Saturday, February 26, 2011

Haunted Puppet Theatre: Department 19

After the last incident with the puppets, I wasn't going to take any chances. Early the next morning, I drove down to the hardware store and picked up some planks of wood, some nails and a hammer. Then I sealed the door to the spare room shut. Nothing was going to get in or out.

At least, that's what I thought. When I was finally able to fall asleep last night, I had fevered dreams: nightmares of tiny felt demons re-enacting terrifying things. I woke with a start, convinced that it was more than a dream. When I was sure that the puppets were not in the room with me, I went downstairs to get a drink of water.

That's when I noticed the door to the spare room had been forced open, the planks of wood lay splintered on the floor. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the hammer I'd bought earlier that day lying on the kitchen table. I picked it up, took a step towards the spare room. In the doorway was a dogeared copy of Department 19, by Will Hill.

'You little monsters!' I shrieked. 'You've been at it again, haven't you? HAVEN'T YOU!'

That's when I heard my e-mail notifier sound. I had mail.

Review - Department 19

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): In a secret supernatural battle that's been raging for over a century, the stakes have just been raised -- and they're not wooden anymore. When Jamie Carpenter's mother is kidnapped by strange creatures, he finds himself dragged into Department 19, the government's most secret agency. Fortunately for Jamie, Department 19 can provide the tools he needs to find his mother, and to kill the vampires who want him dead. But unfortunately for everyone, something much older is stirring, something even Department 19 can't stand up against

Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A completely engrossing horror/thriller that's sure to be one of the Next Big Things.

Dearly Departed
We are gathered here today to discuss Department 19 by Will Hill. And wow, where to begin? It's such a pleasure when you encounter a read where the world has obviously been so well thought out and planned, and you know that when you begin reading it there's that pleasure of knowing you've just started to scratch the surface. 
That's how I felt with Department 19. From the first adrenaline-packed pages I was hooked. This book really does have it all - strong, believable characters, a fast-paced but multi-layered plot, and, my personal favourite, some exquisitely gory scenes. The bad guys in this are really bad, and it leads to some epic battles.
Normally I'm not so keen on books that switch back and forth between various time periods, but the way Hill handled it here was masterful. It added so much more to the overall narrative and opened my eyes to what a good technique it can be when it's done well - in fact, the scenes with Van Helsing and company were probably the ones I enjoyed most. 
I absolutely devoured this book, and though it wasn't a slim read the end came all too soon. However, the few loose ends in this book will hopefully ensure a sequel, and I for one can't wait to get my claws on it!

Also, be sure to check out Department 19's very excellent book trailer:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Death Certificates

So, my last rating system died a horrible death due to various reasons, but having one rating out of 5 was still bothering me. One blanket score never seems to represent how I really feel about a book.

Enter my new system, the Death Certificate. Now every poor soul who is rolled in here gets one of these: 

It's a Death Certificate, which shows the title of the book being reviewed, a rating out of five in the four categories of Story, World, Horror, and Character, and an overall rating of Gold, Silver or Bronze.

Finally, a certificate worthy to hang on the wall of your humble tomb!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Sure Way to Cut Out Junk Food

One of the bad things about being a horror nut is that sometimes you get desensitized to it. There are only so many times you can watch that lone character make the incredibly stupid choice to go down that dark alleyway alone before you start to think, 'Meh!' or even cheer on their impending doom.

Which is why I love it when you find something that utterly creeps you out in an unexpected place. Like this:

That's the photographic work of Terry Border who also has a book called Bent Objects. Seriously, there's something about that picture that does horrible things to the fear centers of my brain. I don't think I'll ever be able to eat McDonalds again without shivering in fear (as opposed to shivering from salt-induced seizures).

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mark My Words II

Hello Chilldren,

For being such lovely, bloodthirsty minions of the dark, I have made you a present - another bookmark!

Meet Biblioth, Demon of the Book. He'll keep your place warm... AS WARM AS THE FIRES OF HELL! MWAHAHAHAAAA! *Ahem*

To download Biblioth, click here. Then simply print onto card and cut around Biblioth's outline, using a stanley knife to cut out the part beneath his wing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Haunted Puppet Theatre: The Dark

I was awoken last night by a very strange sound - voices, coming from behind the locked door of my study.
'Impossible,' I said to myself. 'I'm home alone!'
I fumbled for my key and unlocked the study door, only to find... puppets. Strange little puppets lying motionless in a pile on the floor. I'd never seen them before, and I wasn't sure where they'd come from, but there was definitely something sinister about them.
Lying next to the puppets was a copy of the book The Dark by David Gatward. After putting the book back on the shelf (taking care not to touch those vile puppets) I heard my e-mail alert notifier sound. An e-mail... from an unknown address... with a video clip attached...
If only I'd never opened that e-mail.
What I saw in that video sent chills down my spine. I enclose it here, against my better judgement. Watch at your own risk...

Review - The Dark

Eulogy (From the Publisher):
Lazarus Stone has been killed, resurrected, and attacked by demons. He's all that stands between our world and the Dead. But things are getting complicated: he's alone in the land of the Dead, his best mate Craig is missing, and he's no idea who - or what - tricked his dad into trying to bring back his long-dead mum. Oh, and he's wearing a corpse's clothes.
Life, he might think, couldn't get much worse. But it will...

Epitaph (In a Nutshell): The second installment in what's fast becoming one of my favourite YA Horror series, and even more of a thrill ride than its prequel, The Dead.

 Dearly Departed
We are gathered here today to discuss The Dark by David Gatward. Regular readers of this blog will know just how much I loved the first book in this series, The Dead. So it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I approached this book. Excitement, obviously, because nothing hits the spot more than another excellent addition to a series, but trepidation because I wasn't sure how Gatward was going to be able to amp it up further than he had in the first book.
Well, assembled guests, I should have known better than to doubt Mr Gatward's dark and twisted mind, because The Dark is even better than The Dead. The stakes are raised even higher as Lazarus and his band of trusty undead-slaying pals (mostly his best mate Craig, sometimes-possessed Clair and unhinged angel Arielle) battle to put an end to the dark creatures that are trying to force their way out of the land of the dead.
What stood out most for me in this book was the battle scenes - long, bloody slogs that had me on the edge of my seat and not wanting to put it down. And where would a battle be without terrifying bad guys? Without giving too much away, the ultimate force Laz has to fight in this book really sent shivers down my spine, and stayed with me for many nights after. Definitely the sign of a very well crafted horror book. I wonder what kinds of evil spirits Gatward performed blood pacts with in order to write a book this good?
5 Skulls - A Killer Read

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review - Hold Me Closer Necromancer

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak. 
Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.
 With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A hilariously dark YA read with great characters, great plot and one hell of an interesting world.

Dearly Departed
We are gathered here today to discuss Hold Me Closer Necromancer, by Lish McBride. When you read a lot of horror, it’s easy to get sucked into finding the scariest read, the goriest. Sometimes you can forget just how funny horror can be. Enter Hold Me Closer Necromancer, whose snappy dialogue and razor sharp characters had me laughing out loud.
That’s not to say it’s not without its dose of darkness too. HMCN has one of the most stone cold villains I’ve seen in a while – Douglas is less likely to cackle evilly as he is to fix you with a measured stare and slit your throat. In fact, all of the characters are brimming with personality, both heroes and villains, and points have to go to Sam for being one of the most genuinely likeable leads I’ve met in some time.
This was so much fun to read, and everything, from the writing to the plot to the world McBride has created are all pitch-perfect. And luckily there’s a sequel in the works too!

5 Skulls - A Killer Read

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review Ratings

 There’s something that bothers me about reviewing, and every time I get to it, I cringe a little bit. It’s the star-rating system, where you take somebody’s many hours of hard work, of blood, sweat and tears, and fit it nicely into a little rating out of five. 

I don’t like it. And the reason I don’t like it is because I know how arbitrarily I do it. Often I want to give most of the books I read five out of five stars, but then a little voice in my head says that, no, part of reviewing is grading the scores. I’m lucky enough to be reviewing in a niche, so I rarely, if ever, don’t enjoy the books I’m reading. 

The star system means I find myself giving less than five stars to books I really, really enjoyed for no other reason than I enjoyed them slightly less than another book. Which seems like a sucky thing to do, in my opinion. Who am I to say something is less than perfect just because I’ve read it in the context of other books? The star rating system just seems random to me. Random and inadequate. 

So, from now on my rating system will undergo some changes. I’ve modelled it on the Olympic medal tally of bronze, silver and gold, except where they use medals, I will use skulls. There will be a multitude of different areas to award the skulls in, just as there are many different Olympic events. These will change and adapt as I get used to this system, but for example, some of the areas will be plot, character, pace etc. No book will be rated on every area, I will simply award a skull/medal if I feel the book has excelled in that area. Not getting a skull in a particular area will not mean that the book wasn’t good in that area, it just means that I felt other parts of it shone through more. 

That way I’ll get to judge each book on its own individual merits, rather than comparing it to other books, which seems a much fairer system to me. There will also be a skull tally, so you’ll be able to see which books have been awarded the most amount of skulls. Fingers crossed this works!

UPDATE: Okay, after wrestling with Blogger for the better part of an hour, I'm coming to realise that this system probably isn't going to work. Mostly, it's to do with image layout and the inflexibility of where I can place them on a page. There are lots of ways around this, but all of them are either very time consuming or not up to scratch. And to top it off, trying to figure out this problem has prevented me from actually posting reviews, which seems kind of pointless to me. So for now, it's back to the rating out of five skulls system, and I'll keep this idea on the backburner.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mark My Words!

As I've mentioned before, while books will always be my one true love, I also dabble in crafty things. These crafty things usually take the form of creepy dolls or slime-encrusted cupcakes, but today I unveil the first in what I hope to be a series of horror themed bookmarks. BEHOLD!  
Step One: Click on image link to the left and download.  
Step Two: Print on card - if you use paper, it will be too flimsy.  
Step Three: Cut around the zombie hand so that all of the white is gone.  
Step Four: Insert into favourite book when not reading, and remove when reading.  
Hurrah! If anyone has any comments about image size problems etc, let me know. This is the first time I've done something like this, so it's quite likely I've got the dimensions wrong and shall endeavour to fix them in the future. Also, if anyone has any better suggestions about linking to larger images on blogger, please let me know in the comments! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Horror New Releases

Lots of middle and junior again this month, including a new series from the creators of Beast Quest (Snake Shock). Also good to see a graphic novel series from YA Queen Holly Black.
What I’m excited about: Fixers 3 & 4, Midnight Hand, 0.4, Good Neighbours 1 & 2.

Junior & Middle Fiction
Zac Power Special Files 1: Fear Files (Bindup of Horror House and Thrill Ride), H.I. Larry (Hardie Grant Egmont).
The Lonely Beast, Chris Judge (Random).
Floods 1: Neighbours (Reissue with a $5 price tag), Colin Thompson (Random).
Midnight Hand, Paul Stewart (Random).
Gargoylz Put On a Show, Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler (Random).
Fixers 3: Curse of the Vampire, Sean Williams (Scholastic).
Fixers 4: Invasion of the Freaks, Sean Williams (Scholastic).
Creepy Creatures: Snake Shock, Ed Graves (Scholastic).
Lightning Strikes: Dead Certain, Sally Gould (Walker).
Mythical 9th Division 2: Terror of the Deep, Alex Milway (Walker).
Tale of the Five Kingdoms 4: Flight of the Dragons, Vivian French (Walker).
Beastly Boys 2: Sea Monsters and Other Delicacies, (Simon and Schuster).

0.4, Mike Lancaster (Hardie Grant Egmont).
Bleeding Violet, Dia Reeves (Simon & Schuster).
Crusade 1: The Cursed Ones, Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie (Simon and Schuster).
Seven Souls, Barnabus Miller and Jordan Orlando (Penguin).
Iron Witch, Karen Mahoney (Random).
Dark Touch 4: Fever, Amy Meredith (Random).
Skeleton Creek 3: Skeleton Creek and the Crossbones, Patrick Carman (Scholastic).
Blessed, Cynthia Leitich Smith (Walker).

Graphic Novels
Good Neighbours 1: Kin, Holly Black (Scholastic).
Good Neighbours 2: Kith, Holly Black (Scholastic).

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