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!
Cat Clarke has long been one of my favourite UKYA authors, ever since I read Undone many years ago and was left bereft by the ending. Seriously — there aren’t many other books that have made me cry the same!
Back last year I revealed the cover of Girlhood, which I read in the summer and fell head over heels in love with. It’s one of the best YA books I read last year, and so I was honoured to be asked to reveal the cover of Cat’s next book: We Are Young.
So, without further ado…. Here is the cover of We Are Young!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
It starts with a wedding. And a car crash.
On the same night Evan’s mother marries local radio DJ ‘Breakfast Tim’, Evan’s brand-new step-brother Lewis is found unconscious and terribly injured, the only survivor of a horrific car crash. A media furore erupts, with the finger of blame pointed firmly at stoner, loner Lewis. Everyone else seems to think the crash was drugs-related, but Evan isn’t buying it. With the help of her journalist father, Harry, she decides to find out what really happened that night. As Evan delves deeper into the lives of the three teenagers who died in the crash, she uncovers some disturbing truths and a secret that threatens to tear her family – and the community – apart for ever…
An unforgettable story from the queen of emotional suspense, for fans of Jodi Picoult, Megan Abbott and Courtney Summers.
How amazing does that sound?! I don’t know how I’m going to be able to wait until it’s released!
The cover was designed by Hachette Children’s in-house designer Sarah Baldwin, and the book will be released on 3rd May 2018.
Okay, let’s get real for a second: it’s getting harder than ever for us book bloggers. Views are low, the number of comments on each post is decreasing, and this can be extremely demotivating for all of us who put lots of work into creating posts, with a very low return. I’m determined, though, to make 2018 the Year of the Blogger, so I have a few tips for things you can do this year to support your favourite blogs.
#1: Follow on social media
If you look in the sidebar of most blogs, you’ll be able to find all of the links to where the blogger lives on social media. Following social media accounts and engaging with the bloggers you follow is a great way of showing your support and letting bloggers know that there are real life people reading their posts, and not just automated bots.
I can promise you that all bloggers love having conversations on social media – they’re one of the most rewarding parts of the job. It’s great to be able to share what you’re passionate about, and even better when you find other people who are just as passionate as you. Plus, it’s a brilliant way to make new friends!
#2: Share links to new posts
Retweet links to posts you’ve liked, tweet the link yourself, quote retweet on Twitter to tell people what you loved about it; share to your Facebook friends or include it in your Instagram Story. There are endless ways to tell people not just about your own posts, but other people’s too.
I have a few favourite blogs that I will ALWAYS retweet, just because I love them and want everyone else to love them too. If we all chose 3 blogs to concentrate on this year that we faithfully spread the word about, I believe it would create an atmosphere where people looked forward to writing every single post, and felt that support was coming from all corners.
#3: Leave a comment!
Comments are a bit like the equivalent of letters – when you receive them, it’s exciting to open them up and read what’s inside. However, like emails taking over from letters, quick messages on social media are now becoming more popular than comments. Although getting any interaction is amazing, the great thing about comments on blogs is that they’re easy to find, no matter how long ago they were left, whereas with Twitter, for example, your feed has already moved on.
Back when I first started blogging, I saw blogs with, quite literally, HUNDREDS of comments. Now, bloggers are lucky if we get 10. I’d love to return to the time when people left meaningful comments, when I would spend all day on a Sunday writing comments on as many blogs as I could find. I feel like we’ve lost a bit of the commenting magic!
#4: Credit other bloggers
Take inspiration from a post that you’ve seen someone else do, or participate in a tag that’s making the rounds? Please credit the original source. Not only is crediting original ideas polite and the correct thing to do, it also spreads the word about a new blog and the original blogger is more likely to share your post to their followers.
Also, what happened to blog memes? There used to be Waiting on Wednesday, Follow Friday, Stacking the Shelves and Letterbox Love… Now, these kinds of post never seem to appear in my feeds. Whilst this format doesn’t always favour the individualistic style of blogging now, I do think that they favoured a more supportive community, so I’d love to see something similar make a return.
#5: Talk about bloggers IRL
In the past few years, particularly since I started my blog, blogging has definitely become more mainstream, but I still feel as though there’s a divide between actual bloggers and people who either consume blogs or have no idea what a blog is. I’d love to hear conversations take place about what it means to be a blogger, how people outside of the blogging community can support blogs, and the changing face of the blog as technology develops.
Blogs and vlogs are now COOL. Instagram is pretty much a micro-blogging platform. But, despite this, blogging hasn’t quite broken the barriers to the outside world, so I think that if we talk more about our favourite bloggers in real life, this will help to make blogging seem like a genuine job or hobby, rather than just something “you do on the side”. Side-hustles are valid too!
How do you think we can support our fellow bloggers this year? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!
Exactly one year ago to the day, I sat down and began writing the first proper draft of my book. I’d written about 20,000 words of a veerryyyy rough draft the summer before, but… that was pretty much all scrapped. I managed to salvage 5,000 words, but that was it. It was, quite honestly, a load of rubbish.
So, back in January 2017, I grabbed a handful of characters who I didn’t know a lot about, a brief plot that didn’t have much substance, and got to work. This time, I was in luck: I got to 40,000 words before I had to put it to the side to tackle my dreaded AS-level exams. Seeing as though I’d written the rough draft back when I was doing my GCSE’s, I definitely don’t make things easy for myself. Something clicked with this draft, though, something that made me happy every time I added words to my manuscript. The characters sprung to life on the page, even off of the page because I couldn’t stop thinking about them; the settings I included became vivider, even more so than when I was writing them in the actual places I feature. Everything finally came together and worked.
I remember sitting in a café in Haworth after visiting the Brontë Parsonage for the first time, right around the time I’d first started writing it back in June 2016, and telling myself, “This is it.” This is going to be the book you finish, finally, after so many false starts. No more 1,000 word openings with nothing else to follow. No more giving up on writing. You’ve got this.
I’d like to think that the spirit of Emily Brontë was looking over me in that moment, because apparently THIS WAS IT. A book I’d finish seven months after starting a proper draft, query nine months later, and the book that ten months later would get me signed with a literary agent better than my wildest dreams. Thanks, Emily.
It’s been a moment of extreme highs and extreme lows (yes, the saying “blood, sweat and tears” quite LITERALLY applies to this book), but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have no idea what the next year will hold for me and my mad group of book lovers but, whatever happens, I will always be incredibly proud of my first ever book and proud of myself for having the motivation and determination to finish it.
If you’re currently writing a book, other than invoking the spirit of a genius author, my advice is, of course: YOU’VE GOT THIS. And may 2018 be an amazing writing year for us all!
I’d love to hear about your 2018 writing projects and goals in the comments below!
I never usually make TBR piles for the month ahead (or to-be-read, for those of you not up on the lingo) but I couldn’t resist for September — I love the autumn so much and love tailoring my reading around the season around this time of year.
I also haven’t done a catch up on my YouTube channel for a while, so I thought I would roll the two into one. So here is my September TBR and catch up video!
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!
I used to LOVE writing book haul posts — I’d do them every week and join in with all the different features, from In My Mailbox to Letterbox Love to Stacking the Shelves. It was one of my favourite parts of blogging and I love talking about the books I’ve recently bought or received for review. So I decided that I would bring back the book haul feature!
My lovely friend Stacey, who writes one of my favourite blogs Pretty Books, visited me at the weekend and we went around lots of the bookshops in Bath, which was obviously an excuse to go a tiny bit crazy with the book buying. Coupled with this, I decided to treat myself to some American hardbacks to celebrate finishing my novel and finishing my exams.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Ever since I heard Jenna talk about Tash Hearts Tolstoy, I’ve wanted to read it. It’s about Tash who has a web series based on Anna Karenina because she is obsessed with Leo Tolstoy (hence the title!). When one of the Internet’s most-famous vloggers gives her a shoutout, she’s suddenly thrust into the limelight.
It sounds nerdy and full of fandom culture, and is supposed to have amazing asexual representation too. I love books that deal with Internet culture because the Internet is such a big part of my life, so I can already tell that I’m going to adore this book. Plus, look at Leo Tolstoy rocking out on the spine! Not something I ever expected to see on a YA book, but it is incredibly cool.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue has been one of my most-anticipated releases of the year and I’ve seen so many people on my Twitter feed talk about it. It’s a historical fiction novel, which I always enjoy and don’t think enough of it is published, about Henry “Monty” Montague who is embarking on his Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend, Percy. The trip should give Monty the perfect opportunity to have a wild last year without responsibility and the chance to flirt with Percy, who he has a massive crush on. The problem is one of his reckless decisions causes a manhunt across Europe, which will call into question everything he knows.
How amazing does that sound?! It hit the New York Times bestseller list when it was first released and sounds like a funny coming-of-age novel set hundreds of years ago. I’ve never read a book about the Grand Tour before, but it’s something I’m very interested in knowing more about. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will love this!
Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley
Based on the Brontë children’s juvenilia, Worlds of Ink and Shadow is told in third person from Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne’s perspective. As any faithful reader of my blog or viewer of my YouTube videos will know, I am rather obsessed with the Brontës. Taking the stories of Glass Town and Angria, which was inspired by a set of toy soldiers that Branwell was given, Lena Coakley recreates the juvenilia with key characters from their writings.
I have to admit that I bought the book mainly because I was curious about it, and not because I think I’ll enjoy it. Whilst I love reading about the Brontës and loved Sally Wainwright’s adaptation To Walk Invisible, I’m not sure how I’m going to feel reading about them as if what’s being written about is the truth — with an adaption, when you can see the actors, it’s easier to feel as it’s just one adaptation of their lives, but a book feels more realistic and more personal. We’ll see!
Ariadnis by Josh Martin
I’ve wanted to read Ariadnis since I first heard about it, so when I saw a copy in Toppings & Company, I had to buy it. It sounds like a fantasy version of The Hunger Games where two girls have to compete in a trial to prevent war against their two nations. The description, rather ominiously, says: “Only one girl will claim Ariadnis’s final prize. Only one will survive.”
I don’t usually read a lot of fantasy, so for me to be excited to read one is a nice change. UKYA fantasy is always great, too, especially as so much of the YA fantasy genre seems to be by US authors. I shall be reading it soon and reporting back!
Tales of Angria by Charlotte Brontë
Is this purchase really much of a surprise? Of course I was going to buy a Brontë book! I love the Brontës’ juvenilia and think it’s a pleasure to read — it’s not always perfect, but that’s what makes it so special. It’s full of immoral characters and epic adventures, and the thing I find most fascinating is watching the progression of Charlotte’s writing from her younger fiction to her novels like Jane Eyre.
Even though I have a different version of the Brontë juvenilia, I think this edition — the Penguin Classics one — has a better introduction and set of notes, plus a few extra stories that my other edition doesn’t have. From the extracts I’ve read so far, I’m sure I will enjoy it.
Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood
Becoming Betty is about Lizzie, who reinvents herself as Betty to achieve the goals on her to-do list: 1. Start college. 2. Become cool. 3. Join a band. 4. Makeover.
I’ve been loving band-related books recently, but have read a lot that are about boy bands, so it will be nice to read a book about music that isn’t centred around fame and celebrity. Eleanor Wood’s books sound really funny and uplifting, and I’m always looking for more contemporary books to love.
Waverley by Sir Walter Scott
I’ve already started reading Waverley, but I was reading it from a Kindle edition which didn’t have any notes and I’m sure, because of the complicated history of the story and the expectation that soon the characters are going to break into strong Scottish dialect, that explanatory notes are a must when reading Sir Walter Scott’s books.
I’ve heard very mixed reviews of Waverley but I’m enjoying it a lot so far; it’s different to what I would usually read, but I wanted to read Sir Walter Scott’s books because of his connection with the Brontës — his books influenced their writings, especially Emily’s.
Waverley was insanely popular when it was first written, with the whole of the UK on tenterhooks to find out who the author was — originally, Sir Walter Scott was a poet, and he published Waverley, one of the first examples of historical fiction, anonymously. Will it have stood the test of time? I shall have to see!
How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis
I love books about books, and I’ve wanted to read How To Be A Heroine ever since I saw a post about it on Ruby’s (long-abandoned) blog. From Cathy Earnshaw to Lizzy Bennett, Samantha Ellis explores heroines from literature in the context of her own reading and life — how her perceptions of them have changed over time as she has changed as a person.
From the parts of Take Courage, Ellis’s latest book, that I’ve read, I think I’m going to love the personal touches of her writing. In the introduction to How To Be A Heroine, she writes: “I wasn’t just reading about my heroines, I was reading the story of my life.” I can relate!
Waterlog by Roger Deakin
Ever since reading Robert MacFarlane’s chapter on Roger Deakin in Landmarks, I’ve wanted to read Waterlog. It’s recently been published by Vintage Classics in one of their gorgeous red-spined editions, and is an exploration of the British Isles through water.
Nature writing books are my favourite and the one thing I dream of being able to write one day, so I’m trying to read as much as possible to develop my own craft, but also because they’re fascinating too. I learn so much about our world and environment through them, and the thing I find most interesting is how everybody’s interpretations about similar phenomenon are always different. I don’t think I’m going to be able to resist reading Waterlog for long!
Selected Poems of William Wordsworth, selected by Seamus Heaney
I love Faber and Faber’s poetry collections, so when I was looking to read some William Wordsworth poetry I knew immediately the edition I would buy. Selected by Seamus Heaney, this edition contains over 40 of Wordsworth’s poems.
Even though I’ve heard lines of Wordsworth’s poems and know of them, I’ve never actually read any of them in full. I love poetry, but I don’t read enough of it so I’m making it my goal for the rest of the year to read as much as possible. From the flick through I’ve done, I think Wordsworth will suit my tastes very nicely.
Plum by Hollie McNish
Cherry Pie was Hollie McNish’s first collection of poetry (published under the name Hollie Poetry) and it was one of the books that got me interested in reading poetry. In this collection, Hollie McNish creates new poems out of old poems she wrote when she was younger — for example, the first poem takes a poem she wrote when she was eight, repurposed now that she is 30.
I think she’s one of the best poetry talents in the country at the moment and I can’t wait to gobble up Plum in one sitting and then take my time when I go back through to discover the poems all over again.
Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett
I was super lucky to receive a copy of Franklin’s Flying Bookshop for review, especially as I’m such a big fan of Jen’s YouTube channel. I’ve already read it and I thought it was wonderful: about a dragon called Franklin who loves reading, but is shunned by the other villagers. When he meets a girl called Luna, though, they start their own flying bookshop.
If you know a child who loves books and reading, this would make the perfect gift. Even at 17 years old, I adored it and I’m not exactly the target audience! Jen’s poetic words and Katie’s illustrations work so well together to bring Franklin to life on the page, and I want to thrust it into the hands of all children (nicely) because they’ll love it.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls
I’ve admired Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls for a while now but wasn’t sure whether to buy it. When browsing Waterstones, though, and opening up onto the page featuring the Brontë sisters, I took it as a sign that I needed it in my life. It’s a collection of 100 pages featuring inspirational women from throughout history — from Jane Austen and Marie Curie, to Cleopatra and Michelle Obama.
It’s written in an accessible way so it’s perfect no matter how old you are. I’ve seen parents buy it for their young children, but equally, people of all ages have been shouting about how good it is on my Twitter feed. It is on the pricier side, but I think it would make a lovely present and is worth every penny for the gorgeous illustrations and fascinating facts.
What books have you bought recently? Have you read any of the ones on my pile? Share in the comments below!
Ever since I started collecting the gorgeous Penguin English Library classics, I’ve had numerous requests to film a tour video of them — showing you my entire collection! They are perhaps my favourite part of my book collection and the editions I choose over any others. It’s got to the point where I’m finding it hard to add any new ones to my collection because I’m sure that if I do the whole stack will fall down.
So, without further ado: here is my Penguin English Library tour!
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens | Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy | Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy | Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell | Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
| The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë | Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë | Evelina by Frances Burney | Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy | Great Expectations by Charles Dickens | The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne | Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James | The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
| Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Dracula by Bram Stoker | Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray | The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins | The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins |The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy | Middlemarch by George Eliot | Silas Marner by George Eliot | North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell | Villette by Charlotte Brontë | A Room With A View by E.M. Forster | Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll | Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton | The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells | The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
What are your favourite book editions that you own? Do you collect any specific ones? Let me know in the comments below!