Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The New Blogger's Guide to Following Bloggers on Twitter

Well done me for accidentally covering up my own face. I guess you could see it as an improvement.

When you first create a blog, you'll fall into one of two categories: either you'll have no idea a whole blogging community exists, which is the possibly outdated category I used to be in (?!) or you'll know there's a blogging community but you'll have no idea where to start. Because it's a pretty massive community. Like, global. Who do you follow? How do you find new blogs to read? You know they're all out there somewhere but it would be so handy if there was just a list...

It wouldn't be possible to make a list of every single blogger in the world, but to get you started, here's a list of blogging pals you should be following. I've put one of these lists together before, but it was ages ago and I've made so many new friends since then (so, a side note: if you're an old friend of mine, you're not on here because you were on the last one!) Now, originally this was going to be a list with a bit of writing about each person, but it soon became apparent that I was basically saying the same thing over and over again. They really are very good eggs.

For ease, I'll be linking to people on Twitter - you don't have to have Twitter to look at their profiles and then their blogs. Go and show them some love!

And while we're here, why don't you add to the list in the comments? Partly to help the newbies, and partly - selfishly - to help me... it doesn't matter how long you've been blogging (don't even ask, but I'm 18 in human years, and wrinkly and grey-haired in blogging years) you'll never know everyone.

Who should we be following?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

My Favourite Photography Books, and the Joy of Capturing Memories

It's no secret that I love taking photos. Up until a couple of years ago, I would photograph practically everything... and online it would go, regardless of whether it was good, bad, or part of a series of identical photos for no apparent reason. They'd all be uploaded. These days, I'm more selective with what makes the cut, and I no longer photograph everything. That doesn't mean I'm no longer into photography, but rather the opposite: I've actually fallen in love with it even more.

I like to be behind the camera and in front of it, and I love the process of setting up a flat-lay or composing a shot, editing photos so they look their very best, and looking at these captured memories years later. Even the anticipation that comes with developing a photo if I'm using my old Polaroid Supercolor, aka the best charity shop find ever. Taking photos is a bit like blogging, I suppose, isn't it? It's all a form of documenting something. I don't think I'm amazing at it - far from it, and I would love the opportunity to improve, somehow - but I'd like to showcase some of my favourite photos here on the blog at some point. I'll have to ask my friends, first, as they're in some of the photos. We'll see!

I love looking at other people's photos, too - even more if they're in a book. Who wouldn't want their main hobbies combined into one? My favourites are photographers that tell a story, for example Brandon Stanton, the creator of the Humans of New York series, and Cathy Teesdale, creator of Humans of London. Ordinary people become momentary models, and we hear the stories of people we'd probably never meet. I also love Alexandra Cameron, one of the most popular and sought-after photographers in the blogosphere. She doesn't have a book out, but I reckon there's definitely demand!

Every single one of my photography books, you might have noticed, revolves around a place. Because that's another thing: I love travel. And if you can't actually go to a place (ahem, New York) then looking at photos is the next best thing.

Though I haven't used them for this purpose, photos of people like the ones you see in any Humans of... books would make great writing prompts. I was recently sent New York in Colour (are you seeing a theme here?) which is a collection of photographs by Nichole Robertson. It's said to capture the city as never before, and I can definitely see that. Organised by colour, it gives a glimpse of the tiny details you might not notice whilst being a visitor in a huge and overwhelming city. After all, in a place where noisy, bustling crowds and glaring billboards dominate, who's going to notice the beauty of a stack of golden pretzels, the primary colours of the seats on the subway, or bright yellow bananas sold on the side of the street? Robertson also created Paris in Colour which I need to get my hands on, although I'm starting to run out of space for books... she says, as if space for books didn't become limited the moment she learned to read...

I rarely use my camera on a manual setting, and if you wanted to know what aperture was, you wouldn't ask me because I don't have a clue. Nonetheless, I love all aspects of photography, from the joy of finding what I know will be a good shot to flicking through the work of others, and I'd definitely like to broaden my collection of books on photography. Might need to move somewhere bigger first, though, preferably with its own library. One day.

Do you have any photography book recommendations?

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Girl's Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski

Title: The Girl's Guide to Summer
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Published by: Orchard Books
Publication date: 15th June 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Sydney Aarons is leaving her Manhattan townhouse for a summer backpacking around Europe with her best friend, Leela. They're visiting London, France, Italy, Switzerland and everywhere in between - it's going to be the trip of a lifetime.

BUT... The trip gets off to a bad start when Leela's ex-boyfriend shows up on their flight out of JFK. When they touch down in London, Leela Instagrams their every move in the hope Matt will come and find them... Which he does, along with the most gorgeous guy Sydney has ever seen.

Will Sydney's summer fling last the distance? And what will happen when they all head home?

Much earlier this year, lusting after a new book or two, I came across I See London, I See France - Sarah Mlynowski's latest YA novel. Her debut, many books ago now, was one of the first books I ever reviewed, and it had been far too long since I'd had a good dose of her writing. Unfortunately, this new one wasn't publishing here across the pond, and after tweeting the publisher to check only to get no response (le cry) I kind of gave up on it. Then I saw a tweet in my timeline which included a photo of a Sarah Mlynowski proof... called The Girl's Guide to Summer. And lo and behold, it was the same book! Cue happy Amber.

If you know me at all, you'll know that I love to travel vicariously through the books I read, hence why the original title grabbed me in the first place. A book about a summer spent backpacking around Europe? Get on my shelf immediately, please. I really liked that aspect - it was fun, summery, and everything you might expect from two American teens taking on Europe. Hostels; making three outfits last several weeks; awkward flings; making new friends; accidentally going way over budget, and making memories to last a lifetime. In that respect, it was what I wanted and what I had expected.

However, some of it felt rushed and unfinished, including the ending which was pretty anti-climactic. As well as that, I had no idea until I started reading that Sydney's mum was agoraphobic and suffered with panic attacks. Some of you will know that I have experience of this myself, and I always appreciate literary representation when done well. But I wasn't 100% sure about this one. It seemed to me that she was treated like a burden a lot of the time, and I get that many kids probably do feel like that towards their ill parents if they're having to look after them all the time - not all of them, of course, but it's no easy achievement. However, the constant sense of the mother being a burden jarred. I'm not saying that it shouldn't have been written like that, because that would erase the experiences of a whole group of young people who struggle with caring for their parents, but I think it could have been handled slightly better. It read like the mother was pathetic and weak, and... I don't think people who are inwardly battling demons whilst outwardly smiling and trying to look okay for the sake of others are weak. Maybe that's the problem - that there wasn't much strength placed on the mother, if at all; the focus was always on what she couldn't do, not on what she could. And plot-wise, there didn't seem to be much need for it - or much room. It always felt like an add-on. Instead of a lacking sub-plot which in hindsight detracted from the main chunk of the novel, we could've had a strong, focused, steady plot, done well with no distractions. Like I said, I appreciate mental health representation in books - but please either do it well, or not at all.

I liked the idea of The Girl's Guide to Summer, and most of it I genuinely enjoyed... but it could have been so much better, too. It's an entertaining read full of travel, drama, and adventure, but as much as I love Mlynowski's previous work, don't expect this one to be your new favourite read.