Sunday, 23 July 2017

Beauty and the Beast Screening & Afternoon Tea with Disney

Who went to bed at 11pm, didn't fall asleep until 5am, and woke up to an alarm just half an hour later ahead of a busy day in London? That would be me! Thanks brain...

Last month I received a very exciting email from Disney, inviting me to a private screening of Beauty and the Beast at Covent Garden Hotel, followed by afternoon tea and a book swap with the theme of leading females, like Belle. All of this was to celebrate the release of the film on DVD.

Well, I couldn't pass up the opportunity of cake, a feminist book swap, and the chance to watch a gorgeous film, could I?

The film started at 10am, hence my early start, and it was somehow even better than my first viewing. I still can't seem to figure out which part is meant to be the 'gay moment' that the world got itself into a tizzy over, so if anyone feels like enlightening me... it must have been very subtle! The film is so beautifully shot though, and the casting is spot on. The costumes, the choreography, the soundtrack, the random bursting into song, and of course the traditional tale, ensure the classic feel of the film is still very much prevalent, simply with modern reworking and a witty, hilarious script to boot. I have to say, I'm really enjoying Disney's live-action remakes. Having liked the modern update of The Jungle Book and now Beauty and the Beast, it made me realise how cool it is that I grew up watching the old animated classics on video - and now, hitting adulthood, I get to experience it all again but in an entirely new way. I really need to sort myself out and finally watch Cinderella...

After the film, we were taken through to the Fortune Room for afternoon tea. I chatted with Sanne (Books and Quills), Lucy (The Book Belle) and Daphne (Winged Reviews and Illumicrate), and met new-to-me bloggers Linda (Linda's Book Bag) and Steph (A Little but a Lot). As I mentioned before, there was also a book swap, and I brought along my spare copy of Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne and basically shoved it in the face of anyone who asked about it. Read it, people, read it. I didn't take any books home because, let's be honest, I really shouldn't acquire any more...

I vlogged the day, so if you're into that kind of thing, subscribe to me on YouTube and the video will be up this week.

Thanks Disney for a lovely afternoon!

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Title: The State of Grace
Author: Rachael Lucas
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 6th April 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.

Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more.

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.

The State of Grace tells the story of a girl who struggles to fit in, who tries to find her feet in a world which constantly tells her that she needs to. Grace has Asperger's, and being in her mid-teens, things are getting more and more difficult: boys have become complicated, friendships are suddenly full of unspoken drama, and Grace's younger sister is close to going off the rails. Something weird is going on with their parents, and Grace's teacher thinks she's just attention-seeking. Meanwhile, all Grace wants is to be with her horse, Mabel, and for everything to be fine.

I've been looking forward to this book since the day it was announced. I'd been following the author on Twitter for a while and I already liked what she had to say, so to hear that she was making a foray into YA was exciting. I blogged about it here on the WHSmith website due to it being one of my most highly-anticipated 2017 reads! The main reason for me being excited about it, however, is due to Grace's Asperger's. I'm close to a few women with the same diagnosis, and I'd never seen this representation in YA before. I've read a couple of books with male autistic characters, but even then, those books are few and far between. Overall, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there on the topic. And who better to write about it than Lucas, who was diagnosed with Asperger's herself and whose daughter has it, too?

Grace is such a great character, written with warmth and heart, and through her Lucas encourages pride in autism. There are a few comments on Grace having been sent to the 'Jigsaw Centre' when she was younger, which aimed to mould her into a more neurotypical and therefore 'socially acceptable' being, subtly commenting on the negativity of so-called treatment for autistic people and trying to find a 'cure'. The book's overarching message is to be yourself, and to let everyone else do the same.

It's worth noting that Rachael Lucas has an awesome presence on social media, so to hear more of what she has to say, do follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram. And if you're looking for an authentic and honest story which is entertaining and full of heart, The State of Grace is well worth reading. I can't wait for what Lucas is planning next!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

GUEST POST: Chris Russell on Why Fandom Matters

One of my favourite authors is on the blog today talking about fandom and why it matters to him, and I think it perfectly captures why fandom is so great. Chris Russell's debut novel, Songs About a Girl, was released last summer, shaking up the blogosphere and quickly becoming a favourite of mine. And the second book in the trilogy, Songs About Us, is finally here and set to do the same! If you haven't read these books before, you'll love them. Over to you, Chris.

It goes without saying that fandom is at the heart of my YA trilogy, Songs About a Girl. Apart from anything else, the story was originally inspired by a three-month period I spent ghost-writing for a 1D fan-club in Australia, during which time I a) developed a real insight into the way fans interact with each other online and b) fell hook, line and sinker in love with One Direction. Specifically Harry.

But let's not get sidetracked. Even if he does have LOVELY HAIR.

Because, of course, it's not actually that long [ahem] since I was a teenager myself, and I'm not sure fandom is something I've ever entirely let go of. Unsurprising, really, when I consider that I have fandom to thank for many of the best things that have ever happened to me.

When I was thirteen, I met a blue-eyed singer and guitarist called George, in English class, and we quickly became best friends. We fanboyed over all the same comedy shows (Blackadder, Red Dwarf), offbeat novels (Catch 22, The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy) and movies (Empire Records, Wayne's World), and were effectively joined at the hip from dawn until dusk. Most importantly, though, we fanboyed over music: we were OBSESSED with Bon Jovi. Our infatuation with America's finest faux-cowboy rock band was matched only by our infatuation with each other, so it was only a matter of time before we went to see them live.

On a hot night in the summer of 1996, we headed to Wembley to watch our heroes perform, and this experience set off a chain reaction without which I probably wouldn't be a musician, or even an author, and I certainly wouldn't be writing this blog post. So inspired were we by Bon Jovi's big-hearted stadium rock show, we headed home, sat in a tree in George's garden and vowed to start a band, tour the world, be best friends forever and, one day, play at Wembley Stadium ourselves.

Over twenty years later, and our band, The Lightyears, are still together. We've been lucky enough to play gigs across four continents, stay in some ridiculously fancy hotels, have countless adventures on the road and even perform at Wembley Stadium a few times - and while we never really got famous outside of our own village, it's been one hell of a ride. And I thank fandom for that. It was as if the intensity of our teenage obsession, crystallised on that hot summer night at a Bon Jovi concert, was the rocket fuel that powered the crazy pursuits of our adult lives.

If you read YA, the chances are you've been in a fandom or two in your life. Teenagers, and those of us who read teen fiction, feel things in an especially intense way. We seek out widescreen emotions, broken hearts, epic narratives of hope, love and redemption. That's what fandom is all about. And I, for one, plan to keep on fanboying until the day I die.

I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH. The importance of fandom and the ways it can completely change your life can be seen in the Songs About a Girl trilogy, and that's one of the things I love about it. Songs About Us, the second book, is out today, and you need to buy your copy now (links below!) I'm reading it right now and it is pure awesome. Music, fandom, friendship, aaand the journey of a lifetime. ❤