YALC / LFCC 2016

Just a quick post about YALC this year, before I forget to do it! My two previous visits have been very much YALC focused, but this year Beth wanted to spend some more time downstairs in LFCC, and was interested in getting some signatures – it made for a busy two days!

(For those who for some reason don’t know, YALC = Young Adult Literature Con and LFCC = London Film and Comic Con. The former has become a permanent part of the latter!)

It was a Friday and Saturday visit for me his year, and on the Friday I met the lovely Tanya (@thefoundbird) and we were able to spend most of our time up in the YALC area, plus some time down in LFCC. We both met lots of authors and got lots of books signed, plus listened to Patrick Ness talk about he upcoming A Monster Calls film. We saw the latest trailer, and I can not wait to see it.. although I know I’m going to cry!

On Saturday Beth and I spent a frantic day running up and down between floors, trying to fit in some signings for her, and the bookish things I needed to do. For me, more authors were met and more books signed, whilst Beth spent some of her hard earned money to meet some actors from Game of Thrones. They were all lovely, and wrote nice messages for her, which are all now up on her wall.

As others have said, YALC has grown and improved every year. It now takes the whole upper floor, and is full of authors and publishers.. and BOOKS – lots and lots of lovely books! There were even proofs being given out, and the ones I managed to get were all great!

One thing which does shine out as you explore both LFCC and YALC is how adorable the authors and publishers are. Authors will sit and sign books for free, and are always happy to talk – I even managed to meet up with a couple of authors whom I wouldn’t be able to meet on the Sunday at their official signings. The publishers have great deals, and the afore-mentioned proofs, and there’s a BIG Waterstones stall! A book lovers heaven!🙂

Am already looking forward to next year!

Early Reviews from YALC

So, as per my last blog entry, my reviewing pretty much came to a halt, and I’ve spent most of the year reading what I wanted to read, when it suited me.. and I’ve read some great books so far! I’ve still dabbled in reviewing though, and when I went to YALC this year, I was lucky enough to pick up 3 proof copies from publishers, and thankfully they were really rather good!


Dear Charlie by N.D Gomes


Death should never meet the young. But it did. Thanks to my brother, death made fourteen new friends that day. Maybe even fifteen, if you count Charlie.

This book deals with the aftermath of a school shooting, but through the eyes of his younger brother. It focuses on the bullying that Sam experiences himself, the media pressure, and the stress on his family.

It’s a part of the story I doubt many think about.. as a parent, or a brother, how are you supposed to feel about someone so close committing such an horrific event? Sam can not understand how the brother he knew could do such an unthinkable thing, and as readers we’re not given this insight either, but Sam’s journey in accepting events is emotional.

The book also shows that whatever happens, life needs to go on. His parent’s struggle with this, but Sam makes himself go back to school, and find friends. Despite events, he’s still a 16 year old boy growing up.

It’s fast paced, and held my interest all the way through, and it has a lot to offer.


Gilded Cage by Vic James


This is the start of a trilogy and I fell in love with the world. For me personally, I loved the world building from the author.. this alternative present-day England immediately felt real to me, and I dived straight in.

It tells of a world where there is a small ruling class, the Elite, but their power comes from the magic  they hold. All other citizens live normal lives, aside from the fact that they have to give up ten years to become slaves, many in heavy industry, some serving the Elite.

The Elite live in their own blinkered world, with their own power struggles, whilst the decade of slavery turns out to be worse than could be thought.

The other great thing is that the author doesn’t focus on just one of these groups, but she shows us the depths of both, with fascinating characters within both.

Abi makes a decision to try to keep her family together during their decade, by getting them all into the service of an Elite family – which she almost achieves. Both her and her younger sister find themselves wrapped with the families world, whilst her brother gets separated, and sent to a brutal factory town, where he starts to believe in revolution.

Meanwhile, the three brothers within the Elite family have their own stories, struggles and relationships, and they are more complex than you would expect.

This first book moves at a fast pace, and it certainly has plenty for both YA and older readers. It wraps up this particular story enough, whilst opening the way to the next volume. Thankfully the gaps between books is short, but also far too long, because I’m excited to get back into this amazing world!


Contagion by Teri Terry


I love the Slated series by this author, and just the brief details on the proof caught my attention, and I was very happy when someone at YALC managed to get me a copy. It would appear the publication has been pushed back a bit, but I’m still going to mention it, because I want it to go on people’s radars and wish lists.

There are two main aspects to the story.. the first being the mysterious illness which starts to sweep the county, highly contagious, and in most cases fatal. However, there’s also the second layer.. the fact that those who fall ill and survive appear to be changed by the illness, in ways which scare others.

Again, this is a fast paced book which should appeal to many. The characters are YA, but the storyline certainly kept this older reader intrigued. There is plenty of story within this first book, but it does feel like a trilogy, with a frustrating wait for the next part.

As I said, I loved all three books, and I’m very grateful to those who allowed me to get my hands on them early. All highly recommended.. keep your eye out for them! 



Back in July, I wrote a blog post about restricting my reviewing. I guess it was the stepping stone to where I am now.. I’ve pretty much stopped.

There are quite a few reasons for this, but some aren’t worth going into.. but the most important, I think, is that I’d actually lost my passion for reading, and reviewing was making it into a pressure instead.

Just before Christmas, I started to feel very affected by my depression again, and I had no interest in getting into a book. Instead, I picked up my Walking Dead compendiums, and found myself whizzing through them, and chatting to my daughter about the story twists. I then started to look at some other graphic novels and comics.. I was quickly scouring amazon, logging back into the library, and starting threads on my forum (such as this one). I’d found my passion again.. and I realised how much I had missed it.

(If you want to follow my new passion, my journey is in this thread.)

I’ve picked up two books in Jan, neither of which were for review, and I enjoyed them both. I still have a couple of review books by my bed, and although I liked the start of them both, I have a mental block over getting back to them.. and that has confirmed for me that I need to draw a line, and stop.

I have no idea what the future holds.. there may come a point at which reviewing and blogging becomes my passion again.. but for now, I need to focus on reading what I want to, when I want to. I’ll still be yelling on Twitter when I read something I love, and I hope to stay in contact with the lovely authors, publishers and bloggers I’ve gotten to know on there – but 2016 is my year to reclaim my love of reading, rather than struggling with the pressure of reviewing.


Mr Perfect Cover

Writing for Reluctant Readers

If you’ve always loved books, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to struggle with reading.

Yet millions find it an uncomfortable experience. Rather than being drawn in by characters or voice, they’re constantly aware of tracking words on paper. Rather than being transported into the story, they struggle to get past the physical experience of holding a book and staring at a printed page.

After ploughing through a few paragraphs of a thick middle grade or YA novel, they give up on ever making it to the end.

The last few years have seen an explosion of Hi-Lo books – books with a high interest level and a low reading level – to cater for such readers.

I wanted to get involved with Badger Learning’s Teen Reads because I was impressed with the variety of their series. They weren’t stuck in predictable reluctant reader territory like dinosaurs and football. They seemed to publish interesting stand-alone titles for teenagers that just happened to have been written in a very accessible style.

I wasn’t given a set of rigid rules when I started writing for them. I tried to use simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and they checked the reading level when I was finished.

There’s no particular formula for hooking a reluctant reader any more than there is for hooking any other sort of reader. But I’ve found that establishing an everyday situation and quickly introducing a supernatural or fantastical element can work well.

The characters will be desperate to find out what’s going on. And hopefully the reader will be too, carrying them to the end of the slim volume and giving them the achievement of having finished a book.

My latest Teen Reads title is Mr Perfect, which is about a girl who is sent to test whether a robot can pass for human. It ties in with a lot of things in popular culture at the moment, such the Channel 4 drama Humans, but it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time.

On a more selfish level, writing for reluctant readers has allowed me to switch between genres in a way I might not be able to if I only wrote full-length novels. So far I’ve written sci-fi romance, folk horror and humour.

The Teen Reads series runs to 36 books now. I really hope we can show struggling readers that books are part of the world of entertainment, along with apps, games, vlogs, TV shows and everything else they’re into. Everyone should have a bit of reading in their cultural diet.

Tim Collins is the author of over 40 books, for both children and adults, including the Wimpy Vampire series, and the Dorkius Maximus series. You can find out more on his official website.


I’ve recently had a few ‘issues’ with my reading – I may have called it a lost-reading-mojo or something, but if I’m honest, I think it’s more to do with pressure… and mainly pressure on myself.

I’ve bought quite a few books this summer, mainly because of YALC, and I’ve just re-arranged my bookshelves. I have a ridiculous number of books which I really want to read.. some of these are proof copies from publishers, many are bought, but they’re all yelling at me to read them NOW – all of them at once!

When I do choose a book to read, I’m very aware of all the others waiting, so if I’m not loving it, I start to wonder if I should move on to something else. But, I don’t want to miss out on a good book, so I get caught up deciding whether to continue or not.

And then there are my review copies. Some do just come in the post, but most I’ve asked for (and sometimes begged!). Most of the time I do love what I’ve asked for, and I happily review it, and shout about it on twitter. Sometimes though, I realise that it’s not what I expected, or it’s just not working for me. Then I get hit with guilt.. I feel bad that I asked (or begged) for it, that I took a copy someone else may have had, that the publishers will hate me, that they’ll never send me anything again.😦

A while ago, I decided to stop reviewing. It was quite good for me, but it only lasted a few months. It’s very difficult to resist a good proof when it’s offered, despite the pile of books sitting beside my bed, looking accusingly at me. And by reviewing, I’ve discovered some awesome books which may have otherwise passed me by. Books are my passion, and getting to review some of them early is a huge part of that.

So, this time I’m going for some sort of compromise. I’ve been resisting some offers and give-aways, but I’m not stopping completely – I’m just trying to be very selective in what I ask for / accept. I’m also trying not to buy anything for a while (if you see me in Waterstones, or on Amazon, please slap my wrist!) but I do know something somewhere will tempt me before long!

I’m also – and this is the hardest bit – not going to pressure myself so much with review copies. If I’m not getting on with a book, even if I requested it, I’m going to put it down.. and maybe come back to it if I think it will work with a second chance. I’m a busy working mum, and my reading time is limited, so it’s pointless for me to struggle with something which isn’t working.

I also can’t restrict myself to review books only. Reading is my relaxation and my escape, and I have gorgeous bought books which need my attention as well.

Publishers – I’m so sorry if you send me a book, and I can’t review it. Hopefully the next one will work better, and I’ll be shouting on twitter for everyone to buy it. If you choose not to send any more though, then I’ll sadly accept that, because I do appreciate that your review copies are limited.

Bloggers / Reviewers – am I the only one who feels like this? Are you well organised, and keep on top of things, or do you have to make compromises? Any other advice?

So this was the 2nd year that I attended YALC, and it was bigger and better than the first one. Twitter was buzzing with book talk all weekend, and it continued into Monday. There were some issues, of course, but these are mainly related to the venue, and were out of the organiser’s hands. On the whole though, YALC has been a massive success – so why is this?

I’ve been mulling it over, and for me, I think it’s success lies in the fact that there was something for everyone, and it was possible to make the weekend whatever you wanted it to be.

For some, this meant attending the panels, and hearing their favourite authors discuss various issues – whilst others wanted to grab that early spot in the signing queues! And when it came to the authors, it seemed that some had come purely to see a favourite author (Cassandra Clare and Carrie Hope Fletcher in particular) whilst others wanted to see as many as possible (there were *suitcases* full of books!)

The other lovely thing about YALC is that everyone is so friendly – I saw groups of people meeting up, chilling in the book area, and introducing their friends to other friends – and yet at the same time, it was perfectly ok to sit quietly by yourself, just taking it all in, or even reading that new book you’d just bought!

There were lots of freebies to collect, and lots of books to buy at some good prices. The publishers were lovely, and many of the authors were wandering around on the stands, as well as their ‘official’ signing space.

For me, I met loads of great authors, publishers, bloggers and book lovers – despite feeling shy, anxious, and rather tired. There were books I sadly left at home, due to lack of space in my bag, and books I had to sadly leave un-bought (but hey, have you *seen* my TBR pile?!)

But for others, the experience may have been completely different…

And that’s what makes YALC so awesome!

(PS Did I mention chatting to Chris Riddell?! Double awesome!😀 )

YALC 2015


Last year I managed to go to the 1st ever YA Literature Convention, which I absolutely loved. So, when tickets were announced for this year, I knew I had to be there, and my weekend ticket was booked!

I only intended to pop up for a short visit on the Friday, but I was then invited to a publisher’s blogger’s bunch in the morning, so it turned into a long day. I arranged to meet someone at Victoria, so we could travel to the venue together, and once there I got to chat to the authors, and other bloggers.

We then moved on to YALC, which was so much bigger than last year. They’d managed to get a whole floor (well, shared with a small gaming section) so everything was spread out. There were lots of freebies, and loads of excellent publisher stands, as well as the gorgeous book zone, with bean bags and a book wall!

On Saturday I returned with my daughter – we started off by going downstairs to the LFCC (London Film and Comic Con) – this was also bigger than last year, and I think even more crowded. We did quite well until about 11:30, when it suddenly started *really* filling up – and after walking around in circles for a bit, we finally made it back upstairs.

Highlights for Beth were listening to the Carrie Hope Fletcher panel, and then meeting her whilst she had her book signed. She also met Holly Smale for the 2nd year running.

For me, Saturday brought the highlight of my weekend – Chris Riddell turned up to join in, and I got a book signed, we chatted, and I have my own Chris Riddell drawing! Beth was suitably impressed with his artistic skills.

On Sunday I awoke early with a migraine, so I couldn’t go until my medications got rid of that, but I made it back. Everything was just as busy, and I got more of my books signed.

For me, YALC continued to be about meeting fabulous authors, and getting books signed. A couple I had met before, but there were many new ones. It always amazes me how friendly they are, always ready for a chat as they sign, and often recognising me from twitter. A couple even recognised me from last year!

As well as this though, YALC 2015 was about meeting in person the people I chat to on twitter, as well as a few I hadn’t yet met – I said hi to some lovely publishers whom I’m often pestering about review copies, plus lots of lovely bloggers and book lovers from twitter.

I’m scared to make a list of whom I met, because I know I’ll miss some, but a special shout out to a few..

Michelle Toy (@chellytoy) – who let me meet her in Victoria, made sure I was introduced to people, and generally kept a eye out for me!
James Smythe and Alexia Casale – who both recognised me from meeting me last year.. that’s a good memory!
Fleur, Emily and Anne from Chapter 5 – one of my most favourite publishers! 
C J Daugherty – who was happy to sign my book, even though I hadn’t read it – and who seems to be one of the nicest authors on twitter.
Chicken House publishers – thank you for the brunch, for the review copies, and for introducing me to a bunch of new, awesome authors.
Helen Maslin – Darkmere really is that good, you know!
Rosy (@reviewdiaries) – who kept me company when we first got in on Friday
@catrad (I’m so sorry, I don’t even know your name!) who was so lovely, and we got to meet Sarah Pinborough together. 
Dawn Kurtagich – who was very lovely for someone who’s written a very disturbing (very good) book!
Chris Riddell – highlight of my weekend!

To EVERYONE involved in YALC, thank you so much for the experience – the wonderful organisers, the enthusiastic publishers, the passionate, friendly bloggers and book lovers who attend… and of course the AWESOME authors!! See you all next year!?