Monday 21 July 2014

My Day at YALC (+ a giveaway!)

Having heard horror stories about queues to get in to LFCC on Saturday, I was up at 4:30am on Sunday morning, on the road by 5:30 and in the queue by 7:30. Surprisingly, it wasn't too long yet (having missed the chance to buy tickets advance, I was in the 'pay on the day' queue, which was actually shorter than the queue for those with pre-paid tickets!) and although we had to wait for an hour and a half before the doors opened, the time flew by as I had Sally Green's brilliant novel, Half Bad, to keep me occupied! It hit 9, and, to my great delight, we were in within minutes!

I have to admit, my first impression of the Book Zone was that it was smaller than I had expected - I mean, I knew it was just one section of LFCC, but still, somehow I had been expecting it to be bigger. Nonetheless, the compact layout of YALC turned out to be pretty handy later, as it was made it easy to nip quickly between signings and workshops or talks.

YALC: What Catherine Did

Talk - 'How to get published'
The main thing I took away from this talk is that it's hard work writing a novel! I mean, I knew this before, but, still, I got even more of a sense of the great commitment and perseverance that is required to write a book. Sally Green (author of Half Bad) recommended that aspiring writers look for online creative writing courses, for example with the Open University, Phil Earle (author of The Bubble Wrap Boy, Heroic, Saving Daisy and Being Billy) suggested that, when sending query letters, it's a good idea to include a two-line summary that really captures the essence of your novel, and the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook was named as a good way to go about looking for an agent.

Workshop - Finding your writing voice
This inspiring workshop was hosted by the lovely, lovely Alexia Casale (author of The Bone Dragon). Unfortunately, it was really hard to hear her above the din of LFCC, but she tried her best to bellow as loud as she could, and we all leaned in close to catch the pearls of wisdom she delivered. The main message was, as written on the handout we received: 
'Developing a unique writing voice is not about trying to be different. It's about recognising how you're already different and unique, then harnessing that.'
Alexia encouraged us to do this by refining our understanding of 'aesthetic' - the things that we notice and find beautiful (beauty, she emphasised, was very broad and did not necessarily mean 'prettiness' in the conventional sense). A suggestion she made was, whenever you go somewhere, to think about what you're noticing that other people might not.

Talk - Sisters Doing it for Themselves
This was probably my favourite event of the day - a entertaining, empowering, all-female panel hosted by Sarra Manning, featuring Tanya Byrne (Heart Shaped Bruise), Isobel Harrop (The Isobel Journal), Julie Mayhew (Red Ink) and Holly Smale (Geek Girl). As well as being a very funny, enjoyable talk, serious issues were raised, for example a member of the audience asked the question: 'Do you feel like you get taken less seriously in the industry because you are women?'

Signings - Sally Green (Half Bad) , James Dawson (Hollow Pike) , Meg Rosoff (How I live Now), Sarra Manning (Adorkable) and Sophie McKenzie (Split Second)

'It's a one trick cage'

'Beware the trees'
'Stay pretty, keep reading + START writing!'

Also, I met some really lovely people! I'd thought I would be too shy to approach any bloggers or talk to anyone, but I did speak to a few people! What I love so much about the YA community is that everyone is so lovely and friendly - authors, publishers, bloggers - we're all united by our love of books!

Now, there was so much bookish swag at YALC, and between my dad, my sister and I we managed to pick up some duplicates, so I thought...perfect opportunity for a GIVEAWAY! Here's what you can win...

So colourful and bookish!

An assortment of bookmarks, wristbands, badges and postcards, a Grasshopper Jungle bus/train pass case, a The Fault in Our Stars poster, a We Were Liars poster, a shiny pink pencil...

...Rock War: The Audition
(novella) by Robert Muchamore, Geek Girl: Team Geek (novella) by Holly Smale, samples from Half Bad by Sally Green, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and Endgame: The Calling by James Frey...
...And,finally, a black 'books with bite' tote bag!

N.B This giveaway is only open to entrants from the UK; sorry, international folks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Did you go to YALC? What did you think? If you didn't go, will you go in future?

Friday 11 July 2014

The summer has begun!

I survived GCSEs, another school year is over and, yes, the summer holidays have begun! 

Gosh, I just checked, and realised that I haven't posted since February! Seriously, since then it has been one crazily fast downwards rollercoaster ride towards GCSE exams - first the frantic flurry to finish covering exam syllabuses in class, then the frenzied revision period (that is, the period when you wish/hope that your brain is a sponge and attempt to mentally absorb everything you have learned over the past three years in twelve different subjects in such a way that all useful information will NOT desert you later on in your moment of need), and THEN the exam papers themselves (where you scribble frantically, eat lots of chocolate and try not to run out of time)! And I survived! 6 weeks (although, admittedly, there were no exams during the half-term week in the middle), 12 GCSEs, 24 exam papers (!!), and who knows how many hours of revision?!...but I made it through! :D Just have to wait until the end of August for those results...

The pile of stuff I never have to look at again!
To the right, you can see the pile of folders which I have gleefully thrust towards my sister (who will be doing her GCSEs next year)! Quite frankly, I can hardly believe that there was enough room in my brain to absorb all of that information...  

I also amassed rather an impressive collection of past papers and random scribblings that I have thrown ceremoniously into the recycling bin (some of my friends had bonfires to burn their school books and revision notes, but I took the green way because I AM AN ECO WARRIOR!!)

Nevertheless, this is boring stuff. In other, MUCH MORE EXCITING NEWS...

Wait for it...

I AM GOING TO YALC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EEEEEPPP!!! 

Every time I think about it, I get even more excited!!!!!! Sadly, I can't go tomorrow (Saturday) but I will be there on Sunday, and I. CAN'T. WAIT.

It's going to be a fantabulously bookish way to begin the summer!

Are any of you going to be at YALC?? Let me know in the comments if you're going! And here's to a great summer, everyone! :D

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Out of the Easy Review

Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
This Edition: Paperback, published March 2013 by Penguin 
First Published: Feb 2013
Pages: 346
Links: Goodreads | Buy the book 

Out of the Easy is set against the vivid backdrop of 1950s New Orleans. Written by New York Times bestselling author Ruth Sepetys, this novel has something for everyone: love, mystery, murder, blackmail and warmth.

Josie Moraine wants out of The Big Easy - she needs more than New Orleans can offer. Known locally as a brothel prostitute's daughter, she dreams of life at an elite college, far away from here.

But then a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie caught between her ambition and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans is luring Josie deeper in as she searches for the truth, and temptation beckons at every turn.

My Thoughts...

Anyone who dismisses historical fiction as boring need only read a book by Ruta Sepetys to change their mind. Her heartbreakingly beautiful debut novel, Between Shades of Grey, released in 2011, told the story of Lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl being persecuted by the Russians, and set high expectations for her second book to reach. Out of The Easy did not fall short of these expectations and has cemented my impression of Sepetys as a brilliant author, and I will be very eager to read anything she writes in the future.

Josie Moraine is one of those characters you just know you'll like. Totally down-to-earth, a real girl with real dreams, with whom you can't help empathising and hoping that everything works out for. Josie has her hardships, what with being known as a prostitute's daughter, and having a ditzy mother who seems to care more about money and glamour than her daughter, but she deals with her lot and works hard with the hope that she can escape someday. When something bad happens, you can't help but feel as frustrated as Josie; when a spot of luck comes her way, you feel just as excited and thankful as she does. Ruta Sepetys has a real talent for making you connect with her characters in this way.

The novel's plot was greatly helped by the presence of such a realistic, likable character - a story always means so much more when you feel a connection with the characters - but was also driven along by a nice element of mystery, which made the book all the more exciting.

Even though I had loved Sepetys' first novel, Between Shades of Grey so much, I was still actually quite surprised by how much Out of The Easy moved me. It was refreshing, quirky read that has a special little something about it that makes it really appealing and enjoyable. I so look forward to reading more of Sepetys' work in the future!

My Goodreads rating... 

In One Word... 

Josie, the quirky protagonist who dreams big and refuses to conform to societal rules, + refreshingly original plot = an optimistic yet heartwarming, quirky novel.

Quotes I Liked...
“Sometimes we set off down a road thinkin' we're goin' one place and we end up another. But that's okay. The important thing is to start.” 
“Decisions, they shape our destiny.”
 “I leapt eagerly into books. The characters’ lives were so much more interesting than the lonely heartbeat of my own.” 

Sunday 2 February 2014

Showcase Sunday #1

Showcase Sunday is a feature hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea, where we get to showcase all the lovely new books we have recently added to our (already overflowing) shelves!

Last Month:

I bought...

Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Little White Lies by Katie Dale

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

I had so much fun in WHSmith spending some of my Christmas giftcards to buy these! I had already borrowed Looking for Alaska from the library and loved it so I decided to buy myself my own copy, I finished Anna and the French Kiss just yesterday, and I TOTALLY FELL IN LOVE WITH IT, and I'm looking forward to reading Little White Lies soon!

My sister also found a copy of Noughts and Crosses in a charity shop that was in pretty good condition, so she bought it for me, knowing that I have been really wanting my own copy of this (especially one with the extra short story 'Callum' at the end) as it is one of my favourite books ever!

I received for review...
*Thank you to Penguin and Spinebreakers for the following* 

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

Cress by Marissa Meyer (not pictured because I forgot to take a picture of it! I knew I was missing something!...)

Cress is the only one of these three that I've read so far, and I really enjoyed it! It left me so excited for the next instalment, Winter, which is due to arrive in 2015...hopefully a review should be up soon! 

Did you receive any exciting books this month/week/[insert any appropriate period of time]? Have you read any of these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments - I'd love to hear from you! :) 

Friday 31 January 2014

Best of the Bunch: January Wrap-Up

Best of the Bunch is a book blog hop hosted at Always Lost in Stories at the end of each month, where we can look back at all the books we read, and decide which one will be crowned the 'Best of the Bunch'!

This month I read...

1. Every Day by David Levithan | 6.1.14 || Buy
2. Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers |14.1.14 |Buy

3. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill | 16.1.14 |Buy
4. The Originals by Cat Patrick | 20.1.14 |Buy

5. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau | 22.1.14 |Buy
6. Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin | 23.1.14 |Buy
7. Cress by Marissa Meyer | 30.1.14 |Buy

*Books are listed with the date I finished reading them and my Goodreads ratings

So, I read 7 books this month, which I am really happy about, because during 2013, for some sad reason I began reading less and less...and although prior to that I used to average about 10 books a month, 7 is still reassuring as a sign that I'm getting back into the swing of things again! Obviously, with each new year, schoolwork is taking up more of my time, but at least I've begun finding time to read more frequently again this year!

And the 'Best of the Bunch' is...

All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill!

Em is locked in a bare, cold cell with no comforts. Finn is in the cell next door. The Doctor is keeping them there until they tell him what he wants to know. Trouble is, what he wants to know hasn't happened yet. 

Em and Finn have a shared past, but no future unless they can find a way out. The present is torture - being kept apart, overhearing each other's anguish as the Doctor relentlessly seeks answers. There's no way back from here, to what they used to be, the world they used to know. Then Em finds a note in her cell which changes everything. It's from her future self and contains some simple but very clear instructions. Em must travel back in time to avert a tragedy that's about to unfold. Worse, she has to pursue and kill the boy she loves to change the future.


I love stories involving time travel - they have so much potential to be awesome, although, equally, just as much potential to go awry. Needless to say, All Our Yesterdays was one of those that got it just right! In two words: addictive and exciting!

What books did you read this month? Which was your favourite? Let me know in the comments! :) xxx

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Wishlist Wednesday: Eleanor & Park

Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Pen to Paper

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
First Published: Feb 2013
Pages: 325

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

Why I'm Wishing for Eleanor & Park...

The US cover...see what I mean?!!
I just love it!
  • I've heard so much sincere praise and admiration for this book - I really need to experience it for myself asap!
  • One (or a few) review(s) I read somewhere recommended this to fans of John Green...Um, hello, I AM A MASSIVE FAN OF JOHN GREEN.
  • It sounds like a quirky romantic read.
  • I love the cover! (Although I love the US cover even is probably one of my favourite covers EVER! It's really simplistic and minimalistic, but so perfect at the same time, and did you notice the way theie headphones entwine to make the ampersand?!!)

Thursday 2 January 2014

How I Live Now Review

Title: How I Live Now
Author: Meg Rosoff
This Edition: Paperback, published 2013 by Penguin
First Published: 2004
Pages: 211
Links: Goodreads | Buy the book | Buy the DVD

*I received a free copy of this book from Spinebreakers in exchange for an honest review*

“Every war has turning points and every person too.” 

 Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. 

 As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

My Thoughts...

So, How I Live Now is set in the future, in a fictional World War THREE, which I thought I would just clarify because I read the entire book believing it was about World War TWO and being extremely confuzzled when it was going on about the Enemy Occupation, because: ‘WHOAH, the enemy in WWII was the Germans, right?…and I’m pretty sure the Germans never got into England, right?… Suffice it to say, I was confuzzled. It is actually a sad testament to my stupidity that I did not realise this book could not possible be set in World War Two throughout reading it, and after reading it, until I watched the film and saw how all the houses and cars were modern, and then I decided to turn to trusty old Google, who kindly informed me that No, this is not set in World War Two, it is set in World War Three. Which is what I said at the beginning of this review which is alarmingly rapidly morphing into a ramble about my lack of historical knowledge. I shall change gears now.

SO. How I Live Now is a pretty short read. You pick it up and it feels light, easy. Only 211 pages, and the writing is quite big. So, as a book, it seems quite small, quite unassuming. Which means you are completely unaware of the fierce punch it packs. Oh yes. This little book takes you completely by surprise; at least, I was taken by surprise. I did not expect that 211 pages of prose (gloriously, compellingly written prose, I have to mention) would sweep me away with such conviction and make me feel as if I had been through a whole lifetime with Daisy, instead of just a few hours.

I don’t know how Meg Rosoff did it – make me feel so completely enveloped in the story, that is –  maybe it was something to do with the unique style in which the novel is written: the first person point of view of Daisy, all speech marks omitted, so it feels like you are right inside Daisy’s head, listening to her endless, rambling thoughts. Rosoff manages to keep Daisy sounding so real, so honest, that the relationship between reader and protagonist really feels quite intimate.

A lot of people have problems with Daisy as a character, branding her selfish, stroppy, unlikable etc. Whilst these remarks are true – Daisy can definitely come across as a very negative person – I think her flaws strengthen her as a character. She is a teenager who has problems that many teenagers probably have, and reacts in a way that many (although not necessarily most) might react. This is what makes her such a compelling protagonist, in my opinion: her believability. She just seems so real. She is just a teenage girl, thrown into a dreadful situation, who has to fight for survival.

Yet her struggle is not a heroic one; she is not a heroine. She is just a teenage girl, initially stroppy, selfish, abrasive, struggling and floundering to stay alive, just like any average, person thrown into such dire circumstances might. There is nothing particularly remarkable about Daisy or her story; what makes How I Live Now so readable is its intimately captivating tone and the gritty realness of Daisy’s story.

My Goodreads rating... 

In One Word...
Now, I realise this is not an adjective, and so perhaps doesn't really make sense, but the reason 'bubble' pops into my head as a word that describes this book is, firstly, because of the idyllic bubble-like world the children inhabit when the war first breaks out...they're left alone at home, without adult supervision, and for now the war doesn't seem to exist; instead, they revel in their freedom. It's a picturesque existence that takes on an almost dreamlike quality through Daisy's voice, yet there's that undercurrent of danger as we know that things can not remain this perfect for long. 

“I guess there was a war going on somewhere in the world that night but it wasn't one that could touch us.”

Mostly, though, it's because of Daisy's voice. Whilst reading How I Live Now, I felt like I was living in a bubble inside her head. Her narrative was so honest and personal, and I think what made it unique was the fact that it wasn't as if Daisy was trying to tell a story to someone else, but instead like she was simply reliving the story in her mind. Thus, things like her eating disorder were barely dwelt on, and only very subtly hinted at. It didn't matter if the reader got it or not - Daisy didn't feel the need to dwell on it, therefore she didn't. The result was a story that felt genuine and unpretentious.

Quotes I Liked...
“Things Happen and once they start happening you pretty much just have to hold on for dear life and see where they drop you when they stop.” 
“I noticed that once you realize someone's watching you it's pretty hard not to find yourself watching them back.”  

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year! The Book Parade is back :D

Well, hello there, everyone!!! I can't quite believe it's actually 2014 now - it still feels weird saying that, I have a feeling I'm still going to be writing '2013' whenever I have to write the date for a while to come! - but actually I'm really excited about the fact that it's a new year as it brings the opportunity for a fresh start, a fresh approach to life...a fresh blog design!! 
I spent ages trying to figure out a new blog design and I'm really proud of what I managed to achieve. It's simple, but I think it looks quite sleek, and although I might tweak it a little in the future, for now I'm happy with it! :D

I am so excited at the prospect of blogging properly again. I really am going to try hard with keeping The Book Parade up to date this year, and do my best not to get too stressed out about things. I shall make the most of 2014!

I know it says 'tomorrow' instead of 'today' but I just found this so inspiring and motivating that I had to include it!
I wish everyone the best of luck for a happy and successful 2014, and here's to writing the best 365 page book of our lives so far! :D

Sunday 10 November 2013

Excuse me for a moment whilst I go and sort out my life...

Okay. Okay. So. You may have noticed (or probably not) that my presence in the blogging world has been somewhat sketchy for several months. The only reason for this is, well, life. And school. (Which, I guess, is a part of life, but, you know, school takes up so much time it's like a life of its own, really, isn't it?)

I tried to get back into the swing of things towards the end of the summer holidays, a comeback that was somewhat short-lived before I got swallowed  into the tidal wave that is otherwise known as Year 11/final GCSE year (kind of important exams for non-English readers)/TIME TO PANIC ABOUT IMPENDING EXAMS AND WISH THAT YOU'D CONCENTRATED MORE IN SCHOOL BEFORE NOW.

So, my time recently has been spent revising for the Mock Exams I have in a week’s time, along with actually doing homework on the day it is set, and just generally being more organised with regards to school. The problem has been, however, that this has left no time, or energy, for blogging, as I only have about 3 or 4 hours of time each evening (due to the fact that it takes me a relatively long time to travel to and from school, I have extracurricular activities on several days, and I am not one of those people who can stay up really late without feeling incredibly grumpy and ill the next day.)

BUT, now that I feel I've got hold of my school life now, and successfully handled becoming more organised with my school work, I can work on overcoming the blogging hurdle and refocus my efforts on relaunching The Book Parade!

So, my plan now... is to (well, firstly, get through my Mocks, but after that...) spend the Christmas holidays reading, getting back into frequently writing blog posts and reviews - so that I can schedule posts in advance for The Book Parade, which will reduce stress - and I hope to relaunch The Book Parade in January or February 2014.

I apologise to all my lovely bloggy friends and followers for being such a scatty blogger, but I am really excited at the prospect of a fresh start next year (which is only a few months away!)

So, for now, dear friends, it is farewell but, alas! I look forward to seeing you around in January or February! :D