Thursday, 27 October 2016

7 Tips For Getting Out of a Blogging Slump

Blogging slumps. It seems like every single blogger gets into them sometimes (if you don’t, are you even human?), and when you do, it’s one of the most frustrating feelings. I know I absolutely hate having no inspiration for my blog, because I love my blog - it’s my baby! Blogging is one of my favourite things to do, so if I can’t... it’s not fun! I think I’ve seen a lot of people recently who feel like they’re in a bit of a runt, so here are some tips to help you out:

1. Have a design make over
This might sound like a weird one, but for me it really works. If for a while you feel like you’ve had no inspiration, you could drastically change your blog design. For me, this always makes me feel so excited to blog again, because I want to see what my new content looks like! Because my blog feels so pretty again, I tend to fall in love with it, so I want to work on it, which usually gives me so much motivation.

2. Read some of your older blog posts
When I’m feeling like my blog isn’t special to me anymore, I like to go through the archives and read the posts which I’m most proud of. For me, this reminds me of what I can write when I want to, and how great I can make my blog. Something that also helps is reading the comments on these posts - often when I’ve published a post I’m really proud of, other people like it too, and their kind words motivate me to carry on!

3. Hire a co-blogger
If you feel like you’ve been stuck in a slump for ages, something you could consider is getting a co-blogger to join your blog. Obviously I don’t have a co-blogger, but I’ve seen it work for a few people, since you’ll have someone else to share ideas with. Also, even if you do get into a slump whilst you have a co-blogger, you don’t need to worry! They’ll be able to post whilst you’re away, so they’ll be no pressure on you. I think this would mean that you’ll be able to get back to blogging quicker!

4. Chat to some blogger friends about it (thanks Emily for this tip!)
For some people, talking to blogger friends can really help. You could have a chat to some friends about your favourite parts about blogging, share tips, or even just have a good moan about how annoying blogging slumps are! If you want someone to chat to, I love making new friends, and my DMs are always open!

5.  Participate in a meme (even if only once)
Don’t get me wrong - I’m of the opinion that I don’t want to participate in a blog meme like Top Ten Tuesday (I think they’re repetitive and often unoriginal). But, because they’re so easy to make (someone thinks of the topic for you!), it might just help to get the inspiration flowing. I think the topics for TTT are really interesting (I just don’t like reading 20 of the same posts every week!), so they could inspire you to write your own post, or put your own spin on the suggestions.

6. Keep a list of blog post ideas
This tip isn’t really a way to get out of a blogging slump; more of a way to prevent one in the future. I have a word document of all my blog post ideas, so whenever I think of one, I can add it to the list, and then when I have time, I can come back and write it. I have hundreds, so if I feel like I don’t have any inspiration, I can check that list, and I’ve got a totally original post to write! I know some people do this in a journal instead, which is a super cool idea too.

7. Just wait it out
If all else fails, sometimes you’ve just got to wait until it passes and you get your blogging mojo back. You could publish a post telling your followers that you’re taking a break, and then just do something else completely for a couple weeks/months. Sometimes just completely taking it off your mind is the best thing that you could do, so then when you do feel like blogging again, there’s no pressure and you can come back in your own time.

If you're in a blogging slump right now, I hope this helps! Do you have any tips for getting out of one?

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

How I Edit My Book Photos (using VSCO!)

As you may know, as well as blogging, I really love to use Instagram to share pictures the books I'm reading and loving. In almost all of my recent blog posts, I have included some pictures from my Instagram page, because I find my aesthetic there is pretty similar. Today I'm going to share how I edit all my photos for free!

When most people share how they edit their photos, it's systematic, and almost definitely, they use Photoshop. I don't have Photoshop (all of my banners are made using Fotor!), so I edit all my photos on my phone, using free apps. Obviously this is a lot cheaper, but it's also more convenient for Instagram, because I can upload them straight to Instagram from VSCO. You can get VSCO for free on most phones/tablets, but if you're really serious about it, you can pay extra for some filters (which I don't). I think this would be pretty pointless, because the free filters do look stunning!

When I first started using VSCO, I was totally overwhelmed, and so confused by the UI. It's very minimalist, so the icons can be very confusing because they don't look like what they do (in my opinion, anyway!). I upload my pictures to VSCO straight from my camera roll because honestly, I have no idea how to do it from the app.

I always edit the colours/structure of the picture before adding a filter, because then I can get it exactly how I want it.

Just a quick heads up: this post has lots of images in, so if you're reading this on mobile, I'm sorry if it's trippy!

Some people here would do the edits in a special order, but I just do them in the order of the icons! First I will change the exposure. I usually do +1, and that's what I'm going to do for this picture, because it's a little dark.

Depending on the lighting, I would -1 the contrast if it's a particularly bright day, but I took this photo on an overcast day, so I don't think the contrast needs changing. I then skip a few of the icons until I get to the sharpen tool, which is probably one of my favourites! I take all my photos on my phone, so the quality isn't that great, so the sharpen tool makes them look so much clearer.

I had to reach up high to take this photo, so my phone was probably wobbling around a bit, and it's not the clearest. So for this photo, I've changed the sharpen to +7 to make it seem clearer and to get the full detail of the book! (because come on, this cover is so pretty!)

I then use the saturation tool. Most people hate this, or only use it in negatives, but it's actually one of my favourites for editing photos. You have to be careful how heavily you saturate your pictures, but I find it makes them feel warmer and brighter, if you use the right amount. I use saturation on all my photos!

I find it works best with reds, and this photo has a lot of red in it, so I've used quite a lot: +3.

I then fiddle around a little with the highlights save, and shadows save, I don't really know what they do, just that they change the lighting a little! I find the shadows save tends to make my pictures feel calmer, which I really like, so I usually do +2/+3 of that.

Next I alter the temperature. This is so important, because the saturation makes my photos feel too warm, so I usually make them feel colder. It loses some of the brightness, but the colours still pop, which I really like! The combination of these two tools work really well for me - it's important to find balance because they're so strong, but I love how they work together.

I then use the tint feature. I don't really know what it's actually meant to be used for, except it makes the photo a little more blue-ey. I really like this! I usually do +1 or +2, so my pictures feel a little bit more mellow and calm.

The final things I do are add a filter, and crop my photo! I've tried out all the filters, and my favourite is HB1. I tend to do around +5 on this, so all my pictures match on my feed. I will then crop out the bad bits, so make the book more central!

How do you edit your photos? Are there any tips I need to improve my editing? Leave me your Instagram too - I'm always on the look out for new accounts to follow!

Monday, 12 September 2016

The best sequel ever? // ARC Review: A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night
By Sabaa Tahir

Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2
Source: Harper Voyager UK (thank you!)
Format: ARC
Page count: 464
Published (UK): 8th September 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy,

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf - the Empire's most secure and dangerous prison - to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars' survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene - Elias's former friend and the Empire's newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus's will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own - one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape... and kill them both.

***I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, This does not affect my opinion***

Last year, I devoured An Ember in the Ashes on holiday, but at the time I read it, it was a standalone! So, obviously, I was so excited when the sequel was announced, and even more excited when I got an ARC to review. I went in with high expectations, but it completely blew them away because it was so much better than AEITA (which I didn’t think was possible!). It is maybe even my favourite sequel of all time!

I think the reason I enjoyed it so much was because of how invested I was in the characters. I already knew and loved them from the previous book, so I enjoyed getting back into their voices. Helene was still my favourite character, and she had her own POV in this book, which made me so happy! She was so fierce and caring - everything she did was thought about because she was so sensitive and loyal. She’s my favourite character from a book ever!

I loved all the other characters, too. Laia and Elias are our other protagonists, and they were so well executed as well. I liked Laia because she was determined to get what she wanted, and nothing could stop her, even if everyone thought she couldn’t! She was so clever, and her strong loyalty to her family was admirable.

A Torch Against the Night was incredibly well written and paced. It was written through 3 POVs (which sounds confusing, but never was!), so something was always happening to at least one of the characters. This made the book relentlessly exciting, which made me never want to stop reading it! Sabaa Tahir’s writing has really improved since her last book (which I didn’t think was possible!) which makes me so excited to read more from here. I would highly recommend the series, as it’s now one of my all-time favourites!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Review: The Problem With Forever

The Problem With Forever
By Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: None
Source: Netgalley (thank you, MIRA Ink!)
Format: eARC
Page count: 474
Published (UK): 31st May 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Abuse,

For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

When I began this book, I had no idea just how much it would affect me. To say this book made emotional would be to say the least! It’s such a tricky subject to write about, but the author handled it with care and sensitivity. It was beautiful, yet so heartbreaking, and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

This is a book about childhood abuse and negative pasts - how it affected the characters, and how the traumatic events have changed them forever. Obviously, it’s a very sensitive and hard hitting topic, which if not done right could be horrible and so offensive. I thought the topic was handled so carefully, which made the book even more heartbreaking.

The main thing that I liked so much about this book was just how emotionally affecting it was. I felt an instant connection to all the characters, so I was really invested in their story. The way they felt about themselves really impacted the way the story was going, so at many points I really felt like just shaking them! They were flawed, and seemed so real, which just made the book impact me even more, because I connected to them.

I really loved all the characters. Everyone was so unique and full of life that I really felt like I was in the moment, living it through Mallory’s eyes. Mallory was such a special character because she changed so much. The book showed that you can be quietly fierce, like Mallory was. Her strength and courage through such hard times was really admirable, and I loved reading about her fight.

My only problem with this book was the pacing. At the start, it did feel pretty slow, and there were some scenes that did feel unnecessary. I didn’t like Ainsley, so I found the parts where Mallory was with her to be pretty slow. I would have liked more time spent at Mrs Luna’s place too, because it was always so exciting there!

I would really recommend this book if you’re looking for  heart wrenching and very emotional book. I found the plot to be reminiscent of Colleen Hoover’s books, so if you’re a fan of her, I think you would enjoy this one! It takes a bit of time to get invested in the story, but once you are, this will be a story that is with you for a long time.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Something Needs to Change: A Feminist Rant

I am sick of YA books ignoring feminism. I am sick of YA female protagonists having so much internalised misogyny that it is teaching other girls to be that way. I am sick of the ‘hot abusive bad boy’ trope. I am sick of YA love interests controlling their girlfriends, and teaching younger audiences that this is acceptable, and even something to aspire too! I am sick of sexism being ignored and overlooked, or sometimes even praised. I am sick of anti-feminist YA and I demand change.

I recently read What’s A Girl Gotta Do? By Holly Bourne; it has changed my life, and made me realise just how much books - and the world - need to change. In the book, Lottie sets out to call out every piece of sexism she sees, and it was just so inspirational. We follow her struggles through it - because what she did would have pretty tough! - and it empowered and uplifted me so much that I want to change things. And this starts with YA books.

YA books are pretty progressive in their ideas about social justice. There’s books about race, class, feminism, gender, mental health that I don’t think you would find in any other genre, and I think this is a great thing! It’s one of the reasons why I love YA books so much. Obviously, they are targeted towards teenagers, and what better way to start to change the world than with the next generation? YA readers are often very open minded, so making books more feminist would teach people just how important the political movement is.

It’s pretty hard being a feminist - pretty much everything we do is over-analysed and criticized (which in itself is pretty sexist!). Everyone who added to #IAmAFeminist a few weeks ago got hate and people trolling them, just for sharing their opinion. It’s clear that either people don’t know the true meaning of feminism, or just plainly dislike women (I think it’s a bit of both!).

In addition to this, I point you towards a recent interview with Sarah Jessica Parker. In this, she said that she wasn’t a feminist because she believed that all genders should be equal. (Personally I believe people like this aren’t the biggest problem - we’re all fighting for the same cause, and while their ignorance does annoy me, I think we should be focusing on bigger problems, like FGM and rape culture, as well as actually doing things about it). But I think this shows that she needs to be educated, because I’m sure she isn’t the only one who feels like this. (You can see the interview here). Kim Kardashian has also recently said she isn’t a feminist (which you can see here).

I am so angry because so many books just ignore feminism, even if the authors claim to be feminists. I believe (as controversial as this may be!) that just calling yourself a feminist isn’t enough - ask most women and they will tell you they’re a feminist (I hope!). (Obviously, it’s better to identify as a feminist than not, but I still don’t think it’s enough). I think that to make change, we need to use our voices and not be silenced, and authors can do this through their books.

It doesn’t have to be specifically discussing the feminist movement. I think that just talking about feminist ideas is super helpful and will really go a long way to enlightening people! If all authors chipped in, it would change the world! For example, in Trouble by Non Pratt (yes, yes, I can’t write a discussion without mentioning this book!), feminism isn’t outright discussed, but Hannah talks about how her being ‘easy’ doesn’t denote her self worth. She is proud of who she is! I love the way it talks about slut shaming and misogyny during sex, and it changed the way I thought about feminism slightly. I know it will do the same for so many other people who read it too!

YA books need to show that no always means no. There’s so many romance books (especially in the paranormal genre) where the girl is telling the guy she doesn’t want to kiss/have sex with him, but he keeps persisting, sometimes even to the point of physically grabbing her. The girl finds this hot and irresistible, and it’s so wrong - we should not be teaching people that assault is attractive. This is so toxic and is just adding to rape culture! So many books are guilty of this - Hush Hush, Obsidian, A Court of Mist and Fury, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Shatter Me are just some examples.

Something needs to be done, and awareness needs to be spread. I believe feminism is essential for everyone, and the time when the whole world becomes feminist is when sexism might finally be destroyed, and the patriarchy might be taken down. Awareness will help the movement so much and if authors are able to help spread it, they would be doing so much for the feminist movement. Everyone might be able to be made aware, and it would create a generation of feminists!

That’s why What’s A Girl Gotta Do? is so important. It’s empowering, and really inspired me to follow in Lottie’s footsteps to call out sexism! I think I’m already quite aware of modern everyday sexism, so my experiences of the book will be different - for me, it inspired me to do what Lottie did, and I could really relate to her experiences. For others, it will ‘enlighten’ on how much sexism there is everyday, and inspire them to do further research on the feminist campaign. It’s such an important book, and I really hope Holly Bourne inspires authors to do what she’s done so fantastically well.

If you want to do more reading on feminism, I would recommend:
  • All the Rage (tw rape)
  • Asking For It (tw rape) and Only Ever Yours
  • Trouble
  • Spinster Trilogy (Am I Normal Yet?, How Hard Can Love Be?, What’s A Girl Gotta Do?)
  • Needlework (I haven’t read this one yet, but I own it, and it’s meant to be amazing!)
  • An Ember in the Ashes (this is fantasy and doesn’t really talk about feminism, but I loved the ideas of gender and women and thought it was so feminist)

Non fiction:
  • I Call Myself A Feminist (I would recommend this if you are looking for more reasons to be a feminist or a recently one - I rated it not too highly because I found the ideas to not be too progressive, but I think that was just me, because I think I’ve become a lot more used to it, and maybe even a little desensitized with the environment I’ve grown up in and the liberal circles I tend to be more active in)
  • Bad Feminist (more on intersectional feminism, and feminism and race)
  • Everyday Sexism and Girl Up (I haven’t read these yet but I really want to, and they’ve been recommended to me so many times!)
  • We Should All Be Feminists

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

3 Reasons Why You Should Read TELL US SOMETHING TRUE

Tell Us Something True
By Dana Reinhardt
Series: None
Source: Sent from the publisher (thank you Rock the Boat!)
Format: ARC
Page count: 208
Published (UK): 20th July 2016 by Rock the Boat
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance,

Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.

But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

Tell Us Something True was an uplifting and fun read, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did! I didn’t love it, but it did hold some important messages and I did think that it was well written, and I cared about the characters too. Here are 3 reasons why I would recommend picking it up today! (which is the day it’s out! it’s almost like i planned this or something...)

1. The characters
The set of characters were what made the book for me, because I cared about each of them so deeply. The protagonist, River, had a really interesting perspective on things, which I found refreshing, and made the book original. I feel like in YA, we don’t really get to read about characters like him, so I found him so much more interesting, because he was so different to me. His story provided the perfect escape.

I loved all the characters, but my favourite was Daphne, one of River’s friends who he meets at the group therapy. She was so strong-willed and determined to get what she wanted, which meant she was so thick skinned and never let people get her down. I admired her courage in tough times and thought some of the things she did were actually pretty inspirational!

2. Important messages
I didn’t go into this book thinking it would teach me anything or change me in any way - I just thought it would be a light, happy book, but nothing special. For the majority of the book, it seemed this way, but the ending was surprisingly emotional! Because I became so invested in the characters and the story, the way everything wrapped up really got to me. I thought the ending was perfect, too!

3. The themes of identity and diversity
These were a little more subtle, but I thought the race of the Mexican characters living in America, was really interesting. River was white, but Daphne was Mexican, and the book explored what life was like for her, and highlighted the obliviousness of River, which I thought was so important! I think it was really well written and even if these themes weren’t always present, I enjoyed reading about it. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Series I Haven't Finished

One of my absolute worst reading traits is starting series, yet never finishing them. I know I do this so often, and it’s so frustrating! Usually it takes me so long to get to the sequel that I can barely remember what has happened in the first. Recaptians is a life saver! Here are just some of the series that I’ve started, enjoyed, yet haven’t finished, but will one day!

I always feel really guilty when I think about this book, because sometimes I kind of forget I’ve actually read it! It’s so bad, I know, especially when I really enjoyed the book. I actually have no recollection of writing my review for it either - I only know I have because it’s published! This is pretty ironic, because the main character has her memory slated... (At least I can remember that, haha). I really want to read the rest of the series because I find Teri Terry’s writing so comforting, however the covers for the series are pretty ugly and they’re expensive on Kindle. One day I will come back to this series, I promise!

The Raven Cycle
This one isn’t too bad, because I only read The Dream Thieves in March, and I plan on reading the rest of the series really soon. I’m going to an evening with Maggie Stiefvater at the start of August (I’ll have to learn how to pronounce her name by then!), which I’m super excited about, however, she’s discussing The Raven King. I’ve not read that, or Blue Lily, Lily Blue, yet, so they will be one of my next reads. However, it seems like pretty much everyone has read this series, so I need to quickly catch up with the hype!

By far the most shameful book on this list is the Enclave trilogy by Ann Aguirre. I read the first book in March 2015, and enjoyed it so much. I’ve still not bought the rest of the series, however! It’s awful, I know - every time I go to order books, I almost add this series to my cart, but somehow I’ve just never bought them. They’re super underrated too, which means that it would be cool to read them before they get super popular, so maybe someday...

The Wrath and the Dawn

I really enjoyed The Wrath and the Dawn when I read it on holiday last year, and that ending made me so so desperate to read the sequel. So why haven’t I got to it yet? I honestly don’t know - everyone is saying how much they love it, and the cover is stunningly beautiful too. My only excuse is that it’s not published here in the UK yet, but I got the first on Kindle, so that’s not an excuse either...

A Darker Shade of Magic

This one is pretty shameful too, especially because of how much everyone seems to love this series. I read the first book in May 2015, and whilst I enjoyed it, I found it a little hard to get into. I have the second book in the series, but I’m yet to get to it, because I’m scared I won’t enjoy it! It’s really long, and I haven’t been in the mood to read it. Someone please motivate me to read it!

Grisha Trilogy
Shadow and Bone was the first book I read in 2016, and I liked it so much that I bought the rest of the series the day after finishing. However, they’ve been sitting on my shelf ever since! I always think about picking them up, but I’ve forgotten lots of what happened in Shadow and Bone, and I don’t think it ended in a cliffhanger, so I’m not desperate to find out what happens next. I’ve also read some spoilers (by accident, of course!) which makes me lose enthusiasm for the series.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has so many unfinished series, right...? This list was only a fraction of the series I've not finished yet, too. It's embarrassing, but one day, I will finish them all!

Which series haven't you finished yet? How come? Which ones should I prioritise from this list?

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