My Top 17 Books of 2017

I read a lot of great books in 2017, and this list could have been a lot longer than it is! These are some of my absolute favourites that I would highly recommend! They’re not in any order of preference (I went down my Goodreads and selected them in the order I read them).

  • A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
  • Seconds –  Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Père Goriot – Honoré de Balzac
  • Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  • A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
  • Countless – Karen Gregory
  • Stranger, Baby – Emily Berry
  • The Winner’s Trilogy (Don’t make me choose which one!) – Marie Rutkoski
  • The Girls – Emma Cline
  • Wing Jones – Katherine Webber
  • Moonrise – Sarah Crossan
  • Loved – P.C. and Kristin Cast
  • Hope – Rhian Ivory
  • Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

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

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Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT fiction

First Published: February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.


This cover is beautiful, the characters are beautiful, the writing is beautiful. This entire book is beautiful.

I don’t know where to start with this book. There are a thousand words and not one does it justice. There is a reason why the cover is covered with awards (though it’s kind of a shame because the cover is so stunning!). It was just amazing.

Taking a moment to think about it, there is not really a plot to this novel. This is not a bad thing. It flowed better than many books I’ve read with well thought out, detailed plots. This book is simple: Two, completely different characters on a journey of self-discovery. Nothing more is needed.

I adored both Aristotle and Dante. Okay, I know that I say “the characters were likeable” or something similar a lot but no. This is different. I wanted to give them hugs and tell them both everything will be alright and sit and chat and chill and watch the stars with them both. (Why are they only fictional?!) They were so different, yet similar, and I loved them both.

I put off buying this book for ages, I don’t know why. I regret it. I read this in less than a day and loved and cherished every poetic word on every single page. It wasn’t particularly fast paced, but it wasn’t slow either – because there isn’t really a plot it just flowed and I didn’t take note of the story pace. I just read.

I loved the focus on family that featured throughout this novel, and also the way Dante’s family accepted Ari even though he had a rougher background and Ari’s family accepted Dante. The love was so clear and honest and I wish that more books would include such caring family relationships because it was a pleasant change from reading about broken families or parents that don’t pay attention to their kids (not neglecting them, just not exactly showering them in affection either).

I must admit, when I first started and realised that it was written from Aristotle’s perspective I was surprised and wondered how it would work well. I think you may be able to tell that I loved this book by now and yes, it worked. It was so much better than I originally anticipated, but so was the story (although I have no idea what I was expecting!).

The LGBT theme throughout this novel is done well. It is not the sole focus of the book, as so many books with LGBT themes focus only on the relationship, whereas this focuses on the individuals and friendship, rather than love. It’s not ‘in your face’ for want of a better description – it’s subtle and successful. A lot of themes can be very overpowering (such as illness, death and grief), not just this one, and sometimes subtle and hidden is better than obvious. That’s not to say that keeping these themes obvious is not a) important and b) a bad thing. This just made a great change.

I feel like I’m running out of words to say about this book (I had very few to begin with). I would heartily recommend this to whoever wants a heartwarming contemporary about two completely different guys, their friendship and loving families.

110 percent 5/5 stars.

Things That I’ve Been Loving Recently!

So I thought that this week I’d do a post talking about some of the things that everyone else is fed up of listening to me rave about… I’m not talking about books or anything in this post, apart from one, which is in a different way! So here are the things that I have been loving recently:

Apps

Poem Hunter
If you love poetry then I can guarantee that you will love this app. I found it when I was looking up Maya Angelou poems on the website (she is amazing. I can’t re-read her poems enough) and it suggested the app. I thought “why not?” as you do, and it is the best decision that I’ve made recently. It suggests a new poem and poet every day and there is a “random poem” when you open the app so that you can discover new people. This app is just brilliant and I would recommend it to anyone – whether you like to read one poem a year or several every day.

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Quiz Up
This is a quiz app with a difference. You choose from one of the seemingly endless topic lists and then it’ll partner you with someone across the world. The games are really quick which makes it a great game if you don’t have long or you have hours to kill. I play it a lot with my boyfriend, as you can play a round and they can play their turn later. It’ll add the points when both people have played. This one of my most played games recently because it is just so addictive!

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Trusper Tips
This I think is a similar platform to Pinterest (which I don’t use – so I could be completely wrong) where anyone can share tips that they’ve used and found to work. There is such a variety on this app: recipes, workouts, makeup tutorials, hair care. I have discovered so many useful things as a result of this app. I would definitely recommend this – my friend downloaded it the other day as well and I’ve passed some of the tips on.

Films
I don’t actually watch many films, but I have rediscovered my childish side and my love of Disney has returned. Frozen, Tangled and Brave are some of the more recent ones that I’ve watched, as well as Bolt (the dog is adorable). Just the other day ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Bambi’ and ‘Aristocats’ arrived, because I wanted to watch them. I really want to see Aladdin as well… For anyone reading this thinking “she’s seventeen, she should have grown out of Disney”. That is not possible, my friend. I will never grow out of Disney. *Mental four-year-old self stamps foot and crosses arms sulkily*.

Stationary

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Sticky Notes
Since I have discovered these revision has been so much easier and more interesting too. I used to either read over my notes or write everything out in long bullet points. Now I just summarise points on sticky notes. The ones in the picture are from Paperchase, which has to be one of my favourite shops. If not my favourite. They’re so gorgeous and make revision so much more interesting. I also use them to put notes in my planner from time to time. For christmas I was given some “sticky note bookmarks” (also from Paperchase). I’m trying to use them more often (I usually try to remember my page – and fail) and also they have a white space so on every one I try to write a poem.

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Fineliners
I use these with the sticky notes to revise and make notes. Colour coding makes everything so much clearer and more interesting, I find. They’re so useful in the editing of my english coursework and also when noting down homework and deadlines (I can colour code subjects etc). I’ve always loved fineliners, but I’m using them more than ever now. I use the Staedtler triplus fineliners, but there are so many brands. These are quite expensive! I really want to get the large set, though it’s quite pricey so I’m waiting for a sale in WHSmith. I have to admit that these are lifesavers when marking and making corrections etc in lessons.

Music

Lucy Spraggan
Singer-songwriter music is probably my favourite (though I’m pretty open with music) because usually the lyrics tell a story and have meaning. Ed Sheeran, Lucy Spraggan and Amy Macdonald are all examples I really enjoy. The thing about Lucy Spraggan’s lyrics is that they are so honest and apply to everyone. I go through phases with albums – I listen to them for a while then move on – but this is one I come back to, which is unusual. Bastille is another one I do this with. She can sound quite blunt with her lyrics, but I like that, because she says everything in a way that makes you go “yes, I know what she means”.

There are a lot of artists I love listening to; Bastille, Collabro, Amy Macdonald and Taylor Swift are just some – I’m not going to go on because that’ll take me ages!

News

This is something that I simply had to include. If you’ve read my “Let’s Talk About Books” post then you’ll know just how much I love “To Kill a Mockingbird”. You probably already know what I’m talking about… There is a sequel! *Squeals with excitement*. I went completely hyper when I read about it on twitter (after that feeling of questioning whether it was a Twitter prank or not). I cannot wait. July 14th cannot come soon enough. ‘Go Set a Watchman’ will be immediately preordered when it is available. Calm down Natalie. Calm….

Those are just a few of the things that I have been really enjoying recently. I could go on about so many apps or music artists, but I won’t. Thank you for reading!

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Let’s talk about books.

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So for this week’s blog post I’d thought I’d talk about my favourite books. I wasn’t sure about what else to write about so I thought, well, why not? So here we are.

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1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee. This has to be my favourite book of all time. It’s the sweetest story ever and the characters are loveable and the narration is perfect for the story. I absolutely adore this book and of all the books I’ve read, if someone asked me to recommend them one, this would be it. Lee tells the story of Scout and Jem finch perfectly and portrays racism through the eyes of the children and many adults could do with taking a lesson from them! Atticus is a superb role model for the children despite the hatred he gets in the novel and some of the advice he gives his children in the book I try to use in my daily life. As you can tell my copy of this book is rather battered as I’ve read it three times completely and often flick through for a quote or to remember something. I first read it when I was in year eight (the summer before going into year nine), I think it was then anyway, or maybe the year before. I know I was quite young when I read it but I loved it so much and I can safely say that this is a book that will go with me to university and never go to the charity shop!

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2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. Okay, so the reason for me reading this book is because I saw the trailer for the film and thought it looked really good but seeing as the book came first I wanted to read the book before the film came out. I really wish I’d heard of it earlier because after I’d gotten used to the interesting choice of narrator I fell in love with the story and the characters. Don’t be put off by the fact that this book is so thick, you’ll eat it up once you get into it. It tells such a charming tale of Liesel and her adoptive family, love of books and new friends. It’s a must-read. I loved the little comments that the narrator makes as they lightened the mood of the book and made it more readable and it was easier to connect with the strange choice of narrator. Although this book (I believe) is marketed for teenagers and young adults, I would recommend this book to anyone as it is one of those books that is just timeless and anyone can enjoy. I know retired people who have read this book and enjoyed it. It really is that type of book that everyone can enjoy because it is such a heartwarming story.

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3. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green. Sorry to sound like a typical teenage girl but this book made me both laugh and cry and it had to go in this list for that reason alone. The story is very sweet, and the reason I liked it was because it wasn’t your typical “I’ve got cancer, let’s dwell on the fact I have cancer” story, instead her having cancer was just a part of her character, in a way. It wasn’t the main focus of the story is what I’m trying to say. I liked this because it meant that the story could be told and draw people in for it being a good story in itself. I do think the fact that Green doesn’t focus on the cancer in fact allows the reader to connect more with the characters and realise just how bad cancer is because when it is mentioned it has a major impact on the reader (in one part it came in the form of tears). I must confess that I am a huge fan of Green’s works because he has a sense of humour in his novels that I have yet to find in any other book. The Fault in Our Stars was not the first Green book I read, and I’m rather glad about that because it didn’t give me any expectations for his other novels and I’d read ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ first. In all fairness I could have put any Green novels on this list, I’ve just chosen The Fault in Our Stars because it drew the biggest emotional response from me.

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4. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden. I wasn’t expecting to like this book when I read it. I just heard that it was very good and had seen it recommended quite a few times so I decided to read it. I am so glad that I decided to read it because I completely fell in love with it. What I really loved about this book is that it was about a completely different culture of which I knew nothing about and so it taught me a lot about how the Japanese Geisha lived back in the 1920s and through world war two. I personally love learning about different cultures (which is why I’ve taken philosophy and ethics A level) and therefore this book really did work for me. So I guess this book isn’t really for everyone. I’m going to be sexist and say it is more of a feminine book (despite being written by a male) however that’s definitely not to say that a guy can’t read it and love it as I do! I guess it just depends on the person. I mean, some of the books I’m reading for English lit I don’t like but my teacher loves, and he’s also told the girls that reading one of the suggested books is not the wisest of ideas (American psycho – I’m giving it a miss) however one of the girls in my class is enjoying it – each to their own – that’s what I say. As I said, I decided to give this book a go despite not really being sure about it and picked it up for £1.50 from my local charity bookshop (where I happen to volunteer every week) – a bargain!

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5. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë. I believe that I read this book the same summer that I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and I fell in love with this book too. (That was a good summer for reading).  Unlike many of the other classics I’d read previously (predominately children’s classics, but a couple of adult ones too) I didn’t  struggle to get into this book at all. I really enjoyed the storyline of this novel and loved all of its twists and turns. The copy of the book shown in the picture I picked up from the charity shop for £1.99 and it’s a really nice copy. Only, the cover didn’t photograph well at all! This is another book that I shall keep with me forever because I just love it and really want to re-read it at some point when I’m not reading books for English! Jane is really down to Earth and you can’t help but like her and Mr Rochester is quirky – but in a good way! A really enjoyable and easy read, despite it being a classic!

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Those are my five top books, however I could go on, and on, and on about books I like! I would definitely recommend reading these books because they are so enjoyable and readable and I loved them – and who doesn’t recommend books they love?!