Friday, 29 April 2016

Girls Can Vlog by Emma Moss

Title: Girls Can Vlog: Lucy Locket Online Disaster
Author: Emma Moss
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 21st April 2016
Pages: 252
Genres: Middle grade/Friendship/Vlogging
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Newsflash... vlogging is go!

It's bad enough having to move house, school and country all at the same time, without making a fool of yourself on the first day of term. But that's just what Lucy's done - and one of her classmates has videoed the whole thing and put it online!

Lucy's so stressed, her stammer's become worse than ever. So when a friend encourages her to create her own videos, she thinks it's a terrible idea - surely she's embarrassed herself enough for one lifetime!

But when Lucy finally gives vlogging a try, she's amazed to find that people actually want to watch...

Following the rising popularity of YouTube culture, vlogging is slowly but surely filtering down into children's books. In Lucy Locket: Online Disaster, the first book in the Girls Can Vlog series, Lucy has moved from America to England and, as a result of her stammer and the fact that she's already annoyed the 'Queen bee' at school, her confidence is suffering. But then her friend back in the US, Morgan, suggests that Lucy starts vlogging, and it opens the doors to a whole new world.

And guess what? The whole aspect of vlogging was done properly, which was a pleasant surprise. Usually when I read a book that mentions vlogging - or any form of social media in general - there's always a slight error that suggests the writer doesn't quite get it fully. But this worked really well and even the word 'vlogmas' was used in the right context. Hashtag impressed.

Something else I found interesting was Lucy's stammer. An old friend of mine has a stammer, but I always just accepted it as part of them and never thought about what it must be like to have one, especially when you're in a judgemental environment like a school. I've never seen it covered in literature before, either, so this was great. Girls Can Vlog boasts a strong message to its young readers that you can deal with these things and they don't have to control you. Maybe this book will inspire a new wave of YouTubers, who perhaps thought that they couldn't have a go because they have a stammer like Lucy, look a certain way, or generally lack the confidence.

Plus, Girls Can Vlog captured the essence of being a younger teenager perfectly. It was such a feel-good read, with Lucy and her friends unapologetically having fun, messing around and trying out new hobbies. I loved seeing their confidence grow, and it encapsulated how good vlogging can be. It's not just people stuffing marshmallows into their mouths for a 'challenge', filming as they load up the washing machine, or reacting to a movie trailer; it's a connection and the opportunity to grow as a person, whether you're in front of the camera, behind it, or watching the resulting footage miles away on a screen. Not only that, but it subtly introduced ideas of online safety, which is always important to think about.

Warm, funny, and perfect for the Zoella generation, this series is bang on trend and sure to be a hit.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Meeting Cassandra Clare + Win a Signed Copy of Lady Midnight!


Do I really need three signed copies of the same book? Duh, yes. But I'm giving one of them to a lucky reader in this very post because, as much as I wish it was, my bookshelf is not a mile long. Before we get to that, though, I met Cassandra Clare again in Milton Keynes on the 17th! She was lovely, of course.


I'll never be able to put into words how much I love these books, and anything I say will end up being an understatement, although I tried my best in this review of Clare's latest instalment, pictured above. If you haven't read any of Clare's books, I highly suggest that you do; there are a lot of them, but perseverance is key! Today, I'm giving one of you lucky people the chance to win a signed copy of Lady Midnight, which is the first book in The Dark Artifices series and my personal favourite. Even better, this giveaway is international!


So, how do you win? Pick your own way of entering using the Rafflecopter below - simple! The more you do, the more entries you get. Good luck, shadowhunters. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, 25 April 2016

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Title: Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: Gavriel Savit
Published by: Penguin Random House UK
Publication date: 28th January 2016
Pages: 230
Genres: Young Adult/Historical
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Kraków, 1939, is no place to grow up. There are a million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. And Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father and suddenly, she's alone.

Then she meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall. And like Anna's missing father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgement, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous...

Seven-year-old Anna loves her father. A professor, he taught her all kinds of languages, from French and German to Russian and Yiddish. But one day he goes to work and never comes home. With no mother, no father, and the war raging above her head and in the streets, Anna is alone - and at the worst time possible. So when Anna meets the Swallow Man and discovers that, like her father, he is also fluent in many languages, it seems only natural to follow him. Over several years, Anna and the Swallow Man follows them as they travel through Poland, doing everything they can to stay safe along the way.

I think I said this on Twitter when I was reading Anna and the Swallow Man, and I'll say it again: this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. I loved the contrast of the poetic style of writing against a bleak landscape. I loved seeing the world from the unique perspective of a seven year old and, as she grew up, a nine and then eleven year old. I think I'd have to read this book a few more times to see it from all angles and fully appreciate it because there's so much going on and Anna and the Swallow Man have their own language in addition to all the others that they're fluent in. Below is one of my favourite pages from the book. It might not make a lot of sense to those who haven't read it, but I loved what I found between the lines.
Anna and the Swallow Man is confusing in the best of ways, lost and wandering with only vague direction - not dissimilar to the Swallow Man. But wasn't everything a little lost at the time? I never knew what was hiding around the corner, and a lot was left open to interpretation. It prompted so many questions in me. Made me appreciate what I have. Made me angry at what's happened in the world before and is looking scarily close to happening again.

Until the last couple of chapters, it was certain in my mind that I would be giving 5 stars to Anna and the Swallow Man, but then the ending happened. Seriously, what was that? The Swallow Man put Anna on a boat with some random guy and told her, in his own way, that she could kill him if she needed to. Done. That was it. The end. I feel like I must have missed or misinterpreted something because I genuinely don't understand what happened (if anyone has read it and feels like explaining it to me, please message me!) and it was so anti-climatic.

Anna and the Swallow Man is a raw, beautiful work of art and is well worth reading. The ending was a bit of a let down, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since turning the final page, and I still have so many questions. It's a wonderful book that is truly one of a kind.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

In Which I Review Cake, Because Why Not?


Is there anything better than cake and books? Usually I would say no, but I've changed my mind; personalised cake and books is way better.

You might have seen EatYourPhoto doing the rounds on various blogs lately, and now it's my turn to review them. In a minute. When I've finished this cake.


Okay, I'm done. On with the review!

Pros:

  • These would be perfect for events, from blogger lunches and book signings to birthdays, weddings and maybe blogoversaries, if you wanted to be really fancy...
  • The packaging is great. I was slightly apprehensive seeing as they come through the post but there was no room for them to slide around in the box they came in, and none of them were damaged.
  • They might have been baked a couple of days before I received them, and they might have endured long journeys in Royal Mail vans before getting thrown around in various post rooms, but they tasted perfectly fresh. They weren't dry, the icing wasn't hard, and I'm not Mary Berry although I'm starting to sound like her.
  • You can get an edible photo on almost anything. Cupcakes, brownies, chocolate... even pizza. You can get your photo ON PIZZA. Nom.

Cons:

  • The edible photo wasn't as high quality as I was expecting. The file I sent was good quality, so maybe it's because they had to make it so much smaller to fit on the cake? And, y'know, it's icing; it's not going to be perfect. But as you can see in the photos, it's a little blurry and the writing isn't massively visible. I don't really care about this but it surprised me and I know it might bother some people.
  • It's pretty expensive in my opinion, with 12 cakes costing £20, but the service I received was great and they arrived both quickly and safely. I guess it depends how much you want to spend, and I definitely think it'd be worth it for a special occasion.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed. They taste great (seriously, how can something taste that good when it's been through our postal system?) and it's such a novelty to have your cupcakes personalised.

What would you have on a personalised cake?

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A Peek at my Stationery Collection


I am a stationery addict and my collection of pretty notebooks and journals is almost as big as my collection of books (well, not quite). There's just something about a pretty notebook with fresh, empty pages that gets me reaching for my debit card and running to the checkouts (or not, because I don't run voluntarily, but you get the gist).

And yet, I don't appear to have shared this stationery addiction with you, dear readers, so that's what I'm doing today. Sharing my entire collection of pretty notebooks would take approximately one hundred years, so these are my favourites:


What's better than a Moleskine? A notebook that looks like one but is actually a cheaper version from Sainsbury's (which has a surprisingly awesome stationery section) for a grand total of £1.75. BOOM. However, I don't know what to write in it. Does anyone else get that? Deciding what to use a notebook for is SO HARD. #firstworldproblems.


This was given to me by my friend and fellow pizza addict, Jack, who's actually just re-launched his blog which you can see here. I remember being so happy when this arrived as Emma Bridgewater is one of my favourite designers, and it came with matching pencils. Matching stationery is everything. ❤


This, along with the next two, was given to me for my birthday and I am more than slightly in love with it. I haven't used any of them yet because, like I said earlier, it's hard to know what to use them for and I don't want to ruin the perfect, clean pages with my messy handwriting. For now, I'm content with just looking at it. SO SHINY.


Again, SO SHINY. Along with the notebook above, this was from Sainsbury's ages ago but Hobbycraft has a very similar range if you love it as much as I do. You're welcome.


Okay, I do actually have plans for this one (I know, wow). Next time I go on holiday, whenever that may be, I'm going to write about it in here. This is also from Sainsbury's, surprise surprise.


THIS ISN'T FROM SAINSBURY'S. I have no idea where it's from as it was a Christmas gift but I love it. It's pretty heavy, with a soft turquoise cover and shiny gold accents.

As an addition, I also want to show you some note-cards that were sent to me recently from Abrams & Chronicle because they're so pretty.


Stripes. Gold accents. Need I say more?


Most of you will know about my macaron obsession so you can imagine how happy I was when this arrived. You can write on the back of the macarons, and they come with tiny envelopes and stickers. So it's basically everything you need in life.

Next up: birthday cards from Paperless Post! I am in love. It would be weird to get myself a birthday card for every future birthday, though...

Are you obsessed with stationery? What's your favourite thing from this post?

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Blogosphere Magazine: For Bloggers By Bloggers

I found out about Blogosphere Magazine when they were only on their second issue and, now on their eighth, I finally decided to buy a copy. The magazine is about blogging (bet you didn't guess that, did you?) and has everything from blogger interviews and columns to technical tips and tricks. It's now sold in WHSmith which is amazing! *proudly waves blogging flag*


So, what's good?

Firstly, the smell of the paper. Oh my god. It's better than the smell of a new book and I'm kind of addicted to it? Maybe they spray it with an addictive smell to make people buy more copies or something. Who knows? And if they don't do that, well - it's a pretty good idea. You can have that one for free. (Also, I wouldn't object to them bottling the smell and selling it as perfume.)

Still on the subject of the paper, it's so thick and luxurious, unlike most flimsy magazines you find on your local newsstand. It feels special, and the actual magazine as a whole is surprisingly thick, making it more like a book than a magazine. When I bought it I thought ouch, that's a bit expensive, but actually I'd say it's worth the money.

Content-wise, there are some thought-provoking pieces varying from how ad blocker is destroying the digital world and how to get around it, to why a blogger hasn't made their blog into their career, to Imposter Syndrome. I tend to stick within the book blogging community, so it was interesting to hear the opinions of people outside of it.

However, there were a few typos and formatting mistakes in blogger-submitted pieces and outside of them. Hey, everyone makes typos - I probably have in this very post - but it's not something I expect from a print publication and I'm not sure how they were overlooked before going to print. It's not a massive issue, but they really stood out for me.


Secondly... there's no dedicated books section! The magazine is pretty varied with food, fashion, lifestyle, arts & crafts, beauty, travel, photography and parenting, but I know how amazing and diverse the book blogging community is and I think, along with the books we review, it deserves more print recognition. Even just one page would be nice, perhaps reviewing a children's book to appeal to the parenting bloggers, and a YA or Adult novel. More niches would make the magazine even thicker than it already is, so I doubt this will ever happen but it would be great if it did.

So, it has a couple of less impressive points, but what doesn't? It has lots of good points, too, and I'll definitely be buying this again. It's so exciting that there is now an entire magazine dedicated to blogging, something which wasn't taken seriously at all not too long ago. It's an awesome resource and great for discovering new blogs to read that you never would have found otherwise due to that annoying yet wonderful thing called a comfort zone. Next issue, please!

Have you read Blogosphere Magazine, or are there any other blogging magazines you think I should check out?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

9 Books I'm Excited About This Year

I don't tend to like the first few months of the year. I don't know why, but that's how I've always been. However, there is one thing I like about it, and that is the anticipation it brings of amazing books coming out in later months.

I've been eagerly anticipating a few books this year, some of which I've already read and reviewed, like Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare and Love Song by Sophia Bennett, both long-term favourite authors of mine. But there are more to come that I am very excited about, and they are...

Summer Days and Summer Nights by Stephanie Perkins

2nd June 2016 | Buy the book

I believe this is the summer version of Perkins' festive YA anthology, My True Love Gave to Me. It boasts short stories from Leigh Bardugo, Nina LaCour, Libba Bray, Francesca Lia Block, Tim Federle, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovran, Brandy Colbert, Cassandra Clare, Jennifer E. Smith, Lev Grossman and Stephanie Perkins herself. I have to admit, I haven't come across most of these authors before, but nonetheless I'm excited (especially for Perkins, Roth and Clare).

Ride by Lisa Glass

16th June 2016 | Buy the book

These books are perfect for summer and when I read the second book in the trilogy last year, it was clear how much growing up the characters had done. I don't usually notice such character development so I'm looking forward to 'meeting' them again and, I guess, catching up.

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham

7th July 2016 | Buy the book

What a gorgeous name for a book! Siobhan Curham has long been a favourite writer of mine and if you haven't ready any of her books, I highly recommend that you do. I don't know a lot about this one but I do know it celebrates friendship and I'm so happy we're seeing more and more of this in YA. ❤

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame
28th April 2016 | Buy the book

If you've read this post or this post, you'll know that the DIMILY trilogy is one of my absolute favourites. Sadly, Did I Mention I Miss You? is the last one, but I'm so excited to find out how Tyler and Eden's story comes to an end. It'll break my heart, I'm sure, but I'll be fine. *crosses fingers*

All About the Hype by Paige Toon

28th July 2016 | Buy the book

Another end to another trilogy, this one being the Jessie Jefferson books by Paige Toon. I find that books about how the 'other half' lives are the best for escapism, and that's one of the many reasons I have enjoyed this journey so much.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

31st July 2016 | Buy the book

How could I not put this on here? I happened to be on Twitter the second this book was announced and I pre-ordered it instantly. The excitement is real. (And a few weeks before this is published, I plan to see the show!)

Cuckoo by Keren David

4th August 2016 | Buy the book

Keren David is one of those authors where I don't even need to know what the book is about before buying a copy because I know I'll enjoy it. This one sounds especially interesting, with protagonist and household name Jake becoming homeless.

What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne
1st August 2016 | Buy the book

Another final book in a trilogy - this year is determined to make my heart hurt, I swear - but I'm looking forward to hearing Lottie's story, having already heard Evie's and Amber's. Holly Bourne's books are always good.

The Secret City by C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld
1st September 2016 | Buy the book

This is the second book in The Alchemist Chronicles and I've been lusting after it since finishing the first instalment, The Secret Fire. You can read all about that in my review. I NEED IT NOW. Death, demons... what more could you want from a book, let's be honest.

What upcoming books are you looking forward to?

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Title: The Dark Days Club
Author: Alison Goodman
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 21st January 2016
Pages: 496
Genres: YA Fantasy/Historical/Paranormal
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


London, April 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation to the Queen. Her life should be about gowns and dancing, and securing a suitable marriage. Instead, when one of her family's housemaids goes missing, Lady Helen is drawn to the shadows of Regency London.

There, she finds William, the Earl of Carlston. He has noticed the disappearance, too, and is one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of powerful demons that has infiltrated every level of society. But Lady Helen's curiosity is the last thing Carlston wants - especially when he sees the searching intelligence behind her fluttering fan. Should Helen trust a man whose reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her headstrong sense of justice lead them both into a death trap?

Have you ever been on a train waiting to leave the station, only for another train to pull in next to yours, blocking your vision? And then there's that awkward moment when the windows of both trains line up so you're suddenly staring at a random stranger on the 11:06 to London while you're going in the opposite direction. When one of the trains starts moving you can't tell if it's yours or theirs, and for a few seconds it's like you're trudging through time, only for it to be their train moving and, when it's gone, you realise you haven't moved at all. This is what reading The Dark Days Club felt like: slow, awkward, and half a book of nothingness where you're not sure if this is actually going anywhere or if this is some kind of trick.

Seriously, when I got to around 200 pages, I thought there must have been a printing error on the back of the book, because what I was reading was not even close to what had been promised. The Dark Days Club was supposed to be full of demons and other supernatural happenings, with an epic romance at its core. But for the first 190ish pages, none of this had even started happening yet, and I was running out of book. The word 'demon' hadn't even been mentioned. Surely it was too late for such a plot to be introduced? I was bored and vaguely confused. I very nearly DNF'd this, and I've only done that a couple of times in my life; the only thing keeping me reading was my intrigue over this plot that hadn't actually made an appearance but would have to at some point for it to be, y'know, a book?

The pacing was hugely inconsistent, and looking at other reviews, I'm not the only one who thinks this. I'd explain that, but I can't even get my head around it because it was so choppy. Not only that, but it felt like Goodman was holding back on her writing. I felt no attachment to the characters, and we were clearly meant to be rooting for Lady Helen and Lord Carlston with their 'epic romance' (nope) but there wasn't much there to care about.

One thing Goodman didn't hold back on, though, was research. A page at the back of the book details the work she did to get the Regency period just right, and I ended up enjoying the historical aspect. That, at least, felt believable. But the rest? It just wasn't for me.

And the ending? Don't get me started. It was so disappointing, and when I woke up the day after finishing The Dark Days Club, I reached for the book so I could finish it only to realise I'd finished it already, just eight hours before. But it lacked substance so much that I'd forgotten.

I was so excited about this book, but I guess I shouldn't have fallen for such a loaded pitch like 'Cassandra Clare meets Jane Austen' because that's an impossibly high standard to live up to and The Dark Days Club didn't even come close.