Book Stuff · Geek Stuff


This weekend I've been in London at the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) which is housed within London Film and Comic Con (LFCC). It's been a brilliant weekend and rather than sit on the idea of blogging about it in a few days I thought I'd forego the detailed post I'd end up aspiring to (and never writing) and instead share a few of my highlights of the weekend straight away. So in no particular order…

  • Spending time with friends – this is, for me, one of the most important parts about the YALC weekend, getting to meet up with people I don't get to see anywhere near enough. I got to speak to everyone I'd wanted to at least briefly which is brilliant. Special mentions though have to go to Keris, Michelle and Donna who I got to spend the most time with throughout the weekend.
  • The atmosphere – being in a space where the focus is on young adult books just seems to foster this incredibly warm, welcoming and friendly space. I've been to plenty of other conventions with different focus topics and they never feel quite like this.
  • The proximity to LFCC – I only visited the main convention once this year but could've spent more time there if I'd wanted to, it's so good to get to go and explore the traditional convention as well as have all the bookish content (plus we bumped into one of my old friends and it was lovely to have a catch up).
  • The panels – this year I only went to two, but they were both very good. I enjoyed yesterday's myth and magic themed panel but today's fandom panel was definitely my highlight.

There's probably loads more I could say, but for me these are the things that made the weekend as special as it was. I'm exhausted now but deep down already looking forward to next year!

Book Stuff · Films

Best get reading

I was so excited to see this new trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It’s more years than I care to remember since I last read the book, it’s going onto my reading list so I can read it again in plenty of time before the film comes out next year.

Book Stuff

Spotlight – Authors for Grenfell Tower


In the wake of tragedy the literary world can often be found pulling together in an amazing fashion to raise funds to support the aid efforts. Following last week’s horrific fire at Grenfell Tower a group of authors and agents has come together to organise an online auction to raise funds for the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund.

The auction is now live and can be found here. There are already so many incredible lots and they’re still being listed – more have appeared while I’ve been typing this post. I’ve got my eye on a few though I’m sure (and hope) that what I can bid will be far surpassed by someone else. Please do check it out and, if you are able to, get bidding.

Book Stuff · Fun Stuff

I Dare You book tag

Earlier this week I saw Donna at The Untitled Book Blog post this book tag and I thought it was a great set of questions. It’s such a long time since I did a post like this that I thought I’d join in the fun. The rules are:

You must be honest
You can’t not answer a question
You have to tag at least four people
So here we go!

1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?
Most of my longest owned books are in boxes, but my sets of the What Katy Did and Little Women books have been there for a good 25+ years (and they were my mom’s before they were mine so between us they’ve been on our bookshelves for a very long time).

2. What is your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next?
Current read: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Last read: Cuckoo by Keren David
Next read: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Bachman (probably, it’s my book group book and I still have a couple of weeks so I may squeeze another in before I read it).

3. What book(s) did everyone like and you hated?
Not many actually and none in the last few years, mainly because I’ve got much better at not continuing with books I’m not enjoying. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville springs to mind and Every Vow You Break by Julia Crouch.

4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
So many classics. I started reading Les Miserables about 15 years ago and have very optimistically left my bookmark in the book at the point where I put it down. I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to it (I think by now I’d have to go back to the beginning and start over which makes it even less likely I’ll ever do it) but who knows.

5. Which book are you saving for “retirement”?
None. If I want to read something I’m going to get on and read it now.

6. Last page: read it first or wait till the end?
Wait until the end. Absolutely. I really don’t like to be spoiled for anything.

7. Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?
Utterly essential. I love reading the acknowledgements, writing a book is super hard and I want to hear what the author has to say about it and about the people who helped along the way.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?
I think probably one of the minor characters from the Harry Potter universe, one who gets to stay properly clear of all of the drama but still gets to go to Hogwarts and enjoy the wizarding world.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life?
Lots of books do this. The Outsiders was the book that made me sit up and take notice and realise that children’s / teen fiction could be something more than what I’d previously thought. Most of Dorothy Koomson’s books remind me of things – reading The Cupid Effect sat by a pool on holiday, devouring The Woman He Loved Before in a morning while I waited to sit an exam that afternoon, buying The Girl From Nowhere to celebrate the end of my first week living in London and my first week in my new job.

10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
Last year at YALC I had to play a card game to win a copy of Marcus Sedgwick’s next book Saint Death.

11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
No. I’ve bought special books for special people, but never given away my own copies.

12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
Is it cheating to say the contents of my Kindle library? Yes? Oh. Well then I don’t know. Probably my Harry Potter books, they’ve moved with me to and from two universities (well, the earliest have, I was doing my first degree while about half of the series was published) and to London and back too.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?
I was blessed with an English teacher who really carefully chose books from the options set out in the curriculum so I really enjoyed them at the time.

14. What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
A piece of cooked bacon, back when I was working in a public library.

15. Used or brand new?
Love the history and stories that come from used books, but my reading preference is brand new.

16. Have you ever read a Dan Brown?
Yes. I’ve read the first three of the Robert Langdon books and both of the not Robert Langdon books.

17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
Not that I can recollect, no.

18. A book that NEVER should have been published.
Ooh, what a harsh question! I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I’m too busy focusing on the happy and the positive.

19. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks being excluded from this question?
Yes, I’ve read quite a few books where the main character bakes or runs a tea room – just the mention of delicious cake has me craving some!

20. Who is the person whose book advice you will always take?
I have a couple of friends whose book advice is always spot on.


Book Stuff

Twice as nice

The friends I’m staying with at the moment have three little boys, a four year old and two year old twins. We got chatting today about picture books and realised we couldn’t come up with any picture books other than the Topsy and Tim series that featured twins.

I asked twitter for any suggestions that were available in the UK and these are the answers so far: 

  • Twin to Twin by Margaret O’Hair, 
  • Two is for Twins by Wendy Lewison, 
  • Little Miss Twins by Roger Hargreaves, 
  • Mine! by Rachel Bright, 
  • Allison Hubble by Alan Ahlberg (not twins but a girl who goes to bed single and wakes up double), 
  • Hello Twins by Charlotte Voake (out of print), 
  • The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis, 
  • The Tintin books by Hergé

Based on the covers alone it appears that with the exception of Thomson and Thompson in the Tintin books all of these books feature either girl twins or girl and boy twins rather than boy twins like my friends’ boys so I’m curious to see if anyone has any other suggestions to add to the list?

Book Stuff · Reading Challenges

My year ahead in books.

I’ve been thinking for the last few days about which, if any, reading challenges I’m going to take part in this year. I loved this post by Sarra Manning about her reading resolutions for 2017. For me, I want to try and make sure I’m reading as broadly as possible. I’ve found over the last couple of years I’m reading more of a mix of adult and young adult books again, I’m enjoying this but want to make sure that the books I’m selecting are more broadly representative.

I’ve decided at the moment on two reading challenges.


First up is the British Books Challenge, hosted this year by Michelle at Tales of Yesterday. I’ve done this challenge in the past, and I want to make sure I’m continuing to support books by British authors. I’m not going to be writing reviews on here any more, though there will still be bookish posts, but I’m hoping to get better at sharing my brief thoughts on the books I’m reading on my Goodreads, and maybe Instagram or Twitter too.


The second challenge I’ve decided on is YA Interrobang and The Gay YA’s #queer52 reading challenge. They’ve listed 52 queer YA books, there are three levels of challenge – 12 books, 24 books or the full 52.I’m not going to choose a level yet, I’m going to focus on reading as many of them as I can. There are 6 I’ve already read, a few I own but haven’t read yet and many that have been on my must read list for some time so I think this is going to be a good challenge for me.

Finally I’ve set my Goodreads target for the year. I’ve gone for 104 books like last year, an average of 2 books a week feels like a good achievement.



Book Stuff

Guest Post – Dan Metcalf on Why He Writes.

Today I’m pleased to be welcoming Dan Metcalf to my blog – he’s launching a new children’s series The Lottie Lipton Adventure tomorrow with the first two titles, The Secrets of the Stone and The Curse of the Cairo Cat. He’s written a great post on why he writes, so with no further ado here’s Dan.

The title of this blog post is a lie. It leads you to assume I’m going to tell you exactly why I write, when in actuality, I have no idea.

I’ve always written. Not direct from the womb, obviously, but ever since I could hold a pen and get my thoughts down on paper. Before that I would make up stories and tales (and lies, let’s be honest) about everything I did not understand. I thought that was how the world worked – you don’t know something? Just create it. I remember innocently asking where babies comes from and my mother cleverly turning the question around on me.

“Where do you think they come from?” she asked. I created a grand fiction where there were hundreds of babies in a factory, lying on conveyer belts, deflated like a punctured beach ball. Someone would come along and plug a hose into their bellybutton and pump them up like a bouncy castle. Well, why else would you have a bellybutton?

At school the only thing I was ever good at was daydreaming. If there was a window, I’d stare out of it. If the teacher gave us free reign to write whatever we wished, I would create page after page of fantasy/scifi/adventure stories. None ever got finished but some still live in my mind like a stubborn squatter.

When it came to choosing careers, I had no clue what I could do. The computerised test brought up ‘scriptwriter’ and so I enrolled on a degree course, graduating with several hundred pages of cringingly bad stories but having had a really good time.

And from there I moved into my first love of books, rising at 5am to cram in a few hours of writing my opus before going to work to argue with students about overdue fines. Slowly but surely my technique refined.

But why do I write? You might as well ask why an athlete runs, or why a fish swims, or why a dog does that thing with other dog’s bottoms. It’s what we’re good at. It’s all we know. It’s in us, and has to get out.

Which is why when my agent told me that Bloomsbury Publishing wanted to put my books out, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was no longer the schoolboy staring out of the window. I had now graduated to being a grown-up, one who stares out of windows and then writes down what he sees.

Why do I write? Probably because I can’t turn off that compulsion to daydream, so instead I just write it down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to look absently into the distance (it’s work, I promise…)

Thanks Dan, I always love hearing writers talk about writing!

Dan’s books are out tomorrow, published by A & C Black, a Bloomsbury imprint. I haven’t read them myself but they sound great, they’re described by Bloomsbury as “Perfect for developing and newly confident readers, Lottie Lipton Adventures are packed with action, adventure and puzzles for the reader to solve” so I’m definitely planning on checking them out! You can find out more here.