What’s Making me Happy… 27th March 2016

Hello and welcome to my second blog post celebrating what is making me happy this week!

Let’s get straight to it – the first thing that has made me happy recently is the podcast that inspired this post, Pop Culture Happy Hour, and more specifically, their episode on the Broadway musical Hamilton.

I love Pop Culture Happy Hour, a roundtable discussion from NPR about all the greatest aspects of pop culture, whether that be music, books or delightfully trashy tv. Mostly the discussion revolves around something vaguely topical, and every week they finish off the chat with revealing what is making them happy – hence this new blog adventure!

Pop Culture Happy Hour pic

Linda Holmes and the PCHH crew have been threatening to dedicate an episode to Hamilton for a while, and finally, last week, they did it! And it was glorious!!!

I’m kind of presuming that most of us know what Hamilton is about, but for those out there who are baffled, it’s the broadway sensation of the decade, a hip-hop journey through US history and more specifically, the life of United States founding father Alexander Hamilton. I have been listening to the soundtrack on and off for the last three months or so, and I am totally in love with it. But, the chances of seeing this musical for myself is negligible. Even if I were in New York, there are currently ongoing lotteries for tickets, the demand is so high, and let’s be honest, the chances of this musical transferring over to the West End is slim to nil. I’d never heard of Alexander Hamilton before this show came around, so I doubt that any West End producers are going to gamble on staging it for UK audiences.

Which is why I was so thrilled by the PCHH crew’s field trip to see Hamilton for themselves! I could live vicariously through them! They let me imagine what it might be like to actually see the show, and for that I am thankful. Plus their insight and critique added a dimension to the show that is otherwise impossible to find when listening to the soundtrack on shuffle via Spotify. So thanks Linda Holmes et al – you guys are fantastic. Thank you for inspiring my new weekly blogging endeavours, and keep up the good work!

HERE is a link to the NPR blog Monkey See, curated by the host of PCHH, Linda Holmes.

And HERE is a link to a great little video introduction to Hamilton courtesy of CBS.

The next thing making me happy this week is Crush by Eve Ainsworth, a gripping YA novel about a highly toxic relationship.

Crush

In a couple of weeks I’ll be appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival with Eve and CJ Skuse, so I’m doing my homework and making sure that I’ve read the works by these awesome ladies. Last week I read Crush, and devoured it in a couple of sittings. My heart actually lurched in places, as the relationship between Anna and Will descended into something horribly dangerous. I was a particularly impressed by how Eve planted the seeds to the downfall. The little snippets, like cracks in a dam, that allowed Will to become so dominant in Anna’s life. A brilliant read! Next up I’ll be reading Monster by CJ, and I honestly can’t wait!

If you want to read Crush for yourself, you can buy it RIGHT HERE!

And if you would like to come and see myself, Eve and CJ chat all things YA, then join us in Oxford! You can find a link to tickets HERE!

And finally, what is making me immensely happy this week is a playlist inspired by THIS BUZZFEED ARTICLE.

I went on Spotify and added a few tracks from each artist, and you can follow that playlist via THIS LINK. I hope you enjoy it! Some particular fascinating finds are Jacob Whitesides, Daya and Sophie Beem.

So there we have it – I hope you’ve liked my second foray into what’s making me happy. If you would like to make your own happy lists, feel free and let me know via my contact form on this website or by twitter, I’d love to see!

What’s Making me Happy… 17th March 2016

Hi everybody!

Welcome to a brand new feature on my blog, one that I hope will spread joy and inspire a whole bunch of you out there. The idea for this is based on a regular feature on one of my favourite podcasts, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Every episode the panel go around the table talking about what is making them happy that week – anything from knitting mittens (a la Linda Holmes) to reading comics and watching films. So, in honour of and completely inspired by those guys, I too am going to tell all of you, on a week by week basis, what is making me happy!

First up, another podcast!

‘Oh No Ross and Carrie’ is SO MUCH FUN. The idea is that good friends Ross and Carrie go around investigating the spiritual, paranormal and fringe science communities, reporting back on their experiences for the benefit and joy of their listeners. I have only just discovered this podcast, and have dived right in with their recent adventures in Scientology, a three parter which has meant that I have spent upwards of four and a half hours in their company over the last few days. And let me tell you, not a moment of it is wasted. I find Scientology intensely worrying. I strongly feel that as long as you find your own happiness and satisfaction then you can believe whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t impact anybody else in a negative way. So, the basic tenets of Scientology don’t bother me in the slightest. What does bother me is Scientology’s beliefs around psychiatry, psychology and medication and the impact that has on followers and their loved ones. I’m also totally weirded out by their focus on money (the prices of the classes and other materials seems outrageous!) and tax evasion, plus their doctrines on not allowing followers to question their beliefs, nor explore or register any criticism of them. So basically, Scientology is problematic, and their inherent secrecy makes them fascinating. What I particularly like about Ross and Carrie’s investigation is that they are so kind and well-meaning. They genuinely want to figure out what is going on, and draw out the good stuff (the bad stuff speaks for itself). They are not setting out to expose anything tantalising, nor aiming to provide gratuitous titillation. Are they having fun? Undeniably. But they are also being rational and intelligent, and approaching their subject in a surprisingly warm-hearted manner. I love these guys. I can’t wait to hear more!

You can find a link to the world of Oh No Ross and Carrie RIGHT HERE!

Next up, I am being made hugely happy by Leigh Bardugo, and her Grisha universe.

I first read Shadow and Bone wayyyyy back when it was in proof form, and I was a children’s bookseller. I loved it, told all my friends about it, and then never got around to reading the rest of the trilogy, which sucks on my part. Towards the end of last year I read Six of Crows, Bardugo’s novel set in the same world, and I have to say, it is possibly up there with my favourite YA reads of all time. And then I found out that I will be giving away free copies of Shadow and Bone for World Book Night (it’ll be my fourth year as a giver)! So, it’s high time for a reread, and then my plan is to read the other books in this trilogy, all before April 23rd, which is when the freebie books will be handed out. I’m only a third of my way through the reread of Shadow and Bone, but my goodness, this stuff is good! High fantasy with a historical Russian flavour, magical powers, and a brilliant protagonist. I’m enjoying this book even more the second time around (possibly because I don’t have to think too hard about all the different ranks and levels of magical powers this time, as I understand it pretty thoroughly already) and I can’t wait to get to the parts of the story that haven’t read before. Leigh Bardugo sits firmly on my list of novelists whose brains I would want to eat if I were ever to become a zombie (this is a compliment!!!).

RIGHT HERE is a link to Leigh’s tumblr, full of wonderful Grisha fan art!

Thirdly, and finally, what’s making me tremendously happy is finishing the edits on my second novel, Wonderboy.

This book has been a tough one for me, and I’ve fallen out of love and then back in love with it multiple times. Am thrilled to reveal that on the final proof read, I am definitely, solidly and wonderfully in love with this book, and I can’t wait for you all to read it. As I draft this blog post, I’m waiting for a call from my editor Chloe, so that we can go through any last mistakes and changes that we’ve picked up in this final close read. If any errors make it to the final copy after this, then blame it all on me! Finally finishing this book also means that I can get back into writing my Brand New Thing, which I can’t really talk about yet (ALTHOUGH I REALLY WANT TO).

So there we go! My first ever What’s Making me Happy! I’d love to hear from you guys, and if you feel inspired to talk about what’s making you happy right now, GO FOR IT!!!

You can listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour for yourself over on iTunes or via the NPR app, or check out THIS LINK to their Facebook.

Hugs and high fives!