Win a copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness’ latest book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, is beautiful, funny and moving.  It’s definitely one of my favourite books of 2015 and one that will stick with me for a long time.  Patrick Ness just seems to be getting better and better.  You can read my review of The Rest of Us Just Liver Here on the blog.

Thanks to everyone who entered!  The winners are Helen, Lynley, Stephanie, Margaret and Aimee. Happy reading 🙂

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

So many young adult novels are about ‘the chosen ones,’ those teens who are special and they’re going to change their world for the better.  What if you’re not ‘the chosen one’ though? What if you just have to live your life when everything around you is falling apart?  Patrick Ness asks this question in his latest book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here.  Patrick Ness is my favourite author and I know to expect something different (and amazing) every time he writes a new book.  He’s one of those authors who always tries something new.  As soon as I started reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here I knew I had a very special book in my hands.

What if you weren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend might just be the God of mountain lions.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here blew me away!  It is an incredibly beautiful, funny and moving novel.  The premise of this book, that not everyone is the chosen one, works so well.  There are two parallel stories happening – the story of the Indie kids and their battle with the Court of the Immortals (which plays out in the chapter headings), and the story of Mikey and his friends who aren’t the chosen ones.  Mikey, his sister Mel, and his friends just want to go to the prom and graduate without their school being blown up again.  All of the strange events that happen in their town seem to involve the Indie kids, who have names like Finn, Satchel and Kerouac. Their town has seen soul-sucking ghosts and vampires (amongst other ‘beings’) but the ordinary kids like Mikey and Jared are never part of that story.  They just want to live their lives the best way they can.  I love how we, as readers, know what is going on with the Indie kids and their battle with the Court of the Immortals, but Mikey and his friends and family don’t have a clue.  It’s very clever storytelling!

I love the characters in The Rest of Us Just Live Here.  They all have their own problems or are ‘messed-up’ in some way.  Mikey has anxiety issues that come and go.  When he gets especially anxious he gets himself stuck in loops, where he has to count things or wash his hands over and over again.  His friends are all going their separate ways after high school and he worries that he’ll get stuck in a loop and not be able to get out of it. Mikey’s sister, Mel, starved herself to death with anorexia and died for 3-4 minutes.  She’s on an eating plan but Mikey still worries about her.  Mikey’s friend, Jared, has problems of a different nature.  Jared is a god of cats so he has cats (both small and large) following him and a special gift that he uses to help his friends.  Even though they’re slightly messed-up they still count themselves lucky that they’re not one of the Indie kids.  This is a book that makes you feel that it’s OK just to be you, no matter how messed-up you are.  I love the way that the story ends and the decision that Mikey finally makes.

One of my favourite quotes in the book not only sums up the story perfectly, but also catpures teenage life:

‘Not everyone has to be the Chosen One.  Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world.  Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly.  All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.’

Patrick Ness is an author that can’t do anything wrong in my eyes.  I’m constantly amazed by his incredible writing and I can’t wait to read what he writes next.  Drop everything and read this amazing book!

I Want Spaghetti! by Stephanie Blake

Gecko Press introduced us to Stephanie Blake’s naughty little rabbit, Simon, when they translated and published Poo Bum! a few years ago.  They’ve continued to publish Stephanie’s books, with more and more stories of Simon’s naughty antics.  I’ve loved each and every one (Stupid Baby is my favourite).  Gecko Press has just released the latest Simon the rabbit book, I Want Spaghetti, and it’s every bit as funny as the previous stories.  In I Want Spaghetti we get to meet Simon the fussy eater.

Simon only likes to eat one thing…spaghetti.  His parents try to get him to eat other things like sandwiches and soup but Simon thinks they are disgusting and he won’t eat them.  Simon isn’t fond of getting told what to eat or being told to go to his room so he throws a big tantrum.  His parents manage to tempt him with chocolate cake and just when they think they’ve got Simon eating out of the palm of their hand, he turns the tables on them.

I Want Spaghetti is a laugh-out-loud picture book featuring a character that both kids and adults love.  Simon is the child that you can laugh at but wouldn’t want as your own.  He’s a horrible little rabbit, with bad manners, who has tantrums and makes a huge mess, but you can’t help but love him.  Kids especially love him because he gets to do and say the things they aren’t allowed to.  I have read I Want Spaghetti to kids in schools around Christchurch and kids of all ages love it, from 5-year-olds right through to 12-year-olds.  In fact, the Simon the rabbit books are the most requested books that I get asked to read again and again.  That’s the sign of a really great book!

I love how sparse Stephanie’s books are.  The illustrations are quite simple, while showing an incredible range of emotions, and the colours of the pages are bright, allowing the text to stand out.  The text is also quite simple but it has real impact.  The design of the book is very clever, with the text changing sizes and being run together for emphasis.  I especially like the pages of text and illustration where Simon says ‘I Want Spaghetti’ increasingly louder.  The text gets bigger and the illustrations show Simon getting angrier and angrier.

The thing I love the most about Stephanie’s books is that there is always a twist in the story.  I love seeing kids’ faces and hearing them laugh when you turn the last page.

Thanks Gecko Press for continuing to bring us more of Stephanie’s Simon stories.  I certainly hope there are many more to come!

Join the 2015 Diary of a Wimpy Kid Old School Read-a-thon Challenge

The 2015 Diary of a Wimpy Kid Old School Read-a-thon Challenge kicked off on 1st September.  It’s open to everyone in Australia and New Zealand.  Here is how you can get involved and have the chance to win an AMAZING prize:

Here’s how the challenge works: You need to read all nine Diary of a Wimpy Kid books between now and October 16th. After you finish reading each one, go back to the Read-a-thon Challenge site and take a quiz about that book. Complete all nine quizzes before October 16th, and you’ve beaten the challenge!

You’ll get a special congratulations video message from Jeff Kinney, and unlock the entry form for the grand prize… A trip for 2 people to Sydney, where you’ll meet Jeff Kinney on his Old School World Tour! To win, you’ll have to answer this question: Who is your favourite Diary of a Wimpy Kid character, and why?

Best answer wins! You can sign up and play by yourself, or challenge some friends and race to the finish! You could even ask your teacher if the whole class at school can try the Read-a-thon Challenge together.

On November 3rd, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School will be released around the world. Finally! To celebrate, there will be a special Read-a-thon bonus round, with even more cool prizes to win. Stay tuned! More information on this website during the Read-a-thon Challenge.

I have a special 2015 Diary of a Wimpy Kid Read-a-thon Challenge Pack with posters and a couple of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books to give away, thanks to Penguin Random House NZ.  To get in the draw for this special prize pack just leave a comment on this post (along with your name and email address) telling me why you are the biggest Diary of a Wimpy Kid fan. Competition closes Friday 18 September (NZ only).

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid website is awesome!  There is heaps of info about the books, characters and Jeff Kinney himself. Plus there are some really cool downloads, including activity sheets and masks of your favourite characters. Check it out now!

Win Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar’s latest book, Fuzzy Mud, was released here in NZ in August.  I’m a huge fan of Louis’ books and Fuzzy Mud is fantastic! It’s a weird, thrilling, suspenseful story about friendship, bullies and an experiment gone wrong.  You can read my review here on the blog.

Thanks to Allen and Unwin NZ I have 2 copies of Fuzzy Mud to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject ‘Fuzzy Mud,’ along with your name and address.  I’ll choose 2 lucky readers to get a copy of this fantastic book.

Competition closes Friday 18 September (NZ only).

Win a double pass to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the movie directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon based on the young adult book by Jesse Andrews is out in cinemas now.  I think it looks great and I can’t wait to see it.

This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death.

It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.

This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.

To celebrate the release of the movie Allen and Unwin have kindly given me 2 double passes to give away.

Thanks to everyone who entered. The winners are Megan and Eibhlin and Saoirse.

If you haven’t seen the trailer for the movie check it out here:

I Can’t Wait For…The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick’s books are absolutely stunning!  I love his artwork and the way that he tells a story using a combination of illustration and text.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck are some of my favourite books and they’re the sort of books I love just holding.  They are huge books but this is because of the way that Brian Selznick likes to tell his stories, alternating between pages of text and pages of illustration.

Brian Selznick has a new book being released in October, called The Marvels.  I can’t wait to hold it in my hands and read what is sure to be an amazing story.  Here is the cover, blurb and book trailer:

The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. Nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with an uncle in London. Albert Nightingale’s strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.

Beware – Danger is Everywhere!

I discovered the hilarious Danger is Everywhere a couple of weeks ago while browsing through new books at my library.  Danger is Everywhere is written by David O’Doherty and illustrated by Chris Judge.  It is a ‘Handbook for Avoiding Danger’ that has two aims:

  1. To remind you that Danger is Everywhere
  2. To make you into a qualified Dangerologist (Level 1)

It is chock full of tips to avoid danger in every day situations, including what to do with a page 9 scorpion, removing a bee in your house, how to find out if your teacher is a vampire, and how to dress for danger.  These handy tips are presented to you by Doctor Noel Zone, the world’s only Dangerologist.

The sequel to Danger is Everywhere, Danger is Still Everywhere, has recently been released and it contains even more tips for avoiding danger.  Both of these books are perfect for kids who like their books full of silly drawings, funny and crazy advice and lots of laughs.  I especially like Doctor Noel’s Relaxing Fairy Tales, crazy alternative fairy tales which involve things like the three little pigs being cooked by lava from a volcano.

Check out these videos featuring advice and tips from Danger is Everywhere and the book trailer for Danger is Still Everywhere:

Demon Road by Derek Landy

Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series is my all-time favourite series.  I love the wit, the humour, the characters and the supernatural spookiness.  It was sad to say goodbye to the characters that I loved and the world that Derek had created but I was excited to see what Derek would write next.  Derek announced his new Demon Road series a while ago and I’ve been champing at the bit to get my hands on a copy.  The wonderful people at HarperCollins NZ sent me an early copy and I gobbled it up.  Demon Road doesn’t disappoint and it’s every bit as wonderful as Derek’s Skulduggery series.

Amber Lamont is a normal sixteen-year-old. Smart but insecure, she spends most of her time online, where she can avoid her beautiful, aloof parents and their weird friends.

But when a shocking encounter reveals a horrifying secret, Amber is forced to go on the run. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers and red-skinned, horned demons – Amber hurtles from one threat to the next, revealing the terror woven into the very fabric of her life. As her parents close in behind her, Amber’s only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be.

Demon Road is a deliciously dark, gory, witty, totally gripping book that will make you cringe one minute and laugh out loud the next.  I absolutely loved this book and I couldn’t have imagined a more worthy successor to Skulduggery Pleasant!  It is a completely new story but you can imagine it existing in Skulduggery’s world.  Derek’s wit and brilliant dialogue are still here.  Some of the conversations between his characters are hilarious!

Derek takes readers down an even darker path (or road) than his previous books. I love the darkness of the story and I wanted to keep reading to see what sort of monsters the characters would meet next. There are some seriously shady characters in this book and people get killed in increasingly gruesome ways.  Derek’s gory descriptions are superb and really make you cringe.  He has a real gift for gore and death scenes.  I personally think Demon Road is aimed at an older audience than the Skulduggery series, so consider this if you are buying it for a school library.

One of my favourite things about Derek’s books has always been his characters.  While the names of the characters don’t stand out as much in Demon Road, Derek has created some very memorable and interesting characters.  There is Milo (Amber’s chauffeur and bodyguard with a mysterious past), Glen (the weirdo from Ireland whose days are numbered),with some witches, vampires and undead serial killers thrown in for good measure.  My absolute favourite character is Glen, who always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and just has the worst luck.  It’s Glen who provides some of the funniest moments in Demon Road.  The main character, Amber, isn’t too far removed from Stephanie in the Skulduggery series.  She’s tough and can kick butt when she needs to, and she really grew on me as I followed her journey.

Readers who are already fans of Derek Landy will love Demon Road, but this book is certain to introduce a new legion of fans to his writing.  I want to put Demon Road in to the hands of as many adult horror fans as I can as well, because I’m sure they’ll find something to love in this book too.

Thank you Derek Landy for giving your loyal fans a new series to get obsessed with!  I certainly can’t wait to read the next book when it’s released early next year.

Michael Rosen performs poems from A Great Big Cuddle

Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell have teamed up to publish a collection of wonderful poems for young children, called A Great Big Cuddle.  It’s a big, beautiful book full of Michael Rosen’s poems and illustrated by Chris Riddell.  It’s out now from Walker Books.

Check out these great videos of Michael Rosen performing some of his poems from A Great Big Cuddle.  I love his poems but seeing him perform them is terrific.  He’s got a fascinating face that is incredibly animated when he performs.