Monthly Archives: May 2016

My Top June Kids and YA Releases

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Game Theory by Barry Jonsberg

Jamie is a sixteen-year-old maths whiz. Summerlee, his older sister, is in the grip of a wild phase. Tensions at home run high.

When Summerlee wins a 7.5-million-dollar lottery, she cuts all ties with her family. But money can cause trouble – big trouble. And when Jamie’s younger sister Phoebe is kidnapped for a ransom, the family faces a crisis almost too painful to bear.

Jamie thinks he can use game theory – the strategy of predicting an opponent’s actions – to get Phoebe back. But can he outfox the kidnapper? Or is he putting his own and his sister’s life at risk?

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The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Alaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else. Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother.Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive father.Alyce is staying at home to please her parents. Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers. Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don’t save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves?

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Bad Apple by Matt Whyman

Like all good law-abiding citizens, sixteen-year-old Maurice no longer considers going off the rails as just a teenage phase. It can only mean the mark of a troll… But these trolls aren’t confined to causing trouble online: now they’re in our homes, on our streets and have ruined life as we know it. As a rule Maurice tries to avoid trouble – until the day he crosses paths with Wretch, a very bad apple indeed. And with tensions rising, can these two teens put their differences aside in order to survive?

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The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

Eleven years ago, six five-year-olds went missing without a trace. After all this time, the people left behind have moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Now five of those kids are back. They’re sixteen, and they are … fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mother she barely recognises, and doesn’t really know who she’s supposed to be, either. But she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, but they can’t recall where they’ve been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn’t come back and everyone wants answers.

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Whisper to Me by Nick Lake

Cassie is writing a letter to the boy whose heart she broke. She’s trying to explain why. Why she pushed him away. Why her father got so angry when he saw them together. Why she disappears some nights. Why she won’t let herself remember what happened that long-ago night on the boardwalk. Why she fell apart so completely.

Desperate for his forgiveness, she’s telling the whole story of the summer she nearly lost herself. She’s hoping he’ll understand as well as she now does how love—love for your family, love for that person who makes your heart beat faster, and love for yourself—can save you after all.

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You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

You Know Me Well is a tender and joyful young-adult novel tracing the powerful friendship of two lovesick teenagers—a gay boy, Mark, and a lesbian girl, Katie—over the course of Pride Week in San Francisco. Told in alternating chapters, You Know Me Well explores how Mark and Katie help one another overcome heartbreak, fractured friendships and the dizzying speeds of change.

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A Toaster on Mars by Darrell Pitt

The year is 2509 and Earth is a rather polluted blue dot that suffers from global warming, overpopulation and not enough people using deodorant.

Blake Carter, star agent with the Planetary Bureau of Investigation, isn’t having a good day. First he’s beaten up by a bunch of religious zealots, and then he’s assigned a robot—sorry, cyborg—as his new partner, right before his ex-wife calls to tell him his daughter has gone missing. His car keeps criticising his driving, and finally, to top things off, the world is held to ransom by his nemesis, evil genius Bartholomew Badde.

Can things get any worse?

Yes!

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Maladapted by Richard Kurti

Cillian is the sole survivor of a devastating terrorist attack on a packed Metro train. How did he survive when everyone else was killed? Searching for answers with the mysterious Tess, Cillian discovers that his father has links to P8, a group of genetic scientists operating outside the laws of Foundation City. The shocking discoveries he and Tess make at P8’s secret hospital start to make Cillian ask not who he is, but what he is.

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Circle by Jeannie Baker

This is the story of the little-known Bar-tailed Godwit who, following invisible pathways that have been used for thousands of years, undertakes the longest unbroken migration of any bird, a total of 11,000 kilometres, flying from their breeding grounds in Alaska across the Pacific Ocean to Australia or New Zealand. Facing hunger and treacherous conditions to reach their destination, their flight is one of bravery, tenacity and strength, and Jeannie’s stunning mixed media collages, inspired first-hand by the spectacular landscapes of Alaska and China, will amaze readers, and take them on an extraordinary visual journey to the corners of our Earth.

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The Book of Pearl by Timothée De Fombelle

Joshua Pearl is from a world that our own no longer believes in. He knows that his great love is waiting for him in that distant place, but he is trapped in our time. As his memories begin to fade, he discovers strange objects, tiny fragments of a story from a long time ago. Can Joshua remember the past and believe in his own story before his love is lost for ever.

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Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero by Francesca Armour-Chelu

In a world that has been ravaged by flooding, Fenn Halflin learns the truth about his past – a secret that forces him to flee the safety of his home as he is chased across the vast sea by the ruthless Terra Firma and their cold-blooded leader, Chilstone. Finding shelter on a decaying island, Fenn is taken in by child survivors in hiding, and he begins a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the Terra Firma, who will stop at nothing to find him. But as Chilstone’s dreaded Fearzero ship appears on the horizon, and the water levels continue to rise, it seems that Fenn’s hopes of escape will be washed away for ever.

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The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster

Eleven-year-old Joe can’t remember a life outside of his hospital room, with its beeping machines and view of London’s rooftops. His condition means he’s not allowed outside, not even for a moment, and his few visitors risk bringing life-threatening germs inside his ‘bubble’. But then someone new enters his world and changes it forever.

 

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Guest Post: Peter Millett on Johnny Danger

Peter Millett is the author of the funny, action-packed secret agent series, Johnny Danger.  So far there are two books in the series, D.I.Y. Spy and Lie Another Day.  With the third book, Spy Borg, being released in September Peter wants to give readers a special preview of the cover.  Peter joins me today to talk about why he created the Johnny Danger series and gives us a sneak peak of the Spy Borg cover.

 

Johnny Danger is turning into one of the most fun projects I have ever worked on in my career as a children’s author.

I’ve created the series with two audiences in mind: students and teachers. Firstly, students aged 8 – 12 years will enjoy the slapstick comedy, outrageous pranks, spectacular action sequences and unpredictable story twists that Johnny Danger and Penelope Pounds experience as teen spies working for MI6. Secondly, teachers and parents will appreciate the fun I am poking at the James Bond spy series and enjoy the subtle sense of hidden humour that is at play in the background. I am an eternal prankster and I have purposely littered the book with all sorts of comedy traps to catch readers of all ages off-guard.

My wife has taught Year 6 students for over 20 years and I am more than aware that teachers re-read certain stories in their classrooms each year and that they want these stories to maintain a fresh and energetic feel over multiple readings. The Johnny Danger series has been created for such purposes.

The comedy is broad and will appeal equally to both boys and girls. I’ve gone to great lengths to construct well-planned plots that end satisfactorily and unexpectedly. I’ve also made sure that the scatological humour used in the books doesn’t overtake the storytelling.

Additionally, books one and two contain DIY spy codes that can be emulated in the classroom by students. The first book uses humorous anagrams as the basis of an intricate software hacking system, and the second book uses upside down calculator spelling words to hide vital codes. Both these DIY codes can be created by student readers with everyday school or household resources.

We live in an increasingly multimedia-orientated world and I have decided to embrace a number of new technologies to help connect readers with the Johnny Danger series.

The digital trailer for book one “DIY Spy” uses state-of-the-art 2D animation to project the spirit of the main character:

The trailer for book two ‘Lie Another Day” uses a mixture of live-action footage and green screen technologies to display the off-the-wall comedic moments of the book as well as hinting at the plot:

 

Finally I made an appearance on national television so that readers could hear first-hand what they were in for if they read Johnny Danger.

I hope the Johnny Danger series is remembered as one of the funniest sets of children’s books ever to be released down under. I also hope that reluctant readers find them a gateway to discovering a love of comedy fiction.

As a ‘special feature’ to this blog I’m including the world premiere of the cover of book three “Spy Borg”.

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(Please note that this blog will self-destruct in five minutes time!)

Pete

 

You can find me on:

Website www.petermillett.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PeterMillettBooks/

Twitter: @petermillett

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The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

As a male I really value authentic male teenage characters in YA books.  I find those ‘hot, bad boys’ very fake, whereas the nerdy, sweary guys feel like the guy I was and a lot of the guys I knew.  I’m always on the look out for books with authentic male teenage characters and books that focus on male friendship, because it’s these books that I want to get into the hands of teenage guys.  The new book by Aussie author Will Kostakis, The Sidekicks, is one of these books, and I think every teenage guy should read it.

9780143309031The Swimmer.

The Rebel.

The Nerd.

All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac’s gone, what does that make them?

I loved The Sidekicks!  I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager because it would have totally clicked with me.  Will makes you feel like you are part of the characters’ lives and that you’re one of the Sidekicks too.  Will absolutely nails what it’s like to be a teenage guy and the often awkward friendships between different guys.

The Sidekicks follows three teenage guys after the death of their friend, the one guy who was holding their group together.  They are all quite different guys who were friends with Isaac, but they don’t have anything in common with each other.  Ryan is The Swimmer, whose mum teaches at his school (which creates its own problems), and who is hiding a secret.  Harley is The Rebel, the guy who would drink with Isaac and was with him on the night that he died.  The papers imply that Isaac killed himself but Harley knows he wouldn’t do this and tries to set the story straight.  Miles is The Nerd, the intelligent one of the group who works hard, but also has a side business that he ran with Isaac selling essays.  Although Isaac is no longer around their friendship with him might be enough to help them through.

This is not just about friendship though.  It’s about three guys who are dealing with grief in different ways.  Like a lot of males they don’t really want to talk to anyone about it, especially the school guidance counsellor. Harley feels guilty because he could have stopped what happened to Isaac, and he wants to do what he can to set the story straight.  Miles holds on to Isaac through the film that he made starring Isaac.  Through his film Miles continues to have conversations with Isaac, even if it is just Isaac’s smiling face paused on the screen.

The ending of The Sidekicks is absolutely perfect and it made me want to go right back to the start and take that journey with those characters again.  I’ll be eagerly awaiting Will Kostakis’ next book and putting The Sidekicks into the hands of any teenage guys I can.

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Aaron Blabey talks about his work

Aaron Blabey is my idol.  If there is one person in the world I wish I was it would be him.  He is one very talented guy who creates some of the funniest books for kids.  He can write and illustrate stories for all ages and in different forms, whether it’s picture books like Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas or novels for older readers like The Bad Guys.

I found this wonderful video on YouTube of Aaron Blabey talking about his work with the brilliant people at Story Box Library.  Watch it and find out about the magic behind Aaron’s stories.

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Michael Grant’s Australia/NZ Blog Tour 2016

 

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Michael Grant is the author of some of the darkest, grittiest series for teens.  His Gone series is one of my all-time favourite series and I always look forward to seeing where he’ll take readers next.  Front Lines is the first book in Michael’s latest series in which he reimagines World War II with girl soldiers fighting on the front lines.  Michael will be talking about Front Lines and his other books at the Auckland Writer’s Festival this weekend.  You can read my review of Front Lines here on the blog.

I suggested a couple of topics that Michael could write a guest post about as part of his blog tour.  As you’ll read Michael chose his own topic, one that he knows a lot about.

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So, I’m asked to write a blog post on my top 5 fictional heroines and/or favourite war stories.

Well, this is quite a dilemma. If I go with war stories I’ll have to do research and get my facts straight.  That’s a good two days of work.  As to fictional heroines, well, despite the fact that I write YA, I don’t read YA much.  I kind of don’t like knowing what other authors are doing.  They might give me ideas and ideas from outside are so much less fun for me than ideas that just pop into my head out of the ether.

So, basically, yeah I don’t know any YA fictional heroines besides Katniss and Hermione.

How about this? I talk about my own favorite female characters. Because at least I know them.

  1. Rachel from ANIMORPHS. Rachel was pretty much unique in the 90’s. She was beautiful and she was tough. Yes, I know that’s a common trope now, but in those days it was Buffy, Xena and Rachel, and that was about it. And Rachel wasn’t cute-tough, or girly-tough, she was a warrior – bold and decidedly violent. In fact, Rachel was inspired in part by the character Steve McQueen plays in an old movie called The War Lover. In it McQueen plays a pilot who essentially realizes that war is all he knows, all he’s good at, and that he really loves it. Rachel dies fighting, which as the Vikings would tell you, is the only sure path to Valhalla.
  2. Sadie/Plath from BZRK. Oh, Sadie. A rich girl plunged into a world of madness and violence where no one is what they seem, no one knows exactly what they’re fighting for, and the line between good and evil is pretty much obliterated. Sadie wants to be a lover not a fighter, but circumstances won’t leave her alone, and however reluctantly, she learns to become a capable fighter, even a leader.
  3. Penny from GONE. Not a nice person. Penny has the power to make others see what she plants in their minds, and she has a perfectly sadistic, cruel imagination. She has a chip on her shoulder, she has suffered terribly, but still, stapling a mocking crown to Caine’s head? Causing “Cigar” to tear his own veins out? Bad girl, Penny. Very bad girl!
  4. Diana from GONE. I’ve never had more fun writing a character’s voice. Diana is all ambiguity and snark. She can be manipulative, she can be cruel, but you sense despite all that there’s a real human being inside there, somewhere. She loves the wrong guy – except that he may in the end be the right guy, the only guy for her. She’s carried along in his evil plans, but she’s never entirely convinced that he’s not nuts. And there’s something of the poet about Diana, she sees things others might not, sees deeper into people’s souls. She’s cynical but a spark of idealism still flickers. And she feels, despite the tough-chick act, she feels. Yeah, I liked that girl a lot.
  5. Rainy from FRONT LINES. Rainy is smart, quick with languages, and has the clarity of vision most people call ruthlessness. She is no one’s fool, no one’s tool. She has a clear vision, unlike her fellow characters Rio and Frangie: she is going to find a way to kill Nazis. In fact, if she had the chance she’d love to put a bullet right in Adolf’s brain. She also knows when to keep it all inside, to reveal nothing, in short she has self-control, something I have yet to achieve. Brilliant, controlled, passionate, determined and ruthless. When she gets out of the army she should totally join the CIA.

Of course now I feel like I’m dissing Cassie (ANIMORPHS) and Mara (MESSENGER OF FEAR) and Dekka and Brianna and Lana (GONE) and Frangie, Rio and Jenou (FRONT LINES) but fortunately none of them read blogs, so they’ll never know.

Bestselling YA author Michael Grant is in Australia and New Zealand to promote Front Lines, the first book in his blockbuster new YA series, Soldier Girl

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Front Lines by Michael Grant

I’m a huge fan of Michael Grant.  His Gone series is one of my all time favourite series.  His books are dark and he’s particularly good at writing gory scenes.  One of the things I love most about his books is his characters.  You really get to know his characters and they end up feeling like your closest friends (and in some cases your worst nightmares).  Michael introduces us to a new cast of characters who will grow to be your friends in the first book in his new series, Front Lines.

y450-293It’s 1942. The fate of the world rests on a knife’s edge. And the soldiers who can tip the balance . . . are girls.

A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.  Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves.  Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans.  For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war. These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race.

As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines.  They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.  But not everyone believes that the girls should be on the front lines of war.

Now Rio and her friends must fight not only to survive, but to prove their courage and ingenuity to a sceptical world.

Front Lines is an epic read! It’s a fresh and exciting alternate history that makes you look at World War II in a completely different way.  In Front Lines, Michael Grant has reimagined World War II with females fighting on the front lines.  I’ve read quite a lot of fiction for kids and teens about World War II and it’s rare to find a story told from an American point of view, let alone from a female point of view.  These girls aren’t keeping the home fires burning though, they are ‘Soldier Girls,’ fighting alongside the boys.  They may be allowed to fight but they are not accepted, especially by some of the older men.  However, just like the boys and men they are about to grow up very quickly and see things they won’t be able to forget.

Like the characters in Michael’s other books, the characters in Front Lines will get stuck in your head and you won’t be able to stop thinking about them.  We follow three girls, Rio Richlin, Rainy Shulterman and Frangie Marr.  Rio is a white girl from California who has lived a fairly sheltered life.  Rainy is a Jewish girl from New York who wants to be part of army intelligence. Frangie is an African American girl from Oklahoma who wants to join the army to help support her family.  We know straight away that Rainy and Frangie aren’t going to have an easy time in the army and they’re often the target of abuse.  We follow each of these girls through their training and onto the front lines of the war.

Michael paints a very vivid picture of war.  His descriptions of the battles and the injuries that the soldiers sustain in battle are harrowing and gruesome.  War takes its toll on all of the characters and none of them are the same person they once were by end of the book.  The story is told to us through a mysterious narrator, who is looking back on the war from a hospital bed.  I’m curious to find out who this person is.

Front Lines is the first book in the Soldier Girl series and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Rio, Rainy and Frangie next.

Check out Michael Grant’s guest blog post here on the blog as part of his Front Lines Australia/NZ Blog Tour.

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Interview with M.G. Leonard about Beetle Boy

Beetle Boy

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard is one of my favourite books so far this year.  I got the chance to interview M.G. Leonard for Christchurch City Libraries.  You can read my review of Beetle Boy here on the blog and follow the link to check out the interview.

Interview with M.G. Leonard about Beetle Boy

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