Monday, 29 December 2014

Shine Izzy Shine by Ellie Daines

Title: Shine Izzy Shine
Author: Ellie Daines
Published by: Andersen Press
Publication date: 1st January 2015
Pages: 210
Genres: Middle-grade/Contemporary/Family/Disability
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


What would you do if your mum was her bossy, everyday self one minute, and an out-of-control teenager the next?

Izzy is so excited to be a bridesmaid at her mum Rio's wedding. But on the big day, disaster strikes and Rio ends up in a coma. When she wakes up, Rio's not herself - in fact, she thinks she's still a rebellious fourteen-year-old. Izzy is desperate to get her mum to remember who she really is...

Generally, I stay away from middle-grade books because it's hard for me to enjoy reading something when the language and plot is aimed at people much younger than myself. However, when I was offered Shine Izzy Shine for review, I just had to say yes - especially when I realised it would feature someone in a coma. I think this is a really interesting and heartbreaking thing that not many authors dare to approach in writing, but if there's one thing I've learned over the past few years, it's that Daines isn't one to shy away from writing about difficult topics.

On Rio's wedding day, she falls down the stairs and ends up in a coma. When she wakes up, she genuinely thinks she's fourteen, and suddenly, she's disgusted by her daughter, and even more disgusted by the fact that she was about to get married to a guy over thirty. Shine Izzy Shine explores a family having to deal with this, and even though I don't know anyone in real life who has been in a coma, I think it was very well executed. It was heartbreaking seeing the effect Rio's coma had on her daughter and fiance, and it showed me how badly this can change a family; it's something I'd never really thought about before.

The only thing that irked me was when Izzy would send a message to a friend and solely use text speak. Nearly every word was abbreviated, and I would have preferred it if the messages were written normally, especially as Izzy seemed really smart. I also think seeing these text messages had a negative effect on the flow of the story in general, but that's probably just personal preference!

Other than that, this book far exceeded my expectations - and they were already high. Plus, I was so engrossed that I finished the book within two hours... and I was in the middle of an awful reading slump at the time, so I think that speaks volumes!

Shine Izzy Shine is completely fascinating and will tug hard on your heartstrings. This is the perfect book for you if you're looking for something different.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Looking Back on the Year... // PART TWO


This is the second part of my blog post called 'Looking Back on the Year.' You can read the first part by clicking here! Such a poet. Anyway, we left off in June so next up is...

July: I went on holiday with my family to Cornwall which was good because we hadn't been on holiday in years and it was desperately needed. I had a great time and you can read my little recap and see a couple of photos here.

A couple of days afterwards I was back on the other side of the country in London for Rainbow Rowell's talk and signing at Waterstones Piccadilly. It was almost a disaster but it ended up being a pretty good day! Might have got up to a bit of mischief while I was there as well and you can read all about that here. ;)

Then I made macarons for the first time ever and they came out perfectly. I didn't even burn the kitchen down, so that was weird. Pro chef or what.


August: A couple of things happened that were really exciting to me, yet will probably sound really lame to you, but they're going in this post anyway! I got The Pointless Book by Alfie Deyes for review and in the space of a few hours he retweeted me twice, favourited two of my tweets, followed me, and liked one of my photos on Instagram. My fangirl heart just could not cope.

Next, my review of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins was quoted again, but this time it was in the final book in the trilogy, Isla and the Happily Ever After. I hadn't realised it was in there until someone tweeted me a photo! Again, my fangirl heart just could not cope.

I was also 'Blog of the Week' in The Bookseller and they quoted my review of She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick! I really, really wish I had the money to subscribe to The Bookseller. It's so awesome.

If you haven't read any of the books I just mentioned, you really should.

Bottom photo credit: MidnightTopaz on Twitter.

September: School started again on the 1st of that month and I was instantly in the biggest and worst reading slump I have ever been in. I read one book, and even then, I didn't hugely enjoy it. So that sucked.

However, Alfie Deyes once again made the month better by randomly tweeting my drawing of him to Jamie Oliver...? And he replied...which means Jamie Oliver has seen my drawing... yeah, I don't know what to say about that.

Also that month, I did a couple of things I was really anxious about, but they turned out okay. For example, I went to see the Red Arrows for the first time! If you don't know who they are, they are "one of the world's premier aerobatic display teams." I've wanted to see one of their displays since I was little, and I finally did. I also made friends with an old dude who wore his hat backwards - in my head I called him Gangster Grandad. He let me stand at the front where all the proper photographers were, so there was a long line of people with amazing professional cameras... and then little me with an iPhone. I have never felt so out of place, and yet it was such an awesome thing to watch and I actually felt patriotic for the first time in my life. Check out my 15sec clip from the display here!


October: I got back into drawing! I've always loved drawing (mainly portraits) but for some reason I really haven't done much of it this year.

I participated in the Ninja Book Swap again but this time it was Halloween themed! The person chosen to send me a surprise was a girl called Lydia and she sent me Soulmates by Holly Bourne, a Harry Potter sticker book (never too old) and some chocolate. If you're reading this, thanks again!

October also brought with it my sixteenth birthday, and a few days after that, Halloween. Both were lame because I felt terrible, so I did nothing to celebrate either of those. To add to how lame my birthday turned out to be, I had a counselling session that night (for my anxiety) which I wouldn't usually mind but, y'know, it was my birthday - to make matters worse, it turned out to be the last one. Sigh.

I did, however, buy my first lottery ticket, and clearly I thought that deserved a photo. ;)


November: On Bonfire Night I went to two firework displays, the first of which I watched from a bridge (there's no way I'm paying to get into a display which once sent a firework into the crowd instead of the sky.) The second one I went to was at a castle and it's honestly the best firework display I have ever seen, minus the New Years display in London. It was so amazing.

If you didn't know already, I really want to work in the journalism industry, and so I completed the University of Strathclyde's Introduction to Journalism course which was actually really fun and so useful. There was a small section on blogging, too, which was pretty awesome.

Then, the BEST THING EVER happened. I won the Blogger category in the inaugural Future8 awards! I was - and still am - over the moon. The Future8 awards were created in association with The Guardian, and it celebrates the best digital talent of kids aged between 7 and 17 in the UK and Ireland. I think that's such a good idea because this age range tends to get overlooked when it comes to technology, and the other categories were Animation, Games, Mobile App, Music, Online Video, Web Developer and Maker.

The awards ceremony was hosted at Google HQ but I didn't go because anxiety struck yet again. However, the ceremony meant my face was on a huge screen at Google - that won't have been a pleasant experience for anyone, haha - and Sam from Penguin Random House UK accepted my award on my behalf! PENGUIN! Still not over it.

Because of this, I was in The Bookseller, The Guardian, BookBrunch, the SuperAwesome blogThe Guardian again, and even Publishers Weekly tweeted about me. The paper I write for did a feature about it, too, and I still have no idea how they found out because I didn't tell them about it. I pretty much spent that week in shock. In fact, I'm still in shock.

Then my mock exams began. I passed everything, it was stressful, the end.


December: The Mile Long Bookshelf turned 5 years old! I wrote a blog post on the day which you can see here. If there's only one other blog post of mine you read today, or ever, please make it that one.

I also met Olaf from Frozen at the Christmas lights switch on. It was meant for little kids, but I don't care. WE. MET. OLAF.

Then, no big deal or anything, I wrote a couple of blog posts for Penguin. My favourite publisher. The biggest publisher in the world. No pressure! It was great, although slightly scary, and you can see my first post (best YA books of 2014) here. There's more to come in the next few months!

On the 4th we went to Colchester Zoo for the first time and it was so, so cool. I fed an elephant and got a selfie with it, and got attacked by a chimp - literally. It screamed, ran, and threw itself at the glass which I was leaning against, and it took me 10 minutes to calm down. I was genuinely terrified. Thing is, that's not the first time it's happened.

I also got a signed copy of Girl Online by Zoe Sugg which my mentor at Penguin got me from the launch. I wasn't expecting that so it was such an awesome surprise, and apparently Zoe was told all about my blog. I don't usually say this on here, but... asdfghjkl. Speaking of which, there was a lot of drama when the press found out the book was ghostwritten, and you can read my discussion about that here, or read my review of the book here. It really is a great book!

Then I was tagged by Google+ to do the 2014 YouTuber Snowman Challenge and you can see my attempt here. It's messy, and there's lots of glitter involved, but it includes a book giveaway...

Finally, WE PUT THE TREE UP. And that's all I have to say! The month isn't quite over yet but I doubt anything big is going to happen in the last few days we have left, so I think we'll leave it here.


2014, you were a roller coaster. Here's hoping 2015 is even better. Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year!


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Looking Back on the Year... // PART ONE


It's almost Christmas and the end of the year, which means it's the perfect time for reminiscing! I've been adding to this post monthly so it's pretty detailed. 2014 has been interesting, to say the least...

January: The year started with a bang, as on New Year's Day I landed a job as a columnist in my local newspaper. I was actually shaking as I opened the email which said something along the lines of 'You've got the job!' I try not to write about bookish things because I feel like it's a good idea to take a break from that sometimes and to develop my writing in discussing other topics, so my articles are mainly about things which affect teenagers. So far I've written about issues such as bullying, body image, social media and more, although my favourite articles do tend to be those I write which are centred around books. I guess it's a habit!

Also in that chilly, wet January, I was featured in Shout magazine, a popular teen magazine here in the UK. They asked stereotypical 'girly' questions so obviously I decided to answer with the most geeky, bookish answers I could think of. It was pretty funny seeing my interview next to others which basically consisted of fangirling over One Direction. Also, I got a bit of self promo in there. Meheheh.


February: Nothing much happened in February, but I did get quoted three times in the Curious Fox catalogue which was a nice surprise.

This month also brought with it the Valentine's Ninja Book Swap which I participated in for the first time. The person chosen to send me books turned out to be Daphne of Winged Reviews, and she kindly sent me The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, both of which were at the top of my wish list at the time. Along with those she also sent me some cute magnetic bookmarks and stickers. Thanks again, Daphne!

I also hit 250 YouTube subscribers.


March: Firstly, my review was quoted on the cover of The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss, a heartbreaking book about a girl dealing with the death of her mother and the arrival of her new baby sister. I was so honoured to be quoted on such a great book. I'd had no idea my review was going to be used so that was another awesome surprise!

Towards the end of the month I hosted a giveaway for Divergent premiere tickets, and I was also given tickets to attend the red-carpet event myself. It ended up being the best day of my life and I met one of my favourite YouTubers, Jim Chapman, there too! You can read all about the event and see the photos here. I wish I could do it all over again.


April: Not much happened in April, but my review of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins did get quoted in Lola and the Boy Next Door, the next book by Perkins! As my absolute favourite read of 2013 I was so happy that it was Anna and the French Kiss which was quoted, out of all the other reviews I had written that year.

Towards the end of the month I was back in London. It was a really good day, although by the end my feet felt like they were about to drop off and I resorted to walking around London with no shoes on. I probably looked like a homeless person (I usually do anyway) but it was DESPERATE MEASURES. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I walked past Newton Faulkner in Stratford. Maybe.


May: May was great! Firstly, I had finally saved up enough money to get an iPhone 5s. I don't get bought things like that so I took matters into my own hands and it finally paid off.

The next thing that happened that month? In May 2013 I had sent a letter to one of my favourite people, Carrie Hope Fletcher. Not only does she make fun videos (a lot of them bookish!) but she also plays Eponine in Les Mis at the West End, and she has a book coming out next year which I am very much looking forward to reading. Anyway, a year later a letter arrived for me from Carrie! I thought maybe my letter to her had got lost in the post, or maybe she just wasn't going to reply. Basically I had given up hope (ooh, pun) so it was a lovely surprise when her letter arrived.

This was also the month where I was invited to the City of Heavenly Fire launch party, but unfortunately I couldn't go. Luckily, the publicist let me give away my tickets to someone else, and my winner had a great time! Check out her event report of the day to see what she got up to.


June: A few days into the month I told you all about my anxiety and panic attacks which is something I'd been keeping secret from the internet for over a year, and I was absolutely terrified about publishing the blog post. Things like anxiety and other mental illnesses don't get discussed very often and everyone seems to be scared of talking about them, so 1) I was worried the post might get hate comments, 2) I didn't want friends to hate me, 3) I knew full well that once the post was on the internet, it was there forever, whether I ended up regretting it or not.

Luckily, I haven't regretted posting it so far. I had been hoping that it would help people going through similar issues, and it did. I still get emails from people (some of them in other countries, which is so weird but such a good feeling) telling me it helped them to feel better. Thanks to those of you who were supportive.

I also got to ask Ansel Elgort (Gus in The Fault in Our Stars) a couple of questions for The Guardian - you can see his answers below! ASDFGHJKL SOMEONE HOLD ME. This was half a year ago and I'm still not over it. *dead*


Check back tomorrow for part two!

Monday, 15 December 2014

MINI REVIEWS: Memory Stick by Polly Smart and Good Shit, Bad Shit by Dan Marshall

Title: Memory Stick
Author: Polly Smart
Published by: Huck and Pucker
Publication date: 1st September 2014
Pages: 144
Genres: Non-fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Need a place to store all those moments, ideas and experiences, both crazy and everyday? Fill this journal with memories to create a record of who you are and what makes you tick. Download your brain into MEMORY STICK! 

I've been a big fan of Huck and Pucker books for a long time, but I'd never actually owned anything of theirs - I just admired from afar. But then I was lucky enough to get my hands on two of their books in one go, and the next week was filled with lots of fangirling and creativity.

Memory Stick is a "place to stick your memories, of course! A place where 'the best idea ever' jostles for attention with your most embarrassing moments; where ticket stubs and autumn leaves are stashed for safekeeping, because they represent so much more than the sum of their parts - each item represents a memory. Memories are the best kind of treasure and this book is your Aladdin's cave to dip into and enjoy for years to come."

'Memories are the best kind of treasure' is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with; that's why I started blogging in the first place and why, instead of wallpaper, my bedroom walls are covered in photos. That's partly the reason for my YouTube channel too, because in years to come, I'll be able to see myself exactly how I was at fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen. As soon as I read that sentence, I knew I would love this journal.

Usually when books like this are released, they're almost exactly the same as the original interactive book, Wreck This Journal, which I'm sure you've all heard of. The Pointless Book by Alfie Deyes, for example, while still really fun, was almost an exact copy of WTJ. Memory Stick is the first book I've found that hasn't tried to be another Wreck My Journal. It's completely unique and I could sit for hours filling it in, which I suppose is perfect now it's the Christmas holidays. I also think this would be great for long journeys, no matter how old you are.

The other thing I love about this book is that you don't need to be an artistic genius to have fun with it. I've found that a lot of people are put off buying books like this because they don't feel like they're good enough at art, but you're not meant to make the book look perfect. Just make it you, and a nice little place to keep your memories - it doesn't need to look like it belongs in a gallery!


From an artistic point of view, though, my favourite thing about Memory Stick is that the pages are made from fairly good paper. Most books like this have incredibly thin pages, so while they encourage you to paint or glue or draw, you can't because everything bleeds through. It's seriously, seriously annoying. Memory Stick is the first book of this kind that actually has decent quality paper, and to be honest, I think that calls for a party because that's hard to find.

Overall, if you're looking for a fun book you can mess around with at random, this is the one, I think! It's especially good for relieving stress or procrastinating. Not that I condone procrastinating, obviously. ...Excuse me while I tidy my room to avoid having to write the next review, which is less than positive...
The next review contains strong language due to the book title.


Title: Good Shit, Bad Shit
Author: Dan Marshall
Published by: Huck and Pucker
Publication date: 1st September 2014
Pages: 160
Genres: Non-fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

There's good shit and there's bad shit. No matter what kind of shit's happening in your world, this journal will help you get through it. Scribble away your stress, ink your indecision and transcribe your triumphs – whatever it takes to tackle life's many little ups and downs!

When I first took these books out of the envelope they came in, I actually thought I would have way more fun with this book than Memory Stick. Before flicking through the pages, I thought Good Shit, Bad Shit would be funnier and more entertaining, However, I was wrong.

While I really like the concept of this book and the pages within, it's incredibly repetitive, like I said in this video. There are only six original pages in this book... and then they repeat. I know that's because this is more like a diary than a 'pick a page at random and complete it' book, but if I wanted to complete a page for a second time, I could photocopy it. I guess it just disappointed me that there was so little variety, especially when this book sells for £7.99.


The activities are still fun and, just like in Memory Stick, the paper is excellent quality which is exactly what you need when you're writing in books (shock horror) so that's a definite plus. If that sounds like something you'd enjoy then go for it, but if you like a bit more variety like I do, this will probably be a bit of a disappointment, unfortunately!

Friday, 12 December 2014

My First Novel

You've seen my blog posts from when I was 7, but have you seen my schoolwork from when I was 6? Nope... but you're about to. To give some context, my class went on a trip to a local nature reserve. When we came back, we were asked to write an account of what we had done, complete with keywords from a word bank and our own illustrations.

Oh dear.

I've blurred out locations and faces for obvious reasons, but I'll leave all my spelling mistakes in there for your enjoyment. I'm sure you'll be able to tell what 6-year-old me meant, and if you can't, I've corrected my mistakes at the bottom of this post. ;)

"'My Trip to [location]' - Author Amber, Illustrate Amber."
"We went on a coach to [location.] First we had a puppet show. Next we went pond dipping and we all cort some crechs. I fawnd a snaell."
"Next we had a picnic lunch. I had my favrot crisps. I saw a dragonfly. I saw a speshel plants."
"After lunch we went over the brige and bridge and droo some lovelee plants. I droo a hosetale. It was a brileet time. Next I got on the coach. I felt happy on the coach. Finally we got back to school. We all made a wordbangk."
 Oh, I am so glad my spelling and drawing has improved.

At least, I hope it has.

Should I do more posts like this? I know exactly where my literacy book is from when I was 5...

Cort = Caught. Crechs = Creatures. Fawnd = Found. Snaell = Snail. Favrot = Favourite. Speshel = Special. Droo = Drew. Lovelee = Lovely. Brileet = Brilliant. Wordbangk = Wordbank. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Why I Don't Care That Zoella's Book Was Ghostwritten


On November 25, Zoe Sugg published her debut novel, Girl Online. Sugg, otherwise known as Zoella, a YouTube sensation with over 6 million subscribers, broke records after the book sold 78,000 copies in its first week.

Suddenly, her face and her book were everywhere.

However, the book wasn't written by Sugg alone. In fact, YA author, Siobhan Curham, helped. A Penguin spokeswoman revealed to the Telegraph, "to be factually accurate you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own."

Instantly, my Twitter timeline exploded with people saying they were "fuming" and that it was an "outrage."

Why?

Related: Zoella's Writing a Book?! (Video)

I've been a fan of Curham for a few years, and a fan of Sugg for a few months. Maybe I should have felt deceived. Maybe I should have been angry. Maybe I, like many other bloggers and authors I once respected, should have been tweeting sarcastic comments about Sugg and her "mermaid hair" along with her supposed inability to write.

But I didn't. I didn't care at all.

The only thing that bothered me was that a 24-year-old woman was being attacked by millions for doing what many other famous 'authors' have got away with. Authors I once liked and respected were picking on her looks. Her looks. 

Seriously? This isn't a school playground.

People are disgusted that a book was ghostwritten. I'm disgusted that there are people out there who think it's okay to attack someone because of it, no matter who it is.

I'd just like to clarify that it's absolutely fine to not like Sugg and/or her book. It's more than fine. What isn't fine is picking on her spelling, her grammar, her looks, and other things that are completely irrelevant yet have the power to make someone feel incredibly low about themselves. And why would you want to contribute to that?

No, Sugg didn't write her book alone, but she had a lot of input. The story was hers. The characters were hers. Imagine you're offered a book deal from the biggest publishing house in the world. You have to have a ghostwriter because you're a high-profile person and it's a high-profile book. You still put a lot of effort in. You're proud, and grateful for the opportunity.

Then you wake up one day to angry emails, tweets, comments and articles in some of the world's biggest newspapers tearing down your book and you as a person because you didn't say you had a ghostwriter. Aren't ghostwriters called ghostwriters for a reason?

It wouldn't be nice, that's for sure.

Related: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg (Review)

Books are ghostwritten all the time. There will be books you've read and enjoyed that were ghostwritten and you might not even know it. I respect that Girl Online being ghostwritten has disappointed people, but in the grand scheme of things, it's one book in a world of many - is it really that important?

Not really.

Some say it will give a harmful impression to her young fans who might suddenly think it's really easy to publish a book. I think anyone of any age who might have dreams of writing a book is smarter than that. Some say it will be harmful to the publishing industry. Admittedly I don't know as much as some about how the publishing world works, but surely the money from Girl Online's success will help to fund books by other authors?

Another argument is that Sugg doesn't deserve the book deal when there are writers out there desperate to get their books published. Is that Sugg's fault? I don't think so.

At the end of the day, books are ghostwritten all the time. Ghostwriting has been around for longer than Sugg has been on this earth and, out of the 78,000 people who bought Girl Online in its first week, I bet loads of them rediscovered their love of reading because of it. How can that be bad?

I enjoyed the book, and I'm not the kind of person who buys something just because of the name on the front. If Girl Online had someone else's name on it, I still would have gone out of my way to read it. I'm sure that would be the same for many.

It's an innocent book. Aren't there bigger things to worry about?

As Patrick Ness said, "Gosh, the outrage couldn't be because she's young, female, writes for teens, and got famous outside of traditional media, could it? Because, you know, the outrage about Wayne Rooney's memoirs was EXACTLY the same as Zoella's... oh, wait, no, it wasn't.  Funny that."

If you want to support Siobhan Curham, you can browse and buy her books here, and read about her involvement with the book here on her wonderful blog. To find out more about Zoe Sugg, you can check out her YouTube channel here.

What do you think?



Monday, 8 December 2014

Bookish Christmas Gift Guide

Are you bored of getting that pesky little bookworm in your life a Waterstones gift card every year for Christmas? Never fear, for Amber is here!...Yep. Here's a bookish gift guide I put together a few days ago featuring some things you might not have thought of.

The Chocolate Library - £13.49 - Buy

I know, I know; it looks like a box set of books, but...the books are actually chocolate bars. Is your mind blown? Mine is.  I really, really need this chocolate library. Feel free to get me one. Thank you in advance.

Bookish Posters - £6.50 - Buy


Aren't these awesome? The first is a quote by Hank Green, the second (my favourite) is a quote by John Green, and the third is a quote from The Fault in Our Stars. Mm, pretty typography. Funnily enough, I got the third poster for Christmas last year, and I can tell you that, somehow, it's even more beautiful in real life.

Doodled Notebook - £12 - Buy

All bookworms love writing as well as reading, so this is a pretty safe bet when it comes to buying presents. Plus, it's hand-painted! Doesn't it look like the perfect place to keep all your thoughts and ideas?

"Go away, I'm reading" mug - £9.95 - Buy
Self explanatory. It's £9.95. Off you go.

Crap Pad - £4.50 - Buy
I'm sorry, I just had to include this - it made me laugh out loud. Bookworms tend to have endless to-do lists, because we spend a lot of time... well, reading. I recently discovered this website and I am actually in love with their notepads. They have a huuuuge range so even if you don't like the one I decided to include in this post, I definitely recommend checking out the rest. Plus, every bookworm likes stationery. Especially when it's quirky. 

And, of course, I couldn't finish off this post without including a few book recommendations. Christmas isn't Christmas without books! 


What are you hoping for this year?


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Title: Girl Online
Author: Zoe Sugg aka Zoella
Published by: Penguin Random House UK
Publication date: 25th November 2014
Pages: 352
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Coming-of-age/Mental Illness
Format: Hardback
Source: Gift.


I had no idea GirlOnline would take off the way it has - I can't believe I now have 5432 followers, thanks so much! - and the thought of opening up to you all about this is terrifying, but here goes...

Penny has a secret.

Under the alias GirlOnline, she blogs about school dramas, boys, her mad, whirlwind family - and the panic attacks she's suffered from lately. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. Suddenly Penny is falling in love - and capturing every moment of it on her blog.

But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny's cover - and her closest friendship - forever.

For some context if you don't know who Zoe Sugg is, she is a YouTuber. This means she films and uploads videos to her YouTube channel where she has quickly gained millions of subscribers. She does hauls, tutorials and advice videos, and not only has she become a household name but she's become a role model for kids and teenagers around the world. She is, in fact, the most famous woman in the UK that you've probably never heard of...

Where do I start? I have so much to say about Girl Online, and I have a feeling this might end up being one of my longest reviews yet.

I think I'll just dive straight in. Bear with me. I have ALL THE THOUGHTS.

When I first heard about this book, I knew I'd be able to relate to it a lot. As you'll know if you've read this post, I've suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for a couple of years now and, clearly, I am a blogger. Well, the main character in this book, Penny, is exactly the same. That probably doesn't mean much to you, but I found it so relatable I was mentally highlighting entire paragraphs (as if I'd write in the actual book.) Seriously, a lot of it could have been about me. Have you ever read a book like that? It's really, really weird.

And do you want to know something saddening? In the two years I've had anxiety, Girl Online is only the second book I have read that tackles the issue, and the first book I've read that actually does the topic justice. Sugg also has anxiety, so this is no surprise. I think to have someone shining so much light on anxiety when they know exactly what it's like, and having the book aimed at younger people, is so valuable. She's not guessing what it's like to be filled with anxiety all day every day, she knows it inside out, and I have no doubt in my mind that this will help millions of people going through the same thing all around the world.

Not only does Sugg have anxiety, she is also a blogger - obviously - so, again, there was no guess work there. She gets it completely. I'm so done with books about bloggers written by people who don't actually know anything about it, so this was hugely refreshing and I wholeheartedly appreciated it.

I also liked the various subplots, from Penny's best friend Elliot being gay and dealing with his homophobic father, to the brief references to one of the characters having depression. It sounds heavy, but this has been written in a way that all of these things can be taken seriously and given the attention they need while the book is still fun to read.

An extract from Penny's blog, one of my favourite pages.

Now, there's a point in the book where Penny gets a lot of hate from people. I won't talk about that much because I don't want to ruin it for you, but I felt so much sympathy for her that it was overwhelming. I think this was one of the most well written parts, actually. As someone almost constantly in the public eye, Sugg has this happen to her in real life every single day, and you could tell this came from the heart and from her own experiences.

There is one thing I don't like about Girl Online, although it's a very small thing and hardly worth mentioning. When asked what fictional character she would bring back to life if she could, Penny said it would have to be a certain character (named in the book, but I'm not spoiling it here!) from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. If you've read it, I'm sure you know what character she named. It just shocked me a bit when I read that sentence because that's a massive spoiler and, while I'm sure most people know who dies in that book, a lot of people won't. So, if you're planning to read The Fault in Our Stars and Girl Online, maybe read The Fault in Our Stars first.

There has been lots of speculation as to whether Sugg actually wrote all of this herself or if it was ghostwritten. Sugg came up with the plot and the ideas, but it was indeed ghostwritten and I know who actually wrote it. In respect of everyone involved, that's all I'm going to say about that.

However, Sugg's personality really does shine through and, despite the fact that she didn't write all of it herself, I was constantly hearing her voice in my head as I read, and it was so....her. It doesn't really bother me whether she wrote all of it or none of it or just some of it, but I know some people will feel differently. I do think Girl Online is very well written and, while the beginning seemed a little uncertain (the last half of the book was definitely better, in my opinion) it was really good. I was very excited to read this book, but I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did. I seriously recommend it.

Sugg doesn't know me, and technically I don't know her - just the ten minutes of footage she shares with her viewers each week - but we're both bloggers, albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum, and I'm incredibly proud of her. It's amazing to see another blogger publishing a book and becoming so successful, especially when the book has the ability to help so many people and it's not just a standard autobiography or something like that (although I'd be interested in a Zoella autobiography as she leads a very different, interesting life.) I think the fact that she went for fiction instead of non-fiction, like most YouTubers, shows just how passionate and serious she is about this.

Lots of people seem to think she shouldn't be allowed to have a book out because she's a YouTuber. I say, why let yourself be limited to just one project? Readers are also being critisised for enjoying Girl Online for the same reason. Here's what I think: person writes book. People enjoy book. That's a thing that is allowed, just saying. You can see my video discussion about that by clicking here.

All in all, Girl Online is excellent. Whether you like Sugg or not, or if you've never even heard of her in the first place, I highly recommend that you give this a go. It might just surprise you! Fun, relatable and in some places heart-wrenching, this has Sugg's name written all over it and I am very much looking forward to the second book.
My amazing mentor at Penguin surprised me with this signed and dedicated copy of Girl Online as she knew how much I was looking forward to reading it! This is probably a good time to say that despite already being a big fan of Zoe and despite having a signed copy of Girl Online, this has not affected my opinion of the book in any way. I will always be honest with you, no matter what. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Mile Long Bookshelf is 5 Years Old!

Five years ago today, I sat in front of a massive computer which no longer exists, at a desk which no longer exists, to create a blog which does still exist, and which somehow survived through everything life has thrown at me in the last five years.

Today marks five years since I started this little blog. Time has crept up on me; usually I plan my blogoversaries months in advance, but this year I wanted to go back to the good ole' days and have a really chilled, low-key little celebration.

It seems like only yesterday my blog looked like this:


I'm not going to re-cap the year or anything because I'm doing that in a separate post towards the end of the month to mark the end of 2014, but I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank you all. Whether you've been here right from the start or if you only started reading my blog yesterday, you have contributed to making this a great year. I appreciate each and every one of you and, even after five years, it still hasn't sunk in that people actually take the time to read what I write. 

Sometimes I wonder why I, a random sixteen year-old in a small corner of England, whose opinion has no more value than anyone else's, am allowed to have this space on the Internet which I can do whatever I like with. I don't think I deserve it, but I'm very lucky, and I'll do all I can to keep this little blog going for many more years to come.

I'll never be able to properly thank you all for sticking around, but I can do something for you, and that thing is an international giveaway. You can win any book of your choice up to the value of £10 from The Book Depository, as long as it provides free shipping to your country. You can check to see if your country is eligible for free shipping by clicking here. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks for sticking around!