Monday, 31 January 2011

News: The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew trailer

I have just this minute spotted a tweet made by Jon Mayhew about the trailer for his new book, The Demon Collector and just had to share it with you. You may have already read the short piece that Jon wrote about his new book for The Book Zone as part of my Coming Up In 2011 feature, but if not you can go straight to it by clicking here (obviously not until you have viewed the trailer though). Since writing that post I have read The Demon Collector and I am happy to report that it is fab! My review will appear sometime during February so please watch this space.





Coming Up in 2011 #9: An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons

I don't know where Alan Gibbons finds the time to write these days as he spearheads the fight against the various library closures around the country. However, find the time he does, and in June his next book is scheduled to be published. And no, it's not the next book in his Hell's Underground series, but something completely different. The book is called An Act of Love, and this is Alan describing it in his own words:

“There’s a bomb.”

These are the words that pop up on eighteen-year-old soldier Chris Hook’s mobile as he waits to receive his medal after returning from duty in Afghanistan. The message comes from his boyhood friend and neighbour, Imran Hussein. 

That is the beginning of my latest novel, due to be published on June 2nd by Orion Children’s Books. From this point, a threatened suicide bombing at a British Army barracks, the novel moves forward, following the events to their conclusion and back, to when the boys were seven years old and two planes were about to crash into the Twin Towers and change their future for good.

I wanted to write a contemporary novel dealing with the impact of terrorism on young lives. What leads Chris to join the Army and risk his life in a country far away? What leads Imran to flirt with a terrorist group?

In the past I have written horror stories about demons and monsters. In this novel the horror is now. It is real.


I can't wait to read this. I have been discussing with a number of friends recently how we need more books for young people that look at issues such as this, and also more books with young moslems as main characters. My thanks go to Alan for taking time out of his ever busy schedule to write this for The Book Zone.


Sunday, 30 January 2011

Review: Mean Streets - The Chicago Caper by Graham Marks


After having recovered from his adventure in Constantinople, Trey is staying at the Circle M Ranch, outside Topeka, Kansas, owned by his Gramps, the original T Drummond MacIntyre. But it's quiet in Topeka and Trey is bored. However, that's all about to change. A new mystery and an exciting adventure begins for Trey as he soon finds himself thrown into the middle of a mafia-backed plot to derail the presidential elections. From detective work to kidnapping, Trey is thrust into the frightening, secretive world of the mafia and despite all that s come before, nothing can prepare him for the dangerous world that awaits him on the Mean Streets of Chicago.........

The first book featuring Trey MacIntyre was one of the first books that I reviewed on The Book Zone, back in October 2010. At the time I likened I-Spy: The Constantinople Caper to the Young Indiana Jones TV series, and the sequel now set in Chicago and Topeka, Kansas is more of the same - an entertaining, fast-paced, action-packed adventure story that owes a lot to the traditions set by the pulp novels of the early 20th Century, as well as the real-life activities of the Chicago mobsters and their nemeses, Eliott Ness and his Untouchables.

Mean Streets starts off with Trey holidaying at his grandfather's Kansas ranch. For most young boys this would be a funfilled time of horse riding and ranch working, but as we discovered in The Constantinople Caper Trey is no ordinary boy. Instead, he is a boy obsessed with the adventures of his hero, private investigator Trent "Pistol" Gripp from Black Ace magazine, a passion further fueled by Trey's recent acquisition of a copy of How To Become A Private Eye In 10 Easy Lessons, by Austin J. Randall. As such, where a normal kid would just admire a fancy Buick Monarch, Trey sees mobsters and a potential case for him to investigate, especially as said mobsters seem to be meeting with a less-than-friendly neighbour of his grandfather. So begins another adventure for Trey which finds him embroiled in a mobster plot to influence the next presidential election and thereby keep the extremely profitable prohibition laws running. Sadly Eliott Ness does not make an appearance in the book, but head of the Chicago branch of the Bureau of Investigation, Robertson Ely Bonner, is surely partly based on the famous real-life lawman.

Whilst I really enjoyed The Constantinople Caper I also felt that it had a few weaknesses. None of these are present in Mean Streets, and I flew through the story in a single sitting - this is most definitely a book for 9+ boys who enjoy action and adventure stories. It has shoot-outs, kidnappings and gritty detective work, and its setting, based on the real events that happened in 1920s Chicago, makes it even more enjoyable. I'm sure that I will not be the only 'boy' who has a desire to find out more about this fascinating period once the book is finished (confession - I felt compelled to watch The Untouchables again that very evening).

Mean Streets - The Chicago Caper was published back in December 2010, and my thanks go to the generous people at Usborne for sending me a copy to review.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Coming Up in 2011 #8: The Western Mysteries - The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence

When I was a kid I loved watching Westerns on TV. My favourite were, and still are, Sergio Leone's original Man With No Name 'trilogy' starring Clint Eastwood, and The Good, the Bad and The Ugly is one of my all time Top 5 favourite films. However, it is a genre that we sadly don't often see in children's books these days but that isall soon change as Caroline Lawrence, author of The Roman Mysteries books, has a new series starting in June. Caroline very kindly wrote a short piece about her new books for The Book Zone:


My new series, The Western Mysteries, is a fresh take on the Western genre. These books do not have a square-jawed Cowboy and his Faithful Steed. Good does not always triumph and a Bullet does not kill instantly - or sometimes at all. The first book in the series, The Case of the Deadly Desperados, finds 12-year-old P.K. “Pinky” Pinkerton arriving in Virginia City homeless, orphaned and hunted by a sadistic desperado. But armed with a Smith & Wesson seven-shooter and a knack for disguises, P.K. takes on Walt and his gang, plus dancing girls, gamblers & even Mark Twain. Told in a deadpan style with plenty of sagebrush humour, gory action and historical accuracy, I hope this new series will help revive the Western genre for kids.


The first book in this series is scheduled to be published by Orion on 2nd June. The 'wild west' is a time and place that should be a great setting for boy-friendly stories and I can't wait to find out what adventures Caroline has written for her young hero. If you want to find out more about Caroline and The Western Mysteries then why not pop over to http://www.westernmysteries.com/

Friday, 28 January 2011

News: The Joshua Files - Dark Parallel trailer

I've just this minute spotted a tweet from M.G. Harris about the trailer for the fourth Joshua Files book, Dark Parallel, and I just had to share it with you all. Long time readers of The Book Zone will already know how highly I rate the Joshua Files books and I am really excited about reading Dark Parallel very soon. The book is officially released on 7th April and my review will be posted sometime before that, but in the meantime here is the trailer:


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Coming Up in 2011 #7: Department 19 by Will Hill

Is it wrong that I already know what my favourite book of 2011 is likely to be? I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have received an early proof copy of Department 19 by Will Hill; it is brilliant, and any other book released this year will have to be pretty damn special if it is going to take this top spot at the end of the year. There was a huge amount of buzz about this book when the proofs were first released, thanks to Amanda at Floor To Ceiling Books and Liz at My Favourite Books, both of whom were attended an extra special industry event for the book at the Cabinet War Rooms. I then received a significant number of emails from readers of The Book Zone, asking me for more information about it so in the end I did a quick teaser post. Now the release date of 31 March is fast approaching and so here is Will Hill telling us about Department 19:


It's not easy being a teenage boy. It's much, much harder if the following things are true:

- Your dad died in front of you.
- You're being bullied.
- You have no friends.
- You and your mum are drifting apart.
- You get attacked by a beautiful vampire girl while the second oldest vampire in the world takes your mother hostage and drives you into the arms of the most highly classified department of the British government, where you find out that pretty much everything you thought you knew, about your life and everything else, was a lie.

Welcome to Jamie Carpenter's world.

Jamie is the hero of my first novel, Department 19, publishing in March, a hundred-mile-an-hour supernatural thriller, full of old-school vampires who would rather tear your throat out than kiss your face off, and who can't go in the sun because they will burst into flames. There's no sparkling here - just an action-packed race against time, from Victorian London to 1920s New York, from the Russian wilderness to the tiny island of Lindisfarne, where the most evil creature on the planet lies in wait...

I wrote the book for a really simple reason - I'm pretty sure my teenage self would have loved it. There weren't really books like this when I was young - I went straight from reading Roald Dahl to reading Stephen King and Clive Barker.

Department 19 is my attempt to bridge that gap.




Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Coming Up in 2011 #6: The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

We've had vampires. Werewolves too. Zombies are currently a hot subject for kids and YA books, but in 2011 it looks as if things are going to go old school and we will see the return to mass popularity of the ghost/haunted house story. And if Cliff McNish's previous work is anything to go by then I reckon The Hunting Ground should be amongst the very best in this genre in 2011. I first discovered Mr McNish through his brilliant Savannah Grey, a science fiction story with a great undercurrent of terror, and I have since  hunted out some of his other books. This new one looks like just my kind of thing, and my thanks go to Cliff for taking the time to write a short piece about The Hunting Ground for us:


I’ve always loved ghost stories. A few years ago hardly anyone was writing any good ones, so I decided to write BREATHE, where I put a boy who can talk to the dead in a lot of danger. I made it as scary as I could. In THE HUNTING GROUND two boys, Elliott (14) and Ben (12) move into a new house, but there’s something in there with them. It’s a little girl, but she’s not alive and she’s not innocent and behind her is a murderer who has been waiting a long time for new blood to arrive.


Cliff is right - there has been a disappointing dearth of good ghost stories for the younger market in recent years, and so I am really looking forward to reading this one. The Hunting Ground is scheduled for a May release, and I am sure a review will appear here on The Book Zone at some point in the future.



Sunday, 23 January 2011

Coming Up in 2011 #5: 20 Years Later by E.J. Newman

Today's 'Coming Up in 2011' features a book that has been on my radar for quite a long time, and even though it will not be published until July I already know a great deal about the story as Emma Newman, the author of 20 Years Later, has been podcasting through her website for more than a year. Three quarters of the way through doing this she got a publishing deal for the book, but her publisher, a fledging US company called Dystopia Press, allowed to to continue hosting the podcasts on her website here. This is what Emma sent me about 20 Years Later for this feature:


LONDON, 2012: It arrives and with that the world is changed into an unending graveyard littered with the bones, wreckage, and memories of a dead past, gone forever.

LONDON, 2032: Twenty years later, out of the ashes, a new world begins to rise, a place ruled by both loyalty and fear, and where the quest to be the first to regain lost knowledge is an ongoing battle for power. A place where laws are made and enforced by roving gangs—the Bloomsbury Boys, the Gardners, the Red Lady’s Gang—who rule the streets and will do anything to protect their own.

THE FOUR: Zane, Titus, Erin, Eve. Living in this new world, they discover that they have abilities never before seen.  And little do they know that as they search post-apocalyptic London for Titus’ kidnapped sister that they’ll uncover the secret of It, and bring about a reckoning with the forces that almost destroyed all of humanity.

The book also has a great looking cover, and Emma kindly sent over a scan of it for me to share with you:


20 Years Later is scheduled to be released as a hardback on 5th July, and having been a fan of the podcasts for some time I am really looking forward to reading the final version - it is sure to be a hit with lovers of dystopian YA fiction. You can follow Emma on Twitter as @EmApocalyptic and 20 Years Later also has its own page on Facebook.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Review: 0.4 by Mike Lancaster


'My name is Kyle Straker. And I don't exist anymore.' 

So begins the story of Kyle Straker, recorded on to old audio tapes. You might think these tapes are a hoax. But perhaps they contain the history of a past world...If what the tapes say are true, it means that everything we think we know is a lie. 

And if everything we know is a lie does that mean that we are, too?

Over the past year or so I have occasionally had a little moan regarding the lack of intelligent science fiction stories written for young people these days. Keith Mansfield has produced two fine 'space opera' novels as part of his Johnny Mackintosh series, A.G. Taylor is flying a sci-fi flag with his brilliant Superhumans books and over in the US Douglas E. Richards has also produced a trio of cracking books for the 10+ involving alien worlds. But where are the John Wyndhams of the new millennium? Well there just might be a chance that Mike Lancaster is ready to step in and apply for the position. Yes, I know that John Wyndham is a legend in science fiction circles, and books like Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos are true classics of the genre, but young readers just developing a thirst for science fiction often prefer something a little more modern in writing style before progressing on to the classics, and they could do a hell of a lot worse than start off with 0.4.

The opening pages of 0.4 inform the reader that the item in their hands is a book, and we very quickly work out that this future society no longer reads as we do, and the written word has been obsolete for many years. The book goes on to tell us that the story is a transcript taken off some old analogue cassette tapes, and if what is dictated on the pages is genuine then it could have a huge impact on how these people view their society. The bulk of the story is then written in the first person, that being Kyle Straker, an average teenage boy who lives in a typical small town British village. He goes to school, he has friends, his family situation has been happier, but everything goes on as normal.... until the day he volunteers to be hypnotised at the annual village talent contest. One minute he, and three other volunteers, are being put into a state of hypnotic sleep, and the very next they are 'waking' to discover everyone else in the village has become a living statue, frozen doing whatever they were doing at that single moment in time. The mystery, and their terror, intensifies as the foursome discover that the phones are also dead, and there is nothing but static on the radio. However, this terror is nothing compared to what they feel as the villagers suddenly 'awaken'.......

I really don't want to say any more about the storyline as to do so would create spoilers. All I will say is that older science fiction fans will probably feel that the author was partly inspired by Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, but there are also parallels to be drawn with the previously mentioned The Midwich Cuckoos. I certainly experienced the same sensation of eeriness and creeping dread that I felt when I first saw both Invasion films and first read Wyndham's classic; and it is the kind of feeling that meant I just did not want to put the book down. Usually this only happens with books that I have long been anticipating, but I had not heard of 0.4 until the kind people at Egmonst sent it along with a copy of The Shadowing, and so having started this as I went to bed I found myself reading well into the night.

The engaging and fast moving plot is aided admirably by the author's main character. Kyle is a long way from being the kind of boy we find in many books for the 12+ age group these days - he is certainly no Alex Rider. As I said before, he is an average teenage boy, and it is his very ordinariness that makes the story that much more believable. As I have said before in reviews, children often like their heroes to be normal kids, as they find it much easier to relate to the actions they take when placed in extremely difficult situations.

Throughout the book the narrative is occasionally broken up with editor's notes (Mike Lancaster being named as the editor of this future society). He uses these notes to clarify certain cultural references that Kyle makes, a device that  adds to the concept of this being a transcript of tapes recorded long ago. Let's face it, a society that no longer reads would hardly be expected to know the meaning of terms such as 'Coldplay', 'Britain's Got Talent' and 'Teletubbies'. I say this adds to the concept, but I personally found these notes a little intrusive and distracting at times. Perhaps they would have been better placed at the rear of the book as a glossary? That minor gripe aside this is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I will certainly be looking out for more from him in the future.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Review: Firebrand by Gillian Philip


It is the last decade of the sixteenth century: a time of religious wars in the full-mortal world. But the Sithe are at peace, hidden behind the Veil that protects their world until their queen, Kate NicNiven, determines to destroy it. Seth MacGregor is the half-feral son of a Sithe nobleman. When his father is assassinated, and Seth is exiled with his brother Conal to the full-mortal world, they vow not only to survive, but to return to reclaim their fortress and save the Veil. But even the Veil s power cannot protect the brothers when the brutal witch-hunts begin...


I first heard about this book back in the summer, with a fair number of reviews for it appearing on blogs that I occasionally pop by. Without exception these reviews were written by female reviewers, which surprised me somewhat as the publisher's blurb and the various reviews suggested that the book would likely be enjoyed by boys just as much as girls. Sometime later I was asked by the author if I would like a copy to read, and I decided to go with my gut instinct and said yes, although a small part of me was expecting (and dreading) a romance-ridden Twilight set in the faerie lands of Scotland. I am glad I trusted my instincts as this book is nothing short of brilliant and most definitely suitable for fantasy loving boys.

I wonder how many boys read that first paragraph, saw the word 'faerie' and immediately decided that this book wouldn't be for them? It is a sad fact that many boys (including some at the school where I teach) see that word and immediately assume the book will be full of girly-girly Tinkerbell fairies, fluttering around on gossamer wings. Let me tell you - Seth MacGregor is a fairy and he is certainly no girly-girly possessor of delicate wings. He is a man's man with sword skills and agility greater than even the greatest of human fighters. His is a magical but brutal world, where all must swear fealty to Sidhe Queen, Kate NicNiven, or face the consequences. Unfortunately for Seth and his brother, they fall foul of their volatile Queen and find themselves exiled to the land of mortals (i.e. our world); even more unfortunately for them it just happens to be at a time when witch-hunts are rife, with many innocents finding themselves burnt at the stake, often inly because they upset the wrong neighbour. I am sure you can guess that life very soon becomes rather uncomfortable for the two brothers.

The world in which Gillian Philip has set her story is incredibly well imagined, although being the first book in a series there are several areas that I am looking forward to finding out more about in the sequel. The land of the Sidhe is not entirely different from our own, with the lochs and hills that are typical of the Scottish landscape, but the author has a real talent at making it seem like a truly magical place and as I was reading it I became so fully immersed in the story that I had no trouble picturing every small detail of each scene's setting. Ms Philip is also very skilled at plotting a story, and as far as YA fantasy is concerned plots don't come much better than this. You want exciting action scenes? It has them. Political intrigue? Ditto. Exciting, full-developed characters? Check. This story has everything, yet Gillian Philip accomplishes this in less than 400 pages. I reckon a few established fantasy authors, who regularly churn out 600-700+ page so-called epics could learn a thing or two from Ms Philip about pace and how sometimes less is more. 

I know some reviewers have suggested that this book may not be suitable for younger teenage boys, but I would disagree here. Admittedly, the language at times is a little ripe, and the Sidhe approach to sex is rather liberal, with Seth losing his virginity not long after he had entered his teens, although the several "wink wink" scenes (as one of my blogger friends would say to me) are not at all graphic and the language no worse than they would hear from their mouths of their friends at school. In my experience this is the sort of book that 13+ confident reader male fantasy fans will love, and if they wait until they are older teens they will generally have already progressed to more demanding adult fantasy books. Yes, some less mature boys will struggle with it and some of the content may be unsuitable for them, but to generalise in this case would be a mistake I feel, although I also completely understand the natural hesitancy some librarians may feel about allowing younger teen boys access to this book.

Firebrand is published by Strident and is available to buy right now. My thanks go to Gillian Philip and Strident for the copy I was sent.    

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Coming Up In 2011 #4 : The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew

How excited was I on Friday when I arrived home from work to find an early copy of Jon Mayhew's The Demon Collector waiting for me? His debut book Mortlock was one of my favourites of 2010 and I have been waiting (un)patiently ever since for the release this one. It is not a sequel to Mortlock, but is instead another standalone horror novel set in the Victorian era. If it is even only half as good as Mortlock it will still be brilliant in my opinion. It isn't scheduled to be released until 7th March so expect my review sometime mid-February, although I have a feeling it may have already made the jump straight to the top of my TBR pile.



Anyway, Jon very kindly said he would wrote a few words about The Demon Collector for The Book Zone:

Edgy Taylor’s life is a misery. He collects dog muck off the streets of Victorian London for a brutal tanner called Talon. At the end of a hard day all Edgy gets from his master are a few crusts of bread and a sound beating. But edgy also fears for his sanity. He can see demons when nobody else can. He sees them in the street, in public houses and even at work.

Rescued from death at the hands of Talon by the mysterious Professor Envry Janus, Edgy is thrown into the bizarre world of the Royal Society of Daemonologie. At first Edgy thinks he’s landed on his feet. But soon Edgy is fighting for his life and watching his back. It seems the Society has a rotten secret at its core and Edgy finds he must unravel the riddle of the arch-demon Moloch or die. And if he fails then all of creation will pay.




Monday, 17 January 2011

My Life That Books Built #2: The Giant Jam Sandwich

In part one of my new semi-regular feature about the books that I have loved as I have grown up (in no particular order) I wrote about the first book I can remember owning, Little Jacko and the Wolf People. Sadly this book is no longer in print, but today's book seems to have been rarely out of print since it was first published in 1972. This week I am again looking at a picture book, and I know there will be many adult readers of the Book Zone who will share my love of The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway. Thanks to the generosity of the people at Random House, who have just republished the book under their Red Fox imprint, I now have a sparkling new copy to fill me with nostalgic feelings.




Some books age poorly, but I am happy to say that The Giant Jam Sandwich is not one of those. In my opinion it is still as funny and as fresh today as it was when it was first published, and it is certainly worthy of a place in any small child's book collection. If you don't know about this book (and it astounded me recently when my wife and my sister both claimed never to have heard of it) then you are in for as big a treat as any child you read it to for the first time. How's this for a premise:

One hot summer in Itching Down,
Four million wasps flew into town.

What are the villagers going to do about this noisy, nasty nuisance of a swarm? Make a giant jam sandwich - that's what!

Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best, and this story is wonderfully simple: an English country village is invaded by wasps (four million of the beggars) and so the residents come up with a plan to solve this problem that even the A-Team would have been impressed with - they will create a giant jam sandwich to lure the wasps, because:


"Then Bap the Baker leaped to his feet
And cried,, "What do wasps like best to eat?
Strawberry jam! Now wait a minute!
If we made a giant jam sandwich we could trap them in it!"

The word classic is often overused, but in this case I feel that it is thoroughly deserved. John Vernon Lord's illustrations are of a style that was very popular when the book was written, but in this sparkling new edition they don't seem old fashioned at all, even if the fashions depicted are not exactly the latest trends. Although as the images depict a the people of a stereotypical Midsomer style country village (without the Murders of course) maybe the styles of clothing weren't particularly typical of the time back then either. Janet Burroway's simple and humorous rhymes are the perfect complement to Lord's images, and I am sure that there will be many children who, once they have progressed onto reading for themselves, will continue to enjoy this book. With this new edition Red Fox have ensured that the quality of the story is matched by quality packaging - the images are bright and clear, and all printed on a good quality paper, ensuring that this story will continue to be loved by many more children.

Friday, 14 January 2011

News: Book Cover - Tarzan: The Legacy of Greystoke by Andy Briggs

Just over a week ago Andy Briggs kicked off my Coming Up In 2011 feature by telling us a little about his big new Tarzan series that is starting this year. At the time there was no book cover to show you but last night I received an email from Andy with the final cover graphic, and I think it is stunning. The style of text for "Tarzan" in particular is very striking, and I expect we will see it on all the books in the forthcoming series. 


My thanks go to Andy for emailing this over to me - with a cover like that to go with the iconic Tarzan character I expect this book to fly off the shelves.

Review: Monster republic - The Judas Code by Ben Horton



The explosion at the Prime Minister's visit to Long Harbour means the cover of the Monster Republic is blown, and they are forced deep into hiding. Lazarus Fry turns his tactics to infiltration, and is confident of their swift crushing. Plus his new pets, the Blood Hawks, are hungry to get their talons into some fresh kill...   But Fry hasn't counted on this band of rebel kids' awesome will for survival. When your back is against the wall, the only option is to come out fighting...

It really doesn't seem like twelve months since I read and reviewed Monster Republic, the first book in Ben Horton's series about a gang of children who have been experimented on by an evil scientist and lived to tell the tale. That first book was very much the story of Cameron, a boy caught up in a massive explosion who awakes to find that he has been worked on by the evil Lazarus Fry. Thanks to the explosion he is now severely disfigured, a tragedy that isn't even slightly improved in his mind by the fact that he has also been  given various bionic enhancements. That book detailed his escape from Fry's compound, and his discovery that he is not alone as he is taken under the wing of other experimentees, who have christened themselves the Monster Republic.

Cameron's character is still a key element of The Judas Code, which follows straight on from the events at the end of its predecessor. However, this story has a broadened focus in that the plot is now just as much about the group and their attempts to stay alive and hidden from the armed forces that are amassing in Broad Harbour and its surrounding area. Of course, there are still elements within the Republic who resent Cameron's presence, and do not yet trust him, fearing that his headstrong nature and desire for revenge may lead to disaster for them all. And maybe they they are right........


Just two books into the series and a reader will already know what to expect from Ben Horton. These are not books that are going to win prizes for the complexity of the plotting, or thorough and detailed character development. However, if there was an award going for pace and non-stop action then he would surely have a chance of being on the shortlist. That's not to say that the characters aren't good - with their various enhancements these monster children make for great reading fun, and I know many boys who really enjoyed the first book in the series because of Ben Horton's imaginative creations. The Judas Code helps us to get to know these damaged kids much better, and he really has fun  describing some of them (I think my favourite is the aptly named Crawler).


This is a great book for both struggling and reluctant readers, as the relatively large print and shortish chapters will appeal and the fast pace will help draw them into the story very quickly. At a push this book could be read as a standalone as the author seems to have gone out of his way to fill us in on the events that happened in the first book. This will certainly appeal to many reluctant reader boys who, if they see a book they like, want to read it there and then instead of having to faff around waiting for the first in the series to drop into their hands. However, the more discerning boy reader should really read book one first to get the most out of this sci-fi action series. The Judas Code was published on 6th January and my thanks go to the generous people at RHCB for sending me a copy to review. Watch this space for a chance to win a copy of the book in a few days time.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Coming Up In 2011 #3: My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

What I really love about this feature I have been running is how passionately authors come across about their work. These are people who write for the love og writing and because they have stories to tell; they are not in it for the money or fame (of which there is often little of either in the ever-competitive children's and YA market). My thanks got to Annabel Pitcher for her contribution to this feature, and to Nina Douglas at Orion for facilitating this one.

Imagine a terrorist attack.  A huge one.  Mass explosions in the centre of London.

Imagine a sister.  A dead one.  Blown up by a bomb in Trafalgar Square.

Imagine a dad.  An alcoholic.  Blames all Muslims for the death of his daughter.

And imagine Jamie.  A ten year old boy.  Desperate to hide a secret friend from his father...

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is my first novel, out on March 1st, and I am very excited to introduce it to you.  Jamie Matthews narrates the story, a boy who’s never cried about his dead sister and can’t wait to chuck the ashes that live in the urn on the mantelpiece so that everyone can forget Rose and move on.  Jamie’s far more interested in playing football, watching Spiderman and getting his own back on a bully.  Oh – and in keeping his new friend a secret from his drunk and racist father.

There are fights.  There are jokes.  There’s a clever twist.  My brother who hates reading missed Match of the Day to finish it.  ‘It wasn’t bad for a book,’ he said.  I hope you like it too.



My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece is scheduled to be published in March, expect a review to appear on The Book Zone sometime in the future.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

*** Interview with Curtis Jobling (author of Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing this blog is the chance it gives me to occasionally interview authors whose work I have loved. Fortunately so far they have all been by email so I have never had to struggle with a st-uck-for-words fan boy moment. This is one of my favourite Q&A sessions to date, all thanks to the level of detail that Curtis has put into his answers. I am especially grateful for the time he has put into this as I know things are going pretty crazy for him at the moment, with the release of Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf just last week, and also the announcement yesterday that the book had been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize (and deservedly so in my opinion). So, onto the questions:

How would you describe your book Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf to potential readers?

What sets the nobles, royals and bluebloods of “Wereworld” apart from those of other fantasy novels is that they’re all therianthropes; shapeshifters and werecreatures. The king of the realm is the tyrant Leopold the Lion. There’s Duke Bergan, the Bear of Brackenholme and Count Vega, the buccaneer pirate prince who happens to be a Wereshark. With wicked Wererats, noble Wereboars, a feisty Werefox and a monstrous Wereserpent there’s a rich world to explore. The story follows a young shepherd boy, Drew Ferran, coming of age at sixteen and discovering he is the last in the line of Werewolves and the rightful king of Lyssia. He’s soon hurtling across the continent being chased by the King and his allies, out of the frying pan and into the fire, encountering exotic Werelords along the way. It’s pure fantasy adventure with a liberal dollop of horror thrown in for good measure!

What was the original inspiration for Wereworld?

My love of fantasy and horror ensured that whatever I attempted to write as a first novel would involve both of those genres, and as a lover of werewolves (from folklore through to cinema) the hairy fellows were an obvious choice. I used to live on the North Yorkshire Moors (“American Werewolf” country) and I’d often get time to muse about writing when I was walking the dog through the wilds up there. I was also aware of the old Welsh legend of Beddgelert that involves the slaying of a faithful hound that had killed a wolf, and there’s a nod to that early on in the book.

This is obviously the first book in a series. Do you know how many books there will be in the series and have you planned them out already?

I’ve completed the first draft of the second book in the series, delivering it to Puffin before Christmas, but there’ll be plenty of editing to do before its published in January 2012. I have books 3,4 and 5 in my head, ready to roll, but we need to see how well the first books are received initially. There’s such a broad canvas to play with when you consider its a world of Werelords, there are no shortage of adventures to write about.

I think the Werelord concept is great. Do you have a favourite werelord (other than Drew’s werewolf of course)?

I think it’d have to be the charismatic captain of the Maelstrom, Count Vega. As a scoundrel and a Wereshark you know instinctively what the man is capable of, and he’s a ferocious beast in battle. But as a writer he’s a lot of fun as he says the inappropriate things that other nobles wouldn’t dream of saying.

I expected Wereworld to be a horror story due to the werewolf theme, but it is definitely more of a fantasy story. Is this what you intended from the start?

First and foremost it is fantasy, but once you throw the werecreatures into the mix then there’s obviously huge potential to indulge in horror. The first time I saw a monster transformation as a kid was Lon Chaney Jr’s The Wolfman, tame by today’s special effect standards but powerful and frightening to me as a seven or eight year old. That’s stayed with me to this day. It’s nice that the Wolf is the good guy here though – the monsters are different beasts altogether.

My love of fantasy goes way back to Where The Wild Things Are, the book that got me into reading as a little one. I’ve grown up reading plenty of fantasy sagas, especially in my youth, and if ever I was going to write a novel I think it was a given that my first would be fantasy. And it’s epic too (I hope!) so we’re looking at a long story here, a journey for not just Drew but the other characters. I only hope that I “deliver” with each book, as a pet gripe of mine is fantasy sagas that never seem to get anywhere, neverending with no sight of the finish line. I’m hoping that each of the Wereworld books show the characters growing, and ends on a satisfying reveal/triumph/defeat (delete as applicable).

You are well known for your abilities in art and design – did you create drawings of your characters to help you write the story?

Not with Wereworld, no. It’s been a completely different experience for me as obviously being an illustrator I’m used to providing images to go with my stories, via picture books and animation. I’ve provided a map in the front of the book, which I did for myself to help me get my head round the world of Lyssia, and I’ve also provided black and white pen & ink illustrations as chapterheads throughout the book. So I’ve managed to get a little arty. But the cover I didn’t go anywhere near – I did a rough sketch of my own for it, but it was all horror, no fantasy, and wouldn’t have been appropriate. Andrew Farley did a fabulous job with the cover art, and that’s something I couldn’t have done even if I tried.

In the front of the proof copy of the book I have it mentions that you are a long time fan of horror and fantasy. What are your favourite books and/or authors from these genres?

My favourite fantasy novel is probably The Hobbit, coincidentally the first novel I ever picked up from my local library (I must have been around nine or ten years old). The Lord Of The Rings is a close second. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials held me captivated from start to finish, the author effortlessly creating a series of fantasy worlds which could have populated a whole series for any other writer. I do love a good horror story though, and have always enjoyed short stories with lovely dark twists such as Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. My favourite horror novel of recent years was Max Brooks’ World War Z, a wonderful documentary-style account of the zombie apocalypse that features numerous eye-witness reports. Simply brilliant. There are other horror books I could mention but they’re all 18+ certificate and there’s a time and a place!

Do you have any favourite horror/fantasy films or TV shows?

Favourite horror show would be the recent Frank Darabont adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. I’m a sucker for zombie movies. Fantasy movies were my staple as a kid, and it’d be rude not to mention The Lord Of The Rings movies as the benchmark for fantasy movies today.

Which books/authors did you read as a child/teenager? How do you think they compare with the children’s/YA books available today?

As mentioned earlier it was Tolkien’s books I devoured as a teenager, although I spent an awful lot of time playing roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons which I’m sure have influenced me to this day. I often found myself running the games, sharing that task with my friends, and loved spinning my own yarns this way. It’s nice to see D&D is still popular today – a friend bought it for my 10 year old son before Christmas – although the rules have moved on a lot since my day. I’d need my old maths GCSE to understand the thing now!

There seem to be more books aimed at YAs nowadays – I’m sure there aren’t, but the success of the Potter and Twilight books has thrown the genre into the spotlight. I think it’s terrific that there’s so much choice out there for the readership, as well as the older classics that they can explore should they delve a little deeper. My favourite non-fantasy books when I was a boy were The Machine Gunners and Danny, Champion of the World, and it’s nice to see those books are still popular to this day.

You have had a very successful career in animation and illustration – what inspired you to turn to writing for a Young Adult audience?

It was a natural progression. I’d been told for years by editors and publishers the same thing: “You want to be writing for older audiences”. So I did. I’ve had to earn my spurs all over again – my success in those other areas (animation and picture books) counted for nothing when I was attempting to break into novel writing so I was starting from scratch. My first attempt at writing a novel didn’t work, the structure wasn’t quite right and there were flaws, visible to both myself and folk who reviewed it. But I’m stubborn. I put that manuscript to one side and started writing Wereworld intent on learning from my previous mistakes.

Do you have any funny stories you can tell us from your time working on Wallace & Gromit or Bob The Builder?

My time on W&G was brief (a work experience gig) although I did manage to cause Aardman Animation to grind to a halt during the filming of A Close Shave by screwing up a toastie order one morning (that was one of my jobs as a gopher, ‘the toastie run’ – it’s like the Kessal Run but with more butter.)

Bob was a phenomenon, and I don’t know whether I’ll experience that much success with a show again, although my new series RAA RAA The Noisy Lion (screening later this year on CBeebies) does look pretty awesome. I had the most fun on Bob when I was asked to do Bob-style caricatures of the various famous celebrities who cameo-d on the show, including Elton John, Chris Evans and even Noddy Holder. Highlights of the careers of each of those three chaps, I’m sure you’ll agree...

You worked on one of my guilty pleasure films, the wonderful Mars Attacks. Did you get to work closely with Tim Burton and if so what was he like?

I never got to meet Tim on Mars Attacks, as I was painting and trimming and seeming puppets from the studios of Mackinnon & Saunders in Manchester. M&S are the studio who made the puppets for Bob coincidentally, as well as being the clever people behind my other shows Frankenstein’s Cat and RAA RAA. It was my first paid gig in animation and was a joy to work on with a great bunch of people. Tim still works with M&S to this day, as the puppetmakers provide him with his cast for his and other directors’ stop motion animated movies.

If you were to have a dinner party and you were able to invite any three people alive or from the past, who would those three people be and why?

Eric Morecambe – the funniest man who ever lived, and whose folks’ lived next door to my dad’s folks in Morecambe.
JRR Tolkien – the granddaddy of fantasy literature. My old literary agent met him once in a pub in Oxford, and she found him sat staring into an open fire smoking his pipe. Gandalf, it appears, was no work of fiction.
Louis Prima – most people know of Louis as the voice of King Louis from Disney’s Jungle Book, but to me he’ll always be the greatest live entertainer. I’m sure Freddie Mercury nicked all his moves off Louis. Check out Just a Gigolo/I aint Got Nobody medley for sheer genius.

I know Rise of the Wolf has only just been published, but is there anything you can tell us about the second book in the series?

I’m sworn to secrecy! The second book (first draft) is written and is with Puffin. I can tell you that Drew’s epic adventure is only just beginning in Rise of the Wolf and we’re introduced to some fantastic new characters and places in book two. I have books three, four and five in my head but I think we have to see how well received the first two novels are before I embark on that particular quest...

Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of The Book Zone?

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf yet... what are you waiting for? Get out there and dive in to the Seven Realms!

~~~

Again, my huge thanks go to Curtis Jobling for taking the time to answer my questions, and he is right - you really should get out there and get your hands on a copy of Wereworld, the people at Waterstones know what they're talking about.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Review: I Don't Want To Kill You by Dan Wells (John Cleaver Book 3)


Sixteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver has always known he’s different, but not because he only has one friend (and doesn’t much like him) and not because he regularly helps out in his mother’s mortuary. He’s different because he recognizes the classic signs of an incipient serial killer in his own personality, and he’s created a rigid set of rules to follow to keep his darker nature, the one he calls Mr Monster in check. But John discovers it’s the personality traits he so fears that put him in the best position to save the people of his town from a series of horrific and disturbing killers...

Back in March 2010 I wrote this about Dan Wells when I reviewed Mr Monster, the second book in his John Cleaver trilogy that started with I Am Not A Serial Killer: "....the likes of Jeffery Deaver, James Patterson and Jack Kerley are no doubt already glancing nervously over their serial-killer-novel-writing shoulders for fear that Dan Wells is about to steal all of their glory." And nothing has changed in the ten months since then as I Don't Want To Kill You is yet another stunning addition to the horror/serial killer genre, and in my opinion the best book in the trilogy.

For me, the books' greatest strengths have always been in the voice of teen sociopath John Cleaver. By writing the books in the first person we have really been able to get inside the head of Wells's protagonist, and it has been a genuine pleasure to witness the way his character has developed over the three books. He started off as a very confused young man, with a rigid set of self-imposed rules and something of a social outcast at school, and now by book three he is a fully-fledged vigilante monster hunter, a self-appointed guardian of his home town, Clayton. And he even has a girlfriend who likes him for the way he is (not that she knows the full story of course).

Having already dispatched two of the ancient monsters that have been preying on the local population, at the end of Mr Monster John managed to get his hands on the mobile phone of one of these, and with it set in motion what he hopes will be a trap for a third, the otherwise anonymous Nobody. Of course, John has no idea who Nobody is, and when (or even if) she will take the bait and head for Clayton. His methods of trying to detect her arrival are more than a little creepy - he observes (for that read stalks) anyone who seems to be doing something out of the ordinary, often calling their houses and implying that he is stalking their children, just to gauge their reaction. This is so unnerving that it leaves a slightly nasty taste in the mouth, but he is after all a sociopath, and in his mind the end would certainly justify the means. And then someone is killed, and early signs are that it is the work of a notorious serial killer who has been operating out of Georgia. Could this be the Nobody that John has been waiting for? 

John also has to contend with emotions that he had previously thought it impossible for him to feel. When he developed a closer relationship with long-time friend Brooke in Mr Monster, he still spent most of his time imagining her laid out on the mortuary table. Now he has to accept that he can feel affection for another human being, and with this comes a confusion that he hasn't felt before. He also has to confront another uncomfortable fact - he cannot save everybody, although the anger he feels when first one, and then another girl from his school commits suicide is understandable; in his words: "What's the point of saving someone's life if she's just going to kill herself anyway?"

It is always interesting to look back over a series or trilogy and see how a writer has developed and/or matured during that time, and this is definitely the case for Dan Wells. I Am Not A Serial Killer was a fairly straightforward horror/thriller, albeit with a fascinating main character, the likes of which we had never see before in YA literature. Mr Monster showed great character development, and a few more plot twists than we had seen previously. In I Don't Want To Kill You Dan Wells's storytelling skills reach an even greater level, with his plotting so tight you certainly won't guess all of the plot twists, and maybe not any of them at all.

I am not going to say any more about the story as this could spoil it for the legion of fans who have loved the first two books as much as I have. I will say that it is very likely to scare you or creep you out in places, but you may also find yourself chuckling from time to time thanks to the elements of gloriously dark humour, and you may even find yourself shedding a few tears as well. However, I do feel the need to say that although this is a great book, and the ending is brilliant, I am also very disappointed that we will not be seeing more of John Cleaver - I hope  Dan Wells has got a new project up his writer's sleeve that will be just as disturbing as this trilogy has been. Thank you Mr Wells for giving me so much shiver-down-my-spine entertainment over the past couple of years... I'm now off to watch the first episode in the new series of Criminal Minds.


Friday, 7 January 2011

Coming Up in 2011 #2 - The Shadowing: Hunted by Adam Slater

The second book to appear in my "Coming Up In 2011" feature is by Adam Slater, an author I very much doubt many of you have heard of, but believe me when I say that this will not be the case for much longer. I first heard about his debut horror book, The Shadowing: Hunted, a few weeks before Christmas when I stumbled across a Twitter conversation between by good friend Liz from My Favourite Books and a representative from Egmont Books. I mentioned the conversation in a blog post at the time, as part of their chat included the awesome cover art for this book. At the time I only provided a link to the cover as I was asking the question "Is this the scariest, goriest YA horror book cover yet?". Now that we are into a new year I have decided what the hell.... might as well have this on the blog now:




Since writing that blog post I have now had the chance to read the book, and it is brilliant. I thought that 2010 had been a good year for horror books, but at this rate 2011 could beat it hands down! And now that I have read the story, for some reason the cover seems less gory to me, as I now know exactly how the image fits into the story, and the image fits the story perfectly. My review will appear in a couple of months time, nearer to publication date, but in the meantime this is what Adam Slater has to say to readers of The Book Zone about his new book:

What would you do if you found out that not only could you see ghosts, but a load of demons were about to cross over into our world, and you were the only person who could stop them? That’s exactly what teenager Callum Scott faces in my new horror series, The Shadowing. His only backup is ghost boy Jacob and his giant spectral dog, Doom. And those demons aren’t going down without a fight. Soon Callum’s being hunted, and by something you wouldn’t want to encounter in your worst nightmares… If you like skin-crawling horror fiction, you’ll love The Shadowing!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Review: Witchfinder - Gallows At Twilight by William Hussey


Eight pale hands - some with fingers stripped down to the bone - rose out of the earth. Slimy with rain, the rat-gnawed heads of four soldiers loomed into view. They moaned at the sky and their cry moulded itself into a word: 'FLLLLLLEEESSSSSSSSHHHHH!' The Demon Father has escaped from hell and walks among us, his trident symbol branded into the earth in countries all over the world. A scorching beacon. A call to arms. A sign that war is coming. Jake is struggling to harness his powers and live up to his reputation of the boy who closed the demon door. But now he must push all doubt aside. To stop the Demon Father Jake must change the course of history - embark on a treacherous journey deep into the past and into another dimension, filled with horror and pain. A place where innocent people are tried and tortured. A place where the law of the Witchfinder rules. Let the rushes be lit for there will be gallows at twilight.

Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide was one of my favourite books of 2010; it was the Book Zone Book of the Month for March, and was instrumental in awakening in me a love of horror fiction that had lain dormant for most of my life. Needless to say, I have been waiting impatiently for this book to be released for almost a year. I was therefore really excited when someone at Oxford emailed me asking if I would like a pdf version of the book, and I jumped at the chance as I had recently bought myself a Kindle.

Was the wait worth it? Yes.... every single second of it. Dawn of the Demontide was a very good book, but this is what I would call a great book. It is The Empire Strikes Back to Dawn's Star Wars in pretty much every way. The story is far darker than the original, taking reluctant hero Jake Harker to places that no sane person would willingly choose to venture into; it is more complicated that the original, with the action taking place in the modern day (both our world and the borderland world between ours and the worlds of the dark creatures), and also in the 17th Century; and like in Empire you have that constant feeling that this time maybe things won't turn out ok for the good guys at the end of the story. With the introductions all having been taken care of in the first book Mr Hussey is also able to spend more time fleshing out his characters even more, so when bad things happen to them (and believe me, bad doesn't come close), we really feel their pain. Add to this that Jake discovers that the girl he loves is seeing his best friend and I think the parallels are almost complete, although this is very much a horror story.

For me the highlight of this book was William Hussey's genius decision to take Jake back in time to 1645. Now I know some of you may let slip a small groan of dismay or ennui at the thought of yet another time travel plot line, but bear with me, for this author does it in a way that fits perfectly with what has come before, and the story he still has to tell in this book. Jake's father has been grievously injured, and Jake is led to believe that the only item that can save him from death is Josiah Hobarron's witch ball, last seen falling from the old witchfinder's hand as he sealed the Door back in the 17th Century. With Crowden alive and well and gathering witches from all over the world and Tobias Quilp rescued from imprisonment beneath the Hobarron Institute, Jake decides that he has only one option - to take the Scarab Path and travel back through time. Unfortunately nobody thought to explain to Jake that appearing out of thin air, engulfed in a magical fire and firing explosive ball of light from his hands was probably not the best method of arriving in a time period famous for its witch trials and the anti-witch paranoia that was prevalent in many areas. Oops!

Anyway, where was I.. oh yes, Hussey's genius decision, etc. Taking Jake back to 1645 has enabled the author to use as a key character one of the nastiest men that ever existed - Matthew Hopkins (aka the Witchfinder General). A real historical person such as Hopkins is a gift to any horror author - who needs to spend time creating a truly evil and despicable character when real life can be so much more scary and nasty? Jake's problems are compounded by the fact that Hopkins also has a grudge to settle with Josiah Hobarron, and being cloned from the DNA of the original witchfinder means that Jake is the spitting image of Hopkins's nemesis. Oops again. So begins a section of the book which is not a comfortable read at times as Jake is proclaimed to be a witch and tortured for his confession. And again, this is made all the more horrific by the fact that the torture of innocent people in this way really did happen. Now I am no expert historian, but I am guessing from the descriptions of the time, its people and everything else that happens, that this is a time period that William Hussey knows well, and has been fascinated by for some time.

Hussey manages the time travel aspects of this book far better than many others who have tried and failed. He also introduces a clever plot device by which Jake's friends in the 21st Century are able to follow, albeit intermittently, his progress (or lack of it) back in the past. Unfortunately for Jake he is very much on his own, striving to reach his goal but never knowing if he will be able to return to his own time and if, should he manage it, he will be in time to save his father and the world. It is these moments in the past in which Hussey really shows his great ability at character development as we witness the gamut of emotions that Jake experiences, from despair to anger to love for a girl he doesn't know, or does he?

And if all that this isn't enough to sate your hunger for the horrific then there is more: English civil war solder zombies; cannibalistic witches; a super-coven gathering at Wembley Stadium; and probably nastiest of all - the Khepra Beetle. I will not say any more about this creature at the moment, but believe me when I say that a headache will never seem the same again after reading about this little monster.

Witchfinder: Gallows at Twilight is officially published today but if you have not yet read the first book then you really should as this is a series that must be read in order. Book three in the trilogy, The Last Nightfall, is scheduled for a September 2011 release, and if you have seen the cover you will know that things are probably going to get worse for Jake and his friends before they get better.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Coming Up in 2011 #1: Tarzan: The Legacy of Greystoke by Andy Briggs

There are some really cool looking boy-friendly books scheduled for publication during 2011. Along with the next-in-series books that I have been looking forward to by the likes of M.G. Harris, Darren Shan, Andrew Lane and so on (hey... if you read the blog you will already know which series I love), there are also some very exciting looking first in series or stand-alone books on the horizon. And so I approached a few of the authors of these books and asked them if they would be interested in writing a short (100 word max) 'big-up' for their new book, and some of these authors actually replied, and their pitches will appear on The Book Zone over the next week or so.

First up in Andy Briggs, author of the Hero.com/Villain.net series that I reviewed back in December. 2012 sees the centennial anniversary of the publication of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and as part of the run-up to this milestone Andy has been writing a new series of Tarzan books, the first of which, Tarzan: the Legacy of Greystoke, is due to be published in June 2011. In Andy's own words:


A Legend reborn.

What lies in the depths of the jungle? Escaping a dark secret, Robbie Canler joins an illegal logging team in the Congo jungle.

Now they're under siege from a sinister force. When the daughter of the camp's boss, Jane Porter, goes missing they assume bloodthirsty rebel soldiers have kidnapped her. Robbie sets out on a rescue mission - unaware he is being watched... Are the rumours of a feral man raised by wild apes true? If so, can the mysterious untamed savage be trusted to help them?

I grew up watching Ron Ely as Tarzan, and then the reruns of the old black and white films starring Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe so when Andy mentioned this to me in an email a few months ago I got very excited about this new series. Tarzan is such an iconic character that he deserves a new lease of life with a new generation of readers.

Interestingly, Andy also tells me that all those involved with the new series will be teaming up with EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) who are running a YEAR OF THE APE campaign (http://www.apecampaign.org/) - a donation from each book purchased will go towards this campaign to save the endangered apes and will be a key feature of all activity surrounding the book.

As yet I am sorry to say that there is no cover art for the book, but I hope to be able to bring that to you at some point in the coming months. In the meantime though, there is a great official Tarzan Centenary Logo which Andy has kindly sent me to post on The Book Zone.



My thanks go to Andy for sending me his 'big-up' for Tarzan: the Legacy of Greystoke, the first of what I am sure will become a very popular series of books.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

News: Book Cover - Enemy Invasion by A.G. Taylor

I recently forwarded an email on to A.G. Taylor from a fan of his Superhumans books. Mr Taylor very kindly took time out to reply, and in that email he included an image of the cover the the final book in the trilogy that started with Meteorite Strike. He told this fan that she was probably one of the first readers to see it, and now he has given me permission to put it on The Book Zone for all to see. I loved the cover for the second book in the series, Alien Storm, but with this one the design team employed by Usborne have really excelled themselves. Enemy Invasion is not scheduled to be released until well into 2011, so still some time to wait Superhumans fans, but if the book is as good as the previous two then it will be well worth the wait.




Fans should not be too worried about this being the end of the trilogy, A.G. says he has many more ideas for adventures that Sarah and the other superhuman children can have, so hopefully we will see more from them in the future.

Monday, 3 January 2011

My Life That Books Built #1: Little Jacko and the Wolf People

Since I started writing this blog I have interviewed quite a few authors, many of whom I have asked the question: "What books did you enjoy as a child?". This is a question I have been asked many times as a teacher, and it has occasionally led to lengthy discussions about the difference between kids books then and now. I have now decided to run a semi-regular feature on The Book Zone where I go back over some of the books that I loved as a child or teenager. I say semi-regular as I am not sure I will be able to find the time to make it a weekly feature, but I do intend all of the posts to go live on a Monday morning. I hope you will get some small enjoyment from reading about the books that have made me the reader I am today - I am sure you will find at least one that will strike a similar chord in your heart.

To kick start this feature I thought I would begin with the first picture book that I can remember owning: Little Jacko and the Wolf People, with words by Margaret Greaves and pictures by Jill McDonald. As you can see by the photos I still have the very same copy that I was given as a small child - it was published by Methuen in 1973 so I am guessing that I really was very young when I received it.


The book tells the story of Jacko, a young settler in the Wild West, who has always dreamt of driving a train. However, the only train in Silver Springs is the one that brought the settlers there long ago, and is now old and rusty and no longer usable. Early in the story Jacko saves the life of Watahuni, a Native American boy and as a reward he is made a brother of the boy's tribe, the Wolf People. One night he stumbles across a group of bandits who are plotting to attack the settlers and then the tribe, in search of "Indian gold". It os down to jacko and his new friends to save the day.

As a child (and now as an adult) I loved the beautifully coloured illustrations of Jill McDonald, as well as the story of friendship and adventure. Just look at these pictures - they are surely up there with some of the best in picture books today. This book has been long out of print but a couple of years ago I managed to find a cheap secondhand copy that I gave to my godson's little brother as a Christmas present - it has now become a favourite read in that household as well.