Wednesday, July 20, 2016

YALC panic

YALC is upon us very soon. I love YALC. It always excites me, the idea of seeing my favourite people, meeting up with book blogger friends, author friends, publishing type friends. All of us in one space there for the sole purpose of celebrating books and words and stories and reading. I love that.

In previous years I've poured over the author list, the programme. I'd create myself a schedule, a timeline of events. I'd try to narrow down the tower of books I wanted to bring with me for signing. In previous years I'd know who else was going to be there, who else I might likely bump into when I was there. That was half the fun.

This year, none of that has really happened. I'm still excited for YALC, I'll be there Saturday and Sunday. But I've barely looked at the authors coming, I don't know what the programme looks like on either day in there. No idea what books to bring, who will be there. I'm entirely unprepared.

Everything else in my life has just taken over. I imagine myself either getting more prepared before the end of the month OR more likely just rocking up to YALC with nothing more than my smile and my excitement for what I'll meet there. Maybe I'll just take it as it comes? See who I see, make it to whatever panels I can and just float between pockets of cool people. We shall see.

Are you going to be at YALC this year? What's your plan??

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Ten UKYA Books Set Outside of the US and UK

It's been awhile since blogging occurred here on Fluttering Butterflies! I'm sorry for my absence, it's been a challenging time for me lately but hopefully I'll be back with a little more regularity from now on. We shall see.

For my blogging debut, I thought I'd take part in this week's Top Ten Tuesday. It's technically meant to be books set outside the US only but I figured I'd do the same with the UK as well. AND just because I wanted to do a(nother) post here on Fluttering Butterflies celebrating UKYA (and one UKMG) books, all of the authors in today's posts are also by British authors.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 

Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson (France)

Lydia Syson is one of my favourite authors. I love the way she writes historical fiction in such a way that it makes it so easy for me to get swept up in her characters and the time periods she writes about. Liberty's Fire is set in Paris, France during a revolution in 1870 and it follows the lives of four entwined characters who are on both sides of the political upheaval. And I loved every second of it! 

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (Russia)

I absolutely adored The Wolf Wilder! It's set in a fictional Russia in which wolves have been taken on as pets by royalty and then sent to a wolf wilder in order to be taught how to be wild again.  I love the concept of this book, the setting, the characters and definitely the adventure. This was such a sweet, fun book that I had to go out and pick up Katherine Rundell's debut book, Rooftoppers. 

Forbidden Spaces trilogy by Helen Grant (Belgium)

It shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that I'm a huge fan of the Forbidden Spaces trilogy by Helen Grant. All three books are set in the Flemish speaking area of Belgium and centre around serial killer goings on. I absolutely loved the pace, the intrigue and especially the relationship between the two main characters. 

The Last Leaves Falling by Fox Benwell (published under the name Sarah) (Japan)

The Last Leaves Falling is such a tear-jerker. It was one of those hugely emotional books that I read and just sobbed my way through. It's about suicide and suicide culture in Japan but it's also a book about hope and friendship and acceptance. It's just a really beautiful book and I definitely look forward to more from Fox... 

Stolen by Lucy Christopher (Australia)
I'm still kicking myself for having waited so long to read Stolen by Lucy Christopher. I was really intimidated by it for such a long time without ever coming to any conclusions as to why.  I think the thing I loved so much about this book is how emotional it is. Lucy Christopher described the outback of Australia so well that it felt like a character in itself and also she described how much the main character didn't want to be there that it made me feel that way too.  This setting of this book was incredible. 

Monkey Wars by Richard Kurti (India)

It's a bit of a strange one, Monkey Wars, in that unlike the majority of other books on this list it isn't a contemporary story. This is a book about warring monkeys in Calcutta, India. And it's fascinating. The different monkeys have such differing and powerful personalities. And this book is pretty gruesome. It's bloody and political and I found every page of it fascinating. I love how emotionally invested I became in monkeys on both sides of the conflict and how much I felt about them and their relationships. Such a surprising novel. 

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott (Japan)

Shadows on the Moon is on my list of favourite books ever, that's how much I love it. It's set in a fictional fantasy feudal Japan, is a fairy tale retelling, it's got a great main character, great secondary characters, an emotional love interest and an amazing setting. I love the world that this book is set in. And I love the revenge and vulnerability... oh, I just love this book!

Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace (Zimbabwe)

I read Out of Shadows several years ago and I still occasionally find myself thinking about it. It's a book set in Zimbabwe during the 80s just after the war of independence. It's about an English boy in school during a time of great upheaval and racial tensions. Robert Mugabe is set to visit the school and that sets off this chain of events that occur. This book was a really powerful and unflinching story about bullying, race, belonging.

A Beautiful Life by Irfan Master (India)

A Beautiful Lie is such a sweet little book. Written back in 2011, this book is set in India during Partition in 1947. The main character, Bilal, is determined to protect his dying father from the news of Partition as he thinks it will break his heart. Set during a time of great turmoil, Bilal and his friends and everyone he can enlist throughout his village go to great lengths so that Bilal's father has peace in his final days. This book is equally sad and beautiful. 

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long (Belgium)

Sophie Someone is the most recent book I've read from this list. I loved the Belgian setting, specifically in Brussels. There was Flemish words thrown into the narrative, there was mentions of different ethnicities living within Brussels because of colonisation etc. It was just a really interesting general look at teenage life in another country as well as being an intriguing story about identity and language. 

What are your favourite books set outside of the US or the UK? 

Monday, May 09, 2016

Reshaping My Life: Reading habits

On Bookish Brits, which I really hope you already subscribe to, I discussed my changing reading habits during 2016. In fact, a lot of things have been changing this year and it's something I'd like to discuss a little bit more on this blog in the upcoming weeks. I hope you don't mind. I thought, because this is primarily a book blog, that I'd discuss the bookish thing first.

Over the last 5 or so years, I've read predominantly YA fiction. Previous to this, I kind of floundered in my reading habits, jumping between genres ... looking for my niche, I guess. It was a lot of literary adult fiction and I enjoyed what I was reading, but I didn't really find my 'passion' for it in the same way that I did YA when I 'discovered' it. Because I started gaining a readership on this blog from a YA audience, I kept at it. I love YA. Especially emotional, contemporary UKYA.

But recently? I've found myself feeling under pressure to continue reading and reviewing YA fiction. And partly because of this pressure and partly because of a change within myself, I've been yearning to read other things. So I have.

Here is a little pie chart I knocked up quickly to show you visually the different types of books I've been reading in 2016 and the amounts.

I think it's quite fun to see this change in my reading habits in such a visual way. Look at the almost equal pie slices of YA, poetry and (adult and new adult) romances! While it is still earlyish in 2016, this is a huge shift in a different direction. And I can definitely say I'm very much enjoying the diversity of topics and genres that I'm exploring this year. YA will always have my heart, but there is also plenty of room in my affections for other types of books as well.

As I mentioned in my video on Bookish Brits, the romances are in there mostly because they help me in times of dire reading slumps, when I really can't bring myself to read anything at all, romances are my lifelines. They won't always be as necessary as they have been during the last few months, but they will almost certainly always be present in a round-up of what I've been reading lately.

But it's the inclusion of literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry that has made the biggest different in my reading habits this year. And long may they continue, I say! The literary fiction book that I read this year I'd mentioned briefly in a blog post a few months ago when I first started reading it: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. This is a book of interconnected short stories about Vietnam. It's a book about war and the effects that the Vietnam war had on a group of men and their families and relationships but it's also a book very much about memory and about storytelling. It was a very powerful book to read and I felt incredibly emotional while reading it. Tim O'Brien is an amazing storyteller and the use of language in these flashes of stories were incredible. I was very impressed by it. I definitely want to read more stories like this.

I'll probably be discussing the non-fiction and poetry more on my YouTube channel, but just briefly, I've loved this foray into new areas. The three non-fiction books I've read are Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson, Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig and The Highly-Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron. I think it should be no surprise that each of these books have a focus on psychology. Mind Your Head is a non-fiction guide to helping young people navigate areas of mental health, Reasons To Stay Alive is a memoir/self-help guide chronicling the experiences of the author's depression and anxiety and The Highly Sensitive Person is a guide/self help book concerning the 'highly sensitive' personality trait, of which I would describe myself as having. Each of these books were very intriguing and they have helped me in other areas of my life that I'm hoping to reshape (and discuss in a later blog post!).

And then there's poetry. My love for poetry at the moment knows no bounds. This year I've read many collections of poetry which contained poems from many contributors (Poems That Make Grown Women Cry, Poetry Please: Love Poems, Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy) and also collections from individual poets (Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, 22 and 50 Poems by e.e. cummmings, The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy, Ariel by Sylvia Plath and Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda) and besides the ee cummings collection, I've loved them all. It makes me so excited reading poetry. I want to explore more and read more and ...feel all of the emotions from reading so much poetry lately. Reading this poetry has inspired me in more ways than one and I do hope to discuss that further in another blog post.

So those are the ways in which my reading habits have changed during 2016 and some of the books I've been reading because of it. I'd love to hear if your reading habits have changed lately and how? Do you have any recommendations for me based on my changes? Do let me know!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another 'Where I've Been' Post

Hello. Long time since I've updated this blog and oh, I'm not going to apologise. Sometimes life just takes over.  It's been a challenging few months and family stuff and university work and my own mental health took priority for awhile. I've been very much hanging on by a thread lately and I didn't have the energy or enthusiasm that it takes to maintain a time-consuming hobby like book blogging. I hope you'll understand.

But, having said that, I feel like I'm at the point now where I'd like to return. Only it's really difficult after several months away from blogging to get back into it. To start up that routine again. I've thought about writing this post, or one very like it, every day for a week now and it hasn't happened until now. I've lost so much momentum and now it feels like I'll have to work really hard to just get back to where I was. I hope you'll stick with me for awhile as I start all over again.

I do have some ideas for future blog posts. Reviews, discussion posts, some bookish lists. Do you want to hear about my holiday to Italy? My adventures around UK theme parks? We'll see how I go with it.  Just out of curiosity, what would you like to see here? What, if anything, have you missed from me in my absence? Assuming you noticed my absence at all!

I look forward to being part of the book blogging community again very soon!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The YA Sisterhood: Writing Positive Girl Friendships in YA by Catherine Doyle

I'm really happy today to be sharing with you a guest post by Catherine Doyle, the author of both Vendetta and Inferno. Inferno was published at the beginning of this month and both books are incredible exciting and addictive and action-packed. There are wonderful characters and relationships and friendships. Sophie and Millie are such an amazing pair of best friends, so I'm glad Catherine chose to write about their relationship and about girls' friendships in general today. 

Over to you, Catherine...

The YA Sisterhood: Writing Positive Girl Friendships in YA 
by Catherine Doyle

When I set out to write the Blood for Blood trilogy, I had a very clear goal in mind. I wanted to write about that bright, positive light a best friend brings into your life, to explore that deep sense of loyalty within female friendships. I wanted to write about the relationships that have been most important to me, the ones that anchor and nourish.

I didn’t want to write about petty jealousy, or boy-stealing, or fat-shaming, or ‘mean girls’. I didn’t want to write a best friend who hovered in the background while the protagonist had all the adventures, nor did I want to create a cardboard cut-out character or a love rival. I wanted to write something real, something lasting, and most importantly, something aspirational.

Positive female friendships often feel like a rarity in YA fiction. Usually there’s a boy in the way, or an agenda, or, in the case of thrillers, an impending death. They don’t seem to last very long, or run very deep. Romantic stories and platonic friendship stories, for some reason, often seem to be mutually exclusive. If there’s a love interest in the story, the friendship aspect suffers. If there’s a friendship taking centre stage, romance doesn’t get much of a look-in. As much as I wanted Sophie’s story to be about romance, I also wanted it to be about friendship, too.

In the search for romance, the YA best friend often gets relegated to the back of the plot, where she waits for an occasional high-five, to give out a well-timed scolding or to turn her back on the protagonist at the first sign of strife. Or she’s the shoulder to cry on, the phone call in the night-time, always kept slightly out of the loop. She is a supporting character. She is very rarely the lead. And she should be. Romance cannot be the only thing that matters.

I’m not saying this isn’t indicative of some people’s teenage experience. At a time when young girls are trying to figure themselves out, the quest for boys can often override the desire to maintain a healthy, committed friendship. People drop the ball. It happens. And so it happens a lot in YA too. The problem with this is that it sends a message and it repeats a message that’s already out there: romantic relationships will fulfill you, and friendships should come second or third. No. No no no no no.

When I was a teenager I fell for a slightly sociopathic boy and didn’t heed my friends’ advice on the matter. I became enamoured with the idea of being in love – with the idea of being wanted. My priorities went askew. It took me a while to realize my mistake, and to learn a very important lesson: female friendships are a constancy – romantic partners, especially during your teenage years, are not. At the beginning of Vendetta, Sophie Gracewell might be a bit naive, but one thing she is sure of is her best friend, Millie. The greatest bond is their own. It is absent of resentment or jealousy. It’s a sisterhood. It’s important.

After Vendetta came out, I received emails from readers declaring themselves ‘Team Nic’, or ‘Team Luca’ (and even some, randomly, ‘Team Dom’). Inferno has just been released, and already I am getting feedback that diverts a little from the ‘I want a Luca’ and settles a little more firmly on the ‘I want a Millie.’ I’m not saying you can’t have both (wouldn’t that be great?!) – but to wish for a strong, empathetic, mutually-supportive friendship in your life is definitely a good thing!

Inferno by Catherine Doyle was published 7th January by Chicken House Books, I highly recommend that you go out and find a copy! 

REVIEW: Inferno by Catherine Doyle

Oh, this series. Inferno by Catherine Doyle is the second book in the Blood for Blood trilogy and oh my god, is it good. I felt like with this book Catherine Doyle took absolutely everything that I loved about the first book, Vendetta, and then just ramped everything up and gave me more. Inferno is incredibly exciting and addictive and action-packed! I loved the characters, the relationships, the friendships. This entire book felt like I was hurtling through everything at such a fast pace and like I just needed to hold on and enjoy the ride!

As much as I'll try not to spoil the events of Inferno, this book is the second in a trilogy and as such, there will be spoilers below for Vendetta. If you haven't yet read that book, please stop reading now. 

Right from the beginning, I really loved Inferno. Sophie went through a great deal at the end of Vendetta and I'm glad Catherine Doyle showed Sophie really at her lowest trying to find some semblance of normal again and putting herself back together both physically and emotionally. Sophie may have been a bit broken at the beginning of this novel but she just continues to grow and grow throughout Inferno and it made my heart happy to see her do this.

And I think the thing that helps Sophie so much is her incredible friendship with Millie. Wow, I love Millie. If I'm honest, I didn't pay that much attention to Millie in the first book so much.  But Inferno was different. Millie was absolutely necessary to Sophie and I loved how close the girls are and how wonderful they are with each other. I love such a central female friendship in any book but especially this one.

Everything to do with the Mafia was tense and nail-biting and surprising. Sophie does her best to take herself out of this thing she's in with the Falcone family but other things lead her right back there with them all. And in Inferno, Sophie discovers even more family lies and deception and it really goes to some dark places. And I loved exploring that darkness alongside Sophie. I was completely and utterly swept away in this series.

This review is turning out to be a list of all the things I love about Inferno, but I'm sorry. I can't stop now. I haven't even gotten to the boys!

First, there's Nicoli. Oh, Nicoli. Even during Vendetta, my heart had already jumped to a different ship, but I did find it fascinating reading more about Nic in this book. It was just really interesting and a little painful to watch Sophie interact with Nic and to piece through her feelings for him and to see him in this different light. And then there's everything delicious with Luca. Oh I love Luca. There's so much emotion there with the two of them. And that thing with the doughnut?? Swoonfest.

My only complaint was this book is that it ended and now there's this awful, gut-wrenching wait for the next book!  Honestly, this series of books is amazing and I love them.  Do read them if you get the chance!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Books I'm Excited For in January 2016

Last year, at the start of every month I tried to post a list of all the upcoming books published in the UK by British authors. I had a lot of fun doing these posts and I got a great response for them.  I mostly compiled those lists to help those of you taking part in the British Books Challenge I was hosting last year ... but this year I'm not hosting that challenge. And this year it feels like too much restriction to be posting only about British authors. So I've decided in 2016, instead, I'll just be sharing a smaller selection of those books I'm most excited to read. And maybe you'll also be excited by some of them too? Who knows. We shall see.

So here we are, a little bit late. The books I'm absolutely the most excited to either read or have more people reading during the month of January!

Inferno by Catherine Doyle

Luckily, I've already read Inferno, the explosive and hugely exciting sequel to Vendetta. You can look out for my review and a guest post from Catherine on the blog soonish. But definitely do get your hands on a copy of this book, if you haven't already or if (somehow!) it's slipped your radar! It's about a girl caught up in a complicated family thing involving the mafia.  There's love and friendship and family and action and I couldn't possibly love it anymore than I do.

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson and Dr Olivia Hewitt

I'm a huge fan of Juno's in general, but I'm really super looking forward to this guide to mental health for teenagers and young people. From the second I heard that Juno would be writing another non-fiction guide for young people (following Being A Book and This Book Is Gay) I was very excited. Mental health is definitely a topic close to my heart and I really hope this book is as amazing as I hope it will be.

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

I managed to get hold of a copy of this book absolutely ages ago and it is so incredible. I cannot wait for more people to read it.  I didn't know a thing about the book before I picked it up (but was really intrigued as to why the publisher chose to send the book along with some fajita seasoning!) but from the very first page I was swept away in the beauty of this book. It's such an emotional story about love and friendship, a great sisterly relationship and some difficult topics written about in such a gorgeous way.

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

This book arrived gorgeously packaged with this beautifully engraved comb with my name on it. It was described as being a fantasy, feminist, Finnish novel and doesn't that just sound incredible?! I've already started reading this book and I love the setting and the characters and everything already. More of my thoughts on this book soon!

Front Lines by Michael Grant

I'm also currently reading this book, the newest book from Michael Grant. It's his first book that I've attempted to read and so far I've found it really easy to feel sympathetic towards the characters I've met and the situation that they're in. I feel like I'll need to prepare myself for harder things to come however... this book is an alternative history book in which laws were passed that allowed for women to join the war effort as soldiers during World War II. Alternative history stories (and indeed historical fiction) aren't normally areas of interest for me, but I'm so curious about this book.

How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss

I didn't know a single thing about the plot of How Not To Disappear when it was first offered to me for review but I accepted the request immediately because I adore both Clare Furniss and her debut book, The Year of the Rat. Both feelings were strong enough for me to be hugely excited about this one and dive in without knowing anything else. I figured it was going to be just as beautifully-written and emotional as Clare's first book. And so far it is. More to come! 

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

I'm very, very excited that Macmillan are publishing Courtney Summers in the UK. Especially All the Rage, her very important book that deals with rape and rape culture. I read this book last year when it was first published in the US (because I'm such a Courtney Summers fangirl!) and I'm excited and hopeful that the UK publication will bring lots more readers to both CS and this story.

What books are you looking forward to reading in January?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

British Books Challenge 2016

Last year, I hosted the British Books Challenge here on this blog. Towards the end of the year, things got very difficult for me to continue. So in 2016, the reins have been handed back to lovely Kirsty of The Overflowing Library who has hosted the challenge previously.

I will, of course, be participating. I imagine it will be the only challenge I formally take part in this year but I feel like even if my year is just as filled with book slumps as it was in 2015, I'll still manage to easily complete this challenge. You know how much I love my UKYA. To join in the challenge, do visit Kirsty's sign-up page. It's a great challenge and I'm sure it'll be lots of fun!

The very tiptop selection of the books I hope to read during 2016 include (but aren't limited to!)

The It Girl: Team Awkward by Katy Birchall
How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss
Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson
The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury
Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
Crush by Eve Ainsworth
Love Song by Sophia Bennett
Maladapted by Richard Kurti
Beetle Boy by MG Leonard

Will you be joining the British Books Challenge 2016?!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

It's been a rough year but I'm determined to end 2015 in style! In order to do that, Fluttering Butterflies will be on a blog break until the new year.

A big Merry Christmas from my family to yours! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Top 10 favourite books in 2015

Flipping through the lists of books this year, many books jumped out at me. Iusually find it quite difficult narrowing down a list to just 10, but these books were all so incredible that it was not that hard this year. Probably helped by the fact that in a normal year, without so many book slumps I'd have read approximately 80 more books than I did this year. Oh well. In no particular order...

The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim

The Astrologer's Daughter is the biggest surprise on my list. I didn't know anything about the book before I sat down to read it, I'd never read anything by the author before AND I actually thought I was reading a book from a different publisher than I was (I thought it was a Penguin book rather than Turnaround) but I gave this book a chance and I'm so glad that I did.

It's very different than I'd expected it to be. This is a mystery and a contemporary story but it has this wonderful inclusion of astrology and a means of using astrology as a way of compiling forensic profiling information. It was brilliant.  I also loved the main character's musings about race and racism and being mixed-race. I loved her relationship with her mother and this reluctant friendship she has with a boy in her class that turns into more. This book was so very emotional and addictive reading for me and I cannot highly recommend it!

It's About Love by Steven Camden

I absolutely adored It's About Love by Steven Camden! I heard Steven Camden speak at YALC over the summer and became hugely intrigued by this story. I loved how much this book is about writing and screenplay and the creative process behind that. It's also a book about film and has some fantastic film references. It's about growing up and friendships and about your hometown. It's about falling in love and about family.  It felt like this book had a great deal truth woven into the words and I just loved how emotional I felt while reading this book.

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

First of many fantasy books included on this list, we have Firewalker by Josephine Angelini. This is the explosive sequel to Trial By Fire which was equally incredible. I think what I loved so much about Firewalker is that everything that I loved about the first book was brought up a notch in Firewalker. Everything felt MORE emotional, MORE thrilling, MORE addictive. I find it incredible how Josephine Angelini manage to write such a pacy, exciting book with such a fantastic setting and with amazing characters with complex, emotional relationships together. Rowan and Lily are totally my OTP. And I'm dying to read the next one. Give it to me.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

So much to love about The Young Elites. I love the setting and all the world-building involved in this fantasy land. I loved the characters and found it really interesting getting to know this band of supernaturally-gifted teenagers. But the reason that this book has made it onto my list of favourite reads this year is the main character, Adelina. I just adored her so much. I love that she's passionate and a bit wary of trusting anyone, including herself. And I just absolutely adored that this book went to a very dark place and we explored some of this moral ambiguity and some of Adelina's pain and the rejection she receives from so many people in her life. I should have already picked up the sequel by now, but haven't I really hope that this trilogy continues to be wonderfully dark and exciting!

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

You know I don't like picking favourites ... but if I had to choose an absolute favourite from this list of books, I think I'd choose Fire Colour One.  I heart Jenny Valentine just in general, but I really, really loved Fire Color One. It was a short, quick read but it was so emotional that as soon as I finished it, I wanted to flip over and start reading it all over again.  I like that this book had so much to do with art and being truly yourself and authenticity. It's also a book about family and grief and about fire and consuming relationships and it's just so wonderful. Jenny Valentine is such a beautiful writer and I shall always be excited to read anything she ever writes.

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I remember talking to someone about this book recently ... and I agree, The Rest of Us Just Live Here isn't as emotionally-charged as the Chaos Walking trilogy and it can be hard to fall into the comparison hole. But I really loved this book. I loved how this book is about a circle of friends and just figuring stuff out. I loved that this book deals really cleverly with important topics such as OCD and sexuality and an eating disorder as well as it being a book about love and friendship and high school. There's a scene towards the end of the book that made me sob. It was exactly what I needed to read at the exact right timing and for that, this book is included on my list! 

House of Windows by Alexia Casale

Oh, how much did I love this book?! Fascinating main character, the wonderful Cambridge University as a setting and the most wonderful relationships ever. What I loved so much about House of Windows is how emotionally connected I felt for the main character and everyone in his life. All the crazy, complicated friendships and family members and how he really comes to redefine 'family' in this great way. Books about family and belonging are some of my absolute favourites so it's no surprise that Alexia Casale appears on my list of favourites yet again!

The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

Wow, this book. I don't think I've ever read a book as quickly as I read The Stars Never Rise. And I think that was down to Rachel Vincent's incredible writing-style. It was so fast-paced and addictive that I couldn't help but be thrown onto this rollercoaster of a ride. I love the world and world-building. I'm intrigued to know more and explore these characters more in the next books in the series. But I'm absolutely gasping to find out more about this very, very unusual romantic partnership. How on earth is that going to work?! I need answers! I need them now.

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I think Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the book I've raved and recommended the most in 2015. It's such a sweet story and Simon and Blue are the absolute cutest couple ever. Love them. And this book, especially as it has the most adorable love story ever included but it's also about coming out to friends and family and about friendships and navigating high school and being okay with who you are and being open to possibilities. I won't be surprised at all to see this book on lots of best of the year lists. It definitely deserves it! 

No More Confessions by Louise Rozett

Love this series. I think this third book in the Confessions trilogy by Louise Rozett was possibly an e-book only release? I'm not sure. I just could not resist finding out how Rose and Jamie Forta would end up.  And I loved every second of this. I've loved seeing how much Rose Zarelli has grown in these three books. From being an angry girl to an independent young woman. Love the stuff with her family and her friendships and her music. I just thought it was an incredible way to end her story.  Even if Rose and Jamie continually break my heart into little pieces! 

So those were my favourite reads of 2015. I'd love to hear what books make your list! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Life Update

Hello strangers! I'm sorry that I've not been updating this page as often as you're used to. Times have been tough and I really needed to take a step back from my blogging and booktubing responsibilities for awhile and just concentrate on myself and my family. I've gone through many reading and blogging slumps over the years but this latest one felt different in so many ways. I know I've said previously that I've considered giving up blogging, but this time I felt like I really meant it and I was contemplating what my life (and by extension my *identity*) would be like if blogging wasn't a massive part of how I spend my time. And I tell you, it was a pretty bleak exercise. I really didn't like what my life without blogging looks like. So I can't tell you with any certainty that I'm definitely here to stay. But I am least here to stay for right now. And I hope that will be enough.

Why I've been absent

For anyone who has been following my difficult past few months: my dad's health has further declined and he's now been moved into a live-in care facility and is at least getting the around the clock medical treatment that he needs. He seems happy enough to be there and I take comfort in the fact that he's safe and as well as can be. My mother came back into my life very, very briefly after a 7 year estrangement and there has been no further communication. I can only assume that her presence in my life is a 7-yearly affair. It hurts but I'm moving on from it. Recently I also had some dramatic news from my brother which just goes to show that the universe wants to dump every emotional thing on me at once. It's okay, I'll get through it.

What I've been reading

In terms of reading, I haven't been doing much of it lately. I had a great 10 days' worth of reading a couple weeks back that was wonderful and I raced through 6 wonderful books. (Look out for my booktube video on that, coming soon!) and now I'm back to being on the cliff-edge of another reading slump. Thanks to a lovely new friend, I've been dabbling in reading some amazing poetry lately and that's been fantastic. Turns out poetry is wonderful for giving me short, emotional bursts of writing in which it becomes that much easier to fall back in love with words and language and structure. I really recommend reading poetry for reading slumps now. Especially the very moving poetry of Pablo Neruda. I'm also dipping in and out of a book called The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien which is a sort of collection of short stories about a group of soldiers in the Vietnam war but it's also about language and memory and I'm absolutely loving it. It's nice to be reading something that I wouldn't normally read. It's also nice to read a book written by someone very obviously an amazing story-teller. It's also incredibly emotional which is very necessary for me right now and it serves a double-purpose as it makes me think of my dad (who is a Vietnam veteran). So I'll let you know how that goes. And please send over any of your poetry recommendations. Preferably short, emotional poems that I can look online!

What I've been listening to

I think the last time I shared any music updates I was listening to a lot of Michelle Branch. She's still amazing.  Especially as I haven't been reading as much I've found that I'm listening to a lot more music. I find it relaxing and quite soothing. I juggle The Wreckers album with the new Adele album (love Adele) as well as a playlist of singles that have captured my attention lately. Favourites in this playlist include 'Say Something' by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, Aurora's 'Half the World Away' and 'Take Me to Church' by Hozier. Based on this, what do you recommend I listen to next?

What I've been watching

Still keeping up to date with Homeland and because of my massive crush on Rupert Friend, I ended up watching the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice just to see him as Wickham. Sadly, he was very under-utilised in that and I came away from it (again!) feeling slightly disappointed. Oh well. Aside from allllll the made-for-TV Christmas films I've been watching (nobody judge me!) the only film I've really enjoyed lately was The Theory of Everything about Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his wife, Jane Wilde. I thought it was really good and I loved Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking. I knew very little about Stephen Hawking before I watched it though. So much so that I thought to myself 'wow, I thought Stephen Hawking was American' at the beginning of the film (Because I'd heard his computer voice with the American accent!) I think what I loved so much was seeing his passion for science and maths. They've never been subjects I've been particularly interested in but I always feel slightly sucked into other people's passions and enthusiasms. It made me want to read a nonfiction science book (but possibly not A Brief History of Time).

So that's me. What have you guys been up to? What have I missed in my absence?!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

J is for JANGALA A-Z of Railhead by Philip Reeve

I am so happy to be taking part in the A-Z of Railhead by Philip Reeve blog tour today! Railhead is a scifi adventure story from the author of the Mortal Engines quartet. It looks spectacular! It's already available in hardback. Find out more about Railhead and Philip Reeve by visiting Philip Reeve or follow Philip Reeve on Twitter!

Over to you, Philip...

J is for JANGALA
by Philip Reeve

There are many different types of world strung like beads along the lines of the Great Network. Some, barely habitable to begin with, have been terraformed just enough to allow miners and industrial workers to live there, extracting and refining raw materials for richer, kindlier worlds which don’t want to scuff up their own ecosystems. On the planets where large numbers of people live, park-like garden cities sprawl around the K-bahn stations. And here and there there is a planet which is purely used for leisure; resort worlds, and the game preserves of the powerful Corporate Families.

No family is more powerful than the Noons, and the Noons are famous for their forests. The station cities of their worlds are greener than most, and their resort-world of Jangala is one planet-wide forest; tropical jungle at the equator giving way to broadleaf woodland in the temperate zones and vast pine forests near the pole. Small towns and lodges nestle among the trees, welcoming visitors from other worlds and important guests whom the Noons want to impress. Maglev trackways carry picnickers and hunting parties into the deepest parts of the world-forest. 

21st Century nature-lovers might be shocked by how popular hunting has become in the age of the Network Empire, but life on the Great Network is complex and technological, and the Corporate Families like to get back in touch with nature by tracking large, dangerous animals for days through dense jungle and then blowing them away with high-powered guns. Generations of bio-technologists have laboured to stock the forests of Jangala with some truly impressive beasts, some familiar from Old Earth, others more-or-less new, and genetic templates fashioned by the Guardians have allowed them to revive creatures from prehistory. In different parts of Jangala you might meet woolly mammoth, giant elk, or actual dinosaurs - not the sweet little miniature triceratops and stegosaurs which people keep like lapdogs, but Jurassic giants, red in tooth and claw, a challenge for even the most experienced hunter…

Railhead by Philip Reeve is published on 1st October by OUP.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Esther Ehrlich (Awesome Women)

I'm honoured today to have Esther Ehrlich, the author of Nest, on my blog answering some tough questions about women and fictional characters and role models.

Nest is one of the books that kicked off the new publishing imprint, Rock the Boat. I think Rock the Boat have a fantastic list so far and that Nest looks like a wonderful middle grade novel about friendship and adventure and birds and more difficult situations!  It was published in July, get your hands on a copy!

To find out more about Nest or Esther Ehrlich, please do visit the following websites:

Can you tell me a little something about yourself?

I was born and raised in Boston, a place I love and miss. Now I live right on the edge of a huge regional park in the San Francisco Bay Area and wrote NEST at my desk that looks out into the trees branches. When we’re not having a drought, Wildcat Creek flows through our back yard. I live with my husband (and, yes, best friend) and our two teenagers.

Writing and publishing my first novel has been an amazing ride!

Did you have a role model growing up?

I had a teacher in 6th grade who made a huge impression on me. She spoke her mind, had very strong opinions, wore old-fashioned clothes, and introduced us to the concept of “sex role stereotyping.” And she loved, loved, loved books! She turned a corner of our classroom into a living room and used to read to us while we lounged around on pillows… She actually came to my launch party for NEST in my hometown. When we saw each other after so many years, we both burst into tears!

Who do you look up to now?

One person I’ve admired for a long time is Meryl Streep. She’s amazingly smart, capable, and creative. I think she has that rare gift of being able to imagine herself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is a hugely important quality, I think, for actors and writers. And everyone else. Without it, we can’t make sense of each other or of the world; we can’t make change happen.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Hard to believe, but when I was really young, I said I wanted to be a “farmer’s wife.” I didn’t realize that I could just be the farmer! I liked the idea of raising animals and working outside and making jars of pickles and tomato sauce to put away for the winter.

Tell me something about the women in your life who have been an influence on you?

My mom grew up very poor and had a pretty rough childhood, but she was extremely curious, creative, and determined to find her way in the world. As a teenager, she studied on her own at a public library and won a nationwide contest that paid for her education at an elite college. She was a poet and a deeply loving, tender, flawed, strong woman.

Who is your favourite fictional character? And why?

One favourite! Oh no! I choose Charlotte. She was one inspired, kind, brave, creative woman (spider!)

Is there a fictional character that reminds you of you?  And if you could choose to be best friends with a fictional character, who would it be?

Chirp in NEST reminds me of me, in some ways. And I like her, which is a good sign.

I can’t land on just one character that I’d choose as a best friend. For me to love a book, I need to feel deeply connected to at least one character and I love a lot of books!

What were you like as a teenager and how did you cope with all the changes that occurred?

That’s a tough question. Thinking back, my teenage years are a bit of a blur. My mom was really ill and I think I felt pressure to not add to the stress in our family, so I actually was pretty tame.

Which book would you say that every teenager should read and why? 

I’d say every teenager should read whatever books grab hold of him/her and won’t let go. I wouldn’t try to force anything, including my version of a must-read book, on a teenager! Reading is such a subjective experience. Choosing a book is so personal.

If you had any advice for yourself as a teenager, what would you say? 

This is just the beginning of your big, wide, rambling life…

Of the issues and concerns that women are faced with today, what's the area you most like reading/writing  about?

Real relationships. Not the pre-packaged, prettied-up variety. Brave, strong connections that push against what we expect and what is expected of us.

Thanks very much for the chance to answer these engaging questions!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Exclusive artwork: Railhead by Philip Reeve

Come with me, Zen Starling, she had said. The girl in the red coat. But how did she know his name? 
The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, maintenance spiders and Station Angels. The place of the thousand gates, where sentient trains criss-cross the galaxy in a heartbeat. 
Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City. 
So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor's train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people - and to steal their stuff. 
But the Great Network is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him.

To celebrate the publication of Railhead by Philip Reeve, OUP have commissioned several other artists to create their own interpretations of the caracters or cityscapes. Railhead is a new, exciting sci-fi adventure story and it's been amazing to see how other artists imagine this world that Philip Reeve has created.

Today, I have the absolute pleasure to be sharing with you another exclusive piece of artwork inspired by Railhead.  

Cleave Cityscape by Jonathan Edwards

I absolutely love this. Do find out more about the artist, Jonathan Edwards at his website.

Railhead by Philip Reeve is published on 1st October by OUP.