Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan Event Recap

Photo Credit: @WaterstonesPicc (I was one seat from the end on the second to last row on the left, so I’m not actually in this picture!).

Hi all! It’s safe to say that book events are well and truly back, this was my third one this year (including YALC, which I have a separate section for) and I already have two events booked for next year, including Leigh Bardugo’s London tour stop which I’m massively excited for as it’s the first one I’ve been able to go to since I started reading her books. Honestly, I’ve been kicking myself ever since I turned down going with my friend to her tour stop in Edinburgh back in 2016, I think it was because I hadn’t read any of her books yet. Of course, I then read Six of Crows the next year, loved it, and of course couldn’t make it the one time she toured the UK between then and now! But anyway, that’s slightly off topic, my main point being, it’s been so nice to have in-person book events back this year. It finally feels like the last pre-pandemic thing has slotted back into place for me and I’ve really enjoyed getting to share the book love in person again!

Anyway, this time, I was going to the London tour stop for Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan’s new book Mad Honey. I’ve been a big Jodi Picoult fan for years, and been to a couple of her events before, once for Leaving Time in 2014, which was before I’d started doing event recaps on the blog and once for Small Great Things in 2016, but that was the last time I’d seen her at an event as I think she didn’t come to Scotland for A Spark of Light so I couldn’t make any of the stops that time as it was during the uni term? Anyway, point being I love Jodi’s books and have seen her at a few events before, but I’d never really heard of Jennifer Finney Boylan until I saw the announcement that they were doing a book together, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her but I was really excited to see the two of them together and hear them talk about their new book.

One of the benefits of now being based in London, I didn’t have to leave an hour or so beforehand to actually get to the event. I left home around 6.25, and walked down to Clapham Junction station. I arrived just in time for the next train to Victoria, so I hardly even had to wait, I basically got to the station and then jumped on the train. I wouldn’t have usually gone to Victoria, I would usually get the train to Waterloo and then the tube on from there, but my mum had mentioned that there was nice Remembrance Day tribute at Victoria station and as the event was on Remembrance Day, I thought it would be nice to see. So once I got to the station, I stopped by Platform 8 have a look at the wreaths and they had a little note typed up about the history of the Unknown Soldier who was transported to the UK by train from France and arrived in at Victoria, and that was quite an interesting little piece of history that I’d not heard before (obviously I knew about the Unknown Soldier and the significance of that, but I didn’t know about the Victoria station connection). I also stopped by The Royal British Legion’s stand to get a poppy, as I’d meant to buy one when I’d come through the station on Tuesday that week but didn’t have the time then.

I then headed down to the Underground, and got the tube to South Kensington, so I could switch from the Victoria line to the Piccadilly line. Once at South Kensington, I got on another tube, and it was only four stops to Piccadilly Circus so it didn’t take very long at all. The event was being held at the Waterstones Piccadilly store, after a last minute change of venue from Conway Hall, so it was a very short walk from the tube station which meant I arrived about fifteen minutes before the event was due to start. That ended up being very good luck though, as I arrived whilst they were still giving out special tote bags with a quote from the book, and also it meant I actually got a seat, as they clearly hadn’t got enough seats for everyone that was attending. Once one of the booksellers had taken my name and I’d got my book and tote bag, I found a seat at the end of the aisle on one of the back rows.

It wasn’t too long a wait before one of the booksellers came out to announce the event. She went through the obligatory fire safety talk, and explained that the event was just going to be a talk and there wasn’t going to be a signing afterwards, which I had kind of figured already (and explained to the women in the neighbouring seats when they asked before the event), but that all the copies of Mad Honey had been pre-signed. She then announced Jodi, Jennifer, and the moderator Juno Dawson (all of the J’s at this event!) and they came out to take their seats.

It was a really fun talk, Jodi and Jennifer are obviously great friends and bounced off each other really well, and they’re both very funny which always makes for a very engaging event, I spent a lot of it laughing! I will say, I wasn’t sure that Juno Dawson was the best moderator, she didn’t always let them finish their answers before she moved on to the next question and there was quite a bit of speaking over each other, which was a little distracting. I understand why she was chosen as a moderator because one of the themes in the book is gender identity, and I assume there’s a trans character, but she’s just not the best author moderator I’ve ever seen: to be fair, being an author and being an interviewer are two very different skills!

I really enjoyed hearing the pair of them talk about co-writing, it fascinates me how authors manage to combine their different ways of working (because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from going to so many author events over the years it’s that no two authors work exactly the same way) so it was really fun to hear how they approached writing together. I’m definitely more of a Jennifer when it comes to writing, she spoke about being more of a pantser and exploring on the page, rather than having her writing planned out in her head, and drafting messily until she gets things right whereas Jodi is more of an outliner and plans things out in detail before she starts writing. To be honest, you probably need a combination of the two when co-writing because I can imagine that two pantsers co-writing together would probably be very chaotic. Apparently Jodi wrote the Olivia chapters and Jennifer wrote the Lily chapters, but they did each write one of the other’s chapters, and said that readers had been emailing them trying to guess which of the other’s chapters they had written but no one had got it right yet. I don’t fancy my chances there though as I’ve never read any of Jennifer’s books, so I don’t really know what her writing is like. I may be able to guess which Lily chapter Jodi wrote though! They also spoke about editing each other’s chapters because they wanted the writing to seem seamless and not like each chapter was written by a different person, so I’ll be intrigued to see how well that worked as I’ve never read a co-written book before.

It was really cool to hear about how the book came about, that the idea was initially Jennifer’s and came from a dream she’d had: she dreamed about a murdered girl and the mother of her boyfriend, who was the one accused of murder. In her dream it was apparently something she wrote with Jodi. So she tweeted Jodi about it, and she responded and they actually ended up writing it together! Books can come about in all sorts of different ways!

As always Jodi talked quite a bit about her researching process, this time she was explaining a little of what she learned about bees during the course of the research for this book. It was really interesting hearing her talk about how bee society is so matriarchal, and that everything revolves around the female bees, they take all the roles in the hive and the male bees (apparently called “drones” which I didn’t know before) are basically just there to reproduce, which happens when the queen does a mating flight where she will mate with as many drones as she can, and stores enough sperm to last for her entire life. The male bees die as a result of the mating and leave their appendages inside the queen. I also had no idea that male and female bees are determined on whether the queen fertilises her eggs or not, the unfertilised eggs become drones (male) and the fertilised ones become workers (female). Queen bees are created by feeding the larvae, royal jelly, special jelly which comes from the queen and even drones can become queens if fed this jelly! The whole thing was really fascinating, it’s clear how much Jodi enjoyed learning about bees and I never thought I would be so interested in them. She also told us about what “mad honey” actually is, it’s basically honey made of nectar from rhododendron flowers, which contain grayanotoxins which when processed by the bees in the hive, ends up making this hallucinogenic honey. I had no idea hallucinogenic honey was even a thing!

Juno asked Jodi about her books being frequently banned in US schools and how she’s been writing books around “controversial” topics since way back in the 90s before a lot of the subjects of her books were really spoken about in the mainstream and Jodi said that she was amongst good company with having her books banned and that some of the objections for example swearing were a little ridiculous. She also said it was much easier back in her earlier days of writing to write about the kinds of topics that she does because there wasn’t social media and they went more under the radar, so there was less outrage about her books than there is now. Jennifer and Jodi both talked about fiction being a powerful tool for learning, and that sometimes people learn better through fiction because they don’t get their backs up about being “taught” something, they get engrossed in the story and then realise that they’ve learnt something along the way and I loved that. It’s really true, I’ve learned a heck of a lot through the years through reading fiction, and I think I’ve retained quite a bit of it better than some of the stuff I learned in school.

Given that gender identity is a big theme in Mad Honey, there was also discussion of the LGBTQ+ community. Jodi talked a little about one of her previous novels, Sing You Home and how the writing of that was inspired by her son coming out. I knew a little of the backstory behind that book before, but Jodi talked about it in a bit more detail here and the story of how her son came out to her was really sweet. Jennifer also spoke about her experience coming out as trans, and I have to say her mum sounds like such a badass! She also taught us the sign for trans in ASL, which is like a flower coming out of your heart and I thought that was really lovely.

When the discussion was over, Juno then turned to the audience questions, which had been submitted in advance of the event. Someone asked Jodi what the most difficult thing she’d ever had to do for book research, and she had several parts to the answer as she said book research could be challenging both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, the most difficult was researching for Small Great Things, and attending racial justice workshops and doing a lot of that internal work to interrogate her own privilege and prejudices. Physically, she talked about her research process for The Tenth Circle and how she went to Alaska and trekked across the tundra to a remote Eskimo village, in the depths of winter when it was -38 degrees (since she’s American, I’m guessing that’s Fahrenheit and have no idea how cold that is in Celsius, but it seems pretty darn cold!).

Someone also asked if there was ever any research she’d done for a book that hadn’t ended up being published, and she talked about doing research for a sci-fi novel at one point which involved getting up at 2-3 am in the morning to speak to an astronaut from NASA due to the differing time zones. A Jodi Picoult sci-fi novel would have been very interesting (and a bit of a change of pace for her!) but I guess it wasn’t to be!

I can’t remember exactly what the question was, it may have been one that Juno asked, but she also talked a bit about sexism in the publishing industry, and how frustrating she finds it to be pigeonholed because she’s a woman who writes fiction so her books are automatically “women’s fiction” whereas men who write the same kinds of books that she does aren’t categorised the same way. I have to say I find it incredibly frustrating whenever I hear that women tend to read both male and female authors, and yet men will more often only read books by male authors. I personally mostly read books by female authors these days but I’ve read both and it does boggle the mind that the gender of an author is in any way more important to anyone that being interested in the plot of the book!

The final question was about Jodi’s musical theatre work, and she talked about The Book Thief and how well that had done in Bolton and that there were plans to bring it to a London theatre soon, which I was massively excited to hear because I absolutely love The Book Thief and would love to see it on stage one day, hopefully in the not-too-distance future. She also talked a little about Between The Lines on Broadway and the differences between producing theatre here and theatre in New York which was very interesting to hear about as I’m obviously much more familiar with theatre here, though only from an audience member’s perspective, so it was cool to hear about some of the differences (particularly in the way theatre has come back from the pandemic) from someone who actually had experience working on a show.

There wasn’t any signing, so once the event was over and the moderator had thanked Jodi, Jennifer and Juno and they had left, everyone started to head out. I wasn’t surprised there was no signing, I was expecting that from the fact that we had a pre-signed book, but I have to admit, I was a little surprised at how short the event was, it was only an hour long. Though I guess this is probably how long the talk part of book events usually is and I’ve just never really noticed because I’ve always been there for about two hours or more with the signing queue included!

I headed out and then went to meet up with my parents, since the event had ended much sooner than I’d anticipated, and they’d also been out at a different event that night and were having dinner afterwards. So I joined them at the restaurant for a drink, and we all headed back home together later in the evening.

It was a really fun event, I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that it was so short, but considering that Jodi and Jennifer had landed the same day and were probably very jet-lagged, I definitely couldn’t blame them for wanting to keep it short and sweet! I’m really looking forward to reading Mad Honey, it’s been quite a while since Jodi did a courtroom drama type story (I think Small Great Things was the last and that was a good six years or so ago) and as I’ve never read anything by Jennifer before, I’ll be interested to see how different this one feels compared to Jodi’s sole-written books.

Did anyone else go to Jodi and Jennifer’s book tour stops either in the US or the UK? Let me know in the comments!

VE Schwab Event Recap

Photo Credit: @veschwab

Hi everyone! It’s been……well a whole global pandemic since my last event recap, who knew when I went to YALC in 2019 that I wouldn’t go to another book event for almost three years? I certainly didn’t! I did attend some virtual events during the pandemic, but honestly, as grateful as I am that we didn’t have to go for three years with no author events at all, I kind of felt like recapping virtual events would be fairly boring for you all, as the gist of the recap would be…..I stared at a screen for two hours.

But finally, last Friday, I got to go to my first book event in almost three years, and it felt very fitting that the event was to celebrate the release of VE Schwab’s latest book Gallant, as Schwab is one of my favourite authors. As soon as she announced her UK tour dates on her Instagram, I immediately jumped on the chance to get a ticket.

I got a slightly earlier train that I probably really needed to as I didn’t want to be on a rush hour train into London, but it probably didn’t really make much difference, as the train was packed anyway! I usually try and get a seat by myself, as I don’t really like sitting next to people on public transport (it’s a pre-pandemic habit, I just like my personal space) but sadly the train was too full for that, so I just took the first seat I could find next to someone wearing a mask.

When I arrived in London, I grabbed some dinner from Pret and then quickly ate before heading to catch the bus to the event. Before the pandemic I would always get the tube as it’s quicker, but now when I go into London, I generally get the bus as it feels slightly safer than the tube. The bus from Kings Cross was blissfully empty, so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone, and it was a relatively straightforward to trip to Piccadilly, I switched to the number 6 at Savoy Street and then the bus stopped pretty much right outside the church where the event was being held, which was really handy!

When I arrived at St James’ Church, there was already quite a long queue of people waiting to get into the building, so I joined the back of the line. Thankfully it was a fairly fast moving queue, and it didn’t take too long to get into the church. I wish I’d arrived slightly earlier though because by the time I’d got in, all the seats in the middle aisle, with the best view, had been taken and I was left with the choice of the left hand side aisle, where the view was slightly obscured by one of the pillars. I initially sat in a row close to the front, but ended up moving back as it actually turned out you could see more that way.

I don’t usually go to book events by myself, I’m usually with either my friend Hannah, or Nicola, so it did feel a bit strange being by myself for this one, but thankfully, the woman I was sat next to at the event was really friendly, so we chatted for a bit before the event started. This is one thing I really love about book people, even if you go to an event where you don’t know anyone, there’s always someone willing to chat to you and you already know you have something in common, since you’re at an event for the same author.

Someone from Waterstones Piccadilly (the host of the event), then came out and introduced V, and Samantha Shannon who was moderating the event. I’d only found out that Samantha was going to be the interviewer a couple of days before the event and it had made me even more excited because she’s another one of my favourite authors, and I’d seen her and V on a panel at another event a few years back, which was a lot of fun.

The conversation was very lively and fun, you could tell that everyone was so happy to be back in a room together and that we had all missed these events. I love it when authors who are friends do events together because it feels less like a formal interview and more like two friends having fun discussing their books and that was definitely the case here.

Naturally most of the questions revolved around V’s new book Gallant, and one of the things I found really interesting was V and Samantha talking about how the pandemic changed both their respective writing processes as they both had to go from largely writing in public places like cafes, to writing at home. I’ve always written at home so in that respect, the pandemic didn’t change my writing at all, but I wasn’t able to write at all for the first six months or so of the pandemic so it was nice to hear that the change in situation was also difficult on professional authors! The pandemic didn’t take up a massive amount of the conversation, but V did mention that though the pandemic didn’t alter the plot of Gallant in any way, the sense of isolation and loneliness that was already a feature of the story was really heightened by her own experience of the pandemic.

I always love hearing V talk about her writing process, she’s so insightful when it comes to craft and hearing about how she develops her ideas is always fascinating. She mentioned that she had initially approached Gallant as a fairytale but struggled to write it for years because this didn’t quite work for her, she had the idea of a door in the wall but couldn’t figure out what would be beyond it in a fairytale. And then she realised from looking back at her older books that the one thing they all had in common was death, and that Gallant wouldn’t be a fairytale, but rather a death tale with the world beyond the wall being the shadow version of the Gallant on the other side. I’d never thought about death being the thread that connected her books before, but it does explain why I like them so much, I’ve always enjoyed books that err on the darker side! She also spoke about how her process changed slightly with Gallant, she’s talked in the past about how she’s notoriously non-chronological when it comes to her writing process and that she writes chapters and scenes out of order and then fills in the gaps left behind, but with Gallant, she had to write chronologically due to the nature of the story.

It was really interesting to hear how the decision to make Olivia non-verbal came about as I am also a writer who relies on dialogue a lot, and I don’t think I could write a whole book with little to no dialogue! I loved what she said about wanting to try and create voice in a different way, and that Olivia being non-verbal didn’t mean she lacked voice, she just has it in a different form. She also spoke about how the perspective had to be third person, because of the audiobook, if it had been first-person perspective, then the narrator would essentially become Olivia’s voice, taking a non-verbal character and making her verbal. I’d never really thought about that before, but it felt really obvious when she said it, of course if you have a first person perspective then when you listen to the audiobook, that narrator does become the character’s voice, and I thought it was so cool that she’d thought about it down to that level of detail.

As someone who is not a massive fan of horror, I found V’s take on it really interesting, she talked about not really being a massive fan of horror herself because she doesn’t like “the jump scare” moments, but really enjoying creating that spooky atmosphere in her books, she described being an author as like “being a conductor of fear” and I really loved that idea. It hit quite well on why I like dark books but am not a massive fan of horror movies or TV shows, I love a spooky, eerie atmosphere, but I don’t like the “Boo!” moments that are designed to make you jump out of your skin.

She also talked a little about working with an illustrator for Gallant, and how that collaboration process worked and how it differed from her experience of working with artists on comic books and I found that really cool because I just love hearing about how different creatives work together, and I definitely feel like I’ll appreciate the illustrations in the book more having heard about how they came about, and their importance for the narrative.

Samantha also asked V about her essay for Oprah magazine where she shared her coming out story, and she went into a bit more detail about that and how her experience of being in the closet and then coming out had informed her writing. It’s a really powerful essay, so if you get a chance to read it, I definitely recommend it.

Once the conversation was over, the floor was turned over to the audience for the questions. Naturally I was very excited when someone asked about Threads of Power, and when V realised that A Conjuring of Light wasn’t going to be the end for the Shades of Magic world. She answered that it was when she realised that the favour Lila owed wasn’t called in by the end of the book, and so she had left the door open to go back, and that the favour was a question she wanted to answer. I have to admit, I totally didn’t notice when I was reading that Lila’s favour wasn’t called in, and I felt a little silly when she said it, because once she mentioned it, it was very obvious that was a loose thread that hadn’t been resolved.

She was also asked about which of her worlds she’d like to be in and which character she’d like to be, and I loved that she answered so bluntly that it would be pretty terrible to be a character in any of her worlds! She landed on being a magician in Red London, which would probably be my choice as well, it seems like the safest option.

Another reader asked about editing as she was having trouble with edits for her book and both V and Samantha advised taking a step back from the book as something that helps them when they feel stuck during edits as having some distance from your work can help you to work out where the problems are. V also mentioned that this is why she always comes up with her endings first in the drafting process, because if she has an ending that she is excited about, she is more likely to finish.

I always feel like I should ask questions at these things, but when the time comes, my mind always goes completely blank and I can’t think of anything! Everyone who asked questions also had to stand up in front of everyone and ask, which kind of terrified me as public speaking is still one of my biggest phobias, so I was definitely more enjoying listening to V’s answers to people’s questions than wanting to ask questions of my own.

Once the audience questions were over, the people from Waterstones Piccadilly came out again and told us that if we wanted to get any books signed by V, we had to wait in our seats and would be called up one by one. By this point, I was really desperate for the loo, but had no idea if there even was one in the church. Finally the booksellers came round to our row and after getting my name post-it for my book, I asked where it was and quickly rushed off. By the time I got back our row had joined the queue and I was a little further back than I would have been if I’d stayed, but oh well!

I was really nervous even though I’ve met V a couple of times before, because this was my first author event back since the pandemic and I wasn’t really sure what to say, plus as I said earlier in this post, I usually go to author events with friends so waiting in the queue by myself whilst everyone else seemed to be with someone was a little bit awkward. When I made it to the front of the queue, I handed my books over, and V asked if I’d had a good time at the event, which I said I did. She also asked to confirm how my name was spelt as the bookseller’s writing had made the “J” look a bit like another letter, so I confirmed it was Jo. I felt a little bit awkward as I asked the bookseller if she could take a picture on my phone and they weren’t doing photos as they didn’t have time, which was completely fair enough, I just wished they’d said that before the signing line started as I felt a little embarrassed at having asked afterwards! It’s not my most embarrassing author moment ever, but I definitely felt a little out of practice after two years with no in-person events!

Once I’d got my books signed, I headed back out the way we’d come in, only to be told we had to exit the building through a different door, apparently I was determined to completely embarrass myself that evening! Anyway, it was fine, I went out the right door and managed to find my way back to the bus stop and get the two buses I needed back to Kings Cross.

It ended up being a much later night than I’d anticipated, by the time I got back home to Cambridge, it was almost midnight, but I had such a wonderful time. It was a brilliant first event back, and I so cannot wait for YALC in July, I cannot even tell you how excited I am for it after two years without it. I’ve so missed in-person book events over the past two years, and I’m so happy that we’re finally starting to get them back!

Did anyone else go to either of V’s UK events, or her US tour stops if you’re a US reader? Let me know in the comments!

#DestinationHQ Event Recap

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since my last event recap, but the last few months have been relatively light on book events, bar a Derek Landy signing at the beginning of the month which was a signing line and an hour and a half of waiting in a signing line doesn’t make the most exciting blog post.

Anyway, this week I got to go to a pretty cool publishing event, HarperCollins were introducing their summer and autumn books and authors and I got an invite, the first event I’ve got to go to since I’ve been back based down South. I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant about going, since it was an adult rather than YA event and I didn’t know anyone else who was going, but I figured it would be a good chance to get to meet some more UK bloggers and publishing industry people, so I decided to go.

I had a bit of a rush getting out to the event because my doctor’s appointment had run late, so by the time I’d got home and changed, I had to rush out the door in order to get the bus in time to make it to the station. Thankfully I got there, with some time to spare, and made my train into London.

Once I got into Kings Cross, I got on a very packed tube to London Bridge and once I arrived, after a little bit of wandering around in circles because it wasn’t entirely clear what exit I had to take out of the tube, I made it to the HarperCollins office building.

We’d all arrived a little early, so we had to wait a bit before going up to the HarperCollins office, but that was okay, I got to talk to a couple of the other bloggers, including two that I’d met at the Hot Key brunch back in February, Jane and Faye. I was so glad that they were there because having a few familiar faces immediately made me feel more comfortable!

After our bags had been checked, we got the lift up to the HarperCollins office, where we were greeted with a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks and then we mostly milled around chatting for a while. I spent my time with Jane and Faye, and we were introduced by one of the Harper team to Felicity Everett, one of the authors. She told us a bit about her book and then asked if any of us did writing. I explained that I was writing a book but then of course totally buckled when I was asked to pitch it (that’s something I know I definitely need to get better at!).

Once everyone had got settled and had a chance to chat, the Harper team came out to introduce the main portion of the evening: showcasing their upcoming books and authors for the next few months. The setup was basically that the authors would have a few minutes each to essentially pitch their book to us and they were split into debuts, commercial fiction and domestic suspense. I’ll admit, most of the books weren’t really for me, but I was kind of expecting that, since I’m not a massive reader of adult fiction, especially when it’s not fantasy! The authors all did really well though, and some of them were incredibly funny.

When the authors were all done, we were once again left to our own devices, to pick up proofs if we wanted, chat to the authors, etc. I missed the proofs I wanted because I needed to pee, but that’s probably a good thing since I already have more books than I can actually fit on a shelf. Faye and Jane both left shortly after the showcase part of the event, so I sort of stood around awkwardly for a while. Thankfully I found another blogger I recognised from the Hot Key event, Aislinn and we chatted for a while with Helen Monks Takhar, one the authors who was really nice, her book is all about the Millenial/Gen X divide. She graduated from Cambridge as well, so when I said that I live here, we talked a bit about that.

I also talked for a bit to Luan Goldie and Sara Alexander, who were both really nice as well. One of the best things about these kinds of events is that you get a bit longer to talk to authors, in a more informal setting than regular book events, which is great.

I spent the last part of the evening chatting with Alyson Rudd and one of the Harper team publicists, talking about my writing and my plans for the future, which was pretty cool, given that Alyson is a journalist for her day job, so it was nice to get to talk to someone who is doing the things that I want to one day.

The event actually ran longer than the Harper team intended, so by this point they were trying to clear the room as we were meant to be out of there about half an hour ago! I needed to get back to get my train home anyway, so I headed off, and ended up meeting another blogger in the lift and since we were both heading back to Kings Cross to get the train, we made our way back together. She was really lovely, I only wished I’d remembered to ask for her name (we had name badges but we’d both removed ours by this point!).

This was a really nice, quite casual and relatively low key event and I’d definitely be happy to go to another one like it in the future. It was great to get to catch up with some familiar bloggers and meet some new authors and lovely staff from Harper. Hopefully I’ll get invited to more HarperCollins events because I really enjoyed this one!

Did anyone else go to the DestinationHQ event? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments!

I’m going to be in Scotland for graduation all of next week, so my posting schedule might be a bit patchy, but I pre-scheduled my usual Top Ten Tuesday post, so you’ll definitely be getting that on Tuesday!

Victoria Schwab Event Recap

us and victoria schwab

Hi everyone! This is the last of my more regular updates for this section as I don’t have anymore events coming up in the near future, the next one will probably be YALC over the summer. Anyway as I mentioned in my last event recap, Nicola and I had tickets to the Glasgow stop of Victoria Schwab’s UK tour, which was last night.

We actually very nearly didn’t get tickets to this event, they sold out ridiculously fast which we weren’t expecting, but thankfully Waterstones Argyle Street added more tickets, so we jumped on those as soon as they were available. I’d met Victoria a couple of times, at YALC and at an event she did with Samantha Shannon and Neal Shusterman last year but Nicola had missed Victoria the last few times she had been in Scotland, so we were very excited to go to this event.

Nicola had already been in Glasgow for the day with a friend, so we decided to meet up at Waterstones just before the event. I got the train from Stirling at around 5.50 in order to arrive in Glasgow by 6.30. I walked from the station to Waterstones and then met Nicola upstairs, where the event was taking place in the cafe, the same place as last time. We got slightly better seats this time because we were earlier, but clearly a lot of people had been there for a while, because the room was nearly full even half an hour before the event was due to start.

We had some time to kill, so we sat and chatted for a bit before eventually the guy from Waterstones came out to introduce Victoria and go over the safety rules from the event.

The event was the usual Q&A style, with Lydia Gittins, Victoria’s publicist acting as the moderator for the event, which was quite cool as usually authors are moderated by other authors so it was interesting this time to have someone who is involved in the process of publishing V’s books asking the questions.

Lydia described this tour as the Origins Tour because it was to promote the reissue of The Near Witch, which was Victoria’s debut, so her own personal origin story and the the Steel Prince comics which feature Maxim Maresh’s origins tour. She asked V about how it felt to have The Near Witch return to shelves after so long.

It was so cool to hear Victoria talk about this, because she’s never really talked about The Near Witch at any of the events I’ve seen her at before, and she was clearly so grateful and emotional that The Near Witch is being given this second chance. She spoke about writing The Near Witch at university and being so determined that writing was something that she really wanted to do as a career and not something that she wanted to come back to 20-30 years later. She talked a lot about how she was so excited and happy when The Near Witch was bought by Disney and then what happened to the vast majority of debuts happened to it, nothing. She then spoke about writing her other books and how she wasn’t really gaining traction until Vicious and then didn’t really break out until A Darker Shade of Magic, eight novels into her career. I love hearing her talk about her career and how much time it took her to get established, because as a young writer, it’s so easy to focus on all the breakout stories and feel like you’re going to be one of them and then not expect it when things don’t go as you hope, so I really appreciate how honest she is about the difficulties of publishing and how you have to keep working at it because a career is not made on one book.

She then talked about how excited she was when Titan came to her, offering to publish The Near Witch, as somewhat of a gift for her for doing so much for them. She didn’t revise it at all, and explained that this was because she feels books are a time capsule of who we are when we write them and that the reception to the book now is the to the same book as the one that came out ten years ago, but just in a different context. I’m really glad that she didn’t change it, as I love getting to see where my favourite authors started out. She also talked about publishing not being a reflection on your book but just what happens, and that was really encouraging for me going forward in the publishing process, if my book doesn’t happen to sell well, or at all, then I’ll know that it’s more common than I would have thought before in publishing.

Lydia then asked Victoria about themes that she has returned to from The Near Witch in her later work, and she talked about how The Near Witch was her exploring Otherness as a theme before she had come out and using it as a way to process that even before she had vocabulary to explain it. She also spoke about how her books explore insider/outsider culture and how that’s something that has always fascinated her and will likely be a continuing theme in her books.

They then went on to talking about The Steel Prince, and how it goes into Maxim’s backstory. Victoria talked about how she likes taking villains and then turning them into antagonists and finally protagonists, which having read a lot of her books now, I can definitely see! She spoke about how she’d been approached by Titan and asked if she wanted to do comics but V was hesitant because she didn’t want to play in another writer’s world, however she enthusiastically accepted when they clarified that they wanted her to write comics in the Shades of Magic world. She said however that she decided to do it as a prequel series rather than sequels because she didn’t want the comics to be confused with the forward timeline in the upcoming Threads of Power books and she had written in hints towards Maxim’s backstory in A Conjuring of Light, so it seemed like a natural fit.

She also talked about expanding the magic system in the Steel Prince comics and getting to explore bone magic more which she found a lot of fun (as did I, reading about it!) and how difficult it is to convey a non-visual power in writing and comics and how they showed the bone magic through sections of the skeleton lighting up, which is super cool.

Lydia then moved on from asking about origins to asking about what is coming up next, no spoilers allowed. Victoria spoke about how hard it is not to spoil entire plots of her books and how her publishers have had to reign her in because she’s prone to spilling the entirety of her plots to readers at events, which we all found incredibly funny. She gave a brief rundown about what is coming up, Tunnel of Bones, the second City of Ghosts book, set in Paris, the second arc of The Steel Prince comics, The Night of Knives, which start next month and her next big project, her adult standalone novel, The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue, which will potentially be coming out towards the end of next year.

She then went on to talk a little more about Addie, how it’s about a girl who makes a deal with the devil to live forever and then he curses her to be forgotten by everyone she meets and how it covers 300 years of Addie’s life. She then spoke about how the book will have been in development for 10 years by the time it makes it to shelves and that even though it looks like she is a fast writer, she’s actually not, because ideas sit with her for a long time.

The floor was then opened up to audience questions, with Lydia asking everyone to avoid questions that contained potential spoilers.

Someone asked about language and how Victoria had built the languages in the Shades of Magic world and V explained how she builds the grammatical structures from the ground up, filling in the vocabulary as she needs it, which has only caused a couple of issues with words that have multiple meanings but V explained that she wasn’t that bothered by that because it happens in English as well. She wanted to make sure that the language wasn’t prohibitive though, that it added to the experience rather than put readers off.

She was then asked about pseudonyms as she had mentioned before that her publishers had considered a pseudonym if her books had continued to not sell as well as hoped. V explained that publishers do this because it is seen as a fresh start in readers’ minds and allows them to market differently, but that she was very hesitant to use one because it felt like an erasure of her identity.

She then responded to a question about becoming peers with authors that she grew up admiring, and V expressed her appreciation that these authors had always treated her like a peer, a colleague and that this is something that she tries to pay forward but that it never stops being weird when someone you idolise treats you like a person.

We then got onto worldbuilding, as someone in the audience asked for worldbuilding tips. This was quite a meandering answer as V explained she had no easy tips for this as she finds it very intuitive because she consumes media which fills the part of her brain. The metaphor she eventually landed on was that of a house, that some fantasy authors build a house and give you a key, letting you wander around all the rooms i.e. basically tell you everything about the world, and others just leave the curtains open and allow you to see into each room as and when you need to (her preferred method). She also talked about how important it is to use your characters as conduits for your world and how their viewpoint changes the world you see, using Kell and Lila as examples.

The final question was about piracy and whether that is wish fulfilment for her and V made all of us burst out laughing by her passionate dislike of water and that the appeal of piracy to her is the sense of lawlessness and the intimacy of the setting of a ship.

When the audience questions were done, we joined the massive signing queue and waited to get our books signed, chatting in the line to pass the time. The queue did actually move relatively fast though and it wasn’t long before we were at the front meeting Victoria.

I wasn’t really quite sure what to say, but luckily Victoria helped me out on that one, as I had worn my As Travars Fable and Black necklace to the event, so she complimented me on that, I explained where I’d got it from and that I bought it because I mostly had fanart of her works and I wanted something I could wear. She had apparently met Fable and Black at one of her events and gave me a recommendation for an Etsy shop called InPages which she said did great pins. It’s so nice when authors manage to break the ice, because I am never sure what to say, especially with authors I love so much! Nicola and I both got our books/comics signed and then we got a photo before saying goodbye. I loved that V asked everyone if they had a good time at the event, it was so sweet!

We then headed back to the train station and had a bit of an issue because our train basically left without everyone and then had to turn around and come back, so we were waiting a good 40 minutes at the train station for the train, whilst trying to have a conversation over the building works and barrage of announcements!

Did anyone else go to any of Victoria’s UK events? Or are planning to go to any of her international events in the next few months? Let me know in the comments!


Samantha Shannon Event Recap

samantha shannon event 2

Photo Credit: @say_shannon 

Hi everyone! I’m quite lucky that I’ve had several book events to go to in February (well two, but two is more than I usually go to in one month) and I’ve got another event coming up this month (Victoria Schwab, in two week’s time, I cannot wait!) so this section of the blog will be slightly more regularly updated than it usually is!

My friend and I booked tickets to Samantha Shannon’s Glasgow event for Priory pretty much as soon as we saw they’d gone on sale, Nicola was meant to go to her Song Rising launch in Edinburgh two years ago, but was ill on the day and couldn’t go, and I’ve met Samantha a few times, but never been to a solo event of hers, so of course jumped at the chance to go.

We got the train from Stirling at around 5.20, after picking up dinner at the station. The event didn’t start till 6, but neither of us are particularly familiar with Waterstones Argyle Street (we both prefer and are more familiar with the larger Waterstones in Glasgow, Waterstones Sauchiehall Street) so we wanted to make sure we arrived in Glasgow early in case it took us longer to get there than we expected (it didn’t). We walked from Queen Street station to Argyle Street, and it only took us about 5-10 minutes to get there.

Once we arrived, we headed upstairs, where the event was taking place in the cafe. Most people were already there by the time we arrived, so once we had been given our books and ticked off the list, it was a bit of a scramble to find two seats together, we did, but we were right at the back, hence the lack of pictures of Samantha! There were a few minutes before the event started so I got myself a chocolate muffin from the cafe.

Soon after, one of the Waterstones staff came out to do all of the boring usual safety stuff and then Laura Lam (the moderator for the evening) came in and introduced Samantha, so the event could start properly.

The event was the usual Q&A style, and Laura had some really great questions for Samantha, which made for a very interesting discussion. It was awesome to hear about the origins of Priory and Samantha’s love of dragons and I particularly loved hearing about her research process since Priory has a large historical basis, and as a history nerd, I just love hearing about how authors research historical periods. Samantha also talked a lot about all the world building that went into Priory, which made me ever more excited to read it, because if there is one thing I completely geek out about in fantasy books, it’s world building. I love hearing writers talk about their process as well, and there was a lot of that here, it just helps me so much hearing how other authors go about this.

It was also really cool to hear Samantha talk about the origins of St George and how she wanted to change his story to be more feminist, and less you know, racist and sexist and Islamophobic. I have to admit, I don’t know all that much about St George, despite being English, so it was interesting to hear her talk about the different iterations of that legend and how she wanted to turn them on their head with Priory.

We got to hear about the differences Samantha found between writing The Bone Season and Priory which was quite cool, obviously they are very different books, and I’ve seen her talk about The Bone Season before, so it was quite interesting to see what she thought the biggest differences were between writing a dystopia/fantasy mix and between writing pure, epic fantasy like Priory.

I find it very interesting to hear how different writers’ processes differ from my own, Samantha talked a bit about working on Priory and The Bone Season together, and how working on one kept her refreshed for working on the other, and much as I think that’s super cool, I have found it way too confusing/distracting to be working on several different projects at once!

Samantha also talked a bit about her fantasy influences, and how she missed the boat on a lot of the big female authors of the 70s-90s and how much Lord of The Rings influenced her as a kid. She mentioned that there’s a scene in the Lord of The Rings film which has a female character doing something really awesome that wasn’t in the books and how that kind of turned her off fantasy for a while, because she didn’t want to be disappointed again. Both Nicola and I found it very cool that she talked about Malorie Blackman and Jacqueline Wilson when asked about her favourite YA as a kid, because we both loved them too (reminding us scarily that Samantha Shannon is not that much older than we are, she’s only five years older than me!). When Laura asked her about her influences for Priory specifically, she talked a lot about reading medieval texts, and legends, including The Renowned History of The Seven Champions of Christendom, and mentioned that she’d written a 4000 word essay on it, which I’d actually read a few days before the event.

Before Laura opened the floor up to audience questions, she did a “quickfire” round of This or That questions for Samantha. Samantha’s explanations ended up being a lot more lengthy than just this or that, but I loved that! She talked a bit more at length about the characters of Priory, about her love of morally grey characters, and a little Bone Season crept in there as well.

Then the floor was opened up to audience questions. Neither Nicola or I asked any, mostly because we’re awkward and don’t like talking in front of other people, but also we were right at the back, so basically would have had to shout to be heard. The people who did ask questions had great ones though! Samantha assured everyone that this book had not scratched the dragon itch, and that she hopes to write more self contained novels in the same world, just with more dragons in!

Naturally The Bone Season 4 came up, and Samantha said that the book is written, the first draft anyway and that she just needs to do the edits now, which should hopefully be easier than The Song Rising was (she did talk a little about how difficult that book was for her). She also talked about the differences between primary and secondary worldbuilding (as Priory uses the former, and The Bone Season the latter) and said she enjoys both, as The Bone Season allows her to use real world landmarks, but for Priory she could use the stuff from history that she liked as touchstones, but not the stuff she didn’t like, hello sexism! She explained a little about the differences between top up and bottom down world building and that she likes to use a mixture of the two, which I found helpful because to be honest, I do struggle with world building!

Samantha also talked about her favourite fantasy books, most of which I haven’t heard of, but will be checking out now. She explained the differences between her dragons and traditional dragons and talked about drawing on ideas from Eastern and Western dragon mythology (but her dragons are bio-luminescent).

We finished with a question about writer’s block, which was quite useful for me, as you all know, I’ve been blocked on Underground Magicians for a while now! Laura said she thought it was the subconscious asking for more thought but Samantha said that hers is usually burnout and she just needs to take a step away from her work.

Once the audience questions were over, we joined the queue to have our books signed. The queue moved relatively quickly and it wasn’t all that long before we were at the front. Nicola explained to Samantha that she was meant to come to her Song Rising event, but missed out because she was ill, and Samantha thanked her for coming. I wasn’t really sure what to say, but Samantha kind of helped me out on that one, because SHE RECOGNIZED ME! She said that I looked familiar and asked if we’d met before, and I explained that I’d seen her a couple of times at YALC and at an event in London last year, because I’m usually based near London but that I lived here for Uni and I came down all the way from Stirling for the London event last year. She was so sweet and thanked me for coming all that way last year (honestly have no regrets about that, that event was so good) and then Nicola and I said goodbye and left with our signed books.

Nicola and I then headed back to the train station and got an earlier train back than we’d thought as the event wasn’t as long as we were expecting. It was nice though, usually I don’t get back from evening book events till after 10, so it was nice to be back home just after nine for a change!

Did anyone else go to Samantha’s Glasgow Priory event? Or to the ones in London, or Leeds? Is anyone going to her Newcastle, Exeter or Truro events? Let me know in the comments!

I will probably have my review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely up later on today, so stay tuned for that!

Hot Key Women In History Bloggers Brunch Recap


Hi everyone! I know, what is this madness, event recaps two months in a row? Well it’s going to be a very busy couple of months for me, book event wise, as I’m going to Samantha Shannon’s Priory event in Glasgow on the 28th (so soon!) and then Victoria Schwab’s Near Witch/Steel Prince event, also in Glasgow in March, so there will be a lot more content than there usually is in this section of the blog over this month and the next.

I’ve been on the Hot Key mailing list for a while now, so I often get emails from them inviting me to their blogger brunches or events but 99.9% of the time, I’m in Scotland when their events are happening and their events are always in London, so go figure, I can’t make it. However, this time, I happened to be home anyway for my University’s Reading Week and being a history student who particularly loves Women’s History, I was super excited to be able to get to attend this event.

I got the train in from Cambridge to London at around 9.45, getting into London just after 10.35. I had to admit, I’d never been to the Bonnier Zaffre (the company which Hot Key is an imprint of) headquarters before, but luckily my mum knew the address and had given me instructions on how to get there. It wasn’t too far, I just had to get the tube from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus and after a few false starts with my Google Maps, I managed to find the building.

We were given name badges, and lead upstairs to where the event was taking place. We were all a little bit early, so there was some time to mill around, which meant, *shock horror* mingling. I was a little bit nervous because I was there by myself and I’m not the best with strangers, but thankfully bloggers are lovely people and I happily chatted with a few of them, including Amy from A Bookish Life who was also there alone and really made me feel at ease about the whole thing (thank you Amy!). It was quite funny because no one wanted to be the first one to go for the food, so we were all standing there, hungry, but we didn’t want to be the first one to break the ice. Thankfully, eventually someone did and then we all descended on the pastries.

The food was awesome, I had a chocolate twist, a pain au raisin, lots of raspberries and strawberries and some delicious cookies! After milling around and chatting for a little while, the people from Bonnier Zaffre came in and announced that we were ready to start. We did have to sit on the floor, which I wasn’t totally thrilled about, but I get that it was a small room fitting in a lot of people (hence the lack of pictures of the authors, I just couldn’t see over the people in front of me to get a good picture!).

Then Lucy and Heather came in, Lucy introduced herself and Heather (she was acting as the moderator for the discussion), and then the talk started. It was a lot more informal than many author discussions I’ve been to, which I really liked, I don’t know if the two of them had met before this, I assume so, but they had a very easy and natural rapport and despite talking about a very heavy topic (the Holocaust), they made the discussion engaging and fun to listen to (without taking the subject lightly in any way). The two of them talked about how they came to learning about the Holocaust and how to get young people engaged in that part of history and Heather discussed bringing The Tattooist of Auschwitz to a younger audience and how important it was not to over-sanitise the horrors of the Holocaust.

They talked a lot about how they did research for their books, which was obviously super interesting to me, being a History student, I love to hear about how historical fiction writers do their research. Heather talked a lot about interviewing Lale and the responsibility she felt for telling his story and how much of her research actually didn’t end up in the book in the end because she found out so much that she obviously couldn’t include it all. She also talked about how she wanted to make sure there wasn’t much emphasis in the story on the more famous names (i.e. the Nazis who committed such dreadful atrocities) because they don’t need any more attention drawn to what they did, she wanted to make sure that the story was all about Lale and his experiences.

Heather originally intended The Tattoist of Auschwitz to be a screenplay, and it was quite interesting to hear how the story went from that to a book, she was working on it with a film company, but the project stalled and she couldn’t stop thinking about the story, she talked about Lale so much that her family eventually encouraged her to just, in her words, “write the bloody book”. I’ve never heard of an author transferring their story from screenplay to book before, so it was very cool to hear from Heather how that process worked.

She also spoke more about her upcoming book, Cilka’s Journey, following one of the characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka, also a real life person, and the difficulties she had in researching that book because Cilka died a long time ago, so unlike Tattooist, where she had Lale’s personal testimony, she had to rely on second hand accounts of Cilka. She discussed some of the reactions to The Tattooist of Auschwitz and it was awe inspiring to hear how many people had shared personal stories about how the book had affected them.

Both authors spoke about the importance of hope in Holocaust stories, and how that theme ran through their work, which I really loved as that’s what I always hang onto when reading books about this most harrowing part of human history, the incredible resilience and hope shown by people in the most unbearable of circumstances, so it was great to hear them speak about how they used that in their books.

After the discussion portion of the event had ended, the authors took questions from us, I was, as always, too nervous and awkward of speaking in front of people to ask anything, but both authors had really insightful responses to the questions.

Once they had answered questions, we got to hear a little bit from both authors’ books. Lucy read a chapter from her upcoming novel Summerland, which addresses the journey of one of the minor characters from The Red Ribbon after the war (she says she has always been interested in what happened to people after the war, as WWII stories tend to end when the war does) and with Brexit, refugees have been on her mind, so she really wanted to write a refugee story set after WWII. I have to admit, I haven’t read any of her books before, but hearing her read from Summerland made me really excited to read The Red Ribbon (plus I loved that each of the chapters from Summerland is named after a different 1940s recipe and that she’s going to make a recipe book of them!).

We then got to hear Heather read from the ending of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Usually I would be annoyed for being spoiled for the end of the story before I’ve even read it, but since history can’t be spoilers, I wasn’t too bothered knowing the ending of Lale’s story! Plus, it was such a gorgeous passage that she read out to us, and was so heartwarming, that it really made me want to read the rest of the book, so mission successful.

Once the readings were over, we were allowed to go and collect books for signing. I had brought my own copy of The Tattooist of Auschwitz from home, but I needed a copy of The Red Ribbon (since Lucy made it sound AMAZING) and copies of both books for my friend Nicola who couldn’t make it to the event (since you know, she lives in Scotland!). The queues were quite long, so I only got to have a brief chat with both authors, but that’s okay with me since I’m awkward and can’t think of much to say anyway, I talked to Lucy about being a history student, the fact that I thought costume history was such a cool area to go into and that my friend (the aforementioned Nicola) is doing a WWII based dissertation. I’m pretty sure all I managed to say to Heather was that I’d never been to Poland, but always wanted to go. I don’t do well at coming up with stuff to say under pressure!

When I’d had my books signed, it was all over and it was time to go, so I picked up my coat from the hangers they had outside and then headed back to Oxford Circus to get the tube, and then the train home. All in all, a very successful day out for me, it was a super fun event and I hope that I’ll be able to go to another one, if the timing of the next event and me being back home happens to line up again.

Did anyone else go to the Women In History Bloggers Brunch? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

I will be back tomorrow with my e-ARC review of Enchantee by Gita Trelease (spoiler alert, I really loved this one guys!).

New Voices 2019 Event Recap

Hi everyone! I know I haven’t done one of these since I did my Sarah J Maas event recap last November, but I haven’t been to any book events since then (I am forever in pain that authors tend to miss Scotland out of their UK tours, especially since where I live out of semester is a lot closer to all the fun book events!).

Anyway, if you recall, last year I went to Headline’s New Voices event in Glasgow, and had a great time, so when I found out they were coming to Edinburgh this year, I immediately jumped on the chance to get an invite. This year, I took my friend Nicola with me, and thankfully, there was no snow, so she was able to make it this time!

Nicola was coming straight from a class at Uni, so we met at the train station to get the train into Edinburgh. We were a bit early, and had a minor snafu with the ticket machine as the station’s internet connection was down, but I managed to get my tickets from the lady at the ticket booth so it all worked out okay. Then our train was a little delayed setting off, but luckily it wasn’t by too much and we arrived in Edinburgh around the time we were hoping for anyway.

Neither of us had been to the pub where the event was being held, but Nicola had Google Maps on her phone, so we found it pretty easily. We were greeted by a member of Headline’s team at the door, Becky Hunter who I’d met at last year’s event and shown the cloakroom, and the bar, and of course, all the free books!

Nicola and I put our coats and bags away and then headed into the main room to meet everyone. We were introduced by a member of the team (I think it was Becky) to authors Rhik Samadder and Richard Lumsden, who we spent a while talking to. Rhik kind of freaked me out by asking lots of hard to answer questions about my future plans, but he seemed nice enough and I chatted to Richard a bit about my own novel, it made me feel a lot better about how long I have been working on TINALS to hear that he started work on his debut 25 years ago!

When we were done chatting with them, we were a little hungry, so we went to get the free food. I have to admit, this was probably the most disappointing part of the night, because last year they had quite an extensive buffet and this year it was just chicken drumsticks, sausage rolls and a veggie option, none of which were particularly great.

All the authors were then introduced to us by Phoebe, a publicity manager for Headline, who told us a little about them and all of their books, I swear she must have been out of breath after that because she spoke at like a mile a minute!

Nicola and I kind of milled around awkwardly after that, neither of us are particularly good at approaching strangers, so we figured we’d just stand there chatting until people came over to talk to us. We were introduced to one of the authors Emily Gunnis, by the Headline team and although we didn’t chat to her for very long, we did get our books signed, which was nice.

We also got to chat to some of the Headline team, which was great. Nicola and I spent a while chatting to Phoebe and completely fangirled, because she said that she’s worked with both Neil Gaiman and Deborah Harkness, I might not have read any of their books, but I definitely know who they are, and it was a very cool moment getting to meet someone who has actually worked with them (yes, I have small dreams). We also chatted to Jenny Harlow for a while, which was lovely, she remembered me from last year and she was just really nice to talk to, we chatted about the books we liked and how we find books to help the Headline team reach more people.

We were then introduced to Sarah Davis-Goff, another one of the authors. I hadn’t actually intended to pick up her book, because zombies really aren’t my thing, but she was so lovely, we chatted about dystopian books and feminism and all sorts of cool stuff like that, so Nicola and I both ended up leaving with copies of her book, and Nicola even got hers signed.

The last author of the night we met was Harriet Tyce, and I’m not going to lie, she was more than a little bit tipsy by the time we got to her, but she was lovely to talk to, told us all about her book, Blood Orange and her time working as a criminal barrister and very kindly signed our books.

By this point in the evening, Nicola and I were very tired, not to mention kind of hungry, given that the free food had not been as amazing as we’d hoped, and the room was starting to thin out anyway, so we decided that was the time to make our exit-it was about 9 o’clock and we both had quite early mornings the next day, so it was better to get out sooner rather than later.

Thankfully getting back home this year was much simpler than last year, we picked up some food from Pret at the station and then got on the first train back home, which we only had to wait half an hour for. No replacement bus, ridiculous amounts of snow or late night taxi for me this time!

Once again, I really enjoyed this event and it was so fun to get to go with Nicola this year. I also didn’t get pictures this year, sorry, but it was kind of dark in the venue and they wouldn’t have come out very well! I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to this event if they do it again next year, since I don’t know where I’ll be living, but it has been great fun to get to go the past two years!

Did anyone else go to the New Voices event in Edinburgh, or the one last night in Liverpool? Is anyone planning to go to the one in Bath tonight, or the one in London next week? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back on Tuesday with another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, so stay tuned for that!

Sarah J Maas Event Recap (2018)

sarah j maas event

Hi all! I know, an event recap two months after the last one, what is this madness?? Back in August when Sarah J Maas announced her two UK dates for her Kingdom of Ash tour, Nicola and I immediately leaped at the opportunity to get the chance to see her again, this time in Edinburgh (when we saw her two years ago, it was in Glasgow).

We got the train from Stirling at around 5 to get in for the event at 7 (it was earlier than we needed to, but we wanted to make sure we got there in plenty of time), after having stopped at Subway on our way into town for dinner. I also got a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from the station, it was AMAZING, I wish Christmas drinks were available all year round! I had brought a book to read on the train, but Nicola and I spent the journey excitedly chatting about the event: she had already read Kingdom of Ash (I’ve only just started! I promise Nicola, I will finish it as soon as I can!) and we were both ridiculously looking forward to seeing Sarah again as the event we went to for Empire of Storms was so much fun.

We arrived in Edinburgh just after 6, and made our way from the station to McEwan Hall where the event was being held (I’m really sorry guys, the only picture I got was the one at the top of this post, I only realised after I left that I hadn’t taken any pictures of the gorgeous room!). We realised after we arrived that leaving super early was a good thing, because the queue was GIGANTIC. I mean I don’t remember the queue for Empire of Storms being small, but this was a whole new level, it was literally snaking around!

Thankfully, the stewards at the event got everyone in pretty quickly so we weren’t stuck waiting for all that long. Once we got inside, we were given some free merchandise (a wristband and a temporary tattoo) before picking up our copies of Kingdom of Ash that we’d got with our tickets. We had a slight moment of confusion whilst we were trying to work out where to go, but thankfully one of the stewards pointed us in the right direction.

THE HALL GUYS. THE FREAKING HALL. Like I said, I wish I’d remembered to take pictures because it was so gorgeous. You could not have picked a better event for a Sarah J Maas event if you tried, basically McEwan Hall is where Edinburgh Uni have their graduations, and it’s totally gorgeous, with all these huge columns and this amazing decorated ceiling and….well you just have to see it, but it’s really, really nice. I was at the McEwan for the Guilty Feminist recording at the Fringe in August, but they’d put in all different seating for that, and I’m pretty sure you couldn’t see the ceiling or anything, so yeah it was like seeing the room for the first time.

The event started a little late, since we had to wait for the stewards to get everyone from outside in, but everyone was so excited when they finally brought Sarah and Katherine Webber (the moderator) out, that it didn’t really matter.

Listening to Sarah talk about both Throne of Glass and ACOTAR was so much fun, she’s a very entertaining speaker, and there was a lot of laughter throughout the evening, especially when she told us the story about the last minute panic to get Kingdom of Ash under 1000 pages, because the glue wasn’t physically strong enough to hold a book of that size! Sarah just gets so excited about her stories and her characters that it’s lovely to hear her talk, she’s basically a fangirl about her own books which is brilliant to see. It was so cute, when she came out and saw the size of the crowd, she mouthed Oh my God, she just couldn’t believe so many of us had come out to celebrate her success. Thankfully there were no spoilers for Kingdom of Ash in her discussion, since I obviously haven’t read it yet. We did get some great insights into her writing process for the book though, which was lovely to hear, including that the ending line, which she had hinted at two years ago when I saw her for Empire of Storms, had indeed remained the same. It also turns out that her favourite book in the Throne of Glass series is Heir of Fire, same as mine and that she has as little chill about Manon as I do, both of which made me very happy!

She also told a great story about what inspired the scene in ACOMAF where Feyre and Rhys have to stay in that inn where the room is way too small-turns out, Sarah had a similar experience when she was in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Book Fest, she got in late and the only room available was the attic room, and it was so small that she could barely move in there. That particular story got a lot of laughs!

She’s also so amazingly passionate about the women in her stories, she talked about how important it was to her to give her female characters the same heroic stories that she saw given to men growing up and that made me so happy, because I love seeing powerful women with agency in the stories I read. She also talked about how much fun it was to write female villains (they get better clothes) and that she would have liked to write more about Maeve because she found her really fascinating-I seriously hope this is a hint that there may one day be Throne of Glass spinoffs, because I would totally read that. I also liked that she talked about how important it was for her to include verbal consent in her books, because that is absolutely something that needs to be more of a thing.

Sadly, we did not get too many hints about future books. This is definitely the end of Throne of Glass for now, barring the World of Throne of Glass book coming out next year, but she did say that she would consider coming back to the world if the right story came along, so there’s definitely hope for the future. The World of Throne of Glass sounds really cool though, it’s a guide to the Throne of Glass world, set ten years after the end of Kingdom of Ash, told as the librarian of the royal library gathers information about the world for a history book. I was initially sceptical about The World of Throne of Glass, but now I’m really excited for it. We did also get some hints about the spinoff ACOTAR books, each book is going to follow a different character, but there will be an overarching story going through all of them. Sarah also told a really funny story about how she pitched them, basically she pitched them to her agent whilst out drinking (in a totally non serious way) but it turned out that she really liked them and then sold them to her editor! She did briefly mention Crescent City, her adult novel that’s due out next year, but we didn’t find out anything more than we already knew.

Once the discussion was over, it was time for the Q&A. Josh brought out baby Taran to sit with Sarah whilst she was answering questions, and I have to admit, I’m not a baby person but he was darn cute! The questions had to be cut short because of the late start to the event, but she still had some really great answers-the questions had been submitted by readers in advance. It’s always fun to hear author answers to readers questions, and Sarah was so candid and funny with her answers: my personal favourite was that her dream dinner party would be with JK Rowling, Legolas and Cleopatra-that would be quite the eclectic party!

Nicola and I sadly didn’t get the chance to meet Sarah, neither of us were one of the 50 who got the golden tickets, but the girl next to us did, and she was so excited which was really lovely to see. We both agreed that it was better that neither of us got one than one did and one didn’t-though there was one couple who that happened to, and a lovely woman offered her ticket to the girl so both she and her boyfriend could meet Sarah together, which we both thought was super cute.

Before we left, we wanted to get a picture with the screens in the foyer, so we waited and asked a girl who was heading out if she minded taking our picture. It took a couple of attempts, but we landed on the picture at the top of this post, which we both thought looked pretty good!

So there we go, my second ever Sarah J Maas event. I didn’t get to meet her this time, but that was okay, Nicola and I still had an amazing night, fourth year has been so stressful that it was great to get a night out to celebrate the end of what has been an incredible series, and a massive part of my life as a blogger, since Throne of Glass was one of the first books I ever reviewed, only a month or so into blogging. It’s kind of sad to think that it’s all over-but hey, I still have the book to read, so I can deny it for a little longer!

Have you ever been to a Sarah J Maas event? Did you have fun? Are you excited, nervous or sad for Kingdom of Ash? Anyone read it already? Did you enjoy it? (no spoilers, I’ve literally only read the first chapter!) Let me know in the comments!


The Guilty Feminist Event Recap

me and deborah frances-white

Hi all! Yup, I know I haven’t done one of these since YALC, but I haven’t actually been to a book event since YALC, much as I love going to them, book events are expensive and not easily accessible to me when I’m at Uni, since not many authors come to Scotland, even when they’re on a supposedly “UK” tour (UK usually seems to mean England only).

But last week, I had the chance to go to a pretty cool book event: Deborah Frances-White, host of my favourite podcast The Guilty Feminist was doing a UK tour in support of her new book, also called The Guilty Feminist and had a stop in Glasgow so of course I just had to go!

I’ll admit, the night didn’t get off to a great start. ScotRail had naturally decided that this was the weekend to start doing all their engineering works, so I had to get a replacement bus service from Stirling to Falkirk and then I had to get the train on from there to Glasgow. I don’t know if the rail service just doesn’t like me, first all the engineering works on the weekend of YALC, now this, I don’t have much luck when it comes to getting the train to book events! The replacement bus service I was meant to get on was full, so I had to wait for the next one. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem but as it turned out, the ten minutes I had to wait for the next bus was the difference between me getting the train I needed to get in order to arrive in time and not.

So yeah, when I arrived at the station in Falkirk I had missed my train-yay! I couldn’t wait for the one that was leaving at 6.30 because that was when the event was supposed to start, so instead, I had to get another replacement bus to a different station in Falkirk and get the train from there. It was quite funny, I came across the couple who had also meant to get the same original bus as I had (and had also had to wait for the next one) at the station.

Thankfully it didn’t take too long for the train to arrive, and it was a direct train, so with that and the fact that the Waterstones is not very far from the station in Glasgow, I managed to make it and only be ten minutes late. I picked up my book from the man at the front and I found a seat-the event was so large that there were people over two floors and I had a seat looking down from the balcony. It wasn’t the best seat for taking pictures (hence my lack of them) but I did have a good view, despite my lateness so that was good!

One of the Waterstones staff came out to introduce Deborah and the moderator and then the event began. I’d been to a live recording of The Guilty Feminist at the Fringe last month, which was awesome and really enjoyable and this event was no different. We got to hear Deborah read out little excerpts from the book, which definitely got me excited about reading more of it and she also did a little bit of stand up comedy which was great-I knew hardly any female comedians before I started listening to the podcast and now I know so many, it’s awesome!

The moderator also asked Deborah lots of questions, it was quite different from any other book event I’d been to, since obviously when you go to most book events, the questions the moderator asks are usually all about the book and there were plenty of those at this event as well of course, but the moderator (and I wish I could remember her name, but alas it was last week and I have a very short memory!) also asked about the podcast and naturally there were lots of questions about feminism. I loved hearing Deborah talk, of course because she’s very funny, but also because she had some very insightful answers and it was very interesting to hear what she had to say about being a 21st century feminist, and the podcast and all the different projects she’s doing, as well as her work with women in business.

We also got to hear her read out a few bits from her book, which was great, and definitely has me very excited to read it-the excerpt she read about weddings in particular had me in stitches and she also did a particularly great sketch about the gender pay gap that she had already done on the podcast before, which was just as funny live. This was the first time that I’ve been to a book event where the author was also a performer and it definitely showed, she was incredibly engaging and made the event a lot of fun. She and the moderator also did some “I’m a Feminist Buts……” which was great.

Once the discussion part of the evening was over, it was time for some audience questions. This part was so great, it overran because everyone had so many questions but Deborah really wanted to make sure that as many people as possible had a chance to have their questions answered which was great. As well as the obvious questions about feminism and the podcast, Deborah also answered some questions about her upcoming projects, which were great to hear about.

When we’d finally got through all of the questions we queued up to get our books signed. I was quite far back in the queue, but it moved quite quickly and soon I was at the front. Despite me going over what I would say in my head, I had all sorts of things I wanted to say, telling Deborah how much she had inspired me, how much I loved the podcast, thanking her for introducing me to so many awesome female comedians, me being me and super awkward, I managed to say… name. Yup that was it. She asked what Jo was short for and whether I had been named after Jo March and I said no, I was a Joanne, not a Josephine. I then got a quick picture with Deborah (the one at the top of this post) before leaving.

I wanted to go to the loo before I left, but I hadn’t realised that the loo was back down where the signing area was, so I then had to embarrass myself slightly, by heading straight back down before leaving!

After that, I headed back out into Glasgow, stopping briefly at a Sainsburys’ to get dinner (as I hadn’t had the chance to eat before the event) and then to the train station to get the train back to Stirling (well to Falkirk and then the bus back to Stirling).

I didn’t get back into Stirling until after 11, but it was well worth it, I had a super fun night, got a new book that I can’t wait to read and got to meet a woman who I really admire-the replacement bus service was a small price to pay for all that!

So there we go, a slightly different book event than the ones I usually go to, but just as fun! Was anyone else at Deborah’s event in Glasgow? Or has listened to The Guilty Feminist (if you haven’t, you 100% should!)? Let me know in the comments!

I just finished Vicious today, so I will have my review of that up for you guys very soon, but since it is now Tuesday, look out for a new Top Ten Tuesday post later on!

A Fantastical Evening With VE Schwab, Neal Shusterman and Samantha Shannon Event Recap

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since I last did one of these, but I haven’t been to a book event since the New Voices event in January, authors don’t really come to Scotland very often and as I’m a student, I can’t even really afford to get to the few events that happen in the North of England, let alone further South. However, I made an exception for this event, going all the way down to London and back in two days because these three authors are three of my favourites, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see all three of them together, plus it had been forever since I last saw my friend Hannah (who you guys probably know as my YALC partner-in-crime, we go together every year), so I decided to make my bank account scream in despair and pay for trains to and from London and an overnight hotel room so that Hannah and I could go to the event together.

I had to get the train pretty early on Monday morning, as it takes over five hours to get from Stirling to London Kings Cross, but thankfully it was a direct train, so once I was on there, that was it. Frustratingly, the train was delayed by half an hour and then we were held up further on the journey, so I got in forty minutes later than I was originally expecting. Still, I had great reading material on the train, in the form of Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, so it wasn’t so bad!

When I arrived at Kings Cross, I headed straight for the Travelodge where I was staying the night, and pretty much just had the opportunity to change shirts (when you’ve been on a train for five hours, you get a little sweaty!), activate the WiFi on my laptop and watch a little TV before I had to head out again to meet Hannah.

Hannah, of course, was late. I don’t know if I’ve told you guys this before, but Hannah is notorious in our friend group as being the “late one”, so of course, I was there, stressing, checking that we could still get the train out to Crouch End and make it to the event on time and naturally just as I am considering jumping on the next train and letting her make her own way to the event, she shows up!

We then got on the tube to Blackhorse Road, before changing to get the train to Crouch Hill, where the event was. Hannah and I hadn’t seen each other since Christmas, so naturally we had A LOT to talk about, as we always do. We were cutting it a little close in terms of making it to the event, but we got to Crouch Hill just in the nick of time.

Only once we arrived, we got sent the most roundabout way to get to the shop possible, involving an awful hill and several very windy roads! I was so glad I went with Hannah rather than going on my own like I originally thought I might have to, because Crouch End at night is not the nicest place!

We did manage to make it to the bookshop, and luckily, even though we were ten minutes late, the authors hadn’t been brought out yet. We were provided with drinks, and then took our seats, proceeding to be the annoying people who arrived late and then made everyone stand up to reach our seats (not that there were assigned seats or anything, but the ones further at the end were better than the closer ones). It was a bit of a tight squeeze as it’s quite a small bookshop, but we made it work.

The three authors were then brought out (to much cheering from us in the audience) and the event began. The moderator did have a tendency to ramble a bit, which was a little annoying, but she did ask some really interesting questions (we never did get the answer to what Neal, Victoria and Samantha would name their episodes of Black Mirror were they to write one!) and the three authors bounced off each other really well, so it was a really fun and engaging event. Oftentimes, these panels can be kind of dry, but that wasn’t the case with this event, Neal, Victoria and Samantha all had great answers to the moderators questions and it was really fun to hear about their books and their writing processes and reading habits (authors have just as massive TBRs as us guys!).

Once they were done with the discussion, we had a chance to ask questions and I actually asked Victoria for some writing advice as I’ve been struggling with how to get people to root for my main character (she’s not necessarily the most likeable) and her advice was really helpful, she said that she doesn’t believe in likeable main characters and that it’s more important to make your characters relatable by making their motivations clear, so hopefully this will improve Tiffany’s story!

When we had finished asking questions, the bookshop staff got us to form a line so the authors could sign our books. It was quite a small shop, so getting everyone lined up was a bit of a challenge, but it wasn’t a particularly large event so even though the signing line curved around, it moved relatively quickly.

I was having a ridiculously clumsy night, so I knocked several things over in front of Neal, Samantha and Victoria which was slightly embarrassing. I also had a lot of books with me, so logistically speaking, it was a bit of a nightmare. Thankfully they were all really lovely! It was my first time meeting Neal, and I definitely had a bit of a fangirl moment. He actually asked to get a picture of me, as he’d never seen all four UK editions of the Unwind dystology together, which was a little weird, but kind of cool, usually, I’m the one asking for pictures! I told him what a big fan I was of the series, which he appreciated and he signed all five of my books for me, which was lovely.

I had met Samantha before at YALC, but I didn’t get too much of a chance to speak to her then, so it was nice to get to see her again. I told her about Underground Magicians and how her picture of the Paris Catacombs partly inspired me to set it in Paris and how I loved that she talked about wanting to go somewhere different with each Bone Season book because that was something I was trying to do with Underground Magicians as well. She was so lovely and wished me luck with my story-I admitted I was having a bit of writer’s block with it, but Neal, Samantha and V all said there was no such thing and you just have to find your way through, which was really encouraging.

I then got my last couple of books signed by V, one for me and one for Nicola, and had a minorly embarrassing moment where I was trying to juggle all of my books but she was really sweet about it.

Once Hannah and I had got all of our books signed, and I had rearranged myself, we got a picture with all three authors and then went to pay for our books (we’d both bought some from the shop, as well as me bringing my own down from home) before leaving.

We then made our way back to Kings Cross and started a desperate hunt for food (as neither of us had had time to eat) before eventually ending up at a Pret. It was after 10 o’clock by this point, so finding food was a little difficult!

Once we’d finished eating, I walked with Hannah back down to the Underground and then we said our goodbyes, as she was heading back to Windsor and I was heading back to the Travelodge to stay overnight. It was a short reunion but definitely worth it as we had an awesome time at the event, and I’m glad I came all the way down from Scotland for it. I’m definitely ridiculously excited for YALC now, and I hope they start announcing authors soon.

Here’s the picture of Hannah and I with the authors at the event, and pictures of my signed books:


Us with Victoria, Samantha and Neal-in terms of author photos, this is definitely one of our better ones! There is a horrific photo of us with Maggie Stiefvater that will never see the light of day because it is so embarrassing, but this one is actually quite nice!






These are all my signed Neal Shusterman books (all the Unwind books + Scythe). I have to say, his inscriptions are probably my fave author inscriptions I’ve ever had, I didn’t even have to ask him to write “Nice Socks” in one of mine (as it only occurred to me after that I should have and then I found out he’d done it anyway!).


And my signed Schwab, I have to say, I love her signature, she has a very pretty and distinctive one! This is actually the last Schwab book I have to get signed until she brings her new ones out this year.

So that’s it, my whirlwind trip to London! Was anyone else at the event on Monday night? Has anyone been to any of Samantha, Neal or V’s events before? Let me know in the comments!

I will have my review of Moxie up for you guys very soon, not sure if it will be tonight, but definitely tomorrow at the latest!