Blog Tour: Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

joanne-harris-blog-tour

runemarks-bookIt’s been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion – the Order – has taken its place.

In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand – a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don’t know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark – or runemark, as he calls it – is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else…

Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.

Read the previous excerpt from Runemarks over at http://anarmchairbythesea.blogspot.co.uk/

Maddy was startled. She had made no sound; and as far as she could tell, he had not once looked in her direction. She stood up, feeling rather foolish, and stared at him defiantly. ‘I’m not afraid of you,’ she said.
‘No?’ said the stranger. ‘Perhaps you should be.’

Maddy decided she could outrun him if need be. She sat down again, just out of reach on the springy grass. His book, she now saw, was a collection of scraps, bound together with strips of leather, the pages hedged with thorny script. Maddy, of course, could not read – few villagers could, except for the parson and his prentices, who read the Good Book, and nothing else.

‘Are you a priest?’ she said at last.
The stranger laughed, not pleasantly.
‘A soldier, then?’
The man said nothing.
‘A pirate? A mercenary?’
Again, nothing. The stranger continued to make marks in his little book, pausing occasionally to study the Horse.
But Maddy’s curiosity had been fired. ‘What happened to your face?’ she said. ‘How were you wounded? Was it a war?’ Now the stranger looked at her with a trace of impatience. ‘This happened,’ he said, and took off his patch.

For a moment Maddy stared at him. But it was not the scarred ruin of his eye that held her thus. It was the bluish mark that began just above his brow and extended right down onto his left cheekbone.
runemark1
It was not the same shape as her own ruinmark, but it was recognizably of the same substance; and it was certainly the first time that Maddy had ever seen such a thing on someone other than herself.
‘Satisfied?’ said the stranger.
But a great excitement had seized hold of Maddy. ‘What’s that?’ she said. ‘How did you get it? Is it woad? Is it a tattoo? Were you born with it? Do all Outlanders have them?’
He gave her a small and chilly smile. ‘Didn’t your mamma ever tell you that curiosity killed the kitty-cat?’
‘My mamma died when I was born.’
‘I see. What’s your name?’
‘Maddy. What’s yours?’
‘You can call me One-Eye’, he said. ‘And what makes you think I’m an Outlander?’
And then Maddy uncurled her fist, still grubby from her climb up the big beech tree, and showed him the ruinmark on her hand.
runemark2
For a moment the stranger’s good eye widened beneath the brim of his hat. On Maddy’s palm, the ruinmark stood out sharper than usual, still rust-coloured but now flaring bright orange at the edges, and Maddy could feel the burn of it – a tingling sensation, not unpleasant, but definitely there, as if she had grasped something hot a few minutes before.
He looked at it for a long time. ‘D’you know what you’ve got there, girl?’
‘Witch’s Ruin,’ said Maddy promptly. ‘My sister thinks I should wear mittens.’
One-Eye spat. ‘Witch rhymes with bitch. A dirty word for dirty-minded folk. Besides, it was never a Witch’s Ruin,’ he said, ‘but a Witch’s Rune: the runemark of the Fiery.’
‘Don’t you mean the Faërie?’ said Maddy, intrigued.
‘Faërie, Fiery, it’s all the same. This rune’ – he looked at it closely – ‘this mark of yours . . . do you know what it is?’
‘Nat Parson says it’s the devil’s mark.’
‘Nat Parson’s a gobshite,’ One-Eye said.
Maddy was torn between a natural feeling of sacrilege and a deep admiration of anyone who dared call a parson gobshite.
‘Listen to me, girlie,’ he said. ‘Your man Nat Parson has every reason to fear that mark. Aye, and envy it too.’ Once more he studied the design on Maddy’s palm, with interest and – Maddy thought – some wistfulness. ‘A curious thing,’ he said at last. ‘I never thought to see it here.’
‘But what is it?’ said Maddy. ‘If the Book isn’t true—’
‘Oh, there’s truth in the book,’ said One-Eye, and shrugged.
‘But it’s buried deep under legends and lies. The End of the World, for instance . . .’
‘Tribulation,’ said Maddy helpfully.

‘Aye, if you like, or Ragnarók. Remember, it’s the winners write the history books, and the losers get the leavings. If the Æsir had won—’
‘The Æsir?’
‘Seer-folk, I dare say you’d call ’em here. Well, if they’d won that war – and it was close, mind you – then the Elder Age would not have ended, and your Good Book would have turned out very different, or maybe never been written at all.’
Maddy’s ears pricked up at once. ‘The Elder Age? You mean before Tribulation?’
One-Eye laughed. ‘Aye. If you like. Before that, Order reigned. The Æsir kept it, believe it or not, though there were no Seers among them in those days, and it was the Vanir, from the borders of Chaos – the Faërie, your folk’d call ’em – that were the keepers of the Fire.’
‘The Fire?’ said Maddy, thinking of her father’s smithy.
‘Glam. Glám-sýni, they called it. Rune-caster’s glam. Shapechanger’s magic. The Vanir had it, and the children of Chaos. The Æsir only got it later.’
‘How?’ said Maddy.
‘Trickery – and theft, of course. They stole it, and remade the Worlds. And such was the power of the runes that even after the Winter War, the fire lay sleeping underground, as fire may sleep for weeks, months – years. And sometimes even now it rekindles itself – in a living creature, even a child—’
‘Me?’ said Maddy.
‘Much joy may it bring you.’ He turned away and, frowning, seemed once more absorbed in his book.
But Maddy had been listening with too much interest to allow One-Eye to stop now. Until then she had heard only fragments of tales – and the scrambled versions from the Book of Tribulation, in which the Seer-folk were mentioned only in warnings against their demonic powers or in an attempt to ridicule those long-dead impostors who called themselves gods.
‘So – how do you know these stories?’ she said.

The Outlander smiled. ‘You might say I’m a collector.’ Maddy’s heart beat faster at the thought of a man who might
collect tales in the way another might collect penknives, or butterflies, or stones. ‘Tell me more,’ she said eagerly. ‘Tell me about the Æsir.’
‘I said a collector, not a storyteller.’
But Maddy was not to be put off . ‘What happened to them?’ she said. ‘Did they all die? Did the Nameless One hurl them into the Black Fortress of Netherworld, with the snakes and demons?’
‘Is that what they say?’
‘Nat Parson does.’
He made a sharp sound of contempt. ‘Some died; some vanished; some fell; some were lost. New gods emerged to suit a new age, and the old ones were forgotten. Maybe that proves they weren’t gods at all.’
‘Then what were they?’
‘They were the Æsir. What else do you need?’
Once again he turned away, but this time Maddy caught at him. ‘Tell me more about the Æsir.’
‘There is no more,’ One-Eye said. ‘There’s me. There’s you. And there’s our cousins under the Hill. The dregs, girlie, that’s what we are. The wine’s long gone.’
‘Cousins,’ said Maddy wistfully. ‘Then you and I must be cousins too.’ It was a strangely attractive thought. That Maddy and One-Eye might both belong to the same secret tribe of travelling folk, both of them marked with Faërie fire . . .
‘Oh, teach me how to use it,’ she begged, holding out her palm. ‘I know I can do it. I want to learn—’
But One-Eye had lost patience at last. He snapped his book shut and stood up, shaking the grass stems from his cloak ‘I’m no teacher, little girl. Go play with your friends and leave me alone.’
‘I have no friends, Outlander,’ she said. ‘Teach me.’

The final excerpt of this phenomenal story will be up tomorrow at http://www.bookaholicbabe.co.uk/

RUNEMARKS by Joanne M Harris is out now in hardback from Gollancz buy a copy here: http://bit.ly/RunemarksJoanneMHarris
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#TeenLibrarian Monthly November 2016

Download (PDF, 1.72MB)

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch a review

the-hanging-tree
Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.
 
He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect.
 
Assuming he survives the week . . .

 

Important notice to readers: If you are considering picking up this book without reading the first five in the series you will enjoy it but you will derive greater enjoyment if you start with Rivers of London – the first Peter Grant novel and read them in order because they are brilliant and you will avoid spoilers!

The presidential election and other gloom-inducing occurrences around the world last week left me at a rather low ebb! The Hanging Tree helped to restore my sense of humour and kept me going through the days with something to look forward; in this instance going to bed and reading about PC Peter Grant’s misadventures in policing the Demi-monde.

The Hanging Tree answered several questions that have been hanging around since the series started but unfortunately (for me) added about a dozen new questions and made me hungry to find out more about the history of English magic, how magical systems around the world differ and when Peter will be heading off overseas on an international Falcon case.

Look let me be perfectly honest with you, this series is brilliant! Like a fine wine or cheese the story and Ben’s writing style has matured and improved as the series has developed, now with The Hanging Tree Ben has displaced Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files as my favourite urban fantasy series. I often get accused of saying that the book I am currently reading is my favourite thing but with this series it is true, partially because it is set in and around London – and I recognise a number of the locations that Peter and his allies have been to, through or blown up and it has a lot to do with Ben’s writing, which has brought to mind the work Terry Pratchett; he is the first author that I have read since the great man passed away that has combined humour with serious intent in such a way that made me laugh out loud and then giggle for a few pages thereafter.

Trust me*, if you have even the slightest interest in urban fantasy or reading about a London imbued with magic, black British Goddesses and mixed race protagonists then Rivers of London is series you need in your life!

*I am a Librarian!

Read the Vote

When it comes to politics and Libraries I have always skirted around the edges, although my sympathies lie firmly on the left I did not want to align this site too closely with any particular side of the political divide as I know librarians on the left and right that use the site and did not want to alienate either.

Like many people on the left and centre I have been shaken by political developments across the world and the rightward lurch currently occuring in western democracies. I have decided to be more open with my political views and become more politically active where possible.

Libraries, are intensely political – no matter what has been said about them being apolitical; any institution that exists to uplift all parts of society is inherently democratic and intensely liberal – no matter the political leanings of the council or staff.

With that in mind I would like to suggest that Librarians and Library Staff step in whenever there are local or national elections and get the public to

Read the Vote!

This idea was sparked by reading about Rock the Vote a movement that has, since the 1990s, fused pop culture, music, art & technology to fulfil its mission of building long-term youth political power.

Libraries are perfectly placed to provide plain English (or first language of choice) information on all sides of the political discussion, that includes Public Libraries, School Libraries, University and College Libraries and any others that provide a service. The idea is not to push a partisan agenda but provide the information and context required for voters to make an informed choice when it comes to electing officials or making other nation-shaking choices (the Brexit vote for example).

This can be run on a local level with Local Government elections and on a national level with mid-term and national elections.

At present this is just a nebulous idea and I would like to hear suggestions on how this could be made a reality or if it is even feasible. Please feel free to make your views known in the comments below.

Thank you

How to…

how-to

I have created an A3 poster that I have titled “How To…” it can be downloaded by clicking on the image above.

UK Youth Parliament annual sitting kicks off Parliament Week 2016

On Friday 11 November, Members of the UK Youth Parliament will debate a range of topical issues, including the need for cheap, accessible public transport and tackling racist and religious discrimination. In addition, they will hold a short debate on to reflect on current political affairs and their ideas for “A Better, Kinder Democracy.”

The Youth Parliament, sitting for its seventh year in the House of Commons Chamber, heralds the start of UK Parliament Week (14-20 November), an annual festival of events intended to connect communities across the UK with their democracy.

This year’s Make Your Mark campaign to decide the topics of the Youth Parliament’s debate in the House of Commons received a record number of ballots, reaching 978,216 young people. Make Your Mark is now the biggest youth consultation of its kind in UK history, with almost two million young people aged 11-18 taking part in the last two years.

Schools across the UK have been encouraged to tune in to watch the debates which will be streamed on parliamentlive.tv and broadcast on BBC Parliament from 11.15am. At the close of debates, MYPs will vote to decide which of the topics will become the focus of their national 2017 campaign.

For the first time, the annual sitting of the Youth Parliament coincides with Armistice Day, and so the session will begin with a two minute silence at 11.00, which will be streamed live on the UK Parliament website.

Morning session
Watch from 11.15am (broadcast concludes by approximately 12.40pm)
· We must stop cuts that affect the NHS
· Votes for 16 and 17 year olds in all public elections
· Make public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all

Afternoon session
Watch from 1.40pm
· Tackling racism and religious discrimination, particularly against people who are Muslim or Jewish
· A curriculum to prepare us for life
· ‘A Better, Kinder Democracy’

The UKYP sitting will be presided over by the Speaker Rt Hon. John Bercow MP, who said:

“I am delighted to welcome the Youth Parliament to their annual sitting. It is always encouraging to see young people debating issues so passionately in the House of Commons and participating in our democracy. Almost a million young people, from across the UK, voted for the motions before us on the Order Paper today, and I am pleased that they are making their voices heard and engaging with the parliamentary process.”

MYPs will also be joined by David Lidington MP, Leader of the House, and Valerie Vaz MP, Shadow Leader of the House, who will both speak from the despatch box in recognition of the UKYP as the only external group permitted to use the House of Commons Chamber.
David Lidington MP, Leader of the House of Commons, said:
“The UK Youth Parliament is an opportunity for Westminster to hear young people raising the issues they care about most. Both MPs in Parliament and ministers in Whitehall will be listening to what MYPs have to say.”
Valerie Vaz MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, said:
“Nearly a million young people voted to decide the topics that their Members of the Youth Parliament are debating, which range from public services to promoting democracy and fighting discrimination. These are very pertinent at this time, and I look forward to the debate which I am sure will be of the usual very high standard.”

Connor Hill, Member of Youth Parliament for Dudley said:
“We as a Youth Parliament are proud to represent young people across the UK and the House of Commons is the perfect place to do just that. We have once again carried out the largest youth consultation in the UK. The number of young people taking part in Make Your Mark this year has reached the phenomenal heights of over 978,000 ballots. The opportunity to debate issues that young people have voted on in such a hallow chamber is a once in a lifetime opportunity and every single MYP is honoured to be able to do so to represent their area.”

Around 250 MYPs from across the UK will participate in the debate and have been elected by their peers to represent them. MPs have also been invited to meet their local Youth Parliamentarians on the day to discuss these key issues.

The Youth Parliament is one of the key events of Parliament Week, a national awareness week supported by the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Staying Anonymous Online – an introduction

#5thNovDemo

At noon on the 5th November I joined friends, colleagues and around 2500 other fellow believers in Museums, Galleries and a comprehensive, fully-staffed Library service outside the British Library on a march through London.

It was amazing – I saw so many people I have known for years but seldom see in real life (and that was just the Librarians). Amongst the library supporters was Alan Gibbons who had a pivotal role in organising everyone, acting as master of ceremonies and making sure that speakers got to the megaphone; Lord Bird the cross-bench peer also made an appearance and gave a rousing and moving speech about the cost of closing libraries, his words are still echoing in my head two days later, Michael Rosen was his normal fiery self and Chris Riddell current Children’s Laureate spoke as well and apparently drew as he walked. Philip Ardagh loomed imposingly like a giant, bearded Moai statue and spoke as he usually does incredibly eloquently.

#5thNovDemo

There were so many people I know online in attendance – most of whom I only found out about after the event which is a shame as I love meeting people that I have only know via e-mail or twitter.

I joined my fellow School Librarians bringing up the rear of the march, the whole event was impeccably organised and run by Unison shop stewards. The Metropolitan Police were also in attendance and kept a low profile throughout making sure that traffic kept its distance and otherwise acting unobtrusively.

One of the most heartening things of the march was the fantastic level of public support, from drivers hooting and waving and people on the side-lines applauding as we walked past.

This is the first time since the anti-austerity March for a Difference march I 2011 that I have been able to get out and stand up for libraries and I have missed it!

Ian Clark one of the founders of Voices for the Library & The Radical Librarians Collective put together a short video of the day here:

The march was peaceful, professional and ran like a dream and I would like to thank everyone who marched and those that provided moral support from near and far!

Regional marches are being organised to keep the momentum moving.

GIVEAWAY: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

the-hanging-tree

The latest book in Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling Rivers of London series is now available!

Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.

He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week . . .

How to win a copy:

Ben’s publisher Gollancz has very kindly given me three copies to give away to celebrate the launch. So if you would like to win a copy of this amazing book all you have to do is tweet me! (I am @mattlibrarian on Twitter) Say something like “I would like to win a copy of The Hanging Tree!” or words to that effect using the hashtag #THTgiveaway so I can keep track of entries.

The competition will close at 5pm on Friday 4th November, all names will go into a hat and the winners will be announced on Monday 7th November.

Click-Clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman

I have been (and will be) using Click-Clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman with students (years 7,8 and 9) that have Library lessons this week as part of my Halloween and Spooky Stories discussion.

Four classes visited the library today – two year 8 & 9 classes, with each we have discussed Halloween, where the customs of the festival originated, the importance of masks and why people enjoy being terrified with stories. I then turn out the light, make sure everyone is sitting comfortably and push play. It is a very short story, slightly over 10 minutes but the effect has been the same – dead silence during the performance and afterwards the entire class is still and thoughtful, it has taken a few minutes to get discussion going about the story and what they thought about it.

This is a great tale, and the effect it has on the audience is almost palpable; it starts out light and gets progressively spookier and darker as the the story progresses. Neil’s voice is almost hypnotic, drawing the listener in to the story and lulls you into a false sense of security and by the time you actually start figuring out what is happening it is too late and the warm languorous feeling that his voice has engendered within you dooms you to the horror of hearing the dark ending and leaves you feeling disturbed and spooked.

All in all a perfect tale for a Halloween evening spent terrifying your friends and family!