I’ve been playing with Goodreads features, and I’ve compiled lists of the top ten books I’ve read for each of the last five years. So here’s (quite a lot!) of book recommendations.
Wow, it feels like a while since I did a proper one of these! I had to cut down this list so much because it was just getting ridiculous….why do I like so many things, really Lauren really.
Musical: The Lion King
I’ve been putting off going to see this for yeaaaars because tickets are over £50 and it never seemed worth it when you can just watch the film? But my friend and I went for our birthdays and it is excelllenttttttt. I cried within the first thirty seconds. Literally, as soon as the Circle of Life started playing and all the animals came out, I was bawling.
I cried when it played at the end too. It’s just so nostalgic – and it builds so much on the original! It’s got this excellent rustic aesthetic, and it embraces a lot more African culture than the film.
I went to see Aladdin too, which was also amazing. I hadn’t realised the Disney IRL musicals were so good. They’re a must-see for me from now on. If you can, get tickets.
TV Show: Crazy Ex-girlfriend
This TV show is on Netflix (those magical, golden words), and it’s just about to start the second series. I’m so excited I’m incandescent. It’s weird and excellent and so female focused that it’s a bit overwhelming to watch. Becky is such a flawed and complex character and I adore her. She’s a mess, but I support her in (some of) the things she does.
There’s one or two songs per episode, and they’re always a different musical genre, and they get better and better throughout the series. They pick some really great topics too, like UTIs and Heavy Boobs. There’s even a Hamilton style cabinet rap battle!!
Also: THESE TWO. BLESS.
This is such a simple concept for a website, but it’s completely changed my work life. I must use it twenty times a day. It’s literally just a To Do list, with expandable and hidden bullet points that you can manipulate according to what you’re working on.
My favourite thing about it is that it’s an app too, that syncs automatically with the website. Like a dork, for years I’ve been sending myself emails of my To Do lists to get them from my phone to my computer. This does that for me automatically now! No more emails to myself! I’m so happy!!
I’ve heard people are using it for plotting stories too, which is an excellent idea as you can zoom in on particular plot points in as much detail as you want, and then zoom out again to view the general outline. Next time I plot a project, this will be my first port of call.
Book: The Last Beginning
In case you somehow missed it, I GOT MY FIRST COPY OF THE LAST BEGINNING.
Isn’t it stunning? Isn’t it glorious? Isn’t it everything your heart has ever wanted? (Yes.) Only 20 days until its released and in your hands too! (Please buy it. I’m so proud of it.)
If that doesn’t count as a favourite, I guessss I can name a book written by someone else too. Sigh.
Book rec for real this time: As I Descended by Robin Talley
This retelling of Macbeth changed my liiife. It’s my dream read. Shakespeare and murder and problematic faves and hauntings and psychological breakdowns.
Maria (Macbeth) and Lily (the scheming Lady Macbeth) start on a path similar to the play – they are inspired to try to take down a competitor because of a prophecy told to them by a ghost (during a terrifying and amazing seance!).
From then on, it diverges a lot from the play based on the setting (a boarding school), the murder method (I’m going to leave this a surprise) and the characters (who are all SO COOL).
I honestly don’t want to say much more, because the joy is partly in working out how things are adapted from the play. It’s an incredibly nuanced reading experience, because you experience the confused mental breakdowns of all the characters through the prose. It’s so well crafted, I highlighted a line on every other page.
Lily is my now-and-forever favourite. She’s disabled, obsessed with achieving her goals, and completely unafraid of MURDER if it means helping her girlfriend. The bloodstained hands are so well done too. Agrh, Robin Talley!! You’re so great!
In other news: You can vote for me in Maximum Pop!’s poll on the best debut of the year (I KNOW.) until 30th September. I’d love it if you did!
I’m obsessed with this picture of my new character Clove from The Last Beginning, drawn by my mate Sarah for my birthday!!! Clove is a grumpy computer programmer who knits to control her hyperactivity. She’s also got a crush on this girl she keeps seeing around campus, as seen sitting behind her…. 👭
Finally – if you’re excited for The Last Beginning, you may just want to subscribe to my blog by email, which you can do on the right hand side of my blog. There’s some exciting things coming up over the few weeks, including some exciting announcements…!
The Last Beginning will be published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia on 6th October 2016. It will be released in the US in Fall 2017 by Sky Pony Press.
A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.
It’s November! This week is the publication of The Next Together in Australia and my friend Alice Oseman’s e-novella This Winter! To celebrate, Alice and I are doing a giveaway of signed copies of our books . . . with a twist. Both books will be annotated by each other! The winner will receive a copy of Solitaire signed by Alice and annotated with notes by me, and a copy of The Next Together signed by me and annotated by Alice (with maybe a few drawings too…). You can enter the giveaway (which I want to win myself tbh…) by reblogging this tumblr post.
Alright, onto my faves!
TV series: Six Feet Under
I didn’t know much about this series before I started it, but I was in the mood for some black humour after reading a lot of horror for Hallowe’en, so I gave it a go. And it’s so good!
I can’t even choose a favourite character because I just love the whole family so much. I’m really looking forward to finishing my edits on The Last Beginning so I can properly marathon the whole thing like it deserves.
App: Little Alchemy
I’m mad into this app. It’s like minecraft, if minecraft was a 2D crafting game. It’s addictive and logical and great for long train journeys (of which I have many).
This comes blurbed by my fave Sarah Waters and recommended by my friend Charlie (who I interviewed here) so I was willing to read it based on that alone. But it’s also about female Victorian boxers! Add to that excellence a lot of diversity, drama, smallpox, vices and females manipulating men to get what they want, and it’s the best book I’ve read in ages.
Music: Of Monsters and Men
I’m going to see this band live next week, so I had to include them for that reason alone. I can’t wait to see what kind of crowd turns up for this lovely folk-y band. Listen to Organs, which is my song of the moment for book 4, which I’m writing soon (AS SOON AS I FINISH MY EDITS, PROMISE).
This is a super cute and whimsical comic about a group of girls at a camp where magical, evil things start happening. It’s very upbeat and modern and diverse and I’m in love in a big way. Volume 3 isn’t out until April and I’m SO READY.
This is a website for writers, recommended to me by Ava Jae (who has basically the best writing blog ever, and her first book isn’t even out yet! That’s skills.) It lets you personalise goals for writing or editing, and since I started using this site, it’s become a vital part of my writing routine. It has a lot of the same features as the NaNoWriMo website, but it’s available all year long and has less pressure.
It helps me keep organised, stops me feeling overwhelmed or panicking about how little time I have left to do things. Here are my current goals. If you use it, you can add me as a friend here.
In other news: You can enter a raffle to win a signed copy of The Next Together and lots of other amazing prizes to raise money for the charity Mind here.
The Next Together was included in an Australian subscription box The YA Chronicles for the October theme of ‘time and time again’! It came with River Song’s journal, a time turner and some ‘timeless hearts’ bath melts and honestly it just looks incredible! I’m a little jealous!
Finally, good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo this month. The Next Together started out life as a nano, so if I can do it, you can too!
I’ve now been an officially published author for ten whole days, which is pretty great. I had a launch and did a few events and ate a lot of cake and drank a lot of sparkling beverages.
I also read and watched and listened to some pretty cool stuff! Let me tell you about it.
Her album Badlands was my July favourite, but seeing as I went to see her live this month, I’m including her again. I mean . . . she’s too great not to be a double fave, right? RIGHT?
Also you should listen to this remix of her song Hurricane with the sound of rain, because it’s A+++++.
Comic: How calicos give birth by smilingribs
Be good to yourself and go and read this comic. It’s worth it, I promise.
(Close runner-up: this comic interpretation of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles.)
I went to see Wicked the day before my book came out, as a kind of pre-emptive attempt to avoid disappearing into a void of stress and panic. It worked pretty well! The show was fun, and Popular is the most sing-a-long-able song ever. I also ate a burrito, which was nice.
I mean, I don’t own this shoes personally. But I’d…..like to? So that counts. I’m not sure what outfit I’d match to these shoes, but I think I’m up to facing that challenge of shoe ownership.
Dog: Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s French Bulldog puppy
Okay, I know this is extremely specific. It’s also going to be the best anecdote you hear today. This is taken from the Rock’s instagram (brought to my attention by my mum, who is the World’s Greatest Fan of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s Social Media Presence.)
Judging by his most recent posts, the brick is doing just fine now, but what a story. What a dog.
I would like to marry this book. No, I’m not kidding. This is the perfect mix of the magical regency London of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Georgette Heyer’s shamelessly trope-filled romances, and the charm and relationship dynamics of Sabriel. The whole book make me squirm with delight – from the UNICORNS to GIANT FURIOUS MERMAIDS to the CLOUD FLYING. Just – I want to tell you about every scene, because every scene is a delight.
My friend Sarah is pretty into Wagamama (Her first blog post for this month was a dish-by-dish comparison of the Wagamama’s menu with various Decemberists albums. This is why she is my friend. Her blog is becoming so increasingly niche in an unexpected and delightful way, and I can’t wait to see where she takes us on this blogging adventure next.) and she introduced me to the joy that is Wagamama’s food. I’m a big fan, especially of their cheesecake and gyoza.
Article: ‘Why I explore rape culture in my new book’ by Louise O’Neill
Louise is a good friend of mine, but also a completely brutal writer who I’m a little bit overwhelmed by. Asking For It came out last week, and I read it in one sitting. I’m so glad I did, because I’m not sure I’d have been able to pick it up again if I hadn’t. I can’t even imagine the emotion it will have taken to write it. So important and so terrible and real.
This article captures the point of the book completely, and is a much shorter read for anyone who is unsure of whether they can handle reading the novel itself.
TV Show: The Great British Bake Off
On to lighter things: the bake off! I. am. obsessed. Wednesdays can’t come fast enough.
I’m rooting for Tamal, not only because of this perfect explanation for one of his recipes, which made me choke with laughter.
“This is basically inspired by a sandwich I had a few years ago. One of the top two sandwiches of my life […] and I think about that sandwich quite a lot.”
You’ve got this, Tamal. You and your sandwich are going to win this thing.
In other news: In the last few weeks I’ve done a vlog interview and a few guest blog posts: Tips for writing a romance novel, What I would do with a time machine and Why Hermione Granger is my inspiration for female characters, and I spoke to YA Interrobang about creator-fandom interaction.
I’m also doing a couple of events which have now been announced: I’m the guest author at #UKYAChat on twitter this Friday 18th at 8pm. I’m doing a talk at Coventry Libraries on October 2nd, a panel at Waterstones Birmingham with Jenny Valentine and Jenny McLachlan on October 3rd and I’m appearing at UKYA Extravaganza in Nottingham on October 10th.
I was also photographed by a professional photographer, Pete Bedwell! Here’s some of the photos, because I am too pleased with them not to share. I will be using them as profile pictures for approximately…….the rest of my life. 😉
And finally….. the cover for The Next Together is currently winning Goodreads’ September cover contest by a 500 vote margin… AS IT SHOULD BE.
It’s that time where I wave my favourite things in your face again! Sit back and enjoy the Things.
Okay, so this is my all time favourite of the month. Nothing is going to beat this, in any way.
My pal Mel took the cover design of The Next Together and got it MADE INTO A FABRIC and then had the fabric made into a little pencilcase!
It was a complete surprise and I’ve still not recovered from my amazement. Is that not the best thing in the entire world?
Music: Halsey – Badlands
An anon on tumblr recced Halsey to me, and ever since I’ve basically been listening to her non-stop. She is so. good. Especially Trouble, which is literally a summary of the novel I’m writing at the minute.
Halsey describes her music as being like a horror movie, and that’s exactly right. I love it.
TV show: NBC Hannibal – Series 3
Hannibal is destroying my life. I had to make a new tumblr just so I could complain about all of my Hannibal feelings without everyone in the world unfollowing me. HANNIBAL, GUYS. I can’t handle it. It’s too much for me. Just – in every way. Help me.
The series so far is best summarised by this headline from The Onion:
JUST KILL ME NOW.
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Honestly, I just love this because it reminds me of The Passage, which is one of my favourite books. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s already one of the best books I’ve read in 2015, I think. I’m such a sucker for this kind of storyline. Give me more.
Recipe: Coconut rice
I went to a thai restaurant for my friend Clare’s birthday last week and tried sticky coconut rice for the first time. I think it changed my life. How have I never had coconut rice before? How?!? Why didn’t you guys tell me about this?
Webcomic: Recovery: A mini comic by Alice Oseman
Alice draws the most amazing art of her characters (and mine!) and posts something new and incredible almost every day.
She completely knocked it out of the water this time, with a comic about the characters from her new e-novella Nick and Charlie. It’s very short but hard hitting, and I highly recommend you check it out, along with basically everything else on her art blog.
Plus, we filmed a video together at YALC which is hopefully coming . . . some time soon? So brace yourself for that magic. It’ll probably be something like this.
1. He regularly refers to you as a “poor man’s Janet”: Sorry, but if your guy constantly calls you a “poor man’s Janet,” referring to his ex named Janet, chances are he’s still hung up on her.
2. When he says his ex’s name he points at the sun, but when he says your name he points at the sewer: Not much else this could mean. He’s definitely not over her yet.
I would usually aim for something a little more highbrow that a spin-off Onion site (The Onion is clearly a theme today). However, I haven’t been so genuinely tickled by something as I am by “poor man’s Janet” in a long time.
Poor man’s Janet.
Fanfiction: “I like Spain” AU by Arianne
“Hi,” he said, then glanced at a hastily-written note in his hand and added, a little warily since she hadn’t blinked in several seconds, “Katherine?”
So, don’t freak out guys. Be chill. But…..someone wrote The Next Together fanfiction. SOMEONE WROTE FANFICTION FOR MY BOOK. WHICH ISN’T EVEN OUT YET?
It’s ridiculously sweet and adorable and I love it soooo much. Basically, Arianne is my new favourite person.
And….we’re done! We survived another month, guys! Give yourselves a pat on the back.
It’s July, which means: The Next Together is released in exactly 2 months tomorrow, whaaaaaat?!?!
[high pitched squeal]
[deep, calming breaths]
Romeo and Juliet meets The Godfather in the second instalment of Catherine Doyle’s Blood for Blood series. Sophie’s life has been turned upside-down, and she’s determined to set things right. But Nic, the Falcone brother who represents everything she’s trying to forget, won’t give up on their love – and it’s Luca’s knife she clutches for comfort. Soon another mafia clan spoils the fragile peace – and with her heart drawn in one direction and her blood in another, Sophie’s in deeper than ever.
Okay, I know this is cheating. The book isn’t out until JANUARY. But Catherine let me sneakily read it now because I am a lucky, lucky, shameless beggar, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I just went to Venice, and every time I saw an Italian boy I wondered whether they were a Mafia Underboss. I blame this entirely on Cat.
I think I’m going to have to start a petition for this series to be made into a Netflix Original show. It’s the best, best, best YA romance-slash-Mafia action film that you could ever HOPE FOR. I was stressed out and thrilled by everything. IT WAS SO GOOD. SO GOOD. SUCH BAD-ASSERY. Sophie totally comes into her own in this book, and I swear to god she’s going to end up being the Mafia Queen, and I’m going to be cheering her on the entire journey. In summary: THIS BOOK IS A WILD RIDE. I need the next one, which tragically isn’t out until 2017. CAN I WAIT THAT LONG? No. Definitely not.
Music: Your Bright Blood playlist This is a playlist about the book The Song of Achilles, and it is super great. I’ve been listening to it on repeat recently. Includes Bastille, Noah and the Whale, Regina Spektor, Vampire Weekend, and other excellent bands. You should listen to it while you read the rest of this post, js.
TV: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell This is a BBC mini-series that is currently airing, based on one of my all-time favourite books. It’s about two Victorian gentlemen magicians, who are the first people able to do actual magic in centuries. They help the British Army in the Napoleon wars, while arguing over textbooks and becoming acquaintances/enemies/besties. It’s complicated and ridiculous and I love it. It. is. amazing. Mainly because of Jonathan Strange.
Oh, Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan. This ridiculously dorky magician is my new obsession. Just look at him do magic, and tell me he isn’t a fluffy-haired dreamboat:
Recipe: Sweet cornbread cake
I made this recently, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. It’s the most perfectly dense, rich sponge cake, and it has just a tinge of sweetness. I love ittttt.
I’ve been reading one of these a day for the whole of June, and savouring them like expensive chocolates. Maggie’s advice and experiences are so true and real, and I learnt a lot of new things, and agree whole-heartedly with everything else. Some of my favourites: Artist & Thief | Red = Rage. Ocean = Longing. Literary = | Why I’m A Writer & Not a Fighter Pilot | I Sneak Into Your Brain And Make You Think My Thoughts
This stuff is great. It smells like heaven does, probably. That’s basically my whole thoughts on it. It’s great.
Stationery: Venetian writing paper I just got back from Venice. It was amazing. Also very hot and busy and expensive. But WORTH IT.
I bought some lovely fancy writing paper while I was there, which I have been stroking lovingly since I got back. LOOK AT IT.
Nex time you’re in Venice and in need of stationary (AREN’T WE ALL?) then this is great stuff, 100% would recommend. That’s June summaried! I have to go back to staring at my writing paper now. Laters.
P.S. THAT’S RIGHT. The Bookseller described my book as ‘funny, romantic and compulsively readable’. I will never be over this. Ever.
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.
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 scent
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.
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.
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.