Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Storyteller Blog Tour: Trailer!


I was supposed to post this over 2 weeks ago, but I've had a lot of personal stuff going on and haven't been able to until now. Apologies for the lateness, but I can finally show you guys the trailer for The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis. There were many other posts on this blog tour, which has now finished, and you can find details of those on the banner at the bottom of this page.

Here's a summary of The Storyteller from Amazon:

Anna and Abel couldn't be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It's a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his "enemies" begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?

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So, without further ado, here is the rather excellent trailer!




For more info, check out the Abrams Twitter and Facebook accounts:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Review: Space Lizards Stole My Brain! by Mark Griffiths


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: January 5th, 2012
Rating: 7/10


Amazon summary:

When Admiral Skink, an alien-lizard warlord from the planet Swerdlix, is attacked by The Hideous and Unimaginably Vast Comet Creature of Poppledock he faces a certain death...but luckily his underlings have installed the BrainTwizzler 360 Mind Migration SystemTM. This nifty invention safely transfers Skink's mind on to a memory wafer and jettisons it through space to find a suitable temporary "home" until he can be rescued by his fellow Swerdlixians. Unluckily for eleven-year-old Lance Spratley it just so happens that the temporary home for Admiral Skink's mind is his body! And while Skink deals with being trapped in Lance's useless body - it can't even breathe fire! -- Lance is transferred to a virtual waiting room surrounded by the lizard race who seem intent on destroying Earth when they have successfully retrieved Skink. Will Lance ever get his body back? And even if he does will he be able to thwart Admiral Skink and the Swerdlixians plans to invade Earth...

Review:

Space Lizards Stole My Brain! is a great addition to younger children's fiction - it's bonkers! It's a book that would make a brilliant children's TV show (animated, of course) chronicling the adventures of human Lance Spratley and Swerdlixian lizard ruler Admiral Skink.

This book is all about brain swapping, though it happens through less than usual means. Admiral Skink's starship is destroyed, the Braintwizzler 360 system is fired up and voila, Admiral Skink swaps minds with Lance! Hilarity ensues, of course - Skink doesn't understand the human world and all it's many customs, and Lance just hasn't got a clue what's happened to him and why he's in a strange place surrounded by weird giant lizards. It must all be very traumatising for the poor boy, though preferable to his rather slave-like home life!

There's a lovely clever little pet iguana called Pickles who makes an appearance, as well as a real live Triceratops (eek!), numerous mankind-hating Swerdlixians, an addiction to auction sites and something called an ARGH. Just your run-of-the-mill alien story really... minus the dinosaur, of course!

I think children aged 7+ will really enjoy this, both boys and girls thanks to the two main characters Lance and Tori. And, as if that wasn't enough, Space Lizards Stole My Brain! is also fully illustrated by Pete Williamson! He's my favourite children's illustrator and successfully works his magic on this book. Honestly, I've never seen lizards looking like this. Yikes! Look out for the sequel later in the year, which I believe is called Space Lizards Ate My Sister! Uh-oh!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Talina in the Tower Blog Tour: Michelle Lovric Guest Post!


Talina in the Tower was published in the UK by Orion Children's Books last week, and I have a great gust post from author Michelle Lovric as part of her blog tour.Hope you enjoy it, and here's a summary of the book in case you don't know what it's all about:

Savage hyena-like creatures threaten Venice - the Ravageurs are on the prowl and seizing men, women and children. On the night of 30 June 1846 Talina's parents disappear and she and her cat, Drusilla, are forced to go and live with her Guardian and his three savage dogs in his lonely tower in the northernmost edge of the city. Here she discovers that she has the ability to change herself into a cat, but changing herself back into a girl isn't quite so easy. As a cat she learns about the Ravageurs and how over the centuries they have become semi magical creatures, visible only to children in the human world, and that they are intent on destroying Venice. She is determined to save the city - it's time for desperate measures - and her adventures are about to begin.


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Cross-species Trust
By Michelle Lovric


This is what Joan Brossa, the Spanish poet and artist, might call an ‘object poem’. Two things, each with very different but potent associations, are physically juxtaposed to set off an intellectual chain interaction. Here we see human hands, which can kill or protect, closed around a universal symbol of vulnerability: not just a fawn but a baby fawn. The shock of the picture is that this is not Disney’s Bambi, but a real creature. One hopes the little one is asleep – but it could also be dead.

As writers, we very often create ‘object poems’ by juxtaposing animals and humans. When I created the beasts I named Ravageurs for Talina in the Tower, I was thinking about the famous Edith Evans quote, ‘When a woman behaves like a man, why can’t she behave like a nice man?’

And I followed that train of thought into animals. When animals behave like humans – when we writers anthropomorphize them – it seems to me that they tend not to behave like nice humans. My Ravageurs certainly don’t. Here’s a detail from the back cover that gives an indication of just how badly they comport themselves: they are greedy, bullying, lying monsters who enslave every creature who falls into their clutches.


But what are we writers truly about when we write an evil anthropomorphized animal? I think that we may be engaged in an automatic activity that requires a little more examination.

I suspect the baby deer picture provokes a disturbing sensation partly because it forces us to confront the fact that we hunting, fishing, venison-eating humans are in fact the worst thing the little creature will have to fear.

Do we humans wish to be in this position? Are ferocious anthropomorphized animals in novels a way for us to shuck off the responsibility of our role as the dominant species on earth? (Or the feckless way in which we carry that responsibility?) Why do we love to write of murderous, jewel-hungry dragons? Of wicked wolves? Of ravening bears? Fables have allowed us to project our own – exclusively human – duplicitous cunning onto foxes, our infidelity onto rats, our greed onto pigs, and dishonesty onto snakes. Convenient, yes. Righteous reasoning – I think not.

Now, let us consider the predominance of animals in very young children’s literature. It appears to have had an interesting effect on the infant subconscious – apparently little children dream mainly about animals.

Our earliest response is to think that animals are like us, just operating inside a different body. But when our child readers start to comprehend consciousness, they also start to acknowledge the existence of different consciousnesses from their own. They still love animals, however. And it is at this point that we writers perhaps owe them a more synthetic approach to animals.

We have deconstructed a lot of human villains, created the concept of an antihero, even found ways to liberate our historical girls from the shackles and corsets of their time – but we still have work to do on animals, I believe. And myself more than anyone, judging by my Ravageurs. Yet I tried …

Not all my animals are bad in Talina in the Tower. Yes, I have fun with bully-boy cats and aggressive rats, but I also have some sensible and sensitive animals sit in judgement on their peers. There is a confrontation in court at the end of the book. Grignan, Lord of the Ravageurs, has been brought to account, not just for his crimes against Venice but also for his acts of cruelty against other animals, including his own species, on whom he deliberately inflicts rabies, to make them more ferocious and thus more likely to follow his murderous bidding.

In the Chamber of Conversation, presided over by animals, witches, Righteous Wraiths and a small Doge, a dignified zebra tells Grignan, ‘You are not even animals any more, you Ravageurs. Proper animals don’t carry on as you do. They do not have Lords. Or slaves. They do not make plots.’ In other words, Grignan has abandoned the commendable straightforwardness of animals and taken on the worst characteristics of mankind.

Grignan’s punishment is exile but also something worse … demotion:
The Doge continued sternly, ‘the Ravageurs will cease to be magical creatures. Your magic shall be confiscated and distributed to good causes. You will become visible to adult humans.’
‘Humans with shotguns and hunting dogs!’ mouthed a rabbit on the wall, with an air of someone who knew something about such a tricky situation.

So, the mighty Ravageurs shall become as vulnerable as the baby deer pictured at the top of this post. And so we humans should rise to a little humility, and not depict ourselves as inevitably omniscient and omnipotent.


Michelle Lovric’s website: Michelle Lovric.com

The image of the deer comes from the Critteristic website
(warning: unbearably sweet cat images there too).



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Monday, 6 February 2012

Hollow Pike Blog Tour: James Dawson Guest Post - 'It Gets Better'.


Hollow Pike, James Dawson's highly anticipated UK debut novel, was published last week and I'm really excited to be part of his very first blog tour. I haven't read Hollow Pike yet myself (hopefull soon) but I've heard fantastic things about it, and I know from meeting him that James is a lovely guy. I wish him lots of luck with his book!

James has written a very important, inspiring guest post for my stop on the tour, and I hope you all take something away from it. It's a subject important to me and a lot of my friends, so I hope you enjoy reading it!


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It Gets Better
by James Dawson


Without a doubt this is the hardest stop on my blog tour. I’ve been asked to write about my school days. If you’ve read Hollow Pike, it’s probably pretty clear that these weren’t the happiest days of my life, and as such, I don’t spend a lot of time talking about them.

But wounds heal, and enough time has passed that it feels OK to share that time, even in such a public way. In fact, writing Hollow Pike has been something of a cathartic experience, and I feel like I’ve sufficiently exorcised those demons.

Secondary School was pretty bad. I was a victim of bullying. Victim and Bullying. I feel weak and defeated typing those words fifteen years on. Even now, that is so hard to admit, and I’m not actually asking for help – it’s all deep, deep in my past. The ridiculous thing is this: at the time I wasn’t even aware that the situation was as bad as it was. It was only when I got to university and people weren’t throwing abuse at me every day that I realised something had been amiss at school.

Teasing, name-calling, verbal abuse and homophobia were so common place that I thought them to be an expected part of the school day.

Obviously then, I was not the only victim. Quite the opposite, most of my friends came in for the same daily dose. I know what you’re thinking – ‘why didn’t you tell someone?’ Like I said, I didn’t see anything wrong with the picture. Worse still, when some of my closest friends reported bullying, they were told to ‘dress less weird’, and in one case ‘if you insist on being a lesbian, you have to expect this’. I was deeply upset to see reports like this coming out of Essex schools in 2011. I hoped things might have progressed. There were a couple of teachers who seemed willing to tackle bullying. One day, I owe a certain Mr Greaves a pint for what can only be described as his protection in PE lessons. The majority however seemed solely concern with the subjects they taught and the lessons they delivered. The perilous transitions to and from these bubbles didn’t trouble them in the least.

I’m painting a grim picture, and it was. But this is the where the ‘it gets better’ part kicks in. As soon as I left school, to the day, things started to improve. Now that there’s some distance between me and it, I see that it wasn’t a case of ‘victims’ and ‘bullies’, it was simply ‘school’, and that’s what inspired Hollow Pike. Nowhere else has the same pecking orders and social hierarchy bullshit. School is a zoo, and to survive, you have to be vicious. Here’s another admission that makes me feel sick. I also used to bully people. That’s right, I used to prey on those even weaker than myself. Seeing the bigger picture, I now recognise that school is hell for almost everyone. Even those at the very top of the tree had their own issues to deal with.

Back to the getting better part. In those difficult times, I actually started to enjoy school. How? I made the right friends. For most of secondary school I associated with people who were complicit in the name-calling and teasing. One day I had enough. I cut them off for three new friends who encouraged me to be myself. Within no time at all, I came out to them (told them I was gay) and felt freer and happier than I even had been. We helped each other through the last two years. It was still bad, but together we felt strong enough to laugh it off. We remain close to this day, and the strength of our friendship is what inspired me to write Hollow Pike.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and I feel that’s true after my bullying. Coming through something like that, you grow a thick skin. I think a lot of young LGBT people come out of school with skin like titanium armour for this very reason. I went into teaching after college, and was strangely unaffected by the daily grind of pupils, parents and OfSted – I owe this to my schooling. Later, when I set out to be an author, you deal with rejection all the time. Again, thank you school days. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if young people could come out of school with high esteem because their experience had been positive rather than negative?

Times have changed, and I know from my teaching days that bullying is taken very seriously in schools now. It is monitored and recorded. That aside, any school claiming to have eradicated bullying is lying for the simple reasons set out above – hundreds of young people vying for status are going to hit below the belt. What needs to change is ‘school’. There needs to be a shift in the way schools teach young people to communicate with one another. It’s not ‘banter’, it’s ‘bullying’. THIS, GOVERNMENT, IS WHY YOU MUST MAKE PSHCE STATUTORY.

For this reason, along with Fierce Fiction, we’re introducing the use of the Twitter hashtag #schooldaze. School is hard for everyone, but, just like me, with the right friends, it gets better. If your friends are giving you shit, make some better friends. So tweet us. Tell us about your schools – the good, the bad and the ugly. For those of you still at school, just remember, it’s only five years of your life, and one day you’ll look back and see it for what it was – the chrysalis. What happens after school, that’s the butterfly.

Thanks for such a brilliant post, James!


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Sunday, 5 February 2012

In My Mailbox #152: New Books This Week


In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all links would usually take you to Amazon. Click images for a bigger picture!

I haven't done an IMM post, hardly anything on my blog, actually,since mid-January. My mum isn't well and has been in hospital for almost 3 weeks. I don't want to get into it all but just want to say thanks to my publisher friends for being so understanding and lovely, and to all my other friends for just being amazing.

I have received some really, really exciting books in the post over the last 3 weeks, and here they are. I'll be getting to them as soon as I concentrate again, though I did read I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. It was GOOD. Sorry there are no titles or links - I just haven't got time today. Hopefully the pictures are big enough to see what they are.


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For review:














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Bought:







Happy reading!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mortal Chaos Blog Tour: Exclusive Trailer Reveal!

Mortal Chaos, Matt Dickinson's new teen novel, is published in the UK today and, even though I haven't had chance to read it yet, I've heard great things about it!




Here's a bit more information from Amazon:

'The Butterfly Effect ': the scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. When a butterfly startles a young rabbit, and the rabbit makes a horse rear, it starts a chain of events, over the course of one day, that will change people's lives . . . and end people's lives. From a climber on Everest to a boy in Malawi . . . from a commercial pilot to an American psycho . . . the chaos knows no bounds. This heart-stopping adventure by writer, film maker and climber Matt Dickinson will leave readers breathless. It's the book Jack Bauer would have read as a teenager!

I'm very excited to be debuting the trailer - it looks awesome! Click here to see it or watch the video below. Take a look and let me know what you think!


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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Review: Signs of Love - Love Match by Melody James


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: February 2nd, 2012
Rating: 7.5/10


Amazon summary:

The path of true love never runs smoothly, and when Gemma is involved it can get exceedingly bumpy! For as long as thirteen-year-old Gemma Stone can remember she has dreamed of becoming an award-winning journalist. Unfortunately, as the youngest member of the Green Park High student e-zine editorial team, she's given the job of writing the horoscopes, under the pen name 'Jessica Jupiter'. Not knowing the first thing about astrology, Gemma decides to make the most of her unexpected situation by using her new position to play Cupid with her friends, writing fictional forecasts to help their romantic dreams come true. But is Gemma too busy with her friends' love lives to notice signs of love closer to home?

Review:

Signs of Love: Love Match is the first book in a new series for teenage girls. It's about Gemma Stone, a 14-year-old aspiring journalist who ends up writing horoscopes for her school's webzine. While taking on the role of Jessica Jupiter, astrologer and matchmaker, she also helps her friends and saves an important piece of school architecture in the process.

Love Match appealed to me because it looked fun from the cover. It appears lighthearted and flighty, but it's actually more serious that that, which surprised me. Another focus of Gemma's life is her younger brother Ben, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. His illness affects the whole family, and Gemma often has to help out with his physio and medication. Before reading this book I didn't really know much about CF, but I do now. I can't imagine how hard it is to live with that illness, and for all involved, and seeing it represented in a teen book seems like a positive step towards educating people about it.

I liked the setting for this book, which mostly took place in the webzine room. I've always been interested in journalism and writing, so in a way I suppose I relate to Gemma more than I usually would to a character her age. I think I wanted to be a journalist when I was around fourteen and this book would have been a great read for me back then. It's an inspirational story for anyone in secondary school who's wondering what to do in the future. It shows that you have to keep trying, and that taking a rubbish horoscope job could be a stepping stone to something better!

I enjoyed Love Match. It reminded me very much of of books by writers like Cathy Hopkins and Cathy Cassidy, with its authentic teen voice and memorable, likeable characters (like treacle, Gemma's best friend with a cool nickname!). The romantic matchmaking elements add humour and boys to the story, making it even more reminiscent of being fourteen and not knowing what's in store. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone that age!

Love Match is a promising start to what I think will be a popular series with teen girls. It's a feelgood, accurate portrayal of secondary school life, but it also has an air of maturity to it. Every high school library should have a copy of this one - I bet it'll fly off the shelves!