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Sunday Diary

EXAMS, EXAMS, EXAMS! | Sunday Diary

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Hello, lovely readers!

It seems like a long time since I sat down and wrote a blog post; things have been quite manic around here! I thought I’d catch you up on all that I’ve been up to in this post and hopefully fill you in.

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s exam season at the moment, so of course my brain is floating around in a world of revision and my hands are aching from writing constantly for hours. At the time of writing this, I have 13 exams left to go and have done 7 – I feel like I’m actually making a dent in them now! I can’t wait to finish, but I only have a month left now. I’m sure it will go quickly! Good luck to everyone else doing exams at the moment!

I also had my last day at school on Thursday. It’s crazy to think it’s all coming to an end, but it’s nice to be on study leave now and have more time to revise (and read. Did you think I wouldn’t take advantage of the extra reading time?)

One of my favourite things at the moment is ICE CREAM. I cannot get enough of it! How can you resist when it looks like this anyway..?

What I’ve Been Reading

Mainly, lots of revision guides. Being so all over the place with exams has meant that I’ve hit a tiny reading slump and am reading about fifty books at once, which is never helpful. However, there are a few books I’ve been enjoying:

  • Girl Up by Laura Bates, which is a great feminist read for teens. I’ll be doing a full review once I’ve finished it because I’ve loved it so much. Highly recommended from me!
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – I’ve been meaning to read it for YEARS but picked it up on a whim last night and I am hooked. I’ll hopefully finish this over the summer!
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – I have no idea when I’ll finish this, even though it’s very good and I’m liking it, but it’s not one of my priorities at the moment. It’s the kind of book that takes ages to read just one page and that isn’t helping with my reading slump at the moment!

How has your week been? Are you reading anything good at the moment? Let me know by leaving some love in the comments!

Blog Tour

5 Reasons to Read… The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

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To celebrate the release of The Raven King, the final book in the Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, I was asked to be a part of the blog tour, run by Scholastic. Of course, I jumped at the chance because I’m a MASSIVE fan of the books, so here are my five reasons to read the series!

1. The Characters Will Feel Like Your Best Friends

The whole series is driven by the characters and the roles they play in the plot. In fact, you could take the whole plot of the series away and still have amazing characters left behind, who don’t feel fictional but instead feel like you’ve known them your whole life.

I love Gansey to within an inch of my life, Ronan grew to become one of my favourite characters over the course of the series and I want to live in 300 Fox Way with Blue, Maura and the other members.

2. The Lyrical Words

I almost feel as if I could fall into each sentence and swim around in the world that Maggie has created. Each word feels calculated to either break or melt your heart and I felt so affected by all of it together that I took me so long to read The Raven King because I had to take my time to absorb everything.

It’s been a pleasure to see Maggie evolve as a writer throughout the series.

3. The Journey and Experience

I loved the series from the moment I read the first page of The Raven Boys and since then I’ve waited years to finish the series. I have fond memories of reading each of the books and that enhances the reading experience so much. It’s the best feeling in the world to revisit them and bring all of those memories back!

4. CARS (but mainly the passion)

Even though my knowledge of cars is zero, I love seeing Maggie’s passion for them come through in the series. Take out the cars, though, and there is still passion. The passion the characters have for finding Glendower, for each other, and the passion the readers have for the books. Which leads me nicely on to…

5. The Fandom

Even after you’ve finished reading the series, it isn’t over because the fandom is there to welcome you into its arms. I’ve loved scrolling through the tag on Tumblr since I finished The Raven King, relating to comments left by other people and seeing different thoughts on the events that happened. I love the community aspect, which I definitely didn’t expect when I started the series!

The Raven King is out now!

Have you read The Raven Cycle series? Share your love for it in the comments below!

Discussion Where to Start

The Pure Magic of Reading | A Monologue

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There is a serendipitous feel to the air when I pick up my battered, second-hand copy of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. £1.99, the sticker says on the back, bringing with it the smell of old ladies and must that seems to lurk in charity shops. It has been gathering dust in the corner of a bookcase for years and then its final resting place became a dark box where it sat, waiting and biding its time until it could burrow itself into the recesses of my imagination. Now, it is finally time for it come alive again…

I am at a crossroads in my life, with an infinite number of paths spread out before me, some clear and others, many others, hazy. Change is a healthy thing, a fact that has been hard for me to always accept, but when it comes to my life in books, I am embracing the change with an immeasurable ferocity.

I have come to the realisation that books are no longer the escape that they once were for me. Instead of balking from this like I thought I would, I have leaned closer to it and tried to understand the change, and here it is: Books offer an infinitesimal number of opportunities, experience and advice that hasn’t been fully open to me until now. My mind is constantly evolving and stretching to keep up with an ever-moving life, and books now work alongside it to further stretch and evolve it. Each word imprints on my soul, colliding and eventually interweaving with it, whereas before they sung to the beat of my heart, a slow and aching timbre. Each syllable is still an escape, but also a progression. A step along the path of my existence.

This theory clawed at my consciousness and came to fruition through the sudden discovery of The Bell Jar. Esther Greenwood, Plath’s protagonist, entranced me from the first page and called to me in a way that no character had since Holden Caulfield. Where 13 year old Lucy adored Holden because he held the key to unlocked feelings, Esther spoke to current day Lucy’s every movement. With each intake of breath, Esther echoed with an exhalation of emotions; with each flick of a page, Esther responded with an urgency to keep flicking and keep turning until the events had been memorised with a fierce protection. I had tied myself to Esther Greenwood, a character with whom I felt my own fate was connected.

And now I am reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and it is awakening a primal call from deep within me to writeAnd to liveAnd to experienceIt is happening all over again, a cycle of letters morphing into words into phrases into an entire world formed in the lobes occupying my brain that pushes to expand and fill more empty space.

The power of books really is greater than simply the physical touch of paper held between uniquely crafted fingerprints and the flurry of eyelashes to cram in sentences.

Books are pure magic.

Uncategorized

April in YA : Top Picks

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April is an exciting month for new book releases, with new titles by big author names, as well as debut authors too. Here are some of my top picks that I think everyone should read this month:

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Huntley Fitzpatrick is the author of My Life Next Door, which was published in the UK earlier this year, and What I Thought Was True is a contemporary companion novel to it. Huntley’s books are perfect to get you in the mood for summer, have great romances and are incredibly cute.

I love Huntley’s books, so What I Thought Was True is highly recommended from me. It has everything I look for in a great contemporary!

Love Song by Sophia Bennett

If you love listening to One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer, you’ll love reading Love Song. It tells the story of a teenage girl called Nina who goes on tour with a band called The Point, as assistant to the lead singer’s fiancée. There’s the expected drama that comes along with looking after a diva, but it also offers friendship, self-discovery and adventure.

I read Love Song so quickly because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next and it’s definitely my favourite of Sophia Bennett’s books so far. Sophia Bennett is an incredibly talented UKYA writer who I love, so Love Song is a must-read recommendation from me!

When We Collided by Emery Lord

Emery Lord is another amazing contemporary writer, who also wrote Open Road Summer. When We Collided is her first novel to be published in the UK and it sounds like an emotional coming-of-age tale about mental health, as well as romance thrown in. Perfect!

 

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Alexandra Bracken is the author of the best-selling The Darkest Minds trilogy, and Passenger is her latest release post-publication of the final The Darkest Minds book. Passenger tells the story of a hunt through time; I love time travel novels so this sounds perfect for me. I can’t wait!

Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

Described as an Othello retelling in outer space, Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman returns with Chasing the Stars this month, the first YA book published since her time as Children’s Laureate. Malorie is the Queen of YA so of course Chasing the Stars is going to be phenomenal.

The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

The Art of Not Breathing is Sarah Alexander’s debut novel and has one of the most breath-taking covers I’ve seen all year. I think the description sums it up best:

“Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to make sense of what happened – one minute he was there, the next he was gone. Eddie’s body was never found and her parents and older brother refuse to talk about it. Fed up with school and disintegrating family relationships at home, Elsie escapes to her secret hiding place – an disused boathouse – where she can eat as many Mars bars as she wants and listen to the rain. There she meets seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie – cool, mysterious and addicted to freediving. When Tay introduces Elsie to the underwater world, she wonders if the answers she seeks are at the bottom of the sea, and she’s determined to discover the truth about that tragic day.”

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King is the conclusion to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series and is highly anticipated by readers all over the world. The characters feel like best friends and the plot is reaching a dramatic crescendo, so I know a lot of hearts will be broken to see it finish at the end of this month.

I’ve fallen head over heels in love with this and know I’ll be reading it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. I do, however, know it will completely destroy me and I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself once I’ve finished it. Cry for a very long time, probably?

What books are you looking forward to reading this month? Are there any on my list that you’ve already read and loved?

Dear...

Dear February… | 2016

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Dear February,

You were a month of changes, decisions and growth. The promise of spring fills me with hope and I think I’ve begun to see your beauty for the first time, February. Usually you are a time for reflection and remembrance but your longer nights and lighter mornings have somehow captured my heart and the wind whispers sweet notes of the better things ahead. For spring is somehow better and you are in between, February; not quite winter but not yet ready for spring.

New life pops up, from tiny buds on trees to lambs leaping in fields filled with fresh grass and I watch as the cycle continues and we are only a tiny part of it. A minuscule grain of sand in an unfathomably vast Earth.

CcTTCXaWoAAsTtsI have fallen in deep, deep love with reading again, with reading for pleasure and enjoyment. I know that when I read I can switch off the tiny voice in my head that frets and worries too much, and I can become somebody else; it’s an adventure from the comfort of my own chair.

You have reminded me this month, February, not to take things for granted. Life is a cycle and I have seen both sides of it this month. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone, even if they are only a beloved pet, but it does make it easier to know that life is continuing and will continue. It has put a smile on my face that remains even when you can’t quite see it, but I know it’s there. It makes me feel untouchable.

There is always a way to escape the labyrinth, February, and you have reminded me that we only have to find the right path. It may take time, but eventually you will get there.

I think I’m beginning to love you, February. Thank you.

Recommendations

March in YA : Ones to Watch

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March definitely seems like a quiet month on the YA front. Or maybe that’s just me? It’s going to be a month of catching up on books that I’ve missed out on in previous months and also getting ahead for the next few months too.

Here are some of the books I think you should be watching out for in March:

Crush by Eve Ainsworth

I first read Crush last summer and absolutely loved it. It’s quite easy to get fed up with stereotypical “boy meets girl and they fall madly in love, the end” type novels, so Crush is very refreshing. It tells the story of Anna who meets a boy called Will. He’s everything that Anna has ever dreamt of, but how much does perfect cost? It’s an emotional but captivating story told in a dual narrative about the toxic relationship, and dual narrative is what Eve does best.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl From Everywhere has one of the most amazing and intriguing synopses that I’ve read this year: a time-travelling pirate ship. Nix and her father can travel around the world and through time using old maps, but her father is determined to find the map that will reunite him with Nix’s mother. Problem is, this could erase Nix’s existence. How cool does that sound?! READ IT!

Half Lost by Sally Green

This is the concluding book in the Half Bad trilogy and I’m not entirely sure if I can handle the trilogy ending yet. The books have been so, so good and it will be very hard to say goodbye once Half Lost is over. If you haven’t started the trilogy yet, you should! You won’t regret it.

Half Bad review 

What books are you looking forward to being released in March? Have you, or are you going to, read any of my picks?

Top Ten Tuesday

5 Characters Everyone Loves But I Just Don’t Get | Top Ten Tuesday

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I haven’t participated in the Top Ten Tuesday feature, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, for a very long time, but I thought I’d start doing it again weekly because I love reading everyone’s posts.

This week the theme is: “Ten Characters Everyone Loves But I Just Don’t Get”. I haven’t chosen ten because usually I like most of the characters I read about, so here are just a few:

Severus Snape – Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why anyone could like Snape. I must admit, I did see the appeal once I’d finished Deathly Hallows, but I don’t think a sudden spark of romance in the plot line can excuse his awful, abusive behaviour. He’s mean to Harry throughout his years at Hogwarts and constantly puts Hermione down, calling her an “insufferable know-it-all.” Is knowledge really something to be ashamed of?

Snape is never going to be a good person in my eyes.

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Heathcliff – Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Don’t even get me started on Heathcliff. He’s another character that is abusive – physically and mentally – and is romanticised way too often, thanks to adaptations portraying him as dark and brooding. His treatment of Cathy Linton, Hareton and Isabella was disgusting and how anyone could love him after that is crazy.

He deserves Catherine Earnshaw, in my opinion. They can run madly around the Moors together, as long as they’re nowhere near me.

Tiny Cooper – Hold Me Closer by David Levithan

I did like Tiny Cooper in David Levithan and John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson but I just felt annoyed when I read the spin-off, Hold Me Closer. It seemed too over-the-top and unnecessary. I was not impressed!

Tiny Cooper is okay in short bursts, but a whole book? Never again.

Cinder – Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I enjoyed Cinder when I read it, but I’ve never been able to get past the first two books. I think this is because the characters didn’t steal my heart from me in a way that made me want to read on, so I’ve never persevered. It doesn’t matter how much action is going on, if I don’t like the characters then I’m not going to want to continue.

Lola and Cricket – Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I feel so bad about this choice because I’m a huge fan of Stephanie Perkins’s books, but Lola and the Boy Next Door fell a bit flat for me. I loved her first book, Anna and the French Kiss, so much but when it came to Lola, I felt as if something was missing. I’d still recommend it because Stephanie writes fantastically, but beware that the characters aren’t everything you could hope for.

What characters have you thinking everyone else is crazy for loving them? Are there any characters on my list that you love? Leave some love in the comments to let me know!

Book Haul

Books, Books, Glorious Books! | Book Haul

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The past few weeks have been seriously good for books. I seem to be buying a lot more than usual lately because there are so many books I’m excited to read, and I’ve also been very lucky to receive some from lots of lovely publishers. SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS!

Spot the Difference by Juno Dawson is one of this year’s World Book Day titles and I’m currently reading it. Juno always delivers amazing books, so of course I’m loving it!

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell is the other YA World Book Day title for 2016 and tells the story of Elena, who is queueing outside her local cinema for the opening of the new Star Wars film. It was super cute and a great choice of book to read if you’re in between books and want something quick but extremely gripping.

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming is a look at women through history and how, as Fleming puts it, men have put women in the Dustbin of History. Its witty illustrations and satirical tone make it impossible not to laugh whilst read it, or bang your head against your bookshelf in horror at all Mankind.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman is one of my most-anticipated releases of 2016, especially as I loved Solitaire so much. I’m going to be starting it right away because I can’t wait any longer! Alice is an incredible writer and I already know I’m going to love Radio Silence just as much as I loved Solitaire.

The #1 Rule for Girls by Rachel McIntyre looks at life post-break up for main character, Daisy. I enjoyed Me and Mr J, her debut novel, when I read it last year, so I was very pleased to hear that Rachel had a new book out this year. Thank you, Electric Monkey!

I read Crush by Eve Ainsworth last summer and have been desperate to talk about it since, but it’s only just been released! Eve is perfect at writing gritty contemporaries, and Crush explores what it’s like to be in a toxic relationship. Highly recommended! Thank you, Scholastic!

Half Lost by Sally Green is the conclusion to the Half Bad trilogy and I am so excited to see what happens! The trilogy has been absolutely amazing, so it will be a tiny bit sad to say goodbye to it, but I know there will be lots of other exciting books from Sally Green in the future. Thank you, Penguin Platform!

I’ve never read anything by Emery Lord before so when a copy of When We Collided popped through my letterbox, I was very happy. It comes out in April, so I’ll hopefully be reading and reviewing it before then. I’ve heard great things about Emery’s books. Thank you, Bloomsbury!

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky looks at fandom culture and what happens when it goes wrong. Fandom culture is everywhere at the moment, so Kill the Boy Band is going to be very current. Thank you, My Kinda Book!

Finding a copy of the Complete Sonnets by William Shakespeare probably shouldn’t have excited me as much as it did, but I’ve been looking for a copy for ages. I’m reading lots of poetry at the moment and have read a few of Shakespeare’s sonnets, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest. SUPER EXCITED!

Head Over Heels by Holly Smale is the latest instalment in the Geek Girl series and I’m hoping to marathon read this and the previous book, All That Glitters, sometime in the next month. I need to catch up with Harriet! Thank you, Harper Children’s!

 

What books have you acquired recently? Are there any books on my list that you’ve read or are excited to read?

Book Review UKYA

REVIEW: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

I received this book for free from Usborne in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

REVIEW: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly BourneHow Hard Can Love Be? (Normal, #2) by Holly Bourne
Published by Usborne on February 1st 2016
Genres: UKYA, young adult, contemporary
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Usborne
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five-stars

All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber's hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.
And then there's prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie's advice, there's no escaping the fact: love is hard.

I love that moment when you read a book and you keep glancing at the clock, seeing how many more pages it’s possible to squeeze in because you love it so much and can’t bear to stop reading it. How Hard Can Love Be? was definitely one of those books for me. I was hooked from the moment I began and can’t stop thinking about just how brilliant it was, even a few weeks after reading it.

The sequel to Am I Normal Yet?, How Hard Can Love Be? tells Amber’s story. After not seeing her mum for two years, Amber is heading off to California to spend the summer holidays with her. However, there are a few downsides: her mum’s new husband, working with extremely excitable kids in a summer camp and she’s in a totally different country without her best friends… Great, right?

I can only think of a handful of UKYA books that are set outside of the UK, so it was so good to discover the US through How Hard Can Love Be?. It made me feel so English and it was extremely nice to read something that didn’t feel stereotypically English – not all of us sound posh and drink tea! Amber made me appreciate my little English quirky things and I’m sure US readers would feel the same about the other characters in the book. There’s something to please everyone!

One of my favourite things about How Hard Can Love Be? was of course the feminism. Despite being thousands of miles apart, not even a vast ocean can separate the Spinster Club and there was still lots and lots of Evie and Lottie, who we met in Am I Normal Yet?, in the book. You would think that because romance is quite a big plot line in the book that it might detract some of the feminism, but I found quite the opposite. How Hard Can Love Be? proves that you can be in a relationship and be a feminist at the same time and I think this is a side to a lot of feminist books that we don’t see. I LOVED it!

Where Am I Normal Yet? talked about OCD and anxiety, How Hard Can Love Be? discusses alcohol abuse and how this affects a mother-daughter relationship. We often see in YA a lack of parents, but Amber’s parents were at the forefront of How Hard Can Love Be? and this was very refreshing to read.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are LOTS of Harry Potter references in the book, which put a big smile on my face because I love Harry Potter and I know Holly does too. The enthusiasm for Harry Potter certainly came through!

I adored How Hard Can Love Be?, despite my lack of sleep after not being able to put it down. Holly Bourne is one of the most talented YA writers of the moment and I cannot wait to read the next instalment to find out what happens to the Spinster Club. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

You’ll Love This If…

You’re a hardcore feminist who wants to read about feminism in PRACTICE.

You squeal every time you see a Harry Potter reference.

You’re a human being. It’s as simple as that. (Although I’m sure you can read it to pets and they’ll enjoy it too.)

Who would you invite to your Spinster Club if you had one? Have you read How Hard Can Love Be or Am I Normal Yet?

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Discussion

Reading VS Revision – How to Survive School

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I don’t know about you, but I find that one of the worst feelings in the world is feeling like schoolwork is getting in the way of reading With exams looming (eek!), lots of us are starting to think about revision, but how do you revise and read at the same time without exploding?

1. Get into a routine

Revision timetables are always useful to use, but make sure you slip time to read into them. If it’s written down, you’re more likely to stick to it and it will mean you have something to look forward to. Also, reading timetables are so much more exciting than revision timetables 😉

You can also revise at the same time each day and then read for the rest of the time. I’ve got into the habit recently of reading at least a chapter of the book I’m reading before bed. It doesn’t matter what time it is, I’ll read and then I have something to look forward to at the end of each day. It’s time to de-stress, relax and get lots of words read!

2. Make reading a reward

Done twenty minutes of revision? Reward yourself with ten minutes of reading! It makes it so much fun, and you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive just so you can squeeze your reading time in.

I also like to throw chocolate rewards into the mix if I’m really struggling, but usually I end up eating the chocolate first before any revision has been done…

3. Don’t read.

Sometimes I find that if I don’t read anything, I’m more likely to read more when I finally do get around to reading. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works! Abandon books for a week and come back feeling fresh and ready to read!

4. Throw all revision out of the window and READ.

I usually try to do this at least once a month where I binge read millions of books for an entire weekend. In fact, this is usually my favourite way to read because it means I’m so engrossed that I pretty much forget to do anything else. I think other people may get annoyed with me though when I ignore them for long periods of time… It’s just you and your books and it gives you a well-deserved break too.

5. Find out what works for you

Everyone’s brain works differently, so figure out how you work best. For some people, reading is totally out of the question, but I find that if I don’t read I go just a tiny bit insane. My brain works best with words in it! Experiment, try new things out and listen to your heart.