Monday, 31 March 2014

EVENT REPORT: European Divergent Movie Premiere


Ten days ago I got an email from a PR company inviting me to the Divergent movie premiere. Nine days later I found myself in busy Leicester Square in London as an enormous red carpet was unrolled outside the Odeon and groups of friends in faction colours took their Aptitude tests in the heart of the square.



We queued for what seemed like hours in the sweltering heat to swap our confirmation emails for tickets (in the form of wristbands) and were entertained by various Erudite who were trying to kill a Divergent girl they had found in the queue.


We bumped into Jax and Alison - both fellow bloggers - and it was lovely to see them after having only ever spoken online! Bloggers Rita, Nina, Jim, Sabrina, and Debbie were there, and so were authors Luisa Plaja and Natasha Ngan, but sadly I didn't get to see them.

There were lots of fun things to do in the Fan Experience. There was a tilting climbing wall, bungee jumping on trampolines, and a tent where you could re-create the Divergent movie poster in front of a green screen. Did I do this? Yes. Do you get to see my version of the movie poster? No. It's too embarrassing, I wouldn't want to hurt your eyes.


Soon it was 2pm and we were ready to walk the red carpet. Veronica Roth arrived first, quickly followed by stars of the film Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet and Ben Lloyd-Hughes.






When we got into the cinema we found free t-shirts and bottles of flavoured water waiting for us, and we also received wristbands. Everyone loves free stuff!


I'll admit that before seeing Divergent I didn't have high hopes for it due to the negative reviews I've been seeing. However, it was AMAZING. Divergent is so much better than I thought it would be. I was unsure of whether Theo James would fit the part of Four, but he was really good. Shailene Woodley was perfect for the role of Tris, and Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn were equally brilliant. The fighting scenes were the best - I'm not sure if it was the unique camera angles or the fact that I was seeing the film on a massive screen, but these scenes especially were fantastic. There are two parts in particular that stood out for me: when Four is throwing knives at Tris, and when Tris is on the zip wire. SO SO SO well done. The director of the film Neil Burger who was also at the premiere did an excellent job and the cinematography was absolutely perfect, and I didn't notice any extreme changes from the book. I'm sure everyone reading this will see the film at some point but I highly recommend you buy tickets now.

After Divergent finished, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favourite YouTubers, Jim Chapman, who had also been watching the film. I managed to get his autograph among the mob of fangirls which quickly circled him. See, there is an advantage to being 5'1 - I can slip through gaps and get autographs. He kindly took selfies and gave autographs for a while, as did his fiance Tanya Burr, a beauty YouTuber. I also got my photo taken in front of the Divergent backdrop (you can see the photo in my video) and, funny story: the side of the backdrop fell down as I was having my photo taken. It fell onto another girl. It was nothing to do with me, I swear!

It genuinely wasn't. Moving on from my slightly embarrassing story, here is Jim's autograph!


And then we went to M+M's World, Trafalgar Square, not-so-Big Ben and the London Eye. Because why not.


If you want to see the same event from a different perspective, feel free to read this post on my mother's blog. I don't have any photos of me walking the red carpet because I was filming instead. If you want to see that and other exciting things such as screaming crowds, Jim Chapman's face, and me glaring at security, you can watch my vlog of the day here! Oh, and it might also feature Shailene, Theo, Kate, Ben, and the author herself Veronica Roth...I guess you'll just have to watch it to see for yourself. ;)

BIG thank you to the PR company for inviting me and supplying the tickets for my previous giveaway. I had an amazing time!


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Interview and giveaway with author Tess Sharpe!

Last month there was only one book on my mind, and that book was Far From You by Tess Sharpe. Beautifully written and utterly perfect in every way, I tried to do the book justice in my review, so I am very pleased to be welcoming the author of the book to The Mile Long Bookshelf today!

Hi Tess! Welcome to The Mile Long Bookshelf! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your new highly-anticipated debut novel, Far From You? I LOVED it by the way.
Thanks so much! I’m so pleased you liked it. Let’s see... about me: I live in the woods with two giant dogs, one looks like a polar bear and the other one just looks like a regular bear. They drool and shed a lot. I'm a writer (obviously) and a former professional baker.

Far From You is my debut. It’s about a young woman fresh out of rehab who is determined to track down her best friend's killer while trying to keep the relationship they shared a secret from their friends and family.

Far From You deals with drug addiction, coming out, and loss of a loved one, amongst other things. I love how you wrote about these – what inspired you to cover these sensitive issues?
My goal was to create a book featuring LGBT characters where their sexuality wasn't the biggest issue in the book. Sophie is a lot of things: Her bisexuality is a large part of her, but she's got a lot of other stuff going on. I'm also obsessed with the aftermath of things and like to examine the differences between the before and after of an event that changes everything, so that definitely played a big part in the themes of the book.

I totally agree. How long did it take Far From You to get from inside your head to retailers, readers and reviewers?
It took about four months to write in total. I was 24 when I wrote it, was offered a book deal a few months after I turned 25, and I just turned 27. So altogether, about two and a half years.

Wow! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
It's okay to be a little clunky when you start out - just write anyway! We all write crummy stuff and sometimes you have to get all the bad stuff out to uncover the good. And the obvious advice: Read as much as you can. Not just in your chosen genre, either. Read widely and broadly.

Are there any certain authors that have inspired you throughout your life?
Laurie Halse Anderson is someone I really admire and look up to. I'm deeply grateful to her because I wouldn't be here right now if I hadn't read Speak when I was 15. That book saved my life and set me on the path I'm on today. And Far From You is deeply inspired by Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia, which is staged simultaneously in the past and present.

What is the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you? Sorry, I had to ask!
I once backed into a date's car with my car. It was pretty excruciating. He was very nice about it, though.

What is your favourite food?
Mac and cheese.

If your characters were real people and you had to live with one, who would you pick and why?
I think I'd go with Mina, because she's not as doom and gloom as Sophie and Trev. Plus, she'd pick out cute outfits for me.

Good point. What is one thing you would like to achieve before the end of 2014?
I'm hard at work on my next book, so finishing it and getting it in good shape for my editors is my big goal.

And finally, why should everyone read Far From You?
I'd say you should read Far From You if you like doomed love stories or LGBT love stories.

GIVEAWAY (UK/IRELAND ONLY)

1x paperback edition of Far From You by Tess Sharpe.

Four months ago her best friend Mina died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong - a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered. Forced into rehab for a drug addiction she'd already beaten, Sophie's finally out and on the trail of the killer. But can she track them down before they come for her.

Far From You is out in the UK TODAY! If you would rather have a copy of your own right now, skip the giveaway and buy it. Seriously, it will not disappoint. You can see my review of Far From You here. :)

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow

Title: The Secret Diamond Sisters
Author: Michelle Madow
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: 7th March 2014
Pages: 382
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Savannah. Courtney. Peyton.

The three sisters grew up never knowing their father and never quite catching a break. But it looks as if their luck is about to change when they find out the secret identity of their long-lost dad - a billionaire Las Vegas hotel owner who wants them to come live in a gorgeous penthouse hotel suite. Suddenly the Strip's most exclusive clubs are all-access, and with an unlimited credit card each, it should be easier than ever to fit right in. But in a town full of secrets and illusion, fitting in is nothing compared to finding out the truth about their past - and holding on to the most important thing of all, sisterhood.

Some secrets grow too big to keep. Three sisters. One billionaire father. What could go wrong?

Glamorous. Entertaining. Fun. These are the words that first came to mind when this book fell out of the envelope and into my hands. Did the inside of the book live up to that? No, not really. I'll do a quick summary of the characters for you.

Savannah Diamond - Shallow and naive, although kind and talented. She let Las Vegas change her for the worse. Obsessed with popularity.
Courtney Diamond - The only character I actually liked. Kind. Hard-working. Genuine.
Peyton Diamond - Tough. Looked after her sisters and, in the past, her mother. Out-spoken. Mostly bitchy.
Madison Lockheart - Vain. Vicious. Probably had a more vulnerable side which unfortunately we didn't even get a glimpse of.
Damien Sanders - Not sure what he wants. Annoying. Player.
Brett - Nice enough. Wasn't afraid to defend what he believed in.
Oliver - Misogynistic. Irritating. Arrogant. Disgusting.

They weren't exactly the most interesting people to read about, and I think this plot would have been better suited to a TV series. Everything seemed too convenient. Maybe I've grown too attached to books where terrible things happen to my favourite characters and they have to overcome hurdles. Sure, it's frustrating at the time but you're eager to keep reading, aren't you? The same could not be said for this book. The first 120 pages or so were so uneventful and if one of the girls even came close to encountering a serious set-back, it would magically sort itself out less than a page later. It wasn't exciting. There was no tension, no 'race against time', and worst of all...there were three cases of insta-love. Each sister falling in love with a different guy on their first night in Las Vegas? Yeah. I didn't think that was entirely plausible either.

Another problem I had with this book was fifteen-year-old Savannah's constant drinking. A lot of fifteen year olds drink alcohol occasionally but with Savannah it was a lot and practically every night. I had a little search around online and apparently the legal drinking age in Las Vegas is 21. So what I'm wondering is, considering their mother was an alcoholic, why didn't Courtney and Peyton step in and tell her to stop? Or, better yet, her father? It was just weird and unbelievable.

Luckily the book seemed to pick up a bit after around 200 pages, but it didn't have enough substance to keep me fully interested. Then again, I'm starting to wonder if the seasons effect what books I enjoy, because in the winter I love dystopians and psychological thrillers and in the summer I tend to lean towards contemporaries like this one. I'm sure this would be a great beach read, but it wasn't enjoyable enough for me. This book was like a long prologue. Nothing important happened, and the last line of the book is SO cheesy I wanted to vomit a little bit. Very Disney. Despite what I've said, if you like Megan Cole and Helen Eve's books then you'll probably enjoy this as they're all very similar.

Friday, 21 March 2014

WIN DIVERGENT EUROPEAN MOVIE PREMIERE TICKETS!


I NEVER post twice in one day. But HOLY FUDGE DO I HAVE THE BEST REASON EVER FOR DOING SO TODAY.

I am giving away TWO TICKETS to the Divergent UK premiere! Want to win? Read on...

Experience the world of the hotly anticipated DIVERGENT movie in Leicester Square in the heart of London and attend the EUROPEAN PREMIERE!

On Saturday March 29th and Sunday March 30th Leicester Square will be transformed into the dystopian world of DIVERGENT, where fans will be invited to undergo initiation tests and, like Tris Prior, choose where they belong. Would you survive in Dauntless? Fans will be put through their paces with Dauntless training to see if you are brave enough to join their faction!

But that’s not all – we have TWO tickets for the European premiere of DIVERGENT at Odeon Leicester Square in London on the Sunday at 1.30pm, attended by stars of the film Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet! So not only can you discover the world for yourself, you can walk the red carpet, mingle with the stars and watch the film before it’s released in the UK!

Enter here for your chance to win this once in a lifetime experience! If you aren't lucky this time, you are still in with a chance - get down to Leicester Square early as we will also be giving out a limited number of premiere tickets to fans on both days!

The Divergent Fan Experience Timings
Saturday March 29th
11.00am – 6.00pm

Sunday March 30th
11.00am – 12.00pm
3.00pm – 6.00pm

Premiere timings

Sunday March 30th

Doors open – 1.30pm
Doors close – 2.30pm
Film starts 3.00pm

DIVERGENT is released April 4th
FB handle: DivergentUK
Twitter: @Divergentmovie
#Divergent

ENTER HERE:


I will also be attending the event, and an event report will appear on this blog shortly after.

Terms and Conditions: Competition will run on 'The Mile Long Bookshelf' website. Competition will run from 18:30 on 21/03/14 to 25/3/14. Entrants must be over the age of 13. Competition is open to UK residents only.Winners will be notified via email.Failure to respond to notification of winning the prize by 2pm on 26/03/14 forfeits the prize and the Promoter will have the option to randomly pick another winner from the pool of entrants.Winners will be picked at random. Prize for 1 winner will be 2x tickets to the Divergent European Premiere on 30/03/14. There is no cash alternative and the prize is non-transferable and non-refundable.If winner is under 16 then the guest must be his/her parent or guardian, whom is over 18.
Winner and guest must meet movie certification criteria.Travel not included.

Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern

Title: Amy and Matthew (known as Say What You Will in the US)
Author: Cammie McGovern
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 27th March 2014
Pages: 322
Genres: Young Adult/Romance/Contemporary/Psychology
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Amy is unflinchingly honest about her limitations. Born with cerebral palsy, she can’t walk or talk without help. But trapped inside this uncooperative body lies a brilliant mind and a luminous spirit - a girl capable of truly loving and worthy of being loved in return.

Matthew has his own set of challenges - a mind consumed by unwanted repeated thoughts, obsessive rituals and a crippling fear that he can't explain. But underneath all of the anxiety lies a deep seed of hope for someone to come along who believes in him…

This is the story of Amy and Matthew. It may not be a fairy tale romance or set in an imagined world far from our own. But the love they share is real. And yes, there's magic in it.

For a long time it has bothered me that there are hardly any YA books that feature mental illness and/or disability. If these are featured, they're usually relegated to a secondary character, and I don't know why that is. Fortunately, at long last, I have found the exact kind of book I've been looking for - Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern. And it doesn't just feature one of the topics I wanted more coverage of - it features both.

Did I love this book? Of course I did.

Amy has Cerebral Palsy, and the only way she is able to talk is by using her Pathway - a device that speaks whatever she types. Over the years this has discouraged people her own age from wanting to make friends with her, and so her mother pays a group of specially-picked students from her classes to help her get around school, and to introduce her to other people who would hopefully become her friends. She ends up getting all of this and more. While helping her new friend Matthew to accept and overcome his OCD, she is also gradually falling in love with him. And maybe that feeling is reciprocated.

These characters are insanely strong. It was like they had jumped out of the book and were acting out the chapters in front of me. I loved how they helped each other, and how they understood each other. It really was a beautiful book to read. Amy and Matthew are three-dimensional, imperfect, yet bound together in ways hard to explain. In most of the books I have read the characters stay constant, but Amy and Matthew grew as people. Every day was a new challenge for both of them, and they both made mistakes. The best word I could possibly pick to describe them is genuine.

Ultimately, this is a love story. While the romance-side of things was fun and I was rooting for them all the way, I was more interested in the side-plots, such as Amy's Cerebral Palsy, Matthew's OCD, and the other things that occurred in-between. Reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park - which many people have already compared this to - this is a highly enjoyable book which you're almost certain to love if you liked those. Wonderfully written and moving, it is one of those books that - if I had time - I would re-read again and again.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

BLOG TOUR: Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young | Tag


Caroline is at a crossroads. Her whole family is on her back, and her grandmother, the only person who really understands her, is sick, maybe dying. All she wants to do is escape. So when her best friend suggests a night out to forget her troubles, Caroline must choose: stay by her grandmother's side, or go to the party and live her life... and maybe meet the boy of her dreams.

This decision will split Caroline's fate into two separate paths - and she's about to live them both. But there can only be one happy ending...


Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young are two of my favourite YA authors, so when I was offered a place on the blog tour for their new book, I instantly accepted. However, this blog tour is a bit different. Due to the fact that Just Like Fate was written by two different authors and it features two different life paths, each blogger on the tour has been paired up with another blogger to host a day of the tour together. Today is mine and Jack's day, and we have come up with a Just Like Fate tag for you all to participate in! Make sure to check out The Book Stop to see Jack's answers to these questions.

If by some chance of fate a book from your wish list or anything else you desire could magically fall into your hands, what would you like it to be?
Suzanne: Right now, I would love a family vacation. I've had my eye on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for a while.
Cat: Wait, I'm part of your family, right?
Suzanne: Totally. You can be a stowaway in my suitcase.
Cat: I've seen how you pack. I won't fit. Oh wait, I should answer the question. I would like a clone for a month. I'm feeling oversubscribed and think that another Me could help.
Me: You might want to bring a second suitcase, Amber-sized.

If you had the chance to go back in time and change a certain decision or choice, would you?
Cat: I'm going to say no. I think our mistakes really shape who we are. The things I did when I was younger are a great frame of reference for me as I think of my twin daughters approaching their teen years. Some of my mistakes still make me cringe, but I don't think I'd change them.
Suzanne: Honestly? I would. Although I've learned to live with my mistakes, I wouldn't mind going back to fix a few of them. For example: spending more time with my grandmother when I could.
Me: I have to go with Suzanne on that one. I've been in way too many embarrassing situations.

If you didn't like reading or writing, what would your alternative pastime be?
Suzanne: Acting. I took years of theater in college and absolutely loved it.
Cat: Seriously? I never knew that about you. That's fantastic. I'd be a drummer, and/or skate in a roller derby team. I have no idea how to drum, and I haven't been on skates in decades, but I envision myself a drumming version of Olivia Newton John in Xanadu.
Me: I'd say sleeping, but I actually think I'd be really sporty. Snowboarding, ice skating, skiing, basketball, dance...

Are you known for worrying about the choices you make, or do you have no regrets?
Suzanne: I'm in bed every night rethinking the choices I've made.  I’m a mess like that.
Me: Me too.
Cat: I'm too tired at night to worry about things I've done. Though sometimes I don't follow my own rule, I really try not to waste energy with worry. If it's something fixable - or an instance when I am at fault and need to apologise - I do that quickly and try to move on.
Suzanne: Like that time you laughed so hard that you spit your drink on my new dress.
Cat: Yes. Like that time.

If you were given the ability to see two different outcomes of your future, would you choose to look?
Suzanne: Yep. I've always found What Ifs to be fascinating. In fact, I play out the consequences of a decision in my head (both sides) all the time, so knowing the possible outcome for sure would make my decision-making much easier!
Cat: For sure!
Me: I would look a few months into the future, but I wouldn't want to look any further than that...

Has a book ever influenced a decision you had to make?
Suzanne: In college I had a rough patch emotionally, and I turned to books. A few that I read from Toni Morrison really helped me build up my strength and self-worth, see things in a different way. Her books changed my life.
Cat: I can't think of a time when a book helped me make a decision, but every day, books inspire me. When I'm having a hard time writing, reading something amazing from another author sets my mind straight and gets my creativity flowing.
Me: For me, there was a series of short books I read a couple of years ago about a girl who got to do work-experience at a magazine. That series really confirmed for me that I want to work in journalism, and my decision hasn't changed since then.

I tag...
Holly from A DayDreamer's Thoughts
Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies
Charli from To Another World
Sophie from A Day Dreamer's World

Make sure to send either me or Jack the link to your tag post when you've completed it! I can't wait to read all of your answers.

But that's not all...
I'm sure you're all desperate to get your hands on a copy of Just Like Fate by now. Well, if you have a Twitter account, you're in with a good chance of winning your own copy! @EgmontUK will be giving away 3 copies of the book to 3 lucky winners before 3pm on March 27th. I feel like I should make a fate-related pun here, but I won't, don't worry. Good luck!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Title: Fire and Flood
Author: Victoria Scott
Published by: Chicken House
Publication date: 6th March 2014
Pages: 366
Genres: Young Adult/Dystopian/Adventure/Action
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Tella's brother is dying. He's got cancer and Tella is helpless to save him. Or so she thought. When an invitation arrives for Tella to compete in the Brimstone Bleed, a deadly competition that will lead her through treacherous jungle and scorching desert, she doesn't think twice. Because the prize is a cure to any illness. But Tella will be facing more than just the elements...

Pfft. Mixed feelings.

*twiddles thumbs*

Fire and Flood is not what I expected it to be. I was imagining a dark, thrilling, original dystopian, and...it was dark...sometimes. It was certainly thrilling. But original? No. It was almost exactly the same as The Hunger Games, right down to the little gold pin. After the huge success of The Hunger Games trilogy it's no surprise that the YA market has been flooded (see what I did there?) with similar books, but...y'know. Can we have something different now?

Tella's parents randomly decide to home school Tella and her brother, and move to the middle of nowhere in Montana. Tella is dying of boredom without a mall and her friends close-by, so when a small blue box appears on her bed, she can't help but feel curious. Inside is a small white device like a hearing aid, and it plays a message inviting her to participate in the Brimstone Bleed, a race to the death in which competitors will encounter four different environments, with the help of their chosen Pandora - an animal with special powers that will protect them. The prize for winning the Brimstone Bleed? The cure to any illness, and Tella's brother has cancer. If she doesn't win, she'll die trying, and so will her brother. Only one can win the race, but who will it be?

Despite what I said at the beginning of this review, I did really enjoy this. Tella's self-deprecating humour and wit made me laugh a lot, but she was also really irritating at points. For example, she tried to take purple glittery nail polish into the jungle. She had purple, pink and red feather boas above her mirror at home. She was worrying about the fact that she had no make-up on...in the jungle. She's that girl. Picture Amy Willerton when she was in I'm A Celeb and you've got the idea. Luckily, something that Victoria Scott is exceptionally good at is character development and, towards the end of the book, I actually really liked Tella, and the experience changed her for the better. What I'm about to say next is probably very controversial but I ended up liking that she wasn't insanely badass, daring, and independent like Katniss and Tris. She was just normal, goofy and compassionate. It was nice to have a break from the usual dystopian female mold.

One thing I would have loved to see more of was world building. I don't know whether the Brimstone Bleed happened in the past, present, or future, and I wouldn't be able to tell you anything about what state the world was in at that point. Fortunately the descriptions within the race were good and I could picture everything clearly, but some context would have made it much better.

Ah, cliffhangers, I really don't like you. *spoiler* After all that action, we didn't get to find out if she won or not. I need the second book. Now! *end of spoiler* However, I can tell this series is going to be extremely popular and successful. Full of adventure and moments of life and death, this is a book you will not want to put down, whether you love it or not...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

DISCUSSION: How accurate are your Blogger stats?


We all know Blogger stats aren't the most accurate. Considering there is no way of blocking bots and other fake views, your stats may end up looking a bit like this:

This is a screenshot from my stats. As you can see there are a few legitimate referring URLs mixed in like my old URL which automatically redirects to this one, the blog link in my Twitter bio, and Google. There are spam sites, too, as you can see. If suspicious links like these show up in your referring URLs, do not click them. They haven't linked to you anywhere on their site. By clicking the link, they will just attack you more. It's easy to tell if a site is legitimate or not - if you're a book blogger and a web address ending in .blogspot.com or .wordpress.org shows up in your stats, it's more than likely that it will be real. If it ends in .ru or has random and sometimes inappropriate words in it, you can be sure it's not real.

Of course, these spam sites direct 'hits' to your blog, which may cause your stats to become inaccurate. You could say from looking at the screenshot above that I got 4,689 views, but I didn't. To get a more accurate number, it's a good idea to subtract the spam sites from your total. Doing that, you can see that I actually got 3,054. The fact that Google lets in these spam referrals is extremely annoying, although some people like them because they make their stats look good. But what's the point in your stats looking good if the hits aren't real? 

But we're not done yet.

The above screenshot shows countries from which people have read my blog. I'm a British blogger and I always write in English. The fact that I've apparently had 11,062 hits from Russia and 6,097 from Ukraine is weird, and most-likely spam. The only legitimate ones up there will be the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Germany and France. You can't see many in the first screenshot but most of my daily referring spam-URLs actually come from Russia, Ukraine, China and Japan. Sometimes India. You just have to figure out what is real and what isn't, and then subtract all the crap from your stats and it's way more accurate than it was before.

Some people don't use Blogger stats at all and instead use Google Analytics, but I haven't made the switch yet. However, I do know that Google Analytics are more reliable than Blogger stats, so it's worth looking at.

Then we come to spam comments. While Blogger isn't the most reliable when it comes to stats, it's amazing when it comes to blocking these unwanted comments. I have only ever had twelve spam comments on this blog in nearly five-years of it being online, and all of these comments were blocked automatically. Isn't that great? These comments don't affect stats, so moving on...

Sometimes publishers will ask you for your stats before you join their mailing lists. Always make sure to give them an accurate number, whether it's using the method I showed or by using a stat counter other than Blogger. Apparently if you have your own domain name like I do, you can block certain countries from looking at your blog. This is what I would like to do with Russia and Ukraine seeing as it's highly unlikely people from those countries would be able to read my blog anyway. I haven't completely figured out how to do this yet, but I'm working on it.

How do you keep your Blogger stats accurate? Or had they always been inflated and you just hadn't realised?



Sunday, 9 March 2014

Blogging as a seven-year-old

I'm sure I will regret this image at some point. Older-me, if you're reading this, I apologise for embarrassing you.
Some of you may know that I've been blogging since I was just seven years old. That probably seems really weird to a lot of you! I started my first blog when I became home schooled the first time. It was great, I made a ton of friends through it, and now, years later, I can look back at mini me's thoughts!

Ah, the first guitar. The start of my addiction. Now I have seven.
'I am worried.' I don't know why that line makes me laugh so much, but it does. :')
Some people think it's cool that I was blogging at such a young age and that I'm lucky for being able to do that, while others think it's disgraceful. I wonder what those people would think if they knew I'd been using a computer since I was two...

I remember the first moment I started writing a blog post. I was seven years old, and we lived in my old house then, the one with the really small patio garden. I was sat in my pink paddling pool with an umbrella over my head because it was raining, and my grandad had recently gotten a load of free notebooks from the building site he worked on. He gave them to me. They were really big and heavy - although maybe I only think that because I was small - and I remember the papers came out really easily, but whatever. I remember writing the date at the top of the page - April, I think it was - and I started writing about the day I'd left my primary school, which hadn't been long before. Later that day, I typed it up. That was my first blog post.


Sometimes I feel really uncomfortable about the fact that I blogged so young, mainly because when people stalk my old blog posts - not naming any names *cough* Jack - I feel so embarrassed. Younger me was everything I seem to dislike about people nowadays. My lame attempts at reviews make me cringe so much, and my posts were awful. There are things I said to people in interviews a few years ago that, now, I really wish I hadn't. Apparently I didn't understand the concept of privacy. Obviously I wasn't splashing my home address and my phone number and my school all over the Internet, I wasn't that clueless, but did I really need to tell everyone so much about myself? It's embarrassing, but it's all out there now and there's nothing I can do about it. At least my old diary-like blog is private now, which is where the screenshots above are from. As Emma Watson said, "The less you reveal, the more people can wonder." She was talking about clothes (take note, Miley) but it applies here too.

On the other hand, I'm kind-of glad I got to start blogging when I was younger. I caught on to HTML and CSS pretty quickly, and by the age of ten I knew all about optimising blog posts and how to catch the attention of my readers. I'm glad I got all of that out of the way, because I honestly don't think I'd have the time to start blogging now at fifteen. I'm already in a comfortable routine, I got the awkwardly written posts out of the way before I had anything to lose. Like friends, and important publishing contacts. I once went for a year where I didn't tweet anything, and I came back to no mentions. 

...

*tumbleweed*

But seriously, I'd say there are an equal number of pros and cons. Yes, the things I've said publicly in the past really embarrass me and I wish I could take them back, but there's nothing I can do about it. I hadn't 'discovered myself' (ew, sorry for injecting such a cliche phrase into the post), so I had an excuse for being weird and socially awkward, right? Right. 

You probably shouldn't answer that question. 

I pretty much grew up on Blogger. I remember when the dashboard was a disgusting combination of brown and navy blue, and the pre-made templates available looked really cool at the time but now, looking back, they just look basic. Blogger saw me go in to double-digits, it saw my spelling get progressively better (thank god for that) and it saw me through three different schools, my mother getting married, and any random difficulties or thoughts I had as I went from childhood to adolescence. I just wish I'd made more of an effort in the first couple of years of book blogging. I didn't really take it seriously, but now I do. I still feel like I'm trying to make up for those first two years. 

I'm not sure exactly what the point of this post was, but sometimes I feel like there's a 'personal post' in me that needs to be written, so I write it. Hopefully it was somewhat interesting... :)

Thursday, 6 March 2014

BLOG TOUR: Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas - Guest Post + GIVEAWAY


Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant
plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there’s only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother’s best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek…with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart’s interests–even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart’s simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all…



Why I Love Writing for Young Adults

I feel like this post should actually be called Why I Love Writing About Young Adults.  For two reasons. First, because I know there are tons of people reading Young Adult literature who aren't young adults anymore--take me, for example!  Second, because the main reason I write YA is because these are the characters that speak to me, more so than the readers.

This is going to sound kind of weird, but I really like teenagers.  I think they're interesting--smart, creative, fierce, and tougher than people give them credit for.  Imagine your average adult juggling a full classload, often working part-time, making huge life-changing decisions like where to go to college, and trying to maintain an active social life, all while conforming to someone else's rules.  It's intense!

I love that period in your life when you've got one foot close to childhood and the other foot edging closer and closer to adulthood.  There are times when you can be as immature as a kid, whether that's eating an entire bag of Reese's minis or climbing trees, and times you have to make seriously mature choices.  Do teenagers get it right all the time?  Obviously not, but I think they're often doing better than we think. Recently, I was thinking about how teens handle break-ups.  Sure, you might say or do some dumb things during a break-up, but how many adults could handle seeing their ex- every day, like teenagers often have to do at school?

Another reason I love writing YA is that I love a good first.  First kiss, first love, first job, first big decisions.
There's an intensity to those things that's so honest.  Plus, teenagers tend to be more emotional, so it's always fun to see how they're going to react to things.

Last, I love the whole YA category.  I'm not the first person to say it by any means, but I really do believe some of the best experimentation in literature is happening in YA.  Plus, the readers are less set in their ways. Your typical YA reader will go for sci-fi, contemporary, fantasy, historical, or something totally experimental, and they won't even think twice about it.  It's exciting to know the readers are willing to try things when you come up with an idea that might be a little unconventional.

I feel like I could go on about this until it got really boring for everyone!  I just love everything about YA! I've always read it, and it's a genre of always gravitated to as a writer as well.  I can't see myself getting sick of it any time soon!

GIVEAWAY (US only)

-One annotated ARC of Ask Again Later + Swag
-One finished copy of Ask Again Later + Swag




About the author: Liz Czukas is a freelance writer (on sometimes sad or boring topics), and also writes books for young adults (which are rarely sad and full of kissing). Before that, she was a nurse and she still kind of misses starting IVs. She lives outside Milwaukee, WI with her husband, son and the world’s loudest cat. She types too loud (according to her husband), spends too much time on the Internet, and can’t get enough of disaster movies. There is *always* a song stuck in her head, and she once won a hula-hoop contest.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Top 5 Books on my Wishlist




1) Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
You know when someone tells you about a book and something makes you want the book in your hands right NOW? That's the situation I'm in. Monument 14 sounds so different and fun. Fourteen kids trapped in a superstore? Imagine all of the food you'd be able to eat, the books you'd be able to read, the trolley-surfing you could do... But it's not all fun and games. Outside of the superstore, the country is in chaos. I actually ordered this book a couple of weeks ago but my order was cancelled, and I don't know when I'll have the money spare to go on a book-buying spree again. Sad times.

2) Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Landline is one of Rowell's adult novels, and I have to admit it was the cover that first made me want this book before I'd even read the synopsis. It's Rainbow Rowell, though; I know I'll love it! The book focuses on Georgie, a woman whose marriage is in trouble. But then she finds a way to communicate with her husband in the past, and she might be able to fix her marriage before it even starts. I didn't think I would be able to wait until July to read this...and now I don't have to! I literally found out a couple of minutes ago that I'll be receiving a proof from the publisher in a few days. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW HAPPY I AM RIGHT NOW? I spammed my personal Twitter with 40+ tweets fangirling about that. Yep.

3) Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
You probably know by now that Anna and the French Kiss was my favourite read of 2013 - I waffled on about it for days - so I am so excited to read this! Lola is outrageous, ridiculous and downright silly, but she's also a loyal daughter and friend with big plans for the future (honestly, she sounds like my clone. I'm scared.) Everything is perfect until The Twins return, and Lola has to accept Cricket back into her life. The boy next door.

4) Cruel Summer by James Dawson
If you haven't heard the overwhelming amount of hype surrounding this book then you must be living under a rock. Cruel Summer is meant to be a psychological thriller with a sprinkling of romance and, seeing as I tend to flit from loving romance to detesting it and loving psychological thrillers instead, I think having both combined in one book would be perfect for me. A group of friends reunite at a villa in Spain, none of them wanting to think about their friend who recently committed suicide. But then someone turns up with proof that she was murdered...by one of the people staying at the villa.

5) To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lara Jean is a girl who writes letters to the boys she crushes on, but she never sends them, and no one ever knows how she feels...until, one day, she discovers someone has found her letters and sent them. Suddenly all of the boys from her past know exactly how she feels. But maybe something good could come out of it. Firstly, this book sounds like something I would adore. Secondly, how embarrassing would it be if that actually happened?! Thirdly, the cover is beautiful. I want it framed.

What books are on your wishlist?