Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Recent Links: #IBW2016 Special Edition

So I have been planning ALL WEEK to make this an #IBW2016 special were links were SOLELY AND COMPLETELY related to #IBW2016, because it would make things super-quick to put together. Then of COURSE, some of my amazingly talented friends wrote some of the best pieces I've read all year and I decided there was no way I could leave them out. So this is a 'mostly #IBW2016' piece, but leading with four incredible blog posts (the first two of which both nearly made me cry.) Also, not a blog post but definitely worth checking - Wei Ming Kam, another awesome friend of mine, is doing a Queer Writer Of Colour Of The Day feature on her Instagram and it is FULL of amazing recommendations!

Faye - My Ace Journey

Debbie - Proud Of Being In Pride

Amber - How To Deal With YALC If You Have Anxiety

Grace - A Teeny Tiny Awkward Step

And now the #IBW2016 ones!

Prior to #IBW2016 starting, I blogged with my top ten reasons I love bookshops! During the week, I shared pictures of the awesome shortlists for the IBW Awards

I also did the #IBW2016 tag started by Will at Vintage Books as did the following people!

Simon from Savidge Reads
Clothes In Books
Erica at The Bookshop Around The Corner
Chelley at Tales of Yesterday
Emma from Howling Reviews
Grace from Almost Amazing Grace
Jasmine from Jazzy Fizzle

Other awesome posts related to the week!

Den of Geek's 50 Fabulous Indie Bookshops Around The UK

Maximum Pop's 8 Independent Bookshops You Need To Visit During #IBW2016

Lauren Laverne for The Pool on The Joy Of Books And Bookshops

Also on The Pool (have I mentioned recently I ADORE The Pool? Seriously, if I could only go to two websites ever - assuming I could still use the Twitter app - they would be The Pool and Safe Space) Kate Mosse talked about the magic of bookshops.

Indie Bound's 10 Weird Things To Happen In Independent Bookshops (inspired by Jen Campbell's Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops)
Also on Indie Bound, 10 Independent Bookshop Dogs!

(As cute as ALL of those dogs are, none of them is as cute as Buffy though!)

And 10 bookshops picked their favourite signs and favourite window displays.

Grace shared her family's favourite books.

Jen Campbell and Carys Bray did a bookshop tour!

The BBC did a piece on Carol Ann Duffy's Shore to Shore poetry tour

Scottish Booktrust - Indie Bookshops - Why They Are Good For Your Health And Wellbeing 

Erica shared an older post of hers explaining why she writes about bookshops. (I LOVE Erica's blog!)

Karin Goodwin from The Herald wrote an article on 'the fightback' of indie bookshops.

Edit: One more new post I can't bear to leave out - Katie Webber started the #BooksMakeItBetter hashtag on Twitter and Sophie Waters put together a brilliant post about it for Maximum Pop

Anything great I've missed? Leave me a comment!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Classic Children's: Katharine Corr on The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

One of my very favourite series EVER is Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence! It's fabulous to have Katharine Corr - co-author with her sister Elizabeth of The Witch's Kiss, coming next week from Harper Collins - to talk about it today.

The Dark is Rising Series, by Susan Cooper

Number of books: Five. In order, the series runs as follows: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree. But the books are strong enough to read out of order and as individual adventures. They were first published 1965 -1977.

Availability: All five books are still in print. My first copies were published under the Puffin label, but the most recent editions of the whole series are under the Red Fox imprint from PRH. You can also get a Vintage Children’s Classic edition of book 2, The Dark is Rising. The books are widely available second-hand and there’s an audio CD. Run screaming in the opposite direction if anyone tries to make you watch the horrible film adaptation. (Jim: I NEVER interrupt these features to offer my own thoughts, but I really REALLY have to stress that this is excellent advice.)

The premise: Good versus evil amidst the folklore of the English and Welsh countryside. For centuries, the Light has fought to protect the world of men from the unrelenting onslaught of the Dark. Now the final battle is approaching, and the fate of the world lies in the hands of five children, guided by the enigmatic Merriman Lyon. Before Midsummer’s Eve, they must beat the Dark and retrieve Things of Power (the Circle of Signs, the Grail, the Harp and the Crystal Sword), or risk the Light being thrown out of human time forever.

Why I really like it: The first book I read was The Dark Is Rising. I was 11, the same age as Will (the protagonist), and I can still remember the spine-tingling moment I spotted the book in my primary school.  The Dark Is Rising is set in suburban southern England, but the way Will’s everyday life becomes mingled with Arthurian myth and ancient folklore (Herne the Hunter and Wayland Smith are both in there) made the story simultaneously relatable and spellbinding. Like those of us waiting for our letter from Hogwarts a few years down the line, I could almost imagine that I might be revealed as one of the ‘Old Ones’, and pitched into a world of magical battles and time-travel. The real world settings of the books are brilliantly evoked; every time I read them, I believed magic could be happening right here, right now.

Best books: I have two favourites. The Dark is Rising is fascinating because we see Will discovering and learning to use his powers in his quest to recover the Signs. The midwinter/Christmas setting is particularly compelling: it’s a great book to read in December. The Grey King is set in Wales (around Aberdyfi) and introduces Bran, a teenage boy with mysterious parentage. With looming mountains, lake-dwelling monsters and possession, it has moments of real heart-stopping menace.

Who will it appeal to: the series as a whole is pitched towards MG or the younger end of YA, but the stories are magical enough to appeal to anyone who likes their fantasy set in the contemporary world. Sara Crowe’s Bone Jack has a similar sense of the deep-running roots of English/Welsh mythology.

Other books by the same author: Susan Cooper has written a lot: fiction for children and adults, picture books, non-fiction. King of Shadows and Victory are both enjoyable time-slip adventures.

Thank you for a fabulous piece, Katharine! Also want to second the recommendation for Bone Jack which is INCREDIBLE!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

#IBW2016 - The Independent Bookshop Week Book Award

I've been meaning to get this up for a while but I keep forgetting! As part of Independent Bookshop Week 2016, which started on 18th June and runs until 25th June, the lovely people at Books Are My Bag were kind enough to send me the shortlists for the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award. I was thrilled to get so many fantastic books, and before distributing numerous ones to friends and family (I kept a few, including the new Bill Bryson which I'm REALLY excited to read!) I took a few photos.

Picture book shortlist

YA/MG shortlist

Adult shortlist

All of them! (Including the gorgeous poetry collection Off The Shelf, edited by Carol-Ann Duffy - this won't hit chain bookshops until 8th September but is EXCLUSIVELY available in indie bookshops during #IBW2016.)

The results of the award were announced earlier this week.

Adult Category
The Green Road by Anne Enright (Vintage)
Children’s Category
Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (Oxford University Press)
Children’s Picture Book Category

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie (Bloomsbury Children's Books) 

Also if you're interested in winning any of the amazing books, check out this fantastic competition that Erica is running at The Bookshop Around The Corner!

To find out more about Independent Bookshop Week check out the official website and awesome Twitter feeds @IndieBound_UK and @BooksAreMyBag - are you taking part this year? I'll be doing the #bookshopcrawl on Saturday 25th June and will be glued to the hashtag seeing where people are going!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Cover Reveal: The Territory 2 - Escape by Sarah Govett

I've heard lots of brilliant things about The Territory by Sarah Govett! Really excited to be revealing the cover to the sequel, The Territory 2 - Escape, which will be published by Firefly Press on 13th October 2016. (The superb cover is designed by Anne Glenn, by the way!)

The year is 2059. 15-year-old Noa Blake has passed the exam to stay in the Territory – but her childhood friend Jack has been sent to disease-ridden Wetlands where most die. Noa and boyfriend Raf have vowed to rescue Jack, but how? After breaking out and dangerous adventures they find Jack, who, to Noa’s dismay, is with a girl called Martha and wants to stay. There is some hostility, but after raids by aggressive tribes they realise they can stop the Authorities dividing teenagers and sending them to their doom – they just need to break back in...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

#6Degrees: Boy Meets Boy to... (Guest post by George Lester)

My #ReadProud #6Degrees continues today, and I'm really thrilled to be able to welcome my friend, awesome blogger George Lester, to the blog!

I was asked by wonderful human being Jim to be part of his #6Degrees blog feature for Pride Month and I couldn’t be happier to be able to throw my sparkly gay hat into the ring and share some of my favourite reads with you (and the occasionally tenuous links that tie them all together!)

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan is a positively gorgeous love story about a boy called Paul and a boy called Noah. They meet. It’s adorable. (Seriously, one of the best meet-cutes in YA) And the sweetest of romances ensues. This is the book that taught me that it is okay to be gay, to be who I am. It taught me that love and happiness is a possibility for me.

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is very much a book I consider to be the love child of time and Boy Meets Boy. While Boy Meets Boy is set in a wonderful, utopian town, it still shows us the outside world being pretty messed up (Tony. Oh TONY!) Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda is set today, in a much more accepting world that must have seemed a long way off when David Levithan first wrote Boy Meets Boy some 13 years ago.  Simon VS wouldn’t have existed back then.

Another book that probably wouldn’t have made it 13 years ago is This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson. Without a shadow of doubt, This Book Is Gay is one of the most important books ever written. It's bold, it's honest and, above all else, it's got heart. An absolutely stunning handbook of helpful stuff and things for members of the LGBTQIA community! It's the kind of book I really could've done with while I was growing up and has the potential to do so much good!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson is another book with the potential to do an awful lot of good in the world. It was my favourite book of 2014 (it came out right at the very end!) and absolutely blew my mind whilst giving me all of the feels ever. It was the first book I had ever read featuring a transgender protagonist and certainly one of the first to hit the mainstream in the way it did.

A book that deals with similar themes, though for a much younger audience, is George by Alex Gino. I found this book to be so sweet and refreshing, both in the way it handled the subject matter and also in the way it approached in for a younger audience. It is clever, bursting with heart, and so well put together, I cannot begin to even. It was edited, funnily enough, by David Levithan for Scholastic (who publish it in the US and the UK) and there was a quote from him on the cover of the UK edition. It also leads me rather nicely onto my final choice.

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton was edited for the PUSH imprint at Scholastic US by; you guessed it, David Levithan. It is a story of unrequited love between Tretch and his best friend, the struggles of coming out/being gay when you don’t feel like you’re in a safe environment, and coming to terms with it all. It’s absolutely beautiful and deals with so much more than I was expecting when I went into it. There are brilliant sub plots about family history, and a fantastic father son relationship that made me sob sob sob.

There you go! Some total faves there that I recommend you go out and take a look at (if you haven’t already). Thank you so much for having me Jim, this was so much fun! Don’t forget to check out the other posts that have appeared for this so far – they are SO FANTASTIC!

Thanks so much George, for a fantastic post! For more from George, check out his blog and YouTube channel, or his awesome Twitter account.

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from June 4th!

Monday, 13 June 2016

#IBW2016 Tag

(Huge thanks to my friend Ming for her feedback and help with this!)

So I was originally posting a recent links feature today, but I changed my mind slightly - I've got a few links that I would really love you to read, all of which are related to yesterday's horrific massacre in Orlando. After them, I've got my attempt at the #IBW2016 tag (created by Will Rycroft at Vintage Books), because in the face of hatred for the LGBTQIA community the best way to respond seemed to be with love, and so many of my answer are about the power and brilliance of LGBTQIA books, it seemed like a good time to share it.

Una Mullally: Orlando killings are an attack on all LGBT people

Caroline O'Donoghue: In a deeply troubled world, the Tony Awards remain a bright spark

Lin-Manuel Miranda's acceptance speech at the Tonys, paying tribute to Orlando

Jack Jenkins: The Other Group Mourning The Orlando Massacre: LGBT Muslims

Omar Sakr: A War on Homophobia

Statement from LGBTQI Muslim charity Imaan

Elle Dowd: Bi-phobia and the Pulse Massacre.

Sali Hughes on the Orlando shootings and gun control.

This Was Never Supposed To Happen To You

Aisha Saeed: Thoughts on Orlando.

Buzzfeed paid tribute to the victims.

Emily Shire listed ways in which you can help the victims.

Milo Todd posted about 8 ways allies can show up for the queer community.

It would be really appreciated if people wanted to leave comments with more links to writing about the tragedy - especially if there are additional ways in which readers can help.

Now, onto the tag...

1. What book(s) are currently in your bag?

I'm currently reading and adoring Seanan McGuire's Every Heart A Doorway, a brilliant novella about the children who disappear through the back of wardrobes, down rabbit holes, or under the bed - and what happens when they get back. Set at a school for just such youngsters, lead character Nancy is marvellous and I'm not all that far in but am COMPLETELY intrigued as to what's going to happen. (Also, she's ace. Yes, an asexual MAIN CHARACTER. Excuse me while I try and hold in my happy 'OMG ace representation' tears.)

2. What’s the last great book you read?

One book? Oh come on, be serious. I'll narrow it down to THREE. For a YA series starter, Laure Eve's YA novel The Graces, out in a few months, is a staggeringly well-plotted story of a family who are said to be witches, and the new girl in school who falls under their spell. With incredible characterisation and brilliant writing, this is definitely not to be missed. For a YA series ender (except it's not, because YAY FOR UPCOMING HARDBACK NOVELLA!), Holly Bourne's What's A Girl Gotta Do? is fabulous and funny despite being filled with righteous fury. This is a feminist masterpiece which will hopefully open readers' eyes to some of the inequality in our society, but is also a brilliant read. The other completely delightful one I've read this month is Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King's Erica's Elephant, a gorgeously illustrated book for younger readers. Ashley's illustrations are utterly beautiful while Sylvia's story of friendship, working together, love, and of course an elephant, is a real winner - heart-warming, moving and funny.

3. What book have you gifted the most?

Without a doubt, Candy Harper's fabulously funny Have A Little Faith, which I've owned about 20 copies of and keep giving away. This is a completely hilarious read which also is a brilliant story of friendship between four girls.

4. What’s your favourite independent bookshop?

I want to say that this is hard to choose, but it's not. Tales on Moon Lane, in Herne Hill, not only have the most incredible stock I've seen in any children's shop I've ever been to, they also have the most knowledgeable and friendly staff AND they employ me to work on Teens on Moon Lane. My huge apologies to all of the other wonderful bookshops out there, but they're always going to be my number 1.

That said, there ARE a bunch of other fabulous ones out there. Two that deserve a special mention - The Big Green Bookshop, whose place at the heart of the community was reaffirmed recently by the outpourings of support and donations that followed a recent theft there. And Gay's The Word, which (as shown by the film Pride) has been a beacon of light for so many years and continues to be a must-visit place where you can pick up a massive range of amazing LGBTQIA books. Again, in both of these shops, the selection and the staff's knowledge are awesome.

5. What’s been your favourite book recommended by a bookseller (or fellow Booktuber/book blogger)?

So hard to choose, as so many of my friend hit me with fantastic recommendations time after time! I think if I narrowed it down to three, I would go with Melina Marchetta's exquisite Jellicoe Road, a gorgeous contemporary pressed on me by my friend Caitlin. Charlie has recommended more books to me than I could possibly begin to remember, but perhaps best of all is Nina LaCour's breathtakingly lovely girl/girl film set romance Everything Leads To You. And Debbie is my most reliable person when it comes to books, both borrowing from and lending to, and exchanging recommendations with. Again, narrowing this down would be impossible, but one really amazing one that I'd love more people to read is Abigail Tarttelin's Golden Boy, about an intersex teen Max, his family, and the way people around him react as he starts to consider his well-kept secret.

6. What’s your favourite indie bookshop memory?

Oh wow... again, so hard to pin down.

(I seem to be saying that a lot.) I think I'm going to go for the Gay's The Word workshop about reading and writing LGBTQIA books for children, which was a fantastic event run brilliantly by BJ Epstein which really made me think hard about the books I was reading. (Plus it was the first time I met Charlie, who went on to become a really good friend!)

7. What do bookshops mean to you? What do you love about them?

It's so hard to get this down to an even semi-reasonable length, but let's give it a go. Firstly, looking at books rather than bookshops. (Yes, answering a completely different question probably isn't doing THAT much to get it down to a reasonable length; bear with me.)

I think that in books, you can see so many things and learn so much. Whether they act as a window to another world or another culture or another type of person, or a mirror reflecting people like yourself, they're an incredible way of expanding your horizons AND of showing you that you're not alone. For so, so, so long, they acted as mirrors mainly to white, straight, cisgender, middle/upper-class who were physically and mentally healthy. (Note 'mainly'; I'm definitely not claiming that they've ever exclusively had those characters in lead roles.)

But looking at what's available today, there is such an incredible variety around. There is an explosion in the amount of books with characters from different backgrounds, identities, class, race, etc. I believe that books can change the world. That despite the hatred that exists today, there IS progress being made. The more people see themselves in stories, the more they can see the possibilities outside of the stereotypes that society boxes them into, while the more people read about cultures and people different from themselves, the more they will understand and learn to respect them.

And it IS amazing that there are so many books out there with such a variety of lead characters (although MORE PLEASE!!), but sadly not ALL of the representation out there is amazing - some of it can be deeply hurtful. Having a knowledgeable bookseller on hand to steer people towards good representation of what they're looking for is such an incredibly powerful thing, and it's something that just can't be mirrored on a site like Amazon - the human touch of being able to ask someone for advice, question them further on their recommendations, and then sample the book in the shop is a massive advantage for me.

8. What are the books that made you? Which books have most affected or influenced you?

Do we have all year please?

I'm going for the Chalet School books which I read countless times growing up and probably did more than any other series to inspire a lifelong love of literature, Agatha Christie's murder mysteries which I constantly turn to as comfort reads (not 100% sure what that says about me, admittedly) and Rosamunde Pilcher's coming of age novel Coming Home for the same reason. The Drina series by Jean Estoril which I used to read back with someone who's been one of my closest friends for nearly 30 years now, and which I still read regularly.

Bill Bryson's Notes From A Small Island for reminding me how much I love the UK, Paul Torday's Girl on the Landing for introducing me to book reviewing (it was the first book I reviewed when I e-mailed to join the wonderful team at The Bookbag.) Will Hill's Department 19 series, Curtis Jobling's Wereworld, Michael Grant's GONE and Daniel Abraham's Dagger and the Coin, for being incredible long-running series which had me hooked from start to finish, with complex, layered characters and which all, in their own way, show how finely balanced the lines between heroes and villains are.

Most recently, Laura Nowlin's This Song Is (Not) For You, which shows an asexual character as a love interest which was something I was beginning to think I'd never see, Betsy Cornwell's Mechanica which I'll avoid giving details of because of spoilers, but which again is near unique, Alice Oseman's Radio Silence for being the best UKYA book I've read with a character on the ace spectrum AND having one of my favourite ever boy/girl platonic friendships.

9. What book do you recommend readers gift for Father’s Day?

Always Bill Bryson, I'd say, although if you're feeling rich I'm guessing there are some GORGEOUS editions of Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat, still one of the funniest books I've ever read.

10. What book is currently at the top of your TBR pile?

I'm about to start Summer Days, Summer Nights, published here by MacMillan and edited by Stephanie Perkins. I loved Stephanie's previous anthology and with a great line-up of contributing authors here I'm thrilled to be getting to it soon!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

#6Degrees: Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda to...

#6Degrees continues today with another #ReadProud special! After struggling to pick between 4 books as a start point, I turned it over to my Twitter followers, and Becky Albertalli's Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda was the clear winner.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, is a gorgeously warm, fun and cute read which stands out as one of the happiest LGBTQ YA stories I've read - as does Complementary and Acute, by Ella Lyons, a really lovely novella about 2 boarding school roommates.

Complementary and Acute shares its school setting with another short read I adored, What The Heart Wants by Naomi Tajedler. (This one is available to download for just £1.31, or to by as part of the superb Summer love anthology, by the way.) What The Heart Wants is a rich and compelling story set in a summer art class, where two girls fall for each other.

Another story with a summer activity as the setting is Lumberjanes, the much-loved comic from Boom! Studios. I've only read volume 1 so far - written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen - but have heard amazing things about later issues as well. Following a group of girls spending the summer at scout camp, and with wonderful LGBTQ characters, this is a beautifully drawn and really touching read.

The most recent Lumberjanes story started last Wednesday, as the highly-anticipated crossover mini-series with DC's Gotham Academy kicked off! Another release that day which I've been waiting for for what seems like ages is Oni Press's Merry Men (by Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis and Marissa Louise), in which Robin Hood is the former boyfriend of King Richard the Lionheart, and the rest of the main cast are a collection of gay and bi men, plus a trans woman. It's a really outstanding first issue, and I'm very excited to read the rest of the series.

Finally, while most of my LGBTQIA reads have been contemporary or SFF, another historical read I adored (in addition to Merry Men) was Molly Beth Griffin's Silhouette of a Sparrow. Silhouette is a breathtakingly good read about a girl who's captivated by a bright young flapper. Lyrically written and gorgeously romantic, it's a real must-read - as are the five above!

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from June 4th!