Saturday, April 9, 2011

Haunted Puppet Theatre: Crowmaster

I never expected it to happen the first time.

After the second time, I thought they might go away.

When the puppets came the third time, I felt hopelessness setting in.

And now, the fourth time... when will these puppets leave me ALONE?

Review - Crowmaster

The Eulogy (From the Publishers):

After Kyle's ordeal at school, his mother packs him off to the safety of the countryside, where there will be no temptation to use his powers, and he can forget the bad things - like the fact that his dad is a monster determined to destroy the world.
 But here's the thing about the countryside: it's full of nature, and nature sometimes has claws. Followed by a spindly figure in the woods and attacked by crows, Kyle is about to discover that NOWHERE is safe from the invisible fiends…

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): My new favourite in the Invisible Fiends series! So much action and horror, you'll be jumping out of your seat!

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Crowmaster by Barry Hutchison. This is the third in the Invisible Fiends series, following on from the terrifying Mr Mumbles and the supremely creepy Raggy Maggie. I absolutely LOVED the other two, so I couldn't wait to get a copy of the latest in the series into my eager claws.
Readers, Crowmaster does not disappoint in any way, shape or form. I was blown away from page one, with the reappearance (maybe?) of Mr Mumbles and the addition of some very creepy crows who don't like to stay dead. I particularly liked that this was a change in scenery for Kyle, who goes to stay with his mum's cousin in the country. In the middle of nowhere. With nobody to call for help. But Marion is the sensible type - she'd never have an invisible friend, would she?
Well, we all know the answer to that one, and when the Crowmaster appears he is absolutely terrifying! There are a couple of gory scenes that had me gasping and laughing with glee in equal measures. Such a brilliant addition to one of my favourite horror series.
If you want a book with highly original horror scenes that don't shy away from being truly frightening, and characters that are guaranteed to give you nightmares, then Crowmaster is for you!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review - More Bloody Horowitz

The Eulogy (From the Publisher):
The No. 1 bestselling creator of Alex Rider gives horror a whole new look in this mischievous collection of macabre tales, presented in an exciting new, larger format.
Stories of ultimate revenge, from freshly sold human meat and uncontrollable robots, to life-sucking MP3 players and reality TV where death is the penalty – all told with dark humour and gruesome relish, and made even more fiendish by retro illustrations, chilling facts and a puckish message from the author. This is Anthony Horowitz at his most wicked.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): Short stories in a graphic novel format; plenty of characters meeting gruesome ends and packed full of dark humour.

Dearly Departed, 
We are gathered here today to discuss More Bloody Horowitz by Anthony Horowitz. When I was first introduced to this, it was by somebody who knew how much I liked Darren Shan. She opened it up to the first story, and - lo and behold! It was entitled 'The Man Who Killed Darren Shan'. The idea of a hugely popular author writing about the death of another hugely popular author is hysterical to me, and you can really tell Horowitz relished writing it. Apparently one of Darren Shan's characters in the Demonata series is based on Horowitz (the character's name was Antoine Horwitzer... um, yeah, bit of a similiarity) and the character died a gruesome death, so Horowitz thought he'd return the favour - and then some!

All of the stories in this are that special combination of jaw-dropping horror and dark hilarity, and I had such a great time reading them. I must admit, I'm not normally much of a short story reader, but the format these are presented in, complete with illustrations at the start, double columns to a page, and a crossword in the center really perked up the short story format for me - I really think all short stories should be presented like this!

Of course, it helped that the stories themselves were compulsively readable. My standout favourites were 'Bet Your Life' about a popular gameshow with a twist, and also 'SheBay', about a girl who gets sold online by her parents. But all the stories are fantastic - there's not a dead one in the bunch!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Meeting Darren Shan

There's something so special about meeting your favourite authors. I always find it kind of surreal, like part of me doubts that such a person really exists until I actually see them in the flesh. Sure, you've seen photos of them and read their blogs, but seeing them in the same room as you is pretty mind-boggling.

Today I made the trip out to Dymocks Camberwell to see one of my all-time favourite authors, Darren Shan. I roped in my long-suffering boyfriend Nick and workmate Nathan and we waited upstairs at the Ebony Quill Cafe along with a room full of Shan fans young and old.

We didn't have to wait long before Darren appeared looking eager to warp some young minds. I was immediately impressed by his speaking ability - he easily joked with the crowd and sucked us in despite having only arrived in Melbourne early that morning. He gave us a short intro about his books and then launched into a reading of Lord Loss. I'd heard great things about Darren's reading of the gory second chapter, but hearing it in person was just mesmerising. He performed it with such relish, I was literally on the edge of my seat! Something that struck me as rather funny was that I'd read the exact same chapter out to a group of school kids on Tuesday this week, and after hearing the author himself read it I realised what a lacklustre performance my own had been - Darren knew all the right spots to emphasize to have us laughing and crying out in fright. Nothing beats hearing a story in the author's own voice!

After Darren read the section from Lord Loss he treated us to a reading from the superb Birth of a Killer (review here) and then opened up the floor to some questions on topics as diverse as the mythology of his demons to the philosophy of life.

Then it was time to line up to get our books signed, and what a line it was! Even though Darren had very graciously said he would sign every book people had, I still felt a little greedy with my stack of 12 (Demonata, Birth of a Killer and Thin Executioner - it was a difficult choice leaving Saga of Darren Shan at home) and made my way to the back of the line where I met fellow Shanster Veronica. She'd come all the way from Alice Springs just to meet Darren, which I thought was a fantastic show of dedication and a testament to the level of fandom he inspires!

When it was my turn to have my books signed, Darren didn't sigh or roll his eyes at my tower of books, which I thought was very good form seeing as how he must've been dead on his feet by that point. I got to rant at him about how good his books were, beg him for another book set in the world of Thin Executioner and I even got a book recommendation from Darren - The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr... sounds right down my alley! Darren even recognised me from my blog, which had to have been one of my happiest fangirl moments yet!

There seemed to be no end to Darren's patience, because he even posed for a photo with me:
Just a little tighter and maybe she'll leave me alone...
Such a great day! Darren was one of the first authors I read when I got back into kids' and YA books, and in my own writing I try to follow his example of picking a word limit and sticking to it on a daily basis. Thanks for everything, Darren, and if you're reading this, have a blast in Melbourne!

ADDENDUM: Oh, I completely forgot to write about my favourite part: since the talk took place in the back room of a restaurant, there were also people who could hear the talk in the next room. Shortly after one of Darren's spinechilling readings, a little girl no more than three or four started crying. When her father picked her up she distinctly cried, 'I SCARED!'

Darren knows his stuff! ;-)

April Horror New Releases

These are all of the YA and kids horror books set for April new release in Australia.
It's a huge month with new releases from some of my favourite authors, as well as a very creepy looking collection of short stories.
What I'm excited about: Crowmaster, Demon Collector, Birth of a Killer, Department 19, Teeth.

Junior & Middle Fiction
Ogre of Oglefort, Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan).
Invisible Fiends 3: Crowmaster, Barry Hutchinson (Harper).
Fighting Fantasy: Curse of the Mummy, Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone (Allen & Unwin).
Fighting Fantasy: Forest of Doom, Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone (Allen & Unwin).
Goosebumps Horrorland 19: Horror at Chiller House, R.L. Stine (Scholastic).
Will Gallows and the Snake-Bellied Troll, Derek Keilty (Random House).
Boy Who Wasn't There, Michael Panckridge (Murdoch).
Boy Without a Soul, Michael Panckridge (Murdoch).

Young Adult
Demon Collector, Jon Mayhew (Penguin).
Thirteen to Life 2: Secrets and Shadows, Shannon Delaney (Macmillan).
By These Ten Bones, Clare Dunkle (Macmillan).
Department 19, Will Hill (Harper).
Saga of Larten Crepsley 1: Birth of a Killer, Darren Shan (Harper). 
Gone 4: Plague, Michael Grant (Hardie Grant Egmont).
Bloodline 2: Reckoning, Kate Cary (Hardie Grant Egmont).
Vampyre Labyrinth: Dust Blood, G.P. Taylor (Allen & Unwin).
Chime, Franny Billingsley (Allen & Unwin).
Dark and Hollow Places, Carrie Ryan (Hachette).
Cryer's Cross, Lisa McMann (Harper).
Chemical Garden 1: Wither, Lauren DeStefano (Harper).
West of the Moon, Katherine Langrish (Harper).
Strange Angels 4: Defiance, Lili St. Crow (Penguin).
Falling Under, Gwen Hayes (Penguin).

Teeth: Vampire Tales, Ellen Datlow [ed] Garth Nix, Melissa Marr, Holly Black [contributors] (Harper).

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