Bookish Event: YA Fantasy Panel with Garth Nix and Co.

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Lovely readers, I have a packed event schedule for the next week so there’ll be more bookish events posts over the next few days – you guys are in for a treat! Also doing my first giveaway (which may involve signed books by YA Queens Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo!!!) so keep your eyes peeled for that…

Now onto business… Earlier this week, I went to the YA fantasy event hosted by Waterstones Piccadilly with a stellar panel of authors – seriously. We had the legend Garth Nix (Old Kingdom/Abhorsen series), Melinda Salisbury (The Sin Eater’s Daughter series), Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel in the Sands series), Paul Magrs (The Lora Trilogy series) and Laure Eve (The Graces series) with Buzzfeed’s Chelsy Pippin chairing.

It was fascinating to hear the authors talk about the fantasy genre – from how they go about world-building, writing characters, and thoughts on the YA genre. To do all of the authors justice, I thought it would be fun to do this post in an interview style but please note this is very much a summary and not verbatim!! 

First question was how the authors find their inspiration – how/where do the ideas for their books and characters come from?

Garth Nix talked about the 21st anniversary of Sabriel (published 1995 in Australia!) and how he never really left the Old Kingdom – there was no “coming back to it” when Clariel was published in 2014 and Goldenhand this year. One of the oddest places that Garth has ever had an idea come to him was during a root canal! Melinda Salisbury said ideas never came to her fully formed but rather solidified over time whilst Alwyn Hamilton wondered what us normal people did during commutes or before bed because that’s when she gets her inspiration. Laure Eve echoed this, saying coming up with ideas for books was her version of worrying whilst Paul Magrs said he gets inspiration from his favourite childhood things and smashes them together – Lost on Mars is actually a mash up of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Laura Ingell’s Little House on the Prairie!

Next Chelsy asked how the authors went about writing strong female characters.

Garth found this question amusing saying he was always asked about how he wrote “strong female characters” as if they were a rare, fantastical thing. He found it odd that he was never asked how he imagined up his actually strange fantasy creatures which actually involves some strong imagination [I loved Garth so much more for this brilliant answer]. He said the answer was simple – he wrote, and could write, strong female characters because that’s exactly what he was surrounded by growing up e.g. family members. He also gave credit to classic YA writers such as Tamora Pierce for her portrayals of female protagonists. Laure, Alwyn and Melinda chimed in agreeing that Pierce was a massive inspiration when they were growing up and for their female characters. Paul went back further and pointed to characters like Alice and Dorothy who were independent and curious young women and influenced his work.

World-building was bound to come up during an event with fantasy authors and come up it did!

Alwyn explained how she took her favourite parts of different worlds – Rebel of the Sands was a mash up of the Wild West and 1,001 Arabian Nights but she forced elements of both to work together for example, iron was very important in the Wild West for horseshoes and symbolised luck whilst iron is thought to ward off jinn in the East. Laure spoke about how music was her biggest inspiration for world-building and how she tries to translate music and how it makes her feel onto a page when she writes. Melinda said she was very visual and atmospheric – she comes up with scenes in her head and knows exactly how things like light and shadow look to build the world around these scenes. Paul said he likes to do it as he goes along, to keep it interesting and Garth agreed saying writing fantasy is like an iceberg where the book is only about 10% of the world that the reader sees (except authors like Tolkein who is a world-building genius).

There was a Q&A with the audience and one of the most interesting questions was how the authors feel about having their works pigeonholed into the YA genre?

Alwyn explained that whilst YA tends to be about teens it does not mean it is only for teens by any stretch of the imagination. Both she and Laure talked about how although the genre is about growing up, this is something everyone can relate to – we can all remember the awkwardness, confusion and loneliness we felt at this point of our life and so the genre transcends age. Garth agreed and said that genres were less for readers and more for publishers in order to maximise commercial success of novels. He hoped readers didn’t pigeonhole themselves into genres they would and would never read. Melinda finished off by saying she thought it was a great shame if people rejected novels because of the YA tag because actually the genre is the vanguard of the publishing the world – it is pushing the boundaries on issues like sexuality, mental health and gender.

The event was followed by signings and I went a little overboard with the books I must admit. Also, we were able to spend ages talking to the authors who are just the nicest, it was the most laid-back event ever *fangirls* What do you think about their answers? Are any of these authors your ultimate fantasy YA writer?

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Bookish Event: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (No Spoilers!)

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I was very lucky to have a friend buy tickets for herself and me to go and watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. These tickets were booked a year in advance and so it’s weird to think I’ve now seen it and the whole experience is over *sad face* As promised in the title, there will be no spoilers in this post about the play itself, I won’t even mention the plot, characters or post photos which give away anything to do with it. Instead, I wanted to blog about the experience and share a couple of photos of the things I bought (so there are photos of souvenirs, also viewable online in the shop, but fair warning if you don’t want to see that stuff either!) 

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Somehow, through a big dose of sheer luck (and a lot of avoidance of Tumblr and Twitter), I wasn’t spoiled at all with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Going into it, I knew very little besides the strapline, that it was set 19 years later and was about the next generation. I’d also glanced at the casting when it was announced but had mostly forgotten even that. I went to the launch of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child screenplay (round up of the event here) and managed to be really disciplined about not flicking through the book or even reading the blurb (fangirl self-discipline ftw!) 

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The whole experience was beyond anything I could’ve imagined! I was gripping my poor friend’s hand the entire time and she mine and there were tears – won’t say if good or bad  😉 Before Part II my friend C and I met up with another Potterhead friend A, who was lucky enough to see it during the first few days of general release and we discussed our predictions for the second part. Suffice to say I was not at all prepared for the finale! During the intermission on the second night, I went a little overboard on the souvenir buying and my haul multiplied from the modest programme and magnet to the above. I ended up buying: a photo book of the making of the play, a programme, a tote bag, a t-shirt, a pencil, a postcard and magnet *sheepish*

I’m already trying to plan my next trip. I love the idea of experiencing something Harry Potter related for the first time – haven’t been many opportunities for this since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published and so a play in the HP canon was beyond my, and I imagine many fans’, wildest dreams. I can’t wait for more people to watch the play so the fandom can start having discussions about the play and plot but until then I will most definitely be #keepingthesecret  🙂

Bookish Event: Ransom Riggs Signing

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Waterstones Piccadilly, my beautiful bookish enabler, how I love thee. Yesterday, my lil sister and I went along to the Ransom Riggs signing in celebration of his new release, Tales of the Peculiar, and for his forthcoming movie adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the first book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. The sequels, Hollow City (#2) and Library of Souls round off the trilogy. Tales of the Peculiar is a prequel of sorts and was published a few weeks ago. The first book follows Jake, a boy who has recently suffered a terrible family tragedy, as he follows clues in photographs left by his grandfather. The photographs lead him to an remote island off the coast of Wales where an old orphanage stands, derelict and abandoned. As Jake explores this deserted island and orphanage he discovers that the children housed in it were not entirely normal – slightly peculiar you might say. And also that the crumbling orphanage might not be as abandoned as it first seems…

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As lots of you may know, the Pecular  series is a brilliantly gothic series, with the best vintage photography interertwined in it’s pages. I love that it’s such a unique book and definitely one that you *have* to read in hardback or paperback. I love that the photography was the trigger for the novel and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all translates onto screen! 

Ransom Riggs was joined by the illustrator of Tales of the Peculiar, Andrew Davidson, and it was just a signing rather than a talk/event and so it was pretty short and sweet. We also got given a gorgeous black canvas shopper as seen in the photos! So whilst we didn’t get to hear much from Ransom on the books, we did have a little amount of time to chitchat whilst he signed. My sister and I were intrigued about the movie as Ransom had tweeted about attending the London screening with the cast so we ended up grilling him about that more than the series (sorry guys, I failed in bookishness).

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We asked him how it felt to have his debut novel adapted to the screen and what he thought about the casting choices. He replied that it was utterly surreal (I can imagine!) to have his book turned into a proper movie with a worldwide release and that he was delighted with the cast, how he couldn’t have asked for a better Jake than Asa Butterfiled (totally agree btw!) and also the perfect director in Tim Burton. The cast of the movie is properly star-studded with Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Green, Rupert Everett and Judi Dench starring too. It is released in the UK on 30 September so watch this space for a movie review!

Finally, I kept (arguably!) the best news till last! Ransom was accompanied to the signing by his partner Tahereh Mafi of Shatter Me fame. I follow both Ransom and Tahereh on Twitter and absolutely adore Tahereh because of her books and her lovely personality. Also her style is just on point – I can report that her footwear, deep mauve suede heeled boots were fierce as per  😉 She had copies of her new book, Furthermore, on display too and we got that signed too. I can certify that she is absolutely the sweetest person irl – we asked her about their trip to London. She mentioned the screening and how proud she is of Ransom and seriously guys #relationshipgoals. 

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Furthermore is a bit of a departure from Tahereh’s previous offerings in that it is a middle grade fantasy novel. The blurb: In a world brimming with colour and magic, Alice’s pale skin and milk-white hair mark her as an outcast. For the people of Ferenwood, colour and magic are one and the same. Alice is determined to prove her magical abilities and solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. To do so she’ll have to travel into the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore. But nothing there is as it seems, and Alice may never find her way home… 

I love the cover of the book, it’s so magical and colourful exactly like the blurb describes and seems to me like it has a bit of an Alice in Wonderland vibe around it, probably because of the protagonist’s name and the description of the magical land of Furthermore. I’ll be reading this soon so you can expect a review of this soon too!

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Are you a fan of Ransom or Tahereh’s books? Are you planning to watch the Miss Peregrine  movie and what do you think about the casting choices? Let me know below! And #StayPeculiar  🙂

Bookish Event: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Midnight Launch!!

It has been a very long hiatus lovely readers and for that I apologise! But to make up for it, I’m restarting this blog with the ultimate post – the midnight launch of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! Warning – photos galore ahead!

I was lucky enough to snap up tickets to Waterstones Piccadilly’s midnight launch of the newest instalment in the Harry Potter saga and I managed to get back to the UK just in time to actually attend – cue much jetlag and deliriousness (apparently the ultimate way to Fangirl!) 

I went with four Potterheads friends and we got queueing outside before 10pm when the store was due to open. Whilst in line we got given gold envelopes that contained a gorgeous floor map, a bookmark, our book token, and our complimentary drinks vouchers. When we go inside my friends and I made a beeline for the quiz because one of my Potterhead friends is a self-confessed super fanatic and we wanted to give the quiz a shot…

Needless to say we won 😉 Although the question of which county Malfoy Manor is did stump us longer than it should’ve – we eventually guessed through a process of elimination and got full marks (14/14 right)! Our prize was a goody bag each of a gorgeous bottle of butterbeer, a puzzle, a HP chocolate lollipop and some choc coins! Btw that butter beer is never being drunk obv.

We then went on to do some of the other activities on offer which included face painting, cake decorating, photo booth, film props, sweet shop, wand shop and book shop – I think the sweet shop was easily my favourite and I confess I did go a little over the top with my haul 🙂 

Finally we began queueing for the book and the line looped all around the stairs and out of sight – it was so long. Whilst in the queue we created some gifs for Pottermore and got interviewed by some film crews! At midnight we shouted the countdown at the top of our lungs and sang happy birthday to Jo. 

When I finally got my hands on my book I couldn’t stop screaming!! I think I jumped up and down for about 10 mins straight outside Waterstones (I’m probably on some news footage somewhere…) To finally have it in my hands was an amazing feeling. However, I have vowed to not read it until I watch the play in October which might as well be 19 years later 😉 


Let’s just hope I don’t get spoiled in the meantime #keepthesecret

Did you go to a midnight launch? Or did you do anything with your friends to ring in the launch? What are your plans for reading Harry Potter and The Cursed Child? 

Shout about it in the comments below (and remember no spoilers about the book pretty please!)

Bookish Event: Alice in Wonderland Exhibition

 Alice in Wonderland Exhibition

Venue: British Library, London

Admission: Free entry

Dates: Until 17 April 2016

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄

The British Library is currently hosting a special exhibition on Alice in Wonderland to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the novel’s publication. I had to make two attempts to visit before I actually made it inside the exhibition – it was that busy the first weekend! It does show though just how popular and enduring this children’s classic still is 🙂

The exhibition is nicely separated out into two sections – one is a fun timeline of the story itself told in a bit of a storyboard style and using original illustrations from various iterations of the novel. There are definitely some of the more classic and recognisable illustrations and quotes that many visitors will recognise. The timeline section is a nice summary of the plot and gives you a chance to relive the classic tale which has featured in many a childhood in the space of 10 boards.

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The second section displays Alice in Wonderland memorabilia and through them tells the history of the novel – everything from manuscripts and first editions to illustrations showing the more modern interpretations of Alice in Wonderland. I found it fascinating to find out who the character Alice was based on, how the original manuscript looked and how society has taken Alice and her story and reimagined it in many different ways throughout the ages. The Picasso-style interpretation of Alice and the Carlsberg beer advert were probably my favourites!

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The best thing about the exhibition was that it was interactive and engaging – it was very photogenic and I did find myself taking a few pictures! The storyboard section will definitely appeal to kids whilst the adults among us who remember growing up with the novel will likely find the history of the book interesting. I also liked that the exhibition was brief and didn’t try and overload visitors with information. The items on display tell their own stories and it was fascinating to see how a novel written in 1865 is still so relevant and loved today.

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The exhibition is on until 17 April and so I would definitely recommend a visit if you’re a fan and what better time to visit than during the Easter break? There’s also a pretty awesome gift shop with items, such as notebooks, candles, home ware, Etsy-like jewellery and obviously different editions of the book itself.

Bookish Event: In Conversation with E. Lockhart

We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Gosh it’s been a while! And I apologise for the awol-ness! But not to worry as I have a slew of posts in the pipeline to update on all the bookish things I’ve been up to (promise!) 🙂 Now, on to the reason why you’re actually reading this post…

Emily Lockhart does not need any introduction. She wrote We Were Liars which you may have heard about… It is a book that has had readers raving about the characters and writing style as well as agonising over the ending. In testament to just how popular this book is, We Were Liars has just won best YA book at the Goodreads 2014 book awards. Emily’s second book to be published in the UK is The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks whilst she’s written lots of children’s and YA fiction in the US already.

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E Lockhart and Anna James from The Book People. On the back of Emily’s hands she has written the words “Read” and “Widely”

Anna James, from The Book People, led the discussion and we got to hear Emily talk about everything from her childhood to her book recs. Emily explained that the storyline of Liars was influenced a lot by her childhood. She used to split her time between a commune, where she lived with her mother, and Martha’s Vineyard with her grandparents in the summer and that’s where the idea behind Cadence and Beechwood came from. Emily said she was fascinated by the idea that a ferry journey could take you to “another life – the summer life”.

Emily mentioned she most associated with the character Gat from Liars, which I wouldn’t have guessed. She explained Gat was an outsider invited into a world of privilege (like Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights *fangirls*) and Emily likened it to her experience as a scholarship student in a prestigious private school – belonging but not belonging at the same time.

Emily signing books

There were some funny anecdotes like how both Liars and Frankie came about – Liars was conceived because Emily wanted to write about “real estate” (genuinely not making this up!) whilst a lunch with an editor led to an unplanned book deal and Frankie was born. And talking about choosing mottos for characters in Liars, Emily talked about some of the great sayings she’d come across such as “never read anything larger than your house” – one I think should apply to all of us booklovers 😀

Now for all you budding authors out there Emily had some top tips for undergoing the editing process. She said she tries to distance herself from editors comments for the first few days until she’s calmed down. Then she begins with the smallest edits first until even the big edits feel manageable. Butt Emily said if an edit still feels wrong after a week or two, she goes with her gut and sticks to her guns as all authors should.

On the left: "Don't let anyone underestimate you" One the right: "Be a little kinder than you have to... P.S Don't eat yellow snow"

On the left: “Don’t let anyone underestimate you”
One the right: “Be a little kinder than you have to… P.S Don’t eat yellow snow”

Emily also let us in on her favourite books and authors:

Finally, we were also treated to a teeny tiny teaser about Emily’s next book. All she would divulge was that it would have a “little bit of murder” so keep your eyes and ears peeled!

Have you read Liars or managed to get your hands on Frankie yet? Have you read any of Emily’s recommended books above? I’d love to hear about it so let me know in the comments below 🙂

Bookish Event: In Conversation with Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan

I was lucky enough to go and see Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan at Waterstones Piccadilly earlier this week. Maureen Johnson, Queen of Teen winner 2012, is author of the award-winning Shades of London and Scarlett series while the wonderful Sarah Rees Brennan’s is author of the best-selling The Demon’s Lexicon and The Lynburn Legacy series. It’s hard to sum up Thursday’s event so I think it’s best to start off with a photo from the first few minutes…

So where are Maureen and Sarah...?

So where are Maureen and Sarah…?

That is not an empty shot where my timing/photography skills were so poor that I didn’t manage to get Maureen and Sarah in the shot. No siree. They’re in that photo and virtual cookies for you if you can guess where 🙂

… Yes Sarah and Maureen were hiding. They randomly decided to hide behind the banners in Waterstones Piccadilly, the flagship (and largest) bookshop in Europe. And if that doesn’t make you adore them, I don’t know what will.

So that kinda set the tone for the rest of the event. It was more a comedy stand up performance cum catch up with best friend – with the audience as deliriously happy flies on the wall. It was a hundred miles an hour with topics changing faster than you could say “Pleeease tell us what happened to Stephen?!”

MJ and SRB Book Stack

The Name of the Star and The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson and Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

The event started off with an earsplitting squeaking contest (as you do) followed by Sarah and Maureen sharing lots and lots of anecdotes. I tweeted a snapshot summary which you may have seen if you follow me (if you don’t, you should!) and that wasn’t even a fraction of it. Behold a list of only some of the topics covered in the space of just one hour:

  • Chilling in cemeteries a la Sarah (she’s searching for Emmeline Pankhurst’s grave)
  • A flirting and stalking peacock that took a serious liking to Maureen in Ireland
  • Greencest and the potential continuation of A Study in Sink, Maureen’s John & Hank Green/Benedict Cumberbatch charity fanfic…
  • Sarah’s 3 minute book summaries – and a demo with Fifty Shades of Grey no less, which was obviously hilarious
  • Dinosaur porn – it’s a thing, ask Sarah who is highly knowledgeable on the topic…
  • Crazy fan experiences, featuring fairies (who wanted to buy Sarah’s books using their currency of buttons) and The Hoff although not at the same time, which is a shame really
  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Maureen thinking “he would do it a number of times” – you can make of that what you will…
  • Cabbie lies, wherein Maureen and Sarah masquerade as NASA experts and “those doctors that treat babies” when making small talk with taxi drivers
  • Why rational adults are not allowed in YA novels – “because they wouldn’t let our protagonists engage in plot” duh.
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Sarah and Maureen speaking about approximately 50 million topics

One serious moment saw Maureen speaking about her Coverflip project, where she called on her thousands of Twitter followers to re-create covers of popular books imagining that the authors were of the opposite gender. Twitter responded, brilliantly illustrating the different biases for covers created for female authors and male authors. Maureen explained that in the publishing world readers hold a lot of power: “reading culture is changed by readers demanding change from publishers” and that it is our responsibility, alongside authors, to call for the changes we want to see.

Maureen and Sarah signed their books and gave out little goodies. The third book in Sarah’s Lynburn Legacy series was also on sale – a month before the release date which was a treat! All in all, it was the best fun I’ve had in a while and I seriously can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.

MJ and SRB Signed Books

Signed goodies!

Have you been lucky enough to hear Maureen or Sarah talk at an event? Are you fans of their books? Let me know in the comments below!