Monday, 29 March 2010

Darren Shan - The Thin Executioner - Book Review

Will your head roll?
There is a new Darren Shan book in the offering, but the first thing to say is that this is probably not the type of book that you may have been expecting from Darren Shan.  It's not a horror/gore-fest - it has none of the normal associated themes of Demons, Vampires and monster-like creatures ripping out each others throats. In fact it is very different to any of the other book series (Cirquedufreak and Demonata) that he is also well-known for

Although the book still reads like a high action ride of terror, it is written in a more traditional style about a brutal nation of warriors. Jebel’s family holds the highest honour; his father is executioner but Jebel is considered too thin to compete to replace him. 

Humiliated and furious, Jebel vows to regain his honour in a quest to petition the fire god for invincibility. The journey is long, filled with unknown monsters and by the end of it, Jebel isn’t quite sure what he wants anymore. 

The book follows Jebel's adventure into unknown lands in a quest to find the mystery god, who can give him unimaginable powers, which I know sounds like a cliche. However whilst it may turn out to be just another tale that's been told and passed down through the generations, Jebel still sets off on his search. . . . and the nightmare begins.

The story is well written with many thought provoking emotions running through the dialogue between Jebel, and his slave Tel Hesani. These leave a lasting affect on the reader, which add a new dimension to the book. The detail that has gone into the plot and the pace of the story are equally very good.

It's a brutal ride; covering religious and cult themes that have you chilled to the bone. The encounter with the tribe known as the Um Saga and their leader Qasr Bint is not for the feint hearted or the younger reader. Be warned that this book, whilst different to other Darren Shan books, has not been toned down in any way.

I loved the book; it had me shocked, captivated and engrossed all at the same time. This is the first of many 'standalone' books to come from Darren Shan; it's good to read something different from him, and see him flex his creative arm in order to find new readers. This book will find a new army of fans and add to his popularity. What will he write next?

The book is published by HarperCollins 1 May 2010 (and is reputed to be one of Darren Shan's favourite books to date.)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Prince of Mist - Book Review

This was the first novel to be published by Carlos in his native country of Spain. However, this best selling author is perhaps better known to us within the book world, for his adult best sellers - "The Shadow Of The Wind" and "The Angels Game". After sitting at the top of the best sellers charts for many weeks (in Spain), and selling over 3 million copies of his young adult books, the time has now come for it to be translated into English. The Spanish author has written three other young adult books - 'The Midnight Palace', 'September Lights' and 'Marina', all of which will be translated and published within the next three years. I for one, will be very pleased to read them all, just from the strength of 'The Prince of Mist'.

When the author wrote this story, he had in mind a book that would appeal to all ages. Something that would hold as much meaning for a teenager, as it would entice and grip an older reader. That's the magic in this book for me, as the author has done just that. 

I was engrossed in every page, and turned each one wanting more and more. The books charm comes from the way in which you are drawn into the story and through the characters journey of discovery, which was breathtaking and one that I will be revisiting. This is such a good book for a person, who was really just starting his writing career. He has since quoted that "when  I look back at everything I have written since, I feel that the seed of it all was contained in this little novel."

Carlos is very clever at creating intrigue within his books. This classic Gothic book, based on a story featuring ghostly statues, a haunted ship and the legend of the Prince of Mist,  sets your mind racing. And yet it grips with a chilling fear that stays with you right to the very end.

Max Carver's father - a watchmaker and inventor - decides to move his family to a small town on the coast, to an old house that once belonged to a prestigious surgeon, Dr Richard Fleischmann. But the house holds many secrets and stories of its own. Behind it is an overgrown garden full of statues surrounded by a metal fence topped with a six-pointed star. When he goes to investigate, Max finds that the statues seem to consist of a kind of circus troop with the large statue of a clown at its centre. Max has the curious sensation that the statue is beckoning to him. As the family settles in they grow increasingly uneasy: they discover a box of old films belonging to the Fleischmanns; his sister has disturbing dreams and his other sister hears voices whispering to her from an old wardrobe.

They also discover the wreck of a boat that sank many years ago in a terrible storm. Everyone on board perished except for one man - an engineer who built the lighthouse at the end of the beach. During the dive, Max sees something that leaves him cold - on the old mast floats a tattered flag with the symbol of the six-pointed star. As they learn more about the wreck, the chilling story of the Prince of the Mists begins to emerge.

The ending of the book delivers an almighty punch - drawing together the emotional characters, thrilling suspense and chilling experiences. It whips up a storm that leaves the reader thinking: that was one of the best books that I have read this year. It has everything I like in a book and much, much more. I look forward to reading more from Carlos Ruiz Zafon very soon.

Book Published by Orion Children's books and Weidenfeld & Nicolson 27 May 2010

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Janet Foxley’s Muncle Trogg wins the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Prize 2010

Janet Foxley has won the prestigious Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Award, beating off four other budding unpublished authors.
The other books in the shortlist were:
Miles Cain - A Song For Nick Moon;
Ash Walker - Hair; 
Chris Hill - Lucky Albion; 
Bea Davenport - The Serpent House.  
These are all worthy entries; it would be good to see them all in print very soon.
Congratulations to Janet, I will be looking forward to reading the published book shortly.

I have posted a small excerpt from the winning entry to whet the taste buds in anticipation of the forthcoming release - sometime next year, I think. I would really like to hear your views.

The only light in the Troggs’ home came from Ma’s fire. Now it threw the shadow of a larger-than-life Gritt on to the rocky wall, with a much-too-small Muncle dangling helplessly from his hand.
‘Ma!’ Muncle yelled again. His shadow swung wildly to and fro.
This sort of thing made him feel smaller than ever. At twelve he should have been able to stand up for himself. But at the moment he couldn’t stand up at all. Gritt had him firmly by the ankles. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Gritt had been his older brother, but Gritt was four years younger.
‘Ma!’ He was going to be sick if he stayed upside down much longer. It was a good thing Pa wasn’t home yet. Pa always took Gritt’s side. Gritt was the sort of son a giant could be proud of.
Ma Trogg peered through the cloud of steam above her cauldron. She was a handsome woman with an enviable number of bristly warts, but her broad yellow smile was too often clouded by an anxious frown. It was all wrong that she still had to worry about her eldest child when she had two younger ones to look after. But she would always worry unless Muncle could find some way of fitting into a world where he so obviously didn’t fit. And time was running out. In three days he would be leaving school. If he couldn’t find a job he was capable of doing by then, his prospects were bleak.
‘Gritt!’ roared Ma. ‘Put your brother down at once.’
‘But you told me to play with him till breakfast.’
‘I didn’t mean you should use him as a toy.’
‘Oh. All right.’ Gritt dropped Muncle as quickly as he’d picked him up.
Muncle’s smallness did give him one advantage: he was unusually agile. The moment Gritt let go, Muncle somersaulted in mid air, landing on his bottom rather than his head. It still hurt. Where every other giant had rolls of comfortable fat, Muncle had only skin and bone.
He wasn’t bad looking. He had an excellent complexion: coarse grey skin dotted with sparse hairy warts. He had Pa’s bushy eyebrows and fleshy nose. He had Ma’s bulging eyes and uneven teeth. It was just Muncle’s size that was wrong.
‘We can’t wait for your pa any longer,’ said Ma. ‘Come and eat, both of you.’
She unstrapped the wicker baby-basket from her back and set it down beside the table. Flubb grabbed her leather bottle and glugged the fungus porridge down eagerly.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Bologna Book Fair 2010 - Andrew Peters - Ravenwood - Rights Pick

Every year I say to myself that I would like to go to the Bologna book fair. But every year I never get there - hopefully one day I'll eventually make it.

This is the fair where most of the more exciting books get brought to the attention of various publishing companies. Some of the best children's books pass through Bologna and for the lucky few, their rights can be sold all over the world. Last year my Bologna post was based on new talent Barry Hutchison, and his new "Invisible Fiends" series, which was exhibited at the book fair and made a lasting impression last year.

This year I am going to highlight an epic debut fantasy novel called "Ravenwood", written by new talent Andrew Peters.
The book will be published by Chicken House in the U.K in May 2011, but will be first exhibited at the Bologna fair where the rights will be offered.

This is a little snippet of the book, however it may be subject to change before it is published. Hope you enjoy this exciting adventure and want to read it soon!

The arrow flew over his shoulder and thudded straight into a wooden post. Too close! If he hadn’t stumbled, the shaft would now be buried somewhere near his heart.  He imagined the blood blooming like a flower across his shirt, his body tripping over the edge of the branch to fall, lifeless to the earth - a mile below.
Ark was exhausted. Sweat coursed down his back and his calf muscles ached.  He flicked his head round: they were only a couple of hundred yards behind. This part of the high-way was wide and straight. Not only had the original, huge branch been carved flat, like all the smaller branch-roads, but it had also been extended widthways with beams and scaffolding. Now it was twenty feet across at the passing places. At this time of the afternoon, before brush-hour, the way was deserted - not that any bystander would mess with this lot.
Somewhere hidden up above, dark clouds squeezed out their downpour, filling the forest with echoing drips. Ark ran for his life though a mass of shifting shadows, the splash of his footsteps giving him away.
The guard paused, wiping rain from his eyes, taking careful aim for another shot. The boy’s drenched clothes were like a painted target; every item from the brown leather skullcap and grotty tanned jerkin, to the tight britches and worn stockings that had seen better days, screamed out ‘plumber’s apprentice’.
The rubber-soled creepers on the boy’s feet were standard wear this high up. No-one wanted to slip off the edge, especially in this weather. But the guard shuddered at the thought of what those shoes had trod in. In fact, his prey resembled one big, turdy stain, a brown blot on the treescape. As for killing a fourteen year old? It wasn’t a problem but the solution.
Straight ahead, the high-way ran towards a huge, hollow tree trunk. Ark bolted into the centre and hesitated, catching his breath. The dead tree was a crossroads. Its massive trunk supported the junction with branch lines leading off in three directions through carved archways. In a dark corner, ancient, moss-covered steps led down into the hollow depths. He was desperate, but going earthwards? He shuddered even to think of it. Which way?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Patrick Doud - The Hunt For The Eye Of Ogin ( The Winnitok Tales BK 1) - Book Review

Patrick Doud's "The Hunt for the Eye of Ogin" (The Winnitok Tales) is the author's first fantasy novel. Set in the land of talking creatures it follows the path of Elwood Pitch, a thirteen year old boy, who he is carried away to the land of Winnitok, in the otherworld of Ehm. Desperate to find a way back home to his family, Elwood's one hope is Granashon, the land's immortal protector. But Granashon is missing, and the power that protects Winnitok is fading fast.

When Elwood dreams of the Eye of Ogin, a legendary object with the power to see Granashon wherever she might be, he vows to find it. With his dog Slukee and two newfound companions, Drallah Wehr of Winnitok and her talking raven Booj, Elwood sets out on an epic quest.

I have been reading this book in segments, due to a busy week, but every time I left the story it stayed with me until the next time I picked up the book. It is well written for a debut book - the action adventure part is particularly good and some poetic moments thrown in too. The book has a slow build-up and could have done with a little more detail being developed on some of the lead characters. However the story is still a magical ride, with many battles and scrapes along the way. The book has an amazing plot which develops into a great ending. A classic family adventure for every one to read and enjoy.

I am really looking forward to the next book in the series entitled "The Mornith War" which will be published some time in spring 2011 by North Atlantic books in the U.S.

About the next book.
Three years and many adventures after the events of The Hunt for the Eye of  companions Elwood, Slukee, Drallah, and Booj are charged with a task beyond Winnitok’s northern edge. Arriving in the community of a charismatic prophet, they find that Granashon the Nohar has been attempting to settle a conflict between the prophet’s followers and a proud clan of wolf truans. But this threat to peace is overshadowed by another, as an unnatural scourge of spirits is burning the prophet’s fields with a ghostly green fire.  

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

New Children's - Book Picks For The Month Of April 2010 - U.K (Hardback)

We have a great month for the hardback book.. Lots of really  nice reads to get us excited and keep us entertained in the spring month of April.

Derek Landy - Dark Days (Skulduggery Pleasant:Bk4) Published by HarperCollins - April 1 2010
Book Synopsis:
It's the fourth Skulduggery Pleasant adventure! only Skulduggery Pleasant himself is lost on the other side of a portal, with only some evil gods for company. Can he possible survive? (Yes, all right, he's already dead. But still.) What can we say, without giving too much away? Not much, is the answer. But what we CAN say is that this book is hilarious, it's tense, and it's packed with all the eye-popping action, crackling one liners and imaginative set pieces you've come to expect. There's a new threat to our plucky heroine, of course. But that's not all. There's also the little fact of the Big Bad, the uber-baddy who's going to come along and really, really destroy the world. (Really.) And what we learn about that villain in this book will literally make your jaw fall off and your hair go white with shock. (Not really.) Will Skulduggery make it out of the Faceless Ones' dimension? Who knows. The problem is, he may not have much to come back to!

Caro King - Shadow Spell - Published by Quercus Publishing - April 1 2010
Book Synopsis: 
Simeon Dark is the most powerful sorcerer in the land of the Drift. Mysterious, cunning, a shape-shifter, only he can stop the evil Strood and save the Drift from dying. But where is he? Nin finds her way to Dark's mansion - a strange castle with a garden and lake spilling into the sky. There she finds a ribbon of shadowy light: could this be the unsaid spell and the clue to unlocking the mystery of Simeon Dark? Meanwhile, Strood is preparing his distillation machine, his pet tigers and some barrels of blood and is coming after her...Caro King has created a funny, rich, thrilling adventure, interwoven with fantastical creatures, myth and magic.
Philip Reeve - A Web Of Air (Mortal Engines:BK6) Published by Scholastic - April 5 2010 - (See Book Review)
Book Synopsis: 
Two years ago, Fever Crumb escaped the war-torn city of London in a travelling theatre. Now she arrives in the extraordinary craer city of Mayda, where buildings ascend the cliffs on funicular rails, and a mysterious recluse is building a machine that can fly. Fever is the engineer he needs - but ruthless enemies will kill to possess their secrets. The fabulous sixth book in the Mortal Engines series, from the brilliant.

Jon Mayhew - Mortlock - Published by Bloomsbury - 5 April 2010 - (See Book Review)
Book Synopsis: 
The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible Aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he carries to his grave. Cardamom was one of three explorers on an expedition to locate the legendary Amarant, a plant with power over life and death. Now, pursued by flesh-eating crow-like ghuls, brother and sister must decode the message and save themselves from its sinister legacy.

Darren Shan - The Thin Executioner - Published by HarperCollins - April 29 2010
Book Synopsis:
A brilliant and brand new story of swords, sand and sorcery from the endless imagination that brought you The Saga of Darren Shan and the Demonata. New characters -- same excitement, action and terror! In a harsh, unforgiving world of slavery and glorified executions, one boy's humiliation leads him to embark on a perilous quest to the faraway lair of a mysterious god. It is a dark, brutal, nightmarish journey which few have ever survived. But to Jebel Rum, the risk is worth it! to retrieve his honour! to win the hand of the girl he loves! to wield unimaginable power! and to become! THE THIN EXECUTIONER

Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell - Wyrmeweald (Wyrmeweald Trilogy) - Published by Doubleday - April 29 2010
Book Synopsis:
 Young pioneer, Micah, enters Wrymeweald full of hope to return home having made his fortune. But this is a land where wyrmes, fabulous dragon-like beasts, roam wild and reign supreme. In Wyrmeweald man is both hunter and hunted - and seventeen-year-old Micah may never return alive, let alone a hero...After a near-brush with death on the edge of a canyon, Micah soon finds a chance to prove his worth when he meets with Eli, a veteran tracker of Wrymeweald. They choose to defend a rare whitewyrme egg and its precious hatchling before it falls into the hands of a band of evil Kith. But the fledgling wyrme has its own guardian in the shape of the beautiful, brave and dangerous Thrace. Thrace, a Kin and a highly-skilled wyrme rider-assasin; and Micah, a would-be Kith, should never mix - but the magnetism between them is strong. Together they join forces on a mission to rescue the hatchling and seek vengenace for loved-ones lost at the hand of Kith bandits. Meanwhile the glorious whitewyrme colony of Wyrmeweald looks on as its land is encroached by gold-diggers and ravaged by bounty hunters. Is Exodus the only option? And if so, when - and where - will they flee too!

Eleanor Updale - Johnny Swanson - Published by David Fickling Books - April 29 2010
Book Synopsis:
This is the answer to smelly feet - wear a clothes peg on your nose. 11-year-old Johnny Swanson is in business. He's raking in the money with his advertising scams and his agony aunt persona, Ada Ardour, who offers advice on absolutely anything in return for a shilling. But his money-making schemes are getting him in too deep. Everything is spiralling out of control, and now his own mother is in mortal danger. There's only one thing for it:Johnny must assume another role - as undercover detective.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Chris Wooding - Havoc - Book Review

Book Review

Here is the next slice of book action in the world of Malice, where kids are trapped inside the real comic-book world, living in fear and fighting for away out. However someone is watching every step they take and will stop at nothing to keep them from escaping back to the real world .

The story finds Seth trying to find his way back into the comic book world, even though he'd managed to escape the twisted and evil clutches of Tall Jake. However after leaving his best friend Kady, he now wants to go back and save her. But Kady has her own mission in this book, to find and join the group Havoc (a rebel group of kids), who want to take a stand against Tall Jake. This dual storyline provides the opportunity for a great split plot, as well as a chance to be introduced to a new character - Alicia, who uncovers some of the darkest secrets from the creation of Malice.

The plot is told wonderfully, and draws you into the nasty world with its ghastly creations. The world of Malice leaks into the real world; there's no telling as to what might come through which is how the story keeps you on tender hooks.

A unique aspect about this book comes from the use of graphic novel images and extracts, which are beautifully illustrated by the talented Dan Chernett. They certainly plunge you deeper into the depths of the story, which I totally loved; it adds another dimension and layer to the plot.

The second book has a lot more going on than the first. I was engaged and completely hooked through every page. This series is rapidly becoming one of my personal favourites; Chris is a very skillful writer and has one of the greatest imaginations in the book world, in my humble opinion. 

Book published by Scholastic Children's - May 3 2010

Other sites of interest to visit and

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - New Books On The Blog - U.S

Marianne Malone - The Sixty-Eight Rooms - Published By Random House - Feb 23
Book Synopsis:
Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed in the Children’s Galleries of the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms made in the 1930s by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Each of the 68 rooms is designed in the style of a different historic period, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say, the rooms are magic.
Imagine—what if you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you were small enough to sneak inside and explore the rooms’ secrets? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind?

Fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Doll People, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will be swept up in the magic of this exciting art adventure!

Laura Manivong - Escaping the Tiger - Published By HarperCollins - March 9
Book Synopsis:
When you're so skinny people call you Skeleton Boy, how do you find strength for the fight of your life?
Twelve-year-old Vonlai knows that soldiers who guard the Mekong River shoot at anything that moves, but in oppressive Communist Laos, there's nothing left for him, his spirited sister, Dalah, and his desperate parents. Their only hope is a refugee camp in Thailand—on the other side of the river.
When they reach the camp, their struggles are far from over. Na Pho is a forgotten place where life consists of squalid huts, stifling heat, and rationed food. Still, Vonlai tries to carry on as if everything is normal. He pays attention in school, a dusty barrack overcrowded with kids too hungry to learn. And, to forget his empty stomach, he plays soccer in a field full of rocks. But when someone inside the camp threatens his family, Vonlai calls on a forbidden skill to protect their future—a future he's sure is full of promise, if only they can make it out of Na Pho alive

Brandon Mull -Fablehaven, Keys to the Demon Prison -Published By Shadow Mountain -23 March
Book Synopsis:
Since ancient times, the great demon prison Zzyzx has protected the world from the most dangerous servants of darkness, including Gorgrog, the Demon King. After centuries of plotting, the Sphinx is on the verge of recovering the five artifacts necessary to open the legendary prison. Facing the potential of a world-ending calamity, all friends of light must unite in a final effort to thwart the Sphinx s designs and find a safe home for the five artifacts. To this end, Kendra, Seth, and the Knights of the Dawn will venture far beyond the walls of Fablehaven to strange and exotic magical preserves across the globe, where the end of every quest becomes the beginning of another. In this explosive series finale, allegiances will be confirmed and secrets revealed as the forces of light and darkness collide in a desperate struggle to control the keys to the demon prison.

Rick Riordan - The Kane Chronicles:The Red Pyramid - Published By Hyperion Books - May 4
Book Synopsis:
Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

Sherrilyn Kenyon - Infinity:Chronicles of Nick - Published By St Martin's Griffin - June 8
Book Synopsis:
At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him, until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity. Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one. A world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead. But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu. Like starting high school isn’t hard enough. Now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, hide his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended! How in the world is he supposed to do that?