Thursday, 30 April 2015

GUEST POST: Should YA Books Always Have a Happy Ending?

Today I'm happy to welcome Harvey from Bookmarked! I love his blog - you will, too, if you like dry humour - so you should definitely check that out. But first, read his guest post below. Should YA books always have a happy ending?


I'll word that question differently shall I? Should we patronise our kids and shelter them from the brutal reality of the real world whilst making all of our books boring because anybody under eighteen doesn't have the emotional capacity to handle it?

The simple answer... no.

Obviously.

I suppose it all depends on what you define as a happy ending. Undeniably, there's a certain feel good factor about the whole thing. We all like to return to our favourite books when we're feeling a bit meh and enjoy getting lost in a fictional world for a few hours. Yeah, people might end up dead, but everything will turn out fine in the end, right? Nothing bad is actually going to happen. But is that a good thing? Do we really want all of our books to have that (slightly patronising) feel good factor? Do we always want everything to turn out alright in the end? I don't think so.

The Fault in our Stars, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, His Dark Materials and even more recent books such as Kevin Brooks' Carnegie winning The Bunker Diary. They're all books that are very highly acclaimed for, and what's the one thing they have in common?

A bleak ending.

(You may have realised by now that I am a big fan of bleak endings...)

So really, the question here is this: should young people be protected and sheltered from death, destruction and general gloominess in the books that they're reading? Life isn't like that at all. People die, get mugged and are kidnapped every day, and that's the real world. It's on the news, it's practically on my doorstep, so why patronise me and give me a happy ending in a book just because you don't think I can handle it?

Personally, I don't think age should matter, it should be the book. If a happy ending fits the book, then so be it. But why change the ending of a novel just because you don't think your readers can manage it?

I feel that there's a general perception out there that the YA genre is stupid. There seems to be a stereotypical YA book, that is simple, and that is only good for teens. There are numerous people out there who seem to think adults should be embarrassed reading YA. Truthfully, it seems to be a much understated genre. YA books are aimed at young people, right? And naturally, all young people are stupid and immature, so therefore, they can't handle an unhappy ending. Yet there are still some YA books out there that I think deal with racism, murder etc much better than many adult novels - and so we come back to the question - should the books we read have happy endings just because of our age?

I've run out of things to say now, so...

And they all lived happily ever after.


Do you agree with Harvey?

Harvey is a book lover and a book blogger over at Bookmarked. He is a big fan of Amber's blog and is very grateful to her for letting him write this post, even though he struggled enormously with it.

Harvey lives in England and is a social recluse.

When he grows up he wants to be a piece of popcorn.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

April Favourites | 2015


Hello and welcome to my April favourites! At the end of every month I show you the things I've been loving recently, from beauty products and books to music and apps. Enjoy!

Innocent Energise Super Smoothie 750ml // £3.38

Innocent - aka the best smoothie company ever - has been a favourite brand of mine since I was little. I used to beg my mum to get me a bottle of the yellow smoothie, Mangoes and Passion fruits, every time we went shopping. Yes, as a child I liked fruit. I've never been one to conform to stereotypes.

Nowadays, my favourite flavour is the Energise Super Smoothie, containing strawberry, cherry, guarana, flax seeds, beetroot juice and a whole bunch of vitamins. It tastes better than it sounds, I promise.

Whether it's psychological because it says energise on the bottle, or whether it really does work, I don't know, but whenever I drink this I do feel more energised than before. Who needs coffee in the mornings? Not me. (Fun fact: I've never actually tried coffee. I know.)

Also, I was just browsing their website to get the link for this post, and I found their fruit and veg juices. What? Why didn't I know they exist? And why does nowhere near me stock their new limited edition Perfectly Pink smoothie? I want them all. WHY ARE MY LOCAL SUPERMARKETS SO ANNOYING?

 Nostalgia Geo A4 Notebook // £2.25 // Sainsbury's

I like stationery a lot, it's my obsession, and I recently picked up two of these A4 notebooks from Sainsbury's. They're nothing fancy, but I really like the pattern. Is it just me or do they look like rainbow doritos?

One notebook is currently empty, while the other is being used for History and English revision, but considering my exams will be over in a couple of months, they'll be used for something much better, eventually.

 Rimmel London 60 Seconds Super Shine by Rita Ora in Go Wild-er-ness // £2.99 // Boots

I'm not a fan of Rita Ora, but I have to say her new Rimmel collection is beautiful. They're all colours that I've never seen as nail varnishes before and this, in particular, is the one I fell in love with. Different screens show colours differently so I'll just confirm: it's lilac, not grey.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella // £10.99 // The Book Depository

I didn't get much reading done this month, unfortunately. Out of the books I did read, the best by far was Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, which comes out in June. It's about a girl with social anxiety, and it didn't disappoint. Kinsella really gets it, and the topic was handled maturely and responsibly. My full review will be up soon.

What have you been loving this month?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

EVENT REPORT: Cambridge Literary Festival


I live in the middle of nowhere, the local bookshop isn't really local at all, and there are more elderly people here than teenagers, so it's no surprise that YA authors rarely come to visit.

Imagine my excitement when earlier this month I discovered that James Dawson and Sally Green were coming to Cambridge Literary Festival, not far from me, to do a talk called 'YA Literature - not for parents!'

I snapped up a couple of tickets immediately and soon enough it was April 18th and time for the event.


The festival was in the union, hidden away down a little path.


We made our way to the Blue Room where the talk was being held and, yes, the room was actually blue. The talk began, and here's a tip: don't make notes on a touchscreen phone if you're not actually looking at what you're typing most of the time. It'll take you ages afterwards to work out what you actually wrote.


The talk was chaired by Charlotte Eyre from The Bookseller (above) and I made sense of my own notes eventually. Here's a quick recap of what happened.

Where does their inspiration tend to come from?

James writes what he wanted to read as a fifteen-year-old. He wasn't interested in shows like Grange Hill or Byker Grove because that was his life on a daily basis. Instead, he liked things like Beverly Hills 90210 because of the escapism it offered.

Sally wrote Half Bad whilst everyone, including some of her adult friends, were reading and enjoying Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, despite the YA label. That partly inspired Half Bad, although she didn't want to write about vampires because she felt that side of things was being covered pretty well already.

Do they originally set out to send a certain message with their books?

Sally doesn't set out to give any specific messages through her books. The message has to be important to the characters, not necessarily to her.

James wrote Under My Skin when Miley Cyrus was constantly in the news. He thought it was interesting that she's a millionaire but still had to resort to twerking and licking sledgehammers.

"Why doesn't Ed Sheeran have to lick a sledgehammer?"

He was thinking about feminism a lot, and so it ended up filtering down into the book.

What do they think the difference is between UKYA and USYA fiction?

James thinks that both US and UK YA are phenomenally diverse. He doesn't think UKYA is grittier and he doesn't think USYA is more fantastical - both are great.

Sally agreed. She's a big fan of Andrew Smith and thinks he's writing "new, innovative stuff." She tends to enjoy books by American authors more, but that's not hugely important to her - if they're good books, she'll read them.

When it comes to the difference in markets, however...

James said that the US is able to put more money behind their books because there's more money in the market in the first place. Here in the UK, we always hear about books in the US, but they rarely hear about ours. I've been noticing this, too, but didn't know how to put it into words, so I'm glad that that topic came up.

They also talked about writing different characters...

Half Bad by Sally Green is narrated by a teenage boy called Nathan, but she finds writing as a teenager harder than writing as a boy.

James said it's fun to mix things up a bit like that - otherwise it's always the same person, just in different situations. "If you're not challenging yourself with everything you write, why bother?"

What were their journeys to publication like?

Half Bad was the first book Sally had ever written, and she didn't think it would ever be published. Her agent didn't think it was edgy enough, so she rewrote it completely and never knows whether to call it her first or second novel because it's set in the same world.

Hollow Pike was also James's first book. It was supposed to be a series, but just as James was about to start working on the second book, Orion changed their minds due to the fact that they were having trouble with a different trilogy at the time. Even though this meant he only had three months to write Cruel Summer, it worked out for the best because he's had so much fun writing everything he's written since. If the series had gone ahead, he would still be writing that.

Now they're both published writers, what's changed?

Since publication, Sally's writing process has changed completely. With a first novel, you tend to have as long as you like to write it, and so she didn't plan Half Bad - instead, she would write about 2K words a day and then work out what happened next. For the final book in the trilogy, she is going to plan and have more meetings with her editor.

Next year, James has a non-fiction title being published called Mind Your Head. It's about teen mental health and I'm really looking forward to reading it. He didn't have long to write it, like he did with Hollow Pike - it was written in ten days with the help of a psychologist to make sure it was factually correct. He came back to it about a fortnight ago and doesn't remember writing any of it - it's a blur.

A member of the audience asked what YA books they wish they had written...

Sally chose Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger because "it's a stunner of a book."

James picked Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Forever by Judy Blume, and Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill. He also chose The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness... but he said you should read his upcoming title All of the Above first because they come out in the same week. Sorry, but The Rest of Us Just Live Here is right next to me as I type this and I plan to read it next. ;)

What else?

Sally thinks the 'adult' in Young Adult should be emphasised.

She didn't think Half Bad would be published, and was pleasantly surprised when it was.

James is glad more horror is being written in the YA genre. He said that if you think too much about what's popular, you'll go mad. Publishers are already a couple of years ahead of what's in Waterstones, so write what you love and block everything else out.

He likes to use flow charts and sticky notes to plan his books. The easiest to plan was Say Her Name because it takes place over five days.

He loves Junk by Melvin Burgess and thinks it's one of the most powerful books in YA.

So, what's next for James Dawson and Sally Green?

Sally is being pressured to write another fantasy novel but she started writing something that isn't fantasy on the morning of the event. She's wondering if she can write both at the same time.

James has a new book coming out in September called All of the Above and it's about gender fluidity.

After the event, I changed my clothes and took the photos I needed for my previous blog post. Then we had a wander, got fish and chips and ate them next to Isaac Newton's apple tree. As you do.


It was a gorgeous day, my anxiety wasn't too bad and the talk was really interesting. I'm so glad I went. Now I just need to keep 6-10th April 2016 free for the next Cambridge Literary Festival.

Bring on next year!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

In Which I Show You the Coolest Thing Ever


Who? What? Huh?

A few weeks ago I was approached by leavershoodies.com. Based in Brighton, the company specialises in making custom clothing, from hoodies and t-shirts to jackets and even onesies. They asked if I would like them to embroider my blog logo on a clothing item of my choice in return for a review, and I jumped at the chance.

I'm not a fashion blogger. I've never reviewed a piece of clothing in my life. In fact, I've never reviewed anything other than books. But the woman who contacted me was lovely and clearly enthusiastic about the company, and... well, I've never had the chance to wear my blog logo before.

I knew writing the review and taking the photographs would be a challenge, as I'm not exactly a fan of being in photos, but sometimes it's good to take on a challenge and try something new. And, considering I've been reviewing books and only books for the last five-and-a-half years, I thought, why not?

The service

After browsing the many, many clothing options - seriously, go and have a look, there are tons - it was time for me to pick a colour scheme. Considering there are 56 colour options, it took a while, but I finally settled on one of their varsity jackets in the colours white and heather grey in size Adult S.

After sending off my blog logo, I sat and eagerly awaited its arrival.

It can take up to two weeks maximum for your order to be produced and posted, but it only took a week for mine to get from production to my letterbox. Anna, the woman I was in contact with, kept me updated every step of the way and is one of the nicest people I've dealt with through my blog.

I already had a logo to go on the jacket, so I didn't have to worry about that. But you might not have one. Luckily, that's not a problem - if you have an idea for a design, just let the leavershoodies.com team know and they'll work on it until you're happy. How awesome is that?

The jacket

Previously, I hadn't been sure of what to expect. I've had custom hoodies before for school things I was involved with, and they always looked so cheap and were horrendously sized.

This isn't one of them. In fact, leavershoodies.com puts all the other custom clothing companies to shame. I was so impressed.

Despite my logo being as detailed as it is, they have embroidered it to perfection. I still can't get over that.

Not to mention that it fits perfectly, is extremely well-made and is easily the cosiest item of clothing I own. It's fleece inside, people. Fleece. I want to wear it forever.

Do I recommend this service?

Too right I do - it was a pleasure to work with them, and the jacket is a pleasure to wear. If you're a blogger, it's really cool being able to wear something with your logo on it, but this certainly isn't limited to bloggers. The possibilities are endless.

So, how cool is this?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt

Title: The Last Summer of Us
Author: Maggie Harcourt
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st May 2015
Pages: 295
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Coming-of-age/Travel/Grief
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


The air smells of hot, dry grass trampled underfoot. It smells of diesel, of cider and cigarettes and burgers and ice cream and the ends of things. The end of the summer. The end of us: of Steffan and Jared and me.

If you're looking for a summer road trip book, I have the perfect one for you.

Steffan, Jared and Limpet's lives are each being turned upside down. Steffan is being forced to move to America, Jared's dad is coming out of prison, and Limpet's dealing with the recent death of her alcoholic mother. Each bearing the weight of their parents' issues, they decide to go on a road trip to see out the summer in style. Camping in the Welsh countryside, they learn more about themselves than ever before.

The Last Summer of Us is the bittersweet tale of endings and beginnings.It evokes memories of hazy summer days where the line distinguishing sea from sky is non-existent, and the endless days of freedom are coming to an end.

Despite being a little slow at first, I feel like this book is a shining example of UKYA. The narrative is fresh and funny, the style is super laid-back, and every sentence is brimming with hope and possibility. It carries the message that your parents' issues aren't your fault, and that you should never feel responsible for the death of a loved one, whether it was due to an addiction like with Limpet's mother, or due to an illness, like with Steffan's mother. It's a subtle message, but I think there are people out there who will be able to draw comfort from it.

Overall, The Last Summer of Us is a fun and sparkling debut with one of the best slow-burning romances on the YA scene since Anna and the French Kiss.
On a different topic, I just wanted to let you all know about an exciting competition currently happening over at CultNoise Magazine. They're giving away one complete set of the Folk'd trilogy books - and they're all signed! I'm completely intrigued, and you will be, too, when you read the synopsis. 

"Meet Danny Morrigan. Call centre worker. Young father. Danny's not entirely happy with his life. He finds himself tortured by the 'what ifs', and by one in particular - what if his casual girlfriend hadn't told him she was pregnant before he finished his university degree? What if, out of some sense of decency and not wanting to be like his own father, he hadn't 'done the right thing' and dropped out to support her and the baby? But when Danny comes home from work after a particularly bad day to find his girlfriend and baby son have vanished into thin air, it begins a series of events that quickly moves beyond a simple missing persons case. Danny begins to uncover the Morrigan family's real purpose in this world, a world of lurking danger and concealed horror, where the line between mythology and reality blur."

Click here to enter - you haven't got long!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

10 Books Every Creative Person Needs // Part Two

In part one of '10 Books Every Creative Person Needs' I showcased 5 of my favourite creative books, but they were more focused on drawing, painting, sticking and collecting. If that didn't sound like your kind of thing and you prefer writing, don't worry because these books are all about being creative with... words! You won't get paint everywhere with these, that's for sure. Maybe some pen ink, though.


Burn After Writing (Teen) // Buy the Book

This is my favourite book in this post. Filled with an infinite amount of questions (or it seems like it, anyway) you can't be bored with this around. What I like most about this book is that this edition is specifically aimed at teenagers so all of the questions are relevant and there aren't any annoying ones that you have to skip, like... questions about mortgages. Or something.

Maybe don't burn it after writing, though. It's far too pretty a book to do that.

Burn After Writing (Adult) // Buy the Book

And, of course, I couldn't leave out the version aimed at adults. I'm pretty sure you're not all teenagers, right? I haven't written in this one (I stole borrowed it for the photograph) but, if the teen version is anything to go by, it will be just as fun.

I also like how you can tell the two books go together, and they look much brighter in real life! The covers feel nice, too. It might be worth going to your nearest bookshop just so you can go and stroke it.

Aaaand I think I'll stop there. If you like answering questions, you'll like this book. Moving on.

642 Things to Write About // Buy the Book

This book is a goldmine of writing prompts and, trust me, they're about anything and everything. For example:

"You love to eat Belgian waffles. You cover them in sticky syrup and stuff them in your mouth. Your mother tells you that if you keep eating Belgian waffles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will turn into one. Then one day you do."

Don't even try to pretend that doesn't sound awesome.

Finish This Book by Keri Smith // Buy the Book

Everyone knows who Keri Smith is. She is, pretty much, the Queen of Creative Books, so it's only right that I include one of her books in this series of posts for the third time.

Unlike Wreck This Journal and The Pocket Scavenger, Finish This Book (or... Fnish Ths Bk) is more geared towards writing, and includes secret writing missions. Shh. That's all I can say right now.

It's Keri Smith. You don't need me to tell you it's good.

Listography: Your Life in Lists // Buy the Book

I like making lists, as you can probably tell by the fact that, y'know, this is a list itself. Luckily, every single page asks you to create a list, for example:

"List your favourite songs" or "List the best gifts you've ever received."

Not only that, but each page features a cute (and, I guess you could say, 'hipster') illustration that relates to the list.

It's your life in lists, which sounds pretty damn good, to me. I mean, I used to start writing my Christmas wishlist in May just because I liked writing lists so much. I know.

Do you have any recommendations to add?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

10 Books Every Creative Person Needs // Part One

I love art, and anything else creative. In fact, that's a big part of my life and it always has been in many different ways, but I don't tend to share that part of myself here. Well, that's about to change because I'm going to share with you the 5 books that every creative person needs.


The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith // Buy the Book

This is perfect for anyone who loves the great outdoors. It contains a long, long list of things to collect, from a feather and a piece of moss to paper clips and some origami. Then, if you turn the book upside down, it gives a way for you to alter the object you found.

I haven't finished it yet, and maybe I never will (one of things you're asked to collect is 'part of a book.' No. Just no.) but it's already interesting to flick through and it's so much fun. I take mine off the shelf and add to it every summer - it's pretty much a staple for the hot month* of the year.

Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith // Buy the Book

This is my absolute favourite and I've had it for years. I'm actually tempted to get a new one soon because mine's full. Yes, you have to wreck a book (I know, I know...) but it's so fun and when you look back on it in years to come you'll realise it's full of memories you'd forgotten.

For example, one of my pages is covered with perfume samples. The original clean page isn't visible because I completely covered it, and four years after doing that particular page it still smells. It's not the prettiest page (although it's Wreck This Journal so it's not supposed to be pretty) and it doesn't smell amazing either, but it's my favourite page because collecting the perfume samples was hilarious.... maybe I'll tell you about it one day.

It's perfect for any age, and it's great for perfectionists, like myself, because it forces you to stop caring about making everything look just right.

Memory Stick by Polly Smart // Buy the Book // My review

This, like the next book in the list, is more recent and was only published a couple of months ago, but I quickly fell in love with it. It's similar to Wreck This Journal but the prompts and activities are a lot different, and I'd say this one is more for those who prefer writing and/or are a bit pressed for time.

Even though I haven't had this for very long, I've really enjoyed filling it in and doodling all over it. If you're not sure whether creative, journal-type books are for you, this might be a good one to start off with!


The Pointless Book by Alfie Deyes // Buy the Book // My review

A lot of people are against this book because it's written by a YouTuber (and I think that's a silly reason to be against a book, but I won't go into that). However, I've always thought books and their authors are separate, and whatever your opinion of Alfie Deyes may be, this is still a good book and just what you need when you literally have nothing to do. I mean, take a Doctor's waiting room, for example. They always have the most boring magazines, and to top it off they're from several years ago. That's where this book comes in. Just call me Amber the Problem Solver.


Smash Book // Buy the Book

Everyone has a junk drawer, right? This is like that but in a book. Go wild with colourful paperclips and pretty washi tapes and stick in anything you want. I promise it'll look great when you're done, and in the end you'll have a wonderful record of things you did that you probably would have forgotten about.

Mine includes tickets to movies and art galleries, postcards from previous holidays, receipts, photos and more. Do you know what I like about this book? All the pages have different backgrounds - photographs, patterns, art - and it's just so different from your standard, plain scrapbook.

If drawing, collecting and sticking doesn't sound like something you enjoy, look out for part two of this post where I'll be sharing my favourite creative books which focus on... writing!

Do you have any recommendations?

*It's England. Enough said.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

DISCUSSION: Should book bloggers get paid?


Beauty bloggers, parenting bloggers, techie bloggers, film bloggers... the list of blogging niches is infinite. Most bloggers in these categories get paid for what they do because, for a lot of them, blogging is their job.

Book blogging is different. Most of us don't get paid, unless you count through adverts (which don't bring in much money at all) and sponsored posts which seem pretty rare - I've only chosen to do two of them in the last six years.

But we spend hours, sometimes days, writing posts to promote books for free. We're valuable. For some, book blogging could be considered a full-time job, whether they make money from it or not.

Should we be paid for this?

I don't think we 'should', necessarily. That makes it sound like we all expect payment, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we don't expect anything at all, not even free books.

Before you read the rest of this post, please note that I'm not trying to start something. I just think this makes for an interesting discussion and I wondered what everyone else thinks.

For
  • We are valuable. We spend our free time doing all sorts, and all for the love of books and blogging. We come up with ideas, we write posts, we take photographs, we make videos, we recommend books to our friends offline and on a huge variety of social networks. We respond to emails, we make graphics, we work with HTML and CSS when we need to, we type up interviews, we let authors and other industry people guest post on our blogs, we build a following... we do a lot. It's like a full-time job, except we (mostly) do it for free. Who wouldn't want to be paid for talking about books?
  • Book reviewers in traditional publications get paid, so why shouldn't we? Admittedly, they tend to have much larger audiences, and they had to actually apply for the job in the first place, but we work just as hard - if not harder. Do book reviewers for newspapers have to design the page before they put their text on it? Do they have to spend hours promoting their review so as many people as possible see it? Didn't think so.
  • Lots of booktubers get paid. Publishing houses sponsor them to include certain books in their videos but we're not paid to include certain books in our posts. 
  • Most bloggers aren't rich, and yet we're practically doing another job on the side but getting little or no money from it.
  • Some of us have bills to pay. Books don't pay bills.
  • If a fashion blogger was approached by a company, the blogger would send over the fees they charge for product placement and whatever else. Why don't we?

Against:
  • Bloggers might get paid to review a book but not disclose the fact they've been paid, which could lead to legal issues and readers feeling like they'd been lied to.
  • We might not be able to trust other reviews anymore.
  • For most of us, book blogging is a hobby. Getting paid could elevate that enjoyment, but it could also take it away and make blogging feel like a chore.
  • Publishers have budgets for marketing, and a blogger promoting a book is marketing. But, at the same time, publishers are already under a lot of strain, financially - I, personally, wouldn't feel right about adding to that. 
  • Why would anyone suddenly pay for something we're currently doing for free?
  • We get free books already, and the occasional extra like a tote or a t-shirt (but, even then, we're essentially walking adverts, not that I'm complaining) - isn't that enough?

Some context:

I've never talked to you about the financial side of this blog, but it's relevant and talking about it openly doesn't bother me. So, here's some context.

  • At the time of writing this post, I have made a grand total of £54.14 in nearly six years of book blogging. This money has been collected through affiliate links and sponsored posts - there are two of each, if you're wondering. 
  • My domain name costs £11 per year to renew. I've had this domain name for three years, which means I've spent £33 on renewing it.
  • Over the years, I've done a lot of giveaways and you'd be surprised at how much postage can cost. When a publisher isn't sending the prize and it's my responsibility, the postage money comes from my own pocket. 
  • I have business cards. They're very snazzy and good quality. When I run out, I buy more. They're probably too expensive for small pieces of card, but I like them and you like them. So it works.

If you want to get all business-like on this, you could say I've made a loss. Not that I mind, by the way - I love blogging so, so much and I never started this for the money, nor do I expect to make a profit from it ever. Even though it's been put back into the blog, the fact that I've even made £50+ at all is pretty cool, even if I don't have anything to show for it. Except a domain name. That's actually a really big thing to show for it. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. Whatever. MOVING ON.

Some might think those who want to be paid are suddenly book blogging for the wrong reasons, but I think it's natural to want to be compensated for spending so much time helping out - and, essentially, working for - other people. Bloggers in other niches are paid. Some booktubers are paid. Why is there a different attitude when it comes to money and book bloggers?

This is a big topic and there's a lot more that I could say, but this is already getting pretty long. I'll leave it with this: we're creative, valuable, awesome, and if you want to make money from your blog, then try. If you don't, then don't. But you're awesome, either way, and I don't think bloggers should be treated differently for whichever path they decide to take. Unless they charge authors for 5-star reviews, regardless of their actual opinion, and don't disclose it. But that, my friends, is a different rant for a different day.

Now I would like to know your thoughts. Should we get paid? Would you like to be?


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O'Neill
Published by: Quercus Books
Publication date: 3rd July 2014
Pages: 392
Genres: YA Sci-fi/Dystopian/Fantasy/Feminism
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift.


freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives.

Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions - wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative - life as a concubine - is too horrible to contemplate.

But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty - her only asset - in peril.

And then, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

freida must fight for her future - even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known...

This is one of those books that you finish and think, 'I wish I'd written that." Also, 'When I grow up, I want to be Louise O'Neill.'

The world as we know it has gone. In its place is a world where women are no longer born - instead, they're created and genetically modified to be perfect. This new generation of women call themselves 'eves' and they live in a strict boarding school for sixteen years, with their only goal being to please men.

Their classes aren't academic - being academic is frowned upon - and, instead, they take classes such as Comparison Studies where two eves are stripped to their underwear while the rest of the class have to send them anonymous messages with what they need to improve about their looks. They also have Organised Recreation where the eves are put in glass coffins and given medication to stop them from getting too emotional or hysterical. Eves thought to be too intelligent, overweight, ugly or angry are punished.

They must be good. They must be appealing to others. They must be agreeable.

At the end of their sixteenth year at the School, ten boys of the same age, called Inheritants, pick their wives. The remaining eves either become concubines (prostitutes) or chastities who, after having their heads shaved and their wombs removed, teach the new students.

As you can probably tell, Only Ever Yours is dark, disturbing and one of the best books I have ever read. O'Neill has taken our misogynistic and anti-feminist world, amplified it, and turned it into something dystopian. She has shown us what could easily happen to our society if we let it, and it should have been ridiculous, but it wasn't because it's so true to life and very close to home. I have no idea how I'm going to be able to wait until September for O'Neill's next book, Asking For It, which sounds equally fantastic.

Some parts, like the following extract, made me laugh despite the underlying seriousness and realism of the situation:

"Which one of us do you think is the prettiest?"
agyness looks from megan's face to angelina's, then back to megan's again.
"angelina."
Silence fills the domed garden, no one daring to look at anyone else.
"What?" megan isn't even attempting to disguise her disbelief.
"I said I choose angelina." Irritation colours agyness's voice at this further disruption. "I prefer her lips. You have great lips, angelina," she says, and angelina smiles gratefully at this unexpected victory, however small. "But, um, you have a nice personality, megan."
She must be worried that she has hurt megan's feelings. That's the only explanation I can think of for the blatant lie. That warning vein is throbbing in megan's forehead again, her lips so white they look as if they've disappeared.
"Nice? Nice? NICE?" megan shouts. I try to shush her but she's beyond reason.
"Yes. You're nice," agyness lies again, looking perplexed at this reaction.
"Who cares about nice?"
"I do. I think personality matters."
"Are you brain dead? Personality does NOT matter. All that matters is being pretty, you..." she stammers with rage, "you feminist." There's a horrified gasp. "Well, it's true." she says defiantly.
"I quite agree, #767."
We freeze as she moves out of the shadows cast by the plastic trees. Her black robes make her look like a huge crow, about to scavenge through the debris for something to eat. Behind her is chastity-bernadette, sleepily rubbing her eyes.
Oh shit.
"Being pretty is what's most important. Although, I have to say, I feel using the 'F-word' was a little excessive," she continues, wearing her calmness like a mask. I can't breathe, terror constricting my lungs.
"I'm sorry, chastity-ruth, I-"
"Since you know how important being pretty is, I'm sure you're aware of how important sufficient sleep is to keep your skin in good condition. Especially coming up to the Ceremony."
"Yes, chastity-ruth," we whisper.
Shit. Shit. Shit.

It was interesting to see that, even in a world where women are designed to be perfect, almost all of the eves have problems with anorexia, bulimia, and just generally hating themselves for the way they look. It was a brutal but honest depiction of what it's like to be a teenage girl in today's world.

It takes a little while to get used to the writing style - specifically, the female names beginning with a lower-case letter - but you soon get used to it. I'm probably wrong, but I thought that might symbolise how the eves are inferior to the men, whose names are capitalised.

And, because this is starting to sound like an English essay, here is my initial reaction after finishing the book back in January:


So, there we go. I might seem calm now but that book had a massive effect on me, and I urge all of you to read it. Chilling and intense, Only Ever Yours really got under my skin and highlights everything society tries to cover up.