Secret Life of a Book Blogger Tag

I was tagged by the lovely Samantha @ Reed’s Reads and Reviews, many weeks ago, to do this tag.

  1. How long have you been a blogger?

I’ve been doing this for around six months, I think? I started when I was finishing at university because it made me feel a little better about the giant question mark that is my future.

Finishing my English Literature degree, I was mourning the end of days filled with talking critically about books, until I realised that if I started a blog they wouldn’t have to be over. Where I studied, a lot of the teachers and students looked down their noses at YA (but read it in secret, I’m sure), and I spent much of my three years arguing that there was a great deal of value to be found in YA and that the existence of Twilight (ugh, ugh, UGH), did not negate that. It made sense to bring arguments I had been making to people who didn’t much care to the internet, where I knew people existed who felt as strongly about books, and specifically YA books, as I did.

  1. At what point do you think you will stop?

This is an odd question. I have no plans to stop any time soon. I really enjoy writing reviews and I would be reading all the time whether or not I was writing about it.

But, at the same time, the way life is now, I can’t even say what I’ll be doing in six months’ time, let alone in a year. My whole life is up in the air right now, and I don’t see it landing any time. So, the honest answer to this question is that I don’t know.

The thought of not doing this anymore makes me sad though, so I imagine I’ll be writing for a while yet.

  1. What is the best thing?

Fangirling with the fangirls. Obviously.

  1. What is the worst thing? What do you do to make it okay?

When I’m writing a review and my dog turns my computer off with his face.

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There is little I can do. Could you tell this to leave you alone?

  1. How long does it take you to create/find pictures to use?

The previous picture I stole from my mum’s Facebook page. It took approximately 30 seconds.

Generally speaking… I am notoriously bad at both making and using images on this blog, but I keep trying anyway in the hope that I will eventually get better. I have a very complicated relationship with the pictures I take. I think it has to do with the idea that now I’ve left education and am technically, if reluctantly, an adult, that it’s somehow too late to learn something new. There is a definite belief spread among adults that if you’re doing something it has to be because you’re good at it, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for trying new things.

I am going to embrace being bad at things (in this instance, photo-taking), in the hope to eventually get better at it. In the meantime, I can only apologise.

  1. Who’s your book crush?

Captain Carswell Thorne. Don’t even have to think about it. (because I already am.)

  1. What author would you like to have on your blog?

None! This sounds terrifying!

A Note on Speaking to Authors: As I have mentioned on several occasions, I worked at a pretty big book festival this past summer. Part of my job was to be the ‘mic girl’, who runs around taking the microphone to people during the Q&A section of the event. Over the course of the festival, I compiled a list of questions I never want to hear an author asked again. They are as follows:

What advice can you give to any aspiring writers?

(the answer is always just write something. Please, please, please stop asking).

What are you writing next?

(they are doing this event because they just spent 2+ years painstakingly writing a novel and all you want to know is what’s coming next?)

What’s your favourite colour?

(this is more of a children’s author issue)

And, finally, to the old men of the world, don’t tell female politicians they are ‘beautiful young ladies.’ The whole audience will, quite rightly, boo at you.

  1. What do you wear when you write your blog post?

holly blogging

  1. How long does it take you to prepare?

The other day my nan told me that she brought some lacy vintage gloves to meditate in.

Everyone has their own process.

Mine involves a set half an hour during which I am allowed to procrastinate before I start working.

  1. How do you feel about the book blogger community/culture?

I refer you to answer #3.

It’s awesome.

  1. What do you think one should do to get a successful blog?

holly blogging

  1. Who do you tag?

I think almost everyone except me has done this one at this point? I tag whoever would like to be tagged. If you’re feeling lonely and tagless, I tag you with all my heart.

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P.S. I Still Love You

In the past couple months, Lara Jean has gone from being a girl with a fake boyfriend to one with a real relationship that is at the centre of her high school’s latest gossip scandal. Probably the most romantic moment of her life so far was recorded by a jealous bystander (her boyfriend’s ex) and paraded around as supposed proof of Lara Jean’s ‘easiness’. When said boyfriend protects the ex rather than Lara Jean, it starts to look like their relationship can’t withstand the strain of reality.

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P.S. I Still Love You, by Jenny Han, is the sort of book that’s kind of embarrassing to read on the train as an adult. But I did it anyway.

The experience of reading both To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You has been one of total surprise. I did not expect to enjoy these books. Even after thoroughly enjoying the first book I still put off reading PS I Still Love You for months. To be honest that decision was largely name related. I was worried that the book would make me cringe as hard as the title.

It didn’t, because much like its predecessor, it turned out to be so much more than it seemed.

As in the first book, Jenny Han uses Lara Jean’s teen romance drama to look at some pretty big subjects. If you thought that a book called P.S. I Still Love You wouldn’t be an exploration of slut shaming, you would be wrong. The hot tub incident that caused so much drama at the end of the first book is, like Britney in 2007, a story that refuses to die. It is, also like Britney in 2007, all anyone is talking about. What went from a nasty rumour of sex in a hot tub morphed into a racy photo on Instagram, and then became a meme shared around every student in Lara Jean’s school. Peter, her boyfriend and the other half of the hot tub debacle, gets through the incident relatively unscathed.

Lara Jean and her sisters notice this. They talk about how guys can do whatever they want, but as far as teenage girls are concerned, the idea that they might be having sex is synonymous with them being out of control. Whereas, they notice, guys having a ton of sex are socially rewarded.

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (or, as she’s otherwise known, my fantasy BFF), points out in We Should All Be Feminists, there is some seriously dubious logic happening here. If all heterosexual boys are supposed to be sexually experienced, and all heterosexual girls are supposed to be innocent virgins… then who is having sex with who, exactly? And yet the paradox continues to be perpetuated by both teens and the adults that are supposed to be teaching them to navigate the world.

In the aftermath of the Instagram post, many teachers approach Lara Jean to express their concerns. She’s repeatedly reminded that she’s ‘not that type of girl’ and ‘better than that’. ‘Better than what?’ she asks herself. ‘Better than who?’

Do you think any teachers expressed such concerns to Lara Jean’s boyfriend, Peter?

Of course they didn’t.

In this book Jenny Han is like Hey Teens Girls, Welcome to Sexism 101. I love her for it. What you expect when you pick up P.S. I Still Love You is a cute romance novel*, but what you get is a teenage girl learning to navigate a world built around misogynist ideas.

I could write a lot more about this book. I could talk at length about how impressed I continue to be with the skilful way that Jenny Han built Lara Jean’s narrative voice. While I don’t exactly agree with the arguments that teenagers in YA are generally unrealistic and ‘too grown up’ – honestly I think that viewpoint does a serious disservice to teenagers – Lara Jean’s internal monologue sounds genuinely young. She thinks like the inexperienced kid that she is. It’s a narrative voice that leaves room for her to grow up, which is something she certainly does through this book. Lara Jean finds that boyfriends take a lot more work than she was expecting, that it’s easy to develop feelings for an idealised ‘someone else’ and that even mean girls are complicated.

I like to think Jenny Han’s books will make me less judgemental of cringe-worthy covers in future.

*You totally get that too, don’t worry.

 

December Wrap-Up

Hey, 2016.

This week I plan to crawl from my Christmastime cave and back into the world of the blog.

Last month I reviewed:

First and Then – Emma Mills

Feelings: This ties with Emmy and Oliver as my favourite YA contemporary of the year. That’s pretty much the highest praise I can possibly give it.

Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs: 100 Years of the Best Women’s journalism – edited by Eleanor Mills and Kira Cochrane

Feelings: This is the book that made me realise I was a feminist. I love it.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Feelings: Everyone who wants to live the creative life should read this.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Feelings: Surprisingly funny, heart wrenchingly difficult, totally worth it.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

Feelings: Love, love, love, but creepy Santa haunts my nightmares.

I also read:

PS, I Still Love You – Jenny Han

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are – Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas

And I suppose it wouldn’t be a proper December wrap up if I didn’t finish The 12 Days of Christmas…

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What was your favourite childhood Christmas present?

Christmas of 1995, I got a dollhouse. My mum decorated it with left over wallpaper she had laying around. It’s decorated exactly like our house was when I was three. I spent hours playing pretend in that house. My mum managed to find one of the only single parent Sylvanian families I’ve ever seen to live in it. We still have it today. The house sits under the stairs. Sometimes I open it to check when I’m feeling stressed. I still like to think that the dolls living in there move around when I’m not looking.

What are you grateful for this Christmas?

My family. Obvs.

I spent a lot of time this year thinking about how much better things are than they used to be. Even times when they aren’t easier, they’re still better. However I look at it, that’s something to be pretty grateful for.

12 Days of Christmas: Days 7,8 and 9

There is a chance that Christmas is messing with my blogging schedule.

There are just so many movies to watch, you know?

By ‘movies’, I mostly mean Bridget Jones, over and over again.

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Anyway.

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Share a Christmas picture…

AUDREY

Because this is when my mum and I ignore the modern world and watch only Audrey Hepburn movies.

Share a local Christmas tradition in your local town or country…

The carol concerts I already talked about pretty much cover this question.

So instead of talking about dodgy organ playing and other such uninteresting Christmas traditions, I am going to talk about November 5th.

November 5th, a day on which, in a town not far from mine, local residents set flaming tar barrels on fire and run up and down the streets with them held on their backs. Audience members gather to watch the spectacle and also run away from it, when a flaming barrel slips from a participant’s shoulders and rolls alarmingly toward them.

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Also, everybody is very drunk.

#Devon

Who will be sitting with you for this Christmas dinner?

It was myself, my mum and my brother. We have been given more chocolate than three people can realistically consume, but we are doing our best.

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas.

 

 

12 Days of Christmas: Days 4&5

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What is on your personal wish list this year?

What I would really like is some direction in life.

Failing that, books please.

Share a fond childhood Christmas memory…

My mum’s ex boyfriend’s crazy Irish father used to take cracker jokes seriously.  By this I mean that they would take up pretty much the whole of Christmas dinner. We would each have to read our cracker joke and then wait while everyone else at the table was forced to try and guess the answer. If you attempted to have another conversation during the guessing of the cracker jokes, he would yell at you.

He also had this terrifying claw hand. He chopped the end of his index finger off in some accident or other. I guess it must have been just below his cuticle, because this claw-like spike of nail grew out the end of his finger stump. It was pretty much as gross as you’re imagining.

12 Days of Christmas: Days 3&4

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Your favourite Christmas recipe or food…

You know the no tradition tradition thing I mentioned? It applies to food too. We’re a family of vegetarians who don’t necessarily want to eat nut roast every year, so it varies. Also, honestly, neither me or my mum are interested in spending the entire day cooking, so we often snack through the day and eat a main meal in the evening.

For the past few months, I have been trying to significantly cut down the amount of dairy and gluten in my diet for a whole bunch of reasons, so I have been trying to find a Christmas-ey meal that’s low on those things.

My family have to go along with it because I do most of the cooking.

We haven’t done the Christmas food shop yet, but right now I am thinking I’ll cook this vegan macaroni cheese:

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2015/02/deluxe-butternut-macaroni-n-tease/

There is a good chance it might not end up being vegan. I had intended not to go too crazy on the dairy this Christmas season but so far I’m already failing. The staff room where I’ve been working through December is always full of chocolate. For the first couple weeks I resisted, but grad life has been getting me down over the last few days and with my positive attitude went my resolve.

Everyone deserves a break at Christmas, right?

Over the last week my intention has gone from ‘be good’ to ‘don’t be as bad as usual’ (I tend to live on chocolate from Christmas through to January 1st).

Share a Christmas story or write one of your own…

My favourite Christmas story is from my favourite Christmas special. The final episode of the UK The Office, when Dawn came back for Tim.

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Everyone in England leapt from their sofas and did a little victory dance.

 

12 Days of Christmas: Days 1&2

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I am here to continue my tradition of doing absolutely nothing properly.

This challenge was created by Scale Simple and I was tagged by the lovely Breathing the Pages.

List your favourite things about Christmas… 

The village carol service

I live in a tiny village in England, with a tiny church and a very sweet man who loves to play the organ, but bless him just isn’t all that good at it. The carollers and the organ are always out of sync. Sometimes he stops playing altogether and the vicar will clear his throat and quietly remind him that there’s another verse to go. There are times when the vicar challenges us by telling us we are only singing verses one, three and seven of a particular hymn. As a congregation largely made up of those whose only church visit in a year is this one (including myself), we just aren’t familiar enough to complete such a challenge successfully. Most of us sing different, high pitched verses. Add to that the fact that I am a chronic church giggler and you’ve got yourself a pretty fun evening.

Going full Pinterest

I am increasingly shameless about this aspect of myself. I watched a youtube video about designing your own wrapping paper the other night. I’m probably going to do it.

All the cheesiest decorations

There was a road near my dad’s house he used to drive us down when my brother and I were kids that had all these amazing decorations. Every house was lit up with flashing lights, waving Santa’s and the occasional reindeer. The showiest, tackiest lights are what I love the most. My tiny bedroom has fairy lights everywhere I could possibly drape them. Every surface not covered with lights has a paper snowflake stuck to it. I have stars hanging from my ceiling.

Your favourite Christmas tradition new or old…

Our tradition is to have no tradition. My family has changed shape a lot over the years. For the past few it’s been me, my mum and my brother. Being with them at this time of the year makes me appreciate of the many ways that things now are a lot better than the things that have been.

Also we are planning to go see Star Wars on Christmas Eve, which I’m pretty excited about.