Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Noggin Blog Tour: John Corey Whaley's Top 5 Quirky/ Outrageous Book Recommendations

If any of you have read the synopsis for Noggin you'll know that it's definitely one of the more extreme and unique sounding releases of 2014! I love books that are a little bit crazy but so cleverly imagined that it somehow works.

Today for my stop on the Noggin blog tour author John Corey Whaley is sharing 5 book recommendations that like Noggin are a little out there but all the better for it!

1.) Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
This book is the definition of outrageous and it does what I love most by being hilarious, ridiculous, and packing a surprising emotional punch.

2.) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
This book means a lot to me and, actually, is partly the reason why I wrote NOGGIN. Vonnegut's balance of absurdity with realistic human stories is something I have always thrived to imitate. Plus, there are aliens.

3.) Eeee Eee Eeee by Tao Lin
Because what other book has an anthropomorphic dolphin murder Elijah Wood????

4.) Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris 
This one may be better as an audiobook just to hear David Sedaris share his experiences as a Christmas elf at Macy's. It's hilarious and thoughtful, which is always the case with Sedaris.

5.) How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu 
Yu's talent for telling a small story against an outlandish backdrop is truly mesmerizing.

Noggin is released in the UK on the 31st July 2014 
Visit So Many Books So Little Time tomorrow for a Q&A with Corey

Thursday, 17 July 2014

YALC Diary: Sunday Day Two

After being convinced that I’d sleep like a baby after the mania of yesterday I of course had another rubbish night’s sleep and woke up with a headache. I wanted nothing more than to roll over and go back to sleep and I would have if we didn’t have to check out of our hotel before 11am. Turns out this was a blessing in disguise as I had the most wonderful day at YALC today.

Before another day at YALC began I was invited to a blogger breakfast. The first wonderful thing to happen today was that lovely Debbie saw my tweet of pain and brought me in some paracetamol from home. After something to eat, lots of water and some medication I started to feel more human and really enjoyed the breakfast. Having our names on a guest list to get in meant no queuing and the book zone was lovely and quiet first thing in the morning so I had lots of time to chat to authors, bloggers and publicists and I could actually hear everybody, yay! I also had time to catch up with my friend Jasprit who came down for Sunday which was really nice.

We had authors Holly Black, James Dawson, Matt Haig and Non Pratt as guests at the breakfast and they each spoke about their books new and upcoming alike and signed our copies. We were also given an awesome Grisha tote bag full of swag and copies of This Book is Gay by James Dawson and Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I was only saying before the event how much I was looking forward to This Book is Gay so to have early copies there was amazing!

Queen of Teen James Dawson looking regal and wise

Once again there were so many lovely authors that I finally got to meet today. Comic Con was so much quieter and the showmasters team were there to structure queues and make sure there was some order which was so much better.

My author highlights for Sunday had to be James Dawson, Sarra Manning and Cat Clarke. James is doing wonderful things for LGBT teens and I’m so glad that he won Queen of Teen because he’s providing a much needed voice in UKYA. I’ve been reading Sarra Manning’s books since I was twelve years old and so I got all emotional when she knew me and my blog, if that wasn’t enough she then went on to give me two rare early editions of her books as a thank you for your support gift which meant so much to me. Cat Clarke was so lovely to talk to and gave me a hug and thanked me for supporting her books which was so nice. As for actors today I spotted Sibel Kekilli and Kristian Nairn AKA Shae and Hodor from Game of Thrones and had a little fan girl moment over that.

Meeting Sarra Manning

Cat Clarke hug

The only negative thing that I have to say about YALC day 2 was the lack of monitoring for the panels. They didn’t appear to be supervised at all and being right next to the Stan Lee booth meant that LFCC people would just sit there taking up seats for a break and something to eat or to wait for friends to finish seeing Stan. Not only did this take up seating but they’d chatter away to one another and once again I couldn’t hear what the authors were saying. As I stressed yesterday next year we really need our own hall!

At 5pm on the last day of YALC an event that shall forever be remembered as ‘The Great Book Giveaway of 2014’ took place. Basically the YALC team took down all of the books from the book wall and posters and gave them away for free. There were so many amazing books to choose from from YA classics to brand new releases that aren’t even out yet. Luckily I was there when the queueing began and so ended up being 5th in line and after a lot of consideration picked up Red Rising by Pierce Brown which I’ve heard amazing things about and am so excited to read.

After the great book giveaway it was time for Rach and I to say our goodbyes to people and catch our train home. It was actually really sad saying goodbye to all of my bloggy chums not knowing when I’ll next get to see everyone and when we will all be together again.

Me with the awesome Michelle

Me with lovely Faye 

I feel like YALC really picked a lot of bloggers up – myself included- and motivated us. There was a lot of love between everyone and it reminded me of how special our community is. Each of us is different and we all have something to offer but all of us together as a community makes our voices even louder.

I came away from YALC feeling like I’d found my people. It was a truly special weekend and despite all of my bad experiences I still walked away with some amazing memories. I only hope that if there is another YALC next year that the people behind it take on board what everybody is saying to ensure that YALC 2015 is an even bigger success.

Missed day one of my YALC diary? Check it out here.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

YALC Diary: Saturday Day One

It’s Saturday which means it’s officially day one of YALC! Rach and I travelled to London last night and I have to say that the weekend didn’t start well for me.

After a hot and sweaty tube ride that involved carrying bags of heavy books up and down flights of stairs I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep so I’d feel rested and ready for a busy weekend. Unfortunately I had no such luck.

Our hotel is great in itself however I was given an unfortunate room located on the ground floor of a busy street. There’s no air con so if I don’t want to boil myself alive I have to sleep with the window open which not only lets in all of the street noise but all of the smoke from the guest smoking pit outside too. That along with my neighbours and their kids checking in next door to me at 4am left this asthmatic insomniac with only a few hours’ sleep. Needless to say this morning I was tired, flustered and running low on patience.

The first thing I saw before Earls Court itself was swarms and swarms of people queueing to get inside. I was immediately overwhelmed. We were standing in line and being moved around for what felt like forever under the beating sun and to make matters worse we had a group blatantly push in right in front of us. Luckily Rach and I had this nice guy and his young son behind us who wasn’t having any of it and told them so but unfortunately that led to them getting the hump and shouting at us which really put me on edge with my PTSD.

Me (left) and Rach (right) waiting to get in

When we finally got in thousands of people were literally packed in like sardines in a tin, there was no air con, sweat was dripping from people and I basically felt like I’d made a huge mistake in estimating how well I could handle this.

YALC itself was a roaring success there’s no doubt about it but I have to be honest and say that I don’t think that LFCC was the right place to host it and I know that pretty much everybody I spoke to felt the same way. The majority of readers are quiet, introverted people and I know that for a lot of us Comic Con was too much.

Not only was LFCC ridiculously overcrowded but the Book Zone was placed in a small corner of the venue right next to Stan Lee’s event which were obviously massively popular. I attended one panel and one workshop and after that gave up on them because I couldn’t hear a thing that was said over the noise of the crowd which was really disappointing as I’m sure what the authors had to say was very interesting.

Another issue I had was that there was no clear queue’s for signings and nobody was monitoring them which lead to more than one queue waiting for one author and a lot of pushing in which was very annoying after waiting for a good hour for some guests.

To be honest it was absolute chaos which is completely understandable being the first ever YALC. I don’t think anybody was prepared for the popularity of the event but now that they know that there’s a big audience for it I hope that these issues can be resolved next year and I think the biggest change needs to be a YALC only venue.

The Book Zone had this lovely little chill out area with a book wall and beanbag chairs. It was the perfect place to escape to catch a breather and talk to other book lovers. I’m being completely honest in saying that I don’t think I would have stuck around all day if I didn’t have such good people around me. I was so touched by everybody who came up to me asking how I was finding it and I loved that so many of you shared your own experiences with anxiety, panic attacks and OCD with me. It was so cathartic to share stories and get through this crazy day together.

My biggest convention lesson learned is to talk to the people around you. After all you obviously share the same interests which are a great ice breaker! It was so lovely to not only finally meet blogger friends but to also meet new bookish people. Rach and I were queueing to meet Rainbow Rowell for a good hour and got chatting to some lovely girls in front of us which made the time pass really quickly. Funnily enough after that we kept bumping into each other in different queues completely by chance and so we dubbed ourselves “queue buddies.” What was even more surreal was when I gave Charlotte my Twitter handle only to find out that we already follow each other! Small world!

Queue Buddies!

A really random moment for me was when I accidentally bumped into somebody and turned around to apologise only to see that that person was Lena Headey who plays Cersei in Game of Thrones. Turns out that the Book Zone being right next to the Green Room definitely had its perks!

I met so many wonderful authors and bloggers today both at YALC and The Fringe afterwards. I’d love to give a shout out to every single person I met but there are just too many of you and I’m bound to forget somebody which I’d feel terrible about. I will say that everybody I met was absolutely lovely and if I met you please know that I had such a great time talking to you!

UKYA book bloggers at The Fringe

Today’s author highlights for me were C.J. Skuse, Holly Bourne and Natasha Ngan who all made plenty of time to chat to their fans. I also really enjoyed meeting Patrick Ness and Rainbow Rowell although due to their MAHOOSIVE queues it was only a quick “hi” and “bye” which is completely understandable. I was just so happy to meet them at all!

Rainbow Rowell signing books

The lovely Holly Bourne signing my books

Overall Saturday was a rollercoaster of emotions with plenty of highs and lows. It was chaotic and stressful but also wonderful and exciting. The lovely people around me really made today what it was and that has made me love the UKYA community even more, if such a thing is possible.

Check out Day Two of my YALC Diary here
For more of my Saturday adventures check out Rach's write up here

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review for Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell 
Publisher: Orion
Release: 3rd July 2014
Genre: Fiction, Chick-Lit, Crossover, Romance
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it's been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and he still loves her - but that almost seems besides the point now. 

Two days before they're supposed to visit Neal's family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells him that she can't go. She's a TV writer, and something's come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her - he is always a little upset with her - but she doesn't expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she's finally done it. If she's ruined everything. That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It's not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she's been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts... Is that what she's supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?"

Rainbow Rowell is one of my favourite authors and so naturally Landline was one of my most anticipated releases of 2014. I think it’s fair to say that Landline is a bit different compared to Rainbow’s other books. Although the thoughtful and beautiful writing is still there I thought that this one was lacking in Rainbow’s trademark wit and humour.

Landline is quite a sad read as we join Georgie and Neal at breaking point in their marriage. I love that Rainbow Rowell writes about real love not the fairytale kind that can usually be found in books and movies. Landline takes a look at a couple who love one another very much but have let life’s daily problems and neglect slowly but surely worm its way into their marriage.

It took me a little longer than usual to warm to Georgie and Neal both individually and as a couple. At the start of the book I really questioned why these two people were together. It’s not until the couple started to have their telephone chats that I began to fall in love with Neal and Georgie and wanted them to fight for their relationship.

The magical time traveling telephone worked really well and didn’t come across as unbelievable or cheesy. In real time there is a lack of communication between the couple and so when Georgie gets the chance to talk to a past version of Neal at another point in their relationship where it was close to being over she has a chance to not only fix her relationship back then but in the present as well. These conversations and learning about Georgie and Neal’s history made me fall in love with them as a couple and see that their relationship was worth saving.

Overall Landline is a sad, sweet and honest look at marriage. It’s about second chances, communication and not taking the people you love for granted. Although I didn’t find this one as personally relatable as her other books I have no doubt that many others will enjoy and relate to the moral of this story. Rainbow Rowell is the queen of writing honestly about love in all of its different stages and nobody gives me the warm fuzzies in quite the same way that she does.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Review for Say Her Name by James Dawson

Say Her Name by James Dawson
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release: 5th June 2014
Genre: UKYA, Horror, Paranormal
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Roberta 'Bobbie' Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of 'Bloody Mary': say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear...But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?

Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror...five days...but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before..."

Say Her Name is James Dawson’s modern YA take on the infamous legend of Bloody Mary. As you’d expect it’s creepy and mysterious but to my surprise it was also incredibly touching as James brings Mary to life not only as a ghost but as a character with a tragic past. Say Her Name offers something different in YA and I enjoyed it so much that I think that James Dawson should branch out and write more modern YA stories for all of the famous ghosts and ghouls!

The story centres around Bobbie, Caine and Naya who call upon Bloody Mary on Halloween night at Bobbie’s historic boarding school. Legend has it that they have five days until Mary comes for them and as dark and disturbing occurrences begin to happen to all three characters they realize that there may be a sinister truth to the old myth. But is Mary the evil essence that people believe her to be? Or, like all ghosts, is there unfinished business and a story to the girl dripping in blood? Bobbie and her friends have only five days to find out.

James Dawson really goes all out in creating the perfect YA horror story. There’s a gothic boarding school, dripping taps, Halloween, a graveyard and an asylum altogether creating the atmosphere and backdrop for Mary’s story. I’m not one who’s easily scared when it comes to supernatural horror and although overall I found Say Her Name more creepy than scary I definitely had my moments with this one. Bridget’s story in particular really creeped me out.

Hands down my favourite thing about this book was Mary and her backstory. I loved how James not only brought her ghost but also the girl she was to life. I found this take on Mary’s legend really interesting and there was a real sense of mystery to Mary’s story that held me captivated. Mary was actually my favourite character in the book one minute I’d be terrified of her and the next feel really sorry for her.

The end of the book was also fantastic. The whole plot came together in a really clever way and the last page left me with this uneasy sense of foreboding which was the perfect note to end the book on. Overall Say Her Name is perfect for anyone who used to stay up way too late pouring over Goosebumps and will introduce a new generation to the thrills and chills of horror.

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