Monday, January 31, 2011

Review - Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): When the air is clear, sixteen year-old Drew Ferran can pick up the scent of a predator.
When the moon breaks through the clouds, a terrifying fever grips him.
And when a vicious beast invades his home, his gums begin to tear, his fingers become claws, and Drew transforms . . .
Forced to flee the family he loves, Drew seeks refuge in the most godforsaken parts of Lyssia. But when he is captured by Lord Bergan's men, Drew must prove he is not the enemy.
Can Drew battle the werecreatures determined to destroy him - and master the animal within?

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A dark fantasy adventure full of werewolves and other werecreatures.

Dearly Departed
We are gathered here today to discuss Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling. When I first started reading Wereworld, I had it in my mind that it was going to be a straight horror, one of your typical (though no less enjoyable) gorefests. And while the first few chapters are indeed pretty gory, Wereworld ends up being a thoroughly engrossing fantasy adventure complete with quests and heroes. I really loved the world that Jobling has created here, full of feuding noble families and bloodlines of different were-species: from the thought-to-be-lost werewolves to the mighty Bearlords and the scheming House of the Lion. Not only is the world of the book richly woven, the plot is a rollicking one, with plenty of intrigue and battles.Can't wait to read the next instalment in this excellent fantasy horror series!
4 Skulls - Dead Good

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paper Monsters

As much as I love reading, sometimes I get distracted by crafty things too, which is why I flipped out with excitement when I found the site It has the most wonderful range of papercraft monsters created by its extremely talented owner Christopher Bonnette. And what I love about the monsters is that it's not just your usual zombies and vampires, Christopher has created paper versions of much more obscure monsters, such as bacalous and boggarts. And that's why today I found myself armed with scissors and glue, enthusiastically making a Sky Imp:

Unfortunately the glue I used was a bit runny and so the colours bled a bit, but otherwise it was time well spent since I now have a monstrous little friend staring over my shoulder at all times!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Crawlers

The Eulogy (From the Publishers): Ben is on a school trip. So is Jasmine. What they don't know is that not everybody in the theatre is there to watch the play and, in fact, they'll never get to see it . . .
There is panic at the Barbican when the fire alarms start wailing, but the strangely silent theatre staff, trap them inside the building rather than letting them out to safety. Ben, Jasmine and their classmates soon discover that there's no fire - what's happening is much weirder, and much scarier.
Strange spider-like creatures swarm through the building attacking people and turning them into vicious killers, and the kids have to run for their lives. But barricaded in an office, with these creatures waiting outsde for them, the children realise they're stuck. Will they ever get out? And, more importantly can they trust each other . . . ?

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): An excellent survival horror with some disgustingly creepy monsters and a great group of characters!

Dearly Departed

We are gathered here today to discuss Crawlers, by Sam Enthoven. Straight away the cover grabs you by the eyeballs and doesn’t let go. I mean really, it’s disgusting – but in a good way! I’ve heard tell that it’s a squashed dead squid the publisher picked up from a fish market and slapped on somebody’s neck. I wonder who volunteered to be the neck?
And once you get past the cover, it’s just as thrilling an experience. Straight away we’re introduced to ‘The Queen’ who we come to understand is some kind of grotesque monster who wants to cause mayhem and destruction. Bad news for the main characters, who are finding it hard enough dealing with the Queen’s crawler subjects without worrying if one among them is a traitor. I loved the tense scenes in this book, and it felt incredibly claustrophobic at times which amped up the horror really well. Lots of scares and edge of your seat moments, not to mention busily flicking through pages wondering just who will get out alive!
4 Skulls - Dead Good

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Takeshita Demons

The Eulogy (From the Publishers):
Miku Takeshita and her family have moved from Japan to live in the UK, but unfortunately the family's enemy demons have followed them… Miku knows she's in trouble when her new supply teacher turns out to be a Nukekubi - a bloodthirsty demon who can turn into a flying head and whose favourite snack is children. That night, in a raging snowstorm, Miku's little brother Kazu is kidnapped by the demons, and then it's up to Miku and her friend Cait to get him back. The girls break into their snow-locked school, confronting the dragon-like Woman of the Wet, and outwitting the faceless Nopera-bo. At last they come face to face with the Nukekubi itself - but will they be in time to save Kazu?

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell):
A clever, exciting middle fiction novel packed full of plenty of spooky Japanese mythology.

Dearly Departed
We are gathered here today to discuss Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne. When I first heard that this contained Japanese demons whose heads flew around eating children, I thought, yes please, I’ll take that. And this is a genuinely creepy book, owing at least in part to the fact that it’s so beautifully written. Miku’s struggle to defeat the demons who took her little brother really sucked me in, and I actually learnt a lot about the fascinating world of Japanese mythology (don’t worry, it was the fun kind of learning). I was very pleased to learn there’s a sequel in the works too, which I shall be eagerly awaiting. So if you’ve got some 9-12ers in your midst, or are even just looking for a bit of horror that’s different to much of what’s out there, be sure to give Takeshita Demons a read!
5 Skulls - A Killer Read

Friday, January 21, 2011

10 Weirdest Monsters You've Never Heard Of!

There’s nothing more monstrous than a monster. They strike fear into the hearts of many, and while they’re at it, they’ll probably steal your soul or turn you to stone too. Young adult and kids horror has some excellent monsters, such as the ones Thomas Ward has to face in Spook’s Apprentice, Darren Shan’s terrifying Demonata, and my favourite monsters of late, the Echolites from Jon Mayhew’s The Demon Collector. None of these are creatures you want to meet in a dark alley! And while you’re likely to find plenty of werewolves, zombies and vampires between the pages of your favourite YA and kids books, here are ten mythical monsters you might not have heard of.

10. Asipatra
An enormous bird from India whose name means ‘Sword-Wing’. Its feathers are like scythes and its claws are like knives. It uses these deadly weapons to torture the souls of the condemned, then comes home to roost in a tree made of spears.

9. Miqqiayuuq
A creature belonging to Inuit myth which is huge, hairy and has no face. It lives in the depths of freshwater lakes, so watch out if you take a quick dip!

8. Haakapainizi
The Kawaiisu tell of this monster, which is a giant grasshopper. He hunts for children, then throws them into his giant basket to snack on later.

7. Guirvulu
A fox-snake monster from South America. It has the body of a puma with a fox’s head, and a tail that ends in a massive claw. When it eats, it dislocates its jaw like a snake to swallow its victims whole.

6. Mokele-Mbembe
This is not your average unicorn! An elephant from West Africa with a single horn and the tail of a scaly serpent. It lives in caverns that line the cliffs above the Congo coastline, and attacks humans who stray too close in their boats.

5. Jidra
This is a plant monster which grows out of the ground, and though it can move around, it remains permanently attached by a single root. It looks innocent enough, but it has a voracious appetite and eats anything that moves.

4. Mishipizhiw
This water monster has the body of a great cat with sharp spines along its back. It has a long, sinuous tail which it uses to capture its victims and stir up storms. Comes from Algonquin and Ojibwa tales.

3. Mamlambo
A South African creature at least 60 ft long. It has the head and neck of a snake, the body of a crocodile, and short, stumpy legs. It glows in the dark, so if you see something glowing green, get out of there! Otherwise it will drown you, then suck out your blood and brains.

2. Gulon
This stinky monster hails from Sweden. A cross between a hyena and a lion with a fox’s tail, it uses its razor-sharp claws to attack. Then it gulps down anything it can find, living or dead, and when it’s full it squeezes between two trees to force out the build-up of gasses so it can start eating again.

1. Olgoi-Khorkhol
AKA the Mongolian Death Worm! With a name like that, you know it means business. These worms live in the Gobi Desert, are dark red and spit acid-like poison at their victims, which is said to kill instantly. It can also give you an electric shock and lies in wait underground until night when it comes out to hunt... YOU!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January Horror New Releases

These are all of the YA and kids horror books set for January new release in Australia.
Lots of series stuff this month, including new and established series. There’s also a fair bit of Middle and Junior Fiction in there, plus some older series that are back from the dead, like Goosebumps and Last Vampire.
What I’m excited about: Tooth and Claw, Scream Street, Rot and Ruin, and Wereworld.

Junior & Middle Fiction
Beastly Boys 1:  Werewolf Versus Dragon, (Simon & Schuster).
Scream Street 9: Terror of the Nightwatchman, Tommy Donbavand (Walker).
Scream Street 10: Rampage of the Goblins, Tommy Donbavand (Walker).
Feather and Bone 2: Tooth and Claw, Lazlo Strangolov (Walker).
Tapestry 3: Fiend and the Forge, Henry H. Neff (Random).
Beast Quest: Ravira, Ruler of the Underworld, Adam Blade (Hachette).
Deadly! Bindup, Morris Gleitzman and Paul Jennings (Penguin).
Classic Goosebumps 17: You Can’t Scare Me, R.L. Stine (Scholastic).

Young Adult
Persistence of Memory/ Token of Darkness (2-in-1), Amelia Atwater Rhodes (Random).
Last Vampire 7: Eternal Dawn, Christopher Pike (Hachette).
Rot and Ruin, Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster).
Monstrumologist 2: Curse of the Wendigo, Rick Yancey (Simon & Schuster).
Once in a Full Moon, Ellen Schreiber (Murdoch).
Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf, Curtis Jobling (Penguin).
Forsaken: Demon Trappers, Jana Oliver (Macmillan).
Morganville Vampires 1: Glass Houses, Rachel Caine (Penguin).

Horrible Histories: Wicked Witches, Terry Deary (Scholastic).
100% Vampire Diaries: The Unofficial Guide, Evie Parker (Random).

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with David Gatward

After being wowed by the twisted delights of The Dead, I felt I had to gain a closer insight into the depraved, rambling mind that created it. Enter The Dead's author David Gatward. And after a bit of pathetic begging and some creative threats on my behalf, David has very generously agreed to answer my probing questions.


HR: Other than some kind of Satanic pact with the dead, where did the idea for your books come from?

DG: From a number of ideas actually. I knew I wanted to do something about the Dead returning, but not like zombies. I didn’t want to do the dead-bodies-rising thing. I wanted these to be the ‘actual’ dead, and a serious force to be reckoned with. And I needed them to have a motivation to return. Then I found that quote at the start of the book: “Pity is for the living, envy is for the Dead,” and I had it; the Dead envy the living, want to live again, so they lust after it and will do anything to get back. After that, I needed someone on this side of things to stop them, so I came up with the idea of the Keepers working with a guardian angel to keep the Dead at bay. So it’s a whole mix of things, really. And all the ideas come from other stuff, like what I’m reading and listening to or watching or thinking about or eating…

HR: How long does each book take you to write? Do you spend a lot of time researching?

DG: For The Dead, the idea was developed over a couple of months. I then wrote book 1 in four months. I then did book 2 in about the same time and the same for book four; I’ve done all three in just over a year. But I’ve also been writing other stuff. The time differs for everything and sometimes days are good, and I’ll nail upwards of 8000 words. Other days I’ll do naff all and end up all grumpy. It’s a real rollercoaster! As for research, in many ways it’s continuous. I’m always looking out for new ideas, new twists, new things to use. If it’s specific research stuff, then that does take time and I like to get it right. For example, I had to research hand-to-hand combat for a project. Most people would perhaps have been happy to read about it, watch a few movies. Me? I went and did an evening of Krav Maga, which is what the Israeli forces use. It’s brutal and I got kicked around all evening. It was brilliant, though, and gave me a real understanding of what I was writing about. For The Dead? Well, Arielle’s vehicle, the Defender was easy; I grew up in a house of Land Rovers so I know enough to get by. The places I’ve used are all based on stuff I know. For example, Lazarus’s house was a place I lived in as a kid (minus the surprises in the cellar). I’ve seen two ghosts, which is certainly something. Though I’ve never had an actual fight with one of the Dead.

HR: The Dead ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. Do you come up with the end first and work backwards, or does it all just come to you as you write?

DG: I begin with an idea and try to work it in to a couple of hundred words. I then sometimes try to get a feel for what it might be like by just bashing out a random scene. I did this for The Dead and the scene stayed – it’s the one where Lazarus first meets Red! That was the first bit of the whole book that I wrote, and it was down before I had any idea what it was about! Once I’ve done that, I think about characters, jot a few notes down, then try to come up with a detailed story. For The Dead, this was about 12,000 words, and that was after a number of rewrites. I then divide that in to chapters. It doesn’t mean I’ll follow it to the letter, but at least I know where I’m going. On the way, I sometimes take a different route or ignore the map completely, but I’ve still got that end target in sight. Helps no end. I know many writers don’t plan (Stephen King doesn’t, for a start), but it’s horses for courses. And, to be honest, if you’re trying to make it as a new writer, publishers want to know (a) what the book’s about, (b) that you have a faint idea what you’re doing, and (c) that you’re not a one-hit wonder.

HR: Do you ever feel you have to hold back on the horror when writing for teens?

DG: I don’t hold back. I just write what I want to write. I think it would perhaps be more a case of, if I did something ‘adult’ then I’d step it up a gear. I have written short adult horror fiction, and to be honest, it’s pretty nasty! The people you have to think about are the publishers and the parents. You’ve got to get your writing past those two groups first before it even gets in to the hands of your audience…

HR: Do you have to be in a particular mood to write horror or do you treat writing more like a nine to five sort of job?

DG: I actually treat it like a job! I work five days a week, but juggle that with my wife’s work and looking after our two brilliant little lads. I do like to get in to certain ‘place’ though and I listen to music a lot, with headphones on so I’m blocked out from the world. My favourite station is It’s brilliant! Really dark and nasty and strange and not much in the way of vocals. It’s like your own horror sound track! I’m actually writing this interview stuff on the sofa in our bedroom! How cool is my job? Er… very! And way better than the office job I did a while back.

HR: The Dead has two follow-up titles, The Dark and The Damned – will there be more in the series? And what are you working on now?

DG: I have already some basic plans for books 4-6 and I really REALLY want to write them. I feel that I’ve created a great world/universe and some fab characters, and I think I can take them to a lot of pretty dark, nasty places. Fingers crossed it all goes well enough because I love writing this stuff, it’s just totally me! Working on now? Just finished book 3. Now waiting on a couple of recommissions (fingers crossed), some ghost-writing stuff, and a couple of proposals. Lots of irons in lots of fires!

HR: You’re soon to be off on tour. What spooky sights will you be visiting while warping young minds?

DG: Ooh, libraries and schools and bookshops! So, not very spooky! But I’m well scary, me! WOooOOoooo!

HR: You’ve mentioned that one of your heroes is Linda Chapman, prolific author of such series as Unicorn School and Mermaid Falls. Has she got a Possessed Fairies series we don’t know about? Do any other authors influence you?

DG: Not so much a hero, but certainly someone I owe a lot to. Linda taught me a lot when we first met about four years ago and since then my writing has changed dramatically. She helped my focus what I was doing, showed me how to develop an idea, the importance of dialogue, getting to the point, letting characters tell the story. She really knows her stuff and in many ways changed my life. We now even have the same agent! (Funny story: the agent, the quite brilliant and terrifying Philippa Milnes-Smith, actually turned something of mine down a couple of years before she eventually took me on, which shows just how much an influence Linda had on what I was doing!) 

HR: I’ve heard it said that your favourite sandwich is peanut butter, mayonnaise, blue cheese, onion and chips. Horrifying. Do you have any other gourmet recipes for brain food while writing?

DG: Wine. As a carrot-and-stick kind of thing! I like to have a treat planned for when I complete something. And I love sitting with a few glasses of wine, lots of crisps, and watching some horror on our projector! But while actually writing, I generally stick to water. However, if I’m ‘in the zone’ and have a real serious run of hours ahead of me and a lot to achieve, I’ll sink myself in to a hefty jug of strong coffee and eat a large amount of biscuits.

HR: What was your most terrifying moment? Do your own books ever scare you? And what’s your biggest fear?

DG: Terrifying moment: Not sure I have one. Seeing those ghosts was a bit weird. Getting up and doing my first event was terrifying. Realising my writing was now out in the world and that people could say what they want about it… jeez, now that’s real scary that is.

HR: Complete the following scenario: You’ve just gone down to the kitchen to make a peanut butter-mayonnaise-blue cheese-onion-and-chips concoction when you encounter a many-faced, betentacled, pus-oozing denizen of the dead standing between you and your fridge. Do you:
A)    Cut its tentacles off with Arielle’s sword;
B)    Lob Lazarus’s spike at its head; or
C)    Your move...

DG: I’d skewer that monstrosity between its many eyes, slice it up, and get it on the BBQ, and serve it up with a chili and garlic dressing! All washed down with some pretty fine beer. GET SOME!

HR: Ah, delicious! Thank you, David, for giving us all a glimpse into the mind that concocted the nightmarish world of The Dead. Now get back down in that cellar and write some more! If you want to find out more about The Dead, The Dark and The Damned, be sure to check out David's blog, his website or go have a look at his Youtube channel.

Review: The Dead

The Eulogy (From the Publishers):
Lazarus Stone is about to turn sixteen when, one night, his normal life is ripped to shreds by a skinless figure drenched in blood.
He has a message: The Dead are coming.
Now Lazarus is all that stands in their way. To fulfill his destiny, he must confront not only the dark past of his family, but horrors more gruesome than even Hell could invent. And it all begins with the reek of rotting flesh

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell):
The fast, gripping first book in a series with plenty of chills and bucketloads of gore. Will definitely appeal to fans of Darren Shan's Demonata series.

Dearly Departed
We are gathered here today to review The Dead, by David Gatward. I have a confession to make: I definitely judge books by their covers, and from the moment I first set eyes on The Dead, I knew it would be right down my alley. I even fought the other booksellers who were present for an advanced reading copy, and I’m very glad I did.
The Dead is a racing read, and from the moment you pick it up you won’t be able to put it down until you turn the final page. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s start at the start, shall we?
As the book opens we’re introduced to Lazarus Stone, just a normal kid who happens to have an absent dad with a few very mysterious pastimes, some of which may or may not revolve around preventing the evil, soulless dead from crossing over into our own world.
I think part of the reason I loved this book so much was Lazarus. He’s such a well-drawn character that I was completely with him the whole time. And that goes for all the characters too, especially Arielle, who is possibly one of my favourite characters of all time.
And the atmosphere! Gatward is definitely a pupil of the school of senses – you can practically taste the blood and gore, and it definitely makes for some very creepy scenes, especially in the ultimate showdown towards the end. A good (by which I mean bad) villain is also a dealbreaker for me, and you'll find plenty of them in The Dead. Gatward has managed to do the nigh-on impossible here by reinventing the zombie novel and spinning it into his own mythology.
If you love visceral horror series, this is definitely one to get in on. The first book, The Dead, is available in Australia from the 28th of October, and The Dark and The Damned should follow in 2011. 
5 Skulls - A Killer Read