Monday, 2 November 2015

Book Blogging: a New Beginning.

Book blogging is such an awesome thing. I am addicted to so many book blogs and follow so many book bloggers. My two favourite things! Books and blogs. I use book blogs when I'm stuck between shelves in Waterstones searching for a hot new read, much more than I do my Goodreads app. I chatter with fellow bloggers and often find myself jotting down their latest recommendations - films and music, yes, but mostly books. 


(Vintage Gracie, complete with purple locks and misguided morals, but an eternal love of books)

I've always tried so very hard to do it myself. Reading is something I've always been passionate about – at school I'd hide away at break time and read in the library (I became a fully-fledged student librarian in Year 9, not bragging or anything guys but yeah). I'd get picked on and be made to feel freaky as I'd be hiding from the playground goings on – I had no time for any of the pettiness or popularity contests out there in that world. I wanted to disappear into books. I remember so clearly when I was first introduced to Hermione Granger and I felt like I'd finally found my soul mate, my spirit animal and my literary sister.
Even now, nothing makes me happier than sitting in a coffee shop and diving into a book.
The difference is that reading is making a major comeback in this day and age. For a long while there it was a bit hard done by; it was deemed 'boring' by those who preferred to spend their free time gaming or binging on TV (no disrespect, mind you – Sims 2 is my guilty pleasure/ultimate calling, and I have been known to devour several series of certain shows in a day or two, cheers for that Netflix), and everyone was busy spending money on anything and everything else – nobody had time for books.

I would say I was true and faithful to the gorgeous literary world – but alas, my degree didn't allow me much recreational reading time. Especially with my course, it demanded I read all kinds of things – plays, theatre company textbooks, gothic classics, general classics, fairy tales, essay collections, poetry anthologies, and of course every kind of script under the sun... In fact I think the only me-time type reading I did, when I selected the book off the shelf purely because I was interested in it and not because I had to be, took place over the end of Christmas and Easter holidays each year. I'd be taking a breather from assignments, often living at uni when not many others were around meaning it was quiet and peaceful everywhere, and for two years in a row I was rehearsing for upcoming performances, so I found myself reading while sat still between my scenes.
Since uni, reading has been...everything! I read on breaks at work, on trains (oh, I am always on trains these days), over a cuppa, and of course right before bed for a good hour or so 'to tire my eyes out'... Even in hospital. Especially in hospital. The second time around, anyway. The first time I genuinely panicked and feared for my life because after my operation I couldn't read. As in, I would be sat there with a book in my lap, looking at the words and turning the pages, but nothing would go in. I couldn't get a grip on a plot, engage with characters, heck I couldn't even hold on to a single sentence as I swept my eyes over it. It was horrible. The books that I persevered with back then may need a re-read someday; I was not in a good place when I 'read' them so my reviews of them on Goodreads may have suffered because of that...

Getting to the point now, I promise... I have recently found the most wonderful friends in the UK YA community on Twitter. I have been wowed by so many of my fellow bookish bloggers – they are all so sweet, so friendly and so talented, all of them! They really care about each other, and get such joy from reading and discussing their reads! I am honoured to be in contact with these gorgeous people, and so grateful that they have welcomed me into their awesome community. I get so excited for events – the most recent of which was YA Shot in Uxbridge, arranged by the amazing Alexia Casale, which was oh so magical – and I am glued to my phone for #ukyachat almost every Friday at 8pm.
A lot of these guys work in the book world – be that writing, publishing, editing, agent-ing – and I am beyond envious as that's a dream career for me, for sure. I'd love to work at a publishing house with a side gig as an author... Someday, maybe!
Also (yes, definitely getting to the point now) the majority of them interview authors and review books on their blogs, or vlogs (BookTubers are so rad), which has totally inspired me to get back to reviewing my reads.
Which brings me back to my original aim for this blog post – which fast became a gushing love story between me and the UK YA community, sorry not sorry – I will be warming up my reviewing muscles with some short 'n' sweet recent read recommendations... Ready? Here we go!

Solitaire, by Alice Oseman.

This was the book that hauled me out of my reading slump. I was somewhere deep in a murky emotional hangover after polishing off all of the 'New Day New Normal' tour books (The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill, Another Day by David Levithan – see this post for some more gushing on those beauts), and because of this I didn't have high hopes for how many books I'd need over the course of one weekend away. I had just two in my backpack, but then one three-hour train journey later... Solitaire was well and truly devoured.
I've always liked/been awed by Alice Oseman – she's my age, she has the most brilliant mind and she's published before her degree is over. Also her fan art is rather gorgeous. And it says 'professional emo' in her Twitter bio. I feel like she and I could be the best of pals.
Solitaire is the story of Tori Spring, a blogger doing her A Levels and in the 'after' phase of some family drama. She is finding herself, and definitely not getting feelings for a certain quirky guy.
The story was leisurely to start with – there was a fair amount of showing, not telling, which is always good – but the middle to the end was a real race. Actually, that's how I'd describe the book; the storytelling. Real.
I cannot wait for Alice's next release, Radio Silence, in 2016!

As You Wish, by Cary Elwes.

Okay, I'm a major fangirl when it comes to The Princess Bride. It's a pathetic understatement merely saying it's my favourite film. I'm frankly shocked that I've made it to 22 without getting 'as you wish' or 'inconceivable' tattooed somewhere.
For months I was eyeing up this book in Forbidden Planet – all signed copies, so therefore priceless, but somehow going for £5 less than anywhere else! I was torn, having a TBR pile three stories high and so on a self-inflicted book-buying ban, and yet yearning for this gorgeous account of the making of this perfect film written by the one and only Westley... It's a first-person account but includes cute and enlightening add-ins and comments from his co-stars, the writer and director. It also includes photos taken on set and at the recent twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion, which made me so warm and fuzzy.
This has been the most delightful read between reads – a trusty hardback that I can keep on side for when I'm between novels or just in need of a break from one story. I don't think I'd actually commit to it the same way I would a weighty fiction – and that's because I am enjoying it so much I'm only allowing myself small doses so it won't be over too soon!


Beautiful Broken Things, by Sara Barnard.

I got so so lucky here, guys. Once again I must thank Twitter – and even pat myself on the back for my decision to start actually putting myself out there and replying to people I admire now and again. It's such a simple thing, makes total sense because it's one of the best things about social media, but my gosh it took me ages to finally tweet @ some of my favourite authors, journalists, TV types, bloggers and vloggers. So many good things have come of being more chatty and at times scarily forceful friendly on Twitter, and a proof copy of Sara Barnard's debut novel (which she presented to me over a cocktail on a school night in London so it was basically my dream scenario, people) is one of the best of these things. 
Beautiful Broken Things is the story of long-term besties Caddy and Rosie, and what happens when the beautiful, exciting, reckless yet damaged Suzanne comes crashing into their lives. 
First of all, I loved that this story took place in Brighton. I'm a Sussex girl and Brighton is my sacred place. I also loved each character – each sixteen year-old girl, their differing personalities and in one case colourful and troubled past – they were written in such a way that they came across so strongly and I became so invested and attached to them all. I could identify with each of them, for one reason or another.
Oh, and I adored the fact that this was the tale of friendships, with no romantic subplots – only the occasional mention of a boy and a wee bit of kissing. Brilliant! I really feel like I've got a glimpse of something big, here. Just you wait, readers. 
I am so delighted with my proof copy, however I will be needing to purchase the stunning blue and gold hardback when it's released February 11th 2016. Because...pretty.


Okay, that's three recommendations done! That was nowhere near as frightening as I'd anticipated, and actually got me so excited and tap-happy on my keyboard, that after publishing this I will be steaming ahead with the writing of my NaNoWriMo project (expect a post about this soon!)... 
So hopefully I'll be confidently posting reviews more frequently from now on! Hold me to this, please. I'm looking at you (pleadingly), my UK YA friends! 

Also, following my mention of reading physical books making a comeback earlier on in this post somewhere amongst the nostalgia and gushing... I spoke to BBC World (wow, that sounds so uppity) at the Young Adult Literature Weekender in the Southbank Centre a few weeks ago about just that - books vs e-books, and why actual books will always win.
(I'll now add the disclaimer that I spoke to the camera for a good ten minutes and in the end they only used a few seconds) (See also: my fantastical friend Louise Jones talking more eloquently than me, and not Ryan Hutchings as he clearly didn't make the cut, your loss BBC!) 

(You would not believe how hard it was to get a screenshot in those few seconds, never mind a half-decent face-wise screenshot...)

Just FYI...
Twitter: @GracieActually (if you enjoy manic chattering)
Instagram: @gracieactually (if you like books, cats and coffees). 

[Full list of favourite book blogs and bloggers COMING SOON!]

3 comments

  1. Fantastic post, I've been reading through your older posts for the past week or so and I just adore your writing style. Feels fresh and full of energy and always a pleasure to read. Keep up the amazing work Gracie.

    Always remember that whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.

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  2. Loved this post Grace! I've heard so much about Beautiful Broken Things already - can't wait to get hold of a copy next year!! Also, I'm so glad you included Solitaire because it's my absolute favourite book ever <3 xxxx

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  3. Oh Gosh! How did I not know about 'As You Wish'! I must purchase this immediately!
    ...I am denying the urge to say that it is inconceivable how I don't own it...but the urge is too strong! ;) Great post!

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