Hello again folks, and happy spring! It’s been snowing here, and I’m feeling a little like winter is overstaying its welcome. However, those seeds of intentions are starting to wiggle about in the earth (what can I say, I know my botanical terminology) and yesterday I was brainstorming the latest incarnation of this blog. WATCH THIS SPACE, but like, not too closely, as you might be watching for a while.
In any case, I am super excited to have a guest post for your reading pleasure from the author of upcoming The Goose Road, Rowena House. Like Rowena, I’ve had an interest in this period of history since reading the war poets at school (and then reading Pat Barker’s Regeneration) and I still feel some connection with Wilfred Owen, living in Edinburgh and being somewhat familiar with Craiglockhart, where he was treated for shellshock in 1917. I’m really looking forward to diving into The Goose Road and reporting back to you all about it. Until then, the guest post!
Hello hello! The blog emerges from a long hibernation period for an extraordinarily good cause in all sorts of ways: YA Shot! I’m a big fan of this author-led YA & MG literary festival, and have not let the whole living-in-Scotland thing stop me from attending these past couple of years. This year’s festival takes place on Saturday 14 April 2018, in Uxbridge. I can’t wait to see you there! For more information, check out the YA Shot website.
For my stop on the #YASHOT2018 blog/vlog tour, I had the pleasure of chatting with Simon James Green, YA Shot panellist and author of Noah Can’t Even. See below the cut for more!
A week ago, I flew to Dublin for a wild weekend of YA. Such is my FOMO that as I watched the lineup for DeptCon3 getting steadily more stellar, I realised there was absolutely nothing stopping me from heading to Ireland for the sake of books alone, so I booked my flights and started to get excited. Call it post-YALC withdrawal if you like, but nothing sounded better than the idea of spending another couple of days in a room full of people, listening to other people talk about books. (When I put it like that, I feel like I’ve just written out my longterm life/career goals…)
Armed with little more than my passport and brand new fringe, I landed in Dublin and headed straight to Easons to stare at books. I did get a little wandering in, too – as you probably know, I am 100% autumn trash, and there’s nothing better than a city break during the colder months.
It was my first ever DeptCon, but I’m a seasoned attendee of YA events, so it was great to see a mix of old and new faces. Edinburgh’s Ink Road imprint was well represented, with three of their authors appearing on the Saturday, which gave me a sense of “hometown” pride. It was also great to finally talk to Daiden from SYP Scotland – evidently we had to be in Ireland to do it?!
I am of course burying the lede because I MET ARIANNE! We snacked and fangirled together and it was completely marvellous. If you’re not already following her blog, you really should be, because her smart, thoughtful, brilliant reviews are more than worth your time.
It’s a laidback convention with lots of laughs – occasionally tipping into hysteria, particularly on Friday night! In between the hilarity (who will ever be able to forget one author’s elimination in the very first round of the Harry Potter spelling bee? D.O.B.B.I.E. does not spell Dobby…) there was plenty of insightful, fascinating chat about books and writing. Peadar Ó Guilín did a brilliant job of chairing Philip Reeve, M.A. Bennett, and Will Hill as they talked about the common threads between their very different novels. Deirdre Sullivan similarly drew out the complex themes of Lydia Ruffles, Sally Nicholls, and Pooja Puri’s books in a discussion I could have listened to all day; of those three, I had only read The Jungle, but I now can’t wait to read A Taste of Blue Light and Things a Bright Girl Can Do. One of my favourite of all the panels was the roguishly titled Prosecco & Secrets, which was both very funny and very revealing. It was fascinating to hear about what emerged as two opposite schools of how to write a novel: on one side, Dave Rudden and Melinda Salisbury, who shoot a movie in their heads and write it down, writing for plot, and Alice Broadway and Moïra Fowley-Doyle, who, er, seem to be making it up as they go along, but in a supremely poetic and beautiful way.
I spent most of the panels cross that nobody was asking me which fictional character I’d invite to a dinner party. (It’s obviously Jonathan Strange.)
As if spending two days in a dark room thinking about books wasn’t enough, I got some time to myself on Sunday to do touristy things and promptly… went to the library. Trinity College’s Old Library, to be specific. Be still, my Ravenclaw heart! I hope I can go back to Ireland soon – my pals went to Giant’s Causeway on Saturday, and I missed out because I wanted more quality DeptCon content, but I would really like to visit someday. It is, after all, only a short plane ride away, Ryanair willing! I’m seriously considering DeptCon4 already…
Good morning pals! Today I have a guest post from Rachel Ward, author of the Numbers series and YA thrillers The Drowning and Water Born. She’s now turned her hand to adult fiction, and the result is The Cost of Living. Here’s the blurb, to whet your appetites:
After a young woman is brutally attacked on her way home from the local supermarket, checkout girl Bea is determined to find out who’s responsible. She enlists the help of Ant, the seemingly gormless new trainee – but can she really trust him? Customers and colleagues become suspects, secrets are uncovered, and while fear stalks the town, Bea risks losing the people she loves most.
Read on to find out more about cosy crime, and Rachel’s journey alongside her characters, Ant and Bea.
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.)
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.
Thanks to Ink Road for sending me a copy of T is for Tree in exchange for an honest review!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!