Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own

I love this topic! Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own


1. A windowseat for reading in. Nice and wide, with plenty of cushions and blankets.

2. Belle's library from Disney's The Beauty and the Beast. The greatest library ever to have been imagined.

3. Bookshelf stairs. So practical, so amazing.

4. A Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds badge.

5. A Bibliochaise. If only it had a teapot stand.

6. Tentacle Pirate Ship Attack Bookends! Just pure excellence.

7. A book clutch bag. The very height of bookish glamour.

8. One of these book necklaces.

9. From Neverland to Wonderland: A Map of Children's Literature in Britain. There's also a Literary Map of the USA for those reading from across the pond.

10. A Gimble Traveler hands free reading tool. I already own and love the ordinary Gimbles, but they're difficult to carry around as they don't have the hinge that the travel versions do.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

London Book Fair 2014 - A Guide for People Who Are Not Publishing Professionals

The view from upstairs of some of the stands at the London Book Fair. Look! The Hachette stand has a flipping second level!

This week I went to my first ever London Book Fair, and I had a great time. I'm planning on writing more about my experience soon, but first I thought I'd give you some tips to help you decide if going to the London Book Fair is something that could benefit you.

Fact is, if you go to the London Book Fair, and you're someone who doesn't work in the publishing industry, all you can really do is go to seminars, or go to stands run by self-publishing companies and let them try to sell you stuff.

That said, the seminar selection was great. There are 250+ seminars and all of them are free to attend once you've registered. The majority of them are about very specific publishing issues, or are run by companies who want to sell publishers their product, but this year there was a whole track for authors, as well as education and children's publishing tracks.

I found enough seminars that matched my interests to more than justify the registration fee - it was £30 in advance or £45 on the day, which is an absolute bargain for the number of interesting seminars that I was able to attend. And I only went on two days!

But I am a blogger who is interested in YA and children's literature, and wants to be a author. I am open to the idea of self-publishing, and I also love learning about marketing. There was a lot that appealed to me.

I think the London Book Fair is most useful for a non-professional if you have more than one area of interest within publishing.

If you want to work in publishing but don't yet - go to the annual seminar about how to get into publishing, which is run by the Society of Young Publishers (who run lots of other events in London and Oxford, I've been to a few) and then as many others as you can. Knowledge is power and it makes sense to learn as much about the industry and the issues it faces as you can, if you want to be a part of it.

If you're an author who doesn't want to self-publish, and doesn't want to do much of their own marketing and publicity, I, and this is my own personal opinion, would say skip it, unless the programme is drastically different next year or whenever in the future you would like to attend. This year there were a couple of basic intros to the publishing industry aimed at authors, and two events for authors to speed-pitch agents, and that was pretty much it. Unless you have another interest or you're a fan of the Authors of the Day and really want to attend their talks, it's probably not going to be the best use of your time. Stay home and write and look at the workshops offered by Spread the Word and other organisations instead!

If you're an author who wants to self-publish, go, but unless you have another interest, you might not want to spend the whole three days there. There were several seminars about self-publishing and some of them were brilliant, others repetitive and samey. Also, please, before you go, read a book about self-publishing or do some online research so you don't become That Person who asks a really basic question during the Q&A time. There is a limited amount of time for questions and it's rare that everyone who wants to ask a question will get to do so. With a little advance preparation you can help everyone get more out of the seminar by asking more specific, advanced questions.

If you're an author who wants to be traditionally published but wants to get involved in marketing and publicity, go and attend a) all the self-publishing seminars you can and b) as many seminars that relate to the kind of books you write as possible. I don't think you'll get as much out of it as self-publishing authors will but at the very least you'll become more aware of current trends.

If you're a teacher, I'm not really sure how much would appeal to you. There are some seminars about inspiring kids to read and such. There are other events that are more tailored to your needs, but this one only costs £30/£45, so if you think there are enough seminars that interest you to justify the expense, go for it.

If you're a blogger, just a blogger, skip it. You might find a couple of seminars that interest you but most of them are likely to go straight over your head. Honestly, that happened to me a couple of times and I have all the interests I mentioned above! If you're a blogger who wants to work in publishing, consider it. Ditto if you're a blogger who is also a teacher or who wants to self-publish, et cetera.

As always, your mileage may vary, so think about the expense, look at the entire list of seminars, and decide whether you think it is worth it. For me, the expense was minimal. I live in London, so I didn't need a hotel room, and in my current job, which I'm about to leave, I don't have to work Tuesday to Thursday, so it didn't cost me any holiday time. Next year, I will have to book time off if I want to attend, so I'll have to think more carefully about it.

Have you been to London Book Fair? What did you think? What advice would you give? Do you think you'll go again?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday Amusements 30

Getting books out of boxes and back on the shelves! Follow me on Instagram to see more.

Michelle's thoughts on New Adult books echo my own. I was excited about the possibilities that New Adult could offer when I first heard of it, but so far it's been a disappointment, and as far as I can see, hasn't lead to anything new.

Tanya might have changed her mind about book reviews. This is a really interesting post. I do read book reviews in order to discover books that I might otherwise have missed and collect recommendations, but I do like being able to get to know other bloggers and their tastes by following their reviews.

Sophie responds to Michelle's Bookish Brits video about book turn-offs. I'm so jealous! I would love someone to write or record a response to one of my videos! I am actually planning on doing my own list of things that put me off books, so maybe Michelle is just better at me at picking topics for videos!

This list is short and sweet, but I haven't had much time lately to browse the internet and keep up with what's being shared on Twitter. Do you have any bookish links to share with me?

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Book Review: The Worst Girlfriend in the World, by Sarra Manning


Franny and Alice are two teenage girls stuck in Merrycliffe-on-Sea, a seaside town so boring that it doesn't even have real hipsters. So far, they've survived the interminable dullness by sticking together. Nothing has ever threatened their friendship, even though Alice has an unfortunate habit of pulling other girls' boyfriends and an romantic-attention-span so short that she's been dubbed "The Worst Girlfriend In The World". But now, Franny is going off to college to do a BTEC and pursue her dreams of being a fashion designer, while Alice stays at their old school, all by herself.

At least they still have the weekends, and can keep up their tradition of sneaking their own drinks into Merrycliffe's dingy, terrible little bar, The Wow, to watch Thee Desperadoes, a band that sounds so bad the girls carry earplugs, but has a gorgeous frontman, Louis. He's been the object of Franny's lust for years and she believes that if he got to know her, he would quickly realise that they're soulmates, and forget all the other girls he's surrounded with.

And then Alice decides to set her sights on Louis...

I have always loved the little glimpses of friendships that we've seen in Sarra Manning's books - Edie and Shona, Edie and Poppy, Molly and Jane, Isobel and her clique, the Fashionistas girls, etc. They've played an important role in character development and fuelled the drama, especially in Nobody's Girl and Pretty Things. But they've never been the focus of the story in this way before.

I was expecting the friendship to be a side plot, while the romance was in the spotlight, because let's be honest, it usually is, but it was actually the other way around. I was surprised and delighted to find that The Worst Girlfriend in the World is all about Franny and Alice, even when they've fallen out. 

I say delighted because Franny and Alice are delightful. They're funny and quirky and believable. They know each other better than they know themselves. And they're different - Franny dreams of becoming a fashion designer and is obsessed with sixties icons. She is obsessed with being creative and finding ways to stand out from the crowd - but at the same time she's shy and has never kissed a boy. Alice is mouthy and bold, dresses to look good and attract boys, and wants to be a hairdresser though her parents are making her finish her A Levels. It's always good to have contrasting interests and personalities and it made the drama seem organic and inevitable.

I loved the other characters too - Franny's classmates at college are a diverse and interesting bunch, and I thought Thee Desperadoes were hilarious, reminding me of all the terrible bands I saw play as a teenager (luckily I didn't have a crush on any of their members so I could just leave the room while they "performed"). Franny's parents are fascinating too - Franny's mum struggles with mental illness and her dad works as a long-haul lorry driver, so is often absent for weeks and weeks.

Merrycliffe is almost a character in its own right too. I enjoyed the small-town details that made it seem like a place that is both comforting and stifling.

The plot is remarkably unpredictable for a book that's obstensibly about two girls fighting over one boy - I was never sure what Franny was going to get away with and what was going to lead to more drama, which made it realistic. The romance that develops was signposted pretty early on, but I didn't mind as there was so much else that did surprise me!

In short: Sarra Manning does friendship. Yours truly swoons.

It's not often that I finish reading a book and want to start it again straight away, but I wanted to reread The Worst Girlfriend in the World immediately. It was basically perfect.

If you were blessed with a proof copy and you haven't read this yet, what are you waiting for? If you haven't got it already preorder it now, or rush to the shops on May 1st.

Have you ever fancied the same person as one of your friends? I never had any Franny and Alice type drama as a) I didn't really fancy anyone until I was 20, and b) I have really different taste to my friends!

Many thanks to Atom for providing me with a proof.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Book Review: The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray

This book is the third in a trilogy and therefore this review will inevitably contain spoilers for the first book, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and the second, Rebel Angels.


Circe defeated, all should be at peace, but the events of Rebel Angels have left Gemma unable to create the door of light and enter the realms. Try as she might, nothing works until she is drawn to a strange stone, uncovered during the rebuilding of the East Wing of Spence Academy. It turns out to be another way in, and she enters the realms once more to find all is not as it was. All too soon, Gemma, who now holds all of the power, is being threatened by the Order, the Rakshana, and the forest folk of the realms. They all want control - or at least a share - of the magic.

Gemma is desperate to delay her decision and hold on to the power for long enough to sort her life out and help her friends. While Gemma and Felicity go back and forth between Spence and London, preparing to finish school and make their debuts as young society women, worrying about getting their curtseys right when they are presented to Queen Victoria, Ann dreads her future life as governess to her cousin's horrible children.

The Sweet Far Thing is a long book. Eight hundred pages. It took me weeks to finish it, and I have to admit that I think that it's a little bit too long. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it a lot, but there was a lot of going back and forth and long scenes where very little happened, and as much as I loved the world it was set in I got a bit frustrated waiting for something to happen as Gemma spent day after day being indecisive.

Once everything does start to happen, it became a real page turner. I read most of the last half of the book in a day, but getting to that point took ages. I think the previous two books, both of which are shorter, have much tighter plots, although Gemma is always torn between different paths of action.

Gemma has always been an interesting narrator, a character who stands apart from all the world both because of her power and because she's a upper-class English girl who was largely brought up in India. She doesn't fit in anywhere and can't quite understand the rules of any society. She becomes even more interesting in The Sweet Far Thing as the most powerful being in both our world and the realms. She doesn't want to abuse her power but she gets carried away by it on several occasions and uses it to get what she wants.

I think the characterisation of Felicity and Ann is great. I loved seeing them reveal tough truths and plan their  lives. Miss McCleethy, my favourite Spence Academy character, with her sharp tongue and mysterious past, is underused, but I loved all the minor characters, old and new, especially Ann's heroine, Lily Trimble. Even Fowlson, the mean thug from the previous books, gets some backstory, which is refreshing.

The ending is controversial, and I don't want to spoil it. I'll say that I hoped for a different ending when I started reading the book, but that at the end, it seemed appropriate and like it was inevitable. The series as a whole won't be to everyone's taste, but it ticked a lot of my boxes.

I would recommend the Gemma Doyle trilogy to fans of fantasy-tinged historical fiction - but be warned, it is long! I'd actually suggest getting ebooks of the second and third books, because even the paperbacks are massive and difficult to tote around.

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