Remember, Remember the 30th September

Hello everyone

Today’s post is a personal piece that I wrote as part of my coursework (which we call folio) for English National 5, which I sat last year. I’m both nervous and excited to share it, so I hope you enjoy.

Amy xxx

Imagine for a moment that you are seven. You`re too tall, and you`ve started puberty around five years too early. No one knows what`s wrong with you, and the doctors you go to see brush you off and say you`re being silly. But your mum is terrified so they send you for an MRI scan to get your case off their desks. I don`t have to imagine it; that seven-year-old was me.

The appointment letter arrived, and the date was set. The 30th September 2009 at 6 o`clock. My mum prepared me in the weeks before, told me how I had to be brave for the scan so we could make sure I was okay. 

I was going to be okay.

The day arrived. At hometime that day, my mum and dad picked me up instead of the bus. We arrived at Yorkhill at half past three. “You`ll have to wait,” the nurse told us.

Cancellations are as rare as happy endings in the MRI unit, I`ve found out since. But by some twist of fate, there was a cancellation at 4 o`clock. I was ready, and then they strapped me in. 

I had a meltdown. I couldn`t do it.

“You can come back,” the nurses said. “There`s no rush.”

Tempting as their offer was, I couldn`t accept, not after I looked into my mum`s eyes and she begged me to do it for her. I gripped her hand so hard she wouldn`t be able to feel it for days, but she didn`t care. I`d done the hard bit, and now I was going to be okay.

After we`d been waiting for over three hours, my parents knew I was not okay at all.

A doctor finally appeared. His face was so white he could have been dead. I still remember the first thing he said to me: “I think you`ll have to take a few days off school to process this”

He went on to tell us that I had a tumour the size of an orange, with a rat tail pressing on my pituitary gland, growing in my brain, along with several in my ears and on my spine. I needed surgery urgently. I think my family and I knew in that moment that I was never going to be okay again.

My mum took me into the corridor before he started explaining the various ways my surgery could go wrong. “Am I going to die?” I sobbed, falling to the floor.

“If you do I`ll kill you again” my mum said, helping me up. In more ways than one, she`s kept me standing ever since.

I don`t remember the two weeks before I had surgery, apart from playing ridiculous amounts of Wii Sports. I didn`t go to school apart from the day before the October week began, to say goodbye (possibly forever) to my classmates. I didn`t speak to a single person all day.

Instead of the full week, we spent a few days in Eyemouth before my operation. Neither my mum or dad stopped crying the full weekend.

I don`t know very much about the aftermath, apart from what I`ve been told. I was more helpless than a new-born baby; I couldn`t walk, talk, eat, drink or see. I had to learn everything from scratch, and I spent almost a month in hospital, but no amount of effort would bring my sight back.  My surgeon Miss Brown, hands down the cleverest person I know, thought it was the price we`d paid for my life.

Somehow, after six weeks, I gradually began seeing blurry colour, then fuzzy shapes and eventually some sight returned. My mum didn`t leave my side the whole time. I can say with some certainty I don`t think I`d have survived without my mum, encouraging me every day I spent in hospital.

My health still isn`t amazing. I`m no longer walking about with a ticking time bomb inside my head, but the tumours in my ears have grown, and I`m facing some sort of treatment in the next year due to tinnitus. And due to where the brain tumour was located, I have frequent headaches and nausea, and if I go a day without falling it`s a miracle. Because my `major` tumour was in my brain, they can`t be sure, but doctors think I have neurofibromatosis type 2, a condition which produces tumours on your nerves.

Things are never going to be truly okay again, and I`ve come to terms with that, just about. I`ll always spend quite a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms; I`ll always have headaches and feel sick most days;  always have to be careful when I walk in case I lose my balance and fall. I`m terrified about the idea of having another surgery, or radiation therapy in the near future. 

 Looking to the future, the chances of me being able to drive are slim, and perhaps the thing that upsets me most of all, if I was to have children, something I would like to do at some point, I risk giving them this. I risk putting my child through numerous operations and treatments and day to day illness. I risk killing my child. It`s a long way off, but I think about it almost every day. That`s the thing that scares me most about my condition; the idea that I`ll have to make a decision one day about playing Russian Roulette with a baby`s life.

If I could go back and tell my seven-year-old self something, I`d tell her that even though what she`s about to do isn`t easy, she`ll get through it. She is braver and stronger than she knows and she`ll overcome the odds. I`m not okay, but after a while I got used to it, and I`ve found a new version of okay. 

And maybe that`s all anyone with an illness like mine can do.

Thank you for reading ❤

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ruth Lauren 

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m hugely excited to have Ruth Lauren, who wrote one of my favourite reads of this year, here for an interview.

Let’s get started!

Hi Ruth! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview; welcome to Golden Books Girl

It’s my pleasure, thanks so much for having me!

1. Can you please describe Prisoner of Ice and Snow in 5 words for anyone who hasn`t read it?

Prison Break meets Frozen

2. What inspired you to write the book? Had you always envisaged it as a series, or did you originally plan for just one book?

The idea began when I was watching Prison Break with my son. I wondered what that kind of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead (and then if it were set in a fantasy land where I could add all sorts of interesting challenges and twists). 

I actually only planned a standalone, but every publishing house interested in the story wanted a sequel, and once I started thinking about what might happen to Valor and Sasha next, I knew they were right. 

3. The world of Demidova is so vivid and layered. How did you go about your worldbuilding? Were there any high points or challenges during this process?
You’re so kind, thank you!

I wanted a very cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison. 

Once the setting was fixed in my mind, the details had to reflect the landscape—the animals that inhabit it, the clothes the people need to wear, the food they might be able to access. My editor was brilliant at helping me think about other aspects that add to making the world feel real—like special celebration days in the city, the history of the prison and the geography involved with surrounding lands and how they might impact on the story.  

I drew on elements of the Russian landscape and traditional clothing but I also wanted to create a matriarchal world where only women can rule and where they often have positions of power. I wanted the sisters to inhabit a world where they don’t have to struggle or overcome (at least not in this aspect) and it would never occur to them that those positions weren’t open or available to them. They see women in every role in the book—from ruler to doctor to prison guard to hunter. That was a really important part of the world to me. 

The whole experience was actually one big high point (or at least it feels like it in retrospect). Prisoner is very different from anything I’d written before and it was a lot of fun to write. 

4. Your heroine Valor, is so brave and I really sympathised with her throughout the book, even if I didn`t agree with her decisions. Who would you say your top three heroines are?

Ok, I’m cheating a little bit here. 

TV: Buffy, Jessica Jones, Lisa Simpson

Books: Katsa (Graceling), Feo (The Wolf Wilder) and Katniss Everdeen

5. Alongside Valor is a variety of other prisoners who form a fabulous ensemble cast. Which character of these is your favourite?
I have a soft spot for little Feliks, but Katia is my girl.  

6. What`s your writing process like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
I really don’t! Just outlining, trying to write 1k a day when I’m drafting, and wondering how people who listen to music when they write can possibly concentrate.

7. If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?

I would love to steal The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for my own. Or anything by Laini Taylor or Kristin Cashore or Katherine Rundell. Their imaginations feel so much bigger than my own and I know I could never write anything on the scale that the first three do or with the inimitable style that Katherine Rundell does.  

8. Finally, before our quickfire round, can you let anything slip about the sequel to Prisoner of Ice and Snow, Seeker to the Crown?

Seeker picks up right where Prisoner left off and with Princess Anastasia now missing, Valor is plunged straight into another exciting mission. More crossbow, more icy danger, and I don’t want to say too much, but a certain monarch may vanish leaving Demidova in chaos . . . 

QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house- I have no idea!

Favourite flavour of ice cream– Salted Caramel 

Animal you`d most want to turn into?- Cheetah

City/country you most want to go on holiday to that you haven`t yet? Florence, Italy
Favourite season of the year?- Spring
Thank you so much to Ruth for answering my questions, and Emily at Bloomsbury for setting the interview up!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post everyone! I’d love to hear what you thought if this book if you’ve read it!

 Amy xxx

5 Disney Films I Haven’t Seen Yet but Want To

Hello everybody!

It’s the weekend, yay! Today I’m going to be talking about the 5 Disney films I most want to watch, but for whatever reasonI haven’t got round to yet!

Let’s get started 😊


 Pinocchio- I’m not really sure why I haven’t watched this yet, as I absolutely loved it as a pantomime (I’ve only seen it done once that I can remember, but it worked a lot better than I thought it would), and some of my favourite characters I met at Disneyland Paris were from this film (Gideon jumps to mind in particular). I definetely need to get round to it soon!


Oliver and Company– This film sounds like EXACTLY the sort of Disney movie I love best, seeing that it has music, animals and lovely friendships. (And it’s set in New York, which always tends to be a treat visually!). The last time I tried to get the DVD it was too expensive, but when I check now it’s much cheaper so I’m planning to try and get a copy soon!

EditDumbo- Ive been putting off watching this for AGES (I’ve owned it for years). Why, you ask? Because I think it’s going to break my heart. I don’t do well with bad things happening to animals, especially baby ones 😭. I’m in the same boat with The One and Only Ivan too!

Peter Pan- I had to read the book of Peter Pan when I was at primary school, and I didn’t especially enjoy it. My mum read it with me, and also hated it, but unlike me isn’t especially willing to give the Disney film a chance 😔. I will eventually get round to it myself though!

101 Dalmatians– I haven’t watched this yet because I absolutely adore the book, and I’m worried the film won’t live up to it. I’ve heard it’s lovely to watch around Christmas though, so maybe this festive season will get me to watch it.

Thank you so much for reading! Are there any Disney movies you haven’t watcged yet but want to? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl

See you soon with a new post 

Amy xxx

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Childhood Books/Series

Hello everyone!

Today I’m taking part in the Top Ten Tuesday meme, hosted over at the Broke and the Bookish

Today’s theme is a Throwback freebie, so I decided to talk about some books I loved when I was younger. As there is a little bit of an overlap in theme with my Books Which Made Me a Reader post, I’m only going to mention a few of those here so this is bit different! (Unsurpisingly, once I started thinking I got really indecisive and have ended up with slightly more than 10, and that’s the main reason why I’m not talking about many of the books on my other list)

Let’s get started! 😊

MY SISTER THE VAMPIRE by Sienna Mercer- This is a FABULOUS open-ended series aimed at 9+ (currently 18 books long) about Ivy (a vampire) and Olivia (a human) as they dicover they’re long lost twins, and set about solving the mysteries of their past. I’m really overdue a reread of these; especially since I haven’t yet got round to the latest! The first 10 especially are exceptionally good.

TOTALLY LUCY and RAINBOW BEAUTY by Kelly McKain-  Kelly McKain was one of my very favourite authors when I was younger. Totally Lucy is about a girl called Lucy (shockingly 😱) and her ambitions to be a fashion designer and her friendships and romantic mishaps. They’re in diary format, quite silly and funny and also slightly predictable as you get further on, but they’re a lot of fun.

Rainbow Beauty, aimed at slightly older readers, is about Abbie as her family is shattered and she and her mum/sisters move to Devon to start up a beauty parlour and try and make their lives good again. This is a gorgeous series; the first 2 books are brilliant summery reads and the 3rd, Blueberry Wishes, is totally perfect to get you in the mood for Autumn. 

MALORY TOWERS/FIVE FIND-OUTERS by Enid Blyton- I am a massive fan of Enid Blyton (despite a librarian once trying to tell me I shouldn’t be 😑) and these two series are my favourites. Even though I enjoyed the Famous Five books, I think that the Five Find Outers are far superior, and vastly underrated! They’re fabulously plotted mysteries and the characters (particularly Fatty) are absolutely hilarious.

Malory Towers is much better known, and they are about Darrell as she starts Malory Towers (and Pamela Cox has written 6 books about her little suster Felicity’s time at the school too). They’re absolutely excellent!


MY LIFE STARRING MUM by Chloe Rayban-
 compared with my last choices, this book isn’t very famous. It’s about Holly, who just wants to be a regular girl, but isn’t able to because her mum is world famous popstar Khandi. I reread this fairly recently and didn’t love it too much at all, but when I was young it was my go to funny book.

SCARLETT by Cathy Cassidy– I’m still a huge Cathy Cassidy fan now, especially of the Chocolate Box Girls series, but Scarlett was by far my favourite book of hers growing up. It’s the story of misfit troublemaker Scarlett as she moves in with her estranged dad and his new family in Ireland and what happens when she meets the gorgeous Kian at the local lough. This book is still really wonderful when I reread, and I highly recommend it for the hilarious scenes, the touching ones, and the portrayal of complicated but loving family relationships.

SECRET BREAKERS by HL Dennis- Even though I actually didn’t like this series when I first read it, I grew to adore it. I always describe these as mysteries that aren’t about who dun it or how, it’s about what it means. The 6 book series (which is incredibly well paced) tells the story of ‘Team Veritas’ a team if children and talented ex code crackers as they come together to try and work out the contents of the Voynich Manuscript. The charcaters are all super lovable (my personal favourite is Hunter, who is just delightful) and the mystery keeps you reading even though the chapters/books are quite chunky.

PONY CLUB SECRETS by Stacy Gregg- I adore this series about Issie and her dreams of equestrian superstardom as she grows up in New Zealand, and my love grows even deeper with every reread. This is the series that I was most excited about new releases in (I used to read them the day I got my hands on them) and it features one of my favourite romances of all time with Issie and Aidan 😍

THE 39 CLUES by various authors- I’m not sure why barely anyone has heard of this series, but I would love for everyone to read it! They’re very clever, and are about a family searching for clues that lead to a prize which will make them the most powerful people on earth, and this hunt is linked with their ancestors (who in this alternate world are all members of different branches of the Cahill family). I can’t shout enough about these; if you can, please do read them and come fangirl with me!

MATES, DATES by Cathy Hopkins- This is the 1st teen series I read (even though I was probably too young 😂) and I adored them. They’re about the friendships, relationships and family troubles of a group of four girls in North London, and they’re really addictive and fun. I got in touch with Cathy after reading them and she’s now a family friend, and the dog in one of her latest releases a Home for Shimmer is actually based on and named after mine!

ALLYS WORLD by Karen McCombie- These books, which are some of the funniest I’ve ever read, are about Ally Love, who feels like the only normal one in her chaotic family. I adored these books so much that I went to see Karen at the Edinburgh Book Festival and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. I’ve now read almost all of her books (except for a few now out of print and most of her Barrington Stoke titles),  but Ally’s World will always be my favourite (Stella Etc also holds a very special place in my heart)

ADVENTURE ISLAND by Helen Moss- To finish, I want to talk about this series, which I always describe as having changed my life. This blog almost certainly wouldn’t exist without them; they rescued me when I was falling out of love with reading, and they were what made me start reviewing books too. They’re about brothers Scott and Jack being forced to go to Cornwall for a summer holiday (in the 1st books at least, in later ones they’re desperate to get there!) and them solving mind-boggling mysteries with their new friend Emily and her dog Drift. These are truly modern day Enid Blyton style mysteries, and in my opinion, might even be better. I’m also lucky enough to know Helen herself (and have met up for a day of bookish goodness, where she introduced me to another book I absolutely loved; Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear about your favourite childrood reads in the comments below! 

See you soon with a new post 

Amy xxx

Blog Tour Review: Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren 

Hello everybody! 

Today, I’m incredibly excited to be part of the blog tour for Ruth Lauren’s Prisoner of Ice and Snow. I read this back in July, and I’ve been super excited for today ever since, as I really couldn’t have loved it very much more! Huge, HUGE thanks to Faye Rogers and Bloomsbury for allowing me to be part of this tour!

Let’s get onto the review!

*I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

In her debut novel, Ruth Lauren transports us to the wintry kingdom of Demidova, where we meet heroine Valor, who has got herself put into prison so she can break her sister out.
Valor is a fantastic character as I really rooted for her, and I also love the supporting cast of the other prisoners who joined the escape attempt as they all felt well rounded and fairly unique, which isn’t always the case with ensemble casts. The book also featured some absolutely chilling villains.

This is super fast paced (and quite a short book), and there was almost constant action that made me want to keep turning the pages. There were some major twists and turns, and they’ll leave you not quite sure of which characters you can trust. 

As well as excellent characters and plotting, the worldbuilding is exceptional. Demidova felt multi faceted and I loved it as a fantasy world.

Finally, I thought the actual writing was brilliant. It struck the perfect balance for me of good prose/exciting imagery and keeping the plot advancing.

I’m unbelievably excited for the sequel to this next year, as it’s by far one of my favourite books this year. 

5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Summary:

Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.

But that’s exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.
No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison …
An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable
About the author

Ruth Lauren lives in the West Midlands in England with her family and a lot of cats. She likes chocolate, walking in the woods, cheese, orchids, going to the movies, and reading as many books as she can. She’s been a teacher and worked in lots of different offices, but she likes writing best. Prisoner of Ice and Snow is her debut novel.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

Joint Post with Layla of Readable Life: Our Favourite Films and Quotes from Them

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m super excited to be joining up with my friend Layla for this post. The reason it came about is that we buddy read Jenn Bennett’s Alex, Approximately (which features a lot of film references). Layla blogs over at Readable Life, so you can check her out if you aren’t already reading her fabulous blog 😊

Let’s get started!

Note: we haven’t included Disney movies as we both consider them too awesome to pit against other films 😉


AMY

PRETTY IN PINK- As you might know, my favourite ever film is Pretty in Pink, which is an 80s teen movie directed by John Hughes, and stars Molly Ringwald as Andie. It`s about her falling for a boy called Blaine, who`s much richer than her, and her facing the issues this presents. I love basically everything about this film, but my very favourite scene is one in which Andie`s best friend Duckie (who is vying for her affections alongside Blaine) lip syncs to Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding. It`s super silly and funny and sweet (and one of the reasons I am a HARDCORE believer that Andie should have chosen Duckie!)

THE BREAKFAST CLUB- This is another film directed by John Hughes, and I`m pretty sure everyone has a rough idea what it`s about. If you don`t it, it follows five teens from different backgrounds as they`re forced to spend the day together in detention. It`s an absolutely amazing film, and I have a couple of `best bits`. It`s a perfect mixture of humour and emotion so my favourite humour in the film is Judd Nelson`s as `The Criminal` and I especially love his quote `Screws fall out all the time, the world`s an imperfect place`.

In terms of something sadder, I love the scene towards the end of the day when the group are all in a circle, when dramatic secrets are revealed about everyone, and new relationships are formed between them (Andrew, played by Emilio Estevez, is my favourite part of this scene)

BRIDGET JONES`S BABY- Finally, I also love the latest instalment of the Bridget Jones franchise, which sees Bridget (Renee Zellweger) tackle life, love and a rather unexpected pregnancy. Almost every scene in this is comedy gold, but I particularly love the labour scene, which is beyond hilarious! You`ll understand why when you watch it.

LAYLA

The Matrix Reloaded – The Matrix Trilogy is one of my most loved trilogies; my dad introduced me to them and we still watch them together. My favourite scene comes from the second movie, where Neo has to fight an entire hoard of Agent Smiths. It’s such a tense scene, with agents coming from all sides, until Neo has to bail. It’s hilarious to see all the agents shrug it off and walk away like nothing happened…

Jurassic Park – My favourite scene from Jurassic Park is the iconic one; when you see the DINOSAURS!! The look on Alan’s face as he sees there’s an actual dinosaur in front of him is funny and mesmerising, and it’s even better when he grabs Ellie’s head and makes her look. There’s dinosaurs in front of them, and the visual effects still astound me – the film is my age and the dinos look brilliant!

The Return of the King – Okay, this one is a tear jerker. If you haven’t watched ANY of The Lord of The Rings films, I would highly suggest watching all three immediately! Also, spoiler warning of course, because my favourite scene is one of the LAST scenes. Okay? Okay.
After the battle has been won and the ring has been cast into the fires of Mount Doom, it’s time for celebrations. For the true king to finally be crowned. It’s beautiful, and it finally feels like there is peace in the realm. Then King Aragorn makes his way through the crowds and greets his friends and travelling companions, the hobbits. Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin begin to bow, as is expected in front of a king, but Aragorn stops them with one line. “My friends, you bow to no one.” This is where the tears come, as the king and the rest of the entire crowd (including Gandalf, Elrond, and many other important figures) bow to the four hobbits. It’s such a touching and moving scene, as these four normal guys from the Shire didn’t ever expect to wake up one day and be thrust into such a huge battle for the world. It’s the perfect ending to a fantastic series.

Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear about your favourite films/film quotes in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl 

Amy xxx

Bookish This or That Tag

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m taking part in the ‘Bookish This or That’s tag, for which I was tagged by Ayla!

Lets get started!


1. Audiobook or Text Book?
Considering I’ve only ever listened to one audio book (The Mum Detective by Gwyneth Rees, when my eyesight was still too bad after my surgery I was unable to read myself), I’ll definetely need to go for text books!

2. Paperback or Hardback?

Paperbacks. I don’t hate hardbacks anywhere near as much as I used to (I used to take dust jackets off and leave them bare as I thought they were so annoying 🙈) but there’s something much nicer about a paperback.

3. Fiction or Non Fiction?

As I can’t even think of a non fiction book I’ve read, I’ll need to say fiction!

4. Harry Potter or Twilight?

I’ve never read Twilight (nor do I want to) so it’s Harry Potter all the way for me! (Even though I was INCREDIBLY late to the HP party, I’m so incredibly glad I got there eventually)

5. Bookshop or Online?

I tend to prefer going to a bookshop, as it’s more interactive and fun, and I really REALLY love the feeling of bookshops. I do buy from Amazon etc too though!

6. Standalone or Trilogy?

Of these, I’d go for standalone, but I actually favour longer/open ended series, if I’m honest.

7. Sweet and Short or Heavy and Long?

Sweet and Short I think. My preferred length for books is between 300-400 pages (unless it’s Harry Potter, in which case I think are all almost exactly the perfect length for the plot) and I also definetely favour books which are lighter in tone.

8. Cosy Read/ Reading in the Sun?

Until this summer I’d probably have said reading in the sun, but this year it just didn’t hold the appeal it usually does, so I’ll have to go for a cosy read indoors!

8. Hot chocolate or coffee?

I don’t drink either!

Thank you so much for reading! I’m tagging Kelly and Louise ! Id love to hear in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl about some of your reading habits, both inspired by these questions and in general! 

Amy xxx