Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dead Girls' Dance by Rachel Caine


Welcome to Morganville. Just don`t stay out after dark...

Claire has her share of challenges. Like being a genius in a school that favours beauty over brains; homicidal girls in her dorm, and finding out that her college town is overrun with the living dead. On the up side, she has a new boyfriend with a vampire-hunting dad. But when a local fraternity throws the Dead Girls` Dance, hell is really going to break loose.

The second book in Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire series, Dead Girls' Dance picks up exactly where Glass Houses left off.
First off, this is not a comfortable book. It is much darker than the first - there are repurcussions to the happenings in the first novel and now Claire and her friends have to deal with a nasty situation - Michael has been killed by Shane's dad and his biker buddies, and things are pretty dire. Shane is helpless against his dad's anger and struggles to try and cope with his loyalty to his dad and his growing feelings for Claire whilst Eve is completely dumbstruck by the horror of watching Michael die infront of them.

This is just the first few pages of the book. And the pace keeps increasing. The friends have to figure out how to continue their lives whilst living under a microscope - everyone is watching them. The vampires, the humans and Shane's dad and his insane friends. Out of all of these, it is the humans that are the most dangerous - which makes and interesting twist on matters.

I found the book a quick and easy read - I'm not going into depth as to what happens, but needless to say, there are some heavy choices to be made by Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael. I had to keep on reading, to see how it evolves - there was no question of that. Ms. Caine's writing is just excellent - her characters are distinct, the two boys sound lovely and there are enough twists and turns to keep anyone happy.

I have the next two books lined up to read and will do so soon. I'll probably then do a comprehensive review of this series thus far.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Birthday Shout Out!

To Furnace author: Alexander Gordon Smith - it's his birthday today, and dammit, he's younger than me!

Franklyn - A Musing

We attended a preview of Franklyn on Tuesday evening, with a Q&A afterwards with the director, Gerald McMorrow.

The movie is out today.

And it's a very difficult movie to sell as it is neither one genre or the next. Yes, there are elements of the fantastical and weird and Meanwhile City looks amazing on the screen as this huge mega-city overlooked by statues of winged angels...but then, it is also a very character driven movie which one does not tend to find often in either sci-fi or fantasy.

There are four storylines to follow and they meander along, hardly interweaving at all, until you do start noticing a one or two characters perhaps passing each other in a hallway and slowly but surely, you start picking up on this more and more.

I try not to know too much about a movie when I go in to see it - I like making up my own mind. I knew very little about Franklyn, who the director is and what he did before - thanks IMDB - but I did a brief stint of research and watched some clips on Empire's website. It looked interesting and I actually thought, initially, that it's going to be a bit like V for Vendetta and there is that element of seeing the less-pretty parts of London used in the movie, and it was really cool thinking "waitaminute! isn't that....?" as the camera pans along roads and small alleys.

Preest's character as played by Ryan Philippe is the first one to be established in the movie and he is very freaky - gravelly voiced and American, narrating about the existence of Meanwhile City, its lust for religion and how he stands out as he is hunted since he has no religion. He has his informers and he keeps himself to himself. But at the same time he is hunting The Individual who is the head of one of the religious cults and The Individual had taken a little girl to sacrifice. Preest was doing his best to find the little girl when he is apprehended and tossed into jail for four years.

Eva Green's character(s) is probably the most startling - she plays Emilia, an art student who films her various suicide attempts as part of her project. There is more to Emilia than meets the eye and I personally thought Eva Green was stunning and the role suited her to a T.

Sam Riley plays Milo - jilted by his fiance at the altar he struggles to continue with his life and imagines that he sees his playmate from his childhood, Sally, at various stages through the movie. Sally is also played by Eva Green. Sam Riley is just so pretty and mournful and is such a nice guy, that you sort of wish that his ex-fiance implodes. How can she leave him just like that?

Then there is Bernard Hill who is desperate to find his son who had disappeared - he was due for day-release from some kind of institution but who has gone missing. His struggle to find his son is touching and there is this one scene where he allows someone to put up a notice on an already overfilled noticeboard about young people who are missing and you just feel his anguish.

As I said - Franklyn is a difficult film to pin down. Visually it is stunning - I really liked it - and the characters are interesting. Milo's character should have had more development I think, purely because he deserved it. But there are times when the shots linger a bit too long, when they are just too meaningful and it serves to make the movie drag.

Franklyn is a flick that people are either going to love. Or hate. I don't think there will be a middle ground here, so be warned. You can just not feel ambivilent towards it. It is ambitious and it does a lot on a very small budget. I am really keen to see what the director Gerald McMorrow will be coming up with next, purely because he seems a very self-contained and astute man. There is something very deliberate and calm about him - he makes me think that he's testing the waters, seeing how far he can push the boundaries and ye gods, isn't that what Brit directors do time and time again?

Upcoming Forbidden Planet Signings

As I was having my tea this morning, waiting to wake up, here at work, I did a quick recon of what my favourite sites have got going...and naturally I stopped by FP's site to check on any updates on their signings calendar...

And I almost freaked out - sheer geeky nerdy joy. I knew about two of the signings I mention below, but the most recent update blew me away. Read on...
People, FP are doing their utmost to cause stampedes at their shop - I am concentrating on signings here in London as I'm sort of partial to the store!

Raymond E Feist @ FP on 12th March to promote his brand new novel: Rides a Dread Legion - to take place between 6 - 7pm.

Then, another massive insane signing which promises plenty of geekjoy:
2000FP - Thrill Power Overload! (and this I've nabbed from their site)

FORBIDDEN PLANET is delighted to announce that we’ve teamed up with 2000AD to celebrate our 20000th (well probably!) signing! On Saturday 21st March 1 – 2:30pm at the London Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, we’ll have the absolute best in British Comics: -

Dan Abnett
David Bishop
Simon Davis
Rufus Dayglo
Al Ewing
Brett Ewins
Henry Flint
Frazer Irving
Robbie Morrison
Tony Lee
Matt Smith
Simon Spurrier

Although I am TREMENDOUSLY excited about the above, NOTHING quite compares to the next signing as I am such a huge fan of both authors. (again nabbed from their site)

Mike Carey and Kate Griffin - Thicker Than Water and A Madness of Angels
Thursday 26, March, 6:00PM - 7:00PM

Join Mike Carey and Kate Griffin at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Thursday 26th March 6 – 7pm.

Mike Carey is an extremely popular and well-respected author who has written on several top comics titles such as Lucifer as well as the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Thicker Than Water returns us to the life of Felix Castor, where memories thought left in Liverpool resurface in London. Childhood memories, family traumas, sins old and new come back to torment the city’s favourite freelance Exorcist. Things go from bad to worse until the only question left is – just how much will Fix have to pay..?

Kate Griffin is the name under which Carnegie Medal-nominated author, Catherine Webb, writes fantasy novels for adults. A Madness of Angels is a book about the power of London, Urban Magic, ebbing and flowing with the rhythms of the city, amking runes from the alignments of ancient streets and humming with the rhythms of trains and buses. This is the London of Matthew Swift, where rival sorcerers do battle for the soul of the city.


Mark and I will try to attend all of the above events and will bring you photos, chats and photos of autographed books. Did I mention that I love living in London and that I love Forbidden Planet even more?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shadows Edge and Beyond the Shadows, Brent Weeks

Shadow’s Edge picks up smartly from the end of Way of Shadows and, after a brief honeymoon period where Azoth /Kylar gets to have a fleeting taste of the life that could have been, the repercussions of what had been stirred up in WoS come home to roost.

’Edge is a fast paced, fistbiter of a sequel to WoS. It’s clear that Brent is that much more comfortable with his main characters; the actions flows smoothly and the dialogue is smart and snappy. The story grows as it develops, expanding the horizon beyond occupied Cenaria; the cast is correspondingly larger, but Brent keeps them under tight control and the storyline remains lean and compelling, trimmed of any excess baggage which would hinder its cracking pace.

I dived into Beyond the Shadows the morning after devouring the last of Shadows Edge (due in no small part to the little surprise on the last page of ’Edge). As expected, it was all systems go from the beginning. Sometimes I wondered how Brent was going to manage bringing all the myriad threads together for the finale, but he does. The paths all converge, like streams merging into a waterfall, drawing you inexorably towards a thundering climax, a clash of magic and steel that leaves no one unscathed. The scale of it is immense, far removed from Azoth’s humble origins.

Anchoring it all is Azoth/Kylar, who, having become the Night Angel by necessity, now struggles to come to terms with the fine print of his immortality and his calling, and what that means for those closest to him. The rest of the world, however, isn’t about to wait for him to find his way through of the tangled web of his emotions.

The pace of the story across both books takes no prisoners; I found it hard to do more than grunt at Liz while either book was open, which was every time I could find somewhere to sit. In my book, there's no better accolade than the simple fact that it's hard to put them down once you start reading.

Anyone with even the remotest taste for bold, engaging fantasy should look no further.

Postbag Treats

I try not to do these posts - firstly, it almost feels like I'm bragging about books I receive and secondly, well, I don't want anyone to pass out from sheer jealousy.

But, having said that, this evening's delivery of books made me romp around our tiny lounge like a mad thing. Sparrow, our dog, actually barked at me.

First was a terrifically large airmail envelope from New York. I had palpitations. I tore it open and revealed a proof copy of the US edition of Peter V Brett's The Painted Man (UK title) - the US title is: The Warded Man.

I emailed Peat to let him know I had received a US copy from his publishers, because frankly, I may have to read it again just to make sure the two versions do not differ...

The second novel is an incredibly interesting new thriller adventure for the 12+ market - Shark Island by David Miller, published by Oxford University Press. It sounds to be Willard Price and H Rider Haggard all rolled into one with a bit of buckling your swashes too.

And thirdly - giggles insanely - the movie tie in of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. I cannot wait to see the movie!

And final postbag treat: yes, you read the title correctly: Wiffle Lever to Full by Bob Fisher. It sounds and looks 150% fun and I can't wait to read it. All about Bob travelling around the UK on the con circuit for a number of years - there are even photos to prove and show his attendance to various cons. It is a completely different world. It looks insane and hilarious. Watch this space for a review soon.

And that's it for now!

Sherrilyn Kenyon

I am very much aware of the amazing talents of Sherrilyn Kenyon as author - she has a tranche of books to her name and she is so well known in the States and here in the UK. I have however never had the opportunity to read any of her books - I admit I was put off by the amount of books there were in the various series and I didn't know how they fit in together. But when I received a copy of Dream Warrior (eye candy to the left), I knew I had to speak to someone for advice.

In a panic, I spoke to all my readerly friends and found that an ex-colleague of mine, Carla Hale, is a huge nerdy geeky fan-girl of Ms. Kenyon's work. Never one to let an opportunity slip me by, I immediately pounced and asked Carla to do me a review on one or two of Ms. Kenyon's books and she's come through with the goods.


First up:

Night Pleasures - A Dark Hunter Novel


Amanda Devereaux has a crazy family. Her mother and older siblings are witches and psychics, and her twin sister is a vampire hunter. All Amanda wants is a quiet, normal life. Only when she finds herself the target of an attack meant for her twin, she wakes to find herself handcuffed to a sexy, blonde stranger.

He is Kyrian of Thrace. And while Amanda's first thought is that this might be another of her sister's attempts at extreme match-making, it soon becomes clear that Kyrian is not boyfriend material.

He is a Dark-Hunter: an immortal warrior who has traded his soul for one moment of vengeance upon his enemies. Kyrian spends his eternal days hunting the vampires and daimons that prey upon mankind. He is currently on the hunt for a very old and deadly daimon named Desiderius who has deemed it sport to handcuff Kyrian to a human while he hunts him.

Now Kyrian and Amanda must find a way to break their bond before they give into their dangerous attraction to one another. Or Desiderius kills them both...

Carla's Review:

This book is where my love affair with the Dark Hunters all began. I have always had a keen interest in fantasy books, but Sherrilyn Kenyon has done for me what not a lot of other authors can do and that is keep me enthralled in all the Dark Hunter Books from beginning to end.

I found this book to be extremely easy to read and very addictive from start to finish. From the first chapter you are instantly caught up with Amanda and Kyrian and are rooting for them all the way. Although I know that Dark Hunters don’t exist, a little bit of me hopes that I will wake up in a cellar handcuffed to one some day!

Second one:

Acheron - A Dark Hunter Novel


Eleven thousand years ago a god was born. Cursed into the body of a human, Acheron endured a lifetime of hatred. His human death unleashed an unspeakable horror that almost destroyed the earth. Brought back against his will, he became the sole defender of mankind.

Only it was never that simple...
For centuries, he has fought for our survival and hidden a past he never wants revealed.
Now his survival, and ours, hinges on the very woman who threatens him. Old enemies are reawakening and uniting to kill - them both.

Carla's Review:

11,000 years ago a god was born and what a god he was!


What can I say?

This book does not disappoint at all. In all the other Dark Hunter books you hear about Ash, the head of the Dark Hunters and he is shrouded in secrecy so when this book finally came out I really could not put it down. It was superbly written and answered all the questions you have about Acheron from all the other books.

This book will keep you gripped from beginning to end. It is dark and disturbing but completely absorbing.

Firstly, thanks to Carla for the reviews - she's sent me a schedule of the various series so I now know which fits where. I will be reading Dream Warrior very soon, so keep an eye out for a review on that.

Secondly, check out Piatkus, Sherrilyn Kenyon's UK publisher's website for links to some cool content about her books. For instance, this is a link to an extract from Dream Warrior and this is the link to the trailer for Acheron - in fact, I now want to read it, as it looks just so gorram cool! And of course, find the link to Ms. Kenyon's website here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Twilight Zone

You're travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone!

The Twilight Zone: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street by Mark Kneece, Rod Stirling and Rich Ellis

A shadow passes overhead and a loud roar is heard, accompanied by a flash of light. Neighbours along Maple Street grow confused as they find that the telephones no longer work and there is no power. As the sun sets, they gather together in the street to discuss the matter. Only Tommy, a young boy, sees the situation for what it is – an alien invasion which disrupts his neighbourhood.

The Monsters are due on Maple Street freaked me out a bit - bearing in mind that this was written in the hey-day of the Twilight Zone shows, it still reflects topically how quickly and easily friends and neighbours can turn on one another, as is shown in real live news footage and as it is depicted in various t.v. shows, such as Jericho and Lost, for instance. It also clearly indicates the paranoia people are prone to, if you don't know what is going on. Stephen King's The Mist is also a very good example of this.

The artwork is crisp and clear and I have to say, out of the two I picked up to read this morning on my way into work, this one is my favourite. The character's emotions are depicted graphically but then there is also the what is shown and not shown in the picture boxes. A good, if chilling read.

The Twilight Zone: The After Hours by Mark Kneece , Rod Serling , Rebekah Isaacs

When dissatisfied shopper Marsha White tries to return a purchase to the eighteenth floor of a department store, she is surprised to find out that no such floor exists. Feeling faint, she lies down in the store manager’s office and wakes up, hours later, after the store has closed for the night.

Wandering the dark and empty store, Marsha hears voices calling her to the eighteenth floor as her unusual shopping trip continues in a very unexpected way.

This is every shopper's nightmare - you buy an item, discover its damaged, you go and complain and then you discover the item you've bought is not stocked by the department store...not just that, but the floor you bought this on, doesn't exist either! Add to that you pass out and then wake up in the department store, only to find that you've been locked inside. And someone in there knows your name and keeps calling you. You get in the elevator and discover the impossible...A creepy little story with a definite Twilight Zone twist at the end.

These graphic novels are taken directly from the scripts of some of the Twilight Zone episodes and although they are aimed at younger readers, they should not be seen as childish / infantile.
The element of creepy and weird is strongly felt and is a worthy addition to any graphic novel fan and / or Twilight Zone fan's bookshelf.

The Twilight Zone graphic novels are published by Bloomsbury.

How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant by Elen Caldecott


Kirsty Jenkins adores the allotment her grandfather lovingly tends and, just before he dies, he asks Kirsty to look after it for him. But when horrible Mr Thomas from the council insists it must go to the next person on the waiting list, Kirsty is determined to find a way to keep her promise.

After pleading with Mr Thomas and demonstrating at the council offices, Kirsty and her half-siblings undertake their most daring plan of all: to ‘borrow’ the stuffed elephant from the museum that Mr Thomas loves so much, in a last-ditch attempt to gain his attention and understanding. Perhaps this risky ruse might also shake Kirsty’s dad from the quiet sadness he has fallen into ever since her grandfather died.

A warm, funny and moving novel about family relationships, dealing with bereavement, green beans and marrows.

This is such a wonderful little book - a lovely and engaging main character, some truly hilarious laugh out loud scenes and an outrageous a plan on how to steal a stuffed elephant from the museum - it makes for a fun read and something I would definitely recommend for younger readers as it is very easy on the eye and the story flows quickly.

Kirsty's character is a treat - she has a very vivid imagination which is used very cleverly to illustrate the scenarios she finds herself in. For instance, in the museum, as she is about to thieve the elephant, she ghosts along to 007 music in her head, becoming a superspy and stealthy assassin all in one.

Kirsty's motivations are pure - she is not about to break her word to her grandfather - she will get to look after the allotment, no matter what! Even if she has to stage a truly badly thought out protest in the Council's offices, spy on Mr. Thomas during his leisure time and break into his office to fake her name onto the allotment waiting list - she'll do whatever it takes.

Since the death of her grandfather, her own dad's succumbed to deep depression. But Kirsty and her step-brother and step-sister are not prepared to let him languish - they miss him and they are worried about him. Even dancing like a wild thing to the Sex Pistols, her dad's favourite band, does not rouse him from his self-imposed hibernation in his room.

Thieving the elephant from the museum is not just to draw the attention of Mr. Thomas and the media, to their plight, but also to wake up their dad, to get him to notice them again - to realise that the world had moved on since the death of his dad and their grandad.

I thoroughly enjoyed How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant and I think that it reads very well - especially out loud. Yes, it is aimed at a younger audience, but it has that quirky magic that will lend it being appreciated by an older audience too.

How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant as published by Bloomsbury, was longlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and it is easy to see why - it is a funny, poignant story with a lot of heart. Books like these are made into feel-good flicks for the whole family.

Kirsty's blogsite is here and Elen's site is here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Marked by PC and Kristin Cast


When sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird gets Marked as a fledgling vampire she must join the House of Night school where she will train to become an adult vampire. That is, if she makes it through the Change. But Zoe is no ordinary fledgling. She has been chosen as special by the Goddess Nyx and discovers her amazing new power to conjure the elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit.

When Zoey discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite group, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look within herself to embrace her destiny - with a little help from her new vampire friends.

Oh no, I hear you cry - not another vampire story. Witness my finger wagging, saying: "Shush, don't judge before you try."

The authors, mother and daughter team PC and Kristin Cast, manage to come up with a unique spin on vampires in this, the first of their series: Marked.

Zoey is by all counts a normal teen, not too enamoured with the new dad in her life, her mom's conversion to one of the People of the Faith leaves her reeling and her best friend's incessant chatter is driving her mad - never mind the fact that she's struggling to cope with an almost ex-boyfriend, Heath, who seems to be more keen on partying than trying to finish high school.

You get all of this in the first few pages of Marked. At the same time Zoey gets marked by one of the Vampire Seekers. The mark forms on her forehead, immediately setting her apart from her friends and peers at the high school.

She legs it home, praying that her mom would understand. Instead, her mom freaks out and phones the new step father who in turn decides that a prayer session is in order - as praying over the mark and Zoey will make it go away. Or not.

Zoey bides her time for a few hours, before making a run for it. She runs to where her grandmother has her farm. Zoey is part Cherokee and personally, I loved the humble and unobtrusive way this is introduced. She runs to the place she knows she'll be safe - and accidentally almost dies. If one is Marked, one should get to the House of Night as quickly as possible to help work through the Change. Vampires exist in real life - everyone knows about them - they are the famous actors, the artists, the glitterati.

Nyx appears to Zoey as she lies unconscious, on the cusp of living or dying, singling her out by filling in her mark - which is very unusual. Fledgling vampires have outline marks only - only vampires that have fully Changed wear the coloured in mark.

Zoey awakes in the School of Night - her grandmother took her there the moment she found her passed out at the farm. (A note here on the grandmother: a wonderfully warm, serious, funny and wise character - immediately likable and interesting. I have a suspicion that the grandmother, apart from being a wisewoman, has a very interesting story of her own.) Zoey is introduced to a new roommate, Stevie Rae, at the school, who in turn introduces her to a group of other fledgling vampires which strongly reminded me of Buffy's Scooby Gang - there is no plagiarism or anything but the Whedonesque one-liners are hilarious and the characters are all good fun. I think their role will be expanded on in the rest of the series - it would be a pity if they didn't get more playtime as they sizzle on page.

The School of Night is an interesting concept, cleverly thought out and I love the variety of tutors and subject that are covered - who knew equestrianism would ever be a subject at vampire school?

I am looking forward to the rest of the series. I have a copy of Betrayed, the second in the series to read (thanks Graeme!) and am looking forward to it. Marked is a very competent, fun, vamp young adult / teenager novel with tremendous cross-over appeal for the adult urban fantasy market. Zoey's character is well established, there is room to grow the other characters in her newly made circle of friends and her relationship with vampire sweetie, Erik is very promising indeed.


And, to celebrate the coolness of Marked and the talent of the two authors, I'm happy to offer two copies of Marked up for grabs. The rules are: email me at the email to the right, with your name and address, specify "Marked" in the subject line and I'll draw winners this coming Sunday, 1st March. This is for UK entrants only as I'm paying the postage. Anyone can enter - regardless of age.

Find PC Cast's website address here. The House of Night novels are published in the UK by Atom, part of the Little Brown group.

Furnace: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith


Beneath heaven is hell.
Beneath hell is Furnace.

Furnace Penitentiary. The world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. One way in, no way out. Once you’re here, you’re here until you die, and for most of the inmates that doesn’t take long - not with the sadistic guards and the bloodthirsty gangs. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, 'new fish' Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world.

Only in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and as dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison.

Together with a bunch of inmates - some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers - Alex plans the prison break to end all prison breaks. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that's hidden from the eyes of the world.

Here are my thoughts: Buy Furnace: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith right now - put it on order on Amazon, nag your parents, nag your partner, and just buy it! It is that much of a roller coaster of a read full of action, a wronged hero (who in turn is not entirely innocent but he is likable), it is well told, it has engaging characters, an incredible and awful situation, a hellish location, complete with gang fights, lockdowns, a diabolic jail, a warden dug up from the bowels of hell, and an escape plan to rival The Shawshank Redemption.

There is so much that is brilliant about Furnace. The author, Alexander Gordon Smith, has clearly got a very devious and twisted little mind which he uses to great effect, messing up his main character's life. Alex is one of the bullies at school, he also breaks into houses when the owners are out, so he's pretty much a nasty piece of work, not entirely someone you would want to read about. But here, lies the genius of the author - Alex's character has more redeeming qualities than you would give him credit for and once you realise how much trouble he's in, you forget about the fact that he's not entirely the nicest kid on the block and you get behind him. Alex's voice is fresh and strong - there is no swagger, there is no posturing - he is just a kid who made a few stupid choices and because of that, he gets sent to the Furnace.

The Furnace as the setting is excellent. There is plenty of friction - imagine it: thousands of boys of various ages, thrown together in a crevice deep beneath the earth, forgotten by the world above, unable to tell anyone of the horrors of what happens in the Furnace. No one has ever escaped - ever. There are jumpers, kids who prefer suicide to living in the Furnace. Others join the two dominant gangs in an attempt to be safe and be part of a family again. Others just take one day at a time, hoping that they don't get taken at night to who knows where.

The background to the harsh treatment of young offenders stems from the Summer of Slaughter when groups of children roamed the streets, killing scores of people. New stricter laws were brought in to combat youth crime - if you act a hooligan, you will pay for it. There is no nanny-state - you get tossed in the Furnace, with no recourse, no chance to get bail - you get sent there, forever.

It is harsh reality for Alex to deal with - but he chums up with his cell-mate and learns the ropes of how the Furnace works. He toes the line, but his mind is at work on a way to escape. He does not give up, no matter what he faces. With a handful of friends he plots and plans, all the while being witness to the horrors of the Furnace.

It is a book for slightly older readers (12+) - not necessarily for bad language or difficult language, but probably for the nightmare situation the characters find themselves in. The Furnace is someone's worst nightmare come true. There are remnants of The Running Man, Shawshank Redemption and Resident Evil (those bloody dogs!) and an imagination worthy of Frank Miller, Mike Mignola and Guilermo Del Toro. In other words, Furnace: Lockdown will make an excellent movie - it has elements of the movies I've just mentioned, but more importantly, it is its very own creation and a shocking non-stop ride that will leave you wanting more. Reading for boys (and adventurous girls) does not get better than this! I think Mr. Smith should get a Batman badge for excellence, creating both an interesting main character and protagonists (baddies) with enough menace to give you the hibbie jibbies just reading about them on the page and a storyline that keeps you pinned to the the extent where your Sunday lunch ends up being a bit crispy as you accidentally forgot about it in the oven, as you were reading...

Find Alexander Gordon Smith's website here. Furnace: Lockdown is published 5th March 2009 in the UK by Faber Kids.


Mark and I have been lucky enough to win tickets to go and see Franklyn tomorrow night - complete with Q&A with the director, Gerald McMorrow.

Imagine my complete geeky joy!

I will report back on the movie probably Wednesday morning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


You may well ask: dear Liz, have you lost your mind? What is FOOB?

FOOB has had many incarnations on MFB blo and on many other site - it is basically a link-up of other cool blogs out there, at present.

So the name FOOB* = Focus On Other Blogs (*credit is due to chicklish for this!)

Today's FOOB is me focussing on young adult and children's book blogs - in pure celebration of the lovely books a) Mark and I are giving away on the blog at present and b) because there are just so many cool books going around at present, being reviewed by such a wide variety of readers.

Firstly, the other blog I discovered, purely by chance: Chicklish - it is run by Luisa and she has a bevy of youngsters reading some excellent books and taking the time to review them. I am dead jealous about one that they're currently reviewing, The Henderson Boys by Robert Muchamore (he of CHERUB fame) - check out the link. Luisa and her team are also running a competition for a book that sounds such fun. Linkage here!

There is also Wondrous Books run by Jenny who works at a branch of Borders. In other words, Jenny (apologies for this) is as much a book-geek as I am! She does these funky posts about UK/US book covers and it is interesting to see how different / similar some of them are.

The stylish Sophie runs the So Many Books, So Little Time blog and although it is new, it is promising to be a force to be reckoned with!

H reviews over at About Books and is a clever girl - she's struck the idea of doing reviews of all books that are part of a series (now why didn't I think of that?) . She is doing a good job reviewing and I'm really liking her review of Shannon Hale's books - looks like we have a lot in common!

Sara's Dragonfly Book Reviews is off to a flying start - also one to watch, like the others mentioned on this blog. In fact, she does something my friend Karen keeps telling me to do: mark the books out of five! That way, readers on the blog immediately can tell if the gushing is warranted.

For the books aimed at younger readers, visit Chris and Tim's site Cool Reads . The boys started this site when they were 11 and 13 but have since grown up and have roped in some young reviewers to help out on the site. This is an excellent site with a LOT of reviews but as Luisa pointed out, it is a bit of a "historic" site as it has not been updated for ages!

Please, if you know of any other UK based children and YA book review sites, do get in touch! I am keen to set up a listing on the site dedicated to this.
Happy reading!
Edited: the above have now been amended thanks to Luisa and Jenny stopping by with pointers!

**Michelle Harrison wins the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize**

Allow me a moment to gloat here....okay, I'm done!

What a fantastic brilliant achievement by the amazingly talented and very sweet Michelle Harrison.

A huge congratulations to her and her team at Simon & Schuster - you guys did a sterling job finding a gold nugget and I'm so proud to have had the chance to not just review the book but also interview Michelle.

Knife by RJ Anderson


There are humans at the bottom of the garden, and a glimpse inside their forbidden House convinces the fierce young faery known as Knife that they have knowledge that could help her dying people.

But if the human world has so much to offer, why is the faery Queen determined to keep her people away from it?

Is there a connection between the House and the faeries' loss of magic?

And why is Knife so drawn to the young Paul McCormick — that strangest of creatures, a human male?

Ms. Anderson introduces us to Bryony, a young, rebellious faery who is struggling against the constraints the society within the Oak has placed on her. She is envious of the Queen's Hunter, Thorn who is allowed Outside, she is even more envious of the Gatherers who are allowed out in order to forage for food, to feed the other faeries within the Oak. Bryony yearns to do something, to experience things, to not be cooped up.

She impulsively leaves the Oak, much to the horror of her carer/mother, Wink. As luck would have it, she leaves the Oak the same time the young human boy from the House decides to try and clamber around the branches. They come face to face for a brief moment, before she is pulled away to safety, away from certain capture by Human Boy.

As a sort of punishment for her willfulness, Bryony is sent to do the most tedious jobs around the Oak - for four years she is one of the lowest ranking faeries in the tree. But then the Queen summons her to a meeting and hands her to Thorn, to train, as the next Hunter.

And then we're off! Bryony grows taller, stronger and faster during this time - she finds out that she is genuinely good at being a hunter - she is a bit of a maverick, she excels at her new task. Through her newly acquired skills she receives a higher standing within the community of the Oak and for a change she is able to barter for items, on the same footing as the other faeries.

Bryony's character is carefully cast - she is extremely likable and you do feel compelled to root for her, as she grows in confidence and turns into a valued member of their society. But, she still does not conform - it's not in her make-up to do so. She visits the House, feeling drawn there. In fact, she makes several visits, unable to stop herself. She learns that the human boy, Paul, now older, will be returning home soon, that something terrible had happened to him.

It is through her relationship with Paul, who at first tries to keep her safe by putting her in a box, after she is attacked by a crow, that the differences between the faery society and human society become highlighted. Bryony, now called Knife as she is the fully fledged Queen's Hunter now, Thorn having retired, discovers that the tales told within the Oak about humans are very far from true. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Paul which makes things very difficult for both of them.

The story unfolds with many twists and turns - the above bit that I've given is only part of what happens, there is so much more to be had and it is all written with the same steady consistent and compelling storytelling which make this a very moreish read. And before any boys out there think that Knife is a book about cuddly faeries - think again. Knife is fierce, independent and probably someone you want on your side in a fight. The story digs much deeper than I anticipated and I loved it. If you are at a loss as to what to read, having loved Spiderwick Chronicles and you're not quite ready to tackle Holly Black's novels, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside, as you feel it may be just that bit too advanced, give Knife a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised! (Also if you are an adult - Knife is a fantastic addition to any urban fantasy fan's bookshelf.)

Knife by RJ Anderson feels a very accomplished novel and I have high hopes for more from her (write faster, Rebecca!). You can find her website here and her livejournal site here. Knife is published in the UK by Orchard Books, part of Hachette Children.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Writing for Children by Linda Strachan

This is a slightly unusual review from me as it is more a commentary and opinion from an aspiring children's author point of view (she says wistfully).

Linda Strachan has hit the spot with her newest: Writing for Children – far from being another involved and complicated “how to” book, this one tells it like it is. The chapters are short and concise, giving credible and logical information and pointers, chief among these being:

1. Know your audience
2. Know your market
3. Know your agent
4. Know your publisher

I list the sections the book is broken into below:

Section 1 – Different Kinds of writing for children

For me, the most revelatory part of Section 1 was the concise breakdown of age-groups and information on writing a series, writing non-fiction and writing for reluctant readers. One of the quotes under the reluctant readers section really woke me up: Reluctant readers: They may be reluctant but they’re not stupid, says Adele Geras. Try and make up for complexity of language etc. by having a very exciting story. If you tell a story from the first person you can make things simpler. Good, simple, logical and clear advice!

Section 2 – A writer’s toolkit

Subjects covered are Ideas, Plot, Character, Dialogue, POV and Revision. Each subject covers interesting information which is interspersed with quotes from children’s authors. A fantastic quote by Vivian French reads: Characters, plots, descriptions, etc. are all important – but they’re worth nothing at all without feeling and emotion.

Section 3 – Submission to an publisher or an agent

How to prepare your manuscript and Where and How to send your work is covered in this section. To be honest, I would say this is the section you have to be the most realistic about. There are some very good pointers here and some clear direction and advice. In fact, if you are an aspiring author, either for children / adult, this is probably the most important section you have to read – in any “how to” book. You have to make a concerted effort to find out who the agents are who represent authors whose work is similar to your own, and the same applies when looking at which publishers to approach. Find out in which format they are keen to receive their submissions etc.

Section 4 – Now you are published

The one section deals with the fact and fiction of being a published author – which any aspiring author should take heed of, no matter how far along your MS is. It further explains what you can expect from your agent and publisher, how to deal with school talks and author events and importantly, it lifts the lid on money matters – who understands the vague term “royalties” in real life? I love the term personally and secretly think all my favourite authors get oodles of royalties at least once a month. Reality is much harsher and it is a bit of a wake-up call.

Section 5 – Useful information

A plethora of useful information to be found – mainly aimed at the UK market which makes a nice change. There is a glossary of terms, for example: Impression: This is when a book is reprinted – more copies are printed with no changes. Who outside of the business knew!? It lists a variety of organisations and associations for writers in the UK along with writing courses and literary consultancies.

Overall, I would highly recommend Writing for Children by Linda Strachan for its concise information and the clever way she uses a nice varied selection of author quotes to expand on her advice, giving further insight into her explanations. There are many very quotable quotes and I’ve actually printed a few off for myself at home. It helps keep the mind focused. There are a few exercises in the book to follow, during Section 2, but I found these interesting to think about, as opposed to doing them.

I think that, alongside the Children’s Writers & Artists’ Yearbook, this is a must for any aspiring children’s author. It won’t tell you how to create the next Harry Potter, but it will tell you how to work on your own writing to make it the best it can be – it gives valuable pointers and instead of being the chummy “how to” book which almost assures you of success, Writing for Children has you realise that it is hard work but that it is fun. And, that if your hard work pays off, you get to have even more fun, being a published author in probably one of the only markets still growing in these harsh times.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Videos by Jasper Kent, author of TWELVE

Hot off the press from Jasper Kent and his agent, John Jarrold:

The first link is the video version of the flash intro to Jasper's site and the second one is an interview with Jasper as he chats about Twelve.

UK Children's Free Book Competition - Part 4

This week's giveaway is two copies of Gregory MacGuire's What the Dickens!

Find Master Macguire's website here.

About What the Dickens

A fairy tale with a difference from the bestselling author of Wicked.

When ten-year-old Dinah and her two siblings are trapped by a terrible storm, Cousin Gage keeps their spirits up with an unlikely story – tooth fairies live in warring colonies right in your neighbourhood. Dinah is sceptical at first, but when the real world seems unbearable, stories told by candlelight have a way of coming true. Dinah starts to – wants to – believe. Don’t we all?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday 13th = Rachel Caine Loving!


Rachel Caine is the author of more than fifteen novels, including the Weather Warden series. She was born in White Sands Missile Range, which people who know her say explains a lot. She has been an accountant, a professional musician, and an insurance investigator, and still carries on a secret indentity in the corporate world. She and her husband, fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas with their iguanas, Pop-eye and Darwin, a mali uromastyx named (appropriately) O`Malley, and a leopard tortoise names Shelley (for the poet of course).

Cool fact number 1:

Rachel's newest addition to her Morganville Vampire books for the YA market is released today in the UK - Friday 13th, which you have to admit, is super cool of her publishers Allison and Busby - and the newest novel is called Feast of Fools.

In the town of Morganville, vampires and humans live in relative peace. Student Claire Danvers has never been convinced, though, especially with the arrival of Mr. Bishop, an ancient, old-school vampire who cares nothing about harmony. What he wants from the town’s living and its dead is unthinkably sinister. It’s only at a formal ball, attended by vampires and their human dates, that Claire realizes the elaborately evil trap he’s set for Morganville.

The fun thing about the UK covers: they glow in the dark. Which I think makes them good fun to own.

The other novels thus far are:

1. Glass Houses (reviewed here)
2. Dead Girl's Dance (soon to be reviewed)
3. Midnight Alley
4. Feast of Fools

Second Cool Fact:

If all goes to plan, Rachel will be visiting the UK in the latter part of May '09. There will be signings, there will also be interviews, competitions and freebies in the form of transferable tatoos and bracelets. Things need to be agreed still but it looks like I may get the opportunity to interview Rachel - and we'll be able to run a competition on MFB. All of this depends on her actual schedule whilst she's here - so hold thumbs for shiny goodies to be had.

*Winner* - Dark Disciple and Dark Apostle by Anthony Reynolds

Congratulations to Gaz T of Kingswinford - you've won the copies of Anthony Reynolds' Dark Disciple and Dark Apostle.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan


Honestly, blowing up another school was the last thing I wanted to do. As the son of a Greek god, I've had my share of near-death disaster. This summer, I didn't choose to battle the cheerleading squad, but when two hissing she-devils with fangs are heading straight for you, what's a half-blood meant to do?

This is the fourth book in the Percy Jackson adventures and it is a no-holds barred fun read - no matter your age.

Percy has moved on from being the newbie at Camp Half Blood - he has had several adventures since and has developed into an interesting capable character and is very close to his two friends he made his first summer, Grover (the satyr) and Annabeth, one of the daughters of Athena.

Percy manages to escape being eaten by the cheerleaders at the school (they were actually emposai, servants of the goddess Hecate), with the help of Rachel Elizabeth Dare who, although she is a mortal, can see through the Mist - the Mist is a type of glamour supernatural creatures cast about themselves to appear normal to humans and the ordinary world.

Percy meets with Annabeth outside the school and they run off to the safety of Camp Half Blood where Annabeth is given her first quest - she has to lead a quest into the Labyrinth to find Daedalus's workshop. Grover is given one more week in his own seeker quest - to find the great god Pan. Together with Percy's half-brother, Tyson, the friends set off into the depths of the Labyrinth, not knowing what my become of them. Some people have disappeared into it completely, never to return, others have returned crazed and insane.

In each book, the stakes are raised higher and higher. In this novel it is the safety of Camp Half Blood that is at stake - an ex-camper, Luke, has betrayed them and has joined forces with Cronos, the Titan, to demolish the camp and by doing so, clear the way to move on Mount Olympus itself to kill Zeus and his clan - to bring chaos to the world.

The friends battle countless enemies, mythical creatures of times gone by, along with human adversaries, keen to cash in on the chaos created by Luke and his advancing army, so there is action and adventure to be had and some pretty dire situations which only quick thinking gets them out of.

If you're a fan of mythology, action adventure and quest novels the Percy Jackson books are definitely a good read. Battle of the Labyrinth is the fourth in this series but I would like to hasten to add: it can be read as a stand-alone. And having said may quite easily tempt you to buy the first three too.

The writing is strong and uncomplicated - the characters are well developed, having become comfortable in each other's company and the pace is a steady march to battle.

There is an excellent Percy Jackson website which can be found here, complete with links to extracts of the books and a newsletter to subscribe to.

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth is out in March 09, published by Puffin.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pssst.... want a Space Marine?

....while on the subject of all things Space Marine, to mark the release of Dawn of War II the guys at THQ are running a competition whereby you can win a life-sized statue of a Blood Ravens Space Marine! Check it out here.

*Extract - Part Two* Hater by David Moody

Again, this is courtesy of the US publishers of Hater - please note that this extract is not suitable for younger readers due to strong language.



THERE’S A GIRL WHO sits on the other side of the office called Jennifer Reynolds. I don’t know her very well. I don’t have much to do with her from day to day. In fact I’ve only spoken to her a handful of times since I was transferred into the PFP. She’s not here today and I hate it when she’s out. When Jennifer Reynolds isn’t here her duties get shared between the rest of us, and the job I have to cover today is the worst job of all—Reception. The postal address of the PFP isn’t actively broadcast but it’s on some of the correspondence we send out and it’s in the phone book and it doesn’t take much for the general public to find out where we are. We get a lot of visitors, too many in my opinion. If someone comes here it’s almost always because they’ve been fined or clamped. They’ve probably already tried to get the fine overturned or the clamp removed and, by the time they reach us, coming to argue their case in person is often the only option they have left. So those people who do turn up here are likely to already be seriously pissed off. Shouting, screaming, and threatening behavior isn’t unusual. The first place these people reach is Reception, and the first person they get to scream at, shout at, or threaten is the poor sod sitting behind the desk.

So here I am, sitting alone at the Reception desk, staring at the tatty bronzed-glass entrance door, watching anxiously for any visitors. I hate this. It’s like sitting in a dentist’s waiting room. I’m constantly watching the clock on the wall. It’s hung just above a large bulletin board covered with unread and unhelpful council posters and notices. Just to the left of the bulletin board, equally unread and unhelpful, is a small sign which warns the public against intimidating or attacking council staff. The fact that it’s there doesn’t make me feel any safer. There’s a personal-attack alarm stuck under the desk but that doesn’t make me feel any better either.

It’s four thirty-eight. Twenty-two minutes to go then I’m finished for the day.
I’m sure Tina enjoys making me come out here. It’s always me who ends up covering for Jennifer. Being out on Reception is a form of torture. You’re not allowed to bring any paperwork out here with you (something about protecting confidential data) and the lack of any distractions makes the time drag painfully slowly. So far this afternoon I’ve only had to deal with two phone calls, and they were just personal calls for members of staff.

Four thirty-nine.

Come on clock, speed up.

Four fifty-four.

Almost there. I’m watching the clock all the time now, willing the hands to move around quickly so that I can get out of here. I’m already rehearsing my escape from the office in my head. I just have to shut down my computer and grab my coat from the cloakroom, then I’ll sprint to the station. If I can get away quickly enough I might manage to catch the early train and that’ll get me back home for...

Damn. Bloody phone’s ringing again. I hate the way it rings. It grates like an off-key alarm clock and the noise goes right through me. I pick it up and cringe at the thought of what might be waiting for me at the other end of the line.

“Good afternoon, PFP, Danny McCoyne speaking,” I mumble quickly. I’ve learned to answer the phone quietly and at speed. It makes it difficult for the caller to take your name.

“Can I speak to Mr. Fitzpatrick in Payroll please?” a heavily accented female voice asks. Thank God for that—this isn’t a screaming member of the public with a complaint, it’s just a wrong number. I relax. We get a few calls for Payroll most days. Their extensions are similar to ours. You’d think someone would do something about it. Anyway I’m relieved. The last thing I want is a problem at four fifty-five.

“You’ve come through to the wrong department,” I explain. “You’ve dialed 2300 instead of 3200. I’ll try and transfer you. If you get cut off just dial 1000 and that’ll take you through to the main exchange...”

I’m suddenly distracted and my voice trails away as the front door flies open. I instinctively move back in my chair, trying to put as much distance as possible between me and whoever it is who’s about to come storming into the building. I finish the phone call and allow myself to relax slightly when I see the front wheels of a child’s stroller being forced through the door. The stroller is jammed in the doorway and I get up to help. A short, rain-soaked woman in a green and purple jacket enters Reception. As well as the child in the stroller (which is hidden from view by a heavy plastic rain cover) two more small children follow her inside. The bedraggled family stands in the middle of the Reception area and drips water onto the grubby marble-effect floor. The woman seems harassed and is preoccupied with her kids. She snaps at the tallest child, telling him that “Mummy has a problem to sort out with this man, then we’ll get you back home for something to eat.”

She takes off her hood and I can see that she’s in her late thirties or early forties. She’s plain looking and her large, round, rain-splashed glasses are steaming up. Her face is flushed red and there are dribbles of rainwater dripping off the end of her nose. She doesn’t make eye contact with me. She slams her handbag down on the desk and begins searching through it. She stops for a moment to lift the rain cover (which is also beginning to steam up with condensation) and checks on her baby, who seems to be sleeping. She returns her attention to the contents of her handbag and I make my way back around to the other side of the counter.

“Can I help you?” I ask cautiously, deciding that it’s about time I offered. She glares at me over the rim of her glasses. This woman has an attitude, I can sense it. She’s making me feel uncomfortable. I know I’m in for a hard time.

“Wait a minute,” she snaps, talking to me as if I’m one of her kids. She takes a packet of tissues out of her bag and passes one to one of the children at her feet who keeps wiping his nose on the back of his sleeve. “Blow,” she orders sternly, shoving the tissue into the middle of the kid’s face. The child doesn’t argue.

I glance up at the clock. Four fifty-seven. Doesn’t look like I’ll be getting the early train home tonight.

“I parked my car at Leftbank Place for five minutes while I took my eldest son to the toilet,” she begins as she repacks her bag. No time for niceties, she’s straight into her complaint. “In those five minutes my car was clamped. Now I know that I shouldn’t have been parked there, but it was only for five minutes and I was only there because it was absolutely necessary. I want to speak to someone who has the authority to sort this out and I want to speak to them now. I want that clamp removed from my car so I can get my children home.”

I clear my throat and get ready to try and respond. Suddenly my mouth is dry and my tongue feels twice its normal size. It had to be Leftbank Place, didn’t it. It’s an area of waste ground just ten minutes walk from our office. Sometimes it feels like just about every other car that’s clamped in this town is clamped at Leftbank Place. The enforcement team who cover that area are notorious. Someone told me they’re on some kind of performance-related pay scheme—the more cars they clamp each week, the more they get paid. I don’t know whether or not that’s true but it doesn’t help me now. I know I have no choice but to give this woman a stock response from procedures. I also know that she’s not going to like it.

“Madam,” I begin, tensing up in anticipation of her reaction, “Leftbank Place is a strictly no-parking area. The council...”

She doesn’t give me a chance to get any further.

“I’ll tell you about the council,” she yells, her voice suddenly uncomfortably loud. “This bloody council needs to spend less time clamping people and more time making sure that public amenities are in proper working order. The only reason I had to park at bloody Leftbank Place was because the public toilets in Millennium Square have been vandalized! My son has a bowel condition. I didn’t have any choice. He couldn’t wait any longer.”

“There must have been other toilets...” I begin to say, instantly regretting having opened my mouth. Christ I hate this job. I wish I was back dealing with rubbish collections, rat infestations, or even broken street lamps again. My biggest problem is that it sounds like this woman has been genuinely hard done by and I’d probably have done exactly the same as she did if I’d been out with my kids. It sounds like she’s got a fair point and there’s nothing I’d like to do more than call off the clampers but I don’t have the authority. My options now are bleak; follow procedures and get yelled at again by this lady or get yelled at by Tina Murray if I don’t do things by the book. Chances are I’m going to cop it from both of them. Before she can react to my stupid comment I try and cover it up. “I understand what you’re saying, Madam, but...”

“Do you?” she screams, this time loud enough to wake the baby in the stroller who starts to whimper and moan. “Do you really? I don’t think you do, because if you did understand you’d be on the phone to someone right now getting that bloody clamp removed from my car so that I can get my children home. They’re cold, they’re hungry and...”

“I need to just...”

“I don’t want excuses, I want this dealt with.”

She’s not going to listen. This is pointless. She isn’t even going to give me a chance.


“I suggest you go and speak to your superiors and find someone who’s prepared to take responsibility for this shoddy mess and come and sort it out. I was forced to park at Leftbank Place because of this council’s inefficiency. I have a son who has a medical condition and I needed to get him to the toilet urgently. If the council had done their job properly in the first place and had made sure the public toilets were in full working order then I wouldn’t have been parked there, I wouldn’t have been clamped, and I wouldn’t be standing here now talking to someone who clearly can’t or won’t do anything to help me. I need to speak to someone who’s a little higher up the chain of command than the receptionist so why don’t you do us both a favor and go and find someone who is actually prepared to do something before my son needs to use the toilet again.”

Patronizing bitch. I stand and stare at her, feeling myself getting angrier and angrier. But there’s nothing I can do...

“Well?” she snaps.

“Just give me a minute, madam,” I stammer. I turn and storm back into the office and walk straight into Tina coming the other way.

“What are you doing in here, Danny?” she asks, her tone of voice as patronizing as the woman outside. “If you’re in here, who’s manning Reception?”

She knows full well there’s no one out there. I try and explain but I know it’s pointless.

“I’ve got a lady out in Reception who...”

“You should have telephoned through if you needed help,” she interrupts. “You know the rules, you’ve been here long enough now. There should always be someone at the Reception desk and you should always telephone through if you have a problem.”

“There is someone at the Reception desk,” I sigh, “and she’s having a real go at me so can I tell you what her problem is please?”

She looks up at the clock. Damn, it’s gone five. I’ll probably be stuck at the station until six now.

“Make it quick,” she sneers, making it sound as if she’s doing me a favor.

“This lady has been clamped because she parked at Leftbank Place...”

“Tough! You can’t park at Leftbank Place. There are bloody big signs up everywhere telling you not to park at Leftbank Place.”

This isn’t getting any easier.

“I know that, you know that, and she knows that. That’s not the issue.”

“What do you mean, that’s not the issue?”

I pause before speaking again. I know I’m going to have a battle convincing Tina that this lady has a genuine case. For a moment I consider giving up and taking my chances outside in Reception again.

“This lady tells me she parked at Leftbank Place because she needed to take her son to the toilet.”

“What kind of an excuse is that?”

“She needed to take him to the toilet because he has a medical condition and because the public toilets in Millennium Square have been vandalized.”

“That’s not our problem...”

“No, but her argument is that it is the council’s problem. She’s demanding we get the clamp removed. Won’t go anywhere until it’s done.”

“She can’t go anywhere,” Tina laughs to herself. “We’ll get the clamp removed when she pays the fine.”

I’m not surprised by her response, just disappointed. I want to go home. I don’t want to go out there and get yelled at again. What annoys me most of all is that we both know the longer this lady stands her ground and makes a noise in Reception, the more chance there is that the clamp will be removed. I can’t stand all this bullshit and pretense. I can’t help but say something.

“Come on, Tina, give me a break. You know as well as I do that if she shouts long enough we’ll let her off.”

She looks at me, chews her gum, and shrugs her shoulders.

“That’s as may be, but we have to try and take the fee from the client first. You know the procedure. We have to...”

There’s no point listening to any more of this rubbish. I can’t be bothered.

“I know the bloody procedure,” I sigh as I turn my back on her and trudge back toward Reception. I wonder whether I should just keep going? Should I walk straight past the woman and her kids and just leave the building and the job behind?

I open the door and she turns around to glare at me. The expression on her face is pure evil.


I take a deep breath.

“I’ve had a word with my supervisor,” I begin dejectedly, knowing what’s coming next. “We can get the clamp removed, but we must insist on payment of the charge indicated on the signs displayed at Leftbank Place. We can’t...”

And she’s off. She explodes again, shouting and yelling at me. The force, velocity, and ferocity of her outburst is remarkable. It’s an incredible (but not at all unexpected) rant and I have no defense. I can’t argue because I happen to think she has a valid case. If she’d just shut up for a second I might be able to...oh, what’s the use? I don’t know why I bother. The more she shouts at me the less I’m inclined to listen. I’ve given up trying to follow what she’s saying now. Her words have just become a constant stream of noise. I’ll wait for her to take a breath.

“Madam,” I interrupt quickly as she pauses to inhale. I hold my hand up in front of me to make it clear that it’s my turn to speak. “I’ll go and get my supervisor.”

I walk away, ignoring the muttered comments I can hear about “speaking to the organ grinder, not the monkey.” I’m long past caring. As I reach for the office door Tina pulls it open from the other side and barges past me. She stops just long enough to hiss a few venomous words in my direction.

“Well handled,” she sneers sarcastically. “You’re bloody useless, you are. I could hear her shouting from my desk. Now, what’s her name?”

“Don’t know,” I admit, cringing at the fact that I haven’t even managed to establish the most basic of details.

“Bloody useless,” she sneers again before fixing a false smile on her foul face and marching over to the bedraggled woman and her children. “My name’s Tina Murray,” she says. “How can I help you?”

I lean against the office door and watch the predictable charade being played out. Tina listens to the complaint, points out to the lady that she really shouldn’t have been parked at Leftbank Place, then makes a phone call to “see what she can do.” Ten minutes later and the clamp is removed. Tina looks fantastic and I look like an idiot. I knew it would happen like that.

Five thirty-two.

I run to the station and reach the platform just in time to see the next train leave.


Now is that not a brilliant set-up of the pure doldrums associated working in a place you dislike that much?

*Extract* Hater by David Moody

This is the Intro and Chapter 1 of David Moody's novel, Hater. Please note that it is not suitable for younger readers due to adult content, i.e. strong language and violence.





This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

An imprint of St. Martin’s Press.

HATER. Copyright © 2006 by David Moody. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Design by Gregory P. Collins

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Moody, David, 1970-
Hater / David Moody.—1st US ed.
p. cm.
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38483-8
ISBN-10: 0-312-38483-1
1. Murder victims—Fiction.  2. Murderers—Fiction.  I. Title.

PR6113.O5447H38 2009

First published in Great Britain by Infected Books

First U.S. Edition: February 2009

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

Lisa, Emma, Katie,
Megan, Becca, and Zoe


SIMMONS, REGIONAL MANAGER FOR a chain of main street discount stores, slipped his change into his pocket then neatly folded his newspaper in half and tucked it under his arm. He quickly glanced at his watch before leaving the shop and rejoining the faceless mass of shoppers and office workers crowding the city center sidewalks outside. He checked through his date book in his head as he walked. Weekly sales meeting at ten, business review with Jack Staynes at eleven, lunch with a supplier at one-thirty...

He stopped walking when he saw her. At first she was just another face on the street, nondescript and unimposing and as irrelevant to him as the rest of them were. But there was something different about this particular woman, something which made him feel uneasy. In a split second she was gone again, swallowed up by the crowds. He looked around for her anxiously, desperate to find her among the constantly weaving mass of figures which scurried busily around him. There she was. Through a momentary gap in the bodies he could see her coming toward him. No more than five feet tall, hunched forward and wearing a faded red raincoat. Her wiry gray-white hair was held in place under a clear plastic rain hood and she stared ahead through the thick lenses of her wide-rimmed glasses. She had to be eighty if she was a day, he thought as he looked into her wrinkled, liver-spotted face, so why was she such a threat? He had to act quickly before she disappeared again. He couldn’t risk losing her. For the first time he made direct eye contact with her and he knew immediately that he had to do it. He had no choice. He had to do it and he had to do it right now.

Dropping his newspaper, briefcase, and umbrella Simmons pushed his way through the crowd then reached out and grabbed hold of her by the wide lapels of her raincoat. Before she could react to what was happening he spun her around through almost a complete turn and threw her back toward the building he’d just left. Her frail body was light and she virtually flew across the footpath, her feet barely touching the ground before she smashed up against the thick safety-glass shop window and bounced back into the street. Stunned with pain and surprise she lay face down on the cold, rain-soaked pavement, too shocked to move. Simmons pushed his way back toward her, barging through a small crowd of concerned shoppers who had stopped to help. Ignoring their angry protests he dragged her to her feet and shoved her toward the shop window again, her head whipping back on her shoulders as she clattered against the glass for the second time.

“What the hell are you doing, you idiot?!” an appalled bystander yelled, grabbing hold of Simmons’s coat sleeve and pulling him back. Simmons twisted and squirmed free from the man’s grip. He tripped and landed on his hands and knees in the gutter. She was still on her feet just ahead of him. He could see her through the legs of the other people crowding around her.

Oblivious to the howls and screams of protest ringing in his ears, Simmons quickly stood up, pausing only to pick up his umbrella from the edge of the footpath and to push his wire-framed glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Holding the umbrella out in front of him like a bayonet rifle he ran at the woman again.

“Please...” she begged as he sunk the sharp metal tip of the umbrella deep into her gut and then yanked it out again. She slumped back against the window, clutching the wound as the stunned and disbelieving crowd quickly engulfed Simmons. Through the confusion he watched as her legs gave way and she collapsed heavily to the ground, blood oozing out of the deep hole in her side.

“Maniac,” someone spat in his ear. Simmons spun around and stared at the owner of the voice. Jesus Christ, another one! This one was just like the old woman. And there’s another, and another...and they were all around him now. He stared helplessly into the sea of angry faces which surrounded him. They were all the same. Every last one of them had suddenly become a threat to him. He knew there were too many of them but he had to fight. In desperation he screwed his hand into a fist and swung it into the nearest face. As a teenage boy recoiled from the sudden impact and dropped to the ground a horde of uniformed figures weaved through the crowd and wrestled Simmons to the ground.


LUNATIC. BLOODY HELL, I’VE seen some things happen in this town before but never anything like that. That was disgusting. That made me feel sick. Christ, he came out of nowhere and she didn’t stand a chance, poor old woman. He’s in the middle of the crowd now. He’s outnumbered fifty to one and yet he’s still trying to fight. This place is full of crazy people. Fortunately for that woman it’s also full of police officers. There are two of them down with her now, trying to stop the bleeding. Three more have got to the guy who did it and they’re dragging him away.

Damn, it’s three minutes to nine. I’m going to be late for work again but I can’t move. I’m stuck in this bloody crowd. There are people bunched up tight all around me and I can’t go backward or forward. I’ll have to wait until they start to shift, however long that takes. There are more police officers arriving now trying to clear the scene. It’s pathetic really, you’d think they’d show some respect but people are all the same. First sign of trouble on the street and everyone stops to watch the freak show.

We’re finally starting to move. I can still see that guy being bundled toward a police van on the other side of the street. He’s kicking and screaming and crying like a bloody baby. Looks like he’s lost it completely. The noise he’s making you’d think he was the one who’d been attacked.

I know I’m a lazy bastard. I know I should try harder but I just can’t be bothered. I’m not stupid but I sometimes find it difficult to give a shit. I should have run across Millennium Square to get to the office just now but it was too much effort so early in the morning. I walked and I finally got here just after quarter past nine. I tried to sneak in but it was inevitable that someone was going to see me. It had to be Tina Murray though, didn’t it? My sour-faced, slave-driving, unforgiving bitch of a supervisor. She’s standing behind me now, watching me work. She thinks I don’t know she’s there. I really can’t stand her. In fact I can’t think of anyone I like less than Tina. I’m not a violent man—I don’t like confrontation and I find the very idea of punching a woman offensive—but there are times here when I’d happily smack her in the mouth.

“You owe me fifteen minutes,” she sneers in her horrible, whining voice. I push myself back on my chair and slowly turn around to face her. I force myself to smile although all I want to do is spit. She stands in front of me, arms folded, chewing gum and scowling.

“Morning, Tina,” I reply, trying to stay calm and not give her the satisfaction of knowing just how much she bugs me. “How are you today?”

“You can either take the time off your lunch hour or stay late tonight,” she snaps. “It’s up to you how you make it up.”

I know I’m only making things worse for myself but I can’t help it. I should just keep my mouth shut and accept that I’m in the wrong but I can’t stand the thought of this vile woman thinking she’s in control. I know I’m not helping the situation but I just can’t stop myself. I have to say something.

“What about yesterday morning?” I ask. I force myself to look into her harsh, scowling face again. She’s not at all happy. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other and chews her gum even harder and faster. Her jaw moves in a frantic circular motion. She looks like a cow chewing the cud. Fucking heifer.

“What about yesterday morning?” she spits.

“Well,” I explain, trying hard not to sound like I’m patronizing her, “if you remember I was twenty minutes early yesterday and I started working as soon as I got here. If I’m going to make up your fifteen minutes for today, can I claim back my twenty minutes for yesterday? Or shall we just call it quits and I’ll let you off the five minutes?”

“Don’t be stupid. You know it doesn’t work like that.”

“Maybe it should.”

Bloody hell, now she’s really annoyed. Her face is flushed red and I can see the veins on her neck bulging. It was a stupid and pointless comment to make but I’m right, aren’t I? Why should the council, the city government, have it all their own way? Tina’s staring at me now and her silence is making me feel really uncomfortable. I should have just kept my mouth closed. I let her win the face-off and I turn back around to sign on to my computer again.

“Either take it off your lunch hour or work late,” she says over her shoulder as she walks away. “I don’t care what you do, just make sure you make up the time you owe.”

And she’s off. Conversation’s over and I don’t get any chance to respond or to try and get the last word. Bitch.

Tina makes my skin crawl but I find myself staring at her rather than at my computer screen. She’s back at her desk now and Barry Penny, the office manager, has suddenly appeared. Her body language has completely changed now that she’s speaking to someone who’s higher up the council pecking order than she is. She’s smiling and laughing at his pathetic jokes and generally trying to see how far she can crawl up his backside.

I can’t help thinking about what I’ve just seen happen outside. Christ, I wish I had that bloke’s umbrella. I know exactly where I’d shove it.

Sometimes having such a dull and monotonous job is an advantage. This stuff is way beneath me and I don’t really have to think about what I’m doing. I can do my work on autopilot and the time passes quickly. It’s been like that so far this morning. Job satisfaction is nonexistent but at least the day isn’t dragging.

I’ve been working here for almost eight months now (it feels longer) and I’ve worked for the council for the last three-and-a half years. In that time I’ve worked my way through more departments than most long-serving council staff manage in their entire careers. I keep getting transferred. I served time in the pest control, refuse collection, and street lamp maintenance departments before I ended up here in the Parking Fine Processing office or PFP as the council likes to call it. They have an irritating habit of trying to reduce as many department names and job titles down to sets of initials as they can. Before I was transferred here I’d been told that the PFP was a dumping ground for underperformers and, as soon as I arrived, I realized it was true. In most of the places I’ve worked I’ve either liked the job but not the people or the other way around. Here I have problems with both. This place is a breeding ground for trouble. This is where those motorists who’ve been unlucky (or stupid) enough to get wheel-clamped, caught on camera violating a traffic rule, or given a ticket by a parking warden come to shout and scream and dispute their fines. I used to have sympathy with them and I believed their stories. Eight months here has changed me. Now I don’t believe anything that anyone tells me.

“Did you see that bloke this morning?” a voice asks from behind the computer on my left. It’s Kieran Smyth. I like Kieran. Like most of us he’s wasted here. He’s got brains and he could make something of himself if he tried. He was studying law at university but took a holiday job here last summer and never went back to class.

Told me he got used to having the money and couldn’t cope without it. He buys an incredible amount of stuff. Every day he seems to come back from lunch with bags of clothes, books, DVDs, and CDs. I’m just jealous because I struggle to scrape together enough money to buy food, never mind anything else. Kieran spends most of his day talking to his mate Daryl Evans who sits on my right. They talk through me and over me but very rarely to me. It doesn’t bother me though. Their conversations are as boring as hell and the only thing I have in common with them is that the three of us all work within the same small section of the same small office. What does annoy me, if I’m honest, is the fact that they both seem to be able to get away with not doing very much for large chunks of the working day. Maybe it’s because they’re friendly with Tina outside work and they go out drinking together. Christ, I only have to cough and she’s up out of her seat wanting to know what I’m doing and why I’ve stopped working.

“What bloke?” Daryl shouts back.

“Out on the street on the way to work.”

“Which street?”

“The high street, just outside Cartwrights.”

“Didn’t see anything.”

“You must have.”

“I didn’t. I didn’t walk past Cartwrights. I came the other way this morning.”

“There was this bloke,” Kieran explains regardless, “you should have seen him. He went absolutely fucking mental.”

“What are you on about?”

“Honest, mate, he was wild. You ask Bob Rawlings up in Archives. He saw it. He reckons he practically killed her.”

“Killed who?”

“I don’t know, just some old woman. No word of a lie, he just started laying into her for no reason. Stabbed her with a bloody umbrella I heard!”

“Now you’re taking the piss...”

“I’m serious.”

“No way!”

“You go and ask Bob...”

I usually ignore these quick-fire conversations (most of the time I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about) but today I can actually add something because I was there. It’s pathetic, I know, but the fact that I seem to know more about what happened than either Kieran or Daryl makes me feel smug and superior.

“He’s right,” I say, looking up from my screen.

“Did you see it then?” Kieran asks. I lean back on my seat in self-satisfaction.

“Happened right in front of me. He might even have gone for me if I’d been a few seconds earlier.”

“So what was it all about?” Daryl asks. “Is what he’s saying right?”

I quickly look over at Tina. She’s got her head buried in a pile of papers. It’s safe to keep talking.

“I saw the old girl first,” I tell them. “I nearly tripped over her. She came flying past me and smashed up against the window by the side door of Cartwrights. I thought it must be a group of kids trying to get her bag off her or something like that. Couldn’t believe it when I saw him. He just looked like a normal bloke. Suit, tie, glasses...”

“So why did he do it? What had she done to him?”

“No idea. Bloody hell, mood he was in I wasn’t about to ask him.”

“And he just went for her?” Daryl mumbles, sounding like he doesn’t believe a word I’m saying. I nod and glance from side to side at both of them.

“Never seen anything like it,” I continue. “He ran at her and stabbed her with an umbrella. It was gross. It went right into her belly. There was blood all over her coat and...”

Tina’s looking up now. I look down and start typing, trying to remember what it was I was doing.

“Then what?” Kieran hisses.

“Idiot turned on the rest of the crowd. Started hitting out at the people around him. Then the police turned up,” I explain, still looking at my screen but not actually doing anything. “They dragged him away and shoved him in the back of a van.”

The conversation stops again. Murray’s on the move. For a moment the only sound I can hear is the clicking of three computer keyboards as we pretend to work. After looking around the room and staring at me in particular she leaves the office and Kieran and Daryl immediately stop inputting.

“So was there something wrong with him?” Daryl asks pointlessly.

“Of course there was something wrong with him,” I answer. Christ, this guy’s an idiot at times. “Do you think he’d stab an old lady with an umbrella if there wasn’t anything wrong with him?”

“But did he say anything? Was he screaming or shouting or...?”

I wonder whether it’s even worth answering his half-asked question.

“Both,” I grunt.

“Was he drunk or on drugs or...?”

“I don’t know,” I say, beginning to get annoyed. I stop and think for a second before speaking again. In my head I can still see the expression on the man’s face. “He looked absolutely fucking terrified,” I tell them. “He looked like he was the one who was being attacked.”

The second extract will appear later on today.