It’s time for another Lucy Recommends… today! I love writing these recommendation posts so much because it means I get to talk about lots of my favourite books.
Today I’m going to be recommending diverse fiction. They’re diverse for lots of different reasons and I would highly recommend all of them.
Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow
Crow Moon is one of my favourite books of 2015 so far and it’s the perfect diverse read. One particularly diverse element that stands out is the religious diversity in it because Crow Moon is a dystopia set in a pagan community. It was incredibly realistic and broke away from the typical stereotype of paganism. I loved it!
Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern
One of my favourite diverse reads, Amy & Matthew (also known as Say What You Will in the US) is about a girl with cerebral palsy and a boy with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I loved the juxtaposition between the physical and mental health condition and it also has a rather interesting twist at the end!
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare always manages to create lots of amazing diverse characters in all of her books – racially, sexually and religiously. They all feel like your best friend!
The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
When I read The Last Leaves Falling at the end of 2014, I knew it was something special. It follows the story of a Japanese boy called Sora who has a neurodegenerative disease and it discusses important issues such as assisted suicide and having dignity when dying, which are all very current issues.
Follow Me Down by Tanya Byrne
I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Tanya talk about writing Follow Me Down and I think she writes diversely perfectly. A murder mystery novel set in Wiltshire, it’s about a Nigerian teenager called Adamma and is told in alternating timelines. I loved it!
I love reading UKYA books set in other countries because I’m able to read them through a tourist’s eyes and learn about incredible new cultures. There aren’t many of them, but the existing ones are real gems!
Stolen by Lucy Christopher is set in the Australian Outback, about a girl who is kidnapped by an older man. The imagery was beautiful and it was easy to imagine what the setting was like, even though I’ve never been there before.
The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell is out TOMORROW and is set in Japan. It’s about a boy called Sora who has ALS and we learn about him as his ALS progresses. Despite the topic, it’s a book full of hope which was shown even more through the setting of Japan. I’d love to read more books set there!
Jessica Cole Model Spy: Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky is set in Paris. I am a huge sucker for any book set in France and it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll love it. Sarah Sky’s books are modelling meets Ally Carter, and SO good!
A Brighter Fear by Kerry Drewery is set in Baghdad during the war in 2003 and it’s wonderfully unique. It’s easy to feel as if you are actually there and living through the terror and fright.
Jessie Hearts NYC and Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton are both brilliant contemporary books by one of my favourite UKYA authors. They have a big crossover appeal too and I like recommending them to people who are new to reading YA!
Finding Sky by Joss Stirling is a book I’ve read millions of times from cover to cover. In fact, I think I’m in need of a re-read soon! It’s set in Colorado and I’m pleased that it’s a UK fantasy book set in another country. There aren’t many of them!
What are your favourite UKYA books set in other countries?
Last week it was Bath Children’s Literature Festival, or Bath Kids Lit Fest, and, being lucky enough to live very close to it, I spent most of the week there.
The first day that I attended was Sunday and, before any of my events, I met up with Georgia from Books and Writers JNR and we spent nearly 45 minutes in Waterstones Bath (I love their YA section!). I bought The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater whilst Georgia bought Shipwrecked by Siobhan Curham. It was so nice to meet her, as we’ve spoken for quite a while now on Twitter and she’s always come across as really lovely – and she was!
The first event I went to was one with Karen Saunders and Mark Lowery. I briefly met Karen back in June so it was really nice to speak to her again, and I loved hearing about Mark’s book as it sounded so funny. I’m really
hoping I’ll be able to read it soon because I loved the parts he read out to us.
The other event in the evening was with David Levithan and I was really looking forward to it. I’d read Every Day a few weeks earlier in preparation and loved it. I met the lovely Charlie at the event who I’ve recently started talking to on Twitter after we both won copies of Every Day. Serendipity! It was really nice to hear David speak and read from Every Day. Afterwards, I got my books signed but accidently left Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares at home, which I was kicking myself for afterwards.
After a much needed rest on Tuesday and Wednesday, I got to interview Tanya Byrne on Thursday. I loved Heart-Shaped Bruise and she was such a lovely person too. I also got to meet Blondie at this event, who I’ve met again at another event too. She’s such an awesome person (you can see her talking at the end of the Tanya Byrne interview, with her brilliant hat)!
Friday meant an event with Malorie Blackman, which I went to with Becky. It was interesting to hear Malorie talk, especially as her plans for the UKYA conference had just been announced. The signing afterwards was so long and we were right at the back too. 🙁
Saturday was another crazy day. In the morning I went to a writing workshop with Siobhan Curham who was so lovely. I got to meet Sophie from A DayDreamer’s World which was nice. The workshop had a lot of stuff about blogging in it and I loved hearing about other peoples ideas for their own blogs. I really wish I had been to something like the workshop when I had just started blogging. After the workshop I stopped for lunch at Patisserie Valerie, which is heaven in a cake shop. I never thought I’d say it, but I couldn’t finish my cake. The next event was one with Alexia Casale and Janne Teller which I was very excited for. I got to meet Katerina briefly before the event when I was hanging around the production room upstairs. I really hope we’ll be able to meet again in the future now that she lives near, because she was so lovely, and I love talking to her on Twitter. I also met Marieke who is such an awesome person and it was so nice to meet her in person. I got to interview Alexia and, let me tell you, she is one of the loveliest people I have ever met and am ever likely to meet. I was blown away
by her kindness, and she was just amazing to meet. You all need to meet her!
Sunday was such a hectic day, but it was definitely the best out of the whole festival. After getting off to a rough start when one of the attendants made me sit right at the back, even though I had a ticket and was at the venue first, and after nearly falling down a massive drop, things turned awesome. I got to meet Debbie, Faye and Daphne, and see Katie again for the event with Sarah J. Maas. I’m a massive fan of the Throne of Glass books so it was great to hear Sarah talk. The signing queue was massive and we were sadly right at the end, which meant a mad rush to the Patrick Ness event right after. Daphne, having already met Sarah previously, saved us seats at the venue of the Patrick Ness event, but the rest of us still had to manically run across lots of streets, which caused lots of squeals and mad dashing. It’s something that I will always remember, and I really hope I get to meet these girls in the future because they’re just the best. Despite turning up late, we finally made it to the Patrick Ness event which was awesome and quite funny/weird at times. It’s one of those events that’s memorable because it had some very odd moments. Daphne sprinted to the signing queue so we were right up the front and I even have a special signed copy of More Than This, because Patrick signed it in the wrong place. That’s my claim to fame!
Bath Kids Lit Fest was so much fun and, writing this post, I realise how much I miss it. I met some incredible people and experienced so many amazing things. I need to send a million thank yous to Sarah, who made things extra special. She’s one of the awesomest people I know, so go follow her on Twitter if you don’t already! You’re really missing out! I also need to thank my parents for lugging me around everywhere. Also, thanks to my mum who finally worked out how to use the camera. No, Mum, you’re pressing the off button, not the button to take a picture….
Thank you to EVERYONE who was involved in the festival! I’m really hoping to see more of you at the festival next year! 😀
Last year I had to write a persuasive speech for my English class and I’ve decided to post it today to share with you. I got top marks for it and, although I’ve adapted some of it to fit the blog, here it is today.
The average reading age in the UK is nine years old and I think that that is appalling. Recent research has shown that fewer people are now reading for enjoyment. With the rise of television, computer games and social networking, people no longer feel the need to pick up a book when they can turn on a TV set or sit in front of a gaming console. Studies have shown that teenagers are now selecting easier reads. Professor Topping from the University of Dundee said that “[teenagers are] not only not reading at a higher level; they’re not thinking at a higher level.” The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney are not only popular amongst Year Four pupils but also among Year Eleven students, a study has shown. By the age of thirteen and fourteen, pupils are reading books with an average reading age of ten.
I believe that everyone should read. Why? Because I know how much it has helped me. Through reading, I have met a lovely group of people and regularly come into contact with authors and publishers who I have learned a lot from. When I’m older I am hoping to work within publishing or write my own novel so the advice I’m given is invaluable. Over a year ago my granddad died and, following his passing, reading helped me to deal with the loss. It is safe to say that my life had dramatically changed and reading became a way to escape and forget. When I picked up a book, I could transport myself to another place and become enraptured in this new place, whether it’s the streets of New York or a land thousands of years in the future. I run my own website where I review books and the pleasure I get from sharing my views with like-minded people is something that I wouldn’t get from watching TV or playing sport.
Enough about me; why do I think other people should read? Well, people who read are more likely to have a higher self-esteem, better health, better jobs and higher paid wages than those who don’t. Also, reading is important because things like following instructions and filling out forms is something that happens on a regular basis in today’s society. Being able to read a sign on the road or a piece of writing on the side of a food packet is really important and will help people out in many ways. Reading also improves your vocabulary, something that is really important. You may think that the only time you’ll need a good vocabulary is in English but it can also help with other subjects and will help you to understand, for example, questions in tests and earn you more marks in exams. As I mentioned earlier, TV and computer games are two of the most popular ways to spend free time and people are no longer leaving things up to their imaginations and are used to being shown images rather than thinking them up themselves. Who has watched a movie that they never want to end? Books last a lot longer than films and are also a lot cheaper to buy and they don’t use up as much electricity!
I asked around the book blogging and reading community and people offered to write a few sentences to a short paragraph on why they liked reading, how reading has helped them and the things they’ve experienced through reading. Here is what they said:
Rachel Ward, award-winning author of the Numbers trilogy, said: ‘reading represents, among other things, an escape, a challenge, a source of insight and inspiration and a comfort.’
Zoe Crook, owner of popular book blog Bookhi, says that: ‘Without reading, I don’t know who I would be. Books have helped me get through problems, helped me to be myself and discover who I really am. The power of reading can transport you to a new world where you can meet crazy characters, have adventures and slip into someone else’s shoes. By only sitting in a chair, you can travel the globe, meet amazing people, escape from prison, meet the President and cheat death. The ability to be someone else and lose yourself in a new world is one of the reasons why I love reading so much; it allows you to forget the issues around you and live another life.’
Writer Sarah Benwell says: ‘[books] let you figure out who you are and who you want to be; what you think, and how to deal with life.’
So what can you do to get yourself interested in reading? Here are a few of my ideas:
Start or join a book club- Book clubs are great for meeting new people and socialising. You may think that it will be full of geeks but there are actually some really nice people who go and it’s a good way to have fun.
Set yourself a goal each week to read for a certain amount of time, whether it is ten minutes or half an hour. That time can really help and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to sit yourself down and pick up a book.
Find something that you enjoy reading. There are a lot of websites where people take the time to review books and recommend them and it’s a great way to hear somebody else’s views before you buy a book.
Visit the library! Borrowing from a library is an easy way to acquire books for free and you don’t have to read them if you don’t like them. All you need to do is sign up for a library card and then you can borrow away!
Today I’m very pleased to share with you an Embracing My Inner Geek guest post written by the amazing Sarah Benwell. I first met Sarah through Twitter but it just so happens that she lives very close to me and we met through a library event. She’s seriously one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met so I’d love you all to give her a warm welcome. Sarah is a writer and I just know that we’ll be seeing her books in bookshops soon.
This post isn’t so much about my inner geek as my very loud, outspoken outer geek. I’m a writer. I love words and stories and books. I write YA, and have a particular fondness for foreign places. No, foreign lives. I like to travel, both in real life and in fiction. I like to wander through spice markets and temples and deserts, to get up at dawn and work alongside strangers until long after the stars appear, to taste new languages upon my tongue, scale trees and mountains, and feel the sun and rain and sand and mud against my skin. To share a meal or a roof with school kids or soldiers or cannibals. I love people. I love the way we’re all so different and yet inherently the same. I love our stories, and relationships, and the way we make our way across the world.
And because that’s what I love, I want to share the whole entire world with everyone. All of it. Every place, every story, every detail. I want readers to be able to walk hand in hand with characters who are no longer strangers, and to feel it, just like I do. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
This is where my biggest geek-facet sits proudly on display. World building. And this applies to any setting – your hometown, the Malaysian jungle or a futuristic distant planet. World building matters. So much of who we are and what we do is shaped by our surroundings, and if I can’t feel out the edges of the world you create, if I don’t know the rules, I’m lost. And if I’m lost, I end up trying to work all that stuff out instead of living inside your story. This bugs me. More than bugs me. It ruins otherwise-awesome books completely, because I’m thinking way too hard to emmerse myself. I’m doubting you.
So. How to make me the happiest reader? Get your world right. Easy, yes?
No? Ok. So how about we take this one step at a time…
If you’re going to write about a place/ culture, you need to know it. If you can’t get to a place, you at least need to research. Properly. In fact, even if you have been somewhere, there’s no way you can know every cultural reference or nuance, or see every landmark, taste every dish, or encounter every point of view. So you still need to do your research.
Learn everything you can. Scour travel guides and search through Trek-Earth photos. Find out about the major religions, exports, common pastimes, education systems. Listen to the music from your setting, and the language – let the speech patterns sink into your brain, learn some of the language if you can. Seek out slang and idioms. Read literature, watch movies. Visit someplace similar; if you can’t get to the desert, at least go to the beach on a windy day and feel the sand whip against your skin.
And if your setting isn’t real, think about this stuff, in your head. Make it up, yes, but do so thoroughly, please. Imagine that I’m sitting there behind you with a host of questions: what’s the national dish, or deities? Are the seasons like ours? Who sits at the head of your world, making the decisions? And you still need research, even then. If your MC is a swordsman, you need to know the basic rules of combat. If she hunts or scavenges, you should probably learn about traps and safe berries and how to skin a rabbit. You might need to learn about engines and the science of space travel, or political systems and diplomatic tactics, or what diseases can wipe out an entire nation within weeks. Whatever.
You absolutely cannot do too much of this, I promise. Know. Your. World.
Fast forward, let’s say you’ve got this covered. You know all there is to know about rice farming or Hinduism or how to take care of a sword. How do you get all that into your stories without sounding like a dusty old professor?
Firstly, you don’t need to put everything you know into your text. Please. Please don’t put everything in. The characters and story still come first, you just want your awesome new-found knowledge to inform these things.
Set out the rules; show us the edges of the map, but subtly. I want this stuff, but I don’t want twenty pages at the start of your story (even one, if I’m honest) explaining everything. Feed us little bits, as and when they’re relevant, or even better, as your characters encounter them. And then, show us how things affect your characters, how they go about their lives; if your MC worships the Great And Mighty Caffeinator, show us what this looks like, be it meditating over a cup of coffee every morning, or leaving coffee grinds and biscuits at her local temple. If he works in a gold-mine, and the selling price has plummeted, show us what this means. I promise once you start, you’ll wonder why you ever needed that prologue.
Finally, once your rules are set out, what I really, really want, is details. Good, specific details. If I’m going to walk down that street beside your characters I need to know where I am. I need to see the way the sunlight bounces off of the fish in that pond, feel the rain on my skin, smell the ginger in those noodles before you let me take a bite, and hear the footsteps softly creeping up behind us. The senses are your friend. Use them.
Let me into your world. Because I really, truly want to love it.