HELP ME! HELP ME!

Hello, my friends. Please, have a seat. I need to ask you a favour.

I study Business. Sounds niche, I know, but it's a compulsory subject at our school and actually kind of fun, so ...

Oh jeez, I'm already on a tangent and I was trying to make this short.

As part of our course, we need to complete a piece of research - and as part of that research, I need as many people as possible to fill in a survey for me. This is a targeted survey, so it's only intended for librarians, booksellers, authors or ANYONE WHO READS A LOT.

If you're reading this blog, then I'm guessing you might be the kind of person I'm looking for.

Below is the Survey Monkey I'd like you to fill in. If you have any questions, please email me on the "Contact Me!" sidebar just over on the right - and if your question is "could I please have your firstborn child", then no. I am sorry. You might be able to nab the second-born, if you hurry, but I'm afraid I've already pledged the first to a nice witch who gave me her WiFi connection.

Thank you very, very, very, very VERY much for being lovely enough to fill that in. If you have the kind of social media following who you think would be suitable respondents, would you be lovely and share?

Ta very much.
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5 OTPs To Melt Your Heart

I'm in a very squeeable mood today. I fancy melting into a small puddle of pleased goo. In order to help me achieve this slightly alarming goal, would you like to discuss some OTPs?

Good. Because I'm going to rabbit on about them regardless.

Them? I know. Technically - and I mean technically - the "O" in OTP stands for "One", meaning I should not have several. 
Well pish to that.
There is already an OTP post going on somewhere in the deep recesses of this blog's archives, but ... they're deep, as I say. It's been a while. And I wanted to come up with some kind of opportunity to make some aesthetics, since photoediting is becoming more and more like an addiction for me and I've got to let it out somehow. Please enjoy:

Abby and Will (Waking in Time by Angie Stanton)

Seriously. Couples from different centuries should get together more often. Except ... not when there isn't time travel involved? Because I think it would be creepy otherwise?
But there are so many reasons I love these guys. They are funny, caring and fiercely loyal. They make me laugh ... AND GOSHDAMMIT THEIR FIRST KISSING SCENE WAS IN THE FIFTIES. GREASE STYLE.
Excuse me if the musical nerd inside is getting a bit overwhelmed by all of this. 

Elena and Gabe (Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell)


What I love about these guys is their absolute unashamed geekiness. The fact that they meet in a line waiting to see the new Star Wars film, despite the fact that modern booking systems mean they could spend the week before its release at home instead of shivering on the pavement outside the cinema ... and still get seats at the premier screening. They wait in line out of the principle of the thing.

The fact that they then spend hours comparing favourite characters and consuming Yoda-festooned cupcakes and making emergency runs to Starbucks in order to refresh the absolutely vital face paint - because how else would everyone know what crazy fans they were?

The teasing is merciless, the debates about whether fake geeks can possibly exist are genuinely thought provoking, and I'M JUST LOVING THE WHOLE THING, OKAY?

Baz and Simon (Carry On by Rainbow Rowell)

So, yeah. You've probably not been able to tell - I am quite subtle about it, most of the time - but I love Rainbow Rowell. She sure can write a romance.

I think what I love about Simon and Baz is how obvious their love for each other is ... to everyone except themselves, that is. Often, I kind of end up hating this kind of slow-burn, tantalising romance, but this one was so well done I couldn't help but love it. There's something about two people admitting a romance to themselves at the same time they have to admit it to each other that just melts my heart.
And no, I don't ship Drarry. But since these guys are based off them, I guess I must have more sympathy towards them as a pairing than I'd thought.

Joe and Lennie (The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson)


More amazing geekery ... but of the band kind this time. I absolutely fricking loved these guys, and honestly most of it was because of the way they bonded through music. Complaining about conductors! Making eyes at each other in rehearsal!

I know. I'm a music nerd. Sue me.

But I honestly think that these guys would appeal to you whether or not you know what stave means. There are scenes in this book that I've honestly read two or three times just because the romance was so well done (and yes, because it was steamy. Despite many appearances to the contrary, I am actually human from time to time). Plus, Joe is French.

FRENCH.

Lennie never stood a chance, honestly.

Lola and Cricket (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins)

There's no romance like the romance of childhood sweethearts, let me tell you that much. I don't want to give too much away about exactly how happy the ending was for these two, since it's quite a spoiler, but they have these moments that absolutely melted my heart, mostly because, well, Lola had a boyfriend. Which was frustrating to the point you could just hear Cricket's heart breaking.

My poor, poor baby.

But Lola too ... these guys are made for each other. I know that's as soppy as heck, but honestly I'm not sure I really care. Cricket ever the gentleman, and Lola the perfect high lady of fashion.

*happy sigh*

Molly and Reid (The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli)

Apparently a pattern is emerging and I quite enjoy geeky couples. It's not surprising, really, since geek has never failed to = awesome, but what's so great about these guys specifically is that neither one of them were exactly in their comfort zone when it came to romance, and they supported each other, rather than one person doing all the reassuring.

If that made sense.

I liked this relationship because it was a partnership of equals. And you'd be surprised how rare that is in YA, since ... you know ... YA is partly about teaching teens what healthy relationships are? And equality is a big part of that healthiness?

Not to mention serious food appreciation and a Pinterest addiction. I like.

***
In the comments: What are your OTPs? (Come on, I know for a fact I'm not the only rebel with more than one). What is it that makes them so awesome for you? If you had to describe them in three pictures (or three words), what would they be?
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The Hay Festival Not-Vlog Day 2

If you weren't here on Monday, then I wouldn't be surprised if you have absolutely no idea what's going on right now.

Ah, well. You can click here if you want to read the first part of my Hay experience (plus an explanation of why on earth the writing is so non-linear and the photographs are so terrible), which of course you should, so you know ... I'll wait.

I'm kind of reluctant to write an introduction now because - well, if you're a good little reader, you should have hopped over to the other post first and know exactly what's going on. Because what's a blog without a little unashamed blackmail, right?

Oh, fine. I'll at least tell you what the format is - since I am by no means a vlogger or even the kind of person whose face looks remotely non-alien on camera, I needed to come up with an alternate way of documenting my incredibly literary trip to the Hay Festival. This random, haphazard combination of jotted-down notes and questionable smartphone photography is it. For the sake of organic-ness, I have edited very little and only plonked in a couple of comments afterwards (in italics, for your reading convenience). 

Good luck making sense of it all.
*** 
12:47 - This is the Tata tent, which, as you may or may not be able to tell from the picture, is massive. I'd honestly call it more building than tent. Who knew that this many people would be interested in a talk about grammar?

As you can well imagine, this particular grammar nerd is overly excited about the whole thing.

12:58 - LET'S GO GRAMMAR LET'S GO!

14:16 - Well that was utterly fascinating, I must say. I'd never thought much about why we use different kinds of grammar before, and I think I'll probably be writing something on it at some point - when I can actually sit down and put my thoughts together without being in such a hurry.

14:22 - Well, if I wasn't pumped enough already for a talk by Anthony Horowitz on the new Alex Rider (what a trip down memory lane, amiright?) the stage looks a little bit like the set of Matilda the Musical.
15:38 - The talk was AMAZING, but I am now in the world's longest signing queue and I doubt I'll get to the front before our lecture on modern spying. Ah, well. I've got the book at least.

15:40 - I've also just realised I'm the only "child" in the queue above the age of 10.

15:59 - Well, as predicted, there was no time to get anywhere near the apparently very famous Horowitz (who knew?), but I'm excited about the next talk AND I got a free bookmark, so never mind.

17:16 - Well ... that turned into a tent full of people moaning about surveillance and discussed no actual methods of present-day espionage. Kind of dull, as it turns out.

We're having dinner now though, so that should be good.

18:09 - That ice-cream was so good I forgot to take a picture. Oops.
(A scoop mint choc chip and a scoop strawberries and cream, for those who were wondering what flavour I would get on Monday.)

18:49 - More grammar to come! More excitement!
20:41 - That was an absolute stonker - and to those of you unfamiliar with what is probably slang exclusive to Northern England, that means good. As the entire talk was about resisting the slow takeover of American English, I'm trying very hard not to use the word awesome right now.

Although apparently even the word reliable is an Americanism that was determinedly resisted by Victorians, so I feel I am rather unable to win.

20:53 - I appear to have accidentally bought rather a lot of books. Oops.
I'll sign off now and separate them in a vain attempt to prevent breeding, but I should probably close with some sentimental stuff about how brilliant the last two days have been.

If you're a bookworm and ever find yourself anywhere near Hay-on-Wye in May half term, then get yourself there. You'll thank me.

(Even if it's, like, mid February or something, still go. They call Hay "The Town of Books" for a reason - I think it has the highest concentration of bookshops anywhere in the world. Most of them are independent and all are FABULOUS, if a tad inaccessible. If you happen to be a wheelchair user or person who finds stairs tricky at Hay, then definitely go down to Richard Booth's - it has a lift to all three of its floors, is big enough to spend hours in, and utterly beautiful, so you still get the lovely independent bookshop feel. Also has a cafe, so ... yay.) 

***
In the comments: So, are you people enjoying the format? I know I keep asking this, but feedback is super important when trying new things, as you know. I NEED IT.
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The Hay Festival Not-Vlog Day 1

So. I'm sure it hasn't escaped your knowledge that I'm not a vlogger.

There are many reasons for this. I like writing things. I'm absolutely, utterly awkward on camera. But most importantly, vlogging is difficult. I've attempted it exactly once and it did not go anywhere near well. How on earth do you vlogging folks do it?

Today, however, I am doing something that I would have wanted to vlog, if I was a vlogger. I'm going to the Hay Festival, which is basically Disneyland for bookworms. It's absolutely fricking incredible - a ten-day long literary festival packed with the UK's most talented and brilliant authors, held in a field near a Welsh border town which has so many bookshops in it it's called "the town of books".

It literally even says so on the town sign.
Anyway, I really wanted to document this for you guys, so I've created a new kind of format. A not-vlog, if you will. Basically, everything that follows was typed on my phone at the festival, along with some brilliantly terrible smartphone photography. Which you're dying to see, I'm sure. I've inserted the odd GIF and a few interjections in italics, but other than that I haven't edited anything for the sake of organic-ness.

Good luck, my friends.
***

16:11 - WE'RE NEARLY THERE AND I AM OVERLY EXCITED.

Juno Dawson is hosting my first talk, which I'm mightily looking forward to because ... you know. Juno is queen. She's talking about Margot and Me, her latest book, which should be interesting - although I haven't technically read it yet?

Shh. Don't tell anyone. I'm sure it'll be fine.

16:33 - Made it! Popped to the bookshop (which is massive, you guys) to pick up both of Juno's new books before the talk - this is a really important tip if you want to save time at a signing, so take note - and was pleasantly surprised to see a huge display for Lisa Williamson's All About Mia.

16:38 - SERIOUSLY, LOOK HOW BIG THE BOOKSHOP IS!

(I was going to insert a nice video showing just how big this bookshop is, but it has people's faces in and apparently I was also holding my phone upside down. Oops. Just trust me - it was big.)
16:45 - The parental has found a famous backgammon player (she likes that sort of thing). Pretending I know what they're talking about is getting sort of exhausting.

17:22 - So ... apparently the Starlight Stage is called the Starlight Stage because it has stars.
This is the ceiling, BTW. Sorry if it wasn't clear.
19:57 - Okay, sorry I went dark for an hour or two there (I wasn't about to use my phone in the presence of Queen Juno, and then there was food. I got a little distracted.)

Anyway, as predicted the talk was properly fascinating - although if I'm honest I could listen to her talk about wardrobes and fangirl endlessly. And I got a chance to read the first few chapters of M&M in the line, so I was prepared. Ish.

Also (while repeating my apologies for the terrible photography) LOOK AT MY LOVELY SIGNED BOOKSIES!
At the signing, I was predictably awkward and spent my entire precious signing-time rambling about my name and how people mispronounce it constantly. Gosh dammit, Lara, you're supposed to talk about the AUTHOR in these situations!

Thank you, Juno, for being so understanding in the face of my weirditude. (SHH IT'S TOTALLY A WORD)

Anyhow, I then had to go to the toilet. Which can be a bit of a tribulation at portaloo-type situations like these, but the access was fricking incredible - they had a normal slightly larger portaloo, a nicer-looking baby change one, AND a high dependency unit. With hoist!

I'd just like to take this moment to announce how blooming awesome Hay is for access. They have carpeted walkways EVERYWHERE, so wheel to muddy field contact is zero, presenters are always conscious about reading every slide they have behind them for visually impaired folks, and it's just generally incredibly well organised.

HUZZAH.
And now - in case you were unsure about just how much I love Ms Dawson - I'm off to her Gender Games talk. Come on, I'm barely obsessed.

20:17 - ARGH! JUNO IS METRES AWAY FROM ME!

(I just realised how much I contradicted myself there. Ah, well. My life always has been a ball of juxtaposition.)

21:31 - This talk was of course equally hilarious and amazing and important so I just thought I'd give you some highlights. I'm writing this out from memory, so I might be paraphrasing unintentionally.

Things that were said:

[on Piers Morgan] "don't tweet him about this; I don't want him to know I'm giving him the oxygen"

"This was not a museli school, if you know what I mean. Pupils got stabbed ... with afro combs, so you know. That's a way to sneak a weapon into a school."

"And they knew there was a trans girl at school, but they were kind of like ... yeah, she's in Year Nine, I don't know which one she is ... and now I've been stabbed."

[on choosing her name] "but most importantly, @junodawson was available on Twitter, so ... that underscore in @james_dawson was the bane of my life, seriously."

"Have you checked your privilege today? Do it now ... mmm, tingly!"
22:07 - We're on the way home. I'm kind of tired now, so I think I'll be clocking out - I know today's been pretty Juno oriented, but I promise I'm listening to some other authors tomorrow, so you should get some variety.

Also, I think I'm getting ice cream. So stay tuned for that, obviously.

***
In the comments: Did you guys like this? Please tell me, because I might bury this method of blogging as quickly as possible after tomorrow - but if you like it, I might also do a mini version at YALC this year. Also, what flavour of ice cream do you think I got? All to be revealed!
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