Friday, 29 January 2016

4 Awesome Songs That Remind Me of Night School by C.J. Daugherty


Do you ever hear the first few bars of a song and instantly get transported into the depths of a book you've loved? Me too - namely, C.J. Daugherty's Night School aka my favourite series. Here are four songs that remind me of the books!


If you've read the books, you might remember that a popular sport at Cimmeria Academy is night tennis. So, y'know. Tennis Court was an obvious choice. (Plus it has the whole 'fighting talk' vibe which is basically the whole series.)


To be honest, this one could apply to all YA love triangles, but in particular it makes me think of Carter and Sylvain and how protective they are.


Night School is pretty action-packed and tense, but there are some moments where the characters let their hair down, take a break and have fun (until, lets say, someone sets fire to the school...) To me, this song celebrates friendship, and when you're tangled up in a web of danger, that's kind of important.


Allie, the protagonist, has regular panic attacks. She's also a kickass member of the elite. I feel like this song suits her.

Are there any songs that remind you of certain books?

Monday, 25 January 2016

GUEST POST: Alyssa Sheinmel’s Top 5 Pop Culture High School Makeovers

If you saw my review of Faceless yesterday, you'll know that it's a book I loved, so I'm happy to introduce the author Alyssa Sheinmel today to talk about her top five pop culture high school makeovers. You'll even have the chance to win a copy of the book! Over to you, Alyssa.


We've all seen a movie, TV show, read a book or at least a magazine article that included some sort of physical transformation. From Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina all the way back in 1954, to Can't Buy Me Love in the eighties, to Drive Me Crazy and She's All That in the nineties, to The DUFF just last year – we've all been told that with the right clothes and the right hair (and the right friends), anyone can try out a new persona. In fact, I'm pretty sure that makeovers go back even further – Emma Woodhouse takes Harriet Smith under her wing in Jane Austen's Emma (incidentally, the inspiration for Clueless), and Meg March gets made-over by the the Moffats in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

Of course, a lot of the time, by the end of the movie (or book or TV show), our heroes and heroines discover that they'd liked who they'd been all along. Sometimes they were better off before their transformation, and sometimes after. But they always learned something about who they were.

Unfortunately, some transformations aren't all that fun. My new novel, Faceless, is about a girl named Maisie Winters who's in a terrible accident, and wakes from a coma to discover that part of her face is literally gone. As a result, she chooses to have a partial face transplant. At first, Maisie thinks the procedure sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it's a real procedure, just like heart transplants and kidney transplants and liver transplants. After her surgery, just like the characters in all those movies, Maisie has to discover how much of who she is is connected to what she looks like. She has to figure out which of her friends will stick by her and which will reject her. She has to learn to live in her new reality. So, in honor of Maisie and Faceless, here are a few of my favorite high school movie (and TV) makeovers.

5. Tai (Brittany Murphy) in Clueless

Tai's makeover is just as much about Cher as it is about Tai, which is clear from the moment Cher's best friend Dionne says: "Cher's main thrill in life is a makeover, it gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos." And in the end, instead of trying to makeover Tai from the outside in, Cher decides to makeover herself from the inside out.

4. Mona (Janel Parrish) on Pretty Little Liars

We meet Mona post-makeover. We know how she used to look and dress only because of the series' plentiful flashbacks. You get the idea that Mona was methodical about every last change (just like she is about a whole lot of other stuff...). Mona's makeover was just the beginning – and part of what set the whole series in motion.

3. Bianca (Mae Whitman) in The DUFF

Bianca changes in part to impress a boy she's had a crash on forever – but she also discovers that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This movie turns the makeover myth on its head: with her new look, Bianca thought she attracted the boy she wanted, only to discover not only that he didn't want her – but maybe that she'd never really wanted him, either. It's only when she's true to herself that she gets the guy who understands who she really is, inside and out.

2. Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) in Can't Buy Me Love

The actual makeover part of Ronald's transformation takes place in about thirty seconds as he and the popular Cindy walk into school together for the very first time. It's complete with awesome eighties hair mousse and ripped clothes. Of course, his real makeover takes up the entirety of the movie – from geek, to coolie, to the loner who's alienated all of his friends, until he finally finds his way back to himself – and to the girl he loves.

1. Allison (Ally Sheedy) in The Breakfast Club

I love the feel-good aspect to this makeover – Claire, the popular princess, helping out Allison, the basket case. Best of all, you get the idea that even after her hair and make-up, Allison will always let her freak-flag fly. We wouldn't want her any other way.

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

Title: Faceless
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Published by: Chicken House
Publication date: 7th January 2016
Pages: 343
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Disability
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


When Maisie is burnt in a terrible accident, her face is partially destroyed. She's lucky enough to get a face transplant, but how do you live your life when you can't even recognise yourself any more? As Maisie discovers how much her looks shaped her relationship to the world, she has to redefine her own identity, and figure out what 'lucky' really means.

When I read this in December, I was in a terrible reading slump. Unfortunately, I think Faceless might have been the only YA fiction I read all month, and even more unfortunate is that this did affect my enjoyment of the book. That's my problem, though. I just wasn't in the mood to read, but I was intrigued by the plot and once I'd started I wanted to know what happened next even if it did take me a week to pick it back up again. Reading slumps suck. But, as I said, that was my own problem and had nothing to do with Faceless.

As long as it took me to read this book (SERIOUSLY) it was so fascinating! It's hard to be unique in a genre as broad as YA and in fiction in general, but Faceless truly stands out. Have you ever read a book about a 16-year-old girl who gets struck by lightening and ends up losing most of her own face? Didn't think so.

Along with that, I loved the voice of protagonist Maisie. Again, like the plot, it felt fresh, different and exciting, and confirmed for me that Alyssa Sheinmel is an author whose books I'll have to look out for.

Moreover, I actually found myself relating to a lot of this. I don't know what exactly I related to, though - it's not like I've ever had a face transplant (or any surgery ever, for that matter); maybe having something rubbish happen to you and then having to... reboot your life afterwards? I don't know. Obviously I haven't been struck by lightening (yay) but I think that's it. Maisie's story was so full of hope and she really inspired me. Faceless is an absolute gem.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Why I'm Okay With Book Covers Changing Mid-Series


Not long ago, there was a lot of irritation, anger and disappointment being vocalised on blogs everywhere when it was announced that, halfway through a certain book series, the covers were being re-designed. 'But the books will no longer match!' people cried. 'I'm not buying the upcoming books. I'll have to borrow from the library.'

Yay - go to the library! Make use of them. Otherwise they're not going to stick around. (She says, looking at her library card which expired over a year ago...) But at the end of the day, new covers being introduced mid-series isn't a huge deal. Here's why:


  • They're just books. I know, I know; books are special and they're to be treasured. So much work goes into them and I love books - clearly. But realistically they're not the most important things in the world. There are bigger things to worry about. New covers being introduced mid-series... meh. It's slightly irritating and it can mess up the careful organisation of your shelves but in the grand scheme of things it's not worth freaking out over.
  • The words are still the same. You've still got your favourite characters, unless they've been horrifically and dramatically killed off - which is likely, but whatever. They've still (probably) got the same names as they always have done. Same plot. Same author. Same familiar world that you've enjoyed time and time again. The story inside is still the epic adventure you've been looking forward to since you finished that previous book.
  • Refusing to buy the rest of the books because the covers don't match hurts everyone. The author, the author's family, the publishers, the illustrator/designer, bookshops - I could go on. It's still the same series you've always loved and supported, and ceasing to support it just because it looks different is like no longer buying your favourite pizza because the packaging has changed. It's still pizza. And pizza is life. (So are books.) (I've forgotten the point I was trying to make.)
  • Publishers want to sell books. It's an industry and they're very good at what they do and predicting what will work and what won't. If they think new covers are going to sell more books and get the series out to more people, it probably will. And anything that sells more books and gets more people reading can only be a good thing in my opinion. 
  • Finally - what happened to not judging a book by its cover?


Books getting a re-design mid-series can be annoying but you can bet there's going to be a reason for it. Y'know what would be more annoying? If the final book never got to be published because too many people boycotted the series due to it getting new covers.


What do you think about this whole issue? Sure, it's annoying, but is it really that bad? Let's discuss!

Friday, 15 January 2016

GUEST POST: On Living Abroad and Being of Mixed Ethnic Descent

I've been following Jos├ęphine at Word Revel for ages, and so I'm excited to have her on the blog today to talk about what it's like living abroad and being of mixed ethnicity, and why this needs to be more visible in the books we read. It's a brilliant post, I'm sure you'll agree.


Being of Mixed Ethnic Descent

"What are you?" That is how the question goes practically every time I meet someone new. I used to be so offended by this as a child, I would snap, "Human," and turn away. Nowadays I answer with a wry, "Human," and proceed to explain my heritage. Often I receive a flustered response, "That’s not what I meant! What's your race?"

Even though I live in a multicultural society, rather than accept me for someone of mixed ethnicity, people are quick to ask what I am. Mixed marriages are on the rise but mixed children are still eyed with curiosity. We're not any less human just because others have difficulty reconciling that we're not actually made up of two distinct halves. Mixed race people are singularly functioning people. Take my word for it.

Living in a Foreign Country

What makes it more difficult for me is that my ethnic heritages are not local to the country I live in. I carry a different passport from everyone else. Though my friends accept me like a local, many view me as a foreigner, unless I simply tell them I'm Eurasian. Eurasians are an accepted racial group.

The term Eurasian doesn't sit well with me though. It dilutes the richness of our actual heritages. A Chinese-Dutch person experiences culture differently from a Malay-Portuguese person. The term Eurasian takes that away from us. Worse still are forms that require me to fill up my ethnicity. Ticking 'others' has never brought me joy.

Invisibility in Books

In any case, I'm a person of mixed ethnic descent living abroad. I'm not the only one. There might not be that many but I did meet some here in Singapore as well as in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia and Germany. Yet in the world of books, we are an invisible group.

To be fair, I don't demand a book specifically about a French-Kenyan person living in Papua New Guinea. That specificity would demand a million books and we'd still be missing a book about an Argentinian-Japanese person living in Hawaii. But books don't acknowledge the reality of people like me.

A Step Beyond POCs

Even when we break this down into two parts, (1) mixed ethnic descent and (2) living in a different country, there hardly are books that address either category. When I read demands for books about POCs (people of colour), they tend to refer to books about people from homogeneous ethnic groups into the second or third generation.

They ask for books about a Mexican girl who never even lived in Mexico. They ask for books about a Chinese guy whose parents never even set foot in China. That's not the same as someone who has had to uproot their life as a child and move to a completely different country. Yes, these are important gaps to be filled but these don't go as far as speaking up for either of the categories that I raised.

Yearning for a Reflection in Books

What does this mean for me, not ever seeing myself reflected in books? It has made me wish for characters who understand me for who I am. Certainly, every book I've read and every character I encountered had an impact on me. I've related to musicians and athletes because I know music and I know sports. I have also related to gamers and artists. I call myself neither.

Importance of Representation in Books

I don't need all the books I read to be about people like me. But I do need some books to be about characters of mixed descent and/or about characters navigating foreign cultures in a bid to assimilate. Most of all, I need these books, so that people who are not like me might understand and will never again ask, "What are you?" Books help foster empathy and understanding required towards the invisible groups that I belong to.

Jos├ęphine grew up with sort of an identity crisis due to her mixed ethnic heritage. It didn't help that she moved around a lot as a child until her parents plucked her from Europe and set up root in Southeast Asia. Today she is thankful for the richness of cultural diversity that has shaped her life and world view. When she isn't blogging or reading, she yields her camera, bakes or pursues competitive sports.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Unselfie Project: #WeAreChangers

I was hoping to have my review of Changers up today, but the truth is my health has been a bit all over the place recently and, as much as I've wanted to, I haven't even made a start on reading the book. Sometimes life just gets in the way, but don't worry - I've got something a little different to share with you instead.


The Cheerleader, The Nerd, The Jock, The Freak. What if you had to be all four?

Changers book one: DREW opens on the eve of Ethan Miller's freshman year of high school in a brand-new town. He's finally sporting a haircut he doesn't hate, has grown two inches since middle school, and can't wait to try out for the soccer team. At last, everything is looking up in life.

Until the next morning. When Ethan awakens as a girl.

Ethan is a Changer, a little-known, ancient race of humans who live out each of their four years of high school as a different person. After graduation, Changers choose which version of themselves they will be forever - and no, they cannot go back to who they were before the changes began.

Ethan must now live as Drew Bohner - a petite blonde with an unfortunate last name - and navigate the treacherous waters of freshman year while also following the rules: Never tell anyone what you are. Never disobey the Changers Council. And never, ever fall in love with another Changer. Oh, and Drew also has to battle a creepy underground syndicate called 'Abiders' (as well as the sadistic school queen bee, Chloe). And she can't even confide in her best friend Audrey, who can never know the real her, without risking both of their lives.

Because, while changing the world can kinda suck, it sure beats never knowing who you really are.

From what I've heard, the Changers series is going to tear down a few stereotypes, and something I found particularly interesting is the authors' 'Unselfie Project' with the aim of encouraging young people (do I still count as one? I become an adult this year HELP) to capture their feelings rather than their physical selves in a photo. I LOVE photography and projects like this, so...


What do you think the photo means?

I'm so excited to read this - hopefully it'll be soon - and make sure you check out everyone else participating in the blog tour!


Monday, 11 January 2016

6 Books That Have Changed My Life

Books have always had a positive impact on my life, right from when I was little. But some of them have had more of a positive impact than others. Some of them mean so much to me that I can't imagine ever taking them off my shelves - and that's saying something, because I regularly clear out hundreds of books to make space for new ones.

Here are the books that have changed my life in some way; whether they've helped me come to terms with something, made me think about something in a different light, or understood me when no one else seemed to.


True Face by Siobhan Curham


I've always struggled with liking myself and being comfortable in my own skin. The media is so pressuring and books can be too, with their perfect characters that wouldn't know a flaw if it hit them in the face. Even though I have yet to get around to reviewing it, True Face is a book I turn to time and time again. In a world full of crap, it's a breath of fresh air and has words that every young person needs to hear.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill


I've always believed in equality for everyone, regardless of their gender, race or sexuality, but it was only when I read Only Ever Yours that I realised that was feminism and that I am a feminist. For me, it highlighted a ton of issues that I hadn't realised existed, and also showcased things I'd put up with in life not knowing I shouldn't have had to.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
I rave about this one all the time and for good reason. It's so well written and made me and lots of other people feel less alone, plus it's easily the best book about mental health that I've ever read. I remember feeling so relieved when reading it because it just got me.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Unlike a lot of people, I didn't grow up with this series, as I only read it a few years ago. And, as much as I love it, I don't think it taught me any of the things other people say it's taught them. But it did introduce me to one of the loveliest, most enthusiastic fandoms I have ever seen, and it's given me common ground with people who later became some of my closest friends.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
At the end of 2013 when I was still struggling with agoraphobia (I still do to an extent but it was much, much worse back then) I read my first Stephanie Perkins book. This book centred around a teenage girl who flew from the US alone to attend boarding school in Paris even though she didn't speak a word of French. It made me think about the fact that there's a whole world out there and life is too short to stay indoors and miss everything. Since then I've really wanted to travel the world, with Paris being my first stop.

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
It's been a while since I read this but it's still one of the most inspiring and motivational books I've ever read. It's about proving people wrong when they have little faith in you. It's about going from nothing to something. It's a subtle kick up the butt and I think everyone should read this whether you're a girl or not.

Which books hold a special place in your heart?

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Title: Rebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Published by: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 4th February 2016
Pages: 348
Genres: YA Fantasy/Romance/Adventure/Mythology
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


'Have you ever wanted something so bad that it's not a want anymore? I need to get out of this town like I need to breathe.'

Dustwalk is an unforgiving, dead-end town. It's not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet it's the only home Amani Al'Hiza has ever known - the desert is in her bones.

Amani wants to move on, escape, to see the world she's heard about in campfire stories. More than a want. A need.

Then a foreigner with no name turns up and saves her life. Tell me how you want your story to go, he says, and we'll write it straight across the sand. With him she has the chance to run.

But the desert plains are full of danger, blood and magic. The sultan's army is on the rise and soon Amani finds herself caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion...

Rebel of the Sands is set to be one of the best books of 2016 and I am so excited for everyone to get their hands on it and come along for the ride. It's full of mythology, adventure, a little gunpowder and a lot of action. Seriously, the story does not stop moving and there is always something dangerous and exciting happening.

Amani, the protagonist, is without a doubt the most kickass character I've ever met. She is fearless, strong and full of determination, not to mention quick-witted, intelligent and a good fighter. She was so interesting to me, as was Jin, the foreigner she meets on her journey. Minor spoiler warning here: I loved their subtle romance. It wasn't overpowering, it didn't take over the entire book, it wasn't the main plot, and it didn't follow the typical formula of boy + girl + danger = boy saving girl's life multiple times. I mean, that did happen but it worked the other way, too, which is something we don't see enough of in YA. They were equal and the attraction between them wasn't mentioned often; it was just there beneath the surface.

Another aspect I enjoyed was Rebel of the Sands' relevancy to our world today. Again, very subtly, it tackled the way women and people who are simply different from us are treated. There was a bit of politics and some discussion on religion and believers/non-believers, and Hamilton did this whilst crafting an incredibly realistic, magical world with Eastern influences that I really enjoyed. Honestly, the world-building in Rebel of the Sands is first class.

Even if this isn't a genre you would usually enter into, I definitely recommend picking up Rebel of the Sands and giving it a go. I did, and I'm glad because it's one of those books that pushed me out of my comfort zone and took me on an amazing journey. Rebel of the Sands is truly special and one of a kind.

Monday, 4 January 2016

10 Reasons You Need to Read DIMILY


A few months ago I was browsing on Amazon and I came across a book called Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame. I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy it but, long story short, I ordered it and now I'm practically dying waiting for the third and final instalment. Here are ten reasons you need to join me in fangirling about this awesome trilogy.

1. Estelle Maskame was only thirteen when she wrote the trilogy on Wattpad, and sixteen when she revised it and Black & White gave her a book deal.


2. And if that makes you uncertain about it being an incredible trilogy, just look at the size of the DIMILY fandom (100,000+) and take into account that the rights have been sold to 9+ countries. Honestly. Don't be ageist. 


3) DIMILY boasts one of the cutest, most fun couples in YA, but with a twist - they're step-siblings. Nothing better than a book that pushes the boundaries.


4) And of course it's set in some beautiful places, including California and New York, and I think there's a little bit of Chicago in the third and final book...


5) Estelle Maskame is a phenomenal writer and you will fall in love with the trilogy instantly. I'd say the books are in the same league as one of my other favourite trilogies by Stephanie Perkins. Seriously, if you're in a reading slump, DIMILY will get you out of it in no time.


6) This trilogy is so perfect for escapism. Hello Santa Monica, goodbye muddy English countryside with your cows, tractors, and people who still get around by horse and cart. (I'm being serious.)


7) And the trilogy will make you feel good. Who needs a hot chocolate on a cold winter night when you can have DIMILY? They have the same affect, and one of them lasts longer.


8) DIMILY will give you a serious case of wanderlust and a new book boyfriend to add to your list.


9) The author is lovely (although she'll probably break us all with the third and final book). The first two are already emotionally soul destroying, so...


10) My cat likes it.



Have you read DIMILY? If not, do you think you will? (I think you should.)

Friday, 1 January 2016

Hello 2016: Goals for the Year


Well, would you look at that; another year has flown by. Is it just me or do years go quicker as you get older? I don't like it. I also don't like the fact that I can now say I'll be 19 next year. WTF.

Anyway, I have a few goals this year, both personal and to do with The Mile Long Bookshelf. I'm not a fan of this time when we have to say goodbye to one year and hello to another, because I put so much pressure on myself to have a good year. In a way, that's a good thing. But it also worries me because what if I don't have a good year? Gah. I do like a good list, though, so here are my goals for 2016. It doesn't matter too much if I don't manage all of them, but I'd very much like to.

PERSONAL

  • I got my provisional licence ages ago but I have yet to start driving lessons because they're expensive af. I'm getting there, though. Even if I don't get my own car this year, I want to at least be able to drive.
  • Last year I made a lot of progress anxiety-wise that really surprised me. This year, my goal is to not get worse.
  • Continue to actively replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Last year I decided to do this because I thought it would make me happier, and it did! I had a lot of rubbish moments - everyone does - but 2015 was definitely a happier year for me and I think it made me into a better person, too.
  • I want to start getting up earlier.
  • Learn to cook. Because seriously. Eating popcorn with a spoon does not make it a meal.
  • I want to go abroad somewhere. Probably not going to happen but it was my goal last year, too, and it never happened so it's carrying over into 2016. Day in Paris, anyone?
  • I need to make time to go through and edit what I wrote for NaNoWriMo. I planned to do this in the Christmas holidays but I had to focus on coursework.
  • On the subject of coursework, I want to do well in my exams. I struggled with my IGCSEs because I didn't know what to expect, and the unknown is something my anxiety thrives on. But I've done it now, so even though these exams will be harder, I'm hoping it won't be such a struggle.
  • I also need a job. In case you didn't know, I left the newspaper I was writing for in May last year for a bunch of reasons, and I miss working. My goal is to work in Waterstones (how amazing would that be?) but it depends on my health and whether I get to a point where I can actually commit and have someone rely on me.

BLOG

  • I'd like to grow my following a little more. Usually I have numerical goals for this but...
  • I'm going to focus on my content. I'd rather have a few followers and content I'm truly proud of than lots of followers and content that's lacking.
  • Keep going. With each year that passes, it gets harder to think up new ideas, but I'll get through it.
  • Get started on a THING which I haven't even had time to think about in detail so I'm not going to say what it is just yet.

YOUTUBE

  • I'd like to hit 2,000 subscribers but I don't know how likely that is.
  • I want to make my videos more creative. I put so much effort into them already, but my channel is mostly hauls, book recommendations and Q&As. I'd like to mix it up a bit.
  • I want to get proper lights because the lighting is always dodgy in my house. I try my best to make it semi-good but there's only so much you can do without lights that are specific for photography and filming.

What are your goals for this year? I hope 2016 treats you well!