Whodunnit? 4 Mysterious Books to Spice Up Your Summer

Now, I don't know about you, but I am in general a pretty big fan of murder.

Sorry, sorry. Murder mystery books. That was what I meant. Please don't call the police. I'm not exactly cut out for jail and they probably wouldn't let me blog from in there anyway, so I guess it's in your interest to keep quiet.

NOT THAT I'M A MURDERER, THOUGH.

I am, however, a morbid enough person that I very much enjoy murder mysteries, and ... I guess if your worldview is skewed enough to be spending your time here, then I'm assuming you are too? I like to read a nice chilling thriller to cool me down in the middle of a hot summer, but if you're in the southern hemisphere, then don't despair. My British summer is always so full of rain that I'm sure your winter can't be much colder.

Anyway - if I can drag my stereotypical British self away from complaining about the weather for two seconds - let's get down to the books.

#1 ~ S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett
I might be slightly obsessed (as the ridiculously large stack of Harrow: A Very British School recordings on our TV will demonstrate) with any type of media that gives me a glimpse of how the other half lives. I'm genuinely enthralled by the whole stately-home, deer-hunting, reputation-obsessed aesthetic, and when you give me some along with a side dish of murder?

You have the recipe for one of my favourite books of this year.

It isn't a traditional murder mystery, because a) the death is at the end, not the beginning, and b) you know straight away who the murderer is. The victim's fairly obvious too. But everything else? Yeah, you won't have a clue. This is one of those books that just grips you from start to finish (with twists! such twists!), and the cliffhangers are blooming ridiculous.

Honestly, I would have loved it just for the discourse on social media and whether it's good for humankind or not. But the murder helps too.

#2 ~ One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Do you want to know how the author came up with this book?

She watched The Breakfast Club, loved it, and then thought to herself "what a great movie, but it really could do with some more murder". If that isn't one of the best premises for a book ever, then I honestly don't know what is.

Basically, a kid dies in detention. And he's the kind of kid that, if they were going to be honest, everyone would have a motive to murder. But which of the four POV characters did it? And why? And, as a reader, how are you going to cope with the fact that you can't trust the people you're starting to empathise with?

What made the whole thing so engrossing was the way it effortlessly mingled high-school gossip, teenagerhood, and the emotional mess that was a police investigation without making the former seem trivial or the latter seem overdramatic. The characters were absolutely flawless - that's including all the secondary characters and parents, which in YA in particular is amazing (the parents! meant! something!) - and I think it says something about how well this book is crafted that despite sniffing out the murderer almost immediately, I was then completely convinced that my first instinct was wrong by all the red herrings, turned upside down, and sucked in by the story. The whole thing is just properly brilliant.

#3 ~ These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Because who doesn't love the idea of a 20s high-society New York girl solving the murder of her father, all the while trying to convince her journalist sidekick that she has what it takes to work at his newspaper?

As you might predict, it's a wild ride from start to finish. The characters are gorgeously hilarious, and I absolutely adored getting a view into the crime-solving methods of a hundred years ago - there's basically one forensic officer in the whole of the city, who is the best kind of nerd, and everyone looks at him like a bit of an oddity. Which he is, but not because of his fascination with forensics.

Also! Such! Feminism! GREAT DISCUSSIONS! TACKLING THE PATRIARCHY! PROVING SEXISTS WRONG! (Sorry, I guess I got a little overexcited there.) The main character, Jo, was incredibly independent but also slightly naive due to her sheltered upbringing, which of course gives you some very funny moments when they get to the wrong side of town involving horny men and pimps and poor Jo having absolutely no idea what's happening.

In summary: if you're looking for your murder fix wrapped up in a gorgeous 1920s setting, then this is the book for you.

#4 ~ The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Not only is this book an absolutely nail-biting, heart-stopping, twisty-turny wonder of a murder mystery, but it also has a kickass team of main characters, an absolutely hilarious case of British-American culture shock, and ghosts. That's before you even get to the spree of Jack-the-Ripper style killings.

Never let it be said that I don't treat you, okay?

What I love (and hope you'll love) about this particular style of murder mystery is that it's not entirely plot-driven. Don't get me wrong, the plot is excellent, but it's spurred on by a group of characters that you genuinely care about - which only makes the whole thing more thrilling because you're constantly worried that they might die.

One book isn't enough tension for you? No worries! This is the first in a series of three, just to make sure that your nerves are completely shot by the end.

***
In the comments: Are you guys as into murder ... mystery books as I am? Can you give me some more recommendations? Or did you love any of these?
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How to Make Aesthetic Collages and Prettify the Internet

I'm not sure if you guys are aware, but I'm fast becoming majorly, majorly obsessed with picture collages. I basically put them anywhere I can ... tags, lists, some of the oldest posts on my Tumblr.

Oh, you were aware? Because you've noticed how heavily they feature in this post and this post and almost every conversation I've ever had online? I was worried that might be the case. Anyway, huge thanks to Dina for asking for kind-of-sorta-asking-for this, because I don't think I'd have thought to write it otherwise.

Are you guys ready to spend surprising amounts of time tearing your hair out in the name of aesthetic? Don't worry - the first ones are the hardest. You'll get a knack for it eventually.

Step 1 ~ Pick your aesthetic

You can probably predict that, since it is quite literally the name of the game, identifying and sticking with your aesthetic is pretty darn important - and honestly, most of the time it picks itself based on what you're trying to do. If you're making a collage for your favourite ship from a YA Contemporary, then you know you're looking for something cute and a little bit sugary; if it's a Ravenclaw theme, you want something more classic, with an air of learning and seriousness.
You then need to choose your colours based on those aesthetics. Again, it's really simple, but having a basic palette in mind really helps when it comes to combing through photos and trying to figure out what's going to work with what. That contemporary one would probably suit pastels and paleness, your Ravenclaw aesthetic would need some cool tones (specifically blues and coppers, obviously) and something more romantic would require warmer colours, maybe with some smoke or fire.

Step 2 ~ Find some images

I'm only going to say this once, so I'd better say it very loudly: IF YOU PLAN TO USE YOUR COLLAGE IN ANY PUBLIC CAPACITY WHATSOEVER, THE IMAGES YOU USE NEED TO BE PROPERLY LICENCED FOR DESIGN. This goes for if you're using it online, in print, on some missing cat posters ... you're probably okay if all you want to do is stick it up on your bedroom wall, but if there's even the slightest chance the photographer might see it, then you'll need to do things properly.

Luckily, it transpires this is relatively easy, provided you know where to look.

What I tend to do is make sure that all of my images are licenced under Creative Commons Zero - which means that the photographer is happy for you to use that particular work in any context, edit / remix it, and even make money out of it without giving credit, provided you don't pass the work off as your own. And, of course, credit is always appreciated. My favourite search engine to use is Unsplash, because the sheer artistry involved in its photos is stunning, but their selection isn't huge - if you're struggling to find something specific you definitely want, then Pixabay is a good backup. I also found Pexels when I was doing the research for this post, and their library is seriously impressive.
When it comes to actually finding photos that fit, it might be a good idea to brainstorm yourself a few search terms related to your theme- colours, keywords, even specific items from the plot of a book, like the mini eggs that I included in my Upside of Unrequited collage. Don't go nuts like I have above, because you only need a maximum of about six images and sometimes you find everything you need on the first try, but be willing to cast your net as wide as you need it. Once you find a good image, save it to your computer.

I like to at least attempt to get some different-shaped photos - some portrait, some landscape, some square - since they make for a more interesting collage. This can be tricky though, particularly if you're struggling to find what you want, so don't worry too much about it if it's becoming a headache.

Step 3 ~ Open a blank collage

I use PicMonkey to do this because it has a specific collage function and you can use it straight out of your browser pretty much hassle-free. (Absolutely #NotSpon, just to be clear.) If you're a diehard Canva or BeFunky or insert-other-photo-editor-here addict, then I guess you probably could use whatever you're more comfortable with, but I only know PicMonkey, so you'd have to be pretty confident that you can make it work by yourself or with some other tutorial.

If you are using PicMonkey, you'll want to hover over the "Collage" icon in the top menu and select "Computer". Select your required photos from whatever folder it is you have them in (check Downloads or Pictures if they've disappeared entirely) and you should be taken into an editing screen that looks something like this:

Step 4 ~ Choose your layout

This can be as simple or as complicated a step as you need it to be: to insert a photo into a collage, just drag it from the photos menu on the left of the screen into one of the hatched grey areas (or cells) on the picture itself. I tend to just start sticking photos into cells to see if they work, messing with the shape (which you can do pretty easily by dragging the dotted lines) and adding in more if I need to (to add a cell, just drag a picture into a space between two existing ones, and it should just appear). The interface might take you a few experiments to figure out, but it isn't that tricky once you've had a little practice.

If you're unsure about finding a way to fit pictures together, then you can use one of PicMonkey's pre-made layouts - switch from "Photos" to "Layouts" (the second icon down) on the left hand menu - and just start sticking your photos into that. Don't feel locked in by the proportions, either - you can click the little padlock at the bottom of the screen and drag at the edges of the collage to change the size around as required to ensure your photos aren't squished.

Step 5 ~ Make It Pop!

If you've followed all the steps above, then you should technically have yourself a finished collage. But is it a little meh? Don't worry! Here are some things which I think make a big difference to the appearance of a nearly-finished collage.
  • Colour the borders between the pictures
    • See that little paintbrush icon? The very last one in the left hand menu? If you click on it, you can change the thickness of those borders (or make them disappear), round the corners, or change their colour. If you find a colour that matches the palette of your pictures, it makes them look a lot more coherent, and anyway you should avoid white when publishing to a blog with a white background because the edges kind of disappear and it looks funny. I like to use the little eye-dropper to pick a colour directly out of one of the pictures, because otherwise the exact tone is ridiculously difficult to replicate.
  • Focus in on certain parts of each image
    • If you hover your cursor over an image in a cell, you should see a sort of pencil in a circle. Clicking on it will give you the option to change the zoom, and dragging the picture around within the cell allows you to move it so that different sections are in the frame. This effect is perfect if there are certain parts of an image that don't fit your aesthetic, because it allows you to focus in on only the colours that match.
  • Add in swatches and colours
    • Have a space to fill on your layout, but no image to fit it? No worries. By clicking on the "Swatches" tab, which is the third icon down on that left hand menu, you can find loads of cute patterns to add (they're organised by theme, so make sure you click on the drop down menu and look at each one in turn to get the full selection). They're especially great for really cutesy aesthetics, but if you can't find one to fit, you can always just choose a block colour by clicking back on that paintbrush and selecting "Cell" instead of "Background". Click on the specific cell to fill it.

***
In the comments: Did you find this useful? Send me links to your aesthetics! Is there anything else you need to know?
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5 Real-World Advantages to Being a Blogger

I'm assuming I don't have to convince you guys that being a blogger is amazing.

You get to meet tons and tons of likeminded people, you have your own personal little corner of the internet that you are overly proud of ... and your social media stats, no matter how paltry in blog-world, are super-impressive to your real-world buddies.

(I know, I'm transparent, competitive and vain. Shh.)

But these are all internet-based advantages. What's the point of all this when we inevitably have to log out, close the laptop and step into the big, scary wide world? Well, I have some suggestions:

#1 ~ The CV boost is insane

Okay, my friends, story time.

A little over six months ago, I was hardcore freaking out trying to find myself some work experience. I applied everywhere I could think of that would be mildly interesting, be that publishing houses, libraries, bookshops ...

I'll be honest, I wasn't casting the widest net in the world. But when I was offered to come in and interview at a local bookshop (which, thanks to fiddly insurance stuff and already having said yes somewhere else, I didn't actually do), I discovered that the girl who sat next to me in science had also gone for one there.

The first thing her interviewer said to her was "oh, are you the one that has a blog?" And she is absolutely, definitely not a blogger.
The "blog" part of my CV had stood out so far in the mind of whoever was reading it that it sounds like they were attempting to apply it to anyone from my school who happened to walk through the door. It might not be this dramatic every time - and I'm keen to emphasise that she had not been asked to interview thanks to any of my skills: they were jumping at the chance to have her even without the blogging thing - but it illustrates just how much potential bosses love bloggers, particularly if their blog is vaguely related to the industry they're applying to.

If you're writing a CV and trying to come up with some skills you could demonstrate through your blog, I would go with:
  • commitment
  • social media skills! (seriously, they love this, particularly if you have expertise with stats)
  • photo editing? video editing? HTML manipulation? GIF selection? Whatever it is that you've had to somehow figure out between headdesks in order to make your blog look pretty.
  • you can write things
Hang on, no. I have to expand on that last point.

#2 ~ You get some great writing practice

I've low-key dreamed of being an author / writer / story-making person for a very long time. Imagining things is one of my favourite things to do, I love reading and everyone I know has always encouraged me to write ... but I find the idea of sitting down with a blank word processor not just terrifying, but lonely. I'm getting better now (thanks to the amazing practice that is blogging) but it turns out that I will only sit down and actually write something if I have a deadline and immediate feedback available.

BLOGGING, MY FRIEND.

And this doesn't just apply to people who might want to write books in the indeterminate future. Blogging gives us a very specific skill: an ability to write for an audience who have limited time and a lot of possible content out there to read. This skill can be applied everywhere, because you have both adaptability and your own style. Texts. School assignments. Emails (especially ones that are asking for something). You can use it for networking, getting your point across ... missing cat posters ...
In a way, it's not even writing practice. It's communication practice. And if you've figured out a way to live your life in the world without communicating in any way whatsoever, then please let me know.

#3 ~ I don't think there's a better way to learn about your subject

My absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of many, many random things is almost entirely thanks to blogging. Obviously, I can tell you about the current YA market and what's about to release, but also how the publishing industry works, the politics of diversity in media, what it takes to be an author in an ever-changing world ... and a lot of other, much weirder things besides. 

What I think blogging does is two-fold. It exposes you to people and channels chock-full of incredibly specific knowledge and news - stuff that there is no way you just stumble upon - but it also gives you an obsessive enthusiasm for the whole topic. You get introduced to all these people who care about it just as much as you do, and it creates a sort of frenzy in which you all get more and more excited about the whole thing.

We become slightly dangerous, quite honestly.
I was always obsessed with books, otherwise I guess I would never have started this blog in the first place, but what I've been experiencing in the last few years is next level. I never walk into a bookstore without at least three recommendations to sniff out. I always know when my favourite author has a book out. I drag my parents to conventions maybe twice a year.

All this is very book-centric, of course, but it applies everywhere. It's tech bloggers who can tell you exactly what PC to get and why. Fashion bloggers are the ones who know which boutiques to check out. And if you need a great recipe, you'll find something a lot more original by talking to a food blogger rather than a cookbook.

Basically, blogging gives you superpowers. So obviously that's an advantage wherever in the universe you end up.

#4 ~ It gives you an excuse to buy stuff

This actually could be a disadvantage, since having an excuse to buy stuff also means that you buy a lot of stuff. Money-wise, it's probably a bad idea.

But having an excuse to read books also means that I can spend way more time in bookshops than is strictly necessary, pre-order the latest books at extortionate shipping prices in the name of ensuring I am 100% up-to-date, and feel no guilt! I guess strictly I don't need to feel guilt anyway, since it's my money and I can do what I want with it, but it's nice to have justification when the parentals are rolling their eyes at being dragged into yet another room full of shelves.

"Yes, Mum, I do have to go in despite having been in another branch of the exact same shop less than half an hour ago. It's research."

#5 ~ It's ... fun?

Yeah, sounds kind of obvious. But think about this. Having fun doesn't just have short term effects (you know, excessive smiling, the odd peal of laughter, generally being a happy lil' sushi roll) - it also means you're looking after your mental health by making time to do the things you love. In fact, it's kind of impossible not to make time for the bloggersphere - because, never forget, it is EVERYWHERE - and I really love that. It's so easy for a lot of other hobbies to slip away, no matter how much you love them, just because you feel like you can't justify the time required in your already-busy life.

Please don't do that with blogging. Obviously, if it's too much for whatever reason, you can take a break. Don't feel forced to keep going if you aren't enjoying yourself, because that's not beneficial to you, your brain or the people around you. But if you do love it, make time.

There are so many real-world advantages to benefit from!

***
In the comments: What day-to-day advantages have you discovered being a blogger has given you? Where have you gone that you never would have been able to reach otherwise? And which of these advantages do you think is the most beneficial?
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The Cake-Flavoured Books Tag

I would like to open by admitting that I am stealing the blog version of this tag from Cait @ Paper Fury, a) because nobody tells me what to do when it comes to cake or blog tags, and b) because she told me I could.

Please. I'm badass, but I'm no thief.

Originally, this was a #Bookstagram tag, so don't forget to go check out all the pretty pictures! Unfortunately very few of them actually feature cake - although, let's be honest, even if they all did it still wouldn't be enough cake - but maybe you could look at them ... then look at some cake?

Oh, I see. You've already eaten it.

#1 ~ CHOCOLATE CAKE

a dark book that you absolutely love
Not only is Deidre Sullivan's Needlework one of the most unapologetically fearless books I've read in my entire life, but it's properly dark. Beautifully dark. There are so many gritty YA books that seem like they're being gritty for the sake of it. They feel like some poor misguided person has decided all they need to do for the teens to like them is be "edgy". But this was dark because it needed to make a statement. And I adored it.

On a slight side note, I GOT TO MEET THE AUTHOR AT YALC TODAY, and she is genuinely one of the nicest people ever. I will treasure that signed copy for ever.

#2 ~ VANILLA CAKE

a light read
Oh gosh I think The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli might have caused me to lose an eye thanks to excessive squeeing. It was cute and fresh and cute and self-discovering and cute and diverse and cute and did I mention how cute it was yet?

There's also an awful lot of lovely food descriptions going on, so I'm pretty sure its characters would be very happy to be in a vanilla cake category. Preferably one with mini eggs on the top? And lots of super-special cookie dough that's made specifically to be eaten raw? (Actually, I'm now imagining Molly baking a cake like that for Reid and now I'm dying of the feels AGAIN.)

#3 ~ RED VELVET

a book that gives you mixed emotions
This would absolutely have to be Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

The full review I was planning to write on the blog at the time never materialised, but you can get an idea just how torn up I was feeling after reading this book by reading my Goodreads review. On the one hand, I guess I was kind of glad that disability was being represented to the masses? And, unlike an awful lot of people, I felt that the ending was at least in character, despite it being a little bit problematic.

But I'm also of the opinion that any portrayal of pretty much anything that ends up being this patronising has not been researched or thought out properly. Lou's absolute inability to think anything through when it came to what might be difficult for Will was properly frustrating (it's possible to do an awful lot of things in an electric wheelchair, but not through sheer optimism. You need a PLAN. And almost everyone else in the book would have told her that, if she'd bothered to ask.); the author's constant assumptions that a disabled person definitely wouldn't be reading the book left me furious, and the general feeling that lives with physical disabilities are inherently tragic was just utterly heartbreaking.

Is that mixed enough for you?

#4 ~ CHEESECAKE

a book you'd recommend to anyone
Oh WOW so so many. I hate to be prescriptive about what people read, because of course there's no book that everyone's going to love equally. (The original draft of this post contained a very elaborate metaphor attempting to explain how stupid it would be to expect everyone to love one book, but ... it was a fashion metaphor and I know exactly nothing about fashion.)

My point is, there's no book that everyone's going to love. But there are books that have subject matters so important that I think everyone should at least try to read them.

What springs to mind right this instant is The Hate U Give by Angie Stanton, because, to quote the slightly all-over-the-place notes I wrote immediately after reading: "As a white person, I'm sure I probably won't ever fully understand how important this book is, but I will spend my entire life trying."

You heard me. Go read it!

#5 ~ COFFEE CAKE

a book you started but never finished
I really wish that this wasn't the case, but I never got to the end of The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood. I KNOW. I'm TERRIBLE. It really makes me sad - I absolutely definitely wanted to finish it before the TV show started so I could watch it and be well informed.

But then it was long and there were other books on my TBR that just seemed more interesting and apparently I'm terrible at making excuses.

#6 ~ CARROT CAKE

a book with great writing
Since the astronomically late Wrap-Up that I posted on Wednesday, I have actually finished The List by Sioban Vivian, and while it wasn't one of my favourite books of the year (mostly because it ended about four chapters before I think it should have - much growling), I can't deny that I have absolutely no clue how the author managed to keep all the different characters and their viewpoints separate, to the point where I could tell who was narrating each chapter within sentences, without reading their name headings and despite long breaks between readings.

I thought it was very well written, anyway. But it appears that Goodreads disagrees with me.

#7 ~ TIRAMISU

book that left you wanting more
First of all, I have a serious problem with this prompt. Tiramisu does not leave me wanting more, it leaves me wanting something very sweet to wash it down with and preferably a time machine to prevent my past self from naively biting into what I can only describe as a bitter, coffee flavoured hell.

Anyway.

I have been waiting for Obsidio, the final book in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's Illuminae Files, for almost six months now and there are still another nine to go. I am absolutely dying. So I guess you could say that the amazing Gemina left me wanting more.

*quietly explodes* 

#8 ~ CUPCAKES

a series with 4+ books
Uhhhhh ... brain coming up completely blank ... somebody please help.

Harry Potter?

*cowers under weight of own unoriginality*

#9 ~ FRUIT CAKE

book that wasn't what you expected
Oh, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, absolutely without a doubt. I decided to join my Mum's proper-grown-ups book club last year, which was possibly a mistake since the books they read are, like, intellectual and that. Me with my immature nature and my stack of teen books didn't know what I was getting into. But when I heard that this book was a satirical look at racism within America and its judicial system, I was interested. I like challenging racism. I'm interested in law within America.

But what I got was a horrible confusing mess that SOUNDED LIKE it might have been trying to condone slavery. I know it's satire, so clearly that wasn't what it was actually doing, but the sarcasm was just too advanced for poor safe-minded me.

I expected interesting. I got confusing.

How sad.

#10 ~ LAMINGTON

favourite Australian books
I was going to change this one into Victoria Sponge, because being British I actually haven't read that many Australian books. (Utterly heartbreaking, I know, but if you're Australian please don't hate on me. Just ... send me recs to help rectify the situation?)

Luckily, I then remembered about the existence of The First Third by Will Kostakis, which is possibly my favourite book portraying Cerebral Palsy (which is my disability, in case anyone wasn't paying attention) of, well - ever.

There's a full review and interview with the author over on the Disability Diaries section of the blog, but in short: disabled person existing in a book. Disabled person being ridiculously realistic in a book. Disabled person having thoughts and feelings independent of their disability in a book.

Disabled person (!) who is also gay (!!) having romance (!!!) IN A BOOK (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
I was going to tag every blogger I knew who liked cake, but then I realised that if I did that I'd literally be tagging everyone. Feel free to steal it if you fancy!

Kate @ The Magic Violinist - because those cupcakes she made for her Tony's party were absolutely extraordinary.

Ely @ Tea & Titles - because she obviously needs tea with her cake.

Marie @ Lots of Livres - because we have a newbie to the community! HUZZAH!

***
In the comments: (Because we all know this is the only question that matters) - WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE KIND OF CAKE?
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Wrapping Up June

So. This is late. I know. But I've spent far too much time and written far too much on this to just scrap it, so we're just going to stop talking about exactly how long ago this should have gone up, and then hopefully no-one will notice.

Act natural, 'kay?

BOOKS

First off, I'm just going to apologise for the fact I have done exactly no reviews of Goodreads for any of these books. I literally only just remembered to actually log that I'd read them. So ... let's hope my memory holds out, huh?

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton 
I was so, so excited for this book. I mean, there was no way I couldn't have been - the hype was absolutely astronomical, as I'm sure you'll be aware if you haven't been living under a rock for the last century. And the first scene was amazing. And I was so blooming glad to finally read a fantasy world which wasn't generically based in Western Europe.

But then, chapter by chapter, it got less and less amazing. As Amani got more in touch with her ... er ... mysterious side (that's a terrible adjective to use but I honestly can't think of any other which doesn't spoil the heck out of the midpoint of the book), she sharpshooted (sharpshot? shot sharply?) less and less. It made me sad. She honestly just seemed less badass.

That said, she was still pretty darn badass.

Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell ☆☆
So, there were great things in this book. Great great things. But you know what I was saying about being sick of generically Western European fantasy world? This one was supposed to be based on parts of Egyptian culture, but other than the names ... eh, I didn't really see it. Don't get me wrong, the idea itself is incredible, and again the first scene was absolutely fricking incredible (plus great characters and moral questionability and all that cool shabang) but it wasn't my favourite book this month.

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus 
OH MY BLOODY WORD this book was incredible and brilliant and GAH!

I mean, there's murder. In a school. Being solved by a bunch of high schoolers who you think are labels; only they're not. They're people. And they're awesome and GOSHDAMMIT THEY'RE SOLVING A MURDER BECAUSE THEY'RE ALL SUSPECTS.

The fact that I'm incoherent only means that it's better.

Show Stopper by Hayley Barker 
This is honestly one of the most important books I've read this year and I want to recommend it to absolutely everyone currently living on the face of this earth. The world is a scary place right now - to be frank the endless divisions between people are driving me insane - and Show Stopper was absolutely unashamed about showing that in all its terrifying truth. Along with a healthy dose of compassion and hope.

And luuuurve. In fact, I'm pretty sure the romance was the one element that was out of balance - it was in no way graphic, but ... I don't know, maybe it slightly took away the importance of platonic love towards the end?

Read this one anyway. Because I could be very wrong.

The War on Women: And The Brave Ones Who Fight Back by Sue Lloyd Roberts ★
This book ... wow. It's one of the best introductions to modern-day feminism - and the issues it's facing worldwide - that I've ever read and I honestly think that it has a lot of power to open eyes. There are parts which I guess you could consider controversial, and since it contains such a personal view on many issues I feel like I have to do more research ... but I'm really glad I read this because otherwise I would never have known to do that research.

Also, I think Sue Lloyd Roberts might be my new hero. I really wish I'd known about her work when she was alive.

THE BLOGGERSPHERE

First off, I believe I must apologise for the tiny amount of blogging I've ended up doing this month. I wish I could say that I've had exams or something else that makes up a good excuse, but honestly it's just a combination of it being the end of the Summer Term (so all my music commitments and representing-the-school gigs have gone up a notch or two) and it being the end of the Summer Term (so my traitorous brain has decided it would rather switch off and watch YouTube videos than do literally anything that vaguely resembles work).

Although - if I'm going to be even more honest - it does that all the time anyway. 

I did, however, do a guest post at the lovely Alyssa's blog a few weeks ago (although it seems like absolutely forever now. How time flies when you're procrastinating) as part of her Local Book Nook series. It's an awesome project and Alyssa still needs more contributors, so go ahead and check it out!

(Thank you so much for having me, Alyssa. I had a slightly geeky amount of fun writing that post.)

Anyway, here are some other posts that I have enjoyed this last month. I have been ghosting out on the blogging world for a bit lately ... but I have been reading things! And these are the things I have loved.

How to Feel More Included in the Blogosphere by Amber @ The Mile Long Bookshelf
Oh, my days, how I wish this post had existed when I was a baby blogger. How I wish that, when I'd published my first post expecting everyone to come say hi immediately, I'd had this to turn to. Because it would have made me feel so much better! I would have had strategies to use and online places to go and meet people, rather than just thinking it was all my fault and nobody liked me. I worked all this stuff out in time, of course, but it was a stressful few months.

And, honestly, since I've not posted for a while and therefore put myself in a kind of mini-exile ... it's nice for the current me to have these tips available too.

Meet My New Kitten by Ely @ Tea and Titles
I don't know about you, but this month's been a busy one and I definitely needed a bit more cute kitty cat in my life when I stumbled across this one.

Because CAT. Cat = relaxation. And I don't care how full the internet is with kittens, moggies and other form of feline - it can always squeeze in one more.

TBR PILE


The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
This is not my usual kind of book. Magical realism is often just too fairy-story for me? Or maybe I just can't deal with the melding of fantasy and reality because of my teeny tiny common sense brain? Anyway, I almost definitely wouldn't be picking it up if it hadn't been chosen by my online book club. The girls that run Book Box Club (which you should totally check out, by the way, because it's WONDERFUL #notspon) haven't given me something I didn't like yet, so fingers crossed!

The List by Sioban Vivian
So this book seems ... ambitious, let's put it that way. Eight POVs? Most of whom don't even know each other, so their days are full of completely different things? It sounds like a recipe for a hot head-hopping mess.

But the premise sounds incredibly interesting, so I'm willing to give it a try.

URGH LOOK AT ME BEING SO NEGATIVE! *VIOLENTLY CHANNELS INNER POSITIVITY*

*FAILS*

Girlhood by Cat Clarke
I can talk all I like about wanting to read this book because I've read one or two from the same author before, back in my hazy pre-internet days, and loved them. I can say that, although I'm not especially a Zoella fan, I'm sort of intrigued by the whole book club thing and wanted to give a few of this year's picks a go.

Honestly ... I am a transparently manipulated person and the copy they had in the bookshop was signed.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This one comes highly recommended by my mother. I obviously have no choice but to love it.
***
In the comments: What have you guys been reading recently? Anything you think I might enjoy? And can you think of ANYTHING that's ever been later than this wrap-up?
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HELP ME! HELP ME!

Hello, my friends. Please, have a seat. I need to ask you a favour.

I study Business. Sounds niche, I know, but it's a compulsory subject at our school and actually kind of fun, so ...

Oh jeez, I'm already on a tangent and I was trying to make this short.

As part of our course, we need to complete a piece of research - and as part of that research, I need as many people as possible to fill in a survey for me. This is a targeted survey, so it's only intended for librarians, booksellers, authors or ANYONE WHO READS A LOT.

If you're reading this blog, then I'm guessing you might be the kind of person I'm looking for.

Below is the Survey Monkey I'd like you to fill in. If you have any questions, please email me on the "Contact Me!" sidebar just over on the right - and if your question is "could I please have your firstborn child", then no. I am sorry. You might be able to nab the second-born, if you hurry, but I'm afraid I've already pledged the first to a nice witch who gave me her WiFi connection.

Thank you very, very, very, very VERY much for being lovely enough to fill that in. If you have the kind of social media following who you think would be suitable respondents, would you be lovely and share?

Ta very much.
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5 OTPs To Melt Your Heart

I'm in a very squeeable mood today. I fancy melting into a small puddle of pleased goo. In order to help me achieve this slightly alarming goal, would you like to discuss some OTPs?

Good. Because I'm going to rabbit on about them regardless.

Them? I know. Technically - and I mean technically - the "O" in OTP stands for "One", meaning I should not have several. 
Well pish to that.
There is already an OTP post going on somewhere in the deep recesses of this blog's archives, but ... they're deep, as I say. It's been a while. And I wanted to come up with some kind of opportunity to make some aesthetics, since photoediting is becoming more and more like an addiction for me and I've got to let it out somehow. Please enjoy:

Abby and Will (Waking in Time by Angie Stanton)

Seriously. Couples from different centuries should get together more often. Except ... not when there isn't time travel involved? Because I think it would be creepy otherwise?
But there are so many reasons I love these guys. They are funny, caring and fiercely loyal. They make me laugh ... AND GOSHDAMMIT THEIR FIRST KISSING SCENE WAS IN THE FIFTIES. GREASE STYLE.
Excuse me if the musical nerd inside is getting a bit overwhelmed by all of this. 

Elena and Gabe (Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell)


What I love about these guys is their absolute unashamed geekiness. The fact that they meet in a line waiting to see the new Star Wars film, despite the fact that modern booking systems mean they could spend the week before its release at home instead of shivering on the pavement outside the cinema ... and still get seats at the premier screening. They wait in line out of the principle of the thing.

The fact that they then spend hours comparing favourite characters and consuming Yoda-festooned cupcakes and making emergency runs to Starbucks in order to refresh the absolutely vital face paint - because how else would everyone know what crazy fans they were?

The teasing is merciless, the debates about whether fake geeks can possibly exist are genuinely thought provoking, and I'M JUST LOVING THE WHOLE THING, OKAY?

Baz and Simon (Carry On by Rainbow Rowell)

So, yeah. You've probably not been able to tell - I am quite subtle about it, most of the time - but I love Rainbow Rowell. She sure can write a romance.

I think what I love about Simon and Baz is how obvious their love for each other is ... to everyone except themselves, that is. Often, I kind of end up hating this kind of slow-burn, tantalising romance, but this one was so well done I couldn't help but love it. There's something about two people admitting a romance to themselves at the same time they have to admit it to each other that just melts my heart.
And no, I don't ship Drarry. But since these guys are based off them, I guess I must have more sympathy towards them as a pairing than I'd thought.

Joe and Lennie (The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson)


More amazing geekery ... but of the band kind this time. I absolutely fricking loved these guys, and honestly most of it was because of the way they bonded through music. Complaining about conductors! Making eyes at each other in rehearsal!

I know. I'm a music nerd. Sue me.

But I honestly think that these guys would appeal to you whether or not you know what stave means. There are scenes in this book that I've honestly read two or three times just because the romance was so well done (and yes, because it was steamy. Despite many appearances to the contrary, I am actually human from time to time). Plus, Joe is French.

FRENCH.

Lennie never stood a chance, honestly.

Lola and Cricket (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins)

There's no romance like the romance of childhood sweethearts, let me tell you that much. I don't want to give too much away about exactly how happy the ending was for these two, since it's quite a spoiler, but they have these moments that absolutely melted my heart, mostly because, well, Lola had a boyfriend. Which was frustrating to the point you could just hear Cricket's heart breaking.

My poor, poor baby.

But Lola too ... these guys are made for each other. I know that's as soppy as heck, but honestly I'm not sure I really care. Cricket ever the gentleman, and Lola the perfect high lady of fashion.

*happy sigh*

Molly and Reid (The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli)

Apparently a pattern is emerging and I quite enjoy geeky couples. It's not surprising, really, since geek has never failed to = awesome, but what's so great about these guys specifically is that neither one of them were exactly in their comfort zone when it came to romance, and they supported each other, rather than one person doing all the reassuring.

If that made sense.

I liked this relationship because it was a partnership of equals. And you'd be surprised how rare that is in YA, since ... you know ... YA is partly about teaching teens what healthy relationships are? And equality is a big part of that healthiness?

Not to mention serious food appreciation and a Pinterest addiction. I like.

***
In the comments: What are your OTPs? (Come on, I know for a fact I'm not the only rebel with more than one). What is it that makes them so awesome for you? If you had to describe them in three pictures (or three words), what would they be?
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