Tag Archives: reading

What I Read in 2016

26 Dec

I’ve been looking forward to doing my reading round-up for a while. I made it to 51 books this year (so far – I’m sure I’ll squeeze in another before the very end), not beating my 2015 score of 64, mostly because I was driving to work for a few months. It’s the usual mix of literary, YA and trash – but I’ve also really got into non-fiction lately and read some absolute corkers.

As always, I’ve bolded those I’d particularly recommend. It’s quite a few this time.

  1. A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk
  2. Asking for It by Louise O’Neill (A devastating look at rape culture. Everyone needs to read this)
  3. Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman
  4. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (A super fun fantasy YA – sharpshooting in the desert)
  5. The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury
  6. Iron Council by China Mieville (I always think about CM’s books for years after reading them. Iron Council no exception. Fantasy with poison barbs) Continue reading
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Summer Reading List

4 Aug

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Hello all! I’ve just spent a lovely week in beautiful Crete. As a massive Hellenophile, a holiday in Greece is just my idea of perfection: sun, sea and souvlaki. I also got loads of reading done, which is good because I’ve been a bit behind this year and definitely won’t beat last year’s total score. I got through a book per day, and without planning it, ended up reading exclusively female authors.

 

Some thoughts (in reading order):

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Goals, Resolutions and Pie Crusts

28 Dec

As the year wends its tired, bloated way to a close, it’s time to think about the dreaded ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. Of course, sometimes we need to have goals and aims rather than just ‘I resolve never to…’. For many years, I had only three: read more, write more and be less of a loser. All three probably still apply for 2016.

Last year I set some more specific aims in response to a post on one of my favourite blogs, Fluent in 3 Months. Benny had some good advice, which was to make sure your goals are concrete (a bit like the SMART targets we’re always setting with the kids at school).

As you can see in his comments, I set out the following aims for myself (with a languages slant, as per the blog):

Learn enough Japanese to get by in Japan: Achieved! I learned how to read hiragana and katakana plus a few basic kanji, which meant I was able to locate a Monjayaki restaurant in Tokyo with no romaji sign. It was really delicious so the pain of doing my Memrise/WaniKani reps was worth it! I was also able to ask a few basic questions of tour guides and bus drivers. Okay, I wasn’t conversing freely, but I learned enough to make the trip fun. I should probably revise this at some point because I haven’t done any Japanese since August.

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What I Read in 2015

27 Dec

I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of the year – and time for my reading round-up. It’s a bumper edition of 64! I’ve read a really good mix of things, including some literary classics, some acclaimed adult fic and, of course, some cutting edge YA.

As per usual, absolute favourites are bolded.

The List: What I Read in 2015

Between the Shadow and the Soul by Susanne Winnacker

The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox (fascinating non-fic about Alice Kober and her contribution to the decipherment of Linear B)

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

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Summer of Lesbian YA

14 Nov

A YA or MG novel featuring LGBTQIA+ characters but not focused solely on sexuality, suitable for teaching to 12/13-year-olds.

That’s what I was asked to find by my boss this summer, in an attempt to diversify our teaching and promote a more tolerant school community. Turns out it’s a really difficult brief to fit. Not only are there few novels featuring any LGBTQIA+ characters (although the number is growing – see Gay YA for a list), most are for an older audience. Whilst there is some debate to be had over whether it is right to seek out novels that don’t foreground sexuality, I also had to bear in mind that my boss wanted something that centred around something else.

With that in mind, I tried out four different books in the hope of selecting something that could be trialled with one of my classes (Year 8). As I work in a girls’ school, I decided to narrow my search to focus on female characters, and ended up choosing four novels with lesbian protagonists as they looked most promising in relation to the brief. The process turned out to be a lot of fun – I had not read many LGBTQIA+ YA books before, so it definitely broadened my reading horizons, as well as introducing me to new authors.

I read:

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The Bookish Community

29 Jul

Hello everyone! It’s been a little while. I would I’ve been busy, but now I’m on summer hols (mwahahaha) I can’t claim that as an excuse.

One thing I have been doing lately is engaging a bit more with the bookish community in real life, rather than online. Yesterday I went to my fourth ‘Super Relaxed Fantasy Club’, a meet-up/book-reading for fans of fantasy and sci-fi. There are lots of lovely authors, readers, bloggers and publishers who attend, and it’s a nice space in which to meet people and talk about great books! I’ve discovered a few new authors through the event, and it’s always interesting to hear from them in person about why you should pick up their work. Not all the authors are YA/children’s, although some are, and not everything is to my taste, but it truly is a relaxed environment so it doesn’t really matter. The event is held on the last Tuesday of every month at the Grange Hotel in Holborn. I can’t attend all the time because it’s quite a trek from school, so I definitely appreciate having the chance to do so during the holidays.

Of course, last week was also the second Young Adult Literature Convention (or YALC), which I blogged about last year. I attended on Saturday and Sunday and had a similarly brilliant time. This year, the set-up at Olympia meant we had our own area, which was far less frenetic and terrifying than the crush at EC. There were some great deals on new releases from a wide range of publishers, so I’ve stocked up on some promising paperbacks. I also picked up a huge amount of swag for decorating my classroom! Once again, a range of interesting panel discussions were held, and the big space allocated for this meant the awkward ticketing system was dispensed with. I saw talks on feminism, sex, fantasy, LGBT+ and troubled teens in YA, as well as taking part in the Hunger Games quiz, chaired by Caesar Flickerman himself.

Another interesting strand was the Agents’ Arena. Molly Ker Hawn’s discussion with Kat Ellis about the agent-author relationship was fascinating, especially as it revealed the amount of work on both sides that goes into submission. I also had another chance to take part in the Agent 1-1 sessions. As my (awesome) convention buddy Soizic noted, such sessions are really sought after and expensive at other events. What a privilege for us to get it included!

Speaking of Soizic, it was very nice to meet her for real for the first time. We have corresponded for a while ever since I happened to meet her boyfriend through a friend of my boyfriend (yeah, it’s confusing). It’s definitely helpful to chat things over with a fellow writer who understands the struggle…!

This year I decided to dress up, just for the hell of it. It was actually a really fun experience! My Saturday costume, Gansey from The Raven Boys, was super comfy and I found myself getting more into relaxed ‘boy mode’ as the day went on. I even had one photo request! On Sunday I dressed as Julie from Code Name Verity, which really changed the way I moved and felt. Wearing red lipstick and heels made me feel and act in a more feminine way, but it was definitely harder to sit down in!

Only 50 or so weeks to decide on next year’s costumes…

What are 13-year-olds reading?

17 Jan

The YA community is always abuzz with news of trends and ‘big books’, so much so that it can be hard to follow what’s in and what’s out. As we know, a large part of this trade is driven by adult consumers, but we must remember that YA also includes the Y part of the equation!

At the moment I teach five ‘literacy’ lessons a week to different classes, which includes time for silent, individual reading. Now that I work in a girls’ school, the majority of the pupils really enjoy having the chance to choose and read their own books (in a mixed environment, this was more challenging – there were many boys who liked to read, but some others found it hard to settle and focus for extended periods, or to find something that suited their interests – I highly recommend the Guinness Book of Records for such occasions). There are still one or two in my current classes who are reluctant, but as I always say, you can’t possible ‘hate all books’ – you just haven’t found the right one yet!

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to post a snapshot of what one class of 13-year-old girls were reading this week, to give some insight into how the younger teens are engaging with YA (or not, as the case may be – many of their books would be considered MG). The results are interesting, and may surprise some people – overall, they suggest that what kids really want is something familiar and comforting, and that new releases are not necessarily foremost in their minds.

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