Thursday, 30 July 2015

How I Deal With Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Around this time last year I let you in on a little secret which I had been hiding from the Internet for quite a while. I was terrified, and I didn't like talking about it, but even now I'm still getting tons of emails from people around the world telling me that my post on anxiety and panic attacks helped them. And you have no idea how much that means to me.

Along with peoples' own mental health stories, it is constantly requested in these emails that I write a post on how I deal with my anxiety. Because, lets be honest, my original post was an emotional mess and, at the time, I didn't really have any solid ways of coping.

I'm far from being better, but I've come a long way since that first blog post, and in that time I've discovered a few things that work for me.


Listening to music

Sometimes I like to do this, and sometimes I don't. It depends on how I feel at the time, and if I do choose to listen to music, I either pick kickass tracks with empowering lyrics to get me in the zone, by artists like Sia and Jessie J, or I'll listen to less intrusive music, like Lorde and Troye Sivan. I also really like this remix of Midnight by Coldplay. Mostly, I think it's about finding songs with lyrics that speak to your particular situation.

Blowing on my thumb

This sounds weird, but stick with me. I got this one from Carrie Hope Fletcher's book, All I Know Now, and it works. When she's nervous before a show, she blows slowly on her thumb to regulate her breathing. A similar tip is to breathe in for 4 and out for 7, making sure your stomach is rising more than your chest. It helps to lay down for that one, so I prefer the other tip as you can do it anywhere.

Thinking ahead

Say I have an exam this afternoon and I'm really anxious about it. To help, I'll think 'this time tomorrow it will all be over and done with.' Imagining the situation over and out of the way really helps me and is actually something I've done since I was little.

Thinking positively

With anxiety, it's very easy to slip into the mindset that you can't do this, that you're rubbish and you'll never be able to do anything. Picturing myself doing successfully whatever it is I'm anxious about has helped me in the past.

Taking time out

I guess you could say that, until maybe a year ago, I didn't take much care of myself in the way that it never occurred to me to take a break every now and then. These days, I am a firm believer in self-care. If I have a lot to do but I'm feeling rubbish, I'll 'take the day off' and relax - or try to, at least. It's important to take time out when you need to, because if you're feeling like crap - whether you have anxiety or not - that's probably a sign that you need to stop for a while.

Distracting myself

I write about every blog event I attend. There are always more than enough photos, lots and lots of notes, and sometimes even a vlog of the day. Why? Because being at an event is extremely nerve-wracking for me, and the only way I can ever get through it is by distracting myself by completely focusing on the end result, aka the blog post. I'll film clips, take photos, and write notes about the event, and this always helps to make me more comfortable.

Making my lock-screen positive


Like a lot of people, I always have my phone on me. So, I picked two inspirational tweets which I liked, made them into one photo, and set it as my lock-screen. Whenever I'm anxious I'll read it and really let it sink in.

Remembering that lots of people feel the same

Right now, someone in the world is having a panic attack. Right now, someone in the world is sat talking to their therapist. Right now, someone is taking their medication for the day. At YALC earlier this month, I was comforted by the fact that I knew there were lots of other people there with anxiety. Lots of people are dealing with the same things as you, and you're not alone. It helps to remember that every now and then.
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These are all things that can help me to feel a bit calmer. However, just because these help me sometimes, doesn't mean they'll help you - I'm not a doctor! Hopefully they do help, and there's no harm in trying, right?

On a different topic entirely, I love it when some of you send in blog post ideas, so if there is anything you would like to see on The Mile Long Bookshelf, let me know via my contact form and I might just do it. :)

Do you have any tips on dealing with anxiety?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

Title: Fire Colour One
Author: Jenny Valentine
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication date: 1st July 2015
Pages: 237
Genres: YA Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from Maximum Pop.


Iris's father, Ernest, is at the end of his life and she hasn't even met him.

Her best friend, Thurston, is somewhere on the other side of the world.

Everything she thought she knew is up in flames. Now her mother has declared war and means to get her hands on Ernest's priceless art collection.

But Ernest has other ideas.

There are things he wants Iris to know after he's gone. And the truth has more than one way of coming to light...

I know everyone loves this book, and I know that Jenny Valentine is commonly referred to as one of the greatest YA voices of her generation, but Fire Colour One wasn't for me. At all. My first impressions were good; I love the tagline and, as I said in my June book haul video, the cover is so tremendously beautiful with pretty typography and flecks of gold.

But, with great sadness, I've come to the realisation yet again that a good cover doesn't always equate to a good book.

Iris is a pyromaniac, leaving a trail of bonfires behind her wherever she goes. Her mother, Hannah, is cold, materialistic, and loves money. Her step-father, Lowell, is a weak wanna-be actor who can usually be found with a bottle of Vodka in his hand. So, when it's announced that Iris's biological father, who also happens to be a millionaire, is dying, Hannah and Lowell are hungry for his money and will do anything to get it.

Iris? She just wants to get out of there, and maybe start a few fires on the way. But there are secrets she needs to uncover first.

Fire Colour One has received so much praise recently. Bloggers have called it beautiful, uplifting and emotional; it's been proclaimed a gem, named one of the best books of 2015 so far, and had people reaching for the tissues left, right and centre. But honestly? I felt no emotion whilst reading this. It felt like a chore more than anything else, and I'm genuinely relieved to have finished it. I'll admit it was poetic and even reminiscent of one of my favourite writers, Jandy Nelson, at times, but it was also slow-paced, choppy and, I hate to say it, boring. Lacking. Meh.

I quite liked the ending, actually - it was genius and lovely, plus it completely took me by surprise - but the rest of the book was a complete let down. Looking at Goodreads, I'm clearly in the minority when it comes to my feelings about Fire Colour One, so if you like the sound of it don't let me put you off. I just hope you enjoy it more than I did.

Friday, 24 July 2015

GUEST POST: Why We Need Diverse Books

Over the last year or so, there have been numerous campaigns to get more diversity into the books we're reading. But why do we need more diversity? Chloe from Writer-on-Wheels explains in her amazing guest post below, and I'm in full agreement with her.


We all have that one book in which we found that one character that was us; that was so similar to ourselves that it made our hearts flutter. We all have a character that we connect to because we relate to them on so many levels - and they change your life, or at least have a place in your heart, because it means that you are no longer alone, and you get a whole book to read about someone like you.

But the thing is, I haven't found that character yet. Not really. I mean, I've found brunette girls who like reading and want to be writers, but I haven't found a character that has been so like me that it's touched my heart, that I truly relate to. I haven't found a character with my disability.

Okay, let me elaborate. I have Cerebral Palsy - a physical disability. Now, why would I want to read about someone with my disability? Good question. It's the same as why people who like reading like to read about a character who likes reading, and so on and so on. It's just really, really nice to find someone like you in a book, someone who you can relate to and who understands you. I know that sounds really deep, but a disabled character with Cerebral Palsy might understand my condition and what happens to me because of it, and the thought of that, the thought of people like me being represented in something I love, is the best thing in the world.

That's why we need diverse books - especially in YA. Because the people who most need to be represented and understood when growing up (the questions that've been asked that might've been avoided if disability had more representation, wow) would benefit in so many ways by having characters and themes in books that they could relate to. Everyone deserves a book that caters to them, that shows them that they are not alone, while raising awareness for them and their lives/conditions/struggles/normalness.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald says: "That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong."

So I think that there should be more books out there that makes sure that everyone has at least one instance in literature where they belong, and can relate to a character's longings, so eventually, they become accepted, and universal.

Or at least, that's my opinion. I know my reasons for wanting diverse books are very personal, so I'd love to hear yours! What is your favourite diverse book? Let's get recommending some, so authors and publishers know that we want more!

Do you think we need diverse books? 

Chloe is a book blogger over at Writer-on-Wheels. She is a huge fan of Amber's blog and is very grateful for the opportunity to have a post on her blog. (Thanks so much!)

She is 17 and lives in the UK. Some would say she is a nerd (and they would be right). She loves reading and talking about books (particularly YA) and would like to be a writer and poet when she grows up (although she isn't sure she ever will grow up).

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

YALC Haul and Giveaway


If you read this post the other day - or if you don't live under a rock - you'll know that London was overrun with bookworms from July 17th-19th due to YALC, otherwise known as the Young Adult Literature Convention.

I had to go. And, of course, I came away with a lot of stuff. Eight tote bags full of stuff, in fact - most of it free! If you want to know more about the day, you can read my event recap here, but today I'll be showing you the books I bought, the books I got signed, and the freebies I picked up, some of which I'll be giving away in this post.

Before the big day, I already had a vague idea of what books would be available to buy and so I made a list of the ones I wanted. There weren't many as I was on a tight budget, so I only noted down the ones I really, really wanted to get. They were:

  • When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman
  • Counting Stars by Keris Stainton
  • Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa
  • How to be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle (signed)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (signed)

Unfortunately, I completely forgot about the list which was right there on my phone and so I only bought Counting Stars and Fans of the Impossible Life. I'm glad I got those, obviously, but I'm really disappointed that I didn't get the others. And they were on the same stand as Counting Stars so how I missed them, I don't know! I really, really wanted those signed copies, as I doubt I'll ever get the opportunity to get them signed in person.

Not on my list as I already had a copy was The Baby by Lisa Drakeford, but I ended up buying a signed finished edition as I loved it so much.


While I didn't buy many books - only three, what?! - I got a lot signed. I only attended two signings at YALC, but between them, Cassandra Clare and C.J. Daugherty signed thirteen books! Can I just point out the messages C.J. wrote? I love it when authors write things other than their name, but especially when the message is personal! 



And now... the book swag. Not only was there a freebies table at the YALC entrance piled high with stuff, but every publisher stand had freebies too. IT. WAS. AMAZING. I am a big fan of free stuff, as you can tell.


That's about a quarter of my loot. LOOK AT IT ALL. Such pretty, much yes, very wow. Don't you worry, though - it's not all for me! I picked up lots of duplicates with a giveaway in mind. Here's the selection I'm giving away:


There will be one winner and it is open internationally! Click the arrows to see all of the prizes. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 20 July 2015

EVENT REPORT: YALC 2015


Last year I really wanted to go to YALC, otherwise known as the Young Adult Literature Convention as part of LFCC, also known as London Film and Comic Con. But, because of my anxiety and everything, it just wasn't achievable. Crowds. Talking to people. Socialising.


I still very much struggle with it, but this year I've been taking more 'risks' and so, before I knew it, I'd bought three Saturday tickets for this year's YALC and off we went. I was actually asked to be on a panel, too, but I declined. It would have been cool, but simply going to YALC was enough for me this time round!

The day didn't start well, and not just because I had to wake up at 4am (gross). Long story short, I had a massive panic attack in the car, then we got stuck in traffic, then I had to completely re-do my make-up and, all the while, we were running pretty late. I ended up missing Lisa Drakeford's unofficial signing at the Chicken House stand and the YA: The Next Generation panel, but everything sorted itself out after that.

This was my first ever convention and it was so surreal. When we arrived, we were queueing to get into the car park and Jim from YA Yeah Yeah walked past the window. I didn't say hello because, y'know, I was in a car and he wasn't, but BLOGGERS ARE REAL PEOPLE. That will never not be weird. Out of my other window, Katniss walked past with the Joker.


Conventions are cool places.

Then we queued. According to my mum, people already in the queue recognised me as I walked past to get to the end but I was in my own little world and didn't notice. If that was you, I'm sorry!


After getting into the building, I made a beeline for the freebies table. Yes, you read that right. FREEBIES TABLE. A long, long table full of postcards, posters, wristbands, badges, lanyards, sweets, bookmarks and samplers with signs inviting people to help themselves. I definitely helped myself.


Yeah, that last photo isn't a shot of the freebies table. That's a photo I took at home when I was looking at all the stuff I'd got. It's not all for me, honestly! I got duplicates with a blog giveaway in mind, and I also picked up a few things for friends.

Then I headed to the info desk where I picked up my goody bag (perks of having a priority ticket) and bought a YALC t-shirt. I'd been there for fifteen minutes and already I had a bag full of stuff, a brand new tote bag, a new t-shirt and £10 less than I'd had before.

Whoops.


I then queued for Shadowhunters, a talk with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. Next to the queue was a wall inspired by All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, an excellent book that you should definitely read if you haven't already. It invited people to take a sticky note and write on it the top thing on their bucket list. I loved it, and was very happy to see a lot of people wanting to write books.


I saw the opportunity and I took it. (I did actually write a serious answer, too, which you can see below.)


One thing that bugged me about the panels was that the audiences were supposed to be cleared out after every talk. Then, if they wanted to attend the next panel, they would have to queue again. A hassle, maybe, but it was to make sure that all YALC attendees got the chance to watch the panels, and everyone had the chance to get good seats. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. When I got into the Shadowhunters panel, nearly everyone from the previous talk stayed sitting down which wasn't really fair. I'm also pretty sure that those with priority tickets were meant to be able to queue before everyone else, but that didn't happen, either. Luckily, there was one seat left on the end of the front row and I took it. I've never had such a good view at an event before! #shortpersonproblems.


Because of where I was sat, Cassandra Clare walked past me on the way to the stage and SHE WAS SO CLOSE. AND I WAS FILMING. If you want to see that, it's in the vlog! I genuinely stopped breathing and I just... EEEEEEEEEEE.

Sarah Rees Brennan had loads of photos from the Shadowhunters set which she passed around and, again, because of where I was sat, I was first to see them and SHE SPOKE TO ME AND TOUCHED MY HAND. I haven't even read any of her books but I nearly died. I was in a very excitable mood.

Whilst I was in the panel, my mum was getting tickets for Cassandra's signing which was supposed to be right after the panel. This is where things got a little bit, uh, rule break-y. More on that later. For now, all you need to know is that the queue for her signing was so long that we didn't have to come back for another hour so I had a look around the stands instead. The publishers had put an immense amount of effort in, especially the team at Electric Monkey, and it was lovely meeting publicists who have been emailing me and sending me books for years.

Here's me with Maggie and Emily from Electric Monkey being cool campers.


And here I am with Jazz from Chicken House. It was lovely to meet these people in person, and they were all so nice!


I'd missed Lisa Drakeford's signing of The Baby earlier in the day so I was happy to see some signed editions for sale. Needless to say, I got one.

Then we went back to the signing area. It still wasn't time to go to the Cassandra Clare signing - it was ticketed, and she was still signing for people with tickets numbered under 100, whilst we had tickets 189-191. So we got in the queue for C.J. Daugherty's signing next door - I was first! - where I met Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies and was an awkward mess. I think that's when my exhaustion piqued. Sorry, Michelle! *headdesk* Isn't her dress awesome, though?


Then C.J arrived! I read the entire Night School series for the first time last week and very quickly became obsessed. They're such amazing books - my favourite series, in fact - and C.J. Daugherty is the nicest person I have ever met. If you've read previous event recaps, you'll know that a running theme at signings is that I won't say much to the author. I'll tell them my name, I'll answer any questions they ask, but that's it and it's always a bit awkward. So you might be surprised to know that me and C.J. had a full on conversation. BOOM. The below photo is my favourite from the event. It's so lovely!


Then I got in the Cassandra Clare queue and bumped into Gee from The Books Bandit! I've met bloggers before, but Gee is actually the first teen blogger I've ever met which was pretty cool.


Both clutching our books excitedly.

This is where the rule break-y stuff I mentioned earlier happened. For Cassandra Clare, there was a limit of three books per person. So, uh, I took three, my mum took three and my step-dad took two. All, strangely enough, to be dedicated to a girl called Amber. Heh. This wasn't strictly allowed. Cassandra could have refused to sign them, and I wouldn't have blamed her, but she thought it was funny and was happy to sign all of them! I was so happy. After seeing my proof of Magisterium, she asked if it was mine and how I got it, so we got talking about my blog which was awesome. Two proper conversations with my two favourite authors in one day!

I should probably add that when a member of the Showmasters team got wind of it when we were still in the queue, she laughed and told me it was a good strategy. So... I feel kind of bad, but at the same time I'm happy and Cassandra, her assistant and a member of the Showmasters crew were fine with it.


After that, I met up with Gee again and we went to a photo booth which had been set up to promote The It Girl by Katy Birchall. It was so fun and it was lovely to be able to hang out with her properly instead of just quickly saying "hello!" in passing. We also had a chat with Sabrina from The Delirious Reader in the queue which was nice as we'd both been at the Divergent premiere last year but hadn't had the chance to meet up.


Before Carrie Hope Fletcher's YALC Book Club panel, I had another look at the stands. Look, it's Night School again! *dies*


Then it was time for the panel titled Carrie Hope Fletcher's YALC Book Club, consisting of Malorie Blackman, Samantha Shannon, Holly Smale and, of course, Carrie herself. As much as I love the world of Shadowhunters, this was probably my favourite panel. It was all about writing - their tips, how they got into the profession, if they had always wanted to write - and they even gave book recommendations.


After that, there was nothing else I wanted to do. I'd planned to get my proof of The Rest of Us Just Live Here signed by Patrick Ness, but I was tired and, to be honest, I wasn't all that bothered about it. So, I had one last browse around the stands and there I bumped into Anna from The Bookseller. We didn't get a photo together but it was lovely to meet her. Anna is one of the best reviewers out there, and she has my dream job. Plus, it was only a couple of weeks ago that she bought a custom typography piece from me, which you can see here.

Before leaving, we went down to Level 1 to have a look at the film and comic con part and, wow, I'd thought YALC was busy but LFCC was chaos! With YALC, I'd known everyone and everything and generally felt very in my element. As soon as I stepped through the door into LFCC, I knew I didn't belong there and it was very overwhelming. So many film and comic references that I didn't get, so many actors I'd never heard of from films I've never seen, and so much sweat. I'm sure it was awesome for people who like that kind of thing, but I'm very glad YALC was on a separate floor - the two together would have been way too overwhelming, I think.

After that, we drove home - with eight tote bags full of stuff in the boot! Here are some photos I took as we drove through the city for your tourist-y pleasure.


There were horror stories last year of overcrowding and overheating and I was concerned about that, but this year YALC was in a different location - Olympia rather than Earls Court - and it seemed to be so much better. Sure, there were thousands of people there but it was still spacious, there were plenty of seats in the panels - 800, in fact - and, yes, it was hot but it wasn't unbearable.

Overall, it was an amazing day and it seemed to run pretty smoothly. Despite having social anxiety, I actually loved meeting the people who I've only ever known online, and a couple of my YouTube subscribers found me, too, which was lovely! Plus, I met my two favourite authors ever, had proper conversations with them and C.J hugged me and I got to hang out with other bloggers.

For me, YALC made me realise just how lucky I am to be a part of this community, and how magical the YA genre is. As Malorie Blackman said at her panel, we are living in the golden age of YA books. That is absolutely true.

Bring on next year!

There will be a giveaway very soon in a separate post, and my vlog of the day will be up shortly. Meanwhile, I'd like to know - did you go to YALC? If not, are you planning to go next year?

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

14 Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone With a Mental Illness

Living with any mental illness is hard; it's even harder when people make uneducated statements about it. Sure, it can be difficult to know what to say, and most of the time people do mean well, but here's a list of what not to say.


"It's all in your head!"

Really? Is that why it's called a mental illness? Never would've guessed. That's not comforting, btw.

"You should be trying to get better."

Because trying various forms of therapy so isn't me trying to get better. 'Course not. It's just a weird hobby of mine, y'know? Psst, as a side-note: if it was that easy to get better, we'd all be better already.


"Hey, at least you get to miss school!"

Great. This is such a party. (I'd rather go to school than have a mental illness. I think most people would.)

"But you were fine a week ago."

Yeah, and now I'm not. Tough. All people struggling with their mental health go through patches that are rougher than others. It's like the development of a cold - you're fine, then gradually not fine, and then completely rubbish... except this repeats and repeats and repeats all year round.

"Can't you just try?"


Wow, I hadn't considered that before. You've cured me with your wisdom.

"Don't take medication, it'll change your personality."

Medication exists for a reason. Unless you're a medical professional, telling someone not to take their medication is dangerous.

"Don't take medication. There are so many side effects and you'll hate them all."

There are side-effects with pretty much everything. Also, this is the wrong thing to say to anyone with a mental illness, especially when they have anxiety. WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME SOMETHING ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

"Can I catch it?"

Um, no? Mental illness isn't contagious. *headdesk*

"You're missing out on life, you should get out more."

I'm fully aware that I'm completely missing my adolescence. We're all aware that our illnesses are making us miss out on things. Did you really need to reiterate that? Ouch.

"So you're, like, crazy now?"


"It's probably just a phase."

What you're really saying is that my feelings don't mean anything and aren't valid. Awesome. Thanks.

"How many fingers am I holding up?"


"So... you have a mental illness? Does that mean you're suicidal?"

I get why this can be an important question to ask but it's also inappropriate. Just because someone has a mental illness does not automatically mean they wish to die. Please don't treat them like psychology homework.

"Snap out of it."

Sure, let me just pencil that in. Hey, you have cancer? You don't need chemotherapy, you can just snap out of it, right? Cool.

At the end of the day, a person with mental illness is not a puzzle for you to work out. They're not there for your entertainment, or for you to use in your psychology exam, or for you to gossip about. They're just people working through some stuff. We're just people working through some stuff.

This post isn't meant to be authoritative on the subject. Some people might not mind some of these things being said to them - I can't speak for everyone! It's just here as a reminder that everyone has a lot going on behind what they necessarily show the world.

Try to understand us, do research of your own and, of course, don't be afraid to ask questions. But think before you speak. Be compassionate and mindful, and all will be well. :)

Are there any phrases you would add to the list?