Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review - Birth of a Killer

Eulogy (From the Publisher):
Before Cirque Du Freak...
Before the war with the vampaneze...
Before he was a vampire.
Larten Crepsley was a boy.
As a child labourer many centuries ago, Larten Crepsley did his job well and without complaint, until the day the foreman killed his brother as an example to the other children.
In that moment, young Larten flies into a rage that the foreman wouldn't survive. Forced on the run, he sleeps in crypts and eats cobwebs to get by. And when a vampire named Seba offers him protection and training as a vampire's assistant, Larten takes it.
This is his story.

Epitaph (In a Nutshell): The start of another great series from the master of YA horror.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Birth of a Killer by Darren Shan. I've been rubbing my greedy hands together in anticipation of this book for a while now. Australia's rather behind the rest of the world in publishing the first in the Saga of Larten Crepsley, due out on 1 April which will coincide nicely with Shan's visit to our shores. I will definitely be attending, if only to screech at him about how excellent his latest book is.

Mr Crepsley was one of my favourite characters in Saga of Darren Shan, though he definitely took some warming to. He was always enigmatic, right up to his final moments, so it was fascinating seeing what the boy behind the vampire was like. I loved the little nods towards his older self, like the origin of eating spider webs, and his early years with Seba Nile. When Larten's cousin Vur Horston was introduced at the start of the book, I was scratching my head wondering where I'd heard the name before. When I went back to Darren Shan I realised it was the fake name Larten gave when they were staying at the hotel in New York in one of the earlier books. I've read that Shan writes all the books in his series before publishing even the first, and it shows when he includes details like this. I loved these little surprises scattered throughout!

The brilliance of Shan's writing shines through right from page one. At the time I started reading Birth of a Killer, I was halfway through a non-horror book. Two hundred pages in, and I'd only just got to the inciting incident. No dice. I put the other book down in favour of Killer and wasn't disappointed - within the first fifty pages so much had happened and the story raced along after that. Shan really knows how to suck you in and keep you there!

While I'm clearly a fan of his other books, I think that any reader could come to Killer without having read Shan's previous works. It's definitely a standalone series that is gruesome, gleeful and compulsively readable!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Haunted Puppet Theatre: The Demon Collector

I haven't been outside since the last two incidents with the puppets. I can't let the puppets out of my sight, or something bad might happen. You see, I've changed my approach to the whole situation; I thought I could lock them away in a room and throw away the key, but I've realised now that when I'm not watching them, that's when they make their move.

So I've decided that if I can just watch them all the time, they won't make any more puppet shows.

I just have to keep watching... watching... watch-


I fell asleep! Curse this body and its need for rest, it shall be the death of me!

I swear I only closed my eyes for a moment, but when I opened them again an e-mail was waiting for me, same as the last two times. When I opened it, I found the following. I must warn you, it is not for the faint-hearted.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review - The Demon Collector

The Eulogy (From the Publishers): Edgy Taylor sees demons when nobody else can. Edgy thinks he is insane and expects to be carried off any minute. He is a prime collector, wandering the streets of London collecting dog muck for the tannery. The only thing Edgy is good at is setting and solving riddles, and evading his brutal and abusive master. One night, when his master seems genuinely intent on killing Edgy, Professor Envry Janus intervenes. Envry takes him to the Royal Society of Daemonologie where Edgy will now live. It is here, though, that Edgy discovers chance had nothing to do with their meeting, and that instead he holds the key to a deadly demon prophecy.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): An eerie, Victorian horror novel with a cast of loveable (and not-so-loveable characters) and a chilling mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Dearly Departed
We are gathered here today to discuss The Demon Collector, by Jon Mayhew. This might be a monster of a book page-wise, but I flew through it because I just couldn't put it down! All of the characters are so well written, from plucky, nervous Edgy Taylor and his brave little dog Henry, to all of the members of the Royal Society of Daemonologie, including the demons... especially the demons!

I loved the various classes of demons that align themselves with one of the seven deadly sins, and I liked that not every demon is a bad demon. Of course, there are still the bad ones, and some of the creatures featured in this story are absolutely terrifying! A thoroughly enjoyable read in world I hope the author revisits some day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Too Scary?

I've been neglecting this blog a bit this month as I prepare to hand in a new book to my publishers, but once the first of April rolls around, I promise there will be horror things galore!

But in the meantime, I overheard something yesterday which started me thinking. I was at work in the bookshop when a boy who was probably 11 or so picked up a copy of Hunger Games and animatedly tried to get his mum's attention. His mum was talking to a friend she'd bumped into, and was a bit deaf to the boy's enthusiastic cries of, "Mum! Mum! Mum! This is soooooo good!"

When he finally got some attention, I don't think it was exactly what he wanted:

Mum: Hunger Games? What's it about? It looks scary.
Kid: It's about this contest where all these kids have to kill each other.
*Both adults look aghast*
Mum's friend: Isn't that too scary for you? I think that sounds too scary.
Mum: Yes, look, you've got it from the Young Adult section. That's too old for you.
Kid: But I've already read it. I just wanted to say...
Mum's friend: No, it's far too scary. Look at the blood on the cover!
Mum: Put it back! Pick something else.
I really felt for the kid. I wanted to step in and tell his mum and her friend that Hunger Games was one of the most amazing books I'd read in a long time, and that yes, while there is violence, I don't think there's anything in it kids can't handle, especially since her son had already read it! But then I thought - well, I'm kids' bookseller. I'm not a parent. I'm not the one who has to deal with my kids waking up screaming in the middle of the night after they've read something scary. Who am I to decide?

Horror is one of those genres that unfortunately has a bad reputation with concerned parents. I suppose I can see how if you weren't a fan, it would seem, well, horrific! But as a horror fan, I can't help feeling the scarier something is, the better... after all, isn't that the point? You wouldn't have a romance book with no romance. I don't expect kids would be reading horror if they were thoroughly disturbed by it, and I think the covers and blurbs do a pretty good job of letting readers know what to expect.

What do the rest of you think? Is there such a thing as too scary in horror books? Are there lines that shouldn't be crossed? If you write horror, do you have to hold yourself back, or have you ever had any negative reactions? And if you're a lover of horror, have you ever read anything that you thought had gone too far?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Meeting Joseph Delaney

The Wardstone Chronicles are some of my all-time favourite books, and they're also one of the first series I read when I got back into reading kidlit and YA. From the first pages of Spook's Apprentice, I was hooked. 'Are all books for kids really this good?' I wondered. 'What have I been missing out on?'

I've since devoured every one of the Wardstone Chronicles, including Spook's Witches, the book of short stories, and Spook's Bestiary, a guide to all the weird and wonderful creatures of the county.

So imagine my delight when I heard Joseph Delaney was coming to Melbourne for a signing session. My very lovely boyfriend agreed to drive me and my piles of books on the hour long trip to Dymocks Southland, and once there I met a fellow bookseller friend who I ranted and raved at to read the books, and once she read one, she was also hooked.

Joseph was kind enough to sign all the books I brought, which I thought was just lovely since it really was quite a pile, and even pose for a picture.

Me, Joseph Delany and The Pile
While he was signing I chatted away about my love for Grimmalkin and begged him to assure me the Chippenden Boggart was okay. He said the boggart might make a reappearance (please, please, please) and that I'd really enjoy the book after Spook's Destiny (which apparently is out as soon as July in Australia, wow!) because it would be a Grimmalkin book. Eee!

It was such a pleasure talking to the man whose stories have captivated me, and many, many others so much, and I really hope Joseph enjoys the rest of his stay in Australia.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Horror New Releases

Not as many new titles this month as the last couple of months, but there are some big releases in this list.
What I’m Excited About: The Floods, Grim & Grimmer, The Dark and Burn Bright.

Junior & Middle Fiction
The Floods 10: Lost, Colin Thompson (Random). 
Grim and Grimmer 3: The Desperate Dwarf, Ian Irvine (Scholastic).
Classic Goosebumps 18: Return of the Mummy, R.L. Stine (Scholastic).
My Sister the Vampire 1: Switched (re-issue), Sienna Mercer (Hardie Grant Egmont).
My Sister the Vampire 2: Fangtastic (re-issue), Sienna Mercer (Hardie Grant Egmont).
My Sister the Vampire 3: Revamped (re-issue), Sienna Mercer (Hardie Grant Egmont).
My Sister the Vampire 4: Vampalicious (re-issue), Sienna Mercer (Hardie Grant Egmont).
Little Horrors 6: Weava the Wilful Witch, Tiffany Mandrake (Hardie Grant Egmont).
Emily the Strange 3: Dark Times, Rob Reger (Harper).
Ice Angel, Charlotte Haptie (Hodder).

Young Adult
The Dead 2: The Dark, David Gatward (Hachette).
Burn Bright, Marianne de Pierres (Random).
Monster Republic 2: The Judas Code, Ben Horton (Random).
To Die For, Mark Svendsen (Random).
Mortlock (into paperback), Jon Mayhew (Allen & Unwin).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3, Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder (Simon & Schuster).
Book of Spells, Kate Brian (Simon & Schuster).
Evernight 4: Afterlife, Claudia Gray (Harper).

Graphic Novels
Nancy Drew Vampire Slayer 2, Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney (Macmillan).

Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons & Monsters, Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda (Walker).

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