Monday, 3 July 2017

June Wrap-Up

I wrote back in April about the bursary I was awarded by Literature Wales to allow me to focus on writing full time for 3 months, and those 3 months have now come to an end. I'm pleased to say it was a hugely productive time; I completed one manuscript, and wrote 9,000 words of another that's been simmering in the back of my brain for a while. Fingers crossed one or both will find a publisher! Thanks so much to Literature Wales for giving me their support and the opportunity of the writers' bursary.

Speaking of my writing, it was wonderful to see my books being talked about a bit online recently; in particular I loved this post about 'What keeps us coming back to the circus?' by Sarah at The Copper Boom, which mentions Blackfin Sky, and this excellent review of Purge by Amy Kitcher. <3

June also marked the halfway point for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, for which I set myself a target of reading 80 books in 2017. As of the end of June, I have just passed 40 books read, which -- by some miracle -- means I'm on track to finish on time. That was helped by a pretty solid reading month during which I inhaled these beauties:

Let's begin with the Netgalley reads, of which there were 3 this month.

FLIGHT OF A STARLING by Lisa Heathfield is about two sisters, Rita and Lo, and their lives within a travelling circus. It's all thrown into chaos when Lo falls in love with a boy who isn't from their world, who she can never be with unless she gives up the only life she knows. There's such a magical quality to Lisa Heathfield's writing and the worlds she builds; even when I knew my heart would be run through the wringer by Flight of a Starling, I couldn't help falling in love with Rita and Lo, their rootless lives with the circus, and the boy whose arrival means everything is about to change. It was a magnificent book, very much alive and pulsing with feeling. 

NO FILTER by Orlagh Collins tells the story of Emerald, who is beginning her summer in Dublin, where she doesn't want to be following a family crisis; and Liam, who is clinging to this summer before setting out on a path he can't escape, no matter how much he wants to. The two have such different lives, it was hard to see at first where they would find common ground, but it didn't take long to see how perfect Liam and Em were together, though of course there are HUGE obstacles trying to keep them apart. No Filter was poignant, heart-warming, and a wonderful summer read. I particularly loved the Irish setting, the voices of the two main characters, and the way social media plays a part in the story. 

A bunch of teens blasted into space as part of a reality TV show? There was no way I could not pick up WASTE OF SPACE by Gina Damico after reading the premise! Waste of Space is such a weird, brilliant satire, and takes some pretty dark twists as the secrets behind the show are revealed through found footage, reports, and phone transcripts. It was very smart, funny, and unlike anything I've read before. I read Hellhole by Gina Damico a few weeks ago, and her style is easily recognisable in Waste of Space, even with the genre switch and different format of the novel. I will definitely be reading more of her backlist, and keeping an eye out for whatever comes next.

So those were my Netgalley reads. I also began a brilliant romance trilogy by Lisa Glass, and read the first 2 this month (or listened to the audiobooks, actually, which were really good). 

BLUE begins with Iris, a 16-year-old Cornish surfer who meets up-and-coming surf star Zeke Francis in a yoga class. Throw in a recent heartbreak, an exciting surf contest, and a whole heap of twists and turns, and you have a brilliant summer read that will make you reach for the next book in the series immediately... as I did. AIR sees Iris and Zeke set off to make their mark in the international surf world while trying to figure out how to be together when they're surrounded by the pressures, challenges, and general chaos of their lives. Both books were seriously, seriously great, and I couldn't resist diving straight into the 3rd instalment right away (to be included in next month's wrap-up!)

Keeping with the summery theme, I listened to the audiobook of Morgan Matson's THE UNEXPECTED EVERYTHING, which was a fun romance between Andie, a politician's daughter, and Clark, a teen author who's battling with writer's block. 

Next I veered into darker territory: Dawn Kurtagich's THE DEAD HOUSE is one of the most original, gripping, and creepy books I have ever read, so when NAIDA -- the follow-up novella -- was released in the UK last month, I snapped it up. If you loved The Dead House as I did, you need to grab Naida. It's a thrilling return to that twisted world, and gives a fascinating insight into what really happened that fateful night at Elmbridge...

FINDING SKY by Joss Stirling has been hanging around on my TBR for a good long while. Sky is the new English girl in an American school; Zed is the bad boy who can somehow hear her thoughts. It took me back to a lot of the tropes that made me fall in love with YA in the first place, and although I feel like these date the book a little bit now (it was published in 2010, so fair enough!) it was still a fun read.

Finally, my adult book for the month was THE POWER by Naomi Alderman. This was an absolute corker -- beginning with the idea that women across the world begin developing a strange ability that allows them to emit an incapacitating (and sometimes lethal) electric charge through touch, and taking some very dark and twisting turns to a gut-wrenching conclusion. It's a brilliant book, with characters I cared about and a plot I didn't see coming. 

And that was it for my June reads, and the 6 month TBR I planned for the first half of 2017. So I needed to plan ahead for my next 6 months' reading, which I did here. I'll add to and change this list a bit as I go along. 

Aside from writing and reading stuff, I also celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary in June, which was a bit special. Ian and I began dating the summer before I started university in Manchester. I think most people thought it was doomed -- I was leaving North Wales, and he worked full time for his family business, so we were heading straight into a long-distance relationship. But somehow it worked. We moved in together when I was 19 and at uni (he sort of sneaked into my halls of residence...) and have now been together for 16 years. I don't get into personal stuff much online, but as a YA author I think it's kind of nice that I can honestly say sometimes a teen romance really does work out for the long haul.

I'll sign off with that, and with a song I've been listening to a lot this month. 

Kat out x

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