Friday, 20 April 2018

Firebird by Elizabeth Wein Cover Reveal

As a massive fan of Elizabeth Wein's books, I'm always thrilled to hear about more from her - particularly when it's set in World War II, like her bestselling Code Name Verity, one of the most emotional YA novels I've ever read. I was delighted to hear that she has a new WWII-set book, Firebird, coming out in August, and honoured when publishers Barrington Stoke asked me if I'd like to reveal Ali Ardington's stunning cover!

Elizabeth Wein (@EWein2412 on Twitter) says "On my visit to Russia in 2016, I was truly blown away by the Soviet-era artwork I saw there. In my head, the Soviet Union always seems grey and drab. But their propaganda posters are jubilant blasts of eye-catching colour and dramatic shapes.

So I really loved the idea of trying to capture this look for the cover of Firebird, which takes place in the Soviet Union during World War II. From the onion domes of Red Square to the fighter plane formation soaring into battle, it’s a real tribute to the artists who had to inspire Soviet youth to go to war in the 1940s.

The Russian words for “red” and “beautiful” have the same origin, and the cover design for Firebird is both!"

I definitely agree with that! Over to superstar designer Ali Ardington (@aliardington on Twitter, and check out more of her fabulous work on her website.)

"I wanted to capture the feel of a Soviet Russian propaganda poster, whilst embracing feminism and celebrating the strong women of WW2. When I started the visual research for the cover, it became quite apparent how courageous and strong these young women were. In my mind the main female protagonist had to take centre stage, and be celebrated. The cover came to life around her."

And now, the actual gorgeous cover...

Firebird will be published by Barrington Stoke in August; I can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Guest Post: Keren David on Stranger

Yes, the blog is alive. (Barely.)

I haven't really been planning any posts for ages for various reasons, but when Keren David, one of my favourite YA contemporary writers, got in touch with me to ask if she could guest post I jumped at the chance. I'm super-intrigued to read Stranger, her first foray into historical fiction, which takes place in Canada in 1904 and 1994. 

Over to Keren!

Where do you get your ideas from? It’s the question that most authors dread, but I’ve never had a great problem with it.  Until now. 

For most of my books, the ideas have come from news reports. When I Was Joe, my debut, came from an item on the BBC about a boy in witness protection. All the others were similarly inspired, apart from This is Not a Love Story, which came about because I wanted to write something set in Amsterdam, my home for eight years.

Stranger, my new book, is completely different.

I have no clue about where the idea came from, because it has been simmering away for nearly all my life. 

At some point, as a child, I decided I wanted to write my own book. I started telling myself the story in bed at night. Every night I’d add a little bit more. It was unformed and undeveloped. There was blood, there was a murder, and a suspect full of fear and confusion. He was desperately afraid of telling his story, but it was only by telling it that he could win his freedom. It was a story about distrust, abuse of power, extreme emotions. And it was one I could never quite let go. For years, if sleep eluded me, I would let those feelings into my brain and sleep would inevitably follow.

And then, in 2012, I decided to try and write the story down. But I needed a new narrator -  Emmy, the girl who finds a ‘wild’ boy, naked and bloody on the edge of the forest. I needed a setting -  Canada seemed to choose itself -  and a time, as this didn’t feel anything like the contemporary stories I’d written before. It’s taken six years and many, many rewrites, but at last it’s done. Stranger is published this week. 

Some of the ideas came through the storylines that emerged.  Stories about women, their bodies, their choices, their destinies. But at its core, this is a book whose origins were just there in my psyche. As such it’s very precious to me, and, still, something of a mystery. There’s a lot of me in all of my books. But this one goes deeper than all of the others.

I hope you like it.

Stranger is published by Atom, and released on 5th April 2018.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Guest Post: Katy Birchall on Dogs of Instagram

I've recently read and loved Katy Birchall's Secrets of a Teenage Heiress, first in her new Hotel Royale series, so I'm delighted to have a fabulous blog post from her today!

Top Dogs to follow on Instagram

(No, seriously, you need them in your life)
The real star of Secrets of a Teenage Heiress is Flick’s fashion-conscious dachshund, Fritz. With a wardrobe overflowing with his designer knitwear, tailored suits and array of hats, Fritz is a fashion icon in the world of Hotel Royale and his Instagram page is, to put it frankly, a sensation.

In his honour, I have selected the top dogs to follow on Instagram, all of whom did their bit to inspire the wonderfully dashing character of Fritz:

Steph and The Pointer Brothers

Gus and Travis are both handsome rescue dogs, adopted by Steph McCombie, and like Fritz, they have an envy-inducing wardrobe and are particularly fond of neckchiefs.


Harlow and Sage

The most adorable of unlikely pals. After best friend Sage sadly passed away in 2013, Harlow the Weimarana was joined by dachshund Indiana and then by Reese, another dachshund. The trio have taken Instagram by storm and they will melt your hearts.

 The Dog Jogger

Dog Handler Barry Karacostas is the self-titled ‘surrogate parent’ to an assortment of London’s dogs and posts daily pictures of the pooches he’s proudly looking after…always brightens my morning!

Byron the Corgi

I can’t get enough of this guy. I’m mad about corgis (why are their bums so fluffy?!) and love following Byron’s adventures. He has such an adorable, smiley face.

The Dogist

If you’re a doglover, then this is an absolute MUST. Documenting the dogs of New York with beautiful pictures and telling their stories (there’s a book out too).

And the Instagram newcomer award goes to…

Arnie G

Just when I thought she couldn’t get even more AWESOME, my agent Lauren went and got Arnie, a puppy cocker spaniel. Brand new to instragram, he’s already one of my firm favourites and will soon be yours…just look at his faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.

Secrets of a Teenage Heiress was published on January 11th by Egmont. It is available from all good bookshops at an RRP of £6.99.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Twenty Things I've Read And Watched 2018 Week 1

Relaunching my Twenty Things I've Read and Watched feature!

For people who haven't seen it before, this is a thing I used to do weekly to share cool stuff I've found over the internet. I try to go for a mixture of fun and thought-provoking reads/watches, and I'm going to be including more signal boosts for good causes in 2018, I think.

There are some sites which could quite conceivably fill this list between them EVERY WEEK as they constantly produce amazing posts - and I find it way too hard to single them out! So instead, I list them at the start of each post. If you're not reading the following, you are REALLY missing out.

Media Diversified
The Pool
Teen Vogue 

Dhonielle Clayton talked to Lila Shapiro over at the Vulture about what the job of a sensitivity reader is really like.

A host of fab people in publishing talked to Down The Rabbit Hole about the 2017 releases they wish they'd published.

On A Mundane Life, Sarah interviewed Zoe about her Wildest Dreams book box (includes a £3 off discount offer for January box.)

Cosmopolitan's list of books to look forward to in 2018 looks great - pre-order Dread Nation by Justina Ireland everyone; it's INCREDIBLE.

I don't normally link to individual reviews, but I think Elizabeth Roderick's review of To Siri, With Love by Judith Newman is a hugely important one (especially as Amazon bizarrely seem to be deleting a ton of reviews, many of them by #actuallyautistic people like Elizabeth.)

My awesome friend Alix blogged about the best books she'd read in 2017.

And another of my fabulous friends, Caitlin, posted about the books/TV shows/movies she's most excited for in 2018.

And yet another amazing friend, Debbie, wrote about her goals, habits and accomplishments she's hoping to achieve in 2018.

The Guardian interviewed Katherine Rundell (possibly my favourite author!) after she deservedly won the Costa Children's Prize.

Older post, but worth revisiting as it concerns this month - a number of bloggers are running Mental Health Book Bingo in January! Check out the bingo grid, and details of Twitter chats throughout the month (I took part in Wednesday's and it was great) on Sar's Reading To Recover blog.

Jessica Ellis's Twitter thread comparing Luke's relationship with Ben Solo in The Last Jedi with Sirius and Harry's in Order of the Phoenix is such a fascinating read.

TenEighty posted about awesome New Year's Resolution videos from 5 vloggers (including my brilliant friend Christy!)

For her birthday, Christy is asking people to donate a pound or two to St Mungo's to help their work with the homeless. She beat her goal of £50 in just a day, but wouldn't it be awesome if we could double that over the weekend?

HeroNation have been fundraising for a special free screening of Black Panther for Black youth in Ypsilanti, MI on February 16th. They've already smashed through their $3000 target which is fantastic. However further fundraising will go towards their other awesome events, so if you'd like to give, please head over here.

Stevie Boebi talked to Ash Hardell about being polyamorous in a very interesting video.

Really awesome recommendations for best romance novels of 2017 over at Romance Novels for Feminists - I'm adding a bunch of these to my TBR.

Jessica Eaton posted about 'whataboutery' - another massively important read.

Another fantastic preview of books to look forward to in 2018 over on the Pool; this features lots of the people whose tastes I most agree with (Louise O'Neill, Anna James, Sam Baker and others) and again has added tons to my TBR.

And another person with impeccable taste, Dahlia Adler, has a great January preview on Barnes and Noble.

Finally don't miss this excellent SK Ali video introducing the #MuslimShelfSpace hashtag.

If you've seen anything you found especially interesting on the internet in the last week or so, why not leave me a comment and a link?

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten New To Me Authors in 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This is my first Top Ten Tuesday post for ages!

Today’s topic (well, yesterday’s, as I’m behind a little…)  is Top Ten New To Me Authors in 2017. I’m avoiding last year's debuts and focusing on authors published prior to 2017 who I only recently discovered.

Lissa Evans – I know Lissa has several books to her name, including Their Finest which I really want to read after loving the film, but it was her 2017 release Wed Wabbit which I read first, having been hand-sold it by Tereze at Tales on Moon Lane. It’s a stunningly imaginative MG with outstanding world-building, a perfect plot, and two of my favourite character arcs ever. I definitely need to catch up with her backlist!

Adam Silvera – I’ve heard for ages how great Adam’s debut novel More Happy That Not is but somehow never got around to reading it; however I picked up History Is All You Left Me and it’s an exquisite read, gorgeous and heartbreaking and somehow still hopeful. I’m very excited for They Both Die At The End, but it’s taken me months to get ready to read it given how shattered I was by History!


Lydia San Andres – I was lucky enough to be online when Lydia offered a free copy of one of her books to the first few people to respond to a tweet, and grabbed The Infamous Miss Rodriguez, a novella about a girl trying to ruin her reputation to get an eligible bachelor to break off their engagement. Since then I’ve bought and read her novel A Summer For Scandal, which sees a woman writing a raunchy serial under a pseudonym encounter a respected author who (also under a pseudonym) has trashed her writing. Sparks fly in one of my favourite relationships for AGES; both of these books are gorgeously romantic and hot.

Nicola Yoon – I avoided Everything, Everything having heard mixed things about it, but read The Sun Is Also A Star and loved it. I’m a huge fan of dual narrative and seeing things from so many minor character’s POVs too was really interesting.

Robyn Travis – Despite not reading that much adult fiction these days, Robyn’s 2016 debut novel Mama Can’t Raise No Man sounded so intriguing that I took a chance on it and was really glad I did. I loved this so much I actually wrote a mini-review on it, which was super rare last year for me.
“Breathtaking debut novel told in letters between a young Black man in prison and his friends and family (with a few court transcripts.) The voice of every character is stunning, while the book is an entertaining, sometimes heartbreaking, and always deeply thought-provoking story of Black masculinity, injustice, life in prison and on the streets, and of being the child of a single mother. It builds to an incredible climax - a truly superb read. “

Carrie Mac - Ten Things I Can See From Here is, according to Goodreads, Carrie’s 14th book but I hadn’t heard of her before seeing this one recommended (by LGBTQ Reads, I think) as she’s sadly not published in the UK as far as I’m aware. I initially had to give up on this one because the anxiety rep is SO incredibly realistic that I found it triggering; I went back to it when I was feeling more up to coping with it and absolutely loved it. As well as the superb depiction of anxiety it has one of the cutest and sweetest f/f romances I’ve read for ages.

Jen Wilde – Another author who’s written several books which I wasn’t aware of (I really wish more UK publishers would pick up some people whose writing I adore!) Queens of Geek is a gorgeous, super lovely story about three friends at a convention. This features an m/f best friends to lovers romance, and an f/f celebrity one, both of which are utterly charming. It also has lots of really great rep – especially of autism – while the setting is brilliantly portrayed. This is near the top of my ‘reread’ pile because it was such an easy and heart-warming read.

Mackenzi Lee – I am a massive fan of #BygoneBadassBroads on Twitter and have loved the sound of Mackenzi’s This Monstrous Thing for ages but not got around to reading it yet. However my amazing friend Kate devoured The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice And Virtue and promptly pushed it on EVERYBODY she knew, kindly lending it to me. This is a breathtakingly romantic m/m historical with one of my favourite couples for ages and a brilliant supporting character in Felicity, medicine-loving younger sister of MC Monty. (I am SUPER excited for the upcoming book about her, The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy!) If you’re on board for a historical road trip which will have you screaming “KISS, DAMMIT!” for much of the book, don’t miss this!

Jennifer Mathieu – Another author who’s got several books out in the US, Jennifer Mathieu DID get picked up by a UK publisher with Hodder bringing Moxie over here and pushing it super-hard. It’s easy to see why so many people – including Zoella, who made this her own pick for the latest of her book clubs – fell in love with it. It’s an empowering story of feminism, fighting the patriarchy, and zine culture. So many great characters here, I thought it did intersectional feminism really brilliantly, and it’s both hard-hitting and a really entertaining read.

Ayisha Malik – I finally read Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged and was absolutely kicking myself for not doing it sooner; this novel about a singleton writing a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene is hilarious and insightful. I loved the main love interest, too!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

4 Years of Friendship

Four years ago today I met @snugglingonsofa for the first time, at Juno Dawson and Maureen Johnson's event at Waterstones Piccadilly. I really wanted to meet new friends when I moved down here but I don't think I could ever have hoped to make a friend as good as Debbie has been.

Over the past four years she has been there for me through good times and bad, she has supported me when I've struggled and celebrated with me when I've had things to be happy about. She's been an incredibly loyal friend and someone who has really helped me deal with my social anxiety issues, both by being a friendly face at events we're both at and by being there for me at the other end of a DM if I'm panicking at something and she's not around in person.

She has also given me the confidence to do so many things I never thought I'd be able to do; she was one of the first people I talked to when I was invited onto DTRH, when I was asked to chair a panel at Waterstones Piccadilly, and when I was asked to be a YA Book Prize judge. Every time, I was doubtful as to whether I'd be good enough, and every time, I eventually went for it after she, and other friends, showed so much faith in me I HAD to have at least a little in myself. (I have tried to be as supportive to her as she had to me; I'm constantly unconvinced I've done anywhere near as good a job, but she seems to think I've been ok!)

I have met so many amazing people in the last 4 years, and I hope all of them know how much I value their friendship - but Debbie's has been particularly special. Thank you for 4 wonderful years of theatre and cinema trips, book swapping, spreadsheet updating, so many DMs, cocktails and ice creams. I hope there are many more amazing things to come. (And, of course, a special thanks for appearing in SO MANY #jimsprofile pics! Here are just a few of my favourites of us.)

Monday, 25 September 2017

Cover Reveal: Second Best Friend by Non Pratt

So I haven't been blogging much recently due to being super-busy at work, but when Barrington Stoke (who I love) got in touch about revealing the cover for the new novella coming in January 2018 from Non Pratt, one of my absolute favourite authors, I COULD NOT turn it down!

So further down the page we have the wonderful cover by Kate Alizadeh (who also did the awesome cover for Non's first Barrington Stoke book, Unboxed!) but first, a little bit about Second Best Friend from Non, and a bit more from Barrington Stoke.

For me the way friendship works is that I find someone so brilliant that I want to spend all my time with them. I put them on a pedestal, wilfully blind to their flaws. When I’m in a good place, this doesn’t matter, but knock me out of my lane, draw my attention to my own flaws… well then. It starts becoming obvious which one of us is the better – and it’s not me. These days, I’ve learned how to have healthy friendships, but it’s a lot less easy to do this when you’re a teenager, when others’ perceptions of you press in so tight and merge with your own than you can’t tell one from the other…

I’m fascinated by friendship. In Remix I wrote about two friends who lost their way and still managed to lift each other up, but Second Best Friend is Remix’s dark little sister. It’s about the mechanics of best friendship and what happens when others’ perceptions of you press in so tight and merge with your own than you can’t tell one from the other. It’s about the insidious nature of jealousy and how it can distort you. It’s also about politics because if there’s one time people will do anything to win, it’s during an election.

Official blurb from Barrington Stoke:
Jade and Becky are best friends, but when Jade’s ex-boyfriend lets on that everyone thinks Becky is the better of the two, Jade finds herself noticing just how often she comes second to her best friend. There’s nothing Jade is better at than Becky. So when Jade is voted in as Party Leader ahead of her school’s General Election only to find herself standing against Becky, Jade sees it as a chance to prove herself. If there’s one thing she can win, it’s this election – even if it means losing her best friend.

And now, the cover!

Isn't it stunning? Non, and the team at Barrington Stoke, are thrilled by the amazing job Kate has done. For more of her work, check out her website

Second Best Friend publishes on 15th January 2018 - I can't wait! A huge thanks to Non and to Barrington Stoke for letting me host this reveal.