A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

I am in love with this series.

IMG_20170803_190032_576It breaks boundaries. It tells the stories of humans through fictional species and humans occupying the same space (haha) as said fictional species. It breaks down the fundamentals of being human from the perspective of aliens, said fundamentals that people still don’t comprehend as being part of culture and our surroundings rather than ‘biology’ or ‘the right way’. One of the things it does in particular and so perfectly is the understanding of human gender and it’s sociological construction. There are hundreds, if not thousands of alien species in this fictional universe, and many that have genders and all are so different and varied from each other that it helps to understand how human gender and biological sex works, and how many of the aspects of them are just made up.

There’s a species that are all born female, until they become male in their old age. There’s a species with three sexes; male, female, and shon, whereby they routinely change their biological sex depending on the time of year.

And across these species, each also have their own societal constructs that may or may not determine a gender, if they even have them. For example, a shon’s only change is their body parts, but their likes, dislikes, and their appearance remain the same. And it begs a lot of questions about how we may treat fellow species when and if we see them in our life time. Would we greet them with kindness? With hostility? I’m always the pessimist, and I believe that because we can barely settle our differences here on Earth, I highly doubt we’d begin to understand the different concepts and societies of another alien race. We’re still such a primitive race that we cannot understand a different way of life on the other side of the Earth to us. Imagine a whole other race that could comprehend not only race, gender, sexuality, speech, emotion, reproduction, religion etc differently, but time, space, dimensions, light, sound etc differently?? We just have tiny human minds, is what I’m saying.

I would definitely read this series if you’re looking for a story that shows the possibility of humanity living peacefully with fellow species, with creative and imaginative off-Earth communities filled with every colour and creed of the universe as we know it.

 

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

Advertisements

The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins)
Release Date: 27th June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

32602219
source

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

So this book was not what I expected, which, is kind of disappointing. But it doesn’t stop it from being a really fun adventure that made my need for LGBT+ Historical YA to sore through to the sky.

Judging from the synopsis, I imagined a ‘romp’. I think maybe that word was used once or twice in one lined reviews slapped on some promotional material. Yeah, ‘romp’ and ‘raucous’. I love, and I mean LOVE, cheeky male characters with soft hearts and giant smiles, and that’s definitely what Monty was in the beginning, in the very beginning, however. He’s just woken up after a huge piss up and he’s seeing the antiques from the night before. But, while I understand that character development and change are a thing in books where the character has to learn a lesson,I was disappointed that Monty was kind of carried through by his sister and his best friend, Felicity and Percy.

I expected a lot more laughs and silliness from a rather naive-to-the-world rich teenage boy going on a Grand Tour (which were quite an important thing for a young man before he became ‘responsible’), but what we got was a lot more serious and a bit boring.

Things I did love; Percy and Felicity defying expectations, stereotypes, and social norms of the time. Considering when you read historical fiction, authors don’t bother including POC characters at all and only have female characters as speaking mains if it’s a bodice ripper and they’re sleeping with a king/prince, so it was nice just to have them there, with plots and personality and futures! Oh my!

I did thoroughly enjoy this novel, despite the fairly critical review, and the fact that it took me a while to even write one. But, I think the synopsis could be worded a little differently just so you’re not surprised that you’re not laughing as much.

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

 

Shit Books I Unapologetically Hate

It’s time to get salty.

Inspired by LilyCReads’ ‘Shit Books That I Hate’ that came out quite a while a go, I decided it was time for a little collection of my 1-2 star ratings of books that I hated. As a disclaimer (#1), I have read all these, and won’t be going into books I haven’t read but know are problematic, they’re just, in my opinion, terrible. And I’m not going to be speaking constructively like a normal review so, if you’re not into me saying ‘this books sucks’ then this post probably isn’t for you.

DISCLAIMER #2: Just because I hate them, this does not mean that you cannot. I would never tell anyone that they should hate a book just because I do and if you love any of the books mentioned then great! I’m sure there are books that you loathe and I love too.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

27883214This book was so hyped. So fucking hyped. People were clambering over themselves at YALC 2016 to get the one proof they were giving away. Everyone was talking about it. Comparing it to The Night Circus, and how fucking dare you.

This was the one book I received for my birthday. It was every word synonymous with beautiful but oh my god, it’s innards were bladdy awful. Not only did the plot make absolutely no sense, there was no heart to the book? It was literally slapped together, and I feel really sorry for Stephanie Garber if she worked so hard on the world building because where was it? All the characters are unlikable and stupid as fuck, the main character was just dragged from one place to the next and could’ve been swapped from a human to a doll and you wouldn’t have had to make many changes to the text. Characters just threw information at her and then when she had questions, they would just say “it doesn’t matter” or “never mind about that” and we just had to move on. Who cares about that thing? I certainly don’t. What utter shit.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

rrcoverTurns out even your ‘handsome’ face can’t help you write a good book.

I didn’t even finish this nonsense because it wasn’t science fiction at all. It was a book about the perfect man being perfect and having sex with women and then them dying except it happens on Mars. Nowadays I just expect shitty female characters from male authors; if it’s sci-fi/fantasy, they’re sexually promiscuous with giant breasts and have no personality, or the opposite, an innocent virgin maiden, then if it’s gen-fic, they’re a bitch who cheats on the main male character. In most situations, she’s raped or killed or both. Without spoiling anything, Red Rising ticks a lot of these boxes in the first 100 pages. I couldn’t be asked to read the rest. Do one.

 

 

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

32470629

This was a lot more disappointing than most. #Ownvoices LGBT rep, how could I say no? I bought this the day it came out and read it in about two days. But what I read was just shite. It was just a poorly written story, but then again the concept itself was a bit odd. I get why; it’s meant to be a bit of a piss-take of spy movies and also a commentary on heteronormative stories. It could have been interesting…sort of. What it actually was a description of things happening, it was dire to read. I wrote a scathing review about it including some examples taken right out of the book. Read them out loud and you’ll see what I mean. Did anyone actually read this book before they published it? It’s just notes, it ain’t even a first draft.

This is a novel from a debut author too, which makes me a little guilty for saying all these things. But the work and the grind and the passion that has to be put in a debut novel just to get your foot in the door of an agent is so mighty that many just give up after a billion rejections. So to see this be taken on and published is such a shock and there, the guilt has gone.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

the_hostThis book was just generic Stephenie Meyer forumla. Take a special girl and make two guys fight over her. It’s not flattering, because the guys are also mean to the girl, who just moves from one room to the next to receive a few info dumps before nothing happens. And this is a thick book. Ughhhh. I can’t believe I read the whole thing, what’s wrong with me?

I didn’t put the Twilight series on here because, despite giving the books 1-2 stars on Goodreads, when I read them as a teen I adored them, so I don’t think lil’ Hollie would appreciate me trashing them now at 24. So I’ll do her a favour and just diss this nonsense.

 

 

 

 

Please, don’t take any of these to heart. I would never hate a person for loving a book I dislike. The freedom have a difference of opinion is a beautiful thing and hey, if there are any books that you hate but think/know I love, then tell me in the comments and we can all be salty together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: February 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world. 

I think I bought this book because I knew exactly what to expect.

IMG_20170716_174959_683I had imagined, when reading the blurb and reading a few reviews, that it would be very similar to that age old tale of a maiden being tricked into being captured by a scary but handsome, supernatural being. You know, Sarah J. Maas-esque. I had previously read and enjoyed A Court of Mist and Fury, but after deciding not continue with the third installment, there was a hole missing in my TBR.

Another book I absolutely adored was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and reading Wintersong gave me so many Uprooted vibes that I quickly nabbed it from Waterstones, cutting short my pathetically executed book buying ban.

Wintersong is, first and foremost, gorgeous.

A large part of the story is about music, and how it has raised, supported, and empowered main character Liesl. It’s described so beautifully that you can almost hear it. Along with the setting, it’s one of the best things about the book, and even though I had to google what ‘klavier’ was (it’s German for ‘piano’), I pictured Liesl and her brother making beautiful music together and working hard towards Liesl’s brother’s musical career.

The setting is also stunning, but maybe I’m biased because I love Bavaria. I’ve been to Southern Germany twice now, and every time I’m there, I can think about romantic stories set in the quiet, quintessentially German villages that populate in between mountains and gathered around castles. So reading Wintersong was a right treat for my mind when it’s on holiday.

The only downside was the ending, which took far too long to execute and became a little confusing. The set up and middle sections, where we’re introduced to life in Liesl’s village and the folklore that’s been a part of it, gripped me to read on. The introduction of The Goblin King and Liesl’s time Underground also made sense and set us up for something great and maybe even action packed, but beyond that, there were a lot of sleeping scenes, Liesl being stuck in her room, and then a few conversations with The Goblin King. The ending became a little convoluted and confusing that I am still thinking about what happened and not being too sure. The was not even a sizzle, never mind a bang.

A fun tale weaved from magic and music but still missing the fourth and final leg.

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Publisher: Dial/Penguin
Release Date: 22nd August 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, her father is a convicted murderer, and his execution date is fast approaching. For another, Molly refuses to believe that her mother is dead, and she waits for the day when they’ll be reunited . . . despite all evidence that this will never happen.

Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with epilepsy, serious girl problems, and the most useless seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer . . . or fail out of school.

And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.

When Molly gets a package leading her to Pepper, they’re tasked with solving a decades-old mystery: find out who killed Ava, back in 1989. Using Ava’s diary for clues, Molly and Pepper realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

WELL WASN’T THIS MOTHER-FLIPPIN’ AMAZING

IMG_20170813_200212_513

This book. Oh my gosh. After I finished the final page, I closed the book slowly and just sat there staring out of my window. I cannot believe that there are books that I’ve been waiting for for months, sat on my TBR pile physically and on Goodreads, and The Arsonist hasn’t been on any of them. Not even that, but I didn’t know it existed until I saw it on a table at the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) and all I had to do was sign up to a newsletter and I would receive it for free.

I had the choice of any one of the books on the table, and yes, I may have chosen The Arsonist because of that pretty cover and because my friends’ also picked it up. But what was inside? WHY HADN’T I KNOWN ABOUT IT BEFORE?

The Arsonist is a story told through three perspectives that flow so well together, Molly, the girl with no friends, with a broken family with a father on death row and a burning idea that a mother didn’t kill herself and is actually in hiding, Pepper, a boy failing school and figuring out whether he cares or not (plus he’s got a hilarious seizure pug called Bertrand), and Ava, a young girl living in East Berlin in the 1980s, imprisoned behind the wall and away from the rest of the world.

I loved every single perspective in a different way, and it would be cruel to pick favourites. I loved Molly for her inquisitive mind, her determination, Pepper for his comedy gems, his willingness to go along for the adventure, and of course Ava for her harrowing life in East Berlin and the journey she took in search for freedom, right up until her death (this isn’t a spoiler it says it on the blurb, kids). Everything was gripping, everything, I hated putting this book down because I felt like I was wasting time doing other things.

I actually, for a short period of time, thought Ava Dreyman was a real person in history and a quick Google search found me back at The Arsonist’s Goodreads page, whoops.

This book comes out 22nd August. Please, if you’re looking for a new release that has intrigue, drama, adventure, incredible friendships, history, and a useless but lovable doggo, then read The Arsonist. What a treat.

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

My Bullet Journal & Creativity

My bullet journal has become one of my many sources of my creativity, one that I didn’t think existed.

I wanted to talk about the ways in which I go about filling my bullet journal, including pictures, doodling, journal entries, and spread ideas. Every person’s bullet journal is theirs; there is not right or wrong way to go about filling it. Some use it for practical reasons, some for memories, and most for letting your creativity and imagination run wild. Do not use this post as a ‘how to’, but more as a ‘here’s some inspiration’!

Getting The Stuff

The worst thing you can do when beginning to bullet journal is buying all the things. Let’s be honest, you’re gonna be overwhelmed with all the options from journals to pens to washi tape. This stuff is not cheap, and so I would recommend accumulating your utensils over time. The most expensive thing you’re going to buy could be any one of those things, depending on your budget, quality, and accessibility. For me, I wanted a journal that was easy to use. This meant finding a journal that opened easily without closing by itself, so no tight spines, and preferably not a thick journal. Hardback journals can be good, but I had my heart set on a softback with grid pages. Grid pages? I’m messy and needs a guide. Blank pages are a death sentence for my creativity.

1501774852811

In the end I chose a Moleskine Soft Large Squared Notebook. It comes with a piece of ribbon so when I open it, it falls straight onto the page I was working on, and also has thickish pages so pens and pictures don’t bleed through onto the next spread! Other journal brands I would recommend are Leuchtturm and Paipur. Of course, for someone on a budget, large supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsburys have an array of beautiful blank notebooks from as cheap as £3!

Pens? Washi tape? Accumulate. I’m left handed, and so I needed pens that dried quickly otherwise my hand would run across the page and smudge all my calligraphy that I tried really hard on. I avoid ballpoints, and enjoy Uni Pin fineliners in a range of sizes, but I use mainly 0.1 and 0.2 for most writing. I use fineliners for colouring too, which I think are all around 0.3. Washi tape has been a hit and miss for me. The cheap stuff is cute, but very bold colours and are very thick. I’m still struggling to find nice washi tape in the UK, but came across one in Waterstones for £2, but it was only one small roll. It’s slightly transparent with gold dots. Lovely.

Pens and Washi Tape are things you can make mistakes with. You can figure out which pens and tape work for you without breaking the bank. They’re also a great way to find your style!

Ideas & Style

“But Hollie? What do I put in my bullet journal??”

The answer is simple: ANYTHING YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE. Your bullet journal is yours, some like to show their pages, some don’t. Don’t feel like you have to make it look a certain way or have certain content to be deemed as a “good bullet journal”. Because here’s the thing kid, there’s no such thing as a good or bad bullet journals. Or maybe they’re all good. I don’t know, I just love bullet journals.

For me, I love monthly spreads. Pictures that represent that month for me, as well as little reminders about what I want to achieve that month. I also have specific spreads for large events in my life, including holidays, books that I especially loved, and even a spread for my dear SKAM.

IMG_20170726_190901_433

This is the spread I’m the most proud of. My June spread is good but I hadn’t really fell into my own style just yet. However this spread definitely represents my ‘inner style’ when it comes to how I want my journal to look like. It’s colourful, full of flowers, just like July. And of course, there’s a SKAM reference because I’m trash and I was thinking about it a lot while making this spread. I also love adding quotes from books, and films and music, this quote in particular is from Library Magic by The Head & The Heart (I usually listen to this kind of music when working on spreads).

Also, with thanks to Youtube videos on doodling in your bullet journal, I’ve managed to find flowers and wreaths that are easiest for me to fill into blank spaces.

1501774926615

Sometimes I colour them, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the spread or what particular theme I’m going for. I don’t like overcrowding my pages with too much colour, and rather like sticking to specific themes. July was definitely a green and and gold/yellow kinda spread.

Other ideas for spreads are reading logs. I usually create them every three months because I’m a slow reader. They’re usually bookish spreads, with a list of books I read in those three months each with a rating, coupled my bookish pictures that are usually take from my instagram. In this case, the top picture is mine (and one you might recognize from my home page!).

1501775047071

The majority of my spreads are journal entries; days where there’s been something I’ve wanted to talk about. Some people like to have two pages to represent one week and have an entry for everyday, but I never want to force myself to write something, and so that’s why some days have been skipped, and some days have lengthy paragraphs of stories.

1501774596840

Here are a list of things you could include in your bullet journal, but do not feel you should be limited to. Remember, your bullet journal is yours and you should free to include whatever you want!

Reading Log
Photograpy Portfolio
Maps
Holiday Packing Lists
Books Reviews
Fitness Routine
Language Phrase Page
Constellation Chart
Comic Book Strip
Events Diary
TBR List
Birthday Diary
Work Schedule
Cleaning Schedule
Bucket Lists
Things That Make You Happy
& The List Goes On!

If you have any blog posts on your bullet journals, please link them, I would love to check them out!

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

The Good, The Bad, & The Hilarious Parts Of YALC 2017

IT IS TIME TO TALK ABOUT YALC 2017.

This year, I made plans. Big plans. I booked a weekend ticket, I got time off work, I made plans to stay at a friend’s house during the event (she was on a Mediterranean cruise – poor her), and found online friends to spend time with. This year, I was killin’ it.

YALC 2017, despite attending for the last two years, has been a completely different experience than any other years I’ve been there. It was bigger, more crowded, and I felt so much more confident in myself where everyone I hung out with I had met over our love of books on the internet. I also happened to receive a lot of free books!

Here are the overwhelmingly good parts of YALC 2017.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

THE GOOD

The Talks

While only getting around to a few talks, the ones that I did watch were absolutely fantastic. I loved the genre-bending panel (and not just because V.E. Schwab was on it) but it really spoke to me. I often struggle with what category I want my stories to be in; I often worry about what will be marketable, what neat little boxes publishers and agents will want my idea to fit into in order to sell it. But this talk gave a bigger perspective: right what you love, change things up, don’t restrict yourself.

Another fantastic talk was In Conversation With Patrick Ness, which I had watched last year but mainly revolved around the release of the movie adaptation of A Monster Calls. This year was all about Release, Ness’ newest…release. A book I adored and read in about a day. He and Juno Dawson (who was a FANTASTIC chair and I honestly wouldn’t have minded if it was In Conversation with Juno Dawson and Patrick Ness) talked deeply about #ownvoices, about Patrick’s books, and writing from experience. It was incredible how Ness can stop for a second, think about his answer, and come up with most poetic thing I’ve ever heard. There’s a reason this guy’s a writer.

The Kindness of Strangers

I made a whole blog post about stumbling across some strangers who comforted me during my first few days at work, but YALC ended up being not only the kindness of strangers, but the generosity of strangers.

It’s news to no one that YALC 2017 was the year of rushing for arcs (which I talk about the negative side later on). People were poised at the ready, with Twitter on their phones and publishers’ accounts notifications on. It felt a little like The Hunger Games, however I had no ARC in mind that I was excited about getting. If I got some, then hey, I got some. When Story HQ dropped a three ARC giveaway, I was excited; one ARC wasn’t even professionally bound, it was that early of an ARC! I looked on the table and saw only a few left of a book called Blackbird. I wasn’t that interested, but hey ho I got one and I’ll be reading it soon enough. I looked up the other two that were being given away, and one was called City of Brass. When I read the synopsis, I was already hooked. A historical fantasy set in the Middle East. The final cover even had a silhouette of The Hagia Sophia. I got instant And I Darken/Now I Rise vibes, and needed it. While everyone at Story HQ was preoccupied with ARCs of Zenith, I thought maybe they had a few to giveaway, however, they informed me that they had 6 left.

6 LEFT.

It’s Saturday night, I’m thinking it’s worth a shot.

cityofbrass

And lo and behold, as I’m running out of options, SUNDAY MORNING SOMEBODY MESSAGES ME. This lovely person doesn’t even want to swap a book with me, she’s just going to straight up give me City of Brass.

I get to YALC, and I find her; she’s got a suitcase full of books, and just pulls out City of Brass like it’s no big deal and hands it to me. OH. MY GOD.

This happened multiple times throughout the weekend, where a girl had won a copy of A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris, my friend Anna’s favourite author. She had met the girl before she had won it, and had mentioned that she didn’t even know who Joanne M. Harris was, and so when we saw her later on, I beelined straight for her and was willing to swap for it. She brought it the next morning, wanting nothing in return, and I told Anna, who had a little cry of joy.

BOOKISH PEOPLE ARE GREAT.

The Queuing System

I was actually really pleased with the way in which *some* of the queues for author signings were handled this year. While last year I stood in a line for an hour to meet V.E. Schwab (which wasn’t so bad because I met one of my good friends, Kate!), this year it was first come first serve for a ticket with a specific number. When your number was called, you went in a queue of about 20 people. For Laini Taylor, I was 177. Bleh. But it meant that, when I knew they were at numbers 1-20, I could continue to wander around YALC and LFCC without worrying about losing my place. It was the same with Patrick Ness, where I grabbed a ticket despite not being sure about getting my stuff signed. My friend Anna suggested I take a ticket, because at least I have a place in the queue if I decide to get something signed. And I did! .

Granted, there were definitely some queues that were all over the place; people joining despite their number not being called, organizers not even knowing which authors would be popular (putting V.E. Schwab and Laini Taylor on at the same time…whose idea was that???), and queues snaking around publishers’ stalls and blocking them and other walkways. But overall, the queuing system has definitely improved since the last two years!

Meeting Bookish People!

Before I showed up, I knew YALC would be different. Not only was I attending with friends from Twitter, I also knew I would be meeting online people for the first time ever. Usually, I go to YALC with one friend from university, but since she was on that epic cruise, I took it into my hands to surround myself with new people.

dsc_0508
From left to right: Bex, Jess, Anna, Me, Liv, Kate

While I mostly stuck with Anna (@aliterarypotion) and Kate (@coffeeinonehandbookintheother), we ended up meeting a whole bunch of new people who I’d only known from Twitter including Katherine (@writinghideout), Bex (@MyShelfMySelf), Jess (@bookendingsendings), Liv (@Livescape), Vicky (@hunguponbooks), Christine (@weereader), and Nazy (@readinghijabsy)! It was great to be around people who were obsessed with books just as much as I am, especially ones in the same online communities as I am. It felt like we all kinda knew each other already!

THE BAD

Unfortunately, with all experiences, the bad parts can often feel like they overshadow the good and the hilarious. YALC, for the last few years, has been a major event in my calendar, and I hate to say that YALC 2017 has been the year of negative experiences and criticisms that I want to share as feedback to the organizers but also to future attendees as a warning of what to possibly expect in 2018 (if they haven’t sorted it already).

Publisher/Reader Power Imbalance

I could write a whole blog post just on this section. I have so many thoughts about the straight up lack of disrespect publishing representatives had for paying guests who were attending YALC. The event, while encompassing all the good stuff I mentioned earlier, can also be described as one big book marketing campaign. Publisher’s stands are there to promote and sell, and what better way to promote upcoming titles by creating buzz with limited advanced reading copies (ARCS) to lucky individuals who took the time to travel far and spend money to attend YALC. However, the process in which the representatives chose who got what, throughout the event, became more and more disrespectful and panic inducing.

The publishers created an environment of hostility and aggression as they tweeted out challenges or even just ‘we have five copies! first come first serve!’ which meant hoards of people stampeding into others and causing a ruckus. They made up challenges off the top of their heads, including making people run to their stall and lie on the ground for no reason, or refusing to tell people what they were giving away at what time, forcing people to constantly refresh their Twitter feeds or even just loiter around their stalls for two hours. A rep from one publisher in particular had the audacity to yell “Dance monkeys! Dance!” when they got a crowd of people to wave their hands in the air to win some books. Some publishers couldn’t even be bothered to put a proper queuing system in place and a number of people suffered panic attacks from being crushed in sudden surges of people, many of whom had no idea what was going on. Publishers didn’t tell us how many arcs they had and didn’t count people in order to send people away, instead people queued for ages only to be disappointed. All the running also meant that many attendees with physical and mobility difficulties did not have a chance at receiving any freebies.

The publisher stands had too much power; they exploited the excitement and passion of many teenage readers by making them literally do anything they wanted for a book, and injuring people in the process. Story HQ and Hodderscape were particularly horrific; Hodderscape making people do stupid things in the 30 seconds they’d tweeted about it, while Story HQ just refused to be organised and caused panic attacks and took no responsibility for the crowds of people blocking other stalls.

While I’m naming and shaming, I also should be naming and congratulating. Penguin Platform did their arc giveaways a little differently, and instead offered raffle tickets to win arcs, and also hid arcs in certain places without tweeting about it, meaning if you stumbled upon an arc, you got it. There were no crowds, there was no mass hysteria. BKMRK (previously Books with Bite) and Chicken House also did a good job by announcing giveaways an hour before, letting people arrive on their own time and also directing queue flow, providing enough arcs for a good portion of people (about 150 a day).

Free stuff is fun. Feeling like the ant under the boot of a publisher is not.

Seating and Layout

If you’re a YALC veteran, it’s a normal occurrence to find yourself standing around or finding decent floor space, but as the convention gets bigger, gets more popular, I am surprised by the lack of seating, especially when there was so much empty space with no signing tables or publishers stalls. Yes, there were lots of seats in the panel area, but you couldn’t have a proper chat with your mates or just a place to read because there was a talk going on right in front of you. There is a cafe, but it’s small and often crowded, and there’s a bean bag area which, if you have mobility issues, you’ll probably have trouble getting out of them once you’ve fallen in (I didn’t even try out of fear). I saw a lot of attendees this year with crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs, so a place with tables and chairs just to take a breather would have really helped many.

THE HILARIOUS

Laini Taylor Signing

This is probably a mixture of hilarious and heartbreaking. Hilarious now, but kind of heartbreaking at the time. It was no lie that Laini Taylor’s signing queue was going to be one big thing that would last for hours. I managed to snag the prized position of person 177 in queue, and was left to my own devices until my number was called. It would be a while.

Strange The Dreamer is not a small book. The whole of Saturday I had this thing in my bag, on my back, weighing me down. I loved Strange The Dreamer, so much more than I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I was thrilled that I would be meeting Laini Taylor for the first time and I could tell her how much I fell in love with Lazlo Strange (what a puppy!!). We walked, we shopped, we sat around waiting for City of Brass ARCS to drop (they didn’t…despite telling me that they would at some point. You’ve already read my annoyance with Story HQ you know what I’m on about), until eventually, my and my friends’ numbers were called.

Due to the fantastic member of staff in charge of Laini’s queue, we were only stood there for about ten minutes before finally meeting Laini. I immediately forgot about the two hours I’d had to kill before my number actually being called, and was ready to meet an author I had only just begun to appreciate.

When she opens my book…and sees her signature already there.

“Oh, I’ve already signed this.”

“….what.”

“Did you buy this from Waterstones?”

“Umm, yeah.”

“Oh I pre-signed those. Have you read the book?”

“Yes! I loved it!”

“Oh dear, maybe you forgot you bought a signed one then :). Here, I’ll personalize it.”

“Thanks.”

And that was the end of my two hour wait and a 12 hour carrying of an already signed Strange The Dreamer. What an idiot.

Non Pratt Head shave

I feel like, if you attended YALC and maybe if you didn’t, you know what I’m going to talk about. I’ve watched vlogs and read other blog posts about it and people asking each other ‘where were you during the Non-Pratt head shave?’. I was pretty damn close to Non, but on the farther side of where the ‘incident’ happened, and so saw practically nothing but people jumping out of their chairs and screaming and cheering.

benc
“what cult ritual nonsense is this??”

 

Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch walked in on us all chanting ‘SHAVE! SHAVE!’ as an author had her head shaved on stage. There is nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said, but it was damn hilarious.

Benedict Cumberbatch Madness

In fact, Benny-C made so many appearances that weekend that it was getting kind of annoying. The door he would enter the floor from and the door to his green room were so far from each other that he continually had to walk the whole length of YALC with bodyguards that kept multiplying each time I saw him. I understand why his green room was upstairs at YALC; if you left YALC and went into LFCC, the place was PACKED and people were no doubt expecting Benny-C. For us, we were just happy to see him for a minute and then continued to get excited about books. Our floor was a safe floor, and the worst he got was a few of us sprinting to get good pictures of him. He even walked past people and said hello and asked how they were. What a lovely chap.

And that was my YALC 2017! I had such a fantastic time, met new people, got a shit ton of books, and even spotted a few celebrities. I’m still on a little YALC high and have been scrolling through Twitter looking for blog posts and vlogs so if you’ve posted, let me know!

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr