Friday, 21 September 2018

Shadow Smith by Ross Mackenzie


My Own Brief Summary 

"Are you brave?"

Having to deal with masses of spiders and some pretty mean witches, while your mum is in a coma, is not the best timing. Good job Amelia Pigeon arrives to help out.

This is a very fast-paced fantasy adventure for kids, which is exactly the kind of book that I like. Even though it deals with a difficult topic, a mother in a coma, it doesn't dwell on that for long periods of time. There is plenty of other action of the magical kind and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

Writing Lessons Learned 

This is another one of those books that proves you can talk about difficult issues without making them the sole purpose of a book, which is, to my mind, far more effective. I do try to do this in my own books. I might just mention something in a sentence, or pose a question, and then I'm straight back into the action of the book. After all, if you told a young child, this is a book about dealing with a parent who is ill, many wouldn't be interested. I certainly wouldn't have been at a young age.

***

 If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

Friday, 14 September 2018

The Chronothon by Nathan van Coops


Image of The Chronothon by Nathan van Coops held by Juliet Boyd

My Own Brief Summary

This story is about a time travel race and follows a young male (time traveller) who has found himself in a situation whereby he has no choice but to enter. The race, a dangerous undertaking, passes from ancient history through to the future and involves much adventure and betrayal.

The author has gone to a lot of trouble to make this an intelligent time travel story. What I mean by that is that there are rules, which you still have to get your head around, that make sense and cannot be broken.

I enjoyed the second half of this book more than the first, because of the inventiveness of the future worlds and because the action ramps up a lot as things progress.

Writing Lessons Learned 

The reason I didn't enjoy the first part as much, I think, is because the time travel stories I've read all seem to focus on the same settings when people are travelling to the past, as did this one - I won't go into details, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. If I ever write a time travel adventure in the future (in the past 😁), I want to remember not to do this, because if I find it a bit samey, then other people will, too.

***


If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Or listen on Audible.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Stonebird by Mike Revell


My Own Brief Summary

"Believe in the magic of stories."

This story follows a young boy who is having to grapple with the fact that his grandma has dementia and that his mother is not coping with it. His struggle is helped when a teacher at school sets up a story circle and he starts telling stories about a magical gargoyle, based on one that he has seen at his local church. During the story, he does a lot of growing up and discovers the (not always good) consequences of his own actions and reasons behind the actions of others.

Writing Lessons Learned

When a child measures his mother's state of mind by 'wine o'clock', that's a sad state of affairs.

I think using a phrase like wine o'clock, that adults often bandy around without thinking, is an interesting way of highlighting an issue in a way that might affect the adults reading it, as well as the children. It's a technique that worked well for me as a reader and I'll try to see if I can incoporate something like this in my own writing.


***

If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Or listen on Audible.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Felix Frost Time Detective: Ghost Plane by Eleanor Hawken


My Own Brief Summary

Felix is a genius in a child's body. Amongst other things, he has built a time machine out of a microwave (because, why wouldn't you? 😂). Anyway, whilst talking to his friend's grandfather about the war, they hear a story about a ghost plane, and that's something that needs investigating. A trip back to WWII is required. This involves lots of genius ideas, inventions and a fair bit of getting out of sticky situations.

As you might expect, this is not a book that has any basis in reality, in terms of what children would actually be able to do (even ignoring the time machine). It is pure fantasy, fun and a history lesson in the process.

Writing Lessons Learned

I was impressed by the ease with which facts about WWII were introduced into this story (a lot of facts), without it ever seeming over the top, or forced. There might have been a few liberties with how things turned out (probably a lot of liberties), but it was a fun way to introduce younger children to things they might not already know about. So, the lesson is, make sure you introduce historical facts in fun ways.


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If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Or listen on Audible.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Railhead by Philip Reeve


My Own Brief Summary

In a universe where you can travel through portals to cover great distances, but only if you're on the special trains, a young thief, who is also a railhead, gets caught up in the illegal goings on of a mystical figure, who, it seems, has lived for a very long time. Sentient trains, mysterious boxes, insects that can ... well, that might be telling too much.

This book is a fast-paced adventure with many twists and turns. Although it's based around the railways, you don't have to be really interested in trains to read it. None of the characters are totally good, or totally bad, which makes them realistic, even though the situation is fantastical compared to our own lives. They have their goals, and sometimes those goals have consequences. If you like science fiction that isn't all about the spaceships, this could be the book for you.
 

Writing Lessons Learned

Anything can be sentient, if you make it believable. That's it. All the sentient creations in this book were believable, even if you couldn't imagine them really existing.

***

If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Or listen on Audible.

If you'd like me to post more direct links to different Amazon stores in the future, let me know.

Friday, 17 August 2018

The Sound of Whales by Kerr Thomson

Picture of Juliet Boyd holding a copy of The Sound of Whales by Kerr Thomson

My Own Brief Summary 

This book is set on a remote Scottish isle. The area is known for whales and a man has come to the island to study them. He is being assisted by a young, local boy. The story is told from this boy's POV and that of an American girl, temporarily living on the island because her mother is there to do research. The story touches on many topics, all drawn together by the existence of the whales. It has a mystery element, a fantastical element, serious crime, immigration and much more.

That might sound like a lot to bring together in one book, and it is, but it flows well, without being forced and although not all the topics are dealt with in great depth, it could easily be the starting point for discussions.

Writing Lessons Learned

I understand why it's felt that children's books need to teach children about life, but I think there's a tendency to be heavy-handed, as if every story has to be some huge lesson. If you're going to encourage children to read, that could be the wrong thing to do. I think this story proves that you can tackle big topics without going - I was going to say overboard, but anyone who's read this might accuse me of making a pun out of a serious topic, so - to extremes. And that's what I'm going to take from reading this book.

***

If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Amazon AU
Or listen on Audible.

If you'd like me to post more direct links to different Amazon stores in the future, let me know.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Mountwood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson & Eva Ibbotson






















My Own Brief Summary

Ghosts aren't being scary enough anymore, so three Great Hagges decide to set up a school to rectify that. Meanwhile, a neighbourhood has been earmarked for demolition, so that a modern development can be built. These two plotlines eventually come together involving a number of ghostly encounters. They are very different, but they definitely work together.

If you enjoy ghosts with a lot of character, and stories about young children saving the day, with a little help, then this could be the book for you.

Writing Lessons Learned 

This time, I'm going to talk about character. Although we all know there are baddies in books, and ones in children's books can be quite extreme, I think the one in this book was a little too unrealistic for the situation for me. As I've said before, I'm sure the kids don't mind, but I feel a less extreme character could've got the point across just as well. So, I'm going to strive to make my characters as realistic as possible, given the situations they're put in, even if they are doing bad things.

***

If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

If you'd like me to post more direct links to different Amazon stores in the future, let me know.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Own Brief Summary 

"A girl with a clockwork heart must make every second count."

How's that for a tag line?

Body augmentation. Clockwork everything (including insects). Explosions. People going missing. A young heroine who's up for all things dangerous, heart permitting.

This is the type of book that I'd describe as a rip-roaring adventure, in a Victorian-esque setting. There is very little description of the world before you are plonked right in the middle of an adventure, and that's the way it continues. You have to learn the world as you go, which is much how I prefer it to be. If you like action every second of the way, a little romance and lots of 'dastardly things' going on, this could be the book for you.

Writing Lessons Learned 

I don't read books in the steampunk (or any other punk) area very often and I suppose that might be why I found some of the naming of devices a little difficult to get my head around. A number of them were, in fact, quite difficult to pronounce, even in my head! So, what I'm taking from this is, make sure that you don't use too many obscure terms that might stop people in their tracks, and make sure they're easily pronouncible when you do.

***

 If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.

Amazon UK 
Amazon US 
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Or listen on Audible.

If you'd like me to post more direct links to different Amazon stores in the future, let me know.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Boom! by Mark Haddon





My Own Brief Summary

When two pupils at a school discover that some of their teachers are speaking a strange language to each other, they decide to investigate. And when they begin to see blue lights in their eyes, they're convinced something alien is afoot. They need to find out what is going on.

This children's book is a fun, fast-paced romp that involves many strange goings on, including journeys on land and ... well, that would be telling.

Writing Lessons Learned

There was one thing I didn't find believeable in this book. No, it wasn't anything to do with the aliens. There, anything is fair game. But when it comes to real life stuff, for me, it has to be believable and there was a journey the children took which just seemed a little too far-fetched for me. So, as I'm currently writing a children's series - which is fantasy, so not much in the real world -  I think I need to try to make sure that anything the human characters do, in the real world, isn't beyond the realms of possibility. I know the kids reading it probably wouldn't care, but their parents might.

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If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.

Or listen on Audible.

If you'd like me to post more direct links to different Amazon stores in future, let me know.

Friday, 20 July 2018

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters



Juliet Boyd holding a copy of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

 

My Own Brief Summary

This historical YA book takes place in Oregon in 1900, a time when women's suffrage was dividing the population. It tells the story of a young woman who goes to a show put on by a stage hypnotist, which is an event that becomes the unexpected catalyst for many changes in her life, focussed around her role as a woman. There are elements of the supernatural, but I wouldn't say this is a supernatural book. It has a hint of romance, but that is not a major element of the story. The book also contains pictures from the period, between chapters, that give an extra flavour to the text.

 

Writing Lessons Learned

Women's suffrage, hypnotism and supernatural elements are not things I would ever have thought of putting together, but they really work. (Interestingly, I have recently read another book that combines women's suffrage and the supernatural, but in the north of England, not America.) I have put many strange things together in my flash-fiction stories, but I don't think I do that all that often in longer pieces. I think, maybe, that I should. If you get the right combination you can end up with something unique. Of course, then you'll get imitated, but that, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.

***

If you'd like to check this book out, here are some of the links on Amazon.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Or listen on Audible.

If you'd like me to post more direct links to different Amazon stores in the future, let me know.