I will be moving to Wordpress.com on October 1! My new URL will be exploringbystarlight.wordpress.com.

Can Books Be "So Bad They're Good"?

As we're all aware of, I love movies, but I also really like watching bad movies. I'm definitely the kind of person who'll look at the summary for something and go "this looks awful, let's watch it", and I'm know that I'm not the only one. There are actually some movies that I want to watch because they have a reputation for being awful (unless its a gross-out movie like Movie 43. I couldn't even bring myself to watch Anton Yelchin's deleted scene because it was so gross. And I love that guy so much), and I even listen to horrendous music out of choice. Remember Aqua? Or the Vengaboys? I certainly do and I'm not ashamed to jam to their stuff.

But my question is, can books be so terrible that they're good? And I'm not talking about cheesy books, or books that are full of tried and tested cliches, I'm talking about books that are just bad. But so bad that they're weirdly enjoyable.

In my experience, I haven't read a book that is good because it's bad. Most of the bad books that I've read were either a huge struggle to get through or there were a breeze even though they sucked. I have wanted to read books that people have said were awful, simply to see what all the fuss is about, but then again, I wouldn't want to put myself through any pain by reading it (*cough*FiftyShadestrilogy*cough*). I'd probably just end up going:
(image source)
Okay, this post is really short. Whoops.

What about you? Do you think that bad books can be "so bad they're good"? Or are bad books just bad?

Life of a Blogger: A Sort of Definitive List of My Favourite Movies That Is Subject to Change

Life of a Blogger is a weekly meme hosted by Jessi from Novel Heartbeat, where we talk about what we do when we're not reading.

This week's topic:
I'm sure we're about to get sick of me talking about movies, but I just really wanted to make this list because I haven't actually talked about movies for this meme before. (I've told myself that the next time a freebie comes along, I'll talk about music, because I very rarely talk about music)

Because I have so many favourite movies, I actually had a good hard think about what movies would go on a definitive list of my favourites. To make it easier for myself, I've seperated it into one film from every genre (minus action/adventure because I don't really like those kinds of movies and also art films because I've only ever seen one in my entire life). Obviously this list will change in the future because I'm constantly watching movies that are new to me, and sometimes I encounter new favourites. So anways, here is my list!

gif by fyspringfield
(this gif has literally nothing to do with anything but it's going here because I like it)

Please, Fry. I Don't Know How to Teach, I'm a Professor! | How I Make Gifs

This is my first time writing a tutorial, so if my explanations are a little bit weird or the post looks messy, it's because I'm new to this. There's a first time for everything!

Have you ever looked at an animated gif and thought 'what kind of magic produces those things?' Well, obviously it's a photo-editing software of some sorts but there is a method to do it. A few months ago, I taught myself how to make gifs and I've made quite a few for this blog, especially for my Top 10 posts. So today, I'm going to share my magical wisdom and powers on how to make gifs. There are two ways that I do it, but I'm only going to share one method because in my experience, it's the way that works the best and gives me higher quality gifs.

I use Photoshop to make my gifs and I don't know of any other programmes or even websites that can make gifs too. Hopefully Google will be your friend for that question!

You will need:

Photoshop (I use CS3, but any version will do)

VLC Media Player
This programme is what I use to capture frames from DVDs, and is free to download from the maker's website. Click here to be taken to the download page.

I'm using Tarzan because, well, duh.
(you can also use video files downloaded from online, but I prefer to use DVDs because I think the quality is better)

Got all the things you need? Great, let's get started!

I Didn't Have Enough to Make a Top 10 List | My Favourite Christmas Movies

My Favourite Christmas Movies

When it's Christmas, there's always one thing that dominates TV: Christmas movies. I haven't seen every single Christmas movie that's ever been created because I personally prefer to be able to watch movies all year round and not just specific ones at certain times in the year. But I do have my favourite Christmas movies.

My original plan for this post was to make a top ten list, but when I was putting a list together, I realised that there are still tons of movies that I have yet to see, and I only managed to come up with six. Hence the title of this post. So, with a very quick change of plans, here's my favourite Christmas movies, in no particular order!

Will Ferrell in "Elf" (2003)

Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Series: Standalone
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Released: October 26 2010
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

Add to Goodreads | Purchase on Amazon | Purchase on TBD
I've left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don't, put the book back on the shelf, please.

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept.

Curious, snarky Dash isn't one to back down from a challenge - and the Book of Dares is the perfect thing to keep him occupied this Christmas.

As they send each other on a snowbound scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they're falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet.
Holiday times means holiday-themed books, right? Right. I've had Dash & Lily sitting on my shelves for the longest time because it was one of those random books I got in a 3 for £5 deal without looking at what it was about. Once I read that the book takes place at Christmas, it got slammed to the top of my December TBR, because there is literally no better way to put me in the festive spirit, than to read something festive and fluffy. And trust me, I'm always in the mood for some good old fluff.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is the story of Dash, a snarky guy who has been left alone for the holidays, and Lily, a girl who is stuck at home with her brother and his new boyfriend with not much to do. As a way of giving her something to do, Lily's brother has her compose a notebook full of dares and they leave it on a shelf in a bookshop, where Dash finds it. Although this book is short, Dash & Lily felt pretty light and breezy to me, even though there is a lot going on in such a short amount of time. I was always interested in knowing where the notebook would take Dash and Lily next, what sort of shenanigans they would get up to on the next dare, and also what things they had written to each other at every location. There was never a moment where I felt like things were going too fast or too slow, everything went just smoothly enough for my liking. After all, fluff of this kind doesn't have to make your heart race, it has to make you feel at comfort, but at the same time hoping that everything doesn't fall apart. That's the way I felt with Dash & Lily, I had a pretty cosy reading experience, but I was totally engrossed in the characters' lives. I wanted their notebook adventures to continue, and I also wanted them to meet up for real, but at the same time I didn't want things to go horribly wrong for them. My only little problem is that I didn't think the ending was satisfying enough. I would have liked to have seen more of what goes on with Dash and Lily, but the book said nope and just ended. Some more tying up would have been nicer for me.

Dash & Lily is told in a dual POV, from both Dash and Lily's perspectives. Sometimes I have an issue with dual POV books because if it's not made clear who the narrator is, I can get mixed up. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here because I knew exactly who was narrating, and it's all down the fact that Dash and Lily have very different voices, mainly because of the fact that Dash uses the most pretentiously worded sentences I've ever read, and Lily sounds more natural. It took me a little while to get used to Dash because when I first started reading his first chapter my immediate reaction was "who the hell talks like this?". He definitely came off as being pretentious at first, but I soon warmed up to him and got used to the way he was written, because all the weird wording was toned down a bit. Out of the two main characters, I think I liked Lily more, because I felt like I could relate to her more, and not just in the whole never had a boyfriend, never been kissed, doesn't really have many friends to see during the holidays way. I tend to be more drawn to the quirky characters, but I always have this fear that they'll end up being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. This definitely isn't the case with Lily. She feels so much more real and developed than a MPDG, and I loved being able to know about her past and what her thoughts and feelings were.

I'm a bit of a sucker for books that take place in big cities, and Dash & Lily is no exception to that soft spot. The book takes place in New York City, which really does contribute to the way the events are carried out. Something like this couldn't possibly take place in a smaller town, or even one of those kinds of towns where everybody knows each other. I liked being able to see the different parts of the city and imagine how certain parts of the city would look (which is kind of an experience for me because I've never been to New York and have only seen it on TV and in films), and at times it felt like I was exploring different parts of the city for myself, even though Dash and Lily were very familiar with it. I also liked how the book is set during Christmastime because it made things just that little bit more sweeter, and at times made getting to the notebook all that more challenging due to the sheer amount of people that are around. These two must have been really interested in each other to brave those crowds, because I know I definitely wouldn't be able to do it. Especially not in the few days before Christmas.

One vibe that I got from Dash & Lily is that it felt a little bit like You've Got Mail to me. The basic premise is kind of similar with them exchanging messages through a notebook that they hide throughout NYC, instead of having an anonymous relationship online and being business rivals. That's pretty much the only YGM vibes that I got though because I haven't actually seen that movie. But always, I loved the romance in the book because it wasn't full-on romance, and instead was very light since Dash and Lily are pretty much strangers for most of the book. I wasn't expecting sparks to be flying all over the place, or any tingly feelings to be constantly felt whenever somebody smiled, and I didn't get those, which I'm glad about. Because if I did, it probably would have ruined the book for me. Since I kind of burnt myself out on contemporary romance during the summer, this kind of love story was just right for me.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares was the perfect book for me to start the holidays with; it was light, cute, and not too heavy, with likeable characters and a story that I was easily engrossed in. I managed to whirl through this book, and will definitely be re-reading it every year from now on.

Life of a Blogger: Where You Live

Life of a Blogger is a weekly meme hosted by Jessi from Novel Heartbeat, where we talk about what we do when we're not reading.

This week's topic:

I've always been a little hesitant about sharing where I live (my parents have always been ridiculously  but understandably anal about internet safety), so I'm not going to go into too much detail about my area or where exactly I'm located, as in my part of town because, y'know, that's a bit too personal for here.

I'm from a small-ish city in the North East of England called Sunderland, which is okay for the most part. I do go through phases where I just think "I hate it here, and nearly all of the people here" (there was a big far-right anti-Muslim protest in the city park last month and that definitely made me hate it here), but it's not too bad.

There's not too much to say about Sunderland because it's not too interesting on the surface. That is until you learn that Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter were written here. Well, near here but Lewis Carroll was a frequent visitor and there's a book that documents his time spent in the area. Oh, and there was a big disaster in a theatre that isn't here anymore (it was destroyed by a bomb in the 40s) that is the reason why emergency exit doors have push bars.  But nobody really knows about that because sport is a thing.

Yes, my town is one of those towns where sports dominates absolutely everything. And our team isn't even that good. Seriously, the last time they won the FA cup was in the 70s. My first (and so far only) job was in the football stadium and I hated it so fucking much. Trust me, drunk football fans who want chips or a pie are the absolute worst people to serve. Especially if they have children with them.

Here's some random facts about Sunderland:
  • Our sister city is Washington DC
  • George Washington's family originally came from a part of the city called... you guessed it, Washington. His ancestral home is there and there's tons of lavenders. And by tons I mean that they're in every single room and they grow out in the garden.
  • Terry Deary, who writes the Horrible Histories series is from here
  • Emeli Sandé was born here, but then moved to Scotland as a baby
  • The main part of the city used to be dedicated to shipbuilding, and the further out you go there are more coalmining villages (like the one where I live in)
If I had to pick one stand out thing about the people from here (we get called Mackems because we mack (make) the ships, and other people tack (take) them) it has to be the accent. The mackem accent is gloriously horrendous to the point that it's beautiful. If you're not British then this'll probably go straight over your head, but a lot of people from outside of the North East have a hard time telling the Mackem accent from the Geordie accent (Geordies come from Newcastle, which is where Sting and Jimmy Nail are from, and also more things happen there. A lot more goes on there, especially for arty and bookish people), but it is totally different. Trust me. The little things make all the differences. I couldn't find a video to illustrate my point, but it's wonderfully awful.

(i had some pictures here, but they sucked and i couldn't get them to format right, so nah)

What's it like where you live?

Tag: 'Bout This Blogger

The 'Bout This Blogger tag was created by Cait from Paper Fury to celebrate her blog changeover!

As part of Cait's fabulous blog party celebrations, I'm taking part in the 'Bout This Blogger tag! Because I'm such an interesting person who has a sparkling personality and loves to talk about herself (lol really?).

1. Why did you start blogging?
When I first joined Goodreads back in 2010 (I think), I was in a group that a friend of mine created and a lot of the members had their own blogs. I was actually in desperate need of something to do instead of just blazing though all the books I was reading and not saying anything about them, so I just went for it in 2011! I still don't feel like a veteran or an experienced blogger after 3 years, and I'm still learning things as I go.

2. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
My first blog name was Harker Morgan because that was my old pen name that I used online. Then I got bored of using that and changed it to Vandasamur (that's Icelandic for difficult), which I realised was way too hard to remember, so I then changed it again to Nerdette Reviews. I chose that because I was obsessed with Star Trek at the time (I still love it, just not as much), and considered myself to be a huge nerd. However, I've grown out of that and I'm about to change it yet again.

Next year, I'm going to be changing my blog name to Exploring by Starlight, which I like much more. I've chosen this one because one of my favourite songs ever is By Starlight by Smashing Pumpkins, and I like to go exploring in both the real world and in fictional worlds. Plus, I like astronomy and I prefer nighttime to daytime. It definitely sounds more like me!

3. How many designs have you been through since you started blogging? (Pictures! We demand pictures!)
When I was Harker Morgan, I changed my blog design pretty much every month (just the header and colours though). It's a habit I had leftover from when I was on Piczo and changed my website design every month, and I also had the time to do it (literally all I did was search through weheartit and then throw it together in Photoshop). It was pretty painful to go through my old Photobucket account to find these.

Started from the bottom:

this one is by far the worst thing i've ever made

Now we're here:

And then next year we'll be somewhere else.

4. Have you ever switched blog platforms? What made you move? If you haven’t ever changed…why?
Nope, I've been on Blogger the whole time! I'm not exactly ready to change over to Wordpress because I'm not that serious of a blogger yet and Blogger does work for me just fine. I haven 't had any of the problems that a lot of people have had.

5. How long does it take you to write a post? What’s your postly process like?
It really depends on what kind of post it is. If I'm just rambling about something or putting together a more coherent discussion post, that can take up to an hour. It takes me about a day to write a review if I have other stuff going on, but if it's one that I have a lot to say about, I can probably whip it out (ew) in about twenty five minutes. And then typing it up and formatting it takes about ten or fifteen minutes. For posts that I'm making gifs for, those can take up to a day or two, or maybe even a week depending on how much time I have on my hands, and also how long it'll take me to find the clips that I'm going to gif (if I don't have it on DVD that is).

6. Have you ever been super nervous about a post? Why?! What was it?
I'm only ever nervous if the post I've got is something new that I've come up with, and it's mainly because I'm paranoid that someone else might already do it. If I'm too nervous about it, I just won't post it.

At the minute, I've been hesitant to try out an idea for a meme that I have because I'm unsure if it's already been done. The idea is that once every month, you make a playlist for a book from the set genre for that month, and everybody's is different. So for example, if there was a dystopian theme, I could make a playlist for The Hunger Games, and another person could make one for Divergent. I may go for it when I change the blog name, but for now I'm going to do some serious researching.

7. Do you have a blogging schedule?
I do! My schedule is as follows:

Monday - Whatever I feel like
Tuesday - Book Review
Wednesday - Whatever I feel like
Thursday - Film Review
Friday - Life of a Blogger
Saturday - Book review
Sunday - No post! Unless it's the last Sunday of the month, then I post my book haul.

I'm also now doing recap posts at the beginning of the month, so those will probably be on my first freebie day on the month (bonus points if the month starts on a Monday).

8. Do you tell people In-Real-Life about your blog? Their reactions?
Sometimes I do tell people, but the vast majority of people that I tell just aren't all that interested. I either get "oh that's cool" and then the conversation moves on to something else, or I get asked the usual question of "what do you blog about" and once I answer it, the conversation moves on. I'm kind of used to people not really being all that bothered now.

9. Top ten blogs you read/comment on the most! Go! Go!
I have a pretty condensed blog reading list, but here are some of my favourites in no particular order:
  1. The Daily Prophecy
  2. Adrift on Vulcan
  3. Books for a Delicate Eternity
  4. Rinn Reads
  5. Oh, the Books!
  6. The Perpetual Page-Turner
  7. Novel Heartbeat
  8. Nose Graze
  9. Paper Fury (of course)
  10. Utterly Bookish
10. If you could change/improve things about your blog, what would they be?
I think I'd change my review style. Compared to a lot of other people's reviews, mine sometimes feel a bit too formal and stuffy. I do prefer to have a serious reviewing style, and I can be snarky when I feel like it, but I want to work on being more informal with my reviews. I also wish that I had the materials and the talent available to take actual photos for my blog. We've all pretty much seen my gifs by now, but I can only make so many gifs of Simpsons scenes. So many bloggers take photos of their books and what they get up to, and I'd like to do that too.

Also my motivation. Because sometimes I'll schedule out tons of posts (like I have this month) and then just disappear the next month because I've burnt myself out.

If you want to take part in this tag too, head on over to Paper Fury for the original post! (There's also a giveaway too!)

Some Wintry Book Covers

For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, it's winter! Yay!

(image source)
Even though I absolutely hate snow with a passion (I once got a snowball thrown in my eye at full force and now I hate the stuff), winter is my second favourite season (obviously after autumn). I just prefer getting all bundled up whether it's in coats and pretty scarves, or comfy blankets at home while chilling out next to the radiator, rather than soaking through all my clothes and getting sunburnt. The way that the colour of the landscapes changes just looks so pretty to me in winter and I can see wintry tones and colours in quite a few book covers. What better way to show how much I like wintry colours, than to illustrate my point with some book covers that I love. I'll let you in on a secret that I haven't actually read many of these books (I'm reading one of them right now), but that's okay because I still like the covers!

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Released: May 17 2012 by Indigo
Source: Purchased

'I've been waiting for you a long time, Alina,' he said. 'You and I are going to change the world.'

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a man of seductive charm and terrifying power. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must unlock her gift and fact up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?
For years and years I wasn't a fantasy fan. Dragons and magic and things like that have just never been my thing and nothing could ever convince me otherwise. I'd actually had Shadow and Bone on my TBR list before I realised that is fantasy, and ended up shelving it to wait for me until I was ready to try to get into fantasy properly. And I think it's a good thing that I waited until I was ready to get into fantasy, because this book was like nothing I'd read before and well worth that long wait.

Shadow and Bone is the story of Alina, an army mapmaker in the country Ravka, that is being ravaged by a large mass of darkness known as the Shadow Fold. When her infantry is attacked by creatures in the Fold known as volcra, Alina discovers that she has a special power and is then drafted into Ravka's magical elite, known as the Grisha.I really enjoyed the story of this book. My main fears with fantasy books is that I'll just be thrown into an entirely fabricated world that I have absolutely no knowledge of, and that I'll end up getting lost, but that really wasn't the case at all with Shadow and Bone. All the way through, I knew exactly what was going on and thankfully for me, this didn't feel like super hardcore fantasy like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. I felt like the pace was quite steady for the most part, which I really didn't mind at all because I liked being able to see Alina going through her training and struggling with it, rather than just taking to it like a fish to water. However, there were a few times where I found myself flicking towards the end of a chapter to see how much I had left to read because sometimes the story ran just a little too slow for me, but thankfully the pace was picked up again. Even though Shadow and Bone's story was pretty easy-going to for me for the most part, I did find myself reacting in a total "NO WAY WHAT??" kind of manner, especially towards the end, which left me having conflicting feelings about one specific character (if you've already read this, you'll know who I mean).

Shadow and Bone has quite a lot of memorable characters, and I liked pretty much every character that was introduced. I loved Alina as a protagonist. One of my biggest fears with her character was that she would be a cliched "chosen one" kind of character, since the Darkling states that she is the Sun Summoner that he has been searching for. Thankfully, that totally wasn't the case at all and she struggled through her training and coming to terms with living in a place as luxurious as the Little Palace, rather than taking to everything like she had been doing it since she was born. Even though this isn't a realistic book at all, her struggles and realisations about her own power made her feel more lifelike to me and I just loved her all the way through. That character that I have conflicting feelings about? That would be the Darkling. Don't get me wrong, I really do like him. But the Darkling feels like one of those characters that I should have conflicting feelings about, so I guess that's a good thing. Hopefully I'm not revealing a spoiler here, but I liked him for the most part, but then a thing happens and I was all "OMG NOOO", but then continued to still like him even though I technically shouldn't. Ugh, I just love me some characters that make me feel all kinds of things.

For me, the best part of Shadow and Bone was the world that the book is set in. Every time that there was a description of the locations, I could get a good image of how Ravka is supposed to look, and it sounds pretty stunning. Especially both the Grand Palace and the Little Palace. If I could live in either of them, I could die a very happy bunny. The way that the setting are described are written beautifully and I could totally immerse myself in the words and transport myself to Ravka. However, my only problem with the world-building is that I don't feel like I know enough about this world. This might just be me and my weird way of wanting to know every single little detail of a fictional world, but there are parts of the world-building that still feel like a bit of a mystery to me. I do hope that the history of Ravka and even maybe some character's back stories will be explored in more depth in the next two books, because right now I just want to know everything.

Although I took Shadow and Bone quite slow so that I wouldn't intimidate myself with it, I feel like I completely devoured it. My first real journey into fantasy has been a total success and Shadow and Bone is probably one of my favourite books of the year. I already want to continue on with the series, but TBRs are a thing that I do. Hopefully I can start Siege and Storm very soon!

The Month of Essays | November 2014 Recap

Oh hey, look! I'm trying something new, hence no banner and why this post is mainly a big wall of text. I like reading monthly recaps and life updates from other bloggers, so I wanted to see if I could do something similar. I'm not going to put my book hauls into these because I'd rather keep those separate, so these will be mainly personal posts, with a link back to my posts from the month at the end. This is just a prototype recap for now, so hopefully I'll be able to make a more coherent and less rambly (we all know how much I can ramble) recap next time I do one (which will be at the end of January or the beginning of February because I'll be doing the End of Year survey this month)!

Hurray for trying something new!
(image source)