Monday, 27 June 2016

How to Deal With YALC if you Have Anxiety

Going to YALC was a huge deal for me last year, and it will be this time, too. YALC is the Young Adult Literature Convention in London, so you can probably imagine that it's not the ideal place to go when you have anxiety and want to cry just thinking about crowds. I still went though, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be; in fact, it was my highlight of last year. Here are my tips for dealing with YALC if you have anxiety:

Email YALC beforehand

If you're anxious about the event, email the team and let them know what you're worried about along with any questions you have that, when answered, might relieve your anxiety. I did this, and they couldn't have been nicer. Their lovely response made me feel much more comfortable. After all, they've spent months working hard to make the event as fun and inclusive as possible, and at the end of the day they're there to make sure you have a good time!

Plan, plan, plan...

Yes, hello, it is I, the Queen of Planning.

...unless it makes you anxious to be on schedule, in which case, go with the flow and do what makes you comfortable. But if you do feel better with a plan, then do that! I did and I was able to enjoy the event so much more as I knew where I'd have to be and when. If you want to know how I planned my day, click here

Take time out if you need to

At YALC there's an area dedicated to chilling out, with a row of comfy beanbags and deckchairs along a wall decorated with hanging books. If you need a break, it's the perfect place to go. There are also easily-accessible toilets where you might even bump into your favourite author. Ha, yeah... #awkward. I believe you can also leave the building and come back if you want to - at least, that's how it was last year - as we had wristbands. So if you need some air that shouldn't be a problem, and there are lots of staff members in Showmasters t-shirts should you need any help.

Get the YALC ticket

You can get into YALC with a normal LFCC ticket, but you can also pay a couple of extra pounds for the ticket specifically for YALC (and you can get into LFCC with this, too.) Make sense? With the YALC-specific ticket, you have early access to the venue (which is good if you need to chill out and acclimatise a bit first, as far fewer people will be in the building at this time) and you get into the event from a different entrance. The LFCC entrance last year was rammed and I was so glad when I got to walk past and join the much shorter, much calmer YALC queue. This only costs a couple of pounds extra and I'd say it's well worth it (plus you get a goodie bag!)

Take someone with you

Unless you'd prefer to go on your own, obviously! My parents came with me last year and at least one of them will be with me this time. Having extra pairs of hands was SO helpful, because you go to the convention with bags full of books and you come away with even more - way more. It also means you have someone to calm you down if you get panicky, and a spare rational brain when yours isn't coping so well. 

Think about your travel options

This might seem a little weird, but it made me feel better knowing that we were travelling there in the car. If you think about it, your car is basically a portable space for you, whoever's with you, and no one else. Kinda like a home away from home but less comfortable and much smaller, you know? Not having to rely on public transport took a lot of pressure off and it helped knowing that there was somewhere just for me where I could go if I needed to. It's very expensive to park at Olympia but it might end up cheaper than a train ticket depending on where you're coming from, so look into it if you think that'll be useful.

Other things you might want to know...

I don't know about you but the more I know about something that makes me anxious, the better. Here are a few scraps of info that might make you a little more comfortable:

  • YALC 2015 had an entire floor to itself and wasn't in the depths of madness that is LFCC, so even though there were lots of people there, it was very spacious.
  • No one minds if you leave halfway through a panel. Lots of people do this so they can start queueing for signings. If you need to go for whatever reason, you won't be the only one.
  • If you get anxious about the way you look, LFCC/YALC is actually one of the best places you could be. If you want to cover up, cosplay is totally acceptable. And if you don't get dressed up, no one's going to be looking at you because the room will be full of Disney princesses, Hogwarts students and men in extremely tight Batman costumes... 
  • EVERYONE is nervous, and you can guarantee there will be other people there with anxiety (including me!) Meeting actors, illustrators, authors and friends from the Internet is nerve-wracking stuff even when you don't have diagnosed anxiety. Sure, yours might be harder to deal with, but at an event like this everyone is pretty much in the same boat. Last year I spotted someone crouched in a corner having a panic attack. Trust me, you won't be the only one struggling (and that's if you struggle at all. Having an entire room understand your Clace obsession is wonderful and distracting.)
  • People said it was pretty hot last year. That's to be expected considering YALC is at the hottest time of year, but I thought it was pretty cool. Wear loose-fitting clothes for comfort if nothing else - you'll be moving around all day.
  • They sell food and drink on site but, as far as I know, it's fine to bring your own. Keep hydrated.
  • If you're too shy to say much or anything at all to authors you meet, don't worry - they're used to it! We've all been there...

So, if you have anxiety and you're going to YALC (or any convention, really) then I hope this was helpful. I have every faith in you that you can get through the day and end up enjoying yourself. If you don't have anxiety, then I hope you enjoyed this insight into an anxious brain... and here are 8 things you should do in preparation for YALC whether you have anxiety or not.

If you have any questions about YALC, feel free to ask!

Do you have any tips to add?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

5 Reasons You Should Join #TeenBloggersChat

Earlier this year, myself and fellow bloggers Jack, Hannah and Holly launched #teenbloggerschat on Twitter. It's a weekly Twitter chat especially for teen bloggers at 8pm every Sunday, and it's amazing if I do say so myself. If you haven't joined us yet (why not?!) maybe the following reasons will convince you...

We can go from discussing serious topics like inspiration and the influence and responsibility of bloggers, to freaking out over Harry Potter and playing a (very, very weird) game of Would You Rather. Nothing's off limits and because the topics are so different each week, it never gets boring.

The moderators are pretty cool, if you ask me. We work really hard throughout the week to make sure everything is ready and as good as possible. Plus, we might all be book bloggers but we all have different interests and ideas - it's not just one person thinking along the same lines week in, week out.

The chat is an amazing way to make friends in the blogging community! #teenbloggerschat has only been happening for a couple of months or so, but I've already had the pleasure of watching so many friendships blossom between bloggers.

If you need help, someone will be there. Whether it's a technological problem or you can't think of anything to blog about, pop your question on Twitter with the hashtag and another teen blogger will be happy to help. Alternatively, you can tweet @TeenBloggersGR and one of the moderators will get back to you!

As far as I know, it's the only Twitter chat specifically for teen bloggers. It's a safe space for us to unapologetically have fun and discuss the issues that are important to us, and everyone involved loves it a lot.

The next #teenbloggerschat is this Sunday at 8pm BST/3pm EST, and we'll be talking about fandoms. Join us!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham

Title: The Moonlight Dreamers
Author: Siobhan Curham
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 7th July 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: YA Contemporary/Friendship
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Amber craves excitement and adventure. Instead, she's being bullied at school for having two dads, and life at home isn't much better. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, Amber realises that among the millions of people in London, there must be others who feel the same as she does; other dreamers - moonlight dreamers. After chance encounters with Maali, Sky and Rose, Amber soon recruits the three girls to the Moonlight Dreamers. It's high time they started pursuing their dreams, and how better than with the support of friends?

Regular readers of mine might know that Siobhan Curham is one of my favourite authors. Her books end up making the reader feel better about themselves, humanity and life in general, and The Moonlight Dreamers is no different.

Amber has two dads, a wardrobe of vintage clothes and an obsession with Oscar Wilde, all of which she is relentlessly bullied for. Maali lives above her parents' Asian sweet shop and dreams of finally being able to talk to a boy without running away. Rose is dealing with the unwanted attention that comes with having famous parents, and Sky - the total opposite of Rose, complete with a modest houseboat and a love of poetry - is about to become her step-sister. What should be a difficult time for all of them becomes something none of them ever expected.

What I love most about The Moonlight Dreamers is that, however unlikely their newly formed friendships might be, they all actively work on empowering each other and helping each other achieve their dreams. I really enjoyed watching the growth of their friendship and confidence within themselves. I also liked the mix of different backgrounds, from a lonely Hampstead mansion to a cosy, secluded houseboat.

Out of all Curham's books, this one is particularly gorgeous - and I'm not just talking about that beautiful cover. The only way I can think of to describe The Moonlight Dreamers is that it's like a hug, and it's absolutely perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Keris Stainton. A must-read.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

#ZoellaBookClub First Impressions

Zoella (popular YouTuber, author, everything) recently revealed her new book club, exclusive to WHSmith. In it are eight handpicked YA titles that have received a re-design, as well as exclusive content. Being a book blogger and vlogger, I've been excited about this since its announcement... and now, thanks to WHSmith, the pretty things (and some extra goodies!) are in my hands and I get to tell you about my first impressions. Lucky you, eh?


The covers

I'm a sucker for a good cover, especially when they're exclusive and literally made to be even more special than the originals. Each of them is incredibly beautiful and photographing them was such a joy.

The choices

Some of these might seem like obvious choices if you're a book blogger or booktuber, but frankly, I think we can be a little wrapped up in ourselves. A lot of people aren't involved in the industry. At all. Before I started blogging, I was always re-reading books from the late 80s/early 90s, mostly oblivious to the new kid's books being released. As bloggers, we might have heard about All the Bright Places every day since its release, but for a lot of Zoe's viewers, this will be the first time they've heard about it. The same goes for the other picks. In my opinion, Zoe's done a great job and picked books from a variety of genres and writing styles.

The readers

This is what I'm most excited about, I think. Exclusive covers, content and bookish videos from one of my favourite bloggers are great... but these books are going to encourage reluctant readers who have never picked up a book before. They're going to choose one of Zoe's picks and think, y'know, maybe I can give one of these a go after all. And then they'll move on to the next book. And the one after that. And soon, they'll have read all eight books, which might be more books than they've ever read. Is that not the most wonderful thing?


...this is hugely exciting for the publishing industry and for Zoe's fans, whether they're bookworms or not. There are only three books from her picks that I haven't read yet (Billy and Me, The Potion Diaries and Everything, Everything) so I am very much looking forward to getting stuck into those, and I'm glad this book club has given me the kick up the butt I needed to do so, as I've been meaning to read them for months! Another eight picks next year, anyone? Fingers crossed!

What do you think about the #ZoellaBookClub?

You might also be interested in:

Friday, 10 June 2016

8 Things You Need To Do In Preparation for YALC

YALC, otherwise known as the Young Adult Literature Convention in London, is back for another year! It can be quite daunting, especially if you haven't been before, so here are my top tips for preparing properly. If you follow these, your day should run smoothly and you'll have a great time!

You need a schedule.

Rocking up to YALC without a schedule or any knowledge of which authors will be there isn't a good idea. You can't wing something as big as this. Well, you can, but you'll regret it later!

This is my schedule from last year. I had two copies because I wanted to make absolutely sure that I knew where I was going and when. Plus, I was with other people, so it was handy to have more than one. It made the experience so much easier and less stressful.

You need to take cash rather than a card.

Some stands take cards, but most will only take cash. Technically, that's not a problem - there are cash points around Olympia - but the queues will be lengthy and there's a good chance they'll make you miss a panel or a signing you were hoping to attend. Do take your card as a back-up, just in case you need it, but taking cash is a must.

Make sure there's enough space on your phone/camera.

If you're a blogger or a vlogger, chances are you'll be wanting to document such an awesome event, and there's nothing worse (well...) than going to take a selfie with your favourite author only for a message to flash up on the screen telling you there's no storage space available.

Before YALC, I moved all of the photos and videos on my iPod and phone to my computer and that freed up around 6GB. To make even more space, I deleted some apps that weren't really necessary. This is really helpful and you can always put everything back after the event if you want to!

Make a list of all the books you want to take well in advance.

You don't want to be rushing around on the morning of YALC, scanning your shelves and hurriedly throwing books into bags - especially if you have to be out of the house by 6am to be there on time, like me. Make a list of books you want to take and then cross 'em off when they're packed. I had this illogical worry that I would forget a Cassandra Clare book - honestly, I would have been gutted if that had happened.

Stalk the YALC Twitter account.

The YALC Twitter account is a goldmine of useful information and advice. In the run up to last year's event, I was checking their Twitter pretty much every day as I hadn't been before and needed all the advice I could get! They tweeted things like signing limits for specific authors which meant I didn't end up taking more books than necessary, and they were constantly answering important questions from other people that I hadn't thought to ask - could we leave and re-enter if we needed to? Where was the entrance? Was there a car park? Would food be available to buy? (Yes, somewhere, yes, and yes.)

Take your own food and drink...

...and plenty of it. Food in London is expensive anyway, but especially at a convention. I took loads of snacks and a couple of bottles of water just in case I ran out. It's a good thing I did, too, because it was so hot and exhausting. Taking food and drink is really, really important. At such a busy event, you need fuel, and taking your own also means you save money. Win win!

If you can, go with other people.

It's handy (ha) to have an extra pair of hands. Especially if you're 5'2, not very strong, and you're intent on taking about 20 books... (Take a couple of extra bags, too, because you will buy/be given a LOT of stuff. I am not joking. Look at the below photo.)

Read other people's event recaps!

As I hadn't been before last year, I had no idea what to expect, so I had a look on Google and found loads of bloggers' event recaps from the previous year. I looked at their photos, read their advice on how to get through the day - like you're doing now! - and made sure I was completely clued up on everything. Going through the #YALC hashtag is also helpful if you want to take it to the next level! A good start might be my loooong, detailed event recap that I posted last year. Nothing wrong with a bit of self promo, right?

I will also be writing a post on how to deal with YALC if you have anxiety or if you just don't like crowds, so look out for that. Hopefully that will be helpful, and hopefully this was helpful, too. If it was, please share it around.

Are you going to YALC? If you've been before, what are your top tips?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


It's quite random and, uh, a bit of a big deal.

So, recently, I had a very exciting email and then phone call from some lovely people at Instagram. They wanted to talk to me about their photo exhibition in London called #MyStoryUK which is going to be open to the public soon. From illustrators and activists to mothers, artists, young people and entrepreneurs, the exhibition will consist of the images and stories of 24 women using Instagram to challenge stereotypes, grow businesses and campaign on the issues that matter to them.

And, um, I'm one of them.

Follow me on Instagram here.

I can't tell you how shocked I am to have been plucked from the millions of (much more talented, in my opinion) users of Instagram, but I'm so happy that I was! It makes me even happier that the people behind one of the main social networking apps is taking steps to celebrate women of all different backgrounds and is literally dedicating a gallery to them... dedicating a gallery to us.

So, what does this mean?

Well, one of my images from my Instagram account is going to be blown up on a wall in a swish gallery in Soho along with the works of 23 other amazing women. How cool is that!? If you'd like to go and see my work, it's exhibiting at Unit London (oh, you know, just the city's leading independent gallery...) on the 9th and 10th of June. Entry is free, and if any of you do go, please let me know and send pictures if you can!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Summer Days & Summer Nights by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Summer Days & Summer Nights
Author: Stephanie Perkins, Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, Jennifer E. Smith
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 2nd June 2016
Pages: 384
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Lazy, hazy days are for falling in love...

This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. Includes: Leigh Bardugo, Nina LaCour, Libba Bray, Francesca Lia Block, Stephanie Perkins, Tim Federle, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, Brandy Colbert, Cassandra Clare, Jennifer E Smith, and Lev Grossman.

If you've read this post, you might remember that Summer Days & Summer Nights is one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year, so I was over the moon when it arrived for review. It's a summer version of the festive My True Love Gave To Me, Stephanie Perkins' previous anthology of YA love stories - and it is beautiful, inside and out.

I actually really like anthologies of short stories. If you like to read them in order, like I do, then you get to discover lots of new authors whose work you might not have bothered to read, occasionally studded with a new story by a favourite author - like Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth or Cassandra Clare, for example.

Because it would take ages to review each of the twelve stories in depth, I'm going to take you through my favourites. The first of these was Leigh Bardugo's short story called Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail and is possibly the most vivid piece of writing I have ever read. As soon as I read the first paragraph I was like... huh. This is why people have been trying to make me read her books for so long. (Why didn't I listen?) In short, Gracie - the main character - thinks she sees some kind of monster in her town's lake. Then she becomes friends with a boy whose family goes to the town on holiday every summer, and together they try to unravel the mystery. Things take an unexpected turn... that might be an understatement, actually.

My next favourite was In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins. I had no idea before getting this book, but this short story actually carries on from the one Perkins wrote for My True Love Gave To Me. I was SO happy to be back with Marigold and North, seeing how things had changed. I live in hope for a full-length novel about them one day.

I also loved Veronica Roth's contribution. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I'd like it. She might be one of my favourite authors - I loved the Divergent trilogy - but I recently read a sampler of her new book and... I couldn't even finish it. And I never give up on books, so the fact that I gave up on a tiny little sampler says a lot. Because of that, I was apprehensive about her story, but thankfully I really liked it. It was original and had themes of mental health, and how it's okay to take medication to treat it. If it doesn't work the first time, that doesn't mean there aren't other types or other doses that you can try. I really enjoyed it.

If you'd like to hear about the other stories that I loved from this anthology, I've done a video review over on my YouTube channel which you can check out by clicking here or watching below. I'm also giving away a copy of the book, so if you're entering, good luck!

Friday, 3 June 2016

7 Popular Series I Can't Believe I've Never Read

Being a book blogger who will happily give any book a go, but whose list of favourite books is admittedly a little cliche, you'd think there are certain books I would have read by now. You know the ones: those titles you can mention to someone who's never picked up a book in their life and yet they know exactly what you're talking about. So, today, I thought it would be fun (and rather shameful) to compile a list of all those popular series everyone except me seems to have read.

You might want to yell at me after reading this post. Please keep the noise to a minimum.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Before you freak out, I do actually own the first book in this series... but I couldn't get into it. Everyone seems to love these books and I really wanted to be part of it, but nothing was happening and I was so bored. If I remember rightly, I gave up after 30 pages or so. Please, someone tell me it gets better?

Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The first I heard of this author was when the blogosphere erupted over her announcement of a UK tour a couple of years ago. To be honest, I'm not sure this is my kind of thing, but so many people love these books that they have to be good, right? I'll give the first one a try at some point.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

This series sounds amazing and so many people have recommended it to me over the years. I love what I've heard! I have to say, however, that the covers put me off a bit. I really don't like them. Yeah, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but we all do it anyway. I need to get over it and have a read because I've heard SO many good things.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

With the recent release of the final book in one of the author's other series (I think?! She's written a lot of books!) all I've heard about for weeks is Sarah J. Maas and how great her books are. I think I have a couple of old ARCs knocking about somewhere so there's no excuse, really.

The Selection by Kiera Cass 

Ah, this series has appeared multiple times in my life and yet I still haven't started it. I got a review copy of the first book when it first came out, and it lived under my bed for years, forgotten, until I had a clear out and off to the charity shop it went. A few months later, I was on a book buying spree, thought it looked good, and bought another copy. I'm not known for being sensible...

Colleen Hoover's books

I haven't named a specific series because, seriously, Colleen Hoover has a LOT of books. Where to start? I bought Slammed a while ago but I'm not sure if that's the best one to read first. Someone help?

Lux by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I'm reaaaally not a fan of this cover. Knowing it's on my blog is actually making me cringe. However, it sounds pretty good and, again, this is an author with a ridiculously huge readership and yet I've never read anything by her. In my opinion, life's too short to see everyone loving a series and not even giving it a go yourself. This may or may not be a liiiittle hint to anyone who still hasn't read anything by Cassandra Clare. Come on, people.

I think the reason I haven't read the books in this post is because it's so time-consuming and financially crippling to become invested in a long series, never mind seven of them. Don't get me wrong, I love that moment when you find yourself in the middle of a book series and loving life, but the idea of actually diving in is daunting; a bit like when it's boiling hot and you're on the beach but you're wary of actually going in the water because you know you'll freeze to death instantly. That's England for you.

Have you read any of these? Where should I start?