Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Vampire Fighters by Pete Johnson Review, Guest Blog Post & Competition (closed) (Children's, 9 years +)

7th June 2012, Corgi
272 pages, Paperback
Review copy 

Theme: life as a half-vampire, first teen crush, trying not to get killed, parents being over-eager and over-vigilent, evil on the lose, exciting future prospects, a little violence, lots of humour and very mild romance 

Life has never been more complicated for thirteen-year-old Marcus. It's not easy trying to hide your secret identity as a half-vampire, avoid garlic at all costs, AND work up the courage to ask a girl out. Especially when that girl is vampire-crazy Tallulah.

Plus, Marcus's parents are still convinced his special power is going to arrive any day now. And they're trying not to show their disappointment every time another day passes and it doesn't appear - but Marcus is totally feeling the pressure.

As if that wasn't bad enough, a seriously creepy Winter Fair has arrived in town - and a number of terrifying attacks have started happening. Giles believes a super-evil sect of Deadly Vampires is behind them, and Marcus suspects an eerie ventriloquist at the Fair.

All Marcus wants is an easy life. But now it's up to him to save the day . . .

 Nayuleska's thoughts

Note: it is slightly possible I've managed to merge book 1 and book 3 together - apologies for that.
I'd forgotten how funny this series was when I read the first book (before this one - I'd already read book two). I think this is the most hilarious volume yet, with poor Marcus at wits ends from his parents being over-eager in wanting to see what he could do as a half-vampire. That's enough to set anyone on edge, but when he's trying to hide from Deadly Vampires - well, home security and sleeping soundly aren't top on Marcus's list. 

I know the story is about Marcus, but the girls had my interest. I was pleased that although Tallulah had had a memory wipe thingy performed on her, she still loves the paranormal. Gracie's attitude made me laugh - especially when she had fur growing everywhere. I felt sorry for her, I mean she was stuck at home for a few days which can't be easy, especially as she like most other girls cares about how she looks. The best bit about this 9/10 book was the end, because what gets put forward to Marcus has me excited about the next book (there has to be one). 

You can find out more on Pete's website. 

Suggested reading

Check out the other books which include book two, The Vampire Hunters 

I'm delighted to say that Pete has written a guest blog post to accompany this review. Make sure you read to the end where there's a change to win all three books in the series - both for UK and International entrants!

How do I fit writing in with the rest of my life? by Pete Johnson

The other night I was going out for a meal with a group of friends, when one girl said to me. ‘Do me a massive favour. Don’t bring your notebook along tonight.’         
I was shocked, astounded. Not bring my notebook along – but what if I had a sensational idea or heard an amazing piece of dialogue? That could be lost forever. ‘I’ll have to think about that,’ I said grumpily. Another time a good friend was telling me something personal about the break-up of a recent relationship when suddenly she cried. ‘And Pete, what I’m telling you is not for one of your books, you know.’

Those two examples perhaps tell you how well I fit writing round my life. I don’t. It is right at the centre of everything.

I can best explain it like this. You’ve met someone special and you can’t stop thinking about them. They’re always with you. Writing a book for me is like that. A total obsession. It couldn’t be anything else. How else could I spend practically every day in an imaginary world. And when I’m writing really well I don’t seem to be doing anything at all. It’s all taking place behind my eyes. I’m just transcribing what’s going on.

I’ll tell you something else – when that happens there’s no high like it. It’s totally intoxicating and addictive. Of course it takes a great deal of chipping away to reach that exalted state. A lot of note-taking and thinking and walking too. (I often plan best when I’m on my feet)

That’s why some writers have to remove themselves completely from everyday life. Roald Dahl, for instance, wrote every day in a shed at the bottom of his garden and could not be disturbed. I don’t have a shed, but I also hate being disturbed. So I can’t have any music playing when I’m writing or indeed anyone talking close by. I sound great fun, don’t I? But to create another world in your head you have to retreat completely from this one. I suppose we all do that to an extent. Well, have you ever been writing away in an exam and then noticed a teacher peering down and reading what you’ve written and immediately you freeze up. That’s what a writer feels every time real life intrudes on his or her imaginary one.

But of course the rest of your life is in the so-called real world. You have to re-join it. But you can see why some authors find that hard.  P.G. Wodehouse, for instance, was still spending every day writing his stories at ninety three. And even when he went into hospital he took the manuscript of his latest (and last) book ‘Sunset at Blandings’ with him. I suppose all writers are obsessive to an extent. Well, it’s not something a sane person would do!

But once I did other ‘proper jobs’ like teaching. Yet, every evening after marking I would disappear upstairs and write for an hour. At first I just wrote for myself. I kept a diary and jotted down in excruciating detail everything that had happened that day. But my big ambition was to be a writer. I wrote story after story and gathered up a marvellous collection of rejection slips. My life was crowded enough then and it would have been so easy for my writing to slip away. But the desire to write and tell stories burned away inside me. I couldn’t not write. And I longed for the day when writing would be my life.

By the way, I can see now why those earlier books were all turned down. They were all copied, and didn’t have the freshness and vividness of real life. I’ve learned how to draw on my own experiences to enrich the stories. Sometimes in ways which might surprise you.

My Vampire trilogy, for instance, is about half-vampires. Now I have never been one of those – honestly! But I can vividly recall changing schools at twelve and feeling I suddenly didn’t fit in anywhere, had no friends and was a total outsider – exactly what Marcus feels in The Vampire trilogy. That gave me a vital link to his character.

Other times I spotted in friends, the hyper-parenting which I satirised in one of my most popular books, ‘HOW TO TRAIN YOUR PARENTS.’
Graham Greene once wrote that all writers have a piece of ice in their hearts. He meant that writers are constantly observing other people and deciding what they can use for their own stories. You could say writers are a bit like vampires, feeding off the life around them.

That curiosity – or nosey-ness – is a vital element in the make up of a writer (and also incidentally, actors) and is fairly harmless. But there are dangers in a writer’s life too.

Recently one of Enid Blyton’s daughters, Imogen revealed that her mother was far happier in her own imaginary world than dealing with the messy, day to day realities of her own children. Enid resented being pulled away from her own stories – unless it was to meet her fans. For some writers, (including myself, sometimes) it’s not creating an imaginary life which is the most difficult thing – it’s rejoining the real one.

And your very interesting question has made me think about this some more. By the way – and just in case you were wondering – when I go out with friends, I do now (and after a struggle!) leave my notebook at home! 

So that’s a start!

I definitely do not take my notebook to my friends - they would glare at me for doing too much work :) Random House Children's Publishers are offering one blog reader the opportunity to win the three books about Marcus, and in a roundabout way have provided one international blog reader the opportunity to win the three books two (they sent me a set of three for review, I really wanted the competition to be for everyone so I'm giving away my copies) 

  Prize:1 set of all three books for a UK blog reader, 1 for international blog readers.

Rules: Only 1 entry per person It's an international competition

Deadline: has passed
Thank you for entering! Results will be up around 5.30pm Monday 2nd July

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