Re-imagining Books As… Podcasts!

Today on The Paper Alchemist, I’m looking at some books (mostly YA) that would make amazing podcasts  (and describing them in detail, because of course. WE NEED THE JUICY DETAILS. Alternatively, feel free to see them as radio plays. I get very into this).

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the_loneliest_girlThe Loneliest Girl In The Universe by Lauren James

Commander Romy Silvers is the loneliest girl in the universe: the only crewmember of the spaceship Infinity, travelling to a distant planet on a mission to establish a new colony, Earth II. Then she learns that a new ship, The Eternity, has been launched and will join her – and on it is a single passenger named J. Their messages take months to transfer across the vast expanse of space, but Romy holds on to the hope that when J arrives, everything will be different. If she can keep her increasingly eerie ship running that long… 

This is such an obvious candidate for a podcast adaptation! A single viewpoint character, an ear-catching premise, a distinct setting, a twisty plot, escalating narrative tension, ominous thriller overtones. It’s a relatively compact book, so a well-planned series of 17-22 minute episodes would keep it short and sharp. It could be in the form of Romy’s captain’s or ship’s log, with sections of her fanfic for the fictional TV show Loch & Ness used to break up segments. Throw in some suitably sci-fi background noises and occasional guest voice actors to vary the sonic landscape, and you’d have a super-cool narrative podcast. It’d probably be totally creepy, but some of the most talked-about podcasts are dark or mysterious (*coughs* Welcome to Night Vale).

Side note: I’ve talked extensively about how much I like The Next Together (time travel! Epistolary additions! “Said the actress to the bishop”! Hot Tom!) and The Last Beginning (More time travel! LGBT lady protagonists! Hot DILF Tom!!). While either could work as a podcast, albeit quite a complex and busy one given the multiple time periods, from a more straightforward stylistic standpoint The Loneliest Girl In The Universe unfortunately fits the medium better. Also I SUPPOSE one can’t put the Finchley-Galloway-Sutcliffes (unless there is a collective noun for an extended family of rule-breaking gay time travellers that will have to be their name okay I don’t make the rules) in every feature. In the meantime though you can read more about them here, or here, or here…

30370281Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

The messiest choice on this list by far! I reviewed Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s third book Freshers before it released earlier this year (you can read the review here) and it was amazing – clever, vibrant, outrageous, incredibly funny. I’d definitely read a sequel, or in the absence of one, listen to a podcast adaptation.

The Freshers podcast could be framed as a university radio show, ostensibly hosted by one of the more sensible characters like Josh or someone totally outgoing and eclectic like Frankie (ohmygod, imagine her music choices) but actually hijacked by the entire friend group. It would include lots of chat, campus news, a slot for the Quidditch society, and salubrious amounts of gossip. Negin would be the deadpan, sarcastic one, speaking only when it’s effective. Rita would put in disclaimers to stop them being sued for libel, but be an unsurprisingly good contributor. Bowl-Cut Mary would wish she’d thought of it first and try to get on this wildly popular campus radio show (really, the first cool thing they’ve had on in years). 25-minute podcast episodes would cut in and out of the much longer in-world radio show (fading back in after ‘songs’ etc.), with some choice backstage scenes of plot where, most importantly, Josh and Phoebe finally talk about their OBVIOUS feelings!! There’d be lots of tea and laughter and quickfire dialogue and general awesomeness.

17199504The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I’d like to see more fantasy podcasts given a chance! I’ve chosen Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season because it’s alternate timeline SFF, with some recognisable elements – the London setting, the general concept of clairvoyance – rather than high or epic fantasy, which might need more of a leap on the part of listeners. There was supposed to be a movie of this series but I haven’t heard anything about it in ages, so maybe a podcast would be a more successful medium! Episodes would be twenty minutes to half an hour, with that slightly mysterious, unsettling feel and evocative background soundscapes, like crowds or echoing tunnels. It would, of course, feature members of SciLo’s unnatural population, and would be as much about the more interesting elements of its world as about plot. Side characters might take take more prominence – one might even helm it (is there an order of clairvoyant to do purely with sound?) – than they do in the series, which is told almost exclusively from Paige Mahoney’s perspective. Think stories from or about London’s spirits, its different types of clairvoyants, its shadiest corners and ongoing rivalries – and every now and then, a hint at the shifting allegiances and events of the ongoing books.

The idea of a podcast or radio show in SciLo is also quite subversive – it’d be an insight into stories or an underworld the reader or listener knows is forbidden in the world of the books. And, oh wow, I’ve just realised if he thought he could get away with it, Jaxon Hall would absolutely showboat his way into a radio show like this. Like Potterwatch, only completely insufferable. Well, isn’t that delightful.

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The Spinster Club
trilogy by Holly Bourne
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Rather than just a book-to-podcast adaptation taking listeners from reworked versions of Am I Normal Yet? and its sequels, what strikes me as interesting podcast material here is the post-series years. Evie, Amber and Lottie, still frustrated with not seeing each other much several months after the events of And A Happy New Year? decide to make a commitment to record a friendship-and-feminism podcast every month so they have an inescapable excuse to hang out. Plot progression mostly involves behind-the-scenes moments, updates on who’s dating and who’s hating, Lottie’s political ascension and the steady exploration of the girls’ lives as twenty-somethings.

Lottie is the moderator and leader with the schedule and microphones, Evie is the researcher and referee, and Amber is the riotous one who inadvertently gets quoted in all the soundbytes. A shaky start devolves into lots of laughter, cheesy wotsits and Amber yelling about taking down the patriarchy while accidentally snorting her drink out of her nose. There are regular features such as ‘Feminist Ladies We Love’, ‘An American Boyfriend Chips In Where He’s Not Wanted; or, The Token Bloke’ and eventually ‘Agony Aunties (And Other Annoying Relatives)’ in which they attempt to give advice in response to a chosen listener letter, deferring to areas of expertise or experience or, sometimes hilariously, trying to tag-team an answer. Episodes are fifty minutes to an hour depending on how many times someone falls (or gets pushed) off their chair howling.

This is just me describing the perfect podcast now, isn’t it. TL;DR: SOMEONE MAKE THIS PLEASE I NEED MORE SPINSTER CLUB IN MY LIFE.

Would you like to see YA books turned into podcasts? What books would you pick? Do you have any podcast recommendations? Leave a comment down below!

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IN THE RED(ISH) CORNER: recent cover favourites!

Today on the blog, I talk some of my favourite recent YA cover designs (and try not to tear my hair out trying to figure out who actually designed them). I’ll be doing a follow-up post on my favourite cool-tone (navy, blue, green, etc) covers soon, too!

29740718What’s A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne
cover design by Hannah Cobley

The Spinster Club books are funny, entertaining, fierce and, of course, have unmistakable covers. Quite unusually for contemporary YA, they rely on solid, almost clashing colour combinations: yellow and black, pink and black, and here, in the final book of the trilogy, red and black. I was impressed by how loud this one is and how much force it gives to Lottie’s empowering, feminist mission. The illustration is energetic and unique. Also I hear the proof came with lipstick and those red-lip jelly sweets you can buy (A+ work, Usborne).

29979535Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens
cover design by Nina Tara

I really like the Murder Most Unladylike series covers, you guys. They have such a classic feel. The title placement, the silhouettes, the series banner… ugh, they’re just too good. Striking, fitting and easy to recognise, I’m a big fan how much they match and how bold they are, particularly this latest installment. This red (a happy red, not like, a Scorsese red) merges the series design with the Christmas theme and totally suits Daisy and Hazel. They’re usually shelved in children’s or middle grade books, but they have huge multi-age appeal.

30197201A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
cover design by Pan Mac Art Dept 

This eye-catching cover is fabulous. It’s both simple and complicated, and there’s gold foil. GOLD FOIL! (Gold foil, as you will see, is a bit of theme for me when it comes to book covers). I love that it’s just close enough to Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things to be familiar but different enough that it establishes the individuality of Rhys and Steffi’s story (which I adored, as you can read here). I like the typography, too, and white is the perfect choice. My own copy of this fell victim to the Bookshop Sticker Monster (*sob*) but I rescued it and now it is SHINY.

25756328Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
cover design by Simon & Schuster

I haven’t read this one yet, but just can’t help liking its design: if we’re talking judging a book by its cover, then Love & Gelato has absolutely rocketed up my to-be-read list because of its gorgeously simple design. It’s elegant, pretty and it has ICE CREAM. I’m not always a fan of beige but the soft pink hues to the pale background give it an almost earthy feel which is oddly satisfying. I would’ve liked to see multiple flavours or colours on the cover but then that’s just because I really enjoy gelato.

25909375Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
cover design by Marie Soler (art direction) and Luke Lucas (illustration)

Katherine Webber’s début novel has two fabulous UK and US covers, but while I love the watercolour effect of The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, I’ve chosen the UK cover as it’s the one I own! I like the colourscheme, the bounce of the trainer (or sneakers, or runners, depending where you’re from) being depicted mid-movement, and the effect of the laces as the title is obviously clever. I’m not sure about the tagline placement (CENTRE IT, CENTRE IT) but what you can’t see from this angle are the ombre pink-purple sprayed edges, which are awesome.

29852514The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
cover design by Dominique Falla 

I think everyone found this cover breath-taking when it was first revealed. It bursts off the page, a riot of colour. If anything, I liked it even more when I discovered the process and inventiveness behind it (you can see how the tactile, three-dimensional cover was created here). It’s a great example of a really slick, ultra-modern cover that does a lot of work in making the book stand out, and while it focuses more on impact than content, the bright and explosive feel is  evocative of its insta-love story. 

And to conclude, some observations:

  • BRIGHT COLOURS FOR THE WIN, YES? I love, love, love bright colours.
  • If you’re going to have a pattern, you better make it classy or I will run for the hills.
  • I don’t mind pink in covers at all! EMBRACE THE PINK, PEOPLE.
  • I really, really like illustrated covers. I kind of had a feeling about this before I started researching, but it became incredibly clear once I began collecting favourites. For me, illustrated or graphic design-based covers are so much more versatile and appealing.
  • Related: I loathe YA book covers with models ontumblr_mqakvcc0cV1qmn5ngo5_250 them, especially if they have anything to do with the Gothic-girls-in-big-dresses or pastel-teenager-caught-in-sunrays-muses-about-life tropes. BLECH.
  • Make the title the most important thing on the cover! Big, eye-catching typography is your friend.
  • Simple and elegant, everyone. Simple and elegant.

What about you?  Do you judge books by their covers? What are some of your recent favourites?

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The Paper Alchemist does Pop Culture // Doctor Who series 10 episode 1 review

Today’s blog post is something different – a chance to indulge in my Doctor Who fandom! I don’t know if I’ll review the rest of the series, but it’s been so fun to write tumblr_oogw7angze1qf5tr5o1_500this one. 

It’s that time again: The Doctor has a new companion, a theme tune you could recreate with only the contents of a slightly dodgy dishwasher is ringing out and the BBC’s Saturday evenings are full of aliens once more. Peter Capaldi’s hair, accidentally suffused with several years’ worth of timestream ether, has exploded by at least 238%, and his Doctor seems to have softened around the edges, too: gone is the harsh, gloomy turn which appeared in much of his previous series’ self-recrimination, replaced by a kindlier, more eccentric figure. He’s just as prone to sudden leaps and occasional melancholy but perhaps willing to engage in a little more silliness and gusto. A poignant moment comes when he uses time travel to provide an emotional Bill (Pearl Mackie) with pictures of the mother she lost. He and Mackie bounce terrifically off each other – and it is Mackie who really shines here.

A rather rudimentary plot in which the Doctor and Bill are essentially chased across the universe by a semi-sentient puddle is mere scaffolding, an excuse to give this new acquaintance a chatty introduction. When it comes to companions, modern Who always works best when taking the ordinary and putting them into the extraordinary. Jenna Coleman’s plucky, much-maligned Clara suffered because no-one could decide what she was supposed to be, the promising Impossible Girl concept which saw her as everything from feisty governess to cheeky schoolteacher losing momentum as explanations became convoluted or individuality was sidelined in favour of perfunctory dialogue and exposition. As it stands, Moffat has taken what must seem like the only logical step and tried to forget any of it ever happened, but for fans the memories remain strong.

Thus Mackie’s Bill is less a breath of fresh air and more a bracing lungful, like being pushed out of a sauna into the Finnish snow in the nip. Inquisitive, gobby and wide-eyed, Bill isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions (“It’s like a… kitchen! A really posh kitchen. What happened with the doors though, did you run out of money?”) or ogle a bit when she finds herself in a time-travelling policebox helmed by a man with a penchant for extravagant outerwear. The message is clear: Bill is like us, only funnier.

Some lush camerawork and cinematography wraps an adventure in which The Doctor and Bill brave university essays, mysterious baths and unwitting villain Heather (Stephanie Hyam), who was looking a bit Jack at the end of Titanic (THERE WAS ROOM ON THE DOOR) after being thoroughly soaked by an alien oil slick. As they took refuge in a conveniently placed TARDIS (“The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried,” remarked Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor in Rose, followed promptly by a more brusque “Now shut up a minute”), Bill alternated between deadpan and brassy, deftly played by Mackie when the Doctor couldn’t seem to understand her working-class origins and inability to enrol at St. Luke’s. Throw in such mainstays as jabbing buttons, running, unnecessary Daleks, a fairly constrained timeslot, and more running, and series ten announced itself with the kind of oomph some Who fans haven’t seen in years.

For long-time Whovians there were Easter eggs a-plenty, from nods to twenty-first century companions Clara (mind-wipes and familiar music) and Rose (chips, even Bill’s general bolshiness) to classic Who throwbacks including a glimpse at some disco-meets-Masterchef  white-clad Movellans and perhaps most interestingly, several weighty glances at a framed photograph of the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, alongside another of River Song (archaeologist, wanted criminal, escape artist, the Doctor’s sometime-wife, and general badass). Despite occasional references – David Tennant’s “Donna, I’ve been a father before” after coming face-to-face with Jenny in The Doctor’s Daughter among the most heart-wrenching – to a past family life, The Susan Question has been rarely addressed in modern Who, and it’s one I’d love to see explored and finally answered. Capaldi, who is set to take his leave at the end of the current series, certainly has the grit and gravitas to pull off the look of a man confronting questions of family and loss. Could there even be more to it? Could Susan have more of a story to tell?

Small details and key teasers for the rest of the series litter the episode. The Doctor’s magnificently decorated office and university professorship should feature again as he protects a suspiciously alien-looking vault beneath the university, while Nardole’s continued presence seems like something of a misguided afterthought unless there are bigger plans in store. Bill joins River, Captain Jack Harkness, Madam Vastra and Jenny (not Jenny the Doctor’s clone-daughter, but a sword-wielding Victorian ladies’ maid who has a bit of a thing for lizard women from the dawn of time) and even Clara (who definitely had a fling with Jane Austen) as well as Class leads’ Charlie and Matteusz in the pantheon of canonically LGBTQ+ Who characters. The Doctor muses that she may see one-time crush Heather again with all of time and space at their disposal, but I’d rather see the rest of the series explore a more substantive relationship for her.

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For an episode that was somewhat light on actual plot ‘The Pilot’ packed quite a lot in. It even managed to gently poke fun at itself – whether in Bill’s “I know you’re not exactly a sci-fi person,” or her questioning of the usual TARDIS explanation: “It’s hidden itself as a box with ‘pull to enter’ on the front?” There were sparks of liveliness and awesome in this series opener that I didn’t expect. I hope it’s a sign Who will continue to deliver.

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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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DECK THE HALLS WITH BELLS OF HOLLY (BOURNE): books to give as Christmas gifts this year

We all know the drill: it’s getting closer to Christmas, and you’re wondering if you can swap out the traditional novelty mug and socks for something a little more…conducive to your their book addiction. Or maybe you’re still doing the bookworm’s good work in trying to convince friends and family of the wonders of books in the first place (moment of silence for all those still struggling with this quest). Or maybe you don’t celebrate but just want an excuse to peruse the shelves for hours give birthday or seasonal presents anyway. But what to choose?! To shed some light on the matter, I thought I’d take you through some YA and kidlit perfect for that hard-to-please reader in your life…(even if it’s yourself)

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THE CONTEMPORARY CONTINGENT

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne: I figured we should just get this out of the way first since it’s one of my favourite books to recommend and it’s kind of amazing. Heartfelt, raw and real, it’s the opening book in a trilogy about teens Evie, Lottie and Amber as they tackle friendship, feminism, and feeling less alone in the world. Focused on Evie, this book is also a great introduction to some of the best handling of mental health YA has to offer. It’s not always an easy read, but it’s chatty, accessible and honest. Fabulous.

Love Song by Sophia Bennett: Love Song is warm, feel-good and so well-written. It’s about unexpected allegiances, fractured friendships, new experiences, good food, great songs and of course, a boyband. (If you’re not aware of the #boybandlit phenomenon, check out this post for all the details). i don’t even have the words to describe how fantastic it is, only that it’s one of Sophia Bennett’s best books. It’s full of drama, gorgeously tender moments (I personally love the scene where Jamie sings to heroine Nina’s sister Ariel) and, of course, music.

London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning: this is a book I’ll be giving as a gift this year, because it is brilliant. Fun, fresh, fast and full of joy, it’s a dizzying whirlwind of a book, pulling you in from start to finish. You can read my full (and much more eloquent) review here for more on its fierce female characters, grumpy French boys and glorious sense of humour.

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SCI-FI THAT’S NOT STAR WARS

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: adult fiction! OH MY BLOG?! A rare sight indeed. But then The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet is exceptional in many ways: a refreshing, episodic, detailed, diverse, non-dystopian space opera, it is sci-fi filled with colourful characters, rich cultures, thematic exploration and of course the occasional raising of stakes. Perfect for fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a little more drama thrown in. Another one I’ll be giving as a gift this Christmas.

The Last Beginning by Lauren James: Time travel! Starcrossed romance! Knitting! This is the story of Clove, a teenager investigating the sudden disappearance of two scientists, Katherine Finchley and Matt Galloway sixteen years before. There are multiple timelines, cool secondary characters in the shape of ex-hacker Tom and snarky computer Spart, and epistolary additions like letters, emails, extracts, doodles, transcripts and powerpoints which keep book both visual and interesting. Although it is a sequel so you should probably pick up its predecessor The Next Together as well. (You can read my reviews for both books here.)

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner: you know the upcoming Jennifer Lawrence/Chris Pratt movie, Passengers? This is a little bit like that, except YA got it first and oh, the luxury spaceliner in question has just crashlanded from hyperspace onto a nearby planet. Apparently alone, teenagers Lilac – wealthy, privileged, whip-smart – and Tarver – a cynical war hero who came from nothing and, when Icarus crashes, apparently still has nothing – must rely on each other for their very survival. It’s alternately narrated, has an epic romance, and is just generally FULL of feels.

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FIERCE HIGH FANTASY

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi: a lush, lyrical take on mythology and royalty, The Star-Touched Queen is fantasy of a slower kind. It dials things down a notch when it comes to pace and plot, but if you’re looking for world-building and a game of choice and chance that becomes steadily deadlier, then this diverse NYT bestseller may be for you.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: another technically-adult book, this is classy, classic fantasy, full of magical Londons and many-sided coats. Cut-throat almost-pirate Lila Bard steals something dangerous from Kell, brother of the prince of Red London, without realizing he’s an Antari – someone born with the ability to travel between worlds otherwise cut off from each other. Throw in waiting enemies, treacherous deceptions and poisoned power, and it’s a rich, compact opener to a trilogy.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: Throne of Glass is the ULTIMATE high fantasy series in recent YA. If you (or the person you’re buying for) love vast, sprawling sagas with thrilling quests, deadly secrets and just a dash of magic, and you haven’t read it yet, then you need to get on that STAT. Now’s the perfect time to get started, too, as the final book in the series releases next year (though I’m going to include the cover for the third book here because it’s fab).

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and finally: FICTION FOR THOSE PESKY KIDS

Winter Magic edited by Abi Elphinstone: a more recent release, this is a short story collection featuring contributions from award-winning children’s authors like Emma Carroll, Michelle Magorian, Piers Torday, Lauren St. John and Katherine Woodfine. And it it’s a book with a Christmassy winter theme! Its varied, vivid stories should have something for everyone and would make a great gift for eager young readers this year.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell: elegant, extraordinary and full of adventure, Rooftoppers is already being considered a classic of children’s literature, and it was only released three years ago. If you haven’t read it yet, then I urge you to pick this one up, as it’s such a great book. It sees heroine Sophie escape to Paris as she searches for her long-lost mother with only the information contained on the cello case she was found in as a baby to go on, and recounts her acquaintance with the rooftoppers, street urchins who live beneath the night sky. There’s a magical quality to the book even though it isn’t strictly magical, and Rundell’s prose has moments of pure brilliance.

Never Evers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison: ideal for readers nearing YA but with one foot still in middle grade fiction, this is a tale of early teen chaos and bashful charm. Never Evers has all the drama and disaster of classic light-hearted teen fiction – think Louise Rennison or Karen McCombie – with the added pandemonium of a school trip and ski slopes. It’s a landslide (or should that be avalanche?) of shenanigans: snow sport disasters, failed flirtations, new friendships, hidden ballet, igloo building, French popstars… oh, and the smuggling of a live hamster across several international borders. It’s mayhem, misunderstandings and mischief – and full of snow, too!

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So there you have it: your guide to YA and children’s books ideal for gift-giving this Christmas! (Or just for treating yourself). What’s the best book you’ve ever been given – or the worst?! Are your favourites among these recommendations?

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What’s this? YA recommendations for fans of Gilmore Girls?! YAAAAS

Today on the blog, we’re talking three of my favourite things: YA, great TV, and awesome lady characters. With just a few weeks to go until everyone’s favourite fictional mother-daughter besties Lorelai and Rory are reunited in Stars Hollow via Netflix, I thought I’d share a few reads to fill the Gilmore Girls-shaped hole in your life while you await the series’ return…

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7182579Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

In the inimitable Sarah Dessen’s Along for the Ride, academically ambitious teenager Auden works her way into our hearts as her usual composure begins to crumble under the combined pressure of big dreams, family relationships – there’s her force-of-nature single mother, an unexpected visit to her father, a stepmother she’s determined not to like and to top it all off her newborn half sister, Thisbe – and an unexpected break-up. Throw in a small close-knit town, the uncertainty of changing friendships and the possibility of romance, and this book makes for a classic contemporary with more than a touch of Gilmore Girls to it. Ooh, now even I’m feeling ike I need a re-read…

256003Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

Simple, straightforward and often heartbreaking, Life on the Refrigerator Door is the story of a mother-relationship told entirely through post-it notes and letters left on, you guessed it, their refrigerator door. It doesn’t have as much of an ensemble cast feel but catches you right from the start as a character study. The epistolary format makes for quick reading – ideal for slipping in when you’re short of time (or in the final few days before binge-watching, as the case may be). You may want to make sure you have tissues on hand first, though, as this one’s quite (read: very) bittersweet.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

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A fairly recent release (so new, in fact, that you can read my review here), The Unexpected Everything is big on friendships and on heroine Andie’s struggle to rediscover the warmth and closeness she once had with her now-distant politician single father. Focused, independent Andie has been on a path to med school for most of her life, but a summer full of surprises – including the last-minute offer of a dog walking job and running into sweet, bookish Clark – leads her to wonder what she really wants from life. In a list replete with beachside contemporaries, you may be pleased to note that with The Unexpected Everything there’s not a beach in sight: just a strictly-landlocked town full of familiar hangouts, friendship dramas, and some very endearing (if overly enthusiastic) dogs.

25663637When We Collided by Emery Lord

Emery Lord’s exuberant When We Collided is a book about family, fierce love and good food, set in a small beach town where teenager Vivi, recently arrived alongside her artist mother, meets local boy Jonah, who is struggling to balance running his parents’ restaurant and looking after his younger siblings with, well, actually getting the chance to be a teenager. It’s full of delicious details and there’s also exploration of themes like mental illness (which is rarely depicted so carefully or complexly on television) and how love – and help – can come from unexpected places.

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17307145Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

For a book more evocative of a Stars Hollow winter, Tamara Ireland Stone’s Time Between Us, with its snowy Chicago backdrop and cosy bookshop setting, should do the trick It’s a little older than some of the other titles on this list, but not much, and it’s still worth reading.  It’s led by a teenager who has a solid relationship with their family, and if you’re looking for a twist on the contemporary offerings elsewhere in this list, there’s the minor complication of the romance being influenced by, er, time travel to keep you entertained.

13625734This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Cheerful, captivating and easy to enjoy, Jennifer E. Smith brings a rich but straightforward style to this love story between Ellie, a girl who has spent most of her life in a small town and Graham, the boy whose accidental email sparked a friendship which has become so much more for both of them. There’s just one problem: he’s a teenage heartthrob, an actor surrounded by everyone except the one person he longs to see. Meanwhile, the knowledge that Ellie’s famous father is in no hurry to let the press or his family remember the scandalous affair which left her mother heartbroken has given her aversion to the limelight. Ellie’s close bond with her mom, affection for her hometown and dreams of being a writer give the book a splendidly Gilmore Girls feel.

And there you have it: six books to get you through the weeks until Lorelai and Rory’s return. Are any of these books among your favourites? Do you have any recommendations that fit the bill? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!

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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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