Michael Grant’s Front Lines Australia & NZ Blog Tour

Front Lines banner dates

Bestselling YA author Michael Grant is in Australia and New Zealand this May to promote Front Lines, the first book in his blockbuster new YA series, Soldier Girl.  I’m very excited to be part of Michael Grant’s Australia and NZ blog tour to promote his new book, Front Lines.  Join me on Thursday 12 May for a special guest post from Michael Grant and a review of Front Lines.  Here are the other awesome blogs and bloggers that are part of the blog tour:

Monday 9th May – Diva Booknerd
Tuesday 10th May – Reading Time
Wednesday 11th May – Paper Fury
Friday 13th May – Stay Bookish

Check out the cover, blurb and book trailer for Front Lines below:

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It’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.

 

 

 

My Most Anticipated Book Adaptation of 2016

Book adaptations can be pretty hit and miss, so when a movie is made of one of your favourite books it’s always a difficult decision whether or not to see it.  The movie of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls is being released later this year and the first full trailer for the movie has just been released.  It looks absolutely amazing!  It looks like it will be true to the book and have the same tone.  Patrick Ness actually wrote the screenplay so that should help with the authenticity of the movie.  If you haven’t read the book I highly recommend it, but then I’m a huge Patrick Ness fan so I may be biased.

A Monster Calls is my most anticipated book adaptation of 2016.  I got all choked up watching the trailer so I will probably need to take tissues.

Check out the full trailer below:

Win a copy of Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Cecelia Ahern has just released her debut YA novel, Flawed.  It is a tense, action-packed, edge-of-your-seat read and I absolutely loved it!  You can read my review of Flawed here on the blog.

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Thanks to the lovely people at HarperCollins NZ I have a copy of Flawed to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Flawed,’ along with your name and address.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Jeanna.

Interview with Em Bailey

Em Bailey is an award-winning Australian author.  Her previous book, Shift was the winner of the 2012 Gold Inky Award for best Australian YA novel and was selected as a notable book by the Children’s Book Council of Australia.  Em’s new YA novel, The Special Ones is an incredibly exciting, twisty, nail-biting read.  You can read my review of The Special Ones here on the blog.

The Special Ones is one of those books that I can’t get out of my head.  I had a few questions that I was dying to ask Em and she has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out her inspiration for the book, what it was like to go inside the head of a psychopath and what draws her to writing for teens.

Special Ones

  • What inspired you to write The Special Ones?

I’ve always been interested in the psychology of cults: what sort of person becomes a cult leader, the people who are drawn to them, what happens when someone attempts to leave. I knew I wanted to write something about this theme and I started thinking about how modern technology might affect the way a traditional commune-style cult operated. I began imagining a situation where someone was able to control and manipulate a group, in the way that cult leaders traditionally always have, but without needing to be physically present.

  • Which of The Special Ones are you most like?

‘Him’? No, not really! I don’t think I’m very much like any of the girls, although I guess certain aspects of Esther’s personality are like mine but she is much tougher and far more determined than I am. I like to write about characters who make mistakes and do dumb things – sometimes even really bad things – because I think it’s still completely possible to have empathy for them. A number of people have told me that they really dislike Lucille in The Special Ones, but I must admit to having a soft spot for her. She’s put through a very traumatic series of events after all, and a lot of her complaints about Esther seem justified to me.

  • Is the cottage in the book based on an actual place?

The farmhouse isn’t based on a particular building, it’s more a composite of many. I started planning The Special Ones while driving through South Australia with my family. I spent a lot of time looking out the window at the dry landscape and noticing the abandoned, ramshackle old stone farmhouses here and there. It’s that kind of environment that I picture for The Special Ones and I imagined the girls being imprisoned in one of those solid old buildings.

  • You take readers inside the head of a psychopath in The Special Ones. Did you have to prepare yourself to get into character when writing these parts?

It was difficult, and exhausting, to be in ‘his’ head. I would be working on a passage and realise that I was writing it from a normal person’s perspective, with typical, human reactions to things. I would then have to stop myself and think ‘but how would a psychopath view this situation?’ I read Jon Ronson’s book The Psychopath Test book as part of my research and I had a list of psychopathic characteristics stuck up beside my desk which I used to refer to as a way of keeping myself on track. It wasn’t very pleasant. I would often find myself frowning or clenching my teeth as I was writing from his viewpoint. It was always such a relief to flip back into ‘Esther-mode’.

  • Apart from ‘him’ in your story who is the most evil, twisted character from a book or movie that you’ve come across?

I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary books and movies (yes, it’s ironic I know) so I’m probably not the best person to answer this. I did however read a lot of non-fiction accounts of cults while preparing for this book and it was amazing to notice the similarity between the various cult leaders. They share such an unswerving belief in their own greatness and a complete disregard for the rights of anyone else. Because they lack the ability to feel empathy the suffering they inflict on others has no effect on them whatsoever. It’s chilling to read about people like this because it’s clear they genuinely don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong.

  • How did the story come together? Did you know how it was going to end?

Nutting out the plot was a very long process. I knew basically how I wanted to resolve things, but it took a lot of work to get the details right. I think I re-wrote the entire second half at least four times. It was painful at the time, but ultimately it was necessary for getting the storyline to follow a course that felt right to me.

  • What do you love most about writing for teens?

Writing for teens is great because there’s so much scope. The YA genre is so broad now that you can really go in any direction you want and explore a wide variety of themes. I’m drawn to writing plot-dense stories and this works well with teen literature. I think of my books as being escapist but hopefully also reasonably substantial, theme-wise. Teens read a lot more widely and with a greater level of sophistication than they did in my day, so there is also the challenge of writing something which will meet with their approval.

The Special Ones by Em Bailey

Often a blurb hooks me in and the story is exactly what the blurb promises.  Very rarely though the story can be so much more than what the blurb promises.  The Special Ones by Em Bailey is one of these rare books.  It took me by surprise and was so much more than what I expected.

Special OnesHe keeps us here because we’re Special.

Esther is one of the Special Ones – four people who live under his protection in a remote farmhouse. The Special Ones are not allowed to leave, but why would they want to? Here, they are safe from toxic modern life, safe from a meaningless existence, safe in their endless work. He watches them every moment of every day, ready to punish them if they forget who they are – all while broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside.

Esther knows he will renew her if she stops being Special, and that renewal almost certainly means death. Yet she also knows she’s a fake. She has no ancient wisdom, no genuine advice to offer her followers. But like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance–if she wants to survive long enough to escape.

The Special Ones completely blew me away!  This is one incredibly exciting, twisty, nail-biting read.  It’s one of those books that, just when you think you know where the story is going, it takes a sharp turn and you have to take a moment for it to sink in.  You don’t want to put the book down because you have to know what happens next, but there are times that you just have to close it for a moment to breath.  There are so many twists that I had no idea how the book was going to end!

I don’t want to say too much about the story for fear of spoiling the story, but here goes.  It’s told from Esther’s point of view.  Esther, Harry, Felicity and Lucille are The Special Ones.  They have been ‘chosen’ by him to live in a cottage on a farm, living a simple life, but regularly communicating with their followers on the outside via the Internet.  They must live the life that he has laid out for them, and if they act in the wrong way they will be punished or even ‘renewed.’  Esther has lived like this for two years, but the life she has come to know changes dramatically when Lucille is renewed.

Em Bailey’s writing is very slick.  She keeps the tension throughout the story, building it towards the nerve-wracking finale.  Em makes you feel for the characters and the scary situation that they are in.  The story is told in the first person from Esther’s point of view so we know everything that she’s thinking and feeling.

The Special Ones is an addictive YA thriller and one of my favourite books of 2016.

Flawed Book Trailer

Flawed is the debut YA novel from bestselling author, Cecilia Ahern.  I’ve read  and enjoyed some of Cecilia’s adult fiction so I’m very curious to see how well she writes for teens.  The blurb and book trailer sound really interesting so I can’t wait to read this one.

Flawed is out in April from HarperCollins.

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Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.

She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

Sylvie the Second Blog Tour

Kaeli Baker is the author of Sylvie the Second, a story of identity, family, friendships both good and bad, and choices that can affect the rest of your life. It is a stand-out debut YA novel from a wonderful new local author.  You can read my review here on the blog.

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Today I’m joined by Kaeli as part of her blog tour for Sylive the Second.  Sisters play an important part in Sylvie the Second so I asked Kaeli if she could write a post about her Top 5 sisters in fiction.  Read on to find out who they are.

My Top 5 Sisters in Fiction

The relationship between sisters, or even siblings in general, has always been a source of huge fascination for me. I’m an only child and the idea of growing up with someone close to my age, who shares DNA and bits and pieces of my parents – the same unruly hair, or the same crooked teeth – who sleeps in the room next door and argues over whose job it is to do the dishes, is so foreign to me.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise then, that I’ve always loved reading about sisters in fiction. Here are five of my favourites…

Kristy Thomas & Karen Brewer

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The Babysitters Club Little Sister series, by Ann M. Martin

Kristy and Karen are stepsisters with a close and reliable bond. I had always wanted a big sister, and it interested me that two people could become sisters without blood ties. Karen admires Kristy and wants to be just like her. Kristy is the pinnacle of big sisterhood, providing help and advice to Karen when she needs it.

Pat & Isabel O’Sullivan

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The St Clare’s Series, by Enid Blyton

Identical twins at a boarding school in England! My kid brain went wild over Pat and Isabel and the antics at St Clare’s. Their adventures kept me endlessly entertained – everything from midnight feasts to sneaking out, to pretending to be each other and tricking the teachers, which is obviously the biggest benefit of having an identical twin.

Kate & Anna Fitzgerald

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My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult

The complexity in this relationship is what I love most. The dilemma of being Anna – the girl born to save her sister, and Anna – a teenage girl with rights. The confusing tangle of love, duty and freedom. As you get further into the story it becomes clear that both girls are capable of selflessness, and care for each other deeply even when it’s messy.

Bellatrix LeStrange & Narcissa Malfoy

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The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

Two sisters heavily involved in the world of dark arts. One evil to the core, one…maybe not so much. The relationship between Bellatrix and Narcissa is strong – they even call each other Bella and Cissy. United in the web of a complicated family with fierce loyalties, eventually they find that their devotions take them in different directions.

Judy Woolcot and her whole entire family

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The Seven Little Australians series, by Ethel Turner

Judy Woolcot is my favourite sister of all time. I was obsessed with these books. I wanted Judy to be my sister.

‘She had a small, eager, freckled face, with very bright dark eyes, a small, determined mouth, and a mane of untidy, curly dark hair that was the trial of her life.

Without doubt she was the worst of the seven, probably because she was the cleverest.’

Mischievous Judy is close to all of her siblings. In the end it becomes clear just how much she is willing to give up for them.

 

That sums up my top five! Thanks so much to Zac for letting me share his space on the interweb, and I hope you enjoy Sylvie the Second.

Kaeli

Make sure you visit msblairrecommends.blogspot.co.nz tomorrow for the last stop on the Sylvie the Second Blog Tour.

 

sylvie-cover-copyWin a copy of Sylvie the Second!

Thanks to Makaro Press I have a copy of Sylvie the Second to give away.

To get in the draw for a copy of Sylvie the Second by Kaeli Baker simply email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Sylvie the Second,’ along with your name and address.

Competition closes Wednesday 23 March (NZ only).

Sylvie the Second by Kaeli Baker

With some of the larger publishers moving offshore there have been some wonderful independent publishers set up, one of these being Mākaro Press.  They have a commitment to publishing books for children and young adults and are helping to ensure local authors can still get their stories published.  Their most recent publication for young adults is Sylvie the Second by debut author Kaeli Baker.

sylvie-cover-copyIt’s another hospital trip in the witching hours for Sylvie, as part of the support crew for her crazy sister, Calamity Cate. An overdose, this time. As usual, it seems like the family is so caught up in all of Cate’s drama that Sylvie goes unnoticed.

Invisible. Always coming in second.

Not anymore.

After a makeover, a friendship breakdown, and a whole lot of pizza, Sylvie starts to get noticed, but by the wrong people. That’s when things unravel with painful consequences. Visibility, Sylvie discovers, is not about how other people see you, but how you see yourself.

Sylvie the Second tells the story of Sylvie’s journey of discovery.  It is a story of identity, family, friendships both good and bad, and choices that can affect the rest of your life.  The story is told in the first person, so we go on this journey with Sylvie and know everything that she is thinking and feeling.  There were times that I wanted to yell at Sylvie in frustration and moments that I wanted to hug her. She has a strong voice that teen readers will be able to relate to.

Sylvie feels invisible.  Her parents don’t pay her any attention because they’re always wrapped up in what is happening with her crazy sister Calamity Cate.  Cate has tried to commit suicide several times, without success, and so she is in and out of psychiatric care.   Sylvie’s parents are rarely home, and when they are they don’t seem interested in Sylvie and what is happening in her life.  Sylvie becomes so sick of going unnoticed that she changes her clothes and her look to stand out more.  This certainly seems to get the attention she desires, particularly from Chris, the hot guy at school.  However, things take an unexpected turn at a party and Sylvie’s world is turned upside down.  When she needs support the most Sylvie discovers who her real friends are and that she stands out more than she thought.

My favourite character is Belle (or Bookish Belle as Sylvie calls her).  She is the voice of reason in the story and helps to pick Sylvie up.  She’s an incredible friend (nothing like Sylvie’s so-called friends at the start of the book) and if it wasn’t for Belle I don’t know what might have happened to Sylvie.  I also really like Adam but I wanted to know more about him.

I loved the way that the story is wrapped up.  Kaeli leaves you with a sense of hope, while also realising that Sylvie’s life will be tough and still have its challenges.

Sylvie the Second is a stand-out debut novel from a wonderful new local author.

I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour to promote Sylvie the Second.  Make sure you check out the blog on Friday 18 March to read Kaeli’s post about her Top 5 Sisters in Fiction and enter the competition to win a copy of Sylvie the Second.

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

There are some books that leave you feeling drained.  Those books that grab your heart and throw it all about and mess with your mind.  You get so emotionally invested in the characters’ lives that you feel their heartache, their turmoil and get completely blown away by the actions of the other characters.  Justine Larbalestier’s new YA book, My Sister Rosa is one of these books.  I can’t stop thinking about this incredible book.

MySisterRosa_RCcvr.indd‘I promise,’ said Rosa. ‘I won’t kill and I won’t make anyone else kill.’

I can’t see the loophole. Since the guinea pig there’s been nothing. Months now without Rosa killing as much as a mosquito.

As far as I know.

Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.

Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?

This is one word for this book – WOW!  It is the most tense YA book I’ve ever read with possibly the creepiest 10 year old girl you’ll ever find in a book.  I didn’t want to put this book down because I was afraid that something huge would happen when I wasn’t looking.

There are times when I’ve finished a book that I wish I could wipe my memory of reading it, just so I could read it again and feel exactly what I felt that first time.  My Sister Rosa made me feel exactly like this.  It is such a full-on read, with so many twists, and I don’t think it would feel the same reading it a second time.  The suspense I felt and the way that my heart broke for Che is something that I rarely find in a book.  It just shows what an amazing job Justine has done of making her characters real and relatable.

The story is told from Che’s point of view.  He has known what his sister is like for years and he has tried to keep her in check.  She seems cute and sweet on the outside but inside she’s nasty and poisonous.  She works out how she should behave from watching and listening to other people.  She promises Che that she will be good but she knows how to stretch the boundaries.  While Che is keeping all eyes on his sister, he is also trying to adjust to life in another new city, working on his boxing, making new friends and trying to get a girlfriend.  All of these things collide to make one hell of a book!

Reading this book is like watching a train wreck.  You know that something really horrible is going to happen but you can’t look away.  You’re glued to the pages and flicking them so fast because you need to know what is going to happen.

Rosa is both a horrifying yet fascinating character.  You know she is psychopathic but you want to know more about her and the things that she does.  As a parent she certainly makes you thankful that your own children aren’t like her, and it makes you wonder what life would be like if she was your child.  I kept thinking that the way her parents reacted to her actions were unbelievable, but it also makes you think how you would react too.

I’ve read so many great books so far this year but My Sister Rosa is by far my favourite.  Put My Sister Rosa on the top of your to-be-read pile.  You won’t regret it.