Friday, 21 November 2014

The Walled City Blog Tour: Ryan Graudin Talks Cover Evolution!

Disguised as a boy, Jin Ling searches for her missing sister, Mei Yee, who was sold into the brothels of the Walled City. It's a cut-throat world of gangs, drug-dealers and warlords and every day is a struggle to survive. Jin Ling relies on her speed and cunning but how long will her luck hold? When a mysterious boy, Dai, requests her help with a dangerous mission Jin Ling's inclined to say no - this is a world where no one can be trusted - but the mission offers her a vital chance to see inside the brothel where her sister may be being held.
Jin Ling and Dai join forces, but will either of them survive the mission? Is Mei Yee still alive? And how will any of them ever escape the stifling city walls?

Indigo published The Walled City in the UK a couple of weeks ago, and I'm very happy to be part of their celebratory blog tour. Regular readers of this blog will know that I love book covers and their stories, so I was beyond thrilled with this blog post from Ryan. I think it's fascinating to see the evolution of a cover, especially the changes and tweaks it goes through before the design is finished. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did, and thanks to Ryan for writing it for me!


The Walled City Cover Story 
by Ryan Graudin 

As many people on the Internet have discovered, THE WALLED CITY underwent a cover change a few months before publication. I once heard a very well-established YA author say that, “Nothing is final until it’s on the bookshelf.” It turns out, this is true! I’d had over half a year to get used to THE WALLED CITY’s original cover, which looked something like this:

I loved this cover for so many reasons. THE WALLED CITY has a very unique atmosphere and I think the first cover caught the tone of the novel perfectly. The Hak Nam Walled City is a very dark, maze-like place, and the bottom of this cover caught that perfectly. The girl’s face in the middle captures the loneliness and longing of all three main characters. And the red dragon looming at the top is the perfect symbol of the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon, the ruthless gang that controls the city. (I love the dragon. He’s my favorite.)

But it was decided that this cover, while capturing the lyrical, atmospheric side of the novel, did not do justice to the story’s high-octane action. There were also those who were concerned that the first cover would not grab the attention of teenage boys.

So back to the drawing board the cover designers went. There were many different redesigns, but in the end they came up with this cover:

While this is very different from its predecessor, I think it does an amazing job of capturing the action of the book. The tagline “Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife.” immediately lays out the high stakes of surviving in the Hak Nam Walled City. I love the colors, especially the choice of red, since it’s a very significant shade in both Chinese culture and the book. I love how well the map outline of the book shows up against the black. And I love that the title is modeled specifically after Chinese calligraphy. All of these things really make it pop when you see it on the bookshelf!

In the end, the original cover didn’t die completely. (A bookstore chain in Canada picked it up in a special edition.) I get to have the best of both worlds!

What do you guys think? Do you have a favorite of the two covers?


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Blog Tour: Review - The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

Publisher: Constable
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: October 2nd, 2014
Rating: 8/10

Amazon summary:

We're not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We're talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I've-ever-been-to-bookshops. Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France; meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai mountains; meet the bookshop in Canada that's invented the world's first antiquarian book vending machine. And that's just the beginning. From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over two hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we've yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole). The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world. 


The Bookshop Book is the perfect book for book lovers (try saying that five times fast!). It's a love letter to bookshops everywhere, as well as being an ode to the simple act of actually stepping inside a shop, browsing, and purchasing a book you never thought you'd leave with. It's a testament to the art of bookselling, designing bookshops and engaging the world of readers through buildings, displays and good old-fashioned bricks and mortar atmosphere. If you love books and bookshops then you absolutely can't go wrong with The Bookshop Book.

This book starts with a brief history of the world of books before moving on to talk about bookshops around the world, including shops in Europe, North America and Asia. Littered throughout are bookish facts (did you know Dickens was a member of the Ghost Club?) and quick chats with authors all about their favourite bookshops. The best part of this book for me is the section of photos included, depicting numerous amazing-looking bookshops that I didn't even know existed. Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness, UK looks unbelievable, and Tell a Story in Portugal looks so fun and compact. I'm sure I'll be dreaming about these bookshops soon!

The Bookshop Book is a great book to read in one go, or to dip into whenever the fancy takes you. It's written with the love of a reader and book collector, and will appeal to casual readers as well as hardcore book fanatics like me. Jen Campbell has done a great job of compiling a book with a difference, and it's no wonder it was chosen as the book for the 2014 Books Are My Bag campaign. It's left me with a desire to one day visit some new bookshops in the UK, particularly the one in Inverness, and to open my eyes a bit more when I'm out and about. It also shows that bookshops aren't going anywhere - they're an important part of our society and should remain so forever!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Blog Tour: Review - The Stall of Second Chances by Dana Bate

Publisher: Corsair
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: November 20th, 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon summary:

Sydney Strauss is obsessed with food. Not just with eating it - though she loves that too - but with writing about it as an aspiring cookery reporter. But food journalism jobs are more coveted than cupcakes, and so Sydney is stuck working for one of TV's biggest egomaniacs - until she's left scrambling for shifts at the local farmers' market. Selling muffins at the Wild Yeast Bakery is hardly going to make her the next Nigella. But soon Sydney is writing the market's weekly newsletter, and her quirky stories gain attention from a prominent food columnist. After years of being left on the shelf, she's even dating again. And then Sydney gets a shot atthe story, one that could either make her career or burn it to a cinder - along with her relationship and her reputation. 


The Stall of Second Chances is a great book full of memorable characters and food-related jobs. It's realistic in its portrayal of ambitious twenty-something journalists, and is a lot of fun to read. Plus, there might even be a hilarious embarrassing moment or two to make you laugh!

I started this book with the intention of just reading a chapter or two, but that soon changed when I was sucked straight in to Sydney's story. She's an aspiring cookery reporter and journalist still nursing the affects of a bad break-up five years earlier, and works at a TV station until she suddenly loses her job. After that it's literally back to basics as she tries to figure out her life and career, all the while working at a farmer's market and possibly embarking on a somewhat risky new relationship.

Sydney is a wonderful character, brimming with ambition and intelligence, not to mention a good ounce of stupidity. Some of the things she does later in the novel left me shaking my head; how could she not see the ramifications of her actions?! Still, she learns from her mistakes and still strives to make herself better, even if that means refusing to keep secrets and sit back while her friends and family get hurt. She has the odd daft moment that comes back to haunt her, but overall she's a fun, sensible person with her sights firmly set on what she wants.

The Stall of Second Chances isn't a laugh a minute, but it does have its humorous moments. It's more serious than I thought it was going to be, but I ended up really appreciating everything it has to say and the way Sydney handles her life. Nothing is going according to plan for her, but she never lets it get the better of her. She's strong, and a dab hand when it comes to standing up for herself.

I enjoyed this book and wouldn't hesitate to read more by Dana Bate. I have zero interest when it comes to cooking myself, but Sydney and her journey has made me rethink my stance on the subject - perhaps it's not as boring as I thought after all. The Stall of Second Chances will sit well with any fiction-loving bakers out there, as well as anyone who just likes a good adult romantic comedy. It's easy to read and great escapist fiction - exactly what we all need after a long day at work!


 [Click to enlarge.]

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review: Pete and the Five-a-Side Vampires by Malachy Doyle

Publisher: Firefly Press
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: September 18th, 2014
Rating: 7/10

Amazon summary:

Pete and his faithful companion, Blob the Basset Hound, love to go a-wandering in the pitch-dark night. But they get more than they bargain for when they stumble across a Van-load of Vampires, a Weirdness of Werewolves, a Herd of Horrible Hell-Hounds, a Bangity-Banging Bwca and finally end up at the most frightful Fancy Dress Party in History! Can Pete and Blob save the day (well, the night), or will The Horrors win? 


Pete and the Five-a-Side Vampires is a great little book for younger readers. It's fast and funny, with memorable characters (the little Bwca man is my favourite) and a whole host of supernatural creatures wreaking havoc on Pete's town.

Split into five separate stories, Pete and the Five-a-Side Vampires chronicles Pete's sleepless nights and the strange adventures he has with his basset hound, Blob. They play football with vampires, get turned into werewolves, meet a clock-fixing Bwca (a little mining man), find a horde of hell hounds and encounter a real rotting zombie. Nights are never quiet for Pete and Blob!

I enjoyed every story in this book, and particularly like that they can be read as standalone tales or as one big continuous story. Pete and Blob are amusing characters, taking all the weird goings on in their stride and learning lots of unusual facts along the way. Like, did you know you can kill a werewolf with silver? And did you know that vampire bites are deadly? If you didn't already know that, you do now!

Pete and the Five-a-Side Vampires is a fun read and one that will appeal to any little Halloween enthusiasts. It's also illustrated too, and I especially like the depiction of the Bwca and zombie Pete. They look so little and cute, but obviously they're not to be trifled with. Like Pete, you just don't know what's waiting out there in the pitch black darkness. Or do you? Aw-rooooooo!

Review: The Accident by C.L. Taylor

Publisher: Avon
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: April 10th, 2014
Rating: 8/10

Amazon summary:

Sue Jackson has the perfect family but when her teenage daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma she is forced to face a very dark reality. Retracing her daughter’s steps she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world. In her hunt for evidence, Sue begins to mistrust everyone close to her daughter and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past. Sue will do anything to protect her daughter. But what if she is the reason that Charlotte is in danger? 


Books like The Accident aren't my usual genre of choice. I've never been into thrillers though have read and enjoyed a couple this year. I bought The Accident because it was really cheap on Kindle and I thought it'd be ok when I wanted to read something different - how right I was! I picked it up intending to just try the first chapter and before I knew it I was a third of the way through and completely addicted. Now that's good storytelling.

The Accident is told from Sue's perspective, a mid-forties woman whose teenage daughter is in a coma after walking in front of a bus. The timeline switches between now and the early nineties, cleverly explaining past events in Sue's life and how they're impacting the present day. Sue always knows that something isn't quite right with her daughter's accident and, as she begins to uncover more clues and more odd occurrences, she unravels a chilling turn of events that could put her whole family in danger.

This book is tightly plotted and compelling right from the beginning. Every character is realistic and flawed, especially Sue. She's not someone I instantly liked, though the flashbacks to her past helped me understand and sympathise with her more. She's not perfect, but neither is her husband or even her daughter. This is a family with a lot of secrets and mistakes, which only makes them that much more believable.

The Accident isn't a book I can talk about in detail without spoiling the plot. It's one that I'd recommend to anyone looking for a fast, immersive read, especially if you like thrillers and uncovering a mystery. The fact that I read it and enjoyed it so much should be testament to Cally Taylor and her writing - she made me go outside my comfort zone and see that, yes, this genre might just be one I like after all. I couldn't put this book down and I'm sure it's the same for most people reading it, so here's a tip: don't start The Accident unless you have a good spare few hours ahead of you. The last thing you'll want to do is put it down.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Review: Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Publisher: OUP
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: September 4th, 2014
Rating: 8/10

Amazon summary:

Astra's family are all snoring in their sleeping pods aboard their spaceship, but Astra is WIDE AWAKE. With her robot friend, Pilbeam, she goes off exploring and soon finds out the ship is in deep trouble. It's been knocked off course and invaded by a gang of Poglites, an alien salvage crew searching for spoonage (they just LOVE collecting spoons)! But even the Poglites need Astra's help when they discover something far more sinister lurking in the canteen. Sure, they're cakes; but no one would describe them as sweet.


People of all ages should read Cakes in Space. It's so fun and wacky, with excellent illustrations and a story that is really quite clever. It's different to any children's book I've read, anyway. I mean, who's ever heard of evil cakes?! I hadn't, until now!

As I've now come to expect, Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve make a formidable pairing and work so well together. Sarah's illustrations are distinguished and easily stand out, making this book a visual treat. Philip Reeve always spins a good yarn, and this one is my new favourite - there's aliens, cakes, robots, brave little girls and more imagination than I could ever hope to possess. Brilliant!

I'm quite fond of the little alien Poglites that invade Astra's ship in search of spoons. I wouldn't mind having one for myself, as long as it was well behaved and left all our cutlery well alone. I also like Astra's robot friend Pilbeam, and of course Astra herself. She's the only one who can save her ship and her family as they travel to Nova Mundi, and she does a jolly good job of doing so!

Cakes in Space is the most fun book I've read recently, completely mad and zany. It all works, though, and any younger readers will love the adventure that awaits them. I hope Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve work together on many more children's books, and I hope they carry on for years to come. Maybe for as long as it takes to get to Nova Mundi!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Review: Moone Boy by Chris O'Dowd and Nick V. Murphy

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: October 23rd, 2014
Rating: 6/10

Amazon summary:

Martin Moone is eleven and completely fed up with being the only boy in a family of girls. He's desperate for a decent wingman to help him navigate his idiotic life. So when best mate Padraic suggests Martin get an imaginary friend - or 'IF' for short - he decides to give it a go. His first attempt is Loopy Lou, a hyperactive goofball who loves writing rubbish rap songs. But Martin soon gets fed up with Lou's loopiness and decides to trade in his IF for someone a little less wacky. Enter Sean 'Caution' Murphy, an imaginary office clerk in a bad suit with a passion for laziness and a head full of dodgy jokes. Sean is full of tips and tricks to guide Martin through the perils of the playground, from dealing with his sisters' pranks to beating the bullying Bonner boys. But getting rid of Lou is not that easy, and having TWO imaginary friends is a recipe for trouble!


Moone Boy is an unusual book and one that I thought I would enjoy more than I did. It's written by actor Chris O'Dowd and writer Nick V. Murphy, and is based on the Emmy award-winning TV show of the same name. While I enjoyed Moone Boy, I thought it would be funnier. I did read it all it one sitting though, which says something!

Martin Moone lives in a small town in Ireland with his parents and three sisters. He doesn't have many friends and feels quite alone with very little male company in his house. His friend Padraic suggests he get an imaginary friend, an IF for short, and Martin soon finds he's bitten off more than he can chew. He wants to swap his mad IF for someone less hyperactive, but it's not quite as easy as that...

Martin's home life is amusing to read about, especially because of his three teenage sisters and his strange parents. I can see why he feels a bit alone and in need of an IF, though an imaginary friend is something I've never had myself. Loopy Lou is absolutely mad, as is the process to actually acquire an IF, though I did prefer him to Sean, Martin's next choice. Sean seemed a little boring to me, but he's a good help to Martin and does occasionally give him the correct advice!

Moone Boy didn't quite live up to my expectations, but I did like it and would read any future instalments if it's a series. The book as a whole looks great, with a cut-out cover, illustrations by Cartoon Saloon and colour bursts of red throughout. The package is perfect, but the actual story didn't grab me enough for my liking. Still, I have no doubt that Moone Boy will be a big hit with younger readers, and I suggest it be read whilst wearing a red knitted hat!