My shoulders burn, my arms ache, my legs are shaky & I’m beyond tired… that can mean only one thing; Saturday was YALC! In this post I’m going to talk about the things I bought & the freebies I collected, as well as three of the authors I met – additionally, I’m going to discuss what it’s like to be disabled in London & also specifically whilst at YALC.
All The Things I Acquired
Okay, so first I will tell you about the books I bought!
- Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody – I have wanted this book for so, so long & I’m so happy I finally have a copy. This was the one book I was certain I would be purchasing!
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.
- Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield – this beautiful book has been on my to-buy list for months & I couldn’t resist buying a copy. I’m such a sucker for circuses.
Rita and Lo, sisters and best friends, have spent their lives on the wing – flying through the air in their trapeze act, never staying in one place for long. Behind the greasepaint and the glitter, they know that the true magic is the family they travel with.
Until Lo meets a boy. Suddenly, she wants nothing more than to stay still. And as secrets start to tear apart the close-knit circus community, how far will Lo go to keep her feet on the ground?
- Talon by Julie Kagawa – this book has dragons, what else do I need to say? And I was assured there’s a decent amount of dragons as well so hopefully I will be satisfied with the dragon-ness.
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.
Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.
Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.
- Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene – carnivals & circuses aren’t quite the same thing, but there’s definitely a theme building here…
Yron the moon god died, but now he’s reborn in the false king’s son. His human father wanted to kill him, but his mother sacrificed her life to save him. He’ll return one day to claim his birthright. He’ll change your life.
He’ll change everything.
Smiler’s Fair: the great moving carnival where any pleasure can be had, if you’re willing to pay the price. They say all paths cross at Smiler’s Fair. They say it’ll change your life. For five people, Smiler’s Fair will change everything.
In a land where unimaginable horror lurks in the shadows, where the very sun and moon are at war, five people – Nethmi, the orphaned daughter of a murdered nobleman, who in desperation commits an act that will haunt her forever. Dae Hyo, the skilled warrior, who discovers that a lifetime of bravery cannot make up for a single mistake. Eric, who follows his heart only to find that love exacts a terrible price. Marvan, the master swordsman, who takes more pleasure from killing than he should. And Krish, the humble goatherd, with a destiny he hardly understands and can never accept – will discover just how much Smiler’s Fair changes everything.
- Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – I picked up this book after one of the sellers asked me what kind of books I read, other than fantasy. I told her that I love historical fiction & she suggested this book, depending on how far back something has to be before I consider it to be history.
It’s 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it’s Sarah Dunbar’s first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they’ve never felt before. Something they’re both determined ignore. Because it’s one thing to be frightened by the world around you – and another thing altogether when you’re terrified of what you feel inside.
I also picked up Dr. Twelfth because… well, I love Doctor Who! I wish they’d had Ten’s book though! Additionally I grabbed a Doctor Who/Mr Men poster, badge & postcard.
As well as the things I bought I also acquired a bunch of freebies, including the samplers of:
- Melinda Salisbury’s upcoming book,
- All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater,
- Floored by Melinda Salisbury, Holly Bourne, Sara Barnard, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Lisa Williamson & Eleanor Wood,
- The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill,
- The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
The Authors I Met Along The Way
Laura Lam is my favourite writer, & is the author of the Micah Grey trilogy, its accompanying mini series The Vestigial Tales, & the Pacifica books. The Micah Grey books are currently my favourite series & I think it’ll be a while before another series takes its place. The Micah Grey books are so different from any other story I’ve read & have helped me build up an idea of a book or series I’d like to write that will, in a way, be an own voices tale. The Vestigial Tales also stole my heart as one particular novella is about my favourite character from the main series, Cyan! This mini series is so wonderful as it gives readers that little extra bit of the world that we’ve all grown to love, without imposing too much on whatever ideas we’ve had ourselves. Finally, Laura’s most recent works have been False Hearts & Shattered Minds (click here to read my review), two standalone novels that are set in the same world – these books are science-fiction adventures that could very possibly portray the future of our world.
I hadn’t met Laura before but had interacted with her on Twitter & over email, & I’m happy to admit I’m probably one of her biggest fans, so I was ridiculously excited & nervous about meeting her. Laura was actually signing & talking on a panel on Friday, which I was devastated about as Zoë & Alice were doing theirs on Saturday, but she told me that she may hang around on Saturday too (I nearly cried with relief). Laura snuck me into the green room for 2 minutes so we could have a quick chat & so she could sign the two books of hers that I brought with me (thank you again Laura). I had so many things I wanted to ask Laura, but I forgot everything as soon as we started speaking – I was definitely starstruck – & I knew that by this time in the day I looked far too awful to ask for a photo with her… although it would have been hard to get one of us standing up together because Laura is so tall!!! She also has a gorgeous accent which totally distracted me as well.
Zoë Marriott is the author of my favourite book, Shadows on the Moon; I adored the Japanese themes within the book & how they were entwined with the European story of Cinderella. Shadows on the Moon is a lot more than a simple fairytale retelling though, it’s a lot deeper, with discussions of self-harm that really touched my heart, a surprisingly original plot (I know, it’s a retelling, so how can it be original?! Just trust me okay, it is) as well as a feisty & incredible main character, whom I fell totally in love with. Barefoot on the Wind is the other book in The Moonlit Lands series, which is a Beauty & the Beast retelling, set in the same world as Shadows on the Moon, with a strong feminine twist! I believe this is Zoë’s most recent release so it’s the main one she was promoting at YALC; it’s a wonderful story, again with lots of surprises, & some brilliant characters. Zoë’s first published book is called The Swan Kingdom, a story with a fairytale feel, set in an incredible world that I really wish I could read more about. Zoë also has two other book series out; The Name of the Blade & Ruan, unfortunately I haven’t read these yet.
I was incredibly anxious about meeting Zoë, I’ve fangirled over her a lot on Twitter & if she ever posts a Tweet where she says she’s struggling with something or is having a hard time I’m always one of the first to send her supportive messages. I laugh & joke with Zoë a lot online, but I constantly worry that I may irritate her a little (I really don’t want to be one of those overbearing fans) so meeting her was a big deal for me, but also a nerve-wracking one. I met Zoë when she was signing books, although I had seen her earlier in the day – I just didn’t have the courage to go & start a conversation with her – so we didn’t have much time to chat, but she was lovely & knew who I was, & she asked if I’d managed to see Laura & Alice as well (I couldn’t believe that she’d remembered how much I’d wanted to meet the three of them)! She signed my copy of Shadows on the Moon & I will treasure it for years to come.
And now to discuss the wonderful, Alice Broadway. I hadn’t heard of Alice until last year at YALC, when Scholastic UK were giving out free sneak previews of her up-and-coming book Ink. I read the preview when I got home from YALC & I was absolutely desperate to read the whole book – Scholastic actually ended up sending me an ARC of Ink, which Alice signed for me on Saturday (Alice, you’re a star) & the book was truly a wonder! Ink is set in a world where every single one of your life events is tattooed on your body; in this world nothing about you is secret & when you die your skin is turned into a book – a book that tells your life story. The book specifically follows the life of Leora, who discovers, after his death, that her father had a tattoo no one knew about. This discovery threatens to destroy Leora & her mother, even more than their loss already has done, & leads Leora to make some pretty intense & scary decisions. As someone who has tattoos, this concept screamed at me & the book did not disappoint; it was hugely exciting & interesting, & ended on a massive cliffhanger… I cannot wait for the sequel (click here to read my review).
Alice’s book isn’t the only reason I wanted to meet her though, I have built up a very strong & meaningful relationship with Alice online & in the last couple of weeks she has supported me an unbelievable amount; I am honestly so, so grateful to her. There are a handful of authors I consider myself to have good relationships with, but Alice is at the top of the list so it was just wrong that I hadn’t yet met her… and meeting her was so wonderful, although I was soooooo nervous that she wouldn’t like me in real life! Alice is a lovely woman, with one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever encountered & I want you all to buy her book because she deserves every success in this world.
Being Disabled in London & at YALC
I love London very dearly, I spent a lot of time there when I was a child & during my early teens but I’ve only ventured there a handful of times since becoming sick in 2014 & this time was the first time I have ever walked around for a long period of time with a suitcase… it was definitely an adventure!
Accessibility at my hometown trainstation couldn’t get any better – there are lifts & ramps & the staff are lovely people, London unfortunately isn’t quite as accessible. London Victoria trainstation is a very old station, as a member of staff reminded me, so there are no lifts down into the tubes – thankfully this particular member of staff was beyond kind & carried my suitcase down into the tubestation for me & then asked another member of staff to take me through the barriers & onto the platform I needed! I felt incredibly awkward & embarrassed but I was also incredibly grateful; kindness like that is very rare these days. Whilst on the two tube trains between Victoria & Olympia I was able to sit down which was fabulous, as I nearly fall on my arse on the tube, regardless of whether I have a suitcase with me or not. All in all, my journey to YALC was pretty uneventful & easy-going; something which I was really relieved about.
When I arrived at the main entrance to get into YALC I got out my medical evidence to show the receptionists so I could be provided with an “extra help” wristband – these wristbands mean that members of staff are aware of who may need extra help in an emergency, but they also mean that you are guaranteed a chair for any of the panels you wish to watch & you’re also allowed to “skip” the queue for any signings, as well as other things at LFCC (you can download the information I was sent about LFCC & YALC here: YALC Accessibility). I was informed by the people at the reception desk that LFCC had taken all of their extra help wristbands & so I wasn’t given one – I was quite upset about this as it hadn’t been easy to find out how I could get one (an author got in touch with the team for me & it’s thanks to them that I received the above information) but I was told that if I explained to a member of staff upstairs they would make sure that I still got the benefits that the wristband would provide.
After looking around for ages, at books & merch etc. I really needed to sit down – I had 45 minutes until the panel event I wanted to go to but there was no way I would be able to sit on the floor for that long and get back up again. As anyone who was there will know, the seating at YALC isn’t that great; this year they did provide blow up chairs but these weren’t suitable for me (or a number of other people I’ve spoken to on Twitter). I decided to go & ask at the information desk on the YALC floor if there was anywhere I could sit & explained that I was supposed to have an extra help wristband… the only place they had for me to sit was an empty signing table so I ended up pretending to be Zen Cho for a while! This was highly amusing for me but I had a lot of people look at me with questioning gazes so I was a little embarrassed & felt a bit awkward about being sat somewhere where so much attention was on me. The staff were lovely though & one of them came to check on me after 20 minutes to ask if there was anything else I needed!
Next I watched the panel event hosted by Imogen Russell Williams, with Joanne Harris, Julia Gray, Laura Dockrill, Zoë Marriott, Deirdre Sullivan & Peadar O’Guilin! I was there for Zoë, obviously, but the others were incredibly entertaining as well! I really want to read Needlework by Deirdre (who by the way, is beautiful) & I’m desperate to get my hands on a book by Peadar – he’s told me it’s best to start with The Call! It was also really interesting to hear their different opinions & perspectives on myths, magic & fairytales, & part of me wishes I’d gone to other panel events whilst I was there! Apart from Maggie Stiefvater’s talk last year, this was the only panel I’ve seen.
The final thing on my list for the day was to meet Zoë & to get my copy of Shadows on the Moon signed by her – this was the only signing I went to & so meeting Zoë was the first time I had “skipped” a YALC signing queue. I found a member of staff & explained why I didn’t have a wristband (he wasn’t very trusting at first & I had to offer to show him my medical evidence before he would take me to the front of Zoë’s queue), but when I was taken to the front of the queue the staff member didn’t explain to the people who were now behind me why he had slipped me in front of them… it’s fair to say the girl was not happy! I heard her mutter “Yeah, it’s not like we’ve been sat on the floor for 45 minutes”, & well, I wasn’t really in the mood to be bitched about so I turned around & told her I was disabled – when she looked me up & down with doubt in her eyes I informed her that I had a hole in my spine. She went very quiet then. I will admit, I was probably a bit rude – but come on people, why else would I have been moved to the front of the queue?! Nevertheless, I felt very awkward after that & only spent a minute speaking to Zoë before rushing off – I didn’t even get a photo with her 😦
It was now time for me to start my journey home – my tube journey wasn’t too difficult, but I did have to stand on the train from Olympia to Earl’s Court & I definitely nearly fell on my arse – much to the amusement of two men whom I was stood near! My real problem started when I got off the tube at Victoria; someone was on the tracks & so the Victoria line wasn’t running properly – thankfully I didn’t need to use this line, but it did mean that part of the Victoria underground station was closed off. This closure meant that I had to use an exit that took me out onto the streets of London, rather than into Victoria trainstation & this meant extra stairs & a bit of a walk! The member of staff I asked to help me with my suitcase refused as well, so by the time I actually got back into Victoria trainstation I was in agony. I had also missed my train by 2 minutes… that wouldn’t have happened if I could have used the stairs into Victoria station! I ended up having to wait an hour for the next train back home so of course I took myself to McDonalds – what is it with London & a lack of public seating?! There were 8 seats in the McDonalds “restaurant” & there’s not a single one in the massive station. It’s fair to say I was relieved when I finally got on my train home!
When I got home I got straight into a very hot bubble bath & then went to bed – it’s been three days but I’m still in a lot of pain… my shoulders ache, my legs are still shaking & I feel exhausted all the time. YALC was a wonderful experience, as it was last year, but I’m so glad I only have to go once a year! It was late into Sunday before I had the energy to unpack my suitcase & I still haven’t put everything away properly.
If you’re still reading, then congrats! You’ve read over 3500 words of my rambling; you probably deserve a medal or something. How was YALC for you? Have you read any of the books I bought? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! Additionally, I’m working with author Non Pratt to get together people’s issues with accessibility at YALC so that things will be better next year – please contact me if you have something you’d like passed on to the YALC organisers & the authors.