Review: Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher


My name is Tess Turner - at least, that's what I've always been told.

I have a voice but it isn't mine. It used to say things so I'd fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn't. It lied.

It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren't the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.
(from Goodreads)


The best thing about this book - at least in my head - is the characters. They are raw, well-imagined and emotional: Tess in particular is beautifully flawed and I love how moving it was to read from her point of view. She might not be speaking, but the silence only concentrates her emotions, and it's amazing to watch. Or . . . read. The author also needs a lot of credit for how well she has developed the adults in this book: far too many YA books have parents as absent or barely-there figures, but in Silence, it was really easy to see their motivations and how Tess' actions were affecting them. Tess has a great relationship with her Nan, too, and it's so lovely to see that she has someone, at least, to stick too when everything else crashes down round her ears.

And then there's Isabel.

Isabel . . . Isabel is my sort of elf. Her love of book vouchers and getting to school on time might as well make her my spirit animal, her and Tess have one of the best-ever described goofball relationships I've seen in a book (trust me, I know what it's like in real life), and anyone who spends her entire time at school scribbling in a notebook is going to be well-respected by someone like me. Tess is interesting, sure, but Isabel was even more flawlessly imagined.


So, have we gone through all the characters? So now I have to talk  about the main problem, where Tess looks for her own identity. Ah.

I know she's emotionally unstable during the course of this book - that kind of makes sense. But however sympathetic I am towards a person's situation and all the horrible stuff they're going through, it's hard to support them when they do things you just know will end badly. *cough* stealing a teacher's wallet *cough*. In fact, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her parents, especially Jack.

Or was that the point? To feel both Tess' devastation and her parents' frustration? And that conflict? I've literally written this entire blog post unsure whether Silence is Goldfish was portraying confusion in an amazing way or just confusing.

I'm confused.

Basically, this book is good. I think my favourite thing about it was the way it dealt with the fallibility of authority figures, like those of Tess' parents, family and teachers (there were some seriously questionable teachers) through the lens of someone who really needed them to help her. It was heartbreaking to watch the people around Tess either try to help her and fail because they didn't have the knowledge, or have the knowledge but not bother to help her because they were too self-absorbed.

So if you want to read about confusion painted in a poignant way, or poignant emotions through a confused character's point of view - or you just want to meet a character as unique and brilliant as Isabel - then do this. Read Silence is Goldfish. You'll love it.
In the comments: Have you read Silence is Goldfish? Tell me - did you like it? Why? And if you haven't yet, does it sound like your sort of thing?
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7 Ways to Reboot Your Blog Content

Okay, a million things happened last night, and blogging just wasn't one of them. I'm sorry. But I don't want to deny you of the post, so here we go!

(Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a book swag bundle or £10 Amazon voucher! You've got TWO DAYS!)
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Do you want to raise the standard of your blog posts? Are you getting sick of parroting the same-old content and want to make a change? Or are you just always looking for blogging advice?

Then read on, my friend. Read on.

It's easy to feel washed out when you're churning out blog posts regularly - I know I do - and that can lead to believing you're not doing your best all the time. No-one wants to feel like they're filling the internet with fluff, but that's okay. There are lots of things that you can do to re-invigorate yourself and your content.

I like to go through these steps one by one when I'm feeling stuck - it happens at least once a month, because apparently I'm not very good at squeezing through small gaps - and then I feel at least a little like I know what I'm doing (in my case, this is probably pure delusion, but . . .)

Would you like to take a look?

#1 - Take A Break


Depending on just how stuck you are, this break does not have to be long. Maybe it would be better just put off writing the post until tomorrow if you feel a little washed out, but if I warned you against the whole "take a week out and tell everyone" approach, that would make me a hypocrite, so take as long as you need. The idea is to step back and take stock, so your creative juices can get flowing again and replenish themselves.

Itching to blog yet? Never fear, there are nine more steps to go.


#2 - Ask Yourself . . .


What do you want from your blog? If you're anything like me, then you probably won't have thought of this at the beginning of your blogging journey, but deciding what success looks like for you is pretty important if you want to get there (or at least head towards it). For some people, this might just be blogging regularly, or making sure they're happy with every post they publish. Other, more transparently manipulated folks - I'm mainly talking about me here, so I don't mean to offend you - might be concerned about hitting certain view / follow statistics or getting a partnership with a certain organisation, but it's good idea to keep those goals based on you for now (i.e. publicise every post at least once on twitter, etc.) so you don't get disheartened due to circumstances you can't control.

Try to narrow down a couple of reasonably short-term goals that you feel you can achieve, and that will motivate you to keep on blogging. Trust me, it helps.

#3 - Identify the Problem


In short, work out what's stopping you achieving that goal. Is it a lack of knowledge? Are you scared to take the plunge and do something that will get you on that road? Or is it sheer disorganisation? I know that most of my problems come from that.

If you know what the problem is, then you can work out how to fix it. Sounds deceptively simple, right? That's because it is. Once you know what's gone wrong and derailed you, most of the hard work is done: just decide what you have to do and get it done!

#4 - Take Advice


Obviously this will be most helpful for those problems revolving around knowledge, but DON'T BE AFRAID TO GOOGLE IT. There's all sorts of blogs and websites and advice columns just floating around in cyberspace, and you'd be an idiot not to take advantage of the resources at your disposal, right?

The main reason Google helps is that I can promise you other people will have the same problem and be willing to help you. Plus, won't you feel a bit less alone knowing that you're not the only one suffering, and that you won't have to fix this alone?

The internet is wonderful.

#5 - Ignore Advice

It's not completely relevant, sure, but I love this too much not to put it in.
I never said I wasn't going to confuse you.

Basically, it's brilliant to look for and take as much advice as is useful to you, but it's also impossible to follow everything out there. You'd tie yourself up in knots. I've found that it's best to look at information through the filter of "Will this help me do what I want with my blog?". If it doesn't, or you're convinced you won't be able to follow through, my advice is simple. Let it go.

#6 - Change It Up


There's no use taking a break to get some perspective, identifying what you want, working out what needs to change for that to happen, and researching how to make that change if you don't actually . . . um . . . change anything. 

Take the plunge! Make some edits! Try new things! I know it's scary, but changing stuff is the only way to pull yourself out of a rut. And the great thing is that you choose exactly what you want to change, so although you have to do something different, it doesn't have to be rainbow-spotted-alien levels of crazy. You could even change something as superficial as a blog template, if that's going to help you.

and finally, because it basically sums up everything I've ever said ever . . .

#7 - Don't Be Afraid to Try Something New


Bravery! A new frontier! Awesomeness!

Good luck with your blogs, everyone (and if you haven't got one, start. It's the most fun you'll ever have) and I want to say one more thing. If you want to ignore everything I just said, down to this very sentence, then do. It's your blog, so play by your rules.
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In the comments: How do you like to get yourself unstuck? Why? And what are you thinking of changing on your blog?
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Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Where do I even start?

Okay. Basically, this book is sort of fanfiction, but it's       fanfiction set in a world the author created. So it's just . . . fiction? I have no clue. Basically, Rainbow Rowell usually writes contemporary romance, but her last book, Fangirl, had a main character who wrote fanfiction for a Harry Potter-esque series called Simon Snow and the Mage's Heir, which is made up in our world but real in hers.

This is the fanfiction that character wrote. But Carry On released on October 6th LAST YEAR, and I am massively behind reading it, so you probably knew all that already. Shall I actually get down to reviewing?

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

A lot of people have said that this is effectively Potter fanfiction, but . . . eh . . . nah. It's definitely Potter-esque, it's definitely Potter-inspired, but Simon is not Harry, okay?! The magic is DIFFERENT. And yes, the beginning was tricky to get into, because the first chapter stank of Potter, but Carry On slowly, slowly carved out its own path and started to pull me along with it.

The only other reason I took a while to get into the gist was that it was written as if it was the seventh in a series. I suppose, for the first few pages or even chapters, I felt a little like I'd missed something - but that feeling went away very quickly and was probably just me being a controlling reader in the first place. In fact, I think the author did really well to squeeze most of the emotional investment of a epic series into one book.

So, now I've got my groaning out of the way, I can tell you all about the good things, and that's exciting, because there was a lot of amazingness and by the end I was tied up in knots. Namely:

I was really, really interested in the magic system. The Latin in Harry Potter always had its own mysterious quality, but Carry On's mages can speak magical phrases in any modern language: they usually speak English because it is the most widely-spoken, and 'Normals', or non-mages (ordinary folk like me who can't do magic) give phrases their power. If it's said often, it can do magic.

This was intriguing to me because I'm super into linguistics, and as Simon's headmaster - the Mage, but remember the capital M because otherwise he's just a mage - would say, "Language evolves. So should we." I like the idea of learning about word evolution.

If you managed to follow that nerdy language fangirling, congratulations. We should be linguistic buddies.

The other thing I absolutely adored about this book were the characters, particularly Penelope. You have no idea how much I adore Penny! She's smart but not a Hermione clone, absolutely sassy and condescending, mixed race but no-one cares, and rolls her eyes so much at Simon and Baz that I want to hug her.

And that brings me ever-so-neatly to Simon and Baz. Bimon? Saz? Either way, the ship is amazing and I love them individually, too. This passage basically sums up how unique Simon is as a chosen one:

I mean, a magical hero whose magic is utterly unpredictable and sucks at magical lessons? I've never heard of one of them before - and the conflict it causes is absolutely beautiful. Then there's Baz, who acts so tough . . . but I just want to hug him like a slightly spiky teddy bear. And his POV (Point of View) chapters were just my favourite.

Oh, wait. I loved Penny's too.

To sum up, you should read this book because it has well-imagined settings, amazingly-handled romance and characters anyone would have to squawk over. Yes, it's a bit slow at the beginning and fast at the end, but that isn't a big deal and you might not even notice it (I'm a super picky reader). Carry On is still a solid 4-Star read and I think you're going to love it.
In the comments: Have you read Carry On? Will you fangirl/boy about it with me? What about linguistics?

Okay, maybe that last one was too much to hope for. . . 
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LOOK! My Blog is Now Beautiful and Deserves a GIVEAWAY.

Okay, this . . . I am trying exceptionally hard not to get overexcited. But LOOK how PRETTY my blog is now! IT'S SO CUTE AND ADORABLE AND I LOVE IT AND IT'S HARD TO EVEN FUNCTION.

Oh, I'm supposed to prevent myself from getting overexcited. But basically, I am utterly in love with this new design. I know it is a little shallow - looks aren't everything, after all - but it's almost impossible to describe why something so gorgeous is so gorgeous. That means that there's only one thing I can do to celebrate. A giveaway for you, my awesome minions.

So why should you enter?

Other than your duty to do everything I say - just kidding, I haven't reached that level of awesomeness yet - it's because I have two lovely prizes for two lovely winners, and one in particular I am very excited about. I've assembled a brilliant bundle of book swag (that's it for alliteration in this post, I promise) consisting of the following:
  • One copy of the amazing Red by Alison Cherry, which everyone needs to read immediately. I've raved about it a little at the beginning of this post, but you only need three words. It. Is. Hilarious (and has the best setting ever and an awesome french fry shop but that's more than three words).
  • One make-your-own personal library kit, including a date stamper, ink pad, issue pockets and check out cards. This is a must-have for any bookworm who is a little territorial about lending their books - so basically all of them - and you can check out a bit more here
  • 5 bookmarks hand-designed and made by yours truly, so of course they are priceless.
The sad thing, and there is only one sad thing about my amazing bundle, is that it is only open to UK entrants. I'm really, really sorry, everyone else, and I know this must be super annoying, but international shipping appears to be more expensive than a solid gold peacock and I run this blog on a shoestring budget.

Never fear, though! I have a second prize, available to everyone because I can send it e-lectronically. Do you fancy a £10 Amazon Book Voucher? That's probably enough to buy Red (or any book you want) plus a bookmark, if you're smart about it.

You can enter for both prizes below, or one or the other, by telling me what you would like to enter for in the "What do you want?" box. Winners will be drawn from Random.org, as attached to Rafflecopter (I only use your email to contact you if you win), and no one person can win both prizes.

Sorry, prize-hoarding dragons.

I'd also love some feedback, because this is my first time running a giveaway. I'm not very skilled about it. Me need to know giveaways about. Me not experienced very. Me help want because me a blogging caveperson.

All I know is that you can check the Ts and Cs on the actual giveaway that I so lovingly handwrote with my specialist knowledge *cough* copied-and-pasted from a how-to guide and checked was legal *cough*.

Please enjoy and enter, my valued bookworms. It ends at midnight next Monday, so get cracking and don't forget to share the love!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(I publicised this on www.theprizefinder.comFree to enter competitions and giveaways in the UK. Win great prizes and freebies., Competitions UK at AllUKCompetitions.com and http://www.online-sweepstakes.com/ - it seems good manners to link up.)

In the comments: Are you looking forward to reading Red? What would you buy with the £10 Amazon voucher? And do you have any tips for my next giveaway?
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In Which I Tell You Something

Oooh, a post on Sunday. Perhaps you are wondering - has she gone out of her mind? Has she forgotten everything about scheduling and blog posts and even what day it is?

In short, no.

I've decided to take a short break from blogging over this half term holiday. It's terribly disappointing, but I'm afraid you won't get any posts until next Monday, the 22nd, because if I'm honest, I've been feeling the quality of my blogging slipping a bit lately. If I was a teacher, I would write on my school report that I Could Do Better.

Don't worry - I'll most definitely be back - but I'm just taking a few days to rejuvenate, to read more, and to let my poor exhausted writer's brain have a rest. That way, I should be a bit happier with the stuff I'm coming out with on my return.

Please do not mourn my absence too bitterly.
Lara
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The Valentine's Day Book Awards

Yes, the day has nearly arrived. Love it or hate it, Valentine's Day is a really important holiday for lots of people, and at the very least it's an excuse to go to bed early and read under the covers. I basically need to honour this amazing opportunity (we all need to look for them as they come, right?), so here we go. The Valentine's Day Book Awards.


I've decided to celebrate all kinds of love, not just romantic, because although everyone thinks of the kissy-kissy kind - especially with YA - some of the best-portrayed relationships are between family or friends. Not to mention the fact that if I put in too much mushy stuff, we might all vomit.

I can't be responsible for widespread mexican-wave style vomiting among the bookworm community.

Fatherly Love
Lola and her Dads from Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.



I love Lola, for a start, but her relationship with her Dads is utterly amazing. They might tell her off about her boyfriends and put her under curfew, but they also bake pies together, let her wear sparkly eyelashes, and laugh together. It's so hilarious . . . just . . .

Sisterly Love
The Song sisters from To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han.



Lara Jean, Margot and Kitty have one of the most realistic sisterly relationships I've ever seen in a YA book. I mean, I think it's realistic. I'm an only child, so I'm going off the people who occasionally talk to me, but it just SEEMED SO RIGHT.

Firstly, there's how Lara Jean (the MC) interacts with her younger sister. I love how hard she tries to find the best for Kitty, despite how frustrating it is, and how rational Kitty is about fights. How she holds grudges, but the love is still there. Lara Jean also has the best conversations with Margot. Even the food is amazing:
Brotherly Love
Fred and George from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
How can I hold an award for brotherly love in YA and not mention Fred and George? Most of the best relationships, it must be said, are funny. Fred and George are the epitome of funny, but also that of love between brothers. They don't just have the best bond in the history of ever, but they care about their other siblings so much. This quote kind of says it all:


The Weasley family are the best siblings ever. And Fred and George win the brother crown with three of their hands behind their backs.

Platonic Friendship
The Spinster Club (Evie, Amber and Lottie) from Holly Bourne's Normal series. 



Oh my gosh the Spinster Club. Yes, they are rude, yes, they don't hold back from difficult conversations, but that's the point. They have meetings about feminism under a name designed to reclaim misogynist vocabulary. Any friendship that can stand that sort of battle - the battle for equality - and support each other through mental illness, stupid boys and alcoholic mothers, must deserve this award.

Also, look at the quote above. Pure, pure genius.

Kissy-Kissy Love
Eleanor and Park from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.



It's really hard to describe, but I basically love Eleanor and Park's relationship because they're innocent, but not ludicrously so. They fall for each other ssslllooooowwwwwwwwwwllyyyyy, like people usually do in real life, and (most importantly in my opinion) they support each other through their own personal problems.

There's also the fact that both of them are exceptionally eloquent, which makes for exquisitely beautiful quotes. Quotes like this:

(Yes, there's a reason I haven't put Motherly Love up. I can't think of a relationship to celebrate at the moment, and I don't want to write something I don't believe on my blog. Not that there aren't amazing mother-daughter relationships in YA. I'm just a silly human who can't think of one.)

Have a good Valentine's Day, bloglings!
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In the comments: What YA love would you like to celebrate this Valentine's day? Why do you like it? And can you think of a mother-daughter relationship to show me up?
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Lara's Bookish Pancake Bar

Yes. I'm aware pancake day was yesterday, but a) I don't post on Tuesdays, b) no-one would want to miss a pancake related book blog post, and c) who wouldn't want the celebrations for such an awesome thing to just keep going?
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Welcome, book characters! Roll up to Lara's Bookish Pancake Bar, the bookworld-renowned establishments that makes different pancake flavours for everyone. I've got something for all of you, meticulously researched, and I do hope you enjoy. Refills, after all, are on the house . . .

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series) - Melted Mint Chocolate with Extra Spearmint
Firstly, Hermione, I can tell you that melted chocolate on pancakes is one of the best things in the known universe. This year, I had salt caramel chocolate, and it was incredible, but when I've had mint before, it always made me think of you. I think it's this bit from Half-Blood Prince that does it:

If you could eat mint pancakes on a freshly mown lawn while you read a book made from old parchment, that would probably be the best of all worlds. However, I am unwilling to serve grass in this particular establishment, and no-one puts toothpaste in pancakes, so I have my fingers crossed that this is lovely enough.

Celaena Saradothin (Throne of Glass) - Lemon and Sugar
Celeana, could you come down from the roof please? I'm fairly confident that there's no-one up there you need to assassinate, and I have sweets to discuss with you.

Thought that might get your attention.

I am reliably informed that you love sugar, and while the flavour I have chosen is a little traditional - some might even say ordinary - among earth-dwellers, I'm pretty sure you don't serve it in Erilea. It's a good place to start for the pancake newbie, and quick enough to make that the recipe shouldn't be too taxing for you to make after a long day's assassin-ing. Let me know if you want seconds.

Okay.

Grover Underwood (Percy Jackson series) - Cheese and Avocado
Guys, has anyone seen Grover? *there is a brief pause while he is located in a rubbish bin*

Grover, come on. If you wanted a tin can, you just should have said: I've got one right here. And this pancake is effectively a cheese enchilada with bells on, and judging by this quote you absolutely adore cheese enchiladas. I've even made a special scrap-metal-and-cream one for dessert, so I really hope you lik-

At this rate, I'm going to need to make some more batter.

Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games series) - Orange and Burnt Brandy
Peeta? Are you okay? Has Katniss been sleep-shooting again?
Yup
Oh, I'm sorry. Well, I made a pancake to cheer you up, the boy with the bread who loves orange. Pancakes are a type of bread . . . ish. And I've added oranges, special sunset coloured oranges because we can't get any like Effie's hair. That would be a travesty. The burnt brandy is mostly there due to the whole nice-flavour-combination thing, but I also like the fact that your pancake can be on fire. Considering your relationship with the girl on fire.
***
I may have over-GIFed there, but never mind. 

In the comments: What's your favourite pancake flavour? Which fictional character would you give a pancake to and why? What flavour do you think they'd like?
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Review: iBoy by Kevin Brooks

This book is seriously difficult to review, because . . . um . . . I AM TORN BETWEEN AMAZING CHARACTERS AND SUPERPOWER ISSUES.

Let me explain.

iBoy is the story of a boy left powerless to speak out about the rampant crime in his South London housing estate - until an iPhone falls thirty stories into his head. And naturally, the electronic fragments give him superpowers.

Firstly, I need to talk about the brilliant stuff. Crow Town, the housing project split in two by gangs, was portrayed just right: gritty, drug-saturated and dangerous. I have no experience of that sort of thing, but to me it felt like a real place that corrupted real people. Reading about characters that stayed 'good' in that toxic an environment was part of why I liked them so much.

Did I just say 'like'? I meant squee over and ship fiercely.

Tom cared about Lucy so much it almost literally spilled over the pages, and she was so, so brave - anyone would need to be after what happened to her. Other than that, I can't tell you why Brooks' characters were so vibrant and rich and alive. That's just how they came across.
(I will also take a moment here to mention Grams. Any grandmother who raises her orphaned grandson on the wrong side of the tracks while writing romance novels wins in my book.)

And now, the stuff I didn't like so much. Dare I say it ever so slightly ruined an amazing book?

Tom's superpowers were just ludicrous.

Yes, I get that a little leap of faith is needed to grasp the book's premise, but Tom soon started to have powers way beyond that of an iPhone. Did I miss the stabproofing upgrade? And I'm sorry, but there's no way electricity can unlock a physical padlock.

I liked most of the newspaper extracts, quotes and formulas, too, but maybe the iPhone 3GS spec was a bit too much? And I'm not that fussed about profanity - in fact, it's probably vital in bringing settings like this to life - but you'll need an F-bomb vest. Not that these things matter as much as the whole superpowers-overly-super thing.

*whispers* I also worked out what Tom's superhero weakness (they all have one) was going to be between fifty and a hundred pages in.
All that said, don't avoid picking up this book because of my grumbling. You'd miss out on beautifully developed characters, skillfully bringing a setting to life, and - if you're into that sort of thing - a classic, slightly far-fetched superhero fix.
***

In the comments: Am I on my own with overdramatic superheroes? When do you think it works? And when have authors annoyed you by taking suspension of disbelief too far?
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The Insider's Guide to Book Photography

Are you sick of using stock photos on your blog? Do you need to get your Instagram feed off the ground? Or do you just want to develop your skills? Then you need . . .

The Insider's Guide to Book Photography
Book photography is really, really fun, but it can be hard, especially when you're new to it: there are a few little tricks I've learnt, the most important thing being to have a process, and personally, when I'm taking pictures of books - or most things, really - I find there are four questions that're useful to think about.

And these questions? Well, here they come.

Where / when am I going to take this?

Timings are like the holy grail of photography, and not just with books, because lighting is EVERYTHING. If there's too much, there'll be annoying shine spots all over the image, sometimes really big ones, and too little light . . . everything will look grainy and horrible because the camera isn't able to record what's in front of it properly. Many professional photographers (and really enthusiastic selfie-takers) like to take shots as near to sunrise or sunset as they can, so the balance of light is perfect, but who has the chance to do that ALL THE TIME? Here are a couple of tips that I've found help:

  • There's very little substitute for natural light out there, but Amber @ The Mile Long Bookshelf swears by a daylight bulb (more details in her article), and judging by all of her photos, it works. All you have to do is fit one to your bedroom light, and then you can draw your curtains and take pictures by night. That's you sorted, little night-owl.
  • In absolutely dire situations of darkness, you can prop the book up against a lamp which has been switched on, but this will only generally come out well if you're adding a really heavy effect in editing, like with my zombie post.
  • I find it easiest to take pictures in the late morning, next to a big window with blinds I can take down a little if the light really is blinding - this doesn't happen often, I live in a Stupidly Rainy Country - to give me a lot of time and natural illumination. You might need to play around with timings and use a little common sense, depending on where you live and other things.
  • Make sure you take your photos on a LARGE FLAT SURFACE, so you don't drop stuff. You could choose a nice interesting pattern (wood, tiles etc.) or just a plain colour, depending on your blog and Instagram style . . . it's really up to you.
You can set up a perfectly organised time and place, but don't be afraid to take photos spontaneously too. I haven't managed to get a good one on my lap in the car yet, but we're getting there.

What do I want to convey about the book? How am I going to do it?

Admittedly two questions, but I've always walked on the wild side.

For this, it helps to have read the book before you start a shoot, but I'm not about to order you around. Basically, have a think about the themes within, and whether you can represent them with a prop. Or you could search for random objects which match the colour (My Heart and Other Black Holes has absolutely nothing to do with fans, but the one I've added in the photo above adds a lot of interest).


You don't need props: in fact, overdoing it is definitely not the right thing, because they can be a little cluttering. But if a photo is looking a bit dull, you can definitely add something in . . . or play around in edits. Sometimes sad books can be signified using black-and-white with a bit of colour, or edgy ones can look even cooler with a bit of added grit or film grain.

You can do whatever you like to show your viewer what you think about your subject (book) - just promise me you won't get stuck inside the box, 'kay?

Which shot would fit best with my post / Instagram account?

You should obviously slather every single photo you take over your blog, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, right? Not necessarily. It's great to make sure the pictures you take get as big an audience as possible, but if someone follows you on Blogger / Bloglovin' and social media, then they might get bored of seeing the same shots over and over again.

I tend to manage this by taking at least five different shots per post, often of the same book in different ways, but I'll only post one on Instagram and Pinterest. Those spontaneous shots I mentioned earlier? You can use them exclusively on your accounts, so that your feeds look original and you aren't stuck with photos that don't quite fit with what you've written on-da-blog because you don't know where else to put them.

Whoa. I used the word 'you' too many times it that sentence.

Different people have different opinions on this, of course, so don't second guess yourself if you're super-proud of a photo and WANT TO GET IT EVERYWHERE NOW, or if you fancy sticking them all over the place for any other reason. Just make sure you've considered your strategy.

What do I what to enhance in edits?

I use PicMonkey for editing, and it is an absolute lifesaver. It's an in-browser program, so there's no download necessary, and I love that thing. You can read a few full tutorials here and here, but I've got a couple of quick tips that really help me make my photos pop:

  • Within the 'Basic Effects' and 'Exposure' tabs, there is a button called 'Auto-Adjust'. Always press this button before doing anything else if your colour balance looks a little off - for some photos, you'll need to tweak the computer's changes a little, but just use the four sliders. Trust me - this is a lifesaver.
  • The 'Dark Edges' and 'Frost' effects can be changed to any colour so your photo matches better. This can really accentuate colours in the image to make them stand out.
  • Always, always crop if you think it will make a difference. A background that's too big won't be very noticeable until you see how good the cropped version looks, and there's always the undo button.
  •  Basically, trust your instincts and don't overdo it. Editing gets better with practice and PLEASE DON'T FORGET THAT LESS IS MORE.

***
In the comments: Once you've asked these questions, you should have a really nice photo to shove in everyone's faces. Link to your blog / social media down below so I can see! And what questions do you like to ask yourself when photographing?
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Review: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

You know how I only ever write a review when my head is exploding from how awesome a book is and I need to shove it in someone's face as soon as possible? This is one of those times. But I'm trying to get better at, you know, reviewing, because I do need a decent excuse to give to my parents when I'm lugging home another ten books to add to the TBR pile. It will also stretch me out of my comfort zone and that is a GOOD THING.
***

Holly Bourne's How Hard Can Love Be?, #2 in the Normal series, released today, and if you're wondering how I read it (at 480 pages) and wrote this review so quickly, I got it from a bookshop that accidentally had it on the shelves two days ago. I could call this my first ARC review, but honestly that's probably pushing it; ARCs are unlikely for someone who's only written two three (as of today) reviews ever.

But I digress.

This book is about a sarcastic British girl at American summer camp, the emotional trainwreck that is an absentee mother, and how feminism mixes with teenage life. If this sounds like the recipe for book heaven to you, then please come and be my friend. We could find books exactly like this, read them and be so empowered by the wordy Valhalla that we took over the world.

I'll scream about all the amazing parts - there were many - in a second, but first a quick word about this book's 'series status'. Yes, it is the middle book in a trilogy, and the main character from Am I Normal Yet? is one of Amber's best friends, but I think this has been very carefully written so you don't have to have read that first. You still should get to it at some point, of course, because it's dangerously close to being even more awesome than its sequel, but I'm just saying if you don't want to, there's no obligation.


Does it make me transparently predictable that I was mostly sucked into the first few chapters of this book due to the copious Harry Potter references? If so I don't really care. Amber's childhood memories, many involving our favourite boy wizard, were skilfully woven into the narrative, and although flashbacks can get a bit confusing in other books, these were always short enough not to disrupt the forward motion of the plot. They were always formatted in italics, and that helped too.


As the writing went on, I was really glad to see how it fit well into the story of the first book. There were still Spinster Club meetings, although they had to happen over Skype or through email because Amber was on the other side of the world, and the CAPITAL LETTERS that Bourne uses just enough to be memorable but not annoying? Present and correct.


I'd also like to take a moment to say that there was . . . OH WAIT THIS IS A SPOILER FOR BOOK ONE {Highlight for spoiler}a mention of Evie and Oli. A torturous mention that did not tell me nearly enough. In fact, I am dangerously close to removing half a star for the utter pain because I WANNA KNOW NOOOW! {End of spoiler}

Another thing I am starting to adore about this series (and long may it continue into the third book) is that the girls have real problems beside boys. Amber has an alcoholic Mum who made her early childhood more than difficult, and now she has to live with the stepmother and stepbrother from hell. She's also exceptionally tall, and while as a tiny pixie barely over five foot I cannot relate to this specifically, most of us can totally get the whole my-friends-are-getting-boyfriends-and-becoming-mature-how-do-I-not-keep-my-happiness-tied-to-dating-thing. Just as OCD was handled in an excruciatingly perfect way with Am I Normal Yet?, alcoholism and feelings of abandonment were processed in the best way possible.


Mostly, this is evidenced in chapter twenty-nine. I swear the ending would not be half as satisfying without the amazingness of chapter twenty-nine.

I'm more than a little aware that this review is basically a throwing together of random thoughts, but this is how I process books. It's totally not weird *manic grin*. I would like to throw in one more thought, and that is that there is finally a NICE FEMINIST GUY in the Spinster Club girls' lives. But who?

That would be telling.
In the comments: Have you read Am I Normal Yet? Do you like the sound of this? Basically . . . when are you going to obey me and read the brilliance?
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