The Inventory Series by Andy Briggs: Review, Giveaway & Guest Post

Iron Fist (The Inventory, #1)Titles: Iron Fist, Gravity & Black Knight
Author: Andy Briggs
Publisher: Scholastic
The Rules: if you find a secret inventory of utterly deadly battle tech. 1) Do not try it. 2) Do not tell anyone. 3) Do NOT let thieves in behind you. What’s more secret than top-secret? The Inventory. Home to the deadliest inventions the world isn’t ready for. Invisible camouflage. HoverBoots. Indestructible metals. Plus a giant creature of chaos: war robot Iron Fist. No one has ever broken past the state-of-the-art AI security system. (Seriously, most bad guys have no idea this stuff is even there.) Problem 1: the security robot wasn’t ready for a gang of kids wandering in. Problem 2: they’ve ONLY brought the ruthless Shadow Helix gang in behind them. Seriously dumb, but it’s a bit late for ‘sorry’. Say hello to trouble: the Iron Fist is in the wrong hands!

The Inventory series by Andy Briggs is one of those action-packed books that is just perfect for its middle grade audience. I am actually starting a new job next week, managing a Secondary School library and I will be buying these in straight away if they don't have them. The Inventory is basically a huge storage facility where technology deemed 'unsuitable' or too dangerous for use is stored. Now this includes dangerous weapons, crazy inventions and incredible pieces of tech. Dev has lived with his uncle his whole life, and his uncle is charged with watching over the Inventory. Dev has never really made friends, so it comes as a surprise when two classmates show up at his 'farm' one day. It just so happens to be the day the Inventory is attacked by Shadow Helix, a group determined to break in and steal the Iron Fist, a piece of technology even Dev doesn't know what it can do. When they capture Dev's uncle it is down to Dev and his two classmates, Lot and Mason, to outsmart the bad guys and protect the Inventory.

Image result for that was totally wicked gif
Me at almost every page!
This book is honestly just perfect for the age range. A group of teenagers working together, with all this advanced and rather incredible technology, to take down a gang of adults and protect the world. Seriously, perfect! And it is done soooooo well. There is action on every single page, there isn't a boring moment at any point during the book. I also loved watching Dev, Lot and Mason work together throughout the book. And that is continued on in the sequels, where they are helping to trach down items from the Inventory. The first book is set almost entirely within The Inventory, but with how big that actually is and the exciting inventions inside, it seems like such a bigger world and you don't get bored, instead you kind of wish you could peer into every corner of the Inventory and see all it offers.

These books are fast-paced and action-packed. I could get through these books in one sitting, without even realising it. It is hard to put them down because you are always in the thick of the action and there never seems a good time to step away and take a breather. I am actually so excited by this series, it is one of the best middle grade series I have read in a long time. I can't wait to start my new job and start recommending these to the kids I'll be working with, I know they're going to love them. Anyone looking for an exciting, adventure series then this is one I highly recommend.

7 Tips for Aspiring Authors
by Andy Briggs

1 - Finish your book. 

While on the surface this may sound like completely pointless advice, you’d be surprised. Touring around the UK, I meet many people who excitedly tell me that they’re writing a book. You meet very few people who have actually finished one. While it’s great that so many people are writing, it takes a lot effort to actually finish a book. Just remember, once you have completed your epic, you’re in a small select group of people who have actually done so – regardless if you’re published or not!

 2 - Write different things.

It seems that publishers all want are series. So, of course, everybody pitches their series ideas and then are surprised when they’re turned down. The thing is, publishers want material that has the potential to be a series, but stands up as a strong single book. One of the unexpected things writers get asked, shortly after being rejected by an agent or a publisher, is “what else have you got?”. If you’ve just been rejected for your dystopian vampire love story because there are billions on the shelves already, make sure you have something different (and preferably complete) in your back pocket – a story about a talking horse perhaps, make it something very different from your first offering. If the agent/publisher is asking that question, it’s because they like you and your writing, so don’t disappoint them.

 3 – Experiment.

Some people are desperate to be authors, but struggle to make it a reality. Constant rejections shouldn’t be the end of the dream, consider them a beginning. Writers create comics, non-fiction stories, magazine articles, screenplays, computer game scripts – and just about every other creative avenue requires writers. Spread your wings and experiment… you may find your niche in the most unexpected place…

4 – Don’t care, get it down!

I find it sad when I visit schools and see creative kids stymied by the ultra-important need to spell a word correctly and sharpen their grammar, because we all know that is much more important than creating anything original. The end result of their endeavours is a clinical lab experiment with no soul – accurately crafted sentences that are dull and unimaginative (and probably stolen from that movie the teacher hasn’t watched). I strongly recommend writing your story with no regard for spelling or grammar. Your goal here is to lay down your plot and bring your characters to life. Then you have the chance to rewrite, correcting spelling, grammar, and any other technical detail you feel is important. Oh, and by the end of the first rough draft… you have the pride of knowing that you’ve written a book!

5 - Write then rewrite. Repeat.

Following hot on the heels of point 4, rewriting is your friend. I know writers who hunch over their work, stressing about how they can make that next sentence perfect. As a result, days, weeks and even months pass with no progress – and the little demon called Writer’s Block has won once again claimed a victim. It’s best not to worry about perfection. You won’t achieve it. Write something, anything, then move on and you will soon find your rhythm. Remember, you will fix everything later in the rewrite, that’s the magic wand that makes your work even better.

6 – It’s a numbers game, not a word game.

When not stressing about their work, first-time authors stress about getting an agent or publisher. I don’t know any published author who doesn’t have a stack of rejection letters stowed away somewhere. You have to remember, most of these rejections aren’t a slight on your work (unless you get detailed criticism – in which case listen to it!), they’re simply stating a fact the market isn’t ready for yet another dystopian novel or an agent has exactly the number of clients they can comfortably manage. The harsh reality of this artistic endeavour is that it’s really a business and based on numbers. Generally, a rejection is not a rejection – it’s just a “this isn’t the right time” note. Write something else, and try again. Apply to other agencies and other agents within the one you have just been rejected by. Agents, like editors, have their own tastes. Just keep trying. Go to publishing events where you can mingle with agents and get to know them (before you insist they read your work). It’s just as much who you know as it is your quality of work.

7 – Don’t give up.

That should say it all. You never know when your break may occur. I used to think (and still do) that writing is an endurance game. Editors and agents move from place to place, and sometimes into completely unrelated jobs (I know one who now runs a pub!) – that means you have a clear playing field to start pitching your work all over again…

 Andy has extensive experience working on multinational co-productions and has worked in comics, books, TV, film and trans-media projects.
 Andy wrote and Executive Produced Legendary, currently the most successful independent UK/Chinese co-production. Released in China and grossing $5 million in the first week, with a theatric US release in 2014. With his brother he worked on Hollywood features such as Judge Dredd and Freddy vs. Jason and TV shows for the SyFy Channel and Netflix.
 He wrote and co-created Secret Agents, a trans-media interactive spy experience for children, currently on at the Discover Centre, Stratford. He has written 20 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world. In 2016 his latest feature, Crowhurst, will be released.

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman: Review & Giveaway

Everything Beautiful Is Not RuinedTitle: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Publisher: Scholastic
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.
IFC the breakfast club GIFThe first I heard of this book, it was being pitched as The Breakfast Club meets camping, or something quite similar. To me, that is probably the perfect way to describe it. And it was a huge part of the reason I wanted to read it, as The Breakfast Club just so happens to be one of my all time favourite movies. I finished this book with tears in my eyes and an overwhelming feeling of happiness, this book didn't just meet my expectations, it exceeded them.

Ingrid has been sent off to camp, and she is not looking forward to it. She is imagining uncomfortable bunks, cabins and having to go to the toilet in an outhouse. None of them are pleasant ideas to her. She is determined though, she made a deal with her mother to do it. If Ingrid can make it through the two weeks at the camp then she can go to a prestigious school in London to study. The only problem is the camp turns out to be worse than she imagined. The camp is not a camp at all, it's a tiring two week trek through the wilderness, sleeping in tents and with no toilets in site. Ingrid's idea of hell. Not to mention she is in a camp with 'at risk teens', something she definitely wouldn't call herself. But Ingrid is stronger than she knows and there is more to her camp mates than she assumes.

Image result for camping gifI really liked Ingrid as a main character, especially since she is such a complex character. She clearly has a strained relationship with her mother at this time, given the fact her mum has sent her to the camp. She is also closed off, not willing to open about herself or what led her to the camp. She doesn't feel like she fits there, she sees herself differently to the others at the camp. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her character grow stronger, not just physically but emotionally. I loved seeing her open up to the others, standing up for herself and finding her voice.

This book also deals with some serious issues and I love it for that. It deals with depression, something I love seeing done well in YA books, especially as I have struggled with and used medication to help with depression in the past. It also deals so well with sexual assault, how that was handled in this book was just so perfect to me. Not to mention the perfect and complex mother daughter relationship here. Honestly, I am just so impressed with Danielle Younge-Ullman and I will read whatever she comes out with next.

This book was so much more than I had expected, I can fully admit that it didn't just hit me in the feels, it punched me so hard in them I wanted to double over in pain. I was a little bit of a weepy mess, but I kind of loved that. There is just so much about this book that I really loved. My only hang up is the same problem I have with almost every contemporary I read and that is that it felt too rushed at the end and there wasn't enough closure. It is the same with so many contemporary books, where you're holding just a few pages in your hands at the end of the book but feel there should be about another 30-50 pages to go. Don't get me wrong, the story wraps up and does it so well. I just felt maybe Ingrid's return from camp could have been given more time, so we have more time to adjust to that and see how it all plays out.

4.5/5 Butterflies

I am super lucky to be a part of the Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined blog tour, and Scholastic have been kind enough to offer a book for a giveaway. So one lucky winner could win a copy of this awesome book! The giveaway is for UK peeps only though, sorry international guys!