Thursday, 11 February 2016

Blog Tour: Melissa Keil's Favourite Comics and Graphic Novels

Today on the blog I have the wonderful Melissa Keil, author of the The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, to tell us all about the best graphic novels and comics she discovered while researching the novel. Cinnamon Girl is out today from Stripes Publishing!

One of my favourite things about writing is learning about my characters. I love getting into their heads and seeing the world through their eyes. And I ADORE characters who are passionate about the things that they love – characters with fandoms and hobbies, some of which might not be my own.

Getting to know Alba, my main character from The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, was amazing fun – this comic-book loving nerd with an encyclopaedic knowledge of superhero lore and comic history, and bucket-loads of artistic talent. Needless to say, I had to do a lot of research to get inside Alba’s head – sadly, I never did gain any artistic skills beyond the ability to draw a stick figure with a top hat. But, as a huge part of my research involved devouring comics, I did develop a new-found respect and a lot of love for them – I’m now the proud owner of a giant comic book and graphic novel collection that seems to be growing at an alarming rate.

So here, in no particular order, are my top five current favourites:

1. Saga

This intergalactic space opera almost defies description. Super weird, sophisticated, and sometimes graphically violent, it’s definitely not for the very young. The artwork by Fiona Staples is lush and beautiful, and it has two of my favourite lead characters in star-crossed lovers Marko and Alana – soldiers from opposites sides of a galactic war who fall in love and are forced to flee with their baby daughter as they’re pursued by forced determined to destroy their little family.

2. Rat Queens

I stumbled on this comic fairly recently and devoured everything up-to-date in one greedy go. You know you’re in for a big dose of fun and weirdness when characters are described as, ‘Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Hobbit Thief’. It’s funny, irreverent, very naughty, and features my current favourite girl-gang cast.

3. Hawkeye

Hawkeye became one of my absolute favs while I was researching Cinnamon Girl – a super hero comic that always feels more like an indie book than mainstream superhero story. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and has some of the coolest art around. If you read nothing else, get your hands on issue #11 – ‘Pizza is my Business’ is one of the cleverest comics I have ever read.

4. Smile

A toss up between this and Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, which I also adored. It’s a deceptively simple concept – a graphic memoire of a childhood spent battling the ordeal of various dental procedures and surgeries. It’s funny, sweet, heart-warming, and should be appreciated by anyone who spent their teen years feeling self-conscious and out of place (so basically, everyone).

5. Lost at Sea

This short and sweet, black-and-white graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley (of Scott Pilgrim fame) stuck with me long after I finished it. Raleigh, whose soul may or may not have been stolen by a cat, finds herself on an impromptu road trip with some new friends. The art is simple and stunning, and captures the confusion of anyone who’s ever been at a crossroads.

Thank you so much to Melissa for this fab post – I love Saga too and I have Rat Queens waiting on my shelf to devour!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl and check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

When Everything Feels Like the Movies, Raziel Reid

Pages: 162
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: 11th February 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy

School is like a film set. There’s The Crew who make things happen; The Extras who fill empty spaces in rows of desks; and The Movie Stars, who everyone wants to tag in their Facebook photos.

But flamboyant Jude Rothesay, who lives for Louboutins and celebrity magazines, doesn’t fit into any of these categories Jude is the boy who wants to burn the whole damn set down…but not until he gets Luke Morris to be his date to the Valentine’s Day dance.

Beautiful, screwed-up, queer – Jude is a young man determined to blow kisses to bigots and defy a lifetime of neglect through glamour. He’ll wear whatever he wants, sleep with whomever he likes and live his life like he’s the star of the show.

When Everything Feels Like the Movies has left a trail of controversy in its wake and I was officially intrigued, but it’s left me with very mixed feelings.

Even from the synopsis you can tell this novel is going to be bold and brash and graphic, but I do have to admit that I was a little shocked, especially when I found out how old the characters are. It changed the way I looked at the book, actually. Instead of being daring and brave it became a little melodramatic and exaggerated; everything in this book felt like it had an agenda, and none more so than Jude.

Jude is loud and proud and supremely irritating. He uses his sexuality as a barrier between him and the homophobic abuse he suffers at school and the damaging, broken home life he has. He also told his story through the lens of a Hollywood movie star in the same way and it almost teetered him into the land of the unreliable narrator. It was strange, but fascinating. Reading When Everything Feels Like the Movies kind of feels like when cars slow down to look at a crash site on the side of the motorway; horrific and sad, but ultimately, there’s no real emotional connection there – you’re too safe in your little bubble and Jude never lets you in.

No one around Jude lets him in either really. In fact, there’s not a single likable, redeemable character in the novel except Jude’s little brother, Keefer, as far as I’m concerned and it was so, so bleak. It just made it feel like an agenda and I was having something forced on me. It meant that I saw the tragic ending coming a mile off, and horrific as it was, I felt nothing. It was obvious from the beginning what sort of story this was going to be and I just never fully connected with it. Maybe I’m too far away from Jude and his experiences? But that shouldn’t distance the reader – that’s the opposite of why books are important. I don’t really know, to be honest. I’d be really interested to hear from you guys if you’ve read this!

Though When Everything Feels Like the Movies is a shocking, bold debut novel, I felt a little emotionally manipulated by the time I got to the end rather than actually emotionally involved.

Thanks to Atom for the review copy.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Blog Tour: The Sleeping Prince, Melinda Salisbury

Pages: 367
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 4th February 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Some fairy tales should never come true…

Errin knows the old story well: the Sleeping Prince, who rises from his slumber every hundred year to wreak horror and bloodshed. She just never imagined he was real.

As this terrifying enemy rises and a war begins, Errin is forced to flee. With no one to turn to, her only hope is the mysterious Silas, a man whose face she has never seen…

The Sin Eater’s Daughter was one of my favourite debuts last year and the second book in the series, The Sleeping Prince, lived up to the magic beautifully!

I have to admit that I don’t remember much about what happens in The Sin Eater’s Daughter – it was early on in a year where I read over 200 books – so I did feel like I was missing some clues, references and tidbits that were revealed, but it also made some of the reveals and twists more surprising so swings and roundabouts!

I loved how The Sleeping Prince showed a different side to the world of the first book: this was a place of poverty, fear and bartering for your life. I also really loved Errin’s training as an apothecary. I love it when you see characters mixing potions and collecting ingredients in fantasy for some reason! Add into that the flashbacks, dreams that I wasn;t 100% convinced were just dreams and flee from a deadly enemy and it felt like the perfect medieval fantasy!

The final third of The Sleeping Prince really drew together Errin and Twylla’s story which was a lot of fun. It brought together the two worlds and set two fierce heroines against a truly terrible enemy and is going to culminate in what I think is going to be a properly epic third (and final?) book. Plus, after that super cruel ending, I am so ready for it.

The Sleeping Prince is filled with magical worlds, deadly fairy tales and fantastic heroines. I can’t wait for more from Melinda Salisbury.

Thanks to Faye Rogers PR and Scholastic for the review copy. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour – banner in my sidebar!


Monday, 8 February 2016

The Abyss Surrounds Us, Emily Skrutskie

Pages: 288
Publisher: Flux
Release Date: 8th February 2016
Edition: US e-proof, NetGalley review copy

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo missions and snatches her from blood-stained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. Santa Elena has no idea what she's in for.

When I was recommended a sci-fi/fantasy/pirate adventure I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited. The Abyss Surrounds Us was really unique, engaging and quite brilliant, actually.

Emily Skrutskie has created a fascinating world. It’s a sci-fi, futuristic version of our world where the leading nations (China, the US etc) have been divided into republics to help governments look after people better; the waves are ruled by pirates; and genetic engineers have created behemoth sea monsters (Reckoners), bred to protect their vessels and destroy those of the pirates. Cool, huh? In the beginning, it all seemed pretty clear cut: Cas and her family of Reckoner trainers are the goodies and the thieving, murdering pirates are the baddies, but once Cas is captured by a pirate crew and begins to learn of their lives, the waters begin to muddy. I loved that moral ambiguity, the feeling of a giant grey area. No person involved in any of the endeavours in The Abyss Surrounds Us was purely good or bad, though there were good and bad motivations, of course. It felt really refreshing and kept me on my toes!

As well as wonderful world-building, Skrutskie’s debut kicked it out of the park when it came to diversity. Cas has Chinese heritage, I imagined Santa Elena as non-white and there were actually native Pacific Islanders who I have never seen represented in fiction before, let alone in a YA fantasy. See, that’s how it’s done! The whole supporting cast in general was fantastic. Distinct characters with quirks and relationships and histories all in the background to Cas’s story and I’d be genuinely interested in getting to know them better as the series progresses. After the shock ending of The Abyss Surrounds Us, I imagine book two is going to be very different from the first and should give us a chance to explore the world more.

I’m especially looking forward to seeing more of Cas and Swift together. I loved reading their relationship. The dynamic between them is an interesting one, and I loved that they acknowledged and respected it: there can’t be true equality in a relationship between a captor and a prisoner and as well as adding to the tension between them, it really helped define them as characters. They moved from resentment to grudging respect to friendship to something more in a really organic way. Their relationship was changeable and authentic, balancing on the knife edge that they themselves were put on. Swift alone added a really challenging dynamic to it: she’s torn between upholding the orders that could make or break the career she’s fought for and the burgeoning feelings for Cas which could topple everything. It made every interaction between them so interesting.

I was so, so impressed by The Abyss Surrounds Us. Fantastic world-building, a truly unique premise and a deliciously meaty relationship; what more could have I asked for?

Thanks to Flux and NetGalley for the review copy.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

#6Degrees of Separation: Harry Potter

The lovely Jim of YA Yeah Yeah and Teens on Moon Lane has reinvented the 6 Degrees of Separation meme for MG and YA and asked me to take part! How it works: everyone starts with one book – today it’s Harry Potter – and from there, five books will be linked together in whichever way you can think of. The connections I've made between the novels are in  bold. Here’s mine!

Harry Potter, JK Rowling

The Wizarding World is most people’s most beloved fictional world, and it’s definitely mine, but I actually wasn’t interested in it when I was first given the first three books in the series for Christmas the year before Goblet of Fire was released. Then we had Philosopher’s Stone read to us at school and as soon as I got home I devoured the rest of the novel. This series became a forever love.

Matilda, Roald Dahl

Matilda is the book I credit with my falling in love with reading. I clearly remember finally picking it up one night when I couldn’t sleep and my mum advised reading something, then running downstairs to tell her that I could see it happening in my head! It was a revelation, and from a book that I was given by someone (my Nan, maybe?) that I just wasn’t interested in. Matilda was also adapted into one of my favourite book to film adaptations ever and it stars the brilliant Danny Devito.

The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides

Another book to be adapted for the silver screen and to star Danny Devito is one of my first reads of 2016 – The Virgin Suicides. This is a book that I've meant to read for years and years so I finally picked it up on audio and I was quite disappointed. I loved the claustrophobic, hot summer atmosphere and the style was really interesting, but it just didn’t capture me. I felt no emotional involvement which is crazy considering this novel is about suicide and mental health.

All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven

This is another novel that deals with mental health and suicide, but in a very different way. I really, really enjoyed this when I read it early in 2015 but since then, some really problematic ideas have been raised about the novel which I do agree with. But it is a beautifully written book and easily one of the most emotional of those I read last year.

The Song Achilles, Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is another incredibly emotional read from last year and one of my top five from the 230-odd books I read in 2015. It’s so, so beautiful and the retelling of the story of Achilles and Patroclus growing up and ending in the Trojan War is breathtaking. I’m a real sucker for retellings of Greek mythology.

The Goddess Test, Aimee Carter

Aimee Carter’s trilogy is a retelling of Persephone’s myth and I really, really loved the first two books in the trilogy. Sadly, the final book wasn’t even published in the UK so I bought it when it eventually became available on Kindle, but it’s been so long! I do remember it being a really fun series with accessible mythological references and stories, though.

So there you have my #6Degrees! Why not have a go yourself?