Call for Book bloggers/vloggers!


From today (27 January) until Monday, 1 February, Rock the Boat will be adding new names to our YA Book blogger/vlogger list! This means that whenever we have an exciting new title, we’ll get in touch with you to offer a review copy and some pre-pub goodies. If you review YA or middle grade books, please consider signing up. Rock the Boat publishes about 12 books a year from a wide variety of authors, languages and voices. The reviews of the books checked by our editors are available at

We have a limited number of space and will only be accepting names from today until Monday, 1 February! Sorry, but we can only send books to the UK, Ireland and Europe. If you live outside these territories, send us an email and we’ll inform you of books available in your territory. Additions to the list are made at our discretion.

Please send an email to [email protected] with the subject line ROCK THE BOAT BLOGGER LIST. In the body, please send us the following information:


Blog/YouTube channel URL:



Any other social media:

Preferred genre:

Review copy postal address:


We’re looking forward to working together!

the Rock the Boat team x




Desert Island Reads from Rock the Boat

In the spirit of The Island by Olivia Levez, where a teenage girl named Fran gets stranded on a desert island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we thought we’d ask some of the Rock the Boat team what their desert island reads would be.


Kate Beal – Head of Sales

  1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  2. Passage to India by EM Forester
  3. Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby
  4. Wise Children by Angela Carter
  5. The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Lawrence Keough – Publicity Assistant

  1. Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
  2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  3. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  4. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
  5. King: My Autobiography by Ledley King


Adriana Chittleborough – Commercial Manager

  1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  2. Emma by Jane Austen
  3. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
  4. The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  6. Mrs. Dalloway by Viriginia Woolf   

Payvand Agahi – Marketing and Sales intern

  1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  2. Emma by Jane Austen
  3. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  5. Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey


Writers and their Dogs

Stephen King has one. So does Neil Gaiman, and so did Kurt Vonnegurt and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and John Steinbeck.

I know I couldn’t do without mine.  He’s there now, jumping onto the bed as I write. Basil. Rescue Jack Russell. A little bit bite-y. Breath warm as sewers. But my constant writing companion when writing The Island.

As he realises it’s one of Mummy’s writing days, and snuggles under the duvet with a contented little huff, it makes me wonder about the bond dogs have with their writers.

He’s even inveigled his way into my book, and plays a starring role as Dog, a castaway canine companion to survivor Fran.

But how many other dogs influence their writers in this way?


Read about writers and their dogs at Olivia Levez’s blog

Mindwalker review by Damilare, a student of British International School, Lagos, Nigeria

A three-word summary of Mindwalker: “1984 for Millenials.” From quite literally the first line of chapter 2,  I  deciphered the nature of this book and the world it depicts. Orwellian worlds are easy to make but difficult to pull off, and I found myself pleasantly surprised that Mindwalker does indeed pull it off. At times the parallels to 1984 are like mirror images, if a bit simplified for a younger audience.

Here are some of the similarities I observed:

  • The Blackcoats in Mindwalker fill the same role as the Brotherhood in 1984. These are Rebels who fight against the totalitarian state. They are painted as terrorists and monsters by the government and the media.
  • IFEN, the organization that trains the Mindwalkers and puts them to work fills the same role as the Ministry of Truth. Revising history in order to keep the people placated and unaware of what’s really going on.
  • Just like in 1984, those who criticize the government are deemed mentally ill and are mentally conditioned.
  • Just like in 1984 there is an organization at play in the world that maintains control of the past. While in 1984 it was through the destruction and alteration of records held in libraries, in Mindwalker it is through the destruction and alteration of people’s very memories!

Aside from those there are a few things about this world I would like to briefly talk about:

  • Somnazol- A little pink pill, which is advertised to everyone, including minors in schools. A little pink pill that almost anyone can get, that kills you a few minutes after you ingest it. What really interests me about Somnazol is the parallels it seems to have with abortion, but that might just be me.
  • New Vitro- As part of the Government’s plan to create the perfect, ultra mentally healthy master race. Yes, that is this book’s “thing”. Those considered “mentally healthy” (Those who don’t question authority), are pressured to clone themselves instead of having children the traditional way.

Returning to the Mindwalkers. These are individuals, primarily teenagers, who specialize in the deletion of traumatic memories. Understandably there is some contention in this world about the practical and ethical nature of the Mindwalkers and what they do.

The main character, Lain Fisher is a 17 year old girl who aspires to be a Mindwalker, and is training to become one. She aspires so much that the thought of losing her job is enough to drive her to hysteria and cause her to lash out. Understandably: without any parents or friends, her “purpose” is all she has. That and a lot of stuffed animals.

Lain is an interesting character if a bit un-original, seeming to fill the Cookie Cutter archetype of “troubled hero”. But it’s a shape she fills well and she never becomes annoying or tedious. The other two main characters are as follows:

  • Steven Bent: A troubled boy who attends the same school as Lain. He is a Type Four on the mental illness scale of 1-5. As such he is barred from most job opportunities and is constantly looked down upon and mistreated by those around him. The reason for his condition is that as a young boy he was kidnapped and tortured for months. Steven is a good character, I found him funny and relatable and there were times when his interactions with Lain tugged at my heart strings.
  • Swan: Director of IFEN and Lain’s father figure after her biological father died, as well as the book’s main antagonist. I like the fact that he never succumbed to the stereotypical villain role, all the things he does are motivated by a genuine desire to help people, and he almost never lets his temper make him irrational. However I profoundly agree with Lain that what he does in the name of the greater good, is heinous.

There are a few supporting characters such as Ian, one of Lain’s fellow Mindwalkers; Greta, her housekeeper, and Chloe, her holographic cat. They all play their parts well. Ian and Lain have a particularly poignant and emotional interaction towards the end of the book that shows you just how damaging Mindwalking is. Ian had to experience the memories of multiple sexual assault victims before he could erase them. This would break anyone.

In final summary, Mindwalker is a very polished title, well worth the asking price; one which I hope will grow into an expanded series. I am dying to know what happened before the story; what really happened in the war against the Blackcoats. What else have the people been made to forget?


Damilare is a student of British International School, Lagos, Nigeria


©Damilare Williams-Shires 2015

The YA market and how bloggers can make a change

The YA market has grown considerably in the last few years. Some say it’s because of the Harry Potter effect; with the original readers of the series becoming enthusiastic book lovers who  then wanted books suited for their ages.  The bookshops then gave much more space to YA and some great authors were discovered and published.  The books spawned series and the series spawned film and TV adaptations, and the YA  book world exploded.  This is thrilling and I wish when I was a teenager I had this choice of books.  Years ago children’s books were published for kids up to the age of 9 and then you were expected to read the classics or nothing until you felt it was the right time to enter the  Adult department of a bookshop or library.

Bloggers are a key part of the YA world.  The enthusiasm and knowledge they share is crucial to the life of the book.  The hardest thing to do is to market books to teens: as publishers, we don’t inhabit the same world, and we would be seen as patronising if we tried to.  This is the first time when this age group actively buys their own books and so they want advice from the (a) the same age group and/or (b) bloggers they admire and trust.  The really good booksellers are either actively blogging themselves or taking notice of what is going on and buying in the books on that recommendation.  It is what we used to term ‘word of mouth’, but now carried out on a quick and efficient medium.

Illuminae has been really successful for this reason.  The bloggers have loved it and very importantly they have had a lot of interaction with Amie and Jay–the authors–on social media.  Authors need to be out there too, getting their books known and read and creating fans for the future.


–Kate Beal, Head of Sales

Give A Read

Last year, towards the end of July, I walked into a library. Nothing that special with that I suppose, but the Summer Reading Challenge had started, and I wasn’t a participant this time: I was a volunteer. And, not going to lie: I was really scared. There was a pretty large queue of children, as it was the first day, they were all eager to sign up. I sat down, took a registration card, and signed a child up. I don’t remember the name of that particular child, but I do remember that was the start of something new for me.

A few weeks ago I finished my final block of hours volunteering for the second year in a row at the libraries where I live. I beat my record of 17.5 hours last year and did over 30 this year, which I’m pretty proud of, but over that time, I’ve met quite a lot of people. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians, just children by themselves sometimes, and they come in and tell me about their books. I ask them a bit about the book, give them their stickers, and I have a small discussion with the adults that come in with them. You get the people who tell me that their children love the Challenge and it gets them reading, and that makes me feel like I’m doing more of a service to the community.

I’ve watched my community slowly decline over the last few years, and we’ve gone from a fairly stable area to an area where many families now struggle to make ends meet, and houses are on sale in some areas for over £600,000. So now we’ve got a situation where parents have told me before, either directly or on the feedback slips we give them towards the end of the Challenge, that they don’t have enough money to go and buy a book each time their child finishes one. They tell me: if the library didn’t exist, their child would not read.

This troubles me greatly. I, for one, am not in trouble. As a book blogger, publishers are kind enough and lovely enough to send me their books to read and I often go into bookshops and walk out with a title or two. I’m not short of books, and neither are most of the book friends I talk to, and I guarantee neither are the publishers I talk to either. I suppose in a way I’m quite fortunate for that.

The Reading Agency can back this up too. 14% of children in lower income homes rarely or never read for pleasure. Only 1 in 5 parents can easily find the opportunity to read with their children. Children who do not achieve expected reading levels are most likely to be from disadvantaged backgrounds. And yet even after reading all of that, 10-16 year olds who read for pleasure are more likely to do better in school.

You might read that and think 14% isn’t too concerning a statistic. Of course it is. Until that percentage is 0%, I for one will not be happy.

There are charities that do incredible work to ensure everyone gets the chance to read. The Reading Agency and Booktrust are two of the four I happen to know of. Libraries are not only a core staple of our communities, they provide a lifeline to those who can’t afford books. (Plus, little known fact: Public Lending Right means that it’s in an author’s interest to promote libraries, as they still get paid when their books are loaned!) However libraries are under threat both directly and indirectly from central government cuts. That’s not right, and part of the campaign is all about doing something about that too, but that will come in a little while.

So I started Give A Read. I don’t think anyone should have to live a life without books, and whatever I can do both through this campaign and outside of it, I want to be able to do.

Right now, tons of kind authors and publishers (including Rock The Boat!) have donated their books and their goodies, all of which are being sold off via eBay (good old eBay, am I right?) in support of either Booktrust and The Reading Agency. I should be clear here: in support in this sentence means 100% of the sale price (excluding P&P as otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to do this) will go to the particular charity for that listing.

Please help out by supporting the campaign and supporting charities. It’s a win win with the eBay auctions: you get a shiny new book (they’re all brand new, I haven’t read a page of them!) and someone else gets supported by these fantastic charities to read more books, or to start reading books, no matter what the original reason for them not doing so was.

As you can tell, reading means a lot to me and I think everyone should have the chance to read, so if you did want to buy a product, I’d really appreciate it!

By the way, a brand new copy of Conversion by Katherine Howe, published by Rock The Boat, is up for grabs right now, so if you’re interested… (hint hint, click click!)

–Joshua, Confessions of a Book Lover

Carina Olsen’s Love for Illuminae

My name is Carina and I blog at Carina’s Books. I’m twenty two years old, and I live in Norway. I don’t have any bookstores to buy from, so I buy all my books online. I own a lot. I just cannot stop buying pretty books. I read mostly YA, but I also adore some MG books. My favorite genre to read is Fantasy, and I cherish those books. I have so many favorite books, including everything by Jay Kristoff. All-time favorite book is Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore; those books are just the best. I also very much adore the His Dark Materials trilogy. I love reading the very most. And I have met so many amazing people doing so.


Carina’s ARC collection


I knew I had to read Illuminae the moment I heard about it, which was many months ago. And then the authors shared about different ARCs coming out. I emailed the US publisher at once, and was told I could get a copy in a few months, which made me sad, but then in May I got a surprise package in the mail: the special paperback US ARC edition of Illuminae. It was the sweetest thing anyone have done for me; and I cannot thank Becky enough for it. I read it right away. And loved it so much.

And then there was news about another ARC copy; a special US hardcover edition. I had to own it. I just had to. I was lucky enough that my friend Andye in the US was able to get an extra copy for me at BEA. I got it in June and it was the most gorgeous thing. The same week I was sent the first US paperback edition from the publisher, and so I have two copies of it. Aisha is the very best. They are stunning. A few weeks after that I learned about the UK ARC version. And I knew I had to have it, no matter what. I emailed the publisher and asked if there was any chance they could send one to me in Norway, and Cailin was so kind to do so. It arrived in August, and it is so gorgeous. I love it lots.

And so my collection ended up being four ARCs so far. In September I remembered the precious ARC box that I had seen Jay getting. And I wanted it. Badly. And so I emailed Aisha to beg for it, to see if she might send it to me. And she did. It was the kindest because this box is gorgeous. And so I had five ARCs. Two US paperbacks. Two US hardcovers. One UK paperback. I’m missing the AUS ARC version, and that breaks my heart. But it isn’t possible to get it, since they printed so few.

I adored Illuminae so much. And I love my collection to pieces. My favorite of all the ARCs is the US hardcover edition, which is just all kinds of precious. But I love them all the same, I think. Because they are all stunning. I also cannot wait to add finished copies to my collection. I have pre-ordered three hardcovers, one of which will be signed. Also one audiobook, one UK paperback and one AUS paperback. I cannot wait to see them all, and add them to my collection


Read Carina’s review of Illuminae on her blog

Transplant week – giving someone a second chance

In Minus Me by Ingelin Rossland, Linda has a rare heart condition and needs a transplant. In honour of Transplant week last week, we asked Give a Kidney to write for us so we can learn more.


Most people know that you can offer to donate your organs to someone you need after you die, but did you know that adults in the UK can help someone in need whilst they are still alive by offering to donate one of their healthy kidneys?

In the UK around 300 people die in need of a kidney transplant each year – that’s almost one every day. There are around 5,500 people on the transplant waiting list right now waiting for a kidney that could vastly improve, prolong or even save their life.

Meanwhile, humans only need one of their kidneys to lead a full and healthy life, and yet most of us are born with two. Many of us would be willing to accept an organ if we needed one, but could you consider giving one?

Until 2006, all living donors (those donating a kidney whilst alive) were either relatives or friends of people who received the kidney transplant. In 2006, guidance under the new Human Tissue Act stated that altruistic kidney donation was permitted. Altruistic donation, sometimes also known as non-directed donation, is the term that describes a donation that is given without knowledge of who is going to receive the kidney. An altruistic donor simply volunteers to give away one of their healthy kidneys to someone who needs it. NHS Blood and Transplant conducts lots of tests to ensure the person is healthy enough to donate and, if so, finds the most suitable person to receive the kidney and the transplant is arranged. It’s a similar concept to giving blood, the organ just goes to the person who is the closest match who needs it the most.

In the UK, more than 430 people have donated in this way, taking 430 people off that long transplant waiting list and giving them their health and freedom back.  Could you consider it?

To find out more please visit


–Jan Shorrock

Damilare, a student at the British International School in Lagos, reviews “Conversion” by Katherine Howe

Conversion doesn’t pull many punches. Within the first 40 pages the action’s already off to a great start. With the first victim of the mysterious illness which goes on to plague St. Joan’s, a school so preppy it hurts, falling ill. She is quickly joined by 2 others and this illness serves as the major plot line within the narrative, as well as the driving force behind several smaller ones.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, serves as a major plot device within the story. The flashbacks that feature prominently in the story utilize the same characters. The events and characters within the Crucible flashbacks parallel the ones currently happening, very well.

I cannot tell a lie and say this book is perfect. The frequent flashbacks do a great job of adding another layer to the story but less patient and less meticulous readers may find it hard to keep up with the simultaneously occurring plotlines. I had to turn back every now and again to re-read a flashback chapter to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

Aside from that the book is an eternally suspenseful read from start to finish with its cards never more than an inch from its chest. As the book places each one down on the table, you shall grow more and more impatient to discover the true nature of what is going on in the town of Danvers, Massachusetts.

The main character Colleen Rowley is by today’s standards a fairly average teenage girl. Average in everything except her GPA. Coleen is gunning for valedictorian and is taking every opportunity she can to push herself to earn those vital points. She is so determined she even wishes ill upon her friends and hopes they fail in order to guarantee her success, and a place in Harvard University. This makes her hard to relate to and easy to dislike at times but on the whole it is obvious she means well and is simply struggling under the immense pressure and reputation of her school.

Colleen’s group of friends all have just enough substance to be interesting, but save for Emma, who is the focal point of one of the side plots, and a major player in the story’s ending, they lack depth. Aside from Colleen, the two most fleshed out and interesting characters are: Spence, Colleen’s new boyfriend, and Jennifer Crawford, a pink haired Goth girl who smokes. Both are well developed and well used standout characters.

The biggest question on everyone’s mind, fictional or not, is what exactly is causing the illness? Multiple explanations are arrived at and discarded one by one within the story. In between reading sessions I theorized as to the nature of an illness that manifests completely differently in each victim. Given the…. ‘history’ of the town and the heavy influences of The Crucible, most readers will come to the same warts and flying broom conclusion. The book will never allow you to rest on your laurels though and the feeling of having my theory challenged invigorated me to keep reading to discover the truth.

The ending will knock you for a loop and have you pacing up and down shouting “What?!” at whoever and whatever will listen to you. After I took a seat and grabbed some hot cocoa, I was able to think about what I’d read and came to a very interesting conclusion.

I can’t guarantee what another reader’s conclusion will be, but I can guarantee this: you’ll have a fun time getting there.

© Damilare Williams-Shires

If you want to write a review for us, get in touch with us at [email protected].

Tags: review

Back to school, back to reading!

Back to school, back to reading! The canon of children’s and young adult reading has most likely transformed over the years, but it’s always nice to reflect on the books and the teachers that shaped my own reading habits. It’s also interesting to think about the young adult titles from country to country, and how your own culture and values are reflected in the literature that you read.

A true classic that I still like to re-visit from time to time is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. As part of our school project, we had to deliver monologues as your favourite character and I, of course, chose Tock, the “watchdog”. Another favourite was There’s a Rainbow in my Closet by Patti Stren, which I chose primarily because of the cover (I was pretty into rainbows). The main character, Emma, used the phrase “whatever floats your boat” quite a lot, which I then mimicked, much to my mother’s dismay. To this day, I overuse that phrase. My absolute favourite book, though, was Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I probably read that book six times in the span of a year.

What strikes me about these three favourites is that only The Phantom Tollbooth was required reading from my school. The other two were picked during my library hours at school, and it was our school librarian who encouraged us to pluck books off the shelf and give them all a try. It was my teachers who let us read when all of our other work was done. And it was my parents who devoured books just as much as I devour them now.

Feeling nostalgic yourself? Let us know some of your childhood favourites on Twitter, tagging @rocktheboatnews.