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Top 5 Books from High School!

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High school English is a drag – just like college English. They make you read books that you’ll never read again. They have you read plays that you’ll forget as soon as the words are read. Maybe some books you’ll actually enjoy, but you can’t read them at the pace that they want you to. This was often my case – I’m sorry, but I can’t read 110 pages of Emma in two days.

However, I found not all those books to be entirely terrible though. Some of those books I found were even worth buying, and giving another read. A read without all of the analytics and essays. You shouldn’t hate a book just because of the way it was presented to you. You should like it for the story and the characters. Not all teachers have a terrible taste in books. Just a terrible way of teaching them.

Books are windows into other worlds. And, sometimes, we don’t get to experience those worlds because they ‘aren’t our style.” Or ‘they don’t look/sound good.” But I guess the good thing about school forcing you to read them – is that you get to jump into places you’d never find on your own.

These are the worlds from school I found were worth giving another look.

 

Pride and Prejudice

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I read Pride and Prejudice my sophomore year of high school. I wasn’t into Jane Austen then. I’d heard of the book, but historical novels weren’t my bag. I was far more into fantastical things. So I dreaded when Ms Spence said that that was what we were going to be reading. However, at the time, I had no idea what it was about. Although I didn’t for most of it, actually, because the language confused me and Ms Spence didn’t elaborate.

But I did come to know the story, and grasp a little better onto what was going on. Once everything clicked, I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice. It turned out it wasn’t as dry as I thought. The story wasn’t as boring as I was expecting. Instead, it was full of wonder of it’s own. Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters. The charm of Mr Bingley against the coldness of Mr Darcy. And the spark between all of the lovers in the book. (I also talked about it here!)

Along with all of the expected things that came along – but you’ll have to read to find those out!

 

Fahrenheit 451

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This was one of the first books I’d read in high school. It was freshman year, and I didn’t even know we had summer reading! But I was immediately interested when it was explained that it was a dystopian novel. – They’re my favourite. I just didn’t know to expect from it, though. I’d heard Ray Bradbury was a good author, and my teacher raved about him. I, however, had never read any of his books.

Fahrenheit 451 was definitely not, at all, what I was expecting. It had an interesting take on our future, though. And – as with all dystopian novels – a terrifying take. I won’t spoil it for you, because it’s definitely worth the read. But I was taken aback by a lot of things in the book.

Anybody who loves dystopia and rebellion – this is your book!

 

The Great Gatsby

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I cannot express my love for this book. This is a story I read my junior year of high school. I’m already a big fan of things set in the 1920s, you it tickled my fancy as soon as that was mentioned. However, like all school books, it was a mixed bag of whether I liked it or not. At first, I wasn’t really a big fan. It took a few chapters to get going. But once it got going –

It went.

The Great Gatsby is so beautiful and heartbreaking. Requited love that was never meant to be. I still haven’t seen the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Toby McGuire yet. I have it, but haven’t – in the years I’ve had it – watched it. I should do that. And you should go give this wonderful work by F. Scott Fitzgerald a read!

 

1984

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This is the most interesting book I read in high school. I’d almost say it was my favourite! It was assigned summer reading for – I think – sophomore year. Of the two books I had to read, I actually finished this one! 1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell. I read it a week. I actually went out and bought the book soon after, because I loved it so much.

I hadn’t ever heard of the book, but I originally dreaded it since it was by Orwell. I had to read Animal Farm in 7th grade, and I loathed it so much. It didn’t help we also watched the creepy film with the puppets afterwards. I was much delighted, however, when I discovered that this was nothing like that. This is another great read for any dystopian lover. It’s full of so many unexpected turns and twisted and concepts. Definitely worth the read!

 

The Poisonwood Bible

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This book is so far from my usual reads, I never ever would have thought to pick it up. Thank you, Ms Grant, for forcing me to read it senior year! This is a novel by Barbara Kingsolver about a missionary in Africa. But it’s not the usual read you might find in a religious book.

The book alternates perspective in ways beneficial to the story. It’s full of adventure and culture and struggle. The reason behind the name is entirely humourous. Even if it doesn’t seem your thing, this book – set in the late 20th century – is worth the read!

 

Bonus: The Giver

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Okay, I really wanted to throw this in here at the end. Because I love The Giver and I read it in school. It definitely made 7th grade English bearable, and got a good story out of it from a classmate! I think this is the most unique take on a dystopian world I’ve read. And, since, I’ve bought the huge anthology with all four books!

The Giver is worth a read, no matter what kind of book you’re into. This book, to me, is on a whole other level!

 

As for the story from my classmate – She – let’s call her Suzy – was really ornery, and this other girl – let’s call her Racheal – asked how the book ended for an essay (she didn’t finish reading). So Suzy told her that Jonas, the main character, gets shot and the baby dies at the end (neither of which is true). And Racheal totally believed her! So our teacher called Racheal up to ask about her absurd ending. When she told her it was Suzy, our teacher told her she was never allowed to ‘help’ again!

Not all school books are interesting. But these are the ones I found definitely keeping note of. I’m no good at summaries or descriptions, so go check them out yourself!

What books did you read in school? What ones have stuck with you?

 

Thanks for Reading!

~ Amber

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Book Sneak Peek!

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Writing a book is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. Since I was about 11 (I’m 20 now, if you need to do the math). It’s something I’ve tried, time and time again. A book is something I’ve felt this need to create. I formed story after story in my head. But none, so far, have come through. No story clear, no characters so beloved they needed to be shared.

Until I was a sophomore or junior in high school.

That was when I crafted a 20 page short story. It was full of characters I loved, full of a story I wanted to dive into. But this short story wasn’t book worthy. It was nowhere near publication ready.

So it sat and sat, until I tried to add to it. I tried to add chapters to make it a whole book, add details to make those chapters longer. But it wasn’t what I wanted. The story wasn’t something I loved anymore. Not that version. But I’d crafted characters I wanted, and still need to, share. I’ve come up with a story I have to put out there for the world to read. It might be a while before the entire story is there. It might be a while before the entire book is finished.

But today, I thought I’d share with you the start to that story. The start to the adventure I’ve lived only in my head. One I’ve spent years crafting and trying to perfect. I thought I’d give you a taste of the characters I know so intimately in my head, they’re almost friends.

Today I thought I share with you what that short story evolved into.

Today, I give you a sneak peek of No Words for Laney.


 

(Excerpt from Chapter One: Homecoming)

 

THE RIDE TO THE BEACH GOT LONGER EVERY YEAR. The older my cousins and I got – the more anxious we were to get to the beach – the more the highway seemed to extend. Each stop in the backwoods towns – where we all would spend some time shopping and stretching our legs – seemed like we’d spent eternity and a half.

This year was no exception to that rule – but for a very different reason.

There were intruders to our little summer getaway.

Aunt Kay was ten years older than my mother. Greying and cranky, she was one of the most judgmental ​people I’ve ever met. Her children, Caine and Kent, the two heinous boys I called cousins, were bratty and bullies. – And would also be my housemates for the next two months.

If they turned up murdered, it wasn’t my fault.

We were taking two separate cars – since Aunt Kay didn’t trust Aunt Cass’ driving – from our bungalow in Cincinnati down to Black Rock. Black Rock was the beach town in the south that we’d been spending summers at for as long as I could remember.

Aunt Kay followed us, a bit too close for comfort, the whole way. She kept calling, and Caine kept honking her horn from the back seat. I could see the urge to break-check her in Aunt Cass’ eyes in the rear-view mirror.

When we stopped for lunch somewhere in Maryland, Jenny begged to ditch them. Aunt Cass and Aunt Sophie were all for it. However, my mom was the level headed one – she always had to be the level-headed one. This was the one time I wish she hadn’t been. Mom shook her head, saying that we’d never hear the end of it if we left them behind.

Jenny pouted for all of twenty minutes. And then a song came on the radio, which she and Alexi couldn’t resist singing obnoxiously and dancing to. Alice laughed at them in her own quiet way. I had to watch for Alexi’s flailing arms, since I was in the middle seat, squished between her and Aunt Sophie – like every year. Why Aunt Sophie didn’t sit in the back with Alice and Jenny – her children – I didn’t know.

For a short while, everything seemed normal. It seemed like any other year. There were a few songs everybody got into, the entire car shaking as we danced. Snacks were passed, and spilled, from front to back to front. We itched to get the beach and go surfing. Surprisingly, Black Rock had good waves for an East Coast town.

We got to Black Rock early that night. The sun was low and bright, casting a warm yellow and pink haze over the sun baked buildings. Every year was nostalgic, the anticipation growing as we drove the streets that brought us closer to the house. You could practically see the tension as all of us kids (although we weren’t kids anymore) quieted, and stared intently out the windows.

Alexi rolled down the back window when we were at the only stop light in town, and shouted a ‘hello’ to a group of our friends who were on the corner. The recognition was slow, but then their faces twisted – some into smiles, most into smirks, knowing what was to come now that we were there. My fingers tingled, feet going numb, as I thought about the coming events.

I didn’t have much time to dwell though. The light turned green and Alexi rolled up the window. I knew they wouldn’t be here, not in this part of town. Not right now. The time wasn’t right yet. But a small part of me wished I could see them. Just for a little reassurance. I already knew Alice wanted the same thing – but for an entirely different reason.

The house seemed to smile as we pulled in the drive. The wide, deep, white porch grinning at us. The dark windows gleaming like hopeful eyes out from their balcony glasses, on the second and third story. Groaning when Aunt Kay harshly tore into the driveway next to us. The last time more than one car came along, it was a bad summer.

Caine and Kent leapt out of the car, darting towards the house. They stopped when Aunt Kay yelled them to grab suitcases – they had packed enough for a year. All of us piled out of Aunt Cass’ van, and grabbed our things from the trunk. We were headed towards the house by the time Aunt Kay and the boys managed to get one case out of their Janga tower.

The three spent ten minutes arguing before they joined us. Our group claimed our usual spots. Much to the dismay of Kent and Caine.

“You guys got the best rooms!” they spat, standing stupidly in the hallway with their abundance of bags.

“These are our rooms,” Alexi snapped, pointing to names on the doors; we were all standing in the hallway. Alice and Jenny had already denied their requests for room changes. As well as their request to change the music playing over the speakers, that Jenny had her phone plugged into. “It’s the same every. Year. Don’t think that you being here makes you special. None of us are trading.”

They were about to refute when Aunt Kay called up the steps. “Are you two done unpacking yet? – Well?!”

“No, mom,” spat Caine, still sneering at Alexi.

“Quit yapping,” Aunt Kay snapped, “and get to it.”

“Bitch,” Kent mumbled under his breath, glaring at the staircase.

Caine turned his back to us, knocking his brother’s arm with his elbow. “Let’s go, idiot. Those rooms aren’t that good anyway. They’re painted girly colours.”

Kent grunted out in agreement, then turned and stalked to the rooms down the hall. If the boys had put up that much of a fight with us, I could only imagine how Aunt Kay felt about the spare room in our parents’ wing of the house. Alice and Jenny disappeared back into their respective rooms. Alexi let her glare linger on the door guys’ rooms.

“Lex,” I said, the redhead turned to me, her gaze softening. The look I gave her was all she needed. She dropped her head, nodding, the tension visibly relaxing in her shoulders, as she chuckled softly.

“You’re just like Aunt Lily – you know that, Laney?” Alexi smirked at me, winking before going back into her room, and shutting the door behind her with a soft click.

I stood in the hallway a minute longer, staring at the baby pink, wooden letters screwed to her door, spelling out “ALEXI.” On the next door, “JENNY” was spelled out in mint green. These letters had been on the door since we were children. These rooms had always been ours. Alice’s room was next to mine, across from Jenny’s, her name spelled out in pale blue. Mine finishing the circle in a lilac purple.

It was – strange – standing here at nineteen (my twentieth birthday to come in October). The hall felt smaller now; the blonde wood flooring was now worn and scuffed, softened by 17 years of sandy feet. The two rooms at the end of the hall only ever having been occupied one other summer. Although the wide, glass walled sitting room on the third floor was frequently used.

There were cracks in the paint on the ceiling now. Wear marks on all the door handles. Although I don’t know how, considering we hardly stay inside in the summer. This place held the best memories of my life. I lived for summer, the salt water was my summer oxygen.

We were away from our brothers and fathers. In a different town, with people who didn’t really know us. We’d laughed here, found our first loves here, had our first kisses and heart breaks here. This town – it had so much history to it.

It felt more home than Cincinnati ever did.

I just sighed, going back into my room. I didn’t feel like unpacking. I just wanted to go out and find them. Our Summer Boys – their names were Jack Jones and Darius Wyatt. A duo that gave you a run for your money, when it came to proving true friendships. The two were blood brothers – proven by matching star scars, and tribal-style dragon tattoos, on their wrists. There’d never been such a close set of friends, not that I’d ever seen.

Then again – my best friends were family.


 

This story is near and dear to my heart. It’s been in the back of my mind for years. I’m so glad I’ve finally found a version of it that I love. This is the third time I’ve started it, and I love the direction it’s going in.

Aunt Kay has had many names over the years. Alexi has had many lovers. Until recently, Caine and Kent didn’t exist. And Les the Plastic Pelican has been there for it all. But this story has evolved with me, as I’ve grown as a story teller. I hope to, one day, have this out in publication for everyone.

Maybe it isn’t your cup of tea, and that’s okay! I was inspired to reboot it after reading The Summer I Turned Pretty series by Jenny Han, and not a lot of people seem to like that. No Words for Laney (the original title, which will be changed in the future) is nothing like that, though I was inspired by Ms Han.

I secretly hope Laney doesn’t end up as whiny as Belly…

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is my forever inspiration. I strive to write a story and a romance half as charming as that! Howl and Sophie are my favourite couple from any series!

I really hope that you all liked the start to No Words for Laney! It’s my book baby, lol

Tell me what you thought in the comments! Would you buy it? What would you change?

Thanks for Reading!

~ Amber

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Top 5 Beach Reads!

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There’s just something about the beach that calls for a good book. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s something with the warmth of the sun. Or perhaps it’s the sound of the waves. Maybe I’m just a big fat nerd.

Who knows.

But I love to read when I go to the beach. There’s just something about tanning with a book in your hand. But not all books are appropriate for the beach. Some books just don’t feel relaxing enough. Or give off the right kind of vibe for a day at the beach.

What would I recommend then? There’s tons of books out there, and perhaps some are more appropriate than mine. But these are my top five picks for beach reading!

 

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

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This book is at the top of my beach reads! I love this series. I have the Walmart 3-in-1 book, so I read the whole series in one shot! It’s amazing. I think this is at the top, mostly, because it takes place at a beach! The fictional world of Cousins Beach, North Carolina (I think it was Carolina anyway).

It revolves around a girl named Belly, and her annual trip to Cousins beach. Where she spends the summer with moody Conrad and sweet Jeremiah, the Fisher boys. I couldn’t put it down! Although Belly can be whiny, the whole bunch is just a lovable lot that is perfect for your beach day!

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Okay, so this may seem like an odd pick. A classic Jane Austen novel?? But have you seriously ever read Pride and Prejudice? It’s so witty and charming. And the complicated, yet somehow sweet, relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is delightful.

If you get past the old English, and really delve into the story. It’s just – such a good book. It’s one of my favourites from school. I cannot express how much I adore the story and the characters. And it’s just – it’d be a perfect beach day book!

 

Death by Bikini Series by Linda Gerber

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Looking back, this one seems a little ironic…lol Anyway, this book is – something else. Taking place on a private island resort, it’s full of mystery and deceit. Aphra is such a fun character. And the books are just lovely to read.

This book is another 3-in-1 I picked up some years back. Like, freshman in high school era. So it’s been a while, but I still remember some of it. And it’d be perfect for a day at the beach!

 

The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher Series by Kerry Greenwood

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I cannot express my love for this book and TV show enough! Miss Fisher is an amazing detective series, taking place in 1920s Australia. Phryne is such a lovable character, and her tastes are impeccable. Although she is quite the modern woman for her time, and her methods are a bit unorthodox.

I read this when Thomas and I went to the beach. It gave the perfect vibe, and something about reading by the water added to the experience. The particular book has the first three Phryne Fisher mysteries in it! I highly recommend giving this read, and watching the TV series!

 

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

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This is a novel I, quite unfortunately, don’t own. But I read it ages ago, and fell in love with it. This YA book is charming, and I believe a good read for nearly everyone. It gives the perfect beach vibe.

Annabel is trying to be someone she’s not. – The perfect person she plays in commercials. Until she meets Owen, she has unreasonable standards of herself. But Owen tells her to just listen, and music sets her on a whole new path of being.

 

If you have a beach trip coming up, these books are at the top of my recommendations list! Each have the right feel to them. Something you can relax to on the beach. Whether escaping to the Bennet’s estate or 1920s Melbourne, these books will set your beach day right!

What are your favourite beach reads? Have you read any of these? How did you like them?

Thanks for Reading!

~ Amber

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5 Reasons “Howl’s Moving Castle” Should Be on Your Reading List

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Don’t forget to check my GIVEAWAY and Q+A!!


I am a lover of books.

I’ve read books of all kinds, but I always return to fantasy. And I’ve found no book I love more than Diana Wynne Jones’ 1986, Howl’s Moving Castle. I watched the movie first, and then read the book – thank goodness, since I would have been disappointed – and fell in love with both! Even though the movie and the book are extremely different – but that’s another post.

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I adore the book, and it will forever be at the top of my favourites list! Here’s my top five reasons it should be on yours too! – Or, at least on your reading list. 

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First off –

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The world. The world that Howl’s Moving Castle is set in is so cool and unique. With witches and wizards and royals. The world sucks you in, and let’s your imagination run wild! It maybe set in an alternate England and Wales, but the way it’s described is charming and will leave you wanting to climb right in!

Secondly –

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The characters! Well, maybe the main reason you should read it is the characters. They’re all so charming and witty. Howl maybe arrogant, and somewhat annoying, at times. But Sophie attempts to get back at Howl for his messes and inconveniences will make it all worth it. And Michael and Calcifer and every other character you come across, are a pleasure to read! 

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Next –

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There’s a moving castle, duh! How many other books have you read, that you can say has a full castle roaming the hills?! How many people have a door that opens to multiple places?? Or a fire demon, who was once a shooting star and curses your bacon?! My guess – not very many!

Four –

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The most obvious – the story itself! Centered around shy, meek Sophie Hatter as she sets out to seek her fortune! But runs into trouble along the way! I love her antics, and so will you! Howl’s Moving Castle is a delightful mix of charm, love, heart break, and magic!

And finally –

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It’s just plain fun to read. I’ve read it multiple times, and it never ceases to make me smile! It’s the perfect book for anytime of year! Howl’s Moving Castle feels like a classic, and you’ll be left dying to read the sequels! – The Castle in the Air, and The House of Many Ways!

 

Howl’s Moving Castle will forever and always be my favourite book. And hope that you’ll love it just as much!

 

Thanks for Reading!

~ Amber

 

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