Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vampire Academy: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead


WARNING! SPOILERS!

Synopsis

How far will Rose go to keep a promise?

The recent Strigoi attack at St. Vladimir's Academy was the deadliest ever in the school's history, claiming the lives of many. Even worse, the Strigoi took some of their victims with them - including Dimitri. He'd rather die than be one of them, and now Rose must abandon her best friend, Lissa-the one she has sworn to protect no matter what-and keep the promise Dimitri begged her to make long ago.

But with everything at stake, how can she possibly destroy the person she loves most?

This is my favourite book of the series so far. There's so much to love! Rose has left Lissa and St. Vladamir's to fulfill her promise to Dimitri - not to let him wander the earth as a Strigoi. However, it's one thing to make the decision to walk away from Lissa and everything she's worked for to graduate as a Guardian but another to track down a single Strigoi. She heads straight for Russia guessing that he would head for the familiar ground of his home town. Her first problem is to work out where that town might be so she hangs around nightspots in St. Petersburg trying to locate the local Moroi population hoping that she can find information on Dhampir towns in Siberia.

Alongside her search she also finds herself killing the odd Strigoi and we meet Sydney, an Alchemist (an ancient profession of humans who keep Morois and Dhampirs secret from humans hence protecting them) who's not too happy at the body count she's had to clean up. I loved Sydney for the very fact that she's not overly pleased at having to deal with Rose, Moroi or Dhampir in general. She treats Rose like an annoying wrinkle in her day so is more than unhappy that she has to accompany her to see Dimitri's family. I adored watching Rose discovering more and more of Russia. Although she's dealing with incredible grief she's still got the same spirit and drive. Her conversations with new character Abe are hysterical. Despite the fact that he appears to be an important villain in Dimitri's home town she insists on calling him, "old man," and refuses to be bullied. When Rose finally meets up with Dimitri it couldn't be more exciting. I couldn't imagine what he was going to be like; he was part familiar and part complete stranger but he hadn't forgotten his attraction for Rose. I liked that Meads makes Dimitri a committed Strigoi and not a tortured soul. He has no problems being heartless and ruthless - all the more exciting in terms of storyline.

Alongside the action in Russia we have the bond to enable us to check up on Lissa and the gang. Adrian frequently arrives in Rose's dreams to check up on her although she refuses to give away her location. Lissa has her own set of problems and these were as exciting a read as Rose's story. A new head has arrived at St. Vladimir and with him he's brought his son and daughter, Reed and Avery. Lissa gradually becomes more unstable and unpredictable putting a strain on her relationship with Christian. But is her behaviour to do with her use of spirit and its debilitating side effects? I was engrossed with Lissa in Blood Promise. In fact, I think both Lissa and Rose, as characters, benefited from being apart. I found, "acting out," Lissa more fascinating to begin with than the one who always does the right thing.

There's so much to get your teeth in with Blood Promise. I'm bubbling over to tell you how great the fight scenes are involving Rose and Dimitri. There's even more mythology to enjoy including a meeting between Rose and another shadow kissed couple. Their meeting will have repercussions well beyond this book and I got an inkling of what might happen in Spirit Bound. Honestly, I'm not sure how the rest of the series will top this book. It's pure satisfaction from beginning to end.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ultramarines : The Movie




Liz and I were invited to a special preview screening of Ultramarines today; needless to say we didn’t need to be asked twice!

So, wrapped up warm against the bitter chill in the wind, we headed into town along with our friend Amanda of Floor to Ceiling Books who had also been invited long. We got there too early as usual and stopped at Cafe Nero for a very welcome hot chocolate.

We didn’t have to queue for long, which was good given the icy wind trying to squirm under our jackets, and were soon safely ensconced inside the Odeon, gleefully pinning the Ultramarines badges we’d been given onto our lapels. Bob Thompson, the producer, stepped out on stage to introduce the movie and thank both the crew and behind the scenes figures that made the movie possible, but also to thank the fans for, well, being fans. Which I thought was pretty cool. Without further ado, the lights dimmed and the movie began.

Without giving away any spoilers, the movie centres on a squad of Ultramarines, newly promoted to the status of battle-brothers and spoiling to prove themselves and earn glory for themselves and the Chapter. They’re sent to investigate a distress beacon at an Imperial Fist shrine. After landing it soon becomes clear that they’re not alone, and before long it’s all blood and boltguns as we’re reminded in graphic detail that, in the 41st millennium, there is only war.

Ultramarines clocks in at around 75 minutes, but it flies by. The pacing is spot on, as is the interaction between the characters; they’re not clones, and there’s a friendly rivalry between them, and a clear sense of them having their own ambitions. I know that numerous message boards and forums have lots of naysayers carrying on about the quality of the animation and rendering, but having seen the finished product, these concerns are largely unfounded. It’s gorgeous, both in respect of the detailing and the animation – the combat sequences are brutal maelstroms of ripping chainswords, roaring boltguns and broken bodies and are starkly beautiful in their own right. The Ultramarines’ wargear is brilliantly realised, and they’ve clearly given a lot of thought to the practicalities of wearing Astartes power armour and how that would affect the way you move and fight. Sure, there are a couple of shots that could have benefited from a touch up, but these are few and far apart, if you notice them at all.

Ultramarines is a movie for the fans; it does exactly what it says on the tin, and delivers in spades. It’s a great story, told in an atmosphere that’s immediately familiar to anyone who’s ever read 40K material and a treat to watch. No one in the cinema went away disappointed, not even the bikers in the seats opposite me who were baying and cheering for the Black Legion. It’s a must see movie.

Liz: As someone who has not read the books, can I just say that I completely understood where these guys were coming from. I loved the scale and the spectacle of it – when the guys were all preparing their kit in the armoury, you get to appreciate the sheer size of the ship they are on. When their (by comparison) Thunderhawk jettisons from the ship to head to the planet and the camera pans out – wow, just wow.

I loved the sense of impending disaster as the guys got to the surface. Atmospherically animated with fantastic sound-quality, I found myself straining forward, to peer through the storm they were walking through.

The fight sequences were visceral – again, I thought that the scale of the armour, the weapons and the actual Shrine itself, in which some of the fighting took place, really did depict something vast and dangerous and alien.

I am a massively huge geeky fan of Sean Pertwee and having him voice one of the characters who has a clear character arc, had me grinning from ear to ear. As a complete noob to the world, I instantly identified with these warriors, their squabbles and felt their anger and anguish but also their fear. Mr. Abnett as screen writer has done an amazing job here – it is a solid story line and along with the animators, they’ve given me something that makes me want to pick up my first 40k book to read. And you have to admit, that says a lot.

I cannot wait for our pre-ordered copy to arrive! For the Emperor and Macragge!

You can see the second trailer here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vampire Academy: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead


WARNING: SPOILERS!

Synopsis

It's springtime at St. Vladimir's Academy and Rose is close to graduation, but since making her first Strigoi kills, things haven't felt quite right. She's having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all . . . might be seeing ghosts.

Consumed by her forbidden love with her tutor Dimitri and protecting her best friend, the Moroi princess Lissa, Rose is in no state to see the deadly threat that will change her entire world - and make her choose between the two people she loves most.

Book three and apologies but I can't review this series now without some spoilers but I promise not to reveal the outcome of each book. Spoilers aside, I was ready for things to change rather than a return to St. Vladimir's but fortunately although they are back at school it's straight into Guardian practical exams for Rose. I wasn't at all surprised that she didn't get partnered with Lissa, however Rose is surprised and extremely peeved to find herself shadowing Christian. An added complication is that Rose has started seeing ghosts and one particular one makes an appearance early on leaving her wondering if she's suffering post traumatic stress from the events of Frostbite.

I'm seriously impressed by Mead's mythology and world building in this book. Previously we learnt about the bond between Rose and Lissa and later discovered that the bond can work both ways. Through Rose's research into the original St. Vladimir and his shadow kissed partner Anna we get to understand more about what that bond really means. It's obvious that the story arc has been planned from book one. I never get the impression that backstory is forced in mid-book to make things work. I'm discovering that this is one of Vampire Academy's strengths and it ensures that whatever the characters do they have an amazing level of structure and plotting behind them.

Back to the story and due to the ghosts Rose is in danger of flunking her practical exam. She's also finding it difficult to control her emotions making teachers worried that she might be suffering from stress after the happenings in Frostbite. There's a fantastically funny scene with a psychiatrist and I loved Rose's true-to-character responses to the questions she's posed. As ever Rose and Dimitri's relationship is a mixture of heartbreak with flashes of hope and love. They make progress, so it's not as frustrating as I worried it may be. Events of Frostbite and the Strigoi's new attack methods return here. Some Moroi are supporting the belief that they should start to learn how to defend themselves. Moroi's have magic and specialise in one of the four elements (except Lissa of course who is a rare spirit user). Christian's specialised in Fire and is eager to use this against the Strigoi. We see more of the politics at work at court regarding this and other matters and I really felt for Rose, Lissa and friends as there's clearly more going on than they understand.

On to the finale (which I'm not going to spoil) and an awesome fight scene. I did see this coming but it didn't ruin the end of the book for me. I found myself flipping pages a million a minute to see if it was true! The ending was perfect (and necessary I feel) and means that everything has to change which, as I've mentioned before, is another strength of this series. Each book could go over the same ground but they remain fresh as characters grow and learn more about themselves. I was most impressed with Rose's realisation that the one thing she thought she wanted was in fact not something she was as prepared for as she thought. I rushed on to the next book and couldn't wait to get lost again in the world that Mead has created.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

God King Trailer

The trailer for Graham McNeill's God King, the sequel to the award winning Empire and Heldenhammer..



..and I just so happen to have a copy waiting for me :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mezolith by Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank

The world of MeZolith awaits.

10,000 years ago, the Kansa tribe live on the western shores of the North Sea Basin, where danger is never far away. Each season brings new adventure, each hunt has its risks, and each grim encounter with the neighbouring tribe is fraught with threats. Poika, a boy on the verge of manhood, must play his part and trust the strength and wisdom of his elders. This is a tale of beasts and beauty, man, magic and . . . horror. 


I have dragged my feet badly about reviewing this excellent book purely because I can't put into words how much I love it.  But I was spurred to action because of meeting the illustrator very briefly at Thoughtbubble in Leeds this weekend past.  I caught poor Mr. Brockbank at a bad time, as he was quickly eating a sarnie as the crowds around him surged and swayed.  I gushed at him, confessing my utter love for the story and the artwork.  I think I may have scared him.  I felt a bit bad about it and thought that the best way to make up for my lunatic behaviour is to review it on MFB. 


Mezolith is one of the books from DFC - the David Fickling Comics books.  It is also, by far, my most favourite of all of them that I've received to review.  


Ben Haggarty, the author is an incredible storyteller.  The man should be feted and treasured. And then sent to my house to live in the cupboard under the stairs so he can tell me stories.  I digress.  


MeZolith tells the story of Poika, a young boy who is a bit of a dreamer, and who is a bit of a storyteller himself.  One day, as he is strolling through the forest, he comes across a bison grazing quietly by itself in a clearing.  He runs to tell his father and the rest of his clan and initially they make fun of him, but then realise he's telling the truth.  They set out to hunt the animal and warn Poika to stay behind.  Of course, our dreamer would not have that, so he runs off after them.  There is an incident and Poika is badly hurt and taken home where he lies in a deep fever.  An old shaman / medicine woman arrives and offers her help. As Poika balances on the edge of fever dreams and reality, she tells him the story of a three brothers who go hunting and then one day, they come across an abandoned baby. The youngest brother, a boy maybe a bit older than Poika takes the child and cares for it, but soon it is revealed that the child is not what it seems, but a bloodthirsty monster bent on devouring the humans who had taken him in.  The youngest brother immediately takes action and saves the day.  Poika's fever breaks shortly after this and we realise the medicine woman's magics and story helped him turn the corner and he survives the ordeal the gods set before him. 


As you read further you find yourself truly immersed in this ancient landscape that is so familiar yet so alien.  It is the artist, Adam Brockbank, who is to thank for these set pieces that draws the reader in.  It is rare to find an artist and writer who just sync so well together.  Brockbank's palette makes use of matte colours that are predominantly earth colours, to reflect the deep relationship Poika's tribe has with nature around them.  It is when his palette changes slightly to accommodate Haggarty's story that you realise how deeply visual this graphic novel is.  The images stayed with me for far longer than I expected and some of the frames are perfect enough to put in a frame for display. 


MeZolith consists of interlocking stories or chapters rather, that introduce us to various members of Poika's small tribe and their day to day lives.  And each chapter can be seen as life-lesson for Poika and to be honest, not all of them are pleasant. My favourite however has to be the story of the Swan Bride.  It is a retelling of a very very old fairy tale about the young man who falls in love with a beautiful young woman who also happens to be a swan.  The story is so deeply archetypal and touching, so that every time I open the book, I am lost in that specific chapter and I cry a little at its sheer magic. 


I cannot recommend MeZolith highly enough - even if you have never read a graphic novel before in your life, this book will change your opinion.  It is deeply evocative and will make a wonderful gift for someone who is perhaps a reluctant reader.  The art and the words are married incredibly well and even if reading wasn't your favourite thing in the world, the pictures are strong enough to be taken on their own merit to tell the story. 


It is rare for me to slaver at the mouth about a graphic novel but this one is remarkable. It is one of my most treasured books and lives with all my other books on fairy tales and fairy tale retellings.  No one else is allowed to touch, and if they do, it is with permission only and with very clean hands.  If you have the opportunity to look at it in a local bookshop, do so.  Find the chapter with the Swan Bride and read it.  And then come and tell me you couldn't resist buying it. 


I am incredibly grateful to David Fickling for sending me this to review.  I am also deeply apologetic to Adam Brockbank for slavering at the mouth when I spoke to him, but I do think I managed to handsell a copy to that young man who stood listening to me gushing. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Synopsis:

Buffy meets Dr Who meets Ghostbusters in this thrilling new book you won't want to put down!


Stephanie's uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror, it certainly wasn't fiction.

Pursued by evil forces intent on recovering a mysterious key, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source – the wisecracking skeleton of a dead wizard.

When all hell breaks loose, it's lucky for Skulduggery that he's already dead. Though he's about to discover that being a skeleton doesn't stop you from being tortured, if the torturer is determined enough. And if there's anything Skulduggery hates, it's torture…

Will evil win the day? Will Stephanie and Skulduggery stop bickering long enough to stop it? One thing's for sure: evil won't know what's hit it.

I've had Skulduggery Pleasant on my bookshelf for ages and ages.  I bought it maybe over a year ago, the first one, that is and it's taken me this long to push aside my concerns to actually sit down and read it. 

My concerns were normal ones: will I be able to suspend my disbelief that a skeleton can be a main character in a book?  How over the top will it be and will I actually like the characters?  Especially the titular Skulduggery himself. I had doubts - I loved the covers and having spoken to younger folk about the books, I suspected I may be in for a treat.

If you're a long-time reader on MFB you'll know how I am always happy to say how stupid and wrong I've been about things in the past.  This is no different.  I've wasted a year since buying the first one, when I could have been running amok with Skulduggery and Valkyrie.  But, you know what convinced me to read it?  An article by the author Derek Landy in one of the writing magazines I'm subscribed to.  I was struck by his voice and thought that if he could carry that voice across into SP, I'm being an eejit not reading it.  So I packed it into my commuting bag and hey presto, I subsequently fell for Skulduggery, Valkryie, Tannith, China and Mr. Blush, among others.

Firstly - the novel is completely over the top in the sense that it suffers from a high concept - a skeleton that is a detective, a young girl side-kick taking on dangerous minions and facing off against some truly dangerous bad guys...How would they relate? How would the author make it work?

Derek Landy makes Skulduggery work through strong characterisation, a clear sense of fun and bucket loads of sarcasm and trueisms.  Oh, let's not forget about a clever plot, interesting backstories and friends that are as dangerous to know as any enemy.

But mostly, what I loved and appreciated very much in Skulduggery Pleasant is that the main character is a girl.  Stephanie Walker who becomes Valkyrie Cain. She is definitely the fore-runner of characters like Katsa and Katniss, that's for sure.  Albeit much younger than these two very well known heroines of contemporary genre fiction, she holds her own as someone I really do want to hang out with.  When she inherits her uncle Gordon's mansion, she's quite surprised but you know, she's a pretty together kid, sensing that there is more to this than just Gordon being a bit weird.

Events conspire and she is left in the house by herself overnight - and it is then that things go a bit more than just freaky.  Someone tries to break into the house and abduct her.  They mutter about "the key" and of course, Stephanie has no idea what they're on about.  Whilst she's busy defending herself the door gets blasted off its hinges and Skulduggery Pleasant walks in, beats up and tosses out the bad guy.  She recognises him from the funeral and from the reading of the will.  She thinks there's something weird about this sharply dressed man, with his big scarf, sunglasses and hat.  When the reveal comes that SP is actually a skeleton, Stephanie takes it relatively well.  But this first introduction with the pair of them just sparks wonderfully as it's dripping with sarcasm and disbelief. 

It sets the tone of the rest of the book and the series as Stephanie convinces Skulduggery that he definitely needs her help in trying to figure out what is going on.  Who are the bad guys, what do they want, who is Skulduggery, what is the mystery about Stephanie's family and how is it that some of Skulduggery's friends are so dangerous he warns Stephanie not to talk to them?

Packed with action, Stephanie hits the ground running as SP's new side-kick.  Through her eyes were are introduced to a cast of truly gloriously named characters such as Ghastly Bespoke for instance.  As the story unfolds we learn the reason as to why Skulduggery is a skeleton and you can't help but feel for him.  The pathos is very light and we concentrate mostly on Stephanie's coming of age in this book.  We are with her as she realises that her path is different to the norm and how she was right to feel that she was different to ordinary kids at school.  But we also have great character growth in Skulduggery who only reluctantly took her on as a side-kick and in the end, he becomes one of her staunches supporters.

The camaraderie between Stephanie and Skulduggery is an absolute dream to read - they snipe and argue but it is done in a way that never becomes irritating or samey.  Another thing I loved about this is the overall tone of the book.  It is solid and systematic and it never talks down to its readers.  To my mind it's sort of accidental that Stephanie is a younger person.  And importantly, Skulduggery never ever treats Stephanie as a kid and importantly, he never turns around and says: you can't do that, because you're a girl.

I cannot be more pleased with this series.  I'm reading the second book at the moment and it picks up a few months after the events of book 1 and I am so excited to see Stephanie /Valkyrie form a tentative friendship with the amazingly named Tannith Low.

Tannith's role in the first book is one of muscle - she is a great warrior herself and takes on looking after Stephanie to a certain extent.  But again, she never actually smothers or babies Stephanie.  And it makes my little heart happy to see two very strong female characters written about in such a strong and decisive way.  I think I may love Derek Landy just a little.

As Stephanie finds out more about this shadowy dangerous world she now belongs to, she never baulks.  Like so many great female characters gone before, Stephanie keeps moving forward, undeterred by attacks by vampires and other creatures.  With Skulduggery at her side, they form a formidable team and one that the Sanctuary bosses aren't entirely sure they are keen on. 

There are still several mysteries for me to figure out - about Skulduggery and the world he inhabits and I can't recommend this first book in the series enough.  It really surprised me as the writing is just so blindingly good and well, it was a long courtship but I do love Skulduggery Pleasant.  Find the first chapter of the first book here.  I can definitely recommend this to confident readers aged 10+ and importantly, it can be enjoyed by readers of both sexes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vampire Academy: Frostbite by Richelle Mead


Synopsis

It's winter break at St Vladimir's, and a massive Strigoi vampire attack has put the school on high alert. This year's trip away from the academy to the wintery peaks of Idaho has suddenly become mandatory.

But Rose's troubles seem to follow her wherever she goes - dealing with the pain of knowing that her relationship with her tutor Dimitri can never be, things get even more complicated when one her closest friends admits his feelings for her.

The glittering winter landscape may create the illusion of safety but Rose - and her heart - are in more danger than she ever could have imagined...

Book two of the Vampire Academy series and I was interested to see where this one would go after the excitement of the first book. So, major world building aside would there be enough story line and characterisation to keep me interested? The book begins with Rose and Dimitri driving to an important Guardian's house so she can take one of her essential exams to enable her to graduate from school with the rest of her year. They arrive to carnage and it becomes clear that only a human could have breached the charmed wards on the property to enable a group of Srigoi to slaughter the inhabitants. The enormity of what this means for the Moroi and their safety means that the school's winter break takes place at a ski resort in Idaho whilst the Moroi community decides how to deal with a group of travelling Strigoi.

Rose as a character grows a great deal in this book. After just a brief mention in book one of her legendary Guardian mother Janine Hathaway, I was pleased to see that she appears in person in Frostbite. Both Janine and Rose regard each other with a great deal of skepticism and animosity. In fact Rose is pretty sure that she doesn't have any sort of meaningful relationship with her mother at all. What I love about this series so far is that no miraculous and unbelievable leaps in character development take place. Rose and Janine have a long way to go and manage to take the first few steps (both forwards and backwards) in book two. Likewise, although Rose learns a great deal about herself she's still an, "act first and think later," kind of girl.

I (unforgivably) didn't mention Christian in my last review. He's a Moroi whose parents willingly turned Strigoi which leaves him as persona non grata for the rest of his life. In Vampire Academy he formed an unlikely relationship with Lissa which I found touching. He's snarky and full of resentment but Lissa smooths his corners. In Frostbite they're a proper couple and Rose has to deal with losing the full attention of her best friend. I liked that Rose was both jealous but then angry with herself for resenting Christian - it felt very real. Rose is trying to accept that there can be nothing between herself and the wonderful Dimitri and tries to return the interest that Mason clearly has in her. But then Tasha Ozera, Christian's aunt, turns up for the ski break and makes it quite clear that Dimitri (or Dimka as she calls him) is welcome to become her Guardian with benefits. I gritted my teeth with Rose as she deals with her spiralling resentment and discontent.

Another great character, Adrian Ivashkov, makes his first appearance in Frostbite. He's a rebellious Moroi who relies heavily on alcohol to get him though the day. He takes a fancy to Rose and ensures that Dimitri also feels his own measure of jealously at their friendship. Without spoiling the plot for you he has a reason for his alcohol intake and some interesting skills to share with Rose, Lissa and the gang. He adds a great deal to the plot and benefits from being somewhat older and more independent than the others. By the time the book races to its conclusion Rose has to deal with Mason's and Adrian's feelings and her own for Dimitri.

The conclusion is dramatic and somewhat shocking. Rose is pushed to test her own strength and learn hard lessons about how her actions can affect others. I loved how Frostbite didn't relax into just another school term at St. Vladimir's but sought out new locations which helps keep a fresh feeling. The characters all develop and change and new questions are raised that left me eager to read the next instalment.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead


Synopsis

St Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school - hidden away, it's a place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them.

Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St Vladimir's where the girls must survive a world of forbidden romances, a ruthless social scene and terrifying night time rituals. But most of all, staying alive.

With the imminent release of the final of the Vampire Academy series, Last Sacrifice, I thought I'd take a look at this series for the first time. I'm not sure how I managed to bypass the whole VA thing but I think you'll agree that these lovely new UK covers will be hard to miss. I much prefer these to the originals, the blood dribbles at the top right corner are a particularly nice touch! So, apart from being embarrassed that these have passed me by I was also a bit daunted when I saw the size of them. The first two are quite slim but the rest, not so much. However, I really want to get them all read in time for the release of Last Sacrifice on the 7th December 2010.

So I sat down with the first one and found that I needn't have worried. The press release describes them as a guilty pleasure and this is certainly true. Rose is a kick-ass heroine: a rebel, fond of the odd tipple, mother issues and not adverse to making out with guys. I loved her from the first page and Richelle has given her a strong voice that carries you with her. In the world of Vampire Academy there are two types of vampire; Moroi ("good" vampires who don't kill) and Strigoi ("bad" vampires who are immortal and kill when they feed). Moroi aren't great fighters and need protecting from the Strigoi who are set to destroy the whole Moroi race. This is where Dhampir's come in who are trained to be Guardians and defend the Moroi from harm.

Rose and her friend Lissa have been found after escaping from their school and going on the run for two years. As the story unfolds we find that the two are bonded and Rose can not only feel Lissa's emotions but can also slip inside her head and see what Lissa sees. This is a great addition to the flow of the story as the only problem with first person perspective is that we're often stuck with one point of view. However, this way we can feel and see what Lissa does which is a very neat solution.

The mystery about why Lissa needed to run is gradually revealed. To be honest the social network at St. Vladimir is pretty terrifying but, daunting as it is, Lissa and Rose used to thrive on the pressure. Rose is able to handle the likes of gloriously bitchy Mia and boys who kiss and tell like Jesse and Ralf. However, there's far more to the mystery than this. Lissa and Rose haven't been back long before a dead fox is left on Lissa's bed. Someone seems determined to send Lissa mad. Lissa starts to doubt herself and has a secret that only Rose knows which they're desperate to keep quiet.

Mystery aside there's also Dimitri, a Guardian who is assigned to help Rose get back up to standard after her two years away. Dimitri is a serious hottie and despite the age difference I found myself willing them together. There's some great will-they-won't-they action going on throughout which is yet another ingredient which adds to the whole guilty pleasure of these books. Honestly though, the first book of any series is almost always exciting. There's world building, characters to get to know and the whole freshness of the story to add to its appeal. I've got high hopes for this series as Rose is a different kind of heroine. She's feisty, punches first and thinks later and makes a million mistakes - not your usual main character. Much to look forward to in Frostbite and I'm interested to see if the page-turning pace continues.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Synopsis

Lonely at her new school, Elizabeth takes a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository, hoping to make new friends as well as pocket money. The Repository is no ordinary library. It lends out objects rather than books—everything from tea sets and hockey sticks to Marie Antoinette’s everyday wig.
 It’s also home to the Grimm Collection, a secret room in the basement. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles and has a will of its own.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth and her new friends embark on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before they’re accused of the crime themselves—or the thief captures them.

I'll admit it.  I bought The Grimm Legacy for 2 reasons: 1.  That cover!  It's gorgeous and I had to have it.  2. It's about fairy tales, objects from fairy tales and in a way, about the Brothers Grimm, whom I'm very fond of. So, of course, TGL had to be mine.

Elizabeth, our main character in The Grimm Legacy is someone with an adventurous spirit, although it is a hesitant adventurous spirit at first.  We meet her as she's handing over her trainers to an elderly homeless woman who is walking in the rain and snow with no shoes of her own.  One of her teachers sees this and decides to give Elizabeth a number to ring for an appointment. It's for a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository.  Her interview is odd, to say the least.  She has to sort hundreds of buttons. But whatever she does, she does it right and she's accepted to work there as a Page and runner in the library.  Naturally she's very excited about this, a bit clueless about what it all means, but enthusiasm makes up for a lot. 

Elizabeth lives with her father and step-mother.  There are two older step-sisters but they are both at university.  She is close to her dad but he's very much the absent parent in the book, choosing to spend time with the step-mother, redecorating their apartment or out at work, so we never really get a sense of them being much of a family or of the dad really being part of Elizabeth's life.  This really is the whole Cinderella aspect of the story, added to the fact that Elizabeth doesn't see herself as attractive.  She has very no friends to invite around or sit with at school.  She has a great many chores to do, with her step-mother occasionally reminding her to do something, although we never actually see her doing any of them and if she didn't do them, there were no repercussions.  If this was a way for the reader to feel empathy towards Elizabeth and her situation, it really didn't work.  I never felt genuinely sorry for her and it detracted from the story for me. I also felt that I never really got to know Elizabeth well enough to deeply care about her so me rooting for her and her friends during their adventures fell flat.

Her initial crush at the Repository is the basketball playing Marc Merritt who had the potential of being someone very cool but again, I just couldn't engage with him.  He acted in a nefarious way several times, so there was a lot of doubt about his honour but it got cleared up and explained away and I sort of liked him then, but only for a little while.  He of course was not interested in Elizabeth at all, having fallen for the very beautiful and seemingly perfect Anjali, who was also a Page at the Repository. 

Anjali is the direct opposite to Elizabeth, or so it would seem.  Beautiful and popular, she gets the prince (Marc) and is a princess herself.  She lives in a beautiful apartment, she has a younger sister Jaya, and devoted rich parents. 

A character I really disliked was Jaya.  I know, she was supposed to be ten years old, but instead of being endearingly eccentric and unique, Jaya just came across as a bit insane. I loved however that Jaya could do old school magic, using charms and things, but she was genuinely too random a creature to like.

The final person we meet is Aaron, another Page at the Repository.  He really doesn't like Marc and thinks he's up to some bad things.  Aaron is of course infatuated with Anjali too, and sees Marc as competition for her affection.  Aaron and Elizabeth get to work together several times and we get the impression that if Aaron and Elizabeth had enough time together, their characters would really grow.  As it is they spend little enough time with each other, but there is a wonderful repartee and I found myself really liking Aaron's dry wit and sarcastic ways. 

There is a lot of foreshadowing in The Grimm Legacy but it never really becomes as serious as it implies.  The hints of darkness are never fully realised so when it becomes clear that Anjali's been taken by a Bad Person and Marc, Elizabeth and Aaron decide to help, I read on to see how it got played out, but I didn't read along out of this breathless omgiwanttoknowwhathappens! 

The resolution involves a Golden Key and a secret garden.  The Bad Person is not really very effective at being bad and honestly, all the characters manage to do things just that bit too easily so when the resolution does happen and we near the end of the book, instead of elated, I just felt relief that it was over.

I have to say that I do admire the author who has clearly done so much hard work in her research of the various fairy tales from the Grimm's collections and I love how the one item, Snow White's Magic Mirror is used in the story to both reveal and hide things from the characters.  I love how it only responded to rhyming talk and think that this was a really clever device by the author.

I think this is being marketed as YA but it definitely reads for the tween market. The romance is light enough for it not be an issue for younger readers and the writing flows very easily and as I mentioned before, the repartee between Elizabeth and Aaron is great fun to read.  But sadly, this turned out to be not a book for me after all.

Find the author's website here.  The Grimm Legacy was published in July of this year by Putnam & Sons over in the States, which means it's available in the UK from online stores, in hardback.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jumpy Jack & Googily by Meg Rosoff & Sophie Blackall

It is that time of year again when I start stressing about what to buy my god-daughters for Christmas.  Last year I inundated them with Charlie and Lola stuff which I loved myself.  I also bought them Aliens love Underpants because frankly, well - a cool idea is a cool idea paired with some hilarious writing.

I've been collecting picture books this past year and will be doing some random reviews in the run up to Christmas.  And erm, of course I bought these as research and gifts for my god-daughters.  *I'm lying, can you tell?*

First up in this sequence of reviews is the very quirky and funny Jumpy Jack & Googily by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall.  Jumpy Jack is the snail of the pair and he is really quite scared of monsters.  He has a bit of a phobia about them.  I wonder if he's ever taken a good look at Googily?  Googily is a two fingered blue monster, with buggy out eyes, sticky out teeth and he wears a bowler hat.  I mean - Jumpy Jack!  You are incredibly brave and not at all a scaredy cat!

But Jumpy Jack (best name ever for a snail, I think) and Googily are the best of friends and Googily looks after Jumpy Jack on their strolls about, making sure that there are no monsters in the pool, behind the tree, or the inside the postbox or behind the door. All is well that ends well.  The lights go off and Googily's tiny voice comes on, asking Jumpy Jack to please help him this time around.  He's scared of socks, of all things, and needs Jumpy Jack to check under the bed as he's sure he can hear a sock squeaking.  I know the feeling Googily, I know the feeling!

A clever story, wonderfully illustrated by Sophie Blackall in these understated tones, that made me smile and giggle.  It's the silliness of it all but also the sweet friendship and the fact that they rely on each other, not just Jumpy Jack on Googily.

A great treat for readers 4 - 7.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birth of a Killer by Darren Shan


Synopsis

When Larten escapes the terrible workhouse in which he toils, he doesn’t know that he is running from an early death… into another kind of transformation. After meeting the mysterious vampire Seba Nile while sheltering for the night in a crypt, Larten finds himself drawn into the shadowy world of the vampire Clan. As he travels and learns, Larten finds himself enjoying the adventure he has always dreamed of, seeing a world beyond any he suspected in his poverty-stricken youth. But Larten begins to discover something else, too. Much like death, becoming a vampire is something you can’t come back from…

I read and enjoyed Cirque du Freak and was excited to see that Larten Crepsley is the focus of this new series. The Larten we know is world weary and battle scarred but Birth of a Killer shows us the beginning and his journey into vampirism. Larten comes from crushing poverty; he works seven days a week at a silk factory, a place that can only be described as horrific. It's run by an awful foreman who is so evil he once bit the nose off one of his workers. We meet his parents, brothers and sisters and get to understand his humble start in life. A tragic course of events leave Larten with nowhere to go so he hides out in a crypt and is eating cobwebs when he meets up with his future master; Seba Nile.

Although we know that Larten is destined to become a vampire the story of how he got there is full of twists and turns. I loved seeing his experiences in the Cirque du Freak and a fresher younger Larten than the one I was used to. The story about how he happens to have such bright hair is a great one. This is just one of the unexpected aspects of his background that adds so much to the story. We get a great deal of insight into vampire politics too; as Larten's master is an ancient vampire he is more traditional and strict than Larten is later to his own apprentice.

There's plenty of blood and gore to keep horror fans happy but I thought this was a much more grown up book than any of Shan's previous ones. Part of me feels that Larten has endured the worst of life in the opening chapters and that his life improves greatly as soon as he meets Seba. This could be a weakness if it wasn't for the brilliant characterisation by Shan. Larten's struggles, although alien to us, are full of the sort of insecurities than most readers will be able to relate to: girls, socialising, acceptance and rejection. Larten's relationship with Seba is quite touching too as he becomes Larten's surrogate father throughout the years. The story hurtles though time and we see Larten becoming an adult (and a vampire) in this first book although physically he's hardly aged at all.

This new book is full of promise for the rest of the series. I look forward to seeing how Larten copes with the next set of challenges which are heading his way. Also, the complicated vampire hierarchical society will hopefully be more fully explored in the next book. As so many years were covered in this first book I wonder whether the next one will slow down slightly and if so which era of Larten's life will be concentrated upon. Great start to a series with the familiar to allow you to feel as if you've settled down to have a chat with an old friend but enough new material to make it feel fresh.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Horns by Joe Hill


Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache... and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Horns begins as Ig surfaces after one hell of a bender and, bleary eyed, sees the titular horns as he staggers into the toilet. He’s still struggling to decide whether they’re as real as they feel or if it’s a ghost from the night’s excesses when he unwittingly discovers another aspect of whatever it is happened to him – anyone who sees them feels compelled to spill their darkest fears, sins, or desires to him, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s a reaction that soon drives him away from people, even his family out of the fear of what darkness lies beneath their smiles.

I found Ig to be immediately and immensely likeable, and nothing in the subsequent 400 odd pages changed that first impression, quite the opposite. At the point we meet him, there isn’t much to write home about in Ig’s life. Haunted by the accusations of the brutal murder of his girlfriend, Ig’s been going through the motions, building a tenuous normalcy into his life and not really succeeding. It’s a house of cards though, and swiftly smashed aside by the insidious effect of the horns. As dark secrets and even more unpleasant truths are uncovered Joe takes us back into Ig’s life, teasing the pieces of the puzzle together before taking us back onto the home straight and delivering an ending that’s as poignant and satisfying as it is horrific and bloody.

Horns is populated by well drawn characters, especially Ig and Lee – the insight into the latter’s mind in the build up to the day their fates were sealed is brilliantly done. I was tempted to describe Horns as eccentric, but it’s far too well plotted and realised for that.

It’s a greedy, miss-your-stop kind of read, a journey that takes in the intensity of a first love, the fallibility of God, bitter betrayal, murder, lust and revenge.. and is my favourite book of the year by a country mile. Utterly lovely. Read it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In the dark of dreams, by Marjorie M Liu

Synopsis


She was only twelve when she saw the silver boy on the beach, but Jenny has never stopped dreaming about him. Now she is grown, a marine biologist charting her own course in the family business—a corporation that covertly crosses the boundaries of science into realms of the unknown…and the incredible.

And now he has found her again, her silver boy grown into a man: Perrin, powerful and masculine, and so much more than human—leaving Jenny weak with desire and aching for his touch.

But with their reunion comes mortal danger—from malevolent forces who would alter the world to suit their own dark ends. For Perrin and Jenny—and all living creatures— their only hope for preventing the unthinkable lies in a mysterious empire far beneath the sea—and in the power of their dreams.


This is my second ever Marjorie M Liu book and I have to give Ms. Liu credit where it is due: the girl can write.

The opening sequence of a very young Jenny finding a physically hurt young boy on the beach. As she tries to tend to his wounds she can't help but think that there is something very different about him. She can't help but be drawn to him but before they could really spend any time together, the boy is dragged off by a very angry man who appears from the sea itself.

We skip ahead several years. Jenny is now a grown young woman, doing her best to stay away from her family. Using her career as a marine biologist, Jenny travels the world and tries to make sense of that mysterious experience she had so many years ago.

Through various machinations (all of them pretty bad, actually) Jenny and Perrin, the young boy from all that time ago, meet up, only to go on the run together to find out the truth about themselves and the dire situation they find themselves in.

I genuinely enjoyed In the dark of dreams as the mystery of both Jenny and Perrin's past drew me along as well as the enigma of the events taking place in the present. There were some instances where I thought Jenny's reactions to Perrin were pretty extreme and where she delayed too long to react to some set-pieces, especially when it comes to the martial combat pieces, but honestly, these were all down to personal dislikes, rather than anything to do with Ms. Liu's writing.

I find Ms. Liu's writing style genuinely engaging. I love how both books that I've now read of hers manage to be both intimate, with engaging characters, whilst also addressing a bigger theme. I thought that In the dark of dreams there was definitely an eco-message about humanity and our impact on the natural world, here especially the sea, but the message is never crammed down our throats. It is part of the overall story whilst the two characters of Jenny and Perrin are the main focus, as is their cautiously growing relationship. Jenny's character especially has an amazing character arc and I have to say, she really lives up to being the heroine for In the dark of dreams.

This is also the first e-arc / book I've read on my new Kindle for review purposes (fron NetGalley). And it was ace - a great experience on all counts.

Find the author, Marjorie M Liu's website here. In the dark of dreams is out later at the end of this month, from Avon in the States.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Genre becomes Un:Bound

We are so excited to support our friend Adele and her team of ceaseless workers over at Un:Bound.  Her new idea is a fantastic concept and it just proves that genre fiction has some of the most passionate reviewers, bloggers and fans.

Here is the official press release:



This winter, internet TV will finally be Un:Bound

Un:Bound Video Editions began with a question 'Why has no one ever done a vidcast about genre fiction?'. It's a simple question and the answer to it proved to be as simple for Un:Bound editor Adele Wearing; because she hadn't put together the team to produce one yet.

That's now changed. Like George Clooney in one of the good Ocean's movies, Adele has assembled a team of specialists to bring the best in genre fiction news and reviews to the internet. They include film maker and technical genius Vincent Holland-Keen, two-fisted editor and Angry Robot wrangler Lee Harris, sleepless genre podcaster Alasdair Stuart and, on his insistence, the dread lord of Ry'leh himself, Cthulhu. With a team like this, the casinos of Las Vegas are quaking in their cuban-heeled boots. Or would be if the plan was to rob Andy Garcia and not to produce the best, most comprehensive, fun genre fiction TV show on the net.

A fast moving glimpse into the world of genre fiction, Episode 1 features coverage of the Other Worlds Event hosted by Writing East Midlands, Alt. Fiction and Tor, a tour of Tor Towers, Publishing Tips with Lee, news with Alasdair and a message from Cthulhu.

Whether you're a life long, experienced con goer, newcomer or want to find out more, the Unbound Video Edition (UBVE to its friends) is for you. And, in fact your friends, so check out the teaser trailers at the Un:Bound Video Editions site and join our mailing list to make sure you don't miss upcoming episodes, specials and exclusive mailing list contests.

Because if you do, Cthulhu will know.

Un:Bound Video Editions – http://unboundve.com

Mailing list – email unbound@unboundblogzine.com and title your mail UBVE mailing list.

News:
Raise Monkey Punk - http://raisemonkeypunk.com/
Tim Pratt - http://www.timpratt.org/

Machine of Death - http://machineofdeath.net/a/
Dinosaur Comics - http://www.qwantz.com/index.php
Cthulhu - http://www.cthulhu.org/

Dark Fiction Magazine - http://www.darkfictionmagazine.co.uk/
Gary McMahon - http://www.garymcmahon.com/
Sarah Pinborough - http://sarahpinborough.com/
Conrad Williams - http://www.conradwilliams.net/
Joseph D'Lacey - http://www.horrorreanimated.com/

Publishing Tips:
Lee Harris - http://www.leeaharris.com/

Other Worlds:
Writing East Midlands - http://www.writingeastmidlands.co.uk/
Tor - http://www.panmacmillan.com/imprints/tor/
Alt.Fiction - http://altfiction.co.uk/
Peter F Hamilton - http://www.peterfhamilton.co.uk/
Adrian Tchaikovsky - http://shadowsoftheapt.com/
Mark C Newton - http://markcnewton.com/
Tony Ballantyne - http://www.tonyballantyne.com/

Tor with thanks to:
Julie A Crisp – Senior Commissioning Editor
Chloe Healy – Senior Press Officer
Matt Hayes – Key Accounts Manager
Neil Lang – Senior Designer
Amy Lines – Marketing Executive
James Long – Editorial Director, Digital

David Weber - http://www.davidweber.net/
Douglas Hulick - http://www.douglashulick.com/
Gary Gibson - http://www.whitescreenofdespair.blogspot.com/
Alan Campbell - http://www.alanmcampbell.co.uk/
Adam Nevill - http://www.adamlgnevill.com/
Alden Bell - http://us.macmillan.com/author/aldenbell

Special Mention 
Paul Cornell - http://www.paulcornell.com/

Presented by Un:Bound – http://www.unboundblogzine.com

**

This is such a cool concept!  We wish Adele and her team of monkeys a great amount of good luck.  We'll be watching and tweeting and reporting! 

Monday, November 08, 2010

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White


Synopsis

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

I'm not sure if it was the (gorgeous) cover or the great title that drew me in but I had a set idea of what Paranormalcy would be like. After reading it it wasn't at all what I expected but that's not a bad thing at all. The quote on the cover by Lisa McMann describes it as, "refreshing," and it's certainly different. This difference is evident from the first sentence where Evie is laughing at the cape and widow's peak of a vampire in a grave yard, she can see through his glamour to the withered corpse behind it. Evie's an orphan and due to her glamour-stripping talent has been brought up by an agency which controls supernaturals. She catches and tags the supernaturals she discovers to prevent them from being a threat. Vampires, for example, have an anklet applied which inserts holy water into them if they attempt to bite someone.

I must be honest and say that Evie did annoy me slightly in the first few chapters. She controls the supernaturals with her taser which she calls Tasey which is pink and covered in rhinestones. Later on she's given a knife with a hot pink handle which also sort of irked me for some reason. Other than the use of Tasey she has very few self defence skills. I get that Evie's girly, likes shopping and would rather not be doing the work of the agency but I couldn't understand why she was so poorly prepared. However, I found it difficult to let this get in the way of my enjoyment of Paranormalcy. Evie is quite endearing and I sympathised with her situation; trapped in a life that she didn't choose and without any family. She has a fabulous best friend in the form of mermaid, Lish, but apart from that she's very alone.

Evie can see through glamours but there's more to her. She's always incredibly cold and is hearing poems in her sleep. In the outside world paranormals are being killed. Whatever it is that is doing the killing, it's able to slaughter everything from vampires to hags and werewolves. Evie meets a paranormal called Lend and for the first time gets an insight into the life that she's only seen on TV - that of an American teenager. Alongside all of this is the danger of Evie's ex - a faerie called Reth. Evie's constantly trying to warn people that faeries can't be ruled by an organisation but no-one believes her.

The book becomes gripping from the middle onwards when Evie's goals become clear and she becomes more proactive. The way that paranormals are presented is fresh and interesting. Also, Evie herself is intriguing and her true nature is not something which I've come across before. The ending is satisfying but there are plenty of questions and story strands to look forward to in the sequel. Paranormalcy is both well written, fresh and definitely worth reading.

Friday, November 05, 2010

CILIP Carnegie Medal 2011 Longlist

Phew - here it is then. Don't know about you guys but boyo, this is a very strong list this year.  I'll highlight and link to the books we've read and reviewed on MFB. Two books on this list: Savannah Grey and Unfinished Angel I reviewed for sfrevu.com and I also link to those reviews.

CILIP Carnegie Medal 2011 Longlist

Adlington, L.J. Burning Mountain
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9780340956823

Almond, David The Boy Who Climbed Into The Moon
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406314571

Ashley, Bernard No way to Go
Publisher: Orchard ISBN: 9781408302392

Augarde, Steve Xisle
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385610612

Beck, Ian Pastworld
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747581734

Breslin, Theresa Prisoner of the Inquisition
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385617031

Brooks, Kevin I Boy
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141326108

Carrington, Jim Inside My Head
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9781408802717

Christopher, Lucy Flyaway
Publisher: Chicken House ISBN: 9781905294763

Corder, Zizou Halo
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141328300

Craigie, Emma Chocolate Cake with Hitler
Publisher: Short Books ISBN: 9781906021894

Creech, Sharon Unfinished Angel
Publisher: Andersen Press ISBN: 9781849390811

Cross, Gillian Where I Belong
Publisher: Oxford ChildrenÕs Books ISBN: 9780192755544

David, Keren When I Was Joe
Publisher: Frances Lincoln ISBN: 9781847801005

Davies, Corinne V. Ralph is (not) a Vampire
Publisher: RAL publications UK ISBN: 9780955690525

Di Camillo, Kate The Magician's Elephant
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406324471

Dickinson, John We
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385617895

Duffy, Carol Ann New and Collected Poems for Children
Publisher: Faber ISBN: 9780571219681

Durrow, Heidi The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Publisher: Oneworld Publications ISBN: 9781851687459

Fisher, Catherine Crown of Acorns
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9780340970072

Gleitzman,Morris Now
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141329987

Grant, Helen The Glass Demon
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141325767

Gourlay, Candy Tall Story
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385618946

Haig, Matt The Radleys
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406330281

Hooper, Mary Fallen Grace
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747599135

Hughes, Gregory Unhooking the Moon
Publisher: Quercus ISBN: 9781849162951


Jones, Diana Wynne Enchanted Glass
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007320783

Kennen, Ally Sparks
Publisher: Scholastic ISBN: 9781407111087

Malley, Gemma The Returners
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408800904

McCaughrean, Geraldine The Death Defying Pepper Roux
Publisher: Oxford ChildrenÕs Books ISBN: 9780192756022

McNish, Cliff Savannah Grey
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781842551127

Mills, Sam Blackout
Publisher: Faber ISBN: 9780571239412

Moran, Katy Spirit Hunter
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406317282

Morgan, Nicola Wasted
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406321951

Morpurgo, Michael Running Wild
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007267019

Nelson, Jandy The Sky is Everywhere
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406326307

Ness, Patrick Monsters of Men
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406310276

Newbery, Linda Lob
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385610810

Nix, Garth Lord Sunday
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007175130

Purkiss, Sue Emily's Surprising Voyage
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406321821

Rees, Celia The Fool's Girl
ISBN: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747597322

Reeve, Philip No Such Thing As Dragons
Publisher: Scholastic ISBN: 9781407114835

Riordan, Rick The Red Pyramid
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141384948


Rosoff, Meg The Bride's Farewell
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141383934

Sachar, Louis The Cardturner
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408808504

Saunders, Kate Beswitched
Publisher: Marion Lloyd ISBN: 9781407108971

Scarrow, Alex Timeriders
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141326924

Sedgwick, Marcus White Crow
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781842551875

Sparkes, Ali Wishful Thinking
Publisher: Oxford ChildrenÕs Books ISBN: 9780192756114

Summers, Laura Desperate Measures
Publisher: Piccadilly Press ISBN: 9781848120501

Suzuma, Tabitha Forbidden
Publisher: Random House ChildrenÕs Books ISBN: 9781862308169

Temperley, Alan Scar Hill
Publisher: Luath Press ISBN: 9781906307523

Updale, Eleanor Johnny Swanson
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385616423

Valentine, Jenny The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007283613

Wallace, Jason Out of Shadows
Publisher: Andersen Press ISBN: 9781849390484

Walsh, Pat The Crowfield Curse
Publisher: Chicken House ISBN: 9781906427153


Westerfield, Scott Leviathan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781847385192

Williams, Carol Lynch The Chosen One
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781847389381

Williams, Rob Luke and Jon
Publisher: Faber ISBN: 9780571249633

Winterson, Jeanette Battle of the Sun
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408800423

I really think this is such a great longlist of excellent books. Looking at it really makes me envy the young readers in the UK. I'm definitely going to try and get more of these books read and reviewed as a bit of a personal challenge. What's the worst that can happen? An attack of imagination? Sign me up!

Also, all the information from here about the longlist, I've nabbed from the official website which can be found here.

Below this cut, is the Kate Greenaway Longlist - and sadly, I've failed to read a single one of the books nominated.  *am sad*

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hobgoblins by Professor Ari Berk


I first came to know of Ari Berk through the fantastic The Endicott Studio for Mystic Arts (which is now no longer updated but is still up for viewing and reading pleasure). Then, I found his book he did on Runes of Elfland with Brian Froud, belatedly realising he also worked on the Lady Cottingly's Pressed Fairies book. But it was the Runes of Elfland where I knew that there was something about Mr. Berk that I really liked. Here was someone who took myths and legends about fae creatures and made them tangible and real and writes about them in a serious and scholarly fashion whilst maintaining the mystery and beauty of the subject.

This is my review of his most recent non-fiction book from Templar called Secret Histories:  Hobgoblins and it is effectively a guide to these shy, quiet creatures who live side by side with humans all over the world.

The write-up from Templar says:

The Order of the Golden Quills, an ancient collective of scribes from various species of Secret Folk, invite you into the hidden world of hobgoblins – the helpful housemates of humans for thousands of years. But beware, when humans break the Laws of Hospitality, even the friendliest hobgoblin may turn tricksy…

As Magister and Scribe of the The Order of the Golden Quills, Professor Berk travelled to the far corners of the world to collect the various bits of lore for this wonderfully illustrated book on Hobgoblins. Illuminators who worked on this include Gary Chalk, Alan Lee, Virginia Lee, Larry MacDougall and Fernando Molinari.

As we work our way through this invaluable guide of lore and fact we learn about Hobgoblins throughout history and discover that they were part and parcel of Roman life (and maybe even before then!). We are introduced to their daily habits and find out some interesting magical lore about their clothes and why they would wear specific pieces of clothing. We are shown the secret places they may take up residence in our homes and some of the more obvious places too. Of course, it’s not just our suburban homes that are under the protection and care of these fine creatures, but also certain farms and livestock.

Hobgoblins live busy lives and as they ally themselves with humans, they obviously make some enemies. We are shown some of these creatures (nasty redcaps!) but we also get to see some of the hobgoblins’ weapons. There is a swathe of interesting wandering folk out there who are good friends with the hobgoblins and those are introduced to us too, so that we know who to trust and such. And my favourite bit of the book is where are allowed to the hobgoblins charms as well as their book of blights. This small charm is a particular favourite:

Night Light
Kindly flame
And hall-orb light
Lead all to bed
And rest this night

With permission from Templar, I took some photos, to show off the wonderful layout, interior and design of this unique book.

The first set of pages giving us background about The Order itself. 

These small extra information flaps are throughout the book. 

Beautiful illustrations accompany the research. 

Here we are allowed rare access to some of the hobgoblin weapons

The emblem of The Order.


I have to say that I chose to review this specific book as one of my books for National Non Fiction Day because it goes a long way to prove that non-fiction does not have to be boring. And that although it contains a lot of research and facts and illustrations, it is still a tremendously fun and interesting book that will appeal to all ages. I particularly love it for its in depth research and know that it will enhance my own collection of books on fairy and supernatural lore that I have managed to build up over the years as research.

I think this Secret Histories book will sit well with enthusiasts of all ages.  There is so much to think about, to make notes about, and to research should you so wish, in this beautiful book that I think it's a boon to creative storytellers in classrooms and for those parents who are fond of telling their own bedtime stories to young folk.  It is definitely a fascinating resource and I can see that there are opportunities for small groups in classes to work together to create their own lore or even create their own legends about these fascinating creatures. Or, in art class, for those enthusiasts who have the ability to, to draw these creatures.  I also own the equally wonderful Giants book and will be ordering the Mermaids book for myself as a gift from me to me at Christmas.

Find Professor Ari Berk's specially designed website showcasing the Hobgoblin book here.  And also make sure to swing by the official National Non-Fiction Day website.