Thursday, 29 June 2017

My Cringiest Blog Posts

As many of you will know, I've been blogging for ten years or so, and everyone knows that the younger you are, the less of a 'filter' you have, not to mention less of an ability to spell or to run a blog to the same standard that you can ten years later... I know many bloggers and vloggers delete their old content or at least make it private, and to be honest I've considered doing the same, but I always end up leaving it there. I've made no effort to hide my old blog posts - the archive is always readily available, just over there to your right. This doesn't mean that I'm not embarrassed by some of them, because I am, but I'd like them to stay. I like knowing that I can easily read about what I was getting up to so long ago if ever I want to, and I feel like it gives this place an extra dimension.

You know when you're down to two scheduled posts, and you're so desperate for blog post ideas that you end up deciding that embarrassing yourself is the only way forward? That. You know what I'm going to say next, don't you?

Let's take a trip down memory lane and look at my old blog posts! To whet your appetite, a couple of hilarious anecdotes from my old blog that apparently needed entire blog posts to themselves...

Yeah, this is what you're getting into by reading the rest of this post. I hope you're ready.

First up, I thought it'd be appropriate to share my first ever post on this blog, which is a review of Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami. Excellent author, excellent book... and a review, posted on 1st December 2009, consisting of three very short paragraphs and the words, "I highly recommend it to anyone who absolutely loves Narinder Dhami books!" YES, I RECOMMENDED THE BOOK TO PEOPLE WHO WOULD HAVE BOUGHT THE BOOK ANYWAY. I also made sure to note that the book had "happy parts, sad parts [and] funny parts" because when I asked for advice on how to write book reviews, I was told to mention how it made me feel and, um, I don't think such a vague sentence listing three emotions that I didn't even attribute to myself is quite what they meant. If you look in the dictionary, you'll find me under 'vague'.

Next is a post titled 'Book Swag', which was originally called 'Some Great Gifts', published on 14th January 2010. Neither of them are particularly intriguing titles, are they? The post is a short one (surprise!) consisting of four grainy, dimly-lit photos taken on an ancient Nintendo DSi. The first sentence - of two, you understand - uses an EMOTICON. No, not an emoji, an EMOTICON. Made of PUNCTUATION. Good god.

The cringe is not over. Published on 2nd February 2010 was my review of Luisa Plaja's Split by a Kiss, a book I adored but to which I only dedicated a two-paragraph review. Writing at length is something I genuinely really struggled with when I was younger, and still do to some extent - this is partly why I binned my dream of ever writing a novel partway through my teenage years (that dream has since returned, I might add!) I suppose the review isn't the worst, but I don't think I could have been any more vague. Are you sensing a theme here? I'm going to interrupt this cringe-fest to give myself some credit, because just a month later you can already see that my reviews are slightly improving. It's still very short, but my review of Paper Towns by John Green in March 2010 is sliiightly more detailed, and you can tell - well, I can at least - that I'm trying!

Skipping forward to 2012, I'd twigged the existence of ~seasonal content~ and published a list of my top 5 romance books on Valentine's Day. Admittedly, in my old age, I don't remember three of them, so... that's awkward. Who's up for an updated version next year?

It gets a little less cringe from there, and I just stumbled across my 'Design Timeline: 2009-2013' post which is genuinely quite interesting. As I say in the post, it's fascinating (for me, anyway) to see the change in blog designs which correlates with me getting older and developing my own style. It also amazes me to see that I've only ever had four blog designs, including this one, in nearly a decade. Just a heads up: I've been desperate for a new one for about a year now, so a fifth and hopefully final design might be happening soon. You know, when I stop being lazy. (I'm too fussy and no design I've seen perfectly fits the image in my mind, that's the problem.)

So, there we have it. If you want more cringe with a hint of nostalgia, check out my latest video below in which I read a bunch of old stories I wrote, aged six. It's... weird. And vaguely disturbing in places. Don't say I didn't warn you.

How long have you been blogging? Do you have any cringe stories to share?

Saturday, 24 June 2017

EVENT RECAP: The Blogosphere Blog Awards 2017

I stopped reading magazines a few years ago. I was sick of the rotated content, the amount of hypocrisy that could be found in one issue alone, the constant feeling of being told what to do and how to look. Then I found Blogosphere Magazine, possibly the only physical publication for bloggers, and it quickly became the only magazine I ever bother buying.

That's why I was hugely excited when, earlier this year, I woke up to a tweet from them saying that I was shortlisted for Book Blogger of the Year in their inaugural #BlogosphereBlogAwards! Apparently there had been a nominating process beforehand but it seemed I'd missed it completely, so it was a massive surprise. To be nominated along with approximately 6,000 other blogs and then shortlisted with just four other people is mad, really.
Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How to Feel More Included in the Blogosphere

Being a new blogger can be hard. It's like that first day of school where everyone else seems to have their friendship groups sorted and you're not sure where, or if, you'll fit in. And like school, the blogosphere is full of unspoken rules. It's a hard one to navigate, that's for sure, and seeing as I've been kicking about for a while in this glittery community of greatness, I thought I'd put together a list of ways you can feel more included.
Friday, 16 June 2017

Teens in the YA Community

The YA book blogging community is, funnily enough, very focused on teenagers. Why shouldn't it be? YA literally stands for Young Adult, and it makes sense that this is what the community would centre around. Having said that, for a community and industry focused on teenagers (and profiting from them) there are a lot of issues.

These are issues that I've never really spoken about, and to be honest, I don't think I've been massively affected by them. Yes, I've been publicly slagged off by adults who should know better multiple times, but others have had worse. I was still in single digits when I started book blogging, and by the time I was officially a Teenager™, I'd been in the community for so long that I don't think I ever felt inferior or excluded. Maybe I was and I was just blissfully unaware.
Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Recipe for My Perfect Book

What would you need to see on the cover of a book to make you gasp and immediately buy it? What elements make a book perfect? What's your type? I was thinking about my personal preferences earlier, and I think they'll be fairly obvious to long-term readers of this blog because I rarely venture outside of my comfort zone, but here we go - the recipe for my perfect book...

1 tbsp of faraway places

I'm not talking about a faraway fictional world, because although I've enjoyed the odd one here and there, I'm more into realistic fiction than fantasy. I'm talking about countries I've never visited, but hope to. Books are passports, and a book that can take me somewhere different always piques my interest.

A small town (optional, for garnish)

It depends on the story, okay? Sometimes I'm all about a small town tucked away in the English countryside. The social and political aspects of small-town life are very different to those anywhere else, and it's pretty hard to nail unless you grew up in one. A couple of books that do this really well are Harriet Reuter Hapgood's The Square Root of Summer, and Katy Cannon's And Then We Ran.

A dash of love interest

I've enjoyed plenty of books without love interests but, if well-crafted, a love interest can make everything that bit more... interesting. I mean, 'interest' is literally part of the name, after all.

200ml of sub-plots

I can't deal with a book when it's just one line of thinking. I need more, and I need it to be clever; they don't all need to tie up at the end, but it should be satisfying. I want to be in awe of how the author weaved and balanced them in such a talented way. I loved Simon James Green's Noah Can't Even for many reasons, and this was one of them.

50g of problems

I don't think I'm the only one who wants their favourite characters to have an easy ride yet simultaneously craves drama to get in their way. As the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy, right? And a happy ending is always more satisfying when the characters have gone against the odds. (No deaths, though. STOP BREAKING MY HEART.)

A pinch of LOLs

But in addition to drama, I need humour. A few witty remarks, a lighthearted moment, some well-placed sarcasm... I'm all over it. 

180g of fast pacing

I love a book that isn't slow, that keeps me reading, that has enough going on to make it really hard to put down. Don't let me get bored because as soon as I put it down, I will find it difficult to ever pick it back up. Soz.

4 tbsps of cover quotes from a favourite author

If one of my favourite authors likes a book, then hopefully I will, too. And quotes given to a book are usually from authors who write similar books, which is a good sign.

What would make your perfect book?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

11 Reasons I Loved Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Title: Seven Days of You
Author: Cecilia Vinesse
Published by: Hachette Children's Group
Publication date: 9th March 2017
Pages: 321
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Sophia has spent her life ping-ponging between different countries and schools so saying goodbye to Tokyo - her home for the last few years - should be easy. But then Jamie shows up. He and Sophia used to be friends... and his return stirs up feelings she thought she'd forgotten.

Suddenly, hours and minutes become meaningless. Only time spent together, exploring the hidden streets of the city they love, is real.

If these are going to be her last seven days in Tokyo, Sophia's going to make them count.

1) I made the mistake of starting this the evening before a full day of volunteering, and stayed up far too late because I couldn't put it down... no regrets, though.

2) Seven Days of You is set in Tokyo, aka the coolest place ever. Tokyo's eclecticism makes the perfect backdrop for a city adventure.

3) In this book, fans of Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han, and Katie M. Stout will find their new favourite read... 

4) And a new book boyfriend: Jamie Foster-Collins.

5) Sophia, Mika, David, Caroline and Jamie all have lots going on, and it all receives equal attention. Vinesse nails the complications of teenage relationships.

6) In fact, some of it was ONE HUNDRED PERCENT relatable. This bit is me. Everyone I've sent it to agrees.

7) It was laugh-out-loud funny, and - clearly - the voice was spot on...

8) I am a huge fan of books set in faraway places I've never encountered, and Seven Days of You definitely ticked my 'wanderlust' box. Someone take me to Tokyo, please (but really gradually with lots of short flights because I am not getting in a flying death container for, like, 16 hours straight.)

9) Despite only being set over seven days, the book packs so much in, and it's easy to feel like you are in Tokyo. (Especially if you are literally reading it in Tokyo.)

10) It's one of those books that will immediately have you yearning for a sequel. So, um... just saying. *hopeful face*

11) Basically, Seven Days of You has everything you could possibly want from a YA contemporary, neatly wrapped in Vinesse's skillful writing. If you're in need of some escapism, I highly recommend this.

Have you read Seven Days of You? Do you think you will?

Thursday, 1 June 2017

All of the Authors I've Ever Met (Probably)

During the last couple of years I've been able to meet a lot of my favourite authors at panels, signings, blogger events, or to make YouTube videos. Mainly, it's down to YALC. If you don't know, YALC is the Young Adult Literature Convention held as part of London Film and Comic Con, and it happens every year. It is the BEST. Before it became a thing, despite being a book blogger, I didn't get to meet anyone like that very often - mainly because of my anxiety, but also because of where I live, which isn't too far from London but isn't too close, either. (And we all know how London-focused the publishing industry is, but that's a rant for another day...)

Every day, I would see lucky London bloggers tweeting about the latest signing they'd gone to, or the latest launch, and I was constantly wondering: how do they do that? I knew how, obviously - they lived in London so they could go to events whenever they liked, because there's always something bookish going on. In contrast, I'm pretty sure the two bookshop events I chaired at the beginning of the year were the first YA events our area had seen in a decade. And, y'know, the London bloggers were adults (mostly.) And most of them probably didn't have anxiety. But when I was asking myself how they did it, I think my actual issue was that I just couldn't imagine it; I couldn't imagine going to loads of events and meeting more authors than you can even remember when asked. Because... what an amazing scenario?!

And now, mostly thanks to YALC and my new railcard, I kind of can - not as much as bloggers who live in the city (or any city, really - literally everywhere else is busier and more bookish than where I live) but still much more than I could a few years ago. Up until July 2014, I'm pretty sure I'd only met one author, the lovely Cathy Cassidy, whilst other bloggers were meeting 20 or 30+ per year. Or per month. I don't make a habit of counting how many authors other people go to see, but you know what I mean.

Since July 2014, I have met...

  1. Rainbow Rowell
  2. Carrie Hope Fletcher
  3. Cassandra Clare
  4. C.J. Daugherty
  5. Kass Morgan
  6. Chris Russell
  7. Sophia Bennett
  8. Keris Stainton
  9. Laure Eve
  10. Sophie Kinsella
  11. Keren David
  12. Perdita Cargill
  13. Honor Cargill
  14. Lauren James
  15. Holly Bourne
  16. Sara Barnard
  17. Harriet Reuter Hapgood
  18. Paige Toon
  19. Emma Moss
  20. Lauren Laverne
  21. Simon James Green
  22. Tom Fletcher
  23. Jacqueline Wilson

And at panels or other events, I've seen but not necessarily met...

  1. Juno Dawson
  2. Sally Green
  3. Veronica Roth
  4. Sarah Rees Brennan
  5. Holly Smale
  6. Malorie Blackman
  7. Simon Mayo
  8. Nadia Shireen
  9. Dave Rudden
  10. Clare Balding
  11. Annie Try
  12. Samantha Shannon
  13. Robin Stevens
  14. Ruby Wax
  15. Sarra Manning
  16. Sarah Crossan
  17. Annabel Pitcher
  18. Liz Kessler
  19. Lisa Williamson
  20. Ed Vere
  21. Adrian Edmondson
  22. Natalia O'Hara
  23. Lauren O'Hara
  24. Emily Barr

Weirdly, it's almost perfectly equal, although I've probably missed some... whether I have or not is going to bug me for the rest of my life. But I'm so thankful to have been able to meet or watch all of these awesome and inspiring people, and I just wanted to thank them all, along with various event organisers and publicists, for bringing the love of reading across the country and inspiring the next generation of authors. I feel so inspired by simply being in the presence of these word wizards - here's to seeing (or meeting!) many more!

Which authors have you met?