Monday, 3 March 2014

Book Review: Sophia McDougall - Mars Evacuees - Published by Egmont

I've been really looking forward to reading this book for a year or so now.  Now I have finally had the chance to read it, the question has to be . .  . . was it really worth the wait? It certainly wasn't what I was expecting, as I was anticipating something more serious and perhaps with a little bit more depth in the detail. However it is an adventure for the 9+ age group and what an adventure it turned out to be. The story rocketed from the very first page, and yes, I really enjoyed it, and so, I think, should you....

The plot for this story is brilliant. It is very imaginative - just imagine that earth has been invaded, in this case by a race called the Morror,  who fly around in invisible spacecrafts with invisible spacesuits. No-one can actually seen them, but earth needs to defend themselves from their attack. As a result, the government evacuates a group of children to Mars to train as cadets for the Exo-Defence Force. From this part on, the book should be entitled chaos in space as we read about laser shooting robot goldfish ingenious, earth eating flying worms, or something along those lines. Never mind the alien monsters and 300 crazy kids that have been left on Mars, with no adult supervision, after the adults mysteriously go missing. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? That's all I am going to say about the story, as I don't want to spoil your reading pleasure. I'm sure that you are starting to get the idea.

What you will find is a fresh, fast-paced space romp. A group of children fighting to save themselves from themselves in order to rescue the galaxy. This is science fiction where children rule. This book, in my opinion. is one of the best reads for me this year and one of the most exciting books that you will find for both boys and girls.

The story is both witty and smart. It is full of friendship and brilliant characters, good times and bad times as well as a few sad times. However these are all explored wonderfully by Sophia.  It's a joy to read; it has got all the ingredients required to pull off a magical space story. I particularly loved the craziness, playfulness and care free attitude that is evident through this book. This makes me, as on older reader, feel like a big kid and sometimes in this world this can be a wonderful feeling again.

I DON'T think that you can say that you've really lived until you have read this book. I am looking forward to the next book in the series which is, I think, out in August 2014.

Published by Egmont UK - 27, March 2014

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Mr Ripley's New Children's Books Published in March 2014 - US Published Post One

Philip Kerr - The Winter Horses - Published by Knopf Books - 25, March 2014 
New York Times bestselling author of the Bernie Gunther novels, comes a breathtaking journey of survival in the dark days of WWII, perfect for fans of The Book Thief, Milkweed, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
It will soon be another cold winter in the Ukraine.  But it's 1941, and things are different this year.  Max, the devoted caretaker of an animal preserve, must learn to live with the Nazis who have overtaken this precious land. He must also learn to keep secrets—for there is a girl, Kalinka, who is hiding in the park.

Kalinka has lost her home, her family, her belongings—everything but her life.  Still, she has gained one small, precious gift: a relationship with the rare wild and wily Przewalski's horses that wander the preserve. Aside from Max, these endangered animals are her only friends—until a Nazi campaign of extermination nearly wipes them out for good.

Now Kalinka must set out on a treacherous journey across the frozen Ukrainian forest to save the only two surviving horses—and herself.

This sensitive, inspiring tale captures the power of sacrifice and the endurance of the human spirit.

Garth Nix & Sean Williams - Spirit Animals: Animal Ties - Published by Scholastic - 25, March 2014 - Book Three
The adventure continues in this third book of the epic multiplatform fantasy series. Erdas is a land of balance. A rare link, the spirit animal bond, bridges the human and animal worlds. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan each have this gift-and the grave responsibility that comes with it.
But the Conquerors are trying to destroy this balance. They're swallowing whole cities in their rush for power-including Meilin's home. Fed up with waiting and ready to fight, Meilin has set off into enemy territory with her spirit animal, a panda named Jhi. Her friends aren't far behind . . . but they're not the only ones. 
The enemy is everywhere.

Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini - House of Secrets: Battle of the Beasts - Published by Balzer and Bray - 25 March 2014 - Book Two
The sequel to the New York Times bestselling House of Secrets—hailed by J. K. Rowling as "a breakneck, jam-packed roller coaster of an adventure"—this second installment by Hollywood director Chris Columbus (of Harry Potter fame) and bestselling author Ned Vizzini (It's Kind of a Funny Story) is full of even more explosive twists and turns.
Since the siblings' last adventure, life in the Walker household is much improved—the family is rich and the Wind Witch is banished. But no Walker will be safe until she is found, and summoning her to San Francisco brings all the danger that comes with her and puts the Walkers in the crosshairs of a mysterious journey through Denver Kristoff's books. As the Walkers travel from ancient Rome to World War II to Tibet, they'll be tested in ways that cut deeper than before, by Denver Kristoff, the Wind Witch, and each other.
Fantasy-fiction fans who enjoy Rick Riordan will find much to love in this thrilling and action-packed novel!

Jaleigh Johnson - The Mark of the Dragonfly - Published by Delacorte Books - 25, March 2014 
An adventure story set in a magical world that is both exciting and dangerous.

Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.

The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.
Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Interview with Sally Green - Half Bad Blog Tour - Published by Penguin Books - March 2014

On today's stop of the Half Bad blog tour  day six you can read an interview with author, Sally Green. On the final stop you can win lovely signed copies of the book. Go to (on 2nd March)

Is this the first book that you have written?
Half Bad is the first book I've had published. I have written one other novel before this, which I tried and failed to get it published and now it is in a box never to be looked at again. 

When and where did you get the first ideas for this book?
I think my first inspiration came from a storytelling festival I went to in 2009 (Festival at the Edge in Shropshire) - I was steeped in folklore for three days and loved it. In these old stories three was a significant number (three brothers, three branches on a bramble, three wishes etc.) and I had the basic idea of a scenario where to become a true, adult witch you had to be given three gifts. 
I didn't know much about witches but I knew there was 'good' White magic and 'bad' black magic and the themes of good and bad reminded me of the lines from Hamlet 'there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so'. I liked the idea of playing around with the assumptions that the White Witches would be the good guys and the Black Witches would be bad.  

To potential readers, can you describe the book as you see it?
Half Bad is the story of Nathan a teenage witch. At the beginning of the story he is a prisoner of the White Witches. He is being kept in a cage, not because of anything he has done, but because of what he is - a Half Code (half White Witch and half Black Witch) - and because his father is the most feared of the Black Witches. The story traces Nathan's life from birth to his seventeenth birthday by which time he must escape White Witches and go through a ceremony (receiving three gifts) to become a true, adult witch.

Nathan's life is full of physical hardship, even torture, but his mental struggles are as difficult as his physical ones. He is alone, abused and afraid of both the White Witches and the Black, and added to that he is not sure how he himself is going to turn out - whether his Black half or White half will dominate.

Did you do any research for the book? If so what did comprise of?
I didn't do a lot or research. I used a lot of what I know, for example all the places are based on real locations that I'm familiar with, though most of them aren't named. 
For my research I mostly had the help of my research buddy, Google,  for example I had an important knife in my story and I read up on knives and found out about the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger which I modelled my knife, the Fairborn, upon. 

Who has influenced you or influences you as a writer?
I'm influenced by many other writers and the books I read. I love Hemingway's style and his short stories in particular, and his ideas about writing do influence me - in particular his idea that you have to know a character but that doesn't mean you have to tell the reader these things, even important things, just knowing them will mean the character will come out in the story. I do believe you have to trust the reader to fill in the gaps, you have to assume the reader is pretty smart.

What kind of books do you read for pleasure?
I read a mix of YA (about a third of my reading) and literary fiction, some non-fiction and some younger children's books with my 11 year old son. The authors who have recently given me a lot of pleasure are David Mitchell, Hemingway, Kate Atkinson, Ben Fountain, Patrick Ness, Mohsin Hamid, Emily Bronte, JG Ballard, Philip Roth…I could go on, the list is actually quite long.
I rarely put up with a book if it's not giving me any pleasure. I guess I've started and given up on 3 in the last year.

Do you have any tips on how to get published?
Be the best writer you can. To do that you need to work hard at your writing, get feedback from fellow writers whom you respect and whose feedback style you understand. Give feedback to them too - analysing writing and working out its strengths and weaknesses will benefit your own writing. 
Write your novel - live and breathe it.
Edit your novel - ruthlessly.
When submitting your manuscript follow the instructions given by the agent and always be professional.

When your manuscript is rejected don't give up but do consider starting again on a new novel. I was inspired by Iain Banks' path to publication. He told himself that he would have 3 (there's that number again!) attempts at submitting different novels before he would give up. The Wasp Factory was his third, but I suspect he would have done a fourth and a fifth. 

If/ when the book becomes a film, what kind of input would you like on the production?
I'm no expert on film making and can't imagine striding around saying much of anything about the production of the film. I'm confident that the producers will stick closely to the book (as they did with Twilight for example) - if I wasn't sure they knew what they were doing I wouldn't have agreed to the film deal. I will have some input - to ensure that the overall sense of the trilogy is followed and important but minor aspects of Book 1 are not ignored.

How many books do you plan to write in this series?
Three. The second will be published in March 2015 and the third in March 2016.

Could you give us a little insight into your next book?

All I can say is that I'm writing the second book of the trilogy at the moment. It follows on from the first book and I'm trying to make sure it lives up to its title - Half Wild.

Twitter: @Sa11eGreen 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Times / Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2014 Short-List

When a girl unexpectedly gives birth on the bathroom floor at her best friend’s party, the fall-out is intense and affects everybody ...  A gritty teen read with redemption and tenderness amid the difficulty and confusion.
People trafficking, diamond smuggling and the redemptive power of nature form the basis for this ethereal and moving tale set on a remote Scottish isle; a beautifully woven story for middle-grade readers.
Floods have ravaged the world and only the brightest kids can earn a place on dry land by passing a rigorous exam. But while rich kids can buy their way to a life of comfort, most ordinary kids have to tough it out to stay alive ... A thrilling and thought-provoking dystopian novel.
Harry’s mum is dead and the only comfort he can find is in caring for a damaged deer he discovered in the woods. Beautiful, gentle and evocative, this story about the power of wild animals, set against the coldness of young grief, reads like a truly modern-day Kes.
Liam is the witness to a brutal murder. More than this, he knows one of the two perpetrators. Placed into hiding, Liam is still not safe and is forced on the run in order to survive. Thrilling at every turn, this is a gripping real-life drama that will have teens on the edge of their seats.

Good luck all, the winner will be announced on Saturday 5th April 2014.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Best New Children's/Teen Books Published In March 2014 - UK

Roy Gill - Werewolf Parallel - Published by Kelpiesteen - 20, March 2014
'His arms kept stretching, as if they were somehow getting longer. His fingers clenched in, then spread out again like claws. The shape of his head was changing impossibly too, the ears becoming pointed and growing upward, his jaw pushing and thrusting out...The wolf threw back its head and howled.' Cameron's life of shifting between the humanian and daemonic worlds is under threat and the magic that once protected him and his friends is failing. His best friends Morgan, a werewolf with an attitude, and Eve, ex-prisoner of a vicious weaver demon, discover that they aren't the only ones in danger: the very existence of their worlds is at stake. Two sinister figures want to destroy the Parallel -- the void in between worlds populated by a dark mixture of the humanian and daemonic -- and everyone in it. What will Cameron sacrifice to defeat the demons and save the Parallel?

Sophia McDougall - Mars Evacuees - Published by Egmont - 27, March 2014 - (Review to come this week)
The fact that someone had decided I’d be safer on Mars, where you could still only SORT OF breathe the air and SORT OF not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well.
When Alice Dare finds out that she's being evacuated to Mars to join the youth defence force, she isn't sure what to expect. But it sure wasn't being shot at, chased by invisible aliens, befriending a robot goldfish – and then having to save the galaxy!

Sally Green - Half Bad - Published by Penguin - 3, March 2014 - Review Here
A breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.
You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.
You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.
You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.
All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

Darren Shan - Zom-B Mission - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's - March 27, 2014 
What has happened to the world since the dead took over? Where have the humans gone to hide? Who do the living most have to fear? B Smith is heading for unknown territory...Leading a group of humans through London and out into zombie-infested suburbs sounds like suicide - but not for the undead! Even so, the horrors of the journey will be beyond anything B has yet seen ...'Do not underestimate the dangers of this mission. Other zombies will not ignore you when they catch the scent of fresh brains. You will almost surely be called upon to fight. The city and countryside are full of angry, bitter people who are trying to execute as many of the undead as they can. They will not distinguish between a revitalised and a revived. Most do not know there is a difference. And most would not care.'

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Guest Post: Peter Jay Black - Urban Outlaws - Published by Bloomsbury

Peter Jay Black....
I’ve spent my entire life daydreaming when I should’ve been doing more important things like, oh, I don’t know. . . learning to cook? Every meal I try to prepare gets exterminated in some glorious fashion or another. I even managed to set fire to an oven grill once, just because I didn’t realise the slab of fish had a foam/plastic thing under it. Apparently, you’re supposed to peel that off. Who knew?

So, as you can probably tell, I get distracted, A LOT. I’m often thinking and daydreaming about all sorts of crazy things.

I’ve dreamt about being able to fly – the places I’d visit, the way I’d feel swooping between buildings and over landscapes.

I’ve imagined being a ninja, sneaking up on nasty people and knocking them out with a swift chop to the neck.

I’ve also imagined inventing a time machine and what I’d do with it. In fact, if I did have a time machine, I think I’d probably travel back to the 21st of October, 1983 (I was seven). I’d hang around outside my old house until six o’clock in the evening and then I’d storm into the dining room and slap the fork out of my seven-year-old self’s hand, just before I had taken the first bite of the dumplings on my plate. You see, I didn’t know it at the time, but my mum had made those dumplings out of a packet that had been two years out of date. TWO YEARS. I was so sick that it took another twenty years before I could look at dumplings without turning pale.

Anyway, you get my point - I’m a daydreamer. Always have been. Always will be. And, the way that I’ve used that is to write it down. To create secret bunkers, gadgets, to live in a world that’s a lot more fun than this one.

In my late twenties, I decided I wanted to be a writer. Now, because of all the daydreaming, I hadn’t done too well in school, and must have been asleep during English lessons. All of them. So, I taught myself basic grammar, worked on the craft, and eight years later I have a five book deal. Easy, right?

I wish it was.

After a lot of hard work, thousands of hours exploring our wonderful language, millions of muttered swear words, and billions of nuked brain cells later, I had a finished novel. I, of course, thought it was a masterpiece. I sent it to an editor, got torn to shreds, learnt from my mistakes, moved on. . .

Next was book number two. I wrote, rewrote, edited, rewrote again. . . You get my point? Finally ready, I slung the novel out to a few agents and one in particular was VERY keen. She suggested revisions, I worked hard and in two weeks I sent it back with high hopes.

I never heard from her again.

Man, the disappointment.

But, I didn’t give up.

That’s the theme here: Never give up. A cliché, yes. I don’t care – it’s true.

After that, I remember talking to a friend of mine and saying, ‘I want to write about five kids, who are independent, outsmart adults and have a lot of fun. . .’ Basically, something to fight back with. Something to pour every ounce of what I’d learnt into. Something that I hoped I could share with as many people as possible.

"And so, the Urban Outlaws were born: Five cool, clever kids, who are trying to do what they think is right."

Thankyou very much Peter for such a great insight into writing Urban Outlaws. This book is being published by Bloomsbury Children's on the 13th March 2014 - so make sure that you all grab a copy.


Monday, 24 February 2014

Sally Green - Half Bad - Blog Tour Dates - March 2014

Half Bad – Blog Tour Dates: March 2014

Part One, Chapter Reveals
Sally Green

24th February: Part One – the trick                           
25th February: Part One – the cage                          
26th February: Part One – press ups                        
27th February: Part One – ironing                             
28th February: Part One – the trick doesn’t work
1st March: Interview with Sally Green                    
2nd March: Signed copy giveaway                   

Twitter: @Sa11eGreen

Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.
You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.
You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.
You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.
All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

Also check out my book review:

Friday, 21 February 2014

Book Review: Sally Green - Half Bad - Published by Penguin 2014

One of the biggest books to make last years Bologna Book Fair was Sally Green's Half Bad. It received worldwide praise and some amazing comments from the publishing world. From this point onwards, the book has now been released in 42 languages worldwide and film rights have recently been sold to Fox.

A global launch for this book will take place on the 3rd March. This supernatural thriller has been much anticipated by readers everywhere. The question must be . . . .  is this hype justified? Well it isn't another Twilight or Hunger Games which I'm really pleased to be able to report as I'm always looking for originality. Personally, I think that this has original qualities by the bucketful. I was not expecting this book to turn out the way it did - I was expecting magic and, perhaps, an unrealistic fantasy world. However I found neither of these elements within this book.

What I did find was an emotion-fuelled story that will touch every heart to the core. Set in a modern day world inhabited by Witches (both Black and White) who are divided by hatred and the fear of each other. The white witches are the ruling force - this council seeks out protection for it's own kind. However this brings social consequences, which create emotional turmoil, developing in to an interesting element of the story that I was keen to explore.

Half Bad is a parallel universe occupied by witches. This fantastical side to the book is so subtle that it almost creeps into the book. I really loved this aspect and felt that, in my opinion,  it was very cleverly created. There is light and dark, good and evil and then the main character of the book, Nathan.  He lives in no-man's land, on the blurred boundary between black and white magic. Illegitimate and exiled. Wanted by no one, but hunted by everyone.

This book is a real thinker; it's not all about magical spells within an over the top fantasy world. Instead it's a journey of self discovery in a world of loneliness. Where the main character doesn't 'fit' in and is regarded as a social outcast. The plot encompasses a brutal world of fear and the worst elements of mankind. It is a very dark and gripping YA/adult cross-over which will entertain both emotionally and psychologically. It's interesting, intriguing and, to me, felt totally original. The blend of genres makes you think from the first page to the last. A great debut start with a powerful new voice in town.

I'd love to hear what you all think of this one......

Also check out our exclusive interview with Sally Green.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Alex McCall - Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens - Book Trailer - Kelpies - Published Today

Why did the chicken cross the road? TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!! The city of Aberdeen is being terrorised by giant robot chickens who want to peck out every last sign of human resistance. The streets are empty, the adults have vanished - and those left behind are fighting for survival. Jesse and his friends are desperate to save their families and stop the feathered fiends. They hatch a master plan ...but can a gang of kids REALLY defeat an army of angry robot chickens? A hilarious, weird and wonderful adventure from a cracking new author.

New Children's/Teen Books Published In March 2014 - UK Post Two

Bethany Wiggins - Cured - Published by Bloomsbury Children's  - 13, March 2014
Fiona Tarsis is a legend. Her world was ravaged by a lethal virus, her family separated. Her friends were turned into ferocious beasts by an even deadlier vaccine. Mindless monsters now raid the streets. But Fiona has survived.
Jacqui Bloom needs Fiona's help. Two years ago, Jacqui's brother, Dean, left the safety of his home to guide Fiona's mother to a safe haven. He never returned. Jacqui has been hiding away in the family house, disguised as a boy, and hoping Dean will come back. But she can no longer live like this. She has to find him.
Even with the two men Fiona loves most by their side, leading Jacqui into the desert will be risky. Raiders are everywhere - they will do anything to prevent the beast-cure her group are carrying from being spread - and knowing who to trust is near impossible. Lone traveller Kevin is sexy and self-assured, and has caught Jacqui's attention, but he is hiding his past. Is he also hiding the truth about what he really wants from them?

Ellen Renner - Tribute - Published by Hot Key Books - 6, March 2014 
What if your greatest enemy was yourself? Zara is a mage, one of the elite in a world where magic is power, and the non-magic majority live as slaves. When her Tribute child (slave) best friend is killed for the crime of literacy, Zara seeks revenge by spying for the rebel Knowledge Seekers. She finds her bravery and magical skill tested to the limit when a young Maker, Aidan, is taken hostage in a bid for supposed peace. Surprised by first love, she promises to help him. But before Zara can keep her promise, her secret is discovered. Hunted by her own, she seeks refuge with the Knowledge Seekers. But when you can kill with a thought, can you ever be trusted?

Lari Don - Mind Blind - Published by Kelpies Teen - 20, March 2014 
'I killed a girl today, just after the school bell. I keep trying to tell myself I didn't really kill her. But she's dead. And it's my fault.' 14-year-old Ciaran Bane is a highly trained fighter and gifted cat burglar with a special talent: he knows what his victim is thinking. He works in a mafia-style family of gangsters, thieves and thugs who share his mind-reading talent. But Ciaran's skill comes with a crippling side effect, one that makes him disposable - even to his own family. Then he meets Lucy, whose older sister has been kidnapped, and they form an unlikely team. But on their perilous search across London and up to Edinburgh, on the run from MI5 and Ciaran's dangerous family, can they ever trust each other? And where can they hide if they aren't even safe in their own minds? Award-winning author Lari Don skilfully weaves a fast-paced world of secrets, power and supernatural abilities in her first book for young teens.

Victoria Scott - Fire and Flood - Published by Chicken House - 6, March 2014
Tella's brother is dying. He's got cancer, and Tella is helpless to save him. Or so she thought. When an invitation arrives for Tella to compete in the Brimstone Bleed, a deadly competition that will lead her through treacherous jungle and scorching desert, she doesn't think twice. Because the prize is a cure to any illness. But Tella will be facing more than just the elements.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Guest Post: Howard Sargent - The Forgotten War - Book Guild Publishing 2014

It would have been around 1972 when I was six or seven that, whilst visiting my auntie’s house I first spotted a book that intrigued me. It was called “Watership Down and had a picture of a rabbit on the cover. I “borrowed” it and spent the ensuing years reading and re-reading it so much the cover fell off. Then, about three years later my father, fed up with seeing this book constantly in my hand bought me a much larger book to replace it. Inevitably it was called “The Lord of the Rings” and I ended up reading and re-reading it until its cover too finally fell off. They were probably the two most formative books of my childhood so that when my sister, back in July 2011 challenged me to write something for her their influence was never far away. I tend to believe that, as individuals, we are influenced by everything we see or hear, consciously or otherwise but I would have to acknowledge other debts to the films “Dragonslayer” and the 1971 version of “Macbeth”. 

Both are rather flawed films but the former has the best pre (and maybe post) CGI dragon I have seen an cinema whilst the latter has bags of brooding atmosphere and castle courtyards full of mud and farm animals, all images I had in mind as I was writing. Finally I have to acknowledge a debt to the PC game “Dragon Age; Origins”, a great game in itself it gave the player the opportunity to start with one of several different types of backgrounds before entering the main quest line. It was this that gave me the idea of how to start my own attempt at a novel. What if, I thought, instead of having a single protagonist I had about three or four? If I were to create a world from scratch it would afford great opportunities to create something a little more multi layered than the conventional fantasy world. 

As for the over-arching concept I remembered watching sometime in the eighties a news report on the civil war in Mozambique. It was a war sponsored by apartheid South Africa, a war waged to destabilise a neighbour, one not driven by ideology or revolution, just a nasty little war barely regarded by most of the western world. So that gave me the title at least. Initially it was written as three separate stories with a fourth added later because there was one scene I wanted to include that would not have fitted in elsewhere. It was not until the book was actually finished that I went back and combined these stories and split them into chapters, it was not until about chapter 15 in the final book that I started writing it as one continuous novel. I tried to write at least a thousand words a day it taking me 3-4 weeks to complete a section of 30-40,000 words that I then emailed off to my sister. When I was stuck, I would leave it for a day or too, eventually the way forward would come to me, usually at 2 or 3 in the morning after a typically restless night. 

My record for a day was 10,000 words, a key chapter and one I wrote without letting up pretty much from dawn till dusk. And now it is finally in print. I have no great ambitions as a writer and genuinely would be happier if just 20 people read the book and enjoyed it rather than 20,000 read it with 19,990 hating it. It was fun to do and very fulfilling, which is probably the most important thing of all.   

Published by Book Guild Publishing to order your copy here: link

Also find him on Twitter:  

Friday, 14 February 2014

New Children's/Teen Books Published In March 2014 - UK Post One


Philip Webb - Where the Rock Splits the Sky - Published by Chicken House - 25 March 2014
The moon has been split, and the Visitors have Earth in their alien grip. But the captive planet? That's not her problem. Megan just wants to track down her missing dad...

The world stopped turning long before Megan was born. Ever since the Visitors split the moon and stilled the Earth, permanent sunset is all anyone has known. But now, riding her trusty steed Cisco, joined by her posse, Kelly and Luis, Megan is on the run from her Texas hometown, journeying across the vast, dystopic American West to hunt down her father. To find him, she must face the Zone, a notorious landscape where the laws of nature do not apply. The desert can play deadly tricks on the mind, and the quest will push Megan past her limits. But to solve the mystery of not just her missing father but of the paralyzed planet itself, she must survive it--and an alien showdown.

Peter Jay Black - Urban Outlaws - Published by Bloomsbury - 13 March 2014 - 
Book Review
In a bunker hidden deep beneath London live five extraordinary kids: meet world-famous hacker Jack, gadget geek Charlie, free runner Slink, comms chief Obi and decoy diva Wren. They're not just friends; they're URBAN OUTLAWS. They outsmart London's crime gangs and hand out their dirty money through Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K.s).

Their latest mission - hacking the bank account of criminal mastermind Del Sarto - has landed them in serious trouble. Del Sarto is going head-to-head with MI5 for control of Proteus, an advanced quantum computer able to crack any code and steal top-secret documents in nanoseconds. It's down to the URBAN OUTLAWS to use their guile, guts and skill to destroy Proteus, avert world domination . . . and stay alive
David Baldacci - The Finisher - Published by Macmillan Children's - 4 March 2014
In The Finisher, a 14-year-old girl named Vega Jane lives in a village called Wormwood where the citizens have been told that the forest surrounding them is full of monsters. When Vega's mentor disappears, leaving behind a secret message, she begins to realize that Wormwood is a village built on dangerous lies.

Matt Haig - Echo Boy - Published by Bodley Head - 25 March 2014 
Audrey's father taught her that to stay human in the modern world, she had to build a moat around herself; a moat of books and music, philosophy and dreams. A moat that makes Audrey different from the echoes: sophisticated, emotionless machines, built to resemble humans and to work for human masters. Daniel is an echo - but he's not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he's determined to save her. The Echo Boy is a powerful story about love, loss and what makes us truly human.

Thursday, 13 February 2014



Big names announced for UK’s first Young Adult Literature Convention

Waterstones Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and the London Film and Comic Convention are pleased to announce an initial list of authors who will be appearing at the UK’s first ever Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC). Among them are bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant author and self-confessed movie buff Derek Landy, double Carnegie Medal winning Patrick Ness, and Red House Book Award winner Sophie Mackenzie. Also on the bill is previous Booktrust Online Writer in Residence Matt Haig, 24 year old debut Natasha Ngan, publisher-turned-author Ruth Warburton and bestselling horror writer Darren Shan. Completing the list announced today is Being a Boy author James Dawson, and of course Malorie Blackman herself. Further names, as well as days and times of authors’ appearances will be announced in due course.

YALC will form a highlight of Malorie Blackman’s campaign as the Waterstones Children’s Laureate. It will take place at the London Film and Comic Con (LFCC), at Earl’s Court, London on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 July 2014. YALC will bring together all the UK’s YA publishers to provide a host of author events in a dedicated Book Zone, with talks, workshops, signings, a book sales area and publisher stands promoting new and upcoming titles. Blackman will act as a curator for the two-day convention, uniting authors and publishers throughout the UK community. 2014’s YALC event will be the first time a large scale public convention around YA books has taken place in the UK, and its setting among the fans of cultish film and TV will set books at the heart of entertainment for teens and young people.

The full list of names announced today:
·         Malorie Blackman
·         James Dawson
·         Matt Haig
·         Derek Landy
·         Sophie McKenzie
·         Patrick Ness
·         Natasha Ngan
·         Darren Shan
·         Ruth Warburton

More names will be announced as they are confirmed. For more information about the London Film and Comic Con, visit their website here: and follow @YALC_UK on Twitter for all the YALC news!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


Check out the post that supports this reveal on Sophia's blog Here

Book Cover Synopsis: The fact that someone had decided I’d be safer on Mars, where you could still only SORT OF breathe the air and SORT OF not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well.

I’d been worried that I was about to be told that my mother’s spacefighter had been shot down, so when I found out that I was being evacuated to Mars, I was pretty calm.

And, despite everything that happened to me and my friends afterwards, I’d do it all again.  Because until you have been shot at, pursued by terrifying aliens, taught maths by a laser-shooting robot goldfish and tried to save the galaxy, I don’t think you can say that you’ve really lived.

Andy Potts Book Cover Illustrator - Website

Published by Egmont (27 Mar 2014) - All images are subject to copyright...

Monday, 10 February 2014

Book Review: Peter Jay Black - Urban Outlaws - Published by Bloomsbury

Book Synopsis: In a bunker hidden deep beneath London live five extraordinary kids: meet world-famous hacker Jack, gadget geek Charlie, free runner Slink, comms chief Obi and decoy diva Wren. They're not just friends; they're URBAN OUTLAWS. They outsmart London's crime gangs and hand out their dirty money through Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K.s).
Their latest mission - hacking the bank account of criminal mastermind Del Sarto - has landed them in serious trouble. Del Sarto is going head-to-head with MI5 for control of Proteus, an advanced quantum computer able to crack any code and steal top-secret documents in nanoseconds. It's down to the URBAN OUTLAWS to use their guile, guts and skill to destroy Proteus, avert world domination . . . and stay alive.

Book Review: I was really happy to receive this book out of the blue. The synopsis sounded too exciting to wait, so I got stuck into reading it straight away. I absolutely loved every minute of this book - it was a top class journey into an amazingly fresh, fantasy world. Daydreaming at its very best in my opinion. It's definitely a book that small boys will love and where 'bigger' boys will find themselves being transported back to their childhood.  

This book gives an insight into the cool, fresh world of gadgets and computers. Following the hacking and the hi-tech surveillance world, the geek in me was definitely unleashed within this book. I particularly loved the deployment of the spring-heeled, free-running shoes in this adventure. This was a fantastically crazy but very inventive element of the story. I also enjoyed the idea and development of the Random Acts of Kindness which can be found within the book. These are very thought provoking as they strike elements of the modern day Robin Hood theme into the heart of the story.

The story features five savvy children, each with their own special skills, who are very likeable. They take on the government, as well as some unsavoury characters, in order to act on what they think and believe is right. This belief leads to a high-octane adventure which is explosive to read. 

The author has written a great debut book encompassing a child's dream and the author's IT experience to create a blockbuster read. I would highly recommend this book for all readers. However this could really capture the imagination of any reluctant reader - they would never get bored whilst reading this adventure and would be hooked until the very end. With at least four more books to be published, we are in for a real treat.....

Published by Bloomsbury 6th March 2014

Similar authors; Eoin Colfer, Andrew Lane, Robert Muchamore, Anthony Horowitz.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Adult Book Review Diary: The Forgotten War by Howard Sargent


I am writing this book review with a beaming smile on my face because when I agreed to review this book for the publisher, I only initially read the book synopsis. I felt that this sounded particularly good and I was really happy to agree to the review. However what I did not realise at the time was the gigantic size of the book. It must have cost a king's ransom to post it out to me. I jest you not, this book must weigh a tome and a half with more than a thousand pages making up the story. I'm sure that I have seen smaller telephone directories - I'm beginning to wonder how long this might take me to read from beginning to end! We'll soon see though as I have started it today. I may see you at some point next month, dear reader....

READING DAY ONE: On closer inspection, I have just noticed that this book actually encompasses three books. There is also an epilogue and three appendix at the end for good measure. The first book is entitled Autumn and is where my reading adventure starts. Having been introduced to key characters such as The Baron and Reynard, my favourite character, so far, is Morgan 'The Protector'.

Day One: (Page 1 -100 ) The book has started with three plot lines so far and a massive number of characters who navigate each strand of the story. A vast array of details and settings are also thrown into the story. The language is challenging and very detailed, perhaps creating a slightly slower reading pace but this is really necessary to give the reader a sense of the story ahead. This only adds to the the enjoyment of the experience.

Day Two: (Page 100 - 200 ) A fourth plot line has just been introduced. I've got my full fantasy mind into gear. The story is flowing easily and building up very well to the many mysteries that lay ahead.  

Book Synopsis: For ten years the people of eastern Tanaren have known nothing but war, a war to which there seems to be no end in sight. Now, however, things may be about to change. Pitched into the heart of the conflict are four people: Morgan, a veteran warrior charged with an important mission; Cheris, a gifted but wayward sorceress called from her exile on a remote island; Ceriana Hartfield, a noblewoman whose marriage is pre-empted by a chance discovery on a beach; and Cygan, a man from the desolate marshes seeking aid against a merciless foe. Between them, could they hold the key to ending this deadly conflict? But at what cost? 

Day Three: (Page 200-300) This book is coming together like a cauldron full of magic; it's all binding together like a witches spell..... The ingredients are rapidly coming to boil as we plough further into the story. The action has intensified and a shock death in one of the many plots has slightly shocked me. As I progress further into the story it now feels like a well worn shoe. I love the complex structure of the story, it is very clever and must have taken some time to map out. 

Day Four: (Page 300-433) I am now getting to see the other side of the enemy for the first time. They story is opening up with many more elements to understand and get your head around. I am loving it more and more by the minute. With brutal battles, bitter humour and some tough gripping storylines, the author has not just written a story, he has built a world around many stories. His great imaginative writing leaves the reader lapping up the words. All of these elements have been outstandingly achieved within his first ever book. 

Day Five: (Page 433-562) END OF BOOK ONE: I have now arrived at the final section of book one. I have travelled along a bleak path of rape and death as well as dark graphic encounters which are not for the feint of heart. The action is starting to coalesce into a maelstrom of action which would sit equally as well within the best fantasy classics. 

This book is beginning to feel like an old friend. I am happy and comfortable to venture along many of the paths that the story has to offer. I have bonded with most of the characters that I have been introduced to and I am desperately hoping that their future's remain safe within the next book, Winter.

I have received a great guest post from the author. If you would like to read it, then check it out here.

New Day (Page 562 - 700) Book Two: The story is now rolling down a path that holds an uncertain future for the characters. The action has slowed down - it is allowing me to briefly get my breath back. However the characters are leaping about from one plot line into another. The vivid description and imagery is spellbinding. I think that I have developed muscles in my mind as well as in my biceps - this fantasy workout is building up my reading stamina. In my opinion, this is a spectacular work that has been produced by a debut author. To read it, is to believe it. This is your chance to finally buy a copy as it is officially out today. So go on and get yourself a copy - you won't be disappointed if you love this genre.

Next day (pages: 700 - 958) I am still making my way through this epic fantasy. The action has intensified ten fold, it's bursting with fantastical moments that delight me as a reader. The more I read, the more I think back to the first time when I read a J.R.R Tolkien book. To me, this story is actually as good as that.  I can only hope that you give this book a chance to be read and that you're not put off by the size as every page is worth reading.  
I have now entered book three, Spring, and only have another 100 or so pages left to read.  This might be the biggest book that I have read, ever! OUT NOW..........

This is the last update: I have now travelled through the many pages of this epic saga. I have followed the highs and lows that the characters have faced - the battles, friendships, betrayal, love and loss. Many characters have been killed in unimaginable ways. 

Every page, every word has been a joy to read and, believe you me, there has been a lot of them to read. This book has been a five star experience - the best entertainment that I have had in the fantasy world of the imaginable. I would go on to say that it's one of the best adult fantasy books that I have read in a very long time. This is very accomplished writing for a debut author.

There was a glimmer at the end of the book that might suggest more to come. Although, I was under the impression that this might be the author's only work in the offering. I hope that this book sails through bookstores to reach many readers' hands and gain rapid success that will encourage Howard to write more adventures for fans alike.

Updated 09/04/2014

I will be adding updates to my reading journey over the next few weeks, as this may take some time. Especially as I also need to read other books as well...

The Author Story: Howard Sargent, born in Cardiff in 1965 has had his debut novel published almost by accident. Having given up full time work to care for his wife, who has a long term illness he was challenged by his sister to write something for her in his free time. So informal was the arrangement that the first 30-40,000 words were written in notepad as word had not been loaded on to his computer. Eventually serialised in fourteen parts and written between July 2011 and March 2012 (with one subsequent rewrite)it was then disregarded until other family members pushed for its publication in January 2013. "The Forgotten War", a substantial tome just shy of 504,000 words is the result. Hopefully you will enjoy it.