Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Sophia Bennett on Artists' Models and Role Models

Thrilled to have Sophia Bennett, author of Following Ophelia (published by Stripes) on the blog today to talk about some inspirational women to celebrate International Women's Day!

Artists’ models and role models
Hi Jim

Thanks for having me! I’m so happy to be writing for you on International Women’s Day.

I regularly talk to schools about Winning Like a Girl, because, even in the twenty-first century, it’s hard. One of the things that shines through is that we need role models. Lots of them. Thank God for films like Hidden Figures, showing so brilliantly that bold women have been there throughout history, changing the world and pushing boundaries. We need to tell their stories.

Researching art and history for my new book, I found Victorian England littered with women I wanted to write about. It wasn’t all Florence Nightingale and Ada Lovelace – brilliant though they were. Following Ophelia is set in the thriving, scandalous London art world of the 1850s. Here are snapshots of four of my favourite, art-related nineteenth century girls.

Julia Cameron

I first came across Julia Margaret Cameron through her sister, Sarah Prinsep, a society hostess who entertained the Pre-Raphaelites. They were two of the amazing seven Pattle sisters, born in India, whom I’ve talked about in my blog post for the History Girls this month.

Of the seven, Virginia was known as Beauty, Sarah was Dash, and Julia was Talent. In 1863, when she was 48, Julia’s daughter gave her a camera. You can imagine it: a huge, wooden box-like affair with brass fittings. She instantly fell in love with photography and became a pioneer. Soon she could be found wandering around in skirts stained with chemicals, setting up shoots in the garden of her home. But she wasn’t a rich dilettante photographer.  This is what Marta Weiss, curator of the recent V&A exhibition has to say about her in ‘When mistakesmake the art’, by Amanda Ruggieri: 

“She was immediately controversial. Her photographic contemporaries criticised her work for being out of focus – which she says she did deliberately – for being ‘slovenly’, as they put it. For leaving flaws, like splotches and swirls you get from the uneven application of chemicals, or smearing things when the plate was still wet. Those kinds of flaws are things that the other photographers would have discarded as mistakes. She seemed to either accept, at the very least, or embrace them.”

The Rosebud Garden of Girls 
Even in the 1860s, Julia was pushing photography in a fascinating new direction, treating it as an art form. Of all the photographers around at the time, she’s the one I would have picked to do my portrait: the Annie Liebowitz of her time. Except, where Annie Liebowitz is all about control and detail, Julia was about surprise. I love that.

Another exhibit marking the 200th anniversary of her birth, Julia Margaret Cameron: Influence and Intimacy, runs until 31 March at London’s Science Museum. Go see it if you can. (The Science Museum shop is awesome, by the way. It’s worth a visit for that alone.)

Berthe Morisot

How many Impressionist painters can you name? Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne …? Berthe Morisot first exhibited at the Salon de Paris in 1864, the year after Julia Cameron got her camera. She was twenty-three. She exhibited with the Impressionists from their first exhibition in 1874, and was described by Le Temps as “the one real Impressionist in this group”. Her paintings, often of women in quiet moments at home, have a natural intimacy to them, and she painted a lot, fitting it in around her family life.

When I think of the Impressionists, I tend to imagine a large, well-fed Frenchman in a blue smock, sitting in his garden or by a river. But Berthe was just as good, as her fellow artists and critics of the day recognised. She was truly one of them, and there from the start.

Lizzie Siddal

Lizzie was the inspiration for my book, Following Ophelia. As well as being Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s lover, muse and, eventually, wife, she posed for Millais’s famous painting of Hamlet’s Ophelia, floating in a stream, close to death.

Lizzie was a striking beauty with deep-set eyes and the classic red hair we think of as Pre-Raphaelite today. She posed by lying in bath of water for the Ophelia painting and nearly died of the cold she caught. But she wasn’t just a dedicated muse: she was an artist herself, supported by John Ruskin, and her self-portraits show how objective she was about herself and her looks.

She died of laudanum poisoning soon after she was married. A sad, romantic life, with a sad, Romantic ending. My character, Mary, who is inspired by her career, will not be following in her footsteps all the way.

Christina Rossetti

Christina wasn’t an official member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but as Rossetti’s sister, she contributed to their early magazine, The Germ. Here is a poem she wrote about an artist’s muse in 1860. It’s my favourite: a woman, watched by a man, as seen by another woman. I love its quiet feminism, bubbling under the surface. It’s in the book, and says it all, really.

In An Artist’s Studio

One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel -- every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Monday, 6 March 2017

100 Recommendations For Secondary School Librarians: Part 4 of 10

Reposting my intro to this feature. Parts 1-3 can be found HERE.

Inspired by a tweet last week, I thought I'd have a go at providing a list of some fairly recent books I thought librarians should definitely be aware of!

Help needed! I've been asked to support a secondary school library to buy new books. All recommendations appreciated. Please RT Thank you
— Jo Clarke (@bookloverJo) January 4, 2017

A few things - firstly this is only covering 2012 onwards (except for two exceptions which are SO good and SO underrated that I can't leave them out!) Secondly I have tried to go for a wide range of genres and I've tried to be inclusive in choices of authors. I've limited myself to one book/series per author but even so there are some AMAZING books that haven't made it in. In some cases that's because I had lots from a particular genre and had to make tough decisions, in some cases it's because talking to librarians has left me feeling that lots of people already have certain books in stock and it would be more useful spreading the word about slightly lesser-known ones. (There ARE a few really big ones in here anyway, for various reasons.) I've also tried to go for mostly UK authors - and obviously all books here are published in the UK, as far as I'm aware.

Basically what I'm trying to say is this is IN NO WAY a definitive list and shouldn't be taken to be THE 100 BOOKS YOU MUST HAVE or anything. However it is a list of 100 books which I have (mostly) read and loved or (in a few cases) haven't read but have had recommended to me incredibly highly, and which I think would be great ones to have in your secondary school library.

I'm aiming to split this up over ten parts, probably fortnightly. Each week will have six books or completed series from 2012 - 2016, two ongoing series, and two coming out this year to watch out for. 

So, here's part 4!


The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson (Corgi)

Based on the true story of Mary Willcox, a girl who was discovered wandering the streets and managed to convince the wealthy family who found her that she was a princess from the South Seas, this is a fascinating historical novel looking at truth, lies, relationships and how easy it is to get people to believe something they wish to be true. Brilliant characterisation and a fabulous story. (There's an early scene of sexual assault, by the way, which is well-handled and completely necessary, but something to be aware of if you're recommending to the younger end of YA.)

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 beautiful 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.

Black Sheep by Na’ima B Robert (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)

Sixteen-year-old Dwayne is a badman – a wannabe rapper who hangs around with other gang members and doesn't see any future in education. Misha, high-flying university-bound daughter of a local councillor, should have nothing in common with him, but when they meet there's an undeniable attraction, and they start to date in secret. Misha makes Dwayne want to be a better person – but with his old life tempting him back at every turn, can he make a break from it, or will he be drawn back in?
Outstanding dual narrative with two incredible lead characters; Dwayne's words, in particular, dance and jive and shimmy, while Misha has a wonderfully strong and clear voice. They're a pair of stunning characters with really strong chemistry between them, and I couldn't wait to see how their relationship would develop. There's also a really great portrayal of Islam as Dwayne sees how the faith is helping a friend of his. (It's #ownvoices, by the way.)

The Last Leaves Falling by Fox Benwell, formerly known as Sarah Benwell (Definitions)

Gorgeous and heartbreaking story of a Japanese teen diagnosed with ALS facing his impending death, with the help of friends he makes over the internet and then meets offline. I really loved main character Sora and the new friends he makes, as well as the relationship he has with his mother and grandparents. Despite the hard-hitting topic of death, there's a core of optimism and hope which stops the book from being too bleak, and it's surprisingly uplifting.

Brock by Anthony McGowan (Barrington Stoke) 

Finding a gang of bullies digging up a badger set, Nicky is unable to do much to stop them. But when he realises one cub has escaped, he sets out to save it. Barrington Stoke constantly publish stunning books which are perfect for reluctant/struggling readers, but so brilliant they can be enjoyed by everyone. This is one of my absolute favourites of theirs, along with Non Pratt's Unboxed from 2016 - both Tony and Non have a real gift for producing incredibly memorable characters with brilliant development, and wonderful stories, even over the course of a short book. 

Run by Kody Keplinger (Hodder Children's Books)

This book about the friendship between a wild girl and a much quieter girl, who's legally blind, sounds incredible. I haven't read it yet, but have heard lots of amazing things. The strong bond between the two - who ride across Kentucky trying to find Bo's dad, keeping out of the reach of the police - is getting wonderful reviews and I think this will be the first #ownvoices book I've read by a legally blind author.

Ongoing series

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Harper Voyager)

In a world where defiance is met with death, elite - but unwilling - soldier Elias meets Laia, a slave who has infiltrated the military academy he attends to try and help rebels rescue her brother. The world-building here is outstanding - it's a fantasy land, but inspired by ancient Rome - and I love the main characters and the development, while the plot is brutal (another for older teens) but thrilling.

Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell (Hachette Children's Books)

So many wonderful #boybandlit books came out last year; I'm a huge fan of Harmony Jones's Girl vs Boyband and Sophia Bennett's Love Song, but I think this is just about my favourite. Charlie is a teen photographer caught in the orbit of hot new boy band Fire and Lights, and I love her character and those of the boys in the band, and the rivalry between them. It's an incredibly fun read, although it ends in a massive cliffhanger - I can't wait for the sequel!

2017 Books (Both of these are already published, yay!)

Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson (Harper 360)

I got this at the weekend and am so excited after hearing amazing things about it! Mary is a pregnant black teenager who, when she was 9, is alleged to have killed a white baby she and her mother were looking after. Mary has to fight her past in order to try and keep her own baby. Dahlia Adler and other people I respect have said that this is an incredible read, mixing a stunning mystery with compelling writing and amazing characters. Definitely one for older teens - it sounds like tough going, but superb.

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt (Usborne)

One of the few UKYA novels I've read which I'd describe as an out-and-out romance (rather than another type of story with romantic elements), this is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and similar authors. Lead character Lexi Angelo is a convention kid, who's always helped her dad run big events. Love interest Aidan Green is a superstar young author who she meets and is initially annoyed by, but when she reads his book she falls in love with his writing. The couple are seriously swoonworthy and the setting of various conventions is brilliant!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Shorts on Sunday #10

More short story/short non-fiction recommendations!

Dulce Et Decorum Est by Chibundu Onuzo

Availability: Included in Here I Stand : Stories That Speak For Freedom (Walker)

Story: A young lawyer defends a teenage boy who, along with three older men, faces a charge of aggravated burglary.

Why I'm Recommending: Despite being just 16 pages long, Chibundu Onuzo made me really care about both main characters here, the boy and his lawyer, and the story builds to a really powerful ending.

Healthy Relationships by Holly Bourne

Availability: Included in the upcoming book Doing It by Hannah Witton (Wren and Rook)

Holly Bourne writes about something she's mentioned several times in panels I've seen her on, the Wormtail Test. Would behaviour often accepted as romantic - like watching someone sleep - coming from a handsome boy get the same reaction if it was Peter Pettigrew who was doing it?

Why I'm Recommending: Just as she does in her brilliant Spinsters Club series, Holly tackles an important subject with humour, which helps to get across her hugely important message about the dangers of abusive relationships.

Clay and Smokeless Fire by Saladin Ahmed

Availability: Read it free online at Slate.

Story: A djinn, growing disillusioned with the world due to the rise of the new president, is surprised at what happens when the president's men try to take a young boy and his mother from their house.

Why I'm Recommending: Beautifully-written and hopeful story at a time when we need all the hope we can get.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Twenty Things I've Read #13

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 

Addition: Given the current political climate, I would strongly suggest also reading EVERYTHING Celeste Pewter tweets; she is incredibly insightful and her tweets on US politics have helped me figure out which things going on are reasonably worrying and which are absolutely terrifying.

The Twenty

There was a brief moment when I thought of doing a The Hate U Give special this week to celebrate its American release; I figured that twenty posts or threads on Angie Thomas's phenomenal book seemed reasonable. However there are some other incredible things I wanted to share as well, so I was SUPER restrained and limited THUG to just eleven entries...

Cosmopolitan interviewed Angie here. She tweeted about talking to teens at her launch party, and the impact the book had made on them. For her Mugglenet Author Takeover, Heidi Heilig recommended some incredible diverse books, including THUG, while it was also included in Shanna Miles's 25 Books for Teens Written by Black Women Writers to Rock Your 2017, and on EW, Nivea Serrao posted about 14 books to read after finishing THUG

There's a great review in the New York Times from Marjorie Ingall, along with reviews of other YA books including Nina LaCour's We Are Okay and Ibi Zoboi's American Street, both high on my TBR, and another fabulous one from Katie Ward Beim-Esche at CS Monitor

And Becky Albertalli, Nicola Yoon and Camryn Garrett took to Twitter to strongly recommend it, while Brittany Blake shared her thoughts on why she's excited for it in a really moving personal post

In The Guardian, Alankrita Shrivastava wrote about why she's fighting the ban on her film Lipstick Under My BurkhaNicole Brinkley wrote a great Book Riot piece on AroAceJugheadOrBust, and the issues with Riverdale the TV show and the recently-announced 'love potion' issue of JugheadHuck Magazine have a fabulous piece on June Eric-Udorie taking 400 low-income girls of colour to see Hidden Figures. Speaking of cinema, Danielle Dash wrote a superb piece about Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Fences

As you'd expect, I'm delighted that Abrams and Chronicle named Tales on Moon Lane their bookstore of the monthOn the Waterstones blog, Mohsin Hamid shares his Five Best Transnational Novels. There's another great Open Mic on the B & N blog, with Katherine Webber, Alice Oseman, Rin Chupeco, Lamar Giles and others sharing personal stories. There are also a couple of fabulous blogs f
rom The Book Hive in Norwich responding to Susan Hill cancelling her event at their shops on rather bizarre grounds. (Needless to say, I'm with them on this one!)

Finally, the incredible Wei Ming Kam wrote about the Carnegie, bookshops, and seeing herself in Malinda Lo's Ash

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Laura Lam Guest Post

Thrilled to be part of the blog tour for one of my most anticipated releases for several years, Laura Lam's Masquerade! I've been desperate to find out the ending to Micah Grey's story since first reading Pantomime and Shadowplay, both of which I adored.

Over to Laura!


In the smaller Northern villages, there are many types of supposed panaceas and poultices for illness. Many studies have been carried out to ascertain their efficacy. Most of them are little more than quackery, but some, especially ones which used Vestige liquids found in the area, proved to be shockingly effective. Yet due to the volatile nature of Alder-age liquids, they are not advised for consumption.
— ‘Folk Remedies in Northern Ellada’, Professor Shawn Arbutus, Royal Snakewood University

Every chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago.

There’s more of a focus on lesser known aspects of folk culture in some excerpts in Masquerade. By now, readers have learned a lot of the larger aspects of the world, but these are lesser known ones. In this world, Vestige technology has been left behind by the mysterious Alder, who vanished centuries ago. The things they left behind have shaped the world in various ways, but no one truly understands it: to the people who live in Ellada, it’s basically magic. That means there’s a lot of experimentation and trying to find out what different Vestige can do. It can have disastrous results.

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.

Masquerade is the third and final novel in Laura Lam's Micah Grey trilogy, following Pantomime and Shadowplay.

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light?

Micah's Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy's blessing - and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they've re-emerged to spread terror once more.  Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart's desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn't. At times she misses the sunshine.

Books Read In February

The Tennis Term at Trebizon by Anne Digby (illustrated by Lucy Truman)

One of my very favourite books in the Trebizon series - it's the last term for prefect Pippa Fellowes-Walker, a character I love, and we get to see Becky's progress at tennis really improve. In addition, there's an intriguing mystery, and the friendship between the Six is fabulous. Lucy Truman's illustrations - particularly the one of Pippa painting Becky, one of the series's best scenes - are great, as ever.

Summer Camp at Trebizon by Anne Digby (illustrated by Lucy Truman)

I remember really liking this one growing up, but it's not held up as well as the others so far in the series. I think this is partly because there's a flood of new characters, sidelining Tish and Sue, in particular. Having said that everything in the series is a fun, quick read, and Lucy Truman's illustrations definitely add to the book. 

Wintersong by S Jae-Jones 

Absolutely gorgeous writing here and the fantasy and world-building is so good in the first half that reading on Kindle, I ordered a paperback when just 20% or so of the way through. The second half becomes more of a romance than is personally to my taste; regardless it's an easy recommendation and S Jae-Jones's language is so lyrical that I'm extremely keen to read whatever she writes next.

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Oh wow! Such a gorgeously fun read, Sofia is an utterly wonderful MC and her relationship with her family had me in stitches for much of the book (it gets much more emotional late on.) The guys she meets are great characters and I was left desperately hoping I was shipping her with the right person. (I won't say if I was or not!) The most hilarious adult novel I've read for a long time; I'm already incredibly excited for the upcoming sequel.

Flying Lessons And Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

Outstanding collection with so many amazing stories! Matt de la Pena and Walter Dean Myers bookend it with two of the best shorts I've read for ages, but there's not a weak link in this wonderful anthology - and such variety in characters and stories! Special mention to contest winner Kelly J Baptist, whose story absolutely holds up against the more experienced and better known authors here. A definite must read!

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Following her excellent debut Seven Ways We Lie, Riley Redgate gives us a story about a girl cross-dressing to try and make it as part of one of her school's all male a capella groups. This was a fun read but also tackled the issues with being a scholarship student at a school full of rich people when your parents are struggling financially, and looked at gender roles in an interesting way as well. Great chemistry between the lead and her love interest, well worth reading.

Editing Emma by Chloe Seager

I got a super early look at a bound MS so will talk more about it once I've read a proof or finished copy, but just a heads-up that it's a really hilarious read and perfect for fans of Candy Harper or Beth Garrod!

The Complete Adventures of Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr

I bought this - a childhood favourite - to pass on to a work colleague for her son but couldn't resist rereading it myself first. It's a really funny and wonderfully feminist fairy tale, as Polly constantly outwits the wolf. Their relationship is surprisingly sweet at times, with her having to rescue him at a few points - perhaps most hilariously when he kidnaps her ultra-demanding baby sister!

Trust Me I'm Trouble by Mary Elizabeth Summer 

Julep is back in a book that, like her first appearance, is a fun read which kept me entertained. I have to admit I think overall I preferred the first - this one was too implausible even for me at times - but on the plus side the romance here, as she falls for a girl, is wonderful and I loved seeing them together. As in book 1, the main story is tied up but there's a huge twist for J at the end. If there's a 3rd, I'll definitely read.

Mama Can't Raise No Man by Robyn Travis

Breathtaking debut novel told in letters between a young Black man in prison and his friends and family (with a few court transcripts.) The voice of every character is stunning, while the book is an entertaining, sometimes heartbreaking, and always deeply thought-provoking story of Black masculinity, injustice, life in prison and on the streets, and of being the child of a single mother. It builds to an incredible climax - a truly superb read.

Book of the Month: 

Less of a close call than last time around, with two which stood out as the best by far. Ayisha Malik's Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged was brilliant and I'm incredibly excited for more from her soon in The Other Half Of Happiness, but Robyn Travis's Mana Can't Raise No Man is definitely the best I've read so far this year! 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

February In Review - Films and Book Events

Another busy month, although sadly I didn't get to the theatre at all - very rare for me! (Making up for that this month though; heading to the Old Vic very shortly and also have tickets for Rent and Masters of Show Choir later in March.)


20th Century Women

Fairly quiet but an interesting story, and Greta Gerwig gives the best performance I've seen from her. It raises lots of intriguing questions about the best way to bring up a boy. Having said that, I didn't really love it and can't quite place my finger on why


Absolutely magnificent with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis giving two of the best performances I've seen in years. A staggeringly good film which has lots of great characters and a gripping script and is wonderfully directed.

The Founder

Entertaining, although made me never want to eat at McDonalds again in solidarity with the original owners. Michael Keaton is superb as the oily and frankly vile Ray Kroc, and it's an interesting story. 

Hidden Figures

Oh, wow! A breathtaking film, brilliantly written and directed and with so many outstanding performances - the central trio being three of my favourites of the year so far. I can't believe how exciting it was despite me knowing what happened to the astronauts involved; finding out the story behind the people who put them into space was utterly spellbinding. Have seen it twice; easily the film of the year so far for me.

The Lego Batman Movie

Good fun, and it's really nice to see a Batman movie which isn't staggeringly dark - very much the opposite! Having said that, it's not particularly memorable or anything.

Changed opinion after second viewing: I watched this again last night and I think I was being unfair first time around; I found it really enjoyable rewatching and loved all the callbacks to/spoofs of previous Batman movies. Some fun songs too and the message is a sweet one.


Superb performances here from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the central couple! This is a surprisingly quiet movie, with the pair showing stoicism and courage in the face of discrimination - and that quietness adds to the film's power, especially in the climactic 15 minutes or so. Extremely moving.

Film of the month? Fences was truly amazing and I think it definitely had the two best performances of anything I saw, but Hidden Figures was an outstanding movie with three superb characters, all brilliantly portrayed, a wonderful story and incredible script. Has to be Hidden Figures!

Book events

I went to three brilliant launches, Lisa Williamson's for All About Mia at Waterstones Piccadilly, Katherine Woodfine's for The Mystery of the Painted Dragon at Waterstones High Street Kensington, and Abi Elphinstone's for The Night Spinner at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road. All three were hugely enjoyable; Abi's holds a special place in my heart because she's one of the first authors I became friends with and it's amazing to see her continued success, she gave one of the best speeches I've ever heard, AND I had the most amazing profile picture with her, Debbie - one of my very best friends - and two other authors I hugely admire, Katherine Webber and Katherine Rundell.

I also went to two really good panel events, with a hilarious conversation at High Street Kensington with Anna James doing a superb job of keeping Mel Salisbury, Katie Webber, Cat Doyle and Sara Barnard vaguely on topic. (Admittedly, the topic was more Harry Potter than anyone's books, but it occasionally crossed over - and what could anyone expect with THAT panel on Harry Potter night?) Katie was also brilliant at Dark Societies, being interviewed along with Caraval author Stephanie Garber by the brilliant Leila. (There's an awesome post about that panel on Bookish At Heart, by the way!) 

The Stripes blogger event was definitely one of the best publisher events I've been to for ages! We got to hear from Red Eye author Sharon Gosling about new horror story Fir (the bits I wasn't covering my eyes and ears for to avoid being too scared were great...) 

We also got to see the fabulous video about the upcoming anthology A Change Is Gonna Come, featuring so many amazing BAME authors. I am hugely excited for this, and hearing from Patrice Lawrence who was at the event in person and talked about her short story, which sounds superb, has only made me even more desperate to read it. 

In one of the most original activities I've taken part in at a blogger event, we actually plotted a YA novel along with And Then We Ran author Katy Cannon - a hilarious idea involving Bruce Springsteen's secret twin brother and his quest to become a lion tamer. (Spoiler: "They realise the circus was inside them all along.") This was completely fabulous, Katy is so awesome!

And Following Ophelia author Sophia Bennett appeared in costume - complete with a red wig - as her MC to talk about her historical novel set in the world of the Pre-Raphaelites. I can't wait to read this one, and it was great fun to then get into costume ourselves for photos in the break - check me and my friend and drinkYA co-host Julianne out below! We then got to visit Leighton House, which partly inspired Following Ophelia, and take a guided tour which again was a hugely original touch to the event. A really brilliant afternoon. (For more about the event, check out the fabulous Stripes Storify on it!)

Also, not quite a book event but it DID involve two book bloggers - me and my amazing friend Debbie visited The Library Pot, Richmond's amazingly awesome board game cafe! To read about our fabulous night there, check out this post