Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Day Book A Day Give Away

Dear followers and readers

Many thanks for your amazing support this past few days whilst we've been running our biggest competition yet. We've had a blast.

Apologies also for the delay in setting today's competition up - I'm battling the world's worst cold and feel vile. I had to trek into London to go to Boots to collect my prescriptions and am currently slightly high on flu meds and honey tea. Which is probably why I thought the following up whilst I was being rocked to sleep on the train back home half an hour ago....

Today is the last day of the competition and I've therefore put together a My Favourite Books Batch O'Book together. I'm not going to say what's in the batch o' books, all I'm going to say is it may be this, a bit of that and maybe some of this and probably a bit of this thrown in. And other random goodies and freebies I've received from publishers and authors. There will be more titles than these, up to eight, IF I can get them to all fit into my post office box I had bought. So, hold thumbs.

All you need to do is follow the rules as before - but this time add "Batch of Books" to your competition entry. Please note: the competition is UK entrants only!

Good luck everyone!

Liz and Mark

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday's Book A Day Give Away

Today's give away is Frances Hardinge's Fly by Night.

In a fractured realm, struggling to maintain an uneasy peace after years of civil war and religious tyranny, a twelve-year-old orphan and her loyal companion, a large and homicidal goose, are about to become the unlikely heroes of a revolution. Mosca Mye has spent her life in a miserable hamlet, where her father was banished for writing inflammatory books about tolerance and freedom. Now he is dead, and Mosca is on the run, in search of a better life. With Eponymous Clent, a smooth-tongued swindler, she heads for the city of Mandelion, living by her wits among highwaymen and smugglers, dangerously insane rulers, secret agents and radical plotters. But the city is in uproar, for someone is once again printing seditious material and no one is quite what they seem. With suspicion and peril at every turn, Mosca uncovers a shocking plot to force a rule of terror on the people of the Realm, and all too soon merry mayhem leads to murder.

The Rules:

Put Fly by Night in the subject title of the email and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) . If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries for the SAME DAY competition will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on the day the competition is run, you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

You may enter more than one competition. You may not enter twice for the same one though. Hope this makes sense to everyone!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday's Book A Day Give Away

Today's give-away is the hauntingly well written The Declaration by Gemma Malley.

Anna Covey is a 'surplus'. She should not have been born. In a society in which aging is no longer feared, and death is no longer an inevitability, children are an abomination. Like all surpluses, Anna is living in Grange Hall and learning how to make amends for the selfish act her parents committed in having her. She is quietly accepting of her fate until, one day, a new inmate arrives. Anna's life is thrown into chaos. But is she brave enough to believe this mysterious boy? This is a tense and utterly compelling story about a society behind a wall, and the way in which two young people take the chance of breaking free.

The Rules:

Put The Declaration in the subject title of the email and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) . If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries for the SAME DAY competition will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on the day the competition is run, you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

You may enter more than one competition. You may not enter twice for the same one though. Hope this makes sense to everyone!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday A Book A Day Give Away

Today's book is: The Soul Collector by Paul Johnston. Read my review here. The book's published by Mira Publishers here in the UK and is available in all good book stores.

Paul Johnston's website can be found here.

The Rules:

Put Soul Collector in the subject title of the email and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) . If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries for the SAME DAY competition will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on the day the competition is run, you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

You may enter more than one competition. You may not enter twice for the same one though. Hope this makes sense to everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Interview - Jasper Kent

I have had some truly devastatingly bad luck recently - my interview questions to the charming Jasper Kent, author of Twelve, got eaten by the spam filter at work. Then my laptop here at home died with a copy of Jasper's interview questions on it...thankfully I asked him to send the questions to my work email address too, which I could then pick up on my blackberry and forward to myself to post here. Phew - what a mission! But here it is - I hope you enjoy 'em.

What was the first thing you did when you were told that your novel’s been accepted by a publishing house?

I was actually presenting a training course in Vienna, so I just went back in and continued explaining the finer points of the C# programming language. That evening I went out for a meal, all on my own. I can’t remember what I had – something terribly Germanic, I suspect, but I’m sure the wine would have been French.

What is the most difficult thing about waiting to be published?

I suppose the thing that hurts most is leaving one book and trying something different. As it turns out, my first book written, Twelve, is the first to be published, but now I have an affection for my other novels and don’t want to leave them behind.

What motivated you in the dark days whilst writing – when you were doubting yourself and your talent?

That really doesn’t sound like me. I certainly wouldn’t equate doubting my talent as a writer with doubting myself. Perhaps that’s a function of the age at which I started and the fact that I’ve been quite successful in other careers already. Also, writing hasn’t been an overriding, lifelong ambition for me, just one of the many things that I thought I ought to have a go at sometime.

Is Twelve something you’ve worked on for a while before actually sitting down and writing those opening lines?

My approach to writing means that I have everything very much nailed down before I start on any of the text. I usually have a scene by scene synopsis to follow. I think there were about four or five months of research before I started writing. Lots of things do come along as I write, but they don’t typically affect the plot itself. Having said that, the idea for what happens in chapter thirty (trying to avoid giving anything away) came to me after I’d already written a couple of chapters. Surprisingly, it had very little effect on the rest of the story.

What is your process like for coming up with your characters?

To be honest, I don’t really know. I certainly don’t create reams of documents and diagrams planning them like I do with the plot. There are certain aspects of personality that are forced upon characters by events, but other than that, it mostly comes quite naturally as I’m writing.

Your use of superstition and Russian folklore is ever present yet restrained – how difficult did you find writing Twelve and keeping a tight reign on the supernatural element in the novel?

I certainly wanted to tread a line between the natural and the supernatural, and to come to conclusion that the real villain is war itself. Thankfully, there is such a wealth of historical background for the period that it was never a difficult balance to achieve. What’s been more tricky is deciding on the balance for the sequel, Thirteen Years Later, which inevitably has to strike the balance differently, and yet which I’ve written before Twelve has even been published.

Did you have to do a lot of research on the voordalak and on everyone’s favourite bad boy Vlad?

I think every author is pretty much free to reinvent vampires as he or she sees them. The only rule is that they have to be consistent within the world one creates. I’ve absorbed plenty of vampire lore from books and movies over the years, but it all gets regurgitated in a form that fits the stories I want to tell.

The vast majority of my research went into getting Russia and 1812 right, which I think is rather more rewarding, even though inevitably I will have made mistakes. Essentially, I think I’m prepared to laugh off any complaints along the lines of ‘but vampires don’t do that.’ Being told that ‘Napoleon didn’t do that,’ would have a little more substance. I still think I’ll be able to live with it.

You create a wonderfully tense atmosphere in Twelve – teasing out the pieces of the story and placing the clues. Did you ever find yourself wanting to rush ahead and do the “big reveal” as soon as you could? And how did you manage to prevent yourself from doing that?

Once again, I think that doing a lot of planning helps. I produce spreadsheets to show when characters, events and clues are introduced, so I’m ultimately able to actually see how things are balancing out. The hardest part was to delay the revelation that the Oprichniki are vampires, because the reader knows perfectly well what they are even though the narrator, Aleksei, doesn’t. But every dilemma like that has to be dealt with, and hopefully that produces something interesting in the text.

Why choose this period in Russia/France’s history?

The simple answer is that that was the idea of that came into my head. It’s not as if I decided to write an historic vampire novel and then produced a shortlist of periods and locations in which to set it. Once the idea of Napoleon came to me, then my first instinct was to go for Spain as a location. But this was quickly replaced – within minutes – by Russia.

Looking at the broader picture, I’ve always had an interest in Napoleon. He was clearly the most important historical figure of the nineteenth century, and arguably of the last five hundred years. Also, compared to many similar figures, he remains morally extremely ambiguous.

Of course, little of this got into Twelve. What particularly interested me was how much Napoleon influenced nineteenth century European literature. Les Miserables, Crime and Punishment and War and Peace all, in their own way, discuss the legacy of Napoleon. Of these, Crime and Punishment is the one that most drove me in writing Twelve, even though it was written and set half a century later.

Do you plot out your novel rigidly or do you allow your characters the freedom to get themselves into trouble?

There’s very little freedom for them to do anything, but they are allowed huge latitude in what they can say and think. If I have to start writing the plot on the fly, then I know I’ve been sloppy in the planning. That said, thinking and speaking is just as important as plot, so there’s plenty that develops as I write. And there’s always room for digression. For example, in Thirteen Years Later I had a scene for which my synopsis merely said, ‘They arrive at Bakhchisaray. The uneventful journey there is briefly summarised.’ That panned out to 1,962 words.

What authors/tv shows/films/music inspire you?

David Tennant has said in interviews that watching Dr Who as a child is what inspired him to be an actor. For me, it was the inspiration to be a scientist. (I think that probably shows that David Tennant had a better grasp of what was really going on than I did.) Whilst the career as a scientist, of sorts, did go pretty well, I think those early and later memories of Dr Who have lingered and affected my writing. Another TV show that I think still has an effect on me is Secret Army; I don’t think that anything else quite captured the necessary brutality of war. And of course The Simpsons should be a continual reference for any writer. There are few philosophical issues that it has not explored in one or more episodes by now.

Inspiring authors are mostly dead; Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Greene, Wodehouse and Fowles are names that jump to mind.

I don’t think there has ever been a decent film version of Dracula, and that fact may have influenced the subject matter that I write about. I certainly spent a lot of late nights in my childhood watching Hammer films, and others of that style, which vary in quality from the ridiculous to the sublime. Hitchcock has a lot to tell anyone about storytelling, as do Powell and Pressburger.

Music is a big element in my life, but I’ve never noticed any link between it and my novels.

Do you have a selection of go-to reference books on your shelf that you refer to when you write / helped you when you first started out?

I have my general reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopaedias on a shelf behind my desk, but history and fiction are downstairs, so as I’m writing I go and fetch them and they start to pile up around my desk. I have a purge and take them back down every month or so. I’d guess there were twenty or so that I used for Thirteen Years Later.

I know many authors listen to soundtracks/put together playlists for their writing day. Do you do something similar or do you prefer the quiet tapping of your keys?

I generally have to concentrate on music if it’s playing, so I don’t have it on either for writing or reading. I put together playlists for long-distance running; I like to romp through the finish line accompanied by Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

Hypothetically speaking, should the film rights for Twelve be picked up by Hollywood, who would you choose to play Aleksei?

Aleksei is probably the character about whom I have the least idea of physical appearance, I suppose because I was always writing from behind his eyes. One name that comes to mind is Johnny Depp, but only because he’d be excellent for almost any role in any movie. Andy Garcia is another thought. If I could choose any actor in history, then maybe Oliver Reed, when the right age, would be a good choice.

I know for sure who I want to play Zmyeevich, but I think he vowed to hang up the fangs sometime in the early seventies.

Tell us a random fact about you that is not on your author bio.

In 1982, I was aboard the first Royal Navy vessel out of Portsmouth on the day that the Falklands taskforce sailed. I was a naval cadet and we were on a field trip on a fleet tender. We sailed to Weymouth. There had been plans to get as far as the Channel Islands, but the sea looked a bit rough.

Are you allowed to hint about the storyline in the sequel to Twelve, Thirteen Years Later?

I’ll give you two words: Fyodor Kuzmich.

Do you know if you will be touring the UK upon release of Twelve?

No plans as yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Read the review for Twelve here and find Jasper's site here. Twelve is due for release on 1st January 2009.

Saturday Book A Day Give Away

On time today! I've got Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely to give away today.

Read the review here.

The Rules:

Put Wicked Lovely in the subject title of the email and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) . If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries for the SAME DAY competition will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on the day the competition is run, you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

You may enter more than one competition. You may not enter twice for the same one though. Hope this makes sense to everyone!

Friday - Boxing Day - Book A Day Giveaway

Again, apologies for being VERY late. BUT, I trust you won't hold it against me. Today's giveaway is a copy of Susan Hubbard's Society of S, an outstanding young adult novel with all the trimmings to become a classic.

Read my review of it here. Society of S was released this month.

The Rules:

Put Society of S in the subject title of the email and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) . If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries for the SAME DAY competition will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on the day the competition is run, you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

You may enter more than one competition. You may not enter twice for the same one though. Hope this makes sense to everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thursday - Crimbo - Book A Day Give Away!

Many apologies for the late appearance of this blog - spent this morning in a frenzy of opening presents, laughing, eating, playing with the presents (new MP3 player, yay!!) and planning the day - i.e. how to maximise stuffing ourselves for the duration of our waking hours today.

And of course, offering you, Dear Reader, an opportunity to win an awesome book.

Today's offering is: Runemarks by Joanne Harris. And it's not just any old copy, no! It is a SIGNED HARDBACK edition of Runemarks...signed by the author, not me, by the way.

So, go ahead and enter.

A note of warning though: although it's been marketed as a children's novel, it is anything but childish and relies heavily on Norse lore and the knowledge of runes. Beautifully written, quite dark, but the perfect read for someone who's looking to break away from the mundane.

The Rules:

Put Runemarks in the subject title of the email and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) . If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries for the SAME DAY competition will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on the day the competition is run, you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

You may enter more than one competition. You may not enter twice for the same one though. Hope this makes sense to everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday book a day giveaway

We've got a twofer one today - Patricia Briggs' Moon Called and Blood Bound. The covers are the American covers. I'm letting these go as I've got the UK covers and doubling up is a bit silly. Although, they are so very pretty.

The Rules:

Put Patricia Briggs in the subject title of the email and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) . If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries for the SAME DAY competition will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on the day the competition is run, you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

You may enter more than one competition. You may not enter twice for the same one though. Hope this makes sense to everyone!

Find Patricia's site here - she has a very interesting article about silver bullets on there. I printed it off for myself a few weeks ago. I shudder to think what the people at my office think of me, printing off paperwork on how to make and cast silver bullets...hey, you just NEVER know, right?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday book a day give away

Am a bit late this morning, so apologies for that!

Today's give-away is City of Thieves by David Benioff published by Sceptre.

The Rules:

Choose ONE book only (this is not an either/or competition) pop your preferred title in the subject line and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on Saturday, 20thDecember you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

I've not had a chance to read this but from the Amazon Reviews and from reading reviews of it when it first came out, I know it to be a good story - slightly unusual - but well written and different enough to grab a reader's attention. Find the Amazon links here.

Good Luck!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some bad news / some good news

There is a slight panic at Casa Favourite Books. My trusty laptop has died a death. Thankfully it is insured - the IT boys will be looking at it, see if they can fix it, if not, I'll get a voucher to go and buy a new one ... only rub do I find my passwords for my broadband connection, I wonder?

I received a HUGE box of beautiful books from Walker Books today - all part of the upcoming Children's competition in January/February.

Publishers taking part in this amazing competition is: Random House, Walker Books, MacMillan Children's Books and Bloomsbury. Every one of these publishers sent through some of the best books of the past few years and some so new, they are still very shiny.

I am thrilled beyond words - the competition looks to be much bigger than I initially thought it would be. I thought maybe two or three bundles to give away to schools and a few to kids entering the competition. Now it looks like I will be able to give around six or more bundles to librarians and schools and the same again to kids entering the competition. Mark and I are very pleased.

Please spread the word to any UK schools/librarians/kids you may know. I am hoping for this to be even bigger than the give-away we are currently undertaking. More news about the actual competition soon once I've managed to contact ALL the schools in my local area to alert them to the free goodies up for grabs. Also, I have posters and bookmarks to give away as part of this!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monday Book A Day Give Away

Today's first giveaway is published by Abaddon Publishers and it is I, Zombie by Al Ewing.

The second book we're throwing into the pot for today is Superpowers by David J Schwartz.

The Rules:

Choose ONE book only (this is not an either/or competition) pop your preferred title in the subject line and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on Saturday, 20thDecember you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

About I, Zombie - read a review here by our good mate, Graeme.

About Superpowers - read my review here.

Good Luck!

Sunday Book Give Away

We have got one set of 2 books today.

Gena Showalter's Red Handed and Blacklisted.

Please note: Red Handed and Blacklisted by Gena Showalter will form ONE prize.

The Rules:

Pop Gena Showalter's name in the subject line and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on Sunday, 21st December you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

About Red Handed and Blacklisted - I am working on my review for both but in the meantime visit Gena's shiny site here. A very talented lady and pretty to boot!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Book Give Away

Today we've got The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance edited by Trisha Telep and Timebomb by Gerald Seymour to give away.

The Rules:

Choose ONE book only (this is not an either/or competition) pop your preferred title in the subject line and email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) If you've won, we'll contact you back and ask you for your postal address.

UK entrants only.

Duplicate entries will be disqualified.

Entries with no subject line will be deleted/seen as spam.

The competition will run on till 1st January 2009. This means that even if you don't enter this on Saturday, 20thDecember you have time to do so for the rest of the month, till 1st January 09.

About The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance: Trisha Telep works in London as bookseller at Murder One. When she is not enacting the murderous crime novels MO sells, or making kissing noises to explain to non-English speaking tourists that MO specialises in crime novels and romance, Trisha is an editor who works her butt off to promote some startlingly good talent. TMBOVM has works in by the creme de la creme of urban fantasy writers: Karen Chance, Keri Arthur, Lilith Saintcrow, CT Adams, Vicki Petterson and Suzanne Sizemore, amongst others. Keep an eye out for an announcement in the new year about Trisha's newest Mammoth Book.

About Gerald Seymour's Time Bomb: Dismissed from a top secret Soviet nuclear base in the last days of communism, a KGB major steals a suitcase bomb and buries it in his backyard. Sixteen years later he's going to sell it, to the highest bidder.

The only man standing between the world and Armageddon, is an undercover police officer who has infiltrated the criminal gang acting as middlemen, and an MI6 team trailing him across Europe.

Personally I love Gerald Seymour's books. His works are always topical and how he manages to stay ontop of current developments and keep the punishing pace throughout them, is beyond me.

Good Luck!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book-A-Day-Give- Away

Liz and I have decided to pay it forward this year and to host a big, huge, massive, book-a-thon giveaway every day for the rest of this year until 1st January.

There will be one (or two or three) books to give away each day, including Christmas, until new years day. On 1st January 2009, we will post all the winners of the book-a-thon.

It is going to be a wide variety of books: some brand new (not yet published) some a bit older, i.e. published this past year, across all genres, adult and young adult fiction but all of them will be pretty darn cool.

So, make sure to check back each day and to enter the competitions. This will ONLY be open to UK peeps as I can't afford (not yet!) to send many books abroad.

However, if you market this give-away on your site, you will be entered into a pot to win an extra (super dooper) prize. Should you do decide to market this, please email me the details and you'll be entered. For the marketing of this competition WE ARE prepared to send the pressie overseas...
Visit us tomorrow, Saturday 20th December for the start of the Book-A-Day-Give-Away!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Malekith - A Tale of the Sundering, Gav Thorpe

Far to the west of the Old World lies the fabled land of Ulthuan, island home of the elves. Thousands of years ago, when men were but fur-clad savages, elf civilization flourished; they were truly masters of the world. But even at the peak of its glory, a seed of corruption gnawed at the roots of elf society; Chaos had cast its shadow over Ulthuan. The elves would be plunged into a bitter and bloody civil war that would tear their nation apart, and ruin the very land they trod on; a time known as the Sundering.

Passed over to succeed as king, elf general Malekith is wracked by jealousy and bitterness. Under the pretence of rooting out the pernicious cult of pleasure that is corrupting elf society from within, Malekith plots his revenge. When he betrays Phoenix King Bel–Shanaar and attempts to seize power for himself, Malekith triggers a tragic sequence of events that plunges the realm of the elves into a civil war from which they will never recover.

And so begins Malekith, the third instalment of the Black Library’s Time of Legends series.

Malekith charts the rise of the titular character, the son of Aenerion, first of the Phoenix Kings of Ulthuan, the mythic battle-king who led the war and eventual triumph over the daemons of Chaos. It follows Malekith from his earliest days, charting his path from noble prince of Ulthuan to his fateful decision to strike out and wrest the crown from Bel-Shanaar's lifeless fingers.

Gav Thorpe has infused Malekith with a purpose and nobility that makes it nigh on impossible not to like him, despite knowing the dark destiny that awaits him and the tyrant he’ll become. It lends the base act that catapults the elven empire into civil war an air of tragedy, and the story is all the more richer for it.

Gav has over a dozen titles to his credit, including the Dark Elves army rulebook for Warhammer Fantasy, so there really couldn’t have been a better person step up and take on the challenge of bringing a tyrant like Malekith to life.

And that’s exactly what he does.

I immersed myself in the book and devoured it in four sessions; it reads extremely well, the story unfolding at a measured pace, gently (but repeatedly) coaxing you into reading ‘just to the end of this chapter’. Malekith’s character is given enough depth that when things begin to go awry, I could understand where he was coming from without the need for further exposition, and more importantly- I cared.

The supporting cast aren’t treated as lavishly but then, this is Malekith’s story and the focus is rightfully on him. All in, it’s a cracking read whether you’re a Warhammer fan or simply after a good fantasy novel; for fans of the Dark Elves though, it’s a must!

Roll on Part II !

You can read a sample extract here. Find Gav Thorpe's Weblog here .

**Malekith Competition News**

We are fortunate enough to have THREE copies of Malekith to give away, courtesy of Black Library. If you fancy a chance to win, all you have to do is email us at: myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) with your name and snail (physical/postal) mail address.
The competition is open world-wide. One entry per household (we have sneaky software) and duplicate entries will be disqualified. The competition will run until the 5th of January 2009.
Get mailing!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Book Reviewers Linkup Meme

This excellent idea from John over at Grasping for the Wind. Visit his blog, check out the post and add your own reviewer links to it.

A Dribble Of Ink
Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]

Foreign Language (other than English)

Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation] [French]

Foundation of Krantas [Chinese (traditional)]

The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [Chinese (traditional) with some English essays]

Fantasy Seiten [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Buch [German, Deustche]

Literaturschock [German, Deustche]

Welt der fantasy [German, Deustche]

Bibliotheka Phantastika [German, Deustche]

SF Basar [German, Deustche]

Phantastick News [German, Deustche]

X-zine [German, Deustche]

Buchwum [German, Deustche]

Phantastick Couch [German, Deustche]

Wetterspitze [German, Deustche]

Fantasy News [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Faszination [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Guide [German, Deustche]

Zwergen Reich [German, Deustche]

Fiction Fantasy [German, Deustche]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Future Competition News

We had a lovely time in Bruges, ate way too much food, drank way too much beer (my head!) and enjoyed shopping at the Christmas market.

I am glad to be home though, on my comfy couch and infront of my huge tv, snuggling with the pup, known as Sparrowmaticus on days when we are feeling in a Roman mood.

I have some fantastic goodies coming up here at MFB in the next few weeks.

Competitions galore, some will be aimed at adults, and the other MUCH bigger one, will be aimed at children, aged 10+ and their school librarians (who only technically count as adults).

Mark and I will be having some guest blogs from visiting authors and agents along with author interviews.

So, all in all, it should be good fun - please do stop by again in the near future. I would HATE to not give away all these luscious books I've got lined up as pressies. We are looking at books (for adults) from CE Murphy, Lori Handeland, Christine Feehan, Maria V Snyder and even more that I can't remember as I type this. I will no doubt be giving away some "boy" books too, so it's not just us girls who get to have all the fun!

And the kids' competition is bound to be the biggest I've ever attempted, all with the support of some fantastic publishers, including Bloomsbury and Macmillan. I am hoping to announce more publishers' participating soon. It is going to be intense. The first box was waiting for us when we arrived back from Bruges today. There were about twenty books in there - you can imagine my excitement! So, if you have kids/know kids/are a librarian (UK only) keep your eyes peeled for the mother of all giveaways. It's going to be massive.

Of course, this will be interspersed with some more reviews and I am particularly excited about the Black Library's newest novel, Malekith. Mark is currently wrapped around himself reading it. We'll have THREE copies of this excellent novel to give away - an absolute thrill - our first ever Black Library giveaway! Rubs hands in glee.
Enough from me, it's time to go and get done for a workday I don't think I've won Friday night's lottery. I had better check...

Friday, December 12, 2008

**Short Break**

Mark and I are off to Bruges and Ghent this weekend - we're driving in our wee new car with its new tires, to try out the satnav (that's our excuse and we're sticking to it) - so normal service to MFB will resume on Monday with photos of Bruges Christmas Market, pics of ice sculptures, hopefully some snow photos and some Flemish books I'm planning to buy to read.

I even bought a woolly hat to keep the head warm as the weather predicted has a high of 1 degree celsius, with snow forecast. Bring on the hot chocolate!

Stay warm!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas


In a city that runs on a dwindling supply of magic, a young boy is drawn into a life of wizardry and adventure. Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery's pocket and touched the wizard's locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells. But for some reason he did not. Nevery decides to take Conn as his apprentice on the provision that the boy find a locus stone of his own. But Conn has little time to search for his stone between wizard lessons and helping Nevery discover who-or what-is stealing the city of Wellmet's magic. Meanwhile Conn is hiding his own secret - his connection to the sinister Underlord, Crowe ...

I received The Magic Thief a few months ago from Quercus, shortly before it was published in September and I really regret not reading this excellent book before now.

In Conn we have a unique hero – he’s cunning, street smart, a thinker and intelligent enough to realise that he will die on his own out there on the streets of Twilight (the bad side of town) if he doesn’t change his luck. His luck changes when he decides to make a grab for the wizard Nevery’s locus magicalicus – in theory, the power in the stone should have struck him dead or done some severe damage to him. It did not – this intrigued Nevery and the crotchety old wizard drags Conn off to a Chophouse where they have a rather one-sided conversation which reveals a lot about Conn’s character and that of Nevery’s.

Conn is not a wisecracking braggart, which we find all too often in books aimed at children – and this is what I found very refreshing. He is deliberate and clever, taking his time to figure things out, but then he is also very stubborn and quick on the uptake. For most of the book, Nevery calls Conn “boy” and he does not mind, Conn in turn calls Nevery by his name, something which causes a bit of a stir amongst other apprentice wizards. Nevery is feared for his strong and often violent magical abilities. But, apart from being grumpy, demanding of his apprentice, servant and secretary, he is a pretty (for a lack of a better descriptive word) cool guy. He listens to Conn’s opinions about magic – they communicate, maybe not as equals, but Nevery gives Conns thoughts credence and that I appreciated. Their master and pupil roles hinge on that give-and-take which make all good partnerships work.

Another character in the book I really enjoyed is Benet – he acts as Nevery’s bodyguard and muscleman. Benet says even less than Conn and I initially thought bad things of Benet but it turns out he’s actually quite a nice guy – he cooks, tidies and knits...yes, you read that correctly. He knits. A big strong muscleman who can lay about him with a large stick, knits skilfully and expertly. A fantastic character quirk which I loved. (thinks about teaching Mark to knit...)

The novel is aimed at 8-12 year olds but I can quite confidently say: kids (all ages) and adults will enjoy it too. The writing is clever and the story very engaging. The mystery surrounding Conn’s background came as a bit of a surprise to me. But then I was nodding, slapping my head, going: “of course!”

The novel would suit people who enjoy Diana Wynne Jones’ books and Joseph Delaney’s Spook books. The Magic Thief is the first part of a trilogy with the others due for release in 2009. This will make a perfect stocking filler for younger and older readers. The novel was published in September 08 by Quercus – website here – and find the author’s website here, with more information about the other upcoming novels.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard


Ariella Montero is a sweet, sensitive 13-year-old girl from Saratoga Springs. Unbeknownst to her, she is also a vampire. Raised by her widowed father, Ari is told she has a weak immune system and should stay away from crowds. When she learns that her father is also a vampire and that her mother may not be dead at all, she embarks on a journey to discover the truth about herself and her family.

I read The Society of S over two days and found it irritable that I didn’t pick it up on a weekend, with nothing else to do. This is a one-sitting book by an author whose writing reminds me strongly of Neil Gaiman’s in Stardust and of The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. There is a gentle flow to her writing, a beautifully descriptive style, that enhances how melancholy and lonely the unique main character, Ariella (Ari) is.

We are shown what a quiet life she leads in Saratoga Springs, sharing the house with her aloof but brilliant father. She is homeschooled by him as she is a “fragile” child – there is the possibility that that she suffers from lupis (I had to look it up myself). There is no sign of Ari’s mother and we learn that she mysteriously disappeared (very) shortly after Ari’s birth.

Her only contact with the outside world is their housekeeper Mrs. McGarritt whom you can tell pities Ari for leading such a cloistered life. Ari never leaves the house, she spends her days reading and studying and doing her lessons – some very advanced – with her father who works from home. She is fed a range of awful tasting foods by Mrs. McG who can’t seem to cook properly at their run-down mansion.

After some discussion, Ari gets to visit Mrs. McG’s home and meet her family. She is introduced to a wild bunch of kids, amongst whom she makes friends with Kathleen and Michael. With Kathleen as her guide Ari learns about the outside world, discovers the Internet and gains a bit of freedom from the cloistered existence she shared with her father.

As Ari explores the boundaries imposed by her father she realises that what she had thought was a normal life, was in fact something very different. The “reveals” in the novel are planned with meticulous care and never once do you disbelieve Ari’s reaction to them – you have a deep personal insight into her thoughts and her actions make complete sense, from her point of view, if not from yours.

Ari leaves home, to truly find herself and to try and figure out the truth of where she comes from and maybe, just maybe find a link to her mother. She becomes a drifter, a ghost, moving from one place to the other. This part of the novel was truly melancholy and I did feel truly sad for her. But although Ari is not street-wise, she is clever and pretty together after an initial period of odd inertia.

Following the tenuous bits of information her father had given her about her mother and their time together, she manages to track down some family. There is another big reveal and well, you have to read the book. Needless to say it reads very well and is decidedly more-ish.

Although the book deals with vampires, it is not cliché. Although the book deals with a teen vampire, it is not cliché. The writing is evocative and beautiful (and I am happy to report, it is not Bella and Edward, at all). I am really looking forward to reading the follow up novel, Year of Disappearances when it is released. I do however think that The Society of S works perfectly as a standalone novel. A second novel means just more lovely writing from a really talented writer. I will not be complaining! Find the author’s website here and her UK publishers, Walker Books, here. The Society of S was released at the beginning of December 08.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Painted Messiah by Craig Smith

(from the publishers’ Myrmidon Books’ website)

A legend persists that, after the ‘scourging’, Pilate commanded that his victim be painted from life. Somewhere, the painting survives, the only true image of Christ, granting the gift of everlasting life to whoever possesses it.

Kate Kenyon, the wealthy young widow of an English aristocrat killed on a Swiss mountain, has an addiction to mortal risk. She feeds it by engaging in the armed robbery of priceless artefacts with her accomplice and lover Ethan Brand, a Tennessean who owns a bookshop in Zurich. Their latest target is a priceless ‘Byzantine’ icon hidden in the tower of a chateau by Lake Lucerne. So far they have never had to shoot anyone. This time will be different.

Thomas Malloy is a retired CIA man looking for his first lucrative freelance assignment. His chance comes with a presidential favour to a rich but ailing televangelist. Malloy’s task seems simple enough: pick up the preacher’s newly acquired painting from a Zurich bank and get it to the airport. But, once in Switzerland, Malloy’s old friend, the enigmatic Contessa Claudia de Medici tries to warn him off his mission.

Sir Julian Corbeau is an international criminal holed up in Switzerland to avoid US extradition proceedings. He is also the sadistic head of the modern Knights Templar. He had the painting and now he desperately wants it back as well as to wreak a bloody revenge upon those who stole it.

As the contenders vie for possession the bullets fly, the body count rises and the secrets of the portrait gradually unfold. We learn how and why it came to be painted and how an object depicting the Light of the World could exert such a baleful and malignant influence on those who possess it.

Let me say right off: The Painted Messiah came as a big surprise. Very few debut novelists can pull off religious thrillers with such apparent ease as Craig Smith. He has clearly spent a lot of time doing his research and working on a spell with nefarious powers to ensure his writing sucks you straight into the novel.

Do read this if you are into contemporary thrillers with historical background and information and a lot of action. Again, I am loathe to do comparisons but if you like Scott Mariani, Steve Berry, Dan Brown, Will Adams, David Gibbins and Sam Bourne you will enjoy Craig Smith’s offering.

The writing is taut, the action is Bourne-like in its relentlessness and it hardly lets up. None of the characters in the novel are model-citizens which is something I liked and the villains are not clichéd moustache-twirling-cat-stroking ego-maniacs either. They are pretty grim, to be honest but they suit the novel and the storyline very well.

I enjoyed reading it – the plotlines are well planned and the dual timeline is written with great care. The back of the novel has a lovely section in which the author chats about his research and choices he made whilst writing The Painted Messiah.

If you’re stuck for a me-present this Christmas or if you have a dad, uncle or anyone who likes well researched historically based thrillers, this is definitely one to add to your list to buy.

Read an extract here and find out more about Myrmidon Books here.

HarperCollins breaks into Nintendo

Okay, I will never be able to be a writer for The Sun newspaper, with a shoddy title like the above but it's the only one I could come up with without committing plagiarism.

So this is the story - HC has announced that they have released 100 classic novels for your reading pleasure in the Nintendo DS Lite format. Which, you have to admit, is pretty cool. This is the list of books you can read on you DS Lite:-

Louisa May Alcott Little Women
Jane Austen Emma
Jane Austen Mansfield Park
Jane Austen Persuasion
Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility
Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin
R.D. Blackmore Lorna Doone
Anne Bronte The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte The Professor
Charlotte Bronte Shirley
Charlotte Bronte Villette
Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights
John Bunyan The Pilgrim's Progress
Frances Burnett Little Lord Fauntleroy
Frances Burnett The Secret Garden
Lewis Carroll Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass
Wilkie Collins The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins The Woman in White
Carlo Collodi The Adventures of Pinocchio
Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
Joseph Conrad Lord Jim
Susan Coolidge What Katy Did
James Fenimore Cooper Last of the Mohicans
Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe
Charles Dickens Barnaby Rudge
Charles Dickens Bleak House
Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens David Copperfield
Charles Dickens Dombey and Son
Charles Dickens Great Expectations
Charles Dickens Hard Times
Charles Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit
Charles Dickens Nicholas Nickleby
Charles Dickens The Old Curiosity Shop
Charles Dickens Oliver Twist
Charles Dickens The Pickwick Papers
Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities
Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas The Three Musketeers
George Eliot Adam Bede
George Eliot Middlemarch
George Eliot The Mill on the Floss
Henry Rider Haggard King Solomon's Mines
Thomas Hardy Far From The Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy Tess of The D'Urbervilles
Thomas Hardy Under the Greenwood Tree
Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter
Victor Hugo The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Victor Hugo Les Miserables
Washington Irving The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon
Charles Kingsley Westward Ho!
D.H. Lawrence Sons And Lovers
Gaston Leroux The Phantom of the Opera
Jack London The Call of the Wild
Jack London White Fang
Herman Melville Moby Dick
Edgar Allen Poe Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Sir Walter Scott Ivanhoe
Sir Walter Scott Rob Roy
Sir Walter Scott Waverley
Anna Sewell Black Beauty
William Shakespeare All's Well That Ends Well
William Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra
William Shakespeare As You Like It
William Shakespeare The Comedy of Errors
William Shakespeare Hamlet
William Shakespeare Julius Caesar
William Shakespeare King Henry the Fifth
William Shakespeare King Lear
William Shakespeare King Richard the Third
William Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost
William Shakespeare Macbeth
William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice
William Shakespeare A Midsummer-Night's Dream
William Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare Othello, the Moor of Venice
William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare The Taming of the Shrew
William Shakespeare The Tempest
William Shakespeare Timon of Athens
William Shakespeare Titus Andronicus
William Shakespeare Twelfth Night
William Shakespeare The Winter's Tale
Robert Louis Stevenson Kidnapped
Robert Louis Stevenson The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island
Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels
William Thackeray Vanity Fair
Anthony Trollope Barchester Towers
Mark Twain Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Jules Verne Round the World in Eighty Days
Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest
Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray

So, definitely a bit for everyone. And at £14.99 from Amazon it is a real bargain. I have been dithering about getting an electronic reader of some sort...but I kick it "old skool" and quite like lugging my books around. But, having said that, with these classics coming out in a format of a console I already have, I might just jump on the bandwagon, this one time, to re-read old favourites.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Meetings in Waterstones

Mark and I braved Bluewater today. I know - insane, right? Surprisingly no - we were quite taken aback by how very little traffic there was...and although most of the parking spaces were full...the place seemed large enough to swallow most of the other people there shopping.

We browsed around the various shops, trying to figure out what to buy friends and family. As usual, the siren-call I heard from Waterstones could not be denied. We strolled in, spent some time browsing books and talking to them in a crooning voice, raising a few eyebrows of those standing next to me...when I noticed I hastily moved onto the children's section where I met two very lovely young lads who were exceedingly well spoken and immaculately turned out. They used words like "excessive" and "poetry" and "tedious". We got to chatting and I discovered that they were visiting from The Royal Hospital School in Ipswich.

I hesitate to guess how old they were, I would say, maybe eleven or so? What struck me about them is how conficently they carried themselves and how well read they were. We got to chatting about books that are currently on the market, books they enjoyed reading and if they could recommend anything. (yes, I speak to strangers and sometimes they even speak back to me!) They highly recommended Malorie Blackman's work and a few others I have not heard of. I made notes. OCD, moi?

I explained that I run my own review site and gave them each one of my cards I had done up for the website, just to prove that I am not completely weird and stalkery...only a little. They are both aspiring writers themselves and I heard an absolutely brilliant plotline for a book which I think would really work - I hope the young lad decides to write it.

In turn I gave them some recommendations on books I had read. I also asked them what they think about some of the books that are out these days, specifically written for boys. They were not complimentary, saying that some of the books talked down to them or was just really uninteresting and a bit silly. And I was struck by their varied reading preferences. Boy A liked stories with a tragic mien, focussing heavily on relationships and inner turmoil, Boy B liked fantasy novels - be they set here on earth or elsewhere.

Mark and I listened to them talk passionately about the books and the authors and the stories and I felt truly put in my place. I pigeonholed kids in the past. Boys liked horror and splat. The end. What a wake-up call! I would like to thank the two lads who showed me the error of my ways (should they decide to pop by the blog). I completely misjudged them and the audience I would one day like to write for. It was a very valuable lesson. Very eye opening.

Both Mark and I left Waterstones after thanking the lads for the conversation and their time - we were both completely on a buzz, feeling chuffed to have met two such avid intelligent readers. In a way they were very inspiring but they were also a little daunting. But I'm always up for a good challenge!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Twelve by Jasper Kent


The voordalak - a creature of legend; tales of which have terrified Russian children for generations. But for Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov - a child of more enlightened times - it is a legend that has long been forgotten. Besides, in the autumn of 1812, he faces a more tangible enemy - the Grand Armée of Napoleon Bonaparte.

City after city has fallen to the advancing French, and now it seems that only a miracle will keep them from Moscow itself. In desperation, Aleksei and his comrades enlist the help of the Oprichniki - a group of twelve mercenaries from the furthest reaches of Christian Europe, who claim that they can turn the tide of the war. It seems an idle boast, but the Russians soon discover that the Oprichniki are indeed quite capable of fulfilling their promise.

Unnerved by the fact that so few can accomplish so much, Aleksei remembers those childhood stories of the voordalak. And as he comes to understand the true, horrific nature of these twelve strangers, he realizes that they've unleashed a nightmare in their midst...

What struck me the most about this debut novel is how the author managed to successfully weave and link historical fact with legends and Russian peasant lore to create something fantastical and compulsively readable.

The writing is fresh with a strong male narrator voice. We meet a cast of characters who we can all identify with – soldiers, ordinary men, who love their country, who fight to keep it safe, maybe not in the same way we would expect, fighting hand to hand in the front lines, but they serve by being spies, doing damage behind enemy lines. They have their faults and failings but they are comrades in arms and they share a common concern: stop the French, no matter what! They have watched Bonaparte march across Russia towards Moscow and they are terrified that by the end of summer, all of Russia will be under the French heel.

What would you do when the stakes are that high? Would you strike a deal with the devil? This is exactly what the one character does. He sends a message, without informing his comrades, to a group of men whom he had fought with in the past, in other campaigns. Their fighting prowess is unparalleled and he feels that with their help, they would do enough damage to the French to make them think twice about entering Moscow. The small group of friends agree that this definitely something to consider, although some of them have their doubts, but they bide their time await the arrival of the Oprichniki.

This meeting with the Twelve and their leader, sets the tone for the book and as a reader you are a bit breathless as you sort of know what’s happening, who these people are and what will no doubt happen. But the author keeps you guessing – you think you know, but do you really know..and what you know might not be correct!

Needless to say, things go pear shaped as the honourable fighting men the majority of the small group expected turned out to be something far worse than they could have imagined in their darkest nightmares.

As a main character Aleksei stands out: he's loyal, trustworthy, keeps his head in battle, loves his comrades, he is a good fighter, he's dealt with torture at the hands of the Turk and yet he still comes out swinging. We experience the happenings through his eyes and he's a competent observer. Through Aleksei you realise that life goes on, no matter what happens - even during an invasion. He finds love in a very unexpected place and his internal struggle between his new found infatuation with his mistress and his loyalty and love for his wife and small son, reflects the struggle of what is happening in the novel, on a much grander scale.

I am hoping to not give any of the plot away, it would not be fair – as it won’t even detract from the enjoyment of the writing and the story, but this is one of those novels where you should just walk up to it, sit down and read it for the sheer pleasure of the storytelling.

What is fair to say is that this is going to be one of the big debuts of 2009 in the spec fic genre and for good reason. The writing is strong and vivid, the storytelling and suspense is pitched at the right frequency to drive you a bit crazy and the tension just keeps mounting. The amount of research the author’s done for the background is excellent, it will make some of the most pedantic historians happy whilst the folklorists will rub their hands in glee because we get to meet the voordalak of legend and they in turn get to meet an adversary they had not prepared for.

A thrilling fantasy novel, which can easily be marketed as literary alternative fiction. I hope it receives attention from the lovers of historical novels too – there is much more to it than the sum of its parts. If you are a fan of Simon Scarrow, Bernard “Writer Legend” Cornwell, George RR Martin, David Gemmell – in other words, epic fiction, be it straight fantasy or historical fantasy, then this is a must read. Diarise it’s release date, being January 2009, published by Bantam Press. Find Jasper Kent’s website here.


Ain't it purty? My Hellboy bag from . It arrived last night - along with a decadent buffet of new books from Little Brown, Oxford University Press and Ebury Books.
Needless to say, I am a spoilt geeky brat! Wait until tomorrow when my Beedle arrives - you will be able to hear the supersonic squeeling thousands of miles away.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My end of year splurge for 2008

I ordered this a few months ago already and cannot wait for Mr. Postie to deliver it to my grasping little mitts.

It is JK Rowling's Collectors Edition of The Tales of Beedle The Bard from Amazon. Tucked in its own case disguised as a wizarding textbook found in the Hogwarts library, the Collector's Edition includes an exclusive reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction, as well as 10 additional illustrations not found in the Standard Edition or the original. Opening the case reveals a velvet bag embroidered with J.K. Rowling’s signature, in which sits the piece de resistance: your very own copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, complete with metal skull, corners, and clasp; replica gemstones; and emerald ribbon. As a special gift for fans, the Collector's edition also includes a set of 10 ready-for-framing prints of J.K. Rowling's illustrations, enclosed in a velvet-lined pocket in the lid of the outer case.

I am the world's biggest geek - ever. I will also be getting the standard edition, which will be the one I will read. I can only imagine how lovely the collectors edition will look on my shelf with my leatherbound journals and my large oversized boxed Sandman editions. Rubs hands in glee. I will take photos and post them once I receive it...maybe tomorrow, maybe Thursday.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Creature of the Night, Kate Thompson


I could hear Dennis talking to my ma. 'She was little,' he said. 'Little like me. But old. Older than you. Those words gave me a cold shock. I could see Dennis imagining fairies, but old ones?

When Bobby's mother moves the family into a rented house in the country, a neighbour tells him that a child was once murdered there. Bobby doesn't care. All he wants is to get back to Dublin and to resume his wild life there, stealing from the crowded shopping streets and racing stolen cars at night. But getting his old life back doesn't turn out to be so easy, and the longer he spends in the old cottage, the more convinced he becomes that something very strange is going on there. Was there really a murder? And if so, was it the one he has been told about?

I bought the book as a recommendation from Amazon and I'm happy to say that I am not disappointed. I read it in a matter of hours as I couldn't put it down.

The main character, Bobby, is by turns likable, awful, sweet, vulgar and devious. He lies, cheats and steals and is all in all, not someone you should like. But you do, because the author, Kate Thompson, has given him enough of a slant to show that he is an ordinary boy in a very harsh world where parental guidance is almost non-existent but where peer pressure is everything.

His mother drags him and his little half-brother, Dennis, from Dublin to the countryside, running away from her own life and the people she owes a lot of money to. They find a small cottage to live in, at the bottom of a farm, run by the Dooley family. The original occupant of the cottage, a Swedish chap, Lars, had disappeared, leaving his old Skoda behind. No one suspects anything at first as he took his wallet, drivers licence and his passport with him.

The book opens with Bobby's adamant statement that he will not be staying in the countryside, that he hates it all, that he's going back to Dublin, no matter what. And he does, by fixing up Lars' old Skoda's flat tyre, he sets to meet up with his mates shortly after they move in.

Things do go awry - his mates are busy with their own lives and the one he does meet with seems pretty disturbed. They write off the Skoda in a big crash, the mate, Mick, almost kills the driver of the other car by kicking seven hells out of him, and Bobby gets sent back to the countryside where the repercussion of the theft is in the form of having to work off the debt of the stolen car to PJ Dooley, the farm's owner. Who in turn would be giving the money back to Lars' mother in Sweden.

Reading the novel you are faced with the almost animilistic way that Bobby reacts to any kind of kindness, shown either to him and his family or to other people. He just doesn't get it. His world is: do to others before they do to you. But slowly he comes to realise that other people do not live the lives he does with his mother, who lives from one week to the next, waiting for the dole, borrowing money and buying "on the book". Others' decency shows him that there is another way. There is a tremendous moment of self-realisation in the novel that had me sniffling quite a lot. It is then that you see the ray of hope for Bobby and you root for him, more than before.

At the heart of the novel is the creeping supernatural element. The fact is that the cottage is built on a fairy path - between two fairy forts. PJ Dooley's mom warns Bobby and his family to set out the milk and cookies, to keep the fairies happy, or they would be sorry. Everyone finds it hilarious, except for little Dennis. He has nightly rendezvous with the tiny woman who comes to visit the house. The tension escalates in the household and it is through the author's skill at keeping a tight reign on her characters, that you experience the slow burning terror of their situation.

The ending is not rushed. The terror culminates into a murder mystery that answers a few questions, but throws open a lot more. The final chapter, the Epilogue, rounds the novel off nicely and I closed the covers with a happy sigh.

It is an amazingly written book, very strong and with a unique voice. I would highly recommend it to both adults and teens, but with a cautionary note: there is strong language, a lot of it. Some of it jarred me, but you have to realise that it's not done to be over the top or to draw attention to how "cool" the characters are trying to be, but it reflects the speech-patterns and the way of life, as portrayed in the novel.

Find the author, Kate Thompson's website here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Word Count: 50976

Yay - it's over with for another year. It's my first win. I will freely admit to writing the biggest load of bollix ever, to get that wordage up. I really crafted my first 30k words, the rest will be deleted and the real story will be told, purely because I fell behind and felt the need to make up the wordcount as quickly as possible. But it's over and done with. And I won. Third year I'm participating and I feel very proud.
Preens a bit.
Okay, so the rest of the coming week means catching up on writing reviews and reading. It is a very hard life.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ciaphas Cain -Sandy Mitchell

Ciaphas Cain, Hero the Imperium. Defending mankind against the myriad of enemies seeking to tear down the Imperium of Man. A stalwart champion for the people, a selfless hero who cares about the rank and file soldier fighting alongside him, an inspiration to all.

If only it were true.

Ciaphas Cain’s number priority in the dysfunctional and perennially violent 40K universe is, in fact, Ciaphas Cain. Appointed as a commissar to front line battalions, his purpose is to maintain discipline and shore up the morale of the fighting troops; not an easy task when all he wants to do is tear off towards somewhere as far as possible away from the fighting to while away the rest of his days gambling, drinking and carousing.

A thwarted act of cowardice at the start of his career is the snowball that sets everything in motion, an event given a sheen of heroism by fate and Cain’s opportunistic mindset. Cain’s predicament is a masterstroke by Sandy- given Cain’s position as commissar, cowardice is a one way ticket for a very short trip with a messy end. However, by giving him a reputation for heroism he’s forced to live up to in order to avoid being unmasked as a fraud, he creates a plausible and fertile foundation for Cain to be plunged into the thick of the action time and time again.

It’s how Cain squirms on the hook that makes the series stand out; he’s an intelligent, entertaining and well defined character who carries the story with ease.

The books themselves are presented as the collated memoirs of a long retired Cain, the texts assembled and edited by Amberley, an Inquisitor who Cain worked and fought alongside for a fair sized chunk of his career. So, while the main body of the story is written from Cain’s perspective, the chapters are interspersed with Amberley’s footnotes and snippets from third party accounts of the same events, a nice touch which imparts some extra depth and flavour.

I admit I was a bit apprehensive about tucking into a series which seemed to be angling towards a more lighthearted approach to a notoriously dark and deadly universe. However, Cain’s moments of levity and fun are strictly of the gallows variety; there’s never a doubt that he occupies the same universe as the rest of the Black Library’s stable.

All in, it’s a great series populated by believable, likeable characters and plenty of scorching action. None of the 6 books in the series (Hero of the Imperium comrises the novels For the Emperor, Caves of Ice and The Traitor’s Hand, plus three bonus short stories) disappoints; Sandy's writing is consistently entertaining and engrossing.

Not only is it all but essential reading for any existing 40K fan, it holds up as a standalone read for anyone new to the game or simply looking for some futuristic military action.

You can read a sample extract from Hero of The Imperium here (courtesy of the Black Library).