February’s Reading Log

Its time for the monthly round-up! These posts help keep track of the reading challenges I’m doing this year and also give a quick shout-out for all the books I’ve been reading (not just those I review).

I won’t give too much detail here (as this kind of post gets long really quickly) – just a quick summary of each book read and some stats. The book titles link to their Goodreads pages for more info.

Despite February being a fabulously bookish month for me (I went to two brilliant events: the launch of Arsenic for Tea and the first UKYA Extravaganza), I did less well than in January with 7 books completed and many of my personal challenge aims missed (although I did read both British Books and Diverse Books).

Oh well, better luck next month!

Feb reads

Arsenic for TeaRobin Stevens, Random House Children’s, 2015, 9+ historical mystery

Set in the 1930s, this is a classic Country House Murder Mystery for kids. It’s the second in the Wells and Wong series which started with Murder Most Unladylike. I cannot recommend this highly enough – both for kids and for adult fans of boarding school series and/or kids’ crime. A triumph of diverse representation as well as a brilliantly conceived mystery.

Close Your Pretty Eyes, Sally Nicholls, Scholastic, 2013, YA contemporary with chiller/thriller elements

I really enjoyed this: clever first person narrative, heartbreaking in places, great is-it-or-isn’t-it haunting plot. Hard to classify, or to sum up briefly. If a damaged narrator (she’s 11 and on her 16th home…) and a vengeful ghost appeals at all, definitely pick it up.

Counting by 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan,  Piccadilly Press, 2013, YA contemporary

A quirky read that grew on me fairly rapidly: by the end I was definitely rooting for Olivia and the bizarre group of people she had surrounded herself with. The story of a teenage genius who loses both parents in a car accident, this is also about family and community an identity. Worth sticking with.

The Dead Men Stood Together, Chris Priestley, Bloomsbury, 2013, YA chiller/horror

Fabulously inventive re-imagining of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which I believe would be a brilliantly enjoyable tale even if you didn’t know the original. Reading it from a position of being familiar with the story, however, it is impossible not to admire how Priestley has filled in the gaps and made it a solid YA horror/chiller for today.

All The Truth That’s In Me, Julie Berry, Templar, 2013, YA historical

I remember seeing a lot of hype about this one and was disappointed when it came to reading it myself. I found the narration quite disorienting (it’s like a letter directly addressed to another character) but the mystery of what has happened to the central character – she was kidnapped and returned around two years later with her tongue cut out – is intriguing enough to carry it.

The Sky Is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson, Walker, 2010, YA contemporary

This book is just lovely, which is an odd thing to say about a book that focuses on grief and mourning, I know, but it is also about love and forgiveness and families – and poetry. It’s also extraordinarily well-done. I loved Lennie’s poems shared within the pages and also the quirkiness of her family. Highly recommended for those who love a convincingly emotional YA novel.

Bird, Crystal Chan, Tamarind, 2014, YA contemporary

This is a great read in terms of diversity, focusing as it does on a Jamaican-Mexican-American family and particularly discussing clashes in the beliefs and traditions of those different cultures. It does so very well, and is another heartbreaking family story. I definitely enjoyed its dreamy and lyrical qualities and would recommend it for 12+ readers.

Challenges Progress this month – books read:

I did so much less well this month in terms of challenges! No TBR-reduction, no personal challenge met and no own (as in neither review nor for school) books read. Oops!

UKYA/UKMG titles: Arsenic for Tea, Close Your Pretty Eyes, The Dead Men Stood Together.

Reviews published this month:

Full reviews: Arsenic for Tea, Squishy McFluff, The Weight of Souls,

eligible for British Books Challenge: Arsenic for Tea, Squishy McFluff,

eligible for Dive Into Diversity Challenge: Arsenic for Tea (narrator is from Hong Kong)

Plans for next month

To prioritise my challenges (which, remember, I did set for myself, after all!)

To read some of the books I picked up at the fabulous UKYA Extravaganza.

Gorgeous goodies with heart: my first GOOD Box

A few weeks ago, I signed up to be a tester/reviewer for new ethical subscription service This GOOD Box and on Monday I received my first box.

I was so excited, I forgot to photograph it at first (sorry!) but here you can see the lovely (recycled) tissue wrapping and coordinated tape and string used.

JpegThe contents are all from ethical and/or socially responsible traders and it was great to be able to find out more about these brilliant companies.

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In my package, I received:

a yummy white chocolate lolly from Chocolate Memories, a social enterprise run by Autism Initiatives in County Down. The factory provides people with Autism Spectrum Condition with training and work opportunities. The chocolate was thick, creamy and indulgent – definitely recommended!

a lovely mint lip balm from Raw Skincare, a company offering chemical-free skincare in recycled/compostable packaging. The balm smells gorgeous and is really tingly on my lips. I love it!

a bracelet of recycled paper beads made by Sarah Namaganda of Awamu, a social enterprise working in the slums of Kampala to improve the lives of women and children in particular through education and business opportunities. I love that it’s possible to see the specific person who crafted the product and even see a video clip of her working and talking about her work – plus it’s a really nice bracelet!

a lovely greetings card on recycled stock, produced by designer and illustrator Jenny Jackson. This is very high quality and feels luxurious.

team GOOD badges, both saying “be the reason someone smiles today” – gJpegood advice indeed :)

team GOOD postcard, with “Kindness is always fashionable” on one side and a set of random challenges on the other. I’m trying to remember these as I go about my week.

So, all in all, a lovely thing to receive. If you want to know more about Team GOOD, their website has some nice ideas and information on it and one-off boxes are available now, with a subscription service due to launch in the Spring.

 

UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour: Q&A with Alan Gibbons

UKYA extravaganzaAs you may know, there is a very special event taking place on the last day of this month: the UKYA extravaganza, with 35 UK authors of YA books at Waterstones Birmingham. Tickets sold out within 24 hours, and it looks like this will be the first of many, rather than a one-off event. Today the blog tour stops here, with Alan Gibbons answering a few questions about writing, the UKYA phenomenon and reading.

Gibbons booksAlan’s books cover a range of important and interesting topics. They are often contemporary novels, focusing on difficulties that teens and children face. He has written about gun crime (Raining Fire), hate crimes (Hate), domestic violence (The Edge), bullying and suicide (Hold On) and racial tension (Caught in the Crossfire, An Act of Love) as well as football (Total Football series), mythology and folklore (Shadow of the Minotaur, Night Hunger). With all of Alan’s books that I have read, there is a very real and very human story at the heart that brings the issue into focus. His writing is issues-led, but never preachy or didactic.

What do you think is special about UKYA? Why does it deserve celebrating/ promoting?

I think any initiative that keeps young people reading through the teenage years is to be supported. This crossroads between childhood and adulthood can often be turbulent, thrilling, troubling and monstrously exhausting. It was for me! The genre barely existed until landmark books such as S E Hinton’s The Outsiders, Robert Cormier’s Chocolate War and Heroes and Robert Swindells’ Brother in the Land and Stone Cold blazed a trail. Now it attracts some of the most talented writers around. An event that brings lots of these authors together with their readers is a terrific idea.

You obviously believe in the importance of diverse books. What advice do you have for writers who are hesitant about writing characters who are from different cultures from themselves?

I suppose I just feel that the variety of human experience should find its way into literature. Writers who have a range of black and Asian, male and female, gay and straight characters aren’t following an agenda or pushing ‘political correctness.’ They are reflecting their society. They are being human. Anyone who chooses not to do this is surely pushing an alternative agenda.

I would never be so arrogant as to give other writers advice. Personally, I think I have nothing to lose by walking around in somebody else’s skin. Whatever details of skin colour, gender or sexual orientation, we are all brothers and sisters and have far more in common than we have difference. I just write out of human solidarity and that means having that little bit of courage to stray into the odd avenue I have not trodden myself, to imagine another person’s circumstances and responses. Hey, if I get it wrong I can apologise in the best way possible, do it better in the next book I write. Defensiveness is the enemy of literature and artistic creation.

I’m also aware of your tireless library campaigning. Do you see this as part of your role as an author, like school visits?

Absolutely. I am a teacher-writer-activist. Each of those elements is as essential as the others. What this government is doing is wrong, the greatest act of cultural vandalism carried out in this country since World War Two. How could we writers step aside and let the philistines get away with book burning by proxy without raising howls of protest?

Can you tell us something about what you’re working on at the moment?

My next novel is about political and personal betrayal, focussing on the son of a Member of Parliament and something his father did in public life that impacts disastrously on the family. It was planned to be called You Took My Son, but may morph into End Game because my publishers prefer the second title. I am just happy for it to see the light of day in the spring. I am now working on a book about abduction and abuse for 2016.

How do you work? Do you plan in depth? How do you decide what your topic will be? Does the story come first, the characters or is that not at all how it works?

I was an angry young man. Now I am an angry man in late middle age. Pretty soon I will be an angry old man. I usually start with something in the news that either upsets me, confuses me, perturbs me or inspires me. From that, the characters start to emerge, essentially how they respond to crisis. I would love to be good at planning, but I am terrible. I usually get an ending, a few ‘scenes’ in the middle and a vague sense of where it is going then start tapping away at my laptop. I feel my way through the text instinctively and rather chaotically, I’m afraid.

Thank you, Alan, for that insight into your work. I look forward to seeing you in Birmingham!

In the meantime, if you fancy a well-written thriller set very firmly in the real world, grab one of Alan’s books.

UKYA Review: The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce

weight-of-souls-bryony-pearceThe Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce is YA urban fantasy with a brilliantly original premise and a very cool, outsider-type hero. It’s also great to see a main character of Asian origin.

Taylor Oh, aged 16, bears a curse passed to her from her mother. If the ghost of a murder victim touches her, she gets a black mark on her hand which gradually darkens while she finds their murderer to pass on the mark. If she fails, she will be dragged into the Darkness in their place. The novel follows her on the mission to find out who killed Justin, one of the ‘cool kids’ (who bully her) from school. And as if that weren’t twisty enough, she is lead into various dangers as she seeks out a mysterious society with plenty of conspiracy, as well as dealing with her feelings about Justin and his allies.

I really enjoyed this, particularly for its strong MC and its usage of Egyptian mythology, which makes a nice change. It is also unusual to see parental involvement – although her mother is dead, her father is actively involved in the story as an interesting counterpoint: he does not believe in the curse and focuses on the appearance of the dark marks as a physical disease. This adds yet another conflict for poor Taylor to deal with, as well as a dash of realism (surely if you could see ghosts, people around you would struggle to believe you?)

All in all, this is a book which is definitely worth picking up. It’s a solid UK urban fantasy (strong MC, great premise, twisty plot) which combines various unusual aspects (Asian MC, Egyptian mythology, conspiracy theories, parental involvement) with strong writing.

Bryony Pearce has another novel coming out soon (around Easter 2015): Phoenix Rising, which sounds really interesting (text from author’s website) If this book is anything to go by, Phoneix Rising is sure to deliver!:

After the fuel crisis the world changed and became filled with unusable junk; technological relics of a world long dead.

Toby is the son of a pirate Captain and he has spent his life on a converted cargo ship.

The Phoenix travels a sea clogged with rubbish in search of a mysterious island. Said to have risen from the ocean following a volcanic eruption it has enough natural resources to keep the crew in comfort for the rest of their lives. The ship is chased by Governments desperate for his father’s inventive mind and rival pirates, keen to strip the Phoenix of everything useful.

When The Phoenix is attacked by a rival ship and forced into port, Toby has to grow up, and fast.

UK younger reader review: Squishy McFluff, the Invisible Cat by Pip Jones

squishyThis little rhyming book is a delight. Sure to hold the attention of pre-schoolers with its fantastic line, gentle humour and quirky illustrations, it would also be a good choice for early readers, who would be supported by the rhyme and illustrations.

Here are my initial thoughts on finishing:

Loved this delightful story, told entirely in rhyme, which is a hilarious and well-told tale in the tradition of stories where younger kids can vicariously enjoy the characters’ naughtiness. The story is complemented perfectly by Ella Okstad’s lovely illustrations. Strongly recommended for older picture book fans and kids who are just starting to read for themselves.

There is now a second book in this series, focused on a supermarket sweep and a third book is out soon, featuring Mad Nana Dot. I would definitely recommend these as they will appeal to a wide range of children in terms of interests (naughtiness, pets, imaginary friends) and reading ability, as it works very well as a read aloud but feels like a ‘big’ book as it is in chapters and is longer than a picture book.

Squishy McFluff, the invisible cat and Squishy McFluff: Supermarket Sweep! are out now from Faber, from whom I gladly received a review copy of the first.

Bookish Adventures: Arsenic for Tea launch in Cambridge

arsenic for tea propsMy youngest daughter and I spent a lovely afternoon yesterday in Cambridge for the launch of Robin Steven’s marvellous middle-grade mystery, Arsenic for Tea.

We enjoyed reading time on the train (and my daughter was excited that there was a refreshments trolley, like Harry Potter – although there were no chocolate frogs at all!).

The launch itself was great. Look at the lovely spread! We were particularly impressed by Daisy’s birthday cake and the Poirot-moustache cup cakes, not to mention the lovely props table next to the Reading Throne :)

Robin read the tea scene from her book and then she cut the cake and we all dug in. (Nobody was injured).

arsenic for tea launch

My daughter really enjoyed the detective quiz and ‘how to plan a Wells and Wong mystery’ sheet provided and she is beyond thrilled with her signed books (and with her moustachioed photograph with Robin!). I have to say, having read both books in their kindle forms, it is quite exciting to be able to see the gorgeous maps in print – they really are a lovely additional touch.

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UKMG Review: Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

arsenic for teaThis book is brilliant! I loved this at least as much as I loved the first in the series, Murder Most Unladylike. This series is shaping up to be a great read for 9-12 kids, but also a wonderfully nostalgic treat for adult readers who enjoyed school stories like Blyton’s or the Chalet School books.

Goodreads Summary:

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy’s home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy’s glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy’s birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn’t really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.

Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill – and everything points to poison.

With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem – and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth . . . no matter the consequences.

The plot of Arsenic for Tea is skilfully worked. Even as an adult and a lifetime murder mystery reader, I failed to correctly guess whodunit – I’m choosing to see that as evidence of Robin Steven’s skill and not anything else :) As with the first novel, I changed my mind a couple of times as she led me merrily down the wrong corridor entirely.

Characterisation is also excellent: everyone loves Hazel and Daisy and it is great to see a realistic friendship for this age group without constant high drama and hurtfulness – yes, that is a reality sometimes, but not always. Hazel’s status as ‘other’ (she’s Chinese) allows her to make fabulous insights into English society of the 1930s, as well as strike a chord with child readers and demonstrate how diversity in children’s books can be done really well in a genre story without becoming the dreaded ‘issue book’. In no way is the story ‘about’ Hazel’s foreignness, but it definitely adds an edge and raises questions of its own for MG readers to think about at a safe distance (this IS the 1930s, after all!)

As an adult who grew up on Blyton’s school stories, the whole language and routines of boarding school life (bunbreak, brick, prep) are an absolute delight to me. There is something gloriously nostalgic and comforting about these stories, although they are entirely contemporary in many ways (some of the plot details I am sure would never have been broached by Blyton and there is the positive attitude to diversity, of course).

first class murderI love that this book takes us out of Deepdean, the girls’ school, and instead creates a classic country house mystery by sending Hazel to spend the holidays with Daisy at Fallingford. (I’m also excited that the next is called First Class Murder and features a train on the cover – I think Robin Stevens is working her way through cosy mystery tropes!!) Incidentally, while I’m telling you about things I’m excited about: my youngest and I are going to the launch of Arsenic for Tea in Cambridge Waterstones tomorrow. If I can remember to take pictures and not just fangirl, I’ll share more about that on Sunday.

All in all, I hope it’s clear that I am absolutely recommending this one to everyone from about 9 upwards. It’s also Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for February, so very easy to get hold of (check out the Pinterest board of displays that Robin Stevens has collected, as many Waterstones branches have gone all out for this one!)

Arsenic for Tea is out now from Random House Children’s Books. I am very grateful to have been allowed a review copy via NetGalley.

January’s Reading Log

I thought I’d start doing monthly round-up posts, to help keep track of the reading challenges I’m doing this year and also to give a quick shout-out for all the books I’ve been reading (not just those I review).

I won’t give too much detail here (as this kind of post gets long really quickly) – just a quick summary of each book read and some stats. The book titles link to their Goodreads pages for more info.

jan 2015 reads

Rose Under Fire Elizabeth Wein, Egmont (Electric Monkey), 2014, YA historical

Set in 1944-5, this is the tale of a young woman transport pilot.  Beautifully written, direct and unsentimental, I’ve been recommending this at school for Holocaust Memorial Day.

The Ultimate Truth (Travis Delaney Investigates #1) Kevin Brooks, Macmillan Children’s, 2014, 11+ action adventure

A great read; really enjoyed it. Lots of plausible action (well, as plausible as spy/crime thrillers can be! – but I mean that this didn’t feel wrong for the age of the protagonist), together with solid early-teen territory of identity/family issues.

Heroes Robert Cormier, Pearson (Longman), 1998, YA historical

A reread for teaching purposes, and one I did enjoy (again). I’m glad I chose this novel for my class, as it deals with complex ideas and issues without the language being particularly showy or hard to access. The first person memoir-style narration is probably what helps this the most.

Why We Took the Car Wolfgang Herrndorf, Andersen, 2014, YA contemporary

I enjoyed this very voicey road-trip story featuring an unlikely friendship and a truly crazy, twisted story line. At times, however, I found the voice and far-fetched nature of it all got a bit much for me. I think fans of boy-focused, somewhat silly stories would love it.

The Bubble-Wrap Boy Phil Earle, Puffin, 2014, YA contemporary

Fabulous and surprising, this book was both funnier and twistier than I expected, while being just as tender and sweet as anticipated. A very quick read which I was keen to keep returning to.

The Last Leaves Falling Sarah Benwell, Random House, 2015, YA contemporary

Emotional and fulfilling read. Great to read about a different culture (the book is set in Japan) and to learn more about the experience of someone with ALS. Ultimately, it’s about friendship, family and courage. This was my review for both the British Books and Dive into Diversity challenges this month.

Looking at the Stars Jo Cotterill, Random House, 2014, YA contemporary

Moving and often challenging read about a young girl and her family struggling under a totalitarian state. I appreciated the invented and non-specific setting, as I feel it made the presentation of oppression purer.

The Liar’s Chair Rebecca Whitney, Macmillan, 2015, adult crime

Original and tense psychological thriller peopled with a thoroughly unpleasant cast. A really compelling read, and a grippingly accurate portrayal of emotional abuse.

Picture Me Gone Meg Rosoff, Penguin, 2013, YA contemporary

I didn’t really like this gentle mystery combined with a road trip story – I found the lack of speech punctuation completely distracting and the main character unconvincing. I know that some feel the lack of quotation marks makes it more stream of consciousness, so if you’re not as much of a punctuation pedant as I am, you may well enjoy it. The portrayal of relationships, especially familial, is a strength.

Buffalo Soldier Tanya Landman, Walker, 2014, YA historical

Fabulous voice used to convey some hard-hitting and emotional material: the tale of Charlotte, a slave who, when freed in the Civil War, disguises herself as a boy/man and joins the US Army. I knew very little about the history presented here and am very glad to have read it. Brilliantly written, often moving but never sentimental or manipulative.

Now You See Me Emma Haughton, Usborne, 2014, YA thriller

Well-executed thriller which I was compelled to keep reading. Some brilliant characterisations (I especially loved little Alice, who has Down’s Syndrome) and plenty of tension and twists.

Squishy McFluff, The Invisible Cat Pip Jones, Faber & Faber, 2014, children’s animal/family

This delightful story, told entirely in rhyme, is a hilarious and well-told tale in the tradition of stories where younger kids can vicariously enjoy the characters’ naughtiness. The story is complemented perfectly by Ella Okstad’s lovely illustrations. Strongly recommended for older picture book fans and kids who are just starting to read for themselves.

Challenges Progress this month – books read:

UKYA/UKMG titles: Rose Under Fire, The Ultimate Truth, The Bubble-Wrap Boy, The Last Leaves Falling, Looking at the Stars, Picture Me Gone, Now You See Me

All YA this month, but I’m planning to kick February off with an exciting UKMG…

own book: Now You See Me

TBR-escapee: Squishy McFluff

12 personal challenges: Buffalo Soldier (book set in a place or time I haven’t read about before)

Reviews published this month:

Full reviews: Station Eleven, The Last Leaves Falling, The Fearless, The Witch of Salt and Storm

Mini reviews: Chasing Stars, Crushed, Witch Hunt

eligible for British Books Challenge: The Last Leaves Falling, (note that The Fearless is also a British Book but I read it before January so it doesn’t count for the challenge)

eligible for Dive Into Diversity Challenge: The Last Leaves Falling (Japanese setting, MC has ALS)

Plans for next month

February is looking very exciting for books: I’m attending Robin Stevens’ launch of Arsenic for Tea (the follow-up to Murder Most Unladylike) on the 7th and UKYA Extravaganza in Birmingham on the 28th. 35 UKYA authors!! I’m also participating in the blog tour to celebrate this event and will be hosting Alan Gibbons here at the Hearthfire on the 22nd.

In terms of my reading, I plan to kick February off with Arsenic for Tea and I also need to read some fantasy. It’s one of top 3 genres, yet I didn’t read any this month!

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Station Eleven proof.inddDAY ONE: The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.

News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

WEEK TWO: Civilization has crumbled.

YEAR TWENTY: A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.

But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

STATION ELEVEN

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.

Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world. (summary from Goodreads)

I loved this clever, intricately plotted post-apocalyptic novel which offers no easy answers. This is not a ‘X saves the world’ type post-apocalyptic story; it’s much more chaotic, fractured and oddly realistic than that (in the characters it offers, if not the connections between them).

My initial thoughts on finishing:

Lyrical, intricate and stark; a haunting tale of the pockets of humanity left behind after a flu pandemic. Love the complex structure which circles the key players, encouraging the reader to guess at links between them, pulling it all ever tighter until revelation of those relationships becomes inevitable.

It reminded me in various ways of some of my favourite writers: Margaret Attwood, Jeanette Winterson and Angela Carter. Attwood for the lyricism similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, Winterson for the complex timeline and Carter for the theatrical links.

I’ve been merrily recommending it to sixth formers looking for interesting ‘Wider Reading’ beyond the syllabus and to my delight some have taken me up on it (and enjoyed it). I had a lovely conversation with one student about our mutual feeling of wanting to draw a diagram to map out all the links and the timelines involved – not because we were confused or struggling to keep track, but out of curiosity to see how that would pan out. I’m curious to know whether Mandel has such a set of diagrams in her planning!

I would definitely recommend this as a thoughtful, beautiful book.

Station Eleven is out now from Picador. I am grateful to have been given access to a review copy via NetGalley.

The UKYA phenomenon

If you are involved in bookish debates online, and you read YA novels, including  those written by UK authors, you may well have noticed a definite upswing in the way UK-specific YA is promoted and talked about lately. There has also been an incredible amount of attention very recently on the YA blogging community in the UK in particular. There are even awards for UKYA bloggers: and not just one set, but two! One is organised – and voted on – by authors and publishers and has an awards evening in March – very exciting! The other is blogger-run and allows us to all nominate and vote for each other in a range of categories.

Momentum in promoting UKYA in particular has been gathering over the past couple of years, but seems to have really exploded right now. There are regular UKYA Twitter chats and even a very wide range of social events (often in London of course, but not exclusively). It’s a great time to be part of this community.

UKYA extravaganza lineupOne of the most exciting things recently to come out of the UKYA phenomenon, as far as I’m concerned, is the UKYA Extravaganza being held in Birmingham Waterstones on 28th Feb. I’m planning to be there with my daughters, both of whom are excited at the prospects of seeing authors whose books they’ve loved (and me – I’m very excited too!!) The YA dept in Birmingham Waterstones have been great at building a community locally and holding lots of events. It’s so good to see big events going on outside of London.

I have always found the UKYA blogging community to be amazing and welcoming. I have attended a few events and am always surprised to be welcomed as part of ‘the gang’, even though my blog is tiny compared to some of the stars of the group. There are people who manage to post every day, many of those posts reviews (how do they do that??), people getting thousands of hits every day due to the consistent quality of their posts, and people who seem always to be on Twitter chatting about their recent reads AS WELL AS posting blogs daily. I think some of these superstars are secretly a front for a whole team of people :) Recently, several of these superstars have posted about their feelings on the community. If you’ve ever considered started up in book blogging, do take a look at what they have to say about it all:

Personal blog: mostly bookish, plus some dogs, feminism and whatever else occurs.