BLOG TOUR: Proud

This year sees the release of one of my most hotly anticipated books, another brilliant anthology from the wonderful publishers Stripes. This year it’s an anthology to celebrate all things pride… and I’m not going to lie, reading it made me VERY proud.

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Today, I have the absolute honour of hosting one of the authors from the anthology, Michael Lee Richardson, as he talks about his top 5 queer teams. You’re in for an absolutely brilliant blog post, so get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit! 

‘The Other Team’

Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin talks about biological families and logical families, the idea that we have the families we’re born into, and the families we make of our friends. For me, being queer is as much about our friendships and the people we choose to surround ourselves with as it is our romantic and sexual relationships. 

Queer friendship is one of the themes I wanted to work into ‘The Other Team’, the story I wrote for Juno Dawson’s Proud anthology.

With that in mind, when I was asked to write something for the #ProudBook blog tour, I wanted to focus on my favourite queer teams and my favourite queer teammates – so, without further ado:

Michael Lee Richardson’s Top 5 Queer Teams!

The Crystal Gems

I’m a huge fan of Steven Universe – at this point, figuring out which Crystal Gem someone is most like is basically its own form of zodiac sign – and I love the dynamic between the Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and Steven. The fact that they compliment each other, celebrate each other’s differences, and make room for each others quirks and eccentricities is pretty inspiring, as is the fact that they know how to have a good argument and still be there for each other at the end of the day. In the real world, the fact that the Crewniverse – the team behind Steven Universe – is full of queers is also pretty inspiring!

The Fab Five

When I heard Netflix were remaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I was skeptical – the series had its place in the early 2000s, but it felt like we had moved on by 2017. Relaunching the show as Queer Eye – not all the makeovers are with ‘straight guys’ – was a good starting point, but the team Netflix put together was the key to the show’s success. Jonathan Van Ness is my favourite, obviously (when I wrote Alistair from ‘The Other Team’ flicking his ‘hair’ off his shoulders, I was definitely thinking of Van Ness!), but I love them all, and they all bring something unique to the team – not just in their skills, but in their personalities and personas, and it’s nice to see a diverse bunch of queer men working together (especially when it’s for the benefit of other queers).

House of LaBeija

Nothing speaks to the idea of logical families better than houses, part of the drag and ballroom customs which started in Harlem in New York and have become a staple of queer scenes all over the world. From the language – shade, reading, fierce, realness – to the fashion to the dance, ballroom’s influence on queer and mainstream culture can’t be underestimated. I’m particularly fond of the House of LaBeija – Crystal LaBeija, the founder of the House of LaBeija, is often credited as having started ‘house’ culture, and her successor Pepper LaBeija makes a star turn in the legendary drag documentary Paris is Burning.

Babysitter’s Club

Okay, so they’re not canonically queer – but one of the things Proud has made me revisit is the idea that, before LGBTQI+ YA was a going concern, we had to ‘queer’ our YA for ourselves, and there’s no way you could tell 11 year old me the every single one of these girls (and Logan Bruno, boy babysitter) wasn’t queer! The ‘theory’ checks out, too – Ann M Martin, author of The Babysitter’s Club, is queer, and came out publicly after the series was finished. 

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

Slightly cheating, this one, as I said being queer teammates was more about friendships than romantic relationships – and Helen and Kate are both! Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh met playing for the England and Great Britain hockey teams – they married in 2013, three years before becoming the first same-sex couple to win an Olympic medal when Team GB won Gold in the women’s field hockey tournament in 2016.

For me, any blog post that celebrates Team GB, The Fab 5 and drag queens in the same blog post is an ABSOLUTE winner. A massive massive thank you to Michael for taking the time to write a blog post for me! I LOVE it so much. 

My review of Proud is coming in the next week or so, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. I promise you this much though… it is EXCEPTIONAL and I can’t wait to shout about it from the rooftops!! 

Why don’t you go celebrate some other brilliant #Proudbook content by checking out the rest of the stops on the blog tour? I have absolutely loved how this blog tour is celebrating all things pride related. 

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A massive thank you to the people of Stripes for sending me an early copy of the book and for inviting me on the blog tour. It’s been an absolute honour to shout about this book everywhere! I can’t wait for it to be released into the wild so everyone can enjoy its majesty! 

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: Sinead O’Hart

The Star Spun Web: what would you do if you discovered you held one of the most incredible pieces of scientific gadgetry in your hand?!

img_4853(Star Spun Web kept me company on the train to London recently… and it gripped me STRAIGHT away!)

“With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange star-shaped device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs…”

The Star Spun Web is the second book from the brilliant Sinead O’Hart – author of the wonderful Eye of the North – and man, it’s A TOTAL RIDE. 

The Star Spun Web tells the story of young Tess, who is living at an orphanage, having been left there by her father in strange circumstances. Tess knows very little about her family, only that she was left at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings when she was a baby and has lived there ever since. There are family secrets aplenty for Tess to discover, but when an ominous ‘uncle’ appears out of nowhere to claim her, she has to upheave her life and move to his MASSIVE mansion. 

Now this all sounds wonderful, moving away from an orphanage to a massive mansion… but Tess loves her life at Ackerbee’s. She’s got friends, there’s adults there who genuinely love her – she doesn’t want to leave with this strange man who has appeared out of nowhere. If you pair these emotions with a strange gadget that is handed to her before she leaves, Tess is well and truly confused. All she knows about this gadget is that it was left with her when she was left at Ackerbee’s… so it must have been important. 

Once Tess has moved from the orphanage, what follows is a complete and utter rollercoaster of science, finding your feet and fighting for what you know is right. 

I loved Tess. She’s such an incredible main character. She’s intelligent, witty, charming. She thinks for herself. She stands up for herself. She fights for her friends. She isn’t afraid to be brave and do her own thinking – big or small thinking, it’s all scary at the end of the day! I loved Violet too… I know… me! Saying positive things about a spider! I think it’s the thing that Violet represents for me that I love. We all need a “constant” in our lives – be it your mam, dad, brother, a friend, a cousin – to keep us grounded, and that’s what Violet did for Tess. 

A brilliant main character, some friends who help her along the way, and some baddies. Oh the baddies. They’re clever and wily. I don’t wanna spoil it too much… but obviously things don’t end up being what they seem. People have ulterior motives. There’s SHOCKS aplenty with some of the characters (one of them floored me at one point). 

I absolutely adored all of the science of this book too. It’s accessible and out there, but it’s explained in such a way that it won’t go over the top of kids’ heads – if I can understand it, then you’ve got a winner! 

This is a brilliantly meaty book to get your teeth stuck into. It’s pretty long for a MG book, but it’s perfect for Year 5s and 6s. It’s gone down wonderfully with my 5s so far. A few quick snippets from 2 children who’ve read it so far:

“It’s a load of fun because it’s really clever. Plus Tess is a great character. I’d love to be her friend”

“Imagine moving to a mansion but then someone wanting to use you to do something terrible? I don’t wanna be in Tess’ position ever, but she’s clever and makes the right choice”

My goodreads review:

I loved this absolute ride! The brilliant characters, the fascinating science, the incredible plot and the brilliant sidekicks. Man, I REALLY hope there’ll be a second one!

Thank you to the brilliant publishers at Stripes for my copy. I’ve since bought 2 more copies for school!

Thanks for coming along! Speak to you all soon! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Company of Eight

Today, I have the absolute pleasure of hosting Harriet Whitehorn, author of The Company of Eight, on my blog. She’s here to talk about something I was SUPER curious about when I was invited onto the blog tour: 

My Top Three Female Led Fantasy Stories

Little Red Riding Hood

Fairy tales are almost always about girls, and I presume, historically were used as a method to indoctrinate young ladies in how they should behave – for example, if they did a lot of housework without moaning they might end up with a handsome prince.   Most of the heroines are drippy beyond words but I have always had a soft spot for Little Red Riding Hood in her attention seeking red cloak, who wants a little bit more out of life and strays of the path in search of adventure and excitement with the Big Bad Wolf. 

Alice in Wonderland 

Alice is another girl in search of adventure, and what a time she has of it with the array of amazing creatures she comes across in Wonderland- the sinister Cheshire Cat and the tyrannical Queen of Hearts are my personal favourites .  And what I love about Alice is the practical and no-nonsense attitude she retains in the face of the chaos of CS Lewis’s crazy world.   

Lila in The Firework Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman

Pullman’s best known heroine is Lyra in the Northern Lights, but I rather like Lila in his earlier story, and she is every bit as brave and tenacious as her more famous counterpart.    Despite being told by her father that being a firework maker it is an unsuitable job for a woman, Lila is determined to be pursue her dream, and goes on a quest to prove it, ending up winning both The Firework Festival and her father’s approval of her career choice.  

Thank you so much Harriet for your brilliant post! Massive thanks to Stripes for inviting me to be part of the blog tour too!

Everyone should go check out The Company of Eight – I read it a while back and absolutely adored it!

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When Ravellous’s Circus Ship comes to Minaris, Cass is determined to audition despite her guardian Mrs Potts’s disapproval. But when her chance is snatched away from her, Cass refuses to give up. She sets out to follow the Circus Ship and the journey leads her into dangers that challenge even her adventurous spirit. Will she succeed in following her dream, or is her destiny something altogether different? 

I am Day 1 of the blog tour! I can’t wait to see the rest of the posts on the tour, check out the banner below to see who else is on the tour and check out their posts when they go live!

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Happy reading!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Eye of the North

Hello!

Welcome to my stop on The Eye of the North blog tour!

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“When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland. There he hopes to summon a mystical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world. 

Unfortunately, Bauer isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too, and Emmeline along with a scrappy stowaway named Thing may be the only one with the power to save the world as we know it. Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time and live to tell the tale?”

The Eye of the North is an incredible adventure-filled tale of Emmeline and her friend Thing, who have to go and save Emmeline’s parents. There’s baddiesgoodies, boat rides, Paris, peril, capture, mysterious creatures, power hungry doctors and incredibly fun characters. This book is one of those that my kids love – the proof hasn’t stayed on the shelf in school for long! 

Today, the amazing humans at Stripes have given one lucky person the chance to win a copy! WOOHOO.  

For a chance to win, make sure you’re following me on twitter and RT the tweet this blog post is mentioned in! Go give @SJOHart and @StripesBooks a follow too – they’re brilliant! The giveaway closes on February 23rd, winner will be contacted on February 24th

Good luck!

Keep an eye out for my full review of Eye of the North coming in the next week or so! While you wait, go check out the rest of the amazing blogs on the blog tour! 

S xx

BOOKBLOG: Anna Wilson

Vlad: The World’s Worst Vampire – a great quick story filled with fun and friendship!

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“Vlad is the youngest member of the Impaler family, the bravest vampires that ever lived. But Vlad isn’t very brave at all. He’s even a little bit scared of the dark!
All Vlad wants is some friends and he thinks he knows just where to find them… Human school! So off Vlad goes, along with his pet bat Flit. But how will Vlad keep his true identity secret from his new friends? Not to mention keeping them hidden from his family! Life just got a lot more complicated…”

I received this gorgeous book from Stripes a week or so ago and because Vlad was such a handsome looking little dude I picked it up. I love books like this because I know they’re going to be a quick read – perfect for the 5-9 year olds I know! 

This book tells the story of Vlad, who is as the title suggests, the worst vampire you may ever meet. He has dreams of going to school, making friends, learning things in a classroomnot staying at home and learning to fly. He’s a rubbish flier. He just can’t get it. It is a constant source of madness with his parents. He doesn’t want to do it though. He wants friends. He wants to go school. So being a brave young man, he does just that. He has to overcome some pretty horrific hurdles – is the sun going to burn him? What’s going to happen to Flit? But all is well in the end! 

I really enjoyed Vlad and I know it is going to be great for some of the beginner readers at school, but also for those children who want a fun, quick read! I know it was great for me to read a book that was gorgeous and quick to read! 

Plus… the illustrations are incredible! 

Have you read Vlad?
Do you think you’d make a good vampire?
If you could be a mythical creature, which would you choose?

Let me know in the comments or on twitter! I would love to know your choices! 

S x

BOOKBLOG: #ChangeBook

A Change Is Gonna Come: diverse, brilliant, necessary.

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(I think this is one of my favourite pictures I’ve ever taken. Shout out to Ru Paul)

“Featuring top Young Adult authors alongside a host of exciting new talent, this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change is a long-overdue addition to the YA scene. Contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla. Plus introducing four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy.”

Change is an incredible collection of short stories and poems from a collection of beautifully diverse voices. Men, women, new voices, established authors, story writers, poets – it’s all represented. I was sent a copy from the gorgeous Charlie from Stripes, as I was part of the blog tour (if you’d like to read that then check it out here: #ChangeBook blog tour) and I was SO EXCITED when I opened the envelope and saw the gorgoeusly yellow cover!

The thing that stands out most to me about #ChangeBook is how it so seamlessly celebrates diverse voices, diverse characters and diverse stories, but that at the bottom of everything there’s this humanity about it. We’re all human. Everyone deserves to be celebrated. It’s so incredible to read stories from people of different heritage and different backgrounds – so many books lack this.

My stand out stories from Change Book are definitely Aisha Busby‘s story: which was heartbreaking in a very quiet (but very teary) way. Anyone who’s ever loved something will feel this and Tanya Byrne‘s wonderful account of love: a total winner for me. It spoke to me in quite a deep way and the writing felt very personal. I want more from Byrne. So much more.

I would definitely encourage EVERYONE to go out and buy this. As someone who doesn’t openly embrace poetry, it was refreshing to read some poetry alongside wonderful stories!

Have you read Change Book?
Do you have a favourite entry?
What was the thing that stood out most for you?

Let me know on twitter, or in the comments! I would love to know your thoughts on this!

S x

#ChangeBook blog tour

A while back, I was sent an email by the brilliant Charlie from Stripes, asking me if I would be interested in taking part in the blog tour for #ChangeBook and I happily accepted. 

Today is that day.
Today I bring you Catherine Johnson’s brilliant blog post on her story ‘Astounding Talent! Unequalled Performances! which I have read and will happily tell you it is beautiful. 

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I am so thrilled that my story Astounding Talent! Unequalled Performances! has been included in the anthology. It’s been a real privilege to be a small part of the energy that’s gone into the book.

So why am I writing historical fiction? And why William Darby?

Well the reason I began was because it’s important to me, as a British mixed race woman, to say there have been people like me in our country for ever – not simply since the Windrush in the late nineteen forties but stretching back to at least the Roman conquest.

When I grew up British history was always totally white. Just like a Quality Tin lid or Downton Abbey. I hope some of my stories might go a little way to changing that.

And there are so many brilliant true stories that are more incredible than anything I could make up. Very often my stories are based on real people or include real people (Mary Wilcox in Lady Caraboo, Thomas Dumas in Blade and Bone) I get a bit carried away and want everyone else to know about them too, and that’s how I felt when I discovered William Darby, the main character in my Change story.

William Darby was born in 1811 in the Norwich workhouse, he became a successful – and the first non-white – circus impresario of the mid Victorian era.

The Illustrated London News said of one of his shows;

Mr. Pablo Fanque is an artiste of colour, we have not only never seen such riding surpassed, but never equalled. Mr Pablo Fanque was the hit of the evening.

He first performed as Young Darby, and it was not until he led his own troupe that he took the name Pablo Fanque.  My story is completely made up but I did wonder how he chose his stage name…

CJ

Catherine Johnson

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Thank you Charlie and Stripes for sending me a copy of #ChangeBook – a review will be up next week! I can’t wait for EVERYONE to read this book. Please, go out, buy it, get it from the library. Everyone needs to read it. 

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! I can promise you it’ll be brilliant

Change Blog Tour

BOOKBLOG: Tom Becker

I’ll Be Home For Christmas: honest, frank and emotive.

This collection of poems and stories by some of the leading UK YA authors is a brilliant book and it’s for a BRILLIANT cause – with each book that’s bought a donation is given to Crisis. Lovely idea. Well done Stripes publishing! This collection is all about homes and families – both those which are chosen us and the ones we choose.

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Now I’m not going to review the whole book in loads of detail because you’d be here forever and I would run out of words eventually but there are some that I totally want to highlight and talk about! 

Ghosts of Christmas Past (Non Pratt)
This story was gorgeous. Told a tale of how one person’s past can be someone else’s future. I didn’t see it coming. It struck me a bit and it was powerful. I loved it. 

The Afterschool Club (Holly Bourne)
I’m a massive Holly fan so was super excited to see that she’d written something for this collection and I was not let down! The main characters were both equally loveable. I love a story where I like both of the main characters. There was no need for anyone else to be involved. It was complex, haunting, dangerous but hopeful. I adored it. I want more from these two. They made my heart happy. 

Homo for Christmas (Juno Dawson)
OH MAN I WANT TO CHAMPION THIS STORY SO MUCH. I COULD TALK ABOUT IT FOR HOURS (I won’t). I must’ve sent Juno about 100 tweets during/after reading this story and I am so glad it exists in my life. There are SO MANY reasons why it’s incredible.
a) A Geordie protagonist – a likeable Geordie protagonist, who doesn’t get drunk all the time. We are not all like that. 
b) So many references that made me laugh – the northerners don’t wear coats thing, yes. So much of this tale made my poor little Geordie heart happy.
c) The relationship between the main character and his mam – I know this is probably true of everyone and their mam, but it made me so happy to see a functioning, supportive mam.
d) THE USE OF THE WORD MAM. Yes. That’s the word we use in these parts and it’s so good to see it in a book!!
e) His coming out – mams are incredible people. I don’t wanna spoil it for you, because READ IT. But know that mams are incredible.
This particular story hit a million nerves with me. I just can not champion this short story enough in my world. Everyone needs to read it. Juno is an absolute goddess for putting this into the world. I need more stories with Geordie protagonists like him. 

Those were 3 of my highlights but I think everyone should read this story because it was such a diverse collection of characters and stories, and situations. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories – I always crave more – but this was a fantastic one to read! Go on, you’re doing a good thing buying this book! 

S x