Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Jet-Set by Colin Wyatt

A Cry for Help

ISBN 9780956893901

Making a Splash

ISBN 9780956893918

Footprints in the Snow

ISBN  9780956893925

A Home of Their Own

ISBN 9780956893932
The Jet-Set are anthropomorphic super-heroes who spring into action and rescue wild animals who are in trouble. These first four titles of this new imprint are a delight. I do have to confess I know Colin Wyatt. He has completed several superb book covers for Bridge House. The illustrations in these four titles are also a joy and the stories are fast-paced and heart-warming. I detect the competent editing of Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, Colin’s daughter and owner of Paws N Claws. And again I must confess, she is a good friend of mine and also my partner at Bridge House Publishing. However, there is no nepotism here. The books are genuinely good.
Each story carries a very strong message about the right of wild animals to remain free. No wonder the Born Free Foundation has felt able to get behind this book and it’s particularly nice to see a quote from Virginia McKenna OBE in the blurb. At the end of each story there is some information about the featured animal and also a link to where readers can find out more from the Born Free Foundation. All of this is done in exactly the right tone for the very young reader. Note also, that a £1.00 goes to the Born Free Foundation for every book sold. Through all of this, however, story remains paramount and there is plenty of it.
The books hover between being picture books and illustrated books for emergent readers. They are still suitable for a parent or teacher to read to a child.  At RRP £5.99, and often available cheaper, they are very good value for money. With their very attractive covers and their comfortable size, they are the type of books you just have to pick up.         

Time Breaking by Barbara Spencer

ISBN 978 1848767 331   
This is a self-published book I was asked to review for Troubadour. I make no apology for including it here. It took me into that reader zone, where the inner critic shuts up, much more effectively than many mainstream published books do. It is the story of Molly who accidentally slips into the 17th century and becomes Molly Hampton. It is a well-executed time-slip novel.
Barbara Spencer keeps the temporal logistics well in check. I’d go as far as saying time works here even better than it does in Dr Who or Tom’s Midnight Garden. Molly in both of her worlds is convincing and likeable. She does not have a particularly easy ride either in the 21st or 17th centuries. She is exactly right for her young adult readers: she is like a young adult, the story is left a little open-ended, there is a darker side to both settings and the story is a typical young adult Bildungsroman where the protagonist struggles to come to terms with who she really is.  
A strong love interest, some explicit abuse and a complex emotional background, in both worlds, make this novel suitable for older teens and young adults. Troubador’s RRP price of £7.99 is perfectly reasonable. The book is nicely printed. The cover is appealing and suits the story well. 

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

ISBN 978 1 84255 634 4  
This is pacey story with a good deal of magic in it. It takes place in France and England at the time of the French revolution. It is very different from Dickens’ story with the seam setting but the book nevertheless reminds me of Dickens: The Marquis de Villeduval is just like one of his middle-weight characters - someone who is important to the plot yet not really the owner of the story. In Dickens, these characters seem to be almost a caricature. So is the marquis. Count Kalliovski is pure evil. His character brings much of the tension into the story. All of this helped me to like the book.
What made me love it, though, were the characters of the main players. One cannot help but love Yann, Têtu, his friend and mentor, and Sido. They are warm-blooded, rounded and very believable characters. The story comes out of the problems that they face. There is magic, but it is not used to create easy solutions.   
This novel keeps the reader intrigued. The plot twists and turns and keeps us guessing. The love interest makes it appeal to teens. It balances adventure and romance well.    

Monday, 7 November 2011

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew

ISBN 978 1 4088 0392 9 Bloomsbury This is fast-paced fantasy story with a good deal of darkness in it. Death may not be the end as the sub-title suggests. The plot cracks along with a few convincing things happening on every page yet it avoids any form of silliness. There are some breath-taking moments as Josie and Alfie find out more and more about their shared past. This is certainly a page-turner. The edition I read is a hard-back so the book feels the right weight. There is something beautifully tactile about it. Its black and green cover has aggressive red lettering and a spooky hand comes up out of the ground. The pages are edged with black and this blackness spills on to the pages, giving it a real gothic atmosphere. Mortlock is a well-structured story. The ending is satisfying. All of the characters are well drawn. This book will suit the fluent middle-grader reader and the early teen. It’s quite good for adults to read also. As I found out.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Horses by Elaine Walker

ISBN 978 1 907090097
Cinnamon Press
This is a story that as its title suggests has a lot to do with horses. It is gently magical and seems extremely plausible. We cannot quite dismiss the magic that occurs as the imagination of the people involved, yet we don’t have to suspend our belief to watch it happen. Global and personal suffering is alleviated with the arrival of a mysterious herd of horses.
The voice is dreamy and lyrical. The plot is unpredictable and totally uncliched. We don’t know what is going to happen next. We would never have guessed. As a writer I usually can guess. This time I couldn’t. Yet there is always an acceptable cause and effect and the magic is never used as a deus ex machina.  
This is a gentle and absorbing novel. It is tending towards the literary yet also makes a good holiday read. You don’t have to like horses to enjoy this book though by the time you’ve read it you will probably have a lot more respect for these fantastic creatures.