Friday, 28 October 2016

Who Am I?

I recently discovered this tag on Elly's blog and immediately knew I had to do it, especially as today is my birthday - I'm 18! Now I'm officially an adult in the eyes of the law, it might be a good time to dig deep and find out who I am, yes? Oversharing is my thing; it's a flaw, but it also makes blogging a hell of a lot easier, so whatever. No one tagged me to do this but I'm doing it anyway because I like to fight the system now and again. Amber the Badass, that's me.

What is the meaning of your name?

Urban Dictionary says... a lot of things that are complimentary, I suppose, but they're tinged with desperation and appear to have been written by people who have most likely stalked other Ambers. Like, there are full-on love poems over there. The actual meaning of my name, however, is 'precious jewel'. Some sites say the name is of English origin, and some say it's of Arabic and Latin origin, so that's not confusing at all.

What is your Myers Briggs personality type? | The quiz

I took the test on 16 Personalities and it said I'm an INFJ. It's scarily accurate. You can read the whole thing here if you happen to feel so inclined, but basically:

  • I'm an advocate, and helping others is important to me.
  • I'm creative, passionate and determined, but also sensitive, a perfectionist, and highly susceptible to burn out.
  • I'm not one for casual encounters, and instead like to form 'genuine, deep connections' with the people I care about.
  • I avoid having power over others and prefer to see others as equal.
  • Most corporate career paths are not for me but for 'those focused on status and material gain.' This is SO TRUE. I strongly believe it's better to do what makes you feel fulfilled and happy rather than what will earn you money.
  • And I'll be a good parent, apparently. I knew that already because I came from one. *finger gun to ze mothership*

Some famous INFJs, according to the website, are Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Rose from Titanic. Only 1% of the population is INFJ, apparently. I'm like all of those rare Pokemon that I still haven't managed to catch and never will.

What is your zodiac sign?

I'm a Scorpio. Or... I was. NASA has allegedly decided to ruin the entire world and change the zodiac due to the fact that our sky has changed since the zodiac was first invented, or something. I'm not really into that kind of thing, but that's what I understood of the whole debacle. Anyway, I appear to now be a Virgo, but I think I'm going to ignore that. Because really.

What Hogwarts house would you be in? | The quiz

I know I'm a Ravenclaw, but for this tag you're meant to do a certain quiz and record your scores, so here goes...

*does test*

Oh thank god, I'm still with my fellow Ravens. Here's the score breakdown: 

Ravenclaw: 17
Hufflepuff: 15
Gryffindor: 9
Slytherin: 6

However, according to Pottermore, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor are my main two houses rather than Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. *shrug*

What are your learning styles? | The quiz

Read/Write: 12
Kinesthetic: 9
Visual: 7
Aural: 6

I have a 'multimodal learning preference.' I have no idea what that means.

Are you more of a left-brain or a right-brain person? | The quiz

I'm 56% right-brained and 44% left-brained, meaning I use my brain equally but am slightly more creative. That's pretty accurate.

What is your blood type?

I have no idea, but I was actually thinking about this the other day and I wish I knew! 

What career are you meant to be in? | The quiz

A WRITER, APPARENTLY. YES. (Side note, if anyone would like to give me a book deal, I am available and always will be.)

Which Divergent faction do you belong in? | The quiz

Candor. "You belong with the honest. You believe that honesty really is the best policy. You stay honest to yourself, your friends, and family. While you may tell some white lies here and there, you're blunt and truthful. You're trusted by all those around you, and your friends come to you all the time for some honest advice. You probably have a hit blog, and you love sharing your thoughts. Your direct way of speaking may scare away some people, but the friends you make stay by you for life."

I promise you I didn't add the bit about a blog. How... what... why are all these quizzes so accurate?!

What does your birth order say about you? | The quiz

Well, I'm an only child, so I guess I'm the firstborn, the middle child, and the baby. To be honest, that's probably not far off. 

That was so much fun, and I actually learned a lot about myself! Hopefully you found it interesting, too. I tag:

  • Charli's Quiet Musings
  • Stars and Above
  • Lost in a Library
  • Hawwa Etc
  • La La in the Library
  • The Savage Savannah
  • Top Floor Treasures

No worries if you don't want to!

Hopefully you enjoyed this post. Are you similar to me or are we very different? Did any of this surprise you? Let me know!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Fun Science by Charlie McDonnell + GIVEAWAY!

Title: Fun Science
Author: Charlie McDonnell
Published by: Quadrille Publishing
Publication date: 20th October 2016
Pages: 224
Genres: Non-fiction/Science
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Welcome, fellow humans (and others), to the the world of FUN SCIENCE! I'm Charlie, also known across the internet as charlieissocoollike.

In my book, I'll be taking you on an awesome journey through the cosmos, beginning with the Big Bang through to the Solar System and the origins of life on Earth, all the way down to the particles that make up everything around us (including you and me!)

Expect frequent digressions, tons of illustrations of not-so-sciencey things (NB a microwave flying through space), and pages packed with my all time favourite mind-bending science facts.

So, get ready for a faster-than-the-speed of-light (OK, not quite) tour of all of the best and most interesting things that science has to offer us... and most importantly: WELCOME TO THE UNIVERSE!

(Written by a Science Fan NOT at scientist!)

I have to admit, Fun Science didn't immediately appeal to me when I watched its announcement video. If you've read this post, that means you've also seen my exercise books from old science classes, and... well, let's just say drawing was more my forte. However, when I was offered a copy of the book for review, I decided to look into it a bit more, and I was intrigued. I'm not a fan of science, really - or am I? I realised, as I was reading the synopsis, that the word 'science' makes me think of bunsen burners, tedious evaluations, a sprinkling of maths and a whole heap of awkwardness when the teacher made us work in pairs every lesson. (Until my best friend moved to my class. That was a good day. Shoutout to you.)

Anyway, I basically realised that we were never really taught about the stuff that's actually interesting, like how our planet came to be, or how our brains actually work. So, I gave Fun Science a read, and... for the first time in my life, I actually learned, understood, retained and enjoyed something science-y. Like, if you asked me to tell you how the universe began, I could now 100% tell you.

And that's kind of a big deal. I put it down to Charlie's ability to explain things in a simple way that isn't too overwhelming, unlike the textbooks you're forced to read in school. It also has brilliant illustrations, and generally just makes a really great overview of science itself.

Basically, this book is rather awesome, and if you too were put off by its topic, it's still worth a go. You might just surprise yourself.
Aaaand, thanks to the publisher, I'm giving away a copy of the book to one of you lucky bookworms! All you have to do is fill in as many or as few options as you like on the Rafflecopter below (more options completed = bigger chance of you winning) and I'll be in touch if you win. This is open to UK residents only and ends on Halloween! Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

From Somewhere in a Field

We're so busy.

Endless to-do lists.

The clock in the corner of our laptop screens. The clock on our phones.

Walking from room to room, phones uselessly, randomly, automatically in our hands.

Outside, with no destination in mind, nowhere in particular to go - we still rush. Why do we rush?

In the bath, the music from our phones dipping in volume every minute or so as yet another email comes through.

Curled up on the sofa, finally doing nothing - but on the TV over in the corner is the news, and we are still absorbing.

We're so busy, and we never switch off.

At least, I don't. Even when I have the opportunity to just stop, there are still 'better' things I could be doing: revising for my theory test, revising for my exams, thinking up post ideas, filming and editing YouTube videos, taking bookstagram photos, working, talking to someone, eating something, reading one of the many unread books I own. I don't consciously think it - the sentence 'I don't have time to rest' doesn't flit through my brain - but clearly, somewhere, that's what my body believes.

And when my eyes hurt, my head aches, and I have a literal pain in the neck from looking down at my laptop all day, I put some clothes on, run a brush through my hair, throw my phone on the bed and get out of here. A five-minute walk in any direction and I'm in a field.

Fields are nice.

I force myself to wander slowly rather than walk so fast my feet only skim the concrete. I leave my phone behind so time loses meaning and I'm blissfully unaware of the notifications popping up from people demanding I do this or look at that. I don't let myself think about work, college, or anything else even vaguely stressful. 

I did this today. That's how this blog post was born. And I discovered something new in my town - a seating area with flowers and setting sun where the broken, graffitied skate ramps used to be. It's a tiny town and I've lived here for the best part of two decades but I'm usually too quick, too preoccupied, too much in the past or the future to see the present.

Forcing myself to just be is important. And, apparently, it can birth deep blog posts when I haven't been able to write one in weeks.

But yes. Fields. I encourage you to go and sit in one and take some time out in a world obsessed with time.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A Life Update: Books, Films, Blogging Struggles and Rambling

Consider this a recap of everything bookish, because I've been slacking with the blog recently. There are a few reasons for this: A Levels, job hunting, volunteering for a couple of places, revising for my driving tests... and, as I mentioned on Instagram, it's hard to think of new and exciting content when you've pretty much done everything. It doesn't help that I haven't had much time to read.

That doesn't mean I haven't read anything at all, though - I've read a handful of books over the last couple of months, and whilst I'm unable to review them fully right now, I couldn't not mention them here. The first book on this list is Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, and everyone has been talking about it. It's a phenomenal little book of raw and honest poetry, with simple but completely perfect line drawings. I also love that it's split into four parts: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. I LOVE good poetry, the kind you find yourself connecting with, the kind that feels like the words are wrapping around you like a blanket and taking on new meanings to find a place in your own life story. You probably didn't know that about me because, to be honest, I always forget how much I love poems. *shrug*

Dem rings tho.

In addition, I finally got my hands on the second book in C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld's The Alchemist Chronicles. I've been waiting for this since before the first book even came out (proof copies are both a blessing and a curse) and it didn't disappoint. The characters are so ridiculously strong and I'm constantly rooting for them.

Now, I have to mention something I don't really talk about: TV. The only TV show I watch religiously is EastEnders, but when the leaves start changing colour and the air gets crisper, I find the telly people seriously up their game. At the moment I am loving Humans - the first series, because I saw adverts for the second one and it looked awesome so I'm catching up. If you haven't heard of it, it's basically a realistic look at what our future could be like, and focuses on robots - or 'synths' - who are extremely similar to humans, except they can't feel emotion or think for themselves. Well, they shouldn't be able to. A select few can... Elsewhere, I've been enjoying the second series of both Scream Queens and The Missing, and I'm hoping to catch up with National Treasure at some point. Which reminds me: I watched all of the Psycho films recently and they were so bad they were good. I'm not usually one for black and white films - this might have been my first - but I actually found myself preferring it to colour.

In regards to more modern stuff, I've seen some other pretty great films recently, too, including Bad Moms (so funny, so heartwarming) and Bridget Jones's Baby. Kinda disappointed with the ending of that one but I get why the film-y people made that decision...

I recently went to Waterstones Cambridge for a talk and signing by Paige Toon, author of the Jessie Jefferson books which are so good for escapism. And, when it got to the audience Q&A, I PUT MY HAND UP AND ASKED A QUESTION IN FRONT OF A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE. I always want to ask questions but I'm too scared to talk in front of so many people, yet this time I did it. I asked Paige how she knows when she's written the end of a novel, because I keep typing and typing, and the perfect last line never comes. I think it's because in so many of my essays at school, way back in Year 7 and right now in Year 13, I'm often told that the ending is too sudden, so I physically can't end my novel in case it's too blunt. Sigh. (Also, I look rank in that picture but I'd rather have gross photos in a post than none at all, so... and it was a nice moment.)

And finally, in terms of blogging, two rather epic things have happened recently. Firstly... I GOT VERIFIED ON TWITTER. WTAF. This has been one of my goals for a while now - y'know, one of those goals you're kind of ashamed to admit to having because it's literally an arrangement of pixels on a website. I thought if I achieved that, it would mean I'd reached a certain level of success. And then this blue tick appeared out of nowhere, sooner than I thought it would, and... nope. I thought it would come when I had a six-figure book deal (I wish), not when I'm still that seventeen-year-old who can't finish her (probably not very good) novel and doesn't have that many followers. Still cool though - I'm working towards getting a response from Queen Rowling with my new VIP access to her mentions. What if she ignores me though? *strokes Harry Potter books worriedly*

The second thing? I've only gone and been nominated for a UKYABA for the second year in a row! Last year I was nominated for Blogger's Blogger and Champion Teen Blogger, and I won the latter to my amazement and surprise. This year, I'm up for Champion of YA along with Debbie and Viv. I won't win but it made me so happy to be thought of because, as I said, I've struggled so much with blogging this year.

Soooo... there's your recap of all the things I wanted to write separate posts on but didn't. Maybe in half-term I'll have some time to read so I can schedule a bunch of kickass posts. Don't worry though, I might be struggling to come up with ideas but I've always got stuff in the pipeline and, having blogged through my GCSEs and AS exams, I'm definitely not giving up now.

Oh crap. Was that a blunt ending? *types for the rest of time*

Tell me what's been going on in your life recently!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

How Blogging Has Changed Me as a Bookworm

I couldn't find a bookish photo of me as a child, so here's an irrelevant photo of me, aged three, holding a daisy chain that I definitely did not make but appeared to take credit for anyway.

Before I started book blogging, life was very different. I was a bookworm but I was completely isolated, in that I hadn't read a book review until 2008, and most of the books I read came from relatives at Christmas and on birthdays, and from charity shops, libraries, and cereal boxes. (Side note: does anyone remember when you'd get a free Roald Dahl book with each box of Coco Pops? Those were the days.) I didn't know what was released when and I didn't freak out whenever I saw a book advertised on the tube. I re-read old favourites more often than I read new ones, and whenever I did get a new book I had to choose very, very carefully because to me, if you had £6.99 to spare for a paperback, you were rich (and if you had enough for a hardback, you were even richer).

I had no idea that book blogs existed or that there was a whole community surrounding it, and I solely judged books by their covers and their descriptions, not awards and fun promo campaigns. I never noticed book trends, and the lack of diversity in literature didn't even occur to me until I was about 15 because I'd never seen anyone talk about it before.

Being a book blogger means I am incredibly privileged. I wouldn't be the person I am now without having read so many books I've been lucky enough to receive thanks to working with publishers. But that doesn't stop me thinking about how lovely it must be to get to read whatever you want, whenever you want. I love reading and I love being a book blogger, of course, but there will always be a small part of me that envies those who are able to go weeks or even a month or two without reading a single book, guilt-free. I considered doing that myself, but then realised that that's not actually an option. I look back fondly on the days where I'd be sat in bed and I'd pick up a book with absolutely no strings attached. No 'should I review this?' or 'how many reviews have I got scheduled at the moment?' or 'is there anything else I should be reading instead that has a deadline?'

Maybe people who work in the industry sometimes feel the same way?

However, I wouldn't change a thing. Through book blogging, I've received invaluable experience in the industry, and I've read way more books than I ever would have been able to if I didn't have this shiny corner of the Internet. I've made friends, met the most inspiring people, had the coolest opportunities and been to the most interesting places. I've found a community that, for the most part, is lovely, supportive, and willing to help anyone who needs it.

Book blogging might mean I read in a different way than I did before, and it might be stressful sometimes, but it's changed me for the better and I wouldn't have it any other way.

How have your hobbies changed you?

Saturday, 8 October 2016

12 Books You NEED to Read This Autumn

I was about to write that this year has been an amazing year for books but, let's be honest, every year is a great year for books. This autumn's releases are looking preeetty epic, though, and I just had to highlight the ones you should be adding to your wishlist. I've also added some old favourites, but let's look at the most recent ones first...

The Graces by Laure Eve

I recently reviewed this one, and it is potentially my favourite book of the year. If you're into witchcraft, dark secrets and books set against stormy skies and turbulent seas, something - magic, maybe? - tells me you're going to be addicted to this. I was.

Unboxed by Non Pratt

A group of friends come together to grieve the death of their friend, and to finally look inside the time-capsule they made years before. The size, paper colour and font in Unboxed means it is perfect for people who struggle with reading. I don't have any issues with reading (maths is a different story...) but I still enjoyed this hugely. It's such a gorgeous book, inside and out. I reviewed it here!

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

I reviewed this on my YouTube channel a little while ago and, spoiler: I loved it. The Thousandth Floor is set in a two-mile tall futuristic super-tower in New York, where the rich and elite live at the top, and the poor live at the bottom. The tower is a world itself: there are schools, parks, roads, cars, entire houses. It's a unique concept and something you should definitely get your hands on ASAP.

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Lastly for this autumn's releases, we have Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven. You might have seen that it caused a huge amount of controversy and upset when it was first revealed due to some dodgy wording in the synopsis, but it's all good, I promise you. I don't (or try my very best not to) promote offensive stuff. Holding Up The Universe is actually brilliant and one of my favourite reads of 2016, and you can see why in my review.

Now for some slightly older yet still awesome autumnal recommendations...

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Seven-year-old Anna Łania finds herself all alone when her father disappears. Being 1939 Kraków, Anna is in severe danger and has no one around to help her - except the mysterious Swallow Man. Like I said in my review, this is a wonderful book that is truly one of a kind.

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Ah, here it is: one of the most conflicting books I have ever read. Utterly brilliant but completely frustrating, too. It's a good 'whodunnit', though, and contains a surprising amount of politics which I enjoy, so it's great for these darker months.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Another 'whodunnit' book, Far From You explores friendship, addiction, sexuality and grief, and is a thrilling must-read.

Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson

For the hipsters among us, Chasers of the Light is a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing little hardback full of the loveliest poetry. The perfect book to snuggle up with.

Dreams by Daniela Sacerdoti

This is more suited for Halloween. With Sarah's demon-hunter parents suddenly and mysteriously killed, she knows it's down to her to finish what they started. Dreams is surprisingly realistic and rather terrifying...

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

I read The Poisoned House way back in 2010, and I believe it was my first foray into the horror genre, unless you count The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. I don't know if I do. It was pretty tame. But anyway. The Poisoned House is ghostly, unpredictable, and gripping x100 - it might be older than the usual books I talk about, but it's well worth the read.

The Year of the Great Seventh by Teresa Orts

Sophie is a normal girl from LA. All she cares about is achieving A grades and a scholarship to NYU. Then she meets Nate. No one understands why there is such a deep connection between them. With spooky Egyptian prophecies, curses and Cleopatra's secrets, Sophie and Nate are brought together in a way that neither of them understand until they're forced on a life or death race against time. A great book that is severely underrated.

The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

I LOVED The Dolls, and in some ways (witchcraft, overall greatness...) it's similar to The Graces by Laure Eve, which I mentioned above. It's fun, addictive and magical - what more could you want?

Let me know if you've read any of these, or if you plan to now you've read this post, because I'd love to know! Let me know your autumn recommendations, too. You can never have too many books, after all.

Monday, 3 October 2016

On Authors Responding to Book Reviews

According to lots of tweets I've seen recently, many authors are advised by their publishers not to respond to book reviews.

To that I say: wuuuuuuuuuut?

I 100% agree that authors shouldn't respond to negative reviews. You only need to Google 'book reviewer hit with wine bottle' and 'book reviewer stalked by author' to know that it can get messy. And even if the author replies in a polite way, it's really awkward to find out that they know you didn't like what they put so much blood, sweat and tears into. Better than being stalked for it, but still.


I'm not into speaking for everyone, but I'm pretty sure that on this occasion, I speak for most book bloggers when I say that we hugely appreciate it when our positive review is acknowledged by the author. We've spent hours reading the book, and then spent even longer planning, writing and promoting the review. We're spreading the word, shouting about the book to everyone we know, increasing your sales, and hopefully helping you to realise that your book isn't as bad as you might self-consciously think it is.

We don't have to do it, and you don't owe us anything, not even a speedily-typed tweet of thanks. But I'm British, so... it does kinda bum me out when I excitedly tweet an author my super-positive review of their amazeballs book, and they don't seem to care... at all. It's like when you step into the road so someone can keep walking on the pavement, and they don't even give you a nod of appreciation, so you end up muttering a sarcastic little 'you're welcome' under your breath. Just let me love you, authors. Pls.

It's not a huge problem. I get that authors are busy writing their next slice of papery greatness, or talking in front of hundreds of children at a school event, or travelling across the country on tour, or doing their tax return, or making their fourth slice of toast that day. There are more important, urgent things to do than reply to a tweet. But being ignored can be disheartening, and not sharing any reviews of your book is silly in terms of self-promotion. Spread the word that other people are spreading the word about you. Tweet a link to someone's review so you don't have to send your own awkward 'buy my book' tweet. It works.

Edited to add: Of course, some bloggers send neutral tweets where it's impossible to know whether the review is nice or not. In that case, you really can't expect a reply because how is the author meant to know whether to read it or not? I actually wrote a post about that here.

Maybe instead of advising authors not to respond to any reviews, publishers should advise them not to respond to negative ones...

What do you think about authors responding to reviews?