Thursday, 20 November 2014

Classic Children's/YA: Ryan Graudin on Redwall by Brian Jacques Plus The Walled City Giveaway

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Brian Jacques's Redwall series, so I'm extremely excited to welcome The Walled City author Ryan Graudin to the blog today to talk about why she loves the books, and to share a couple of fantastic photos! I'm also delighted to be able to host a UK and Ireland giveaway for a copy of The Walled City - many thanks to Nina at Indigo for arranging the post and prize.

I was an avid reader as a child, but there were few series that captivated my imagination like Brian Jacques’s Redwall. This children’s fantasy series featured anthropomorphic woodland creatures who frequently went on quests and had to defend their red sandstone abbey (Redwall) from the “vermin” hordes that occasionally attacked. Mice, squirrels, hare, badgers, moles, voles, hedgehogs, otters and shrews general composed the cast of heroes, while the villains were usually rats, foxes, weasels, ferrets, stoats and wildcats.

There were twenty-two books in the series, published from 1986 up until 2011. The first book in the series (aptly titled Redwall) introduces readers to the abbey, where a young mouse named Matthias has to go on a quest within the Abbey’s walls to find the lost sword of Martin the Warrior, to defend Redwall from Cluny the Scourge and his evil army of rats. The Redwall books are memorable for their songs, feasts, riddles and battles.

As a child, I read this series fervently. I saved my allowance for weeks to buy the books, wrote fan-fiction based on the novels and interwove the saga’s plots into my outdoor playtimes. I would trap through the woods pretending to be a hare from Salamandastron, or an otter from the Island of Lutra. I even became part of an online fan club and a Redwall message board. I sent Brian Jacques semi-regular fan mail, with drawings of his character Martin the Warrior, and once he even responded to say he loved my drawing! (I can feel the giddy twelve-year-old fangirl rising up in me as I write this).

When I was thirteen, I got the chance to meet Brian Jacques. His 2000 “millennium tour” of the US brought him to my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. It was my first experience meeting a real author, and I was aptly starstruck as I listened to him read aloud from Marlfox. I remember being so flustered when he picked me out of the crowd during the Q&A session. We were only allowed to get him to sign a single book, so I chose my favorite (Pearls of Lutra).

The series is aimed largely at middle grade ages, though it could (and should) be read aloud in entertaining voices to younger ones. I cannot wait to, one day, share the series with my own children. 

Many thanks for a fab post, Ryan! Keep reading to find out more about Ryan, The Walled City, and - if you're in the UK or Ireland - enter to win a copy of The Walled City! Also, there have been lots of other fabulous posts on the blog tour - take a look at the banner over to the right for a list; don't forget to check one of my favourite blogs, Wondrous Reads, tomorrow for another post.

The Walled City is a cut-throat world of gangs, drug-dealers and warlords and every day is a struggle to survive.

THE WALLED CITY is a dark YA thriller set within the walls of a lawless slum city where Jin Ling searches for her lost sister and Dai struggles to complete an impossible mission.

A fantasy setting inspired by Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong, Ryan's novel has a rich authenticity and an intense atmosphere, and its pace will enthral the reader from the very first page.

Disguised as a boy, Jin Ling searches for her missing sister, Mei Yee, who was sold into the brothels of the Walled City. She relies on her speed and cunning but how long will her luck hold?

When a mysterious boy, Dai, requests her help with a dangerous mission Jin Ling's inclined to say no - this is a world where no one can be trusted - but the mission offers her a vital chance to see inside the brothel where her sister may be being held.

Jin Ling and Dai join forces, but will either of them survive the mission? Is Mei Yee still alive? And how will any of them ever escape the stifling city walls?

THE WALLED CITY will be published by Indigo on 6 November 2014
9781780621999/ Trade paperback at £9.99 and ebook at £5.99

About Ryan Graudin
Ryan Graudin was born in Charleston, South Carolina with a severe case of wanderlust. When she's not travelling, she's busy photographing weddings, writing and spending time with her husband and wolf-dog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten MG Sequels I Can't Wait To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

The Copper Gauntlet by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black (Doubleday Childrens, second in Magisterium series)

I read The Iron Trial without knowing what to expect, since both authors were fairly new to me. I was pleasantly surprised - I thought it was well-written, had good characters, and the intriguing twist at the end left me desperate to know what happens next.

Soul Splinter by Abi Elphinstone (Simon & Schuster Children's Books, second in Oracle Bones series) 

Horrendously long wait for this; it’s 2016, with book one Dreamsnatcher not out until February 26th next year. However I’ve been lucky enough to grab a proof of Dreamsnatcher and it’s a great debut, reminiscent in some ways of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy with a brilliant heroine, Moll, whose bond with her wildcat Gryff will warm your heart. It also has fantastic comic relief in the shape of her friend Siddy and his pet earthworm Porridge The Second.

River Daughter by Jane Hardstaff (Egmont, second in Moss series) 

I feel dumb as I didn't even realise this was coming until a few days ago; I thought The Executioner's Daughter was a stand-alone. However I'm delighted to return to Moss's adventures; the first is an engaging read and I love Moss and boy thief Salter.

Knights Haddon #2 by Esme Kerr (Chicken House, second in Knights Haddon series) 

I think this is coming - The Glass Bird Girl was described as the first in a series, although it's frustratingly difficult to track down information on the sequel. I've been really saddened that few people seem to have read the first; it's a clever detective story, the adult suspects are very well fleshed-out (more so than the kids, actually) with believable motivations, and it's an intriguing setting, as the school tries to keep students as disconnected as possible from the outside world. (Is this just for concentration purposes? I have a feeling we may find out more about this side of things later in the series.) I don't think the cover (as gorgeous as it is) and blurb for the Glass Bird Girl did it that many favours, unfortunately - it looks historical to me; I was quite surprised by the contemporary setting when I picked it up.

Wild Boy #3 by Rob Lloyd-Jones (Walker Books, third in Wild Boy series) 

I have had at least 3 conversations over the past 10 days when I was asked to predict the breakout success of 2015 and replied by saying that I thought the third Wild Boy book would push the series into the very top ranks of children's literature. Now that Rob Lloyd-Jones has confirmed via Twitter he's currently working on something else, rather than book 3, I feel like a poor predictor indeed. However, he did mention he'd possibly return to Wild Boy after his current project is finished, and I'm too big a fan of the boy detective to drop him from this top ten just because it might be a while to wait!

Monster Odyssey #4 by Jon Mayhew (Bloomsbury Children's Books, fourth in Monster Odyssey series)

I've just finished the third in this series, The Curse of the Ice Serpent, and as always from Jon Mayhew, it's an exciting read full of twists, turns, great characters and horrifying monsters. With this series following the excellent Mortlock books, Mayhew is up there as one of the most consistently enjoyable series writers around - I definitely want to get back to Dakkar and Georgia's adventures soon.

Secrets of the Tombs #2 by Helen Moss (Orion Children's Books, second in Secrets of the Tombs series) 

Again, no real details yet but am hoping this will come next year. I marathon-read Moss's Adventure Island series earlier this year, getting through all 14 books in 12 days, and fell in love with them by the end of the third. If anything, The Phoenix Code, the first book in her new series, is stronger than her first Adventure Island was so I'm intrigued to see where she goes next with this mystery sequence.

The Pirate Stream #2 by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (Orion Children's Books, second in Pirate Stream series) 

I don’t think there’s a title announced yet (if anyone knows, please correct me and I’ll edit!) but I already can’t wait for this as book one, The Map To Everywhere, is simply GLORIOUS. Most of my other absolute favourite recent reads have been tear-jerkers; after some great funny reads earlier in the year with Lobsters, Keep The Faith, Trouble and others I haven’t found anything quite to my tastes in that area for quite a while. However this made up for my long wait because it’s incredibly good fun; I read it with a smile on my face the whole way through. I adore the main pairing in it, the world-building is fantastic, and it’s cleverly plotted.  As keen as I am to read everything on this list, this is my absolute most-anticipated of them all.

Arsenic For Tea by Robin Stevens (Corgi, second in Wells and Wong series)

Murder Most Unladylike took most of my absolute best-loved things in books – boarding school, crime, diverse cast, 1930s setting – and put them together really well in a very enjoyable murder mystery. I think boarding schools are probably my second favourite settings for novels, with my overall favourite being country houses. Hey, look where the action’s moved to in this one!

Shield of Kuromori by Jason Rohan (Egmont, second in Kuromori series)

Sword of Kuromori was a complete delight – an engaging, pacy read with a fabulous central pairing, a touch more romance than in most MG reads, and a host of incredibly good fight scenes. Bonus marks for featuring better-rounded villains than the majority of books do, and an interesting collection of fearsome creatures from Japanese myths and legends. I can’t wait for the next in the series!

Monday, 17 November 2014

YA A to Z: Morgan Matson

I'm in a massive rush and meant to write this last night but fell asleep (so tired!) but I couldn't let M day of TLT's awesome YA A to Z feature pass without a quick bit of praise for Morgan Matson!

I think there are lots of great YA contemporary authors around today but if pushed, Morgan would be my absolute favourite, because I've read all three of her books (the ones published under her own name, anyway) and they are all AMAZING. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour was gorgeous to look at - put together in a 'scrapbook style' with travel book pages, motel reservation slips, and similar things - but was also brilliantly written, with two fabulous lead characters who had superb chemistry between them.

Second book Second Chance Summer was perhaps a slightly slower starter but just as amazing; leaving me in floods of tears as main character Taylor and her family prepared for her father's death due to cancer, while she tried to rebuild relationships with friends at the old lake house they'd stayed at every summer until a falling out five years ago.

This year's Since You've Been Gone - which I believe you can still vote for in the Goodreads Choice Awards, hint hint! - is a brilliant story about a girl out of her comfort zone trying to do challenges left for her by a friend who has mysteriously disappeared, in the hope that they'll lead her back to her best friend. I love the friendships here, both the flashbacks showing Sloane and Emily together and the new friendships Emily forms while doing the tasks.

As well as the fabulous writing, both Amy & Roger and Since You've Been Gone are added to by fantastic playlists which have helped me discover so much wonderful music, ranging from musicals, to Oasis, to Owl City, to Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.

Morgan was generous enough to take the time to talk to me about her books and a few other things back in July after Since You've Been Gone came out - a huge thanks again, Morgan! (And, indeed, to the lovely Liz Binks for setting this interview up, and the fantastic Jane Griffiths for putting me in touch with Liz.)

In addition to her books under her own name, Matson also writes as Katie Finn - I haven't tried these books yet but they're definitely on my 'wants' list.

Morgan can be found on her website and on Katie Finn's site and on Twitter both as herself and as Katie.

Who are your favourite authors whose surname starts with M? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Recommendation: The Map To Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

The Map To Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis 
(Orion Children's Books, given to me for recommendation consideration - thank you!)
First in the Pirate Stream series

Whenever I'm in a reading slump in the future I just need to remind myself that MG fantasy and adventure is clearly the way out of it. Having read several books in a row that ranged from underwhelming to fine but nothing more, and giving up on a few halfway through, I was reminded of the sheer magic of reading by two very different adventure stories which were just what I needed.

First up, I got my hands on a coveted copy of Abi Elphinstone's much-anticipated debut Dreamsnatcher - more about this nearer its February release but you should probably pre-order because it's pretty awesome!

Then, Charlie thrust a copy of The Map To Everywhere into my hands. This was one that I basically wanted to read because it has to be a strong contender for most gorgeous cover of the year; I wanted to see if the book could match up to it. I had high hopes because Charlie has rather fantastic taste in books (one of her recent recommendations was The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson; Twitter followers will know just how much I loved that!)

Nothing could have prepared me for just how much I'd love this one, though! I was quickly entranced by the brilliant world-building, with the mysterious Pirate Stream and its unpredictable effects on anything it touches, the rumour vines which pass on secrets, and the pirats (not a spelling mistake; they're actual rats!) who help to crew the ship our heroes sail on.

Throw into this remarkably imaginative world an equally superb cast of characters - Fin, the master thief who nearly everyone forgets as soon as he's out of sight, Marrill, the girl dragged from our world who's somehow able to recall him, and Ardent the wizard, constantly hoping someone will have heard of him, and I was absolutely hooked. (And that's without mentioning any of the wonderfully wicked villains, or the Naysayer, who enters the story quite late on but comes close to stealing the show with his cynical quips.)

This is a quest story, with Fin searching for the Map to Everywhere to try and find his mother, and Marrill needing it to locate her way back to our world and to her own mother, who's ill. It stands out over the majority of similar books, though - the plot is excellent, with twists, turns, and a satisfying conclusion which leaves the way open for the next in the series, but perhaps what makes this even more than the sum of these rather remarkable parts is the sheer sense of fun the two authors being to the book. It's a high-octane, wild ride and I read every page with an absolutely massive smile on my face - at least until tough decisions needed to be made at the end, by which point I was slightly shocked by how deeply I was caring about these characters.

Hugely recommended, book two is already noted as an absolute must-read for next year.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Classic Children's/YA: Robin Stevens Picks Ten Favourites

Ultra-special edition of my semi-regular Classic Children's/YA feature today as Murder Most Unladylike author Robin Stevens shares 10 of her favourites!

I think children’s fiction contains some of the finest novels ever written – and I believe firmly that more adults would read if they rediscovered children’s books. Beautiful, moving, funny and endlessly inventive, there are thousands of hidden gems just waiting to be found. Here are ten of my own childhood favourites. This list contains history, magic, fairy tale, science fiction and even animal dystopia – I love these books, and I hope you will too.

The Book: Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf
The Author: Catherine Storr
The Premise: A wolf comes to eat a little girl, but she’s having none of it.
Why I Really Like It: A sweet, sharp reimagining of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. This little girl’s no damsel in distress – she’s smart and resourceful, and it’s her job to look after the rather simple and helpless wolf. He comes to eat her, but we all know he’ll never manage, and it’s wonderful to watch their careful not-friendship grow.
Who It Will Appeal To: Children 7+ who like their fairy tales a bit twisted.

The Book: The Family from One End Street
The Author: Eve Garnett
The Premise: A charming tale of everyday working-class family life from a vanished world.
Why I Really Like It: It’s a warm, wonderful book that gives a gentle look at a part of early 20th century British history that authors like Noel Streatfeild don’t deal with. Yes, it’s idealised, but it’s so heartfelt and charming – and the Ruggleses are so wonderful – that it can’t fail to delight.
Who It Will Appeal To: Children 7+ who love Noel Streatfeild but want something a little different.

The Book: Carbonel
The Author: Barbara Sleigh
The Premise: The story of Carbonel, the magical King of Cats, and his adventures with Rosemary and John.
Why I Really Like It: A lovely magical adventure, full of spells, witchcraft and talking cats, this was a real wish-fulfilment for me when I read it as a child. I wept bitter tears over the ending, and then read it again and again and again.
Who It Will Appeal To: Budding witches and wizards 8+.

The Book: The Little Wooden Horse
The Author: Ursula Moray Williams
The Premise: A sort of Homeward Bound with toys, the Little Wooden Horse goes out into the world to seek his fortune and then has to get back home.
Why I Really Like It: I was fascinated (and a bit upset) by this book when I first read it. The Little Wooden Horse’s adventures are so compelling, and so dark, but there’s wonderful uplift at the end, and you truly root for him as a character.
Who It Will Appeal To: 7+ kids who like books with heart and emotion (and a bit of a tear-jerker). They may also enjoy Gobbolino, an equally lovely book (but rather close in theme to Carbonel – which is why I picked The Little Wooden Horse for this list instead).

The Book: Catherine Called Birdy
The Author: Karen Cushman
The Premise: A smart, wonderful teenager fights against her fate in medieval England.
Why I Really Like It: Catherine is the kind of heroine who seems to jump out of the book and sit next to you as you read her words. She’s outspoken, funny and feisty, and although her plight (she must obey her father by getting married, and quickly) doesn’t seem particularly relatable on the surface, learning to balance truth and fiction and face up to life challenges is something that we can all connect to.
Who It Will Appeal To: Children 10+ who want an accessible way in to historical novels, and a heroine they can really root for.

The Book: White Boots
The Author: Noel Streatfeild
The Premise: Lalla Moore is going to be a skating superstar – until Harriet and her big, loving family come along. They show Lalla that there’s more to life than skating, but while she’s discovering that, quiet Harriet is falling quietly in love with the ice. A story about friendship, ambition and family love, with just the right blend of showbiz and good sense.
Why I Really Like It:
Who It Will Appeal To: Kids 7+ who want to read about friendship with a little extra sparkle.

The Book: Charmed Life
The Author: Diana Wynne Jones
The Premise: Orphan Cat Chant’s sister Gwendolen, is a witch. When the children are sent to Chrestomanci Castle, Gwendolyn grows sick of the rules and does a piece of magic that could change not just Cat’s life, but entire worlds…
Why I Really Like It: Diana Wynne Jone’s fantasy worlds and made-up characters feel real enough to touch, and you can’t help but be swept up in her wonderful plot. This is simply one of the best magical fantasies you’ll ever read, and I’ve been in love with Chrestomanci for about two thirds of my life.
Who It Will Appeal To: Children 7+ who love humour, fantasy and magic.

The Book: The Green Knowe series
The Author: L. M. Boston
The Premise: History, ghost stories and folklore all combine in a mysterious old house.
Why I Really Like It: This wonderful series is an odd, unique mix of many stories and many worlds. Ghosts exist alongside the living, darkness and danger are always lurking just around the corner and everything takes place in the gorgeous, magical Green Knowe. It’s scary and alluring at once, and as a child I was absolutely desperate to find a Green Knowe of my own.
Who It Will Appeal To: Children 8+ who love history with a sprinkling of magic.

The Book: The Starlight Barking
The Author: Dodie Smith
The Premise: Everyone’s heard of The Hundred and One Dalmatians – this is the lesser-known sequel, the story of the day that the Dalmatians and their dog friends wake up to find their owners in a deep sleep…
Why I Really Like It: Odder, eerier and sadder than the first book, this is no less enchanting and beautiful. I’ve always loved the idea that dogs have secret lives – and I’m sure that if they took over the world they’d do a pretty great job. It’s very gentle science fiction, a brilliant way in to the genre that features well-known characters.
Who It Will Appeal To: Dog-loving children aged 7+

The Book: The Mouse Butcher
The Author: Dick King-Smith
The Premise: In a world where the humans have all vanished, the cats have formed a hierarchy. But then the lowly Mouse Butcher falls in love with the daughter of the lord of the manor – and decides that he has to prove himself by vanquishing the Monster of Hobb’s Hole.
Why I Really Like It: Another brilliant book about animals in a world without humans, this is an edgy, exciting read, full of danger and clever detail, and a hero it’s hard not to fall for. An animal novel with real teeth!

Who It Will Appeal To: Kids 6+ who love animals – the dystopian readers of the future!

Robin can be found at her website and on Twitter - thanks for a fab post, Robin!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Deserve Their Own Book

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Neville - Trouble by Non Pratt

Neville is an absolutely wonderful character as a cantankerous old man; I'd love to read what he was like as a teen! Any interest in writing YA historical, Non?

Wergar - Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling

I want a prequel, basically, because I can't bear to accept that a world as staggeringly complex and thrilling as Jobling's was created for 'only' a six-book series! I've said in the past that I'd be thrilled to see the rise and fall of Drew's father, and that hasn't changed.

Westy - Faith books by Candy Harper

I adore nearly every character in the Faith books, but Westy and Lily - both daft as a brush but hugely likeable - hold special places in my heart. We already see a fair amount of the main four girls so how about a book focusing on the boys, with Westy starring?

Graham - Boys Don't Knit by Tom Easton

Come on, Tom, you KNOW we're all waiting for 50 Shades of Graham!

Soap - Finishing School series by Gail Carriger

This series has one of the only love triangles I've enjoyed reading for ages. I can understand Lord Mersey's appeal but will forever be Team Soap here; it's easy to see why he's such a great friend to heroine Sophronia despite the difference in their social standings. I'd be thrilled to see a book completely focused on him.

Rosalind - Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

I was a huge fan of Caine's take on Romeo and Juliet; my only issue with it was that Rosalind was such a brilliant character it was a shame she didn't get more page time. Rectifying that, with the story from her point of view, or a sequel, would be fantastic!

Juliet - Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Despite Emily being the one in a young offenders' institution, her voice was so remarkably strong that I found it easy to sympathise with her. I'd love to read the story from Juliet's point of view to see if this changed the way I felt.

Stepmama - Kat Stephenson series by Stephanie Burgis

Stepmama is a favourite of mine because I believe she wants the best for her three stepdaughters, even if she and Kat have markedly different views about what this entails. I'd love to read about her as a teen!

Rosie - You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett

You Don't Know Me ended so perfectly that it's hard to think about going back to those characters in case a sequel wasn't as good, but they're so fantastic that it would be worth the risk. (And with the wonderful Sophia Bennett writing it wouldn't really be a risk!) I'd love to know what happened next for Rosie.

Sturmhond - Grisha books by Leigh Bardugo

This one needs zero explanation!

Monday, 10 November 2014

YA A to Z: Patricia Elliott

I've been a fan of Patricia Elliott's since her Pimpernelles series, with second, and concluding, volume The Traitor's Smile being a quickly-paced adventure with a heroine to cheer on and a pair of splendidly rage-inducing villains. Prior to this series, she'd written a number of standalones, including debut the Ice Boy, nominated for several awards, and Murkmere and companion novel Ambergate, all of which are on my 'wants' list.

I think Murkmere and Ambergate look absolutely fascinating - the first book is described as 'a haunting Gothic novel about loyalty, betrayal and age-old fears', and has a cover quote saying it's 'memorable and wonderfully written' from the superb Jan Mark; an impressive recommendation.

However I'll be leaving it a while before reading because I've just finished The Devil in the Corner by Elliott, and I'm sufficiently chilled not to want to go near any more Gothic-type stories for a few weeks! This dark thriller follows Maud, who suffered terrible hardship and abuse when working as a governess, only to be taken in by cousin-by-marriage Juliana, and the young artist John working for Juliana to restore a painting in the church. A dual narrative, although with Maud telling more of the story, the two leads are intriguing characters and Elliott builds a creepy, oppressive atmosphere brilliantly even before people start dying. There's always the feeling that something is 'off' here, without being able to place what this is, and the characters who populate the village of Marsham, especially malevolent butcher's boy Jonas Dorley and the demanding Juliana, add to the spookiness. I'd normally have qualms about the speed at which John and Maud fall for each other but it seems realistic for their characters and it's a troubled, tense relationship.

Both The Devil in the Corner and the Pimpernelles series are well worth reading!

Check out Patricia's website and catch her on Twitter.