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).


Please find the original article here.

I am really excited by this list of nomination - some fantastic books on here, some of which I've read and reviewed and some others which I have sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read.

So much is happening in children's publishing and it is thrilling to see. The strength of these books are that they always influence their readers, young or old.

I've put those I own in bold and those that are red and in bold are the ones I've reviewed elsewhere on MFB.

Almond, David My Dad’s a Birdman
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406304862

Almond, David The Savage
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406308150

Blackman, Malorie The Stuff of Nightmares
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385610438

Bond, Michael Paddington Here and Now
Publisher: Harper Collins ISBN: 9780007269402

Boyce, Frank Cottrell Cosmic
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9781405054645

Bradford, Chris Young Samurai: Way of the Warrior
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141324302

Breslin, Theresa The Nostradamus Prophecy
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385613088

Brooks, Kevin Black Rabbit Summer
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141381459

Browne, N.M. Shadow Web
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747593454

Buckley-Archer, Linda The Tar Man
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781416917090

Clayton, Emma The Roar
Publisher: Chicken House ISBN: 9781905294633

Colfer, Eoin Airman
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141383354

Colfer, Eoin Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141383330

Collins, B.R. The Traitor Game
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747594383

Dowd, Siobhan Bog Child
Publisher: David Fickling Books ISBN: 9780385614269

Farmer, Nancy Land of the Silver Apples
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781416904663

Finn, Mary Anila’s Journey
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406306590

Gardner, Sally The Red Necklace
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781842555743

Gavin, Jamila The Robber Baron’s Daughter
Publisher: Egmont ISBN: 9781405242936

Golding, Julia Empty Quarter
Publisher: Egmont ISBN: 9781405228190

Gray, Keith Ostrich Boys
Publisher: Definitions ISBN: 9780099456575

Hoffman, Mary Stravaganza City of Secrets
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBNL: 9780747592501

Hooper, Mary Newes From The Dead
Publisher: Bodley Head ISBN: 9780370329482

Horowitz, Anthony Snakehead
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406309355

Ibbotson, Eva The Dragonfly Pool
Publisher: Macmillan ISBNL: 9780230704589

Laird, Elizabeth Lost Riders
Publisher: Macmillan IBN: 9780230528956

Landman, Tanya The Goldsmith’s Daughter
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406307078

Lee, Ingrid Dog Lost
Publisher: Chicken House ISBN: 9781905294756

McCaughrean, Geraldine Tamburlaine’s Elephants
Publisher: Usborne ISBN: 9780746078778

McGowan, Anthony The Knife That Killed Me
Publisher: Definitions ISBN: 9781862306066

McKenzie, Sophie Blood Ties
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781847382757

Magorian, Michelle Just Henry
Publisher: Egmont ISBN: 9781405227575

Malley, Gemma The Declaration
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747587750

Moran, Katy Bloodline
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 978140609386

Muchamore, Robert The Sleepwalker
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9780340931837

Ness, Patrick The Knife of Never Letting Go
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406310252

Nicholls, Sally Ways to Live Forever
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN: 9781407104997

Owen, Joanne Puppet Master
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781842555842

Priestley, Chris Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747589228

Pullman, Philip Once Upon a Time in the North
Publisher: David Fickling Books ISBN: 9780385614320

Rees, Celia Sovay
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747592006

Thompson, Gareth Sunshine to the Sunless
Publisher: Definitions ISBN: 9781862304673

Thompson, Kate Creature of the Night
Publisher: Bodley Head ISBN: 9780370329291

Valentine, Jenny Broken Soup
Publisher: Harper Collins ISBN: 9780007229659

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spyology Competition

I am so excited!

In conjunction with Templar Publishing, Monsters and Critics are running a UK only contest to win a copy of Templar's newest -ology book to be released: Spyology.

Two lucky winners will walk away with a copy of Spyology and a pretty cool goody bag (containing fab items such as a spy pen and notepad etc.).

This is the link to the competition . Go on, enter it! You know you want to!

The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski


Carved into the towering cliffs of central Greece, the Metéora monasteries are all but inaccessible. Holy Trinity is the most isolated, its sacred brotherhood the guardians of a secret that has been protected for centuries.

In the dead of night, the sanctity of the holy retreat is shattered by an elite group of warriors carrying ancient weapons. One by one, they hurl the silent monks from the cliff-top to the rocks below — the holy men taking their secret to their graves….

Halfway across Europe, Richard Byrd fears for his life. He has uncovered the location of a magnificent treasure. But there are those who are dedicated to protecting it, and they will stop at nothing to prevent its discovery.

Hoping to save himself, Byrd contacts two colleagues,Jonathon Payne and David Jones, and begs for their help. The duo rushes to his aid and quickly find themselves caught in an adventure that will change their lives forever.

I present you: a quest novel.

One of my absolute favourites novel types, by one of my favourite authors. Chris Kuzneski has snuck into the adventure and UK market with two of his other books, The Sign of the Cross and Sword of God, both of which I own, slightly worse for the wear and much read. Kuzneski's writing has proved to be hugely popular here in the UK and he's been here to take part in the Crime Writing Festival (kicks herself for not going). Read snippets of news in Kuzneski-Land here.

The boys, as I fondly refer to Jonathan Payne and his colleague and good friend, David Jones, reprise their roles as adventurers (one time military men with Payne being the leader of an elite special forces team) in this non-stop action novel about missing treasure, where Chi does indeed mark the spot, eccentric historians, deadly warriors who cling to an ancient way of life, crazy Kafka drinking Finns, an Interpol agent and mysterious Greek Orthodox Monks.

The reason why the two main characters work so well (this being Payne and Jones) is that their banter is such fun to read. The dialogue had me on more than one occasion laughing out loud. They form a good unit, complimenting each other’s strengths whilst working towards negating their weaknesses.

In this instance Jones and Payne find themselves in St Petersburg (Russia) helping Alison uncover the mystery surrounding the death of her employer Richard Byrd. I have to say that the author knows how to tease out the clues, set up scenes and create an atmosphere of Bourne-like thrill and adventure, even if you are sitting on your train commuting into work. The action moves from St Petersburg to Greece at breakneck speed as the clues are reasoned out and the next stage of the plot is revealed.

What I loved about this is that the author walks away from the now tired set-up of the Crusades, Templars, blood of Christ and Mary Magdalene, the scripture, lost scrolls in the Holy Land etc., and has found a new enigma for our seekers to hunt. It makes a brilliant change and allows other parts of history to be examined by readers who might not be as familiar with the “new” treasures being sought.
I found the history of the Lost Throne very entertaining and genuinely enjoyed how the author incorporated a well known eccentric historian, Heinrich Schliemann (he “discovered” Troy and Mycenae) who used Homer’s books as inspiration for his discoveries, into the storyline.

I am hesitant to make comparisons, but I can’t help but point out that if you like Scott Mariani, Steve Berry, (the most dreaded comparison of all) Dan Brown, Will Adams, David Gibbins and Sam Bourne, then you will thoroughly love and enjoy Chris Kuzneski’s The Lost Throne.

It is a well researched novel and it takes an interesting (and I hope fictional) view of an ancient warrior society in Greece. I found that the author treated the monastic society in the Aegean with great care, never vilifying them, which made a nice and interesting change from a reader’s point of view, leaving you with enough information in the novel, to make your own mind up. I really am looking forward to the next novel as there will be repercussions from the end of this one to follow through. (note to author: hurry up and write!)

I would highly recommend reading The Lost Throne for good escapist fun, especially if you like your adventure stories with good dollops of history, lost treasure and a bit of conjecture. Find the author’s site here. Read an extract over here from Penguin UK who were clever enough to scoop Chris up when he first appeared on the scene.

Book Gifts this Yule

John over at Grasping for the Wind has pumped a few bloggers from the blogosphere for some ideas for presents to fill those Christmas stockings this year, with the outline being: what five sf and/or fantasy novels or anthologies from within the last year would you recommend for gift giving this holiday season? And why?

I added my five pence along with some noteable others. If you are in need of some inspiration either for others or for more books to be added to your teetering TBR pile, follow the link!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Soul Collector by Paul Johnston


Crime writer and journalist Matt Wells is living in London with Detective Chief Inspector Karen Oaten who heads up the elite Violent Crimes Co-ordination Team. He has been preparing with friends for the possible revenge attack by an ex-lover, Sara Robbins, for the killing of her brother a few years earlier, the self styled "White Devil". When Matt's friend an ex-SAS soldier is found murdered Matt's worst fears seem to be realised. When crime novelists seem to be targeted and a gang war breaks out between Turks, Kurds and Albanians the police, as well as Matt and his friends, have sleepless nights and nightmares ahead of them.

The Soul Collector reminded me strongly of Messiah by Boris Starling in its pacing and setting (being London, which is my own backyard). The character of Matt Wells is probably the best thought out the large cast of characters in the book, as he should be, being the main character who is perpetrated against.

I think the novel will film well - it is in keeping with the urban happenings that we see on TV and in the newspaper everyday. What makes it quite intimate is how the author brings the minutiae to life on the page, giving you an intense look at the inner workings of a police procedures, the deals and counter-deals being made between the various gangs that run the drugs and guns rackets in London.

There is much to like about the novel as it is a pacy fun read which relies heavily on the charisma of the main character. Initially, I found him overbearing and self-obsessed and I was ready to dislike him and his friends but then the author turned the tables and proved that "being paranoid doesn't mean that they're not after you". I cut the lads some slack. I had to! They were being chased and lead astray by false clues at various murders and their own paranoia had them over thinking every move they made. That aspect made it quite real and a bit freaky.

The novel is light on its feet and moves from one locale within London to the next quite rapidly. The ensemble cast of characters that the author had set up for Matt as friends were just that bit over the top. They all had various nicknames which does become confusing as you had to keep actual names and nicknames straight in your head, as they switch from nicknames to actual names quite quickly. Having mentioned that, I need to point out that I understand why the author worked these nicknames into the story - it shows the group of friends as more than just platonic friends, they are comrades, a group of guys who would stand against the world, and by one another no matter what.

I loved the gratuitous sexy weapons speak and the training the lads had undergone, all to keep themselves from being captured by Matt's insane ex-girlfriend. I loved the fact that the ex-girlfriend remained and turned out to be as insane and unhinged as she was perceived by various people in the book. Her motivations are strong and she is ruthless to the core, out to get her revenge, come hell or high water. A very tough lady indeed.

This is the second of the Matt Wells novels with the first one being "The Death List". I have the idea that the author will be pitting Matt against even more formidable antagonists in the future. Matt's character is one that asks to be trotted out for more stories to involve him in. He and his cronies seem to thrive the craziness.

The novel expects you to sit back, suspend your disbelief, and to enjoy the ride it takes you on and it does not let up till the very last.

You can find the author's site here and the book can be bought either from Mira UK here or from any other high street bookshop or online.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Times Square Bill Boards for Alison Goodman & World Tour

Astounding news! From December 15, 2008 to 1st January, 2009 Penguin USA will be running ads for Eon: Dragoneye Reborn on two electronic billboards in Times Square, New York! Of course, here in the UK we know the book as The Two Pearls of Wisdom with the review here and the interview with the author here. If you watch the video, on youtube, I'm the madly grinning one in the "London" bit, photographed with Alison at our breakfast. Preens a bit.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Prince of Stories, the Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman by Hank Wagner, Christoper Golden and Stephen R Bissette

Thanks to the overly generous and awesome Graeme Flory of Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, I got a copy of Prince of Stories, the Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman by Hank Wagner, Christoper Golden and Stephen R Bissette to read and review. How awesome is that?

He knows what a complete and utter fan-girl I am when it comes to Neil "The God" Gaiman. I will be the first to admit that I have not quite read everything The God has created, but I still have time and I'm sure I will get there in the end. (rubs hands in anticipation).

I also heard that young Graeme will be running a competition to win a copy of this fantastic sizeable book in conjunction with the publishers in the next few days. Because of the size and heft of it, I think it will only be open to US citizens...but don't quote me, head on over to G's website and check it out. In the meantime I'll just stroke my copy in a sultry way.

Impulse Buying

Just bought this on Amazon. Mark doesn't know yet. Tee hee.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

**Book p0rn on a Thursday**

I am reading so much my eyes are falling, not really! I've got a few reviews coming up but I thought I'd post a few pretty covers of books that have come my way recently:

Absolutely amazing book for writers who want to do some extensive polishing on their existing MS. Definitely recommended for new and existing writers. A full and more comprehensive review will be forthcoming - watch this space!

This is what I am currently reading and I am enjoying it thoroughly. With strains of Boris Starling's Messiah this will make those of us who live and work in London sit up and take notice. The setting is our home-turf so you know the places that get mentioned in the book. The characters are interesting and it's written in a friendly way, which belies the horror of the crimes being committed. Again, a full review will be forthcoming shortly.

My second book I'm currently reading and I'm enjoying it. As it is set quite a bit in our future, it is a book that makes me think a bit of John Courtney Grimwood's work in his Arabesk Trilogy whilst being it's own thing. Science is the cause of some awful things, these books of knowledge have been locked away. There are those who are keen to find these books and unleash the lost knowledge on the world, uncaring of consequences. Then there are those who are even more keen to keep things as they are, at any cost. Very well plotted and written. I'm looking forward to seeing how the various strands come together.

Need I say more? Spyology by Templar Publishing rocks or rather, it creeps. It is part of the ology books - Dragonology, Pirateology etc. and is filled with secret messages that need decryption, information about real-life spies. Definitely put together in a clever way. My copy was sent to me with a pen that writes in invisible ink, only visible under a UV light - this was built into the pen! How CSI / James Bond is that?

wOOt! James Barclay is at Forbidden Planet this evening at 6pm (20th November 2008) so I bought my copy this morning and will be handing it over to Mark to have it signed as he is big JB fan.

Interesting, yes? I think so! I love London and am planning on doing a London Review in a few weeks time as I've received several books on London which needs to be reviewed - for those who are interested in this amazing city and for us writerly types who hastily grab onto books like this for research and inspiration.

Stunning book from New Holland Publishers covering 28 ancient abandoned cities across the world with in depth discussion on the cities, the culture and the reason for their demise. It includes a beautiful section on Babylon which is a must for anyone keen to atttend the British Museum's exhibition on topic.

Fits neatly in with the London Encyclopeadia and the Occult London book. I love Steve Roud's work and have a copy of his book on Superstitions. I cannot wait to dip into this. It's literally just arrived and it's sitting on my desk, next to me, as I'm typing this. Within stroking distance.

A fun book about a young teen who chokes on a gummi bear and dies. Fun book, she dies?! I hear you cry. Yes - it is. I've started reading it this morning on the train - I had to put The Soul Collector aside for the day, as it gave me nightmares - and it looks to be a book written by someone with a very keen eye on how teens behave in this day and age. Definitely a must for fans of Living Dead Dolls and the slightly macabre.

Very pretty cover by the publishers - I've not read any of the series, but I admit in a guilty way that I did like the movie I've got the first two and then this last one to read.

A stunningly illustrated book by Tolkien artist, John Howe with a retelling of the Beowulf saga by Nicky Raven. Published by Templar here in the UK. I can't wait to read it.

How's that, fantasy fan? You like your fantasy gritty, your heroes muddied and a bit dubious a la Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfull - well, pick up Chris Evans' A Darkness Forged in Fire - it should satisfy your cravings. I know Mark's read it and he enjoyed it, but is leaving it for me to read and review. Oh, it is such a hard life!

I will try and make the book p0rn a regular thing as I love looking at books in real life and online, on the other blogs I frequent. I tend to obsess about them when I'm at home, tidying and restacking them to display them in the best way. This is hard work if you've got eight large book cases! Again - such a hard life!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Isn't this an absolutely amazing cover? Getting shivers. It's promising to be a good read too. Rubs hands in glee. (watch this space for the review in early 2009!)

Check out Joseph D'Lacey and Bill Hussey's blog to be kept up to date with all things horror!

US deal for Suzanne McLeod

As fan-girl and admirer of Suzanne, I have to share the fab news from John Jarrold's blog:

Susan Howe, Rights Director at Orion, has sold US rights in three urban fantasies by UK novelist Suzanne McLeod to Ginjer Buchanan of Berkley Ace in a good deal. The books will be published as mass-market paperback originals, with the first appearing late in 2009 or early in 2010.

World rights in the series, which opens with Suzanne’s debut THE SWEET SCENT OF BLOOD (published in hardback and trade paperback in the UK in September 2008), were acquired by Jo Fletcher at Gollancz from John Jarrold in 2007. The second book, THE COLD KISS OF DEATH, will be published by Gollancz in July 2009.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

If any of you are as geeky as some of my friends and I, you would be very keen for next year to arrive, solely to get your grubby paws on the excellent debut novel by Carrie Ryan. I was fortunate enough to receive a manuscript copy from the US publishers a week or so ago and immediately set about reading it.

What an amazing talent Ms. Ryan has! She writes fluently, beautifully, delves into the deepest survivalist emotions and writes action scenes like she works for John Woo or Ridley Scott. We've all resolved to dislike her intensely. But woefully failed. I can't gush enough about how well it is written - the atmosphere is tense, a sense of desolate horror prevails, as we follow the main character, Mary and a few other survivors, in a post-Apocalypse world where the Unconsecrated surround isolated villages, trying to break through, to devour the living. Do not let the dreamlike quality of the cover fool you - it is a tautly written book and would film beautifully!
I have my official review of it up over at Monsters and Critics - official review link - which in itself is an amazing site. I have recently been appointed reviewer and arts writer for Monsters and Critics which is hugely thrilling. I have done a few other reviews for them in the past few weeks and will no doubt do a few exclusives for them and then link it on here.

Pop by, have a look at the review at M&C and make sure to add The Forest of Hands and Teeth to your MUST HAVE list for 2009. It is currently only published in the States but hopefully someone here in the UK will pick up the rights and have it published here. Regardless, I know that I will be importing at least two copies.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Emergency announcement from please help

I found this over at Grasping for the Wind and decided to copy it across here for y'all as I know some readers from here belong to SF Crowsnest.

Hi all,

Stephen here, in the rather ridiculous situation of having to write to you and all of's others readers to ask for your help.

Yesterday afternoon, a minute after posting an update to the two FaceBook groups I founded, the Magazine FaceBook group at (for the magazine), and the Rule Jackelia FaceBook group (for readers of my novels) at, FaceBook sent me an automated message to say this was spamming and immediately cancelled my account.

An hour after that I started being flooded by personal complaints from members of the Magazine FaceBook group saying that the group now had someone called 'Tore Heimstad' installed as administrator (not appointed as admin by me, I assure you!) who was using the Magazine FaceBook group' admin 'message all' function to send out a spam via FaceBook to our sci-fi magazine's thousands of readers that began 'Hey guys. if u think that u look good and if u have CONFIDENCE, then join our pageant group on eupee .' (don't ask, groan).

I can only presume that this breech of our FaceBook group is a major hack of the recently upgraded FaceBook system, but I am currently in the ridiculous situation of not even being able to contact my own FaceBook friends to inform them of this terrible situation, with my account now being cancelled.

I have repeatedly been contacting FaceBook's staff e-mails since yesterday (Friday 15th November 2008) and as of twelve hours later have received nothing but canned autoresponders in return.


If you are a FaceBook user, please note, the Magazine FaceBook group has been hijacked. As of yesterday, any messages sent by it are NOT from staff or myself and should be treated as hostile - e.g. potentially containing or leading to scams, malware, compromised web pages and the like.

Please post news of this on your FaceBook profile and let all of your own FaceBook friends know as a matter of urgency.

Secondly, if you run a blog or zine, please spread news that the Magazine FaceBook group at has been hijacked by hostiles and refer them to this warning which is now prominently linked from our own home page and can be found at - I will keep this page updated with developments and any explanation/apology from FaceBook as and when (or if) I get it.

So far only the Magazine FaceBook group at has been hijacked, but seeing it was myself that was singled out by FaceBook hackers, I would suggest also treating any messages from my Rule Jackelia FaceBook group at and my personal Stephen Hunt FaceBook account at as being fatally compromised, as I'm certainly not in control of these two accounts either anymore.


On a personal note, this is grief I really don't need at the moment.

I'm in the midst of finishing my fourth fantasy novel for HarperCollins, provisionally entitled The Fires of Jago, and am also working furiously with HarperCollins on the February 2009 launch of my third title in the Jackelian sequence, The Rise of the Iron Moon. These are both big calls on my time, and I could do without crisis management of someone else's technical failings - something that was only intended to provide a bit of extra community for my loyal readers.

As fans of my novels know, I came to the social networking 'revolution' a good few years after everyone else, taking the rather curmudgeonly view that it was all a big time-suck and could only be a distraction to my writing. And hey, I was one of pioneers of the Internet, and all this new-fangled web 2.0 stuff was just a cunning ploy to squeeze more money out of gullible venture capitalists etc, right? After being barraged by requests to join various social networks by readers of my novels and friends, however, I belatedly decided to bow to the inevitable and signed up with FaceBook.

I did this in the face of strong and continual opposition from my dear friend and's own editor, Geoff Willmetts, who has always refused to join social networks, citing all the usual security concerns you hear trumpeted in the media - they're a den of identity thieves, you'll find yourself ripped off, mortgages being taken out in your name by ID creeps etc.

I wrote those views off as being unduly influenced by media hysteria and joined FaceBook anyway. So here my first apology - to Geoff. You were right, old chum. I was wrong. Humble pie eaten. I'll be sticking to the first rule of web-mastering that has always stood me in good stead with - if you don't code it yourself, don't trust it (it's a variation on the old adage: if you want something done properly, do it yourself). No more FaceBook for me.

My second apology is to the members of the Magazine FaceBook group - you should really be getting it from the staff at FaceBook, but I suspect we'll all be waiting a long time for that one. Sorry for you getting rubbish e-mails from the mysterious FaceBook group hijacker, Tore Heimstad. And Tore, or whoever you really are, all I have to pass onto you is an old Circlist saying much favoured in the Kingdom of Jackals - what goes around, comes around. Sooner or later, Tore, you'll be getting yours.

And lastly, a word to the ghosts of my fellow fantasy authors at HarperCollins, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, in whose shadow I always inexpertly stumble; guys, you don't know how lucky you were to have been writing your novels in an age when Bebo was a sound you would only hear gurgled from inside a pram, and a FaceBook was a school jotter that someone had inked with 'Kilroy Was Here'.

Yours, deeply frustrated and angry


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Superpowers by David J Schwartz


Madison, Wisconsin: In the summer of 2001, five college juniors wake up with not just a hangover, but superpowers. . . .

Jack Robinson: Grew up on a farm, works in a chem lab, and brews his own beer. Age: 19. Superpower: SPEED.

Caroline Bloom: Has a flair for fashion design and a mother who’s completely out of touch. Works as a waitress for a lunatic boss.
Age: 20. Superpower: FLIGHT.

Harriet Bishop: Studied violin, guitar, and piano and was terrible at them all. Now writes about music for the campus paper.
Age: 20. Superpower: ­INVISIBILITY.

Mary Beth Layton: Is managing a 3.8, but feels like she’s working three times as hard as the people around her.
Age: 20. Superpower: STRENGTH.

Charlie Frost: Has an anxious way about him, and always looks like he’s on day 101 of his most recent haircut.
Age: 20. Superpower: TELEPATHY.

But how do you adjust to an extraordinary ability when you’re an ordinary person? What if you’re not ready for the responsibility that comes with great power? And how do you keep your head in a world that’s going mad?

What a cool book! Seriously. I thought it was going to turn out to be a bit of a spoof about new superheroes but was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a well thought out pretty intense novel about friendship, tough decisions and well, superpowers.

You have to admit, we've all thought about it. Which super power would you like to have? Strength, speed, the ability to read minds or stop / reverse time like Hiro in Heroes? I always wanted to fly - probably because I thought that that would be the way to overcome my fear of heights and well, flying.

The cast of characters are average kids who go to uni, who struggle with relationships with their parents and professors. None of them are unique in any way before the event that turns them into super heroes. What I found pretty cool is that there was no attempt to try and explain the super powers. It makes the story that much more true - because seriously, think about it - if something like this happened to you, how would you go about finding out HOW you got your powers without subjecting yourself to experimentation by dodgy government scientists? And that is the one thing you do not want to do, because your life would not be your own afterwards.

They decide to form their own super hero group - the All Stars. Costumed to the nines, they set about helping police Madison and surrounds. There is an initial "honeymoon" period where everything goes well. People like being saved by their own super heroes. The police are at a loss about what to do - do they investigate the group, for being vigilantes, which is illegal or do they appreciate the help and get on with keeping the streets safe?

External and internal conflict builds up as the weeks speed by. The characters start finding it difficult to cope with their super hero powers and the facade of a normal life. They have to deal with tragedy in their midst, whilst trying to keep their identities secret from a room mate. They discover that a few decades back, another group, not unlike themselves, worked with the government during a time of crisis. The older group had gone their own way and the one person they did track down was unable to really help them, except give them more questions to their already long list.

I didn't realise, until I noticed the date at each chapter, where the book was heading - towards the awful happenings of 9/11. Once I did I thought that it was going to turn a bit farcical and sloppy, that they would somehow figure out the plot and try and save the world. Instead, like almost all of us, they become onlookers of this awful event and their world gets turned upside down even more.

Superpowers is a thought provoking novel about friendship, our innate will to do good, and our internal struggle to cope with who we are, with or without super powers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

**Competition - Blood of the Muse**

Paul over at BOTM is currently running a competition to win copies of "Midnight Reign" by Chris Marie Green.

I have copied the article below but follow the link above through to Blood of the Muse's site to enter the competition. Good Luck!

Thanks to author Chris Marie Green, we have a copy of her novel "Midnight Reign" up for grabs today. To make things even better, the book also happens to also be signed by Chris, so get those entries in today.

Stuntwoman Dawn Madison reluctantly returned to Hollywood to find her missing father, Frank. Instead, she found something else beneath the streets of Los Angeles--a thriving society of the undead, one she could never have imagined existed. It's an erotic and bloody night world, which Dawn came to believe cost both her father and her long-dead mother--the glamorous movie star Eva Claremont--their lives. Still, she and Frank's friends risked everything, pressing on with the investigation.

Now, a new slaying, bearing all the marks of a vampire attack, lures Dawn farther into the Underground and deeper into the twisted lives of those who inhabit it, just as her tenuous alliances in the sunlit world begin to shift ominously. It seems she has only herself to trust and her newfound skills as a hunter to rely on.

But Dawn will find that she is not alone--although some who stand with her stand only in the shadows...

To Enter to Win: Send an email to with the subject line "MIDNIGHT" and include your name and mailing address in the body of your email. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Winners will be selected at random. No purchase is necessary. Contest is open to all participants. Contest ends: November 30, 2008 at 11:59pm PST.

Max Brooks - World War Z news

From the amazing peeps at SciFiWire:

Paramount has set Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster to helm World War Z, based on the Max Brooks best-selling novel about a worldwide infestation of flesh-eating zombies, Variety reported.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski is writing the screenplay, and Brad Pitt's Plan B is producing.

Brooks--the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft--wrote a detailed tale in which a researcher for the U.N. Postwar Commission interviews survivors from countries all over the world, 10 years after the crisis, to gather a first-person post-mortem on a war that obliterated every country on the map.

Paramount bought the book for Plan B in 2006, and it is one of several high-profile projects for the company headed by Pitt, who next stars for the studio in the David Fincher-directed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Rise and Fall of a Domestic Diva by Sarah May


Living on the upwardly mobile Prendergast Road, Kate Hunter's particular truth is that her son has just been rejected by the only decent school in the neighbourhood and so is doomed to a life of crime, drugs and being shunned by everyone else on the street. And she might, just might, be guilty of sometimes, in moments of extreme pressure, forgetting she has a daughter, a bundle of screaming, excreting noise called Flo… Not to mention that she doesn't always buy Fair Trade coffee, she sometimes isn't as nice to her husband as she ought to be, and she's convinced that one day all this will come crashing down around her ears.

But Kate never has a spare moment to stop to think that, beneath the perfect sheen of her friends' and neighbours' amazingly trouble-free lives, beneath the freshly-ironed shirts and organic home-grown veg, lies the same half-truths, the same uncertainties and the same desperation to keep up with the Joneses - who just happen to be her.

The novel starts off quirky and quite funny and rapidly turns darkly comedic making you you feel a bit guilty and unsure if you should be laughing at or feeling truly sorry for the characters in the novel.

It is written in a frank conversational way that draws the reader in and you quickly become absorbed in the lives of the families on Prendergast Road. There are snapshots and vignettes of home-lives that hit truly close to the mark, like the obsession about making sure the kids' get into the right school and having to attend a certain parish church to make sure that happens. I personally have friends who are currently doing this - which freaks me out a bit, to be honest. I hope they stick it out and don't turn completely into the characters from Sarah May's book!

The characters ache with realness and you feel empathy with them, understanding their motivations all too easily and identifying with them. I've personally not had a baby to rule my life to the point where you can't think straight, but I've seen it happen. The story-line links the various families throughout and it is all too easy to lose yourself in this very shrewdly told story. All of us admire some of our friends and think that their lives are oh so perfect - but are they really? The Rise and Fall of a Domestic Diva examines our own preconceptions and the lies we tell the world by pretending to hold it "together", creating the image of the perfect couple or the perfect family. Those who do not fit the norm are shunned, as they make you feel uncomfortable and worried that their bad luck will rub off. So you tolerate them, should you happen across them, but you keep your distance. The novel brings us face to face with how we walk past people who need help as we are so wrapped up in our own lives, striving for so much, pretending so much...that we forget to be real.

If the cover makes you think you've happened across a light and airy novel, do not be fooled. The writing is substantial and deals with a lot more than meets the eye. It is grown up and frank and scything and a compulsive read. I did enjoy it and although I recognised many of the characters in the novel as true archetypes of some of the people I know, it also made feel a bit uncomfortable - it sort of makes you put your life under the magnifying glass and you realise that there are more to the happy families you see than meets the eye.

A well written book by an author who already has steadfast followers. I am sure this will garner her more fans and I would recommend it to those readers who are keen to try something a bit different this festive period.

Find some interesting information about the author, Sarah May here. The Rise and Fall of a Domestic Diva will be available from 1st December 2008 and will be published by Harper Collins as a Paperback Original.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bull Running for Girls by Allyson Bird

I am excited.

Nothing new there - a new day, more books to read = Liz in heaven.

But this time around it is because of a unique set of stories put together by Allyson Bird. She's been around a for a little, having had short stories published in The Hub magazine amongst others. Her anthology of short stories - Bull Running for Girls - was launched at the most recent British Fantasy Society's Convention to great acclaim.

In Bull Running for Girls we find a star-selection of her slightly fey, weird tales of the normal and the paranormal with a twist of Poe and Lafcadio Hearn thrown in for good measure. The stories can be called adventure-horror stories set in various locations across the world, from China to Everydayville in Madison County US.

The stories reflect our growing obsession with the unknown, exploring the deep recesses of the mind, turning the overly mundane into nightmare-like occurences. It also reworks some old themes and the author has great fun with archetypes.

The selection of stories are - in my mind - ideal for those of us who like a bit more meat to their short fiction (forgive the unintended pun) and who enjoy having their status quo challenged by a writer with growing skill. The various protagonists within the 21 short stories all struggle valiantly with personal demons, invariably doing their best to hold up the facade of normalicy as the edges of their world are torn away by external forces.

Personal favourites are definitely: Bull Running ; In the hall of the Mountain King; and Bone Grinder. Oh, and Hunter's Moon, because to me it is reminiscent of stories published on Endicott Studio.

The book cover is beautifully illustrated by Vincent Chong and it only serves to enhance the set of stories that stay with you long after you've put the book down.
Find out more about Allyson Bird here. Bull Running for Girls is also available to purchase directly from Allyson and / or Amazon, although I think that Amazon only had a few left in print when I last checked.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Way of Shadows, Brent Weeks

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city's most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly - and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and cultivate a flair for death.”

Whatever image Azoth had of the adventurous and exciting life of a wetboy is dispelled even before Durzo takes him on as his apprentice. Much like life in the slums, death is dirty, squalid and traded as just another commodity.

It says a lot that being plunged into a life where he’s surrounded by scheming enemies and where failure means torture and death is considered an improvement for Azoth. What starts out as a relatively simple proposal snowballs gracefully into an unravelling world of intrigue, entwining his destiny with the fate of the kingdom and much more. It’s a smooth, well executed process which fleshes the characters out and expands the world around them without burying them in a landslide of exposition, a fear which I harboured given that as this is the first of The Night Angel trilogy and there would, quite understandably, be a lot of ground to cover.

I was also a bit worried that the essential nature of being an assassin would be wrapped in cotton wool or glossed over; however, Brent avoids the Disneyesque version whereby all their victims are evil men/ cardboard cutout bad guys and allows them to be assassins; who after all, kill anyone for a price (sorry, wetboys- assassins are killers devoid of the ability to use inner magic to enhance their skills, a fascinating premise). Azoth doesn’t necessarily like it, but he does it, and by doing so his character becomes even more defined and believable.

All in, Way of Shadows is a deft and clever story, skilfully delivered and I can’t wait to see where it goes in Shadow’s Edge.

You can read the first chapter here- anyone who says they didn't get claustrophobic on Azoth's behalf is a liar.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Murder One - Robin McKinley Signing

It always amazes me how many people can fit into Murder One's Romance and Paranormal Romance section. And it is small, as can be witnessed by these pictures from the MO website of previous events.

I arrived (fashionably) late (due to having to work till 6pm) for Robin McKinley's reading, talk and signing at Murder One last night. And after hugging the stuffing out of Karen and Trisha (who run this ever expanding department and who are absolutely amazing, btw), I sidled in to listen to a bit of Ms. McKinley’s readings. She has a lovely strong voice – I have found that there is nothing nicer than listening to an author reading their own work. They know the nuances, where to pause to create drama or hesitate that one bit when reading out loud to create a comedic rejoinder. She read from Chalice and gave us hints on her current work in progress. Pop over to her website and read her blog about that.

I slipped away when more people came in for the talk and spent some time chatting to the crazy and fun members of the M1 Book Club™ who were meeting up for the second time only (– if anyone is interested, and in the London area, new members are welcome, contact Trisha at Murder One for further information –) and they were gearing up to talk to Ms. McKinley and discuss the newly republished Sunshine. I will definitely be joining the book club – for now they will be focusing on Romance (read urban fantasy/supernatural romance with a bit of crime, murder, and butt-kicking thrown in) and I get the distinct impression the club will grow because they are so passionate about books and authors and all of them seem to love reading unreservedly.

I also got a chance to slip away downstairs and was there for maybe forty minutes examining all the bookshelves. All I can say is: sooo many books, one pair of eyes is not enough!

Back upstairs many of Ms. McKinley’s fans had had their books signed and were slipping away into the dark drizzly night. I bought my copy of Spindle’s End and had her sign it before moving on to give her some space to chat to others in the queue.

I was ready to go home but got lured into staying for the informal and hilarious chat with the book club and I'm so pleased that I did. Ms. McKinley’s agent decided to stay too, after we waved our Dear Author farewell, and she had us wrapped around her elegant finger, as she chatted to us about some of the authors they published, what she was currently doing here in the UK and in turn we gushed at her this stream of information about how much we loved some of the authors’ she had mentioned and asked her numerous questions. Eventually we unbarricaded the doors and allowed her to leave to meet up with a friend.

Trisha had made her amazing shortbread spider biscuits which were consumed at a rapid rate, along with other treats bought. Eventually we all packed it up and shimmied off into the night with calls of: see you next month, at seven!

It was an amazing evening, with such a buzz about it. I really do forget how much fun it is to get together with like-minded book addicts who are interested in the broad aspect and range of publishing and writing.

I also think that Murder One has hit the nail on the head with this Book Club of theirs – admittedly, it is early days still, but as one of London’s most iconic stores, and an independent bookseller, they can encourage this type of thing, thanks to the largess of the owner, Max. From a reader’s, author and editor’s perspective, as well as a shop owner, he must have seen the benefits immediately – where else can those interested in reading and talking about books go, without feeling a bit self-conscious, to be a bit rowdy and talk books, characters and have a bit of wine? As Trisha pointed out: he didn’t have to agree to having the book club have their meetings at the shop but he is forward thinking enough to realize that having a bunch of passionate readers in the shop will generate more interest in the stock they currently carry, along with more income and Murder One will get yet another tag added to its illustrious image.

So, what the above paragraph is really about is: start your own book club or join M1 Book Club, even if you are hesitant about the books being read, it will open doors to new books and experiences – and like it was pointed out last night: book clubs have the carte blanche to read anything they want from pure literary, to feminist poetry, to romance and science fiction – the core thing is: to read. And to support your indie bookshops! We can’t afford to lose them!

This post has turned out much longer than anticipated, and for sticking with me, I’d like to offer up a competition. I have somehow managed to order two of Katherine Neville’s astonishing novel, The Eight, and therefore have one spare copy and would love to give it away to someone. My original copy of The Eight I had bought when I first moved to the UK to replace the one I left behind in South Africa, has gone walkabout with someone else, hence the new copy.

The challenge is: in your entry, tell me how books have influenced you - have you taken up martial arts because of reading Bruce Lee's biography, have you decided to become a writer, learn to play chess, become a Nascar fan, a PI or a ghostbuster...let us know how . Email me the answers and your contact details – am prepared to post anywhere on the planet – and I’ll do a lucky dip at the end of next week, Friday 14th November 2008 first thing in the morning and announce the winner and have the winning reply posted on MFB - so if you run your own blog, LJ or Wordpress site, let me have the link and we can link it back.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke


Since the extraordinary events of Inkspell, when the story of Inkheart magically drew Meggie, Mo and Dustfinger back into its pages, life in the Inkworld has been far from easy. With Dustfinger dead, and the evil Adderhead now in control, the story in which they are all caught has taken an unhappy turn. Even Elinor,left alone in the real world, believes her family to be lost-lost between the covers of a book. As winter turns to spring, there is reason to hope...

A close friend of mine, Michelle from South Africa, bought me the first book in Cornelia Funke's trilogy, Inkheart quite a few years ago, when it was first released. Michelle insisted that my obsession with books reminded her strongly of the main character, Meggie in Inkheart. Personally I thought it was rubbish - no one can possibly be as obsessed by books as I am. Yes, my friends, I had a lot to learn!

I have read Inkheart and Inkspell several times and have bought copies for other friends to read and enjoy. I have waited a good old time for the closing chapter in this amazing trilogy and I'm thrilled to say that Inkdeath does not disappoint.

Things are very different in Inkdeath, right from the start. The world is in chaos and it is a no holds barred ride mixing all the elements that Cornelia Funke has become known for - with dark obsessive characters and nightmarish events. The story highlights how people change in the face of adversity and the characterisations are at their peak.

I really am not going to give away the story lines, they are vastly complex, with a dizzying array of characters and the author's innate skill at planning and following through story arcs has to be applauded. She has many links to tie up from the two previous books and her storytelling moves you effortlessly through these, tugging the reader along at a thrilling pace.

Inkdeath is a swashbuckling story of princes, villains, lonely characters and a struggle to do the right thing, making momentous decisions or desperately trying to deal with decisions made in the past. There is the confrontation with mortality, vividly portrayed by the pressence of the White Women, and the question of reality versus imagination is raised, along with the pressing need for the characters to find a way to escape the world they are in.

Meggie remains the pivotal character in the story but we find Fenoglio struggling cope with the loss of his writing and story telling ability. In a turn of events self-obsessed Orpheus has the final copy of the Book so he is using that to his own advantage, rewriting Fenoglio's words, trying to control the story. And...well, a lot more besides. It is a must read for anyone who has started on this journey a few years ago with the publication of Inheart, especially as Inkheart movie will soon be coming out to a theatre near you (we saw an extended trailer last night on DVD and it looks AMAZING) with release dates having been set for 12th December 08 in the UK and January 09 in the US.

Inkdeath is a wild ride, buckle up and follow the story to its conclusion, you will not be disappointed.

You can find Cornelia Funke's website here with more information about all her books and movie news. Her publisher's Chicken House, can be found here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

R&S Christmas List

This culled from The Bookseller's website:

Cactus TV has revealed the first 20 books selected for this year's Richard & Judy Christmas Presents book strand, which will begin its five-week run on 19th November on their UKTV Watch show "Richard & Judy's New Position".

Serious non-fiction is a new category for this year with the children's picture-book category as an alternative to last year's one-off "Richard & Judy's Best Kids' Books Ever" programme.

The books featuring in the sixth category, "Celebrity Autobiography", have yet to be announced. Each week the chosen book will be reviewed, and the celebrity will join Richard and Judy in the studio to help review the week's category.

The order of categories is yet to be confirmed.

Coffee table books:
The Half by Simon Annand (Faber)
The Book of Islands by Philip Dodd/Ben Donald (Palazzo)
Wisdom by Andrew Zuckerman (Abrams)
UltraLuxe Hotels (Wiley)

Cooking for Friends by Gordon Ramsay (HarperCollins)
Bake by Rachel Allen (Collins)
Ripailles by Stephane Reynaud (Murdoch)
Venezia by Tessa Kiros (Murdoch)

Serious non-fiction:
Dr Who: The Writer's Tale by Russell T Davies/Benjamin Cook (BBC Books)
Mckie's Gazetteer: A Local History of Britain by David McKie (Atlantic)
Homework for Grown-ups by E Foley/B Coates (Square Peg/Random House)
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (Harvill/Random House)

Stocking fillers:
Ladybird Pack For Boys (Ladybird/Penguin)
Harry Hill's Whopping Great Joke Book (Faber)
The Mighty Book of Boosh (Canongate)
Love Letters of Great Men (Macmillan)

Children's books:
Pink! by Lynne Rickards (Chicken House)
This Dinosaur is So Big by Nick Sharratt (Ladybird)
Spells by Emily Gravett (Macmillan)
Dogfish by Gillian Shields (Simon & Schuster)

Savage Chickens

So very apt for all of us doing Nanowrimo this month.

Keep on the good fight!

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen


Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where everyone has a story to tell about the Waverleys. There's the house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, and the wild rumors of dangerous loves and tragic passions. Claire has always clung to the Waverleys’ roots, tending the enchanted soil in the family garden from which she makes her sought-after delicacies. She has everything she thinks she needs, until one day she wakes to find a stranger has moved in next door and a vine of ivy has crept into her garden... and Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I picked up Garden Spells in a fit of desperation yesterday (Tuesday) morning as I was leaving the house for my commute into work - I couldn’t find the book I was currently reading, so I grabbed the next book in the TBR pile. I started reading it on the station platform, waiting for my invariably late train. I read it during lunch yesterday and on my way to the doctor’s late yesterday afternoon and then finished it last night, after my whole being demanded I finish it, so I could have a good night’s rest. I had to know what happened.

The book’s two main characters Sydney and Claire, the current Waverleys in Bascom, are wonderfully sharply drawn characters in book that abounds with a wistful strangeness I’ve last seen whilst reading the original Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. There are many comparisons with Practical Magic, both the movie and the book, but Garden Spells remains its very own work of delightful fiction. I can even dare to say there are hints of The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells but again, it is not self-indulgent or even as dark as YY.

It examines closely the relationship between two very different girls birthed to a selfish and peculiar mother. You get very personal vignettes of how their lives used to be and how they worked towards changing it. Sydney particularly demands your empathy but you do not ever pity her because she is a fighter, she walks away from a truly destructive relationship with her young daughter, Bay and you cheer her on as she makes her deserved escape home, to Bascom, and to her sister Claire.

Claire’s strangeness is handled beautifully. Her unique abilities as a culinary magician (in more ways than just the literary sense) is well known and people come to her for remedies. She is the secret keeper in Bascom, the wise woman, the one everyone knows, yet very few feel inclined to make friends with her. She is an enigma, odd, weird, strange…and happy to remain so, until the new neighbour makes his intentions perfectly clear – he likes her, a lot, and nothing will stand in his way.

The books is wonderfully uplifting and great fun to read – I laughed and cried and woke up this morning feeling ontop of the world, even though I am not Barack Obama! Sarah Addison Allen has a deft touch, turning the weird and the magic into something believable but never ever into the mundane. There is a sense of awe about the mysteries the girls’ have inherited, they treat their gifts lightly and never over-think their gifts. Bascome sounds like my kind of town, filled with unique characters that never grate in their strangeness. Their oddness is not held up in a way so that you can laugh at them in a derisive way, it’s used to show you that it is okay to be a little bit on the odd-side because it is what makes us unique and different and fun to be around.

Garden Spells is a delightful read, something to pick up on a day when you might not be feeling yourself or if you are in the mood to challenge your outlook or preconceptions! I can guarantee you will enjoy it. Especially if you are a foodie – some of Claire’s creations in the book can be found at the author’s website here. Garden Spells was published in the UK by Hodder Paperbacks in May 2008. A new novel by Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen, can also now be purchased in the UK from online retailers and bookshops.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

An evening with Neil Gaiman

Friday, 31st October 2008

One of the highlights of my readerly and geek calendar. Mark and I got to go our and play with other fans and meet the lovely Neil Gaiman. We were standing outside to draw some money when the taxi drew up and out spilled Mr. Gaiman and his posse. Mark had to restrain me otherwise I might have been writing this from a nine by six jail cell. We allowed Mr. Gaiman and his posse to enter the building unharmed. And qued, because that is what we do.

What made it extra special is that I managed to spot Suzanne McLeod and her partner Norman at the back of the queue and I hastily made sure they joined us further up front. We professed to be all Gaiman Geeks (Registered Trademark) and gushed at one another about reading, writing, authors, agents, editors, deadlines.

Fans of Neil "The God" Gaiman dressed up on Halloween

Suzanne and I commiserated that our mutual friend Karen could not make it due to unexpected illness. Hope you are feeling better, young miss! Watch out for an email later on.
Whilst Suzanne and I went into the auditorium, Mark and Norman lurked around the table of goodies the amazing peeps from Blackwells had on display. Each of them managed to secure a pre-signed, limited edition, hard back, slip cased copy of The Graveyard Book, illustrated by Dave "I draw for chocolate" McKean. *beams*

The auditiorium filled up swiftly and conversation was all over the place - some people went all the way and got dressed up for Halloween which I have to admit was pretty awesome. I would have loved to have made the effort but I don't think my boss would have been happy with me showing some people from Morgan Stanley into the conference room at the office dressed as a Zombie or Witch.

Some amazing creatures came out to play with us at the talk and signing - thank you for letting me take your photos!

Mr. Gaiman came on, chatted briefly about The Graveyard Book's premise and then proceeded to read us a chapter from the book. Chapter Five, Dance Macabre. The thing about Neil Gaiman reading his own work is: you are right there with him. His intonations and inflections emphasise the excellent prose - The Graveyard Book is made to be read out loud. I will be ordering the audio for sure.

My advance reader copy signed by NG

The reading went quickly - it was over way too soon, for all of us. But it was not the end of the evening by a long shot. Mr. Gaiman then answered a handful of questions the audience wrote out for him. Mark was particularly thrilled as his question was: "Will you be writing another script after writing Beowulf? Also, please note: Beowulf Rocked!" and Mr. Gaiman answered in the affirmative - yes, he is working on a script for Anansi Boys and Neverwhere. Yay!
We got into the queue after all the questions were answered and we each got to have a very brief chat with Mr. Gaiman as he signed all our books. We were lucky enough to get seats, second row from the front, which you have to admit is pretty darn good. During his talk, Dave McKean arrived and once Mr. Gaiman had signed my advance copy of The Graveyard Book, Stardust and Preludes and Nocturnes and the limited edition Graveyard Book, and he signed Mark's ancient copy of Good Omens (signed by Terry Pratchett in 1997) we hustled over to Dave and had him sign Preludes and Nocturnes and the limited edition Graveyard Book. A bit of a result, all in all. Plus, Mark and I both managed to speak words and not just giggle nervously and spit or drool in our effort to be witty and charming.

The limited edition personalised to Mark and I, by both Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Mark's 1996 edition of Good Omens signed by Terry Pratchet (1997) and Neil Gaiman (2008)

Suzanne and Norman joined us for dinner at Pizza Express and we chatted non-stop about spooky events we've heard of and experienced and Suzanne and I had geek moments about how cool Neil Gaiman is and how effortless he makes it all seem.

Fans waiting to buy copies of Neil's back catalogue and newly published books

It was an amazing evening and I was so pleased that I could share it with another author whom I admire greatly for her talent and skill. It was the first time I met Suzanne and I have to say: you can't wish to meet anyone nicer. We spoke at length about her own writing, her research she's been doing and that the deadline for the second book is fast approaching. I think I am more excited about it than should be healthy!
We reluctantly said good bye and made our respective ways back home / hotel, in Suzanne and Norman's case. I couldn't stop stroking my newly signed books, much to the horror of one of the people on the train next to us. At least I don't think I called them "my precious."
I think.