Tuesday, 29 March 2016

18 Before 18

The clock is ticking, and it's less than a year until I turn 18. There are so many things I want to do before becoming an adult, so let's consider this a bucket-list that now in the printed word, will be set in stone. I have until December 24th...

1) Dye/Chalk my hair. 
I've always been a little dissatisfied with dark brown hair. Having brown eyes as well often makes me feel colourless. Even if it's just a dip dye or the ends of my hair, it needs to be done. [Completed in January]

2) Drink Coffee.
Preferably the least milky possible. 

3) Go to Scotland.
We are currently in the progress of planning to go to Edinburgh and Glasgow for a holiday in the summer. It's right there. Not exactly far. I can't believe I've not been already *sighs*

4) Write, or at least start writing a novel
It can be a short story even. But as an aspiring author, it's embarrassing to say I've never quite completed any of my novels. 

5) Go to Starbucks, order coffee, use a fake name. 
I've not been to Starbucks since I was 6. I want to go, order a coffee and call myself something like Luna, or Persephone. (the fake name part is optional, but I do love those names.) [Completed April 3rd]

6) Get the University ball rolling:
This includes applying to UCAS, writing my personal statement, and going to University open days. I also need to decide on a top five - because so far I only have a top one. Yes, I know I'm problematic, picky, and clearly indecisive. 

7) Travel somewhere out of my city alone. [Leeds - May and again in July]

8) Meet up with a blogging friend.  
I mean, I don't know how this is going to happen, or if it even will, because the friends I've made through blogging are scattered across the UK... the World. Additionally, the meet up some of us have planned isn't until September 2017. But I'd like to meet someone, at least one person, before I'm an adult. [Completed November - I met Amber FINALLY]

9) Make a Document Your Life video. 
When it comes to video making, I'm technologically incompetent. I have iMovie, and for the past year I've been playing around with it a little. Now I want to make a full length Document Your Life video for an undecided month, and I want to do it well.

10) Stay up all night. 
It's true, I'm nearly an adult and I've never done this. I probably should. [Completed same night as No.7, May]

11) Read 12 Classics inc - The Outsiders, The Catcher in the Rye, and at least one Jane Austen novel. 

12) Go to the Cinema alone
I've wanted to do this for years. Often the films I want to see are ones my family wouldn't and most of my friends don't live nearby. I could actually enjoy a film without someone munching in my ear.This will probably, definitely happen for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. [October]

13) Master Eyeliner. 
I can't do eyeliner. I want to be able to do eyeliner. [October]

14) Get another job
Currently I volunteer in a library, but at some point this year I'd like to change that and try something different, as it will add more variety to my UCAS application and CV.

15) Complete the Spanish course on Duolingo.
I never find the time, or when I do, i just don't feel like it - really want to remedy this. Currently I have reached around the 70% mark, so close yet so far. 

16) Actually learn to cook some meals.
I'm not great at cooking. Baking yes. Cooking not so much. I feel like it would be stupid going into adulthood without fixing this. [July]

17) Get back into playing the piano, and play pieces for fun
Since completing my GCSE in Music last year, I might have touched the keys of a piano once at most. It's awful because it is something I'm so passionate about and yet have been unable to bring myself to play.

18) Guest post and write articles for different websites
Recently, I wrote an article for the wonderful Weaving Pages on the concept of 'Elders and Betters'. Writing this has given me a new appreciation for guest posting, and I've felt so inspired start building up a portfolio of articles I've written. [Maybe in the hope of it helping my University applications]. By the time I turn 18, my aim is to have written for Zusterschap, The Olive Fox, and the Guardian Children's Books

What's on your 18 Before 18 list? For those of you who are already over 18, what advice do you have for young adults?

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Beautiful Bookstagrams

For a long time, I was unable to join Instagram due to not having a smartphone or apple device. Back in December 2014, I received an IPad Air for my birthday and in January 2015 my phone contract changed to an IPhone 5C. Suddenly I was immersed in this world of beautiful photography, filters and colours. The palette provided is intrancing, from Mayfair to Hudson, a photo that you were mildly pleased with can rapidly become something that you are actually really proud of - and that is what I love about Instagram. There is however, a beautiful little corner of this website/app under #Bookstagram. This enchanting hashtag has helped me find some amazing accounts that I'd love to share with you.
Saskia's photos never fail to be bursting with colour, and the filter she uses (I think it might be Aden), just adds even more beauty to the images. Not only does Saskia have an instagram, but if you speak Dutch, she has a fantastic book blog too. If you're wanting to read more behind the photo, then this instagram is for you. Follow Here.

I always love the warmth in Kelli's photos. Her above collection, from last Christmas, made me desperate to drink mulled wine and read by the Christmas tree. Kelli's Instagram isn't entirely YA fiction either, but branches out into adult novels. So if you're looking for recommendations, and thinking about expanding your reading tastes, this is the place to look. Follow here

The BookWizard is an account that I sadly only found recently, but am quickly falling in love with. The lighting is somewhat comforting, and contrasts the typical, sterile white backgrounds that I've come across countless times on Instagram. Gracie's account is filled with detailed captions and reviews with each photo. I love the amount of work that clearly goes into every single post. Follow Here.

Anna's bookish Instagram account is so refreshing compared to others I've seen. Her account is like stumbling across a fantasy wonderland, with fairy tale-esque images that are magical and wonderous. You'll love her use of nature and open space. Follow Here. 

What are your favourite bookstagrams?
Holly x

Monday, 7 March 2016

REVIEW - Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak (Serafina, #1)Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one. Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past."

Generally, I don't read historical fiction, or anything involving paranormal fantasy elements. Stories like that just don't work for me. I'm never fully gripped or finding my eyes wandering to the last words of the paragraph, longing to find out what happens next. But Serafina and the Black Cloak was an exception. A jewel in a sea of pebbles. Although first appearing complex, the plot has an ingenious simplicity. I was enthralled from page one.

“Our character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight.”

Serafina is the kind of heroine I wish had existed when I was younger. Quick witted, snarky, determined, and bursting with a passion for what she deems worth fighting for. For someone who has barely interacted with with others in her lifetime, she has an immense capacity to love; whether it be familial, friendship or purely love for Biltmore Estate, and that's beyond admirable. 

“Did evil creatures think of themselves as evil? Or did they think they were doing what was right? Was evil something that was in your heart or was it how people viewed you?” 

For a first time author, I was astonished by the fantastical world Robert Beatty had created. Serafina and the Black Cloak challenges young readers to think about questions beyond their years, yet never underestimates the intelligence of the target audience, which I imagine will be greatly appreciated. Who and what defines good and bad?  What is normal? At what point do we define someone as a friend? These, along with themes such as status, class, parentage, and a truly dark mystery were beautifully woven into the plot.  The atmosphere was cold and eerie, yet the description and characters of Blitmore were filled with warmth. I wanted to be there in 1899 with them. This series is one to watch. 

Thank you so much to Electric Monkey at Egmont for sending me a proof copy of this in exchange for an honest review. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is published in the UK on May 22nd 2016.

Holly x