Friday, 24 February 2017

Exclusive Emma Shoard gif from The Pavee and the Buffer Girl

Super excited to have an animated gif by Emma Shoard today! Emma has illustrated Siobhan Dowd's The Pavee and the Buffer Girl, which is published next Thursday (2nd March) by Barrington Stoke.

Emma's also written a bit about it - over to you, Emma!

Emma Shoard:

I decided a while ago that after I had finished the illustrations for The Pavee and the Buffer Girl and the drawings decided upon had gone off to print, that I would like to animate a few scenes from the book. I studied animation a little bit at University but this would largely be a new process for me and it was exciting to imagine what it might bring to the illustrations. It was a way for me to continue developing a project that I have loved working on since receiving the commission back in 2015.

With these animations I wanted it to create the idea that the world inhabited by Jim and Kit continues beyond the page by introducing small movements to an illustration or having a character move through it. The three scenes I have chosen - the first of which appears here today - are all from different points in the book and hopefully tell you a little about the characters and setting of the story. 

The Library
For Jim’s walk cycle I began by drawing key points in the movement on pieces of tracing paper, overlaying them and testing the sequence in Photoshop. It was surprising how few frames were needed to describe the movement, your imagination fills in a lot of detail. The important things to think about were giving the trolley some weight and thinking about how Jim might stand, how he might pick up a book.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Month Ahead... (March)

My monthly preview feature continues! I actually haven't read any of these yet, but am very excited for all 10.

21st February

A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab (Tor Books) 
(Yes, I know that last Tuesday isn't TECHNICALLY the month ahead; I messed up on release dates though!)

I adore Kell, Lila and the rest of the cast of characters in VE Schwab's magnificent trilogy, while the world-building is sensationally good across the four Londons. This is one of several series concluding this month where I'm thrilled to see what happens next, but really don't want it to end!

23rd February

The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone (Simon & Schuster) 

I am SUPER excited for this one, the climax of brilliant heroine Moll Peckitt's adventures! Also sad to say goodbye to her and the rest of The Tribe, admittedly - but I know Abi will have made the finale an excellent one.

Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson (Katherine Tegen Books) - I think, at least! I'm seeing a couple of different release dates around, but the publisher's UK site has it down as today.

A teenage black girl, convicted of causing the death of a white baby when she was just nine, gets pregnant in this contemporary debut which is getting lots of praise on my Twitter timeline. With the threat of losing her baby, Mary has to find the voice to fight her past. This sounds like a tough, but completely compelling, read.

1st March

Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes (writer) and Selina Espiritu (author) (KaBOOM!) 1 of 4 

I love reading comics but certain companies are losing my interest with the ridiculous amount of crossovers, so I'm sticking to shorter self-contained things for the moment. 4 or 6 issue miniseries are perfect for me, and this story about a girl creating a restaurant to serve food to monsters sounds BRILLIANT.

2nd March

See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng (Puffin) 

Road trip novel about an 11-year-old boy wanting to capture recordings of life on Earth on his iPod, then launch it into space so other lifeforms can learn about the planet, sounds joyous and moving - I can't wait to read it!

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton) 

This novel about two refugees trying to get away from an unnamed country on the brink of civil war, and what happens afterwards, is receiving praise for the gorgeous writing and wonderful characters. It sounds like a must read!

7th March

Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate) 
I loved Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists, which I read last month. I'm so excited for this new essay, written as a letter to a friend giving her advice on how to raise her newborn baby girl as a feminist.

9th March

Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be by Gemma Cairney (Macmillan Children's) 
There never seems to be all that much commercial non-fiction for teens around, but there have been some great exceptions over the last few years - notably Juno Dawson's This Book Is Gay and Mind Your Head, and Siobhan Curham's True Face. This book from Radio 1 agony aunt Gemma Cairney - who was fabulous at last year's YALC - sounds like an excellent addition.

Masquerade by Laura Lam (Pan Macmillan)

I have this at last and am still pinching myself; I have been waiting YEARS for the conclusion of Micah Gray's story after adoring Pantomime and Shadowplay. (I'm also thrilled to be quoted on the back cover of this, a line from my Bookbag review of Pantomime coming just below a quote from a favourite fantasy author of mine, Leigh Bardugo.

US release
28th February

Ten Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac (Alfred A Knopf)

This book about a girl dealing with anxiety and falling in love with a local girl who doesn't seem to worry about anything sounds gorgeous and uplifting. It's being described as perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella's Finding Audrey, which I adored.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Guest Post: Richard Davis's Favourite Five Things About Saul Marshall

Great to have Richard Davis, author of the adult thriller Saul Marshall series, on the blog today talking about his main character!

Fave Five Things about Saul Marshall

1. His sense of humour.

Unlike Vannevar Yeung – Saul’s loyal sidekick, who speaks in a stream of wise-cracks – Saul is far more sparing with his humour. But for Saul, less is more, and I have a lot of fun making sure he gives as good as he gets. I believe the best thriller protagonists are the ones that can see the dark humour in among the shit. 

2. His fallibility. 

Saul Marshall is a highly trained ex FBI agent, who also did a stint with the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, an elite special forces unit dedicated to saving lives. But whereas most protagonists with these sorts of credentials can’t put a foot wrong, and steamroller their enemies without breaking a sweat, Saul Marshall, like his real-life counterparts, often makes mistakes – sometimes big ones. I think this is more interesting, but also more honest. 

3. His eyes.

At the risk of this sounding like a love letter, I like Saul’s eyes. As it so happens, they have never been referenced in the books as of yet. However, he has heterochromia iridis; in other words, his eyes are two different colours: one brown, one blue. 

4. His sense of loyalty.

Saul doesn’t forget who his friends are, and always has their back – and it surely goes without saying, this is a damn fine trait. That said, if you cross him, there’ll invariably be hell to pay. 

5. He does everything I tell him. 

And this effectively makes me a spy handler – which is cool. 

Saul Marshall Series by
Richard Davis

A psychotic terrorist has his son. He will do anything to save him
When a rogue cult turns deadly, the FBI call on former conman Agent Saul Marshall. FALSE PROPHET introduces a gripping new series from thriller writer Richard Davis
Marshall is soon drawn into a cat and mouse chase with the leader of the cult, Ivan Drexler. As the scale of Drexler’s terrorist ambition becomes ever clearer, news arrives that he has taken Marshall’s son hostage. Removed from the line of duty, he must work alone, off-grid.
As the attacks intensify, Saul will stop at nothing to defeat Drexler.
But the FBI are questioning Saul’s own part in the carnage. He must work fast to save both his country and his life. Can Saul stop the carnage before it’s too late? And can he save his son?
As wave after wave of attacks break, the clock is ticking for Saul.

Information about the Book
Title: False Prophet (Saul Marshall #1)
Author: Richard Davis
Release Date: 25th January 2016
Genre: Crime
Publisher: Canelo
Format: ebook

Saul Marshall is on the run.

As a wave of seemingly random assassinations engulfs California, Marshall finds himself drawn into a situation spiralling out of control.

He soon discovers some of the webs’ most secure protocols have been compromised by a rogue team of former Chinese agents. When Marshall realises what they plan, the stakes are raised…

And that’s before the Secretary of State gets involved. Can Marshall unravel the deceit and tricks before it’s too late? Can he stop the carnage, or will he become part of it? One thing is for certain: either way his enemies will never forget.

Information about the Book
Title: Never Again (Saul Marshall #2)
Author: Richard Davis
Release Date: 20th February 2017
Genre: Crime
Publisher: Canelo
Format: ebook

Author Information

Richard Davis graduated from University College London in 2011 and Cambridge University in 2012. The Saul Marshall series was born from Davis’s extensive travels around the United States and his long-standing
obsession with thriller fiction. He lives in North London, UK, with his girlfriend.

Tour Schedule

Monday 20th February

Tuesday 21st February

Wednesday 22nd February

Thursday 23rd February

Friday 24th February

Saturday 25th February

Sunday 26th February

Monday 27th February

Tuesday 28th February

Wednesday 1st March

Thursday 2nd March

Friday 3rd March

Sunday 4th March

Sunday 5th March

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Liked More Than I Expected

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

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate) - I'm trying to read more non-fiction and this essay is breathtaking. I knew it would be excellent, but wasn't expecting it to be as accessible as it was - the perfect read for anyone wanting to know more about feminism.

Poppy's Place series by Katrina Charman and Lucy Truman (Stripes) - I'm not generally a big fan of animal books but this won me over with the wonderful author-illustrator team. Katrina's warm, sweet stories are complemented perfectly by Lucy's super-cute drawings.

God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen (Deeya Publishing) - I was drawn to this by the description of it as "A Muslim Nancy Drew", being a big fan of that detective when I was younger. This is an interesting mystery but where it shines is the portrayal of lead character Asiya's relationship with her family, which was great to read.

Russell's Attic series by SL Huang - A self-published one which I wasn't sure about but which I absolutely loved; this is an incredibly exciting action series where the main character - Cas Russell, whose mathematical skill is so (superhumanly?) great that she can dodge bullets, calculate trajectories, and generally avoid death in incredible ways - is a favourite of mine.

We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen (Vintage) - Anything over 400 pages needs to be incredible to keep my attention; Jensen's seafaring epic weighs in at 700 plus and kept me absolutely gripped. Outstanding.

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka (Vintage) - I don't actually read that many adult novels generally, and hadn't read anything from a Sri Lankan author before this. In addition, cricket isn't a sport I'm generally interested in, but this sounded interesting enough to take a look at and the narrator's phenomenal voice completely blew me away - a truly stunning read.

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master (Bloomsbury) - I was expecting to like this when I read it - it was one of the earliest MGs I reviewed for the Bookbag - but wasn't expecting to fall in love quite so hard with it; Master creates a great set of characters and the setting, in India just prior to Partition, is outstanding.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (Faber and Faber) - I read The Girl Savage, Katherine Rundell's debut, and thought it was a beautifully-written book but wasn't keen on the characters, so I wasn't sure whether to try her second. I was won over by the amazing reviews I was seeing and it absolutely lived up to them - a truly gorgeous MG with brilliant characterisation, especially that of main character Sophie and her foster father Charles. One of my all-time favourites (along with Katherine's third book, The Wolf Wilder.)

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (Crown Books in the USA) - I've read lots of short stories this year and have enjoyed some collections a lot; however this is one of the very few I've read where I would say EVERY story was very good or better. Bookended by masterpieces by Matt de la Peña and Walter Dean Myers, the quality barely drops at all.

Mama Can't Raise No Man by Robyn Travis (OWN IT!) - As mentioned, I don't read that many adult novels but was sold on this by a friend telling me how wonderful it was, and by reading the first few pages which gripped me completely. Told as letters to and from Duane, a young black man in prison, it tells an utterly compelling story. The characters all have outstanding voices and I stayed up until 1:30 am this morning to finish it so that I could put it in this list.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Thoughts on the Carnegie Longlist 2017

I wanted to share my thoughts on the recently announced Carnegie longlist - and particularly the lack of any BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) writers on it, and felt Twitter wasn't the best way to do it due to character limits, so have spent part of the weekend writing a blog post. 

I should note for people who don't know me that I'm white, so I'm aware I'm writing outside of my lane here. I did consider offering space on my blog for a BAME writer to make a post on this subject, but I feel they're already spending a lot of time trying to educate people when they should be able to spend their time writing their books. White people in and around publishing can't just step back and let PoC do the work to fix the problem.  

(Having said that, if this platform would be useful to you and you're a BAME person with something you want to say about the topic, tweet or DM me @yayeahyeah and we'll sort something out.)

I am trying to give a quick overview of the problem here. I would massively recommend reading Kat Cho's post here and those she links to at the end, for more detailed views.

Ok, firstly I think it's important to point out that the longlist is being criticised not in isolation, but as yet another sign that BAME writers are undervalued. It's been pointed out that there are only around 8 UKYA novels coming out from people of colour in 2017; Lee & Low's survey has shown the lack of diversity in the US publishing world as well, and a scan of past Carnegie shortlists will show that the issues are not new to the prize in 2017.

I would also say that this is a topic that people tend to react to very impulsively a lot of the time - I know I've been guilty of that in the past, when I was less aware of the issues. 

Criticism of societal racism ISN'T saying that individuals are horrible people who hate those of different races; the way people immediately get defensive about this makes me worry that some of them don't understand the difference. 

I know one of the Carnegie/Greenaway judges and she's a lovely person who works really hard for kids; I am sure the same is true of all of the rest of them. Similarly I think the vast majority of people in YA/MG publishing are wonderful people who want what's best for children and teens.

So those of us who are worried by an all-white longlist aren't saying "The people involved here are awful for coming up with this list", we're saying "This is yet another example of structural racism benefitting white people."

I know that the defence of the list from people at CILIP and past judges has boiled down mainly to "it's a level playing field" and that they're judging by objective criteria. 

In my opinion, the level playing field argument struggles because firstly it's so difficult for BAME authors to get published - as mentioned above, there are around 8 UKYA books by BAME authors being published this year. Also consider Malorie Blackman's comment about a friend of hers having been told there was no space for her book at a publisher because "we already have a book by Malorie Blackman." (This was a number of years ago; hopefully progress has been made since then but statistics suggest that progress has been slow.) 

Tied into this argument is the idea of the criteria being completely objective.

For me, looking at the above criteria in particular - especially points 1, 3 and 4 - it's incredibly hard to judge these things objectively. 

The current judging panel, as far as I can tell, is 11 white women and 1 Asian man. (My sincere apologies if I've got this wrong.) 

Talking to my friend Wei Ming Kam about this - I have real issues with the 'convincing' criteria, but was finding it hard to express them - she said "It's logical that teens speak differently to each other when alone than when around adults, even more so when differences of race/class/sexuality etc come into play. We can assume that the authors have done the work to ensure that dialogue etc is as similar to teens as possible or desired." I would definitely agree with her here.

Of course these aren't the only criteria that are subjective - I think many of them are, to a point. I feel personally that The Serpent King, which was longlisted, wasn't really well-constructed, certainly not compared to Orangeboy, Chasing The Stars or Where Monsters Lie (all of which are nominated and eligible.) For me, TSK had an incredibly powerful last third or so, but the first two thirds could have been cut by 100 pages and made it a much better read overall. Having said that, I know several people who considered TSK to be one of the best novels of last year and they would definitely say it WAS well-constructed - I'm certainly not claiming that I'm right and they're wrong, just that the criteria is less objective than people are suggesting.

One of the other claims I'm seeing is that the ethnicities of authors on the list doesn't matter, as there is a wide range of representation of characters and subjects. I would ask people using this argument to think about how good the representation is in books written by authors tackling characters outside of their own race. While I believe some people do this really well - Kate Elliott's Court of Fives has attracted lots of praise from people of colour for the way she portrays her biracial heroine - it can also be a minefield. In particular, Native scholar Debbie Reese's thoughts on Beck are required reading, I would say. Again, I feel it is potentially difficult for white people to fairly judge how good representation of other races is; I would hope the judges are taking into consideration reviews by people of those races.

The other big issue I have with comments about the ethnicity of authors not mattering - especially when people making these comments are school librarians - is that given how few books by BAME authors are published, it seems it would be easy to end up with all or nearly all white authors if you're not paying attention to author ethnicity. As well as the issues with representation, this also reinforces BAME children thinking they can't be authors themselves - if they never see people of their race writing a book, why would they assume it's a possible career path for them? 

So, where do we go from here? Alan Gibbons has called for an open debate discussion, which is a good idea, but it does feel like people have been talking about this for a long time with little actual progress being made. 

That's not to say things aren't getting any better - I'm thrilled by a few recent developments in publishing, notably Stripes announcing A Change Is Gonna Come, an anthology for BAME writers which features some amazing authors and is seeking new voices as well, and Walker bringing Angie Thomas's magnificent The Hate U Give to the UK.

Looking at this year's Carnegie, the longlist is done now, and isn't going to be changed, obviously. I'm excited that at least one librarian is talking about shadowing the list but also reading the nominated books by BAME authors with her reading group as well. I would love to see more librarians doing this, or instead shadowing the Branford Boase longlist, which contains more diversity amongst its authors.

As for future years? I really hope there's a more diverse judging panel, to be honest. I'm not sure how likely that is, but I think that it may lead to a more diverse and well-rounded choice of books. I also hope that the judges in future years are aware of the ongoing conversation, look to see how people represented in the books - especially those books written by authors of different races - feel about them, and take this into consideration when discussing the literary merit.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Shorts on Sunday #8

My new Shorts on Sunday feature continues, with two recommendations from me and one from Lisa Williamson, author of All About Mia (published by David Fickling Books) I've only just started this book, but can't wait to read it; I'm a huge fan of her debut The Art Of Being Normal.

Independence Day by Katie Muriel

Availability: Included in the upcoming 404 Ink book Nasty Women.

Following the election of Donald Trump, Katie Muriel looks at the prejudice she faces as a mixed Puerto Rican/white woman, even from her family. 

Why I'm Recommending: I think that it's incredibly important to read the words of as many people affected by the current political landscape as possible. In this essay, Katie's writing is incredibly powerful as she talks about the slurs used against her, and the prejudice she has come up against and how Trump's election has made that worse. However she's using her voice to spread the word about this injustice - this is her first published piece of writing; I hope we get to see a lot more from her.

Into The Mountain by Jamila Gavin

Availability: part of the Winter Magic collection curated by Abi Elphinstone. (Simon & Schuster)

Story: When the Pied Piper stole the children from a town, only two were left - a lame boy, and a girl suffering from the plague, neither of whom could keep up with the rest. With the rest of the town viewing them with suspicion, what can they do?

Why I'm recommending: Gorgeously written and brilliantly plotted retelling which kept me guessing right the way through. I also really loved both of the main characters here. I haven't read anything else by Jamila Gavin - although I've recently bought her Coram Boy, and Alexander The Great; I am definitely looking forward to both of them! 

Over to Lisa!

I’m not much of a short story reader. There’s no sinister reason for this, I’m just in the habit of mostly reading novels. Indeed, when I do make the effort to read something shorter, I enjoy it immensely. There’s something hugely satisfying and cocooning about reading a story from beginning to end without stopping.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reading Phil Earle’s excellent YA novella Mind The Gap. It’s the latest release from Barrington Stoke, a publisher that specialises in creating accessible and super readable stories for young people who usually struggle to engage with books. Their latest YA offerings not only look gorgeous (prime example: the stunning Unboxed by Non Pratt), they also pack an astonishing amount of heart, humour and story into each relatively short word count.

Story: Mikey is struggling to cope with the death of his dad so his best friend goes on a mission to keep Mikey’s memories alive.

Why I’m recommending: It’s sweet, funny, moving and occasionally shocking, and the main characters are loveably scrappy. There’s also a rawness and simplicity that makes it feel not only incredibly vivid, but authentic and timeless too.  

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Twenty Things I've Read #11

My new (hopefully weekly!) links recap format continues. 

As mentioned in week 1, 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 will just list them at the start of each post. If you're not reading the following, you are REALLY missing out.

Safe Space

Media Diversified
The Pool
Teen Vogue 

Addition: Given the current political climate, I would strongly suggest also reading EVERYTHING Celeste Pewter tweets; she is incredibly insightful and her tweets on US politics have helped me figure out which things going on are reasonably worrying and which are absolutely terrifying.

The Twenty

This thread by Sarah Shaffi, and the linked piece by Natasha Onwuemezi, on the lack of diversity in the Carnegie longlist is a must-read. On that subject, in case you missed it first time around, this Nikesh Shukla piece on the need for greater diversity in books is superb. There were some fab book lists this week which DID include diversity though, thankfully. The ABA released their Indie Next list which is AWESOME; so many amazing books there! Am especially thrilled to see The Hate U Give, which I love, and Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited and Jack Cheng’s See You In The Cosmos, both of which I can’t wait to read, in the top 10. I also loved Zoraida Córdova's Bustle list of overrated books and what to read instead, and Casey's Autostraddle post, 8 queer sci-fi books to read right now.

Yet more brilliant lists - a great Multiculturalism Rocks one of debut authors of color and Native AmericansLucy Nisbet for YA Interrobang on 8 YA books to watch out for this February. (I’m so excited for American Street, while The Hate U Give is INCREDIBLE!) Isabel Calkin’s NYLON piece, on 10 black women in academia that you need to know about, is wonderful. I loved Myles E Johnson’s piece on Beyoncé for the NYT. while Remi Joseph Salisbury, on Stormzy being suspected of breaking into his own house, is excellent. 

Other bookish stuff - this The Book Voyagers post on racial diversity on book covers is brilliant, as are Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Black History Month recommendations. Two great interviews, one with wonderful crime author Nick Bryan over at Whispering Stories and another with Nina LaCour at Booklist Reader; I can't wait for We Are OkayJacqueline Carey for Tor on the breathtaking wonderfulness of Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity is amazing! 

There's a great piece here by Keah Brown on resistance, black joy,disability and work to doHannah Gersen’s piece for The Millions about women seen andheard in Hollywood is awesome – I loved Hidden Figures! And an excellent piece by Mark Rice-Oxley on the dark worldview ofthe Daily MailI loved Grace’s post on romantic moments in her life. As fun as that post was, I have to be honest and say I struggled with Valentine's Day in general. This was NOT helped by an abysmal Tor article talking about how romance makes characters in SFF relatable. I was so glad to see a brilliant Twitter thread from Sarah Strange, who explained the issues with the post far more clearly than I could.


Nikesh Shukla is running a masterclass on Writing Motivation at Waterstones Piccadilly on 25th February from 1pm – 4pm. There are four places available as gifts to BAME writers – one bought by Nikesh himself, and three donated – who couldn’t otherwise afford to take part. Deadline is 5pm Monday 20th February to apply for one of these four places; details in Nikesh’s tweet here.

The Branford Boase Award longlist looks great; if any schools are looking to shadow a prize then this would seem like a brilliant one to pick. 

This open call for submissions from Muslim writers, coming from a lot of incredible agents is fabulous! Also open for submissions, Black speculative fiction magazine Fiyah, and Haus of Liberated Reading, who are putting together an anthology of Black writing from across the globe.