Your pain gives me power: Leigh Barudgo Signing Event in Leeds

I recently attended the Leigh Bardugo signing event in Leeds and as usual the trains were mayhem. So coming back included fleeing from one platform to another with 200 other people (who had all been stranded in Leeds for hours) because of a last minute platform alteration. And it being a Saturday Night in Leeds our journey home was filled with men and women chanting “where’s Gary gone?”

Who the f**k Gary is is anyone’s guess.

ANYWAY.

Leigh Bardugo is Queen.

She’s very funny in a self deprecating kind of way and I loved hearing her insights and stories. The event in Leeds was styled as purely an audience Q and A with a brief discussion on Ninth House.

Unfortunately for Leigh audience questions are not readers forte. There was a few dull questions and a few why do you even want to know that? questions.

Some cool facts I did learn was that Six of Crows was never meant to happen. King of Scars was always planned however and the sequel will probably be out in 2021. ALSO there should be a 3rd six of crows book in our future to finish the Grishaverse.

I also found out Kaz was supposed to be called Baz Brekker so I’m super grateful to Rainbow Rowell for taking that name because Baz Brekker just isn’t sexy.

Unfortunately for you guys I don’t remember all the Ninth House characters Starbucks order.

After the Q and A I asked to go to the front of the queue of the signing as all my trains were cancelled barring one that was in 40 minutes. The staff didn’t mess around and it was very much say hi, throw your books down and get moving.

For me I was longer because Leigh complimented my hair colour and we chatted about hair dye for 20 seconds.

Afterwards I ran back to the train station and bedlam ensued (as mentioned above).

But guys we did figure out who Gary was!

Some lady held up the train screaming for Gary after people had been chanting for an hour where’s Gary gone. Turned out he was just passed out on his own down the carriage and we finally got to see who he was when he stumbled off the carriage. This man had a whole carriage chanting his name for an hour and didn’t even react.

Then some girls started chanting Steve!

And you probably guessed it. A man started singing “who the f**k is Steve?”

10/10 would meet Leigh again.

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective (i.e mine) is no one seems to know who YA is actually for anymore.

I came across a thread recently of several authors lamenting the fact that some reviewers were reading their books and then giving lower ratings because of several YA aspects in the story. For example the MC was too immature. Reviewers have actually have gone as far to state that they would have loved the book if they were a teenager.

So why does this happen? Why are adults apparently reading books they find too immature and slamming them for being something a 12 year old would want to read?

I think the answer is simple.

It’s because they aren’t being marketed as if they are for teenagers.

Let me be frank, YA is a hot mess of a genre. Even the name Young Adults implies the books aren’t for teenagers. But technically YA is meant to be for anyone between the ages of 12 – 18. However when you have books like ACOTAR and Six of Crows sitting in the YA section things get confusing. A lot of people wouldn’t read ACOTAR at 12 and Six of Crows deals with adult themes like sex slavery and addiction.

Now inclusion of sex doesn’t automatically make a book not YA but that’s not the point I’m making.

My issue is that YA books today are heavily marketed towards adults and you can tell this alone from the price tag.

What average 12 year old can afford special collectors editions that are about £20? Hell, you only have to turn up to YALC to see a serious lack of anyone under the age of 16 at a convention for YOUNG ADULT literature.

Clearly adults have more disposable income and while these books are written for teenagers they are sold to adults. I think it’s great that YA has great cross over appeal but the reason these debates start is people think adults are intruding on teenagers spaces despite the fact they were basically invited.

A perfect example of this is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. Two book boxes are doing collectors editions of the entire series with new covers. One book box has always done a special edition. That’s three different sets of covers for books that is supposed to be for teenagers? I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on books until I had a full time job which only happened this year and I’m 26.

Also, young adults, like myself (I.e not a teen) see “young adult” as something they should enjoy. And I personally (without specific industry knowledge of the genre age range) spent a good year reading YA and wondering why it was too immature for me. I remember very clearly the only YA books I enjoyed immensely was ACOTAR and Nevernight. The two books that are commonly seen as YA that aren’t. Do you see the problem?

I would love for publishers to finally stop the YA marketing hype and make New Adult a thing. The introduction of New Adult would provide a space for older teens and actual young adults and stop books like Nevernight getting into the hands of an audience it was never meant for.

In the future I do think reviewers should consider the audience of the book when complaining about immaturity etc. But when said book has been put into the hands of adult readers, book bloggers and book tubers I can’t blame them for reading it thinking it was meant for a reader more their age.

Angel Mage Book Tour: Book Review

Synopsis:

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara. 

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, a genius at making icons to summon angels, and supremely adept in forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath already knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighbouring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendents. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will become ashes, or they will turn into beastlings. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who fix her interest, for they are the key to her quest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. 

The four feel a strange, immediate kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. Only Liliath knows their secret, and she draws them in to her complex plot, just as she manipulates Queen Louisa and her musketeers; King Ferdinand and his guards; Cardinal Duplessis and her pursuivants; and the Refuser Night King Biscaray and his criminal gangs.
All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else.

And if that synopsis doesn’t have you hooked there might not be much else I can say to convince you to pick up Angel Mage.

Admittedly this book will not hold your hand. You are thrown right into a beautiful, vivid and established world with fully fleshed out characters, lands and histories that you are left scrambling slightly to catch up.

Liliath is one of the best female villains I have ever read and her chapters were definitely my favourite. We don’t often get to read books from a villains perspective and Liliath is a vicious, determined and captivating character that forced me to absorb page after page.

The other thing I loved about this book is the magic system. It’s unique and I think simple to follow whilst not being too rigid. There’s a handy little hierarchy in the beginning of the book too that helps you clarify which type of angels are more powerful compared to each other.

I highly recommend this book for people looking for a unique magic system, beautifully built fantasy world and love reading books from the villains POV.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Gollancz for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Spoiler Mini Review: Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

I hate endings.

I particularly hate bad endings. Bad endings have the ability to trash an entire series for me so picking up Darkdawn made me a little nervous. Nevernight is one of my all time favourite series. It’s basically me in a book and I’ve been eagerly anticipating and kind of dreading reading Darkdawn.

I finished it today…

And…

I didn’t hate it but I’m not in love either.

I’m not disappointed (maybe I kinda am) I just think Mia’s ending never really interested me as much as her life did. Plus if you don’t like Ash then a lot of the emotional impact is lost. For example I LOVED Chapter 35 because I hate Ash, but I can imagine a lot of other people were crying. Honestly Mr Kindly being told to piss off upset me more and Eclipse’s death was the worst.

Things I loved about Darkdawn:

Mia. She’s probably my favourite female character ever. Tric because he’s just the best, Mercurio and Eclipse. I also loved the story of the sun, the night, their son and the four daughters.

Things I didn’t like about Darkdawn:

The insertion of the books within themselves just felt messy. The constant inside jokes which I laughed at a few times but there must’ve been at least six character jokes about footnotes. It felt a bit like, dare I say it, fan service? There was definitely a few things that I felt were noticeable. Particularly Adonai suddenly getting a much larger role.

Ultimately I don’t like the ending cos I don’t need Mia and Ash together in the Afterlife. I was told Mia died and yes she’s technically dead but I don’t need plot twist of dead Mia coming back to dead Ash to live happily ever after. Forever.

Honestly I feel like Mia is so much more than Ash’s obsessive love and I just didn’t need it. She should’ve dropped her for Tric as far as I’m concerned. Imagine if Ash was a man telling Mia to stay with her and not do what’s right and acting like she’s the only one who cares about Mia? That’s controlling and I’m not into it. She wanted Mia to herself but Mia is a person not a thing to have.

The book also felt a bit too bloated I found my self skimming which I never did before. The final battle was probably about 30 pages too long in my view.

OVERALL I love Mia Coreve and HER story but it came too obvious to me the book kinda played up to fans and jokes that exist outside the books which I would not have minded but they began to become excessive.

My burning love for this series has unfortunately waned.

This was supposed to be a mini review so I’ll stop now.

Rating: 3/5 stars

“I didn’t go out and kill people. I just made it up” – Jay Kristoff, Darkdawn Event, London, 2019

Life Achievement Unlocked: Meet one of my favourite authors of all time.

Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with the Nevernight chronicles. The humour, the world, the cat familiar, this series speaks to my soul. My first awareness of Jay Kristoff was on twitter when he made a thread asking fellow authors what words should never be used in smut. If you can find it again it’s hilarious and definitely worth reading.

Several twitter interactions later I knew if Jay ever visited the UK I was going to do everything I could to go. Luckily I was linked to the tickets to the London event before it was announced so I didn’t have to stress about getting one.

The day of the event was a long day for me. I went to work at 6am, got the train at 2pm, got into London at 4pm and queued till we were let in at 7pm.

The first hour of the event was a talk with Samantha Shannon and it soon became apparent that I stalk Jay Kristoff way too much on social media as I knew most of the stories. Most particularly I knew the origin story of how Nevernight started from an argument about the c-bomb.

After the talk there was the questions which were a bit bizarre in some cases. One girl asked who he chose to bang in The Witcher game and one girl said she worked with bodies and wanted to know how he wrote death so accurately?

Next came the signing which started at 8pm and I finally got to meet Jay Kristoff at 10:30pm. The queuing for the event was stressful and long and one girl managed to get to the front of the queue twice and a few others tried to push in front and it was chaotic.

So I finally got to meet Jay Kristoff and..I was basically a zombie. I gave him three books and was trying to get two personalised instead of just the one. He nearly personalised the wrong one and I kept trying to explain if he could personalise the other two that would be great but I know he’s not supposed to so it was up to him.

Then the girl who was supposed to be organising the books said I was making things complicated.

I still remember this comment because it kinda ruined the whole moment for me. Like I don’t need criticism when I’m tired and nervous? I don’t know.

I then gave Jay my metalmarks or I might have done that before the confusing book stuff I’m not sure. He said they were cool anyway and would give the aurora rising one to Amie.

Finally I got a photo and made a joke about our height difference before leaving.

Overall this day was bitter sweet I got to meet Jay which was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was however contrasted with a very bad day due to completely unrelated and building mental health issues I had which meant I spent more of my day crying silently or to my boyfriend. You may wonder why I mention this but I think it’s important to be honest that it wasn’t all fangirling and excitement.

You can have good moments in the bad days too and I’ll remember the day I met Jay Kristoff for many reasons.

VoyagerCon 2019: Definitely no YA romances to be found here

I went to VoyagerCon last night at Waterstones Piccadilly. When the event was announced I’d just been on an adult fantasy buying binge so I had books by 3 of the 6 authors to get signed. I will tell you right now though after meeting and listening to S. A. Chakraborty I’m regretting not buying and bringing her books. I met up with Steph, Sammy, Emily, Bethany and Daphne. We sat right up at the front which screwed us later when they started signing from the back.

My favourite panel was definitely Myths and Legends with R. F. Kuang and S. A. Chakraborty who were hilarious and had such interesting insights. When talking about writing different cultures Rebecca said she struggled to write white people in her book which is an interesting reversal of the norm. She also discussed writing about cultures she is a part of and said that while her book represents China as she experienced it not everyone agreed. In this instance she said she didn’t like this kind of gatekeeping as just because her experience doesn’t exactly reflect other Chinese people’s doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I could not agree more with this.

The next panel was with Anna Stephens and Anna Smith Spark who discussed Bad Ass Women. I loved Anna Smith Spark’s viewpoint on women not needing to be violent and warriors to be badass women. Her little anecdote about how the first page of her goodreads reviews for “A court of Broken Knives” is filled with pissed off readers who thought it was a YA romance had the room creasing. She guessed this happen because she’s a woman and her book has Court in the title. Anna Smith Spark also talked about how she got into writing and was open about the fact she has Aspergers which I loved. I have experience with Aspergers in my own family so I’m always in awe when I see someone with Aspergers doing public speaking and basically killing it.

The last panel was with Den Patrick and Patrick Newman who played a DND type game with the room. They handed round a sword to audience members who got to make a choice on how they would deal with various monsters and situations the authors described. All the monsters were also from the books of the authors at the con which I thought was a nice touch. This was so much fun and had some hilarious choices like selling Anna Stephens soul and looking a man up and down and saying “I’ve seen bigger and better”.

After the panels there was the signing. I brought 2 books for R. F. Kuang, 3 for Anna Smith Spark and 2 for Den Patrick. My first signing was with Anna Amith Spark. We got chatting about Aspergers and she recommended a book series to me with an Aspergers character who just is and it’s not about his struggles or anything. Which we both agreed is the best rep. I also said the boiling blood of a dragon killing someone was a nice touch and not one I had considered before. She was lovely and wrote messages in all three of my books.

I then went to Den Patrick and chatted about his game and how it reminded me of DnD. He told me to tweet him my favourite character when I’ve read the books.

Lastly I went to R. F. Kuang. I said I loved what she said about Altan being abusive and trash in her panel. AGREEE. In her panel she also said she’s a sucker for teacher pupil relationships and I said I’m the same. I love Rin and Jiang’s relationship and she wrote a little spoiler in one of my books for me saying “Jiang will be back”. I then gave her my Poppy War inspired metalmark from my shop and she loved it and said she never gets swag. We then took a photo together which honestly I hope never surfaces because I can’t imagine I look good with my shiny nose and been up since 5am dead eyes. It was so nice though another girl in the signing for Shannon next to me said she loved my metalmarks and I was honestly like is this real life?

So as usual I had an awesome time with Steph, Sammy, Emily and Bethany.

The Holly Black merchandise Saga and what it revealed about bookish fan merchandise

I’m gonna kick this off by stating the obvious. Profiting off someone else’s intellectual property is illegal unless it falls under fair use. Now I’m not going to get into the complexities of what counts as fair use but it can mean a whole bunch of things. Fair use allows other people’s intellectual property to be used if its a parody, used to inform or educate and doesn’t take away profit from the original owner. Honestly there’s so much scope just read this article if you want it explaining for you.

Now that you’ve brushed up on intellectual property law it should be pretty clear that some bookish merchandise isn’t technically legal under certain circumstances unless the license to merchandise has been bought or permission has been given by the author.

So you’re probably wonder how the hell shops like mine even exist?

Well let me tell you and I think the Holly Black situation is a great example to explain this. Holly Black recently sold the license to merchandise based on her books to a small company called TopatoCo. She included in her statement that all unofficial merchandise will be stopped. Contrast this with Leigh Bardugo who did the exact same thing with her licensing but also stopped cease and desists being sent to small shop selling Grishaverse merchandise.

Confusing no? One author is like get off my property (which she is totally allowed to do btw that is not what I’m debating) and another is happy for people like me to continue as far she is allowed to say this.

And this is the problem. Many authors don’t get involved in licensing, they don’t sell merchandise and it’s usually only when their books get very big or made into a tv series that they may have a problem with small business owners. So small business have been allowed to exist and thrive and even if they aren’t selling the licensing to their merchandise they could easily tell us to stop but don’t.

So why not?

First of all I believe small business owners fill a void that authors and publishers have been unwilling to fill. I’m willing to bet 99% of bookish merchandise is not licensed and I’d bet good money that every book box is not asking permission from every author they include in their boxes either.

Authors have been known to comment on and share bookish merchandise and have never said a word. Is this because they lack the legal backing to stop every shop or because they just don’t care until they are looking to get into the merchandise game themselves?

I believe it’s the latter only because the book community is hugely respectful and shops like mine only exist because people love the authors works so much. So if authors as a whole did not like bookish merchandise I feel like they could say something and we would respect their wishes.

As with Holly Black as soon as she announced she wanted unlicensed merchandise stopped everyone started discounting and removing products for sale. No protest.

The arguments and drama only started when the alternative merchandise being offered was vastly more expensive and someone at TopatoCo started being rather rude to people commenting on their Instagram.

As a small shop owner myself I want to be fair and I want to be legal but there isn’t any simple or existing process to get the authors permission and licensing can be expensive. If I am working with a £1 per item profit margin and I have to pay even £50 for a license I’d have to sell 50 of one product to break even.

I’m not saying authors shouldn’t be allowed to profit from their work but I do wish there was an existing process for us small shop owners to be legitimatised without breaking bank.

Shop owners at the end of the day only exist because there’s a huge market that wasn’t being catered for and we do have a value. I’ve seen many people say they have been introduced to books through fan merchandise and that’s marketing they didn’t have to buy. They didn’t have to spend their money on merchandise or artists or supplies. We do all that and we do it because we love books and we love creating.

Maybe that’s my own naive outlook but I think we do have a value and I’d love to see in the future a way for authors and small shop owners to co-exist. Nobody wants to steal money from someone else and that’s not why I started selling.