Wednesday, 30 December 2015

My 2015 Favourite Reads

Before we begin, you must know that this was really hard. I didn't read a lot of great books this year, and perhaps that's me becoming more critical, but in this top ten I've had to reach into the four star books too, just towards the end. Additionally, this in order from favourite book of the year and then down from that. The five star books I read this year were so difficult to rank. Every book in this list has inspired me in one way or another, and in many cases has helped shaped the person I am at the close of the year. Here are my top ten books of 2015!

1. Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill
Only Ever Yours was purely disturbing and by the end, I was left in horror. This is one of the best books I've ever read. Whether I'd read this again or not is questionable, as I don't need to open this to be haunted by it's messages, but I've recommended it to countless people. I've even wrote essays on this book and it's ties to feminism. O'Neill's writing is extraordinary, and her themes of body image, weight, feminism, inequality and identity will resonate with me for a long time. (Read in June) [REVIEW]

2. Winter by Marissa Meyer
On concluding the Lunar Chronicles, Winter finalised this as one of my favourite series. At 830 pages, it is the longest book I've ever read, and one of the best conclusions to a series too. The writing was enchanting, and Meyer didn't leave any loose ends untied. Winter beautifully entwined links to the original Snow White story, and also wrapped up the other fairytales in the story - Cinderella, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood. Read in November [Review live in January]
3. Fairest by Marissa Meyer
The struggle to decide which was better out of Fairest and Winter was extremely tough, as they're both wonderful. Fairest solidified my love for The Lunar Chronicles. It was fascinating to read the backstory behind the villain of a series, and try to - no matter how twisted and creepy it was - to understand the motives behind her actions. Meyer's writing excelled and the world building of Luna was just what I needed next in this series. Read in October [REVIEW

4. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
DIVERSITY. DIVERSITY. DIVERSITY.  This is the first graphic novel I'd ever read, and immediately fell in love with the plot and characters. Noelle Stevenson's art style is gorgeous; the variety of bold block colours adds such vibrancy and sheer delight as you turn the pages. Laugh-out-loud funny and a heartwarming read. Read in August. [REVIEW]

5. Every Day by David Levithan
Every Day has changed the way that I think, act and live. Seriously, I doubt I'll ever properly review this book - it's been 7 months and still, I'm just speechless when it comes to this story. Quietly extraordinary. READ THIS BOOK, PEOPLE! Read in May. 

6. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
This made me cry. It wasn't a sob situation, but my mascara was going down my face in a rather messy manner. Before Second Chance Summer, I'd never cried at a book before - and for something to have the power to have done this, that in itself is deserving of being in my top 10. This is a story that also made me just want to learn everything about my family members, and understand the people I love while we have time. Read in June [REVIEW]

7. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
This should be required reading in schools, whether you're taking History or not. What unfolds  in the pages of this story is something that I, and a lot of people, never knew existed. Such an important read that not only is good for it's diversity, but also for the fact that it is educative in a place where many education systems fail. Read in September.

8. The White Rose by Amy Ewing
Everything I needed in a book I'd been waiting a year for, all the questions I needed answers to, were all in this book. The world building and character building was fantastic, and Amy Ewing has definitely excelled herself, making this my favourite dystopian series. If I could have the final book, that would be perfect. Read in October. [REVIEW]

9. The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss
Being the second book I read in 2015, I'm struggling to recall what I loved so much about this book. The Year of the Rat was raw, compelling, and brutally honest. Furniss really just understands grief, and what it's like to feel lost. A wonderful debut. You have to read this. Read in January.

10. Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders
Getting this for Christmas, I sat and read Lost in Translation in an hour on Boxing Day. It's just the most lovely, delightful anthology - bursting with incredible illustrations. There were words in here that I've been looking for and have needed all my life. If you love learning about other cultures, or just have a thirst for knowledge, then this is perfect for you. Read in December. 

Friday, 25 December 2015

Every Christmas is Last Christmas

"Every Christmas is last Christmas." - Clara Oswald, Doctor Who Ep. "Last Christmas"

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? (So sorry, I couldn't help myself.)
We can live every day like there are infinity left to go. Or we can live them like there is no tomorrow. Either way, this Christmas might be your last. Perhaps it might be my last. Or I might have sixty more to go. Who knows.

For me, last Christmas was terrible. Probably...possibly... the worst I've had. I feel guilty saying that, because we all tried to make it a good day under the circumstances, but nothing could hide the fact that my brother was so ill that he didn't want to help do the Christmas tree in early December - something he loves - and spent most of December 25th sleeping. And then I was ill too, my second endless-seeming saga with Acid Reflux, which triggered Anxiety and feeling permanently low. My 16th birthday had been on Christmas Eve, and, well let's just leave it at most of that day I'd be quite happy to forget.

I saw Doctor Who's Christmas special and clung onto Clara's words as if they were hanging from strings before me, just within reach. A single sentence made me realise how sad it would be if that was the last Christmas. Things are so different this December though. For one thing, I'm no longer ill, and although my brother still is, he is improving with every day. More than anything right now, I want this Christmas to be something actually worth remembering. Something that maybe in June when I inhale the scent of a cinnamon Yankee Candle my mind will go back to sitting around by the Christmas tree before the sky has awoken, unwrapping presents and smiling. 

What is happening in the world right now is horrific. Tensions are growing across the globe towards certain targets and are escalating at a frightening rate. We don't know what will come in the next year, and the way the wind will blow. And how Christmas will be in 2016.

We can live every day like there are infinity left to go. or like there is no tomorrow, and every Christmas is no exception. Because every Christmas is the last Christmas, and so live it to the fullest, love every moment, and forget how many calories are in that mince pie. 

Merry, Merry Christmas. 

Holly x

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Christmas Tag

What's Your Favourite Christmas Film?
Truth be told, I've not seen many Christmas films... perhaps 4 at most. Home Alone cannot be a contender in this - as I've suffered through watching it far too many times. We have a collection of Christmas DVD's, but I've just never gotten round to seeing most of them. However, every time I see it, I adore Elf. It's up there with my favourite films ever. There's some thing so magical and genius about such a story - this is making me want to watch is again. 

Do You Open Your Presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
My birthday is actually on Christmas Eve, which has its positives and negatives. So I get birthday presents on my birthday, and Christmas presents on Christmas day. My family don't open Christmas presents before December 25th because of this - and that's the way it's always been. Every time I tell someone that December 24th is my birthday, I am asked the question "Do you only get Christmas presents then?" - The answer to that is no, as my parents decided that it wouldn't be fair otherwise (which I agree with.)

Do You Have a Favourite Christmas Memory?
Not that I can think of. I've always loved Christmas and so there are a lot of great memories, but I don't think there's one I can rank above the others. I remember in 2005, where i live had European Christmas Markets for the first time. It was snowing and I remember my mum and I eating roasted Chestnuts. Then, there's the memories of hours my brother and I spent playing on a Scalextric we'd received for Christmas in 2006. A lot of favourite Christmas memories are more in the Christmas season, and often surround that my birthday. (Well, aside from my 7th birthday when my Dad got me a bag of oranges because I had a cold, thanks Dad.)

Favourite Festive Food?
Favourite part of Christmas Dinner: Roast Potatoes.
Favourite festive food in general? My Grandma makes a trifle at Christmas and New Year and it's one of the best things I've ever eaten.

Favourite Christmas GIft?
Sometimes it's hard to remember which gift was for my birthday, and which was for Christmas - like, right now I'm trying to come up with an answer and I can't even remember what I got for Christmas last year - hmm. 

Favourite Christmas Scent?
Another fun fact: i have little to no sense of smell - I can't even smell burning. One of the only scents i can smell is the general "scent of Christmas." This answer cannot be limited to just one scent - I love the smell of the Christmas tree, cinnamon, gingerbread, berries and a Yankee candle I have Christmas Memories - which is exactly how Christmas smells. My nose may be failing me, but if there's only a few things I can smell, I'm very glad one of them is the scent of Christmas.

Do You Have Any Christmas Eve Traditions?
 Because of my birthday, Christmas Eve is probably very different for me than it is for you. We don't really have "Christmas Eve;" we have "Holly's Birthday" instead. And I should also note that that isn't me being big headed, selfish, or self centered - that is how things have been for my whole life. In some ways, the circumstances to sadden me , because I'll never know what a traditional Christmas Eve is like. 

What Tops Your Tree?
We have an angel/fairy that my mum has had for years. We've tried stars but they never stay on the tree, so the Christmas fairy sits on some of the highest branches.

As a Child, What Was the One (Wild, Extravagant, Crazy) Gift For But Never Received?
I've always been very down to earth, sensible and realistic in the gifts that I've wanted or asked for. When people ask me what I want for Christmas, aside from books and the odd DVD, I never know. Like last year, my Dad got me an IPad Air for my birthday - I didn't even know about it. I don't really do extravagance. 

What's the Best Part About Christmas for You?
If I have to choose something it's the anticipation. When December comes, knowing that Christmas is just around the corner is always exciting. The shops are decorated beautifully, the TV and music is great, and there is this immense feeling of love, whether it be for Christmas itself or for people. It's just a wonderful holiday.

Thank you so much to Amber for tagging me to do this! You can see her post here. I tag Zoe from Books for Birds, Gee from The Books Bandit, Rita from Weaving Pages, and Rebekah from Wings Made of Words.

Holly x

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Letter to Winter

(The evident mess of Christmas wrapping can be seen in the bottom right corner.)
Letter to Winter 2014
Dear Winter,

Hello. Hey. Hi. You're back again. I really missed you.
Last time I wrote to you, I was a mess. Life was a mess. Honestly, it felt like a mess that couldn't be cleaned up. Staining, bleached, permanence. Then slowly, things changed. 2015 has treated me rather well, I'd say. With the arrival of December, this year is coming to a close, and although I'll be sad to see 2015 leave, I'm ready to move forward.

In a few weeks, it's my 17th birthday. I'm changing. The world's changing. And soon I'm going to be 18, and that freaks me out. But I'm happily comfortable with the pacing of time and the beat at which the clocks tick. Days, weeks, months; they all pass by at a speed I'm finally okay with, and that's a first. 17. 18. 19. 20. Here I come.

Ready or not, here I come. 

Holly x

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

5 Books You Need to Read This Winter

The air is bitterly cold and the trees are growing bare. Knowing that Winter is just around the corner. As they days grow shorter and the nights longer, you will definitely need some great reading material to fall in love with on the coldest of evenings.

A wonderfully diverse graphic novel, bursting with colour, emotion, and humour. Nimona is a story of love, fantasy, science, dragons and sidekicks. At just under 300 pages, this is lovely for nights when you climb into a warm bed and watch the pages come to life right before your eyes. The art is stunningly beautiful and is filled with warmth. You don't even have to like science. I hate science and still love this to pieces. [REVIEW]

Walton's debut novel wasn't written, it was delicately crafted and woven with threads of the past. This isn't a happy story. It's a story of lost love, betrayal and desperate times in Ava's family history. Oh... and Ava has wings. A bittersweet and horrifyingly tragic tale at times, but the descriptions of Seattle, the character development, and enchantingly gorgeous prose make it an absolute must read. 

Okay, so you've probably read this, or heard me mention it a thousand times. But hear me out. Not only is Rainbow Rowell exceptionally good at writing love stories that make your heart want to explode, but this is set in the week running up to Christmas. As always Rainbow Rowell has created an endearing story that will make you smile so hard you'll melt the snow outside. [REVIEW]
My True Love Gave to Me
The truth is I didn't finish this last year, but am going to reattempt it this Christmas. My True Love Gave to Me is an anthology of Christmassy short stories by some of the famous names in YA fiction. There is such a variety of contemporary, magical realism, and fantasy stories, and all by some of the best loved authors. These are fluffy, sweet, and great for reading in the 12 days running up to Christmas Day. If you want a book that'll get you excited for the festive season, then this is exactly what you need. 

The Jewel by Amy Ewing
I read this last November, on a cold Sunday afternoon and was hooked all the way through. Amy Ewing's writing is truly addictive. The Jewel is set on a dystopian island where the royalty can't have children themselves, and so use surrogates- teenagers who have magical powers- to create heirs. Enchanting and captivating, with every shock, twist, and turn, you will fall deeper in love with Violet's chronicle. This won't be everybody's cup of tea, but if you liked The Handmaid's Tale or The Selection. [REVIEW]

What are your Winter must reads?

Holly x