The Teen Reviewer

Steph Bowe, blogger extraordinaire returns to give her teenage perspective on two of the hottest new releases for kids. For more of her musings, click here.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Nina has been fifteen since 1973, when she was infected by a rogue vampire, but instead of the glamorous, superhuman life that television and Nina’s novels suggest, her life as a vampire has been boring and sickly so far.

Then Casimir, the vampire responsible for infecting half of the reformed vampire support group he’s a member of, is found dead in his coffin – staked and reduced to dust – and the boring life Nina loathes is suddenly threatened. With a vampire-slayer at large, the support group holes up at Nina’s house, in spite of her ageing mother’s protests, and the resulting quest to find and stop the killer (or at least convince him that they aren’t a menace to society), reveals the courage behind their reluctant, pallid exteriors.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group puts an original spin on a familiar concept. I deeply enjoyed this novel; the fact that it’s set in Sydney and distinctly Australian was refreshing, and the quirky humour and dry wit sprinkled throughout the novel sparkled. Nina, Dave and the rest of the support group, as well as the villains, were characters with personality and quirks, each with their own motivations.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group was deeply involving, and impossible to put down. The plot was extraordinary, but deftly handled by the author. It was simplistically but beautifully written. Next to other recent vampire novels I’ve read, The Reformed Vampire Support Group stands out for its originality. A novel well worth reading, and reading again – my new favourite.

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

Col lives on the Upper Decks of the juggernaut Worldshaker, a mobile city as big as a mountain. He has been chosen as next Supreme Commander – but then a girl Filthy escaped from Below appears in his cabin. ‘Don’t let ’em take me!’ she begs. Will he hand her over, or will he break all the rules? Col’s safe, elite world is about to fall apart.

Though I don’t usually read fantasy (I think Worldshaker classifies as ‘steampunk’, which is an incredibly irrelevant genre name that imparts absolutely no information about the novel, but sounds really awesome), I really enjoyed Worldshaker. I was slightly frustrated by Col’s naivety, but he was a character who was easy to empathise with the deeper I got into the novel. I found the plot believable, and the ending satisfying and conclusive.

The world within which Col lived on the juggernaut, separated into the Upper Decks and the Filthies Below, made for a fantastic setting – dark and a little bit sinister, and very alternative to our own world but at the same time with many similarities. The characters within Worldshaker fit very much with their surroundings, and there were many weird and wonderful personalities who you were never quite sure were on Col’s side or not.

Richard Harland spoke on the fantasy panel at the NSW Writer’s Centre Kids & YA Festival about the history in Worldshaker. It’s explained in the novel how it came about that everyone is living on juggernauts, and the Filthies are living below, and the world in Worldshaker’s history is very much the same as ours, until Napoleon made a different decision, and juggernauts slowly became possible in their world. I liked the thought of it being entirely possible that maybe we could be living on these ridiculously large earth-ship things, and I thought of it again when I read James Roy’s Sliding Doors post on my blog, and how different things would be if people in power had have made different decisions however many years ago (though it is very, very improbable, it’s an interesting thing to think about).

I also have to mention, I absolutely love the cover of Worldshaker. It has got to be one of my favourite book covers of all time.

Interview with DEBORAH ABELA

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be a speaker at the NSW Writers’ Centre’s 4th Annual Kids and YA Festival, able to rub shoulders and exchange quips with authors infinitely more famous than I. With all the events leading up to the main Saturday, I was bumping into authors at a frequency I’m not quite used to. One of those authors was Deborah Abela. I took the seventh time I ran into her in as many days as sign enough to pull her aside for a quick interview.

For those that don’t know, Deborah is the author of, among other things, the wildly successful Max Remy series, which only recently came to a close. Not long ago, she was being asked, “What’s next?” Well, now, she’s released it – a fun, quirky novel whose jacket illustration I’m secretly insanely jealous of, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen. I sat down with Deborah to discuss books past, present and future.

The Max Remy series spawned ten books… How hard was it to say goodbye to the franchise?
I knew the series was going to end at Max Remy Part 10: The Final Curtain. I had great fun writing it, but found that over the next few weeks, I felt despondent and irritable and wanted to crawl into corners to sleep or cry. Not being like this usually, I eventually worked out that I was grieving for my characters, especially Max and Linden, my two young superspies I’d sent all over the world to save it from multiple bad guys. I’m okay now, though.  
 
Which of the characters in the Max Remy universe was your favourite?
Max will always have a special place in my heart, because the idea for the series came from this young feisty but clumsy girl spy who is the hero of each book, but her cute spy partner Linden, who is calm, smart and funny, is my fav. I’ve had letters from readers wanting to be his girlfriend, so I guess other people feel like I do. 
 
In a sentence, pitch your new book, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen.
Aurelie Bonhoffen adores living on a seaside pier amusement park with her family, but on her twelfth birthday, she discovers that some of them are ghosts.  

What’s the hardest thing about writing for children?
I love writing for kids! Apart from trying to find enough time to write, one of the hardest parts is getting the tone of the book right and finding the voices of the characters. This can be very fast as with my soccer legend, Jasper Zammit, but sometimes, as with Aurelie in The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen, it can take its good sweet time.

What’s next for Deb Abela? Another Aurelie Book?
At the moment I am working on a book where a major city has flooded. Most people managed to escape but a group of kids were left behind and have to find new ways to survive in this world of floating building tops. There are sea monsters, flying machines and evil harbour lords. Its been soggy but lots of fun.
 
Sounds great. Of your books – which one has the best opening line?
I like the opening line from The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen:

The girl lay in her coffin with a faint smile on her powder-white face.

Its a quirky, comic novel by the way.
 
Who would you say were (and are) your biggest influences?
Children’s authors, books and the kids themselves. More and more I love hearing authors speak. There is so much to learn about writing. I also love getting kids excited about books by speaking to them during author visits and at festivals. Of course, I love reading and always get excited by a well-written, well-told kids story. 
 
If you could claim any other writer’s work as your own, whose would it be?
I think, perhaps in a previous life, I was Norman Hunter who wrote the Professor Branestawm book about a wacky, inventive professor whose inventions often went terribly wrong. Either that or we’re related. I loved those books as a kid. 
  
The last Australian book you read?
The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks. Very funny, twisted and seriously subversive as far as all those other vampire books go. 

What is the most valuable piece of advice you were never told?
The more you write sometimes the harder it gets, but oh how sweet it is when it all clicks into place. I was also never told how wonderful and generous and supportive kids’ book writers are… This has been an especially sweet discovery.

June Book Giveaway

This month’s book giveaway is a bumper one, so be sure to register HERE for your chance to win copies of:

Roadside Sisters by Wendy Harmer SIGNED
Nina, Meredith and Annie have been friends for a long, long time. Elegant Meredith, motherly Nina and the determinedly single Annie are as unlikely companions as you could find. But like a matched set of 1950’s kitchen canisters of Flour, Sugar and Tea, they always seem to end up together. Now each is facing the various trials of middle age: divorces, less than satisfactory marriages, teenage kids, careers going nowhere. One night, over one too many Flaming Sambuccas during a reunion dinner, they somehow find themselves agreeing to take a road trip to Byron Bay in a RoadMaster Royale mobile home, to attend Meredith’s daughter’s wedding. Fights and friendship, tears and laughter – not to mention the possibility of finding Mr. Right along the way – this trip might tear them apart or it might just save their lives. Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Wendy Harmer HERE.

The Hotel Albatross by Debra Adelaide
The Captain and his wife accidentally find themselves managing the Hotel Albatross. The Captain floats between the hotel’s various bars: chatting to and chatting up customers, breaking up fights, and dealing calmly with the simmering tensions of a small town. His wife has her hands full with the day-to-day running of the hotel: mediating between family members fighting over wedding decorations, appeasing disgruntled staff members, and dealing with the horror of what lies in room 101. She also dreams of getting out… A wonderfully poignant novel about hotel management and human nature.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks SIGNED
Nina became a vampire in 1973, when she was fifteen, and she hasn’t aged a day since then. But she hasn’t had any fun either, because her life is so sickly and boring. It becomes even worse when one of the other vampires in her therapy group is stalked by a mysterious slayer. Threatened with extinction, she and her fellow vampires decide to hunt down the culprit. Trouble is, they soon find themselves up against some gun-toting werewolf traffickers who’ll stop at nothing. Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Or is there more to your average vampire than meets the eye?

World Shaker by Richard Harland
A brilliant fantasy that will hook you from the very first page, set aboard a huge ship in which the elites live on the top decks while the Filthies toil below. Col’s safe, civilized world on the upper decks of the Worldshaker, a huge ship that has been sailing since 1845, is changed forever when a Filthy from below finds her way into his cabin. Richard Harland has created an acutely observed and utterly compelling Gothic world of warped Victoriana to explore 16-year-old Col’s journey from cosseted youth to courageous maturity.

The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford
A tale of honor and dishonor, of love, pain, madness, and endurance, told with painstaking historical and archaeological accuracy. Set in Classical Greece in the fifth century BC, The Priestess and the Slave conveys the extraordinary history of the time through the eyes of two narrators – a Delphic Pythia deeply embroiled in the political turmoil earlier in the century, and a young slavewoman, some decades later, living through the terrible plague in Athens and the seemingly endless war against the invincible hoplites of Sparta. Vivid, gritty, and emotionally moving. Be sure to look out for Kate Forsyth’s review here exclusively on the Boomerang Blog this month.

The Last Protector by Cameron Raynes
The last protector presents a compelling argument that the South Australian government illegally took Aboriginal children from their parents during the years between 1939 and 1954. Adelaide historian Cameron Raynes draws on extensive archival records, the contents of which have never been available to the public before. Be sure to look out for Cameron Raynes’ exclusive guest-blog here exclusively on the Boomerang Blog this month.

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Hadley Rille and Wakefield Press for supporting our monthly giveaway.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 30 June, 2009. Don’t forget, it’s a monthly giveaway, so be sure to favourite that link and keep visiting every month. Please note, entrants will be automatically subscribed to our fortnightly Boomerang Books Bulletin e-newsletter.

… A bonus for our blog readers

Keep an eye on the blog for a special, exclusive giveaway announcement coming this June. 🙂

… A bonus for our Facebook Friends

Need an incentive to join one of Australia’s largest book group on Facebook? Well, we have a great pack of books to give away to one of our Facebook Group members this month, which includes copies of The Hotel Albatross by Debra Adelaide, The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks (SIGNED), World Shaker by Richard Harland, The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford and The Last Protector by Cameron Raynes.

We’ve also got a further 3 copies of The Hotel Albatross to give away this month.

What are you waiting for? Join Now!