing the story of how she became sober. It was really gripping, and although I don’t have a dependency on alcohol, I could definitely recognise the unhealthy parts of my relationship with it in Catherine’s story. Her journey to sobriety was really inspiring to read about.


Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert

This was a cute romance, with brilliant chronic pain/fatigue rep! The love interest was okay, but the main character Chloe was amazing. She was sarcastic, dry, aloof and just generally swoonworthy! Definitely my book crush of 2020.


The Factory – Hiroko Oyamada

This was a super weird little book where we follow three people who have completely meaningless jobs at this gigantic factory where strange things are happening to the surrounding flora & fauna, for example rodents along the riverbank growing to impossible, freakishly large sizes. It didn’t have much of a plot, and was kind of boring in places, but it did have this weird/mysterious vibe which kept me reading, and I liked the surreal ending. In some ways, I think the boring parts were a deliberate attempt to reflect the mundane jobs of the characters. There was something I kind of dug about this one, and I would potentially re-read it in future to see what I get out of it a second time around.


The Test by Sylvain Nouvel

This was a cool, creepy, sci-fi novella about a futuristic British Citizenship test. Lots of Black Mirror vibes, and raises some very valid questions and criticisms about our country’s attitude towards immigration. I only wish it had been longer and had gone into more depth.


The Switch by Beth O’Leary

A cute romantic fluffy story about a woman and her grandmother swapping lives/houses etc. (The Holiday style) for a few months in order to gain a fresh perspective on life and love. The grandmother was a brilliant character; I loved her chapters, and her adorable romance with the crotchety next door neighbour. However, I wasn’t that fussed about the granddaughter as a character, and her romantic storyline was very insta-lovey. I liked this book, but I loved Beth’s other book, The Flatshare, more.


Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams

This is a fantastic book following our main character Queenie and her experiences with sex and dating as she attempts to get over a painful relationship breakup. This book has some light and funny moments but also explores heavier topics such as the objectification/fetishization of black women, destructive/harmful sexual relationships, and mental health difficulties. It’s a book that made me both laugh and cry, and had a very strong and unique sense of voice – Queenie is a character who will stick with me.


Loveless by Alice Oseman

This is the story of Georgia who has just started university and is figuring out her sexuality/coming to terms with the fact that she’s asexual and aromantic. I loved Georgia as a character, and loved the validating message that not wanting a romantic relationship does not make you weird or lesser in some way. It’s great to see some ace rep, and I believe this is own voices too.  I loved the way Georgia’s friendships were portrayed and the importance given to them. Friendships so often take a backseat to romantic relationships in YA, yet they are just as important, if not more so. This book gave me so much nostalgia about my own time at uni, too – the setting was so well written.


Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

This was a really weird book, and I’m still not sure whether I loved it or hated it. I think I loved it! It’s set at a secretive, isolated, prestigious college for the academically gifted, who must relinquish all contact with the outside world during the 3 years they study there. Many of the students opt to study a mysterious substance known as ‘plasm’, and there is something pretty strange and sinister going on behind the locked doors of the laboratory. It’s such an intriguing premise, the writing is gorgeous and dreamlike, but it is incredibly slow, and VERY ambiguous. If you like your questions answered at the end of a book, don’t read this one. It’s one of those books I’m dying to re-read, however. I love me some weird gothic fiction!


The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This is quite possibly my favourite book of the year so far, closely tied with the next one I’m going to mention. This story follows a woman named Nora who commits suicide and finds herself in a magical library between life and death where every book contains a different possible life she could have led if she’d made different choices. This book was so well told, so life affirming, and had me in tears by the end. It really touched my heart and gave me a new way of looking at both the good and the bad things that have happened in my life. The depression and anxiety representation is own voices, and Matt Haig’s writing about mental health always strikes a chord with me.  It feels like reading my own thoughts, feelings and worries, but rewoven into a wonderful story that I will undoubtedly read again and again.


The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

This book, surprise surprise, made me cry. It tells the story of an emotionally abusive relationship, through the lens of that relationship having ended, and the main character Amelie going back to all of the places her boyfriend Reece made her cry, reflecting on their relationship, and coming to terms with the fact that it was, in fact, abuse. This was absolutely gut-wrenching. I felt everything Amelie was feeling, and I was so desperate for her to realise her own self-worth and begin to heal. I rooted for her so strongly, and went on such a huge emotional journey with her. I read this in one sitting, finishing it up at around 3am with tears all over my face and book! I love Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club Trilogy, but I believe this is the best book she has ever written, and hugely important. I want every teenage girl to read this, and if they are going through something similar, to recognise that through Amelie’s story and seek the support they need.


So, that’s it for this little 2020 wrap up! What has been your favourite book so far this year? I’d love to catch up with you, and I’m sorry it’s been so long! I decided to start posting again because I miss book-blogging so much, and I really hope I’ll be sticking around this time.

Lots of bookish love to you all, love Jess xxx

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2018 Reading Resolutions

In 2018 I want to do things differently. This list of reading resolutions may make it seem like I want to read and blog LESS, but that’s not true at all. What I want is to read and blog more CAREFULLY. I want to put less pressure on myself, and I want to enjoy books as much as I can. Without further ado, here are my five reading resolutions for 2018…


1) Change the way I use the Goodreads Challenge

For the past two years I have set huge goals for myself in the Goodreads Challenge. In 2016, it was 100 books, and last year it was 52. I struggled to read 100 books, I easily ready 52, but I’ve realised that neither of these was a healthy goal for me.

Why?

Because when I set myself a challenge like that, I start thinking of reading as a race, and I start worrying about getting behind. I try to cram in as many small books as I can in order achieve a bigger number, rather than reaching for the books I actually want to read. I start reading books a quickly as I possibly can, and not getting anything from them. I do a lot of flailing. But all of this is silly, because reading should be fun, and should preferably not involve any flailing.

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I want to focus on quality, not quantity this year, so I am setting my goal at 12 books. Obviously I will read more than 12 books, I am just using 12 as a token number, as I still want to participate in the Goodreads challenge to track my reading over the year. But the point is, having a nice low number will stop me from caring so much about how MANY books I’m reading. Because it really doesn’t matter at all.


2) Review every book on Goodreads

This year I am planning to record a couple of lines about every book I read on Goodreads. I am not going to write long reviews, and may even write them in bullet points, but I want to be able to remember why I gave a certain book a certain rating.

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Why?

I feel like ratings have come to be largely meaningless for me, because how I rate books is very random, a number out of five is never enough to demonstrate how I actually felt about a book, and I often struggle to choose a number. (If I’m being honest, I’m way too liberal with the number five…) I was going to give up rating books altogether this year, and may still do so later down the line, but for now I am just going to put a couple of thoughts with each rating so it has some context for me and for others.


3) Stop buying so many books

Ahh I know, I know this sounds dreadful, and I’m not sure how long this is going to last, but at least for the first couple of months of 2018, I am going to try not to buy (m)any more books.

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Why?

Because I have over 200 unread books, and I should probably read them at some point.


4) Read the books I own

Why?

Because having 200 unread books is

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I bought each one of those books and at some point was super excited to read them. The problem is I keep getting distracted by shiny new books, and that’s just not fair to the ones gathering dust on my shelves. I want to get excited about them again. This year I want to tackle my TBR, and make enjoying the books I own a priority.


5) Do more wrap-ups and less full reviews

Why?

Don’t get me wrong, I like writing reviews, but I’ve realised over the past year that I much prefer writing (and reading/watching) wrap-ups with mini reviews of books. I wrote quite a few of these in 2017, but I want to do this a lot more in 2018. If I’ve got tons and tons to stay about a particular book, if I feel the need to let out approx. 1000 words of rage, or if it’s an ARC, I’ll review it in full, but otherwise I will review books in wrap-ups (probably once or twice a month). I also want to do more tags in between, because tags are fun!

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YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!


So, those are MY reading and blogging planz for the year. What are some of your reading resolutions for 2018? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

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100 questions tag (in which I only answer 50 because I’m lazy)

Happy Saturday everyone! Hope you’re all having a lovely weekend so far. I love a Saturday, so I’ve decided to celebrate with an impromptu tag. I saw this one on Lizzie’s blog – Accio Padfoot – and thought it looked fun. You can check out her answers here, and you should also go follow her blog because it’s awesome. 🙂

There are technically 100 questions in this tag, but I’ve chosen 50, because after I’d written out my answers to all 100 the word count was intimidatingly gargantuan.

Before I get started, I just want to share some news which had me squealing and happy-dancing this week… I just reached 500 followers on my blog!!! 😀

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I am so happy, so thank you to every single person who takes the time to read my rabid-fangirl book ramblings (and fangirl with me!) I am so grateful for all of the amazing people I’ve met through joining the book-blogging community! ❤


1. Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?

Closed. I’m paranoid spiders’ll crawl in there and give me a nasty surprise when I put my skinny jeans on, if you catch my drift?

2. Do you take the shampoo or conditioner bottles from hotels?

Nope. I’m allergic to most products and can only use sensitive-skin stuff. 😦

3. Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?

In, because I’m paranoid spiders’ll crawl in there and give me a nasty surprise when I wake up in the morning. Are you noticing a pattern here?

4. Have you ever stolen a street sign before?

Not that I’m aware of…

5. Would you rather be attacked by big bears or bees?

Bears, I’m terrified of insects (see spider paranoia above).

6. Do you always smile for pictures?

Yeah, but in a Chandler Bing kind of a way…

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Source: rebloggy

7. What is your biggest pet peeve?

Eating noises. They make me die inside.

8. Do you ever count your steps when you walk?

No, because I’m usually thinking about something else, for example how tired I am, where the nearest place I can rest my weary head is, the book I’m reading, or bacon.

9. Have you ever peed in the woods?

I went drunken camping as a teenager. Of course.

10. What about pooped in the woods?

No, although I once had a really weird dream that I pooed in the road at Cannes Film Festival and Robert Pattinson caught me doing it. Make of that what you will.

11. Do you ever dance when there is no music playing?

No, but I desk dance whilst listening to my iPod at work always.

12. Do you chew your pens and pencils?

Yeah.

13. What size is your bed?

Single, but it’s really more like half a single because I own more cuddly animals than is appropriate for a 25 year old human.

14. What is your song of the week?

Pillowtalk by Zayn Malik. Yeah, I’m one of those people who cried when Zayn left One Direction. But I am kinda digging his new album.

15. Is it okay for guys to wear pink?

Of course. It’s okay for anyone to wear anything they want.

16. Do you still watch cartoons?

Yeah. I really prefer children’s movies to adult movies, tbh.

17. What’s your least favourite movie?

I hate to say it, but it has to be that awful adaptation of City of Bones. I cringed so hard all the way through it, and I was so disappointed as it’s one of my favourite books. Shadhowhunters is a million times better ❤

18. Where would you bury hidden treasure if you had any?

Probably somewhere really obvious. I’m the worst liar. Don’t ever hire me to be a drug mule, because I’ll Piper Chapman you for sure.

19. What do you dip a chicken nugget in?

MAYO. ALL THE MAYO.

20. What is your favourite food?

Gravy.

21. What movies could you watch over and over again and still love?

The Sound of Music and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

22. Last person you kissed/kissed you?

My boyfriend. ❤

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(This was the only normal facial expression from him in this series of photos. I wanted to take selfies and he insisted on messing up all of them by pulling weird faces haha.)

23. Would you ever strip or pose naked in a magazine?

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Source: giphy

24. When was the last time you wrote a letter on paper?

Honestly can’t remember… I’m mainly about Whatsapp. But I am *that* person who is abysmal at replying in group chat.

25. Favourite kind of sandwich?

BACON.

26. Best thing to eat for breakfast?

Marmite on toast.

27. Are you lazy?

Extremely.

28. How many languages can you speak?

I can only speak English, and a tiny bit of French (although I really only know how to ask where the nearest supermarket is, and the last time I was in Paris I asked it of an English-speaking person IN FRONT OF the nearest supermarket…)

29. Do you have any magazine subscriptions?

No. I used to buy this UK celebrity gossip magazine every week, but then I realised all they do is attack women in a written format. Also I did work experience there, and I accidentally lost the editor in chief’s movie premiere tickets, and got ink on a dress that was supposed to be used for a photoshoot, so I sort of cringe every time I think about it really.

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Source: giphy

30. Do you watch any soap operas?

I watch Hollyoaks (a UK soap) and have done since I was about 14. I also once had a job interview to write for the show, but I may have ever-so-slightly accidentally fangirled over the set and brief glimpses of the cast. I did not get the job…

[Sidenote: wow, reading those last 2 answers back, my life sounds like one of those romcoms with the stereotypical *ditzy girl* that keeps messing everything up haha…]

31. Are you afraid of heights?

Nah.

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32. Last time you got a portrait taken by a photographer?

Maybe at school? I hate having my photo taken, unless I’m in control of the camera and can make sure my face doesn’t look weird.

33. Do you think musicals are cheesy?

Yes and that’s why I love them.

34. Is Christmas stressful?

Yes. All those relatives crowded into one room arguing about politics, when all you want to do is crawl into bed and read Harry Potter… Gotta love Christmas though ❤

35. Occupations you wanted to be when you were a kid?

Haha umm… I’ll let this excerpt from my year 7 diary do the talking:

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36. Do you believe in ghosts?

Sometimes.

37. Ever had a deja-vu feeling?

All the time.

38. Take a vitamin daily?

Nah, I eat vegetables.

39. Wear slippers?

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40. Wear a bath robe?

Only when at a spa (that makes it sound like that’s a regular occurrence… ha!)

41. What do you wear to bed?

A nightie. I’m a bit of a Grandma.

42. First concert?

I went to see S Club 7 when I was 10 years old. For non-Brits:

43. Nike or Adidas?

I’m just not sporty in the slightest.

44. Hot tea or cold tea?

Hot tea, but I do love peach iced tea in the summer.

45. Tea or coffee?

Tea. I hate the smell and taste of coffee, although I will drink it if it contains pumpkin spice or gingerbread syrup.

46. Sugar or snickerdoodles?

What’s a snickerdoodle?! I’m guessing I can eat it? 😛

47. Are you patient?

HAHAHAHA.

48. Can you knit or crochet?

No. I used to be able to knit and I made a big fluffy pom pom thing when I was about 10, but I forget how.

49. Do you cry and throw a fit until you get your own way?

HAHAHAHA.

50. What’s your favourite colour?

Turquoise.


I won’t tag anyone specific (as this is a super-long tag) but if you’d like to give it a go, feel free! You can see the full 100 questions on Lizzie’s post 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone xx

book haul, Uncategorized

December Haul and the Book That Won 2015

December is almost over, therefore so is the season of continuously reclining, whilst shovelling chocolates and/or mince pies and/or Baileys into my face-hole every minute of the waking day. I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a lovely one indeed. I’m pretty certain I have tripled in size over the last couple of weeks, but the good news is I’m feeling so rotund and lazy that the only thing I’ve had the slightest bit of energy to do over the holidays (besides said chocolate-shovelling) is read! Yay for reading!

I stayed up late last night finishing The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey, which was my 100th book of the year. I don’t want to ruin the perfection of this number (I mean seriously, I didn’t even do it on purpose!), but on the other hand I really want to start reading all of the amazing books I received for Christmas. Dilemma!

I can’t believe 2015 is coming to an end, and that I’ve been blogging for 6 whole months now! I’m so happy I joined the book blogging community, as I’ve met some wonderful like-minded people here. I’ve had so much fun rambling and ranting and fangirling about books with you all this year. Can’t wait to do the same thing all over again next year!

As I mentioned above, I’ve officially read 100 books in 2015. I was planning on listing my top books of 2015, but I think I’ve squealed about most of them enough over the past few months, so I’d only be repeating myself. What I will tell you, however, is that I’ve chosen my favourite book of 2015. And the winner is…

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Wild by Cheryl Strayed! This book wasn’t published in 2015, but it received a lot of hype this year after the DVD release of the movie adaptation starring Reece Witherspoon. Wild is a memoir written by a young woman who made the impulsive decision to hike 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in America on her own, with no prior training or experience with hiking whatsoever. Who would have thought I could be so utterly gripped by a book which essentially tells the story of a very long walk?

Cheryl Strayed writes with so much emotional honesty, and I cried several times whilst reading her story, particularly in the opening chapters where she describes hitting rock bottom after the death of her mother and the break-up of her marriage (the grief and pain of which led to her decision to take off on her own across America), but also throughout her journey as she slowly begins to heal. As well as being an emotional read, it was also an entertaining one. There are lots of edge-of-seat moments where Cheryl’s journey leads her into danger (and BEARS!), and there’s also plenty of humour: I was particularly amused by Cheryl’s severe case of overpacking for the trek (she couldn’t even lift her rucksack off the ground!)

I picked this book up when I was in a bad place, because I knew it would give me some much-needed perspective, inspiration and hope. I found Wild very empowering, and although I haven’t set off on any solo hikes across America this year (see previous description of myself as ‘rotund and lazy’), this book gave me the strength to set off on a different kind of journey which has led to me ending 2015 in a very happy place, which I never would have believed possible at the beginning of the year.

Wild had a huge emotional impact on me, as well as being an engagingly-written, real-life adventure, and for those reasons, it is my favourite book of 2015!


I received lots of wonderful books for Christmas this year from my lovely friends and family, and I naturally treated myself to a few Kindle self-gifts too! Here’s my book haul for December:

***To have and to hold***

The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis

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I received this as a Christmas present from Aura, a fellow book blogger who also happens to be one of my best friends in real life! I am obsessed with the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders Cassie Clare has created, therefore Aura knows me very well indeed. ❤

The Time Chamber: a magical story and colouring book by Daria Song

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I received this gorgeous adult colouring book from my parents! I am a little bit in love with the pictures. I’m so happy colouring for grown-ups is now a thing, because it’s not only relaxing, but so much fun. Really hoping adult playgrounds will catch on next year, because slides and roundabouts, yay!

Harry Potter Colouring Book

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I squealed when I unwrapped this on Christmas morning! Now all I need is a maroon crayon for Ron’s fave jumper.

Harry Potter Page to Screen by Bob McCabe

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My brother bought me this amazing book for Christmas! We did the Harry Potter studio tour earlier in the year for my birthday, and I loved it so much, so I’m really excited to find out more about how JK Rowling’s incredible books were adapted for the screen. This is now officially the most beautiful and most enormous book I own (it weighs about 5 kilos, I’m not even kidding!)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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I couldn’t ignore the Lunar Chronicles hype any longer, so I added Cinder to my Christmas wishlist, and happily, that wish was granted. I love fairytale retellings, and I’m really excited I finally get to experience what everyone else has been raving about for months!

Don’t Look Now and other stories by Daphne du Maurier

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Another Christmas gift! I’m so happy with this book, as Daphne du Maurier is one of my favourite writers. I love Don’t Look Now (it’s seriously atmospheric and creepy), but I haven’t read many of the others in this collection, so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into these.

The Lottery and other stories by Shirley Jackson

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I read Shirley Jackson’s chilling short story, The Lottery, a while ago, and I’ve been wanting to read more of her work ever since. As you probably know by now, I’m a huge fan of strange and creepy writing, so I was very excited to open this one on Christmas day!

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella

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The Shopaholic books are my favourite comfort reads, and never fail to make me laugh! Looking forward to snuggling up with this one.

The Winter Children by Lulu Taylor

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This was another Christmas gift from my mum, and it looks like an intriguing, atmospheric (and potentially creepy!) family mystery. I love me some dark secrets, and this book promises to be full of them. Can’t wait to read this!


***Digital Love***

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I don’t have a very big Kindle haul this month, but I did treat myself to The 5th Wave (and its sequel The Infinite Sea) by Rick Yancey, as the movie is coming out soon, and I’ve been wanting to read this series for a long time. These books were so pacey and exciting, and I stayed up long into the night finishing the second one. That twist! I’ll be posting a review of this series soon. Can’t believe I now have to wait until May for the final instalment! I can’t!!!


So, that’s a wrap for December (and 2015!) What books did you add to your shelves this month? And for those who celebrate, did you get any books or bookish goodies for Christmas? I hope you’ve all been as spoiled as I have 😀

I’m away for the next few days, so this will be my last post for 2015. Happy New Year lovely people!

 

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Two Christmassy book tags: ‘Tis the Season/All I Want for Christmas

In the spirit of festive overindulgence, I’m bringing you not one by TWO Christmas book tags! Summer over at XingSings nominated me for the ‘Tis The Season tag, and Deanna of A Novel Glimpse tagged me to do the All I Want For Christmas tag! Thank you ladies! If you haven’t already checked them out, both of their blogs are well worth a visit.


‘Tis the Season Book Tag:

1. Do you have a favourite winter read?

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I love reading Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding at this time of year. I think a large part of this is down to the fact that, every time Mark Darcy makes an appearance in the book, no matter the season, he’s always wearing his reindeer Christmas jumper in my mind.

2. Find a book with blue on the cover!

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Northern Lights by Philip Pullman has such a gorgeous cover. The first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy is a magical, wintery adventure to the North, therefore perfect December reading.

3. Find a book you’d use as the star on a Christmas tree!

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4. Pick one fictional place that would be perfect for a winter vacation!

I really want to say Hogsmeade, but everyone else already picked Hogsmeade, so it’s going to get pretty damn cosy in the Three Broomsticks this Christmas. I’ll pack my bags for Watford School of Magicks instead, because I think it’d be fun spending the holidays with Simon and Baz (though they might find me weird for fangirling over their relationship in real life…)

5. Pick one fictional character you’d take with you on your winter vacation!

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I’d choose Magnus Bane, because any vacation with him is bound to turn into a hilarious, magical adventure, and who knows where we’d end up? He may be banned from Peru, but the rest of the world is our oyster…

6. Name one book on your wish list this year!

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Okay, alright, fine… I know it’s not coming out until March 2016, so it won’t be turning up beneath my tree this year, but I can still sit here and wish for a Christmas miracle! 🙂

7. Favourite holiday drink, treat, & movie?

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Image via Giphy

I love a hot chocolate with Baileys, plus ALL THE FOOD, whilst watching Elf or The Santa Clause, the two holiday movies I must see every year.


 

All I Want For Christmas Book Tag:

1. What fictional character do you want Santa to leave under your Christmas tree?

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Image via Giphy

Damon Salvatore. All wrapped up with a pretty little Christmas bow in his hair, please and thank you Santa.

2. What character do you want to kiss under the mistletoe?

Is this not basically the same as the first question? I’m giving the same answer anyway… 😉

3. You write your Christmas list for Santa, what are the top 5 books on it?

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I know I’m definitely getting the first one of these for Christmas. I’m so excited to start reading Cinder – really hope this series lives up to the crazy hype surrounding it!

4. It’s Secret Santa at Hogwarts, what do you most want to receive?

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I’ve always secretly wanted a Weasley jumper, and I’m perfectly okay with mine being maroon.

5. You get to the spend the day with the characters and movie adaptation actors from one fandom, what do you pick?

I would’t say no to spending Christmas in Mystic Falls…

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6. What fictional animal would you like to replace Rudolph and be able to meet on your roof?

Buckbeak

I would like to fly around the world with Buckbeak spreading Christmassy love and joy! Hippogriffs > Santa.

7. You invite 10 fictional characters to your new years eve party, who do you pick?

Gatsby (he can help me organise, since he throws a damn good party)

Magnus Bane (ditto, plus I’d be excited to see what kind of outfit he rocks up in…)

Bridget Jones (because her relationship with a bottle of wine is something I understand on a soulmate kind of level)

Cath from Fangirl (I need a fellow fangirl at my party, plus with Cath there, I’ll only be the second most awkward person in the room!)

Celaena Sardothien (she can be my bouncer at the front gate, and kick out any undesirables!)

Winnie the Pooh (I need somebody who is as obsessed with mealtimes as I am to make it less obvious I’m spending ALL my time hovering around the buffet table)

Simon from Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (I think he’d be fun to hang out with, plus he loves HP as much as I do!)

I can’t think of any more, because I suck at organising parties, but I think the above odd assortment of people will make for a fun, if bizarre, New Year’s Eve.

8. What character would make a good Santa? (Doesn’t have to be appearance, personality counts too)

I’m going with Dumbledore, because although looks-wise he’d be a somewhat skinny Santa, he’d also make a brilliant one – he’s mysterious, he’s kind and jolly, he sees everything (he knows if you’ve been bad or good…), and he gives excellent Christmas gifts too (hello invisibility cloak!)


As there are only two more sleeps until Christmas, I imagine most of you will have already done this tag, or similar holiday tags, so I am tagging… EVERYONE!

Merry Christmas and lots of bookish love to you all! x

Uncategorized

Book Review: “The Manifesto on How to be Interesting’ by Holly Bourne

TRIGGER WARNING: Whilst I’m not going to dwell on it in this review, this book features self-harm, which, though well-handled and not graphic, some readers may find distressing.

22533460 (1)The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting. Holly Bourne. Usbourne Publishing. August 2014.

Bree is a loser, a wannabe author who hides behind words. But when she’s told she needs to start living a life worth writing about, The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting is born. Six steps on how to be interesting. Six steps that will see her infiltrate the popular set, fall in love with someone forbidden and make the biggest mistake of her life.


I picked up The Manifesto on How to be Interesting purely because I absolutely adored Am I Normal Yet? by the same author. I strongly connected with all of the characters in AINY (I mean, my reaction every time any of them spoke was basically: *mini fist pump* YESSS! THIS! PREACH ITTTT! *2nd mini fist pump*) I was really hoping I’d love this set of characters just as much, however, sadly that wasn’t the case. Although the way I felt about the characters didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book (it’s well-written with a page-turner of a plot), I think it stopped me from being as wowed as I was by Am I Normal Yet?.

The story follows 16-year-old Bree, a mixed up teenage outsider who is lonely, bored and fed up with her life; she desperately wants to be a writer, but her manuscripts keep getting rejected by publishers; she has a strained relationship with her parents, particularly her Dad who’s practically married to his job, and doesn’t even pay her enough attention to know she’s a vegetarian; she only has one friend, Holdo (not his real name, but an homage to Holden from The Catcher in the Rye) and outside of this friendship she’s basically invisible – the only time she isn’t being ignored by the popular crowd is when she’s being ridiculed by them for the way she dresses. She’s also hopelessly in love with her English teacher, Mr Fellows, who she tried to kiss at her end-of-year dance (but who’s now denying it ever happened).

One day, after receiving another disheartening publisher rejection letter, Bree confides in said English teacher, who advises her that perhaps her novels keep getting rejected because they’re too *miserable* (her latest being a particularly epic tale of woe) and in the words of Mr Fellows himself:

“No offence, but nobody wants to read an 110,000-word novel about a girl throwing herself off the end of a pier.”

Bree claims that she ‘writes what she knows’, but Mr Fellows suggests that in order to write books people will want to read, Bree should come out of her shell, and start living a life worth writing about. Impressionable Bree takes this advice a little too literally, and comes up with a plan: infiltrate the popular crowd, and document her journey from being a nobody to becoming a somebody worth reading about, writing about this journey on an anonymous blog she names ‘The Manifesto on How to be Interesting’.

After re-inventing herself image-wise, Bree befriends the most popular girl in school, Jassmine Dallington, and wangles an invitation to hang out with the elite circle. Bree disagrees with everything these girls stand for, but firmly believes that the way to become interesting is to become more like them. The next step in her plan is to seduce Hugo, the most popular boy in school (who also happens to be Jassmine’s boyfriend).

I liked the concept of this novel, and thought it was an interesting take on the ‘Mean Girls’ trope, however as I mentioned at the beginning, I disliked most of the characters. Jassmine’s group are typical nasty girls – they bully other people, they post mean comments about girls in their class online (Burn Book stylee), but everyone is interested in their lives and wants to be friends with them. Hugo is similarly vile (he’s a misogynistic douchebag who cheats on his girlfriend repeatedly and crudely brags about the girls he cheats with to his laddish friends), yet everybody seems to fancy him (including Bree!) I found Bree’s interest in Hugo hard to stomach because he has SUCH an unattractive personality (which even Bree herself realises!) Then of course, we have Mr Fellows, a man in a position of authority who’s suddenly a lot more interested in vulnerable Bree now she’s the most popular girl in school (I don’t think I have to explain why this makes him a shady character!)

Unfortunately I wasn’t a big fan of Bree herself either. To begin with, I empathised with her (as feeling like you don’t fit in is something everyone can relate to at some point in their lives), however as soon as Bree began her ‘Manifesto on How to be Interesting’ project, I quickly lost sympathy for her. I found her behaviour extremely selfish and immature (she essentially ditches her only friend to pursue a fake friendship with people she is only using for writing material!) and I found myself constantly wanting to slap some sense into her. Although Jassmine and her group are mean girls, as Bree gets to know them, she realises they are real people, with emotions and insecurities just like everyone else, yet this doesn’t seem to stop her from exposing personal information about them on her blog, and eventually betraying Jassmine by sleeping with her boyfriend (who she doesn’t even really like beyond the fact that he’s good-looking).

I think I would have had more respect for Bree if I felt she’d learnt something from her mistakes, but despite suffering from the consequences of her actions, I finished the book with the impression that Bree still felt her project had been worthwhile and the right thing to do (despite all the people she’d hurt in the process), because her writing had reached (and therefore helped) other lonely people who consider themselves ‘uninteresting’. I appreciate that sentiment, but the way Bree manipulated and used people for that end result just didn’t sit comfortably with me.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the negative, because I did enjoy this book, and I became very invested in the story. I found Bree interesting, even if I didn’t like her, and I was never bored whilst reading this novel, because I was always fascinated to see what she would do next (even when I was silently begging her NOT to do anything else to mess up an already ridiculously messy situation!)

I love Holly Bourne’s writing style, and I will certainly be reading more of her books in future. Whilst I didn’t love Bree as much as I loved Evie, the protagonist of Am I Normal Yet?, I am still glad that I read her story, and I’d certainly recommend this book if you’re looking for an interesting character-driven contemporary read.

Uncategorized

10 songs that remind me of my favourite books

Contrary to popular opinion, I do sometimes listen to music that isn’t One Direction (y’know, annually), and sometimes the songs I listen to remind me of books I’ve read. Sometimes it’s because they’ve been written on the same subject, sometimes the similarity is in the way they make me feel, and sometimes it’s just a general vibe and mood thing.

Today, I thought I’d share with you a list of 10 songs which remind me of some of my favourite books. I’d love to see if you agree, and find out which songs remind you of these books, or of other books you love…


1. Driving Home for Christmas by Chris Rea reminds me of… Going Home by Harriet Evans

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The most Christmassy feeling in the world to me is the anticipation of getting home on Christmas Eve to a cosy, warm house filled with family, and this song IS that feeling. It also reminds me of Going Home, a family drama (plus romance, obvs) which begins with a woman named Lizzy travelling back to her family home – Keeper House – for Christmas. I re-read this book every December – it’s the perfect Christmassy comfort read (to be consumed alongside Christmassy comfort food!)


2. There is a Light that Never Goes Out by The Smiths reminds me of… The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

gatsby-original1This song is about the person you love being the only thing keeping you going, and when I listen to it, I’m always reminded of Gatsby staring out at the green light across the bay, dreaming of Daisy. Also, this line – Driving in your car/ Oh please don’t drop me home / Because it’s not my home, it’s their home/ And I’m welcome no more – makes me think of the way Gatsby’s house was always filled with people he didn’t know, partying away in a place that’s supposed to be his home, but never truly feels that way without Daisy there with him. I’m convinced this song was written ABOUT The Great Gatsby.


3. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift reminds me of Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

So, TSwizzle wasn’t around in Bridget Jones’s heyday, but if she had been, I’m pretty sure this song would have been Bridget’s anthem in the triumphant moment she finally gives Daniel Cleaver the heave-ho.

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Image via Buzzfeed


4. Animals by Maroon 5 reminds me of… You by Caroline Kepnes

20821614I love this song, but I’m not the biggest fan of its hella creepy video depicting a man who is stalkerishly infatuated with a woman, ‘hunting’ her down because he’s unable to let go of their relationship. It reminds me so much of the novel You, in which seemingly normal bookseller Joe becomes obsessed with Beck, a woman who walks into his shop one day. He proceeds to stalk and manipulate her into a relationship by becoming the ‘perfect’ guy for her (spying on her through her phone and social media accounts to work out exactly what she’s looking for in a partner). When Beck decides to end things with Joe, he’s unwilling to accept that it’s over, and the consequences are deadly. This book (like the video for this song) is suffocatingly creepy; it’s told in the 2nd person, and the entire book is addressed directly to Beck.

Word of warning about the video: If, like I once did, you’re sat there thinking you couldn’t possibly imagine a scenario in which you would cease to find Adam Levine sexy, this video may well change your mind… I’d also really advise you not to watch it if you’re squeamish about blood or a vegetarian.


5. Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap reminds me of… Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

bc-wintergirlsThis song reminds me of the way Wintergirls is written – it has a disjointed, strange quality to it, and is full of odd, yet powerful, imagery. A lot of people think this song is about being cheated on, but I believe it’s about grief, and it’s the soundtrack I imagine for Wintergirls, which is the story of a girl named Lia, whose friend Cassie is found dead in a motel room. Lia is anorexic, and as she comes to terms with her friend’s death, she’s also struggling with the same illness which took her friend’s life. This was a difficult book to read because of the sensitive issues it explores, but it’s stunningly written, and I’d highly recommend it.


6. The Gift by Angels and Airwaves reminds me of… Annie and Finnick’s wedding scene in Mockingjay

The lyrics of this song are so beautiful! I interpret it as being about a moment of hope and love and joy so strong it overrides all of the bad things happening outside of it. To me, it’s a song for Annie and Finnick’s wedding in Mockingjay, the purest of moments which, despite taking place in the middle of the horrific war against the Capitol, cannot be taken away from them.

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Image via Giphy


7. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush reminds me of… Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (duh…)

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I couldn’t resist dropping this one into my list. Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite novels of all time, and Kate Bush is just crazy awesome… what other song could I possibly have picked?! 


8. Accidentally in Love by Counting Crows reminds me of … I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelsson

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This is the happiest, sunniest song I can think of, and the lyrics are full of colour, and metaphor after metaphor about love. If I’ll Give You the Sun were a song, it would be this one.


9. Give Me Strength by Snow Patrol reminds me of… Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

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Whenever I listen to this song, I always think of it as a rousing speech after an epic battle has been won, in which the speaker is thanking the friends who’ve kept him going through the hardest of times. I’m always reminded of Deathly Hallows, because for me, these sentiments sum up the book – true friendship is at the very heart of the Harry Potter series, and it’s love that wins the final battle.


10. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall by Coldplay reminds me of… the tunnel song in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I imagine everyone has their own special song in mind when they read this scene, and I like the fact that ‘the tunnel song’ is never explicitly named in the book, because it allows you to hear whichever song makes you feel ‘infinite’. In the film adaptation, it’s Heroes by David Bowie, but for me, the epic song I hear as I imagine myself whizzing through that tunnel, wind in my hair, radio up full volume, is undoubtedly this one.

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Image via Giphy

Fun fact, I actually made a whole iTunes playlist of songs that make me feel infinite, called ‘Perks’, because I’m a massive nerd like that…


So, that’s the end of my list! Which songs would you have chosen? And which songs remind you of your favourite books, or scene from a book?
And finally, if you’ve read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, what would your tunnel song have been?

book haul, Uncategorized

November Haul and the Month of Starting Over

November is over which means not only is it Book Haul time again, but it’s also officially Christmas, therefore nobody is allowed to judge me for listening to holiday music (which I definitely have not been doing since October….)

The downside to the arrival of December is that there’s only one more glorious month of my Ian Somerhalder calendar to enjoy….

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If anyone fancies buying me the 2016 calendar for Christmas, I certainly won’t object! 😉


***Starting Over***

November has been a busy month for me because I started a new job!

Anyone who knows me outside of this blog will probably already be aware that, for a large part of this year, I’ve been extremely unhappy (to the extent that it had started to turn me into a different person) and in desperate need of a fresh start.

This job has given me the break I needed (blogging has helped an awful lot too, as it’s given me some purpose), and right now I am a million times happier than I was a few months ago! The best thing ever is that I now get to write as part of my job, which is basically all I’ve ever wanted!

I’m very lucky to have a supportive and lovely boyfriend, family and friends who have helped me so much this year, and definitely deserve some kind of medal for putting up with me and my dark cloud of misery for so long!

I am now working as part of the Marketing team for Oxford Dictionaries, aka the folk who publish the Oxford English Dictionary, and who picked an emoji as Word of the Year 2015… This emoji, to be precise:

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For anyone who feels particularly strongly about the fact that an emoji is not a word (as apparently a significant proportion of the internet does…), I joined too late to be involved in this decision (although I personally think it was a fun, if controversial, choice!), so please don’t throw any big, bulky print dictionaries full of actual words at me in protest! 17474d3a52fd7efdada7b5896b5c590617474d3a52fd7efdada7b5896b5c590617474d3a52fd7efdada7b5896b5c5906


This month I’m bringing you the tiniest book haul since I started this blog… I can’t believe I only bought 4 books in November…

 

***To have and to hold***

Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne du Maurier

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I took an emergency trip to Waterstones a few days ago when I realised I hadn’t bought any physical books this month (which felt hella sacrilegious), and this is what I came back with.

I love Daphne du Maurier’s writing and really want to read a few more of her novels. Plus, apparently the love interest in this book is a pirate, and I do so have difficulty resisting a pirate…

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Image via Giphy


***Digital Love***

I bought 3 e-books this month, and managed to squeeze in reading all of them! Unfortunately I won’t have time to review these in full, but here’s what I thought of them anyway:

The Cranberry Hush – Ben Monopoli

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I finally joined Goodreads this month, and I found this one whilst searching for books similar to Know Not Why (strong contender for my favourite read of the year). I was drawn to this book because of the beautiful title (one of the characters, Griff, has synaesthesia – he sees colours – and ‘cranberry hush’ is how he describes the isolated little bubble of quiet calm his friend Vince seems to live in). This is a story about unrequited love: the main character, Vince, fell in love with his roommate, Griff, in college, but stopped speaking to him abruptly, deciding it was too painful to stay friends with someone who would never feel the same way, and hasn’t seen him in several years. One day, in the middle of a snowstorm, Griff shows up at Vince’s door, and all of the feelings come rushing back. I experienced so many emotions whilst reading this book! It’s beautifully written, sweet, and I really related to Vince and Griff, who are both in a kind of post-college slump, with no clue as to where their lives are headed, and feeling nostalgic for their student days (ugh, I know how this feels so hard!)


Take My Picture – Giselle Ellis

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If you’re willing to ignore the super-cheesy cover, I really recommend this novella! This was another Goodreads find, and I’m so happy I discovered it (yet so disappointed this author hasn’t written any more books for me to devour!) The story follows Jake (a photographer) and Aaron (who has been working as Jake’s assistant for five years), two people who are clearly supposed to be together, but too clueless to realise. Jake is heartbroken every time Aaron starts seeing somebody new, and Aaron doesn’t feel any more comfortable witnessing Jake’s endless string of one-night-stands, yet still they refuse to see it’s because they have feelings for each other. I never would have thought it possible to create such a compelling and slow-burn love story within so few words, but there’s nothing insta-lovey about the romance, and I completely bought into the chemistry between the characters. This is a quick, single-sitting read, but I promise it will make you feel ALL THE THINGS in a very short space of time. I completely fell in love with this book.


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

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Unusually for me, this is the only YA book I bought in November! So many people have recommended this one to me, and I finally understand why! This is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Aristotle (‘Ari’) who has a lot of questions: about life and all its peculiarities, about the secrets his family are keeping, and about growing up and all the weirdness that entails. One day, he meets a boy named Dante (isn’t that just the best coincidence?) who offers to teach him how to swim, and Ari’s first real friendship with someone outside of his family begins to blossom, over the summer of 1987. Ari is an inquisitive character, and rather naive, but that’s one of the things I loved about him – he felt like a genuinely real person, bewildered by life in the most relatable of ways, and his relationship with Dante was adorable. There is a romantic element to the book, but most of the focus is on the friendship which comes first, and it’s very strongly portrayed. Everyone should read this novel – it will make you think about life and all its mysteries in a hundred different ways!


So, that’s it for November! Have you read any of these books? Which books did you add to your TBR this month? Recommendations for December buys are most welcome 🙂

Uncategorized

The Sunshine Blogger Award

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I have been nominated for The Sunshine Blogger Award! Thank you so much to theorangutanlibrarian for nominating me (who has a fantastic blog, by the way, so please go check it out, right now!)

I realise I say this in almost every award post or book tag I do, but I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this! Life is getting in the way of bloggy things recently, but I do appreciate every single tag 🙂


The Rules:

  • Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you
  • Nominate some wonderful bloggers and write 11 questions for them to answer

My answers to The Orangutan Librarian’s questions:

1. What is your favourite Disney movie? Why?

My favourite Disney (Pixar) film is Toy Story. Fun fact, I once got ID’d in the supermarket (aged 24) buying the Toy Story trilogy boxset. These films are rated ‘Parental Guidance’, so apparently I look like an ACTUAL CHILD?!?!

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Image via Giphy


2. Have you ever had an extreme case of déjà vu? What happened?

I definitely experienced déjà vu when I read Life and Death “Twilight Re-imagined”… I mean, it was basically the same story, except for this:

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How terrifying is this picture though?! 


3. What are your top 3 book genres?

Psychological thriller, fantasy and contemporary romance.


4. If you could only ever live in one season all year long- which one would it be? And why?

My favourite season is Autumn, but if I had to be trapped in a never-ending season, I think I’d have to go with Spring, because I couldn’t cope with the lack of sunlight – I’d be lethargic, slumpy and grumpy all year round.


5. What are the top 5 things that make you smile?

The people I love
Books
Boybands
Wine
Pizza


6. If you were a mutant (like in X Men) would you side with Professor X or Magneto? Why? And what would your power be?

I’ll shamefully admit I know virtually nothing about X Men (I’ve only seen one of the films), so I’m not sure how to answer the first part of the question… but, if I had to have a special power, I’d love to be able to pause time like Hiro Nakamura from Heroes, and I would use my extra time to read ALL THE BOOKS, because I’m kickass like that.

 

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Image via Giphy 


7. Sing the cheesiest song in your repertoire at the top of your lungs- which song was it?

This classic, obvs:


8. You encounter a ghost/demon/scary house- how do you react? What do you do?

When I was little, I thought I saw a ghost-girl in my Grandma’s closet under the stairs, and started freaking out. She tried to rationalise the situation, and pulled out this draught-blocker (basically a long sausage-shaped item you put by the front door to keep the wind out) which was resting against the back of the cupboard, and told me that’s what I’d actually seen. Still not convinced, tbh.

Anyway, we then, for some reason, cut out some eyes, a nose and a mouth from a piece of paper, coloured them in, and glued them to the draught-blocker, so it wouldn’t be scary any more.

In hindsight, we probably made it look a lot MORE sinister by doing that… And I’m pretty sure I’d now run away if I saw an actual ghost, and not stick a paper smiley face on it…


9. If you could go back in time to any period in history, *when* would you go to? Who would you like to meet? What would you do?

Definitely the 1920s. If Gatsby weren’t a fictional character, I’d go to one of his parties. I’m lame at parties though, so I’d probably hang around with that drunk guy from the book who sobers himself up by sitting in the library.

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Image via Giphy / Tumblr


10. Would you survive the Zombie Apocalypse? How? (I’m looking for tips :p )

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But yeah, no… My brains would get devoured on day one!


11. What did you do for Halloween? Who/what did you dress up as?

I stayed in this year with the boyfriend. We watched cheesy ‘horror’ movies, and ate loads of Haribo (because we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters). I didn’t dress up this time, but this is how I’ve been known to roll on the creepiest night of the year:

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I’m sure you can tell by the tissue-paper rosy-cheek unpeeling from the side of my porcelain face that this is the obligatory aftermath-of-the-night-out selfie…

Sweet dreams, y’all.


My questions for the nominees:

  1. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which book would you choose?
  2. If you were stranded on a desert island, which 5 fictional characters would you most like to be stuck there with?
  3. Which Hogwarts House are you in?
  4. Who is your least favourite main character of a book and why?
  5. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
  6. What is the weirdest dream you have ever had?
  7. Which book do you wish you had written?
  8. Have you ever met anyone famous, and how did you react? If not, who would you most like to meet and how you do think you would cope with it?
  9. Which TV shows are you addicted to?
  10. What were your first words?
  11. If you had another blog, what would you blog about?

My nominations for this award go to:

Danissa @ thebooklandia
Marian @ bookception
Fran @ jarofbooks
Dee @ thebookishkhaleesi
Deanna @ anovelglimpse
Matt @ jesusfreakusa
Alyssa @ theultimatebookgeek
Bear @ bookbearblog


**As always, there is absolutely no pressure to do this tag if you’ve already done it before/tags aren’t your bag/you’re drowning in a sea of them with no hope of ever catching up!**

Uncategorized

5 reasons you should read ‘Carry On’ by Rainbow Rowell

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Carry On. Rainbow Rowell. Macmillan. October 2015.

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.


I loved this book so much that I don’t know how to write about it without my review turning into a 1000-word-long squeal of joy, because SIMONANDBAZSIMONANDBAZSIMONANDBAZ.

To save you the pain of reading an essay filled with my incoherent fangirling, I’m just going to give you 5 reasons why you should read this bloody marvellous book.

DISCLAIMER: You’ll now be treated to 5 essays instead of 1, and there may still be some incoherent fangirling… #sorrynotsorry


1. Carry On is an ode to fanfiction

If you’re a fan of Rainbow Rowell’s you’ll already know that Simon and his roommate Baz appear in her previous novel, Fangirl, as characters from the fictional ‘Simon Snow’ series the protagonist Cath writes fanfiction about.

In Fangirl, each chapter begins with an excerpt from either the canon Simon Snow series, or one of Cath’s fanfictions, including her longest and most popular story, ‘Carry On’. I loved following Simon and Baz’s subplot, as the hate-charged rivalry between them intensified, eventually turning into a totally different kind of relationship (well, at least, in Cath’s version of the story!)

Carry On, the novel, is naturally a million times more polished than actual fanfiction, but it reads like a celebration of it. It’s a mishmash of fantasy tropes (a lot of which are turned on their head rather nicely – more on that later!), and there’s a strong Harry Potter vibe, as the story takes place in a magical boarding school, and our protagonist Simon is the magical world’s ‘chosen one’, not unlike Mr. Potter himself. Despite the homage this story pays to HP, it is not HP fanfiction; the world-building and characters are original (essentially, this novel is Rainbow Rowell writing fanfiction about her own characters…) and I loved them all (a lot!) in their own right.

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Image via Giphy


2. Carry On has ALL THE NARRATORS

Instead of the limited worldview first-person narration usually gives us, in Carry On, ALL of the main characters take a turn at narration, so we get to see the world of Mages through six different sets of eyes.

My favourite narrator was our protagonist Simon, because he’s an extremely likeable character, frequently sarcastic, and is obsessed with eating scones (therefore deeply relatable to forever-hungry me!), but I also enjoyed hearing from Penelope Bunce, Simon’s best friend, who is bright, quick-witted, and constantly flouting school rules by sneaking into his room, despite her ‘model student’ status.

Of course, I also adored Baz, Simon’s crotchety vampire roommate, whose chapters were full of swagger and arrogance (but in the most loveable, inoffensive way, I promise).


3. Carry On twists those tropes right up

Carry On takes tired tropes like ‘The Chosen One’ and gives them a shake-up. Magic doesn’t come naturally to Simon. He’s super-powerful, but super-bad at controlling his power, almost always causing some kind of accidental explosion whenever he attempts a spell. Basically he sucks at being The Chosen One.

Then we have our villain, ‘The Insidious Humdrum’ (isn’t that just the best bad-guy name though?!) He looks exactly like a younger version of Simon, and the way he operates is to drain magic right out of the air, leaving holes in the magical atmosphere where no spell will work, and where those with power may lose it all.

He’s not your average villain, because there’s a real air of mystery about him, unlike the blatantly obvious baddies of every other fantasy novel, whose power-lust is written all over their faces, and apparent in every move they make. What does The Humdrum want? Where did he even come from, for that matter? This story kept me guessing, and I wasn’t even close with my theory!


4. Carry On takes a fresh and funny look at magic

In the world of Mages, any words can be used to cast a spell, providing you’re waving your wand around AND connecting with those words and the ‘power’ they carry on that deep and mysterious level. Most of the spells the characters cast in the novel use clichéd little expressions, for example ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’ to make a lost item present itself, or ‘Hair of the dog!’ to cure a hangover. However, as ANYTHING goes where magic is concerned, we also get the odd ‘Scooby Dooby Doo, Where are you?’ (also a searching spell, obvs),  ‘Have a break, have a KitKat!’ (to, erm… break stuff…) and we finally find out where the name of the book comes from – ‘Carry oooon, carry on!’ – when the Mage (Headmaster at the Watford School of Magicks) casts himself a Bohemian-Rhapsody-based spell…

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Image via Giphy

That one really tickled me, even though it happens in the middle of a super-tense scene.


And finally…

5. Carry On has SIMONANDBAZSIMONANDBAZSIMONANDBAZ

I feel I’ve been very restrained waiting until the end of my review to talk about the romance between Simon Snow and Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch, but now I’m going to let it all out, because OMG IT WAS SO PERFECT! &8ahhh<3_!!squeee!!11

(The above sequence of letters and symbols was ironic, and in no way reflects my real reaction to this book… ahem…)

I have to admit that the romance is why I bought the book, and it ended up being my favourite thing about it (quelle surprise!)

We’re made to wait for it though! Baz is missing for the first 150 pages or so… Meanwhile, Simon is obsessively trying to find out what’s happened to him (totally oblivious to the fact that he’s going to so much effort because he cares about Baz, far more than he’s willing to admit!)

I loved that Simon was so convinced he hated Baz, yet devoted so much time to searching for him. When Baz finally makes his sweeping entrance into the dining hall half-way through the school term, offering no explanation as to where he’s been, the book really gets exciting, because you, like Simon, have been waiting for this moment a long, long time, and it all suddenly kicks up a notch.

Especially when Baz, not long introduced to us, casually reveals that while he was away…

“I let myself slip away… Just to stay sane. Just to get through it. And when I felt myself slipping too far, I held on to the one thing I’m always sure of – Blue eyes. Bronze curls. The fact that Simon Snow is the most powerful magician alive. That nothing can hurt him, not even me. That Simon Snow is alive. And I’m hopelessly in love with him.” 

Baz is pretty open about his feelings for Simon (at least, in his narration), but it takes Simon a lot longer to realise he feels the same way, so there’s lots of tension in the build-up (especially as Simon has considered Baz his nemesis/the bane of his existence – definitely not boyfriend material – for so long).

When they finally kiss for the first time, it was definitely a case of ALL THE FEELS (and I loathe that expression, so I don’t use it lightly here!)

I’m not sure I’ve ever fangirled so hard over a fictional relationship!

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Image via Tumblr


So, in conclusion… read this book, okay? I hope it puts as big a smile on your face as it did mine, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Also, if you have read the book, you are most welcome to come over here and fangirl/fanboy with meeeee.