Thursday, 30 March 2017

Exclusive Preview of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour #ForbiddenForest


A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive an invite from Warner Bros. to attend the exclusive preview of the Forbidden Forest, their latest addition to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, nine days before opening to the public. I'd been twice before - the first time was on my 14th birthday with my parents and a friend; the second time was with my blogger hat on as I attended their September Screenings event.

I was very excited to be going a third time. Somehow, I always end up with a two-year gap between each visit, which gives Warner Bros. plenty of time to add new things like Platform 9 3/4 and the Forbidden Forest, so it never gets boring. I mean, obviously - it's the wizarding world.

I messaged Holly, who also came with me to the Fantastic Beasts premiere, and asked if she wanted to be my +1. A couple of weeks later and we were back home to Hogwarts...


Unfortunately, the day of the event was also the day of the Westminster terrorist attack in London. It was happening whilst we were still in the city, but we were none the wiser until we were waiting for the tour to begin when I was scrolling down Twitter and saw the #PrayForLondon hashtag. I don't want to ignore it and pretend it was a flawless day where nothing bad happened, because it wasn't, so I'm acknowledging it here. Three days later, I was in Parliament Square with an estimated 100,000 other people, so if the attacker wanted to bring London to its knees, he did a rubbish job of it.

Hogwarts was a good place to be, that day. As Dumbledore said, "happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."


The Forbidden Forest is incredible. As you'd expect from a film studio (I can't believe we were probably really close to a Fantastic Beasts set that is either already in use or will be soon...) the lighting created the perfect atmosphere for an eerie forest. Pretty hard to do, I imagine, considering it's in a massive building. The floor is spongy like a real forest, and the trees (not real, but they sure look it) are so tall you can't even see the tops. Tree roots twist and turn on the floor and above your head, because once you're in, you're more consumed by the forest than simply stood in it.

As awesome as the lighting is, it was very difficult to get good photos. I'll include some anyway, but for a better idea of the forest you should watch my vlog of the day.


There are lots of interactive features, too - you can change the lighting from day to night with the flick of a switch, you can create thunder, you can make Buckbeak bow, you can make spiders descend from the ceiling... again, watch the vlog, because I was NOT expecting that to happen and I think my surprise is pretty funny. I wouldn't pick up a spider but I'm alright with them - however, if spiders aren't your thing, there is an alternative route which skips out that bit entirely. I think that was a really thoughtful addition.

This is what the inside of a tree looks like, for any technical people who may be interested...


Another amazing part of the day: we got to go in 4 Privet Drive! I had no idea it was still open to the public, and I was so excited to finally go inside.


And, of course, no blog post about the tour would be complete without a photo of the constantly impressive Hogwarts castle.


As always, regardless of whether you've even read Harry Potter or not, I highly recommend taking a trip to the studios one day. It's such a fun day out, and the fact that they're constantly changing things around and adding new expansions means that I'm still not bored of the place after three visits. The Forbidden Forest is seriously awesome (not least because it's meant to be forbidden, and yet you're allowed in... #rulebreaker) and I can't wait to see what Warner Bros. add next!

Watch my vlog of the day to see a duel between myself and Holly; a dementor cause Holly to jump out of her skin; and a guest appearance from Ryan Gosling.


Are you going to see the Forbidden Forest?

Monday, 27 March 2017

Lessons Learned by Cimorelli

Title: Lessons Learned
Author: Christina, Katherine, Lisa, Amy, Lauren and Dani Cimorelli
Published by: Self-published
Publication date: 31st January 2017
Pages: 90
Genres: Non-fiction/Advice/Essays
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.

Buy the book

A collection of stories, encouragement, and lessons we've learned.

Long-time readers of this blog will know that my #1 favourite band is Cimorelli: six sisters whose music originated on YouTube and then grew and grew. I finally got to meet them last November which was awesome even though I look like some kind of cave-dweller in all our photos.

What makes Cimorelli unique (apart from their angel voices, obvs) is their positive and uplifting message, and their dedication and willingness to stay true to themselves. Even on stage, they'll sit down and do, like, mini TED talks. And they've finally written a book! I've been waiting for them to do something like this for SO LONG, so you can imagine how much I was freaking out when the announcement came. I pre-ordered a signed copy immediately, of course.



The girls' positivity and insight doesn't stop with Lessons Learned, which consists of seven chapters each contributed to by some or all of the girls, and topics span friendship and self-love to money and spiritual life. It feels personal to them, and you can tell that it's a project they have put a lot of work into.

Related: My interview with Lisa Cimorelli

You don't need to be a fan of Cimorelli to enjoy this (although, y'know, their music is pretty great, just saying...) Lessons Learned is a 'YouTuber book' with a difference - their musical side is barely mentioned, and instead we have a considered collection of six world-views which are sure to give you a different perspective on life.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

GIVEAWAY & GUEST POST BY ASHLEY POSTON: 10/10 Would Watch Again: Best Sci-Fi Shows

I received Ashley Poston's Geekerella a few weeks ago, and it sounds right up my street. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting to read it, although I don't have long to wait because my coursework deadline is TODAY, so as of right now, I have a little more time for reading...

The book even came with an amazing candle (I can't get enough, help) and I'm hugely excited about it. Here's what Geekerella is about:



Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad's old costume), Elle's determined to win... unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons - before he was famous. Now they're nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he's ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake - until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

HOW. GOOD. DOES. THAT. SOUND. I'm so ready. I should also probably shush and pass you over to the author, Ashley Poston, who is here with her list of the best Sci-Fi shows ever.


As a girl who wrote a book about an imaginary sci-fi TV show, I’ll admit that I've watched quite a few sci-fi shows in my time. My father is a sci-fi junkie. Whether it was a b-movie flick on SyFy or Lost in Space, thanks to him I've seen them all. So, to save you the absolute horror of watching someone's face melt off in space (also, that doesn't happen - you can survive in space without a helmet for a few minutes with little more than a sunburn), I have compiled a list of 10 of my favorite sci-fi shows for you to dip your space boots into, my fearless cadets.

1. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Some say Deep Space Nine is better, others Voyager, some Enterprise... as for me, I will always have a soft spot for Data, a sentient android. If you don't want to sit through all the wonderful seasons, I suggest you at least watch The Offspring, The Measure of a Man, and Best of Both Worlds I & II.

2. Firefly: Even with its pitfalls, Firefly still has me sobbing every time I hear someone say, 'I am a leaf on the wind.'

3. Battlestar Galactica: Speaking of sentient androids... if you are in the mood for a war in space, look no further. Battlestar has become a staple with sci-fi nerds everywhere. It's smart, it's nuanced, and the gals in this show kick some serious butt.

4. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood: Not all sci-fi is in space, as FMA:B proves. Using the power of alchemy, two brothers commit the ultimate taboo to try to bring their dead mother back from the grave, and set in motion a plot that will shake their country's power to the core. Also, I will go down with my Riza/Roy ship.

5. Doctor Who: I fell in love with Eccleston's portrayal of the Ninth Doctor, and the romance between Ten/Rose broke my heart. If you haven't dipped your toes in, I'd say start at the beginning of the reboot (the Ninth Doctor) and if you find yourself straying when Moffat takes over as show-runner, don't worry - a lot of us did.

6. Sense8: The Wachowskis at their best. While Jupiter Ascending was beautiful, Sense8 is compelling and structurally sound, and still so gosh-darn beautiful I can't even.

7. Stranger Things: 80s nostalgia, D&D references, and a hella creepy monster? Yes, please!

8. The 100: This show will make your ships and break them - because like George RR Martin, they're very good at killing off your favorite characters.

9. Cowboy Bebop: What would this list be without Cowboy Bebop? The godfather of the modern space western, this anime combines the best of sci-fi with a killer jazzy soundtrack and a heart-wrecking finale. And it's gorgeous, as if you needed any more convincing!

10. The X Files: Because you know you want to believe.

Happy watching!

Ashley Poston's fangirl heart has taken her everywhere from the houses of Hollywood screenwriters to the stages of music festivals to geeky conventions (in cosplay, of course). She lives in South Carolina, where she hangs around the internet tweeting at @AshPoston.

GIVEAWAY

Geekerella is published by Quirk Books on 4th April. To win a copy of Geekerella and an (amazing) limited edition candle, follow me on Twitter @MileLongBookS and RT the below tweet. UK only, ending on 29th March. Good luck!


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

Title: We Come Apart
Author: Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication date: 9th February 2017
Pages: 312
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess's home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?

A timely read, We Come Apart follows the life of Nicu, a boy from Romania who has just moved to England with his family so they can earn enough for his arranged marriage; and Jess, whose outlook on life is tainted and bruised due to her abusive step-dad, Terry. Racist comments are thrown at Nicu daily, and Jess always finds herself in a bad situation, whether that's at home with Terry, or on the run from a security guard. Both stuck in a world that doesn't want them, they find comfort in each other. But they're against the clock, because Nico has a wedding to attend; his own.

Like One, Crossan's previous novel, We Come Apart is written in verse. I love this style of writing, and Crossan and Conaghan pulled it off well; this style doesn't detract from the emotion or the complexity - in fact, there were some really harrowing scenes in there. Additionally, Nicu's broken English and Jess's slang adds to authenticity and encourages us to delve deeper into the story, beyond language. For what is a fairly short read, it truly packs a punch. However: We Come Apart is a glimpse, a window, a crack in a door. It's one of those books that continues without you, way beyond the ending. It's one of those books where you'll always wonder how things actually turned out. Lots of people like that - I do too, sometimes - but with this particular book, I simply wasn't satisfied. Sad times.

Unfortunately for me, the ending let it down, but that's not to say it's a bad book overall. We Come Apart is unique, beautifully written, and vital reading at this time of burning hatred and constant change.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Liar's Handbook by Keren David

Title: The Liar's Handbook
Author: Keren David
Published by: Barrington Stoke
Publication date: 15th January 2017
Pages: 125
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


River's life is blown apart when his mum invites her new boyfriend into their home and their lives. River is instantly suspicious of Jason – he seems fake, too good to be true.

At school, River's routine fibs are escalating into something more serious, and his teacher gives him a notebook in the hope he can channel his fantasies into creative writing instead.

And so, River begins The Liar's Handbook, and an investigation into Jason.

The Liar's Handbook is the latest YA release from one of my favourite authors, Keren David - but this time, it's in the form of a short story, and has been designed in a way that makes reading easier for those who struggle with it. And it is brilliant.

River is a liar. At school, half of his year still believes that he was a champion snow-boarder at the age of six, until his career was wrecked by a polar bear during the world junior snow-boarding championships. As the saying goes, it takes one to know one - and River is certain that his mum's new boyfriend, Jason, is a massive liar. The Liar's Handbook follows River's investigation into his mum's boyfriend, and his search for the truth.


Like with Unboxed by Non Pratt - another fabulous Barrington Stoke title - it feels special. A pleasingly small paperback, it has thick, creamy pages; the chapters are punchy, dynamic, and brilliantly twisty; and the overall design is bold and eye-catching. I'm an avid reader who has no trouble with reading (unless finding the time for it counts...) and even I felt the satisfaction and encouragement that comes from reading an entire book in a short amount of time. Because, as bookish as I may be, reading a full-length novel can be difficult when life insists on butting in at every available moment, and it was amazing to be able to read a review book in under an hour. I think I've said this before, but... more YA short stories, please, publishing industry!

The Liar's Handbook is well worth the read, as are Keren's other books, regardless of whether or not you struggle with reading. Barrington Stoke is an absolutely genius publisher, and I cannot wait for more.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

How Much Time Do We Spend Online? | Collaborative Post


A few weeks ago I was testing a pedometer app as a favour - this is completely unrelated to blogging or anything I do on social media so that's not what I'm going to be talking about, but it did get me thinking about how much time I spend sitting down; like, it's actually embarrassing and I am slightly ashamed. I definitely consider myself to be hardworking, and I'm always busy - I genuinely rarely have time to do something just for me - but, testing that app, I realised something: I don't move a lot. I blog, sat down; I film and edit videos, sat down; I go to an online school, sat down, and now I've passed my test I'm driving everywhere. (Although I would just like to add that this isn't because I'm lazy but because I'm savagely fending off lone-driving anxiety before it can even begin, as I read about someone who passed their test and then didn't drive until 12 years later. Ain't nobody got time for that.)

I guess this is why some authors, or other people who work from home, invest in those desks that are also treadmills. To be honest, I will never get to that stage. Ever. But I thought it'd be interesting (and far too revealing, I'm now thinking) to see how much time I spend online over the space of 7 days. So here goes...

Monday 6th March 2017: Monday was weird. It was the first day of a very busy week, and I think I had pre-exhaustion - if that's even a thing - where I knew the next day would be mad, and so I was conserving energy. This was through no choice of my own, by the way - I had stuff to do, but I wasn't doing it, and I was online pretty much all day, frustratingly. I just... couldn't. A couple of hours was spent in an English lesson, though, and another hour was spent revising Wuthering Heights in my own time. So... just putting that out there. Approximately 5 hours.

Tuesday 7th March 2017: In contrast to Monday, Tuesday was utterly exhausting. I got just 3 hours of sleep before getting up at 4am and going to London. I spent the morning at an International Women's Day breakfast at the Institute of Directors (!) hosted by Theirworld, a charity which works to improve the lives of young girls and women around the world. It was insanely inspiring (and very Posh with a capital P) and I met some amazing women. After that, I spent a couple of hours at the British Library, working on my essay for the Rife anthology, before whizzing off to a lunch meeting at Instagram. A few more hours after that were spent upstairs at the Tottenham Court Road branch of Waterstones where I once again worked on my essay... for 3 HOURS. Then I got McDonald's before heading to the High Street Kensington branch of Waterstones (from one store to another...) for Sophia Bennett's Following Ophelia launch. I probably spent an hour online all day, and did roughly 20,000 steps - in stupid heels that made me bleed rather a lot, nonetheless. I will never make this mistake ever again. Approximately 1 hour.


Wednesday 8th March 2017: At 8:40am I had tutor group, and then from 9:30-1pm I had Media Studies, so - as I go to school online - I was on the Internet for just over four hours. As awesome as Tuesday was, I'll admit that I overdid it, and for all of Wednesday I was in a lot of pain, meaning I didn't get a lot done. Surprise... this meant I was on the Internet quite a lot! However, it was International Women's Day and I was doing a lot of social media-ing about that, and I really needed to chill out, so I feel like it's okay... *awkwardly justifies Internet obsession* Approximately 6 hours.

Thursday 9th March 2017: I was pretty productive, rushing about, finding books with matching props to photograph in bulk for Instagram. I love doing this, but the hour or so of editing afterwards is... less fun. I was out for a chunk of the day, but I did spend a couple of hours online studying with the Teen Bloggers team. Approximately 3 hours.

Friday 10th March 2017: Haven't mentioned it yet but Oscar (our cat) has been quite ill for a while now, so we've been back-and-forth to the vets for surgery. He's in the cone of shame, so we have to observe him as much as possible because he's bumping into things, struggling to go to the litter box by himself (he can't fit through the door) and his cone is causing him to face-plant the carpet rather a lot... Friday was basically me being a cat-sitter (with some social media-ing, obvs.) Approximately 3 hours.


Saturday 11th March 2017: I volunteer on Saturdays so I don't get a chance to look at the online world until the early evening. As soon as I got home I had a study session booked in with Holly (book blogger and classmate - it's a small world) who kindly spent an hour teaching me a couple of things I really wasn't getting. After that, I spent all evening making sure I 100% had it, which meant I was on the laptop but offline. That said, before going to sleep I always spend a while on the interwebs... Approximately 3 hours.

Sunday 12th March 2017: Sundays are always really busy for me; I use them as a day to catch up on anything I haven't done during the week - usually little bits here and there - and now I have my licence, I've taken over the task of doing the weekly food shop. I didn't spend much time online because of that, and also because I waxed my car so hard I probably developed abs. In the evening, I read for hours non-stop, which is something I haven't done for ages. And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon, for those interested - an excellent example of unique and current YA. 100% recommend. Approximately 1 hour.


Conclusion: I'll have an incurable hunchback and an adjustamatic bed for the elderly at this rate (unless I repeat Tuesday every day, in which case all I'll be needing is an early grave.) I was online for approximately 22 hours, and let's be honest, I've probably subconsciously underestimated how long I spend online to make myself look better. Who wouldn't? However, 85% of my time online is spent working, either on the blog or on college stuff, and the other 15% is spent socialising. It'll do my back in at some point, but it's important to remember that if you see a young person on their phone, it's not necessarily a bad thing; mindless scrolling isn't the only thing you can do on the Internet... the possibilities are endless.

That said, I apologise to future-me for the bad back.

How much time do you think you spend online?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

5 People Angie Stanton Would Invite to a Literary Dinner Party

Today on the blog, please welcome Angie Stanton, author of recently released Waking in Time. Read on for some information about the book, and to find out who Angie would invite to a literary dinner party!



Still mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother and shaken by her mysterious, dying request to 'find the baby,' Abbi has just arrived at UW Madison for her freshman year. But on her second day, she wakes up to a different world: 1983. That is just the first stop on Abbi's journey backward through time.

Will is a charming college freshman from 1927 who travels forward through time. When Abbi and Will meet in the middle, love adds another complication to their lives. Communicating across time through a buried time capsule, they try to decode the mystery of their travel, find the lost baby, and plead with their champion, a kindly physics professor, to help them find each other again... even though the professor gets younger each time Abbi meets him. 

Have you ever wondered who you'd invite to a literary dinner party? I have. And while I'd probably seem a lot smarter and well read if I invited historic literary icons like Jane Austen, Shakespeare, or Tolstoy, my tastes run much lighter. Here's my list. Now I need to think about what I'd serve to such an eclectic group.

Jude Deveraux


I met her once at a book fair. More specifically I fangirled over her. I don't recall that she had a chance to say much as I blathered on and insisted on a picture. Her book, A Knight in Shining Armor, was the first time-travel story I ever read and is still one of my favorites. Jude Deveraux is also known for writing dozens of fabulous romance novels involving the now famous Taggerts and Montgomerys. I’ve been following her on Facebook for a couple of years. She shares her experiences on the process of writing characters and storylines, but even more fun is how she writes about taking cruises around the world. Can you imagine!

Carrie Fisher

There were no stipulations on whether my people could be dead or alive, so I pick Carrie Fisher. Recently I read her book Wishful Drinking. This woman is hilarious as she shares stories about not being allowed to wear underwear while playing Princess Leia in Star Wars, being raised by her eccentric firecracker of a mother, Debbie Reynolds, and about the bumpy road of addiction and shock therapy, all told with the same self-deprecating humor. She'd keep the dinner party attendees in stitches.

Katniss Everdeen


Rather than have all authors, it would be fun to hear Katniss talk about her life, assuming she knows she's a fictional character. I wonder if she'd be angry with Suzanne Collins for putting her through hell in The Hunger Games and giving her PTSD. Hopefully she'd find the evening a great way to relax after dealing with the Capitol.

Idina Menzel

She's not a literary character or author, but she's played fictional characters, most notably Elphaba in Wicked, which was a book before it became a Broadway musical. This woman knows how to bring a fictional character to life! I get the feeling she's a feisty broad with a great sense of humor. If the dinner party started to get boring, she could sing and keep us entertained all night.

Jamie Fraser


As portrayed by actor Sam Heughan in the epic series Outlander, which is one of my favorite books. Face it, what better addition to a dinner party than a good-looking Scotsman? He's charming, funny and speaks with the endearing lilt of a Scottish brogue. It would probably be a struggle to keep the other ladies from flirting with him, and would round out our dinner quite nicely.

Who would you invite to your literary dinner party?

Friday, 10 March 2017

Holly Smale's Dream Cast for the Geek Girl Series

The Geek Girl series recently hit the incredible achievement of one million sales, and I wouldn't be surprised if a film - or several - was on the cards, especially as the final book has just been released. I'm lucky enough to have author of the books Holly Smale on the blog today, but first, let's check out Forever Geek, the final geektastic instalment.

 A derp-face screenshot from my February book haul video. Eyeliner's on point, though.

My name is Harriet Manners and I'll be a geek forever...

Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.

Modelling isn't a sure-fire route to popularity. Neither is making endless lists. The people you love don't expect you to transform into someone else. Statistically, you are more likely to not meet your Australian ex-boyfriend in Australia than bump into him there.

So on the trip of a lifetime Down Under Harriet's to-do lists are gone and it's Nat's time to shine! Yet with nearly-not-quite-boyfriend Jasper back home, Harriet's completely unprepared to see supermodel ex Nick. Is the fashion world about to turn ugly for GEEK GIRL?

It's time for Harriet to face the future. Time to work out where her heart lies. To learn how to let go...


Here's Holly with her dream cast for the Geek Girl series. I'm particularly excited to see Emma Stone on the list, my new favourite actress - thanks La La Land.

Harriet Manners - Emma Stone


She's a little too old now, sadly, (and American!) but Emma has the perfect combination of innocence, intelligence and comic timing to play Harriet, plus she's utterly gorgeous in a slightly unconventional, wide-eyed-insect kind of way. She also has the funniest facial expressions and a levity that would totally nail Harriet's sense of humour. Oh for a time-machine, because she's my dream casting for my main girl.

Richard Manners - Robert Webb


I'm an enormous fan of Peep Show, and when I was writing Geek Girl I frequently imagined Robert Webb (or Jez) as Richard: his liveliness and energy, his off-beat sense of humour and his slight - dare I say it - immaturity. He's a comedy genius, and would ensure Richard was both daft and lovable in equal measure.

Annabel Manners - Sally Phillips


Another legend, Sally from Smack The Pony is brilliant at subtle comedy - of making you laugh with just one twitch of the eyebrow - and would bring exactly the right level of twinkle, smartness and dryness to Annabel. She'd also be the perfect foil for Robert Webb: my dream comedy parenting team.

Bunty Brown - Emma Thompson


No British actress beats Emma Thompson at being able to morph into any character, and she'd totally nail Bunty's breeziness, unexpectedly sharp comebacks and slight lovey-ness. Just give her pink hair and a dream-catcher and Emma would be ideal.

Natalie Grey - Sophia Bush


If you're a lifelong fan of Sophia (which I am) you'll know that she plays fierce like nobody else. Again, she's the wrong age now but imagine her in One Tree Hill as Brooke Davis and she'd be a great casting choice: sparky and sarcastic yet warm, loyal and loving. Also she follows me on Twitter, so we're basically best mates now anyway. (Jokes.)

Toby Pilgrim - Michael Cera


Michael is brilliant in Arrested Development and Juno, and has a gorgeously endearing awkwardness that would be perfect for Tobes. He also manages to tread the fine line between creepy and lovable, and I can totally see him sitting in bushes outside Harriet's house with a green light, a tiny radio and shoes with piano laces.

Nick Hidaka - Ezra Miller


Nick's such a hard one to cast, because he needs to be smart, laid-back and casually funny, as well as smoking-hot, but I think a young Ezra Miller would be spot on. He has the slow, wide grin and the beautiful cat-shaped eyes, and frankly he's pretty difficult not to crush on, whatever he's doing.

Wilbur Evans - Stanley Tucci


I've always pictured Wilbur as Stanley Tucci: he's hilarious, while being off-beat and quick-witted. He's also used to wearing insanely extravagant outfits in The Hunger Games, so Wilbur's wardrobe wouldn't faze him. Such a fan.

Yuka Ito - Kaori Momoi


Kaori is a multi-award winning Japanese actress, and - with a black lace dress, little hat and bright purple lipstick - would be perfect for the fierce and magnificent Yuka Ito. She's also incredibly elegant, which Yuka always is. Love her.

Rin - Kiritani Mirei


Kiritani is a young and very famous Japanese model and actress, and is utterly gorgeous in a delicate, kitten-like way. She's also hilarious, and with a cat wearing socks tucked under her arm, she'd be just right for Rin.

Kenderall - Herieth Paul


Supermodel Herieth is exactly how I imagined Kenderall: tall, stunningly beautiful and - with the right acting skills, because I’m sure she's lovely in real life - a bit of a pain-in-the-arse.

Jasper - Dominic Sherwood


Dominic has eyes just like Jasper, a big quiff of bronze hair, an easy-manner: who wouldn't love him?

I (Amber) think these are spot-on. What do you think?

Monday, 6 March 2017

EXTRACT of Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson


Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee arrived through my letterbox a couple of weeks ago, and although I haven't had a chance to start it yet, I'm incredibly excited. Having been compared to books by Louise O'Neill and Cat Clarke, the premise of the story is this: two sisters are abducted. And only one returns... clutching a doll. Creepy, or what? If that doesn't intrigue you, I don't know what will...

Oh, yes I do, because I happen to have an exclusive extract to share with you as part of the blog tour! Share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #AmyChelseaStacieDee, and follow the author @marygthompson.


Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee was released on 2nd March. Will you be getting your copy?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Reading Through The Seasons | Collaborative Post


During the colder months, bookworms love staying inside by the fire, snuggled up with a book whilst outside it pours with rain. It's all very hygge (I have literally never said that word in my life), though I always find I have less time to read in winter due to my birthday, Christmas, and various festivities.

Last year I read 65 books, which I was pretty proud of considering my goal was only 40, but only 12 of those were in winter. I was really busy, and so if I answer the question in the video below, I would have to say I count myself out...


But here's a plot twist: I much prefer reading in summer; ironically, it's way more chill. There's no schoolwork, so no guilt, and I just feel more able to read. Do you know what I mean? Like, my mind is freer and I'm more relaxed, so reading is something I'm more inclined to do. Plus, I LOVE summery books, and of course the majority of these come out during actual summer. So without further ado, here are the summery books I'm most looking forward to this summer. (Look at Keris Stainton's new book, One Italian Summer. LOOK AT IT.)


Milly loves her sisters more than anything - they are her best friends. But this holiday is different. 

The loss of their dad has left a gaping hole in their lives that none of them know how to fill. Heartbreak is a hard thing to fix...

Still, there is plenty to keep the girls busy in Rome. A family wedding. Food, wine, parties and sun. And of course Luke... Luke is hot, there is no way around that. And Milly will always have a crush on him. But this summer is about family, being together, and learning to live without Dad. It isn't about Luke at all... is it?


Caroline Kelly is excited to be spending her summer vacation working at the local amusement park with her best friend, exploring weird Ohio with her boyfriend, and attending soccer camp with the hope she'll be her team's captain in the fall.

But when Caroline's mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo, Egypt, Caroline's plans are upended. Caroline is now expected to spend her summer and her senior year in a foreign country, away from her friends, her home, and everything she's ever known.

With this move, Caroline predicts she'll spend her time navigating crowded streets, eating unfamiliar food, and having terrible bouts of homesickness. But what she finds instead is a culture that surprises her, a city that astounds her, and a charming, unpredictable boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love, and privilege.


Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she's more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma's inexplicable obsession with her finding the 'Ideal Indian Husband.' Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn't have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers... right? 

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him - wherein he'll have to woo her - he's totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself. 

The Shahs and Patels didn't mean to start turning the wheels on this 'suggested arrangement' so early in their children's lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, why not? 

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.


In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives - and their hearts - forever. But are fame and love worth the price?


Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say goodbye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she's harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days... until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving-thunder with his stupid arriving-thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but goodbye?


You go through life thinking there's so much you need...

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn't spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she's tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that's been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.


Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can't trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who's moved them all to Las Vegas. It's just the two of them: Paris, who's always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind - going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love. But Leo isn't going anywhere right now, except driving around Vegas all night with her sister.

Until Paris ditches Leo at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris - a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared? When Leo reluctantly accepts Max's offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold inside.

Do you prefer reading in winter, spring, or summer?

Thursday, 2 March 2017

WONDER WOMEN: Psychologist and Epidemiologist Suzi Gage on Making STEM Careers More Accessible, and Getting Started as a Scientist

Wonder Women is a new series in which I interview the women who inspire me the most. These women are making waves in their careers and changing the world one step at a time - but most importantly, they're doing it for themselves.

Today I'm talking to Suzi Gage: psychologist, epidemiologist, writer for the Guardian, and lecturer at the University of Liverpool. Bit of a mouthful! Read on to discover how Suzi became a scientist, how you can get involved in her research, and her thoughts on making STEM careers more accessible for women...


Can you take us through a typical work day?

Well - I've just changed jobs, so I'm in month one of my new post (lecturer at the University of Liverpool), which means I haven't really established a routine as yet... In general, I will walk or cycle to my office and work at my (standing) desk. I am a psychologist and epidemiologist, which means I'm interested in population level health. In particular I want to understand associations between substance use and mental health. To do this I use large datasets - so I spend a lot of my day at my computer, looking at 1s and 0s, plotting the data as graphs so I can visualise it, and running statistics. I'll probably drink too much coffee, have meetings with colleagues and collaborators, and look at Twitter a bit (to find interesting research papers, honest!) Some days I'll be teaching medical students. It's also possible that I'll be writing up my results ready to submit to journals for peer review and hopefully publication, or writing grant applications to apply for money to conduct more research.

How did you get to where you are now?

At school I didn't really know what I wanted to do. As such my A-Level choices were pretty eclectic - Maths, Biology, Music and English. I went on to study Psychology at UCL. Surprisingly my English A-Level was probably the most helpful for this; not only was it useful to be able to write essays, but we studied Regeneration by Pat Barker, about shell shock and mental health during WW1, and I had a great chat about it in my interview for my place, which I'm sure helped me to get in! Even then I didn't truly realise I wanted to be a scientist, but during the summer of my 2nd year I got a placement working for one of the academics there on a project looking at Synaesthesia, a condition that can connect the senses - some people can smell words, or in this case see colours when they hear music. Doing this project was my first real experience of conducting research, and I loved it. When my undergrad finished I went on to do a masters at UCL, in cognitive neuropsychology. Then I moved to Bristol - because I was in a band and the rest of them lived there (!) After a year or so temping, I got a job as a Research Assistant at the University of Bristol, and then I realised I really could do scientific research for a career. My PhD followed at Bristol, then I worked as a post-doctoral researcher there for a couple of years before I got my lectureship at Liverpool, where I've just started.

What led you to follow a career in science?

As a kid I was always curious as to how things worked. Originally I really wanted to be an astronaut, but given I was once sea-sick in a pedalo my parents kindly but firmly talked me out of that one (!) That said, I was extremely lucky because they really instilled in me the idea that I could do whatever I wanted to - I never felt that because I was a girl there were certain careers that were closed to me.

Was there ever a time when you weren't sure you could get to where you wanted to be? Have you faced any hurdles along the way, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdle and the most disheartening time for me as a scientist happened when I was trying to get funding to do a PhD. It took me 4 years of applying to actually be successful, and I must admit that I nearly gave up. I'm so glad I persevered, though, as it's all panned out brilliantly. Even the people who look successful in academia have dealt with rejection a lot. Almost every paper I've ever submitted to a journal has been rejected at least once, and it's extremely competitive to get research funding. Academics need quite thick skins!

Your blog for The Guardian is called Sifting the Evidence. In an increasingly online world, it's easy to be led astray by headlines and clickbait-y photos. How can we more easily make the distinction between actual facts and a bad article?

Sometimes it can be really hard to tell - and that's part of the reason I write the blog, and I also have a podcast Say Why to Drugs, which tries to provide clear and unbiased information about the science around the effects of recreational drugs. I guess my advice would be take everything you read or hear with a pinch of salt. If an article talks about one study that's 'completely changed the way we think about x' or 'overturned everything we previously knew about y' I would be skeptical. One piece of research doesn't exist in a vacuum, and if it finds something very different from all the research that's gone before, I would wait for someone else (another research group, for example) to replicate it before I put too much faith in it. I suppose the general rule of thumb is 'if it seems too good to be true, it probably is'. Sadly!

What do you think could be done to make STEM careers more accessible for women?

I think a lot of great work is happening in this; firstly: raising the visibility of women in science, particularly in fields historically dominated by men. It's making a big difference, because I think there's a lot of truth in 'I cannot be what I cannot see'. For girls to see successful women in fields such as physics and engineering is hugely important. But the problem isn't just getting girls to study sciences at A-Level, degree, and PhD. Even in fields where there are plenty of female undergrads, the top jobs still tend to go to men. So why are women less likely to get to these jobs? There are plenty of theories as to why: for example, perhaps women are less likely to go for promotion until they're really sure of their CV, while men might be more likely to take a punt early (these are generalisations, of course). And there's the issue of having a family, which is still likely to hamper a woman's career more than a man's. Initiatives like Athena Swan are doing a lot to support care-givers in academia, changing the culture of a department. This can mean moving seminars to the middle of the day rather than at the end where care givers may have responsibilities. Another idea could be that when promotion opportunities arise, everyone has to submit their CV rather than deciding whether or not to put themselves forwards. Having a mentor is also extremely important. We have a way to go, but I think we're going in the right direction.

What advice would you give to young girls wanting to get into science?

Go for it! Be inquisitive, ask questions. Learning every day is amazing and I love my job. But the other bit of advice would be to develop a thick skin. There's a lot of rejection in this job; and that's not just for girls, that's for everyone. If you've got great colleagues and friends in your field, like I'm lucky enough to have, you can share in your successes and commiserate together when you have setbacks. This makes it easier.

What has been the best moment of your career?

Can I have two? Firstly, last year along with my colleague Becky, I was awarded a grant from Cancer Research UK to investigate e-cigarettes. Getting funding to conduct research is no easy task, so it was really exciting to be awarded this. In fact, we've just started the project now - we are looking for people who vape but have never smoked, smoked but have never vaped, and people who've never done either, so we can collect their saliva and investigate the methylation of their DNA.

Secondly, being invited on Scroobius Pip's Distraction Pieces podcast was an absolute thrill and an honour. I'm in esteemed company - the list of actors, comedians and musicians he's spoken to is pretty awe-inspiring. Not only that but after I appeared on his podcast he's been incredibly supportive of me setting up mine - Say Why to Drugs. Not only does it appear on his podcast network, but each episode is me in conversation with him!

Who inspires you?

Ooh. Well when I was a child I was really inspired by Helen Sharman - the first British person in space. An absolutely incredible achievement. I'm inspired by my colleagues and friends in academia, my friends Sally Adams and Olivia Maynard are incredible scientists, and I don't know what I'd do without their guidance. The same goes for Tamsin Edwards - she's a climate scientist, and she's also been a great mentor to me. I've found it really useful to talk to people in different fields to myself, to learn from their experiences too.

Click here to follow Suzi on Twitter.