Saturday, 26 December 2015

5th Blogoversary Celebration - 5 Top 5s

5 years ago I was in a job which I was struggling with and pretty much hated, I'd been living in a flat in the town where I was working for about six months and barely knew anyone there, had barely any friends, and I believe there were virtually NO photos of me online which were accessible unless you were a friend of mine on Facebook.  (This may be wrong,because yeah, Facebook privacy settings - ugh!!)

I started a blog on Boxing Day 2010 and could never have even begun to imagine what an incredible effect it would have had on my life. Moving down to London was obviously mainly a job-related decision but part of the reason for making the move was down the thought that I could maybe go to the occasional book-related event. That turned out to be the tiniest bit of an understatement. After struggling the first few months down here, partly because of job-related stuff and partly through social anxiety issues keeping me from going to many things, I've ended up loving it - mainly because of the incredibly welcome I've had from so many people. I don't want to name all of the authors, publicists, and other bloggers who've become incredibly good friends - because I'd possibly fill this page and STILL miss someone out! - but a special mention to my wonderful book club - Asti, Caroline, Caitlin, Charlie, Daphne, Debbie, Faye, Julianne and Stacey - for so many incredible evenings/afternoons, and to Louie for being a brilliant co-organiser of #DrinkYA.

Anyway, going to stop there before I get TOO sentimental, and move on to the main part of the post - 5 top 5s of the last 5 years!  


5 best YA/MG books

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (Walker) - Gorgeously produced - particularly the first version with beautiful pictures of poetry - and even MORE gorgeously written, this story of Lennie, grief-stricken at her sister's death and the two boys in her life - newcomer Joe and Toby, Bailey's boyfriend - is a lyrical and truly wonderful novel.
 

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico (Bloomsbury) - If Katherine Rundell had written Rooftoppers and nothing else, she'd still be one of the best authors of the decade so far. The Wolf Wilder, her most recent book, confirms her as being outrageously talented - an incredibly lyrical author who creates superb characters and brings out a surprising amount of humour in the terrible situation lead character Feo finds herself in. Gelrev Ongbico's gorgeous illustrations really add to the novel and it's my book of the year for 2015. (As I think I've mentioned just a few times before!!) 

Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Indigo) - The sizzling chemistry between narrator Sophie and her secret girlfriend, Mina, is incredible here. Sadly we only see this in flashbacks as Mina's dead by the start of the story and Sophie's investigating her death. Another incredible tearjerker, this also has a superb portrayal of chronic pain, which Sophie suffers from.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Electric Monkey) - I can never talk much about this brilliant World War II story without wanting to burst into tears, but main characters Queenie and Maddie are a 'sensational team' - and individually two of my favourites in recent years. This broke my heart more than anything has in many years (even more so than TSIE and FFY!) but oh, what an incredible read it was!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books) - Stunning, gorgeous and wonderful narrative - great to see a sensitively-written trans coming out story, while the two narrators here are outstanding. Heartbreaking at times but ultimately hopeful and uplifting, this JUST edged out another 2015 contemporary, Sarah (Fox) Benwell's The Last Leaves Falling.


5 best YA/MG series

Faith series by Candy Harper (Simon & Schuster) - The perfect contemporary series. Light, warm-hearted, and with an absolutely wonderful group of friends at the centre. Faith, her friendships with Meg, Angharad and Lily, and her relationships with her family are all superbly done while I really enjoyed the flirtations and romance which are a part of the plot but never come close to dominating it. I also ADORE the way the friends handle falling out with each other, by actually talking through issues.

Department 19 by Will Hill (Harper Collins) - Five books, more than 800,000 words, and completely gripping from start to finish. Hill's tale of a group of descendants of the men and women who took on Dracula, saving the world from vampires over a century, is an incredibly telling epic which has dozens of superb characters in. High stakes action and brilliant plot twists make this a must read.

Wereworld by Curtis Jobling (Puffin) - Brilliant mix of action adventure and political intrigue in a world ruled over by Werelords, who can transform into beasts. I love the incredible world-building while there are staggeringly good character arcs, particularly main character Drew, his brother Trent and his first friend Hector.

Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson by Stephanie Burgis (Templar) - The three MG novels about Kat are one of the most incredible series I've ever read - they're stunning stories about an utterly fantastic heroine, set in a brilliantly realised Regency England complete with magic. Follow-up novella Courting Magic, which sees Kat preparing to come out as a debutante, is also superb. I love Kat's relationship with her sisters and her rakish brother, while her father and stepmama are excellent as well.

Micah Grey series by Laura Lam (Tor, previously Strange Chemistry) - Pantomime, first in this series, was the first intersex main character I can remember reading about. I love Micah as a character and the fantastic relationships with acrobat Aenea and clown Drystan. Lam's gorgeous world building brings her setting of Ellada to life superbly as well. I'm so excited for book 3, Masquerade, which at one point looked lost with Strange Chemistry's sad demise but which we're now getting in 2017 from Tor - yay!


5 best authors (A note here - obviously there are a LOT of authors I adore! I went for people who have proven to be consistently excellent, writing in different age ranges and/or genres.)

Holly Bourne - Holly Bourne's Soulmates was a stunning debut with great chemistry between the two leads. However it's the Spinsters Club series that's really made me fall in love with her writing - Am I Normal Yet?, released earlier this year, is a brilliant read which (along with Patrick Ness's The Rest Of Us Just Live Here) is one of the best portrayals I've ever seen in YA of a lead with mental health issues. Evie, who struggles with OCD, is a fantastic character, while it's incredibly good to see a positive portrayal of therapy and medication. Somehow, next year's sequel How Hard Can Love Be? which sees Evie's friend Amber go to America for the summer is an even better read. I always think taking a main character out of the setting of a book can be risky but the new characters we meet are wonderful while it's great to still see Amber's friends Lottie and Evie via Spinsters Club meetings over webcam.

Susie Day - Five years ago Susie Day was a fairly new YA author with a couple of really fun novels out. 2012 saw her release The Twice-Lived Summer Of Bluebell Jones, which I've still not quite forgiven her for. It's a fantastic book but I finished it at 8:50 am, 5 minutes before starting teaching for the day, and was not remotely prepared for the heartbreak it inflicted on me. Since then, she's turned her considerable talents to books for younger readers - the Pea quartet is one of my absolute favourite series, and is incredibly close to making it into the above list, while spin-off The Secrets Of Sam and Sam is another gorgeous read. I particularly love Susie for brilliant sibling relationships, as seen by Sam and Sam, Pea and her two sisters, and Bluebell and Tiger.

Phil Earle - I was hugely impressed by Phil's early books Saving Daisy and Heroic (I've still not read Being Billy and really should change this!) However they're books I admired, rather than loved, because they're quite dark and my personal preference lies towards the lighter end of the scale. (Looking at my 'favourite books', you could raise an eyebrow here, but it does generally!) However I really loved the significantly more cheerful The Bubble Wrap Boy, while his first MG collaboration with superstar illustrator Sara Ogilvie, Demolition Dad, was AMAZING. Sequel Superhero Street is one of the next books on my TBR pile and I can't wait!


Natasha Farrant - Natasha Farrant's The Things We Did For Love was a stunning stand-alone which made me cry my eyes out. She then moved onto writing the superb Bluebell Gadsby series, about a hilarious family, which is also another really emotional read a lot of the time. Narrator Bluebell is a lovely character and I adore the relationship she has with the rest of her family.

Jon Mayhew - Jon Mayhew's stunning Mortlock trilogy, a Victorian-set Gothic chiller series, put him firmly on my radar as an author to watch. Since then, he's followed up with the excellent Jules Verne-inspired Monster Odyssey! Dakkar is a great main character and the series is full of fantastic adventures and brilliant supporting characters. With two superb series under his belt, I'm excited to see what's next from him.

 

5 best adult books/series

The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham (Orbit) - Incredible world-building here (this is something I REALLY appreciate in series!) while I love the way that Abraham takes really established fantasy tropes and turns them sideways. One of the best ever villains as well, sympathetic at many points but so well-drawn that his terrible atrocities never seem out of character.   

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka (Jonathan Cape) - Dying sports journalist WG Karunasena, who spends the novel trying to create 'a half-decent documentary on Sri Lankan cricket', focusing on a mysterious player who he remembers as his country's greatest ever but who has disappeared and is barely spoken about, is a stunning creation with one of the best voices I can ever recall reading.

Russell's Attic series by SL Huang (Self-published) - Imagine Jack Reacher but with a main character who's a young woman so good at mathematics that she's practically a superhero. Cas calculates the answer to problems so quickly that she can dodge bullets and beat up men much bigger than her. It's far-fetched but incredibly good fun, while the moral ambiguity we see makes it stand out in a crowded field. A truly outstanding series that I wish more people I knew were reading.

Thomas Hawkins series by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder & Stoughton) - Hawkins, thrown into the notorious Marshalsea debtors' prison in the first of this series, the Devil in the Marshalsea, is brilliant. As for his cellmate, the mysterious Fleet - possibly a murderer - he's a phenomenal character and the relationship between the pair of them is SUPERB. I love the way Hodgson brings the 18th century to life so well, while both mysteries in the series have left me completely stumped, but the revelations have made perfect sense.

A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab (Titan Books) - Fantastic world-building as Schwab superbly brings to life three different Londons - King George III's Grey London, familiar to anyone with a grasp of history, Red London where magic exists and is revered, and White London where people murder their way to rule. Kell, one of the only people who can move between these worlds, and sneak thief Delilah Bard are two fabulous characters, and there's a great plot as well. I'm really excited for sequel A Gathering of Shadows, coming soon!


5 best short stories (I hate saying too much about shorts as I always feel it's really easy to give stuff away! So not going into details here, but lots of fantastic diversity and brilliant writing in these five! SL Huang and Stephanie Burgis's are both available online; click on the title to read.)
 

The Unladylike Education of Agatha Tremain by Stephanie Burgis
Hunting Monsters by SL Huang
Tumbling by Susie Day (available in the Love Hurts collection edited by Malorie Blackman, Corgi)
Gentlewoman by Laura Dockrill (available in the Love Hurts collection edited by Malorie Blackman, Corgi)
What The Heart Wants by Naomi Tajedler (available in the Summer Love collection edited by Annie Harper, Duet Books)


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Book Review: Leap of Faith by Candy Harper


I've actually avoided spoilers for the first two books! My reviews of both can be found at The Bookbag - Have A Little Faith and Keep The Faith.

I love this series a LOT - I've bought something like 17 copies of the first book to pass on to people at various points - and am invested in it to the point where my excitement at getting my hands on a copy was mixed with nervousness - what if it was a let-down? Thankfully, it was clear from very early on that I had nothing to worry about here - I broke my personal "don't mention what I'm reading on Twitter within the first 100 pages in case I give up on it" rule (for the second time in 2 days, the first being for Holly Bourne's How Hard Can Love Be?) to tweet "Perfect book is perfect. Well, I'm only 37 pages in so far, but they are an AMAZING 37 pages!"

The basics of the plot here are that Faith is going on a French exchange, which best friend Megs is strangely reluctant to join her on. Meanwhile there's more boy trouble, while she's also trying to juggle revising for exams and applying to become a prefect (despite perhaps being a less than obvious choice in the minds of certain teachers!)

The plot is never really the main point of a Faith book though - instead it's a welcome way to catch up with one of the best friendship groups in recent YA fiction. The dynamic between Faith and Megs - both quite brash and outspoken, shy Angharad, and Lily, who's in a world of her own, is really wonderful. Throughout the book we get to see how much the four care for each other, but perhaps more importantly we also see them again negotiating issues which arise when people aren't always as thoughtful as they could be. The boys add to this brilliantly - while there's a possibility of romance for Faith here, a lot of the dealings with the guys are about being friends and working out how to act around someone who likes you in a different way from the way you like them (or vice versa.) The addition of the French students, especially Faith's exchange partner Josette, adds some great new characters, both in France and in England when the return part of the visit takes place.

There's also brilliant relationships between Faith and her family - her grandmother, always one of my favourite characters, moving in to stay with them is hilarious - while I've laughed far more at this one than at anything else I've read this year. As hilarious as it is, though, it's the warmth with which Candy Harper tells the story that really makes this completely wonderful for me. The last few pages here feel like they may be the natural endpoint for the series - and while I loved them and would in some ways be happy for them to be the last we hear of Faith and her friends, there's a large part of me which just wants to BEG Candy Harper to write dozens more books about them.

Definitely the best yet of this fabulous series. Generally I need a bit of time to think about how good something is and where it fits in with the other releases so far this year before throwing around accolades like "My Favourite YA book of 2015", but it's the only one I've read in the last 12 months where I've been SO desperate to share my love for it that I've written a review within a couple of hours of finishing it (there are a lot I've really loved that I've still not reviewed at all.) AND it's the book from this year I think I'm most likely to reread time and time again. So...

Yeah, my favourite YA book of 2015.

Monday, 14 December 2015

International Giveaway: Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

If you've already read The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall, you probably don't need to be told that its gorgeous, thrilling, sexy-as-hell sequel, Map of Fates, releases in three months. What you do need is an Advance Readers Copy of it, and some signed swag, and this is where you can get it!
DSC_0278
(Photo: Sofia Embid)
To get your hands on a beautiful ARC, signed postcard, signed bookmark, and tattoos, you have to make the same tough choice as every Conspiracy fan:

Team Jack?
Or
Team Stellan?

Pick one of the below pictures (with thanks to creator Diana Sousa!) and share it – on Instagram and Twitter – with the hashtag #MapOfMates, and tell us where you’d want to be swept away on an all-expenses-paid trip!
 
On January 2, five ARC winners will be selected, and yes, the giveaway is international!
  • 1 #TeamJack from Instagram
  • 1 #TeamStellan from Instagram
  • 1 #TeamJack from Twitter
  • 1 #TeamStellan from Twitter
  • 1 from either team who has one of the pics as their Twitter avatar
Haven’t read The Conspiracy of Us yet? Buy it now, and/or enter to win it (until 12/17) here! (Prefer paperback? That releases on February 2nd!) (Whether you enter or not, please spread the word; Maggie’s an amazing, generous, and talented member of the YA community, and due to emergency circumstances, she's unable to promote her own books right now, so please give all the support you can!) (But, like, you should enter, because these books are pretty damn good.)
Winners will be notified on January 2, 2016. See you on #MapOfMates!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten International 2016 Debuts I'm Looking Forward To

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
This is books by non-UK authors - UK ones will be up over on Teens on Moon Lane shortly. (Just waiting to confirm whether I'm allowed to talk about one of them!)

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key Books) March - Okay, I'll be completely honest and say that I don't really do time travel or time slip books normally. The only one I can think of that I've really enjoyed is Lauren James's The Next Together, which is wonderful. I'm really hoping Heilig's Girl From Everywhere, a tale of a girl and her opium-addicted father sailing through real and fictional destinations throughout time, will be another one - reviews from numerous people who've read it so far suggest it really is outstanding.


The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (Andersen Press) March - Small town Southern Gothic, by an author who seems super-cool on Twitter, which is massively recommended by Dahlia Adler? Oh yeah, you'd better believe I'm all over this novel about a preacher's son and his friends trying to make it through their senior year at high school!


The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber Children's Books) April - Four teenagers' lives become entangled in Alaska in 1970. I love stories about groups of people coming together, while the setting sounds incredibly intriguing. Again, several people whose opinions I trust have absolutely loved this one. 


Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom (Harper Collins) May - This book about a blind girl reacting to the reappearance at school of the boy who broke her heart is getting incredible reviews and Parker sounds like a completely unforgettable character!


We Were Never Here by Krystal Sutherland (Hot Key Books) Autumn - In general, I go for books either because I'm immediately drawn in by the blurb, or numerous people I respect speak highly of them. There are only a few people who, by themselves, can get me super-excited about a book - but Katie Webber (whose own debut Wing Jones is my most-anticipated of 2017!), is definitely one of them, so her strong recommendation of Krystal Sutherland's high school love story, about a senior falling for the new girl at school, has got me desperate to read it. 


As far as I know, the below five aren't being published in the UK. I would LOVE to be wrong here; let me know if I am!

Of Fire And Stars Audrey Coulthurst - "A princess with a forbidden magical gift is shipped off to a neighboring kingdom to marry a prince, but she has to choose between her duty and her heart when she falls in love with his rogueish horse-training sister instead" may not be the best blurb ever... oh, who am I kidding? It is CLEARLY the best blurb ever. Magic, girls in love, Game of Thrones meets Malinda Lo comparisons - when can I get my hands on this?!


The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrustskie - I finished this an hour or two ago after utterly devouring the incredibly compelling second half. Set in a future where genetically-engineered sea monsters called Reckoners protect ships from pirates, it follows Cassandra Leung, kidnapped by pirate queen Santa Elena and forced to raise a Reckoner pup for her. Cas knows that Reckoner trainers are meant to come back, like the ancient Spartans, with their shield or on it, but is determined to stay alive to work out just how Santa Elena was able to get a Reckoner, and pass word of it to her family. Great, great world-building here, while there's a slow-burn romance between Cas and the pirate girl assigned to take care of her which is working very well for me so far. Ending is incredibly powerful, as well!
 
Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate - The only other one on this list I've read so far, Redgate's story intrigued me in two ways - firstly because it's told by seven narrators and secondly because it has the first openly pansexual character I can remember reading in YA. Multiple narrator stories are something that always excite me in theory, but in practise I find they tend to be hit or miss. This is a decided hit, with all seven leads having strong, distinctive voices. The pansexual character is handled really well and the way that the characters react to the central incident - a rumour of a teacher/student affair - feels completely believable. 


This Is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp - Hugely recommended by Luna, who's pushing this on EVERYBODY, there's a copy of this making its way around UK bloggers at the moment. Marieke is completely awesome and I've been made even more excited for this by the reactions of those who've read it so far. It's another told from various perspectives, set over just 54 minutes as a school shooting takes place. Described by Debbie, who has amazing taste, as "one of the most emotionally gripping books (she's) read for a very long time" this is a must-read.


If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo - Saying I've saved the best until last seems like a stretch with a list of ten books which ALL look utterly amazing. But a romance about a trans girl, written by a trans woman, with a trans model on the cover, and with Alloy Entertainment involved (which suggests it will get a BIG marketing push, hopefully showing the desire for more LGBT novels)? This is one that I am so, so invested in. (And the fact that everyone I know who's read it completely adores it is just adding to the excitement.)



Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Top Ten Twitter Hashtags I'm Thankful For

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

#UKYAchat - I think that since Lucy the Reader set up UKYAchat, it has REALLY become a major part of the wonderful UKYA community. There are so many people I've started talking to after seeing their tweets during it who've gone on to become good friends!

#UKMGchat
- Similarly Lorraine Gregory and Miriam Craig's UKMGchat has been an amazing way to meet fellow MG fans, and MG authors. Also there've been some BRILLIANT socials this year!

#ColourMeMindful - As people who've seen me moaning about the flat saga on Twitter now, it's been a stressful year. One thing that has really helped me relax has been Anastasia Catris's beautiful Colour Me Mindful books, from Orion. I love their small size in comparison to most of the others out there, the excellent paper quality, and the great mix of some simple and some more complicated pictures. The hashtag has been a brilliant way to share some of my own colouring, see other people's, and talk to Anastasia, who's lovely!

#HiddenBooksGame - Not sure I should be THAT thankful for this National Book Tokens game because it is staggeringly frustrating, but it's ALSO a whole lot of fun! After spending ages on it, I've got 19/20, and have at least found the question for the last one. Which to be honest feels like an achievement in itself.

#2015ClassicsChallenge - I haven't read that many classics this year but it has been very enjoyable seeing people's reactions to books they've read for Stacey's fab challenge! Next year, I'm definitely hoping to read 12 for the #2016ClassicsChallenge.

#illumicrate - It has been AWESOME to see how much everyone loves my friend Daphne's great subscription box service! Reading the unboxing posts, watching the videos, and reading tweets about how excited people are for the next one! (Remember, there'll be a chance to subscribe as Daph's opening it to more people this time - but guessing it will sell out pretty quickly, so head over to the website to make sure you're on the list to know when subscriptions reopen!)

#ownvoices - This wonderful hashtag created by Corrine Duyvis a few months ago has been an amazing source of recommendations for titles about marginalized groups of people by authors in those groups. I've come across so many amazing recs via this hashtag, and it's been great to spread the word about some of my own favourites, like Duet Books's wonderful anthology Summer Love. 

#TheseShallowGraves - Slightly selfish reasons here; I was lucky enough to win a copy of Jennifer Donnely's These Shallow Graves in the awesome competition Hot Key ran with this hashtag. But I also thought the competition - answering questions on several blogs to get a word connected to the book - was a really brilliant idea!

#AceYAChat - I came so close to crying with happiness on seeing that this chat (organised by the fabulous Gay YA) was happening, and it was EVERYTHING I could have hoped for. I will, at some point maybe, go into more details about my super-complicated thoughts on various things. But basically I WISH there'd been more knowledge of asexuality and demisexuality when I was a teen, I am staggeringly grateful that there's at least some knowledge of them now, and this chat felt like a truly momentous occasion to me.

#aryaclub - I want to say not in any order, but I CLEARLY saved the best til last. I love #aryaclub, my book club, because they are the best friends I've made in a long time, they are always there for me and they brighten my day up whenever we talk on Twitter, but even more so when we meet up in person. (And yes, this is technically more about the amazing people than the actual hashtag, but my blog, my rules!)


Friday, 20 November 2015

Weekly Recap: 10th - 16th November


I feel that it would be ridiculous to talk about the last week without mentioning the tragic events that occurred - but I don't know what to say, to be honest, other than my heart goes out to people across the world killed or injured in the tragedies.

Events like those of the last week can bring out the best and the worst in people. I'm so glad my Twitter timeline was full of people rallying around each other, supporting people of different religions and races to themselves - but I wish more people in the world acted in this way. I thought Sita Brahmachari's Guardian list of books to breed tolerance was an exceptionally useful resource to share.

In addition, my friend Wei Ming Kam shared our resource sheet from our diversity workshop at last month's YA Shot. Following the people and organisations on that list has made me a more informed and, I hope, better person.

One of the people I've learned most from is Kaye (@gildedspine), whose thought-provoking tweets on the depiction of faith in YA are Storified here. 
               
For an eye-opening, thought-provoking look at race, I've mentioned previously I adored Master of None on Netflix. Great piece with star and creator Aziz Ansari talking aboutrace and Hollywood in the New York Times here.  Speaking of Master of None, Bim Adewumni’s crush piece on Kelvin Yu is a really fun read!

Morgan York's post on demisexuality is still one of the best, and most important to me personally, posts that I've read all year. This post by her on gatekeeping in the LGBTQ community is also superb, as is Kayla Whaley on the Toast about the summers she spent at a camp for disabled kids.


I love visiting new bookshops, so it was fab to see Books Pavilion open in Covent Garden! I'm HOPING to get a blog post up about them soon with more pictures.

It always slightly frustrates me hearing about great US books which, as far as I know, aren't making it over here. However I continue to yell about them, partly because I try and get some imported and lend to people, and partly because there's surely at least a miniscule chance someone with the power to change that might read this. Trans author Meredith Russo's If I Was Your Girl, about "about a beautiful, intelligent, blonde transgender teen girl who forms a loving bond with a straight male high school football player", sounds amazing - so much so that I'm mentioning it twice in a week. I hadn't picked up on Alloy Entertainment's involvement last time I posted about it. It's really heartening to see Alloy, the book packagers famous for successes like Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, on board with this one - it gives me great faith that it will be a smash hit.


I posted last week about Duet Books's stunning anthology Summer Love being reduced to £7.23 on The Book Depository. I thought then that that was a great buy (and stand by that!), but it's now even cheaper at just £5.70 - nearly 50% off! In addition, next week Duet are going to release the stories as stand-alones, which sounds like a fantastic idea. If you want to try one of them, then I would recommend anything in there, but especially Naomi Tajedler's What The Heart Wants (my short story of the year so far), SJ Martin's The Most Handsome, and Suzey Ingold's The Willow Weeps For Us

Another bargain on TBD at the moment, Dahlia Adler's Under The Lights, which is just £5.93. Not published over here (yet - can someone change that?!) this is a companion novel to Behind The Scenes but works perfectly well even if you haven't read the first book. It's a wonderful f/f romance with a really happy feel to it. Completely charming and gorgeous. 

And there's a brilliant Hello Chelly post on Dahlia Adler's Just Visiting (out last Tuesday! But in US only, unfortunately :( )

Photo by Caitlin (@CaitLomas)
Speaking of bargains, I'm scarily suggestible and my friend Caitlin is amazingly convincing, so when she started talking about amazing Six Of Crows merchandise in a group DM, I had a feeling it would end up being expensive. Using what little willpower I had, I successfully kept my purchases down to just one tote bag- which, arguably, I don't actually NEED, I guess. However how can you resist something this gorgeous?!  (Especially since it was reduced at the time AND had free P & P, making it an even better bargain.) It's on its way to me, but Caitlin's already received her mug, and was kind enough to let me use her picture here.

Lots of great stuff coming from the wonderful Teen Librarian Toolbox, who'll be taking a much-needed look at mental health in YA next year. One of the books I think is most important in the way it looks at mental health - especially in its positive portrayal of medication and therapy - is Patrick Ness's The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, so it was great to see TLT give it a wonderful review.

Their Sexual Violence in YA Literature Project is also well worth checking out if you've not seen it before (or, of course, rereading if you have!) 

It's really great to see people talking about the portrayal of sex in YA - Jo's Sex in Teen Lit month at Once Upon A Bookcase has brought some excellent posts; in particular this Jenn Bennett guest post last week. And on OuaB, Jo's got a schedule for her fabulous Bookish Spinsters feature.

It was awesome to reveal the wonderful Paul Young and James Macey cover for Caroline Lawrence's Escape From Rome (Orion Children's Books) over on MG Strikes Back. We also saw the stunning UK cover for The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key) - I THINK this is a Jet Purdie cover, but will try and double-check this! Fabulous PW review of TGFE, which is one of the 2016 releases I'm most excited for, as well.

Photo by Stacey (@theprettybooks)
One of the coolest things about the past week has been seeing people receive their Illumicrates! My friend Daphne, fabulous blogger at Winged Reviews, has done an amazing job of putting this together. I've included Stacey's picture of the box, rather than showing the contents, to avoid spoilers, but you can head over to her blog Pretty Books to see them for yourself if you'd like to. Also on her blog, her book haul for the past couple of months - lots of gorgeous ones there! And if you want to be part of the excitement of Illumicrate in February when the second box is sent out, go to their website to sign up to be informed when spaces are open for more subscriptions.

Continuing the theme of 'cool bloggers I know doing amazing things', VERY exciting news for The Book Smugglers, who are publishing a new Kate Elliott short story, set in the world of her brilliant Spiritwalker trilogy! Having been a huge fan of the epic novels, I can't wait to read The Beatriceid on December 22nd. And there's a great review of Elliott's Black Wolves on B & N - this looks stunning too! 

I loved this Book Riot article on classic lesbian literature - I'm definitely planning on trying to read some of those picks next year, especially as I'm determined to do better in Stacey's #2016classicschallenge than I did in this year's version! (If you're going to join this, by the way, the newsletter can be signed up to here!)

It's very cool to see that the RNIB's Talking Books service is now free to access for all blind and partially sighted people!



One of my favourite posts to write all year has been this Do's and Don'ts of Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse; I also enjoyed writing a 'Ten Reasons To Read Six Of Crows' over on Teens on Moon Lane. Basically, Leigh's books are very fun to read AND to write about!

Penguin Teen's most wanted Spring 2016 books includes Rebel of the Sands, which I read last week - this is a fast-paced read with brilliant world-building and an unforgettable heroine!. 

I love this great Sue Moorcroft post on writing and social media, and this wonderful piece on The Pool on books celebrating female friendships from Sinead Gleeson. Two great pieces to read together are Lucy Mangan in The Stylist on the Instagram illusion, and Robyn Wilder for Elle UK on presenting herself online 'unfiltered'. Also on Elle, brilliant Anna James gave us a superb feminist reading list!


There's a great Natasha Carthew guest post on True Grit on this blog, while Kate Boorman and Ryan Graudin took part in Teens On Moon Lane's 5-4-3-2-1.

Some reviews I really enjoyed reading
Never Evers by Tom Ellen/Lucy Ivison, reviewed by Sofia.
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, reviewed by Debbie.
Island by Nicky Singer, reviewed by Kieran Fanning for MG Strikes Back.
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud, reviewed by Stacey.
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (my book of the year so far!), reviewed by Reader of Fictions.
Refuge by Anne Booth and Sam Usher, reviewed by LH Johnson.

I also loved Katherine Locke's recommendations for Jewish Book Month.

And great interviews this week as well - fabulous one with Philip Pullman on Slate, and wonderful Bookish Treasures one with Brandon Sanderson.

I'm completely hooked on The Hidden Books Game from National Book Tokens, and also their lovely poem Choosing A Book Is An Adventure In Itself

It was awesome to see Colour Me Mindful feature in Madeline Shaw's video on sleeping tips. I also really loved my friend Melanie's photos of a couple of pages she'd done in these gorgeous books, and she was kind enough to let me share them with you.

Photo by Melanie (@Melly_Carr)
Photo by Melanie (@Melly_Carr)
Finally, my friend Faye is running a UK Book Blogger Secret Santa! If you're interested, you have until 22nd November to sign up - it sounds fab!

Offline, I managed to go out every night, which probably explains why this recap's taken so long to put up, and why I ended up in bed ill last night - oops. Having said that, Into The Hoods and the ballet of Romeo and Juliet were fun, Jane Eyre with Stacey was great, and In The Heights with Ming, Liz, Debbie, Charlie and Zen was the best show I've seen in several years - utterly breathtaking; an absolute MUST-SEE if you're a fan of musicals! It's on at King's Cross Theatre, and the run's just been extended until April. Grab tickets if you get the chance! We also went to a fabulous adult colouring night at Drink Shop Do on Monday where Stacey wowed myself, Debbie and Faye with her super-speedy colouring. (And she was STILL neater than I was, somehow.) My effort below, along with an 'in progress' shot of our table. Thanks so much to Drink Shop Do and Michael O'Mara Books for the fabulous night! The pictures are from The Menagerie, and Richard Merritt's illustrations are stunning.


             

Friday, 13 November 2015

Classic Children's/YA: Natasha Carthew on True Grit

I've let the classic children's/YA feature slip slightly over the last few months, but hoping to do more with it soon. I'm really pleased to have Natasha Carthew posting on True Grit today!


As a writer I am not alone in my obsession with revenge-based dramas. Ancient Greek myths and Biblical stories understood that the most direct route to justice often requires traveling along the bumpy roads of revenge. In every era in human history, artists have reflected the moral urgency of vengeance, from the high-art of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama to the lowbrow makers of heart-stopping horror films.

There’s nothing like watching a score being settled and payback justly received. In my latest book The Light That Gets Lost the main protagonist Trey must avenge his parent’s murderer in order to find some kind of closure. This theme of justice and revenge is explored to great effect in one of my favourite childhood adventure books of all time, True Grit.

Throughout the course of the adventure in True Grit by Charles Portis, the central themes are obtaining justice: revenge, duty, and doing the right thing. No matter what the motivation is for retribution and how it is carried out, Portis shows there is a price to pay for those determined to seek justice, it can change you, kill you, do you in.

In the book the young, gritty, female protagonist Mattie Ross fully expects that the local sheriff will bring her father's murderer to justice. When he refuses to give chase, Mattie must find someone of sufficient true grit who will restore moral balance by doing what's just and necessary. After she deputises Rooster Cogburn as her father's avenger, she demonstrates her own grit by tagging along with him.

The deeper truth of True Grit is that it serves as a quick fix for our addiction to vengeance. But is revenge an unhealthy addiction or a guilty pleasure? We have all been warned, repeatedly, that revenge is barbaric, a holdover from primitive times. And yet vengeance properly taken feels so righteous and true, especially when depicted in fiction. The audience roots for the avenger all the while knowing that individuals are not permitted to take justice into their own hands.

What else can a daughter do? To be worthy of her father's love Mattie must honour his memory and settle his accounts. Anything less than a complete reckoning is something the reader will not accept.

In life we allow for incomplete justice and curse our fate; in art we long for the righteous avenger to bring about the closure and moral clarity that is so often denied to us under the law and in True Grit (and I hope The Light That Gets Lost) we get this.




Monday, 9 November 2015

Weekly Recap: 3rd - 9th Nov


Okay, carrying on with the weekly recap idea I started last week after some nice feedback - thanks everyone! (Links are ones I've tweeted this week, which doesn't necessarily mean they haven't been around longer, by the way.)

I linked to a couple of other posts from the Gay YA's superb Asexual Awareness Week last week - it closed with Morgan York's wonderful post "Instant Attraction Can't Be Real" - The Tale of An Angry Teenage Demisexual. Oh wow, I loved this post SO MUCH. It was an incredible week and there are tons and tons of great links below but because demisexuality tends to be talked about so little, and for personal reasons (Like Morgan, as a teen I didn't know the word 'demisexual' existed), this really is one which I would love absolutely everyone to read.

This is one reason diversity in fiction is so important. People who don’t see themselves reflected in fiction are more likely to remove themselves from it. They are more likely to be confused about why “everyone else” seems to see the world differently, unaware that people like them exist and their voices just aren’t being heard.

Another excellent article is Alison Evans on 'the never-ending process of coming out as genderqueer'  (Heard through Leah Raeder, who is herself nonbinary and whose new NA release Cam Girl (not out over here but DEFINITELY worth importing!) has an incredible genderqueer love interest and is a must-read for over 18s. (Note the NA and over 18s bits. This is very, very, VERY not YA, and NSFW. But AMAZING.) For more on Cam Girl, don't miss this brilliant Book Baristas review!

Also hugely important, Bali Rai's great interview over at Luna's Little Library (part of her Diversity Month; I also loved this post introducing it!)

"It isn’t worthy to want more diverse characters in fiction. It isn’t about an agenda (although perhaps there is one now). It isn’t about discriminating against middle class, hetero able-bodied white people either. It’s about rebalancing the playing field. It’s about asking for real, true representation. It’s about making sure that everyone in Britain feels that literature is something for them too – rather than something for other people."

As Bali mentions in that interview, the change in publishing is extremely slow. "It is still as difficult today, for a British BAME teen to read about him/herself as a central character, as it was when I was a teen. Or maybe just slightly better."

There ARE people pushing for that change, though, and for writers from different backgrounds to succeed. A couple worth a look - Megaphone is a new writer development scheme, specifically aimed at BAME (Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnic) writers who would like sustained support as they write their first novel for children or teenagers.

Author Kit de Waal is funding a Creative Writing scholarship at Birkbeck, University of London, for a "budding writer from a low-income household or a marginalised background."

And yet another must-read here, from Kayla Whaley, on Microagressions And Erasure of Disability in Diversity Discussions.

I've talked to several people recently who are really keen to see more (and better) representations of disability in YA fiction. That said, it's always important to support the books that are already out there - Corrine Duyvis has put together a great list of #ownvoices books here.

Other great lists I've come across recently - Bustle's 16 of November's Best YA Books To Keep You Warm This Winter. Lots look fabulous, especially Joelle Charbonneau's Need, and Dahlia Adler's Just Visiting. (Speaking of Just Visiting, there's a great review from A Reader Of Fictions!)
10 audiobooks for children to listen to (great to see Sophia Bennett's You Don't Know Me on there!)
Hereville's 'Must Have Graphic Novels For Any School Library' (A couple of years old, though, so add in Miss Marvel!),
Jassy Fizzle's Books That Deserve All The Prizes
An especially important one is Kelly Jensen's Black Girls Matter: A YA reading list.

As always, LOTS of great lists on Nicole Brinkley's fuckyeahyoungadultlit Tumblr, while there are a staggering amount of amazing links listed in this incredible post from Ava Jae, which is a must read for anyone interested in diverse books with great representation!


And speaking of superb representation in fiction, the Duet Books anthology Summer Love - stories about characters across the LGBTQIA spectrum, written by authors also from the LGBTQIA spectrum - has been reduced to £6.87 on the Book Depository at the time I write this; a huge bargain.
Charlie in a Book's review is perfect reading for anyone on the fence about reading it (or check out mine.)

Talking of diversity, it's very, VERY cool to see We Need Diverse Books partnering with Scholastic to offer a special collection of diversity-themed books!


While I rarely review for the Bookbag any more (because let's face it, I rarely REVIEW anymore!) I'm still an avid reader of the site, which was my gateway into the bookish world online, and was thrilled to see some of my favourites, including Abi Elphinstone's The Dreamsnatcher, in their brilliant top 10 2015 books for confident readers.

And for authors rather than specific books, I loved Samantha Shannon's UKYA recommendations!

As mentioned, I'm looking at things I've tweeted this week - not necessarily things written this week; occasionally I stumble on things late. And then there's posts like this one - Justina Ireland on 'bootstrap equality' - which I know I included last week, but I'm putting in again because it is so, so great. Please read.

And one which I've tweeted about MANY, MANY times which always gets a great response is Dahlia Adler's fantastic series of posts giving publicity advice to upcoming debut authors - a must-read!

Buzzfeed have a look at the Harry Potter Colouring Book here while Melinda Salisbury, author of The Sin-Eater's Daughter and the upcoming The Sleeping Prince (both Scholastic) has kindly let me post a photo of one of her completed pages.

From The Harry Potter Colouring Book (Studio Press). Pic by Melinda Salisbury

I can't quite imagine it will surpass the brilliant Colour Me Mindful books by Anastasia Catris for me - they're SO GREAT, as the gorgeous below pictures from Lady JulianneDebbie and Grace and her sister show - but I'll definitely be buying this one.

From Colour Me Mindful: Seasons by Anastasia Catris (Orion). Pic by Debbie

From Colour Me Mindful: Seasons by Anastasia Catris (Orion). Pic by Julianne.

From Colour Me Mindful: Butterflies by Anastastia Catris (Orion). Pic by Grace
From Colour Me Mindful: Butterflies by Anastastia Catris (Orion). Photo by Grace (coloured by her sister, though!)
On the subject of Harry Potter, one of my favourite posts of the year to put together was this one to celebrate JK Rowling's 50th birthday - around 50 people shared their favourite moment from the series on MG Strikes Back!

Anna from Enchanted by YA rounded up YA Shot, including a lovely mention for the workshop which I did with Daphne.

I love the shortlist for the Irish Book Awards - great to see Louise O'Neill on it twice, for RTÉ Radio 1 The Ryan Tubridy Show's Listeners Choice Award  and the Specsavers Children's Book of the Year - Senior Award, with Sarah Crossan's incredible One also being in that category.

There's a great Shelley Diaz post here on the audience for YA novels. I love reading YA. However, I agree with Deborah Taylor's quote "It would be such a tragedy for teens to be guests in their own category... I understand that publishers want to take advantage of adult interest in YA. But YA novels’ primary audience should be teens."

I LOVE this brilliant Lauren James post, a Snapchat between the two lead characters in her wonderful The Next Together! Also great is Lauren's friend and fellow Claire Wilson client Alice Oseman, with this Writing And Studying Is Not Impossible guest post.


Following on from the brilliant news about a hopeful screen adaptation of Becky Albertalli's Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I referred to last week, it was great to see Marjorie Ingall at The Tablet introduce the 'First Annual Marjorie Ingall Buy-This-Book-For-The-Young-Adult-In-Your-Life-Right-Now Award', or Mibby, so that she could give it to this outstanding book!

And there was great TV news for another author I really like, with Gemma Burgess - who writes the Brooklyn Girls series (third of which, Coco, is just out from Quercus) selling True Love, an hourlong romantic dramedy, to American network ABC.

SCWBI magazine Words and Pictures had a really interesting interview with three independent booksellers about how they buy children's books.

Of course, certain booksellers - including my friend Louise! - had to deal with The Apprentice candidates in the episode aired this week. I only lasted half an hour, but most of my Twitter timeline watched. Great pieces on it from Yasmeen Ismail and Nicolette Jones.

I adored this AbsoBookingLutely post on 'weeding' your school library - great advice for librarians! Especially the section on books on puberty.
   
"I’m not even kidding, you should read every book in this section. Make sure it’s not body-shaming, homophobic, heternormative, cisnormative, or just plain gross. Make sure it doesn’t just describe sex as peen-in-vageen. Does it talk about consent? Does it say that being gay is a phase? Does it encourage young girls to shave off their body hair? Does it promote masturbation for boys but not girls? READ EVERY BOOK. Take the time. This shit can fuck kids up. A library is a place of answers, and if the answer to ‘I think I’m trans’ is ‘lol no it’s a phase, literally trans people don’t exist’, then think carefully about the effect your books are having on students.
   
Replace any gross books with James Dawson’s non-fiction. Trust me on this one."

And this one on history books.

"DO YOU HAVE ANY BOOKS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO AREN’T WHITE? Prioritise that shit. Make space in your budget. You don’t need 10 copies of The Fault In Our Stars, you need some motherfucking history books about people of colour."

Speaking of James Dawson, who recently announced he was starting 'a very long journey into living as a woman' (he's asked that for now, we continue to use he/him/his when talking about him), I loved this Maximum Pop piece on the supportive reactions of the YA community to this news.

And with lots of YouTube stars likely to be hitting the bestseller lists soon, James makes some great points about the publishing industry's need to harness their popularity in The Bookseller


Also I was super-thrilled to win a signed hardback of Jennifer Donnelly's These Shallow Graves by taking part in the #TSGMurderMystery from Hot Key, definitely one of the coolest publicity ideas of the year!

Michael Rosen's impassioned criticism of the new SPAG test for KS2 children was a great article in the Guardian, which had a tremendous week. Others I really enjoyed in the paper are Imogen Russell-Williams on children's non-fiction and Daniel Jose Older's Do Black Children's Lives Matter If Nobody Writes About Them?

This video of Daniel Jose Older, in which he talks about the issues with picture book A Fine Dessert, is also incredibly powerful.

While The Guardian was definitely the paper that impressed me most last week, I also loved this Telegraph post with pictures from If It Fits, I Sits: Cats in Awkward Places, published by Orion.

Back to The Guardian, this piece on the way male friendships can disappear in your 30s really hit home. As I mentioned on Twitter, this is basically where I was when I moved out of my parents house for the first time since uni (although at that time I was in my 20s.) In the town I moved to, I didn't know anyone except work colleagues, and being super-shy really struggled to make friends. Thankfully, while that nearly happened when I moved to London (a quick check of old e-mails sent reveals that I'd blanked out a three month period when I was REALLY unhappy and ready to move back up.), I ended up finding some of the best friends I've ever had. (I'll stop there; my tweets already drew the response from Melinda Salisbury "You're getting emotion all over my timeline.")

Also on the subject of friendships, I think one of the hardest things I've ever had to learn was when to walk away from a toxic friendship. Author Molli Moran, whose One Song Away is still one of my favourite ever NA reads, is brilliant on that subject here.

Speaking of friends, it's awesome to see fantastic people in the book blogging community doing brilliant things! Daphne, one of my best friends, is about to send out her Illumicrate subscription box - I can't wait to see people's reactions on receiving it! Daphne has been very busy - she was over on Gollancz's blog last Friday, with a brilliant post on reasons to read/reread The Falconer.


Meanwhile The Book Smugglers' publishing venture gets better and better - I loved The Case of the Little Bloody Slipper, a fabulous fairytale/film noir mash-up by Carlie St George, opening the Spindle City Mysteries! I also adored this brilliant Book Smugglers review of Frances Hardinge's superb The Lie Tree.

Another of my closest friends, Stacey, has been telling me about some of her plans for the 2016 Classic Challenge, which sound amazing! I have sadly been fairly hopeless at keeping up with the 2015 Classic Challenge, but WILL do better next year. Hopefully!! Over on Stacey's blog recently, author Holly Webb, who's written Return to the Secret Garden, posted about why people should read children's classics.

And I know several people following me are looking for book-related jobs - there are some GREAT ones out there at the moment! Foyles event co-ordinator (closing date 15th) and assistant to amazing agent Juliet Mushens (closing date 13th) stand out.

Lots of people I know are doing NaNoWriMo this year, although I'm taking a year off. Regardless, I read and loved this Rainbow Rowell pep talk!

The FCGB announced their Children's Book Award 2015 shortlists. I haven't read everything on there, but would definitely recommend Polly Ho-Yen's Boy in the Tower and Sarah Crossan's Apple And Rain - I'd love to see them win!



Emily June Street's feminist steampunk novel, Velocipede Races, sounds amazing! It's fully funded on Kickstarter after just a week, but there's 2 and a half weeks left if you want to sign up for any of the fabulous rewards on offer at great prices.

Adding reviews to the spreadsheet (now up to date, as far as I'm aware!) always exposes me to SO MANY incredible reviews from British bloggers. Some of my favourites found this week.

The Light That Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew, reviewed by Jill at The Bookbag.
The Imaginary, written by AF Harrold and illustrated by Emily Gravett, reviewed by Debbie at Snuggling on the Sofa.
Monster by CJ Skuse, reviewed by Sally at The Dark Dictator.
Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, reviewed by Stacey at Pretty Books.
Birdy by Jess Vallance, reviewed by Orli at Blame MyBookshelf.
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, reviewed by Bella at Cheezyfeet Books.
Stonebird by Mike Revell, reviewed by Leanne at Thoughts About Books.
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, reviewed by Darren at Bart's Bookshelf
The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, reviewed by Anna at Enchanted by YA.
Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison - joint review from Michelle at The Unfinished Bookshelf and Jasmine at Jassy Fizzle.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, review by The Arts Shelf.

The reason for actually getting round to updating the spreadsheet, instead of leaving it all to Debbie as usual, was so that I could write a quiz about it for Teens on Moon Lane - the most reviewed books of 2015 amongst British bloggers.

Also, we e-mailed a number of publicists about an idea tying into the spreadsheet and were thrilled to get an amazing response with so many people liking it! More details soon, but we're very grateful to all the publicists who replied to us supporting the idea and sending details of upcoming releases. A couple that especially look great - Nicci Cloke is fabulous so her YA debut Follow Me (Hot Key) is sure to be brilliant while Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's The Smell of Other People's Houses (Faber), set in Alaska in 1970, sounds seriously intriguing, as does Laini Taylor's new Muse of Nightmares (Hodder & Stoughton).

And while those were new to me, The Square Root Of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood (Pan Macmillan) is on I've been desperate for for ages - great to see the cover reveal on Maximum Pop!


One that, as far as I'm aware, isn't coming out over here is Meredith Russo's If I Was Your Girl, "about a beautiful, intelligent, blonde transgender teen girl who forms a loving bond with a straight male high school football player." Written by Russo, a transgender woman, this sounds AMAZING. (Also I LOVE that cover, featuring transgender model Kira Conley!)

Speaking of plans for 2016, I'm very happy to be bringing the Happy Book Birthday feature back to Middle Grade Strikes Back as a monthly feature, restarting on 7th January! Looking for a few more birthday-themed questions like the one in that example - any ideas, anyone? Leave me a comment!

Over on Teens on Moon Lane, I finally posted the Top Ten Books I'm Too Scared To Read For Halloween post that I'd been working on for what seems like ages, and also posted Top Ten Debut Authors Whose Next Books I'm Excited For.

I also brought back an old post from YA Contemporary, Ten Reasons To Read Undeniable by Liz Bankes - I'm going to try this as a review style for a bit and see how it goes - and firm favourite 5-4-3-2-1 continued with The Light That Gets Lost author Natasha Carthew, and The Imaginary author AF Harrold (big thanks Bloomsbury for setting those two up!)

My friend Gracie is 4 weeks into her radiotherapy; I'm really looking forward to celebrating the end of it with her soon. Her fabulous fundraiser for Little Princess Trust is now on £1785 - please consider donating, or spreading the word about it.

And talking of Gracie, I loved her post about the awesomeness of the UKYA book blogging community!

Joanne Stapley's Bookish Spinsters continues, with a great post from her on Sex And Female Sexuality.

Most of the weekend has been spent watching Master of None, which I was hooked on after a few episodes - I was first alerted to it by the wonderful Bim Adewunmi's Buzzfeed post! There's also a great NY Times review of it here. Additionally, I enjoyed reading writer/star Aziz Ansari talking to EW about Indians on TV, one of my favourite episodes of the show.

When not watching that, I've been listening to a lot of Karina Ramage - check her out on Soundcloud!

Other than staying in marathoning MON, I went out a fair bit - I had a great time at the STREAM festival, really enjoying Girl Power with Jenny McLachlan, Lucy Saxon and Katy Birchall, and then Emily Drabble's great chairing of James Dawson and Laura Dockrill. I then headed to Guildford (DON'T ASK about the journey there!) for a brilliant event featuring a fabulous quartet of authors, Holly Bourne, Mel Salisbury, CJ Daugherty and Alexia Casale. A really excellent event, and great to catch up with my friends Faye, Laura and Caroline there.

I also went to the theatre with Debbie to see Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games. The dancing was great, and we both enjoyed it, although the set - including footage on a big screen of unicorns, and a seriously corny villain - weren't particularly to my tastes! We got reduced price tickets, and felt it was good value for money for that, at least.

Have there been any great posts I've missed? What was the highlight of your week? Leave me a comment!