Friday, 15 October 2021

My New Favourite Bookshop: The Opening of Bear Hunt Books

There’s nothing I love more than an indie bookshop. My options for browsing them in store are usually pretty limited unless I’m visiting a major city because there just aren’t enough of them around the country. So I was absolutely thrilled to find out Bear Hunt Books was opening in Bebington, just a twenty-minute walk away from where I live! 

Bear Hunt Books is a Children’s and YA bookshop with a fantastic range of diverse books. As someone who has always been passionate about bringing the best reads to young people, this shop is literally perfect for me! I just had to visit on the opening day last week, which happened to fall on National Bookshop Day. I was blown away by the incredible selection of books available! 

The LGBT shelves are still growing but there’s already so many fantastic stories! I was thrilled to spot some of my faves, like Simon James Green and Alice Oseman books, and was able to discover some exciting new reads as well. 

I’ve been seeking out more graphic novels lately, so I was thrilled that the shop had a shelf dedicated to them. I immediately found one that I knew would be coming home with me. From the YA shelf, I found a book that I’ve had on my TBR list for a while because I’ve seen it in a few Pan Rep recommendation posts, so I’m excited to get started on it! 

we all had a giggle when we realised the sign had come to the shop as gothic novels rather than graphic novels, but it suits spooky season perfectly! 

Also visiting the store on opening day was author Sally Nicholls, who’s book An Island of Our Own was one of my favourites in 2015. Sally kindly signed my beloved ARC copy of the book and I was given some amazing swag for Things a Bright Girl Can Do, which I’m so excited to read!

Even though my area of expertise is always the YA market, I was hugely impressed by the wide range of inclusive books for children of all ages. It’s absolutely the type of shop that young people need – I know I would have loved to have a place like this when I was in school. 

I’m definitely going to be popping in whenever I can. I have a feeling a lot of my future books are going to come from here! If you’re in the area, you absolutely need to drop in and take a look. 

the books and graphic novel that came home with me!

i also got these adorable Heartstopper postcards

Special shoutout to owner Michelle, who was super lovely and welcoming! Thank you for allowing me to photograph your beautiful store.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

BLOG TOUR: Writing in Verse | Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan

Today I'm honoured to be closing the blog tour for Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan, who is sharing her thoughts about writing in verse!

Hello! My name is Meg Grehan and my new book Baby Teeth has just been released. It’s about a vampire named Immy who has lived countless lives but has never loved as deeply as she does in this life. It’s about love, desire and identity and is written in verse. Thank you so much to Queen of Teen Fiction for sharing my post about writing in verse! 

I’ve always loved writing, as a kid it was my absolute favourite thing to do. I’d sit at the little writing desk my dad built for me and write all day. I wrote a lot about fairies and mermaids as a kid and as a teenager I wrote about love and mysteries. Then I stopped writing. I was busy with college and work and my new life as an adult and I didn’t make time for writing, no matter how much I missed it. Then I discovered verse, and fell head over heels for this new way of writing and expressing myself. When I first decided to try writing in verse I was nervous, what if I just wasn’t good at it? What if I just couldn’t do it? But it all just came naturally to me. Writing in verse may seem daunting, but it’s all about trusting your instincts and writing what feels right to you. I would encourage anyone to give it a try, it’s a very liberating way to write! 

I’m a very visual writer, I love finding images that inspire me and am constantly on pinterest or journaling about my ideas and I think that that’s really helpful when writing verse. You have so few words to work with that it’s important to choose the right ones. I find journaling and finding pictures help me really distill my ideas and narrow down exactly what it is I want to say or express. I think rhythm and pace are also so important when you’re writing verse so sometimes I find it helpful to think of it as music, to let myself fall into a rhythm and just let the words flow. Writing in verse is all about trusting yourself and just letting the words come as they please. It’s such a fun way to write and using so few words means even what you choose not to say is important! 

I think anyone who is interested in writing should try writing verse at least once, just to see what it's like, you might love it!

Huge thank you to Meg for the fabulous post! be sure to check out the other stops from the tour:

Monday, 26 July 2021

What Carry On Means To Me

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Usually, I don’t choose favourites because I love far too many books to even narrow it down to a list of ten, but I do know that Carry On is one of the books that has had the biggest impact on my reading, and whenever someone does ask me for my favourite book, it’s this one that always comes to mind. With Any Way the Wind Blows bringing the conclusion to Simon and Baz’s story, I wanted to take a moment to talk about why I love this story so much. 

my Carry On shelf so far (i have more editions i want to add and i won't rest until i get them)

I’ve been a fan of Rainbow ever since I read the blurb for Fangirl because I just knew that Cath was going to speak to me on a spiritual level, and I was absolutely correct. Fangirl resonated with me in a way no other YA contemporary has done before. As a socially anxious, fandom loving, fic consuming, classic 2012 Tumblr Girl, Fangirl spoke to my soul. It was also the first time I’d ever seen my own anxiety accurately represented on a page. Previous books I’d read that dealt with anxiety just didn’t feel like what I was personally going through, but Fangirl did, and that has always been so important to me. 

the Carry On theme bookmark i painted!
the Carry On themed bookmark i painted!

Even though I adored Fangirl with my whole heart, I didn’t expect to utterly fall in love with Carry On as much as I did when it dropped through my letterbox in October 2015. I was excited, of course, but I had no idea that this book was about to become 90% of my personality

I enjoyed the first part of the book, but when Baz dramatically walked through the Watford doors and we discovered that he’d been in love with his roommate and nemesis for years, that was when I realised just how much I needed a book like this. It dragged me in like no other book had done before

my Watford shirt and the poster that still provides the background to my booktube videos 

After reading Carry On, I realised why I’d been in a reading slump for a while. I was tired of the same stories and the same tropes told the same way. YA fantasy was overrun with heterosexual heroes having to save the world whilst torn between two heterosexual love interests, and Carry On showed me just how much I needed to break away from those stories. I wanted characters of all identities, I wanted characters who question their ‘chosen one’ status, and stories that challenge happily ever after. 

I specifically went searching for fantasy stories with queer characters because Carry On made me realise just how much I needed them. The online fan community gave me recommendations based on Carry On, and that led me to discover a lot of the series I now adore. I ended up delving into Six of Crows and completely fell in love with it. A year later, I was able to see Rainbow and Leigh on tour together, which is one of the happiest book-related memories I have! 

the Worlds Collide tour in 2016!

When it came to compiling a list of the books that I felt had defined the decade the most for me at the end of 2019, I placed Carry On in the top spot. Despite all of the amazing and eye-opening stories I’ve read throughout the years, I know that this book is the one that changed my tastes and shaped my reading future the most

I’m so utterly grateful to Rainbow for sharing these stories with us, and for making me question what I want to be looking for in the books that I read. Simon and Baz will always have such a special place in my heart.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Painting a Carry On Jacket

Can you believe we have finally reached the end of the Simon Snow trilogy? I’M EMOTIONAL. Carry On is easily one of my favourite stories of all time, something I’ve been shouting about from the rooftops since I first read the book in 2015. My love for Simon and Baz knows no boundaries. With the trilogy coming to an end this summer, I wanted to do something special. So I decided to paint my own Carry On themed jacket! 

During our first lockdown in 2020, I delved into the world of fabric painting. It was something I’d always wanted to try, so I picked up a cheap paint set and got to work on a few denim jackets I had lying around. I spent a year practicing by painting various KPOP logos that were simple enough for me to sketch out on the fabric. 

As some of you may already know, I lost my wonderful Dad to cancer right before Christmas, and it turned my world upside down. I lost my motivation for the things I loved for a while. But art was always a passion we shared, and he was constantly cheering me on. So I became determined to improve because I knew he wouldn’t want me to abandon my love for art. That was when I decided I wanted to try something more challenging in my fabric painting, and the idea for a Carry On jacket was hatched

I decided to go with Kevin Wada’s gorgeous cover art for the first book because I’ve always been completely in love with it. But I’d never attempted a project so complicated before, and I was so convinced it was going to go horribly wrong that I decided to work on a very worn denim jacket of mine, just in case I wanted to scrap the whole thing. 

Getting the sizing right was difficult since I’d only worked on smaller pieces before, so I printed out the refence picture to the size I wanted it on the jacket in order to mark out how tall Simon and Baz would need to be. Originally, I didn’t plan on including the dragon in the background because I had zero confidence in myself, but once I had Simon and Baz in place, I was able to pop the dragon behind them as well. 

The smarter thing to do would have been to paint in the background first, but for some reason I started painting Simon and Baz, which I 100% regretted when I realised I had to paint a dragon and a dark sky neatly behind them. I’m notoriously bad at staying within lines, so there was a lot of going back to remix the colours of the boys’ clothes in order to neaten things up. It was a long and messy process. 

Over the course of five days, I was able to get everything fully painted, and used a fabric market to neaten up some of the harsh edges. All that was left to add was their faces and the stars

I’m so happy with how the jacket has turned out and I love that I have something to wear that shows how much I adore this series. I’ve been wearing it out on my trips to bookshops since they reopened! It might have caused several emotional breakdowns, during which I ended up dropping some paint all over the floor, but I’m proud to be able to promote Simon and Baz out in the world.

To anyone who wants to give fabric painting a try: go for it! There are plenty of affordable paint options you can find online to get started with. If you're intimidated by what to paint, or feel like you're no good at sketching, you can always print out some shapes or something you like, cut around it and use it as a template!

Friday, 25 June 2021

REVIEW: You're The One That I Want by Simon James Green

Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre:  Contemporary
Release Date: June 3rd 2021
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Freddie has a reputation as a ‘nice guy’ – inoffensive, sweet, kind – and therefore completely un-dateable.

As he starts sixth form, Freddie decides that this nice guy isn’t going to finish last any more. No more missing out on parties because he’s got to do his homework. No more saying no when he really wants to say yes. And most of all no more lusting after unobtainable straight boys who enjoy the attention but ultimately break his heart.

Freddie embarks on a series of changes designed to transform his social and romantic life, and suddenly he’s a drama darling, getting invited to all the popular kids’ parties, and hot new boy Zach is showing an interest. Life couldn’t be better!

But the path to love is never smooth – and Freddie’s about to learn that changing everything about yourself isn’t necessarily a foolproof way of finding the right person…

SAY HELLO TO MY NEW FAVOURITE OF 2021. It’s no secret that I absolutely adore any book written by Simon James Green, so I expected to love You’re the One That I Want before I delved in, but it still managed to go above and beyond. It’s exactly the wholesome read I needed this Pride Month.

The story focuses on teenager Freddie, the son of the producer for Cherries, a coming-age-show that deals with adolescent sexuality in all it’s awkwardness. After an unsavoury encounter with the actor playing the lead role, Freddie reaches the end of his tether. In a bid to stop being so invisible to everyone around him, he auditions for the school production of Grease.

Freddie, light of my life, owner of my heart. Bless his awkward, adorable soul. He’s such an entertaining and relatable protagonist, and the YA world needs more chaotic teenage boys like him. As well as being effortlessly funny, Freddie’s story also deals with genuine insecurities that young people find themselves increasingly feeling.

Zach and Jasper are both exciting in their separate ways and I loved getting to know each of them. I especially loved Freddie’s resentment towards Japser because it made for plenty of awkwardly hilarious moments between the two of them.

  • MUSICAL THEATRE. As a musical theatre nerd, I was all about the production of Grease in this story. I was also living for the drama amongst the school theatre kids. I was far too anxious to be part of that world in my own high school, so at least I get to live it vicariously through YA.     
  • T R O P E S. I love books that revolve around theatre. I also love books that revolve around the production of a show/film. I ALSO love books that have characters who ‘seemingly’ hate each other. So basically, this book ticks all the boxes and I’m absolutely in love with it.
  • ADDICTIVE READING. Literally did not want to put this down. As someone who is a diagnosed insomniac, I’m supposed to stick to a very strict bedtime routine. Needless to say, I broke that routine to continue reading this book into the small hours. Did I regret it in the morning? Yes. Was it worth it though? Absolutely yes.
  • CHARACTERS TO DIE FOR. Listen, I will gladly protect Freddie with my LIFE. I also really adored his little friendship group. Nothing has ever made me want to go back to school as much as this book. Which is saying a LOT.

This was easily one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it delivered in every way possible. It’s the perfect, cheerful pick-me-up that we all need after the stressful start to the year we’ve had. It’s been a rough few months for me personally, so I’m always grateful to authors like Simon who never fail to distract me with wonderful stories.  

Royal Rating:

Tuesday, 1 June 2021


Happy Pride Month! 🏳️‍🌈 I usually kick off June with a list of queer book recs, but this year I thought I’d start with something I don’t usually discuss on my blog: my own journey with discovering sexuality

My high school years were between 2003 and 2008, and info about sexuality was few and far between in classes. Our sex education was the most dated, ridiculous hour of our lives, in which boys were separated from girls and we were taught how to put a condom onto a banana. Nothing about same-gender sex, nothing about female pleasure. Just a general sex makes babies so use contraception until you want babies.  

There was no opening for a discussion about sexuality whatsoever. The literature we read was heterosexual, and characters & historical figures I now know to be queer or queer-coded were just assumed heterosexual by us students because we were never told any different. Our history classes were overwhelmingly straight, which I now know is complete bullshit. Because I relearned all of this stuff myself, outside of my school years. 

Most of that education is down to books. 

part of my Pride Shelf

The first time I read a gay character was when I picked up Jaqueline Wilson’s Kiss from my local bookstore. It was structured to come across as a love story between a teen boy and girl who had been best friends since they were little. It eventually becomes clear that the boy is gay and doesn’t love his friend in the way she wants him to. I’d been exposed to gay characters on TV by this point, but they always played up to stereotypes and weren’t written accurately. This was the first time that I was experiencing a gay character who was just a regular teenager, and that was such an important part of this story to me, to see that gay teenagers exist all the time. 

A week later I came across a book in my school’s library. I don’t remember the name of it, but I do know it was in a section that required parental permission to read, despite it being a YA book. The main character was a lesbian, and it was strange to read it because lesbians felt like mythical beings to me at that point. No one I personally knew was a lesbian (spoiler, they totally were, I just didn’t know yet), and the word ‘lesbian’ was only thrown around as an insult. 

The more YA books I delved into, the more labels and terms I discovered. In turn, I discovered more about sexuality and myself than ever before. I learned that I didn’t have to limit myself to one label because grey areas exist. A person could be bisexual and demisexual, someone could be pansexual and aromantic. If you preferred to just label yourself queer as an umbrella term, that was fine too. The rules weren’t as rigid as I always thought they were, and that made me feel so much better about myself because I was (and still am) someone who was very confused about sexuality. Reading about pansexuality in the book community helped me to find a term that felt like me. 

hanging out in one of my favourite bookstores after Pride

I’ve never been in an actual relationship. Over the past few years, I’ve come to realise that I don’t particularly want to be. Authors like Alice Oseman have helped provide characters and labels that describe feelings I’ve been experiencing all these years. Reading an aromantic character in Loveless was like looking into a mirror. It made so much sense to me and I finally felt understood. I haven’t officially labelled myself as aromantic because I honestly don’t know if my feelings will change in the future, but that’s okay. I’ve made peace with it for now. 

I absorbed information from the wonderful YA authors who casually weaved sexuality into their books, and the online book community who openly discussed the content of these books. The YA community has always been one of the most diverse and welcoming online spaces I’ve been in, and I’ll be forever grateful. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of writers to teach young people about sexuality, but I’m so thankful that they do it regardless because until schools start providing teenagers with the information they deserve, at least authors are representing those who desperately need to see themselves in stories.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

REVIEW: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre:  Contemporary
Release Date: May 18th 2021
TW: Transphobia, Drug Use
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Felix Love has never been in love - and, yes, he's painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it's like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What's worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he's one marginalisation too many - Black, queer and transgender - to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages - after publicly posting Felix's deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned - Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn't count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle . . .

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognising the love you deserve. 

We join Felix at the summer art classes he’s taking in preparation to apply for the college of his dreams. But one morning he discovers that someone has printed out old pictures from his private Instagram account and hung them up around the school for everyone to see, revealing his deadname to his classmates.

With his best friend Ezra, Felix becomes determined to discover who was behind the gallery, all whilst trying to figure out the confusion he’s been feeling over his identity, and the changing feelings he’s having towards certain people in his life.

Felix is a character who people will be able to see themselves in, especially people who are struggling with similar identity issues. Each person has their own unique journey when it comes to discovering who they are, but there are feelings and experiences that many people will be able to relate to. He’s a character who is far from perfect, but his mistakes are completely normal and only make him more endearing.

Whilst I adore the bond between Felix and Ezra, I’m glad that Felix was able to open up to more people over the course of the story, rather than staying within the bubble of safety that Ezra provided. His interactions with others, like Declan and Leah, were exciting to read. I was also grateful for the relationship between Felix and his father. Things aren’t perfect, but both of them are trying.

I will say there’s a bit of a love triangle in this book. We all know I’m not a huge fan of The Triangle™️, but I think it worked in this case. I was torn on who to root for though, which was probably down to my own preference of certain tropes.

  • A celebration of identity. This book is all about discovering and celebrating who you are. There are a lot of labels out there. Some people will find one that calls out to them, that feels right. Some people might never find one that seems to fit, and that’s okay.     
  • Realistic romance. Felix has never been in a relationship before and finds himself confused over his feelings. The reality is that romance is complicated, especially between people who have already established specific relationships with each other.
  • Important conversations. This story does a perfect job of inserting conversations we need to be having. We need to be calling out the abuse that trans people have to deal with on a regular basis.

Felix Ever After warmed my heart as much as it broke it. We absolutely need more Own Voices stories like this in YA, more characters for people to see themselves represented in. It reminds readers that it’s okay to be confused and question identity, even after we think we’ve got it all figured out.  

Royal Rating:

emerge © , All Rights Reserved. BLOG DESIGN BY Sadaf F K.