Photos from London and Cambridge + Exciting Announcements

We’ve been doing some exciting things lately. We went into Cambridge to do some shopping and see the sights, then into London for some touristy things.

Cambridge

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These are two colleges in Cambridge. Very impressive.

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Lollies (well, “sweets”) galore. The guy in the top right is making fudge.

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So Heffers is this great book shop unique to Cambridge (and it was cheaper than Waterstone’s!). It was 3 for the price of 2, so I got these ones. All the Bright Places was just…amazing.

London!

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So here we’ve got some pics of Big Ben and the London Eye and Westminster Abbey. It was a pretty gloomy day, but we rugged up.

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This was at Trafalgar Square. You can see my sisters trying to clamber up onto the lion. Also – a Candy Crush bus!

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This is outside Buckingham Palace. It was very exciting. This motorbike ZOOMED into the middle and halted the traffic, and this cavalcade went past from the Palace. Who knows? The Queen might have been coming past!

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Top left: The Australia Gate of the Buckingham Palace. We’re famous!

Top right: the Palace itself. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Changing of the Guard. Plus, the guard we DID see kept yawning.

Bottom: fancy schmancy gates. I need some of them for my house.

Exciting announcements!

So CHANGES are coming to the blog. Change isn’t always good, but this time I’m hoping it will be. If you stalk my Twitter you may have an inkling of what those changes may be, but for now I’ll be a bit sneaky about it.

Let me just give you three clues.

1) It will involve a giveaway and a blog hop.

2) It’s been one of my goals ever since I got a blog

and

3) It’s caused me no end of frustration. BUT THAT’S OKAY. It’s working quite well now.

That was probably way too easy…

But anyway, this will all be happening once I get back to Australia in about two weeks, so get excited!

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Negative Reviews Don’t Mean You’re a Better Reviewer

There seems to be this weird idea that negative reviews are worth more than positive reviews.

It’s not everyone. And by and large the YA community is pretty good at NOT being condescending/snobby/toffee-nosed. But then sometimes I see reviews dismissing the opinions of people who like a book. Like:

“This book is awful and I don’t see why anyone would willingly read it. Everyone who likes this book is an idiot.”

I mean, I’m exaggerating a BIT, but it does happen, and it makes me so mad. Just because you write a negative review doesn’t mean it’s a BETTER review than a positive one. When did we all get so negative? Sometimes when I watch movies I go on Rotten Tomatoes and check out the reviews, and they are so snarky.

Thank goodness our community isn’t like that for the most part.

And it makes me feel sorry for the authors.

Even one mean review can throw out a ton of positive ones, which frustrates me because negative reviews should NOT have more weight.

That’s right, T Swizzle, you tell ’em.

I don’t write negative reviews all that often.

I would much rather flail. And I always make sure to say that other people might like it.

Negative reviews definitely have a place, and I’m not saying we should only write positive reviews – not every book is made equal, and there’d be no integrity to the system if we gave everything five stars. Plus, negative reviews can be entertaining. But when you’re insulting the author personally, or dismissing the opinions of people who DO like that particular book, then I have a problem.

And don’t even get me started on the people who dismiss YA as a whole.

Okay, calm. Calm.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t let one negative review stop you from wanting to read a book.

Or even LOTS of negative reviews. When I read The Jewel this year, it was after reading lots of one- and two-star ratings. I really enjoyed it. But sometimes I do make the mistake of taking the negative reviews into account more than I should.

There’s this weird habit where I look at the average rating on Goodreads, and if it’s below 4, I seriously reconsider wanting to read it.

LIKE. WHAT EVEN, EMILY? Afterworlds is rated below four, and I LOVED that book to pieces.

In my opinion, anyway, negative reviews shouldn’t mean you’re a better reviewer, or hold more weight than positive reviews.

What do you think?

 

Hope in a Ballet Shoe: for fans of Mao’s Last Dancer

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Author: Michaela and Elaine De Prince

Genre: memoir/auto-biography

Published by: Allen and Unwin

Source: received for review (thanks, A&U!)

Blurb:

Orphaned by war, saved by ballet.

Growing up in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela DePrince witnesses atrocities that no child ever should. But there is hope: the Harmattan wind blows a magazine through the orphanage gates. Michaela picks it up and sees a beautiful image of a young woman dancing.

And then Michaela and her best friend are adopted by an American couple and Michaela can take the dance lessons she’s dreamed of since finding her picture.

Life in the States isn’t without difficulties. Unfortunately, tragedy can find its way to Michaela in America, too, and her past can feel like it’s haunting her.

And yet, today, Michaela is an international ballet star.

A heart-breaking, inspiring autobiography by a teenager who shows us that, beyond everything, there is always hope for a better future.

Yay dancing!

I don’t know what it is about ballet, but I’m kind of obsessed with reading about it. Not that that happens often – Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin is pretty much the only book I’ve read. There needs to be more fiction!!mao's last dancer 2

So I ended up comparing this to Mao’s Last Dancer pretty often.

I guess that was inevitable. They’re both about dancing and they’re both memoirs and they’re both about kids who grow up in difficult circumstances before coming to the US. But it’s not like I’m going to say one’s better than the other. Both are amazing.

Anyway so this is the story of Mabinty Bangura, also known as

Michaela De Prince.

Reading of her story before she went to America was…really sad, actually. And these things are still happening all over the world – it’s easy to forget that. But what I loved was Michaela’s steadfast determination to become a ballerina.

What I also loved was the family aspect (which we need more of in fiction, by the way – yes, I’m going to keep saying it).

Michaela’s parents, and her sister Mia? Oh my gosh. I was crying in some of this book. What they’re willing to do for each other is incredible. Honestly it kind of made me want to adopt a kid when I’m older.

Then again watching The Hundred Foot Journey made me want to open a restaurant so you never know what a story will make me do.

Michaela is an incredible role model for girls everywhere.

That’s what I’d tell Michaela if I ever met her. That I admire her dedication to becoming a ballerina, despite so many tragedies and mishaps along the way.

And racism is a big one.

Michaela begins to notice that all the ballerinas are white, and everything in the ballet world is fitted around that. I can’t even imagine how discouraging it would have been to never see someone like you in the world you wanted to be a part of.

And I know I’m going off-topic, but this is why representation is important. People reading Hope in a Ballet Shoe can see that someone else is like them – they’re not alone.

 

 

Sorry guys. I keep forgetting this is supposed to be a review. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

 

There’s quite a bit of ballet terminology in this one.

I did ballet for like two years – so I know pretty much nothing. I did a dance to Care Bears, people. Care Bears. I had a red tutu with a love heart sewn onto the front. It was brilliant.

But it didn’t hinder my understanding at all. So that was nice.

 

Actually I wish there could have been more of the dancing part.

The trouble I’ve always found with memoirs is that you never really become PART of the story – there’s a lot of telling. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I guess it’s why I’m a fiction person rather than non-fiction.

Overall, though?

A beautiful story about loss, and hope, and following your dreams. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5 Wonderkitties

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The Debut Novels I’m Anticipating in 2015

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Each week there’s a different Top Ten list. It’s a great way to find and connect with other awesome bloggers.

I’ve made a LOT of lists of 2015 books, and I don’t want you to get bored, so I’m only going to be listing ones I haven’t already.

I’d like to thank Goodreads, without which I’d have no clue what was happening in the YA world.

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

This is a dystopian and it sounds kind of Selection-ish, and…dystopians are tricky these days, but I’m excited anyway. Early reviews have been good.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

I saw the words “Japanese mafia” and I was sold.

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Blurb first line: “A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star.” I’m sold.

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The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn

Okay so what happens in this book is five teenagers have burdens: MS, loss of a girlfriend, drug addiction and other things. Then one night they all SWAP with each other.

If that’s not the most amazing premise ever I don’t know what is.

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

This is about ballet. ALSO, look at that cover!! It’s incredible. I sooo want to read this.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

One of them is allergic to electricity, one has a pacemaker. So that’s awkward.

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

All I know is that it’s contemporary and it has about a million five-star reviews already. I’m in.

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5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

This is about the ratio of boys to girls in India – really intriguing, because we’re studying this in school and it’s scary. Also, points for diversity.

Shutter by Courtney Alameda

Looks creeptastic.

The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

This is a middle grade book about…um, books, and puzzles, and two kids solving the puzzles within a book. And it sounds extremely awesome.

Wow. I have a lot of books to look forward to this year.

England Update #2 – ALL the photos

Okay so I can’t be bothered writing much at the moment, so instead we’re just going to have some pictures. Yes? Pictures are good. Since I updated things last, we’ve gone to Queensgate (which is basically like Westfields), Ferry Meadows and Cherry Hinton Park.

AND ALSO THERE HAS BEEN LOTS OF FROST. We’ve been de-icing the cars and rugging up with several layers. No snow yet, unfortunately. Going to Cherry Hinton, it was -1 degree, which “warmed up” to 2 degrees. Crazy. My toes have never been so cold.

Anyway, the pictures!

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These photos were taken by my dear mother, who fancies herself a bit of a photographer.

Look, it’s me!

 

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Top left – my mum wanted to recreate a photo from when I was like 3.

Top right – my mum’s cousin photo-bombing me

Bottom – when my sister was taking this I think she insulted my scarf or something. Ten points if you can guess which book I’m reading.

Emily’s Artistic Shots

 

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The one on the bottom is a frozen spider web. I HATE spiders but I don’t mind their webs, and it did look very pretty.

Wellies

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Since England is strange, we have on the left GREEN, and on the right MUD AND ICE. Crazy.

Also, how cool are my wellies??

Animals and Other Small Creatures

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Top left – mum’s cousins’ dog Monty, bounding into the freezing water.

Top right – me holding the new arrival, baby William. He was born on New Year’s Day.

Bottom – well, a swan, obviously.

Plans!

So on Wednesday we’re going to London to do touristy things, and also going around Cambridge this week. Next week on Wednesday we’re doing the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London (!!!!!) and then on the 16th we’re going to France.

And you know what that means?

The best photos are still to come.

January Loony Blurbs

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Loony Blurbs is a monthly link-up, created by yours truly, where we make up blurbs based merely on a book title.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

red queenEveryone thought Alice was a pure, innocent little girl with a white dress and a blue pinafore.

But that’s a lie.

The Red Queen is sick of being the bad guy. With the Cheshire Cat’s help, she’s going to bring Alice down.

Or the whole of Wonderland will suffer.

 

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, edited by Kirsty Murray (assorted authors)

eat the sky, drink the oceanKirsty is a Skyborn.

Murray is an Oceanborn.

With the Earth in between them, they can never meet. That is, until they both make deals with Ursula, and meet in the middle.

Problem is? It’s a trap.

 

 

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

solitairePolly has no friends, and she finds herself playing endless games of solitaire to amuse herself. But it turns out that it’s not just a game.

It’s real.

In the vein of Jumanji, this is the story of a game you won’t forget.

 

 

 

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley

scrambled eggs at midnightBrad is an excellent cook. The only problem is that he can only cook at midnight. Any other time, there are too many people, too many distractions, too much to think about.

But then a competition arrives. Kids Kitchen.

So either Brad has to get over his inability to cook in front of other people…

Or he misses out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

stormdancerJay is a stormdancer. The other Shifters make fun of him – they can make the weather change just by waving their hands or some nonsense.

Jay has to dance.

But when the Empire faces the worst storms it has ever faced, it might be up to Jay to fix things.

 

 

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

not a drop to drinkMindy falls out of a plane and right into the Sahara Desert.

Well. There were other steps along the way, but that’s the basics of it.

And now she has to figure out how to get out of the Desert with only a bottle of Mount Franklin and army rations.

This is going to be interesting

 

 

The Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim

astrologer's daughterRebecca’s mum is an astrologer – a bunch of crap, really. Rebecca’s never put much stock into star signs and all of that.

That is, until the day she meets Capricorn.

That’s when everything changes.

 

 

 

You can join in anytime this month using the link-up below!

The conclusion to the Mara Dyer trilogy had lots of retribution

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Author: Michelle Hodkin

Genre: paranormal/thriller

Published by: Simon and Schuster

Source: received for review – thanks, Simon and Schuster!

Blurb:

Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

This trilogy has surprised me all the way through. I don’t know what to think.

 

I’m, I’m kind 0f lost for words right now. I just. Hmm. This is going to be an interesting review, isn’t it?

 

 

Let’s start with Mara.

So just in case you’re unaware (and, hello, her name’s in the title), Mara is our main character. She changes a WHOLE lot during this trilogy and sometimes I felt alienated from her. That wasn’t necessarily in a bad way, but I felt like the changes in her personality needed more explanation.

Basically? She scared the shit out of me.

BUT it was in a different way to the second book. The second book was creepy because of external things. This book was terrifying because of Mara herself, and the way we’re essentially reading a villain’s point of view.

There is a lot of blood. And retribution. Thank goodness it wasn’t detailed or I probably would have thrown up. But Mara becomes quite a violent person and some of her choices are…questionable to say the least.

I liked the complexity of Mara’s character, though. In fact I love the complexity of the entire series, which brings me to my second point.

There’s a lot of Freudian/psychological/scientific/philosophical crap going on.

https://i2.wp.com/s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/2014-11/23/20/enhanced/webdr08/anigif_enhanced-12756-1416792726-13.gifOkay, I didn’t understand nothing. I understood some things. For example, I understood that a LOT of thought went into the creation of the biological/genetic/psychological aspects of this book, and Michelle Hodkin has clearly done her research thoroughly. If I were to read it again, I’m sure I would be amazed at how the pieces fit together.

Unfortunately it was a while in between reading the first two and the third, so it didn’t quite have the desired effect.

But anyway, I loved those psychological things best, despite not quite understanding them. I’ve always been fascinated with the dynamics of villains and heroes, and the grey area between them – this series delves right into that grey area. Sure, it’s uncomfortable sometimes, but it made me think. Sometimes you don’t want to think while you’re reading, but in this case, it had my brain whirring.

It’s not quite like any other book.

If you’re looking for a book that does the OPPOSITE of condescending to teenagers, this is your book. I’m constantly blown away by how it’s not like ANY other YA book out there.

I know, I know, every book’s original, yadda yadda, but there are varying degrees of originality, and this one tops them all.

Only problem?

I don’t know. I guess because of the many (MANY) plot twists in this book, I was hoping for an ending that totally blew everything out of the water. An ending that I would NEVER have guessed and that changed everything.

Unfortunately that wasn’t what I got, and I’ve got to admit it was disappointing. It was nice enough, I guess, but there were no risks in it. And I guess that’s a risk in itself, but…yeah. It wasn’t an ending I personally enjoyed.

And obviously Michelle Hodkin isn’t going to be able to please everyone, so it’s not the book, it’s me.

Oh, and by the way? I found the perfect gif for Mara.

You’re welcome.

Rating: 4/5 Wonderkitties

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