Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Event Report: Hot Key Books Blogger Brunch

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited to a blogger brunch with the lovely ladies at Hot Key Books. When I eventually found the office – it’s rather hidden away! – I got to catch up with some lovely bookish friends and have a spot of brunch.

The lovely James Dawson was ready and waiting to have a chat with us and sign some books before he rushed off to the Cambridge Book Festival. First of all, he took the time to thank us for everything that we do and the influence we have as a community – it was very nice to hear so thank you James! We then got to hear a little about his next book, All of the Above, coming in September. It’s a different direction for James – a contemporary LGBT romance that I can’t wait for.

Next up came the presentation! Rosi, Livs, Monique, Jen and Sanne all presented their favourite books from what Hot Key have coming up for the rest of the year. The ladies delivered a whole lot of enthusiasm, humour and general loveliness.

We also had the pleasure of listening to some of Hot Key’s authors present their own books to us!

First up was Lydia Syson who’s third novel, Liberty’s Fire, is out next month. She told us all about the civil movements and brewing revolutionary feelings in Paris in the 1870s. It sounds like a crazy amount of research needed to write a book like this!

Next up was Jess Valance’s debut, Birdy, coming up in July. It tells the tale of two unlikely BFFs, the bubbly, new girl rescuing lonely, quiet Birdy from friendlessness. And then everything starts to be a little…off.

Hayley Long is hilarious, and she has two books coming out with Hot Key this year. Being a Girl (June), the non-fiction companion to James Dawson’s Being a Boy, teaching teen girls everything they need to know about themselves. And then Sophie Someone (September), poor Sophie uncovers a secret that tears her whole world apart, and she tells her story in her own new language.

Julie Mayhew, author of Red Ink, is back with The Big Lie (August) this year. After one of her children asked her what would have happened if the Nazis had won WWII, she quickly discovered that there is very little from the voices of women and young people during that period of history. So Julie write it instead.

Lastly, the inimitable Laura Dockrill took to the stage and chatted to us about her first YA novel, Lorali, coming in July. With the mixture of Laura’s pitch-perfect reading and the absolutely brilliant instructions on how to turn yourself into a mermaid, this shot straight to the top of my wishlist.

So here are my most anticipated books for the rest of the year from Hot Key Books!

All of the Above, James Dawson
3rd September

When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. things start looking u when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the collest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there’s Polly…love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

Lorali, Laura Dockrill
2nd July

Colourful, raw, brave, rich and fantastical  - this mermaid tale is not for the faint-hearted.

Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn’t exactly how Rory imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from.

Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and become a human.

But along with Lorali’s arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory’s bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp-collared shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a Tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong, anyway?

Counting Stars, Keris Stainton
3rd September

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 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.

Being a Girl, Hayley Long
4th June

From friendships to relationships, periods to body matters, this warm and wise book tells it like it is. Being a Girl is not all sugar and spice and everything nice. How can you possible survive school and even think about talking to your crush when you have spots in places you didn’t even know you had, your boobs are too big (or too small) and the friend drama is off the charts.

Luckily, bestselling YA author and sixth-form teacher Hayley long provides a straight-talking guide to puberty – from cattiness to kisses, being a girlfriend and everything in between.

With witty and black-and-white illustrations by Gemma Correll throughout, Being a Girl gives girls everything they need to know about surviving puberty, in an honest and humorous way.

Black Cairn Point, Claire McFall
6th August

Two survivors, one terrible truth.

Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she’s desperate to get close to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge. One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn’t, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?

This is a chilling and atmospheric thriller from unflinching and award-winning writer Claire McFall.


Monday, 20 April 2015

An Island of Our Own, Sally Nicholls

Pages: 223
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 2nd April 2015
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Ways to Live Forever, Season of Secrets, Al Fall Down, A Lily A Rose, Close Your Pretty Eyes, Shadow Girl

Siblings Jonathon, Holly and Davy have been struggling to survive since the death of their mother, and are determined to avoid being taken into care. When the family’s wealthy but eccentric Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, they go to visit her. Unable to speak or white, she gives Holly some photographs that might lead to an inheritance that could solve all their problems. But they’re not the only ones after the treasure…

I’m a big fan of Sally Nicholls’ heart-warming, emotional stories of growing up for younger teens and An Island of Our Own was no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

When Molly was eleven, Davy was six and Jonathon was eighteen, their mum died, leaving them to look after themselves. Jonathon turned down his place at university and took his job as a waiter in a café to care for his younger siblings. This struck a chord with me. Luckily I was a little older than Jonathon having just graduated from uni I ended up doing the same as him, though he had it harder, and I understood everything he was going through. It’s not an easy thing to do at any age, but at 18, wow.

And they’re not doing so well. I really loved how Sally Nicholls handled this. She showed the often neglected positive things that our social services and government do to help kids in this situation and it was heart-warming to see. Those services allowed these kids to stay together and stay afloat in the hardest years of their lives and I think that does get forgotten in all the bad press sometimes.

Holly is a sweet, engaging narrator and I loved following along on her adventures. Her voice felt spot on for her age (13-14) and her reactions and thought processes too; I often find this age a murky with lots of voices feeling either a lot younger or a lot younger but Nicholls hit the nail on the head. Holly’ enthusiasm and determination to find her Aunt Irene’s hidden treasure to save her family is something I admired. She won’t be beaten, even against crazy odds and I loved that; she fully believed that everything was possible.

I loved An Island of Our Own. It’s a novel about family, friends, adventure and grabbing every opportunity that gets offered to you – I hope this novel is discovered by as many teens as possible.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy!


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Letterbox Love #85

Letterbox Love is a way to show you all of the lovely, lovely books I’ve gotten in the post, bought and everything else over the last week. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. Hosted by Narratively Speaking.

It’s been a little while since I did a Letterbox Love and with my haul from New York as well as four weeks’ worth of NetGalley and review books, it’s a big’un so I’ve done it a little differently this week…

For review:

From Rock the Boat

Nest, Esther Ehrlich (proof)
Mindwalker, AJ Steiger (proof)
Minus Me, Ingelin Røssland (proof)
Conversion, Katherine Howe (proof)

From Little, Brown, S&S and RHCP

Joe All Alone, Joanna Nadin (paperback)
Last Night on Earth, Kevin Maher (hardback)
The Potion Diaries, Amy Alward (proof)
Truckers, Terry Pratchett (paperback)

From Egmont, Michael O’Mara and Walker

The It Girl, Katy Birchall (paperback)
Creative Therapy Colouring Book (hardback)
The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness (proof)

From NetGalley

Nowhere But Here, Katie McGarry (MiraINK)
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Katherine Woodfine (Egmont)
Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You, Todd Hasak-Lowy (S&S)

From Hot Key Books Blogger Brunch

Lorali, Laura Dockrill (signed proof)
How to Be Bad, E Lockhart, Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski (paperback)
Almost Grace, Rosie Rowell (paperback)
Sophie Someone, Hayley Long (signed proof)
Being a Girl, Hayley Long (signed paperback)
The Beloved, Allison Rattle (paperback)
The Big Lie, Julie Mayhew (signed proof)


Exquisite Captive, Heather Demetrios (hardback)
Something Real, Heather Demetrios (hardback)
I’ll Meet You There, Heather Demetrios (hardback)

Meant To Be, Lauren Morrill (paperback)
Being Sloane Jacobs, Lauren Morrill (hardback)
The Start of Me and You, Emery Lord (hardback)

Sloppy Firsts, Megan McCafferty (paperback)
Second Helpings, Megan McCafferty (paperback)
Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard (hardback)

One Man Guy, Michael Barakiva (hardback)
Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews (paperback)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjmin Alire Sáenz (paperback)

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, David Levithan (paperback)
Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig (hardback)
Completely Cassidy: Accidental Genius, Tamsyn Murray (e-book)

Low – Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope, Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini (paperback)
The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson (e-book)
Very Good Live, JK Rowling (hardback)


Friday, 17 April 2015

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, David Levithan

Pages: 200
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 17th March 2015
Edition: UK paperback, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Are We There Yet?, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), Wide Awake, Naomi & Eli’s No-Kiss List (with Rachel Cohn), Love is the Higher Law, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), The Lover’s Dictionary, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (with Rachel Cohn), Invisibility (with Andrea Cremer), Every Day, How They Met and Other Stories, Two Boys Kissing

Especially for those of us who ordinarily feel ignored, a spotlight is a circle of magic, with the strength to draw us from the darkness of our everyday lives.

Watch out, ex-boyfriends, and get out of the way, homophobic coaches, Tiny Cooper has something to say – and he’s going to say it in song.

Filled with honesty, humour and ‘big, lively, belty’ musical numbers, Hold Me Closer is the no-holds-barred (and many-bars-held) entirety of the beloved musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the award-winning bestseller by John Green and David Levithan.

Tiny Cooper is finally taking centre stage…and the world will never be the same again.

I loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson so I was incredibly excited to hear that Tiny Cooper would get to be in the spotlight and Hold Me Closer did him justice.

I will saying that I have never, ever come across a script for a musical as a spin-off YA novel before, but if anyone can do it, it’s David Levithan. ‘Hold Me Closer’ is a one-man musical, but with a cast, if you see what I mean. It’s all about Tiny but there are a lots of other people that play into his story, particularly his best friend, parents and 18 ex-boyfriends. His story is chronological, beginning from him coming singing into the world and taking us up to the current day. He explores realising he’s gay, coming out, falling in love with musical theatre and falling in an out of love. A lot. There’s a wonderful mix of brilliant songs, insightful stage directions and soliloquies that give the lovable Tiny Cooper some more room to shine. I had doubted this form but I loved it and I’d be first in line for tickets to see ‘Hold Me Closer’.

As Tiny searches for love and loses it again he hammers home the message that everybody deserves love, you just have to be brave enough to go after. He openly told stories about the ones who didn’t deserve him, the ones that wanted what he wasn’t willing to give and the ones who wanted less than Tiny had to offer and it just felt so realistic. Love is a hit and miss game and the heart doesn’t always want to right things and the heart and the mind don’t always agree. Quite frankly, I think Tiny Cooper will be an excellent motivational speaker if he ever gets bored of the stage (yeah, like that’ll ever happen!).

Hold Me Closer is a wonderful novel on its own, but I’d definitely recommend reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson first – I wish I had re-read it before I dove in!


Thursday, 16 April 2015

My Trip to NYC

If you follow me on any social media you won’t have missed that I went to New York City a week or so back. It’s a crazy, crazy place and I have a lot of opinions, thoughts and experiences to share. Prepare for an avalanche of photos!

The Food
You have everything at your fingertips in NYC. We stayed on West 40th Street and 8th Avenue, a mere five blocks from Times Square and every type of food I could have imagined was within a five minute walk. Alas, my sister is crazy fussy so we basically spent two weeks searching out the best burgers, hot dogs and shakes we could find. And we found some excellent ones:

Left to right: Guy's American Kitchen and Bar; Planet Hollywood;
 Whole Foods Market; The Counter
Central Park
When you first come down the interstate from JFK you realise the significance of this being a city covering an entire island; I couldn’t possibly image how Central Park could be the green paradise that I’d read about. It seemed absurd, and it kind of is. You forgot that you’re in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world almost instantly:

Coney Island, Brooklyn
I’d heard about the Coney Island years ago – an old school boardwalk and fun fair with a gorgeous beach and pier that people are trying to bring back to its former glory. We just about made it, being there for the first day of the season. It was windy, but we had glorious sunshine:

Empire State Building/Top of the Rock
The Empire State deck stands at 86 floors yp and on a clear day (which ours wasn’t completely) you can see as far as the Pacific Ocean, New Jersey and Connecticut. Top of the Rock, located in the Rockefeller Centre is a little lower, the observation deck being at 67-69 floors up, but right in the heart of midtown with fab views of Central Park and the Empire State Building:

Statue of Liberty
You can’t go to New York and not pay a visit to Lady Liberty! I was surprised by how easy the whole thing was! The Statue Cruises dock was well sign-posted (unlike anything else in NYC) through Battery Park and as we had pre-booked tickets, it took us only about 25 minutes to get on the boat! Even with airport-level security… And again to get into the statue.

The Views
We stayed in the Distrikt Hotel in the heart of midtown and our room was on the very top floor – the 32nd – so we had incredible views that stretched out onto Hudson River on the left and the bright lights of 8th Avenue on the right. And of course, once you’re down on Times Square it’s impossible not to grab a few pictures!

Left to right: View from hotel room; 8th Av,; Chrysler Building from 5th Av. and 41st; Times Square
I had an amazing time in New York. It was more than I ever hoped it would be and I’ll definitely be going back!