Just Finished…The First by Sara Zaske

   What a great and unexpected book!

I’d read – I think – that The First was a dystopian and so I’d left it in my Kindle dwindling having had a good dose of dystopia recently. And then I began reading it (after pressing the wrong button on my Kindle) and mistakenly thought I was reading a book about vampires and at around 15% in was wondering how the hell the people with power over nature were going to have anything to do with vampires…what can I say – I don’t always pay attention!

So – back to the book. There are dystopian elements to The First, but it would only be a dystopian book if you are one of the First People – if you’re a human, like me, then the environmental indiciators in the book are a nice nod in the direction of dystopia, but it’s not the end of the world, but a little journey down that path0. The environmental message is handled really well in the book, so it isn’t overbearing, but there are lots of good pieces of information to get you thinking.

The characters, dialogue and writing are great – very engaging, perfect pitch for a YA (I would also suggest this as being suitable for MG audience as it is clean, quirky and fun on the whole). The character voices feel authentically teenaged and the pitch, pace and action are all perfectly balanced with the motivations of the individuals. For me it felt a little like a fantasy cross-over in parts – the powers of the First People and their approach to life certainly had those elements, but it worked very well in the contemporary setting. I also liked the family/military references, which are outside the main plot, but I felt were very ‘real’ to life for anyone who has been in those situations.

Overall Thoughts: 4* – I think this was a great read. It is a nice length and paced so well to keep you reading – I got through it in four days, which is quick for me as I don’t always get too much time to read. I think the story was also very original and quality of writing was good. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an adventure story with interesting characters.

Thanks very much to Sara for releasing this free at Amazon on Earth Day, as that’s where I got my copy.

Just Finished…Alice Parker’s Metamorphosis

Reviewed by Mel C-J – originally posted at http://melcj.wordpress.com 

Thanks to author Nicola Palmer for providing me a copy of Alice Parker’s Metamorphosis this week. I’ve really enjoyed reading this fun, fantasy story about feisty thirteen-year-old Alice.

This is a really well-written book, perfect for the target ‘middle grade’ audience of 7+, with strong, defined characters who are both funny and believable. The relationships in the story feel genuine, especially between Alice, her brother and best friend. I really enjoyed the early scene-setting at Alice’s school – certainly brought back some memories 🙂 – and once you get the big reveal about Alice’s recent issues, the story transitions to an action-mystery.

Nicola Palmer is a great writer for children and this is a good debut. Alice Parker’s story is well-constructed with interesting twists and turns, great description and enjoyable characters. Overall, I’m sure this will appeal to a range of readers. Rating: 4*


Thirteen-year-old Alice Parker knows something isn’t right. Aches and pains have started, she hardly sleeps and her craving for fruit is out of control. Suddenly she is top of the class in every subject. Feeling at odds with the world and being bullied by the ‘coven’ at school, Alice can’t take much more. Only when she collapses and experiences a life-changing transformation does she learn why she is different. But with this new identity comes responsibility and Alice isn’t convinced she can rise to the challenge. She just wants to be normal! The fact is she’s anything but.

Forgotten tales of a magical society are catapulted into the daily life of strong, memorable female characters who readers will grow to love. An intriguing blend of realism, suspense and fantasy, a must-read for girls of 7+.

Guest Review…A Far Cry from Sunset

Today’s guest reviewer is Annie K. Johnson – here she talks about A Far Cry From Sunset by Billy Franks due for release in 2012.


The question posed by the author, Billy Franks, is “Can four friends get ten superstars to appear on a tribute album to an unknown songwriter?” The question refers to author Billy Franks himself, who is a himself a performer and songwriter. He wrote a book about his journey with three of his colleagues as the group sought to connect with – Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Rod Stewart, Bon Jovi, and Bryan Adams. The author clearly aimed high and details his pursuit of these superstars that had occurred over the summer of 2005.

The book apparently goes into the eight-month trip across North America and Europe as the author and company spoke with managers, publicists, and security all in an attempt to persuade the superstar artists to perform for a tribute album. The actual album is available for free through the author’s website, billyfranks.com, and features seven of the ten pursued artists. It is sort of mind-boggling that a relatively unknown performer would be able to convince some of the biggest names in the music industry to do something like this, which adds to the interest of the book.

The story, as the author explains, goes into the actual process of tracking down and persuading these artists to appear on this album and will include the experiences of the group in sort of the task of traveling. Apparently, the group had shared with other people what they were intending to do and received a lot of warm encouragement from the regular people they had encountered along their travels. Franks explains that the process had been a tremendous experience, which one could imagine is likely very true, and that the group traveling with him had bonded a great deal. I can imagine that this may be on the heart-warming side and will likely give the reader a look into the offstage life of musicians as observed by someone in a unique position – not entirely on the outside, but not on the inside either.

On the site, the author ponders whether the superstar artists experience life in the thrilling sort of way that the author and his friends had over that summer. I’m not sure how the author handles that particular point, but the claim at least seems to be a bold one to make. In the book, he may back it up with some experience he had in speaking with the artists (according to Franks, he spoke with two of the ten artists). It may be a very profound point in his book that hits at the core of the cost of fame or it could be something that only attempts to earn sympathy for celebrities from readers. It’s hard to say which way things will go, but at the very least, the book does sound very unique and interesting. This will be one to keep an eye on, especially for those interested in the music industry.

The book is set to be released over the summer of this year, so if you would like to read more about the book, sign up for a notification when it is released, or to download the free album that Billy Franks put together featuring superstar musicians, visit his website: www.billyfranks.com

About the Author: Billy Franks was the lead singer and songwriter for “The Faith Brothers”, whose two albums and six singles all made the UK chart. Billy has since released six solo albums to critical acclaim. Last summer he released a charity single in partnership with his friend, Prince Harry, to raise money for the Prince’s African charity Sentebale.

In addition to his musical passions, Billy was recently the focus of a feature length documentary film, called Tribute This! The film chronicles the adventures of 4 friends as they travel the world to ask ome of its biggest stars, Springsteen, McCartney, etc., to appear on a tribute album to an unknown but worthy recipient of such an honour: Billy Franks.

Billy Franks lifetime dedication to his craft says it all. “Billy has devoted his entire life to song writing. He has given so much to others through his music. Dedicating ourselves to a project that would honor him was a no brainer on our part,” said Mick McCleery. (Director of Tribute This!)

This spring will see the publication of his book “A Far Cry from Sunset”, chronicling the adventures of making the movie as well as stories from a musical career that involved touring with the likes of U2 and REM. In conjunction with the release of the book, Billy will release a live album entitled “From the Court to the Empire”, recorded at London’s famous Shepherds Bush Empire theatre.