Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten 'New To Me' People on Twitter

With the Broke and the Bookish still taking a well-deserved break, I wanted to use this week's top ten Tuesday to point people in the direction of some awesome people I've started following recently on Twitter! They are all 'new to me', so not necessarily new to Twitter - sometimes I'm just super slow finding out about great people to follow. Also several of them are London-based people I've met recently at fabulous #drinkYA and #picnicYA events; if you want to come and join the fun yourselves take a look at the MeetUKYA Twitter feed for details of what's going on.
Amy (@GoldenBooksGirl) - It's always cool seeing actual teenagers tweeting and blogging about YA - as much as I love talking about it, I'm aware I'm REALLY not in the target audience. Amy is a wonderful blogger already!
Christy (@Kukadoodles) - I am jealous of Christy's stroopwafels to be honest. But I love her tweets and her great BookTube channel.
The Good Assistant (@gdassistantblog) - Slightly less new, as she joined in February, but I just wanted an excuse to yell again about the amazing news that one of my favourite bloggers has an agent! Huge congrats to The Good Assistant and to the fabulous Alice Sutherland-Hawes, who is now representing her.
Julia (@JuliasBookcase) - I love Julia's absolutely gorgeous Instagram feed and she's an awesome BookTuber too.
Jaylee (@thewritingj) - Jaylee's Polycule blog is such a great read about er experiences dating - e's a polyamorous queer person, whose blog always entertains me with er amazing writing.

Liv (@liv_gacka) - Superb book blogger, I think her YALC tips are particularly great!

Malala (@Malala) - I appreciate nearly everyone I know is already following her since she started tweeting about a week ago but WOW how can you not be excited that such an incredible young woman has finally taken to Twitter?!
Marie (@LotsofLivres) - Fab new blogger who writes brilliant reviews.
Sarah (@SarahAstolat) - AMAZING artist - check out her Tumblr! - and fab on Twitter.
Sil (@thebookvoyagers) - Okay Sil isn't actually that new to me, but she's a recent follow simply because people RT her into my timeline so often I assumed I WAS following her! Her blog is really awesome and you should definitely check it out.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Songs About Us Blog Tour: Chris Russell on Friendship

As a huge fan of Chris Russell's stunning #boybandlit debut Songs About A Girl, I'm super-excited to read sequel Songs About Us (Hodder), released last week! I was thrilled when he asked me to be on the blog tour for the new book.

Over to you, Chris...

Just The Two Of Us: Friendship in YA

by Chris Russell

If its not too obvious to say so, friendship is incredibly important to me.

When I was thirteen, I formed a friendship that would go on to lay the foundations for my entire career. My best friend George and I started a band at school which would eventually take us around the world, and without my career in the music industry, I cant imagine I would ever have written Songs About a Girl. George and I are still performing together to this day, and remain the best of friends; in fact, Im now godfather to his second son, and in many ways our time together now is more precious than it ever was.

With all this in mind, its probably not that surprising that friendship ended up being so central to Songs About a Girl and Songs About Us. Ill never the forget the fledgling romances of my teens, but if Im honest, it was my best friendship that had the biggest impact on my life. So Ive worked hard on Charlie and Melissas friendship in the novels, keen to make it believable and heartfelt, keen to do justice to how vitally important platonic relationships are during adolescence.

Charlie and Melissa adhere to the age-old straight one / funny one dynamic. Charlie has a dry sense of humour and a wry, eyebrow-raising take on life, while Melissa is the stooge, the kook, the one that just cant seem to keep one single thought inside her head, no matter how ridiculous. Thinking about it, I could probably trace that dynamic back to my childhood, to classic comedy twosomes like Blackadder and Baldrick, or to Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. All artists recycle, of course. Its our prerogative. :)

These days, more and more YA authors are veering away from simply writing romance and focussing on the equally rich landscape of teenage friendship (Beautiful Broken Things, anyone?), and I think thats a really good thing. Because while crushes come and go, if were lucky, one or two of the friendships we make during our teenage years might just last the rest of our lives.

(Unlike haircuts, of course. For which we should all be eternally thankful.)

Chris Russell

ps. While Im talking friendship in YA, I wanted to tip my cap in the direction of American author Brigid Kemmerer and her novel Letters to the Lost. I recently reviewed Letters to the Lost for the Zoella & Friends Book Club, and aside from being an absolutely stunning book, it has possibly my favourite depiction of male friendship (Declan and Rev) in any YA book Ive read. Its gorgeous. Check out my video review here.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

THIRTY Things I've Read... and Watched #3

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 Thirty
Austin Chant kicked off ‘Gender in Romance’ series on Open Ink’s site, talking about writing trans characters in same-gender romance.
I don’t link to reviews generally because there are just SO many great ones out there that I could easily fill this feature just with them. But if anyone IS on the fence about reading A Change Is Gonna Come, the upcoming Stripes anthology of short stories from BAME authors, please please please check out Jill Murphy’s stunning 5-star review over at The Bookbag and let her convince you to read the book!
Talking of great reviews, please take a look at Marie’s new Lots of Livres blog, it’s gotten off to such a wonderful start!  
And another new blogger continues to impress - there's a really heartfelt and moving piece here by Amy on the tragic death of Helen Bailey.
I found Jaylee James’ Polycule – the story of a polyamorous queer person trying to date on the internet – and am DEVOURING it. Everything is fabulous but er piece about life partner Chris is a super-cute read.
Nikesh Shukla wrote a superb piece on how Spider-Man comics taught him how to live AND how to write
I'd never read this until someone shared it, but there's a very touching piece by Roald Dahl about the need to vaccinate children against measles.
There was a cover reveal on The Book Smugglers for the GORGEOUS cover of Stephanie Burgis's Snowspelled! I read this last week and it's utterly charming, as Stephanie's stories always are, and the cover by Leesha Hannigan captures it beautifully. (Sorry, the giveaway has ended, before I get anyone's hopes up!)
Corey Ann Haydu wrote a really moving piece for BookRiot on writing, sexual harassment and being an example.  
And another incredible moving one, as Laura shared a post about Glastonbury, and the festival's amazing response to a horrible sexual assault by people she'd considered friends which occurred two months before they were going to the festival together - it was heart-warming to read about how the organisers had made sure she felt comfortable to attend.
Great post on the Book Voyagers – book recs based on Greek gods.
Parrish Turner wrote a really interesting piece, What I Do As A Sensitivity Reader.
Molly Ker Hawn is looking for interns. Molly is one of the most amazing agents out there and this is an exceptional opportunity!
My friend Daphne's awesome business Illumicrate was featured as the Startacus Startup of the Week!
Musa Okwonga wrote a great piece for New Statesman on Anne-Marie Morris’s use of racist language.
Kathryn Ormsby talked to EW’s Nivea Serrao about Tash Hearts Tolstoy - I am exceptionally excited for this one, yay ace rep!
SLJ’s Shelley Diaz interviewed Miles Morales: Spider-Man author Jason Reynolds; this is another book that looks fabulous!
There's an awesome preview of the second half of 2017 over on The Millions.
And another great preview on B & N, with Dahlia Adler looking at their most-anticipated indie YA books of the next six months.
James Loke Hale wrote a fantastic piece about being genderfluid for Bustle.
Sam Missingham shared some great thoughts on the Deborah Orrarticle in the Guardian last week about taking antidepressants.  
@Gildedspine, who's one of the most consistently insightful and thought-provoking people I follow on Twitter, had a wonderful thread on thinking about what people have the authority to say, and knowing when to keep silent.
Kumail Nanjiani talked about audience reaction to The Big Sick, which I am INCREDIBLY excited to see.
And there's a great Sarah Hollowell thread here on fatphobia.
Jen Campbell interviews Rachel Joyce here, which is awesome.
And Juno Dawson has a fantastic Adam Silvera interview for the Zoella Book Club. 
Lily has some great YALC tips.
Stripes continue their series of videos about new contributors to their A Change Is Gonna Come anthology (mentioned above!) talking to Yasmin Rahman.
And George Lester has a brilliant LGBTQIA wrap-up video.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Month Ahead (July)

I’ve been planning on bringing back this feature for ages, so I’m not letting a little thing like being halfway through the month I’m writing about stop me! (Oops.)
Eight books I’m super-excited to see on shelves. As always, massive thanks to Debbie for curating the spreadsheet with a great lists of YA and MG releases in the UK.

Because You Love To Hate Me edited by Ameriie (Bloomsbury) - Authors writing from prompts by BookTubers is an intriguing idea and it pays off with some outstanding stories from a great list of writers (this is one I’ve been lucky enough to read already.) Highlights for me are the stories by Cindy Pon, Samantha Shannon, Susan Dennard and Soman Chainani (although Ameriie’s own story was fabulous too and I’d be excited to read more from her) but there’s enough of a variety in this collection that there should be something for all fans of fantasy and fairy tales.

Piglettes by ClĂ©mentine Beauvais (Pushkin) – ClĂ©mentine’s MG series The Sesame Seade Mysteries is a stunning set of books with gorgeous language. I’m really excited for this YA novel about three girls voted the ugliest girls in their school who set off on a summer road trip to Paris and find fame, friendship and happiness.  

The Demon Headmaster: Total Control by Gillian Cross (OUP) – I was a huge fan of the Demon Headmaster when growing up – both the books and the TV series – and am fascinated to read the new one! Will it still be as good? Here’s hoping!

The Secrets of the Superglue Sisters by Susie Day (Puffin) – There are lots of MG authors I love, but most of them are writing action-based books. For realistic contemporaries there are only two auto-buy MG authors for me, Ruth Fitzgerald and Susie Day. The first two books in Susie’s spin-off series from her wonderful Pea’s Book quartet have been wonderful and I’m sure this will be just as amazing.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence (Author) and Elizabet Vukovic (Illustrator) (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) - I think this is US only, but this chapter book about a Japanese-American heroine trying to be part of the family tradition by doing something normally limited to boys looks too utterly captivating to leave out! I will be checking out Foyles and Queen’s Park Books in the hope of finding an import.

Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder) – Patrice exploded onto the YA scene last year with her debut Orangeboy, which seems to have been shortlisted for nearly every award going and has won two of the biggest, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize – Older Fiction category - and the YA Book Prize. She is an immense talent and her new book, about two teens who meet at sixth form and ‘discover who loves them, and who they can love back’, sounds fabulous.

Songs About Us by Chris Russell (Hodder) – My very favourite author of all the brilliant ones writing #boybandlit, book one in this series was a stunning debut ending on a real cliffhanger. I’m so excited to see what happens to Charlie next! 


Now I Rise by Kiersten White (Corgi) - Kiersten’s previous book in The Conqueror's Sage, And I Darken, was sensationally good and I can’t wait to read more about Lada Dracul, perhaps the most compelling antihero I’ve read in years.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Top Ten YALC Panels/Workshops I'm Most Excited For

Collaboration: Melinda Salisbury (chair), Katherine and Elizabeth Corr, Tom Ellen, Lucy Ivison. I was lucky enough to be asked to chair a panel with Mel and the Corr sisters last month, which was great fun as they're an awesome combination. Adding the brilliant duo of Tom and Lucy to the mix will make this a brilliant way to kick off the weekend!

Heroines: Anna James (chair), Melinda Salisbury, Alwyn Hamilton, Amy Alward, Laure Eve, Sophia Bennett. Star-studded panel with one of my favourite chairs and a great list of super-talented authors! Alwyn's Amani and Mel's Twylla and Errin, in particular, are fabulous characters and I'm super-excited to hear from their creators.

Write Your Own YALC Zine Workshop: Eleanor Wood and Harriet Reuter-Hapgood. Fabulous pairing of two really fun authors; I've talked to both of them about zines before and I know they are huge fans with lots of experience doing them. I'm so excited to learn from this duo!

We Love Buffy: Katherine Woodfine (chair), Laure Eve, Alison Goodman, Non Pratt, Stefan Mohammed, Harriet Reuter-Hapgood. I mean, who DOESN'T love Buffy? Another panel stacked with star authors and this is going to be a hugely fun discussion, I'm sure.


Books To Bags Workshop: Melinda Salisbury. This sounds intriguing, and I generally find that if Mel's doing something at a convention, you probably want to be in The Room Where It Happens!

Unconventional Romance: Lauren James (chair), Ayisha Malik, Jennifer E Smith, Patrice Lawrence and Paige Toon. I absolutely adored Ayisha's debut adult novel Sofia Khan is Not Obliged - possibly my favourite romance ever. I'm thrilled that she's involved in the upcoming Stripes anthology A Change Is Gonna Come, which sounds superb. Everyone else on this panel is a really talented author as well, and the subject sounds fascinating.

Laini Taylor interviewed by Katherine Webber. PERFECT combination of awesome author and my favourite interviewer (who is, obviously, a superstar author in her own right now.) I know already that I'll end this panel wishing it was longer!


Fandom: Lucy Saxon (chair), Maggie Harcourt, Chris Russell, Anna Day, Rebecca Denton. My favourite #boybandlit author and the author of the amazing convention-set Unconventional together on a fandom panel, chaired by cosplay queen Lucy Saxon? Yay!!

Funny Writing Workshop: Beth Garrod. There aren't all that many YA authors who can consistently make me laugh, but Beth did so on EVERY PAGE of her sensationally good debut Super Awkward. I desperately want tips from her!

Life Advice: Chelsey Pippin (chair), Hannah Witton, Holly Bourne, Sara Barnard and Gemma Cairney. I desperately need life advice, to be honest. With radio agony aunt Gemma and star YouTube advice giver Hannah (who've both written non-fiction YA books) joining Holly and Sara, who are amazing panellists and whose novels cover tough issues with incredible insight. This will be a real highlight, I'm sure!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Twenty Things I've Read And Watched #2

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.

Starting off with an ending - and it's a sad one, but with the promise of great things to come. The Good Assistant has been one of the most brilliant blogs I can recall reading. This last entry is excellent - and while I'll miss the blog, it's FABULOUS news that TGA is working on a book and just announced that she's signed with wonderful agent Alice Sutherland-Hawes. Congrats both!

The always-wonderful Nivea Serrao has a great recommendations list of 15 books with LGBTQIA characters to check out.

Children's Books Ireland take a look at the amazing crop of wonderful Irish YA writers around at the moment.

And Jacaranda has a fabulous list of 10 female British-Asian writers to watch out for.

Clio Chang's piece on the racism of Urban Dictionary is moving and horrifying.

I found Simon Curtis's Twitter threads - here and here - on the lack of gay men writing their own experiences and making it really big in YA to be very thought-provoking.

There's an outstanding Tamsin Rosewell post on the Kenilworth Books site about the problems with the massive discounts some shops give on hardbacks.

Slight break from convention - this is an ongoing thing throughout today rather than something I've read; Zoe has blog posts going up on the hour all day to celebrate her 24 hour readathon raising money for STARS! Check out the posts on her fab No Safer Place site. And of course, if you're able to, please give generously on the fundraising page!

I loved Grace's post for #IBW2017; there's some gorgeous pictures here!

The YALC schedule is finally here! I'm super-excited and have been planning out what to do.

Also if you're going to YALC, don't miss these great tips from Libri Et Libertas.

Kendra Fortmeyer - author of Hole in the Middle, which I'm reading at the moment and really enjoying - and librarian Gretchen Alice teamed up for this brilliant recommendations list, What To Read When You Are A Girl In This Garbage Fire World.

Great piece here by Dahlia Adler about anthologies she can't wait to read. I've already read Because You Love To Hate Me and there are some wonderful stories in there!

The Book Voyagers has a fantastic list of books by Latinx authors.


Really interesting video from Erika Chung on how you can still be critical of a book even if you love it.

For Spine Magazine, Holly Dunn interviewed Suzanne Dean, Vintage Books' Creative Director - this was fascinating!

On Julia's channel, she has an awesome book swap with Christy Ku! Some fabulous graphic novels here. (And it reminded me I really should read Giant Days at some point...)

And on Christy's own channel, I loved her Free Comic Book Day video spotlighting some of London's amazing comic book shops!

And an older one (but I did mention last week I've been REALLY bad with YouTube so far in my life, I think...) which is awesome - That Girl With The Curl explains aromanticism.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

2017: Looking Forward

I blogged the other day looking back at the first half of 2017; I said at the time I was going to try and plan for things for the rest of the year, so this is my attempt to do that.

1. Keep drinking water!
I am also trying to limit the amount of Coke I drink. This seems to have had a decent impact on my health recently, so I should definitely carry on with that.

2. Do better at sticking to my budget.
I have never been great with money (to put it mildly) but have done reasonably well over the past year or two by sticking to a certain amount of money a day. I spent more than I should've done over the last few weeks of June due to stress-buying, and am trying to get things back on track now!

3. Keep track of books I get.
I'm blatantly not catching up with book haul posts at this point and I feel bad about that, but I AM aiming to do them each month from here onwards!

4. Keep track of books I read
(which I've actually been pretty much on top of, but I'm going to try and do an actual spreadsheet rather than just using 'notes' on my phone, and tick off when I've blogged/posted them on Litsy/Amazon/GR.)

5. Get to the cinema more.
I was doing so well at the start of the year and then have seen comparatively little stuff recently; I definitely want to check out more in the next few months.

6. Blog more often.
Yes, I neglected this a lot from March onwards for various reasons, but blogging a couple of times a week should be doable.

7. Read the news less.
This is a weird one because earlier this year I wanted to read the news more to be more informed, but with my usual lack of moderation I've ended up doing really badly from a self-care perspective by reading so much - especially reading alarmist stuff. I need to be more careful about what I engage with, and more selective about picking sources that are going to give me a clearer perspective of what's going on.

8. Hit double figures on my 40 before 40 list.
After going to a folk festival a few weeks ago and FINALLY being added to the list of a publisher I've been trying to get onto for years, I'm now on 8. I want to renew my passport (at last!) and do at least one of the other remaining things.

9. Watch more YouTube.
I subscribed to a bunch of the people involved in Ashley Mardell's amazing The ABCs of LGBT+, along with some book bloggers, and will be trying to keep up with their videos.

10. RELAX.
This is probably (apart from the water/Coke one) the most important thing on the list!!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Top Ten Tuesday (Unofficial): What Would Be In My Book Club

With Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish taking a hiatus as the awesome bloggers behind it give themselves a well-earned rest, I thought I'd try my own top ten this week.

I was inspired by an interesting list of choices for the Zoella Book Club - with several I've really enjoyed, and others I'm desperate to read.

When making predictions in a group DM with some friends last week I was spectacularly wrong (in my defense it's hard to predict given there's such a mix of US and UK authors and, in the past two, new and older books.) However it did get me thinking what I'd love to see in a list such as this.

This is NOT meant to be a criticism of the ZBC list - I will confess I'm rather surprised and disappointed at the inclusion of only one POC author, but I think it's a good selection in a lot of ways and think that Zoella does an incredible job at promoting reading, while I'm also really pleased to see Juno Dawson, Jennifer Niven, Chris Russell and Amy Alward involved in selecting books. I just wanted to see what I'd come up with.

I ruled out anything by any author previously featured in the Zoella Book Club and other than that just tried to come up with a range of books which I thought would be interesting to discuss. I'm slightly more focused on UK authors than the real thing is, because I'm biased, obviously. I also limited it to books I'd actually read, although there are several others - notably When Dimple Met Rishi and A Change Is Gonna Come - which I've heard amazing things about and was tempted to include. Finally, I limited it to 2 books max from each publisher. 


Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Orion) - This book (along with sequel Crooked Kingdom) gives us a compelling heist thriller set in Bardugo's rich and compelling Grisha-verse, introduced in her debut trilogy. As great as those books were, these are even more exciting and add an amount of (often quite dark!) humour. I love the central six characters here - all wonderful creations in their own right, but the relationships between them really add to the story as well. Kaz, leader of the group, shows that someone using a cane to walk can still be ferocious, while his mental trauma at his past is sensitively dealt with. It's also got one of the relatively few portrayals I've seen of gambling addiction in YA, which again is really well-written.

Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison (Chicken House) - There are a couple of books in the real picks which aren't meant to be out yet, so I feel justified in slipping in an August release. Tom and Lucy's newest book - about two teens who barely knew each other in school but find themselves at university together and become friends (and possibly something more) is a hilarious read but also raises questions about romantic love and friendships, social media and slut shaming, and rape culture in groups within universities.

The Next Together by Lauren James (Walker) - Super romantic story looking at four incarnations of a couple in various different times - two of them set centuries before the present day, and another two in the near future. This is a fascinating read; all of the quartets of the main characters are superb and I love the way lots of it is told in documents and e-mails. Sequel The Last Beginning is, if anything, even better, but a series starter seemed like a better fit for a book club.

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.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik (Twenty7) - The first couple of the book clubs featured one adult novel each; I think that if I'd been going for another one then this gorgeous rom-com featuring a memorable Muslim lead would definitely have been on my list. I really adored this one as it's a cute read and Sofia - described by many reviewers as 'the Muslim Bridget Jones' is a hilarious narrator. Ayisha Malik was on the news yesterday calling for more representation of Muslims in literature in a normalized way; her own book is a perfect example of this.

Moxie by Jennifer Matheiu (Hodder) - Gripping novel about an anonymous zine writer fighting back against the rape culture in her school, 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.  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.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (Harper Collins) - 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.

Black Sheep by Na'ima B Robert (Frances Lincoln) - The oldest on my list, this 2013 release is a stunningly-told Romeo & Juliet type story about a relationship between two black teens, a 'badman' drawn into gang violence and a local councilor's daughter pressured to be perfect. It's an 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 incredibly 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 Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker) This is 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.

Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood (Macmillan) - Central character Lizzie is persuaded by her new friend Viv to take up bass and reinvent herself to join Viv's band. What starts off as a fun read quickly develops into so much more, looking at unhealthy friendships, how much of yourself you should change for somebody else, and what paths you can follow after the age of 16. An amazing book!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Books Read In April

(Yes, I'm behind - sorry!)

Open by Gemma Cairney (Macmillan, borrowed from library) - Fabulous guide to growing up by Radio 1 agony aunt Gemma Cairney. Packed full of brilliant advice for girls, and it's a gorgeously put together book which would make a beautiful gift. 

Girlhood by Cat Clarke (Quercus, sent for recommendation consideration) - Perhaps Cat Clarke's best yet, this boarding school story showing the unhealthy side of friendships is a stunner. I found the central relationship as the new girl at school went from what seemed like a healthy friendship with narrator Harper to be a gripping (and worrying!) read. It deals with Harper's grief at her sister's death really well, and it's great to see positive friendships as well as the more damaging one. 

The Kite Runner Graphic Novel written by Khaled Hosseini and illustrated by Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo (Bloomsbury, borrowed from library) - I haven't read the prose novel of The Kite Runner but kept hearing amazing things and this gorgeous graphic novel persuaded me to try it. A heart-breaking and beautifully illustated story of an event in 1970s Afghanistan which shatters the lives of both Amir, the central character, and his best friend Hassan, son of his father's servant. I thought the relationship between the two boys here was wonderfully well done and was really drawn into the changing world of Afghanistan from the end of King Zahir Shah's reign to the Russians and then the Taliban. 

I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (Egmont, sent for recommendation consideration) - Gripping, tense thriller about a girl with cerebral palsy, unable to communicate with anyone, whose carer's boyfriend taunts her by telling her of his involvement in a violent crime. When her carer goes missing, Jemma is convinced he has something to do with it. With no way of telling anyone, she is terrified and frustrated at her powerlessness - until she gets a chance to change that. Superb MC here and while I wasn't sure how a main character who couldn't talk to anyone would work Penny Joelson does an outstanding job of capturing Jemma's personality and spirit. A great debut.

The Call by Peadar O'Gullin (David Fickling Books, sent to me as a YA Book Prize judge) - Stunning horror set in Ireland where teenagers are 'called' to the mysterious Grey Land, to be chased and tortured by the Sidhe - with 90% of them dying, and the remaning ones returning horribly changed. At a training school trying to prepare teens for this terrible fate, polio-sufferer Nessa is determined to find a way to survive, ready to take on both the Sidhe and the bullies at the school. Incredible main character and sensationally good world-building. It's also absolutely terrifying, but I'm still glad I read it. Superb.

The Forever Court by Dave Rudden (Penguin, sent for recommendation consideration) - Rudden's debut, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, leapt to the top of my (fairly huge) recommendation list of "Amazing MG adventure stories." It combined thrilling action and great humour in a way I last saw in Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant series, and is often reminiscent of the much-missed Terry Pratchett. This sequel is even better than the first book; Rudden is a phenomenal author and everyone who enjoys action-packed middle grade novels should be devouring this series and waiting on tenterhooks for book 3.

Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle (Atom, sent to me as a YA Book Prize judge) - I enjoyed Liccle Bit, acclaimed adult author Alex Wheatle's YA debut, and found his use of language and made up slang to be brilliant in conjuring up his characters. That said, I was slightly disappointed by the ending there - but there's no such issue with this companion novel. A funny and moving story of a night in which Bit, central character McKay, and a few of their friends try to help out a girl only for things to go horribly wrong, this combines a stunning voice, a great set of characters and a fun plot. I also adored the family dynamics between McKay, his older brother, and their father. I can't wait to read book 3, Straight Outta Crongton!

Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood (Macmillan, bought) - Following an excellent debut, My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend, Eleanor Wood gives us another contemporary story heavily influenced by music. Central character Lizzie is persuaded by her new friend Viv to take up bass and reinvent herself to join Viv's band. What starts off as a fun read quickly develops into so much more, looking at unhealthy friendships, how much of yourself you should change for somebody else, and what paths you can follow after the age of 16. An amazing book!

Book of the month: Has to go to Eleanor Wood's outstanding Becoming Betty, my favourite UKYA contemporary of 2017 so far!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Twenty Things I've Read - And Watched! #1

Okay, slight change of plan for the next 6 months. I'm aiming to watch YouTube more so this feature is now becoming Twenty Things I've Read/Watched. A massive thanks to Debbie for recommending the awesome Ash Hardell, and to Ash for the incredible book The ABC's of LGBT+ which has introduced me to a bunch of awesome YouTubers who you'll probably be seeing pop up in this feature a fair bit now.

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.

I love Amy's June recap. She's definitely one of my favourite new bloggers for a long time; her reviews are short, to the point and packed full of information.

Brilliant piece in SELF magazine from the incredible Eliel Cruz, "I'm a Bisexual Man and No, It's Not Just a Phase.

Great response from Wintersong author S Jae Jones to the question "Why did you choose to write a European story instead of something Asian?"   

I'm super-excited for Amelia Fang by Laura Ellen Anderson - she's started a fascinating blog here looking at the process of creating it! 

Fabulous piece on The Bookshop Around The Corner about Independent Bookshop Week 2017

A couple of awesome lists - Caitlin White for Bustle, with 14 July releases to look forward to. (It's US-based, but includes the incredible Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard, under the US title Fragile Like Us.) 

And Kayla Whaley for B & N with 50 crucial feminist YA novels.

Saundra Mitchell's awesome takedown of the terrible Kirkus review of Jennifer Mathiue's outstanding Moxie is a must-read. 

I mention the #ZoellaBookClub in the videos section below - I like the line-up, but wish there was a bit more diversity in it. I absolutely love the book club picks Beth came up with in response, which I think is an AMAZING line-up of books!  

There's a great BuzzFeed quiz here - which romcom leading lady are you? I got Bridget Jones and my friend Caitlin got Kat Stratford; both of these are dead on!

On Amy Poehler's Smart Girls blog, Parks and Rec star Natalie Morales came out in this wonderful essay

And finally (before the new video section) this is an adorable thread of cute dogs, started by the fabulous Ruby Elliott! 

As mentioned earlier, the new Zoella Book Club selections have been picked! This page here links to Zoella, and the authors she's teamed up with, discussing why they chose their books. 

And speaking of book clubs, ultra-talented Anna James and the awesome Eric Karl Anderson have teamed up to create the Anna & Eric Book Club. If you're looking for adult books to discuss, this looks amazing! 

I love my friend George's fabulous Queer Readathon TBR video! 

And I really enjoyed another book blogging friend of mine, the amazing Lily, doing an awesome Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag. (Great taste in books; I totally agree with THUG as best of the year so far!)  

Sexplanations on Polyamory is awesome! 

I also thought this Alayna Fender/Chandler video, Asexuality and Having Sex, was wonderful! 

And this Riley Jay Dennis video about transitioning and facial feminisation surgery is a long one but an INCREDIBLE watch. 

And I've been binge-watching Carmilla yet again as I realised I've only ever seen the first 2 seasons, but I had to rewatch to get ready for seasons zero and three (which I'm coming to soon.) If you haven't seen this AMAZING LGBTQ+ webseries, start here