YA for Adults: How to find the right books

I think I was seventeen-years-old when I lost my love of reading. Determined to study English Literature at University I put down my kid spy and vampire books and picked up the classics. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the classics are bad, there were a few that I did really enjoy – Huckleberry Finn being one of them. But I realised one day that I was having to tell myself to read at least ten pages a day. A few months later I was in hospital and I bought myself a YA book (YA stands for young adult btw (btw stands for by the way fyi (fyi stands for for your information umt) Okay you got me, that last one doesn’t stand for anything. Back to the point in hand, I read that YA book in under a day. I finished the last page and was filled with that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you’re reading a good book. I hadn’t lost my love of reading, I’d just been reading the wrong books.

So what if technically I’m an adult? So what if the books are ‘marketed’ at teenagers? When I was ten I was reading books way above my age range. Adults all around the world are obsessed with Harry Potter – a ‘children’s book’. Writing is writing, a story is a story. If you enjoy it, read it.

There is a slight problem with this though. YA bridges a wide range of topics and writing styles. There are those that, for me, aren’t as enjoyable, not because the story isn’t as good but because the writing is closer to that of Middle Grade. This can make finding the right books for you tricky.

It sounds simple but I’ve found that the best guide for finding young adult stories with adult level writing is looking at the main characters age. For me, if the main character is under fifteen then the book will be too young. This isn’t an absolute but it’s a good guide.

If you want to avoid any sexual elements then stick to characters seventeen and under. Amazon also does a good job at high lighting when I book might not be appropriate for younger readers.

If, on the other hand you want something with a bit more romance and the sexy stuff that comes with i, then look for characters aged nineteen and above. Also try looking for New Adult books. I haven’t entirely figured out what this genre includes but I know romance is often a key part of it.

If you’re struggling to find a book then Goodreads is a great website. You can search for a book you’ve read and it will recommend others like it or you can find your favourite authors and discover others that write in the same style or genre. Once you’ve built up a bit of a list through ordering, then Amazon also does a good job at recommending books for you. Oh and always remember, whichever site you’re using, to add books to your reading lists otherwise you’ll find yourself in the dreaded purgatory of searching through your browsing history to find that one book you know you wanted to read but can’t remember the name of… trust me, you don’t want to go there.

A script for Spring

A little while ago, I attended a script-writing workshop up here in St. Andrews, the theme of which was ‘Spring’.  For no other reason than I want to, I’ve decided to post the script I wrote up here for perusal.  It was meant to be about 10 minutes long, we gave it to a group of actors who performed it and gave us feedback (very helpful, dramatic readings are always the best).  Whilst I imagined one of my characters to be a teenage girl, both were played as male and it came off brilliantly.

I’m obsessed with citrus fruit

I was in a Film Studies lecture recently, being told about avant-garde cinema, when we were shown a 7 minute long video of a lemon.  It’s safe to say that I’m never going to get these 7 minutes back (all that happened was the light changed slowly around the lemon, not the kind of film we’re used to but I suppose that was the point).  I did send many snapchats of this film, and received many more, and so by dinner time everyone had heard about the 7 minute lemon video.  Why, you wonder?

It’s the lemons.

I understand that’s not very explanatory.  Most recently I’ve been working on a play called Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, by a guy called Sam Steiner.  It went up last week and somehow we haven’t been able to escape the clutches of citrus servitude.  Myself and the rest of the crew have been roundly accused of not shutting up about lemons, of both the real and metaphorical variety.  It’s entirely true of course, I now point them out every time we’re in Tesco.  I laughed the other day because my friend got a lemon sorbet.  It’s possibly the oddest in-joke I’ve ever been a party to.

Especially because the play itself has no actual lemons.

It’s about a couple called Oliver and Bernadette, who live in a world which has just passed a ‘Quietude Bill’ that restricts everyone to only being able to say 140 words per day.  I love it as a play, and have a simultaneous hatred and affinity for both of the characters.  It’s quite tricky to pull off, as the scenes jump backwards and forwards from the time before the bill is passed and after.  The title is in reference to a scene where Bernadette wants to get all of her words out in one go, so says a random list that includes five mentions of a certain acidic fruit.

My role in the production was publicity, so my hard drive is now full of pictures of lemons, yellow objects, videos of people juggling lemons, people using lemons as phones, people using lemons as hats, people eating lemons in pubs and videos about lemon-stealing whores (that one’s the intro to a porno – involving lemons?  Was hilarious to a group of people who do nothing but talk about lemons).  I have a dress covered in lemons that I wore to the opening performance.  Soon, I will tear off my outer skin to reveal the lemon underneath.

However many lemons I now have that I now don’t know what to do with; and however many awful lemon puns we came up with; I genuinely enjoyed the experience so I’ve now joined a team that’s taking a production to the Edinburgh Fringe this year.  We had a publicity meeting the other day.  Guess what the ‘symbol’ of the play is going to be?

A banana.

There is no escape from yellow fruit.

Beautiful Words

Hi all, sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been rather busy as of late but I can’t for the life of me remember what I’ve been busy with…

I finished reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency so then I began (and promptly finished) watching the TV show. Oh yes, that might have been what I was busy doing… Well that and reading my new book of course.

I’m branching out at the moment, trying to find some adult fiction that I like and I finally managed to succeed with G.M Barlean’s Thorns of Rosewood. I enjoyed the story (a two-thorned – get it… thorned – mystery), I adored the characters (four kick-ass old ladies and a reporter desperate for answers) and I loved Barlean’s writing.

She made me laugh with Gloria’s (the protagonist) internal narration:

“Dear God, please don’t let him be a serial killer because I think I just fell in love.”

There’s a truth in that which is rather sad when you think about it but it was funny none-the-less. And don’t worry, he’s not a serial killer. Not yet at least… it is a series so who knows?

What else, ah yes, Barlean wrote a line so beautiful I oo’ed and ah’ed as I re-read it a half a dozen times.

Naomi is the book’s antagonist. She’s flat out mean and is the town of Rosewood’s resident villain. At a particularly tense part of the book Barlean describes Naomi with her hands on her hips,

“her long red nails like drops of blood against her silken white robe.”

Excuse me whilst I float off on my little cloud of happiness. I’m a little bit in awe of what Barlean’s done here. This sentence could have been cringe worthy cliché with the classic juxtaposition of red on white, evil and innocence and so forth. Yet somehow, instead of working against Barlean the cliché strengthens the words. The imagery of the ‘long’ nails against the soft ‘silken’ robe holds the threat of such violence that, when the thought of blood is added, becomes over-powering and beautiful. Feel free to come join me on my cloud…

I’m on to book two in the series now so I shall keep you updated on any more hidden gems I find but for now farewell. I’m off to read!

 

West Midlands Safari Park

You may have heard about my train journey to Birmingham. It was a great start to the weekend but the fun didn’t end there. The next day my brother took me to the West Midlands Safari Park so I’m going act upon our reserved rights to blog about camels. (No mascarpone though I’m afraid.)

Our trip got off to a rather stationary start when the car broke down just inside the gates of the Safari Park. I tried to magic it back to life but all that did was confirm that my Hogwarts acceptance letter didn’t get lost in the post. We did, eventually, get the car up and running and we set off through the Safari Park.

There were plenty of deer…I’m pretty sure that’s a deer… yep definitely a deer…maybe…IMG_0171 2

Then some goats… I’m calling this one Billy (original I know)

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A Rhino and it’s baby…

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We saw one of these little guys jumping across the road, like actually bounding kangaroo-style.

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We made it all the way to the Elephant enclosure when the car spluttered to a stop. Our three trunked friends didn’t stay long which was probably for the best as two of the Safari’s keepers and my brother had to jump start the car. We then revved through the rest of the park and shot straight out onto the road home as we’d established that if my brother took his foot off the accelerator the car would die.

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So we left the Safari Park, but not before we spent some time with this guy…

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Have you ever seen a camel before? Because I hadn’t and oh my God they are fricken’ ginormous! Here’s the camel standing next to a car to give you some perspective.

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I mean seriously, they’re humps are half my height!

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This one stuck it’s head in our car – that was fun.

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And look, they’re bums are so fluffy!

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I now love camels. I would also recommend West Midlands Safari Park, it was great fun and if your car breaks down half way through then the staff are wonderful!

My Train Journey to Birmingham

Readers brace yourselves because boy do I have a story for you. This post will restore your faith in humanity (for those of you who have lost it), leave you laughing so hard milk spurts out of your nose (even if you’re not drinking milk), possibly unite you with  a new best friend (in cat form), and make you swoon over Italian men.

I had thought that my Friday afternoon train journey from Reading to Birmingham would be quiet and I had hoped uneventful. I can now assure you that my future predicting skills are somewhat dodgy and hopes and wishes are futile – what if the most amazing thing in the world is something you can’t even imagine? How can you wish for that?

There is no way on earth I would ever have been able to imagine the events that occurred on this particular Cross Country train, which is saying something, given that I’m a writer. Right that’s enough preamble, let’s get on with it.

Meet June and Karen, mother and (grown up) daughter respectively. I got on the train at Reading station, platform 12b and June and Karen were sitting across the aisle from me. Our conversation started, as all good conversations do, with cats. I quickly learnt that June, her daughter, and her grand-daughter were big cat lovers and her grand-daughter even runs a rescue cat charity. (This is the part where you might find a new best friend by visiting Bay Cat Rescue) From what June told me on our train journey Bay Cat Rescue sounds like a wonderful charity that takes in strays and looks after them until they are ready to be re-homed.

It was around about now that my faith in humanity was restored a little bit more. We were deep in discussions about our cats when I felt a firm tap on my shoulder. I braced myself for the scolding I was sure to be coming my way for talking too loudly or some such matter and turned to face the lady sitting next to me. Instead, our little train party grew in size as my neighbour stated, somehow both timid and assured that  “My cat was like that” and joined our conversation. As if that wasn’t enough when we arrived at Oxford and my neighbour got up to leave, June and Karen invited me to sit at their table where I would have more room. June, the dear that she is, insisted that we wouldn’t have to talk, I could put in my headphones and ignore her if I so pleased. I am very glad I didn’t because my train journey only got better.

I continued to chat with June and told her that I was a writer. (I must remember to tell people this more often as it seems to lead to some fabulous stories.) June’s story was like none other…

“Oh you’re a writer are you? You know what I think they should write about: Viagra.”

I swallowed the water I had just sipped before I could decorate her shirt with it. June continued…

“You know how men, when they get to seventy, go to the doctors because they can’t get an erection.”

My eyebrows shot up. Even if I had wanted to say something at this point I wouldn’t have had a chance. June was on a mission.

“Well the doctors go and give them Viagra. And then you have all these men who are hard twenty four hours a day and all they want to do is go at it.”

I should mention that Karen had nipped to the toilet so was not there to witness her mother’s initial Viagra Awareness Campaign.

“All these men want to do is have sex all day long and Charlie, I think it’s dreadful because their poor wives don’t want to be romping around. Their vagina’s are all dry and shrivelled -”

I cough to cover my laugh,

“And the men are just ramming in there and I tell you Charlie, none of my friends like it. I’ve thought about writing to the papers you know because it’s just awful… What do you think Charlie?”

Well reader, I was thinking so many things at this point. I tilted my head, gave a measured nod and said,

“To be quite honest with you June, I can’t say I’m very experienced in the matter.”

June cracked up, patted my knee and said “No, of course not!”

If I did not already think that June was the greatest person I’ve ever met then I certainly did now. And she only got better.

We had a brief stint of musical chairs when some other women boarded the train, they were on their way to Manchester for a Hen Do. They departed to join the rest of their group once they found some empty seats and I was back with June and Karen.

Enter smoking hot Italian guy.

“Are you going to sit here?” asks June.

“If you don’t mind” (Oh he has an accent too!) replies the rather suave Italian.

“Ooo we get a man joining us!” June gushed. It would seem she only frowned upon men once they hit their seventies and Viagra came into play. Italian guy took the seat.

“Well you should be all right, we might talk about things you don’t want to hear but if that’s the case you can pop your headphones in. We’ve covered men so you should be safe”

This, I very much doubted.

“Where are you from?” asked Karen.

“Italy.”

And it began…

“What’s your name?”

“Giovanni.”

Honest to God, June gasped. I grinned. The next five minutes consisted of June pronouncing Giovanni’s name.

“Giovaaaani” “GiOvanni”

“It’s quite nice if you say it seductively, isn’t it? – Oh honey, Giovaaani. Karen, you try, say Giovanni.”

Karen shook her head, “No Mum.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to and I don’t have to.”

Giovanni and I tried not to laugh. But wait for it, here it comes,

“Giovanni, you know Viagra?”

Karen’s eyes go wide. I double over in silent hysterics. And yes, poor, beautiful Giovanni received the whole Viagra Awareness Campaign speech. To his credit he listened with utmost interest and a straight face. Karen and I, on the other hand could not stop laughing.

“Well now you know,” June rounded up her story, “So when you’re seventy you can remember this conversation.”

I wiped away my tears and looked up at Giovanni.

“I don’t think I will ever forget.” he said. Nor will I Giovanni, nor will I.

We then went on to discuss the usual things: menopause, oversized breasts and PMS.

“Would you like some fresh orange juice Charlie?” June asked me out of the blue as we pulled out of Leamington Spa. Unsure where this orange juice was going to come from I declined.

Giovanni was put on the spot:

“So Giovanni, I’ve talked enough, what would you like to know? You can ask us anything, what do you want to know about life?”

What do you mean you didn’t prepare a list of questions about life that you want to ask three generations of women on your train journey to the airport? Who doesn’t carry that list around?

And I fell a little bit in love with all three of my companions.

We arrived at Giovanni’s station and said farewell to our Italian friend. I turned to Karen, we gushed over sexy Italian men and I confided that I had spent the latter part of the journey debating whether or not I could give Giovanni my number.

“I think he liked you” piped up June, “you had all his attention, he was much more interested in you than me.”

***

To my utter disappointment we arrived at my station and parted ways. I’d been fully informed about June’s Viagra Awareness Campaign, two strangers (though I would no longer call them that) offered to buy me a coffee, twice no less. Part of my heart fell for an Italian student. And towards the end of my journey I discovered that June’s granddaughter (Karen’s daughter) is the famous Youtuber Emma Crompton. It’s not hard to see where her charisma comes from. Needless to say, my book sat untouched in my bag.

I went to Madrid and long story short I’m now banned from hide and seek

Hello there!

You haven’t heard from me yet, but I’m the other side of this blog.  I would love to say my irregularities are chiefly due to a busy lifestyle, but there’s also inherent laziness, poor time management and an obsession with lemons to account for.  

Anyway, I just decided to check in now that I’ve returned to the country.  My friends from uni decided to step into the new territory of taking holidays together and the result was quite a bit of fun, but also the helping of drama and events that are increasingly inexplicable.  To round things up, I’ve decided to make a handy list of what to look out for in Madrid:

1. Visit the crystal palace in the park!  Even better if you end up there during a poorly thought out game of hide and seek with your friends, and decide to stay, listen to music and get ice creams before finally being found.

2. Take a tour of the Prado!  Go with at least two art history students who can supply you with memes.  Enjoy the nicknames they have for each painting.  “Sexy Jesus” sticks out.  Stop at the gift shop on your way out, because you can purchase a playmobil Sexy Jesus there if you are so inclined.
3. Go to the Real Madrid stadium.  Go with your friends who also know nothing about football.  Have one football fanatic in the group who desperately tries to explain whilst the rest of you point out the shiniest trophies and play with the gadgets in the display rooms.

4.  Drink sangria after dinner.  Look after your drunk friends whilst they make friends with a waiter called Javier.  Never walk down that street sober again.

5.  Take a day trip to Toledo.  Wander around the many shops selling swords.  Ponder as to why there are so many swords.  Buy a sword, slay your enemies.  Stop to enjoy the cathedral.