Category Archives: Review by Keith

Blood Crime by John Brindley

Published by Orion Children’s books

Dying to catch a killer . . .

He’s trapped in a coma, but Joe’s mind is more awake than ever.

Why is someone trying to kill him?

How is it linked to his father’s suspicious death?

In a race against time Joe tries desperately to piece together the truth, before someone can silence him once and for all . .

 

Every now and again it’s nice to just pick a book.  Not take the next one in order of publication from the TBR (to be read) pile, but to just browse my own bookshelves and pick something to suit the mood, or the time available.

Last night was a case in point. I wanted a quick read and, at just under 150 pages, Blood Crime by John Brindley looked like it would do the job nicely – and it did.

With the central character already dying from the opening of the book and trying to solve his own murder and the murder of his father, this made e recall the great Film Noir movie D.O.A. where the central character has hours to discover who has killed him by poisoning. In this case, Joe is trapped in a Coma and desperately trying to communicate with the outside world (in much the same way as in Mark Billingham’s Sleepyhead) but the tale takes an unusual route, packed with medical information as Joe shrinks down inside himself and tries to solve his medical condition from the inside (ala Fantastic Voyage) whilst his best friend Annie struggles to make sense of Joe’s huge collection of fire-filled horrific drawings for clues as to who is responsible for the death of his father and for attempting to kill him.

A cracking medical based thriller which you can order here.

Keith

 

Shelter by Harlan Coben

Published by Indigo / Orion.

To use a basketball expression, which seems kind of apt in the circumstances, the short version of this review of Harlan Coben’s latest would be;
 ‘He shoots. He scores!’

Creating a new character and series but being able to tap into the world of his existing series by having the central character of Shelter be, Mickey, the nephew of his much loved sports agent character, Myron Bolitar, is a stroke of genius and is sure to double his readership.

This first in the new series is also one of the main launch titles of Orion Books’ new YA imprint, Indigo, and one I’m sure will place them firmly on the map as a publisher of some of the best YA books around.  So, new and younger readers will get to snap up the Indigo edition, whilst regular adult Coben readers can get the same great story under the usual Orion brand – and rest assured, it bridges the gap very well indeed, suiting anyone from around 13 years and up.

The story, and I can’t delve too deep for risk of spoilers, concerns 15 year old Mickey and his search for his girlfriend, Ashley, who one day just disappears from school without leaving a trace. 

He enlists the help of some new found friends, the crazy but loyal and priceless Spoon and the larger than life Goth, Ema, creating an unlikely detective team as they begin to question those in the school and their town about Ashley.
Mickey is living in the same house as his ‘goofy’ Uncle Myron who seems to hinder his progress with his investigation and the chances of any kind of love life at every turn and, although Myron has fairly little screen time here, the book dovetails very nicely into events within Coben’s most recent title ‘Live Wire’.

There is also a mysterious man in a suit who watches and waits in a long black car, and an odd character, the ‘Bat Lady’, who appears to live alone, just her and a tombstone in her garden – so, plenty to keep the reader guessing right through to the end of the book.

It’s a cracking read – I’m a bit of a sucker for noir set in the high school environment and this reminded me at times of the similarly excellent movie, Brick, which also merged the two conventions so successfully.

A great place for younger readers to discover the wonderful suburban crime dramas of Mr Coben and, for those who know what to expect, another great read to add to their growing collection.

Can’t wait for the next one in the Mickey Bolitar series.

High scoring stuff indeed.

Keith

…and now, here’s what Georgia (a whole 30 years younger than me) thought of Shelter:

Mickey Bolitar wants to rebuild his life; to stop the car crash that killed his dad, to get his mum out of rehab, but instead he ends up with his uncle Myron.

Sooner than later, things start to turn out OK until his girlfriend, Ashley Kent, disappears without a trace!

Not wanting to let another person get hurt in his life, Mickey sets out on a mysterious trail to find his lost friend, but… as one conspiracy turns into another, it turns out that Mickey Bolitar has more secrets hidden from him; about his dad, about him! Who’s the criminal behind kidnapping Ashley? And most importantly- Is Mickeys’ dad still really alive, even after he watched him die???

 

SHELTER is a fantastic new teenage crime book with lots of twists and turns.  The author is really great at using suspense and at leading Mickey Bolitar first into a conspiracy about his girlfriend to a mystery about Mickey’s family! I would most definitely recommend it for any thrill-seeking reader and I can’t wait to see if Mickey ever has another great adventure!!!

 

Review by Georgia  x

Gary Northfield and Derek the Sheep at BecFest.

Following on from the excellent talk and illustrations by Alex Milway (see previous article by Georgia) we dashed into Beckenham and barely managed to finish our Wimpy burgers before it was time to get back to meet Gary Northfield at the library.

Gary has worked on the Horrible Histories magazine and, up until recently, his regular series ‘Derek the Sheep’ graced the pages of my son’s favourite comic, The Beano.

 

 

 

 

Now with Derek the Sheep out as a book, Gary spent some time at the library getting the children very excited about creating and drawing their own comic characters and even allowed them to draw his own character, Derek.

Whilst this was going on, I had a little potter around the library to get out the Mythical 9th Division books (by Alex Milway) for my children to read.

When I returned, I’d missed the best bit!

Gary had asked my son, Sam, what he wanted to be when he grew up -he said he wanted to be an artist – so, Gary drew a cracking picture of Sam with easel and paintbrush.

The pages from the flipchart pad are now signed by Gary Northfield and at home -now to get them framed!

If you get the chance to take your children to an event by Gary Northfield or by Alex Milway, do not let it slip by – the children at the BecFest events left full of ideas – and they haven’t stopped drawing since !

 

Thanks to BecFest, the staff at Beckenham Library and to Gary & Alex.

 

Keith

An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons

Published by Orion Childrens Books

Alan Gibbons is an Award winning author, having won the Blue Peter Award and been shortlisted for both the Carnegie Medal and the Booktrust Teenage Prize – from the evidence I have just read in An Act of Love it’s not hard to see why he is so well respected.

This is the second book he has written to try to explain or deal with the current world climate following the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and the wars that have taken place since (the first being Caught in the Crossfire) and he has a real skill in being able to show all the emotions and feelings from everyone touched by or involved in the violence.

He clearly chooses to challenge himself as a writer, saying in the introduction;

‘Why do I choose such bleak subjects?  Well, you only enter a dark room if you think you can light the way out.’

The book tells the story of two young friends, Chris and Imran, from their schoolboy years and choosing to call themselves ‘blood brothers’ at the age of seven, and their transition and break-down of the bond between them as a result of what starts to happen in the adult world.   We follow Chris as he joins the army and leaves his hometown to head to Afghanistan and Imran, who stays home and slowly becomes influenced by those around him and looks as though to be heading on a path that will lead him to potentially strike terror within his own country.

But, the book moves quickly, starting with the present day – Chris about to collect a medal for bravery and struggling to do so, due to an injury from the war, and Imran finding out that an explosive device is somewhere nearby.  We then flashback to the boys’ stories as they grow up and apart from each other, all the time leaving the reader wondering and worrying about how the present day scene will end when we get back to it.

It’s a cracking read, walking a dangerous tightrope but managing to stay completely balanced in its reporting of both sides of such a difficult subject matter.

And, let’s face it, most adults struggle to work out what is going on in our world when we turn on the television news, so I think this goes a long way towards explaining some of it to our children.

Highly recommended to children and to those with children too.

Keith

BOOKSURFERS: 1 : TREASURE ISLAND by David Gatward

This is a fantastic idea and, in a way, makes author David Gatward the Jamie Oliver of kids’ fiction, by encouraging them to read more stuff that’s good for them.

A very clever use of modern technology (as the Booksurfers series is only in ebook format) what we have here is the modern day equivalent to what I loved as a kid (the choose your own adventure books) as the reader can choose as and when they want to dip in and out of the new story and into the original text of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Ever wondered what it would be like to not just read a book, but actually experience it?

The set-up and premise is fairly straight forward but is sure to appeal to its target audience, particularly those who love books like the Alex Rider novels and similar tales of children having fantastic adventures.

Jake, Harriet, Ryan and Becca find themselves thrown together, their parents stolen away and imprisoned from them and facing a series of tasks ahead.

The sinister Cruella de Vil-alike, Kaufman visits them and tells them their mission, a mission they must undertake for the equally strange Crookshanks.  They are to go into classic books, into the stories themselves, via ‘rips’ that can be created by a gadget called the Nautilus (a reference to 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, of course).  The Nautilus allows its user to ‘travel in the here and now.  It also allows you to move about in the there and never was’.

Once inside the books they are to steal valuable artifacts from within them and bring them back to the outside world.  The first of these is the treasure map from Treasure Island, but there are constant references throughout to other great novels – many of which I’m sure will follow after the second title (also available now) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

There is a secondary challenge, however, and that is that the children have to ensure that they do nothing in the book that will have an affect on its ending, can do nothing that may change the path of the story and so, in this first title, they choose to try to replicate a copy of the map to leave behind.

Scattering other book titles along the way is a good move, there’s always a chance that the mention that ‘Dracula’ for someone who’s really into ghost stories is ‘brilliant. All that romance and intrigue…’ will be enough to cause a young reader to give it a go.

However, the brilliance here, is that with every underlined section of text, words of a song or mention of a section of the original text, that the reader can simply click and they are taken straight into the original Treasure Island.  Once there, they can choose to continue to read Treasure Island in full, or read a bit and then duck back out to the booksurfers tale, but there are enough comments made by the characters as to how much they loved the book to ensure that readers will be tempted time and time again to read some or all of the original novel.

Alternatively the reader can simply whizz through the great adventure story of the Booksurfers and they will still get a lot of the flavour and feel of Treasure Island and, when they reach the end, they’ll find that the complete Stevenson novel is there for them to enjoy too.

It’s a very clever idea.  Maybe it could be argued that the concept of characters running amok and creating their own stories outside of the ones written for them and reality crashing into fictional characters has been done before, with books such as the Inkheart series, but this is unique in the way it is executed and is sure to catch the imagination of the generation who rarely want to read anything unless it is on a screen and who would, otherwise, be increasingly unlikely to settle back and enjoy a classic.

So, it’s congrats all round –  a great start to an exciting adventure series and a bold and clever way of encouraging children to read some of the old stuff/good stuff too.

Highly recommended – it’s the first book I will gladly let my children borrow my kindle to read.

Get yourself over to amazon and get downloading Booksurfers now.

Keith