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 http://jbthomasmammon.com and read a sample chapter of Mammon here:

A book by Booki.sh

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 http://rhiannon-hart.blogspot.com/.

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...