Monthly Archives: May 2012

My Most Anticipated June New Releases

The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker (Children’s Fiction – NZ)

Rumour is flying around the west coast gold fields that Tom McGee has struck it rich and found a nugget of gold as big as a man’s fist. So no one is surprised when next his campsite is found wrecked and abandoned. Men have been killed for a lot less on the tough goldfields of 1860s New Zealand. But one person is convinced Tom is not dead. His headstrong daughter, Charlotte. Solving the mystery is not her first task, though. First, she must get to the coast. A skilful horse rider, she disguises herself as a boy and joins a cattle drive across the Southern Alps. To survive the dangerous drive over Arthur’s Pass and to keep her identity hidden from the vicious trail boss, she’ll need the help of her dog, her horse, and her father’s friend, Tama. She knows she can do it – she has to – but what will she find? And will her new American friend, Joseph, help or hinder her quest? Charlie is in for the ride of her life – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Red Rocks by Rachael King (Children’s Fiction – NZ)

While holidaying at his father’s house, Jake explores Wellington’s wild south coast, with its high cliffs, biting winds, and its fierce seals. When he stumbles upon a perfectly preserved sealskin, hidden in a crevice at Red Rocks, he’s compelled to take it home and hide it under his bed, setting off a chain of events that threatens to destroy his family. Red Rocks takes the Celtic myth of the selkies, or seal people, and transplants it into the New Zealand landscape, throwing an ordinary boy into an adventure tinged with magic

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (Young Adult Fiction)

The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. Tucker begins to suspect that the discs of shimmering air he keeps seeing – one right on top of the roof – hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time – twisting journey. Inevitably, Tucker’s actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.

The Tribe: The Interrogation of Ashla Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Young Adult Fiction)

“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below … And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.” Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe – the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move.

Broken by Elizabeth Pulford (Young Adult Fiction)

Critically injured in a motorbike accident, Zara Wilson lies in a coma. She is caught between many worlds: the world of her hospital room and anxious family, and that of her memories and a dream-like fantasy where she searches for her brother Jem. Jem proves elusive but Zara s adventures in her subconscious unlock dark secrets of a troubled childhood. Zara must face up to her past in order to accept her future.

1.4 by Mike Lancaster (Young Adult Fiction)

In the far future, people no longer know what to believe… Did Kyle Straker ever exist? Or were his prophecies of human upgrades nothing more than a hoax?

Peter Vincent is nearly 16, and has never thought about the things that Strakerites believe. His father – David Vincent, creator of the artificial bees that saved the world’s crops – made sure of that.  When the Strakerites pronounce that another upgrade is imminent, Peter starts to uncover a conspiracy amongst the leaders of the establishment, a conspiracy that puts him into direct conflict with his father.  But it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with someone who controls all the artificial bees in the world.

Unrest by Michelle Harrison

Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for six months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Now he is afraid to go to sleep. Sometimes he wakes to find himself paralysed, unable to move a muscle, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around, while his body lies asleep on the bed. According to his doctor, sleep paralysis and out of body experiences are harmless – but to Elliot they’re terrifying. Convinced that his brush with death has opened up connections with the spirit world, Elliott secures a live-in job at one of England’s most haunted locations, determined to find out the truth. There he finds Sebastian, the ghost of a long-dead servant boy hanged for stealing bread. He also meets the living, breathing Ophelia, a girl with secrets of her own. She and Elliott grow closer, but things take a terrifying turn when Elliott discovers Sebastian is occupying his body when he leaves it. And the more time Sebastian spends inhabiting a living body, the more resistant he becomes to giving it back. Worse, he seems to have an unhealthy interest in Ophelia. Unless Elliott can lay Sebastian’s spirit to rest, he risks being possessed by him for ever, and losing the girl of his dreams…

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Adult Fiction)

The third in a series of novels that began with The Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind. The Prisoner of Heaven returns to the world of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop.

It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from The Shadow of the Wind have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel’s father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him.

Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival.

Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris (Adult Fiction)

It isn’t often you receive a letter from the dead. When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to follow the wind that blows her back to Lansquenet, the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Vianne is completely unprepared for what she finds there. Women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and there, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the square little tower of the church of Saint-Jerome like a piece on a chessboard – slender, bone-white and crowned with a silver crescent moon – a minaret. Nor is it only the incomers from North Africa that have brought big changes to the community. Father Reynaud, Vianne’s erstwhile adversary, is now disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him?

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Starters by Lissa Price

Imagine a world that is populated only by the very young and the very old.  Everyone in between has been killed by biological warfare because they weren’t vaccinated.  Children and teenagers who don’t have living relatives survive day by day, living in abandoned buildings and scrounging for food.  There is one company who offers a way out of poverty for teenagers who are willing to rent out their bodies to the elderly, who just want to feel young again.  This is the situation that Callie finds herself in when we first meet her in Lissa Price’s amazing debut novel, Starters.

16-year-old Callie lost her parents when the ‘genocide spore’ wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first – the very young and very old. She and her little brother must go on the run, living as squatters, fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes in the form of the Body Bank run by a mysterious figure, known only as The Old Man. The Body Bank allows teenagers to rent out their bodies to ‘Enders’ – the elderly members of society – who want to be young again. But Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party in her body. She intends to commit murder.

I absolutely loved this book!  Starters really stands out among all the other young adult science fiction/dystopian books being published at the moment.  It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time and Lissa Price was constantly surprising me.  There were so many twists and turns that I gave up on trying to figure out what would happen next.  Callie is an intelligent, kick-butt female character that is always putting the safety and health of her brother over her own life.  The reason she first goes to the body bank is to get the money she needs to make a good life for her brother, and she is constantly thinking about him and doing everything she can to make sure he’s safe.  I liked that the story is told in first person from Callie’s point of view as it helps you understand her motives and you really feel the punch to the gut when she uncovers the truth.  I loved the character of the Old Man because there is so much mystery surrounding him.  He always seems to be just out of reach and you don’t really know who he is or what part he plays.  I can’t wait to find out more about him in the next book.

Lissa Price is an extremely talented author and definitely one to keep an eye on.  The sequel to Starters, called Enders, is due out in December 2012 so I’m glad I don’t have to wait long to read the next part of the story.

5 out of 5

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Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper Blog Tour – Day 6

Today I’m joined by Australian author Carole Wilkinson, author of the wonderful Dragonkeeper books.  Carole has just released the 4th book in the Dragonkeeper series, Blood Brothers, and the whole series now has a fantastic new cover design.  I really enjoyed the first 3 books in the series, which I read many years ago, so I’m looking forward to getting back to that world again.

Thanks for joining me Carole!

It’s great to be travelling across the Tasman for today’s blog, hosted by Zac at the My Best Friends are Books blog. I’m writing about creating some of the characters in the Dragonkeeper series.

A Reluctant Heroine

Creating convincing characters is perhaps one of the hardest things about writing fiction. I rarely base characters on people that I know, not consciously anyway. When I created the main (human) character for Dragonkeeper, I wanted her to start with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even a name. And so I created a slave girl who has no freedom, no possessions, no friends. What she does have is resourcefulness. She has learned to make the most of her miserable life — finding a friend in a friendless world (Hua her pet rat), collecting a few precious items to call her own (a rusty iron blade, a white eagle feather, a piece of weathered wood shaped like fish) and enjoying simple pleasures such as a warm fire and a bowl of lentils flavoured with some purloined ginger.

I didn’t want her to be someone who has always known she was special, or who always had a dream to achieve something grand. At the beginning of the story, Ping has no expectation of any aspect of her life changing. She isn’t craving freedom, she just makes the best of a bad situation.

When offered escape she doesn’t snatch it, she hangs back and has freedom more or less forced upon her. When told she has latent special skills and the opportunity to take up an important role, she doesn’t believe it. That can’t be her. She struggles with her role as dragonkeeper.

Back in 2001, when I started writing Dragonkeeper I didn’t realise how much of me there was in my main character. Just like Ping needed a push to begin my journey to becoming a writer. I had absolutely no confidence that I could achieve that goal.

Inspiration for the Timid

When I was young, there were always those girls who effortlessly excelled. They were natural athletes or had a talent for music or were clever enough for maths and Latin to be a breeze. They were the ones teachers loved. I wasn’t sporty or musical, and I got average marks. I might well have been good at writing stories, but no one asked me to do that. Classes had 40-plus students and teachers didn’t remember my name.

I wanted Ping to be a character to inspire girls who are average and insecure, whose talents are hidden or yet to be acquired by years of hard work.

Draconic Characters

One of the most enjoyable aspects of planning the Dragonkeeper series has been creating the characters of the dragons. First there is Danzi who is frustratingly uncommunicative and past his prime, but who has a quirky sense of humour. In Garden of the Purple Dragon there is Kai, a cheeky dragonling, easily bored. Then in Dragon Moon I got to create a whole cluster of dragons — eight of them, all with very different characters.

I drew on Chinese mythology for the basic characteristics of the dragons — their colours, ability to shape-shift, and the fact that they hibernate in deep pools — and then developed these features. Chinese dragons come in five different colours — red, yellow, black, white or green. I started by deciding that each colour would be like a subspecies with its own characteristics. Red dragons are the biggest, with horns up to a metre long and blue whiskers. They are mediators. They can’t shape-change, but they can camouflage themselves. White dragons are the smallest and the best fliers. They can only shape-change into white birds. The yellow dragons are timid and they sing. The black dragons are more solitary. Unlike all the other dragons, they don’t like water much. They are bad-tempered and prone to fighting, but fiercely protective of their cluster. And the green dragons are natural leaders with exceptional shape-changing skills. They are as at home in the water as they are in the air.

Not all my dragons remain true to type. In the latest book in the series, Blood Brothers, Kai has lost interest in being a leader, and gentle Sha has undergone a radical personality change. I’m looking forward to developing the characters of my other dragons in future books.

Carole Wilkinson


Blood Brothers, book 4 in the Dragonkeeper series. Out now!

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Win a set of Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper books

Australian author, Carole Wilkinson, has written a great post for My Best Friends Are Books to celebrate the release of Book 4 in the Dragonkeeper series, Blood Brothers.

Thanks to Walker Books Australia I have a full set of the four books in the Dragonkeeper series to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw for the books is leave your name and email address below.  Competition closes Monday 4 June (NZ only).

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Cover reveal – Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked

Magic is a disease.

Across the land, normal people are suddenly developing wild and unstable powers. Somehow infected by a rare strain of magic, they are unwittingly endangering their own lives and the lives of the people around them. Terrified and confused, their only hope lies with the Sanctuary, which is having problems of its own. Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain are needed now more than ever – not only to find out what is causing the infection, but also to prevent the take-over of the Sanctuary by a consortium of international sorcerers.

And then there’s the small matter of Kitana. A normal teenage girl who, along with her normal teenage friends, becomes infected. Becomes powerful. Becomes corrupted. Wielding the magic of gods, they’re set to tear the city apart unless someone stands up against them.
Looks like it’s going to be another one of those days …

Derek Landy revealed the cover for Kingdom of the Wicked on his blog on Friday.  I can’t wait for this book!  I’m a huge fan of the series and even had the pleasure to interview the very funny Derek Landy a couple of years ago.  Tom Percival is the illustrator of all of the Skulduggery Pleasant covers and deserves a huge amount of praise.  I think he’s probably just as responsible for Skulduggery’s huge following as Derek is.

Kingdom of the Wicked (book 7 in the series) is due out in New Zealand in August and you can look forward to Derek Landy’s NZ tour in August too (more details to follow).

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Welcome to The 13th Horseman NZ Launch Party!

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the New Zealand launch of Barry Hutchison’s The 13th Horseman.  I’ve been a huge fan of Barry’s for a while now and I wanted to do something special to launch his new book in NZ.  In Christchurch we’re having a launch party with giveaways, a feast fit for a Horseman of the Apocalypse, and some special launch videos from Barry in Scotland.

If you can’t be in Christchurch you can still celebrate the launch of Barry’s hilarious new book.  Barry has made 3 videos especially for his readers in NZ, in which he introduces The 13th Horseman, reads from the book, and answers some questions.  Also, if you scroll to the bottom of this post, you can enter to win a copy of The 13th Horseman with a signed bookplate.  Come on in and join the party!

Barry introduces The 13th Horseman

Barry reads an excerpt from The 13th Horseman

Barry answers some questions about The 13th Horseman

Thanks so much for the great videos Barry!  If you haven’t got a copy of The 13th Horseman, rush out to your bookshop now to grab a copy or enter my competition to win one.  Competition closes Friday 1 June (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition.  The winners are Cath and Amu.

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Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter

I’ve loved picture books from a young age.  I still remember those ones that my parents read to me when I was little, especially books by Janet and Allen Ahlberg like Each Peach Pear Plum.  When I was at school the wonderful librarians at my local public library introduced me to more sophisticated picture books, like Gary Crew’s The Water Tower. Now, as a librarian I read lots of picture books every week, both for my own enjoyment and to share with children in the library.  In New Zealand we don’t have many book festivals or events where we can meet authors and illustrators and hear about their work, but I always find it fascinating to hear about their passion for what they do and their reasons for creating a particular story.  A fascinating new book from Candlewick Press collects interviews with the world’s best illustrators and takes us inside their incredible minds.

Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter features interviews with 21 of the world’s best illustrators, including Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak, Helen Oxenbury, Mo Willems, and Quentin BlakeLeonard S. Marcus (the editor of the book and the interviewer) takes you inside the minds of these extremely talented artists to find out why they do what they do, what influences them, and the truth behind the fiction.  Inside this entertaining and enthralling book you’ll discover how Quentin Blake came to be Roald Dahl’s illustrator, which author introduced Eric Carle to the world of picture books, and what Mo Willems learned from Charles Schulz.  As well as the interviews there are also a series of beautiful full-colour plates, showing each illustrators artistic process from sketch to final product.  Whether you’re a teacher, librarian, bookseller, student, or a lover of children’s literature Show Me a Story is a wonderful book and useful resource that you’ll delve into again and again.


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The 13th Horseman by Barry Hutchison

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I’m Barry Hutchison’s biggest fan (well, in the Southern Hemisphere anyway).  He has a unique ability to scare me silly and make me laugh out loud in the same book.  Ever since I discovered his Invisible Fiends series I’ve gobbled them up and I’m always interested to find out what he’s working on next.  So when he started posting lines from his work in progress about the horsemen of the apocalypse on Twitter I was hooked.  The 13th Horseman has been billed as a Terry Pratchett meets Neil Gaiman type of story and full of Barry’s unique sense of humour.  It was everything I expected from this very talented writer and much, much more.

“Drake is surprised to find three Horsemen of the Apocalypse playing snakes and ladders in his garden shed.  Even more surprisingly, they’re missing a Horseman and think that Drake is the boy for the job.  Drake is reluctant to join them, but does being in charge of Armageddon have to spell the end of the world?

From the wastelands of oblivion to the desolate plains of Limbo – join the Horsemen of the Apocalypse on a wild and hilarious ride…”

The 13th Horseman is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.  The laughs don’t come from toilet humour, but from the actions (or inaction) of the three long serving Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  There’s Pestilence who’s dressed like a doctor with a white coat and rubber gloves (to protect the humans, not himself), the red-haired giant, War, with a temper to match his stature, and my favourite, Famine, who is absolutely huge, with massive rolls of fat all over his body (which provide great places to store food for later).  When Drake first meets them, they’ve been playing board games for thousands of years and are completely bored.  They all seem to be totally incompetent and can’t even organise themselves to do the job they’re there for – usher in the Apocalypse.  They all have a horse to ride across the sky, apart from Famine who has a mobility scooter (so that he doesn’t squash a horse).  Each of the Horsemen has their own quirks but my favourite is definitely Famine, because no matter when you look at him, he’s always eating something.  There were so many great lines throughout the book but my favourite was:

“Great,” War growled, looking up to the ceiling.  “Just great.  You’ve lost your scythe, you’ve wedged your scales where the sun don’t shine and you…” he looked Pest up and down.  “I don’t know where to start.  Some bloody Apocalypse this is going to be.”

Thankfully, The 13th Horseman is only the first book in the Afterworlds series and the sequel, The Lost Book of Everything is due out in 2013.  If you haven’t read any of Barry Hutchison’s books yet, The 13th Horseman is a good place to start.

Recommended for 11+       5 out of 5 stars

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Freaky Futures Giveaway

I love YA science fiction!  You’ll probably be able to tell that by reading my reviews.  Some of my favourite stories are set far in the future, on other planets or deep in space. One of my favourite science fiction series is The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner (which I think is even better than Hunger Games).

Thanks to Scholastic New Zealand I have 2 YA science fiction book packs to give away, including a copy of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner and Six Days by Philip Webb.

All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your details in the form below.  Competition closes Wednesday 30 May (New Zealand only).

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Picture Book Nook: The Hueys in The New Jumper by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers is one of those illustrators whose work is instantly recognisable.  He has a really unique style that’s quite sparse but very effective.  I fell in love with Oliver’s illustrations when I first picked up The Book Eating Boy, which is one of my favourites along with The Great Paper Chase.  Oliver’s latest book is The Hueys in The New Jumper, the first in a new series which is sure to be a hit.

The thing about the Hueys was that they were all the same.  They looked the same, thought the same, and did the same things, until the day that Rupert knitted a new jumper.  At first, everyone thinks Rupert is silly and he stands out like a sore thumb.  Then some of the other Hueys start knitting their own jumpers, and they all start to look the same again.  How will Rupert stand out?

The Hueys in The New Jumper is a quirky picture book about how cool it is to be different.  Rupert shows children that it’s OK to be different (and you might even start a new trend at the same time).  The book itself is quite different from a lot of other picture books, because there is very little detail or colour in the illustrations.  I love that Oliver can make such simple characters show so much emotion (he shows happiness, shock, anger and embarrassment with a few quick strokes of his pencil).  The Hueys are characters that children and adults will love and I look forward to seeing what they get up to next.

Oliver has been in NZ recently for the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival and an event in Wellington.  I’m really looking forward to hearing Oliver talk at the Children’s Book Council of Australia Conference in Adelaide this week, and I’ll be queuing up with everyone else to get my books signed.

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