Friday, 29 April 2016

YALC 2016 Line-Up Reaction

YALC is wonderful! But you all know that already. Having followed and been to every single one since its inception (don't be too impressed, it's only in its 3rd year) I have seen it grow and change. 

The first year certainly had some hiccoughs (you couldn't hear the workshops, the seating in the auditorium area was a bit cramped, blah, blah, blah). But those niggles were made up for by an incredible line-up!

2015 was a marked improvement in logistics - separate venue with speakers, blocked off areas for workshops and the genius addition of an agents' area. It was obvious the organisers listened to the feedback of attendees in 2014 and we really appreciate it. With incredible names like Cassandra Clare and Judy Blume too (who I got to escort around the festival and help with her signing! I love my job!), it was even better than 2014. You can find my 2015 YALC highlights post here for an even clearer idea and some pics below.  

YALC 2015 Highlights Reel 

This event is just heaven for a YA lover... obviously. This year's lineup just dropped and it is looking amazing! Here are some of the authors I'm really excited about seeing: 

Malorie Blackman - My goddess! I have a signed first edition of Chasing the Stars but screw it, I'm going to get her to sign it again! Shakespeare panel methinks? 

Melvin Burgess - So this year marks the 20th anniversary of Melvin's iconic Junk. Having seen him and Malorie on a panel together before, I know that he is so widely respected and a great speaker. He'll be high on my to-see list!

Keren David  - Keren is one of my favourite contemporary YA authors and I've been sad she hasn't been included in the past. I was firmly #TeamSalvage for last year's YA Prize and also loved This Is Not A Love Story. I really cannot wait to hear what Keren's been up to! 

Patrick Ness - Last year I saw Patrick in conversation with Judy Blume and he was an incredible speaker and compare. I can't wait to hear him talk about the adaptation of A Monster Calls. With the actor playing Connor coming as well! 

V.E Schwabb - All anyone talks about this year is V.E Schwabb. Looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is - I discovered Red Queen last year so here's hoping for another amazing discovery in 2016. 

Alwyn Hamilton - How much did we all love Rebel of the Sands? A lot! Wickedly excited, hope there will be a debut panel! 

Lauren James - One of the nicest authors you'll ever meet, Lauren is an absolutely gem and a fellow Nottingham Alum. Her debut novel The Next Together is YA's answer to Outlander - another for the debut panel I hope!

Juno Dawson - With Lisa Williamson also on the playbill and a lot of debate about representing trans and non-gender conforming characters occurring last year, I am sincerely looking forward to seeing what topics Juno will be discussing. Also, Juno rocked serious Daenerys cosplay last year. I am sincerely hoping that another stellar costume is in store. 

Lucy Saxon - Speaking of cosplay, Lucy's incredible outfits are always a highlight of YALC. She has assured me via Twitter that she has some amazing pieces prepped for this year too!  

Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison - Love the work by these two and can't wait to hear what they're getting up to. Having seen them both at the YA Book Prize Blogger Drinks, their new book Freshers sounds so exciting. Often the first year of university to relegated to NA smut novels, so really nice to see Rainbow Rowell and Tom & Lucy exploring this area. YA readers aren't just in high school and college you know *cough, turning 26 this month, cough* 

Non Pratt - simply because Non is awesome! 

Sara Barnard - I really loved Beautiful Broken Things and am just excited to hear Sara speak. The fact that she's joining Holly Bourne and other to talk about Squad Goals just makes it all the better. Sign me up! 

Pete Kalu - Pete is an author you might now have heard of, but he is published by HopeRoad, an indie who specialise on voices often marginalised in the media from Africa, Asian and the Caribbean. Having worked with Pete professionally in the past, I know him to be a wonderfully eloquent, passionate and lovely author. His book Being Me by Adele Vialu had some insightful things to say about race and what it is to be a woman, and Pete is very passionate about writing POCs accurately. I predict a great panel on identity in our future... To get an idea of Pete's ideas, check out this piece he did for the Guardian on writing non-cliched multicultural characters.

Nat Luurtsema - I heard Nat read from her new book Girl Out of Water at the Walker Blogger Brunch last year and she is milk out the nose funny! As well as an established author, Nat is a Bafta-nominated screen writer and comic so this is gonna be good...

Another  Harry Potter Day - last year was awesome, I'm just hoping that we get some different activities and fun things that aren't a replay of last year. 

So without just saying everything and everyone, this is who I am really looking forward to seeing. It's a cracking line-up that has a nice level of familiarity, friendly faces coming back and new exciting authors joining for the first time. With Hay's YA lineup quite a bit smaller this year, this is THE EVENT for YA lovers in 2016!

So I'm off to do this for a few hours and book my tickets, I suggest you do too! 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Back on the Book Wagon - the hiatus is over!


Hello again book fans! After a 5 month hiatus, I am back to blogging again *cue the fanfare and screaming fans*. Maybe not...

It's been a crazy few months (new job, moving to London, another new job) which has taken up most of my time and attention. But now life is calm I can once again wax lyrical about the one thing that never changes: my own and the collective love of books. In particular, YA! If you're reading this I assume you fall into that category, so welcome!

I have read some incredible books over the past few months that haven't been given the shout outs they deserve. So here is a run down of what I really loved and why I think you'll love them too!

The Jewel by Amy Ewing
This is a book I picked up on a whim in a bookstore. I have been meaning to read a title in the rather over-populated genre of beautiful girl in a ball gown held captive by society in an alternate universe for a while now. I'd heard mixed reviews about The Selection and didn't overly love Uglies by Scott Westerfeld so I thought I'd give this a go.
And I really liked it. At its core, it's pure indulgence. Like Twilight, you know you shouldn't like it because it's cheesy and falls into a whole load of tropes. But you do. I enjoyed the pacey action, the forbidden love, the characters who are far better formed than those in many other titles in this category. And I'm looking forward to reading the next one. That's as pure a recommendation as I can give for a series - that I will invest time finding out what happens. Plus, it has one killer cliff hanger!

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
This title got a lot of love over Twittter, mainly because it had sick personalised proof covers with gold foil. That's not something publishers do very often, so Faber obviously really believed in this debut. And the hype is very much worth it. I sped through this in a few sittings, and found it to be a really refreshing genre mix of Western and Arabian Nights. A gun slinging, monster fighting, royal rebellion romp through the desert.

I really enjoyed the bolshy female main character Amani - she's self-determining and a bit of a badass. Her relationship with the love interview/Prince/runaway bandit is actually really interesting, particularly as it does not follow the typical trajectory. As soon as I finished it, I wanted the next one immediately, which is a total bummer because Book 2 doesn't have a release date yet. Highly recommend, as does the rest of the YA world.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
I asked a colleague to recommend me something that would give all the feels. She handed me this beautiful package.
My honest recommendation would be that Beautiful Broken Things is a great book for a genuine teenage reader. Barnard really beautifully captures the characters' voices, and it harked back to my own teenage years very clearly. Subjects like abuse, friendships, morality and self-worth are huge topics here dealt in a mature and provocative way. What's also great is that nothing is over-done. The plot is slow, but purposefully so and reads like an account of something that genuinely happened and not like a forced plot, a sin that many YA Contemporary novels can fall into. 
As such, I think this would be a 5 star read for someone between 14 - 17. At my slightly more mature mid-twenties, I really enjoyed it but didn't fall head over heels. It wasn't all the feels as I had hoped, but there were most definitely stirrings.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
This is another interesting soft fantasy title akin to The Jewel and Rebel of the Sands (I really like this genre as you can tell). I had heard lots of good things at last year's YALC about this so picked it up as soon as I could. I didn't actually get round the reading it until Christmas but when I did, it made me kick myself for not getting to it sooner.
Mare, while not the most original of characters, is very readable and you instantly love everyone she cares for. She may possible fall into the Harry Potter pattern - great supporting cast, bit vanilla MC. What really shines in this book is the world building, the junior Game of Thrones feel to it and the powers! Oh the powers are so awesome, and Mare's unique ability and circumstances are another great dynamic to play with. The twists are epic, if not sometimes foreseeable, except the one right at the end. Wowsers! Definitely one to pick up if you enjoy YA fantasy that isn't too hardcore elves and orcs.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
It is a rare thing for me to give 5 stars to a book. If I give something 4 stars, I really, really enjoyed it. Call me a perfectionist, but I usually reserved 5 star status for things that set my world on fire and remain my favourite books of all time (Noughts and Crosses, The Mortal Instruments series as a whole, and The Night Circus). But I just can't give this 4 stars, it simply demands more. Is it perfection? No. But is it one of the most original, lyrically written without being heavy handed, compelling and heartbreaking things you'll read for a very long time? Hells yes! Not YA in the strictest of terms, but it would certainly be suitable for anyone 15/16 upwards.
Karou is a broody, fascinating character full of mystery and intrigue. Her home town of Prague is lovingly written about that makes me want to go there again, and the other worlds beyond our human dimension are well-developed and exotic. The supporting characters are also very interesting, and the world building, concept and plot are so original and simply put, just great! This is a wonderful title to pick up if you want to infuse a bit of magic, mystery and beauty into your life. This was another recommendation from a colleague, and it's one of the best reccs I've ever had. Do yourself a favour and go buy it now. I'll even give you the link. Do it!
So that's it for now, a quick overview of what I've loved over the past few months. I would recommend all of them very highly! Keep your eyes peeled for more posts, coming soon...
Bookish love, Rachel xx