Monday, 29 December 2014

Cover Reveal And Extract: The D'Evil Diaries by Tatum Flynn

One of the books I'm most looking forward to in 2015 is Tatum Flynn's The D'Evil Diaries. I've been following Tatum on Twitter for a while and met her earlier this year a couple of times and she's a clever, funny, and hugely engaging person so I have high hopes for her book, coming in April from Orchard, to be absolutely fantastic. I've been lucky enough to be asked to reveal not just the cover, but also one of the stunning interior illustrations, and the first few paragraphs!



 

​Blurb: Twelve-year-old Jinx is hopeless at being evil. Which is a bit of a problem when you're Lucifer's youngest son. But when Jinx runs away from Pandemonium, the walled city he's lived in all his life, he bumps into dead girl Tommy - who's been sent to Hell for accidentally feeding her nasty uncle to a circus lion - and unearths a conspiracy that could up-end the entire underworld. 


Cue shenanigans involving carnivorous carousel horses, death-trap-riddled libraries and hungry quicksand. Now the fate of the realm rests in the hands of its most unlikely demon and a girl who shouldn’t be in Hell at all...



Bio: Tatum Flynn lives by the sea in England with a cat called Friday and too many hats. She has a soft spot for the word ‘ramshackle’, and a vagabond past which involves piloting lifeboats in Venezuela, playing poker in Las Vegas, shooting rapids in the Grand Canyon and almost falling out of a plane over Scotland. Her debut, THE D’EVIL DIARIES, will be out from Orchard/Hachette on the 2nd April 2015, with a sequel, Hell's Belles, to follow January 2016. Find her on Tumblr (sometimes) and Twitter (far too often).



Saturday, 27 December 2014

YA Yeah Yeah Year-Ends: Shortlists, Day 2 - Best Main Character/Best Pairings/Best Artwork

Day two of my YA Yeah Yeah Year-Ends today, with three more shortlists! Check out day 1 here, and come back tomorrow for the last four categories.

Best Main Character

Regular readers of my Twitter know my thoughts on bright, loyal, clever, and altogether awesome Guardian/witch Kat. Aged 18 and preparing for a society debut in this follow-up novella to one of the most wonderful MG series for many years, she is as brilliant as ever here.

This was a real tear-jerker; I felt incredibly sorry for Apple as she tried to reintegrate her mother back into her life while also coping with the two new boys she met, her grandmother who'd raised her, and a big surprise. She's a lovely character.

Pea is another absolute favourite character of mine, and in this fourth and final book in the series (although spin-off soon, yay!) she's as lovely, sweet, and caring as ever. I adore the way she tries to hold her family together through any bad times, and think it's great that she doesn't get everything right but that she's always well-meaning, and her family love and support each other even when they make mistakes.
 
My favourite book yet from a stunning author, and Charlie is a fabulous main character - warm, clumsy, well-meaning, and optimistic despite his problems.
 
Pearl is an outstanding main character. There were times when I felt annoyed with her but I always thought she was sympathetic, not just because of the tragedy that had occurred but because she was trying to cope with it in her own way. Even when she was unsuccessful at times, and did things I didn’t like, I wanted her to learn to cope better and to start to find some comfort.

Returning after the brilliant Have A Little Faith, the title character here was even more fantastic in the second book. Faith is bratty, self-centred, surprisingly violent, and argumentative. But she's also clever, resourceful, good to her friends, knows what she wants, and goes all out to get it. She is a staggeringly great creation.

This is an example of dark topics done absolutely right. Jake, the narrator, is pitiable at first, withered like a prune and so broken by the accident that he finds even walking difficult, but the  developing friendship between him and tough girl Robin is superb, and the change we see in his character is fascinating.

I think it takes incredible skill to write another author's character really well, and Saunders delivers in spades here. Her Psammead is a much darker character than Nesbit's original, but he's recognisably the same character, and is a fascinating lead.

Sophie is a superb narrator - sent to rehab for an addiction she'd already beaten and finally out and ready to seek justice for her murdered best friend. I was completely torn apart by her troubles, and rooted for her to succeed in her quest to find the killer.

Austin is a wonderful narrator who genuinely cares about both girlfriend Shann and best friend Robby and struggles with his sexual and romantic feelings towards both of them, while he has an outstanding - if deliberately rather artificial - voice. 



Best Pairing

Apple and her mum (Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan)
Apple is one of my favourite characters of the year, while her mother, who reappears in her life after abandoning her, is someone I really disliked. However I thought her mother was a believably poor parent, being thoughtless rather than actively nasty, which made her very interesting to read about.

Ash and Mark (Bone Jack by Sara Crowe)
Ash is a great main character, but it's his relationships with his father and his former best friend which give the book a lot more depth than I was perhaps expecting - both are superb. My favourite of the two is the antagonistic way Ash and Mark interact, which feels incredibly realistic for two people once so close.    
Stella and Caitlin (Stella by Helen Eve)
I have a real liking for unusual pairs of dual narrators (rather than the more standard love interests) and this couple - Stella, the seventeen-year-old leader of exclusive clique The Stars, and Cailtin, the shy and quiet new girl who starts her first chapter by talking about the night on which she should have beaten Stella to become Head Girl, are one of the most intriguing for a while.

Sophie and Russell (What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman, a short story in the anthology My True Love Gave To Me edited by Stephanie Perkins)
In a relatively short story, Gayle Forman does an incredible job of creating brilliant chemistry between her two leads, Jewish Sophie and African-American Russell, who both feel like outsiders at their WASPy college.

Dane and Billy D (Dead Ends by Erin Lange)
This friendship is a masterful portrayal of two boys who initially become mates through necessity and eventually grow to really like and respect each other. In particular, Dane’s frustration when Billy D is treated differently because of his Down’s Syndrome is very well-written – and it’s all the more interesting that despite it irritating him when other people do it, he still falls into that trap himself at times.

Timmy and Total (Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis)
I completely adore polar bear Total, and the relationship between him and lead character Timmy, his business partner, is nearly unbearably poignant at times.

Fin, the master thief who nearly everyone forgets as soon as he's out of sight and Marrill, the girl dragged from our world who's somehow able to recall him, are my two favourite characters in the outstanding cast here. I love the friendship that develops between them here. 

Sophie and Mina (Far From You by Tess Sharpe)
The relationship between Mina and Sophie has incredible chemistry and made me really care about both of them - which was rather soul-destroying as we know from the start that Mina is dead!

The best thing of the many excellent parts of this book is the central relationship between Sarah and Linda, whose growing attraction to each other is forbidden on two levels, partly because of their different races and partly because they’re the same sex. The pair of them coming to terms with their feelings for each other is brilliantly handled and they both develop well as characters over the course of the book - particularly Linda, who's hard to warm to at first given her ingrained racist views but whose change over the course of the book is both heartwarming and completely believable. There's great chemistry between them, as well. Both of the leads are excellent narrators with really strong voices.
                                                                                       
Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando really seem to get how difficult it is to form a friendship online, having to judge what a person's saying from their words alone without the benefit of tone or body language. EB and Lauren open up to each other more and more as the book goes on, but is it possible to be really good friends with someone you haven't even met?



Best Artwork

The Imaginary (written by AF Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett)
I adored this book, partly because it's so well-written and partly because Gravett's art is breathtaking. Mainly black and white but with splashes of colour - the villain's Hawaiian shirt, the bright pink dinosaur, and others - it features lots of stunning spreads.

Violet and the Pearl of the Orient (written by Harriet Whitehorn, illustrated by Becka Moor)      
I fell in love with this one right from the brilliant double-page spread in which we see the characters and their favourite foods. Becka Moor's two-colour illustrations are wonderful.

The Sleeper and the Spindle (written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell)
Similarly to The Imaginary, this is mainly black and white but with splashes of colour - although in this case it's a single extra colour, gold. Riddell is a phenomenally talented artist; I love his work on his own Goth Girl, but this is the best I've seen from him.

This Book Is Gay (written by James Dawson, illustrated by Spike Gerrell)
Spike Gerrell's funny cartoons are the perfect additions to James Dawson's wise and humorous writing in this fantastic guide for teens.

Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis
Simpler than most of the other in the top five, but Pastis has created some fantastic characters here and Timmy and Total, in particular, are brought to life extremely vividly.

Friday, 26 December 2014

YA Yeah Yeah Year-Ends: Shortlists, Day 1 - Best Speculative YA/Best Cast/Best Supporting Character

I love doing year-end awards, and tend to vary things slightly every year depending on what I've been reading a lot of. Over the next three days, I'll be presenting shortlists in ten categories, before announcing the winners on December 30th! Apart from the 'best 2015 release I've already read' category, books HAVE to be published in 2014 to be eligible here. (This is causing me huge issues because The Art Of Being Normal seems to be in shops already but TECHNICALLY has a January 2015 release date, which is the only reason it's not featuring extremely heavily here. Shortlists are 5, 10 or 12, depending how much I've read in a particular category.

Best YA Contemporary shortlist was done as part of Top Ten Tuesday a week or so ago over on YAContemporary.com, check it out here.

Previous year-end/mid-year awards are linked to at this page.

Schedule for next week or so:
December 26th - Best Speculative YA/Best Cast/Best Supporting Character
December 27th - Best Main Character/Best Pairings/Best Artwork
December 28th - Best Adult/Best 2015 Release/Best MG/Best Bookshop
December 29th - D'Evil Diaries Cover Reveal! (Thanks Tatum Flynn for letting me run this; thrilled to be on board!)
December 30th - Winners announced in all categories, plus 1-3 runners-up depending on size of shortlist.
December 31st - End of Year Book Survey (if you're not on board for this, check it out! Questions at The Perpetual Page Turner.)

Best speculative YA


 

I haven't read all that much YA speculative fiction this year, but what I have read has been amazingly strong - all five of these would be in my overall top fifteen of the year.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo 
STURMHOND. I should probably also mention that Bardugo's plotting is great, her characterisation in general is brilliant, and the bittersweet ending to this is an incredible series finale. But the most superb part of this series for me has been the magnificence of Sturmhond, basically.

I have apparently tweeted about this book 168 times in the 10 months or so since I read it. Most people following me, if asked to guess, would probably have gone higher. This is an absolutely stunning book; it's incredible to think that a debut novelist could have produced something this wonderful. I love the way Sara Crowe ties in thoroughly modern problems -like foot and mouth and PTSD - and the supernatural elements.

I was expecting this to be amazingly good after loving the first three in the series, and wasn't disappointed.  As ever, Hill has created a complex, twisting plot, going back and forth between numerous protagonists, and juggles the action and pacing perfectly here. Similarly, his characterisation is uniformly strong. This is one of the best series around!

Love or hate for many people, I was firmly in the 'love' camp here; this breathtakingly imaginative story of a bisexual boy struggling with his feelings for girlfriend Shann and best friend Robby, plus the army of preying mantises which may be about to bring about the end of the world, is stunning.

Gorgeously written and featuring superb characterisation, both of Blue and of the Raven Boys, this is the best yet in an incredible series.

Special mention/heartfelt apology - 
Shadowplay by Laura Lam
I messed up last year and didn't realise this was released in 2013 so left it out (although I had Pantomime, first book in the series, in.) This is even better than that book was; it's a magical book which has me highly anticipating Masquerade, third in the Micah Grey trilogy. (This has been delayed by Strange Chemistry's closure, but I'm hoping we have news about it soon.) Overall, this series is outstanding, in the way it tackles so many big themes with wonderful characters

Best overall cast


This was more action-focused than the first book but it still had really good characterisation, and it was great to see Maggie's friend Roux get a love interest!
 
As ever in this wonderful series, Pea and her sisters are fantastic characters, while I thought the sensitive treatment of new friend Ryan's hemiplegia, giving young  readers information about a condition they're likely to be unaware of, was excellent.

The central quartet in Gregory's Order of Darkness series have been four of my favourite characters of the last few years, but I thought the characterisation of their companion Brother Peter was excellent here as well, and liked the addition of new characters like gambler Jacinta and her father.

As mentioned above, the characterisation is sensationally good here, with a dozen or more fabulous characters. (I won' t list them, to avoid spoilers for those of you yet to get to this series, but so many fantastic ones!)

It feels a bit like cheating to have an anthology in here because naturally it has so many more characters than most of the other books I've read this year. However it's brilliant to see such a diverse set of people represented here, and when reading this dozen short stories I'm sure everyone will find at least a couple of new favourite characters. Personally, I particularly loved Sophie and Russell in What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman, and Maria and Ben in Kiersten White's Welcome To Christmas, CA.

I love dual narratives with strong voices and Hannah and Aaron are an outstanding pair of narrators here, while there are a host of other very memorable characters - notably their families and Neville, the dirty old man whose gruff exterior hides a warm heart who Aaron befriends when working at an old people's home.
A superb central pairing in main characters Fin and Merrill here - the boy who's become a master thief as no-one ever remembers him, and the girl from our world who somehow CAN recall him. However there's much more to this one than just these two; the Naysayer is a brilliant supporting character and I loved the crew of the ship they sailed on (especially the pirats!)

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
I really liked central pairing Hazel and Daisy here, but for any mystery to work then as well as good detectives you also need to have a range of believable suspects, and Robin Stevens more than delivers here - it kept me guessing right the way throughout.

I'm a huge fan of Blue herself, who's developed wonderfully as a character over the first three books in this series, while the Raven Boys are also fantastically well-written, and the other characters - especially the villains - are all portrayed very well.

Superb chemistry between the two girls falling for each other despite knowing that their friends and families would find the attraction between them doubly hard to accept as they're the same sex but different races. However, while it's Linda and Sarah who the book focuses on, there's also a rich supporting cast, especially Sarah's little sister Ruth and Linda's friend Judy.


Best Supporting Characters

Sturmhond (Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo)
My love for Sturmhond is extremely well-known; he becomes even more brilliant in this fantastic finale to Bardugo's wonderful trilogy.

In turns infuriating, sympathetic, pitiable and surprisingly likeable despite the constant poor judgments he makes throughout the book, Little Pea is an outstanding character.

This was one of my favourites of the year for pure fun - it's a rollicking adventure story. Lots of memorable characters here but best of all was Miss Greyson, Hilary's governess, who ends up joining the pirate crew.

I'm firmly Team Soap in the love triangle between the sooty, heroine Sophronia, and Lord Mersey. He may be looked down on by many because he's black but his friendship with Sophronia is wonderful and he shows that he has more heart and courage than most of those who consider themselves superior to him.

My love for Bone Jack is rather well known by this point, I think! Mark, former best friend of lead character Ash is a stunning creation. I felt his pain as he mourned his father and turned his fury on Ash.

Apple's mum, who returns to her life after a long absence, was a character who I really disliked because she was so unthinkingly hurtful towards Apple - but it's an exquisitely believable portrayal of a careless but well-meaning parent from Sarah Crossan here.

Zeke's Nanna (Blue by Lisa Glass)
I thought the strongest part of Lisa Glass's debut was the relationship between Zeke and his family, particularly his Nanna, who'd always loved surfing. Scenes with her were both comic - despite her ill-health - and nearly unbearably touching at many points - because of it.

Described in the brilliant blurb to this book as 'exciting, fearless... and the most dangerous girl in London', Robin definitely lives up to that billing. She's not immediately likeable - with an abrasive personality and a seriously murky past - but she's someone it's easy to sympathise with.

Total (Timmy Failure series by Stephen Pastis)
The polar bear business partner of Timmy Failure is an outstanding character, brilliantly portrayed both in Pastis's humorous prose and the fantastic pictures of him.

Lots of great characters in Non Pratt's debut, but dirty old man Neville, who befriends Aaron and proves to have a warm heart well hidden beneath his gruff exterior, is one of my absolute favourites.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Indie Advent: Charlie on The Book House, Thame

Really really thrilled today - firstly because we got to the end of Indie Advent without missing any posts - a HUGE thank you to everyone who's taken part; go here for a list of posts to catch up with any you've missed.

But also, we have an absolutely fantastic post to finish on, as my friend Charlie - one of the most awesome people I've met in a brilliant year - has written a superb post about The Book House, completely with tons of lovely pictures.


The Book House is a little independent bookshop, tucked away in a listed building on the High Street of Thame in Oxfordshire. It is owned by Brian Pattinson, who has been selling books for over forty years, and is managed by his sister in law, Luise Pattinson. The whole shop has a real family feel to it, from the carefully selected stock to the warm welcome the lovely staff give to shoppers. It's even appeared in a couple of episodes of Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse.

Why I love it:

It's no secret that I worked at The Book House (in fact, good luck getting me to shut up about it.) Aged 17, I joined the shop as a Saturday assistant whilst still attending the local secondary school and worked there for eight years, coming and going for university, joining as senior staff and taking over care of the children's and YA section. Chatting to the local community, seeing children grow up and reading far and wide, all added to the fact that books and stories were at the heart of learning and family.

My favourite day of the year to work at the shop was always Christmas Eve, when the last rush of customers looking for a perfect gift (or in a last minute panic) would come in and fill the shop with chatter. There was always such a buzz on that day, staff doing a bit of a twister game behind the till in order to serve as many people as possible. With Christmas jumpers, music, mince pies, familiar faces and lots of festive book discussion, it was the perfect way to see in Christmas Day. Excited children running in circles around the shop's circular walkway added to the dizzy anticipation of tomorrow.



The shop is split in to two sections, half dedicated to adult fiction and non-fiction titles, cookery, travel, poetry and arts. The second half is devoted to children's books from baby to teen. It feels like a second home, with a play area and colourful books. I can remember many hours of happy browsing when I was little.

The shop decor is delightfully home made, with hand drawn signs and recommendations from staff and windows full of crafty creations. There is a best sellers table and a Book House top picks shelf with some of the staff's current favourites. To keep things fresh, the category sections occasionally move about like Hogwarts staircases, meaning you spot something that you may have missed on your last visit. It all adds to the sense of stepping into a well thought out and much loved store.


My favourite memories of the shop include hearing the delighted exclamations of children as they greeted Fat Puffin. The lovely Fat Puffin has lived outside the Book House for the past 35 years. He came as a gift from Puffin Books to celebrate their opening as The Book House was one of the first specialist children’s bookshops in the country. Standing at the till, I often heard 'oh look it's a puffin!' 'Say hello.' 'I love you Fat Puffin.' and occasionally 'hello penguin' 'noooo Dad it's a PUFFIN!' That slightly chipped and rattly puffin has had more hugs and kisses than we could ever possibly count.


We hosted midnight openings for the Harry Potter releases, dressed as witches, serving excited kids (and parents) and glaring at those few jokers who thought it would be hilarious to read the last page out loud (Avada kadavra!)

The Book House has also helped establish the Thame, Arts and Literature Festival, with past guests from Michael Rosen to Mary Berry bringing in customers from all around.

 

At the moment The Book House Twitter has been sharing favourite 2014 titles and goodies for Christmas and the New Year. You can follow them @the_book_house for more updates.

What one book would you buy from there as a Christmas present, and who would you give it to?

The book I will be buying as a Christmas present from The Book House is Arsenic for Tea (it's going to be a preorder IOU for my best friend, as the title isn't published until the end of January.) Arsenic for Tea is the sequel to Robin Stevens's Murder Most Unladylike. With its blend of old fashioned charm, a wonderful diverse cast of characters, and a Midsomer detective mystery, I think it's the perfect book for Thame customers, young and old!

As mentioned above, The Book House is on Twitter, and it also can be found on Facebook. Charlie is on Twitter, blogs at Charlie In A Book, and also writes for the fantastic Inclusive Minds website.


Thank you once again to Charlie for a wonderful post (also, definitely seconding the recommendation for Robin Stevens's Wells and Wong series!) and a huge THANK YOU once more to everyone who's taken part in Indie Advent, or spread the word about it.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Indie Advent: Karen Hart on Brick Lane Books

I've been delighted to get to know Karen Hart this year through organising #QuizYA at the Write Idea Festival Fringe. Brick Lane Bookshop were kind enough to donate three fantastic prizes of book vouchers to the quiz, so I was really pleased when she offered to write about them.

Brick Lane Bookshop



I've just wandered down Brick Lane, past crowds of office parties, shaking my head at the approaches of the restaurant touts and stopping before reaching the now infamous Cereal Killer Cafe at number 139. I've been to place an order in the Brick Lane Bookshop: number 166.

This small but perfectly-formed bookshop is an East End institution, rightly proud of its 'four decades of creativity, protest and collaboration'. It began life as the Tower Hamlets Arts Project, in a borough that didn't have a single bookshop.

The shop has a brilliant website that details its origins as a market stall and it's well worth a look. You can read some of its fascinating history here , and there's so much more - links with Benjamin Zephaniah, punk poet (and GENIUS) Patrick Fitzgerald, theatre with John Hegley and more and more and more names and activism and innovation ...

This year it celebrates its tenth year in Brick Lane.  I moved close to Brick Lane in 2003 - the year Monica Ali's novel of the same name was published. But back then, the shop was still called Eastside Books and it was in an even better location for me - on Whitechapel High Street, within just a few paces of my front door.
I found a treasure trove, from picture books in Serbian to give as presents to my new neighbour's children to local history by names then new to me, such as Rachel Lichtenstein and Iain Sinclair. I found a writing class in an upstairs room where I could go for literally a few pence. It was run by Echo Freer, and it's where I discovered a new genre of book - YA, back in the days when it was still called 'teenage writing'.

The shop was - and is - so important. Many locals hadn't been inside a book shop before when it opened its doors and I have neighbours for whom it's still their only bookshop experience. It helped give a voice to working class writers not always making it in mainstream publishing.

It's always focused on stocking locally-produced work and was the obvious location for the recent launch for the story of the courageous East London Suffragettes and 'Our' Sylvia Pankhurst. True to its roots, the shop also hosted Galley Beggar Press's Alternative Booker Prize this year.
Then there's Quentin Woolf's acclaimed Brick Lane Book Group and writing workshops. And the bookshop is a great supporter of the Writeidea Festival, putting in an annual appearance even if sales there aren't always stellar and this year providing generous prizes for #QuizYA (organised by one Jim Dean!)

Christmas Presents
When I called in today, owner and local councillor Denise Jones was helping out a customer with some book choices. My 17-year-old Amelia scoured the shelves while a six-month-old Amelia and her father waited to pay.

I've got a couple of favourites lined up for Christmas gifts. There's the book I've gone on about since its launch: Galley Beggars' Booker-inspired hit by comic genius Paul Ewen - Francis Plug: How to Be a Public Author There's SF Said's paperback of Phoenix, with its magical Dave McKean illustrations.
And tomorrow I'll be back at the bookshop to pick up my present to me. I don't know why I haven't yet bought it - maybe because the book I'm writing has a character named Ash too. But the relentless enthusiam Jim's had for Sara Crowe's Bone Jack has finally got to me ;)


Yay, Bone Jack! Brick Lane Bookshop can be found at their website and on Twitter; Karen is at her blog and on Twitter.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Indie Advent: Kirsty on Gullivers Bookshop in Wimborne Minster, Dorset

Thank you Kirsty for today's fab Indie Advent post on Gullivers Bookshop!

Gullivers Bookshop, courtesy of Gullivers’ Facebook page
 My best friend, Stacey, was the one to introduce me to Gullivers. We had both been selected as World Book Night givers and Stacey was electing to collect her books from Gullivers. I chose to collect mine from the local library because Wimborne was too far away (i.e. I didn’t know how to get there - it really isn’t that far from Poole).

It took at least another year for her to actually drag me there - we went for a World Book Night evening with book swapping, tea and cakes. I’ve been back a good few times now, sometimes on my own too.

Photo of me enjoying a drink on WBN, courtesy of Gullivers’ Facebook page
Gullivers was established in 1969 and it is family-run by angels (literally, that’s their surname). As well as stocking a variety of books, Gullivers can order for you within a couple of days usually, and always advertises when they have signed copies through their social media accounts. If you do decide to make return visits they also have a loyalty card (which reminds me I have a full one to use). And, because Gullivers is steps away from the historic Minster you are guaranteed a lovely setting to visit if you are coming from further afield.

Gullivers organises the annual Wimborne Literary Festival (WiLF) and this year I was fortunate to attend a number of events: writing workshops and author interviews. The staff really are passionate about books, reading and writing and they have been a wonderful support to a community group I organise. They were a collection venue for our Accio Books campaign, the success of which, meant we were able to pass around 700 hundred books to a local mental health in-patient unit.

Myself, and the rest of Phoenix Rising are also looking forward to hosting Harry Potter night with Gullivers in February. I’m sure between us we’ll conjure up some magic.

Merry Christmas to all the team at Gullivers - thanks for everything…and books!


What one book would you buy from there as a Christmas present, and who would you give it to?

Hmmmmmm, tricky choice. I’m going to speak about a future Christmas present. I would choose George RR Martin’s next Song of Fire and Ice book for my Mum, because she keeps asking me when it is being released. I do try and remind her that it needs to be written first.

Kirsty is at Kirstyes - Books, Occupation - Magic! and on Twitter.

Gullivers website is here and they are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Indie Advent: Sarwat Chadda on Tales on Moon Lane, Herne Hill

When I decided to do Indie Advent, there were so many great bookshops I knew of, and I was so sure that there'd be others I wasn't aware of, that I was happy to take posts on any of them. That said, I was HUGELY delighted when I got an offer to do one on one of my very favourite shops, Tales on Moon Lane - thanks so much to author Sarwat Chadda.

(Note: pictures are mine, so blame me for any photography slip-ups - I thought I had one of the front of the shop! - and the focus on cuddly toys. Fab illustrator Carolina Rabei is in the red hat, drawing on the gorgeous illustration wall, after a really enjoyable event where she helped me make a Christmas card for my sister.)



I am amazingly located when it comes to independent bookshops. I have five all within a mile of my home. All excellent. All friendly and full of staff who know and love books.
   
But TALES ON MOON LANE is my favourite. Not just because it was the first bookshop I ever visited with a proof of my first novel and I’ve held two launch parties there.
   
It’s well laid out. It has a sofa and a cool den-like back room. It’s small, intimate and cosy, as all the best bookshops should be. It specializes in children’s books, from picture books all the way to YA and has a great selection of classics. The front window displays are legendary.


You go in, the bell chimes. There’s probably a giant teddy lurking in the corner. Some wooden toys. A few pushchairs. Then you see the art. Drawings by Chris Riddell up on the wall.  Sketches by the great and the good of children’s illustrators. Walk further and there’s the den for the older readers. The weekly top ten faces you and its packed bookshelves all around. You’re surrounded by storytelling.

In the end, its the people who make a shop special. And Tales has some of the best. Tamara who owns it, George who until recently ran it, then Leah, Maddy, Tereze and now one of my best mates (and fellow Greenhouse Lit Agency chum) Jen. They’re there for chats and advice and, sometimes, for a shoulder to cry on.



And since it is Christmas, what shopping am I doing there? There are plenty of conversations about this being Mid-grade and apealling to one audience. That being YA and to be read by another. Or this is for girls and not for boys. I find all such discussion irritating and stupid. A book is a book. It is either well-written or not. So, this year I’m buying VARJAK PAW by SF Said. It is more than well-written and should be read by everyone.

TALES ON MOON LANE. It’s a children’s bookshop and it’s great. What more needs to be said?

Thanks Sarwat for a great post! Tales on Moon Lane can be found at their website and on Twitter; Sarwat is at AshMistry.com, his blog, and on Twitter.





Saturday, 20 December 2014

Indie Advent: Luna on Storytellers, Inc. in St. Annes-on-Sea, Lancashire

Really pleased to have Luna from Luna's Little Library, who's one of my favourite bloggers, posting today about Storytellers Inc which EVERYBODY tells me I need to visit!




Storytellers, Inc. in St. Annes-on-Sea, Lancashire
Storytellers, Inc.a book place for children’ opened its doors 4 years ago and this year became ‘a book place for everyone’. So not only does it have an impressive collection of children’s and YA books but the front of the store is now filled with even more books for you to take home and love.


So why do I love it? Well apart from the obvious answer of all the pretty books it’s because of the people who run it, Katie and Carolyn.


It might come as a surprise but despite being a massive bookworm for most of my life I was a solitary shopper when it came to books. Before Storytellers, Inc. I’d go in, hunt out what I wanted and escape.

Now I linger… Katie and Carolyn know me better than most people, especially when it comes to my reading habits. In fact Katie’s recommendations have become a huge part of shaping what I read. It’s down to her that I ventured into MG books (which I adore) and more often than not I’ll walk into Storytellers, Inc. and say: “what should I buy?” at which point she’ll point out various treasures which I inevitably take home.

Every Christmas I hand over some funds and Katie will make me a Christmas box of books. I don’t get to open this until Christmas Day but boy is it hard to resist a peak.


It’s not just me that adores this bookshop. Storytellers, Inc. has some incredibly loyal customers, most of whom are in one of the many book clubs. Currently there are seven clubs: 2 Adult, 2 Cross-over, Teen, Junior 2 for ages 10-12 and Junior 1 for 8 -9. They are run month to month, so if you can’t make one you just come to the next. You’ll be fed and watered and guaranteed a good read.
 
 
If you’ve never set foot in Storytellers, Inc. before you’ll be welcomed just like us regulars. Stuck on what kind of book you want? Katie and Carolyn will find you something. The selection of books truly is superb.

There is a drinks machine that makes wonderful hot chocolate (I can confirm this!) and excellent coffee (I have been reliably informed by fellow book club members). Have a rest in the ‘author’ chair while contemplating the books around you. There is a den for kids to play in (that I still want to climb into but as an so-called adult struggle to find a reason for). And during December Storytellers, Inc. had late-night shopping with food, drink and gift-wrapping.

Storytellers, Inc. runs plenty of events, be it with local schools and/or author signing/visits at the shop. Chris Riddell, A.F. Harrold, Sally Green, Erin Lange are just some of the authors I’ve met. 

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Storytellers, Inc. Illustrator Calendar. Katie’s brainchild which is now in its third year and not just selling locally but being shipped all over, including art by Chris Haughton, Emily Gravett, Lucy Cousins and Mo Willems to name a few. Picture books might not be your thing but from an artistic point of view this really awesome and some of the original art sent in by the artists of previous years is now proudly displayed in the shop.


Katie must be doing something right because she won Young Bookseller of the Year 2012 and Storytellers, Inc. was winner of the Vintage Independent Bookshop of the Year 2013 and made the shortlist of Children’s Bookseller of 2014.

Storytellers, Inc. is the bookshop I wished I had growing up but I’m so happy I have it now.
Come visit!

What one book would you buy from there as a Christmas present, and who would you give it to?

I think I’d pick The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold because A) it’s wonderful. B) it works for all ages & C) I know that Storytellers, Inc. has pretty signed copies which make it an even better Christmas present.
 

Thank you for the fab post and the gorgeous pics, Luna! (And I'm DEFINITELY seconding the recommendation of The Imaginary.)

Luna is at Luna's Little Library and on Twitter.
 Storytellers, Inc. is on Tumblr and Twitter.