Thursday, 22 July 2010

Darren Shan - The Saga of Larten Crepsley Bk 1 - Birth of a Killer

The Saga of Larten Crepsley (1) - Birth of a Killer

U.K Book cover (could look like this) Published by HarperCollins Children's Books 30 September 2010

Darren Shan, and his ever rapid production line of exceedingly good horror books, has introduced a new series. This first book is due to be published late September. The main character should be a very familiar figure to those who have read The Saga Of Darren Shan. But with this series we go full circle and follow one of the more interesting members, Larten Crepsley - the saga then begins.

The story starts with Larten, toiling day to day in a workhouse, until he manages to escape the brutal regime. He moves onto encounter the eerie Seba Nile - in a graveyard. The book explores his life with the Cirque De Freak and shares the insightful lives of the Vampire Clan, which I was drawn to, like a moth to light.

This book is written in Shan's normal style - a fast paced, gripping story plot and a vivid imagination in the ways of the gruesome. I loved the first section of the book, it felt like a new story but the more I delved into the book I had a feeling of deja vu. Whilst I strongly believe that this book is worth reading, it did feel like Darren had written this before - plucking the exploits of Larten out of a previous series and weaving it into another book. Now it may be that there is indeed a wealth of new content in this book, but this familiarity was unnerving - perhaps I've dreamt this story in my nightmares - but something felt very familiar!

This book does deal with friendship and the emotional turmoil of bullying, which works well and eventually brings out the best in everyone. The portrayal of Vampires, as always, has been extremely well written. Although they appear more realistic than in other books of this genre, perhaps this is due to the teenage market making them look like high society dummies with a human-like social life and existence. Romance and vampires as a combination, in my opinion, really suck the life from this genre!

The magical aspect to Darren's book emerges through wild fantasy - a genre that every grown-up wants to explore but only once they have plucked up the courage to dare open the book. I know a lot of grown up's who don't even dare do this. But every person who does, always has a grin (or grimace) on their face, as they hide from the demons that follow him/her into the very next book.

The great thing about this book is that there is a lot of scope for the next exciting adventure. Only I hope I don't dream a similar storyline next time. So bring it on Darren. . . . .  

 U.S Book cover published by Little Brown Books 5 October 2010 - To keep up to date on all things Darren Shan visit his web page

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Andy Mulligan - Trash - Book Review

Andy Mulligan was brought up in the south of London. He worked as a theatre director for ten years, before his travels in Asia prompted him to re-train as a teacher. Since then he has taught English and drama in India, Brazil, The Philippines and the UK. He now divides his time between London and Manila.

After reading Andy's debut book Ribblestrop, which ranked highly in my favourite books last year, I heard about the release of his new book. I was hoping for book two in this series, but finding out that this book was going to published by David Fickling and not Simon & Schuster, I knew this was not going to be the case. Disappointed I was, but also intrigued. 

Raphael is a dumpsite boy. He spends his days wading through mountains of steaming trash, sifting it, sorting it, breathing it, sleeping next to it. Then one unlucky-lucky day, Raphael's world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into his hands. It's a bag of clues. It's a bag of hope. It's a bag that will change everything. Soon Raphael and his friends Gardo and Rat are running for their lives. Wanted by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking, fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man's mission to put right a terrible wrong. It's three street-boys against the world...

This book, in my eyes, had so much to live up to. However it did match the quality of 'Ribblestrop' but in a different way. It is a great tale of poverty and hardship - children and families living on the edge of life, just about keeping their heads above the 'trash', so to speak.

The book starts with the two main characters of the book, Raphael and his best friend Gardo. Living in a slum, they work all hours sifting through rubbish - just to make a little money to get by. The fourteen year old boys have no hope for a better life, until one day they find a bag, which changes their lives forever. They embark on a heart-stopping adventure that leaves you clinging onto every word and action.

The book is told through the many encounters that the characters become wrapped up in within this mysterious adventure. The tension continuously builds, as the boys face more danger, and the ever pursuing police.

I really loved this book, as it had all the ingredients required to make a good read - a great original story fraught with danger and good central characters that you warm to, wanting to ensure the best for them through the story. The book also has a strong cultural element based upon the author's extensive travels - a hint of life in the Philippines that ensures its appeal and authenticity. This is a sure fire read and I certainly look forward to another book from Andy soon.
Thanks to Lauren for sending this book out to me for review - it's very much appreciated.

Book published by David Fickling Books September 2010

Other books readers might like are Steve Augarde - Xisle Book Review and Paolo Bacigalupi - Ship Breaker-Book Review

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Picture Book Shop - Picks For July 2010

                                         Nat Fantastic and the Brave Knights of Old 
Kate McKewn  - Nat Fantastic and the Brave Knights of Old - Published by Orchard 15 July 2010
Nat Fantastic - aka miniature superhero - is back! And this time he's taking on the knights... and winning!
A brilliant follow-up to the hugely successful 
Nat Fantastic from bestselling author Giles Andreae.
                           I Want a Mini Tiger        
Joyce Dunbar & Lara Jones - I Want a Mini Tiger - Published by Macmillian Children's 2 July 2010

This little girl wants her very own miniature wild animal. Anything from a little snappy happy crocodile or a tiny trundle rumble elephant, to a pocket-sized grizzly bear. But as her big brother explains, a real wild animal would make a terrible pet. You can't nuzzle a crocodile, or tickle a wild elephant, and a grizzly bear belongs in a cave not a pocket! But there's one pet, a tiny pet, that loves to be tickled and cuddled. It's like a tiger, only much smaller .  A delightfully rhythmic tale, bursting with imagination, and a playful introduction to a world of wild animals.
                          Arthur and the Meanies
Jan Fearnley - Arthur and the Meanies - Published by Egmont  5 July  2010                  How do you play with an elephant? Well, if you're Tiger, Cheetah, Monkey and Peacock, you don't. Tiger growls that Arthur is too heavy for hopping, and Cheetah is very unkind when Arthur asks to hold the string on his beautiful new kite. But when it starts to rain, suddenly everybody wants to be Arthur's friend - as long as he will do as he's told and shelter them from the storm. This is a beautifully crafted picture book that is complete with a gentle and satisfying moral.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Marcus Sedgwick - White Crow - Book Review

Rebecca isn't happy to be spending her summer in Winterfold. She's been taken from London by her father to live in the tiny seaside village for six weeks. Back in London are all her friends, and Adam, who she was hoping to see more of - but it's too late now, she's stuck far away from them in a cramped house. 

I have read other books by this author, and to be honest, I've never really connected with them. However, from the very first chapter I felt that this book was very different - in a good way. The first thing to notice is the strong dark Gothic atmosphere that is created through the main characters.  These are very well written - the story is told by two young teenage girls, who captivate the reader until the story comes to an end.

The second aspect involves the interwoven story, that runs alongside the mysterious adventures of Rebecca and the spooky character of Ferelith. Told through a journal from the seventeenth century, encounters with the Rector and Dr Barrieux (the master of Winterfold Hall) unfold. Uncovered are the strange experiments in seeking the answers to the afterlife - these have you chilled to the bone.

This book is superb.  I loved the tension, the mystery and all the questions the author asks his readers about the after-life, friendship and the pushing of moral boundaries. You're never sure as to where the story threads are going to take you. The Gothic and religious nature add an interesting element to the story. The extent of the author's research into this book is extensive. The author has shown great diversity in this novel and delivered it with so much vibrant energy, that it leaves you out of breath.

Ferelith already lives in Winterfold - it's a place that doesn't like to let you go, and she knows it inside out - the beach the crumbling cliff paths,the village streets,the wood,the deserted churches and ruined graveyards,year by year being swallowed by the sea.

The book is particularly engrossing and captivating. It is extremely thought provoking and made a great impact on me. It's a terror and urban myth ride with a less than idyllic ending.  It's definitely one of the best books I have read so far this year.  I would highly recommend this book to you all!          

Book published by Orion Children's Books

Sunday, 4 July 2010

++++David Gatward - Author Interview - The Dead Book Launch++++

david gatward

A new devil has ridden into town with his band of monsters and ungodly creatures. The author has turned his visions into a fantastic debut horror series. The first book "The Dead", will have you running for your life. It is out now, if you want to get your hands on a copy, in order to see what everyone is talking about.
In the meantime, the author and his monsters, recently took a little bit of time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions and tell us more about the book.

Who is David Gatward? Could you tell us a little about yourself?
For my website, I had a go at doing not so much an author biog, as an obituary…

“David Gatward spent a considerable part of his life confusing the hell out of not just himself, but those around him. He spent most of his childhood and teenage years wondering what it would be like to be any one of the following (in no particular order): actor; musician; carpenter; army officer; writer; helicopter pilot, and highwayman. He suffered the usual illnesses (measles, chicken pox, pizza-face acne) and, for an embarrassingly long period of time, was a bed-wetter. He saw his first ghost at 16. At 18 he had his first book published. And saw his second ghost. At 19 he went to college. Four years later, qualified to teach, he went in to publishing. Managing his career with all the skill of a blind sea captain in a hurricane, he ended up in the civil service and ran away as soon as redundancy was offered. Writing took over, thanks to a couple of ghost-writing contracts and, quite to his own surprise, a book deal to write The Dead. The rest, as they say, is history...”

Did you have to wait a period of time before you managed to get your first book published?
I actually had my first book published when I was 18, which is pretty young. It’s subject matter is, I’m sure, going to have people coming back to me with stunned expressions, particularly considering what I write now. It was an astonishing experience; the process of signing the contract, doing the book, seeing it in print. The thrill of that moment has never left me. I got the bug. But that’s nearly 20 years ago now. So it’s taken me a fair while to break in to the mainstream. But then in that time I’ve spent probably thousands of hours working on my writing, my style, my ideas… If someone back then had told me it’d take this long I’d have been stunned (and probably very arrogantly dismissive!), but it’s been totally worth the wait.

Has your writing been influenced by any one person?
No. Not in the slightest. My writing has been influenced by so many things, so many people. I’m a horror movie fan, so everything I write I pretty much visualize as though it’s going to be seen on the big screen. When I was younger, Alan Garner’s books blew me away. But I read so many different styles and genres now; I’ve often got three or four books on the go. At the moment, I’m reading Joe Hill, Andy McNab, Chris Reeve, Clive Barker… But then my writing has also been influenced by the people who’ve helped me with the actual skill of writing; the writer Linda Chapman, editors Ben Horslen (Hothouse Ficton) and Amber Caraveo (Random House), and my agent Philippa Milnes-Smith, to name the most influential.

I see that you have two books (in the Dead Series) that are coming out this year, what can we expect from these?
Bloody, suspense, cliffhangers, betrayal, horror, excitement, sarcasm, friendship, action, revenge, the importance of family… The list goes on and on and on… All I’m trying to do is provide a story that is breathless in pace, hooks the reader, and keeps them wanting more; I’m in this for the long haul and I’m pretty damned excited about building a relationship with my readers, finding out what they think, maybe even using them to help me with ideas, with where the story could go next…

It looks like you also have ideas about book three. Do you find it easy to think that far ahead in the series?
It’s not a case of it being easy, more a necessity! I came up with the basic plan for all three over a year ago, and had some ideas for the following three as well. In the planning and the writing, the ideas change, but it would be impossible for me to approach something like this completely blind. I’d probably explode in panic! And I think I see it as a three act play. I once heard that the way to write is simply this: in the first bit, you put your hero in to a tree, in the second, you throw rocks at him, in the third you try to get him out of the tree. I like that – it’s actually rather clever. Mind you, I do seem to rather enjoy throwing those rocks, even when he’s getting out of the tree…

Is there a particular author that you admire and why?
At the minute, Joe Hill. As Stephen King’s son, he could quite easily have used his dad’s name to get him out there and published. But he didn’t. Instead, he honed his skill, used the small press, changed his name, and developed a serious critical following before anyone really knew of the family connection. His collection, 20th Century Ghosts, is simply beautiful. His writing is, to me, close on perfect. I love it, though it also makes me question what on earth I’m doing! Jack Ketchum’s also pretty worthy of a nod; he really pushes the boundaries of what you can get away with and explore. Clive Barker is so far out there, in terms of both talent and ideas, that he’s pretty much untouchable. Chris Reeve is in the same league, though for a younger audience. I’m also a big fan of Jeanne DuPrau, with her Ember series. Those books knocked me off my chair. Oh, and E. E. Richardson (The Devil’s Footsteps, and The Intruders)… I could go on!

I really like the front book covers, how much direction and influence did you have in the creation of these? 
Each one is based on a description of a particular scene/character from the books. I love them all and still feel a little in shock considering the artist; Mel Grant is an amazing talent, is pretty famous for his Iron Maiden album covers, and also did the covers for another rather well known YA horror writer… My favourite of the covers, though, is the one for The Damned… The eyes are simply terrifying!

Do any of the characters represent parts of your personality or represent any of your personal traits?
Lazarus has a water phobia, can’t swim – that was me until a few years back! I think most characters in a book have something of the writer in them, for me anyway, even the horrific monsters. I have to be able to put myself in their position, understand their motivation. And that sometimes involves exploring the darker side of who I am, what I could become, be capable of…

Have you always had plans and ambitions to become a writer or did inspiration strike you?
Yes! Careers guidance never made any sense to me. I was never able to see myself doing something like accountancy or law or management. To me, they were never things you actually ‘wanted’ to do, but things you just did because it was a living. But neither did I buck the system completely and live in a hovel trying to be a writer. I did both; went in to publishing, ended up in the (un)civil service, but through it all, kept my aim and ambition to be a writer. At times it’s been a complete nightmare. In fact, for the last couple of years, I’ve been doing both jobs really; full time employment, including a three-hour commute each day, and writing. It’s been interesting to say the least!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Paul Dowswell - The Cabinet of Curiosities - Book review

The room was like a vast repository of missing treasure troves. It was impossible to take in what he was seeing. Every one of the thousands of things that assaulted his senses would have made a fabulous ornament and endless talking point for anyone who possessed it.

The story begins with a chilling experience, between the two main characters, Lukas Declercq and Etienne Lambert.  Their circumstances have thrown them together and as a result they end up as travelling companions. However they are robbed at knife point, alongside a number of other travellers, some of whom are killed. They flee for their lives as they travel towards the city of Prague, however this leads them into more danger and deceit. 

This colourful story unfolds into a fantastical adventure. I loved the stunning portrayal of Ancient Bohemia, which the author describes in a memorable way. The great detail and historical facts are skillfully interwoven with fictional events - clever storytelling is achieved in this way.

The story is action packed and takes you on a journey, which shows the twisted underworld of life during the reign of Emperor Rudolph II. The insightful window into his life depicts a most interesting view. 

The dark unrest within the book leaves an underlying current. This absorbs the reader; placing them on the very edge of tension until the end. Torture and killing, without any conscious recognition, is compelling to the core.

 Lukas Declercq is orphaned, his uncle summons him to Prague, a refuge for Europe's greatest alchemists and natural philosophers, offering to take him on as an apprentice. Uncle Anselmus is court physician to Rudolph II, the reclusive and unstable Emperor. He is also curator of Rudolph's bizarre Cabinet of Curiosities, a series of vast rooms stuffed with wonders and scientific marvels such as a nail from Noah's Ark, phoenix feathers and monstrous freaks of nature, which fascinate Lukas. As Rudolph retreats further into his fantasy world, the threat of rebellion hangs in the air. Dorantes, a diplomat from Spain, comes with his daughter, Celestina, on a mission from Philip II to persuade Rudolph to give up his heretical ways. But he discovers the court is full of diplomats who have been waiting months or years for an audience with the Emperor. Dorantes notices how some had wormed their way into the Emperor's favour by presenting him with fantastic gifts for his Cabinet, and sets about creating a device that he says will stop time. But it works only in the presence of the Emperor. Lukas knows the terrible truth behind Dorantes' mission. But sinister forces have plans for Lukas too, and before he can thwart the plot against the Emperor, Lukas must gamble on Celestina's loyalty in order to save his own life.

This is a great read; I hope there is a lot more to come. I feel we need more books like this - the characters deserve at least one more outing! However in my opinion, there's a lot of scope for many more books.

Book published by Bloomsbury 5 July 2010

Other books by author:

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

New Children's Book - Picks For The Month Of July 2010 - (Unreviewd Books)

Eoin Colfer - Artemis and the Atlantis Complex - Published by Puffin - 20 July 2010
ARTEMIS FOWL’S CRIMINAL WAYS HAVE FINALLY GOT THE BETTER OF HIM . . . Young Artemis has frequently used high-tech fairy magic to mastermind the most devious criminal activity of the new century. Now, at a conference in Iceland, Artemis has gathered the fairies to present his latest idea to save the world from global warming. But Artemis is behaving strangely – he seems different. Something terrible has happened to him . . . Artemis Fowl has become nice. The fairies diagnose Atlantis Complex – that’s obsessive compulsive disorder to you and me – dabbling in magic has damaged his mind. Fairy ally Captain Holly Short doesn’t know what to do. Because the subterranean volcanoes are under attack from vicious robots and Artemis cannot fight them. Can Holly get the real Artemis back before the robot probes destroy every human and life form.

Sophie Mckenzie - The Rescue ( The Medusa Project) - Published by Simon & Schuster - 8 July 2010
Fourteen years ago, four babies were implanted with the Medusa gene - a gene for psychic abilities. Now teenagers, Nico, Ketty, Ed and Dylan have been brought together by government agents to create a secret crime-fighting force: The Medusa Project. Since their existence became known to members of the criminal underworld, they have been hidden away in a secluded training camp in Spain, where their identities are being kept secret. Life in camp is hard enough, but then things take a turn for the worse. Ed is blackmailed into using his mind-reading powers - and in doing so he threatens to endanger the whole Medusa Project...

F E Higgins - The Lunatic's Curse - Published by Macmillan Children's - 2 July 2010

Deep within the heart of the Moiraean Mountains lies the town of Opum Oppidulum - home to the freezing Lake Beluarum and it's rumoured monster. An inescapable asylum stands in the centre of the lake, enclosed by the sheer cliffs of Drop Rock island. When Ambrose Grammaticus, famous inventor and master engineer, viciously attacks his own son, Rex, he is hauled to the island and imprisoned. Rex knows his evil stepmother, Acantha, is behind his father's 'madness', but how can he prove it? Only the asylum holds the answers . . .
A savage story of treachery, lunacy, greed, revenge and pure unadulterated wickedness.

Alan Gibbons - Hell's Underground 4:Witch Breed - Published by Orion Children's - 1 July 2010
When Paul arrives in 17th century London, he expects to be thrown into a life or death struggle for the three gates that imprison the ancient King Lud. But the battle doesn't come. Instead, Paul roams alone, learning how to survive in a city where all the talk is of the savage civil war that rages beyond its ramparts. Somewhere underground, Lud is waiting in his crypt, preparing to rise again. War, fear and want are his tools. But Paul too has his own weapons and is gaining strength and losing inhibitions about using it. Meanwhile, beyond the city, innocent women are being killed for it is so easy to claim that they are witches. One woman - whether innocent or guilty - possesses the only power available that can help Paul in his quest.

Catherine Webb - The Dream Thief:V4 (Horatio Lyle) - Published by ATOM - 1 July 2010
London, 1865, and young Theresa Hatch (Tess, to her friends) receives a nast surprise late at night. When Horatio finds a young girl on his doorstep, passed out, dying - apparently poisoned - he's appalled. Investigations lead to Tess's old workhouse, but a surprise visit to that sorry establishment yields more questions than answers. Only one thing is clear: something very, very bad is happening to the children in the East End. There's a mystery to be solved, sending Lyle, Thomas, Tate and - naturally - Tess out into the wilds of east London and a certain former thief's old stamping grounds. What they find is terrifying: Tess's old crowd of artful dodgers and ace pickpockets are now wandering the streets like zombies, drooling in the workhouses or plain mad in the asylum. And it isn't just affecting Tess' old crowd; children all over the area are turning up with their memories in tatters and their minds all but gone. The only clue is a name, half-whispered in fear: Old Greybags.

Garren Ewing - The Rainbow Orchid: Adventures Julius Chancer V.2 - Egmont Books - 5 July 2010
In Volume Two, the heroic Julius Chancer journeys from Europe to the Indian sub-continent as he steps up his quest for the rainbow orchid. He soon discovers that he's not the only one seeking the mystical flower: he has enemies more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. "The Rainbow Orchid" is an ambitious blend of classic storytelling, and cinematic artwork, in which adventure, historical drama and legend are seamlessly intertwined.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Gareth P Jones - Space Crime Conspiracy - Book Review

The first book I read by this author was the twisted dark story of The Thornthwaite Inheritance - a book that featured the murderous twins of Ovid and Lorelli. I had the pleasure of reviewing it some time ago and really enjoyed it. So I was so looking forward to more of the same. However after the first chapter, I was left thinking about the versatility of the author, as the book proved to be really quite different in style, to the previous one that I had read. 

For Stan, a young lad from London, this is one amazing ride into the ether and back. It is a nail biting sci-fi journey to a far, far away galaxy, where Stan is whisked to the Bucket for an intergalactic crime - the killing of President Vorlgenar.

Packed full with an imaginative and inventive plot, this book finds you turning the pages faster then a speeding rocket. The book is full of Gareth's trade mark humour - making you laugh along with all the characters. The many imaginative characters all vie for your attention but my favourite is the talking mushroom, which befriends Stan - making a crazy, but important impact on the mystery that finds Stan on trial for murder.

In prison, accused of murdering President Vorlunar, things are not looking good for Stanley. But when he is released, matters get even worse! He discovers that his assumed crime has given him not only notoriety, but value. How can a boy who lives above a pub in south-east London cope with bounty hunters with beards on their foreheads, lawyers who specialise in Intergalactic Law, Pan-Dimensional Litigation and Criminal Prosecution, and the terrifying bird-headed space pirates, the Marauding Picaroons.
All through this book it left a smile on my face, until it sadly ended. This was the most enjoyable read I have had for quite some time - a bizarre romp of space madness. The runaway action is so much fun that it leaves you wanting another adventure soon, if there is one. I sincerely hope so!
Book Published by Bloomsbury 12 July 2010

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Lauren St John - Laura Marlin Mystery:Dead Man's Cove - Book Review

I have just recently been introduced to the books by Lauren St John. Whilst she has written many earlier acclaimed books, within "The White Giraffe" series which is set in Africa, I have never had the opportunity to read these. However, after recently reading 'Dead Man's Cove', I will definitely be exploring her other books.

Within the first few pages of this book I knew it was going to be a great read. I was soon enjoying it and knew I would continue to do so. The author has a great way of telling and expressing the narrative form, which transports you to the fantasy world that Laura Marlin finds herself adventuring within. I was instantly gripped by the beautifully scripted and crafted detail. The only criticism that I can share is linked to the length of the story - it soon seemed to come to an end. But at times it also appeared to be a little vague. I felt at times some of the ideas could have been elaborated upon, in order to give a fuller ending, with greater impact.

Laura is a great central character, who leaves the children's home and moves to Cornwall - where from hereon mysteries begin to unfold. Laura, who turns detective like one of her writing heroes - Matt Walker, uncovers and solves many of the hidden secrets.

The darker side of the story begins to show itself towards the end, it certainly makes you sit up - grabbing your full attention, as the plot thunders towards the end. The book has the feeling of a 'classic' - I think it will find many more readers in years to come. 

The next installment, entitled 'Kidnap in the Caribbean', is due to be published next year. That gives me just enough time to read all of Lauren's other books that I've missed out on. I hope they too continue to give me a reading thirst for more . . . 

Published by Orion Children's 5 August 2010 - Thanks for sending this review copy out.

Book Synopsis
When orphaned Laura Marlin moves from a children's home to live with her uncle in Cornwall, she longs for a life of excitement just like the characters in her favourite detective novels. A real life adventure is on hand as she is deposited at her uncle's spooky house . . . Why does her uncle, Calvin Redfern, forbid her to go to Dead Man's Cove? What's the truth about Tariq, the silent Indian boy who lives with the flamboyant Mukthars? Who is J? Who has left the message in a bottle for Laura to discover? Mysteries abound and who better to solve them than Laura Marlin, ace detective? Accompanied by her trusty companion, Skye, a three-legged husky, the dog she's always wanted, Laura's adventures begin.

Monday, 7 June 2010

John Flanagan - Ranger's Apprentice - The Ruins Of Gorlan - Bk 1

After the book review I wrote for Isobelle Carmody's book 'Obernewtyn', I realised it was time to catch up with other books that had recently passed me by. Keeping with the same theme, I found by chance, a U.S first edition of the very first book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. This is by the well-known John Flanagan, another legend from Australia.

The book lived up to the expectation of its many reviews. John has developed a captivating fantasy world for both the young and old, although from an adult perspective, it may be a little short in length. However this is made up for by the fantastically imaginative and well-structured plot. This book is a fast page turner, with great character development, and lots of timely action segments. Its dark and broody atmosphere develops throughout the story, giving it an edge to most other conventional reads within this genre. The writing has a special quality about it - in the way that it  leaves you thinking about the outcome of events, a long time even after the event has happened.

The books were actually written for John's son, who was a reluctant reader, but he's gone onto entice many other reluctant readers into his fantasy worlds too. The fascinating way he has actually done this, for me, is through the detail he weaves into the story. The historical events that have been spun into the writing, blend through the story, giving it greater depth. Every feature such as weapons, training, knowledge is departed down to the reader with ease.

Another great aspect of this book involves the characters through the way they bond with each other. They are warm and engaging, but moral aspects are also touched upon such as bullying - these particularly stand out as reality and fantasy merge together. There are also some humorous elements to be found within the story too.

I now have to get through the other books in the series, seven in total, as book nine will be out in October. This is being released in the U.S and will be entitled 'Halt's Peril'. There are also a number of films to track down and watch - so much more for me to enjoy. . . . . !

About the book
Will is small for his age, but fast and quick-witted. All his life, he has dreamed of becoming a great knight like the father he never knew, so he is devastated when he is rejected by Castle Redmont's Battleschool. Instead he is apprenticed to Halt, the mysterious Ranger whose uncanny ability to move unseen is thought to be the result of black magic. Reluctantly, Will learns to use a Ranger's secret weapons: a bow and arrow, a mottled cloak and a stubborn little pony. It may not be the sword and battlehorse he longs for, but when Will and Halt set out on a desperate mission to prevent the assassination of the King, Will finds that a Ranger's weapons are not so useless after all ..

Sunday, 6 June 2010

+++++The Next Three Books On The Reading Pile +++++

Sam Wilding - Return to Denthan - Published by Olida publishing 2 April 2010
Another year on, the missing Harrison children return with Mendel, the wizard goldfish. James Peck is yet again at the helm when the people of Drumfintley are thrown into their most dangerous adventure yet. Mendel’s plan is to rescue Cathy Peck, but much more besides… His aim is to bring back a world already destroyed by an exploding sun. They are pitched against Dendralon and a host of new creatures in an amazing array of battles that test the resolve and ingenuity of the Scottish villagers and Mendel alike.

Will James reunite his family at last? Will Mendel manage to save the planet, destroyed two years before? Will they all return to Denthan, Drumfintley and normality? What sacrifices must be made?  - (Children's Fiction / Fantasy / Young Adult)

 P J Davidson - Professor P and the Jurassic Island -  Published by positive books - 1 May 2010
Peter and Tara are in for a surprise when an unexpected egg mysteriously arrives. Only Professor P can solve the mystery of the strange egg and save the day!

Professor P and the Jurassic Island is a fantastic adventure to the Jurassic world of the dinosaurs.

Includes a fun filled guide to the top ten Jurassic dinosaurs.

Caroline Stevermer - Magic Below Stairs - Published by Dial books - 10 June 2010 - U.S  - book release
Young Frederick is plucked from an orphanage to be a footboy for a wizard named Lord Schofield in Victorian England. Is his uncanny ability to tie perfect knots and render boots spotless a sign of his own magical talent, or the work of Billy Bly, the brownie who has been secretly watching over him since he was little? No matter, for the wizard has banished all magical creatures from his holdings. But Billy Bly isn’t going anywhere, and when he discovers a curse upon the manor house, it’s up to Frederick and Billy Bly to keep the lord’s new baby safe and rid the Schofield family of the curse forever.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

David Gatward - The Dead Bk 1 - Book Review

Hell is coming and I am running the other way...............
The anticipation is now over . . . .  I've had my eyes on this new debut horror series for some time now. At the start of the year it went onto my list of books to read. But before I even got a copy of the book, David (the author), tantalised me with a picture of the artwork for the book cover. This has been illustrated by the talented Mel Grant, and I feel, is one of the best book covers he has done to date.

This year alone has seen a dramatic surge in young adult horror writing with many books being published in this particular genre - David has many hard acts to follow  The questions is, having judged his book based on the many books I have read this year,  is the dead coming or is this book dead from the very start? All shall be revealed...........

I have to say that this book has lived up to my expectations. I loved the story line and the gory action parts within the book. I found the book very witty, which was actually unexpected, this added something extra to the story. The characters worked well throughout - not too much description but just enough to let your imagination run wild and help keep you heart rate thumping. The book was in no way predictable but did have a similar feel to the work of another author.

Lazarus Stone is about to turn sixteen when, one night, his normal life is ripped to shreds by a skinless figure drenched in blood. He has a message: The Dead are coming.
Now Lazarus is all that stands in their way. To fulfill his destiny, he must confront not only the dark past of his family, but horrors more gruesome than even Hell could invent. And it all begins with the reek of rotting flesh…

The horror scenes felt a little restrained and perhaps a little over-edited in order to attract a younger audience. However they still worked well and I enjoyed every page. A particular favourite extract of mine is: 
The Dead glanced at Red,the creature at his feet,but swung straight back to Lazarus. He was all they were really interested in and when they grinned at him,their teeth were like shards of obsidian. 

The book ends with a great cliff hanger . . . . . with the next book entitled 'The Dark' not being published until October. You have 32 days and counting to you get your hands on this book. Let me know what you all think?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Book Trailers For New Books May/June 2010 - (Three books to read this summer)

New Children's Book - Picks For The Month Of June 2010

Joanne Owen - The Alchemist and the Angel - Published by Orion Children's - 3 June  2010 - P/B
Everything changes for orphaned Jan when his beloved uncle, Gustav - anatomist, natural scientist and aspiring alchemist - enlists his help in a quest to create a life-generating serum. To test the serum, they must follow a set of ancient instructions and play a dangerous game of bringing the inanimate to life... When Gustav dies suddenly, it's up to Jan to continue his work - little does he know that his beautiful, calculating aunt dreams of using the serum for her own purposes - eternal life. Under the facade of her grief, she convinces Jan they must move from Vienna to Prague, and when she mysteriously disappears, Jan searches for her. In the plague-ridden ghettos and the court of the mad Emperor Rudolf, he must pit his wits against an extraordinary cast of characters and events. His only ally is Zuzana, a girl with secrets of her own. Set against the vivid backdrop of 16th century Prague and the equally breathtaking Vienna, a magical, historical adventure from a talented author.
Jane Prowse - Hattori Hachi: Stalking the Enemy - Published by Piccadilly - 1 June 2010 - P/B

A summer camp in the heart of Kielder forest that's not what it seems, a village flooded to make a reservoir, and a toiling bell that sounds underwater on dark nights to warn of a mighty war, predicted in the legend of the three Diamond Daggers - how will Hattie, Mad Dog and Neena make sense of it all?
In her second thrilling adventure, Hattie Jackson discovers more about the history that has led the underground Kataki to the point of war against her legitimate Ninjutsu family... a family so full of dark secrets, not even her parents could have predicted what's in store...
Colin Bateman - Ice Quake (SOS Adventure) - Published by Hodder Children's - 3 June 2010 - P/B
Baring Island, the Canadian Arctic.
Michael and Katya are alone, in the middle of a blizzard.
There are wolves snapping at their heels, and somewhere ahead of them, a gigantic polar bear with the taste for human blood.
They’ve come with the SOS team in search of a missing satellite, but nowthey’re just struggling to stay alive.

Simon B Nicholson - The Oldmoor Orphans and the Rodents' Revenge - Published by TicTock books - 30 June 2010 H/B
Oldmoor Hotel is a rickety hotel in the middle of a bleak, foggy moor. Two children, Ernest and Daisy, manage it because their grandmother has mysteriously disappeared. But why are the guests so odd? And what draws them to this strange and isolated hotel?
Rodents' Revenge is the first in the Oldmoor Orphans six-book series and features squirrels, a mad parrot, secret passageways and a whole load of nutty goings-on.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Jim Eldridge - Jungle Kill (Black Ops Series) - Book Review

This will have you running for cover............
The author, a former member of the HM coastguard, gives a thrilling taste of action through his new series Black Ops. Already he has many war-conflict books to his name but this has a slightly different edge to it. I was looking for an easy read, within my ever increasing pile of waiting-to-be-read books, when I eventually came across this book. A quick read of the synopsis left me interested in the story and so I quickly settled down to read it from cover to cover.

This book is a high action-packed military romp through the jungle. To be honest there's nothing new about the subject matter - it's a straight forward read from start to finish. But the great aspect in reading this book is that you don't need to think - the story takes over. Quickly your heart and soul are soon following six men on a mission to free a West African freedom fighter, who has been kidnapped by a ruthless group of bandits. 

The book is very well written - the dialogue between the characters is both realistic and infectious. The main character Mitch has to gain the trust of his new covert team and that doesn't come easily.

The other great thing about this book involves the detailed knowledge of weaponry and tactical details being deployed throughout, which develops into an appealing and informative read. This book has a subtle violent undertone, which is developed at all levels. It makes a great read for all those who like action combat adventure themes.

Will this be a series to look back on? Well, we'll just have to wait and see, but not for too long as book two is due out in August 2010. It is entitled 'Death in the Desert' and looks to be another maxed-out adrenalin adventure for us to get our teeth into. Can't wait . . . . . can you?

Jungle Kill is published by Egmont Books out 4 June 2010

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Isobelle Carmody - Obernewtyn (B.k 1 Obernewtyn Chronicles) - Book Review

This review has been a long time coming. I have read a number of other books by the Australian 'Queen of Fantasy' but have never expressed my public view on some of the other titles that I have read. However, I am now going to put that right with this review, for Obernewtyn. It's really hard to believe that it has taken this long to be published in the U.K.

This is the first book in the series and has been kicking around the fantasy world since 1987, after selling over 270,000 copies in Australia and gaining a huge fan base in the U.S.

Finally, this best selling series is going to be published in the U.K for the first time in June, by Bloomsbury. Further books are due to be published in the next year or so including book two, The Farseekers, which should be available in August.

I expected this book to be set within an over-the-top fantasy world and comprise of a lot of Sci-Fi terminology. However this did not happen, and as a result, this story actually felt a little more original and stood out due to the post apocalyptic world which has been used. This still pulls the reader towards the Sci-Fi world but the way in which Isobelle has adapted it, enables her to make the storyline her own.

Carmody has a great way of portraying emotions which are developed and shown through the many different characters. They connect with the reader in so many ways and on so many different levels. The writing cleverly draws the reader into the intriguing and mysterious world. From start to end Isobelle creates an underlying feeling of oppressiveness, which compels the reader to endure it until the end,  when the story finally comes to a halt. 

In a world struggling back from the brink of apocalypse, life is harsh. But for Elspeth Gordie, born with enhanced mental abilities, it is also dangerous. Survival is only by secrecy and so she determines never to use her forbidden powers. But it is as if they have their own imperative and she is brought to the attention of the totalitarian Council that rules the Land. Banished to the remote mountain institution of Obernewtyn, she must throw off her cloak of concealment and pit herself against those that would resurrect the terrible forces of the apocalypse. Only then will she learn most truly who and what she is ...Elspeth is determined to uncover the plot and so, accompanied only by her cat, Maruman, embarks on a terrible adventure full of danger, the conclusion to which promises not just uncertainty about her safety but also that of many around her.

With many more books to come . . . .  us lucky people in the UK have a great new series of books to enjoy. For me, this book is for readers who want more from a book, and also for the casual reader who has a limited amount of time. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series - in fact I have already ordered a U.S copy. Once gripped, I am the type of person who can't wait too long for the next book! 

Thursday, 13 May 2010

++++++Jenna Burtenshaw - Wintercraft - Book Launch Day Interview++++++

The day has finally arrived . . . . . .  Wintercraft will now be in the shops for you lucky people to buy. But equally as exciting, to mark the occasion, I have an exclusive interview with Jenna Burtenshaw. I hope you enjoy this insightful interview and that it entices you to read this great fantasy debut. If you do grab a copy, don't be shy - please tell us what you think. 
Many thanks to Jenna for taking the time to answer these questions for the blog readers - they certainly make interesting reading.   

How would you summarise your book, in 20-30 words, to encourage and entice people to read it?
A supernatural fantasy about a girl who can manipulate the veil between life and death; a killer who is hunting her, and an ancient book that holds the secrets of death itself. 

My favourite character in the book is Silas Dane. How did you come up with the idea for the character?
In the earliest drafts of Wintercraft, Silass place was taken up by a very different character and Silas was not part of the story at all.  Then, during one of my rewrites, I realised something important was missing.  The original character just wasnt working, so I went back to the drawing board and tried something new. 
The first image I had of Silas was of him standing on the rooftops above Morvanes market square surrounded by birds.  At that point I didnt know what he was doing there.  Then, gradually, his purpose, personality and past began to come together and when he took his place within the world, everything changed.  He took charge right away and the story bent to accommodate events that only his unique character could make possible.
Right from the start, I knew Silas was a conflicted man with complex motivations, so while he is not a traditional villain, he is not entirely a good man either.  He has been affected so strongly by extreme experiences in his life that he now lies somewhere tantalisingly inbetween. 
Silas is the kind of character I have always wanted to read about.  He has so many secrets and is so closed off from the world that he has become a mystery.  To me, that makes him irresistible.    

Wintercraft is the first book in the trilogy; are there any snippets of information that you could share with us about book 2?
Kates actions at the end of book one will have dangerous repercussions.  There will be lots more Silas action and further secrets surrounding the bonemen and the ancient city will be revealed. 

Has any particular writer or book influenced you as an author?
When I was younger I was a big fan of Roald Dahl.  His books first sparked my interest in writing when I was nine years old, but the major influence upon my writing as an adult was probably Jonathan Stroud.  Jonathan is a fantastic writer and his Bartimaeus trilogy encouraged me to write something darker than I had been working on up to that point.  His books inspired me to stop holding back and let my imagination run free.
Who designed your book cover?
The cover was designed by The Parish Book Design:  They also designed the cover for Matthew Skeltons Endymion Spring, which is one of my favourite covers of the past few years, so I was very pleased!

Are there any tips (as a writer) that you could give to aspiring individuals, who are hoping to become published authors themselves?
Write something you would love to read.  Dont worry about whats popular at the moment or what you think other people will like, write what you like and it will end up being something you can be proud of.  Read anything you can get your hands on and keep writing, even during the bad days.  It may take time to find your own voice and style, but it will be worth it in the end.  If writing is something you really want to do, dont give up.  Keep going and follow your instincts.  They will usually be right. 

Which character from a children's book would you most associate yourself with and why?
She may not be strictly from a childrens book, but I would love to meet Jo March from Louisa May Alcotts Little Women.  I think she and I would get along brilliantly

What book have you read recently that you've enjoyed and why?
Im a big fan of dystopian fiction so I recently picked up Survivors by Terry Nation.  I havent watched the tv series, but the book had me cringing with horror at the choices the characters made to survive before eventually coming together to help each other through a terrible situation.  The ending finished everything off so perfectly and when I closed the book I just thought Wow. 

Could you describe a typical working day for you, as a writer?
I start at around 10am; replying to emails and planning out what needs to be done that day.  By about 11am, my fantastically well-organised plan has usually gone out of the window.  I try to write about 1000-2000 new words a day, but when Im editing or wrestling with a difficult chapter it can often be less.  After that I organise ideas for future stories, answer any questions Ive been sent, or read for a while.  I spend a lot more time thinking about a story than I do writing it, so if you find me sitting at my desk, staring blankly into space, its not time-wasting, its research.  Honest.