Friday, 26 February 2016

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

Title: Burning Midnight
Author: Will McIntosh
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 11th February 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: YA Fantasy/Sci-fi
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Slate Grey: Rarity 2. Price: $130. Effect: Enhanced singing ability.

Cranberry: Rarity 7. Price: $550,000. Effect: Better-looking.

Mustard: Rarity 9. Price: $2,500,000. Effect: High intelligence.

Midnight Blue: Rarity 10. Price: $50,000,000. Effect: Unknown. Status: One of a kind, no match yet found. Owner: Alex Holliday, CEO.

Gold: Rarity 10. Price: Unknown. Effect: Unknown. Status: Undisclosed. Owners: David Sullivan, 17, Hunter Valdez, 17.

What would you pay for superpowers?

The world is overrun with coloured, indestructible spheres that give special powers to whoever burns them. They appeared on earth one day, hidden and valuable, and David Sullivan, otherwise known as Sully, sells them at the local flea market to get by. But stock is dwindling and it looks like him and his mum will have to move. Then Sully meets spiky Hunter whose one passion in life is hunting spheres, and together they make a formidable team. But when new spheres are discovered, everyone knows the world is about to change. They just don't know how...

Lets get straight into it: some of the world building/science behind the spheres could be confusing at times. Not so confusing that it ruined the book, but just enough that I was thrown a little and had to read the sentence again. Plus, being written in third person, I felt quite detached from the characters. I wasn't always sure what they were thinking and I didn't connect with their emotions or, in fact, feel any of my own. In some ways, this was a good thing - it gave an unpredictable twist, one I enjoyed. But as a whole, it wasn't such a good thing and led to me deducting a star from an otherwise fantastic book.

What made it a fantastic book, then, I hear you ask? It was gripping, thrilling, original and fun. I've never read a book like it and the detail was pretty spectacular. As I said, it was unpredictable and I can see why it's been so hyped up across the pond. McIntosh got the teenage voice exactly right - none of the characters knew what they were doing but, with sudden responsibility dumped on their shoulders, they did the best they could.

Burning Midnight is truly unique, but if you liked Fire & Flood, Monument 14 or The Hunger Games, I'm sure you'll like this.
Sunday, 21 February 2016

Endgame by C.J. Daugherty

Title: Endgame
Author: C.J. Daugherty
Published by: Atom Books
Publication date: 4th June 2015
Pages: 375
Genres: YA Contemporary/Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Broken. Scattered. But not defeated.

The spy is gone but the cost has been high - the rebels at Cimmeria Academy have lost their leader and Carter West is missing. Nathaniel can taste victory. But Allie and the other survivors aren't done yet. First they have to get Carter back. Then they plan to make Nathaniel pay.

One way or another - the game must end.


Sometimes I like to do unprofessional reviews. This is one of them. You have been warned.

I read the Night School series in just less than a week last summer, and I'm only now writing my review of the final book because it was that incredible. During that week, I would finish one book and instantly start the next one. Welcome to my new favourite series. *gently shoves The Mortal Instruments into second place*

Night School is the most exciting, enthralling series I have ever read, and Endgame provided a fantastic, bittersweet end. I was captured within the world of Cimmeria Academy once again and, as dangerous as that place is, I wish it was real and I wish I was a student there. In that way, it's a bit like Hogwarts.

And... you know what? I got the same feeling reading this series as I did whilst reading Harry Potter. The same excitement, the same enchantment, the same happiness. Plot-wise, it's not the same, obviously. But it had the same vibe, the same atmosphere, and I loved it. Beginning each book, I felt like I was back among friends, It's such a fun series.

On the subject of characters, I loved them all. It actually hurt to finish the series because I'd got to know them all so well. It's rare that I care for characters that much, and as soon as I finished Endgame I hopped onto YouTube and watched the web-series which is awesome, as expected.

As the quote on the cover says, these books have the perfect blend of suspense and romance. The romance isn't overpowering. Allie is kickass. Daugherty is so talented. ROYALTY.

This is my new favourite series. It's official. The Mortal Instruments has become my second favourite series. The Infernal Devices is down to third. Night School is where it's at. It's just SO exciting. My heart was racing most of the time. I never knew what was coming, except for Nathaniel's spy whom I guessed pretty early on. But other than that, each and every book was a complete surprise. The character development was flawless. They all matured, they all changed, I cared about all of them. I wanted to be at Night School.

A few months later, I'm still sad to see this series end, but I'm excited to read the upcoming books in The Alchemist Chronicles, a new collaboration between Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld. Bring it on!
Wednesday, 17 February 2016

If You Liked Girl Online, You'll Like...

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg was able to reach a huge amount of readers, and a few of them might have loved it but not known where to start when it comes to other books. That's why I had a look at my (not mile-long...) shelves and selected some similar books that you'll love if you liked Girl Online. Give them a try - I loved all of these!

Love Song by Sophia Bennett
Amazon | The Book Depository | Waterstones

This is actually similar to Girl Online On Tour rather than the first book. Nina, the protagonist, is completely uninterested in boyband The Point - and then she's invited on tour with them. 

The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon
Amazon | The Book Depository | Waterstones

Jessie has never bet her biological father, but in a tragic turn of events they end up reunited. However, her father is far from having an ordinary lifestyle for her to slip right into - he's a famous rockstar. Suddenly, Jessie is thrown into the world of champagne and red carpets. It's such a fun book to read!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Amazon | The Book Depository | Waterstones

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know Anna and the French Kiss is one of my all-time favourite books. Plot-wise, I don't think it shares any common traits with Girl Online, but if you enjoyed the travel aspect then you'll enjoy this.

Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton
Amazon | The Book Depository | Waterstones

Emma accompanies her sister to an audition in glitzy Hollywood, and ends up with more than she'd bargained for when she finds herself in a love triangle.

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton
Amazon | The Book Depository | Waterstones

Another one by Keris Stainton! I picked this one because the main character is a vlogger, and this plays a big part in the story. It also has an awesome romance and is set in the wonderfully quirky Liverpool.

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout
Amazon | The Book Depository | Waterstones

If you're like me and you love travelling the world through literature, you'll like this. Set in beautiful Korea, Hello, I Love You focuses on the daughter of a record producer who wants to escape her family and music, so she leaves the US and goes to boarding school in Korea. Except her new roommate's brother is a famous musician. Some things you just can't escape no matter how hard you try. It's adorable and perfect for escapism. 

Have you read any of these? What books would you recommend to people who enjoyed Girl Online?

Sunday, 14 February 2016

How Blogging Can Help Your Career | PART TWO

My last post on how blogging can help your career focused on your CV and why you should always consider including on it your blog or YouTube channel. Today we're going to discuss blogging and how it can eventually be your career.

Someone once told me that if you're thinking of your blog as a business, you shouldn't be blogging at all. Wrong! Don't be put off by people like that. There is no right way to blog - there's just you, your thoughts and your passion for writing (or making videos, of course). I mean, making money from something you love doing can only be a good thing, right?

Affiliate links, as I've said before, aren't the best way to earn money from your blog - unless you're a blogging superstar getting millions of views a month. But it doesn't do any harm, and it doesn't require a lot of effort to make an affiliate link, so what have you got to lose? It's a nice surprise when you get an email saying you've reached the payment threshold. Waterstones, here I come.

A slightly better option is doing sponsored posts. Some people are a bit iffy about sponsored posts because they're suddenly not sure if you're being genuine, but if you are being genuine and the post just happens to be sponsored, well... that's their problem and their opinion. As long as you stay true to yourself while promoting whatever it is you're promoting, there's nothing wrong with it and you earn some extra cash.

Ads are pretty good at bringing in some extra pennies, too. You can use things like Google Adsense where they pick ads to show on your blog and you get a small amount of money, but it only enters your bank account when you reach the payment threshold. The other option is to sell ad space yourself, like I did for the #HelpAmber campaign last year and which you can still see in the sidebar. Typically, you can charge £1 per 1,000 monthly views for small ads and scale up 20% for each bigger size. So, if you get 20,000 views per month, you could charge someone £20 per month for a small ad.

The next option is to join a network, a huge step and probably only something worth considering if you have a huge audience. This is mainly for YouTubers but I know a couple of bloggers who are part of a network, too. They'll negotiate with companies, getting you good sponsorship deals, sorting out anything legal, making you look more official... basically, they'll help to open doors you would struggle to open yourself. That said, they tend to take a cut of your earnings and you need to have a pretty big audience for them to even think about you. (Also, be very careful and do your research. Some networks/management companies aren't as legit as they might seem, and some would argue they're not as useful as they used to be. Plus, some networks end up owning your content as a condition of them doing all of this for you. Yup.)

Bear in mind that as soon as you start earning from your blog - even if it's just pennies - you need to register as self-employed - in the UK, at least. This is where I'm going to ask you to read this post for more info because it explains the financial side of things much better than I ever could.

Got any more tips? Share them with us! And if you're looking for more blogging tips, click here.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How Blogging Can Help Your Career | PART ONE

In a world rapidly becoming more and more digital, bloggers and vloggers can get ahead in their chosen career just by being bloggers and vloggers. Not for everything, of course, but if you're looking for opportunities that use the same kind of skills, lucky you - your blog or YouTube channel is likely to help get you there and set you apart from the rest.

This is part one in a series of blog posts on how blogging and vlogging can help your career. Today, I'll be discussing why you should always consider including your blog or YouTube channel on your CV.

So... why should you?

Firstly, it sets you apart from the rest. I've already said that, but it's true. Sure, the blogosphere is overly saturated and there are loads of people these days who consider themselves to be bloggers, but how likely is it that another blogger will apply for exactly the same job as you? And if they did, how likely is it that they would have their blog on their CV? Having a blog makes you interesting, especially if your blog looks professional and is written well.

Unless you post once every few months, it also shows that you're dedicated and that you spend your free time doing something constructive. It can showcase other skills that you might not have thought to mention on your CV, for example web design, social media management and, of course, writing. Blogs are essentially portfolios, whether you've set out for it to be like that or not. They're windows into who you are and what you do beyond what's on your CV.

Basically, having your blog on your CV shows your personality, expertise and dedication. It's an extension of you, so if you want to have it on your CV, make sure your blog compliments you. As good as it can be to include your blog or your YouTube channel when trying to get further in your career, there are some occasions where it might be best not to. I mean, if you're applying to be a teaching assistant at a nursery, maybe don't mention your blog about erotic fiction. If your blog doesn't immediately seem to line up with the position you're aiming for, maybe think about it a little more. I want to go into journalism - specifically, I'd like to write about books - so it makes sense to have this blog and my YouTube channel on my CV.

But does it make sense for you?

Bottom line: always consider having your blog on your CV. There's a small chance your employer might not like it or even care, but there's also a chance that it'll help you get to where you need to be. Everything is moving online these days, so if you're already there then you're already ahead of the game. I'm pretty sure that I've got both proper jobs I've had so far in my life because of my blog so, if you have one, use it to your advantage and see what happens.

Is your blog on your CV? If not, do you think it should be? Where has blogging got you in your career? I'd love to know! (And if you'd like more blogging tips, click here.)

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman

Title: Alex As Well
Author: Alyssa Brugman
Published by: Curious Fox
Publication date: 8th May 2014
Pages: 216
Genres: YA Contemporary/LGBT
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Five days ago I stopped taking my medication. I think it might be one of those decisions. How do you know? Maybe if I just start taking them again everything will go back to the way it was?

I don't think so.

Why does it matter whether I am a boy or a girl? But it does. It really, really matters.

Alex As Well crushes all gendered stereotypes and offers insight into the mind of an intersex/trans teen. I'm completely accepting of everything LGBT+ but there are some aspects, like what's covered in Alex As Well, that I don't know as much about as I should. This book, for me, was incredibly interesting, insightful and unique and I learned a lot.

Alex was born intersex, and doctors told her parents to see which gender Alex seemed to gravitate towards and raise her as such. They chose male, giving Alex medication so she would develop as a boy would. However, Alex has always felt like a girl - and her parents never told her about the decision they made at her birth. At fourteen, Alex decides that something needs to be done, and begins the journey to find her true self.

Going back to what I said before, I learned a lot. I knew the basics but I never really stopped and thought about the psychological effects of being intersex/trans and some of it completely shocked me. In fact, some of Alex's mother's actions - purposefully misgendering her child, sneaking Alex's medication into her food - made my jaw drop. I couldn't believe the things she was doing/saying and yet she can't be the only parent out there who so strongly opposes their own child, so much so that they'll do anything to keep them as their assigned gender. Alex As Well made me realise how complicated life must be when you don't feel like the gender you were assigned at birth; it's not just about the physicality of it, but the mentality, how other people react, how you deal with their reactions and much more.

I've deducted a star because, for such a big concept, it's a very short book and I feel like it had the potential to go so much further. However, it's one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever read and it's definitely altered the way I think. Alex As Well is a must-read, for sure.
Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Amber's Ultimate Guide to Non-Fiction

The past couple of years have seen my reading habits change. Whereas before I'd rarely consider reading non-fiction for something other than homework, I now really enjoy it. I love fiction, but it's refreshing, inspiring and just plain interesting (hey, I'm nosy af) to read about real people who have done all kinds of things. Below are some of my absolute faves - feel free to give me some recommendations!

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

I've been a fan of the HONY Facebook page for years, and when I found out there was a book I was so excited! There's just something fascinating about finding out what a complete stranger has been through when if you passed them in the street you probably wouldn't even notice because we're all so self-absorbed.

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan is a literary inspiration of mine. 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.

The World of PostSecret by Frank Warren

Because I live under a rock, I only heard about PostSecret in December last year. I was in Foyles at their Christmas market and waiting for my mum who was absorbed in the art section. Bored, I picked this up at random, flipped through, and instantly knew I had to get it. As I said before, I'm a nosy person, and what could be more satisfying to a nosy person than a book with hundreds of beautifully presented secrets?

The Sketchbook Project World Tour by Steven Peterman and Sara Elands Peterman

I went to one of the Sketchbook Project exhibitions five or six years ago because a piece of my mum's work was there (it now resides in a warehouse in Brooklyn, I'm very jealous) and really enjoyed flicking through everyone's sketchbooks. Because their tours are pretty hard to get to - I think the one I went to was the last time they were in the UK - this book is perfect because it's a portable, scaled-down version that you can look through at any time.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

This makes for extremely uncomfortable reading, but it's also interesting and insightful. We all know sexism is a huge problem, but this book really puts it into perspective, with pages and pages full of peoples' experiences. #EverydaySexism is a movement I've been following for a while so I'm glad it's now a book!

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

This is the story of what Matt Haig has dealt with in life, from severe anxiety to depression, and how he overcomes it on a daily basis. Hope in a book is the only way I can describe it.

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

I've praised #GIRLBOSS a ridiculous amount of times and if I say anything good about it here, I'll only be repeating myself, so if you want to know what I think about it click here!

What are your faves when it comes to non-fiction?