Saturday, 30 August 2014

Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

Title: Valentine Joe
Author: Rebecca Stevens
Published by: Chicken House
Publication date: 1st May 2014
Pages: 160
Genres: Middle grade/War/History
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Buy the book (Waterstones) | Buy the book (The Book Depository)

Rose goes to Ypres in Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great War. There, the name of one boy stays in her mind: fifteen-year-old Valentine Joe. That night, Rose hears marching and when she looks out of her window, she sees a young soldier...

Unfortunately, this is one of those three-star reviews, a.k.a one of those reviews which is difficult to write because you didn't love it but you didn't hate it either.

We'll start with what irked me a little.

Valentine Joe was on the brink of being slightly too young for me, which is no fault of the book of course, but the language was very simple and didn't go into much depth about the war. That really disappointed me because history is one of my favourite subjects and I've been interested in the war ever since I was really young. This is a MG book so it makes sense that the language would be simple, but it was almost bland. Not to mention the book was written in third person, which can work occasionally, but this time it just made me feel so detached from the characters. I didn't connect with them at all.

It was slow to start with, too, but soon enough I was joining Rose on her search for Joe, through trenches and barracks to vintage cafes and a mysterious hotel. I enjoyed it, but I had expected it to be phenomenal and...it just wasn't. It was okay. It's set in Ypres, a place I've wanted to visit since way before I discovered one of my relatives is buried there, as he was killed in WWI. And it was clear that the author had done a LOT of detailed research, right down to what a visitor might see from the window of the Eurostar as it pulls into the city.

If you're a fan of war stories then it's highly likely you'll enjoy this, but don't expect it to be completely mind blowing. In a word, Valentine Joe is bittersweet.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Pointless Book by Alfie Deyes

Title: The Pointless Book
Author: Alfie Deyes
Published by: Blink Publishing
Publication date: 4th September 2014
Pages: 192
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Brought to you by YouTube Vlogger Alfie Deyes, The Pointless Book is the ultimate addition to his YouTube channel - a weird and funny video-diary of fun, challenges and nothingness: bake a cake in a mug; take part in a people-watching challenge; create a time capsule; diarise a week of your life, and learn to make origami. Fully illustrated and packed with a host of games, activities and pranks, Alfie invites you to join his online following as he challenges you to complete your journal of pointlessness and do virtually nothing with pride.

Those who know me will know I love YouTubers. I watch their videos every night before I go to bed and they're so entertaining - some even have upwards of a few million subscribers! My favourites are Zoella, Jim Chapman, Marcus Butler, and Alfie Deyes (PointlessBlog) to name a few. Well today, a very special book arrived (so special, in fact, that I'm writing the review and publishing the review the same day I got the book - I never do that!)

What book? The Pointless Book by none other than one of my favourite YouTubers himself, Alfie Deyes. But don't be fooled by the title - it's not so pointless! Full of random things to do from origami and passing the book to a stranger and having them draw you, to making paper aeroplanes and baking a cake in a mug, boredom won't even exist anymore with this book around. Just flip to a random page (don't do it in order) and you're good to go!

I'll admit I wasn't hugely excited about the book when it was first announced, but by the end of Alfie's video where he revealed the book I was fangirling so hard. I personally love books like this. Having filled my copy of Wreck This Journal, a similar book, I was in need of something else... and then this book was revealed. Good timing. I'd say this is more fun and definitely more random; I think the 'Draw genitals on the people below' page proves that. But my favourite page - yet to be completed - is 'Places I'd like to travel to' which for me is pretty much everywhere.


You don't even have to be a fan of Alfie to enjoy this book (although if you're not a fan, I suggest you go and marathon-watch all of his videos until you are.) However if you are a fan, like me, this book also comes with a free app which unlocks exclusive digital content. I couldn't actually get the app to work but it was only released a couple of hours ago and seeing as I haven't seen anyone else scanning a page with the app, I was probably doing it wrong. I'm really looking forward to using it, though! Edited to add: I just tried again and it works - no idea how! Very cool addition to the book.

And the final reason for me loving this book? It's really positive, and I'm all about spreading positivity! There are tasks such as 'Write a compliment, rip out this page, and give it to a stranger' and 'Write five things you like best about yourself and why."

Grab some pens, close your eyes, and flip to a page; your boredom is about to disappear in 3, 2, 1...

Monday, 25 August 2014

The British Tag

*buys a Corgi* *finds a Queen mask* *waves Union Jack flag* Cat tagged me to do the British tag, so... here it is! Grab yourself a cuppa and get ready to realise how un-British I really am.


1. How many cups of tea do you have a day? How many sugars?
Um, based on this question I don't think I should be doing this tag because I'm not stereotypically British... I've always claimed to hate tea but honestly, I've never actually tried it. Hot drinks just aren't my thing and they usually contain milk (MY BIGGEST HATE.) I'm thinking about trying Chamomile tea soon because apparently it helps with stress and anxiety and it doesn't have milk in it so we'll see how that goes... have any of you tried it? Is it nice?

2. Favourite part of a roast?
Yeah, I definitely shouldn't be doing this tag. I hate roast dinners and, in fact, vegetables, even though I'm vegetarian. I guess the nicest bit is the mashed potato (I don't like them roasted. I'm a fussy eater.) If it's Christmas then we'll have oat roast which is possibly the best thing ever.

3. Favourite dunking biscuit?
I hate biscuits. This question actually made me shudder with disgust. It's all about the cookies. ❤

4. Favourite quintessential British past-time?
One enjoys one's free time mostly with one's books, and occasionally one will watch Britain's Got Talent to watch one's subjects make fools out of themselves. One also enjoys pronouncing the letter 'z' like 'zed' - not 'zee' - because that is how it should be pronounced. Innit.


5. Favourite word?
I'm not entirely sure which words are considered exclusively British but I do say 'lovely' a lot. It's a lovely word, and I don't know why but it seems pretty British to me. How about 'enunciate' but in Benjamin Cook's voice? And does favourite count? Colour? Recognise? 

6. Cockney rhyming slang?
I'm Hank Marvin, I right fancy a Ruby Murray, and it's all gone a bit Pete Tong. Apples and pears etc. *cough*

7. Favourite sweet?
I don't really eat sweets but on the rare occasions that I do, I'll probably go for Haribo or Strawberry Laces. Maybe those rainbow strip things from Tesco. ...What are they called?


8. What would your pub be called?
...The Mile Long Pub? No? ... I hate myself.

9. No. 1 British person?
THE ENTIRE CAST OF HARRY POTTER. And David Tennant. 


10. Favourite shop/restaurant?
Forever 21 is my favourite shop right now but I think it's American and I've only ever seen two branches of it in England. Also Sainsbury's, simply for the cake and pizza counters. 
I go in cafes more often than restaurants so I guess either Costa (mozzarella, tomato and basil panini) or Starbucks (Moroccan-style wrap with a smoothie.) 

11. What British song pops into your head?
Swapping this to British bands instead, it's easier. Spice Girls (ew, but iconic), The Beatles, Oasis, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Blur, The Smiths, Queen, McFly, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd... I hope all of these are British - I think they are.

12. Marmite?
Put it in your food and it will be improved by 100%. 

I tag Rachel at Booktastic Reviews, Holly at Lost in a Library, Rachel at Rachale's Reads, and Holly at Holly Quills and Ivy. I swear the name thing wasn't intentional.

Don't forget you can let me know what you think of this blog in my survey. Thank you to everyone who has answered so far :)


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Battling Book Blogger Envy // You're Awesome

...and when I say envy I don't mean being quietly jealous of another blogger and keeping it to yourself. I mean being so jealous and envious of another blogger that either:

a) You go out of your way to make them unhappy - or, at least, you consider it.
b) You get really, really upset.
c) You start to wonder if blogging is really for you.

You might be jealous of stats, books, writing style, popularity, event invites or something else entirely, and I think we can all agree, non-bloggers and fellow bloggers alike, that it's sad this kind of thing arises in such a close-knit community. But I'm sure everyone in the world has felt like this at some point, including me, so I've gathered a few tips to help you remember that no matter what happens with other people, YOU ARE STILL AWESOME. *sprinkles unicorn-shaped confetti everywhere*


For a couple of weeks last year I remember lots of good things seemed to be happening to everyone except me. It made me unhappy, I doubted myself, and I quietly became the green eyed monster. But I never said anything to them. These bloggers had clearly worked their butts off to get such awesome stats or opportunities, and I stopped. I thought. And I respected that. I didn't let the jealousy consume me, I moved on, and I turned that envy into motivation to work harder. It's easier said than done, but it worked!

There's the normal jealousy, of course, like when you really want a book that someone else has, or someone else got to be on a blog tour that you didn't. I'd be worried if there were any blogger that doesn't get jealous, because it's natural to be! We envy bigger bloggers, and I'm sure they envy people too. But when it starts to consume you, that's when you need to battle that envy with some rationality. If you need help with that then this post is for you - and you can adapt it for offline life, too.

1) Think before you type.

If what you're going to say implies that the blogger shouldn't have gotten whatever they got, don't say it. Whether it's high stats, a rare ARC or something else, it's going to be down to their hard work.

2) Turn it into motivation.

I know it's easier said than done, but if you let the jealousy consume you all it's going to do is make you demotivated, and the quality of your blog posts will probably suffer as a result. Instead, let it motivate and inspire you into doing better. Have a brainstorm. Think of things you can do to improve, but make sure whatever you're doing is what you really want to do. Soon, you'll be getting whatever it was you were jealous of before, and you'll probably be happier with your blog too!

3) Remember why you started in the first place.

Chances are you started book blogging because you love books. Not free books, event invites or blog tours, but your pure love of literature. Go back to your roots. Read old posts no matter how embarrassed they might make you feel. See how far you've already come. Be nice to yourself.

4) Say something nice instead.

There's the old saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Well, I changed it to, "If you can't say something nice, say something nice anyway." It's not impossible (unless you're Peter from Divergent) and believe it or not it will make you feel better, I promise. It's not being fake. It's overcoming the negative feelings you're having under the surface. It'll probably make the other person a bit happier too, to share good news and get a happy response back.

5) Remember these.

If it's an ARC you didn't get, it's not the end of the world - it's going to be published in a matter of months, you can get it then. And if you're really lucky, maybe someone will let you borrow it beforehand. While ARCs are awesome, at the end of the day they are just bound pieces of paper. Don't let them make you sad and doubtful of yourself and your skills!

If it's stats you're jealous of, have a brainstorm. How can you make your blog better? How can you get more people to look at your blog? Getting an amount of page views you're actually happy with isn't going to happen overnight, but it will happen. Set goals and keep them in mind to keep you motivated (I've done that this year and it's so helpful.)

If it's an event you weren't invited to or couldn't attend, just remember that in a couple of weeks the hype will have died down. Like YALC - I didn't get to go and for the two days it was on and for a few days afterwards, I'll admit I was feeling pretty sad and I grumbled every time I saw a tweet about how awesome the event had been. But you just have to remember that it won't be long until photos stop being shared and event recaps fall into the archives. Then you can forget it. Most events will happen more than once (again, like YALC or Hay Festival) and if it's an author signing then it's likely they'll be back near you one day. Just try to feel happy that there are people out there who got to go - they're lucky people, and no doubt there's been something you've done that they're envious of.
---
And if these don't work, maybe it's time to take a blogging break and come back to it with fresh eyes and a refreshed mind - it'll do the world of good and you'll come back with more energy and love for blogging, too! Blogging is ridiculously hard work and very time consuming so don't feel guilty about needing a few days or even a few months away from it.

There's a quote which I've always loved and recently rediscovered when I was reading We Were Liars, and that is:
"Be a little kinder than you have to."
I've been trying to keep that in mind for a while and it's definitely made a difference in everything - not just blogging. Hopefully (fingers crossed) if you're having a hard time with blogging envy and you take these tips on board you'll be happier in the long run. Now, before I bookmark this post so I can actually take my own advice for once next time I let the jealousy take over, I want to know...

What are your tips for keeping the jealousy at bay?


Friday, 22 August 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 14th August 2014
Pages: 375
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.


The café is boiling. The atmosphere is clouded with bittersweet coffee. Three years of desire rip through my body and burst from my lips: "Josh!" His head jolts up. For a long time, a very long time, he just stares at me. And then…he blinks. "Isla?"

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on brooding artist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And, after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer break, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to face uncertainty about their futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Sometimes when I finish an exceptionally good book I'll reach for the laptop and start typing up my review straight away whether I originally planned to review it or not. And it's happened again, because Isla and the Happily Ever After wasn't perfect but, as cheesy as it sounds, it made my heart burst with happiness.

I pre-ordered the book on Amazon but it wasn't expected to arrive until two weeks after publication. Well, here's a tip: if you're extremely excited for the book, ask Customer Service if there's any way to make it quicker. They'll probably say no, but then if the person you spoke to was feeling generous - or if you're naturally charming and delightful (ahem) - they might surprise you by upgrading your delivery choice free of charge after your conversation. I didn't even ask them to do that but they did it anyway, and now at the time of writing this review it's two days after publication, and in the five hours of owning this book I've read it and fell in love with it, as I knew I would.

I had no idea my quote would be in there. It's in Lola and the Boy Next Door, too! I WILL NEVER STOP FANGIRLING ABOUT THIS.
Isla and the Happily Ever After brings us back to the School of America in Paris, but before the school year begins we're in New York. Drugged up on painkillers from a recent trip to the dentist, let's just say Isla isn't...herself. Not the best time to unexpectedly bump into her longtime crush, then. Although in some ways it's the perfect time to bump into Josh because loopy girls babbling non-stop and eating cheesecake seem to be his cup of tea. The months afterwards are filled with international adventures, new friendships, and lessons learned; the perfect end to a perfect trilogy.

Admittedly the beginning did seem kind of messy in my opinion. Being on painkillers - which wasn't immediately apparent - meant Isla was talking and acting crazily, and as this was my first time 'meeting' her I had no idea what was going on. It was a little confusing and luckily it only lasted for a few pages; it didn't bother me too much but it was a shaky start.

*hyperventilates*
The rest was great, of course. How is Stephanie Perkins such a pro when it comes to writing about book boyfriends? Like St Clair and Cricket, Josh is perfect. He likes art, he takes her to different countries, WHY IS HE FICTIONAL. We can send people to the moon but we can't bring fictional people to life? *sigh*

This bit isn't even necessary to the review and it's a spoiler but... ANNA AND ST CLAIR GOT ENGAGED. I didn't see it coming until it said he got down on one knee. Everyone except Isla had figured it out by then but I hadn't, and it was such a perfect moment, right at Point Zéro. It was also a pleasant surprise for there to be huge posters advertising the Winter Olympics and for the one and only Calliope Bell to be on them. And then Cricket, Lola, St Clair and Anna were cheering her on... it was just too cute. I have yet to stop fangirling. As I've said before, I love it when characters from one book appear in another!

While this wasn't my favourite book in the trilogy, I think it was the most relatable. I've seen people say they didn't really understand Isla's lack of confidence or self-worth but I've felt like that all my life and I completely got where she was coming from. The best bit? She worked on it. GO ISLA. *waves pompoms*

So now I've read all three books, which is my favourite? I'm torn between Anna and Lola. Anna because it was absolutely perfect in every single way, and Lola because...Cricket. Maybe they can be my joint favourite.

They all look so pretty together. :)
We all know how hard it is for bookworms to pick one favourite author, but I think I've finally decided. I'm a slow reader and don't have time to read during the day, and by nighttime I'm usually too tired to read. But with any book by Stephanie Perkins, it's different. I have read each of her books in single sittings, letting myself ignore whatever I'm supposed to be doing instead. It's hard for me to do that with other books, but with these I don't get bored, I'm just enveloped in her natural and consistently fantastic writing for hours on end. Her books allow me to travel in a way most books can't, and if you haven't read any of her books yet, please do. You might not think they'll be your kind of books but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. ♥

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Your Thoughts on The Mile Long Bookshelf

I made a decision a long time ago that I would never do one of those surveys where you ask people about your own blog. 1) Because I don't like doing what everyone else is doing. 2) I guess I'm worried about the answers I could get.

But here I am. *wraps self in cotton wool* I'm ready to see what you guys really think.  Please be honest! 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Model Under Cover: A Crime of Fashion by Carina Axelsson

Title: Model Under Cover: A Crime of Fashion
Author: Carina Axelsson
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st February 2014
Pages: 356
Genres: MG/YA/Contemporary/Mystery
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Introducing Axelle Anderson: fashion's most stylish detective.

Despite her long legs and fashion-obsessed family, all Axelle wants to do is solve mysteries. So when star designer Belle La Lune vanishes, Axelle seizes the chance to go undercover as a model to crack the case – even if it means being tortured with eyelash-curlers and teetering on sky-high heels. Aided by the distractingly gorgeous Sebastian, Axelle races against the clock to solve the mystery at the heart of Paris Fashion Week...

Admittedly my first impressions of this book weren't great. I thought it would be a light, fluffy read full of poofy dresses and Parisian runways, and that wasn't really what I wanted. But no, this isn't your average fashion novel, that's for sure. Full of mystery and 'whodunits', I was intrigued from the start and it was very difficult to put down!

Sixteen-year-old Axelle is visually 'nothing special'. She has wild, bushy hair and big glasses that hide her face, and instead of going into the modelling career like her mother dreams for her, she wants to become a detective. Her parents find it hard to cope with their daughter 'throwing her life away' so they buy her a train ticket and send her off to her Aunt V in Paris, just in time for Paris Fashion Week - Axelle's worst nightmare. But it turns out maybe it won't all be about fashion after all... sometimes a detective is needed in the strangest of situations.

To be completely honest, I was a bit bored reading the first chapter. Then again, maybe it's because I'm usually so impatient to get to the centre of the story... but it soon picked up. Fast-paced and full of twists, turns, and other surprises, I was left in suspense and wanting more. I loved the quirky characters and the processes they went through to work everything out. There was a sprinkling of romance too, and not just because they were in Paris. Not only is this written really well, but it kept my full attention, and I found myself reading a few pages between classes at school because I just couldn't wait until afterwards. I had to find out who had kidnapped Belle, and trust me when I say that whoever you predict to have done it...it won't be them. I did not see it coming, and, oh, do I love a book which takes me completely by surprise!

Compelling and very enjoyable, are you ready to be transported to Paris? Because this book will do just that. Model Under Cover will consume your brain, and you'll find it hard to do things in your day-to-day life until you've finished the book and gotten to the bottom of the mystery. I highly recommend this to MG and YA readers alike!
But that's not all. I also got to interview Carina Axelsson, the author of this book, and you can see the footage below! For more bookish videos you can subscribe to my channel by clicking here. ;)



Thursday, 14 August 2014

Mini Reviews: Divergent Official Illustrated Movie Companion and Inside Divergent: The Initiate's World

Title: Divergent Official Illustrated Movie Companion
Author: Kate Egan
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication date: 4th March 2014
Pages: 160
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Experience the making of the Divergent movie in this lush, oversize volume featuring more than a hundred and fifty full-colour photos from the film, including many that have never been seen before. Also featured are illuminating interviews with author Veronica Roth, actors Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, director Neil Burger, co-screenwriter Evan Daugherty, and more.

Discover what inspired Veronica Roth's book Divergent, and follow its journey from national bestseller to a spectacular action-packed film that simmers with tension, suspense, and romance.

Bringing to life the cinematic world of Divergent required the vision of producers, writers, directors, actors - and countless behind-the-scenes talent who transformed the pages of a book into a remarkable visual experience. These collaborators breathed life into every detail of this dystopian world - creating not only the Dauntless Pit, the Erudite Headquarters, and the Abnegation village but most of all its extraordinary inhabitants. Costume designers' sketches and 3D concept art are just some of the visual treats in this insider's look at the making of the film.

If you've read my movie review of Divergent, you'll know I loved it, so my inner fangirl went into overdrive when the official illustrated movie companion plopped through my letterbox and into my hands. ...I wasn't sat waiting for bookish post. Honestly, what kind of person do you think I am?...

I did have high expectations for this movie companion because after the book and film being so awesome, it was only logical that the companion book should be, too. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed. Pages and pages of pranks pulled on set, interviews with cast and crew, and vibrant full-colour photo spreads fluttered before my eyes as I devoured each and every page, careful not to miss a single sentence.

My only slight complaint is that there were no surprise pull-outs or pieces of merch inside, like in Harry Potter Film Wizardry, the movie companion for the Harry Potter franchise. I'm not comparing the two films, but the Harry Potter companion had posters, leaflets for shops on Diagon Alley, the long-awaited letter from Hogwarts, and even a full-size Marauder's Map. How cool would it have been to have some Divergent goodies enclosed in the book? Very.

I have always found movie guides and companions interesting to read and to look at. My passion used to be acting, which I did for a few years but eventually decided to try out working behind the scenes. I don't do that anymore either, but looking at pieces of set and seeing green screens in use still fascinates me. I love seeing how my favourite scenes in a good film were pieced together, such as one of the first scenes in Divergent where Tris takes her aptitude test. If you want to see how that particular scene was created, you can watch a one-minute video here. Anyway, back to the book - it was brilliant for catering to my every film-geekery need. Needless to say, I loved it!
Title: Inside Divergent: The Initiate's World
Author: Cecilia Bernard
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication date: 11th February 2014
Pages: 144
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Explore the world inside Divergent. Filled with exclusive photos, Inside Divergent explores the meaning of each faction in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, and Dauntless. Meet the initiates through their candid photos and profiles: Tris, Caleb, Molly, Christina, Peter, Al, and the others. The faction leaders are here, too: Four, Eric, Max, Jeanine, Natalie, Andrew, and Marcus.

Follow the journey from the aptitude test to the Choosing Day Ceremony, then fall into the Dauntless Pit and witness the rigors of life in the Dauntless compound. Inside Divergent is a thrilling glimpse into the initiate's world. 

I'm sorry to say that this book was nowhere near as good as the movie companion I had read previously. I hoped that Inside Divergent: The Initiate's World would cover some of the more unusual and lesser-known things surrounding the world of Divergent, but everything the book included could be figured out with a little common sense anyway, whether the reader had read the trilogy or not. The perfect word to describe this book is...basic.

Inside Divergent describes the factions: what they're for, what their traditions are, and what the members of each faction wear. It also includes character profiles and explains a couple of key points in the plot. I knew all of these things already, and overall it was very simple. I can see this book might be good for someone who wants to know what happens but doesn't want to read the books, or for someone who watched the film/read the book and ended up confused, but it's certainly not a must-have for anyone who is already a fan.

Something else which irked me was the stiff, unnatural writing. I'm not very good with words or grammar as you have probably already noticed, but it's annoyingly noticeable when it's someone else's writing, and I have higher expectations of published writers. Long story short, it was too wordy. A lot of it seemed unnecessary, and therefore I ended up struggling to keep my attention on it.

The only reason I am giving this 2/5 and not less is because the layout and photos are amazing. I'm a big fan of well-designed books as you already know. But in conclusion, Inside Divergent is flat, dull, and overly repetitive. Imagine someone is reading a 1000-page Algebra book to you in a monotone voice for an hour. Every once in a while you're forced to rub a cactus over your eyeballs. That's how it felt reading this book - it's non-fiction, but that doesn't mean there can't be any emotion or humour. You and your bookshelf can easily live without this book.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

4 Ways to Spot an SEO Scammer


Have you ever had an email from someone wanting to guest post on your blog, when you have no idea who they are?

Have you ever thought it seemed a bit...odd? 

Ever since I started blogging, I've been inundated with emails that look a bit like this. (The emails are all worded slightly differently but they're more or less the same.)
"Request for Guest Article. 
Hi 
Hope you're keeping well! 
I'm an avid reader and blogger, a passion which I think we share.  
Your blog "themilelongbookshelf.com" is by far the most interesting I have come across in the recent past, hands down! 
The writer in me is yearning to write a piece for your blog. 
The best part is I won't be charging you a penny, but in return all I need is just one link within the article. 
Awaiting your reply."
Or maybe it looks like this.
"Surfing the net and your website "http://www.themilelongbookshelf.com" caught my attention. Really liked the site’s content and the best part I found is similar to the site I'm working for. 
I would love to contribute a guest post, which is unique and written by an author with a great track record. 
The content, I assure, is free of plagiarism, fulfil all the terms and conditions, and will certainly educate the readers. 
In turn, we would request you to provide us a link for our website from the article. 
Eagerly waiting for your approval."
Chances are that if you're a blogger in any niche you will have had a similar email at some point. Like me, you probably pondered over it for a little while. It was an odd email - the writer hadn't even included their blog link. You want to know why it seemed like an odd email? Because it's spam. Simple as that.

SEO = Search Engine Optimisation. The better your SEO is, the higher up you'll rank in Google's search results. This is important for everyone with a website but especially if you're a company, as good SEO = more exposure = more customers and more money.

If a company is struggling with this, they'll usually get someone to increase their SEO. This can be done by placing a link to the company on a website with good SEO... such as mine. And yours. Unfortunately, these people are lazy, and usually they resort to improving their company's SEO by doing two things:

   a) Spam comments. 
Ever gotten a comment half-relevant to the post the comment is on, but with a weird link at the end? If you publish it, your blog is then linking to them. That's why it's a good idea to moderate your comments because you can easily get rid of spam comments, and your own SEO remains unharmed.

  b) Guest posts.
Guest posts require more effort but it's the same technique as before. They're ultimately including a link to the website requiring improved SEO amongst the text of the post, meaning you (with good SEO) are linking to them (with bad SEO.) It's hard to explain, but imagine a car being jump-started by another car, and that's what it's like.

But how do you know if it really is spam?

Most of the time I ignore these emails, but occasionally I'll reply and ask for the writer's blog link just out of curiosity. Last time I did this the email I got back was just a link... going to some website about getting a fake visa. Right. Nice blog you've got there. Yep. *deletes email*

If you can't be bothered to reply, there are several signs that the email is spam.

The writer of the email doesn't include their own web address.
This is because they don't have a blog, even if they claim to have one. Of course they don't have a blog - they've just been employed by a company to reach out to other website owners, and most of the time they attempt to earn the trust of whoever they're emailing by claiming to have similar interests. Note the fact that the email I received mentions reading and the 'fact' that the sender is a blogger too. 

     They mention that they need to include a link in the guest post.
Imagine if a genuine book blogger (or any kind of blogger, for that matter) emailed you asking if they could guest post on your blog. They wouldn't ask to include a link to themselves in the post. They would either just do it, or you would include it somewhere in the post yourself. That's just how it is. So the fact that a 'blogger' is mentioning that they 'need' to put a link in there (and who knows where the link actually leads to, as they never say) screams the fact that they're just trying to improve their own SEO at your site's expense. 

They refer to your blog using the whole URL, and it's in quote marks.
This is a pretty big giveaway. If every time they refer to your blog they use your web address instead of your blog name, and it's in quote marks, you can safely assume that they're using Mail Merge, i.e. sending the same email to hundreds or even thousands of other bloggers with the click of a button - the URL changing automatically and accordingly each time.

 Their replies - if you start a conversation - are vague and often include spelling mistakes.
Using the same example as I have been in the rest of this post, after asking for the writer's blog link (which went to a spam website) I said I couldn't have her on the blog. Her reply was:
"Do you have any blogs to post  in future remember me as i am good  writer"
I didn't reply because I'm not entirely sure what that says.

But sometimes the company doesn't know their SEO is being 'improved' this way.

The two options I've mentioned in this post are the wrong ways to improve SEO, and are usually employed by lazy people looking to do their job in the easiest way possible, never mind whether it's morally right or wrong. This can go unnoticed by whoever is in charge of the website, and if you've got one of the dodgy links on your site, you might get an email like this...
"Dear Website Owner: 
We have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website has used a variety of questionable techniques to secure links to our website. These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings. 
It appears that there may be links like this that have been placed on your site. 
The presence of these links is harmful to our site's good standing with search engines, and unfortunately, retaining them may also be potentially harmful to your own website's reputation. 
We respectfully request that you please remove any links on your site that link to us. 
So far as we are aware, there is (or has been) a link at this URL: 
http://www.themilelongbookshelf.com/2013/06/blog-tour-interview-with-author-cathy.html 
We would greatly appreciate your help with resolving this problem. 
If you need any more information from us, please email me and I will be happy to assist. 
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you and do appreciate your help."
The link had been in a spam comment which must have slipped through the net last year. I deleted the comment including the questionable link and replied to the email to let the company know.

Hopefully this post was helpful to some of you, and if you have any questions feel free to ask me!

Have you ever had an email like this?


Monday, 4 August 2014

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

Title: She Is Not Invisible
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Published by: Indigo
Publication date: 3rd July 2014
Pages: 354
Genres: Young Adult/Mystery/Contemporary/Disability
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Buy the book (Waterstones) | Buy the book (The Book Depository)

Two dried mice. A fluffy raven called Stan. A suicidal Austrian biologist...

Is it coincidence or something more sinister that draws them together? Many strange things collide in Laureth Peak's life one hot August weekend. Perhaps strangest of all is the way her dad had been acting lately. And now he's disappeared. It looks as if his obsession with coincidence might have fatal consequences.

As Laureth sets off for New York with her strange younger brother, Benjamin, she has little faith in herself. But she has a burning determination to find her missing father. She has just one clue to follow; his notebook.

Does it contain salvation, or madness?

This book gave me a sunburned nose.

Worth it.

Seemingly millions of positive reviews for this book had popped up all over the Internet a while ago, and I read a lot of them. But I still wasn't sure whether it would be my cup of tea smoothie (I don't like tea.) Luckily, I was hooked from the very first sentence, and soon enough I'd been laying on the grass for three hours, having read the entire thing.

That's how I got the sunburned nose.

But enough about how much the sun hates me; I'm here to talk about the book. And what a wonderful book this is. Firstly, the main character Laureth is blind. I know this has probably been mentioned in most reviews of this book, but it's so good that this book featured a blind girl and didn't use her disability as a plot device. We need more disability in books - there isn't enough. Not only does She Is Not Invisible contain an incredible story, it also raises issues surrounding discrimination. I know it happens, of course, but to experience it in first-person as Laureth was still more shocking than I ever could have imagined, and some of the things people had the audacity to say to her disgusted me, as I'm sure it did for everyone else who read it.

Secondly, this book is thought-provoking, and not just about disabilities. It makes you think about chance, probability, and coincidence, but don't think it's written like a maths paper because it isn't. It's interesting and cleverly written to say the least, and I was fascinated at how these things were weaved into the story. Some books I have to put down every 20 pages or so, but I sailed smoothly through this one which says a lot. In short, this book is smart; it's like it has its own personality. It's full of surprises, and I instantly wanted to re-read it because no doubt I missed a lot of clever hints.

With the power of probability, I think that if you're into books that deceive you and have you hanging on a thread on every page, you're 'almost certain' to pick this one up next time you're in a bookshop.