Monday 19 February 2024

Meeting Alice Oseman!

If you know even the slightest thing about me, you’ll know that I absolutely adore Alice Oseman. I’ve been a fan of their stories for so long now, they’re practically part of me. There hasn’t been a single other author who has made me feel as seen as Alice has. There’s just so many aspects of their books and characters that I relate to on a personal level

So when I found out they were going to be doing a book signing at my favourite bookshop, Queer Lit, I got a ticket immediately. 

my copy of heartstopper volume 5 with adorable freebies from the shop

As I’ve already established on multiple occasions, I am an anxious mess. I’ve gotten better over the years, and meds have helped enormously, but I’m still way more terrified than the average person when it comes to events and speaking to people – especially people who’s books have quite literally changed my life. 

But one thing I was determined to do was take the Heartstopper jacket I painted a few years ago and ask them to sign. 

My sister and I arrived early as the bookshop is also a café, and they stock some of my favourite tea. So we sat with some drinks for a while before the signing time started. We were also given the opportunity to write out our favourite Heartstopper moments onto a postcard, to potentially be shared on a podcast by The Proud Trust.

the gorgeous pride fan we given after handing in our postcards

When the time came for the signing, of course everyone wanted to chat to Alice, so things ended up running behind. Even though I’d arrived early and wasn’t that far back in the queue, they had to start limiting the amount of books people got signed to three instead of the originally planned five. 

It was completely fine by me because I’d only brought two other books with me – I don’t live locally, and I have a back injury at the moment so I wouldn’t have been able to carry more anyway! Since a copy of Heartstopper Volume 5 was included with our tickets, I decided not to have that signed in order to ask about my jacket instead. 

When I got to the front of the queue, even though the lovely assistant told me that they were only doing books today, Alice had already seen the jacket at that point and had decided to sign it anyway since I only had two books - I was so unbelievably grateful! 

I also got my US hardback edition of my favourite Alice novel signed, I Was Born For This, and my original copy of Solitaire. It’s a bit of a throwback, but I still adore this version. It’s a book that’s been through the wars with me and I’ve annotated it too, so it means a lot. To have it signed makes it even more special!

Alice was super lovely, which put my anxious self at ease. The shop was running Heartstopper episodes on the screen behind the signing desk, and my picture with Alice was perfectly timed, don’t you think?

I’m so incredibly grateful to Queer Lit for organising the signing and doing their absolute best, even when things got stressful. I had such an amazing time and I will treasure my books and my jacket!

Have you ever met a favourite author?

Wednesday 7 February 2024

COVER REVEAL: Cursed Under London by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today, I have the honour of helping to reveal the book cover for Cursed Under London by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

This is the first in an Elizabethan romantasy series, set in a world where certain historical events have unfolded differently from what we know. It sounds exactly like the type of story I’d pick up in a heartbeat. Isn’t the cover just gorgeous? We all know how much I love a pink book. 

The year is 1599. Fang, a grumpy, heartbroken traveller from the Ming Empire, awakes from death to discover he’s not quite human any more. Nor is he a zombie, vampire, werewolf or any of the other supernatural beings who roam the segregated cities of Upper London and its dragon-ruled underground counterpart, Deep London. 

He stumbles upon Lazare de Quitte-Beuffe, a people-pleasing popinjay of an actor afflicted with the same strange mysterious curse, which means neither of them can die. Thrown together by immortality, the two strangers set out to reverse the spell, traversing the dangers of Deep London and encountering vampires, ghouls, ogres, poets, púca, magical talking swans and the zombie of Christopher Marlowe, all the while trying to ignore the intense connection between them. 

As they are drawn further into the shadowy world of Deep London, they unearth a dangerous plot which they appear to be right in the middle of. Needing to reverse the spell and get on with being dead, the worst thing they could do, right now, would be to fall in love…
I am SO excited to read this one. The book is due out on July 4th, so make sure to add it to your TBR! You can also pre-order it here

Tuesday 16 January 2024

A Bookish Moment in London

Hello my dearest bookworms! Welcome to my first post of 2024! I know it’s a tad late, but the first couple of weeks of the year were spent planning a little trip to London. 

For Christmas, I got tickets to see She Stoops to Conquer at the adorable Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. I was super excited because it was my first play (I’ve seen one musical before but it was years ago and I was right at the back). I loved the small and intimate setting of Orange Tree because it helped the play feel more personal and it made for some wholesome audience interaction. I had the absolute best time! 

Since I was going all the way to London (I live near Liverpool and can’t travel often) I decided to visit some bookshops, naturally. I didn’t have much time because I had to get the train back, but I managed to squeeze in a few stops. 

First up was The Alligator’s Mouth, an adorable little place in Richmond that focuses mostly on children’s books but has a section for YA and Adult novels too. It was close to where I was staying so I was thrilled to discover a bookshop nearby. It was SO cute in there. 

Next up was Foyles! There isn’t a Foyles anywhere near where I live so whenever I get the chance to travel to London, I’m always excited to visit. The flagship store on Charing Cross Road is gorgeous and I had a great time browsing the huge YA/NA shelves. 

Just before I had to catch my train, I had enough time for the place I’d saved till last. My personal favourite, Gay’s The Word. It’s a no brainer that I love this bookshop with my whole heart. I can’t go to London without buying a book there.

This time I managed to get my hands on a copy of Love Letters: Virgina Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Oh, to be tending a castle garden whilst sending love letters to one of the best writers of all time. 

As I made my way back to the station, I passed by one of the homes of J. M. Barrie. How are we all feeling about Peter Pan finally being in the public domain?? I’m excited for what stories it brings because I’ve always been a sucker for Peter Pan retellings. I’ve been planning my own story (based more on Hook 👀) for years now and I’m hoping that 2024 is the year I’ll actually get it written. 

So, a short and sweet bookish wander around the capital for me, but I enjoyed every second of it. If I lived closer to London, the bookshops would never be rid of me. 

What’s your favourite London bookshop, or one you’d like to visit?

Wednesday 11 October 2023

books i've loved and loathed│SMALL THOUGHTS #1

Hello, my fellow book enjoyers! It’s been a while since I’ve updated the ol’ blog – life has been a bit hectic. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading! In fact, I’m having one of my strongest reading years in a loooong time. It’s just that I haven’t been able to sit down and properly type up my thoughts. Whilst I will, of course, get back to full reviews very soon, I thought I’d do my own take on the classic Mini Review, just so I can share some of my opinions on books that might get lost in my ‘to-review pile’. Especially because I tend to focus on YA/NA books here, this is perfect opportunity to have a little chat about the other books I enjoy as well. So, here’s a little run down of some of the books I’ve been reading lately! 

Fence: Redemption 

Return to the thrilling world of high-stakes, competitive fencing with a brand new story featuring the beloved cast of characters from the original hit series. 

Are Seiji and Jesse really through? The rumors around Halverton, the prestigious fencing training camp, have spread like wildfire, but it’s not long before a mystery fencer arrives–one who may finally pose a threat to the #1 spot. 

Will Seiji’s unquenchable quest for rivalry be what finally makes him leave Nicholas behind?
For those of you who don’t already know, Fence is my absolute favourite comic series. These characters own my whole heart, and I’ve been anxiously waiting to see what happens next. The Redemption arc contains four short comics that were published across four months, and they have NOT disappointed after the wait. I feel like we’re finally reaching some of the plot points we’ve been waiting for all these years and I’m so excited. 

Royal Rating:

Darkhearts by James L. Sutter

When David quit his band, he missed his shot at fame. For the past two years, he’s been trapped in an ordinary Seattle high school life, working summers for his dad’s construction business while his former best friends Chance and Eli became the hottest teen pop act in America. 

Then Eli dies. Suddenly David and Chance are thrown back into contact, forcing David to rediscover all the little things that once made the two of them so close, even as he continues to despise the singer’s posturing and attention-hogging. As old wounds break open, an unexpected kiss leads the boys to trade frenemy status for a confusing, tentative romance—one Chance is desperate to keep out of the spotlight. Though hurt by Chance’s refusal to acknowledge him publicly, David decides their new relationship presents a perfect opportunity for him to rejoin the band and claim the celebrity he's been denied. But Chance is all too familiar with people trying to use him. 

As the mixture of business and pleasure becomes a powder keg, David will have to choose: Is this his second chance at glory? Or his second chance at Chance?
Ah, boyband novels. One of my favourite genres. I am a sucker for a story that revolves around bands, especially when there is a romance within said band. It just makes for a juicy plot. And Darkhearts sounded like it was going to be everything I’d want in a book. A band torn apart. Friends turned enemies, slowly becoming lovers. It should have been great. I wanted to love it - I really did! But it just didn’t deliver what I was hoping for, and there were actually parts of it that made me mad, if I’m honest. 

The main character was just irredeemably selfish and misunderstanding. I preferred Chance, so maybe it would have been more enjoyable if it was split POV. The building of the romance between them was nearly interesting enough to warrant three stars because there were moments that had me hooked. I just wanted David to open his eyes and realise he was just as much at fault for the mistakes that had been made in their past. Even when he did have a slight realisation of that fact, he still reacted terribly. He was just too much of an unlikeable protagonist for me. 

Royal Rating:

Arthur and Teddy are Coming Out by Ryan Love

When 79-year-old Arthur Edwards gathers his family together to share some important news, no one is prepared for the bombshell he drops: he's gay, and after a lifetime in the closet, he's finally ready to come out. 

Arthur's 21-year-old grandson, Teddy, has a secret of his own: he's also gay, and developing serious feelings for his colleague Ben. But Teddy doesn't feel ready to come out yet – especially when Arthur’s announcement causes shockwaves in the family. 

Arthur and Teddy have always been close, and now they must navigate first loves, heartbreak, and finding their place in their community. But can they – and their family – learn to accept who they truly are?
Oh, this one was adorable. Told in split POV between Arthur and his grandson, we see the two of them come out as gay to the people around them. It was interesting to have the story told by completely different generations, showing us the changes in the queer community and how far we still have to go. I actually enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. Arthur’s story is so important, proving that it’s never too late to live your life they way you deserve to. Everyone should be loved and accepted whilst living openly. If you need a pick-me-up book, then definitely give this one a try. 

Royal Rating:

Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens

Edison Rooker isn’t sure what to expect when he enters the office of Antonia Hex, the powerful sorceress who runs a call center for magical emergencies. He doesn’t have much experience with hexes or curses. Heck, he doesn’t even have magic. But he does have a plan—to regain the access to the magical world he lost when his grandmother passed. 

Antonia is…intimidating, but she gives him a job and a new name—Rook—both of which he’s happy to accept. Now all Rook has to do is keep his Spell Binder, an illegal magical detection device, hidden from the Magical Consortium. And contend with Sun, the grumpy and annoyingly cute apprentice to Antonia’s rival colleague, Fable. But dealing with competition isn’t so bad; as Sun seems to pop up more and more, and Rook minds less and less. 

But when the Consortium gets wind of Rook’s Spell Binder, they come for Antonia. All alone, Rook runs to the only other magical person he knows: Sun. Except Fable has also been attacked, and now Rook and Sun have no choice but to work together to get their mentors back…or face losing their magic forever.
It’s safe to say F. T. Lukens is an auto-buy author for me at this point, and Spell Bound might be my favourite of their books so far. We don’t have nearly enough light-hearted, standalone YA fantasy stories. The characters in this are absolutely adorable, and it had just the right amount of romance between them. The world building was easy to understand, whilst still packing in plenty of interesting info. I’d say that this book is perfect even for people who don’t read a lot of fantasy because the chatty writing style and character driven moments give it a slight contemporary feel. I’m still missing these characters after finishing the book months ago. Especially Sun – they’re an absolute delight!

Royal Rating:

So there we have it - that's just a small selection of the books I've been reading lately! I'll be back to full reviews soon but I'll definitely keep doing some mini reviews so I don't pressure myself to write a full review for absolutely everything I read. But if you'd like to keep tabs on all my bookish thoughts, then feel free to head over to my Twitter, where I unashamedly scream about books. 

Until next time, my bookish friends!

Tuesday 21 March 2023

REVIEW: Boy Like Me by Simon James Green

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Release Date: March 2nd 2023
TW: Homophobia

It's 1994 and thanks to Section 28, there can be no mention of gay relationships in schools. When a school librarian leads Jamie to a disguised novel in the library that reflects his own confused feelings towards boys, he notices that he's not the only one who has checked the book out. In the margins of the pages, he and another student start to leave messages for each other, and Jamie starts to believe that he's not alone ... and maybe also has a shot at finding love. That is, until the secret novel is discovered by the head teacher and all hell breaks loose. 

THE SCENE: it’s 11pm and I’m sobbing in bed after finishing this incredible novel, in awe of how Simon James Green has managed to outdo himself once again.     

A love story that starts in the margins of a book? I was already in. But upon finding out this story took places in the 90s, a time when Section 28 was still a law, I knew this was going to be one of the most important stories I’d read this year. And I was completely right. 

When a hero librarian gives our main character, Jamie, a book about two boys falling in love, he discovers that another person who’d read the book had left a note inside. So, with his questions about his own sexuality, he starts a conversation with the mystery boy. 

My own high school years started during the year that Section 28 was abolished, so I wasn’t aware of the damage it had caused and the depths of its censorship until I was much older. But even throughout my five years, I only recall coming across a single LGBTQ+ story on the shelves of my own high school library. Section 28 ending didn’t cause a bunch of queer books to magically appear on our shelves. It was still down to the hard work of librarians and campaigners, and many regular people who spoke out for something they believed in, which Boy Like Me celebrates and highlights the importance of.  

GOD I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS SO DAMN MUCH. Jamie is the perfect main character. He has so many questions about who he is and what his future might look like. Though I’m a bit younger, it still reminded me of my own experiences growing up in the 90s and early 00s as a kid who was on the outside, not quite finding a place to belong. Though this story isn't always a happy one, it shows us that no matter what, there is always hope for a brighter future. 

I won’t mention the mystery boy by name because SPOILERS, however I can confirm that I love him DEARLY. His growing relationship with Jamie is adorable. I also can’t not mention the librarian in this story. What an absolute gem she is.  

  • FOOTNOTES. Including footnotes in this story was a genius move on Simon’s part. Not only did a lot of them give me a good giggle, but it made for a great way to give us little glimpses of the character’s futures. One of them had me in tears.   
  • CONNECTION. This story and these characters feel so real. It’s completely immersive and will wreak havoc with your emotions.  
  • 90’S REFERENCES. Am I making a playlist full of the songs mention in this book? Why yes, yes I am. 

This book took on a different tone from Simon’s other stories, but it’s easily become my favourite one yet. I was sobbing my heart out during the final few chapters. I know I am always telling you to read Simon’s books, but if you’re going to let me persuade you into picking up one, make sure it’s Boy Like Me

My own footnote: my sister and I searched absolutely EVERYWHERE for some Fruit Polos to include in our pictures of this book. The closest we came was a Post Office telling us they do, in fact, still stock them. They just have no idea when.

Royal Rating: 

Sunday 29 January 2023

EVENT RECAP: An Evening with Leigh Bardugo

As a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo, I was able to meet her back in 2016 during her Worlds Collide tour with Rainbow Rowell, just after the release of Crooked Kingdom. Obviously, much has changed since then! With her first adult novel and a show adaptation for the Grishaverse, I was eager to see Leigh talk about all of the exciting things that have happened over the past few years. So when I found out she was coming to Liverpool on her tour for Hell Bent, I just had to go. 

I decided to wear the Shadow and Bone jacket I painted just before the release of the show last year! 

First of all, the location for the event was absolutely gorgeous. It’s commonly used as a wedding venue and there were fairy lights dotted around all over the place. On our way in, we got given our signed copies of Hell Bent that came with the ticket. We were allowed to bring one item to have personalised, which I loved because it gave people the choice as to what they wanted signed. 

The event itself started with Leigh speaking a little about Hell Bent and how it came to be, and the rest of the time was a Q&A so she could answer as many reader questions as possible, which I completely adored. It was a very relaxed and casual event, and though I wasn’t brave enough to ask a question, I enjoyed hearing everyone else speak! 

Leigh made it clear that no questions were off limits – it could be anything about any of her stories and projects. There were quite a few people who spoke about what Leigh’s books meant to them and I actually teared up a few times! 

One of the stand-out questions for me was when someone asked if she’d consider writing short-story updates for Six of Crows, to which she said no. She explained that she didn’t see that format working for the story and it would take a full sequel off the table if she ever did want to return to that world in the future. I couldn’t agree more! If we were ever going to get a continuation of SoC, I’d definitely want it to be a full-length novel. 

Taking questions about Ninth House, Leigh told us a bit about her experience in Yale and how that helped shape the story. She recalled how she got criticism when the book was first released due to its themes, but she stuck by why she included them and told them in the way that she did. 

Of course, there were questions about the Shadow and Bone TV show. Someone questioned whether the Crows would be getting their own story told, without the plot being weaved into S&B. Leigh couldn’t tell us anything other than to keep supporting the show as best we can. 

When it was time for the actual signing, I asked Leigh to sign my painted jacket, which she adored! She told me I was talented, and I nearly burst into tears right there, but I managed to hold it together. 

I’m SO happy to have my jacket signed! It was the first time I’d attempted denim painting on that scale, so it was quite the challenge and it paid off. 

It was such a wonderful event and I’m thrilled that I had the chance to go!

Monday 9 January 2023

REVIEW: Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Margaret Rogerson

Pages: 192
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: January 17th 2023

Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another . . . ?

With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth and Nathaniel have to work together to discover the source of the magic before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Faced with a house filled with unexpected secrets, the couple will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right before it’s too late . . . 

Sorcery of Thorns was a book I picked up on a whim last year, not knowing much about it. As fate would have it, it turned out to be one of my favourite books of all time. It was everything I was looking for in a fantasy book, and I’ve been gushing about it ever since. When I found out there was going to be a novella sequel? I was THRILLED.  

This novella is exactly what I wanted from a short story follow-up. It catches us up with the characters and gives us what is essentially an extended epilogue. It’s fairly low-stakes, full of fluff, and packed with a mixture of fun action and wholesome bonding moments. Genuinely, I wish more authors would do small sequels like this. I live for them.  

This story expands on the characters so much and I adore it. It was especially great to get small glimpses into the long history that Silas has. He’s such a fascinating character and I could happily read a full-length novel about him. (I am HINTING)  

The absolute best thing, though, was getting a chance to see Elisabeth and Nathaniel’s relationship bloom. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved their chemistry in Sorcery of Thorns. In this book, we see them explore their feelings more and come to terms with their love for each other. Absence of a world-altering plot made for much more time to get to know them as characters.  

  • Literally so much fun. I was giggling to myself throughout a lot of this novella. There are just so many funny moments. 
  • New lore. We get a bigger look into the past of the Thorn family and of the world within this story in general. 
  • Perfect amount of romance. Obviously, the romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel is at the core of this story, but it’s also about them simply getting to know more about each other as well. 
  • Silas. That’s it.  

I’m so grateful that Margaret Rogerson decided to bless us with this adorable story. I love these characters so much and I fully enjoyed getting back to them. Am I satisfied with the way this wraps everything up? Yes. Would I happily take more content set within this world? Absolutely.

Royal Rating: 

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