Saturday, 31 December 2016

6 Books You Need to Look Out For in 2017

2016 has been a bit of a crap year for everyone, really, hasn't it? So much death, so much politics... more death... I think we're all hoping for 2017 to be at least slightly better. We might not be able to control which national treasures suddenly pass away (someone hide David Attenborough, PLEASE) or who ends up in charge of the country, or whether we remain part of the EU... but there is something we can do to make sure 2017 is good.

And that thing is: to read lots of good books.

Because when the world isn't so great, there are millions of other worlds for you to dive into whenever you like. And luckily, I am here to help you with that bookish decision. Here is a mixture of books I've either been lucky enough to read early and recommend before their 2017 release, or books that I haven't yet read but look forward to reading.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard | 12th January 2017
Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

This wonderful book is about a girl called Steffi who has selective mutism, and a boy called Rhys who's deaf. You can read my review to find out more, but this book is so good that when I had a job interview a few months ago, I somehow ended up rambling about it. I think I was nervous, I don't know. But hey, maybe the interviewer ended up buying a copy after work, in which case I like to think of the interview as a success... So yeah, this is a book you'll end up telling everyone about. Literally.

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt | 1st February 2017
Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Lexi Angelo's dad is one of the most successful organisers of conventions, and Lexi helps out with each and every event despite coursework, exams, and family problems. She knows all there is to know about conventions, and they even have a 'Convention Family' consisting of the regular staff members. But then a certain nineteen-year-old debut superstar author attends one of the conventions, and things get shaken up... Unconventional even boasts cameos from real-life YA authors. Fans of Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell, say hello to your next favourite book!

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr | 12th January 2017
Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Emily Barr branches out into YA with this incredible story of Flora Banks, a girl who can only remember things that happened before she turned eleven. Now seventeen, her life consists of writing everything down on sticky notes, and she will live in Penzance with her parents and no independence forever. But when Flora's brother in Paris becomes extremely ill, her parents need to stay with him. For once, Flora is on her own - and this is her story. Check out my full review here.

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas | 6th April 2017

In The State of Grace, our protagonist has Asperger's, and she has pretty much everything she needs; until something turns her world upside down, things at home are changing, and the world becomes a lot more confusing. I've been excited about it since its announcement, and I have a feeling this is going to be worth the wait - though I'd rather have it now, of course!

Songs About Us by Chris Russell | 13th July 2017

Songs About Us is the sequel to Songs About a Girl, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. The first book saw Charlie Bloom, schoolgirl and photographer, score a job photographing one of the world's biggest boy bands, Fire&Lights - life goals, right there. But then she discovers a mind-blowing secret in the lyrics of their songs... Well crafted, incredibly entertaining, and full of intrigue, this is a trilogy you need to delve into immediately.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare | 23rd May 2017

If I ever fail to include Cassandra Clare in one of these lists - call the police, because something's up. Lord of Shadows is the second book in Cassandra Clare's The Dark Artifices trilogy. The first book, Lady Midnight, was even better than I ever could have imagined, and I couldn't get enough of Emma and Julian, the main characters who are probably the most promising young Shadowhunters of all time. The world building is incredible, too - who knew sunny Los Angeles could be so dark? Clare is one of my favourite authors, and Lady Midnight is definitely her best book yet, so I'm excited to see what the second instalment has in store for us!

Other books I haven't read but am looking forward to include Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, the second book in The Graces series by Laure Eve, Holly Bourne's mysterious 2017 release hinted at in the back of ...And a Happy New Year? and a brand-new YA novel set in Italy from one of my favourite authors, Keris Stainton. Looks like 2017 is going to be a good year for reading - and hopefully just a good year in general...

Will you be reading any of these? What should I be looking forward to in the New Year?

Monday, 26 December 2016

Looking Back on 2016

Just like last year, I've been writing this post over the past twelve months, and now it's time to share it with you. It's a bit long, but I've done some really cool stuff this year, and I think in some ways I've gone on a bit of a journey. *vom* So, if it's your kind of thing, which I hope it is... here is my 2016 wrap-up!

January: Ah, January. Always a rubbish month but it was particularly bad this year. I have nothing to say about it except my mental health took a sudden turn for the worse. I spent the month doing the bare minimum and sometimes not even that. If you have problems with your mental health and you suddenly feel like you're getting worse, seek help immediately. Don't leave it to spiral out of control. The morning I woke up feeling like I did, I self-referred and three weeks later I was receiving treatment again. Yay for the NHS. 

February: I was lucky enough to get a proof copy of Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare which I was ecstatic about and that's pretty much all I talked about for the entire month. My health was still pretty bad so... *shrug* However, I did get my first car! Yassss. His name is Phillip.

March: I was invited to Penguin Random House UK to hear about their 2016 releases and, let me tell you, their office is a place of dreams. I was also in the Independent again talking about last year's #HelpAmber campaign and everything that's happened since, as well as the Huffington Post talking about YouTube and how it's changed the entertainment industry. In the middle of all that, I went to see Allegiant. It was alright, I guess. I mean... that franchise has gone very downhill and very quickly, let's be honest.

April: I slowly but surely dragged myself out of my mental pit and things looked a smidgen brighter. I went to see a few films at the cinema including the brilliant 10 Cloverfield Lane and Zootopia. I also saw Troye Sivan at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town and fell in love with the music of his support act, Astrid S. A couple of days later I met Cassandra Clare again in Milton Keynes. I LOVE HER. At some point, I got to see Ruby Wax, too, at Cambridge Lit Fest. I haven't read her books (yet) but she gave a really interesting talk on mental health.

May: Ah, May, the month of my AS exams. Even though I did both English Literature and Media Studies, I only had exams for English. Weirdly, my AS Media exams will be next year along with A2. So, that won't be stressful at all... hopefully I'll be able to continue blogging and vlogging through them, like I did this year and with my IGCSEs! In May, I also saw my favourite local band and then saw them again a couple of days later, both times with friends. Socialising. Gasp. In addition to that, I was interviewed by MTV. Wuuut?

June: This month I went to my first ever Christening for my... step... great... niece? Cousin? I don't really know. #Awkward. I also had my first pub lunch of the summer and had what were literally the best chips in the entire actual whole world. Omg. The week after, I went to Instagram's #MyStoryUK exhibition launch party which you can read about here. One of my photos was being exhibited! Because of that, I ended up on BBC Newsbeat, Yahoo Style, The Pool, Refinery29, the Evening Standard and in Stylist Magazine. Oh, and I was commissioned by MTV (!!!) to write a piece about the disappointing results of the EU Referendum. And I went to UEA to film a video with Holly Bourne which you can see here. Life's a little bit cray, sometimes.

July: On the 2nd, I went to see The Vamps, not because I particularly like them (to be honest, I wouldn't be able to name one of their songs if you asked me) but because I live in the middle of nowhere and nothing exciting ever happens, so if a famous band comes, YOU GO. They were actually really good. A few days later, I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and it was INCREDIBLE. You can see my review here, but if you can't be bothered to read it, the bottom line is that you need to go and see the play. Then YALC came and I met so many lovely people, including authors I've known since the very beginning but had never met in person! Click here to read my event recap.

August: My much needed month of chill. There were lots of cinema trips with friends, days by the river with family, and... a daunting white envelope which took me half an hour to open because I was scared, but told me that I'd got an A in AS English Literature! I thought I'd fluffed the exams, especially as we were told a certain poem would come up, so I studied it endlessly... only for the poem in the exam to be one I'd never seen before. I'm especially proud of my result as I only got a C in the subject at GCSE and I was gutted, so I feel like I've redeemed myself.

September: At the beginning of September, before the start of my final A Level year, we decided to go on a weekend away, which I wrote about here. Not much else happened; I was fully in the swing of revision, because - and if you're about to start college, this is the main thing you need to know - revision starts immediately. Like, seriously. Keep your notes up-to-date, go over it frequently, and do this all from the very first week. Sorry to be the one to tell you that, but... it makes things easier, trust me. Later that month, I went to Paige Toon's event in Cambridge, which was great - and I even asked a question in front of everyone!

October: Pretty cool month, this was, because a local independent bookshop opened, and I began volunteering there! As I write this, I'm in the middle of organising loads of cool author events, which I'm really proud of and hoping are popular with ze locals as the first author I brought in (Emma Moss, author of Girls Can Vlog) is the first YA author to have ever (officially) visited our town. She opened our shop, and while she was here I also interviewed her for my YouTube channel. A couple of weeks later, I travelled to London for lunch with Rainbow Rowell (?!) which was lovely and she's so nice to chat to. And a few days after that, I turned 18! My verdict? The responsibility is gross and it's only going to get worse, but it's also pretty cool, so yay.

November: Another fantastic and fun-filled month! Firstly, I went to a job interview at a popular British bookshop chain... and didn't get it. So, not a great start. I don't usually say stuff like this but I'm still really confused as to how I didn't get the job, because... being bookish is what I do best. It's my life. And I have bookshop (and other retail) experience. So... what wasn't there to like? Sigh. Then it was Bonfire Night, which is one of my favourite nights of the year - I always try to see as many displays as possible, because you can't get much more magical than bursts of glitter lighting up the entire sky. After that, on the 7th, I met the members of my favourite band, aka Cimorelli, at the Brooklyn Bowl in London. And when I say met, I mean ACTUALLY MET AND TALKED TO AND GOT PHOTOS WITH. I've seen them perform before but this was my first time meeting them and TWO OF THEM RECOGNISED ME. Lisa turned to Amy and said 'Hey, this is Amber Kirk-Ford' and Amy was like 'Amber! You're a writer, aren't you?' I mean, I wouldn't consider myself one, but she wasn't far off. I was shocked????? I should probably stop tweeting them quite so frequently... Anyway, a week later, I was walking the blue carpet at the Fantastic Beasts premiere, which was weird. As I said, it was a great month, and you can read about the premiere and my not-cool-enough-for-this-hotel-and-why-am-I-on-a-row-of-cool-YouTubers-omg antics right here. Then I attended the midnight release of Fantastic Beasts even though I'd already seen it. It was even better the second time. J.K. Rowling is magic.

December: Things didn't get less busy despite it being the holiday season, because I got a job! Only temporary until the New Year, unfortunately, but for a while I've been working there nearly all day every day. My contract ends in a week or two, and - I'll be honest - I hated it at first. You don't even want to know how many cuts and bruises I have (17 cuts, 6 bruises at my last count). However, I've come to really enjoy it, and I've made friends there now. I don't wanna go. And here's the cool part: my job is in a place I really struggled to visit for even 5 minutes at a time for a number of years because, for some reason, it really triggered my anxiety. And last week I worked 35+ hours there with no anxiety to be seen. In fact, I worked 35+ hours there AT CHRISTMAS WHICH IS KNOWN TO BE HORRIFIC FOR RETAIL WORKERS, which is even more amazing. I don't often big myself up, but I think that's an incredible bit of character development, there. 5 stars. Around my shifts, I managed to fit in not one, not two, but three Christmas parties - and I managed it. Anxiety, where you at? I'm sure it'll rear its ugly head again sooner or later, but I'm enjoying this while it lasts. I also visited Ickworth House for some traditional festive fun. And then... Christmas Day happened, of course! I also got some incredible news which is going to be announced next month... I can't wait to share it with you.

It's been a weird year; the start was horrific, but it ended amazingly - it just goes to show that you never know what's around the corner. Thank you for all the support this year, and I wish you all the best for 2017! ❤

What are your 2016 highlights?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Title: The Goldfish Boy
Author: Lisa Thompson
Published by: Scholastic
Publication date: 5th January 2017
Pages: 394
Genres: Children's/Middle-grade/Mystery/Mental health
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Matthew Corbin suffers from severe OCD. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

YA books about mental health are hard to come by - and children's books are even harder. That's why I was so excited to hear about The Goldfish Boy, a children's book that features a 12-year-old male protagonist suffering with OCD. Young people can have mental health problems too... yet there isn't much available for them in terms of literature.

I don't have any experience with OCD so I can't comment on whether or not the representation of this illness was good, but the things I could relate to - agoraphobia, therapy, recovery - were done very well. It leaves us on a positive note, too, which I think is incredibly important in books about mental health - especially those aimed at children - as we already have enough to worry about, without a book telling us the future is going to be rubbish, too!

However, whilst I was excited that this book deals with mental illness, and whilst I think it was covered well, it definitely wasn't my favourite. The Goldfish Boy took me a couple of weeks to get through (practically unheard of for me!) due to nothing much happening in the first half. Something else that irked me was the repetitive statement that Matthew, our protagonist, was to blame for the death of his baby brother, Callum. 'What I did to my brother' was casually plonked in here and there in a clumsy attempt to hook the reader, and it didn't feel natural. I appreciate why Matthew thought he was to blame, and I was interested in that, but the attempt to draw me in just didn't quite seem to work.

However, I genuinely had no idea throughout the entire story who had taken the little boy next door, Teddy. No clue. I usually guess, or at least have a rough idea, so the fact that this book managed to keep me completely in the dark is a huge plus.

Was this a bad book? Despite my low rating - no. It's a sweet read that I think children will appreciate and be helped by. Unfortunately, it wasn't 100% my cup of tea!
Thursday, 15 December 2016

Knowing Your Worth, Valuing Your Work, and Being Taken for Granted

I'm really angry right now, and those that know me will know that I'm rarely angry. Disappointed, maybe, or annoyed, but I don't remember the last time I was angry... until now. Don't worry, you won't get the full force of it, but what I'm about to talk about is important, and even though I can't discuss the situation explicitly or name any names, this needs to be talked about.

Sit down, kids, it's story time.

A few months ago, I found a publishing house relatively close to me that didn't require experience or a degree. This, of course, is my dream, and I think I actually squealed when I discovered that they existed. I spent a week or two updating my CV and getting lovely people in publishing to look over my cover letter. (I'm still so thankful to these people. A section of the bookish community has my back, and that's amazing; I have yours, too!) The publisher didn't have any vacancies but it's always worth letting businesses know that you exist, should any suitable positions arise in future.
Monday, 5 December 2016

My Picks for Future Rounds of the #ZoellaBookClub

If you've been on the blog or on my YouTube channel recently (why not?) you might know that blogger Zoe Sugg has just released her second list of books for the #ZoellaBookClub in conjunction with WHSmith. And I love it. Not only does it get people reading, but our reading tastes seem to be pretty similar, meaning at least one of my favourite books gets a pretty new cover every time, and I get a bunch of book recommendations that I'll probably like. What's not to love? Seriously. Look at this stuff.

Loving the way YouTube stretches thumbnails. Stylish.

There are LOADS of books I would love to see included in future versions of the book club. I keep seeing Zoe's fans reading the books and I just want to comment and be like THESE ARE AMAZING BUT ALSO PLS READ THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS AND THIS THANK YOU GOOD DAY. But I stop myself because, y'know, I'd rather not receive a restraining order.
Anyway. Behold, utter greatness:

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso | Buy the book | My review

One of the most inspiring books I've ever read, and who doesn't love a bit of non-fiction?

When We Collided by Emery Lord | Buy the book | My review

This book made me so happy at a time when I really wasn't. It covers mental health accurately, respectfully, and in a hopeful way.

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham | Buy the book | My review

This is such a gorgeous book about a group of friends who come together with the aim of lifting each other up and achieving their dreams.

The Graces by Laure Eve | Buy the book | My review

I think Zoe would love this one. The Graces are powerful siblings and minor celebrities in their town but for all the wrong reasons. Bad things happen around them. More specifically, bad things happen to anyone who challenges them...

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne | Buy the book | My review

I am a big fan of Holly's books, as they focus on two of my favourite topics: mental health and feminism. I hugely related to this book and it is SO important.

Night School by C.J. Daugherty | Buy the book | My review

This series is seriously so much fun. A mysterious boarding school with a secret group of elite students? And with a sprinkling of romance? Um, yes please.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla | Buy the book

An important collection of essays by writers exploring what it's like to be BAME in Britain today. If you haven't heard of this book, then I have to ask: where have you been?

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard | Buy the book

Okay, so it's not out yet, and Sara's other book was in the first round of the #ZoellaBookClub, but I don't care. Steffi has selective mutism, Rhys is deaf, and both of them feel like they don't have a place in the world - until they meet each other. Everyone needs to read it.

Unboxed by Non Pratt | Buy the book | My review

I feel like the book club might be daunting for a lot of people e.g. if they have Dyslexia, or simply don't like long books. Unboxed is a completely brilliant short story about a group of friends who come together after the death of their friend and dig out their time capsule. Plus, it's written in a Dyslexia-friendly font on slightly coloured paper to make reading easier.

Some of these don't necessarily fit Zoe's/WHSmith's target audience, and there's the small matter that this, err, isn't my book club... but it was fun thinking about what I'd like to see next time!

What would you love to see in the #ZoellaBookClub?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Mile Long Bookshelf's 7 Year Highlights

Happy birthday, little blog - you're 7 today!

I'm not going to pretend this year hasn't been a struggle. When you've been blogging for so long that you've pretty much written about everything, it gets extremely difficult to think of fresh and interesting ideas. Because of that, I've been uninspired, demotivated, and... honestly, worried. For the first time in my life, there have been times this year where I've been unable to truly see a future for this corner of the Internet.