Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Top Ten Fave Children's Lit

I had plans to do a YALC cosplay top 10 today, but it would’ve involved being more comfortable asking people I don’t really know for pictures, and that’s really not me. Sorry!

HOWEVER #favechildrenslit is trending on Twitter, so what better day to share 10 of my childhood favourite books and series?

The Drina series by Jean Estoril – My most reread books ever, I completely adore this 11 book series about a girl brought up by her grandparents, fighting her grandmother’s disapproval to try and make it in the world of ballet. I love the characters here – Drina’s grandparents are two of the first REALLY well-rounded adult characters I remember reading about as a child. Also lots of gorgeous settings, including New York, Madeira and Edinburgh.

The Jennings series by Anthony Buckeridge – Favourites of my dad’s, who loved reading them to me when I was very young. Completely hilarious and the humour holds up really well even so many years after it was originally written. Set in a boarding school, they follow the misadventures of Jennings, an outgoing boy with the best of intentions but a tendency to mess things up, his best friend Darbishire – perpetually worried, but never quite able to back out of ideas however sure he is they’ll go wrong – and the rest of their classmates at Linbury Court.

The Abbey Series by Elsie J Oxenham – Okay these really HAVEN’T held up well in many ways, especially anything that involves working class characters. Having said that I still have a massive soft spot for this sprawling series (38 books in the main series, with various other ‘connectors’) about cousins Joy and Joan Shirley and the friends they make, with the series following them as they grow up from being teenagers until they are married with children of their own. Also Jen Robins was my first literary crush.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

The Wolves of Wiloughby Chase series by Joan Aiken

The Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent Dyer

The William series by Richmal Crompton

The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper

The Snow Spider trilogy by Jenny Nimmo

The Sadler’s Wells series by Lorna Hill     

Future Classics

While I wanted to use the post to share my own childhood favourites, it’s also great to celebrate the incredible MG books and series out there at the moment. So here are 10 that I think will be making these kind of lists in 30 years time!

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Dreamsnatcher series by Abi Elphinstone

The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson by Stephanie Burgis

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master

Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens

Friday, 28 July 2017

A Change Is Gonna Come Blog Tour: Irfan Master's Letter To His 16-Year-Old Self


I am scheduling this in advance because, when it goes up, I should be queueing for YALC. I am exceptionally excited about all sorts of things but one of the very MOST exciting of all is the chance to get my hands on a finished copy of the Stripes anthology A Change Is Gonna Come, which I'm reading via NetGalley at the moment and absolutely loving. 

I'm thrilled to be on the blog tour for it, especially as I have a great piece from one of my favourite of the authors involved, Irfan Master.

Over to you, Irfan.

Dear Irfan (aged 16 and a bit),

I found a list you made. 
I’m sending it back, with a few amendments.

I read the wrong write books.
(See what I did there? You get funnier in the future).

I’m not the hero in stories I read.
Read that again, without the crossed out word. Yeah, that.

I can’t write.
I won’t go into too much detail here, but boy, trust me, you got this.

Nobody Everybody will ever read the things I want to write about.
OK, maybe not everybody, but some. And they will write to you. That’ll make you cry.

I don’t believe in me so who else will.
Just that one word above. Hold onto that.

It would be so much easier harder to not want to write.
Harder. Much harder. Stories are part of you. Let them out.

Writing is for geeks, nerds, bookworms.
Nothing wrong with that statement and our time is coming.

What if I’m just lying to myself?
One day you’ll realise that everybody lies.
And that will be your opening line.

I don’t think I’ll be writing when until I’m forty in the ground.
Still writing. You’re just getting started.

I want to give up.
Never give up.

Never give in to despair.
Never give in to doubt.
Never, never give up.

With love, strength and resilience until the end of time.


Irfan Master was born in Leicester to an Indian father and Pakistani mother. His debut novel, A Beautiful Lie, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the Branford Boase Award. He has worked as a librarian and a project manager at the National Literacy Trust, before becoming a full-time writer.

Check out the rest of the blog tour!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Twenty Things I've Read and Watched 4

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
I don't tend to put much fiction in but I am NOT missing out on the chance to yell about the awesomeness of my incredibly talented friend Sarah, who posted an fabulous story about a lesbian witch yesterday. Special bonus links - check out her amazing art blog! And follow my lead and get something commissioned if you like her style.

I REALLY loved and appreciated @goblinkings's advice on Twitter for being thoughtful towards friends with anxiety. 

On Black Ballad, there's a great piece by Siana Bangura on rejecting the strong black woman trope while grieving.  

Daniel York Loh has a superb piece on Prospect about why the British Empire isn't something to be proud of

Jess has a brilliant post on Steph's blog talking about her favourite protagonists

The Bent Agency are my favourite literary agency - I'm so thrilled they're launching a scholarship for a BAME author! Check out details here

Maria Del Russo's Refinery piece about spending time by herself is a fab read. 

Another great post on a similar theme is my amazing friend Debbie's piece about living alone.

The Guardian launched this year's Not The Booker Prize - I nominated for the first time; Robyn Travis's superb Mama Can't Raise No Man. 

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff wrote a great piece on TV show Is Love Racist

Tomi Adeyemi's Twitter thread on the recently-announced show Confederacy is a must-read. 

On TeachWire, Robin Stevens has a fantastic piece about not pushing children to read the books adults THINK they should read

Dahlia Adler asked which stories people would like to see retold, and by what authors. Lots of fabulous suggestions in her replies!

Louise O'Neill wrote an outstanding piece about recovering from addiction.

And finally one of the best things I've read all year - Melinda Salisbury wrote a stunning piece on what Harry Potter means to her, ten years after the last book came out.


I absolutely loved YouTuber Kai Hugs Trees's poem I like you (an aromantic poem)

Jen Campbell talked about what she's currently reading and showed off the TWO stunning proofs for her upcoming short story collection The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night (Two Roads) which I can't wait to read!

I found Miss Fenderr and Ash Mardell's conversation about gender a really interesting watch.

I've seen quite a few great vids about TBR piles and upcoming reads. I love this one by She Might Be Monica, there's lots I'm hugely excited for (particularly Nic Stone's Dear Martin.)

Finally there's a wonderful video here from The Witch's Kiss co-authors Katharine and Elizabeth Corr as part of the recent Zoe's24HourReadathon talking about childhood favourites of theirs. Great to see The Dark Is Rising and Ordinary Jack feature!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten 'New To Me' People on Twitter

With the Broke and the Bookish still taking a well-deserved break, I wanted to use this week's top ten Tuesday to point people in the direction of some awesome people I've started following recently on Twitter! They are all 'new to me', so not necessarily new to Twitter - sometimes I'm just super slow finding out about great people to follow. Also several of them are London-based people I've met recently at fabulous #drinkYA and #picnicYA events; if you want to come and join the fun yourselves take a look at the MeetUKYA Twitter feed for details of what's going on.
Amy (@GoldenBooksGirl) - It's always cool seeing actual teenagers tweeting and blogging about YA - as much as I love talking about it, I'm aware I'm REALLY not in the target audience. Amy is a wonderful blogger already!
Christy (@Kukadoodles) - I am jealous of Christy's stroopwafels to be honest. But I love her tweets and her great BookTube channel.
The Good Assistant (@gdassistantblog) - Slightly less new, as she joined in February, but I just wanted an excuse to yell again about the amazing news that one of my favourite bloggers has an agent! Huge congrats to The Good Assistant and to the fabulous Alice Sutherland-Hawes, who is now representing her.
Julia (@JuliasBookcase) - I love Julia's absolutely gorgeous Instagram feed and she's an awesome BookTuber too.
Jaylee (@thewritingj) - Jaylee's Polycule blog is such a great read about er experiences dating - e's a polyamorous queer person, whose blog always entertains me with er amazing writing.

Liv (@liv_gacka) - Superb book blogger, I think her YALC tips are particularly great!

Malala (@Malala) - I appreciate nearly everyone I know is already following her since she started tweeting about a week ago but WOW how can you not be excited that such an incredible young woman has finally taken to Twitter?!
Marie (@LotsofLivres) - Fab new blogger who writes brilliant reviews.
Sarah (@SarahAstolat) - AMAZING artist - check out her Tumblr! - and fab on Twitter.
Sil (@thebookvoyagers) - Okay Sil isn't actually that new to me, but she's a recent follow simply because people RT her into my timeline so often I assumed I WAS following her! Her blog is really awesome and you should definitely check it out.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Songs About Us Blog Tour: Chris Russell on Friendship

As a huge fan of Chris Russell's stunning #boybandlit debut Songs About A Girl, I'm super-excited to read sequel Songs About Us (Hodder), released last week! I was thrilled when he asked me to be on the blog tour for the new book.

Over to you, Chris...

Just The Two Of Us: Friendship in YA

by Chris Russell

If its not too obvious to say so, friendship is incredibly important to me.

When I was thirteen, I formed a friendship that would go on to lay the foundations for my entire career. My best friend George and I started a band at school which would eventually take us around the world, and without my career in the music industry, I cant imagine I would ever have written Songs About a Girl. George and I are still performing together to this day, and remain the best of friends; in fact, Im now godfather to his second son, and in many ways our time together now is more precious than it ever was.

With all this in mind, its probably not that surprising that friendship ended up being so central to Songs About a Girl and Songs About Us. Ill never the forget the fledgling romances of my teens, but if Im honest, it was my best friendship that had the biggest impact on my life. So Ive worked hard on Charlie and Melissas friendship in the novels, keen to make it believable and heartfelt, keen to do justice to how vitally important platonic relationships are during adolescence.

Charlie and Melissa adhere to the age-old straight one / funny one dynamic. Charlie has a dry sense of humour and a wry, eyebrow-raising take on life, while Melissa is the stooge, the kook, the one that just cant seem to keep one single thought inside her head, no matter how ridiculous. Thinking about it, I could probably trace that dynamic back to my childhood, to classic comedy twosomes like Blackadder and Baldrick, or to Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. All artists recycle, of course. Its our prerogative. :)

These days, more and more YA authors are veering away from simply writing romance and focussing on the equally rich landscape of teenage friendship (Beautiful Broken Things, anyone?), and I think thats a really good thing. Because while crushes come and go, if were lucky, one or two of the friendships we make during our teenage years might just last the rest of our lives.

(Unlike haircuts, of course. For which we should all be eternally thankful.)

Chris Russell

ps. While Im talking friendship in YA, I wanted to tip my cap in the direction of American author Brigid Kemmerer and her novel Letters to the Lost. I recently reviewed Letters to the Lost for the Zoella & Friends Book Club, and aside from being an absolutely stunning book, it has possibly my favourite depiction of male friendship (Declan and Rev) in any YA book Ive read. Its gorgeous. Check out my video review here.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

THIRTY Things I've Read... and Watched #3

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 Thirty
Austin Chant kicked off ‘Gender in Romance’ series on Open Ink’s site, talking about writing trans characters in same-gender romance.
I don’t link to reviews generally because there are just SO many great ones out there that I could easily fill this feature just with them. But if anyone IS on the fence about reading A Change Is Gonna Come, the upcoming Stripes anthology of short stories from BAME authors, please please please check out Jill Murphy’s stunning 5-star review over at The Bookbag and let her convince you to read the book!
Talking of great reviews, please take a look at Marie’s new Lots of Livres blog, it’s gotten off to such a wonderful start!  
And another new blogger continues to impress - there's a really heartfelt and moving piece here by Amy on the tragic death of Helen Bailey.
I found Jaylee James’ Polycule – the story of a polyamorous queer person trying to date on the internet – and am DEVOURING it. Everything is fabulous but er piece about life partner Chris is a super-cute read.
Nikesh Shukla wrote a superb piece on how Spider-Man comics taught him how to live AND how to write
I'd never read this until someone shared it, but there's a very touching piece by Roald Dahl about the need to vaccinate children against measles.
There was a cover reveal on The Book Smugglers for the GORGEOUS cover of Stephanie Burgis's Snowspelled! I read this last week and it's utterly charming, as Stephanie's stories always are, and the cover by Leesha Hannigan captures it beautifully. (Sorry, the giveaway has ended, before I get anyone's hopes up!)
Corey Ann Haydu wrote a really moving piece for BookRiot on writing, sexual harassment and being an example.  
And another incredible moving one, as Laura shared a post about Glastonbury, and the festival's amazing response to a horrible sexual assault by people she'd considered friends which occurred two months before they were going to the festival together - it was heart-warming to read about how the organisers had made sure she felt comfortable to attend.
Great post on the Book Voyagers – book recs based on Greek gods.
Parrish Turner wrote a really interesting piece, What I Do As A Sensitivity Reader.
Molly Ker Hawn is looking for interns. Molly is one of the most amazing agents out there and this is an exceptional opportunity!
My friend Daphne's awesome business Illumicrate was featured as the Startacus Startup of the Week!
Musa Okwonga wrote a great piece for New Statesman on Anne-Marie Morris’s use of racist language.
Kathryn Ormsby talked to EW’s Nivea Serrao about Tash Hearts Tolstoy - I am exceptionally excited for this one, yay ace rep!
SLJ’s Shelley Diaz interviewed Miles Morales: Spider-Man author Jason Reynolds; this is another book that looks fabulous!
There's an awesome preview of the second half of 2017 over on The Millions.
And another great preview on B & N, with Dahlia Adler looking at their most-anticipated indie YA books of the next six months.
James Loke Hale wrote a fantastic piece about being genderfluid for Bustle.
Sam Missingham shared some great thoughts on the Deborah Orrarticle in the Guardian last week about taking antidepressants.  
@Gildedspine, who's one of the most consistently insightful and thought-provoking people I follow on Twitter, had a wonderful thread on thinking about what people have the authority to say, and knowing when to keep silent.
Kumail Nanjiani talked about audience reaction to The Big Sick, which I am INCREDIBLY excited to see.
And there's a great Sarah Hollowell thread here on fatphobia.

Jen Campbell interviews Rachel Joyce here, which is awesome.
And Juno Dawson has a fantastic Adam Silvera interview for the Zoella Book Club. 
Lily has some great YALC tips.
Stripes continue their series of videos about new contributors to their A Change Is Gonna Come anthology (mentioned above!) talking to Yasmin Rahman.
And George Lester has a brilliant LGBTQIA wrap-up video.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Month Ahead (July)

I’ve been planning on bringing back this feature for ages, so I’m not letting a little thing like being halfway through the month I’m writing about stop me! (Oops.)
Eight books I’m super-excited to see on shelves. As always, massive thanks to Debbie for curating the spreadsheet with a great lists of YA and MG releases in the UK.

Because You Love To Hate Me edited by Ameriie (Bloomsbury) - Authors writing from prompts by BookTubers is an intriguing idea and it pays off with some outstanding stories from a great list of writers (this is one I’ve been lucky enough to read already.) Highlights for me are the stories by Cindy Pon, Samantha Shannon, Susan Dennard and Soman Chainani (although Ameriie’s own story was fabulous too and I’d be excited to read more from her) but there’s enough of a variety in this collection that there should be something for all fans of fantasy and fairy tales.

Piglettes by ClĂ©mentine Beauvais (Pushkin) – ClĂ©mentine’s MG series The Sesame Seade Mysteries is a stunning set of books with gorgeous language. I’m really excited for this YA novel about three girls voted the ugliest girls in their school who set off on a summer road trip to Paris and find fame, friendship and happiness.  

The Demon Headmaster: Total Control by Gillian Cross (OUP) – I was a huge fan of the Demon Headmaster when growing up – both the books and the TV series – and am fascinated to read the new one! Will it still be as good? Here’s hoping!

The Secrets of the Superglue Sisters by Susie Day (Puffin) – There are lots of MG authors I love, but most of them are writing action-based books. For realistic contemporaries there are only two auto-buy MG authors for me, Ruth Fitzgerald and Susie Day. The first two books in Susie’s spin-off series from her wonderful Pea’s Book quartet have been wonderful and I’m sure this will be just as amazing.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence (Author) and Elizabet Vukovic (Illustrator) (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) - I think this is US only, but this chapter book about a Japanese-American heroine trying to be part of the family tradition by doing something normally limited to boys looks too utterly captivating to leave out! I will be checking out Foyles and Queen’s Park Books in the hope of finding an import.

Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder) – Patrice exploded onto the YA scene last year with her debut Orangeboy, which seems to have been shortlisted for nearly every award going and has won two of the biggest, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize – Older Fiction category - and the YA Book Prize. She is an immense talent and her new book, about two teens who meet at sixth form and ‘discover who loves them, and who they can love back’, sounds fabulous.

Songs About Us by Chris Russell (Hodder) – My very favourite author of all the brilliant ones writing #boybandlit, book one in this series was a stunning debut ending on a real cliffhanger. I’m so excited to see what happens to Charlie next! 


Now I Rise by Kiersten White (Corgi) - Kiersten’s previous book in The Conqueror's Sage, And I Darken, was sensationally good and I can’t wait to read more about Lada Dracul, perhaps the most compelling antihero I’ve read in years.