Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dead Scared by SJ Bolton

When a Cambridge student dramatically attempts to take her own life, DI Mark Joesbury realizes that the university has developed an unhealthy record of young people committing suicide in extraordinary ways.

Against huge personal misgivings, Joesbury sends young policewoman DC Lacey Flint to Cambridge, with a brief to work under-cover, posing as a depression-prone, vulnerable student. Psychiatrist Evi Oliver is the only person in Cambridge who knows who Lacey really is - or so they both hope. But as the two women dig deeper into the darker side of university life, they discover a terrifying trend . . . 

And when Lacey starts experiencing the same disturbing nightmares reported by the dead girls, she knows that she is next.

Along with Phil Rickman, I think SJ Bolton is one of our best British crime and thriller storytellers.  Her books are consistently well thought out, frightening, well plotted and character driven.  Along with Mr. Rickman, SJ Bolton is one of the few authors whose books I'd I would pick up without a moment's hesitation, not even bothering to read the write-up on the back because her name guarantees you a ride you will not forget.

In Dead Scared we travel to Cambridge for all the action.  I thought: secret societies, odd shenanigans amongst the stacks, that type of thing...and not to exactly spoilt it, it is both yes and no but not like you'd expect.  Ms. Bolton gives us a very creepy story to try and puzzle out, using three characters' POV - Mark Joesbury, to a lesser extent, and instead focussing mostly on Lacey and Evie's characters respectively.

If you've read the most recent two Bolton titles, you would have met Mark and Lacey in Now You See Me and Evie you would have encountered in Blood Harvest.  Having said that, these books are very much standalone in that the characters obviously make reference to their previous lives (adventures) to give new readers an idea where they come from, but this story is very much an open and shut case making use of previously established characters, which works very well indeed.

It's really hard to review any of her books - because of how tightly they're plotted it would be easy to give away some intricate plot-point and bah, I hate that.  So, when Lacey's asked to head to Cambridge to go undercover as a mature student, in order to help Evie figure out exactly what was going on, she doesn't really expect to be embroiled in something bigger than a few students committing suicide.  But as Lacey and Evie expand their search - much to Joesbury's annoyance - they start finding more students, more than your average amount anyway - over the past few years, taking their own lives.

As they try and figure out who is behind it, as they expect a group targeting vulnerable students, things get pretty hairy for them both.  Evie's story especially freaked me out.  Evie is very dear to my heart.  I really connected with her when I read Blood Harvest and I love how logical she is and how self-assured she comes across whilst really, she is this bundle of fears and doubts, like all of us, really.  And the thing about Evie is, she's disabled, so my fears for her is always that she'll get hurt even more and I think Ms. Bolton knows that, so she doesn't actually play on Evie's physicality, threatening her bodily, but instead she goes about attacking her mentally.  It freaked me out no end.  Lacey, on the other hand is very much the physical person, so she's preyed upon not just mentally but also physically.

As the story starts unravelling and we find our pool of suspects, we are flung headlong into a flight to save both women.  And what I love best about SJ Bolton's books and writing, is how strong her female characters are.  They are flawed yes, but they are also intelligent, resourceful and they don't break easy. And although the men are as lovely and strong, the women don't have to rely on them to save the day.  I love that to bits.

This is a rather vague review.  Needless to say, it's done on purpose because you gotta read it for yourself.  In fact, if you've not read any SJ Bolton, I'd recommend you pack your holiday bag with her books or load them onto your kindle and indulge.  Each book is different, set in a  different place in the UK and each book offers you something very different.   The consist thing you get though is superb storytelling.  Also, it makes you wonder how such a nice lady can write such frightening books.  Hmm.

A word of warning though, Blood Harvest especially is not a book you'd want to read in a remote village in the countryside.  It did nothing good for my sleeping patterns.  Dead Scared, by page forty, had me so freaked out, I had to close the book and I had to ring Mark to collect me from the station because I couldn't face the ten minute walk home alone at nine pm in the evening after a blogger event. And the sun was shining.  Honestly.  Really good thrillers like this are rare and far between and honestly, SJ Bolton gives good thrilling action.  You will not regret it.

Find SJ Bolton's site here.  Dead Scared is out now.

Monday, May 28, 2012

MFB interviews Cassandra Clare on her UK Book Tour!

This interview has spoilers for City of Lost Souls!

As part of Cassandra's City of Lost Souls UK Book Tour MFB were invited to Theatre Royal, Stratford, London (Foyles organised this wonderful event) to ask questions about Magnus and Alec. To say that I was excited about getting the chance to interview one of my favourite authors is an understatement. So excited in fact that I charged my camera, put it in my bag but then forgot to use it. Even worse, I sit down, get my phone set to record and turn to Cassandra and say, "I've got loads of questions for you about Marcus." Marcus? Marcus? Oh, *headdesk.* Fortunately Cassandra was absolutely lovely and I soon got over my nerves and was able to get on with the questions.

It's lovely to meet you. My first question is about Alec. I was shocked by what he was prepared to do to keep Magnus – do you think it was out of character?

It would have been out of character for Alec to follow through but not out of his nature to think about it but then not let it go any further. Camile has a strange hold over Magnus and Alec is insecure and looks to Camille to give him some insight into the secretive person he is. Alec is worried that he might be disposable and thinks he can find a better understanding through Camille, that it might even the playing field. He's tempted by the idea but doesn’t go through with it. After seeing Magnus’s mortality on the battlefield at the end of City of Lost Souls, Alec would definitely not have gone through with it. In the end he made a moral decision (brought on by) the realization of what he could be bringing down on Magnus if he did follow through. The tragedy of the situation is that he lost Magnus for having considered it but it was understandable that Magnus did it.

Poor Alec! But when he goes home the house interior is different every time and he doesn’t have any say in his surroundings and no control. Isn’t Magnus being a little unfair?

Magnus has been alone for a long time, he controls his environment, he controls what he does - no one tells him. There’s an imbalance of power in their relationship and he wants to keep it that way.

Is it possible that Alec might find a way to level the playing field?

I definitely think so. Alec has grown up massively. I’ve watched him grow up through the books! He’s matured, he knows himself better, he can articulate his feelings better. At the beginning of the books he wasn’t able to talk to his parents about his sexuality but now he can speak openly about it. He talks about how hateful it is to be rejected, the pain of the unconsioucs pressure that your family puts on you. Alec needs to show how strong he really is and when he does I think Magnus will feel more able … Magnus needs someone to lean on and rely on and when he opens up and tells someone the truth about himself he needs to do it with someone who’s strong enough, with someone there who can be supportive and at the moment they’re not quite there. The breakup may be the thing that gets them there.

Is this partly Camille’s fault – did she cause Magnus to be so closed?

Camille’s definitely part of it. Magnus has watched a lot of people that he loves die. He a sucker for lost causes - that’s his love for Will right there. He loves to mend broken things. And then Camille comes along and she breaks his heart. We see him change from being this trusting guy who tries to fix things and invest in relationships to the man who isn’t willing to put himself out there, more secretive and less giving.

At this point we chat a bit about the fact that Magnus set his step father on fire and how it changed him.

The step father realised that Magnus wasn't his child. Magnus was defending himself, not really understanding what his magic could do and killed him.

No coming back from that then?
Not for the step father! It was a pretty bad experience for Magnus too.

Did you make a conscious effort to include characters that aren’t the stereotypical white and heterosexual?

I tried to represent New York in its diversity. A book about New York where everyone is straight and white would be very unrepresentative. So I tried to include Jewish characters, gay characters and different races. In Infernal Devices I had to try harder for it as Victorian London was very white. I brought Jem in because I really didn’t want to write a book with all white characters.

What would you say to aspiring writers who are scared about bringing characters into their books who have a different racial heritage or sexuality to their own?
It’s a moral value to strive for diversity and inclusivity. If you don’t include any gay characters or any non white characters or any non able-bodied characters you’re not going to hear anything about it. If you do, you may get criticism about the way you portray them but that’s okay – take the criticism and learn from it. Understand that you’ve chosen the slightly more difficult thing to do and criticism is part of that, don't be afraid. You’ll also get lots and lots of lovely letters too from people who say thank you - and that makes it worth it.

Why can’t Magnus go back to Peru?

It’s a secret! I can’t tell!

Will we find out?

I’m having a lot of fun with people hinting at it. You know like in Frasier when Niles was married to Maris and we never saw her? I kind of relate the Magnus thing to that because in each book it gets worse, “Did you hear the story about Magnus in Peru? It’s the worse thing I’ve ever heard!” It’s building up to something really bad.

Warning: We go totally off-topic here as I wanted to talk to Cassandra about her tumblr piece about rape. We talk about rape myths, how they harm and the experiences of victims.

I wanted to talk to you about Clary and the piece you wrote on your tumblr about Rape myths, rape culture, and the damage done - I thought it was brilliant. I don’t think anything has changed since I was a teenager, the way that girls speak about other girls, and I find that quite sad. In fact it’s worse now that there's the internet and mobile phones.

Thank you. It’s one of the things that does concern me. My mother has worked her whole life with rape victims and she runs a charity now for rape victims, I volunteer with them. After writing that piece I have lots and lots and lots of letters that I’m trying to respond to - I want to give each one an individual thoughtful response. Some of them say that when they were assaulted, or when there was an abuse situation the reaction of their peers was difficult and in a lot of cases it was other girls. Girls have told me that they were raped by their boyfriends and then they’d go to school and people would be muttering, ‘Slut, slut, slut” behind their back in the halls and that’s the exact thing that I’m talking about.

We get these messages that come out of a place of fear that if you behave properly, that if you’re a good girl then this won’t happen to you and when it does happen the urge is to other them and push them away and say that they’re a bad person and that’s why this happened to them.

In my experience people strive to find a reason, to pinpoint the mistake that you made.

I think you’re right, I think that people say that that person was bad, that they made a mistake. There was a lot of fault finding with Clary. What was the thing she did that was bad that made this bad thing happen to her? What I was trying to say was that she didn't do a bad thing, it was a bad thing that happened. The other person was bad.

I also found it sad that people were pointing the finger at Clary and her response – that her response was somehow wrong.

Yes, and that Clary is a girl who did nothing wrong, that someone did something bad but she has a good relationship with someone else. She feels safe with that person - to be able to separate an assault which was not her fault, which had nothing to do with what she did from Jace. She's in a healthy relationship with a person who loves her, who's invested in her consent.

Thank you so much, it was lovely to speak to you.

And it was – it was honestly such a pleasure to chat with Cassandra. She put up with my longwinded questions, didn't make me feel for one minute that there were hundreds of people downstairs waiting for her. So much so that we nearly ran over! I got my book signed too which made my day as I was working the last time she came to the UK.

The next stop on the tour is 30th May Wondrous Reads with Simon and Isabelle

Followed by: -

31st May The Zoë-Trope Jace and Clary

1st June Dark Readers Sebastian

Friday, May 25, 2012

MFB supports Geek Pride Day 2012

Warning: this is a long rambling blogpost. Also, it contains pictures of stuff and I tell you about this guy called Andy Robb's book launch I attended last night.

In the meantime, the first part of the blog:

Mark, Sarah and I are geeks. We may not be geeks about the same things, but by Lord Vader's breathing apparatus, we are geeks to the max.

Sarah has a thing for Harry Potter books and paraphernalia and chickens. Oh, and Star Wars, lets not forget her talking at me in Yoda-voice giving sage advice. Even by email.

Mark can talk your ear off about David Gemmell and Druss the Legend and he knows about archery and fencing and sword fights. He knows various schools of magic and what critical stats are for most RPG games.

Me? My thing is Sandman, Supernatural, fairy tales and movies and books. Also, stationery. I am also an enabler. It is my superpower, I think.

So, with the help of my rather shoddy iPhone, I walked around our tiny TARDIS house and took photos of the obvious geek things Mark and I have on display.

Here is some of the stuff we've got.

My Sandman collection. Some of our comics too, along with a good view of the Punisher maquette and my Alchemist Unicorn from Filligree.

The best movie Spielberg ever made. In fact, the ONLY Indiana Jones movie in my opinion. Although Crusade was good fun too.

Some of our DVDs - zombie flicks, Star Wars, Supernatural - the usual suspects.

My favourite item in all the world right now - watercolour of Hellboy by the amazing Duncan Fegredo. Isn't it just gorgeous?

Again with the Punisher - this was commissioned by Mark from Lawrence Campbell whom we are both BIG fans of.

My limited numbered signed print of Captain America.

This is a piece of original art Mark and I bought at one of the GenCons we attended years ago now. The artist is Wayne Reynolds and Mark and I tend to have impulse issues when it comes to buying Wayne's artwork. This bit of art appeared in one of the newer editions of the D&D Monsters Manual. And yes, we may be bragging.
My time turner. Beedle the Bard. Death! Sandman! Mark's limited edition copy of Deathwatch. Pretty!

Our signed canvas of Solomon Kane. Signed by James Purefoy and Michael Bassett (director)

Two partial shots of two bookcases...

Now for the second yet important part to this blog:

Last night I attended the book launch of Geekhood by Andy Robb. Now, I've not yet read the book, but I will, and this blogpost was initially supposed to be US vs ANDY when it comes to geekery but things got a bit mad, so instead I give you a pictorial of the evening.

Delicious! Geekhood cupcakes. Noms!

The Games Workshop in the Plaza on Oxford Street kindly set up a display and taught some excited kids how to paint miniatures. I didn't have a chance to show them prowess. This saddens me.

This is Paul Black, the publicity person for Stripes Publishing. Yes, my friends, that is indeed a chest burster from Alien. There just aren't enough words...

Some great posters Andy and the team from Waterstones Oxford Street Plaza set up.

Philip Reeve and Sarah MacIntyre once again getting into the swing of things.

Andy (author and Hobbit impersonator) and his mate and "meta-reader" Rorschach from Watchmen-fame. Sadly, I do not remember R's real name.

Apparently the Empire needs me. Yes, Lord Vader!

Yeah, Andy tried cheeking Lord Vader and the old mouth breather just wouldn't have it. Poor Andy. He will be missed.

I am sure you've been threatened by me before, Lord Vader demands of a Waterstones employee. Employee too stunned to reply.

Lord Vader proves how easy product placement can be done.

Mummy, I want all these little men to come home with us so I can forge battle against the minions of the Dark Lord. And then I want my own axe.

No, sweetie, painting Orcs pink is not how it's done. Okay, maybe you can paint Legolas pink. He is the prettiest elf, after all.

As you can tell from the photos, everyone had a superb time. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much at a launch. Everyone who came dressed up did such a good job - I was in awe. We wish Andy the best of luck with Geekhood and we look forward to reading it.

As for Geek Pride Day today: we are all geeks at heart. Some wear it more openly than others, but it is there and dammit, today is the day to be proud but more than that, it should never be something to be ashamed of. Own it, my friends!

Sarah here and just to add to Liz's fantastic post that I read this just after putting up my new Deathly Hallows framed poster. Sorry for the bad photo but there - it proves the point. No hope for me there is. Sorry, I did just do that :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Random Bits #9

Every year around this time of the year my wishlist grows by at least 10 titles and they all directly come from the Mythopeoic Awards list

This year's list looks like this:

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

  • Lisa Goldstein, The Uncertain Places (Tachyon)
  • Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (Doubleday)
  • Richard Parks, The Heavenly Fox (PS Publishing)
  • Catherynne M. Valente, Deathless (Tor)
  • Jo Walton, Among Others (Tor)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • Lisa Mantchev, Théâtre Illuminata series, consisting of Eyes Like StarsPerchance to Dream, and So Silver Bright (Feiwel and Friends)
  • Tamora Pierce, Beka Cooper series, consisting of TerrierBloodhound, and Mastiff (Random House)
  • Delia Sherman, The Freedom Maze (Big Mouth House)
  • Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races (Scholastic)
  • Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Feiwel and Friends)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

  • Jason Fisher, ed. Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays (McFarland, 2011)
  • Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, The Art of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (HarperCollins, 2011)
  • Carl Phelpstead. Tolkien and Wales: Language, Literature and Identity (Univ. of Wales Press, 2011)
  • Sanford Schwartz. C.S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009)
  • Steve Walker, The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies

  • Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Fairy Tales: A New History (SUNY Press, 2009)
  • Bonnie Gaarden, The Christian Goddess: Archetype and Theology in the Fantasies of George MacDonald(Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 2011)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, Cheek by Jowl (Aqueduct Press, 2009)
  • Darrell Schweitzer, The Fantastic Horizon: Essays and Reviews (Borgo Press, 2009)
  • Jack Zipes, The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films (Routledge, 2011)
I am especially over the moon to see one of my favourite authors of all time - Catheryne M Valente on here twice.  I realise I've never actually reviewed the books on MFB and there is no real excuse for that - but if you're intrigued, just take my word for it: she writes sublimely well, with lyrical prose that makes your heart soar and your brain trip. 

I've highlighted / put in (black) bold the titles I have at home, which I'll definitely look forward to share with you in the near future.  The red bold titles are ones that have winged their way onto my wishlist, unexpectedly, and quite by accident.  How did that happen? 


Onto some other very exciting news from Orion:

Cornelia Funke (her of the Ink Heart novels fame) has signed a contract with Orion for a new book series called GHOST KNIGHT: 

Eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft never expected to enjoy boarding school. He never expected to be confronted by a pack of vengeful ghosts either. And then he meets Ella, a quirky new friend with a taste for adventure... Together, Jon and Ella must work to uncover the secrets of a centuries-old murder, while being haunted by ghosts intent on revenge. So when Jon summons the ghost of the knight Longspee for his protection, there's just one question - can Longspee really be trusted?

Cornelia Funke says of GHOST KNIGHT:

I already know the best Christmas gift I will find under my tree this year. I am so thrilled that Orion will bring Ghost Knight to printed life in the UK this winter! I very much hope that my story will bring children from many corners of the world to see all the beautiful places that inspired me to write this  knight's story- Salisbury, Kilmington, Lacock Abbey and of course Stonehenge:) I can't wait for them to hear about the fabulous Ela Longspee, who was the first female sheriff of Wiltshire in the 12th century, and to feel the enchantment of Salisbury Cathedral whose grace and beauty made me find this story. 

I actually yelped at the news because well, Cornelia Funke writes books only for me.  No, seriously.  *stares challengingly at screen* I believe this, no matter what others may say.  Her writing never fails to transport me and make me think.  


Next up, some more grown up adult fiction news: 

The Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist of three first novels is announced today, Thursday 24 May 2012. The Prize celebrates the very best of debut fiction by the rising stars of the literary world.

The shortlist for The Desmond Elliott Prize 2012 is as follows:

  • The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness (Seren)
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)   
This year’s shortlist has been selected from a longlist of ten, announced in April. The three shortlisted authors are: poet and academic Patrick McGuinness, whose novel The Last Hundred Days was inspired by his years in Bucharest in the lead up to the Romanian revolution; award-winning radio playwright Rachel Joyce, whose book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was originally drafted as a radio play for her dying father, and Grace McCleen with The Land Of Decoration, a story based on the author’s own upbringing in a Christian fundamentalist sect in Wales.

The judges were struck by the strong characters and coruscating language of Patrick McGuinness’ dystopian novel about the last days of the Ceauscescu dictatorship in Romania, Rachel Joyce’s beautiful storytelling, with its insights into human nature through the tale of an ordinary person motivated to perform extraordinary actions, and the original language and ideas in Grace McCleen’s vivid and life-affirming story of a young girl in a Christian sect who believes the Last Days have come. 

Sam Llewellyn, 2012 Chair of Judges and one of Desmond Elliott’s own protégés, commented:
It has been extraordinarily hard to choose a shortlist of three from such a powerful and diverse longlist. Desmond Elliott once told me that his ideal novel was a cross between a treasure hunt and a race. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is both these things, and a lot more besides. The Last Hundred Days, written with wit and irony, is a really fine and original addition to the literature of disintegrating empires, and The Land of Decoration is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s a rollercoaster of a book that makes the reader laugh and cry at entirely unpredictable intervals.’

Sam Llewellyn is joined on the judging panel by Tom Gatti, Editor of The Times Review section, and Caroline Mileham, Head of Books at

William Hill spokesman, Graham Sharpe, commented that ‘despite having dramatically varying themes, it is very difficult to differentiate between three brilliant debut novels’, but gave Rachel Joyce a narrow lead with the following odds:

  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - 5/4
  • The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness - 7/4
  • The Land Of Decoration by Grace McCleen - 2/1

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the £10,000 award for a first novel published in the UK, set up in memory of the celebrated publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott to ‘enrich the careers of new writers’.

The winner will be announced on Thursday 28 June at Fortnum & Mason, London.  When choosing a winner, the judges will be looking for a novel of depth and breadth with a compelling narrative. The work should be vividly written and confidently realised and should contain original and arresting characters.

The 2011 winner was Anjali Joseph for Saraswati Park, published by Fourth Estate. Previous winners of the Prize were: The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw (Atlantic Books, 2010); Blackmoor by Edward Hogan (Simon & Schuster, 2009) and Gifted by Nikita Lalwani (Penguin Books, 2008).

Over at The Guardian, they're looking for nominations for the Guardian First Book Award. You have the chance to nominate a book of your choice - debut - to be added to their list of books to consider for the prize.  The "competition" closes on 4th June.  Go nominate someone awesome!


Heard about Magic Town? I didn't know of it until I got this bit of PR from Simon and Schuster about their superb Aliens love Underpants books: 

Simon & Schuster UK and Mindshapes today announced that Claire Freedman and Ben Cort’s bestselling Aliens Love Underpants series is now part of Magic Town (, the first virtual world of picture books and stories for children aged 2 to 6+. There will be four Aliens Love Underpants stories in Magic Town.

In Magic Town, children meet Max and Izzy, animated guides who show them around a vibrant landscape of uniquely illustrated houses, each of which holds interactive stories and related puzzles and games, featuring fairy tales, original titles and well-known series. Magic Town’s virtual world uses games technology to provide each child with a customised experience. An algorithm presents relevant stories for each child, and daily visits to Magic Town unlock additional content. In the future, parents will be able to further personalise Magic Town by selecting specific brands and stories.

Each Aliens Love Underpants story in Magic Town is presented as a Livebook™, Mindshapes’ proprietary storytelling format designed to stimulate young children’s development through educational, interactive tasks. Magic Town was created with input from teachers and early childhood development experts, and has been tested with children, parents and educators.

That's it from Random Bits for now! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Spoilers for previous books in the series!


The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace has been freed from her captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive to rescue him, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

No magic the Clave can summon can locate either boy, but Jace cannot stay away—not from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith’s dying magic has wrought—Jace is no longer the boy she loved. He and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become what he most feared: a true servant of Valentine’s evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. Will the Shadowhunters hesitate to kill one of their own?

Only a small band of Clary and Jace’s friends and family believe that Jace can still be saved — and that the fate of the Shadowhunters’ future may hinge on that salvation. They must defy the Clave and strike out on their own. Alec, Magnus, Simon and Isabelle must work together to save Jace: bargaining with the sinister Faerie Queen, contemplating deals with demons, and turning at last to the Iron Sisters, the reclusive and merciless weapons makers for the Shadowhunters, who tell them that no weapon on this earth can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. Their only chance of cutting Jace free is to challenge Heaven and Hell — a risk that could claim any, or all, of their lives.

And they must do it without Clary. For Clary has gone into the heart of darkness, to play a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing the game is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she even still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

Well, that's quite a synopsis - and a lot of ground to cover. If you're reading this I'm going to presume you've read the previous books for the series but although I can't avoid spoilers for those I won't reveal the outcome of the plot for this book. Ready? Okay. So as you can see Jace is in a bit of a predicament: bound to Sebastian with no obvious way of splitting them up. Kill one and you kill the other. The greater demon Lillith is responsible for this bond and it appears that it's pretty much impossible to divide them again. All this, of course, suits Sebastian down to the ground and Jace also appears to be happy with the development. When Clary finally sees him he's both Jace and … not Jace. Fed up with being sidelined and babied, Clary makes a monumental decision and decides to join them to find out what Sebastian is up to.

I think the scenes with Clary and not-Jace are some of the most compelling of the series so far. We know Jace pretty well by now and his and Clary's dynamic is both touching and explosive. Not-Jace appears at first to be a more complete and happy person but the longer Clary spends with them the more she discovers. Also, this is the book where Clary kicks some serious ass. All those Shadowhunter fighting classes have paid off and she gets to explore her new talents. She proves that she's able to take care of herself although it seems at times that she may have got herself into more trouble than she anticipated.

I have a deep love for Mortal Instruments books not just because of Jace and Clary. For me, it's as much about the other characters. Simon it's just amazing in this book. I was cheering him on as he balances his (mostly) platonic love for Clary with his interest in Isabelle. God, I love them so much as a couple and was willing them together - grinding my teeth when I was scared they might near-miss. Then, of course, there's the wonderful Magnus and Alec - just the cutest couple ever. However, Alec is in danger of making a mess of things by worrying about his own immortality rather than enjoying the moment.

Another brilliant edition in the series. The world is a better place with the Mortal Instruments in it.

I'm meeting Cassandra Clare as part of her UK City of Lost Souls book tour. I'm going to be asking her questions about the wonderful Magnus and Alec so please, if you have a burning question pop it in the comments and I'll be sure to ask her.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Important MFB News

Louis Vuiton Travel Book Case 

A couple of years ago, I really don’t think I would ever have thought I’d be writing a blogpost like this.  It’s taken me ages to get up the courage, with both Sarah and Mark holding my hands.  But it has to be done, for our own sanity:

As of 1st June 2012 My Favourite Books will no longer be accepting books for review. 

Between the three of us, we have books to keep us busy for several months, without buying in more titles or receiving them from publishers.  As many of you know, I’ve mentioned that Mark and I have storage space which we solely use for book storage.  This space is now full to capacity.  I slid the 57th box into storage yesterday.  When we locked the door, I cried because I knew I’d have to write this blog.

Our storage space - place for 1 more box.

This weekend past we received a postbag full of books and although it never gets old or boring receiving gorgeous books from existing authors, friends and début novels from soon to be friends, we realised that we’ve come to the point where we have to reconsider how we’re running MFB and how it’s gone from a hobby to a lifestyle choice.

We really would like to focus on books all three of us have had on our shelves for some time; books that we keep putting off to read because we keep getting new books in.  It’s gone a bit mad and I know so many bloggers have this problem – we buy books for ourselves but hardly ever read them, because we feel we have to read the books that come in from publishers first.  Not a bad thing, but when you love books and enjoy reading as much as we do...well, you sit with a backlog of around 3,000 unread books.  I wish I was exaggerating.

Continuing on into 2012, we’re hoping to bring you our usual mix of new (we have books dated for release August/September 2012) and older titles as per usual and to continue bringing you our eclectic choices – not just of kids and YA books but also more genre titles for adults too.

We’re hoping that by not accepting more books, we’ll free ourselves a bit to actually re-look what we’re reading and excavate those books that have been sitting on our shelves for the years or more, unread.

It’s going to be a fun exciting direction for us and we hope you decide to stick it out with us!

And in the meantime, whatever you do – never stop reading.

Liz, Mark & Sarah

PS:  From some of the comments received, it looks like people may think we're shutting down! This isn't so - we're just changing our direction, so there will still be plenty to read and probably more content, to be fair.  Gods, can you imagine us not talking about books? We may implode if we can't waffle forth about books we've read or spotted somewhere.  So no, MFB is still very much alive.  And rocking, to our own beat. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

Ferris Bueller meets La Femme Nikita in this funny, action-packed young adult novel. It's prom night--and Perry just wants to stick to his own plan and finally play a much anticipated gig with his band in the Big Apple. But when his mother makes him take Gobija Zaksauskas--their quiet, geeky Lithuanian exchange student--to the prom, he never expects that his ordinary high school guy life will soon turn on its head. Perry finds that Gobi is on a mission, and Perry has no other choice but to go along for a reckless ride through Manhattan's concrete grid with a trained assassin in Dad's red Jag.

So they call this a mash between Ferris Bueller and La Femme Nikita...and it is maybe a bit, but it is far more like Collateral.

Oddly, if you are a teen you probably have no idea what these movies refer to as it's unlikely that you've had the chance to watch them.  Unless your parents give you free reign about what to watch and don't particularly care about violence (talking about Collateral here especially).

ARCEC is violent.  Gobi (confusing name for me as obviously there is the GOBI DESERT) is an assassin, a killer, not entirely a pleasant person.  We understand where she comes from, eventually, but by dragging Perry into this nightmare of hers, she's not really kickass - she's just a selfish adult taking advantage of a  much younger boy.  She has no qualms shooting people in front of Perry, of beating up others and forcing Perry to act as her getaway driver.

I thought I liked the book, but as I closed the pages and sat down and thought about it more, I realised I had a definite issue with Gobi and her behaviour.  I liked Perry, I liked that he developed lightly as a character and grew a pair of cajones to stand up to his dad, even if it was as the bullets flew.

ARCEC is fast paced, action filled with a through line of revenge, no matter what, at no matter what cost. There is swearing and violence - a lot of it and although it is gratuitous, it makes sense within the context of the story, however, now distanced from it, I unfortunately have issues with it.

I can actually imagine a younger Matthew Perry squealing his way through this in movie format which is unfortunate as I really do not like Matthew Perry.  Matthew Perry or those two gormless boys, Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Cera - and sadly it really put me off.

There are moments of genuine humour, macabre at times, but my level of disbelief whilst reading the book was easily suspended but again, when considering everything that happens and thinking about it after the fact...the messages to the reader here aren't particularly clear or pleasant. It's okay to take revenge on a bunch of killers and involve innocent people in it.  It's okay to threaten to blow up a home with defenceless innocent people and generally cause the death of people around you, all to get to your goal.

Although Perry, our teen protag, makes it out alive on the other side, it's too glib, too easily sorted out.  He is not held accountable for any of Gobi's actions and in reality, he would have been locked up and no one would have heard from him again.  Gobi is a psychopath and is portrayed as a cool, diminutive, assassin who does everything she does to help Perry come out of his shell whilst she forces him to be her driver on a wild night of assassination and killing.

I'm actually really annoyed by this review - I'm sorry.  I genuinely liked the book whilst I read it but again, I think thinking back about it now, maybe not so much.  There is some very mature content here, it's quite amusing in a very black and dark way, so I think it will have cross-over appeal into a snack-sized book for adults who like fast paced thrillers.  It will also translate well onto screen and it reads like a novelisation of a movie, so no doubt we'll see something about it soon enough. Ah yes, IMDB tells me the movie is in development.  Hmm.

I'm sorry, I would have liked to be excited about this.  I'm not squeamish and I definitely don't dislike explosions and death in my books, no matter what age, but somehow, it just didn't work in this one.  I'm clearly in the minority here, as it seems the peeps over at Goodreads really liked it as did my mate Darren at Bookzone!

At the end of the day, it's a marmite thriller - you're either going to love it unconditionally or it's going to stick in your throat and make you feel vaguely uncomfortable and a bit sordid.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Butcher's Nails by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Audio)

The primarch Angron: gladiator-king and Horus’s lunatic attack dog. Never having hidden his resentment for his brothers, he now carves a bloody swathe through the galaxy in the Warmaster’s name, with the Heresy providing a convenient excuse to indulge his love of brutal warfare. When they are tasked with a secretive mission alongside the Word Bearers Legion, the World Eaters’ violent tendencies soon attract the attention of xenos raiders, troubled by the portents surrounding the primarch’s berserk fury and his ultimate destiny as ‘the Blood God’s son’... 

Butcher's Nails opens with Angron's World Eaters facing up against Lorgar's Word Bearers, brought to the precipice of an internecine struggle by the clash of two very different ideologies, and perhaps more accurately, two vastly different psyches. En route to Calth under order from Horus, Angron has deviated from the plan and left a trail of destruction along the way, having undertaken several planetary assaults that were more an indulgence than anything of strategic value.

Matters are coming to a head when the story opens, but whatever may have happened is suddenly diverted by the arrival of a fleet of Eldar Reavers, who launch a lightning fast ambush aimed at Angron's flagship, the Conqueror. Even though this attack is beaten off, it offers no respite to the mounting tensions as Angron refuses to proceed with their mission while the xenos are still at large, having effectively thumbed their collective noses at his Legion. A compromise is struck, and the hunt begins, a hunt that ends with a chilling warning, one that is lost on Angron but not his brother.

Butcher's Nails is about the characters, more than anything else, particularly Angron and his World Eaters, both of whom have been sorely neglected to date. The title itself refers to the aggression inducing and enhancing implants that the hulking Angron and each of his Space Marines have had implanted deep within their skulls, cybernetic implants that keep them constantly on the edge, plagued by misfiring synapses and chronic cranial pain that can only be relieved and transformed into an addictive euphoria and clarity of thought by not only succumbing to the siren call of such a blood red rage, but completely giving themselves over to it. And here, for the first time, we get a glimpse into Angron's fracturing mind. Suffice to say, he needs some serious therapy- the Hulk seem positively timid by comparison.

It's not just Angron that shines through here though; there's little fat amongst the supporting characters or their contribution to the story. Dembski-Bowden demonstrates a fine touch here, giving them a gratifying depth and making them interesting enough that you'd happily listen to their stories for the duration.The voice acting for the supporting cast and Lorgar is spot on: the latter is definitely rocking a Christopher Lee/ Saruman vibe, and it suits him to a T. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Angron. While it admittedly couldn't have been an easy brief for the actor - "Convince people that you're very angry all of the time"- what we're left with is someone who sounds constipated, not angry. The saving grace is the strength of the writing. You'll put up with it because you will want to find out what happens next and, if you're listening to all 15 tracks in one shot, you become inured to it and just go with the flow.

The sound effects aren't as bad as some I've heard, a mite repetitive in some places but I was generally happy with the additional colour they brought to the story (I'd love the servitors' "Compliance" for my text alerts).

Speaking of the tracks, it would be really handy if these were named, rather than just numbered Tracks 1-15. Butchers Nail Track 1, 2 etc would be sufficient to avoid my 'Black Library' audio folder becoming a confusing mass of identically named tracks.

You can listen to an extract here and visit ADB's website here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

City of Lost Souls - The UK Tour! We Need Your Alec and Magnus Questions!

Okay, firstly sorry about all the !!! I'm just so excited. Cassandra Clare is visiting the UK!

Here are all the details of her UK tour. MFB are going to be interviewing Cassandra Clare before her London event: -

Tour Launch Event - Cassandra Clare with special guest Maureen Johnson: London

Date: Saturday 26th May, 2 p.m.

Location: Theatre Royal, Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, London E15 1BN

Tickets: £8 for entry, or a special book and ticket price of £13.

Visit Foyles to buy tickets.

Yes, that's right - we're interviewing the lady herself! But we also need your help. At each tour stop every blog taking part is assigned a couple from the The Mortal Instruments series and MFB's is … wait for it: -

Alec and Magnus

I'm over the moon about this as they're my favourite couple. Okay, so in the comments please leave any questions that you have about Alec and Magnus that you'd like me to ask Cassandra Clare on your behalf and then on the 26th May I will. Then I'll report back with all the gossip.

Thank you!

Rest assured, if you have questions about any other couple you can ask those too. Here's the list of all the other wonderful blogs taking part: -

27th May The Overflowing Library Maia and Jordan
30th May Wondrous Reads Simon and Isabelle
31st May The Zoë-Trope Jace and Clary
1st June Dark Readers Sebastian

Cassandra Clare UK tour banner

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Old Paint by Megan Lindholm

Old Paint
Megan Lindholm 

Megan Lindholm lives in Tacoma, Washington, and has very fond memories of a blue Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon. In fact, she still has a chip of blue plastic that is just visible under the skin on her right knee from a near head-on in 1991. The car is long gone, but oh, how the memories linger. . . . Megan sometimes also writes fiction as “Robin Hobb.”

Old Paint is a novelette from the newest Asimov Magazine.  I've not reviewed a novelette or short story since Short Story Month last year, but Megan Lindholm's superb story really got under my skin - no pun intended - and I thought I'd share some thoughts with you.

If you read her as Robin Hobb, you know the girl can write.  Oddly, I've never read her as Megan Lindholm...which is weird for me, but regardless: she can write good words.

In Old Paint we are introduced to Suzanne (mom), Ben (the brother) and our narrator, a young girl whose name for the life of me I can't remember.  It is the near future, the year 2030 and things are relatively the same with slight differences on the technological front.

Our small family find that they've inherited an old car, which Suzanne eventually dubs "Old Paint" later in the story.  The car belonged to her father and she's surprised to find that he left her the vehicle after passing away.  She comes across as a stern mum, thoughtful and aware of the mess kids get in to at various stages of their lives but she's never unfair and she is really quite honest and open with them.  She gives glimpses of her wild life as a teen and tells her kids to listen to her, to not make the same stupid mistakes she made growing up.  Yes, she had fun, but in the end, it estranged her from her dad and she got pregnant with Ben.  However, her constant companion through her youth had been Old Paint, a car that her father had made sure could take care of Suzanne on her wild jaunts all over the country, even if he (the dad) couldn't be there to make sure she was okay.  Old Paint became a surrogate dad to Suzanne.

As the story unfolds, slowly, neatly, we get such a sense of love and nostalgia, even if the voice is that of the youngest child.  We see how Old Paint influences the family dynamic, and how his older technology is both an advantage and disadvantage to the faster, stranger, more aggressive world they live in.  The story isn't static and we get a great sense of shift in time frame as the story moves ahead, from the moment they get Old Paint to when we say goodbye to him and the characters.

Can I be more vague about the actual story without giving away the plot and core of the story? No - not really.  I apologise for that but it's a story that needs to be read and enjoyed.  Personally, it made me cry and smile and feel warm and shiny. The tone is perfect, the world building is so good and our glimpses into the technology and science is so integral to the story but it's never intrusive or jarring.  I kinda wish Ms. Lindholm would tell more Old Paint stories because it's making me nostalgic for a future that's not even close to being here yet.

Find the first part of the story here, on Asimov's website.

Oh,  Asimov's can be bought via your kindle via subscription, which is how I read it. I subscribe to three magazines: Asimov's, Clarkesworld and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  I think the subscription to Asimov is a mere £1.99 via Amazon and honestly, I think it's totally worth it. Do check it out, I'm sure you won't regret it!