Tuesday, 30 January 2018

How Books Have Become Such a Large Part of my Life

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When I was a child I loved doing book reviews for school, it was so fun talking about a book and designing the pages of my workbook. However, one day when I was slightly older, I was reading a Sabrina the Teenage Witch book (one of my favourite television programmes) and my teacher said that it was rubbish and that I should not be reading it. Instead, I was given The Railway Children which as a child, I did not enjoy. This put me off reading for a long time (and is why I am an advocate for letting children read what they want to read because they are still reading). I ended up not enjoying reading books for class and missing years of reading so many books. I remember picking up Twilight, I think because everyone was reading it. Then my friends introduced me to manga which I really enjoyed and then I progressed on to reading more young adult and adult fiction. During this time, I was writing. I had written a poem in class and got the bug for it. I think I loved poetry because I was writing about what I saw in the world around me and putting it into a rhythm that sounded beautiful. I submitted poems into competitions and had quite a few published. Finally, I had found my talent, something that I enjoyed and that I could do. I started writing short stories and larger ones. I remember writing what I thought at the time was a whole novel, in fifteen days, and then realising that there was a massive plot hole right at the beginning of the story. I kept reading and writing. I enjoyed reading because I have always loved stories and it still seems so magical to me that a whole world can be contained within a book. I love writing because when I write it feels like I’m pulling something from deep within me; I am doing something that feels like me. It is hard work which uses a lot of mental energy but I love it. It feels wonderful to write and although it is not always easy, I would not change it. In fact, a world without writing seems so sad to me.

A couple of years ago I found a book video on YouTube. This introduced me to the world of booktube, bookstagram and eventually book blogging. I am so happy that I started this blog because it brings me so much joy, not only to write about the things that I am passionate about but to also interact with so many people who share the same love that I do. I have always wanted to help people, which is a goal that I have hoped to achieve with my novels but now I can also enact this through blogging. If my writing brings a smile to people’s faces, helps them start reading or find a book that they love, makes them feel that they are not alone or helps them to escape and feel better, then that would be amazing and I am very grateful that I have the chance to do that.

I never thought that books would become a central part of my life but they have and I am so thankful for that. I thank every writer, every agent, every editor, every publisher, every reader and every enthusiast for creating magic in every day life. Thank you.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Winnie the Pooh Book Review

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As a child, Winnie the Pooh was one of my favourite characters. I watched his television programmes, films and even had an interactive book. However, I never read the entirety of the original tales. I picked up an old copy of Pooh in a charity shop and decided that I would read it this week. Here is what I thought of the source material:
What I liked:

The illustrations were beautifully done and very sweet.

Some parts of the stories were full of heart.

What I did not like:
There were quite a few times that I did not think this book was suitable for children. Here are some examples:

Christopher Robin has a gun in the first story: I was shocked to find that a young boy was stated to take a gun with him everywhere and even used it to shoot Pooh’s balloon down. I wondered why A. A. Milne did not introduce Owl to grab Pooh (Tigger was not in this book).
They starved Pooh for a week to get him out of the rabbit hole! 
A lot of the characters did not seem to be very nice to Eeyore and Pooh was the obvious favourite.
Overall, this book did not live up to my expectations and I much prefer my memories of the television adaptation.

Rating: 3.75/5 stars.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

How Anxiety and Depression Can Affect Reading and Writing

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(Notebook quote by Alexandra Bracken, notebook from a subscription box)
This is just from personal experience.

You become even better at procrastinating. You avoid the things that bring you joy because they require mental power: energy that your brain just wants to use on thinking about anything else but your, or anyone else’s book world.

You find it difficult to concentrate for very long, your brain wanting to go back to worrying and obsessing.
If a book isn’t a quick, intriguing read, it takes a very long time to get through and you will be tempted to abandon it and start something new.
Goals make you feel stressed but if you don’t have them then you can easily not write for a long time, you spend this time thinking about writing, rather than actually doing it because the fear of starting is too great.
You find it difficult to spend free time thinking about your book world because your mind wants to focus on anxiety instead.
I find there is a lack of articles out there on writing and reading when you have anxiety and depression. A lot of readers online with anxiety or depression seem to spend a lot of time reading but I have found that this is not the same for me, I can pick up a book and feel very interested after a while and read a lot in one or two days but most of the time I will spend drifting between books and spending more time thinking that I should read than actually doing it. However, I am working on this, finding that I need to push myself to do things that I enjoy because I do enjoy them.
Have any of you had or still have similar experiences? Feel free to share in the comments if you would like to.
If you are suffering with any symptoms of a mental illness please visit your doctor and please do not give up.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Turtles All the Way Down Review

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Trigger warnings for this book: OCD, anxiety, self harm
Turtles All the Way Down follows Aza, a teenager with OCD who gets pulled into investigating the disappearance of a corrupt businessman, who happens to be the father of a boy she was friends with when she was a child. This book follows her mental illness, friendship, family and romantic relationships.
It is proving very hard for me to review this book so lets discuss the things I did and did not like.

What I liked:

John Green’s writing was beautiful, there were deep and meaningful passages about life and suffering with mental illness that I unwrapped and attempted to memorise.
The portrayal of living with OCD: there is a lack of books that discuss mental illness, especially OCD. For anyone who suffers with OCD, this book is likely to strike a chord and for those that do not, perhaps it may help them to understand the chaos that mental illness can be. However, the fact that this book goes in depth in to Aza’s thought process and actions means that it can be triggering.
The inclusion of many different relationships: this book featured different kinds of familial relationships, friendships and romantic relationships which is something I would like to see more of in future reads.

What I did not like:

There were some elements in this book that did not feel completely accurate to me. A couple of times I felt that Aza’s mother let things go too quickly. Aza’s therapist did not always seem to be very helpful and I wondered why she did not change to another one.

Overall, this was a really good read. I read the majority of the book in one day: it was that much of an interesting and quick read. However, this book did not make me feel amazed or left in wonder which is why it ultimately does not reach five stars for me.
Rating: 4/5 stars.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Four things you should know before writing a novel: tips from a writer

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           1.       It requires a ton of discipline

I have never struggled so much to get myself to actually just sit down and write. When you are studying, you have to work each day because you have impending deadlines, if you are just starting to write your first novel and do not have an agent, you do not have set deadlines. You can try setting deadlines for yourself but I have found that I do not always write the same number of words in each setting and to push myself to meet word counts may mean that the quality of writing is not as good and I just scrap what I have written anyway. Instead, I now set myself to write on certain days and have a minimum word goal I would like to achieve in mind.

2.       It can be very lonely

Writing a novel is a solo job. Sure, you can talk to other writers online and speak to your family and friends but when it comes down to it, it is just you, your keyboard and your characters wading your way through. The majority of my writing time is spent thinking and typing, alone. Sometimes this can get lonely, even for an introvert.

3.       You get stuck, a lot

When it comes to writing, there are three kinds of people: plotters, who plan their novels step by step, pantsers, who create the story as they go and plantsers, who fall inbetween these, using a mixture of both methods. I am a plantser: I plan the main scenes in my novels and some character outlines but I allow myself to find my way in those scenes. This means that I often get stuck, trying to think of what is going to happen next to get me to the subsequent plot point. Now, even if you are a planner, I can imagine you will still find times when you are stuck, whether that be because your plan does not fit the characters or story anymore, or your brain simply does not want to write. When I get stuck, I can easily leave the novel and not write for a while but I have found the best way to tackle this is to either, take a little break and think of my story whilst I am doing other things or to simply stay there and imagine someone is asking me, ‘what happens next?’.

4.       It is magical

      There is nothing like creating a world and characters with nothing but your imagination and your fingers, watching them come to life in your minds eye as you type the story into existence. I love the feeling of writing and I would not dream of doing anything else.

So, here is some information from a realistic point of view. Writing is hard: it is a daily struggle to get yourself to write and to keep going but it is so rewarding and I cannot wait for my stories to make their way out into the world and hopefully help some people. So, if you are determined enough, embark and do not look back. You can do it. We all can. Just remember to enjoy the journey.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

I joined a book club and why you should too

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Book clubs are certainly not new, in fact the one that I joined has been running for a very long time indeed but I had never been a member of one before. I had thought about it but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Book clubs can be physical or virtual. I have a Goodreads account and there are book clubs in the groups section but I had never found it motivating enough to actually read the group read, there simply was not enough accountability. I have anxiety and it was suggested that I try some things outside of my comfort zone, such as joining a book club! So again, I looked into book clubs and decided that I was going to go to just one meeting and see what I find. Here are the positives that I have found:
           1.       You get to read outside of your comfort zone:

I love books, I love reading and I love writing. To improve your writing skills it is always recommended to read more, and not just in one genre but across different genres and different topics. In joining a book club, I have found that the group picks are completely out of my usual choice of books and do you know what? It’s great! I started reading the first one, one I had never heard of and was not sure what to expect and I found that I actually enjoyed the writing style and the story intrigued me. If I had not joined the book club I would not have started to discover books that I ordinarily would not have picked up.

2.       You get to meet new people:

A variety of people join book clubs, whether that is online, with friends or in your local community. Yes, even in a friendship group, one friend could invite another friend or family member that you have not met before or do not know very well. Why is it beneficial to meet new people? Because they bring different experiences, perspectives and opinions, not just on books but on life! As a creative and analytical mind, I often find that just one thing that a person says (whether online or off), can spark something: a resolution or an idea that can really impact my life. Not to mention, if you are a writer, you can gain knowledge of how different people speak and more life experiences that will benefit your writing. Additionally, it just makes you feel good to meet nice people. If you try it and you don’t like the members, perhaps try another one or start one of your own. There are so many people that like books and having just that one thing in common is a wonderful thing.

3.       It gives you motivation to finish a book:

I had been experiencing a reading slump. I kept picking up books, starting them and then wanting to pick up something else. With a book club, you have accountability: you need to at least try to finish the book for your next meeting. This not only pushed me to read the group pick but to also pick up other books during that time too.

After attending just one meeting, I am so glad that I did. I met new, different people, I started reading a book that I would not ordinarily pick up and I am excited to try each new pick, even if it is something I did not like, I can still learn from that. Furthermore, I am reading! Reading fills my soul and writing uses that essence. I am exploring new worlds, learning about new styles of writing and discovering new characters and that is always magical.