Wednesday, 7 January 2015

I've Been Blogging How Long?!

Four years ago today, I made my very first post on this blog! I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for four whole years already. I’d love to be able to do something exciting, like host a giveaway, or something creative, but I’m too broke and too unimaginative! I still feel like I should give you something back, something to thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I can offer you this completely unrelated graphic of an owl that I designed, if you’d like. Click here to download a full quality image. You never know, you might require an owl graphic in the future!

My blog idea was born during the Christmas period of 2010. I was accepted as a reviewer by a teen girl magazine, and they sent me a book in exchange for a paragraph of my thoughts on it. I had no control over which type of book I’d receive. It turned out to be a book called Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. It was her debut novel, and I received it a few months before its release in the UK.

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

I’ll admit, at first I was pretty disappointed. At the time, it wasn’t the type of book I wanted to read. As much as I enjoyed learning about history, my taste in books was girly romances, anything by Meg Cabot, Harry Potter, and fantasy. I had no interest in reading a book set during the second World War. But I had no choice. I had to read it. And boy, am I glad I did. The book still remains one of my all-time favourites to this day, and it inspired me to learn more about that lesser-known part of history. It was such an incredible story, and I wanted to talk about it. None of my friends at the time were big readers, so I didn’t really have anyone to discuss books with apart from my mum. That was how I found the book blogging community, and I decided to set up my blog.

My first ever logo for the blog
I had no idea what I was doing. I knew very little about blogs, my writing was atrocious, and I didn’t have a clue how to promote my site. All I knew for certain was that I wanted to tell people about awesome stories, so that’s what I did.

Since then, I’ve learnt a lot about blogging, and I’ve connected with some fantastic readers and fellow bloggers. I’ve also learnt a great deal about design! I’ve always tried to design my blog myself, because as a poor little student, I could never afford to buy professional designs. But in a way, I’m glad. Even though it frustrates the life out of me sometimes, I know more about graphics and basic HTML, and it’s helped me a lot outside of my blogging!  

How my logo has changed through the years
My blogiversary also got me thinking about why I’m still blogging. I do it for the same reason why I first set up this blog: I love talking about books. But what is it that’s kept me motivated to write reviews over the years? The main reason is that I love sharing my passion for certain stories. And through this blog, I’ve discovered some wonderful hidden gems by debut and independent authors, and I love having the chance to encourage other people to pick up their work.

Another reason I’ve managed to stay a happy blogger is by keeping this site to what I always intended it to be. A hobby. I never force myself into strict schedules like many other awesome and hardworking bloggers. Instead, I simply read and review at my leisure. Otherwise, my blog would feel like a chore to me, and I never want it to come to that. I don’t make money from what I do, so I don’t treat it like a business. It’s simply my own little world of all things bookish. I’m also not the most formal person in the world with my reviews. I try to keep it casual. I’m no professional when it comes to writing, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing my opinions.

I have, over the years, had some fantastic opportunities because of my blog. I’ve interviewed some wonderful authors, I’ve been invited to take part in virtual blog tours, I’ve had tweets from some of my favourite authors of all time, and I’ve been lucky enough to receive some fabulous books and merchandise. I still get pathetically excited whenever I get an ARC, because I’m still astounded that I’m getting such an amazing opportunity!

I honestly can’t even begin to describe what this blog has done for me over the years. It’s sounds cheesy as hell, but in a way, I guess it really has changed my life. There have been too many highlights for me to condense them down into one post. It’s done so much more for me than just being a place to post my opinions. It’s encouraged me to do my own writing, and tell my own stories. It’s built my confidence in talking with new people. I’m painfully shy, but as a blogger, I have to communicate with a wide variety of people, and it’s made me more comfortable striking up conversations and conducting interviews. I never imagined how much it would do for me when I decided to write that first post four years ago.

Most of all, I have to thank YOU. The awesome people who take the time to read my reviews (which, let’s face it, aren’t the most professional reviews in the world!). And you authors and publishers who take the time to get in touch, and ask me to read your work. I’m so lucky to have the chance to do that. I can’t thank you enough for helping me to continue doing what I love.

So here’s to the next year of The Queen of Teen Fiction! 

Monday, 5 January 2015

What I Want To Read In 2015

As a book reviewer, I receive plenty of review requests throughout the year, and I’m always honoured whenever an author wants me to read their work. In the requests, I can usually spot a few common themes, and I get a lot of requests for genres that are going through a popular phase. For instance, over the past two years, I’ve seen a huge rise in the amount of dystopian books in my inbox. Don’t get me wrong, I love dystopia, but sometimes I like a change. Here’s a list of things I’d love to be able to read about this year:

5. Contemporary Stories.
I rarely received review requests for contemporary romance stories last year. Because of how much I read paranormal and fantasy stories, my love of contemporary usually goes ignored. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Dessen and Meg Cabot, so any books of a similar writing style would definitely catch my eye.

4. Books set in the 1920’s.
I adore the Flapper Girl era, and I would love more YA books set during this time. It’s such an exciting part of history, why aren’t there more stories?

3. British YA.
Last year I got to see some wonderful British YA debuts, such as Banished by Liz de Jager, and Minty by Christina Banach. I’d really like to see some more amazing YA from Britain, because there really isn’t enough.

2. Female Lead…With Glasses!
Okay, so as a glasses wearer, I’m biased here. But I really want a female protagonist with glasses! Yes, we have Harry Potter, but there’s only so many times you dress as the boy wizard for Halloween. Give me a new character to cosplay!

1. A YA book that has an Ancient Egyptian theme.
This is something that I really, really need in my life. I’ve been waiting for this for years. We have so many YA stories about Greek Gods and myths, yet barely any revolving around Egyptians. Their history is fascinating! Come on, authors, I'm begging you here!

So, that's what I’d like to be reading over the next twelve months. If there are any authors out there who happen to be reading this and have stories that tick any of the points above, PLEASE THROW YOUR BOOK AT ME. I will gladly read any book that is about any of those points.

What’s on your reading list this year? Let me know!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

REVIEW: Never by Shay Lynam

Bookish Details:
Pages: 304 (Paperback)
Publisher: Indie World Publishing and Author Services
Release Date: November 4th 2014
Source: This book was provided for free by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK


Wynn Harper spends her days trying to blend into the background. This isn't very easy, especially being the great granddaughter of the late Wendy Darling. Wynn used to love Great Gran's stories about her adventures in Neverland with Peter Pan and his lost boys, but that's all they were. Just stories, right? That's what Wynn keeps telling herself.

But then she meets Peter, the beautiful boy with a voice to match, and when he whisks her off to Neverland, Wynn knows this is no fairy tale. The lost boys are a group of rebellious ex-pirates, young Hook has a soft side, and Peter Pan isn't as innocent as you might think.

My Review:
I love modern retellings of classic stories, so Never was definitely a story that caught my attention. Never is a modern retelling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and it follows Wynn Harper, the great granddaughter of Wendy Darling.

The book starts soon after Wendy’s death, and we see Wynn struggling to cope. At a night out with her best friend, she meets Peter and realises Wendy’s ‘crazy’ stories of Neverland were real. The events of the story all seemed to unfold quite quickly to me. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of Wynn’s life in LA before she was flown off to Neverland.

As we follow the pair to Neverland, we meet the Lost Boys. I adored the Lost Boys. They were definitely one of my favourite things about the story. I especially liked Pal, because his story had a little more depth to it. From there, we get the all the sights and people that Neverland has to offer: the mermaids, the fairies, Tiger Lily, etc.

Who I really liked was Captain Hook. He was probably one of my favourite characters in the story. I just wish we’d gotten to know more about him. I felt like there was a lot more to his character that we could’ve learnt. The same goes for Russ. His story was definitely one that could’ve been expanded, but wasn’t.

I wanted to like Peter and Wynn more than I did. Peter made a statement at the start of the story as to how Wynn shouldn’t judge him by the Disney movie, but he then went on to act almost the same. I would’ve preferred it if maybe he was a little different, just something to make him less cliché.

I had conflicting emotions about the ending. *SPOILERS AHEAD* Now, I love happy ending. I really do. But I didn’t want Peter to go with Wynn back to LA and for the two of them to have a simple, happy ending. What I felt it lacked was some sort of explanation as to why Peter was in Neverland. Was it like the original story? Was he there because he didn’t what to grow up? And if he was, then why wasn’t there a conversation about it? I wanted a moment in the book where Peter faces why he doesn’t want to grow up, and why that’s changed because of Wynn.

Although I never judge a book by the cover, and the cover for this book is very beautiful, it doesn’t really reflect the story. It made me feel like the story should have been darker than it was, more a twisted retelling, where Neverland isn’t what it seems. But it was actually rather calm, and I didn’t feel like there was any big threat throughout the story. Even the scenes with Hook didn’t seem as dangerous as they should have.

Never is a pleasant story to read and anyone who loves fairy tales will definitely want to give it try. There were parts of the story I enjoyed, and parts that I felt let the story down. But overall, I’m glad I took the time to read it, and Lynam has a beautifully descriptive writing style.  

Royal Rating:

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