BLOG TOUR: T is for Tree by Greg Fowler

I’m excited about the work being done by Ink Road here in Edinburgh, and so I was delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour for one of their very first YA titles, T is for Tree. (If you don’t already subscribe to their mailing list, you definitely should – it’s always the highlight of my inbox! Check ’em out here.)

T is for Tree

Eddy knows he’s not like other teenagers. He doesn’t look like them. He doesn’t think like them. He doesn’t go to school or have friends like they do. Eddy’s not even allowed to leave his bedroom – except on shower day of course. He doesn’t know why; all Eddy knows is that he’s different.

Abandoned by his mother and kept locked away by his grandmother, Eddy must spend his life watching the world go by from his bedroom window. Until Reagan Crowe moves in next door and everything starts to change. She’s kind, funny, beautiful, and most importantly, she’s Eddy’s first friend. Over time, Reagan introduces Eddy to the strange and wonderful world outside his bedroom: maths, jam, love.

But growing up isn’t that simple for either of them. And Eddy has a secret. The tree that’s slowly creeping in through his window from the garden is no ordinary tree. But then again, Eddy’s no ordinary boy. He’s special…

Set over the course of five years, T is for Tree is moving, life-affirming, and shows that we can all find greatness in the small things.

As you all probably know, I’ve been struggling to read anything because of the Dreaded Dissertation, but guess what?! It’s done now and I am free! This was the first book I read as a free woman, and I’m glad to have had such an easy read to get back into the swing of things. Eddy’s life is laid out before the reader in short episodic chapters as we see him grow from isolated 12 year old to confident older teen, with the help of best friends Reagan and Mr Tree.

The cover is stunning: there’s Eddy and there’s Reagan, with the extraordinary tree bridging the gap between the two friends and allowing for the kind of communication Eddy went without for the first twelve years of his life. Inside the book, you’ll find some beautiful adages on life itself. My favourite character was Mrs Elsdon, a lonely old lady who takes the time out of her daily walk to talk to Eddy about love and death and everything in between; mourning her husband and her dog, she has little else to do, but a lot of wisdom to give.

This is a strange, fairytale-like story. The tree of the title is no ordinary tree, but instead becomes Eddy’s greatest support, helping him in many different ways on the twisted and difficult journey that is growing up. It’s the very definition of a force of nature, growing its way into the bedroom that Grandma Daisy keeps so tightly locked. The tree is Eddy’s saviour… but in the end, is it really Eddy who needs saving? Is he broken, after all?

I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, you can check out the rest of the blog tour – I’m the last stop, which means everybody else’s posts are out there, ready for you to enjoy.

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Thanks to Ink Road for sending me a copy of T is for Tree in exchange for an honest review!

YALC 2017 round-up

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YALC! It’s been over a week since the stalls were packed away, the last books were signed, and all the authors/publishers/bloggers/readers finally went home (maybe after a quick stop at the pub – the over-18s, anyway). As you probably know, I’m still in dissertation hell, and I’m blaming the lateness of this round-up post on that tragic state. That other summertime book bash starts on Saturday, so I thought I’d better cast a quick glance back over a wonderful weekend in July before I’m surrounded by excitable bookish folk all over again.

In no particular order, I present… a selection of my YALC 2017 highlights.

NON PRATT SHOCKS CUMBERBATCH

Probably the most iconic moment of YALC’s four years and certainly the most iconic moment to which I have ever borne witness… it’s gotta be Benedict Cumberbatch walking in on Non Pratt’s head shave. Already an intensely surreal moment, I’m not sure if Sherlock himself’s sudden appearance made it more or less weird. I really can’t explain the atmosphere if you weren’t in the room where it happened. It was truly incredible. And Non has raised almost £3000 for the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability! You can still donate if you feel so inclined.

DANCE CLASS IS IN SESSION

In honour of The Dark Days Club (which is an utter delight, and you should read it) the excellent Alison Goodman, my esteemed QuizYA captain, ran a Regency dancing class which somehow I got roped into. (By somehow, I mean I was physically dragged by Lauren James.) You can never quite predict what’s going to happen at YALC, but I was not expecting to do-si-do Walker’s Emily McD! Despite my initial reluctance, I had a lot of fun. Though it got rather warm with all that skipping. …you guys, YALC is weird.

PANELS!

I was having so much fun wandering around that I nearly forgot about sitting down and listening to smart book people chatting smart book things. I did attend the Life Advice panel (fabulous agony aunting from all involved, and how could you ignore advice from the rightfully crowned Sara Barnard?), the Fandom panel (brilliant chairing from Lucy Saxon – I will never forget the November Rain story!), and the FLAWLESS “We Love Buffy” panel, where it was lovely to see authors I admire geeking out and being their fantastically fannish selves about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I also saw the Tricky Second Book panel, and I have to say that Cat Doyle might be my favourite panel chair of all the panel chairs? Don’t tell the others I said that, though. Lauren James was an excellent chair, also, and I loved the support on the Unconventional Romance panel for love triangles – a much maligned trope!

PALS!

Of course, what makes YALC so lovely is the community, and I met more cool people than I can possibly hope to list. It was great to see the #SundayYA crew (and be recognised as SundayYA Sarah) and lots of other Twitter pals.

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I met #ChangeBook star Aisha Bushby! We took about 12 pics trying to achieve perfection!

I was finally in a #jimsprofile picture, to my joy! I also bumped into lots of Edinburgh buddies (shout out to Kirstin for putting up with me aaall weekend, and to Justine of I Should Read That for much the same) as well as catching up with pals from south of the border. We initiated Clare into the YALC fun, and I thiiink she’ll come back next year! One of us, one of us! Last but IN NO WAY least, I finally met Moïra Fowley-Doyle, one of my writing heroes and also general subject of my admiration, and not only was I not completely weird and awkward about it, she actually knew who I was!

GETTING QUIZZICAL

QuizYA was a highlight from… what I remember… Let’s just say the free wine was flowing, and everybody seemed to be drinking white but me. My tweets and messages to my friends document that I was having a COMPLETELY LOVELY TIME, and they’re all perfectly spelt, so… MOVING ON.

GETTING GALACTIC

YALC marked the early release of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. Actual conversation between me and Lauren James on the train to London on Friday: (may be paraphrased because, c’mon, I’ve slept since then)

LJ: *gestures at Twitter* look, it says it’s selling like hot cakes!
me: that’s good!!!
LJ: what if it sells out?
me: calm down
LJ: LIKE HOT CAKES, SARAH

Friends, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe sold out in two hours. It sold out when we were in, like, Leighton Buzzard. (Probably? idk, I used to be Very Into the London Midland line.) All of YALC was abuzz over this little book about Captain Romy Silvers, alone in space, and I am SO PROUD of Lauren (and of Romy). Space is where it’s at. I had the best time getting galactic with Walker, and there are even pics to prove it! And I did finally get my finished copy of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, happily. Signed and everything.

HOW TO GET INTO PUBLISHING

I wasn’t going to go to Publishing 102, despite wanting a career in publishing, because a) I went last year and b) I am just finishing up an entire MSc in publishing, what could they possibly cover in 45 minutes that I hadn’t heard before? But then I was free on Sunday, so I wandered over to the Agents Arena and heard some great advice – internships aren’t everything, be good at the boring stuff, you probably have to move to London (BOO) – but also THE GREATEST INTERVIEW HORROR STORY EVER courtesy of brilliant agent Louise Lamont. Her top tip for publishing hopefuls? Don’t kill a living creature during your interview. Publishing: not a career for the faint-hearted.

That was my YALC 2017! Being among friends and books for a whole weekend healed my dissertation-stricken soul. I already can’t wait for July 2018.

HIATUS

I know, I know, it’s not as if this blog ever had a regular posting schedule anyway, but I’m going to put it into hibernation for the next couple of months. (Okay, I might pop back up with some 2016 round-up posts, because they are irresistible. You all need to know my favourite ships of 2016, I’m pretty sure.)

I’m going to go away and think about how best to reshape this blog so that it looks great and more closely aligns with my passions, goals, and #aesthetic.

I’m still going to blog about YA, don’t you worry.

See you later. Here’s a #shelfie to tide you over. Tell me what I should read next!

 

Sarah in Scotland: week one

It’s been a week since I moved to Edinburgh to start my masters in publishing and I have already learnt so much.

Like, what square sausage is. And the name of the highest mountain in Canada. I’ve met dozens of Italians. I’ve already had two Ridacards. (The current one has a much, much better ID picture than the first one did.)

Most importantly, I have learnt that I now live in the greatest city in the world (the greatest city in the world!). Admittedly, I am comparing it mainly to Coventry, but every day I’ve spent in Edinburgh I have felt delighted and lucky to be in such an amazing place.

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I’ve already started work as a bookseller, joined the Society of Young Publishers, and attended an author event (with the lovely Laura Lam and Elizabeth May). I’ve met the rest of my cohort, or as I like to think of us, 40 rising stars of publishing.

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Today was my first day of school. It was very strange to be sat back in a lecture theatre. I didn’t know if that would ever happen to me again, but here I am. I’m ready to learn. I’m ready to drink vats of coffee and publish some books. Look out, Scottish publishing! I’m here!

things about which I am a dork

Inspired by this blog post about the podcast The Dork Forest, my buddy Lauren challenged me to pick my top four candidates for stuff I could talk about for a really long time and not get bored even though everyone else would be super bored like whoa.

Now, I am quite an enthusiastic person. I am earnest. I enjoy things wholeheartedly. Even my ironic pleasures are actually secretly just things I really like. I like liking things!!! And this is a quality I enjoy a lot in other people. Even if I have no interest whatsoever in Royal Mail Christmas stamps since 2003, if you care about the subject so much that your eyes light up when there’s an opportunity to semi-naturally bring it up in conversation, I care about it too, okay? At least a tiny bit. (If I like you.) Fandom is a joyous thing, absolutely not to be left as an embarrassing relic of one’s teenage years. And fandom runs deep. In this blog post, I will reveal my four chosen dorkdom obsessions. In doing so I will also be revealing four fragments of my very soul.

In no particular order…

Continue reading “things about which I am a dork”

YA Shot Blog Tour: an interview with Anna McKerrow

Today I’m delighted to welcome Anna McKerrow onto the blog. Anna’s debut YA novel, CROW MOON, came out the day before my birthday in 2015, which I absolutely considered a portent of good things to come. This stormy, sexy tale of witchcraft in a near-future time of disastrous climate change proved irresistible, and thankfully I only had to wait a year before the next instalment, RED WITCH. As we count down the days (okay, weeks? months?) to the final book of the Greenworld trilogy, I took the chance to quiz Anna about writing, magic, and the wonders of UKYA.

YA SHOT BANNER SIDE

This post is part of the YA Shot Blog Tour. YA Shot is a one-day annual festival based in the centre of Uxbridge (London). The 2016 festival will take place on Saturday 22nd October 2016. YA Shot is run in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge. I was lucky enough to attend last year’s event and had a splendid time, and it’s all in support of libraries and young people too!

Anyway… on to the interview! See how quickly you can guess the theme the questions are based around…

Continue reading “YA Shot Blog Tour: an interview with Anna McKerrow”

YALC 2016 round up part three

Sarah likes books

It’s the third and final instalment of my YALC recap! HURRAY.

Post-Potter, we were both tired out, so we didn’t get to YALC until later in the morning. Probably my favourite part was seeing everyone in appropriate Hogwarts regalia! Confusingly, I, a Ravenclaw, was dressed in Gryffindor colours to be Neville (I had a toad in my pocket) accompanying my girlfriend, a Hufflepuff, dressed as Luna Lovegood. The wizarding world is complicated, man.

some adorable Luna Lovegood at #YALC – who's that girl?!

A post shared by sarah (@slouisebarnard) on

We got lots of lovely compliments for our wands, which were both handmade by the genius pictured above. COMMISSION HER, SO SHE CAN AFFORD TO BUY ME BOOKS.

Our first event of the day was Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s Co-writing workshop. Despite some, er, encouragement from Lucy to “make new friends” and co-write with a stranger, we totally wrote our pieces together. SORRY. As with all the workshops of the weekend, it was very cool to see familiar faces (whether from Twitter or author photos) mingling with enthusiastic readers and fans. And everybody had great things to bring to the table. Except for me, cos I cheated.

After the workshop, we headed to the Morally complicated YA panel, with Melvin Burgess, Emerald Fennell, Louise O’Neill and Manuela Salvi. This was interesting on a lot of levels; I always have time for whatever Louise O’Neill has to say, as I think she’s an important voice of advocacy for young women. I’ve not read Manuela Salvi’s novel Girl Detached yet, though I’ve heard strong reviews, but I have read some of her blog posts in the run up to YALC and can’t wait to read a whole book by such a thoughtful, fearless writer. Melvin Burgess has been writing controversial books for teens for literal decades – since before I was even a teen myself – and Emerald Fennell wrote Monsters, a hilarious work of subversive genius. My favourite moment of the panel was somebody asking about censorship of bad language in YA. Manuela responded with an explanation of how fiction doesn’t necessarily replicate reality, and prose is allowed to be more elegant than our real lives without it being censorship. Emerald: “I LOVE SWEARING!” She spoke about fighting for the f-bombs in Monsters, and I reckon, for what it’s worth, they were 100% worth it. There are some laugh out loud jokes in there, where swear words form the punchline.

Aaand following the fun of that panel, IT WAS STIEFVATER TIME!

For a little background, I started reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle last year, while I was in Cardiff. While reading about the youths looking for Glendower, I was walking past pubs named after the chap. It was good. I fell immediately in love with the series: it’s creepy, addictive, moving, complex, funny, clever, inspired by things I adore (like The Dark is Rising sequence) (I feel like you could call it The Secret Dark History is Rising Cycle) and full of characters who just feel like my friends now.

In the months preceding the release of The Raven King, the fourth and final (…maybe) book, my friends and I began a book club solely to reread the series. IT WAS GREAT. I can officially confirm, these books reward a reread. The series is now one of my favourites of all time. OF ALL TIME. I care a lot about these magical nerds!!! And so there I was, with half of my book club, ready to meet the author who created the characters we’d been talking about for months.

I’m not even going to recap Maggie’s talk. It was as funny and energetic as you’d expect, and she talked about ugly babies and setting John Green on fire.

Hers was the only ticketed signing I attended during YALC. We all got numbers, and were called up to join the queue in groups of about 20. It was very efficiently run and meant we didn’t have to hang out waiting forever. Instead we wandered around until our numbers were called. We met Emerald Fennell who was lovely and ships Harry/Luna jsyk.

Eventually:

SO THAT WAS COOL.

And that was about it for YALC 2016! We dragged ourselves and our cases back to Euston station, and I settled down to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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After Lauren James, who has SEEN THE PLAY and KNOWS WHAT TRANSPIRES BETWEEN THOSE PAGES had checked it out first, of course.

Back home, I realised just how modest my bookhaul was:

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See? How restrained was that?! (Not counting the twelve or so books I took with me.)

In conclusion: YALC 2016 was brilliant bookish fun, and it’s getting bigger and better every year. ROLL ON 2017 FOR MORE OF THE SAME, SAY I.