YALC, authors, and a TBR I’ll soon be Buried Under

I haven’t written a blog post in ages. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that recently, I just haven’t had time to actually finish a book. Or at least, a book worth reviewing. The second main one is below

This isn’t a reviewing post. This is more of a…. love letter towards the authors that write the most amazing books, the wonderful publishers and the whole UKYA community that just make reading fun, sociable and brilliant.

If you haven’t heard of it before, once a year in London, there is the rather wonderful YALC. This is the Young Adult Lit Con, above the London Film and Comic Con. Basically a bunch of authors host panels and sign books, publishers and indie authors go and sell books (and host comps and give freebies), agents go and talk you through the publishing world and other bookish things go on.

It is one of my favourite times of year, and has been since I first started going three years ago.

Back then, I went for only one day. Though I came back exhausted and in pain (I took my bags in a backpack. A mistake I will never make again) I knew I had fallen in love, and that I had to go again.

So I did. Last year I went all three days. I took books, got them signed, bought books, took home a tonne of freebies and made friends. Oh, and participated in various things including a poetry slam.

But YALC is actually more than just the books. As I heard someone say to one of the publishers this year “YALC is often the only time each year that some people see their friends.” And it’s true.

I’ve heard a lot about internet friends in the last few years, and most of it not really nice. A lot of people don’t understand how anyone you meet, or talk to, online can be a real friend. But some of those people are the ones I see every year at YALC, and every year it just reminds me how much I adore all of them.

But YALC isn’t just for the old friends – this year when I went there, I didn’t expect to come back with a group of people I formed almost instant friendships with, but I guess that is what happens when you are made to waltz for free books in front of publishers.

Those same people were the ones that helped with looking after bags or standing in queues or getting other books when you were busy. And the group I found this year – I really hope I never stop talking to them, because they were all amazing, funny and caring. Plus, we all have books in common.

I’ve been to a lot of author events over the last few years. Being a bookseller, I’ve been in the ‘backstage’ section of a few. And though YALC involves authors, its like no other event I’ve been too.

Because the authors don’t just sit and talk, then sign, then disappear. Some of them stand by their publishers table and sell books (Peadar O’Guilin selling The Nest is one of the greatest things I have ever seen) some of them cosplay (I’ll forever be envious over Lucy Saxton’s amazing costumes) and others just wander around, joining in the fun and talking to everyone.

Take Non Pratt, for example. Last year (While I was dressed as Draco Malfoy) I embarrassed myself and basically terrified her. After being told by many people “It’s okay, you’re just one person, she would have forgotten you by now!” I went to YALC this year, got a book signed from her, and this conversation happened.

“I know your face.” Said she, staring up at me, her hand hovering over my opened book. “Have I signed for you before.”

Me, in a different costume looking (hopefully) nothing like Draco Malfoy: No… but you did see me last year?

“I know you! You’re the Dancing Potter Girl!”

“You weren’t meant to remember!”

“Your face has been burnt into my mind forever!”

And then on the last day, when I had managed to get my hands on Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo, she comes up to me with squared shoulders and attempted to intimidate me out of my book in revenge.

As a reader, this is one of my favourite things to happen. Because how many people do authors see each year? And not just to be remembered but for that joke to be continued is something you never expect to happen, but it’s something that makes me not only love YALC – because it was that place that makes it happen, but the very authors that care and love their readers.

I’ve never been to a place like YALC, and I can’t begin to describe the atmosphere of it all. I’ve never been to another place that is so accepting and friendly, where the stranger in front of you in the queue turns around and starts talking as if you’ve known each other for years (Honestly, being british this is so rare they should get an award just for that)

I wish I had photos to post here of the weekend and the amount of books I came home with (at least 40) that have been piled onto my never ending TBR pile, but I barely took any. Just imagine you were in a place where all your wanted books were £5 and you had free rein and no one to stop you from buying them all and you will be able to see the giant pile I now have after just three days.

So after a long (and probably confusing) post, I’d like to thank the people who organise YALC, the amazing publishers who go there and Waterstones, who sell a lot more books there, the authors who come and talk and don’t mind when we make fools of ourselves, and the amazing, wonderful people I met there, whether I got your names or not!

And lastly, a big thanks to the YALC Strays – the other readers we picked up over the three days this year that made this year my favourite so far. You know who you are and I adore you.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Please don’t hate me but I didn’t like this book. Confession: I DNFed it around half way after realizing that it wasn’t the Narrator of Death that was towering over me, but the literal one, holding up my hourglass with a glint in his eye as he watched me waste hours reading something I was bored of. (Literal Death seems very much like Discworld Death)

Okay let me get this out of the way first – Zusak can write. He is a good writer, actually. The story was wayyyy too slow for my taste, but it was well written.

But.

It was so… cliche? One thing that made me interested in reading it was the fact that Death narrated it, and Death had an interesting voice. But it couldn’t hold up for that long without getting boring, and repetitive. There were too many times when Death broke in with facts that were then repeated in the narrative on the next page. And the fact that Death ‘spoilt’ certain things ages before they happened (I’m guessing its meant to make you go AHH WHEN IS THAT), when it did happen, I just didn’t care (that was when I gave up. When he revealed something that would happen and my reaction was ‘meh’)

Added to all of that is the fact that while Zusak is a good writer, the writing in this is so overdone it was often… painful. Seriously, I  normally like that kind of writing, where it dances off your tongue when you speak it aloud. Hell, its my main style when writing short stories. But there comes a point where you just want to hit your head against the page because you cannot take it anymore.

There were many other things I didn’t enjoy about it – but I actually read the book last year and have been sitting on this review for months but everything added together just meant I didn’t care about the characters, didn’t care what happened, and just… couldn’t finish it.

two-stars

Friday Thoughts: On Book Covers

We all know that famous phrase don’t judge a book by its cover. Normally, we use it to talk about not books, but nowadays it’s a phrase that really should go back to its literal sense.

After all, there are books we see covers for and avoid even without knowing what is inside them. There are also covers which are so beautiful that you buy them without thought (often only to find out it has the worst writing inside it.

You would have thought we would have learnt by now. However most book lovers… we just have a complete love for our shelves looking just as pretty as our stories.

Books I avoid:

Books with girls on the cover wearing puffy dresses:

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I’ve seen three or four different series with covers EXACTLY like this. Girl posing uncomfortably in a dress you know she can’t walk in. And I just… I cant never remember what book is what. And in all of them, the plots are so similar? (I have actually read the above. It was good, but not amazing same can be said for a few others so I no longer bother)

this:

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I just…. this is a MG/YA book yet it looks really really dodgy.

I also tend to avoid any film adaptations covers – I prefer to imagine characters as I read rather than having actors face in my head beforehand.

Books I always go for:

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… I have such expensive taste.

Basically for me, its bright colours and pretty illustrations (added bonus if the inside is just as pretty)

This is the stupid thing though; book covers are vain. We all know they make no difference to what is inside- the words we are meant to be buying- but we care all the same. And publishers cater to that vanity.

Look at the Hunger Games:

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These are the covers that I own. Simple and effective, and apparently ‘adult’ covers? Because apparently, adults get ashamed when they read ya books without more mature covers?  Even when I bought them, there were already a few other cover designs out there, and then these ones came out:

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These bright, graffiti style covers, which, to this day, I still hate. If these had been the first ones that came out and I had seen them knowing nothing about the books, I would never have picked them up. nd if by some miracle I had, I would be highly annoyed; what on this cover screams children killing children for tv entertainment on it?

AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE ENDLESS AMOUNTS OF COVERS THERE ARE FOR HARRY POTTER.

unless its these ones:

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(I’m buying all of them and I have no regrets)

So, what covers do you go for? What covers do you avoid?