Monday 25 April 2016

Recent Links Recap - 17th-25th April

Viv and Faye, along with a load of other bloggers and authors, have set up a blog tour to support Tommy Donbavand, who was diagnosed with cancer last month. Check out his blog and head over to Serendipity Reviews for details of the blog tour - what a fantastic cause!

Time-sensitive one - there's a week left to bid on a full ms critique or sensitivity critique from Justina Ireland, founder of Writing In The Margins and fantastic author, in this amazing Refugee Benefit auction.

I am SUPER thrilled that today, at Teens on Moon Lane, I got to interview Maggie Stiefvater! Also on there recently, I did my favourite books for aspiring detectives.

And I took part in Heidi Heilig's blog tour, as she told me about two places that inspired the BRILLIANT The Girl From Everywhere.  Last Thursday, we got a great 5-4-3-2-1 from Brian Conaghan!

On this blog, I got seven fabulous people to help me write about the quarter-finalists in the #80s90skidsTV vote! (One of those quarter-finalists is Knightmare - the Den Of Geek piece on Knightmare's Top Ten Quest Characters was fantastic!)

I loved Chelley's awesome #6degrees post last week and Sarah Forbes's this past Saturday!

Non-bookish, but amazing news - Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton won the Pulitzer!! Speaking of Hamilton, great piece by Caroline O'Donoghue for The Pool about the show. And to bring it back to books, great post from author Lou Morgan on what writers can learn from Hamilton and Matilda!  In addition, I LOVED this post by Gillian on YA books she wants to see turned into musicals! YES PLEASE. (Especially Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda!)

Really fantastic YA Interrobang piece by Julie Daly about asexual representation in YA.

I also loved Gaby Hinsliff's piece for The Pool on reverse mentoring.

Brilliant Safe Space posts from Faye on wonderful things in her life right now, Debbie on running and guest poster Hayley on being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, nicknamed the Rag Doll disease

Superb posts, as ever, from Caitlin on Pain vs Pills: The Difficulty in Finding a Balance and Rediscovering Manchester, in which she talks about the fab afternoon we had when I visited her! 

There's a fantastic (although REALLY difficult - or maybe I'm just rubbish at it?) quiz on Shakespeare over at Caboodle! 

I've heard so many great things about IW Gregorio's None of the Above, which I need to read SOON. It's superb news that it's got a TV deal

I don't date, and reading Louise O'Neill's column makes me sooo happy this is the case! 

I loved The Book Addicted Girl's post on why you should be reading Leigh Bardugo's fantastic Grishaverse books

I can't decide who I want to win the YA Book Prize - so many amazing books are shortlisted! But I am VERY happy that there'll be a special award to Melvin Burgess to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of the outstanding Junk. On the subject of Junk, there's a great Guardian post here on ten fantastic quotes from the book. 

It is just six weeks or so until If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo hits UK shelves - I can't wait!! I love Usborne's UK cover, but the US cover - with trans model Kira Conley on - is also amazing. Really brilliant interview about modelling with Kira here

Reminder that you can enter Stacey's fabulous colouring competition, as part of the #2016ClassicsChallenge, and win one of Little Tiger's gorgeous Pride and Prejudice colouring books!

Another reminder - we'll be packing Illumicrate up the weekend after next for subscribers! I THINK there are a handful of boxes left - don't miss out, sign up now!

Sunday 24 April 2016

#80s90skidsTV - The Quarter-Finals

The #80s90skidsTV tournament continues, and we have our final 8! Before voting, I thought you might like a reminder of the shows, so I asked some big fans to tell us a bit about why they thought you should vote for them!

Byker Grove - Peter Bunzl

When I was in my first year at college I shared a house with a girl from Newcastle who’d been an extra on Byker Grove. She told me how the guy who played Jeff would jam on the piano between takes for everyone. I remember when PJ - or was it Duncan, whichever one was played by Ant, not Dec - got shot with a paintball gun and spent the rest of the series going unconvincingly blind.

Of course the rapport between Ant and Dec led to a ready-to-rumble pop career, and light entertainment gigs on SM:TV, Saturday Night Takeaway, and various other shows – where would ITV Saturday night would be without the Grove? But it begat much more than Ant and Dec persuading celebrities to eat kangaroo anus. Many performers came up through the show, including Jill Halfpenny, Chalie Hunnam, Donna Air, Andrew Hayden-Smith. It gave breaks to writers of Doctor Who, Life on Mars, Eastenders, and to Oscar winning director Tom Hooper.

The storyline that sticks in my mind from 25 years of the show, though, was the gay kiss between Noddy and Gary. It was only a peck on the cheek, but it was what it meant that was so significant. Noddy was the first gay character to come out on Children’s TV. At the time, I was still a teenage, just, and really related to what Noddy was going through because I was feeling all the same feelings.

This was before Queer As Folk or Metrosexuality, or any of those grown up TV shows that talked about being gay, and it was pretty controversial. The Sun called for the programme makers to be sacked. Despite the BBC’s support, I think the storyline was cut short. I remember feeling disappointed with how the show failed to focus on what happened to Noddy after he came out. But, for those few episodes, to see a gay teen represented in a real way like that in a kids TV drama was unprecedented. Even if he was called Noddy Fishwick! And, despite some dodgy acting, Byker Grove was truly brave for that and for the many other difficult storylines it tackled. So I feel it deserves to win this prestigious - if slightly random - twitter poll…

The Demon Headmaster - me, Jim

The Demon Headmaster was one of the creepiest and most exciting series of the 1980s/1990s, and as a big fan of the first few books, I can still remember being thrilled to hear it was being adapted for TV. As ever with an adaptation of a much-loved book, there was a slight worry - could they possibly pull it off? Could they cast someone who would live up to the title role, one of the most chilling bad guys imaginable?

YES, they could - and they definitely did! While Frances Amey and the rest of the children were fine in their parts, it was Terrence Hardman as the headmaster himself who stood out. Perfectly capturing the subtle menace which was so essential to the character, he radiated evil intent whenever he removed his glasses ready to hypnotise an innocent child.

As for the plots, and the scripts - they were excellent, but what else could you expect from a pairing of two of the best children's authors of the late 20th century? Helen Cresswell adapted from Gillian Cross's books, and managed to capture the spirit of the novels perfectly. In addition, as it lasted for just the three series (we'll gloss over a rather ill-advised pantomime), it never had the chance to get boring.

There were many truly wonderful TV shows of the 1980s and 1990s, but this is a lost gem - I wish the BBC would add it to their store! It definitely deserves your vote.

Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds - Chelley

Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds is one of the earliest ever memories I have of my childhood. 

This show was, and still is, the best! An alternate telling of The Three Musketeers with the characters as awesome cartoon dogs.  Set in the 17th century the story follows a young Dogtanian who travels to Paris in order to become one of the King Louis XIII of France's musketeers. From the high pitched opening of the catchy theme song that would have you singing along for days (and which makes your tummy flip and feel all nostalgic when you here it today – what a theme tune) to the loveable, brave Dogtanian who could chop an apple to pieces in the air with his sword and who’s cheeks flushed red every time the sweet Juliet was around.  This show captured my heart! 

I cheered when Porthos, Athos and Aramis drew their swords ready for battle. I did not want any harm to come to the King and Queen. I laughed at Dogtanian’s funny mousey companion Pip and lazy horse Sandy. I cowered in fear at the moustached bad guys and at the evil red robed Cardinal Richelieu and was transfixed to the screen by the mesmerising mystery of Milady. I even dreamt of being the beautiful sweet Juliet in her gorgeous pink dress (yes I know she was a dog!).
All of these characters are so unique and memorable.  I think anyone would see and recognise a picture of Dogtanian with his huge, bright, red hat complete with yellow feather, his white collared red tunic and little red boots jumping in to save the day. Dogtanian was a triumph winning numerous awards and its strength and the love people have for it is still evident today.  I was able to share my love of Dogtanian with my eleven-year-old son and now he loves it just as much as me.  It is also getting a new CGI movie to be released in 2016 for Dogtanian's 30th anniversary!  That in itself proves how good this show was. I was and still am to this day completely invested in these characters, their friendships, loyalty and bravery.  What good morals to be taught as a child growing up watching this show.

I felt part of them.  Of their story.  Like they were all old friends. 

One For All And All For One!

Grange Hill - Emma

After you'd schlepped home for school late in the afternoon, the only school you wanted hear about post 3.15pm was Grange Hill. The antics in this inner city comprehensive had us all hooked. Parents were wary of it, the kids' next door were banned from watching it.

Grange Hill was compulsive viewing.

Why? Grange Hill broke the mould. It bravely jumped head first in to huge story lines - drinking, bullying, drugs, affairs with teachers. It contained an addictive realism that hadn't previously been seen in kids TV.

Set in an inner London comprehensive the kids were working class characters, relatable and realistic with the teachers becoming just as memorable the pupils.

Alongside the attention grabbing storylines it featured kids being, well, kids. Bunking off at lunchtime, trying to get out of PE and that school newspaper that always spread a bit of gossip. They even attempted a school sit-in at one point, leading us all to wonder if we could pull it off in our own schools.

The characters, both pupils and teachers, were incredibly memorable. Grange Hill led to spin off shows (Tucker's Luck) and various attempts at official reunions/where are they now type features, such was our fondness for them..

Great lines are still quotable to this day, 'I'm just trying to help Rolaaaaaand', 'You boy!' ... And just in case you are still in any doubt - those credits. How can you fail to listen to those credits, complete with cartoon visuals, without a huge wave of nostalgia washing over you?!

Knightmare - Kirsty

Enter Stranger and Vote Knightmare for best #80s90skidsTV

For book lovers Knightmare was the perfect children’s TV programme. A group of adventurers on a quest through orc, troll and monster infested dungeons where they control the story, and very often got themselves killed. And us, a group of Watchers, who know that we’d do a better job. When you watched them, were you shouting at them and slapping your head in disbelief at their inability to grasp things quick enough? Treguard the Dungeon Master certainly seemed to have a distinct lack of patience with some of the groups. His sarcasm reminds me of the narrator on Come Dine with Me.

In essence Knightmare was a freaky trust walk where one Dungeoneer, blinded by the Helmet of Justice, was led through the dungeons by three friends known as advisors. Through a magic mirror they could see what was going on and led their Dungeoneer across disappearing walkways and helped them answer the wall monsters’ riddles. They were the ones who could see the discombobulated heads and evil beings whilst the Dungeoneer casually took miniscule steps as time run out. ‘One quarter step to the right…walk forward quickly, quicker, just run….’

This programme certainly got my heart racing, especially when the life force meter starting stripping down to the bone and eyeballs with the heartbeat sound rushing them on to find food or race to the next chamber.

I never played Dungeons and Dragons but this blue-screen enabled programme is as close to a real life version as many of us got. Along the way the Dungeoneer collected food, scrolls, spells and objects in their knapsack that would help them complete later tasks. They were limited to the amount they could carry so difficult decisions had to be made, and often regretted later.

There were ‘people’ they interacted with that they had to help, that helped them, or that sent them on the wrong track. One of my favourites was Pickle the elf – Treguard’s helper.

There were eight seasons of Knightmare shown originally on Children’s ITV from Sept 7th 1987 – Nov 11th 1994, and the show is rated 8.6/10 on Only eight teams ever defeated Knightmare Castle – but we know we’d have been one of the winning teams right? After all we read books and books make you clever.

So make the right choice, vote Knightmare and watch the winning teams on You Tube starting here

The Queen's Nose - Maia Moore

It’s the show that made a generation of kids secretly rub the nose on every 50p they found - admit it, you know you did it. Perhaps, like me, you secretly thought that if you could just find the right one, you’d get wishes granted just like Harmony. And even if they were the kind of tricksy wishes that could backfire on you, you knew it’d be worth it.

Three reasons you should vote for The Queen’s Nose:

Harmony Parker
Now that is one awesome protagonist. Harmony is a bit of a tomboy, an animal lover and one sassy girl to boot. What more can you ask for in your leading lady? While she may start off as a bit bratty, she develops a lot throughout the series. And any girl with a sister can relate to Harmony’s love-hate relationship with Melody - best friends one moment and sworn enemies the next.

It’s also a book!
For those of who are part of the wonderful bookish community online, you may remember The Queen’s Nose book too, by prolific children’s writer Dick King-Smith. The first three series were pretty faithful to the book (we’ll forget about the revived series where it went a bit off the wall…) So even if you can’t watch the series now (there’s no DVD available - trust me, I tried!) you can still read the book and relive the magic.

A well portrayed message
A children’s series wouldn’t be complete without some valuable lessons to teach. The Queen’s Nose manages this while still remaining fun to watch. Without being too preachy, we get the classic ‘be careful what you wish for’ storyline as Harmony learns to use her wishes wisely. By the end of the series, she’s learnt that selfish wishes for materialistic things not only often go wrong, but have no real value. She also learns the value of family, as her antics with her wishes put her and her family in some sticky situations that ultimately bring them closer together.

Sabrina The Teenage Witch - Amy

Sabrina the Teenage Witch is undoubtedly the greatest kids’ TV show of the nineties, spanning seven seasons (163 episodes!), several movies and an animated spinoff series. Everyone I knew watched it (even when we were ‘too old’ and pretended we didn’t) and there were many excellent reasons for that.

For me personally, it was all in the timing. I was at the oh so awkward age of twelve when the show started and it got me at just the right age. As a character, Sabrina was fun and had friends but at the same time she wasn’t the most popular kid and she made all kinds of (often hilarious) mistakes. Let’s face it, I wanted to be Sabrina – the magical powers and cute boyfriend wouldn’t have hurt either.

Another great part of the show was the family aspect. So many shows that I watched at the time (and now) had either absent or terrible families. Sabrina had two crazy/ supportive/ magical aunts and a wisecracking cat (“I’m a cat. I’m curious. So kill me.”)

I also really loved the magic! What teenager didn’t want to rewind that really embarrassing thing they did or accidentally turn a bully into a pineapple?

Looking back on it now, Sabrina was a gateway show for Buffy (my all time favourite). In both of them, dealing with monsters and supernatural abilities was representative of being a teenager.

Sabrina was the defining coming of age show for me and my favourite of the 1990s. It deserves to be crowned as the greatest 80s/ 90s kids’ TV show!

Thundercats - Martin Stewart

Thundercats is a thirty-year-old masterpiece—a mish-mash of the solidly brilliant and the charmingly naff. Its heroes are lantern-jawed simpletons, its villains veer erratically from terrifying to quaint. Those humanoid alien cats produced more episodes than the Transformers, and are the purest distillation of that quintessentially 80s cartoon idiom. They must win.

Of course a plot hole beats, like a giant heart, at the core of the origin story: why did Lion-o age and develop giant muscles in suspended animation while the rest (even the other children) remained unchanged? And why did Jaga sacrifice himself by piloting the escape ship alone—only to stick the autopilot on anyway as he was dying? 

I'll tell you why: so we could have a badass hero who was risk-taking naïveté wrapped in muscle with a handy spirit guide. That's storytelling gold. 

This is a show that wears its heart on its sleeve. Who could fail to love the straightforwardness of the characters' names? “They're cats, there's a tiger and a cheetah and a panther... let's call them Tygra, Cheetarah and Panthro.” Good job, guys. (See also the monkey and jackal villains—Monkian and Jackalman—for more of this tip-top work.) It also has a Jar-Jar equivalent in Snarf, and the Sword of Omens is a big, shiny Dues ex Machina. 

Glorious. This naff charm is easily enough to secure the win. But let's not forget the brilliance: that unbeatable theme song, which you are definitely humming right now; the Sword of Omens; that incredibly quotable call to arms; the genuinely terrifying antagonist (Mumm-ra the Ever Living—and his little dog, Ma-Mutt); the cool, thunder-based vocabulary (Thunderian, Thundera, Thunder-tank); the greatest cartoon mechanic ever, Panthro; and the unrepeatably 80's moral codas, complete with fourth-wall breaks as the characters dispense wisdom and instruction directly into the audience's astonished face (“Yes. Rules are there to be obeyed—otherwise, they're just words”).

Thundercats is surely next in the House of Pain that is Michael Bay's studio, following the Transformers and Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles to become another insipid big screen boom-fest. 

And before that happens we should take a moment to cherish the original cartoon, with all its brilliant, charming naffness.

Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats... Ho!

Cast your votes on Twitter tomorrow, from roughly 8:00am, and don't miss the semi-finals on Tuesday and the final on Wednesday! Search for hashtag #80s90skidsTV.

Friday 22 April 2016

#6Degrees - The Jungle Book to... (Guest post by Sarah Forbes)

The #6degrees feature continues today, with Sarah Forbes, author of the Elspeth Hart series posting her six choices. I need to read the Elspeth Hart books ASAP - I've heard great things about Sarah's writing, and they're gorgeously illustrated by James Brown! They're published by Stripes Publishing, with most recent book Elspeth Hart and the Magnificent Rescue being released earlier this month.

Over to you, Sarah!

1. The Jungle Book is by Rudyard Kipling, who spent his early years in India, before being sent to England where was initially miserable. This brings me straight to one of my favourite children’s books, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Nobody does ‘miserable coming from India to England’ like Mary Lennox.

2. Mary in The Secret Garden is an orphan, friendless and unhappy, until she discovers the joys of an overgrown walled garden in the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor…

3. Another orphan who finds magic in a new place is Daniel, the hero of Ross Mackenzie’s The Nowhere Emporium. (I’m a teeny bit biased as I bought this book for Floris when I was editing there, but Ross is a super writer. Seek it out!)

4. The magical world of performance and ‘freaks’ leads me straight to Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones, set in the dark underworld of Victorian London. (I also LOVE the cover art for this book. Quick high-five to the design team at Walker!)

5. Keeping with the dark and mysterious, but moving on to an adult novel: I recommend Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger – a creepy gothic novel set in the 1940s, in a rambling, once-great house. (I’m a sucker for a book set in a rambling, once-great house.)

6. And from one sinister big house to another, and my final stop: I leave you with the stunning debut novel by Jenni Fagan, The Panopticon. It’s about a teenage girl in a young offenders’ institution, and it’s gritty and tough and brilliant. Not for the faint-hearted, but probably one of the finest debut novels I’ve ever read.

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from April 2nd

Sunday 17 April 2016

#80s90skidsTV - The Tournament Entries

I am REALLY excited to kick off the #80s90skidsTV tournament on Twitter this morning with the first four votes in the first round of this knockout tournament! Over the weekend, dozens of people have nominated their favourite children's shows from the two decades. The 36 shows which got 4 or more nominations have made it through to the voting stages. There are some big omissions - no He-Man, Chronicles of Narnia or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - but check out the 36 shows which DID make it through, with links to Wikipedia in case you need to refresh your memory before voting.

Mysterious Cities of Gold (12 nominations) - French-Japanese animated series, 1982-1983 (followed by sequel series 2012-2013)

Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds (11) - Spanish-Japanese animated series, 1985     

Press Gang (8) - British drama series, 1989-1993
Round The Twist (8) - Australian fantasy series, 1989-2001

SuperTed (7) - British animated series, 1983-1985
Wild House (7) - British comedy series, 1997-1999

The Demon Headmaster (6) - British drama series, 1996-1998
The Famous Five (6) - British mystery series, 1995-1997
Knightmare (6) - British game show, 1987-1994
The Raccoons (6) - Canadian animated series, 1985-1992

Aquila (5) - British sci-fi series, 1997-1998
Arthur (5) - Canadian-American animated series, 1996 onwards
Byker Grove (5) - British drama series, 1989-2006
DangerMouse (5) - British animated series ,1981-1992

Eerie, Indiana (5) - American fantasy series, 1991-1993
Fun House (5) - British game show, 1989-1999
Grange Hill (5) - British drama, 1978-2008
Gummi Bears (5) - American animated series, 1985-1991

The Queen's Nose (5) - British comedy, 1995-2003
See How They Run (5) - British-Australian drama series, 1999
Thundercats (5) - British fantasy series, 1985-1989
The Trap Door (5) - British animated series, 1984-1986

Ulysses 31 (5) - French-Japanese animated series, 1981-1982
Woof! (5) - British drama series, 1989-1997
Worzel Gummidge (5) - British sitcom, 1979-1981
The Worst Witch (5) - British comedy series, 1998-2001

Around The World with Willy Fog (4) - Spanish-Japanese animated series, 1985
The Box of Delights (4) - British fantasy series, 1984
Count Duckula (4) - British animated series, 1988-1993
Duck Tales (4) - American animated series, 1987-1990
Jem (also known as Jem and the Holograms) (4) - American animated series, 1985-1988

Maid Marian and her Merry Men (4) - British sitcom, 1989-1994
Moondial (4) - British drama series, 1988
Old Bear Stories (4) - British stop frame animated series, 1993-1997
Raggy Dolls (4) - British animated series, 1986-1994
Sabrina The Teenage Witch (4) - American sitcom, 1996-2003

Recent Links Recap 11th - 16th April

The most awesome news of the week has to be either the launch of Dahlia Adler's stunning - which already looks like a must-visit site - or the announcement that TV rights to Louise O'Neill's incredibly powerful Asking For It have been sold.

And other great news, Debi Gliori's Night Shift, a picture book for older readers on depression, has sold to Hot Key and Katherine Locke's time-travel YA The Girl With The Red Balloon, in which a 16-year-old ends up in East Berlin in 1988, sold to Albert Whitman!

Really superb video here from Louise about how exercise has helped her mental health, talking about the Couch to 5k app which I know a few of my friends have found to be fantastic!

And a fantastic post from Caitlin here, 'In Defence of Prescription Painkillers'.

This 'digital horror story' on 'How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell' is terrifying - but it's great to see that the journalist has hopefully made things better for the people who live in the farm in question.

And a heartbreaking piece about Lily Allen being stalked, and the lack of support from the police.

Also a really outstanding piece from Louise O'Neill on how misguided people are when they conflate anorexia with vanity.

This, from Nita Tyndall, on loving North Carolina but the recent legislation breaking her heart, is really moving.

I love Erica's blog about bookshops, The Bookshop Around The Corner. She's looking for guest posts for #YourBookshops - if you're interested in taking part, take a look!

Paste have a great list of the top 10 YA releases in April - it's US-based so not sure what's coming out here, but When We Collided already is and is BRILLIANT, and I'm hoping to get my hands on The Haters by Jesse Andrews as I loved Me, Earl and the Dying Girl.

Speaking of When We Collided, author Emery Lord wrote a fabulous list of her top five books with a beach setting for Chelle's excellent Tales of Yesterday blog!

And talking of Chelle, she was guest posting on here yesterday as part of #6degrees.

Another guest post on this blog, Sophia Bennett celebrated Love Song's release with a 5-4-3-2-1.

Also on this blog, I finally wrote my stage/screen/bookish events recap for February! As ever, Debbie is way ahead of me, and has got HER March recap up.

With lots of amazing authors announced for YALC, I gave some reading recommendations for the ones I've read over at Teens on Moon Lane! And Julianne's putting together a Goodreads list of YA books from all the authors appearing.

Over on the Story Snug, there's a brilliant post about fairy tales by Nibbles The Book Monster author Emma Yarlett!

I've just started The Raven King and, as expected, it's AMAZING! I'm really tempted by one of these awesome #SaveGansey T-shirts. Prior to starting this fourth book, I read through Maggie Stiefvater's own fantastic recaps for The Recaptains of the first three books in the quartet!

The Reading Well For Young People scheme which has just launched, with a list of books to help teenagers with mental health issues, looks excellent. And some more great recommendations for YA novels dealing with mental health from Jess Hearts Books.

This flowchart on when authors should respond to negative reviews is BRILLIANT.

Maximum Pop recapped last week's brilliant #ChatClassics!

I'll be heading over to Daphne's house in a few weeks with some of our friends to help pack May's Illumicrate boxes! Have you subscribed yet? Get in now while there's still some left!

My friend Jen (author of The Crooked Sixpence which is coming in a few months and which you'll LOVE!) has a new website!

Really fantastic post from Gav on why seeing live performances is a must for GCSE drama students!

And a superb piece from Kaleb Horton on MTV paying tribute to legendary country singer Merle Haggard.

What have been your favourite posts of the week? Leave me a comment if there's any you want to share with me!

Friday 15 April 2016

#6Degrees: The Jungle Book to... (guest post by Chelle from Tales of Yesterday)

Really happy to continue #6Degrees today with one of my favourite bloggers, Chelle from the fantastic Tales of Yesterday, guest posting!

I have never read The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and after receiving it from the lovely people at Scholastic at their recent #BookBloggersFeast I have added it to my TBR for the #2016ClassicsChallenge hosted by the lovely Stacey! Another book on my #2016ClassicsChallenge TBR this year is The Mystery Of The Burnt Cottage by Enid Blyton.

The Mystery Of The Burnt Cottage by Enid Blyton is a book that I have not read for absolutely years!  I love these books so much and always try to solve the mysteries. Just like I tried and failed to do with the brilliant Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens.

I read this first book, Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens last year and since then three more books from the series have been added to my TBR. A fab murder mystery with a fab cast of characters including the fab super sleuths Daisy and Hazel. Another book with a brilliant character is The Shadow Keeper by Abi Elphinstone.

The Shadow Keeper by Abi Elphinstone returns us to the magical world of Moll and Gryff and after reading Abi’s debut The Dreamsnatcher last year me and my son are thoroughly enjoying reading the sequel. Another sequel I am super excited to read this year is The Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine.

The Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine looks absolutely stunning and I cannot wait to read it!  I recently went to a fascinating #BrumHist event at Waterstones Birmingham where I heard Katherine talk about historical fiction with Helen Maslin, Emma Carroll and Lauren James.  It was a brilliant event and the lovely Rhian Ivory hosted the chat whose book The Boy Who Drew The Future sounds all kinds of brilliant!

*nervously opens the book*

Thank you Chelle for an awesome guest post!

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from April 2nd!

Wednesday 13 April 2016

5-4-3-2-1: Sophia Bennett

As a huge fan of Sophia Bennett's, I'm super-excited to celebrate the publication this month of her brilliant Love Song (Chicken House) by having her take part in 5-4-3-2-1!

FIVE relationships I love reading about

•    Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. She’s famous for rejecting him. He’s snooty about her ‘lost bloom’. But the letter of abject adoration he writes her, when she’s watching him and assuming he’s writing to someone else, makes me shiver every time I read it. (Did I go on to marry an ex-naval officer? Oh yeah, I did.)
•    Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, from Strong Poison. Clever Lord Peter, with his ‘long face’ and ‘sensitive hands’ and occasional PTSD from the trenches in the First World War, is my crush, and has been since I was at school. He falls in love with equally clever Harriet from the moment he sees her in the dock, accused of her lover’s murder. She is doomed to hang unless he can save her. I just love how complicate their affair is, even though they both love each other hopelessly. And Harriet is a successful lady detective novelist. Who could successful-lady-detective-novelist Dorothy Sayers could possibly have based her on?
•    Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. My favourite bits are the quotes that Bertie starts off and Jeeves finishes for him, and the underlying niggles about Bertie’s wardrobe from the ultra-conservative Jeeves. When he (inevitably) saves the day, Bertie has to say goodbye to his soft-fronted evening shirts, or his natty new hat. Jeeves is such a slave driver.
•    Bernadette and Bee in Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple. Bernadette is a genius architect, missing from her home in Seattle, and Bee is her 15-year old daughter, trying to find her. There’s a moment before Bernadette disappears where she and Bee sit in the car together, listening to a whole Beatles album, track by track. It’s how mothers and daughters should be. I love the bond they have.
•    Eleanor and Park. Her hair, her decorated wrists, her refusal to be beaten by the world that seems to be against her. His inner strength, his persistence, his all-out love for her. That ending. Rainbow Rowell is a master and that is all.

FOUR authors I’d want with me if I was stranded on a desert island

•    Andy Weir, who wrote The Martian. a) It’s one of the best books I’ve EVER READ. EVER. Totally thrilling from first page to last, and funny too. b) Matt Damon starred in the film, so we could talk about Matt Damon. Quite a lot. c) It’s a very well-researched, up to date book about extreme survival in difficult circumstances. We’d be totally fine.
•    Matt Damon. He co-wrote Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck and won an Oscar for the screenplay. That counts as being an author, right?
•    Boccaccio and Chaucer. I’m cheating by having them together as a couple. Also by bringing them back to life. They’re both the BEST storytellers, with an endless fund of silly, rude, funny tales to tell. They’d be perfect around the campfire. (Built by Andy, obvs. See above.)
•    JK Rowling. I know – she’s on everyone’s desert island. She probably lives there by now, has her own beach house and everything. She rocks. She owns Twitter. She invented Hermione Granger. She has a good sense of humour. We can admire Matt Damon together.

THREE items of swag I’d love to see made for my books

Totally into the swag. I was starting to think about the swag even while I was writing Threads (although funnily enough, I never thought about foreign translations, which is what actually happened).

•    Pencil cases with Crow’s dancing girls on them from Threads
•    Converse as customised by Nonie, with French swearwords, doodles and cartoon Kapow!s
•    T-shirts saying ‘Love Is What Hearts Are For’ from Love Song. Hmmmmm: now I’ve said that I really want those.

TWO places I love to read

•    The wide, sun-filled windowsill of a rambling country house
•    The plane to New York

(Makes it sound like I do these all the time. I hardly ever do either – but when I do, oh boy.)

ONE song that sums up the last novel I wrote perfectly

•    ‘I’m not in love’ by 10CC. Yeah, right. Just listen to the plaintive, whistful melody, guys. You so are.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

February Recap

Okay, I'm slow, but I get there in the end! 


Spotlight, which I saw with Debbie, was really excellent. I thought it was a superbly-acted and really hard-hitting look at the scandal of abuse in the Catholic church, and the dark humour which ran through it at times stopped it from being unbearably bleak. Massively powerful, it's easy to see why this has done so well in awards - I said in my January recap that Room would have my vote of the five Best Picture nominees I'd seen at that point, but I'm glad this won.

I went with Stacey to see my first Cineworld secret screening, hoping against hope that it would be Deadpool, but knowing it was pretty unlikely. It turned out to be Triple 9, which I'm not sure I'd have seen normally, but actually enjoyed. Woody Harrelson's performance was especially good, while I thought the plot was better than I was expecting from the trailer, with a couple of interesting twists.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a fun watch - I really liked most of the cast, Matt Smith stealing the show as Mr Collins in so many scenes, but Lily James making a wonderful Elizabeth. I also thought the humour worked well, and the action scenes were decent. Minor quibble is that the VERY ending (post-credit scene) annoyed the heck out of me, but well worth watching anyway.

Me, Debbie, Stacey, Charlie and Lili went to see Deadpool, which we were all highly anticipating and definitely lived up to expectations! One of my two favourite superhero movies of recent years (the other being Guardians of the Galaxy), I loved the humour here and thought the film captured the feel of the comics brilliantly. It was also really exciting, with some superb sequences.

I saw Jem and the Holograms with Debbie not really knowing what to expect - I was a big fan of the cartoon as a kid and have enjoyed what I've read of the recent comics. As an adaptation it seems kind of pointless, it's so far away from the original. (Does Jem have THAT many fans that the name value is worth it?!) Taken on its own terms, I really enjoyed it though - it's a cute script, Aubrey Peeples as Jem and the other lead girls are really good, the the music is fun and the ending was just what I wanted. In addition, the mid-credits scene has me intrigued for a possible sequel. (Although not convinced that's particularly likely, to judge from the box office.)

Me and Faye saw The Finest Hours, which was basically everything I expected/wanted from a Disney disaster movie. Fairly maudlin story, but well-acted - especially by Chris Pine and Holliday Grainger, the storm felt suitably epic, and the ending felt sentimental and a bit manipulative, but worked. (Hey, I cried!)

My film of the month - and my favourite central performance this year by some way - was Trumbo, with Bryan Cranston magnificent as the screenwriter blacklisted by 1950s Hollywood. Funny, moving, dramatic and featuring a fantastic script with pretty much every actor outstanding, I thought this was breathtakingly good. (Also it's too spoilery to get specific, but Dean O'Gorman as Kirk Douglas has one of my favourite lines ever.)

Others I saw and was less keen on - The Revenant (soooo long!), Dad's Army (ending was good, but overall thought I'd have been better just watching three episodes of the original TV series!) and Secret in their Eyes (was really enjoying but the ending killed it for me.)


I saw Cirque Berserk with Debbie, who's a big circus fan and who's getting me interested in it. I thought it was slightly mixed overall but the best bits were brilliant and it was definitely worth seeing. The acrobats were clearly the highlight for me, and I'm keen to see more from Zippo's in the future - they're definitely a company to watch.

My parents came down for the weekend and we went to see Sunny Afternoon together, as my dad's a big fan of The Kinks. The script is terrible, even by jukebox musical standards, but there are some outstanding songs here - especially in the second half. An acapella version of Days, in particular, was completely gorgeous and it was pretty much worth seeing the show for that alone. If you're a fan of the band, this is one that definitely won't disappoint.

Show of the month is a joint one again - I saw In The Heights (one of last month's winners!) for the third time in four months and, as previously, it was tremendous. Keris, Susie and Lili who came with me all agreed that this is a really fantastic show. However I also saw Nell Gwynn, somewhat unexpectedly, grabbing a front row day seat for just £15. Gemma Arterton in the title role is incredible, the rest of the cast are excellent too (I was especially thrilled to see Michelle Dotrice, a childhood crush of mine!) and it's an utterly hilarious script. I prefer musicals to straight plays normally but this was really amazingly good.

Other cool stuff

I went to lots of amazing launches, for authors I really love! In London, I attended launches for Melinda Salisbury's The Sleeping Prince with LOTS of my favourite bloggers (followed by Nando's afterwards, which is always good!), Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands and Katherine Woodfine's Mystery of the Jewelled Moth - both with Charlie and Stacey - and Abi Elphinstone's The Shadow Keeper with too many amazing people to mention. (And followed that one up by going for cocktails with Debbie at The Marylebone just down the road from Daunt Books, before she headed over to the O2 for a Coldplay gig.)

I also ventured outside of London to Brighton's Waterstones for the launch of Beautiful Broken Things, Sara Barnard's debut. I don't make it to that many events in Brighton as it sometimes seems just that little bit too far, but there was no way I was missing the launch of this - it's one of my favourite UKYA books of the year and it was fantastic to celebrate with Sara.

Another great bookish event was the Faber blogger brunch, which saw fabulous authors Laure Eve and Alwyn Hamilton talk about their books. I'm already a big fan of Alwyn's Rebel of the Sands and am desperate to read The Graces after hearing tantalising things about it from Laure herself, and from various lucky authors on Twitter who've read early! (Sadly I had to decline an invitation to join some friends at Ma' Plucker's afterwards which was a shame as it sounded BRILLIANT - check out Debbie's review here.)

We went to Simmons Bar Tower Bridge, a new venue for #drinkYA. I'm not sure we'd go back, as it wasn't that convenient for most people, but they had some nice cocktails and a great crowd of people turned up so it was a fun evening.

Two really fun afternoons at my friend Daphne's house - book club was great as always, but we also got the excitement of helping put together boxes for her brilliant Illumicrate! It was fantastic to help out with these (and I was super-excited to get mine!), and I've loved seeing the reactions from people receving them. (Although was it really too much to hope for that in all of the unboxings ONE person would comment saying that the pencils were especially well-packed?!) I'm looking forward to going back to help pack up the May boxes, and would highly recommend subscribing if you love great books and awesome swag!

I also planned the 5-4-3-2-1 feature which started at Teens on Moon Lane and moved over to this blog during February - it was amazing to get books picked out for pretty much the entire year, and a 'wishlist' of contributors sorted, really quickly. I had lots of help with that from my friend Caitlin - huge thanks to her! (Also go read her awesome blog at Chronically Caitlin!)

There will be a books recap over at Teens on Moon Lane eventually (although I've not actually got the January one up there yet, so should probably sort that one first, or follow Caitlin's advice and combine the two...) but I also wanted to give a shout out to Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, which is my favourite UKYA book of the year so far. In Alice's second book she gives us a stunning story looking at the weight of expectations, internet culture, different kinds of love and so much more. It has a diverse set of characters who are brilliantly portrayed and this is an absolute must-read.

Have you written a February recap? (And/or a March one, assuming you're more timely than me?) Link me in the comments!

Sunday 10 April 2016

Recent(ish) Links Recap 15th March - 10th April

Haven't done this for a while, and this is nowhere near comprehensive, but I wanted to share some amazing posts!

Kicking off with one of mine for a change as I'm quite proud of it, especially as it was written fairly quickly - I posted about what I do for self-care as part of the #ClaimYourDays hashtag.

This Storify from Justina Ireland on white people writing POC, and the importance of #ownvoices, is a must-read.

In addition, Justina has put together an amazing database of people willing to work as sensitivity readers, reading manuscripts to help authors writing outside their own experiences by picking up on problematic language, internalized bias. It's a stunning resource which can be found here. (On that topic, there's a brilliant post from Kayla Whaley on being a 'sensitivity reader' here.)

Awesome Malorie Blackman interview with The Bookseller here. I've just read Chasing The Stars and really enjoyed it!

And another great interview with an incredible author, Refinery29 talking to Louise O'Neill ahead of the US release of Asking For It.

Fantastic post from Grace on her tattoos and a brilliant recap of the Be True To Yourself event at Waterstones Piccadilly. And her open letter to 'the fatality' is deeply moving.

As ever, a ton of excellent posts by Caitlin! I especially loved her ones on managing insomnia, on Marvel vs DC on the small screen, and her love letter to technology. (Although she missed the MAIN great thing about technology which is that it lets all of her friends down here keep in touch with her!)

And completing my trio of my favourite blogs, along with Cait and Grace, some outstanding posts on Safe Space as always. I thought Jess's post on her mental health journey, focusing on medication, was superb and can't wait to read part 2 later this month on therapy. Another brilliant post was Jo's moving tribute to her nan

Lili's travel diary continues to be superb - I love this post, on her ten favourite British snacks, in particular! (Although I NEED to introduce her to Galaxy Caramel ASAP.)

If you're looking for bookish Tumblrs to follow, Stacey posted some great recs!

And for book recommendations, Daphne is always fantastic - I loved her post with 10 reasons to read the Winner's series by Marie Rutkoski!

Love this Maximum Pop quiz - can you match the tagline to the YA novel? (I got 10/12)

And some brilliant blog tours going on at the moment - a few favourite posts.On Minerva Reads, Emma Yarlett talks us through how to draw Nibbles The Book Monster! On Snuggling on the Sofa, Susin Nielsen talks about her high school experiences. And on this blog, I took part in the Create Your Own Spy Mission blog tour brilliantly organised by Faye Rogers!

Lots of great #6degrees posts here, from Keris Stainton, Debbie, Sofi Croft and me.

I'm hugely excited for the sold-out YA Salon on Tuesday featuring Ann M Martin and super-fans Holly Bourne and Laura Dockrill! This piece about a woman taking fashion inspiration from the Babysitters' Club is awesome.

I headed to Oxford, and Storified the two events I saw at the literary festival there - Nicolette Jones interviewing Katherine Rundell and Anna James chairing a fabulous Stars of YA panel!

Speaking of great Storifies, love this one from Stacey of #ChatClassics!

The first authors have been announced for YALC! David Levithan, Nina LaCour, VE Schwab and Maggie Stiefvater are four US authors I'm especially thrilled about seeing, and it's fantastic to see so many brilliant UK and Irish authors appearing (many of them returning to YALC, but also I'm excited for great debut author Alwyn Hamilton and the legendary Melvin Burgess!)

Reminder that you can buy tickets HERE!

Friday 8 April 2016

#6Degrees: The Jungle Book to... (Sofi Croft guest post)

I'm really looking forward to reading Indigo's Dragon by Sofi Croft, coming in June from Accent YA, so it was great to have her on the blog today taking part in the 6 Degrees feature!

The Jungle Book, one of my all time favourite books, was reimagined by Neil Gaiman in The Graveyard Book, where instead of being raised by animals, an orphaned boy is raised by amicable ghosts.

Another book with a friendly ghost is Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss, in which the main character, Francis, is a boy who loves fashion. 

The Young Elites by Marie Lu also features a boy with an eye for fashion, Raffaele, who is a malfetto with supernatural abilities.

Superpowers are also found in Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh, where they are imparted to people by mysterious coloured spheres.

And finally a book containing a different type of balls - a story about basketball and brotherhood, written in verse, is The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

Follow Sofi on Twitter where she's @croftdragon.

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from April 2nd

And check back next week for Chelle's guest post, along with two other fantastic ones later in the month! 

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Mini-review Plus My Artwork: Create Your Own Spy Mission by Chris and Andrew Judge

Thanks to Scholastic for sending me a copy of new book Create Your Own Spy Mission! This reminds me of some of the activity books I grew up reading and was really fun to do, as I enjoyed working my way through part of it. (I didn't manage the entire book - like Chelle yesterday, I recoiled at the thought of poking holes in a book, folding it, or ripping parts out. Unlike Chelle, I didn't have a handy 10-year-old to take over, so I skipped bits...)

What I did do, however, was good fun and I liked steering Ethan through his adventure, drawing bits, solving codes, and navigating his way through mazes. Check out a few of my favourite pictures below!


Do you recognise the below covers of other Scholastic books? Leave me a comment if you can tell what any of them are! (I may be overestimating my artistic ability...)

Information about the Book
Title: Create Your Own Spy Mission
Author: Andrew and Chris Judge
Release Date: 7th April 2016
Genre: Create Your Own Doodle – MG
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Format: Paperback
Book Website:

Author Information
Chris Judge is an award winning picture book author/illustrator (THE LONELY BEAST, TIN) and co-author, with comedian David O'Doherty, of DANGER IS EVERYWHERE. Chris's work continues to feature in advertising, newspapers, magazines and exhibitions in the UK and Ireland.

Andrew Judge has written and illustrated countless short stories and comics with his brother Chris, including regular features for arts and culture magazines Mongrel and Totally Dublin. Andrew lives and works as an architect in Ireland.

Tour Schedule

Monday 4th April

Tuesday 5th April

Wednesday 6th April

Thursday 7th April

Friday 8th April

Saturday 9th April

Sunday 10th April