Friday, 28 February 2014

Reading Wrap Up | February 2014

Even though it's the shortest month of the year February ended up being a really good reading month for me; I ended up reading three novels, a novella, a short story and a piece of non-fiction. 

Not only was I reading frequently throughout the month but I enjoyed pretty much everything I read, and that's always a great feeling. Nothing encourages me to read more than reading great books!

by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 

When android Mech6.0, saves the life of a handsome hardware engineer, her body is destroyed and her mechanics discover a glitch in her programing. Androids aren’t not meant to develop unpractical reasoning or near-emotional responses…let alone fall in love.

After my Lunar Chronicles binge last month I was desperate for my copy of Cress to arrive. Luckily for me Marissa Meyer's new short story, a retelling of The Little Mermaid set in the same world, was available to read on Wattpad!

It was a really fun little retelling - I loved how Meyer managed to incorporate elements of the original story into a sci-fi setting, and I was so excited when Cinder made a cameo appearance. Then again Cinder is pretty much my favourite YA heroine right now, so I fangirl hard whenever I see anything to do with her...

I didn't enjoy it as much as the other short stories, but I think that's because they're much more involved with the story of The Lunar Chronicles, whereas The Little Android simply takes place in the same world. Even so I did enjoy it, and returning to the world got me even more excited for Cress!

by Karen Lindsey

My Rating: 

The women who wed Henry VIII are remembered mainly for the ways their royal marriages ended: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. This book helps to restore full humanity to these six fascinating women by applying the insights of feminist scholarship. Here they appear not as stereotypes, not simply as victims, but as lively, intelligent noblewomen doing their best to survive in a treacherous court.

Here we have my first non-fiction book of 2014!

I've said before that I'm a huge lover of history, and I'm incredibly interested in the Tudor period in particular. I don't think I could tell you in just one sentence why this particular period of history has always fascinated me, but the one thing I am sure of is that I've always been more interested in the women of the period than the men.

I received this book for Christmas from my parents and I was surprised at how thin it is - it didn't take me long at all to read, and I found the writing easy and conversational which I love in my non-fiction; I want to be talked to, not at.

It wasn't without its flaws, of course. Every historian has their own interpretation and while there were some things I disagreed with Lindsey on - she seemed to merely dismiss Jane Seymour, which I thought defeated the object of the book - she brought up other arguments which really made me think about these women in a different way. I loved her chapters on Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves and Kathryn Howard in particular.

If you're interested in the women of the Tudor period I'd recommend this book!

by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

This was probably my most anticipated read of the year and one of the books I wanted to tick off my Booket List. Did it live up to my expectations? No. It surpassed them.

I can't even begin to describe how much I love this series, and Cress was a fantastic third installment. One of the things I love most about this series is that I love all the protagonists; while I adore Cinder and want to be her bff I'm not bored during the scenes she's not in. I thought Cress was adorable and the dynamic between her and Thorne was very Tangled-esque, which I also loved.

It was just perfect. I love where this story is going, I love how all the characters work in a group, I love that Cinder's finally starting to realise her full potential and I love Winter. I can't wait to see more of her in the fourth and final book, I just can't believe we have to wait a whole year for it!

by Colm Tóibín

My Rating: 

In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgment of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes, in Toibin’s searing evocation, a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. This tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.

I came across this little novella in the bookshop on my university campus a while ago and I was immediately intrigued. As you all already know I love Historical Fiction, and I was really interested in the idea of a story told entirely from Mary's point of view regarding her son's crucifixion.

I decided not to buy it when I saw it mainly because in the shops it's the same price, and sometimes even more expensive, than classics that are four times its size. I don't know about you but I don't really want to pay £8 for a novella. And it's a good job I didn't, because when I borrowed it from the library I didn't enjoy it all that much.

It felt very told rather than shown, and while we could argue that's because of the way it's narrated I don't think it's much of an excuse. This was an idea with such potential - and some of the descriptions were really lovely - but unfortunately it just wasn't for me.

by Graeme Simsion

My Rating: 

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

As I was nearing the end of February I was still suffering from a little bit of a post-Cress book hangover, and that coupled with the disappointment that The Testament of Mary turned out to be meant I just didn't know what I wanted to read next.

This was around the time I started reading Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches alongside my friend, because I hoped that knowing I was reading it with someone would make me read it and force me out of the slump I was heading into.

While A Discovery of Witches intrigued me I just couldn't get into it, so instead I decided to pick up where I left off in The Rosie Project, which I'd started to read before I received my copy of Cress in the post.

I read the first 50 pages of The Rosie Project before I was distracted by Cress and in those first pages I was unsure, I really didn't know if I was going to like this book or not. I desperately wanted to like it because it sounded just like the kind of Contemporary Romance I like in my fiction, and not only that but it was also a birthday present from my best friend.

As it turns out I stopped reading in favour of Cress just as the story started to get really interesting, because once I got back into it I couldn't put it down. It was just what I needed to avert me from the reading slump I thought was inevitable! It was cute and funny and, while it certainly wasn't without its flaws - it's rather abrupt ending being the main one for me - it was a nice read all the same.

I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to any Contemporary lovers out there!

by Robin LaFevers

My Rating: 

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

The final book I read in February came as a surprise even to me! Once I'd finished The Rosie Project I'd hoped to try reading A Discovery of Witches again, but I was staring at Grave Mercy on my shelf and just had this sudden urge to pick it up.

So I did just that, and while, like with The Rosie Project, I was a bit unsure during the first few chapters, it turned out to be a great read. I enjoyed this book so much that I've actually jumped straight into the second one, Dark Triumph, and hope that I'll love it just as much.

It might not be the most historically accurate book out there and there were certainly moments between the heroine and her love interest that were a little corny, but I didn't care. It's a book about assassin nuns, for heaven's sake, I was always going to love it!

So that's everything I read in February! What did you read this month?

You might have noticed that I didn't post any reviews this month. I haven't stopped doing them, instead I have review related news coming next month so stay tuned!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What's Up Wednesday! | 26/02/13

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to share with one another what they get up to each week. 

This week I thought I'd start joining in!

What I'm Reading

I'm nearing the end of Grave Mercy, the first book in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin trilogy. I was a bit unsure of it at first, but now that I'm into it I'm loving it! Luckily for me I already own a copy of Dark Triumph so I can jump straight into that once I'm finished.

What I'm Writing

I'm still working away on Bloodroot and Bracken, my historical/paranormal novel. Right now I'm trying to write the scene in which the main character discovers her daughter's a witch and it's so difficult - turns out I'm rubbish at writing shock!

What Inspires Me Right Now

As it almost always does, music is the thing that keeps me inspired when I need to write, and I've found that Florence + the Machine is perfect to listen to when writing about witches. I can't stop listening to these three songs in particular.

What Else I've Been Up To

Mainly stressing about my future, which is never fun. I'm in my early 20's and in what could be my last year of education, and while the big, wide world is exciting and full of possibilities it's also absolutely terrifying!

But it's something of a comfort to know that the majority of my friends feel exactly the same way. I don't think anyone really has their life on track when they're 22 - there's no fun in knowing exactly where you're headed, in fact I think now is the ideal time for the wise words of J. R. R. Tolkien: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

And now I'm going to make myself a delicious bowl of macaroni cheese and head to the library to get some work done!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Harry or Ron?

I'm sure by now that everyone's heard of J. K. Rowling's revelation that she regrets pairing Hermione with Ron at the end of her Harry Potter series, and that she might have preferred to end the series with Hermione and Harry together instead.

I first heard of this over on tumblr, and the entire HP fandom burst into arguments as to who they thought she should have ended up with.

Me? Honestly, I really don't care. I love the Harry Potter series, but I didn't read it for the romance. I read it for the story; for the underlying messages about courage, family, friendship, authority and war.

But now that I've had time to think about it, here are some of my thoughts on the matter (all of which are just my personal opinions and not meant to insult anyone!):

  • I think it's hugely important that Hermione wasn't Harry's love interest. Hermione has become a role model for girls, and women, all over the world, and fans gravitate towards her because she is who she is. She doesn't apologise for being fiercely clever and bookish, and it's so fantastic that she wasn't there to just be Harry's girlfriend. She's more than just the hero's bit on the side.
  • As far as I'm concerned there's a severe lack of male/female friendship in literature, particularly literature that falls into the YA category, and I was always a fan of Harry and Hermione's friendship. A romance would have lessened its poignancy.
  • Are we just going to ignore Ginny? In the films she's fairly easy to look over, but in the books Ginny is another brilliant heroine alongside Hermione and Luna. She refuses to put up with Harry's angst and therefore keeps him grounded.
  • And let's not forget that Ginny's friendship with Hermione is lovely, and I really, really dislike the idea of the two of them fighting for Harry's affections.
  • The other half of this argument I really don't like is this assumption that Ron and Hermione's marital problems would be down to Ron not being good enough for her. Ron is brave and loyal and funny. He might not be the chosen one, but he's still a hero in his own right and I hate this idea that he doesn't deserve Hermione because she's intelligent. Ron's NOT stupid!
  • And finally, I love Harry Potter because it doesn't include any of this love triangle crap that is EVERYWHERE in YA right now. I think Rowling wrote accurate teenagers, and while a lot of teenagers don't end up marrying people they met when they were eleven, I'm still a fan of the way the series ended.

That's all I have to say about it. Now I'm going to resume my position of not caring.

Talk to you later! J.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is one of those events that I want to try each year, and yet each year I either try and fail utterly or something comes up that prevents me from taking part.

I hoped to take part in NaNoWriMo last year, but in November I was only a month into my Creative Writing MA and I just couldn't bring myself to start working on two projects at once. One of the main reasons I chose to do my MA is because I used to find it incredibly difficult to focus on just one project at a time, so starting my academic year writing two novels at once wasn't a good idea.

Last year I also had a go at Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I thought Camp NaNoWriMo would be ideal for me because it came at a point in the year when I wasn't busy. In fact in July I finished my undergraduate degree and graduated!

... And graduation ended up being my downfall. That and many other things. I hadn't really planned anything specific for Camp NaNoWriMo - in fact I'd love to go back to the novel I started working on in future because the idea has changed a bit since then and I'm still eager to write it.

I ended up spending a week of July away from home, visiting family and friends and graduating, and during that time I just couldn't find the time to write every day. Not much of an excuse, I know, but I couldn't just whip my laptop out and start typing when I was in the middle of a conversation with my sister or my brother-in-law!

One thing I did love about Camp NaNoWriMo, though, was the choice people had in regards to their wordcount. Writers could attempt 50,000 words or 5,000 words, anything that made them feel accomplished and helped them to write more.

Personally I'm fairly certain that I couldn't write a novel in a month - not even an incredibly rough draft - but I think I could write a novella, and I have an idea for one! So this year I'm thinking of giving Camp NaNoWriMo another try.

Rather than July, however, I'm thinking of taking part in April, over the course of my Easter holiday. By the time July comes around I'll be done with all of my seminars, but I'm going to need all of summer to hopefully finish my current WIP and then pick the best extracts, edit them and put them together for my portfolio at the end of August/beginning of September.

Are any of you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this year? What are your thoughts on the event?

See you next week! J.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Meet the Blogger + Ten Books That Changed Me!


I was hoping to have a review up for you today (where have you heard that before?) but on Saturday I spent my night at a Disney all-nighter from 8 o'clock in the evening until 9 o'clock the following morning. While it was totally worth it, it did leave me completely whacked. I'd planned on finishing off the review I'd started yesterday, but I was just too tired.

So instead I have something pointless and fun that I found over on tumblr that'll help you to learn a little more about me.

Before I get onto that, however, I have to talk to you about the 10 books that changed me. Now that there are 10 months left in the year, I've decided that for each month that's left I'm going to pick a book, from a list I'm about to show you, and talk to you about it! 

These aren't necessarily going to be my favourite books of all time, but the ones that changed me in some way or changed the way I think about the world.

I'm a big fan of watching booktubers over on YouTube, and I got the idea for this when I came across the Ten Influential Books Tag. But in that tag you just list your 10 books without going into any detail, and personally I'd much rather talk about how or why the 10 books I've chosen influenced me.

Here are my 10:

  1. The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
  2. The Angry Aztecs by Terry Deary
  3. Witch Child by Celia Rees
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
  5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  7. Sabriel by Garth Nix
  8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  9. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  10. The Grimm's Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
So if finding out a little more about these books and how they influenced me interests you, be sure to keep checking back throughout the year!

Meet the Blogger:

  • Name: Jess
  • Nickname: Uh... Jess
  • Height: 5'2" (and three quarters!)
  • Relationship status: Single
  • Birthday: 10th of October
  • Favourite colour: Yellow; Lilac; Turquoise 
  • Favourite singer/band: Imagine Dragons; Within Temptation; Adele; The Civil Wars; Lady Gaga; Florence + the Machine; Fun.; Celtic Woman; Enya; P!nk; Nightwish
  • Last song listened: When You Were Young - The Killers
  • Last movie watched: Toy Story
  • Favourite book: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson; The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman; Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble; The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins; Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • Last book read: The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín 
  • Currently reading: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness; Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks; The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion; Green Rider by Kristen Britain; Witches by Tracy Borman
  • # of siblings: Two 
  • # of pets: None
  • Best school subject: English; Drama; History
  • Mac or PC?: PC
  • Current shirt colour: White. How boring.
  • Gamer?: No, I'm absolutely rubbish. I once tried to play Grand Theft Auto and I just ended up making the little man walk in circles for about 20 minutes.
  • Day or night?: Both?
  • Summer or winter?: Winter. I don't like being hot.
  • Most-visited website?: It must be either tumblr or YouTube
  • Celebrity crushes: Johnny Depp and Mads Mikkelsen. I love them both.

So have we bonded yet? I think we just shared something special. I might answer the other questions on the list a little later in the year - perhaps on another Monday or Friday when I don't finish the post I want to finish on time!

Check back on Friday for that review!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Jess Suggests | Romance

Happy Valentine's Day!

As it's the day of love it only seems right that I celebrate it by sharing with you some of my personal recommendations for a romantic read!

by Lauren Oliver

Lena Haloway is content in her safe, government-managed society. She feels (mostly) relaxed about the future in which her husband and career will be decided, and looks forward to turning 18, when she’ll be cured of deliria, a.k.a. love. She tries not to think about her mother’s suicide (her last words to Lena were a forbidden “I love you”) or the supposed “Invalid” community made up of the uncured just beyond her Portland, Maine, border. There’s no real point—she believes her government knows how to best protect its people, and should do so at any cost. But 95 days before her cure, Lena meets Alex, a confident and mysterious young man who makes her heart flutter and her skin turn red-hot. As their romance blossoms, Lena begins to doubt the intentions of those in power, and fears that her world will turn gray should she submit to the procedure.

Delirium is the first book in Lauren Oliver's Dystopian trilogy, set in a future where love has been declared a disease by the government. When people turn eighteen they are sent for a procedure, similar to a lobotomy, which makes them no longer able to feel love. They cannot fall in love, their friendships dissolve, and even their relationships with their family members turn cold.

This might not sound like the kind of world you want to explore on Valentine's Day, but like any Dystopian novel Delirium involves rebellion, and our heroine Lena Haloway becomes exactly the kind of rebel she's been raised to fear when she finds herself falling in love.

Oliver's writing style is absolutely gorgeous; even if this particular story doesn't interest you you should definitely check out one of Oliver's books purely for the way in which they are written, but Delirium is a wonderful story so check it out if you haven't already!

by Jane Austen

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. 

As I've mentioned before I'm not a huge fan of Jane Austen; I'd much rather read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies than Pride and Prejudice, but it can't be denied that this classic, still widely read today, is one of the most well known romance novels of all time. As such, it only feels right to include it in this list.

I think what people love most about this novel is the 'will they, won't they?' vibe which surrounds Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy's relationship. But if you'd rather read something a little more modern this Valentine's Day, check out Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary - a modern day re-telling of Austen's most famous novel.

by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

It's very rare to come across a fan of YA who has yet to read this book, and if you are one of those people who hasn't read The Fault in Our Stars yet then now is the ideal time - especially considering the film adaptation, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, is coming out in June!

Considering this is a book which deals with terminal illness in children and teenagers you should definitely read it with a box of tissues at hand, but don't let its content scare you; it might sound like it should be a depressing read, but there's so much fun and laughter in this book that there were points when I was reading it in which I forgot our protagonist is ill. 

So if you've been putting it off so far, why not give The Fault in Our Stars a go this Valentine's Day?

by Andrew Davidson

The nameless and beautiful narrator of The Gargoyle is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned. His life is over - he is now a monster.

But in fact it is only just beginning. One day, Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles, enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly burned mercenary and she was a nun and a scribe who nursed him back to health in the famed monastery of Engelthal. As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Greenland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life - and, finally, to love.

The Gargoyle is one of my favourite books of all time and I won't stop talking about it until I know more people have read it.

Like Delirium, the writing style is gorgeous. Davidson expertly weaves different love stories into the main story arc with some of the most beautiful sentences I've ever read. Reading this book is like sucking on little pieces of candy.

And if the way it's written isn't enough to spark your interest consider this: the main character is a pornographer. I'm gonna go ahead and leave you with that thought.

by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby's household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves - fingersmiths - for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home. 

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives - Gentleman, a somewhat elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud's vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be left to live out her days in a mental hospital. With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways. . . 

This is something of a naughty suggestion as, unlike the other four books on this list, I haven't actually read this one yet. As I mentioned in a previous post, however, I am hoping to read it this year - in fact I might add it to my TBR pile for March!

The main reason I wanted to include Fingersmith on this list is because the romance in the novel is between two women, and I only think it right that a list compiled of love stories has at least one story that includes a homosexual relationship. There are plenty of books out there that involve characters who aren't typical white, heterosexual males, but sometimes they can be hard to find!

I've heard nothing but good things about Fingersmith. So if you're in the mood for some Historical Fiction this Valentine's Day why don't you give it a try?

I hope you've seen something here that interests you! If you've read any of these books or have some suggestions of your own for a Valentine's Day read feel free to leave them below - I love receiving recommendations!

Have a lovely Valentine's Day whether you spend it with someone special or spend it pampering yourself!

Monday, 10 February 2014

TBR | Contemporary

Last month I shared with you the Classics I'd most like to try and cross off my TBR shelf this year. This month I thought I'd share with you some of the lighter reads I'd like to read this year, because Spring is on the way!

There are less books on this list than my previous one because I don't tend to read an awful lot of Contemporary, but whenever I do read it I always find I've stumbled across it at a time that I've really needed to read something fun and heart-warming. You tend to find books when you're ready for them, don't you?

by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Last month I mentioned this book in my Booket List as the Contemporary novel I'd most like to read this year. I've heard nothing but good things about Rainbow Rowell's novels so it's really about time I got around to reading one of them - Fangirl is my novel of choice simply because it sounds more cheerful than Eleanor and Park. I've heard wonderful things about the latter, but when it comes to Contemporary I usually prefer the books that are going to make me smile to the ones that are going to make me cry.

Then again maybe there's something huge and emotional waiting for me in Fangirl that I don't know anything about...

by Elizabeth Noble

Natalie and Tom have been best friends forever, but Tom wants them to be much more. When Natalie's longtime boyfriend walks out on her just when she thinks he's going to propose, Tom offers her a different and wildly romantic proposition. He suggests that they spend twenty-six weekends together, indulging in twenty-six different activities from A to Z, and at the end of that time Tom's convinced they'll be madly in love. Natalie, however, is not so sure.

As Natalie's touring the alphabet with Tom, her mother's going through her own romantic crisis—while Tom's unhappily married sister-in-law, Lucy, struggles with temptation. And over the course of six amazing months, three generations of passionate dreamers are going to discover that, no matter how clever they are, love—and life—is never as easy as A, B, C . . .

Contrary to what I was just saying about books that won't make me cry, one of my favourite Contemporary reads is Elizabeth Noble's Things I Want My Daughters to Know, which follows a family of four daughters after their mother passes away. Since then I've been eager to read something else of Noble's and Alphabet Weekends has been waiting on my shelf for a while now.

I don't read an awful lot of Chick Fiction, but I've enjoyed most of what I've read and I think it's a strand of Contemporary that often gets looked down upon by readers who think they're above it, and that's a real shame. Like any genre some of it can be trashy and awful, but there's a lot of Chick Fiction out there that's fun to read and just nice.

by Morgan Matson

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.

You can't go wrong with a road trip story. Usually this wouldn't be my kind of thing at all, but since the release of Amy and Roger's Epic Detour I've heard nothing but good things about it, so I might just see if my local library has it and read it this summer - summer's always the best time of year for a road trip, after all!

by Gabrielle Donnelly

With her older sister, Emma, planning a wedding and her younger sister, Sophie, preparing to launch a career on the London stage, Lulu can’t help but feel like the failure of the Atwater family. Lulu loves her sisters dearly and wants nothing but the best for them, but she finds herself stuck in a rut, working dead-end jobs with no romantic prospects in sight. When her mother asks her to find a cache of old family recipes in the attic of her childhood home, Lulu stumbles across a collection of letters written by her great-great-grandmother Josephine March. In her letters, Jo writes in detail about every aspect of her life: her older sister, Meg’s, new home and family; her younger sister Amy’s many admirers; Beth’s illness and the family’s shared grief over losing her too soon; and the butterflies she feels when she meets a handsome young German. As Lulu delves deeper into the lives and secrets of the March sisters, she finds solace and guidance, but can the words of her great-great-grandmother help Lulu find a place for herself in a world so different from the one Jo knew?

Little Women is one of my favourite Classics, and one of the only American Classics, aside from Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Edgar Allen Poe's works, that I've actually liked. No offence to the American Classic, but there's only so many times I can read about the futility of the American Dream.

When I first came across The Little Women Letters on Goodreads I was a little worried that someone had taken one of my favourite Classics and ruined it, so I was actually relieved to discover that this story is about Jo March's descendents rather than the original "Little Women" themselves. I'm a sucker for stories about sisters, so hopefully I'll read this book this year!

by Bailey Cates

Katie Lightfoot's tired of loafing around as the assistant manager of an Ohio bakery. So when her aunt Lucy and uncle Ben open a bakery in Savannah's quaint downtown district and ask Katie to join them, she enthusiastically agrees.

While working at the Honeybee Bakery—named after Lucy's cat—Katie notices that her aunt is adding mysterious herbs to her recipes. Turns out these herbal enhancements aren't just tasty—Aunt Lucy is a witch and her recipes are actually spells!

When a curmudgeonly customer is murdered outside the Honeybee Bakery, Uncle Ben becomes the prime suspect. With the help of handsome journalist Steve Dawes, charming firefighter Declan McCarthy, and a few spells, Katie and Aunt Lucy stir up some toil and trouble to clear Ben's name and find the real killer...

Okay so technically this book might fall more into the Fantasy or Mystery genre, but it just sounds adorable, doesn't it?

I love an epic Fantasy or Crime story just as much as the next person - nothing gets me excited like The Lunar Chronicles or one of the Shardlake novels - but sometimes it's nice to sit down and enjoy something cute too, and nothing sounds cuter to me than a Cozy Mystery set in a bakery that's run by witches. I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy of this in time for summer, I think!

What Contemporary books are on your TBR shelf? Are there any in particular you'd like to read this year? Feel free to let me know down below!