Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Book Haul For January 2017 2/2 - Received From Publishers and Friends

Lots of kind publishers sent me books - special mention to Scholastic, who hosted their annual bloggers' brunch! I came away from this with a signed copy of Lisa Thompson's Goldfish Boy, which I won in a prize draw at the start of the morning, and the intriguing-looking Show Stopper which was included in our goodie bags. In between, we had the chance to pick up recent Scholastic books we'd missed so I grabbed To All The Boys I've Loved Before and PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han; I've heard great things about this series and want to catch up before the release of Always and Forever Lara Jean. 

I'm not going to talk about every book I was sent by publishers because there were simply so many - thank you all so much - but there's a full list, with Goodreads links, below.

One which I jumped on pretty much as soon as I received it was Phil Earle's Mind The Gap, his debut for Barrington Stoke. Over the past few years Phil has shown himself to be one of the most consistently superb YA/MG writers around, and this is no exception - check back later this week, or see my pinned Twitter thread, for a full review of everything I've read this month, including this.

Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity is one of my favourite ever YA books, so her prequel The Pearl Thief is one that I'm incredibly excited for; I can't wait to read more about a phenomenal character. I am also a huge fan of Lisa Williamson's debut The Art of Being Normal and have been waiting impatiently for more from her for ages, so getting All About Mia is great! Juno Dawson's Margot & Me is another that intrigues me and I'm very much looking forward to it.

I appear to be flooded with fun contemporary reads which is a VERY nice problem to have; it's my favourite genre! In addition to the Jenny Han books mentioned above, Simon & Schuster sent me Waiting For Callback: Take Two, which I read almost immediately and definitely lived up to my high expectations! Atom sent This Beats Perfect; I am intrigued by this one partly because the recent influx of #boybandlit has been of such a high overall quality - I think I've really enjoyed nearly all of them - and partly because it got an incredibly strong recommendation from Lucy at Queen of Contemporary, who has exceptional taste. Egmont also sent me The It Girl trilogy; great to see the new covers together! I really enjoyed the first couple and am looking forward to reading Don't Tell The Bridesmaid soon.

I'm excited for more in series I'm enjoying, with Egmont sending me The Mystery Of The Painted Dragon and Stone of Kuromori, 2 really fun MG series, and Orchard sending Take The Key And Lock Her Up - I'm a huge Ally Carter fan and loved book 1 of Embassy Row; I need to catch up soon!

Speaking of series, I got sent two series starters which look really interesting, Sea from Egmont and Who Let The Gods Out? from Chicken House. Intrigued by both of these!

As a huge fan of road trip novels I'm exceptionally excited for See You In The Cosmos which sounds utterly amazing -  it's an MG debut about a boy trying to make audio recordings on his iPod then launch it into space to show other lifeforms what life on Earth is like. This is getting huge praise, and lots of comparisons to Wonder and Curious Incident.

And I got sent Women In Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed The World by Wren & Rook. I hadn't heard of this one but I'm so glad they sent it me because it is BEAUTIFUL! I will be reading it properly soon but even a quick flick through shows how wonderfully written and illustrated and how well laid-out it is; it's the best-looking book I've received for some time.

Finally, I was approved to read several books I'm hugely excited about on Netgalley! Two of my favourite reads of the past 18 months or so have been Emily Skrutskie's The Abyss Surrounds Us, which has incredible world-building and amazing romantic tension between the two leads, and Riley Redgate's Seven Ways We Lie, which juggles 7 POVs brilliantly and has wonderful pan AND ace rep! (The ace/aro character isn't called this on page, but Riley has confirmed they are, and it fits their character NOT to know the words.) Flux and Abrams, respectively, approved me for these two authors' next books and I'm incredibly excited to read them. The Edge Of The Abyss is the sequel to TASU and I can't wait to catch up with these outstanding characters and see what happens to them. (Side note; the first book in the series is one of the only YA novels I've seen to address the power imbalance which inevitably makes a captor/prisoner relationship hugely problematic, rather than romanticising it - this was so great to see!) Riley Redgate's Noteworthy is a stand-alone about a girl infiltrating a boys' school to sing a capella and sounds tremendous fun; friends who've read it really love it!

Stripes approved me for Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett, a historical romance about a girl trying to reinvent herself as a Pre-Raphaelite muse. I mentioned earlier that Phil Earle was one of the most brilliantly consistent authors I know of; Sophia is definitely another who deserves that praise! I really enjoyed adventure story The Castle and last year's #boybandlit book Love Song, while You Don't Know Me is one of my very favourite contemporary YA novels of the last decade. I'm hugely excited to read this new one. Stripes also approved me for Poppy's Place book 3, The Great Cat Cafe Rescue. Katrina Charman's a really fun writer and she's perfectly paired for this series with Lucy Truman, my current favourite illustrator, so this is another which should be a lovely read.

Received from publishers/friends - thank you!! (All from publishers for recommendation consideration except where stated.)

The Memory Book by Lara Avery (Hachette)

Show Stopper by Hayley Barker (Scholastic)

Lyttle Lies: The Pudding Problem by Joe Berger  (Simon & Schuster)

The It Girl series by Katy Birchall (Egmont)

Waiting For Callback: Take Two by Perdita and Honor Cargill  (Simon & Schuster)

Take The Key And Lock Her Up by Ally Carter (Orchard)

See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng (Puffin)

Margot & Me by Juno Dawson (Hot Key)

This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton (Atom)

Sea by Sarah Driver (Egmont)

Mind The Gap by Phil Earle (Barrington Stoke)

Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans (Chicken House)

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles (Bloomsbury)

The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman (Walker) Given to me by my lovely friend Grace!

Rabbit and Bear: The Pest In The Nest by Julian Gough and Jim Field

To All The Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (Scholastic)

Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu (Katherine Tegen) Given to me by my wonderful friend Debbie.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky (Wren & Rook)

Wishbones by Virginia McGregor (HQ)

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel (David Fickling Books)

Wild Lily by KM Peyton (David Fickling Books)

The Stone Of Kuromori by Jason Rohan (Egmont)

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson (Scholastic)

How to Outsmart a Billion Robot Bees by Paul Tobin (Bloomsbury)

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse (Hachette)

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein (Bloomsbury)

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books)

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine (Egmont)

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (the Poster Book) (Scholastic)

The World of the Hunger Games: The Official Colouring Book (Scholastic)

NetGalley approvals

Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett (Stripes)

The Great Cat Cafe Rescue by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Lucy Truman (Stripes)

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate (Abrams)

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie (Flux)

Monday, 30 January 2017

Book Haul For January 2017 1/2 - Bought

Debuting another new feature this week, which is hopefully going to be monthly, depending if I can keep up with it - I thought I'd let people know what books I bought and received, and highlight some of them. At the end, there are links to all of the books on Goodreads!

I bought far more than I was planning on this month, but there were so many great books I couldn't resist! 

The overwhelming love on my Twitter feed for The Sun Is Also A Star and Bone Gap made them 2 of my first purchases of the year, along with In The Footsteps Of Crazy Horse, highly recommended by Debbie Reese on American Indians in Children's Literature

Tereze at Tales On Moon Lane brilliantly hand-sold me Wed Wabbit, which I read on the day I bought it and absolutely adored - check back later in the week for my reviews of everything I've read this month to see details of why I loved it so much. (Or take a look at my Instagram, or my pinned Twitter thread, collecting all my reviews of books read in 2017.)

Sue's review of Something In Between was enough to get me to order it, it's an incredible recommendation from someone with outstanding taste in books. Speaking of people with fabulous taste in reading matter, I made the mistake of rereading Dahlia Adler's year-end survey post just before going to Foyles, which could have proved even more expensive than it did. I was restrained, but couldn't resist Stephanie Kate Strohm's It's Not Me, It's You, her pick for book that put a smile on your face/was most fun to read. (On a side note, this is one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen for ages! Would definitely have drawn me in even if it hadn't been on my radar from Dahlia's post.) 

I'm also hoping to read more non-fiction this year; reading Angie Thomas's phenomenal Black Lives Matter-inspired YA novel The Hate U Give made me want to add to my knowledge of the movement and Wesley Lowery's They Can't Kill Us All looks superb, while Ta-Nehisi Coates's piece for The Atlantic last year, My President Was Black is one of the best things I've read for ages so I can't wait to read The Beautiful Struggle, his memoir. 

I picked up Run, Ride, Sink or Swim second-hand as Debbie has me yearning to read more sports books at the moment. (I was going to claim I bought it mainly so I could pass it onto her once I've read; I think this is fairly clearly me making excuses though!) I also grabbed Artichoke Hearts from the same shop; I've been meaning to read for ages and Sita Brahmachari's stunning short story in the Stripes anthology I'll Be Home For Christmas reminded me that I need to get around to this one. I already own the ebook but a lot of the time I find it much easier to concentrate reading physical books, so thought it was worth getting a paperback as well. Another one I've been meaning to read for a long time, having had it recommended a lot, is Coram Boy, so I finally succumbed and bought it at Tales a few weeks ago. 

Finally, I bought new copies of three I own. I continued my collection of Trebizon reissues with the 6th and 7th in the series; I have older editions of both but cannot resist Lucy Truman's gorgeous illustrations! And I will always treasure my signed proof of Katherine Webber's fantastic Wing Jones, but the sprayed edges in the final book were too much to resist! (Especially as it's a book so great I want to lend it to EVERYONE and can now do so without letting my signed proof out of my sight!)

Most of the ebooks I got were cheap impulse buys - the @diversaesthetic Twitter account gets the credit for several of them! - but I was really excited to see Corinne Duyvis's On The Edge Of Gone, which I've heard lots of great things about, reduced to just over £1 on Kindle. This sci-fi about an autistic girl trying to obtain a spot on a ship leaving Earth just before a comet hits, and protect her mother and sister, is hugely praised by people I follow on Twitter. I've not read many own voices novels with autistic characters and Corinne's Twitter feed is hugely informative about autism so I'm looking forward to reading this novel. 

The sample chapters of Ishara Deen's God Smites and Other Muslim Problems were enough to convince me I needed to read it in full. (I'm very glad I did, it was wonderful!) I was immediately engrossed in the mystery here and really enjoyed the relationship between Asiya and the rest of her family. It's great to see a Muslim lead in a children's crime book, and I'll definitely be hoping for more from Ishara Deen and her fabulous main character. Again, full review to come in a few days. 



Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari (Macmillan Children's)

The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Something In-Between by Melissa de la Cruz (Harper Collins)

The Tennis Term at Trebizon and Summer Camp at Trebizon, both written by Anne Digby and illustrated by Lucy Truman (Egmont)

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (David Fickling)

Run, Ride, Sink or Swim by Lucy Fry (Faber)

Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin (Egmont)

They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery (Penguin)

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III, illustrated by Jim Yellowhawk (Harry N Abrams)

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (Faber Children's)

It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate Strohm (Scholastic)

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber (Walker)

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon (Corgi Children's)


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Harper Perennial)

Well Played by Katrina Ramos Atienza (KRAtienza)

Plain Vanilla by Ines Bautista-Yao

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (Collins Crime Club)

God Smites And Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen (Deeya Publishing)

On The Edge Of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (Amulet)

Once Upon A Player by Agay Llanera

Prep and Prejudice by Miren B Flores

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Shorts on Sunday #5

My new Shorts on Sunday feature continues, with two recommendations from me and one from Perdita Cargill, co-author of the hilarious Waiting For Callback series with her daughter Honor (who'll be featured here next Sunday.) The second in the series, Waiting For Callback: Take Two, was released by Simon & Schuster last Thursday and is a great read which I'd highly recommend!

Plain Vanilla by Ines Bautista-Yao
Available: As an ebook
Story: Tempest Juan is the 'boring' one of her quirky family, and knows it. After reading a comment from Paco Lorenzo comparing her to vanilla ice cream, she decides to get out of her comfort zone by trying to complete a book of dares - but she can't get away from Paco, who seems to turn up at every dare.
Why I'm recommending: Fun, sweet romance novella with a lovely couple at the centre who I really liked together. Tempest's family are great too and I found this to be a quick and cute read. Would definitely read more by Ines Bautista-Yao!

Kendo Nagasaki and Me by Daniel York Loh
Available: As part of The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla
Story: An essay about growing up as a half-Chinese boy surrounded by white people, facing racism but taking some solace in the success of Japanese villain Kendo Nagasaki in the wrestling ring, who shows that Asian men can beat up English competitors. For a time, at least...
Why I'm recommending: One of the best events I went to last year was at The Big Green Bookshop, with The Good Immigrant contributors Daniel York Loh, Coco Khan, and my fabulous friend Wei Ming Kam. Daniel read part of his essay there and it was phenomenal, I raced to finish it once I got back home (despite knowing what happened to Kendo Nagasaki.) He has a fantastic sense of humour, his writing is powerful and his description of the racism he faced is a really moving read. And oh, that ending! 

Guest post from Perdita Cargill

I’d recommend any of William Trevor’s books, novels (you must read The Story of Lucy Gault) and short stories. The collection that I have by me now is The Mark-2 Wife (another Penguin Modern Classics Edition – they are beautiful books to collect) and the title story is blackly wonderful. 
The Mark-2 Wife by William Trevor
Available: As part of The Mark-2 Wife by William Trevor
The story: Childless middle-aged woman is at a terrible party, she knows no-one and her husband is late. Is he coming?
Why I’m recommending: The way Trevor draws (observes) characters and place is extraordinary (’There are too many people in this room.,’ she complained. ‘There’s not enough ventilation. It’s ideal for tragedy.’) I promise you that it will take no more than a handful of pages before you care deeply about Anna Mackintosh. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

Twenty Things I've Read #8

My new (hopefully weekly!) links recap format continues. 

As mentioned in week 1, there are some sites which could quite conceivably fill this list between them EVERY WEEK as they constantly produce amazing posts - and I find it way too hard to single them out! So instead, I will just list them at the start of each post. If you're not reading the following, you are REALLY missing out.

Safe Space

Media Diversified
The Pool
Teen Vogue 

The Twenty:

A couple of wonderful pieces on the Women's March - one on The Nation by Joan Walsh, talking about 'Pussy Power Fights Back', and one from Katelyn Burns at The Establishment, talking about how as a trans women pussy hats made her feel excluded, then welcomed. I'm feeling scared, and overwhelmed, by politics a lot of the time at the moment. (And, obviously, as a cis white able-bodied guy who's not in the US, I have it a LOT better than many people do - but so many of the things I read are making my anxiety worse.) One of the voices I think are a must-read for the current political climate is Celeste Pewter, whose threads like this one have done an incredible job of showing what's part of the general political process and what definitely ISN'T normal. I also found this post by Mirah Curzer, on how to stay outraged without losing your mind, to be an extremely helpful read. Oh, as was this - Daniel Schultz talking about the 'shock and awe' tactics of the GOP at the moment.

Other great lists - Fadwa at Word Wonders shared her Diversity Bingo TBR, Boricuan Bookworms recommended some great diverse books on Kindle, and if you want to get a ton of great recommendations please make sure you're following the FABULOUS @diversaesthetic Twitter account! 2 excellent non-bookish (well, not exclusively bookish) lists - Yara Simon shared her 15 young emerging Afro-Latino voices in the USA and Latin America, while Buzzfeed's Chelsey Pippin had a brilliant list of 7 ways to entertain yourself this week - wonderful to see Katherine Webber's fabulous Wing Jones there!

Back to books; one of my favourite bloggers I've found recently is The Shrinkette; this fiction edition of books by South Asian authors on her TBR list for 2017 has so many I've now added to my wishlist! I also really love The Bookavid, who wrote an incredible piece on recognising racism and micro aggressions in books. Becky Albertalli shared some news about the movie adaptation of Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda - I can't wait for this!! There's a wonderful interview between poets Omar J Sakr and Lawrence Lacambra Ypil on The Lifted Brow, and Off The Shelf's 12 books to read at the start of the new administration is a superb read! 

Swapna Krishna wrote a wonderful piece for Paste to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy. Newly appointed Spurgeons ambassador Maz Evans blogged about the importance of identifying and supporting young carers. Telly Addict talked about the brilliance of TV's Pointless (I quite agree!) Wake Forest announced they'll be doing a syllabus based on Solange's album A Seat At The Table, which sounds fascinating - further details. And teen blogger Charli wrote an amazing post about falling back in love with life again, nearly a year since being discharged from an inpatient CAMHS unit. This one, in particular, is an incredibly brave and powerful post that I really hope everyone reads.

My Posts:

Wow, an even bigger week than the last couple - I blogged every day, but also had a couple of guest posts elsewhere! The one I'm most proud of is yesterday's, on jealousy and not feeling good enough, which has had an incredible reaction. 

Those guest posts - I was one of several book bloggers asked to share books they're excited to read in 2017, over on the WH Smith website. And Usborne asked me to answer some convention/fandom-related questions to help celebrate Maggie Harcourt's wonderful Unconventional

Back on this blog, I took part in the Wing Jones photo blog tour for Katherine Webber's fabulous contemporary book. And Shorts on Sunday continued, with Katherine joining me again. I posted the second part of my recommendations for secondary school librarians, and for Top Ten Tuesday did my favourite 12 books of the last 10 years

I also hosted Perdita and Honor Cargill on the Waiting For Callback: Take Two blog tour, with a post about fantasy casting, and debuted my new Month Ahead feature to look at February releases

News and Stuff:

I normally use this to talk about books I'm excited to read with deals that have just been announced, but one big piece of news was a book getting pulled - Roxane Gay deciding to pull her upcoming one from Simon & Schuster, in response to them choosing to publish M*lo Y. I think this is a great way to respond (while understanding, obviously, that many S & S authors will also be disgusted but will not be in a position to do the same.)

Two deals I AM really excited for, as well! LL McKinney's A Blade So Black, which sounds amazing (Black teen heroine who kicks ass like Buffy in an Alice In Wonderland retelling? YAY!), is coming from MacMillan in 2018. And the anthology on intersectional feminism edited by the incredible June Eric-Udorie sold to Penguin in the US, and Little Brown in the UK! Speaking of June, she's organising for young Black girls interested in STEM to see Hidden Figures which is such a wonderful thing to do - she's looking for people to get involved and help out, and/or to donate money - check out this thread here if you're able to support it.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Jealousy And Not Feeling Good Enough

I want to start this post by saying firstly that I love living near London, and secondly that I have met so many amazing people down here who I love and admire! However, sometimes it can be hard knowing so many awesome people.

Case in point. I met Abi Elphinstone about six months before her debut novel came out, and Katherine Webber perhaps two years before hers. Both have grown to be incredible friends I trust completely and I am cheerleading them every step of the way - not just because they're friends who I love meeting up with and talking to, but because I genuinely adore their books too. That said, there is a teeny tiny part of me - maybe the part which years ago dreamt of being an author myself - which looks at them and sees that they're at a level which I don't think I'd even have dared hope to achieve myself. Also they are incredibly lovely people and have staggeringly hot (and nice) husbands; there are times life feels unfair!

Then there's some of the fabulous friends I've made blogging, many of them younger than me and already ten times smarter, more knowledgeable about the world, and better people than I am. (That's how it can feel, anyway.) Daphne is somehow juggling being a fabulous mother to her adorable baby with continuing to run wonderful subscription box Illumicrate, Julianne is not only the most organised person I've ever met but has also set up her own e-course, while Jess and the rest of the incredible Safe Space team are running a must read blog tackling so many important issues.  

In addition to being part of that fabulous Safe Space team, Debbie is one of the kindest, warmest-hearted, and most caring people I've ever been lucky enough to call my friend, Faye, as well as being a superb freelance PR, is a brilliant blogger whose more personal posts over the last year or so have inspired me to talk about topics like this (which are still out of my comfort zone!) and the pair of them, Julianne, Caitlin, Charlie, Chelley and others have been incredibly supportive of me over the past few years - I honestly don't know what I've done to deserve them.

And I think (and this is a massive realisation AS I WRITE; I'm starting to agree with people who told me blogging was therapeutic!) that the problem is only partly me being jealous; partly it's that I'm not really sure I'm worthy of having friends this amazing. For the years between leaving uni and moving down here, most of my friends were teachers. Others were people I'd known since primary school in some cases. It felt like we were all travelling along similar paths in life, at roughly similar speeds. And meeting people who have, as I said earlier, done more so far than I think I ever will has been something of a shock.  And while I had been ascribing that to jealousy, and to me being at least a semi-terrible person, I think part of it is that my faith in friendships was fragile for such a long time. Yes, there is part of me that wishes I was a bestselling author, brilliant at school events, who travelled around the world a lot (Hi Abi!) but also part of me worries that someone this awesome could clearly find many many better friends than me.

Even though I'm only posting about this now it's something that's been on my mind for a long time - mixed in with the jealousy. And I think that the reason I AM able to post about it now is that it is starting to become less of a worry and I'm feeling more secure in a lot of my friendships. This is mainly thanks to the numerous people (some but not all of whom are mentioned a couple of paragraphs earlier) who've reassured me when I've talked to them about stuff like this. (And talking to them was a BIG step for me because up until a couple of years ago I barely talked to people about anything happening in my life.) They've also told me how some of them feel this way at times too - one conversation a few days ago when I first talked about writing this post was such an eye-opener and a relief. However it's also because even though I'm still slightly envious of the amazing lives some people live, I am actually pretty happy with my own life too. While I'm unlikely ever to be a big name author, I HAVE chaired a panel which was one of the greatest experiences ever, I've appeared on Down The Rabbit Hole, I do some work for my absolute favourite bookshops (and a couple of years ago I'd never have thought I could have earned money from books) and my 'main' job is going pretty well (fingers crossed) - I have so many wonderful students, great colleagues, and seem to be making progress in that too.

So it's perhaps a weird time to share this, especially as my thoughts on the post sorta changed halfway through with that massive revelation to myself, but thought I'd post anyway. Does anyone else ever feel like this? 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Month Ahead... (February)

Trying a new feature here which MAY be monthly (I hope, depending on how I cope with it!) I'm going to shine a spotlight on ten upcoming releases, out over the next month or so, which I've either read and loved or am extremely excited to read. There are so many fabulous books coming out this year that this definitely isn't going to be a comprehensive list or anything, but I'll try and look at a variety of books across genres and age ranges. I'm also going to include a couple that are out in the US but have no publisher here as far as I know - although I'll be mainly looking at stuff which IS coming here. (Thinking probably 2 a month US ones.)

Anything in blue is something I've already read, the rest are ones I'm anticipating. 

January 26th

Waiting For Callback: Take Two by Perdita and Honor Cargill (Simon & Schuster)

Elektra has the movie role she wanted AND she's pretty sure she's got the guy - life is definitely looking up! Until filming starts, she realises that the cast dynamics are perhaps more dystopian than Straker itself, and her new sort-of boyfriend ends up in his own film, on location in Transylvania, surrounded by beautiful girls. Will everything work out?

This was one of my most highly-anticipated contemporaries of the year - I really enjoyed the first WFC book - and it definitely didn't disappoint! As with the first in the series, it's a hilarious read with a fab main character. The excellent dialogue sets it above most of the other similar books in a crowded field (which includes lots of great reads!) while the extracts from a gossip site and emails from Elektra's agent were great touches. 

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (Simon & Schuster) 

Griffin was waiting for his ex-boyfriend Theo to return to him when the time was right - but Theo is dead now, killed in a drowning accident. As Griffin's universe starts to fall apart, Jackson, who Theo had started going out with a while before dying, becomes an unlikely person to talk to - but will Griffin's secrets tear him apart?

Oh wow! My first Adam Silvera and it's just as wonderful as I'd been told his writing is (but a serious tearjerker; stock up on tissues.) I fell totally in love with Griffin, Theo and Jackson, all three are amazing characters and I thought the details of Theo's relationships with both other boys were incredibly well-portrayed. In addition, I loved Adam's really perfect depiction of Griffin's OCD; definitely one of the best I've seen in YA. In addition, as heartbreaking as it is, it's also hopeful - a stunning look at heartbreak, grief and forgiveness.

February 1st

Riverdale #1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Alitha Martinez (Archie Comics)

I was super-excited for the Riverdale TV show and, as mentioned last week, much of my anticipation vanished when it was announced that Jughead wouldn't be asexual. (Read more on my thoughts on that in this post.) Despite this, I want to give the show a chance - partly because actor Cole Sprouse is pushing for the character to be ace as he is in canon, and I'm really hoping this will happen in a future season - so I'm going to pick up this comic, which will set the scene for it with four short stories from before the series starts. (Apart from anything else, Alitha Martinez's art looks gorgeous!)

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt (Usborne)

Convention organiser's daughter Lexi Angelo is a girl who knows what she's doing when it comes to events - clipboard in hand, she's her father's top assistant. But when she meets Aidan Green - arrogant, annoying, and inconveniently becoming her new favourite author - several conventions get even more interesting than usual.

Super-charming contemporary which has one of my favourite UKYA romances ever. I love the setting, taking place across numerous conventions, while the relationship between Lexi and her father is a sweet one as well. It's great to see cameos from some awesome authors as well!

February 2nd

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books)

Lisa Williamson is such a fabulous author, so this book about Mia - middle sister of 3, feeling overshadowed by perfect Grace, a straight-A student, and future Olympic swimming champion Audrey - is one of my most-anticipated contemporaries of 2017!

February 7th

The Refugees by Vieth Thanh Nguyen (Corsair) 

While I've yet to read The Sympathiser by Vieth Thanh Nguyen, I've heard amazing things about it. I'm trying to read more short stories this year so this collection - giving voice to "lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth" sounds like a great place to start. 

Wintersong by S Jae-Jones (Titan)

Liesl's sister is captured by the Goblin King, and Liesl must journey to the Underworld to save her. This is being described as a sensual fantasy with similarities to classic David Bowie film Labyrinth and you have to believe I am ALL OVER that. Super-excited!! 

February 9th

The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury)

Young dragon Aventurine sneaks out by herself to try and capture a tasty human, only to be tempted by his hot chocolate and find herself magically transformed into a human girl. Declawed and defanged, she sets out to make the most of the transformation by getting a job as an apprentice chocolatier, but things don't go quite according to plan.

Completely and utterly gorgeous MG - the best MG I read in 2016 - about dragons, chocolate, friends, family and finding your passion in life. I read this one with a massive smile on my face right the way through, and adored Aventurine and new friend Silke. I'm also left in awe of Stephanie after the ending - close to the end I couldn't see how she could wrap things up quickly enough but she pulled it off perfectly.

US releases (both February 14th)

American Street by Ibi Zoboi (Balzer + Bray)

Leaving Haiti, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find a good life in Detroit when she moved there with her mother - but instead, her mother is detained by US immigration. Left to find her feet in the new city and deal with her new cousins and a surprising romance, Fabiola starts to settle in but finds that freedom comes at a cost. This sounds completely fascinating and is getting some incredible reviews; I wish it had a UK publisher but will definitely be getting a copy from the US!

Crazy Messy Beautiful by Carrie Arcos 

Named after the greatest love poet of all time, Neruda Diaz frequently falls in love himself - just never with anyone who loves him back. Up to now, at least - could Callie change this? As Neruda falls faster than ever, though, he is blindsided by the complicated nature of love and art. I love the sound of this one and Neruda seems like an interesting character; I'm excited to find out whether he and Callie can make it together.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Waiting For Callback: Take Two Blog Tour - Perdita and Honor Cargill on Casting

Awesome to have one of my favourite author pairings, fab mother and daughter duo Perdita and Honor Cargill, here today to talk about Waiting For Callback: Take Two!

It’s Day Three of our Take Two movie-themed blog tour and today we're talking Casting.

We indulged in a bit of fantasy casting when Waiting for Callback came out, check it out on the Maximum Pop site here. Our original choices mostly stand except that now we’ve been writing more Carlo (also known shockingly as ‘Hot Carlo’) we’d probably go more for Kofi Siriboe (he played Tyler in Awkward) than a young Will Smith.  (H: I keep changing my mind but it’s no hardship to keep searching…).

Daisy has a big role in Take Two but we have to go back to Waiting for Callback for a description “Daisy was gorgeous and tiny like a doll – all blonde ringlets and big round blue eyes. She had a sort of retro-perfect thing going on and never had smudged mascara or a fist-sized hole in her tights like the rest of us.” This is our Daisy. Kiernan Shipka (we’ll give her coloured contact lenses). 

Amber Leigh and Sam Gross are the two A Celebs that play the adult leads in Straker. They were scarily easy to cast.

Sam is short (“He owns forty pairs of red leather loafers with concealed heels which were handmade in Italy”) but we’re not going Tom Cruise, Sam’s a bit rawer than that.  And very handsome (“Normal-people-can’t-look-him-in –the-eye-and-tend-to-forgive-him-everything-including-the-anger-issues -handsome. That handsome.”) We’re going with Colin Farrell.  We’re not going to try and explain that choice because we’d probably get sued.

We’re so sorry Gwyneth Paltrow, we’re sure that you are an amazing and genuine person in real life but Goop sometimes makes us laugh, so we’re going with you for Amber“If Sam Gross had glowed, Amber Leigh was in a different category. I don’t know what it was – make up? Green juice? Money? It wasn’t that she looked different to what I’d expected, it was that she looked exactly like she did on magazine covers. She was a genuine air-brushed human being.”

(Gwyneth getting through her Goop cleanse)

We said we wouldn’t cast Archie but we love the Archie on our cover.  He’s perfect. (H: and helping select him was a lot of fun if borderline weird!).

Thank you Jim for hosting us! And tomorrow we’ll be talking about Direction (actually Co-direction because we’re talking about how collaborate now) over on Chelley’s site, Tales of Yesterday. Come and join us!

Top Twelve Books Of The Last Ten Years

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

It's a freebie week, so I thought I'd go for my top ten books of the last ten years! Then extended to twelve, because HOW could I pick between these twelve?!

Right of First Refusal by Dahlia Adler (#2 in Radleigh University series, but completely readable as a standalone) (self-published)

(New Adult - the only title on this list that isn't YA or MG.) Lacrosse player Cait Johannssen is stunned to find that her roommate's new boyfriend is Mase, who broke her heart at sports camp two years earlier. They agree to keep their past a secret but as the two see more and more of each other this gets ever harder.

Super hot, super intense. I love the central pairing here and there's a fabulous supporting cast (who are nearly all queer; lots of awesome representation!) Both the romance and the sports plotlines are incredibly well built and I was cheering for Cait and Mase all the way.

The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury)

Young dragon Aventurine sneaks out by herself to try and capture a tasty human, only to be tempted by his hot chocolate and find herself magically transformed into a human girl. Declawed and defanged, she sets out to make the most of the transformation by getting a job as an apprentice chocolatier, but things don't go quite according to plan.

Completely and utterly gorgeous MG - the best MG I've read in 2016 - about dragons, chocolate, friends, family and finding your passion in life. I read this one with a massive smile on my face right the way through, and adored Aventurine and new friend Silke. I'm also left in awe of Stephanie after the ending - close to the end I couldn't see how she could wrap things up quickly enough but she pulled it off perfectly.

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe (Andersen)

15-year-old Ash has been waiting for his father to come back from the war. He's following in his dad's footsteps as the stag boy in the traditional Stag Chase, and he knows his dad will be proud of him. Running through the mountains whenever he can to train, he's not bothered by the taunts of the other boys who he beat to become the stag, and who will take their places as hounds - he knows their hostility is traditional. But something is stirring in the countryside, and he sees strange visions, while his old friend Mark is behaving seriously creepily. Is Mark just grieving for his father, or is there something more sinister at work?

This is a deeply disquieting tale which mixes old legends with thoroughly modern problems. Ash's village is reeling from foot and mouth, his father is suffering from shell shock after returning from the war, and farmers are going bankrupt all around. It's the perfect balance of these elements which make this stand out as something special.

Ash is a great main character, who's physically and mentally tough but who doesn't know how to handle either his father or his former best friend. It's these two relationships which give the book a lot more depth than I was perhaps expecting - both are superb, while the fantasy elements are also brilliantly handled, with strong elements of classic legends like the Wild Hunt being clear influences. Definitely one of the best debuts I've ever read.

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan (No UK publisher)

When Leila's first ever crush turns out to be on another girl, the beautiful Saskia, she's left trying to make sense of her feelings, wondering how her conservative Iranian parents would react to her being with another girl, and comforting her former best friend Lisa over her brother's death. Will she find love?

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous contemporary with one of my very favourite romances ever and a fantastic ensemble cast. Leila is such a lovely character, I adore her friends and I'm glad the romance doesn't stop her spending time with friends and making new ones, and the interactions with her family and the wider Iranian-American community are really interesting. A stunning read!

Have A Little Faith by Candy Harper (Simon & Schuster)

Faith has been moved into a different form to separate her from her friend Megs, as the teachers seem to think they're a bad combination. On the plus side, the school are bussing in cute boys for their choir - and Faith is ready to get to know the dreamy Finn a lot better. Until she realises he's singing a duet with her sworn enemy, at least. Can Faith get the boy? And will she be able to move back into the same form as Megs by impressing Miss Ramsbottom with her new found maturity?

My all-time favourite fun contemporary read - although both sequels are REALLY high up on my list as well - this is one of the most hilarious books I've ever read. It also features a fabulous group of friends, male and female, with the friendship being more of a focus than the romance hinted at in the description. I love that Faith and the rest can fall out but also make up, they care about each other deeply, and they work so well together. (Also her gran is an outstanding character who would steal the limelight completely from nearly ANY other narrator!)

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master (Bloomsbury) 

Bedridden with cancer, Bilal's bapuji doesn't realise how far the plan for the Partition of India has progressed. Bilal has kept the news from him as he was worried that it would kill him – but when he accepts that death is imminent, Bilal swears to at least save him the pain of having his heart broken before he passes away. Along with his friends Chota, Manjeet and Saleem, Bilal swears to stop him from ever finding out. 1947 India, though, is a dangerous place for everyone, and there are people in their town who don't think that Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus should be doing anything together.

This MG is a gorgeous story of family and friendship, with some incredibly exciting scenes. It's extremely thought provoking, raising the question of whether Bilal is right to lie to his bapuji to protect him, or whether the dying man deserves to be told the truth even if it will hurt him. The book also does a brilliant job of evoking 1940's India and really increased my interest in this time period.

This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin (No UK publisher)

Bandmates Sam and Ramona are in love with each other, but neither has got around to telling the other that yet. Then new boy Tom joins their band and Ramona falls in love with him - but she still loves Sam too. How can they work this out?

Oh wow oh wow oh wow, ace representation, an AMAZING love triangle, and three incredibly likeable main characters. This completely blew me away. I adored the way the central trio actually talk through things, I liked the relationships they had with their parents, and overall this stands out as pretty close to being unique in several ways. 

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (Harper Collins)

Study machine Frances makes a proper friend for the first time in the reclusive Aled, who is the genius behind the podcast she loves. When their friendship breaks down she's devastated, but she also has to cope with the secrets from her past, while he fights even darker things at university. 

I love the main two characters here - a brilliantly-written platonic friendship between a guy and a girl is NOT that easy to find in YA, sadly, but this absolutely delivers. There's a hugely diverse cast (yay for ace spectrum rep!) and Alice Oseman captures the pressure of sixth form and of university perfectly. She's also done an amazing job of showing the positives and negatives of internet culture, while Frances's mother is one of my favourite parents in YA - a fantastically supportive character.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico (Bloomsbury)

In the snowbound woods of Russia, Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer; they teach animals to run, to fight, and to be wary of humans. But when the Russian Army take Feo's mother, it's left to Feo, her wolves, and some new friends to go on a breathtaking rescue mission.

Rundell’s writing style has always been superb – second book Rooftoppers is one of my favourites for years – but this is her best yet, while the decision by Bloomsbury to pair her with illustrator Gelrev Ongbico definitely pays off – his beautiful drawings add a lot to Rundell’s outstanding story. I was expecting this to be exciting and wonderfully written. It doesn’t disappoint on either account! What I wasn’t expecting was the humour that is in the book – despite the terrible situation Feo is in, her incredible spirit and relationship with the wolves, and her new friend Ilya, had lots of moments that made me smile.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker)

Starr, torn between two worlds - the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the rich suburban high school she attends - finds both of them forever changed when her best friend is shot by a white police officer. As the only witness, and knowing that he was unarmed and posed no threat, Starr has to figure out what to say with her community potentially about to be torn apart, and death threats coming her way.

A compelling and heartbreaking story of courage, standing up for what's right, fighting prejudice and the power of community. I fell hard for MC Starr, her brother and father, and the rest of the characters. There's an intense, justified, anger here - particularly on a devastating final page - but also moments of joy, and an optimism that things CAN get better if enough people use their voice. I hope readers are inspired to follow Starr's lead. One of the very best books I've read for years and a massively important read.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Electric Monkey)

Verity is a collaborator. Captured by the Gestapo in France in 1943, she agrees to give up information about the war effort – not even in return for her life being spared, but to gain just a few weeks and a quick and merciful death. She tells the tale of how she came to be in France, from the moment she met her friend Maddie, the pilot whose plane she bailed out of, right up until her capture. It’s a gripping tale of friendship, courage, patriotism, love, and family. And nothing – but nothing – is quite as it seems.

I can never really talk about this coherently, but the best advice to give you would be to go and read this NOW. Yes, I could ramble on about Verity and Maddie, the two wonderful heroines, and the way their friendship is handled so beautifully. Yes, I could talk about Weir’s phenomenal writing style, and the superb narration by Verity, which veers between heartbreaking, brutal, gorgeous, and surprisingly funny. I could even tell you how many times I burst into tears reading it. (Actually, the last one’s a lie, I lost count at around page 250.)   

But at the end of the day, I’m so terrified of spoiling this incredible novel in even the most minor of details that I think I’ll avoid doing any of that, and just tell you to go and read it.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon (Corgi)

Natasha - twelve hours away from being deported, and desperately trying to save herself and her family meets Daniel - who's always been the good son but forgets about everything when he instantly falls for her. Over the course of the day, they get to know each other, but can they beat the odds together?

WOW! The unique structure - mostly a dual narrative, but interspersed with stories of lots of people the MCs meet - got my attention quickly but Nicola's beautiful writing and the superb central pairing are even more impressive. I loved the chemistry between them while the author also brought New York to life perfectly. A stunning look at love, science, poetry, fate, and so many other topics. And oh, that ending! An incredible read.