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!

Geek Stuff

Glorious geekery.

I always enjoy the weeks after San Diego Comic Con. There's always so much video content generated by the weekend that it takes me a few weeks to watch it all. So far this year all I've managed to watch is trailers, there were (like always) so many good ones and so I thought today I'd share a few that excited me the most.

First up is the trailer for Thor: Ragnarok. I'm a huge fan of the Marvel films as a whole but if pushed would have to choose Thor as my favourite. I'm so pleased to see how brilliant this looks.

Next we have the trailer for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who. There's one moment in it that's really pretty spoilery so don't say I didn't warn you.

And finally the trailer for Ready Player One. This is an adaptation of a book that has been teetering on my to be read list for so long now. This trailer has made me push it much further up it, I want to make sure I've read it in readiness for the film.

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

Changing faces

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, waiting to go and take our seats to watch the Para Athletics (more on that tomorrow when I've got my thoughts in order) when this video finally went live

While I was waiting for the video to load I felt so nervous, there had been so much discussion about the fact that this time might actually be the time when we got a female cast in the role of Doctor but I couldn't bring myself to believe that might be the case. I was so delighted when it started playing and it became clearer and clearer that the Doctor was indeed being played by a woman and the reveal that the lucky lady who gets to write history is Jodie Whittaker.

As expected there are choruses of disappointment and anger over the move to cast a female in the role. I'm choosing to focus instead on the many voices saying that this development is going to bring them back to the show, or is going to be the step that makes them finally start watching it after years of disinterest. With regards to those negative voices though I love this post by excellent author Susie Day that is aimed at young people but speaks really to fans of any age.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where this next regeneration of The Doctor takes the story. With every new Doctor comes a shift of everything, a new beginning nestled inside the richest of histories, this 13th (or 14th or 15th depending on your personal take on the show's canon) face of The Doctor is surely going to take us on yet another incredible adventure.

Geek Stuff

Building brick by brick

Today I spent a lovely morning combining two of the things I love, Lego and The Avengers. 

I’d seen these Brick Headz ages ago and wasn’t entirely sold on them but then I saw a photo on Instagram of someone’s and realised they were actually pretty cool. When I saw them on sale in my local supermarket and noticed the was a Black Widow one I couldn’t resist. And of course I needed a Cap to go with her.

They were really good fun to build. They’re structured cleverly, I was impressed with the range of pieces they used and with the way they’re solid – I’d expected the inside of the head to be hollow but it’s actually filled with bricks.

They’re going to make a really good addition to the geeky shelves above my desk. I think I might have to add the Hulk and Iron Man ones that round out the existing Avengers range before long. 

Geek Stuff

Welcome back.

Doctor Who has been one of my favourite things for quite a few years now. In the time I’ve been loving the show I’ve completed two degrees,  I’ve moved six times, I’ve changed career paths once or twice and through it all the Doctor has been a constant. My degree of love for the show has waxed and waned, but athere’s lways been something that’s kept me watching.

Tonight the show returned for a new series. I was really looking forward to it, both to see how it could continue to build from the previous series which I really enjoyed and also to see the introduction of new girl Bill, played by Pearl Mackie.

I’m not intending on saying anything specific about the episode, as I’m typing this it still hasn’t aired in most places. I really enjoyed it though, I’m so pleased with the way it’s only increased my anticipation for the rest of the series. And as for Bill? Well I think there may be an imminent reshuffle towards the top end of my list of companions ordered by how much I love them!

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

A pair of pilots.

Over the weekend I watched two pilot episodes for genre shows from The CW. I already watch a few genre series made by The CW – Supernatural, Arrow, and The Tomorrow People. I did watch the first season of The Vampire Diaries and a few seasons of Smallville, though looking at the list of dramas both past and present I’ve never watched anything non- genre. I always look with interest at the list of new shows coming from The CW, both Star-Crossed and The 100 sounded like they might be my sort of shows. Having now watched both pilots I thought I’d talk about what I thought of them.

Here’s a bit about both shows:

StarCrossedSet in the near-future, the series follows a romance between a human girl and an alien boy when he and six others of his kind are integrated into a suburban high school.

The 100
The100The series is set 97 years after a devastating nuclear war. The only survivors were residents of several space stations that were orbiting the Earth at the onset of the war. These space stations banded together to form a massive one called “The Ark”. Resources are scarce and all crimes are punishable by death unless the one who committed the crime was under 18 years of age. Despite this, a hundred juvenile residents, convicted of what would have been relatively minor crimes and misdemeanors on pre-war Earth, are now considered “expendable” and are sent on a mission to test if Earth’s surface has become habitable again.

So when are they?
Both shows start with the inevitable exposition, letting us learn that both stories are set in the future, Star-Crossed in 2024 and The 100 an undefined 97 years after a nuclear war (so likely to be 2111 or later). I wasn’t entirely convinced by the near future setting of Star-Crossed but the much more futuristic time frame for The 100 worked pretty well.

Who hates who?
There is clear conflict established in both shows. Star-Crossed is giving us the Romeo and Juliet -esque “us and them” with the humans and aliens in direct opposition, whilst The 100 favors a more dystopian approach with shady seeming adults trying to worm their way into political control and the teens the potential victims of a generally poor situation.

And the love?
From the pilots Star-Crossed is definitely taking the lead romantically. Human girl Emery and alien boy Roman have a past, and it looks like they’re destined for one another. So of course that’s not going to go well.The 100 pilot is much lighter on the love side of things, we have a minor character trying to become a ladies man but our female lead Eliza isn’t too obviously keen on any of the boys she’s surrounded by.

Are they pretty?
It’s The CW. I think it’s written into their constitution that they have to cast pretty girls and pretty boys. The ensemble size means The 100 might just have the edge in this respect, but I did find there were just a couple too many boys with floppy dark hair and got confused about which one was which.

Any diversity going on?
Both shows actually have cast members with either a disability or major health issue, though my gut is telling me that at least one of these characters isn’t going to last very long. There are characters of colour in both shows but it’s not clear yet whether there are any non-straight characters.

Worth continuing with?
Of the two shows Star-Crossed has the edge for me so far, purely because it ticks a few more of the boxes on my “Things I love in TV series” boxes. Both pilots though did plenty to make me tune in again, The CW hasn’t always been particularly good at hooking me in with pilots so I’m hoping this is a good sign for what’s to come.

What about everyone else?
I asked Liz to have a little look at this post, I know she’s watched both pilots too. She made a couple of really interesting points she’s happy for me to share. Firstly she’s seen plenty of chatter about Star-Crossed on Tumblr but not much for The 100, once she pointed this out I realised my online experience was the same. Twice as many episodes of Star-Crossed have aired so far, this may have something to do with it – I get the idea The 100 bit be a slightly slower burner too.

She also commented on the different focus – Star-Crossed looks like it will have a smaller cast and focus on the teens whilst The 100 has a bigger ensemble and is focusing on the full age range of society. I think this is an interesting point, within a few episodes I think the two shows may well fall into very different camps and will appeal to quite different groups of viewers.

I’m looking forward to seeing how both shows unfold. I have a definite preference at the moment but I am interested to see how I’ll feel by the end of the season. Both have 13 episode runs, plenty of time for my feelings to change completely!

Book Stuff · Geek Stuff · Life

Banished is in the wild.

On Thursday I travelled down to London to attend the launch for my lovely friend Liz de Jager’s debut novel Banished. It is the first in a young adult urban fantasy trilogy published by Tor in the UK.

The blurb:
imageSworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

The very first interaction I had with Liz was on Twitter. There was a discussion going on about writing (a far from unusual occurrence amongst many of the people I hang around with on Twitter) and she told me to get my butt in the chair and write – solid advice I am still heeding a few years on. We chatted plenty more online before getting to meet in person at the Thoughtbubble comics convention in 2011, I spent the day with her and her equally lovely husband Mark – we geeked out about the many things we saw, about our mutual interests and of course about writing.

It was as we sat eating lunch that Liz told me about her current project (that was to become Banished), it sounded hugely exciting and part of me knew instantly then that it was going to work out for her. It was a real thrill therefore when some time later she asked me if I’d be prepared to read for her and give feedback – I’ve been doing so every since and it has felt like a real privilege to tag along for her journey to publication.

I’m glad I’m having a break from reviewing, I couldn’t begin to review Banished – it’s a book I care far too much about to begin to work out how to approach talking about it in an impartial way. I’ve been so excited to see so many great reviews for it already, it certainly deserves all of the praise it has been getting.

The launch itself was a wonderful evening. The room it was held in was jam packed with so many well-wishers all wanting to celebrate Liz’s achievement. She’s a popular lady, her time running My Favourite Books has earned her the respect of a huge number of people involved in publishing in the UK – authors, publishers, booksellers and reviewers alike. Liz spent a huge amount of the launch sat behind a table signing copies of her book – at one point it was very hard to work out where exactly the end of the snaking queue was, everyone wanted their copy signed.

I had such a lovely time. I got to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a very long time – living so far from London is a real hindrance at times. I also got to meet people I’d chatted with online but not had the chance to meet before. By the time I got back to the youth hostel I was staying in I was exhausted in the best possible way – it had been a great evening for the very best of reasons.