Review: Shift by Kim Curran

Title:  Shift (Strange Chemistry)

Author:  Kim Curran

Publisher:

Shift (Strange Chemistry) DIGITAL

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.


Review:

When I discovered that Angry Robot Books would be launching a YA imprint, I was excited to check out the Strange Chemistry line.  Every book under this imprint looks good.  I don’t think there can ever be enough books released with fantasy or sci-fi elements, so I was eager to start digging into the launch titles for Strange Chemistry.    First up for me is Shift; I found this one intriguing because protagonist Scott learns that he is a Shifter, and that he can undo decisions he’s made if they turn out to be bad ones.  It’s like having a non-expiring do-over card, except for those occasional unpleasant consequences.   Yes, you knew there would be consequences for using a power that cool, and after seeing the heartbreaking handiwork of one of his Shifts, he decides that maybe it’s not such a great ability after all. 

I thought the pacing for Shift was great.  I powered quickly through this book, and once I got a few chapters in, I didn’t want to put it down.  I wanted to learn more about Scott’s ability and the world he lived in.  This is a great blend of super-hero comic with equal parts futuristic thriller and murder mystery tossed in for good measure.  There were even a few pages that completely freaked me out and got my heart pounding in fear as Scott got himself into some horrific and scary situations.  For a kid who has no idea what he’s doing, he sure manages to get himself into so much trouble!  Life-threatening trouble, too!  I still can’t believe that he made it to the last page relatively unscathed.  That just proves that luck is just as important as mondo-powerful supernatural abilities.

Scott discovers that he has the power to undo decisions he’s made quite by accident.  He is showing off in front of a bunch of his classmates, and his uncharacteristic flash of bravado is just about to get him killed.  Until he wishes with everything he has that he hadn’t decided to act like a moron.  He’s never been cool, and he never will be cool, even if he completes the dare, so he wonders why he even bothered.  Being a pancake after falling from a utility pole just doesn’t seem worth it.  He regrets that he wanted to impress a pretty girl he’s never seen before, and now it looks like it’s going to be the death of him. 

I loved Scott.  He’s self-depreciating, and once he started getting over himself, he is a fun character.  Thrown into circumstances far beyond his control, he finally starts coming into his own.  As he begins to understand the consequences of  both doing and un-doing his decisions, he begins to accept some the less favorable choices he’s made.  He can no longer blame others for his poor judgment, and that helps to give him the kick in the pants he needs to start growing up.  People can live or die by his actions, and there is no blaming anyone else when he messes up.  Instead, he has to put on his big-boy pants and fix the chaos he’s caused.  He needs to risk himself to save his friends from the harm he has caused them, and this time, a simple shift isn’t going to cut it.  For a big nerd, Scott’s take charge attitude impressed me, and his determined charge to the end of the book kept me completely engaged in the story.

I had some quibbles with Shift, but they weren’t enough to ruin the book for me.  Many of the secondary characters are one-dimensional and yawn inducing stereotypes.  I would have liked more depth to all of the secondary characters.  Overall, though, this is a fun read, and it got me geeked to read more releases from Strange Chemistry.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Kim Curran, Author of Shift

 

Kim Curran is the author of Shift, one of launch releases for Angry Robot’s new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry.  Kim dropped by the virtual offices to induce herself and to chat about her new paranormal thriller.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Kim Curran] Lives in pyjamas, wants to be a ninja. Hopeful, fretful, loyal. Laughs a lot. Hugs a lot. And (according to a 10-year old) is well cool.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Shift?

[Kim Curran] Shift is about a teenage boy called Scott Tyler who realises he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power’s going to be really cool. But as he comes to terms with it, he realises that changing his choices can have terrible unforeseeable consequences. Consequences that could unravel his whole life. He’s helped along the way by the mysterious Aubrey Jones. Although he’s never sure if she’s getting him out of trouble or deeper into it.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Kim Curran] I was sitting on a bus on my way back from work one day, looking at the people all bustling home, thinking about all the choices they’ve made in their lives. At the same time I was thinking about a book I’d just read on quantum physics. And bang. The idea for Shift came to me. What if you could change your decisions, in the same way light can ‘shift’ from particle to wave?

As for the characters, I’d just finished a (trunk) novel written 3rd person with a female lead. So I decided I wanted to try writing 1st person. And for some reason Scott Tyler’s voice came to me incredibly clearly. On the surface he’s a bundle of anxieties and yet he has this inner strength. So maybe it was like a reversal of myself (I’m strong on the outside, wobbly on the inside!). I scribbled the prologue in a taxi on my way to work one day, and it’s remained virtually unchanged since. And as I had a male protagonist, I had to have a really cool female opposite, just to get him into trouble. So Aubrey Jones was born. She’s the kind of girl I always wished I could be when I was a teenager, but never was.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Scott?

[Kim Curran] Self-depreciating. Kind. Strong.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Aubrey would never have in her purse?

[Kim Curran] I’m not all together sure Aubrey would have a purse. But in her bag, she would never carry anything she might perceive to be too ‘girlie’. So nothing pink or glittery. She probably doesn’t carry much money in there either, as she’s not very good with it.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is Scott’s single most prized possession?

[Kim Curran] Oh, good question. Probably a vintage, still-the-box, action figure of some kind.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Kim Curran] I’m hugely influenced by films and comic books. I’ve also been creatively shaped (for good or bad) by working in advertising for 15 years. So I’m always thinking about the audience and how to connect with them – and fast. As I say, not always a good thing, but there you go.  As for writers, we’d be here all day, but the few that pop into my head right now are: Lauren Buekes, Anthony Horrowitz, Patrick Ness, Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Sergei Lukyanenko, Camus.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Kim Curran] I need very little. Something to write with (my MacBook Air or my Waterman pen) and something to write on! Other than that, a comfortable chair.  I can write anywhere: at home on my own, in cafes, on buses. In fact, most of the first draft of Shift was written on a bus.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Kim Curran] Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. For me it’s close to being perfect. Hugely fun and yet astoundingly well written. It’s rare, I find, that literary books are so joyful in their storytelling.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Kim Curran] Probably Roald Dahl’s BFG. I read it when I was about eight and then devoured all of his other books. That was when I realised I was a ‘reader’. And I never stopped.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Kim Curran] Unsurprisingly, I like to read. I find it hard to read when I’m writing as I pick up voices too easily. So when I’m not writing I try and catch up on my huge TBR pile. I also love coffee with friends, watching movies and the usual stuff. I used to fence a lot, but I’ve recently hurt my hip, so I’m looking for a new sport to get into. Capoeira maybe?

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Kim Curran] I’m on Twitter, far too much twitter.com/KimeCurran, I have a Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Kim-Curran/222018584554942 and they can email me via my site www.kimcurran.co.uk

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!

You can order Shift from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital

Interview with Gwenda Bond, Author of Blackwood

Gwenda Bond is the author of Blackwood, a launch title for Strange Chemistry, a new imprint of Angry Robot Books.  I am so excited to have Gwenda at the Cafe today!  Read on to learn about both Gwenda and her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Gwenda Bond] A wise-cracking southern dame who likes champagne, old movies, and good books—and who is clearly terrible at writing short bios like this.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Blackwood?

[Gwenda Bond] Blackwood is a fantasy set on a fictionalized version of present-day Roanoke Island, but very much influenced by the real island and its history. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the story, in 1587 John White left more than a hundred men, women, and children who were forming the first permanent English colony in the Americas on the island while he went on a supply trip to England; when he returned three years later he could find no trace of them except for the word CROATOAN carved into a tree. Blackwood follows two teens, Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling, as they are drawn into a disappearance of the same number of people—114—now, and discover they both have ties to the original colonists’ disappearance. There’s law enforcement intrigue, a mysterious weapon, and a little (nerdy) romance.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Gwenda Bond] The concept came first with this one, on a road trip to visit friends in North Carolina. It was very late at night, and one of the things I love about that drive are all the unusual place names you get on road signs, so I pay close attention to them. At some point, there was a sign marking the way to the not-unusually named Roanoke. It was to Roanoke, Virginia, of course, but for some reason it made me think immediately of the Lost Colony. I asked my husband Christopher, who was driving, “Hey, have you ever read a Lost Colony book set now? What if there was a disappearance of the same number of people on current Roanoke Island?” But developing that concept, aka figuring out what the solution to the centuries-old mystery was, took several more years of having the idea and a beginning rattling around in the back of my subconscious. Miranda and Phillips were there from the time I sat down to start writing, though of course they changed as I got to know them better. But I always knew I wanted this book to be, among other things, an unconventional romance. So the characters had to be not just right, but right for each other, at least at this stage in their lives.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Miranda?

[Gwenda Bond] Brave, funny, and trapped.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Phillips would never have in his pocket?

[Gwenda Bond] Oh, this is a tough one! It would probably be easier to come up with odd things he would have in his pocket. But, let’s see… Cigarettes, a fan club membership card for The Vampire Diaries, or incriminating evidence.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Miranda’s single most prized possession?

[Gwenda Bond] I’d have to say her mother’s sewing machine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Gwenda Bond] I’m a cultural omnivore, which is a fancy way of saying I read and watch and listen to a lot of different things. I very much feel like all fiction (all art, really) is part of an ever-expanding conversation. So one day I’ll read a category romance novel and listen to Metric, the next day I might be watching episode after episode of Revenge (which I just discovered), followed by a bunch of screwball comedies from the ‘30s and ‘40s with a fantasy novel on the side. The work of other people—dead and alive, now and then—is a huge influence, basically. Being part of that cultural give and take inspires me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Gwenda Bond] I’m about as unfussy in terms of rituals and requirements for writing as it’s possible to be. I actually finished the first draft of Blackwood in a car on the way to the World Fantasy Convention, typing on something called an Alphasmart Neo that’s basically a smart keyboard with no internet access and a screen that only shows four lines. So I’d say: a story I want to tell, a little space of time (better if it’s at least a half-hour), and some idea what happens next.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Gwenda Bond] Recommending reading material is my favorite sport, so I don’t have to name just one, do I? (I would cry.) Some recent favorites are G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen, Robin Wasserman’s The Book of Blood and Shadow (bonus: Team Alchemy!), and Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Gwenda Bond] The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. It’s the first book I remember memorizing the words to because it was read to me so many times. I related to Peter. (Phillips would also relate to Peter, I think.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Gwenda Bond] I’m a hardcore reader, but I also watch quite a bit of television. Mostly my downtime is spent hanging with my husband and/or our friends and family. We can often be found walking our two incorrigible dogs, Puck and Emma, around the neighborhood or pacifying our cat, Hemingway, a polydactyl with many demands. Oh, and tweeting, if I’m being honest. I’m really lucky to have friends all over and so twitter has become a great way to stay in touch (alongside email, facebook, etc.).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Gwenda Bond] The easiest ways are probably via my website (http://www.gwendabond.com), by using the Ask function at Tumblr (http:// gwendabond.tumblr.com), or by @ing me on Twitter (@gwenda). I’d love to hear from them.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can pre-order Blackwood from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

Waiting on Wednesday–Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Strange Chemistry has an awesome lineup of books slated to release the last half of this year.  Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings looks really, really good!  In stores in October.

 

15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.

In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town.  After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.

In stores October 2012

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[PR] Strange Chemistry Signs Julianna Scott and Laura Lam for Two Books Apiece

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Press Release

4th April 2012 ~ For Immediate Release

Strange Chemistry Signs Julianna Scott and Laura Lam for Two Books Apiece


Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot Books, is delighted to announce the signing of two more fantastic YA authors for 2013: Julianna Scott and Laura Lam.

Julianna Scott has been signed for a two-book deal – negotiated by Strange Chemistry’s Amanda Rutter and Carly Watters of the P.S. Literary Agency – starting with The Holders. Laura Lam has also signed a two-book deal – negotiated by Amanda Rutter and Juliet Mushens of Peters Fraser and Dunlop – starting with Pantomime.

Both titles will be published in the Spring of 2013.

About The Holders

17-year-old Becca has spent her whole life protecting her brother – from their father leaving and from the people who say the voices in his head are unnatural. When two strangers appear with apparent answers to Ryland’s “problem” and details about a school in Ireland where Ryland will not only fit in, but prosper, Becca is up in arms.

She reluctantly agrees to join Ryland on his journey and what they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together information about their family’s heritage and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for.

But they are all, especially Becca, in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

About Julianna Scott

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Julianna was born In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spent the majority of her educational career convinced she would be a musician.

However, after receiving her music degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, she realized that she’d been born in the wrong era for her dreams of singing jazz to adoring fans clad in zoot-suits and flapper dresses to come true, and began to wonder if her true calling might be elsewhere.

While Julianna had always excelled in writing throughout school, she’d never considered it a career possibility until about three years ago, when she came up with her first story idea and decided to go for it. She grabbed her laptop, started typing away, and has never looked back.

You can visit Julianna’s website at http://juliannascottauthor.com.

Amanda said: “The Holders showcases an utterly engaging new voice in YA fiction – with supernatural powers and a gripping love story set against the stunning backdrop of Ireland. I was enthralled and know you will be too.”


Julianna said
: “I am so excited to be a Strange Chemistry author! It is truly a dream come true!”

About Pantomime

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

About Laura Lam

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Laura was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams.

She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.
You can find Laura’s website at http://staticsplit.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LR_Lam [@LR_Lam].

Laura says: “I originally subbed to Angry Robot Books’ Open Door Month a year ago, thinking I’d get a form rejection, shed a tear or two, and continue to write. It was a long year with much refreshing of my inbox, but I’ve learned so much and am grateful Amanda plucked me from the slush and gave me a chance to make Pantomime shine. I’m beyond excited to be a Strange Chemist.”

Amanda says: “I was Laura’s original reader during the Angry Robot Open Door Month and passed her MS along to the AR editors – even knowing that it was close to a first draft, because I saw the promise in this novel. After revising and improving, Pantomime is now an incredibly rich novel with the tone of Robin Hobb and the adventure of Tamora Pierce – it is a new must-read in the realms of YA fantasy!”

 


More information can be found at strangechemistrybooks.com and angryrobotbooks.com.

Angry Robot is a genre publisher that brings readers the best in new SF, F and WTF?! Strange Chemistry is Angry Robot’s YA imprint. All titles are released as paperbacks and in all major eBook formats. Distribution is through Random House (North America) and GBS (UK). Angry Robot is part of the Osprey Group.

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