Tuesday, 8 May 2018

In Your Light by AJ Grainger Blog Tour: Extract

As a big fan of AJ Grainger's, I'm thrilled to be sharing this extract - the prologue from new book In Your Light! Thanks to publishers Simon & Schuster for arranging.

‘Only in the Brightness shall we find
Light for all, for all eternity.’

– The Book

At the centre of the clearing, the Sun’s fire burned strongly, its fiery fingertips slashing at the dark midnight sky. Around it danced the sixteen members of the Sisterhood. Their brightly coloured dresses – the red chiffon, the purple velvet, and the green taffeta – swirled wide so that the forest became gyrating flame. Brilliance’s chest tightened at the sight, heart beating fast like the wings of an insect trapped in a jar as the sisters raised their voices in the Light’s saying:

I dance with the fire in my heart, in my soul, in my veins. I dance until it rises up for me. I dance into the Brightness. Into the Light. Into the Light.

Brilliance stared deep into the fire. She loved the way it moved like liquid, undulating in shapes and colours. She loved to lose herself in the Light’s power, as the flame  became a part of her: its pulse her pulse; its breath her breath. The power and the beauty, the two sides of a knife.

The air hung heavy tonight with a coming storm, like a thick coat in high summer. Somewhere nearby an owl hooted, and Brilliance jumped. Its cry had sounded almost human and in pain. And then the high priestess’s voice cut across the clearing. Her hood was thrown back to reveal flaming red hair crowned with white flowers that glinted in the firelight. Her eyes were as blue as the deepest part of the ocean. The symbol of the Light – a yellow sun – was painted on her cheek. ‘The Brightness,’ she cried. ‘The Brightness is coming and it’s going to save us all.’

Excitement tore through Brilliance.

‘The Light’s Gift will show us the way,’ the high priestess said.

Brilliance’s sisters began to move towards the fire, faces hidden by their cloaks, and the Light burned inside Brilliance, as red and bright as a flame.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Dear Martin Blog Tour: Best Books About Police Brutality

As a huge fan of Nic Stone's Dear Martin, which I bought and read when it was first published in the US last year, I was delighted to hear that Simon & Schuster were publishing it in the UK, and both thrilled and flattered to be asked to be on the blog tour for it.

I wanted to use my spot to celebrate some of the other incredible books published recently looking at the topic of police brutality, so here's the four that I would recommend to ANYONE.

Having said that, I recognise that my thoughts on these books are both less informed and less useful that those from Black people, so would also strongly encourage you to check out #ownvoices reviews and thoughts - here's a few great people to follow on Twitter.

Justina Ireland (also, buy Dread Nation, her latest release, which is INCREDIBLE!)
Elle McKinney
Kosoko Jackson
NK Jemisin
Karen Strong
Cit Callahan
Nic Stone
Angie Thomas
Jay Coles
Jewell Parker Rhodes

Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Simon & Schuster)

An Ivy League-bound Black boy writes a journal to Martin Luther King to make sense of his thoughts on police brutality and racism, after being handcuffed for trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend out. When a terrible tragedy happens, involving Justyce and best friend Manny, he's left under attack by the media.

Justyce is a fantastic character, as is white Jewish girl SJ, who actually recognises her privilege and strives to use it to help appropriately. I loved the way that Nic Stone looked at toxic masculinity and responses to affirmative action, as well as police brutality and media coverage of crimes. A relatively short read, and so gripping that I raced through it - despite being near tears by the end - this is outstanding.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker)

A 16-year-old Black girl moves between the poor neighhbourhood she lives in and the fancy suburban prep school she attends, trying to fit into both. After the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by a police officer, she becomes involved in protesting the crime.

It feels like you must have been living under a rock not to have heard the hype for Starr's story - it really is completely deserved. I'm hugely excited to see the upcoming film, because the book is an absolute masterpiece. Starr is a truly superb character, code-switching to try and fit in in both her neighbourhood and her school, while the fallout from Khalil's shooting is both heartbreaking and devastatingly realistic. Watching her find her voice was such a fantastic journey to witness, and one big speech near the end, in particular, reduced me to a sobbing mess.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (Little, Brown - currently not published in UK)

Marvin Johnson goes to a party with his twin brother Tyler, hoping to keep an eye on him. But they're separated after a police raid and Tyler goes missing, only to eventually turn up dead, killed by a police officer. Marvin mourns his brother, while trying to organise a protest, and support his grief-stricken mother.
This is the most recent read of the four for me, and I think it will stick in my mind for a long time because the portrayal of the relationships here is so, so good. Firstly the tight-knit family of twins Marvin and Tyler, their mother, and their wrongly imprisoned father, who writes letters back and forth with Marvin. Secondly the fantastic friendship group of Marvin, Ivy and G-Mo. And thirdly the new girl in Marvin's life, Faith, who has a tragedy of her own in her past, and is able to partially understand his loss and help him to grieve. Marvin is also dealing with an application to MIT, the college he's always dreamt of going to, and seeing him trying to carve out a future for himself while still reeling from the tragedy was really moving.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Orion)

(This is the only MG novel out of the four, by the way.)

Twelve-year-old Jerome, waving a toy gun around, is shot by a police officer and killed. As a ghost, he meets Emmett Till, who shows him how racism through the years has affected Black boys, while he also becomes visible to the daughter of the white officer who shot him. Parallel with this narrative, we get a 'before' one of the events leading up to him getting the toy gun.

Oh WOW. Book of the year for me so far, Jewell Parker Rhodes gives us a middle grade novel which is both heartbreaking and deeply educational. This was super-powerful, perhaps because it's aimed at an even younger audience than the previous three I've talked about, which for me heightens the tragedy. The author does an incredible job of making such a tough subject accessible to younger readers without ever sugarcoating the horror of both Jerome's death in particular, and the racism in general which has led to so many of these horrible instances. Outstanding.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The Company of Eight Blog Tour: Q & A with Harriet Whitehorn

As a big fan of Harriet Whitehorn's, I'm really excited for her new book The Company Of Eight! It's great to be able to host this Q and A with her today.

Quickfire The Company of Eight Q&A

The Company of Eight is full of fascinating locations. Where in the Longest World would you want to live?

That is such a difficult question as I slightly fall in love with wherever I am writing about.  I think, a bit like Cass, I would like to be based in Minaris, as I have always wanted to live in a city where you skate everywhere in the winter, but then I would also like to do a bit of roaming too.  To copy Cass, my first adventure would be to the Islands, and I would definitely take in turtle watching, star gazing and possibly an encounter with pirates.  But then I think I would take a boat on to The Furthest Lands and  explore The Great City of Pinging, known as City of Ladders because it is built on multiple layers.  And then, if I still had the energy, head for a port to the west of Minaris called Pinoa, and explore the mountainous countries to the north.   And finally return exhausted to Minaris to drink tea and Rimple’s with Mrs Potts!

The Longest World is full of fascinating personalities: who is your favourite character, and who was your favourite to write?

My favourite character is Cass but the most fun to write is her guardian Mrs Potts -  she’s so deliciously awful - snobbish, shallow and self seeking,  but ultimately she is proved to have a heart of gold as the book shows.

Cass can’t wait for all her future exciting adventures with the Company: can you give us a hint as to where these adventures might take her?

Well I can tell you that it is not where she is expecting to go!  She thinks that she is off to chase pirates around the tropical Far Isles but she actually ends up as far away from that as you can imagine.

Which would you rather: join the Company of Eight, live on the Island of Women, practise acrobatics on the Circus Ship, or be a fortune-teller in the Magical District? Why?

They all sound like fun but it would definitely have to be joining The Company of Eight - I have always wanted to be a sword fighter and am always googling adult fencing classes for beginners but never actually pluck up the courage to go to one.

The Company of Eight is an amazing escapist fantasy adventure, but what kind of books do you like to read personally?

I do love fantasy and some of my all time favourite books are in that genre, like The Earthsea Trilogy and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.  But in general, I am quite an eclectic reader and read a real hotch potch.  The common thread is often a personal recommendation as I’m always intrigued to see what other people love reading.