Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Blog Tour: Scott Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti and Margo Lanagan's Top YA from their Teens

Today I have a fantastic post from one of my favourite authors, Scott Westerfeld, and his partners in crime for Zeroes, Deborah Biancotti and Margo Lanagan on their favourite YA from when they were young adults.

YA wasn't a clearly defined thing when we were growing up, so we had to make do with what we could find.

Deborah Biancotti

I read Tanith Lee's The Birthgrave as a teen and loved its imaginative visual world and weird mysticism. The story of a woman who wears a mask because she's so hideous (she thinks) and who goes on a quest across a damaged and occasionally brutal landscape, The Birthgrave defined the next decade of reading for me.

One of the few high school-prescribed books that I actually enjoyed was To Kill a Mockingbird. That opening sequence is stamped on my brain. I loved Scout, but most importantly, I loved her dad, and the sense of justice they both shared. And yes, I'm afraid of reading the "new" Harper Lee release in case all my memories are ruined.

Margo Lanagan

Paul Zindel, The Pigman. Two teens, Lorraine and John, accidentally befriend lonely old Mr Pignati, who charms them with his openhearted hospitality and his eccentric house and habits. Their friendship grows until by a series of naive bad decisions, they damage and destroy everything he holds dear. Wikipedia tells me that this book is often set for schools, but I’m glad I never had to ruin it by writing tedious essays about its themes—I just enjoyed the two entirely believable narrators and the fun they had on the way to the slow car crash of the climax.

Mervyn Peake, the Gormenghast trilogy. A big, weird, baroque monster-work about Titus Groan, heir to Gormenghast, a fantastical, mouldering stronghold inhabited by the Groans and their grotesque entourage. Go read the opening paragraph—it’s online in a million places—for a taste of the mad Gothic overwriting that Peake sustains for three hefty volumes. I loved immersing myself in the swamp of this prose when I was thirteen or fourteen.

Scott Westerfeld

Joanna Russ, "We Who Are About To . . ." is a (non-YA) novel about survivors of a starship crash on an unknown planet. You'd think this would be pretty standard science fiction stuff: survival, problem solving, eventual rescue! The problem is, one of the characters doesn't want to be in that kind of story. She figures that life on this unknown planet, cut off from the rest of humanity except for a handful of people she despises, isn't really worth living. The others won't let her give up, so she kills them one by one. This novel taught me that no direction is too weird for a story to go in.

Harlan Ellison, Dangerous Visions. Not a novel and not YA, this anthology of stories was way beyond of the usual range of science fiction in the 1960s. The stories dealt with sexuality, class, and social sciences, and were often written in experimental styles. But they all made perfect sense to me, and made me want to write about Big Ideas in Unusual Ways, using the classic tropes of SF. (For an example of stories in the anthology, you can probably dig up Samuel R. Delany's "Aye, and Gomorrah . . . " on the internet, a tale about third-sex space workers.)

Thank you so much! I’ve definitely added some books to my wishlist…


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Blast from the Past: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Originally published in 1886 by Longmans, Green & Co.

My edition: the beautiful Penguin English Library paperback which is a bind up of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Bottle Imp

What’s it about?
‘All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil’

The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with ‘damnable young man’ Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

Why now?
Two reasons: 1) I DNFed my original choice for this month’s classics – Far From the Madding Crowd – because it was all sheep and fields and I didn’t care. 2) I’m really looking forward to the new ITV adaptation coming in October and had planned to read this before I watched it anyway.

The verdict:
I feel like the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one that I've never not known. It’s a classic, of course, but it's also very commonly referenced in pop culture, and so I didn’t really know what to expect from the original novella.

Being only 75 pages long, the story of Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde and his subsequent reign of terror was a little more succinct than I was expecting. There was only one murder that we actually experienced and the story isn’t actually told by Jekyll, but by his friend and lawyer, Mr Utterson. It’s more of a mystery than the horror I thought it was. From the beginning, we’re introduced to the idea of the monstrous Hyde and the mystery surrounding him and most of the story is actually Utterson and his and Jekyll’s friend, Lanyon, trying to figure out his connection to Jekyll.

The air of mystery set against the dark, grimy and foggy backdrop of Victorian London creates a wonderfully tense atmosphere and it was that feel of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde than I actually enjoyed the most. There’s something about people trudging around the dark backstreets of Victorian Soho that sets a certain tone – this was written only two years before the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper across the city. It’s not until the final chapter that we find out the truth about how Hyde was unleashed on the world and it was so interesting to see how much the original has been expanded and developed over the years while still retaining the integrity of the original. I do think that knowing the story from all of the adaptations and general knowledge of the story lessened the impact of reading this novella, but I'm very glad I did it.

I really love the exploration of good and evil in humanity. It would be easy to get lost in the fantastical and the science in this story but it has a real human element to it. I like the idea that Hyde is born out of all of Jekyll’s basest instincts which has been warped with none of the other parts of you that provide morals, emotions or fear of consequences. What’s even more interesting to me is that Hyde’s presence doesn’t eliminate those things from Jekyll – it’s very clear how this presented an early understanding of split personality disorder. It's made me incredibly curious and I’ll definitely be reading up on it. Man, I wish I got to study this at school or university…

Robert Louis Stevenson’s prose is incredibly accessible while still retaining the mark of his time. It’s smart, snappy and engaging; I really do recommending picking it up, even if you’re merely curious to see what the has been changed from the original tale.

Still not convinced?
- There’s a new 10-part adaptation coming in October (written by Charlie Higson of The Enemy series fame) and it looks EXCELLENT. Here’s the trailer:

- This is a story that everyone knows, without even realising that they do, so it’s interesting to read the original source.
- Perfectly dark and gloomy for the when the nights are drawing in…


Monday, 28 September 2015

Fans of the Impossible Life, Kate Scelsa

Pages: 317
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 10th September 2015
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

“May we live impossibly,” Sebby said when he opened his eyes. “Against all odds. Many people look at us and wonder how such jewels can sparkle in the sad desert of the world. May we live the impossible life.”

Mira is trying to pretend that she's a fully functioning human – rather than a girl who can't get out of bed for days on end.

Jeremy is a painfully shy art nerd in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school.

And Sebby is the charming gay foster kid who seems to carry sunlight around with him.

For Jeremy, it’s as if he has always been expecting Sebby, though they’ve only just met.

For Mira, she finally feels awake when she's with him.

But Sebby has his own secrets, and it’s only together that the three of them can fix their broken selves – and live their impossible lives…

I’m not really sure what I thought about Fans of the Impossible Life. I liked bits of it, I disliked bits of it and the rest was just sort of okay.

The synopsis of this book is a little misleading in ways. It suggests a bisexual love triangle and instead there’s a very heightened, intimate and dependent friendship, with kissing. I was expecting Sebby, Jeremy and Mira finding each other and falling in love with each other to be full of emotion, and it was in some ways, but it felt like it was mostly them trying to escape emotion. They didn’t want to feel the things they did, live their lives as they were or accept the reality of their experiences. A lot of this was down to the mental health issues the characters suffered from, the backlash from exploring their sexuality and home situations in Sebby and Mira’s cases.

There’s no doubt that Sebby, Mira and Jeremy are interesting characters and I enjoyed hearing from all three in the split narration, but I just didn’t connect with them. They felt a little flat and two-dimensional. I did still want to know what happened to them, however, and I was really hoping that they'd get as happy an ending they could, and I think they did. It was bittersweet and had a sense of inevitability to it which I really liked. I was a little worried it would be underwhelming. It’s still an unusual ending for a YA contemporary, but that’s what I liked about it – it had grit and realism to it.

Though I have mixed feelings about Kate Scelsa’s debut, I’m definitely interested in seeing what she delivers next.

Thanks to Macmillan for the review copy.


Friday, 25 September 2015

The Secret Fire, CJ Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld

Pages: 415
Publisher: Atom
Reelase Date: 10th September 2015
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: CJ Daugherty: Night School, Night School: Legacy, Night School: Fracture, Night School: Resistance, Night School: Endgame Carina Rozenfeld: Lucille et les dragons sourds, Le Mystère Olphite, La Quête des Livre-Monde 1-3, À la poursite des humutes, Doregon 1-3, Phænix 1-2, Les sentinelles du futur

A battle against fate
A race against time

Taylor Montclair is a regular girl from the quiet backwater of Woodbury, England. Sacha Winters is a darkly mysterious boy from the City of Lights – Paris, France.

While Taylor is focused on her dream of attending Oxford University, school couldn’t be further from Sacha’s mind…Sacha knows exactly when he’s going to die. He’s done it before.

On the appointed day, Sacha’s time will run out. And his death will fulfil an ancient destiny that could unleash chaos and catastrophe.

Taylor is the only person who can save him. Neither of them know that yet. They haven’t even met.

Hundreds of miles and a body of water separate them. Deadly forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart. They have eight weeks to find each other and unravel an ancient web of mystery and danger.

The clock starts now.

A family curse, a race against time and a breakneck adventure, paranormal fans will lap this up.

This novel starts with a bang and introduction to the curse on Sacha and his family. It’s really interesting and not one I can remember coming across before, especially with the mysterious link to Taylor. I liked that what they were experiencing was very separate and yet inextricably linked. It’d been such a long time since I read a paranormal – a year? Two? – that I'd forgotten how quick and easy they are to read, but also the level of predictability. Though the curse itself felt original and the relationship between Taylor and Sacha was unusually free of insta-love and based more on friendship, it largely followed the tropes of a paranormal YA story.

Though I liked the plot, I liked Sacha, Taylor and Louisa, and I liked the writing, it didn’t really stand out to me at all. It was fun and easy to read, but I honestly didn’t feel much for it either way. I am intrigued about how Taylor’s powers manifest further, the new and improved threat from those trying to ensure the curse is fulfilled and if and how they manage to save Sacha so I’ll probably read the concluding part, but it’s unlikely I’ll rush to it.

Thanks to Midas PR/Atom for the review copy!


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Adventures in Audiobooks

Audiobooks have never really appealed to me before, until they suddenly seemed like the perfect way to get to books that I wouldn’t get the chance to read otherwise, those that are intimidatingly long in print or stragglers from my TBR that were released earlier in the year.

And it works.

So far I’ve read:
Adult novels: The Secret History, The Song of Achilles, Go Set a Watchman, The Help
Non-fiction: Bossypants, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
YA: Made For You, The Rithmatist, Shadow and Bone
Classics: (both of which I DNFed) The Age of Innocence, The Color Purple

There are novels in this selection that I’ve wanted to read for years, that I've had on my shelves for what feels like forever and not got around to reading, things that have caught my interest but I knew I’d never get to in paper.

It was a little strange to acclimatise to, especially with fantasy like The Rithmatist, but I love it. It's really cool to be able to read when washing up, hanging the washing up, tidying, cleaning, walking into town – you read paper or even an e-reader when doing those things!

I’m reading more, and more widely.
I’m taking chances on books and genres I wouldn’t normally make time for.
It feels like less-pressurised reading than normal.
I’m not rushing to finish a book to get a review up.

The only issue I have with audiobooks is how expensive they are! I have an Audible membership which gives me one credit (aka a free audiobook of my choice) each month, but that doesn’t last me that long! And I'm just not willing to pay £10+ for an audiobook. Luckily, the daily deals are excellent. So far I’ve snagged: The Final Empire, The Way of Kings, Bossypants, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Us and The Versions of Us. And if you own a book on Kindle, more often than not, the audiobook is reduced – between 99p and £3.99.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Why? Why not? Any recommendations?


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Next Together, Lauren James

Pages: 356
Publisher: Walker
Release Date: 3rd September 2015
Edition: UK proof, review copy

A compelling debut about the timelessness of first love

Teenagers Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different…

All of the praise for Lauren James’ debut had me unbelievably excited to read it, and while I enjoyed The Next Together, it didn’t blow me away like I was expecting it to.

The novel tells the story of destined lovers Katherine and Matthew. We follow their incarnations in 2039 where they are post-grad biology students investigating the deaths of their lookalikes in 2019; in 1854 when Matthew is a journalist for The Times and travelling with the soldiers to report of the Crimean War, along with his assistant, Katy, disguised as a boy and called Kit; and then in 1745 during the Jacobite rebellion as Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highlanders fight for England’s crown. It would have been very easy to get confused between the timelines, but each is strong, clear and engaging.

Unusually for me, I enjoyed all three timelines equally. I loved the mystery of 2039, the risk of Katy’s disguise being discovered in 1854 and the forbidden attraction bet a lady and her coachman in 1745. James clearly put in a crazy amount of research for each period and it enabled her manipulate history effortlessly; I even had to Google a few things that she had changed as they convinced me against what I thought I knew! I also loved the inclusion of many old school ‘that’s what she said’ jokes – appreciated in every century, they are! As the story developed, I began to lose interest in 2039 a little and sadly more focus began to be put on that timeline. Although I loved the notes Katherine and Matthew wrote for each other in 2019 that started each chapter, I did end up skimming most of Katherine’s diary entries. They was a lot of information in them so I couldn’t really skip them, but I wasn’t particularly interested in them.

Once the entries from time periods ended, something else came in. A computer program talking of time-landscapes, objectives and requests for interventions. It was all very intriguing, and there were a few moments where I actually exclaimed out loud, ‘what is the freaking objective?!’ – my cat had no idea either. It became a little frustrating, but then when we finally found out in the final few pages I didn’t feel too satisfied with the answer. It threw up so many more questions than it answered and I’ll likely read the sequel purely to answer those questions…

The Next Together is a fun, clever and unique debut and there’s no denying that Lauren James is a very talented storyteller, it’s just that her debut didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.

Thanks to Walker for the review copy.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Mini-Reviews: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Cranford and Made For You

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson
240|Vintage|12th April 2012

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette’s version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This story is that book’s silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness, about lessons in love, the search for a mother and a journey into madness and out again. It is generous, honest and true.

I read Oranges are Not the Only Fruit during my third year of university for my Women’s Writing module and fell in love with it. Ridiculously, it’s taken me nearly three years to get around to picking up another of hers.

Having read Oranges, lots from the first half of Jeanette’s story was familiar: growing up with a deeply religious mother, her feelings of loss, abandonment and yearning for love, falling in love with women and eventually leaving home, but Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? takes the reader further into how those experiences bled into her writing and the process of finding her birth mother. It’s a very emotional story, particularly towards the end and I did tear up a little bit.

But one of my favourite elements of the book was Winterson’s focus on books, words and language and how they saved her life over and over again. As a young teenager, Winterson began reading through the literary prose a-z in her local library and accidentally stumbled upon poetry. I loved hearing how what she read influenced her writing, introduced her to feminism and taught her about the love she didn’t get growing up. This then extended into her experience of reading English at Oxford where the female representation was so minimal that with her friends she set up a reading group where they delved into modern and female-led/written fiction.

Jeanette Winterson’s writing is poetic, emotive and beautiful and I've already bought another of her novels to read. It definitely won't take me nearly three years to get to that one, promise!

Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
304|Penguin Clothbound Classics|6th November 2008
(Originally published 1851-3)

Gaskell’s best known work is set in a small rural town, inhabited largely by women. This is a community that runs on cooperation and gossip, at the very heart of which are the daughters of the former rector: Miss Deborah Jenkyns and her sister Miss Matty. But domestic peace is constantly threatened in the form of financial disaster, imagined burglaries, tragic accidents, and the reappearance of long-lost relatives.

For some reason I can’t quite identify, I’d had the need to read Cranford for a few weeks before I decided to take the plunge. It was a gentle, easy read.

Cranford is a rural English run pretty much by women. The older women are either widowed or unmarried and the younger ones are working in the houses of the older generation. Most residents of Cranford are afflicted by a ‘genteel poverty’: they can afford to live without working, but they live to a strict budget and have none of the luxuries that ladies of higher station would do. The novel details the minutiae of their lives and paints a wonderful picture of a small, rural English community in the early-mid 1800s changing under industrialisation.

But for me, the strongest impression that Gaskell’s most famous work left on me was of the community of Cranford. Though there is a social structure among them and there are quibbles and judgements, when one of their own is in trouble, they all rally together. It actually brought a tear to my eye how much they put into getting Miss Matty back on her feet; it made me sad that it isn’t something that exists as much now.

Cranford is a quick, easy read that’s perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon and although I won't rush to get to it, I’m looking forward to exploring more of Gaskell’s work, starting with North and South, I think!

Made For You, Melissa Marr
356|Harper Collins|26th March 2015

Eva Tilling wakes up in hospital to discover she has been the victim of a hit-and-run.

As she struggles to understand who in the sleepy town of Jessup would want to hurt her, she is plagued by visions of her friends dying – and then a slew of murders take places, with eerie messages to Eva left beside the bodies.

An old friend offers his help and protection, but the killer is obsessed and will stop at nothing to get to Eva…

Though I'm a long-time fan of Melissa Marr’s, I went into Made For You with no expectations and just the intention to get it off my TBR. I ended up thoroughly enjoying it!

All of Marr’s work that I've read before has been YA urban fantasy so I didn’t really know what to expect from a YA thriller, but she delivered her slow, dramatic reveals, relationships you root for, well-rounded characters and perfect pacing as usual. Made For You has made me remember why I fell in love with her writing with Wicked Lovely all those years ago.

Set in small town North Carolina, Ava and her whole community live within the restraints of being good Southern girls and boys and nothing bad happens in the small town of Jessup. Until Ava nearly killed in a hit and run accident, and then her friends start to die around her, all with messages for Ava. I loved the contrast between the quaint, genteel town and the unbelievably creepiness that was delivered in the chapters from Judge (the murderer’s) point of view and the clues left for Ava. The religious justification and sexual undertones to everything made me shudder in disgust and I was genuinely surprised at the reveal. A tense, dramatic showdown ensued and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Made For You is a fast-paced, intriguing and genuinely creepy thriller – I completely recommend it!


Monday, 21 September 2015

Sophie Someone, Hayley Long

Pages: 258
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 3rd September 2015
Edition: UK signed proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad, Lottie Biggs is (Not) Desperate, Lottie Biggs is (Not) Tragic, What’s Up With Jodie Barton?, Downside Up, Being a Girl

Some stories are hard to tell. Even to your very best friend.

And some words are hard to get out of your mouth.
Because they spell out secrets that are too huge to be spoken out loud. But if you bottle them up, you might burst.

So here’s Sophie’s story. Told the only way she dares tell it.

Sophie and her family moved to Belgium when she was only four years old, but she's never been quite sure why they left England in the first place. Then, one day, Sophie makes a startling discovery. Finally she can unlock the mystery of who she really is. This a story about identity and confusion – and feeling so utterly freaked out that you just can't put it into words. But it's also about hope, and the belief that, somehow, everything will work out okay.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Sophie Someone, but I got a clever, unique novel about family, friendship and the belief that everything will be okay.

The only way Sophie can bring herself to tell her story is to do it in her own language. It was a little strange at first, but I soon got into the rhythm of it and didn’t notice it as much. Some of the words are obvious: ‘heater’ for ‘heart’, ‘noodle’ for ‘name’, ‘pigeon’ for ‘person’, and though some are a little harder to grasp, if you don’t work it out the first time, it’ll click the second or third time in a new sentence.

Sophie’s unique way of telling a story extended beyond her code and into the layout, sizing and positioning of text. I love it when author’s play with the text in that way. It adds an extra level of personality and playfulness to the voice and it’s not featured enough in my opinion!                                                                                                                                        Underneath Sophie’s code is a story steeped in mystery. From the very beginning it became obvious that whatever had happened for Sophie’s parents to move them from England to Brussels and change their identities. I had no idea what was it was and I loved the way Sophie drip-fed the information as past her put it together and puzzled over the actions of her parents and the inconsistencies they’ve given her. The effects extended far beyond Sophie, however. Sophie’s mum had her life turned upside down by the move to Brussels and the pressure of keeping the secret from her family and event those on the street has given her extreme agoraphobia among other things.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sophie Someone. It’s full of mystery and it’ll warm your heater.

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Letterbox Love #106

Letterbox Love is a way to give all of the books I receive for review some exposure. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Russel Brand (paperback)

They say cometh the hour
Cometh the man

That means wen a situation demands it, the right person – it could be a woman, despite what Sexist Dave would tell you – will appear. This was the hour and in this case the man was a Piper. A Pied Piper.

Welcome to Russel Brand’s Hamelin, where revolution is afoot…

Thank you Canongate! Can't wait to read this.  

I also received a proof of the UK edition of My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, but I’ve already read and loved the US version.


Friday, 18 September 2015

Counting Stars, Keris Stainton

Pages: 324
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 3rd September 2015
Edition: UK paperback, purchased copy

Anna’s finally ready to be a ‘proper’ grown-up. She couldn’t be more excited about her big move to Liverpool, and she’s determined to bring more of her super-confident online alter-ego, Anna Sparks, with her.

But when her job falls through, following her dreams proves harder than she’d thought…

So instead Anna throws herself into busy city life. Hanging out with her new housemates provides lots of drama and scandal for her vlog – but when a real-life celebrity gets involved, suddenly the consequences of Anna’s online gossiping are all too real.

*Little disclaimer: I do consider Keris a friend of mine, but that hasn’t affected my opinion or review of the novel at all – promise!*

I’m a big fan of Keris and her books so when I discovered she was writing an older novel about a girl leaving home for the first time, I was extremely excited. Justly so, it turns out!

Keris has been a champion of diversity of all kinds in YA for a long time and it really showed in the effortless way it existed in Counting Stars. One of Anna’s new housemates, Sean, is gay, but it's not made a big deal of at all. He’s just a boy who had his heart broken and is attempting to heal it with a crush on a beautiful boy from college. Sean’s sexuality had no bearing on his story or his character and although coming out stories and explorations of sexuality and coming to terms with it are vital, I think this portrayal is equally important.

Counting Stars is a very sex positive novel and it doesn’t shy away from sex scenes or the inevitable discussions that centre around it when a group of 18/19/20 year olds are together, and especially when they’re drunk. The characters all have different levels of experience and attitudes towards sex and not a slither of judgement is passed on any of them. And quite rightly so. But Keris also works in the complications of romantic and intimate relationships by dealing with sexual harassment, damaging relationships, near misses and even inappropriate relationships with sensitivity and honesty.

The close-up third person narration allows the reader to get in the heads of all Anna’s housemates as well as Anna in a way that feels like an effortless switch between narrators and I fell in love with Anna, Alfie, Nina, Molly and Sean equally; flaws and all. I love the dynamic between them and I think that and them finding their feet in the world is what Counting Stars is about rather than the celebrity scandal mentioned in the synopsis. I'd go as far as to say that it’s a little misleading as it’s nowhere near the most prominent or most important aspect of the novel, though it is an important reflection on the dangers of putting yourself and other people onto the internet and social media.

Counting Stars is a wonderful novel of love, life, friendship and sex and to me, this is what New Adult should be. I really hope we see more of this type of novel from Keris in the future. Please?


Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Secret Life of a Book Blogger Tag!

The lovely Rosy from Review Diaries has tagged me to do the Secret Life of a Book Blogger Tag! I don’t know if I’ve ever done a tag on here before, but I’m always a little aware that I rarely post much personal stuff on here – though I have improved! So read on…

Posted to my Instagram to celebrate Harry and JK
Rowling's birthdays
Though I can’t quite believe it myself, I’ve been a blogger for over 6 ½ years… I started in January 2009 when there weren’t many UK book bloggers around; the only ones I can remember are Jenny from Wondrous Reads who started the same week I did and the now sadly defunct Chicklish which was run by authors Keris Stainton and Luisa Plaja.

I had reached the point where I was seeing the same things over and over again in book shops and my library and I'd read all that jumped out at me. I went in search of more YA online and stumbled across book blogs from the US – Tales of a Ravenous Reader, The Book Mucher, The Story Siren, Reading Keeps You Sane and Em’s Bookshelf – and decided that the UK needed some representation too.

I really don’t know. There have been lots of points this year when I've considered giving it up. It’s surprisingly stressful and I often feel like my love for reading has warped from the pressure and responsibility of reading review books and meeting schedules. But I always get over it. I can’t imagine not blogging – it’s such an intrinsic part of me now and I don’t know what I'd do without out, to be honest.

Hands down, the community. I have made the most wonderful friends – bloggers, authors, publishers alike – with this. Those that I started with and those that I’ve made on the way. I know that I can go to nearly any book event and find a friend there. I have so many people who’ll jump to help me out or listen to me ramble or even just chat! The UKYA community is a wonderful one and it only continues to grow and get better.

From left: George (George Lester Reads),
Debbie (Snuggling on the Sofa), Me
As I mentioned before, the pressure and change in my attitude to reading are the worst bits about blogging. I really hate the way that reading sometimes feels like a chore now; something I have to do in order to get a review up. The intimidation of my TBR pile, built up over six years of review copies – solicited and unsolicited – and those I’ve bought and been gifted as well.

Making it okay is kind of an on-going mission and there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all solution as it can tie in with other areas of my life. Sometimes I need to have a blogging break, sometimes I have to go off schedule and binge read whatever I want to, sometimes a re-read of a favourite does the trick and sometimes I just need to keep trudging through until I feel that spark again. And something that always makes me feel better? Talking to my bookish friends on Twitter; they get it.

Generally, about two minutes! For reviews I just grab the cover image from Goodreads, and that’s usually the same for recommendation posts. When it comes to discussion posts and monthly favourites I sometimes use photos I've taken or put on Instagram which takes a little longer. Instagram pictures usually involve taking apart my bookcases to find what I want and arranging them in a way that hopefully looks nice, doesn’t show a rogue sock on the floor etc and attempting to not put them in exactly the same shape as the previous post. Then I just have to email them to myself and grab them from there. I’ve fallen in love with Instagram lately and I’m hoping to start getting a little better with my book photography and feature it a bit more on the blog.

My blogging notebook
Wait, crush? As in one? Nope. Can’t. Jace Herondale (The Mortal Instruments). Will Herondale (The Infernal Devices). Dimitri Belikov (Vampire Academy). Wes (The Truth About Forever). Dylan (Diary of a Crush). Alex Fuentes (Perfect Chemistry). I could go on…

In June 2013 my bloggy dream came true and I was asked to be on the blog tour for The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen and offered the chance to interview her. I remember squealing repeatedly and legging it up the stairs to my bff/housemate’s room to attempt to tell her. It took a few tries to get the words out properly. One of my biggest dreams is to meet Sarah so this was a moment for me and I’d love to have her back on the blog. Every week. For the rest of time.

Usually, pyjama bottoms. I tend to write in the evenings or at the weekend and when I don’t plan on leaving the house that day or when I get in, I swap my jeans for PJ bottoms or shorts. From the waist up I’m properly dressed and look like an adult (kinda. I am wearing a Hufflepuff t-shirt…) and them COMFORT. For example, I’m currently wearing bright blue socks with watermelons on them and blue M&Ms World pyjama shorts (which are technically men’s boxer shorts…). If you get the opportunity to get PJs from M&Ms World, DO IT. The comfiest things I’ve ever put on my body. I have two pairs of full-length and two pairs of shorts.

My John Wyndham collection so far posted to
This completely varies. When it comes to reviews, I write notes about the book as I read so when I come and sit down to write it up, all I do is read over the notes and set up the document (pages, publisher, release date, edition, synopsis, author’s previous titles) and go for it! The actual review can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours – it just depends on the book. And how much I procrastinate.

When it comes to discussion posts, they can take up to two weeks of thinking it over, jotting down notes, maybe doing a little research, writing down sentences or paragraphs here and there and taking pictures.

Full-on love. Love and friendship and support and camaraderie. The UKYA community is the best and I’m honoured to be a part of it.

Work hard. Focus on the content. Don’t get caught up in the want for review copies. Tweet. Comment. Interact. Find your voice. Write, read and discuss what speaks to YOU.

Thanks for tagging me, Rosy! This was fun. I tag everyone who wants to do it!