Tuesday, 8 May 2018

In Your Light by AJ Grainger Blog Tour: Extract

As a big fan of AJ Grainger's, I'm thrilled to be sharing this extract - the prologue from new book In Your Light! Thanks to publishers Simon & Schuster for arranging.


‘Only in the Brightness shall we find
Light for all, for all eternity.’

– The Book



At the centre of the clearing, the Sun’s fire burned strongly, its fiery fingertips slashing at the dark midnight sky. Around it danced the sixteen members of the Sisterhood. Their brightly coloured dresses – the red chiffon, the purple velvet, and the green taffeta – swirled wide so that the forest became gyrating flame. Brilliance’s chest tightened at the sight, heart beating fast like the wings of an insect trapped in a jar as the sisters raised their voices in the Light’s saying:

I dance with the fire in my heart, in my soul, in my veins. I dance until it rises up for me. I dance into the Brightness. Into the Light. Into the Light.

Brilliance stared deep into the fire. She loved the way it moved like liquid, undulating in shapes and colours. She loved to lose herself in the Light’s power, as the flame  became a part of her: its pulse her pulse; its breath her breath. The power and the beauty, the two sides of a knife.

The air hung heavy tonight with a coming storm, like a thick coat in high summer. Somewhere nearby an owl hooted, and Brilliance jumped. Its cry had sounded almost human and in pain. And then the high priestess’s voice cut across the clearing. Her hood was thrown back to reveal flaming red hair crowned with white flowers that glinted in the firelight. Her eyes were as blue as the deepest part of the ocean. The symbol of the Light – a yellow sun – was painted on her cheek. ‘The Brightness,’ she cried. ‘The Brightness is coming and it’s going to save us all.’

Excitement tore through Brilliance.

‘The Light’s Gift will show us the way,’ the high priestess said.

Brilliance’s sisters began to move towards the fire, faces hidden by their cloaks, and the Light burned inside Brilliance, as red and bright as a flame.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Dear Martin Blog Tour: Best Books About Police Brutality



As a huge fan of Nic Stone's Dear Martin, which I bought and read when it was first published in the US last year, I was delighted to hear that Simon & Schuster were publishing it in the UK, and both thrilled and flattered to be asked to be on the blog tour for it.

I wanted to use my spot to celebrate some of the other incredible books published recently looking at the topic of police brutality, so here's the four that I would recommend to ANYONE.

Having said that, I recognise that my thoughts on these books are both less informed and less useful that those from Black people, so would also strongly encourage you to check out #ownvoices reviews and thoughts - here's a few great people to follow on Twitter.

Justina Ireland (also, buy Dread Nation, her latest release, which is INCREDIBLE!)
Elle McKinney
Kosoko Jackson
NK Jemisin
Karen Strong
Cit Callahan
Adrianne
Nic Stone
Angie Thomas
Jay Coles
Jewell Parker Rhodes


Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Simon & Schuster)

An Ivy League-bound Black boy writes a journal to Martin Luther King to make sense of his thoughts on police brutality and racism, after being handcuffed for trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend out. When a terrible tragedy happens, involving Justyce and best friend Manny, he's left under attack by the media.

Justyce is a fantastic character, as is white Jewish girl SJ, who actually recognises her privilege and strives to use it to help appropriately. I loved the way that Nic Stone looked at toxic masculinity and responses to affirmative action, as well as police brutality and media coverage of crimes. A relatively short read, and so gripping that I raced through it - despite being near tears by the end - this is outstanding.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker)

A 16-year-old Black girl moves between the poor neighhbourhood she lives in and the fancy suburban prep school she attends, trying to fit into both. After the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by a police officer, she becomes involved in protesting the crime.

It feels like you must have been living under a rock not to have heard the hype for Starr's story - it really is completely deserved. I'm hugely excited to see the upcoming film, because the book is an absolute masterpiece. Starr is a truly superb character, code-switching to try and fit in in both her neighbourhood and her school, while the fallout from Khalil's shooting is both heartbreaking and devastatingly realistic. Watching her find her voice was such a fantastic journey to witness, and one big speech near the end, in particular, reduced me to a sobbing mess.


Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (Little, Brown - currently not published in UK)

Marvin Johnson goes to a party with his twin brother Tyler, hoping to keep an eye on him. But they're separated after a police raid and Tyler goes missing, only to eventually turn up dead, killed by a police officer. Marvin mourns his brother, while trying to organise a protest, and support his grief-stricken mother.
 
This is the most recent read of the four for me, and I think it will stick in my mind for a long time because the portrayal of the relationships here is so, so good. Firstly the tight-knit family of twins Marvin and Tyler, their mother, and their wrongly imprisoned father, who writes letters back and forth with Marvin. Secondly the fantastic friendship group of Marvin, Ivy and G-Mo. And thirdly the new girl in Marvin's life, Faith, who has a tragedy of her own in her past, and is able to partially understand his loss and help him to grieve. Marvin is also dealing with an application to MIT, the college he's always dreamt of going to, and seeing him trying to carve out a future for himself while still reeling from the tragedy was really moving.


Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Orion)

(This is the only MG novel out of the four, by the way.)

Twelve-year-old Jerome, waving a toy gun around, is shot by a police officer and killed. As a ghost, he meets Emmett Till, who shows him how racism through the years has affected Black boys, while he also becomes visible to the daughter of the white officer who shot him. Parallel with this narrative, we get a 'before' one of the events leading up to him getting the toy gun.

Oh WOW. Book of the year for me so far, Jewell Parker Rhodes gives us a middle grade novel which is both heartbreaking and deeply educational. This was super-powerful, perhaps because it's aimed at an even younger audience than the previous three I've talked about, which for me heightens the tragedy. The author does an incredible job of making such a tough subject accessible to younger readers without ever sugarcoating the horror of both Jerome's death in particular, and the racism in general which has led to so many of these horrible instances. Outstanding.


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The Company of Eight Blog Tour: Q & A with Harriet Whitehorn

As a big fan of Harriet Whitehorn's, I'm really excited for her new book The Company Of Eight! It's great to be able to host this Q and A with her today.




Quickfire The Company of Eight Q&A

The Company of Eight is full of fascinating locations. Where in the Longest World would you want to live?

That is such a difficult question as I slightly fall in love with wherever I am writing about.  I think, a bit like Cass, I would like to be based in Minaris, as I have always wanted to live in a city where you skate everywhere in the winter, but then I would also like to do a bit of roaming too.  To copy Cass, my first adventure would be to the Islands, and I would definitely take in turtle watching, star gazing and possibly an encounter with pirates.  But then I think I would take a boat on to The Furthest Lands and  explore The Great City of Pinging, known as City of Ladders because it is built on multiple layers.  And then, if I still had the energy, head for a port to the west of Minaris called Pinoa, and explore the mountainous countries to the north.   And finally return exhausted to Minaris to drink tea and Rimple’s with Mrs Potts!

 
The Longest World is full of fascinating personalities: who is your favourite character, and who was your favourite to write?

My favourite character is Cass but the most fun to write is her guardian Mrs Potts -  she’s so deliciously awful - snobbish, shallow and self seeking,  but ultimately she is proved to have a heart of gold as the book shows.
 

Cass can’t wait for all her future exciting adventures with the Company: can you give us a hint as to where these adventures might take her?

Well I can tell you that it is not where she is expecting to go!  She thinks that she is off to chase pirates around the tropical Far Isles but she actually ends up as far away from that as you can imagine.


Which would you rather: join the Company of Eight, live on the Island of Women, practise acrobatics on the Circus Ship, or be a fortune-teller in the Magical District? Why?

They all sound like fun but it would definitely have to be joining The Company of Eight - I have always wanted to be a sword fighter and am always googling adult fencing classes for beginners but never actually pluck up the courage to go to one.

 
The Company of Eight is an amazing escapist fantasy adventure, but what kind of books do you like to read personally?

I do love fantasy and some of my all time favourite books are in that genre, like The Earthsea Trilogy and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.  But in general, I am quite an eclectic reader and read a real hotch potch.  The common thread is often a personal recommendation as I’m always intrigued to see what other people love reading.  






Friday, 20 April 2018

Firebird by Elizabeth Wein Cover Reveal

As a massive fan of Elizabeth Wein's books, I'm always thrilled to hear about more from her - particularly when it's set in World War II, like her bestselling Code Name Verity, one of the most emotional YA novels I've ever read. I was delighted to hear that she has a new WWII-set book, Firebird, coming out in August, and honoured when publishers Barrington Stoke asked me if I'd like to reveal Ali Ardington's stunning cover!

Elizabeth Wein (@EWein2412 on Twitter) says "On my visit to Russia in 2016, I was truly blown away by the Soviet-era artwork I saw there. In my head, the Soviet Union always seems grey and drab. But their propaganda posters are jubilant blasts of eye-catching colour and dramatic shapes.

So I really loved the idea of trying to capture this look for the cover of Firebird, which takes place in the Soviet Union during World War II. From the onion domes of Red Square to the fighter plane formation soaring into battle, it’s a real tribute to the artists who had to inspire Soviet youth to go to war in the 1940s.

The Russian words for “red” and “beautiful” have the same origin, and the cover design for Firebird is both!"

I definitely agree with that! Over to superstar designer Ali Ardington (@aliardington on Twitter, and check out more of her fabulous work on her website.)

"I wanted to capture the feel of a Soviet Russian propaganda poster, whilst embracing feminism and celebrating the strong women of WW2. When I started the visual research for the cover, it became quite apparent how courageous and strong these young women were. In my mind the main female protagonist had to take centre stage, and be celebrated. The cover came to life around her."

And now, the actual gorgeous cover...



Firebird will be published by Barrington Stoke in August; I can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Guest Post: Keren David on Stranger

Yes, the blog is alive. (Barely.)

I haven't really been planning any posts for ages for various reasons, but when Keren David, one of my favourite YA contemporary writers, got in touch with me to ask if she could guest post I jumped at the chance. I'm super-intrigued to read Stranger, her first foray into historical fiction, which takes place in Canada in 1904 and 1994. 

Over to Keren!


Where do you get your ideas from? It’s the question that most authors dread, but I’ve never had a great problem with it.  Until now. 

For most of my books, the ideas have come from news reports. When I Was Joe, my debut, came from an item on the BBC about a boy in witness protection. All the others were similarly inspired, apart from This is Not a Love Story, which came about because I wanted to write something set in Amsterdam, my home for eight years.

Stranger, my new book, is completely different.

I have no clue about where the idea came from, because it has been simmering away for nearly all my life. 

At some point, as a child, I decided I wanted to write my own book. I started telling myself the story in bed at night. Every night I’d add a little bit more. It was unformed and undeveloped. There was blood, there was a murder, and a suspect full of fear and confusion. He was desperately afraid of telling his story, but it was only by telling it that he could win his freedom. It was a story about distrust, abuse of power, extreme emotions. And it was one I could never quite let go. For years, if sleep eluded me, I would let those feelings into my brain and sleep would inevitably follow.

And then, in 2012, I decided to try and write the story down. But I needed a new narrator -  Emmy, the girl who finds a ‘wild’ boy, naked and bloody on the edge of the forest. I needed a setting -  Canada seemed to choose itself -  and a time, as this didn’t feel anything like the contemporary stories I’d written before. It’s taken six years and many, many rewrites, but at last it’s done. Stranger is published this week. 

Some of the ideas came through the storylines that emerged.  Stories about women, their bodies, their choices, their destinies. But at its core, this is a book whose origins were just there in my psyche. As such it’s very precious to me, and, still, something of a mystery. There’s a lot of me in all of my books. But this one goes deeper than all of the others.

I hope you like it.


Stranger is published by Atom, and released on 5th April 2018.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Guest Post: Katy Birchall on Dogs of Instagram

I've recently read and loved Katy Birchall's Secrets of a Teenage Heiress, first in her new Hotel Royale series, so I'm delighted to have a fabulous blog post from her today!


Top Dogs to follow on Instagram


(No, seriously, you need them in your life)
 
The real star of Secrets of a Teenage Heiress is Flick’s fashion-conscious dachshund, Fritz. With a wardrobe overflowing with his designer knitwear, tailored suits and array of hats, Fritz is a fashion icon in the world of Hotel Royale and his Instagram page is, to put it frankly, a sensation.


In his honour, I have selected the top dogs to follow on Instagram, all of whom did their bit to inspire the wonderfully dashing character of Fritz:


Steph and The Pointer Brothers




Gus and Travis are both handsome rescue dogs, adopted by Steph McCombie, and like Fritz, they have an envy-inducing wardrobe and are particularly fond of neckchiefs.




 


Harlow and Sage




The most adorable of unlikely pals. After best friend Sage sadly passed away in 2013, Harlow the Weimarana was joined by dachshund Indiana and then by Reese, another dachshund. The trio have taken Instagram by storm and they will melt your hearts.





 The Dog Jogger




Dog Handler Barry Karacostas is the self-titled ‘surrogate parent’ to an assortment of London’s dogs and posts daily pictures of the pooches he’s proudly looking after…always brightens my morning!



Byron the Corgi




I can’t get enough of this guy. I’m mad about corgis (why are their bums so fluffy?!) and love following Byron’s adventures. He has such an adorable, smiley face.





The Dogist




If you’re a doglover, then this is an absolute MUST. Documenting the dogs of New York with beautiful pictures and telling their stories (there’s a book out too).




And the Instagram newcomer award goes to…


Arnie G




Just when I thought she couldn’t get even more AWESOME, my agent Lauren went and got Arnie, a puppy cocker spaniel. Brand new to instragram, he’s already one of my firm favourites and will soon be yours…just look at his faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.
 


Secrets of a Teenage Heiress was published on January 11th by Egmont. It is available from all good bookshops at an RRP of £6.99.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Twenty Things I've Read And Watched 2018 Week 1


Relaunching my Twenty Things I've Read and Watched feature!

For people who haven't seen it before, this is a thing I used to do weekly to share cool stuff I've found over the internet. I try to go for a mixture of fun and thought-provoking reads/watches, and I'm going to be including more signal boosts for good causes in 2018, I think.

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 list them at the start of each post. If you're not reading the following, you are REALLY missing out.

Media Diversified
LGBTQ Reads
The Pool
Teen Vogue 


Dhonielle Clayton talked to Lila Shapiro over at the Vulture about what the job of a sensitivity reader is really like.

A host of fab people in publishing talked to Down The Rabbit Hole about the 2017 releases they wish they'd published.

On A Mundane Life, Sarah interviewed Zoe about her Wildest Dreams book box (includes a £3 off discount offer for January box.)

Cosmopolitan's list of books to look forward to in 2018 looks great - pre-order Dread Nation by Justina Ireland everyone; it's INCREDIBLE.

I don't normally link to individual reviews, but I think Elizabeth Roderick's review of To Siri, With Love by Judith Newman is a hugely important one (especially as Amazon bizarrely seem to be deleting a ton of reviews, many of them by #actuallyautistic people like Elizabeth.)



My awesome friend Alix blogged about the best books she'd read in 2017.

And another of my fabulous friends, Caitlin, posted about the books/TV shows/movies she's most excited for in 2018.

And yet another amazing friend, Debbie, wrote about her goals, habits and accomplishments she's hoping to achieve in 2018.

The Guardian interviewed Katherine Rundell (possibly my favourite author!) after she deservedly won the Costa Children's Prize.

Older post, but worth revisiting as it concerns this month - a number of bloggers are running Mental Health Book Bingo in January! Check out the bingo grid, and details of Twitter chats throughout the month (I took part in Wednesday's and it was great) on Sar's Reading To Recover blog.



Jessica Ellis's Twitter thread comparing Luke's relationship with Ben Solo in The Last Jedi with Sirius and Harry's in Order of the Phoenix is such a fascinating read.

TenEighty posted about awesome New Year's Resolution videos from 5 vloggers (including my brilliant friend Christy!)

For her birthday, Christy is asking people to donate a pound or two to St Mungo's to help their work with the homeless. She beat her goal of £50 in just a day, but wouldn't it be awesome if we could double that over the weekend?

HeroNation have been fundraising for a special free screening of Black Panther for Black youth in Ypsilanti, MI on February 16th. They've already smashed through their $3000 target which is fantastic. However further fundraising will go towards their other awesome events, so if you'd like to give, please head over here.

Stevie Boebi talked to Ash Hardell about being polyamorous in a very interesting video.



Really awesome recommendations for best romance novels of 2017 over at Romance Novels for Feminists - I'm adding a bunch of these to my TBR.

Jessica Eaton posted about 'whataboutery' - another massively important read.

Another fantastic preview of books to look forward to in 2018 over on the Pool; this features lots of the people whose tastes I most agree with (Louise O'Neill, Anna James, Sam Baker and others) and again has added tons to my TBR.

And another person with impeccable taste, Dahlia Adler, has a great January preview on Barnes and Noble.

Finally don't miss this excellent SK Ali video introducing the #MuslimShelfSpace hashtag.



If you've seen anything you found especially interesting on the internet in the last week or so, why not leave me a comment and a link?

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten New To Me Authors in 2017

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

This is my first Top Ten Tuesday post for ages!

Today’s topic (well, yesterday’s, as I’m behind a little…)  is Top Ten New To Me Authors in 2017. I’m avoiding last year's debuts and focusing on authors published prior to 2017 who I only recently discovered.


Lissa Evans – I know Lissa has several books to her name, including Their Finest which I really want to read after loving the film, but it was her 2017 release Wed Wabbit which I read first, having been hand-sold it by Tereze at Tales on Moon Lane. It’s a stunningly imaginative MG with outstanding world-building, a perfect plot, and two of my favourite character arcs ever. I definitely need to catch up with her backlist!



Adam Silvera – I’ve heard for ages how great Adam’s debut novel More Happy That Not is but somehow never got around to reading it; however I picked up History Is All You Left Me and it’s an exquisite read, gorgeous and heartbreaking and somehow still hopeful. I’m very excited for They Both Die At The End, but it’s taken me months to get ready to read it given how shattered I was by History!

 

Lydia San Andres – I was lucky enough to be online when Lydia offered a free copy of one of her books to the first few people to respond to a tweet, and grabbed The Infamous Miss Rodriguez, a novella about a girl trying to ruin her reputation to get an eligible bachelor to break off their engagement. Since then I’ve bought and read her novel A Summer For Scandal, which sees a woman writing a raunchy serial under a pseudonym encounter a respected author who (also under a pseudonym) has trashed her writing. Sparks fly in one of my favourite relationships for AGES; both of these books are gorgeously romantic and hot.


Nicola Yoon – I avoided Everything, Everything having heard mixed things about it, but read The Sun Is Also A Star and loved it. I’m a huge fan of dual narrative and seeing things from so many minor character’s POVs too was really interesting.

 
Robyn Travis – Despite not reading that much adult fiction these days, Robyn’s 2016 debut novel Mama Can’t Raise No Man sounded so intriguing that I took a chance on it and was really glad I did. I loved this so much I actually wrote a mini-review on it, which was super rare last year for me.
“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. “



Carrie Mac - Ten Things I Can See From Here is, according to Goodreads, Carrie’s 14th book but I hadn’t heard of her before seeing this one recommended (by LGBTQ Reads, I think) as she’s sadly not published in the UK as far as I’m aware. I initially had to give up on this one because the anxiety rep is SO incredibly realistic that I found it triggering; I went back to it when I was feeling more up to coping with it and absolutely loved it. As well as the superb depiction of anxiety it has one of the cutest and sweetest f/f romances I’ve read for ages.


Jen Wilde – Another author who’s written several books which I wasn’t aware of (I really wish more UK publishers would pick up some people whose writing I adore!) Queens of Geek is a gorgeous, super lovely story about three friends at a convention. This features an m/f best friends to lovers romance, and an f/f celebrity one, both of which are utterly charming. It also has lots of really great rep – especially of autism – while the setting is brilliantly portrayed. This is near the top of my ‘reread’ pile because it was such an easy and heart-warming read.




Mackenzi Lee – I am a massive fan of #BygoneBadassBroads on Twitter and have loved the sound of Mackenzi’s This Monstrous Thing for ages but not got around to reading it yet. However my amazing friend Kate devoured The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice And Virtue and promptly pushed it on EVERYBODY she knew, kindly lending it to me. This is a breathtakingly romantic m/m historical with one of my favourite couples for ages and a brilliant supporting character in Felicity, medicine-loving younger sister of MC Monty. (I am SUPER excited for the upcoming book about her, The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy!) If you’re on board for a historical road trip which will have you screaming “KISS, DAMMIT!” for much of the book, don’t miss this!



Jennifer Mathieu – Another author who’s got several books out in the US, Jennifer Mathieu DID get picked up by a UK publisher with Hodder bringing Moxie over here and pushing it super-hard. It’s easy to see why so many people – including Zoella, who made this her own pick for the latest of her book clubs – fell in love with it. It’s an empowering story of feminism, fighting the patriarchy, and zine culture. So many great characters here, I thought it did intersectional feminism really brilliantly, and it’s both hard-hitting and a really entertaining read.



Ayisha Malik – I finally read Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged and was absolutely kicking myself for not doing it sooner; this novel about a singleton writing a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene is hilarious and insightful. I loved the main love interest, too!