Monday, 30 May 2016

When Should You Publish Your Posts?

Knowing what time to publish your blog posts can be tricky. You have to take into account everything from time zones to typical school/work days to optimal times for engagement. No one wants to sit and work that out, do they?

But guess what? The time you publish your blog post isn't actually that important.

When do I schedule posts?

  • I publish every post at 1:30am UK time, unless it's time sensitive or I've been asked to publish it at a certain time. But mostly it's 1:30am. I plucked that time out of thin air over a year ago and it quickly became a habit - but a pretty good one, surprisingly. It means my post will automatically promote itself on Facebook and Twitter while I'm asleep, and it means that my readers in other countries will see it and interact with it.
  • Then, when I wake up, I promote it again and continue to do so throughout the day.
  • Simples.

When should you schedule posts?

I'm not saying my way is the best way. As I said, it's a time I plucked out of thin air that just seemed to work. In my opinion, it doesn't really matter when you publish your post, because people are going to see it regardless - you don't only tweet about a post once, and what's to stop people from typing in your URL and checking for themselves?

Another thing to consider, though, if you schedule your posts to publish during the day, is tweet scheduling. When I used to do this, I used Buffer, and it was fine! However, I stopped using it because I kept forgetting to add tweets to it. Doesn't mean it won't work for you, though, and it'd mean you could still promote your posts at a time when you're not actually around to do so, therefore potentially reaching a new audience.

If you're still stuck, why not run an experiment? Publish a few posts at the same time over a few days and see what the response is like. Do you notice anything different? Then try another time and compare. Which one works best for you and your readers?

When do you schedule your posts? Do you think it's a good time to do so?

Thursday, 26 May 2016

MINI REVIEWS: You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan & We Are Giants by Amber Lee Dodd

Title: You Know Me Well
Author: Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 2nd June 2016
Pages: 256
Genres: YA Contemporary/LGBT
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other - and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

A long-time fan of David Levithan (who I once interviewed, by the way; you can read that here) I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of his latest novel, You Know Me Well. I was even more excited when I realised that it was co-written with Nina LaCour, a writer I had yet to discover but had heard great things about.

And with such a cheerful cover (unfortunately not the final one) how could I resist?

It didn't let me down! You Know Me Well is such a brilliant book which, told in alternating points of view, nails the feeling of not knowing how to make the leap from adolescence to adulthood - or not wanting to. Kate and Mark both feel like this, while dealing with a range of problems that they really don't need a week before graduation. The two quickly become incredibly important to each other and a friendship blossoms that neither of them realised they needed.

In addition, You Know Me Well boasts a set of main characters who are all on the LGBT spectrum. How amazing is that? It made me so happy to see such extensive inclusion and I'm glad YA is gradually becoming more diverse.

Warm, real and relatable, this book will welcome anyone who has the good sense to read it with open arms.
Title: We Are Giants
Author: Amber Lee Dodd
Published by: Quercus Books
Publication date: 7th April 2016
Pages: 243
Genres: Middle-grade/Family/Disability
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Sydney thinks her mum Amy is the best mum in the world - even if she is a bit different. When everyone else kept growing, Amy got to 124cm and then stopped right there. The perfect height in Sydney's opinion - big enough to reach the ice cream at the supermarket, small enough to be special. Sydney's dad died when she was only five but her memories of him, her mum's love, and the company of her brave big sister Jade means she never feels alone.

But when the family are forced to move house, things get tricky. Sydney and Jade must make new friends, deal with the bullies at their new school and generally figure out the business of growing up.

But Sydney doesn't want to grow up, not if it means getting bigger than her mum. And her mum is barely four feet tall...

Another book that ventures into areas that MG/YA fiction have yet to fully cover, We Are Giants is the heartwarming story of a girl scared to grow taller than her mum who has Dwarfism. Not only that, but Sydney and her family are dragged across the country to live somewhere else, somewhere far away from their home comforts, friends, and a community that already knows about Amy's Dwarfism and doesn't bat an eyelid anymore.

For such a well-known condition, this is the first book I've read that even mentions Dwarfism. It definitely provided some food for thought, both on the condition itself and why it's not something I've ever seen written about in all the years I've been reading.

Reminiscent of Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy, We Are Giants is a sweet tale of a girl who shows that change can be hard but it won't be bad forever.
Saturday, 21 May 2016

102 (Mostly) YA Book Recommendations

A couple of months ago, I decided to jump on the '1 Like = 1 Book' trend that was doing the rounds on Twitter. Basically, for each 'like' I got on my tweet, I would give a book recommendation... and, um, I got over a hundred.

So, if you were lucky enough to miss me blessing spamming your timeline with amazing books, don't you worry because I've put the whole list here. In the end, I tweeted 102 book recommendations! It's pretty varied with books of all genres and for all ages, so there should be something for everyone.

There are lots more I could have added (MatildaDivergent and When We Collided to name a few) but I had to stop at some point and it was rather time consuming. Fun, though!

Have you read any of the books on my list? What would you add?

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

BLOG TOUR: Where the Crime Club Writes...

Earlier this month Mystery & Mayhem, a children's anthology of crime and mystery stories, was published. It boasts amazing authors such as Katherine Woodfine, Susie Day, Frances Hardinge and Robin Stevens to name a few, and I'm so excited to get reading! So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce some of the authors to create some mayhem on The Mile Long Bookshelf today. Let's see where they write!

Twelve mysteries.

Twelve authors.

One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?

These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children's crime writers writing today.

These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection, especially the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, The Roman Mysteries and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

Sally Nicholls: At the moment, I have a seven-month-old son, who is lovely, but very difficult to write around. So mostly I wait until he's asleep, grab my laptop, and type furiously until he wakes up. (He is asleep now by my feet in a Moses basket. It's very cute.) Sometimes I write in coffee shops, which has the advantage that sometimes you can send him back to sleep by rocking the pram and thus get a bit longer, but the disadvantage that sometimes he wakes up as soon as you park, and then you're sat there with your laptop glaring unopened at you, trying to persuade your little boy not to knock your overpriced coffee over.

I do quite a lot of work in the café at my local leisure centre, after I've exhausted him with swimming lessons. Sure, it means writing surrounded by thirty noisy primary school children who've just had a swimming lesson, but at least I'm allowed to ignore them. I get most work done when nice people take him away for a walk, and next term I'm hoping my husband will be around a bit more and able to help with childcare. Click here to check out Sally's books!

Susie Day: I work in a boarding school, looking after older teenagers when they're not in class; it's useful if I'm around during the day, so I usually write at home in my living room. If you're picturing Malory Towers, stop now. My view is... bins. (I like to think of it as an anti-distraction. Whatever is happening on the page has to be more interesting to look at than that.) Click here to check out Susie's books!

Frances Hardinge: I usually write in my study at home. It doubles as a storeroom, so there are lots of boxes of books, rolls of wrapping paper and general clutter, but it does have a nice view down onto a little local park. Click here to check out Frances' books!

Clementine Beauvais: Where do I write... wherever I am when I've got time!  At the moment, it's mostly on my sofa in my new house. But I wrote my mystery story for this book in my old flat - see picture! The most important thing, even more than a place to sit, is coffee, and Radio 3...

I don't know about you but I love seeing where authors write! Big thank you to Sally Nicholls, Susie Day, Frances Hardinge and Clementine Beauvais for letting us have a nose around. 

Look out for my review of Mystery & Mayhem coming soon!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

When We Collided by Emery Lord

Title: When We Collided
Author: Emery Lord
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication date: 7th April 2016
Pages: 337
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Mental Health
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.

Seventeen-year-old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, his whole life and only one thing has changed: his father used to be alive, and now he's not. Reeling from the tragedy, Jonah must take care of his family.

Enter Vivi Alexander, new girl in town.

Vivi is in love with life. A gorgeous, unfiltered hurricane of thoughts and feelings, she transforms Jonah's family and changes his life.

But there are always consequences when worlds collide...

In the months before I finally caved in and bought myself a copy of When We Collided by Emery Lord, I saw SO many positive reviews for it. I knew it would be good. After all, loads of bloggers I love had said it was amazing, so it had to be, right? But I didn't know it would be that good, the kind of good that can end a few bad weeks and make me think, y'know, maybe things will get better after all. And it takes a rare, special kind of book to do that.

You might be thinking something along the lines of: Amber, no offence, but this sounds pretty cliche, are you sure this is actually, like, good? I see where you're coming from. The reason it took me so long to buy a copy is because, despite all of those glowing reviews, it seemed like yet another one of those books where the protagonist is mentally ill but then along comes a Love Interest and they're Instantly Cured. Yes, this book contains romance and mental health, but it's well balanced and doesn't romanticise mental illness at all, I'm happy to say. In fact, this is one of the best and most hopeful representations of mental illness I've seen in YA. It's truly special and beautifully done.

I loved Vivi and Jonah SO MUCH. They were there for each other through everything and neither of them ran away from the other's problems. They held each other up and went above and beyond to make the other one happy. Jonah's family was pretty great, too. I loved his backstory and how real and believable it all was. I just.. gah. *jumps up and down*

As much as I want to talk about this wonderful story forever, can we talk about the outside of it for a second? I want the cover as art on my wall. It's so pretty and captures the essence of the book so well. I can't seem to find the rather talented designer but if somehow you're reading this, gold star for you. That cover is just as stunning as the writing inside. (Kind of gutted I missed out on the pre-order offer they had going on where you could get QUOTES on BEAUTIFUL MATCHING POSTCARDS. I know.)

When We Collided is one of those books that I just want to press into the hands of everyone I know. I hesitate to describe any book as perfect but, for me, this is. It showed that bad times aren't forever but for a short while in a huge and wonderful life, and I think that's something we all need to be reminded of now and again. The writing is raw, unflinching and reminiscent of Jandy Nelson and Siobhan Curham. Just like with their books, seconds after I finished When We Collided I wanted to read it again. And again. I cannot tell you how much it means to see a positive book about mental health that is also written accurately. This is the first of Lord's books that I've read but I'll definitely be looking out for her others. ❤
Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A Love Letter to Libraries

Some of my happiest days have been spent at my local library. I loved going there when I was younger, and I'd lose my mind every time they ordered in new books. To me, there was nothing better than a shelf of new and glorious tomes that I could explore at my leisure. Fifteen books was the limit, so every week I'd take out as many as I could and a week or two later I'd bring them back, read and enjoyed. It got to a point where I'd pretty much exhausted the children's and YA section and I ended up re-reading a lot of their stock. I was basically Matilda.

Back then, all of the librarians knew my name. Some of them even watched me grow up from a baby, to a happy eight-year-old, to a thirteen-year-old who thought she was cool, and no matter what happened I always participated in the annual reading challenge. I got older and my tastes changed but the reading challenge was a constant. To some people this might seem geeky, but in a library, no one cares. That's one of the amazing things about it - everyone is the same.

Admittedly, I no longer use my library. I'm privileged in that I get so many review books sent to me that I don't really need to use it, although I have been thinking about renewing my membership.

Some do need it, though. For some people, a library is synonymous with a lifeline. We're not all there because we're Matilda - some people rely on libraries to be able to complete homework, apply for jobs, or simply for company and shelter. Because, hey, not everyone has a computer, access to internet, or even food and a roof over their head. It's a huge disappointment, then, that Public Libraries News estimates nearly 500 libraries have closed since April 2013. Since 2009, there have been over 1,000, which is about a quarter of the UK's libraries. According to them, libraries are irrelevant (although, funnily enough, more people used libraries in 2015 than voted for Cameron in last year's election...)

It's not just local libraries that are great, either. I loved the little library we had in primary school, and I still remember some of the books I devoured through it, most of them being pink, sparkly and about ponies. Those were the days.

At secondary school, the library was even better, just with less ponies. Shelves upon shelves proudly presented the latest YA books as well as interesting non-fiction titles. I first realised I wanted to work in publishing when I found a book about how to get into the industry. Which I forgot to return when I left. I realise this makes me a bad candidate for a future publish-y person. *hides*

Essentially, libraries gave me the space to be myself. Here's what you wonderful people said when I asked why you love libraries:

I especially love that last one! It's amazing how much of an impact libraries have on people's lives, and yet they're still being closed all over the nation. It's sad, because if I hadn't had access to a library when I was younger, I'm not sure I'd be book blogging today.

I remember getting a new library card and proudly signing my name on the back to confirm my ownership.

I remember trudging home across town, having to peer over the stack of hardbacks in my arms because I'd forgotten to bring a bag.

I remember when I was in with a 'bad crowd' just before starting high school and hanging out at the library because it was central to all of us. If the library hadn't been there, I don't like to think what we might have got up to. Ah, peer pressure. (I ditched these people after a few months, it's all good.)

I remember a year or so later when me and a (better) friend went to the library after school so she could help with my MyMaths homework (who remembers that?) and I could help her with English. Loads of people we knew from our school from all different cliques were in there, because libraries bring people together whether they notice it or not. A librarian came in with a box full of brownies that she'd baked in preparation for GBBO and gave some to every person in the library, whether she knew us or not. It was nice.

But my favourite thing of all? In a world where we're bombarded with advertisements 24/7, a library is the only place that isn't trying to sell you anything. A library is the only place you can go where you will be accepted. A library is the only place where you can access internet, books, DVDs, games, shelter and community for free.

Where I live, we don't have a bookshop, but we do have a library. If the library closes, my town won't have any connection to literature at all, and thousands of children will miss out on the experience I and so many others have had. So many potential bookworms, lost. Books are expensive when you can barely afford to feed yourself.

I might not be using it at the moment, but I love my local library.

Why are libraries important to you?

Friday, 6 May 2016

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Title: The Square Root of Summer
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 5th May 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: YA Romance/Contemporary/Time travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel...

Last summer, Gottie's life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason left her – the boy to whom she lost her virginity (and her heart) – and he wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral! This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time – back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then...

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.

As I said to Harriet at the MyKindaBook event in December last year, this is one of those books where you can be doing the coolest thing in the world and yet all you want to do is snuggle up in bed and carry on reading. Not only does The Square Root of Summer have an awesome title - it also hooks you in right from the beginning. Even if it is full of physics and equations that bend your brain until it resembles a pretzel.

So, it goes without saying that this book is tremendously clever. Wormholes, spacetime, theories, screenwipes... boys, beaches, parties, music... it's all so brilliantly intertwined. I have no idea how the writer kept up with everything! The ending was such a clever way to wrap it all up and I wish I could come up with ideas as amazing and complex as that. This isn't your average YA novel, that's for sure.

I also loved that The Square Root of Summer is set on the Norfolk coast, because I've lived here all my life and it's not often our county ends up in a book. It felt familiar - the sand dunes, the quick turnaround from drizzle to scorching sun, the lack of transport meaning you have to get creative if you want to go anywhere. It captured all of it perfectly.

And Thomas! I know some of you have actual lists of book boyfriends. You can add Thomas. #TeamThomas.

I found some of it a little confusing, admittedly, but that doesn't surprise me as Physics was always my absolute worst subject. Other than that, The Square Root of Summer is such a lovely, summery read about loss, love and everything inbetween - with a difference. Perfect for fans of Maggie Harcourt and Huntley Fitzpatrick.