Monthly Archives: July 2012

Win Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett

Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett was the winner of the 2011 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing.  I loved it and gave 4 out of 5 stars (you can read my review here).  I also interviewed Myke here on the blog today too, which you can check out here.

Thanks to Text Publishing I have 2 copies of Fire in the Sea to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address below.  Competition closes Monday 6 August (NZ only).

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Win Sketches from a Nameless Land by Shaun Tan

If you’re a fan of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival you’ll want to enter this competition.

The Arrival has become one of the most critically acclaimed books of recent years, a wordless masterpiece that describes a world beyond any familiar time or place.  How did it come to be created, and what inspired its unique and captivating story?

In Sketches from a Nameless Land, author Shaun Tan explains the origins of his ideas, using examples from early research and concept sketches through to finished artwork.  In tracing this evolution, he sheds light on the silent language of images, the spirit of the migrant experience and the artist’s creative journey.

All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Monday 6 August (NZ only).

Thanks to those who entered.  This competition is now closed.

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Interview with Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Myke Bartlett, winner of the 2011 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, and author of the fantastic Fire in the Sea (you can read my review here).  I asked Myke a few questions about Fire in the Sea, his characters and his writing experience.  Thanks Myke!

1.  What inspired you to write Fire in the Sea?

Being a teacher, really. There’s nothing better than seeing kids excited about books and I started feeling a bit envious about the attention other authors were getting. I was determined to write something exciting and challenging that students would enjoy. I think I also really liked the idea of YA fiction being gateway fiction. These were the stories that would, hopefully, get kids hooked on good quality books. If they were reading something good when they were young, then they might demand better when they were older.

2.  Had the story been bubbling in your head long before you submitted it for the Text Prize?

I think I had the basic idea about Jake in 2009. But I didn’t start writing it until 2010, as I was working on something else. The actual writing was incredibly quick and painless, probably about six months in total on the first draft. It was a near run thing to get it in on time to Text. I think I posted it off on the last possible day.

3.  How did it feel to win the Text Prize?

Unreal. In every sense of the word. I’d written the story specifically to win the Text Prize, so I suppose I felt as if I had achieved exactly what I’d set out to do. That was a great week. And then the editing process began… Which was also great, to be honest.

4.  Mythology plays an important part in Fire in the Sea.  Do you have a special interest in mythology and ancient cultures?

I’m probably much more interested in the real world, actually. But I was obsessed with that stuff as a kid. When I got older, I was more interested in ghosts and folk legends and things like that. Things that seemed like they might almost be real. That’s my favourite area of fiction — you know, through a glass darkly stuff. The sense that there might be a monster under the bed, or vampire bats in the fig tree. I think I drew on my memories of mythologies because they’re really where storytelling started. They were the first big blockbusters. Who wouldn’t want to borrow a bit of that genius?

5.  Who was your inspiration for the character of Sadie?

I don’t know if I should say. There’s a lot of me in there, really. All that standing at the edge of the world, gazing at the horizon stuff. That’s me. That was me growing up in Perth and dreaming of the world outside. There’s quite a lot of my youngest sister in there too. All the difficult, dogmatic bits! No, my sister is pretty awesome (not that I’d tell her), so I probably borrowed of Sadie’s better qualities.

6.  Why did you decide to set the story in Perth?

Because it felt like the sort of place where you’d never expect a story like that to be set! I wanted to tell a big, Hollywood-style story in a small place at the end of the world. Growing up in Perth, I would have loved to think that life could be exciting where I was, instead of thinking adventures only happened elsewhere.

7.  Which of the ancient ones are you most like? 

Ooh, tricky! Well, I’m quite fond of Agatha. When we make the TV/film version, I’d love my aunt Nicola Bartlett, who’s an extraordinary actress, to play her. I think I gave Jake some of the seriousness and the old-mannishness that I had at that age. I was in such a hurry to be old. I dressed like an old man. It’s only now that I am (relatively) old that I’ve started dressing like a teenager.

8.  Do you plan to return to Sadie, Jake and the ancient ones in the future?

I do. They will return! As of today, I’ve written about six chapters of the sequel. Writing is either sheer pleasure or sheer pain (it changes on a day-by-day basis) but it feels pretty exciting to me. There are new (old) monsters, old (new) friends and possibly a car chase. If you can do a car chase in print. Can you? I’m about to find out.

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Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett

The wonderful people at Text Publishing (based in Melbourne) launched a fantastic new award for authors across Australia and New Zealand a few years ago, called The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing.  This prize has introduced me to some of my favourite authors, including Richard Newsome and Leanne Hall.  Last year they chose another very deserving winner of the prize, Myke Bartlett with his book Fire in the Sea, which has just been released.

Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea.

Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him for dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.

Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.

Fire in the Sea is a story of gods, monsters, curses, immortality, war and the normal teenagers who get caught in the middle.  Myke Bartlett grabs you within the first few pages and you get swept away in the story, not wanting to surface until you get to the very end.  It’s one of those stories you want to devour all in one go because the writing is just so good and the action never lets up.  There’s something for everyone in the story, from mythical creatures and body-swapping gods, to a genie-like demon who grants wishes and a lost civilization.  There is plenty of violence and blood and guts to keep the guys interested, especially when the Minotaur is involved.

I love how Myke has weaved mythology into the story.  I can see Fire in the Sea appealing those teens that have enjoyed the Percy Jackson series because of the way that Myke brings gods and monsters into the present day.  Even though you don’t see the gods, you get the impression that they’re watching everything happen and will intervene if or when the time comes.  The feel of the story also reminded me a little of Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain.

Sadie is a strong, feisty heroine.  She doesn’t seem to care what other people think of her and is prepared to do what she thinks is right to save the people she loves.  She get caught in the middle of a war that they didn’t want to be involved in, but she handles the situation incredibly well.

The ending of Fire in the Sky left me wanting to read more about Sadie, Jake and the ancient ones, so here’s hoping Myke continues their story.  If you’re looking for a fast-paced story, filled with action, adventure, fantasy and mythology, Fire in the Sky is the perfect book.

4 out of 5 stars

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My Most Anticipated August New Releases

Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett

Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea.

Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him for dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.

Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy

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 …

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

There’s nothing unusual about the Brockets. Boring, respectable and fiercely proud to be as normal as normal can be, Alistair and Eleanor Brocket turn up their noses at anyone strange or different. But from the moment Barnaby Brocket comes into the world, it’s clear he’s anything but normal. To the horror and shame of his parents, Barnaby appears to defy the laws of gravity – and floats. Little Barnaby is a lonely child – after all, it’s hard to make friends when you’re pressed against the ceiling all day. Desperate to please his parents, he does his best to stop floating, but he simply can’t do it. It’s just not who he is. Then, one fateful day, Barnaby’s mother decides enough is enough. She never asked for a weird, abnormal, floating child. She’s sick and tired of the newspapers prying and the neighbours gossiping. Barnaby has to go. Betrayed, frightened and alone, Barnaby floats into the path of a very special hot air balloon. And so begins a magical journey around the world; from South America to New York, Canada to Ireland, and even a trip into space, Barnaby meets a cast of truly extraordinary new friends and realises that nothing can make you happier than just being yourself.

The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner

History is broken, and three kids must travel back in time to set it right!

When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the secret of time travel — a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring — they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone disastrously off course.

Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the Great Breaks . . . and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!

The Kill Order by James Dashner

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

The Kill Order is the story of that fall.

A prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy, The Kill Order has been in the works since the completion of The Maze Runner. The  story of civilization’s fall was kept under wraps and is the explication of the events that began this bestselling series.

The Invisible Fiends: The Darkest Corners by Barry Hutchison

Kyle’s dad is one of the most powerful invisible fiends, and he is everywhere. Really everywhere. In windows, through doors, on advertising billboards. Kyle just can’t escape him – and maybe he’s tired of running, anyway.
It’s time to fight …

This is Barry Hutchison’s conclusion to his brilliant Invisible Fiends series.

The Billionaire’s Curse series by Richard Newsome (new covers)

While this series isn’t new, Richard’s fantastic publishers, Text, have reissued the first three books in the series with new covers.  I love the new covers and they’re sure to attract some new Richard Newsome fans.  The fourth book in the series, The Crystal Code, is due out in October.

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1.4 by Mike Lancaster

Mike Lancaster’s 0.4 is one of my favourite books and the best science fiction story I’ve read.  I read it just before the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch so I was distracted by everything that was going on and didn’t get the chance to tell everyone how amazing it was.  It’s the story of Kyle Straker, a teenage boy living in a small village in England, who wakes up after being hypnotized to find his world a very different place.  It hooks you in from the first line and you don’t want to put it down until the last word.  1.4 is Mike Lancaster’s sequel to 0.4 and it’s just as addictive.

It’s a brave new world. 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.

1.4 is an upgraded, even better story than 0.4.  The story takes place 1000 years after the events of 0.4 and Mike shows us his incredible vision of the future.  It’s a future where bees have died out and been replaced by robot bees, humans can connect to technology and each other through filaments that come out of their bodies, and they are constantly connected to technology through their Link.  The story is told through the LinkDiary entries of Peter Vincent, whose father invented the robot bees, which many people believe saved the world.  There is a small section of society who believe that the Kyle Straker tapes are real and that the events of 0.4 actually happened, but these people are treated like second class citizens and live in slums.  Amalfi (or Alpha) is a Strakerite who goes to Peter’s school, and when she asks for Peter’s help to find out what has happened to her father, their world is turned upside down.

The thing I like most about 1.4 is the way that Mike Lancaster has woven the two stories together.  If you’ve read 0.4 you know why society is so technologically advanced and who the ghosts in the photos are.  I also really like that Mike doesn’t let relationships between his characters get in the way of the story, like many female authors tend to do.  Having said this, his characters are still interesting and you empathize with the situation that they’re in.

1.4 is a smart science fiction story with lots twists and turns, freaky technology, and hidden truths.  If you haven’t discovered Mike Lancaster, you don’t know what you’re missing.

5 out of 5 stars

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Unravelling Book Trailer

Unravelling is the debut science fiction YA novel from Elizabeth Norris.  Ever since I heard about it back at the beginning of the year I’ve wanted to read it.  It’s out now in NZ thanks to HarperCollins New Zealand.  I’ll be posting my review soon.


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NZ Book Cover War – Heat 1

Thanks to everyone who voted in my first NZ Book Cover War.  The winner, with 50% of the votes, was Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan.  Scholastic NZ deserve a huge congratulations for choosing such an appealing cover.  2nd was Red Rocks, 3rd was Steel Pelicans, and 4th was Drover’s Quest.

That’s all for Heat 1 of my Book Cover Wars.  Heat 2 and the Finals will be held in November, to choose the top International and NZ book cover of 2012.

The winner of the signed copy of The Serpent’s Shadow is Jason.


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The Kill Order Book Trailer

The Kill Order is James Dashner’s prequel to one of my favourite series, The Maze Runner. It’s due out on August 14 (probably slightly later in NZ) and I’ve got my copy ordered.  The Maze Runner, the first book in the series, is in my top 10 favourite books and I think it’s even better than Hunger Games

James Dashner is also the series architect of the new multi-layered series from Scholastic, The Infinity Ring, which is due out worldwide on August 28.  If you’re a fan of the 39 Clues series you’ll love The Infinity Ring.

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Winner of the 2012 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing

The winner of the 2012 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing was announced last night at a special ceremony in Melbourne.  Some of my favourite books have been published thanks to the wonderful people at Text Publishing, who award this prize.  This year’s winner sounds like a really interesting story and I can’t wait to read it next year.  Read on for more information about the prize from Text.

The winner of the 2012 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing is A.J. Betts, for her tender and funny young adult novel Zac and Mia.

Zac and Mia opens in an oncology ward in Perth, where 17-year-old Zac is recovering from a bone marrow transplant for leukaemia. He and Mia, the ‘newbie’ patient in the room next door, begin a friendship via Facebook, letters and messages passed through one of the nurses—but out of hospital things are a lot more complicated. Written with great humour, Zac and Mia is a realistic novel about being a young person in extraordinary circumstances.

An English teacher and university lecturer from Perth, A.J. Betts has won $10,000 and a publishing contract with Text Publishing. Betts is also the author of two young adult novels, Shutter Speed (2008) and Wavelength (2010). Wavelengh was shortlisted for the West Australian Premier’s Prize in 2011.

On hearing the news, Betts commented, ‘I’m thrilled. Writing a novel is a long, all-consuming task, often plagued with self-doubt. To come out the other side and receive such validating news is more than a writer could hope for. I’m honoured and humbled by the judges’ decision, and very excited about the future of Zac and Mia.’

Michael Heyward, Publisher at Text, remarked, ‘The Text Prize is now five years old. We’ve published some wonderful books in that time: The Billionaire’s Curse by Richard Newsome, This Is Shyness by Leanne Hall, The Bridge by Jane Higgins and Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett. Now we have a wonderful fifth novel to publish: Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts, a deeply moving book about the relationship that grows between two kids with cancer. We can’t wait to usher this marvellous book into the world.’

Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts will be published in August 2013.

The Text Prize is awarded annually to the best manuscript written by an Australian or New Zealander for young adults or children. Entries for the 2013 prize open in March 2013. Watch out for the 2011 Text Prize winner, Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett, in August 2012.

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