Tag Archives: reading

What I Read in 2017

29 Dec

It’s here! My annual reading round-up!  As I have done every year since 2008, I’ve kept a record of everything new that I read this year. My favourites are in bold. I feel like I’ve bolded a lot this year…

Some of my books this year came in my Illumicrate subscription. I absolutely love receiving this quarterly book box – it’s like having a little birthday every three months. If you have a special occasion coming up for a book lover, you can wow them with this as a gift – or, indeed, buy it for yourself.

To the books!

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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

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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What I Read in 2014

20 Dec

I know the year isn’t over yet, but it’s around this time that I usually do my reading round-up post and I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself. This year I managed 43 books! I know that’s nothing compared to some of you out there, but it’s five more than 2013 and 2012. A longer commute and part-time work are probably to thank! I also feel like I read some amazing things this year, with very few duds and quite a nice variety in genre. The number of YA books decreased somewhat, to make way for a few more Adult reads and even a few non-fictions. My absolute faves are bolded.

The List: What I Read in 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Deathless by Catherynne M Valente (stunning Soviet fantasy – does for 20th century Russia what Pan’s Labyrinth did for the Spanish Civil War)

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (thought-provoking and utterly absorbing sci-fi set on a distant planet without an external light source)

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Vicious by Victoria Schwab (super-powered antics with a pleasing lack of certainty over who is the true hero)

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YALC Round-up!

18 Jul

Last weekend saw the inaugural Young Adult Literature Convention, held as part of the London Film and Comic-Con at Earl’s Court. I ended up attending both days – and I had the *best* time.

Saturday was a little overwhelming. I arrived at Earl’s Court at 11am clutching my pre-paid Standard Entry ticket, only to find a mass of people and a host of different queues. By a stroke of luck, I managed to join a fairly fast-moving one and got into the building in about ten minutes. Inside it was a bit of a crush, but eventually I managed to make it to the Book Zone, which was a an oasis in the insanity!

Immediately, I was struck by the range of visitors. There were lots of older YA fans, like myself, but also a lot of actual teenagers (some visiting as part of the Siobhan Dowd Trust scheme). I even ran into a couple of ex-pupils in the Rainbow Rowell queue, which was so lovely.

Everyone was incredibly friendly – because I was there on my own, I decided to be brave and strike up conversations with the people around me. I made some great friends on both days, including book bloggers, authors and even a couple of dedicated mums helping their daughters collect signatures.

It took me a while on Saturday just to get my bearings, so I was a bit slow on the uptake for talk tickets, meaning I only managed to get one – for the Doctor Who panel featuring Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and Marcus Sedgwick amongst others. It was interesting to hear about how they approached the task of writing for such a popular show, especially their individual takes on each Doctor. I also took some time to gather a lot of book swag for my classroom display and chat to the publishers on their stands. It was also great to get some autographs and signed books from authors like Will Hill (of the Department 19 series), Natasha Ngan (The Elites) and Patrick Ness. Patrick’s queue was enormous (I think I was in it for an hour and fifteen minutes) but totally worth it – he’s so nice. In a little non-book detour, I met one of my favourite actors, Jamie Bamber from Battlestar Galactica. He was incredibly sweet and also very tanned!

Sunday was much calmer and I felt a bit more like I knew what I was doing! I went straight to the ticket table and picked up a docket for the last talk of the day, a conversation between Sally Gardner and Holly Black. It was awesome – both are very interesting ladies with a lot to say about fairy tales, mythology and the power of the oral tradition. I also signed up for the ‘Meet the Agents’ workshop and was lucky enough to get a place, meaning I got the chance to pitch my work. It may have gone pretty well…

The best thing about Sunday, however, was getting to meet Meg Rosoff, Sally Green, Sally Gardner and James Dawson. They were all lovely and wanted to know about my writing and were then very supportive. In turn, I was able to tell them how much I have enjoyed their books! I also took a quick celeb-spotting recce round the actual con, only to notice that Edward James Olmos (also from BSG) had no queue, so I nipped in to meet him and pretty much died when he blew me a kiss. I turned round to go and realised I was crying – didn’t know I was that much of a crazed fangirl, but obviously I am!

Overall, it was a fabulous weekend. It was wonderful to be sharing my love of books with so many other fans, and encouraging to see as much enthusiasm for authors as for the many film and tv stars at the con. I only hope there will be another edition next year.