Thursday, 31 December 2015

Looking Back on 2015 | PART TWO

This is the second part of my previous blog post, Looking Back on the Year. Hope you enjoy!

July: The first day of July was the hottest day of the year. 37 DEGREES. It was horrendous. I always moan about typical, rainy, British weather but honestly, I don't think I could live anywhere that was hot all year round. My friend came over again - her name is Averil, by the way; I don't know why I haven't been naming her - and we had a massive water fight with two big water guns, 100 water balloons and loads of water bottles which made up another 12 litres. But it was so hot we ended up not even having a water fight, we just sat and poured water on each other and lamely threw each other water balloons until they burst. It was that hot. We could barely talk. #UnlikelyBritishProblems.

Then we went to prom which was another huge step for me because I went back to my old school to see my entire year group and it was crowded and I just... I wouldn't have been able to do that a month earlier.

Saturday the 18th brought with it YALC aka the Young Adult Literature Convention in London! I had desperately wanted to go last year but I just wasn't ready and we were on holiday, anyway. But this year I thought I'd give it a try and it was SO MUCH FUN. You can read my recap here. It's one of my favourite posts on this blog and YALC itself was probably the best day of the year.

August: Oh, wow. This was... an insane month, to say the least. As you might have seen here, I started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money needed for me to continue my education. Immediately, the story was picked up by The Independent, the MailOnline, Sky News (yeah, I gave my first ever live TV interview...) and I was invited on ITV's Lorraine show as well as BBC 5 Live Breakfast. And a week after the campaign began, we hit the target! We raised £4,500 in just a few days. I'm still not over it. I really wasn't prepared for all of that to happen and it was crazy. I also got my GCSE results which were pretty good, considering. And I went to GBK aka my favourite restaurant ever. Seriously, if you haven't been there, you need to go. This is very important. Do it for me.

Bottom right photo courtesy of @theblogbookshop on Twitter.

September: I started college studying English Literature and Media Studies. As I write this section, it's September 18th and at the moment I'm really, really enjoying them both. I don't know how I'll feel when this post goes up - I'll probably be inundated with essays and needing a break by then, but who knows? (Edit: I was right, I do need a break - and I'm on one! Still enjoying it though.) For now I much prefer it to when I did my IGCSEs.

I also got glasses. I wore them when I was little because of an astigmatism and was told I would only have to wear them until I was fourteen. Well, I stopped wearing them when I was about eight because I was a butt and so now my eyesight is even worse than it was and I have to wear super strong glasses. Lesson learned. (To be honest, I love the style and I love wearing them. I can finally see!)

At the end of the month I was sent to the Harry Potter Studio Tour to blog and vlog their September Screenings event. It was so nice to go back there - you can see my post about that here, and my vlog of the day here.

I was also quoted in Lara Williamson's new book! This is always a wonderful surprise and makes me so happy.

October: Louise from Sprinkle of Glitter sent me a surprise thank you note for reviewing her book which was lovely. A couple of days after that I saw Hotel Transylvania 2 (before watching the first one, oops) and it was really good and perfectly Halloween-y.

An extremely talented person drew this picture of me (below) - I wish I looked that nice in real life! It would also be good if I could draw as nicely as that, too...

On my birthday I managed to grab tickets to the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play in the West End for July next year, and then we spent the afternoon in Norwich. Oh, and I started running. By the time this post goes live I probably will have given up. Sofas are more fun. (Edit: Again, I was right. I gave up after nearly stepping on a frog. It freaked me out.)

November: First up was Bonfire Night, one of my favourite nights of the year. This year was the first time I felt comfortable going in a while. I also had a play around with sparklers and my camera, and the photos definitely could've come out better but they're not too bad.

I saw my aunt for the first time in a few years and I'm pretty sure one of her dogs didn't recognise me. Sad times. I took some really cute photos of them, though.

Our town Christmas lights were switched on and they looked so pretty! Everything looks better with fairy lights. I actually dread the day they come down because it's so lovely having them there. Anyway, I went to the celebrations with Av and nearly froze to death. Seriously, my hand was permanently in the holdingaphone position. I couldn't move it. It was HORRIBLE. But yay, lights.

On the 25th I won NaNoWriMo and finished writing my first ever novel. WHAAAAAAT. It's the longest thing I've ever written. I don't even care if it's bad (haven't read it through yet...) I'm just happy that I've written something that lengthy. I don't struggle with ideas, I struggle with making them last. I wanted to show myself that I could write something of a proper length, and I did!

December: This might have been one of the busiest months of the year, unsurprisingly. On my step-dad's birthday we went to Woburn Safari Park, where some monkeys climbed on our car and ripped bits off, and where a lion roared so loudly I felt it in the ground. It was fun and only slightly terrifying.

The next day, I did something that has been on my bucket list for a ridiculously long time. I've been book blogging for six years and so I've been invited to hundreds of blogger events, but I never went to any of them for a bunch of different reasons. That changed when I got an invite to the inaugural offline book club by My Kinda Book at their Pan Macmillan offices in London. It was easy to get to and I thought it was about time I tried it out, so I went. That morning was SO stressful, though. Have you ever been running late and needing to leave the house right that second to catch a train when the station is a mile away from your house, only to have a panic attack and have to re-do all of your makeup, get your things together, drive for a few minutes, find a parking space, pay for the parking space, print out your train ticket and get on the train all in the space of what was literally five minutes? No, probably not. But I did. It was HORRIBLE. Luckily, the rush took my mind off having another panic attack, so silver linings, I guess. The event was fun, I got to meet a couple of bloggers I've been talking to online for ages, and I loved seeing inside the Pan Macmillan offices aka where book dreams come true.

When I got home, I opened the post and found out my review has been quoted in the hardback edition of Maresi. It's an incredible book!

A day or two after that, we put the tree up. I also uploaded a video where I let some of you who might not have been able to afford presents for people to pick books from my shelves which I would then send for you to give as gifts. I wasn't sure if anyone would want/need it but all of the books went, so that was good.

Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films) gave a talk at college which was fun! It was interesting to hear about his experiences and the acting he's been doing since the films ended. Also, fun fact, he's my English teacher's son so my teacher is basically Mrs Weasley. It's been months since I found out and I'm still not over it. I need to sort myself out, honestly.

I participated in a couple of Secret Santas and you can see what I got here. Oh, and I tried my first ever mince pie. I know. IT WAS INCREDIBLE AND I AM IN LOVE. Also, I watched Love, Actually and When Harry Met Sally for the first time because everyone else seems to have watched them except me. Equally as incredible.

And finally, it was Christmas Day! I ate ALL THE THINGS. I'm writing this lil bit on the 29th and I still can't move because I am now the size of a whale. I blame those glorious mince pies and the pickled eggs and the chocolate biscuits and the other chocolates and the gingerbread house and the mini pizzas and the spring rolls and the ice cream and the cheesy bites and the Pringles and the dips and the posh cheese and crackers and the piles of mashed potato. T'was good. One of my favourite Christmasses.

Since then? I've just spent two days straight doing Media Studies coursework while absentmindedly eating chocolates from various selection boxes. Oh dear.

I hope you all had a wonderful 2015 and that you have an even better 2016, and I'll see you in the New Year!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Looking Back on 2015 | PART ONE

Well, that year flew by, didn't it? Before we look back on 2015, I just want to mention some things that happened right at the very end of 2014 after I had posted my wrap-up: On Christmas Day I got a new job, a few days later I was listed as one of The Guardian's Top 10 Best Book Blogs, and I won Best Vlogger in some blogger awards that I've actually forgotten the name of...sorry! An awesome end to an awesome year, though.

Now for 2015!

January: Alastair Stewart from ITV News retweeted my article out of the blue, which was really strange as I've been watching him deliver the news on TV for my entire life. I took a screenshot because why not.

I was later quoted in the paperback edition of The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss which I wasn't expecting. They used a different quote from the one in the hardback edition - I prefer this one!

Next, I was lucky enough to get an early review copy of Love, Tanya by Tanya Burr as well as exclusivity to the prologue and a photograph from the book's photo shoot. This resulted in Tanya sharing a couple of my posts on Twitter and Facebook, which led to me getting 15,000 views in a day. That's never happened before and it was crazy to watch the numbers going up, up, up... I always say bloggers shouldn't obsess over their stats, but when something like that happens it's impossible not to. It really was mind-blowing.

I also found a random forest in my town that, somehow, I'd never noticed before. I've lived here for my entire life. Observant.

Towards the end of the month, I started my first ever blog feature called Monthly Favourites - imaginative name, I'm sure you'll agree - where I shared my favourites of the month with you, whether they were books, beauty products, gadgets or even food. I couldn't not include food. I've since stopped doing this feature monthly (which kind of defeats the purpose...) but I might come back to it at some point.

Then my second guest post went up on the Penguin blog. This time, it was an interview with the wonderful Jennifer Niven.

February: At the beginning of February I wrote a piece for The Guardian about teen mental health issues and why we need to see more of them represented in YA fiction. They're extremely common in young people, and I don't think this is anywhere near being covered enough. You can read it here.

A few days later, Walker Books sent me a few copies of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. My challenge was to vlog as I left them in random places around my local area for people to find and keep. You can see my vlog from the day here. One of the places was my local hospital, and I think I'll be dropping books there again because it's such a nice idea and it had never occurred to me before. I was also mentioned in this article in The Bookseller about the campaign.

I was then nominated - and shortlisted! - for the UKYA Blogger Awards in two categories. The UKYA Blogger Awards were voted for by industry professionals so this was especially cool and I was really surprised to be considered. I was up for Blogger's Blogger and Champion Teen Blogger.

March: Spring arrived! To celebrate International Women's Day, I had another piece in The Guardian where I recommended 5 of the best feminist reads in YA. You can read that here.

Then the results of the UKYA Book Blogger Awards were announced. These awards are different to the ones I previously mentioned, they just have very similar names! These ones were voted for by bloggers, and I won Most Fun Blogger whilst coming second in Best Teen Blogger and Best Oldtimer.

And then in the other UKYA Blogger Awards, the ones voted for by industry professionals, I won Champion Teen Blogger! When people win awards they're always like, "Oh, I'm so shocked, thank you" but you can tell they thought they were going to win. I actually didn't. I have never been so surprised in my life. I still have no words. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the actual award ceremony but you can see my name being announced in this video by Michelle at Tales of Yesterday (who also won an award, and deservedly so!)

A few days later, I went to Twitter HQ in London for a Q&A with Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Veronica Roth. This was such a cool experience and I'm still really proud of myself for going despite my anxiety. After that, I whizzed over to Leicester Square for the Insurgent World Premiere. It was a great day, and I got a slice of pizza on the way home. Pizza is life. If you want to know more about the event, check out my event recap here.

On the 20th very, very early in the morning, I rolled out of bed and made my way to the nearest field to watch the eclipse. I missed about an hour of school for it but, hey, next time we have an eclipse I'll be nearly 30, and after that, 92, so I figured it was okay.

The next day I went to see Cimorelli at the O2 Academy in Islington, London. Nearly two years beforehand, they'd sent me a letter (yes, an actual, old-fashioned letter) saying they couldn't wait to come to England and hoped they would see me. And then it really happened. They only had one UK date in their entire European tour so I'm unbelievably happy I got to go.

Just before the month closed, I was interviewed for the True Face website. The website is managed by author Siobhan Curham and runs alongside her book of the same name. I love both, and this interview is probably the best one I've ever done. The questions were so interesting!

April: I was lucky enough to be sent a custom jacket with my blog logo on it! How awesome is that? I actually reviewed it here and I'm quite proud of that post so it would be awesome if you could go and read it.

On the same day I went to Cambridge Literary Festival to see Sally Green and Juno Dawson in conversation with Charlotte Eyre from The Bookseller. It was such an interesting panel and I made lots of notes which you can see here.

I passed 400,000 views and also had a new post up on Penguin Platform, the new Penguin blog dedicated specifically to the YA genre.

I got up at 5am to watch the sunrise. From a graveyard. It was on my bucket list, okay? And it wasn't that creepy. (It was.)

One night I spontaneously decided to go to a local light festival where artists had designed pretty presentations or even short films to project onto buildings around the area. It was certainly different! One of them was a short film about a girl who drowned, and it had music with it. It was so creepy. Awesome though!

May: On May 7th I met Carrie Hope Fletcher at Waterstones Piccadilly which was fun and you can read about that here. The next day, though, I had my last day of lessons. That was it. School was done. ...Until the 18th, when my IGCSE exams began and my life became utter hell for a few weeks. Gross.

On the 22nd, deciding I wanted a revision break, I went up a church tower to take photos of my town from above. Guess what? After nearly 17 years of being absolutely fine with heights and combined spaces, this is where I realised that, actually, I hate both. So that was... fun.

On the 30th, I went to a photoshoot where I had photos taken for a feature in a national newspaper. It was fun, and the photographer was giving me photography and journalism tips along the way. I wasn't anxious at all, either, which was a good surprise! Unfortunately, the piece never went to print as it was put together too late and therefore ended up not being as topical as it would have been had it been organised maybe a week earlier. Still got paid, though, and it was a fun experience.

The next day I hit 1,000 YouTube subscribers. FINALLY.

June: My exams finished on June 10th! Writing this in June so I haven't seen my results, but I think I did alright in them. Except Maths which I am 100% sure I failed completely. The other papers were quite generous, luckily - they were all on things I was confident on, and thankfully none of the stuff I wasn't sure about came up!

On June 13th I went to Slide The City, a massive slip n' slide the length of 3 football pitches near London. Whilst I had a good time and I'm glad I went, I don't think it was worth the money, the staff were rude and I wouldn't massively recommend it. It was just... meh, really. But Brooklyn Beckham was there. *shrug*

The week after that, we went to a manor house just up the road because they had an open day. A photo which you can see below was taken of me in which I look very creepy. I didn't mean to look scary, it just kind of happened. Story of my life, right there.

Some more things happened, such as getting a signed copy of Sprinkle of Glitter's book, writing a piece for Moving On magazine, appearing in the Dork Diaries book trailer and having my first ever conference call. Just thought I'd include that last one because it made me feel like an adult. Heh.

Then, on one of the hottest days of the year, I spent the day at the park with my best friend. I'm putting that in here because, whilst seemingly normal to most of you, it was the first time we'd hung out properly outside my home for a couple of years due to my anxiety. Yay.

Oh, and I went for lunch with my grandparents which is another thing I haven't been able to do in a long time.

Make sure you check out Part 2 tomorrow! What are your 2015 highlights?

Monday, 28 December 2015

The Best Reads of 2015

2015 is coming to a close, and that can only mean one thing; it's time to tackle the bookshelves and decide which books have really stood out for me this year. 2015 has brought with it so many amazing reads, and is also the year I finally won NaNoWriMo and finished the first draft of my novel. I wholeheartedly believe that part of that is down to reading so many fantastic, inspiring books this year. And in no particular order, they were...

1)  Night School by C.J. Daugherty

I read the entire series in a week, finishing a book and then ordering the next one every day. Yay, Amazon Prime! It's such an amazing series, set in Cimmeria Academy where the students and some of the teachers are hiding a dAnGeRoUs SeCrEt. It's fast-paced and action-packed with an epic romance (or two) and I adore it. If you haven't read it, please do.

2) Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

I do like a bit of romance in my books but that's not the main reason for me loving this book as much as I did. The thing that makes this book stand out for me is that it's set in South Korea, and it was beautiful. Unfortunately this is the only book set in that part of the world that I've read, and that's a shame as this book has made me want to read more. It's perfect for escapism and if you liked Anna and the French Kiss, I can safely say you'll love this.

3) #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

As I've said countless times, this is one of the most inspiring and motivational books I've ever read. If I do a post focusing on books I've loved or books I'd recommend, you can bet this will be in there. Nothing has ever made me want to work hard like this book has. It's staying on my shelves forever.

4) Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame

If you need to escape for a bit then this book will let you do just that. Did I Mention I Love You? is a cute YA contemporary with a twist - Eden Munro is in love with her stepbrother. Oops? It stands out from other books I've read, and I've read a lot. I also love the story of how the trilogy came to be, and Maskame herself is truly inspirational. Read it pls. 

5) Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Like #GIRLBOSS, this is a staple whenever I'm recommending books to people. You're probably tired of me talking about it now, but I read Am I Normal Yet? this year and it's a book that means such a lot to me so it has to go in. Not only does it dent the stigma surrounding feminism and mental health, it's also funny and completely brilliant. Go. Buy. Borrow. Do what you have to do.

6) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

A lot of people have been left disappointed by this but it's actually my absolute favourite when it comes to Rainbow Rowell's books. It's so different to everything else she's written and it has such an energy about it. God, that sounds like something out of High School Musical. But you know what I mean, hopefully. It's so much fun.

7) One by Sarah Crossan

This is one of the best books I've read this year, but also one of the saddest. If you're going to read this (and I hope you do) then make sure you have tissues. Written in verse, One is completely outside of my comfort zone and yet I fell in love with it instantly. As I said in my review, 'this is the most poignant, wonderful book I have ever had the pleasure of reading' - and it's true. I still stick by that. It's so special.

What books have you enjoyed this year?

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Secret Santa Unboxing!

This month I decided to participate in a couple of Secret Santas, and today I thought I'd show you what I received! The first Secret Santa was specifically for book bloggers and was set up by the lovely Holly from Lost in a Library and Orli from Blame My Bookshelf. The person I was sending to was Zoe from Books for Birds, and I sent her some chocolate, a bit of Harry Potter merch and a copy of Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame which I know she wanted to read. The person sending me a gift was Rita from Weaving Pages and I'll show you what she sent me below. Thank you Rita!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Could you live without your phone?

If I want to listen to music, I'll grab my phone. If I want to snap a photo, I'll grab my phone. If I want to ask someone a quick question when they live on the other side of the world, I'll grab my phone. Even this post began on my phone. There appears to be a pattern, doesn't there?

Inspired by Panasonic's huge range of phones as well as Adele's glorious new song (I'm not even joking, look at this after you've read this post) I'm asking you a question: could you live without your phone?

As a blogger, my phone is so important to me. Back in the day, I'd go to book events and have to rely on my memory and a camera the size of a brick to document it all. I didn't even have the option of live-tweeting, shock horror. Nowadays, I consider my phone to be an integral part of my blog. It used to be an even bigger part of my YouTube channel as I used to film on it.

It's important for school, too. If I can't log in on my laptop, there's an app for that. How great is that? At the risk of sounding like an old lady, TECHNOLOGY THESE DAYS. It's so interesting how things evolve - I used to be able to get by just fine with my massive Nokia and a good ol' game of Snake, but now I would genuinely struggle to get about my day-to-day life without a smartphone. I'm so glad I was born when I was, because I'm not sure how I could have lived. Take my mum, for example; she couldn't use Google when she was doing her homework because it didn't exist yet. And we used to listen to tapes. We used to use floppy discs. We used to have to wait a week or two for photos to develop. Now we don't have a need for any of that because it can all be done on what is essentially a small piece of white and grey metal. Mind = blown.

As much as I hate to admit it, I rely hugely on my phone and I can barely cope when it dies and I can't get to a charger. Admittedly, I probably could live without it (because, hey, books exist) but... I wouldn't want to.

Could you live without your phone?

This is a sponsored post.
Friday, 18 December 2015

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Title: The Sky is Everywhere
Author: Jandy Nelson
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 5th February 2015
Pages: 313
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Grief/Family
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Lennie Walker, seventeen, Wuthering Heights obsessed, clarinet player, band geek. Also hopeless romantic, prone to scattering poems all over town and as of four weeks ago, sisterless...

I thought I'd read this already. I have a vivid memory of me, five or six years ago, picking up a beautiful cloth-bound edition in the library. That's all I remember, and so I assumed I'd gone ahead and read it. But I guess not, because now I realise there's no way I could ever forget such a poignant, beautiful, heartbreaking novel.

Lennie was always a step behind her sister. Bailey was the outgoing one, the extraordinary one, the one with all the confidence and big dreams. Lennie was quieter. But then, when Bailey dies, Lennie is thrust into the spotlight, and the only person who seems to understand her grief is Toby, Bailey's boyfriend. And then they kiss, and not just once. But Toby's not the only boy in Lennie's life. There's Joe Fontaine, the new boy from France, who, moment by moment, injects happiness back into Lennie's family and shows her how to live again.

The Sky is Everywhere is one of those books full of beautiful, enchanting quotes that make you want to write them all over everything, Lennie-style. Right now, I'd rather be doing that than writing this review because I just don't know what to say. It's an extraordinary book, and how can you put that into words? What I can say is that it dealt with grief well - very, very well - and, if you're like me and you wanted to pick this up already but never got around to it, drop everything and get a copy. It's worth every single penny in the world. If I ever write a book, which I hope I do (I'm almost done with a first draft!) I can only hope it'll be half as good as this.
Earlier this year I teamed up with Walker on a secret book fairy mission. They kindly sent me five extra copies of The Sky is Everywhere, as well as mini sketchbooks to promote Jandy Nelson's new book, I'll Give You the Sun, and my challenge was to drop them in random places for people to pick up, take home, and read. I vlogged, and you can watch me stealthily dropping the books and spying on the people who took them, here. Enjoy!

Monday, 14 December 2015

How I Deal With Hate Online

Back in the day, I never used to get hate comments on my blog. I remember getting one or two, but they were from a 'friend' and didn't really bother me. But now I have lots more followers, I post more regularly, I've got a YouTube channel and I know more people online than I used to. It's logic: the more people you know and the more places you can be found, the more people are going to interact with you - and it's not always going to be pleasant.

Since I went a tiny bit viral this summer, I've been getting so many hate messages. The positive messages I get far outweigh the bad ones, luckily, but it's come to a point where seeing I have a new comment fills me with dread. Even though the thing everyone is commenting on is now months old and irrelevant, it's still getting attention. This is mainly over on YouTube but it happens quite a bit here, too, people writing entire essays about how I'm disgusting and deserve to die.

How do I deal with it? Well, sometimes I don't. I let it get to me, I contemplate quitting, I go to bed with a heavy heart and end up losing a night's sleep because someone out there made a conscious decision to make me unhappy and send a message full of venom.

Other times, I'll rant in my journal about how I've lost faith in humanity and people are unnecessarily cruel and should think before they speak, blah blah blah.

Sometimes I'll look at nice comments, emails and letters I've received to counteract the negativity. It doesn't always work, and most of the time I can't be bothered to search for them because I suddenly feel so bad about myself and don't want to do anything.

The thing that works the best for me and always has done is something I started doing when I was bullied at school, and the trick is to pity the person sending hate. You don't know what's going on in their lives - maybe someone close to them has fallen ill or has passed away; maybe they're lashing out and making you and others unhappy because someone is doing or has done it to them - it's no excuse, but there are lots of things they could be struggling with. It might seem a little dramatic, but everyone has something going on that they keep to themselves. Most people who send hate messages are dealing with their own insecurities, upset and frustration, and are directing it all at you to bring someone else down onto their level. Feel sorry for them - to make themselves feel good, they have to make others unhappy. You don't feel the need to stoop that low.

The other thing that helps is that, usually, the person sending you hate isn't someone who actually knows you. They might have seen ten minutes of your life in a video and judged you solely on those ten minutes without knowing the whole story. So, if they don't know you, surely whatever distasteful and unnecessary negativity they've just sent you is misguided, because they don't have the full picture and never will. For example, someone commented on one of my videos saying I must be lying about having anxiety because I 'was fine at the Insurgent premiere'. Actually, I had a panic attack in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and very nearly gave up and went home. The person who commented doesn't know that because all they've seen is a five-minute video showing highlights of the day, not a shaky one-minute segment of me throwing up into a bag, because for some reason that's not something I excitedly whipped out my camera for...

The most simple and effective way of dealing with hate is simply to delete and block. You can block someone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and you can even ban someone from your YouTube channel. It's worth doing and you should not feel guilty about it. They clearly don't respect you, so why let them continue to look at your stuff? It's your space and you have every right to rid it of unnecessarily rude comments, no matter how much the person protests that they were 'joking'. Jokes are funny; telling someone they need to lose/put on weight and telling someone they hope their parents get cancer and die is not funny. It's tasteless, unnecessary and makes you look bad.

It's much nicer to bring people up rather than down. Being mean to someone just makes you feel toxic inside - I'm guilty of saying things I didn't mean in the past; I think most people are - whereas doing a random act of kindness for someone or giving them a compliment is so much more rewarding. They feel good, you feel good. What's not to like? In a world full of sexism, racism, classism and ableism, it's important to put some goodness out there.

Feel sorry for the haters, block them and get on with your life and subtly give them the middle finger by spreading positivity instead of stooping to their low, low level.

I'd love to know your tips on dealing with hate, and if anyone is being bullied and needs someone to listen, my inbox is always open for you.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

Title: Maresi
Author: Maria Turtschaninoff
Published by: Pushkin Children's Books
Publication date: 14th January 2016
Pages: 256
Genres: Young Adult/Fantasy/Finnish Literature
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

A world where girls live in fear.

A safe haven far away.

But is it far enough?

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren't allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai - tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back - arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty.

And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her. Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.

Maresi is a Finnish, feminist fantasy story set on an idyllic, women-only island where everyone is safe - or supposed to be.

To be honest, I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. It sounded right up my street but I think because this isn't something I would usually pick up, I expected it to take ages for me to get into. However, I actually think this book holds the most intriguing first page of all time - seriously - and I was hooked. The world-building is spectacular and so vivid that I could see it all in my mind. That said, I hope the final edition has a map - not because it particularly needs one, but because this seems like the sort of story that should have one. And it would be pretty!

As well as the world-building, I loved the lack of romantic relationships in this book because, honestly, I can't remember the last time I read a book where someone wasn't pining after someone else. It was refreshing and a good change from what I normally read. Instead, it focuses on friendship and sisterhood, something I think YA needs more of.

Like booktuber Casey said in her review, Maresi made me proud to be a woman. It also made me realise that I should be reading more fantasy. It's a genre I enjoy and yet weirdly forget about, and after Maresi I will definitely be looking for more fantasy novels to add to my (mile-long...) bookshelf.

In a nutshell, Maresi is an incredible book and part of me wants to give it its own shelf complete with a velvet cushion. They're vastly different, but if you liked Louise O'Neill's Only Ever Yours, you'll love this. Maresi is fantastically original and I am so glad I read it. It's a very important read.
Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Christmas Tag

1) What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

The problem is I tend to watch Christmas movies if they're on but I rarely bother to find out what they're called... I like Elf, obviously. Miracle on 34th Street is also a strong contender. But I think I'm going to have to go with Home Alone because it seems to be splashed across every TV channel every year and I've probably seen it a million times. It's a good film. 

2) Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

One year when I was younger I asked if I could open one present on Christmas Eve, and I was allowed so I did it every year after that, and if my parents said no, I'd say they had to let me because they had in previous years. Basically, I made up a tradition. Devious. I've stopped doing it now though because I've got older and therefore I get less presents, so I'd rather save them up for Christmas morning. #GrowingUpProblems. We get up at around 8am and open our presents at the same time instead of taking it in turns; we might be British but Christmas makes us forget how to queue.

3) Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?

Hmm. Not that I can think of, no. In our house they all tend to be the same and so they've merged into one! I do like it when you desperately want something but there's no hope of getting it and then you do end up getting it. Doesn't happen often, but it's awesome when it does! Last year a few days before Christmas I was looking at an Instax Share Printer on Amazon - it's a little white printer by Fujifilm that you connect to your phone and it prints out your photos as polaroids. I'd fallen in love with it, but it was so expensive. And then on Christmas day I got one from my step-dad; even my mum didn't know he was getting it. YASSS.

4) Favourite festive food?

DO NOT DO THIS TO ME. Oh god. Yorkshire puddings. Oat roast or nut roast. Stuffing. STUFFING. I also like to get a mini Christmas pudding, set it on fire and have it with vanilla ice cream. For about fourteen years, I was convinced I hated Christmas puddings even though I'd never tried one. Turns out I love them.  

5) Favourite Christmas gift?

Irrelevant but I just stabbed myself in the eye. Ouch. It burns. Anyway, when I was little I was SO desperate for a Nintendo DS. All the cool kids had them and the only games console I had was an ancient Sega Megadrive (who remembers those?) from the 90s. To be fair, it was good and I kinda miss it. But I needed that Nintendo DS in my life, and when I got it I was obsessed with it for years. I think I was around 7 or 8 years old and I can't remember if I got it for my birthday or Christmas, but it was great. Animal Crossing and Sims 2 Castaways were my faves.

6) Favourite Christmas scent?

For the past few Christmasses my mum has burned a candle that I think was either gingerbread or cinnamon. Something like that. It's such a beautiful scent and it always reminds me of Christmas. I'm really sad this year because we don't have it anymore and I can't remember where we bought it from.

7) Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

Well, there was the one I mentioned earlier but it's not really a thing anymore. I don't know if this is a tradition but I tend to have a normal evening and then I read and go to bed pretty early. I think the whole 'you'd better go to bed early or Father Christmas won't come!' thing is still in me somewhere.

8) What tops your tree?

For the past few years we haven't had a proper tree topper and that is because nothing seems to fit! We have a fake tree so it's the same one every year, and the top branch is quite fat but also flimsy so even if something did fit, it wouldn't stay up there. It's okay - the rest of the tree always looks pretty.

9) As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received?

I can't remember the things I asked for as a kid, but for the last few years my list has been topped with things like an iPhone 5S (which I knew I wouldn't get so I bought it myself a few months later) and a Canon 600D which I also knew I wouldn't get so I bought it secondhand earlier this year. It had been on my list for a good two or three years, though! I tend to be fairly sensible with my lists these days. Ugh. 

10) What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

Probably the anticipation. I know that might sound weird, but on actual Christmas Day the celebrations only last for a few hours and then you've got over 300 days to wait for the next one. I like the month leading up to Christmas because it's still in the near future. Please tell me I'm not the only one...?

Big thank you to Chloe for tagging me in this! I tag Michelle at Tales of Yesterday, Grace at Gracie Actually Writes, Cat at Through a Cat's Eyes, Holly at Lost in a Library and ze mother at Top Floor Treasures.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Why I Don't Tag Authors in Negative Posts

An ongoing discussion in the blogging world is: when should you tag authors in your blog posts? Some people tag authors in negative reviews and think that's okay. I, along with many others, think that's wrong.

I tag authors when:

  • It's a positive review. It might have a couple of negative bits but, mostly, it's very positive.
  • I've been interviewed by someone else and have mentioned the author in a nice way.
  • I've written a post recommending lots of books, in which theirs is included.
  • Someone has written a guest post for me and mentioned the author in a positive light.
  • Basically, I tag them whenever something nice is written about them on this blog.

Here's why I don't tag authors in negative reviews:

  • If you tag an author in your negative review of their book, you're effectively saying, "Hey! Read my blog post, I ranted about your book in it. It was horrible. Never write again."
  • If you see a negative review someone else has written and they haven't tagged the author, going ahead and tagging the author yourself is just insensitive. They don't need to see the review, hence why the other blogger didn't tag them in the first place. You're making both the blogger and the author feel crap.
  • I don't write my reviews for authors. I write reviews for readers. I'll tag authors in positive reviews because it's always nice to compliment people but I'm not going to tell them what they could have done better in their book. That's someone's job, sure, but it's not mine.
  • By tagging authors in negative reviews, most likely all you're doing is making them feel bad. And then they might avoid reviews/mentions, no matter how nice. Or a blogger might let them know they've written something about them on their blog and they'll respond with, "Is it nice? Or do I need to hide from the Internet for a while?"

I had that response once and it made me so sad because, firstly, if I wrote anything negative about an author/their book, I would never shove it in their face. And I don't like to think that people might think I would just because I'm a blogger. We're not all bad. And, secondly, it made me sad because it brought home just how badly this kind of thing must have affected them before that they even have to ask at all.

When an author does something actually bad and word gets out - like, they write a racist comment somewhere or go on a homophobic rant - I don't have an opinion on whether you should tag them in your thoughts or not, so this isn't about that. You do you. But when you've simply not enjoyed an author's book and you're warning other people not to buy it, I don't think the author needs to see that.

My opinion? I'll happily write negative reviews - my blog is a place where I write about books I've read whether I've enjoyed them or not, after all - but I won't tag the author. The review is there online and if the author stumbles across it by searching for reviews then that's their problem but I'm never going to make them look at it by tweeting them the link and making them think it's something positive when it isn't. That's just rude and unnecessary.

What do you think? Do you tag authors in negative reviews?

Friday, 4 December 2015

Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame

Title: Did I Mention I Need You?
Author: Estelle Maskame
Published by: Black and White Publishing
Publication date: 19th October 2015
Pages: 387
Genres: YA Romance/Contemporary/Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

It's been a year since eighteen-year-old Eden Munro last saw Tyler Bruce: her stepbrother... and her secret love. Although they called time on their forbidden relationship for the sake of their family, Eden can't help but feel excited when Tyler invites her to join him in New York City for the summer.

Anyway, Eden is happy with her boyfriend Dean, and surely Tyler has moved on too. But as they spend a long, hot summer in the excitement of the city that never sleeps, it soon becomes obvious that they aren't over each other. But can they resist temptation?

Tyler and Eden must face up to their feelings and decide what to do next. Is their love strong enough to face the challenges that lie ahead?

Already, I'm struggling to write this review. The word "CUTE!!!" is repeatedly running through my mind and it's really annoying but perfectly sums up both this book and its predecessor. I loved the first one so much and, as soon as I'd finished reading it, I (not so) patiently waited for the second installment. I was a bit nervous, though. Would it be as good as the first? Yes - I knew that from the first page.

Despite being a couple of years older than she was in the first book, Eden is still as fun and likeable as before but with a few new experiences and lessons learned. Tyler, after a year of touring and talking about being abused as a child, has changed his outlook on life and can't seem to stop smiling, although that might be because he's been reunited with Eden more than anything else... It was like meeting again with old friends, and I also loved the new additions to their friendship group. Plus, it was set in New York. I need to go to New York. Like, now.

Maskame herself is so inspirational. I could be wrong, but I think she'd already completed the trilogy when she was just sixteen, and now two of the books have been published with another on the way. They're so enjoyable and, seriously, be prepared for the day to be a complete write-off when you pick up this book because you're not going to put it down no matter what's on your to-do list. It is so much fun to read.

As for the final book in the trilogy, I think it's out in February. I'm writing this in October but scheduling the post to go up in December which means that, when you read this, there will only be TWO MONTHS TO GO. So excited! Written in the same vein as Stephanie Perkins, this is easily one of the best YA contemporaries out there and I will be so sad when the trilogy is finished.
Tuesday, 1 December 2015

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Book Blogging

6 years ago today I started a new blog with no idea that it would soon change my life. To celebrate The Mile Long Bookshelf's birthday, help yourself to cake and discover 6 things I've learned in 6 years of book blogging. And of course there's a giveaway, too...

Hauls aren't everything

Back in the day, I guess you could say I was pretty insecure when I did book hauls. I seemed to get a lot fewer books than other people did. These days, I've come to realise that you don't need lots of books to be taken seriously as a book blogger. Sure, it's nice, but I actually prefer months where I get fewer books because the videos are quicker to film and easier to edit, and I value quality over quantity. Where's the fun in getting loads of books if none of them look like your kind of thing? Basically, your worth isn't measured with the amount of books you get to review. There are much more important things to think about... like blog post ideas.

ARCs are not necessary

Again, your worth is not measured with the amount of ARCs you get. You don't need them to be a blogger. In my first year or two of blogging I strived to get the coolest ARCs but nowadays, if there's a book I want and it hasn't already been offered to me, I'll buy it or borrow it. Publishers are not your personal shoppers! It's nice to get ARCs but, if we take away the 'glamour' associated with getting them, they're just books, and usually not as good quality as the finished editions. The writing inside is still the same, and that's what matters.

Blogging is a great stepping stone

In the ten years I've been blogging, I've been lucky enough to have a lot of amazing opportunities come my way. And guess what? I'd say 95% of them happened because I blog. (I mean, I'm not great at maths so it might not be 95%, but whatever.) Hey, I even got to study my A Levels simply because I have this platform. The jobs I've had over the years? I'm pretty sure it's my blogging experience that made my CV stand out from the rest. In fact, one of my employers explicitly said that. I don't know where I'd be without this blog. Probably extremely sad with no money, no qualifications and, likely, no friends. I don't like to imagine it. The point is, a blog is so much fun to run - it can also be a great tool.

People are weird

Do you want to know some of the things people have Googled to end up on my blog? "Underfoot", "First thing's first I'm the realest", "Frog chocolate" and my personal favourite, "What is Amber's salary?"

People will find you eventually

That sounded a lot less stalkerish in my head. What I mean is that, if you blog under your real name, someone you know offline is going to find your blog eventually. A few weeks ago I got a Facebook message from someone I used to go to drama school with, someone I hadn't spoken to in about five years. She told me she loved my blog and asked if I had any tips. And when I started college, there was a handful of emails waiting for me in my school inbox about my blog. It can be awkward, but it'll happen. (And eventually you'll stop feeling awkward about it, it's all good.)

Being yourself is the best way to be

Cheesy, but true. I've learned this through writing posts that were excruciatingly awkward to write, but then getting comments and emails that told me I wasn't the only one dealing with whatever I happened to be writing about. I also realised this because there are a few posts on this blog, mostly very old ones from when I first started, where I've tried to be what's expected of me as opposed to who I actually am. Not only did they not get many comments but they were the least fun to write. Being yourself is probably a lot better for your well-being, it's more fun and will attract like-minded readers and friends. Uh, here ends your free counselling session. On to the giveaway!


I am so, so grateful to all of you for taking the time to read my posts, whether you've only read a couple or if you've been here for years and read 'em all. This post from last year says everything I want to say, really. To thank you for being so lovely, I'm hosting an international giveaway where you can win a book of your choice up to the value of £10 from The Book Depository. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here's to another year!