Blogiversary/100 Followers Giveaway!

Back in June I realised this blog had reached its first birthday, and I promised a giveaway. Alas, life has interfered since then, and in the meantime, the blog also hit 100 followers, and so it seemed the time was right to finally follow through on that promise I made almost two months ago. First of all though, I would like to say a big

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to all of you who have made the last year so much fun. Everyone has been so welcoming and willing to engage that I am incredibly glad I started this blog in June last year.

But to the point of the post! To celebrate my one year blogiversary, and reaching 100 followers, I am giving away two SIGNED UK hardback books that I personally love.

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All About Mia by Lisa Williamson is a fantastic story about family, growing up and learning to find value in yourself. When her sister comes home unexpectedly with a big announcement, Mia thinks that now’s her time to shine, but things don’t quite work out that way and instead, her life starts to spiral out of control. Is it really a good thing to be the centre of attention?

Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a bewitching tale of danger, love and heartbreak, in the magical setting of a legendary game. Scarlett has dreamed of being invited to participate in Caraval for years, but just as she thinks the dream is over, her invitation arrives. Escaping her abusive father and forthcoming marriage, Scarlett travels to fulfil her dream, but finds much more than she bargained for.

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What you win:

  • A UK hardback of All About Mia, signed by Lisa Williamson
  • A UK hardback (Tesco exclusive) of Caraval, signed by Stephanie Garber

(The Tesco exclusive Caraval is gold embossed with a top hat under the dustwrapper)

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How to enter:

  • Follow the blog
  • Follow me on twitter (@donnamk79)
  • Leave a comment on the blog
  • Tweet about the giveaway
  • Remember to click the rafflecopter link below to claim your entries!

This giveaway is open internationally, and will close at midday BST on 20th August 2017.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Celebrating International Women’s Day

As you may know, 8th March is International Women’s Day, the day on which almost every woman on social media (and quite a lot of the men) are repeatedly asked the question ‘But when is International Men’s Day?’ by the sort of people who can’t cope with the concept of celebrating women. (It’s November 19th if you’re wondering.) It’s also, obviously, a day on which to celebrate the achievements of women, and as such, I thought I would write a post about those female authors who have made me the reader I am today.

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As I suspect is the case with many people my age, Enid Blyton is the first author I remember reading. I loved her books when I was small (and not so small, I must admit), and would always search them out in the library and in bookshops on those rare occasions when I had money to spend on books. Yes, as an author she is problematic, but she was also very much of her time, and I genuinely don’t believe I would have been the voracious reader I became if it weren’t for Enid Blyton. The Enchanted Wood and its sequels were books I went back to again and again as a child, and I longed for similar adventures.

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Elinor M Brent-Dyer may just be the author who has had most influence on me, even though she died ten years before I was even born. Without the Chalet School books I would have missed out on meeting so many friends, and I almost certainly wouldn’t have the online presence I do. (I’d probably have a lot more money though *g*) I graduated to the Chalet School books from Malory Towers when I was about 8, put them away when I was about 13 and rediscovered them at 23. I still love them now, another 14 years on. The first book in the series, The School at the Chalet was published in 1924, and the series grew to 58 books by the time of Brent-Dyer’s death in 1969 (the last was published posthumously in 1970). My favourite book is The Chalet School in Exile, in which the school, established in Austria, falls foul of the Anschluss and is forced to flee to Guernsey, a choice of location I imagine EBD almost immediately regretted as Guernsey was itself occupied by the Nazis. The books were constantly in print for a staggeringly long time for old-fashioned school stories, but that’s testament to how enjoyable they are.

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Which girl growing up in the 1980s and 90s didn’t read Judy Blume? Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret was the first Judy Blume book I read, when I was about 11, and it was my first introduction to all sorts of topics, from periods to masturbation! I was lucky enough to meet Judy when she was touring her latest adult book a couple of years ago, and I was overjoyed.

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I moved on to fantasy books from Judy Blume pretty quickly, but almost all the authors I read (and came across!) were male. Aurian by Maggie Furey was an exception, and I loved it. The story of a young woman discovering her power and the lengths others would go to to possess it, Aurian and its sequels were possibly the first books I read where a woman saved the world.

And then we’re going to come bang up to date, because I want to talk about some of the amazing women writing today. I am constantly in awe of the sheer quality of writing in YA, and the way in which they all inspire young people. There are young adults who have formed Spinster Clubs based on Holly Bourne’s books. Juno Dawson is one of the most vocal activists for LGBT rights that I know (and the amount of crap she gets for it daily is unbelievable) and inspires young people to do the same. Amani in Rebel of the Sands is as kickass a heroine as you’ll ever want to meet. Sara Barnard’s books are about having the power to change yourself, without relying on other people. V E Schwab’s Lila and Kate aren’t taking any shit from anyone. Louise O’Neill writes about disturbing, difficult topics and gives a voice to young women who haven’t always been listened to. I haven’t read The Hate U Give yet, but my understanding is it gives a voice to disenfranchised young adults. Every single author in the collage above inspires their readers in some way, whether that’s to go off and write, to think about how they treat other people, to believe in themselves or simply to live their best life, and that is something that deserves to be celebrated.

Which female authors have inspired you? Which books would you recommend for International Women’s Day? Let me know in the comments!

A Week in Books

I don’t normally do a weekly wrap-up, and I don’t think it’s something I’m going to start doing regularly, but I have had such a great, bookish week this week that I wanted to write about it before I forgot!

I read three books this week – The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan, and Ink by Alice Broadway, which I just finished today. I enjoyed all of those books a lot, and as reading weeks go, I think that’s pretty good! Next up is A Conjuring of Light by V E Schwab, and I am so looking forward to reading this!

But what was really exciting about this week was the three book events I was able to attend. I am so, so lucky to live within relatively easy reach of two fabulous Waterstones – Liverpool One and Manchester Deansgate – and they both get some amazing events. Over the last few years, I’ve met a huge proportion of my favourite authors at both stores, and they both also have awesome staff. This week I got to meet Stephanie Garber, Maggie Harcourt, Holly Smale and Lisa Wiliamson. Isn’t that an amazing week of book events?!

It started on Wednesday with Stephanie Garber talking about Caraval in Liverpool One. She explained her writing process and how she came to write the book in the first place, including how the concept of it being about two sisters was the first thing she decided on. She also warned us not to set a book at night because it makes everything more complicated! Stephanie was lovely, and I may have a spare signed copy of Caraval to giveaway in the near future. *g*

Yesterday (Saturday), the Liverpool store had a visit from Maggie Harcourt as part of her Unconventional tour. Usborne had sent our book club some proofs of the book before Christmas and everyone who read it LOVED it (and you have no idea how unusual that is for our book club!), so we were very excited. This was a much more informal event and it was one of the best book events I have ever been to. I loved Maggie – she is definitely One of Us, and it turns out we fangirl over a lot of the same things. I don’t think I’ve ever been as vocal in an event as I was yesterday, but it felt like just another meeting of book club. I wanted to review Unconventional this month, but I need to re-read it first. Trust me when I say you need this book in your life though! It’s an amazing, slow burn romance set behind the scenes of SFF conventions and it’s WONDERFUL.

And today I headed over to Manchester to see Holly Smale and Lisa Williamson, along with Maggie again. I love Holly and Lisa and their books so much. Holly was promoting Forever Geek and Lisa was promoting All About Mia, both of which are amazing. I love listening to them talk about their books and influences, and a big theme of today seemed to be family, as all their books have important family relationships in them. It was a really fun event and it’s always lovely to see Holly and Lisa. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a book event, I urge you to take it. They’re so much fun!

The week ahead does not have any book events sadly. What it does have, hopefully, is reviews of Ink, History Is All You Left Me and Caraval, a monthly wrap-up post and the winner of my The Sin Eater’s Daughter giveaway, which ends on Wednesday night. I also want to try posting a TBR list for March, but I’m not very good at prioritising my reading! The other thing I would like to do is start adding graphics to the blog so if anyone has any advice, please let me know in the comments!

Book Review: All About Mia

Anyone who’s known me over the last couple of years should know by now that I’m a massive fan of Lisa Williamson. Her debut novel, The Art of Being Normal, is one of my favourite ever books, as well as a book that I think is astoundingly important in putting trans people at the centre of the narrative. It was the first book I’d read that featured a trans protagonist and yes, I acknowledge that maybe that should have come from a trans writer, but I don’t think that takes anything away from just how good The Art of Being Normal is. (Seriously, read it.) So, as you might expect, I was awaiting Lisa’s next book with bated breath. I was lucky enough to win an early copy of All About Mia in Non Pratt’s twitter giveaway and I devoured it in a matter of hours. In case you hadn’t guessed, I was not disappointed.

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One family, three sisters. GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student. AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion. And MIA, the mess in the middle. Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers. When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves. But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.

All About Mia is just gorgeous. I loved the entire family at the centre of the novel, especially the parents, but Mia is obviously the character we get to know best. She’s a typical middle child, and although she’s a bit of a whiny brat sometimes, there is also some truth in the way she feels. And middle child or not, I think we’ve all been in that position where it seems like everyone is out to get us, or that no-one appreciates the things we do. Throughout the book, Mia slowly comes to realise the truth of this too – her siblings and parents have their own issues that they need to work through and she’s not the only one struggling. More than that though, Mia learns that she doesn’t have to struggle alone and that if she shares her problems instead of ignoring them then she’ll find life much easier.

I loved the relationships between the characters. Although Mia now resents Grace, you can see that this wasn’t always the case, and you can also see how much it hurts Grace that it is like that now. Audrey is adorable – she loves her older sisters without question and just wants them to get on like they used to. And their parents, struggling with Grace’s announcement, Mia’s wild child ways and Audrey’s swimming schedule, while trying to plan a wedding, are so clearly Good People, still madly in love, even after 20 years together, and desperately trying to be good parents. I adored them, even when I didn’t like what they were doing. I mean, I was slightly horrified that Mia’s mum was the same age as me, because the thought of having a 19 year old daughter is terrifying, but I adored the two of them just the same.

In case you hadn’t realised yet, All About Mia went straight on to my favourite books list. It’s diverse (Mia is mixed race), it’s funny and it’s moving (I cried happy tears). I wanted to re-read it as soon as I’d finished it to be honest. It’s out this Thursday, 2nd February and you need to go and buy it.

5/5

Review of the Year: 2016

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Ok, so I’m slightly late doing this, but sometimes life interferes and then suddenly it’s the 3rd of January and you’re back in work and no longer able to stay up until silly o’clock in the morning. Boo, quite frankly, boo. This year, as for the last couple of years, I used Goodreads to track my reading, and I apparently read 166 books in 2016. I’m slightly in shock to be honest. That’s way above my norm, and 151% of the target I actually set. That doesn’t count the four books I started but didn’t finish – I’ve recently come to the conclusion that life is too short to continue with books I don’t like, especially when there are so many out there that I do want to read. I think I got 2 chapters in to Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan before I wanted to throw it across the room. That’s the only book I truly hated I think. I made it about 100 pages into Stealing Snow by Danielle Page, Did I Mention I Love You by Estelle Maskame and Devoured by D E Meredith until I decided I was so bored I had to put them down. But I think 4 out of 170 isn’t bad going is it? (If you liked any of those books, please feel free to explain to me why I’m wrong in the comments!)

You’ve already seen my favourites of the year, but if you were going to force me to pick one as my top book, I think it would have to be The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I really did love it unconditionally.

Looking forward, there are so many books coming out this year that I am really excited about. Some of them I’ve already read – Wing Jones is out on Thursday here in the UK, and 14th March in the US, Behind Her Eyes is out at the end of January – but there are so many I haven’t. I’m particularly excited about The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury, which is out in March, A Conjuring of Light by V E Schwab, and All About Mia by Lisa Williamson, both out in February, and Margot & Me by Juno Dawson and Caraval by Stephanie Garber, both of which are out at the end of the month. And that is a mere smidgeon of the books I’m looking forward to! I’m also lucky enough to live near a Waterstones that has a brilliant line-up of events, and four of those authors (plus others) will be doing events in the next couple of months, which is also very exciting.

Let me know in the comments which books you’re excited about!