Author Archives: keithbwalters

Paragraphs to Pictures: YA Books That Would Make Awesome Graphic Novels

Recently, I’ve really wanted to start creating more blog posts about graphic novels, but as I haven’t read many recently, I was stuck for ideas.

I was sitting in front of my bookshelves brainstorming. Then it came to me, inspired partially by the recent news of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses getting a graphic novel adaptation. I started pulling a few books off of shelves and re-imagining them. What if some of my favourite YA books were graphic novels? What would they be like in that format?

So here we go! Five (very different) much-loved YA books – plus why I think they’d be great as comics or graphic novels.


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Banished by Liz de Jager – I love Banished and Vowed to bits and can’t wait for the third and final book. I had to include this book in the post! It’s easily one of my favourite Urban Fantasies, ticking all the boxes for a great graphic novel too; a riveting plot, a terrific fantastical world, awesome mythical creatures, and a gothic fantasy vibe to rival Guillermo Del Toro’s works. Also, of course, Kit Blackhart is a super kick-butt protagonist that would be amazing in a comic or graphic novel. Buffy who?

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – This has a richly imaginative, almost steampunk-y fantasy feel to them. I really love the concept of the book, and being set in a future Oxford, would the setting not look gorgeous in a graphic novel? I haven’t yet read the sequel, but there are going to be seven books (I think). I can kinda see it as a comic series. Maybe I’m going too far away from The Bone Season’s genre, but I thought Joe Benitez would be a cool illustrator.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – This is quite an obvious choice! Comics have a large influence in this book, and if you put together all the fan art on the internet for Eleanor and Park I’m pretty sure you’d have a complete graphic novel anyway! Eleanor and Park would make a fantastic contemporary graphic novel and wouldn’t it be cool if it was drawn by Noelle Stevenson? (She illustrated the cover & inside cover of Fangirl!)

The Memory Keepers by Natasha Ngan – The inventive Sci-Fi / Dystopia setting of this book would be perfect in a graphic novel format. Natasha Ngan’s books are so memorable for their incredible worlds. The Memory Keepers is set in a future London with a huge development gap, where human memories are traded like a currency. If this were a graphic novel, I could see it being in the same vein as the extraordinary Fray by Joss Whedon.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – This might sound like a strange choice, but it was one of the first books I thought of. I think the format of the book, which is largely flashbacks of Mia and Adam’s romance, could be told really beautifully through illustrations. As the ‘present’ in the book is Mia in an out-of-body experience, that could be portrayed really interestingly in a graphic novel. My instant thought was a black-and-white world in the hospital, but Mia (out of her body) walking around, drawn in colour.


Noughts and Crosses, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and The Graveyard Book are three YA books I know to have been adapted recently. I hope to see more in the future!

What books do you think would make great graphic novels?

#WearableBooks: Book-O-Masks by Lemke & Lentz!

Not my usual book review post…

A few weeks ago, I received this book in the post. At first, seeing the edges of a cardboard book, I thought it must be a baby book, sent to me by accident. It wasn’t… but it wasn’t like anything I usually read or review either. As soon as I saw the title I recognised it from Twitter and started laughing. The Book-O-Masks is pure GENIUS.

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This is one of two books in its series being published this month – the other is Book-O-Beards. 

Illustrated by Lentz and with witty captions written by Lemke, this book is weirdly one of the most entertaining books I’ve seen! It’s perfect as a gift or stocking filler especially for kids – even at fifteen I was giggling a lot at it – but from what you can see below, it’s got some appeal for adults!

The ‘wearable books’ idea is brilliant – check below for my mum modelling some of the pages. (She asked to model, btw, very eagerly. She’s excited to make her blogging début.)

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We did take pictures of every page of the short book, but we’ll leave it to you to go find a copy of it and have a go yourself! Curious Fox Books is talking about these books a lot on social media, so check out more funny pictures from readers using the hashtag #WearableBooks on Twitter and Instagram.

I received a copy of Book-O-Masks from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: All of the Above by James Dawson

Published September 2015 by Hot Key Books.

23156540Goodreads Synopsis: When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there’s Polly…love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

My Review: I’ve been excited about this book for such a long time. I’ve been a fan of James Dawson’s books ever since his first horror novels – to see him delving into another genre is really exciting, and he’s done so excellently!

I adore how Dawson writes his characters, and All of the Above definitely has some of his best. I loved the friendship group the story is centered around so, so much – each character was really unique and although the book wasn’t that long, each character was really well developed and explored. Kudos to James for writing a great story where characters just happen to be queer / PoC, without the story being entirely about that. We need more books like this.

I really loved Toria, she was an incredibly relatable protagonist – from her tumblring to her exam pressure, to her process of figuring life out, she just really resonated with me, so I’m sure she’s going to be well received by other readers. Polly was an awesome character: Strong willed, stubborn and completely wild, she felt like a mash-up of John Green’s Margot and Alaska, though was completely unique.

The romance side of the book is brilliant – Toria falls for the local band’s lead singer, Nico, and for a while things are going great. But Polly, Toria’s best friend, is beginning to mean something else to her. The relationships felt so raw and realistic. I think the ways they progressed was perfect, and beautifully written.

The back of the physical copy of the book says “It would be neater, wouldn’t it, if this was a story about self harm or sexuality or eating disorders or ridiculously hot bass players, but it’s a story about all of them. Yeah, it’s a mess. And it’s about to get messier.” Sidenote: Most fantastic blurb ever. And the fact that ‘it’s a mess’ is the reason this book stands out. So much happens. There are parts that will make you grin from ear to ear. There are parts that hit you really hard, parts that will make you cry. Some elements are wrapped up perfectly at the end. Some things are never resolved. But that’s the best thing about it – it’s not sugar-coated and nothing is perfect. And that’s what makes this book perfect.

Overall, All of the Above was an exceptional book, and I can tell it’s going to be loved and related to by a lot of teenagers. As much as I loved James Dawson’s horror YA, (and would love to read more of the genre from him again) I can tell his ‘phase two’ is going to be awesome. Dawson covers so many topics in this book, and so well, it’s admirable. I really recommend this, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

My Rating:four

I received a copy of All of the Above from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

Published 3rd September 2015 by Walker books.

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Sidenote: HOW PRETTY IS THIS COVER OH MY GOODNESS

Goodreads Synopsis: How many times can you lose the person you love?
A powerful and epic début novel for teenagers about reincarnation and the timelessness of first love from a talented young writer.
Teenagers Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.
But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?
Maybe the next together will be different…

My Review: When I first heard about this book I wasn’t too sure I’d read it – the idea of two lovers being reborn over & over throughout history reminded me a lot of an old favourite, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. But then I read into it more, and saw that beautiful cover, and was offered the chance to review it for LoveReading4Kids – I jumped at the opportunity to.

I was hooked from the opening pages. The story is split between multiple time periods and the reincarnations of Katherine and Matthew in each one; from 2039 to 1745. With each life, they fall in love, affect historical events – and are separated again, to be born again. The stories are all told, uniquely, through not just usual writing but notes between the characters, maps, articles and letters. I loved the format. It made for such a unique reading experience. I thought I’d struggle to keep up with the multiple plots, but it was quite easy to read and Lauren James’s writing is so engrossing.

Technically, we see four reincarnations of the same characters in the same book! James has written them fantastically; no matter what time period, their personalities shine through (Katherine being pretty funny in many places. I had to suppress laughing out loud on a packed train) – though they’re also quite different in each year. I’m always pretty cynical when it comes to romance books but Lauren James has written these characters and their chemistry so so well.

As I did mention, I’ve seen a story done like this before, but this book still felt highly original and compelling – from the perfectly crafted, pulse-raising plot to the instantly loveable and beautifully written characters. There’s an almost sinister, underlying feeling to the plot, as there are mysterious computer-input-type messages throughout such as “objective achieved” / “intervention recommended.” It had me thinking all the way through as to what they could mean! It made quite an intriguing mystery on the side of the main events – it’s linked, but I’ll stop talking about it now…

Overall, I have to say this is the most stunning début of 2015 so far… Or maybe even a while longer. Lauren James is definitely an author to watch out for; her writing is astounding and the plot she has crafted is a rich blend of Sci-Fi, history and romance that is an absolute joy to read. It’s a gripping, emotional roller-coaster that I highly recommend looking out for.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Next Together from the publisher, via LoveReading4Kids, for review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Literary Amsterdam

For lack of a better title… 😛

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So if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen I went to Amsterdam a few weeks ago. It was the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, and I feel really lucky to have had the chance to wander around the streets and the canals for four days. I thought I might make a blog post about what I read while I was there and all the literary things I saw. Plus a slightly less related arty thing, because why not?

A bit of a jumble of a post – but without further ado, here’s all of the literary-related things that happened in Amsterdam.

#1 – Anne Frank HuisIMG_4130

(I didn’t manage to get many great photos of the outside of Anne Frank’s house sadly – this photo’s mainly the modern building neighbouring it)

We queued from two hours before the house’s opening, just to make sure we could visit, on our last day in Amsterdam. It felt incredibly surreal when we were inside – climbing the stairs Anne Frank and her family did; walking through the rooms they stayed in for so long in hiding. It was so saddening to read about the terrible things that happened to them in the place where they actually had been, years ago.

At the end of the walk around Anne Frank Huis, there’s a room with glass casing in the walls. Inside, there are loose pages from one of Anne Frank’s rewrites of her diaries, mounted on the wall. And in the middle of the room; the famous diary itself, opened on a page crammed with her writing, and a photo of herself.

It didn’t feel real to be seeing it, the original diary that’s been read by so many millions of people, right in front of me. It’s an experience I will never, ever forget: it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking to see Anne Frank’s writing get the fame she always wished for.

#2 – The ‘TFiOS Bench’IMG_3894IMG_3893

Although it wasn’t the original bench Augustus and Hazel sat on in the movie (believe it or not, that got stolen! This one’s the replacement), I dragged my family around the smaller streets of Amsterdam to find it. I figured that because when we went the first time, (yup we went twice) the street would be empty – but both times we were there, and the times we passed the street, there was always a group of people there. Taking photos of themselves on the bench, talking about the book, or writing their names or quotes on the bench. It was pretty incredible, seeing how so many people visit it. It’s like a pilgrimage for John Green fans or something.

Although we didn’t spend long there (more people kept appearing, wanting photos too!) it did feel quite special to watch the view Augustus and Hazel (fictionally) looked over in the most important scene of the film, and to read everyone’s writing on the seat. I love the plaque that’s been put on it.

#3 – Van Gogh MuseumIMG_3701

The queue for this museum was crazy, but I don’t regret waiting such a long time to see so much of Van Gogh’s work at all. Van Gogh is one of those artists I’ve always admired but never fully appreciated, but seeing the brush strokes up close and reading about his life in the Netherlands was really incredible. My favourite part was seeing Sunflowers (not just because of Doctor Who, honestly). I actually didn’t realise it was such a large painting, and it’s ten times better up close.

Holiday Reads:

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ONLY EVER YOURS by Louise O’Neill – I finally bought a copy of this at YALC, and after hearing O’Neill talk about it, I couldn’t wait to read it much longer. It was really eerie and unsettling, but it carries a really important message. And if you look at some of the events in this book, they’re not all too different from life today. And that’s terrifying.IMG_3898

COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE by Haruki Murakami – After reading many glowing reviews of Murakami’s books, and being pulled in by the spectacular covers, I purchased this one completely at random. Emotionally taut and depressing, yet vaguely optimistic, Murakami’s writing has quickly become a favourite. I’m really looking forward to reading more of his books.

Also, the Best Purchase Ever Made:

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Posable William Shakespeare figure with a book of illustrated Shakespeare puns.

Best. Three. Euros. Ever. Spent.

Book Review: One by Sarah Crossan

Published 27th August 2015 by Bloomsbury.

25366338Goodreads Synopsis: Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.
And their lives are about to change.
No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?
But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

My Review: I read Sarah Crossan’s début, The Weight of Water, a while ago and was a little mixed; the story was brilliant but the writing format, verse, wasn’t my thing. However, I really wanted to give One a go because I was really interested in the story. There’s nothing like it on the shelves. I hope this beautiful new book will inspire many more.

Tippi and Grace are conjoined twins and have always been home-schooled – until their funding is cut and they must go to a school with other teenagers. At their new school, they’re treated differently by everyone aside from two new friends. School life is manageable for them – until they have to make a life-changing decision.

Through this book I came to enjoy the free-verse format. Not only is the plot unique; the uncommon writing style made for a refreshing change from most YA books I read. It captured Grace’s feelings throughout the story in a raw, intimate way that made the reading experience really special.

Crossan has crafted such stunning characters, it’s hard to remember they’re fictional. Grace and Tippi are contrasting of each other yet have such a strong, sisterly bond that’s unforgettable. Their story made me tear up too many times to count – it was hard to get through the last hundred pages, I felt for them so deeply! The ending broke my heart.

It’s hard to find the words to describe a book like One – it’s the kind of story you’ll put down after reading, but find yourself wondering about the characters and story days, weeks, later. It’s heart-rending and poignant. Sarah Crossan’s writing is beautiful and emotional. I’m sure everyone who comes across this book will be mesmerised!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of One  from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

BLACK CAIRN POINT: Guest Post from Claire McFall

Earlier this week, my review of BLACK CAIRN POINT was posted – it’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and one of the best thrillers I’ve read full stop.

I was asked to join the blog tour for the book, but with my messages messing up and coming in delayed, I was wayyyy too late! However, Claire kindly offered to write a guest post for this blog for this week and I’m really excited about helping share her process of selling the book. If you’d like to check out the blog tour posts, check the banner below!

Over to Claire!


Banging your head off the wall: a guide to getting published

So there I was, proudly grinning down at my laptop screen.  Finished.  I had written a novel.  Go me! Now, what to do with it?

Well, I had two options:

  1. Leave it languishing on my laptop and tell no one.
  2. Try to get it published.

I’d spent way too much effort on the thing just to feel a sense of internal pride and know that I’d done it. But, in all honesty, the idea of trying to get it published was frankly terrifying. Firstly, because I’d no idea how to go about getting published, and secondly… what if people said it was crap?

So I hummed and hawed and procrastinated, and then suddenly decided I was being a big fat wuss and started investigating. The first thing I did was a bit of market research to answer that key question: was my labour of love, in fact, a pile of steaming poop? I was too chicken to send it out blind, so I got a couple of pals to read it.  The response?  Oh, it’s really good! (With a hint too much surprise for my liking!) Now, that’s all well and good, but these were my pals.  They had to say nice things.  The trick is to find someone you can trust to tell you the truth. However heart-wrenching it may be.  What’s a girl to do?

25326323I sent it to my mum.

When she said it was okay (note: ‘okay’, not the ‘incredible’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘awesome’ I’d had from my mates) then I figured it was good enough to take the next terrifying step: send it to strangers.

I did a bit of digging (good old Google!) and found that while I could self-publish, getting any interest in an unknown novel by an unknown novelist was nigh on impossible.  Yes, there are people who manage this, but it sure ain’t the norm. Another possible route was to send my novel off to smaller, independent publishers (the big ones don’t accept “unsolicited manuscripts” for the most part), but I was scared off by talk of enormous slush piles and miniscule odds.  No, the route forward seemed to be to try and get an agent.  But, numerous websites warned me, most agents already have full books and will only take something on if they’re sure they can sell it, so expect a lot of rejections.

Thick skin duly donned, I chose my opening volley.  I read somewhere online that it’s a good idea to pick maybe ten agents that you think you’d like to represent you and send off queries to them all.  You then create a spreadsheet (excellent, I like spreadsheets!) and record their responses.  There are a few possibilities:

Form rejection – a big fat no so emphatic they didn’t even bother to write it personally, just copied and pasted it in.

Personal rejection – again, still no, but they at least took the time to say why it wasn’t for them, which is a start!

A request for more – ooh! They like it! They want to read the whole thing!

Offer of representation – OH MY GOD THEY WANT ME!

Wisdom has it that if all you get in your first round of ten are form rejections, your novel, that you have slaved over and loved and, possibly, wept over, isn’t as good as you thought it was, no matter what your mum says.

Or, you might just have gotten unlucky.

When I sent out my first feelers for Ferryman, my first novel, I got two requests for more.  Yay me! Cue much excitement.  Alas, after reading the finished manuscript, both agents decided it wasn’t for them.

Pants.

What I possibly should have done at this point is go back to the novel and try and improve it – they were kind enough to give me feedback after all – or try again with another ten agents.  Nah, I decided, to hell with it. I’ll just write another book and see how that goes.

Hmmm.  Possibly not the smartest way forward.  In fact, I wrote EIGHT books before I landed an agent.  That’s right, eight.  Approximately 600,000 words.  It would have been much easier to just work on Ferryman and make it better… but it’s too late now!

Who cared, though? I had an agent! They would help me make my novel(s) sparkle, and then sell it for loads and loads of money!

Or… not.  Next lesson: charlatans! You see, I had no idea that someone who said they were an agent, might not actually be an agent.  Who would? She had a website, and a plan for how to put me forward.  She wasn’t going to charge me anything for her services (note: you NEVER EVER give an agent money up front.  EVER!) So I signed a contract with her, and we got to work making my stuff ship shape.  Then funny things started happening.  Oh, she had good contacts with this small publisher.  They were new so couldn’t offer an advance, but they wouldn’t charge me anything.  Okay.  Oh the cover?  Yes, it’s coming, it’s coming.  Oh, now.  Things have changed, they need a little bit of money up front…

ABORT! ABORT!

It turned out, the “agent” was also the “publisher” – hiding under a different name.  I don’t know if she started off with good intentions and got into trouble because she didn’t know what she was doing, or if she was just a big, evil scammer… but beware!  There are websites like Firstwriter where you can see reviews of agents and check that they have actually a) made sales and b) paid money to authors.  Luckily, at this juncture, I landed a real agent, from a real agency, so all was well.

What happened next?  Well, said agent had lots of shmoozy boozy lunches and wooed some publishers…. And voila! A book deal!  No, a three book deal (of which Black Cairn Point – PLUG ALERT! PLUG ALERT! – is book number three)!  And so now, here I sit.  I have three books with my name on them.  I even have a book with (I’m assured) my name on it in Chinese!!! I am, officially, an author. As we say in Scotland, ya dancer!


Thanks for the awesome guest post, Claire! BLACK CAIRN POINT is out now in bookstores, published by Hot Key Books. If you read one book this year, make it this one!