Sunday, 23 July 2017

Beauty and the Beast Screening & Afternoon Tea with Disney

Who went to bed at 11pm, didn't fall asleep until 5am, and woke up to an alarm just half an hour later ahead of a busy day in London? That would be me! Thanks brain...

Last month I received a very exciting email from Disney, inviting me to a private screening of Beauty and the Beast at Covent Garden Hotel, followed by afternoon tea and a book swap with the theme of leading females, like Belle. All of this was to celebrate the release of the film on DVD.

Well, I couldn't pass up the opportunity of cake, a feminist book swap, and the chance to watch a gorgeous film, could I?

The film started at 10am, hence my early start, and it was somehow even better than my first viewing. I still can't seem to figure out which part is meant to be the 'gay moment' that the world got itself into a tizzy over, so if anyone feels like enlightening me... it must have been very subtle! The film is so beautifully shot though, and the casting is spot on. The costumes, the choreography, the soundtrack, the random bursting into song, and of course the traditional tale, ensure the classic feel of the film is still very much prevalent, simply with modern reworking and a witty, hilarious script to boot. I have to say, I'm really enjoying Disney's live-action remakes. Having liked the modern update of The Jungle Book and now Beauty and the Beast, it made me realise how cool it is that I grew up watching the old animated classics on video - and now, hitting adulthood, I get to experience it all again but in an entirely new way. I really need to sort myself out and finally watch Cinderella...

After the film, we were taken through to the Fortune Room for afternoon tea. I chatted with Sanne (Books and Quills), Lucy (The Book Belle) and Daphne (Winged Reviews and Illumicrate), and met new-to-me bloggers Linda (Linda's Book Bag) and Steph (A Little but a Lot). As I mentioned before, there was also a book swap, and I brought along my spare copy of Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne and basically shoved it in the face of anyone who asked about it. Read it, people, read it. I didn't take any books home because, let's be honest, I really shouldn't acquire any more...

I vlogged the day, so if you're into that kind of thing, subscribe to me on YouTube and the video will be up this week.

Thanks Disney for a lovely afternoon!

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Title: The State of Grace
Author: Rachael Lucas
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 6th April 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.

Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more.

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.

The State of Grace tells the story of a girl who struggles to fit in, who tries to find her feet in a world which constantly tells her that she needs to. Grace has Asperger's, and being in her mid-teens, things are getting more and more difficult: boys have become complicated, friendships are suddenly full of unspoken drama, and Grace's younger sister is close to going off the rails. Something weird is going on with their parents, and Grace's teacher thinks she's just attention-seeking. Meanwhile, all Grace wants is to be with her horse, Mabel, and for everything to be fine.

I've been looking forward to this book since the day it was announced. I'd been following the author on Twitter for a while and I already liked what she had to say, so to hear that she was making a foray into YA was exciting. I blogged about it here on the WHSmith website due to it being one of my most highly-anticipated 2017 reads! The main reason for me being excited about it, however, is due to Grace's Asperger's. I'm close to a few women with the same diagnosis, and I'd never seen this representation in YA before. I've read a couple of books with male autistic characters, but even then, those books are few and far between. Overall, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there on the topic. And who better to write about it than Lucas, who was diagnosed with Asperger's herself and whose daughter has it, too?

Grace is such a great character, written with warmth and heart, and through her Lucas encourages pride in autism. There are a few comments on Grace having been sent to the 'Jigsaw Centre' when she was younger, which aimed to mould her into a more neurotypical and therefore 'socially acceptable' being, subtly commenting on the negativity of so-called treatment for autistic people and trying to find a 'cure'. The book's overarching message is to be yourself, and to let everyone else do the same.

It's worth noting that Rachael Lucas has an awesome presence on social media, so to hear more of what she has to say, do follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram. And if you're looking for an authentic and honest story which is entertaining and full of heart, The State of Grace is well worth reading. I can't wait for what Lucas is planning next!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

GUEST POST: Chris Russell on Why Fandom Matters

One of my favourite authors is on the blog today talking about fandom and why it matters to him, and I think it perfectly captures why fandom is so great. Chris Russell's debut novel, Songs About a Girl, was released last summer, shaking up the blogosphere and quickly becoming a favourite of mine. And the second book in the trilogy, Songs About Us, is finally here and set to do the same! If you haven't read these books before, you'll love them. Over to you, Chris.

It goes without saying that fandom is at the heart of my YA trilogy, Songs About a Girl. Apart from anything else, the story was originally inspired by a three-month period I spent ghost-writing for a 1D fan-club in Australia, during which time I a) developed a real insight into the way fans interact with each other online and b) fell hook, line and sinker in love with One Direction. Specifically Harry.

But let's not get sidetracked. Even if he does have LOVELY HAIR.

Because, of course, it's not actually that long [ahem] since I was a teenager myself, and I'm not sure fandom is something I've ever entirely let go of. Unsurprising, really, when I consider that I have fandom to thank for many of the best things that have ever happened to me.

When I was thirteen, I met a blue-eyed singer and guitarist called George, in English class, and we quickly became best friends. We fanboyed over all the same comedy shows (Blackadder, Red Dwarf), offbeat novels (Catch 22, The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy) and movies (Empire Records, Wayne's World), and were effectively joined at the hip from dawn until dusk. Most importantly, though, we fanboyed over music: we were OBSESSED with Bon Jovi. Our infatuation with America's finest faux-cowboy rock band was matched only by our infatuation with each other, so it was only a matter of time before we went to see them live.

On a hot night in the summer of 1996, we headed to Wembley to watch our heroes perform, and this experience set off a chain reaction without which I probably wouldn't be a musician, or even an author, and I certainly wouldn't be writing this blog post. So inspired were we by Bon Jovi's big-hearted stadium rock show, we headed home, sat in a tree in George's garden and vowed to start a band, tour the world, be best friends forever and, one day, play at Wembley Stadium ourselves.

Over twenty years later, and our band, The Lightyears, are still together. We've been lucky enough to play gigs across four continents, stay in some ridiculously fancy hotels, have countless adventures on the road and even perform at Wembley Stadium a few times - and while we never really got famous outside of our own village, it's been one hell of a ride. And I thank fandom for that. It was as if the intensity of our teenage obsession, crystallised on that hot summer night at a Bon Jovi concert, was the rocket fuel that powered the crazy pursuits of our adult lives.

If you read YA, the chances are you've been in a fandom or two in your life. Teenagers, and those of us who read teen fiction, feel things in an especially intense way. We seek out widescreen emotions, broken hearts, epic narratives of hope, love and redemption. That's what fandom is all about. And I, for one, plan to keep on fanboying until the day I die.

I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH. The importance of fandom and the ways it can completely change your life can be seen in the Songs About a Girl trilogy, and that's one of the things I love about it. Songs About Us, the second book, is out today, and you need to buy your copy now (links below!) I'm reading it right now and it is pure awesome. Music, fandom, friendship, aaand the journey of a lifetime. ❤

Sunday, 9 July 2017

What You Don't Know About Me: The Tiny Elements That Make a Person

What don't you know about me, readers? Some of you have known me since I was a single digit. In a world overtaken by technology, and having grown up on the Internet, it is increasingly difficult for people like me to have secrets; people whose ratio of online devices to willingness to overshare is just right. The following aren't secrets, exactly, but things that might only come across when you meet me; the tiny elements that don't mean much on their own but result in the formation of a person; little things that are so minuscule they aren't often caught on camera or in blog posts, if at all.

Firstly: I can be timid, shy, quiet, a wallflower; that person whose name you can't remember years after leaving school when you're trying to name everyone who was in your class for a laugh. This has always been my personality - sometimes it's noticeable and sometimes it isn't. Some people who know me in real life might be nodding their heads at this, whilst others might be thinking, 'Amber? Shy? Pull the other one.' I guess I'm a pretty nervous person (wow, no one saw that coming) but to the extent where I'll be messaging someone and I'll Google a totally ordinary word just to make sure that I am indeed using it in the right context. I've also been known not to report people I really should have reported. The girl who drunkenly assaulted me when I was minding my own business a few months ago, leaving me with a purple-green bruise on my side? I wanted to go to the police and I was actually going to but, surprise, that didn't happen. Similarly - and I'm not narrowing it down to a specific time should they see this, realise it's them, and feel like the bad person they are (see?) - two teachers I've had in my life have been beyond bad, and when given the chance to report them... I didn't. Furthermore, when my first driving instructor out of two, who had no idea about my literal diagnosed anxiety, noted my quietness and suggested I ask my GP for anti-anxiety medication, I was just like, 'mmm, maybe'. Awkward nod. Grimace. It was personal, it was out of order, and it was quite frankly hugely irresponsible, but did I do anything about it? Yeah, a few hundred quid later, when I got my stepdad to text her and tell her that we'd ran out of money, because I was too scared to text and tell her that, actually, she just wasn't working for me. They call me Non-Confrontational Amber. (They don't.) (Actually, one has. I wrote this as a joke but someone actually has.) Someone once said I was intimidating, and I've probably been referred to as 'confident' more than 'timid' or 'quiet', so I thought I'd clear that up. I am shockingly polite, sometimes to my detriment. Better than being rude, though, right? 

Secondly, I'm really bloody good at blagging my way through things. It's an exact science, guys. 32.5% of what I do is based on luck, 32.5% is based on hard work, and 32.5% is based on me being excellent at blagging my way through a situation - although maybe that also comes under 'hard work', because it's not like it's easy. In Year 12 our final exam asked us to analyse a poem I had never seen before in my life - it was supposed to be one we'd read before - and I still got an A. Before I was eighteen, I had a job interview for my absolute dream job (and it didn't go to plan - you can read about that here). I had another at a local Mercedes-Benz - you know, the car company. I am the LAST person you would think of if looking for someone to work in a car showroom. In fact, you wouldn't even think of me in that situation ever. I don't know how cars work. I struggle to fill mine with petrol because the fact that every garage is different manages to confuse the hell out of me. When I first got behind the wheel, I thought simply tapping the accelerator lighter than a feather would zoom me across the car park at 100mph. But yeah, there was a time when Mercedes wanted me. Didn't get the job, but considering everything I've just said, that was probably for the best.

What's next? There was a time during the running of this blog when I actually fell out of love with the idea of writing. Don't get me wrong, I've always, always, always loved books and reading, and naturally writing came with that. I wanted to be an author for SO long... but at some point in my early teens, I gave up on that dream completely. I didn't feel good enough, I couldn't see it happening, and I genuinely did not want to do it anymore. I loved books and I loved blogging, but was I at all interested in writing my own novel one day and becoming a published author? Nope, not anymore - it was completely gone. I think this was down to a huge lack of self-esteem, to be honest, and at that age you've got so many different influences that something else probably took its place for a while. It didn't help that every time I tried to write a full-length book, it ended up being 20 pages, max. I've now got about 60,000 words under my belt, and the dream is well and truly back - having my own book is my ultimate dream. (I'm actually working on it really hard right now!)

Sometimes I feel kind of conflicted about what I put into the world. You could say I'm pretty mainstream, and girls who fit into that category are looked down upon by... everyone, basically. I feel like people see this and automatically think that the person they're looking at is unintelligent, basic, boring. I've thought this before! Yay, society, and making people internalise common misconceptions and misogyny! But you can like Ariana Grande and get all A*s. You can be completely silly and hyper 80% of the time and still have serious thoughts about the state of the world. You can be bottom-set maths throughout secondary school and write a twenty-page essay about politics. You can look like you have it all, and have nothing. It takes a lot to truly know someone, and personalities are massive, with branches coming from branches coming from branches. You don't necessarily see everything, and I think that's important to realise in an Internet generation.

What else? Oh, I'm a sucker for random acts of kindness. I first became aware of the concept in one of Cathy Cassidy's books - I can't remember which one - and it's been a constant inspiration in my life ever since. I believe that you get back what you put into the world. I recently made this video which is the second one I've made where I leave books around for strangers to find and keep, and a post listing other ways you can perform random acts of kindness will be up soon!

In a similar vein, one of my biggest dreams (alongside being an author, obvs) is to be so well-off financially that I can pledge to all the Kickstarters, GoFundMes, crowdfunders and charities. ALLLLLL THE THINGS. Especially right now when they're becoming more and more common. There are big fundraisers like One Love Manchester and for the victims of the Grenfell fire, and so many smaller ones for healthcare, education, rent if someone's a bit short that month. I give what I can, but can you imagine being able to give to all of these things? Improving someone's life with the click of a button? (Obviously, another one of my biggest dreams is for these fundraisers to not be needed in the first place, but I can't see that happening in my lifetime, unfortunately.)

So there we go. Still don't know my middle name, though, do you? ;)

Tell me something about you!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Read the First Chapter of 'The Crash' by Lisa Drakeford

As you'll know if you've read my last post, one of my favourite authors Lisa Drakeford has just published a new book called The Crash! It's YA. In fact, I'm quoted on the inside front cover saying that I think Drakeford's writing is the epitome of good YA, so there we go. The concept is brilliant and unique, exploring the present and the aftermath of a car crashing through our protagonist's living room wall. Why did it happen? How does everyone involved tie together?

Spoiler: I loved it, and maybe you will too, because I've got the entire first chapter here for you to read. I'd love to know what you think!

What did you think?

Monday, 3 July 2017

The Crash by Lisa Drakeford

Title: The Crash
Author: Lisa Drakeford
Published by: Chicken House
Publication date: 6th July 2017
Pages: 285
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Mystery
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Best friends Sophie and Tye are watching TV when a car crashes through the living room wall. In the car are twins, Harry and Gemma. Next door, eleven-year-old Issy witnesses the accident.

In the aftermath, Tye is fighting for his life, Gemma's dark past threatens the present, and Sophie starts to fall for someone she shouldn't. And all the while Issy hides a terrible secret...

Having loved Drakeford's debut titled The Baby a couple of years ago, I was very excited to learn of her new release, The Crash. Told in the same style as The Baby, but a standalone with a completely new set of characters, the point of view alternates between chapters and we see a messed-up situation from several different angles, each with added opinions or backstories which add up to the climactic ending.

The messed-up situation? Sophie and Tye are watching TV when a car comes crashing through the living room wall. The house is destroyed, a chilled afternoon becomes a life or death situation - and no one knows how it happened. This concept immediately intrigued me, and I imagine it must have been a lot of fun to explore when writing - it definitely was when reading!

I actually wasn't massively keen on the alternating POVs in The Baby, but it really worked for me in The Crash, and with different points of view which all bring equal value to the story, it's hard to pick a favourite character. It includes Sophie, a mature and caring sixteen-year-old who only wants the best for everyone, including herself; eleven-year-old Issy from next door whose bravery knows no bounds; Gemma, a good person who makes the wrong choices; Harry, Gemma's twin, who is kind, sensitive, and caught up in things he shouldn't be; and Tye who I would love to have seen more of but, y'know, he was kind of busy being in a coma.

I do love a good YA mystery, especially when it has an original concept that I've never seen before. It was a tiiiny bit slow paced for me in places (and I mean tiny, hence I've only knocked off one heart) but overall, Drakeford's books show her knack for hooking the reader and keeping them there until the very end, and if you liked The Baby, you will like this too.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

#ZoellaBookClub 2017 is Here!

Weirdly, just two days before it was revealed, I was wondering if WHSmith's #ZoellaBookClub would be making a return. Then this delightful package arrived... so I think it's safe to say that it already has!

It's gone under a bit of a re-brand and is now the Zoella & Friends book club. Those friends are YA authors Jennifer Niven, Amy Alward, Juno Dawson and Chris Russell. Not only that, but the way the books are picked has changed, too, with Sugg and Niven picking one book each (Moxie and Orbiting Jupiter, respectively), and the rest of the books being picked by Alward (The Start of Me and You and The One Memory of Flora Banks), Dawson (Girlhood and History is All You Left Me), and Russell (After the Fire and Letters to the Lost).

The new format means that the titles picked will be more diverse, and the YA community is so close-knit that it makes sense for more authors to get on-board and do what they usually do but on a bigger platform: recommend each other's books.

As always, the picks definitely excite me - what's not to love about a box of YA wonders?! With each round of the book club, there are always books which I already own and/or have already read, and with this box those books are After the Fire, Letters to the Lost, The One Memory of Flora Banks, History is All You Left Me, and Girlhood. However, it's always lovely to see the new covers (if you didn't know, #ZoellaBookClub picks get new covers!) and it means I can give my favourites to my friends without actually, y'know, giving away my favourites.

Of the books in this series, I am most excited to read After the Fire, Letters to the Lost, The Start of Me and You, History is All You Left Me, Moxie, and Girlhood. So... basically all of them. I'm so glad that the book club is back, because not only does it motivate me to read more, but it also pushes me out of my comfort zone, and the club as a whole is doing so much in terms of getting young people reading. IT'S BECOMING SLIGHTLY COOL AND MAINSTREAM, GUYS. *cough* I read before it was cool.

Also, tiny shoutout to Chris Russell, because I've said before that his book Songs About a Girl would be awesome for the #ZoellaBookClub, and he's gone a step up and become part of the panel. YOU GO, CHRIS. *cough* I met him before it was... oh fine, I'll stop now.

Which books are you looking forward to in the first #ZoellaBookClub of 2017?

Thursday, 29 June 2017

My Cringiest Blog Posts

As many of you will know, I've been blogging for ten years or so, and everyone knows that the younger you are, the less of a 'filter' you have, not to mention less of an ability to spell or to run a blog to the same standard that you can ten years later... I know many bloggers and vloggers delete their old content or at least make it private, and to be honest I've considered doing the same, but I always end up leaving it there. I've made no effort to hide my old blog posts - the archive is always readily available, just over there to your right. This doesn't mean that I'm not embarrassed by some of them, because I am, but I'd like them to stay. I like knowing that I can easily read about what I was getting up to so long ago if ever I want to, and I feel like it gives this place an extra dimension.

You know when you're down to two scheduled posts, and you're so desperate for blog post ideas that you end up deciding that embarrassing yourself is the only way forward? That. You know what I'm going to say next, don't you?

Let's take a trip down memory lane and look at my old blog posts! To whet your appetite, a couple of hilarious anecdotes from my old blog that apparently needed entire blog posts to themselves...

Yeah, this is what you're getting into by reading the rest of this post. I hope you're ready.

First up, I thought it'd be appropriate to share my first ever post on this blog, which is a review of Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami. Excellent author, excellent book... and a review, posted on 1st December 2009, consisting of three very short paragraphs and the words, "I highly recommend it to anyone who absolutely loves Narinder Dhami books!" YES, I RECOMMENDED THE BOOK TO PEOPLE WHO WOULD HAVE BOUGHT THE BOOK ANYWAY. I also made sure to note that the book had "happy parts, sad parts [and] funny parts" because when I asked for advice on how to write book reviews, I was told to mention how it made me feel and, um, I don't think such a vague sentence listing three emotions that I didn't even attribute to myself is quite what they meant. If you look in the dictionary, you'll find me under 'vague'.

Next is a post titled 'Book Swag', which from the URL you can see was originally called 'Some Great Gifts', published on 14th January 2010. Neither of them are particularly intriguing titles, are they? The post is a short one (surprise!) consisting of four grainy, dimly-lit photos taken on an ancient Nintendo DSi. The first sentence - of two, you understand - uses an EMOTICON. No, not an emoji, an EMOTICON. Made of PUNCTUATION. Good god.

The cringe is not over. Published on 2nd February 2010 was my review of Luisa Plaja's Split by a Kiss, a book I adored but to which I only dedicated a two-paragraph review. Writing at length is something I genuinely really struggled with when I was younger, and still do to some extent - this is partly why I binned my dream of ever writing a novel partway through my teenage years (that dream has since returned, I might add!) I suppose the review isn't the worst, but I don't think I could have been any more vague. Are you sensing a theme here? I'm going to interrupt this cringe-fest to give myself some credit, because just a month later you can already see that my reviews are slightly improving. It's still very short, but my review of Paper Towns by John Green in March 2010 is sliiightly more detailed, and you can tell - well, I can at least - that I'm trying!

Skipping forward to 2012, I'd twigged the existence of ~seasonal content~ and published a list of my top 5 romance books on Valentine's Day. Admittedly, in my old age, I don't remember three of them, so... that's awkward. Who's up for an updated version next year?

It gets a little less cringe from there, and I just stumbled across my 'Design Timeline: 2009-2013' post which is genuinely quite interesting. As I say in the post, it's fascinating (for me, anyway) to see the change in blog designs which correlates with me getting older and developing my own style. It also amazes me to see that I've only ever had four blog designs, including this one, in nearly a decade. Just a heads up: I've been desperate for a new one for about a year now, so a fifth and hopefully final design might be happening soon. You know, when I stop being lazy. (I'm too fussy and no design I've seen perfectly fits the image in my mind, that's the problem.)

So, there we have it. If you want more cringe with a hint of nostalgia, check out my latest video below in which I read a bunch of old stories I wrote, aged six. It's... weird. And vaguely disturbing in places. Don't say I didn't warn you.

How long have you been blogging? Do you have any cringe stories to share?

Saturday, 24 June 2017

EVENT RECAP: The Blogosphere Blog Awards 2017

I stopped reading magazines a few years ago. I was sick of the rotated content, the amount of hypocrisy that could be found in one issue alone, the constant feeling of being told what to do and how to look. Then I found Blogosphere Magazine, possibly the only physical publication for bloggers, and it quickly became the only magazine I ever bother buying.

That's why I was hugely excited when, earlier this year, I woke up to a tweet from them saying that I was shortlisted for Book Blogger of the Year in their inaugural #BlogosphereBlogAwards! Apparently there had been a nominating process beforehand but it seemed I'd missed it completely, so it was a massive surprise. To be nominated along with approximately 6,000 other blogs and then shortlisted with just four other people is mad, really.

Thursday evening came around and it was time for the awards ceremony! After a nightmare train journey, because we all know it only takes a slight change in the weather for our public transport to come to an immediate standstill, I ended up being the first person to arrive because I am literally the least cool person to ever exist. I was THAT person. But it was alright, because I got to chat to Albertine, Blogosphere's Editorial Assistant, and have a few snaps on the red carpet and by the flower wall (!) while things were pretty chill.

It was so beautiful inside, and someone said to me that it looked like a wedding. It really did! Ambient pink and blue lighting, a free bar, four white tables with beautiful pink flower arrangements, and a silent video montage on the wall which showed various shoots and behind-the-scenes clips, and highlighted how far the magazine has come in a relatively short amount of time. Plus, GIFT BAGS. You'll see inside those later, don't worry.

I sat with the lovely Heather from Digital Fluidity, and Jasmin from Just Lovely Little Things. It was so great to meet them, and the event as a whole made me realise how small the book blogging community is in relation to the entire blogosphere. I think Heather and Jasmin might actually be the first bloggers I've met from another niche?!

The team from Social Pantry served dinner, which was much appreciated. If someone could let me know how to recreate those glazed tomato and garlic pesto tarts, and possibly the pea, parmesan and mint arancini, that would be most excellent. Just saying.

Meanwhile, the awards were being announced by the magazine's Editor, Alice Audley, who is actual career goals. And dress goals. And everything goals.

For a list of the winners, check out @BlogosphereM on Twitter, or make sure to grab a copy of the next issue when it comes out in September. Unfortunately I wasn't crowned Book Blogger of the Year, and this went to the very deserving Little Novelist.

We were also treated to an amazing performance by Andrea Di Giovanni, and I'll be getting all the music of his I can find as soon as I finish this blog post! Definitely recommend checking him out.

Now for a haul courtesy of the award sponsors... I won't talk about everything because that would take approximately 78 years, but I'm very excited to try the primer as I've heard lots of good things about that brand. The tangle teezer, shockingly, is my first one - it's been hyped for SO long, but I never understood how all that praise could possibly be true. However, on having a go with it for the first time, I understood. It literally eliminates tangles with no pain. I don't get it but I love it (and it's shiny, hello.) I also like the look of the lipstick, which I'm looking forward to trying.

All in all, a lovely evening! This was my first Blogosphere Magazine event (they host quite a few throughout the year) and I'll definitely be going to another at some point. Thank you so much to whoever nominated me to be shortlisted, and whoever voted for me to be the overall winner. It didn't happen but it really, really means a lot, and apparently it was very close!

Instead of vlogging the day, I documented the event on my Instagram story. Watch that here!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How to Feel More Included in the Blogosphere

Being a new blogger can be hard. It's like that first day of school where everyone else seems to have their friendship groups sorted and you're not sure where, or if, you'll fit in. And like school, the blogosphere is full of unspoken rules. It's a hard one to navigate, that's for sure, and seeing as I've been kicking about for a while in this glittery community of greatness, I thought I'd put together a list of ways you can feel more included.

The first thing you can do is forget your shyness. Jump right in and talk to people! It can be a bit awkward just tweeting someone out of the blue and saying hello, which is one of the reasons Twitter chats are so great. Take #teenbloggerschat for example, which is over at @TeenBloggersGR every Sunday at 7pm UK time. I help to run it. Each week has a theme - past topics include exam stress, books, and politics - and for the next hour from our main account we ask questions relating to that topic, which everyone then answers using the hashtag. It makes socialising that little bit less awkward, because loads of people are in the same place, talking about the same things, and there's so many of us you're more than likely to have something in common with people. I've made lots of new blogging friends through this! Other chats you can get involved in are #SundayYA and #BlogosphereChat.

Click here for more blogging tips!

It also helps to comment on other blogs. Even if you don't get replies, after a few comments the blogger is sure to start recognising your name and may eventually search out your own blog. Actually, this is the same on all social media - interacting doesn't have to be by talking (though that is best!) Simply following, liking and retweeting regularly does exactly the same thing, and we're a friendly bunch. If you're a book blogger, following publishers and publicists isn't a bad idea, either - they always have fun book news to share!

Another idea might be to host a giveaway. Not everyone can, and I completely understand that - I haven't done a giveaway in ages. If you can, though, it can certainly help to get you some new followers... and if they stick around, you may well make some new friends, too.

Furthermore - and this is something I didn't realise until I'd already been blogging for seven years because I'm SO observant - is that there are so many bloggers in the world that you probably share a town with one, or at least a county! I know a handful of bloggers and vloggers who live around here and even though some of us have still never met, it's nice to know that not everything happens in London... because it sure feels like it, sometimes.

Along with that - book events! These are great places not only to meet fellow bloggers but also authors you admire. YALC is a big one, and ordinary bookshop events are great too - after all, you're in a room full of like-minded people!

Oldies - what tips do you have for becoming included in the blogosphere? Newbies - drop your links in the comments, I'd love to see your blogs!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Teens in the YA Community

The YA book blogging community is, funnily enough, very focused on teenagers. Why shouldn't it be? YA literally stands for Young Adult, and it makes sense that this is what the community would centre around. Having said that, for a community and industry focused on teenagers (and profiting from them) there are a lot of issues.

These are issues that I've never really spoken about, and to be honest, I don't think I've been massively affected by them. Yes, I've been publicly slagged off by adults who should know better multiple times, but others have had worse. I was still in single digits when I started book blogging, and by the time I was officially a Teenager™, I'd been in the community for so long that I don't think I ever felt inferior or excluded. Maybe I was and I was just blissfully unaware.

Now I'm eighteen, which puts me in the position of legally being an adult, but still in the 'teen' bracket, meaning I can consider myself a teenage blogger. (Good thing, too, seeing as I'm on the Teen Bloggers team.)

But what are these 'issues', Amber? Let me explain.

First up, I think we need to understand the difference between who YA is written for, who it is marketed at, and who actually consumes it. It's my belief - and, from what I've seen, a common one - that YA is for teenagers but that it can be read by anyone. By that, I mean that if you're 40, it's perfectly understandable if you don't relate to a particular YA novel, because it's not for you in the first place. As I've said, though, that doesn't mean you can't read it - you absolutely can, and I've written about that here. I encourage it! If you have a way of consuming literature, whether that's with your eyes or your ears or fingers on braille, you can read whatever you like. But YA is for young adults and that's never going to change. The author is aiming it at young adults. The book deals with relevant teenage issues, no matter when it is set. The cover is designed to appeal to a teenage market. Teams of people decide how else to market it to teenagers and young adults, with window displays, book club submissions, adverts which are purposefully placed in teenage spaces... my YouTube channel, for a start. You should definitely subscribe. Just saying.

We've got that, then. YA can be read by everyone but it is specifically for teens and young adults. Pretty simple idea. Quorn food might not taste like meat to people who eat meat, but that's irrelevant, because even though Quorn can be eaten by meat-eaters, it's not for them, y'know? Vegetarians don't necessarily notice or even care about that. They just want the delicious meat-free sausage roll.

Despite the fact that YA is for teenagers, most book bloggers are in fact adults. I know some excellent ones, and in my experience, most are the loveliest people you could ever meet. Actual teenagers who blog about YA however are less frequent, and whether this is because many lack the time or because reading is commonly seen as lame at that age, I don't know. But I'd be willing to bet that I know of most teenage book bloggers in this country. Due to the unbalance, a lot of teenage book bloggers have spoken out about how they don't always feel comfortable in the community: they feel unsafe, under-valued, not taken seriously, pushed aside in an industry that relies on them for money.

Even I feel like this sometimes. Like I said earlier, I don't think I've been negatively affected as much as some people, and definitely not in all of the ways I've listed above, but there have been three or four times where I have genuinely felt unsafe in our community, and I definitely don't feel like teenagers are at the forefront of discussion as much as perhaps they should be.

Take YALC, for example, always the highlight of my year. I love it. I can hardly fault it. But, for a convention for and about young people, it's quite sales-y. And, having been in attendance every year except the first one, I've personally never seen a panel or workshop consisting solely of the teenagers the event is so focused on. (I was actually invited to be on a panel once but declined because of my anxiety. I could probably manage it now, if anyone wants to, um, reinstate that offer. Just throwing that out there.) It's a shame because I bet some really cool stuff could come of this, and it would be a great experience for anyone involved.

I have nothing against YALC, rather I was using it as a well-known example, and like I said, it's the highlight of my year. You can easily criticise other panel events and workshops for the same thing. For example, I did a couple of author events in a bookshop at the start of 2017; one with Sara Barnard, and the other with Perdita and Honor Cargill. One of the responses I got afterwards was that it was refreshing to go to a teenage event hosted by an actual teenager, because so often panel events are discussing fundamentally teenage topics, and yet actual teenagers are nowhere to be seen on the stage. It's odd, although the former Media Studies student in me is whispering caaaapitalisssmm...

In addition to that, I recently saw a teenage book blogger note that their most important tweets or blog posts don't really gain traction until they're shared or interacted with by at least one adult book blogger. They mentioned that teenage book bloggers need boosting by adult book bloggers, or else they float around cyberspace with no one taking them seriously. It seems to be true in most cases... I've noticed that way more adult book bloggers, and adults in general, look at my stuff when another one has interacted with it or shared it first. For some reason, this is especially true for my book reviews.

Next up, we're getting personal. You wouldn't believe the amount of times I've had compliments from older people online or at events, quickly followed by "I hope that wasn't patronising!" It usually isn't patronising, and I'm quick to tell them that. I really, really appreciate this. However, I have had a lot of patronising comments thrown my way. I'm going to ask a question to the adult book bloggers of the world, here: has anyone in the industry who isn't a close friend ever commented on your looks? Has anyone told you that you look really old? No, I didn't think so. And yet on multiple occasions I've been told in professional settings that I look really young, or that I'm so little, or cute, or adorable. Honestly, it's kind of weird, and it wouldn't happen if I was thirty or even in my mid-twenties. As young(er) people, we're just not consistently taken seriously. Yes, there are some exceptions to this - the vast, vast majority of people I meet at events or whatever are WONDERFUL and I cannot stress this enough!! But the people who feel the need to comment on how young we look... why do you feel comfortable saying this? Why don't you say it to anyone else? Let me answer that for you: because you know it's weird, and you know you wouldn't get away with it with anyone your own age. If I'm at a party, or a presentation, or a meeting, or a press day, or I'm hosting an event myself, I'm there to do my job, just like you. Interestingly, this doesn't just go for the book industry - in fact, I've had comments like this at job interviews and at work parties, none of which have been anything to do with publishing. It just seems to be a thing. I once turned up to a job interview, dressed professionally and full of smiles and politeness, only to go to shake the interviewer's hand and instead be met with confusion. "You look far too young to be here about a job," she said. "You look like a little girl!"


"You're just so tiny!"

I'm eighteen now, and I was eighteen then. An adult. For context.

Furthermore, my first job - which I'm not going to go into detail about but I will say that it was in the media - was severely underpaying me. It wasn't even minimum wage - and I didn't realise it was just me until I'd been there for over a year. Funnily enough, I was also their youngest employee by far. Stats showed that my work was amongst their most popular, but hey, I was a teenager, so whatever.

Similarly, some of you will have read this post in which I told you about the time I completed a month-long unpaid trial for a publishing house. In that time, I got them national press coverage that weirdly, though now understandably, they'd never managed to get before. At the end of my trial, they finally decided to bother letting me know that the position had never actually existed in the first place, but they were happy to offer me £20 for all the work I'd done. I was 17, so I'd sit back and take it, right? I'd be happy with it? That appears to have been their thought process behind it, yes. I said no to the money and got out of there.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Teen bloggers are now making designated safe spaces. The #teenbloggerschat Twitter chat has been praised for giving us younger bloggers the opportunity to talk about things without feeling judged or anxious. Don't even get me started on patronising articles about youth obsession with YouTube, or think-pieces on why millennials aren't buying diamonds, or the recent viral news that the reason young people can't buy their own homes is because they're spending all their money on avocados. HONESTLY.

I would just like to reiterate that I am so grateful for all of the support I've had from my slightly older blogger buddies. I adore our community and luckily the not-so-nice people are a minority, as are the issues that arise, because mostly it's a hugely diverse and supportive place to be. However, to make sure the YA blogging community continues to be a good place to be, issues need to be pointed out every now and then so that they can be worked on and improved. I'd also like to add, in the interests of reducing anyone's anxiety (because I know that whenever I see anyone talking about something bad, I always feel like it's about me...) that I highly doubt anyone involved in the situations I've rambled through above reads my blog, so if you're reading this... I mean, you might be ageist for all I know, but you're most likely not one of the people involved in the situations specific to me.

Regardless of your age, what is your opinion on this discussion which is so big in the blogosphere right now? And what can we do to create change?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Recipe for My Perfect Book

What would you need to see on the cover of a book to make you gasp and immediately buy it? What elements make a book perfect? What's your type? I was thinking about my personal preferences earlier, and I think they'll be fairly obvious to long-term readers of this blog because I rarely venture outside of my comfort zone, but here we go - the recipe for my perfect book...

1 tbsp of faraway places

I'm not talking about a faraway fictional world, because although I've enjoyed the odd one here and there, I'm more into realistic fiction than fantasy. I'm talking about countries I've never visited, but hope to. Books are passports, and a book that can take me somewhere different always piques my interest.

A small town (optional, for garnish)

It depends on the story, okay? Sometimes I'm all about a small town tucked away in the English countryside. The social and political aspects of small-town life are very different to those anywhere else, and it's pretty hard to nail unless you grew up in one. A couple of books that do this really well are Harriet Reuter Hapgood's The Square Root of Summer, and Katy Cannon's And Then We Ran.

A dash of love interest

I've enjoyed plenty of books without love interests but, if well-crafted, a love interest can make everything that bit more... interesting. I mean, 'interest' is literally part of the name, after all.

200ml of sub-plots

I can't deal with a book when it's just one line of thinking. I need more, and I need it to be clever; they don't all need to tie up at the end, but it should be satisfying. I want to be in awe of how the author weaved and balanced them in such a talented way. I loved Simon James Green's Noah Can't Even for many reasons, and this was one of them.

50g of problems

I don't think I'm the only one who wants their favourite characters to have an easy ride yet simultaneously craves drama to get in their way. As the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy, right? And a happy ending is always more satisfying when the characters have gone against the odds. (No deaths, though. STOP BREAKING MY HEART.)

A pinch of LOLs

But in addition to drama, I need humour. A few witty remarks, a lighthearted moment, some well-placed sarcasm... I'm all over it. 

180g of fast pacing

I love a book that isn't slow, that keeps me reading, that has enough going on to make it really hard to put down. Don't let me get bored because as soon as I put it down, I will find it difficult to ever pick it back up. Soz.

4 tbsps of cover quotes from a favourite author

If one of my favourite authors likes a book, then hopefully I will, too. And quotes given to a book are usually from authors who write similar books, which is a good sign.

What would make your perfect book?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

11 Reasons I Loved Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Title: Seven Days of You
Author: Cecilia Vinesse
Published by: Hachette Children's Group
Publication date: 9th March 2017
Pages: 321
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Sophia has spent her life ping-ponging between different countries and schools so saying goodbye to Tokyo - her home for the last few years - should be easy. But then Jamie shows up. He and Sophia used to be friends... and his return stirs up feelings she thought she'd forgotten.

Suddenly, hours and minutes become meaningless. Only time spent together, exploring the hidden streets of the city they love, is real.

If these are going to be her last seven days in Tokyo, Sophia's going to make them count.

1) I made the mistake of starting this the evening before a full day of volunteering, and stayed up far too late because I couldn't put it down... no regrets, though.

2) Seven Days of You is set in Tokyo, aka the coolest place ever. Tokyo's eclecticism makes the perfect backdrop for a city adventure.

3) In this book, fans of Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han, and Katie M. Stout will find their new favourite read... 

4) And a new book boyfriend: Jamie Foster-Collins.

5) Sophia, Mika, David, Caroline and Jamie all have lots going on, and it all receives equal attention. Vinesse nails the complications of teenage relationships.

6) In fact, some of it was ONE HUNDRED PERCENT relatable. This bit is me. Everyone I've sent it to agrees.

7) It was laugh-out-loud funny, and - clearly - the voice was spot on...

8) I am a huge fan of books set in faraway places I've never encountered, and Seven Days of You definitely ticked my 'wanderlust' box. Someone take me to Tokyo, please (but really gradually with lots of short flights because I am not getting in a flying death container for, like, 16 hours straight.)

9) Despite only being set over seven days, the book packs so much in, and it's easy to feel like you are in Tokyo. (Especially if you are literally reading it in Tokyo.)

10) It's one of those books that will immediately have you yearning for a sequel. So, um... just saying. *hopeful face*

11) Basically, Seven Days of You has everything you could possibly want from a YA contemporary, neatly wrapped in Vinesse's skillful writing. If you're in need of some escapism, I highly recommend this.

Have you read Seven Days of You? Do you think you will?