Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books Read So Far In 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
NOTE: This went up on Tuesday; since then I've read Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and they are both INCREDIBLE so have added them in - it's now a top 12.

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (David Fickling Books)
I read this at the start of the year and am still thinking about it AND am keen to reread soon. The most fabulous world-building I've seen in a long time and two absolutely pitch-perfect character arcs for main character Fidge and her cousin Graham make this a triumph of imagination and a stunning read for anyone of any age. It also builds to one of the most memorable and wonderfully done climaxes for ages. Superb!

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder Children's Books)
Stunning contemporary telling the story of Marlon, caught up in danger when a date ends tragically. He's an incredible main character and my heart went out to him and his mother, already heartbroken by an accident his brother was involved in several years previously. The way Marlon gets drawn into the world Andre had occupied is brilliantly paced - although it's a tough read as it's so clearly leading to bad things. A really outstanding debut!

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.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elon Mastai (Michael Joseph)
I don’t generally do time travel, but this sounded too intriguing to pass up and requesting it via NetGalley was SUCH a brilliant decision! Starting in the 2016 we were meant to have – a wonderful utopia with unlimited energy, this follows a slacker who is the son of the man who’s invented time-travel. Despite the perfection of this world, main character Tom is left alone by a series of heartbreaks, and after a time-travel accident ends up wiping out the world and catapulting him into ‘our’ 2016 – which may seem like a nightmare world in comparison, but which has people who love him in it. He’s left to try and decide whether to ‘fix’ the universe, or to hold on to the people he cares for. Stunning voice here, genuinely unexpected twists and turns in the plot, and really lovely characters.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury)
AMAZING. Katherine Rundell follows up arguably my two favourite middle-grade novels of the last five years with one which is equally as outstanding. A stunning set of characters, a breathtaking setting, and a fabulous look at the relationship between nature and man, and between people living in an area and those new to it, combine to make this my favourite book for this age range of the year.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (Simon & Schuster)
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 devastating as it is, it's also hopeful - a stunning look at heartbreak, grief and forgiveness.

Mama Can't Raise No Man by Robyn Travis (OWN IT!)
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.

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein (Bloomsbury)
Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity has been my absolute favourite UKYA novel of all-time ever since I first read it about 5 years ago. I'm not sure if this prequel has dislodged it from that peak, but WOW it comes closer than pretty much anything else has. Seeing Julie from that book as a 15-year-old, investigating the disappearance of a London archivist working in her home in the Scottish highlands, was a real treat. I love the setting here, the family dynamics in Julie's own family and that of her new traveller friends the McEwens, and the way that Julie discovers her sexuality and comes of age. Also there is SO MUCH great kissing!

Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood (Macmillan Children's Books)
One of UKYA's fastest rising stars nails it again with another incredibly entertaining contemporary. I loved the focus on music here and the reinvention of main character Lizzie as Betty, but as the book progresses it goes from a fun read into a nuanced and wonderful look at toxic friendships and how much you should change yourself for someone else. As well, it's really awesome to see an author look at the potential paths teens can take after they're 16.

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

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (Hodder Children's)
Moxie is a hard-hitting and completely gripping novel about a school where sexism is out of control and, inspired by Riot Grrrl zines of her mother's she finds, quiet girl Vivian anonymously starts to fight back by writing her own zine, Moxie. This hooked me straight away and didn't let go. Viv's journey as she starts to protest against the rape culture of the school she goes to, first in a small way but then in bigger ones as she gains confidence and sees other girls - and a few guys - support her and do other things inspired by Moxie, is brilliant. I love the intersectionality as the protests lead to girls starting to socialise more with people of other races, and the way that in conversations with the new boy in town and with her doubtful friend Viv takes down the issues with #notallmen and with the stereotype of feminists as 'man haters'. Despite the tough topics it tackles, it's also a refreshing and fun read which will inspire readers in the same way that Holly Bourne's Spinster Club series has. Outstanding.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (Simon & Schuster)
This is a memoir of an incredible year filled with wonderful things - including speeches Shonda gave at three events, the full texts of all of which are included. But it's also something of a love letter to herself and to her amazing friends, and perhaps most of all an inspirational book in showing how she learned to feel better about herself and making me feel better about myself too. I absolutely adored it; I cannot stress how much I would recommend it and I honestly think that reading it has helped me figure out some things I've been trying to get my head around for ages. Shonda's style is so direct, so refreshing and so easy to read that it's amazing how hard-hitting it is. I also love that she talks about friendships and finding out that some people don't have your best interests at heart, and how to deal with that, and that 'happy endings' are different for different people.

Special mentions to Wing Jones by Katherine Webber and The Dragon with A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis, both of which I read prior to the year starting thanks to wonderful publishers (Walker and Bloomsbury respectively) sending me advanced copies. Both are FABULOUS!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Twenty Things I've Read #17

My links recap continues, after a slightly longer break this time around. (Busy time of the year!)

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.

On that note, this thread from a mother in the USA talking about the money she'd owe without health insurance is an incredibly moving read - I hope everyone in a position to affect things reads it. (If you're in the US, call your reps please!)

For day job reasons, I have to keep relatively quiet about my own political views. However I'm really thrilled by the amount of interest younger people I talk to are taking in politics today. I've been reading the independent blogs of the main parties a lot recently - Conservative Home, Labour List and Lib Dem Voice. It's well worth checking them out - even the ones you disagree with - to be more informed. And with Parliament back in session, reading Hansard keeps me updated with what's going on and lets me see what my MP is talking about - definitely interesting to take a look at see what's being covered in debates.

A huge thanks to all involved in the Authors for Grenfell Tower auction - particularly Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Sara Barnard and Molly Ker Hawn - which has some incredible things you can bid on! If you haven't checked it out yet, please take a look; there's a couple of days left to get things including afternoon tea with David Walliams, advice from superstar agents Molly herself, Juliet Mushens and Claire Wilson (amongst others) or a book written about your child by Piers Torday! Also if you're in a position to help get some national coverage on Monday or Tuesday as the auction builds to a climax, please get in touch with Harriet.

Other bookish stuff - Asian YA is a fab new site set up by the amazing Eri celebrating the "authentic and glorious portrayal of Asian kids/teens" in YA - don't miss it!

I'm super late raving about this one because I met Sarah at a Wing Jones event at the start of the year and ADORED her fan art but didn't get her Twitter name. We finally met properly a couple of times last week - check out her gorgeous artwork of Wing, and of characters from Melinda Salisbury's stunning fantasy trilogy!

Great book haul post by Amy on her fabulous new blog.

And of course it's Indie Bookshop Week this week - don't miss their website with details of all the incredible shops taking part!

On Maximum Pop, Zoe wrote a must-read piece on living with a disability and being housebound at the age of 23.

Politico have an interesting piece on the sad death of Otto Warmbier shortly after being released by North Korea and returning to the US.

I love the Book Smuggler's Pride Month special of what's on their radar!

I know lots of people are INCREDIBLY excited for the Stripes Books anthology A Change Is Gonna Come - if you're on Netgalley, you can request it here.

Outstanding thread from the amazing @findmereading on how just because you dislike a book doesn't mean it's problematic.

A really interesting piece in the New York Times on a 12-year-old girl who came out in her Mormon church.

Another great Twitter thread, from Debbie Reese, with lots of fabulous recommendations for books by Native writers.

And Angie Thomas, as ever, wonderful talking about the need for more diverse characters.

There's a fascinating post here from teacher Ashley Booth on how he teaches whole class reading.

And for light relief after a tough week, I love this post from a brewery who tried to organise an event called A Piss Up In A Brewery - and failed!

Independent Bookshop Week 2017

Tomorrow launches Independent Bookshop Week 2017, and I thought I'd do a quick round-up of 5 of my favourite indie bookshops for anyone looking for places to go on their #bookshopcrawl! But first, a MASSIVE thank you to the lovely people at Books Are My Bag for sending the above swag package to me - how awesome is this?! I adore the Hufflepuff special edition of the Philosopher's Stone, but the (badly-photographed, sorry!) tote bag is stunning too.

For more details of IBW and the bookshop crawl, check out their website.

Tales on Moon Lane - as ever, I have to declare an interest as I do some work on website Teens on Moon Lane for them. Regardless, this is my favourite shop ever, with gorgeous window displays, a stunning selection of books (the children's non-fiction section is INCREDIBLE, in particular) and super-knowledgeable staff - everyone who works here is a massive fan of children's and YA books and it really makes a huge difference when you need help. If you are looking for a specialist kids/YA bookshop to spend some time in tomorrow, head over to Herne Hill!

The Big Green Bookshop - Simon took the Twitter world by storm with his perfect winding-up of Piers Morgan earlier this year, and gained a ton of publicity for the shop in doing so. Both Simon and Tim are great guys who are a pleasure to talk to and give brilliant book recommendations and the selection at the shop is always really interesting - I especially like the variety you get on their display tables.

Foyles Charing Cross Road - always well-stocked (including a fabulous selection of US imports), great displays and massively helpful staff - including wonderful blogger Jo, and soon-to-be published author Chloe Coles. The sheer size of the place and the range of books available is perhaps overwhelming at times, but there's always someone to help you find what you're looking for or recommend something you didn't know you needed. And lots of places to sit down and check out a first chapter too!

Queen's Park Books - gorgeous place which hosts some fabulous events and has an incredible selection of books for a shop of its size. Laura, who runs their Twitter account, is especially fabulous (both online and offline) and there's an awesome US section here too.

The Book Nook - moving outside of London, Hove's Book Nook is a must-visit if you're in the Brighton area. One of the most beautiful shops around, it has great staff and hosts some awesome events.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Physical Books and E-Books - Which Do You Prefer?

E-books or physical books? It's a subject which can get a lively debate going, and it was brought up again at last night's panel at Waterstones Kensington when an audience member asked what the authors thought of reports showing that sales of e-books seem to have slumped.

I have loved physical books for nearly as long as I can remember. I have amazing memories of my parents teaching me to read, of sitting with them as they read Enid Blyton and Anthony Buckeridge to me. Of going through the spare room at my grandparents' house and finding my first Chalet School book, starting a love affair with the series which lasted for perhaps 15 years. Of being given amazing presents, books I'd never have bought for myself but ended up loving. And a cupboard in my flat is full of signed books by authors I've been lucky enough to meet, with some truly gorgeous messages to me which I will hold in my heart for a long, long time.

So the joys of a hardback or paperback copy are definitely not lost on me. I also find them easier to read and tend to take in more information when I read them than when I read an e-book. (This is apparently the case with most people, according to scientific studies.)

And yet, for all the great advantages of physical books, there are some massive plus points to e-books as well. I've read self-published books which are either unavailable in the UK as physical copies, or at the very least difficult to get hold of. And in many cases they're books which stand out as very different from most of what's published for YA readers - I'm thinking of Hannah Moskowitz's 3, the most in-depth look at polyamory I've seen in YA, Ishara Deen's God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems - a Muslim version of Nancy Drew, with a fun mystery and a wonderful central character - or the collected short stories of Lawrence Block (which I could have bought here, but couldn't carry around to read as he's written so many!)

In addition, there's also the chance for authors to release short stories which wouldn't have been available in previous years - whether that's the author themselves doing it, as Laura Lam did with her Vestigial Tales to give fans like me something to read while waiting for Masquerade, or working with publishers. Two UK authors who've done brilliantly are Melinda Salisbury, with Scholastic recently releasing short story collection The Heart Collector, and Robin Stevens, whose short story e-releases did so well that they were collected - along with tons of excellent bonus material - as her recent release Cream Buns and Crime.

Of course, there's an elephant in the room here - the threat that Amazon, in particular, poses to bookshops. Yes, e-books do have their benefits, but the dwindling number of bookshops is a worry for anyone who loves them, and I appreciate that people buying e-books can hasten that decline. This would be, in my opinion, a Very Bad Thing. Several of my favourite places in London are bookshops; I'm lucky enough to do some work for Tales on Moon Lane (my absolute idea of heaven!) and can spend hours browsing and talking to staff there, in Foyles, in Big Green Bookshop or many more.  I've also attended a lot of fabulous events at bookshops, and got a ton of great recommendations from knowledgeable booksellers - neither of which are going to happen when you buy from Amazon! My personal feelings - and this is very much just what I do myself, rather than meant to be judging anyone else - is that I don't buy anything from Amazon that I'd be planning on getting normally. I buy Kindle books either to try out authors unfamiliar to me (especially when they're reduced), or if they're only available as e-books, or if I've already got physical copies and want to have one for the convenience of always having it with me. (This tends to apply mainly to mood-busting reads like Candy Harper's Faith trilogy, or Beth Garrod's Super Awkward.)

So, in conclusion from me, I love both physical and e-books. How about you? Do you have a preference? And what are your thoughts on buying from bookshops vs buying from Amazon? We'd love it if you joined the discussion over at the new UKYAMG subreddit!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Twenty Things I've Read #16

My links recap continues, after a slightly longer break this time around. (Busy time of the year!)

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.

Firstly, and most importantly, my heart goes out to all the victims of the gragic Grenfell fire. If you're in a position to donate/volunteer, please do so - BuzzFeed have a list of verified fundraising pages here while there's a Twitter account which is giving details of where volunteering is needed at the moment. 

Great interview here with Lollies judges Michael Rosen and Nicolette Jones.
Amber's post on teens in the YA community is a must-read!

Speaking of teens in the YA community, Amy's new blog is FABULOUS - you should definitely check it out. I especially like her May reading wrap-up, she writes quick and to the point reviews which are really useful.

Awesome Twitter thread by Daniel Heath Justice about avoiding the 'snarky dismissal of folks who like things you don't'.

And another great thread from Kumail Nanjiani on Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Richard Curtis.

Rosalind Jana wrote on growing up in the modelling industry.

I completely adore this fabulous piece on Mallory Ortberg of The Toast!

Non Pratt is fundraising for the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability and will shave her head if she reaches £2000 - over halfway there; please donate if you can!

Julia Ember's queer books recommended by Hogwarts house is AMAZING.

Rave Sashayed has tweeted about Joss Whedon's unproduced script for a Wonder Woman movie. It's an eye-opener (and doesn't make me too confident about JW's Batgirl film, to be honest.)

Great Daily Beast post by Ira Madison III on The Color Purple and Elizabeth Banks.

And a really interesting interview with Twitter co-founder Evan Williams - is the internet broken?

I haven't actually had a chance to listen to this yet because I'm TERRIBLE with podcasts, but hearing really good things about Emma Gannon's with Juno Dawson!

Really wonderful post by Grace on losing weight and body positivity, including book recs.

Sooo thrilled that my amazing friend Katie Tsang (who some of you may know as Wing Jones author Katherine Webber) and her husband Kevin have written a series together for 6+ children! Read this thread about it from Katie.

Zoraida Córdova's recommendations of books to read if you loved Wonder Woman are awesome!

Another superb blog - Sophie and Sarah's Copper Boom is fab; I especially loved their post on 10 top teen movies.

And a stunning post by Jenn Lerner on 'performing disability' here - please read it.

Finally, I revealed my new project, a UKYA and UKMG subReddit! Please check it out and join if you'd like to discuss books there.