Friday, 30 April 2010

12+: Urban Fantasy: Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins


In the wake of a love spell gone horribly wrong, Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch, is shipped off to Hecate Hall, a boarding school for witches, shapeshifters and faeries. The traumas of mortal high school are nothing compared to the goings on at Freak High. It's bad enough that she has to deal with a trio of mean girls led by the glamorous Elodie, but it's even worse when she begins to fall for Elodie's gorgeous boyfriend, Archer Cross, and frankly terrifying that the trio are an extremely powerful coven of dark witches. But when Sophie begins to learn the disturbing truth about her father, she is forced to face demons both metaphorical and real, and come to terms with her own growing power as a witch.


When you’re looking for a new book in the Urban Fantasy genre its always refreshing to find something a little different to a number of titles out there. Whilst other authors like Richelle Mead have covered a supernatural school prior to this, its tended to be a more mundane single race establishment rather than a melding of the variety out there.

Within this offering is a whole host of people who learn in a reform school about how to meld with human civilisation and live in harmony as well as learning how to live with their powers. Add to the mix typical human emotional conflict accompanied by some great character growth and you have a special title for the 12+ market.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

3+: Rumble Roar Dinosaur - Lynne Chapman and Tony Mitton


Children will love discovering a whole host of dinosaurs in this fun-filled picture book. Each spread features a short rhyming poem by the award-winning Tony Mitton, in which a different dinosaur introduces itself. Mixing humour with information, the poems include details about where each dinosaur lived, what it ate and how it got around. Accompanied by Lynne Chapman's amusing and colourful illustrations, and full of lift-the-flap surprises, this is the perfect book for pre-school palaeontologists.


The second novel in this series by the two authors that not only will amuse the young reader but also brings some surprises as well as some dino-education that will be remembered. My nephew absolutely loved this, the bright colours the rhyming couplings and above all a great way to learn about something that will inspire for years. Perhaps it will be a series to inspire a young palaeontologist of the future.

Monday, 26 April 2010

3+: Colour me Happy - Shen Roddie, Ben Cort


When I'm funny, colour me pink. When I'm bored, colour me grey ...The host of vibrant colours and humorous illustrations help toddlers explore and learn to express a range of emotions. Small children will fall in love with the adorable kitten as they turn the pages of this colourful book.


There’s always a market for colourful books for young readers that not only keep them amused but also make sure that they have a story that the can associate and understand. Within this title the author’s utilise colour with emotion and help the reader understand what they’re feeling which will make this a title that will be remembered.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

INTERVIEW: Joe Donnelly

Having arrived late to the phenomena that is Joe Donnelly's Jack Flint trilogy, we thought that it would be pretty nifty to accompany our reviews with an interview.

Here, Joe chats about his secret reading location, telling tall tales as a lad and above all which of his characters are most like him. We hope you enjoy...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Joe Donnelly: For me it’s both. Something I really enjoy doing, but it can be a compulsion too. Once an idea for a story begins to germinate, it gains a life of its own. The story wants to be told…and it makes me want to tell it.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

JD: As a boy I made up adventure stories to tell my brothers at night. I think even then I had a notion to be a writer. It became much stronger in my late teens when I really began to write for pleasure.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

JD: I can’t speak for other writers. Some are brilliant at short stories and others much better in the longer format. However, managing to encapsulate an idea into a few pages is a gift, so I suppose it’s true. My drawers and shelves are full of short stories I have written over the years. Not all of them brilliant, of course.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

JD: I would lock the door and refuse to let them leave. Seriously? I’d get a friend to tell them it was a good book and worth reading. I’d be too shy.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

JD: Myth, mayhem and magic. Adventure for young people…. of all ages from nine to ninety..

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

JD: I’m a glutton for books – adventure, crime, thrillers, science fiction, science fact, natural history. Fellow Scot Christopher Brookmyre is a must. He’s wonderfully funny and one of the cleverest writers I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

JD: I don’t sit down and write until the story is fixed in my mind. It can take months for it to develop. But then I know how it will begin and end. It’s the middle that often takes me by surprise. A story evolves even in the writing. I do character sketches and outlines, just to keep me on track.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

JD: I play electric guitar. I like to fish in my local river. I get into the countryside as often as possible. Recently I read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”. It’s very bleak, and although critics have raved about it, I found it dreary.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

JD: Reading in the toilet. Like most men.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

JD: I don’t have a pet. But as a youngster, I had several, including polecats, crows, owls and a kestrel falcon. I had an adder, which ate mice, but I let it slither free.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

JD: In the Jack Flint trilogy, the fun character was Kerry Malone. Jack is the kind of boy I should have been, but Kerry is the boy I actually was. Mischievous, devil-may-care, and with a weird sense of humour. He is also a poacher…as I was.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

JD: See above. Jack is honest, decent, straightforward and brave. There is no similarity at all!

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

JD: All of my hobbies, from angling to climbing, playing guitar, even gardening, they all get a mention somewhere. Writers tend to go with what they know.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

JD: A strange and magical place. I don’t know. Take your pick. However, I often daydream and ask “what if”. In jack Flint, I wondered “what if a ring of standing stones was really an ancient gateway”. Then the story started to grow.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

JD: I get good writing days and others that are less productive. What I do is get into my ideas list and plan something else. In summer, when the sun is shining, it’s harder to sit at my desk.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

JD: I write early in the morning, late at night, often in between, and at weekends too. There’s no set pattern. Sometimes I have a day off. Nobody seems to mind.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

JD: For Jack Flint, I picture the action to the theme of the film The Last of the Mohicans. It had a kind of Celtic urgency to it. Very stirring.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

JD: I didn’t have a clue. I just wrote a book. Somebody mentioned an agent’s name. She liked it and found a publisher. It seemed to happen very quickly. I was lucky.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

JD: Writing is the need to tell. Once the story sparks into life, it wants to be told and doesn’t let you rest.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

JD: I’m working on two books at the moment. One is a global thriller based on real scientific developments in the 21st century. The second is an adventure, based this time on Norse mythology where two young guys find themselves in a desperate situation and then….oh, you’ll have to wait until I finish it.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

JD: All scientific sites, I’m afraid. Boring I know, but I’m interested in almost everything, from dinosaurs to dahlias and from medicine to microelectronics. A geek in other words. Or is it a nerd?

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

JD: No. But I became a journalist at the age of 18, which taught me to write and type really quickly, which is an asset. Also, I learned never to break a deadline and I don’t mind editors telling me where I’ve got it wrong. Which they do.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

JD: I was lucky, to have got my first book published very quickly. Rejection came later during the last recession when my previous publisher let me, and others, go.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

JD: The best aspects are being your own boss, being able to tell lies for a living, and getting paid for it. The worst is having to be disciplined. And writing is an isolated occupation. I have to get out and about and meet people.

Jack Flint Trilogy Review - Joe Donnelly

Jack Flint is 13. He's never known his mother and has - literally - lost his father. On a stormy Halloween he steps from his humdrum world of school, chores and getting by, into a maelstrom. Scaling the dark-walled coppice known as Cromwath Blackwood he and his best friend, Kerry Malone, find a mysterious circle of thirteen standing stones. Stones that almost seem to be breathing, pulling the boys to a place of myth and mayhem. From playing fields to battle fields they stumble into the legendary world of Temair. Here Celtic myth comes to life as Jack, Kerry and Corriwen Redthorn, the orphaned daughter of a Temair Chief, face the terrifying cunning of Morrigan, goddess of death and her servants, the Scree and the cruel, black-feathered Roaks. Their quest is fast paced and furious. Along the way, startlingly, Jack realises they are not just saving their own lives, they find clues that might lead him to his father. Stepping through portals to other worlds is a favourite device - Narnia, Harry Potter, our own DOOMSPELL and LEGENDEER trilogies - but it's one of the most successful if it's done properly, as it is here by Joe Donnelly. Drawing on Celtic myth with his own original embellishments, he knows the world he's created inside out.

As a late comer to the series I was unsure of what to expect from this author yet strangely feeling pretty safe with the author. Why? Well for an author to continue to receive press as well as continual publication you know that they not only have talent but also a good idea of what pleases the audience. What Joe does within each title is take elements of Ancient myths and blend them to suit the storyline whilst also allowing the reader a greater story arc hidden within that entertains as well as allows the reader to postulate as to future events. This offering, the first was not only entertaining but kept me glued as I really didn’t know what to expect. Add to this realistic banter between the principle protagonists and a strong minded female lead and it’s a title that will entertain both genders.


The battle with the Morrigan may be over but Jack Flint's quest is only just beginning. As the Morrigan struggles with our three adventurers, she hurls Corriwen Redthorn through a gateway and into an unknown world. Jack and Kerry know they must follow and find her - and, unlike Corrie who is alone and afraid, they have the Book of Ways to help them. They step into Eirinn where the land seems held in the grip of an everlasting winter. Jack and Kerry are aided and abetted in their search by friendly Leprechauns, a gentle giant and a troupe of travelling players with magical powers. They soon discover that others are hunting her too. They're up against the treachery of Dermott the much feared Wolf Lord and Fainn, his Spellbinder. They have stolen the legendary silver cauldron of plenty and the golden harp which keeps the seasons in check. But it's also been foretold that Dermott will meet his fate at the hands of a fighting woman with red hair. Could Corriwen be his nemesis? He's desperate to destroy her and anything, or anyone, who gets in his way. Corriwen meantime has saved Connor, a local boy, from being killed by Dermott's men. He's a boy, as it turns out, with quite a story to tell. And Jack Flint is beginning to unravel the mystery of who he might be - his adventures in Eirinn reveal clue after clue that might lead him to his father.

Here, in the second novel of the series, Jack and Kerry cross the gateways to rescue Corriwen after the cliff hanger of an ending in the first tale. As with the previous offering, Joe brings elements of myths and legends to the fore blinding it together in his own magical spell within the pages of this title. The characters continue to grow with the three way dynamic bringing a greater strength to the tale and as the authors pace alongside descriptive prose brings another cracker to the readers imagination.


Continuing Jack's quest to find his father, Jack, Kerry and Corrie have passed through the gate into the peaceful summerland of Uaine. Hoping for a period of respite after all their adventures, they quickly discover that all is not well. The power-hungry spellbinder, Bodrun, has stolen the Copperplates - protective magical talismans - and released the terrifying Nightshades into the world. These creatures stalk the night, searching for a way to break through to other worlds and wreak havoc. They will do anything to get their claws into the heartstone. With The Book of Ways to guide them, Jack and his friends must travel deep into Bodrun's lair, facing gargoyles, giant spiders, walls of fire, shrieking all-consuming Nightshades, before a final confrontation with the evil spellbinder himself. And as Jack finds himself in the midst of this nightmare, he is forced to face up to what really happened to his father so long ago.

The third cracking instalment by Joe Donnelly that will keep the reader up long past their normal switching off time as you’ll be heard muttering to yourself that you’ll enjoy just one more chapter. Like the others its addictive, it brings the myths and legends from Irish past to the fore and builds upon the rich tapestry of what has gone before. A great book by the author and one that leaves me sad to leave the intrepid trio for the time being. Add to this a title that delivers what the readers been demanding alongside cracking prose with great character empathy and you’ll be recommending this trilogy to young readers left right and centre. Great stuff and I’ll definitely be demanding more titles by Joe as soon as he’s written them.


Sunday, 18 April 2010


Hail Mighty Readers,
Having looked at all the titles coming out we thought that it would be a great idea to set up a seperate site that deals directly, and only with, Children's/Young Adult literature. We've done this for a number of reason's:
1) A single day a week was severly limiting how many crackers we could let you know about.

2) We could add seperate catagories so that you can sort your viewing out by age group, by our reviews (we have paw ratings).

3) We can bring more interviews and reviews directly to you so that you're kept abreast of whats arriving on those bookshelves and make sure that you're the superstar of either your own home or your young relatives.

We hope you'll join us on this treasure hunt and help fill your own mini reader's shelves with some absolute corkers and make reading time a pleasure for all.

Your Exploratory Researcher,