Chloe Seager on Social Media and Anxiety

I’m excited to welcome my new friend and debut author of Editing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper Person, Chloe Seager, to Pretty Books. As part of her blog tour, Chloe’s here to talk about something that many of us will 100% relate to… social media and anxiety.

By the time I reached adult life, I’d pretty much levelled out my relationship with social media. I’d worked out all my dos and don’ts during my teenage years and social media wasn’t something that heavily encroached on my time or disturbed my peace of mind. I’d finally worked out a way to take all the fun stuff (e.g. tweets about books I should be reading, connecting with people from the past) without the bad (e.g. wondering how my whole day got spent staring at mindless crap, or constantly comparing my own life to other people’s). Then I got a book deal.

Suddenly my lovely, calm balance was thrown… and I didn’t expect it. I’m twenty-five, not fifteen but out of nowhere, I was refreshing my Twitter notifications every five minutes and even, dare I admit it, searching my own name. Self-Googling is probably one of the least attractive things a person can do, but I’m prepared to hold my hands up. I did it. I did it a lot. It surprises me, now, that I didn’t anticipate this reaction. Putting your writing out there for the entire world to judge is a pretty huge thing to do (and I genuinely applaud every single person who gives it a go), but when all of those judgements are on the internet? … That’s terrifying. Of course, my healthy balance with social media was toppled. It’s a bit like going back to school and knowing everyone’s talking about something you did. Except what they’re saying is public and immortalised.

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What I’ve Read / Freshers, Love & Gelato, & And Then We Ran

Freshers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison are two of my favourite YA authors and are among the funniest, loveliest people in UKYA. With Freshers, Lucy and Tom show that you can write YA about 18-year-olds and you can set in university, and it is not this mythical New Adult category. University stories are rare in UKYA – and I’d love to see more!

Freshers, narrated by Luke and Phoebe, captures the first year of university excellently. Both Luke and Phoebe’s experiences as first years are quite different to mine – let’s just say that university wasn’t exactly the best three years of my life – but it was great to read about (particularly the Quidditch society!), and I know it’ll be similar to lots of teenagers’ experiences. I loved the friendship dynamics and wish I’d made those sorts of intense, close friendships during my first few months away from home. I was a little sceptical about Luke (as I told Tom at one of his events), but grew to love him – and Phoebe was just brilliant. They’re two of the most realistic teenage characters I’ve come across (as we’ve all come to expect from Lucy and Tom!).

Freshers was as hilarious as you might expect from our duo, yet it covers serious topics that are vital to talk about at university, from sexual harassment on campus and one-night stands to ‘laddish’ behaviour and homesickness. I wish I had Freshers to read at university. It’s one of my favourite books of the year so far!

“He’s tall and fit and he knows about grammar and Quidditch and murder. He’s literally the perfect man.”

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Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I love reading YA novels set in Italy (one of the countries I must go back to soon). I recently read One Italian Summer and it was so fun picking up another one, this time set in beautiful Florence.

Lina is suffering from terrible grief, forced to move from America to Italy because her mother passed away. She’s off to live with a father she’s never met in a country she’s never been to. Once she gets there, Lina’s not convinced she can stay in Florence (as pretty as it is). Her best friend is at home, she barely knows her father, and what even is prosciutto, gelato and a Margherita pizza (Americans, really?!). Once she starts to explore, she meets Italian-American Ren and is introduced to a whole host of Italian friends who love her straight away, and maybe, just maybe, she can start to call this place home.

Love & Gelato is Lina’s story, but it’s also her mother’s. I really enjoyed reading her mother’s diary, from when she was studying in Florence in her 20s, until she left after becoming pregnant with Lina. I did guess the plot twist quite early on, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying each characters’ journey, from the sweet romance between Lina and Ren – although I mostly loved how they became best friends – to Lina’s father, Howard, who is also super lovely. Howard made Lina feel welcome, from thoughtfully redecorating her bedroom to taking her out to his favourite pizza place.

A sweet story about love, family and secrets, Love & Gelato has made me want to jump on a plane to Tuscany…

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And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon

And Then We Ran wasn’t quite the summer road trip story I expected. It’s set in rainy, wintry Pembrokeshire, in the south west of Wales.

Megan and Elliot feel suffocated by their small beach town. Megan’s sister died not so long ago and Elliot’s given up on his future. Together, they embark on an adventure to take control of their lives – a road trip to Scotland’s Gretna Green to get married (of course), with plans to move to London and follow their dreams.

Megan and Elliot are flawed and flaky teenagers, and that made them fun to read about. Megan wasn’t exactly prepared for her big adventure – she’s spontaneous and decides to move to the capital to be a photographer, even though she doesn’t know what a career in photography involves. Meanwhile, Elliot is too busy being a Bad Boyfriend to work out exactly what he wants to do. But who, as a teenager, knew exactly what they’d be doing in their 20s?

I can understand how frustrating Megan’s parents were for her – constantly pressuring her to go to university, refusing to accept that their daughter might be happier taking another path. I’m lucky – my family never pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to do, but Megan has to constantly push back. Even so, I know what it’s like to feel compelled to run away and start a new life – I nearly did a gap year in Australia for this reason! – and so, then, And Then We Ran starts to make sense.

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5 Places to Eat in Edinburgh

In July, I visited Edinburgh for the second time… and fell in love with it all over again. If I could move my job to Scotland, I wouldn’t hesitate to rent a (much-cheaper-than-I-currently-pay) flat in one of Edinburgh’s beautiful buildings. It felt like a little piece of east and north London, but with much fewer people. To me, holidays mean food + friends. Lots and lots of food, so here’s five particularly yummy places I went to in this stunning literary city.

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Ice Cream at… Mary’s Milk Bar

I love ice cream. I normally opt for Italian gelato, but Mary’s Milk Bar serves some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I had a tricky time picking flavours (as always) because they all sounded amazing. I chose dark chocolate & cinnamon and raspberry ripple, and Cathy had dark chocolate & orange and poppy seed. It was so delicious. We promised to come back… but didn’t get time! Cathy and I are planning a wintry Edinburgh trip, so we’ll be heading to Mary’s for more ice cream and hot chocolate.

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Brunch and Lunch at… Loudons

I also really, really love brunch. If it were up to me, I’d happily eat breakfast all day, every day. For our first day in the city, we went to Loudons. I had a yummy bowl of rice, poached egg, avocado and chorizo. We shared haggis bonbons – haggis balls rolled in breadcrumbs – and they were surprisingly delicious. I’d always thought that eating haggis would be a strange experience, but it tastes like herby sausages. I am a fan.

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Brunch at… Spoon

Spoon was recommended to us on our Harry Potter walking tour – it was technically the place where J.K. Rowling wrote chunks of the series, but back then it was known as Nicolson’s Cafe. You may have heard of The Elephant Cafe (the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter), but I’d personally pick Spoon, which has much fewer tourists. We had the mixed grill: bacon, sausage, black pudding, haggis (again!), beans, and a fried egg. Yum!

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Meze at… Meze Meze

Meze Meze was one of the first places I came across whilst holiday planning. We got there at 8pm, but as we hadn’t reserved, we had to wait another hour for a table (totally fine with us as we were still full from brunch!). Meze Meze does the most amazing Mediterranean food – we had the chef’s selection of 5 cold and 5 hot dishes served with warm pitta bread. We loved it.

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Coffee at… Brew Lab

Edinburgh has so many pretty coffee shops, it’s quite unfair. We were never surrounded by Prets (we counted three, which is quite impressive since I’m within a few minutes’ walk from five) and from what we could see, indies far outnumbered Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero. Brew Lab serves strong coffee, although my Aussie travel buddy would disagree, and was perfectly cosy. I could see myself blogging here every weekend.

And don’t forget to try Scotland’s tap water!

Which foodie places should I add to my list for next time?