Tag Archives: Michael Grant

Bookwitch’s 2018 selection

It’s that time of year again. Here are some of the books I enjoyed the most, chosen with some difficulty, because the next tier consists of really excellent books. Too.

I haven’t always felt that ‘picture books’ belong here, but the two I’ve got on my list are more literature with pictures. They make you cry. I mean, they made me cry. And that’s good. They are:

Michael Morpurgo and Barroux, In the Mouth of the Wolf

Jakob Wegelius, The Legend of Sally Jones (translated by Peter Graves)

And then for the more ‘regular’ children’s novels:

Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X

Candy Gourlay, Bone Talk

Michael Grant, Purple Hearts

Matt Killeen, Orphan Monster Spy

Hilary McKay, The Skylark’s War

Sally Nicholls, A Chase in Time

Maria Parr, Astrid the Unstoppable (translated by Guy Puzey)

Celia Rees, Glass Town Wars

Ellen Renner, Storm Witch

Books like these make everything worth while. There are a couple of ‘beginners,’ some ‘mid-career’ authors – whatever I mean by that – and some established authors with decades of great writing behind them. And, only two that I knew and loved before Bookwitch became famous for her reading, meaning that this blogging business has been responsible for many introductions, without which my life would have been the poorer.



They will have to ‘try and save the world.’ That’s the ‘Rockborn’ who are on the side of good. They might look like monsters, but on the inside they are as normal as they were before they were changed by the strange rock from space. It’s just hard for the rest of the world to see past the monstrous outer skins and shapes of our heroes.

Michael Grant’s Villain, the second book about the Gone world after Perdido Beach, is – if possible – gorier than the first. I found Monster hard to cope with, and it was the same with Villain. Until you get into the swing of things and can unthink the horror, hopefully also unsee it, these are unbelievably horrific books. (Or I’m just innocent, protected until now. Yes, that’s probably it.)

Michael Grant, Villain

Villain has, like Monster, the same spirit that readers found in the Gone series; normal teenagers who suddenly find themselves in impossible situations, and this time it affects the whole world. No one is safe.

After the Golden Gate Bridge and the port of Los Angeles, Michael is now gunning for Las Vegas. And you don’t want to know what he does there.

More monsters have woken up, and everyone’s having a go at the killing and the maiming. But as I believe I have suggested before, you can read with your eyes shut, so you don’t see so much.

In Monster we had various individuals and groups, and they are now gathering to work as a bigger group, doing their world-saving thing.

But it seems as if what made them like this didn’t only come from space, but perhaps they are being controlled from there too? Who wants to destroy Earth? No doubt we will find out, and I hope there will be something left, and that there won’t be more mayhem in another series of books…

As it says on the cover, ‘contains scenes of cruelty and some violence.’ Some violence? Really?

Is last best?

I’d been all set to muse a bit about third books in trilogies, when Helen Grant mentioned another [potentially bad] aspect of writing trilogies, at her Thursday launch.

When asked about the likelihood of a sequel for Ghost, and the question then sliding quickly on to trilogies, Helen pointed out that one awkward thing about them is that for the author who carefully plots books one, two and three, there is much that needs to be written after the first book. But if that doesn’t sell well, the publisher might decide against the next two books.

And then where will you be, a third into a story and no end in sight?

It is, of course, what initially happened to Nick Green’s The Cat Kin. He self published the second and third books, before the whole trilogy was picked up by Strident.

But as Helen said, while she was lucky with her Forbidden Spaces trilogy and it did get published, there was perhaps rather too scant attention from the publisher towards the end.

So, there is every reason to stick to standalone novels. There is always the possibility of sequels by public demand.

Anyway, what I was really getting to here, is the seeming lack of interest from publishers when book three is about to be born. Increasingly, I hear nothing about the ends of trilogies, and there are no review copies available.

I always feel a bit guilty at this point. Am I merely seen as looking for a free book for my own reading pleasure?


While I can see there might be less of a need for a big fanfare or a highly publicised launch for the end of a trilogy, a few review copies won’t cost much, compared with other kinds of advertising. Maybe not send out unsolicited book threes, but send to anyone who inquires?

Because I feel third books have often been the best. It’s as if the whole trilogy has been moving towards this point. Not that it’s only a book much the same as the first two and what’s the fuss?

Helen’s Urban Legends was riveting. Especially page 38! And the third books in Michael Grant’s Front Lines and Lee Weatherly’s alternate WWII series were masterpieces of great YA writing. Maybe publishers assume that the fans liked the first ones, so they will discover a way to the end, without reviews or mentions of the books.

These days I find myself looking at sequels to books I’ve never heard of, or the last in a series of books where the publisher has dutifully sent out both proofs and finished copies, when I’ve not shown interest in any of them.

(And, I don’t actually know this, but did J K Rowling get a contract for all seven Harry Potter books? From the start, I mean. Also, there didn’t seem to be any lulls in the publicity when we got to books five, six or even seven. We should have been tired of them by then, surely?)


Hmm. Eleven already. That year went fast.

This time cake is just about the only thing I can think of. I suppose if thinking about it is all I do, there is no harm. Just don’t bake, Witch!

I have achieved my February tradition of reviewing the latest Front Lines novel by Michael Grant. And I frequently think of all the wonderful authors out there. That hasn’t changed over the years. Nor have they. It would seem authors don’t grey as fast as some of us.

But the publishing world is not the same, and I miss the ‘olden days.’ I really do. My desperate thoughts no longer wonder whether to give up, but more ‘how can I change the way this works, so that it will continue working?’

Because when I have read a really, really great book, and I know that there are plenty more of them, I feel terribly reluctant at the thought of reading some of the ones sent to me, at the cost of a better reading experience with some other book. I am selfish enough to feel my time deserves the best. And the publishers don’t. Not as much, anyway.

I’m sure it will work out. I have heard of libraries. Maybe I can find books there?

Meanwhile, I do have some cream in the fridge. What if I baked just a little cake? I have the tulips already, courtesy of Helen Grant. Two kinds of purple, they are.

What women do

Two things cheered me up this week, and kept me going.

Putting the finishing touches to the translated Maria Turtschaninoff interview, I was reminded again of how much Maria’s strong female characters meant to me. Because if truth be told, I am often put off – otherwise excellent – books when there are too many toxic relationships between girls. I know that often the whole point is that we read about their troubles, to discover how they overcome, or not, the trials of getting on with each other.

It is so much better if they can cooperate from the start. As Maria said, they don’t have to be best friends or like each other. Just not do bad things towards another female ‘because it’s what girls do.’

And reading Michael Grant’s Purple Hearts, taking courage from how his soldier girls have grown in their soldier’s boots, executing ‘male’ tasks as well as the men, and sometimes better, not putting up with their stupid comments and prejudice. Yes, I’m looking at you, Private ‘Sweetheart,’ but you learned your lesson, didn’t you?

So maybe Rio’s best friend Jenou enlisted in the belief that she could be an army typist somewhere safe, flirting with soldiers, while doing her bit for the war. But she did just as well – better, really – marching in the heat or in the cold, hiding in holes, cold and wet and hungry, with lice everywhere you could mention, and in some other places too.

All those trailblazing female soldiers made me cry with pride. And they too could cooperate, whether or not they liked the other soldier.

Rio Richlin

I suspect that neither Maria nor Michael could have imagined the current state of relations between the sexes when they wrote their books, even though it wasn’t all that long ago. Things have moved fast, and not in the right direction.

We need more writers like this. I mean, we need writers to write about this. I ought not to suggest that authors might not share these opinions. As for me, I’ll probably continue to shun any books with plots that seem a bit too catty, or misogynistic.

Purple Hearts

And then I cried.

I was sad to get to the end of Michael Grant’s Front Lines trilogy, because now there is no more to read. But I was glad the war was finally over. Not everyone survived, because that’s the thing with wars; people don’t.

Michael Grant, Purple Hearts

Purple Hearts, along with Front Lines and Silver Stars, will count among the best I’ve read. It’d be easy to dismiss this fast paced WWII trilogy as pure entertainment, but it is so much more. For a start, what makes it stand out is the use of women soldiers, alongside the men.

Michael makes a stand for equality, for men and women, for black and white, for ‘real’ Americans and for those others who fought by their side.

The Front Lines books teach us history. There was much I didn’t know. It’s given us rounded and interesting characters – I even grew fond of Private Sweetheart in the end – and it tells us how stupid, and evil, people have always been, and will continue to be, but that there is good in so many of us.

You have to care. And in order for us to care about those who had to die, Michael shows us, however briefly, what they are like. This way we mourn their deaths. Otherwise it’d be like it ended up being for those worn out GIs, who didn’t learn the names of new soldiers, on the grounds that they wouldn’t last long.

Starting in June 1944 we first fight on Omaha Beach. It didn’t take me long to realise Michael was making a detour via Oradour for one of our heroes. Mercifully it was quick (I have read a whole book about it), as was Malmedy (which I didn’t know about). And the concentration camps… Brief is almost better, with one major atrocity after another, the reader is with the GIs as the European continent is – slowly and painfully – conquered.

My guess as to which of the main characters was ‘writing’ all this down was correct. My hope for some of the more romantic elements worked out. We need hope.

I could go on. Purple Hearts is an inspiring read.

We could have done with women like these a long time ago.

And I [almost] blubbed over one name. Diane. It’s continuity like that which makes a story.

(The cover image is the American one. I prefer it, and as I read this as an ebook, there was no cover to call mine.)

The ones I enjoyed the most

It suddenly struck me that perhaps it’s unwise to say anything about best books. Because this time of year I usually list the ones I liked the most, which isn’t the same thing.

And by the time December rolls round I often despair. Yes, I remember that marvellous book I read recently. This year that was La Belle Sauvage. Because it was recent. Longer ago and my memory blacks out, in much the same way as when someone asks what I did at the weekend…

No need to worry though. Out of the 137 books (2017 wasn’t the best year for finding reading time), the twelve that emerged more victorious than the rest, were closely followed by quite a few other excellent contenders.

Best of 2017

I’ve not picked a best of all, nor am I doing the alphabetical order.

Elizabeth Wein, The Pearl Thief

Sally Gardner, My Side of the Diamond

LA Weatherly, Black Moon

Joan Lennon, Walking Mountain

Michael Grant, Silver Stars

Joanna Nadin, The Incredible Billy Wild

Anthony McGowan, Rook

Phil Earle, Mind the Gap

Jakob Wegelius, The Murderer’s Ape

Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales

Patrick Ness, Release

Philip Pullman, La Belle Sauvage

And as you can see, the 2017 colour for book covers is primarily black with some blue and teal. Rather like last year, in fact. I appear to have picked six women and six men, which feels nice and equal.

There is only one translated book, but there are two dyslexia friendly books, plus one prequel, one equel, one end of a trilogy and one middle of a trilogy. And two Scottish books. All good.

Books like these are what makes it all worth it.