Monthly Archives: July 2012

International Book Cover War – Heat 1

The winner of my first International Book Cover War is Cat Patrick’s Revived with 26 votes.  Michelle Harrison’s Unrest and Will Hill’s Department 19: The Rising were 2nd equal with 17 votes, and Barry Hutchison’s The 13th Horseman was 3rd with 15 votes.  My NZ Book Cover War is now on so vote for your favourite now.

Thanks to everyone who voted for their favourite.  The winner of the signed copy of Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian is Trish.

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Seraphina Book Trailer

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is an exciting new fantasy that looks perfect for fans of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle.  Fantasy books have been a bit light on the ground recently so I’m looking forward to losing myself in this book.  Seraphin

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Struck Book Trailer

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth is finally out in NZ!  This book trailer for Struck is one of the best I’ve seen and the premise sounds really interesting.  Go and grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

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Shirley Hughes talks about Hero on a Bicycle

Hero on a Bicycle is the first novel from children’s literature legend, Shirley Hughes.  I grew up with Shirley Hughes’ wonderful picture books about Alfie and Annie Rose, so I can’t wait to see how she writes for an older audience.  Hero on a Bicycle is out now from Walker Books.

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Pop! by Catherine Bruton

There are so many different types of reality shows on TV these days, involving everything from singing and dancing, to cooking and building.  Suzanne Collins took the reality show idea and turned it into a fight to the death in The Hunger Games and in Catherine Bruton’s new book, Pop!, one of her characters has worked out the rules of talent TV and reckons she knows how to play the system.

The first round of auditions was a bit mad. All these wannabe popstars sitting around trying to look wacky/soulful/tragic (delete as appropriate) to catch the attention of the TV cameras.

At least we had a cracking back story. The story of me, Agnes, Jimmy and baby Alfie; the tears, the tragedy, the broken homes and feuding families, the star-crossed lovers. And only some of it was made up.

If I say so myself, it was genius: a sure-fire golden ticket to stratospheric stardom. Or at least that was the plan…

Pop! is a terrific story full of moments that will make you laugh, cry, cringe, jump for joy, and possibly want to slap a certain character.  The story is told from the point of view of the three main characters; Elfie, Jimmy and Agnes.  Elfie is the smart-ass who always comes up with crazy schemes that Jimmy gets roped into.  Her mum is incredibly unreliable and always walks out when times get tough, so Elfie is often left to look after her baby brother Alfie.  Jimmy and Elfie have been best friends for as long as they can remember, so Jimmy always gets involved in Elfie’s schemes.  Jimmy is a fantastic swimmer and his dad trains him hard so that he might get a chance to go to the Olympics.  It’s one day when Elfie and Jimmy are hanging out under the bridge that Elfie announces their next big scheme – they’re going to enter the Pop to the Top talent contest.  Their only problem is that they don’t really have any talent.  Then they hear a girl singing.  That girl is Agnes, the daughter of one of the ‘immos,’ the immigrant workers who have taken the jobs of local workers at the power station.  Agnes has an amazing voice and so Elfie ropes her into being in her girl band for Pop to the Top.  Agnes and Jimmy have no idea what they are getting themselves in for, and as Elfie weaves more and more lies, their lives and the lives of those around them spiral out of control.

Catherine Bruton has created three very different characters who are all doing what they believe is right.  Even though Elfie creates these twisted versions of their lives, she is only doing so to try and win the money that she thinks will solve all their problems.  She cares so much for her dad and her little brother and wants to give them the life they deserve.  Jimmy and Agnes go along with Elfie’s scheme because they want what’s best for their families too.  At first Elfie made me laugh with her plans and her fake back stories, then she made me want to slap her, but by the end of the story she had redeemed herself.  Agnes is a really interesting character because she really grows throughout the story.  At first she’s quiet and withdrawn because nobody, apart from her family, talks to her.  Not only is she the daughter of an immo, but she also doesn’t speak much English.  She says that she is a collector of words and she picks up new and interesting words from listening to conversations.  Throughout the story she grows in confidence and manages to settle the moths in her stomach when she sings.

I absolutely love Pop! and the wonderful characters that Catherine has created. Whenever I watch a reality show now I’ll be looking out for people who know Elfie’s Rules of Talent TV.  If you love Frank Cottrell Boyce’s books, like Millions and Framed, then Pop! is definitely the book for you.

5 out of 5 stars

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The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes by Edward Lear, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

Walker Books Australia and legendary Australian illustrator, Robert Ingpen have been introducing classic children’s stories to the children of today since 2004.  When Robert Ingpen illustrated the centenary edition of Peter Pan and Wendy, I had no idea that he was going to illustrate many other classic children’s books, including The Wind in the Willows (my favourite Robert Ingpen illustrations), The Jungle Book, The Secret Garden, and The Wizard of Oz.  Robert’s style of illustration is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t think of anyone better to bring these classic stories to life.  One of my most memorable meet-the-author moments was when I got the chance to hear Robert speak about his work at the 2006 Children’s Book Council of Australia Conference in Sydney and get my copy of Treasure Island signed.  Walker Books Australia have just published Robert’s latest addition to his classic children’s stories, Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes.

The book that I remember most from my childhood is the copy of The Owl and the Pussycat that my parents read to me many times.  I still remember the whole rhyme off by heart today so when I opened Robert Ingpen’s illustrated edition of The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense Rhymes I could focus completely on Robert’s beautiful illustrations.  My favourite part of Robert’s illustrated editions are the end-papers because this is where he publishes his character sketches.  In this book we get to see his sketches of the owl, the pussycat, and the piggy-wig.   One thing that I’ve noticed with Robert’s illustrations is that animals are his best subjects, so the owl and the pussycat are incredibly life-like.  I hadn’t read any of Lear’s other nonsense rhymes before so I loved meeting the Jumblies, the Dong with the luminous Nose, and the man who invented a purely original dress.  Robert Ingpen brings Edward Lear’s characters to life with his stunning, soft illustrations.

5 out of 5 stars


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My Best Friends Are Books International Book Cover War 2012

Starting next week you’ll have the chance to vote for your favourite book cover from the last 6 months in the inaugural MBFAB International Book Cover War.  Next week you can vote for your favourite Internnational book cover and the following week, you can vote for your favourite New Zealand book cover. 

I’ve chosen what I think are the 4 best book covers in each category so all you need to do is pick your favourite, vote, and fill in your details.  Everyone who enters will go in the draw to win a signed hardback copy of either Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer or The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan.

Prepare yourself for the Book Cover War!

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Win Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan

Ransomwood is the latest book from one of New Zealand’s best writers for children and young adults, Sherryl Jordan.  I loved Ransomwood (you can read my review here) and it’s one of those books I want to shout about.

Thanks to Scholastic NZ I have 2 copies of Ransomwood to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address below.  Competition closes Monday 16 July (NZ only).

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Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan

Every now and again a book comes along that surprises you.  I find myself reading a lot of Young Adult science fiction because I like the sound of the story and I love the different versions of society that authors can create.  A completely different type of story caught my eye recently, one by a New Zealand author who I love.  That book is called Ransomwood, by award-winning New Zealand author, Sherryl Jordan.

Spurned by her lover, and with her uncle threatening to marry her off to his odious widowed brother, Gwenifer is almost relieved to be sent away to escort the magistrate’s old, blind mother to Ransomwood, where the tears of the statue of the Holy Mother are said to have healing qualities.

Together with Harry, the village halfwit, who is escaping a sentence of hanging for being in charge of an ox that trampled a child almost to death, they embark on a perilous journey … each of them looking for a different kind of healing.

Ransomwood is a story of gossip, friendship, loyalty, suffering, acceptance and identity.  It’s the story of three very different people thrown together to go off in search of a cure for their ailments and medicine for a dying girl.  There is Halfwit Harry, the village idiot, whose fault it is that a little girl was trampled by oxen; Mother Dorit, an old crone who is thought to be a witch and is hoping to cure her blindness; and Gwenifer, who was caught with another boy who was betrothed.  Each of the pilgrims is hoping to achieve something by journeying to Ransomwood to collect the tears of the Holy Mother.

As we follow the pilgrims on their journey, you learn that there is more to them than the other villagers have assumed.   One quote from Mother Dorit that I love is about the gossip that flies around the village.

“If every word of gossip in Grimblebury was a bumblebee, the buzzing about the village would be enough to deafen the Good Lord Himself.  And if every gossip word were true, I say there’d be a blessed silence, and not one drop of honey to be had.  Nor anyone stung, for that matter.”

Mother Dorit is much more than the witch that others believe she is.  She’s a wise, kind soul who cares for Gwenifer and Harry and reassures them that everything is going to be alright.  Gwenifer is far from the girl of loose morals that others believe she is either.  She wishes to escape the clutches of her uncle and his horrible brother, and make a life for herself, where she can decide where life takes her.  Mother Dorit encourages her to follow her dreams by saying “If you have a dream, pick it up in both hands and shake it in the face of fate, and fight till you make every bit of your dream come true.”  She grows incredibly throughout the story and even puts herself in danger to help her friends.  My favourite character by far though has to be Harry.  Although everyone (even Gwenifer at first) believes him to be a half-wit and should be treated like one, he is probably the wisest of the pilgrims.  He truly regrets the awful thing that happened to Tilly and wants to make things right.  He is incredibly loyal to both Gwenifer (who he affectionately calls ‘Gwennie’) and Mother Dorit and will do anything to protect them on their journey.  One of my favourite parts of the book is when they are attacked by a group of men and Harry fights back with his pilgrim’s staff.  He’s also incredibly gentle and loving, and adopts a bantam along the way that he nurtures.  Harry actually reminded me of a bulkier version of Forrest Gump (think ‘I love you Gwennie’).

Sherryl Jordan’s writing is absolutely beautiful and she had me hanging on every word.  She transports you to an England of long ago, where everyone lived off the land, you slept on the hard ground or scratchy straw, you cooked over a fire, and it took you days or weeks to get to where you wanted to go.  Ransomwood will certainly be a finalist in next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, if not the winner of the Young Adult category.

5 out of 5 stars

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The Spook’s Blood Book Trailer

If you’re a fan ofThe Spook’s Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney, you’ll be excited to hear the latest book in the series, The Spook’s Blood is released in NZ this month.  I love this gripping, creepy series and I’m always excited to read the next installment.  Grab your copy from your library or bookshop now in July.

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