Why I won’t be attending YALC this year

I’ve attended YALC for the past three years and I thought I’d be attending this year, but I’ve made the decision to give it a miss. I’ve been conflicted about this because I will have extreme FOMO, and I’ve made so many great friends in the bookish community who I’d love to catch up with over the YALC weekend. I’ve had some great times at previous YALCs, finally meeting twitter friends and making new friends over the weekend.

If you’re interested in my previous YALC posts, here they are:

YALC 2016: Day 1!

YALC 2017: The Wrap-Up

YALC, ARCs, and other Acronyms

 

  1. Cost

I mentioned this as one of my YALC hang-ups last year – it’s not cheap attending YALC. The biggest cost for me would be hotels (over £100 a night) and once you’ve added in train tickets and the ticket to the event itself, I’d be looking at over £500 for a weekend. I think I’d be happy to pay this if I didn’t have other problems with YALC, but I do (and I will discuss them below). 

It’s important to also factor in the cost of food and eating out (it’s lovely to have a meal after a long day at the convention, but it can still be expensive or awkward on a tight budget) and the fact that I cannot control myself when it comes to buying books. I bought a few books on recommendation of friends, and also got a few books pre-release (last year it was Loneliest Girl by Lauren James). The atmosphere of YALC can make it very difficult to stop yourself from buying books, and some events will have you running to Waterstones as soon as the event has finished to pick up the entire backlist of this inspiring author you’ve just discovered.

I’m not entirely sure what could be done about reducing the cost of YALC – potentially moving from a central London location, not being part of London Film and Comic Con… I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.

For me, I’ll hopefully be moving back to London at the end of this year and so next year’s YALC will be cheaper for me to attend. The money saved from not going to YALC I’m sure will come in handy too. 

2. Accessibility/comfort

From my experiences last year, YALC needs to be a lot more clued up around making the event accessible. My main concern is around proof drops being announced on Twitter and expecting attendees to run for ARCs, but there are also issues around long queues for authors and a lack of comfortable seating.

The seats last year for the panel events really hurt my back, and so I went to very few panel events. There’s a general lack of seating (and it’s even worse at LFCC) around the floor, and so I spent a lot of time sitting on a very hard floor, making my back and legs hurt. I’d love there to be more comfy chairs for people to sit around and get to know each other better.

3. ARCs

This is a big one for me – I’ve written previously about how the distribution of proofs and ARCs at YALC can be ableist, anxiety-inducing and I actually think they can ruin the spirit of YALC. Pitting bloggers against one another ruins the community spirit. Last year, I experienced pushing, shoving, long queues for proofs, and embarrassing challenges. The saddest part for me is that I had some bad first impressions of new bloggers, especially those who fought for (sometimes multiple copies of) proofs just to trade them away on Twitter days later.

So many publishers announce their giveaways on Twitter and often during popular panels which leads bloggers to have to decide between seeing their favourite authors and possibly getting their hands on a favourite new book. I shouldn’t have to carry around my phone all weekend, using up my data plan and running low on battery, just to be able to take part in YALC. 

On the ARCs themselves – I am overwhelmed with the number of books on my TBR pile, and some of the ARCs I got from YALC last year I didn’t end up reading because they were inundated with bad reviews. There have been some real gems that I’ve loved, but I don’t think it’s a particularly great idea this year for me to supplement my book shelves with another stack of books just before the big move (and also I think my bookshelves may actually collapse).

4. Attendees

At this moment in time, 75% of authors attending have been announced – and honestly, I have met and loved most of the list. It’s not a bad thing to have authors who have previously attended on the list, but no-one has been announced who I just have to go and meet because this will be my only opportunity. A lot of UKYA authors will be touring the UK with their future books, and there is plenty of opportunity to meet them at other times – and you’ll probably get to spend a little more time talking to them. 

I’m hoping to discuss this more in a later blog post, but I haven’t been impressed with the diversity of authors announced so far – for example, there are only a handful of BAME authors attending. I don’t want to comment on this fully now until the entire author list has been announced and the timetable has been confirmed. I’m also hoping to address soon the fact I’d love to see YALC better facilitated to introduce bloggers and inspire bloggers and vloggers to collaborate and create content, rather than the focus being on meeting authors, but again, I will address that once the full programme has been released.

5. Exploitative/uncomfortable atmosphere

I wasn’t sure whether to mention this, but LFCC is built on fans paying good money to buy a signed photograph and talk to their favourite star (quite often, but not always, a woman they’ve seen scantily clad on TV). 

It’s a majority male (but not exclusively male) event, with many popular fandoms represented (Doctor Who, Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe, etc.). Cosplay for women (from a quick Google Image search) is often typified as tight-fitting with a heavy focus on boobs – that’s not to say that all women who cosplay dress that way, but that cosplay for women is almost expected to be overtly sexy, in a way that men’s cosplay just isn’t. 

Contrast this with the mainly young female audience of YALC.

I (and many other YALC attendees) have ventured down onto the lower floors of LFCC to see the stars of TV and Film, to look at the Funko Pops and to purchase a few choice items from the well-stocked market stalls on offer. I’ve never felt threatened or uncomfortable, but it’s easy to see why someone could. 

There are also sometimes awkward interactions between publishers and bloggers and this is mostly around ARCs and proofs and bloggers desperately wanting to get their hands on them. This is exonerated when publishers make bloggers perform silly challenges like dancing, lying on the floor, taking part in a game, etc. 

 

 

If you’re attending YALC this year, please don’t worry about my reasons for not attending – it is a great event where the whole YA community comes together for the weekend and I’ve made so many friends attending YALC in the past. 

Please let me know what you think, either in the comments or over on Twitter @annalisebooks x

annalsie

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On Character Deaths

Hello lovely readers!

The (probably) last snow of the year has cleared, and spring is well and truly on its way. With it, comes a whole host of new stories so today I thought I’d talk about… endings. Specifically, character deaths.

This has been spurned by two books, both finales in a trilogy, which I won’t go into too much detail about because I know they were both highly-anticipated and not everyone will have had the chance to read them yet. It’s also been spurned by the upcoming release of The Avengers: Infinity War movie where it has been rumoured key characters will die (Captain America, Iron Man, etc.)

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I’ve been writing recently and trying to plot out a novel has led me to consider the deaths of characters. Deaths in real life are never just a plot device, never just glossed over and never mentioned again for the rest of the book. Deaths in books (especially of major characters) tend to be dramatic and untimely, sometimes mysterious, sometimes gruesome. Ultimately, what they do is they move the story on, shock the reader and develop the remaining characters. They have to happen for a reason, whatever that might be.

George R R Martin’s ASOIAF series (turned into the Game of Thrones TV series) uses character deaths to leave readers on the edge of their seats – absolutely anyone could meet their untimely end at any time, and it may not be for the most violent of reasons. What Martin does at the end of the first book in killing off main character Ned Stark, is shock readers into believing anything is possible. In many books, it doesn’t make sense to kill off your main character, but with a multi-perspective story, Ned’s death ramps up the tension for books to come. Arguably, now we are into the final books and final season, there are many characters it doesn’t make sense to kill off at this late stage (we’ve followed their stories this far, it’d be painful not to see the conclusion of all these intertwining plots), and it will be interesting to see who survives the Game of Thrones.

What stood out for me when talking about these two books whose names I won’t mention, both different genres but ultimately YA, is that a lot of people died. A lot. We’re talking thousands here. Both had a scene where it seemed our main love interests had died, but – surprise! – they were absolutely fine in the end. (Perhaps not as dramatic as the dream fight scene in Breaking Dawn Part 2!). Ultimately, a series of couples we had been rooting for the entire series all survived, and absolutely no main characters died. And that’s disappointing to me.

I think part of this has to do with not being too attached to our main characters, and I’m also not a huge fan of these grand happily ever afters. Some of these couples simply aren’t good together, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if maybe one of them perished in a grand battle. It might anger some fans, but it would also probably make the story more memorable.

So, dear readers, I want more shocking deaths please – but the type where you realise afterwards that it had to happen all along. Endings with a sense of satisfaction because everything is right in the universe – even if that meant the death of a love interest or best friend. There’s nothing worse than multiple deaths being teased, and then, SURPRISE, everyone is right as rain and ready to fight another day.

annalsie

I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

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I picked up this book without really knowing what it was about – I loved Radio Silence so much that I would probably read Alice Oseman’s shopping lists. This book is so different and yet so similar in theme to Radio Silence – if you haven’t picked up any of Alice’s books yet, you should. She is one of the few (if not the only) authors talking about teenage fandoms, internet culture, Tumblr, and the soul-crushing and dream-destroying expectations put on teenagers today.

I devoured I Was Born For This in an evening (something I almost never do). The story is told through dual perspectives. Angel Rahimi is a hijabi travelling to London to meet her best ever internet friend for the first time, so that they can both see their favourite band, The Ark. Jimmy Kawa-Ricci is the transgender frontman of The Ark, struggling with anxiety and debating whether to continue with the band. The book takes place over one week in their lives, where they are thrust together in unexpected circumstances.

This is UKYA at its best – distinctly British characters who are both relatable and realistic, dealing with issues such as anxiety, making friends over the internet, being part of a fandom (or being the subject of many fans), and the pressure to succeed. It’s not often you come across these issues, even in teenage fiction – and the diversity of characters in this book didn’t feel forced or tokenistic.
Each character’s voice was distinct, and I was rooting for both of these characters throughout the book.

A unique and incredibly readable read, and one that should be on your pre-order list as it is essential UKYA fiction. If you haven’t checked out Alice’s other books, now is the time.

annalsie

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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The Belles is a book that is completely up my street – it’s a thrilling court fantasy, with mystery and intrigue at every corner. I absolutely devoured this book – the language and writing is deliciously moreish, with vibrant descriptions unfurling the world of the Belles.

The Belles is the story of Camellia, one of six sisters who bring beauty to the fantasy kingdom of Orleans (based on New Orleans). The citizens of Orleans are born grey, and the Belles have the job of carrying out beauty treatments, changing the appearance and temperament of the citizens of Orleans at will. At the beginning of the book, the sisters are assigned a location where they will tend to the citizens – and Camellia is desperate to be favourite, assigned to the Royal family.

I raced through this book, desperate to know more about the Belles – I had (and have!) so many questions and can’t wait for the next book in the series. There are so many mysteries set up in this first book, and yet I still found the ending satisfying and unexpected.

This book wasn’t without its faults though – I’ll let other reviews talk about the treatment of queer characters in this book – and for me some of the characters were a little one-dimensional. For me, I didn’t find the flowery language too much, although other readers may find it a little grating. I must say I’m not the biggest fan of the cover design – I love the cover image and the design inside, but the back cover and title font feel a little childish to me. The blurb also contained spoilers for events that happen quite a way into the book.

If you’re looking for an exciting new court fantasy reminiscent of Red Queen or Everless, this is one for you. If you’re not, you should probably pick it up anyway.

annalsie

Thoughts on Bookish Boxes

Dear lovely readers,

I want to talk today about Book Subscription Boxes. As I sit and write this, I have a small pile of the cardboard boxes that contain all the bookish goodies next to me – I love using the boxes themselves to store things – papers, nail varnishes, bits and bobs etc.

At the end of last year, I moved by entire TBR onto another bookshelf (and a shelf on my ‘Read’ bookshelf because my TBR is HUGE) and finally got a really good look at what I don’t tend to pick up. I don’t tend to pick up big books (too intimidating!), the first book in a series (must read the rest of the series before forgetting what happened in the first book!) and hardbacks. I find it hard to find the time to read hardbacks because I don’t like carting them around on the commute in my backpack, I can’t take them with me when I travel for work (too big!) and I find them bulky and cumbersome to read. That being said, I love to look at hardbacks – pristine and shiny, often unread.

I also noticed something else, undeniably linked – I don’t seem to read books that come in book boxes.

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So, I’m not a hardcore subscriber of book boxes. In an attempt to be somewhat careful with my money, I only buy boxes when 1. I know what book is likely to arrive, and 2. I really want to read that book. Otherwise, I can’t justify paying that much for a box, when I’m unlikely to ever read the book.

Despite this, I still don’t seem to pick up the books that arrive in a book box. Sometimes, it’s because the book gets bad reviews and my interest wanes (this happens more than you would think), and sometimes it’s just the fact that a hardback is unlikely to be my next read.

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I do often enjoy the little book-related goodies that come in book boxes – I particularly like candles (although finding a place to burn them can be difficult!), mugs, coasters, etc. I’m less interested when I don’t ‘understand’ a piece – it comes from a fandom I have no knowledge of, or concerns a character I just don’t care about.

The one thing I do want to say on bookish goodies – I am really not a fan of food. I have food allergies so I’m unlikely to be able to dig into any treats that arrive in the box – and people with more severe allergies may react to just opening the box. Bath treats and candles should steer clear of allergens too – or state them clearly.

I also don’t drink tea – I much prefer a fruit tea, but haven’t tried any of the teas I’ve received so far. I know a lot of people do love tea though (and it feels like a good book accompaniment) so this is 100% personal preference.

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So where does that leave me and book boxes?

Honestly, I’m pretty happy with my current policy of waiting to see when book boxes are announced and deciding if I really need that book. I won’t buy a box unless I know what book it is coming with, and even then, I’ve been trying to cut down on book buying anyway, so it’ll have to be a really anticipated release for me to indulge.

That being said, I think they’re definitely worth trying – I really do love many of the little goodies inside the boxes, and I love sniffing the bookish candle collection I’ve built up.

 

What are your thoughts on bookish boxes – are you an ardent subscriber, book box newbie or something in between? Let me know!

annalsie

Review: Misogynation by Laura Bates

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I saw this book on Amazon a few months ago and pre-ordered it – I’ve loved Everyday Sexism and Girl Up from Laura Bates, and she’s one of my must-buy authors. The book arrived a day after release date (which was disappointing) but then I ripped through it in under 24 hours.

The first thing I should say is I didn’t really read what this book was going to be – I wasn’t aware it was going to be a series of Guardian articles, grouped into chapters. I ultimately enjoyed the format, but I expected this to be new content, and it wasn’t. Because this is a compilation of Laura’s articles, there are a lot of facts and figures that are constantly restated throughout the book, which can get a bit tiresome. Ultimately though, there is so much other thought-provoking and downright outrage-inducing content here that I can overlook the repetition, and I really did enjoy this book.

I enjoyed the short, snappy essays on a myriad of topics surrounding feminism – each essay is written well and is easy to read. Each essay could easily be read alone from the others – as they were originally articles – but together they complement each other and form a bigger picture of the day-to-day sexism that women endure.

Another thought-provoking read from Laura Bates – if you haven’t already, read her earlier work. Perfect for fans of Moranifesto (which is collated in a similar style).

annalsie

Review: I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan


Again, it’s been a while since I actually read this book as I’ve been a bit rubbish at reviewing recently… but I loved this book so much I had to review it. I may have been raving about it on Twitter a little too much already.

I don’t want to say too much except – just read it. You know when you read a book that is timely and political, touches a tough subject matter, and is just so fresh and unique, you devour it and want to thrust a copy upon everyone you meet? This is that book. It’s so exciting to see a PoC author writing UKYA, especially about such a controversial subject – islamic radicalisation. Muzna is an endearing main character, and her story is understandable and realistic.

This book reminded me of The Hate U Give – it’s timely, it’s important, it deals with radicalisation head-on. I hope it gets the kind of buzz THUG received last year – and maybe even makes it way across the pond. I loved the UK elements in this book – I think it makes the book even more relatable.

Verdict: read it. Now. (and not just for the gorgeous cover!)

annalsie