Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: The Black Banner by Helen Hart

The Black Banner by Helen Hart (June 2011, SilverWood Books, ISBN: 1906236461)

Notes: The following review is written by Amanda Gillies who reviews crime fiction on my Euro Crime website. You can read her crime reviews here and her YA reviews here.

Review: The Black Banner follows the nautical adventures of Billy Baxter and friends as they journey from England to the Caribbean in search of their fortunes. Billy has a secret. His real name is Becky, not Billy, and "he" is a girl. A girl dressed up as a boy and working as a deckhand on a merchant ship bound for pastures new. Becky has run away from drunken old Ma and her unpleasant friends, from the cold and damp room they lived in and from the dirt and poverty that were threatening to swamp her.

Becky lives in almost constant fear of being discovered – but then finds out there is something worse than living with Ma – being attacked by pirates! Becky, or Billy, survives the attack, joins the fearsome band of blade-swinging buccaneers and finds her life changing yet again. She has some pretty cool experiences as she learns to fight and survive and then plunders her way around the Caribbean with her fellow pirates, filling her sea-chest with gold along the way.

Filled with excitement and adventure, The Black Banner is written in the first person, by Becky herself, in the form of her private journal, and is brimming with her bravery, determination and hope for the future. She makes some great friends on her travels, including other women pirates, but also comes face to face with the potential dangers that pirates face every day, when the legal system doubles its efforts to crack down on the threats facing honest merchants at sea.

What an awesome, heart-warming tale!

Very highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Read a Melissa Marr short story online

HarperTeen has made Melissa Marr's short story, Merely Mortal, in the recently published Enthralled anthology available to read online, for a limited time-period at their website.

Synopsis for Enthralled from

A collection of fourteen original teen paranormal short stories from some of today’s bestselling YA talent, united with the common theme of road trips, and edited by bestselling authors Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong.

Contributors include:
Melissa Marr
Kelley Armstrong
Claudia Gray
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (NYT Bestselling authors of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, Little, Brown)
Rachel Caine (NYT bestselling author of Morganville Vampire series, Penguin)
Carrie Ryan (NYT Bestselling author of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, Delacourt)
Jessica Verday (NYT bestselling author of THE HAUNTED and THE HOLLOW, S&S)
Rachel Vincent (bestselling adult mass market author and Harlequin YA author)
Jennifer Lynn Barnes (RAISED BY WOLVES, Egmont)
Jerri Smith-Ready (bestselling adult mass market author w/ YA debut, SHADE, S&S)
Kimberley Derting (debut: THE BODY FINDER, 2010 HCCB)
Jackson Pearce (SISTERS RED–Little Brown, AS YOU WISH–HCCB)
Ally Condie (debut: MATCHED, 11/2010 Dutton)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blog Tour: Jeyn Roberts Guest Post

I'm very pleased to welcome Jeyn Roberts, author of the newly released Dark Inside, to Teenage Fiction For All Ages where she is guest posting about Teenage/YA thrillers she's enjoyed reading. Firstly, here are details of her book and the trailer:

Moments after several huge earthquakes shake every continent on Earth, something strange starts happening to some people. Michael can only watch in horror as an incidence of road rage so extreme it ends in two deaths unfolds before his eyes; Clementine finds herself being hunted through the small town she has lived in all her life, by people she has known all her life; and Mason is attacked with a baseball bat by a random stranger. An inner rage has been released and some people cannot fight it. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive - at any cost! Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen - now it's our turn!


You can follow Jeyn on Twitter, @JeynRoberts, and her website is here and you can read an extract from Dark Inside at My Kinda Book.

And now over to Jeyn:

Hi everyone! I’m Jeyn Roberts and I’m the author of Dark Inside.

I love horror stories. Love them, love them, love them! I’ve always been crazy about them. When I was younger I used to watch with a pillow in my arms so I could cover my eyes when the scary parts came. They gave me nightmares as a child and as a teenager it became a little easier to fall asleep at night. That’s when I started reading everything I could find in the horror section of the library and book store.

So I’ve been asked to talk about some of the books I loved reading as a teen and some of the books I’ve enjoyed reading today. I must admit, when I was a teen, there wasn’t the amazing variety of YA books that are now on the shelves. I spent a good part of my teen years reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Poppy Z Brite. What can I say? I really loved the horror. Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and It horrified and thrilled me beyond belief. The Teen books I loved and read to death were anything by Christopher Pike, The Band by Carmen Adams, and if you can ever find it, I highly recommend The Stranger by Caroline B Cooney.

Lately there’s been a great surge in thriller YA novels and I swear, my book shelf is starting to sag in the middle. I just finished reading Blood Red Road by Moira Young and I was completely blown away by it. I also loved Across the Universe by Beth Revis, and I’m currently reading the Demon Trapper series by Jana Oliver. Speaking of series, I really enjoyed Gone, Vampire Academy and I can’t wait to pick up Charlie Higson’s new book.

With thanks to Jeyn Roberts and Macmillan Children's Books.

The next stop on the tour is So Little Time For Books.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vampire Knits Anyone?

I'm away from home at the moment and have been looking through my mum's knitting magazines. One of which recently featured Vampire Knits by Genevieve Miller (which has been out a year I now realise). Here's the blurb:

From Twilight mania to Vampire Diaries, never have the undead been so adored. Vampire Knits is the first collection of knitting projects for dreamy, mysterious vampires and the fans who love them. These appealing and easy-to-knit projects range from cool sweaters to cosy pulse protectors, a fang sweater to blood bottle cozies. Gloves inspired by Twilight's Bella Swann, blood red jewellery and a beautiful diary cover are just a few of the timeless items crafty vampire fans have been clamouring for. The projects are fun to make and evoke the spirit of beloved undead characters. The book includes sections with names such as Protect Me!, Just Bitten, Vampire Style and Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf. Affordable, fun and well-designed, this book is an easy purchase.

You can read more about some of the projects and their designers at the Vampire Knits blog.

Plus, see the contents list and the pattern for the Tourniquet Scarf at Scribd,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill

Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill (May 2011, Macmillan Children's Books, ISBN: 0330533274)

Notes: The following review is written by Milly aged ten and a half, she is the daughter of one of my Euro Crime reviewers, and I'm very pleased that Milly will be writing more reviews for Teenage Fiction For All Ages in the future.

Review: Jonathan’s in love with Freya. So when Freya goes missing at the same time as local girls are found killed, Jonathan fears the worst. He asks for the help of his internet buddy, Ros, in finding Freya. Ros has a secret crush on Jonathan and is happy to help him out.

This book starts with a question: ‘How did we get ourselves into this mess?’ You’re gripped rightaway, wanting to find out what the mess is and how they got into it, and how they’ll get out.

Jonathan and Ros take turns to tell the story. They’re both great, but Ros has an especially good story as there’s lots going on in her life. Like the day she goes with her sister and best friend into a stranger’s house where men try and tempt the girls to stay. It’s really threatening and scary.

Jonathan’s story is pretty scary too. He’s a police suspect in Freya’s disappearance and has to find out what happened to her, to try and clear his name. He’s very frightened for Freya, because of the two murdered girls found floating in the Thames. The image of the dead girls is very vivid and sticks in your mind as you read the book.

As the story is told by two people, both boys and girls can enjoy it. The dialogue between Jonathan and Ros on the internet is particularly good. The book has great descriptions of London and some awesome action sequences, such as the night Jonathan is stuck in London and chased by a biker gang through the neon-lit streets.

Dark, adult themes and some strong language, but all in all it’s an awesome read with cool stuff happening all the way through. A sequel would be really good, especially if there’s more Ros in it.

Milly aged 10 1/2

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blog Tour: Helen Moss Guest Post

Earlier this year I ran a week of "young crime solver posts" and included in this was a review of The Mystery of the Whistling Caves by Helen Moss and I subsequently voted her the new Enid Blyton :).

I'm now very pleased to welcome Helen to Teenage Fiction For All Ages and she has kindly written a guest post on safety in fiction:

Don’t Forget your Life Jacket!

When I first showed a shiny new hot-off-the-press copy of The Mystery of the Whistling Caves to my mum, her first comment (after saying well done, that’s wonderful) was ‘Shouldn’t they have their life jackets on?’

With the utmost restraint and maturity, I managed to suppress an eye-roll. Isn’t that just what a Mum would say!

I should know! I say it to my boys every day. Well, not exactly that, because we live miles from the sea and the only body of water they encounter on a daily basis is a large puddle on the drive. But I’m forever reciting the land-lubbers’ equivalent; don’t forget your bike helmet/shin pads/gumshield/bullet proof vest (okay, I made that last one up, but you get my point?)

Sometimes I feel like a One Woman Health and Safety Inspection.

So, when writing an adventure series featuring twelve and thirteen year old heroes, I knew I had to be careful not to wrap the characters in cotton wool. After all, they are fictional and their raison d’etre is to have adventures.

An adventure book without heaps of peril would be about as exciting as reading those one of those swimming pool warning signs (No running, no jumping, no laughing, no splashing, no petting - until the age of eight, I thought that last one meant you weren’t allowed to take your cat in with you!)

J K Rowling is famously quoted as saying “I’m not writing to make anyone’s children feel safe.” I agree. Of course, it’s more straightforward when the book is set in a fantasy world. When you’re single-handedly fighting off six dragons and a giant serpent with nothing but the sword of doom, no one’s going to worry about elbow-pads. Especially when broken bones can be fixed with a healing potion or magic spell.

Adventure Island is not a fantasy world, so it’s important that the young heroes aren’t seen as doing things that are totally reckless or irresponsible. On the other hand, it’s not gritty realism either. It’s clearly a fictional island, and although the characters are (I hope) identifiable as believable people in believable situations, there is an element of "suspended disbelief". For a start, if there were really that many serious crimes per head of the population in one summer, surely the government would have declared a state of emergency by now? I’m sure that even the youngest readers understand this is not real life, but are happy to go along with it for the sake of a good adventure.

So I didn’t dwell on life jackets and bike helmets. They were left unmentioned so that readers could imagine the characters wearing them if they wanted. However, in one of the later books (which I’m currently writing) I have made a point of mentioning bike helmets when the friends cycle into the busy town on the mainland, rather than the quiet moorland roads of the island, and also life jackets when they have to venture into dangerous rocks in their rowing boat.

Other than that, I’ve come up with a couple of guidelines I try to follow in the safety/peril stakes (in conjunction with my wonderful editor at Orion, Amber Caraveo. We’ve had many a long discussion on the life jacket issue!)

The young heroes never deliberately walk into a dangerous situation without a very good reason. However, if it’s necessary to save someone from danger or avert disaster, they don’t shy away. So, when the vanishing skeleton is dashing into the disused tin mine to blow it up, the boys follow to try to stop her. When a film star is dangling from a cliff, about to plunge to certain death, Jack rescues her with ropes (making sure he has a safety line attached!). When Drift, the dog, runs under the fence of the old quarry, the friends go in after him.

Danger can also arise through situations beyond their control. In The Mystery of the Whistling Caves, Emily knows how long they have in the caves before the tide rises and cuts off the exit – and the friends are very careful to make sure that they can get out in time; they’re not to know that a violent storm would make the sea levels rise higher than usual.

One thing I do insist on – as a Mum and as an author - is that both my real and fictional kids always let someone know where they are going. Emily and Scott roam Castle Key island, but they do say where they’re going (it’s not spelled out every time, of course; that would get a bit boring. But there’s a reminder now and then.) So for example, in The Mystery of the Missing Masterpiece, Emily creeps out into the night to follow a suspect, but she leaves her parents a note to say that she is taking the dog out for a few minutes’ walk.

This lesson came home to me as a child when I copied an idea I’d seen, not in a book, but on a TV programme called, Why don’t you switch off the TV and do something more useful instead? I’m sure anyone over a certain age will remember it well!

The brilliant idea was to take a Random Walk. Go out of your front door, and at every choice point, flip a coin to turn left or right and see where you end up! I longed to try this out and finally bullied my friend, Jackie, into joining me.

I think we must have lost track of time. I don’t remember much about where we ended up. Only a lot of relieved-slash-furious recriminations from my Mum when she eventually found us in a wood far from home – this was well before the era of mobile phones, of course. What were you thinking! Wherever have you been? It’s dark! You could have been killed!

I probably said something flippant at the time, (accompanied by an eye-roll, of course!) like; “Oh yeah, killed? What by? A rogue badger?” (we lived in the middle of the countryside.) But deep down, I must have got the message that it hadn’t been one of my better ideas.

For the next few weeks my mum was suddenly very keen to let me stay at home and watch telly all day though!

Many thanks to Helen and Orion Childrens.

There are currently six books available in the Adventure Island series (with four more planned for 2012). You can read about them at the official Adventure Island website which includes a map of Castle Key Island and blogs from the main characters.

Helen Moss's own website is here.

The blog tour began on 19th at Book Angel Booktopia and day two was at Serendipity Reviews.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blog Tour: Joss Stirling Guest Post

To celebrate the eagerly awaited release of Stealing Phoenix, sequel to one of my favourite reads of last year, Finding Sky, author Joss Stirling is on "tour". Today she stops by Teenage Fiction For All Ages and writes about "The Savant Olympics"

What do you do when your soulmate turns out to be a thief? Steal her, of course. Phoenix was raised within the Community, a gang of thieves with paranormal powers, under the control of a harsh master known as the Seer. The notion that there's a soulmate out there for every person with a paranormal gift is mere myth in Phoenix's world. That is until the Seer gives Phoenix the details of her next target, Yves Benedict. He's more than just her next victim, he is her destiny. To be together, Phoenix must break away from the Community but resistance against the Seer puts them both in mortal danger. Phoenix has never trusted anyone before, now it's time to trust Yves with her life.


The Savant Olympics

As you might know by now, Stealing Phoenix starts off explosively at the new site for the 2012 Olympics. This got me wondering what kind of Olympics the Savants could hold. They would have an unfair advantage over the rest of us – Zed for example would know exactly where you were going to put the ball in any of those disciplines – football, tennis, hockey etc etc. But if they were playing others like them they could expand the Olympic disciplines in weird and wonderful directions.

So let’s imagine my seven Benedicts limbering up at the start of their competition (please I get to design the strip!).

Trace – he is the one who knows where things have been by touch. This would lend itself to a Round the World in Eighty objects race. The contestants would have to follow the path from artifact to artifact, with each clue leading to the next. A marathon for trackers.

Uriel – he sees the past. This is a tricky gift to turn into an Olympic sport as it sounds more useful for Time Team. Perhaps the guys in his discipline could be each given a ruin (Colosseum, Parthenon, etc.) and have to rebuild it (resources unlimited) exactly as it was on the day it was first opened.

Victor – he in many ways has the scariest power of all the brothers as it involves meddling in the minds of others. I suppose he could enter into a competition to run the most perfect opening ceremony. Watching the Beijing one, you had to wonder if there wasn’t some kind of mind control going on! I’ve got a feeling the London one is going to be less smooth…

Will - I have a soft spot for this guy, everyone’s best mate, tuned for danger. I think we could run a great event for him, like a kind of Capture the Flag where the contestants have to evade ‘the enemy’ to gain the prize. Set him down in the wilderness and let him show what he is made of! Bear Grylls, eat your heart out!

Xav – we already know that Xav rocks at downhill slalom so he could enter the real Olympics without cheating. His healing skills would make him a must as your team therapist.

Yves – so much potential here! How about long distance lighting of the Olympic torch? Or blow up the archery butts rather than shoot them? If we are thinking large, how about a strong of mountaintop beacons just like in The Return of the King, but lit by Savants from afar?

Zed – he can do a little bit of everything but I think he would enjoy a really difficult motorcycle course with random accidents waiting to happen. Those with foreknowledge would have to use it to avoid coming to disaster. Mario Carts, move over!

Many thanks to Joss and Oxford University Press.

The next stop on the tour is at Daisy Chain Book Reviews.

The previous stop was at Serendipity Reviews.

Follow Joss on twitter: @jossstirling and her website is here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blog Tour: Mary Hooper - Guest Post, Extract & Giveaway

Today is the final day of Mary Hooper's Blog Tour for her stunning new book, Velvet and Mary has kindly written a guest post about her Fantasy Dinner Party Guests:

Fantasy Dinner Party
(five people, living, dead or fictional that you would invite and why)

Do people still have dinner parties? I would probably have an Indian takeaway then we can all gather around the foil dishes and I wouldn’t have to worry about all that cooking.

Elvis Presley. He was my number one crush when I was fourteen. I had 120 photographs of him on my wall and I used to kiss every one of them before I went to bed. When I saw a trailer of TWILIGHT the other day I realised why girls had gone mad over Robert Pattison: he looks just like a twenty year old Elvis. Only not quite as gorgeous.

Heathcliff. I can’t see him fitting into a dinner party, or helping the other guests to a spoonful of Bombay pickle, and he’s a bit of a bad-boy cliché, but when he was invented by Charlotte Bronte he wasn’t a cliché at all. He’d hate everyone at the party and brood a lot, and when he left early we could all talk about him.

Jo Brand. I love Jo. I love her dry wit and her deadpan delivery, I love that she doesn’t care. I think I could be best friends with her. I don’t think she’d get on with Philip Larkin as a person, however, so I’m looking forward to a lively debate over the Tikka Masala.

Paul Whitehouse. Okay, I know he’s been around a while now, but he’s still my favourite comic. So versatile – the list of “characters” he has played or invented is endless. And nothing is funnier, or more poignant, than Ted and Ralph. It’s one of those rare pieces that make you laugh and cry at the same time.

Philip Larkin. Witty, erudite and a bit of a dark horse (impassive behind his glasses, but what about all those women he had on the quiet?) his poems linger in my mind like no others. From the endlessly debated and read-at- weddings, An Arundel Tomb, to the simple truth of This be the Verse to an eight-line poem about Myxomatosis which can reduce me (an ardent lover of rabbits) to tears, Larkin has a poem to cover it. Perhaps he’d care to immortalise my dinner party in a few well-chosen words...
Thanks very much Mary and Bloomsbury for allowing Teenage Fiction For All Ages to take part in the tour.

You can find out more about Mary Hooper at her website.
You can check out the earlier stops on the tour via her Facebook page

Scroll down to read an extract from Velvet and to enter the giveaway to win 8 of Mary's books.

Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet's very life is in danger ...A romantic and thrillingly exciting new novel from an acclaimed and much loved historical writer for teens.


Velvet by Mary Hooper - chapter one.


Thanks to Bloomsbury, I have one set of: At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, Petals in the Ashes, The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose, At The House of the Magician, By Royal Command, The Betrayal, Fallen Grace and Velvet to giveaway.

The giveaway is open to UK entrants only and the closing date is 20 September 2011. To enter please complete the form below.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Kidnap in the Caribbean by Lauren St John

Kidnap in the Caribbean by Lauren St John (July 2011, Orion Childrens ISBN 1444000217)

Review: Kidnap in the Caribbean is the sequel to the award-winning Dead Man's Cove and both feature the plucky and forthright eleven-year-old Laura Marlin, an orphan recently taken in by a long-lost uncle who lives in St Ives, Cornwall. Laura's uncle is an ex-detective and the talent seems to run in the family.

This time round, the story isn't set in St Ives but much further afield when Laura wins the holiday of a lifetime when she buys a raffle ticket from a street vendor. An all-expenses paid cruise to Antigua in the Caribbean, a holiday villa there and return flights. Her uncle is not keen at first but soon has a surprising change of heart. Laura's best friend Tariq and her 3-legged husky Skye are at the docks to see the pair off but events conspire and Tariq and Skye find themselves trapped aboard the ship. Luckily Laura's room has twin beds. With her uncle incapacitated on the journey Laura and Tariq entertain themselves - and there's lots to do. They, reluctantly at first, add another boy to their circle - Jimmy who is a bit of a pest- but they will be glad they did.

A few strange events occur on-board the ship but that's nothing to when Laura's uncle disappears and when the boat docks in Antigua, Laura and Tariq have to use their wits and rely on the kindness of strangers to get Laura's uncle back and keep themselves out of the clutches of the villains.

Kidnap in the Caribbean is an exciting adventure with two resourceful young leads (and a very intelligent dog!). Tariq is coming out of his shell but is still a quiet character. Part of the story is set on the island of Montserrat and I was pleased to learn more about the island and its volcano. There is an underlying environmental theme to the plot and there are notes at the back informing the reader about the state of the oceans and some of its inhabitants. Anything that makes the reader think about the state of the planet, is fine by me.

This is a entertaining series starring an independent and intelligent girl who is given free reign by her trusting guardian and makes good use of it.

Sadly the next book's not out until August 2012.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Posters Ahoy

First off I spotted Day of Vengeance getting the big promo treatment in WH Smith's poster (you can read author Johnny O'Brien's recent guest post here)

and then at my local train station, this glorious poster of Abandon by Meg Cabot which I haven't got yet but am looking forward to:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Library Loot (2.14), review copies, bought & won

Here's what's arrived at home this week,



Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
Let me set the record straight. My name is Charlotte Silver and I'm not one of those paranormal-obsessed freaks you see on TV…no, those would be my parents, who have their own ghost-hunting reality show. And while I'm usually roped into the behind-the-scenes work, it turns out that I haven't gone unnoticed. Something happened on my parents' research trip in Charleston—and now I'm being stalked by some truly frightening other beings. Trying to fit into a new school and keeping my parents' creepy occupation a secret from my friends—and potential boyfriends—is hard enough without having angry spirits whispering in my ear. All I ever wanted was to be normal, but with ghosts of my past and present colliding, now I just want to make it out of high school alive….



Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger (out now, Amulet Books)
This is the hilarious, clever and much-anticipated follow-up to the breakout hit, "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda". Tom is an exciting new voice in middle grade fiction. His spot-on portrayals of secondary school and the dynamics that exist between kids are realistic and humorous. He's definitely a rising author to watch. This is the fantastic book for boys and reluctant readers especially. "Publishers Weekly" said Tom's writing included 'spot-on boy banter', "100 Scope Notes" called Yoda 'reluctant reader platinum', and "Fuse Number 8" said, 'It's been a while since I found a book that can truly be called genderless (in that it has wide appeal across the board)'. "Lucasfilm" is enthusiastically back on board with us for the second book. It includes instructions for making your own original origami Darth Vader. Darth Vader is the most popular "Star Wars" character, their 'Mickey Mouse' according to Lucas.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (3 Oct, Bloomsbury)
Andi lives in New York and is dealing with the emotional turmoil of her younger brother's accidental death. Alex lives in Paris and is a companion to the dauphin, the young son of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, during the violent days of the French Revolution. When Andi is sent to Paris to get her out of the trouble she's so easily enveloped by in New York, their two stories collide, and Andi finds a way to reconcile herself not only to her past but also to her future. This is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful, evocative portrait of lives torn apart by grief and mended by love.

Mister Creecher by Chris Priestly (3 Oct, Bloomsbury)
Billy is a street urchin, pickpocket and petty thief. Mister Creecher is a monstrous giant of a man who terrifies all he meets. Their relationship begins as pure convenience. But a bond swiftly develops between these two misfits as their bloody journey takes them ever northwards on the trail of their target ...Victor Frankenstein. Friendship, trust and betrayal combine to form a dangerous liaison in this moving and frightening new book from Chris Priestley.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blog Tour: Johnny O'Brien

To celebrate the release of the third of the time-travelling Jack Christie Adventures, Day of Vengeance, and a stunning new cover-look for the series, author Johnny O'Brien is stopping by today to talk about his writing process and research.

My reviews of:
Day of the Assassins
Day of Deliverance
Day of Vengeance (review coming soon)

Read more about the Jack Christie Adventures at the Templar website and on Facebook and follow the tour here.

Over to Johnny:

I write mainly at weekends, as I have a day job where I work for a range of sinister global corporations. We have an old higgledy-piggledy farmhouse with very low beams and the floor is uneven so I am usually writing at an angle – which probably explains a lot! The room I write in is cold in winter and cold in summer – but there are great views – including of a field outside with our eleven sheep – I wouldn’t say I draw inspiration from them – but it is strangely relaxing watching them.

When it comes to research, there is no beating visiting the real places – whether Hampton Court, King’s College Cambridge or the Eiffel Tower. In Day of Deliverance, Jack and Angus climb up one of the towers on the College and then hide in the gap above the fan vaulted ceiling and the roof – you wouldn’t know these little things unless you had been there or talked to people who know about it. Sometimes in research, however, you do have to resort to good old fashioned books. The next Jack Christie Adventure takes place in China and I have actually been to China but unfortunately so much has so profoundly changed that a lot has to be gleaned from books and this is really hard. I try and make things accurate, but sometimes things are just not known and so you just kind of have to make your best guess.

The next stage is actually putting pen to paper. I find that I write a structure which is maybe about ten pages long which sets out what happens in each of the chapters. By then though I find myself losing patience and I want to get on with it, so I usually start with a chapter that is easy and fun to write – like a good action scene. What I find though is that as you work through the book things change – sometimes quite profoundly and you just can’t work out every detail before you start. Also the act of actually writing stimulates new ideas and pathways which sometimes replace the original ideas. One problem with all this is the time travel theme which can introduce horrible logical dilemmas and structural issues which can mean you have to go back and start again. And of course that’s all before the editor gets hold of it!

If I am not in the mood to write, sometimes I will go through the previous chapter that I wrote and edit that and that kind of gets you into the swing of things and then I’m ready to break new ground. So I edit as I go along, but once finished, the book will need three or so full read throughs and edits by me before I submit it to the publisher. Even when I go back and read the finished books now there is stuff that I want to change – it’s all quite painful! I have to say though, a good editor is absolutely invaluable and you have to accept that once they get hold of the book, they will make suggested changes and there will be re-work. This can be a challenging process – but it invariably ends in a much better book.

Many thanks to Johnny and Templar for arranging this.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Day of Deliverance by Johnny O'Brien

Day of Deliverance by Johnny O'Brien (January 2011, Templar Publishing, ISBN: 1848770979)

Review: This is the second in the Jack Christie series which currently numbers three and follows on from Day of the Assassins.

At the beginning of the book, there is a brief recap of Jack's adventures so far ie his father has created a time-machine and is a "revisionist", someone who wants to go back in time and change the past to improve the present. Jack and his friend Angus have been recruited by VIGIL who want to prevent any such meddling in time.

In Day of Deliverance, VIGIL has been tipped off by Jack's father that Jack's former history teacher Pendelshape has decided to go back to Elizabethan times and change the course of history, significantly. Jack's dad is now on the run from both sides...

Jack and Angus are sent back to 1587 to find out more and to prevent the Revisionists from succeeding, and along the way they witness the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, are betrayed by Christopher Marlowe and have lunch with William Shakespeare as well as being captured and recaptured by Spanish and Revisionist factions. Their mission turns out to be not only to save Queen Elizabeth I's life but also to prevent the Spanish Armada from winning the war!

I really enjoyed Day of Deliverance. I have a fondness for this period and I like all the details about daily life, such as drinking ale rather than water as well as the grander back-drop. The story clips along, and includes plenty of action from night-climbing in Cambridge to desperate horse-rides from pursuers. The boys make friends whilst they're there, in the shape of some actors (Players) who provide valuable assistance in sticky situations. We get to know Jack and Angus a bit more; Jack is the brains and Angus the muscle, and they complement each other well. As with the previous book, there is supplementary material in the form of photos of paintings, sketches, maps and some notes on the people and events covered.

As well as entertainment, Day of Deliverance provides a painless and enjoyable history lesson and I look forward to reading the next book, Day of Vengeance.

Though this series may appeal more to boys as the leads are 15 and 17-year-old males, this instalment could be of interest to girls who enjoy the Elizabethan Lady Grace Mysteries (in the second one, Betrayal, Lady Grace also ends up on Francis Drake's ship but not during the Armada!).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blog Tour: Kate Harrison

Orion have launched their Indigo imprint of YA titles and one of the first ones is Soul Beach by Kate Harrison. I have been drooling over this one since I first heard about it and it's as good as I'd hoped.

As part of the Soul Beach tour, Kate Harrison has written a guest post on crime fiction - a topic dear to my heart.

First, here's the blurb for the first book in the Soul Beach trilogy, parts 2 and three are scheduled for July 2012 and 2013 respectively.

When Alice Forster receives an email from her dead sister she assumes it must be a sick practical joke. Then an invitation arrives to the virtual world of Soul Beach, an idyllic online paradise of sun, sea and sand where Alice can finally talk to her sister again - and discover a new world of friendships, secrets and maybe even love ...But why is Soul Beach only inhabited by the young, the beautiful and the dead? Who really murdered Megan Forster? And could Alice be next? The first book in an intriguing and compelling trilogy centred around the mystery of Megan Forster's death.

Secondly, here's the trailer:

and third, there is an extract (and more) on the Soul Beach website.


The moody beachfront cover of Soul Beach suggests dark plots and extreme danger.

But when I was writing my first thriller, my influences were a little less scary than the image suggests. Without realising it at the time, I was following in the footsteps of Enid Blyton. Or the giant paw prints of Scooby Doo...

Because in Soul Beach, the young aren’t just the victims – they fight back.

Children – young girls in particular – appear all the time in crime fiction, meeting more than their fair share of grisly ends. It’s easy to see why they’re tempting for a novelist: an attack on innocence is shocking and suggests genuine evil. And in this generation, more than ever before, children are protected and monitored, constantly made aware of stranger danger. When adult protection fails, it’s everyone’s worst nightmare.

In contrast, the ranks of the investigators are dominated by detectives wrinklier than a Sharpei dog. That’s why when I had the idea for Soul Beach, I wanted my teenage heroine to take action, rather than be a passive victim. And I’ve realised I can trace that desire back to my own childhood reading and viewing.

When I was growing up in the seventies and eighties, it felt different: we really could disappear for hours without our parents panicking. And that was the case in books, too. Enid Blyton’s rather stuffy heroes spent their free time uncovering derring-do as Secret Sevens or Famous Fives. Scooby and his teen chums specialised in uncovering supernatural goings on that always turned out to be smoke and mirrors. I was never a big Nancy Drew fan, but she was a player, too. Back then, kids got their hands dirty.

In Soul Beach, my own hands are far from clean when it comes to killing off the young. Everyone on my paradise shore is young, beautiful – and dead. But my earthbound heroine, 16-year-old Alice, takes control of their fates and her own.

Making this happen wasn’t easy. Most teenagers complain about the restrictions placed upon them– and I knew that Alice’s parents, devastated by the murder of her elder sister, would be so anxious that they wouldn’t let her out of their sight. So how could I give her an active role in solving Meggie’s murder? Plenty of authors kill off awkward parents, or send them abroad, but that seemed too easy to me.

My solution tapped into another thing parents often fear – the internet. Alice seems safe in her bedroom – but with every click, she’s putting herself in danger. The online world draws her in, and it’s unclear if anyone is controlling her. Yet the internet also offers her answers, as she investigates why people end up on the Beach and why her sister lost her life.

Thriller or investigative elements in YA books seem to be on the increase.... and with that, there’s less passivity in our heroes and heroines. From the sleuthing efforts of Christopher in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, to Todd’s determination to find out what lies beyond Prentisstown in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, the young are determined to find out the reality beyond the world adults try to show them.

OK, it’s a darker world than Blyton’s. But as Alice faces her fears to find out who killed her sister, I think Scooby’s tail would be wagging furiously in support.

Many thanks to Kate and Indigo for arranging this.

You can read about all Indigo's titles on their website.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: Day of the Assassins by Johnny O'Brien

Day of the Assassins by Johnny O'Brien (June 2009, Templar Publishing, ISBN: 1840116730)

Review: This is the first in the Jack Christie series which currently numbers three.

Fifteen-year-old Jack live with his mum in Scotland and along with his best friend Angus, attends a new, small school. Jack and Angus's favourite computer game is Point of Departure set in World War One. On Jack's birthday, the friends discover a secret room adjacent to the cellar where they spend their game-playing time and in it they find historical artefacts and books and equipment. It was Jack's father's workshop before he mysteriously left the family. Jack hasn't seen his dad for years but receives a birthday present every year.

When Jack and Angus show one of the historical artefacts to their history teacher Mr Pendelshape they could not have expected what would happen next...

The boys are taken to another secret workshop, in the school, where Mr Pendelshape explains why Jack's father is AWOL - because he has perfected a time-travel machine and wants to change the past. When the boys and the teacher are attacked by those who want to prevent any meddling in time, Jack is able to escape via a time-machine into 1914. And so begins a chase across time and Europe. Which side will Jack choose, his father's or his father's enemies?

Jack makes friends along the way as he travels to Sarajevo to prevent or assist in the pivotal moment of history which caused the First World War - the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

I did find Day of the Assassins a little slow to get going as it takes about 50 pages (of the 200) for the adventure to begin but once it did and Jack went back in time I was hooked. As well as being exciting and tense, Day of the Assassins offers a historical context to the war and offers the moral dilemma - would you save millions of lives in the past if you could, irrespective of the consequences on the here and now? I particularly liked the inclusion of photographs of some of the key players from the past and a map and time-line of the war. Jack and Angus are likeable characters and I look forward to reading more of their adventures and seeing if Jack ever meets his father.

The book cover will probably appeal to boys more than girls with its bullet holes though I hope girls will pick it up; it's a very easy way to learn new facts. There are some deaths, of people the boys meet, and the vocabulary appeared quite sophisticated (to me), so even though my library shelves this in 9-12s I would pitch it at slightly older readers than that.

My Life as a Book 2011

As started by Pop Culture Nerd, my life as a book 2011:

One time at band/summer camp, I: [found a] Girl, Missing (Sophie McKenzie)

Weekends at my house are: [spent on the] Soul Beach (Kate Harrison)

My neighbour is: Raising Demons (Rachel Hawkins)

My boss is: David (Mary Hoffman)

My ex was: Torment (Lauren Kate)

My superhero secret identity is: Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer)

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry because: [we may] Clash (Colin Mulhern)

I’d win a gold medal in: [er I've] Forgotten (Cat Patrick)

I’d pay good money for: [Doctor Who:] The Jade Pyramid (Martin Day)

If I were president, I would: [be the target of an] Assassin (Grace Cavendish)

When I don’t have good books, I: [go on] The Hunt (Amy Meredith)

Loud talkers at the movies should be: [turned] Inside Out (Maria V Snyder)

My crime fiction version is on my Euro Crime blog.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Library Loot (2.12-2.13), review copies & bought

Two weeks' worth here.




Lies by Michael Grant (5th Sep, Egmont Books Ltd)

Soul Beach by Kate Harrison (out now, Indigo)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith (Jan 2012, Headline) & goodies!

Between by Jessica Warman (3rd Oct, Egmont Books Ltd)

The Other Life by Susann Winnacker (Feb 2012, Usborne)

From AudioGo:

Blood Ransom by Sophie McKenzie (Audio Book) (out now)

Doctor Who: Serpent Crest: Tsar Wars by Paul Magrs (Audio Book) (8th Sep)

Doctor Who: Blackout by Oli Smith (Audio Book) (8th Sep)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Publishing Deal - Dawn Porter

News of a two-book deal for Dawn Porter, from Book Trade:

Hodder Children's Books are pleased to announce the acquisition of two teen titles from celebrity broadcast and print journalist Dawn Porter.

Based on Dawn Porter's own adolescence growing up on Guernsey, these are epic stories of an intense female friendship between two schoolgirls, at a crucial age; when platonic love can rival romantic love in the passion, jealousy, joy and betrayal it inspires and the lifelong bonds that are forged between girls.

Hodder Children's YA Publisher, Emily Thomas says: 'We are thrilled to be publishing what we know will be a thoroughly compelling and epic story highlighting the power of female friendship. Dawn is a fabulous role model for teenage girls; her exploration of important subjects such as body image and breast awareness, as well as her great work in raising money for connected charities, gives her a powerful and refreshing point of difference in the world of media celebrity publishing.'

Free Derek Landy Short Stories (e-books)

Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant short stories, Gold, Babies and the Brothers Muldoon and The Lost Art of World Domination are currently available for free as a UK Kindle or from iTunes, (no epub versions as far as I know).

From Derek Landy's blog: The Lost Art of World Domination takes place after Skulduggery Pleasant, and Gold, Babies and the Brothers Muldoon takes place after Playing With Fire. The other short stories will be released over the next few months.

These stories should shortly be available on

Gold Babies and the Brothers Muldoon:
UK Kindle NB 49p though supposed to be free

Midnight. Valkyrie Cain approaches an old, ramshackle church to make a delicate deal with a trio of ugly, hairy goblins. To her absolute non-surprise, the goblins have no intention of honouring that deal- but not to worry. Skulduggery Pleasant is standing by to deliver a surprise of their own. Things, however, don’t go exactly according to plan. Not least because the goblins have a sister. A very big, very strong sister. Who might just have a TINY crush on one of our heroes…

The Lost Art of World Domination
UK Kindle

A shot of Skulduggery action for free. It isn’t easy to take over the world. First you need the scheme. Then you need the muscle. Then you need to come up with a system for ruling six billion people and keeping them from revolting. It takes a certain kind of man to take over the world. Scaramouch Van Dreg, however, is not that man. But he has one thing going for him. He has his arch enemy, Skulduggery Pleasant, chained up in his dungeon, and the only person who is coming to save him is the skeleton detective’s 13 year old sidekick. What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Published in September (2011)

Here are some of the teenage/YA titles that are being published in the UK in September 2011. I will put a link to this post and previous and subsequent "monthly" lists in my sidebar. January's list can be found here, February's here, March's here, April's here, May's here, June's here, July's here and August's here. Title links go to Please let me know of others to add to the list. In general I have not included re-issues and have stuck to UK publishers.

Monthly lists for 2010 can be found here.

I have tried to identify all the British authors which I hope will be useful to those doing the Bookette's excellent British Books Challenge.

Anthology - Haunted (1st, Andersen, pb)
David Almond - The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean (1st, Puffin, pb) British Author
Ian Beck - Hidden Kingdom (??. OUP, pb) British Author
Ilsa J Bick - Ashes (29th, Quercus Publishing Plc, pb)
Judy Blume - Here's to you, Rachel Robinson (2nd, Macmillan Children's Books, pb)
John Boyne - Noah Barleywater Runs Away (1st, David Fickling Books, pb)
Heather Brewer - The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Twelfth Grade Kills (1st, Puffin, pb)
Melvin Burgess - Kill All Enemies (1st, Puffin, pb) UK
Meg Cabot - Abandon (1st, Macmillan Children's Books, pb)
Aimee Carter - The Goddess Test (16th, MIRA Ink, pb)
Ally Carter - Heist Society (1st, Orchard, pb)
Lauren Child - Ruby Redfort (29th, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, HB) British Author
Tera Lynn Childs - Sweet Venom (6th, HarperCollins, HB)
Cinda Williams Chima - The Warrior Heir (1st, Indigo, pb)
Harlan Coben - Shelter (15th, Indigo, HB)
Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout - Love Inc (26th, ALLISON & BUSBY, pb)
Jo Cotterill - Ice Dreams (1st, Red Fox, pb) British Author
Joseph Delaney - Spooks: I Am Grimalkin (1st, Bodley Head, HB) British Author
Chris d'Lacey - Fire World (1st, Orchard, pb)
British Author
Roddy Doyle - Wilderness (1st, Marion Lloyd Books, pb)
Paul Dowswell - Sektion 20 (5th, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, pb) British Author
Hilary Duff - Devoted (29th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, HB)
Fiona Dunbar - Fire and Roses (1st, Orchard, pb) British Author
Jasper Fforde - The Last Dragonslayer (15th, Hodder & Stoughton, pb) British Author
Becca Fitzpatrick - Silence (29th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, HB)
Anna Godbersen - Beautiful Days (1st, Puffin, pb)
K M Grant - Hartslove (1st, Quercus, pb) British Author
Michael Grant - Lies (5th, Egmont, pb)
Lia Habel - Dearly Departed (29th, Doubleday Childrens, pb)
Andrew Hammond - Crypt: The Gallows Curse (1st, Headline, pb) British Author
Kate Harrison - Soul Beach (1st, Indigo, pb) British Author
Charlie Higson - The Fear (15th, Puffin, HB) British Author
Will Hill - Department 19 (1st, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, pb) British Author
Mary Hooper - Velvet (5th, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, pb) British Author
Kathryn James - Mist (1st, Hodder Children's Books, pb) British Author
Mia James - Darkness Falls (29th, Indigo, HB) British Author
Maureen Johnson - Shades of London (1) - The Name of the Star (29th, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, pb)
Allan Frewin Jones - Govannon's Destiny (1st, Hodder Children's Books, pb) British Author
Carrie Jones & Steven E Wedel - After Obsession (5th, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, pb)
Derek Landy - Death Bringer (1st, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, HB)
Kirsty McKay - Undead (1st, Chicken House, pb) British Author
Sophie McKenzie - Sister, Missing (15th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, HB) British Author
Jonathan Maberry - Dust & Decay (29th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)
Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong (eds) - Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions (1st, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, pb)
Elizabeth Miles - Fury (1st, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, HB)
Lee Nichols - Betrayal (5th, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, pb)
Panama Oxridge - Justin Thyme (1st, Inside Pocket Publishing Ltd, pb) British Author
Annabel Pitcher - My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (29th, Indigo, pb) British Author
Kirsten Reed - The Ice Age (5th, Picador, pb)
Kieran Scott - He's So Not Worth it (1st, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)
Darren Shan - The Saga of Larten Crepsley (3) - Palace of the Damned (29th, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, HB)
Darren Shan - The Saga of Larten Crepsley (2) - Ocean of Blood (29th, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, pb)
Sara Shepard - Never Have I Ever (29th, Harper, pb)
Malaika Rose Stanley - Skin Deep (1st, Tamarind, pb) British Author
Joss Stirling - Stealing Phoenix (1st, OUP, pb) British Author
Cate Tiernan - Immortal Beloved (1st, Hodder Paperbacks, pb)
Jessica Verday - The Hidden (1st, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)
Sarah Webb - Ask Amy Green: Love and Other Drama-Ramas (1st, Walker, pb)
Scott Westerfeld - Goliath (29th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, HB)
Deborah White - Wickedness (1st, Templar, pb)
British Author
K J Wignall - Blood (5th, Egmont, pb) British Author
Maryrose Wood - Poison Diaries: Nightshade (1st, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, pb) British Author
Rick Yancey - The Monstrumologist: The Isle of Blood (29th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)