Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Horror New Releases

These are the horror new releases for August. If I’ve missed something out, let me know in the comments! But remember, these are Australian release dates only.

What I'm Excited About:  Phew, so much to get excited about in this month! I Am Grimalkin - I have been DYING for this book, and the next one in the Larten Crepsley series, which I've also been overeager to get my hands on. The only thing I'm slightly cross about is WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG? Both of these books were out ages ago overseas, so come on Australian publishers, why make us wait? Ahem. Rant over. I've also been hearing lots of good things about dystopian book Legend.

Junior & Middle
Sophie and the Shadow Woods #6: The Bat Sprites, Linda Chapman & Lee Weatherly (Harper Collins).
Earwig and the Witch, Dianna Wynne Jones (Harper Collins).
Creepella von Cacklefur #2: Meet Me in Horrorwood, Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic).
The Orphan of Awkward Falls, Keith Graves (Hardie Grant Egmont).
The Templeton Twins, Jeremy Holmes (Hardie Grant Egmont).
The Treehorn Trilogy, Edward Gorey (Hardie Grant Egmont).
Goosebumps Hall of Horrors #4: Why I Quit Zombie School, R.L. Stine (Scholastic).
Goosebumps Classics #21: Vampire Breath, R.L. Stine (Scholastic).
Wolven #3: Bad Wolf Rising, Di Toft (Scholastic).
3:15 Season One: Things That Go Bump In the Night, Patrick Carman (Scholastic).

Saga of Larten Crepsley #2: Ocean of Blood, Darren Shan (Harper Collins).
Sleepwalkers, J. Gabriel Gates (Harper Collins).
I Am Grimalkin, Joseph Delaney (Random House).
Undead, Kirsty McKay (Scholastic). Check out the youtube trailer for this one.
Wish You Were Dead, Todd Strasser (Walker).
Adventures of a Wimpy Werewolf, Tim Collins (Hardie Grant).
Legend, Marie Lu (Penguin).
Smoulder, Brenna Yovanoff (Simon & Schuster).
Dark Souls, Paula Morris (Scholastic).

Guys Read: Thriller, John Scieszka (Harper Collins).
More Bloody Horowitz, Anthony Horowitz (Walker). [New Format]

Make a Mummy, Shrink a Head, and Other Useful Skills, Pat Murphy (Klutz).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Author Interview - Stuart Daly

Anyone who has heard me rant about my favourite books for even a minute will realise how much I love the Spook's Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. So when I approach a series that involves both apprentices and witches, I am both excited and wary. Excited because, oh dear, how could I not be? And wary because I'm never sure a new book could stand up to my lofty expectations.

When I heard that Random House Australia was to publish the first in a new series called The Witch Hunter Chronicles, I knew I had to read it. And though I still experienced that same excitement/wariness feeling, I'm pleased to say I finished the book feeling one hundred percent excited. I absolutely adored this tale of German witch hunters and their demonic foes, and so I'm very pleased to have Stuart Daly here on the slab at Spine Chills. 

Can you tell us a bit about your most recently published book?
The Army of the Undead just got released today. This is the second book in The Witch Hunter Chronicles. This is an intensely fast-paced adventure series set in the seventeenth century. Imagine Pirates of the Caribbean meets the Three Musketeers, and you're getting a close idea as to what it's like.

What would be written on your main character’s gravestone? 
Deo duce, ferro comitante. Don't know what this means? Well, you had better read The Scourge of Jericho, the first book in The Witch Hunter Chronicles, to find out.

Why do you write horror? 
I love the idea of scaring people. Books can be so much scarier than movies, allowing a reader's imagination to conjure the most terryfing scenes.

Have you ever had your own spooky experience? 
Fortunately, no.

What is your favourite book of the past month? 
The past year? All time? Favourite book of the past month - Sandstorm by James Rollins. Favourite of the past year - The Purity of Blood, by Arturo-Perez Reverte. All time favourite - Ice Station, by Matthew Reilly.

What does your writing space look like?
As I don't write on a computer, I don't have a set writing space. I write on pieces of paper when waiting at traffic lights - Sydney's traffic is so congested you could write a 1,000 page novel in the time it takes to drive down King Street! I write all the time, whenever I can. I only use a laptop when I'm typing up the final product.

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? 
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. What a bone-tingler! Best ghost story ever written.

What’s your biggest fear?
Heights. I once had a person jump from the top of Westfields and land at my feet. Believe me, you wouldn't wish that on your worst enemy.

What are you working on right now?
I'm currently working on Books 3 and 4 of The Witch Hunter Chronicles. I don't want to reveal anything about these other than say that they are going to be the most action-packed, scariest books I have written.

Check out the Witch Hunter Chronicles at or on the Random House website

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Horror New Releases

These are the new horror releases for November. If I’ve missed something out, let me know in the comments! But remember, these are Australian release dates only

What I'm Excited About: I am crawling with excitement about Witch Hunter Chronicles 2, since I loved the first one and can't wait to see how this series builds. Anna Dressed in Blood seems to be getting a lot of attention as well, and Dark Lord looks quite hilarious.

Spindlewood Witches 1: Pip and the Wood Witch Curse, Chris Mould (Hachette).
Spindlewood Witches 2: Pip and the Twilight Seekers, Chris Mould (Hachette).
Spindlewood Witches 3: Pip and the Lost Children, Chris Mould (Hachette).
Monster Swap 2: Zainab and Mash, Jonny Zucker (Hachette).
Creepella von Cacklefur 1: Thirteen Ghosts, Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic).
Sophie and the Shadow Woods: The Icicle Imps, Linda Chapman & Lee Weatherly (Harper Collins).
Mega Mash-Up: Pirates vs Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum, Nikalas Catlow & Tim Wesson (Allen & Unwin).

Middle and YA
Dark Lord: The Teenage Years, Jamie Thomson (Hachette).
Final Friends Volume 2, Christopher Pike (Hachette).
Rats, Paul Zindel (Hachette).
Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake (Hachette).
Witch Hunter Chronicles 2: The Army of the Undead, Stuart Daly, (Random House).
This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Kenneth Oppel (Random House).
Scorch Trials, James Dashner (Scholastic).
Dark Inside, Jeyn Roberts (Macmillan).
Vampire Diaries - The Hunters Vol. 1: The Phantom, L.J. Smith (Harper Collins).
Poison Diaries 2: Nightshade, Maryrose Wood (Harper Collins).
Morganville Vampires 11: Last Breath, Rachel Caine (Penguin).
Strange Angels 5: The Reckoning, Lili St. Crow (Penguin).
The Caster Chronicles 3: Beautiful Chaos, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (Penguin).
Dust & Decay, Jonathan Mayberry (Simon & Schuster).
Awfully Beastly Business #4: Jungle Vampire, The Beastly Boys (Simon & Schuster).
Awfully Beastly Business #5: Big Beast Sale, The Beastly Boys (Simon & Schuster).

Non Fiction
Encyclopaedia of the Unexplained, Judy Allen (Scholastic).

Ghost Hunt 2: More Chilling Tales of the Unknown, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson (Hachette).
Dust ‘n’ Bones: Ten Ghost Stories, Chris Mould (Hachette).
Vampires: The Original Classics, Various (Simon & Schuster).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tommy Donbavand Scream Street Blog Tour

I think Scream Street is just the killer bee's knees. It's the perfect read for younger kids looking for something a little spooky and a lot funny, so I was a somewhat saddened to learn that the thirteenth book, Flame of the Dragon, will be the last in the series. Luckily my blues were lifted and I was returned to my normal shade of zombie green by the news that Tommy has written a Scream Street short story to be released in thirteen parts over thirteen days.

If you haven't been following it already, head back to the Scream Street website to read it from the beginning. But if you're already up to date, settle in for part seven of the Scream Street tale, Shiver of the Phantom...


Chapter Seven

The Boss

Henry Horatio Harper turned and began to shuffle away across the central square. Luke, Resus and Cleo hurried after him.

“Lunchtime?” asked Cleo, catching up with the phantom. “You mean the bell rings like that at this time every day?”

Henry nodded, his top hat wobbling. “Not that you’d be able to hear it; it’s a phantom bell.”
“A phantom bell for phantom lunch hour?” said Luke. “Please don’t think I’m being rude, but lunch hour from what?”

The ghost continued his shuffling walk. “From haunting,” he said. “What else?”

Resus looked surprised. “You mean you’re doomed to haunt the houses of Scream Street?”

“Not doomed,” said Henry. “Although there are days when I feel like that.”

“So, how does it work?” asked Luke.

Henry sighed. “I work for a company called Haunting in Scream Street – or HISS for short. Haunting houses around here is my job.”

“And you get a lunch break from it?” asked Resus. “That’s ridiculous!”

Henry stopped and stared hard at Resus. “Have you been talking to my boss?”

“No,” said Resus. “Why?”

“He wants to do away with our lunch hour as well.” The phantom turned and continued walking. “And if I don’t get back to work soon, he won’t let me take my exam.”

“I still don’t understand,” said Cleo, catching up with the ghost again. “What exam?”

“All ghosts start out at the bottom,” Henry explained miserably. “It’s called spirit level one. Over the centuries you can take haunting exams to rise up to spirit level two and beyond.”

“What do the levels mean?” asked Luke.

“They determine what kind of haunting jobs we get to do,” replied Henry. “Level one ghosts can only make things go bump in the night, but when you go up to level two, you get to go ‘Whoooooo!’ between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., throw one item a night and spook pets by blowing in their faces.”

“And level three?” asked Cleo.

“Light chain work and creepy footsteps.”

“I get it!” said Resus. “Going up a spirit level is like getting a promotion.”

“That’s it,” said Henry.

“And the longer you’ve been a ghost, the more you get promoted,” said Cleo.

“Exactly,” said Henry.

“How long have you been a ghost?” asked Luke.

“Just short of three hundred years.”

“And what spirit level are you at now?” asked Cleo.

Henry looked as though he might cry again. “Level one.”

“Ah,” said Resus.

The phantom sighed. “I’d love the chance to scare a cat, but they just ignore me – like everybody else. I’ll never get to go ‘Whoooooo!’”

“Of course you will,” said Cleo. “All you’ve got to do is pass your exam. It can’t be that hard...”

“Then why has he failed it over a thousand times?” roared a voice. Henry began to tremble as another figure shimmered into existence in front of the group. “And why is he late for his last chance to take it?”


Oh no! How will it all end? Will Henry ever get to level two in his Spirit Levels? Make sure you head on over to Tall Tales and Short Stories tomorrow for the next part of the story! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review - The Fear by Charlie Higson

The Eulogy (From the Publisher):
The sickness struck everyone over the age of fourteen.
Mothers and fathers, older brothers, sisters and best friends. No one escaped its touch. And now children across London are being hunted by ferocious grown-ups . . .
DogNut and the rest of his crew want to find their lost friends, on a deadly mission from the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace and beyond, as the sickos lie in wait.
But who are their friends and who are the enemy in this changed world?

In a Nutshell: Brilliant. Just read it. Now.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss The Fear by Charlie Higson. Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. How do you do it? Every time I read one of the books in this wonderful zombie series, I'm simply floored by how he writes. Mostly, it's in the characters - these books have a huge cast of characters, but at no point do any of these characters feel like they're just filler. Every single one of them has their own story to tell in the zombie apocalypse, and Higson has such a knack for writing characters that feel so real. The exchanges between characters and the glimpses we see of their thoughts makes you really want them to survive, though in a book like this you know that not all of them will make it to the last page.

The first book in the series, The Enemy (technically, though, this is the third in chronological order) really blew me away due to its no-holds-barred approach to killing off characters. Nobody was safe, and I think that's what makes for damn good horror. You really come to care for the characters and don't want to see anything bad happen to them. But when the bad does happen, it's still pretty spectacular. Some of the gory scenes in this book are just top notch - rather than just excess blood and guts, they're original gross-out stuff, particularly DogNut's flashbacks to what he finds in the bank cellar.

Reading this has made me want to go back and reread the rest of the series so I can see how all the stories intertwine. Higson really is a masterful storyteller, one of the best, and you never find yourself wanting to get back to other groups' stories, which is a common gripe of mine in multi-POV stories.

Truly top-notch zombie horror, and I'm very pleased to see there will be another book in the series out next year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Author Interview - J.B. Thomas

I am going to go on record and name last month Aussie Horror Author Month, because two excellent YA horror/dark fantasy authors burst onto the scene with their début novels, and while two may not seem a staggering amount, it's a lot by Australian YA standards. One was Rhiannon Hart, who was interviewed here earlier this month, and the other was J.B. Thomas with Mammon, the brilliant first book in her Ferryman Chronicles

I was blown away by the demon mythology J.B. created in her book, and so I thought I'd stalk her and question her at length. Enjoy!

Can you tell us a bit about your latest book?
Mammon is the first in a series of dark fantasy novels called The Ferryman Chronicles. I started writing it three years ago with two ideas in mind: that there would be a character that could open and control dimensional rifts, and that humans would become demons. The rest grew from there.

What would be written on your main character’s gravestone?
(She) hath awakened from the dream of life, by the poet, Shelley. I put ‘she’ in brackets because the original quote uses ‘he’. Yes, I think this is a suitable epitaph for Grace. Life for her, as a telepath, has a dreamlike quality (and is, at times, nightmarish).

Why do you write horror?
Because I think that elements of horror exist around us, for real. Now, there may not be demons out there (at least, not that we can see) but just take a look at the news and you will see the terror. I like to link my stories to the horror of the real world through symbolism, metaphor and allegory – so they’re still enjoyable stories but also have layers of meanings that we can discuss and think about.

Have you ever had your own spooky experience?
No, but I know some scary Irish ghost stories told to me by my husband’s family. One involves a haunted house, a cold, dark bedroom and the feeling that someone is rolling a pillow up your leg, your stomach and eventually reaching your throat…but you’re the only person in the room.

What is your favourite book of the past month? The past year? All time?
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I say this because I have never found an author who could show such a brilliant understanding of how people think and act. My love affair with Russia began years ago when I was in my late teens. Tolstoy (not to mention Dostoevsky) has done much to keep that fire burning.

What does your writing space look like? 
As I see it now: I’m in a blue room with a giant iMac on the desk. It dominates! Honestly, the thing is huge. I didn’t realize this when I ordered it. There are lots of books in here (d’uh!) – and the kitchen (and, more importantly, the Nespresso machine) is within a few steps. George, my Great Dane is cuddled on his armchair that he has pretty much ruined under his mammoth weight. I can hear QI on the TV (yes, I’m one of those people who can write with the TV on in the background) and there’s macaroni cheese in the oven. Yum!

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
James Herbert’s books are frightening. The Rats is good because no matter where you go, there’s always the scratching and gnawing at the floorboards below. It’s about the unrelenting realization that it’s only a matter of time before they get you.

What’s your biggest fear?
Kidnap and torture – when you cannot reason with the person who is torturing you…and it could go on for weeks, even years. Also, being eaten alive. It’s the fact that you know what’s happening to you and you can’t do anything about it. My high demon, however, sees these activities as afternoon entertainment.

What are you working on right now?
I am working on Book 2 of the Ferryman Chronicles.

You can find out more about J.B. Thomas' books at and read a sample chapter of Mammon here:

A book by

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review - Mammon

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): 
Forget anything you ever heard about possession, exorcisms, salt circles and pentagrams. The modern demon is far more difficult to catch - and even harder to destroy.
After the savage, tragic deaths of their parents, Grace and Joe Callahan learn that they they are descendants of the sarsareh - an ancient order of mercenaries who hunt very special prey. Grace and Joe take their place in the Order, but are treated with hostility and fear by other recruits.
For the Callahan siblings have powers that fascinate and terrify.
Joe is a Ferryman, capable of opening dimensional rifts, while Grace's telepathic abilities surpass anything the Order has ever seen.
To complicate matters, Grace falls for her older, more experienced squad leader, Ivan. Meanwhile, the sarsareh elders have their own plans for Joe.
But none of that will matter if the powerful demon Mammon manages to convince Joe to open a gateway to his demon world and overrun Earth with his armies.
If he succeeds: game over.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A great start in a new Australian series with truly original demon mythology.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Mammon by J.B. Thomas. This is a fantastic dark fantasy debut from Australian author J.B. Thomas. I was fascinated by the mythology in Mammon – the fact that demons aren’t summoned, but merely come to be when a regular person is evil enough. The Renfield Academy, with its prison of psychopathic demons and its core staff of psychics and mercenaries is the perfect backdrop for this exciting demon tale. It’s also a real thrill to see a great core of villains, and the demon Mammon and his assistants are some exquisitely evil characters – in one memorable scene onboard a ship he throws a servant into the ocean for ruining his favourite shirt.

For horror fans, this first book in the new Ferryman Chronicles is a must – great world-building, high-stakes action, and some wonderfully wicked villains!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays

This week I've been reading Raven's Gate, the first book in the Power of Five series by Anthony Horowitz. This is one of those books I've picked up two times already and never got past the first couple of pages... I'm not quite sure why, since I'm now a good few chapters into it and I'm loving the slow building of suspicion against the devilish Mrs Deverill and the weird town of Lesser Malling, such as the bizarre chemist that Matt walks into:

He found a flask filled with yellow liquid and turned it round, the almost cried out as a severed eye floated to the surface, kissing the edge of the glass. The eye had been taken from a sheep or a cow. It was trailing tissue behind it. Matt felt sick.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review - Hell's Heroes

The Eulogy (From the Publisher):
Beranabus and Dervish are gone. Bec has formed an unholy alliance with Lord Loss. Kernel is blind, held on Earth against his will. Grubbs is mad with grief and spinning out of control. 

The demons are crossing.
The Disciples are falling.
The Shadow is waiting.

Welcome to the end.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A highly satisfying ending to what is one of my all-time favourite series.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Hell's Heroes by Darren Shan. I'd been putting off reading this for some time. Not because I didn't want to read it - quite the opposite: Demonata is one of my favourite series, and I just didn't want it to end. But after feeling a little restless for something good to read, I finally picked it up yesterday... and didn't put it down until a few hours later when I'd raced through it.

Nobody knows how to write at such a cracking pace quite like Darren Shan. I can honestly say the time flew as I ripped through the final chapter in Grubbs, Kernel and Bec's fight against the Demon universe. If you've read the rest of the series, you'll know exactly what to expect from this last book, and while there are no big surprises here, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
One of my pet peeves in YA is when a favourite character dies, and no fanfare is made (I'm looking at YOU Hunger Games!) but thankfully that isn't the case in Hell's Heroes. Without being too spoilery, yes, characters die (this is a Darren Shan novel after all) but all of them are given the proper sendoffs they deserve.

While I'm sad to say goodbye to this excellent series, I felt this was a very fitting end and I can't wait to see what Shan will do next.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Author Interview - Rhiannon Hart

Every so often a book comes along that I enjoy so much I can't help but laugh and clap my hands in glee, which does make it hard to keep the book open, but that's the price you pay for delight. 

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to laugh and clap my hands over a book called Blood Song by Rhiannon Hart, an excellent dark fantasy début from an Australian author, and those who have heard my rant before know how excited I get about Aussie YA authors straying into horror and dark fantasy territory. Of course, I couldn't let such a wonderful brain stay untouched by my lobotomy tools, so here are the inner workings of Rhiannon's mind for you all to enjoy! 


Can you tell us a bit about your latest (published) book?
My debut novel came out this month and it's called Blood Song. It's a YA fantasy novel about a princess who travels to a faraway country, feeling both curiosity about and dread for what she might find there. In doing so she puts her sister in peril and meets an infuriating young man who seems to have all the answers but isn't letting on one single thing.

What would be written on your main character’s gravestone?

Why do you write horror/dark fantasy?
Because there's nothing like a good monster! Blood Song is pretty light-on with horror but there are some monstery-nommy-blooded scenes towards the end. One in particular is a cross between a extreme religious ceremony and a Marilyn Manson concert.

Have you ever had your own spooky experience?
When I saw The Ring at the cinema a few years ago I came out onto Swanston Street in Melbourne from Bourke St and all the trams were lying dead in the middle of the street and the whole place was oddly deserted. I had a mini freak-out that the apocalypse had arrived, but it was just a power failure. (OK, I was a tiny bit disappointed.)

What is your favourite book of the past month? The past year? All time?
I'll have to name horror novels seeing as this is a Spinechills Q&A. The best one I've read in the past year would be The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. Holy bejeesus, can you say uber-Victorian Gothic? The monsters, Anthropophagi, are walking chests with teeth and they are NASTY. Recently I've read more fantasy, but I have watched Dead Set, a British zombie mini-series set in the Big Brother house. Fast zombies, fast reanimation, a cast of super-annoying people that get nommed for your gratuitous viewing pleasure. The next horror novel up on my list is The Enemy by Charlie Higson and I have heard such good things about it.

What does your writing space look like?
It's really lame. Either at the dining room table or the desk in my room. When my room is a mess I move to the dining room. (I'm in the dining room right now. It's been a roller coaster of a month...) I do have a nice chair though. When I'm a grown up author I'll get a proper space and keep it tidy. Or something.

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
You know, I can't think of one! I get more wigged out by scary movies. I am busting to see Grave Encounters, a sort of Blair Witch-handycam type movie set in a disused psych ward. No Australian release date just yet though. Curses!

What’s your biggest fear?
Long, dark corridors. I freak the hell out at work when I'm the last person to leave.

What are you working on right now? Or, if you’d prefer not to say, please tell me what’s going on in the Rorschach test.

It's a giant, yeti-footed badger spewing a laser out of its mouth. I mean, surely that's obvious!? I can tell you a little about my other project too. It's two "chapters" of a ghost anthology that four writers are contributing too. Sort of a communal novel. I am thrilled to have been asked and double-thrilled it's ghosties. And YA too, huzzah!

Find out more about Rhiannon Hart's books at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays

It's that time again where I quote to you in sepulchral tones from my current horror read, this time from book #10 in Darren Shan's Demonata series, Hell's Heroes:
As her face swings into view, I see what disturbed them. Her features have altered. There's another face  poking out of the flesh and bones. It's still forming the skin around the cheeks bulging and warping. But I recognise it in spite of all the blood and goo.
-pg. 88 

Review - Blood Song

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): I wanted to turn but I was held captive by the song on the wind. I’m coming, I told the voices. Please, wait for me.
When her sister becomes betrothed to a prince in a northern nation, Zeraphina’s only consolations are that her loyal animal companions are by her side – and that her burning hunger to travel north is finally being sated.

Already her black hair and pale eyes mark her out as different, but now Zeraphina must be even more careful to keep her secret safe. Craving blood is not considered normal behaviour for anyone, let alone a princess. So when the king’s advisor, Rodden, seems to know more about her condition than she does, Zeraphina is determined to find out more.

Zeraphina must be willing to sacrifice everything if she’s to uncover the truth – but what if the truth is beyond her worst nightmares?

In a Nutshell: A highly enjoyable dark fantasy that is a mix between Pride and Prejudice and Tamora Pierce.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Blood Song, by Rhiannon Hart. A while ago I was whinging about the lack of Aussie YA fantasy coming out, and how I really just wanted to sink my teeth into something amazing. Well! The book gods obviously heard my cries and answered with Blood Song, though I think this wonderful gem had less to do with book gods and more to do with superb début author Rhiannon Hart.

I was hooked straight away by feisty heroine Zeraphina. A pet hate of mine is when female characters are Pillars of Perfection: they do all the right things, are completely selfless and will bend over backwards to help others. No thanks. Give me a character who has her own best interests at heart any day, because she feels a lot more likeable. Zeraphina struggles with the fact that she knows she's not the perfect sister and daughter she should be, but thankfully she doesn't let that knowledge stop her from doing exactly what she wants.

Not only has Hart created some tremendously likeable characters here, she's also crafted a fantasy world that feels fresh and interesting. The mythology of the Lharmellans felt so well done, and the descriptions of these gruesome creatures were utterly compelling.

I raced through this wonderful book, and the end came all too soon. Can't wait for the sequel!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October Horror New Releases

These are the horror new releases for October.

What I'm excited about: Well, Doc Mortis, of course. The Invisible Fiends series is one of my favourites, so I can't wait to see what horrors this next one has in store. Ashes is also promising to be brilliant, and I'm intrigued at the concept behind Alex Van Helsing, so I can't wait to get my claws on a copy!

Junior & Middle
Never Kick a Ghost and Other Silly Chillers, Judy Sierra & Constantin Pascale (Harper Collins).
Spooky Things to Make and Do, Usborne (Harper Collins).
Spooky Snap, Usborne (Harper Collins).
Monsters Colouring Book, Kirsten Rogers (Harper Collins).
Haunted House Sticker Book. Kirsten Rogers (Harper Collins).
Spooky, Spooky House, Andrew Weale (Random House).
A Tale Dark and Grimm, Adam Gidwitz (Random House).
Geronimo Stilton 46: The Haunted Castle, Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic).
Goosebumps Hall of Horrors 3: The Five Masks of Dr. Screem, R.L. Stine (Scholastic).
Fragoline and the Midnight Dream, Clemency Pearce (Scholastic).
Tomorrow Girls 1: Behind the Gates, Eva Gray (Scholastic).
Frightfully Friendly Ghosties: School of Meanies, Darren King (Macmillan).
Undead Ed and the Demon Freakshow, David Grimstone (Hachette).

Young Adult
Invisible Fiends 4: Doc Mortis, Barry Hutchison (Harper Collins).
Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising, Jason Henderson (Harper Collins).
Taken Away, Celine Kiernan (Allen & Unwin).
Skeleton Creek 4: The Raven, Patrick Carman (Scholastic).
Ashes, Ilsa J Bick (Macmillan).
Key to Starveldt, Foz Meadows (Ford Street).
Alone: Quarantine, James Phelan (Hachette).

Bones: Terrifying Tales to Haunt Your Dreams, Lois Metzger [ed.], R.L. Stine, David Levithan, Margaret Mahy [contributors] (Scholastic).
Australian Ghost Stories, Linsay Knight [ed.] (Random House).

Haunted Puppet Theatre: Scream Street

Many months have past and I have been untroubled by haunted puppet activity. Of course, I came up with a cunning plan to rid myself of their nefarious ways - I simply burned the house down. Oh yes. I laughed as they burned, their tiny puppety screams filling the night air. There was just one small problem.

I had neglected to check if the house was empty first.

My roommate's family had been visiting from interstate, and it was their screams that I heard rather than those of the felt fiends.

And now I write this from a very small cell. At first I'd been somewhat relieved - no room for puppets in here. But you see, I was wrong. For the cell may be very small, but the puppets are even smaller. Plenty of room for them in here, and no-one to hear me scream...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Author Interview - David Gatward

For a while now I've wanted to do a series of Q&As with my favourite authors of the macabre, those fiendish ones who see it as their duty to warp the minds of the young and innocent.

And now, thanks to a pact I may or may not have made with certain otherworldly entities, I present you the first in my Famous Last Words: Author Interview series!

The first body on the slab is David Gatward, author of the brilliant The Dead series (The Dead, The Dark and The Damned), and more recently the wonderful adventure e-books Booksurfers.

Let the interrogation begin!


Can you tell us a bit about your latest book?
It's my Booksurfers thing. Having done Treasure Island and Wizard of Oz it was very exciting to this time approach the legend that is Robin Hood. Why? Because I got to write not just the Booksurfers adventure, but my very own version of the Robin Hood legend! How ace is that? Er... very, actually! It's just come out this week, so seriously exciting. Next is A Christmas Carol, where I send the Booksurfers in to Dickens' great story. And, fingers crossed, there'll be more to come next year!

Why do you write horror?
I seem unable to escape the darker side of things! I can't dream up happy, nice stories. I like putting characters in a bad place and seeing how they react given their circumstances, views, beliefs. I also like monsters that bite your head off.

Have you ever had your own spooky experience?
Two ghosts seen! One was a man in a black suit under a large tree who appeared one sunny afternoon while I was mowing a lawn. The other was a woman in a blue dress who appeared in a caravan I was living in. Nice!

What would be written on your main character’s gravestone?
Don't give up your free will to Fate.

What is your favourite book of the past month? The past year? All time?
Past month = Swamp Foetus (Poppy Z Brite)
Past year = Let The Right One In (John Ajvide Lindqvist)
All time = Impossible to even begin to approach such a question!

What does your writing space look like?
I share an office with my wife, so in all honesty it's a little space I clear amongst her paperwork so I can put my laptop down on a desk! I dream of having my own little office, but space and £ are key factors! One day... oh yes...

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)

What are you working on right now? Or, if you’d prefer not to say, please tell me what’s going on in the Rorschach test:

I'm doing the edits for my next Hodder book, out next summer, working on a ghost-writing project due out next summer and which has to be finished for end December, working up a number of ideas I've got, and creating an entirely new breed of evil dog. Rorschach = a giant rat staring down at me hungrily...

David Gatward, thanks for spending a little time on the slab at Spinechills!

Find out more about David's books at or check out his facebook page here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Frightfully Good Festival

Have you ever seen the undead chair a book panel?

If you're finding yourself at a loss for what to do this Friday & Saturday, come on down to the Northcote Town Hall where the wonderful A Thousand Words Festival will be happening. It's a celebration of all things young adult books, so you know it will be great, plus yours truly will be speaking on and hosting a couple of panels. 

Check out the details here:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays

Uh, yep! On a Friday! Because sometimes my inability to remember the days of the week is... terrifying!

This week's quote is from Mammon, a fantastic demon horror book from first-time Australian author J.B. Thomas (review to come!):

Grace could feel the demon looking at her. She could see the frosty breath coming from the demon's mouth, could feel its chill climbing the walls. Despite the warning, she turned and met the inmate's gaze. They eyes seemed to radiate a wave of dark energy that hit her, bringing a cramp to her stomach and a burning sensation in her eyes. And the voice... the hissing, growling that seemed to echo inside her mind. She doubled over, clutching her stomach. 'She wants to kill me,' she whispered.

What, Didn't You Know Zombies Hibernate?

I've been braving the internet winter by quietly decomposing under a pile of leaf litter. While I do hate posts on blogs apologising for not maintaining content (since surely the time spent writing an apology could be used for writing a blog post) I feel compelled to write this to PLEAD with my many tens of readers to forgive me for my absence, and to basically fill you in on what I've been doing:
  1. I have been busy writing and editing my next book. It's called Bureau of Mysteries, and it's a steampunk puzzle adventure for 8 and ups which will be out Feb next year through Random House Australia under my HJ Harper name. It contains the following (though not necessarily in this order): 
    • Codes for you to solve alongside the story
    • A Mechanical Octopus
    • Sea Monsters
    • Ghosts
    • A Flying Dragon Machine
    • Puns Aplenty!
  2. At the same time, I have been on the board of a very cool festival called A Thousand Words Festival. It's a two day event celebrating YA literature, and it's got some fantastic authors such as Michael Pryor and Cath Crowley. Check out more about it here. I'll be hosting a couple of panels from things as diverse as blogging and whether or not you need a blog to get published, to an Iron Chef inspired live write-off, where two authors go head to head, and I get the audience to heckle them. Fun! Madness! Chaos!
So that is what I have been mostly doing with my time, Chilldren. Believe me when I say I have been DEATHLY missing staying in touch with the wonderful horror community, but, like the zombie I am, I will rise again soon from my brief nap, and you can expect a whole lot more reviews and some new Haunted Puppet Shows (this means you, Tommy Donbavand!)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review - Dark Inside

The Eulogy (From the Publisher):
Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.
 Mason's mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police--who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.
 Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A compelling survival horror that puts an interesting spin on the zombie genre.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts. I love a good survival horror, and this certainly had me on the edge of my seat as I waited to see what would eventually happen to each of the characters. I liked the stories told through the eyes of the four different characters, and I especially enjoyed their moments of realisation that something was going seriously wrong in this world.

The 'zombies' in this book aren't the dead who have risen to walk the earth, but instead are regular people who have been infected with a kind of rage. I would've liked a little more explanation of how this came about, because even when you reach the end you're left asking more than a few questions, but this withholding of knowledge does serve to create a nice atmosphere of fear and helplessness.

What I particularly liked about this version of the apocalypse was the attention to detail, which is something that often gets overlooked in stories like these. The characters' need to change clothes because they smell (or got peed on), the crappy food they're forced to eat, and one character's death due to a pre-existing medical condition were all well thought out details that helped make this end of the world feel like a realistic one.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September Horror New Releases

 These are the horror new releases for September.

What I'm Excited About: Something I constantly feel a little undwhelmed by is the amount of Australian kids' and YA horror that's being published (i.e. none). Well this month I have absolutely no reason to feel underwhelmed because there are two phenomenal horror titles from debut Aussie authors. I've already read Blood Song by Rhiannon Hart and I was absolutely blown away by the dark fantasy world within. I've just begun Mammon, but already I can see I'm going to love it. The writing is phenomenal, and the premise is one of those highly original and enthralling ideas you'll wish you had yourself!

Junior & Middle
The Considine Curse, Gareth P. Jones (Allen & Unwin).
Sounds Spooky, Cheng & Davis (Random).

Young Adult
Vampire Labyrinth: Oracle, G.P. Taylor (A&U).
Gamerunner, B.R. Collins (A&U).
Haunting Emma: Deception, Lee Nichols (A&U)
Daniel X: Demons and Druids, James Patterson (Ran).
Bloodsong: First Book of Lharmell, Rhiannon Hart (Ran).
Mammon, J.B. Thomas (Ran).
Vampirates 6: Immortal War, Justin Somper (Simon & Schuster).
Everfound, Neal Shusterman (S&S).
Fury, Elizabeth Miles (S&S).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review - CRYPT

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): 
Meet Jud Lester: Paranormal Investigator.
When a crime is committed and the police are at a loss, the Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team (or CRYPT for short) is called in to figure out whether something paranormal is at work. Jud is their star agent. Jud, unwillingly paired with new recruit Bex, has just landed his biggest case yet...people have been disappearing in mysterious circumstances while others are viciously attacked - yet there are no suspects and a complete lack of hard evidence. The only thing that links each attack is the fact that survivors all claim that the culprits were 17th century highwaymen. Can Jud and Bex work out what has caused the spirits of these dangerous men to return to the streets of London before they wreak more death and destruction?

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A great start to what will prove to be an excellent paranormal investigation series. Also, the gore is spot on!

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss CRYPT: The Gallows Curse by Andrew Hammond. It took me a little bit to get into this - the prologue felt a little too info-heavy for me, and I would've liked it woven into the story more naturally. But once I got to the first ghostly highwayman attack, I was back on track and loving it. I've made no attempts to hide my love of gore in the past, and this book has some wonderfully gory scenes - the shorter chapters containing ghost attacks are like little jewels in the crown of the story. My standout favourite scene has to be when one of the ghosts pulls a woman into a wall. The description of it is brilliant, and has to be read to be believed.

Jud did get on my nerves a little, but then, I think he was supposed to - the cocky, angry son of a billionaire who gets everywhere on a speeding motorbike and tends to rate fellow female CRYPT operatives on how attractive they are is probably not going to be anyone's best friend. But he did grow on me as the story progressed, and I enjoyed the partnership between him and Bex.

In all, this is a solid start to what should prove to be a very interesting series. The premise of the book and the mythology of its secret society is one that will immediately appeal to fans of action horror, myself included, and I eagerly await more adventures from Jud, Bex, and the rest of the Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays

It's that time of week again, where I pick a particularly memorable quote from the book I'm currently reading. This week the quote is from Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts:

'Twiggy took back the scrapbook and turned a few more pages until he came to a picture of total devastation. A woman held her dead child in her arms, her face taut as she tried to keep from falling apart. Dead bodies were lined in a row behind her. People stumbled around the debris, desperately searching out their loved ones. Another picture - the bodies of two young girls, side by side - rotting in the streets because there was no one around to bury them.' 
-p 154 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review - Takeshita Demons 2: The Filth Licker

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): Continues the gripping story of Miku's fight against the Takeshita Demons, with a terrifying array of new demons to overcome.
Miku is going to School Camp in the forest, with her friend Cait and the rest of her class. It should be fun. But Miku has premonitions of danger, and when Oscar goes down with a festering rash, and a rushing wind blows out the bonfire she's sure something bad is going on. Then Alex finds the frog-like Filth-Licker in the boys' toilets, and all at once Miku, Cait and Alex are on a secret mission to overcome the vengeful Shape-Shifters or Super Demons before it's too late… Later that night, with Alex kidnapped by a pyromaniac fox, and Cait possessed by some angry sickle weasels, it's up to Miku and the Filth-Licker to save them all from disaster.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): An original, chilling series which is packed full of interesting mythology and great characters.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss The Filth Licker by Cristy Burne. Takeshita Demons, the first book in this series, was one of the most original books I read last year. Not only was it brilliantly written and packed full of fascinating Japanese mythology, it was genuinely spooky! So you can imagine how eager I’ve been to review the sequel, The Filth Licker, and I’m pleased to say that this series is just getting better and better.

The Filth Licker is packed full of even more Japanese demons, some helpful, some decidedly less so, and I loved the way the unfamiliar names and quirks of the monsters are slipped into the story without it ever feeling like a mythology lesson. I actually walked away from this feeling like I’d learnt something, while also being highly entertained, which to me means that Cristy Burne has done the impossible.

I also loved seeing the relationships grow between the characters. In the last book, Cait had been a true friend to Miku, fighting demons by her side. But now she seems more interested in how many pairs of jeans to pack, and pretends to have no memory of their demon-fighting days. To everyone’s surprise, Miku’s real ally turns out to be Alex, her annoying bully, who knows a lot more about Japanese demons than he’s been letting on. The exchanges between them really makes you grow to love these characters , and there’s one scene in particular involving a giant monkey demon, stolen thoughts and spilled secrets that had me laughing out loud.

There’s a scene where Miku tells the tale of the Hyaku Monogatari, the Hundred Tales ceremony which summons a malevolent force, and somebody commends her on it by telling her it was, ‘Clean, no gore, and very spooky.’ I feel like the Takeshita Demons series is a lot like that – one of the rare horror stories that you can safely hand to younger readers without fear of threats from angry parents, but at the same time is genuinely packed full of spooky stuff. This is a series that is both highly original and wonderfully entertaining, and I can’t wait for the release of book three, Monster Matsuri in June next year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays

It's that time of week again, where I pick a particularly memorable quote from the book I'm currently reading. This week the quote is from Takeshita Demons 2: The Filth Licker by Cristy Burne:

'Like I said, they're not ordinary weasels. They're fast, they're intelligent. And they work together, focusing their powers to control the wind or possess a body, living or dead. Plus they're carnivores. Bloodeaters.'
'Do their heads come off?' Alex asked quizzically, as if he was weighing up our chances.
'Not this time. They don't need to. Their whole body can whirl through the air faster than you can see, and they'll slash at your arms and legs with their scythes, mining for blood.'
-pg 123

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review - Booksurfers 2: The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

The Eulogy (From the Publishers):
The Booksurfers have barely dusted the sand off their clothes from Treasure Island before they are flung into another mission for the evil Dr Crookshanks. They land in the strange, magical and altogether pretty freaky Land of Oz, and if they don’t get Dorothy’s ruby slippers back to Crookshanks, they will never see their parents again! This time the Booksurfers aren’t just watching the action – they’ve become the main characters. Jake’s got no brains, Becca’s being ever so nice (for once), Ryan’s crying because he stood on a beetle and Harriet’s attacking strangers!

Ever wondered what it would be like to not just read a book, but actually experience it? Throughout these books you'll find something rather ingenious: hyperlinks. They're pretty easy to spot; look out for an underlined word or phrase or sentence. And whenever you see one, you can just click on it, and - KA-POW! - you'll be zipped into the actual book the Booksurfers are exploring at the exact point they are discovering it! Have fun tagging along; you never know what story you'll end up in next...

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A fun, original idea that is even better than the first in the Booksurfers series.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Booksurfers: The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by David Gatward. Check out my review of Booksurfers: Treasure Island to see my original thoughts about this series and its excellent overall concept. 

 I think I enjoyed Wonderful Wizard of OZ even more than Treasure Island. While I haven't read either original texts, I've at least seen the film version of this, which I was pleasantly surprised to find differs quite a bit from the book - I had no idea that Dorothy's slippers were originally silver, but that they were changed to red for technicolour.

At the start I was a little disappointed that Harriet, who is quickly becoming my favourite character, didn't step into the role of Dorothy since this was one of her favourite books. But as it went on, I could see why Becca made the perfect Dorothy, and the result is hilarious.

I love the major point of difference in this from the first in the series: whereas in Treasure Island the four of them had to follow around various characters, in this they actually step into the role of Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, and it's a lot more fun.

Another great book in this exciting new series, and I can't wait until the four Booksurfers use the Nautilus to embark on their next adventure into Sherwood Forest!