Friday, 11 January 2019

REVIEW: I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

Pages: 395
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: May 3rd 2018
TW: Anxiety, Panic Attacks
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

'I'm gonna die. I'm literally gonna die.'
'Wouldn't recommend that,' says Juliet, as if she's been on a two week holiday to Death and gave it a two out of five on TripAdvisor.

For Angel, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friend Juliet, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy owes everything to The Ark. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band with his mates is all he ever dreamed of doing.

But dreams don't always turn out the way you think, and when Jimmy and Angel are unexpectedly thrust together they find out just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Funny and wise, I Was Born for This is a stunning reflection on the power of believing in something - especially yourself.

Let me start by saying HELLO I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK. I Was Born for This switches between Angel, a passionate fan of The Ark, the band that has kept her going for the past five years of her life, and Jimmy, the lead singer of that very band. The story joins Angel as she makes a trip to London to meet her best friend for the first time after speaking to her online for years, so that they can finally meet The Ark and see them in concert. On Jimmy’s side of the story, we get to see what life is like for him as a band’s frontman who is about to sign a new and more gruelling contract.

Where do I even start? I love Angel so, so much. She has her flaws and lessons to learn throughout the story, but that’s what makes her such an honest character. Not to mention she is so damn RELATABLE. As someone who has met up with a close internet friend in the past, I enjoyed getting to read her thought process upon meeting Juliet for the first time. They face challenges as online friends meeting in person, but they manage to work through those problems.

When it comes to The Ark, I think I love Jimmy Kaga-Ricci as much as Angel does. Getting to see the band’s side of things is the fascinating thing about this story. I love the contrast between a fan and her idol. Every band member is written so well but Jimmy really is wonderful. His struggles with anxiety and his doubts about the future broke my heart. It’s something that makes you think beyond the pretty faces you see in music videos because there are probably many people in the public eye who share at least some of Jimmy’s thoughts. 

  • POSITIVE FAN CULTURE CONTENT. This story manages to discuss the darker sides of fandom without demonising it. Having Angel as one of those teenage girls who people look down on for liking things and reading her explain in her own words why fan culture is important, shows both the positives and negatives to the world of fandoms.
  • INTERNET FRIENDSHIPS. We live in a world where we can make meaningful friendships with people we’ve never seen in person before. This story shows that it might not work out the way we pictured it, but the connections we make online can be just as important as any friendship.
  • BAND LIFE. If The Ark was a real group, I’d be in a queue for their concert. This story does a fantastic job of highlighting all aspects of a famous band’s life and it’s so interesting to read.
  • IMPORTANT MESSAGES. Yes, Angel is a huge fan of this band and they mean everything to her, but throughout the story she realises that there are more things she needs to focus on in life than The Ark. Revolving your life around a band is never going to end well because more likely than not, it will hurt you eventually. You can love and support your favourite bands as part of your life, not all of it.
  • HILARIOUS. God, there were so many parts in this book that had me close to tears laughing. I can’t even tell you how much I love some of lines. 
Being an avid fan of groups myself, there were so many aspects of this story that I could literally feel. Considering just a few months ago I went to see my own favourite group in concert, travelling down to London and meeting fellow fans who were simply internet names before that day, there were plenty of scenes that I connected with. There’s a whole page in this book where Angel talks about fandom and honestly, I’d frame it if I could.

I have to thank my own internet-turned-real-life friend, Jasmine, for giving me a copy of this book because she knew I’d love it. As always, she was completely right and it ended up being on of my favourite books of 2018. 

Royal Rating:

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Bookish Christmas Gift Haul

Since Christmas has been and gone, I thought I’d share the bookish gifts I received this year. I’ve never really done any sort of haul-post before, mostly because I never have enough content for one! But since I promised to try writing a bigger variety of posts this year, I decided to give it a go.

First, let’s start with the books! These will be the ones I’ll be delving into over the next couple of months. 

First up is a book that’s been on my to-read list for a while, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I’ve been wanting to read this one for such a long time and thanks to my bestie and fellow blogger, Rachel, I’ll finally be able to! I’ve heard lots of good things, so it’s safe to say I’m excited. 

Next up are the books I received from my gorgeous friend Jasmine. We know each other so well that we ended up getting each other the same thing, the first physical instalment of the online comic, Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu! I’d been wanting a copy since it was released, but thought I’d buy her a copy for Christmas first. And then, to my amusement, I woke up on Christmas morning to find out she’d had the same idea. We’re iconic. She also got me a copy of Leah on the Offbeat, which is another book I’ve been dying to read since it was released!

Finally, as queen of buying myself presents, I treated myself to a copy of Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare. Due to being Extremely Broke for the majority of this year, it was the first time since discovering Cassie’s books that I hadn’t bought a copy on release day. I felt pretty empty when the date rolled around and I wasn’t rushing to Waterstones. Thankfully I had some spare cash just before Christmas and was able to get myself a copy while it was on offer.

Whilst I was been busy accepting my Hufflepuff identity in 2018, so were those around me! My parents gave my a Hufflepuff tote this Christmas and my Slytherin bestie added in the adorable Hufflepuff keyring. Though she still likes to bully me with her Slytherin ways. Knowing I’m trash for stationary, my sister got me this gorgeous Marauders Map notebook and I am in LOVE with how pretty it is. 

My cutest bookish gift has to be the letter that I woke up to close to Christmas. I FINALLY GOT MY HOGWARTS LETTER. That’s right, guys, I’m going to be a witch. Fifteen years too late, but there’s a time for everything. 

I also got some Harry Potter pyjamas (thank you, Primark, for affordable merch!) but the box they came in was so pretty that I’ve ended up using it as a storage box. A bonus gift! 

Did you get any bookish gifts at Christmas? 

Friday, 4 January 2019

Looking Back on 2018

Anyone who follows this blog will know that I really haven’t been posting much this year, and anyone who follows me on Twitter might know that it’s because life kinda Went To Shit for me in 2018. I know this is my book blog and usually I try to keep it that way, but every now and then I get the urge to discuss the other parts of my life because I’ve been here a long time and this blog is a huge part of me, so it’d feel weird not to give the occasional update. This is one of those rare posts where I open up about my year, so if you’re not one for reading Personal Life Things and would prefer to stick to the books, my list of favourite reads from 2018 can be found here!

The year started out pretty well. I was positive about my blog and felt motivated enough to get back to the bookish world. I spent two months working on a completely new blog design, I restructured the way I wrote my reviews, and I was eager to start doing what I loved again. Except, after I relaunched my blog, my mental health started to slip. Sometimes, things just Go To Shit and we don’t know why. That’s what happened to me in the first half of the year. I felt anxious all the time, my motivation was gone, and my confidence completely disappeared. 

2018 is probably the worst mental health year that I’ve had. My panic attacks, which were once an occasional thing, became scarily frequent and severe. I began to doubt my ability to continue doing the things I loved, including my blog. I’ve watched my readers drop over the past two years and I became worried that no one really cared about the content I was creating. As my opportunities to work with publishers started to fade, I had to take a look back at why I started this blog in the first place. The whole reason I created The Queen of Teen Fiction was because I love talking about books. For the first couple of years, I was practically talking into the void because I didn’t really have any readers. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying what I was doing. 

I had to make myself remember that this year. Though the online book community is mostly a wonderful and supportive bunch of hardworking people, I’ve watched it grow competitive and clique-y in places over the years, and it’s difficult not to get swept up in that at some point. It can really suck when you feel left out of everything fun, which was something I’ve felt a lot over the past two years. In the final few months of 2018 though, I’ve taught myself not to care. It doesn’t matter that my blog is still tiny after eight years, it doesn’t matter that I don’t get exciting opportunities, it doesn’t matter if I don’t have a group of blogger friends to belong to: I’m doing this for me.

Despite everything this year, I actually managed to attend a book event! One of the biggest downsides of 2017 was the fact that anxiety stopped me from attending a book signing for a bunch of authors I really love, so I’m super proud of myself that I got to meet Holly Black at her Liverpool event back in March. I wasn’t able to connect with any bloggers during the event but just being there was a big enough achievement for me. And Holly was wonderful!

Moving on, we have the Disastrous (but still Good) Charity Campaign. I’d been growing my hair for over a year with the intention of cutting and donating it to the Little Princess Trust. I also wanted to raise the cost it would take for the organisation to actually make the wig, which would then be given to a child for free. The cost can vary between £350-£500. I managed to raise, um, £50. 
I should have known it wasn’t going to go well. My social circle isn’t exactly a large one. I can count the number of friends I have on one hand. Sharing my campaign around was always going to be a disaster. 

It’s no one’s fault but my own. Who was I really to ask people on the internet to give up their money when they didn’t even know me? I’m too anxious to even Tweet my opinions most of the time, let alone build good relationships with people. But I won’t lie, it knocked me down a lot. I’d put my heart and soul into doing something good for months and it didn’t work out. I’d seen so many people use the power of online sharing to do great things, and I couldn’t even raise enough money to give a little girl or boy the hair they wished for. 

On the bright side, almost 16 inches of my hair went to the charity, which was way more than I thought! I’m so proud that my hair was able to help a good cause, and I’m pretty sure repeatedly growing and chopping my hair for charity is going to be a regular thing for me in the future. Maybe just without my terrible attempts at crowdfunding…

In other charity related things, I was awarded my five-year volunteer certificate this year! I’ve been working in my local Oxfam store since 2013 and it was a pretty emotional realisation to know I’d been there that long. I’ve spoken about how much volunteering has helped me before, so I won’t bore you all with the details again, but I’m super grateful to Oxfam and everything it does. 

This year, I was lucky enough to see two of my favourite groups in concert. Anyone who knows me knows how much of a huge KPOP fan I’ve been for the past few years. Many of the KPOP groups that I love don’t visit the UK on tour, so when some of my favourites actually played here in 2018, I was determined to go. The thing is, I very rarely go to concerts. Firstly, because I’m Broke, and secondly, because I’m Anxious. My sister treated me to tickets, but she couldn’t do anything about my anxiety. 

The first concert in the summer was fine because we were in a relatively small theater, we had seats, and it was just a one-night trip to London. I was proud of myself. Look at me getting through a concert without panicking myself to the point of crying. 
My first ever KPOP concert (and my first concert outside of my local city)

But then came the second concert in October. The ticket process alone for BTS was like being dropped into The Hunger Games. BTS are the group that managed to drag me in to KPOP and I absolutely adore them, so I was more excited about this concert than anything else. But we also had to stay in London for two nights because we live so far away and needed to be there early.

Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, right? The thing is, over the past few years, my anxiety has made it extremely difficult for me to stay away from home. Sometimes, I can handle an occasional night away, but more than that can be mentally draining for me. It’s awful and it makes me feel pathetic, but it is what it is until I’m able to work through it. 

The concert itself was wonderful and a completely unforgettable night, but the trip really screwed me over. Knowing I was going to be an anxious mess, I became so worked up that on the night before we even travelled, I only got two hours sleep. Then came the actual stay at the hotel. My anxiety was so bad that I only slept for forty minutes on my first night. I genuinely do not know how I got through the concert without passing out. The only positive thing about my situation was that I was so anxious over my lack of sleep that for the first time ever, I wasn’t feeling anxious about being in a busy environment or speaking to people. To the wonderful people who surrounded me at the BTS concert, you have no idea how much you got me through that day!

Despite everything. the concert is still a magical memory
Then after the concert I thought, come on, after less than three hours sleep in two nights, I can finally sleep, right? Nope. On the final night in the hotel, I still couldn’t sleep at all. I was due to meet my friend in the morning who was travelling to London to see me, and I remember panic-messaging her in the early hours of the morning to tell her that I still couldn’t sleep. It was terrifying. I thought I knew how messed up my anxiety could make me, but that trip showed me how it can bring a whole new wave of problems that I wasn’t prepared for. 

A couple of weeks after I got back from London, I had to say goodbye to my fluffy best-friend of twelve years. I’d love to write all about her and her wonderful ways, but I don’t think I can face writing up our memories just yet. As other pet owners will know, losing a pet you’ve had by your side for such a long time is like losing a member of your family. 

It cut my whole family up. Throughout this year we’ve lost our dog, an aunt, came very close to losing an uncle, and had countless problems with our home. It’s safe to say we’ve had a pretty stressful time of things. 

After all of that, something seemed to tip me off the steep edge I’d been trying so hard to balance on throughout the year. I was so stressed that one night I couldn’t sleep at all and I ended up right back inside the vicious cycle I’d been in during my time in London. I was so anxious about not being able to sleep that it was actually stopping me from sleeping. And so began my battle with clinical insomnia. 


And that leads us to where I am now. The past couple of months, I’ve wanted more than anything to delve back into books and my blog but trying to pull my life together and improve my insomnia has taken every ounce of strength I’ve had over the past few weeks. The most frustrating thing is that anxiety caused this mess, and anxiety is constantly preventing it from getting any better. There is nothing physically wrong with my body that’s preventing me from sleeping, it all comes down to what’s going on in my mind. 

What really hurts is knowing how many people out there still don’t take mental health seriously. Time and time again, I have to read ignorant tweets from people who don’t understand what anxiety can do to a person and those around them, people who tell us to get over it, pull ourselves together or, my personal favourite, drink more water and get more exercise!! What might not seem like a big deal to one person is actually a huge deal to someone else. I’ve had to remind myself of that fact so many times over this past year. I’m 26 years old and I can’t even take a simple trip away, it makes me feel pathetic. But I need to remember that this isn’t my fault. I can’t pick and choose how my anxiety affects me.  

After dealing with so many low-points this year, my blog couldn’t be a priority in my life, no matter how much I wanted it to. Hopefully this explains why I barely posted throughout 2018. Although at the start of the year I had doubts, it wasn’t actually because I’d fallen out of love with blogging, it’s simply because of circumstance. 

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve finally started brainstorming some blog ideas for the coming year and I’m excited about them. I’m back to blogging simply for the fact that I love it again, and that’s such an important thing to me. I’ve been so out of the loop that I haven’t had the latest books this year, I haven’t kept up with any blogging trends and, whilst I hated feeling left behind at first, it’s helped me let go of the pressure I was feeling to appeal to others rather than myself. Despite that, there are some things I want to focus on in 2019. 
  • What I won’t be doing in 2019 is changing the way I review in order to try and stand out more. That’s definitely something I was guilty of last year and I don’t want to be going down that path again. It really doesn’t matter if my reviews don’t have a unique selling point, what matters is that I’m sharing my thoughts on stories I love. 
  • Another thing I’d like to do this year is write more content that isn’t reviews. It was something I wanted to do last year but never really got to. I’d love to write some posts about book blogging in general, and other bookish things. I love writing reviews, but I don’t want them to be the only thing I post. 
  • Discovering new blogs to fall in love with is something I’ll be actively doing in 2019. My reading list of blogs hasn’t really changed in years, so I definitely want to be adding to it. Book bloggers: DROP ME YOUR LINKS. Readers: DROP ME THE LINKS OF BLOGS YOU LOVE. 
  • My number one goal: READ MORE BOOKS. I’m beyond desperate to get my reading mojo back this year, despite everything. I don’t think I’ll be sticking to a Goodreads Challenge this year just because I see so many people talking about them all the time and I end up pressuring myself to reach everyone else’s level. The attitude I want to have this year is that anything I read is an achievement. Any review I post is a personal win for me, no matter how many I manage to have written by the end of the year.
My goals this year are small, but I’m taking baby steps after the past couple of years. I’ll keep quietly working away on my blog, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t manage to do as much as I’d like to. What I want more than anything is for my blog to stay the fun, carefree place it always had been for me. Hopefully, a few people might enjoy reading it along the way. 

Before I go, I just want to say that when you’re suffering with mental health problems, the best thing you can do is talk to someone, but I know that’s not always possible for everyone. Even if your situation means you aren’t able to speak to a professional, there are still things out there that can help you. A website that I found super helpful for me is 7 Cups of Tea. It provides daily tasks to distract your mind, as well as offering supportive forums and online counsellors, so I just wanted to share it in case anyone else is in need of a place to go. 

What are your goals for 2019? Let me know! 

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