Archive for December, 2012

Self Published Sunday: Interview with Liam McCann

This week we are delighted to welcome local author, Liam McCann to Self Published Sunday.

Liam was born in Guildford in 1973. He attended Hurstpierpoint College and Staffordshire University, gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Physiology and Psychology. Growing up, he excelled on the sports field, becoming county champion in three of the athletics field events and swimming to a national standard. He won a British University medal in 1993. Instead of finding work in the sports industry, Liam formed a rock band that toured Europe. The group’s highlight came in 2001 when they played to five thousand people. Liam is currently working on his fifth action / thriller novel. He also writes for Artists’ & Photographers’ Press (AAPPL) and works as a freelance copy-editor for the Daily Telegraph.What do you do when you are not writing?
Not much! I write for most of the day. The rest of the time I devote to research. I also play in a band so if I have no pressing writing commitments, I learn and record new songs.

What inspired you to become a writer?
I’d put off getting a proper job for a long time. I’d tried to make a living from playing music but it ended up being part-time. So I had a decision to make and ended up killing more time by writing a book. It didn’t get published but I realised immediately that writing was what I wanted to do, so I carried on. I was lucky enough to get the next book published (The Olympics Facts, Figures & Fun), so I was up and running.
I helped the publisher write another five sports books before I took the plunge with another novel. Although I’ve now had 20 books published, I also edit / proofread other people’s work, and sub-edit for the Daily Telegraph.

What was your inspiration for The Battle of Boxhill?
I met a film producer at a party and he suggested I write a book like Finding Nemo but set in the bird world. I’d never written a children’s adventure story before but when a producer says they’d like to turn the story into an animated film, you agree immediately. I had to undertake quite a bit of research so the characters were believable (birds do have quite distinct personalities) but after about six months I was reasonably happy with the results. The production team made a few recommendations and then we were ready to publish.

Tell us about your book?
The Battle of Boxhill is a children’s adventure set in the bird world. Ryker’s eggs are stolen by a greedy gamekeeper who wants to sell them to a local zoo. The young peregrine falcon pushes thoughts of personal safety to one side and embarks on a journey of discovery. He must unite the oppressed birds in the forest so that they will rise up and help save his family from the evil gamekeeper and his enforcer, Dillon, a raven with a mean streak and foul temper. But Ryker is young and inexperienced in the ways of the world and he doesn’t know who to trust.

What research did you do for this book?
I didn’t know a great deal about the birds living on Box Hill so I contacted a local ornithologist and the owner of an animal sanctuary to get an idea about the personalities of the birds. They suggested using ravens and cuckoos as the villains. Peregrine falcon eggs are extremely valuable and are often – forgive the terrible joke – poached so I decided to use falcons as the heroes.

Are any elements of your book based on real life experiences/people?
Several of the human characters are based on real people, and the setting is real. Box Hill is in central Surrey and it is home to a family of falcons. A number of other locations also feature. Having lived in the area all my life, it is great to be able to write about places from my childhood.

What are you currently working on?
I’ve just started work on a fifth sci-fi thriller featuring hero Ed Sampson. I’ve self-published the first four books in the series and will now spend six months writing the latest instalment. I hope that they will eventually be picked up by a conventional publisher, although they do sell online via word-of-mouth.

What is your writing process?
I start each day at around 9am and write until midday. Then I take a short lunch-break to review what I’ve done that morning. I then spend another four hours writing in the afternoon before reading through the day’s work at the end. I find that the routine and discipline help you achieve a lot more. It’s important to have structure, just as you do in a normal job. Otherwise it’d be very easy to become lazy.
I write on a laptop in the living room, which means I had to learn to type.

Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
No. I just need peace and quiet because it helps me concentrate.

What prompted you to self-publish the Ed Sampson novels?
I’ve had 13 books published conventionally but they were all commissioned – and non-fiction – and I wanted to try getting the sci-fi series out there. It’s incredibly difficult for a relatively unknown author to get their fiction published and I’d been trying for several years before I decided to do it myself.
Publishing the books was relatively easy because I was in control of the look and feel of each, but the biggest problem of not having a publisher backing you is exposure. You have to work doubly hard to get your work in front of the widest possible audience, which is what I’m doing now.

Can you tell us about the challenges in writing and publishing your first novel?
I don’t find the writing process that hard. As soon as I’ve written the first few lines I know I’ll be happy working on the book for the next few months. The editing is much harder because, if you’re doing it yourself, you have to be brutal. It’s surprising how much you can cut without altering the feel of the book so you need to be harsh with yourself. Having got the book into shape, designing the cover is a lot of fun. The greatest challenge then is getting your book out to an audience who will buy it. Publishing the books with Amazon guarantees you a worldwide platform but you still need to direct people to the books, not easy when you consider how many people are now publishing their own stuff. The only ways to rise above the crowd are to use social media to promote the books and to get lots of good reviews.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
I don’t have any trouble with writer’s block. The first line of a chapter can sometimes cause a few problems but I find writing something, anything, always helps me get up and running for the day. If I don’t feel particularly inspired, I’ll crack on with some research instead.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep your discipline. It’s a huge undertaking to write a book. If it hasn’t been commissioned it’s a big risk and there’ll be no money up front. You’ll have to devote several months to the writing process, so you’ll need to get into a routine and maintain your discipline. Only then will you see results.

Why did you choose to write children’s fiction?
I wouldn’t normally have chosen to write in this genre because I spend more time on the sci-fi thrillers, but when a film producer asks you to write a children’s book, you agree immediately!

How did you choose the genre you write in? What inspired you to write it?
The children’s genre was chosen for me when I agreed to write the book for the producer.

How did you get interested in children’s fiction?
I had to do a bit of research but I’d always read a lot when I was growing up and thought I’d be able to construct a solid children’s story.

What books have inspired you?
I was a fan of Willard Price and Clive Cussler when I was growing up. I also love reading Bill Bryson, particularly A Short History of Nearly Everything.

What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
Anything by Clive Cussler. It’s a shame that his powers as a story-teller are on the wane as his books used to be so good. Now they’re not in the same class as they were 20 years ago.

What are you currently reading?
I find it difficult to read too much when I’m writing, but I do get through the odd biography. I’ve just finished Open by Andre Agassi. It was extremely good.

What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s a fabulous book, beautifully written. It should be compulsory reading for every teenager.

What/Who inspired you as a reader?
I don’t know that anyone or anything inspired me as a reader. I’ve always loved books and read hundreds growing up.

Just for fun

Paper, Audio or eBook?
Paper

If The Battle of Boxhill was made in to a film which actor(s), past or present, do you envision in the lead role(s)
I have been asked the question by the production team. I’d like Daniel Radcliffe to play the part of Ryker. I’d also like Dexter Fletcher, Ewan McGregor, Samantha Janus and Ross Kemp to play parts.

If your book had a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
I’d like to write some of the music myself, although I probably wouldn’t be allowed. Animated films often end up with an Elton John soundtrack and he usually does a pretty good job. I might like to rock it up a bit though. The team behind the classical music in the Indiana Jones or Back to the Future films would also be top of the wish-list.

Tea or Coffee?
I don’t drink either.

Slippers or barefoot?
Barefoot

Shower or Bath?
Bath

Marmite: Love it? Hate it?
Hate it!

Email or postcard?
Email

Ryker, a young peregrine falcon, is being given a hunting lesson by his father when they notice a flock of ravens attacking their family by the chalk cliffs they call home. They race back to help but Ryker is knocked unconscious in the battle. When he wakes, he realises his parents and partner are missing. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he finds his unborn chicks are no longer in their nest! Ryker pushes thoughts of personal safety to one side and embarks on a journey of discovery. He must unite the oppressed birds in the forest so that they will rise up and help save his family from the evil gamekeeper and his enforcer, Dillon, a raven with a mean streak and foul temper. But Ryker is young and inexperienced in the ways of the world and he doesn’t yet know who to trust… The Battle of Boxhill is an engaging children’s story that will appeal to readers of all ages and adults too. Packed with drama, suspense and wonderful characters, it will delight, surprise and enthral in equal measure.

To find out more about Liam and his work you can visit his Website (here), his Facebook page (here) or follow him on Twitter.
The Battle of Boxhill is available now from Amazon.co.uk

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Alison’s 2012 review

What has been your favourite read of 2012?

I normally hate being asked what my favourite book is, there are just too many good ones out there to choose from. But for once I can definitely answer this question with just the one book. Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J Maas was a total stand out to me. So much so that I’ve read it three times this year.

Which book have you most enjoyed reading with your children in 2012?

This one I have to answer with two books. I have one girl aged 7 and a boy who will be 5 over Christmas. Long gone are the days where I could read the same book to them both. With my daughter the favourite has to be The Beginning by Lemony Snicket. I’ve adored A Series of Unfortunate Events for years and to see her grow to love them too has been pretty special. With my son I’ll go for George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl. He is a typically boisterous boy who is never still for more than a minute. One afternoon we snuggled down and read the whole book, he was utterly transfixed. It was amazing to see him finally find a story he could immerse himself in.

What have you enjoyed most about book reviewing/blogging in 2012?

The chance to rave about the books I love! I’m really lucky that I get to do this a lot of work, but I can only do that so much before staff and students alike start rolling their eyes. On the blog I get to gush as much, or as little as I like. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to read books that I might not otherwise of heard of or read.

What was your favourite book related event of 2012?

I’m very lucky to work at a school that can bring in a lot of authors to work with students, though I prefer the events that I don’t have to organise myself. My favourite this year has probably been when Andy Briggs came to visit. He really engaged with students and we had a lot of students come and take books out who really weren’t interested in reading before. He also inspired some students to write. It’s what it’s all about really!

What book are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

The one that I’m looking forward to the most is probably Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. I’m definitely in the mood for fantasy books and this looks fantastic and has had loads of rave reviews. Some trilogies that I have really enjoyed are coming to an end this year, so although I can’t wait to read those books, the feeling is bittersweet as it means leaving these worlds behind.

Alison’s favourite read of 2012(Click on the title to read more)

Throne Of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Post by Alison

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Helen’s 2012 review

What is your favourite read of 2012?
hmmm, choosing one favourite is always hard so I’m gonna cheat and chose two! These are two books whose themes will stay with me and that really made me think, but were easy to read and great stories too. Firstly, Me Before You by Jojo Moyles and secondly Goodbye For Now by Laurie Frankel. If we want the funniest book I’ve read this year it’s got to be ‘Molly’s Millions’ by Victoria Connelly, a great balance for the other two!

Which book have you most enjoyed sharing with your children?
Well with Sienna now approaching 3 years old, her favourites that I love to read (these two things often don’t match!) have got to be the Donaldson/Scheffler team. Any will do but Zog has been one that we have really enjoyed sharing.

With Tianna (now 5), we have finally begun to read more complex and longer stories, like Noddy!. She is starting to enjoy Roald Dahl and I have loved reading these kinds of stories with her. The BFG has been a great one, all of those great half made up words are so much fun.

What have you enjoyed most about blogging in 2012?
I have still enjoyed writing but have also enjoyed getting more books from publishers and seeing them before most people get a chance. Leading on from that it’s always nice when authors give you nice comments about your reviews and that’s happened a couple of times this year.

What has been your favourite book event of 2012?
I still need to write about this for ‘Love books will travel’ but it has to be seeing Alexander McCall Smith at Foyles talking about his new book ‘Trains and Lovers’. He was so easy to listen to, very charming and witty. He was just as you expect from reading his books. It was fabulous. Plus his spoilers about some of his other books have me itching to read them too!

What are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?
I am looking forward to a few books in 2013, having read Lissa Price’s Starters I am ready for the next installment, Enders. I ‘ll be glad to resolve some of those cliffhangers. In the same way I want to read the next book in Meg Cabot’s Abandon series, I loved the first one, and I think the next one is due out sometime this year!

Apart from that my TBR is as long as ever…

Helen’s Favourite books of 2012 (click on the title below to learn more)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Molly’s Millions by Victoria Connelly

Starters by Lissa Price

Zog by Julia Donaldson

Post by Helen

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Diary Of A Christmas Wombat

Jackie French and Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)

Diary of a christmas wombatIt’s Christmas! And it’s Christmas for Mothball the Wombat too. She eats, she sleeps, she scratches, but on Christmas Eve she also takes a very unexpected sleigh ride!

We’ve not read the bestselling ‘Diary of a Wombat’ yet (must pop it on the Christmas list!), but liked the sound of this title – after all, a book title containing the words ‘wombat’ and ‘christmas’ has got to have something to like!

This is a very simple read and one that is perfect for my two year old. Mothball has a fairly laid back existence including much sleep, some scratching, and quite a bit of carrot eating! This book has her awoken and taken by surprise when she smells carrots and follows the scent but finds some rather large creatures already there munching away on ‘her’ carrots. These turn out to be Santa’s reindeer. After ‘fighting a major battle’ with the large creatures, getting the carrots, and settling down for a sleep on Santa’s sleigh Mothball finds herself joining Santa’s trips down chimneys and trying to eat the carrots that have been left out for Santa’s reindeer.

Told in simple ‘diary’ form with one or two words at a time to describe Mothball’s activities, this book was great for my two year old who doesn’t always have the concentration to focus on a detailed story but likes to look at and point at the pictures. The illustrations by Bruce Whatley are just lovely and opened up a nice little chat with Sam about what the wombat was doing, and laughing together about her quest for carrots!

Verdict: This book would be great for toddlers and pre-schoolers and would be a wonderful addition to the stocking this year.
Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Publication Date: October 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book, Christmas
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Caroline’s 2012 review

What is your favorite read of 2012?

Gah! I really don’t know why I set these questions. Well I’m sure that you are all very well aware that there is no way I am going to be able to narrow this down to just one!

I adored Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi . I was going through a real dystopian love affair at the time and I found myself completely pulled in by Rossi’s world building. Not to mention that the pacing of Aria and Perry’s romance was just perfect.
I’m now fully absorbed in a Contemporary romance phase, and totally addicted to the New Adult genre, which has exploded over the last year. Easy, by Tammara Webber is my favorite contemporary read of 2012. Despite having only picked it up for the first time in November I have already re-read it.
A special mention has to go to Patrick Ness’ The Knife Of Never Letting Go. Although this was published in 2008, I only read it for the first time in February of 2012. I was absolutely blown away by Ness’ world building and characterization. Not to mention I blubbed like a total baby (full on puffy face and snot bubbles) after a particular scene. It is the book that I have recommended the most to non-YA reading friends and colleagues.

Which book have you most enjoyed reading with your children in 2012?

My daughter, Ava, turned five and started school in September. Although the books she has been sent home with haven’t been the most entertaining or exciting, I have absolutely loved watching Ava learning to read for herself, and assisting her on this journey.
As a family we have enjoyed sharing Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. The sequel, This is Not My Hat is currently sat, neatly wrapped, under my Christmas tree.

What have you enjoyed most about book blogging in 2012?

Aside from the actual books, the thing I love most about blogging is the community. Whether it be through comments, Twitter or at events, there is nothing quite like “finding your people” and being able to gush for hours about your favorite books without people’s eyes glazing over.

I have been particularly lucky to have developed genuine friendships with two YA book bloggers, Kerri from Read and Repeat (Click here to check out her blog) and Pruedence,The Library Mouse (check out her blog here). You should definitely check out their shared feature Two-Pound Tuesdays.

This year I have taken part in the first UK YA Book Bloggers Secret Santa. I have lots of fun checking out my recipients’ blog for shopping clues and browsing for book related presents. I can’t wait until Christmas day when I will get to open my own Secret Santa gift and discover the secret identity of the man (or woman) in red.

What was your favorite book related event of 2012?

In June we celebrated our first anniversary. I am really proud of the whole team for managing to sustain the blog for a year (and still enjoy it) despite house moves, illness and increasing family/work/school demands.

I delighted with our new look. The move from blogspot.com to our own website came with its own stresses and a lot of hard work but I am really pleased with how it has turned out. The credit goes to Webmaster Ed Gillett. Despite being paid entirely in cake and babysitting, Ed treated the project with professionalism and perfectionism.

I have also been lucky enough to attend lots of fabulous book event at my local book store, Waterstones in Guildford. My favourite being The Queen Of Teen after party – wow! So much YA talent in one room.

The events organized by Neil at Foyles are always fabulous. I thoroughly enjoyed the series of YA Creative Voices panels they hosted over the summer.

What book are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

Which book? Seriously, what was I thinking? How about, Which books are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?!

For me 2013 marks the continuation and finale of some fantastic series. I can’t wait for the, as yet untitled, conclusion of The Divergent Trilogy or Goddess Inheritance (Goddess Trilogy) but the final installment I am most anxious to read is Clockwork Princess. The third book Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices Trilogy, and what is fast becoming my favorite book series to date.

I am really looking forward to the continuation of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Pirates Wish (The Assassins Curse Trilogy) and C J Redwine’s Deception (Defiance Trilogy).
The debut I am most anticipating is G Howard’s Splintered. The synopsis sounds amazing and the cover is just stunning.

Caroline’s favourite books of 2012.(Click on the title to read more)

Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Easy by Tammara Webber

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Post by Caroline

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Me Before You

Jojo Moyes

Me Before You cover artLou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time

This was my book club read and I expected a bit of chick lit from reading the blurb. However this story is a whole lot more than that, and a better read for it. It totally outdid my expectations. There is a little hint in the blurb showing what the book is really all about but it totally passed me (and the others in my book club too, I am relieved to say) by. I do feel that maybe there should be a stronger suggestion of what is to come as this novel covers very sensitive issues and will not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you are all geared up for a light romance! That said I can’t write about this tale without referring to the subject it is really all about, so if you don’t want to know stop now!

Louisa is a fabulous character, a great mix of strength and insecurities she has a boyfriend who is obsessed with running Triathlons and a sister who has stolen the limelight at home. Still living with her parents Louisa is one of the main bread winners and when she loses her job this is a catastrophe. After a series of disastrous attempts at new jobs Louisa ends up as a carer to Will who has been in a motorbike accident and is now a ‘quad’, quadriplegic. She has no experience of this kind of work but needs it too much to walk away.

From this premise we go on a journey with both Lou and Will as they learn about each other and about life. It is obvious (and is some ways Louisa is slow to catch on) that Will is unhappy with his

life, and Jojo demonstrates clearly the devastation his accident has caused and the on-going suffering and indignities he endures. These trials faced by Will run deeply, not just the loss of his old life, his inability to move and do things for himself and the difficulties associated with total dependency on others for virtually everything, but also things that are less obvious; Will is often in pain (he can still feel despite being unable to move) and he lives in fear of illnesses that might be caused by his condition. In addition he has to deal with other people’s good intentions, the way they think they know what is best for him and what he should be doing. Previously Will led a life action, adventure and adrenalin highs. A big life. Now it is small and so restricted, the epitome of his worst nightmare and as Lou gradually discovers, he hates every moment of it.

Slowly their bond develops and Lou learns about Will, his condition, his moods, his frustrations and gradually she begins tro break down the walls around him. She makes plenty of mistakes along the way but it is these ups and downs in particular that make the story feel so real. This is also no one sided relationship. Will challenges Lou to break out of herself, to try new things. He makes her examine her relationships with her family and her fella. He pushes her to overcome the hurts from her past that hold her back. It is brilliant that Will brings as much to the relationship as Lou does. In their own ways they are both equally vulnerable, it is not just that Will needs Louisa, but she needs him too.

Obviously there is lots of emotion in this book and it is not just focused on Lou and Will. In particular Jojo does a great job of showing how this has affected Will’s family. Everyone has a different way to cope with the situation they find themselves in and the on-going strain on everybody is huge. Will’s mother appears cold and separate in the beginning but it is clear by the end that she has struggled to show Will how she feels alongside dealing with her own difficult emotions. I was drawn in by the depth of the characters; even those who only play a small role in the story still show some level of complexity. As it becomes apparent that Will is seeking to end his misery in a clinic in Switzerland the sympathy for the family becomes even greater. Lou cannot bear the thought of this and makes it her mission to prove to Will that his life is still worth living. Jojo handles these matters with sensitivity and manages to make you sympathise with many sides of the equation. The subject of euthanasia is so delicate and yet it is easy to understand how Will has reached the point of desiring to end a life which he despises and feels so useless in. Equally the horror and sadness that others feel for this is not diminished, neither are the reactions of those who want to support Will but have no idea how best to do this in such a situation.

As Will and Louisa become closer their relationship becomes more complex, it is always clear that, because of the situation, there is not going to be any straight forward happy ending to their story and watching them grow together this put me on tenterhooks. You will have to read it for yourself to find out how it does all end, but I will warn you to have a box of tissues at hand.

Verdict: This is a story of laughter and tears, overcoming difficulties and not overcoming them, loving and hurting and dealing with a whole range of emotions. But it is still a story of hope, of caring for others and learning to live happily in a difficult world. It is certainly a book that I would highly recommend.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 582
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Scent Of Magic

Maria V. Snyder

scent of magic 2Hunted, killed, survived?
As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomaniacal King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confidant, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.
Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet: an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.
War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible…again

This is the second book in the Healer series and may contain spoilers for the first book.

Maria Snyder is a go to author for me, I eagerly await any new book and I have yet to find one that disappoints. I really enjoyed the first in the series and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this.

The book is told in alternating point of view, mainly Avry, when it is written in the first person, but also Kerrick, which is written in the third person. It was an interesting idea to write in both first and third person, one which I found worked quite well. It did make it much easier to tell who was ‘speaking’ at the time.

I loved the character development we see in many of the characters in the book. Characters that featured more heavily in the first book take more of a back seat and new characters come to the fore. What is guaranteed is that you will feel something for all of the characters whether that be love or hate. I did miss certain characters and would have liked to see more of them, but they will more than likely make a return to centre stage in subsequent books.

I was a little apprehensive about reading the book after finding out that Kerrick and Avry would be apart during the book. Their relationship was the thing I loved most in the first book and I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it as much with this taking more of a back seat. I needn’t have worried. Of course because of this there isn’t as strong a romance theme in the book, but then the romance was never supposed to be the central theme anyway. The action and political manipulation that took place more than made up for it. The book still keeps a strong theme on relationships, just less so on the romantic type. It also deals with life and death and the ethics of bringing people back to life.

The only thing that grated slightly were how often the peace and death lillies were mentioned. I realise that they are central to the storyline, but I just don’t get it. Maybe this will be explained in later books though.

Overall this is an incredibly strong middle book. Often second books in a series feel like ‘bridging’ books but this was a fantastic read all in its own right. I’m just so annoyed I have to wait for the next

Verdict: A very strong second book to a series. Yet again Maria Snyder does not disappoint.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: December 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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I’m Dougal Trump and It’s Not my Fault

Jackie Marchant

I, DOUGAL TRUMP, AM DEAD.
Ok, I’m not actually dead, but if I’m not very careful, I soon will be.
In this first book, football-loving Dougal Trump finds himself at risk from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets upon writing his will – rewarding those who help him, disinheriting those who get on his bad side, and fielding constant pleas from friends and associates [Cool will, Dougie! Can I have your playstation? – George]. Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by rogue footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble. . .

I really love this book because it is so funny. About half way through the story we hear about Douglas’ next door neighbour’s bra being taken and this is how Jackie (the author) puts it:

“Its Mrs Witzel’s fault she really ought to know better then to lean over the fence to stroke the dog whilst she is hanging up her washing especially when she is holding a bra. The bra dangled over the fence just when the dog jumped up (long story short) unluckily the dog thought we were having a game of tug of war. After a lot of pulling and tugging we ended up by the shed (long story short again) the bra ripped in two. Later on…the dog goes to the vets to have half a bra surgically removed.

Above was only one funny thing of many, and I loved this book but it’s definately for an older reader!!!

Verdict: As you can see I have really enjoyed this and think it is the best I’ve EVER READ.

Reviewed by Izzy (9)

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication Date:July 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 205
Genre: Memoir
Age:Middle grade
Reviewer: Izzy
Source: Provided by author
Challenge:British book
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Self Published Sunday: Excerpt from The Caretakers

Following on from last weeks interview( read it here), Adrian Chamberlin returns with an excerpt from his book,The Caretakers.

As a Cambridge College celebrates a midwinter feast, four uninvited strangers uncover a devastating secret. A secret that must never be revealed…for the love of humanity.
Andy Hughes – a man with a dark past and an even darker future. His search for a missing student will lead him to a confrontation with an evil beyond human imagining…
Rob Benson – a van driver who discovers a dead wild boar in the back of his Transit. A boar that just won’t stay dead…
Jennifer Callaby – Andy’s estranged girlfriend, who discovers the shocking truth of The Caretakers – and the sacred task that they perform…
Jason Franklin – a prisoner who holds the key to the fates of them all, and may well be their only salvation – if he doesn’t destroy them first…
A disturbing thriller that questions the nature of evil and the price to be paid for the continued survival of the human race – a price that for some is too great to pay…
THE CARETAKERS – a Master’s Degree in terror.

Extract from Chapter Three of The Caretakers.

She blinked. She’d seen something out of the corner of her eye, a brief movement outside the tiny chapel. Something red…and green.
The doors opened. A woman’s head peered out…and then sharply withdrew as her eyes met Emma’s.
Stacey!

She let out a strangled cry. There was no mistake. The red hair – as wild and unkempt as her own – was a sodden mass that flicked droplets of sea water on the dark oak doors before disappearing into the stone confines of the chapel.

Emma could smell the salt tang of the ocean waves that had killed her sister. The aroma of putrefying flesh and intestinal gases as the body was dragged from the harbour two years ago now filled the cold silent court.

Her head swam with the memory and she felt the frozen ground beneath her feet tilt violently. She sank to her knees and vomited.
She stared at the vomit steaming on the fresh snow for a long time. Anything rather than look to the chapel entrance.

I have to know.

She climbed to her feet and looked around her. The court was still devoid of human life.

But what about the chapel? Human life in there? It couldn’t be. Stacey Robertson was dead. Whatever had disappeared into the chapel, it was not her sister. Someone was playing a sick joke.

Just like the voices I heard earlier? The voice of Stacey on my mobile? That’s no joke, Em.

She had to know. She had to find out. Stepping over the rapidly cooling vomit and onto the grass of the lawns, she made her way to the chapel.

The doors weren’t closed, but they had been pulled to. She put a shaking hand on the knob and pulled it towards her. The droplets of sea water had run down the timber, forming small shining crystals of salt.

The doors swung open on rusty hinges. She stepped in and her glasses steamed up. She took them off and wiped the lenses on her jeans. The musty smell of old, damp stone filled her nostrils. She couldn’t detect any aroma of seawater now.

Sunlight coming through the open door provided the only illumination, not enough to completely banish the darkness. She replaced her glasses but could only just make out the pews and the altar. The carved image of Christ loomed over the silver eagle on the lectern, His agonised expression hidden by the shadows. She shivered. That sculpture gave her the creeps.

The building was tiny, an apology for a chapel. It had none of the grandeur or ornate decoration that other Cambridge College chapels boasted – the Fellowship didn’t even have a chaplain amongst its numbers – but it had something unique. A wooden carved representation of the Passion that was unlike any other she had seen.

Christ’s legs were folded at the waist, the knees pointed to the left. A wickedly blunt nail entered the right ankle and came out of the left behind it, pinning both to the wood. Two more nails shattered the wrists, not the palms, the fingers clenched inwards like claws, the fingernails penetrating the palms and drawing fresh blood. His head was slumped on His right shoulder, the crown of thorns penetrating the skin.

She walked slowly towards the altar, her mouth dry. The snow on her trainers melted, soaking into the faded, threadbare carpet that led between the cracked and chipped pews. The winter sun rose higher, and Christ’s face was reclaimed from the darkness.

The expression wasn’t one of beatific sacrifice – it was an all too human representation of physical agony. The flesh coloured paint was unnervingly close to the real hue of tortured human skin, right down to the mottled blue and purple patches of the bruising meted out during the buffeting. His piercing blue eyes were wide and staring, the shining pupils dilated. The mouth was open in a silent scream, the thin lips curled and the yellowed teeth broken. The fresh blood trickling from the nail and flagellation wounds were a vivid scarlet in the glare of the December sun.

She heard the sound of dripping water. She frowned, and cocked her head.

There it was again. A steady drip-drip-drip, of liquid falling on stone. She thought of the seawater falling from Stacey’s red hair and put her hand to her mouth.

This wasn’t seawater. The coppery aroma was unmistakeably that of blood. Blood dripping from physical wounds and falling to the stone flags.

Emma let out a strangled cry as she saw the source. Around the nails pinning Christ’s wrists to the cross something glistened and squirmed. Fresh blood, running from the gaping wounds to the ends of the trembling fingers before falling to the floor.

The head of Christ then raised itself from the shoulder. Thorns from His crown were pulled free from the taut muscles in the arm with a wet sucking sound. The emaciated chest rose and fell, shuddering breaths taken and exhaled. Breath that misted in the cold air of the chapel.

The head turned to face the intruder. Emma was frozen solid, immobile, under the gaze of the figure that was no longer made of painted, carved wood. The terrifying expression fixed her to the floor as surely as the nails held the flesh of Christ to the cross.
His eyes had changed. The piercing blue irises were now scarlet: blood-red irises that encircled the rapidly shrinking pupils, constricting them, as though squeezing them out of existence. The lips moved slightly. More mist rose into the air to accompany the barely audible words.

“Confess your faith…”

There was no trace of agony or fear in Christ’s expression now. The lips were twisted into a mocking smile as Emma opened her mouth to scream.

“Confess your faith unto him who said All Souls are mine…”

The words were louder now, clearly audible. Calm, confident and commanding, accompanied with mocking laughter.

“All Souls are mine…and ALL SOULS IS MINE!”

The laughter at the thing’s own joke increased in volume, echoing around the stone walls of the small chapel and drowning the scream that tore from Emma Robertson’s lips.

It wasn’t just the blasphemous words, nor the animated carving of a leader sent to free mankind from death and evil. It was because the words were delivered in a woman’s voice. A young woman’s voice that was painfully familiar.

Stacey’s voice.

Emma’s scream finally drowned the laughter of the abomination on the cross. Blotted out everything. She was oblivious to the closing of the chapel doors behind her.

She was oblivious to the slow, measured footsteps of the man who walked towards her with outstretched arms.

Adrian Chamberlin is a horror writer from the United Kingdom. He has had a catalogue of short stories published in anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic, and his first novel The Caretakers was launched at the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas, in 2011 to considerable critical acclaim.
He is a founding member of Dark Continents Publishing, a co-operative formed by six dark fiction writers who decided to take control of their writing destinies and self-publish their works through a co-operative model for mutual gain and benefit. Since its launch, Dark Continents Publishing has now become a respected small press publisher with writers from all over the world – including South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as the United Kingdom and North America – releasing critically acclaimed novels, novellas, and anthologies.

The Caretakers is avaliable to buy from Amazon.uk, Amazon.com and Barns and Noble.

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Incubus

Carol Goodman

‘This is where all stories start, on the edge of a dark wood…’
Ever since moving to Fairwick to take up a teaching post at the local college, Callie has been having vivid, erotic dreams about a man made out of moonlight and shadows. Dreams she begins to fear as well as anticipate…
She learns that her home – a Victorian cottage at the edge of a wood she bought on a whim – is supposedly haunted. And then her new – and rather strange – colleagues tell her a local legend about an incubus demon with a human past who was enchanted by a fairy queen…

Should be noted that I obtained this book from Netgalley under the title of ‘The Demon Lover’ by Juliet Dark, a pen name of Carol Goodman.

Callie lost her parents at a very young age, sent to live with her cold distant Grandmother she finds solace in an ‘imaginary’ prince who tells her folktales at night. Fast forward a number of years, Callie is now a lecturer in folk law, she has an interview with a small university in the back of beyond. She knows the job could spell professional suicide yet she is drawn to the place, and then she finds the old house by the woods…..

Both the covers for this book are quite deceptive with both appearing to be trying to appeal to the YA market. In fact I bought it for the school library and quickly had to move it to the Sixth Form and Staff library. It is definitely a more adult book and is everything that you would expect from a paranormal romance novel.

This is a rare foray into books for adults for me, and despite the above I was aware that this was for adults when I picked it up. It did make a very welcome change and I have gone on to read the second book in the series since. It has everything that I love in a book. Supernatural and gothic themes, setting described so well that you can picture them and very strong believable characters. It was a book that reminded me strongly of ‘A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkness and ‘The Witching Hour’ by Anne Rice and I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone who enjoyed these books. Witchcraft, gothic houses and family secrets are all themes that run through each book.

The supernatural has been done to death in recent years. I liked that the mythology of it all was original in this book, something that is hard to do with the proliferation of books lately. I dearly love anything to do with the fey so their inclusion was very welcome.

Callie was a very strong central character, but this wasn’t to the expense of other characters in the book. As a reader you got to know them all. This was through Callie, as the book is told from her perspective, but she was on the whole quite perceptive and even when she wasn’t the plot strongly pointed out how you should feel about a character. There was a ‘twist’ at the end of the book that I found fairly obvious. But I did get the impression that this was done on purpose by the author; that the reader should know what was likely to happen, even if the main characters didn’t. There was also a second twist that I saw coming a mile off which wasn’t perhaps meant to be quite so obvious. I have a feeling that it was my hopelessly romantic side that wanted the result, rather than me actually being able to predict.

A very strong feature of this book is the setting. The town, the house, university buildings and the woods nearly become a character all of their own. They are described in such detail that it is almost cinematic. In many way the old house, with it’s history and eccentricities becomes a character outside of its description.

Overall I really did want to carry on reading and was quite disappointed when the book finished and quickly moved onto the next book. I can’t wait for the third to come out. It has also made me investigate the author further and I will be reading more of her other books. I now have a taste for books for ‘grown-ups’ which will make a nice change.

Verdict: Wonderful characters, amazing setting and great mythology. A really enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: July 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 480
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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