Top 10 books I want to read in the rest of 2015

It’s now halfway through 2015, whaaaaaat? I thought it was time for another list of the books I’m most looking forward to for the rest of the year. This is another top ten tag for The Broke and the bookish (don’t they do good stuff?).

10. Drop by Katie Everson – 6th August      51Vhij3ce9L

Carla has just moved to London and starts at yet another new school; she is desperate to fit in. Though she makes a couple of friends, she soon meets the charismatic, good-looking Finn and their whirlwind romance begins. Carla, an A student and gifted artist, lets her schoolwork slip as she enters Finn’s world – a world of partying and drugs. Friends tells her that Finn is no good – even his brother, Isaac. But Isaac has an ulterior motive, doesn’t he? Is either brother right for Carla?

Katie is a fellow debut author with my publisher Walker Books, and her novel comes out a few weeks before mine. I’m absolutely dying to read it – and look at that stunning cover!

9. Counting Stars by Keris Stainton – 3rd Sept9781471404634

Six ‘friends’, one flat, big dreams…what could go wrong? When sixteen-year-old Anna drops out of school and moves to Liverpool, she feels like her life has finally begun. She’s working for an exciting theatre company, she’s living with some students that she hopes will become good friends in time, and their house is cute (if not slightly run-down) and on a buzzing street lined with shops, bars, and buskers. But although her new life is fun, it’s also a little overwhelming. And although Anna’s housemates seem to be a gang of firm friends (a gang that doesn’t really seem to include her) they’re also a little mixed-up, and soon Anna can’t resist the idea of blogging and tweeting about her experiences, from the hilarious to the ridiculous to the little-bit-scary. Online gossiping doesn’t count, right? But when Anna spills a bigger secret than she can handle, suddenly the consequences are all too real. She’ll have to prove she has the mettle to make it in the big city, or risk losing everything she thinks she wants.

Recently I posted a list of things I want to read in YA, and at the top of that list was University settings. Lo and behold, Keris has provided! I’m very excited for this, it sounds amazing. And it’s Keris’ first YA book too!

8. The Almost King by Lucy Saxon – out now9781408847701

Aleks Vasin is the youngest of four brothers, each with his path mapped out. But Aleks doesn’t want to work in his father’s shop in a village in the westernmost corner of Siberene for the rest of his life. Tired of being picked on and treated like the runt of the family, he decides to save his parents the cost of his keep and leave. First he heads south – though everyone tells him not to – to Rudavin, headquarters of the Kingsguard. He signs up for the army, little knowing what brutality it entails. After only a few weeks, Aleks realises that this garrison is full of liars and thieves; he’s signed away four years of his life to a commander who steals his money and a captain whose only goal is power. This is not a noble destiny. After a brutal beating, Aleks escapes into the night, hoping to find safety and a new life somewhere in the north. And there, this deserter finds LOVE, ADVENTURE and a SKYSHIP in which he might just prove himself a hero after all …

Set in the same universe as Take Back the Skies, which had an ending which ripped my soul out, this is about different characters. I’m really excited to jump back into the world!

7. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – 20th October9780553499124

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra who are barely even talking to each other are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she “swore” she d never speak to again. Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more “Illuminae”is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Epistolary sci fi break up story? YES PLEASE. I’m going to be all over this one.

6. Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Skelsa – 10th Sept24039396

Fans of the Impossible Life is the story of love, loss, growing up and the magic – and terror – of finding friends who truly see the person you are and the person you’re trying to become. It’s a story about rituals and love, and of those transformative friendships that burn hot and change you, but might not last. SEBBY seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and his best friend Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips designed to fix the broken parts of their lives. MIRA is starting over at St. Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby. JEREMY is the painfully shy art nerd at St. Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him. As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

This just sounds straight up amazing, and it’s another thing off my YA wishlist – a love triangle that isn’t girl – boy – girl. Whoo!

5. Armada by Ernest Cline – 16th July

9781780891897It’s just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He’s daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom-if he can make it that long without getting suspended again. Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer. At first, Zack thinks he’s going crazy. A minute later, he’s sure of it. Because the UFO he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada-in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders. But what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And his skills-as well as those of millions of gamers across the world-are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it. Yet even as he and his new comrades scramble to prepare for the alien onslaught, Zack can’t help thinking of all the science-fiction books, TV shows, and movies he grew up reading and watching, and wonder: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little too…familiar?

Ready Player One was a book I wasn’t expecting to like as much as I did, and it completely took me by surprise. So I am very, very ready for the next by Cline.

4. Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor – 20th OctoberWTNV_Version BEST 2.27

Night Vale is a small desert town where all the conspiracy theories you’ve ever heard are actually true. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge. Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked ‘KING CITY’ by a mysterious man in a tan jacket. She can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City before she herself unravels. Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it. Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: ‘KING CITY’. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures …if they can ever find it.

I’m a big fan of the podcast, and I’ve been to see the liveshow (and I’m going with my friend Alice again this year!) so I’m very interested to see how they translate the unique format of the podcast into a book. I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy it quite as much, but I’m holding my breath.

3. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill  – 3 Sept

41CIA+R+lxLIt’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

I think this is going to destroy me, and I can’t wait.

2. First Class Murder by Robin Stevens – 30th July 23479358

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are taking a holiday on the world-famous Orient Express. From the moment the girls step aboard, it’s clear that each of their fellow first-class passengers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: rumour has it that there is a spy in their midst. Then, during dinner, there is a scream from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered, her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer is nowhere to be seen – as if they had vanished into thin air. Daisy and Hazel are faced with their first ever locked-room mystery – and with competition from several other sleuths, who are just as determined to crack the case.

This is the new Wells & Wong mystery, and I. need. it. I loved the first two (it’s the perfect mix of Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie and Jeeves & Wooster) and I’m sure I’m going to whizz through this one too.

1. The Next Together by Lauren James – 3rd Sept

No, only kidding! I never want to read this again, now I’ve finally finished edits.

1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood – 24th Sept

9781408867785Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

What? Whaaaaaat? This sounds like basically the craziest, best thing ever. I am going to read this in one day, I know it.

So that’s my top ten books! I wish I could read them all right now!

My favourite UKYA books!

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My response to any request for recommendations is always SIT DOWN, WE’RE GONNA BE HERE A WHILE.

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My favourites as a teenager:

New favourites since I became an author, which I’m going to put in a separate category because I am friends with a lot of these people!

ENJOY.

May Round-Up

I tend to just post my book reviews on Goodreads, because I review quite frequently, but I think I’m going to start compiling them all into a monthly segment on my blog too. Here are my May reviews! I read 15 books in May, 8 of which were YA.

Any marked with a * were received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All links to the Book Depository.

Under the Lights (Daylight Falls #2) by Dahlia Adler*22719283

This book is the follow up to Behind the Scenes, a straight contemporary romance about teenagers involved in the Hollywood celebrity world.

The story is divided between Josh and Vanessa, two teenage actors who are both struggling to reconcile their fame with growing up. Despite the rare situation the characters find themselves in, I think there will be a lot of modern teenagers to relate to. Both have to face their own goals compared to their parents’ expectations of them, and make huge decisions about their future at a very young age – all on top of Vanessa’s struggles with her sexuality.

I really enjoyed the love story between Brianna and Vanessa, it was very sweet and enjoyable. I’ve not read many LGBT books that use the teenage TV show style melodramatic plotlines in their romance/drama/angst. It was a refreshing take on common tropes; full of misunderstandings and unnecessary jealously and accidental flirtations. I think it’s going to appeal hugely to younger teenagers, and it’s the perfect book for fans of the first book who weren’t necessarily expecting an LGBT follow-up.

I did find the Josh scenes dragging a little – his journey wasn’t entirely satisfactory to me – but I did enjoy his character. He was really well written, and the book perfectly captured the kind of terrible teenage boy we all know and love to hate. It was nice to find a romance-less storyline for a protagonist too, which are still pretty rare in YA.

Overall this was a lovely, easy read. I would recommend it for fans of the first book, and Everything Leads to You.

The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff and Tessa Gratton*25016375

As a writer, I’m always a bit unnerved to read about other writers’ methods. It unnerves me a bit, in case I suddenly discover that I’ve been doing it Wrong all along. However, I really enjoyed this book. It takes three short stories by writers who work closely together, and they discuss their methods, as well as annotating their writing with a kind of ‘DVD Commentary’ of footnotes about their writing methods.
It was interesting, and I suspect quite useful for an amateur writer. As well as that, Stiefvater’s short story was incredible. I could have read a full length book of it.

The Heir (The Selection #4) by Kiera Cass*22918050

I tore through the original trilogy in a matter of days, so I was interested to see how it was followed up. The Heir is about the daughter of the original Selection couple, when she starts her own Selection. I loved the character – she’s a no nonsense, getting stuff done heir to the throne, who reminded me a lot of Princess Ellimere in the Old Kingdom trilogy.
However, despite that I didn’t find this sequel as captivating as the first. Maybe the concept has lost interest for me, but it didn’t make me want to rush through it all in hours. It was slower and more plotty, which I liked, but that was it.
I found the characters confusing, too – a lot of new people popped up and I couldn’t work out who they were, or who their parents were, or even if I was supposed to know them already. It made it difficult to invest in the setup.
However, it was well written – often better written that The Selection itself. A follow up with a lot of potential.

Resistance is Futile by Jenny Colgan*23503575

I absolutely loved this book! As a female scientist, it’s incredibly refreshing to read a book about someone like me – especially as Connie isn’t a genius, she’s a normal, relatable protagonist, who happens to be good at maths.
As for Luke, oh my god. What an incredible character. He’s so adorably awkward and sweet and completely original. I fell in love completely with the story, the characters, and the world of RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.
I wish it had been twice as long, because I never want to stop reading this story.
Amazing!

One by Sarah Crossan*25366338

Painful and important and needed. This tells the story of conjoined twins. It’s written in verse, which I only recently discovered when I read 5 to 1, and really enjoyed. It makes for very quick reading, but seems to get inside my head a lot more than a prose novel.
I felt everything that Grace and Tippi felt, and ached for them, and it took me a while to recover from this read.

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward*23344222

A really sweet, funny and fast paced fantasy story that is perfect for younger teenagers. A very unique take on magic, with writing that made me laugh out loud more than once, and a brilliant amount of diversity. The main character was extremely likeable, as was the love interest. The storyline had the perfect set up for a mix of different adventure scenarios that was taken full advantage of. A really great read!

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell*23257157

This book makes me feel ten years old again. Every time I read a Katherine Rundell book I wonder why I ever spend time reading anything else. Her writing style is so unique and stunning I could probably recognise it from one sentence. Every word is a treasure, and her concepts are so original and different reading her books is like a breath of fresh air.
Loved it.

House of Windows by Alexia Casale23524522

A detailed, delicious visit to the unique and often bizarre world of Cambridge University. This book is a brilliant character study of Nick, a fifteen year old undergraduate, as he struggles to reconcile his family life with university, his past, and learning how to make friends with people much older than you.

Nick is a difficult character in a lot of ways, and his emotional journey hits you all the harder for how slowly his background is revealed. I’m going to be thinking about him and his found family and wishing them well for a long time.

A stunning read from an expert writer, whose prose will have you rereading lines over and over.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson*23197269

This completely blew my mind. The concepts and science are awe-inspiring. I found the prose style hard to read (it’s written from the POV of a computer, so it’s very jarringly Not Normal) but I can forgive that for the amount of research that went into this. I’m going to be thinking about Iris and Aurora for a very long time.

I highly recommend this for anyone curious about deep space travel – the stuff that comes after the journey. The stuff that happens to the descendent of the orignal voyagers, the ones who never chose to be in space at all.

May Favourites! The Royal We | Mumford & Sons | Brooklyn Nine Nine |

I did an April favourites post last month, and I really enjoyed doing it, so I’m going to do it again. None of you have any choice in this. Read about my favourite things; do it now.

Disclaimer: I’ve had a glass of wine so I may be a little tipsy. Sorry in advance for….that.

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Even the cover looks like Will & Kate.

Book: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

I’m gonna cut to the chase here. Have you ever wanted to be Kate Middleton? Then this is the book for you. This is basically fanfiction about Will & Kate. And it’s the best kind of morally ambiguous fluff you could ever hope for.

It follows “Bex” and “Nick” from their meeting at university, through the next ten years to their eventual wedding day. It’s full of media scandals and blackmailing and old fashioned courting, and I would reread it asap if I didn’t have a tottering pile of books to be read giving me the evil eye.

Homeware: Yankee Candle – Mountain Lodge scent1187957

Okay so bear with me on this one. There’s a tumblr post which I must request that you read right now. Here’s a quote from it:

Hold this jar in your hands like a talisman. Close your eyes and picture a man. Someone with smile lines around his eyes who could chop the cedar for your bower with his own hands, strangle an alpha wolf, carry you home when you sprain your ankle in the woods, bench press your entire body.

Picture this man in your mountain home with a full beard, a slightly grimy white henley, a fond half smile he reserves only for you. Now open the lid and smell Mountain Lodge.

I read this tumblr post and immediately went into a kind of fugue state, completely beyond my control, and purchased the candle without even realising it. This is marketing at it’s rawest, let loose on tumblr to roam free and ensnare any innocent passers-by.

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I’m almost certain this isn’t actually possible, even for supersoldiers.

Like tumblr promises, when it arrived I was immediately transported back to this #softbro scene in the Avengers. This candle is Captain America. Or as close as any of us are going to get. If that is something that is in any way relevant to your interests, I suggest you find a way to get this candle. Now.

81zpM2NwflL._SX425_PJautoripBadge,BottomRight,4,-40_OU11__Music: Mumford and Sons – Wilder Minds

Finally finally finally, a new album. I wrote most of The Next Together listening to Babel (I Will Wait is basically the song of that book) so mostly it’s just pretty nice having some new songs, I’m not gonna lie.

So far Ditmas is my favourite, but I’m only 15 or so listens in, so that will probably change a lot. (I take my Mumford & Sons seriously.)

TV: Brooklyn Nine Nine – Series 2 finale

Okay this is now going under a cut to save on spoilers, because I NEED TO SQUEE.

Continue reading “May Favourites! The Royal We | Mumford & Sons | Brooklyn Nine Nine |”

Updates on The Next Together

I thought I’d write a bit of an updates post, just to show where everything is at the minute.

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This is where I am, mentally, all the time.

The Next Together is now completely done on my end.  With exactly 100 days to publication, I sent my editor a print-out of the pages, with my final final changes written on in red pen. It’s kind of terrifying that I won’t be able to mess around with it again, but in a nice way.

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Every time I read through it I add another twenty post-it notes of things to change.

I’ve now seen the full cover look, with the spine and back cover. It’s stunning. The spine is a beautiful light green with molecules dotted around it, and the back cover continues the style of the front. My lovely friend Louise O’Neill has a cover quote:

“A funny, gripping, and incredibly imaginative story of true love and reincarnation.”

I’m not sure who’s more overjoyed about that, me or her.

I’ve had a brilliant meeting recently about all the fun things I’m going to be doing with Walker for publicity, in which about two million complicated ideas were thrown around. I’m very, very excited about it. I think in a month or so I’ll be offering signed bookmarks for people who have preordered, so get your preorders in early! Very excitingly, at a recent Walker books conference, my book was given away in the goody bag! Doesn’t it look lovely?

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Picture by Wei Ming Kam

There are now The Next Together mugs for sale, in a UKYA dedicated shop here. This is ridiculous and amazing all at once.

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Just as crazily, a post about my writing journey has nearly two thousand notes on tumblr, and so many people preordered it after reading the post that it hit #21 in the Amazon charts. I had to screenshot it, because if this is as good as it gets, at least I had a small moment of victory.

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While I was in the Walker building, I signed some proofs to be sent out to bloggers. I had a bit of a panic because I hadn’t really practised my signature beforehand, and had to come up with one on the spot.

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Can you see the panic on my face?

I’ve since refined my signature, and here’s what it currently looks like (recorded for posterity, so I can see how it’s changed in a couple of signings!).

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The Next Together has now sold foreign rights in several countries, none of which I can talk about yet, which is very hard for me. I’m so so so excited and it’s very painful to not be able to share it with anyone. #soon

I’ve been very stressed about foreign rights ever since Egmont US closed, and I am probably more emotionally invested in it than I should be, so I’m happy to say there haven’t been any more setbacks – everything is going really well, so far. Phew!

I’ve started getting reviews from people I don’t know on Goodreads, which is pretty terrifying. I’ve decided I’m just going to ignore it, for now. This plan will most definitely not work. Whenever anyone says something nice, I feel like this:

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I’ve finished the second draft of the sequel, based on editorial suggestions made by my agent and editor. It now has a title:

THE LAST BEGINNING
Terrible graphics made by me (sorry).

It’s 75,000 words, compared to The Next Together’s 73,000, and I absolutely love it. I’m hoping it won’t be a disappointing successor, but I haven’t got enough distance from it to give it an unbiased judgement. My best one word description of it: loopy. In any and all senses of the word (time travel, it’s a mess).

I’m about halfway through my third novel, which is driving me mad and crazy with excitement in about equal amounts. As this won’t be out until 2017 (fingers crossed!) I’m not going to say anything more about that yet, except that this picture describes it pretty well:

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I was just about to finish when I realised I almost forgot the most important news of all…..I got a new bookcase! My dad made it for me as a belated 21st birthday present (I’m nearly 23….).It’s oak and lovely and holds so many books. Look!

tumblr_no7eitoUzp1qa24muo6_1280So I’ve spent most of my time just staring at it. No regrets.

Til next time, bye guys!

My YA wishlist

I was recently asked on tumblr what things I would like to see more and less of in YA books, and I really enjoyed answering it, so I thought I’d post it here too. These are all my personal preference, based on the kind of things I like to read, and what I think about particularly when I’m writing.

I would like to see more:

  • millennial authors writing plots about or directly involving the internet (in whatever way you want, but specifically fandom)
  • diversity
  • female anti-heroes
  • dogs. always dogs.
  • feminism
  • magical realism instead of (as well as) the typical fantasy worlds
  • funny pop culture humour (in-jokes and references!)
  • flawed protagonists
  • typical superhero tropes twisted in interesting ways (like the villain/hero ex-boyfriends story in Nimona)
  • female friendships/relationships being centre stage
  • stories set in the first year of university in the UK (not NA – in YA)

I would like to see less:

  • boy-girl-boy love triangles (any other combination, though, give it me now)
  • brooding/mysterious male love interests with a tragic past (hard to write without romanticising emotional manipulation)
  • the white male “chosen one”
  • girls looking at themselves in the mirror and describing their appearance (this one springs to mind because I am guilty of doing it in character introductions..)
  • girls who don’t think they are pretty despite being very conventionally attractive and receiving lots of male attention
  • ….green eyes
  • “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.”
  • insta-love
  • GBF (have them be the protagonist!)

What would you like to see?

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here. 

Top ten favourite book covers

Hi guys! Happy Tuesday. Today I’m doing the Broke and the Bookish Top Ten meme (my first one!). This week’s topic was a free choice. So here are my favourite book covers, that I own physical copies of.

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10. Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee (Drop Caps edition) (Illustrated by Jessica Hische)

All of the drop caps books are honestly gorgeous, but I have a soft spot for this one because it’s L for Lauren. I’m easily entertained.

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9. To be or not to be by Ryan North (Illustrated by  Noelle Stevenson)

I’m a gigantic Ryan North fangirl, and I love Nimona, so this cover is just a match made in heaven for me, really.

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8. The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

The theme of this book is spirals, so this beautiful metallic cover is relevant to the plot and gorgeous.

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7. Fairy Tales by Berlie Doherty (Illustrated by Jane Ray)

I’ve had this book for years and years, and it’s one of my favourite ever books. It’s stunning – covered in gold gilt and detailing. The insides are even more pretty.

97818440881956. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (VMC edition)

Look at those pink oysters! And the luminescent pearl! God!!! It’s so perfect! It’s a lovely thick hardback too, which makes it even more satisfying in real life.

5. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

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Okay, is this not the coolest cover ever? Look at those bone honeycombs! I’m kind of obsessed with bees anyway, but this is just deliciously gruesome.

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4. Everything Leads to you by Nina La Cour

I just… I could stare at this cover all day, I think.

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3. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman (Everyman’s library edition)

I found this edition in a charity shop for £1, and it was honestly the best bargain of my life. Look at it! It’s all gilt and sketched and lovely – and there are bonus appendices in this edition, which is an added bonus.

97814088596432. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (Illustrated by Chris Riddell)

Gold! And black and white! Honestly, this is so beautiful I can’t look at for too long without getting heart eyes. The cover has a transparent dustjacket which just adds to the magic.

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1. The Next Together by Lauren James 

I tried not to include my own book. I honestly did. But . . . I can’t do it. I just love it so much. [happy sigh]

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So there are my most beautiful books! What are yours?

Should there be diverse, explicit sex scenes in YA?

Yesterday the wonderful Lucy, Queen of UKYA, hosted another #UKYAchat on twitter. This time the topic was LGBT representation in Young Adult novels, and it was a really interesting discussion including a lot of authors and publishing professionals who I really admire. It’s worth taking a look through the hashtag here.

There were several parts of the chat that got me thinking a lot, in particular about whether there should be LGBT explicit sex in YA.

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently, as I’m working on my second novel The Last Beginning, which features a lesbian romance. I feel a big responsibility towards my teenage audience with my writing, and including diversity of all kinds is one of the most important things I think about when starting a story. It’s the foundations. There wasn’t much LGBT representation in books I read as a teenager, so it’s something I particularly try to address with my writing.

But when actually writing, it’s hard to know what is reasonable, especially with sex scenes, which is a touchy subject in YA in general. I thought it was worth giving my point of view.

When I was twelve I googled sex, checking nervously over my shoulder to make sure no one saw. I found pornography. It was horrifying – all pink, shiny and loud. I closed it, and didn’t google sex again. But I was still curious. I understood the mechanics of sex, but what was it like? How did it make you feel- happy, fragile, relaxed, stressed? What were you supposed to talk about before, after? What was sex like?

The sex that was on tv and in films was short and almost uniformly identical – a fade to black, and then the characters lying in a quiet flush afterwards, panting, bedsheet carefully draped over the woman’s bust.

I tried books, but the best I could find was Flowers in the Attic, which contained a little more incest than was probably acceptable for a teenager’s first introduction to sex. It didn’t answer any of my questions. Everything just made me feel guilty and embarrassed about even asking.

Having been failed by books, films and porn, I did what many teenagers in my generation did and turned to fanfiction to sate my curiosity. Harry/Ginny fanfiction, specifically. I can still remember the exact story where everything clicked for me- the one that made me go, Oh. So that’s what sex is all about. And it took place in a treehouse, which was an added bonus.

Fanfiction has sex, but it also has feelings. It talks about what happens after sex, and what happens after the first kiss (which is often the end point of books and films, but the start of relationships). It answered all the questions I had, and I like to think I grew up into a functional adult, so it can’t have been too detrimental for me.

But fanfiction is written by people on the internet, who might only have been a few years older than I was. There’s often no mention of safe sex or contraception. There is no editing progress to make sure that the impressionable teenage readers are absorbing accurate information. (Saying this, on rereading the above mentioned treehouse fic, it is actually written quite responsibly. I think twelve year old me got pretty lucky.)

However, the lack of control of any content on the internet is why it is so important that there is more widely available scenes depicting sex in YA fiction. The internet is so quickly accessible that no teenager is going to spend hours rooting through book blurbs to find one book that might possible, maybe have a scene with sex in it. They would just google it.

There needs to be a reliable source of information, in a form that isn’t a Sex Education class. I’m English, and my own school Sex Education was very good, but in America it is still legal for schools in some states to provide “abstinence is the only choice” Sex Education – meaning that teenagers are graduating without ever knowing how to use a condom, or what menstruation is, or that they could receive birth control from their Doctor. They could be an adult and feel ashamed for having sex at all.

Those teenagers especially need a source of information that they can access without shame, or at risk of being punished for it: books. One that is free to find in libraries, without having to venture sneakily into the romance section. One where the women aren’t objectified or come second to a man’s pleasure. One with conversations about consent.

https://twitter.com/MoloneyKing/status/599298143826681856

If a twelve year old is curious about sex, then it is far better that their explorations lead them to a source which is intentionally written for them, which is accurate and responsible (and preferably not incestuous, V. C. Andrews). However explicit it is, it is always going to be far less scarring than porn.

All of this is exponentially valid for LGBT representation. There are many many more LGBT coming out YA novels than there were even ten years ago.

Improvements can always be made, however – specifically where sex is concerned. I think that it is vital to ensure that there are accessible depictions of LGBT sex in YA in traditional, mainstream publishing.

Not only can it be a very useful resource for young people unsure of their own sexuality, but for teenagers confident of who they are, who may have already come out and are moving onto their first relationships.

We need diverse, explicit books for people who already receive a worse Sex Education in schools, which are bad enough for straight people, so imagine how LGBT teenagers fare. Very rarely does schools education ever focus on safe sex practices for LGBT people. Even more damagingly, LGBT teenagers are going to get a particularly inaccurate and offensive idea of what sex is like from porn.

LGBT sex scenes are also important for straight teenagers, to show them that there is nothing gross or disgusting or scary about it. That gay teenagers are just like them – nervous and inexperienced and probably not taking part in orgies in their spare time.

Abstract, vague sex scenes in YA aren’t good enough. The sex should be addressed clearly, because if a teenager is curious about what exactly is happening in a book or film’s fade-to-black, they will undoubtedly turn to google. While they might find fanfiction or a guide to sex, they will almost certainly also find porn.

YA is responsible for shaping the ideas of a whole generation, and it needs to be done right.

I think this is an ongoing discussion that needs to continue, because I’m still learning too (I wrote an original draft of this post almost a year ago, and since then I’ve learnt so much more that I have added than I thought possible) but I think Lucy summed it up perfectly when she said:

I’m proud of us too!

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here. 

#SabrielDay

Unbelievably, t1042542oday marks the 20th anniversary of Sabriel by Garth Nix. WOW. WOW.

I can’t really begin to explain now much Sabriel shaped my opinions about YA as a child. It was one of my favourite books, and I reread it over and over again.

I talk a lot about Lirael, the second book in the series which is my favourite, but Sabriel is probably the book I’ve read the most – out of any book, ever.

For a start, it contains the #3 ranking Book Boyfriend of my heart, Touchstone. He is a complete sweetheart who worships Sabriel more than anything, and he is  kind and lovely and gentle but also killer with a blade. Perfect guy.

Sabriel is even more perfect that Touchstone, which is saying something. Sabriel was the person I wished I could be as a teenager. Completely powerful, confident, clever and witty, she mastered everything in her field of choice, studied until she could take on any opponent or exam, and not only ‘doesn’t need no man’, actually finds the men in this book annoying, because they keep getting in her way. 

Then there’s Mogget, the white cat (or something slightly more evil) whose snark and cunning  cuteness (and creepiness, considering his albino dwarf form haunted more than one or two of my nightmares) will forever represent the perfect sidekick in my mind.

Sabriel taught me everything I need to know about writing: how to build a unique, creative world (will anything beat the imagination of the river of Death or the Bells?), how to write captivating and flawed characters, how to keep a plot moving so much you can’t take your eyes off the page, and how to write something that will linger in peoples’ dreams for years after.

If there was a book I wish I could read for the first time anew, it would be this one. I may be an author myself now, but when it comes to Garth Nix, I revert back to the fangirl I’ve been ever since I first discovered the world of the Old Kingdom at thirteen. I actually ran across the YALC conference last year to snag a proof of Clariel (worth it).

If none of this has persuaded you to read Sabriel, then I leave you with one last thing: the first paragraph. Because if there’s a better opening sentence to a YA novel, I’ve yet to come across it.

RABBIT

April Favourites | The Raven Cycle | Go Fug Yourself | Meghan Trainor | Outlander |omgcheckplease

So…I’m going to try something a bit new today. I’m kind of obsessed with monthly Favourites features, which is something a lot of Lifestyle and make-up bloggers do. I’ve been wanting to try it out myself, so here goes!

I’m not sure if this’ll be a regular thing….but we’ll see! Here are my April favourites.

Make-up: Maybelline Superstay 24 hour Lip Colormaybelline-superstay-24-color-small

This lip stain has changed everything about my make-up routine. I’m never going to buy another lipstick again! Normal lipsticks always wipe off immediately, or smear everywhere the minute you have a drink. This lip stain is like an epiphany. It has two parts, the colour and a balm that seals the colour. When it’s on it lasts all day, and it doesn’t smear. And it costs £9! It’s amazing!

Book17675462: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Well, obviously I had to get a book in here! In April I read the Raven Cycle for the first time, despite many friends insisting I need to read it immediately for months and months. I put it off because I wasn’t sure whether it was really my thing….I was so wrong. SO WRONG.

It’s life-changing. It’s an epic character driven story about a group of friends trying to find a sleeping Welsh King of legend. But really it’s about all these people and their relationships and lives, and I love everyone so much. Gansey is my favourite (as discussed here) but they are all brilliant people, from Ronan to Noah to Adam to Blue to the Grey Man. Read it!

Recipes: Wrapped by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra71YppY5xr-L

Since my year abroad in America, I’ve been obsessed with Mexican food. Every single time I go to London I buy a Chipotle burrito (that’s the only place you can get them; luckily I go down quite a lot these days because of Book Things). So when I found this recipe book of different wraps, of things like burritos to fajitas to steamed buns to Philly steak wraps to jerk chicken cooa rolls, I bought it immediately.

Every recipe is very complicated (considering all the meats need marinating overnight) but I drool every time I look through it. I’ve made one or two recipes, and I’m planning to fully commit to one of the longer this-is-going-to-take-all-day recipes soon.

Website: Go Fug Yourself

I came across this website recently because a blog mentioned the writers’ new book, The Royal We. The website immediately stole my heart. It’s a fashion blog that really lovingly pokes fun at celebrity clothing choices. It reminds me a lot of Grace Helbig’s red carpet fashion critiques.

Since I discovered it I think I visit the site at least once a day. It’s hilarious, but more importantly very nice and not at all mean about it. The writers also did a great article about writing as a duo, which I found really interesting, and made me desperate to write a book with someone one day.

Article: “In celebration of Old School Livejournal” By Lindsay Gates-Markel

LiveJournal ended with a whisper; all the other girls I’d gotten to know over nearly a decade on the site stopped using it, too, seemingly within the same few months. Many of us moved to Tumblr, where there was no comment function, and our personal posts became rarer and rarer and—in my case, anyway—eventually stopped.”

My internet life started out on Livejournal, so this article brought up a lot of memories for me. I have a huge soft spot for early millennium internet.

Album: Meghan Trainor – Title81HaV7fw9tL._SL1500_

Everyone knows All About That Bass, but the rest of her album was an undiscovered gem for me. I especially like Title. She’s the perfect upbeat fifties pop that I love to listen to while I write, not just because it makes me type so much faster to match the beat.

TV series: OutlanderOutlander-TV_series-2014

It’s BACK! Outlander is back!! I read these books when I was sixteen, and there are so many enormous novels that you can’t help but let it take over your life for a month or so.

Jamie and Claire are such an excellent couple, and the time travel and 18th Century Scottish history are huge favourites of mine (as evidenced by The Next Together…).

While I don’t like the tv series quite as much as the books (a lot of Claire’s medical adventures are cut out, which were the most interesting bit of the books) it’s still a lovely Sunday treat to watch the new episodes with my mum, who’s also a big fan!

Webcomic: OMG, check please!

tumblr_nihri0aXjs1szaospo6_1280So going in, I wasn’t sure this was my kind of thing. It’s about hockey, of which I know exactly…nothing. But it’s so adorable! It’s told by a freshman Hockey player Bittle, who vlogs about his time on the team. He’s got the most sweet and slow burning romance with the team Captain Jack, and the whole comic is beautifully drawn and told. I especially love the comic’s twitter, which is ‘run’ by Bittle in real time, so updates about his day always pop up on my dash. It’s like he’s a real person!

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Clothes: ASOS dresses

Last spring I had a huge love affair with ASOS dresses, and now it’s a bit sunnier I’ve got them all out again and remembered how lovely they are. I recently bought this dress, because I have a few events coming up when I have to look a little bit more fancy than usual.

It’s so pretty and comfy, and I absolutely swear by the ASOS curve selection, especially their skirts.

So, they are my April favourites! Should I do this again next month! Let me know if you love any of these things too!

The Next Together will be published on 3rd September. You can read the first chapter here.

Goodreads | Amazon UK | Waterstones | The Book Depository