BOOK BLOG:Sarah Ann Juckes

Outside: harrowing, surprising and emotional

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“Outside follows the story of Ele, who is held captive in a small room by a man known as ‘Him’. Ele is determined to prove there is a world Outside. And when she finds a hole in the wall, the proof starts leaking in. In this dark and compelling debut novel, Ele’s strong and heartbreakingly optimistic voice shines through, revealing an important lesson about the power of stories to save lives”

I was lucky enough to win a proof of this at YALC and I hadn’t heard of it, nor did I read the letter from the author in the book before I started to read. Part of me is glad I didn’t read, part of me thinks I would’ve been more emotionally prepared for the onslaught of terror and tears that followed!

Outside follows the story of a little girl, Ele, who is determined to get outside into freedom. She’s never been outside of her room. She’s locked in a tower and she’s determined to get out, but isn’t really sure how. She’s frightened. There’s a mysterious man (Him) who she is defintely afraid of. Reading through this book, it took me a good chunk of the book until I was sure the main character is a young girl – you’re never explicitly told, it’s just something that is assumed, but my brain was not sold entirely. This made the book even more of an enigma for me because I wanted to know, so I kept reading and my word, it is so excellent

I spent a lot of this book scared and worried for the little girl. I was terrified of Him. There’s some harrowing scenes in this book. There’s some pretty dark themes explored in this which made me more gripped, but horrified at times too. These themes are dealt with excellent care: you never feel exposed or stamped on. 

There’s a lot of juxtaposition in this book: light vs dark, love vs hate, fear vs safety, trusting vs fearing, knowing vs not knowing. The main character goes through a lot of confusing emotions between wanting to be outside vs the fear of being outside. But this is to be expected! Imagine going outside for the first time and the things you come across… I love this kind of thing because as a reader you never REALLY know where you stand in life. 

Yes, this book is dark and deals with some pretty bleak themes, but it also has some gorgeously light moments. When you meet him, you’ll love Ezra. He’s the ultimate hero. He needs needs a million medals. This book shows the kindness and strength of the human spirit brilliantly. 

Did I cry? OH MY WORD YES. It broke my soul quite a lot

Unfortunately, you’ve got quite a while to wait as it’s not out until January 2019. But trust me, it is worth the wait.

Can you imagine never being outside?
What do you think would baffle you most about being outside?
Are you excited for the release of Outside?

Let me know your thouhgts in the comments! I’d love to know your answers to my questions!

S x

YALC highlights

Hello!

How are we all today?

So, a little over a month ago, I went to YALC and had the best time. Today I’m going to share some of my highlights from the weekend and then in the coming week I’m going to share my YALC haul, including books I bought, books I got, samplers and all the bookish swag! These highlights aren’t in any real order!

Seeing Jason Momoa
It seems that every year there is a celebrity who wanders through – last year it was Benedict Cumberbatch, this year Jason Momoa. At first, YALC was mania because he had appeared, but by Sunday it was like “oh hey, there’s our pal Jason”. Now that man is ATTRACTIVE. His arms are incredible.

Kaz Brekker
Massive massive shout out here to my gorgeous friend Layla, who cosplayed as Kaz Brekker (from Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom). The cosplay was absolutely amazing. She’d been telling me for months that she was going to cosplay, but seeing it for real was something else. Massive heart eyes from me.

Quiz time – Floored Quiz and Big YALC Quiz
I bloody love a quiz, so when I saw that there was a quiz on the schedule for YALC I was over the moon. I have some very amazing friends who also managed to get me a ticket for the Floored quiz which was happening on the Friday night. The Floored quiz wqas amazing. Last year, I was on the winning team (#teamBarnard for life) but this year, my team decided we’d let someone else win, so we can in a respectable last! It was brilliant fun, with lots of different rounds (some which had questions I did not know the answers to!), including a music round and a picture round. (I love a quiz).

Then on the Saturday night it was time for the Big YALC Quiz, hosted by gorgeous Katie Webber. There were 2 teams of authors who had to answer bookish related questions. There was a very funny pictionary round and some charades too. Many laughs were had that night.

Panels
One of my favourite things about YALC is the variety of panels that you can go and see. Last year, I adored the New Voices panels and was GUTTED this year that they weren’t back – celebrating new authors is SO important, so I’m hoping that they come back for next year! I got the chance to go to quite a few panels this year and it’s always fascinating and, as cheesy as this sounds, a priviledge to hear authors talk about their books – you don’t get to do that often! It’s lovely to see the wide variety of topics talked about. This year there was everything from looking at the publishing industry, to sci-fi, to Frankenstein and dystopian books.

My favourite panel this year hands down was ‘My Body, My Way’ featuring Charli Howard, Charly Cox, Laura Dockrill and Laura Steven, chaired by Dhonielle Clayton. Laura Steven is one of my favourite newest authors and I’ve been lucky to see her talk a few times, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see her again. She’s a brilliant human, and The Exact Opposite of Okay is exceptional. This panel dealt with some pretty hard-hitting topics including self image, the impact of the media and being kinder to ourselves. There were a few moments in this panel that I got very emotional, crying at one point. What they were talking about just hit a massive chord with me. As well as tears, this panel made me feel pretty empowered. Seeing brilliant women talking about looking after yourself and being kinder to each other is pretty motivational! There was also a hilarious moment in the panel when it was announced that David Tennant was going to be at YALC and Dhonielle (who was an exceptional chair) was SO CONFUSED. Many giggles were had.

There were LOADS of brilliant panels that I could mention also – if you’d like me to talk about others that I loved, let me know and I’ll do another blog post!

#TakeawayYA 
Last year, during YALC, my friends and I started #TakeawayYA on twitter, sharing the takeaways we had and I had so many questions as to whether #TakeawayYA would be back. Something that was started in jest has become something that we make an annual thing!

Celebrating books!
Now, this is probably a given being that YALC is like “Christmas for books”, but it is so so incredible to be part of something that celebrates books and their authors so unashamedly as YALC does. There’s just such a brilliant buzz at YALC celebrating books I love and discovering new books that I’ve never heard of! I always come away from YALC with a recommended books list and a TBR that is excessively long. I love being around people who love books as much as I do. We’re very passionate us bookish folk.

Seeing authors I love
It’s quite surreal to see people you respect and adore and them be excited to see you back. Whether they’re authors I’ve met before, or they’re authors that are brand new to me, it’s so amazing to get to speak to them and fangirl about their book. It’s still mad when authors say “oh you’re Steph from twitter, I saw your tweets about my book” (a la Tom Pollock!)

Some brilliant memories for me from YALC weekend:
– Having coffee with Kelly and Katherine Webber and Melinda Salisbury just came and joined in the fun. It was a very cool moment and inside my head I was fangirling out. I love Katie and Mel an awful lot (not that you’d ever guess that!)
– Getting the chance to hug my love Sara Barnard – I adore Sara with everything that I am. I must’ve gone up to Sara’s signing table at least 5 times!
– Going to see Non Pratt/Alwyn Hamilton and them being like “oh no, not you again”. I love a bit of author/reader banter.
– Seeing Kiran Milwood-Hargrave just casually strolling around and being able to fangirl with her about her new book was lush. Kiran is an absolute darling, and you should definitely read her books.

My bookish friends
I was very lucky that I got to live with some of my very best friends at YALC – massive shout out to Kelly, Cora and Rosie for being YALCHouse pals! We don’t see each other very often because geogrpahy, so being able to spend so much time with these girls made me so happy.

On top of YALCHouse, seeing so many of my fvaourites at YALC was an absolute joy. Shout out to Charlotte (who I’d only seen a few days previously) who ran out of the lift to me and would hug me every time she saw me! It’s so amazing to meet my online friends in real life and get to talk to them and see them for more than an hour at a time. Some friends I only saw once or twice over the weekend because they were at LFCC, whereas others I got to see for longer and that was lush. Seeing people I adore (hello, Lucy and George) and for real fangirl over is always an absolute delight of YALC too!

There you go! My YALC highlights. Does this post do my YALC weekend justice? No, but it’s a very good start.

I would say to anyone who is thinking about doing YALC to seriously do it. I adore YALC, I’ve been two years in a row and I just think it’s a wonderful time of year to be a bookish person.

Did you go to YALC this year?
What were your highlights?
Who were you most excited to meet?

Thank you for getting through this EPIC post! I didn’t think it would be this long!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Chloe Coles

Bookshop Girl: funny, relatable and moving!

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“Bennett’s Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It’s a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly, and also earn some money. But, like so many bookshops, Bennett’s has become a ‘casualty of the high street’ – it’s strapped for cash and going to be torn down. Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat.

Time is ticking – but that’s not the only problem Paige has. How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?”

Earlier this month (technically the end of July, but shush), when I was at YALC, I was lucky enough to listen to Chloe Coles in a panel all about being in the publishing world and hearing her talk about her book made me want to pick it up then and there! Chloe is HILARIOUS and I want her to be one of my real life friends because I am all about people that make me laugh in my life. Having met Chloe and spoken to her for a little bit, I knew had high hopes for this book… and let me tell you, it does not disappoint!

Bookshop Girl is the tale of Paige, a bookish teenager, who works in a bookshop that is being threatened to close down (art mimicking real life or what?!). Paige, along with the help of her best friend, sets it in her sights to save her shop. Oh, but it isn’t that simple… of course there’s a boy in the mix. A seemingly harmless boy. A very attractive young man who catches the eye of our leading lady. (Oh Paige!)

What I loved most about this book was that it showed in such a positive light what using your voice can do. Paige learns very quickly that using her voice, and using the voice of the people around her, can do really good things. There’s some really touching moments with Paige reaching out to authors for the people that she loves that made my heart so happy. Paige discovers some incredible supportive people in very unexpected places – these aren’t people that Paige would’ve expected to support her, yet here they stand, supporting her. There’s some brilliant messages in here about being an activist (on all scales) and standing up for yourself. There’s some brilliant messages about feminism in this book too. 

Despite the fact this book deals with some pretty hard hitting messages, it manages to be hilarious and relatable. Paige sees an injustice in the world around her and she does something about it, but obviously there are things that go awry. She’s a teenage girl. Life is never that simple to always go the way you want. However she is very lucky to be surrounded by people that love her. Her best friend is just lush. There’s scenes between them that I just adore (we’ve all been there, we all have our best friends who we can just be ourselves with). I would love to be Paige’s friend. 

I do not wish to spend much time on the subject of The Boy. I was lulled into a false sense of security with him, although I didn’t trust him. There was always something off with him. 

It’s so incredibly lush to read a book about bookish people, written by a bookish person. Chloe is a bookseller at Foyles in London, which I think adds a really special element to this book. 

What you get in this book is laughter, love and a sense of pride in the bookish community. I would recommend it for anyone who is after a laugh (or a lol as Chloe would say!) It’s such a lush book and I can not wait for book 2 to come out in September!

(I LOVE this cover so much… so colourful!)

My goodreads review reads:

Funny, relatable and brilliant. The power of books, libraries, bookshops told from a teenage girl. I just think this was great. Paige is hilarious. Many moments of lol were had.

Have you read Bookshop Girl?
Can you recommend any books like this?

Let me know in the comments what you thought of this review, your thoughts on the book or any recommendations you have for me! I love a book that will make me laugh! Bookshop Girl is available to buy now! 

S x