Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Guest Post by Keith Mansfield (author of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle For Earth)

Tomorrow sees the publication of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle For Earth, the third book in my favourite science fiction series for younger readers. Thanks to the generosity of the good people at Quercus I already have a copy in my hands, and this explains the reason that this guest post by Keith Mansfield has gone live a couple of hours later than I had planned - yet again I have been sucked into the adventures of the eponymous young hero and completely lost track of time. Sorry Keith!


The Best Way to Land on Another Planet

This year for the first time we launch a spaceship that has a really cool, proper sci-fi style way of landing on another planet. Better still Johnny and Clara Mackintosh are both going to be onboard (truly!). Here’s the full video of the Mars Curiosity mission. I’d say it’s well worth checking out the whole five minutes twenty-nine seconds showing the voyage beginning from Earth, as well as the science after the spaceship lands, but if your attention span is akin to that of a goldfish, you’re best going to the 01.40 mark and watching the landing from there. At first you’ll think you’re watching a conventional parachute descent but just you wait for what’s to come. I’m really talking about the skycrane.


It’s been a theme of the books that Mars is really close but, for one reason or another, Johnny never actually goes there. In Battle for Earth that all changes, but when he gets there he doesn’t like what he finds.

In real life, after a lot of problems we’re getting better at sending spacecraft to the red planet. Nowadays there are even three satellites in permanent orbit, as well as rovers on the surface. The first of those was Pathfinder, which makes a fleeting appearance in the title sequence of Star Trek: Enterprise. This little vehicle didn’t go very far but paved the way for the incredible Spirit and Opportunity which each travelled around twenty miles across Martian terrain, all the while beaming back pictures to the satellites overhead which would relay them to Earth. These were about the size of a small car, but Curiosity is fully five times bigger with ten times as many scientific instruments.
Along with everything else it carries a microchip containing the names of some people from Earth – among them Johnny, Clara and also Bentley. It is amazing to me to think that my characters will truly get to land on and move around the surface of another world.

~~~

Massive thanks to Keith for writing this for The Book Zone. Please watch this space for my review of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle For Earth.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

News: Book Cover - The Beast by Barry Hutchison (Invisible Fiends Book 5)

I just did my habitual check of Twitter before going to bed and spotted that Barry Hutchison, author of the brilliant Invisible Fiends series, had sent me a Tweet to draw my attention to this image:


Yes, Invisible Fiends fans, it is the cover for The Beast, the fifth book in the series, with yet another great illustration from Jonny Duddle. The book is not due out until 5th January 2012, but you should rejoice rather than despair at the time you have to wait for this next instalment as this is earlier than had been previously planned. I am hoping that Barry will at some point add the full Duddle image for The Beast so that we can see it in all of its nasty glory (hint hint Barry!). Whilst you wait for January to plod along why not head on over to Barry's blog at http://www.barryhutchison.com/2011/08/something-beastly-this-way-comes/ and let him know your thoughts on this cover image.

Guest Post by Andrew Hammond (author of CRYPT: The Gallows Curse)

Thursday sees the publication date of CRYPT: The Gallows Curse by Andrew Hammond. I read and really enjoyed this book a while ago thanks to nice people at Headline, and I had hoped to get up to Edinburgh for the festival, and the official launch of the book, but unfortunately hotel prices were stupidly expensive. At that launch Andrew told a very funny story about the time he smelt a ghost, and this anecdote was so well received that Andrew and the nice people at Headline thought it should reach a larger audience, and so here it is for your delectation:

We used to live in a big old Victorian terraced house in North Yorkshire. I remember the day we moved in – my brothers and I spent hours sliding down the long, wooden banisters that ran right up through the middle of the house, while my parents heaved and puffed with boxes. 

A few days on and we started to detect something strange. At around about six or seven o’clock each evening we’d notice a smell. It was just like fried garlic and onions. It lingered for about an hour or so and then drifted away.

The third time it happened we went next door to see if anyone was cooking. They weren’t. We went to the other side – they weren’t. We went up and down that terrace asking if anyone was cooking onions and they weren’t. God knows what they thought of us.

We all traipsed back inside and were overwhelmed by the same smell. It wasn’t unpleasant, just odd.

My father led us all through the house, searching for the source of the smell. Eventually we traced it to a cupboard on the first floor. It wasn’t used for anything in particular, just for storing towels and linen. There was no boiler or water tank, so we knew it wasn’t that. But when my father opened the door the rich smell of fried onions and garlic wafted into our nostrils.

My father had an idea. Silently he led us downstairs and we waited in the kitchen while he disappeared into his office. He returned with some old files and fished out an old, faded piece of paper, folded in half. He opened it and we could all see it was the plans to the house – very old sketches by the looks of them.

They were the Victorian floor plans. I watched my father’s finger as it traced the line of the stairs, past the bedrooms to the place where the cupboard was. That’s when we all noticed it. This little corner of the landing had a few words scribbled next to it – ‘SERVANT STAIRWAY TO KITCHEN.’

~~~

My huge thanks go to Andrew for taking the time to write this story out for The Book Zone. Please watch this space for my review of CRYPT: The Gallows Curse, as well as for your chance to win a signed copy of the book.


Monday, 29 August 2011

News: The Night Children by Alexander Gordon Smith (an Escape From Furnace novella)

I should be having a big sort out of old records, books and other precious items right now (the stuff my wife refers to as my junk), but as usual I am trying to do anything but, and so I thought I would have a quick tour of some of the author websites I have listed on the sidebar to the right of this page. I didn't get much further than the third on my list, that of one of my favourite current YA authors, Alexander Gordon Smith. As you no doubt already know I am a huge fan of his Furnace series (aka Escape From Furnace in the US), so imagine my excitement when I saw a post on his blog about a Furnace novella he has written for Tor.com (in fact I was so excited I just had to write a blog post about it). Titled The Night Children, it tells the story of how Warden Cross first meets Alfred Furnace. I may be wrong but from this website it looks as if it is scheduled for a 21st September release and it might only be available as an ebook. I really, really hope that UK readers will be able to get their hands on it! The cover design is super creepy, and the story details sound fantastic.



It is December 1944 and Europe is still gripped by war. In the densely forested mountains of Belgium one of the conflict’s most brutal battles is raging. Cut off from the front, a ragtag group of young British and American soldiers finds itself being hunted by a patrol of elite German Special Forces, including a newly commissioned officer called Kreuz—a teenage boy who will grow up to become Warden Cross (the fearsome prison director who will one day rule Furnace Penitentiary, the terrifying underground prison specially built for teen offenders). As both sides fight for their lives in the unforgiving terrain, however, they start to realize that there are worse things hiding in the snow than soldiers. There are creatures out there with gas masks and piggy eyes (ancestors of Furnace prison’s “wheezers”)—demonic entities that cannot be killed by guns and grenades, monsters who do not care what uniforms their victims are wearing so long as they bleed, and so long as they scream . . .

A few more clicks on Alexander Gordon Smith's blog eventually took me to this web page, giving more details about his new series, the first book of which is due out in the UK from Faber in March 2012. I have mentioned The Fury briefly in a previous post, but now here is an image of the book cover, and also a few details about the story:


Imagine if one day, without warning, the entire human race turns against you.

Every single person you meet becomes a bloodthirsty, mindless savage, hell-bent on killing you – and only you.

Friends, lovers, even your mum and dad, brothers and sisters – they will turn on you, and they will murder you. And when they have, they will go back to their lives as if nothing has happened.

The world has the Fury.

It will not rest until you are dead.

Cal, Brick and Daisy are three ordinary teenagers whose lives suddenly take a terrifying turn for the worst. They begin to trigger a reaction in everybody they meet, one that makes friends and strangers alike turn rabid whenever they are close. One that makes people want to tear them to pieces

Cal and the other victims of the Fury – the ones that survive – manage to locate each other. But just when they think they have found a safe haven, a place to hide from the world, things get worse.

Some of them begin to change…

They must fight to uncover the truth about the Fury before it is too late. But it is a truth that will destroy everything they know about life and death.


If The Fury is only half as good as the Furnace series then it will still be a must-watch-out-for in 2012. However, based on the author's previous output I expect this to be pretty damn amazing!

Before I go I just want to show you one more image. There are a number of bloggers who do UK vs US cover features, and I have mentioned in the past that I love the covers that Christian Fuenfhausen has designed for the Escape From Furnace series in the US, however just take a look at this beauty from Poland. Happy nightmares!



Sunday, 28 August 2011

Review: The History Keepers - The Storm Begins by Damian Dibben


Imagine if you lost your parents – not just in place, but in time.

Jake Djones’ mum and dad have gone missing and they could be anywhere in the world – at any time in history. Because the Djones family have an astonishing secret, which for years they’ve managed to keep - even from each other. They belong to the HISTORY KEEPERS: a secret society which travels through the centuries to prevent evil enemies from meddling with History itself.

In the quest to find his parents, Jake is whisked from 21st Century London to 19th century France, the headquarters of the mysterious History Keepers, where he discovers the truth about his family's disappearance - and the diabolical Prince Zeldt's plan to destroy the world as we know it . . .


Confession time: When I received this book from the generous people at Doubleday I had already decided that I didn't want to like it. Ouch! Yes, I know that sounds like a pretty unprofessional thing for a reviewer to decide but I had a very good reason for it. Honest. You see, I already love another series of books where teen heroes go back in time to prevent history from being meddled with in the form of Alex Scarrow's super-brilliant TimeRiders. Why on earth would I want another? And surely if, let's say, another one came along, then it would pale into insignificance when compared with Scarrow's work? So it wouldn't be like I was being unfaithful or anything would it? Oh dear. Not only did I read The History Keepers, but I also totally loved it as well. However, TimeRiders you need not worry as this book has not taken your place as the object of my time-travel story affection, but it has just joined you and I am afraid that you are just going to have to share!  

OK... juvenile attempts at humour aside, I know you really want to know whether this book is worth reading. Definitely. Although time-travel plays a central part in the plot, it is first and foremost a cracking adventure story that is perfect for the 9+ age group. You want your swashes buckled? Then this is the story for you. Prefer the pace of the stories you read to be on the fast side? Then jump on this bob-sleigh of a story and enjoy the ride! You may not get fully fleshed out, three-dimensional characters, or a realistic dissection of the complexities of time-travel (Paradox? What paradox?), but if you want a fun, fun, fun adventure story with no pretensions then get your order in now for the 1st September released date of this first book in The History Keepers series, subtitled The Storm Begins.

The book introduces us to Jake Djones, who at the beginning finds himself the subject of what seems to be a kidnap attempt, but which he soon discovers is a somewhat bumbling attempt to keep him safe from, at this point in the story, an unnamed foe or foes. Jake very soon discovers that his parents have been keeping secrets from him, the sort of secrets that can be pretty life-changing. Like the fact that in the past they were agents for The History Keepers, a secret agency of time-police, and that instead of being at a kitchen-fitters' trade event in Birmingham they have gone missing somewhere in history, most likely sixteenth century Venice. Of course, Jake takes all of this in his stride, and even decides to accompany a couple of teen History Keeper agents on their rescue mission by hiding on their time-travel vehicle of choice, in this case a sixteenth century Genoese merchant galley. Yes, suspension of disbelief is certainly the order of the day, but so is pretty much any other time travel story.

I intimated earlier that the characters are not exactly three dimensional, but that does not mean that they are not fun to read. Aside from Jake, there is also the kick-ass Topaz St Honore (Jake's parents are not the only ones who try to keep secrets from Jakes); the totally self-obsessed Nathan Wylder (possibly the greatest agent if the history of The History Keepers... well, he thinks he is); and Charlie Chieverley, technical whizz, but certainly not your typical, reserved geek-type. I think readers in the 9+ age group will love reading about this foursome of young heroes, and most will be able to identify with at least one of them in some small way. As the book progresses we slowly begin to find out a little more about what makes each of them tick, but I have a feeling that the sequel will bring more revelations as to their various backgrounds.

The plot itself is at times a little predictable, but not to the point that young readers will be put off as there are also enough surprise twists and bombshell reveals to not only keep them turning the pages of this volume, but also eagerly waiting for the sequel, whenever that may be. Going back to my original comments about the TimeRiders series, this book certainly compares pretty favourably, although it is aimed at a slightly younger audience; it certainly does not contain the levels of violence that occasionally appear in that other series. On the press release it states that author Damian Dibben has worked extensively as a screenwriter, and The History Keepers does feel very cinematic. It comes as little surprise to me I then discovered that Working Title have optioned the book, but as we know the journey between optioning and a final film at the cinema is often a long one. Every publisher and film maker is desperately looking for the new Harry Potter, but this probably isn't it. However, could it be the next Percy Jackson? Maybe. 

Saturday, 27 August 2011

*** Escape From Furnace Competition Result

The lucky winner of the copy of Escape From Furnace: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith is:

Connie Rutter


Well done and thank you to all of you who entered. I will now endeavour to contact the winner through by email. Please reply within 48 hours or I will draw another name out of the hat. Many thanks to Macmillan US for providing the prize.


Friday, 26 August 2011

News: Book Cover - TimeRiders: The Gates of Rome (TimeRiders Book 5)

These TimeRiders covers just keep on getting better and better. I loved the American Civil War cover for TimeRiders: The Eternal War, but this cover for the fifth book in the series, The Gates of Rome, is even better. 




I think the way the futuristic looking soldier is facing off against the Roman soldier looks great, and suggest another cracking adventure for Liam, Maddy and Sal. A quick search on Amazon and I managed to find a few more details about the story, due out on 2nd February 2012:


Project Exodus - a mission to transport 300 Americans from 2070 to 54AD to overthrow the Roman Empire - has gone catastrophically wrong. Half have arrived seventeen years earlier, during the reign of Caligula.

Liam goes to investigate, but when Maddy and Sal attempt to flee a kill-squad sent to hunt down their field office, all of the TimeRiders become trapped in the Roman past.

Armed with knowledge of the future, Caligula is now more powerful than ever. But with the office unmanned - and under threat - how will the TimeRiders make it back to 2001 and put history right?


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young


In a lawless land, where life is cheap and survival is hard, Saba has been brought up in isolated Silverlake. She never sees theangers of the destructive society outside. When her twin brother is snatched by mysterious black-robed riders, she sets out on an epic quest to rescue him.

Post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories seem to be all the rage in YA literature at the moment, although neither are sub-genres that I have had a huge amount experience of reading. However, with a number arriving in the post over the past couple of months I decided that this summer would be a good time to see what is currently out there. I have read three new books that could fit into these categories recently, and each is very different from the others, either in setting or the nature of the apocalypse that befell society, and every one of them has been a hugely enjoyable read. This is a review for Blood Red Road by Moira Young, but watch this space for reviews for Six Days by Philip Webb and 20 Years Later by E.J. Newman.

Blood Red Road tells the story of Saba, a young teenage girl living in some remote dust-bowl of an area with her father, twin brother Lugh and younger sister Emmi. Saba feels incredibly close to Lugh, but her relationships with the rest of her family are fraught. Her father has been going increasingly potty since the death of Saba's mother, who died whilst giving birth to Emmi, and as such Saba has a great deal of resentment towards this younger sibling. The story is narrated in the first person by Saba, and initially I found it hard to get in to for two reasons. The first is that a good deal of Saba's narration is written in her dialect, exactly as it would be if she was dictating it out loud, and this really takes a great deal of getting used to. On its own, this would probably not cause too many problems, even for less confident teen readers, as it really does work and I found myself drawn into the story completely. However I feel that the issue was compounded by the complete lack of speech marks in the story, which means that every single line of dialogue blends in with the rest of the prose. Again, once I was used to it there was no problem, but this is where I think struggling readers may give up on the story.

As far as the story is concerned, I found myself constantly reminded of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and this feeling increased the further I got into the story. The post-apocalyptic desert setting is the first element that brought that Mel Gibson film to mind, but it is the lawless settlement of Hopetown, and some of the villainous fiends who live there, that really struck that chord of similarity in my mind. This is not a bad thing: although in my opinion Beyond Thunderdome is nowhere near as good a film as the previous two outings for Mad Max (too many pesky kids), I love the scenes set in Bartertown, and the fight scenes in the Thunderdome are fantastic. 

To summarise very briefly, strange men appear on horseback one day, abduct Lugh and kill Saba's father in the process. She vows to herself that she will hunt them down and rescue her brother, and eventually ends up as a prisoner in completely misnamed Hopetown. Here she is forced to be a cage fighter, or face execution, for the entertainment of the rather nasty inhabitants of the town. At this point the story gets pretty violent, although the author always manages to hold off from describing some of the more potentially brutal scenes in full blood soaked detail. Instead of breaking her, Hopetown is the making of Saba, as she gives in to the rage whenever she enters the cage, and always leaves unbeaten, even if it means an opponent will face execution. She has one thing on her mind at all times, driving her on however bad things get: finding Lugh.

Saba is a great character: although initially I found it quite hard to like her, especially given the way she treats her younger sister, as the story progresses she grew and grew on me, and by the time she is cage fighting I was almost shouting out loud, egging her on to beat her latest opponent. This feeling of support for her increased even more throughout the second half of the book, but to tell you what happens there would be to spoil the story for you. In the course of her quest she meets a variety of other colourful characters, some of them good, some of them pretty damn nasty (Vicar Pinch and his mother are a delight to read).

It would be remiss of me to finish this review without mentioning Jack, and the relationship he builds with Saba. As with a great deal of YA novels featuring female main characters there is an element of romance to this story, as Saba meets and falls for the mysterious Jack. However, this is only a small part of the story, and there is more than enough action, adventure and violence to keep those boys who might normally avoid books with romantic elements thoroughly interested in the story. It certainly did not bother me at all, and I am now eagerly awaiting the sequel, due to be published sometime in 2012. 

At nearly 500 pages this is quite a long book, and given the aforementioned issues regarding the phonetic narration and the lack of speech marks I would reluctantly suggest that this is not for less confident readers. Boys (and girls) of 13+ who are confident with their reading should however find this an exciting and rewarding read. My thanks go to the generous people at Scholastic for sending me a copy.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Review: Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding


Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn't just a nuisance anymore - he's public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don't. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he's going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It's going to take all his criminal talents to prove he's not the criminal they think he is . . .

Back in July I went to a blogger event held by Orion to promote their new YA imprint, Indigo. At this event we were informed that Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding was going to be reissued under the Indigo banner in January 2012, and this reminded me that I had a copy of the Gollancz edition sitting patiently on one of my shelves waiting to be read. At that moment I promised myself that no matter how big my To Be Read pile was I would read it over the school summer holidays. I bought it some time ago after having read the publisher's blurb on Amazon, and several glowing reviews that suggested it might appeal to my somewhat simple tastes in stories: lots of action, swashbuckling adventure, sky pirates, and so on.

Why it has sat there so long unread I do not know, especially as Chris Wooding wrote the totally brilliant The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray. Perhaps it is down to the F-word that it has been categorised under. yes, I am talking about Fantasy. You may have seen me say in the past that I am not a fan of fantasy novels for adults; some that I have tried in the dim and distant past seemed overlong, far too wordy, and worst of all, they took themselves far too seriously. And so this is a genre that has tended to get overlooked when I have chosen books in the past, for fear that I would pick up a dull, tedious tome rather than a glittering gem. Fortunately, Retribution Falls is one of the latter and I loved it form the very first page.

The reason Indigo are re-releasing it as a YA book is that their research has suggested that it has already become popular with fantasy-loving teens, and I am not surprised. As I have mentioned before, my experience at school tends to suggest that confident reader boys quite often skip the whole Young Adult thing, expecting it to be aimed more at girls, and instead jump straight to adult books, be they by the likes of Andy McNab, Dan Brown, Stephen King and so on. In the case of fantasy, they often dabble with Terry Pratchett along the way, before moving onwards and upwards. Retribution Falls fits perfectly into that middle ground of is it a YA book or is it an adult book, and can be enjoyed equally by both in my opinion.

What I loved most about this book is that it never takes itself too seriously. There are no lengthy drawn-out passages about the flora and fauna of the world that Chris Wooding has created; nor do we have to sit through page after page explaining the political history of the world and its various factions; in fact, world building in this case is not a particularly strong point of the book and I was surprised to find myself wanting to find out a little more the setting of the story at times. However, I gather there is a sequel, and a third book due out soon, so I hope that Chris Wooding expands a little on some of his creations in these. However, if I am perfectly honest, if he doesn't my disappointment will probably be very short-lived as long as he delivers a similarly action-packed, fast-paced adventure story. Like I said before, I have simple tastes.

At the beginning of the story we are introduced to Captain Darian Frey, owner of the Ketty Jay, a rather ugly looking skyship, but it is the thing he loves most in the world. In fact, think Han Solo (minus Chewbacca) and his feelings for the Millennium Falcon and you have a pretty good picture. Except that Frey is much harder to like as he is so self-centred he would desert his crew in a moment if it was worth his while. The best way to describe his crew is as a mixed bag of stereotypes, characters we have seen or read about before, whether it be in science fiction, fantasy or even westerns, but despite this occasional feeling of "see it all before" these characters work very well together. I think this is because every one of them is carrying (and hiding) some pretty hefty baggage, some of which is so nasty that they fear telling others will lead to them being jettisoned from the Ketty Jay at the next port, or something even worse. These secrets are gradually revealed throughout the story, and although some of them are pretty simple to guess there are enough elements in their histories to keep readers turning pages to find out more. There are so many cool characters in this book that to start naming them all would take forever; not only do they have cool names (e.g. Samandra Bree), but they have cool sounding 'jobs' (e.g. the Century Knights) and they fly around in cool sounding skyships (e.g. Delirium Trigger).

If, unlike me, you prefer your fantasy books to be deep and meaningful, with the world detailed down to the smallest of minutiae, then this isn't the book for you. However, if as a child you dreamt of being a pirate, or you idolised the roguish Han Solo because he was the bad boy that all the women wanted, or the idea of sword fights and massive sky battles between skyships (not space ships) makes you salivate, then this is a book you really should try. On the rear of the dustwrapper on the edition I have there is a quote from author Peter F. Hamilton which starts: 'Retribution Falls in the kind of old fashioned adventure I didn't think we were allowed to write anymore,' and I think this sums up the story perfectly. I think some people (the ones I said that take things too seriously) forget that reading for some is all about escapism and having fun, it is not always about exploring the depths of one's emotions, or expanding one's knowledge. I am happy to admit that I have never read a Booker Prize winner, and I doubt that will change in a hurry as I would much rather read books like Retribution Falls and now need to get my hands on a copy of the sequel, The Black Lung Captain; I think we have a copy in the school library.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

News Update: The Monstrumologist Series by Rick Yancey

Last week I wrote a short blog post regarding the news that Simon and Schuster had decided not to extend their contract with Rick Yancey for more Monstrumologist books past the soon-to-be-released third book on the series, The Isle of Blood. The internet was buzzing with angry fans protesting on Facebook, and bombarding Simon and Schuster with letters and emails demanding a rethink of this.


It would now appear that this campaign of love for The Monstrumologist books has been successful, according to a comment left by the author on his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorRickYancey where he states the following:

"It gives me great pleasure to admit I underestimated the power of this bond we share with the written word. I have just received confirmation that one week after the campaign began, Simon & Schuster has reversed its decision and will publish the fourth volume of Will Henry's journals. Monstrumology lives. I didn't bring it back to life - so don't congratulate me. Toast yourselves, honorary monstrumologists, for YOU did it."
I think the worst part of the original decision as far as Mr Yancey was concerned was that it took him unawares and he had not completed Will Henry's story. At least this extension will now allow him to do so in a way that he will be happier with. In addition, not only does this show that we as readers do still possess a small amount of power, it also shows that young people can and do love books these days just as much as they have always done. As a celebration of this success, if you know a horror-loving teen who has not yet discovered this series why not buy them a copy of The Monstrumologist this October and celebrate All Hallow's Read.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Review: The Kite Runner Graphic Novel by Khaled Hosseini, Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo


1970s Afghanistan: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives...Since its publication in 2003, The Kite Runner has sold twenty one million copies worldwide. Through Khaled Hosseini's brilliant writing, a previously unknown part of the world was brought to life. Now in this beautifully illustrated, four-colour graphic novel adaptation, The Kite Runner is given a vibrant new life which is sure to compel a new generation of readers.

I loved Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner when I read it some time ago, it is one of the books from the past ten years that still stands out in my mind years after reading it. I have only read it once, for fear that it would lose its impact on a second reading. I have also never watched the film adaptation as Hosseini's writing was so vivid in its descriptions of its characters and setting that I did not want my own mental images altered. So when this graphic novelisation of The Kite Runner arrived in the post from the good people at Bloomsbury was really was in two minds as to whether I would read it or not. Obviously in the end I did, or this review would not exist.

I was persuaded into reading this book by other reading memories I have: discovering for the first time Art Spiegelman's Maus, Joe Sacco's Palestine and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and to a slightly lesser extent Will Eisner's To The Heart Of The Storm, all graphic novels that deal with some pretty massive issues in a way that really touched me. I also have first-hand experience of seeing a disaffected male student at school, with no interest in politics or events outside of his immediate environment, let alone in another country, become much more engaged in Citizenship lessons and posing some pretty searching questions, after I had encouraged him to read Maus and then Palestine. The Kite Runner is another such story that when read and understood could help open the minds of students like this to important issues in a country that they hear a great deal about in the news, but I know for a fact that most would struggle with the original novel format. And so I decided to dive in and go for it, and I am really glad I did.

This is a visually stunning retelling of Hosseini's story and is already on the list as a definite purchase for the school library come the new academic year. Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo have done a masterful job with the artwork, the illustrations perfectly capturing the settings and characters that I have held in my mind for the last few years. Andolfo's colouring brings Celoni's drawings, and with them the story, to life in a way that had me lingering over every panel as I slowly made my way through the story. The text has been adapted by Hosseini himself, and as such sticks very faithfully to the original novel's story. This does include some of the elements of The Kite Runner that caused controversy on its release and the subsequent attempts to have it banned in some libraries in the US. However, although present, the scenes in question are not as explicit in this adaptation and I would have no qualms in recommending it to 14+ teens who are mature enough to understand the background of intolerance and bigotry that lead Assef into behaving the way he does towards Amir and Hassan.

The press release from Bloomsbury states that "In this new stunning form, The Kite Runner is sure to compel a new generation of readers to discover a story of a boy and his country in a journey of love, loyalty, secrets and vengeance." and I am very much inclined to agree with them. I find that in the school where I teach, which is in a very white middle-class area, even the more able students have a scarily poor understanding of the issues affecting the people of Afghanistan, the Palestinian people and problems in other parts of the world, and at times this lack of understanding can make their opinions sound somewhat intolerant, especially where Moslems are concerned. Books like The Kite Runner are perfect for sparking off discussion and helping them develop a greater understanding of other faiths and cultures, and this graphic novelisation will hopefully encourage the less able readers or more disaffected students to do the same.

The Kite Runner graphic novel is published by Bloomsbury and is scheduled to be released on 5th September in paperback format.

       

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Review: The Pirate Cruncher by Jonny Duddle


One dark and stormy night, a salty old sea dog tells the tale of a mysterious island, bursting with pirate booty! Captain Purplebeard and his crew have already set sail by the time the cove mentions the hideous Pirate Cruncher who guards the gold…

I first came across Jonny Duddle's work through the incredible illustrations he has done for Barry Hutchison's Invisible Fiends books. His drawings of each of the Fiends sets the reader up with a perfect mental image before they even start reading the book. I have followed Jonny's blog for some time, but never had the chance to read any of his books until now. Thanks to the generous people at Templar I am now the grateful owner of this book, The Pirate Cruncher, and Jonny's latest offering, The Pirates Next Door (review to follow some time soon).

Jonny has already demonstrated to the world that he has a talent for drawing detailed characters through that Invisible Fiends work, but my first question was whether he would be able to bring these skills as effectively to a whole picture book. The answer is a resounding yes! In The Pirate Cruncher Jonny Duddle introduces us to a motley crew of fully detailed and beautifully rendered pirates, each with their very own character traits, making it the kind of picture book that young boys will love. This band of pirates is led by the avaricious Captain Purplebeard, a man who will becomes obsessed with the promise of a great treasure, and will not be swayed from his quest even when warned that a horrible sea monster may be waiting for him at the journey's end (a big old beast, who likes nothing more than a pirate feast).

This book is worth buying purely for the artwork (just wait until you get to the huge double fold-out page near the end!), but there is also a nice little tale accompanying these stunning illustrations. We first meet our pirate crew supping their ale in the Thirsty Parrot. Their carousing is interrupted by the song sung by a passing fiddler, who tells the tale of "an island of gold in the scurvy sea". As the sun rises the next morning the pirates have already embarked on their quest for the treasure, unaware that their greed as already set them on the path to their ultimate doom. Within this tale is also a subtle moral message regarding greed and how it can affect your judgement, and also blind you from the fact that you may be being manipulated (look very carefully at the mysterious fiddler).

The text of the story is largely written in rhyme, although this is not Mr Duddle's strongest attribute. Sometimes these rhymes scan very well, at other times the pattern of the rhyming changes and so some children may find this a little difficult to read for themselves. There are also some sections of text, notably that which appears in the thought bubbles of the various pirates, that do not fit with the rhyming sections and although they add to the various pirates' characters they can also tend to interrupt the flow of the story.  

Kids will probably get the most from this book when it is read by a parent. However, some parents may feel a little daunted at the thought of doing the different pirate voices in character. Have no fear, for the edition I received came complete with an audio CD featuring Jonny Duddle reading the story and himself changing voice for each different character, accompanied by various sound effects and some suitably piratical music. This is one picture book that is so stunning that it is going to remain in my own collection and not get passed on to my little nephew.... sorry James!


Saturday, 20 August 2011

*** Competition: WIN a copy of Escape From Furnace: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

Readers of The Book Zone in the USA and Canada, this one is for you (sorry UK readers but it is about time our friends across the Atlantic had a Book Zone competition all to themselves). Thanks to the generous people at Macmillan US (via Zeitghost Media) I have a copy of Alexander Gordon Smith's totally awesome Escape From Furnace: Lockdown to give away to one luck winner. If you have not yet discovered this great series then check out this fab trailer and then read on below to see how you can win a copy.


I have been a fan of this series ever since I read the first book (you can see my review here), and I know it is becoming increasingly popular in the US as well. Having now read all five books in the series, as we are slightly ahead over here in the UK, US fans should know that they have one hell of a story to look forward to.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning this book all you have to do is complete the form below before the deadline of 8pm PST on Friday 26th August, and then I will draw at random one lucky winner.



Contest open to US/Canadian residents only.
Neither the publisher or I will not be held responsible for items lost in the mail.
I hold the right to end a contest before its original deadline without any prior notice.
I hold the right to disqualify any entry as I see fit.

I will contact winning entrants for their postal address following the close of the competition. Winners have 48 hours to reply. Failure to do so in this time will result in another winner being randomly selected.

To find out more about Alexander Gordon Smith and the Escape From Furnace series head on over to www.alexandergordonsmith.com or become a fan at the Lockdown Facebook page.

Friday, 19 August 2011

News: Book Cover - Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda

Last October I went to the Crystal Palace Children's Books Festival, and once all the workshops were over I ended up in the pub with some blogging friends and a handful of authors, one of which was Sarwat Chadda. I am a huge fan of Sarwat's two books featuring his kick-ass modern day Templar heroine Billi SanGreal, the second of which, Dark Goddess, was my Book of the Year 2010. Whilst we ate in the pub Sarwat was telling me about his labour of love - a book with an young Indian protagonist and with a heavy dose of Indian mythology. He explained how many people had told him he was crazy for wanting to write the story as it would be very difficult to market. Sarwat perservered and then back in March, much to the delight of everyone who knows Sarwat, it was announced that he had secured a publishing deal with the wonderful people at HarperCollins.

If Sarwat's previous books are anything to go by then I think that this book, Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress, and those that follow in the series, could be one of the big successes of 2012, especially with the brilliant marketing and publicity department at Harper promoting it. It may just do for Indian mythology what Percy Jackson did for the legends of Ancient Greece. Sadly it isn't due to be published until March 2012 so some time to wait, but in the meantime feast your eyes on this stunning book cover, and a few brief details about the story:




Varanasi: holy city of the Ganges.

In this land of ancient temples, incense and snake charmers…

Where the monsters and heroes of the past come to life…

One slightly geeky boy from our time…

IS GOING TO KICK SOME DEMON ASS.

Ash Mistry hates India. Which is a problem since his uncle has brought him and his annoying younger sister Lucky there to take up a dream job with the mysterious Lord Savage. But Ash immediately suspects something is very wrong with the eccentric millionaire. Soon, Ash finds himself in a desperate battle to stop Savage's masterplan – the opening of the Iron Gates that have kept Ravana, the demon king, at bay for four millennia…

Sarwat is going to be running a competition on his blog where one lucky winner will receive a very early proof copy of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress, so head on over to http://sarwatchadda.blogspot.com/ and bookmark the page now!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Review: Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater by Dusty Higgins & Van Jensen


Pinocchio is back, continuing his quest to rid the world of vampires. Still haunted by Geppetto’s death and in an uneasy alliance with an undead friend, Pinocchio is in danger of letting his anger consume him.

Fortunately, the actors of the Great Puppet Theater arrive on the scene to aid their brother-in-wood. Soon, they’re journeying across Italy to the sea in a high-stakes pursuit of the source of the vampire scourge.


Back at the start of the year I started a Tumblr blog, with a view to it running alongside The Book Zone, with one post each day for a year highlighting some of the cool books in my collection. I managed to get to the end of January, by which point I realised that I was never going to keep it going as I was only just managing to keep on top of this blog. One of the first books I mini-reviewed on that Tumblr effort was Pinocchio Vampire Slayer, a small graphic novel that was something of an impulse buy based purely on its title. In that post I wrote the following about the book:

Story-wise I have read far better in graphic novels, but I am not sure Jensen and Higgins set out to create a richly plotted tale; this book should be enjoyed for what it is: an irreverent and crazy horror story based on the characters created by Carlo Collodi. Sure, the hero of this book is no Buffy Summers, but how many times did we see her have to hunt around for an improvised weapon? This vampire slayer simply has to lie to make his nose grow and voila - instant slayer stake! As for the illustrations I guess you may love or hate them, depending on your tastes. I grew up adoring the black and white images in 2000AD, and can still appreciate the power of monochromatic artwork, but lovers of rich colour and detail may find the style in this book a little brutal for their tastes. Definitely a remedy for the Disney-fied version of the story, and far more in keeping with the dark content of Collodi’s original, and many of the other classic fairytales that have been sanitised by Disney Corp.

In fact, I liked it so much that as I wrote that review I had just put in my order for the sequel, Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater. Be warned, reader, that the following may contain spoilers for the first book!



Whilst the first book was something of a lone wolf adventure, with Pinocchio on a one-puppet mission to avenge the death of his father Geppetto (albeit with carpenter Master Cherry and The Blue Fairy as support), the second book is much more of a team affair, with the eponymous hero joined by the equally wooden actors of the Great Puppet Theater. They have been hunting for Pinocchio for some time, keen to join up with him and together rid their world of the vampire menace. Their appearance on the scene brings even more dark humour to the sequel, especially in the banter that goes on between the various puppets, with Van Jansen really getting his teeth into writing the sarcasm-rich dialogue that goes on between them. It also means that this second volume is a good fifty pages longer than the first, and this can only be a good thing.

It is a good job that these puppets can really kick butt as there are none of your wimpy Edward Cullen-type vampires in this book, they are all mean, nasty, bloodsucking mankillers, and even if you are feeling a little jaded by all the vampire stories that have been flying around in recent years you will probably find this to be a fresh and engaging take on the vampire myth. I think that these books would go down a storm with 11+ boys, and I hope to get copies for the school library next term. I am definitely looking forward to reading the final book in this trilogy, due out next year and titled Pinocchio Vampire Slayer, Of Wood and Blood, although a I am a little sad that it will be the final PVS book. A Pixar adapation would be fantastic, though given the body count perhaps a little unlikely, so perhaps Higgins and Jensen could turn their immense talents to re-writing another classic fairy tale in the future?

The books are published by SLG Publishing and you can find out more about Pinocchio Vampire Slayer at http://pinocchiovampireslayer.com/

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Review: Candle Man: The Society of Dread by Glenn Dakin


When Theo defeated his old guardian, Dr Saint, in a fierce, fiery battle, he thought his enemies were routed and the bad old days were over for good. But now the terrible slithering, seething crelp are bubbling up from below ground to snatch people and harvest their bones. Deep beneath the city, an ancient force – one that could threaten even Theo the Candle Man’s power – is getting ready to burn, burn, burn. Twisted, charred, faceless Dr Pyre has a plan, and a secret that will shock Theo to the core. Theo will have to descend once more into the dark, slimy tunnels to fight strange creatures and ally with old enemies. Can the Candle Man find a way in the dark this time?

Back in November 2009, in the dark, early days of The Book Zone, I posted a review of the first book from Glenn Dakin featuring his young hero, and subtitled The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance. It was a book that I loved for its dark humour, fast pace and colourful characters, and I waited impatiently for the sequel. Unfortunately patience is not a virtue I possess in bucketfuls when it comes to books, and my willpower weakened to the point where I ordered the sequel from the US, as for some reason the books have been published over there some time before they are unleashed on the UK. I read it at a time when things were really busy at work and so I just never got around to writing a review, and then a copy of the UK paperback edition arrived from the generous people at Egmont, and has sat on my desk as a reminder to post that review ever since.

I have just re-read the sequel, subtitled The Society of Dread, so that it is fresh in my mind for writing this review, and please me when I say that it is just as good second time around. I loved this book, possibly even more than I loved the first in the series, as it has all the great elements of the first book plus more. More great characters. More horrible creatures. More dark, dark humour. And best of all, more of Theo, a main character with flaws, and one of the great underdogs of modern children's literature.

In preparation for writing this I also re-read my review of the first book in the series. At the time I wrote that I had struggled to get a feel for the place in which the story was set, and that I was a little confused about it. I wonder whether that was just the mood I was in at the time, as there was certainly none of that in this book, and the setting was this time a stand-out element of the story for me. If you haven't read the first book (you really should), the story is set in a modern day London, but there are many elements that give the reader a feeling that some of its characters are firmly rooted in the traditions of the Victorian era, and it certainly has the feel of some of the classic crime and adventure books from the beginning of the 20th Century. It is the kind of book that I would really love to see turned into a film, directed by the likes of Terry Gilliam or Jean-Pierre Jeunet, directors who would lavish care and attention on creating the perfect setting, down to the smallest detail. Although perhaps the scenes where Theo uses his powers might be a little too icky for this, so maybe an animated films by someone like Sylvain Chomet (creator of the totally brilliant Belleville Rendez-vous).

To tell you more about the plot than is mentioned in the publisher's blurb at the top of this post would be risking giving away spoilers from the first book, so instead you should read my review of that first book and then go out and get your hands on the book, in the knowledge that there is an even better sequel already waiting in the wings. If you have already read the first book then you probably don't need to read my waffling about the plot of the sequel anyway. What I will say is that the ending of The Society of Dread leaves us with a number of hints that suggest that there will hopefully be a third Candle Man book some time in the future, although I am not privy to when that may be. If I get any more information about this I will be sure to let you know.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

News: The End of Rick Yancey's Monstrumologist Series?


There has been a lot of buzz on Facebook, Twitter and a huge variety of blogs over the past few days regarding The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey. It would appear that Rick had a three book contract with Simon and Schuster US, and due to the number of oustanding reviews garnered by the two books so far, as well as various awards and award nominations Mr Yancey had expected to be given an extension to this contract, especially as S&S knew that he had plans to continue Will Henry's story into further books. However, much to his surprise, he has now been informed that his publisher were not interested in extending his contract. I will give my thoughts on this below, but if you want the full details from the man himself them I urge you to visit The Bookshelves of Doom blog here to read an interview with the author about this matter.

Long time readers of The Book Zone will know how highly I regard these two fantastic horror books, which in my opinion stand out as beacons of quality amongst the plethora of YA horror/paranormal books being released these days, so it was with a great deal of sadness that I read about this. However, my sadness turned to anger when I then discovered that Simon and Schuster had at roughly the same time signed a multi-book deal with Hilary Duff! Yes, that Hilary Duff, the one from countless films, most of which I would prefer to watch paint dry than watch. Yet another celebrity getting a book deal purely on their name, with a publisher hoping that the name will sell books. So sad. As a lover of good stories for kids and young adults I often forget that publishing is an industry like any other, and as such is very much focused on profit, constantly searching for the next cash cow to come along, and in the meantime happy to publish god knows how many below par Twilight wannabe books to keep the cash rolling in.

Supposedly, despite the rave reviews, and the awards, Rick Yancey's books just weren't selling quite well enough for the people holding the purse strings. So quality is losing out to making money yet again, and at the same time yet another so-called celebrity gets paid to inflict their stories on the unsuspecting (and celebrity crazy) public. I may be doing Ms Duff a disservice here, but I doubt it.

I hope Mr Yancey manages to find another publisher for his books so that he can finish his story, and his legion of fans don't get left waiting for the rest of his story, much as we have had to do with Joe Craig's Jimmy Coates series. This reader will definitely be buying the next book in the series and a review will appear on The Book Zone some time in October. In the meantime you can read my review of The Monstrumologist here and Curse of the Wendigo here.



Monday, 15 August 2011

Review: The Island of Thieves by Josh Lacey


Buried treasure. Ruthless gangsters. An ancient clue . . .

Our Captayne took the pinnace ashore and I went with hym and six men also, who were sworne by God to be secret in al they saw. Here we buried five chests filled with gold.

Tom Trelawney was looking for excitement. Now he's found it. With his eccentric uncle Harvey, he's travelling to South America on a quest for hidden gold. But Harvey has some dangerous enemies and they want the treasure too. Who will be the first to uncover the secrets of the mysterious island?

This is one of the most difficult reviews I have had to write for some time as I have found it difficult to put my "9 year old" hat on for this one. The story details above promise so much, and had me dropping everything when it arrived, expecting an old-school high-octane adventure story for the 9+ age group. Instead, I found it to be a fairly predictable by-numbers treasure hunt story with very few surprises. What I have to decide is whether a child would feel the same about it?

The story starts with Tom accidentally burning down the garden shed just as his parents are due to go on holiday. The parents of his friend are now no longer happy with him staying with them, and therefore they turn to irresponsible Uncle Harvey as a last resort. However, as soon as they have driven off down the road Harvey informs Tom that he is leaving for Peru, and leaving his nephew to fend for himself in London for the week. Tom has other plans however, and manages to coerce his uncle into taking him along on his quest for the long lost treasure of Francis Drake. This quest will see Tom become involved in a deadly race for the treasure, hounded all the way by dangerous criminals in the pay of a Peruvian crime boss.

Sounds exciting doesn't it? The narrative moves at a pretty fast pace, and there are some pretty nasty villains to add a little spice to the pair's adventure, but that's about it... no twists in the plot to speak of, so is there enough to keep a young boy interested? All I can say is that it really depends on the boy in question. I know some less confident readers who would happily read this book from cover to cover and enjoy the many exciting action scenes in the story, and not notice the over-contrived plot points. And yet I also know boys of the same age who would not find it at all rewarding once they reach the final page, and like me would be less than excited at the prospect of a sequel. , so it is unlikely there will be time for him to get bored with it, but would he find it an ultimately rewarding read come the final page? 

If you have a son who is in the 9-11 age range and you are looking for an adventure story as a summer holiday read then you could do a lot worse than this book, especially if he is a less-confident reader, but then again you could also do a great deal better. My thanks go the the people at Andersen Press for sending me a copy of The Island of Thieves to review. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

*** H.I.V.E. Contest Result

The lucky winners of the three sets of seven H.I.V.E. books by Mark Walden are:

Keely
Mark Beckett
Ben G

Well done and thank you to all of you who entered. I will now endeavour to contact the winner through by email. Please reply within 48 hours or I will draw another name out of the hat. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for providing the prize.


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Review: Booksurfers by David Gatward


Booksurfers: Treasure Island

Jake, Becca, Ryan and Harriet are kidnapped by Dr Crookshanks and his accomplice, Professor Kaufman. Against their will, the gang have to jump 'into' the world’s best known adventure stories to steal important artefacts, using an incredible invention called the Nautilus. If they don't get what Crookshanks wants, what will he do to their parents? And what will Becca do without her dad's credit card?

Crookshanks explains that in order to keep their families safe, the children must bring him back the actual treasure map from Treasure Island. Their parents’ lives are in the hands of a complete madman! The Booksurfers have little time to argue. Before they know it, they are thrown into Treasure Island; they’re talking to Jim Hawkins, running away from pirates and risking their lives to get their hands on that map!


Booksurfers: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Booksurfers have barely dusted the sand off their clothes from Treasure Island before they are flung into another mission for the evil Dr Crookshanks. They land in the strange, magical and altogether pretty freaky Land of Oz, and if they don’t get Dorothy’s ruby slippers back to Crookshanks, they will never see their parents again! This time the Booksurfers aren’t just watching the action – they’ve become the main characters. Jake’s got no brains, Becca’s being ever so nice (for once), Ryan’s crying because he stood on a beetle and Harriet’s attacking strangers!


I know there are many people out there who think that ebooks are a product of the devil, an electronic menace threatening their beloved traditional paper books (or tree-books). Whilst I love the feel, smell, in fact everything about a proper paper book, if we want to continue to encourage 21st century children, and boys in particular to read for enjoyment then I feel we have to embrace rather than fear this new technology. There have been some fantastic book related apps produced for the ipad, but very little else until now as far as I am aware. So when I received an email from author David Gatward (whose The Dead trilogy I loved), asking if I would be interested in reviewing an ebook-with-a-difference that he had written I did not hesitate to say yes please.

David has teamed up with publisher FourteenFiftyFour to produce a new concept in children's books, titled Booksurfers, with the tagline: Ever wondered what it would be like to not just read a book, but actually experience it? The first in the series is called Booksurfers: Treasure Island, and we are introduced to a team of young book loving characters: Jake, Becca, Ryan and Harriet. The foursome have been kidnapped from their respective homes by the totally nasty Dr Crookshanks, and his evil inventor accomplice Professor Kaufman. His demands are simple: using the Nautilus, an incredible gadget created by Kaufman that allows people to enter the story of any book they choose, he wants the children to enter Treasure Island and retrieve Billy Bones' map so that he can sell it for a huge fortune. 

Unfortunately for Jake and his new friends they very quickly discover that this is not as simple as it sounds, and they can't just rock up at the first mention of the map in the story and nab it, as this would mean that the whole story would then cease to exist (what's the point of Treasure island without the map?), and therefore the map would be worthless. And so begins an exciting adventure for the 9+ age group that had me totally hooked. 

But.... there is much more to Booksurfers than just the standard "send new characters in to old stories" plot that has been seen before, as this new story is littered with Kindle hyperlinks that when clicked take the reader to the original R.L. Stevenson text, and in some cases, he very cleverly works this original text into his new story, especially where some of the dialogue is concerned, although this latter aspect is much more evident in the sequel, Booksurfers: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. These hyperlinks take a little bit of getting used to as initially I was unsure how they would work (but then again, I am a lifelong reader who is pretty much set in his ways). After clicking on a few of them, and feeling that they distracted a little from the flow of the main Gatward story, I chose instead to ignore the majority of them. However, inquisitive young minds will, I am sure, make much better use of them than I did. What I did do though was as soon as I had finished Dave Gatward's story, I then felt compelled to read the full text of Treasure Island for the umpteenth time. Did I not mention that with the Booksurfers story you also get the full original text? A brilliant idea and a surefire way of encouraging a new generation of readers to read classic stories, without them feeling like they are being told to read them, as I am sure many would do the same as I did.

Treasure Island is one of my all-time favourite books, and I was initially a little concerned as to how I would feel about a modern day story interfering with my beloved classic. I had little to worry about as I loved it, especially with the way that the new characters occasionally interacted with the likes of Jim Hawkins, Blind Pew and Squire Trelawney in order to ensure that the story did not deviate from Stevenson's original.

Of course, when the foursome finally complete their allotted task they discover that Dr Crookshanks is not going to honour his initial promise to set them and their captive parents free, preferring instead to give them a list of other popular books, with an item to retrieve from each one. This leads us straight into the sequel, Booksurfers: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was published at the same time as the first book. Having finished Stevenson's Treasure Island I was still very interested as to how Dave Gatward would be able to maintain enough variety in the plot to keep young readers interested past the first book. I have read L. Frank Baum's original, many years ago, and of course seen the film many times, but this book is nowhere near as dear to my heart as Treasure Island. And yet I think I enjoyed this Booksurfers outing even more, and instead of the foursome being extras in the original story, this time the Nautilus has them playing the main characters of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin-man and the Cowardly Lion, and it works brilliantly.

A quick email to David Gatward received a reply stating that there are definitely more Booksurfers books planned: Robin Hood in September and A Christmas Carol in November, and I will definitely be getting these for my Kindle.