Friday, 27 November 2015

MINI REVIEW: The Next Together by Lauren James

Title: The Next Together
Author: Lauren James
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 3rd September 2015
Pages: 356
Genres: YA Romance/Time travel/Historical
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different...

Lauren James has quickly become one of the most talked about authors in the bookish community, and I can see why. The Next Together is such a clever book, one I wish I'd written, and it is so unique. I've read loads of time travel books in my time, but this is carefully crafted, fantastically original and properly gasp-worthy. A lot of books on time travel seem very predictable, but this is not one of them.

I think everyone can enjoy The Next Together no matter what genre you usually go for because it has a little bit of everything. I did get a bit confused sometimes, mainly between the Crimean War chapters and the ones set in Carlisle - silly mistake to make, I know, but it happened. Other than that, it was so, so good. I adored Katherine and Matthew's relationship which, in all times, added a lot of great comedy, and I also loved the ending which has yet to leave my mind despite reading it quite a while ago. It was so expertly done.

The Next Together is 100% worth the read. I ignored my to-do list and stayed in bed for an entire day to read it all. No regrets. I'm really glad I managed to snag a signed bookmark at YALC because I loved this book and I cannot wait for the next one!
Monday, 23 November 2015

Why You Should Remove Broken Links From Your Blog

A couple of months ago I started removing and updating all the broken links on my blog. Having broken links is bad for two main reasons: it's annoying seeing a link to something interesting when the link doesn't actually work, and the second reason is that they can have a negative impact on your SEO.

So, what are broken links?

It's simple, thankfully - they're just links that don't work anymore. This could be because the website no longer exists, the website owner changed the URL, they deleted the page you were linking to... there's a whole host of reasons.

How can you check your blog for broken links?

Again - it's simple! There are a few websites that check for you, and my preferred one to use is this free broken link checker. All you have to do is put in your URL and it starts finding the links for you, presenting them in a tidy list. I had thousands of broken links, mainly because people tend to leave their links in blog comments and, because I've been blogging for so long, a lot of these people had deleted their blogs or changed their addresses. Sigh.

What happens when you've got your list?

I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but... you have to remove or update the links manually. It's time consuming, but it's worth it - in the end, you'll have a cleaner, more current website and Google won't hate you anymore. Yay.

To make it a bit easier, the checker I use not only tells you which link is broken but it gives you a link to the blog post it's in and, if you click 'src', it brings up the HTML so you can even see which part of the blog post. 

The thing is, not every link is going to be broken. It might just look broken to the link checker because it took too long to load. In that case, you'll have to use your own judgement on whether it's really broken or not - just click through and have a look to see if everything's as it was originally. If it is broken, you can remove the link completely or update it if there's a different one you could use, for example if a blogging friend changed their URL.

Boom. Simple.

How many broken links do you have? Don't be ashamed, I had nearly 2,000...

Monday, 16 November 2015

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 8th October 2015
Pages: 522
Genres: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance/LGBT
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who's ever been chosen.

That's what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he's probably right.

Half the time Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor's avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there's a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon's face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here - it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up.

Confession time: I skipped the Simon Snow snippets in Fangirl. I didn't care about them. So, you might be wondering, why did I decide to read 522 pages of the stuff? My reason - in Fangirl, I felt like the Simon Snow chapters weren't needed and they took me away from the main story. But here, in its very own book, I was able to enjoy the world of Simon and Baz with no distractions and I gave it the full attention it deserved. And it was awesome.

Simon Snow, the character much loved by Cath in Rowell's previous book Fangirl, attends the Watford School of Magicks along with his best friend Penny and his evil, blood-sucking roommate Baz. Terrorising them all is the Humdrum, Watford's answer to Voldemort. And he looks exactly like Simon, but as he looked at eleven years old. Meanwhile, Simon and Baz grow increasingly obsessed with each other, and not in the way enemies should...

I love Simon and Baz SO MUCH. I've never quite forgiven J.K. Rowling for not putting Harry and Draco together (Drarry FTW) so this book was the next best thing. Seriously, Simon and Baz's relationship is so cute, even when they're trying to kill each other. And I want my own Baz. Where can I get one?

As for the writing, it was massively different to Rowell's other books and it didn't have her 'voice'. That's not a bad thing, though - Carry On is still a very, very good book. It's a completely different genre, so it was never going to be written in the same vein as Rowell's other books; this is a magical, fantastical, satirical work of awesome set in Watford, after all. Rowell is talented in writing contemporary fiction, and I think Carry On has shown she's even more talented when it comes to fantasy. A few people have said they felt it was slow and difficult to get into, but I was gripped from the beginning - which surprised me, after seeing what everyone else had said.

Carry On is a book that doesn't quite take itself seriously, and I love that; it just worked. I spent pretty much an entire day and night reading it, and I've properly missed it since turning the last page! I love all of Rowell's books but this is actually the first one I've given a full five-star rating. Funny, clever and a book that hits the nail on the head when it comes to British culture, Carry On is downright brilliant. All hail Queen Rainbow.
Thursday, 12 November 2015

An Autumnal Life Update

Reader, I realise we don't chat a lot. I mean, we do - my phone is permanently attached to my hand so I'm almost always on Twitter, and I'm writing blog posts all the time - but I never really update you about... well, life.

You might not care about it. That's fine. But if you are interested, here's what I've been up to recently.

Firstly, I've started watching Scream Queens and I actually like it. This is a big thing for me because I only watch two other TV shows, and I hardly ever find one that I want to continue watching. Scream Queens started airing on TV here in the UK a few weeks ago so I thought I might as well check it out before I got too behind to bother. And it's hilariously ridiculous. It's a show that doesn't take itself seriously at all, and it's both the best and worst thing I have ever seen. Seriously, it's rubbish but I am in love. (If you're in the UK, who do you think the killer is? If you're anywhere else in the world, no spoilers please.)

As well as watching Scream Queens (and making two of my friends equally obsessed with it) I've been doing NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.This is my first time doing the adult version instead of the one aimed at young people, the difference being that you have to write 50,000 words on the adult one but you can set your own target on the other. I've never written something so lengthy so hitting that word count is my aim, rather than writing something amazingly awesome that all literary agents want - although that would be nice. It's going well so far! You can watch my video about NaNoWriMo here, and if you click here you can add me as a friend.

Along with that, I've started running. I don't know if this is going to be a regular thing. It makes me feel like I'm dying and last time I went I almost stepped on a frog and it freaked me out so I came home again. I prefer sitting on the sofa, to be honest.

I've been settling in (again) at InterHigh, too, because in case you missed it, the #HelpAmber campaign was successful! The people in my class are lovely and I think we all share a love of talking, so that's a bonus.

Also, Bonfire Night happened aka one of my favourite nights of the year. There's just something nice about being warmed up by a huge bonfire in a field full of people whilst listening to music really loudly and watching colourful explosions in the sky. This is the first year in a few that I've felt comfortable going and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy fireworks.

On a similar topic, I finally learned how to do the slow shutter speed thing (or the show slutter speed thing, as I kept accidentally calling it...) on my camera, so I had a play around with that and some sparklers. I wish they'd been in focus more and next year I'll definitely be trying to improve, but I don't think they're completely awful for a first try.

Sooo yeah. They're some of the things I've been up to recently. What's going on in your life right now?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

Title: Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Author: Leila Sales
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 24th September 2015
Pages: 342
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Travel/Friendship/Family
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

When Arden stumbles upon the online musings of Peter, a young New York City writer, it feels to her that she's finally found a kindred spirit. His blog gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express and she's convinced that, if they met, he would understand her in a way that no one else does.

So she sets out on a road trip to find him.

During one crazy night in New York - the type of night when anything can happen and nearly everything does - Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was either.

You might remember that earlier this year I reviewed This Song Will Save Your Life, the debut of Leila Sales. As much as I wanted to like it, it just fell flat and I was disappointed. Despite that, I was still looking forward to her next book, Tonight the Streets Are Ours, because I had a feeling it would be better - and it was! I had a few issues with it but I ended up quite enjoying this one.

Tonight the Streets Are Ours sees seventeen-year-old Arden's life turn upside down when her mother leaves. Suddenly she's juggling school with looking after her younger brother Roman and her troublesome best friend Lindsey, trying to save a failing relationship with self-obsessed wannabe actor Chris, and to add to that her father prefers being at the office to being at home. Other than that, Arden's life is completely uninteresting and, eventually, she snaps. No one loves her as much as she loves them. That's when she decides to go on a road-trip with Lindsey to New York to find Peter, the blogger whose life seems much more interesting than hers and who really seems to get her. The only problem is, he has no idea she exists.

I'm going to say it now: this book has some pretty big flaws. For a start, the first half of the book dragged just like in This Song Will Save Your Life. I was so bored of reading about Arden's dull and less than eventful life in Maryland. Why dedicate half a book to someone who really doesn't have much going on? That's like writing an autobiography about an inanimate object like, I don't know, a biscuit. Luckily, the second half of the book was SO much better - seriously, that's when everything happened - but until then the only thing going through my mind other than how bored I was, was the question 'when are they going to get on the road?' I love road trips.

Secondly, I felt the stalking thing was a bit weird - unsurprisingly. Your boyfriend annoys you so you decide to drive for over six hours to track down a boy you've never met or even spoken to? It didn't sit right with me. It was made to seem romantic. I enjoyed the story that went along with it, but... it's stalking. Stalking isn't a romantic gesture or a fun thing to do, y'know? And Peter was weirdly okay with it. I liked his blog posts and I liked him when he and Arden explored the city together, but I never understood why he didn't question the fact that Arden and Lindsey not only drove hundreds of miles to see him but took measures to find out exactly what bookshop he worked in. (They called every single bookshop in the city asking if Peter worked there, if you're wondering. I know. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of their stalking or their phone bill.)

I would like to go to New York, though. Preferably without stalkers. The setting was perfect and it was so much fun to read as Arden, Lindsey and Peter explored the city. The streets really were theirs, and it felt like I was right alongside them. I liked the ending, too - it surprised me and took a different route to that of the usual YA romance. I feel like Arden redeemed herself a little, there.

For me, Tonight the Streets Are Ours had some pretty big flaws, but I still enjoyed the book as a whole. It's not the best thing I've ever read, nor is it the worst. It's a good one for escapism and wanderlust, so if that sounds good to you then I'd definitely recommend this. If not, you probably don't want to bother.
Friday, 6 November 2015

7 Books That Will Take You Around the World

It dawned on me recently that the ability to escape is one of the main things I look for when deciding which books I need to own. As Chris Riddell said, it's not a book, it's a doorway!

If it means I don't have to wash my hair with a paper cup in a field full of cows (0/10, don't recommend) then I will travel through books rather than breaking the bank and getting a plane ticket.

As much as I would love to actually travel the world; reading is easier, okay? If you're the same as me, then here are seven books I adore which will take you to all corners of the globe. In no particular order...

The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon

Destination: Los Angeles, USA

Itinerary: Grieve for your mother and learn that your father is a world-famous musician. As you do.

Duration of your stay: 336 pages

What to pack: Passport, sunglasses and a handful of tissues.

Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Destination: Spain

Itinerary: Run along beaches and drink lots of wine. Oh, and try to work out which of your friends is a murderer. Casual.

Duration of your stay: 321 pages

What to pack: A lie detector, preferably.

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt

Destination: Wales

Itinerary: ROAD TRIP!

Duration of your stay: 304 pages

What to pack: Tent, umbrella, and something to stop you having an attack of the feels.

This is Not a Love Story by Keren David

Destination: Amsterdam

Itinerary: Move from London to Amsterdam, make friends and fall in love. Ride lots of bikes.

Duration of your stay: 352 pages

What to pack: A bicycle, a camera and chocolate to mend a broken heart.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Destination: Paris, France

Itinerary: Move from the USA to France to finish school, fall in love, explore France and be cute.

Duration of your stay: 400 pages

What to pack: Hot chocolate, a blanket and a French guidebook.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Destination: New York, USA

Itinerary: Drug yourself up on painkillers, then meet your future boyfriend and travel New York and Europe.

Duration of your stay: 375 pages

What to pack: Painkillers and art supplies.

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Destination: South Korea

Itinerary: Escape a grief-stricken family by going to boarding school halfway across the world and falling into the world of music.

Duration of your stay: 304 pages

What to pack: A pen, paper and a piano. You'll have to get a really big suitcase. Sorry.

Which books have let you travel from the comfort of your bedroom? I'd love some recommendations!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson

Title: Chasers of the Light
Author: Tyler Knott Gregson
Published by: Particular Books
Publication date: 8th October 2015
Pages: 144
Genres: Adult/Non-fiction/Romance/Poetry
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning and without the ability to revise anything.

He fell in love.

Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of the Typewriter Series, a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Here are poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.

Chasers of the Light is a book of beautiful poems that show the miracle in the mundane and the epic made simple, all whilst being an extremely photogenic little hardback. It magnifies the small moments and I'm in love with it; the book itself and how it came to be. (Gregson stumbled upon a typewriter, started writing and hasn't looked back since. Ten years ago I randomly started writing a blog post in a paddling pool and I'm still here. I think sometimes the things most valuable to us in life start as accidents.)

I felt so inspired during and after reading Chasers of the Light, and I'm not someone who tends to re-read books but I know this is going to be one I go back to time and time again. The combination of photography and poetry is too good.

The reason I gave it 4.5 is because I would have much preferred it had the book included a ribbon and/or page numbers. It just proved to be inconvenient without them, and with them I think this book would have been absolutely perfect for me.

To wrap up, I think the thing I loved most about Chasers of the Light is that it's appreciative of the little things in life and captures the most fleeting of thoughts. It reignited my love of poetry, too - I have to admit I somehow forget it even exists most of the time, yet I used to love writing it myself. This book immediately made me want to pick up a pen (a typewriter would be nicer but unsurprisingly I don't have one...) and I highly, highly recommend it.