Thursday, 29 January 2015

January Favourites | 2015

Hello, and welcome to my new feature! Every month I'll be showing you things I've been loving recently, from beauty products and and books to music and apps. Enjoy!
Sunday, 25 January 2015

Love, Tanya by Tanya Burr

Title: Love, Tanya
Author: Tanya Burr
Published by: Michael Joseph
Publication date: 29th January 2015
Pages: 303
Genres: Non-fiction/Beauty/Cooking/Biography
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Hi everyone and welcome to Love, Tanya! This book is really close to my heart, because it's inspired by my journey to becoming confident and feeling happy about who I am. I wanted to write a book to share the things I've learnt with you - to reveal my top tips on fashion, beauty, love, friendship, YouTube... and loads more! Plus, there is room for you to list your own hopes and dreams alongside mine - so get creative and get involved! I'd love it if this book became a keepsake you can turn to whenever you need some guidance of even a little pick me up. I hope you enjoy it!


Earlier this week I revealed the prologue of Love, Tanya, as well as an exclusive photo from the book. You all went mad for it and, trust me, so did I when it pinged into my inbox. Needless to say, I'm not one of those people who thinks YouTubers shouldn't have books - quite the opposite! The more, the merrier, I say, and I love the diversity, fresh ideas, and new readers they're bringing to the bookish world.

This particular book is by one of the UK's leading lifestyle vloggers, Tanya Burr, and she has nearly 2.6 million subscribers to her name. She also has her own make-up range with Superdrug - how cool? I've been watching her videos for a year or so, now, and she's always seemed so lovely and genuine, as well as having a really interesting life. In short, she's the perfect person to have written a book.

Love, Tanya covers a wide range of topics, from beauty, books and baking, to bigger things like feminism, self-confidence, and mental health. I loved reading about all of these things, and it was also interesting to hear about Tanya's travels (she's been all over the world!) and her childhood. Plus, it is a beauuuuuutiful book!

It's hard to review non-fiction, so I'm going to tell you four of my favourite things about the book, in no particular order. The first is that Tanya happily called herself a feminist numerous times which, having such a big following, is very important. Because she's such a high-profile person, this can definitely make a dent in the stigma surrounding it.

The second thing I loved is that she talked loads about growing up in Norfolk. I don't live far away from where she used to live, and our area is basically fields, fields, tractors, and... did I mention fields? It's barely on the map and it's never mentioned in books, so it was awesome to read about somewhere I know like the back of my hand. Reading about her memories of childhood holidays at places like Holkham Hall and Southwold was even weirder, because I have really similar memories of childhood holidays in the same places.

The gorgeous recipe pages are third on my list. I'm such a fussy eater so recipes in books and magazines hardly ever appeal to me, and I tend to skip them. However, for once in my life, I actually like the look of everything included, and I can guarantee I'll be cooking some of Tanya's creations in the near future. If you're still unsure about this book, there are two cookie recipes, guys. She could have just given us one cookie recipe, but there are TWO. And you can never have too many cookies.

Tanya's chapter on anxiety is my fourth favourite thing because, as you know, I have it and I'm all for ending the stigma and helping other people who have to deal with it. The chapter included her own experiences as well as tips her therapist gave her which I hadn't heard of before, so they might come in useful to me and to many of you.

Filled with stunning photographs and a positive message to boot, Love, Tanya is the perfect companion to Tanya's videos and a gorgeous addition to anyone's bookshelf.
Thursday, 22 January 2015

BLOG TOUR: Author Karen Saunders interviews Suzy P

The first two books in the Suzy P trilogy, Me, Suzy P, and Suzy P and the Trouble With Three, have been out for a while now, but the third in this hilarious series, Suzy P, Forever Me, has just been released.

The books feature 14 year old Suzy Puttock, a girl with an embarrassing name, embarrassing family, and all-together embarrassing life. No matter what she does or says, somehow Suzy just always manages to land herself in trouble!

In this latest book, Suzy’s mouth has run away with her again and she’s somehow ended up promising that she can get the super-famous band The Drifting to play at her school fundraiser. Plus she’s helping Mum plan Dad’s surprise birthday party, a party Suzy’s not entirely sure Dad wants as he seems to be showing many signs of a mid-life crisis… AND to make matters worse, both events are happening on the same day! What’s Suzy going to do this time?

Filled with laughter, fun and friendships, the Suzy P books will always make you smile. Here’s author Karen Saunders interviewing Suzy herself…

Hi, Suzy!

Hiya! Thanks so much for having me here today.

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

It would be easier to list the embarrassing things that haven’t happened to me, to be honest. I do ridiculous stuff all the time. You just have to read the books to know what a donkey I make of myself constantly.

If you had to choose, which of your family members would you pick to be stuck in a lift with?

Argh! Do I have to be stuck with any of them? Just the thought of it is giving me the fear. Definitely not Harry - she'd have something revolting hidden about her person and use the confined space to torture me. Amber would be hopeless and would probably hyperventilate. I guess Mum or Dad, but this question is enough to make me want to take the stairs for the rest of my life to avoid the possibility ever happening.

What's your favourite food?

Chocolate cake from Bojangles café. With a side order of hot chocolate and marshmallows. You can never have too much chocolate in one meal, in my opinion.

What's your favourite type of sweet?

Definitely not those horrible jelly babies my BFF Millie is always scarfing. I like Haribo. Or did I mention I like chocolate?

What are you most scared of?

Moths. A world shortage of chocolate. And, after your earlier question, being stuck in a lift with a member of my family.

What's your worst habit?

Embarrassing myself wherever I go, whatever I say, whatever I do. Sigh.

Where's your favourite place to hang out?

Bojangles café with my boyfriend and best mates. Love it! Plus, my family never go there, so, y'know, bonus.

Which is your favourite band?

It's got to be The Drifting. I love their stuff.

What are your top party planning tips?

Get someone else to do it for you! Party planning is soooooo stressful. And don't promise people things that are nearly impossible to pull off. This will send your stress levels through the roof!

If you'd like to hear more from Suzy P, Suzy P, Forever Me; Suzy P and the Trouble With Three and Me, Suzy P by Karen Saunders are all available to buy online and from all good bookshops. If you need a hand planning your party check out this Spotify playlist handpicked by Suzy herself.

If you’d like to find out more about the books or the author, do visit Karen online on her website, 'like' her on Facebook or follow Karen on Twitter @writingkaren. Suzy tweets too, @suzyputtock, so don’t forget to follow her, too!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

INFOGRAPHIC: 6 Writing Tips from 6 YA Authors

If you read all of my author interviews, you might notice that there is one question I always ask, no matter what. It's an overused question but I still ask it because I think it's important and the answers are always helpful.

What question am I talking about?

"Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?"

Today I'm going to compile some of the best answers I've received to this question, so they're all in one place. If you like writing and you're hoping to get your work published one day, good luck and I really hope these help.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Love, Tanya by Tanya Burr // PROLOGUE + EXCLUSIVE PICTURE

Everyone has heard of YouTube megastar Tanya Burr, one of the UK's leading beauty, fashion and lifestyle vloggers. Her first book, Love, Tanya, will publish on January 29th, and is a full colour, beautifully-designed lifestyle guide, featuring insights into Tanya's own passions and experiences, as well as top tips and hints on everything from beauty to baking.

I love Tanya, excuse the pun, and so I am very excited to be able to bring you the prologue and a never before seen photo from her upcoming book. Enjoy!

Click to enlarge!
Commenting on her new book, Tanya said: "Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a complete bookworm - I just think there is something so special about curling up on the sofa with a book in your hand and escaping the real world for a little bit. I wanted my book to make people feel good about themselves - a big part of my YouTube channel is about leading a happy, positive lifestyle so my book really reflects that as well as sharing some things I've never shared before."

Love, Tanya is out on January 29th and you can pre-order it here.
Friday, 16 January 2015

Book Blogging Goals + Resolutions for 2015

At the beginning of 2014 I made a list of book blogging goals and resolutions and, surprisingly, it went really well! You can see what I did and didn't achieve here, but now I'm going to set my goals for this year.

Book Blogging Goals

  • Reach 800 GFC or Bloglovin' followers.
I really don't think I'm going to achieve this one but I said that last year, so... we'll see.
  • Reach 1,000 YouTube subscribers. (If you're interested in making that happen, you can subscribe here...)
At the moment I have nearly 800 so, again, I'm not sure how achievable this is! I think it'd be a nice number to get to, though.
  • Get to 500,000 pageviews.
I generally do quite well with pageviews so I'm thinking - fingers crossed - I might be able to do this one. I have just over 300,000 at the moment so it's a big jump but I'm hopeful!
  • Reach 1,000 likes on Facebook.
Click here if you feel like helping with that...
  • Reach 4,500 Twitter followers.
I don't know why but I didn't have a Twitter goal last year, even though I always have Twitter open in another tab. I picked 4,500 because I really don't think 5,000 is achievable at all, although I'll laugh if I do actually have that many by the end of the year.
  • Read at least 40 books.
This year I'm setting the bar low and aiming to read 40 books. I really struggled last year and it got a bit stressful. It turns out I'm not a fast reader anymore, and this year is going to be even busier than 2014, so... 40 it is, then. Somehow, I've already read 10, but I'm keeping it low for now.

Book Blogging Resolutions

  • Improve my reviews.
  • Email reviews to publicists more often.
  • Go to more bookish events.
  • Start a 'monthly favourites' feature - more on that soon!
  • Say 'no' to blog tour requests, except those I am genuinely excited about.
  • Stop accepting review books unless I desperately want them and know I'll read them.

A few personal goals of mine include going to a different country or two (I've been saving up for this for a while and my passport is on the way, so fingers crossed), going to a concert, and getting a new camera.

What are your goals for this year?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner

Title: Can't Look Away
Author: Donna Cooner
Published by: Electric Monkey
Publication date: 8th January 2015
Pages: 296
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Grief/Family
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

I click over to my YouTube page and scroll down to the comments. There are so many that say 'Sorry' and 'Thinking of you', but then there are the others.

'Get a life.'

'All you care about is yourself.'

'Stop using your sister's death for your own fame.'

'It was your fault.'

I close my eyes. I always wanted to be famous, but not like this.

Every week, thousands of people watch Torrey's beauty vlog for tips on how to be popular and pretty. But when her sister is killed in an accident, this perfect world implodes.

How can Torrey mourn her sister in private, when her bubbly public persona is all over the web? Then she meets Luis, who challenges all she thought she knew about love, life and loss.

I knew, as soon as I took this out of the envelope, that I would love this book. The instinct was so strong that I skipped my triple English lesson and read this instead. I know I shouldn't have done that but it turned out to be a good choice because this book absolutely blew me away. Wow, wow, wow.

Torrey is a beauty vlogger. She posts all the usual hauls and tutorials and, soon enough, she's pretty well-known. But her sister dies while helping her to shoot a video, and suddenly everyone has an opinion on it. In an attempt at creating a fresh start, the family moves to Texas, where Torrey begins to come to terms with what happened.

At the beginning, Torrey is shallow and materialistic. If she's not talking about herself or popularity, she's talking about the price tags on her clothes, and knowing what other people think of her 24/7 is incredibly important. As you can probably tell, she wasn't hugely likable at times, but who is likable all of the time, anyway? It just made her more real, and it also meant there was lots of space for her to grow and improve as a person, which she did.

That leads me on to the secondary characters, Luis and Raylene. Luis and his amazing family were such great additions to the book. I loved reading about his family's culture and día de los muertos, and Luis trying to help Torrey through the aftermath of her sister's death was heartwarming and, at the same time, heartbreaking.

Raylene, Torrey's social outcast of a cousin, was adorable. Torrey wasn't always nice to her, but I like to think she secretly appreciated her, and that Raylene had a good influence.

As someone who blogs and makes YouTube videos, books focusing on these things always pique my interest, but they also make me nervous because I worry they'll get it wrong. I needn't have worried - Can't Look Away gets it 100%, and I love how frequent this is becoming in YA books. It also raises the issue of drink driving but in a delicate way, so it's not in your face but it's still sending out a good message, and I'm hoping this starts popping up more in YA, too.

As well as Can't Look Away, I can also recommend Skinny, Cooner's debut novel published a couple of years ago, which is equally brilliant. Overall, I couldn't look away from this book. You were hoping I wouldn't make that joke, weren't you? Sorry. It's true though, I really couldn't tear my eyes away - I was fully engrossed. Fast paced and filled with emotion while tackling many different modern issues all in one go, this is such a fun read and definitely one to look out for.
Wednesday, 7 January 2015

My Experience Being Homeschooled // FAQ

If you didn't know already, I'm currently being homeschooled for the second time in my life, and obviously it's made a huge difference to my personality, attitude and pretty much everything else, so I've decided to blog about it and answer some frequently asked questions.

When did you become homeschooled and why?

I was 7 when I first became homeschooled. I left because:
  • My school was the worst in the area.
  • I was getting bullied a lot by other kids.
  • The teachers were not nice people at all.
  • I started to get really scared about attending school - it just generally wasn't a nice place.
The school environment just wasn't for me, and after researching homeschooling, I knew that was what I should be doing instead.

I then attended school from ages 11 to 14 because I wanted a full secondary school education before doing my exams. That almost went to plan, but I became homeschooled again because I started to suffer from really bad anxiety and panic attacks, which I've written about here, and I couldn't handle being in a school environment or any other busy places.

Does homeschooling = no socialisation?

If I had a pound for every time I'd been asked this question, I'd be rich. A common misconception is that homeschooling means you have to stay in your house all day every day, and you're not allowed to leave... much like a school. It's not like that at all, and people seem to forget that the definition of 'socialise' is "mix socially with others." That includes talking to friends and family in person, by phone and online, and simple things like talking to the cashier as you pack your shopping, or talking to the postman in the morning... even playing role-play games like Club Penguin (it's the only one I could think of, don't judge me) or other multi-player games is socialising. 

At home - or wherever else you might be spending your time as a homeschooled kid, because it's not always at home - you can do these things. You can't do many of the things I mentioned at school, can you? In fact, I'm pretty sure it's common for friends to get separated in class if they so much as talk to each other... just saying. ;)

Who teaches you?

The first time I was homeschooled, it wasn't structured. That means I didn't have a set time when I would work and I didn't have a set curriculum - I just learned whatever I felt like learning whenever I wanted to. If I needed something explaining, my Mum would tell me or we'd look it up online/in books. I would occasionally do worksheets or work on my own projects, but I mostly learned through doing things - going places, talking to people, reading, and just asking questions. It's surprising how much a child will want to learn if you leave them to their own devices, trust me.

Now I go to InterHigh which is an online school, so I have a qualified teacher for each subject I'm doing. You can find out more about InterHigh on their website or by watching my video (which I just realised has over 1K views - woop!)

How do you do exams?

Not all homeschooled families choose to do exams, but I have. It's also important to know that if you're homeschooled in the UK, you do IGCSEs, not GCSEs.

You register with an exam centre and then, when the time comes, you go to do your exam in a hall just like people in mainstream school. It's pretty simple!

Is it expensive to homeschool?

Not usually, no. I've heard so many people say things like, "I was going to be homeschooled but my parents said it costs too much." Homeschooling in its simplest form is completely free. The only things that could cost are optional, such as:
  • Exams (each exam you take will cost a small fee)
  • Workbooks and textbooks
  • A tutor (which isn't necessary but you might want one)

If you're thinking about becoming homeschooled or you're considering it for your child, my advice is... just go for it. Something I've realised is that school can be a springboard for some but a drawback for others. Since leaving school for the second time I've done so much that would never have been possible if I was still in mainstream school. Homeschooling isn't right for everyone, but it's perfect for me!

I think I'll leave it there but if you have any more questions, leave them in the comments and tick the box that says 'Notify me' so you'll see my answer, or you can tweet me @MileLongBookS.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Published by: Penguin Random House UK
Publication date: 8th January 2015
Pages: 378
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Mental Illness
Format: Paperback
Source: Won.

Theodore Finch wants to take his own life.

"I'm a fuck-up, I'm broken and no one can fix it."

Violet Markey is devastated by her sister's death.

"In that instant we went ploughing through the guard rail, my words died too."

They meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, and so their story begins. It's only together they can be themselves...

"I send a message to Violet: 'You are all the colours in one, at full brightness.'"

"You're so weird, Finch. But that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."

But, as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink. Can they save each other through their words and wanderings - and the magic of their love?

You know how most YA books these days seem to be "the next The Fault in Our Stars" or "the next Eleanor and Park"? I have finally found one that actually lives up to those comparisons.

I know. This is huge.

All the Bright Places is beautifully raw and honest, and maturely deals with topics such as depression, bipolar disorder, bulimia and suicide, among other things such as physical abuse, grief and first love. You all know by now that I'm a big fan of YA books that include mental illnesses because so many young people are dealing with that kind of thing every single day. For a long time, a lot of authors didn't dare to approach the topic, and a lot still don't. Because of that, All the Bright Places is incredibly important.

Not only that but, in the book, Violet Markey has the idea to create an online magazine called Germ, which aims to inspire young girls and help them to grow in all aspects of life. And guess what? It's real! I love it when websites mentioned in books are actually real and accessible to readers, and I think, with this and what I mentioned in the paragraph beforehand, Niven has written a book that has the power to help so many people.

If you're after a book with the same vibe as The Fault in Our Stars, whilst still being completely phenomenal in its own right, this is the book you need. As I said, it's an incredibly important book and I urge you to please, please read it. Touching, poignant, honest and thought-provoking, All the Bright Places is a wonderful novel I think everyone should read as it's going to be the book of 2015.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview the wonderful Jennifer Niven about All the Bright Places and you'll be able to read it over on the Penguin blog soon!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Did I Achieve My Blogging Goals in 2014?

You might remember that at the beginning of last year I wrote a post listing my 2014 goals and resolutions for The Mile Long Bookshelf.

It's been a year. Did I achieve my goals?

Book Blogging Goals

  • Reach 500 GFC or Bloglovin' followers.
I said "or" because I remember thinking that there was no way on earth I could reach 500 on both GFC and Bloglovin' in a year. Well, I'm happy to say I did it! I currently have 578 on GFC and 646 on Bloglovin'.
  • Reach 500 YouTube subscribers.
This is the one that I really, really didn't think would happen. My channel had been growing so slowly and, at the time of writing that post, I wasn't even sure if I was going to carry on booktubing long enough to get that amount. Clearly I did carry on, and I'm currently really close to 800 subscribers. You have no idea how surprised I am that I achieved this goal.
  • Get to 200,000 page views. 
200,000 is a number I picked at random and it had no relevance to my stats. That's pretty obvious to me now, seeing as I passed this goal by over 100,000. Sorry to go all hipster fangirl on you here, but I can't even.
  • Reach 200 newsletter subscribers.
Uh, I did that too. Yeah, I don't know how either.
  • Read at least 100 80 70 books.
As you can see, my original goal was 100 books. Then 80. Then 70. I did actually achieve this on December 30th and ended up having read 71, but I'm not sure if it counts seeing as I had to keep lowering my goal. This year has been a real struggle for reading and I have no idea why. I really, really hope 2015 is better for this. 

Book Blogging Resolutions

  • Take more time over editing my videos.
I've definitely done that! I got new editing software shortly after making that resolution and, while I'm not always happy with how I act/look/talk/whatever in my videos, I'm nearly always happy with how I've edited them.
  • Improve my reviews.
I'm really not sure if I've done this. There's no way I can tell. Do you think my reviews have improved at all in the past year? I think it depends on the book I'm reviewing.
  • Write more personal posts.
Tick. If writing a post about something very personal that I'd been keeping secret for over a year at the time doesn't count as writing a personal post, I don't know what does! There were lots more, including a fun one full of photos from my holiday.
  • Say 'no' more often to blog tour requests, except those I am genuinely excited about.
I think I've done this one pretty well! I've been asked to be a part of lots of blog tours this year, but I only agreed to take part in three of them, and they were for Liz Czukas, Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, and Rainbow Rowell
  • Stop accepting review books unless I desperately want them and know I'll read them. 
I think this has gone relatively well, and if I could be bothered to count the books on my TBR pile, I'm sure I'd be able to count them on two hands.It's definitely less stressful this way, and I've also been reading more of my own books rather than review books, lately.
  • Keep track of the ARCs I receive, with their review deadlines etc.
I did this for January and February and then gave up. Remind me never to make this resolution again, because it's waaaaay too time consuming.

So, out of 11 goals and resolutions, I only failed at 1 and a half. I'm really, really surprised! Not sure how well 2015 will go, as I've set myself some pretty high targets, which you'll see here on the blog very soon.

Thank you for letting me appear on your screen occasionally, and I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!

Do you set goals at the end of the year?