Monday, 29 December 2014

Blogger Gift Swap: The Gifts!

I wrote about this event just over a month ago, and I was paired up with the lovely Charlotte from 'The World According to Charlottle Coster'. She put up her post about my gifts a couple of days ago so you can check that out here!We emailed back and forth for a while and it was really nice to be in touch with another blogger! It's something instant that you have in common, but also to both of our surprise, Charlotte had just graduated to a university I have applied to go to next year! I really don't know how Viola managed that one!

Anyway onto the exciting bit... THE PRESENTS! Charlotte totally outdid me and spoilt me rotten, I honestly don't know how she bought so perfectly. Firstly there were some 'Waikiki Melon' Yankee Candles, anyone that knows me knows that I am a huuuge candle lover and these smell gorgeous (and have my name in them...).

Then there was a block calendar, she said it was to help me keep organized at sixth form and I'm sure it will but also during the holidays because I never can remember what day, let alone date, it is! Just me?

Next an English Literature student's dream: bookmarks that you can write notes on about all sorts of ideas and questions that pop into your head as you read. This will be so helpful for school but also for pleasure reading when I have a few questions in my head that I want to come back to later!

Then there was a little notepad which Charlotte said I should put in my bag to write down blog ideas when they come into my head. I try to do this on my phone but I never check the notes section and end up forgetting all about them. I love notebooks and to have one specifically for my blog will help me to get much more organised so think of this as a present for you guys too!

 Last but not least was 'Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises' by Ernest Hemingway. I've actually never heard of this book or author!! Shame on me! But Charlotte said she began reading his books around the time she was applying to uni and it's similar to The Great Gatsby! This is a good enough description for me and I can't wait to read it. I love when books are recommended to me!

So there we go, I am so grateful for all of my presents. They were all so thoughtful and I think I have found a good friend in Charlotte too. I want to thank Viola for organising this too, I love a sense of community between us, it makes blogging all the more fun!


Monday, 22 December 2014

To Kindle or not to Kindle

I have always been someone who has shunned kindles because honestly you can't beat the experience of reading an actual book, building a collection e.t.c. Although, recently I have been warming more and more to the idea. 

My Reasons: 
  • When I get requests to review books, more often than not they are only availible on Kindle or E-reader, this means that I have to read them on my iPhone which just isn't comfortable and after an hour or so my eyes feel like they're strained and the font is way too small.
  • When I go on holiday, the books I take with me weigh more than my clothes and shoes combined. It makes so much more sense to have one light device which can store thousands of books. 
  • Also, on the holiday theme, if I run out of books to read whilst I'm on holiday I'm very stuck. With a kindle I could just download another one. 
  • Books are mostly just as expensive on a Kindle so I wouldn't really be saving any money.
  • I can't share the books with my family and friends.
  • The electronic screen might make my eyes strain just as much, when I read it's to get away from staring at a screen! 
So this is me on the edge of buying one, because they're actually quite cheap, but I really need some pushing to do so. Do any of you have kindles? If you do, are they worth the money? Or will they never compare to a good old physical book? Please let me know! 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Girl Online: Zoella's Defence

I wanted to write this because I hate sitting here watching everyone attack someone and not being able to do anything. I feel like Zoe needs more people to defend her because writing abuse seems to be the current bandwagon that everyone wants to join.

If you haven't heard the story then I'm not sure where you've been! It's even made the BBC News which is truly ridiculous. Basically, Zoe aka Zoella released a book called Girl Online which she first announced in this video, in which she made it very clear that a) Penguin had approached her and asked if she wanted to write a book with them and b) she was going to have help with it but the ideas and characters were all her own.

Suddenly almost two weeks after it's release, there is now huge accusations that Girl Online was ghost-written. In the acknowledgements Zoe mentioned two people: Amy and Siobhan, who had been with her 'every step of the way'. This is the only thing I am slightly critical of, I think as Zoe was so open  about having help when it was announced, which is perfectly OK and not a rare thing in publishing, then she should credit these people who helped her in the authors name or make it clearer in the acknowledgements. However, some people have started to make her out to be someone who is fame and money hungry which is such a strong accusation to make about someone you probably only heard of about a week ago when this 'scandal' came to light.

Zoe is someone I have watched on YouTube right from the start, I always felt like I had some kind of connection with her and then when she started talking about her anxiety, which I have struggled with in the past, it just made me bond with her, or her channel I suppose, even more. Knowing how she feels, being a sufferer of anxiety, makes me so upset, I can just imagine how horrible this is added with her struggle with keeping a clear mind.

She, and her boyfriend, made the decision to take a few days away from the internet which I think is a good move as the 'haters' are the sort that will not actually listen to what she says with an open mind, they are just so pleased that they now have something to criticize about her. I honestly believe that is what this is all about. Over the last year Zoe has taken the first tenuous steps from YouTube into mainstream media but I think that has just been setting her up for a fall. She has been painted as this role model of perfection, so you can bet there have been thousands of people waiting to pounce as soon as she slips up.

My personal view of Girl Online is that it is a good thing, I personally am not running to Waterstones to buy it because I think it is aimed at people younger than me, but the book sold 78,000 copies in it's first week breaking all kinds of records, I think this is such a positive thing for literature. 78,000 young people, almost certainly a good percentage of those do not read regularly, are reading now! This should be what is focused on and not who wrote it and her reasons behind it. This is her first book ever so we can let her off for not doing it all herself when she has such a high demand and expectation to meet. Her publishers know it will sell whatever is in it, so they want to make it actually something good which they cannot guarantee for her first ever attempt.

My general message is to lay off her. Perhaps yes she should have been more transparent about the writer, but it's not as if she has thrown some money at someone and left them to get on with it, she has been a part of the story and is clearly very passionate about it. I hope I have come across as someone who isn't just another Zoella fangirl, I am looking at this from an unbiased perspective, just to see someone showered in hate just because people finally have a reason to is just upsetting and embarrassing. Think about what you are saying before you type it out and make sure you have taken into account the full story.

So what do you think? I would love a good discussion about this in the comments so be sure to tell me your take on the whole ghostwriter 'scandal'.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cookbook Review and Author Interview: Crazy Dumplings by Amanda Roberts

I really love cooking, so when Amanda got in touch asking for a review of her book I couldn't say no! I would say this is the perfect student cookbook. I am (hopefully) off to university next year, and I thought this would be a really simple but delicious concept for meals when I can't be bothered to make something elaborate

There are every type of recipe you could think of, from Chinese to Italian, to Dessert! All wrapped up in the same dumpling wrapper recipe! I was a bit suspicious of how it could work so I decided to try the Pizza filling and the Cinnamon Swirl filling, both were equally delicious and ridiculously simple! The only thing I did have trouble with was the folding, I never have been a very artistic person so fiddly things are not my forte. (I'm too embarrassed to put up a picture of how they actually looked) That being said it didn't affect the overall taste and I think there is a knack which I will get with plenty of practice.

Amanda was also sweet enough to answer my questions so here is my interview with her:

How did you get into cooking?

I've always loved cooking. I think I got into it as a teen because I had a big family and the rule was whoever cooked didn't have to do dishes. Seemed like a fair trade to me! I loved cooking big meals for family and friends and always hosted parties at my house.

When I moved to China, though, I had to completely re-learn how to cook. The first time I stepped in my new kitchen, I didn't even know how to turn on the stove! Going to the grocery store was like visiting a new planet. Even starting with "the basics" was hard. "I can just start with potatoes and chicken breast," I thought. But the grocery store didn't have chicken breasts, only whole chicken! And forget mashed potatoes. Over 80% of Chinese are lactose intolerant, so dairy products can't be found in rural areas.
Most of us learn to cook from our parents and know what ingredients are at our disposal to make the foods we like. Imagine being dropped on a desert island and being told to cook dinner with no one to teach you and no understanding of your surroundings. That was the situation I was facing.

What inspired you to write this book?

Well, after the experience I already talked about, I realized I couldn't be the only expat in the world facing this situation. My dream quickly became to write a cookbook for people living abroad. That is a big undertaking though, so I decided to start smaller.

There is a long stretch of road between the first town in China I live in (in northern rural Hunan) and the nearest city. I get carsick when I try to read in a moving vehicle, so on long trips like that, all I can do is sit and think for a while. Some of my best book ideas have come to me on that bus ride. Crazy Dumplings was one of them. It just came to me, really, and by the time I got where I was going I already had ideas for 20 recipes.

But what's really interesting is the way the book was funded, tell me about your Kickstarter journey!

I fell in love with Kickstarter about 2 years ago. I have backed dozens of projects since then and thought it would be perfect to help me get my cookbook off the ground. I actually ran two campaigns. The first time, my goal was $5,000. I raised $3,000. But I didn't consider it a failure. I learned from my mistakes and tried again a few months later. This time I set my goal at $3,000 and raised over $9,000! I presold over 400 copies of my book and received a lot of support along the way. For any authors out there who are thinking of using a crowd funding platform to get their project off the ground, I say go for it!

What advice would you give to those trying out your recipes?

Be flexible! That's something I write about in the book as well. This book is for everyone, no matter where you live in the world, so what ingredients are at your disposal will vary. Don't discount a recipe because you think something isn't available in your area. Try looking for substitutions. You can also simplify many of them if you live in a diverse area. For example, many of the sauces (sweet and sour, teriyaki, Thai sweet chilli) I give instructions to make from scratch, but if you can find these in your local grocery store and save yourself some prep time, go for it!

What is your favourite recipe in the book?

They are all so good! But I have to say the Creamy Chicken Dumplings are my favourite. They are really easy to fix, but they are so flavourful and the creamy sauce is just delicious. It's an easy way to impress guests with something original, but very simple to make.

You can find 'Crazy Dumplings on Amazon here or in the US here! I would recommend checking it out because the concept is so simple but this explores so many different variations! I also love that this has been funded entirely by donations, so give back to these generous people and make yourself some 'Crazy Dumplings'!
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