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My Writing Recipe

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Something absolutely incredible happened last night: I reached 10,000 words on the novel that I’m currently working on. It might not seem like a huge deal and I still have a long way to go – and it’s just my first draft! – but I couldn’t be more proud.

If you read my previous writing post, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling to pass 2,000 words on any of the projects I’ve been working on, so after a big writing kick on Sunday with the help of some of my lovely friends on Twitter (extra big thanks to Sally!), I pushed past the 2K barrier and wrote 3,500 words in a single day. I don’t think that’s ever happened before!

There were a few things that contributed to this, which I’ve decided to call my Writing Recipe!

One: An OUTLINE!

I’ve always had a rough idea of plot, but never taken the time to sit down and actually write a step-by-step plot outline, with character details and a basic idea of what the final scene will look like. Now that I’ve got one it’s so easy to see the direction I’m heading in and my character arcs. I wish I’d started outlining sooner!

Two: Determination and Motivation

I had to give myself a serious pep talk by telling myself that I CAN DO THIS. It’s okay wanting to write, but wanting and actually doing are two entirely different things when you’re facing a blank word document.

I’m constantly setting myself new targets and working with my project, rather than fighting against it. I know I can’t write 3,000 words every day, but I can still try to write as much as I possibly can. Being prepared to rework targets is always a good skill to have when it comes to writing!

Three: Write in short bursts

I’ve been setting myself challenges of writing for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, which seems to have worked. This has worked best when I’m beginning a new chapter or scene so that I can initially splurge all the words down, but as I progress through a scene I try to spend more time on crafting the scene in my head to try to follow a general direction. I’ve tried to work in bursts of half an hours but I spend too much time procrastinating when I do this. All the baby steps add up!

Four: Writing partners!

On Sunday morning, my friend Sally and I started a hashtag on Twitter called #SundayWritealong where we held writing sprints and it was so much fun to work with other people – having other people as motivators can really help because you can feel as if you’re working towards something more… and my competitive streak comes out too!

Five: I really, really, really love this project.

I initially wrote a list of everything I wanted to include in a novel and tried to incorporate all of them into this project… which has meant that I basically get to write all day about books!

I’m also super in love with my characters, especially two of my secondary characters who are lots of fun to write. I’m especially looking forward to the parts later on when I can mess them up and set them against each other. Mwahahaha! 😉

Six: RESEARCH.

I’m researching as I go along, but research for this project is especially fun because it has meant actually going to the settings and getting to walk around, seeing the places as my characters would. I’ll have a few more blog posts on this coming up in the next few weeks!


I’m planning on doing Camp NaNoWriMo in July, which I am incredibly excited for. I’m aiming to write 35,000 words during the month as I’d like to finish my first draft by the end of the summer, but it would be nice to reach the full target of 50,000 – just to see if I can do it! I’ve never won NaNoWriMo before so it will be a challenge but I am ready to BRING IT.

How do you write best? Share your advice with me in the comments!

Book Review UKYA

REVIEW: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

REVIEW: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter HapgoodThe Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 5th May 2016
Genres: young adult, UKYA, science fiction, contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on AmazonBuy on HiveBuy on The Book Depository
Goodreads
four-half-stars

My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel . . .

Last summer, Gottie's life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason left her - the boy to whom she lost her virginity (and her heart) - and he wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral! This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time - back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . .

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.

The Square Root of Summer is an astounding and moving debut from Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

You know when you read a book and you feel so satisfied when you’re reading it because you know how good it is? This is how I felt when I was reading The Square Root of Summer! Every single word of it was brilliant and I’m so glad that I read it. 

In this perfect summer read, Harriet Reuter Hapgood mixes contemporary with a sci-fi/time travel twist. It has everything needed for a beach read, whilst also being exciting and fast-paced. The Square Root of Summer tells the story of teenager Gottie Oppenheimer who is struggling with the death of her grandfather, Grey, as well as dealing with a secret-breakup. This summer, past and future collide as the boy who broke her heart returns, as well as Gottie’s old best friend, Thomas.

I fell head over heels in love with the characters. Harriet’s ability to make each one feel individual and real made them so enjoyable to read about and I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know more about Gottie and the other characters. I always use an indicator of “Would I want to be friends with these characters?” to see how much I loved a book and I would LOVE to hang out with Gottie and her friends.

One of my favourite touches in the book was Gottie’s German mannerisms and sayings. Her dad being German, I liked how this was shown to have developed her character and was also fun for an ex-German-learner to read about. I love special touches!

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The feelings of grief that Gottie feels – towards losing her grandfather and her break up – came to life on the page and I felt that I could empathise with her because her feelings were written so subtly but also so realistically – the plot isn’t inundated with Gottie’s emotions but they are ever-present and help to expand the narrative.

It was super amazing to read about a female character who is interested in science. It can be particularly hard for girls in STEM subjects, as I’ve learnt from experience, so to read about the physics was great and I hope it inspires other girls to take an interest in science.

Harriet certainly proved with The Square Root of Summer that she can WRITE! It felt so well-crafted and I 100% believed everything that was being written, even though it does stray into science fiction and magical realism grounds. I loved how, even though the time travel was there, it was almost as if I could feel the summer heat when I was reading it and it had the contemporary feel that I love.

The Square Root of Summer is a title I’m going to be shouting about all summer. It’s a standout debut that you can’t help but love and I hope that readers love it just as much as I did.

Read this if you loved…

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The time travel and science elements of All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

The feeling of summer and romance in The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Book in a Tweet:

 @hapgoodness has written one of my favourite books of the summer – time travel, summer romance and brilliant characters – what’s not to love?!

 

Have you read The Square Root of Summer? What did you think about it? Let’s chat!

Discussion Points:

  • If you could travel back to one point in your life, where would it be and why?
  • What other time travel books have you read and loved?
  • What are your favourite summertime books to read?
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Discussion

Five Things Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell Taught Me

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

It’s May 2013, the day offers a burning heat and the air conditioning is on. I am out. I can picture it so clearly – the day I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The day I felt something shift; I would not come out of it the same person.

I’ve never read a book quite like Fangirl where I have felt like I could be a part of it. I’m sure that Rainbow Rowell somehow followed me about when she was writing Cath because I feel like I am her. It’s the book I turn to when things are a bit fuzzy in my head, when I want to lose myself in the fan fiction or escape for a little bit. It is my favourite book of all time.

Recently, needing that escape, I found it once again in Fangirl. It was my first full re-read since I read it that day in 2013 and a lot has happened since then – I’m no longer the 13 year old I was then. However, I did notice that I have learnt a lot from it, and I really wanted to share that today.

Here are the life lessons that Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell taught me:

1. Sometimes it is totally acceptable to have an Emergency Kanye Party

You know sometimes you feel so full of emotion that all you can do is dance it off? This is a good thing to do. Dancing, no matter how bad you are at it, will always make you feel better. The stupider the dance moves, the better you will feel afterwards. This is a fact.

2. You don’t have to go out and party to have a good time.

I am not, by any means, a party animal. Like Cath, you’re more likely to find me curled up with a book or writing than at a party and reading Fangirl made me realise that this is okay. Being introverted isn’t a problem and not everyone likes going out. Cath made me feel like I was less alone in this feeling!

3. “Are you rooting for me?”

Find someone that you are rooting for, that you want to succeed. And find someone that will root for you in return, whether that be a friend or a loved one.The people in Cath’s life support her and there’s the clear message in Fangirl that the people who don’t care, that won’t support you in return, aren’t the ones that matter.

4. Do what you love. Write what you love.

For Cath, it’s her fanfiction and she loves the world of Simon Snow, so she writes about it.

5. Some books will always stay with you – treasure them.

There are some books that I read and loved years ago, but have returned to after and not loved as much. Fangirl, though, will always stay with me and will always mean something to me. Likewise, for Cath, the books she loves are the fictional Simon Snow series and, even though she’s getting older and people find it weird that she loves them so much, they matter to her. You shouldn’t let other people get in the way of that.

Have you read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell? What did it teach you? Tell me your favourite thing about it in the comments below!

Book Review UKYA

REVIEW: Nightwanderers by C.J. Flood

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

REVIEW: Nightwanderers by C.J. FloodNightwanderers by C.J. Flood
Published by Simon and Schuster UK on 2nd June 2016
Genres: young adult, contemporary, UKYA
Pages: 300
Format: ARC
Source: Simon and Schuster UK
Buy on AmazonBuy on HiveBuy on The Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

It all started with a poo in a flowerbed.

Rosie and Titania are as close as sisters - closer, in fact. While Rosie is shy, red-faced and passive, Ti is big, tough and daring. They shouldn't be friends, but they are.
Creeping out at night, the girls love to secretly wander through their coastal town, exploring empty streets and sharing their frustrations about school and their different, but equally difficult, families.
But when Rosie betrays Ti, the two girls run in different directions - making decisions that could do irreparable damage to both of their lives. As Rosie confronts harsh truths, she must find a way back to Ti, and to herself.

Whenever I heard the word kindred I thought of me and Ti.

It has been three years since C.J. Flood’s award-winning debut novel, Infinite Sky, was released, which I described as “deep and heartfelt“. In Nightwanderers, Flood returns with her signature emotional read to deliver a book that is guaranteed to grip readers long after they’ve put it down.

Nightwanderers is a story of friendship and family, centred around the protagonist, Rosie, and her best friend Ti. Rosie and Ti have been best friends for years and are inseparable, but when Rosie betrays Ti, things start to change. What starts is a chain of events that will test not just their friendship, but their family ties too.

Perhaps the thing I loved most about Nightwanderers was the emphasis on friendship over romance. Whilst there are undertones of romance, the focus was mainly on Rosie’s relationship with Ti and the other friendships she builds over the course of the novel. Flood cleverly highlights the different dynamics that different groups of friends share, and uses this to further the strains put on Rosie and Ti’s friendship.

Usually in YA books, it can be typical to kill off parents, or to have them disappear altogether, but one of Nightwanderers’ strengths is how parent-child relationships are weaved into the narrative. They play a major role in the book and drive the story forward through their interactions; it was refreshing to read about and really made the book.

Flood builds on the beautiful, stand-out voice she created in Infinite Sky to create impact and an emotional connection that is very rarely achieved so thoroughly.

I am excited to see where Flood’s writing career takes her next and will be awaiting her next book with baited breath. Nightwanderers is a stunning UKYA novel that will capture the hearts of everyone who reads it, and I hope it paves the way for more friendship and family based novels.

25437747Ideal for fans of…

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard – for how important friendship is.

 

Book In a Tweet:

Not all friendships are good for you, but sometimes you’re good for each other. Nightwanderers was a very magical read.

 

 

Have you read Nightwanderers by C.J. Flood? If so, let me know in the comments what you thought of it! If not, tell me about a character you’d love to be best friends with.

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UKYA UKYA Book Club

UKYA Book Club Reveal and Announcement – June Titles

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I am very happy to finally be able to reveal the June titles for the UKYA Book Club, launching this month! The UKYA Book Club will run every month with two titles – one voted for by YOU, and the other chosen separately.

This month both titles were chosen on the UKYA Facebook page – you can join here to be able to vote for next month’s choice, and to join in with the bookish conversation.

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Milwood Hargrave

The Girl of Ink and Stars tells the story of Isabella, a young girl and mapmaker’s daughter who is forbidden to leave the island she lives on. When her friend goes missing, she offers to lead the search. Equipped with the maps that her father made, Isabella enters the Forgotten Territories to find a wasteland full of monsters and a legendary fire demon. Isabella discovers that her journey may lead her to unexpected places and to saving the island itself.

It’s had rave reviews so far, and was even chosen as the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for May. This is a title I am very excited to read!

The Next Together by Lauren James

Katherine and Matthew have a love that could last centuries… literally. Brought back again and again throughout the ages, they are destined to change history and also to fall in love. However, their love is also destined to end tragically. Set in the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle, as well as 2019 and 2039 England, Katherine and Matthew have no idea why they keep coming back, but they hope that the next together will be different…

The Next Together was one of my favourite books of 2015 and so I am extremely excited to re-read it again in June for the book club. It’s incredibly engaging and I fell in love with the characters immediately. It’s also perfect to read this month as a prequel novella, Another Together, is being released, so it gives you the opportunity to read both back to back.


You can follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #readukya, as well as joining in with conversation on the UKYA Facebook group. Everyone is welcome to join in – the more, the merrier!

There will also be activities running throughout the month on YouTube, this blog, and Twitter. Stay tuned for competitions, chats and more!

Will you be joining in with us in June? How excited are you to read both titles, and have you read either already?

Writing

The Pressures of Writing

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I’ve always loved writing. Words are like an extension of my own body and I turn to them through times good and bad. When I was around eight, I used to write stories based on the Sylvanian Families I used to collect and I loved nothing more than when I could spend lessons writing about imaginary worlds and flex my writing muscles. Now, I turn to poetry when I need to express myself and characters occupy my head, waiting to be brought to life on the page through magic metaphors and daring imagery.

Having the dream of making a living out of my writing, though, has come at a price. When I started my blog four years ago, I never thought I’d be able to get to know actual authors, or become a part of the YA community. Suddenly I got to know the ins and outs of writing a novel and become friends with people who wrote every day. And then the pressure set in.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people when they seem to be writing ALL THE WORDS or getting great book deals. I have a habit of crumpling at 2,000 words and giving up, and it’s hard to push through this and to not give up. I know that I’ll never reach my dream of publishing a book if I don’t finish that book, but sometimes that feeling can become so overwhelming that you feel as if you have to give up whilst you’re ahead.

It is, however, also possible to see a way out. I have to remind myself that I write for me and no one else. Writing poetry has helped immensely with this because I have no urges to share the poems that I write, no feeling that I need to share the stuff I’ve written to prove myself in some way. I know that some of my poetry is utter rubbish, but I also feel satisfied that at some point it helped me and allowed me to express myself. Poetry is my light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s hard not to succumb to the pressures of writing, but it’s also possible not to. I’m starting to believe in my writing and believe in myself. I can do this, and so can you.

Do you feel pressured to write a certain way or pressured to write amazingly? How do you try to overcome this? Share your advice!

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?