Friday, April 30, 2010

**Congratulations**


We have a winner for the box o' cake / random book from MFB reading bookshelves and it is:

IFFATH!
Make sure to send me your addy, Iffath!
Also, everyone, it's Mark's birthday today so...go follow him on Twitter as @Gergaroth and wish him well!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Look!

No, I'm not promoting a certain high street chain on MFB - unless it was a new bookshop, of course.

As you can see (unless you're reading this via RSS) we got ourselves overhauled to look all purty. This is thanks to Blogger's amazing new software they are having various bloggers test. I love this look - it's neat, it's tidy. I hope you guys like it too. Also...it has books in the background.

Please let us know what you think!

Beastly by Alex Flinn


Synopsis:

I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and a perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly beastly.


No doubt the movie will get a lot of kudos and girls swooning at the feet of Alex Pettyfer as the Beast in Beastly but really, everyone should read the book before the time. I didn't realise it was being made into a movie so when my copy arrived from Amazon with the red sticker on the cover I thought: dammit! I'll be forced to become pedantic about this now...and I suspect I will, as I watched the trailer after reading Beastly and the differences appear to be HUGE.

But, I'm not here to talk to you about the movie. No. I'm here to sell you guys on going out and buying Beastly because it is a fantastic book that I fell in love with. Had the Endicott Studio of Mythic Arts still been going, Alex Flinn would have been asked to join.

Beastly is a modern reworking of the old story Beauty and the Beast and it is indeed a magical piece of fiction. It works because Flinn manages to capture Kyle, our main character's voice very well. We start off with a headful of bombast and posturing by Kyle. He's hot, he knows it. He likes the fact that everyone worships him for his looks, his money and the fact that he's probably the hottest thing in school. The teachers love him, the girls all want to date him, the boys love to hate him. He plays a role, it's a facade, but one he strongly believes in.

But even so, with all this arrogance, there is a note in Kyle's voice that shows subtle insecurities about himself, his relationships with his friends and his dad. It takes Kendra, a goth girl, to jerk him out of his self-satisfaction and self-love. He doesn't like that he's made to think about the way he acts towards those less fortunate-looking than him. So he decides to pay Kendra back by pretending to ask her out to the school dance. Of course, things pan out that he laughs at her in the presence of all his friends at the dance, belittling her. Kendra walks away and Kyle spins off to enjoy the night with his girlfriend of the moment and his friends, pushing Kendra from his mind. But it's when he gets home that he finds her in his apartment he shares with his dad that the alarm bell rings. And when Kendra says: "You will know what it is like not to be beautiful, to be as ugly on the outside as on the inside. If you learn your lesson well, you may be able to undo my spell, if not, you will live with your punishment forever." Kyle realises he's more than just a bit screwed over, especially when he starts changing into a monster, a freak, right there and then. He grows fur and claws, sharp teeth. And he stays human sized. Not a good situation.

Kyle's dad who is utterly obsessed with appearance naturally goes ballistic when he discovers the state his son is in. Kyle gets dragged to a range of doctors and specialists, none of whom can help them/him. Fed up, Kyle's dad eventually moves Kyle and their housekeeper Magda into a large house in Brooklyn, effectively shutting his embarrassment of a son away from the world. He sends a blind tutor to help Kyle work through the remainder of the school year and refuses further contact.

Beastly is not a large book and yet we run the gamut of emotions with Kyle. His feelings of anger, betrayal, shock and sadness. We watch his tentative overtures to make friends with Will. It's interesting because Will obviously doesn't know what Kyle looks like and initially thinks its a costume he's wearing but then slowly the enormity of the whole situation sinks in. Will - to his credit - remains as Kyle's tutor and has very little sympathy with his charge, really working him hard and making sure that he's ahead of the curve when it comes to school work. Kyle did well at school in the past but he never applied himself. Now all he had was time. So he read, a lot and he has deep conversations with Will. Slowly Kyle comes to realise he is changing.

Kyle undergoes a huge character transformation throughout the novel. He becomes human, a sweet guy, someone who thinks and strives to understand his friends, Magda and Will. He also comes to realise that he is lonely, more lonely than he's ever been in his life, living with an almost always absent and selfish parent. If he's ever to change back into a human boy, he will have to find someone to love him for what he is, not on the outside but on the inside. A very tricky problem.

As the story develops and Kyle finds Lindy, a girl he knows from school, he starts watching her with the aid of magic mirror Kendra had left behind. Lindy's life is tough - she lives in something barely better than a squat and her father is a drug addict. Kyle watches with empathy as Lindy takes care of her father when he needs her, all the while studying, making sure she has a way out, by using her brains.

And then one night, someone breaks into the garden at the back of the house Kyle inhabits. It's Lindy's father and he is so terrified by Kyle's physical appearance that he promises him anything, everything, even his daughter. Kyle hesitates, here's a way to be near Lindy, a girl he would never have looked at twice in the past. Yet she intrigues him. Kyle agrees to the deal: Lindy for the drugs he took away from her dad.

I was so bitterly shocked and nauseated by this part of the book. It really jarred me and I almost gave up reading because what Kyle was doing was so very wrong. Forcing a young girl to come and live with him in a massive house, away from everything she knows - it's just wrong.

But I stuck with it and saw how careful Flinn was with this part, making sure we understood Kyle's motivations and burgeoning obsession. In fact, it's beautifully written and not at all gross. Lindy takes some time to calm down - yay! a spirited female character who is not won over by shiny things - and come to realise the unique position she's in.

Beastly sticks very close to the overall story-lines for Beauty and the Beast but the author makes it modern in this very fresh take, telling the story from Beast's point of view, making us like him for the deeply thoughtful and sweet character he really is. Gone is the brattish behaviour and obsession with good looks, with image, about superficial gloss and indeed, we find a character who has grown thoughtful and careful in his ways with others, who actually thinks of others and is not self-obsessed.

Truly a book about transformation. And one that is very well written. I cannot recommend it enough. I am sure that other readers who are way more au fait with the variants of the fairy tale will have their own bits to add to this review but personally, it was pure escapism and sniffling into a hanky for me.

Find the author Alex Flinn's website here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blogtour: Everything I know about ploting, I learned from Aristotle by M.G. Harris



I first met MG Harris through her debut novel Invisible City which I fell in love with...because of it's cool cover. Yes, I am that fickle. Then of course, I read the rollicking adventure story contained between those covers of the first Joshua Files book and that was it. I became a fan, especially when I got to meet MG in person at the Guilermo Del Toro signing. *double the fan-girling*



The newest book (book 3) in the Joshua Files is out - Zero Moment - and I've purposefully not read it yet. *smug face* I'm holding it over as a treat to myself, as a reward - I'm looking at reading it in the next couple weeks as I'm hoping to have finished revising my own work in progress. Zero Moment would then be my treat for a job done. Because of this, I've asked MG to do something for me for MFB for those writers out there who need a bit of something.



And she's sent this excellent blog on to me and so, without further waffling:



Everything I know about ploting, I learned from Aristotle by M.G. Harris (#8 on the ZERO MOMENT blog tour)


There’s a short book that all writers should read and re-read, thousands of years old, by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle – the Poetics.

It’s only 42 pages long, you can download it for free, use a study guide or buy an adaptation of the Poetics for storytellers and screenwriters.



All of writerly wisdom is there. Quite sobering to realise that the creative writing industry is so old. Makes you wonder why a philosopher such as Aristotle, who laid many of the foundations for the natural sciences, was dabbling in the mechanics of theatre.



It’s not a coincidence that the greatest mind of several generations realised that drama had a pre-existing structure, and that you could apply a taxonomy to dramatic works, in common with all natural things. He put his students to the task of analysing the most popular plays of the past few decades.

What did the most successful ones have in common, he asked?



Aristotle’s Poetics is a two thousand year-old study of blockbusters!


In between each writing project, I tend to re-read at least sections of books on techniques of plotting. This is dense, intense knowledge; it takes many hearings before things sink in properly. Much of the knowledge, a writer might already have. It becomes a matter of judging weight, example and experience.

  • How much weight do you give to a particular plotting issue?
  • What is the keenest way to exemplify a plot point?
  • What does your life experience tell you will work best?

To use one concrete example: Aristotle’s Reversal of Fortune. Complex plots always require one, Aristotle says. They should take place in the final act and should take the protagonist’s fortune from favourable to unfavourable. The opposite is also possible but Aristotle preferred tragedy.
The reversal of fortune should be in some way traceable to a flaw in the protagonist. In EMPIRE STRIKES BACK it is Luke’s hubris that takes him to the deadly confrontation with Darth Vader. The audience has seen Luke’s hubris for what it is, because his Mentor, Yoda warned him in the strongest terms that he shouldn’t go. Yet Luke couldn’t stop himself. A fatal flaw, but we sympathise.


Finally, the Reversal of Fortune should ideally coincide with another key element: the Recognition. The protagonist should recognise something about themselves and/or the antagonist, which makes the next action they take unbearable, poignant or downright impossible.

So it’s not enough that Vader has Luke lined up for death at light-saber-point. This is the moment in which he reveals that he is Luke’s father, who Luke believed to have died at Vader’s hands. Pure Aristotle!


Aristotle discusses the types of recognition, concludes that for the antagonist and protagonist to recognise themselves as family is the strongest. His favourite drama is Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus kills a man at the beginning, then becomes the lover of that man’s widow. Only at the end does he realise that the woman, his lover, is his own long-lost mother and the man he killed was his own father. His grief is so maddening that Oedipus is driven to put out his own eyes.
I’ll admit it; I spend many, many hours carefully plotting the reversal/recognition moment. In the five-part story structure they are usually placed at the crisis/climax, during Act 3. It’s the event to which all others lead.

It’s said that Agatha Christie wrote her books, created the crisis/climax, and then went back and put in place all the implications leading up to the big reveal. Christie’s plots almost always have a long-lost, unrecognised friend or relative coming out of the woodwork – she was an Aristotle girl too.


Knowing HOW it’s done, doesn’t mean you can do it well. But writers like Aristotle, Robert McKee, Syd Field can teach other writers to be keenly aware of plot structure.

Then it’s time to get down and dirty and for a few weeks, look at the trees, not the wood.




Next on the Zero Moment blog tour, Numbers in the Dark by Italo Calvino - a short story collective review on www.nextread.co.uk.

Fantastic! Thanks so much for stopping by MG! It was grand having you on MFB. Now uh, get working on that topsekrit project we've heard about!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cakes and Writing - an interview with Lindsay Eland

We are incredibly excited to have Lindsay Eland on MFB for today - it's her first stop on her blog tour to promote the very sweet, very cute "Scones & Sensibility".

1. What came first for you when you sat down to write Scones & Sensibility? Polly’s voice or the overall story? Polly’s distinct voice came first, and completely cracked me up. She’d respond in my head to something that I was doing or watching or reading and wouldn’t really leave me alone. And when I finally sat down and started writing the first line of Scones and Sensibility, her story kind of just emerged from her over-romantic and over-dramatic commentary in my head. Of course there was a whole lot of revision of her story, but the overall plot didn’t change from my initial draft.

2. Why write for the middle grade audience? I love the growth and experiences that happen at this age and the blending of new experiences with the innocence of a childhood that is still very much present. This was the age (when I was in fifth grade) where I really fell in love with reading as well as decided I wanted to become a writer. Life was magical and confusing, filled with so much emotions on every extreme. It’s a time where girls and boys are transitioning in so many ways, and rather than bemoan those transitions, I long to celebrate them with funny and thought-provoking stories that encourage and treasure this delicate time.

3. What do you think it is about books like Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice that make us long for a more romantic time and place? Well, in my humble opinion, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Anne Shirley and Elizabeth Bennet are two of the most endearing, funny, confident female protagonists in literature. They embrace their situation with hope, humor, and an indomitable spirit that so engage readers that we’d follow them anywhere…even with Zombies. I also think that the longing for a more romantic time springs from the knowledge that something precious is lost and cannot be got back again. I read and re-read and re-re-read those books cause I want to experience something that I never have and never will.

4. You set Scones & Sensibility in a small seaside town – do you think it would have worked in a larger city? How much did placing it there, specifically, affect you writing S&S? I think Scones and Sensibility could’ve worked out okay in a larger city, though honestly, it never even crossed my mind to set it anywhere else than a beachside town. Polly needed to know her town and it’s inhabitants almost too-well while in search of matches to make. And her town is based around one of my very favourite places in the world to visit, Ocean City, New Jersey. I’m actually going for a week this summer with my family, and I can’t wait to smell the salt-water, eat Mack and Manco’s pizza, and stroll along the Boardwalk!

5. Polly’s voice is very unique – very sweet, slightly scatterbrained and dare I say it “feisty”, as befitting the heroines she loves so much. Was it hard work for you, keeping her voice true whilst you were writing and how did you manage it? It actually wasn’t hard at all. Polly was incredibly fun and entertaining and I remember anxiously awaiting my next writing session to see what she would do or say next. The hardest part about writing in Polly’s voice was keeping myself from talking like her after I was done writing for the day. I started many an email with the words, “My dearest So-and-So.”

6. Are we right in assuming that you enjoy pastries and delicious bakes? And if so, what is the recipe you are known for? Personally, everyone loves my cheesecake so I’ve become “Liz will do the cheesecake” invitee to parties. I do enjoy pastries and delicious yummy bakes! My best recipe is my chocolate √©clair recipe, which is also wonderful because it isn’t temperamental to high altitude like a lot of baked items can be where we live. Oh, and will you do the cheesecake for my next party please? (Liz says: if you pay for my flights, I will be your resident cheesecake baker!)

7. Please tell us about your road to being published. As with all published authors, my road to publication is shorter than some and longer than others and filled with rejections, critiques, revisions, and acceptance! I started out my journey writing picture books and actually had some success. I won an honorable mention in the Writers Digest Annual Writing Competition for one of my picture book manuscripts and then won 3rd place the next year for a different manuscript. At that time the middle grade novel was something I looked at with longing to write but always thought it was something impossible. But I decided to give it a try, and instantly fell in love! I wrote a novel called You Gotta Be Kidding M,e which I began querying to agents with in the summer of 2007. I signed with my amazing agent in February 2008 and she began to submit a different manuscript that wound up receiving very wonderful rejections…though rejections all the same. In the meantime, I wrote Scones and Sensibility and gave it to my agent that summer. She pulled the first manuscript from submission and began to submit Scones and Sensibility. It was about two to three weeks later that it went to auction for a two-book deal!

8. I noticed on your blog that you are mentioning a second book and that it is not a sequel to S&S – are you allowed to share with us what it is? But of course! It’s called A Teaspoon of Rosemary and it’s a story about a shy young girl who, on her way to becoming a young chef, learns to find confidence and strength inside herself.

9. Will you consider writing anything for the older YA market or even the adult market? I would definitely consider writing for the YA market, though right now my heart is still fully into middle grade fiction. And really I have absolutely no desire to write for adults…though I think as a whole, adults are pretty okay.

10. What is your writing day like? In the mornings, if I’m not playing a rousing game of memory, attempting to beat my five-year-old in soccer, or getting beat in Monopoly, I usually spend a little bit of time answering emails, writing a blog, checking livejournal, twitter and facebook, and working on critiques for my critique groups. Once 1:00 hits, it’s down to writing and I usually stay molded to my chair for a solid two-three hour period of time...with small breaks to eat chocolate and have an iced mocha, because of course, a writer cannot live on words alone.

11. I absolutely love your website and your blog – how important do you think it is for authors to have an online presence? I think it’s important that readers find authors accessible which means authors having a web presence. I don’t think it has to be a lot though, and really the best thing writers can do for themselves and their careers and for their readers is to write another wonderful book.

12. Do you have any writing advice for aspiring young authors out there? Never stop reading, never stop writing and never stop trying. Throw darts at your rejection letters and eat chocolate until you grow nice and plump, but don’t give up…ever! It’s only when you’ve decided to stop trying that you know you’ve failed.

Please go to Books and Literature for Teens, tomorrow to see the next stop on The Scones and Sensibility Blog Tour.

**competition**

To win a random "cake in a box" from MFB, comment below and tell us what you enjoy snacking on when either writing or reading or out with your friends. It can be cake, cookies, biscuits, crisps, whatever you like.

We'll draw a winner on Friday, 30th April (because it's Mark's birthday) and announce it on the blog. Please note that this is for UK entrants only - purely because I can't afford to post perishables abroad!

Liz's Favourite Recipe: Best NY Cheesecake in the world!

175g plain digestive biscuits, finely crushed (i.e. break it up into a glass bowl and use the back of a rolling pin or a CLEAN bottom of a screwdriver / coke / beer bottle to finely crush them, not a lot of power is required, to save the glass bowl).

50g unsalted butter, melted (microwave is best - anywhere from 20 - 35 seconds)

225g golden caster sugar

3 tablespoons corn flour

seeds of 1 vanilla pod

few drops of vanilla essence

740 full fat Philadelphia cream cheese (this is where you can opt to be good - half full fat, half low fat, mebbe?)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 x 284ml carton double cream

about 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds

You will also require a springform cake tin, or a deep pie dish of approximately 23cm in diameter and at least 6cm deep. Lightly oil it and line with parchment paper.

Preheat your oven to 200 degree Celsius, 180 degree Celsius for fan or 6 for gas. Combine the crushed biscuits and melted butter in a bowl and mix till it forms a sticky mass. Press evenly over the base of the lined cake tin and put it to one side whilst you mix the scrummy insides.

Dump the sugar, sifted cornflour, vanilla seeds and essence into a bowl (if you have an electric mixer, even better because you can turn it on slow/lowest setting) then gradually add the cream cheese and meld it in, be careful not to add air here, as you don't want the cake to rise - honestly! - then add the cream and the egg and beat till smooth and smelling divine.

Put your cake tin on a heavy baking tray (for support and to catch any spillages over the side) and pour the mixture in, making sure it sits evenly in the tin. Pop that into the oven for around 45 mins (don't peak until you must) then crank it up for 5 minutes to brown the top of the cheesecake (or not, if it is already browned). Remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin before refrigerating it.

Serve it with quite a tangy and sharp fruit compote, as it will enhance the flavour of the cheese.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Scones & Sensibility by Lindsey Eland



Summary:

“Polly Madassa is convinced she was born for a more romantic time. A time when Elizabeth Bennet and Anne of Green Gables walked along the moors and beaches of the beautiful land, a time where a distinguished gentleman called upon a lady of quality and true love was born in the locked eyes of two young lovers.

But alas, she was not.

This, however, does not stop our young heroine from finding romance wherever she can conjure it up. So while Polly is burdened with a summer job of delivering baked goods from her parents bakery (how quaint!) to the people in her small beach town, she finds a way to force…um…encourage romance to blossom. She is determined to bring lovers, young and old, together…whether they want to be or not.”

I'll be honest: how cute is that cover? If the lovely people over at Egmont USA had not sent me this to review, and I had seen it subsequently in a bookshop here in the UK, I would have nabbed it - on the cover and title alone.

But, as pretty as the cover is, it is of course the story that matters. Polly is a romantic at heart. She longs for people around her to be softly romantic and share deep meaningful glances. Real life isn't like that, unfortunately, but because she's twelve and only knows romance from the books that she reads and are obsessed with, this is all she has to reference to. So, in a bit of an Amelie-way, she goes about, doing her best to find romance for those people in her sphere of ken, with some truly amusing moments. She turns a blind eye to advice and decides to follow her very stubborn head, convinced that her way is the best way.

Polly's voice is fresh and very funny indeed - she speaks in overly flowery terms. I can just imagine her swanning about in floaty dresses, trailing ribbons, and swooning and dabbing delicately at her brow. It's painfully sweet and funny and mildly irritating because you know she's a clever kid, she's just too much of a dreamer.

Her family treat her as slightly eccentric, her sister thinks she's gone more than a bit mental and there is a bit of anymosity there, especially as her sister is having quite the romantic crisis of her own.
There are sections where Polly completely fails at keeping up her romantic parliance and in these instances the story becomes really funny. I got a good few belly laughs because of it. She's like a little actress playing the lady and then forgets she's really the chimney sweep's kid. She believes everyone has a true soul mate and decides to play (read "cause") matchmaker to a certain extent. But it's not malicious or very well thought out so she runs into a bit of trouble.

What Scones and Sensibility is, is a clever little book, aimed at the middle grade market (8 - 12) and it explores a young girl questioning what she reads in a book and what she sees in real life and sort of preferring the book version.

I enjoyed Scones and Sensibility but was worried that it may be a bit on the very sweet sad for some readers. I'm sure the younger folk would enjoy it though - Polly's character is great, and she shows the promise of growing up to be someone very smart and cool indeed. I do hope we get to revisit Polly in a few year's time to see how she's grown up. (hint hint to the author)

Thanks very much to Lindsey and to Egmont USA for my lovely book. We are hosting an interview on Monday with Lindsay - make sure to pop by, because I will be giving away a random "cake in a box" from my local supermarket. It may be cheesecake or brownies or even pancake batter! This is all in aid of celebrating the underlying theme of Scones & Sensibility: pastries and cakes are best when shared with someone you like.

This weekend I'll also do random postings of favourite cookie and cake recipes. Yes, you saw that correctly. Feel free to join in.

The CILIP Carnegie Shortlist

The shortlist was announced this morning and boy, what a fantastic list!

Here we go:

ANDERSON, LAURIE HALSE CHAINS
Bloomsbury (Age range 11+)
ISBN: 9780747598077

GAIMAN, NEIL THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
Bloomsbury (Age range 9+)
ISBN: 9780747569015

GRANT, HELEN THE VANISHING OF KATHARINA LINDEN
Penguin (Age range 14+)
ISBN: 9780141325736

HEARN, JULIE ROWAN THE STRANGE
Oxford University Press (Age range 12+)
ISBN: 9780192792150

NESS, PATRICK THE ASK AND THE ANSWER
Walker (Age range 14+)
ISBN: 9781406310269

PRATCHETT, TERRY NATION
Doubleday (Age range 11+)
ISBN: 9780385613705

REEVE, PHILIP FEVER CRUMB
Scholastic (Age range 9+)
ISBN: 9781407102429

SEDGWICK, MARCUS REVOLVER
Orion (Age range 12+)
ISBN: 9781842551868

I have copies of most of these at home to read...so I'll do my best to work through them and review them, even if they are shorter than the usual reviews.

Happy reading!

Oh, the winner will be announced on 24th June here in London. I'm definitely going to try and predict the winner myself, that's for sure!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Young Sherlock Holmes Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

Synopsis


The year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer's son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education - the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India and his mother mysteriously "unwell", Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins the summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption with a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent...


The Death Cloud is the first in a series of novels in which the iconic detective is reimagined as a brilliant, troubled and engaging teenager - creating unputdownable detective adventures that remain true to the spirit of the original books.


It's been a while since I've read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories and I'm embarrassed to say I've read very few. However, Holmes is no less than a legend and a book based on his early life hasn't been done before. It's a brilliant idea though and I was keen to see what Death Cloud was like.


Well, it's a thrilling read. If you like Victoriana (I do) then this is a treat. It's stuffed full of period details and very authentic. In the early chapters of this book I felt so sorry for Sherlock; a bit of a loner, distant parents and a brother who's much older. The school he attends sounds awful and poor Sherlock is looking forward to going home for the summer. When all this is whipped out from under him and his is deposited in Hampshire, Sherlock finds his inner resilience and the reader starts to see hints of the man he'll become. He meets an orphan called Matty who lives on a barge. Matty has witnessed an awful cloud which drifted into an open window causing the occupant to let out an awful scream and die. Sherlock and Matty team up to investigate the phenomenom and soon find themselves getting into trouble.

The plot itself is a thrilling ride with barely a lull between adventures. It was also darker than I thought it would be which was an unexpected extra. It's full of evil housekeepers that emerge from dark corners, mysterious notes, bodies and evil henchmen. I can't spoil the ending but the villian is truly fantastic. I want to say so much more about this villain but can't! Arghhh! You'll just have to read it to find out and then let me know. All I can say is that at times when I get to the denouement I'm left feeling that there could have been more meat. Not in the case of Death Cloud which has a truly satisfying conclusion.


In fact I only have one criticism of Death Cloud - I really wanted to see more of was Mrs Eglantine. Possibly she may turn up in future books but her character is gloriously hateful. Another great character is Amyus Crowe, Sherlock's tutor for the summer. Rather than being a stereotypical dull teacher, Crowe is full of interesting insights and information. He walks Sherlock around outside and shows him edible mushrooms and how to spot little things that other people miss. Again, Crowe is shown to be someone who influences Sherlock and helps form his character.


The part I was looking forward to most was looking out for all of those idiosyncracies which make Holmes so, well, Holmes. Sherlock's detached relationship with women is hinted at through his remote and ill mother who's barely mentioned. He meets a girl called Ginnie through the course of the story who befriends him. He's initially very awkward with Ginnie, which is to be expected at fourteen but the beginnings of the man he becomes is beautifully shown. We even see Sherlock having his first contact with opiates through laudanum which I wasn't expecting but it shows that this series has the potential to be quite surprising.


In the author's afterword it states that there are to be more books following Sherlock at school and then at university. I look forward to these but especially the ones at university as this suggest a more YA feel which I think would bridge the gap well between the fourteen-year-old that Andrew Lane has created and the thirty-three-year-old Sherlock that Arthur Conan Doyle introduced us to.


Roll on the sequel - Red Leech.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Dust of 100 Dogs by AS King


Synopsis:

In the late 17th century, famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body—with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.

I cannot urge you enough to go out and buy this book - online or at Foyles in London, Charing Cross Road. Published in the States by the small but perfectly shaped publisher Flux, I don't think The Dust of 100 Dogs have come to the UK as yet. Which is a realy pity as it has to be one of my best reads of the year thus far.

I mean, really - look at the bit of blurb above. How insanely cool and random is that? And you know what, AS King makes it work. As I said to someone on Twitter earlier this morning: pirates, treasure, high seas adventure, action, adventure, Cromwell, capes, pirate flags, curses ... how utterly I've-got-to-read-that!

And before you think it's some kind of rip-of of Pirates of the Caribbean, stop right there. This is unlike anything you've ever, ever, read and the better for it.

The Dust of 100 Dogs is told by Saffron in the 1980's, alternating with chapters with Emer in the 1600's. There are also chapters from Emer / Saffron as a dog, during her long life as the cursed pirate. Emer's story is one of hardship, growing up an orphan after her parents are killed during an attack by Cromwell's army in Ireland. Living with her uncle and his family she becomes mute, refusing to talk. Whatever she does, her uncle beats her. She lives her life quietly, caged, waiting for something, anything to happen. Then she meets Sean, a boy the same age as her, who is a mute. They form a bond, a deep lasting friendship in their quiet solitude. And it turns out, like her, Sean's not to keen a talker. They fall in love, but it's not destined to be. Her uncle sells her off to a rich man and sends her to Paris. Sean is devastated but follows. Their lives are split apart and Emer finds herself destitute in Paris, and Sean's lured onto a boat that's going elsewhere, and not Paris.

It's insane - a sad story, told with great empathy. It's matter of factness is what makes these scenes with Emer very vivid and heartstoppingly sad.

Saffron's life in "modern" times is no better - too clever for her own good, after living one hundred lives as a dog, she quickly draws attention to herself. Her parents rely on her to be some kind of genius, to study, to get good grades, to go to college, maybe become a doctor. All that Saffron wants to do is go to Jamaica and dig up the treasure she buried there and to get away, for real, from these people who are supposed to be her parents, away from a younger brother who is a drug addict and away from the life they want her to live.

I was blown away by how much I believed Emer and Saffron's voices. Both characters were the same, yet different. Driven, determined, enigmatic - these are two girls who life has knocked around so badly - manage to stand up again and again and follow their dreams - wow. Just wow. How bad can positive rolemodels be for a person, right? Oh fair enough, Emer through Saffron in modern day dreams of killing and gouging out people's eyes for angering her. But more than anything, it's a coping mechanism, for Saffron to deal with a life that is less than ideal.

It's very well written. I love coming across an author with such a strong voice who can write really well, who you can read and appreciate for her sheer storytelling prowess. You can sense the hard work that's gone into making The Dust of 100 Dogs. The research and the rewrites and the general quirkiness of the author coming up with this truly unique idea. It's clever and fun and I wish I had money to make sure copies of this goes out to all my subscribers here at MFB.


It's dark, it's beautiful and sad and sweet but most of all, it's bloody good.

Gah! Ignore all of the above and just go buy the gorram book already!

Check out the website that accompanies the book. And this is the author's website.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flesh and Iron - Henry Zou



From the planet of Solo-Baston, there come reports of an uprising. It seems indigenous forces are rebelling against Imperial rule, and a mysterious figure known as ‘Dos Pares’ is at the centre of the conflict. Into this chaos, the 31st Riverine Imperial Guard are dispatched to neutralise a vital battery of siege guns, and find themselves surrounded by hostile local forces. But what the regiment first dismiss as simple tribal warfare soons turns out to be something much more sinister and dangerous.

Ah, the imperial guard. Cornerstone of the Imperium. While the Space Marines might be the icons and embodiment of the 41st millennium, the men and women of the Imperial Guard are the glue that holds it together. Their lot is stand against the myriad of enemies that threaten mankind armed with only bravery and the strength of the man next to him, each as mortal and vulnerable as you or me. So when it comes to their stories, they’re an entirely different animal to those of the Space Marines; these men experience fear and terror, despair and weakness. And with that comes an obligation for the author to provide a story that strikes a balance between these factors, the ferocity of combat in the 41st millennium and the heroism that lifts and binds it all, and keeps the fans coming back for more.

With this in mind, Henry Zou has given us Colonel Baeder and his 88th Battalion of the 31st Riverine, a regiment hailing from a homeworld characterised by swamps and bayous, brought to Solo-Baston to capitalise on their experience with amphibious assaults. They’re selected to undertake an essential but dangerous mission into the heart of enemy held territory, and it’s from there that Henry really turns up the heat.

The oppressive environment of Solo-Baston is well described, and the difficulties of waging a war in that kind of setting carefully considered. There aren’t any glorious charges or massive pitched battles, only a series of brutal clashes and ambushes, the frustration of the guardsmen palpable as they inch towards their target and the fantastically claustrophobic, close quarters battle that awaits them.

What I appreciated most though was that the characterisation of Colonel Baeder and his leading men weren’t sacrificed in the desire to deliver on the action. They grew on me, and when they were betrayed,it struck a real chord, and frankly left me fuming on their behalf- and that's quite something to achieve, no matter what you're writing.

If I had any reservations, it would be that the after effects of the betrayal and Baeder's ultimate fate felt slightly rushed; however, the depth of the betrayal is such that you can understand the vulnerability it would expose, particularly after what they'd been through.

It didn't detract from my enjoyment of Flesh & Iron though- it's a fast, clever and brutally entertaining delivery for anyone who's a fan of military sci fi, whether of the 40K variety or not.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Let's talk about Plagiarism today

From the Oxford Dictionary online

plagiarize
/playj riz/ (also plagiarise)
• verb take (the work or idea of someone else) and pass it off as one’s own.
— DERIVATIVES plagiarism noun plagiarist noun plagiarizer noun.
— ORIGIN from Latin plagiarius ‘kidnapper’, from Greek plagion ‘a kidnapping’.

Isn’t it a horrendously ugly word? In any way you look at it – take the work of someone else and pass it off as one’s own...kidnapping – kidnapping another person’s work. That’s stealing. And stealing is wrong and can’t be justified, ever.

I never use MFB to grandstand about matters but something dire has recently happened to several bloggers whom I know and respect greatly.

That something is that their reviews, their hard work, their voices, have been stolen by another blogger, who by changing a word here and there, is passing off entire reviews as her own. That is reprehensible.

Not only is it bad news for my blogging chum who has been ripped off, but it is also a slap in the face of the publishers who had been sending review copies out to the cheating little scoundrel who has been doing it. They are being taken for a ride – their trust has been thrown back in their face, and the reviewer in question, gets to brag how many books she gets, how much she is trusted in the industry, when to be honest, she’s no better than a thief. And you know what, you're giving me and my fellow bloggers who work our butts off because we love what we do a very bad name.

And what makes matters worse is that although this girl has been confronted by various bloggers about this, she’s explained it away by saying: oh, I read your reviews on the book and probably, inadvertently, “borrowed” some terms from your review / or I studied your review as part of a thesis I’m writing. Let me say: what complete and utter shitty rubbish. Unless you are someone who has photographic memory / or you are a trained actor in memorising monologues, you cannot, no matter how hard you try, remember phrases that well, unless you are sitting there, copy-typing it, with a thesaurus to hand, to change one or two words to make it appear your own.

No one will believe it. Especially if your reviews go from pretty superficial to incredibly in-depth and verbose seemingly overnight. And how your reviews don’t actually correspond in tone, depth and voice.

Plagiarism is something everyone is worried about. Authors, students and professors, in fact, most professionals across a variety of industries are deeply concerned by this. Having your hard work ripped off, in any shape or form, is a violation. It undermines your integrity, you start doubting yourself – can it be, perhaps they didn’t mean to, should I be flattered that someone thought I wrote that well that it could be ripped off? No, it’s a crime. And someone, probably several someones have been getting away with it.

This is the link to my friend Adele from Persnickety Snark’s website - http://www.persnicketysnark.com/2010/04/plagiarism-personal-account.html - where she raises the question of plagiarism. She’s the blogger who has been wronged by this. There are other bloggers who will be participating in this discussion about the silent crime of plagiarism in the next few days. Several of them are in the same boat as Adele. They have recognised their reviews lifted almost word for word and used elsewhere. What a cop-out, hey? What a slap in the face. What a disgustingly pointless and sneaky thing to do! Why lie? If you can’t cope with the review load, fess up, tell the publishers and take the time to read and review the books you have got teetering next to the computer. Where is your pride in your own work? Your morals and your ethics? Don’t steal – you’ll be caught out and your name will be mud. In fact, you have been caught out and your name is mud. Steps are being taken and legal counsel will be sought.

It may not seem much to you guys. I mean, a review is a review. How bad can it be? We bloggers don’t have much we can call our own – no matter how much I kid about “owning” my authors I review, they really don’t belong to me. All I own on this blog, and all my friends who review with me on here, is our voice and our love for reading and reviewing. If someone in our community – who although big, is actually quite small – can take our hard work and put it out there as their own, where do we stand? If we say nothing, we condone the theft. If we kick up a fuss, hopefully a larger audience will realise it is taking place and start paying closer attention to what they are reading online and reconsider where they are placing their trust.

Plagiarism is theft. It sucks. It sucks for me as a blogger. I can only imagine how awful it must be for writers who have gone through this in the past, where their work has been lifted and others have profited. But fortunately there are people out there, fans and friends, who pick up on these things and they are quick to point it out. Please, pop along to some of the other blogs I’m linking to below, and support this drive we’re initiating, the whole book bloggers against plagiarism thing – it’s worthwhile.

Tirzah http://www.thecompulsivereader.com/
Kristi http://www.thestorysiren.com/
Steph Su http://stephsureads.blogspot.com/
Lenore http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com
Sharon http://www.sharonlovesbooksandcats.com/

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine




Synopsis





Allie can't seem to get it together. Ever since her mum ran away to Rio with Rio - her tennis instructor - stealing Allie's trust fund and her comfortable way of life, Allie has been floundering. She works in Sally's Diner, and lives above it. And one night in the basement, she and her friends chant a ridiculous spell - for money, for luck, for love...and open a Doorway to Hell. Ryan thinks he's got it all figured out. When the Door opened he appeared out of nowhere, a Stetson-wearing demon hunter. He's assigned to the Door, and hangs out at the diner, and when the Door disappears he is certain that Allie had something to do with it. But something strange is happening in Brooklyn; something bigger than Allie, and Ryan, and the Door in the diner basement. And when a meeting of demon hunters gives birth to a dangerous idea, Allie and Ryan are left to wonder if the fragile feelings growing between them can survive a trip to Hell...or if they themselves will survive at all.

I've seen Salt & Silver kicking around my Amazon recommends for a little while now and eventually succumbed to buying it. (Please note, the current jacket on Amazon looks weirdly different to the cover I've received, I'm not sure why.) And I read it in a few big gulps.

Alie's voice carries the novel the entire way and it's an excellent voice that grows on you the more you read it. She tough, but sweet and on occasion a bit ditzy, but fiercely loyal and protective of her friends and of the diner.

Six years ago, Allie, her two best friends Amanda (spoilt, rich and a bit of a diva) and Stan (once upon a time a skateboarder gay kid, now a gay club kid) in a drunken fit of stupidity thought to try a summoning spell in the basement of Sally's Diner. Amanda instigated the whole mess, remembering how the girls in the cult movie "The Craft" did it all those years ago.

Somewhere along the line, someone listened and before you could say: "sorceror's apprentice" a door to hell appeared in the basement of the diner and scary man with big weapons in a leather coat came striding in, stopping them in their rubbish ritual and saving their backsides.


Since then, Ryan has been living in the basement, making sure that none of the critters from Hell used the door. He's even gone as far as training Allie to hold her own against various minions. There is a simmering attraction between Allie and Ryan that for all its sexual tension is actually very sweet.


The authors have spent a lot of time doing research and coming up with believable sigils, spells and different types of hells as Allie and Ryan and a group of other Hunters go on a quest to figure out why Allie's door in the basement had disappeared. The dialogue between Allie and Ryan is fast and snappy. The world can tell that Allie fancies the pants of old Ryan but he plays by the rules and keeps Allie at arm's length.

The fact that there are different types of hunters was touched on just enough to give us a glimpse of the fact that more about them may arise in the upcoming novels. I hope so, at least, as it would be a crying shame to have created a coolfactor like these guys and not play it for all its worth. What made it also interesting is that the hunters are in different factions and it was through Allie that they combined forces to enter hell on a quest.

Parts of their quest through the various hells and travelling was dull - but then, this the big thing about a travelling by foot / animal, story - it does become monotonous and feel dull after a while. Because really, you're travelling. Nothing exciting about that. I felt that some of the set-ups were a bit too much Dungeons and Dragons where the DM feels "now I throw these giant spiders at you, what do you do?" "now this wondrous dragon with swirling eyes flies at you, what do you do?".

What the authors (Anna and Katherine) manage to convey though is their research and geeky love for theology, myths and legends. So, in that respect, I can't wrong these two ladies, at all.

Allie's voice is very strong, amusing and sarcastic. It's as if there is no guard between her thoughts and what appears on the page - like in Meg Rosoff's How I live now - it's a bit stream of consciousness and although it's not a bad thing, it becomes a bit over the top in some instances and you want to shake her to just I don't know, quieten her down a bit, to get her to act less me-me-me and realise the true predicament they are in. Having said that, I liked Allie as a character. I soon "got" her voice and was happy to go with it, but I suspect some readers may not enjoy it that much.

I'll make no bones about it: Salt and Silver is puply Saturday afternoon fiction, to be digested with a bowl of popcorn and maybe some Doritos. It's fast paced and fun and sweet and it makes you wish the best for the characters in the book. Allie's character goes through the bigger story arc but nothing is rammed down your throat - and this I liked - because her development is gradual and real, so that when the big-bang comes and you realise that she is in fact a bit more than just a normal, you don't doubt her capabilities at all.

Find the authors website here .

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sarwat Chadda on Memphis Morning TV

I love this so much - friend of the blog, Sarwat Chadda on Memphis Morning TV chatting to the presenters about his novel, Devil's Kiss.



I chuckled so much watching this - it's such a good chat they are having and Sarwat so doesn't look nervous at all.

I am reliably informed that MFB will be part of a blog tour for the sequel to Devil's Kiss in June - yes, you can imagine my squeeling of joy. Aren't I good to you?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Voyager's 15th Anniversary Trailer

This is pure genius.




And on that note, just a reminder not to forget about this coming Friday's signing at Forbidden Planet with Peter V Brett. He of Warded Man fame will be showing off his new novel and signing copies of The Desert Spear.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Captivate by Carrie Jones

Warning: If you haven't read Need this review contains spoilers!

Synopsis

Zara and her friends thought they'd solved the pixie problem. And they had - sort of. They're locked away, deep in the woods. But the king's needs grow stronger each day that he's in captivity, while his control over his people weakens. Who will fill the power vacuum? Astley. He claims he's different. He claims that it doesn't have to be violence and nastiness all the time. Zara wants to believe him ... until Astley also claims that she's fated to be his queen.

There's no way Zara would ever turn pixie. And she's got good friends who'll make sure of that. Besides, she and Nick are so in love they're practically inseparable. But when the very thing Zara most wants to protect is exactly what's at risk, she's forced to make choices she never imagined.


I loved Need, so when I got the opportunity to review Captivate I was excited and nervous. Would I like it as much as Need? Would the second book in the series live up to my expectations? Well, I started it yesterday and was up at six this morning to continue. I enjoyed it more than Need, I loved it.


It was obvious at the end of Need that capturing the pixies was only a quick fix - there would be repercussions. Captivate finds Zara, Nick, Devyn and Issie doing patrols and throwing rogue pixies into the house with the others. Zara's dad, the king, is still there growing weaker while his followers become more restless and needy for flesh. Soon, a new king arrives in the shape of Astley. He appears to be different to Zara's dad but can he be trusted? Astley isn't the only king on the scene either. It's obvious that the status quo can't hold.


I loved the dark underside of Need and in Captivate this becomes more apparent and is stronger in this respect. I could sense the undercurrent of danger which leaks out as you read finally bursting out as the book progresses. Spring feels like a long way off in Maine and in a way I was reminded of the winter of Narnia; I could almost smell the pine trees and hear the crunch of snow. Captivate takes the feeling of threat that runs through Need and spins it into a whole new dimension of terror. This book is far from fluffy and light. However, Captivate keeps some humour. My favourite funny line, "The other king was last spotted in Wal-Mart."


The characters all develop well; Zara still worries about her Amensty International cases but also shows a parallel between her concern for these people and her complex feelings about her own captives. Issie is still crushing on Devyn, but Devyn is getting more independent. Who is Cassidy and why is Devyn drawn to her? Nick is still Zara's protector but can he control his feelings when she acts upon her own impulses despite the fact that he sometimes breaks the rules of the gang? In this book Nick and Zara grow closer. Incidentally, I hated Cassidy throughout most of this book. How dare she muscle in on Issie and Devyn!


Zara starts to turn blue when the new king is in the vicinity and a new paranormal entity arrives and starts carrying away possibly warriors. I'm bubbling over here to spill the rest of the plot but wouldn't spoil it. I didn't expect the book to take the turn that it did, I was flipping over the pages thinking, "No! Surely not!" The ending cliff-hanger is all the worse for the fact that the next book isn't due until 2011.


I donated my copy of Need to the library. Uncharitably, I now wish I hadn't as this series is a keeper - and no, you can't have my copy of Captivate.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Oh Hai! We have a winner!


The coolness that is Random.org has chosen a winner for a copy of Andrew Newbound's DemonStrike.

That winner is....Hagelrat! I've contacted you through twitter - do send me your addy so I can pass it onto Andy.

Thanks everyone for entering!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Random Contest Results

Thanks to the three of you who participated in my little give-away. I thought it was rather mean to have two books for three people, so I am throwing in a copy of 'The London Eye Mystery' by Siobhan Dowd, which I reviewed here. This way everybody gets a book;D!

The three books are:

'Guardian of the Dead' by Karen Healey
'Hex Hall' by Rachel Hawkins
'London Eye Mystery' by Siobhan Dowd

*drumroll*

random.org has decided that commenter number 3, Erotic Horizon, is the winner! Followed by Cindy and Jessey.

Erotic Horizon, you mentioned you would like 'Guardian of the Dead', so please email me at tina(dot)everitt(at)googlemail(dot)com with your mailing address.

Cindy and Jessey, please email with you mailing address as well and Cindy tell me if you would like Hex Hall or LEM. Jessey, I will send you the third book.

Thanks again for participating!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Whimsical Instructions by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess

Because today is Friday, and the sun is shining here in the UK (for a change) and everyone seems secretly pleased about something, if you look at the way they smile, it lifts your own heart a litte. And I think we all need to sit back for a few moments and just love this bit of whimsy that Harper over in the States have put together, to promote Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's upcoming children's picture book: Instructions.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins reviewed by Essjay



Synopsis


In the wake of a love spell gone horribly wrong, Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch, is shipped of to Hectate "Hex" Hall, a boarding school for witches, shapeshifters and faeries. The traumas of mortal high school are nothing compared to the goings on at "Freak High." It's bad enough that she has to deal with a trio of mean girls led by the glamorous Elodie, but it's even worse when she begins to fall for Elodie's gorgeous boyfriend, Arches Cross, and frankly terrifying that the trio are an extremely powerful coven of dark witches.


But when Sophie begins to learn the disturbing truth about her father, she is forced to face demons both metaphorical and real, and come to terms with her growing power as a witch.


I came to this book a little unsure but not sure why. I loved the cover, it's got great blurb but I felt it may be a little too Harry Potter. However, I soon fell in love with the main character, Sophie, from the point where she tries to stop a werewolf attack by yelling, "BAD DOG!" at the top of her voice - priceless. We meet Sophie as she tries to help a fellow outcast at school by performing a love spell to help her attract one of the coolest boys in school. It works - too well; he crashes into the hall by car and screams his undying love. This leads to her banishment to Hectate Hall which helps kids control their powers and ultimately blend in without drawing attention to themselves. Fae are there for flying to catch their bus, shapeshifters for turning into lions in public and so on.


Once there, Sophie meets three powerful witches who seem overly keen for her to join their coven and a vampire whose last roommate died, drained of blood. I loved Sophie's voice, it's strong and sarcastic; she has no problems resisting the coven trio and is happy to befriend Jenna who's the only vampire at Hectate. Added to this is a character called Archer Cross who provides a love interest with a difference. The relationships between all the main characters are intriguing - nothing is as it seems. The importance of blending in is highlighted early in the book, pupils are treated to a life-like slide show of what has happened to supernatural beings through history. We're introduced to an organisation called L'Occhio di Dio who have committed their lives to ridding the world of witches, fae and the such.


I whipped through this book, keen to know who was responsible for the killings, what (if anything) was going to happen with Archer and how was Sophie was going to deal with the coven? Added to this is the additional interest of Sophie's dad and how her family background affects her present. Ex-teacher Rachel Hawkins has a way of writing perfect teenage dialogue, I believed everything the characters said. Sophie's emotional journey is well done too and very touching. Once I'd finished I felt a pang of regret that I'd finished it so quickly - the wait for the second book begins.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Random Reviews and Contest

Hah, we're having a bit of a Contest Party;D!
As I have been very remiss with posting reviews, I've decided to give you some of the titles I've recently read and enjoyed with a short and sweet review.
Here are some TEEN titles:

Un Lun Dun by Chine Mieville

I LOVE this book! It is one of the most imaginative books I have ever read. China has created a world with such incredible detail and the word games he plays throughout the story are just fabulous.

Great characters, great stories and fighting rubbish bins (Binja)! What more could you ask for?;D
This is the US cover and you can find some info on China here.



Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

This debut by New Zealand author Karen Healey is FANTASTIC! She manges to mix Maori legends with ancient myths and well developed characters, taking you on a rollercoaster ride you won't foreget very quickly.

I am looking forward to her next book and her website is here.




The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

This is the third instalment in the 'Darkest Powers' series, where Chloe and her freinds finally have to find out what kind of genetic manipulation they've been put through and who is behind it. Fast-paced action, great characters and twist and turns that make your head spin. Wonderful!
Kelley also writes the 'Women of Otherworld' series for adults and her website is here.




Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie is a witch, but her random spellcasting keeps getting her into trouble until finally her estranged father, who she's never met, punishes her by sending her to Hex Hall. Surrounded by witches, werewolves, sorcerers and one vampire, Sophie is supposed to learn how to control her spells. Exactly!;)

Action, adventure, plenty of teen angst and rivalry as well as good looking sorcerers who may not be what Sophie thinks they are, make this a great read.

Rachel's website is here.

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Absolutely Amazing!
Bloodthirsty monster Unicorns (yes, the pink and sparkly horse with the horn every little girl adores) and a group of virgins, destined to hunt and kill them.

The charcters are great, you feel with them and hope they can find a solution to the problems they have to face and the author deftly deals with sensitive subjects.

Diana's website is here.


Moving on to a couple of ADULT books:

Changeless by Gail Carriger
OMG, I have been waiting for this book since finishing SOULLESS. And it is as good if not better than the first book.

Gail Carriger makes you laugh, bite you nails and scream at the book (I'll explain the last one in a second).

The imagination and worldbuilding is fantastic, the characters are hilarious and some of the dialogue had me in absolute stiches. If you enjoy steampunk action and witty dialougue that makes you laugh out loud, this series is for you.

I screamed at the book, because CHANGELESS leaves you with such a cliffhanger I wanted to throw it out of the window. I cannot wait for BLAMELESS coming in Sepetember.

Gail's website is here.


Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

I am sure I don't have to say much about this FANTASTIC series. This is book 5 in the Mercedes Thompson shifter series and it totally lived up to all my expectations.

Well written characters, great action sequences and me reading through the night because I could not put the book down.

Patricia's website is here.


CONTEST

I have a proof copy of 'Guardian of the Dead' and 'Hex Hall' do give away.

1) All you have to do is comment below and tell me what Teen and adult books you've read recently that you really enjoyed.
2) The deadline is Friday 9th April 2010 at midnight my time, which is Estern Time and I will announce the winner on Saturday.
3) The contest is open worldwide.
4) I will pick two winners randomly and ask the first to chose the book he/she would like. Once I have the mailing address, I'll send them out. However, I will not chase either winner. You will have a week to respond and then I will draw a new winner.

**A Demon Strike Competition**



I have been remiss as we set off for Eastercon and I should have added this competition to go live with Andy's interview.

BUT! Here I am now, like a benevolent goddess, offering you the opportunity to win a signed copy of Andy's novel: Demon Strike. Not only will it be signed, it will also be dedicated to you / youngling in your home. It will be sent directly from Andy. I am merely the middleman through which you will be entering the competition.

And it's not a difficult competition, at all.

All you have to do is comment on this blogpost - be nice, make sure we know who you are / if you have a website, use that to sign into, and I'll be able to track you down to let you know you've won. Also, let us know if you're on twitter so we can follow you back! Alternatively, leave your email address in code i.e. joe(underscore)blogs(at)blah blah (dot) com - to ensure you don't get spammed and we'll be in touch if you've won.

I'll announce the winner on Sunday 11th April.

The only rule is: British Isles entrants only!

Friday, April 02, 2010

MFB talk to Andy Newbound


Hi Andy

Thanks so much for coming to hang out with us!


1. How / what made you decide to start writing?


I didn’t have a choice really; it’s always been something I was compelled to do. I wrote my first book when I was 10. It was about a stuffed soft-toy rabbit called Bunjy and I even sent it off to Puffin. It was rubbish though and they rejected it. Ha! Bet they regret that now, huh??

2. Tell us about Demon Strike, your offering from Chicken House?


Essentially, it’s a ghost story. The main character, Alannah Malarra, is a psychic ghost-hunter who tracks down ghosts to steal their treasure. She has incredible powers and can fire astral bolts and grenades from her fingertips and palms. Ghosts are terrified of her, but she bites off a bit more than she can chew when she stumbles into the middle of a war between Gargoyles and A.N.G.E.Ls.

3. What was your first reaction when you saw that utterly cool cover?


I thought, WOW!! And I adored the lenticular cover. Children absolutely love it: I was at a school event last week and one of the boys couldn’t take his eyes off the cover. He kept nudging his mates and pointing at the demon’s tongue as it flicked in and out. Chicken House do the most amazing covers.

4. Your two human characters, Alannah and Wortley are a very unique pair as problem solvers go, which is clearly a good thing. What came first, the story or the characters and dude, those names! Where did they spring from?


The characters came first, or at least Alannah did. She popped into my head and refused to go away. We even tried to change her into a boy, but that didn’t work. I wanted to create names that children would remember and I think Alannah Malarra has a nice ring to it. Wortley is named after a village in Leeds, my old home town, and I try to include the name of a Leeds village in every story I write. Coming soon, Farnley Sour!!!

5. Then of course we need to talk about Flhi. Tell us about ex-Trooper Flhi and A.N.G.E.L. What was your inspiration here and how much fun did you have messing around with words and meanings?
I love Flhi Swift. She’s everything I think a hero should be – cool under pressure, brave, tough, smart and feisty. Again, she popped into my head in the same way Alannah did and I liked her from the first time we met. Flhi Swift is a lot like me – or at least the ‘me’ I’d really like to be J – which probably sounds really strange, because I’m a guy. (Crikey, it sounds like the book is full of female characters, but it isn’t. There’s Wortley, A.N.G.E.L Commander Rage, Mayor Cheer and Troopers Yell & Gloom. And the Gargoyles are all male too.)

Why A.N.G.E.Ls? Well, I just wanted to use something we all know or think about and spin it on its head, in a funny way. I mean, what’s funnier than imagining A.N.G.E.Ls with guns and gadgets? Of course, when you read the story you quickly realise that Flhi and her Troopers aren’t angels in the conventional sense at all; they’re part of the A.N.G.E.L Patrol Force (stands for Attack-ready Network of Global Evanescent Law-enforcers.) They’re a new kind of ‘good guy’ – heroes for the twenty-first century! Or is that a little too ambitious?

6. You keep up a lively dialogue between Alannah and Wortley. They are continuously worrying at one another. Did you find it difficult to keep up the pace with them?


Not at all. Now this is going to sound strange, but I don’t feel like I wrote it at all. The characters were always bickering away inside my head so I just scribbled down the things they said. They are really close friends – like brother and sister – and they know each other so well. I think the pace of their banter is a result of this.

7. The critters and monsters you throw at your three characters – researched or hunted by yourself?


I’d love to say I hunted them myself. I do visit quite a number of old houses and always hope to see a ghost but so far, no luck. Krot the Gnarl is something completely different. I wanted to create a new beast to fear and make it really evil and sinister. Hopefully I’ve done the job; I certainly wouldn’t like to meet a Gnarl, even if I was tooled up and ready to fight like Flhi. You should have met some of the creatures which my editor cut from the book. I might try to sneak them into book two.

8. Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.


It’s been a real struggle over the years, but mostly against myself! Although I’d always dreamed of becoming an author, I’d never had the discipline to do much about it. I’d start at least one book each year, but always without planning it. Unsurprisingly, I’d run out of ideas and momentum after a few chapters and the story would die.

But with Demon Strike it was different. Once Alannah had arrived inside my head, I sat down and listened to her story. Mapping it out helped – it certainly made writing the story a lot easier - and soon I had a manuscript I was proud of.

I decided to approach agents, rather than publishers direct, and after sending out eleven letters, I received two offers of interest. I chose Lucy, my agent, because she rang my mobile phone and her enthusiasm for the story fizzed down the line. We polished the story together and then Lucy found Chicken House. They loved it too, and now it’s published. Yippee!!!

9. Do you have playlists for when you write?


Yes I do. It’s all the songs I loved when I was a teenager; mostly eighties stuff like Brian Adams’ ‘Run to you’, ‘Boys of Summer’ by Don Henley, and (don’t laugh) tracks from Rocky 4. They’re cheesy as heck, but I love ‘em and they really drive me on.

10. Demon Strike is only the first of the A.N.G.E.L. Patrol books in the series you have planned. As I’m nosy I’d love to know: will each book be standalone or have you incorporated an overall story arc that will span the other books? In other words, what do you have up your sleeve?


There’s definitely a continuing story arc and I’m currently working on book 2, which picks up the story around two weeks after book one ends. I’m also working through the planning stage for an entirely new series, which might be for slightly younger children, or not. As you can tell, it’s in the early stages of development.


11. Almost at the final question but this one I have to ask: pirates or ninjas?


Ninjas! No contest. (But I would say that; I used to be a trainee Ninja!!)

12. Any advice for aspiring writers?


There’s the usual advice, which every writer trots out, about reading as much as you can. It really does help, but only if you can analyse what you’ve read and then work out why it’s good and why the publisher liked it. Then compare it to your own writing and see what you can improve.

Also, plan your work. Invest time in creating and getting to know your characters. Don’t put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) until you know the journey your characters are about to embark upon. Then, rewrite everything until it’s as good as you can make it. Oh, and get as much feedback as you can and listen to it; it’s the only way you’ll learn and improve.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Demon Strike by Andrew Newbound


Synopsis:
Demons from the Dark Dimension pour through a portal in the wall of Pittingham Manor, the mid-point for an attack on high. They’re planning an assault.

Into this chaos stumble 12-year-old ghost-busting psychic Alannah Malarra and burglar Wortley Flint. Up until now they’ve only ever faced tame treasure-hoarding ghosts, but this is something else. Their only hope is a plucky angel police patrol on a routine earth-monitoring mission. Enter Inspectre Flhi Swift and officers Yell and Gloom.

The book also features a fabulous lenticular cover: see the demon strike for yourself!

Demon Strike is filled with fabulous comic characters, including psychic ghost-busting 12-year-old adventurers Allanah Mallara and Wortley Flint, together with rookie A.N.G.E.L police-officers, Flhi Swift and troopers, Yell and Gloom – and some unspeakably villainous demons from the dark-side.
Gah!

As an aspiring children's author, I genuinely don't need the type of competition that Andy Newbound has levelled at the younger age range of readers! How will I ever become famous?


Oh, wait, I'm supposed to review this one, not complain! Right. Gotit.


DemonStrike is one of those rarities that comes along that ticks the funny-bones boxes. Laugh out loud amusing (ever thought hyenas can't be funny?) and completely over the top and silly, I loved DemonStrike (quietly pushes Andy in front of a bus) enough to enter into various email chats with Andy about it. The interview is lined up for tomorrow, so come back to see MFB chat with him...or if you're not that keen, come check out his psycic dog, Charlie.

But, back to the review. Aimed solidly at a market that's been sorely neglected by writers, DemonStrike falls into a very clever market: probably more aimed for boys, there is action, adventure, gadgets, things that slime and dribble and drool, a girl that has something akin to superpowers and nasty bad guys. It's a shopping list of stuff we like to see here on MFB.


He cleverly involves us in the lives of three main characters, that of Alannah Malara, her thief side-kick Wortley and then also, from another perspective, the talented and gutsy Flhi Swift, a police officer from the A.N.G.E.L. team (Attack-ready Network of Global Evanescent Law-enforcers). Flhi has her two troopers Yell and Gloom to back her up on her missions.


And I say cleverly, because the story has so much going on, that you really do need the multiple perspectives. Flhi obviously has to stop the bad things from coming through into our world so her motivations are pretty straight forward. Alannah on the other hand is the one I started out feeling worried about. I found her rude, a bit brash and unpleasant. Also, she seemed very focussed on destroying ghosts, but only after finding out where their treasure was hidden...this worried me as I thought it would be the sole reason for her being in here but I am relieved to say Mr. Newbound managed to turn Alannah into someone much more likeable after a few chapters in because you come to understand her motivation and it's not necessarily what you think it may be. Wortley the thief is just vastly sweet and his constant bickering with Alannah leads to a variety of giggle moments.


The team spirit is evident between both Alannah and Wortley as well as between Flhi and her two troopers Yell and Gloom and I liked this tremendously. We have strong leaders, who lead by example, but they also inspire confidence and loyalty in those they lead. Importantly, we have to strong female leads who can kick butt, chew gum, and still retain their clever attitude.


The story moves rapidly forward and Mr. Newbound shows a dab hand at writing action and uhm, gooey scenes. Ably supported by a walk-on cast of other characters, Demon Strike definitely promises to be the start of a series that may give Messers. Shan and Landy pause for concern.

DemonStrike is definitely aimed at the younger folk and I'm sure it will find favour with both boys and girls - boys for the action and gorey bits, girls for the tomboy heroines who stand up for themselves. Also, the cover is just ace! And yes, I know I'm fickle!

Pop along to Andy's pretty cool website here. Demon Strike is published by Chicken House and is available to buy online and should be in all good book stores.