Saturday, 28 May 2016

#6Degrees: Only Ever Yours To... (Guest Post by Louise O'Neill)

#6Degrees continues and, as we've been doing Louise O'Neill's amazing Only Ever Yours this month, it's fantastic to have Louise herself here to do today's chain! For more from Louise, check out her website and her fabulous Twitter account.

I wrote Only Ever Yours, a dystopian novel that deals with the pressure on women to attain an often unattainable ideal of beauty, in 2012 and it was very much inspired by my own struggles with anorexia and bulimia.

One of the best books I have ever read that deals with eating disorders is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's a beautiful exploration of the torture of anorexia and the tricks that your mind plays on you.

Laurie Halse Anderson also wrote Speak which has been banned on numerous occasions. Another author who has found herself on Banned Books lists is Judy Blume. Her novel Blubber was the first book I remember reading in which the main character was bullied because of her weight.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy also deals with fat-shaming and is one of the most charming books that I have read in the last year.

Another incredibly charming and poignant book which features a fat protagonist is Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I cried so much when I finished.

The last book before that which made me cry was Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan, an Irish author who isn't afraid to tackle issues as controversial as abuse and incest.

Thanks, Louise, for a great post!

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from May 7th!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

#6Degrees: Only Ever Yours To... (Guest Post by Grace from Almost Amazing Grace)

Thrilled to hit NINE HUNDRED POSTS on the blog today!! And especially delighted that the 900th is from one of the most awesome people I know, Grace of Almost Amazing Grace, as she takes part in the #6degrees feature.

Only Ever Yours is a dystopian masterpiece that tackles key issues facing womankind day-to-day by showing just how bad it could get someday, in the future. Women will start to be designed, not born. Men will be our superiors and we will worship them suitably. The Eves are rated on their appearance and compared constantly. 'Feminist' is a dirty word and an insult.

Another great YA that takes feminism super seriously, as we all should, is Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne. My mum actually recently read this book, I practically forced her with my constant chatter about how important and excellent it is, and she said she loved the feminist angles.

Am I Normal Yet? centres around a character with OCD, a very serious mental illness that must never be underestimated or shrugged off. In the past year Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig has become my ultimate go-to guide on mental illness; where it comes from, what brings it about, who is likely to get struck down by it (anywhere, anything, anyone!) and done wonders for awareness.

One of the things discussed in this book was suicide and it opened with Matt Haig standing atop a cliff in Spain, ready to jump. Suicide is another serious issue, and is addressed from a teen's perspective in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. In this story troubled Leonard is inspired by and confides in his teacher, Herr Silverman.

The teacher-student bond can be so important and helpful. Another great example would be in Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky, when 12 year-old Grayson Sender is trapped in the wrong gender's body and dreams of being seen as a girl. Her teacher Mr Finnegan (known to many students as Finn) gives her the lead female role in the school play, and so her true self soon shines through.

Birdy by Jess Vallance is about the two best friends Frances and Alberta, who find each other and have a roller coaster relationship. One of the catalysts for mayhem is Alberta being cast in a play with other peers and not Frances...

Thanks for an awesome guest post, Grace!

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from May 7th!

Friday, 13 May 2016

#6Degrees: Only Ever Yours To... (Guest Post by Cat Doyle)

#6Degrees continues today, and who better to celebrate Louise O'Neill's stunning book than another fabulous Irish author, Cat Doyle? Thrilled to welcome Cat, whose books Vendetta and Inferno (both published by Chicken House) have launched her onto the YA scene as a major talent. She is also brilliant on Twitter - follow her at @doyle_cat!

Only Ever Yours is a powerful and moving debut written by a fantastic Irish author. Another wonderful debut by an Irish author is The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.

The Accident Season is a haunting, lyrical tale with underpinnings of magical realism and some big family secrets. This eerie sense of all not quite being what it seems also underpins We Were Liars by E.Lockhart.  

We Were Liars delivers a hard, swift punch to the heart. It made me cry, which, while unsettling, is always a good thing. It touched me; it swept me up inside it. Another book that recently swept me up, made me forget my surroundings and then made me cry like a baby was The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

The Girl of Ink and Stars follows a brave young girl who goes on a dangerous adventure to protect those she loves. This keen sense of bravery and determination is typical of Shahrzad, the female protagonist in The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adhieh. She infiltrates the palace of the callous prince in order to neutralize his hold on the women of the city. I read this only recently, and it has quickly become one of my favourite books of all time.

The Wrath and the Dawn is also a beautiful, exciting love story. Another compelling love story can be found in The Next Together by Lauren James, which provides not one, but several, romantic arcs with the same (but slightly different) funny, endearing characters. Like Only Ever Yours, this is another one of my favourite debuts of all time.

Thanks for a fantastic guest post, Cat!

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from May 7th!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Blog Tour For Mystery And Mayhem: Frances Hardinge

I loved Egmont's fantastic new Mystery And Mayhem MG anthology, and Frances Hardinge's story was one of my very favourites, so it's great to have her on the blog today!

The (Not So) Great Hardinge Detective Agency

The mystery bug bit me early. I was hooked by Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and after that there was no hope for me. I gobbled my way through the Three Investigators series, and then dipped into adult murder mysteries – Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Ngaio Marsh.

And when I got home from school, at 6pm there were often old black-and-white mystery films on TV, with detectives like the Saint, the Falcon, the Thin Man, Mr Moto, Charlie Chan, and Sherlock Holmes. The movies were mostly made in the 1940s, so there were fantastic hats, gangsters, trenchcoats with turned up collars, femme fatales and old-fashioned police cars with running boards on the sides that people could crouch on. I loved those films.

No prizes for guessing where I got my taste in hats.

It was my sister, however, who came up with the idea of setting up our own detective agency. (When embarking on daring projects of this sort, I thoroughly recommend having a high quality sibling.) We were ten and nine years old at the time.

We owned a book called the Detective's Handbook, which told us how to look for clues, keep files, tail suspects and so on. I drew business cards for the agency in felt tip, cut out newspaper clippings about local crimes, and created files on suspicious characters. I even wrote a file on our guinea pig, for reasons I can't now remember. I think I may have gotten a little carried away.

Unfortunately, we never actually solved any crimes. It wasn't for want of trying, though. There was one man that we suspected of being a thief, and so we enthusiastically tailed him for a bit. We even tried to take his fingerprints by stealth, using talcum and sellotape. (This didn't work At All. The poor man probably still wonders how his lawnmower ended up covered in talcum powder.)

The problem is, most real criminals are very unsporting. A lot of them are complete strangers who commit their skulduggery and then go away again, rather than hanging around the scene of the crime, acting suspiciously and dropping clues. How were we supposed to solve crimes like that?

Despite the less-than-total success of the Hardinge Detective Agency, my love of detective stories has never died. All of my books are, in some way, mysteries. There are always schemes to be detected, secrets to be deduced, and sometimes murderers to be unmasked.

Why? Mysteries are exciting. The detective and criminal are locked in a battle of wits, and the stakes are usually high. And a detective story challenges the reader to use their own wits, and wrestle with the puzzle. To play detective.

There's a lot to be said for thinking like a detective, even in ordinary life without an ingenious crime in sight.

Don't be afraid to dig for the truth. Don't take anything for granted. Don't judge people or situations at face value. Look at the evidence, and make up your own mind.

Think for yourself.

Check out the rest of the fantastic blog tour at the sites below!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Cover Reveal: Purge by Kat Ellis

Really excited to reveal the cover for Kat Ellis's upcoming book, PURGE, today! This awesome-looking cover, for a book which sounds fascinating, was designed by Anne Glenn.

PURGE will be published by Firefly Press - 8 September, 2016.

Mason has a habit of getting into trouble. He's been kicked out of every place he's ever lived in. Moving to the cult-like community of Alteria is definitely a last resort, even if it's better than braving the wastelands outside. But following their strict rules is a hundred times harder when Mason meets Eden, who has a wicked streak to match his own.

When Eden is caught with contraband, she’s forced into a virtual reality programme to purge her bad behaviour. But Mason has seen what happens to people who go in and he knows Eden will never be the same. He'll lose her forever unless he follows her into the programme - where he will have no memory of himself, or how to escape.

Failure isn't an option when it means being purged from existence.



Kat Ellis is a young adult writer from North Wales. You'll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, taking photographs in cemeteries, or watching scary films with her husband. Her debut novel, BLACKFIN SKY, came out in 2014 and was a Junior Library Guild Fall Pick and a YALSA Popular Paperbacks Pick for Murder, Mystery and Mayhem. BREAKER (Running Press Kids) will be released in May 2016, followed by PURGE (Firefly Press) in September 2016.

Connect with Kat:

Blog  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Friday, 6 May 2016

#6Degrees: Only Ever Yours to...

As ever, a huge thank you to Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman for letting me use their idea for the 6Degrees meme. If you want to join in, just start with Only Ever Yours (picked as it's the first ever winner of the YA Book Prize, and the second will be announced in just under a month at Hay!) and make your own chain of six books, linking in any way you like. (And remember to add the link at the end!)

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill was the well-deserved winner of the inaugural YA Book Prize, beating 9 other brilliant books to take the accolade. Another fantastic 2015 book which won a prestigious award was Frances Hardinge's The Lie Tree, which became only the second ever children's book to win the overall Costa.

The Lie Tree's heroine is called Faith, and she's a wonderful character - tenacious, loyal to her dead father's memory, brave and intelligent. Another Faith I love is Candy Harper's lead character in her stunning series, which started with Have A Little Faith.

Have A Little Faith is definitely the book I've owned the most copies of, having bought around 15 at various times to pass on to people. Another I own multiple copies of is Lisa Williamson's gorgeous, heart-warming The Art Of Being Normal.

The Art of Being Normal was the first book I've read to feature a trans character in a lead role. Since then I've read several really good ones but one that I'm especially excited about is trans author Meredith Russo's If I Was Your Girl, coming out here next month - it's a really stunning read, wonderfully written and with a fabulous main character.

Finally, If I Was Your Girl is one of my very favourite debuts in a year packed full of some great new authors. Another is Sara Barnard's Beautiful Broken Things, an outstanding novel about a complicated friendship between three teen girls.

Check back in future weeks for great guest posts from Cat Doyle, Grace from Almost Amazing Grace, and one other to be announced! And please take part on your own blog and leave a link below!


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Classic Children's/YA: Tom Nicoll on James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

My semi-regular classic children's feature has become a lot less regular recently, so I was delighted to get Tom Nicoll on board to talk about Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, and the unusual friendships James forms. I'm really excited to read Tom's There's A Dragon In My... series, published by Stripes - especially as they're illustrated by Sarah Horne, who's a favourite of mine! 

James and the Giant Peach

Number of books: Standalone

Availability: Widely available in pretty much every format going apart from possibly cave paintings.

The Premise: James Henry Trotter loses his parents to a tragic rhinoceros accident and then has to live with his two horrible aunts. Lonely and abused, as kids often seem to be in Roald Dahl stories, he then meets an old man who gives him a bag of crystals. James accidentally drops the crystals on his aunts’ peach tree which causes the tree to spout a giant peach. Inside said peach, James meets a bunch of human-sized insects. One thing leads to another and they all end up crossing the Atlantic on the peach. As you do.

Why I Really Like It:  I devoured Roald Dahl books growing up. Terry Wogan used to say that he performed his radio shows to an audience of one and reading Dahl always felt similar, as if the books were written just for me. Now, I’ve since checked and it turns out Roald Dahl books are quite popular so he probably didn’t write them just for me. James and the Giant Peach was a particular favourite, and was written a full twenty-two years before I was even born, lending further evidence to the idea that it’s not all about me. I’ve always loved stories about unusual friendships. They’re a common theme in Roald Dahl stories but what I think I admire the most about them is the imaginative approaches Dahl takes to resolving the issue of his character’s loneliness. In James, you have a young orphan with no friends in the world. What’s the solution? That’s right: befriend some overgrown insects and emigrate to America on a huge piece of fruit. Of course that’s what you would do! Duh! I also love the fact that within the first few chapters you have parental deaths, child abuse and dodgy men in bushes giving kids bags of strange chemicals. Roald Dahl books are basically the intersection of a Venn diagram between Funny Children’s books and Misery Memoirs.

Who It Will Appeal To: We read this to my daughter when she was four and she seemed to enjoy it, though I think six and up is probably about right to get most of the jokes and general silliness contained within. And if Donald Trump becomes President and builds his huge wall, then you may want to read this book if you’re looking for alternative US migration strategies. Also, if both of your parents happened to have been eaten by an escaped rhinoceros then this book may be especially poignant to you.

Others By The Same Author: Matilda, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, The BFG, The Twits, The Witches and lots more.

Tom Nicoll is the author of There’s a Dragon in My Dinner!, illustrated by Sarah Horne and There’s a Dragon in My Backpack! out this week. Look out for There’s a Dragon in My Toilet! coming later this year!  

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Recent Links Recap 26th April - 2nd May

Tickets are on sale for YA Shot! I'll be there, along with my amazing friend Grace - will you be joining us? And as well as a lot of amazing authors announced, the blogging/vlogging workshops this year look superb! Also you should check out Grace's #AskGracie blog post as it is AWESOME.

Speaking of bloggers, the UKYA Book Blogger awards are back, with the lovely Luna of Luna's Little Library taking over from fabulous Faye, who did an amazing job hosting last year!

It was a huge week for YA event announcements, with YA Shot's box office opening and YALC announcing their final authors - hugely excited that Alice Oseman, Lauren James, Lucy Ivison, Tom Ellen, Sophia Bennett, Keren David and Keris Stainton, amongst others, have been added to a stunning line-up! Also, the Harry Potter Party in conjunction with MuggleNet - definitely a highlight of last year! - will return.

Con or Bust, who help POC/nonwhite/BAME fans get to conventions, are holding an awesome auction at the moment.

Also, it was amazing to see the YA community rally around Vee to get them to BEA! Vee, a non-binary teen who tweets as @findmereading and founded the exceptional Gay YA, set up a GoFundMe to try and raise money to get to the convention after circumstances changed. Vee is a carer for their mother which has made it difficult for them to get a job, but the work they've put into Gay YA is absolutely incredible and I'm so glad that people have seen how important they, and the site, are to the community and responded by donating so much. Check out Vee's thank you post here.

There's a fantastic Guardian piece by Holly Smale on why children's and YA books need darkness AND light. And a superb piece on whether it's normal to have sex when you don't want to on the Mail website from Holly Bourne. Plus, I loved this Non Pratt post on Author Allsorts talking about 'show don't tell'. Plus a fabulous author spotlight/interview with Meredith Russo, author of the WONDERFUL If I Was Your Girl, on Dahlia Adler's LGBTQ Reads.  Also on LGBTQ Reads, the first Around The Blogosqueer, with the wonderful Lauren James! And loving Dahlia's Storify of her 'editing without much time' tips. Plus really awesome contemporary recommendations here from Lying About Last Summer author Sue Wallman on my friend Debbie's brilliant Snuggling on the Sofa blog!

The Pride and Prejudice colouring book from Little Tiger looks gorgeous! Do you want to win it? Check out fabulous competitions hosted by Stacey at Pretty Books, and by Maximum Pop

There's still time to sign up for the TommyvsCancer blog tour in June, to support Tommy Donbavand.

I love this Bustle piece on Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, (rightly!) calling it the one YA novel every Hufflepuff should read.

I was SO THRILLED to interview Maggie Stiefvater to hear about The Raven King, released last week!

Sci-fi fans, don't miss Jeff Norton's Star Pressed! I haven't read yet, but it sounds very cool, and is on Wattpad in its entirety.

Away from books, a brilliant Frankie Boyle piece on the importance of the NHS in the Guardian. Also on health, a must-read Safe Space post by Laura on antidepressants and how much they've helped her. As well, on Safe Space, a really stunning post from Jess on reclaiming herself, one strand at a time - about her new haircut, and recovering from an abusive relationship.

I don't tend to watch videos that often on YouTube, but this from Jen Campbell on ableism and minority representation is hugely important.

And a final reminder, we'll be packing up Illumicrate soon ready to send out! If you want a May box, subscribe now - don't wait - there weren't many left last time I checked! (And that was a couple of days ago.)

Any other fantastic posts over the last week or so that I've missed? Let me know in the comments!