Monday, 29 June 2015

May and June Favourites | 2015

Due to exams, I didn't get a chance to gather my May favourites, and so I've bundled those and my June faves into one post. It sucks but, hey, I'm officially done with school forever! Silver linings.

If you're not familiar with this feature, every month I show you the stuff I've been loving recently. It can be anything from books and beauty products to music, apps, and even places I've been and memories I've made. It's meant to be a chance for you to see what things I recommend other than books, but they always sneak their way in somehow. Can't think why.
Wednesday, 24 June 2015

This is Not a Love Story by Keren David

Title: This is Not a Love Story
Author: Keren David
Published by: Atom Books
Publication date: 7th May 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Travel/Friendship/Family
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?

In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.

But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?

Finally, here I am, writing my review of This is Not a Love Story. It should not have taken me this long, but I had to gather up my thoughts from the floor where they had fallen in a fangirl-ish heap after I turned the last page.

Keren David writes some of the best YA fiction out there, and if you haven't read any of her books before, you should - starting with this one.

Question: please can This is Not a Love Story be renamed This is Definitely a Love Story... About Amsterdam? It made me fall in love with the place and I haven't even been. That's going to change in the near future, and all because of this one book. The writing is beautiful and brimming with culture, so much so that it's almost dripping off the page. Not only that, but most of the books I read are either set in America or England, so it was a real treat to read something set in a place so different, and somewhere I don't know much about. I'm desperately hoping for more books like this.

And guess what? This book is also LGBT. I love how more YA books seem to be slipping this in, whether it's the main focus or just in the background. Progress!

I've loved all of Keren's books but, overall, this is my favourite. I hugely enjoyed it and, just like with Salvage, I was reminded of her knack for writing the most interesting, entertaining, diverse characters. You certainly won't be disappointed.
Friday, 19 June 2015

Life with a Sprinkle of Glitter by Louise Pentland

Title: Life with a Sprinkle of Glitter
Author: Louise Pentland
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 2nd July 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Non-fiction
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Imagine you are in one of those glorious vintage shops where every surface is laden with treasure. Cut glass, pill boxes, old cameras, pendants, chests of drawers and cabinets full of curiosities. This book is like that. Each chapter is one of those gem-encrusted tins that you can open, peep inside and enjoy. You can either wander the shop row by row, looking at each item in order, or you can dance around with wild abandon, opening and closing whatever you like, whenever you like.

You can take in tiny bits of it at a time, or you can devour it all in one go. I don't mind. I don't mind how you go about it; all that matters to me is that you take something from it. There are four sections - Glitz, Create, Need To Knows and All About Love - and in each one you'll find all my little tips and tricks, stories and insights, and nuggets of advice.

I want you to walk away from this book feeling uplifted. I want you to feel as though you are equipped to deal with something in your life and deal with it in the best possible, most positive way. I want to show you how I find so much joy and enrichment in my life, and how great it can be with just a sprinkle of glitter.

Life with a Sprinkle of Glitter is the latest 'YouTuber book' to hit the scene, this time by Louise Pentland otherwise known as Sprinkle of Glitter. Louise's videos aim to bring a bit more goodness into the world and focus on things such as kindness, positivity and feeling good within yourself. Honestly, Louise has been my favourite YouTuber since I started watching people on there, and she has always seemed to be one of the friendliest and most down-to-earth out of all of them. I was incredibly lucky to have received a signed advance copy of her debut, and after posting a photo of it on Instagram, Louise commented saying that she hoped I would enjoy the book and to let her know when my review went live because she would love to see it. How nice is that?

This is such a beautifully presented book. It's a treat to look at and even more so to read. In fact, it reminds me a bit of Pinterest, which I think Louise will be happy to hear!

TYPOGRAPHY. DRAWINGS. PHOTOS. If you don't think this is one of the prettiest, most well presented books ever then you're lying.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Another book about fashion, make-up and beauty? Meh." I thought it was going to be a beauty book, too - and I wouldn't have minded that - but, whilst this book does include some beauty tricks and tips, overall it focuses more on how to feel good about yourself, how to make others feel good about themselves, and how to accept yourself for who you are. There are also sections on bullying, travel anxiety, how to survive education, crafts, DIY inspiration, online safety and a whole lot more.

The publishers wanted a baking chapter, too, so Louise named it 'anti-baking' and filled it with hilarious anecdotes of her kitchen fails. I relate. Twice now I have attempted to fry eggs, and each time I've made flames, instead. Not really the result I was hoping for. I loved how Louise stayed true to herself with this book, right down to that chapter, instead of letting herself be swayed by the professionals.

Alongside Louise's pearls of wisdom are disasters and embarrassing moments which Louise has experienced. I loved this, and not just because the embarrassing moments in magazines used to be my favourite bits to read. I think it's great that she included these as well as other less than good events in her life because it's good for other young people to see their favourite celebrity/role-model dealing with awkward stuff. They might be able to learn from it, and there's less pressure to live up to impossible standards. Does that make sense? And some of it was hilarious, like with Louise's dating disasters. Oh, dear. When I read those I almost choked on my Sprinkle of Glitter branded lolly, which was great and which I got with the book.

If Louise happens to be reading this, I'm sorry about the above gif but it needed to be included, really. It's iconic.

Overall, I expected this book to be good but it was even better than that. It was a joy to read, with invaluable pieces of advice here and there which you can never have too much of, and I recommend this and Louise's channel, although you've probably seen that already. This book is truly lovely. What a gem.
If you would like to see my video review, you can watch it below! It's slightly different to this one, and if you watch it you get a free imaginary unicorn which is always nice.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Blogging: Things I Suck At

Over the years I've realised there are quite a few (read: a lot) of blogging things I suck at. But it's time to stop being embarrassed of them, so here, for your amusement, is the list in progress...

When it comes to judging what genre/s a book belongs to, I struggle. Is this book classed as Sci-fi or Dystopian? And I still haven't got my head around Coming-of-age and Post Apocalyptic. Embarrassingly, I suck at music genres too, although when someone classes One Direction or 5SOS as punk, rock, or both I'm quick to correct them. Because no. Just no. Luckily, books-wise, Goodreads has a section where you can see what genres people have classed certain books as, so nowadays I just tend to follow the crowd.

I'm so bad at commenting on other people's blogs. There are a couple of blogs where I read their latest posts and automatically scroll to the comment section to leave my thoughts, but I guess there are some blogs where I'm just not in the habit of commenting there. That probably doesn't make any sense. I need to get back into the habit of commenting more because I know how much joy I feel when I have comments awaiting moderation myself, but sometimes I really don't have anything to say. Argh!

Post titles
You'd think, after nine years of coming up with post titles almost daily, I would be a pro by now. But no. It's still just as difficult coming up with decent post titles as it was when I was writing my first ever blog post. While I'm on the subject, do any of you have any tips on thinking up a good blog post title? I seriously need help.

Replying to emails
Sometimes, when reading a review request from a publisher, I'll read it and think, "Mm, nah, not my kinda thing." And then I forget to reply. A few days later: "Hi Amber, I'm just following up last week's email to see if you would like to review this book?" Why, why, why am I so forgetful when it comes to emails? Everything else, I remember just fine. Emails? ...Sorry, what emails?

Are there any blogging things you think you suck at?

A Burst of Love for Blogging

Below is a blog post I recently discovered in my drafts. It was never intended for publication, but reading it with fresh eyes made me happy, and so I decided to share the love with you.

Sometimes a wave of love for book blogging washes over me. I love book blogging always, but sometimes I get a sudden, overwhelming feeling of gratitude and... yeah.

I blog because I like books. I want to tell people about awesome books they need to read, and most of the time I assume only a handful of people are reading my blog, if anyone at all. And then huge things that I never in a million years thought could happen to me actually happen. I mean, I got invited to the Divergent premiere last year. Like, invited. By important people. And a few months ago, the Huffington Post put me on a list of '25 Vloggers Under 25 Who Are Owning the World of YouTube' where I was amongst so many of my role models who I hugely admire and have done for many years. And then I'm put with them in an article by the Huffington Post. And I keep wondering... why does this stuff happen to me? Why is that a thing? I'm not great at writing, and I'd consider myself a complete and utter failure at booktubing.

I guess it just overwhelms me sometimes but in a really, really good way. I like books, I write about books, and then amazing things happen because of that and I'm just like, "uh, did they mean to put me in that article? And why would I be invited to that event? What?"

I work hard on this blog and on my YouTube channel. I've been known to decline invites to places because, "sorry, I need to film my book haul." Sometimes I spend hours into the night writing posts and replying to emails and taking photos for future blog posts, and some people think that's weird. I don't think it's any different to someone saying, "sorry, I can't go with you today, I've got football practice."

If I hadn't started blogging, I wouldn't have been able to read so many awesome books. I probably wouldn't have my current job, which I'm pretty sure I got mostly due to the writing experience I have here. I wouldn't have the friends I've found through blogging. I don't know if I would have found my thing - you know, your main hobby in life that you can't ever imagine not doing.

It's just weird that this kind of stuff happens to me. Me, the girl who wore old-lady glasses all through primary school and was bullied by everyone for various reasons for my whole life. Socially awkward, literally.

I love blogging, and I guess it gave me life. Not literally. But you know what I mean. I'm not entirely sure who I'd be if I hadn't clicked the orange 'create a blog' button all those years ago.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

MINI REVIEWS: Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton and The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Title: Starring Kitty
Author: Keris Stainton
Published by: Catnip Publishing
Publication date: 5th June 2014
Pages: 204
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/LGBT/Disability
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift.

Sometimes the greatest love stories happen behind the scenes...

Kitty's keeping secrets. Like how she's struggling to cope with things at home. And how she can't stop thinking about the girl with the purpley-red hair...

A fun film competition with her friends Sunny and Hannah seems like the perfect distraction.

But then Dylan wants to be more than Kitty's secret. Is Kitty ready to let her two worlds meet or will she risk losing Dylan forever?

If you're looking for diverse books to read, you can shift this one straight to the top of your list.

Kitty has great friends and a loving family, but her life isn't as easy as it seems. Beginning to realise she's gay and secretly having to care for her disabled mother would be hard for any adult to deal with, never mind a fourteen-year-old. Kitty is brave, funny and a wonderful role model for any young person who reads this. Plus, she has an awesome name. Case closed.

On a more serious note, I've never read a book featuring a lesbian, never mind one who is just fourteen years old, and so I am really happy that this book exists because I'm sure it has the power to help so many people, young and old, going through the same confusing time. Not only that, but Kitty cares for her mother who has multiple sclerosis, and so I think anyone who has to care for a disabled parent or other relative will greatly appreciate this book.

I also loved (there are a lot of things I loved about this book) the fact that everyone was so supportive and accepting of Kitty when she came out. Most YA books would go down the route of dramatic arguments and the protagonist being on the receiving end of an endless amount of criticism, but Stainton chose to do the exact opposite. It's incredibly important that this kind of reaction is represented in books, especially YA, because young people questioning their sexuality should be able to feel positive and encouraged about it.

I've always loved Stainton's writing style and the way she tackles certain topics, and I can recommend all of her other books, especially Della Says OMG and Emma Hearts LA. Starring Kitty is wonderfully warm, positive and full of encouragement - the perfect concoction for a young adult novel.
Title: The Honest Truth
Author: Dan Gemeinhart
Published by: Chicken House Books
Publication date: March 2015
Pages: 229
Genres: Middle-grade/Illness/Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Mark is like anyone else his age. He loves his dog, his best friend Jessie and hiking. But he also has cancer.

When his illness returns, he decides he's had enough of hospitals and treatments. So Mark runs away from it all, with just his small dog for company - and a big plan to climb to the top of Mount Rainier, even if it's the last thing he does...

This is probably the sweetest book you'll read this year - perhaps ever. Yes, it's about a boy with cancer, but it's not depressing. It's the brave, hopeful story of a boy who finally discovers the silver linings the world has to offer, and the journey he takes to get to that point. Short and sweet, it's perfect for fans of A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson.

It was refreshing to have the main relationship in the book be purely platonic, as that's getting rarer and rarer in YA, and I loved both Mark and Jessie. They were brave and intelligent, and equally as sweet was the relationship between Mark and his dog, Beau, who I just couldn't leave out. I'm not really a dog person and never have been, but the love and trust between them was beautiful. The entire book restored my faith in humanity.

With messages about life, love, hope and survival, I think this is great for children who perhaps aren't quite old enough to read/watch The Fault in Our Stars and might want an alternative. It's also perfect at gently explaining cancer and the affects of it, and I highly recommend it.
Monday, 8 June 2015

BLOG TOUR: The Pointless Book 2 by Alfie Deyes

You know in my May Book Haul when I told you I had an exciting post coming up? That would be this one. Today, we have a quickfire Q&A with none other than YouTube star Alfie Deyes. Not only that, but I'm also giving away a signed copy of The Pointless Book 2. Aren't you a lucky bunch? But first, to give you an idea of what the book is about, here's my review.

Title: The Pointless Book 2
Author: Alfie Deyes
Published by: Blink Publishing (UK) // Running Press (US)
Publication date: 26th March 2015 (UK) // 7th April 2015 (US)
Pages: 192
Genres: Non-fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copies from both publishers.

As you'll know if you've read my list of 10 Books Every Creative Person Needs, or if you've read my review of the first Pointless Book, I love books in which you can unleash your creativity. When you read a lot of fiction, it's refreshing to be able to splatter paint inside a book and scribble all over the pages without feeling guilty. That's why I liked The Pointless Book, and why I liked the second even more.

To me, this book is a lot better than the first. It's not as repetitive, it's much more fun and the challenges are better aimed at young people, as before they felt a bit too young. I haven't had the chance to mess around with this on a long, tedious road-trip yet but I kind of want to go on one just so I can make it better with this. Does that even make sense? I don't know. I feel like we should move on.

Like with the first book, this one comes with a free app and it is mindblowing. On certain pages throughout the book, you are given the opportunity to design things - for example, a shoe or a planet. Once you have done this, you can place your phone over the drawing and it jumps from page to screen, spinning around in 3D with your design fully intact. I have no idea how that's possible but it's an amazing addition and I'm kind of obsessed with it.

All positivity aside, I am wondering how long these books will go on for. By that I mean, is there going to be a third Pointless Book? A fourth? A fifth? I really like both books that are already available, but I feel like the idea of them could get old very quickly. But I guess we'll see.

Overall, as I said in my last review, you don't have to be a fan of Alfie to enjoy this book. You don't even have to know who he is, although I'm sure all of you do already. Just whip out a pen and some crayons, give your brain a break and you're sorted!

Earlier this month I was given the chance to do a quickfire Q&A with Alfie as part of the blog tour. So, here we go!

What was your favourite part of the publishing process and why?

Ohh, this is a hard one! I'd say either seeing the very first print of my book, or getting the opportunity to travel the world doing book signings. Being able to physically hold a copy of a book you've worked so hard on for so long is unbelievable!

Hopefully I get to experience that myself, one day! Something I ask everyone - what is your most embarrassing moment?

Once when I was swimming (with my mum, haha) I got out of the pool to see that my swimming shorts had gone see-through…

Awkward. What advice do you have for other bloggers and vloggers, like myself?

Make content YOU enjoy making. Have fun doing it. The more fun you have, the more fun people will have reading/watching. Don't look at the views/stats, they will grow over time!

I can definitely attest to that. If you're having fun doing it, you'll naturally attract readers/viewers. If you're not having fun doing it... what's the point? Anyway, thank you to Alfie for taking the time to chat to me! Now, if you live in the US and you're a fan of him and/or the books, then you're in for a treat because I have a signed copy of The Pointless Book 2 to give away. But don't worry, people in the UK and Ireland - there's something for you, too!


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Friday, 5 June 2015

5 Books You Need to Read This Summer

The clouds have parted, there's a mysterious ball of heat in the sky, and people all over the world are wondering which books to stuff into their suitcases. It's a difficult task. Last year, I was forced to only take four books even though we were going away for a week, and I got through them all in the first four days. It was greatly upsetting.

So, you need to make those books count. Before I get to my recommendations, I just wanted to add that I accidentally put my hand in hedgehog poo in the process of taking the below photograph, so you'd better appreciate it. Thanks. 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is short and sweet, perfect for taking to the beach, but don't be fooled - it's not light or fluffy. It is complex, disturbing and deceitful. It is summer, sand, and stolen kisses. Intrigued? 

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt

If you're not going on a road trip this summer, great, you can live vicariously through this book. And if you are going on a road trip... even better, you can take this along with you! 

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

If you haven't read any books by Stephanie Perkins, please do. This trilogy makes me so, so happy. And, hey, if you're not going anywhere exciting this summer, these books are set all over the world, so they're perfect for escapism. Plus, they make your heart all warm and fuzzy. 

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Okay, this book didn't make me happy - in fact, it made me incredibly sad - but, at the same time, it's such a beautiful book and I urge you to read it. Jandy Nelson is a fantastic writer and you'll be hooked from the very first word, I promise you.

Paper Towns by John Green

This is the first book I read by John Green. It's also one of the first books I read as a book blogger. And now it's being adapted for the big screen! I seriously cannot wait - how are we supposed to wait until August?! - and this is the perfect opportunity to re-read it in preparation for the film, or to experience the magic of reading it for the first time.

What should I be reading this summer? Let me know your recommendations!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

Title: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
Author: Marina Keegan
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 19th June 2014
Pages: 209
Genres: Non-fiction/Memoir/Essays/Short stories
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from Waterstones.

Marina Keegan's star was on the rise when she graduated from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.

As her family, friends and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, 'The Opposite of Loneliness', went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord.

Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina's essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle we all face as we work out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

When Waterstones approached me last month asking if I would like to be a part of their book club, I had to say yes. Not just because it was Waterstones, aka my favourite bookshop, but also because the book on offer was The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. This book has been all over social media since it was published last year, and I have never heard a negative word against it.

Here's the thing: just a few months ago, I wasn't really into non-fiction. People would recommend biographies and essays, and I'd shrug a non-committal shrug and delve back into whichever YA book I was reading that day. And then, slowly, non-fiction started trickling into my bookish diet. The Opposite of Loneliness has been the perfect addition to my growing collection.

Keegan was a student full of life and full of potential. She was twenty-two and there was so much she wanted to do, so much she wanted to see - and then, five days after graduation, she died, leaving behind a computer full of essays and stories, some finished, some never to see the light of day. The Opposite of Loneliness is a selection of some of her finest works, carefully curated by her friends and family and, by the time I'd finished her first essay, I was already inspired.

With posthumous writing, people might be tempted to overlook things that would have irritated them in any other book, because they're so overwhelmed with sadness for what happened to the author. But there's no danger of that here, because Keegan was a truly exceptional writer, with a similar voice to Rainbow Rowell in places. It makes me sad that this is the only work of hers that we will ever get to see. Given a few more years, she would have been topping the bestseller lists with full novels. It does make me happy, though, that even when she is no longer around, she still achieved her biggest dream and will continue to spread her unique outlook on life for years to come.

Marina Keegan is not my favourite author, nor is this my favourite book, as there were a couple of short stories I wasn't overly excited about, but she has become a literary inspiration for me. If I'm ever able to string words together just half as beautifully as she has, then I'll be happy. Everything she writes is so deliberate, full of talent, and the book itself has a consistently strong, if not eerie, message: we have our whole lives ahead of us, so let's make it count. If you're looking for a motivational book, this is definitely one to add to your wish list.
Thank you so much to Waterstones for asking me to be a part of their book club this month. No, this didn't affect my opinion of the book - it really is beautiful. The other bloggers reading this with me were Kirsty and Jessica, and you can see their reviews here and here. And, if you would like to read The Opposite of Loneliness, you can order a copy here