Event Round-Up // YALC 2018

You heard it right, folks: this year, I attended London’s Young Adult Literature Convention!

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Though it was my first time attending YALC, I’ve been book event-ing long enough to have picked up some key tips:

  • It was 30+ degrees that week so light clothes, water and a fan were a must
  • Bringing your own food is useful (to save you the queues and expense of trying to find lunch in the venue and/or Kensington)
  • Wear comfy shoes (unless you’re in cosplay in which case… no pain no gain?)
  • Plan to do SOME things but not EVERYTHING (so you’re not rushing from one workshop/panel/signing to another or feeling disappointed if one runs over and affects your next event) and your day will be all the better for it.

I attended on Saturday. I had a dress with pockets, books to get signed, and I was ready to go (with a friend in tow with whom I could fangirl, obviously). There was so much going on – Tomi Adeyemi had a signing during the sci-fi panel, Lindsay Galvin had a launch party I didn’t get to, I forgot to bring All About Mia for the Lisa Williamson signing – and it was impossible to be in two places at once, but here’s what I did get up to…

10am: Growing Up In The Past, with Frances Hardinge, Keren David, Laura Wood and Lucy Adlington

We arrived about twenty minutes after this historical fiction panel had started, which was a shame, but at least meant a) we arrived after the entrance queue had dissipated and b) we had time to meander! We browsed, got a look at the layout, and, spotting that her signing queue was just winding up, I met Keris Stainton. I babbled because I’d only just got there and my coherent sentences were still somewhere on the Underground, but Keris is so nice and My Heart Goes Bang, her latest book, was my first purchase of the day (given that we’d only been there for fifteen minutes, this did not seem to bode well for my wallet). I also started another theme for the day which was FORGETTING TO TAKE PHOTOS.

Also, when I was perusing publisher stands, I was almost IMMEDIATELY introduced to another Irish person (shout-out to Roisin at Hot Key).

11am: Careers in Publishing with Chloe Seager, Alice Natali, Lucy Richardson and Sarah Stewart

Of all the agents’ arena talks of the day, Careers in Publishing was the one I most liked the sound of (I’ve never seen any similar panels specifically for YA and kidlit here in Ireland). I appreciated the variety of roles represented: Chloe Seager is an agent and author, while Lucy Richardson is in publicity at HarperCollins, Sarah Stewart is in editorial at Usborne, and Alice Natali is in translation rights at ILA. They spoke about the day-to-day (publicists are people-facing and usually extroverted) and things people find surprising about their jobs (you don’t have to speak multiple languages to work in rights).

The panel also spoke about how they got into publishing; commonalities seemed to include having a degree (though not always in English Lit) and working in different departments to get a foot in the door, but there was also acknowledgement that some people need full-time jobs rather than unpaid internships. There were shout-outs for things like Penguin’s paid internships, the Society of Young Publishers, and Ink Road Books, Edinburgh’s shiny new YA imprint. I like to make myself ask one at every event I go to, so when it came to the Q&A I asked what the panellists thought about the prospects of the publishing industry moving beyond London, as that’s such a hot topic at the moment. It was also fab to see a professional, industry-focused panel entirely made up of women.

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L-R: Chloe Seager, Lucy Richardson, Sarah Stewart, Alice Natali

12pm: Lunch and signings

In the interest of taking my own advice, this hour was essentially free, so I ate and then popped along to see Sara Barnard (one of the most genuinely lovely humans in YA, if not the world) and meet the fabulous Non Pratt (I’d remembered how to speak in sentences at this point and was able to talk about how much I love her difficult second child Remix)I also dropped by Ink Road to see my friend and newly-minted publishing professional Sarah, and, of course, take part in their Harry Potter in Scots quiz.

1pm: Amongst the Stars, with Samantha Shannon, Becky Chambers, Lauren James and Sasha Alsberg 

This was the panel my sci-fi mad bestie was most excited about, so it was one that we absolutely had to get to – our only mistake was heading in with about five minutes to go only to find the seating almost full. Luckily we found half-decent seats from which to hear a calm and collected Samantha Shannon ask some great questions, Becky Chambers extol the benefits of having come from a scientific family and Lauren James combine effervescent fangirling with real sci-fi knowledge. There was some controversial talk of pop culture icon Star Wars being science fantasy rather than science fiction, which my friend and I had just been discussing days earlier, but let’s not mention the war(s)…

This panel was the scene of an Irregularly Scheduled Momoa Moment, as he appeared through a nearby door to a ripple of delight from the audience….

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Panel L-R: Samantha Shannon, Becky Chambers, Sasha Alsberg, Lauren James

2pm: Samantha Shannon signing

Ah yes. This was the longest queue I had to wait in, and I was probably still in the first third or so. The line stretched back behind us that I heard later that they cut off the queue and sent people away, rather than giving tickets as they did near the front. Bloomsbury had announced a proof giveaway for Samantha Shannon’s 2019 book, The Priory of the Orange Tree, and well done that publicity team – the lure certainly worked!

While waiting I managed to get a bite to eat, drop in to the fab Lauren James’ signing line, visit some more publishers including Chicken House Books where I met publicist Jazz and a surprise Kiran Millwood Hargrave (I would have brought my books if I’d known – it’s YALC, not MGLC!), and bump into book blogger and #boybandlit creator turned kpop stan Sal, after ages trying to spot her red shoes!

When I finally got to meet Samantha Shannon, she was absolutely (you guessed it) lovely. I’d lugged my massive copy of The Bone Season all the way over from Ireland, and got to chat about my favourite moments of The Song Rising (you can read my review for more info here!). It can be tough for readers and writers (and fans of anything really) when signing queues are so long, and it really seemed that she was taking the time to talk to everyone – as fresh and polite as if she’d only been there for twenty minutes, rather than an hour and a half (though if you’re interested in events with big-name authors but more laidback signings, maybe DeptCon is for you…)

4pm: Loud and Proud, with Simon James Green, Josh Martin and Keris Stainton

This panel was informed, fun and undoubtedly the funniest of the day. Simon James Green, the moderator, writes funny fiction for the slightly younger end of the teen spectrum (you’ll no doubt recognise the cover of Noah Can’t Even and Noah Could Never), while Martin writes fantasy and Stainton is an experienced writer of fiction from to teen to adult. They talked about personal experiences, the issue of identity, the difference between UK and USYA, and a whole plethora of LGBTQ+ recommendations from current YA, including shout-outs for Alice Oseman and Becky Albertalli. There was also another sighting of a Lesser Spotted Jason Momoa, which caused a bit of a stir…

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L-R: Keris Stainton, Simon James Green, Josh Martin

I think there were a couple more events after this, but we had to get going. I took notes at the workshops and panels, but I’m convinced I’ve forgotten some details – trips to Waterstones, the vibrantly decorated publisher posters and stands, people I met, cosplays I saw (including a TINY Wonder Woman), prize draws entered… Still, I’ll end this here on my swag haul – it’s probably on the small side for YALC, but I did have a luggage allowance to consider…

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Did you go to YALC? What were your favourite panels? Do you think there need to be more YA book events outside of London? Let me know in comments below!

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Books To Read In Autumn

We’re well and truly on the way to autumn, so today on the blog, I thought I’d look at some of my favourite books to recommend in autumn! Rather than going for a theme like 2017 autumn/winter books or curriculum-assigned reading, I’ve chosen books that feel autumnal to me, whether through style or content (eerie fantasy, say, rather than beachside contemporary) or simply being a sensory reader (it’s definitely a thing!).

27281393The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

So maybe it’s a little unorthodox to start a recommendation list with the second book in a trilogy, but hear me out. The Sin Eater trilogy is solid UKYA, but for me the eerie, folk-tale touches to The Sleeping Prince marked the point where Salisbury really began to flex what she could do in terms of voice, villains and style. The titular Sleeping Prince is a chilling, semi-undead creation, a kind of Pied-Piper-meets-Sleeping-Beauty mash-up, and probably one of the best (or should that be worst?) villains I’ve read of late (there’s lots more about the books in my reviews here). There’s also a strain of the book that includes what seems suspiciously like lycanthropy. Moreover, this  is a book which just feels autumnal to me: like cold stone, crunched leaves, ginger biscuits (don’t ask), air with just a little drizzle in it, discovering the art of alchemy isn’t lost after all, etc.

23592175The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

This one isn’t so much for the book’s weather as its spooky, surprisingly dark feel. I’d heard a lot of praise for The Lie Tree before I read it, but somehow didn’t expect it to be such a distinct historical thriller – it’s smart, thematic and has splashes of the otherworldly (not least in the much-lauded quality of the writing), but it’s most certainly a historical mystery. Set in Victorian England, it follows fourteen-year-old Faith Sanderly in a complex mix of problem-solving, gothic twists and frustration at gender roles (there’s even a rebuke of the ‘not like other girls’ trope: “Faith had always told herself that she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies”). Of course, everyone else has already hyped it enough before me!, but it’s a top recommendations out there for that border between upper children’s and young adult fiction.

35688988Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan

This collection of (bear with me) twelve feminist fairytale retelling short stories was released just a few weeks ago from Little Island Books and is ideal autumnal reading. Witchy, subversive and lyrical, it’s fairly dark but is another top-notch addition to the fabulous Deirdre Sullivan’s back catalogue, and a particularly unique addition to this year’s Irish YA. If you liked Amanda Lovelace’s The Princess Saves Herself In This One or are intrigued by Louise O’Neill’s upcoming Little Mermaid retelling The Surfaces Breaks, this should tide you over (additionally, the cover looks fabulous surrounded by ivy and potion ingredients flowers). You can read more about Sullivan’s books, and others like it, here. 

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

All my recommendation so far have been a bit on the dark or at least slightly fantastical side, so I’ve gone for something a little lighter and more down-to-earth here. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is a gorgeous, unhurried, almost cosy contemporary, which begins during protagonist Cath’s first semester (think falling leaves, darkening weather, cute sweaters) at college. It’s warm as a well-worn scarf and sharp as a pair of six-inch stilettos, and though it’s been out for a couple of years, it’s still one of the best portrayals of fandom I’ve seen in YA. If you haven’t made time for Cath, Reagan and Levi (oh, Levi) in your contemporary reading, this is one you need to add to your list.

29080992Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

The Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries are one of those series you know is relatively recent but which seems like it’s been around for ages. It has that classic but accessible touch which makes it appealing to kids and brings something older readers or adults can appreciate, too. The quintessential English boarding school setting – where pupils call teachers ‘mistresses’ and ‘masters’, learn Latin and get up to hijinks – fits autumn, but added adventures, mysteries and a historical time period make it stand out. The storytelling style plays on the Sherlock Holmes and John Watson dichotomy, with narrator Hazel relaying events in her notebook while partner-in-crime (solving) runs headfirst into trouble. Cacklingly funny as well as cleverly written (who doesn’t want an excuse to use words like ‘dashing’ and ‘canoodling’ more often?!) the first book in the series, which opens in October 1934, is worth opening up if you haven’t tried it yet.

23346358The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

If there’s any recent YA book that’s ideal for reading and re-reading every autumn, it’s Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season. Come October, seventeen-year-old Cara and her family – including her mother, older sister and ex-stepbrother – board up the windows and hide the sharp implements in preparation for the Accident Season, a month in which mysterious and dangerous things seem to constantly befall them. A spellbinding magical realism standalone, it’s full of tarot cards, masquerade balls, fortune-telling, dreams, hallucinations and hazy, stylish prose. If you’re looking for an atmospheric autumnal read, this is absolutely the book to go for. Fowley-Doyle’s other book, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, is set during summer, but it does have a bonfire, and is totally worth picking up too – it’s definitely one of my go-to book-pushing reads of the year!

What will you be reading this autumn? Have you read any of the books on this list? Chat below or on Twitter!

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book tag // Smashing and Dashing Character Awards

Well hello there! Following several weeks in which ALL OF THE BOOKS WERE RELEASED (ALL OF THEM), I’ve decided on a quick, fun post for today in the shape of the Smashing and Dashing Character Awards book tag (you can tell it was created by Cait at Paper Fury just by the title). It’s based mostly on books I’ve read in the last twelve months, with a few surprises here and there.

1. MOST RELATABLE CHARACTER
Kell from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic saga. Great taste in coats, likes shiny things, just wants A Break

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2. MOST PURE AND PRECIOUS ANIMAL COMPANION
Rita from A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard. Loyal, sleepy and suitably miffed when her owner hangs around with other dogs. (And there are multiple dogs in this book.)

3. FIERCEST FIGHTER
I’m taking this literally for a simpler answer, so Amani from Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, though most of Sarah J. Maas’ characters are up there too.

4. MOST AMAZING SIDEKICK
I’ve just now realized I don’t really read books with sidekicks in…?! I suppose I prefer more equal dynamics? And find books in genres where a sidekick would be traditionally likely – superhero stories, sci-fi – have to be amazing to stick with me. In recent reads, the lion and dragon in Katherine Webber’s Wing Jones spring to mind.

5. ONE YOU’RE SURPRISED YOU LOVED
Dean from Unboxed by Non Pratt. We have been reliably informed that Dean is essentially Unboxed’s equivalent to Wolfgang from Sense8, and yet here we all are. WHY DOES ANYONE LOVE DEAN?! WHY DO I?? I’m so confused.

6. BEST SASSMASTERlbtu4

Sunny from London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning. Sunny isn’t the most obviously sassy of people, but her narration is filled with sarcasm and humour (you can read more about her in my review here!).

7. BEST ANTI-HERO AND MORALLY GREY GRAPE

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. Everyone’s favourite anti-hero/villain with excellent cheekbone structure.

8. BEST WORST VILLAIN TO HATE
I was really surprised by how well-written the villain in Timekeeper by Tara Sim was.

9. TRULY ASTOUNDING WORST YA PARENTS
The parents from Cuckoo by Keren David. THE WORST. So terrible in fact, that I won’t even waste word-count on them (but I did review the book here).

10. TRULY ASTOUNDING BEST YA PARENTS

Tom and Jen from The Last Beginning by Lauren James. Okay, so thankfully I have been reading more YA with positive parental relationships recently (which makes a change from the usual, you know, blasé attitude to keeping on eye on whether your children are out SAVING THE WORLD or something) so this one had a few contenders. I’ve chosen ex-hacker Tom and bisexual scientist Jen because they’re very present parents for adopted daughter Clove. Oh, and there’s an alternate universe where Tom is still hot as ever but is also an underground rebel with a motorbike.

11. TOOT TOOT BEST SHIP OF THEM ALL
Amber and Kyle from How Hard Can Love Be? or Steffi and Rhys from A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard because I, an epic fantasy fan, ship them more than most contemporaries usually inspire me to! (For said epic fantasy ship, see the deliciously angst-ridden Elide/Lorcan storyline in Empire of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas.)

12. THE MOST IN NEED OF PROTECTION
Jonah from When We Collided by Emery Lord. Poor Jonah. He is so busy and tired and just needs a hug.

13. MOST BORING AS A BARNACLE
Etta and Nathaniel from Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. I tried so hard to get into this book but three-quarters of the way it was still SO BORING. The pace dragged and the characters are so bland??

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14. BEST LITTLE ROYAL
If we’re talking contemporary royals, then Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries: Royal Wedding, or if we’re talking high fantasy, Elide from Empire of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas, who yes okay is more aristocracy than royal in a world full of royals, but SHE IS PRECIOUS AND I LOVE HER.

15. VERY SURPRISED YOU’RE STILL ALIVE
Everyone in Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy. Honestly, how this woman can bear to leave even one or two characters alive for her fans. THERE’S A REASON SHE HAS TO HAVE A NEW CAST IN EVERY BOOK, Y’ALL.

16. BEST AT HORRIBLE DECISION MAKING
Maya from The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. This book…is full of so many bad (and badly explained) decisions??

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17. CUTEST DORK
Matt from The Next Together/The Last Beginning by Lauren James. Matt is such a dork and it is adorable. At one point he wanted to be a farmer. Swept off his feet by exuberant scientist girlfriend/wife/reincarnated soulmate (it’s complicated) Kate, their romance is one of humour, respect, warmth and science shenanigans.

18. CLEVEREST LITTLE HELLION

Lada from And I Darken by Kiersten White. Lada is pure wrath, but she’s smart with it – a keen strategist and ruthless 15th-century leader.

19. MOST IN NEED OF A NAP
Kell from A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. Just Let Him Rest.

20. WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT YOU
Meg from A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard (can you tell I love this book y/y). Friendly, vivacious, spirited Meg Callifryn makes far too few appearances in this contemporary standalone. I DEMAND A SPIN-OFF.

Feel free to consider yourself tagged if you so wish!

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Event Round Up: DeptCon 2016!

DeptCon is quickly becoming the biggest event in the Irish YA calendar, and I was lucky enough to attend (trusty reporter’s notebook in hand) for a second time this year. Run by Department 51, the YA section at Eason (basically like our WHSmith’s or Waterstones) and featuring not one, not two, but twenty-six authors, everyone was VERY EXCITE.

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David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (moderated by Steve Boylan)

Eason’s were pulling out the YA big-hitters right away in this first panel: David Levithan and Rachel Cohn talked collaboration, what made them writers, movie adaptations, LGBTQIA+ characters and their next project, which will be their first he-said-she-said book told from the points of view of a brother and sister, as well as reading from upcoming release The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily. I didn’t adore Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, but the sequel was surprisingly funny and entertaining – I may have to give the audiobook a try instead! Recommendations included Nicola Yoon’s upcoming The Sun Is Also A Star. I got to read it in August, so I maaaay have it lined up for review soon…

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Eoin Colfer, Derek Landy and Cecelia Ahern (moderated by David O’Callaghan)

This may seem like an odd mix, but the logic behind it was that each author is new to YA: Eoin Colfer with an Iron Man tie-in for Marvel, Derek Landy with something typically gory, and Cecelia Ahern with dystopian release Flawed. They talked about the differences between adult or children’s fiction and YA, though the panel was derailed somewhat by the panellists’ antics. At one point a phone went off in the audience to the tune of Careless Whisper, which was very funny. It was noticeable that Cecelia Ahern, the only woman on the panel, got drowned out a bit – but there were plenty of awesome female-led panels throughout the rest of the convention, including…

Holly Bourne and Juno Dawson (moderated by Deirdre Sullivan)

Such a fab panel. Juno Dawson and Holly Bourne were part of the event last year and with more books under their belt this time around were raring to go. Deirdre Sullivan (author of the Prim trilogy and the acclaimed Needlework) is a delight both as a person and as a panellist. She opened with a Harry Potter question (Patronus and House, natch) which led the way for heaps of fun – all while tackling questions about writing, feminism, past books, the Pale-Male-Stale state of prescribed reading lists, fiction vs. non-fiction, the biases of book awards, and writing for and about teenagers who make mistakes, who don’t get everything right the first time. They also hinted at new books, including the book which prompted Bourne to start an epic best movie kiss vote-off, a romantic contemporary about two teenagers who work at a cinema, which sounds AMAZING.

I got my first signings of the weekend out of the way in the shape of What’s a Girl Gotta Do? and All of the Above, but most exciting of all Eason had And A Happy New Year? – Bourne’s Spinster Club novella – on sale TWO WEEKS EARLY! One thing I love at book events is authors taking time to talk to readers and this panel was no exception (and, let’s be fair, it’s nice to be able to mention Holly Bourne’s books in a blog post without it being ANOTHER recommendation. I JUST REALLY LIKE BOOKS ABOUT FEMINISM AND HUMOUR AND FEMALE FRIENDSHIP, OKAY).

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photo credit to @dept51

Sarah J. Maas In Conversation (moderated by David O’Callaghan)

Oh, wow. The guest list was already pretty great but by the time Sarah J. Maas’s event rolled around, the theatre was packed. I flail about this series SO OFTEN and don’t even have WORDS for how excited I was to hear Sarah J. Maas had added an Irish stop to her post-Empire of Storms tour – I didn’t like A Court of Thorns and Roses but her Throne of Glass books are just so good, and in terms of sheer popularity, her success has really helped bring the joy back into high fantasy for teenagers. She talked about characters, the writing process, plot twists, cardboard Legolas, fighting to keep Manon Blackbeak in Heir of Fire and what it’s like when a series goes from début novel to actual phenomenon. There was emphasis on music and TV shows, which was fabulous because a) it made the panel vivid and entertaining and b) THEY ARE ENJOYABLE STORYTELLING MEDIA and I too have been using this as my excuse for indulging in so much of them *ahem*

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Then of course came talk of the Throne of Glass TV adaptation (announced as Queen of Shadows), and while the quality and results of the adaptation remain to be seen, it was cool to hear her highlight women in the production team she admires, and her hopes for the series. There was a lot of fangirling going on during this panel (there was a lot of cheering during most panels, to be fair), but again, she took the time to chat to everyone who went to get their books signed (and I would expect nothing less of authors for a category so closely tied to its audience). I was inwardly flailing but spoke coherently AND DID NOT FALL OVER AT ANY POINT *phew*

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And thus ended the first day of DeptCon2 not with the absolutely plausible possibility of me falling disgracefully down the staircase but with triumph and SIGNED BOOKS. Between panels I hung out with awesome YA folks (including The Books,The Art and Me‘s Jenny, Eilís, to whom I have become an accidental kdrama enabler??, and the magnificent Jacq, who is lovely and was running about all day like an event-organising superhero), too. Stay tuned to the blog for a day two round up – and a few surprises!

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