Sunday, 31 July 2016

EVENT REPORT: YALC 2016


Yesterday I went to YALC for the second year in a row. YALC is the UK's only YA Literature Convention, so obviously I'm a huge fan and I was so excited to go again, especially as it was my highlight of last year!

I was so anxious but I dealt with it much better than last year, and a couple of you gorgeous people came up to me and said that my post on YALC and anxiety made you feel better - which made me feel better! This year it was much busier and there seemed to be more going on, so my schedule was packed. Here's what went down...

We got there over an hour late which meant I missed my first panel for the second year running, but I was there in time for the second panel, Squad Goals, with Anna James, Sarra Manning, Sara Barnard and Holly Bourne (who I recently filmed a video with!) It was SUCH a good panel - the best and most interesting one I've ever watched - and I felt so inspired.


Then I was off to my first signings: Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel of the Sands) and Kass Morgan (The 100). Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, Alwyn's queue was so long that I had to abandon it after a while, but I still got to meet Kass!


After that, I desperately wanted to go to the Teenage Soundtrack: Music in YA panel with Sophia Bennett, Non Pratt, Chris Russell and Simon Mayo, but I was still getting things signed. It's alright, though, because I'd already met Simon Mayo at a Penguin event (how very swish of me), and I still had time to meet Chris and Sophia! Chris was awesome and it was great to meet him after having chatted a bit on Twitter. It was lovely to finally meet Sophia, too - she's one of the first authors I ever spoke to, and we've kept in touch ever since! It was actually on my 50 before 13 bucket list to go to one of her signings. Only five years late, but better that than never...



I also got to meet the amazing Keris Stainton! We've known each other online since I was practically still a foetus, and YALC gave us the chance to finally meet. Keris is such a talented writer and I highly recommend her books!


Next, I rushed over to Laure Eve's unofficial signing at the Faber & Faber stand, where I also did a lot of fangirling with the guy running it...


...before rushing over to the Secrets & Lies panel with Sarah Crossan, Keren David, Sophie Kinsella and Annabel Pitcher, in conversation with Chelsey Pippin. They played a fun game of 2 Truths, 1 Lie and talked about what secrets and lies can add to a book. The authors were signing afterwards, so I went to meet Sophie and Keren, as well as Lauren James (The Next Together) and Honor and Perdita Cargill (Waiting for Callback).


And that was it! There were more panels and signings but I'd done all I wanted to do, so after another quick whip around the publisher stands, we made our way to Gourmet Burger Kitchen (ALL THE YESES) before driving home. It was a loooong day, and I'm so happy with the amount of people I got to meet. Not bad considering I'd only fallen asleep at 4am, with an alarm set for 4:30am. Ouch.

As well as the authors above, I also met a surprising amount of readers/viewers of my blog and YouTube channel! There were way more this year and I wasn't expecting it at all - it was lovely! I didn't get everyone's names and there were some that I only saw and recognised from afar, so I'm not going to list everyone here, but I loved getting to fangirl about books with so many people in person rather than online.

Haul time!


Before you hate me for being 'greedy', a lot of this was picked up for a friend who couldn't make it and for my mum's goddaughter who loves books but also couldn't go. Plus, I was conscious of the fact that I wanted to do a giveaway, as I know what it's like to see everyone having a great time at YALC without you. It sucks, so I like to try and bring a little bit of YALC to you, instead. Unfortunately, though, this is only open to residents of the UK - sorry! Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I love YALC and I am so grateful for the hard work the organising committee, publishers and authors put in to make it happen. It's so needed and I love that it brings people together. Did you go to YALC? Are you planning to go next year? Let me know!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

INFOGRAPHIC: Money, money, money...

I don't know about you, but the EU Referendum feels like it was years ago. So much has happened in politics since then. I wrote a piece about it for MTV which you can see by clicking here, but my opinion on the result isn't what I'm writing about today. What I'm writing about is money, moolah, coinage... you know, the stuff that recently dropped in value by a ridiculous amount because of a certain unnecessary political shambles. *cough*

The peeps at MyVoucherCodes recently sent me the below infographic, and I thought I'd pop it on the blog because they need money, I need money, and you - presumably - would like to save money. It's a win-win-win situation. (More bloggyness below the infographic!)

Seasonal Buying Calendar - An infographic by the team at MyVoucherCodes

Embed Seasonal Buying Calendar on Your Site: Copy and Paste the Code Below:



Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame

Title: Did I Mention I Miss You?
Author: Estelle Maskame
Published by: Black & White Publishing
Publication date: 21st July 2016
Pages: 372
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


A year has passed since Eden last spoke to Tyler. She remains furious at him for his abrupt departure last summer but has done her best to move on with her life at college in Chicago. As school breaks up for the summer, she's heading back to Santa Monica, but she's not the only one who decides to come home...

Having been left behind to deal with the aftermath of their bombshell revelation and a family torn apart, Eden has no time for Tyler when he reappears. But where has Tyler been? And is she as over him as she likes to think? Or can Tyler and Eden finally work things out, despite their family and against all the odds?

If you've read my post from earlier this year called 10 Reasons You Need to Read DIMILY, you'll know this is an amazing trilogy. In fact, it's one of my favourites - and now it's come to an end.


In the final book of the trilogy, Eden is done with Tyler. It's been a year since he left and completely cut her off. Now, she's trying to start a new chapter in life... a life that Tyler isn't in. But when Eden returns to Santa Monica, having completed her first year of college in Chicago, she is forced to face Tyler, the future, and how much they've both changed.

Let's jump straight in: I love character development, and it's clear that everyone has grown up so much since the first book. This is actually something that Maskame is particularly good at, not to mention the cuteness; if you're looking for an intense YA romance with a twist, you need to read DIMILY. I'm actually envious of those of you who have yet to read these books; I wish I could experience them for the first time all over again.

I'll miss Tyler and Eden a lot. In fact, I'll miss everyone. Luckily, Maskame is writing a new standalone, so we'll have some new characters to fall in love with soon! I cannot recommend these books enough and if you haven't discovered them yet... well, what are you waiting for?
If you've read the first two books but have yet to get your hands on this one, never fear, because I have an extra copy to give away to one of you! This is open to residents of the UK only, and closes on August 3rd. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

My Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Warning: this post contains minor spoilers.

On my birthday last year, tickets went on sale for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the eighth story and the brand-new two-part play by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. In the frenzy that ensued (seriously, if you tried to get tickets that day, you will remember the horrendous virtual queues) I managed to grab tickets to see both parts on 6th July. I mean, if you can't treat yourself on your birthday, when can you?


If you don't want to know what the play is about, skip to the next paragraph. Still here? Good. Right then, let's try and sum up what is technically a five-hour production... The play opens exactly where the films and books left off on Platform 9 3/4, as Harry and Ginny wave off their kids as they begin the journey to Hogwarts. It's Albus Severus's first year, and - coming from a family of Gryffindors - he's scared that he will be sorted into Slytherin. When Albus's worst nightmare comes true and he is sorted into Slytherin, his relationship with his father becomes strained. This gets even worse when he becomes friends with Scorpius Malfoy, starts to feel the burden of being named after Dumbledore and Snape, and nearly destroys the world...

My god, this was a perfect production. Let's start with casting. When the actors were first announced, I didn't have an opinion. No one reads a book in the same way as anyone else; it's completely unique, and we all imagine the characters in different ways. Because of that, even when the cast photos were released, I didn't have an opinion except that racism isn't cool and people need to grow up. I didn't compare the actors with the film cast, either, because this is an entirely different medium and, as much as I love them, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint are irrelevant to the play. It's not like they are the characters just because they played them first; they're actors who were cast in a production, just like Parker, Dumezweni and Thornley. Not having seen any of the actors in anything else before, I waited until the play to form my proper opinion. 

To me, the casting was spot-on. You know the actors you're watching are special when you're able to forget that you're in a theatre with 1,399 other people and that your legs are cramped because there's literally no leg room. Sam Clemmett (Albus Potter) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius Malfoy) had such brilliant chemistry, and they both prompted a lot of laughter, as did Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley). It's a fairly dark play in places, but it definitely has more comedy than the films (and possibly the books, too - it's been a while!) Cherrelle Skeete (Rose Granger-Weasley), although we didn't see a lot of her, had the Granger personality nailed. It's not hard to see why Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) landed the lead role; he's completely believable as a man trying and struggling to be a good father with nothing to base it on. His acting was extremely emotive.

Having worked both backstage and onstage for a lot of productions (nothing on a West End scale, obviously) I was completely captivated by the magic happening in front of me and immediately wanted to go backstage to see how it all works. It is insane. The team behind Cursed Child have not played it safe; with all the creative risks they've taken, there's a lot that could go wrong, but the entire production ran smoothly. It was flawless. In particular, I have to point out a scene where Polyjuice Potion is involved. Y'know, the potion that can literally turn a wizard or a witch into someone else entirely? Yeah, that happened right in front of our eyes. I won't go into detail but that scene is so complicated and will have taken so much coordination, and yet the actors made it look effortless. Not to mention the fire, choreography and mid-air stunts...

In addition to that, I love plays where the action is moved away from the stage and into the audience. Highlights include dementors literally flying across the audience from every direction, and creepy writing that magically appears on the ceiling, the walls, and other surfaces at one point in the play.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a triumph. How many books can successfully transcend so many mediums, and so seamlessly? Spellbinding, clever, energetic and darkly funny, you must go to see it. Whether it's in one year or three, I'll definitely be making the trip to watch it again. (Also, I'm a complete theatre geek. Surprise!...)

Will you be seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? If you've seen it already, what did you think?

Monday, 25 July 2016

GUEST POST: How Far is Too Far in YA?


Having experience with anxiety and agoraphobia myself, I was very excited to hear about Louise Gornall's debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies. With a housebound protagonist, I knew it would be an interesting read. What I didn't realise until fairly recently, however, was that Gornall herself also suffers with agoraphobia. The following post is about her decision to write about a typically 'taboo' topic - but how far is too far?

Look out for my review of Under Rose-Tainted Skies, coming soon!


Is there anything you wouldn't put in a book for YA readers?

Okay, guys! I'm going to bite the bullet and have a chat with you about something slightly controversial. I know some folks will disagree with me on this, and that's okay, but here it is: I don't think there is such a thing as too far in YA. I think if we're going to put limits on content, it should be more about context and how certain things are handled. 

Bottom line, when I was a teenager, if there was something I wasn't supposed to do, I'd do it, something I wasn't supposed to know, I'd find a way to figure it out, and that would usually only mean talking to my friends. I'm not saying this means teens should be exposed to everything, but I am suggesting that shielding them from discovering stuff is near impossible, and that maybe fiction is a safe environment for teens to explore some of life's darker issues/wants/needs. 

I was really lucky to have parents who wanted to prepare me for every situation, and who always provided me with a safe space to chat, but sadly, not everyone has that. This is overly dramatic, but when a conversation comes up about censoring YA, I always think of the shower scene in Carrie, when she comes on her period, and, having no clue why she's suddenly bleeding all over herself, automatically assumes she's dying. This in turn opens her up to a barrage of torment and ridicule. I don't know, I guess what I'm trying to say is that censoring books to protect teens seems ambiguous. Like, I'm not sure how protected a teen really is when they're not prepared for the scarier stuff in life. 

I could probably ramble on about this for a decade, but don't worry, I won't. I always find it's best to stop talking before I stop making sense and inadvertently shoot down my own argument.
_________

I agree with Louise, actually; it might be controversial, but as long as a topic is dealt with in a sensible way, I'm cool with it. The sky is the limit! By censoring YA, you're censoring life, and things happen to people regardless of age. YA, in my opinion, should reflect that.

What do you think? Let's discuss!

Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy, and she is currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. A YA aficionado, film nerd, identical twin, and junk food enthusiast, she's also an avid collector of book boyfriends. Her debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies, is out now.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Reading My Old School Books | #JustWrite Day


Today is a pretty awesome day for bookworms: my video with Holly Bourne goes up on my channel tonight at 7pm BST, and... it's #JustWrite day! And if you like reading, you probably like writing, too, right? BIC (the people who made your biro) launched #JustWrite day because teenagers are writing less today than ever before. I'm not surprised, to be honest; I only ever write by hand when I'm taking notes during class. Even shopping lists go on my phone rather than a good old piece of paper.

#JustWrite day aims to change that and, to celebrate, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of my (messy, horrible, nonetheless handwritten and kind of hilarious) school books from Years 7 and 8, aka when I was 12 and 13. There's also a fun giveaway at the end of this post!

"I'm amazed with the lack of work!" SHADE. I went on to get an A in my History GCSE so there's the proof that you can turn your life around. #inspirational

Eine hamster, guys. Eine hamster.

In Geography, we got to draw a 'topic page' at the start of each new topic. I clearly had a theme...

That awkward moment when your handwriting was better then at 11 than now at 17...

English, unsurprisingly, was my best subject. No red pen, ninjas or hamsters in that book.

Even though I prefer typing, I firmly believe that handwriting is the best option. When it comes to schoolwork, I feel like the act of writing by hand helps my notes stay in my head, as opposed to going in one ear and straight out of the other. It hurts, though - usually by the end of the first page! That's why I'm amazed at BIC's new handwritten newspaper for teens, called the British Illustrated Chronicle. It's limited edition and they're being handed out in Brighton today, so if that's where you are (lucky you!) you can go and grab a copy. Don't worry if you don't live in Brighton, though, because you can read the paper online and BIC have given me a few copies to give away!


How cool does that look?! Even better, the paper itself includes a competition where you can win either £500, or one of two runner-up prizes worth £250 each by completing a sentence about what a world without words means to you. Here's the hand-drawn, handwritten newspaper in numbers:

  • 3 guest editors
  • 5 fictional editors
  • 6 celebrity quotes
  • 16 stories
  • 70 hours spent creating titles
  • 109 hours drawing illustrations
  • 116,000 copies printed
  • 168 hours spent on designing and handling layouts
  • Over 4,000 handwritten words


To find out more about the #JustWrite campaign and where they'll be in Brighton, search @MyBICPen or #JustWrite on Twitter, or visit their Facebook page.

This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

Title: Songs About a Girl
Author: Chris Russell
Published by: Hodder Children's Books
Publication date: 28th July 2016
Pages: 483
Genres: YA Contemporary/Music
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


When aspiring photographer Charlie Bloom receives the invitation of her dreams - to take backstage photos for chart-topping boyband Fire&Lights - it's an offer she can't refuse.

Overnight she is launched into a world of fame, paparazzi and backstage bickering - caught between the dark charms of the band's lead singer Gabriel West, and boy-next-door bandmate Olly Samson.

But then Charlie stumbles upon a spine-tingling truth: all the songs Gabriel has written for Fire&Lights' debut album are, impossibly, linked to her and her past.

What does he want with Charlie? What's really going on?

Occasionally, a book will come along that shakes up the blogosphere completely. The latest of those books? Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell. Since the beginning of the year, bloggers have been going crazy over this, from exclaiming over how fun it is to read, to freaking out over plot twist after plot twist... and now it's my turn.

Well, they weren't wrong - this is such a fun read. If you watched my book haul from June where I said it three or four times (vlogging ain't easy) you'll know that I love a bit of so-called 'boyband lit'. It's the perfect escapism, don't you think? In Songs About a Girl, however, it's even better, due to all the songs somehow being about Charlie and her past... how does that work? I guess you'll have to read it and find out.

...I did half guess the answer to that question very early on, though. Like, before I even opened the book. I just had a hunch and, annoyingly, I was right. However, I wasn't really expecting to be right because I never am when it comes to this sort of thing, so it still shocked me. It was done so cleverly, too! I am massively looking forward to the following two books; I might have predicted the ending, but I have no idea how things are going to continue from here...



I'm also looking forward to seeing more fun times play out between Charlie and her friend Melissa, and band members Yuki and Adrian. These four were my favourite characters: constantly loveable, realistic, and providing lighthearted banter. #archbishopofbanterbury #allaboardthebanterbus #bantersaurusrex #illstopnow

In all seriousness, this is such a brilliant book with funny dialogue and some very clever twists... you won't want to miss it. Perfect for fans of Sophia Bennett's Love Song and Zoella's Girl Online On Tour. And for anyone who has good taste in books, really...

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The ULTIMATE Guide to Culling Books


Spoiler: my shelves aren't a mile long. With the volume of books I receive each week, this is a bit of a problem, and I end up with books stacked on my shelves, on my floor, and on every other available surface. See for yourself.


I can't believe I'm blogging my mess, but yeah, that's the reality of my shelves that you don't usually see in blog photos or in the background of my videos. First world problems, I know, but something needs to be done, right? A book cull, perhaps?

Oui. This definitely needs to happen. Luckily, I'm pretty good at getting rid of books. I love them, but I can be pretty ruthless when it comes to it. Today, I'm going to show how you, too, can take the emotion out of it and not give a crap.

HOW TO GET RID OF YOUR CHILDREN BOOKS:

  • Stand in front of your shelves, and get ready for battle. Take stock, and pull any book that you don't particularly care about off your shelf. This doesn't mean you'll end up getting rid of it, just take it out of the equation for now. The books you pick for this should be...
    • ...releases that don't excite you in any way
    • Books that you don't think you'll read again
    • Books you don't use anymore, e.g. textbooks from the previous school year, or filled activity books
    • Duplicates because, let's be honest, you really don't need three copies of the same book.
  • Comfort yourself by remembering that if at some point down the line you do want to re-read one of the books you're about to cull - libraries exist. Or, if you want it that badly, you can buy it again. Or borrow it. 
  • Struggling? Wipe the sweat from your brow that has accumulated during this emotionally tough time, and leave the room. If you can't remember what books you chucked in the 'leave' pile, you don't care about them enough to keep 'em. #toughlove

When I said you don't need several copies of the same book, I meant it. Because they add up, and look at how much SPACE they fill. I had no idea I owned so many duplicates, and not all of them are even pictured.


Like... why.

In the end, here's what I decided to chuck:


You might notice that some of my favourites are in here, like Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella or Della Says: OMG by Keris Stainton. That's how ruthless I am. (To be fair, I had two copies of each, so it wasn't that hard. But still. I am a badass when it comes to book culling, okay? Yes.)

BUT WHERE DO THE BOOKS GO?

This is my favourite part - deciding where your books will go next! Who's going to read them? Whose home will they live in? Where will they travel? When it comes to getting rid of your books, you have so many options.

DONATING:

Usually, I donate my books to places such as...

  • Charity shops
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health units
  • Prisons
  • Public libraries and school libraries

I've also been known to give away loads of books on Twitter to those who want them, and I do a fair amount of book giveaways on here and on other social media. This can get a bit costly though, so my local Sue Ryder and Mind shops tend to get a good re-stock of YA every few months...

It's also fun to leave books around in public for people to pick up and take home, like I did in this video with copies of The Sky is Everywhere.

SELLING:

You can also make a bit of cash from the books you no longer want! There are lots of 'trade-in' websites where you can send them your unwanted books and they'll give you money in return. Of course, you can't send them your ARCs, but if you have lots of final editions, this is a good option. I only have experience with two of these websites: Amazon Trade-In, which is now closed, and WeBuyBooks, which I used in this particular culling adventure.

Not spon (I wish) but I was actually really surprised at the amount they were willing to pay for some of my books. I was expecting 10-20p at most per title, but some were over £1, and that added up very quickly, as you can see:


Cha-ching. So then I found a box, filled it with my books, and off it went for free, with no postage costs! The rest of my books, the ones WeBuyBooks wouldn't accept for whatever reason, were donated to other places.


After that, I tidied my shelves and I was finally able to fit all of my books on them, including the ones that had been relegated to every available surface but my shelves. Floor space, finally. ❤


Boom. Goodbye old reads, hello space for brand new books. I always feel good after doing this, and I never regret it. Culling your book collection every now and then is important, otherwise they'll take over. May I refer you back to the first photo in this blog post? Exactly.

Good luck with your book culling! Do you have any tips that I haven't mentioned? Do you find getting rid of books to be easy or difficult?