Monday, 23 January 2017

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt

Title: Unconventional
Author: Maggie Harcourt
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st February 2017
Pages: 464
Genres: Young Adult/Romance/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Lexi Angelo is a Convention Kid - she's got a clipboard and a walkie talkie to prove it.

Aidan Green is a messy-haired, annoyingly arrogant author and he's disrupting her perfect planning.

In a flurry of awkward encounters, lost schedules and late-night conversations, Lexi discovers that some things can't be planned... Things like falling in love.

Fans of Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell, say hello to your next favourite book!

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...

There are so many things I loved about this book. SO MANY. Firstly, the fact that I snagged an early copy from Usborne, because I read the sampler at YALC last year and honestly didn't know how I was supposed to wait seven months for the whole thing. Secondly: Harcourt's attention to detail was much appreciated, endlessly fascinating, and authentic - I love getting to see behind the scenes! And thirdly... THIS BOOK HAS CAMEOS FROM REAL YA AUTHORS. NO, I AM NOT JOKING. I was basically just fangirling over every page. Don't mind me.

In addition, Unconventional boasts a believable romance that I loved, and some truly beautiful scenes; I'm not sure if this is something I've ever noted in a book before, but there really were. If you're good at making fan art, you'll get some gorgeous creations out of this, trust me; the material is alllllll there.

If you're having YALC withdrawal symptoms, you need this book in your life. If you're not having YALC withdrawal symptoms and you've never even been to a convention (WHY?) you still need this book in your life. Unconventional is beautifully crafted, full of fandom greatness, and is sure to make you feel good. A definite must read.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

How I Became Confident Filming YouTube Videos

Credit: @laceypr on Instagram
I'm not a confident person. I have chronic anxiety, for a start. Then there's the matter that I've always got good grades, but I constantly worry that I don't actually deserve them and that it's some kind of marking error. I dislike the way I look sometimes, so much so that one year on holiday I turned away from the camera every time a photo was taken. When I meet new people, all that's going through my head is what if they think I'm weird what if they think I'm ugly what if they laugh about me later what if they think I'm stupid what if they're disappointed what if I come off as rude because I'm so busy worrying.

I don't think I'm completely alone in that.

And yet, a few years ago, I was happily prancing around at drama school, drama club, and another drama club - yeah, I did three - because it was My Thing. Diving into emotional improvisation with people I'd never met; learning pages and pages of a monologue until I was word-perfect and then performing it in front of important director-y people; attempting to run through an entire world of accents in front of the class; being given a leading role and being nervous but not that nervous. All of that was My Dream, and I was doing it. Words can't explain how much I loved it. I was going to be an actor one day and no one was going to stop me (except myself, as it turned out.)

And before that, I was on track (oh, puns) to be pretty successful in sport... Which is interesting, because the sofa is my best friend and I genuinely miss my bed when I get out of it. McDonald's is life. The only time I run is if I'm about to miss a train. And yet, I probably would've been well on my way to being on Team GB by now. Apparently. This is not my own opinion. I was very young and I quit because even at the age of 5 or 6, the coaches were big on pressuring us about our weight (yet bribing us to work harder with free chocolate???) but that's another story for another day... I may or may not include an embarrassing photo. We'll see.


Anyway. Amber, how is that relevant to your YouTube videos?

It's relevant because even though I would now hate being in the harsh environment of a drama school, and sport really isn't my thing anymore... there's still a sliver of performer in me. Just a little bit. Enough for me to not care too much about being on video. Not that I like the sound of my own voice, but I don't think it sounds terrible on camera... And I often think I look gross in my videos, but I upload them anyway because this is the face I was born with and I'm not going to let it stop me from doing things I like to do. That said, I nearly have let it stop me in the past. I still have a video I made in 2014, announcing that I would be quitting YouTube.

I never uploaded it because I saw sense and got over myself.

My point is, I think everyone has a sliver of performer in them - or, if not, I think this is something that can be developed over time. No one is immediately comfortable in front of a camera. It's easier for some people, sure, but it's something you get used to, just like starting at a new school, or learning to drive; some people take ages, some people are fine within a few weeks, but most people get there eventually.

Related: How I Make My YouTube Videos

Aside from that, there's the fact that everyone sees you differently from how you see yourself. You might think you look disgusting, but I guarantee someone else thinks you're beautiful - after all, there are 7.4 billion people in the world, not to mention a bunch of wonderfully different cultures each with completely varied ideas when it comes to beauty standards. And as for your voice? It's exactly the same concept. I find my accent pretty boring and ordinary, and kind of annoying sometimes, but there's one person who literally only watches me because I'm British.

Which, now I think about it, is not the best thing I've ever been told. But I'll take it. Thanks for subscribing anyway.

To wrap up? I became confident on YouTube by finding my inner performer, talking to the camera like I would talk to a friend or even myself, and... I try to ignore my issues. Yep. If I'm having a 'bad face day' (every day, kids, every day) I just make myself not think about it; the same goes for any other visible thing I dislike. They say that we're our worst critics, and it's true - who's going to notice that you're having a bad hair day? And if they do notice... will they really care? The world doesn't revolve around me, or you. There are worse things going on, after all.

It's easier said than done, but it's the truth.

A good tip floating around on the Internet is to film loads of videos and get comfortable with it before uploading anything - then you'll be awesome straight off the bat. I didn't do this. Learn from my mistakes. (And if you're not subscribed to me on YouTube, you definitely should be. Just saying.)

If you make videos, how long did it take you to become confident with it? If you don't make videos, do you think you ever will?

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Girl Online: Going Solo by Zoe Sugg

Title: Girl Online: Going Solo
Author: Zoe Sugg
Published by: Penguin Random House UK
Publication date: 17th November 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Friendship
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

As Penny starts the school year she's ready to face the world - alone. Noah has gone off the radar after ending his world tour early and no one, including Penny, knows where he is. So when she accepts Megan's invitation to visit her performing arts school it seems like an opportunity to make some new friends.

Helping everyone else seems to be the right remedy - Elliot needs her friendship more than ever, and she meets Posey, who she can really help with her stage fright. But is charming Scottish boy Callum the right kind of distraction? And can Penny truly move on when Noah's shadow seems to haunt her round every corner?

One of my favourite trilogies has come to an end, and I am so sad that it's over. Girl Online has had a bumpy ride in 'the industry' (to be said in the voice of a hipster record-label manager with an open shirt and sunglasses) but I've really enjoyed the new instalments that have popped through my letterbox every November. What am I meant to do next November? This is like when The Missing ended and my Wednesday nights were suddenly a lot less exciting/creepy. Anyway, staying on topic...

In Girl Online: Going Solo, Noah has disappeared after ending his world tour early, and only his manager knows where he is. Megan is no longer in Brighton but in London at a prestigious drama school, where not everything is as it seems. Elliot is dealing with more family troubles, and Penny is juggling heartbreak and her mental health with trying to further her photography career, move on from Noah, help out with her mum's business and help her friends who need her now more than ever. The question is, can Girl Online cope with going solo?

Related: My Picks for Future Rounds of the #ZoellaBookClub

If you hadn't realised by now, I relate to these characters so much - especially Penny - that by the end of the book, I feel like they're actual friends, and then I'm like: Amber, they're fictional, it's over, chill, move on. For a while, Penoah is simply PenPo, in which I mean Penny is on her own as Noah has disappeared. And, even though I love Penny and Noah's relationship, I liked getting to see who Penny was on her own and what she got up to, and in this time she made loads of progress with her anxiety, which I was so happy to see. Sugg has really found her footing in terms of writing, and coupled with the fact that Penny has grown, achieved personal goals, and found what is 'uniquely Penny', this is my favourite book of the trilogy. So far. Because you never know and I live in hope.

Full of feel-good vibes, Girl Online: Going Solo is perfect for fans of Cathy Cassidy and Holly Bourne. (Also, if Girl Online has given you a book hangover too, you might enjoy Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell, the Jessie Jefferson books by Paige Toon, and Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout. I've got your back.)