Saturday, December 8, 2012

Scary Reads, Freshly Bagged!

It's Christmas in the bookshop, which means it's insanely busy, but I had a moment to snap some pics of these new horror releases from the last couple of months. 

For Older Readers (mostly 12+)

  • Zom-B by Darren Shan: Shan is one of the undisputed masters of YA horror, and I'm halfway through this excellent book. Review coming soon.
  • Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz: I've only read Raven's Gate, the first in this series, but it completely blew me away. Can't wait to get up to book 5, I love a horror story set in the ice.
  • The Sacrifice by Charlie Higson: One of my absolute favourite series, and my favourite zombie apocalypse tale. Review coming soon.
  • Unwholly by Neal Shusterman: SO excited to see this. Unwind (the prequel to Unwholly) has one of the most memorably horrific scenes I've ever read. 
  • Haunters by Thomas Taylor: More time travel than horror, but still a great read. Review here.
  • Spook's: Slither's Tale by Joseph Delaney: Wow. Where do I even begin? A new Spook's tale, but one that follows a Haizda mage called Slither. Possibly my favourite Spook's story yet. Review coming soon.
  • Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick: Sequel to Ashes which I never quite got around to reading, but was highly recommended by friends.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review - Infinity Ring

The Eulogy (From the Publishers):
When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the secret of time travel -- a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring -- they're swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone disastrously off course.Now it's up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the Great Breaks . . . and to save Dak's missing parents while they're at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spook's Blood Trailer

The Wardstone Chronicles is, I think, my absolute favourite young adult horror series - brilliant mythology, gripping plots and a cast of amazing characters. I never feel like I'm reading a book when I pick up the latest Spook's, more re-entering a world I love spending time in with people I hope don't meet grisly ends.

Needless to say I am very, very excited about Spook's Blood. Here's the trailer:

I'm putting off reading this latest one until I'm a little less busy, because I know I'm going to just want to read it all in one sitting. And for the rest of you who haven't ever read a Spook's book, hopefully this trailer will give you a little clue on what you've been missing out on!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review - Haunters

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): 
Eddie, Adam and David have the same gift. Separated by generations, they are linked by their ability to time-travel. Using their dreams, they can appear like ghosts, wherever and whenever they want. The first is the genius who discovers dreamwalking. The second is a Haunter, a dream-terrorist, determined to change history for his own ends. The last is the novice dreamwalker who must battle to save his family, and himself, from oblivion.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): An interesting and atmospheric young adult novel that melds ghosts and time travel.

Dearly Departed, 
We are gathered here today to discuss Haunters by Thomas Taylor. I'm not the biggest fan of time travel - in fact, had I looked past the cover and title that seemed to scream 'GHOSTS!' and saw that it was about visiting the past, I might not have picked it up. However, I'm glad I did give it a go, because Haunters is one of the more original reads I've read recently.
Any author who is having trouble with their opening scene would do well to study Haunters, because it throws you right into the action from page one, as main character David attempts to save Eddie from a burning building. Throughout this opening chapter I was left with a very unsettling sense of disorientation, almost as though I was reading the final scene of a book, and it really sucked me in. 
As much as I did enjoy this book, I was expecting a scarier read. I couldn't really call this a ghost story; though there are ghosts, they're not really of the vengeful dead spirit variety, more a side effect of time travel. That said, the action is top notch, and I really enjoyed the original take on the time travel genre, so I'd definitely recommend this to any reader looking for an unsettling mystery tale.

Recommended for: Fans of time travel; Time Riders; Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pretty Pictures

Spinechills has a new Tumblr here:

For anyone interested in the blood-drenched tomes that live on the shelves of my workplace, I'll be posting pics of any kids' and young adult horror books that catch my eye.

Family - A Spooky New Story by Sam Enthoven

Illustrated stories are one of those mediums that I think we mistakenly believe we grow out of. You only need to pick up a book like The Arrival by Shaun Tan or The Mysteries of Harris Burdick to figure out just how big an impact illustrated stories can have on a reader. The problem is, the content of an illustrated story is usually aimed at a particular age level, and if you've graduated from those younger themes to, say, terrifying stories about creepy old houses and weird families, you might have been disappointed in the past.

But not any more! Because Sam Enthoven of Crawlers fame has teamed up with the amazing illustrator Laura Trinder to release Family, a thirteen part serial over at Trapped by Monsters. Trinder's illustrations perfectly complement what is shaping up to be a rather creepy story from Enthoven, so if you're after an illustrated read that's a bit more down your alley than puppies and kittens making cupcakes, head over now! Parts one and two are already up, and part three will be up Friday, 17 August.

Family Part 1:
Family Part 2:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gaming and Writing - Together at Last!

When you're a writer, sometimes you'll get stuck. There are any number of ways to get unstuck - go for a walk, get a coffee, scream at your computer until the neighbours complain. When I was first starting out, I used to consult a lot of writing prompt books and websites. You know the ones - where you're told to think about your character's first job/love/car and write about it. But as I began to hone my skills and specialise in the fantasy and horror genres, I realised that a lot of these prompt books aren't so great for speculative writers - after all, thinking about a character's favourite meal isn't that inspiring (unless your character happens to be a cannibal).

"You don't need to bring anything to dinner except yourself, Richard."

That's why today when I was scraping the bottom of the creativity barrel, I went and played Skyrim for an hour. For those of you who have been living under a rock (or under the bed, where the monsters play), Skyrim is a fantasy video game with a huge open world to explore. A few weeks ago I decided the game was getting too easy, so I decided to stop fast-travelling everywhere (i.e. clicking to get to a far away location) and began riding to my destinations on horseback.

This is my horse, Sprinkles. He enjoys long rides on the beach and killing you.

I quickly discovered that the journey is a lot more interesting that the destination itself, because along the way I always find things within the world that spark my imagination. In today's playthrough, I came across:
  • A skeleton collapsed against a flag on a lonely island 
  • Gigantic icebergs in the middle of the sea 
  • A cupboard in a sunken ship 
  • A hag living in the ruins of a collapsed tower 
  • A rabbit that could run across water (a glitch, but still cool) 
After my hour was up I found I was feeling inspired again, all from these disconnected images that came together in my mind to spark whole stories. So the next time you're stuck for ideas, maybe try playing a video game for a different approach to the usual story prompts. And if anybody gives you grief, just tell them you're writing!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review - Doom Rider

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): Seth Crow has lived a thousand lives, and in each one he's been murdered before he turns thirteen.
And now he's being hunted again. But this time it's different.
Enter Lily, who tells him of his fate: Seth is CONQUEST. The first of the four riders of the Apocalypse. And people want him dead, before he can fulfil his destiny. 
Seth's only hope lies in finding the other riders - Strife, Famine and Death. 
Together, the fate of the world lies in their hands ...

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A wonderfully dark and twisted take on the horsemen of the Apocalypse. 

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Doom Rider, by David Gatward. I am big fan of high-concept ideas – if you can sum it up in a sentence, there’s a good chance I’ll be interested. In this case, the moment I heard ‘boy discovers he’s one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse’ and saw the awesome cover, I was sold. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I knew it was being penned by the phenomenal David Gatward. Thanks to his previous series, The Dead, I had an inkling that I’d be in for a wonderfully dark and twisted read. I wasn’t disappointed.

The very first thing that struck me was the brand of religion found in the world of Doom Rider. Seth’s life on the travelling faith show circuit was a really fascinating foundation for the character. I must admit, my own religious knowledge is practically non-existent, but The Way seemed to be a mix of evangelical faiths, borrowing from a few of the mainstream religions without resembling any too closely. This background makes Seth a very conflicted character, and it was precisely because of his origins that I found him so interesting, even more so than Gatward’s previous protagonist of the Dead series, Lazarus Stone. The cast of supporting characters is also varied and colourful, particularly when we begin to meet the other riders, and it’s here that the book really starts to shine.

I read in an interview with Gatward that he decided to take his interpretation of the riders all the way back to their original roots, so he could portray them differently. Well, it worked, because these versions of the horsemen of the apocalypse are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and this originality makes them all the more awe-inspiring, purely because I was completely unprepared for the strangeness of their abilities (especially Death!). Gatward really has a knack for description, and there are some fantastically gruesome scenes in this one. Whenever I read one of Gatward’s books, I’m reminded of that old creative writing class tip to do with description – use all the senses, not just sight. Gatward is a master of this, and all the senses are constantly engaged, to the point where you’re really there alongside Seth as he struggles with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Doom Rider is a fantastic addition to the YA horror genre, one that every reader with a taste for the darker side of life should read. It will be released in Australia on 5 July 2012.

Check it out on Goodreads, find out more on David Gatward's site, or pre-order it from Readings.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review - The Fury

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): Cal, Brick and Daisy are three ordinary teenagers whose lives suddenly take a terrifying turn for the worst. They begin to trigger a reaction in everybody they meet, one that makes friends and strangers alike turn rabid whenever they are close. One that makes people want to tear them to pieces
Cal and the other victims of the Fury – the ones that survive – manage to locate each other. But just when they think they have found a safe place to hide from the world, some of them begin to change...
They must fight to uncover the truth about the Fury before it's too late. But it is a truth that will destroy everything they know about life and death

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A brilliant epic in the same vein as Michael Grant's Gone and Charlie Higson's The Enemy.

Check out my other review of The Fury here.

Dearly Departed,

We are gathered here today to discuss The Fury, by Alexander Gordon Smith. I'm sitting here stuck for words because I really don't know where to begin… okay, here: this book is amazing. It really, really is. There are just so many good things about it that I want to say at once, which might make for a bit of a confusing review, so I'll start on what I loved most about it - the characters.

Smith has masterfully created the characters of Brick, Daisy, Cal (and others) whose lives have been disrupted by the fact that everybody wants them dead. What I found so clever about this scenario is that these characters would never have got along under normal circumstances: you have Brick, the misunderstood big kid who has 'one of those faces' you take an instant dislike to; Cal the a sports star beloved by all who isn't used to anyone not liking him, let alone hating him; and then there's Daisy, who is young and na├»ve, yet incredibly wise and calm at the same time. Normally they wouldn't have chosen to be friends, but now that the whole world has turned against them, they have no choice, and it's in these stressful moments of forced interaction that the characters' personalities really shine. 

I was watching Cloverfield the other night, and while I liked the setup, I quickly grew bored by the characters. They were stereotypical horror fodder, and they made bad decisions. In an effort to make the characters appeal to everyone, the filmmakers made them too generic. By the end, I was cheering as each of them fell. The Fury is like the complete opposite of this - I genuinely liked all of the characters, and they were all perfectly brought to life on the page to the point where I was really worried about the fate of one of the main characters in particular, and found myself thinking that if something happened to this character, I was going to have to write an angry letter to Smith. I was even cheering for the characters who weren't typically 'good guys' because I understood where they were coming from and I agreed with their motives.

The other thing that The Fury mastered was the scary monster. I'm not going to ruin anything here, but this puts such an interesting spin on our pre-existing notions of a particular concept. This should come as no surprise to those who have read Smith's Escape From Furnace series, which introduce the reader to some fantastically monstrous bad guys. There are two particular scenes in The Fury that are terrifying - possibly some of the most unsettling I've ever read. The skill in this comes from Smith's writing, and his ability to paint a very vivid picture without ever overwriting it.

Last week in the bookshop I was asked to recommend something to a boy who had read all of Michael Grant's Gone series. I started to recommend his other series, BZRK, when I stopped mid-sentence, picked up a copy of The Fury and shoved it in his hands, while commanding him to 'Buy this one. Now.' Maybe it was the brilliant cover, maybe he was afraid of me, but he did, and I know he won't be disappointed. While it's inevitable that The Fury will get compared to other horror tomes like Grant's and Charlie Higson's The Enemy, I think Smith's latest novel will attract its own Grant-esque army of followers because it's so damned good.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Scary School Review

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): You think your school's scary? Get a load of these teachers:
"Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire
"Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess
"Mr. Snakeskin"--science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
"Mrs. T"--break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex"
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends--including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf--and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A frighteningly funny read for 8-12. One of the most hilarious and enjoyable books I've ever read.

Dearly Departed, 
We are gathered here today to discuss Scary School by Derek the Ghost AKA Derek Taylor Kent. I want to start this review with something that happened to me yesterday in the bookshop where I work. A man came in asking for something for his nine year old daughter to read. She loved The Witches by Roald Dahl (a very fine choice) but was having trouble finding something that was both dark and hilarious. Everything I showed him she’d either read (Philip Ardagh, Andy Griffiths) or wasn’t interested (Lemony Snicket). Eventually he walked away with Mysterious Benedict Society, but deep down I wasn’t really happy. I knew there was a book out there that would have been even better for her, but for the life of me I couldn’t think what.

Today, I sat down and read Scary School. I meant to spread it out over a couple of sessions, but I loved it so much that I put all my other work aside and finished it in one go. Spinechilldren, this book is hilarious. And terrifying. It is hilariously terrifying. And it is the perfect book for that nine year old girl. The next time I see her dad come in to the store, I am going to corner him and shove this in his face while shrieking incoherently about how awesome this book is. For the meantime, however, I hope I can coherently explain to you exactly why I loved this.

Scary School had me at hello, and the hello in question comes from Derek the Ghost, the book’s narrator, who reads your mind and compliments you on what an excellent name you have. He then goes on to introduce you to Scary School, where students die with alarming regularity (though this is okay, because they’ll usually be brought back to life as either a vampire or a zombie). Normally it’s the teachers doing the killing, from the lovely Ms Fang (who hardly ever kills any of her students) to the draconian Dr Dragonbreath, who ate almost an entire class on the first day.

And so we start to learn about the various comings and goings of the school as they prepare for the Ghoul Games, something akin to the Olympics for Scary kids and humans alike. Scary School reads more like a collection of short stories with constant callbacks and callforwards that help to weave all of the stories together into a complete novel. It’s a similar format to stories like Nanny Piggins by RA Spratt and Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger, two other favourites of mine, and I feel like in Scary School it works even better. When a new character or situation is mentioned, it will often be followed by ‘but more on that later’ which really made me want to keep reading to find out.

While I did adore the gory bits (which, delightfully, weren’t sanitised for the sake of the adults who might be reading over shoulders) it was the funny parts that stood out for me, and what will ultimately make this a huge hit for the 8-12 market, boys and girls. The humour ranges from wordplay to black comedy to wonderfully inventive back stories (ever wonder how Jason got his hockey mask and chainsaw?). If it had me waking my partner up at 6am this morning so I could tell him my favourite parts (the three Rachels – Rachael, Raychel and Frank, which is pronounced ‘Rachel’) it’s definitely going to get the intended audience excited.

Scary School has been out since June last year, so if you haven't snapped it up yet, what's wrong with you? And if I'm already preaching to the converted, Scary School 2: Monsters on the March comes out 26 June. To find out more, check out

Monday, May 7, 2012

Skulduggery Pleasant Competition

Okay, seriously Harper Collins? You are doing a damn fine job in the competition department. The fine folks who brought you the Department 19 Be A Character Competition have also been preparing for Derek Landy's upcoming visit to Australian and New Zealand shores.

ANZ Skulduggery Pleasant Fans, you can win a chance to meet this guy:

Okay, just to clarify, you get to meet Derek Landy, the amazingly talented author, not Skulduggery Pleasant, the wise-cracking skeleton detective. But still, right?

And not only a chance to meet Derek, but also a full set of his books. Signed. As in he touched them.

Am I getting too creepy now?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Department 19 Competition

Imagine how excited I was upon returning home from my trip to the US to find A COMPETITION WHERE YOU CAN ENTER TO BECOME A CHARACTER IN THE THIRD DEPARTMENT 19 BOOK!

Why are you still here? Surely you should have clicked on that link by now.

Seriously, this has to be one of the coolest competitions I've ever seen - not only is your name immortalised in print as a character, it's immortalised as a butt-kicking vampire (or a vampire butt-kicker).

I got this a while ago, so I'm hoping the comp is still on (I can't find a closing date - maybe they're just waiting for YOUR entry?). Now scurry, scurry my Spinechilldren! Immortality awaits!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Don't Kill Cabin in the Woods

Okay, this isn't about horror books, but it's about a horror movie, and it needs to be said.

On my recent visit to the US, I decided to see a movie - specifically, Cabin in the Woods, directed by Joss Whedon. I knew it would probably be a while before it came out in Australia, so I thought I'd get in early. I had no idea what the movie was about, other than it was a horror film. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much.

Halfway through the movie, I turned to my partner with tears of pure joy in my eyes and said, 'I think this may be single greatest experience of my life.'

Dearest Spinechilldren, this movie is amazing. Beyond amazing. Anybody with even a passing interest in horror needs to see Cabin in the Woods. I'd planned to see it at least twice more at the movies when I got back to Australia. (Though let me just warn you now that its amazingness stems from the fact you don't know what do expect. Whatever you do, DON'T read up on this movie. Don't look at any spoilers. And if anybody tries to talk to you about it in specifics, kill them painfully).

The other day I learned that Roadshow aren't giving CitW a cinema release. This is an outrage. If ever a film needed to be seen on a big screen with an audience, it's this one. It makes all the difference. There are a number of reasons why that I won't go into here, but here's a nice rundown of the situation.

So if you're an Aussie horror fan who is desperately looking for a brilliant movie, let Roadshow know you're not happy. Comment on their Facebook page, or sign the online petition. They've given no reason as to why they've made this decision, so who knows what public outcry will do, but it can't hurt. 

One of the reasons I've heard is that apparently horror doesn't sell in Australia. Rot and nonsense. Just look at the outcry already. Show them just how big horror can be in Australia and demand a release!

And to all my readers who hail from countries sensible enough to screen CitW, make sure you don't pass up the opportunity to see this amazing movie.

UPDATE: Wow, I can't believe complaining long enough and loud enough actually works... to a degree, at least. As of about two hours after posting this, Roadshow confirmed that there will be a limited run in Australia, in Sydney and Melbourne. At two cinemas. Still, it's better than nothing!

Doom Rider for YOU!

Hello Spinechilldren. How much do you love me? I hope it's a lot, because I'm going to be bringing you a few presents over the next couple of days, the kind wrapped in sinister-looking newspaper and dripping a little, just how we like it.

Yay! My strawberry milkshake has arrived.

The first present is one that is sure to whet your appetite. Do you remember a little while ago when I posted the cover of the forthcoming David Gatward book, Doom Rider? Well now you can check it out yourself, since Hachette has posted some sample chapters online for you to read:

And I highly recommend you do go and read them to get you in the mood for Doom Rider's release date in July. I've gone on record as a big fan of Gatward's previous books, and I think this latest instalment is his best work yet.

My green skin is crawling with excitement!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Another Hiatus...

Yup, more excuses for a dead blog. This time I was finishing a book. It's the sequel to this one:

The new one is Bureau of Mysteries 2: The Mechanomancers, and it'll be out early next year. 

But I have even more excuses. You see, I'm about to embark on my first overseas trip (if you don't count New Zealand, which is so close to Australia I could probably reach out one claw and touch it). I'm going to Austin and Dallas in Texas with a brief stop off in New York at the end. My little undead heart is thumping with excitement.

So once I get back, I promise, this blog will be resurrected. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

April Horror New Releases

These are the kids' and young adult horror new releases for February. If I've missed anything out, please let me know in the comments, but remember, these are Australian release dates only.

What I'm Excited About: 
I'm always excited to see something from a fellow Aussie author, so I can't wait to check out Pre-Loved by Shirley Marr. And also... THE HUNT! My oh my. So good! This dystopian/paranormal tale is edge of your seat stuff. Review to come soon!

Junior & Middle
Dark Lord: A Fiend in Need, Jamie Thomson (Orchard).
Robot Zombie Frankenstein, Annette Simon (Walker).
Shadow Runners, Daniel Blythe (Scholastic).
Goosebumps Hall of Horror 5: Don’t Scream, R.L. Stine (Scholastic).
Boggle Hunters, Sophie Masson (Scholastic).
Raven Mysteries 4: Vampires and Volts, Marcus Sedgwick (Orion).
Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson (Little Brown).

Young Adult

The Hunt, Andrew Fukuda (Simon and Schuster).
Preloved, Shirley Marr (Black Dog Books).
Daylight Saving, Edward Hogan (Walker).
The Repossession, Sam Hawksmoor (Hodder).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March Horror New Releases

These are the kids' and young adult horror new releases for February. If I've missed anything out, please let me know in the comments, but remember, these are Australian release dates only.

What I'm Excited About: Ghost Club by Australian author Deborah Abela is a brilliant read, as is BZRK by Michael Grant. Plus, one of my all-time-favourites Barry Hutchison has a new book in the Invisible Fiends series, so what's not to get excited about this month?

Junior & Middle

Raven Mysteries 4: Vampires and Volts, Marcus Sedgwick (Orion).
Ghost Club, Deborah Abela (Random House).
Mort, Martin Chatterton (Random House).
Floods 11: Disasterchef, Colin Thompson (Random House).

Young Adult

BZRK, Michael Grant (Hardie Grant Egmont).
Erebos, Ursula Poznanski (Allen & Unwin).
Skulduggery Pleasant: The End of the World, Derek Landy (Harper Collins).
Slide, Jill Hathaway (Harper Collins).
Vampire Diaries – The Hunters: Moonsong, LJ Smith (Harper Collins).
Department 19, Will Smith (Harper Collins).
Invisible Fiends: The Beast, Barry Hutchison (Harper Collins).
The Repossession, Sam Hawksmoor (Hodder).
Balthazar, Claudia Gray (Harper Collins).
Long Langkin, Lindsey Barraclough (Random House).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Future Frights: Doom Rider

As a bookseller, I see new books every day. One day a month I sit in a room from eight thirty in the morning until five in the afternoon looking at hundreds of upcoming new releases. So you can see how the shine of new books quickly wears off - after all, there are only so many books about ducks a person can stand.

This is why it's all the more exciting when I hear of a book that makes me sit up and say, 'Holy hell, I need to read that. NOW.'

Enter Doom Rider, by David Gatward. Look at this fantastic cover and tell me that doesn't make you think you're in for one awesome read.

I'm always a fan of menacing looks and glowing bows and arrows, but when the title has the word 'doom' in it and it's written by David Gatward (author of the brilliant The Dead series) I'm in book heaven.

Doom Rider is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be out 5 July in the UK. Still waiting to hear on a release date for Australian readers, but hopefully the wait won't be long!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review - Oliver Twisted

The Eulogy (From the Publisher):
“FLESH, the woe-begotten moaned at Oliver, baring teeth which were ragged and black.
“FLESH,” came another moan, and he turned to see two more woe-begottens behind. They began to shuffle towards him, barefoot – toes blue from cold, arms outstretched.
The world according to Oliver Twisted is simple. Vampyres feed on the defenceless. Orphans are sacrificed to hungry gods. And if a woe-begotten catches your scent it will hunt you for ever. When a talking corpse reveals that Oliver will find his destiny in London, he sets out to seek the truth. Even if it means losing his soul.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A wonderfully gruesome and original adaptation of the Oliver Twist tale.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Oliver Twisted by JD Sharpe. I count myself really lucky to have received a copy of this from the UK since I can't yet see it on the Australian publishing horizon, though I hope it does appear on our shelves soon, because this is a fantastic take on Oliver Twist that I think will make a lot of readers very happy.

Let me say right now that you don't have to be an Oliver Twist fan in order to enjoy this book. I had a rather bad introduction to Mr Dickens with Hard Times, which I've since heard is not one of his best, but it also hasn't compelled me to read more. When I started reading Oliver Twist, I was a little worried since I didn't know the original story, save what I've absorbed from pop culture references, but the strength of the story is such that it really doesn't matter if you don't know the original text.

I'm a big fan of multi-creature worlds, i.e. books whose mythologies take different familiar monsters like vampires and swamp things and put them together. This is brilliantly achieved in Oliver Twisted, with the sinister werewolves living alongside malevolent wisps and soul stealers. I also loved the history which was hinted at throughout - the opening of a Hell Mouth which explained why the world was rotten to the core.

The other thing that really struck me about this book was how well the language was written. Normally this isn't something that I mind one way or another, but the mixture of Dickensian phrases and 'normal' English achieved the perfect balance between a modern book for teens and what you might expect to find in a book from the 1800s.

I'm interested to see if there will be others in this series, since the concept of it would seem to suggest not, though the broad world in which it is set almost screams for another tale.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Horror New Releases

These are the kids' and young adult horror new releases for February. If I've missed anything out, please let me know in the comments, but remember, these are Australian release dates only.

What I'm Excited About: The Grimstones is a fantastic and odd little read complete with gothic puppets, and I'm sure it's going to really well. Also very excited about Mister Creecher, and can't wait to read it.

Junior & Middle

Emily the Strange: Piece of Mind, Rob Reger (Harper).
Zombie Chasers: Undead Ahead, John Kloepfer & Steve Wolfhard (Harper).
Goosebumps 22: Stay Out of the Basement, RL Stine (Scholastic).
Freak Street: Meet the Vampiresons , Knife and Packer (Scholastic).
Beast Hunter, Kathryn White (Penguin).
The Grimstones 1: Hatched, Asphyxia (A&U).

Young Adult
Faery Tales and Nightmares, Melissa Marr (Harper).
Mister Creecher, Chris Priestley (Penguin).
Every Other Day, Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Macmillan).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Twisted Packages

Today I got this in the mail:

That is Oliver Twisted by JD Sharpe and when I opened the package there was a whole lot of excited squealing going on from this little green zombie. 

I mean, how cool is that cover? How cool is that concept? And HOW COOL is that tag line? (In case you can't read it, it says 'Please sir, I want some GORE.' Equal parts laughter and groaning.)

I've only briefly dipped into it, but so far it's living up to my initial excitement and then some. Child cannibalism by chapter three (both children being eaten AND eating each other). I haven't been this excited about a book in some time. 

Which brings me to a broader gush about Electric Monkey, the new Egmont imprint which is publishing a whole bunch of really cool stuff. 

They're also publishing a new series from Michael Grant, the first of which is BZRK. I'm halfway through it at the moment and it's another winner (though what else would you expect from the Gone author?) so I'm really excited to see what this newcomer in the world of publishing has to offer the future of young adult books. Judging by this strong start, it will be a lot. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review - Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days

The Eulogy (From the Publishers): Skulduggery Pleasant is gone, sucked into a parallel dimension overrun by the Faceless Ones. If his bones haven′t already been turned to dust, chances are he′s insane, driven out of his mind by the horror of the ancient gods. There is no official, Sanctuary-approved rescue mission. There is no official plan to save him.
But Valkyrie′s never had much time for plans.
The problem is, even if she can get Skulduggery back, there might not be much left for him to return to. There′s a gang of villains bent on destroying the Sanctuary, there are some very powerful people who want Valkyrie dead, and as if all that wasn′t enough it looks very likely that a sorcerer named Darquesse is going to kill the world and everyone on it.
Skulduggery is gone. All our hopes rest with Valkyrie. The world′s weight is on her shoulders, and its fate is in her hands.
These are dark days indeed.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): Perhaps not the strongest entry in this brilliant series, but still a hilarious horror read.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days by Derek Landy. Actually, that's a lie. I'll actually be discussing this and its predecessor, book three, The Faceless Ones, since I read them one after the other. It's a rare series that can make me leap straight on to the next book, since I like some time between them to digest or the second usually suffers. But book three ended on such a cliffhanger that I needed book 4 straight away.

If you've read the synopsis for book four, then the cliffhanger is already ruined - Skulduggery is lost inside a terrifying alternate universe populated by Faceless Ones. And they're not terribly friendly. I really enjoyed the absence of Skul at the start of this, because it showed Valkyrie growing as a character, and how capable she is in his absence. That said, I was eager for her to get him back, since he is the title character and all.

One thing that disappointed me slightly was Skulduggery's state of mind after being rescued. He kind of laughed it off and was his regular self, with the occasional crack showing. Which to me, didn't seem to gel with being trapped in a demon universe for a year. I really would have liked to see a deeper side to his personality and actually carried a bit of that trauma over from the other side. But then, that's not very funny, is it?

And that's precisely what makes these books work so well - the humour. Not very many other books manage such a perfect mix of laughs, horror and action, so it's no surprise that this series is so popular. Great characters, snappy dialogue and world-building you want to be a part of - if you haven't started this series, I highly recommend it for anyone, but particularly if you're having a hard time finding a series to appeal to you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thank you. Yes, you.

What a strange, strange month December was.

It's been a long time between posts, and for good reason - at the start of December my father passed away suddenly, and I had to return to Western Australia to sort out his estate. It was sad, obviously, but also an incredibly steep learning curve since before this all started I didn't have the foggiest about funeral arrangements, what to do without a will, and who to contact about his death. And now I know all of that, I'm really hoping I don't have to use that knowledge again soon!

Things are much better now that I'm back home in Melbourne, and everything is beginning to return to normal. This is where the thank-yous com in. Something that was niggling at me was this blog, and how without new content it would fall into disrepair. I mean, there have always been cobwebs (I LIKE the cobwebs) but now there would be tumbleweeds blowing across it... possibly with more cobwebs.

But what I was surprised to find was that I was still getting quite a lot of traffic, even in the absence of anything to read. Which cheered me up so much after what was a pretty crappy month.

So THANK YOU to everyone who continued to read this blog. I'm really looking forward to adding a whole bunch of new reviews and horror news in the new year, and I hope you'll keep reading it too.

January Horror New Releases

Better late than never! These are the new horror releases for January. If I’ve missed something out, let me know in the comments, but remember, these are Australian release dates only

What I'm Excited About: While January isn’t a huge month volume-wise, there are some gems in there still – in particular I’m looking forward to the new Undead Ed and also the first in a new series from Heather Brewer.

Junior & Middle
Creepy Creatures 4: Toad Terror, Ed Graves (Scholastic).
Undead Ed and the Devil’s Fingers, David Grimstone (Hachette).

Young Adult
The Vampire Stalker, Alison von Diepen (Scholastic).
Dark Warning, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (Hachette).
Slayer Chronicles: First Kill, Heather Brewer (Penguin).
A Witch in Winter, Ruth Warburton (Hachette).

Graphic Novels
Good Neighbors 3: Kind, Holly Black & Ted Naifeh (Scholastic).

Twilight Realm: Ghosts, Jim Pipe (Hachette).
Twilight Realm: Monsters, Jim Pipe (Hachette).