2019 releases…

Well hello… happy Friday to all you lovely people of the world!

Today I’m here to shout about 2019 releases I’m excited for. Some of my 2019 releases I’ve already read and I’m gonna give them a bit of love, but I’m just gonna shout about them all. 

Here goes nothing… 

Let’s start with 2019 releases I’ve read and LOVED:

2019 loves

Now some 2019 releases that I can’t WAIT to get my hands on:

2019 wants

Add to that list these books:

And Then I Turned Into a Mermaid – Laura Steven (Laura Steven is diving into the world of MG with a mermaid book… yes please!)
The Toll – Neal Shusterman (The 3rd book in the Scythe trilogy)

I could keep going… but I should probably go and do something productive!

What are some of your fave 2019 books?
What 2019 books can you not wait to get your hands on?
Are you still reading books from 2018? (yes haha I am!)

Let me know in the comments – I don’t need more books to add to my list, but I DO. 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: C.G.Drews

YOU GUYS ARE IN FOR A PROPER TREAT ON THIS HERE FIRST DAY OF APRIL. Don’t say I don’t spoil you. AND THIS IS NO APRIL FOOLS EITHER. 

As you all know I am a MASSIVE (and I mean MASSIVE) fan of the brilliant C.G.Drews’ books (as seen in my review of A Thousand Perfect Notes). When her new book The Boy Who Steals Houses was announced, the poor publishers received a VERY grovelly email asking if I could have a copy to review… and they were INCREDIBLE and sent me a copy. Well NOW GUYS IT’S ALMOST RELEASE TIME (in fact… THURSDAY IS THE BIG DAY). I consumed it in a matter of hours and I just adored it – you’ll find my review of the book here (clicky, click). 

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Then… astonishingly… I got an email from the publishers asking me if I’d like to kick off the blog tour and I WAS DELIGHTED. 

So here, I am, sharing with you a deleted scene from The Boy Who Steals Houses. This scene originally sat between Chapter 24 and 26, and don’t worry, it’s not too spoilery! 

So sit back, get a cup of tea and enjoy!! 

POTATOES ARE BETTER THAN ROMANCE

(Deleted Scene from The Boy Who Steals Houses)

His attention should be on the knife, on the whorls of potato peels slipping through his fingers. But Sam can’t stop worrying.

About summer ending.

About finally telling Moxie all his secrets.

About Avery boxing himself into a world of sharp corners and dangerous ledges and insisting he can take care of himself. Sam hasn’t checked on him in days. That selfishness twists his stomach like soured lemonade.

Moxie stands next to him as they peel potatoes together. The rest of the family are still out working at the building site, but Jeremy is home early for dinner duties. He’s seventeen, but definitely the best cook in the house. He clatters jars of herbs and butter onto the bench and then surveys them with a mournful expression.

“Why are you both so slow?” he says. “Are we having my infamous herb and garlic potatoes this year or at my funeral when I die at age ninety-four?”

Moxie throws peels at him. “Rude.” She nudges Sam with her hip. “Hey, you’re far away. Everything okay?”

Sam blinks. “I’m fine.” He needs to snap out of it or Moxie will press with questions he’s not ready to answer. He wants to keep this summer, this pretend honeyed paradise, for as long as possible.

Distraction comes in the form of Toby trotting into the kitchen with Jeremy’s phone clasped in sticky three-year-old hands. The De Lainey’s refer to the hour before dinner as the dreaded witching time, when the little ones will hurtle into hangry meltdowns if you even look at them wrong. Jeremy offered up his phone like a sacrificial goat so Toby would be occupied and they could get dinner on. The baby is licking the wall but seems fine. It’s just Toby now planted in the midst of the kitchen with the phone raised above his head as it plays tinny strains of music.

He jumps up and down. “Dance wiv me, Moxie!”

“Um, no.” Moxie stabs an apple. “I have standards.”

Toby forcefully crosses his arms and his bottom lip wobbles.

“If he starts crying,” Jeremy warns, “he will never stop and my fragile eardrums can’t take it. I’m not…not strong enough. Don’t be a monster, Moxie.” He flaps vaguely in Toby’s direction. “At least he put on Twice Burgundy. It’s a good band. Our little terror has taste.”

Toby tips back his head and wails, “Nobody will dance wiv me!”

“Quick put food in his mouth,” Moxie says. “That’ll distract him.”

But Toby’s already gone into a boneless heap, wail escalating.

Sam abandons the potatoes and slips over to the ensuing apocalypse. He’s really good at averting meltdowns. Lots of practice with Avery.

“Moxie is a terrible dancer.” Sam pats Toby’s back. “You don’t want her anyway.”

“Ouch,” says Jeremy.

Moxie raises an eyebrow. “I’m unsure whether to be grateful for that comment.”

Toby picks himself up, face damp, and then flings arms around Sam’s legs. “You dance!” He starts jumping up and down, clutching Sam’s leg with one arm and the phone with the other, which continues a song that tastes of violent summer storms.

Sam gives Moxie and Jeremy a helpless look. They smirk.

“Daaaance!” shrieks the tiny overlord.

Sam obeys.

He is not a dancer. His ears go hot as he tries to move his gangly limbs in some sort of rhythm. His undone shoelaces flick against the floor and he has no idea what he’s doing. But Toby beams and begins what looks like a demon-possessed-chicken-polka.

Moxie cracks up so hard she starts dropping potatoes.

“Dance! Dance!” Toby shouts.

“Yeah, Moxie. Dance, dance.” Sam snatches her hand and pulls her into a spin, because if he’s going to suffer, so is she.

Moxie is laughing too hard to protest. But when she finally gets her breath, she rests a palm against Sam’s chest. “Fine.” Her eyes are bright as a dare. “But this is how you dance.”

And suddenly they’re not messing around to good music on bad speakers. They’re truly dancing.

Their hearts pound and bodies brush together. Moxie’s arms twirl above her head and Sam’s feet skid across the floorboards. There’s a thump as Jeremy jumps into the middle, proving the demon-possessed-chicken-polka style is a disturbing De Lainey family trait.

They are so happy in that moment, so full of wild abandon, they could have outshone the sun.

They are also so distracted, by music and their own fierce delight, that they don’t hear the front door opening as Mr. De Lainey and Jack walk in.

The impromptu dance party ends with a shriek from Moxie and all three of them drop down behind the kitchen benches. Toby just squeals in delight at this new turn of the game.

“I’m pretty sure they saw us,” Sam says, breathing hard.

Moxie covers her face. “Bury me.”

Jeremy pats her shoulder. “Jack’s never going to let this go. We might as well leave the country.”

On cue, Jack starts crowing while kicking off his work boots. “What was that delightful sight?”

“I don’t know, Jack.” Mr. De Lainey’s voice is exaggeratedly loud. “Did you see several electrocuted noodles flailing in my kitchen?”

“It’s almost like they are sooo embarrassed,” Jack says. “I wonder why.”

“These embarrassed noodles are making you dinner,” Jeremy shouts, still safe behind the cupboards. “Don’t criticise us!”

“We did it for the three-year-old,” Moxie adds.

“Please forget you ever saw that,” Sam says.

Jeremy and Moxie look at him.

They burst out laughing.

Moxie laughs so hard she tips over into Sam’s lap, which he didn’t expect. But he doesn’t flinch. Instead he has a perfectly acceptable reason to gently slip arms around her. It doesn’t mean anything. Totally not.

Mr. De Lainey and Jack peer over the bench.

“They’re so freaking cute,” Jack says.

Mr. De Lainey’s voice is mild as always. “I’m off to shower, but try to get dinner on soon. Goodbye, embarrassed noodles.”

The embarrassed noodles on the floor make distressed sounds as Mr. De Lainey heads for the stairs.

Jack is still smirking as he hauls himself up on the bench, shedding sawdust and grime. He plucks a peeled potato off the stack and bites it.

Jeremy picks himself off the floor and looks disgusted at his twin. “You are an animal. Alright, up children.” He nudges Moxie in the ribs with his toe. “Be useful.”

Moxie is still buried in Sam’s lap. “I can’t show my face again.”

“Make her movie, Sammy,” Jeremy says.

Sam carefully sweeps Moxie’s dark chocolate curls away from her ear. His whisper is sweet gold and Moxie stifles a giggle as she pushes off him and they both get to their feet.

Jeremy watches with a dubious expression. “Hm, alright, wait. What did you say to her? Something racy? Because if so, I will have to beat someone with a potato masher. Probably myself. Because ew.”

Moxie flounces over to the pantry for more potatoes. “None of your business, Jeremy.”

Jeremy exchanges a hurt expression with Jack who helpfully offers him the potato masher.

Sam slips back to the pile of potatoes, tips of his ears still red. He tries to keep his voice breezy as he says, “Nothing. I just said she is a cute electrocuted noodle.”

“Oh but this is an adorable development,” Jeremy says with an eyebrow wiggle. “Calling each other cute. My, my. Whatever is next? True LOVE.”

Sam fumbles for potatoes, knocks them on the floor, feels his ears go volcanic red and then promptly wishes for death. He shouldn’t have said cute. He was just copying what Jack said. But OK, it sounded flirty from him. He’s not flirting. He wouldn’t…he…

Help.

“Like, I said, so adorable,” Jeremy says. “Look at your little blush! Aw!”

Moxie slams more potatoes into the sink and scowls at her older brother. “What would you know about love, dumbass? Your only love life is you and that potato.”

Jeremy caresses a potato gently. “Potatoes are better than boyfriends anyway.”

“Nobody thinks that,” says Moxie.

Jack stops eating his gross raw potato and points the masher at Sam. “Right, you. Potatoes or Moxie?”

“Man, don’t ask me things like that.” Sam chases the potatoes he dropped and it’s only when he’s set them back on the bench that he notices Jeremy choking on silent laughter and Moxie’s expression is brittle.

“You better say something romantic,” Jeremy says, gasping, “to make up for that.”

Sam panics. “Um, I mean, they’re on the same level. Equal appreciation.”

“That was not romantic,” Moxie snaps.

“What are you saying? It was super romantic.”

“Sam, no.”

Jeremy loops an arm around both their necks and drags them into an uncomfortable hug. Moxie fights. Sam gets far too close to Jeremy’s armpit.

“Let’s just make a unanimous decision,” Jeremy says grandly. “Potatoes are better than romance.”

Sam and Moxie shove him off before he tries to kiss their cheeks. Moxie gives her brother a foul look and then she and Sam go back to peeling potatoes. Dinner is going to be so, so late. Sam takes a careful step closer to Moxie so their arms brush. She doesn’t move away. He passes her a potato so their fingers catch for a second.

“Are you trying to romance me, young man?” she says.

“You’re my favourite potato,” he whispers.

She throws a potato peel at him. A smile plays on her lips and she doesn’t look away from him for a long time.

A massive massive thank you to the publishers and for C.G. Drews for sharing this with us! I just adore it! I WANT MORE FROM THESE GUYS. 

If you’re intrigued then PLEASE GO OUT AND BUY THE BOOK. It is so incredibly wonderful. I promise you, you will love it… I proper did. 

TBWSH Blog Tour

S x

BOOK BLOG: Laura Steven

A Girl Called Shameless: shamelessly loud, brave and real.

shameless

“It’s been two months since a leaked explicit photo got Izzy involved in a political sex scandal – and the aftershock is far from over. The Bitches Bite Back movement is gathering momentum as a forum for teenage feminists, and when a girl at another school has a sex tape shared online, once again Izzy leads the charge against the slut-shamer. This time she wants to change the state law on revenge porn. 
Izzy and her best friend Ajita are as hilarious as ever, using comedy to fight back against whatever the world throws at them, but Izzy is still reeling from her slut-shaming ordeal, feeling angry beyond belief and wondering – can they really make a change?”

A Girl Called Shameless sees us thrown back into the world of Izzy O’Neill (wonderful, brilliant, hilarious, sassy, smart Izzy O’Neill) and the ups and downs of being a girl who has been publicly slut-shamed on the internet. (If you’ve not read The Exact Opposite of Okay then you REALLY need to… it’s just marvellous. My review is here if you’ve been living under a rock for the past year!)

A Girl Called Shameless opens brilliantly with Izzy’s trademark sense of humour and narrative voice telling us about what happened to her over the past few months. A VERY BLOODY CLEVER first chapter… brilliant to have that reminder of everything that went down in book 1 without just being a chapter for chapter’s sake! I was cackling hard by page 2. I forgot how much I loved being in the world of Izzy. She’s definitely one of my favourite voices of the past few years. (Seriously, if you’ve not got on the Izzy O’Neill bus yet, get on… you will NOT regret it!)

In this book, we see Izzy’s past experience of being publicly shamed as a thing that she has to deal with again, when another girl at her school has a sex tape shared online. Izzy unwillingly becomes somewhat of an “expert” and has a lot of her buried emotions brought back up to the surface… as well as a few old familiar faces resurfacing. 

As well as dealing with all of this at school, Izzy is of course dealing with being a teenager, friendship, things taking off with her screenwriting and her relationship. That’s a lot for a few people to cope with… never mind just one! 

I can honestly say that this book was one of the ones I’ve just been sitting waiting for, and it did not disappoint. 

I loved watching Izzy embrace her power and, along with some incredible young women, use that power for good. Making sure her voice, and the voice of others, is heard is important to Izzy and in this book she makes it happen. There’s an incredible build up to a very special day at the end of the book and it’s TOTALLY worth it. Watching a brilliant bunch of young women club their resources, their minds, their hearts and their friendship to make something happen is always brilliant, and when it’s something which is building up women and working for social change makes it even more special. 

We see the return of some familiar faces to support (and hinder) Izzy in her quest to basically take over the world. Ajita is back to be the brilliant best friend that she always has been. I love a book that celebrates female friendship and portrays it in a positive light, so seeing Izzy and Ajita back and being each other’s constant made me so happy! Brilliant Betty is of course back, being wonderful as always. I adore Betty and Izzy’s relationship. Betty turns out to be a bit of a dark horse in this book and there’s MANY lol-tastic moments with her in Shameless. I would love a Betty spin off! I wanna know more about her back story. 

Of course, there’s some men in Izzy’s life… some who I love and some who I think should just be pushed into a well. I’ll start with my fave of all the boys: Carson. Oh Carson. I just want my own Carson please. He’s so so lush. I just can’t think of him and not get total heart eyes. There’s quite an incredible scene towards the end of the book that made me BAWL. I really appreciate when boyfriends are written to be supportive and real (Laura does this so brilliantly, just like Sara Barnard). I mean he’s not perfect, but he has his own crap going on. On the other side of the coin, fan fave (lol) Danny is back to be “nice guy”. Danny can be pushed down a well as far as I’m concerned. He’s such a letch. He doesn’t get any more words than those. 

I loved that we saw more of Izzy’s life in this book. This book doesn’t shy away from the fact that Izzy and Betty aren’t swimming in money. Izzy talks a lot about having to get a job to be able to afford putting the heating on. We see Izzy following her dreams and watch them fall apart a little at one point. We see her struggles and her successes and I think that’s so good to read – no one’s life is ALL successes. 

I have many many more thoughts about this book, but they’re all jumbled still – in that glorious book hangover way. I just think Laura Steven has written 2 incredibly moving, captivating, hilarious and (as cliche as this sounds) important books. These 2 books are brilliantly empowering. After reading Shameless, all I wanted to do was to stand up and shout about all of the injustices I see in my world. I wish Izzy were real cause I’d love to be her friend (although I’m def not cool enough to be her friend haha!)

My goodreads review reads:

Man. What a book. What a story. What a young lady Izzy O’Neill is. I just adore her. This book makes me want to make a stand about everything I see wrong with the world. I love the characters, the messages, the flaws, the worry, the relationships. I CACKLED SO SO MUCH. Just incredible.

I was so inspired after reading this book that I also made a little moodboard! I hope you enjoy!

Shameless moodboard

S x

BOOK BLOG: Alice Broadway

Scar: a book that will leave an impression on ALL of your emotions

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“INK taught Leora that all was not what it seems on the surface. 
SPARK taught her that there are two sides to every story. 
Now Leora has had enough of lessons – she wants to make her own story.”

Scar sees the incredible Ink trilogy come to a close… and I was not ready. AT ALL. If you’re new to the Alice Broadway game then you need to catch up… my review for Ink can be found here, and my review for Spark here

Scar sees Leora taking on the final chapter of her current story. She’s been through a lot in the first two books and now she’s having to face some new scary things! Through Scar we see what happens when she realises she can stand up for herself, the things she believes in and finds herself dealing with some HORRIBLE people.

This book made me emotional. There are SO MANY THINGS THAT HAPPEN that I was crying a lot of the time. I was angry a lot of the time. I was suspicious and torn. I was comforted. I don’t want to be too spoiler-y in this review because you guys need to read this book: it is exceptional. Alice Broadway is a master of storytelling. 

Just as the other 2 books have dealt with storytelling, Scar has a big focus on storytelling. Leora is introduced to Mel (the storyteller of her village) and learns a lot about the power of stories and how stories can have many meanings. Leora has seen the world on both sides of the coins (she’s lived with the Blanks and the Marked people) and she teaches the people around her that every story has 2 sides. I loved watching Leora learn, but also teach, throughout the book. The infusion of the folk stories into this trilogy has been one of the most incredible things. The stories of the two sisters have been consistent throughout the books and watching that explored again in this book was incredible. The two sisters and their story is where this whole division of the people started, so it’s only fitting that their story has an important part. 

There’s some PROPER THINGS that happen in this book. I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE CAUSE SPOILERS BUT OMG. There was one page (p227 for those who own the book) where I was GENUINELY shocked. I had to put my book down and text my friend to be like “OMG WHAT IS GOING ON?”. I can’t wait to see everyone else freak out about this particular scene. I mean… there’s one particular character, a returning face, a surprise returning face who is a total PIECE OF WORK. I think I could write a whole blog post about why he is THE WORST, but he doesn’t actually deserve it. Having this character back and seeing his narcissism in Scar was FASCINATING. He clearly has a bit of a god complex… and it shows. He does some TERRIBLE things in this book. 

I loved being back in Leora’s world. I think it’s one of the most wonderful worlds that I’ve read recently. I love the idea behind it all. I loved being back around Leora’s people. Our girl, Leora, is just brilliant. She’s real. She’s definitely flawed. She’s brave. She’s bold. She learns in Scar that she needs to start standing up for herself, so she can be in control of her own story… rather than giving the control to the people around her. You’re only going to be remembered if you do something that’s worth remembering. 

Yet another shout out here to Obel. I was SO GLAD to see him back. The scenes between him and Leora were so filled with compassion and love and kindness and gentleness. 

I’m so sad that we’ve got to the end of Leora’s tale, but I can’t wait to see what Alice Broadway does next. She writes such incredible stories. There’s so many moments of juxtaposition. There’s love vs hatred; hard vs soft; the fear of forgetting vs the need to remember; routine vs change; embracing vs shunning. I loved all of these. 

I have so much more to talk about… but I need people to read this book before I can talk about it because I would HATE to spoil it for you all! It’s out in April SO GO GO GO. But also, preorder it because it’s SO WORTH IT. (You can preorder on all of the places!!)

My goodreads review:

I’ve waited SO LONG for this book. And my god it did not disappoint. There are scenes of GENUINE shock. I cried at the end. I hated Longsight SO MUCH. This book rounds off the trilogy so well and I’m so proud of how far Leora came. There’s SO MUCH about this story I can’t wait to shout about.

This week is the week of inspired moodboard, so here is my Scar inspired moodboard:

scar moodboard

A massive thank you to the wonderful humans of Scholastic for sending me a copy to review… you guys are the best!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Queen Mel

(hello, it’s me, I suggest you go grab yourself a cup of tea and a few biscuits if you’re here for the long run! I could be here a while… are you sitting comfortably? Then I guess we can begin!)

Song of Sorrow: SO BLOODY GOOD.

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“Sorrow Ventaxis has won the election, and in the process lost everything…
Governing under the sinister control of Vespus Corrigan, and isolated from her friends, Sorrow must to find a way to free herself from his web and save her people. But Vespus has no plans to let her go, and he isn’t the only enemy Sorrow faces as the curse of her name threatens to destroy her and everything she’s fought for.”

For anyone who is new around here (hello, introduce yourself to me, I’m quite friendly), I would just like to say now that I am one of the biggest Melinda Salisbury fans and this review will definitely reflect that. So if you’re not interested in that, then please check out something else on my blog…

If you’re still reading, then hello, welcome to Steph loved Song of Sorrow so much that it took her a long time to write this review and appreciates your patience and understanding. If you fancy reading my review of State of Sorrow, check it out here!

So, Song of Sorrow (let’s call it Song because that’s fewer words to read and type) continues on from where State of Sorrow leaves off. Sorrow Ventaxis is living her life, ruling her country after her dad died and she fought to be the ruler. She’s having to deal with some pretty shitty politics and, in turn, politicans. She has friends, but she definitely has enemies. Then let’s not forget to mention there are people who she doesn’t really KNOW/isn’t sure where they stand on the old love/loathe scale. Song follows Sorrow into the world of what happens once she’s got to being the ruler and the escapades that ensue with friends, family, secrets, lies, manipulation, love, hate and a little bit of magic. 

I’m going to try and make this review as un-spoilery as possible, but be warned, I have feelings that I need to talk about! My notes, which normally are a few bullet points, is a whole page, FILLED with things to talk about. If you wanna see my mood board I created for Song of Sorrow, go check it out here. Just look at my happy little face man when I received the book. 

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The first thing I want to say is Song of Sorrow was everything I wanted, many things I didn’t expect, but quintessential Queen Mel brilliance. When I started reading, I expected there to be much death, violence, horror and I was VERY scared for some of my absolute faves. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll go through this book and BE scared for our woman of the moment, Sorrow, but there’s so much more to this book that I didn’t expect. BUT I LOVED THAT. I loved that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. I was constantly surprised. I read the entire book on the edge of my seat and on the verge of MANY emotions. There’s moments of light and dark. There’s learning and growing. There’s a lot of love surrounded by moments of hatred and despair. There’s horrible actions paired with acts of compassion and love. This book manages to be hard and soft at the same time and I loved it. 

While I’m talking emotions… let’s just talk about them. I felt THEM ALL. I had SO SO many OMG moments. I laughed; I was shocked; I cried; I was angry; I was scared; I was relieved. There’s a few pages where you go from sheer shock and fear to complete and utter relief. You have no idea how much my heart was appeased when things went from TERRIBLE to brilliant (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know EXACTLY the bit I mean). I was so genuinely terrified for Sorrow at one point that when you have the reveal, I wanted to cry and/or punch someone with relief. Poor Sorrow goes through so much in this book – I definitely felt like I was going through it with her! There’s some proper lush moments of humour though too. One familiar returning face managed to bring a lot of light and laughter into the book (more on him later).

You may be in the familiar world of Sorrow’s life, but there is SO MUCH MORE in this second book. You get to follow Sorrow around on her travels to visit all of her worlds to see the people of the land. You learn so much more about the make up of the world and the world is just build up so much more from book 1. Mel writes such brilliantly vivid worlds that I didn’t think it was possible to understand the world more from book 1, but I loved that I got to know more about the world in Song. If you’re looking for an author who GENUINELY immerses you in their worlds, then look no further than Melinda Salisbury. Her worlds are so gorgeous, so vivid and so well described that you could quite happily walk along the road in your head and know exactly what was coming next and what was around you. 

So you’re in the familiar world and of course there are familiar faces left, right and centre. We have our woman of the moment, Sorrow, who is being Sorrow – stubborn, determined, brilliant, sassy, terrified, brave Sorrow. I love her so much. She grows a lot in Song. Just as Twylla did through The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, Sorrow goes on an incredible journey learning a lot about herself and making decisions which change her life. She finds out some things about herself in this second book and I appreciated it a lot (I mean, Sorrow is a bookworm which I DIG). She obviously continues to push people away to try and keep them safe, which in reality doesn’t work. Oh Sorrow. You are a disaster, but we love you.

Sorrow is very lucky (and in some cases not so lucky) to have some recurring characters in her life. All of who I love (even when I think they’re the absolute worst). Irris continues to be that best friend that Sorrow needs. Irris is one of my favourite best friends that you have in books. She’s just very constant and Sorrow needs a constant. I have a lot of love for Irris. Vespus returns to wreak havoc all over the world. God, I hate that man. SO MUCH. (My notes just say ‘Vespus tho’)  I get that he has a motive that he THINKS is the best thing for his country… but NO. I don’t appreciate you blackmailing my girl. Charon continues to be that father figure that Sorrow has always needed. I forgot how much I adored Charon from book 1, so when he returned for this book, I was DELIGHTED. Rasmus is back and I LOVED the resolution for the Rasmus/Sorrow relationship that happens. I think Rasmus is a brilliant representation of the fact that you CAN be friends with people who have meant a lot to you. Mael is still around and still creating unanswered questions for Sorrow (and me… Mel, I’m looking at you!)

GUYS. LUVIAN THO. It makes me so sad that I can’t be spoilery in this review… but I really don’t want to spoil it for you. Luvian has SUCH A GOOD BOOK. He’s such a bloody brilliant brilliant thing for Sorrow. He’s funny, charming, smart, sexy, snarky. There are some incredibly touching moments between Luvian and Sorrow in Song and I just want a book of Luvian/Sorrow please. I loved the exploration of Luvian’s family and his relationship with Sorrow in this book. The ending of State of Sorrow leaves their relationship in a very precarious place, so when I found that it was going to be explored more in Song I was DELIGHTED. I had waited A LONG TIME to get more Luvian Fen in my life… and this book did NOT let me down. (Please, if you love Luvian as much as me, I need you to talk to me. I want to start a Luvian Fen fan club)

There’s also some brilliant new additions to Sorrow’s world that enrich it a lot. So we find out more about Luvian’s family of one of the best characters to come out of Sorrow’s world. (I won’t spoil HOW we come about being with Luvian’s family because that’s one of my FAVE things about this book and SPOILERZ). We meet his mam, Beata, who I was TERRIFIED of initially. She’s TERRIFYING. She’s like this brilliant, scary, powerful Mama Bear. Poor Sorrow when she meets this terrifying mama bear… you’ll see she’s not so bad though. We find more about Luvian’s family in general through the book, but another of his family we see more of is his brother, Arkady. Guys, he’s like a brickhouse. I just imagine him being built like a proper house and scary af. He’s a PROPER softie though. He has a lovely little arc with another of our familiar friends and I LOVED IT. Outside of Luvian’s family, we meet Vespus’ new wife Tassus. GUYS JUST NO. This woman terrified me. She’s got a power that just makes me VERY scared. She’s NOT OK. She’s PERFECT for Vespus’ plans however. We all know what a terrible human he is. (My notes for Tassus just say “creepy wife” which I think are a perfcect description of her!)

I may have finished this book a few weeks ago but I am still not quite over it. The way in which this book ended just blew my mind. I think it’s just the perfect ending. I love that Sorrow has taken control of her life. She’s empowered and doing something for her, without the shadow of the rest of the world hanging over her. There’s a LOT that happens in the last few chapters and it’s a lot to process. There’s a particular bit when shit goes down in the castle and my god… it was INTENSE. A fitting end for some of the characters however. I still have some unanswered questions, but I think I need to put those questions to bed. As Mel told me, I know what I need to know. 

The book hangover is real! I can’t wait to see what’s next from Mel. I know that Sorrow’s story is over, but I just need more. I don’t care who I’m introduced to next. I know it’ll be brilliant. I’m very sad this duology is over; I grew very fond of Sorrow and her world. I will definitely be finding myself rereading these books though (for Luvian more than anything!).

A massive massive thank you to Scholastic for sending me an early copy of this book, and to Mel for having her amazing launch on a Saturday so I was able to go along and celebrate this book with her! 

If you want to buy this book, which you probably should, it’s available now on Amazon, Waterstones (if you buy it on/at Waterstones, you may even get the very fancy sprayed edges version like the one below) and every other book selling place. 

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Now, I need to go and have a lie down. I’m sure you do too.

S x  

NYA Lit Fest

On Saturday, I had the utter joy of going to Preston for the second year of the NYA Literature Festival. (We’ll forgive the fact I had to be up at 5am and that there was some SERIOUS train anxiety going around coming home… I did get home at the time I was expecting, do not fear!) 

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I did a blog post a few weeks ago about all of the panels, and it was even better than I thought it could possibly be! It was a jam packed day of my favourite authors, some brilliant blogger friends and just a lush environment of book love!

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When we got to Preston, we got to the venue (a change from the venue last year and a massively better venue!) and were promptly given a stamp and told to go and have a root around. We went straight to the first panel, which saw Will Hill and M.A Bennett talking all things thriller books! That was a great panel to hear Will and M.A talk about their books and what they think makes a good thriller book. Exciting news when they both filled us in on the fact that there will be 5 S.T.A.G.S books and Will told us the synopis for his new bookdrug cartel, Mexican city and a missing family member. I’m looking forward to this massively!

If you haven’t read After The Fire, then PLEASE DO. It is incredible. I have prompty added STAGS to my TBR list!

Next up was one of the panels that I was most excited for: Feminism in Fantasy featuring some of my absolute favourites. Melinda Salisbruy (duh!) was chairing the panel featuring (the absolutely gorgeous) Laure Eve, (always brilliant) Samantha Shannon and debut author Rose Edwards. What ensued was an incredible talk all about feminism in fantasy, the different ways it is shaped and some great moments. A particular highlight was when someone asked the old “strong female character” question – many laughs were had around the room (for those who aren’t sure about this, check out Samantha Shannon’s twitter… she has THOUGHTS about this trope!) Promptly after this panel, I had to go and say hi to Mel (as usual, she had one of the longest signing queues!) 

I would whole heartedly reading anything by Mel, The Graces and The Curses by Laure Eve and, if you’re looking for something pretty epic, The Priory of the Orange Tree will keep you busy for a while! I’ve added The Harm Tree by Rose to my TBR too!

After the signing, it was time for a little spot of lunch. A massive change from the last time I was at NYA Lit Fest was that the university cafeteria was open, so we were able to have some food! I had the curry and it was delicious. Once I’d finished my lunch, I managed to sneak into the Inclusivity panel with the brilliant Aimee Felone – of Knights Of fame – talking to a fantastic mix of authors about all things diversity and inclusivity. It was fascinating listening to Non Pratt, Mel Darbon, Bali Rai and A.J.Hartley talking about their books and the issues their books deal with.

I would definitely recommend picking up Non’s books – they’re just so brilliant. After this panel, I’ve added a few books on my “to borrow” list from the library!

The second last panel of the day was brilliantly name Shame-less in YA. The gorgeous (and very pregnant) Katherine Webber was chatting with Laura Steven, Tamsin Winter and Melvin Burgess about all things shame. Shame is such a complex emotion, so it’s brilliant that it’s discussed in books in different and interesting stories in YA. I really enjoyed listening to the different interpretations of shame in their books. It was so insightful listening to the different authors talk about how their characters deal with shame and what it means to be “shamed”. One of my favourite takeaways from this panel was that (as Katherine Webber rightly said) we need two different words: one for shame the innocent feel and one for the shame that the guilty SHOULD feel. 

Again, I would COMPLETELY recommend both of Katie’s YA books (Wing Jones and Only Love Can Bread Your Heart) and you DEFINITELY need to get on The Exact Opposite of Okay and A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven. 

The final panel of the day came about and I was not ready for how emotional it would make me feel. Lisa Williamson was chatting with Sara Barnard, Alice Broadway, Akemi Dawn Bowman and Alexandra Sheppard about mental health in YA. I loved that there was representation for fantasy books, contemporary books and funny books on this one panel – so often we think of only contemporary books talking about mental health. This panel was just exceptional: talking about authors mental health, the importance of normalising the talk about mental health and the representation for everyone in books. I definitely did a little cry during this panel.

I’d recommend ALL OF THE BOOKS from these authors. I could be here a while listing them… so go and treat yourself. There’s something from all of these authors for everything! 

After this panel, there was one last signing and then we trotted off to the train station to catch out (very delayed) train home!

A massive massive congraulations to the organisers for this event. It was run so brilliantly and I was SO SO HAPPY to see so many of my favourite authors and some of my favourite bookish people in the same building! I can’t wait to see what the next NYA Lit Fest will look like! Bring it on!

Did you attend NYA Lit Fest?
What’s your dream panel to listen to?
If you could organise a bookish event, what would it be?

Talk to me! (Well done for getting though all 1000 words of this! You deserve a star!)

S x

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 

 

Song of Sorrow mood board

Well hello! Happy Wednesday. How are we all?

Today is a very exciting day. Today is the day before the official release of ‘Song of Sorrow’ by one of my absolute faves – Melinda Salisbury. I have, of course, read the book already (thank you Scholastic, you guys are my faves) and needed to share my thoughts and feelings with you all (you’ll see that tomorrow in my MASSIVE REVIEW). Today however I’m sharing my mood board. 

Now, for those of you who have read Song of Sorrow, I’d like to think you can find the symbolism in my pictures before you read my spiel, however if you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry. My mood board and description are SPOILER-LESS (which, let me tell you, is VERY tricky for me because all I want to do is go OMGOMGOMGOMG SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER). 

I had a whole load of fun doing this and hope you guys like it!

Song moodboard

Let’s start with the abandoned corridor – this for me depicts one of the more unexpected settings of the book. It’s eerie, it’s spooky, it’s somewhat inviting though. It’s intrigue, it’s curious, it’s ‘what’s down the hall?’. Sorrow finds herself somewhere she’s never been before and as soon as I saw this picture, for me, this could’ve been where she was. 

The poison bottle – obviously this is a Mel book, so there’s SOME kind of poison going on. For me reading Song, there’s both literal and figurative poisoning going on. There’s poisonous people, poisonous thoughts, poisonous actions. It’s a bit of a thread. I loved this picture and thought it was spot on.

The girl looking out of the window could be Sorrow or it could be Irris – I didn’t really know. Sorrow makes some BIG decisions in this book and there’s a feeling of loneliness at times too. I saw this picture and it screamed ‘contemplation, loneliness, betrayal’ – pretty perfect for Song of Sorrow tbh.

The butterflies flying from the jar are beautifully symbolic of freedom. Whether that’s freedom from physical restraints or freedom from thoughts. Sometimes you’ve got to make a MASSIVE jump to free yourself: from yourself, from your past, from other people, from expectations on your shoulders. Sorrow is the butterfly and the jar is the life she’s been living for her whole life.

Man, those creepy hands and thorns. Now this is quite a literal depiction of a scene from the book BUT it could also be reaching out for help. I can’t go into too much detail here because SPOILERS. This was the perfect “saw this and thought of you” picture.

The holding hands represent again another MASSIVE SPOILER, but they also represent strength. Sorrow needs to find a lot of strength in this book (because she’s living her life, she needs it surrounded by bloody Vespus) and she finds it through some familiar faces. We all need those people who will stand by us and hold out hands (both physically and figuratively) because let’s be honest, we all need help in life. 

The last picture (the quote from Mandela) might be one of my favourite quotes that I didn’t know existed. It’s one I’m all about in my own life, but it’s also one I think Sorrow so brilliantly lives. She’s terrified (and rightly so) and makes choices out of fear, until she maybe doesn’t anymore. 

(All of these pictures I found on Pinterest! All rights and all that jazz to the people they belong to!)

I hope you enjoyed my mood board, and let me know if you read Song of Sorrow…. I am ALWAYS here to talk Mel!

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: C.G. Drews

The Boy Who Steals Houses: stealing homes and hearts without a second thought!

img_4936(this is the gorgeous proof copy that the brilliant publishers sent me! For the final cover, check the bottom of this review!)

“Can two broken boys find their perfect home?

Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie. 

But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.”

When I heard that the brilliant C.G.Drews (who we all more famously know as @PaperFury) was writing another bookI needed to get my hands on it. I had seen the cover and heard bits and bobs about it, but I went into it relatively blind and my word. It blew me away. 

Now, we all know I’m quite an emotional reader (I know, I know, SHOCKER) and having read Cait’s first book A Thousand Perfect Notes, I was MORE than prepared for a book that would RIP OUT MY SOUL because that’s exactly what ATPN did to me. (If you haven’t managed to read it yet, you really really should… it is just exceptional). What you get with The Boy Who Steals Houses is sheer brilliance. It’s sharp corners and rounded edges; it’s light and dark; it’s love and hatred; it’s yellow flowers on Summer’s days; it’s bruises and smiles. 

The Boy Who Steals Houses is about young Sam – a very troubled and brilliantly flawed young man, who “steals” houses. He doesn’t steal the belongings, more the feeling of owning a house. He goes into houses to sleep in the beds. He goes into the houses to have somewhere comfortable for the night. He has no interest in stealing the expensive things in the house… he just wants somewhere to belong. For so long he hasn’t felt like he belonged, and that’s what he is DESPERATELY seeking. Sam also has to look after his older, autistic brother Avery. Avery, who constantly causes Sam to worry, is always getting himself into scrapes and situations that Sam feels he needs to save him from. You see through the book the scale of the problem when Sam does something pretty bad to show much he’s willing to protect his brother. Sam does some really bad things, but he thinks it’s because he’s doing it for the right reasonshe wants to protect his brother. It’s his job to protect his brother. There’s definite anger issues going on with Sam – he has a violent streak. I wanted to hug Sam after chapter 1 and I continued to want to hug him throughout the whole book. 

So you have this brilliantly complex and endearing main character, who is just trying to find himself somewhere to stay, and then BAM, throw in a house he thinks is emptywhich isn’t. (When I read this bit, I GENUINELY gasped). He meets an incredible family – the De Laineys – and things start to change. It’s a warm, noisy, chaotic, welcoming family unit, who initially don’t know of Sam’s circumstances. He’s welcomed as a “friend” of one of the boys. You get an INSTANT warmth from the De Laineys. They’re this wonderfully charming family, who of course have their problems. I loved the De Laineys… like A LOT. I don’t want to spoil too much about the De Laineys… but guys, I just love them. There’s so many wonderful scenes between Sam and the different family members that I just glowed. There’s a beautiful scene at the end of the book with Sam and Mr De Lainey that just broke me. I think everyone needs a Mr De Lainey in their life – someone who will accept you for who you are and who will stick by you, even when you do some TERRIBLE things. 

Of course, this is a story and it isn’t ALL PEACHES AND RAINBOWS (although there is a VERY funny scene with glitter that made me chuckle…), there’s some HORRID villains in this book. There’s of course Sam and Avery’s abusive father, who doesn’t deserve ANY space in this review. Then there’s their Auntie Karen, who they end up living with when Dad ditches them. She’s JUST as bad as their dad. There’s Viv – oh Viv. You did a TERRIBLE thing. There’s a moment where something HAPPENS and I was heartbroken for Sam. 

(I realise this review so far has just talked about characters, but guys… I just think it’s something Cait writes so so brilliantly. That’s not to take anything from the plot, because I think it’s a wonderful story, I just need to talk about characters because I love them OK?)

There’s a constant battle in Sam’s head between wanting to be invisible and wanting to be seen. He’s hiding from the police and worries that if he is found, he’ll be taken away and then his brother will have no one to look after him. I feel like we’ve all been there (wanting to be invisible and be seen) in our lives, so it makes Sam relatable. 

The scenes with the De Laineys are some of my favourites in the book. There’s so much colour, so much life, so much food that it’s a barrage on the senses, but for Sam it’s a lovely comparison between the cold, empty, grey life that he lives every night. I loved their influence on his life. There’s so much love, laughter and forgiveness with the De Laineys that you can’t NOT love them. 

This book made me cry. It made me laugh. It made me want to shout. It’s SO SO incredibly brilliant. I can’t wait to see what C.G.Drews writes next.  

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This is the finished cover and I LOVE it so much. Keys play a significant part of this story, as does the colour yellow, so I really appreciated making those links once I’d read it. 

My goodreads review:

Deary me. Sam – what a pickle you find yourself in. This book is just magnificent. I am a crying mess. This book is hard edges and summers days. It’s light and dark. It’s love and hate. It’s everything I needed. The thing that really makes this book is it’s characters. I just adored every single thing. 

A massive massive thank you to Hachette Kids for sending me a copy for review. Also a massive thank you to Cait for allowing me to live DM as I read along with the story – I HAD to talk to someone about this book! 

Check out a Q&A Cait did with herself on her website here: Q&A

Check out my review of A Thousand Perfect Notes here: BOOKBLOG: CG Drews

Thanks for stopping by! Speak to you all soon, I’m off to console myself and have some hot chocolate for my heart!

S x 

#CelebrateYA

HELLO.

IT IS ME. Your resident YA loving bookworm. 

Recently, there’s been a lot of MEH-ness about YA books and its decline (?? not in my life lols). I saw this tweet from the brilliant YA author Lisa Williamson and thought ‘YES. I WANT TO BE PART OF THIS MOVEMENT.’

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So here I am today to do just that… I am HERE to celebrate YA. To shout about how brilliant it is, how necessary it is, recommend some of my favourite YA books of the past few years and to inspire you all to go out and either share your favourite YA books OR to just pick up something new. Your local Waterstones will have a YA section, go and explore… I guarantee you’ll find something that you’ll love.

So, why YA?

I get asked this question A LOT. “Why do you, as an adult, read books marketed at teens and young adults?” and the simple answer is because YA books are BLOODY MARVELLOUS.

YA books don’t shy away from some pretty tough subjects. If I think of some of my favourite YA books they’re about hard hitting topics: love, loss, heartbreak, friendships, OCD, manipulation, empowerment.

YA books MOVE so much faster than adult books. The pacing, the characters, the plots… they’re just SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING.

YA books start conversations. If you look at The Hate U Give for example (a book I still haven’t read… I know, I might be the only YA reader IN THE WORLD who hasn’t!) that had a BIG impact. That made people start talking. Another example of a book that got my little twitter YA worls talking is the brilliant The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven. This book deserves ALL of the praise it gets. It is BLOODY incredible and makes some REALLY bloody important points.

YA books will make you think, feel and want to act. We all know I cry at every book (that’s just who I am) but some of the books that have hit me the hardest have been YA books. If I think about Countless by Karen Gregory for example… man, I read that book almost 2 years ago and STILL now it makes me tear up. They don’t just make me cry though. They make me angry, they make me laugh, they make me hopeful.

YA is doing a lot for representation. People want to be seen. People want to have their stories heard. Finding yourself represented in a book can change a lot of things. Last year I read a book that I remember vividly feeling seen and MY GOD it was a bit of a punch in the face. For so long, books have been written about the same group of people and YA is slowly changing that. I know what it’s like to be seen, I know how important it can be. The brilliant people of Stripes have published an anthology full of LGBTQ+ books and it’s going to make waves.

There are so so many other reasons why you should read YA. I will stand on this I LOVE YA pedestal whether anyone is listening or not.

So, where do I start?

Now, just because I recommend these books doesn’t mean these are the only books that you should read because LET’S BE REAL there are so so many, but here are some of my absolute favourites (authors/stories) from the past few years. Some of these won’t be a surprise to long time readers of my blog, some of them may!

In there you have books that will make you laugh, cry, anger you, move you, make you think about life. You have representation of all sorts of relationships. You’ve got books which span genres. You’ve got books from some of my favourite authors in the world. There’s books there that changed something for me. There’s books I’ve read that I’ve felt seen in. There’s books that have made me change my thinking about things.

I loved them all and they’re ALL YA.

OK, so I could keep going. I really could. I won’t. I want this to be a conversation, not Steph’s Lecture on Why YA is Something The World Needs. Talk to me. Why do you want to #celebrateYA?

Every day this month, I pledge to #celebrateYA. Starting tomorrow (Valentines Day) I’m going to #celebrateYA by sharing one YA book I love!

Now let’s keep the conversation going:

What was the last YA book you read?
What’s the next YA book you’re going to read?
Why do you think we need to #celebrateYA?

I really really want the conversation about YA to continue. So talk to me, tweet, whatever. Get it out there that YA is a thing and we need it to stay a thing!

S x