Cover Reveal: ‘Charlie’s Promise’ by Annemarie Allan

cp-ebook-cover-finalKelpies Prize winning author, Annemarie Allan’s latest novel, ‘Charlie’s Promise’, is to be published by Cranachan Books in March. We’re delighted to reveal its striking cover here!

Would you break the rules or break your promise?

On the outskirts of Edinburgh, just before the outbreak of WW2, Charlie finds a starving German boy called Josef hiding in the woods near his home.

Josef can’t speak English and is desperately afraid, especially of anyone in uniform.

Charlie promises to help Josef find his Jewish relatives in the city. It’s a journey that will force them to face their fears, testing their new-found friendship, and Charlie’s promise, to the limit.

We particularly enjoyed hearing both the writer and the designer’s perspective on getting that cover right:

The cover from the writer’s perspective:

It is always an intense experience when an author and designer work together on a book cover. It’s fairly simple for the writer: either you like it or you don’t. All you have to do is explain why. It’s more complex for the designer, who has other issues to consider, such as the impact of the cover at different levels of image resolution, or whether the image and typography will grab the attention of the intended readership.

Both individuals bring their own interpretation of what image best suits the story, but when I saw the shadow boy and the shadow city, I felt Anne got it just right. The combination of the city and the sea foreshadows the children’s journey and there’s even a hint of the industrial nature of the landscape in the smoke rising in the distance. The darkness of the city hints at the challenges the children face in helping a refugee to find his way to safety in a hostile world, an issue that is still with us today, and the shadow boy is totally evocative of the main character, Charlie, with all his doubts and questions.

The whole collaborative process was hugely productive, in large part thanks to Anne’s expertise and her sensitivity to the author’s point of view. The end result is exactly what I hoped it would be – a cover for ‘Charlie’s Promise’ that will make readers want to reach out and pick it off the shelf.

The cover from the designer’s perspective (Anne Glennie):

Initial cover designs included lots of options, from photos of a solitary boy – or ‘Charlie’, to views of Edinburgh, to silhouettes of boys in the countryside. At first, we all preferred the silhouettes – but finding the right image was crucial. Some boys looked too young, some looked too old. Then, a single shadow of a boy seemed just right, against a simple horizon. But it was quite dark for a children’s book and there was no sense of place. A significant part of the story takes place in Edinburgh, so we combined the silhouettes of Charlie and the city, adding a splash of colour – and that’s when we knew we had our cover!

Charlie’s Promise is a novel about a young boy’s courage to extend the hand of friendship to another boy in urgent need of his help.

Highlighting the impact of WW2 on the Jewish community at home and abroad, it explores universal and timeless themes: displacement, school, family and friendship. Although it’s historical fiction, a boy seeking refuge in a foreign country is as relevant now as it was in Charlie’s day.

Published by Cranachan, the novel is out on 20th March 2017. You can find out more about Annemarie Allan at  http://annemarieallan.com/  and her publisher at http://www.cranachanpublishing.co.uk/

 

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Series review: The Tainted Accords by Kelly St Clare

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A great world and a kickass heroine – my favourite!

About the series:

The veil I’ve worn from birth carries with it a terrible loneliness; a suppression I cannot imagine ever being free of.

Some things never change…

 My mother will always hate me. Her court will always shun me. And hidden behind this material, will never know why.

 …Until they do.

When the peace delegation arrives from the savage world of Glacium, my life is shoved wildly out of control by the handsome Prince Kedrick, who for unfathomable reasons shows her kindness.

And the harshest lessons are learned.

 Sometimes it takes the world bringing you to your knees to find that spark you thought forever lost.

Sometimes it takes death to show you how to live.

Kelly St Clare's Tainted Accords series

Click for more info

Review by Katy Haye:

Well, you might say we’re having a bit of a love-in of Kelly St Clare’s work at the Paisley Piranha right now. And I’d say, Whatever’s the problem with that?! I adored The Retreat and can’t wait for The Return. But while I’m waiting, her Tainted Accords series filled the time beautifully.

Fantasy of Frost

I’ll be honest, this started confusingly for me. There were two worlds, Osolis and Glacium, and also two peoples, Solati and Bruma – and to this day I still can’t figure out how the rotations actually work.

BUT, stick with it. The writing is FABULOUS. I got right under Olina’s skin, and she might be oppressed by her horrible mother, but she’s a kickass heroine all the same. The writing was lovely, understated and layered. I loved the characters and the world and wanted more.

Fantasy of Flight

I got more in Fantasy of Flight. Olina improved, if that were even possible, when she took on her fighting persona of Frost. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Olina/Frost would have run away … again – but I’ll forgive her and Kelly given the fabulous twist that ensues. This provided a gripping, dramatic ending that carried me straight into the next in the series.

Fantasy of Fire

I’m starting to think there may be something about penultimate series books. Like Elementals (reviewed last week), I found this flagged a little. There was a bit of a memory dump at the beginning, which admittedly works as a good reminder of the story so far for anyone who had to wait to read this one, but it did slow the action. And I was slightly confused – was it me, or did Olina reveal her secret to the same people twice?

However, the finale was superb, and made up for all my earlier grumbles!

Fantasy of Freedom

To start with, I thought Olina had become a bit stereotypically “girly” and over-reliant on Jovan. Admittedly, she had been seriously wounded (I know, I’m so unsympathetic to characters – lost your arm/leg/brother/home – huh, toughen up!), but she came across as weak and a bit of a cry-baby, which didn’t fit with the Olina I knew, and undermined her strength as a ruler.

However, once I got past the first couple of chapters … crikey was this a stonking end to the series! Excellent twists and turns as long-held secrets were revealed. And the pace was frantic and unrelenting, dragging me towards and then through a final battle to discover whether peace could finally dawn over three worlds.

If you love fantasy and heroines who can hold their own, this is highly recommended.

Katy Haye is reading her way through the alphabet during the first half of 2017. Check in next week for her review of her “G” read: The Goldfish Boy. When not reading, she writes speculative fiction for YA readers. Her new release, Discord, is now available.

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Cover Reveal: The Return by Kelly St Clare

The Return promo banner

Today is the cover reveal for The Return by Kelly St. Clare. This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The cover is designed by Tracey at Soxsational Cover Art.

The ReturnThe Return (The After Trilogy #2)

by Kelly St. Clare

Genre: science fiction/ dystopian

Age category: Young Adult

Release Date: June 2017

Blurb:

The dystopian science fiction story continues in this action-packed novel for young adults by internationally best-selling author Kelly St. Clare.

Three months ago, Romy emerged from the cultivation tanks after a year floating inside.

Body intact. Mind broken. Memory gone.

Now she undergoes regular testing as doctors work to find out . . . well, she’s not exactly sure what.

The tests must have something to do with the reason she can’t remember her knot—the single lucid memory the other insane soldiers on Orbito Four still possess. Whatever the researchers are searching for, if it aids the soldiers in the deathly war against the lethal alien invaders—the Critamal—the excruciating pain is worth it.

But a grey-eyed man has other plans.

Boxed in and caught, Romy is taken hostage by people who shouldn’t exist! They dress in black and carry weapons she’s never seen in her genetically enhanced life.

Reunited with Knot 27. Memories returned.

Fifteen months have passed since her world shattered into bright red, ringing chaos. Things have changed—people have changed. How long until what was once as familiar as breathing is familiar once more?

Friendships. Love. Freedom.

Can the new Romy reconcile with the old, or will the two halves of herself remain locked in an internal battle?

And if a victor should arise from this silent war . . . will it be the part of her that kills without hesitation, without mercy?

All it takes is for the cracks to join and blood will pour.

You can find The Return on Goodreads.

The Return coming soon banner

Excerpt:

Romy strained for any hint of disturbance, but an eerie calm filled the space.

The electrodes and wires covering her arms and legs suddenly felt like restraints—a barrier preventing her from leaping from the bed and protecting herself. She closed her eyes and attempted to regulate her breathing.

Everything was fine.

There was nothing to—

The space station rocked as a muted explosion emanated from the clinic door. Her stomach dropped, and she nearly sat up before remembering Electrode Slapper’s withering order to stay still.

Romy held herself immobile, eyes darting side to side, senses stretched to maximum capacity.

Was that smoke creeping along the ceiling? Not the normal smoke from her burning hair—real smoke!

Nothing good could come from a fire onboard a space station.

Unable to deny fear’s curiosity, she turned to stare at the remaining male doctor, awaiting his order to evacuate. His attention was fixed on the door, the whites of his eyes showing his terror—of something. Romy watched as he scrambled from his seat, hands raised, stammering and babbling senselessly.

Not terror of something. Someone.

Romy inhaled sharply as a dart appeared out of nowhere, sticking deep into the side of his neck. The doctor staggered and slowly keeled over next to the bed, sending a screen smashing to the ground.

She jerked violently as his body rebounded off the floor before settling into unconsciousness.

The medi-tech surrounding her beeped, high-pitched and urgent, snatching up her distress and sounding it out for all the world to hear.

So much for playing dead.

She took stock. At least five electrodes and their wires hung off each limb. Another ten on her torso and five more on her head. Extracting herself in a hurry wasn’t looking like an option.

Heavy footsteps approached the bed where she lay, frozen. Mind racing. Several sets of footsteps, she realised—maybe ten.

Romy swallowed, palms sweating where they touched her bare thighs.

A large shadow fell across her body.

Dread settled heavy in her bones.

A man dressed in solid black leaned over the bed, blotting her view of the white ceiling. A soldier. Unlike any she’d seen. Why wasn’t he dressed in white?

The man’s face was clean-shaven and as his scent reached her, she got the oddest sense of another time. Of warmth and. . . .

She blinked into his soft grey eyes.

With careful movements, the man moved the gun he carried so it slung across his back. The weapon was small, sleek—the complete opposite of the huge laser guns fitted on the space station.

Who was this person?

He reached for her, expression impassive, a slight tremor in his hands.

And spoke a single, hoarse word.

“Romy.”

Start this series with The Retreat!

The Retreat

Earth is ruined. Humankind destroyed. And it’s old news.

The Retreat is the first book in the After trilogy! You can get your copy of The Retreat on Amazon

Finalist in the YA books central annual book awards for best YA sci-fi of 2016.

The Retreat was awarded a Five Star badge by Readers’ Favorite in 2016.

Praise for Book One in The After Trilogy, The Retreat:

“superbly written” – Readers’ Favorite ★★★★★

“part fantasy, part sci-fi, and all cosmic-chemistry” – Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews ★★★★★

“all I can say is WOW!” – Taking It One Book at a Time ★★★★★

“I had very high expectations for this one and I’m happy to say that the book met them all and more.” – Bookaholic ★★★★★

“I can’t start talking about this or I won’t stop. This is a must read!” – Amazon Reviewer ★★★★★

Kelly St ClareAbout the Author:

When Kelly St Clare is not reading or writing, she is lost in her latest reverie. She can, quite literally, drift past a car accident while in the midst of her day dreams, despite the various police sirens and chaos.

Books have always been magical and mysterious to her. One day she decided to start unravelling this mystery and began writing. Her aim: To write stories she would want to read.

The Tainted Accords was her debut series, and her second series, The After Trilogy, is now available.

A New Zealander in origin and in heart, Kelly currently resides in Australia with her soon-to-be husband, a great group of friends, and some huntsman spiders who love to come inside when it rains. Their love is not returned.

You can find and contact Kelly here:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Instagram

Newsletter

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Giveaway

There is a cover reveal wide giveaway for the cover reveal of The Return! Three winners will each win a paperback copy of the Retreat. Open International!

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:

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Film Review – SUICIDE SQUAD

3 Piranhas

“I didn’t enjoy the recent Batman film much, and I’m afraid to say this film was only marginally better.”

Movie poster from iMDb.com

Movie poster from iMDb.com

SUICIDE SQUAD – A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous criminals and super-villains already in jail in order to form a sort of defence against evil superheroes and aliens.  Their first task is to fight an evil witch/goddess and her equally horrid brother.

This film is a sequel to the recent Batman vs Superman film, in which Superman apparently dies (see my review here).  It’s also very obviously a prequel to the next Batman film, which I’m assuming will star the Joker as the villain, since he is (re)introduced in Suicide Squad.  Jared Leto is suitably freaky in this role – in fact, a bit too freaky for me, and I found it hard to take him seriously.  He wasn’t so much evil as just plain weird.

I didn’t enjoy the Batman film much, and I’m afraid to say this film was only marginally better.  There was a lot more action, which is good, and although it takes a while for it all to make sense, it’s fairly straight-forward – bad guys are forced to fight even worse ones and only by sticking together as a group can they hope to triumph.

The thing about this movie that grates the most, however, is looking at it from a feminine perspective.  I know it’s based on the DC Comics, which featured predominantly male superheroes and villains, but even so you’d think the filmmakers could come up with a few more roles for women that didn’t portray them as either evil, unhinged or sex objects?  There are four women in this film with reasonably sized roles (or five if you count a little girl who is the daughter of one of the villains) – the badass federal agent who puts together the team by forcing them to work for her (she implants a small bomb in each of the villains’ necks so that if they fail to do what she asks, she can just blow them up – nice, huh?!), Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie) the Joker’s girlfriend and sidekick, Katana (who is a crazy Japanese sword expert who talks to her sword!), and a sort of witch/goddess played by supermodel Cara Delevigne. Cara was obviously chosen for the role just so she could be dressed scantily in suitable goddess attire.

Her outfits are nothing compared to Harley Quinn’s though – she is pure male fantasy right the way through the movie.  Dressed in micro shorts that show half her bum, a tightfitting tshirt that says ‘Property of the Joker’ on the back (seriously? Like she’s owned by him and not her own person?), fishnet tights and with her hair in schoolgirl bunches, she struts around showing off her legs/body and bashing evil things on the head with a baseball bat.  Her act just screamed eye candy/sex object, and when she started chewing bubblegum and blowing pink bubbles like a little girl, I wanted to throw something at the screen, quite frankly.  I mean, what message does this convey?  And as for fighting in stiletto heal sneakers … gah!

I won’t go on, but I think you’ve gathered by now that I wasn’t very impressed with this film. All I can say is they must have paid Will Smith an awful lot of money to appear in it, and ditto Ben Affleck!  Jared Leto probably just did it because he likes weird, complicated roles that allow him to disguise his normally perfect features so he can prove that he really can act and isn’t just a pretty face.  I really wish he wouldn’t!


Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting.  The fourth one in the series – New England Dreams is out now!

 

 

 

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Series review: Elementals by Michelle Madow

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A pacey twist on classical mythology with some fabulous writing!

About the series:

Nicole Cassidy is a witch descended from the Greek gods… but she doesn’t know it until she moves to a new town and discovers a dangerous world of magic and monsters that she never knew existed.

When the Olympian Comet shoots through the sky for the first time in three thousand years, Nicole and four others — including mysterious bad-boy Blake — are gifted with elemental powers. But the comet has another effect — it opens the portal to another dimension that has imprisoned the Titans for centuries. After an ancient monster escapes, it’s up to Nicole and the others to follow a cryptic prophecy in time to save the town… and possibly the world.

Michelle Madow's Elementals boxset graphic

Review by Katy Haye:

The Prophecy of Shadows
First in the series, this is a cracking read. Nicole is a fabulous heroine and all the principle five (teens descended from the Greek gods) were well-rounded and a pleasure to spend time with. The world-building was superb: I had no problem suspending disbelief and cheering the characters on as they dealt with their new powers and faced their task – saving the world.

The Blood of the Hydra
Next step in the adventures – modern and ancient Greece collide when the group has to slay the mythical beast. I loved the relationship development in The Blood of the Hydra – especially the growth between Nicole and Blake, and Nicole and Danielle’s progressing friendship.

The Blood of the Hydra had snappy writing and beautifully crafted chapters (really, if you’re a writer, you should check out these books as a lesson in how to craft chapters). Short and gripping, they were effortless to “snack” on – I kept picking up my Kindle with the plan to read just one while I have five minutes spare … only to find I’d got through five.

The Head of Medusa
Ooh, this volume was really good, things are hotting up for the characters. I romped through this adventure, enjoying all the twists and turns. And … the stakes get REALLY big.

It does end on a cliffhanger, but why would you want to do anything other than read the next to see what happens?!

The Portal to Kerberos
Well, if I’m completely honest, this dipped a bit. I found Nicole frustrating in places. Either she was dashing into things without due consideration, or she was wringing her hands and going, “Oh, do I have to do this?” when it was something she patently did. (And I know, I know, it’s easy for me sitting reading a book to expect characters to leap into deathly danger – they have to actually experience it so it’s not surprising if they’re a bit reluctant!).

The Hands of Time
I loved the premise here. There was further, fabulous character development (I loved Kate’s outcome, and was pleased that Nicole and Blake’s relationship moved on). However, the solution to the group’s quandary had been signalled so clearly for me in The Portal to Kerberos that I found myself shouting at the characters to think of it (I won’t say what because … spoilers). Once they reached that point I was able to settle again. And I utterly loved the final scene of how things worked out.

The cover of Michelle Madow's Elementals

A fabulous, new fantasy world

This is a highly recommended read, but if you’re not sure, can I suggest you try the first in the series, Elementals: A Prophecy of Shadows for free to begin with? You can get a copy directly from Michelle Madow using this link.

Katy Haye is reading her way through the alphabet during the first half of 2017. Keep posted for reviews from A – Z on this site. When not reading, she writes fast-paced fantasy for YA readers. Her new release, Discord, is now available.

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How fast do you read?

Click to find out more.

Click to find out more.

Are you a fast reader? Do you gobble up a book in a couple of days?

Whether you’re a fast or slow reader, this KU challenge could be ideal for you.

Your challenge is to read any or all of these 10 YA dystopian books (including Piranha Katy Haye’s Rising Tides) which are all available with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited programme in a month. For each book you read between now and March 6th you can enter a quiz (3 questions about the book) to win a weekly prize of a $10 Amazon giftcard. If you read all 10 books you can also enter to win a $50 Amazon giftcard (and there’ll be a lot less competition for that!).

If you’re not already a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, or you’re not sure whether you want one, you can sign up for a trial subscription which gives you a month free. So you can read all these books for nothing and then decide whether you think a KU subscription will suit you! (Do remember to cancel if you decide you don’t want to continue, however).

Click for the details and then … get reading!

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The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon

index“Hel is … a teen railing against circumstances she is powerless to change, petulant, angry, sulky and despairing”

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The Monstrous Child is the first YA novel by Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry books.

The ‘monstrous child’ of the title is Hel, daughter of Norse god Loki and a giantess mother. She’s born human baby from the waist up and stinking, rotting corpse from the waist down – but she’s drawn the long straw as far as her parent’s children are concerned; her brothers are a giant snake, a ferocious wolf and an eight-legged horse!

From the outset, Hel is full of hatred. Her mother loathes her, as do her brothers, and her father – when he turns up – can’t bear to look at her. It’s only when she’s kidnapped by Odin, father of the gods, and taken to Asgard where all the gods live, that things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Of course, this can’t last, and Hel is tossed down into the Niflheim, the underworld, to become queen of the dead. The only thing that sustains her is the possibility that one day she’ll be reunited with Baldr, the one person who has ever shown her any affection, but as he’s an immortal god, the likelihood of him ending up in her realm is less than slim.

The Monstrous Child is heavy on atmosphere and attitude and short on plot. Hel is a well-rounded character, a teen railing against circumstances she is powerless to change, petulant, angry, sulky and despairing. Hel has a great voice – in fact, I’d love to hear this done as an audio book. Try reading this bit aloud:

“You still with me? Good. Hang in there – it’s worth the journey. Just think of all those foolish mortals who try to unearth the secrets of the dead, and lucky you – you get them without risking your like sneaking down the World Tree before you days and deeds are finished.”

You’re right there with her, surrounded by the bright, warm beauty of Asgard – “If I cared about such things, I might have thought it was beautiful” says Hel in her best I-don’t-care voice, having just described the beauty of it. And by contrast, the desolate land of the dead – “Murky black. Mist. Ice. The stink of sulphur” – the place where she is trapped for all eternity. It’s beautifully done, marvellously atmospheric.

But. But. But.

There’s not enough happening here. I have to admit to flicking forward through the pages to see if there was going to be any action or if Hel was going to spend the rest of the book dragging herself around the underworld moaning or lying in her bed alternately dozing and whining. Something does eventually happen, but it’s low-key compared to the drama of the first couple of sections of the book and I felt it didn’t satisfy my expectations of the way a story is supposed to work. I assume this is because the story is sticking closely to the original Norse mythology, but I don’t know an awful lot about that.

Read it though. It’s a quick read and the Norse mythology is fascinating – note to self: must read more Norse mythology. You’ll love it for Hel’s voice and for the atmosphere.

Claire Watts


More to Read!

There is loads of Norse mythology out there to find. I’m particularly excited to read Neil Gaiman’s new book Norse Mythology.


Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Her new YA novel, Gingerbread & Cupcake, is just out. 


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