Monthly Archives: January 2018

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons – Blog Tour Book Review

Synopsis

‘I can get a new brother? On the internet?’ Jonny muttered. ‘Oh sweet mangoes of heaven!’

Everyone has dreamed of being able to get rid of their brother or sister at one time or another – but for Jonny, the dream is about to become a reality with SiblingSwap.com! What could be better than someone awesome to replace Ted, Jonny’s obnoxious older brother.

But finding the perfect brother isn’t easy, as Jonny discovers when Sibling Swap sends him a line of increasingly bizarre replacements: first a merboy, then a brother raised by meerkats, and then the ghost of Henry the Eighth! What’s coming next?! Suddenly old Ted isn’t looking so bad. But can Jonny ever get him back?

About the author

Jo Simmons began her working life as a journalist. Her first fiction series for children, Pip Street, was inspired by her own kids’ love of funny fiction, and two Super Loud Sambooks followed. In addition to children’s fiction, she co-wrote a humorous parenting book, Can I Give Them Back Now?: The Aargh To Zzzzzz Of Parenting, published by Square Peg. Jo lives in Brighton with her husband, two boys and a scruffy formerly Romanian street dog. I Swapped My Brother on the Internet is her first book for Bloomsbury.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanna_simmons

About the Illustrator

Nathan Reed has been a professional illustrator since graduating from Falmouth College of Arts in 2000. He has illustrated Christopher Edge’s How to Write Your Best Story Ever and the Elen Caldecott’s Marsh Road Mysteries Series. His most recent picture book is Samson the Mighty Flea by Angela McAllister. He was shortlisted for the Serco Prize for Illustration in 2014. When he’s not illustrating he can be found with his two boys and a football on Peckham Rye Common.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nathanreed_illo

Website: http://www.nathanreedillustration.com/

What I thought

From the phrase Oh sweet mangoes of heaven, to this sentence in praise of naps, I knew I was going to love this fun and charming book.

Of course I love and adore my sister and never once wanted to swap her!!! Um… whilst that is true now when we were younger we fought so much that I’m sure both of us may have been tempted to try the service offered by Sibling Swap. Johnny and his brother Ted have just had a fight when he spots their advert and he fills out the form not really thinking about the consequences. What follows is a series of swaps with siblings that aren’t quite what he’d bargained for. I think my favourite was the ghost of Henry the Eighth and adults will love the little history nods in that section. And if you are a fan of 80s film Splash you’ll love Mervyn the Merboy.

Kids are going to love the silliness, burping, adventure but mostly… The Hanging Pants of Doom!!!

The story was naturally far fetched – especially the Mum’s reaction to her missing older son- but it made me smile a lot and comes to the inevitable realisation that perhaps our siblings aren’t altogether bad after all.

Definitely one to read out loud at bedtime with the whole family enjoying. (Note – parents may wish to study Meerkat noises before reading).

Now – which one is Fred and which is George again?

Thanks to Faye Rogers and Scholastic for the copy of the book for the purposes of this honest review.

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The Fandom by Anna Day – Blog Tour Book Review #JoinTheFandom

Synopsis

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con. They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega-movie, The Gallows Dance.

What they are not expecting is to be catapulted by a freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands…

How The Fandom Came to Be

Chicken House ran The Big Idea Competition and Angela McCann won with this concept. Anna Day was a finalist in the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition and has bought Angela’s idea to life.

What I Thought?

I received a proof copy of The Fandom at YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention) in July 2017. YALC is part of LFCC (London Film and Comic Con) at the Kensington Olympia. The very Comic Convention Violet and her friends are attending in their The Gallows Dance Cosplay.

When I was younger my sister and two male friends of ours used to play this game where we’d ‘get sucked into different TV channels’ and act out a show from that channel. I was also a fan of the old cartoon Dungeons and Dragons… and who hasn’t wanted Hogwarts to be real? So the idea of getting drawn into your favourite work of fiction clearly holds some appeal to me.

Violet, her brother Nate, and her friends Alice (The Gallows Dance fan fiction writer) and Katie (who hasn’t even read Twilight!), find themselves walking into a photo shoot and ending up in a shoot out. The stakes for our foursome are high. From the prologue to the film outline given in the first chapter we know that despite the romance that draws the group into this Fandom the danger is going to be very real.

Violet is a normal girl, she faints – she’s only been on one date that didn’t end well and now she has to play the heroine, the love interest on whose head the fate of an entire society rests. It’s a good thing she has an expert knowledge of the story canon. Except knowing the words isn’t always enough, especially when it’s not clear who’s good and who’s bad, you start to fall for the wrong guy and it really looks like going home is an impossible dream. Violet is a really likeable character and all the way throughout you can see she wants to do the right thing.

One of the characters Baba asks her ‘If you were stuck here… What kind of an Imp would you become?’ Violet has to decide if she is in a romance or something more?

The Gallows Dance is a sci-fi dystopia where humans have been genetically modified as ‘Gems’ and normal imperfect humans are Imps. There’s a Romeo and Juliet type plot, brooding boys Thorn, Ash and Willow, rebels who want an uprising, and nods to The Wizard of Oz, Divergent and The Hunger Games.

As well as the romance the sibling relationship is portrayed well, and even though they are absent the calming presence of Violet’s parents is felt which is somewhat unusual for YA. Female friendships are explored in their complexity and limelight-stealing Alice and compound-swearing Katie remind us that we are dealing with a group of contemporary teenagers.

The story quite quickly goes off script and the group find themselves on a packed adventure with limited time to take the correct path. I found this a really fun read and an excellent homage to my favourite genre.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the tour and do pick up a copy of The Fandom which is out this week.

Which fandom world would you definitely not want to venture into?

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings – Blog Tour Book Review

This post is part of the Zenith blog tour. Do check out the other stops.

Synopsis

WHEN THE UNIVERSE NEEDS SAVING

THERE’S ONLY ONE GIRL FOR THE JOB

Most know Androma as a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her glass starship, Maurauder, however, she’s just Andi, their friend and fearless leader.

But when a routine mission goes awry, the Maurauder’s all-girl crew is tested as they find themselves in a treacherous situation- and at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter from Andi’s past.

As the Maurauder hurtles towards the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only certainty is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

What I thought?

Zenith is book one of The Androma Saga and it has definitely whet my appetite to keep reading.

I am not familiar with either author’s other work in terms of either writing or YouTube so it was nice to come to this fresh with no real preconceptions.

What I did find was a book that seemed to be influenced by a lot of other YA and pop culture I’ve loved. The prison break aspect of Six of Crows, a pinch of Divergent, a Ship of Firefly roguishness, even a Handmaid’s tale feel, and a Potter reminiscent team nickname.

The book starts with a Prologue and then continues with chapters each headed up from a different character’s point of view. The characters we hear from are the main series protagonist Androma (Andi aka The Bloody Baroness), Klaren (a historical character), Dex (the Bounty Hunter from the synopsis and Andi’s ex), Lira (Andi’s crewmate and best friend), Nor (The Queen of a planet that holds a tentative peace with the rest of the galaxy) and Valen (the mission!).

Very spacey chapter headers

Here comes my first issue with the book. I was fine with the amount of POV characters given the scale of the story and would have even liked to hear from the other two crew mates. However the book breaks its own rules. It sets up each chapter clearly with whose point of view it’s meant to be from and for some reason in a couple of Dex’s chapters we get a switch to Andi’s point of view that is entirely unnecessary and does momentarily take you out of the story.

The other issues I had were that there was frequent repetition of concepts and thoughts such as Valen’s thirst for vengeance and Andi’s guilt over an event that occurred in the past. Whilst it is true that the more we returned to these thoughts the more the ideas and action behind them became clearer, and it is true that people do become fixated on issues, I think a few incidences could have been edited out. And there was definitely no need to keep stating the colour of Andi’s hair so frequently. White blond with purple – which to be fair does sounds like a pretty cool look. There was also a few clunky phrases such as ‘downing half a bottle in one sip’.

But, equally there was some great use of phrasing including the particularly disgusting reference to ‘palm juice’ which made me feel quite queasy but that really worked in context.

Above all I loved the Maurauders. The relationship between the all-girl crew of Andi, Lira, Gilly and Breck was what I enjoyed most about the book. Gilly is such a firecracker and so young that I was drawn to her story in particular and would love to hear from her point of view in future books. I also thought the blend of femininity and violence within them worked well and that, although the girls were total badasses, they could also get very excited about pretty dresses. The relationships between all of the characters was what drove the plot and what made the issues I had with the book easy to overcome.

I’ve seen reviews saying that the worldbuilding was sloppy but personally I thought this was another strength and I loved the inclusion of the historical perspective from the distant past as well as Andi’s more recent past and the idea that all the characters are running away from things we know they are going to need to face. The whole world history and individual character experience also pull together in a dramatic conclusion. The Zenith of the title takes a while to materialise but when it does you feel its impact.

This book is a great mash up story – a space opera – with such scope for character development. I had a few issues with the editing but the plot is clever, the characters complex and it’s really a lot of fun. I’d love to see it filmed, it’s very cinematic and would make a great tv series. Now can someone tell me when book two is due out?

Zenith book cover

Thanks to HQ for the finished copy for the purposes of this review. Opinions are as ever my own.

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