Posts Tagged With: Strange Chemistry

Shift by Kim Curran


Scott Taylor is a pretty average teenage, who one evening decides to hang out in the park with the popular kids. He’s persuaded to climb a pylon, and finds himself falling. The next thing he knows, he’s lying by the fence, and has apparently not tried to climb it at all.

He soon finds out that he is a Shifter – someone who has the ability to change their past decisions, and therefore ‘shift’. Immediately as a reader you start imagining what it would be like with this ability.. every time you make a bad decision in life, you could go back and make a different one.

Almost as if expecting this reaction, the author shows us early on what affect this can have, as Scott makes a shift with devastating consequences. We’re also introduced to an agency which wishes to teach and regulate shifters, and an organisation fighting against this regulation.

Scott is a brilliant main character, typical of an average teen thrust into a strange world. Instead of simply accepting it, and becoming a hero, he often questions the decisions and actions of others, and has a realistic response to events. Even with this though, you can see him grow and change.

There’s also a good cast of supporting characters, from the other shifters Scott meets, through the adults involved, right up to the rather gruesome baddie!

I loved the idea of shifting, and there is so much potential. It’s story in itself, but there is room for more. I believe there are two more books to come, watch out for my interview with the author to confirm this.

This is a book for older teens – there is a sprinkling of swear words, but they really don’t feel out of place, and some of the content when the baddie is involved is probably not for younger readers.

The male viewpoint is refreshing, and completely accessible to both genders. It’s action-packed, it makes you think, and it also has a touch of humour. I actually miss Scott now I’ve finished the book, and I still kinda wish shifting was possible! 😉

Published by Strange Chemistry

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The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The YA genre is rapidly growing, and there are more than a few Fantasy YA. It’s difficult to come up with a fantasy world which is fresh and different, but with The Assassin’s Curse, Cassandra seems to have done just that.

It’s a difficult world to jump straight into, so give yourself some time to adjust as you start. Ananna of the Tanarau is a pirate, and her parents plan to marry her off to another clan, but she soon realises this is definitely not what she wants, so she runs away. This second clan does not like being scorned, and so an assassin is sent after her. When she faces him down, she actually manages to save his life using magic, and by doing so, activates a curse binding them together.

Assassins are nothing new in the fantasy realm, but this is the first time I’ve read about pirate clans, and the world ranges from the sea to the dessert. Added to this is the aspect of magic, the magic of the water used by the pirates, and the darker magic of blood, used by the assassins.

There’s a clever twist to the two main characters – Ananna is what you expect from a pirate, she’s been brought up to get what she wants, and she’s quite outgoing. At the same time however, she shows her age, and needs to grow up as the book progresses.

Naji, the assassin she finds herself bound to, is the opposite, being calm and controlled, and quiet. He also changes during the book, gradually opening up more.

The Assassin’s Curse is a combination of fantasy and adventure, and is well paced. There are a couple of things to be aware of though. Sometimes the language is a reflection of how Ananna would speak, such as the opening sentence: “I ain’t never been on to trust beautiful people, and Tarrin of the Hariri was the most beautiful man I ever saw.” It’s not overdone, and it didn’t bother me, but it may some. Also, this is the is to be followed by a sequel next year. Ananna’s and Naji’s story is not yet completely told, but it does end at a natural pausing point.

If you’re looking for something a little different, this combination of fantasy and adventure, blending pirates, assassins and magic, may just be for you!

Published by Strange Chemistry 4th October 2012

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Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings – Review and Interview

Poltergeeks is one of the first titles from Strange Chemistry, a promising new YA imprint. It’s about 15 year old Julie Richardson, who’s trying to deal with being an everyday teenager, as well as being a witch.

Julie is being taught and trained by her mum, which puts even more of a strain on the usual teenager-daughter relationship, and of course, being a teen, Julie tries to take on more than she should.

The joy of this book is that it’s not like the usual YA urban fantasy book – there’s no swooning romance or teenage angst, and thankfully not a vampire in sight! It’s based firmly in reality, where witchcraft is about the ability to harness the power inside, and it’s actually quite easy to believe that this could be going on around us, unseen.

The action starts early on in the book, when Julie comes across an elderly lady thrown out of her house by a poltergeist. It’s soon apparent that there are powerful forces focusing on Julie, and when her mum’s life is put in danger, she has to learn a lot more about her powers and her heritage.

There’s a good balance in the book, of humour, adventure, magic and darkness, and is highly recommended.

I’ll pass over to Sean, who was kind enough to answer a few questions:

Your YA title, Poltergeeks, is published in October – could you tell us a little more about it?

POLTERGEEKS is the story of Julie Richards, teen witch. Her mum is a witch – a very over protective witch, actually. Julie’s father has been dead since she was four years old so she never really knew him. Her best friend is super science nerd Marcus Guffman – they’ve been friends since grade school and both are fairly low on the social ladder at Crescent Ridge High School. The book begins with Julie and Marcus witnessing a little old lady being literally tossed out the front door of her house by a poltergeist and Julie doesn’t take too kindly to spirits laying the boots to little old ladies in her neighbourhood, so she decides spring into action. This leads to an adventure fraught with massive danger, mind-blowing family secrets and the very real possibility of Julie’s mother winding up dead, not to mention Julie and Marcus as well.

Where did the inspiration and ideas come from? 

My inspiration for POLTERGEEKS comes from my love of all urban fantasy. That said, the book started off with a title, believe it or not. I distinctly remember coming up with the name and saying to myself that it would make a cool young adult book – if only I could figure out a plot to go with it. So I did a bit of a bullet point outline and then I began to write. It became the little manuscript that could. 🙂

There’s a lot of paranormal fiction out there for teens, how did you aim to make yours stand out? 

While most paranormal fiction features a strong female protagonist, what makes this book far different is there is no “nice girl meets mysterious/dangerous bad boy love triangle.” POLTERGEEKS is 100% vampire and were-thing free. The romance is very innocent and unconditional because it’s a voyage of discovery as most first loves are. The relationship between Julie and Marcus builds because Julie has to learn that she actually loves Marcus very much and she doesn’t realize it because he’s always been a fixture in her life. His many sacrifices for her combined with some competition from a Goth girl named Marla teach Julie a valuable lesson about unconditional love.  My book is different because it takes place in Canada – Calgary to be specific. Despite the fact that this is an urban fantasy; it’s a very real book with believable characters and a rollercoaster of a plot.

Poltergeeks features witchcraft – did you stick to established ‘rules’ or make up your own?

I borrowed some aspects of witchcraft from a few sources, but in terms of world building, my rules were my own, so it’s actually less about the rules of witchcraft and more about the rules of magic. In POLTERGEEKS, I establish that magic exists in everyone because it is fuelled by the individual’s spirit. If you draw too much on your spirit, you’ll literally burn up – so I cite spontaneous human combustion as a likely practitioner who pushed too hard, too fast.

You’re not new to writing – can you tell us a little about what else you’ve written? 

POLTERGEEKS is my fourth book. I have two books in my Valerie Stevens series; SHADE FRIGHT and FUNERAL PALLOR. In these books you have a snarky female practitioner who works for the government in a benign sounding ministry called “Government Services and Infrastructure.” She slams evil in book one – a black mage named Mago plans to kill everyone in Calgary as an offering to summon Satan. In book two, we’ve got zombies, necromancers and head banging fun. My third novel is UNSEEN WORLD – about a 40-something curmudgeon with super powers, a May-December romance and a very bad demon called Grim Geoffrey.

When did you start writing? 

I started writing every day back in 1978 when I was in grade five. I started writing to get published more than twenty years ago when my now grown son was in diapers and there was no Internet.

What made you move into the YA genre this time? 

The challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it – that’s sort of how I motivate myself to explore other genres and age groups. POLTERGEEKS has been a blessing. It’s the book that found me an agent and got me a two book deal with Angry Robot Books new imprint STRANGE CHEMISTRY BOOKS.

So what lies ahead for you, what are you working on at the moment? 

Right now I’m finishing revisions on the second in the POLTERGEEKS series – STUDENT BODIES. It’s a very dark book where Julie must come face to face with the responsibilities associated with her place in life. There is death, there is heartache. There is ice cold terror. As well, my agent is shopping an urban fantasy called TIM REAPER – he’s basically a grim reaper in human form – the UF version of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. And I need to do revisions on the first in a YA post-apocalyptic trilogy – book one is called THE NORTH. It’s six months after the zombie apocalypse and a rag-tag group of teens in the Canadian Militia are going hatches down to bust out of the zombie filled city to the north country and the promise of a new start.

 Tell us a little about you as a reader, what do you like to read, and what are you reading at the moment? 

I read every day. I have a great love of military history. I enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy. I’m currently reading BLACKWOOD by fellow Strange Chemistry author Gwenda Bond. It’s a fab read. 🙂

When not writing or reading, what else do you like to do? 

I love to cook. I hang out with my spouse. I bug the hell out of my grown up son. I’m a big antique car lover and I also try to motivate my very lazy cats. 🙂

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Katya’s World by Jonathan L Howard

Katya's World Cover

I wasn’t quite sure how to do this review, so I’ll start at the beginning, and try to explain exactly what Katya’s world is. It’s actually explained best in the prologue of the book – in just a few pages, you feel very familiar with the history of Russalka, and the people living there. To  summarise though, Russalka is a colony on a distant planet, set many years into the future.

The planet is completely waterlogged, and the surface of the sea is almost inhospitable due to violent storms. On the seabed, however, are many valuable minerals, and so an underwater colony was set up to mine these minerals for other colonies.

Sadly, during this time, things seemed very unstable on Earth, and they eventually declared war on the planet. Many of the older generation on Russalka have lived through this war, as well as surviving the harsh conditions.

Katya is a 15 year old girls who’s just finished training as a navigator, and is ready for her first day working on her uncle’s submarine. She comes across as being older, but considering the harsh conditions they live under, I would expect her to be more mature than her age, and this shows as the story progresses.

This first voyage doesn’t go to plan, as they are forced to take on a prisoner and his guard. During the journey they come across a strange vessel which attacks them, and from there the story doesn’t let up for a minute! Katya finds herself in lots of different situations, and dealing with many different people, as events move swiftly. It’s soon clear that not only are Katya and  those with her in great danger, but the future of the whole planet is soon to change as well.

I’ll be honest, although I do enjoy some sci-fi, the idea of submarines in an underwater world didn’t really grab me, but the fascinating prologue certainly did, and I ended up loving this book. It actually has a wide appeal – it’s not just suitable for the YA market, although they will most certainly enjoy it; it’s not just for the male species (ok, I’m sounding sexist, and I don’t mean it that way, but books with submarines and war do make me think they would appeal to men); and it’s not just for sci-fi readers.

Katya is only 15, but as I’ve already explained, she is very mature – so you have a young adult’s point of view, but it will appeal to all. There are some really good sci-fi ideas, especially in the technology used, but they are both believable and understandable, so readers won’t get swamped or lost. There are some good characters, both male and female, and covering various ages.

The vessel which attacks them at the beginning sets up a very real threat, all against the background of a changing world. The pace of the book doesn’t let up, and there are plenty of twists and turns. The story told does resolve, so there’s no nasty cliff hanger, but it’s also left open for future books set in Russalka – and I for one am very keen to see where their future takes them.

Katya’s World is published early November, by the new YA imprint Strange Chemistry.

Stay tuned for more information.

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