Friday, 30 October 2015

DISCUSSION: Changing a Blog Name - Yay or Nay?

I'm a perfectionist, and whilst my blog certainly isn't perfect, that does mean that there are a few things blogging-wise which I will never do. They're not bad things to do, I just personally can't imagine ever doing them myself. One of these things is changing blog name.

I think I was 10 when I set up this blog, so it was 10-year-old me who came up with the name The Mile Long Bookshelf. I'm just thankful I came up with something half-decent and not some long name basically describing my love of Oreos. Or something. But, I hadn't yet learned how to use a hyphen... and to be honest, I still haven't. So it's not surprising that according to a bunch of authors I mobbed politely asked on Twitter, the grammatically correct version of my blog name is The Mile-Long Bookshelf. Not The Mile Long Bookshelf.

Dammit.

But as I said, I just can't bring myself to change the name of this blog. I can't even add the hyphen to it, never mind give it a completely different name. For a start, I'd have to change the name of my Facebook page, YouTube channel, logo, and anywhere else I've put my blog name. I paid for my current business cards to be printed and I'm very happy with them, but with a name change I'd have to do it all over again. And what about where I've been quoted in/on books, Amazon descriptions, and other websites? After a name change, none of those would feel like they belonged to me anymore. It would bug me.


Honestly, adding the hyphen wouldn't have a big impact, but I feel like changing it to something completely different would. Publishers and authors wouldn't recognise my name anymore, readers might get confused, people could unfollow... My URL would have to change, and after nearly 6 years it would be way too much hassle to change all of the links currently directing to my blog.

Saying that, I had exactly the same thoughts a few years ago when I changed my name. I tossed and turned for weeks trying to figure out whether to change my surname when my mum got married. I was worried that certificates, school reports and everything else with Amber Kirk on them wouldn't feel like 'mine' anymore.

It's been nearly 6 years since I legally changed my surname from Kirk to Kirk-Ford and it hasn't made a difference at all, although the passport application office is being annoyingly fussy about it, but that's another story. The fact is, changing my name didn't make any kind of impact.

I'm not saying I want to change my blog name. I don't - I could never do it. I have a lot of respect for bloggers who do make a massive change to their blog name because I, personally, would be way too scared of the risks and, also... I'm too lazy to bother.

Anyway. Grammatically correct or not, The Mile Long Bookshelf still looks better than The Mile-Long Bookshelf...

If you've changed your blog name, how did it affect you? If you haven't changed your blog name, do you think you might, in the future?


Monday, 26 October 2015

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Title: Unbecoming
Author: Jenny Downham
Published by: David Fickling Books
Publication date: 3rd September 2015
Pages: 437
Genres: YA Contemporary/LGBT/Family
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.



Three women - three secrets - one heart-stopping story.

Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal.

Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her.

Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of everything', despite suffering from Alzheimer's.

As Katie cares for an elderly woman who brings daily chaos to her life, she finds herself drawn to her. Rules get broken as allegiances shift. Is Mary contagious? Is 'badness' genetic?

In confronting the past, Katie is forced to seize the present. As Mary slowly unravels and family secrets are revealed, Katie learns to live and finally dares to love. 

Unbecoming is one of the most beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It's honest, raw, hopeful and definitely not unbecoming in the slightest. It's actually not something I would usually want to read, but after getting the sampler at YALC and discovering Unbecoming's parallels with my own life, I needed to know more and was very glad when the book was offered for review.

I loved, loved, LOVED the multi-generational aspect. If I remember rightly, I've only ever read one book like that (Fish Out of Water by Natalie Whipple, if you're wondering) and it's so interesting to me. There's seventeen-year-old Katie, studying for exams and questioning her sexuality whilst dealing with her parents splitting up and being the person her mother relies upon most. Then there's her mother, Caroline, with a mountain of secrets. And Katie's grandmother, Mary, who has Alzheimer's and needs her memories writing down and her family tree on the wall by her bed so she doesn't forget.

My late great grandmother had Alzheimer's (her name was also Mary, funnily enough) so Unbecoming was a little strange to me at times because of the similarities, but I appreciated it. With Mary's flashbacks and snippets of memories randomly inserted here and there, and with so many complex stories in one book, you'd think it would be confusing to read but it all weaved together seamlessly. I loved reading about the different generations and seeing their differences, their similarities, their struggles and their triumphs. Not only did we see things from Katie's perspective, but also Mary's which was insightful.

I did feel that it dragged quite a lot in places, but other than that I really enjoyed Unbecoming and will definitely be reading more from Jenny Downham soon.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

5 Bookish Instagrams You Need to Follow


Have you ever noticed that we only seem to promote people or things when they don't really need promoting?

If you ask someone for YouTube recommendations, you'll get the usual Gleam list, and if you scroll down your Instagram feed you'll see people urging you to follow someone or other because they're 'so close to 100K!'

It's the same with books.

"Hey, can you recommend any YA books? I haz moniez."

"Sure, you should try The Fault in Our Stars by John Green."

*headdesk*

No one ever seems to mention the people who aren't as well-known. There's probably a science behind it. Maybe more obscure people/books aren't mentioned as much because people like to have common interests and it's more likely that someone will know who John Green is rather than Teresa Orts? Maybe people are worried they'll look weird if they reel off a list of unknowns?

I don't know. But what I do know is that it should change. I've been working on it for a while - in posts and videos where I'm recommending books, I try to leave out obvious ones like Divergent, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, as much as I love them all. Because there's no point - everyone has heard of them. Just like there's no point in recommending Beyoncé when someone asks for new music to listen to, and why there's no point in recommending Zoella when someone's after a new YouTuber to follow.

That's just something I've been thinking about for a while. Inspired by this, I'm going to show you some amazing bookstagrammers I follow who you might not have heard of previously. Their accounts deserve just as much exposure as the big ones!

@headinherbooks


Jananee's photos are so pretty, aren't they? Not only does each photo tell a story, but she has a theme, too. I kind of had an Instagram theme for a while and then I ruined it. It's hard. So props to her! She's getting pretty close to 1K and you can follow her account here.

@thebloggersbookshop


Firstly, Daniel has great taste in books. Secondly, he owns a wand. Thirdly, his photos are so nice and cosy! I like that, in some photos, he includes a prop relevant to the featured book. You can follow Daniel by clicking here

@georgiareads


Georgia is a lovely person, one of my best blogging buddies, and is also insanely talented! As well as their Instagram, I'm obsessed with their photography blog and I especially love the series of Amsterdam photos. So. Lots for you to check out there. Click here to follow Georgia on Instagram and click here to visit the blog!

@saskiareads


According to her bio, Saskia is 'travelling the world, one book at a time' and a quick scroll down her feed has resulted in me adding loads of books to my wishlist. Whoops. You can follow Saskia here.

@bookstations


INSTAGRAM GOALS. I love how clean, simple and fresh Raisa's account is, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her photos! You can follow Raisa here.

So, they're a few of my favourite bookstagrammers! Who are your favourites?

(Psst - I have two Instagram accounts! If you'd like to see what I get up to in my spare time, you can follow my personal account here. If you're after all things bookish, you can follow my blog account here. Hope you enjoy!)

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: 29th April 2010
Pages: 368
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.


When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created 'perfect' life is about to unravel before her eyes. She's forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for - her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect.

Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

Around the time I started this blog, all of my favourite book bloggers were obsessed with Perfect Chemistry. Everyone loved it, it was hyped up like crazy, and I thought it looked great. However, it was only a few months ago that I actually got my hands on a copy. When I saw it sitting there in a charity shop window, I was ecstatic - I'd completely forgotten the book existed, but when I saw it all of the amazing reviews I'd seen came flooding back into my mind. Without a second thought, I bought it.

I wish I hadn't wasted my money.

You know how some books are cheesy and a bit of a cliché, but in a good way? This is cheesy and extremely clichéd, and so not in a good way.

Before I talk about the plot and the writing, I want to talk about the characters and, oh, were they boring. Tall, dark, handsome bad boy Alex had a hard family life and found it difficult to love people. Thin, blonde, perfect cheerleader Brittany was obsessed with keeping up a perfect image and didn't want people to know about her severely disabled sister. Oh, and she couldn't be with Alex because it was forbidden. Obviously. Bet you didn't see that one coming, did you?

Not only were they two-dimensional, stereotypical characters we've seen a million times before, but it was like they had no proper thoughts or emotions. It was all tell and no show. For example, we were never shown how they felt - just told. Perfect Chemistry is full of "he was sad" and "she was happy."

Now, I don't know anything about gangs except how they're portrayed in films, so it's hard for me to comment on that aspect of the story, but it seemed really over the top and ridiculous, to me. The term 'gang member' was used in practically every sentence; there must be another phrase, surely? It was so repetitive, and it was like Elkeles was trying to remind everyone that, just in case he was getting a bit soppy, Alex was a big bad gang member. We know, we remember, because you just mentioned that, like, two sentences ago. Sigh.

The writing was boring, the characters were boring, the plot - if you can call it that - was boring, and the entire thing was just a mess. It made me cringe. In the end, I appreciate what Elkeles was trying to do, and I appreciate that this was a diverse book, but it wasn't one of the good ones I've read. Perfect Chemistry has received loads of five-star reviews so I'm clearly in the minority in thinking that, but I do not recommend this book at all. Random, but relevant: my cat threw up on this book, so I threw it in the bin. And, even though it's a book and I had to put it in the bin, I'm not even sorry.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Pop Girl by Tallia Storm

Title: Pop Girl
Author: Tallia Storm
Published by: Scholastic
Publication date: 1st October 2015
Pages: 314
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Music/Fame
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Thirteen-year-old Storm lives to sing.

Forget parties.

Forget boys.

When Storm is told she's going to miss a national competition, to go on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Hawaii, her life is OVER. What could be worse than having to give up singing to visit an island paradise? What if her (former) best friend is taking her place? A family trip to Hawaii is just the beginning.

While on holiday Storm meets a local band who need a singer last minute to record their demo. Storm steps up to the mic and her voice does the rest. When the song is on local radio the next day all of her dreams are coming true ...until the band introduce their singer on air. It's NOT her. There's a Storm coming!

Writing that synopsis made me cringe. That's how lame this book is.

Firstly, the similarities between the plot and the writer's life just made me sad. When I'm reading, I like to see imagination and originality and this... well, this was just a slightly reconstructed version of Tallia Storm's life. I mean, Storm Hall? Really? Remind you of anyone?

Storm Hall. Tallia Storm.

Lives in Scotland. Lives in Scotland.

Storm is discovered by a famous singer at just thirteen-years-old after giving her CD to someone in the industry. The next day, she's performing in a stadium. Tallia is discovered by a famous singer at just thirteen-years-old after giving her CD to someone in the industry. The next day, she's performing in a stadium.

That's literally the entire plot, by the way. It was boring. I hadn't heard of Tallia before receiving her book so I looked her up and she's done some amazing things. She sounds like a fun, genuine and hardworking person. But once I realised the book was just following the pattern of her own life, I got bored. There were no surprises. And it's been stressed everywhere that this book is 'not even slightly autobiographical', but it is. Massively. And to go with the plot similarities, that's Tallia's face on the cover, not a model asked to be Storm.

They say you should write what you know, but... I think there's a line.

So, I'll let you think about that for a bit.

Also, Storm was an immature brat. She was complaining about having to go to Hawaii. Seriously? HAWAII. And how did she meet the band mentioned in the synopsis? She accidentally flew through the window of their recording studio and landed in a heap on top of the band. This book might as well have been the script for a Disney channel movie circa 2006.

Let's be honest, 'Pop Girl' does sound like the name of a pink and sparkly magazine aimed at 5-year-olds.

The writing wasn't great, either, unsurprisingly. It was plagued with exclamation marks, as if to say, "Haha, wasn't that sentence funny! WASN'T IT! LAUGH!!!!" But every single joke flopped, and when Storm and her best friend Belle were fighting twin bullies at their school, the comebacks were so, so bad. It was laughable and I cringed a lot.

It was patronising, too. This book is aimed at younger teenagers who don't need things explaining to them, and yet brackets with explanations were dotted throughout the book constantly.

"Heyyyy!" I yell. (It hurts like mad!)

No, really? I did wonder why you were yelling in pain. Thanks.

I can't find any other reviews of the book so I might be in the minority, but unfortunately I can't recommend this book at all. To be honest, I felt like I was reading a Wattpad story by a 7-year-old who mentally gave up on the first page. The writing couldn't have been flatter if I'd ironed it and, despite being YA, I think the only people with a chance of enjoying this book are those still in primary school.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Why I Don't Read eBooks


To celebrate School Library Month, I've been asked by MyVoucherCodes to write about eBooks. People ask me all the time if I read them, and it's a random question, but I get why it's asked; I'm supposed to like reading and yet I never mention eBooks here on the blog or in my hauls over on YouTube.

No, I don't read them, and I don't think I've ever properly explained why.

I don't have anything against eBooks or eReaders. I think they're great! After all, a book is a book, and you can carry hundreds of them in your pocket. Plus, they've opened up the world of reading to more people - kids who wouldn't dream of picking up a book suddenly want an eReader and, before you know it, they've read the entire Harry Potter series in a week.

But I just don't like them. They don't like me. We don't work.

I like being able to hold a book.

When reading a book on my phone or on a Kindle, I don't feel like I'm reading. It sounds silly, but I like the feeling of a book in my hands, I like being able to turn the pages and I like the smell that some books have.

I like that physical books take me away from the Internet.

When reading on my phone or on a Kindle, I'm still connected to the Internet. Reading a physical book allows me to get away for a while and disconnect.

I can't focus on eBooks.

I once had to read a book on a Kindle and I couldn't focus. At all. It kept telling me when it thought I would finish the book - twenty minutes, ten minutes, five minutes; the number constantly glaring at me from the bottom of the screen, willing me to go faster, to skip a few pages. It felt like I was being hurried when I'd much rather relax and read at my own pace.

Physical books are prettier.

Yeah, I know. Shallow. But they're way prettier than a black piece of plastic showing a grainy image of a book cover.

I'm fine with lugging physical books around.

Sure, if you're going on holiday it's much easier to take a Kindle instead of a pile of books, but I don't mind taking books around with me. It can be heavy, but I'm happy to sacrifice the health of my shoulders. If that's a thing. Can shoulders be healthy? This just got weird. Next point.

eReaders are expensive!

For what they are, they're very expensive and I really don't care about them enough to warrant the cost. Enough said.

eBooks might be the future, but physical books have always held a special place in my heart and I think they always will.

Do you like eBooks?

Friday, 9 October 2015

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill


TRIGGER WARNING

Title: Asking For It
Author: Louise O'Neill
Published by: Quercus Books
Publication date: 3rd September 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: YA Contemporary/Feminism
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from The Guardian.


It's the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O'Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident.

One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, Emma wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, she doesn't know how she got there.

She doesn't know why she's in pain.

But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night.

But sometimes people don't want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town's heroes... 

Louise O'Neill is back (back again, look who's back, tell a friend, etc) with another important story, this time about rape. It's vital reading for people everywhere and yet it's also something often swept under the rug, especially in YA fiction. This may only be her second book, but it's clear that O'Neill is blazing her own path in literature.

Emma O'Donovan is the girl everyone wants to be. She is beautiful, seems to have time for everyone and is the queen of backhanded compliments. She must be the centre of attention in every situation, and she always needs to look better than her friends - and everyone else, for that matter.

And then Emma is gang-raped at a party and graphic photographs end up all over Facebook. As a result, her world gets smaller and smaller. No one wants to be Emma O'Donovan anymore, and the only person who is truly on her side is Bryan, her older brother. Everyone else thinks she was asking for it.

Reading this book reminded me of massive posters we had around my old school. They said things like '1 in 3 women who are raped are drunk'. I have no idea if that statistic is true, by the way, but it was something along those lines. There were other variations of the poster, too - 1 in 3 women who are raped are on drugs, out by themselves at night, wearing short skirts; the list goes on. Basically, the posters were all about victim-blaming and I'm still appalled that they were allowed on the walls of our school. Proof, I think, that books like this need to exist.

Whilst I loved this book and I'm glad someone finally decided to introduce something so important into YA fiction, I personally think it might have been more beneficial had the court case gone ahead and the boys ended up in prison. It could have encouraged victims to come forward and get justice. But I also know that that doesn't always happen. The victim doesn't always win the court case or come out of it better off, and Asking For It did a good job in highlighting that more needs to be done about that. Highlight text to view spoiler.

Now, I don't totally agree with books having age ratings, but Asking For It has been labelled 16+, and with strong language and graphic scenes I kiiiiind of agree, but I think it's something you have to decide for yourself. Just thought that was worth pointing out. I definitely recommend this and, if you haven't read it yet, Only Ever Yours, the first book by O'Neill. Both are absolutely phenomenal and I can't wait for more!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

GUEST POST: Why We Secretly Love Clichés

Do you secretly love clichés? There's actually a scientific reason behind it, and so I'm welcoming anonymous book blogger Teen Book Reviewer to explain. 


We all know the feeling. You're reading a book, getting used to the main characters. All is going well, so far so good, but then... BAM! A cliché hits you like a train. Something about a character, the plot... it doesn't matter. You hate it, right?

Right?

Nope. Wrong. I hate to tell you this, but secretly, you love clichés.


Yup. That's right. I went there. You love clichés. 

Why, you ask? Well, science has the answer. A brilliant article explains that we love to hate.

You see, the article states that "this 'joy in hostility' is rooted in the animal side of human nature we seek to suppress". It is more obviously present in human relationships. The article asks that, if you had the opportunity to change a bad relationship with the person you most hate into a good one, would you really want to? Apparently a lot of people wouldn't. 

We need to hate something. Not only does it give us common ground with those in our social circles (almost everyone will say that they hate clichés) but it gives us a stronger sense of self. It makes us feel more confident. 

Clichés also give a sense of comfort- the repetitiveness of clichés provides us with a sense of security; they feel constant and familiar.

So, that's it. Today's revelation: you secretly like clichés.

Yes, most of the time when you see a cliché you genuinely don't like it - clichés are repetitive, etc. But a part of you, somewhere, secretly likes it.  Don't deny it.   

Try it out - next time you read a cliché, or find a book full of clichés, see how you feel.  

What do you think about clichés? Do you secretly love them, too?

Teenbookreviewer is an anonymous UK blogger at teenagebookwormreviewing.blogspot.co.uk. They have been blogging for two years, but became serious about blogging less than a year ago and so are celebrating Teenage Bookworm Reviewing's first year in September. Their favourite ice-cream is cookies n' cream, and they also clearly think that a person's favourite ice-cream flavour is the most important thing about a person.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

How to Improve your Photography


Lighting

Natural lighting is key, but you have to admit that only being able to take decent photos during the day is pretty inconvenient, right? I have a solution! A while ago I redecorated my bedroom and in doing so I changed my light bulb from your standard interior light to a daylight bulb. It might not look like daylight when you're actually in the room - it just looks normal - but in a photograph you wouldn't know I'd taken it at 1am with my curtains shut unless I told you.

Which of these photos was taken at night with my light on? Picture 1 / Picture 2. I'd be interested to know your guesses!

You can get a daylight bulb for about £2-£3 and it's definitely worth doing if you constantly find yourself wanting to take photos at night. Or if you live in England where it's dull and cloudy 24/7.

Editing

Some photographers don't believe in editing a photo after it's taken because "you shouldn't have to." I disagree - even if the photo you've taken is beautiful, there are always improvements you can make. Have a look around for some good editing apps. I almost always use PicMonkey for blog photos, and for Instagram I use VSCOcam, Afterlight and Snapseed. I like VSCOcam for changing lighting, colour and sharpness; Afterlight for an extra filter (always Russ, I hate the others) and Snapseed to fix uneven exposure.

Flash

Know when to use the flash, because using it when you don't need to can easily ruin a photo - especially when it's the flash on your phone. On a proper camera you can change how much light emits from the flash so it suits your situation, but on most smartphones it tends to be automatic... and a bit rubbish. Do you really need to use the flash? Can you take the photo when lighting is better? Can you take the photo somewhere else? It's worth considering these things, especially when you're trying to take a photo of something shiny or glossy because if you use the flash it's going to reflect right back at you.

Shadow

The amount of photos I've seen on Instagram where the photographer's shadow is over the subject they're trying to photograph is ridiculous. It's easy to just point your camera at something and take a snap without really thinking about it, but a few extra seconds of care can make all the difference. Which leads on to my next point...

Be selective

If you've taken a bunch of photos and they're all blurry, chances are you moved at the last second or your hands were shaking slightly. My best advice here would be... don't upload them. Take another one and keep taking photos until you get a good one. Do you want your Instagram to be full of quick, no-effort photos, or photos you took time over and can be proud of? I used to suck at this - I couldn't be bothered to try again, but it really is worth it.

If you know all of this already and you're looking to get a new camera, I've seen lots of bloggers recommending Panasonic's 4K camera range, so it must be good! I recommend the Fujifilm Finepix T200 and the Canon EOS 600D, both of which I've used for blogging.

Do you have any photography tips?

This is a sponsored post.