Saturday, 28 February 2015

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

Author: Sophia Amoruso
Published by: Penguin
Publication date: 29th May 2014
Pages: 256
Genres: Non-fiction/Memoir
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.

'A #GIRLBOSS is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it.'

The first thing Sophia Amoruso sold online wasn't fashion - it was a stolen book. She spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and dumpster diving. By twenty-two, she had resigned herself to employment, but was still broke, directionless, and working a mediocre day job she'd taken for the health insurance.

It was there that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay. Eight years later, she is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million+ online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees. Sophia's never been a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she's written #GIRLBOSS for outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is winding as all hell and lined with naysayers.

#GIRLBOSS includes Sophia's story, yet is infinitely bigger than Sophia. It's deeply personal yet universal. Filled with brazen wake-up calls ("You are not a special snowflake"), cunning and frank observations ("Failure is your invention"), and behind-the-scenes stories from Nasty Gal's meteoric rise, #GIRLBOSS covers a lot of ground. It proves that being successful isn't about how popular you were in high school or where you went to college (if you went to college). Rather, success is about trusting your instincts and following your gut, knowing which rules to follow and which to break.

Let's get straight to it. I want you to read this. I want everyone to read this. Whether you're an actual girl is irrelevant, despite the title; regardless of your gender identity, you'll still be able to enjoy this book and adapt it to suit you. It's empowering, inspiring, and you don't even have to be interested in fashion to like it.

#GIRLBOSS is about business. It's about going from nothing to something. It's about getting off your butt and proving all those people who said you wouldn't succeed wrong. I was motivated from the beginning and, I swear, Sophia Amoruso might be a badass millionaire businesswoman, but we are the same person. I was constantly thinking to myself, "everyone thinks I'm weird for believing some of the things I do, but here's a mega successful person thinking along exactly the same lines."

I was going to highlight bits I related to, but that would have ended up in all of the pages becoming luminous yellow, so it's probably better that I didn't.

Not only does #GIRLBOSS take us on Amoruso's journey from dropping out of school and eating from dumpsters (that's like a skip, right?) to being a CEO with more than 350 employees, it also features other businesswomen who have worked their way up the ladder over the years. This thing is like a badass, feminist treasure trove of epic proportions, and I am so glad that this was my first read of 2015.

When I first started blogging, every book I reviewed was my "NEW FAVOURITE BOOK OMG!!!!111!!!' I haven't said that in, what, two years? You know a book is fudging phenomenal when you're only halfway through and you begin to think... this is my new favourite book. It's managed to surpass every book I have ever read. This is the one. It's right up there at the top of the list. Screw 'The Girls' Book: How To Be The Best At Everything' (I mean, really?), this is the book you should be handing down to the younger generation.

Saying that, this book has lots of swearing. On one hand, you know a person and their book must be pretty awesome when that gets past the editors. On the other hand, that might bother you, so I thought I'd throw that in there.

#GIRLBOSS will change your life. Read it.
Tuesday, 24 February 2015

February Favourites | 2015

Hello and welcome to my February favourites! At the end of every month I show you the things I've been loving recently, from beauty products and books to music and apps, and I'm sure food will feature, too, at some point... Enjoy!
Sunday, 22 February 2015

Fish Out of Water by Natalie Whipple

Title: Fish Out of Water
Author: Natalie Whipple
Published by: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 5th February 2015
Pages: 322
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Family/Racism
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

"People like to think fish don't have feelings - it's easier that way - but as I watch the last guppy squirm in his bag, his eyes seem to plead with me. I get the sense that it knows just as well as I do that bad things are on the horizon."

Mika Arlington has her perfect summer all planned out, but the arrival of both her estranged grandmother and too-cool Dylan are going to make some very big waves in her life.

A few nights ago I went to bed at midnight, thinking I'd read a couple of pages before going to sleep. Suddenly, it was 5am (on a school night - oops) and I'd read the entire thing. No regrets, though. Fish Out of Water is that good. If you need to escape from the winter blues but you don't have a plane ticket to jet off somewhere sunny, this book is the next best thing.

Fish Out of Water follows Mika Arlington dealing with the arrival of her estranged grandmother who is not only extremely racist and homophobic towards Mika's family and her carer, but she also has Alzheimer's. On top of that, Mika is having to train her boss's nephew at work - that wouldn't be so bad, usually, except he's not willing to do anything. Not to mention the problems Mika's friends are having. Suddenly her perfect summer is turning out to be not so perfect after all.

This is such a delight to read, and it's like Whipple has seen all of our bookish wishes and made them come true with the flick of her wand (or pen?) Fish Out of Water boasts a set of multicultural characters and, if I remember rightly, minorities became a majority, which I thought was awesome and I hope to see more books like this. Not only was it multicultural, it also included LGBT.

And if that wasn't enough, Fish Out of Water challenges gender stereotypes. Are you starting to understand why I think this book is absolutely amazing? 17-year-old California girl Mika's favourite hobbies are caring for her pet fish, building elaborate sand sculptures, and learning how to get into the industry of marine biology.

So, not only is Fish Out of Water culturally diverse and raising awareness of Alzheimer's, it also challenges gender stereotypes, all with a sprinkling of LGBT. Plus, it has an epic romance at its centre to rival Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

Before reading this book I'd never heard of Natalie Whipple, so not only will I be tracking down her other books but I'll also be madly recommending this to everyone. Fish Out of Water is a cute love story with a lot of depth, and is warm, funny, and a little bit quirky, all while focusing on prejudice and racism, as well as family dynamics, first love, friendship and forgiveness. This is definitely one to look out for!
Wednesday, 18 February 2015

"It's a Smart Book, Considering It's YA"

The other day I was on YouTube listening to someone in their twenties talk about a few of their favourite books. I wasn't fully paying attention - the video was open in another tab and I was just listening - but suddenly my ears pricked up.

"Even though it's a Young Adult book, it's such a smart read."

One of my pet hates is when someone outside of the Young Adult demographic makes the genre seem inferior, sometimes without even realising they're doing it. There's the idea that YA books are less smart than those aimed at adults; that they don't tackle difficult topics, that they're all 'easy reads', that they're simply not as good as adult books because they're aimed at younger people who therefore must be less intelligent.

Who remembers that Slate article? It said: "Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children." Why should they? Since when has it been okay to belittle people for reading? When a teenager is reading books considered to be aimed at adults, everyone's fine with it. They're praised for being so mature. But when an adult reads a book for teenagers, it tends to be the opposite and I'm not sure why.

Here's what I think: you can read what you want to read. Books are for everyone. So what if you're a thirty-year-old who enjoys books about broken families, like in Salvage, or exciting teenage road trips, like in From What I Remember? Don't feel ashamed for reading something that wasn't originally marketed at you because, at the end of the day, you're the one reading an awesome book and having a good time. The person sat across from you on the tube who looked at the book in your hands and tried not to laugh? They're missing out on a vibrant world full of diversity and adventure.

I know which person I'd rather be.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

On a completely different topic, I've got a couple of things to tell you. The first is that I recently wrote a piece for the Guardian about mental health issues in YA, and you can read it here. It's had over 1,000 shares and I'm really happy with the response it's had so far, especially as it's so personal. I'd love for you to check it out and let me know what you think, either here in the comments or on Twitter!

Secondly, I'm lucky enough to have been shortlisted in the Blogger's Blogger category in the UKYA Blogger Awards and, if you feel like I deserve it, I'd love for you to vote for me. Obviously you don't have to if you don't want to - just make sure you read my Guardian article instead. ;) Thanks for reading this little update-ish bit!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 10th October 2013
Pages: 288
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Coming-of-age/Bullying
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift.

All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. Then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJ'ing.

But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?

Everyone I know loves this book. The hype surrounding it went on for months, and I was a bit apprehensive to read it because of that. Now, just over a year since it was published, I've finally decided to give it a try.

My first impressions weren't great. Now, I don't think I've ever DNF'd a book, but the first half of this one is so extremely slow that I actually found myself wanting to give up several times. But I pushed through and it got better, thankfully.

I began to love the characters, especially Elise and Vicky. After a while, people in YA blur together because a lot of them tend to share the same traits. This Song Will Save Your Life was a breath of fresh air in the way that everyone is so different and none of them seemed to conform to YA stereotypes. I'm hoping the bluntly realistic and honest portrayal of teenagers carries over into Sales' other books.

Something I liked about Elise, especially, is that she got through the bullying by having a secret hobby. When I was getting bullied at school, literally no one - not even my friends, at the time - knew that I had a blog with a few thousand followers who actually took the time to see what was going on in my life. And no one knew that Elise was a secret DJ with thousands of fans who loved dancing the night away to her music. Blogging helped me like DJ'ing helped Elise, and that was nice to see.

Despite all of that, I still found myself getting bored in places and reading just to get to the end rather than reading it for enjoyment. Yes, there were parts I loved, was lacking a lot. However, I will be trying Sales' next book when it comes out because it sounds interesting, and I'm hoping I'll enjoy it more. It's about a person who stalks a blogger, so I have a feeling it'll be slightly terrifying, and maybe a bit close to home, but I really want to check it out.

Do I recommend this book? Not really, no. While there were some parts that I liked, overall it wasn't anything spectacularly mindblowing. Saying that, I've only ever seen positive reviews of this book so maybe that's just me!
Sunday, 8 February 2015

DISCUSSION: Tagging Authors in Negative Reviews

Last year I wrote a review of Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. If you've read my review you will know it was very negative. Hate is a strong word, but I genuinely hated that book... that doesn't mean I want the authors to know that, though.

I write negative reviews because this is a book review blog and if I've disliked a book, I'll let you know. Only publishing positive reviews would feel dishonest. But I write these negative reviews while desperately hoping that the authors will never see. The last thing I want to do is upset anyone, and therefore I only ever tweet a review to an author if it's positive. Who knows, it might make their day! Needless to say, I don't tweet negative reviews to the author. But sometimes this happens...

That's my review. I pretty much died of embarrassment when I noticed it would end up in the author's Twitter feed. I really hope Cassandra Clare didn't see it, because I love her other books!

My point is... sending a negative review to an author is lulling them into a false sense of security, and it's not kind or tactful. What if someone tweeted you saying, "Hey! I reviewed your blog!" and you clicked the link, only to find a post ripping your blog to shreds?

I'm all for sending positive reviews to the authors, whether they end up reading them or not, because it's always nice to sprinkle some happiness on someone's day, but negative reviews? Nope.

What do you think?

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

Title: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
Author: Maya Van Wagenen
Published by: Penguin Random House UK
Publication date: 15th April 2014
Pages: 259
Genres: Young Adult/Non-fiction/Memoir/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Won.

A touchingly honest, candidly hysterical memoir from breakout teen author Maya Van Wagenen.

Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at pretty much the lowest level of people at school who "aren't paid to be here," Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?

The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise - meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humor and grace, Maya's journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.

As I said in my November book haul (ahem, you should go and watch it if you haven't already) I didn't have high expectations for this book at all. I was offered this book to review a few times last spring, and I politely declined every time.


At the time, I wasn't interested in non-fiction, and I guess the cover put me off so much that I didn't look into it enough to realise this wasn't some random book for tweens wanting to be popular. But then I won a copy, and at the time I was far, far behind on my Goodreads challenge, so... I read it. And I'm so glad I did.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took all of the cliques at your school and mixed them up? Or why it's not socially acceptable to wear clothes that were once at the height of fashion but, for some unknown reason, aren't anymore? Or why you feel like there are certain people you're not allowed to talk to because they're different? That's what Popular is about. It's not fluffy and it's not a guide on how to become the Queen of the school. It's the fascinating record of Van Wagenen's social experiment, and the successes and downfalls as she applied tips from a century ago to adolescent life as we know it now.

Personally, I've never tried to fit in so there were one or two moments where I thought, "why is she going through such lengths to be popular? Why does it matter to her whether everyone likes her or not?" But she ended up having a huge and positive impact on everyone around her, and then I understood. She just wanted to free everyone from the rules of society, and I have lots of respect for the time and dedication she injected into her project.

And guess what? The writer was around fifteen years old when this book was published. I'd say she'll go far, but she's already gone miles and miles.

I hadn't thought I was going to read this, but then I couldn't stop. It's such an interesting book, especially because it's a true story. Popular is truly thought-provoking and, within the couple of hours it took me to read it, it changed my perspective on life.
Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

Title: The Dolls
Author: Kiki Sullivan
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st March 2015
Pages: 413
Genres: YA Contemporary/Fantasy/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Peregrine Marceau and Chloe St. Pierre are The Dolls.

Boys want them. 

Impossibly beautiful and dangerously powerful, they hold the town of Carrefour under their spell.

Girls want to be them. 

Yet newcomer Eveny Cheval is not so easily swayed by their glamour - until she discovers she is a Doll too.

Someone wants them dead. 

And when a killer sneaks past the locked gates of Carrefour, only the Doll's combined powers can stop the murder in their midst.

Sultry, seductive, irresistible... welcome to Carrefour.

First thing's first: I wasn't sure I was going to read this. I mean, it sounded interesting, but look at the cover - does it look like something I'd usually read? But a few days later, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I'm so glad I did.

A few days after Eveny Cheval's seventeenth birthday, her aunt suddenly whisks her across the country to Carrefour, a mysterious town you need a key to enter into. When they arrive, everyone acts strangely around her, and it's not long before Eveny realises she isn't entirely normal, after all. She's one of the Dolls - a group which, on the surface, seems to be a group of high school queen bees, but that's not the only intimidating thing about them. They have powers, and someone wants them dead.

The Dolls is like nothing I have read before, and it would be a great book for someone wanting to get into the fantasy genre. I don't usually read fantasy, but this seemed to be half contemporary, too, which is much more my style. I was fully invested in the story from the very beginning and the world building is excellent - exploring a brand new magical world is always fun, but even more so when you're doing it with the protagonist who knows just as little as you do. And if you like a bit of romance, well... The Dolls has the perfect love interest, trust me.

However, there are parts I found to be very predictable. I guessed who the killer was almost instantly but dismissed it, as always, because it just couldn't be. Whoops.

In the end, The Dolls may not be the most believable of stories, and it's one of those books where you just have to have fun with it and accept it for what it is: an entertaining mix of realism and fantasy, and a book almost impossible to put down. It was completely thrilling, my heart was racing, and I cannot wait for the sequel. Why are you reading what I thought of it? Start reading The Dolls. No time like the present...
Throughout February Usborne will be releasing six FREE bitesize e-episodes taken from the book, each one accompanied by a video trailer and readers will be encouraged to get involved in #TheDolls conversation online. The first episode is available today, with the last one out on Mardi Gras, Tuesday 17th February.

The first video trailer is now live and you can watch it here, and is available for download from Google Play, Amazon, and iBooks.