Sunday, 28 May 2017

10 Things I Love About Summer


1. It's lighter for longer, so I can get Domino's at 10pm if I want to without having to worry about losing my life in The Void. Driving in the dark freaks me out - I live in the sticks, where the council helpfully DOESN'T USE ENOUGH STREETLIGHTS, so it's pitch black in places. In fact, it's worse than pitch black - it's vantablack, aka the darkest pigment to ever exist. Fun fact for you there. One bit in particular freaks me out, where it's so dark that I've always called it - you guessed it - The Void. But it's summer, so I don't have to worry about that for a few months.

2. The weather. Here in the UK, our winter doesn't get as cold as, like, Canada, but it's still that level of cold where you shiver so much that it physically exhausts you. You're tense, you're shivering, your teeth hurt because they're sensitive to cold and you're scared of the dentist... maybe the last one's just me. Also, I'm pretty sure I got SAD last year. Soooo, no to winter, yes to summer.

3. The burst of motivation. You know on New Year's Eve when you think of the year ahead and all the things you're going to do? I get that in the run-up to summer, too. There's just so much more you can do in summer...

4. ...like chips by the river; trips to the beach; pub gardens; working outside; walks in the forest; travelling (or dreaming about it); visiting the zoo; general chilling outside without actually chilling...


5. And summer brings so many pleasing things: bright yellow fields; the sound of lawnmowers and the smell of freshly mown grass; Magnums and Ben and Jerry's; the smell of sun cream; happier people; driving with the windows down; bright blue skies; time; flowers in bloom and vegetables ready for picking; shorts; in-season strawberries; sitting outside late at night and not dying from hypothermia; not having to lug a coat around with you everywhere...

6. The sense of possibility. Even if you're not in education anymore, I think the sense of freedom sticks with you. Unless you're in work, maybe... but yeah. I have so many books about creative writing, and a work-in-progress of 60K words which I'm ready to tackle. BRING IT.

7. In addition to my fear of driving in the dark, I'm also kind of scared of car washes, so I mostly wash the car/s (I'm the family car washer because I'm a golden citizen) by hand. Which is really annoying at any time other than summer. FREEZING COLD WATER. HARSH WINDS. I'm not about that life until the daily temperature is at least 24C.

8. Holidays. We used to go away every year - not out of the UK, don't overestimate my bank account/ability to get in a flying metal death machine plane -  but due to ongoing family illness (always me or someone else) we're not really able to do the loooong drive to Cornwall anymore. I MISS IT. I'm crossing my fingers sosososo hard that we go this year. I don't even mind the drive that much, mainly because 1) I'm not driving, thank god, and 2) because for 14 hours I get to eat at all my favourite places that I only get to go to when I'm travelling: Costa, Starbucks, Burger King, McDonald's... for 14 hours. It gets expensive (service station prices) but I'm not paying and there's literally no other option, which is WHAT I LIKE TO SEE. Also, the sea is bright blue. Over here on the east coast, our sea is brown. Ew. BUT BACK TO THE POINT: HOLIDAYS. I LIKE HOLIDAYS.

(Subtlety is my strong point, don't know if you could tell.)

9. Taking pretty photos for future blog posts. Everything looks so much nicer and more photogenic in summer. I love the top photo, a field of rapeseed, taken last summer. I've been waiting for an excuse to use it in a blog post, and now here we are...

10. I love summery reads and, strangely enough, most of them are released in or around summer... not only that, but during summer I have more time to pick up a book. It's a win/win situation. (Here's my TBR for the next few weeks!)


What do you love about summer?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Title: Lord of Shadows
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: 23rd May 2017
Pages: 699
Genres: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter's life is bound by duty. Constrained by honour. The world of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners - sworn to fight together, die together, but to never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn't just forbidden - it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from him. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Christina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and 'unsuitable' Nephilim. They'll do anything in their power to expose Julain's screts and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows - the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devices a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, it's only that book I've been awaiting like mad for over a year... That's right, it's the second book in Cassandra Clare's latest trilogy, The Dark Artifices - and the first book, Lady Midnight, ripped out my heart and trampled all over it. Repeatedly.

Lord of Shadows is no different. Strap in, kids, because this is an emotional roller coaster and a half... although I'm not sure why anyone would expect any different from the Shadowhunter world. Once again, Clare astounds me with how believable it is, this world that has so many layers to it, so much depth and history. I was once again reminded of how intensely her writing draws me in, and how every single emotion felt by any of the characters can immediately be felt by the reader.

This book may even change how you previously felt about characters in Lady Midnight. In the first instalment, I wasn't that bothered about Mark, Kit or Kieran. I don't know what else to say except I just wasn't that drawn to them. Cristina was cool, but I think in Lady Midnight, my focus was definitely on Emma and Julian.

However, in Lord of Shadows, my opinion completely changed. I came to love Kit, who in this instalment is getting to grips with being not just any Shadowhunter, but a Herondale, and the nostalgia was real as I recognised bits of Jace (The Mortal Instruments) and Will (The Infernal Devices) in him. Mark, Kieran and Cristina piqued my interest much more this time round, too, likely because they had more going on this time.

That's another thing - if you thought Lady Midnight was action-packed, you haven't seen anything yet. Lord of Shadows switches between Los Angeles, London, and Cornwall, and the contrast of these awesome settings not only kept me interested for the entire 700-page novel, but also provided insight into different Shadowhunter locations around the world. It was especially interesting to see this new generation of Shadowhunters stay at the London Institute, the setting for one of Clare's other series, The Infernal Devices. As you'd hope and expect, it's full of sneaky references...

Something else which struck me was the amount of parallels with our current political climate. We don't appear to live in the most tolerant or open-minded world at the moment, and as it turns out, neither do Shadowhunters or Downworlders. Offensive views are challenged by a few characters in Lord of Shadows, hitting the nail on the head each time. It's subtle enough to still provide escapism whilst obvious enough to make you want to do lots of mini fist-pumps.

And... this wouldn't be a sufficient review without mentioning Emma and Julian, would it? I'm not going to go into detail about them because fans will know that their relationship is a complicated one, and there are lots of things to spoil that I'm not going to. Just let it be known that they remain my ultimate OTP and they DESERVE HAPPINESS, DAMMIT.

Anyway. The third and final book isn't out for two years. I'll be nearly 21?! Like, I'm an adult, but 21 is a proper adult... so that'll be weird. Not sure I can wait that long for the next book, but I'll have to, won't I? And it'll give my heart some time to recover from this one. This is an author whose books you need to read, people. I've never been more invested in another book than I am in anything Clare writes, and I read a lot, so that's saying something. Come on, get your heart smashed into pieces. Join the club. You know you want to...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green

Title: Noah Can't Even
Author: Simon James Green
Published by: Scholastic
Publication date: 4th May 2017
Pages: 365
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT/Humour
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Poor Noah Grimes!

His dad disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyoncé tribute act is a totally unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran isn't herself anymore. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is... Well, it's pure HELL.

Why can't Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light?

But Noah's plans for romance are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. And that's when things go from bad to worse utter chaos.

If you're like me and you're fast approaching the dreaded exam season, chances are that you're currently dealing with two things: stress, and less time to read. Like, much less time to read. And whenever you pick up a book, you immediately feel guilty that you're doing something for pleasure rather than revising. (Or maybe that's just me?...) I've read hardly anything lately, unless you count my Death of a Salesman textbook, which I don't. But, picking up Noah Can't Even and only intending to read the first couple of pages for the time being, I found that once I started, I couldn't put it down.

Readers, this is the perfect book to read during exam season! Give yourself permission to tear yourself away from your work, because Noah Can't Even is quite possibly the funniest book you will read this year. Seriously, it is constantly and consistently hilarious - I loved Noah and his quirks, and the awkward situations in which he often found himself.


In addition to being bloody funny - and, at times, painfully awkward and relatable - it also touches on important topics such as homosexuality and bullying. I don't think LGBT issues are prevalent enough in YA in general, but especially in UK YA. Have I ever read an LGBT book where the main characters are in their mid-teens? Uh... one, yeah. This one.

That's not all - there are so many clever twists and sub-plots weaved together in a way I very much envy, and it was clearly done well, because I haven't devoured a book so quickly for longer than I'd like to admit. Needless to say, I cannot wait for whatever's next from Green. The Inbetweeners meets Geekhood, Noah Can't Even is a wonderfully awkward and important book that will have you in stitches from start to finish.
Watch my videos with Simon below! The first is an interview, and the second is a game of Heads Up...



Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Siobhan Dowd

Title: The Pavee and the Buffer Girl
Author: Siobhan Dowd
Published by: The Bucket List
Publication date: 2nd March 2017
Pages: 112
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


When Jim's family halt at Dundray, the town is an unfriendly place. Bullying, name-calling, and a new school to navigate without a word of reading.

Then Jim meets Kit, who takes him under her wing and shows him how to survive. But everyday prejudice and mindless violence threaten to uproot all their lives.

When this book was given to me by the lovely Nina at Sophia Bennett's book launch in March, I was so happy. I talk about it a bit in this video, but basically: this book, along with Non Pratt's Unboxed, was pretty much all anyone could talk about at last year's YALC. The illustrations are gorgeous, the story is important, and of course author Siobhan Dowd established the Siobhan Dowd Trust, which works tirelessly to get the love of reading to young people who need it. Honestly, if you're not at least intrigued by it from that paragraph, I'm kind of surprised, because it's a special one (as all of Barrington Stoke's/The Bucket List's titles seem to be?!)

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl tells the story of Jim, who has just arrived in Dundray with his family and is starting an unfriendly new school with his cousins, and Kit, a girl who takes him under her wing. The townspeople don't take too kindly to travellers, and Jim has to deal with bullying and name-calling as well as the possibility that they'll move along again before he can have a chance to get the education he wants.

For people unfamiliar with the terms in the book's title, as I was, 'Pavee' is a term a person may use to describe themselves, but may object to if used by people outside of their community and on the grid, people known as 'Buffers'. I appreciated the opportunity to read about a topic from someone who knows what they're talking about, especially as here in England these communities are only ever spoken of in a negative or satirical light.

The illustrations are of equal brilliance to the words within. Can we have more YA with illustrations, please? Once again - and I know I've said this on the blog three or four times now - Barrington Stoke and The Bucket List get things right. As a publisher (not gonna lie, I get really confused with publishers and their imprints - can you tell?) they are consistently pioneering and definitely one (ONES???) to watch.

The reason I've given this book four stars isn't because there's anything wrong with it, but simply because I didn't love it as much as books I've given five stars to. The Pavee and the Buffer Girl is essential reading, especially during this time of global intolerance towards anyone branded as 'other', and will make a delightful addition to your shelves.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Perfectionism, Asymmetrical Eyeliner, and Parking Like a Prat

Before we begin this blog post, I need to tell you something really bloody cool... yesterday I woke up to the news that I'd been shortlisted for Book Blogger of the Year in the Blogosphere Blog Awards 2017, hosted by the only magazine I bother reading, Blogosphere Magazine. (I reviewed it ages ago, it's proper nice.)

I don't think I knew these awards were a thing, or if I did, I didn't realise they had a book blog category. I certainly didn't expect to be shortlisted - and hey, I doubt I'll win, but it would mean more than you know if you could vote for me!

Click here to go to the voting page. You'll have to put in your email address and vote in every category (mine is towards the bottom) and don't forget to click 'submit'. Thank you!!

Anyway, the reason you're all here...

Print from sighh.co

I've always been a perfectionist. I rarely coloured outside the lines, I've given up on a few potential hobbies because I wasn't immediately 'good enough', and I've been known to give up on filming a YouTube video because my hair wasn't how I wanted it to be. I keep to 99% of deadlines I receive, I always have blog posts scheduled, and I hated booking my theory and practical tests because I didn't think I was at a high enough driving standard to pass, even though I was. (Might've had some issues since then, though... the story's in this video. Brb, dying of embarrassment.) I did triple the amount of work I was asked to do for my Media Studies coursework this year and last year, and I'm never late to anything. Ever.

It can be kind of stressful, but lately I've noticed that I'm stressing less and less about the small things. (I'm not some wondrous relaxed goddess - I am generally quite a stressed person, most of the time. I'm just talking about the small stuff.) I don't know why - maybe I'm in a good patch, anxiety-wise? (Is that even where my perfectionism comes from? Who knows. #Deep.) Or maybe I'm tired from revising all the time, and therefore lazy. Whatever the reason, I kind of like it. And the more I notice it, the more I realise that some forms of perfectionism are stupid. For example, whenever I used to screw up my eyeliner, I'd wipe it off and do it again. And again. And again. I didn't like doing it, especially if I happened to be in a rush, but I also didn't want to look like a raccoon with poor motor skills, y'know?

And if I parked badly, I'd spend ages correcting myself. I hate parking, not helped by the fact that that's how the incident happened that I mentioned earlier. It's... yeah. MOVING ON.

Now I'll happily leave the house with slightly asymmetrical winged eyeliner, and if I park badly, I just leave it (as long as it's in the lines, obviously - I'm not that person who ends up with several notes on their windscreen telling them they're a prat. I'm not at that level of bad parking, I'll have you know.) What a rebel, right? I've even requested a couple of late hand-ins for homework this year, whereas before I would have stayed up until the early hours of the morning, trying to finish an essay whilst bleary eyed and sleep deprived; not the most efficient way of working, I'm sure you'll agree.

I'm still a perfectionist in a lot of ways; I've subconsciously kept the perfectionist aspects I appreciate, like the perfectionist in me that gets me good grades, and on time to places I need to be, and the perfectionist in me that keeps my room pretty. But the meaningless things, the things you might complain about only to be told life's too short, are on their way out. Because, really - who EVER looks that closely at anyone else's eyeliner unless they've uploaded a photo of it because they did a good job? And when I park badly, but within the lines, AM I GOING TO DIE? The answer to that is no. Might get judged a bit, but it's not the end of the world.

The moral of this blog post is that life's too short to sweat the small stuff. Do extra work if you want to, get to places on time, and keep your house tidy; they're pretty good habits to have. But if you're not immediately good at something... who is? If your makeup isn't at a Kardashian level... who's going to care? If you have a reading schedule and you haven't kept to it... is anyone going to die? Are you officially the person responsible for ending the world? Is everything on fire? As punishment for not handing in your homework on time, have you magically but unfortunately swapped bodies with Nigel Farage?

Lots of perfectionists want to stop being perfectionists, but like most things, it has its bad points and its good points; the key is to chill out and gradually work on the bad ones, whilst keeping the good. So, yeah, some thoughts. It sounds obvious, and maybe most people have that figured out already, but hey - here's me chilling out and lessening the perfectionism by posting it anyway, obvious old news or not.

Are you a perfectionist? What do you love and hate about it?

Thursday, 4 May 2017

A Guide to Voting in the General Election for 18-25 Year Olds


Discussion surrounding bloggers and their responsibilities comes around time and time again. Do bloggers have a responsibility to educate their readers as opposed to simply entertaining them? Do bloggers have a responsibility to promote a healthy lifestyle, especially those with a younger audience? Do bloggers have a responsibility to use their platform to speak up about the big issues such as sexism, racism, and homophobia?

I don't think 'responsibility' is quite the right word. However, if you have a platform of any size, I do think you might as well use it for good whenever you can. That's what I'm doing today.

So, there's going to be a General Election on 8th June 2017. At a time of huge uncertainty and national anxiety (thanks, Brexit) this election is going to have a big impact not only on our government for the next few years, but also on how and when we leave the EU - that's if we leave at all, because you never know. Like I said... uncertain times.

Our last General Election in 2015 saw, well, not much from 18-25 year olds in terms of voting. It was a low turnout. Only 6 out of every 10 young people turned up to vote, and our age-group had the lowest percentage of participants. Statistics show that if more 18-25 year olds had voted, things would be very, very different now. Whether you're happy with the government we ended up having or not, it just goes to show how important voting is.

We need to learn from our mistakes and make up for it on 8th June. This is our chance to have our say and make a change at a time when the voices of 18-25 year olds aren't listened to or taken seriously.

You can register to vote from the age of sixteen. You can't actually vote at sixteen (I wish) but as soon as you hit that number, you might as well register and be prepared, right? And if you turn eighteen a few days before the election, or even on the day itself... it doesn't matter. You can still register to vote right now. You don't have to miss out.

Seriously, if you haven't registered to vote yet, and you're able to, do it now. Click here. I'll wait.

...

Done? I'll be annoyed if you haven't bothered. Just saying.

Those of us who have registered to vote... this is a really strange election. Like, really strange. It's not a normal one where you vote for your favourite party and leave it at that. With this one, you have to vote strategically otherwise you're basically wasting your vote (sorry). I always said that as soon as I was able to vote, I would be voting for a certain party, but now, with this mess as my first election, I won't be voting for them. I can't. If you're against the Conservatives, you have to vote Labour or Lib Dem (probably just Labour, really, but many are waiting to see each party's campaign) and if you're a Conservative, well... whatever. Vote for them, then. I'm not here to influence who you vote for, I'm just here to encourage you to vote in the first place.

Got exams around the time of the election? Got one, or even two, on that very day? Vote anyway. It takes hardly any time at all. If you've ever gone out to lunch after an exam, or met up with a friend, or gone to the gym, or chilled in the park, or even just gone to the supermarket for a pint of milk - why is this any different? If you've got time to do that, then you've got time to vote. And if you really, really don't want to vote in person, you can register to vote via post. You don't need to give a reason. The same goes for if you're ill and/or disabled, or if you'll be on holiday, or if you simply won't be around that day. You can also apply to vote by proxy. There are so many options!

It doesn't matter in which way you vote, just make sure you use it. Voting is a privilege, and it's important. Don't be put off by the fact that this election is a little trickier than others in terms of deciding who to vote for. Here are some resources that will help you:

WTF is going on?

This piece on the BBC website gives an unbiased run-down on everything going on at the moment. What is Brexit? Why are we leaving the EU? Why is Theresa May calling a General Election? It's all here.

What each party stands for:


Who to support:

This quiz is very thorough and, even though I wouldn't recommend automatically voting for whichever result you're given, it will give you an idea of which parties you side with most and where you stand politically.

Voting Counts is an unbiased political resource created by young adults, for young adults. You can find quick guides on the main political parties in the UK, as well as reasons you should vote and other ways you can get involved if you want to do more or if you're under 18.

If you're not into the Conservatives sticking around for the next government, pop in your postcode and it'll let you know who to vote for to kick them out, based on where you live.


The process of voting:

If you're not sure how to physically place your vote in the first place, this article from the Electoral Commission will help you out.

Enter your postcode to find your nearest polling station/s.

This article on The Debrief explains what it is, how it works, and how to do it if you're a student living away from home.


Other political resources:

Make your political demands and decide your own future instead of having it decided for you.


This seems as good a time as any to remind you about the book of essays, Rife, which I'm part of! My essay is about why sixteen-year-olds should be allowed to vote. There are 21 other essays on topics such as mental health, equality, sex, education, money, and more. You can get your copy by clicking here (please do!) and there's even a special discount for under-24s. The book will be out next year!

So, yes - register to vote before 22nd May (you can still do this even if you don't turn 18 until after that date!) and have your say. It's one of the most important things you will ever do, and I for one can't wait to turn up at the polling booth for the first time during a General Election.

Will you be voting in the General Election?