Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far in 2013

This is my first Top Ten Tuesday, as hosted by and I’m very excited! So here we go, in the order I read them, my top ten YA reads of 2013 (so far!) Apologies for the lack of images!

1. Divergent – Veronica Roth

I loved this fast-paced dystopian novel, especially the idea of a society divided into factions. Tris  was a very strong lead character, and I can’t wait to see what happens in Insurgent. Also looking forward to the film!

2. Paper Towns – John Green

My favourite John Green book, I thought it was beautifully written. I loved the metaphor of the strings, and Margo was a really vivid character. It made me think about how I view other people, and I loved the use of Walt Whitman throughout. Also, some beautiful quotes – ‘A paper town for a paper girl.’

3. By Any Other Name – Laura Jarratt

This was a really enjoyable read, that mixed thriller, romance and family elements well. Strong characters, and an exciting yet plausible plot. Holly’s character developed really well during the book, as she learnt who she wanted to be. I definitely want to read Skin Deep, Jarratt’s first novel.

4. An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

I loved Colin, anagramming child prodigy extraordinaire, and his best friend Hassan. Plenty of laughs, a road trip, and a journey of self discovery. I also loved the idea of trying to find an equation for love!

5. The Weight of Water – Sarah Crossan

I had doubts about the poetry format of this novel, but I was wrong. It worked beautifully, and was a very moving tale. Innovative, fresh and touching – I loved it!

6. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman

A brilliantly atmospheric fantasy novel, which also has a strong mystery plot. The world building was incredible, and I loved the strong female lead and the descriptions of music.

7. Prim Improper & Improper Order – Deirdre Sullivan

Cheating slightly as this is a series, but still! Prim is one of my new favourite fictional characters, and I love how distinctive her voice is. Prim is both wonderfully snarky and witty, and very sad. Deirdre Sullivan handles both elements brilliantly, resulting in books that are both laugh-out-loud funny and moving.

8. Rose Under Fire – Elizabeth Wein

This was a brilliant historical novel, telling the tale of a female ATA pilot during World War Two. It uses a diary format, and there are some beautiful poems throughout the account. A haunting tale, this is definitely worth a read!

9. Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study – Maria V Snyder

A trilogy, but I couldn’t pick just one! Brilliant fantasy/adventure tales with lots of magic, adventure, romance and intrigue. They are also quite dark, and deal with some difficult issues. I loved the lead character Yelena – brave, intelligent and resourceful, she is definitely a strong female lead!

10. Picture Me Gone – Meg Rosoff

This was a really unusual read, and I loved Mila. Her skill at reading people and atmosphere made for a compelling mystery read, but also a touching coming of age story as she sees the darker side of life. I loved the strong relationship with her parents, particularly her father. A memorable read.

So that’s my top ten of 2013 so far, in order of reading. Looking forward to lots more great reads! If you’ve taken part in Top Ten Tuesday leave a link to your list below, I’d love to check it out! 🙂



CBI Conference Round-Up

This year’s CBI Conference was held on the 18th and 19th of May, in the Lighthouse Cinema. The theme was Rebels and Rulebreakers.

Cool goodie bag and name tag!

Cool goodie bag and name tag!

I was helping out at the conference with a friend, and was lucky enough to get into every talk but one. Here is my round up of the talks, and the things I learnt:


Hervé Tullet:

Hervé Tullet’s talk was great, really interactive. He engaged with the audience, reading the books with us (I Am Blop was particularly fun, and I love Game of Shadows). He said the audience weren’t as good at performing his books as kids are though! There was also a baby on hand who he read the World of Mirrors book to! He also got Sarah Webb ( up to help him demonstrate Press Here. I hadn’t encountered Hervé’s work before, but his talk definitely converted me! His books are fun, and kids would love them. Hervé spoke about books as making noise and singing, and that definitely came across in his talk!

John Boyne:

This was a very interesting interview; I thought Robert Dunbar asked some great questions. John Boyne said he didn’t prefer writing for adults or children (‘I enjoy just writing’), he writes one book for adults, one for children etc. In terms of children’s books, he tends to focus on 8 or 9 year old books as protagonists, and he intends to continue with this in the future. He sees children’s literature as being defined by having a child at the centre, but beyond that he sees little difference from literature for adults. He tends to write in first person for adults, third for children. We also got a sneak peak of John Boyne’s upcoming book for children Stay Where You Are, And Then Leave, set in WWI. It sounds brilliant!

Comics Panel: Superheroes Eclipsed


This was an interesting panel, about how comics are about more than just superheroes. The panellists (Sarah McIntyre, Alan Nolan and Rory McConville) talked about their influences, and their own work. It was all about pushing boundaries, and expanding the comic form to encompass different genres. I’m a big fan of Sarah McIntyre’s work, and really want to read Nelson, a collaborative graphic novel with several other artists dealing with the life of one girl over 43 years. Alan Nolan’s graphic novels for kids – The Big Break Detectives, and the Murder Can be Fatal Series (with titles such as Death by Chocolate) – sound like great fun, and Rory McConville’s use of the graphic novel to reinvigorate Irish history is similar to what Colmán O Raghallaigh is doing for Irish myths. (see below)

Alex T Smith:

As a child, Alex T Smith wanted to be a writer/illustrator, a chef or a rabbit. This was a fun talk! The Claude books sound fab, especially Mr Bobblysock, and the cheeky bits that he managed to slip into the books! Alex spoke beautifully about how his grandfather inspired him to write. He showed us some of the stories his grandfather had written for him, and some of his own work as a child. He told us that ‘A good book needs heart in it, and sometimes soul.’ We got a sneak peek of some of his upcoming work, including a picture book Hector and the Big Red Knight. In the spirit of the Conference, he encouraged aspiring authors or illustrators to take risks with their work. And then he taught us all to draw Claude!

My Claude

My Claude

Alex T Smith's Claude

Alex T Smith’s Claude

DAY 2:

Sarah Crossan:


Yay! Sarah Crossan was the speaker I was most excited to hear, and I loved her talk. She gave us a lot of insight into her writing process, and also about how her own experiences as a child had subconsciously influenced The Weight of Water (read my review here: I was really interested in how she wrote this novel – she said all the poems were written in a notebook first, in a non-linear order, and then she rearranged them and filled in the gaps. She showed pictures of her plans and notebooks. Despite the fact it is quite a personal book, Sarah Crossan said she doesn’t think good art can be therapy. Her latest novel, Breathe, is very different to The Weight of Water. It is a dystopian YA prose novel. She  said writing in prose was necessary to cleanse her palette after all the poetry, and that Breathe was much more plot-driven. She spoke about issues with genre constraints, and a little about writing Resist, the sequel to Breathe. She spoke about possibly writing a YA poetry novel in the future (yay!). She wants her writing to say “I hear you” to her readers. Also, Sarah was really lovely when I spoke to her after her talk, and got my books signed.


Edge of the Page:

In this slot, speakers discussed books by Irish authors/illustrators that they thought had been forgotten about. The selection included Spooky Irish Tales for Children by Eddie Lenihan which features a creepy face-stealing druid (!), The Second Best Children in the World, a charming picture book about 3 children who take off on a trip around the world to give their parents a break, the Whoosh series by Bernard Shane and William Bolger, with Irish themes and beautiful hand screen printed illustrations. The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea, a precursor of the contemporary trend of fantasy in children’s literature ‘All this, because a boy was about to try to buy a book in the second-hand bookshop, in the small grey city of Galway.’

Sheena Wilkinson & Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre signed this for me!

Deirdre signed this for me!

Unfortunately due to flight difficulties Ana Maria Machado couldn’t make the conference, but Deirdre Sullivan and Sheena Wilkinson, and their publisher Elaina O’Neill stepped in with a very interesting discussion on breaking taboos in YA. Deirdre spoke about how she writes what she wants in her first draft, and later cuts out the ‘bold bits’! They both deal with tough topics (such as grief, suicide and self-harm) and agreed on the importance of not turning their novels into ‘issue books.’ Elaina O’Neill noted that, as a genre, YA allows rule breaking. Their conversation was illuminating and entertaining (ponies in space (!!!), Deirdre ‘cheating’ on one idea with another, or Sheena’s declaration ‘we have no morals!’)

Colmán O’Raghallaigh

Irish language publishing is a very important area, and Colmán O’Raghallaigh gave a very interesting discussion of how it has developed over time. He showed how many different books, age-groups and genres have been tackled, and how exciting the world of Irish language publishing is. I was particularly interested in his graphic novels, which are bringing ancient Irish myths to a new audience.

Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn

Extra Yarn

Another great talk, and a worthy close to the conference! Jon Klassen is very popular, and the signing was huge! He spoke about his background in animation, and his issues with drawing characters/emotion. A lot of his early work was based more on ‘things’, stories around inanimate objects. He went through his picture books, explaining the processes and the stories. I loved Extra Yarn, it is a really sweet story and I love how he uses the pattern of the stitches throughout. He also spoke about his work on birthday cards with animals who couldn’t care less about your birthday. The deadpan look appears again in I Want My Hat Back, in which he described the animals as bad actors, just reading their lines, going through the motions. It was fascinating to get an insight into the process of making picture books – Jon also discussed This Is Not My Hat, House Held Up By Trees, The Dark (which also looks brilliant!) and some projects that never made it. He doesn’t like outlines, which gives his work a cut-out feel, and is trying to get a more traditional in his work. Beautiful books, that parents and children will love.

Phew! I had a very busy, but great weekend at the Conference, and learnt a lot.

Having fun at the CBI Conference!

Having fun at the CBI Conference!

Here are some more round ups you can check out:

Claire Hennessy:

Sarah McIntyre: and

And lots of pictures here:

Review: The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

Kasienka and her mother have moved to England from Poland, in search of her Tata. Her mother is broken-hearted, and Kasienka is lonely. She must cope with a new school, a whole new country, with bullying and with first love, with growing up and feeling alone, all by herself. Then she starts swimming, and finds a new strength…

Before I started this book, I wasn’t sure the poetry format would work. I was wrong. The book flows beautifully, the poems capturing snippets of Kasienka’s thoughts. There is a real sense of a lost and lonely girl charting her new experiences through her poetry. It isn’t fragmentary as I’d feared, but is a convincing and poignant account. I loved how Sarah Crossan laid out the poems and how she used words. It is a carefully written and wonderfully moving book. What I really liked about the tale was not the romance plot that is plugged by the blurb, but Kasienka’s own growth. She learns to be brave, and to stand up for herself. This is a really special book – a must read.

Sarah Crossan will be appearing at the CBI Conference on the 19th of May – the title of the conference is Rebels and Rulebreakers, it is easy to see how the innovative form of The Weight of Water fits in! Check out the full programme here:

Also – The Weight of Water has been nominated for the CBI Awards! The judges say: “Moving and poignant, this coming-of-age tale is written in a verse narrative and portrays not only the fear and isolation felt by many young immigrants, but also the courage and resilience that is often needed for a young person to find his or her way in the world.” The winners of the CBI Awards will be announced on the 8th of May. For the full shortlist, and more information on the awards look here:

Cathy Cassidy describes The Weight of Water as “Poignant, powerful, just perfect.” If you like The Weight of Water, try Cathy Cassidy’s Angel Cake, about Polish girl Anya’s move to Britain. She is struggling to fit in at school, but then she meets Dan a ‘bad boy’ wearing angel wings…