Thursday, 30 June 2016

#6Degrees Of Women Who Love Women by Charlie Morris

Really delighted to welcome my awesome friend Charlie - who is one of my go-to people for book recommendations - to the blog today to round off Pride month with a final #6Degrees!

I am honoured to be rounding off Pride Month and Jim’s series of LGBTQ* themed #6Degrees feature with my guest post. Inspired by the amazing community and solidarity of the past month, I’ve picked some of my favourite reads with women who love women.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe is the amazing and devastating story of recovering teen pain killer addict, Sophie and her relationship with best friend turned romantic interest, Mina. When Mina is tragically killed, Sophie must look to the past and the future to lay her pain to rest. It’s a heartbreaking but beautiful story which takes the girls at its core entirely seriously. Furthermore, this is the book that says the B word, ON THE PAGE. Bisexual characters often get a raw deal in YA and the entertainment industry at large, but Tess’ Sophie is clear about who she is…and her romantic feelings for a boy complicate matters, even as she searches for Mina’s killer.  

From romantic tragedy to romantic bliss, Style by Chelsea Cameron is the antidote for anyone wanting to move away from the doom and gloom that a lot of queer stories tend to centre around. Gorgeous, blissful, hot and happy…these girls are unapologetically loved up. Like Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads To You and Keris Stainton’s Starring Kitty, Style is the story of emerging sexuality. But this has a decidedly NA kick, with the school nerd Kyle and the athletic cheerleader Stella (St+yle) developing from frenemies to reluctant English study partners to partners of a much more steamy variety. With heart eyes galore, this sweet fluffy romance is a sugary and delicious contemporary fairytale about a girl who really, really wants to kiss the girl.

Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember is another darker type of fairytale, and I fell head over heels for the amazing world building. Set in a safari landscape, it has a truly incredible sense of place, vivid and imaginative mythology, gripping and intense plot and wonderful characterisation. The relationship between Mnemba and Kara is a delightful exploration of mutual respect, friendship, trust and desire with a queer black girl and a plus size girl from a different land. The plot follows them as they track the elusive unicorn, before stumbling upon a poachers plot to capture the magnificent creatures into their service. 

Another title that has a plus sized protagonist and explores magical creatures is The Better to Kiss You With by Michelle Osgood, where supernatural elements fit seamlessly into everyday life. With commentary on gaming and fandom, the book follows Wolf’s Run, an RPG werewolf game moderated by our main protagonist Deanna. Through several encounters with her gorgeous butch introverted neighbour, Jamie, Deanna soon discovers that the world she rules as den mistress might not be so fictional after all. What’s more, there’s someone causing trouble on the boards, and they seem to be targeting Deanna in particular. A clever commentary on the perks and pitfalls of anonymity online.

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson is written by a couple of online writer friends, about a fandom friendship that turns into a passionate and obsessive love. Commentating on the extreme closeness that develops between two people who share both a mutual fan interest and their deepest thoughts and troubles through the safety of a keyboard and long distance, the relationship between these two girls is fraught with further tension due to the Finn’s long term boyfriend Charlie. With secrets of her own, Gena’s coping methods as she begins college aren’t always the healthiest, and Finn’s dedication is tested by the strength of her support of Gena’s mental health issues and troubled childhood memories.

And finally from fictional online loves to a real life couple, I was very excited to receive a copy of Lucy Sutcliffe’s Girl Heart Girl, the novelised memoir of her long distance relationship with fellow Youtuber, Kaelyn. With a huge international following, Lucy and Kaeyln’s journey to be together has been watched over 25 million times on their blog and vlogs, charting their day to day and developing feelings. I love that Youtube has given a platform for real women to share with honesty the truth of their relationship with those who want to find someone to relate to so badly, and can’t wait to read the book to find out more. It promises to be both uplifting and inspiring.

So there you go, from tragedy to hope. We could all do with some amazing stories to show us the world is a wonderful place filled with people from all across the rainbow spectrum sharing their lives and their loves. What better way than with a book?

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from June 4th!

For more from Charlie, check out out on Twitter where she's @charlieinabook! Or head over to the amazing Mugglenet site, where she's in charge of organising their brilliant author takeovers.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Recent Links: #IBW2016 Special Edition

So I have been planning ALL WEEK to make this an #IBW2016 special were links were SOLELY AND COMPLETELY related to #IBW2016, because it would make things super-quick to put together. Then of COURSE, some of my amazingly talented friends wrote some of the best pieces I've read all year and I decided there was no way I could leave them out. So this is a 'mostly #IBW2016' piece, but leading with four incredible blog posts (the first two of which both nearly made me cry.) Also, not a blog post but definitely worth checking - Wei Ming Kam, another awesome friend of mine, is doing a Queer Writer Of Colour Of The Day feature on her Instagram and it is FULL of amazing recommendations!

Faye - My Ace Journey

Debbie - Proud Of Being In Pride

Amber - How To Deal With YALC If You Have Anxiety

Grace - A Teeny Tiny Awkward Step

And now the #IBW2016 ones!

Prior to #IBW2016 starting, I blogged with my top ten reasons I love bookshops! During the week, I shared pictures of the awesome shortlists for the IBW Awards

I also did the #IBW2016 tag started by Will at Vintage Books as did the following people!

Simon from Savidge Reads
Clothes In Books
Erica at The Bookshop Around The Corner
Chelley at Tales of Yesterday
Emma from Howling Reviews
Grace from Almost Amazing Grace
Jasmine from Jazzy Fizzle

Other awesome posts related to the week!

Den of Geek's 50 Fabulous Indie Bookshops Around The UK

Maximum Pop's 8 Independent Bookshops You Need To Visit During #IBW2016

Lauren Laverne for The Pool on The Joy Of Books And Bookshops

Also on The Pool (have I mentioned recently I ADORE The Pool? Seriously, if I could only go to two websites ever - assuming I could still use the Twitter app - they would be The Pool and Safe Space) Kate Mosse talked about the magic of bookshops.

Indie Bound's 10 Weird Things To Happen In Independent Bookshops (inspired by Jen Campbell's Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops)
Also on Indie Bound, 10 Independent Bookshop Dogs!

(As cute as ALL of those dogs are, none of them is as cute as Buffy though!)

And 10 bookshops picked their favourite signs and favourite window displays.

Grace shared her family's favourite books.

Jen Campbell and Carys Bray did a bookshop tour!

The BBC did a piece on Carol Ann Duffy's Shore to Shore poetry tour

Scottish Booktrust - Indie Bookshops - Why They Are Good For Your Health And Wellbeing 

Erica shared an older post of hers explaining why she writes about bookshops. (I LOVE Erica's blog!)

Karin Goodwin from The Herald wrote an article on 'the fightback' of indie bookshops.

Edit: One more new post I can't bear to leave out - Katie Webber started the #BooksMakeItBetter hashtag on Twitter and Sophie Waters put together a brilliant post about it for Maximum Pop

Anything great I've missed? Leave me a comment!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Classic Children's: Katharine Corr on The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

One of my very favourite series EVER is Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence! It's fabulous to have Katharine Corr - co-author with her sister Elizabeth of The Witch's Kiss, coming next week from Harper Collins - to talk about it today.

The Dark is Rising Series, by Susan Cooper

Number of books: Five. In order, the series runs as follows: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree. But the books are strong enough to read out of order and as individual adventures. They were first published 1965 -1977.

Availability: All five books are still in print. My first copies were published under the Puffin label, but the most recent editions of the whole series are under the Red Fox imprint from PRH. You can also get a Vintage Children’s Classic edition of book 2, The Dark is Rising. The books are widely available second-hand and there’s an audio CD. Run screaming in the opposite direction if anyone tries to make you watch the horrible film adaptation. (Jim: I NEVER interrupt these features to offer my own thoughts, but I really REALLY have to stress that this is excellent advice.)

The premise: Good versus evil amidst the folklore of the English and Welsh countryside. For centuries, the Light has fought to protect the world of men from the unrelenting onslaught of the Dark. Now the final battle is approaching, and the fate of the world lies in the hands of five children, guided by the enigmatic Merriman Lyon. Before Midsummer’s Eve, they must beat the Dark and retrieve Things of Power (the Circle of Signs, the Grail, the Harp and the Crystal Sword), or risk the Light being thrown out of human time forever.

Why I really like it: The first book I read was The Dark Is Rising. I was 11, the same age as Will (the protagonist), and I can still remember the spine-tingling moment I spotted the book in my primary school.  The Dark Is Rising is set in suburban southern England, but the way Will’s everyday life becomes mingled with Arthurian myth and ancient folklore (Herne the Hunter and Wayland Smith are both in there) made the story simultaneously relatable and spellbinding. Like those of us waiting for our letter from Hogwarts a few years down the line, I could almost imagine that I might be revealed as one of the ‘Old Ones’, and pitched into a world of magical battles and time-travel. The real world settings of the books are brilliantly evoked; every time I read them, I believed magic could be happening right here, right now.

Best books: I have two favourites. The Dark is Rising is fascinating because we see Will discovering and learning to use his powers in his quest to recover the Signs. The midwinter/Christmas setting is particularly compelling: it’s a great book to read in December. The Grey King is set in Wales (around Aberdyfi) and introduces Bran, a teenage boy with mysterious parentage. With looming mountains, lake-dwelling monsters and possession, it has moments of real heart-stopping menace.

Who will it appeal to: the series as a whole is pitched towards MG or the younger end of YA, but the stories are magical enough to appeal to anyone who likes their fantasy set in the contemporary world. Sara Crowe’s Bone Jack has a similar sense of the deep-running roots of English/Welsh mythology.

Other books by the same author: Susan Cooper has written a lot: fiction for children and adults, picture books, non-fiction. King of Shadows and Victory are both enjoyable time-slip adventures.

Thank you for a fabulous piece, Katharine! Also want to second the recommendation for Bone Jack which is INCREDIBLE!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

#IBW2016 - The Independent Bookshop Week Book Award

I've been meaning to get this up for a while but I keep forgetting! As part of Independent Bookshop Week 2016, which started on 18th June and runs until 25th June, the lovely people at Books Are My Bag were kind enough to send me the shortlists for the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award. I was thrilled to get so many fantastic books, and before distributing numerous ones to friends and family (I kept a few, including the new Bill Bryson which I'm REALLY excited to read!) I took a few photos.

Picture book shortlist

YA/MG shortlist

Adult shortlist

All of them! (Including the gorgeous poetry collection Off The Shelf, edited by Carol-Ann Duffy - this won't hit chain bookshops until 8th September but is EXCLUSIVELY available in indie bookshops during #IBW2016.)

The results of the award were announced earlier this week.

Adult Category
The Green Road by Anne Enright (Vintage)
Children’s Category
Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (Oxford University Press)
Children’s Picture Book Category

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie (Bloomsbury Children's Books) 

Also if you're interested in winning any of the amazing books, check out this fantastic competition that Erica is running at The Bookshop Around The Corner!

To find out more about Independent Bookshop Week check out the official website and awesome Twitter feeds @IndieBound_UK and @BooksAreMyBag - are you taking part this year? I'll be doing the #bookshopcrawl on Saturday 25th June and will be glued to the hashtag seeing where people are going!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Cover Reveal: The Territory 2 - Escape by Sarah Govett

I've heard lots of brilliant things about The Territory by Sarah Govett! Really excited to be revealing the cover to the sequel, The Territory 2 - Escape, which will be published by Firefly Press on 13th October 2016. (The superb cover is designed by Anne Glenn, by the way!)

The year is 2059. 15-year-old Noa Blake has passed the exam to stay in the Territory – but her childhood friend Jack has been sent to disease-ridden Wetlands where most die. Noa and boyfriend Raf have vowed to rescue Jack, but how? After breaking out and dangerous adventures they find Jack, who, to Noa’s dismay, is with a girl called Martha and wants to stay. There is some hostility, but after raids by aggressive tribes they realise they can stop the Authorities dividing teenagers and sending them to their doom – they just need to break back in...

Friday, 17 June 2016

#6Degrees: Boy Meets Boy to... (Guest post by George Lester)

My #ReadProud #6Degrees continues today, and I'm really thrilled to be able to welcome my friend, awesome blogger George Lester, to the blog!

I was asked by wonderful human being Jim to be part of his #6Degrees blog feature for Pride Month and I couldn’t be happier to be able to throw my sparkly gay hat into the ring and share some of my favourite reads with you (and the occasionally tenuous links that tie them all together!)

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan is a positively gorgeous love story about a boy called Paul and a boy called Noah. They meet. It’s adorable. (Seriously, one of the best meet-cutes in YA) And the sweetest of romances ensues. This is the book that taught me that it is okay to be gay, to be who I am. It taught me that love and happiness is a possibility for me.

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is very much a book I consider to be the love child of time and Boy Meets Boy. While Boy Meets Boy is set in a wonderful, utopian town, it still shows us the outside world being pretty messed up (Tony. Oh TONY!) Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda is set today, in a much more accepting world that must have seemed a long way off when David Levithan first wrote Boy Meets Boy some 13 years ago.  Simon VS wouldn’t have existed back then.

Another book that probably wouldn’t have made it 13 years ago is This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson. Without a shadow of doubt, This Book Is Gay is one of the most important books ever written. It's bold, it's honest and, above all else, it's got heart. An absolutely stunning handbook of helpful stuff and things for members of the LGBTQIA community! It's the kind of book I really could've done with while I was growing up and has the potential to do so much good!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson is another book with the potential to do an awful lot of good in the world. It was my favourite book of 2014 (it came out right at the very end!) and absolutely blew my mind whilst giving me all of the feels ever. It was the first book I had ever read featuring a transgender protagonist and certainly one of the first to hit the mainstream in the way it did.

A book that deals with similar themes, though for a much younger audience, is George by Alex Gino. I found this book to be so sweet and refreshing, both in the way it handled the subject matter and also in the way it approached in for a younger audience. It is clever, bursting with heart, and so well put together, I cannot begin to even. It was edited, funnily enough, by David Levithan for Scholastic (who publish it in the US and the UK) and there was a quote from him on the cover of the UK edition. It also leads me rather nicely onto my final choice.

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton was edited for the PUSH imprint at Scholastic US by; you guessed it, David Levithan. It is a story of unrequited love between Tretch and his best friend, the struggles of coming out/being gay when you don’t feel like you’re in a safe environment, and coming to terms with it all. It’s absolutely beautiful and deals with so much more than I was expecting when I went into it. There are brilliant sub plots about family history, and a fantastic father son relationship that made me sob sob sob.

There you go! Some total faves there that I recommend you go out and take a look at (if you haven’t already). Thank you so much for having me Jim, this was so much fun! Don’t forget to check out the other posts that have appeared for this so far – they are SO FANTASTIC!

Thanks so much George, for a fantastic post! For more from George, check out his blog and YouTube channel, or his awesome Twitter account.

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from June 4th!

Monday, 13 June 2016

#IBW2016 Tag

(Huge thanks to my friend Ming for her feedback and help with this!)

So I was originally posting a recent links feature today, but I changed my mind slightly - I've got a few links that I would really love you to read, all of which are related to yesterday's horrific massacre in Orlando. After them, I've got my attempt at the #IBW2016 tag (created by Will Rycroft at Vintage Books), because in the face of hatred for the LGBTQIA community the best way to respond seemed to be with love, and so many of my answer are about the power and brilliance of LGBTQIA books, it seemed like a good time to share it.

Una Mullally: Orlando killings are an attack on all LGBT people

Caroline O'Donoghue: In a deeply troubled world, the Tony Awards remain a bright spark

Lin-Manuel Miranda's acceptance speech at the Tonys, paying tribute to Orlando

Jack Jenkins: The Other Group Mourning The Orlando Massacre: LGBT Muslims

Omar Sakr: A War on Homophobia

Statement from LGBTQI Muslim charity Imaan

Elle Dowd: Bi-phobia and the Pulse Massacre.

Sali Hughes on the Orlando shootings and gun control.

This Was Never Supposed To Happen To You

Aisha Saeed: Thoughts on Orlando.

Buzzfeed paid tribute to the victims.

Emily Shire listed ways in which you can help the victims.

Milo Todd posted about 8 ways allies can show up for the queer community.

It would be really appreciated if people wanted to leave comments with more links to writing about the tragedy - especially if there are additional ways in which readers can help.

Now, onto the tag...

1. What book(s) are currently in your bag?

I'm currently reading and adoring Seanan McGuire's Every Heart A Doorway, a brilliant novella about the children who disappear through the back of wardrobes, down rabbit holes, or under the bed - and what happens when they get back. Set at a school for just such youngsters, lead character Nancy is marvellous and I'm not all that far in but am COMPLETELY intrigued as to what's going to happen. (Also, she's ace. Yes, an asexual MAIN CHARACTER. Excuse me while I try and hold in my happy 'OMG ace representation' tears.)

2. What’s the last great book you read?

One book? Oh come on, be serious. I'll narrow it down to THREE. For a YA series starter, Laure Eve's YA novel The Graces, out in a few months, is a staggeringly well-plotted story of a family who are said to be witches, and the new girl in school who falls under their spell. With incredible characterisation and brilliant writing, this is definitely not to be missed. For a YA series ender (except it's not, because YAY FOR UPCOMING HARDBACK NOVELLA!), Holly Bourne's What's A Girl Gotta Do? is fabulous and funny despite being filled with righteous fury. This is a feminist masterpiece which will hopefully open readers' eyes to some of the inequality in our society, but is also a brilliant read. The other completely delightful one I've read this month is Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King's Erica's Elephant, a gorgeously illustrated book for younger readers. Ashley's illustrations are utterly beautiful while Sylvia's story of friendship, working together, love, and of course an elephant, is a real winner - heart-warming, moving and funny.

3. What book have you gifted the most?

Without a doubt, Candy Harper's fabulously funny Have A Little Faith, which I've owned about 20 copies of and keep giving away. This is a completely hilarious read which also is a brilliant story of friendship between four girls.

4. What’s your favourite independent bookshop?

I want to say that this is hard to choose, but it's not. Tales on Moon Lane, in Herne Hill, not only have the most incredible stock I've seen in any children's shop I've ever been to, they also have the most knowledgeable and friendly staff AND they employ me to work on Teens on Moon Lane. My huge apologies to all of the other wonderful bookshops out there, but they're always going to be my number 1.

That said, there ARE a bunch of other fabulous ones out there. Two that deserve a special mention - The Big Green Bookshop, whose place at the heart of the community was reaffirmed recently by the outpourings of support and donations that followed a recent theft there. And Gay's The Word, which (as shown by the film Pride) has been a beacon of light for so many years and continues to be a must-visit place where you can pick up a massive range of amazing LGBTQIA books. Again, in both of these shops, the selection and the staff's knowledge are awesome.

5. What’s been your favourite book recommended by a bookseller (or fellow Booktuber/book blogger)?

So hard to choose, as so many of my friend hit me with fantastic recommendations time after time! I think if I narrowed it down to three, I would go with Melina Marchetta's exquisite Jellicoe Road, a gorgeous contemporary pressed on me by my friend Caitlin. Charlie has recommended more books to me than I could possibly begin to remember, but perhaps best of all is Nina LaCour's breathtakingly lovely girl/girl film set romance Everything Leads To You. And Debbie is my most reliable person when it comes to books, both borrowing from and lending to, and exchanging recommendations with. Again, narrowing this down would be impossible, but one really amazing one that I'd love more people to read is Abigail Tarttelin's Golden Boy, about an intersex teen Max, his family, and the way people around him react as he starts to consider his well-kept secret.

6. What’s your favourite indie bookshop memory?

Oh wow... again, so hard to pin down.

(I seem to be saying that a lot.) I think I'm going to go for the Gay's The Word workshop about reading and writing LGBTQIA books for children, which was a fantastic event run brilliantly by BJ Epstein which really made me think hard about the books I was reading. (Plus it was the first time I met Charlie, who went on to become a really good friend!)

7. What do bookshops mean to you? What do you love about them?

It's so hard to get this down to an even semi-reasonable length, but let's give it a go. Firstly, looking at books rather than bookshops. (Yes, answering a completely different question probably isn't doing THAT much to get it down to a reasonable length; bear with me.)

I think that in books, you can see so many things and learn so much. Whether they act as a window to another world or another culture or another type of person, or a mirror reflecting people like yourself, they're an incredible way of expanding your horizons AND of showing you that you're not alone. For so, so, so long, they acted as mirrors mainly to white, straight, cisgender, middle/upper-class who were physically and mentally healthy. (Note 'mainly'; I'm definitely not claiming that they've ever exclusively had those characters in lead roles.)

But looking at what's available today, there is such an incredible variety around. There is an explosion in the amount of books with characters from different backgrounds, identities, class, race, etc. I believe that books can change the world. That despite the hatred that exists today, there IS progress being made. The more people see themselves in stories, the more they can see the possibilities outside of the stereotypes that society boxes them into, while the more people read about cultures and people different from themselves, the more they will understand and learn to respect them.

And it IS amazing that there are so many books out there with such a variety of lead characters (although MORE PLEASE!!), but sadly not ALL of the representation out there is amazing - some of it can be deeply hurtful. Having a knowledgeable bookseller on hand to steer people towards good representation of what they're looking for is such an incredibly powerful thing, and it's something that just can't be mirrored on a site like Amazon - the human touch of being able to ask someone for advice, question them further on their recommendations, and then sample the book in the shop is a massive advantage for me.

8. What are the books that made you? Which books have most affected or influenced you?

Do we have all year please?

I'm going for the Chalet School books which I read countless times growing up and probably did more than any other series to inspire a lifelong love of literature, Agatha Christie's murder mysteries which I constantly turn to as comfort reads (not 100% sure what that says about me, admittedly) and Rosamunde Pilcher's coming of age novel Coming Home for the same reason. The Drina series by Jean Estoril which I used to read back with someone who's been one of my closest friends for nearly 30 years now, and which I still read regularly.

Bill Bryson's Notes From A Small Island for reminding me how much I love the UK, Paul Torday's Girl on the Landing for introducing me to book reviewing (it was the first book I reviewed when I e-mailed to join the wonderful team at The Bookbag.) Will Hill's Department 19 series, Curtis Jobling's Wereworld, Michael Grant's GONE and Daniel Abraham's Dagger and the Coin, for being incredible long-running series which had me hooked from start to finish, with complex, layered characters and which all, in their own way, show how finely balanced the lines between heroes and villains are.

Most recently, Laura Nowlin's This Song Is (Not) For You, which shows an asexual character as a love interest which was something I was beginning to think I'd never see, Betsy Cornwell's Mechanica which I'll avoid giving details of because of spoilers, but which again is near unique, Alice Oseman's Radio Silence for being the best UKYA book I've read with a character on the ace spectrum AND having one of my favourite ever boy/girl platonic friendships.

9. What book do you recommend readers gift for Father’s Day?

Always Bill Bryson, I'd say, although if you're feeling rich I'm guessing there are some GORGEOUS editions of Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat, still one of the funniest books I've ever read.

10. What book is currently at the top of your TBR pile?

I'm about to start Summer Days, Summer Nights, published here by MacMillan and edited by Stephanie Perkins. I loved Stephanie's previous anthology and with a great line-up of contributing authors here I'm thrilled to be getting to it soon!

Friday, 10 June 2016

#6Degrees: Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda to...

#6Degrees continues today with another #ReadProud special! After struggling to pick between 4 books as a start point, I turned it over to my Twitter followers, and Becky Albertalli's Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda was the clear winner.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, is a gorgeously warm, fun and cute read which stands out as one of the happiest LGBTQ YA stories I've read - as does Complementary and Acute, by Ella Lyons, a really lovely novella about 2 boarding school roommates.

Complementary and Acute shares its school setting with another short read I adored, What The Heart Wants by Naomi Tajedler. (This one is available to download for just £1.31, or to by as part of the superb Summer love anthology, by the way.) What The Heart Wants is a rich and compelling story set in a summer art class, where two girls fall for each other.

Another story with a summer activity as the setting is Lumberjanes, the much-loved comic from Boom! Studios. I've only read volume 1 so far - written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen - but have heard amazing things about later issues as well. Following a group of girls spending the summer at scout camp, and with wonderful LGBTQ characters, this is a beautifully drawn and really touching read.

The most recent Lumberjanes story started last Wednesday, as the highly-anticipated crossover mini-series with DC's Gotham Academy kicked off! Another release that day which I've been waiting for for what seems like ages is Oni Press's Merry Men (by Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis and Marissa Louise), in which Robin Hood is the former boyfriend of King Richard the Lionheart, and the rest of the main cast are a collection of gay and bi men, plus a trans woman. It's a really outstanding first issue, and I'm very excited to read the rest of the series.

Finally, while most of my LGBTQIA reads have been contemporary or SFF, another historical read I adored (in addition to Merry Men) was Molly Beth Griffin's Silhouette of a Sparrow. Silhouette is a breathtakingly good read about a girl who's captivated by a bright young flapper. Lyrically written and gorgeously romantic, it's a real must-read - as are the five above!

Have you done a #6Degrees post this month? Remember to link it up to my post from June 4th!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Blog Tour: Karen McCombie's Classic Children's Guest Post

As a MASSIVE fan of Karen McCombie's I'm incredibly excited for her new book The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall (published by Scholastic), and really delighted to be hosting a post on her awesome blog tour today!

‘The Little House on the Prairie’ series of books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Snapshot of me, aged 10, in the ‘70s: Outside, the north wind whoops and howls around my 15th storey, high-rise bedroom window, but I’m ignoring it, just as I’m ignoring the cityscape of my home town of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the view of the steel-grey North Sea dotted with oil rigs. That’s because inside (my cosy bedroom, and my story-hungry head) I’m on a covered wagon, rattling through the wild flower-speckled prairies of mid-West America in the late 18oos… I find I am absolutely enthralled with this third-person perspective but totally autobiographical series of books written by pioneer girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I devour every book in the series, from Laura’s early childhood in ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ to the early days of her marriage in ‘The First Four Years’. I love the unsentimental voice, the matter-of-factness in the telling of this family’s extraordinary lives, where disaster is met with quiet resilience, and small pleasures are gratefully received.

Snapshot of me, fast-forwarded to 2015: Over the years, I’ve reread the series numerous times. In a bookstore in New York in the ‘90s, I leapt on a whole, formerly unknown slew of ‘Little House’-related books, written by Laura’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane. And for Christmas 2014, I gratefully receive the hefty ‘Pioneer Girl’, a beautiful, hardback, annotated ‘autobiography’ of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m reading reviews of it online in early 2015, when I stumble across US novel-in-verse ‘May B’ by Caroline Starr Rose. We get matey on Twitter (because I’m positively RAVING about her pioneering story) and find out she’s a Laura Ingalls Wilder fangirl too. She tells me about an online course in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s later books, happening at the university of Minnesota. I enrol. Maddeningly, the course runs at the same time as I suddenly have an enormous amount of work on, so I don’t participate properly. What I DO do is – joyfully – reread every book in the series, and dip into all the online discussions by others on the course.

Snapshot of me, here and now: I’ve just been talking to my friend about her soon-to-graduate daughter. My friend talked about the importance of the ‘Harry Potter’ series of books to her daughter Ruby and all her buddies; of the legacy of life lessons and morals and humour those books have given them. And I realised with a lurch that ‘The Little House on the Prairie’ series is MY ‘Harry Potter’. A big part of this version of ME has been moulded by those stories of one girl’s life lived 150 years ago, in the big woods of Wisconsin, the great lakes of South Dakota, and the prairies of Nebraska and Kansas… And it’s not just my personality that’s been moulded, it’s my career as a story-teller too.

So from the ten-year-old me AND the all-grown up Karen, I’d love to send a hug of appreciation back in time to the wondrous Laura Ingalls Wilder…

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall by Karen McCombie

Ellis is losing track of time…

After leaving her friends to move to a crumbling Scottish mansion, Ellis is overcome by anxiety and loneliness. Then she hears whispers in the walls…and finds herself whisked back in time to 1912. 
At first, she feels like she's finally home. But the past may not be as perfect as it seems – and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought?

Information about the Book

Title: The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall
Author: Karen McCombie
Release Date: 2nd June 2016
Genre: MG Historical Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic

Author Information

Karen McCombie is from Aberdeen but now lives in North London with her husband, daughter and one big ginger cat. 

Before Karen became a full-time writer she worked for several teen magazines such as Just Seventeen, Bliss and Sugar in a variety roles - everything from Fashion Editor to Features Editor – all very exciting and glam!

Karen has sold over one million books in the UK alone and has been translated into 15 languages.

Find out more at and take the opportunity to join Karen’s Club!

Tour Schedule

Monday 6th June

Tuesday 7th June

Wednesday 8th June

Thursday 9th June

Friday 10th June

Saturday 11th June

Sunday 12th June

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Reasons I Love Bookshops

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

10 Reasons I Love Bookshops

1. Browsing is brilliant! One of the joys of a well-stocked bookshop is that you can alight on something that you didn't know you wanted - as summed up so brilliantly in 2014 by Mark Forsyth in his IBW essay, The Unknown Unknown. I have lost count of the amount of times I've found books I wasn't aware of - particularly ones that predated the start of my blogging - and loved them.

2. They're so well curated. Obviously having a great amount of choices is awesome, but can be overwhelming. However in the vast majority of bookshops I visit most often I KNOW that the books there are going to be worth reading.

3. The staff are incredibly well-informed. Tying into the above, if I visit any of my favourite bookshops I know that I'm bound to be able to get a recommendation for a book from one of the super-knowledgeable staff there. I've been hand-sold some amazing books which would have completely passed me by without a bookseller's enthusiastic support of them persuading me to take a chance on them.

4. You get instant gratification. Look, I have issues with patience. Yes, I can order a book online, and get it a few days later - often banged up in the post (which to be fair is more an issue with my post than with any supplier!) But if I walk into a bookshop, I can buy a book, check it's in pristine condition before paying for it, and then start reading right away.

5. You can try before you buy. Yes, I know you can often read the first chapter of a book online before ordering, but that's so limiting! In a bookshop you can flick through a book and immediately

6. Lots of them have exciting events! I love book launches, and I love discussion panels. I've been to so many wonderful events at various bookshops - from last night's #ThisIsWhoIAm at Waterstones Piccadilly, featuring an all-star lineup of Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Leila Sales, Sarra Manning and Sarah Crossan - to Jasper Fforde's hilarious talk at the Big Green Bookshop, and Carolina Rabei's 'Design a Christmas card' event at Tales on Moon Lane 18 months ago.

7. Many of them partner with fantastic festivals. Tying into the above point, as well as events in the shops themselves, lots of indies work incredibly hard as partners with fabulous festivals. Looking at STREAM, which Tales on Moon Lane is the partner bookshop for, The Oswestry Lit Fest - whose festival director is Carrie Morris of the superb Booka Bookshop - and so many more, they're an incredible way of uniting authors and readers.

8. They often include somewhere to get a drink! From gorgeous cafes like the one at All You Read Is Love (which I still haven't actually got to, but hope to soon) to bars like Waterstones Piccadilly's 5th View, it's amazing to be able to buy a book then immediately sit down and read it - or to meet up with a friend and grab sustenance before a busy hour or two selecting books!

9. The best of them have an incredible sense of community - look at the response to the horrible theft of money from The Big Green Bookshop, as people near and far rallied around to contribute to crowdfunding to replace the money stolen.

10. Finally, book people are the BEST people! Booksellers, readers, and the people working for incredible organisations like Book Tokens and Books Are My Bag are all completely awesome - and bookshops are a great place to meet like-minded people.

I am INCREDIBLY excited for the fabulous Independent Bookshop Week 2016, coming from 18th - 25th June. Indie Bound UK and Books Are My Bag do an amazing job organising this and I'm really looking forward to going to events - the Pointless one at Foyles Charing Cross Road sounds especially amazing - and doing the Bookshop Crawl on 25th! Will you be taking part? I hope so!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Mini Interview with Nat Luurtsema Plus Extract from Girl Out Of Water

One of the funniest UKYA books I've read in AGES is comedian Nat Luurtsema's first novel for teens, Girl Out Of Water, published by the fabulous Walker Books! It's a really hilarious read and main character Lou is fantastic, as are the three boys she tries to train to become a synchronised swimming team...

I was thrilled to be asked to host a video on the blog tour, and even more delighted to get the chance to briefly interview Nat as well!

If you were auditioning for a talent show what would you do? Stand-up comedy, or another hidden talent?

I think it would have to be stand-up! Not that I think I’m brilliant at it, I just don’t have any other skills. I can slice bread very evenly, people have remarked upon it, but I wouldn’t sell tickets to it.

I love the relationship Lou forms with all three of the boys. Who would have been your favourite of the three as a teen?

As a teen I would’ve been so in awe of Roman and Pete but Gabe would’ve been my favourite – he’s funny and kind. Winning combination!

How much research did you have to do to before writing the book?

None! I wrote it all, THEN thought maybe I should fact-check (I’m an idiot) so I sent an early draft to my friend  Bet O’Brien who knows about ME, to check I didn’t have one of the characters having unrealistic relapses and recoveries. Then I got in touch with Jessica Fullalove, a British back stroke swimmer who my friend knows, and asked her loads of questions. I was right on most things but definitely had to make some tweaks!

I thought Girl Out Of Water was one of the funniest books I've read so far this year - what are some of your favourite funny YA reads?

Thank you! I’m so happy to hear that! I love Neil Gaiman’s funny YA books, Terry Pratchett, the Geek Girl books by Holly Smale, Georgia Nicolson, Louise Rennison, also there’s a book called The Day Of Dog by Paul Sangster about a bunch of dogs who break out of the pound. It’s really hard to find, but as a kid I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever encountered and I read it again and again. It took loads of googling but I have my own copy again!

Thanks for great answers, Nat! Now, don't miss this video.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Recent Links Recap: 5th June edition

For lots of reasons my recent recap feature ground to a halt a month or so back. I'm super-busy at the moment and also not on Twitter (where I get pretty much all of my links!) that much these days. (Okay, I DID just hit 100,000 tweets, but I was expecting to hit it much sooner - unsure whether this is a good or bad thing!)

I want to bring it back because I kinda feel that one of my strengths as a blogger is signal boosting others - I know and follow so many incredible people and it is always fabulous to get their posts out to more people! They ARE going to be shorter, due to lack of time, so I'm sure there will be amazing posts that I leave out just because I haven't seen them. Please, please leave comments with anything you love that I miss! I'm also going to drop most of the commentary from me - most posts have featured about 12 different uses each of 'fabulous', 'brilliant', 'wonderful' and 'I loved/adored this'. All of these things are COMPLETELY true, but they get repetitive - and much worse, I worry they make me sound insincere when I'm definitely not! Basically, ANYTHING included here is something I love and think is amazing.

Onto the links, then!

On my blogs:

My #ReadProud #6degrees post.

Hayley Culverhouse guest posted on A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Sylvia Bishop's 5-4-3-2-1 on Teens on Moon Lane.

Ben Davis guest post on Joe Cowley's Favourite Music Festivals.

On other blogs:

Grace on A Barista's Fascination with Customers.
Grace again, on Zusterchap, with an ode to her sister.

(Basically you should read everything Grace ever writes, but I'm trying to keep this reasonably quick to write so I just picked two particular favourites.) Also in the 'READ THEM ALL RIGHT NOW' category are Caitlin's Chronically Caitlin blog and the amazing group blog Safe Space. 

Particular highlights from them:
Caitlin - A Spoonie's Guide To Current Television and Chronically Holidaying: London and Stockholm.

Safe Space - Faye on depression and on the power of internet friendships, Joy Isabella on a year without self-harm and an anonymous post on workplace bullying.    

The UKYA Book Blogger Awards were announced. I won two, which was really lovely! (Also I know I said I'd cut down on the commentary, but I HAVE to say a massive thank you to Luna and the other bloggers who ran and publicised these awards, and also to Faye whose idea they were and who did such a wonderful job of running them last year before handing over to Luna this year.

Luna interviewed Orangeboy author Patrice Lawrence

Charli on being considered 'too young' for prescription medication.

Chelley announced new feature Read Toy-gether with her son Corey!

Stacey's Illumicrate unboxing on Pretty Books.

Sportswriter Joe Posnanski on Hamilton and on parenting.

Sarah Likes Books reimagined the books on the YA Book Prize shortlist as Hamilton songs.

Debbie shared two favourite banana bread recipes.