Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Blue Balliett - The Danger Box - Book Review

                                           The Danger Box
The first fifty pages of this book were particularly intense - I found myself being pulled into the feelings of the main character quite quickly. The book delivers a very unusual start, one of intrigue and mystery, which the author is renowned for from her excellently written, previously published books.

The story is well written and an absolute joy to read. The book is filled with many beautiful analogies, like the exquisite feeling of gentle rain tapping you on the shoulder every time you encounter one of them. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy named Zoomy. He's a boy that struggles with OCD and battles with pathological myopia. The depiction and description of Zoomy enables you to be sucked into his world, drawing you deeply into the plot and leaving you totally engrossed.

A boy in a small town who has a different way of seeing.
A mischievous girl who won't stay in one place.
A mysterious notebook .
A fire.
A stranger.
A death.

That's just a small part of the book. The story actually starts when a mysterious package, that has been left by Zoomy's father who he has never met before, lands on his doorstep. This changes Zoomy's quiet sedate life into a full blown adventure, where he has to solve problems (as the main character in most of Blue Balliett's books have to) and face danger right to the very end.

Every time I read another new book by Blue Balliett, I really do want to read more. The books are written in an incredibly smart and intelligent way to engross all readers from young to old. The author always bases the story around a famous person - slipping in specific facts and details which make you want to know more about them such as Banksy or Darwin. Each person is researched particularly well in order for them to be incorporated into the mystery and suspense of the storyline. This book will definitely be within the top ten reads of this year - I hope it gets a chance to be published here in the U.K too.

Book published by Scholastic Press U.S  2 September 2010

Friday, 27 August 2010

Book Event For Panama Oxridge - Justin Thyme - The Cotswold Bookstore

Although the publication date of "Justin Thyme" is October 4th 2010 - the JT book-launch will be on Saturday 11th September. This gives readers the chance to get copies three weeks ahead of the official release.

The launch will take place at: The Cotswold Bookstore, 20 High Street, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. If you can make it, please come along and say "hello!" I will be signing books from 2 pm onwards.

If you can't make it, but would still like a signed copy of JT1 - the nice people at the Cotswold Bookstore are willing to send you a copy post-free anywhere in the UK. To reserve yours, you can either email them atcotsbookstore@tiscali.co.uk - phone them on 01608 -625666, or write to the above address. Ordered copies will be signed on the day, then mailed out the following week.

Book synopsis for this great book.
Justin Thyme is a self-made billionaire living in a castle overlooking Loch Ness. The day he turns thirteen, he receives an anonymous gift: a fabulous watch with a puzzling message hidden on it. When he tells his father of his plans to build a time machine, the Laird of Thyme reveals tantalising fragments of past espionage and warns his son of a ruthless enemy keeping him under constant surveillance. At first, Justin fails to take Sir Willoughby seriously, but when a stranger arrives claiming to be his long-lost grandfather, Justin is wary - especially after his beloved Nanny insists the old man is an impostor. Justin's TV celebrity mother departs on a Congo expedition with her eccentric film crew and Eliza, a computer-literate gorilla. Whilst returning, Lady Henny is abducted, and clues prove that the kidnapper has inside information; someone in Thyme Castle must be a spy - or possibly Sir Willoughby's old enemy in disguise. Everyone is under suspicion: Justin's nervy tutor; their snooping housekeeper; the theatrical gardener; an ex-royal butler; and Mrs Kof, their freakishly strong cook. Suddenly, the race against time is on. Can Justin convert his vintage motorbike into a time machine, rescue his mum and discover the identity of their resident spy in less than a week...or will the dreaded Thyme Curse claim another life?

For more information check the author's website tartanofthyme.blogspot.com 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Alex Keller Author Of Haywired - Guest Post - Top Five Terry Pratchett Books

Small Gods (Discworld)
Alex Keller is a new author, his debut book 'Haywired' is due out at the start of September. It is a great fairytale, Steampunk novel and already has some great reviews about it. The book is published by Mogzilla, so grab yourself a copy and let everyone know what you think.

Other book review links for Haywired:Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books,The Book Zone,Unbound,

Thanks for the guest post Alex. I loved finding out about your favourite Terry Pratchett books and was surprised to find that my top five was totally different to yours! 

Thanks to Enchanted Books, I get to harp on about on of my favourite authors: Terry Pratchett!

My Top Five Terry Pratchett Books:
This was quite difficult as I really enjoy almost all his books, but here goes. My top five Pratchett novels in descending order are:

5. Reaper Man Reaper Man was the first Terry Pratchett book I bought. I remember thinking how amazing the front cover looked; it really stood out from everything else on the shelf. When I started reading it, I wasn't disappointed. It was incredibly funny and Death is a great character. I knew straight away there was something different about Pratchett's writing. His attitude and perspective spoke to me a great deal, even when I was young.

4. Men at Arms –  Men at Arms was the first Pratchett book I read by Pratchett that felt like he was looking at (and poking fun at) our own world; and it was so much funnier for it. Also, while Guards! Guards!, the first book to include the guards characters, was excellent, I felt it was in Men at Arms where Vimes, Carrot, Nobby and Sgt. Colon really came to life. Vimes is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters: a grumpy, miserable man and captain of the night watch, who his a genuinely decent human being. He's a character I would have given an arm to have written myself.  

3. Good Omens – While Neil Gaiman co-wrote Good Omens, I think it should be put in this list anyway. Again, Pratchett (and Gaiman) come up with fantastic characters. Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel) have spent so much time around humans they've taken on many of their characteristics. Both are capable of being good or bad, rather than doing one or the other because they think they have to. The best thing about these characters is the relationship that builds between them. Neither feel particular close to Heaven or Hell, so they find friendship in each other instead. It's brilliantly written and hilarious as well, and really looks deeply at the nature of good and evil.

2. Jingo – Jingo is an incredibly powerful book. I've always been interested in international relations, how one country interacts with another, and Pratchett really explores how people from a different country or community perceive one another so well; especially how very different cultures demonise each other at times of war. It's hilarious as always, but also incredibly powerful and meaningful. This should be a set text for any GSCE student.

1. Small Gods – Small Gods...what can I say... just read it. Seriously. Go. Now. Pick it up. Order it online. If you haven't read this, your life is not complete. Sheer brilliance and immensely intelligent. 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sam Wilding -The Magic Scales/The Second Gateway/Return to Denthan/ - Denthan Series

                                       Return to Denthan - Book Three of the Denthan Series

This is the second book review that has been sent to me by one of my blog readers. Thank you for taking the time to send this to me. I am glad you enjoyed this series of books as much as I did.

Book Review

After some great comments on the Mr Ripley site about the Denthan series, I dutifully searched out a copy of book one and book two. I was pleasantly surprised and excited by the wild settings, the crazy characters, and the old fashioned charm that oozed from the pages. Wilding has a pretty unique style, in my opinion, and has an obvious talent at weaving an intricate tale. Each thread is, in it’s own right, captivating and when they all converge, it is simply magic. I love his random theories, or should I say the wizard-goldfish, Mendel’s random theories, and I was truly shocked by the antics of characters like Cathy Peck, who comes into her own in this, the third section of the tale. Book three, Return to Denthan, is the best yet. The Tolkien-like battles and the Tom Sharpe-like humour really steal the show and the tragedy waiting at the end is truly unexpected and well written. To have giant pond skaters that tumble city walls and suck out the guts of dragons hints at a great imagination. I would be gutted if this were truly the end of James Peck’s adventures. Start at book one – The Magic Scales and read all 3 in the series in one sitting. I did this last weekend and found even more treasures along the way. A solid Five out of Five!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Kevin Brooks - iBoy - Guest Review


Today I was sent two great book reviews (via my comments box) by anonymous readers. It's great to be able to post other peoples' reviews other than my own; to be able to read other people enjoying books as much as I do. Thank you very much for sending these to me, whoever you are. I would have liked to have been able to attribute this to a specific person but can't, as I don't know who you are. I will post the other review some time next week.

Here is a review I did of iBoy for a local newspaper: If I had the same 'super powers' as Tom Harvey, writing this review would be a lot simpler. For example, I could type it up, run a spellcheck and e-mail it, all in my head. And while I'm at it, I could watch a couple of YouTube videos, read the newspaper and hack into Bill Gate's bank account. Again, all in my head. Intrigued? So was Tom after he first experienced his paranormal abilities while lying in a hospital bed. He was walking home from school one day when an iPhone came flying out of a window and shattered on his skull. Fragments of the iPhone fused with his brain and gave him unimaginable mental powers. Lying in the hospital bed, Tom felt the overwhelming sensation of infinite knowledge. He was connected. Anything an iPhone could do, e-mails, photos, Internet pages, videos, texts, whatever, Tom could access in his head. However, as any powerful figure will tell you, with great power comes choices of great consequences. While Tom was unconscious in the hospital, a local gang committed a gruesome attack on Tom's friend, Lucy. Tom was forced to choose whether or not to use his powers to track down Lucy's offenders or accept the fact that these things happen, as the police had already done. But one thing was for sure, Tom would never be the same again... First of all, I would not suggest that you read this book if you are under 12 years old. iBoy deals with some mature content, violence and contains language that you better not let your mother ever hear you say. When it comes to the plot, if you can look past the highly fictional concept and just buy into the story, it will be a much more enjoyable experience. iBoy is a great book to read if you're looking to zone out for a couple of days. It hooks you around every corner and is a fast-paced, absorbing read. I would almost compare this book to Spiderman set in a gang-ruled neighbourhood. With elements of action, mystery, sci-fi and a bit of romance, iBoy is sure to be a hot end-of-summer read!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Sean Beech - The Silver Fox - Book Competition

                                                    The Silver Fox
Ex-Soldier and award nominated author Sean Beech's second novel is due for launch on the 30th August. In keeping with his passion for improving childhood literacy he has again not only agreed to donate 50% of his royalties to The National Literacy Trust but has also pledged that if the book makes the best sellers chart he will then donate 100% of his royalties to the same charity. 

In an effort to encourage children to enjoy reading and writing Sean has also donated 10 signed copies of his latest book for a national competition run by his publishers.

Austin & Macauley Publishers Ltd For the launch of this exciting new children’s book we are giving away 10 signed copies of ‘The Silver Fox’. To be in with a chance of winning one of these, all you have to do is write a short story of 500 words.  Then send your story, your name, age, and address to marketing@austinmacauley.com So get creative and start writing, for your chance to win one of these special copies. Competition closes on 23rd October'10.
Book Synopsis

Almost three hundred years of peace about to be shattered by one man. Vangor s Dark Knights have arrived in the Moon Lands a full three months earlier than anticipated. And with no King to unite the feuding Lords of the Moon this time their success is a surety! Or is it? Morkin, the heir apparent, clings to the faint hope of finding Zondra, the Queen of the Snow Faeries, who if the Fey are correct, can recreate his lost Crown. The same Crown needed to unite the Armies of man and without, all hope is surely lost. His journey north, though if not perilous enough, made even more so by the knowledge that one of his companions will betray him. But who? The mysterious hooded Shamar? The wizened old Ranabin? Or the despised deceitful Royal Taxman Mr Grabbit? And what of the Wolves of Fennigan? Are they to recover their Ancient Howl by delivering Morkin to Vangor? Or will they forsake its power and their heritage by choosing to aid the Crown Prince in his quest instead?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

James Rollins - Jake Ransome and the Skull Kings Shadow - Review

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow
 I wasn't sure what to expect from this having previously read some of James Rollins adult books. I was curious as to how his writing style might differ to appeal to a younger readership and on the strength of this I have been impressed. Jake Ransom And The Skull Kings Shadow is the first of what it seems will be a series of books featuring young Jake.

Three years ago a mysterious package arrived for Jake and Kady Ransom. Inside were two halves of a Mayan gold coin, their mothers sketchbook and their fathers notebook. But their archaeologist parants failed to return from an expedition to the site of a long lost Mayan civilazation. Now Jake and Kady are plunged into a terrifying adventure.

...and what an adventure it is. after being mysteriously invited to open an exibition in London which featured many artefacts uncovered by their now missing parents. One of these items holds a rather unholy power and transports Jake and Kady to an ancient time and so starts a tale involving dinosaurs, past civilizations and strange alchemic powers.
 A genuinely good read and I find myself looking forward to the next instalment of the Jake Ransom story "Jake Ransom & The Howling Sphinx" which will be released in the spring.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Books On the Dark Side for September 2010

                                               Mortal Coil (Skulduggery Pleasant - Book 5)
Derek Landy - Mortal Coil (Skulduggery Pleasant) B.k 5 - Publisheby HarperCollins - 2 September -2010
Skulduggery Pleasant is back, and reunited with his original head. But all is not well in the magical world. For one thing, there's an unstoppable assassin with a face-mask on the loose… and for another thing, Valkyrie has discovered she might be Darquesse, the evil sorceress set to destroy the entire world. The problem is, she doesn't feel she can tell Skulduggery what she's learned, and so she must try to change her terrible destiny alone.
But the price of a new fate is high, and if she fails, she'll die alone too.
With Valkyrie on her own quest, Skulduggery and the gang are even more vulnerable. Which is a shame, because remember that remnant the Necromancers had? They've still got it – and they're thinking about letting it out…
The Dead
Charlie Higson - The Dead - Published by Puffin - 16 September 2010
A terrible disease is striking everyone over the age of fourteen. Death walks the streets. Nowhere is safe. Maxie, Blue and the rest of the Holloway crew aren’t the only kids trying to escape the ferocious adults who prey on them. Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of other kids – nerds, fighters, misfits. And one adult. Greg, a butcher, who claims he’s immune to the disease. They must work together if they want to make it in this terrifying new world. But as a fresh disaster threatens to overwhelm London, they realize they won’t all survive

                                              Birth of a Killer (Saga of Larten Crepsley)
Darren Shan - The Saga of Larten Crepsley - Birth of a Killer - Published by HarperCollins - 30 September 2010
When Larten escapes the terrible workhouse in which he toils, he doesn’t know that he is running from an early death… into another kind of transformation. After meeting the mysterious vampire Seba Nile while sheltering for the night in a crypt, Larten finds himself drawn into the shadowy world of the vampire Clan. As he travels and learns, Larten finds himself enjoying the adventure he has always dreamed of, seeing a world beyond any he suspected in his poverty-stricken youth.
But Larten begins to discover something else, too. Much like death, becoming a vampire is something you can’t come back from…

See book review: The Saga of Larten Crepsley

                             Changeling: Demon Games
Steve Feasey - Changeling: Demon Games -  Published by Macmillan Children's books - 3 September 2010

Teenage werewolf Trey is facing the most important and dangerous mission of his life. He must journey into the dark Netherworld and rescue Alexa, daughter of his vampire guardian Lucien, who is being held hostage by a powerful demon lord. But strength and courage alone are not enough to succeed – instead Trey must ‘win’ both their freedoms by participating in a death-match against his deadliest nemesis yet. The forces of evil are stacked against him and Trey can only be certain of one thing . . . one of them WILL die.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Alex Keller - Haywired - Book Review

It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to read a book published by Mogzilla, so it was great to be able to read this one. Especially as I had had my eye on this book for a little while.

The book cover that has been illustrated/designed by Rachel is absolutely fabulous; it starts a guessing game as to what the story is going to be about. The central image is quite bizarre but very intriguing - it certainly catches the eye.

In the quiet village of Little Wainesford, Ludwig Von Guggenstein is about to have his unusual existence turned inside out. When he and his father are blamed for a fatal accident during the harvest, a monstrous family secret is revealed. Soon Ludwig will begin to uncover diabolical plans that span countries and generations while ghoulish machines hunt him down. He must fight for survival, in a world gone haywire.

Once you start reading this book you immediately find yourself immersed in a steampunk bubble. I personally, love the steampunk genre, so it had a hard act to follow and yet in someways it actually exceeded the precedence already set. The characters in the book are extremely well developed - the author's imaginative creativity really brings them to life. The monstrous creatures, known as HELOT's in this book, are a fine example as to what the future may bring. These machines were invented for war and therefore crush any enemy that gets in their way; making some great murderous and memorable encounters.They have you quaking in your boots. 

The book has lots of great twists and turns - the story is cranked up to various levels but threads beautifully together. The fight for survival brings out the darker side of the story, which keeps you on the edge of your robotic pants. Themes of science and superstition run throughout the story adding yet another layer to the story, which worked really well for me.

As the book came to an explosive end I was wanting more, in fact it could have done with a little more detail in some places and perhaps a period setting - this may help in appealing to a wider readership as at the moment I feel it is perhaps limiting itself.

This is a great start to this adventure series, the next instalment is entitled Rewired. I will be looking forward to it next spring when it it is due to be published.

Suggested age range is 11+

Published by http://www.mogzilla.co.uk -  1 September 2010

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

GUEST POST – “The Familiars” by Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson

“Adam’s Top 5 Favorite Fantasy Books”
ADAM JAY EPSTEIN spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while ANDREW JACOBSON grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the two met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. They have been writing for film and television together ever since. The Familiars  is their first book.
One day, Adam asked Andrew, “Are you familiar with what a familiar is?” And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors’ shared love of animals and magic. They wrote every word, sentence, and page together, sitting opposite each other.
Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane, their daughters, Penny and Olive, and a black-and-white alley cat who hangs out in their backyard. Andrew Jacobson lives with his wife, Ashley, and their dog, Elvis, four traffic lights away.

THE FAMILIARS will be produced for film by Sam Raimi and Sony Animation.
Fantasy fiction has created my love of reading from an early age. No other books captured my imagination the way that they did, and often I dreamt of living in those worlds as I sat in bed each night devouring the pages.
5. “Something Wicked this Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury
Not sure you would call this fantasy in the tradition way, but it’s filled with magic and scares and a fantastical world that lies just beyond our eyes in the neighborhood carnival. It scared me silly when I first read it. It was evocative and unique. And although it was tough to choose between this and “The Illustrated Man” as my favorite Bradbury tale, I had to go with this one, seeing as how picking an anthology seemed like cheating.
4. “The Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual” by Gary Gygax
Before I ever started reading novels, in third grade this was my introduction to fantasy. A friend’s older brother turned me onto it and after I purchased it and brought it home, I read it cover to cover. There’s no story, just a list of magical monsters in alphabetical order, but each one was like a story to me. And an excellent primer on mythology, both Greek, Norse, and Babylonian.

Early edition cover

3. “Spell for Chameleon” by Piers Anthony
In fifth grade, my dad gave this book to me. Up until that point, I wasn’t really interested in novels at all. I’d rather read my dragon magazines and make up stories of my own. But on his recommendation, I started it, and couldn’t put it down. It was funny and the world of Xanth was like nothing I had ever seen. Plus with surprise twists and turns it got me hooked on the art of storytelling.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) Paperback
2. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban” by JK Rowling
My favorite of the Harry Potter series, although “Deathly Hollows” comes in a close second. The most emotional one for me and the only one that made me cry. Stories of parents and their children always connect in a special way for me. Also the tight, clever storytelling and brilliantly planted plot puzzle pieces come together in such a rewarding way in the end.
The Hobbit
1. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first Tolkien I ever read, and yes, still my favorite even over “The Lord of the Rings.” The classic hero’s journey tale and the book which all other fantasies are indebted, including mine!
“The Familiars” at www.thefamiliars.com.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ross Mackenzie - Zac & The Dream Pirates - Book Review

                                       Zac and the Dream Pirates

Everybody dreams. That's the problem. Good dreams are sweet. Bad dreams are scary, but what happens if the worst sort of nightmares take over? Zac Wonder is about to find out. On the stroke of midnight, he is plunged into an extraordinary world on the other side of sleep. Is he still dreaming? Has he gone nuts? Or, is he really meant to save us all from vampires, werewolves and the dream pirates who threaten to keep us awake forever............

If you ever want to get lost in a book and be instantly transported back to your childhood, then this is the book for you. From the very first page to the last, this is a magical adventure that is full of crazy ideas which are spun into every page enabling your imagination to run wild. 

The book finds Zac living a normal life with his granny. However, Zac has started to have vivid dreams which begin to unsettle him, as they feel too realistic. One day he finds his granny acting strangely and follows her into a full-on adventure. This story will have you spellbound, as you fly through the pages in a zany camper van - fighting skywaymen, a variety of monsters and blood-thirsty vampires that have come straight out of your nightmares.

This book is packed with action - it will leave any reluctant reader wanting much more. The stand-offs between the Knights of Nod and the Dream Pirates have a film-like quality that bring your imagination to the boil. It's full of nasty creatures that want to eat you, suck your blood or indeed just kill you . . . . . !

The one thing I was a little unsure about involved the book cover. Whilst it glows in the dark, which is a great marketing idea to entice the younger reader. I would have liked to have seen a more appealing book cover to entice a wider audience. This, I feel, would attract more readers because this is certainly a book that screams out to be read by everyone.

This is a great debut book by Ross - it's well written and I think it has a great future.  Ross should begin to develop a good following, as every reader who picks up this book up and turns the pages, should be eager to see what he writes next. I for one, can't wait.

Book Published by Chicken House -  6 September 2010