This is it! The end of 2018! I know I say it every year, but I really can’t believe how fast this year has passed. I spent the last few days of 2017 feeling anxious, worried, and unsure of the future. What would this year hold? Would it be a good year, an exciting year; could it surpass 2017?
2018 has been the year I finished education (but I’ll never finish learning!), the year I got a book deal, the year I made new friends and explored new places and found an inner confidence I never knew I had. It’s had its lows — stress and worry and a few too many meltdowns — but there have been incredible highs too. Thank you for being a part of it!
The Year in Review
Happy New Year to you — I hope 2019 is joyous and prosperous and filled with many, many books. Here’s to the year ahead!
I have a secret. A big secret. One I’m scared to admit. Ready? Deep breath in. I’ve started damaging books.
Before you begin to imagine me with fifty billion books burning on a bonfire or cutting up books in some kind of weird ritual, let me clarify: I’ve stopped being so precious about the condition my books are kept in.
I used to keep all of my books in pristine condition. No creases on the spine, no bent covers, and definitely no dog-eared pages. I used to say that cracking a book spine was like cracking a human spine: it couldn’t be done without inflicting severe pain (on both the book and the reader).
Now, though? I really can’t be bothered to be that precious about it.
There’s something almost magical about reading a book and finding a page or quotation you love, folding down the page with adoration so that you can remember where to find it again, and moving on until you find another section that you fall for. It’s not just an emotional experience; it’s a physical one. The action of folding the page down, as you move to get the crease just right so that it doesn’t cover any of the text, as you quickly press it down so that it stays in position, feels exhilarating to me.
Wear and tear also shows deep love for a book. The original editions of my Stonewylde books are so battered now that I have to be careful that they don’t fall apart in my hands as I read them. I’ve read them so many times, turned the pages so often, that the spines are ripped and teared; tiny fingerprint ink stains litter the margins.
And then there’s my edition of Emily Brontë’s poetry, which I take everywhere with me, so of course the glue is unsticking and I long ago accepted that the dust-jacket is destined never to again touch the book. I bought it secondhand, but I can’t imagine myself parting with it now because even though it has only a plain green binding and looks just like any other book, the memories contained within are pure magic.
I still can’t bear to hear the crack of a spine breaking and I have been known to hesitate before dog-earing a page, but I’m getting better.
How do you like to keep your books: in pristine condition or are you more relaxed, like I’m becoming?
2 years ago, I sat myself down and said: one more year. One more year of blogging and then you can reevaluate if it’s something you want to do anymore. Just one more year.
As you can see, I’m still here. Still writing. Still making YouTube videos. Still tweeting (possibly still tweeting too much). You couldn’t get rid of me that easily.
Today marks my 6 YEAR blogging anniversary. 6 years!! That’s a third of my life spent inhabiting this tiny corner of the blogosphere. It’s been an incredible 6 years: I’ve grown from a shy twelve year old into a quietly confident eighteen year old; I’ve met like-minded people who share my passion for books; I’ve spoken in rooms full of hundreds of people; I’ve achieved dreams I didn’t even know I had. And all of it is documented here.
The past two years, in particular, have been a whirlwind.
For one, I WROTE A BOOK! I’ve wanted to be a Proper Writer™ ever since I was nine, but I guess I thought it was something I’d do when I was thirty or forty years old, not 17. It’s been one of the most rewarding, if sometimes stressful, things I’ve done, and I’m so glad I decided to write it during my GCSEs and not, y’know, actually revise (okay, maybe that’s a little bit sarcastic).
I also became the Brontë Society’s Young Ambassador this year — eek! I adore the Brontës with all my heart and so to be involved with Emily’s bicentenary year is the greatest honour. Earlier in the year, I went up to Haworth where I got to meet the amazing team who work behind the scenes at the Brontë Parsonage, talk about the Brontës more than is humanly possible, and I even met the Duchess of Cornwall. I’m so excited for everything the rest of the year holds and I especially can’t wait to visit Haworth again this summer.
I’ve read so many amazing books. My tastes have changed A LOT in the past few years: whereas I used to read 95% YA, I’ve become less rigid with that and have discovered a love for classics (particularly the Brontës, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen, among others). Classics combine my love for history and my love of beautiful language, so they’re perfect.
I’d be here all day — and this would be a very long blog post — if I thanked everyone individually, so do excuse the general thank you’s.
THANK YOU for supporting me, whether you’ve been here from day one or have only recently discovered my blog. Your comments, likes, tweets and messages always put a smile on my face, and it’s so lovely to be a part of such a welcoming community.
THANK YOU to all the authors who continue to write amazing books, write fantastic guest posts and are truly wonderful human beings. Working with REAL LIFE AUTHORS is possibly the best part of the job — it’s something I never thought I’d get to do when I first started my blog!
THANK YOU to the publishers — the publicists, marketing folk and editors — who never fail to get me excited about their upcoming titles, who send me squeal-worthy emails, but who also make my job deciding what to read next very difficult.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
Here’s to the next year of Queen of Contemporary! Who knows what will have happened by this time next year?! I am very excited to find out!
Whatever our souls are made of, mine and Emily Brontë’s are the same.
To say I’m an Emily Brontë fanatic is a bit of an understatement. I am practically in love with her. From when I first read Wuthering Heights, to when I discovered her Gondal poetry, she captivated me from the opening, and I am forever grateful — for her words, for her life, and for everything she has stood for in the years since her death.
There’s something almost magical about feeling close to someone there is so little information about: it allows you to fill in the gaps. My Emily may be very different to somebody else’s and I like the power that holds, the knowledge that she is mine and not quite anybody else’s. My Emily Brontë is introverted, awkward. There’s a comfort in knowing the qualities we share can be used for good: to weave fascinating stories, to hide away in fictional worlds.
Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she knew them: knew their ways, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but WITH them, she rarely exchanged a word. – Charlotte Brontë
She’s also a genius, a true genius: her poetry is lyrical and wild and untamed; Wuthering Heights is dark and brooding and passionate. Her familiarity with the landscape of the Yorkshire Moors adds a deeper level to her writing, and her observation of character is second-to-none.
One of the stories I most associate with her, replicated in Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley, and shared in Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte, is that of Emily cauterising her own wound after being bitten by a dog. Bravery, fierce pride in the face of calamity, gumption: all qualities I try to replicate in myself, even if I am not always successful.
When I read Emily Brontë’s writing, about characters who don’t traditionally fit into our world, who spurn societal norms in favour of a different life, I feel like I’ve returned home. I feel like, with Emily’s help, I could conquer all.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.
– No Coward Soul is Mine, Emily Brontë
This was written as part of a larger post by Annabelle called Anne: the Forgotten Brontë, which can be read here. Thank you to Annabelle for inspiring me to write this!
Who are the authors you love most passionately? Share in the comments below!
If you could have told me five years ago that starting a blog would lead to my face being splashed on the front page of The Times, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was a shy and anxious twelve year old who had been devastated by the loss of her grandfather only a few months before. Books were my refuge, and so talking about books online felt like something that had been made for me. It was an escape and a place to express myself, and I never thought anything would come of it. I never expected to get any views on my posts, never expected to make the friends I have through blogging. Back then, blogging was a relatively new thing: there were no expectations whatsoever. It was simply a hobby.
Skip forward to now and things have taken a turn for the crazy. When I was contacted by The Times to feature in an article on booktube (the part of the YouTube community that talks about books, if you didn’t know), I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase our corner of the Internet, which most definitely isn’t as well-known as other areas of YouTube. There are so many passionate and creative people making videos on booktube, and so it was great to get a space where booktube was celebrated for the amazing platform it is.
Last Monday, a photographer (Gareth Iwan Jones) and makeup artist (Neusa Neves) came to my house to take photos for the article – it was such a surreal experience! I don’t think I’ve ever had my hair brushed so much in my life, and my eyeliner is never going to look that good again, but it was so worth it. It was strange to have to pose, and I don’t think I’ve ever changed outfits so much, but I was so happy with the results and glad that I looked like myself.
The article also features Jen, Simon and Sanne, who it was an honour to be featured with. I’ve watched Jen and Simon’s videos since they first started making them, and Sanne has been my favourite booktuber for a very long time so I felt very humbled to be on the same page as them.
Would I have written some of the things about me if I was writing the article myself? Maybe not. I was scared about letting someone else write about me because I know how I perceive myself, but this might not line up with how other people perceive me; it’s difficult handing over control to somebody else because I’m so used to having full control — I write my own blog posts, I edit my own videos, I do all of my social media. It was scary, but I was pleased that James Marriott did such a good job.
I would like to thank everyone for being so supportive. Your messages and love across social media have meant the world, and I’ve tried my hardest to respond to them all but I’m sorry if I’ve missed any! Friday was such an overwhelming day and I’m still trying to catch up with everything.
Whether you watch my videos or not, it’s absolutely amazing to have booktube featured in a national newspaper and get the recognition it deserves.
I must have been ten when I first read Running in Heels by Helen Bailey. Back then, I used to read a book five or six times after I’d first read it and Running in Heels was no different. I became captivated by the character of Daisy Davenport and it was one of the first books I read that explored different classes and a parent in prison.
Running in Heels was one of the formative books I read in my early tweens, the voice so distinctive and it was a book I would latch on to and never let go. After finishing it, I immediately browsed Helen’s website to see if she’d written anything else. Then when Knowing Me, Knowing You was released, I can remember clearly racing through it. From it, I learnt all about Facebook and the social etiquette of it. (My younger self was also very impressed by the Sylvanian Families reference which I lapped up.)
Without Running in Heels, I don’t know if I’d be writing this blog today because it was one of the books that helped me to become the reader I am today. It helped me form a strong love of YA books and the young adult genre and Helen was one of the early strong voices in YA.
I was deeply saddened to hear the news about Helen’s passing, a loss that will be felt throughout the whole book community. Her books addressed important topics long before the industry started voicing the need for them and they were laced with humour that was second-to-none.
I didn’t know Helen personally but it was hard not to love her after reading her books. Helen, I thank you for making me into the reader I am today.
I’m just a teeny tiny bit obsessed with Snapchat – I love how personal it feels and also how less scary it is than other social media platforms because the numbers aren’t so glaringly obvious and I feel like I’m sitting down to have a chat with a good friend.
Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It – oneilllouise
I had to include Louise first on my list because she is the QUEEN of Snapchat. Often she is the reason I log in because I love scrolling through her Story each day and hearing her thoughts on things such as books, feminism and, of course, seeing her amazing writing uniform – a bear dressing gown.
The best thing about Louise’s Snapchat presence is how honest and unashamed she is – she isn’t afraid to talk about her books and sing her own praises, but she also talks about the things lots of us are too afraid to talk about or show. I think she’s a wonderful person and this really shows on her Snapchat.
As one of my favourite booktubers, I love getting a behind the scenes looks at Sanne’s life – as she navigates London talking about the books she’s read and exciting things she gets up to.
Whenever I see new additions to Sanne’s story, I rush to grab my headphones so I can watch them and hers was one of the first book-related Snapchat accounts I followed and really solidified my love of Snapchat, so it is a must-follow!
If you’ve never spent hours at a time looking through all the adorable pictures on The Book Ferret Tumblr, what are you doing with your life? Meredith runs one of my favourite blogs and has made me fall head over heels in love with her ferrets, Quigley and Diggle.
Meredith’s Snapchat has extremely cute ferret pictures with added books and sometimes sneak peeks at how she runs her Tumblr – taking the pictures and all about books.
Lucy is another one of my favourite booktubers whose videos I love watching and her Snapchat Story is no different. I found Lucy’s Snapchat again in my earlier days of getting into it properly for bookish purposes (and not taking stupid selfies to send to people) and I’ve loved seeing snippets from events and getting a look at her upcoming videos.
Also, if you haven’t watched any of Lucy’s YouTube videos yet, you definitely should! Her videos are the BEST.
Kate Ormand, author of Dark Days and The Wanderers
I’ve been a fan of Kate ever since I started reading her blog years ago, so I love that’s she jumped on board with Snapchat. We have quite similar tastes in books so it’s good to pick up new recommendations, as well as taking a peek behind the scenes of her writing process as she works on her next novel.
Kate is an all-round lovely person whose Snapchat Story brightens up my day – I love spotting books we’ve both read!
Which bookish Snapchats do you love following? Leave recommendations in the comments!
You can add me on Snapchat where I’ll be starting new daily book recommendations – lucythereader
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It’s May 2013, the day offers a burning heat and the air conditioning is on. I am out. I can picture it so clearly – the day I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The day I felt something shift; I would not come out of it the same person.
I’ve never read a book quite like Fangirl where I have felt like I could be a part of it. I’m sure that Rainbow Rowell somehow followed me about when she was writing Cath because I feel like I am her. It’s the book I turn to when things are a bit fuzzy in my head, when I want to lose myself in the fan fiction or escape for a little bit. It is my favourite book of all time.
Recently, needing that escape, I found it once again in Fangirl. It was my first full re-read since I read it that day in 2013 and a lot has happened since then – I’m no longer the 13 year old I was then. However, I did notice that I have learnt a lot from it, and I really wanted to share that today.
Here are the life lessons that Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell taught me:
1. Sometimes it is totally acceptable to have an Emergency Kanye Party
You know sometimes you feel so full of emotion that all you can do is dance it off? This is a good thing to do. Dancing, no matter how bad you are at it, will always make you feel better. The stupider the dance moves, the better you will feel afterwards. This is a fact.
2. You don’t have to go out and party to have a good time.
I am not, by any means, a party animal. Like Cath, you’re more likely to find me curled up with a book or writing than at a party and reading Fangirl made me realise that this is okay. Being introverted isn’t a problem and not everyone likes going out. Cath made me feel like I was less alone in this feeling!
3. “Are you rooting for me?”
Find someone that you are rooting for, that you want to succeed. And find someone that will root for you in return, whether that be a friend or a loved one.The people in Cath’s life support her and there’s the clear message in Fangirl that the people who don’t care, that won’t support you in return, aren’t the ones that matter.
4. Do what you love. Write what you love.
For Cath, it’s her fanfiction and she loves the world of Simon Snow, so she writes about it.
5. Some books will always stay with you – treasure them.
There are some books that I read and loved years ago, but have returned to after and not loved as much. Fangirl, though, will always stay with me and will always mean something to me. Likewise, for Cath, the books she loves are the fictional Simon Snow series and, even though she’s getting older and people find it weird that she loves them so much, they matter to her. You shouldn’t let other people get in the way of that.
Have you read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell? What did it teach you? Tell me your favourite thing about it in the comments below!