Coffee Book Tag (AKA WAKE UP, LARA!)

Okay guys. It's Tuesday right now, as I write this post, but there's no way I'm going to have time to get anywhere near my blog tomorrow. Everything that's going on is far too exciting.

I also happen to be exhausted. A four hour round trip that only exists to get you stabbed in the leg several times with a toxic substance (don't worry, I was stabbed by a trained professional, not some random person off the street) will do that to you. So there's only one thing for it ...

COFFEE.

Not that I actually drink coffee. My Dad is low-key addicted to it and I'm slightly afraid of following his example to become the world's most vacant caffeine zombie. It is, however, a good excuse to do the Coffee Book Tag, kindly created by a YouTuber named BangadyBangz, which I sneakily stole today.

Do you know what? I'm think I'm just going to get going before I start sleepy-rambling more than I already have.

Black: Name a series that's tough to get into but has hardcore fans.

Okay, okay. STOP YELLING AT ME!

No-one can deny that the Harry Potter series has an awful lot of hardcore fans. I consider myself one of them. Even the fact that you're yelling at me for calling it 'tough to get into' - don't deny it, I heard you with my superhuman abilities - proves that. And I definitely don't mean that the books themselves are in any way difficult to read, because I will never forget the day nine-year-old me lapped up the first one in less than twenty-four hours like it was nothing.

What I do mean is that it's pretty difficult to start reading the series nowadays and actually enjoy it. There's so much pressure from said hardcore fans expecting you to enjoy it that you go in with ridiculous expectations that even a book written specifically for you and all of your preferences probably couldn't live up to. And that's if you've somehow managed to miraculously sidestep all the spoilers that aren't really even considered spoilers anymore because everyone's expected to have already finished.

Heck, people are already starting to expect that you've already read or seen Cursed Child, and that released a MONTH ago. You can see why it's hard to start Harry Potter right now.

Peppermint mocha: Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year.

Maybe this is a little bit of a cheat, because it releases in October and has not yet experienced its first snow, but I can imagine that Robin Steven's Murder and Mistletoe is going to be a very popular Christmassy read. To be honest, the traditional setting of Deepdean School for Girls has always felt pretty festive to me - it reminds me of all the films that show around then - but this one is actually. Set. At. Christmas.

I can practically hear the carollers from here.

Hot chocolate: What is your favourite children's book?

This isn't a book I read when I was really the right age to be reading 'children's books'. Because who has a memory that stretches back that far? If I was an elephant, I would not be able to type.

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue by Sarah Rubin was such an impulse buy that I'm not sure the word impulse even covers it. The thought 'this book is pretty and the blurb says something about maths I need to buy it' went straight from my eyes to my hands without even consulting my brain. There was nothing I could do.

It's been a Long Time since I've fallen in love with anything remotely Middle Grade-y, but I just adore everything about this book. The characters are multi-dimentionally brilliant and really smart, but believably so. I can believe that they're twelve-year-olds. Alice's sister Della is also a brilliant little packet of stardust who AUDITIONS FOR BROADWAY (AND OFF BROADWAY) MUSICALS.

Excuse me while I explode from the amount of empathy I feel for this character.

Double shot of espresso: Name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

E. Lockhart's We Were Liars is so difficult to talk about on a blog because we as a book blogging community basically agreed not to say anything about it other than what's on the blurb and maybe a few sensory details just to prove to you how beautiful (not to mention heart-, mind- and soul-breaking) it is. The prose is just minimalistically gorgeous. It takes place on a private island that is sun and sand and windblown amazingness. But not knowing about the ending kind of makes everything even more tense.

Starbucks: Name a book you see everywhere.

Well. Today, (actually yesterday when you'll be reading this, but I laugh in the face of continuity) Sabaa Tahir's A Torch Against the Night came out. When I checked out Twitter this morning, at least three of my favourite authors - or at least the authors I follow - were wishing it a Happy Book Birthday and generally just raving about it. I opened Goodreads just now to grab the link, and I saw two or three statuses in a row that were people starting to read it. 

And no, I haven't read the first book in the series. All this propaganda is becoming a little bit pointless. Not that I'm exactly annoyed?

Oh, I don't even know. Ask me tomorrow when I've actually slept.

That hipster coffee shop: Give a book by an indie author a shoutout.

Um ... I would make a terrible, terrible hipster. I'm not even sure what defines an indie author. Can I get a little bit of help here?

Oops! I accidentally got decaf: Name a book you were expecting more from.

Kiera Cass's The Selection is a dystopian romance involving an old-fashioned palace that has a jaw-droppingly pretty dress on the cover.

The last dystopian romance involving an old-fashioned palace that has a jaw-droppingly pretty dress on the cover that I read was The Jewel by Amy Ewing - and I absolutely adored that book. Everyone (or almost everyone) on Goodreads seems to hate it to such a degree that I'm starting to wonder if I even read the same book they did, or if I fell and knocked my head immediately after reading. But anyway. You can see why I went into The Selection with high hopes, and they weren't entirely dashed. The worldbuilding is interesting and there's an awful lot of incredible food (the kind that made me want to lick the page) ... but I just didn't really like America, the main character, anywhere near as much as I liked Violet from The Jewel. This made me very sad and a little confused.

The perfect blend: Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet but ultimately satisfying.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is just a rollercoaster ride of sweet parts and absolute gross sobbing. I'm not saying I was happy about the ending, but satisfying it was. It made me really, really think about everything that had happened - and a lot had happened, so I had to do a lot of thinking - and by the time I'd really processed it properly, I realised just how important that almost bittersweet ending was.

The entire book was full of sweet moments and dark ones, hope and despair, darkness and light. If you haven't read it already ... what are you even doing with your life?

***
In the comments: Do you guys drink coffee, or not? Are you hot chocolate fans, like me? And what do you think about the books I've mentioned?
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5 Books With Alternative Formats (Because Sometimes We All Need Something A Little Different)

There are many reasons why books who are told in an alternative format are awesome. I guess some people might like them because they're a breath of fresh air. Because these books are divergent and weird in their very structure and finally, as a divergently weird person myself, that's something I can relate to. But to be brutally, brutally honest?

My main reason for loving them quite so much is how quick they are to read.

I'm ridiculously lazy at times and a slow reader whatever I try to do - I mean I used to think I was quick, but apparently everyone overtook me somewhere between the ages of ten and twelve because now I can never seem to keep up. Or at least I can't keep up with my own unstoppable hunger for words.

But I can usually finish an alternatively formatted book in a day, maybe two if it's especially long, and I love that. Faster books mean I get to use my time better, that by the end of my life I will have absorbed more knowledge, more stories and more points of view than most people ever think possible ... which is kind of the point of reading, right?


I'm also just going to pretend that this desire to take in as much information as humanly possible has nothing to do with an equal desire to conquer mortality and generally just be really smart. Because it's usually not a good idea to post your plans to become a ridiculously intelligent dictator on the internet.

Oops.

*cough* Um ... shall we just get going with the list? *cough*

#1 ~ Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

I don't even know why I'm bothering to recommend this, to be honest. Everyone who's going to read these words right here has either already read it or decided they aren't going to. But I have to point out the obvious to get the easy marks in the exam, right? This book is in a playscript format. A format that I worried was going to be distracting and take something away from both the story and my favourite series EVER. But actually, what with Rowling's dialogue-heavy style and everything, it kind of worked. Quite well.

What I am going to say that you might not have heard before, though, is that I don't think you absolutely have to have read the original series to read Cursed Child. Sure, there'll be a few characters and references you just have to go with not understanding until they're better explained later on, and you might not have quite as good an experience as you would have, but I think it's different enough to just be a strong, interesting story in its own right. And we all like strong, interesting stories.

#2 ~ Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

So, I haven't actually got around to reading this one yet.

HOLD THE GASPS. I know. It's incredible. Everyone says so. You just know I'm missing out to such a degree that you're a little bit mad at me for not having cracked the spine. But it's on my TBR, okay? I'm getting there mind-numbingly slowly. I include it on my list because a) I'm going to have to bend at least a few rules if I'm going to make it to five whole books, and b) I've seen pictures of some of the pages. It looks like all the alternative formats (letters, blueprints, maybe the odd random collage of dialogue) squished into one lovely ball of brilliance.

Can I get a huzzah for that?

#3 ~ One by Sarah Crossan

One was the first book I had ever read written in free verse. I was intrigued by the format, but kind of wondering if it would end up being a slightly convoluted gimmick, or feel a bit weird and unnecessary.

It is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful things I've ever seen, let alone read, in my life. Yeah, for the first few pages you felt a bit detached from the style, but after that it was so much more readable and natural than any other 'normal' prose - the story somehow fit with it in a way that if you'd have tried to pull it apart from the way it was written, the plot would just never have been the same. Ditto if you'd tried to tell a different story in the same way, I think, although of course you can never be sure. I think that was what surprised me the most.

Actually, no, the utterly blindsiding ending surprised me the most. But we're not going to talk about that because I-

*gulps* We're just not going to talk about it.

#4 ~ Cuckoo by Keren David

I said this in a lot more detail when I reviewed Cuckoo last week, but it's told through YouTube video transcripts and comments - and frankly that's the element of it that pushes the envelope the least. You've also got some gorgeously, painfully accurate depictions of homelessness, dementia, the fickleness of fame and the ups and downs of caring for someone with complex needs. It was real and gritty and modern, and I really think the format helped with that.

Also, can I just petition right now to have an awesome character like Destiny in every book, please? Okay thanks.

#5 ~ Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowry

First of all, when authors write books with ridiculously long titles, do they never think of the poor bloggers who have to spend whole minutes typing them out (and then checking they typed them right)? I'm sure they don't, the heartless monsters.

It's okay, authors. We'll forgive you for now. *squinty eyes*

This is another book I haven't read yet. Sorry. But I did read the first dozen or so pages in an Edinburgh bookshop only three weeks ago, and those pages were enough to tell me that it's told entirely in lists. And somehow that worked? Somehow the author managed to squeeze in description and dialogue and all that shabang while still having the lists make sense as lists? 

That sounds promising to me. I reckon you should read this and report back to me on how much you enjoyed it.

***
In the comments: What's your favourite alternatively-formatted book? Have you read any on the list? What did you think?
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8 Reasons to Read What I Couldn't Tell You | Blog Tour


This, ladies and gentlemen, is a blog tour. *cue thunder, lightning and cannon blast as I hold my hands up in triumph* I received a copy of this book for free from Faye Rogers PR in exchange for my honest opinion on it.

The absolutely awesome book in question is What I Couldn't Tell You by Faye Bird (the lovely human pictured on the right), who you can follow on Twitter or visit at her author website.

Here's a (wickedly, brilliantly tense) blurb for you:


When love turns to jealousy, when jealousy turns to rage, when rage turns to destruction...
Laura was head over heels in love with Joe. But now Laura lies in a coma and Joe has gone missing. Was he the one who attacked her?
Laura's sister Tessie is selectively mute. She can't talk but she can listen. And as people tell her their secrets, she thinks she's getting close to understanding what happened on that fateful night.
Now, I could give you a traditional review. I could just ramble on about how generally awesome the book was and hope you got the message. But wouldn't that be a tad boring? Instead, I'm going to list all the reasons why What I Couldn't Tell You is amazing and you have to read it - there are a lot, so bear with me. If you're the kind of person that prefers the classics, I've got a little mini-review at the end, along with a star rating. So hopefully everyone will be happy?
  • The amazing main character. Tessie is such a complex character, and I was kind of worried when I started this book that a heroine who didn't speak (unless it was to her closest family and the door was PROPER SHUT) would seem kind of one-dimensional in her shyness. But she didn't! Huzzah! She's loyal and kind and hates how she ends up hurting people by not talking to them . . . it was just such a relief to see her written so well.
  • The amazing main character's amazingly, realistically messed up family. You could say that Tessie's family have some issues. Laura used to hold them together, and now she's in a coma their Dad - who's away on business a lot - is the only one who knows how to deal with Mum's bad days and everything else that's going on. Tessie and Jake (her older brother) have a really nice, understanding relationship, but they don't tell each other everything. It was just so refreshing to see that realism, and even just a family in a YA Thriller. I'm so used to seeing parents and siblings dead, removed or non-existent that this almost hit me round the face with its brilliance.
  • Selective Mutism just isn't talked about enough, pretty much ever, and this book showed me what life with it could be like in such a real, important way. Before What I Couldn't Tell You, the only character with SM I'd ever seen in popular culture was Raj from The Big Bang Theory, and his inability to talk to women is pretty much ridiculed throughout the entire show. (I do love Big Bang, but that's an iffy plot point.) It had never really occurred to me that SM could block you from speaking out at injustice, from defending the people you love and even just apologising when it's the only thing you want to do - it's cliché to say so, but I'm really glad this book opened my eyes.
  • There is violence in this book - but it was incredibly well handled. Real enough to pack a punch and to actually feel thrilling, but not so graphic that it distracted from what really mattered: the characters involved and their reactions to it, the way they interacted with each other in the aftermath. I didn't feel sheltered, and honestly I can't see even the most sensitive readers being repulsed; that's a really tricky balance to strike, so any author who can do it really deserves a read, I guess. 
  • MAX! Tessie's best friend was such a cool character for me. a) I genuinely loved his taste in music; reading about it just made me love him as a character, and b) he was an awesome friend to Tessie. His character was important to people reading this book who might have friends with disabilities or illnesses or general trauma going on (not just SM) because he not only showed that it was possible to deal with it, but also that you're going to have bad days and find it difficult sometimes. Both sides of that coin were there to support people, and it made my heart sing just a tiny bit. 
  • I absolutely promise you that you will not see the ending coming even when it's pretty much in your face. Its last chapter was what really made it a thriller. I really, truly want to say more, but you know. Spoilers.
  • You know that moment when you finish a book, and just have to sit there to exhale for a minute? As if giving it that breath is the only thing that you can do to recognise how well crafted it was? I distinctly remember doing this after What I Couldn't Tell You, and it took so long that my parents had to come and find me to work out why I wasn't following them out of the car. And I guess that must mean it was good.
Okay then, post done! Hope you enjoye-

What's that? I promised you a mini-review? Are you sure? *scrolls up* Oh yeah, I kind of did ... Well, if you insist:

Mini Review

From reading the premise of What I Couldn't Tell You, I was super excited to read it. It sounded tense and psychological and representative of Selective Mutism, something I'd never read about before. Which it was. It was all these things turned up to eleven. But the first part, which was about Laura and Joe, felt really ssllooww. I JUST COULDN'T WAIT TO MEET TESSIE.

Then I met Tessie and all the awesome things listed above happened. (I would list them, but you've already read them in this very post, so that list would be a bit pointless.) It must be a little bad of me to really enjoy when books get messy, when families are kind of dysfunctional and people in positions of authority don't deal with issues properly and romantic relationships have crazy ups and downs. I know it's horrible for the main character - and I always want stuff to work out for them in the end - but I guess there's a part of me that just finds that conflict really interesting?

There was a particular element of the romance that I didn't like, but I'm going to have to put it in spoiler tags. If you don't want to be spoiled, all I'm going to say was it felt a bit insta-lovey? But that problem could well be me and not the book. Judging by some of the plot arcs, the author might actually have written it to make me feel specifically like this.

[Highlight for spoiler] Okay, so I was by no means Billy's biggest fan. He kept saying he understood Tessie's SM and then lashing out when she didn't talk to him ... I know it must have been frustrating, but I don't feel like that's an excuse, not when pretty much everyone else who cared about her seemed to be able to handle it. He was unpredictable, and whatever good intentions he claimed to have, I constantly fretted for Tessie when she was around him. And maybe that was the point? Because it definitely added to the tension and darkness.

I was also 100% Team Max (or at the very least Team Tessie-Doesn't-Have-To-Choose-Either-Of-Them) and I honestly don't think that helped. [End of Spoiler]

Woah, I guess I had a lot a spoilery feelings there!
Anyway, I hope you guys end up reading this book. It's a really well-judged thriller, does an amazing job of delving into people's emotions, what breaks them and what they do about it, and is just generally worth reading, for the SM representation if nothing else. Also, make sure you have a look at the blogs in the sidebar image above and check out their tour posts too, because someone's probably done a way better job than me at explaining how they feel about it.

***
In the comments: Do you fancy reading What I Couldn't Tell You? Why or why not? If you already have, what do you think? (And please try your absolute best to stay spoiler free for everyone else!)
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4 Personal Obsessions That DON'T INVOLVE BOOKS

Now, it might surprise you to realise this, but I'm actually a multi-faceted creature. Every so often - admittedly pretty rarely, but it still happens - I'll actually think about something other than books.

I'm presuming you actually want to know what these things are. If you don't, then that's a shame, but I'm going to ramble on about them anyway and hope for the best. At the very least, I'll have had fun writing about the stuff I love, right?

I guess I'd better get cracking then.

#1 - Musical Theatre

Singing is basically my life. You're a special person if you can shut me up.

I'm also a massive drama queen and sometimes have to be shoved off stage during drama class. (Sadly I won't be taking it for GCSE, but I like to get my moment in the spotlight.)

And I like to dance, too. Yes, you can dance in a wheelchair.

Singing + Acting + Dancing = Musical Theatre. I've pretty much only ever been in a school play of The Lion King, but I watch it. Lots. The only reason I can't list my top ten favourite musicals is because I keep changing my mind on the order, and just because I kind of lost track of Glee in its last two seasons doesn't mean I don't want to be a member of the New Directions more than I want you to read this post.

No wait, I didn't mean it! Come baaaack ...

#2 - The Olympics and Paralympics

For three and three quarter years out of every four, I will pretty much forget about this particular obsession. I just live my life as normal, surviving on books and musicals and everything else I'm about to talk about. But those other two or three months? That's Games time.

Firstly, it's the one time when I'm actually prepared to watch sport. I guess a lot of people might hate me for this, but football manages to bore and confuse me at the same time, rugby just kind of makes me cringe because people get so injured, and however amazing the Tour de France (that big long cycle race) is, it takes a long time to watch each stage. But gymnastics? Diving? Sports I don't usually get to watch, where British athletes have a chance ALL IN THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS WHEN I HAVE NOTHING MUCH TO DO? Huzzah.

I obviously have my own reasons for loving the Paralympics even more, given the whole "disability inspiration" thing, but what I love most is that The Last Leg (a kind of news satire show involving disabled comedians that started as a way of explaining the London 2012 Paralympics) will be on.

But while all that sport is amazing, what I really love is all the athletes' backstories. For the last couple of weeks, I've just been watching interviews on YouTube pretty much constantly; Laura Trott and Jason Kenny (a pair of British track cyclists who are engaged and have ten Olympic gold medals between them) are pretty much my OTP right now. I read athletes' Twitter feeds because they describe Olympic village banter. Or ... as BBC sport presenters have been brilliantly describing it ...

COPACABANTER.

#3 - Sherlock Holmes

I love any sort of murder mystery in general, whether it's in books or on TV (you should see the creepiness of my Netflix history), but there's just something special about the original consulting detective. Maybe it's because he's captured the imagination of so many amazingly creative people, but anything touched by Sherlock Holmes always seems to turn to gold. Look at Elementary. Look at Robert Downey Jr. Look at Sherl-

Actually, don't look at Sherlock. That entire show in trouble with the fandom for not existing right now.
If anyone knows about some decent books inspired by Sherlock Holmes, please let me know. I've just discovered that Brittany Cavellaro's A Study in Charlotte (which I've been quietly coveting mostly due to its beautiful cover for the last six to nine months) isn't available in eBook format or stocked by my local bookshop, and I'm going to have to order a LOT of books on Amazon to make the shipping worth it. I might as well find some other Sherlockian reads to get at the same time, right?

Okay, that one was slightly to do with books. Forgive me. What was I thinking, talking about books on a book blog?

#4 - London

I've always been somewhat drawn to the capital city of my beautiful little country. It's so ... iconic, I guess? I just love how many places you can get to quickly - and how many places you can get to just by walking - a concreted, twenty-four hour city is kind of mindboggling when you can't even walk a mile to the local train station because there isn't any pavements or street lighting. I will live there one day. I will.

Don't doubt me, internet. London has the West End - not to mention half the publishing houses where I'd love to work in one day. I'll fight my way there no matter what.

***
In the comments: What obsessions do you guys have that I might not have heard about? Might we have any in common? Or are mine just too weird for that?
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Cuck-OO Cuck-OO (Reviewing Cuckoo by Keren David)

I'm just going to start this review by telling you that I finished Keren David's Cuckoo in less than two hours yesterday. For a 352 paged book, that has to be some kind of record for me (because I happen to be the slowest reader in all the world) and I only read fast if a book is good. SO WE CAN KIND OF ASSUME THIS BOOK IS GOOD, RIGHT?

Admittedly, part of this is because- Wait, I need to give you a blurb before I start! What am I doing?
Jake is an actor, a household name thanks to his role on the UK's most popular soap. But his character went upstairs to his bedroom six months ago and never came down again, and now Jake is facing an uncertain future. Add to that his dad's anger issues, the family's precarious finances and the demands of a severely autistic brother; Jake's home feels like a powder keg waiting to explode. It's easier to spend nights on friends' sofas and futons, but what happens when you feel like a cuckoo in every nest? 
Cuckoo is a novel about the roles we play when we don't fit in anywhere, and finding unlikely solace when home is the least welcoming place of all.
As I was saying, part of this is due to the format, which was also one of the most inventive parts of the book. It's told in YouTube video transcripts and comments, which made for very fast reading because it's basically a script. Scripts = white space = more pages in less time. I loved the whole idea, but it did very occasionally make things a little confusing. Because there was no description, but being a transcript, there were no little labels to show whose line was whose ... and I had to re-read the odd conversation a few times to make sense of who was saying what. #OopsThat'sConfusing
There were many things this book did exceptionally well, and David really wasn't afraid of really diving into tough topics. Cuckoo involves homelessness, dementia, caring for people with complex disabilities, the fickleness of fame, losing money, and ... I could probably go on for an entire post if I thought hard enough about it. When a book crams in that much representation (I'm just going to insert a quick #WeNeedDiverseBooks right here) you might imagine that it would seem convoluted to fit it all in, or it just wouldn't feel real or be written properly. BUT IT ABSOLUTELY WAS. The acknowledgements alone really show how much research the author's done.

Plot. It wasn't bad by any means, but I didn't really notice it? I guess that's a good thing? Stories are generally supposed to be character-driven, so I guess the plot should be so seamless that a reader doesn't see it. But there were definitely no massive twists or cliffhangers or anything - for me at least. You might have read something that I went "meh" at and gasped so hard people rushed in to make sure you were okay. As one person, there's just no way of knowing.
As for said characters, they were cool. I absolutely loved Destiny, her work ethic and her fearlessness, but Jake's friends blended into each other a LOT. Orson? Dylan? I think one of them was called Anton? But I wasn't especially attached to any of them, that's including Jake and Destiny. I guess I found that they weren't really explored enough, but again, I don't know. It could be me just as much as it could be the book.

So I know I talked about the negatives last, but don't let them put you off reading this! Remember that inventive format? And the extensive research? And the fact I was enthralled enough to finish the whole thing in less than two hours? They get Cuckoo 4.5 stars.
***
In the comments: Have you guys read Cuckoo? What did you think? Does the premise sound interesting if you haven't?
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6 #BookwormAdvantages You Forgot About


I got the idea for this lovely (though I do say so myself) little post from Beth @ The Quiet People, who wrote an awesome post with FIFTY ideas for book blog content on it. FIFTY. If you need inspiration, that's definitely the place to go.

I'm sure you guys will have heard of the #BookwormProblems hashtag. It's used a lot to complain about the perils of life loving books, and while those are many - generally just being broke all the time, not knowing which books to read next, and of course papercuts *shudders* - I thought I'd be all sunshiney today. Because being a bookworm can't be all bad, can it?

There are some advantages:

#1 ~ Intelligence! Intellect! Knowing Stuff!

Books equal knowledge. No matter what you read, from academic non-fiction to picture books, you're going to learn something ... and unless you're reading on a particular topic, chances are that knowledge will be completely random. I, for example, could run you through the basics of being a foreign ambassador, forensic science and 1920s boarding school etiquette thanks to various books. Those facts could save your life one day, if you time travel to pre-WW2 England or end up suspected of murder.

Don't doubt me. It could happen.

If it doesn't, you'll always have the quiet satisfaction of Knowing Stuff. It's fun. Those guys who don't read really should try it some time.

#2 ~ You always have something good to spend your money on

Yes. Books are ridiculously expensive when you can't get enough of them, and being broke all the time is more than a little annoying. But a lot of people are constantly penniless; you could be spending all your cash on sweets and rotting your teeth! Or ... drugs?

Sorry, that escalated quickly.

What I mean is that books are in no way a bad thing to hoard. And, if you were obsessed with clothes, you wouldn't be able to get them for free in a sort of fashion lending service, would you? But you can get books in a library. There's no excuse to play video games in the middle of an English lesson, but reading? Yeah, they'll spare ten minutes for that!

(Seriously, at my school they actually give us ten minutes at the start of each English lesson to READ WHATEVER WE DARN WELL PLEASE and it's pure bliss. Not sure if this will continue into GCSEs, but I'd better be glad of it while it lasts...)

#3 ~ The bookworm community is just so friendly

The moment you choose reading as a hobby, you immediately become a fully-paid-up, card-carrying member of one of the most supportive clubs in the world. I don't know if the act of reading turns people nice or whether it's only nice people that become bookworms in the first place, but something has to be going on here. Books just seem to bring out the best in people. ;-)

I promise you I'm not kidding! Look on Twitter! Go to your local library! Bring up books in pretty much every conversation you have! Soon enough, you'll find some lovely bookish friends to chat with, recommend books to and possibly rant at if your feels get too extreme.

The bookworm community is also one that understands how annoying the question "What are you reading?" is. You can't underestimate the value of that.

#4 ~ You're pretty much never bored ... while you're waiting for stuff, anyway

Chances are, if you're a bookworm, you have a near unbreakable habit of taking a book with you wherever you go. One is the absolute bare minimum. And while that can lead to heavy bags, along with possibly broken arms from carrying said heavy bags, it also means that you are pretty much never left with nothing to do. 

Waiting for a bus? That's okay, I've got a book. 

Friend's running a bit late? Oh, no probs, I can read my book.

In a ridiculously long queue that hasn't moved for at least, like, a week? Oooh, I might have time for a whole chapter if I'm lucky.

Yes, sometimes you finish your book too soon or you're in a reading slump and that leads to extortionate levels of boredom or frustration. But can you imagine what it'd be like if you didn't have reading? You'd be bored like that EVERY TIME YOU WAITED FOR SOMETHING.

Oh, the horror.

#5 ~ You have a weapon for the zombie apocolypse

I'm serious you guys. Have you even been hit with a hardback? I'd actually be surprised if you have, because I reckon most people who've been smacked with one are either dead or have been concussed to such a degree that they'd find reading tricky.

Watch out zombies, Lara's coming. And she's got The Complete Chronicles of Narnia.

#6 ~ And, of course ... you have a whole other world to escape to

There's something about reading that can only be described in one word - escape. The feeling of just being somewhere else, somewhere different, somewhere away from the rest of your life and the rest of your worries. It's just something I couldn't live without when stuff gets tough.

And I know that other people have ways of coping with this too. I know that you can get through tough times a million different ways, but reading is just my THING. It takes me to other worlds and other emotions, I get to meet new friends and who cares if they're fictional? I can go places I could never go in real life, places almost no-one could ever go in real life (outer-space colonies, anyone?), and just be someone else for a while, I guess.

Hopefully, it's that awesome for you too.

***
In the comments: Are there any other advantages you've discovered to being a bookworm? Which are your favourites? They really make it worth being a bookworm, right?
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Why It's Okay to Judge Books by Their Covers

I judge books by their covers pretty much every time I choose one.

Maybe that does make me a horrifically shallow person. If I'm so aesthetic about books, I must be super judgemental about other things, right? According to the old saying, I must be vain and materialistic and generally miss out on a load of super-cool things because I'm too busy being critical about the way they look.

Um ... not really? Because, for a start, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who does it. Bookstagram alone is proof of that (and I'm just going to insert a shameless link to my Instagram here) - what we're basically doing in blogs and social media pictures is showing off some beautiful art. But should that beautiful art be allowed to represent books in such a massive way? By making covers such a big deal, that's what we're doing.

And I don't think that's a bad thing.

The thing is ... covers can be gorgeous, but they're also marketing tools. I repeat, COVERS ARE MARKETING TOOLS. If I miss out on a book that's actually perfect for me because the cover didn't look like my sort of thing, I would argue that's not my fault. The marketing didn't do its job.

That logic isn't perfect. Books also have blurbs and recommendations and even just the author's name on the spine to help with the marketing, and they can be misleading too. But the cover is usually what we see first, and doesn't that make it more imp?

*presses finger to ear* Yes, I'm hearing that it's definitely more important.
I mean, have a look at this beautiful cover of Everything, Everything. It is undeniably gorgeous and - to be honest - what drew me towards reading it in the first place. But what it does very skillfully is demonstrate the genre of the book (YA Contemporary / Romance) ... it doesn't exactly say horror, does it? It's the same as picture books often being drawn with simple colours and shapes to appeal to kids, and dystopian covers involving lots of darkness and shadows and Gothic lettering.

The annoying thing, I guess, is that this near-obsession with covers can lead to elitism. (I know, it sounds totally weird, but hear me out.) Self-published books can be just as good as traditionally released ones, but because the author's paying for everything, they often can't afford the best cover designers, and this can mean that we shallow humans don't end up grabbing the book. The marketing still wasn't doing its job, and I would argue it still wasn't the reader's fault - but that doesn't make it the author's fault either.

What's great (and I mean really, really great) about the new digital revolution is that anyone can be a cover designer - and there are dozens, probably hundreds of websites out there to connect authors with the one who can realise their dream. It's a slow process, but places like 99 Designs and DesignCrowd are bringing us into a lovely future where readers can experience amazing books that they would have missed otherwise.

And in this lovely future, Bookstagrammers have lots more models to work with.

***
In the comments: Do you guys think it's okay to judge books by their covers? Or is it just too elitist for your taste? Are you afraid of missing out on stories you'd otherwise have loved?

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Cursed Child Review | Spoiler Free Zone

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.


When I heard there was going to be an eighth Harry Potter book, I was ... trepidatious, to say the least. What if it ruined my beautiful ending? What if my ships got sunk? What if - what if it just wasn't any good?

And then I pre-ordered it. Because a bad Harry Potter book is still a Harry Potter book. And I am still a massive Potterhead. The next six months were just me alternating between nailbiting and wanting July 31st to arrive immediately and just wishing it would go away. I really truly didn't know what to think.

The book showed up on my doorstep.

I ignored it for three days straight, then took it on holiday and ignored it some more. And then, on a morning when I ran out of other stuff to read, I decided to just have a peek at the first chapter. By lunch, I'd finished.
You'd probably think from that speed that I really enjoyed it - and make no mistake, I did - but I must also admit that because it's written in the format of a play script, there's a lot of blank space on each page. And while reading that does take a little bit of getting used to, I've always thought dialogue was the best part of J.K Rowling's writing, so I guess it suits this particular book better than it would others.

I'm not saying that Cursed Child is the same as the other Harry Potter books, just that the playscript doesn't make it different.

Here are the the things that, to me, make a Harry Potter book:
    1) Some kind of childish wonder involved in the magic (I know this gets darker during the later books, but there's always something there.)
    2) Incredibly intricate worldbuilding.
    3) The general atmosphere of Hogwarts. (Wizards at school is kind of the basic premise.)

The magic in this book wasn't just dark, it wasn't really explained that much. People would point a wand, yell, and somehow be able to do stuff which I'm pretty sure was impossible in previous books. I get that the Golden Trio are adults now and they are presumably more powerful, but there were just a few moments I found difficult to believe.

Yeah. I'm getting nitpicky about the realism of a Wizarding World. It's called being thorough.
While I am incredibly glad to tell you that the team who wrote this book have done a brilliant job at ... erm *desperately tries to avoid spoilers* weaving their narrative into the existing world, it didn't really add any new details. And I like the details.

As for point three, while two of the main protagonists do go to Hogwarts, I think there's a grand total of one or two scenes that actually occur within the castle. Maybe there are more, but I guess it's the one curse (ha ha ha) of a book being a play format. There's little to no description! And you can't see the set! So the settings can blur into each other a lot, and I honestly didn't get the classic Hogwarts atmosphere. It was a shame, but didn't make Cursed Child a bad book.

And that means I get to talk about the good things now! HUZZAH!

Firstly, can we just say how amazing this premise is? I feel like books - especially YA books - tend to finish right after the final battle 99% of the time. While that's very dramatic and can be really really well done, where's the ex-heroes who have to deal with trauma and survivor's guilt and not being a hero anymore? What about their families, who have to support them through all of it while under the horrible microscope that fame brings? What about the kids who have to grow up scrutinised, who might end up different to their famous parents and suspected for it?
Cursed Child was just a masterpiece in answering all those questions. Some characters acted in ways they seriously regretted later on, but their motivation was always amazingly understandable, and usually perfectly heartbreaking. I cried, I screamed, I stared at the book in horror and fascination and joy. The emotional response it created was pretty unbelievable, especially for something I'd mistrusted at first.

I also really loved how bravely traditional Potter boundaries were taken down in this book. I could write you a list, but the spoilers would be practically immeasurable. I'm just going to mention it and let those who've read it know what I mean. If you haven't, then I guess you'll have to cope with imagination for now and address that pronto.

This review was probably a bit more serious than the ones I usually write. Sorry if it wasn't what you were expecting, but I'm a girl who takes her Harry Potter seriously.

***
In the comments: If you've read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, do you agree with me? (PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE COMMENTS ARE A SPOILER FREE ZONE TOO!) How did you feel about the prospect of an eighth Potter book when it was announced? How do you feel about it now?
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Sorry Guys, This Isn't A Blog Post

So this is how it went when I attempted to write something today:

Me: Come ON Lara. It's Wednesday and you need a post.

Other Me: But I just want to watch YouTube and be lazy!

Me: But-

Other Me: Pleeaasee? *pouts and manages to waste an hour and a half*

Me: Right. You've had long enough. It's time to blog. *cracks knuckles and opens computer*

Me: And now the WiFi won't work. I'm going to have to write something self-depricating on my phone and hope publishing it doesn't use all my data.

Other Me: ...

Me: Sometimes I really hate you.

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Beautiful People #20 (AKA Let's Be All Shallow and Discuss Appearance)

IT'S BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE Y'ALL!

If, for some crazy reason, you've never heard of Beautiful People, we must rectify that immediately. It's this awesome monthly meme hosted by Skye of Further Up and Further In and Cait of Paper Fury that allows writers to get to know their characters better by asking a bunch of questions about them. Cool, right?

For the last few months, I've been answering questions about Grace, the main character of the WIP I've been blindly attempting to finish. It's set in an elitist boarding school, so there are posh boys, poker and a New Year's party that involves karaoke.

The problem is that someone's probably going to get sick of Grace at some point. Her backstory is quickly getting overcomplicated. However, she does have a best friend, called Lorna. Today I'm going to introduce you guys.

(And no, this sudden change of character has nothing to do with the fact I only had a Lorna snippet for question two. Not in the slightest.)

Give a brief overview of their looks. (Include a photo if you want!)

Lorna is one of those people whose (long and wavy) hair changes colour with the seasons. It's dark blonde in August, kind of very light brown in December, and in between? Don't even ask. She usually refers to herself as blonde because she wants to have as much fun as possible.

Her eyes are blue and permanently framed by a LOT of mascara. Otherwise, I guess she has milky skin, completely unfreckled other than a mole just under her right ear, and a long neck.

Oh, and she has Cerebral Palsy, so she spends a lot of time in a downright awesome pink wheelchair. Sometimes she'll walk, but only with crutches and not a long way. 

Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.

What? I don't like people to see my first drafts. And now you want to see this, a snippet of the firstiest of first drafts? (Hush, that word made sense. Don't doubt me.)

Ok. I guess you can have a look. It's not like this is going to make it past edits, because it's a huge info dump and also not very necessary. But here's Lorna from Grace's perspective:
My best friend, Lorna, is already leaning against my bedroom door in her candy pink wheelchair, mousy blonde hair in absolutely perfect ringlets. I’ve never been much of a morning person compared to her.

What is the first thing people might notice about them?

That man is putting his head in his hands because honestly? People are shallow. They see the wheelchair first.

That said, if you met Lorna, you would also notice fairly quickly that her mouth doesn't really stop moving. Like, ever.

What are their unique features? (Ex: freckles, big ears, birthmark, scars, etc.)

You know in my answer to question one, when I told you Lorna has blue eyes? Well ... I lied. Sorry.

One of her eyes is blue - but if you look really, really carefully (like close enough to kiss her carefully) her right eye is the tiniest bit green. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is unique and interesting.

Yay me for coming up with it.

How tall are they? What is their build (Ex: stocky, slender, petite, etc.)

Do you really want to ask Lorna this question? Do you really want to ask ANYONE this question? Characters can be sensitive about this stuff, you know.

*Waits, hoping you won't notice I just said that to delay because I have no idea what to say*

Um ... I've thought about it for a long time, and all I can really think is "curvier than Grace".

What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?

Does this GIF answer your question? 

Your character has been seen on a “lazy day” (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?

Lorna's usually a really morningy person - she gets dressed straight away and just kind of gets on with it. Because getting dressed is the funnest part, for her. But it doesn't matter who you are or what you look like. Lazy days are still pyjama days. She's probably really scruffy, but with a perfectly made-up face and nails because she's been experimenting.

Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewellery on a regular basis? Do they have any article of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?

Lorna isn't the kind of person who wears glasses, even though she technically needs them to read and really, really struggles with contacts (because disability might not define her, but it can make fiddly things a little difficult). She just doesn't want to, and that's okay.

What she does like (as my nodding Ariel will no doubt have warned you) is accessories. Bracelets clank against her wheels when she pushes herself, so she only wears them for special occasions, but she loves them - along with anything else sparkly, to be honest. She's like a blonde magpie.

Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!

No-one would dare bully Lorna Rosen. She's too sassily awesome and her best friend has far too good a right hook. (One person tried to call her a sp*z once, and TIPPED HER OUT OF HER WHEELCHAIR. Once Grace was through with him, no-one ever tried again.)

What she is used to is the judgemental looks. The genuinely curious ones from kids aren't really as bad, although their parents always pull them away anyway. The horrible stares are the ones from adults who try to pretend they're not looking, or attempt to be nice by smiling in a less-than-faintly patronising way.

It's nice that they're trying to be nice, but it doesn't feel great to be treated like a five year old.

Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their appearance, what would it be?

Lorna tells people she's comfortable with herself and her looks - and for the most part, she is. But, if she's going to be more honest than she even is with Grace, she feels like she has to wear makeup and accessorise herself to be treated like a real human being sometimes. Which of course she hates, but something compels her to do it anyway.
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