Monday, 26 October 2015

YAShot Blog Tour - Andy Robb Makes 'Em Laugh

Happy Monday all! Today is my 2nd stop on the YAShot blog tour, and I am thrilled to welcome Andy Robb, author of the Geekhood series on today.

For anyone who doesn't know, YAShot is a one day YA festival taking place on Wednesday 28th October in Uxbridge, London. Andy is taking part in the Make ‘Em Laugh: Using humour to create empathy and understanding panel at 4.40pm – 5.40pm  – Chaired by Matt Whyman with Ben Davis, Andy Robb and CJ Skuse

So in order to look at the humour and fun of Andy's work (not to mention the geeky love of comics), we did something a bit different to normal Q&As. Hope you enjoy! 

Meet Andy Robb, author of the Geekhood series.

First up Andy, what inspired the Geekhood series?

The series was actually inspired by my first crush. I fell hopelessly in love with a girl in my class. In my eyes though, I didn’t stand a chance. The one saving grace was that we got to walk home together every day. As far as she was concerned, we were just friends. But for me, she was the dictionary definition of ‘perfect’.

So one afternoon we were walking home, and I must’ve been communicating how down I was, because she asked me what was up. She said, I know what it is, you fancy someone. Who is it? 

And I told her, and I fainted.

What were you like as a teenager?

I was a bit odd: a curious mix of introvert and extrovert. At the time I was discovering drama and took every opportunity to be on stage. Amongst my friends I was the opposite and very withdrawn. It was a peculiar dichotomy that set the templates for Archie’s Inner and External Monologues.
What geeky things were you into?

If I wasn’t rehearsing for a play, you’d find me bolted-up in my bedroom painting D&D miniatures or reading.

I also loved Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Marvel Comics and Lord of the Rings.

All very mainstream now.

What’s your geekiest secret?

There was the time I dyed myself green with food-colouring to go to a carnival as the Incredible Hulk. Great idea in theory but when the food colouring doesn’t wash off after 3 days and you look like a palid pea in school, the novelty tends to does wear a bit thin…
Possibly my coolest geeky secret is that I auditioned for the part of Pippin in the Lord of the Ring and was trumped last minute by Billy Boyd.

What role do you think humour has in creating/ understanding characters?

I think humour is something intrinsic to us all: we all need to laugh. In creating a character, you want your readers to be able to relate to them and humour is one of the most communal aspects of the human psyche.

Also a clown once told me that “laughter is a universal language” and I think there’s truth in that.

What books inspired you as a kid?

The first book that made me aware that words could be funny was ‘Help! I’m a Prisoner in a Tooth Paste Factory’ by Jon Antrobus which I heard read-aloud on Jackanory.

I loved it’s madness and cracking one-liners. His ‘The Boy with Illuminated Measles’ was another proud favourite of mine.

From then on I was a worshipper at the altar of my local bookshop. Which was independent.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects?

I’ve got a couple of things on the go, but the one that’s taking pole position at the moment is a YA.

Hopefully, it’ll be funny, but I also want to throw some horror into the mix. My research has taken me to some pretty interesting places, one of them being a morgue!

Thanks so much to Andy for taking part in this Q&A with me! All the illustrations were done by him with a bit of colouring in by yours truly. If you are around the Uxbridge area and are free on Wednesday, you should definitely stop by Andy's panel and more events at YAShot. It's going to be an incredible day!

Bookish love,
Rachel xx

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

GBBO Tweetstakes Semi-Final Update!

Hello all! What a dramatic Quarter Final! Do we think it was a deserved dismissal? Did someone narrowly miss a bullet?

With the Semi Final next week, let's take a little look at our own standings... 

Stacey @theprettybooks
First out, commiserations Stacy
 Daphne @wingedreviews
Professional leaves 2nd week... or kicked out? 
Chelle @ChelleyToyWeiMingKam @weimingkam 
Crowd favourite but sadly just not technical enough
Laura Saltersauthor 
Poor Sandy, she was such a laugh too
Heather  @MissWBooks 
No more icing, please Ugne! 
Lily @cieria
Simple, sweet Alvin. Gone too soon...
  Alice @alibelle 
Mat, we'll always have stained glass fire trucks mate
Jesse @thatjessebloke  Robin Stevens, author 
May look like Paul, shame he can't bake like him. 

So the FINAL FOUR are... 

Keris Stainton, author

Mr Perfect has been knocked off the top,
but can he climb back up? 
 Laura @Midnightstar3
 @rachel90kennedy *not rigged I swear!*
Aptly dubbed the hot Tamale! 

Maisie @ThemaisieAllen
Move over Adele, the Nation has a new Sweetheart

So who will be knocked out next week and who will progress to the final? Who will conquer all other baking afficionados/masochists and win an inevitable cookbook deal?

But more importantly, which of us will get to pick a book for all the other GBBO Tweetstakers to read?

Find out next week!  

Good Luck to all, and may the best baker win!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Inside Out Book Tag!

WARNING! This post has spoilers!

So I came across this tag on Jesse The Reader's YouTube, originally created by Kristina Horner. It seemed such fun, so I'm changing it up for the written format. Starting with...

Joy - The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

I really did rack my brain to find another less clich├ęd book that gave me half the joy Harry Potter does. And I just can't do it! This series is my go to for warm fuzzies! All I want after a bad break-up, an argument with the family or a stressful day at work is to crawl into a big wing backed chair with a cup of tea and disappear into Hogwarts.

Not only is the story, characters, world and pretty much everything about it brilliant, it also makes me think of all the great memories I have had reading it over the years... my brother and I racing through The Order of the Phoenix on our American road trip when I was 15. Dressing up and going to queue at Waterstones at midnight for Deathly Hallows. Weeping in a cinema in Slovenia having watched the last of the movies and facing the crushing realisation that the series was over (okay, that one's not quite so joyful but you get the picture). All the brilliant Potter fanfiction and fanart I have ever read or seen, which enters me into another world of joy all its own. It introduced me to the world of fandoms and lead me down a path into awesomeness. Thanks JK, you really are a beacon of generation Y. 

Disgust - Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Disclaimer - I love this book... in retrospect.  But at the time I found it rather disgusting. Not a gross out kind of way, more a general despair for the human race way. Louise, why you so bleak? Why you so right?

I think why I was so repulsed (in a good way) by the fictional world Louise created was just how much of it I recognised in our own reality: girls tearing each other down and judging each other’s appearances, the barbed things they say that make freida self-abusive, the matter of fact approach to starvation, food and purging, the surgical manipulation, the overwhelming need to belong to a group even if it is a self-destructive one. And then there was the more fantastical stuff that doesn’t yet feature today: the termination dates for companions, the abuse of the concubines, the overly sexualised and powerful young men acting like animals… wait…

The way freida is treated in the final closet challenge made my stomach churn, her desperation was palpable. And let’s not mention that ending shall we… bleh!

Fear - Say Her Name by James Dawson

I don't read or watch horror. Partly because I have a very overactive imagination and get the world's scariest nightmares, but mostly because I'm a woos! I don't find being scared entertaining like other people do, so I prefer to spend my time money on other more pleasurable pursuits.

However, I resolved to read the whole of the YA Book Prize shortlist and so I got myself a copy of Say Her Name. Lots of people tell me this isn't even that scary, but I punked out after about 50 pages. I'm a baby!

Sadness - All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I am a massive crier in real-life and particularly at movies (I can't watch My Sister's Keeper without a bucket to catch the ocean of tears that follows). But oddly enough, books don't really make me cry all that often. The exception to this was certainly All the Bright Places.  


The moment where Violet is rushing to find out what's happened to Finch, my heart was pounding and I had a pit in my stomach the size of my fist. And then when he is pulled from the lake, and her numbness sets in, I had big fat, ugly crying tears running down my face. So much so that that page in my copy is forever stained and smeared with tears.

And then I read the author notes at the back, found out that Jennifer Niven had been through something very similar and I just cried all the harder for how real everything became. All the feels!

Anger - Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Everyone loves this book. I really want to like this book. So I pick it up where I left off, get two pages further and just throw it across the room. I really don't like it. I don't get the world, I don't get the characters, and I certainly don't get the odd sub-plot of deities, beasts and weapons etc hidden under the castle for the heroine to casually stumble upon. I'm sorry, I just can't.

And I'm afraid to say the same is true of ACOTAR, despite desperately trying with that one also. It's not the book that really makes me angry, just my inability to like it like everyone else and the following waves of despair for my sense of taste that result. I know I shouldn't care, but I feel like there's something I'm obviously missing. FOMO I guess...

So these are my picks, what about yours? I tag Chelle from Tales of Yesterday and Maisie from Maisie's Marvellous My Reads.

Bookish love,

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Guest Post: Rules for Body Confidence from The Self-Esteem Team!

Hi all! I am very happy to welcome on the blog today The Self-Esteem Team, otherwise known as Natasha, Nadia and Grace. They form this amazing, quasi-super hero team who travel the UK visiting schools, colleges and universities to deliver award winning classes on body image and mental wellbeing. 

I think this is a wonderful idea, and I really wish something like this had come to my school! I was a very gawky teen with a very negative relationship with my body. I went through puberty quite suddenly, growing hips and DD size breasts over one summer. With all my friends still skinny around me, and the 90s waif fashion a la Kate Moss in full force, I felt, quite simply, 'fat'. It's a feeling that still niggles at me today in my new-adulthood, even though I rationally know I am a healthy size and weight.

According to research by Girlguiding and Dove from 2013, 48% of teenage girls avoid everyday school activities because of a lack of body confidence. So what The Self-Esteem Team are doing is still very necessary and relevant. 

So I am very happy to host here a guest post from Natasha Devon, intrepid leader of The Self-Esteem Team on 
The Rules for Body Confidence:
You’re only ever going to get one body, so the sooner you learn to love it, the sooner you can get on with the important life-long work of being generally awesome. Here’s our top tips:

1.       Health First.

Health is a lifestyle, not a look. Being healthy is not as complicated as the internet makes it appear. It isn’t particularly exciting or glamorous, but the sort of advice your Nan might give you – three balanced meals per day/’you’re not going out until you’ve had breakfast’/’eat this apple I cut up for you’/’get off your X-Box and go out and get some fresh air’ – are actually the keys to maintaining a healthy body.

If you’re living a healthy lifestyle (with the occasional treat thrown in because life is too short not to eat a Krispy Kreme once in a while) then your body is exactly as it is meant to be. It won’t necessarily be the same as your best mate’s, or your parent’s, or anyone else you know, but it’s yours to rock as you see fit.

Granny knows best...

2.       Identify your best bits.
When we look in the mirror, our eyes are usually drawn to our least favourite body parts. This means that, over time, our idea of what our ‘flaws’ are become exaggerated in our minds. (Other people don’t look at us in the same way we see ourselves, which is why it’s so frustrating trying to convince your best mate that bump on her nose is barely perceptible to the casual observer and definitely not a reason to stay in wailing ‘I’m hideous’ into a pillow).

To reverse this, try and identify your ‘good bits’. Make a conscious effort to look at these first when you see a photo or yourself, or catch your reflection in something shiny.

Think Amy enthusiasm, and all about yourself.
3.       Find your style.

The fashion and beauty industries have been much maligned for causing body insecurity, but they’re actually fantastic ways to express yourself. The key is to use them for YOUR agenda, instead of allowing them to use you for theirs.

Find a style that conveys who you are. It might be that you roll out of bed feeling that you look exactly how you ought to. In which case, don’t feel pressured to do anything at all. It might be, however, that you want to dye your hair 17 different colours all at once and (I am SO SORRY to your parents and teachers for saying this) that is totally your prerogative. After all, it’s your hair.

Just make sure that your look expresses you, not what you think you ought to be.

4.       Question!

You know those pesky fashion and beauty industries? Well, their existence pretty-much depends on convincing you that you need to change. Ditto fitness products.

With the lines increasingly blurred between ‘entertainment’ and ‘advertising’ and most people indulging in more ‘screen time’ than ever before, if we’re not careful we can absorb thousands of messages every week we’re alive which scream ‘YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!’.

The trick is to question. Buy that hair gel or join that gym if it makes you happy, but know that you were more than good enough to begin with.

Even the amazing Brooke Davies didn't have it all together...
But body confidence heroes like Demi are showing that pressure from the media is not okay...

Not to mention J-Law. So ...

5.       Forgive Yourself

Wearing an outfit you will only be able to look back on through splayed fingers whilst rocking back and forth and blaspheming repeatedly is a Right of Passage. Everyone has done it (it teaches us humility/to be more forgiving of the fashion choices of others).

I know photos on social media can never truly be deleted, but that doesn’t mean you have to look ‘perfect’ all the time. Photos are designed to capture a moment. If it so happens that in that moment you were sweaty and red about the face, with your mouth hanging open and a bit of dribble coming out (because you were – SHOCK HORROR – enjoying yourself) then that’s really, really ok. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a bit of a dick!

Preach Emma, you wonderful human you!

6.       Invisible Qualities

Repeat after us: Your value cannot be captured in a selfie.

Take some time to think about the qualities you’re bringing to the table that have nothing to do with how you look. Are you kind, brave, funny, strong, loyal or witty? Chances are, that’s why your friends love you (and not because you have a great bone structure).
Sometimes, body confidence is all about realising that you’re more than your body.


So let's go out there and be our awesome, incredible selves! Right Bey?


Definitely words to live by! There is loads more advice just like this on body image, relationships, self love and so much more in The Self-Esteem Team's Guide to Sex, Drugs & WTFs?!! (John Blake Publishing, out now!)

Thanks to The Self-Esteem Team and Natasha for your very inspiring guest post! I hope you all enjoyed it. Comment below if you've ever experienced or are experiencing anything like the above. Know that you're not alone.
Lots of bookish love!




Monday, 10 August 2015

#YAShot Blog Tour - Volunteering, Interning & the road to Publishing

It will come as little surprise that I love books. I always have and I’m pretty certain I always will (unless I am one day crushed by my falling, overloaded bookcase in which case my devotion might waver). So when I graduated in 2012 with a degree in languages, I passed on being a teacher or translator in favour of doing something I loved… books. But that begged the question, how does one ‘do books’ as a living?

Publishing wasn’t something that really occurred to me as an option until I took a part-time Christmas job at Waterstones. It was there that I utterly fell in love with the book world - getting advanced copies from publishers, reading The Bookseller for the first time, learning all about the wider mechanism that made these things I had loved all my life. This love accelerated quickly, and soon I was applying for publishing grad schemes and internships.  

The only problem there is that most publishing internships are not paid, and the majority are in London. With only 13% of the UK population living in London, how are the remaining 87%, myself included, supposed to spend 3 months living in London unpaid?

Don't fret - there is an alternative to selling your kidneys and hauling down to London. It is a brilliant time for literary events in the UK and every day a new literary festival seems to crop up. Take YAShot for example, a new one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade ‘festival’ curated by Alexia Casale.  It is taking place in the centre of Uxbridge on Wednesday 28 October 2015 in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge. Now yes, this festival is in London, but they are all wonderful opportunities to grow your skills and they are happening all over the UK. Here is a comprehensive list of all the festivals taking place around the UK.

Working at literary events such as YAShot, you are exposed to a huge amount of experience, people and resources related to publishing e.g.
- what goes into the event organisation
- the wording and look of promotional resources
- what the marketing looks like and how it works
- how to write copy (If you get offered to write anything, grab it with two hands! if you don't get offered, suggest it. Copywriting skills are gold dust in publishing, duh.) 
- the logistics that go into arranging and event and pitfalls to avoid
- how to communicate with and manage authors and other stakeholders…

What volunteering gives you is something to talk about at interview and that golden goose egg – transferable skills! You also get to meet incredible authors, publicists, publishers and fellow publishing career hopefuls who happily shower you with advice and encouragement if you’re not too shy to ask. Getting to know people and building relationships is a big part of the publishing so endeavour to meet at least one new person at every event you go to. I know this is a catch-22 as a lot of bookish people are inherently shy, but it will pay dividends. 

I still volunteer at my local library to keep in touch with what's going on, to get to know lots of titles and meet new people. Many libraries don't have the budget to take on volunteers now, but research initiatives like the Summer Reading Challenge which takes on volunteers to help run the project. I did this in 2014 and it was ridiculously fun, as well as a great insight into what's happening in the industry.

So get researching things happening in your area and get volunteering, it'll be the best thing you do for your publishing career this year! YAShot will soon be looking for volunteers soon, so if anyone does wants to travel down to London for 1 day volunteering, check out their website.

Bookish love,

Me on the job with Chris Riddell (current children's laureate) and Paul Stewart

Thursday, 6 August 2015

#GBBOtweetstake with Bookish Tweeters

Hello all! So I, like many other people, love The Bake Off. It is awesome, and that is all that needs to be said on the matter. Last year, I did a sweepstakes with my friends from university and it was incredibly fun.
So I thought why not try it with all our bookish friends on Twitter? Here is how it's going to work:
Using a random number generator, I have assigned people their contestant. We will be rooting for whoever we are assigned to for the next eight-ish weeks. When the winner is decided, the bookish Tweeter with the winning contestant will get to choose a book that all the losers 'have' to read. And then we may well have a discussion about that book when we're all done. Simples!
 Here is the breakdown of who got who:

The Great British Bake Off - Mat.The Great British Bake Off - Sandy.The Great British Bake Off -Ian.The Great British Bake Off -  Marie.

             Mat                             Sandy                                Ian                               Marie

   Alice @alibelle              Laura Salters, author       @NathanaelSmith         Daphne @wingedreviews

The Great British Bake Off -  Nadiya.The Great British Bake Off - Paul.The Great British Bake Off  Ugne.The Great British Bake Off  Flora.

 Nadiya                                  Paul                             Ugne                             Flora

 Maisie                           Robin Stevens, author            Heather                  Keris Stainton, author
@ThemaisieAllen         Jesse @thatjessebloke        @MissWBooks           

The Great British Bake Off -DorretThe Great British Bake Off -Alvin.The Great British Bake Off  Tamal.The Great British Bake Off -  Stu

 Dorret                                  Alvin                            Tamal                          Stu

Chelle @ChelleyToy           Lily @cieria               Laura @Midnightstar3       Stacey @theprettybooks
WeiMingKam                                                             Me (Rachel)
@weimingkam                                                     @rachel90kennedy

As you can see, some contestants are doubled up (because I can't count properly and didn't want to leave anyone out) so if you're reading this and want to take part, we do still have spaces! Comment below with your Twitter handle and we'll make it happen.
Good Luck to all, and may the best baker win!