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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

GIVEAWAY: Song Quest

The countdown : 1 day to go!


Song Quest is released tomorrow. It will finally be back in print. Horray!

Thank you to Catnip Books for making this happen. You're the best!

So today, I'm giving you the chance to win a copy of the book.

To enter:
Fill out the form below. You will need to follow the link as the embedding will not work for some reason.
Under 16s must get parent / guardian permission before entering and provide their parent's email address rather than their own. Check my Contest Policy for further information.
Open to UK residents only.
Closing date: Sunday 12th February 2012

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?hl=en_US&formkey=dHZlMUxxVzVpMkQzQWhWMzZGVnlheVE6MQ#gid=0

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts Q8

The countdown : 2 days to go!

This is the last question. Enjoy!  Tomorrow something different! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.



Question 8
Now I’ve read SWORD OF LIGHT, I’m impressed by the way you managed to take existing Arthurian myth and create your own new legacy for a new generation. How hard is to write a story which has its foundations in a much-loved legend? Were there any challenges specific to working with an existing myth?



Well, the book is not out yet, so I am still awaiting people’s reactions! I expect those readers who know Thomas Malory’s version of the legend (Morte D’Arthur) will be picking holes in mine, but I think it’s important to remember that the Arthurian stories we know and love are not history. The historical facts about Arthur are actually quite scanty, so there is more freedom writing a series based on a legend like this, than there is writing historical fiction. I’ve read a lot of (adult) Arthurian fiction and have tried to keep the most popular elements while adding some inventions of my own. I’ve also simplified things slightly, so you’ll find King Arthur’s half sisters have vanished, but he has gained a daughter.

I found the fairy myths quite challenging, and spent some time trying to decide whether Avalon and Annwn were the same place. I hope to explore this more as the series progresses. Finally, there’s the Grail Quest, which runs through the entire series. I think Book 4 will be the biggest challenge, since the most obvious happy ending – Arthur returning to Camelot – clearly cannot happen, and I can already feel the tug between the pagan and Christian myths surrounding the Grail… I’m just hoping Rhianna Pendragon will sort it all out for me when she gets there!
Katherine Roberts

Ooh, what an insight into the process of writing a series. I am wholly reassured by the fact that all the answers aren't there yet. It gives me hope for my own writing. Thanks Katherine! I have learnt a lot from your answers to my questions.

You can visit Katherine's website:


Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of Sword of Light, is on Twitter. Follow her here: www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts Q7

The countdown : 3 days to go!

Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Question 7



I love that your main character in the Pendragon books is called Rhianna. We have several Rhiannas at school and I know they will be delighted to have a character namesake. So this leads me to ask: How do you choose your characters' names?

Fantasy names are fun, but can also be tricky. For my purely fantasy books, I try to come up with something a bit strange, because I think it takes away the magic if you call your hero by too familiar a name… at the same tiime it's important not to make fantasy names too strange, because I need to be able to pronounce them easily when I'm giving a reading from my book! I often find readers pronounce my invented names quite differently from the way I pronounce them, but that's fine with me... and I have to admit (embarrassed blush) I'm one of those people who pronounced Hermione "her-me-own" until I heard JK Rowling read from Harry Potter and realised it ought to be “Her-my-own-ee”!

For books like my new Pendragon series, things are a bit different because I'm working with legend/history. Since I'm setting my version of the Arthurian legend in the early Dark Ages, I downloaded a list of Celtic names from the internet and found Elphin and Rhiannon there. I was actually going to use Rhiannon for my heroine, but felt this sounded a bit heavy when teamed with Pendragon. So she became Rhianna. But I didn't realise that this was such a popular modern name… though of course there's the singer Rihanna with a different spelling, so maybe that's why? (I am a bit dense about these things sometimes.) Anyway, I hope all the Rhiannas at your school will enjoy the books!
Katherine Roberts

You can visit Katherine's website:



Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of Sword of Light, is on Twitter. Follow her here: www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Tomorrow, Question 8!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts Q6

The countdown : 4 days to go!

Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Question 6



Let's talk about villains. How do you go about writing a believable fantasy villain? I once read that you can have characters in fantasy novels that are just evil without giving any back story about how they came to be that way. Do you think that's true or do you think that even fantasy villains need a source from which their evil develops?

Ah, yes - every book needs a good villain! And fantasy villains are great fun to write. I do have trouble making mine totally evil, in the same way my heroes and heroines are not totally good, because in my experience people are just not like that... but while adults and older readers appreciate shades of grey in characters, younger readers tend to prefer things to be more clear cut.

I think as you go down the age range, you need to make your villains darker and your heroes brighter, so in my new Pendragon Legacy series I have gone for a dark villain in the shape of Prince Mordred, crippled in battle and out for revenge. In contrast, my heroine Rhianna, King Arthur’s daughter, is more feisty than I usually write. But she does have her faults... she's human, after all!

I would not write (or enjoy reading) a fantasy book, even for younger children, that did not have some back story for the main characters, including the villain. Just because a story is set in a fantasy world does not mean that the people in it are not real to that world. In fact, you probably have to work a bit harder at making them seem real than you would if they lived in our "real" world… if that makes sense!
Katherine Roberts

That makes perfect sense! The good characters need flaws in order for us to relate to them. The bad characters need a human side in order to make their evil deeds convincing.
You can visit Katherine's website:

Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of Sword of Light, is on Twitter. Follow her here: www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl
Tomorrow, Question 7!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts Q5

The countdown : 5 days to go!

Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Question 5



You mentioned that the idea for Song Quest came as a what if scenario. Is that how you usually find an idea you want to explore further? You seem like you have lots of ideas, so how do you decide which ones to spend the time working on?

Finding ideas has never been a problem for me, and "what if" never fails to spark off a story! This can be quite a small thing, such as "what if I walk down the end of my road and meet a rabid dog?" or a bigger thing like "what if the polarity of the earth reverses tonight?" I keep a notebook where I scribble down the most persistent ideas in case I want to use them one day. I'll never have time to develop them all into stories, though, so the real problem for a writer is deciding which of their ideas might be worth developing further.

Books happen in several ways:

Passion: An idea will not go away, and I am really interested in the subject matter or feel a need to explore it further. I start writing in a blaze of passion, and out comes a story. "Song Quest" was written like this, since it was my first novel and I didn't have any idea what publishers wanted so I just wrote what inspired me most at the time. Once you get published, you never really regain that absolute freedom of the first novel, because you start worrying about what publishers want, and what sort of book might sell enough copies to pay the mortgage and so allow you to continue writing. "I am the Great Horse" is another example of a passionate book, and that one got written because I had a dream contract from Chicken House that simply said “new novel” - but I think that level of author freedom is (sadly) rare these days.



Market: Some ideas are obviously more marketable than others. I am constantly coming up with outlines for series and developing characters and plots, only to find that once I start writing, everything goes dead on me! The trick is finding something marketable that also feels worth a year or more of my life, and sometimes I cannot tell that until I have written at least part of the book. Many of these ideas fizzle out after a few weeks' work and are stored away in various files awaiting a spark of inspiration that might bring them to life. I think the main problem with aiming for the market is that the most obvious ideas have already been used up and wrung dry. Also, fashions change. An initial idea might take years to develop into a book/series and reach the shelves, and by that time the bandwagon you were aiming to hitch a ride on will probably be vanishing over the horizon…

Work for hire: Sometimes a publisher will come up with an idea and need a writer to write the "book words". There are different levels of this, from projects where the publisher (or a third party such as Working Partners) provides a detailed storyline and the writer just joins the dots, to other projects where the writer is expected to plot and develop the characters working from the publisher's brief. Since it removes the most joyful part of the process for me, this is the kind of thing I will only take on when the bailiffs are at the door. So far I have done one: "Magical Horses" (for Carlton).

Writing any kind of book is hard work, so it's important to have something driving you quite hard in order to finish it – whether this is passion, some sort of challenge, money, or a fan with a sledgehammer threatening to break your ankles!
Katherine Roberts

Thank you Katherine. I found that such an interesting insight into the reasons you might write a story beyond your own passion for an idea. But I can see that writing about something that has a really personal meaning for  you would be more inspiring.

You can visit Katherine's website:


Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of Sword of Light, is on Twitter. Follow her here: www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Tomorrow, Question 6!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts Q4

The countdown : 6 days to go!

Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Question 4


Song Quest features magical creatures which, I believe, are partly based on mythology. Do you particularly enjoy writing about magical or otherwordly beings? What is it about fantasy writing that you really enjoy?
Yes, the Song Quest trilogy features several half-creatures: mermaids (which I call merlee because there are male ones as well), half horse half human centaurs, and half bird half human quetzal. I love writing about mythical creatures, and you'll find several strange ones in my Seven Fabulous Wonders series too, such as the fire-breathing chimera. There are even some telepathic fairy horses in my new Pendragon Legacy books. And, of course, my muse is a unicorn...

What do I enjoy about fantasy writing? Hmm, possibly the escapism… but also the freedom. If I wrote about real world children being kidnapped and riding off into the mountains on dangerous quests without adult supervision, or wrote about sailors slaughtering real world sea creatures, there would be an outcry. But in a fantasy world, you can address difficult themes from a safe distance. A fantasy story might seem to be about magic and heroic battles and elves, but in reality it is about power and war and different races trying to work together. If I try writing a book with no magic in it, the story always feels unfinished. Fantasy creatures such as mermaids and unicorns might not exist in our world, but out there somewhere in the universe... who knows? I absolutely believe in ghosts and spirits and things we cannot see or explain. Science has not discovered everything yet.
Katherine Roberts
You can visit Katherine's website:



Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of Sword of Light, is on Twitter. Follow her here: www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Tomorrow, Question 5!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts Q3

The countdown : 7 days to go!

Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Question 3



What made you take the leap into e-books? How are you finding this new venture into Kindle publishing?

I feel I was pushed rather than leapt of my own accord! After my agent died, I had a five year break in contracts, which meant a creative backlog coupled with time on my hands and disappearing income. I knew I had to do something. Amazon had just opened the door to independent publishers, and at the same time my older books started going out of print and my publishers showed no sign of bringing them back to the shelves. So I began the painful process of reverting the rights, and meanwhile taught myself how to format a book for Kindle with the idea of republishing my backlist as e-books. I finally got Spellfall up for sale with amazon.co.uk in January, and with amazon.com later in the year when the sublicense with Scholastic expired. Since then I have republished all of my Seven Fabulous Wonders series as ebooks as well, though so far I’ve not had time to do much publicity for them.

One of the good things about authors republishing their backlists independently in this way is that they can price them competitively. You can find more ebooks by UK authors at the group blog www.authorselectric.co.uk
Katherine Roberts
www.katherineroberts.co.uk




Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of The Sword of Light, is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Tomorrow, Question 3!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Author Interview Katherine Roberts Q2

The countdown : 8 days to go!

Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Question 2


Can you tell us a bit about the process of Song Quest being taken on by Catnip? Are there any different steps in the process for a book that has been with a previous publisher? Is it a different experience second time around?

The publishing process picks up later, at proof stage, missing out all the detailed editing and rewriting that happened the first time round. This makes sense, since that part of the work on the book has already been done. There are still proofs to check, though, because the layout of a book is copyrighted to the original publisher. In this case, I believe Catnip bought a copy of the Chicken House edition and retyped it, then reset the story for printing with fresh illustrations. They also commissioned a new cover image, which they put to a vote for the final colour decision – black or gold – and readers voted for gold. So the finished book looks a bit different, but I resisted rewriting the story so the words are the same. In this age of e-books, I’m delighted that “Song Quest” will soon be back in print as a proper book.

The experience of being published this time around is different because I have moved on to new projects. Song Quest’s first publication ten years ago was very exciting for me, since it was my first published novel and represented a personal achievement after five years of rejection from publishers and agents. My first editor Barry Cunningham visited me at home to make the offer, and then worked closely with me throughout the editing process, bringing the book out in hardcover with Element Books, where he had moved to set up a children's list after signing JK Rowling for Bloomsbury.

"Song Quest" could easily have sunk without trace, as many debut books do, except Waterstones in Piccadilly ordered 150 copies and displayed them around their foyer, and soon after that I got a phone call to tell me the book had won the Branford Boase Award, and would I be coming to the ceremony? Since I had no agent at the time to tell me what to expect, I thought this was all quite normal for a first novel! Then Disney asked to read it and things got even more exciting, but in the end they decided not to make the film, which was probably just as well because any money from such a deal would have been lost when Element went into receivership a year later... publishing is full of such ups and downs!

Anyway, after noticing your wonderful campaign to get the book back into print (THANK YOU!) Catnip must have visited my website and seen that the rights had reverted to me… and so a new edition was born, making Song Quest my longest surviving book in paper format with three UK editions so far – Element, Chicken House, and now Catnip.
Katherine Roberts

Three UK editions! And in just eight days, I will own them all. I am so excited! I can't wait to see the cover in the flesh (well, paper).

You can visit Katherine's website:

Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of Sword of Light, is on Twitter. Follow her here: www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl
Tomorrow, Question 3!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts Q1

The countdown : 9 days to go!

Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the  Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.

If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.

More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.

Question 1

Where did Song Quest's journey begin?

It began with a short story called "Death Singer", which was first published in a small-press fantasy magazine called Xenos in 1994. I had the original idea when I came across fascinating book on music therapy in my local library. Doctors had discovered that playing a patient’s favourite music following an operation helped the patient recover faster. Obviously, this music would be different for each patient, but I started thinking what if… what if there was a single song that could heal everyone? And if there was such a song that healed everyone, then there might also be a song that could kill – a death song, which might be used to execute criminals. Intrigued by the idea, I developed this further into five Songs of Power and wrote the Echorium Anthem one wet afternoon, which became the first page of "Song Quest".



Echorium Anthem

For healing sleep of lavender dreams,

For laughter golden and gay,

For tears shed in turquoise streams,

For fear, blood and scarlet screams,

For death of deepest midnight shade.

For these the Songs, five in one:

Challa, Kashe, Shi, Aushan, Yehn.

“Death singer and other fantasy tales” is now available from amazon.co.uk as an e-book for Kindle priced at £1-99.
Katherine Roberts



Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of The Sword of Light, is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Tomorrow, Question 2!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Review: Sword of Light

Author: Katherine Roberts

Release date: 1st February 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Templar
ISBN: 9781848773905
Series: The Pendragon Legacy Book 1


Review:

Sword of Light is an exciting fantasy novel which takes Arthurian legend and carves out for it a whole new journey. This is the Pendragon Legacy.

Rhianna Pendragon is the daughter of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. But she did not grow up in the mortal world of men. She grew up not knowing her true identity in the land of Avalon, where the fairies live. She was the only human permitted to live there and she dreamt of what it would be like to visit the world of men. Rhianna’s best friend is the Prince of Avalon, Elphin. They are a great pair and share a loyal bond.

The story begins with Rhianna and Elphin in Avalon racing their fairy horses. Their fun is interrupted by the arrival of the wizard Merlin. He appears in a boat through the mists to bring Arthur’s body to heal in the crystal caverns of the fairy King’s palace. But in order to return to health, Arthur will need the magic power of the Sword of Light – Excalibur. Only a person of Pendragon blood can wield the sword and so Rhianna must travel to Camelot and with Merlin’s aid retrieve Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake. On her journey Rhianna is accompanied by Elphin and his magic harp and some endearing characters she meets along the way.

The quest, of course, is not as easy as it first appears. The Saxons are waging a war against Camelot and they are under the influence of the Dark Knight Mordred. Injured by Arthur in his final battle, Mordred is determined to take Excalibur for his own. He too is a Pendragon. The story is full of exciting twists and turns. It is full of heroic, chivalric knightly deeds and honour.

This is the book that I’ve been desperate to add to the school library. All those fans of the TV show Merlin will love this. It takes Arthurian legend and creates a new generation of mythology. The Sword of Light is a story which will enchant readers young and old and have them cheering for the just and valiant future of Camelot. It’s fantastic, so accessible, full of delightful magic and is all carried off by a fiery heroine in a man’s world. I loved it.

Source: Review copy from Templar Publishing.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Review: The Statisical Probability of Love at First Sight

Author: Jennifer E Smith

Release date: 5th January 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Headline
ISBN: 9780755392179

Review:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a charming and touching contemporary teen romance. From the very first page you’ll be considering those tiny split second decisions that change the course of your life forever.

For once I didn’t mind the prologue at all, in fact, I loved it. It is two pages of what if this never happened, what if that... The tiny insignificant details that mean Hadley is running late to get to the airport. She arrives just in time to see the gate close and her plane to England take off without her. So now she’s stuck with the knowledge that these choices resulted in her being four minutes late. She should be thrilled as maybe she won’t make it to London in time for her father’s wedding but there are a lot of questions, emotions, and possibilities running riot in Hadley’s head.

This was in some ways quite a difficult book for me to read. I tend to steer clear of any book that involves a character dealing with parental abandonment issues. I have enough of those of my own. Hadley’s feelings really got under my skin and Jennifer E. Smith describes with painful accuracy how it feels to be left behind by your father. How it feels for him to go off and want to start a new life without you. As far as you’re concerned the life he had with his family was just fine. Yes, there are tears in my eyes as I write this and a lump in my throat. It is sixteen years since my dad left my mum and I have a great relationship with him but even now remembering those emotions is one of the most painful things I can do to myself. Yes, the keyboard is blurry through my tears.

But The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight isn’t a sad book. It just happens to be a book that touches the very depths of my identity. It is actually a very joyful book. It is full of hope and possibilities. You see while Hadley waits at the airport contemplating what she expects will be one of the most difficult days of her life, fate throws a cute boy her way. Or rather he very gallantly helps her out of a potential criminal act and so their stories weave together. The story that takes places in the next twenty-four hours will make you smile, will make you laugh and it will leave you feeling hopelessly romantic. It will also make you feel less phobic and free to just be.

I loved all the statistical references in this book and the quirky, witty flirting of the two characters on the plane. I know that the next time I take a flight I’ll be wondering if there are two people on the flight whose lives are about to change forever. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is sweet, tender and uplifting – everything you could want from a contemporary Young Adult novel.

Source: Proof copy sent by Headline.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Announcement: Auditions for Glimpse video diaries

An Announcement Post from author Claire Merle


FABER & FABER HAVE JUST LAUNCHED ONLINE AUDITIONS TO FIND A TEENAGE GIRL TO PLAY THE LEAD ROLE IN A SPECIAL SERIES OF FICTIONAL VIDEO DIARIES. The video diaries will prequel debut author Claire Merle's unputdownable dystopian thriller ‘The Glimpse’. They will feature one of the characters from the book, 16-year-old Tamsin Strike, and will be shot by an award-winning director.



Interested in auditioning? Go NOW to: www.facebook.com/theglimpse. (Please note, you must live in the UK to enter.)



For those of you who aren’t eligible to audition, join in the fun and help promote this amazing opportunity for one young actress! Claire is running a dystopian giveaway on her facebook page for anyone who helps spread the word. Check out the giveaway on Claire’s facebook wall: www.facebook.com/theglimpse#!/pages/Claire-Merle-Author/195817850451377



Watch a video about the competition: www.facebook.com/theglimpse.



So what’s the STORY behind the video diaries?



Throughout the UK people are now divided into Pures and Crazies according to the results of a DNA test, with the Pures living in small Communities cut off from the madness of society, and the Crazies living outside the walls in the squalor and mayhem of the City.

16-year-old Pure-girl Tamsin Strike is an outsider among the girls of her Community. Her parents come from a poor background and work endless hours in their shop in the hope that one day she'll Join with a rich Pure boy and have a safe, assured future. A non-conformist, Tamsin dreams of becoming an actress. She detests the idea of being Joined and pregnant by the time she's eighteen, and she questions the separation of the Pures from the majority of the population. Unlike other Pure girls, she isn't afraid of the City beyond their guarded walls and willingly accompanies her father to the markets to buy goods for their shop. When her father allows her to go to the cinema on her own, Tamsin meets a guy who changes everything. But nothing is what it seems. Least of all, Brian. If Tamsin doesn't work out the truth from the lies fast, becoming a baby-maker for future Pure generations, might be preferable to where she could end up.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Guest Review: This is Not Forgiveness

Author: Celia Rees

Release date: Paperback 2nd February 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA Fiction
Target Audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury Books
ISBN: 9781408817698


Guest Review by Anne Cassidy



This is Not Forgiveness is a startling new novel by Celia Rees. It’s ‘startling’ because the subject matter is quite unexpected.



Celia has, in the past, worked in a number of genres but this is a love story and a story of brothers at war, figuratively and literally. It’s mostly told by Jamie whose older brother Rob is back from Afghanistan with a shattered leg. He is lost away from the field of battle and takes refuge in drink and drugs. Jamie is working on the punts for the summer recess and becomes involved with Caro, a headstrong and enigmatic girl.



Both brothers forge relationships with this girl. One of these leads to heartbreak and the other to a political act.



This is a powerful story told as a multiple narrative. It’s a brilliant read for both younger and older adults.



It is published in February 2012.


Thank you to Anne for guest reviewing at The Bookette.


Monday, 9 January 2012

Review: The Court Painter's Apprentice

Author: Richard Knight

Release date: 1st January 2011
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Target audience: 8+
UK Publisher: Catnip Publishing
ISBN:9781846471278

Review:

The Court Painter’s Apprentice is an atmospheric historical novel with a mysterious twist.

The novel begins with Hugo, an elderly court painter, stopping at an inn for the night. There he spies an extraordinary drawing and asks the innkeeper if he knows the artist. The Innkeeper reveals that the artist is none other than his eleven year old son Johann. Hugo convinces Johann and his parents that he would benefit from an education in the art of portraiture and so Johann becomes Hugo’s apprentice, he leaves the inn behind and begins a journey into a new world.

The story is hugely atmospheric – the scenes at the inn on the stormy night immediately pulled me into the story. Also the new world of life in the studio and workshop jump off the page and are a great example of how setting can really make a story.

The plot of this book was not at all what I expected. I should have paid more attention to the blurb but sometimes I just pick up a book simply because I assume it will be about a particular thing. I wonder if anyone else does that? Sometimes I also choose a book for the age group it is written because of my work and again that was the case with The Court Painter’s Apprentice. I was looking to read a novel for the lower middle grade market. So I was surprised at the dark and sinister twist that this story took. I think it’s quite unusual for a novel aimed at this age group to explore isolation and how it can lead to depression. Yes there are many stories about being an orphan but not about how a choice to follow a dream can see a person lost within their own talent.

The story felt almost ghostly and gothic at times. It defies the current trend for children’s fiction to be abundant with humour and I didn’t mind that at all. However, I did lose the sense of how old Johann was at times through the story. I felt that he was aging but I was confused as to how old he was by the end. Perhaps this was a deliberate decision by the author as Johann lost his childhood self in pursuit of his great talent.

There is a swirling mystery in this book and it centres upon Johann’s unusual gift. Personally I think some of the unexpected happenings were not entirely resolved. Yet I loved the pace of the book and that the author didn’t waste time telling us unnecessary details and descriptions. Despite the confusion I felt at the end of the book, I was riveted all the way through and found it a real page turner. I imagine parents reading this to their children will find their own enjoyment in the mystery and satisfaction in a refreshingly different story.  The Court Painter’s Apprentice is an intelligent and compelling novel.

Source: Proof copy sent by Catnip Publishing.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Guest Post: Writing Comic Sci-Fi for Children

WRITING COMIC SCI-FI FOR CHILDREN

by Mark Griffiths

Martin Amis once said he could never write children’s literature because of the restrictions this would place on his artistic freedom.  I don’t know if Marty has read the nursery rhyme ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ recently, but in it a cow actually jumps over the moon.  I mean, how much freer can literature be?

Science fiction comedy (and if a cow jumping over the moon doesn’t count as that, I don’t know what does) seems to me a natural form to use when writing for children, allowing, as it does, tremendous scope for the imagination and for the inversion of the normal way of things.  Indeed, science fiction with a humorous twist is at the core of much memorable children’s literature.  The marvellous medicine George feeds his granny in the Roald Dahl story is simply a comic update of Dr Jekyll’s potion. 

The mind-swap trope, in particular, has a long and distinguished history in (usually comic) literature – from F. Anstey’s classic tale of father and son who exchange souls, Vice Versa, through PG Wodehouse’s Laughing Gas, to the modern braintwizzling hijinx of Mary Rodgers’ Freaky Friday and Todd Strasser’s Help! I’m Trapped… series.  These stories appeal to children’s innate sense of fairness because they usually portray imposing authority figures being forced to undergo the humiliations they normally inflict on others.

In my book Space Lizards Stole My Brain!, an evil, warmongering, alien lizard creature, Admiral Skink, is brought down to Earth, literally, when his mind is transferred into the body of an ordinary Earth boy, Lance Spratley.  Skink, the interstellar bully (at the opening of the book we see him picking on a weaker, nerdier, alien civilisation) is forced to experience life from the victim’s point of view.  Now it is he who is pushed around by the stronger life forms that normally plague the existence of Lance Spratley – school bullies, mean teachers, tyrannical parents and an impossibly bossy little sister.  Slowly, the alien warlord develops a grudging respect for the fortitude that Lance must show in the face of such daily indignities. 

Using the viewpoint of an alien creature as a distorting lens, the everyday upsets and worries of an 11 year old boy are made to look like weird, incomprehensible, life-threatening perils – in fact, just the way they actually feel to an 11 year old boy.  Admiral Skink is Lance’s alter ego in many ways.  When, his mind trapped in Lance’s body, he goes on a ruinous rampage through town astride a dinosaur, it’s hard not to feel that it is the frustrated child Lance himself who is taking destructive revenge on a world that constantly slights him. 

Science fiction is often about what ifs – what philosophers call thought experiments – ways in which we reimagine the world to compare and contrast it with the one we’re familiar with.  Children do this with constant and unthinking freedom in their games, and by writing comic science fiction for them, as an adult I can go some way towards recapturing that freedom.  
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Many thanks for your thoughts on writing comic scifi Mark.

Space Lizards Stole My Brain is released today!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

WINNER: The Statisical Probability of Love at First Sight


Just one more day to wait until the release of The Statisical Probability of Love at First Sight.

I've read this charming tender book and my review is coming soon...
To celebrate the release I have one signed hardback copy to giveaway on behalf of the lovely people at Headline.

To Enter:
Complete the form below.
Open to UK entrants only.
Under 16s must get parent / guardian permission before entering and provide their parent's email address rather than their own. Check my Contest Policy for further information.


Closing date
CLOSED

WINNER:
Congratulations to Melanie of Library Mice. I'll be in touch for your details.

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Flying Free: Book blogging for me 2012!

Happy New Year!

I am setting myself a challenge. I am calling it Flying Free: Book Blogging for Me 2012.

The terms of this challenge are:
There are no terms!

You read what you like, when you like and then you review it if you feel like it.

Call me a revolutionary but I want to return to reading for the sheer joy of it. Welcome to 2012 at The Bookette.

These are books that I have been meaning to read for ages and would, in an ideal world, like to have read by the end of 2012. But hey, no pressure!

  1. Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts
  2. Time Riders Book 3 by Alex Scarrow
  3. Pegasus by Robin Mckinley
  4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  5. Scat by Carl Haasen
  6. The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan
  7. Heroes of Olympus Book 2 by Rick Riordan
I'm going to add more books to this list as I sort through my shelves.

You can join me if you want and do your own Flying Free post.

I'll put a linky here (just in case) but if I'm going solo that is totally cool too!