Archive for the ‘YA’ Category

Between Darkness and the Light

Paul Mitchener

A young, bored and confused teenager is thrown into an adventurous world that he believed only existed in books and dreams. Henry is destined to become the next Host Master and to lead the everlasting fight between the darkness and the light. The Wyvern, an ancient creature of mythical powers and defender of all things living, has to find a host to be able to dwell in this world. It chooses Henry. After his encounter with Bert and the odd dog Ben in the woodland, Henry s life would never be the same again: as well as finding his only true love, he s told that his mother and aunt had kept from him that they were creatures of nature and guardians of the woodland and commanded great powers. Henry has to find a way to grow up fast and find the strength to face up to both his own demons as well as those sent by the Shadow Master, a powerful sorcerer, who has the power and the aid from dark allies to destroy life and spread darkness across the world.


About the Author

I now live in a small picturesque village called Penton Grafton in Hampshire, which consists a large duck pond, a village green where cricket is played most Sundays during the summer and a 14th century church. Penton Grafton is about four miles away from our nearest large town of Andover. Andover is briefly mentioned in my book.

One of seven children and a son of a farmer, I spent all my childhood playing in the countryside. I was born in the same house that my parents lived in for all their married life. Unfortunately, I had very pour education. That, added to the fact that I suffer from dyslexia, meant that I didn’t just struggle with the written word all of my life, but I also had to work twice as hard as others in many aspect of life. That said, I have never allowed it to hold me back from anything I wanted to achieve. I’m now retired but before that, I was a Managing/production director of company that made armoured and stretched luxury limousines for royals and dignitaries, mainly in the Middle East. I spent the best part of fifteen years travelling the world on business and met many of the royals as well as famous celebrities. Since retiring, I took a two year full time collage course in countryside conservation which is a subject that I’m very passionate about and despite my disorder, I achieved top grades and best student of the year.

Between the Darkness and the Light is my first novel but I’m now in the process of writing a sequel, my motivation for this book comes in two parts. Firstly, to become a published author has been on my bucket list for years now. I’ve always envied anyone who could write, especially writers like Terry Brooks, who have the skill to capture a moment in time and develop such interesting strong characters, so, I needed to prove to myself that someday I could write a novel. Dyslexia can be a very debilitating condition which is often overlooked, so I wanted to prove not just to myself but to others that suffer from it, that if they really worked at it, they could do the same and nothing should hold them back from reaching their own potential. I managed to achieve more than most and much more than I had hoped; but it has been a long hard uphill battle.

Secondly, I have a passion for nature and although my book is fantasy it is set in the here and now. The message I wish to get across to my readers (especially teenagers) is that we must start caring for the world in which we live. One of the main reason for choosing a teenager as the main character was to try and take others of the same age on a journey of discovery but with a teenage prospective, his first love, his new-found passion for nature and other living beings; but more importantly, discovering himself. What makes my book important to me are the characters and the location in which my book is set. Most of my characters are a mix of people that I know or have known in the past, although the people I know are interesting characters in their own right, it was fun putting them all in a mixing pot and creating new and more interesting characters. The location is set in and around the town of Whitchurch, an area where I was born and raised, the woodland was where I used to play as a child, there’re both places I still hold very dear to my heart.

The whole story of my book is set around one teenaged character (Henry Harris). Henry a confused, lazy and often very moody young man and now having left full education he has no idea what he wants from life. I’m sure most, if not all teenaged readers can relate to him, especially his relationship with his family. Henry eventually finds himself but only with the help, support and love from those that care for him most. The only message I wish to get across to teenagers is, that they don’t have to face life’s trials alone, if they have family and friends that love them and support them there is nothing in this world that they couldn’t get through.

Publisher: Brown Dog Books
Publication Date: March 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages:
Genre: Adventure
Age: YA
Reviewer: N/A
Source: N/A
Posted on:

Running Across the Sky

Amanda Malben

Three years into the civil war that has turned his country upside down, Sami’s home village in Syria is hit by a deadly bomb attack and he is forced to leave behind everything he knows and loves. Eventually, Sami and his family are given refuge in Coventry, England, but city life is hard to adjust to. It’s grey and cold and there are no fields to play in or animals to tend. Worse still, Sami worries about the fate of his uncle and cousins back in Syria and struggles to make new friends. In a bid to take his mind off his homesickness, Sami is introduced to Harry Adams, one of the elderly residents at the care home where his mum works. Although wary of one another at first, the pair gradually form a bond, as Harry tells Sami the story of the unusually named Splen and his dog Bobby, who lived through the Second World War and the infamous Coventry Blitz. As Sami discovers more about Splen and his dramatic escape from the horrors of conflict, the two unlikely friends make peace with their troubled pasts and forge a new sense of hope for the future.


The story started from a mad conversation with my then 11-year-old grandson Alfie. We were chatting about names and he came out with “what did Splen do?” to which I replied “Well something splendid I guess!” the name stayed in my head. He also told me that books about wizards and talking trees, and strange creatures bored him and he wanted to read about real people that were, sort of, like him. So I had to listen to my audience, stop writing the story with the magician and get real. So Splen was born. Sometimes a character will worm their way so deeply into your psyche you have to accept the inevitable and write them.

I set the book in the 1940s because I felt the word splendid was a bit old-fashioned and seemed to sit in that era rather well. Having decided on an era I then needed to pick an event. To be honest if you’d asked me, “would you write about WW2?” I think I would have been very negative about it as my setting, but sometimes when you write, things just happen. I picked the Blitz in Coventry because it was a one-off event, one night of extreme horror. Something almost biblical about the night when the bombers came. The more I read about it the more it drew me in. I toyed with the idea of using the canal as the main location. Having lived on a canal boat for 12 years it’s a subject close to my heart but somehow I couldn’t make that work.

Coventry is a place that has rebuilt its self from a devastated City to an ambassador for peace and reconciliation. It is a City where hope is abundant, a City that could offer a young Syrian refugee healing and a future. I really wanted that message to be the overwhelming theme of the story.

I needed to bring the present day in as it would give the story more impact and resonate with us now, bring history to life. Syria is sadly a perfect example of, “we never learn.” War is war no matter when or where it happens. There are some moments in the book that are harrowing but I don’t believe we should sugar coat everything. Children never cease to amaze me with their emotional intelligence. They get it, they see it again and again on the TV, but they also need hope.

I also wanted to explore the wonderful relationship between the very young and the old. They seem to enjoy each other’s company with no barriers. My grandchildren get on better with my mother than any of her children or her grandchildren! They’ll happily listen to her stories which we have all heard, probably too many times!

Most of my research was done on line, what a wonder tool! Reading first-hand experiences for both Coventry and Syria. The first-hand experiences of the children in the refugee camps are extraordinary. Some of them are breath-taking in their refusal to be beaten by their tragedies, some inevitably painful and very hard to read. And books, copious books. Visiting Coventry and The Blitz Experience Museum gave me such a sensory understanding and helped me to feel it, take me right into the night of the Blitz.

Plotter or punster? Bit of both, I have a “story,” the bare bones, how it starts where it goes and how it ends. I tend to approach every scene as a mini story and once the basic structures in place then I let my imagination go. I also find that the characters have a habit of dictating the outcomes — when you write the characters and places become incredibly real. I do sometimes become a character and start talking like them, usually when out walking with the dog — I get some strange looks occasionally! So she gets to hear everything way before it gets committed to paper.

About the Author

Amanda Malben trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama but has dedicated herself to teaching. She taught adults with learning difficulties at Northampton College, specialising in drama, and English as a foreign language to adults. A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, she co-founded a project with Northampton University to help improve the language skills of immigrant children and their parents. Now retired, she lives in the Northamptonshire countryside close to the Warwickshire border and enjoys writing and walking her dog.

Publisher: Wrate Publishing
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages:
Genre: YA
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
Posted on:

The Awakened

Julian Cheek

My name is Sam. I am nothing special but apparently if I don’t wake up, both this world and that other one will be destroyed. Nice One! All I wanted was to disappear into my own world and be left alone. But, No! Even THAT was taken away from me.
Well just wait. You want me to fight? I’ll show you “fight.”
You took the most important thing in my life away from me, and now I am coming for you.
Hidden away in your mountain stronghold, even the rocks around you will not stop me getting to you.
You started this war.
I am going to finish it!
Seventeen year old Sam just wants to be left alone!
He has enough to cope with in his invisible, suburban, existence without having some fantastic and, frankly, unasked-for, alternate reality drop into his life asserting that he has powers beyond his wildest dreams. And that unless he does something, both his world, and that of Muanga-Atua, will come to a horrible end.
A terrifying episode one blustery night may be enough to start to erode the impregnable shell he thought he had built up around himself. A shell, not to keep others out, but to keep the rage in. Could he afford, as was the norm now, just to do nothing?


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
For me, my favourite things is the wrestling, trying to find the right/best way to describe a scene such that the reader is instantly transported into that environment, regardless as to whether they have ever experienced the same for themselves or not. And when there, for them to then associate with the scene, experience or event unfolding, and this, star to associate with the story as a whole

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Alice! I loved playing with the fact that she is a total enigma to Sam. He doesn’t know whether to blush, curse, get frustrated or run away, but there is something about Alice that gets under his skin, so he is almost powerless to keep away from her. Without giving too much of the story away, Alice is also key to Muanga-Atua, the alternative world Sam discovers. The reader is slowly introduced to her, and hopefully, is kept guessing till the very end.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Part of the reason for writing this trilogy, (of which “The Awakened” is book one) is because when my partner and I went to New Zealand on sabbatical, we were so amazed with the place, in terms of the scenery, culture, grandeur… and coffee, that we wrote a blog (http://www.hobbitsandseals.wordpress.com) about our experiences, and interestingly, an awful lot of coffee is consumed. So, coffee, which I find comforting, or a G&T, which is of course, the best cold drink, ever

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Of course not! Although I am sure my partner, Mitch, would easily be able to rattle off numerous habits, which, whilst not bad in themselves, annoy her! I will leave it for her to come to my rescue. Probably looking out the window and day-dreaming, rather than concentrating on the subject at hand…. And waffling, I am very good at just rambling on and on and…. Hmmm. Enough said.

How do you research your books?
I do a lot of reading and go online frequently during research periods. Another aspect, for example, when describing the scene in Paris (and, no, I will not be writing any spoiler alerts here!) is that we travel a lot and soak up the culture and landscapes as much as possible. We both write, and this comes naturally to us, so we are not describing areas or places which are unrealistic.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I take my writing seriously and so I would describe myself generally as a plotter. The story needs to have some structure from which to build itself. However, once I have refined this “skeleton” I would rather that certain aspects are allowed to wander into the “pantser” home, rip off the curtains and turn up the music till the windows crack. Both feed off each other.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
In Piers Anthony’s Adept Series, he paints a fantastic world called “Phaze”. If one could combine the world of Phaze with that of Lord of the Rings, that is where I would like to live. I love wide open scenery with huge mountains that break the skyline, and then disappear into the forests where mankind becomes so small in relation to the ageless trees, earth and nature.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Thomas Covenant, from the Stephen Donaldson series, would probably be the one fictional character I would love to try to befriend. It would be fascinating to sit with him and learn all about wisdom carved from adversary. But, like most best friends, it would be bloody difficult to stop myself thumping him at times for his sheer bloody-mindedness. Sorry, am I allowed to say, “bloody”? No? Bugger!

About the Author

Living in Petersfield, Hampshire, Julian Cheek has worked for over thirty years as an architect working on several major projects including Mercedes World, a competition for Battersea Power Station, NikeTown and most recently a high rise, Versace branded residential building in London. When not designing he is embracing his other creative interests, writing. His first book, You should not wake a hibernating Puff-Adder (2011) was a series of short stories inspired by his childhood growing up in South Africa.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 306
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
Posted on:

Curse of the Nomed

B. B. Taylor

Ancient Gods, a cursed Librarian and a battle to save their souls. How hard could the first day of school really be? Welcome to Nomed Academy! An epic adventure for three unsuspecting year seven students as they embark on their first day of school. One they will never forget. But can they really defeat an ancient Egyptian God with nothing but revenge on his mind? All net profits from the sale of this book go to Partnership for Children, a mental health charity supporting the positive mental health of children.


After hearing about how this book came to be, I could not wait to read it. A group of year eight students came up with the idea and B. B. Taylor brought it to life. Now all the profit from the book will be going to a mental health charity. Add to that an enticing summary and I simply had to give this book a try. Fortunately, it is a decision I am glad I made. It is a short read and just over 100 pages but it definitely packs a punch. It’s full of adventure, excitement and danger. It is the perfect book to keep you entertained for a few hours and I am sure it will be loved by lots of teenagers.

In this book, the three main characters start of not knowing much about each other nor having much strength. By the end of the book, you can tell that they will be friends for life and are the strongest trio in the school. This occurs as they use their own personal knowledge and strength to surpass the challenges that they have to face in the midst of their adventures. Together they have to work as a team to save the school from deadly sources. But do they have it in them to succeed?

I absolutely loved the way this book uses Ancient Egypt at the centre of the story. I loved the Librarian, and I just thought the trio were really interesting to read about as well. This was a very quick but entertaining read that I would happily recommend to others. It’s a fast-paced, adventure filled book that will have your heart racing as you hope that the trio will triumph instead of fail. Plus, it’s all worth it to get to the very end of the book too. After all, what will happen next?

Verdict: An entertaining, interesting, and heart-racing book that will keep you turning the page until you know that everything works out okay… or does it?

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Weird N Wonderful Tales
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 116
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
Posted on:

On Holy Ground

Louise Cole

Saving the world was just the start.
In The Devil’s Poetry, Callie gambled with her life to stop a war. And she won. But now the game has changed. A Reader who understands the Book’s magic is either a savior or a curse – what she can’t be is free. When Callie stranded in the US, hunted and penniless, she desperately needs allies. But whose agenda can she trust? She must re-evaluate everything she knows, and find a way to escape, or die trying. Don’t miss the riveting sequel to The Devil’s Poetry.


After finishing The Devil’s Poetry, I was itching to get my hands on the On Holy Ground. There is something so pulling about Louise Cole’s writing. It sucks you into the story and makes you yearn for more. This was especially true during On Holy Ground. Right from the very first sentence, my heart rate increased and I had to continue reading. There was absolutely no way I could stop reading before I got to the end of the book. Once again, Louise Cole has written a fantastic book that you really do not want to miss out on.

One of the things I find really wonderful about Louise‘s books is the way that the narration flips between different characters throughout the story, which not only gives you a more rounded view of everything going on but really builds up the tension inside the book. The main genre of this book is definitely fantasy, whereby a book can save the world and break it at the same time, but it also has brilliant characteristics of a thriller too. With lots of different things going on at the same time and everyone having different agendas, it is easy to see how she manages to create such an intense and ultimately page-turning novel that is incredibly hard to put down.

Once again, Callie is a strong character who really pulls the story along. I felt for her throughout a lot of the book and was so invested in her story and everything that was going on around her. I had to know what was happening and where everything was headed. Fortunately, Louise Cole did not disappoint. She has written a very strong and entertaining sequel to her first book and I know that I am intrinsically hooked on her writing now. I will definitely be reading every single book that she writes from now on. Moreover, I would also highly recommend this series so if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, make sure you do that soon!

Verdict: A fast-paced, heart-racing, intense sequel that is an absolutely stunning read that you do not want to miss out on.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Valkyrie Books
Publication Date: April 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
Posted on:

Two Ticks Tuesday; What’s a Girl Gotta Do?

Holly Bourne
HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:
1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender
2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)
3. Always try to keep it funny
4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…
Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas…

Really enjoyed the way the author highlighted everyday sexism with humour but, as with the previous books in this series, still managed to address serious elements in a sensitive and informative way.

I really recommend this series.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher:Usbourne Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 331
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Two Ticks Tuesday; How Hard Can Love Be?

Holly Bourne
Amber, Evie and Lottie: three girls facing down tough issues with the combined powers of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Both hilarious and heart-rending, this is Amber’s story of how painful – and exhilarating – love can be, following on from Evie’s story in Am I Normal Yet?
All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber’s hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.
And then there’s prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie’s advice, there’s no escaping the fact: love is hard.

I am absolutely loving this series and I raced through this instalment in a single sitting.
Despite the heavy backstory I didn’t find this as intense as the first. I did however find it even funnier and I could completely relate to Amber’s Britishness
I continued to love Lottie’s feminist insights, they work well within the story and don’t feel like info dumps. a fabulous way to introduce feminist principles and ideas to young people. I plan to gift this series to every tween and teen I know.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: February 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 480
Genre: Contemporary, Feminism
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Two Ticks Tuesday; Am I Normal Yet?

Holly Bourne
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

I love Holly’s writing. She deftly manages to combine the struggle of living with a long term condition, and a heartbreaking crisis with loveable characters and snort out loud humour.

Holly’s book deals with friendships and relationships like the older, wiser sister every woman wishes she had had to guide her through her teen years and young adulthood.

Really informative and thought provoking. A gripping first person insight in to OCD.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: August 2015
Format: ebook
Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Two Ticks Tuesday; It Only Happens in the Movies

Holly Bourne
Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…
The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

I would highly recommend this book! It was so, so good. Full of movie cliche’s, feminism, friendship, first loves, relationships, family life, etc. It was rich, raw and honest and I love how strong and vulnerable Holly made all of the characters. I especially loved Audrey’s support unit. This book is going on my favourites of the year shelf for sure!

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Challenge: None

Posted on:

Two Ticks Tuesday; Witch Born

Nicholas Bowling
It’s 1577. Queen Elizabeth I has imprisoned scheming Mary Queen of Scots, and Alyce’s mother is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Alyce kills the witchfinder and flees to London – but the chase isn’t over yet. As she discovers her own dark magic, powerful political forces are on her trail. She can’t help but wonder: why is she so important? Soon she finds herself deep in a secret battle between rival queens, the fate of England resting on her shoulders…

This was a perfect autumnal read, sitting warm and cosy under a blanket while our protagonist, Alyce found herself in ever more uncomfortable (usually cold and wet) and dangerous situations.

I really enjoyed how Bowling played with history, taking a very real and very tense political situation and very recognizable historical figures and deftly overlaying the fantasy elements of his story.

While I did studying the period way back when I was in school, it is a time I have spent very little time exploring in literature. I came away with a better sense of the period, of its struggles and general unpleasantness. Though I enjoyed my time visiting Bowling’s Elizabethan England I am very glad I don’t live there!

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: September 2017
Format: ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut author

Posted on: