Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wolfsbane & Mistletoe; edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L P Kelner

The holiday season can bring out the beast in anyone - literally! Fifteen werewolf tales from an all-star line up.

Charlaine Harris, Keri Arthur and Patricia Briggs bring you a Christmas present to remember!

We all know the holiday season can bring out the beast in anyone - but it's especially hard if you're a lycanthrope! Gathered here together is a veritable feast of fears and tears: fifteen of the scariest, saddest, funniest werewolf tales, by an outstanding pack of authors, best read by the light of the full moon, and with a silver bullet close at hand.

WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE, the perfect antidote to Christmas mawkishness!

Thanks so much to our good friend Jamie "Wordweaver" Ambrose for reading and reviewing Wolfsbane & Mistletoe and for her sterling review.


When this book arrived from the kind folks at MFB, I have to admit I was fairly sceptical. I mean, c’mon: a collection of 15 werewolf short stories is one thing, but one with a Christmas theme seemed a bit, well, mismatched, somehow.

Until, that is, I got started on them.

From the first page of the first tale, ‘Gift Wrap’ by Charlaine Harris, whose Southern Vampire Mysteries have been turned into TV’s True Blood, I was hooked – and delighted. Here are stories with comic turns, dark imaginings, new takes on old myths, and genuinely haunting themes, and all of them wonderfully and imaginatively well-written by authors such as Patricia Biggs, Keri Arthur and Kat Richardson. They feature good weres and not-so-nice weres, by-accident weres and on-purpose weres, successfully integrated weres and desperate loner weres, and each has a holiday-related tale to tell (or should that be tail to wag?).

Richardson’s ‘The Werewolf Before Christmas’ is one of the cleverest things I’ve read in years, effortlessly weaving global legends and folklore into a seamless and unexpected twist on ‘a visit from Saint Nicholas’. If nothing else in this book appeals to you, please, please give this one a try.

Harris’s ‘Gift Wrap’, set in the bayous of Louisiana, features her well-known Sookie Stackhouse character, whose matter-of-fact, Southern dialog makes the perfect narrative voice for a story that wanders in and out of magic and ‘real life’ as effortlessly as stepping from one room into another.

Being a rather timid soul, I was a bit apprehensive by the title of Alan Gordon’s ‘Fresh Meat’, not to mention the first line, which mentions newly slaughtered beef carcasses ‘…so fresh they were mooing yesterday’ (ick!). But by the end of it, I was firmly on the side of Sam Lehrmann and his telepathic pack – just as I became a big fan of Patricia Biggs’ ‘The Star of David’ werewolves, whose decency (or agenda) wasn’t immediately apparent.

Obviously, I enjoyed some of these stories more than others, and although there are a few I found a bit ‘much’ on the gratuitous bloodlust front, each one is well worth reading – not something I can often say about anthologies. And many are certainly worth reading over and over, which, given the season, is something I’m just about to do.

So kudos, Ms Harris and Ms Kelner, and thank you MFB, so much, for introducing us. Wolksbane and Mistletoe is a great collection of imaginative writing, one that’s had the effect of making an overworked and slightly jaded fantasy reader sniff the air, hear a far-off howl – and be thrilled by it again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Coyote Road - Trickster Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Coyote. Anansi. Brer Rabbit. Trickster characters have long been a staple of folk literature—and are a natural choice for the overarching subject of acclaimed editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s third “mythic” anthology. The Coyote Road features a remarkable range of authors, each with his or her fictional look at a trickster character. These authors include Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Charles de Lint (The Blue Girl), Ellen Klages (The Green Glass Sea), Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners), Patricia A. McKillip (Old Magic), and Jane Yolen. Terri Windling provides a comprehensive introduction to the trickster myths of the world, and the entire book is highlighted by the remarkable decorations of Charles Vess. 

Datlow and Windling are two of my all-time favourite editors when it comes to putting together anthologies of mythic nature, and The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales anthology is one of my all time faces.

The Coyote Road - TCR - like its companions The Green Man and The Faery Reel makes great reading for anyone interested in myths, legends and folk tales.  Some are new stories, some are old and are being retold, but they are all fresh and unique and great to dip in and out of for tired minds in need of inspiration.

I am a great big fan of trickster tales and am therefor the one who loved Loki's duplicity and interesting character in the newest Thor movie. This collection of short stories and poems, with artwork by Charles Vess, is one of my desert island books.

In The Listeners by Nina Kiriki Hoffman we meet Nysa, a young slave in ancient Greece.  She is fourteen and pretty enough to draw the attention of her owner's one friend.  After overhearing the men speak after too much to drink one night, Nysa discovers that her owner has agreed to sell her, for one night, to his friend.  The thought of having sex with this odious man does not appeal to Nysa and she mentions it to a friend of hers, at the well as they draw water together.  Her friend hands her a small cake of incense to burn and assures Nysa that it may not be that bad after all.

Nysa ends up burning the incense and saying a prayer to Hermes, the god of thieves, travellers and guardian of roads and boundaries, begging him for help, to set her on another path.  And miraculously, Hermes does appear and places his mark on her...changing her path and life irrevocably.

It is a great story - a strong heroine bargaining with a god, yet she remains humble enough to accept his grace and guidance. The story is set in ancient Greece and a lot of terms are unfamiliar to the english reader yet the author takes great care to explain what each of these words mean through making use of context.  It is a trick that works really well and she has a light hand giving us lots of info about ancient Greece and the way women were treated (not nice) without us realising it.

It is a thoughtful story and well written.  The author is new to me, which is silly as she's been around for some time.  I had recently bought a book of hers which I'm reviewing in December and would like to say thank you to Kaz Mahoney for putting the ear worm about this writer in my brain.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sabbat Worlds - edited by Dan Abnett

So what the hell is ‘Sabbat Worlds’ I hear you ask.

Well, gather round, make yourself comfortable and I’ll tell you. No, that’s my chair.

In it’s simplest form, the Sabbat Worlds is the name given to a small corner of the Warhammer 40K that forms the backdrop for Dan Abnett’s hugely popular Gaunt’s Ghosts series of novels. As with most things, it started small, then grew and grew, acquiring its own history, legends and heroes with each instalment – there are 14 books in the series so far (well, 15 if you count Iron Star, which was printed as a limited edition short story but is now included in this anthology), and it now stands as a fully fledged and recognised corner of the universe. Until recently it’s pretty much been Dan’s personal playground, but now he’s invited a few select friends over for literary sleepover, and the result is this anthology.

The anthology features eight stories, and pole position goes to Apostle’s Creed by Graham McNeill.

Apostle’s Creed revisits a squadron of elite Thunderbolt fighter aces called the Apostles, who made their debut in Double Eagle back in 2004 (so long already? Where’s our sequel?). Graham’ story revolves around Larice Asche, a capable and experienced ace in her own right who’s still trying to find her place amidst the emotionally distant brotherhood of the Apostles.

With her Thunderbolt damaged in a savage dogfight, Larice is escorted to the nearest airbase by an army pilot, who she discovers is an ace in his own right. Impressed, she approaches the rest of the Apostles to put him forward as a candidate to join their ranks. But her peers know there’s a cruel but unavoidable truth that Larice has to face up to, one that she will have to confront sooner than she expects.

That journey is the crux of the story, and it works because Graham really does well to bring her character to life in such a relatively short time- by understanding her, we understand more of the campaign they are fighting and the nature of what she is -and will be- going through, which gives it a good emotional resonance. Not only that, he’s also recaptured the exhilarating feel of high speed, life or death dogfighting with a distinctly 40K flavour. And there’s plenty of it too, which is ace.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor


Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Hatchling: Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

Having spent this year catching up on Laini's back catalogue ready for the release of Daughter of Smoke and Bone I put this on one side for short story month but often looked at the amazing illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo that run throughout. The hardback edition is a gorgeous book to look at and it's been staring at me from the shelf for quite some time. I settled down to read Goblin Fruit, a story about Kizzy and all those other girls who are sixteen and filled with longing. This isn't a story about the pretty girls or the popular girls - it's about the ones that skirt in the shadows and stare at the floor. Kizzy lives with an extended family out on the edge of town on a farm with scores of stray cats. Her family keep to their traditions and take them seriously so much so that when Kizzy's grandmother dies she kills a swan so that one wing can be placed in the coffin so her soul can fly.

Kizzy's coasting at school, disinterested in her studies. What she wants, yearns for, is to be desired in the same way that the popular girls are. So when a beautiful boy turns up at school one day her grandmother's stories fly from her mind. She told Kizzy about her sister, how she'd eaten goblin fruit and nearly wasted away until she managed to save her. As the story progresses the signs that Kizzy is in danger become more and more obvious. By the last couple of pages I was almost screaming at her. I won't tell you any more so as not to spoil it but Goblin Fruit is beautiful. Laini's words wrap you up and I fell straight into the dark and dangerous world she'd created.

I laughed at the perfect dialogue between Kizzy and her two friends, Evie and Cactus which was snarky and wonderful. I especially loved the grandmother and her beloved knife. Kizzy coveted this knife with its mother-of-pearl handle so much so that she hoped that it would be left to her. These hopes were dashed as the grandmother's last words were, "Don't you dare steal it out of my coffin." The most heartbreaking aspect of Goblin Fruit is that Kizzy is special, far more so than the girls who she watches. She's smart, fearless and funny. I can't tell you what she decides to do but if you get a chance please read this wonderful book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apex Magazine - January 2011/Issue 20 - The Tolling of Pavlov's Bells by Seanan McGuire

I did not know Seanan McGuire also writes as Mira Grant (published by Orbit here in the UK and elsewhere).  This short story in the Apex Magazine that I bought for my Kindle a while ago, has now made me a huge fan of her writing and I will hungrily find her writings in both of her incarnations.

In The Tolling of Pavlov's Bells we are introduced to Dr. Diana Weston, author of medical thrillers and slayer of humanity.  The short story opens with great impact, where Dr. Weston tells us of her trial being conducted in her absence, where she is convicted of fraud, treason, bio terrorism and sixteen million counts of murder.  The trial is broadcast the world over, on TV and radio but instead of cheering and joy in the streets, it is all oh so quiet.

Told retrospectively and in current time, we find out more about Dr. Diana Weston, her research, her decisions to give the world a wake-up call.  Only the wake-up call is not heeded by anyone, so she takes matters into her own hands. The story is pacey and gripping and scary and thoughtful and it's made me hungry to read more of Ms. McGuire's work.

Written in a harrowingly personal voice we are left in no doubt that Dr. Weston is utterly insane and yet like Hannibal Lector, she is hugely charismatic, believable and oh so logical.  The short story gave me the heebie jeebies, especially in the face of the movie Contagion that's doing the rounds at present, as well as Michael Crichton's new novel: Micro.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Tolling of Pavlov's Bells, even if I am now keen to wear a face mask and surgical gloves.

Find Seanan McGuire's website here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Truth or Dare anthology, edited by Liz Miles

Tales of Love, Life and falling on your face for the Young Adult reader. The truth is that for those who dare to be different school and growing up can be hell. Truth &; Dare is a collection of edgy, quirky stories that revolve around a funny, nerdy cast of characters who struggle to fit in . . . or struggle not to. They will appeal to the inner geek of anyone caught up in attempts to navigate the labyrinthine teen caste system.

Written in authentic teen voices, they speak to fans of the movies Juno and Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist and the TV series The Gilmore Girls. Witty and smart, these are short stories from the point of view of funny, though not always cool or popular guys and girls, who are dealing with all the pressures of growing up - school, friends, music, relationships, parents, and just plain fitting in (or not).

I received a copy of Truth & Dare to review a while ago and then stumbled across the kindle version of the book online shortly after and thought, this would be a cool thing to have on the kindle to dip and out of.

And I was right.

On my commute I read three of the short stories - the first three, in fact.

I read and loved and was amazed by the coolness of GIRL JESUS ON THE INBOUND SUBWAY by Matthue Roth. Any book or story that starts with the line: The saviour of the universe is a girl in a trench coat, a hoodie, and twenty pound earphones, and more than anything I want her to kiss me makes me want to run around and scream at its sheer coolnicity. The story is swift, it's beautifully written with a stinging twisty bit at the end. I loved it. In fact, I want Matthue to move into my house and tell me more stories like this. I have a very comfortable couch.

Sarah Rees Brennan's YOUNG STALKER'S HANDBOOK almost had me tossed off the bus for strange behaviour. I was laughing out loud, shaking and snorting. Hilariously funny to the max, it is Sarah's particular brand of humour that we have all come to know and love through her Demon books. The main character has such a great voice and is utterly believable in her quest to follow the handsome guy she spotted in the record store. As she drags her bff around with her, both her inner dialogue and her argument with her friend makes required reading for great punchy character creation. I loved it!

Because I dislike being predictable...I skipped a few stories and ended up reading one of the most disturbing short stories I may have ever read. Written by Sherry Shahan, IRIS AND JIM centres around a very destructive relationship of two anorexics in a clinic. Brutally real and frightening because she gets them and their ordeal and reasoning so right, this made me deeply uncomfortable and worried. It is a great story and even just thinking about it...makes cold shivers pit pat down my spine.

I'll review more from this superb collection next week!


Jennifer Finney Boylan is author of eleven books, five of which are YA books.

Sarah Rees Brennan is author of The Demon's Lexicon, which was one of Kirkus' Best Books, ALA's Top Ten Best Books and a Best British Fantasy book.

Cecil Castellucci author of Rose Sees Red and a picture book Grandma's Gloves.

Emma Donoghue author of Booker-shortlisted Room.

A.M. Homes is the author of, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack.

Jennifer R. Hubbard author of the contemporary YA novel The Secret Year, published in 2010.

Heidi R. Kling is the author of the Penguin Young Readers YA novel Sea,a story of hope after tragedy set in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.

Michael Lowenthal is the author of the novels Charity Girl, Avoidance, and The Same Embrace

Saundra Mitchell author of Shadowed Summer and The Vespertine.

Luisa Plaja author of the teen novels-Split by a Kiss, Swapped by a Kiss and Extreme Kissing.

Matthue Roth author of Never Mind the Goldbergs, his first novel, a coming-of-age tale

Sherry Shahan has written over 30 books, including Purple Daze.

Shelley Stoehr author of four award-winning novels for Young Adults, including the still popular, award-winning, Crosses.

Ellen Wittlinger had her first teen novel, Lombardo's Law,published in 1993.

Jill Wolfson author of award-winning novels for young people including What I Call Life; Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies; and Cold Hands, and Warm Heart.

Also includes: Courtney Gillette, Jennifer Knight, Gary Soto, and Sara Wilkinson

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Strange Chemisty - New YA imprint from Angry Robot

I am SO incredibly pleased to share this Press Release with you from Angry Robot. Read on to see why:

Angry Robot announces new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry

Angry Robot, the award-winning publisher of SF, F and WTF are pleased to announce their newest venture – a sister imprint, Strange Chemistry, which will publish Young Adult genre fiction.

The imprint will launch in September 2012, with five titles appearing before the end of that year, before settling down to one book each month. Strange Chemistry will follow AR’s strategy of co-publishing its books simultaneously in the US and UK, in both eBook and paperback formats. Subject matter will include fantasy, science fiction, supernatural and horror, and as with Angry Robot the lines between those genres are likely to be very blurry at times.

Running the imprint will be Amanda Rutter, until recently best known as the tireless blogger behind genre review site, Floor-to-Ceiling Books. She takes up her position in Angry Robot’s headquarters in Nottingham on December 12th.

Angry Robot’s managing director Marc Gascoigne said: “The key to any truly successful genre imprint is the personality of its editors. In Amanda we’ve found the perfect mix of editing skills and wild, wild enthusiasm for the subject. Her first signings are already making us jump up and down in excitement. We’re beyond delighted to welcome her to the team.

Amanda Rutter commented, “Angry Robot have quickly become one of the most exciting and challenging genre publishers around, and I have so much admiration for the types of novels that the guys are bringing to the world of speculative fiction. I’m absolutely thrilled that I have the opportunity to join the team, and create a list full of Young Adult novels that share the same sharpness and passion as those in the AR list.”

More information can be found at http://www.strangechemistrybooks.com/ and http://www.angryrobotbooks.com/.You can meet Amanda at http://floor-to-ceiling-books.blogspot.com/

Isn't that superb news? We are so proud of Amanda. She has worked so hard for this position and has grown so much as a blogger in the time we've known her, as well as an editor. Her crucible was the slush pile reading that a group of us participated in for Angry Robot a few months ago. I think, from what she told me, she felt really at home and loved that she could go all detective and sniff out suitable books not just to fit the AR list but also books she'd want to read. I utterly failed at the slush pile reading and could only stand in awe as I watched her read and read and read. She is a dynamo. Focussed and determined and she has a great nose for what's good and what's not.

Hand on heart, Mark, Sarah and I wish Amanda the best of luck in her career change. It is a big deal, a big change going from her role as a chartered accountant to follow her dream to being offered her dream by the guys at AR. I know how determined they are, how goal focussed and insanely passionate they are about the books they publish and about the industry and I really think Strange Chemistry is going to be a very cool, very worthy addition to the current YA market.

As a reader, I cannot wait to see what Amanda chooses and as an aspiring writer and member of SCBWI BI, I think it is a fantastic opportunity for writers. I know the books they choose will have an edge - I mean, come on - it's Angry Robot! And wow, just wow. I am really pleased for my friend. Because she's doing a big thing, following her dream. And we can only - gets out a hanky to dab the eye - wish her the best of luck as we continue on our own paths.

Teeth: Vampire Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling


Fascinated by vampires?

Then feast on nineteen tantalizing, bite-sized tales exploring the intersections between the living, dead, and undead.

The vampires in these stories range from romantic to chilling to gleeful—and touch on nearly every emotion in between. The one thing they have in common is their desire for blood. . . .

I couldn't wait to get a copy of Teeth. Firstly, it has an amazing list of authors involved: Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Garth Nix. Secondly, it promised to give some alternate views to the type of vampire that we've become used to of late. The introduction by the editors of the book, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling is a fascinating account of the popularity of the vampire genre and the Gothic through the ages from local myths, through Buffy to the Twilight phenomenon.

It's not often that a short story leaves me with tears in my eyes but Flying by Delia Sherman did just that. The story follows eighteen-year-old Lenka, a former trapeze artist who's recovering from leukaemia. Her family were at the height of their popularity when she fell ill. As a result her brothers and their wives headed off to work while her parents settled down in Cleveland and worked regular jobs to help pay for her care. Now in remission, Lenka is keen to get back to circus life although she knows she isn't strong enough yet. She manages to persuade her parents to take her to the Cirque des Chauve-souris. Once there Lenka watches the show with a professional eye - seeing how it could be improved but aching to be a part of their show.

The next day she runs away, leaving her parents a note, and joins them. Too weak to perform she deals with the front of house responsibilities. As time goes on she discovers that there's more to her new family than she thought. I loved Lenka - she has an inner core of steel and a determination to claim back her life. Hating the fact that she's become so helpless and dependant her act of running away is more than just a whim. She knows that she belongs in the air and all she wants is to be strong enough to fly again. By the end of the story I was both happy and heartbroken. I want to read a novel about Lenka as soon as possible. I'm aware that'll probably never happen but I want to know more!

I can't finish this mini-review without mentioning Vampire Weather by Garth Nix. I'm a massive fan of the Sabriel trilogy. The worlds and landscapes that he created are forever in my memory. Vampire Weather tells the story of Amos who lives in what appears to be an Amish community - cut off from the rest of civilisation. When the fog rolls in off the mountains they live in fear of vampires using the weather to attack so hide in their homes. However, Amos meets a girl at the postbox and she changes his life forever. Atmospheric and memorable, I was a bag of nerves every time Amos stepped outside his house.

If you want a different kind of vampire then please check this anthology out. The authors involved have put together a thoughtful, terrifying and satisfying book that's a keeper.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dystopia wins at Random House Kids UK

Great swathes of fantastic sounding books are coming in for next year, especially from RHCB.  With this new press release I'm about to copy below, I have to say it does sound like 2012 and 2013 are going to rock our worlds.

Check it out:

Random House Children’s Books has acquired four new debut dystopian novels for publication in 2012 and 2013. RHCB’s exciting wave of near-future titles, all acquired by Ruth Knowles, include:

Starters by Lissa Price, an American screenwriter, publishing in April 2012, is an action-packed thriller set in a world where eternal youthfulness can be had – at a price. One girl has the ability to bring it all tumbling down . . . RHCB acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Heather Shapiro at Baror International and will be launching globally alongside Random Inc for a truly international campaign.

A post- apocalyptic Los Angeles is the setting for Struck by Jenifer Bosworth, publishing in July 2012. After the city is devastated by an earthquake, Mia Price finds herself in the middle of a power struggle between two fanatical cults; one that wants to save the world and another that wants to destroy it. RHCB acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Alex Webb of the Rights People, acting on behalf of FSG.

Sangu Mandanna’s debut The Lost Girl publishes in early 2013 and centres around Eva, a feisty teen girl who technically has no true identity of her own. Eva is forced to abandon everything she's ever known and loved, finding herself torn between two worlds. RHCB acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Sarah Malloy of A.M. Heath acting on behalf of the Elizabeth Kaplan agency.

And finally, children’s librarian Emma Pass, releases ACID in early 2013. This action-packed novel introduces us to Jenna Strong, a truly kick-ass heroine who is serving time in an all-male prison for the murder of her parents. Set one hundred years in the future in a Big Brother style society; Britain is now under the control of ACID – a terrifying all-seeing police force. RHCB acquired world rights from Carolyn Whitaker of London Independent Books.

Ruth Knowles, Commissioning Editor comments, ‘Dystopian fiction is a much-talked about genre, particularly with the release of The Hunger Games movie next spring. We have acquired some fantastic futuristic thrillers that we know will appeal to this audience, and are confident that RHCB will have some of the most exciting novels in the genre. The worlds within them are very different from each other, but all completely hook you in from the first page and do not let go.’

Liz says: I know people may roll their eyes at more dystopic novels hitting our shelves, or more paranormal romance but I have to say it makes me happy.  It makes me happy that publishers are continuing to invest in authors and taking chances because none of these stories sound remotely similar to what has gone before. And more importantly: taking chances on debut writers.  On strong stories with strong protagonists. 

I have to play favourites though and say I am super excited about ACID from Emma Pass whom I chat to on Twitter.  You should too: @EmmaPass - and now all we have to do is wait...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dreaming Again - The Lost Property Room by Trudi Canavan

Dreaming Again is an anthology gathering 35 of the best and brightest Australian fiction writers together in one anthology.  It is the follow-up to the award winning anthology:  Dreaming Down-Under.

This anthology does not disappoint and it is Trudi Canavan's The Lost Property Room that really sticks in the mind. Trinity Hunder, our main character, accidentally forgets her umbrella on the train and upon contacting The Lost Property Room is told to come on down to check to see if her umbrella was handed in.  The thing is, the country is currently sweltering beneath a heatwave and drought.  Here and there it will rain a bit, just stirring up the dust, but nothing serious.  So she feels a bit silly going in to collect an umbrella.

Once at the LPR she is ushered through and instructed to take nothing from the room, except what she came for.  Trinity checks through all the umbrellas - there are a lot of them - but there is no sign of her umbrella.  She liked this one as it had quite a bit of sentimental value, hence her quest to find it.  Sadly, she has no luck finding it.  And then, on a whim, she nabs an umbrella and leaves with it, all too aware of the warning the man gave her...

Matters get a bit out of hand and mobile freak storms start following Trinity around, wherever she goes.  It becomes a complete nightmare and convinced that it is the umbrella's fault, she heads back to the LPR and speaks to the caretaker.  She hands back the umbrella after he assures her that she's not going mad, that the freak storms were in fact following her around.  Obviously there is a bit of a spin, and it is a great subtle one and the story ends perfectly.

Authors in the anthology include people like: Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, Sara Douglass, John Birmingham, Kim Wilkins, Celia Dart-Thornton, Rowena Cory Daniels, Trent Jamieson and a host of other names both well known and some lesser knowns.  The anthology is edited by Jack Dann and published by Harper Voyager Australia.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Gavin J. Grant


In the first major YA steampunk anthology, fourteen top storytellers push the genre's mix of sci-fi, fantasy, history, and adventure in fascinating new directions.
Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the steampunk genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, Ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.

I was drawn to this anthology by the array of authors listed, not just writers but graphic storytellers too. The first of these is by Shawn Cheng and is called Seven Days Beset by Demons. It follows our young nameless hero who makes clockwork musical toys. One catches the eye of a girl who he immediately falls for. The next seven days sees him experiencing the seven deadly sins as he hopes to catch her heart. I found it both touching and heartbreaking.

Cassandra Clare's story (Some Fortunate Future Day) also caught my eye. It tells the tale of Rose, stuck alone in her house. Her father has gone to war and her only companions are the automaton gardener and cook plus two talking dolls. The dolls, Ellen and Cordelia, have different characters and as the story progresses it appears that they have feelings too. Trust me, there's nothing more creepy than dolls who spy on you and whisper horrible things in your ears. Rose's solitary life comes to an end when an injured soldier called Jonah makes his way to the house. Rose and the dolls take him in, tend to his wounds and as he recovers Rose plans her future. The story's so bittersweet - I both loved it and felt a feeling of dread as I read on. Rose gets carried away and I found myself wondering whether the dolls had more heart and empathy than the only human in the piece.

I also want to mention Everything Amiable and Obliging by Holly Black. The setting is Victorian London and the story follows Sofia, an orphaned heiress living with her aunt in a luxurious setting. The house she lives in doesn't just contain automatons but is integrated with them; tables turn into parlour maids, the family is watched by the house allowing the butler to pre-empt their requirements. I felt as wary as Sophia as we discover the reason for her mistrust of automatons. The story is about acceptance, forbidden love and courtship - both thought provoking and enjoyable.

I know I'll keep saying this all month but I want to come back to this anthology too.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Monster's Corner- Breeding the Demons by Nate Kenyon

As I mentioned in my previous review , there were two standout stories for me in this anthology and Breeding the Demons is the second of these.

BtD snared me from the opening and immediately made me want to know what Ian was up to and I was quickly drawn into the dark, sordid thing that had become become his life. I was impressed with the economy with which Nate outlined the underworld that Ian had become part of while still keeping the character likeable despite his monstrous tendencies. He manages a fine balance that teases out enough of the background so that the mythology of the demons rings true while still keeping enough back that you can't pigeonhole them, which really adds to the atmosphere- like an old school horror where you never actually see the tormentor.

Wonderfully creepy!

You can find out more about Nate's work here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Red Spikes, Margo Lanagan - Baby Jane

UK cover

Red Spikes is ten short stories by Margo Lanogan in a deceptively slender yet powerful volume, aimed at young adult readers.  I read and fell in love with the opening story - Baby Jane - in which we meet Dylan, our main character, and his family as they leave their house in the middle of the night.  We're not entirely sure why they are doing this, but it isn't for fun.

The story unfolds and it turns out that Dylan had picked up miniatures by the rocks earlier the day - intricately carved and painted, he decided to keep them and carry them home.  He had put them under his pillow and during the night, these miniatures had come to full-size life, basically ousting his family from their own home.

A fantastic concept! I loved it.  We were also made aware of the nightmares Dylan suffered as a younger child.  He had nightmares about creatures jumping out of his wardrobe making jabbering noises.  This all ties in with the miniatures that have come to life in the here and now.  And one of those miniatures is a heavily pregnant queen who is dressed in pregnancy battle armour.  Naturally something weird is going on here and Dylan copes admirably well under the circumstances.  This really is a superb vignette, a cut scene from a longer book, in my mind and short story I wish would be far far longerer!

Vivid storytelling here - just glorious.  Part fantasy, part dystopian something, wholly its own thing, Baby Jane blew my socks off.  It was shortlisted for the Aurealis award in 2006 (which btw, was won by Shaun Tan's The Arrival) and really is worth reading if you are in the mood for a bit Lanagan fantasm.

Australia cover - just gorgeous!

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Monster's Corner- Torn Stitches, Shattered Glass by Kevin J Anderson

An all-original anthology from some of today’s best supernatural writers, assembled by Bram Stoker Award winning author Christopher Golden , featuring stories of monsters... from the monsters’ point of view.

The first thing that grabbed me about Monster’s Corner is the striking cover. Just look at it; the monsters are beautifully rendered and they look like monsters should.

MC packs 19 short stories into 380 pages, each telling a unique story from the monster’s POV. I’ll freely admit that I rarely delve into short stories, perhaps a lingering by-product of having been made to analyse them to death in high school, but if the quality I've seen so far continues I think that’s going to be changing.

Two have really stood out for me so far- and I’m not trying to be glib by saying it wasn’t easy to choose. It really wasn’t, and I’m only forcing myself to do so for the practicality of doing a variety of reviews.

The first is Torn Stitches, Shattered Glass by Kevin J Anderson. What a great title too. It’s a pretty straightforward story on the surface, centring around two days in the life of Frankenstein’s monster as the shadow of World War II darkens the small town where he has tried to make a life of sorts for himself. He’s found a kind of acceptance here, keeping to himself and working tirelessly, enjoying the quiet respect of those around him and a distinct lack of pitchfork waving mobs. But as those around him quickly discover, you don’t need to be a monster to be a monster. The blood begins to flow and he’s called to make a choice, and in doing so discovers that it really isn’t a difficult decision though those around him view it differently.

It’s a clever, engaging story, told solely from the monster’s perspective as all of these are, dipping into the original story and hinting at what happened after he killed his creator in a way that anyone can tune into, even if they’re only vaguely familiar with the highlights of Shelley’s original or subsequent Hollywoodisms. Kevin quickly builds up an image of a hulking yet ultimately lonely creature striving for an inner peace that continues to elude it, and plays that off against its brute power and potential for violence.

He’s done a great job with the monster and I’d really like to know what happens next!

Friday, November 04, 2011

CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medal - Long List 2012

It's that time of year again.  The long list has been announced and as usual, I'm posting it here, thinking: I own to many of these books, I really must get round to reading them all.  And then I FAIL horribly. 


Almond, David My Name is Mina
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9780340997253

Barraclough, Lindsey Long Lankin
Publisher: Bodley Head ISBN: 9780370331966

 Bedford, Martin Flip
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406329896

Blackman, Malorie Boys Don't Cry
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385604796

Bowler, Tim Buried Thunder
Publisher: Oxford Children's Books ISBN: 9780192728388

Boyne, John Noah Barleywater Runs Away
Publisher:David Fickling ISBN:9780385618953

Brahmachari, Sita Artichoke Hearts
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780330517911

Bruton, Catherine We Can Be Heroes
Publisher: Egmont ISBN: 9781405256520

Collins, B.R Tyme's End
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408806470

Condie, Ally Matched
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141333052

Crossley-Holland, Kevin Bracelet of Bones
Publisher: Quercus ISBN:9781847249395

David, Keren Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery
Publisher: Frances Lincoln ISBN: 9781847801913

Deary, Terry Put Out The Light
Publisher: A & C Black ISBN: 9781408130544

Diterlizzi, Tony The Search for Wondla
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781847389664

Dogar, Sharon Annexed
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849392211

Doherty, Berlie Treason
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849391214

Donnelly, Jennifer Revolution
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408801529

Downham, Jenny You Against Me
Publisher David Fickling ISBN: 9780385613507

Earle, Phil Being Billy
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141331355

 Eastham, Ruth The Memory Cage
Publisher: Scholastic ISBN: 9781407120522

Evans, Lissa Small Change for Stuart
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385618007

Fine, Anne The Devil Walks
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780857530646

Forward, Toby Dragonborn
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406320435

Gibbons, Alan An Act of Love
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781842557822

Grant, Helen Wish Me Dead
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141337708

Halahmy, Miriam Hidden
Publisher: Meadowside ISBN:9781845395230

 Hardinge, Frances Twilight Robbery
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9781405055390

Hartnett, Sonia The Midnight Zoo
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406331493

Ibbotson, Eva One Dog and His Boy
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN: 9781407124230

Kennen, Ally Quarry
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN:9781407111070
LaFleur, Suzanne Eight Keys
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141336060

Lewis, Ali Everybody Jam
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849392488

Lewis, Gill Sky Hawk
Publisher: Oxford Chldren's Books ISBN: 9780192756237

Mason, Simon Moon Pie
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385618519

McCaughrean, Geraldine Pull out all the Stops
Publisher: Oxford Chldren's Books ISBN: 9780192789952

McKay, Hilary Caddy's World
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9781444900538

Mitchelhill, Barbara Run Rabbit Run
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9871849392495

Morpurgo, Michael Shadow
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007339594

Mulligan, Andy Trash
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385619011

Ness, Patrick A Monster Calls
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406311525

Peet, Mal Life : an Exploded Diagram
Publisher: Walker ISBN:9781844281008

Perera, Anna The Glass Collector
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141331157

Pitcher, Annabel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781444001839

Priestley, Chris The Dead of Winter
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408800133

Rai, Bali Killing Honour
Publisher: Corgi Childrens ISBN: 9780552562119

Revis, Beth Across the Universe
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141333663

Rooney, Rachel The Language of Cat
Publisher: Frances Lincoln ISBN: 9781847801678

Rosoff, Meg There is no Dog
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141327167

Saunders, Kate Magicalamity
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN:9781407108964

Sepetys, Ruta Between Shades of Gray
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141335889

Stephens, John The Emerald Atlas
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780857530189

Young, Moira Blood Red Road
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN: 9781407124254

The titles I've put in italics are books that both Sarah and I have - some we have reviewed - yay! - but most of them we haven't.

However - I know that the majority of these have been read and reviewed by fellow bloggers so I'm pretty sure if you google the reviews, you'll find them.  I think this makes a VERY strong Christmas shopping list for a hungry reader. There are superb titles on here - right through from fantasy to contemporary, crime, relationships, dystopia - the works.  What a super list.  I am really looking forward to seeing what they do with the shortlisting.

And now for the Kate Greenaway list!

Baker, Jeannie Mirror
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406309140

Birkett, Georgie (illustrator) Simmons, Anthea (author) Share!
Publisher: Andersen Press ISBN:9781849390095

Byrne, Richard Millicent and Meer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781847385796

Byrne, Richard This Book Belongs to Aye Aye
Publisher: Oxford Children's Books ISBN:9780192756190

Carlin, Laura (illustrator) Hughes, Ted (author) The Iron Man
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406324679

Cleminson, Katie Otto the Book Bear
Publisher: Jonathan Cape ISBN: 9781780080031

Cobb, Rebecca (illustrator) Dunmore, Helen (author) The Islanders
Publisher: Mabecron Books ISBN: 9780956435026

Cobb, Rebecca Missing Mummy
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780230749504

Collins, Ross (illustrator) MacRae, Tom (author) When I Woke up I was a Hippopotamus
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849390736

Collins, Ross Doodleday
Publisher: Gullane ISBN: 9781862338166

Diemberger, Jana (illustrator) McCaughrean, Geraldine (author) Monacello: The Little Monk
Publisher: Phoenix Yard Books ISBN: 9781907912030

Elliott, Rebecca Zoo Girl
Publisher: Lion Hudson ISBN: 9780745962702

Field, Jim (illustrator) Bently, Peter (author) Cat's Ahoy!
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780230714021

Foreman, Michael( illustrator) Jones, Terry (author) Animal Tales
Publisher: Pavillion ISBN: 9781843651635

Gibbs, Edward I Spy with my little eye
Publisher: Templar ISBN: 9781848771970

Gravett, Emily Wolf Won't Bite
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN:9780230704251

Grey, Mini Three By The Sea
Publisher: Jonathan Cape ISBN: 9780224083621

Grey, Mini Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey
Publisher: Jonathan Cape ISBN: 9780224083645

Haughton, Chris A Bit Lost
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406327465

Hodgkinson, Leigh Limelight Larry
Publisher: Orchard ISBN: 9781408301838

Hopgood, Tim Thank you for looking after our pets
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN:9780857071149

Horacek, Petr Puffin Peter
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406324600

Hughes, Shirley The Christmas Eve Ghost
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406320633

Hughes, Shirley By Sun and Candlelight. Poetry and prose for all your days

Hyde, Catherine (illustrator) Pirotta, Saviour (author) Firebird
Publisher: Templar ISBN: 9781848771246

Jeffers, Oliver Up and Down
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007263844

Judge, Chris Lonely Beast
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849392556

Kay, Jim (illustrator) Ness, Patrick (author) A Monster Calls
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406311525

Layton, Neal (illustrator) Hegley, John (author) Stanley's Stick
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9780340988183

Lucas, David Lost in the Toy Museum
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406326574

Mackintosh, David Marshall Armstrong is new to our school
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007361410

Matsuoka, Mei (illustrator) Bently, Peter (author) The Great Sheep Shenanigans
Publisher: Andersen Press ISBN:9781849392075

McIntyre, Sarah (illustrator) Cottringer, Anne (author) When Titus Took The Train
Publisher: Oxford Children's Books ISBN: 9780192729873

McKean, David (illustrator) Almond, David (author) Slog's Dad
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406322903

Monks, Lydia (illustrator) Donaldson, Julia (author) The Rhyming Rabbit
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780230741034

Monks, Lydia Babbit
Publisher: Egmont ISBN: 9781405254229

Oxenbury, Helen (illustrator) Burningham, John (author) There's going to be a baby
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9780744549966

Raschka, Chris A Ball for Daisy
Publisher: Random House ISBN:9780375858611

Rayner, Catherine Iris and Isaac
Publisher: Little Tiger Press ISBN:9781848950924

Rayner, Catherine Solomon Crocodile
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780230529229

Riddell, Chris Alienography
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9781405050609

Riddell, Chris Ottoline at Sea
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9781405050593

Roberts, David (illustrator) Donaldson, Julia (author) Jack and the Flumflum tree
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780230710238

Ryan, Rob (illustrator) Duffy, Carol Anne (author) The Gift
Publisher: Barefoot Books ISBN: 9781846863547

Scheffler, Axel (illustrator) Donaldson, Julia (author) Zog
Publisher: Alison Green Books. ISBN: 9781407115566

Schwarz, Viviane (illustrator) Deacon, Alexis (author) A Place to Call Home
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406323023

Schwarz, Viviane There are no cats in this book
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406316896

Shireen, Nadia Good Little Wolf
Publisher: Jonathan Cape ISBN: 9781780080017

Stower, Adam Silly Doggy
Publisher: Templar ISBN: 9781848775565

Usher, Sam Can you see Sassoon?
Publisher: Little Tiger Press ISBN: 9781848950870

Vere, Ed Bedtime for Monsters
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141502397

Waldron, Kevin (illustrator) Rosen, Michael (author) Tiny Little Fly
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406314557

White, Vicky (illustrator) Jenkins, Martin (author) Can we save the Tiger?
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406319095

Wormell, Chris Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice
Publisher: Jonathan Cape ISBN: 9780224083942

Yates, Louise Frank and Teddy Make Friends
Publisher: Jonathan Cape ISBN:9780224083690

Equally a fantastic list - I am sad thought that I only have 2 from here...however! It means I get to buy in loads, read them, and pass them onto the god-daughters for Christmas.  And erm, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

This is the official site, where you can read more about these two superb prizes. Happy reading, readerly creatures!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong


A collection of fourteen original teen paranormal short stories from some of today’s bestselling YA talent, united with the common theme of road trips, and edited by bestselling authors Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong.

I'm so excited about short story month here on MFB as there's been loads of great anthologies out this year. Also, it gives me a chance to settle down with the ones that I've collected for this month. I may well revisit this collection later in November but at the moment I adored the story by Jackson Pearce, Things About Love which follows Lawrence from As You Wish. Lawrence is hoping to start a relationship, find someone to love and who will love him.

However genie Juliet appears and she wants to know more about love. Everything she understands about it comes from films or books. She believes that if she kisses a human then she'll understand more. Lawrence agrees to help her and rejects her offer in return - to make the object of his desire, Jeffrey, show interest in him. What starts as a simple request becomes more complicated by the second and Juliet realises that love and emotions aren't as simple as she once thought. Far from being heartless she learns far more than she expected. The ending of the story was gorgeous too - I could happily read a whole book about Lawrence.

I enjoyed the stories by Melissa Marr and Rachel Caine too but won't review them here as both will spoil the series for those who haven't read them. I think that's what attracts me most about anthologies - I can often find out little side stories or follow-ups on my favourite characters.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Welcome to Bordertown: The Wall by Delia Sherman

Bordertown: a city on the border between our human world and the elfin realm. Runaway teens come from both sides of the border to find adventure, to find themselves. Elves play in rock bands and race down the street on spell-powered motorbikes. Human kids recreate themselves in the squats and clubs and artists' studios of Soho. Terri Windling's original Bordertown series was the forerunner of today's urban fantasy, introducing authors that included Charles de Lint, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, and Ellen Kushner. In this volume of all-new work (including a 15-page graphic story), the original writers are now joined by the generation that grew up dreaming of Bordertown, including acclaimed authors Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more. They all meet here on the streets of Bordertown in more than twenty new interconnected songs, poems, and stories.

I have so much love in my heart for my Borderline anthology. Back in the 80's Terri Windling came up with this crazy idea of mixing punk elves, music, contemporary settings and magic and asking friends to contribute to an anthology. The outcome was the original set of 4 Borderland anthologies. These are:

Borderland - edited by Terri Windling and Mark Alan Arnold
Bordertown - edited by Terri Windling and Mark Alan Arnold
Life on the Border - edited by Terri Windling
The Essential Bordertown - edited by Terri Windling and Delia Sherman

These anthologies were completely new things. They rocked the fantasy world, introducing readers and writers to new avenues and new stories and ushered in the boom in urban and paranormal fantasy as we see it today. Through these anthologies people like Holly Black recognised what Terri was doing - giving them real teens with attitude, crazy hair, too much sass and the ability to get into real world danger as well as otherworldly danger - these stories also gave the reader something else: the permission to believe in something magical.  A whole new breed of writer was born and influenced by these anthologies - not many readers realise this as they tuck into books by Cassandra Clare, Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint, Holly Black et al.

Several years on, Welcome to Bordertown is the brainchild of Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. They asked Terri if they could play in the town and Terri gave her permission.  The stories are wide and varied and the authors run the gamut of the who's who of well known writers in both the adult and young adult world of literature.

I chose Delia Sherman's poem as my first review from this superb anthology. I chose it because I think it embodies not just what Bordertown is about but what makes urban fantasy and paranormal fantasy (including paranormal romance fantasy) it's own creature and keeps us coming back for more.

The poem is from a young scribe's point of view - they go around asking humans and elves what they think of Bordertown and the answers are wildly different, revelatory and genuinely forms the framework of many an aspiring writer's thoughts about creating an urban fantasy.

I give you part of the last stanza:

Mortals need mysteries.
They may not like them, but they need them
As vampires need blood,
As elves need mortals.

Stay tuned to MFB for more reviews from Bordertown, but in the meantime, check out the dedicated website here. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

November is Short Story Month

With a nod to Gav of Gav Reads who did this first, MFB will be hosting Short Story Month this entire month of November.

The selection is varied and wild - from fairy tale reworkings, to science fiction, adult urban fantasy to YA travelling stories, and stories of zombies and unicorns, to stories of sheer fantasm, horror and bizarre tales of the weird, to stories taking us to the 41st millennium and back, we hope to bring you mini-reviews of individual short stories from a handful of anthologies the three of us own.

Liz and Mark's random selection of anthologies 

Sarah's choices for November's Short Story Month

We hope you enjoy November and Short Story Month with MFB.