Monthly Archives: May 2011

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American Weather by Charles McLeod

Meet Jim Haskin. He’s forty years old. He’s worth around thirty-five million. He runs his own San Francisco ad firm, American Weather. AmWe’s image is green and forward-looking: if your product is upcycled or hydro or vegan, they’ll make you an ad. Behind the scenes, though, Jim supports the old captains of American industry; bleach, beer, guns.
But all is not well: Jim’s wife, Denise, is in a coma induced by a drug Jim helped promote. A live-in nurse and former Salvadorian gang member helps him care for her. And Jim’s only child, Connor, has been sent to a boarding school three thousand miles away after assaulting another student.
Orphaned at 14, Jim and his three closest friends grew up at Mr Hand’s Home for Well-Behaved Boys. All have profited from the American Dream. In 2008, on the brink of the Presidential election, the quartet finds themselves short on cash and look to Jim for a solution. The scheme he devises brings together a Death Row inmate, pay-per-view television, and most of America’s major corporations. Everything is set for it to be his greatest achievement yet.
Jim Haskin – what aman! When I first met him in American Weather I was not too sure whatto think – I hated him, then admired him, pitied him and by the endwas so confused that I had to read the book again and ended up mixedup between loathing and admiration!
American Weather is abook I have read, not once or twice but three times – in a row! This is something that has not happened to me for well over a decade!
Jim’s amoral journey is countered by the letters from his son Connor, who is kept far from trouble at boarding school.  We never meet Connor and only hear his voice through the letters he writes to his father.  As much as I love Jim’s single-minded push for all that is unclean in the world, it is his son’s journey told through letters that provides a glimmer of light.
This book is full of gems, my favourite four pages started on chapter two with Jim introducing who he is and what he does – it is six pages of perfection, at least he is honest about treating the public with the contempt only an advertising genius can muster!
I will just say that you have to pay attention whilst reading this book if you do you will be rewarded with a brilliant read – a pure, vicious satireon the American way of life. I enjoyed it more with each, subsequentreading, this book has it all, hypocrisy, amorality, a vicious senseof humour and a true anti-hero who is so fascinating and funny that Icould not help but cheer him on. 
Go on buy a copy and read it – it will make you feel guilty for loving it and you know what?  There is nothing wrong with that!

Mondays are Murder: The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan

Sam knows that he and his friend Lloyd made a colossal mistake when they accepted the ride home.

They have ended up in a dark mansion in the middle of nowhere with man who means to harm them. But Sam doesn’t know how to get them out.

They were trapped, then separated.

Now they are alone.

Will either of them get out alive?
I may have to speak to my lawyer!  Savita Kalhan has TRAUMATISED me!  She lured me in with the offer of a free (signed) copy on twitter and fool that I am I took her up on it .  
 When it arrived I looked at it and thought oooh! Pretty and creepy!  So very creepy-looking!
The Long Weekend is a fairly short book – 180 pages in length – oh good I thought!  Quick and easy – I need a book like that!

Then I made the mistake of reading it! 

It is quite possibly one of the most gripping abduction, escape and chase novels for young people that I have ever read!  The prose is very tight, there is not an inch of wasted text!
Sam is an amazing hero, he is a smart kid but he is just 11 years of age – same age as my nephew and sounds like him a bit as well! 
He realises that he is no Alex Rider as he engages in a terror filled game of cat and mouse in and around the house where he and his friend are trapped. There are no heroics, just a desperate struggle to stay hidden to remain alive.
I loved The Long Weekend it left me breathless – there were several sections where I discovered that I was holding my breath waiting for something terrible to happen. The building sense of dread compelled me to keep reading and as the book neared its end I realised that I had no idea what was going to happen, I had a sick sense of horror in my stomach as the page count diminished and I can honestly say that I was kept guessing until the very end.
It has probably been said before that this story is every parent or guardian’s worst nightmare!
I still feel twitchy even now, I have put the book on my shelf where it is safely away from me!  I fear that I may have nightmares about the worst that humanity has to offer and a little boy who wants to go home.
Five stars for a riveting story!

The fact that I finished The Long Weekend at the end of another long weekend is fitting and totally unintentional.

Many thanks to Savita for the book – it has a special place on my bookshelf of awesome YA books.

International Towel Day

Read the Hitchhiker’s Guide books again! Today if nowhen else! Do this in memory of the hoopiest frood of them all! 

“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

Douglas Adams


Sci-Friday on Books…and stuff is here to celebrate all manner of science fictiony goodness – and fantasy too!  They go hand in hand Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

Now Sci-Friday was supposed to launch (into space fnar!) last week but with problems on Blogger this did not happen.

Now this is not as big a problem as I thought because – the British Library is launching it’s Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it today – how is that for serendipity?  Maybe the distant space gods have chosen me as their prophet to spread the gospel (probably not).

Now I love Science Fiction (and Fantasy) it is genre fiction that made me the voracious reader I am today!  So Sci-Friday will be my space to celebrate the books and authors I loved as a child and the authors that I respect as creators of the weird and fantastic today – yes I still love the authors that write for me even if they have no idea who I am but I say respect because a grown man professing love for a wide range of people across the world would be weird and geeky – which actually does describe me (sort of).

So authors of the weird and fantastic I love you all!  Thank you for writing the works you do, this is just to let you know that I will be tracking you down one by one to say a big thank you and maybe… just maybe give you all a BIG HUG!

I will be going to Out of this World on Saturday.

Thor's Day

Today is Thorsday – now I am cursed on thorsday I was supposed to have a revieof a Thor graphic novel butw  noooooooooooo!  Work and stuff got in the way – so next week Thorsday will launch and I will try and keep it as oriented on Aesir and Vikings as possible!

I would tell the Thor joke but it is not actually that funny

You know yhe one that ends:

I am Thor I am Thor!  

You are thor? I’m tho thor…

Thorsday will be here same time next week!

I promise!

Webcomic Wednesday

Welcome the the first in a series of reviews and articles about webcomics!  I thought I would use Wednesdays for this feature as it is the middle of the week and usually at this time people could use something humourous (sometimes) to read.  Also it rhymes.

Apparently (according to wikipedia anyway) webcomics have been around since 1985.  I was bitten by the webcomic bug some five years ago and am still finding some interesting titles.

To begin I would like to introduce you to one of my favourite series of the moment:

I have been a fan of Weregeek since it began in 2006 and have featured it in two of my newsletters over at TeenLibrarian as I have found it to be a brilliant tool for educating people on LARPS, collectible card games, Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun and other obsessive tendencies of geek kind.

It is also a fantastic (free) read!  The overarching story concerns Mark.

Mark was once just an ordinary guy with an office job and a blonde girlfriend. Except that every once in a while he had a strange urge to hang in front of a tabletop RPG store and stare at its wares pointlessly… Then one day, after a run in with the local vampire coven and The Hunters, he discovered a mind-blowing truth: there is a secret society out there, The Masquerade… OF GEEKS! And he is one of them, “a human by day and a geek by night”…

The story also follows his friends, and colleagues in their real lives as well as in the fantasy worlds they enter through their role-playing games.  It also pokes fun at pop culture…

 Weregeek was created and is written, drawn and edited by Alina Pete and Layne Myhre.

Give it a read, if you are a geek you will enjoy the in-jokes and positive portrayal of geek culture.  If you are not a geek – read it and you may discover that actually you are a geek after all!

So if you just want to enjoy a good laugh with a few soap opera, fantasy, horror, gaming and mystery tropes thrown in then Weregeek is for you! 

Just remember to start at the beginning

For those of you that do not enjoy reading off the computer, Weregeek is also available in print form from the Weregeek Store

The Girl Who Was on FIre

Sarah Rees Brennan asks: Why are readers so hungry for the Hunger Games?
Carrie Ryan looks at how the Gamemakers shape the truth for television.
Jennifer Lynn Barnes rejects both sides of the series’ love triangle and declares herself Team Katniss.
Does real-life media training look anything like Katniss’?  Ned Vizzini says yes.

Who holds the real power in Panem

Trauma and recovery among Hunger Games survivors

Muttations in the real world

What the rebellion has in common with the War on Terror

The Girl Who Was on Fire answers lingering questions, provides new points of view, and will remind every Hunger Games fan why they love the series in the first place.

Having read The Hunger Games trilogy twice I was getting itchy to return to Panem for a third time when I heard that they were making a movie.  My heart leapt for joy as I have a fondness for dystopias.  My heart was still go-going in my chest when I bumped into a competition being run by Smart Pop Books – pay them a visit – they have some amazing things on their site!

Anyway to cut a long story short I won a copy of The Girl Who Was on Fire, which is a collection of essays by some of the best and brightest YA authors. They are (in no particular order): Leah Wilson, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Mary Borsellino, Elizabeth M. Rees, Lili Wilkinson, Ned Vizzini, Carrie Ryan, Cara Lockwood, Terri Clark, Blythe Woolston, Sarah Darer Littman, Adrienne Kress, Bree Despain

Reviewing a collection of essays is not the easiest thing in the world, with a novel you can give a brief synopsis and write about the story structure, characters and all the good stuff the story holds but in such a way so as not to give it all away and make the review reader want to go out and buy or at the very least borrow the book.

It is slightly more complicated with an essay collection (at least for me).  SO I will just say that the essays are witty, thought-provoking, deep and above-all readable.  They can be used for personal enjoyment but also for group discussion and sharing.

The blurb on the back cover says it perfectly:

In The Girl Who Was on Fire, thirteen YA authors take you back to Panem with moving, dark, and funny pieces on Katniss, the Games, Gale and Peeta, reality TV, survival, and more.

Go on!  Grab a copy! join some of the best-known authors of YA fiction (and maybe even discover some new ones) and be taken back into Panem and The Hunger Games.

Mondays are Murder

 They really are!  That is why crime takes pride of place here at Books… and stuff.  The inaugural crime review post is Plugged by the vastly talented Eoin Colfer.  Better known for his YA books including the brilliant Artemis Fowl series, Plugged is his first foray into the adult crime market.  While the age and location of the protagonist may have changed, Plugged is still full of the trademark wit and brilliant repartee that makes his books so brilliant!
Once I have hair I’ll be happy
At least that’s what Irish ex-army sergeant Daniel McEvoy tells himself
I really know how he feels…
Dan McEvoy has problems; his part-time girlfriend lies dead in the parking lot of the sleazy strip-club where he is the doorman, his best (and only) friend is missing, his crazy neighbour lady starts fixating on him and a chance encounter lands him a dangerous enemy in the form of a local Irish gangster. It starts looking as if his hair plugs are the least of his worries.
 I felt my scalp itch sympathetically with Dan’s throughout the novel, phantom itching is bad and I could also identify with his hair-related worries. Plugged is a crime novel laced with humour and humanity throughout. Dan is no emotionless hero blasting his way through faceless goons who exist only to be shot down in a hail of bullets, the bit players are real people even if they were generally unpleasant.
It would be cliché to say that the action never let up (it didn’t), the very human interactions between Dan and the other characters in this tale lifted it above many of the humourless wrong side of the tracks crime tales that pervade the crime shelves these days. Every death is keenly felt (if not mourned) by Dan and as events spiral out of his control, we learn as he does that not everything he knows is as he thought it to be. Through the novel we learn via flashbacks to his youth and military days who he is, where he comes from and why he is driven to do what he does.
Plugged is a thoroughly engrossing novel, there was not an ounce of wasted prose. The humour, violence and old fashioned whodunnit mystery mesh together seamlessly to provide a quick but completely engrossing read!
It is a testament to Eoin Colfer’s skill as a writer that I got drawn in so deeply that I only noticed that I was reading in a mental Irish accent a third of the way through the novel. I must admit that I have not an ounce of Irishness within me, I cannot even fake a convincing accent, but my mind threw up Dara O’Briain’s voice and I ended up seeing him as Dan on the movie screen in my head.

I think he would make a convincing Dan McEvoy… feel free to disagree!

Five years of Teen Librarian

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Teen Librarian.It was on the 15th May 2006 that the first edition of Teen Librarian Monthly was sent out to 12 librarians. I ma pretty sure that most of them still subscribe.

The first issue is still readable here

If you are interested in writing for TLM please e-mail me at editor(at)


I am currently reading this book, I have started it three times as I am loving the opening pages.  A vicious satire on America’s corporate culture and the super rich.

I am not too sure what I think of Jim the main character – utter philistine when it comes to art and culture but a VERY compelling character.  Honest about his aims and values.

Is he evil? At present I have no idea so I will withhold judgement until the end!

I was meant to read it through last night but I was at the Headline bloggers evening and went to the pub afterwards with some of the publicists and fellow bloggers and ended up drinking and talking books until 11pm and was in no fit state to read or do anything except fall semi-comatose into bed.

Well the Headline blogger event was fantastic, I was invited by the fantastic Maura Brickell and Sam Eades

We were shown a fab short film about their current and upcoming books, although I was blown away by the opening visuals of a pop up book that was just fantastic, it introduced all the genres that Headline produce and was beautifully made.  It was made by a graphic designer and I would really love to see the actual book…

The quiz was great fun with the team I was in not getting into the top three but having a cracking time nontheless!

We got to meet some fantastic authors,

 The fantastic Cathy Brett – I reviewed Ember Fury in 2009 and have been a fan ever since.  I now have a copy of Scarlett Dedd signed and waiting on my TBR pile ^_^

The ace Jenna Burtenshaw – I have been a fan since I read Wintercraft.

Jonathan L Howard – an author I have heard about and now finally have a copy of of Johannes Cabal: Detective

 Not pictured but also in attendance were Geraint “City Boy” Anderson – meeting him was a memorable experience, he is a very entertaining character.  I enjoyed his City Boy column in The London Paper am interested to find out what his fiction is like.

 Julie Cohen Julie Crouch and Jill Mansell – three authors outside my reading sphere but fantastic to be around and truly wonderful people – good company to have in a pub (and possibly out of the pub as well). 

Today (Satireday) I went to a blogger meet-up at Waterstone’s in Piccadilly.  Spent the afternoon comparing notes on blogging, YA books and chatting about books and hanging out.

I met Carly Bennett, Caroline Rose, Kirsty, Michelle, Sarah, Non and someone whom I can only remember as the French guy – I am so sorry but I cannot remember his name.  Coffee and much fun was had and a trawl around the YA section of Waterstone’s before home to Doctor Who, the episode written by Neil Gaiman and the best episode to date that I can recall seeing and that includes the heartbreaking one where David Tennant said goodbye to Billie Piper on the beach >ahem<

anyway I must get back to American Weather!