Category Archives: Books

The Inspiration Behind When Dimple Met Rishi By Sandhya Menon


I firmly believe that marginalised teens need more books where they’re allowed to be happy, to make friends, to fall in love, to chase their dreams, and to have that perfect ending. When the opportunity to write When Dimple Met Rishi, a light YA rom-com, presented itself, I couldn’t believe my luck!

I’ve always been a huge fan of writers like Sophie Kinsella and Jenny Han, and although I’d never written a light YA before, I knew that that reading experience would help immensely. While I wanted to show that Indian-American teens have many of the same hopes and fears as the rest of the population—and to make people laugh and swoon, of course!—I also wanted to give the culture the space and respect it deserved on the page. That’s why I put in nuances and experiences that would (hopefully!) ring true for other teens living in the diaspora.

But above all, I wanted When Dimple Met Rishi to resonate with teens who’ve ever felt like they don’t belong or that their families simply don’t get them. That’s a very universal experience, I think, and you don’t have to be Indian-American to experience it!

Peppa Goes to London

The record skips, there is a screech as the needle runs across the surface… Peppa Pig appearing in Teen Librarian?

Surely Peppa is more suited to a younger readership? Yes – yes she is!

However… Peppa Goes to London is one of my daughter’s current favourite books of the moment.

I know that if I wish to attract her attention then all I have to do is pick it up and concentrate furiously on the story and ignore her; moments later as if by magic I will see her smiling, cherubic face peer round the side of the book before she pushes it aside to sit in my lap and wait for me to read the story, sometimes she will grab the book and tell me all about it – I may not be able to understand what she is saying, but she is emphatic in her love for this book.

Featuring recognisable London landmarks from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge and ending up at Trafalgar Square with Her Majesty the Queen acting as a daredevil bus driving tour guide. Any story that ends with the Queen, Peppa and all her friends joyfully jumping in muddy puddles is great for all ages!

Look – Peppa Pig is phenomenally popular, appearing as she does on TV, in books, as plush toys and stickers and more! All the books that feature her are exceptionally popular as small children around the world love her and her family. I know too that much like Tellytubbies and other popular child-centric characters that appeared in pop culture before her that some adults are not massive fans but my daughter loves reading and watching her.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out my daughter below:

Daddy Pig is also the ‘face’ of The Book Trust’s Bath Book Bed programme to help weary parents get their children to sleep at night.

This Beats Perfect blog tour

Working as a Music TV Producer for Rockfeedback was easily the most fun, exciting and exhausting job I ever had in television. What could be better than traipsing the world filming your heroes and being occasionally paid for it?

I spent countless hours backstage at festivals running around arranging interviews and live filming for bands and one of the things that never ceases to surprise is how dreary backstage areas can be.

The image of wild, all night parties is not generally the reality (although these do definitely exist!) Firstly, bands are often on gruelling tour schedules and they are often tired and jet-lagged. They’re also wary of strangers and especially film crews, so you have to be respectful of their space and grateful for their time.

And a lot of artists don’t drink at all these days –since touring became the bread and butter for a lot of artists, they simply can’t afford to put on a bad show. It’s not unusual to see them hunched round their tablets and phones, updating social media and catching a bit of shuteye before the show.

And you might not see the bigger artists AT ALL, as they stay with their dressing rooms firmly shut and only come out to perform, but there is always some group who are on the up and super excited to be there and to play and party.

The best ‘backstage’ area I ever went to was at Fuij Rock Festival in Japan. You can see the hotel we stayed in overlooking the campsite (perks of the job). It was partially shut since the resort is mostly used for skiing, and at night we ran round all the cordoned off areas –sneaking into ballrooms and huge empty restaurant areas. It was super creepy.

Backstage, the atmosphere was really friendly and upbeat – and just look at that 2007 line up!

Red Hot Chili Peppers , The Strokes , Franz Ferdinand , Jet , The Raconteurs , Sonic Youth , Wolfmother , Snow Patrol , The Hives , Dirty Pretty Things , KT Tunstall , Jason Mraz , The Cooper Temple Clause , Madness , Mogwai , Scissor Sisters , Yeah Yeah Yeahs , Super Furry Animals , Gnarls Barkley , The Zutons , Ore ska band- and many others.

~ Rebecca Denton

HiLo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

I have had a copy of Hilo written and drawn by Judd Winick since December – it is a comic book that I loved and have been meaning to write a review of since I read it. However I have been dragging my feet with this and I have no idea why.

Last night I had a dream, and in that dream I wrote a Hilo review and compared it to The Iron Man by Ted Hughes – this is better known internationally as The Iron Giant thanks to the fantastic Warner Bros. animated movie. When I woke up I was confused as on the surface they two beings appeared to be completely different; on deeper reflection I realised that the stories had a number of similarities, my brain also threw about Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy and Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot into the mix as well as the parallels to Judd’s early work The Adventures of Barry Ween Boy Genius (the book that made me a Winick fan-boy)

Judd – if you do read this can you *please* let me know if Barry Ween will ever come back – thank you!

ANYWAY! Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is funny, sweet and contains some surprisingly hidden depths to the surface story of a mysterious boy who falls to Earth and the children that become his best friends.

There is a lot of screaming and running away from alien monsters and pathos in the form of familial relationships and the feeling of not fitting in with both Hilo and D.J. filling the role of outsider Hilo on earth and D.J. within his family.

JW has always been championed diversity in his works and HiLo is no exception, a Caucasian from another dimension with a Hispanic and African American as best friends who get equal development within the story.

HiLo is a fast-paced, enjoyable romp for all ages and there are two other books in the series that are also available so there will be no long waiting for more once you have finished it!
If I could sum up HiLo The boy Who Crashed to Earth in one word then it is:
OUTSTANDING!

HiLo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is published in the UK by Puffin

The Territory: Escape by Sarah Govett

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The year is 2059. Fifteen-year-old Noa Blake has passed the exam to stay in The Territory but her childhood friend Jack has been shipped off to the disease-ridden Wetlands, a death sentence in all but name. Noa and Raf have vowed to rescue him, but how? With an electric fence, gun towers and a police state monitoring their every move, getting into the Wetlands looks impossible, let alone getting home again. Second in The Territory trilogy, The Territory, Escape follows Noa, Raf and Jack as they battle through a world of raiders, mosquito swarms and psychopathic prisoners. Noa faces her own battle too is it just friendship that drives her and if not, is Jack still even hers to claim?

The Territory: Escape is the sequel to The Territory – my favourite dystopian novel of 2015.

As a follow-on novel, Escape does not disappoint continuing Noa and Raf’s quest to save their friend. One of the things that gripped me when I started this series was that Noa was not a gung-ho action heroine; actually none of her friends are they are just young people much like teens today doing their best to survive and overcome the odds (which are definitely not in their favour).

In this current age of political uncertainty and the ongoing talks on sacrificing of rights for safety, The Territory trilogy brings young readers face to face with serious questions about survival, choice and the type of world we want to live in.

It is also a damn good adventure and survival story!

Lie Kill Walk Away by Matt Dickinson

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LIE

I check the Range Rover dash. The keys are in there.
The sirens are closing in. There’s a police helicopter coming over the hospital.

KILL

I have to decide. Decide right now. I can keep out of trouble. Not get involved. Just run away through the park and go home and pretend none of this has happened.
Or I can help Becca.

WALK AWAY

I stare into her eyes. Those deep blue eyes. Just for a split second.
I tell her, ‘get in the car’.

If you have ever wondered what a high-octane YA thriller looks like, then take a look here! Lie Kill Walk Away is possibly the perfect example of a high stakes, heart in the throat, no holds barred thrill ride!

It is the kind of story that you would expect to see in a James Bond film – the Daniel Craig variety rather than the guys that came before him, although possibly Sean Connery’s Bond would be able to handle it as well!

But anyway I digress the story can be summed up as boy meets girl on the run and together they have to save the world and more importantly – not get killed!

This is a seriously fast-paced story that will shamelessly pull you along for the ride and leave you wanting more!.

Get it today! Actually get two! One for yourself and the second as a Christmas gift because you will no want to share your one until you are done!

Refugees, Immigrants & Asylum-Seekers: a short list

This list is a companion to http://teenlibrarian.co.uk/2015/11/20/book-list-refugees/

As we become immersed in the 2016 Christmas it is important to remember that the reason for the season was a refugee for a large part of his early life, not only that he was the son of a single mother from Palestine.

We are exhorted to welcome him into our hearts, what do you think the chances are of he and his family being welcomed to seek sanctuary in the UK in this day and age?

I have put together a short list of books about refugees, immigrants and asylum-seekers for readers of all ages below.

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Refuge by Anne Booth and Sam Usher, it is the Christmas story seen through the eyes of the Donkey, simply told with beautiful illustrations it is a timeless work that could be the story of a refugee family today.

Refuge is published by Nosy Crow

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Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord by Bessora and Barroux, translated by Sarah Ardizzone is a heart-breaking, award-winning graphic novel detailing the journey Alpha takes from his village in Cote d’Ivoire to Europe. With a visa this would only take a few hours but for refugees it is a dangerous, life-threatening journey of many months.

Alpha is published by Barrington Stoke
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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon a love set in New York City, between Daniel a Korean-American and Natasha the daughter of illegal immigrants from Jamaica and the 12 hours they spend together before her family is deported.

The Sun is Also a Star is published by Penguin

arrival-tan
The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a wordless graphic novel detailing the arrival of a migrant in a strange, foreign land. The Arrival is a masterclass of wordless storytelling, showing through imagery the difficulty migrants often face when arriving in an alien culture.

The Arrival is published by Hodder Children’s Books

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Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland is the chilling memoir of Sungju Lee’s life as a street child and later his escape from North Korea to a new life in Canada.

Every Falling Star is published by Amulet Books

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The Journey by Francesca Sanna is a picture book that has an effect like an unexpected punch to the stomach. After the death of her husband in a civil war, a woman takes her two children on a journey towards safety. I have never read a picture book that affected me so deeply, perfect for discussing war and refugees with readers of all ages.

The Journey is published by Flying Eye Books

The Tale of Kitty in Boots by Beatrix Potter – a Review

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Beatrix Potter is remembered fondly by many adults as the author of wonderfully written and illustrated books for children including The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck and The Tale of Mr Tod.

It is a little-known fact that Beatrix was a gifted scientific illustrator and amateur naturalist and had she been male may have been one of the greatest biological scientists of the Victorian era (the sexism and misogyny of that time being more repressive than it is now) the Linnean Society rejected her membership as women were not allowed to join or present papers (they issued a posthumous apology in 1997).

One of the things that is often forgotten is that she often includes the violence of nature in her stories, even though they are dressed as humans the animals are often red in tooth and claw. The violence is not just physical, there is often a ton of emotional upset that makes the books so readable! If you cannot remember – then take the time to reread her works – they are really phenomenal!

This ‘lost’ story was never published in Beatrix Potter’s lifetime and was resurrected in time for the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth, this is the first time an illustrated edition has been published. the artwork is by the incomparable Quentin Blake.

The Tale of Kitty in Boots is no exception, I felt during reading and after that if it is ever adapted into a film it should be shot in a Guy Ritchie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels style.

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It is an excellent story involving identity swapping, poaching and a significant amount of violence that will appeal to children of all ages!

The illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake who is possibly the greatest living illustrator make a wonderful accompaniment to the text.

So if you are looking for a gift for a young reader or something excellent to read, reread and just to brighten up your shelves then The Tale of Kitty in Boots is for you! Buy it now!

Blog Tour: Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

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runemarks-bookIt’s been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion – the Order – has taken its place.

In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand – a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don’t know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark – or runemark, as he calls it – is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else…

Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.

Read the previous excerpt from Runemarks over at http://anarmchairbythesea.blogspot.co.uk/

Maddy was startled. She had made no sound; and as far as she could tell, he had not once looked in her direction. She stood up, feeling rather foolish, and stared at him defiantly. ‘I’m not afraid of you,’ she said.
‘No?’ said the stranger. ‘Perhaps you should be.’

Maddy decided she could outrun him if need be. She sat down again, just out of reach on the springy grass. His book, she now saw, was a collection of scraps, bound together with strips of leather, the pages hedged with thorny script. Maddy, of course, could not read – few villagers could, except for the parson and his prentices, who read the Good Book, and nothing else.

‘Are you a priest?’ she said at last.
The stranger laughed, not pleasantly.
‘A soldier, then?’
The man said nothing.
‘A pirate? A mercenary?’
Again, nothing. The stranger continued to make marks in his little book, pausing occasionally to study the Horse.
But Maddy’s curiosity had been fired. ‘What happened to your face?’ she said. ‘How were you wounded? Was it a war?’ Now the stranger looked at her with a trace of impatience. ‘This happened,’ he said, and took off his patch.

For a moment Maddy stared at him. But it was not the scarred ruin of his eye that held her thus. It was the bluish mark that began just above his brow and extended right down onto his left cheekbone.
runemark1
It was not the same shape as her own ruinmark, but it was recognizably of the same substance; and it was certainly the first time that Maddy had ever seen such a thing on someone other than herself.
‘Satisfied?’ said the stranger.
But a great excitement had seized hold of Maddy. ‘What’s that?’ she said. ‘How did you get it? Is it woad? Is it a tattoo? Were you born with it? Do all Outlanders have them?’
He gave her a small and chilly smile. ‘Didn’t your mamma ever tell you that curiosity killed the kitty-cat?’
‘My mamma died when I was born.’
‘I see. What’s your name?’
‘Maddy. What’s yours?’
‘You can call me One-Eye’, he said. ‘And what makes you think I’m an Outlander?’
And then Maddy uncurled her fist, still grubby from her climb up the big beech tree, and showed him the ruinmark on her hand.
runemark2
For a moment the stranger’s good eye widened beneath the brim of his hat. On Maddy’s palm, the ruinmark stood out sharper than usual, still rust-coloured but now flaring bright orange at the edges, and Maddy could feel the burn of it – a tingling sensation, not unpleasant, but definitely there, as if she had grasped something hot a few minutes before.
He looked at it for a long time. ‘D’you know what you’ve got there, girl?’
‘Witch’s Ruin,’ said Maddy promptly. ‘My sister thinks I should wear mittens.’
One-Eye spat. ‘Witch rhymes with bitch. A dirty word for dirty-minded folk. Besides, it was never a Witch’s Ruin,’ he said, ‘but a Witch’s Rune: the runemark of the Fiery.’
‘Don’t you mean the Faërie?’ said Maddy, intrigued.
‘Faërie, Fiery, it’s all the same. This rune’ – he looked at it closely – ‘this mark of yours . . . do you know what it is?’
‘Nat Parson says it’s the devil’s mark.’
‘Nat Parson’s a gobshite,’ One-Eye said.
Maddy was torn between a natural feeling of sacrilege and a deep admiration of anyone who dared call a parson gobshite.
‘Listen to me, girlie,’ he said. ‘Your man Nat Parson has every reason to fear that mark. Aye, and envy it too.’ Once more he studied the design on Maddy’s palm, with interest and – Maddy thought – some wistfulness. ‘A curious thing,’ he said at last. ‘I never thought to see it here.’
‘But what is it?’ said Maddy. ‘If the Book isn’t true—’
‘Oh, there’s truth in the book,’ said One-Eye, and shrugged.
‘But it’s buried deep under legends and lies. The End of the World, for instance . . .’
‘Tribulation,’ said Maddy helpfully.

‘Aye, if you like, or Ragnarók. Remember, it’s the winners write the history books, and the losers get the leavings. If the Æsir had won—’
‘The Æsir?’
‘Seer-folk, I dare say you’d call ’em here. Well, if they’d won that war – and it was close, mind you – then the Elder Age would not have ended, and your Good Book would have turned out very different, or maybe never been written at all.’
Maddy’s ears pricked up at once. ‘The Elder Age? You mean before Tribulation?’
One-Eye laughed. ‘Aye. If you like. Before that, Order reigned. The Æsir kept it, believe it or not, though there were no Seers among them in those days, and it was the Vanir, from the borders of Chaos – the Faërie, your folk’d call ’em – that were the keepers of the Fire.’
‘The Fire?’ said Maddy, thinking of her father’s smithy.
‘Glam. Glám-sýni, they called it. Rune-caster’s glam. Shapechanger’s magic. The Vanir had it, and the children of Chaos. The Æsir only got it later.’
‘How?’ said Maddy.
‘Trickery – and theft, of course. They stole it, and remade the Worlds. And such was the power of the runes that even after the Winter War, the fire lay sleeping underground, as fire may sleep for weeks, months – years. And sometimes even now it rekindles itself – in a living creature, even a child—’
‘Me?’ said Maddy.
‘Much joy may it bring you.’ He turned away and, frowning, seemed once more absorbed in his book.
But Maddy had been listening with too much interest to allow One-Eye to stop now. Until then she had heard only fragments of tales – and the scrambled versions from the Book of Tribulation, in which the Seer-folk were mentioned only in warnings against their demonic powers or in an attempt to ridicule those long-dead impostors who called themselves gods.
‘So – how do you know these stories?’ she said.

The Outlander smiled. ‘You might say I’m a collector.’ Maddy’s heart beat faster at the thought of a man who might
collect tales in the way another might collect penknives, or butterflies, or stones. ‘Tell me more,’ she said eagerly. ‘Tell me about the Æsir.’
‘I said a collector, not a storyteller.’
But Maddy was not to be put off . ‘What happened to them?’ she said. ‘Did they all die? Did the Nameless One hurl them into the Black Fortress of Netherworld, with the snakes and demons?’
‘Is that what they say?’
‘Nat Parson does.’
He made a sharp sound of contempt. ‘Some died; some vanished; some fell; some were lost. New gods emerged to suit a new age, and the old ones were forgotten. Maybe that proves they weren’t gods at all.’
‘Then what were they?’
‘They were the Æsir. What else do you need?’
Once again he turned away, but this time Maddy caught at him. ‘Tell me more about the Æsir.’
‘There is no more,’ One-Eye said. ‘There’s me. There’s you. And there’s our cousins under the Hill. The dregs, girlie, that’s what we are. The wine’s long gone.’
‘Cousins,’ said Maddy wistfully. ‘Then you and I must be cousins too.’ It was a strangely attractive thought. That Maddy and One-Eye might both belong to the same secret tribe of travelling folk, both of them marked with Faërie fire . . .
‘Oh, teach me how to use it,’ she begged, holding out her palm. ‘I know I can do it. I want to learn—’
But One-Eye had lost patience at last. He snapped his book shut and stood up, shaking the grass stems from his cloak ‘I’m no teacher, little girl. Go play with your friends and leave me alone.’
‘I have no friends, Outlander,’ she said. ‘Teach me.’

The final excerpt of this phenomenal story will be up tomorrow at http://www.bookaholicbabe.co.uk/

RUNEMARKS by Joanne M Harris is out now in hardback from Gollancz buy a copy here: http://bit.ly/RunemarksJoanneMHarris
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The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch a review

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Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.
 
He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect.
 
Assuming he survives the week . . .

 

Important notice to readers: If you are considering picking up this book without reading the first five in the series you will enjoy it but you will derive greater enjoyment if you start with Rivers of London – the first Peter Grant novel and read them in order because they are brilliant and you will avoid spoilers!

The presidential election and other gloom-inducing occurrences around the world last week left me at a rather low ebb! The Hanging Tree helped to restore my sense of humour and kept me going through the days with something to look forward; in this instance going to bed and reading about PC Peter Grant’s misadventures in policing the Demi-monde.

The Hanging Tree answered several questions that have been hanging around since the series started but unfortunately (for me) added about a dozen new questions and made me hungry to find out more about the history of English magic, how magical systems around the world differ and when Peter will be heading off overseas on an international Falcon case.

Look let me be perfectly honest with you, this series is brilliant! Like a fine wine or cheese the story and Ben’s writing style has matured and improved as the series has developed, now with The Hanging Tree Ben has displaced Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files as my favourite urban fantasy series. I often get accused of saying that the book I am currently reading is my favourite thing but with this series it is true, partially because it is set in and around London – and I recognise a number of the locations that Peter and his allies have been to, through or blown up and it has a lot to do with Ben’s writing, which has brought to mind the work Terry Pratchett; he is the first author that I have read since the great man passed away that has combined humour with serious intent in such a way that made me laugh out loud and then giggle for a few pages thereafter.

Trust me*, if you have even the slightest interest in urban fantasy or reading about a London imbued with magic, black British Goddesses and mixed race protagonists then Rivers of London is series you need in your life!

*I am a Librarian!