Dragonfly Song Blog Tour: Guest Post by Wendy Orr…

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DragonflySongBlogTourGraphic

We are very pleased to be participating in the blog tour for YA historical fiction adventure Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr.  Following on from our review yesterday, today we have Wendy here with us to discuss what it’s like to have your book turned into a film, which is what happened to Wendy’s Nim’s Island books.  Before we get stuck in, here’s the blurb for Dragonfly Song from Allen & Unwin:

Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits

Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly Song (Wendy Orr) Published by Allen & Unwin 22nd June 2016 RRP: $16.99

– until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

There are two ways of looking at Aissa’s story. She’s the miracle girl who escaped the raiders. Or she’s the cursed child who called the Bull King’s ship to the island.

The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly.

Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned – but for Aissa it is the only escape.

Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast – but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature.

A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.

And now I’m going to hand over to Wendy Orr – her novel Nim’s Island was the inspiration and basis for the 2008 film of the same name starring Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin.  Welcome to the Shelf, Wendy!
Orr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gould

Wendy Orr         (Photo credit: Roger Gould)

What is it like having your book turned into a movie?

An emotional roller coaster – and just like any roller coaster ride, I can now only remember the thrills.

It all started when an independent Hollywood producer, Paula Mazur, got Nim’s Island out of the library for her eight-year old son. She emailed me a few days later, painting me a beautiful picture of the family listening to the story – and asking for the rights.

I was lucky enough to know nothing about how hard it is to get a movie made. She was so passionate that I always believed it would happen, even when things looked bleak – and of course, there were some bleak times in the five years between that first email and the red carpet. And because we quickly became friends, and once it was optioned I became a consultant on the script, I knew what was happening, every step of the way. It was a very intense time, intellectually (there was a lot to learn!) and emotionally.

Probably the luckiest thing of all is that Paula contacted me before three other queries came in. None of them seemed to have any particular feeling or insight into the book, but I could easily have signed anyway – and the film would probably never have been made. A film like this, that doesn’t fit the mold – one article claimed it was the first adventure feature film with a young girl hero – needs a passionate advocate.

Actually there was lots of luck. Like Jodie Foster wanting to play Alex Rover. Jodie Foster is a reader, and Nim’s Island was the book that got her oldest son into reading. She fought hard for the part – and changed what I’d imagined as a quiet little movie, into something big. The amazing thing for me was that she looked so like my concept of Alex. The brilliant Abigail Breslin signed on as Nim, and Gerard Butler as her dad Jack and Alex Rover’s fictitious hero. Gerry Butler is better looking than my Jack, but I coped with that.

The first time I arrived on set, Abbie/Nim was running through the rainforest with Fred on her shoulder. It was exactly as I’d written the scene in the book; there was something surreal about seeing it happen in flesh and blood (and TV monitors). I met one of the two sea lions who played Selkie, which tipped my emotion right over the edge – I cried so much that Gerry Butler interrupted some publicity shoots to ask if I was all right.

Then we had the premieres. One at Sea World in Queensland, with Jodie Foster and Leah the pelican who played Galileo, and one at Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, with all the cast and crew (minus the animals), blue ‘island’ ticker tape blown down the road, and thousands of screaming fans. But the biggest thrill was simply seeing the film, to see the characters from my head come to life on the screen.  I had the same reaction watching Return to Nim’s Island, which was much more loosely based on Nim at Sea – but Bindi Irwin was still so definitely my Nim, and the plot line was so true to Nim’s spirit, that I forgot it wasn’t the story I’d written.

It’s the ultimate expression of letting your story fly free to make its own way into the world.

 Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $16.99, available now

Thank you Wendy for sharing your experiences with us here on the shelf.  Dragonfly Song is available now and the perfect way to escape on an adventure if you aren’t lucky enough to be travelling somewhere exotic yourself these school holidays!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

Middle Grade Fantasy Spotlight and Giveaway: The Night Parade…

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NightParade-SMGraphicToday I am excited to present to you a new release middle grade fantasy tale from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky that delves into the complex and densely populated world of Japanese folklore and mythology.  The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary features all the struggles one would expect of a young lass having to spend a potentially boring holiday in the countryside, away from her friends and the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, combined with some delightfully unpredictable forays into the spirit world around the shrine in her grandmother’s village.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, and you could be lucky enough to receive a copy too, provided you read on and enter the giveaway!

But let’s get on with it.  Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

In the shadow of the forest, the Night Parade marches on…

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s remote mountain village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki, and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked…and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth- or say goodbye to the world of the living forever.

Night Parade cover

The Night Parade

By Kathryn Tanquary

January 1, 2016; Hardcover ISBN 9781492623244

 Publishers: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

 Now if you haven’t already been sucked in by that eye-poppingly gorgeous cover, allow me to point out some of the aspects of this book I really enjoyed.  Regular readers of this blog will know that we quite enjoy a good foray into books that have any kind of link to Japan, being that it is one of the few places that Mad Martha has had the pleasure of visiting.  (We’ve even got two more Japan-y books coming up at the end of January!) Clearly then, The Night Parade was a book that certainly caught my attention and I loved the wide variety of yokai (Japanese spirits) that made an appearance in Saki’s adventures.  Having recently enjoyed the series of guest posts over at Part-Time Monster featuring various Japanese creepies, including the Tsukumogami – or spirits of old, disused, forgotten inanimate household items, including umbrellas, sandals and lanterns – I was beyond excited to see these bizarre and quirky spirits get a whole section of the story for their own towards the end of the book.

The growing relationship between Saki and her grandmother was also a highlight.  Throughout the story, Saki begins to realise that the problems of a reasonably spoilt teenager are not necessarily the worst difficulties that one could be burdened with, and her developing recognition of the needs of others was neatly executed, without any corny preaching to the target audience.

The story is quite episodic, with Saki exploring a different part of the spirit world over the three nights that she is given to reverse her curse.  These “episodes” are all different in tone, with the first having the creepiest atmosphere, the second cramming in the most action and the third devoted to solving the problems of broken relationships.  Even the most jaded reader of middle grade fantasy could not fault the sheer diversity of fantastic and mythological characters brought to bear on Saki’s quest, and those who are looking for a change of scenery from the usual middle grade fare will appreciate the world-building – and the potential for further research into the plethora of Japanese folk spirits – found here.

The only thing that slowed the pace for me during reading was the inclusion of some fairly typical “teen angst” type episodes in which Saki grapples with the pressures of trying to fit in with the cool kids both at home in Tokyo and in her grandmother’s village.  While these sections are important in terms of Saki’s overall growth throughout the novel, they felt like the same old grist for the middle grade mill that regular readers of books for this age group will have seen ad infinitum.  With such a little-used and in-depth fantasy world playing out in the rest of the story, I was a bit disappointed that the non-fantasy part of the plot trotted out such a well-worn storyline.

Overall though, this is a breath of fresh air in the middle grade market and I hope some other authors jump on the bandwagon and treat us to some more adventures featuring the world of Japanese mythology.  For now though, you’ll have to be satisfied getting stuck in to The Night Parade, in all its quirky, creepy, expansive glory!

But don’t take my word for it.  Read some for yourself!

Excerpt from The Night Parade:

In the dead of night, she woke to three cold fingers on her neck.

Saki blinked in the darkness. The sliding door was open to the forest. The fingers pressed against her jugular, and bright, thundering panic surged through her body.

The fingers curled down toward her throat.

She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her jaw was locked shut. Her hands groped for her phone under the futon. Before she reached it, she touched her grandfather’s worn-­out charm. The three fingers retracted, leaving her skin cold and bloodless.

“Oh good, you’re awake.” She heard her brother’s voice.

Saki flipped around. Lying on her back, she stared up into a pair of eyes.

It was not her brother.

It knelt next to her on the tatami floor, knees brushing the edge of her pillow. Her brother’s futon was empty, and the blankets were flung around the room. It may have been Jun’s body kneeling there, but whatever stared back at her was not her brother.

The clouds shifted, and light fell through the open door, burning moon-­blue on everything it touched. Her not-­brother’s eyes reflected the light like a will-­o’-­the-­wisp.

“I thought you might sleep through it.” The creature smiled. Her brother’s teeth seemed sharper than usual.

Saki touched her hand to her jaw. It unlocked. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sleep through what?”

It leaned over. She stared into its will-­o’-­the-­wisp’s eyes.

“The Night Parade, of course.”

With a single movement, it was standing by the crack in the door. The forest stretched on into the night.

“Get up, get up! We’re late already.”

Saki scrambled to her knees. She pulled a blanket around her shoulders and clutched her phone to her chest.

“W-­what have you done to my brother?”

It rolled her brother’s eyes around the room and licked his teeth. “Impressive, isn’t it?” It opened its arms and looked down at the body it had taken. “Of course, beautiful maidens are traditional, but we must work with what we have, no?”

Saki eyed the backpack in the corner. It was heavy enough to swing in a pinch. “If you touch me, I’ll scream.”

The creature with her brother’s body became very serious. “Oh no, that won’t do any good. They won’t hear you anyway. This is your burden, little one.” It barked out laughter, eyes wide open, reflecting the moon.

“This is crazy. Jun, if you’re playing a joke, it isn’t funny. I’m telling—­”

“Why do you refuse to believe what you observe to be true?” it asked. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, girl. You invited me here.”

Saki blinked. “What?”

It dropped on her brother’s knee beside her. “Don’t you remember? On hallowed ground, you put your hands to the summoning table. You called out our names. You rang the bell. So we came to you, as we must. Well, I came to you.”

“You’re Kokkuri-­san?”

“No and yes. I am the first of three. The others will be along later.”

“Others?”

“Oh yes. I’m always the first, whether I like it or not. The third you will like very much. Everyone likes him. But the second…” It covered her brother’s mouth as a malevolent glee twinkled in its eyes. “Oh my. I daresay you will not like him at all. Very…scary.” It curled and uncurled her brother’s fingers.

“No,” Saki said. “No. No, no, no, no.” She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled into a ball on the floor. “This is crazy. This is insane. This is not happening. I am asleep and having a dream. When I wake up, it will be over.”

The creature sighed. “Very well. If that is your final decision…”

Saki waited underneath the blanket. The wind whistled through the cracks of the old house, but after more than five minutes, she heard no sounds of the stranger anywhere. Bit by bit, she peeled back the blanket and peeked over the top.

Her brother slept soundly on a mess of tousled blankets. His face squished against his pillow as he drooled a bit down the side. His eyes were closed and didn’t shine at all in the moonlight. Saki wrapped her blanket around her shoulders as she rose to shut the open door.

On the wooden walkway in full moonlight sat a fox with four tails.

Praise for The Night Parade:

“Wonder and imagination abound in Tanquary’s debut, a fantasy set in a contemporary Japanese mountain village; filled with respect and admiration for cultural tradition, it evokes both Grimm’s fairy tales and Miyazaki’s films…Vivid details and realistic situations ensure accessibility, and subtle teaching moments are wrapped in wide-eyed enchantment.” –Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

An entertaining mix of Japanese folklore and teen angst” –School Library Journal

“Highly imaginative, beautifully written and what a wonderful book that talks about becoming true to oneself. While reading this all I could picture was a Miyazaki film in my head, and it was beautiful!”–Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO)

Goodreads Link:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25821928-the-night-parade?from_search=true&search_version=service

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/SA2z1

Apple- http://ow.ly/SA6rO

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/SA2Tv

BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/SA3qk

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/SA45o

IndieBound- http://ow.ly/SA4tE

 

About the Author:Night parade author shot

Kathryn Tanquary is a graduate of Knox College with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She currently resides in Japan as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.

Social Networking Links:

http://kathryntanquary.com/

@KathrynTanquary

Now, onto the giveaway!  Unfortunately for us Southern Hemispherites, this one is only open to residents of the USA and Canada (booo!).  If you happen to live in one of those locales (lucky you!) you can enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below:.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Until next time,

Bruce
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An Engineer and a Philosopher Walk into a Time Tunnel: The Princelings of the East Blog Tour!

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the princelings trilogy

You know that old joke, don’t you? The one where the engineer and the philosopher walk into a time tunnel?  Well, if you haven’t heard it, let me be the first to introduce you to friend-of-the-shelf, indie author Jemima Pett’s adventure series for all ages: The Princelings of the East! We shelf-dwellers are very pleased to be participating in the tour, hosted by My Family’s Heart, to promote the first three books in this six book series.

Now, while I say that the tour is promoting the first three books in the imageseries, I only managed to get through the first two before my tour date crept up on me, so I’ll be focusing in on those two today. I should also mention that I acquired the trilogy by winning a competition run by Jemima herself a veritable age ago and this tour gave me the perfect opportunity to knock two books off my TBR and re-home them on my permanent shelf – hurrah!

To start us off, here’s the blurb for the trilogy from Goodreads:

Suitable for all ages, The Princelings of the East is a trilogy relating the adventures of unlikely guinea pig heroes Fred and George. Two innocents abroad, they solve problems caused by unintended consequences, commercial greed, and blind prejudice yet still find time to engage in troubled love affairs and nearly blow themselves up with their own inventions.

Oh yes, did I mention that the engineer and the philosopher are, in fact, guinea pigs? Sorry for the oversight. I suspect that the reason this trilogy has sat on my TBR unread for so long is because I am mildly wary of books based around anthropomorphic animals. I’m pleased to say, however, that the writing here is such that the guinea pig thing is hardly an issue and when I did remember I was reading about guinea pigs, the mental image always gave me a little giggle. Essentially, Fred, George and the gang definitely grew on me quite quickly.

princelings one

Book one of the trilogy is The Princelings of the East in which we are introduced to Fred and George’s world – a world made up of castles full of guinea pigs, each with their own royal lineages. In this book, the Castle on the Marsh (or Castle Marsh for short) is experiencing strange and highly inconvenient energy drains and Fred (the philosopher) and George (the engineer) decide to throw caution to the wind and venture forth from Castle Marsh to see if they can discover the cause of the Energy Drain.

Almost immediately the brothers are separated and while Fred is led onwards by a stranger with an unusual accent and plus-sized girth, George finds himself in a different castle that seems to be labouring under some very odd chronological anomalies. As the brothers puzzle out the mysteries that they are faced with in their separate situations, we are introduced to a host of other characters and must riddle out, along with Fred and George, who is trustworthy and who might not be who they appear to be.

I was surprised at the cerebral nature of the writing in what I originally thought was a middle-grade story. Much of Fred’s adventure is taken up with political to-and-fro-ing as high profile members from other castles become involved in solving the problem of the Energy Drain and diplomatic relations between various castles are carefully managed. George, in the meantime, is left to unravel the mystery of a tunnel that appears to transport its users to other times, while also assisting in the streamlining of production processes of a widely exported diet drink.

At times, during Fred’s story arc, I felt a bit like I was reading Jane Austen (for guinea pigs) and during George’s, I felt like I’d fallen into Back to the Future (for guinea pigs). While this might sound an unpromising match, it actually worked really well to keep me engaged. And as I mentioned before, whenever I remembered that these were guinea pigs – riding in carriages, fixing industrial vending machines and the like – it gave me a chuckle. It’s rare that you find a book that is pitched nominally at children that also has enough intellectual material in the plot to keep adults interested, but this is one of those books.

the princelings two

The second book in the trilogy is The Princelings and the Pirates which does exactly what it says on the tin, plunging Fred, George, some of the guys we met in the first book and some new furry faces into a good old, piratey adventure. This book had a much lighter tone than the first and the action – in terms of deck-swabbing, swashbuckling, kidnapping and the like – increases tenfold. The book opens with Princess Kira of Dimerie, a prime wine-producing kingdom, kidnapped by pirates – guinea pig pirates, obviously – and when the other castles send emissaries to find out why the wine supply has dried up, said emissaries, including Fred and George, are press-ganged into the pirate life.

As well as the general pirate business, there’s also a surprise in store for the brothers as they discover a certain bad seed nestled in the branches of their family tree, suffer some critical injuries and aid in the effort to subdue the pirate menace. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, being partial to tales set on the high seas and the whole “main characters are guinea pigs” thing really had me giggling as my mind boggled at some of the more swashbuckly battle scenes in which the characters engage.  This book also had many more touching scenes as friends, new and old, fall into dangerous situations and the thin line between life and death becomes a tenuous one to walk.

I really appreciated the diversity between the two tales and now I’m chomping at the bit (of lettuce) to get at book three, The Princelings and the Lost City, which as I mentioned, I didn’t get time to read before this post.

princelings three

Starting this series has been enlightening, and I feel I’ve been inspired to take another look at Brian Jacques’ Redwall series – if I can enjoy adventurous guinea pigs so much, surely battle-hardened squirrels will be right up my alley!

If you are looking for an adventure series that will give your brain and your funny-bone a work out, then I can heartily recommend having a look at the Princelings series. It’s certainly got a wider appeal than just middle grade aged readers.

If you’d like to find out more about the series, you can go here and if you’d like to check out Jemima Pett’s blog, you can do that here.

Until next time,

Bruceimage

Unmissable Sequel Alert (and Giveaway!): Rin Chupeco’s The Suffering…

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Sound the alarm! I have a sequel today that you really shouldn’t miss, particularly if you’ve read the first book in the series and even more especially if you haven’t! Today’s book, The Suffering by Rin Chupeco is the follow-up to her 2014 debut The Girl From the Well, which I described (rather enthusiastically) at the time as “a hands-down, five-star, should’ve-got-it-in-print read”. The Suffering is a satisfyingly terrifying instalment and as I am now a confirmed, card-carrying fan of Ms Chupeco’s work, I have jumped in on the blog tour giveaway for the book, allowing YOU the chance to win a copy of The Suffering. Thank me later!

But let’s get on with it. Here’s the blurb:

Breathtaking and haunting, Rin Chupeco’s second novel is a chilling companion to her debut, The Girl from the Well.

The darkness will find you.

Seventeen-year-old Tark knows what it is to be powerless. But Okiku changed that. A restless spirit who ended life as a victim and started death as an avenger, she’s groomed Tark to destroy the wicked. But when darkness pulls them deep into Aokigahara, known as Japan’s suicide forest, Okiku’s justice becomes blurred, and Tark is the one who will pay the price…

the suffering

The most interesting thing about this sequel from my point of view is that it has a completely different feel to the first book, but retains that sense of mind-numbing IT’S BEHIND YOU! terror with which the first book was replete. While The Girl from the Well was stomach-churningly intense from the very first pages, The Suffering is more of a slow burn, with the early chapters seeing Tark living a relatively normal teenage life, albeit with an invisible dead girl for company.

The first part of The Suffering felt suspiciously like your standard YA with a bit of paranormal chucked in, but once Tark and Callie arrive in Japan, things quickly take a shuddersome turn. Aokigahara, Japan’s famed “suicide forest” seems to be having a bit of a day in the dappled sun in fiction at the moment – I’ve already reviewed another fiction book featuring it as the setting this year, and have noted a few others about – but Chupeco has done something clever here by twinning the acknowledged fear of the forest with a hitherto undiscovered village of the damned, you might say, within the forest’s clutches.

I won’t say too much about it here, because it would be a bit spoilerific, but by the time Tark and Okiku discover the village of Aitou, that familiar sense of ghoulish eeriness will have settled in the base of your brain, preparing you nicely to jump at the slightest noise or shadow. (Is that a bony finger stroking the back of your neck?). This book focuses on a centuries old curse that affected the young people of the village and the pace during most of this part is break-neck (literally, for some characters) as Tark and Okiku try to stay alive (well, Tark does, anyway) in a ghost-town that clearly wishes them otherwise.

The final chapters of the book are quite touching and unexpected and I gained a renewed respect for Chupeco’s ability to cap off a horror tale by refocusing on the important relationships in the book.

Take it from me, if you haven’t read Chupeco’s work yet and if you like horror even a tiny bit, then you really should try these out. You will be surprised at the quality of the storytelling that can come out of what could easily be branded just another YA horror tale.

That’s all from me, but keep reading for an excerpt from The Suffering and your chance to win! Many thanks to Sourcebooks for sponsoring the giveaway and for providing a copy of the book for review!

The Suffering

By Rin Chupeco

September 1, 2015; Hardcover ISBN 9781492629832; Trade Paper ISBN 9781492629849

Book Info:

Title: The Suffering

Author: Rin Chupeco

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Rafflecopter Giveaway:

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Excerpt from The Suffering:

It’s still early morning when our group is given clearance to enter. Aokigahara is a deceptive forest. It has all the hallmarks of a popular tourist destination: narrow but well-­maintained hiking trails with a surprising amount of litter, not to mention strips of tape and ribbon wrapped around tree trunks. The leader explains that hikers use them as markers to maintain their bearings. Later on, one of the other volunteers whispers to us that some of the tapes were left by those who came here to kill themselves, in case they decided to change their minds. The revelation horrifies Callie.

A few miles into our hike, anything resembling civilization disappears. Roots crawl across the hard forest floor, and it’s easy to trip if you’re not constantly looking down. We’re outside, but the trees make it feel claustrophobic. They reach hungrily toward the sun, fighting each other for drops of light, and this selfishness grows with the darkness as we move deeper into the woods.

It’s quiet. The silence is broken by the scuffling of feet or snapping of dry twigs as we walk. Every so often, volunteers call back and forth to each other, and rescue dogs exploring the same vicinity that we are will bark. But there are no bird calls, no sounds of scampering squirrels. We’re told that there is very little wildlife in Jukai. Nothing seems to flourish here but trees.

This deep into the woods, any roads and cleared paths are gone. At times, we’re forced to climb to a higher ledge or slide down steep slopes to proceed, and there’s always some root or rock hiding to twist an ankle.

And yet—­the forest is beautiful. I like myself too much to seriously think about suicide, even during my old bouts of depression, but I can understand why people would choose to die here. There is something noble and enduring and magnificent about the forest.

That sense of wonder disappears though, the instant I see them. There are spirits here. And the ghosts mar the peacefulness for me. They hang from branches and loiter at the base of tree trunks. Their eyes are open and their skin is gray, and they watch me as I pass. I don’t know what kind of people they were in life, but they seem faded and insignificant in death.

Okiku watches them but takes no action. These are not the people she hunts. They don’t attack us because they’re not that kind of ghosts. Most of them, I intuit, aren’t violent. The only lives they had ever been capable of taking were their own.

I’m not afraid, despite their bloated faces, contorted from the ropes they use to hang themselves or the overdose of sleeping pills they’ve taken. If anything, I feel lingering sadness. I can sympathize with their helpless anguish. These people took their own lives, hoping to find some meaning in death when they couldn’t find it in life. But there’s nothing here but regret and longing.

And there’s that tickle again, so light it is nearly imperceptible. Something in this forest attracts these deaths. It lures its unhappy victims with its strange siren’s call and then, having taken what it needs, leaves their spirits to rot. A Venus flytrap for human souls.

Something is wrong here, and suddenly, the forest no longer looks as enticing or majestic as when we arrived.

 

Praise for the Suffering:

 

“Rin Chupeco’s The Suffering is a horror lover’s dream: murders, possessed dolls, and desiccated corpses. I cringed. I grimaced. You won’t soon forget this exorcist and his vengeful water ghost.”

–Kendare Blake, author of Anna Dressed in Blood

 

“Chupeco deftly combines ancient mysticism with contemporary dilemmas that teens face, immersing readers in horrors both supernatural and manmade. The Suffering is a chilling swim through the murky waters of morality.”

–Carly Anne West, author of The Bargaining and The Murmuring

Summary:

 

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24789796-the-suffering?from_search=true&search_version=service_impr

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/PrKxL

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/PrKLh

Books A Million- http://ow.ly/PrL7j

iBooks- http://ow.ly/PrLCI

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/PrLOZ

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/PrLXu

 

About the Author:

Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living. Connect with Rin at www.rinchupeco.com.

Social Networking Links:

Website: http://www.rinchupeco.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RinChupeco

 

 

New in Paperback from this Author: The Girl From The Well

Praise for The Girl From The Well:

“[A] Stephen King-like horror story.” -Kirkus Reviews

 

“Told in a marvelously disjointed fashion.”  -Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

 

“This gorgeously written story reads like poetry.” -Brazos Bookstore

 

“Darkly mesmerizing.” -The Boston Globe

 

“A superior creep factor that is pervasive in every lyrical word.” -Booklis

Summary:

The Ring  meets The Exorcist in this haunting and lyrical reimagining of the Japanese fable.

Okiku has wandered the world for hundreds of years, setting free the spirits of murdered children. Wherever there’s a monster hurting a child, her spirit is there to deliver punishment. Such is her existence, until the day she discovers a troubled American teenager named Tark and the dangerous demon that writhes beneath his skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. Tark needs to be freed, but there is one problem—if the demon dies, so does its host.

With the vigilante spirit Okiku as his guide, Tark is drawn deep into a dark world of sinister doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms that will take him far from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Japan. Can Okiku protect him from the demon within or will her presence bring more harm? The answer lies in the depths of a long-forgotten well

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25263927-the-girl-from-the-well

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/PrQwE

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/PrQFa

Books A Million- http://ow.ly/PrQQU

iBooks- http://ow.ly/PrR6c

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/PrRlE

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/PrQp2

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Unhappenings Review Tour…

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Welcome to my stop on the Review Tour for new release, time travel, sci-fi, adventure novel Unhappenings by Edward Aubrey.  Make yourself at home!  This tidy and complex little number is published by Curiosity Quills, from whom I received a copy of this book.

Feast your eyes on this gorgeous cover:

unhappenings coverIsn’t it beautiful? But of course, judging a book only by its cover would just be silly *cough*, so here is some further information to entice you:

When Nigel Walden is fourteen, the UNHAPPENINGS begin. His first girlfriend disappears the day after their first kiss with no indication she ever existed. This retroactive change is the first of many only he seems to notice.

Several years later, when Nigel is visited by two people from his future, he hopes they can explain why the past keeps rewriting itself around him. But the enigmatic young guide shares very little, and the haggard, incoherent, elderly version of himself is even less reliable. His search for answers takes him fifty-two years forward in time, where he finds himself stranded and alone.

And then he meets Helen.

Brilliant, hilarious and beautiful, she captivates him. But Nigel’s relationships always unhappen, and if they get close it could be fatal for her. Worse, according to the young guide, just by entering Helen’s life, Nigel has already set into motion events that will have catastrophic consequences. In his efforts to reverse this, and to find a way to remain with Helen, he discovers the disturbing truth about the unhappenings, and the role he and his future self have played all along.

Equal parts time-travel adventure and tragic love story, Unhappenings is a tale of gravely bad choices, and Nigel’s struggle not to become what he sees in the preview of his worst self.

And of course you’re now wondering what kind of finely-tuned, creative, literary mind could conjure such an audacious story, and so here is some information about Mr. Aubrey himself:

Edward Aubry is a graduate of Wesleyan University, with a degree in music composition. edward aubrey unhappenings tour Improbably, this preceded a career as a teacher of high school mathematics and creative writing.

Over the last few years, he has gradually transitioned from being a teacher who writes novels on the side to a novelist who teaches to support his family. He is also a poet, his sole published work in that form being the sixteen stanza “The History of Mathematics.”

He now lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three spectacular daughters, where he fills his non-teaching hours spinning tales of time-travel, wise-cracking pixies, and an assortment of other impossible things.

Find Edward Aubry Online:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

And ultimately, of course, you are waiting to hear what I thought of the book.  Well, wait no longer, weary traveller, for I shall now metaphorically spill the metaphorical beans on this very intriguing take on time travel and its consequences.

I haven’t read a good time-travel yarn in quite a while – I think the last one was Backward Glass and that was ages and ages ago (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that being the last one) [*update* I just checked my records and I’ve read at least four time travel jaunts since Backward Glass…obviously they didn’t leave much of an impression...] – so I was most pleased to jump back into one of my favourite sub-genres of science fiction.

Unhappenings is a highly original take on the well-trodden time travel path, and has a much greater focus on the consequences for human relationships from meddling with time than any other story I’ve read in the genre.  The book begins with Nigel recounting his early experiences with the mysterious and confusing unhappenings that occured at random intervals throughout his teenage years.  Essentially, Nigel began to notice that time seemed to move differently for him than for most people – he’d mention conversations or experiences that none of the other people involved seemed to remember, his teachers would suddenly disappear, alter or reappear without so much as a passing comment from his classmates, and in the most severe instances, people he became close to were retroactively wiped from existence.

This was a really intriguing premise and I fell right into the story as Nigel recounts the major incidents of these early unhappenings and reflects on the patterns he felt were forming at the time.  Of course, as the story is narrated by a much older Nigel, the reader is privy to a few extra intriguing tidbits that poor old teen Nigel is not.  This added to the puzzle solving element of the story for me and of course I became enthralled in trying to figure out what was going on before it was revealed.

This, however, turned out to be nigh on impossible.

The story is set out in parts, with each part relating to a different person in Nigel’s sphere of reference.  The early part is dedicated to Nigel’s experiences with a mysterious girl who appears at certain points in Nigel’s journey and gives him little to no information about what’s going on – except the fact that she too experiences these unhappenings.

Actually, before I get sucked into explaining the different characters and so forth, I’m going to abandon the attempt because I don’t think it’s the best way to describe the experience of reading Unhappenings.

If you are a fan of sci-fi, you will probably enjoy this book.  If you are a fan of stories featuring time travel, you will probably enjoy this book.  If you enjoy a book with a strong premise that is executed with precision and skill, you will definitely enjoy this book.  This is a story with a lot going on, both action-wise and relationship-wise, and there is plenty of bang for your buck with over 100 pretty meaty chapters.

Aubrey has done a stellar job at creating an original take on time travel that is highly complex, and best of all, he doesn’t let the mechanics of it all get away from him.  There are multiple time-streams in play here and Aubrey masterfully controls each and every one, so there are no points at which I was forced to go, “HEY! That couldn’t have happened because *insert plot hole here*”.  By the end of this mind-bendingly extensive tale, I was perfectly content that I had just experienced a fresh and daring take on an old favourite theme.

Overall, I was really impressed with this offering, and I suspect that Aubrey will pop onto a whole bunch of “one to watch” lists for those who are introduced to him through Unhappenings.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Billy Lovecraft Saves the World: Blog Tour GSQ Review!

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billy lovecraft banner

Well in case the enormous banner just above these words didn’t get your attention, allow me to alert you to the fact that you have arrived at my stop on the Blog Tour for middle grade, sci-fi horror tale Billy Lovecraft Saves the World which will be released into the greater populace by Curiosity Quills tomorrow.  This tale is not for the faint-hearted by any means, but if you are stout-of-heart and prepared to jump into a classic world of Lovecraftian alien adventure (previous experience not required), then read on! I thought that, given the bizarre nature of Lovecraft’s work (both Billy’s and HP’s) it would only be appropriate to pull out the psyche-triplets and deliver a GSQ review.  Enjoy!

billy lovecraft cover

Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

The last thing Billy Lovecraft’s parents sent him before the crash was a photo of something on the wing of their plane.

Now he’s stuck with a horrible and heart-breaking mystery: What was that awful creature, and why were his parents targeted?

It’s up to Billy to gather a team of like-minded kids and lead them through a dark new reality where the monsters are real, not everyone is who they seem to be, and an ancient alien wants to devour the world.

billy lovecraft

About The Author:

Billy Lovecraft is the young leader of the Cthulhu Detective Squad, which he formed after the death of his parents when he was twelve. He is a writer, scientist, occult scholar, and frequent savior of the world. The things in his basement will give you nightmares.

Find Billy Lovecraft Online:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Now onto the review….

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imageThe Good

Right off the bat I can say that this book will be every early-teen male sci-fi/horror/adventure enthusiasts’ dream.  Not to discount the ladies who also enjoy a walk on the terrifying and bizarre side, but this book called out to me in a voice that said, “I will appeal to reluctant male readers – place me in their clammy hands!”

Leaving the Lovecraftian elements aside for a moment (Quirky will get to those in a moment), the story has fights, guns, bullies, scary aliens, helpful aliens, magic, evil cultists, evil principals, danger, slimy glob creatures and angry vengeful gods from outer space.  Add to that some solid friendship and leadership threads and  the back-and-forth cheeky banter of a group of young lads and you’ve got all the makings of a coming-of-age tale that will surely engage even the most book-adverse teen male.

The plot runs along at a quick pace throughout with a few spikes of extreme alien-whacking action.  The climax, which involves Billy and his group, the Cthulu Detective Squad, in a pitched battle against some local evil adversaries who are attempting to summon a planet-eating demon-god in order for it to…well…eat the planet, is fast and frenetic and a fitting end to such a complex lead-up.

Admittedly, I have not read any of HP Lovecraft’s classic works – I am familiar with them only through internet memes and pop culture references so therefore my knowledge is slim, but it certainly appears as though Billy Lovecraft is well in the know about The Writer and has attempted to use HP Lovecraft’s creations faithfully.  But as I said, with no real background knowledge of the original Lovecraft, I may have to leave it to the traditionalists to comment more fully in that area.

imageThe Sad

I feel I have to say that while I was reading this book, I had to constantly remind myself to suspend my disbelief.  Not with regard to the aliens but with regard to the fact that Billy is only supposed to be twelve years old.  One of the members of the Cthulhu detective squad is only ten.  It seemed to me that this was a bizarrely young age to choose for a protagonist in such a complicated story.  Even though this is tagged as a middle-grade novel, I think it would have to be a pretty advanced middle grade reader who would appreciate the nuance in both the sci-fi elements and the general action-packed plot.  In my opinion, I’d be putting this one squarely in the 13-15 years age bracket, as I think anyone younger than that would have trouble with the more grown-up themes in the book.

I also was mildly disappointed that there is only a token girl in the Detective Squad.  While she plays a reasonably large role in befriending Billy, the only other girl in the story was the (unashamedly scene-stealing) Cthulittle, a squidish, danger-detecting pet.  It was only a mild disappointment, as this story reeks of maleness and boy-men forming a tribe and fighting against other men (in a positive sense, you understand) but I thought I should mention it.  Oh, actually, there is another girl (lady) in the story – but she dies an alien-related death about halfway through, and as she was involved in summoning alien monsters in the first place, some might argue that she had it coming.

imageThe Quirky

If you, like me, are only vaguely familiar with the works of HP Lovecraft, then this story is going to be an eye-popping, mind-expanding, sci-fi experience.  I think it’s safe to say that it’s pretty well out of left field to base a book for young readers on works of such deeply imagined classic horror.  It did take me a little time in the beginning to sort the world-devourers from the reasonably harmless moonstone-gatherers and so forth, but there is a wealth of information about Lovecraft’s classic creatures that is deftly woven into the characters’ dialogue. 

Again, I’m not sure how humour-filled the original works are (although I’m guessing not much), the author has done a great job here of including plenty of age-authentic humour and antics that mitigate the somewhat terrifying elements of evil cultists, mind controlling nether gods and imminent death from monsters oozing out of the plumbing. 

All up, this was at once an intense and exciting reading experience.  There was a lot here that had me questioning whether I would be giving this book to an eleven or twelve year old, but as an older reader I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the tale was complex, compelling and laced with dry comedy.  I predict that this is going to be the sort of book that develops a niche audience – it certainly won’t be for every young reader, but for those who are drawn to the story, it could certainly be a launching point into classic sci-fi and horror writings and a gateway into strange new worlds.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Read-it-if Review: YA Fantasy Novella “Miyuki” and a GIVEAWAY!

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bannermiyuki

Good morning to you all! Before we begin, I’d like you to have a look outside…what’s the weather like today? Any fires predicted for your tranquil bush home? Are there likely to be rockfalls rattle-tattling down your mountain-side mecca?  Is that the mother of all thunder storms cracking outside your window? Well if any or all of these are lurking on your weather radar, today’s book reviews are definitely something you should keep your eye on.

I am very pleased to be part of the blog tour for Veronica Bane’s young adult fantasy novella, Miyuki, which is book two in the Unusuals series.  The tour  is running from March 1st to April 1st, and I’m lucky last on the tour.  Which could also be lucky for you, as I’m also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win paperback copies of the first two books in the series – hurrah! Giveaway info is at the end of the post.

As today’s review is of the second book in the series, I’ll also give you a handy rundown on the goings on of book one, entitled Mara.  In Mara, we are introduced to a group of teens living in the less than idyllic town of Jericho.  Things have always been a bit off-kilter down good ol’ Jericho way, what with general dislike and persecution of the Natives, and some decidedly odd goings on throughout the years.  During this book, we meet Mara, a reasonably unlikeable young lass who is grappling with a difficult family history and trying to come to terms with the fact that she can manipulate fire. As in, throw flaming fireballs from her hands and such like.  Mara begins to seek out others of her ilk, and discovers that Jericho has its fair share of “Unusuals” – people with certain superhuman abilities – but that being an Unusual also comes with a good chance of an early death at the hands of some of Jericho’s haters.

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In book two, we pick up the story after Mara and some other Unusuals, Miyuki being one, find out who has been trying to pick them off.  Miyuki, manipulator of water and granddaughter of Katsumi, a long time resident of Jericho, has to learn how to use her abilities to fight in order to protect herself and the other Unusuals on her side.  Because, not every Unusual sees things the way Miyuki does.  Enter the mysterious and mixed-up Nayara and things are about to get violent. Fatally violent.

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Read it if:

– you’ve ever considered yourself a little bit…out of the ordinary

– you’re a misfit, a rebel on the run, and no one understands you…especially not your vengeful gun-toting brother, or the other thugs that have been hired specifically to kill you…yep, ESPECIALLY not them

– you suspect you may be in possession of very mild superpowers

– you enjoy your YA gritty, edgy and with a side dose of super-charged fight and flight

These two books felt very different from the general fare of YA fantasy being served up just at the moment.  The stories had some real suspense and  a pervading sense of fear woven into the mystery of just who is hunting the Unusuals and what they might want the talented kids for.  They are also reasonably quick reads, coming in at under 200 pages each, which is great if you’re looking for something that won’t bog you down for weeks on end while you plough through the previous book in order to get up to speed with the new release.

I was reminded of nothing so much as movies like the X-men while I was reading these two, and I would really LOVE to see these books in graphic novel format.  There’s a lot of action and the writing really paints a picture while you are reading, and I just feel that the characters and their story would work perfectly in an illustrated format.

These books would be the perfect choice for YA readers looking for a break from your standard high fantasy, but don’t want to bother with love-triangle romances or urban fantasy with a long, complicated back story.  Mara and Miyuki are the perfect novellas to jump into for a break from reality involving a bit of superhumanity, a bit of crash-bang-wallop and a bit of psychological thriller wrapped in a bite-size package.

So now for the giveaway! This one is only open to residents of the US (sorry non-US-ians) and the winner will receive paperback copies of both Mara and Miyuki.  To enter, just click on the rafflecopter link below (and good luck!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

small fryOh, and just for the record, these books fit right in to category four of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with someone’s name in the title. Just sayin’.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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