Saturday, 11 March 2017

Reading schedule: January - June 2017

Yes, I know I'm 2 months late to call this a 6-monthly planner, technically, but who's keeping track? NOT ME.

Anyway, I like to have an idea about which books I'll be reading over the coming months; sometimes it's because there's a particularly relevant theme coming up, or because I'm anticipating being in the mood for a certain genre, or just because I have an advance copy of a book which will be coming out on a certain date. Whatever it is, I find I read more, and get more out of reading, if I at least have a vague idea in advance about what's coming up.

With all that in mind, though, there are some specific, overarching things I will be focusing on with my reading habits: as well as reading more diversely, I want to add more adult books to my list, which is something I've fallen behind on of late. I'll aim for one adult book per month.


January

This was an anything-goes month, and I read a mix of sci-fi/dystopian, and contemporary (with a focus on mental health):

AFTER THE SNOW by SD Crockett
THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by Emily Barr
GEMINA by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
REALITY BOY by AS King
WHEN MR DOG BITES by Brian Conaghan
ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee


February

I didn't exactly focus on romance this month, but there were at least romantic threads in all 4 of the books I read:

BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough (this is what prompted me to add more adult novels to my reading list)
THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT by Jason Reynolds
UNCONVENTIONAL by Maggie Harcourt
THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski


March

I've already read (listened to the audio, actually) Fonda Lee's EXO and it was truly excellent. Now, I have 4 Netgalley books which are due for review (or overdue, oops!), so I'll read those next:

HEARTLESS by Marissa Meyer
NOWHERE NEAR YOU by Leah Thomas
LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer
THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli

And I want to finish Marie Rutkoski's trilogy by listening to the audiobooks of THE WINNER'S KISS and THE WINNER'S CRIME, and finish the early copy of CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber I was so lucky to nab from Molly, my splendid agent.

If I have time for one more, I'll read an adult book from my shelf -- probably ARCHANGEL'S HEART by Nalini Singh, as she is one of my all-time favourite authors, and I love this series. 9 books might be a little too ambitious for this month, but we'll see!


April

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas comes out in the UK this month, so that's at the top of my TBR. I'll also be looking out for the YALC author line-up announcement and adding to my list based on that -- YALC isn't until July, but I like to read books by as many of the authors as I can so I can gush appropriately when I get my books signed.

I think my adult book for this month will be VICIOUS by V E Schwab, which she graciously signed for me when I met her a couple of years ago.


May

I'll be heading to an old farmhouse in the wilds of Wales this month on a writing retreat, so I fancy taking some historical/timeless fantasyish reads with me. I'm thinking THE CURIOUS TALE OF THE LADY CARABOO by Catherine Johnson, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig, and THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough. My adult read will be MASKS AND SHADOWS by Stephanie Burgis.

I also have ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen McManus to read this month before it comes out in June (Netgalley read).


June

Again, it'll be all about the pre-YALC reading frenzy. As it's also the start of summer, I'll add some fun, summery romances like:

THE ART OF FALLING by Jenny Kaczorowski
ROCK WEDDING by Nalini Singh (this'll be my adult read)

Also, I'm not sure when exactly Erin Fletcher's new book comes out (#2 in the Breakaway series), but that will zoom straight to the top of my reading pile whenever it is published. I love Erin's books, in case that was at all unclear. 

So, that's the list so far, and I think I'll have plenty to add to it as I go along. If you have any suggestions for books you think I MUST READ NOW, let me know in the comments (or anywhere else you can find me -- twitter, Insta, etc. etc.) I'll post a TBR schedule for July to December sometime in June. 

As always, you can see which books I've been reading and what I thought of them by checking out my monthly wrap-ups.

For now... I've got some reading to catch up on!

Kat out x 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

February Wrap-Up!

Hello there! I hope you had a fabulous February. Mine was quick and very writing-focused, which means I got lots of work done on my MS... but not a lot else. My adventures were sparse, I didn't read very much at all, and I became even more of a hermit than usual.

BUT, I did have a lovely bunch of flowers from my husband for Valentine's Day, and I took this creepy picture of a railway track. Winner.


A post shared by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on


Reading-wise, I read 4 books, which is even fewer than last month's meagre tally. I really need to up my game. To that end, I think I definitely need to write up a 6-monthly reading planner, like I usually do. In the meantime, here's what I read in February.


4 very different reads this month: I'll start with BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough, which I received from Netgalley for an honest review. It's an adult thriller about a married couple and the woman who becomes involved with each of them in a very tangly, messy way, and begins to suspect there is something very, very wrong in Adele and David's marriage. The story was so intriguing, and the mystery around what exactly is going on kept me hooked right up to the end. There was only one thing about this book that I didn't really like, and that was the ending. I won't give any spoilers here, because the ending is something you really need to experience for yourself, but I will say that it will either blow your mind or leave you feeling a wee bit cheated. I fell into the latter group, unfortunately -- I'm just not a fan of moving the proverbial goalposts 3/4 of the way through a book. But I can see why so many people love it -- this is a gripping, thrilling read.

Next was THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT by Jason Reynolds. Matt is 17, and has just lost his mother to cancer, and his dad has taken up his old habit of drinking too much. But when Matt takes a part-time job in a funeral home and meets a girl named Love, he starts to figure out how to deal with his own grief and move on. I found this story quietly moving and heartfelt, and I loved the setting and characters. 

I adored Maggie Harcourt's debut (THE LAST SUMMER OF US) and picked up the audio version of her new book, UNCONVENTIONAL, as soon as it came out -- and I loved it just as much as the first one. Lexi works for her dad's company organising and running conventions, which becomes a little trickier when she runs into the arrogant Haydn Swift, a 19-year-old novelist who drives her up the wall. This book is fun, romantic, and if you're a fan of conventions there's a lot in there you'll recognise.

Last but not least, I finally got around to Marie Rutkoski's THE WINNER'S CURSE. Everybody raves about this trilogy, and I can see why -- the setting is rich and immersive, the 2 lead characters are both brilliant whether they're kissing or butting heads, and the story is a sweeping epic about war and slavery and social uprising and all kinds of great stuff. I'll be getting the next 2 in the trilogy to listen to ASAP.

So, that's my brief February wrap-up! I hope you had a good one.

Kat out x

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

5 YA Romances I've Loved & 5 on my TBR

Even though I write pretty dark, thrillery stories, I love reading about love. From awkward will-they-won't-they first romances to intense, all-consuming, full-blown LOVE, I can't get enough of it. (In books - in real life I'm as unromantic as a bag of dried lentils.)

So, to celebrate St. Valentine's Day, I thought I would share 5 YA romances I've really enjoyed within the past year, as well as 5 that are at the top of my TBR. If you want to add your own favourites to this list/comment on which TBR book I should read first, please do!


5 Favourite Recent YA Romances



1. Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

This comes out in a few weeks, and is an absolutely adorable (adorkable) story about Sofia's last week in Tokyo, and the boy who is about to change everything. 



2. All Laced Up by Erin Fletcher

I'm a fan of all Erin's books, and I especially loved this first book in her new Breakaway series, about a figure skater and an ice hockey star getting heated - in more than one way - on the ice. 



3. It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

The humour and the unusual format of this book - written as an oral history of Avery's dating past, and an examination of how she came to be dumped the week before prom - were what really stood out for me with this one. 




4. Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

This isn't strictly a romance (it's a sci-fi retelling of Othello, which might tell you why...) but it is a love story, and one with such heart-rending intensity that I'm still hoping a sequel is going to be announced. 



5. The Next Together / The Last Beginning by Lauren James

I honestly couldn't choose between the two books in this duology, which have two awesome pairings, plenty of mysterious time-travelling shenanigans, and an abundance of banter. 






5 YA Romances on my TBR

(blurbs nicked from Goodreads)



1. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon 

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married. 

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.




2. The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?




3. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (I have an ARC of this, heh heh...)

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. 

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. 

Right?





4. The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt 

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.




5. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?



***


What are you reading this Valentine's Day?

Saturday, 4 February 2017

January Wrap-up!

Helloooooo! February already, you say? That means - in case you missed it - you only have about 2 weeks left to enter my BREAKER giveaway. Go here to enter - it's open internationally, and ends on 20th Feb. Good luck!

What else happened this month? Well, I have now finished the full draft of the book I've been working on for TWO DAMNED YEARS (woohoo!) and am in the process of revising and polishing that sucker. I'm hoping it'll be done and off to beta readers within a week.

As I've been going full throttle with the writing, I haven't had too many adventures, but there were a couple. I visited Gladstone's Library in Hawarden, which is an absolutely gorgeous place to go and be surrounded by books and bookish people. It's a purpose-built residential library (the only one in the UK, I believe) and I have signed up to become a reader there so I can go and write amid the leatherbound brilliance.


A photo posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on

I've also been out walking a little bit - not as much as I should have, and as my pal Jani has reminded me to revive my Fitbit, I'll be doing that in the coming days. In the meantime, I found this junkyard with its own droid.



A photo posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on

I had some exciting book post from wonderful author and human Cecilia Vinesse, whose book SEVEN DAYS OF YOU comes out in March. It's a glorious, heart-rending romance set in Tokyo, and you should definitely pre-order it if you like nice things. 





In other reading, I squeezed in 6 books in January. These were they:



The first was AFTER THE SNOW by SD Crockett, and the last of the 3 snowy reads I chose before Christmas. I absolutely loved this snow-plagued survival story about a boy whose family are dragged away by the military, leaving him to fend for himself in the wilds of Wales. 

Next up was a Netgalley review read - THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by Emily Barr. This was a really interesting, unique book, and I enjoyed it a lot. Flora has a condition where she hasn't been able to form/keep any new memories since she was 10. Now 16, she finds herself alone for the first time, and sets off on an adventure to find the boy whose kiss is the only new thing she has remembered in 6 years. Flora is a main character I wasn't entirely sure I was going to like from the first few chapters (she is in many ways still 10 years old, due to her memory loss, and not very considerate of others' feelings) but she absolutely grew on me until I was swept away with her on her adventures. And that's what I feel this story is - it's an adventure story, not a love story as the description might lead you to believe - and it's all the better for it. There were plenty of twists and turns and emotional daggers to keep me on the edge of my seat, and it all came together for a satisfying, frost-bitten finale.

I've been looking forward to GEMINA (book 2 in the Illuminae Files) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and this was just as good as the first in the trilogy, picking up the story at the besieged Hypatia jump station with 2 new central characters to root for as they battle marauders and their growing feelings for each other. I'm not sure when the 3rd in the trilogy comes out, but I'll be grabbing it as soon as it does. 

REALITY BOY by AS King has been hanging around on my audiobook TBR for a good while now, and I finally got around to listening to it this month... and I wish I hadn't waited so long. I loved this story about Gerald aka 'The Crapper' - a sixteen-year-old whose early childhood played out in front of the nation on a Supernanny-esque reality TV show, and it has left a whole spectrum of mental scars on him. In turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this book had a belting voice even as it dealt with some uncomfortable stuff.   

Speaking of great voice, I also listened to WHEN MR DOG BITES, about a boy with Tourette's syndrome who finds out he is going to die in a few months, and the shenanigans he gets up to trying to check off everything on his bucket list. 

The last one I read/listened to was Fonda Lee's wonderful sporty sci-fi ZEROBOXER, about a fighter named Carr Luka who is trying to battle the odds and make a name for himself in the world of competitive zero-gravity boxing. As an aside, the narrator of the audiobook has the deepest, smoothest voice I've ever heard, which was rather pleasant. I've just downloaded EXO, Lee's new book, which I was thrilled to discover is narrated by Macleod Andrews, my all-time fave audio narrator. Looking forward to that one!

It's been a while since I've shared what music I'm listening to, so here are a couple of tracks that have been keeping me happy while I inhabit my writing cave.




So that was my January. I'll post a reading planner for the coming 6 months in a little while, and I might have news of another giveaway or two coming up soon as well. For now...

Kat out x


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Breaker giveaway!

As the Facebook gremlins kindly reminded me yesterday, it has been a year since the advance copies of BREAKER made their way out into the world... and this needs to be celebrated, yes? Sounds like a giveaway is in order!

To win a signed copy of the finished book, fill in the rafflecopter oojit below. Enter as many times as it'll let ya, and this is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway, folks! Ends 20th Feb.





Also, not a giveaway requirement, but please do add Breaker to your TBR on Goodreads, and if you've read it, please take a moment to leave a review? Reviews help other readers find books they may love!

Good luck to all who enter.

Kat out x

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

December Wrap-Up!

OK, I'm not going to lie, writing this after new year feels a bit blah - so I'll keep it snappy.

I had a wonderful launch event for my latest YA novel, PURGE, at my local library. It was so lovely to see people come out on a cold December evening to hear me be very geeky about my strange sci-fi story, and the staff at Prestatyn Library are always so enthusiastic and fun, it was pretty darned perfect.


Reading-wise, I chilled out a bit after my veritable reading storm of November, so ended up reading 5 last month. These are they:


I'll begin with MAGONIA by Maria Dahvana Headley, which I'd heard lots of people talking about when it first came out, but truly had no idea what to expect going in; I was pleasantly surprised. Aza has an incredibly rare lung condition which means she is living on borrowed time, and she's determined to make the most of it with her best friend and crush, Jason. But just when things seem to be going Aza's way, the worst happens: her time runs out. Except Jason isn't willing to say goodbye, not when a strange ship in the sky offers some hope they may see each other again... With plenty of fantasy and action, it switched up a gear from the very character-driven beginning, and the pace held true to the end. Weird and wonderful.

Next up, I decided it was time to get up to date with my Lockwood & Cos. THE HOLLOW BOY was an intense, angst-filled episode for Lucy the ghost-hunting crew, and THE CREEPING SHADOW saw Lucy finding out more about her special talents as she strikes out on her own. I really love this series by Jonathan Stroud, and can't wait for the fifth and final instalment.

I had 3 books on my wintry reads list, and managed to read 2 before the end of December. The first was the delightful THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, about a group of teens living in 1970s Alaska and the intricate ways their lives intertwine. The final book had been on my shelf for a couple of years, so it was high time I read Rachel Cohn & David Levithan's DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES. It was a smart, quick romance -- pretty much the ideal book to read at Christmastime.

Adventure-wise, I went on a ghost hunt, and visited a lighthouse. It was rather pretty.


A photo posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on

I also wrote a couple of things online - a post about visiting locations in books for the Author Allsorts site, and an interview with The Book Activist about PURGE and Christmassy stuff.

So that was how I finished my year. Happy 2017 to all!

Kat out x

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Ghost Hunting at Bodelwyddan Castle

Last weekend I scraped myself out of my onesie to go on a ghost hunting adventure with my sister, Alex. As we walked up the road to the castle, it was lit only by the moon. Proper spooky, like.



This is Alex, for reference. The prompt for this photo was "Look ghostly".



It was better than my "Look ghostly" pose, to be fair.


Anyway. Inside the castle we assembled (there were about 30 of us in all) for a guided tour of the rooms where we would later hold vigils and use ghost hunting equipment to try and rustle up some spooks. During a talk about the history of the place, we reached a part about 2 young girls who fell through the ice while skating on the pond in the 1920s, and one man in the group suddenly collapsed in quite dramatic fashion (I feel it's okay to say this now as I checked and he was absolutely fine afterwards). An auspicious start, as I'm sure you'll agree.

We then broke into smaller groups and took up stations in different rooms in the castle. Our group started in the dining room, where the walls are decorated with portraits of historical politicians (I'm not sure why) as well as an imposing but lovely portrait of Lady Amelia, who once visited the castle and is reported to have been sighted there in ghostly form. (We didn't see her.) There was also a beautiful grand piano and a dining table laid out as though the castle's former residents might be about to sit down to Christmas dinner.

Once we were in situ, all the lights went out, and the guide, Lucy, called out for spirits to come and talk to us. [I should probably point out here that I'm a Scully as far as paranormal phenomena is concerned - highly sceptical, but willing to admit to being wrong if I'm ever presented with actual, measurable evidence.] It was initially very 'quiet', as I expected, with only a quivering curtain (I think it was just moving because of the heat rising from the radiator) until we all heard the sound of footsteps running quickly down the stairs. And as I mentioned, all the lights were off at this point, and none of the other groups were stationed near the stairs, so that, I will admit, got me to raise an eyebrow. Anyone running down those stairs in the dark -- even if they knew the house really, really well -- would break their neck. So, I'll count that as one spooky encounter.

After that, 4 or 5 members of the group used a glass to try and communicate with a spirit. I watched them for a while as they somehow identified the spirit as Thomas Humphrey (Humphrey was the surname of one of the families who had owned the castle) who said he would appear to us near the aforementioned piano. So off I went to record.

A video posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on

No Thomas, unfortunately, but you can just about make out the portrait of Lady Amelia and the piano, and hear the screech of the glass whizzing around the table in the background. Creepy, no?

Later we visited the schoolroom up in the eaves (no sightings there) and the cellar where the guides told us a ghost known as The Cellar Man often appears. Then up into the toy room where the 2 drowned girls are said to frequent, and as well as using the glass again to try and communicate, we did something called a 'human pendulum'. This involved standing in a circle with our hands linked, while one member of the group stood in the middle and allowed herself to be pushed forward or backward by the spirits. To be honest, this was the part I had the most narrow-eyed reaction to, as the person at the centre seemed extremely keen to hear from the departed. Very keen.

To finish off the night (it was closing in on 3am by this point) a couple of members of the group used a spirit board to contact a spirit, and received a message that one of them was going to die slowly, concluding with the ominous message "RUN".

The night was great fun and very atmospheric, but again I can't say it really swayed me from the path of scepticism. It was great inspiration for writing spooky stories, though, and most of all it was nice to hang out with my sister.


Kat out x

Monday, 5 December 2016

November Wrap-Up!

Happy almost-Christmas. (But seriously, how is it nearly Christmas???)

I generally like November, what with it being the month of my birth and all, but this year there were a few *cough* other factors spreading a thick coating of awfulness over everything, so it was not exactly the best November ever. You know what I'm talking about.

BUT there were some good things to take away from last month; for my birthday, I went to the Roman city of Chester to do some shopping with my mother (she is lovely -- everyone agrees) and had extremely good tapas for lunch. I love Chester, especially at this time of year, because it looks like you've stepped through a mirror into some alternate reality where the most photogenic periods of UK history have all been mashed together. Look:


A photo posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on

A photo posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on

I also had a small adventure to St. Winefride's Well, which is a 16th Century shrine built on the site where Winefride was attacked and beheaded by Caradog in the 7th Century. According to the legend, Winefride came back to life after her uncle, St. Beuno, prayed for his niece, and a spring erupted from the ground and restored her. Pretty nifty if you ask me.


A photo posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on

Adventuring aside, you're probably expecting me to announce that I have finally finished the draft of this manuscript, right? Like I promised? Because I blogged about it, so am accountable...? Yeah, you remember. And no, I haven't finished. But I am CLOSE, and I got fantastic feedback from a new CP which has reinvigorated me to get this mofo finished and out of the door. Soon, I swear. Very soon. (Please imagine a shifty-eyes gif has been inserted here. It saves me having to Google one.)

One thing I did (which probably goes some way to explain why I'm not finished with this bloody manuscript) is read a steaming ton of books. 10 of 'em. These are they.



Most are contemporaries, as planned, but you might also notice a sci-fi and 2 horror-ish reads in there, which crept over from my October reading. So let's start with those.

HOLLOWLAND by Amanda Hocking was an audiobook bargain, and my first ever Hocking book. It's a zombie thriller set in a post-apocalyptic world where survivors of the outbreak huddle together under military protection, and Remy and her brother might hold the secret to stopping the zombie virus. It was an entertaining quest story with plenty of dark moments and action, and (my favourite part) a pet lion called Ripley.

BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie C Parker has been on my TBR for aaaaages, just waiting for the perfect moment to be read. This creepy and evocative southern gothic about a girl whose brother wanders into the swamp and is promptly forgotten by everyone who knew him is probably one of my favourite reads of the year. I'm now hankering after the sequel like a starving swamp monster.

ON THE EDGE OF GONE by Corinne Duyvis follows Denise -- a resourceful, smart, autistic teen facing near-certain death as a meteor is about to hit Earth. I loved Denise, and the story of how she navigates her apocalyptic circumstances to keep herself and her family alive kept me totally gripped.

Now on to the contemporaries...

That said, I'm not sure BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME by Leah Thomas is exactly contemporary, because it has some elements of fantasy/sci-fi to it (kind of? I'm honestly not sure which genre it slots into). Two boys in unique situations -- one was born without eyes and uses echolocation to 'see' the world in brilliant and fascinating detail, and the other is allergic to electricity and forced to live in a cabin in the wilderness) -- begin an unlikely but totally riveting friendship through letters, and each one reveals a little more about what really connects them. This was a brilliant book, and I now have an advance copy of the sequel to read before it releases next month -- I can't wait! I got both for review from Netgalley.

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han is about Lara Jean and the unsent letters she wrote to exorcise her feelings for 5 unwitting boys... and the letters are, of course, unexpectedly mailed to their various recipients. I went into this month hoping for some cute, fluffy reads to lift my wintry spirits, and that's exactly what I got with this one.

FANGIRL was another audiobook bargain, and as I expected after reading some of Rainbow Rowell's other work, I really enjoyed it. First love, starting college, finding your place in the world, fandom, complicated family dynamics -- it's all expertly handled and just makes for a thoroughly good read.

I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Stephanie Kate Strohm's latest: IT'S NOT ME, IT'S YOU from my wonderful agent, Molly, and I loved it. Snappy and fun, with an unusual format and great characters, this is about a serial monogamist who finds herself being dumped for the first time. Backtracking through her previous boyfriends, Avery Dennis tries to figure out what has gone so terribly wrong in her love life that she is without a date for senior prom.

ALEX AS WELL by Alyssa Brugman was on my radar after appearing on awards shortlists when it came out, so I was looking forward to this story about an intersex trans girl struggling to deal with her parents' awful response to her 'coming out' as a girl and trying to fit in at a new school where her classmates don't know that Alex has ever presented as any gender other than female. It was an engaging story with great voice, but it did leave me with a few questions around how Alex's past 'self' (Alex when she presented as male?) was portrayed as an imaginary twin who ogles her in changing room mirrors. Seemed a little sketchy to me, maybe? Hmm.

HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOUR by John Corey Whaley follows three teens whose friendship is based on a lie: Sol, the agoraphobic gay boy who hasn't left his house in 3 years; Lisa, the overachiever who decides to befriend and 'fix' Sol so she can use the experience in her college application; and Clark, Lisa's boyfriend, who gets caught in a tangle of love and lies between Lisa and Sol. I found this funny and addictive and sometimes heartbreaking, and the audiobook narrators were awesome.

Finally, there was THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS by e. lockhart. This was a smart, wry look at boys' club mentality and old money privilege in a private school, and Frankie's ambition to wrest control of the secret Basset Hound society from the boys who she feels aren't exploiting its full potential. Some call this a feminist book, and I'm not sure it's that for me, but I did enjoy it.

So that's what I read, taking me well past my goal of 75 reads for the year with a month to spare. No, I won't be reading that many in December.

Back to the writing cave I go...

Kat out x

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

October Wrap-Up!

Happy post-Halloween!

October was a cracking month. I had 2 events - the Firefly YA event down in Cardiff, and YAShot in Uxbridge - both of which I wrote about (with pics) over the past couple of weeks. I also took part in the Fall YA Scavenger Hunt with over 90 YA authors from around the world, and it was lots of fun. 

And of course it was Halloween, which normally just involves some spooky reading while I wait to leap out at unsuspecting trick-or-treaters, but this year I was invited to my friend Dawn's house for a bit of a party. Fancy dress was required, of course, so I smeared on my best skeleton face and went as Death, as you do. That's me on the right, holding the cat. Please note how freaky my eyes look - they always do that in photos, much like a... well, a cat.


I managed to squeeze in a few small adventures between events and writing: one to Chirk Castle, and one which was a bit of a ramble and took me to an abandoned asylum and a pretty riverbank. These are my favourite pics from the two:








A photo posted by Kat Ellis (@katelliswrites) on


Reading-wise, I had 4 books to read by the authors I was on panels with at the Firefly event and YAShot, one sci-fi I read to finish off my SF binge for the year (aside from one book I'm currently listening to on audio, which will be in next month's wrap-up), one friend's new release, and 2 spooky Halloween reads. Not too shabby, eh? These were the books I finished this month.


Let's start with the pre-event reads, shall we?

First, I read WHITE PETALS by Maria Grace, which is a contemporary YA with just a hint of magic from Firefly Press (my UK publisher, who've been winning lots of awards lately). Let me start by saying that this book is absolutely hilarious, but also a very touching story about a girl who ends up in a children's home after her father dies and her mother suffers a mental breakdown. I really, really recommend this book if you like moving stories which have an uplifting mood and message.

For the sci-fi panel at YAShot, I read THE NEXT TOGETHER and THE LAST BEGINNING by Lauren James, which are 2 really fun time travel romance stories with plenty of laughs and time-bending adventures. I flew through this duology, and can absolutely see why so many readers love them. Next up was PHOENIX by SF Said, which is a riveting and vast story about a boy with the power of a star inside him, searching the galaxy for his long-lost father.

Finishing off my sci-fi binge, I grabbed SLATED by Teri Terry from my TBR (it's been there awhile, I'm ashamed to say) - this was a fast-paced and gripping thriller about teens having their memories wiped after committing crimes. I was interested to see if there was much crossover with my new book, PURGE, as I saw some similarity in the themes, but I'm pleased (relieved) to say they tread very different turf. So basically you should read both, is what I'm saying.

ALL LACED UP by Erin Fletcher is a book I've really been looking forward to as I'm a huge fan of Erin's books, and this one blew my socks off! (Blew my skates off?) Set in the world of professional skating (ice hockey and figure skating in this case) ALU kicks off a new romance series that looks to be choc-full of adorable characters, swooniness, and really fun stories. I cannot wait for the next instalment!

Finally, I managed to squeeze in 2 Halloween reads. The first was MONSTER by CJ Skuse (one of my fave authors, who made my year by giving me a wonderful blurb for BREAKER when it came out) which is a really fun, spooky, actiony thriller about a boarding school with its own urban legend about a killer beast hunting in the school grounds, and a group of girls who are snowed in at school over the Christmas break. Then I finally read THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black, which has been sitting on my TBR shelf for yonks, and was pretty wonderful - a dark, gothic story about a girl trapped inside a decadent sort of prison for vampires and vamp-infected humans. It made me think of a YA Anne Rice novel, and I really enjoyed it.

And it was great to see some of my books included in Halloween reading list posts like this one by The Scribblers and this one by Kendra Leighton. Seeing them makes my shrivelled heart swell with joy.

Incidentally, I'm only 6 books from hitting my Goodreads Challenge goal of 75 books read in 2016, so I should complete that this month. Aside from reading, though, I will mainly be focused on finishing the novel I'm working on. It is almost finished, and I think it is looking ok, but I just need to really nail this sucker down before I get distracted by newer, shinier book ideas. So I won't be doing NaNoWriMo again this year, but I will be trying to beat the clock and get this novel looking ship-shape and pretty by the end of the month. (There, it's in writing, so I'm accountable.)

I haven't posted what I've been listening to in a while, so here are my latest music obsessions. No doubt these will end up on playlists for some future novel... Hope you enjoy.







Kat out x

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

What happened at YAShot

Hello! Happy almost-Halloween!

I spent Saturday (and part of Sunday) dairn sairf as I was taking part in a panel on 'Space Odyssey: The Resurgence of YA Sci-Fi' as part of the YAShot event down in Uxbridge. And it was a fabulous event! I only got there in time to catch one panel before my own, but the atmosphere was buzzing, and I got to meet and catch up with tons of awesome folks from the authoring and blogging community.

Here are a couple of snaps tweeted during our panel - all credit to the lovely Lorraine Gregory and Katherine Webber:





It was great to meet and talk to Lauren James (our most excellent panel chair) and SF Said, especially after enjoying their books so much. We talked about whether sci-fi was really a genre, or more of a setting; how we researched different elements of our books; what inspired us to write sci-fi in the first place; and poo. Oh yes, that was my fault (I was explaining how purge technology works in my book PURGE, and... well... Mason doesn't go to the toilet for several days while he's figuring out how it works. Enough said.)

Lauren and SF were also kind enough to sign their books for me:



This has become a tradition whenever I have an event with authors I'm meeting for the first time. I'm building up a tidy little collection of signed books now! I was also given a lovely author lanyard with my name in beads, and a nifty little tote with some goodies inside:



Huge thanks to Alexia Casale and the YAShot team who organised this fab event, and to all the people who came to our sci-fi panel and asked such great questions. Sorry about the poo.

Kat x