Today I’m very happy to welcome Chris Russell, author of the Songs About A Girl trilogy to the blog with an exclusive reading from the final book in the trilogy, Songs About A Boy.
I had the pleasure of reading Songs About A Boy recently and LOVED it, but I am sad to have to say goodbye to the wonderful characters who I’ve fallen in love with over the course of the trilogy.
It’s been a joy to read each book, and I’ve come to know and love Chris’ painful (but in a good way) cliffhangers, the friendships and complicated relationships between his characters, and the exciting world of his fictional band, Fire&Lights.
I hope you enjoy this exclusive reading of Songs About A Boy!
Music, boy bands, first love and heartbreak in the explosive finale to the Songs About A Girl trilogy – a modern love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of being ‘with the band’. From a Zoella Book Club friend.
Just as Charlie allows herself to succumb to Gabe’s charms, the explosive revelation about her mother’s death threatens to pull them apart.
Meanwhile, a media circus has exploded around the future of Fire&Lights – when they announce a US tour to show the world that they are stronger than ever, Charlie gets the opportunity to accompany them. New York City, here she comes! But it’s not all fun and games. Charlie is still feeling all kinds of awkward around Gabe and knowing that her mother’s last days were in America touring with her band, Charlie uses the opportunity to uncover some more truths about her mother’s death.
As Fire&Lights try to win over the world again, and as Charlie and Gabriel uncover the true story that links their pasts, will Charlie finally be able to follow her heart?
I am pleased to welcome Annalie Grainger to the blog today, author of Captive and newly-released In Your Light, as well as commissioning editor at Walker Books. I’m a huge fan of Annalie’s work (she also publishes some of my favourite authors, like Lauren James and Katherine Webber), so it’s fascinating to see into the mind of someone who knows both sides of the publishing industry.
As a commissioning editor and a writer, talking about tips for getting your book published is one of my favourite things to do! I think this list could have been about twenty points long, but here are my top five suggestions:
1. Start writing and then keep writing!
You can’t get published if you haven’t finished your book. That might sound really obvious, but writing a book is hard work, and it can be very easy to put it off. My creative writing tutor said to me that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is often down to a matter of how much time they put in.
You have to be disciplined to keep writing through the easy chapters and the hard ones. Set yourself a word limit each day and stick to it, no matter what. (Mine is 300 words – which I chose because it is manageable in half an hour, even on a really bad day when I feel like throwing my computer out of the window!)
2. Read as much as you can
I’m sure you’ve heard this a hundred times before, but reading, especially in the genre you want to write in, is essential. Joy Nicholson, who wrote one of my favourite novels (The Tribes of Palos Verdes), read books to see how authors made transitions between things. This is such a beautiful way of saying to learn from other people. See how your favourite writers create sentences, tension, plot, pace. When I first started writing, I would create plot diagrams from my favourite novels to see how they were structured – where were the high points, the low points, how was the ending foreshadowed, how did the subplots fit in etc.
3. Believe in what you are doing
Don’t try to write something because you think it will sell. Write the book you want to read and you’ll find your own voice.
4. Edit, edit, edit!
Don’t be in a rush to send your script out. Take your time to read what you’ve written. Try to be objective. If you can bear to, put it in a drawer and don’t look at it for at least three months. Then take it out again and be ruthless – what is good, what isn’t, where are the baggy bits, which character is one-dimensional etc.?
5. Get impartial advice on your script
Before sending your script out to agents, find someone you trust to give you honest (but kind!) feedback. This doesn’t need to be a professional but it should be someone who loves to read as your reader will need to instinctively understand what makes a good book. I would avoid your mum, brother, husband, beloved aunt if possible, as they might be biased or might find it hard to tell you the truth.
And a bonus piece of advice: when you’re ready to send your script to agents, do your research very carefully. Literary agents will list their other clients on their website, so check those out to make sure that your chosen agent will be a good fit for you. Also agents get a lot of submissions, so make sure you adhere to their submissions guidelines, otherwise they might not even read your work.
And of course – have fun! Yes, writing can be hard, but it should also be enjoyable. Good luck!
In Your Light by Annalie Grainger is out now (£7.99, Simon & Schuster)
I’ve been a very big fan of Rachael Lucas’s books ever since I read Sealed With A Kiss and fell in love with it. That meant I got super excited when I heard that Rachael was working on a YA novel. I was very lucky to get to read an early chapter of The State of Grace back when it didn’t have a book deal, so I’ve waited patiently ever since to read the final thing. I was not disappointed!
It’s hard to describe exactly what The State of Grace is about because it’s one of those books that you really do need to read to discover how good it is. To put it simply, though, it’s told from the perspective of 15 year old Grace who has Asperger’s. The book breaks down what it’s like for a teenager with Asperger’s, dispelling all the stereotypes and assumptions that people have. All the while, Grace has to deal with the confusion of her dad being away for long periods of time, her mum introducing a new friend that Grace doesn’t like, and her sister spiralling out of control.
Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.
There are some books that you love because they’re full of action and big, surprising moments; there are other books that you love because they’re the polar opposite, because they amble along at a natural pace and have you thinking about them all day long. The State of Grace was the latter.
I felt so close to Grace, who you get to know so well throughout the course of the novel. Having written it in first person, Lucas allows you to nestle in amongst Grace’s brain and see the world through her eyes. For this reason, The State of Grace has achieved an incredible feat – it simultaneously allows girls with Asperger’s to have a voice in YA, and allows those who don’t have Asperger’s to understand what it’s like to see the world as they do.
I’m getting increasingly frustrated with YA romances that adopt the “Hollywood effect” and romanticise teenage relationships to such an extent that they are unrecognisable from the reality of teen relationships. The State of Grace, however, restored my faith in YA romance. Gabe and Grace were awkward and endearing, heartening and uplifting, and Lucas left so much possibility between them, without suggesting a happily ever after. Other YA authors, take note!
It’s not until you read Lucas’s other fiction that you realise how much skill and talent she has. To write books aimed at different age groups is not an easy feat, but Lucas manages to seamlessly build a flawless writing style that reflects who she is writing for. It might seem cliché to say that my breath was taken away by the style of Lucas’s writing, but that’s exactly what happened — her ability to replicate Grace’s voice was stunning and I commend Rachael Lucas for this.
The State of Grace is a book I will be thrusting into the hands of all unsuspecting book lovers at every given opportunity. Please, please read it — it’s one of the best books you could hope to read.
I didn’t intend to read Unconventional in a day; it just happened. One minute I’d started the first page and the next I was scrambling to find time to read the rest because I rapidly became obsessed.
Unconventional is told from the perspective of Lexi Angelo, who has grown up helping her dad with his comic convention business. What started as a small gathering has now turned into multiple huge, national events and Lexi is a teen superqueen and helps run the whole thing. When Lexi turns up in the greenroom one day, though, she finds Aidan Green there. He should not be in there, and this starts a string of events that sees Lexi fall in love – with a mega-hit book series and maybe with a certain boy too…
Maggie Harcourt is the UK’s answer to Rainbow Rowell – her books are original, funny and SO CUTE. They’re the perfect way to escape for an afternoon, caught up in the world of conventions and cosplay. It really is impossible to only read one chapter, so when you do read it, beware: you’ll want to clear a whole day in order to finish it.
Unconventional is the YA equivalent of the “hand-touching” trend in romantic period dramas: slow-burning but passionate. I felt myself screaming at parts in the book because I got so invested in the story, particularly the burgeoning romance between Lexi and Aidan. Harcourt writes this very well and in a way that will make you want to shake the book and shout, “KISS ALREADY!” I loved getting so wrapped up in the story, where the only thing that mattered was the book and the characters in it.
Lexi was amazing, especially at the points where she freaked out about how much she loved Timekeepers – I could relate to the feeling of obsessing over a book to the point where I felt like I was Lexi. I love books within books and Harcourt writes this brilliantly – there are enough references to understand Lexi’s excitement, but not so many that you have no idea what’s going on.
Unconventional is the book for all book lovers, nerds and convention-goers. I wish I could transport myself into it, amongst all the characters who stole my heart right from the beginning.
For fans of Fangirl and Kindred Spiritsby Rainbow Rowell
I read contemporary YA for that fuzzy feeling you get in your stomach after you’ve finished reading a book, that satisfying feeling that makes you want to climb inside it and hug all the characters. That is exactly how This Beats Perfect made me feel.
Denton perfectly shapes a world where The Keep are the biggest boyband in the Universe. Amelie Ayres is an aspiring musician who writes and produces her own songs within her bedroom, but she also has awful stage fright. When Amelie goes backstage at one of The Keep’s concerts, things spiral out of control when one of the band members tweets her and suddenly there are hordes of fangirls and the press on her back. It’s about normality in an otherwise totally not-normal world, ambition, and following your heart.
This Beats Perfect is one of the best boyband-related books I’ve read so far because it took time to give equal attention to the inner emotions of all involved, rather than being a whirlwind, clichéd romance. I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the most feasible too; it was very easy to imagine that Amelie and Maxx were real characters because Denton took lots of care to develop their back stories, to give them lives outside of their music, but also involving it. It’s very clear through Denton’s writing that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to music.
The main character, Amelie, was quirky and individual without conforming to your typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, which I do tend to watch out for when reading these types of novels – I find that the main characters are either Manic Pixie Dream Girls or mega, over-the-top fangirls – but Amelie felt very realistic and I could imagine myself being friends with her.
Speaking of friends, one of my favourite parts of the book was the friendship that Amelie and Maisie have. I love strong female friendships in YA and think they’re so important, so it was lovely to see how supportive they were of each other. There was also just the right balance of friendship and romance – neither dominated, but worked alongside each other to create a well-rounded story.
Something unexpected that I liked about This Beats Perfect was that it was written in third person. The majority of contemporary YA novels I read are written in first person, but I love third person and I think this was a great choice of Denton’s – it added to the story and maintained a strong voice throughout.
I read This Beats Perfect in one sitting – I’d only originally intended to read one chapter, but somehow one chapter turned into the whole book and I loved every second. It was the perfect way of spending a lazy Sunday afternoon, when I should have been concentrating on college work. I have no regrets!
The only problem I had with This Beats Perfect is that I didn’t want it to end. I could keep reading about Amelie and Maxx forever very happily and Rebecca Denton is an author I’ll be watching in the future – I wouldn’t hesitate to read any of her future novels.
For fans of: Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell and Non Pratt.
What are your favourite boyband books? Who are the friends you look up to most in YA? Let me know in the comments!
Wing Jones is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time and I’d love everyone – absolutely everyone – to read it.
Set in Atlanta in the 90’s, it tells the story of fifteen year old Wing who has a grandmother from Ghana and a grandmother from China; she’s caught between two worlds, not quite fitting in like her older brother Marcus seems to do. When tragedy strikes, though, Wing takes up running and she’s not just good at it, she’s amazing. Running is a way for Wing to escape, but it could also turn the life around of her struggling family.
The first thing that struck me as I started reading Wing Jones was just how beautiful Webber’s writing style is. It’s something that I haven’t come across before in YA, something that makes you linger on each sentence so that you can absorb every word. Her use of metaphor, in particular, is so well done. It’s made me even more excited to read Webber’s future novels because I can’t get enough of her writing; I could read anything of hers.
I have to admit: I’m not really a fan of magical realism. The aspects in Wing Jones, though, were perfect. I think it’s converted me! It adds a feeling of hope, of awe, to Webber’s wonderful words, and makes you love the main character, Wing, even more. It didn’t feel forced or unrealistic; it felt as much a part of the book as the setting of Atlanta or the secondary characters.
Speaking of secondary characters, I adored Wing’s grandmothers, Granny Dee and LaoLao. Every scene they were in was a joy to read; they added humour, but the way they cared about Wing was also so special. I love reading inter-generational YA stories, and this one was particularly well-done.
Wing Jones made me realise exactly how important it is for everything that is published to be diverse, for writers to create realistic characters that people can see themselves reflected in. There are going to be so many girls out there who will be inspired by Wing, who will reach for their dreams because she did too. Wing is one of the best YA characters I’ve read in a long time – in fact, all the characters in Wing Jones feel as if they could have actually been walking around when the book was set; and, as Wing was a teenager back in the 90’s, I like to think back every now and again to watch she might be getting up to now.
Wing Jones is, so far, my book of the year and I will not be shutting up about how good it is. There’s no way that it won’t be included in my favourite books of the year list at the end of 2017, and reading it made me so proud to know Katherine, to hold her physical book in my hands.
It’s always a struggle to review a book you loved with every inch of your heart without screaming, “GO READ IT! IT IS AMAZING!” every other word. So here it is, to get it out of the way first: GO READ THE LAST BEGINNING! IT IS AMAZING!
The Last Beginning is the sequel to The Next Together and concluding book of the duology, which also included the prequel Another Together. When I read The Next Together last year, it quickly became one of my favourite books ever and I have been waiting patiently to the best of my ability for the sequel ever since. The Next Together was left on a cliffhanger that had me screaming for more, and The Last Beginning answered all of the questions I had and more. It was a perfect sequel!
The Last Beginning picks up in a slightly different place to The Next Together but works better for it. Although the main characters of The Next Together are in The Last Beginning, this book is really Clove’s story. I don’t usually gel with new characters in sequels, but I fell in love with Clove from the get-go. I really would like to be best friends with her. Can it be arranged please?
As with The Next Together, Lauren James needs to be applauded for her innovative use of storytelling – each chapter starts with online messages, parts from textbooks and, my favourite, a Snapchat story (illustrated by Alice Oseman, of Solitaire and Radio Silence fame, too!). These were my favourite parts of The Next Together, and now of The Last Beginning too.
The Last Beginning also has one of the cutest romances ever to be written in a novel and works really well alongside the separate love story of The Next Together. Clove and Ella are my favourites – and I didn’t want to say goodbye to them!
I was amazed at how everything was concluded, but especially amazed with how everything linked up with The Next Together. At many points, I had to stop reading because of the shock – it was written so perfectly that I couldn’t believe the turn of events. In the best possible way!
The Last Beginning is a literary masterpiece, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s now ranked among my favourite books of all time and I urge everyone to read it. You won’t regret it!
After the inaugural Read UKYA Book Club in June (click here to see the titles!), it’s back in July with two more titles! Both books were voted for on the UKYA Facebook page, so you can join to be able to vote on next month’s title. Everyone’s welcome – you don’t have to live in the UK to join in or be a certain age (as long as you can legally be on Facebook), but it’s a must that you love books!
Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
Lisa’s second novel after her début, Seed, was published last year, Paper Butterflies tells the story of June who faces daily abuse from her stepmother and stepsister at home. No one knows about it and June feels trapped until she meets a boy called Blister who sheds some hope on her terrible home life. The thing is, everything comes at a price, and what is the price of freedom?
Lisa Heathfield writes beautifully, with every point she makes 100% believable. Prepare many boxes of tissues for this one, as it’s bound to make you cry!
The Sin Eater’s Daughter was one of my favourite books of last year and the stunning first part of a trilogy that will take your breath away. Melinda Salisbury has created an intricate fantasy world in The Sin Eater’s Daughter in which the main character, Twylla, can kill with a single touch. Twylla is betrothed to the prince of Lormere, where she lives, and is made to kill the enemies of the Crown each month.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter will leave you on the edge of your seat whilst you’re reading it as it’s incredibly fast-paced but still complex, and you’ll become so attached to the characters that you’ll never want to let them go. Believe me, I haven’t since I finished reading it.
There’ll be a discussion on Twitter at the end of the month on Wednesday 27th July at 8pm BST as part of #ukyachat on the theme of both books – so do join in to chat all about The Sin Eater’s Daughter and Paper Butterflies!
Starting from this month, I’m giving you the opportunity to win a set of August’s (as yet unnamed) titles. There are a number of different ways you can enter and each way you do counts as an entry, so it’s possible to enter multiple times:
– Buy a copy of either The Sin Eater’s Daughter or Paper Butterflies during the month of July from an independent bookshop OR borrow either from a library and tweet a picture of your copy(ies) using the #readukya hashtag or share on the UKYA Facebook group.
– Write a review of either The Sin Eater’s Daughter or Paper Butterflies and post to your blog/Amazon/Goodreads during July and share using the #readukya hashtag on Twitter or to the UKYA Facebook group. Each review counts as TWO entries!
– Write a review of The Sleeping Prince or Seed and post to your blog/Amazon/Goodreads during July for ONE entry.
Have you read The Sin Eater’s Daughter or Paper Butterflies already? If not, what are you most excited to read about in them? Share your thoughts in the comments!