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.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017


A lot of people I know offline are aware of this, but I haven't been particularly forthcoming about it on my blog or Twitter, so I'm going to put it out there now - 2017 has been a tough year for me, particularly in terms of friendships.

When I moved down to London a few years ago I was incredibly nervous, I didn't know anyone down here, and for the first six months or so I socialised almost exclusively with people from work, only going to a couple of book events and not really getting to know anyone much. The main exception was Debbie, and to be honest even with her at that point I was feeling more confident online - when we'd talk a lot, and her support was probably the main reason I didn't quit my job in the first few months and move back to a place where I knew people - than in person, when I felt shy and nervous whenever we saw each other.

Fast forward a year or two, and things had changed massively. I had a great group of friends who were really close, and I felt confident for once in my friendships with them. (I'd even stopped feeling overawed by how amazing Debbie was, and just accepted that despite her awesomeness she genuinely likes spending time with me. Yay!) There were 5 or 6 people I could message if I wanted a theatre buddy, or someone to go out for dinner with.

And then for various reasons, that group got looser. Obviously you CAN'T expect things to stay the same; significant life events (to borrow a phrase from Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard, one of the best books ever about friendships) happen for people, and I am incredibly happy for one of my friends who's become a wonderful mother to an absolutely adorable little girl. But with that happening, and a couple of my closest friends outside the group having less time to spend socialising (for very good reasons), I was left feeling really down.

I think/hope I did a fairly good job of hiding this most of the time, maybe. I met some really nice new people at the end of last year/first half of this year and while I wasn't really getting to know them well, they were friendly at book stuff and I was enjoying getting to know them slightly better.

And then Debbie RT'd a thread on making/keeping friends from @thewritingj which, no exaggeration, completely changed the course of my year. I read Jaylee's advice 3 or 4 times, and while I haven't followed it completely, the big impact it made on me is that it showed me I wasn't the only person who found friendships difficult at times, especially getting to know people better. The confidence boost that gave me, along with the parts of the advice I did follow, led to me doing a much better job of keeping in touch with people. Instead of worrying they wouldn't want to hear from me, or that they'd be too busy to reply, I tried starting conversations with people and mostly got a really good reaction - there are a few people who I didn't know very well before this summer who I now talk to via text or DM almost every day. We're there for each other to give support if needed, but we're also just enjoying keeping up with each other's lives, talking about books, and generally getting to know each other better. There are several other people who my friendships with have got closer over the last few months, and it's great to talk to them more regularly. (Of course that's not to say it's a good idea to bombard people with messages; I think it's important to recognise when people may not be interested in talking to you much, for any reason, and I hope I've avoided trying to push friendships with people in these cases.)

Another piece of advice I took from Jaylee has been to make actual plans with people, and this has been a massive change as well. Rather than constantly saying "Hey we should meet up soon" but not actually trying to arrange dates and times due to fear of rejection, I've made much more of an effort to make firm arrangements! Because of this I'm finishing this post on the way back from a fabulous afternoon of cocktails, ice cream and board games with Alix - one of the people who's become a close friend over the summer - and I've been out for dinner/done fun stuff with several other people I don't know all that well over the last six weeks or so. I think keeping this going will definitely be harder when I'm back at work, but I'm really going to try my best to make sure I keep in regular contact with people as much as I can.

Obviously, the advice Jaylee gave won't work for everyone. Some people might need to adjust it, as I did; others may not find it useful at all (especially if, due to health issues, they find it harder to keep in touch with people regularly, as pointed out by a few people responding to the initial tweet thread.) But speaking personally, it has made an absolutely massive difference to me, and I would really encourage people who are nervous about making new friends or getting to know people better to read it and see if some or all of it is worth putting into practice. A massive thank you, Jaylee, for giving the advice in the first place!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Importance of Books, and Blogging, in Bad Times

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. This is partly due to stuff going on in my life at the moment – particularly the stress/excitement of preparing for the new academic year after getting a promotion – but also due to the general situation in the world.
I keep thinking about a post I could do, a list I could make, or some recommendations I could share. And then I look at the news, or my Twitter feed, and I see the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, the racism and homophobia suffered by so many people, the constant debacle which seems to be world politics in 2017 – and I think why on earth does my opinion on books matter, given all of this really important stuff going on?
(Two points to make – firstly, I know that none of this is new, it just seems to be hitting me harder than usual at the moment. Secondly, as a white, cis, able-bodied straight-passing male in his 30’s I have more privilege than the vast majority of people I know who read this blog/talk to me on Twitter do, so while I’m feeling like this I know I have much less to worry about than many people do.)
But of course, to slightly change my question, books themselves DO matter, particularly in tough times. Speaking from that privileged position, I can’t imagine anyone of a different race to the authors reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, or When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and NOT having their eyes opened to different cultures. Similarly surely any guy who reads Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Adichie or What’s A Girl Gotta Do by Holly Bourne will have their eyes opened to the injustice faced by women and resolve to be better at playing a part in supporting the women fighting back against it.
I could say the same thing, with respect to LGBT characters, about Meredith Russo’s gorgeous If I Was Your Girl, Hannah Moskovitz’s outstanding Not Otherwise Specified, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and Tanya Byrne’s glorious Hackney Moon, in the Stripes anthology A Change Is Gonna Come. Or when it comes to characters with chronic pain, Far From You by Tess Sharpe and Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology have opened my eyes, while I have appreciated the amazing mental health rep in books like Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here and Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies so, so much.
And of course, that’s just me looking at characters who are windows for me, rather than mirrors. Seeing an ace character play a lead role in Laura Nowlin’s wonderful This Song Is Not For You was an incredibly heart-warming thing for me, and I think this was perhaps the first time I realised exactly how important it was that people get the representation they need in books – I wonder how differently I’d have felt in my teens if I’d read a book like this then.
Going back to my original question, then, I’m not that sure how much my opinion matters. But I know that the books themselves are so, so important, and if me talking about them can help other people discover wonderful reads, see themselves in fiction, and empathise with people unlike them, I guess that even with everything else going on, I should be more confident about writing posts.
So I’m going to carry on looking at the news, as horrible as it can be at times. I’m going to try and keep informed about things, signal-boost people who understand stuff better than me, and donate where I can to help those affected by tragedy. But I’m going to stop thinking that I should just keep quiet about books, because I know that they ARE important and I want to do my best to spread the word about all the amazing ones out there.