Thursday, 2 October 2014

Doing What Makes You Happy

"Do what makes you happy" is a line which has been said to me a lot over the years, and it's a line which I've said to other people too. It really does seem like the key to a good life. Obviously, there are going to be times where you can't do what makes you happy, but if there's ever the opportunity, do it. I left my old school in the middle of an important year, even though I knew it would mean leaving my friends behind and having to pick new, less-awesome subjects for my exams. I quit my old blog which I'd had for years to start this one. They were both huge decisions, but I have never regretted either of them.

When it comes to blogging, other bloggers will probably agree with me when I say we love getting feedback. Chances are you've seen lots of us doing surveys where we get to know what you really think. I did too, and the results were really interesting. Most were positive, there was one extreme negative, and a few pieces of constructive criticism. Most of the constructive criticism was really helpful, but some really wasn't. For example:

"Your reviews are too short. You should make them longer."

I appreciated the feedback but I don't want to flesh out a review with unnecessary words just so I can reach a certain word count. How boring would that be? I can just imagine someone sat there reading it and thinking, "Come on, get to the point." Similarly, if anyone has ever told you your reviews are too long and you should make them shorter, don't listen to them! If your reviews are long you clearly have a lot of thoughts on the books you read, and that's so helpful when trying to decide whether to buy a book or not. Basically, write how you like - that's the important thing.

There's also a lot of pressure in the blogging world to join in with memes or have your own feature, but you never have to do these things if you don't feel like they're for you. You never have to do anything in book blogging and no one should be forcing you into doing posts about this or reviewing books like that. Just do what makes you happy, write about things you would like to read about yourself, and have fun doing your own thing. Who cares about doing what's popular, or what someone else thinks you should be doing? Any awesome person will respect you for doing what you want to do, and being yourself means you'll get completely like-minded people reading your posts. Yay for like-minded people.

Now this post has a Friends GIF and a Dan and Phil GIF, I think I can wrap this up. Primarily, you are always blogging for yourself. It's freaking amazing that other people decide to read your opinions on things too, but if you're not writing what makes you happy then you're not going to have a good time. And this post doesn't just apply to blogging, either.

I just realised how deep this post turned out to be, so here is a random cactus to inject silliness because now I feel awkward. I don't know if anyone else will agree with what I wrote but hopefully it will resonate with at least one person.

And now I'm going to go, because I've rambled.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Title: Dangerous Girls
Author: Abigail Haas
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: 1st August 2013
Pages: 388
Genres: YA/Contemporary/Mystery/Thriller/Crime
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed.

This review contains spoilers.

Elise is dead. And someone must pay.

Anna, her boyfriend Tate, best friend Elise and a group of close friends set off on a debaucherous Spring Break trip to Aruba. But paradise soon turns into a living nightmare when Elise is brutally murdered.

Soon Anna finds herself trapped in a foreign country and fighting for her freedom. As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone is questioning her innocence. To the rest of the world, Anna isn't just guilty, but dangerous. As the court case unfolds the truth is about to come out, and it's more shocking than you could ever imagine...

Imagine how you would feel if someone threw a bucket full of ice cubes at you. What would your instant reaction be? Would you freeze, your mouth open mid-gasp? How would you feel? That's kind of how I feel right now, having turned the last page just a few moments ago. I feel numb, and here's why.

I'm conflicted. This book deserves one star, but at the same time it deserves five, and I've never experienced this dilemma before. On one hand, I only want to give it one star because I'm frustrated that I let a book, a few hundred pieces of paper, trick me. I'm frustrated that it resorted to trickery in the first place when it didn't need to - it was good enough without it. Some people might call it clever, and maybe it was. It was written in first person and yet the main character still managed to keep secrets from us, to persuade us to her way of thinking. But I also call it a quick exit. If you hadn't realised already, this is a 'whodunnit' book, and I guessed the killer halfway through. But, just like I do with every murder mystery I read, I thought, "No. It can't be," and I dropped my suspicion to focus on other characters. But I had been right the first time. It was true. And I'm irritated.

I'm not the author so I can't say who it definitely should have been, but in my opinion all fingers pointed at the murderer being Tate or Max, but not Anna. She saw her best friend and boyfriend in bed together which would be awful, of course, but to stab her best friend thirteen times because of it? It's possible but it's ridiculous. The lead up to the big reveal was over three-hundred pages long, the reveal being right at the end and lasting two or three pages. I wanted something more sinister, for it to have been anyone other than Anna, for it to have been down to someone's ulterior motive which we had yet to explore. Not just because she peered around a doorway at the wrong time.

But then on the other hand, I enjoyed a good 90% of this book. When Anna was in prison I felt sympathetic for her, and annoyed when people would 'blatantly lie' about her. I could feel her nervousness and apprehension over her future - freedom or twenty years in a prison cell - and I was rooting for her all the way. To me, Tate acted like a word which is more colourful than the one I'm going to use, which is simply 'idiot'. Most of the time, I thought he did it.

In order, here's a list of who I suspected and why.

AK - He kept taking photos of everything, which is innocent enough. But, thinking deeper, I started to wonder if he was setting the scene and had been doing so for a few months. Photos = evidence. Evidence which doesn't even come close to pointing at him.
Tate - He clearly had some kind of fixation on Elise and I guessed there was something going on with those two a long time before Anna discovered it for herself.
Elise - Yes, I suspected the victim herself. What if she'd committed suicide? That reveal would make for an... interesting ending. I didn't think about this one too much, and looking back it doesn't fit with the story anyway. It would have been discovered early-on.
Anna - This too was a fleeting thought. Reading the situation from her point of view meant we couldn't see it from a different angle. What she said, thought, and did was automatically justified. But her relationships with other people were odd enough for me to consider it, and the death of her mother could easily have sent her off the rails.
Max - He found her, and when the group first saw her body he said something along the lines of him not having touched her. I wasn't convinced.
Tate - Then I went back to Tate for the rest of the book until it was revealed, because the alibi - which he kept stressing was to protect Anna - seemed like it was more to protect him. Who knew what he was actually telling the police in questioning? For a long time I thought he was setting her up, but that turned out to be far from the truth.

So I liked that Dangerous Girls made me feel a range of different emotions, and I also liked that it shows we're all guilty for something and could easily look guilty for the murder of a friend or family member if innocent, off-hand remarks from the past were brought up. "If you go to that party, you're so dead" could suddenly mean something a whole lot more in the eyes of a detective. It could easily be twisted into something ice sharp, stripped of its original innocent meaning. It was an interesting concept to think about.

"Any one of us could be made to look a monster, with selective readings of our history."

But enough of the plot. What about the writing? I'll admit it did bore me for a while. I put it down after a few pages and, according to Goodreads, I left it for a week before trying again. But once you're pulled into the story, the writing style isn't exactly the main point of focus anymore. It's the trial. The suspects. Which brings me to my next point: more law and court cases in YA please. I always forget how interested I actually am in that kind of stuff.

I think I'll finish off this review by saying that I am thoroughly confused. Not about the plot, but about my own thoughts on the book. It's weird to like a character - or even a person you know in real life - only for them to turn out not to be the person you thought they were at all. This review might make it sound like I hated this book, but I didn't. I think I liked it, for the most part, but it's a book that messes with you. This is one of those books where you can't form your own opinion based on someone else's review - you have to try it for yourself and make your own mind up, because for every five-star review there's an entirely plausible one-star review. It's practically impossible to rate.

Monday, 22 September 2014

SURVEY: Authors and Review Policies

As a blogger, I know that one of the biggest book blogging struggles is receiving countless review requests, some of which sound great, only to realise most of them have disregarded our review policy. I don't accept eBooks for review and never have, simply because I don't have a Kindle and don't want one, yet I would say at least 80% of the requests I get offer the books in eBook format.

One of my previous posts is a general guide for authors to help them with how to approach bloggers and what not to do, but I'd love to get an author's perspective on book blogs and review policies, which is why I'm here with another one of my surveys.

As usual, the results will be published here at a later date but it is completely anonymous. There are two separate surveys, one for authors and one for bloggers. If you're a blogger and a published author, feel free to do both surveys (optional).

Please only do the author survey if you send out review requests, or if you have done previously.
Please only do the blogger survey if you have been blogging for a month or longer.