Saturday, 29 April 2017

Penguin Random House Children's Media Presentation 2017

I was in London on Tuesday at the 2017 media presentation for Penguin Random House Children's. Last year's presentation was brilliant - you can read about that here - and this one was no different.

The evening began with a goody bag (of course) and a browse of all the books piled around the room for people to take. I met Jim from YAYeahYeah and we chatted to Tom Fletcher - author and, y'know, member of McFly. He's just read Kiran Millwood Hargrave's The Girl of Ink and Stars, for anyone interested! (I haven't read it yet, despite all the hype. I should probably do that soon.) He was lovely, and if that wasn't enough, Dame Jacqueline Wilson was right behind him talking to someone else for the entire time?! Basically my entire childhood was in that room. It was a bit cool...

With eight Penguin authors in attendance, the first half took to the stage. First up was Ed Vere, author and illustrator of the fabulously funny Grumpy Frog. The grumpy frog is not grumpy, though; Ed assured us that he only dislikes a few things, like tight shoes, Brexit, and...

One of the many reasons I love children's publishing.

Taking to the stage after Ed Vere were sisters Natalia and Lauren O'Hara, who together made Hortense and the Shadow - Natalia writing, and Lauren illustrating. The book is about a girl who tries to get rid of her shadow, and is released in October. The book sounds (and looks!) gorgeous, and the sisters seemed so lovely, so I can't wait to read this when it comes out.

Adrian Edmondson was next with his new children's book, Tilly and the Time Machine. The book was inspired by the children of his friends who moved next door. Being an actor, he loved reading to them, but they'd already been read all of the classics... so, taking the daughter of his friends for inspiration, he created a new children's book. Oh, and it was also inspired by death.

The final author of the first half was Robin Stevens, bestselling author who has taken on the huge task of writing the second book in the late Siobhan Dowd's mystery series, which began with The London Eye Mystery. Robin has written The Guggenheim Mystery, and told us about her own visit to the Guggenheim Museum.

And then we had a break, in which I met someone who helped to shape the bookworm I am today, and whose books I always begged various family members to buy me... Jacqueline Wilson! Funnily enough, I'd heard her talk at Cambridge Lit Fest a few days before, but it wasn't a signing so I didn't meet her then. I believe she's just finished her 107th book, can you believe it?! She signed my copy of her latest book, Wave Me Goodbye (thanks to Jim for letting me have his copy when it didn't look like there were any left!) and we took a selfie. From maybe 5-11 years old, I loved Jacqueline Wilson. She did a signing fairly locally once, and I swear everyone at school went... except me. I was devastated. Another time, I started writing her a fan letter - with a pen and paper, and everything! - but it was never sent because I felt self-conscious about seven-year-old me's spelling mistakes, and I wasn't sure what to say. And now I've had a conversation with her in person (and Tom Fletcher). This week has basically been about fulfilling my childhood dreams.

If you're wondering why my badge is so high up, I literally had nowhere else to clip it. Like, I could've pinned it, but the top I was wearing is a thin one that could rip very easily. I've had lots of near-misses already, and I've seen far too many comedies and read far too many wardrobe-malfunction scenes in books to be that silly. Let's just call it a fashion statement (and hey, it meant Jacqueline referred to me by name, which is a moment I shall treasure forever.)

The final bunch of authors took to the stage: Tom Fletcher, Jacqueline Wilson, and Emily Barr. Tom read from his new middle-grade book, The Creakers, which will be out in October, and Jacqueline read from the book I mentioned earlier, Wave Me Goodbye. She also talked a bit about the inspiration behind it, as it's set during the war and is about a little evacuee who is a huge bookworm but is only allowed to take one book with her... Let's hope that never happens again.

Emily Barr, widely known for her adult psychological thrillers but more recently her YA debut, The One Memory of Flora Banks, spoke about her new book which I am very excited about. I hoped she would write another YA, and she has! It's called The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, which is an excellent title. I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

And then I got a selfie with Tom, in which I look homeless, but I'm used to it. We've got a new band now, anyway; not chosen a name yet but we'll get there, I'm sure. We'll get really big and then I'll be able to pay someone to carry all my bags, because carrying three very heavy bags of books and camera equipment across London when you're alone and 5"2' is really hard. #firstworldproblems.

In all seriousness, it was an amazing evening and, as always, I'm so excited to see what's next from one of my favourite publishers. I'm paraphrasing, but at the beginning of the presentation, the Managing Director of PRHC said that in these times of great uncertainty, children's books are more important than ever, and I couldn't agree more.

Which books are you looking forward to this year?

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Day I Became a (Temporary) Food Blogger

Last week, I was gifted a Gousto box to review, so today I'm becoming a temporary food blogger and showing you my loot. I love food and I love post, so this was an excellent delivery to receive, especially as it arrived along with my exam timetable... *panics*

Gousto is a website founded by a group of chefs who pick a bunch of recipes each week, and from those, subscribers can pick the ones they like the sound of and have the ingredients and instructions delivered to their door. (If you're not in to take the delivery, your food won't get ruined because there's a handy cool bag in the box.) They only send the amount you need for the meal/s you've chosen, and packaging is minimal, limiting waste. That also means that you'll get cute, tiny portions of things. LOOK AT THE TINY MAYONNAISE. I can't be the only one who loves tiny versions of normal-sized things, right...?

The first meal I picked was feta and sweet potato taquitos for two:
Wednesday, 19 April 2017

31 Books I Cannot Wait to Read This Summer

My first exam is in 29 days, and my last is in 51. That last exam will be the last exam. The last exam of my life. Unless I decide at some point that I do want to go to university, in which case... really, future Amber? You're going to put us in all that debt? Rude.

51 days, then, is how long I have to wait until I can tackle all the books I've been wanting to read for forever. We're on the home stretch, now. It's weird, though - I realised the other day that it's been close to a decade since I completely had time to myself; no homework to guilt-trip me into putting my book down, no seemingly-endless revision plans... I am very grateful to have been educated so well (and in so many different forms!) especially when so many people in other countries aren't; in fact, so many people in this country aren't. But it's weird to look back and see how much time it's taken out of your life, and how much time you'll have afterwards (well, until someone finally decides I would make an excellent employee, which I WOULD, by the way.)

Every year as it gets closer to exam time, my unread books look more and more inviting - but I resist, for the most part. Here are the books from which I'm having to restrain myself this time...

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

If you watched my January book haul, you'll know the story of how this came into my hands - and yet, as excited as I was, I still haven't had time to read it! I am no less excited, though, as this book focuses on racism and classism, and was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

This was unsolicited, and usually the unsolicited review copies that end up coming through my letterbox aren't really up my street. However - this one seems to be! Described as a 'compulsively-readable romance', protagonist Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, and can't resist opening up and writing back to this 'perfect' stranger. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers... intriguing.

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Ah, the sequel to an amazing book, and even featured in my list of most-anticipated reads of 2017... and yet, despite my proof copy, I still haven't got to it. However - silver lining - the later I leave it, the closer it'll be to the next book in the series, meaning I won't have long to wait...

Wanderlost by Jen Malone


My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

A dark Hollywood novel in which our protagonist is offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a film. But soon enough, according to the book's synopsis, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous. I seriously do not know how I haven't got to this sooner. Come on.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This book has fallen into my hands so many times, it must be fate. The first time was years ago when it first came out in the UK and I was sent a review copy. It didn't look like my kind of thing. It somehow ended up under my bed, discovered years later and given to charity. A few months later, I wanted to do a nice thing for a friend (shout-out to you, Charli) and so I tricked her into telling me what book she was after at the time. It was this one. Of course. So I bought it for her as a surprise. THEN, everyone seemed to be freaking out over the series and how good it is, so I bought ANOTHER ONE. FOR MYSELF. AND I STILL HAVEN'T READ IT. AND NOW IT'S BEEN UNDER MY BED FOR GOD KNOWS HOW LONG, AND THE CYCLE IS REPEATING ITSELF. I will get to it one day. I will.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

I remember seeing this on Twitter and remarking at how brilliant it sounded, and the next thing I knew, it was sliding through my letterbox from the lovely team at Bloomsbury. I was so happy! But also under a mountain of schoolwork. I cannot wait to finally read this - especially as Bloomsbury was kind enough to send it to me when I was fangirling over it.

Room by Emma Donoghue

My mum read this before it was cool. I didn't. So annoying. Before anyone even knew it was going to be a film, she read it, loved it, and recommended it to me so much that she ended up just giving me her copy. And then I didn't read it. And now it's a really popular film. Why am I like this?

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

This has had so many good reviews, and it's about a guy who's agoraphobic, and I very much enjoy seeing how authors tackle the topic. SOON.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

This will be my first Adam Silvera book! I don't know anyone who doesn't love his work, so I can't wait to read it for myself, especially as it contains themes of OCD, LGBT, and a whole lot of drama...

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Soooo... confession: I haven't read this. I know. I can't quite believe it, either. I can't wait to see what all the hype is about, though.

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Set in 1970s Alaska, four very different people come together under unlikely circumstances. The cover and title are beautiful - and, according to reviews, so are the words inside.

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

I've had this proof for a long time - a long, long time - and even now, my Twitter feed is often full of people tweeting their thanks to the author, and recommending it to anyone who will listen.

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

I bought this a while ago on the recommendation of @DailyJulianne on Twitter. The book is described on Goodreads as 'a fast-paced international escapade ... perfect for fans of Ally Carter', which sounds exciting! I think I got this during my GCSEs which is why I never got round to it... oops.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Okay, so I actually picked this up and read a fair amount, but then I got busy and it somehow dropped off my radar... aka I lost it. From what I read, it seemed pretty good, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in again... although I'll have to start from the beginning.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick is one of my favourite actresses, and I find her hilarious. Like, even her tweets have me in stitches, and they're cut down to 140 characters, so... a book of full-length essays is probably going to hospitalise me. We shall see.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

The release of its film trailer last month caused a lot of hurt to disabled people due to inaccurate and unrealistic representation. As this is a book I've wanted to read for years, I will still be reading it, but I'm glad this discussion took place as I can now go into it more critically, and aware of its issues.

The IT Girl by Katy Birchall

The IT Girl has been compared to Waiting For Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill, one of my favourite books, and seeing as I have the trilogy (thanks Egmont!) I cannot wait to give it a go. Plus, the author is lovely!

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

I think I picked this up at the Pan Macmillan blogger's brunch in December 2015 and, similarly to The IT Girl, it has been compared to a book I loved: Asking For It by Louise O'Neill. This book tackles some important subjects and I can't wait to finally read it.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The second book by the author of Everything, Everything... interestingly, this book has been praised for its representation of POC, so perhaps this will be better. Also, I literally just found out that this is set in New York City, aka my fave. Pleasebebetterpleasebebetterpleasebebetter.

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

Something tells me this is going to be an awesome book to kick off the summer... it's set in France and New York. I LOVE BOOKS SET IN THESE PLACES. ASDFGHJKL.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The first thing I noticed when I received this was the strap-line, which is 'five strangers walk into detention. Only four walk out alive.' Need I say more?

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

To be honest, I don't even know when I got this. It's been that long. It sounds interesting though, set in the unusual location of a boarding school for ill teens.

The Last Beginning by Lauren E. James

I LOVED the first book in this series, The Next Together, and pined after the second instalment for ages... and then, when I got a copy, I didn't actually have time to read it; always the way. I highly recommend the first book - it's so cleverly done.

Ink by Alice Broadway

Ink is the book everyone's been talking about recently - and the cover is beautiful; you can see it in action here

This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton

From what I've heard, a girl finds herself backstage at a gig, and expects to hate it... but accidentally goes viral. I love music in YA, so I can't wait to get to this one! 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I've never read anything by Stiefvater. I know, terrible. I actually read a chapter of this AGES ago and just couldn't get into it, but lots of people have told me to persevere, so I will. It'd better be good, guys.

Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Lange

Another popular author whose books I haven't read... oops. Rebel Bully Geek Pariah is said to be like The Breakfast Club rebooted, and the coming together of these four strangers will change their lives forever.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I bought this when it was reduced after the film came out, because I wanted to see if all the hype was true. Unfortunately, I haven't got round to it yet, and to be honest it's not really one of my priorities. It sounds interesting, though, and once I have time - I'll read it!

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

I LOVE CAITLIN MORAN. Seriously, if you haven't seen her TV show Raised by Wolves (axed, sad face) you absolutely need to - I'm sure it's online somewhere. She is awesome and I cannot wait to read this (as well as Moranifesto!)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I have this rule about reading a book before seeing its film adaptation, so when I won a copy of the DVD but not the book, naturally I had to get the books. And I still really want to see the film... but I haven't read the book. @ myself: hurry up, please.

Which books will you be reading after exams? Have you read any of these, and what did you think?

Saturday, 15 April 2017

And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon

Title: And Then We Ran
Author: Katy Cannon
Published by: Stripes
Publication date: 6th April 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Megan knows what she wants out of life and she intends to get it, whatever her parents say.

Elliott has given up on all his plans for the future - but then Megan bursts into his life with a proposal that could change it forever.

Together they embark on a road trip to escape their hometown and chase their dreams. But life is a journey and not even Megan can control where theirs will lead...

And Then We Ran is a book which intrigued and excited me the moment I pulled it from the envelope. I'm a sucker for road-trips, and this book is a road-trip both literally and metaphorically.

From the outside, Megan Hughes might be the girl whose sister died not long ago, but she is also pretty, popular, and one of those people who seems guaranteed to get the future they want. She hasn't spoken to her childhood best friend Elliot Redwood in years - he has a bad reputation due to his dad's mistakes, and the town of St Evaline hates his family. But he was also there on the night Megan's sister drowned. He couldn't save her - but maybe, with Megan's out-there proposal, they can save each other.

The premise of And Then We Ran is a crazy one, and maybe it shouldn't be believable... but it is; Cannon makes it work. Amidst the epic road-tripping, the slow-burning romance, the friendship, and typical small-town seafront life, I hugely appreciated another relevant topic which Cannon touched on: university applications. And Then We Ran perfectly captures how it feels to be left behind when your classmates are moving away to start a new chapter without you, how it feels to have your future hinging on a handful of exam results, and how money is - sadly and unfairly - a huge factor when people are deciding whether or not to go to university. The fact is that the existence of student loans doesn't always provide encouragement or relief but rather stops people from going entirely due to the debt that ensues, and this book gets that - it's a massive issue. Despite university often being mentioned in books, I've never seen UK YA do the 'pre-university' stage, never mind with such detail and accuracy. And this book gets both sides of the story: how it feels to be going, and how it can feel when you're not.

Additionally, Cannon nails the politics of a small town where everyone knows everyone, and the relationships were fully believable. And Then We Ran is not only an entertaining story but also a piece of writing which aspiring YA writers should look to as an example of good pacing and style - I have! I remember loving Cannon's debut, Love, Lies and Lemon Pies because it added a big dose of unpredictability to the typical YA contemporary, and this is no different. And Then We Ran is a treat to read by an author who clearly understands her readers, and it is an excellent example of genuine, unique and current YA. 100% recommend.
Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Book Blogger's Confessional

There are a lot of secrets in book blogging. That sounds rather ominous and far more dramatic than reality, but it's true. With stats, there are hierarchies; with cliques, there are enemies; with unsolicited review copies happily received, there are unsolicited review copies that aren't. Often shown is simply the positive side of things - book blogging is great fun, after all - but there are negatives, too, as I once discussed in my post about why you shouldn't start a book blog (ooh, controversial.)

That blog post, however, was only my opinion. And one of the great things about book blogging is that there are so many opinionated people from all kinds of different backgrounds and with all kinds of different experiences. So a while ago I decided to set up an online form where bloggers could anonymously reveal anything that irks them about book blogging... and today we're going to hear from them.

Welcome to the Book Blogger's Confessional.
Friday, 7 April 2017

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Title: Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 5th January 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Sport
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. When tragedy strikes, she discovers an extraordinary talent she never knew she had. Wing's running could bring her family everything it needs. It could also keep Wing from the one thing she truly wants.

Having worked at BookTrust, and continuing to be a key part in the success of YALC, Katherine Webber has long been a pillar of the YA community - and now she's written a book!

Fifteen-year-old Wing Jones feels like she is sticking out rather than standing out like her perfect older brother Marcus. He has a beautiful girlfriend, a promising future, and shelves of sports trophies. He is the family's golden child. But when the family is hit by a wave of bad news, Wing gets her chance in the spotlight, and over several months, embarks on a journey to find out what she loves, who she is, and how strong she can really be.

In terms of race and sexuality, Wing Jones is fantastically diverse - we know this within just a couple of pages. I really appreciated the authenticity Webber could bring to the plot, having studied in various different places including Atlanta, where the book is set, and Hong Kong. In addition to this, one of the subjects Webber studied is Chinese Literature and Language, which I imagine must have influenced Wing Jones. Unfortunately, racism is a long-term issue in the publishing industry, and hopefully this - along with other brilliant and necessary books like The Good Immigrant and The Hate U Give - will show that BAME (Black and Minority Ethnicity) books do sell. To say otherwise - and the industry often does, explicitly or not - is wrong.

Further reading: This fantastic review from Joséphine at Word Revel

Now I don't know about you, but I always read a book's acknowledgements, mainly because I'm lucky enough to recognise some of the legendary people often mentioned, and also because... they're interesting! Webber's acknowledgements told me that she wrote most of Wing Jones in the British Library, which I wrote about recently after visiting for the first time. (Weirdly, I randomly plucked this book from my TBR just a few hours after writing that post, in which I dreamed of writing a book in the British Library one day...) Not only that, but Wing Jones began as a NaNoWriMo project! It's so awesome and inspiring to see NaNoWriMo novels go on to actually be published and successful.

Wing Jones would be perfect for fans of Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Stephanie Perkins, David Levithan, Jandy Nelson... it's an example of truly brilliant YA Contemporary, and needless to say, I will be pushing this novel into the hands of everyone I know; in fact, I've already started! Wing Jones is one of those books you wish you could have the experience of reading for the first time all over again; an amazing book that I am so glad exists, a book about realising that you are stronger than you think.
Monday, 3 April 2017

#AskAmber: Fear, Publishing, and Potatoes

Despite the fact that my previous #AskAmber became inundated with questions about wheelie bins, I've decided to do it again. No wheelie bins this time, you'll be glad to hear - just some deep questions including potatoes and fear (but not together, because potatoes are glorious.)

Ooh, that's tricky - I feel like they have pretty much everything covered! I'd love to see more of an emphasis on bookstagram, though. Bookstagram is basically the hugely popular bookish side of Instagram, and sometimes instead of writing a full review of a book here on the blog, I'll feature it over on my Instagram instead. It can get the same results but with a completely different audience, and I'm kind of obsessed with it.

A few years ago, I was working away on my blog, and the clock hit 3am. I was probably slightly delirious, and for some reason I decided that I needed a brand new blog logo (and an entirely new template...) there and then. No planning. No consideration. I literally just jumped right in and played around with whatever came to mind. I'm really happy with it though - I even have it on a jacket because I'm a boss woman or something. I used to change my blog logo and template every few months, but I haven't changed the current design in years, which says a lot.

I'll eat them mashed, roasted, fried, sauteed, baked... I won't eat them boiled or raw. I have taste.

This is hard because I'm equally proud of a lot of posts but for different reasons, and it's the same with posts that embarrass me. For example, I'm vaguely embarrassed about the post where I 'revealed' (for lack of a better word) my ongoing experience with anxiety and panic attacks. I was in a really bad place when I wrote it, and I was very open - like, the level of open you might be in the privacy of a therapist's office rather than the Internet. I purposefully haven't read it since I published it because I know it's a mess, but I also know it's helped people.

There are other posts, like my first ever book haul, which... I mean, why? Why did I publish that? There's literally no substance to it. At all. Go and read it, I dare you. Photos taken with a grainy Nintendo DS in artificial lighting against the background of my kitchen floor, and no mention of what I actually think of the books. Christ.

Posts I'm proud of can be found in this handy Twitter thread!

'If anything' - how optimistic of you. The paranoid part of me is like, Amber, don't reveal your fears on the interwebs, people could use them against you. But I'm annoyingly trusting so whatevs. I fear bad things happening to anyone close to me (extreme illness, death, something bad happening to anyone close to them which will then negatively effect themselves...), vomit, driving in the dark, and driving in fog. ...Does that mean I have four fears? Oh my god. I am Four from Divergent. I AM BADASS-ish.

I would never eat macarons again. I don't get to eat them that often anyway. Peel the avocado, peel the avocado...

I started book blogging because of YA author Luisa Plaja, who used to run Chicklish, one of the biggest book review sites in the UK. I contributed to that for a while, and through Chicklish I discovered an entire community of book bloggers: Sasha from The Sweet Bonjour and Ria from The Beaucoup Review are two I remember the most, but unfortunately they're not around anymore.

The first place is... Paris. I'm envisioning a delightfully bright and airy Airbnb with curtains that flow in the gentle spring breeze from the balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

Amsterdam is a place I've wanted to visit ever since I read Anne Frank's diary as a child. I'd love to go to her museum, in addition to the TFiOS bench (or whatever's in its place now?) and the beautiful sights in general.

My third choice is... Edinburgh. I didn't really know anything about it until Zoe Sugg vlogged her trip there a few months ago, and it looks like such an amazing place.

To be honest, though, I want to go to most places. These three are just the tip of the iceberg...

Thanks for sending in your questions, and sorry I couldn't answer them all! Click here to read the last Q&A I did.