UKYACX Blog Tour Post: Q&A With Martin Griffin

I’m very lucky to be involved with the UKYACX Blog Tour this year, I went to the UKYA Extravaganzas the past two years and loved it! This year, it’s based in Neukyacx-logo-with-newcastle-detailswcastle and to celebrate it, two blog tours are running at the same time during the run-up to the actual event (one for YA and one for MG books). Today I’m lucky enough to have Martin Griffin on my blog to talk about libraries and the importance of reading. His latest YA novel, Lifers, was out in April 2016 so you should definitely go and buy it! Here he is, discussing Lifers and some various questions related to libraries and reading.

How would you summarise Lifers?
Good question! Lifers is my near-future government-conspiracy prison-break adventure. I believe everyone’s got a near-future government-conspiracy prison-break adventure in them, and Lifers is mine.

lifersI wanted to write about how spaces imprison us, but how choices do too. Sometimes we make decisions which trap us. That’s what happens to my main character Preston; he sends a cruel text message and that mistake closes in on him. We all make these mistakes, but some of us let them define us and some of us are strong enough to move on. In the middle of the book we visit this dreadful futuristic prison called Axle 6. In there, some children become wild, and some retain their humanity. Preston has to choose which of them he will rescue, poor kid. I put him through some pretty terrible stuff…

When did you first get into reading and which book/s made you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I remember two things in particular. One: I was crazy into Doctor Who, and discovered the novelisations after watching the TV show. I ate those books up – read every single one I could get my hands on.

The second; a bunch of choose-your-own adventure books called Fighting Fantasy. You know the type – “If you want to turn left down the passageway, turn to 352. If you would rather turn right, go to 75.” I read and re-read them, making maps of the locations, adjusting the rules so they played better, trying to design my own. Pretty soon I realised they could be improved in terms of plot, character and motivation, and that started me on the journey towards telling my own stories.

How did libraries impact on your life as a young person?
I was lucky. Our living room had two banks of bookcases to browse and I spent lots of time just examining and handling books. To start with they all seemed super-weird to me; strange titles, bizarre cover art, complex vocabulary. But I read the blurb, read opening chapters, read the critics comments on the back covers and just got to know how novels work, what they’re for, how exciting they are.

In that sense, I didn’t need libraries though I still loved it when the mobile library van came to our village. But there are millions of young people – and having been a teacher I’ve spent a lot of time with them – who don’t really know what books are for. It’s sounds ludicrous but it’s true.

And those children, the vast majority of whom are bright sparky young people, are trapped by their circumstances and find it harder to develop the fluency and confidence of linguistic expression that’s going to get them good qualifications and a goal and purpose or a job they love.

Anyone shutting down a library service should lie awake at night aghast at what they’ve done.

If it were up to you, how would you encourage young people to use libraries?
Well, both examples I gave earlier – Doctor Who and Fighting Fantasy – were of books that were part of a bigger series. The same cast of characters, a lot of the same writers. Some were even numbered on their spines so you could collect them. In that sense, I knew what to look for next – what I liked.

When you know nothing, choosing that first book is ridiculously hard. You don’t know what you like, so you go random. And if the first book isn’t that great, it becomes part of a narrative that goes ‘100% of the books I tried were rubbish’. If you don’t like the second you try either… well, you can see where that ends up. I’ve watched it happen.

We need to be able to help people through those early stages. Great librarians do that. We need more great librarians, not fewer.

Do you feel that with the increase in media and with the easier access to it (YouTube, Netflix) young people are losing an interest in books?
Emphatically no. Those platforms are storytelling platforms too. Most kids aren’t on Netflix or Youtube because they love the easy access to handy information. Most of us are there for the stories. If someone tells me they don’t like books, it’s because they haven’t found the one that’s going to change their world yet.

Platforms like Netflix make finding new stories easy. They let us sample them, they tell them in thrilling little chunks. We should design online spaces where kids can do that with books too.

Finally, are there any books that you feel all young people should read and some point?Again – emphatically no! There’s this myth, maybe our education system feeds it, that there are books we should all like, or should all read. There aren’t. I could run off a list of five books that I currently love – and I will in a sec! – but I’m not saying everyone should read them.

On the other hand, if you want to study Literature; if you’re going to choose it at A level for example, that’s different. You need to know about and have read particular books if you’re going to have a real-life official qualification in the topic. (People don’t study Chemistry and say, “But can I skip the periodic table bit? I don’t like that.”)

So if you’re over fifteen and want a tense-as-hell, dark and super-thrilling read, go for these books in this order (they start YA and move into adult fiction):


Five books I’ve enjoyed recently

  1. Silver by Chris Wooding
  2. The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood and Co book one) by Jonathan Stroud
  3.  Locke and Key (Part One: Welcome to Lovecraft) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  4. Into the Woods by Tana French
  5. The Secret History by Donna Tarttcqpjovtwcaqd0co

Oh – and I’m looking forward to UKYAX – I’ll see you there!

Thanks to Martin Griffin for his time and for the great answers to those questions, as well as some good recommendations for books! For more information on his books, check out his website at http://www.martingriffinbooks.com/about.html and for more information on the UKYACX event, follow @UKYACX on twitter. Click the link below to check out the blog tour poster!

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Review: Sing (Vivi Greene)

20160823_155504Title: Sing

Author: Vivi Greene

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release: Out now!

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? In my opinion, this book resembles a flamingo. A flamingo among other flamingos will look similar to the others around it as they’re all pink and have long legs and beaks. However, to someone who knows flamingos, or to a flamingo of course, they all look different; one may be a deeper shade of pink, or it may have a paler shade of orange on its legs or a more hooked beak. This book follows the same themes as a lot of YA novels do; romance, friendship, self-discovery etc, but it does it in a new and interesting way, which separates it from the others. Therefore, it’s a flamingo to me, as it has the same positive themes many novels do, but presented in different ways.

The blurb says: The Multiplatinum Biggest Hits and Biggest Heartbreaks of Lily Ross are one and the same. I chose this… I get to make music and sings and live my life in front of millions of people. I don’t get to be normal. I’m just the fool who keeps trying. But this summer is going to be different. 

As a Swiftie, the main character of this book reminds me of Taylor Swift, specifically of the year she decided to ditch songs about guys/romance and wrote songs about friendship and other subjects not often written about in the music industry. The story focuses on this character, Lily Ross, a pop star who’s just getting out of a relationship with another pop star. She decides to go on holiday to a small, remote island with just her friends to distract herself from the stress of her upcoming tour, and the media twisting her breakup.

Overall, the story is fun to read as well as emotional with some humor thrown into the plot too. Despite the fact that the main character is an international pop star, she’s very easy to relate to and also very likeable although some of her actions had me questioning her decision-making skills. It’s very well-written and the characters have good voices which make them seem like people you could really know and be friends with.

Another positive about the book is there is a dog in it! The love interest for Lily h20160804_162555as a dog called Murphy which is great because dogs are great and where are all the dogs in books?

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and it kept me engaged, so I would give it 7 out of 10 pawprints!

Review: Geek Girl series (Holly Smale)

20160804_173138Titles: Geek Girl, Model Misfit, Picture Perfect, All That Glitters, Head Over Heels (also available: All Wrapped Up, Sunny Side Up and Geek Drama)

Author: Holly Smale

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release: All out now!

Genres: Contemporary and comedy.

Which animal is similar to this book? To me, this book resembles a young giraffe. Giraffes are known for their grace and beauty since they’re so elegant in the way they walk and carry themselves. However, young giraffes are neither graceful nor elegant. A young giraffe will continuously trip over and stumble since their legs are obviously so long compared to their body. This book is beautiful and charming, but there are parts of it that make me, as the reader, cringe because I don’t want them to happen to the characters. Just as it would hurt an animal lover to see a young giraffe struggle through the first portion of its life, it hurts to see the characters metaphorically and literally stumble through their lives, affecting themselves in often negative ways. However, it helps to believe that the characters and the plot line will eventually mature into having a beautiful and much happier theme. 

The blurb of the first book says: Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. Cats have 32 muscles in each ear. Bluebirds can’t see the colour blue. The average person laughs 15 times per day. Peanuts are an ingredient of dynamite. But she doesn’t know why nobody at school seems to like her. So when she’s given the chance to reinvent herself, Harriet grabs it. Can she transform from geek to chic?

This is a lovely series following the life of geeky Harriet Manners who has always been a victim of bullying, unpopular and obsessed with facts. She has a lack of social skills which is sometimes painful to read, knowing she’s saying/doing the wrong thing in the situation. The friends she has throughout the series are good and a variety of people, with her best friend being Nat, who is interested in fashion. The premise is that Harriet has the chance to become a model as she is spotted at a fashion show unexpectedly. This obviously is a shock and is hard to adapt to since she’s spent her whole life not bothering with her appearance as such, but she slowly learns what it’s all about.

This series is a wonderful read which is not only hilarious, but emotional as it follows Harriet’s life, downfalls and successes. It’s impossible to put down any of the books, and you’ll find yourself emotionally attached to the characters. Another good point about these books is that they don’t end with bad cliffhangers; although there are questions about where the story will go, the ending isn’t left off, so there is closure!

Each of these books is amazing in its own way, Holly Smale is a fantastic writer and captures Harriet’s voice beautifully in a way that makes it easy to picture her and to imagine what she is like. It’s also very easy to see how she gets into the situations she does as one thing leads to another and I feel if I was put into that environment, I would react very similarly to her, so it’s easy to find ways to relate to her, as well as to the other characters.20160804_163103

The Geek Girl series is my all-time favourite series, so it easily gets 10 out of 10 paw prints! Go and read them right now!

Review: Generation Next (Oli White)

20160804_172532Title: Generation Next

Author: Oli White

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Release: Out now!

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? I would say a lion is very similar to Generation Next because the book itself is fun. It’s very funny, easy to relate to (despite the characters being internet sensations, the way they think, act and speak is a good representation of how teenagers would think, act and speak in those situations) and it is also very sarcastic and witty. However, it has a dark side which is where all the drama of the secret texts and anonymous phone calls comes in. There’s a danger within the fun of being famous online, and I think that this means its animal is a lion. Lions are territorial, often seen as being aggressive and will fight to the death if necessary. On the other hand, they’re also very lazy and will roll around playing all day if food isn’t needed. They do some stupid things and can be seen (especially in zoos/safari parks where a variety of toys are available) doing some hilarious activities. If you don’t believe me, just google “funny lion video” and you will be amused for hours, possibly days. Therefore, Generation Next is a lion because it’s fun but also dangerous. 

The blurb says: Things haven’t been easy for Jack recently – life as a teenager has its ups and downs. But when he switches schools and meets a new group of friends – who are every bit as geek as they are chic – his luck seems to be changing. Together they create Generation Next, an incredible new kind of social media platform. What if your instagram account grew by hundreds of thousands of followers overnight, and big companies were fighting to offer you photoshoots? When GenNext suddenly goes viral, Jack and his friends are thrust into a crazy world of fame that is as terrifying as it is awesome. Because somebody out there is determined to trip Jack up at every step. If he doesn’t stop them, soon his new friends – and the girl he might be falling for – will be in danger…

How to best describe this book in few words? Girl Online (Zoe Sugg) meets Gossip Girl (Cecily von Ziegasar).

Generation Next follows the story of Jack Penman, a teenager who has moved school due to severe bullying. It shows his growth in character over the story as he overcomes the bullies from his past. His new group of friends set up a social network platform which is designed with teenagers in mind and goes viral very quickly, forcing them to fame quickly. This book explores the positives and negatives of fame, and of the businesses involved in companies such as in Generation Next.

There’s romance, fun, friendship and danger as well as the mystery of who is behind the threatening behaviours. It’s emotional as well as an easy read and will interest the reader from the start since the story starts off in the middle and backtracks to show how the characters got to this point, which is very engaging. It’s fantastic and reflects the author’s personality well! I also really like the way the characters handle the theme of bullying which appears throughout the story in various ways; I feel it demonstrates a good understanding and is a realistic response.20160802_160912

Overall, I enjoyed this book and it was quite an easy read whilst also leaving me on edge throughout it. It was definitely near impossible to put down, so I give it 8 out of 10 pawprints!

 

My Experience of YALC 2016

My first experience of YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) was two years ago when it was based at Earl’s Court and shared a floor with Comic Con. It’s safe to say that I loved it, although since I had bad social anxiety, it was a little too crowded and crammed together for me.
However, this year, it was so much better because it had its own floor, meaning it could spread out and also have a lot more to it. The area for the panels was so big this year, that the previous system of ticketing panels was deemed unnecessary. There were a lot more stands and stalls, along with an area for workshops and another for learning how to get published from agents. Another big plus was that because it was separated from Comic Con, it was mainly bookish people which was nice because they’re all polite and so kind towards other bookish people which was a big improvement of the squashed-together queues from the previous time I went.

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I was there for the full weekend, and my weekend was fully packed because there was so much I wanted to do! Friday started with the 11am panel, Magical Systems in YA and it was so good! It was funny, interesting and I enjoyed it of course. Next, we rushed off to the ‘humor in YA’ panel, which was obviously hilarious and made me fall in love with all the authors involved even more. Our final panel of the day was My Teen Diary, hosted by the hilarious Juno Dawson and the equally hilarious Lisa Williamson. Naturally, this too was funny and was worth staying until the end for. During the Saturday, we also went to signings for Nat Luurtsema and Harriet Reuter-Hapgood. The highlight of Friday, for me, was meeting Holly Smale as she’s fantastic and my favourite author. I was so nervous waiting in the line though, because I’d cosplayed Harriet Manners (from her Geek Girl series) and was worried it wouldn’t be clear that’s who I was. However, there was no need to be worried as she’s very sweet and seemed genuinely excited about my costume and even asked someone to take a photo of us for herself!

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I returned on Saturday challenging Saturday to rival Friday’s level of excitement for me. We started off with the Resistance and Protest in YA panel, which was so good and also very popular. Next we moved on to the Friendship in YA panel, in which, I realised I love Holly Bourne and her honesty. The last panel we went to that day was the Music in YA panel, which was easily my favourite that day because it was so funny and Non Pratt was the Queen of sarcasm and humour! Throughout Saturday, we also went to signings of Natasha Farrant, Chris Russell, Non Pratt, Keris Stainton, Sophia Bennett, Alice Oseman, and Anna McKerrow. On top of that, we went to the Writing With the Tarot workshop with Anna McKerrow, which was fun and relaxed which is good because I was worried it would be competitive and difficult to do since I don’t know how to read tarot cards. The highlight of Saturday was Keris Stainton remembering us from an event we went to, years ago.

Sunday was tiring because we had to take all our bags to YALC so that we could get the bus home straight after, so the cloakroom was very useful! We first went to listen to the New Voices panel, which was funny and also interesting because they had some good advice to offer about drafting, being published and procrastinating. Next was the Morally Complicatedd YA panel, followed by the Harry Potter Party later in the day. This consisted of a cosplay competition (the prize was presented by Natalia Tena, which was clearly a lovely surprise for the winner!) There was also a competition for the houses to compete in, with games such as a quiz and passing a balloon through the lines without using hands. I left after the cosplay competition because my anxiety made it impossible  to be surrounded by strangers, but the cheers and laughter could be heard from anywhere in YALC. During Sunday, we also went to signings of Claire Hennessy, Catherine Doyle, Juno Dawson, Holly Bourne (since her line was so long the other day), Louise O’Neill and Maggie Stiefvater, whose queue was so long that it was ticketed and ran through the entirety of the Harry Potter Party. There was also a photo booth with props relating to Harry Potter which was fun and quite empty when we went, because everyone was either waiting for Maggie Stiefvater or joining in with the Harry Potter Party.

Overall, I loved YALC 2016; it was fun, interesting, exciting and so far, the highlight of my Summer! I met some of my favourite authors, was inspired to start this blog after seeing how supportive and nice bookish people are and I also picked up a multitude of books at YALC and after YALC from a list I created whilst there. Would I recommend it to other people? Of course! It’s a lovely place to be, whether you go for one day or the full weekend, it’s worth it. 20160802_13320220160801_211845