Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten US Books I've Read in 2015

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

I couldn't choose just 10 (sorry!) so I've cheated just slightly, and gone for my top 10 books by US authors here, and top 10 by UK or Irish authors over at the new Teens on Moon Lane site!

Also, special mention to Meg & Linus, by Hanna Nowinski. (I think she's American, anyway!) I couldn't include it as I haven't quite finished it yet, but it's a gorgeous LGBT love story about two friends trying to help each other with relationships. It's over at Swoon Reads, where you can currently read it for free, and where the editorial board will be making selections soon - if you want to read it and share your thoughts with them, you've got until next Tuesday, 7th July, to read, rate and comment! 

Oh, and thanks to Charlie, who lent me Summer Love and was the person who recommended a large amount of this list!

Under The Lights by Dahlia Adler - My entire Twitter feed today is basically screaming about this and RT'ing other people's screaming about this. It's a truly stunning F/F romance with two incredible narrators (Van, the Korean-American actress involved in the romance and Josh, a bad boy actor who starts to develop through friendship with Van.) Josh's character arc is particularly outstanding and the Van/Bree chemistry is mindblowingly good. I've so far imported four copies because, like several others here, this doesn't have a UK publisher, unfortunately.

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - Like reading a warm hug. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. One of the sweetest and funniest LGBT novels I've ever read (and a rare massively HAPPY LGBT book to get a UK publisher!)

The Scandalous Sisterhood by Julie Berry - Picked up on a whim because I love the UK cover (great job, Nicola Kinnear!); I was a huge fan of this historical mystery which sees seven girls at a small school connive to hide their headmistress's death as they don't want to be sent home. Funny, with lots of great twists and turns.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black - Gorgeous fairy-tale inspired LGBT story with incredibly chemistry, wonderful characters, and a really unique setting in Fairfold, a small town where everyone knows that legends are true.

Summer Love edited by Annie Harper - Would be in here just on the strength of Naomi Tajedler's rich and fulfilling What The Heart Wants, which in 40 pages includes a young girl coming out, a gorgeous first relationship, a strong friendship, sibling rivalry, and a character who identifies as asexual, and some amazingly written characters. However there are others in the collection nearly as good, and overall it's a massively diverse and brilliantly selected anthology.

Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour - Another gorgeously happy LGBT book (although NOT one with a UK publisher, argh!) The love story here between set designer Emi and rising star Ava is lovely, and it's really nice to see a lead in Emi who's out, confident in her sexuality, and supported by her family.

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz - Black bisexual ballerina Etta, who's recovering from an eating disorder, is one of the best-written narrators in a LONG time. I adored her voice, loved the plot here and the nuanced relationships she has with her crush, her new friends, and her sister. Also, a jaw-droppingly great ending.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky - Gorgeous MG story about a transgender girl finding the confidence to try out for the lead female role in a school play. Really lovely!

Black Iris by Leah Raeder - I have no clue what I can say without spoiling, but diverse as heck, BRILLIANTLY written, and a total mind-screw. MUST-READ.

A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab - Schwab changes tack completely from last year's stellar superhero story Vicious to give us an even better read here. She creates several compelling worlds, with lead character Kell travelling between them, and the chemistry between him and orphan teen Lila is AWESOME. These are in alphabetical order but I think if pushed, this would be my absolute favourite on the list.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Diversity Panels: In Support of Justina Ireland, Wesley Chu and Kameron Hurley

(Thanks to Michelle from Tales of Yesterday, Debbie from Snuggling on the Sofa, and Caroline Clarke for giving me feedback on below post!)

Partly inspired by tweets I'll quote in a second, and partly by this great Justina Ireland blog post on the subject, I wanted to write a quick blog about diversity panels.

I'm in a slightly emotional state for various reasons at the moment, so this is hitting harder than it normally would, I think, but I'm actually crying tears of frustration here because I generally think of the bookish world as being cool and awesome and then stuff happens which make me realise JUST HOW MUCH PROGRESS NEEDS TO BE MADE.

Wes Chu just tweeted

There was perhaps the biggest collective facepalming my Twitter timeline has seen for a long time. BECAUSE REALLY?! 

Oh, and then Kameron Hurley replied in agreement, saying

AGAIN, REALLY?!

It's not like these are minor authors with little to draw people in, after all. Wesley Chu's Time Salvager has been optioned by Michael Bay. Kameron Hurley's Mirror Empire is a huge favourite amongst many SFF fans. If they're being told this, how much hope is there for other people who aren't straight white men? 

I am so frustrated about this because of my own teen years, I think. I grew up in a village with very little racial diversity, and I don't think I actually knew any out LGBT people well enough to talk to until after I'd left sixth form. (I'm reasonably stunned by this, looking back, and maybe I'm having a complete failure of memory caused by my raging at the idiots booking panels, but I think that IS true.)

My first two jobs were both in schools in places where, again, there weren't many non-white students or staff. There were a few, certainly, and everyone at both schools took racism really seriously. But for the most part, the teens there were growing up in the same fairly insular bubble that I was - where the vast majority of people were the same race as me, were hetrosexual and cisgender, appeared neurotypical... basically, not a huge amount of diversity. 

Due to the distance away from big cities, I never went to a big bookish event when I was a teen, and I think this would have been the same for most of the kids I taught. But I KNOW for myself, and I'm fairly sure for them, that if I had have gone, I wouldn't have gone to a 'diverse YA' panel or a 'Race in YA' panel or an 'LGBT YA' panel. And that's (hopefully!) not because I was growing up consciously prejudiced - I don't think I did. I definitely don't think that the amazing students I worked with for many years were prejudiced. 

I just wouldn't really have thought of it. And again, while I may be misjudging them, I don't think they would have done either. And because of this, if it had been a choice between a 'diversity' panel, a 'sci-fi and fantasy' panel, and a 'comedy in YA' panel (to pick examples pretty much at random) then the 'diversity' would have come third for me. The other panels would have been on subjects I loved reading about, I'd have been eager to find out more, and back then, they'd have been more to my tastes than something on a subject I wasn't thinking of. But if I'd gone to one of the other two panels and seen authors from another culture talking about sci-fi/fantasy, or talking about comedy in their books, then I might have thought "Hey, they sound cool! I should read them." And maybe that would have opened my eyes to some diversity. 

Because there are times I feel that I sleepwalked through a large amount of my life in some ways. I know there have been a few authors who've said in the past few weeks that they're incredibly grateful not to have had social media when they was growing up because they'd have said something dumb. And I'm looking at that period of my life and thinking GOOD GRIEF YEAH, I'd have said so many stupid things. I'm vaguely happy with where I am now in my views on things. (Only vaguely, because I have a LOT to learn on numerous topics, but I feel I'm moving in the right direction.) But I'm really hoping that teens growing up today get to the point I'm at now a lot sooner than I did. 

And I think that if we want them to get there, we CAN'T just sit around patting ourselves on the back because "YAY DIVERSITY PANELS!" We CAN'T just look at things like #WeNeedDiverseBooks (which is AMAZING and which I don't want to criticise at all) and say "Hey, all kids need to do is click on this hashtag to get fantastic recommendations." We NEED to make it so that people can discover diverse authors, and books about diverse topics, in all sorts of ways. Not just if they're specifically looking for them. 

If you're trying to compile a list on something, or trying to put together a panel, PLEASE think about how you can include diverse authors. I honestly think that if you give me any topic that isn't incredibly restricted, I could name a diverse author or two (minimum, obviously!) who'd fit into it. And as I said, I have a LONG way to go in many ways - there are people like Justina, Wesley, Kameron, Ellen Oh, Malinda Lo, Dahlia Adler, Katherine Locke, Charlie Morris, Wei Ming Kam, James Dawson, and dozens of others, who could no doubt make the same claim with a lot more certainty. If you're in charge of booking panels and you genuinely can't come up with ANY ideas for diverse authors, then maybe ask someone who can? And if you're an author - especially a heterosexual white male author - maybe if you're asked to be on a panel which seems to be seriously lacking diverse representation, please consider saying something.

Your thoughts, anyone? Leave me a comment. 

Friday, 19 June 2015

YALC - Blogger Workshops

I am hugely excited (and a little bit shocked, to be honest) to say that I've been asked to take part in a blogger workshop at YALC! From 1:30 - 2:15 on Sunday 19th July, I'll be joining two of my very favourite bloggers, Viv from Serendipity Reviews and Lucy from Queen of Contemporary, to talk about 'Taking your blog to the next level'. Along with author Andy Robb, we'll be sharing what we've learnt through a few years of blogging, and giving some strategies for blogging and social media. (I'm really looking forward to learning myself from others, apart from anything else!) It would be amazing to see lots of bloggers there! 

Also, for those of you who've never blogged, or are just dipping a toe in, Andrew from The Pewter Wolf, Laura from Sister Spooky and Michelle from Tales of Yesterday are doing a 'Blogging 101' session at 12:30 - 1:15 which should also be amazing! 

 Daily YALC tickets for Friday and Sunday, and weekend tickets, are available (Saturday YALC tickets have sold out, but LFCC tickets are still available.) For full details of both sessions and the rest of the brilliant schedule, click here!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Guest Post: Keren David on The Language of This Is Not A Love Story

Really pleased to present a great guest post from one of my favourite YA contemporary authors, the wonderful Keren David, talking about the language used in her recently released This Is Not A Love Story.



One of the most important things that I do when I start to write a book is make decisions about language. What sort of words would my narrator use? How much slang is necessary, and how quickly will it date?  Will there be swearing? If so much much, how strong?

Writing This is Not a Love Story though posed greater challenges. It’s set in Amsterdam, and one main character is bilingual. How much Dutch should I use? Do I need to translate every Dutch phrase?

Additionally, both narrators are Jewish, meaning I needed to think about their use of ‘Jewish words’ which might be Hebrew or Yiddish or just London-Jewish slang in their vocabulary. How many of those words could I use? How much needed to be explained?

I decided to write as authentically as possible, dropping in Dutch, Hebrew, whatever as suited the character. I’d translate if it fitted into the text without feeling clunky. I’d leave it up to my editors to tell me if a word needed more explanation, or even a glossary.

With my ‘Jewish’ words, the editor took the decision not even to italicise words like ‘frummer’ (a very religious person), ‘shokelling’ (a rhythmic rocking movement associated with Jewish prayer), ‘Shoah’ (the word used in the Jewish world for the holocaust, literally meaning catastrophe) and beck. Beck was a difficult word for me to include, as I don’t like it very much. It means a certain sort of Jewish teenager –rich, spoiled, wearing all the designer labels. It’s a piece of London slang that’s persisted for decades - my mum knew it, I did and now my kids talk about becks. It seems now to mean someone popular - in my day it was more of an insult. Anyway there was no possibility that my characters wouldn’t know and use it, so it went in. Barmy and batty, for barmitzvah and batmitzvah (coming for age ceremonies for 13-year-old boys and 12-year-old girls) are also current slang, and I like them so much that I couldn’t leave them out. 

Hopefully the meaning of these words are clear by context. But if not, then they give my readers a small taste of what it’s like to be in another culture or country, where you don’t always understand what’s being said to you. Do you reach out and embrace the chance to learn? Or are you unsettled by the unfamiliar?  The book is full of examples of cultural misunderstandings and clashes, opportunities missed and feelings hurt because people don’t fully understand what they are being told or fail to be as honest as they could be. 

Ethan is the character in the book who’s suffered from being taken from one city and language (London, English) and put into another (Amsterdam, Dutch) at a very young age. He makes it clear that it was difficult, but rather typically he took the difficulties, mastered them, and now uses them to make other people feel uncomfortable. I hope that readers will find Ethan’s struggle to communicate quite poignant - he has two languages at his disposal, and he thinks he’s embraced Dutch openness, but when something really matters to him he can never quite find the right words. ‘I’m just crap with people,’ he says, and I think a lot of teenagers will feel the same.

As someone who lived in Amsterdam for eight years but never became fluent in Dutch, I noticed how much of the city’s culture is visual - art, architecture, photography, even interior design and gardening. Sometimes communication and culture speaks in a universal language.  Right at the end of the book, one character watches the others’ body language, and it speaks louder than any words. This is not a love story - but it might just be the prequel to an epic romance.   

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR List


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

The Wicked and the Divine v1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie - Gillen, who's an awesome writer, brilliant illustrator McKelvie, and the concept of gods as pop stars makes this sound amazing. I picked it up a while ago - I love that Image do their first volumes at a great price - and need to read soon.

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks - This was the first graphic novel Debbie ever read, and it sounds really good fun, so when she offered to lend it to me, I naturally said "YES!" (Spoiler: I ALWAYS say "YES!" as she has great taste. I just don't always read them that quickly. But at least it's not like I have TEN unread ones I've borrowed from her lying around.)

99 Days by Katie Cotugno - Another one recommended by, and borrowed from, Debbie. I don't really know much about it but was a huge fan of the author's How To Love, so definitely looking forward to this one!

The Last Summer Of Us by Maggie Harcourt - Road trip! Coming of age story! Author represented by Juliet Mushens! Recommended by Kim Curran as "heartbreakingly beautiful!" Lots of boxes ticked here.

Only We Know by Simon Packham - Simon has written some of my favourite contemporaries of the last 5 years or so - I particularly loved Firewallers and Silenced - so this is one I can't wait to read!

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin - Our July pick for my book club. After meeting Ryan a few months ago, I was really impressed by hearing about this one!

The Drop by Katie Everson - Katie's lovely and this is getting serious praise - the Bookseller described it as "The most compelling and honest account of a teenager's experience with drugs since Junk" - sounds fascinating!

Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas - This flew under my radar until it got a LOT of praise by Dahlia Adler, whose recommendations are always sensationally good! It features an LGBT lead (or maybe two LGBT leads? Not sure!), by the way, which has me roughly 300% more interested in it than I was before I knew this - I hadn't realised that until she mentioned it.

Birdy by Jess Valance - Jess's Twitter feed rocks hard, to the point where if I do another '20 authors to follow on Twitter' post she'll get top billing. (Because, awesomeness. And NEIGHBOURS.) Debut Birdy, described by Luna as 'a toxic friendship story at its best', sounds stunning.

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan - Another Debbie book, which I've had a while. (Not as long as she's had Silhouette Of A Sparrow, though!) I've not read many books featuring leads of Middle Eastern descent, and this has been praised for its portrayal of Persian culture as well as for its heartwarming and funny portrayal of high school life and a lesbian romance. I'm aiming to read this next week for Faye's next LGBT Readathon. (Sign up here, by the way!)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Guest Post: Cassie Beasley on The Book That Starts The Avalanche

Looking forward to reading Cassie Beasley's Circus Mirandus and I adore this guest post on the series that got her to love reading!



I wasn’t always a reader.

When I was little, I loved to hear stories read by other people, especially my mother, who would pull out her copy of The Hobbit on rainy days. And of course I had to learn to perform the whole alphabet-deciphering thing in school. I did so dutifully and (I assume) well enough to keep all of the grown-ups happy.

I remember a series of cassette tapes that were supposed to turn me into a child prodigy overnight. I remember practicing until I could recite words with no trouble at all. But I wasn’t a reader. Not yet.

It happened to me suddenly, a few weeks after my classmates and I were first given unfettered access to our school library. It was every kind of wonderful to be able to select our own book and take it back to the classroom with us. I felt very responsible and mature, almost as mature as a third grader. (Third grade was, back then, practically adulthood.)

I was browsing the shelves with my friends one day when the library door opened, and a real live third grader walked in. (I knew she was a third grader because she was older than me, and I was impressed, and obviously everyone impressive was in third grade.) I stalked this fascinating creature around the library until she selected a book from a shelf full of pastel-colored paperbacks.

I knew what I had to do.

The book was thicker than anything I had ever read before. It seemed to be awfully full of words. But I checked it out anyway. And…

I LOVED IT.

I read it slowly at first, but I couldn’t stop. This book was not like the books my teachers had given me. This book had teenagers in it. And makeup! And a club!

I honestly don’t recall which Baby-Sitters Club book I picked up that day because I eventually read dozens of them. But that book was the one that started the avalanche. I discovered Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Animorphs! And my appetite for reading grew and grew until one day I read myself right out of the school library, and I had to get started on my parents’ bookshelf.

I don’t know if everyone grows to love reading in the same way, but I do know I’m not alone. I’ve met a lot of people who remember the book that started the avalanche for them. Sometimes the book they tell me about is a picture book, and sometimes it’s a bodice ripper. I’ve met people who never could enjoy reading until they found the right horror story, or the right sci-fi novel, or the right comic book. I even know someone whose reading took off the first time a story made her cry.

I think what’s so interesting about the book that starts the avalanche is that it’s not always great literature, and it’s not always the kind of book that is “right” for the reader in question. Sometimes the book that turns a person into a reader is chock-full of cliches and purple prose. Sometimes it’s a movie tie-in. Sometimes it’s a graphic novel. Sometimes it’s poetry.

I don’t even remember the plots of most of the Baby-Sitters Club novels, but I remember how enthralling they were when I first encountered them. They weren’t about children my age. They weren’t supposed to be for me. But they worked.

Whenever I think back on that day in the library, it makes me more determined than ever to write the stories that pop into my head. Just in case one of them is the one that starts the avalanche for someone else. And it reminds me that I need to keep recommending books to everyone I know, even those people who swear up and down that they don’t enjoy reading, because what if they just haven’t found their book yet? And it also reminds me to get out of the way sometimes and let the kids I know read the books that I’m afraid are too hard or too scary or too sad.

Because sometimes it only takes one book. Just one.


Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at doublecluck.com and cassiebeasley.com. Follow Cassie on twitter @beasleywrites 


Thanks for a fab post, Cassie! (Also, love the cover and the wonderful candy stripe effect on the pages!)

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For The Rest of 2015

Cheating slightly here and sending you over to MG Strikes Back to find out my number one choice for the rest of the year - along with 9 other fab contributor's picks!

Also, I am lucky enough to have already read some AMAZING upcoming books so I'm thrilled to see Summer Love, The Accident Season, One, The Next Together and The Wolf Wilder, amongst others, hit shelves! But looking at ones that I haven't read yet...

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - HEIST! LEIGH BARDUGO!! GRISHA WORLD!!! I have basically nothing to say about this which isn't FULL of exclamation marks and capitals. SO EXCITED!!!!

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne - I loved Soulmates a LOT and Holly is awesome - this new book, first in a series about friendship and feminism, sounds amazing!

All of the Above by James Dawson - James Dawson's first non-horror story, "a tender love story exploring sexual fluidity", sounds FABULOUS!

The Secrets of Sam and Sam by Susie Day - The Pea's Book quartet is one of my favourites for years and I am SO excited about this spin-off book, featuring Pea's friends the two Sams, and their two mums. (Yay for diversity in families in YA and MG books!)

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich - This isn't my kind of read really - sounds too creepy! - but I basically CAN'T ignore recommendations from Charlie, Nina Douglas, and superstar bookseller Jen Rose Bell. I will be reading it with the lights on, preferably with other people around, and blaming the three of them if I get nightmares anyway!!

Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall - While I'm not much of a sci-fi fan, I absolutely loved Sophia's first MG novel, Mars Evacuees. It has a great plot and a really strong voice. The sequel is high on my 'must read' list!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness - I didn't request this as I was trying to keep my TBR pile manageable and now I feel SO DUMB as everyone says it's fantastic! Not too long to wait, thankfully. :)

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton - Keris's books have always been favourites of mine; this one about a teen girl leaving school, moving to another city, and starting a blog about her experiences sounds awesome!

Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas - I was sent a copy of this but it was flying under my radar (partly as I didn't realise it was LGBTQ) until Dahlia Adler read and recommended HARD. When Dahlia speaks, I listen!

What's coming up that you're really desperate to read? Let me know!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Extraordinary Means Blog Tour: Robyn Schneider's Favourite Characters

I really enjoyed Robyn Schneider's Severed Heads, Broken Hearts, and am looking forward to reading Extraordinary Means. Really pleased to host her on the blog today talking about her favourite characters!



Professor Lupin from Harry Potter by JK Rowling: I'm a sucker for a misunderstood young mentor figure, and Remus Lupin had total Mr. Keating vibes in the best way possible ("seize the day, wizards and witches")
Phineas from A Separate Peace by John Knowles: Even though of course we're supposed to love athletic, goofy, magnificent Finny because of how much Gene does, what I really loved about him was the quiet, well-meaning rebellion he practiced against the rules of his boarding school. Troublemakers are some of my favourite characters to read, which leads me to...
Alaska Young from Looking For Alaska by John Green: She made me snort with laughter, and then broke my heart. I suspect she did the same thing to Pudge.
Kel from A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab: A cross between a mad magician, a brooding prince, and Doctor Who, I completely fell for this brilliant new hero and can't wait for the next book in the series.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Six Degrees of Separation - The Casual Vacancy to Arsenic For Tea



Six Degrees of Separation is a fabulous meme which started last year, and runs on the first Saturday of every month! Huge thanks to Annabel Smith and Emma J Chapman for coming up with the idea. Head over to one of their blogs and leave a link in the comments if you take part, please! This month, the starting point is The Casual Vacancy, by JK Rowling.

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling was adapted for screen with Keeley Hawes, as was Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters.

Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters was recommended to me by my friend Charlie, as was - well, a significant amount of my favourite books of the last few years. One that I'm particularly happy she recommended to me was Summer Love, an anthology of LGBTGQ stories from Duet Books, a new imprint of Interlude Press. It's a wonderful collection with some really gorgeous stories in there. Click on the title for my full review to find out more - I particularly loved Naomi Tajedler's What The Heart Wants!

As you'd expect from the title, Summer Love is a perfect beach read! It featured on my top ten Beach Reads post a couple of weeks ago with lots of other favourites, including Remix by Non Pratt.

I went to an AMAZING launch for Remix on Thursday, definitely one of the best bookish events I've had the pleasure of going to - as was a launch earlier in the week, for Katherine Woodfine's gorgeous debut novel The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

And The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is a fun and exciting entry into what's becoming a firm favourite genre of mine, historical detective stories. The very best I've read (edging out Sparrow and Julie Berry's brilliant The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place) is Robin Stevens's second Wells & Wong book, Arsenic For Tea. (I also love the recently revealed US cover for it under new title Poison Is Not Polite!) I've used the UK cover here, but would definitely encourage you to head over to The Midnight Garden, one of my favourite American book blogs, to check out that reveal. (Also if you're an American or Canadian reader who can't wait until 2016 to get your hands on it, there's a giveaway!)


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Would Make Perfect Films/TV Series

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

Ooh, THIS is a great topic!

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - Fans of A Cinderella Story (and EVERYONE should be a fan of A Cinderella Story, it rocked!) would be especially delighted by this one, I think. Absolutely lovely romance, mainly via e-mails, between two boys. Superb characterisation and a feelgood hit. (Also Oreos should probably sponsor it!)

Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison - Another that would make perfect summer viewing, this comedy from last year about teens who'd finished their A levels and were looking for the person who could be their 'lobster' is one of the funniest books for ages and hugely warm and engaging. The right director and cast could make this a smash hit.

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin - Taking place in the 1920s with flappers, a wonderful setting, and a romance so swoony I'm breaking into a wide smile just thinking about it, this would make such an amazing film!

Summer Love edited by Annie Harper - Coming in a few weeks from new imprint Duet Books, this anthology of LGBTQ stories from authors across the LGBTQ spectrum has a wide variety of settings - both contemporary and historical - and some brilliant writing and characters. I think that this would actually make a perfect web series, given the format would mean that episodes could be of different lengths, and a diverse anthology series would seem to have the potential to do really well. My absolute favourite in the collection is What The Heart Wants by Naomi Tajedler, set in a summer art school as a girl develops feelings for the female model she's drawing. Another that I think would work brilliantly on screen include SJ Martin's The Most Handsome, about a transgender protagonist falling in love with a college student - the Cape Cod setting here is brought to life excellently and I think would be great viewing. Looking at the historicals in there, the pastoral setting just prior to the outbreak of World War II of Suzey Ingold's gay romance The Willow Waits For Us would film beautifully, while Amy Stilgenbauer's The Fire Eater's Daughter, about a girl waiting for the title character's travelling carnival to return, is another that would look magnificent. 

Department 19 series by Will Hill - Vampire movies have always been favourites of mine, but I think an adaptation of this series could be the very best of them all. Given the books' epic length and Hollywood's desire to milk a cash cow, I'm slightly concerned we'd end up with 15 films for the 5 books - but to be honest I think this is one time I could cope with that; you'd NEED around 45 hours to do justice to Jamie, Larissa, Dracula and the rest. (Also, it is TWO DAYS until book 5 comes out and good grief I am RIDICULOUSLY excited.)

Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling - I grew up watching cartoons like He-Man, Ulysses 31, MASK and many others filled with action and excitement. I would LOVE to see Wereworld done in this way as a long-running TV show!

Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour - An indie film about a girl who's a production designer FOR an indie film would have the potential to be super-fun, given the source material is one of the most gorgeous LGBTQ romances I've ever read. 

Micah Grey series by Laura Lam - Still haven't quite recovered from my excitement that Tor have signed this fantastic series and will be releasing book 3, Masquerade, next year. The only thing that could make me MORE excited is if we got big screen adaptations to see Laura Lam's wonderfully vivid world sumptuously brought to life.

Remix by Non Pratt - I am writing this and it is cold and wet and damp but in my heart it is still sunny and gorgeous and I am at a music festival having FUN because I read Remix for the second time last week and oh wow it is GLORIOUS! Bring it to the big screen, somebody! Give us unknown actresses to play Kaz and Ruby and unsigned bands to provide the soundtrack and let it be the start of many, many wonderful careers.

Wells and Wong series by Robin Stevens - Is there any series around which SCREAMS for a Sunday tea-time adaptation as loudly as this wonderful detective duo's does? With great plots and fabulous characters, the right casting could make this a huge success.


Monday, 1 June 2015

Blog Tour: Sarah Sky on Her Favourite Things About Writing Catwalk Criminal

Looking forward to Sarah Sky's upcoming Catwalk Criminal, so really pleased to be helping to kick off the blog tour today!

Favourite Things About Writing Catwalk Criminal

1 Checking out locations

I took a trip up The Shard as I wanted it to be the dramatic backdrop for a gripping start to the book - Jessica's first official undercover mission for Westwood, which goes horribly wrong. I spent a lot of time looking out the windows, trying to figure out potential escape routes. I also quizzed an employee about how the windows are cleaned, which was crucial for my plot.
I scouted locations for London Fashion Week and opted for the BFC Courtyard Show Space at Somerset House - the centre of another plot twist, which I can't reveal!


2 Spy stuff

I love doing all the research for the Jessica Cole books, particularly around the spy gadgets. This is my third year of going to a spy conference in London, to check out all the latest equipment - from unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with gamma sensors and magnetometers to antidotes to biological weapons. I've learnt about surveillance robots, drones, thermal sensors, facial recognition technology and encrypted mobile phones - as well as where to get the best coffee and muffins in the conference hall when I'm all spied out!

I actually got the idea for a crucial plot twist in Catwalk Criminal from attending a seminar at the conference. A speaker was discussing the biggest future terrorist threats to the UK. Let's just say it was an eye-opener and not what I'd expected at all. I knew it would make a great feature in a spy novel and I ended up basing my book around this concept.


3 Hacking

I delved into the world of hacking before writing this book. I read up on famous hackers and hacking organisations and watched documentaries about their shadowy worlds. I found the dark web fascinating - but also extremely scary. Recent high profile cases such as the hack on Sony and the widespread leaking of celebrities' private photographs through iCloud continue to highlight the vital importance of good cyber security. Again, I attended a seminar about hacking at the spy conference and was pretty shocked by how easy it is to hack into some very high profile companies. Documenting all your important passwords in a folder called 'passwords', is not a terribly good idea...


4 Fashion

I love deciding on the clothes Jessica will wear in her modelling shoots and usually scour glossy magazines, Pinterest and the internet for inspiration. This time, I also looked at designers who are currently combining the latest technology with cutting edge fashion. Interestingly, in the weeks leading up to Catwalk Criminal's publication, TV presenter, Donna Air, wore an interactive dress to the BAFTAs, which lit up on the red carpet. We're probably going to see a lot more digital designs on the catwalk in the future.


5 Becky/Jamie

Fans of Code Red Lipstick told me they wanted to hear more about Jessica's best friend, Becky. She played a minor role in Code Red Lipstick, but I wanted her to feature more prominently in this book. She becomes an important part of the plot and will be a catalyst for Jessica's future actions. Jamie also takes centre stage, but it's not plain sailing. If Jessica was finding it difficult to lie to him in Fashion Assassin, it's even harder now that she's been implicated in a cyber terrorist attack on London and the States. Jamie's not too keen on who she's spending all her time with either - a new character called Zak.


6 Introducing new characters

Zak was fun to write - a gorgeous bad boy who harbours a secret. Jessica feels a connection with the top US model, but hates his arrogance and the fact he's getting in the way of her romance with Jamie. He's going to be trouble...


7 Plot twists/ cliffhangers

I enjoy writing Jessica into corners, to see how she can escape. I know fans of Code Red Lipstick and Fashion Assassin expect a good twist as well as red herrings. I think they'll be pretty shocked by the way things turn out...


8 Meeting fans of my books

I enjoyed the UKYA event in Birmingham and it was great to meet fans of Code Red Lipstick and Fashion Assassin. I hope to meet more Jessica Cole enthusiasts soon. I'm talking about the History of Female Spies at Beaconsfield High School's TEDx conference on July 3, alongside authors Non Pratt and Tom Pollock. I'll also be at Hillingdon Libraries' YA Shot on October 28. Hope to see some of you there!




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Catwalk Criminal
(Jessica Cole: Model Spy #3)
By Sarah Sky


Blurb:
Models, spies and lipstick gadgets in this fast-paced teen series. Jessica Cole has been recruited to Westwood, MI6's secret division of supermodel spies. Her first official mission seems simple at first, until it turns into the biggest cyber-attack ever known, threatening the security of the whole country. Then it emerges there is a traitor in the midst at MI6 - and suddenly Jessica herself is being accused. With no one believing her innocence, and the country on the verge of chaos, Jessica has no choice but to take matters of national security into her own hands and catch the culprit - fresh from the catwalk.


Information About the Book:

Author: Sarah Sky
Title: Catwalk Criminal (Jessica Cole: Model Spy #3)
Genre: Contemporary / Crime YA
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Published: 4st June 2015


Author Information:

Sarah Sky is the author of Scholastic's Jessica Cole: Model Spy series with Code Red Lipstick and Fashion Assassin. Catwalk Criminal is published in June 2015.
Sarah is a freelance education journalist and lives in West London with her husband and two young children.
She grew up in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, and studied English at Nottingham University before gaining a post-graduate diploma in journalism at Cardiff University. 
She trained as a journalist at the Western Daily Press in Bristol. Her highlight was interviewing screen legend Charlton Heston and lowest point was being sneezed on by a cow at a fatstock competition.
Sarah worked as an education correspondent for a national newspaper before going freelance. She now divides her time between journalism and writing.
She loves reading, baking, table tennis and martial arts. She's a green belt in kick-boxing and a brown with two white stripes at karate, currently training for black.
Author Links:



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