YALC 2014

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I have always been a ‘reader’, but over the last 10 or so years this has grown to a passionate love of all things connected with books. Running my book forum (10 years old next year!) and reviewing books has put me in contact with authors, publishers, bloggers etc and twitter has been a great medium to keep in touch, and stay up to date.

So, when the 1st ever UK Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) was announced, I just knew I had to get there. The added bonus was that it would be part of the London Film and Comic Con (LFCC), something I was yet to experience. So, tickets were bought, and the excitement grew on twitter as the weekend approached.

On Saturday, after travelling up to Earl’s Court, I stood in awe of the queues formed outside. I had pre booked my tickets, but even that meant joining a queue. And when Patrick Ness tweeted a photo of the crowd inside, I nearly turned around and went home! But I stayed brave, fought my way through the general crowds, and reached the safety of the Book Zone.

The YALC team had set up an area with beanbags, books samples, postcards and other goodies, and there were some publishers there with goodies and very well priced books. Then there were the authors, signing books and chatting to readers.. it was heaven. I got to meet people I knew from twitter, and I got to talk to Patrick Ness and Jonathan Stroud. Everyone was so lovely it was amazing!

Being part of LFCC made things even more special.. I walked past famous people who were doing signings (but they were charging, and I was saving my pennies for more books!) and saw the most mind-blowing costumes. The general atmosphere is something I simply can’t put into words.

On Sunday I got up ready to do it all again, this time with my teen daughter to keep me company. This time we walked straight in, which was a relief, and we settled in for many more authors. I managed to see authors I’d met before, as well as those I knew only from twitter, plus a few new ones. Beth managed to meet Holly Smale and Cat Clarke, two authors whose books she enjoys. It takes a lot for a book to grab her attention, and Geek Girl and Undone most certainly had, so she particularly enjoyed meeting those two. We were also both persuaded to buy books by new authors, which I’m excited to get to.

booksAfter lots of wandering around the LFCC stalls, we also managed to buy a couple of mugs, some badges and a t-shirt.. and that’s on top of all the new books! We finally left feeling exhausted but happy, with lots of gorgeous signed books.  (You can see some photos on my facebook page.)

I have to say a massive thank you to every person who was involved in setting up and running this amazing weekend – and to every author we met there – you’re awesome! Here’s to next year’s YALC!


These are all the authors we met – check them out, they’re all fabulous!

Cat Clarke / Holly Smale / Tanya ByrneNon PrattBeth ReeklesJames DawsonHolly BlackPatrick NessJonathan StroudAlexia CasaleKim CurranJames SmytheKit CoxIsobel Harrop (who kindly signed Isobel’s Journal just for Amy, who didn’t go.)



I have neglected my blog for some time, but I’ve just experienced my first book launch, which is certainly worthy of a post!

Back in 2011, Headline sent me out a copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I’ve just been back and read my review, and it’s actually more critical than I remember! Oops! However… whereas many books soon disappear into the depths my mind, this one has stood the test of time. For me, this is often the sign of a damn good book – one which I look back on with a lot of fondness, and would even consider re-reading (I’ve only re-read about 6 books in my life!)

Fast-forward a few years, and the final book of the trilogy, The Book of Life, is almost ready for publication. Knowing this re-ignited my excitement for the trilogy, so I was rather happy when in the post appeared a box with a little bottle of wine, straight from Matthew’s cellar (fans of the books will understand) with an invite to a book launch!

I’ve had a few invites before, but I haven’t been able to attend. This one was on a Friday evening, in the middle of summer (light nights for travelling), and was really too good to be missed, so I booked the afternoon off work, and took myself up to London.

The setting, in the Royal Institute ,was lovely, and we were greeted with drinks. After lots of mingling, and looking for people I knew only from Twitter, Deborah arrived, and came around to meet everyone. This was followed by a brilliant Q&A session with Deborah, where we found out lots of interesting information about the books, and Deborah’s writing, including the fact that she cried when she finished the final book!

I came home happily cradling my signed book, a very cool wine glass charm (it’s on the wine bottle in the piccie), a cup cake, and some fantastic memories!

My thanks to the people at Headline who put all this together, especially Caitlin Raynor, hi to all the nice people I met there, and a HUGE thank you to Deborah for coming over, and for being so lovely! It was a great experience, and something I hope to do again in the future.

PS If you’re yet to hear about the All Souls Trilogy, it’s perfect for those who love historical fiction (although much is set in the modern-day world), along with witches, vampires etc. The key to Deborah’s characters is that she asks what would a witch or vampire be like if they were a part of our world.. how would they maintain certain powers, but remain hidden? It certainly makes you wonder what really *could* be going on around us! :)

World Building

When reading fantasy or sci-fi, the writer is usually presenting you with a new world, which may resemble our own, or be very different. To make it work, the reader has to understand that world, and more importantly, have to believe in it.

Some writers choose to throw you straight into their world, finding ways to provide you with background, history, and rules as the story progresses. I’ve read books in which this fails to work for me – often I find myself so concerned with trying to figure out the world, that I fail to concentrate fully on the story.

I’ve experienced two books recently which make this work – the first is the Dark Tower series, which I once thought I’d never read. I gave it a try when it came out in audio, and I’m hooked. I believe fully in Roland’s world, and even it’s connection with ours.

I’ve also just finished a new YA fantasy book, A Throne of Glass. This one takes a while to build up it’s world, and I do think it slows down the book at the beginning, but it pays off – once you’re settled in the world, the story really kicks off.

Then there’s the prologue idea – and this is what prompted this post. I’ve just picked up my ARC of Katya’s World, from a new imprint, Strange Chemisty. The prologue, which tells you the world’s history over a few hundred years, is only a few pages. And yet in those few pages, I feel I understand the world’s origin, and something of the people living there. Just a few pages, and I’m ready to lose myself in the story. I’m impressed.

So, what do you prefer – a slow build, or a good prologue? Any good or bad examples of either?

Review Books

I’ve collected together the main books which I have to review at the moment. From the top down..

Amity and Sorrow – this one is from the new Headline imprint, Tinder Press. This one isn’t out for a while, but I did make a start the other day. And if this one is anything to go by, it’ll be an imprint worth watching!

Neptune’s Tears – from Piccadilly Press. Since taking the photo I’ve manage to finish this one. It’s an interesting sci-fi tale for teens, will link to full review once done.

Poltergeeks / Katya’s World / The Assassin’s Curse – these three were sent to me from another new imprint, Strange Chemistry. I’m really excited about these books, and about Strange Chemistry in general, as they seem to have some great looking titles lined up. I’m half-way through Poltergeeks, and as loving it so far.

Deathless – this is from Corsair, yet another brilliant imprint. I’ve reviewed a few for them now, and they’ve all been good, and I love this author’s children’s book.. I’m excited to see how she handles an adult’s book.

Struck / This Is How It Ends – both from amazon vine. I’ve read some of TIHIE, but it’s failing to grip me.

The Dog Stars – a surprise send from Headline. :)

I guess I need to get one with my reading!

I’ve probably just confused people on twitter, so this is an easier way of doing it! Over on my forum, we have quite a few author interviews, and in the past we ran ‘Featured Author’, where we invited an author to register and hang around for a month whilst we threw questions at them! ;)

This feature became quite hard to organise, and I ran out of time for it all. Recently I’ve restarted ding interviews, but I much prefer to do these if I’ve read one of the author’s books – I prefer to make them personal, instead of a list of stock questions.

I’ve also tried this week to do the Featured Author section a little differently, making it more informal. I’ve renamed it ‘Author Chat’, and the duration of each can vary, depending on how busy the individual author is.

See the various ideas in action here – http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk/community/index.php?/forum/28-author-interviews-and-forum-visits/

I’m aware that the more popular authors tend to be too busy for little forums like mine, and I’m also very keen to help newer authors get themselves known. However, I’m concerned that my forum members may not chat to authors if they haven’ read their books, or heard of them.

I’ve asked the forum members about it, and you can read about that here – http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/10526-question-for-you-all/. What I also want to do is collect some opinions from authors, publishers etc – but you don’t need to register on the forum to give me your feedback.

Please leave me a comment here, or tweet me. I really want to know what everyone feels, so I can provide something everyone will appreciate and enjoy.  Would you be interested in popping in for a couple of weeks, and chatting to the forum members, and would it bother you if the response was low? Publishers, is this the sort of thing you would encourage your authors to get involved in?

All thoughts and ideas appreciated! :)

Box of Books!

On Wednesday, the lovely people over at HarperCollins had a clearout in the children’s section office, and they did some give-aways on twitter. I managed to snag myself a box of teen books, and they arrived today…

The Louise Rennison books will be put aside for if/when my girls want to take a look, and I’m excited to find some Robin Jarvis in there – Dancing Jax was a very interesting read, and I didn’t even realise the 2nd book, Freax and Rejex was out. There’s also 2 books from his Wyrd Museum series there.

That leaves a few doubles, and some Garth Nix books – I’ll have to decide what to do with those!

Thank you @HarperCollinsCh :)

James is the author of Hollow Pike, one of my top reads this year. He’s also very passionate about reading and writing, and he’s shortlisted to be Queen of Teen! James was kind enough to answer a few of my questions…

Q. Let’s start at the beginning.. what can you tell us about your book, Hollow Pike?

A. It’s been described as ‘Mean Girls with witches’, which works for me. It’s about a girl called Lis who moves to a small town called Hollow Pike only to discover it has a dark history. She think the witchcraft rumours are nonsense, but when a girl is murdered, she starts to think she might be next…

Q. How long have you been a writer for?

A. I’ve written for years. I used to write stories for my Grandma and then later wrote music reviews and interviews for papers and magazines. Hollow Pike was my first attempt at a novel.

Q. So what was your inspiration for Hollow Pike – where did the ideas come from, and how did they develop?

A. I really wanted to write about school. I think anyone who went to school will recognise Hollow Pike. Moreover, I wanted to write about people like me and my friends – I wasn’t seeing characters like us in other YA books.

The supernatural has always fascinated me too. The idea that in very ordinary villages, there are mysterious happenings! As the novel developed I looked to things like The Crucible and The Malleus Maleficarum for inspiration.

Q. There are some great characters in your book – go on, be honest, are they based on anyone you know?

A. Absolutely! All of the characters are versions of my friends or composites of people I know. That’s what writers do -beg, borrow and steal!

Q. Considering the success of other books, were you not just a tiny bit tempted to add a vampire? ;-)

A. Not in this one. I do hope the vampire genre can come back post Twilight though as one day I’d love to tell a vampire story. But not this one, no!

Q. What comes next for you – will we hear any more from Hollow Pike, or are you moving on to other things?

A. I’d love to go back to Hollow Pike and explore the town in more detail at some point, but the next book will be something completely different. It’s still for YA readers and is even twistier and turnier than Hollow Pike.

Q. You’ve been shortlisted for ‘Queen of Teen’, tell us a little more about the award, and what it means.

A. The Queen of Teen is great because it’s all voted for by young readers. It doesn’t take itself too seriously either. The winner gets an ACTUAL CROWN.

Q. What would it mean personally to you if you won.. what would you do with the title?

A. It would be fantastic because I really hope that Hollow Pike (and my next book) captures what it’s like to be young. Getting an award from young adult readers would be a seal of approval.

If I won, I’d be able to visit schools as ‘the Queen of Teen’ instead of ‘another author’, which would be great because I could share my books and love of reading far and wide.

Q. Do you enjoy attending events, chatting to readers on twitter etc, and how important do you think this is?

A. I really do. Writing can be a solitary career so getting out and about is hugely important. For authors, Twitter is the watercooler.

Q. Finally, what do you like to read yourself.. who are some of your favourite authors, and who’s on your bedside table right now?

A. I am a YA reader AND writer. I love the pace and edge of YA books. I love Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Maureen Johnson. At the moment, I’m reading Miss Peregrine’s Home of Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs.

James would be thrilled if you could vote for him at www.queenofteen.co.uk/vote


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