Category Archives: Books

Authors to watch in 2010: Tamsyn Murray

I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. When I was four, I wanted to be Princess Leia from Star Wars when I grew up, but only if I got to marry Luke Skywalker – I was totally disgusted when I found out they were brother and sister. At the age of six, I decided I’d like to be a vet, until I realised it wasn’t all cute kittens and fluffy bunnies. In fact, over the years I’ve tried all sorts of jobs, from fruit picking to burger flipping, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I realised suddenly everything I’d done before was just research for my real career – writing.

I started off this new career by writing a short story. It was about a woman planning to murder her husband for snoring (can you guess where the inspiration for that came from?) and it was funny for all the wrong reasons. But the more I wrote, the better I got so that by the time I tried my hand at writing my first novel, titled My So-Called Afterlife, I sort of knew what I was doing and some of the comedy was actually intentional. Someone else thought so, too, because before I knew it I had an agent and then a publishing deal. I’m still pinching myself over that.

My So-Called Afterlife tells the story of Lucy Shaw, a fifteen year old ghost trapped in the men’s toilets on Carnaby Street in London. It isn’t until a lighting engineer called Jeremy walks in and she realises he can see her that things start looking for Lucy. Once he helps her find a way out of the loo, she discovers that there’s a whole afterlife waiting to be explored. Together with her new best friend, Hep, and the divinely snoggable Ryan, Lucy tracks down her killer. But she also finds that catching him comes with a hefty price. Will the ultimate cost of closure be more than Lucy is willing to pay?

My So-Called Afterlife will be available from 26th February 2010 you can read the first chapter here: http://tinyurl.com/yefgk6u . You can find out more about me at www.tamsynmurray.co.uk

Meteorite Strike by A.G. Taylor

A meteorite has struck earth without warning, unleashing a deadly alien virus. Thousands fall victim… but not Sarah and Robert.

Instead they develop strange side-effects – psychic abilities. And that makes them targets for the the Hyper-Infectious Disease Response Agency (HIDRA), a rogue international agency determined to turn them into lab rats, just like the other kids they’ve already captured – kids who can control fire, create storms and tear steel with their minds.

If they can work together, these kids might stand a chance against HIDRA…

This is the debut novel for A.G. Taylor and has made the shortlist for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize for 2010. Meteorite Strike is the first book in the Superhumans series, with a second book Alien Storm due out later this year.

On their way to Australia to live with a father they have not seen in years, Sarah and Robert are typical siblings that bicker and argue. When their aeroplane is brought down in the aftermath of a meteorite strike they have to depend on each other and a parent they have no reason to trust to stay alive. Pursued and captured by HIDRA they are soon caught in the middle of a power struggle between the senior echelons of the agency to determine the core functions of HIDRA – saving lives or creating human weapons of destruction.

It is easy to see why Meteorite Strike has made the Waterstones’ short list as it is a gripping, well told story that takes the time-honoured staple of children gaining superpowers and polishes it up for a new century. Throw in a corrupt multinational agency an unknown disease and you have the makings of world class sci-fi! It is not all science fiction though – space-borne plagues are a possibility, and there are some theories that alien diseases have already reached the Earth.

On a personal level I found Meteorite Strike to be an extremely enjoyable read, the characters were well-written and believable and overall it set the pace for what I think is going to be a fantastic series, the strands that were left dangling at the conclusion make me want to get my hands on Alien Storm as soon as possible.

Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide by William Hussey

Posting a review of a horror book on Christmas eve may be a bit odd but seeing as it is the season to be jolly, I have entered into the spirit of things in the writing of this review…

Jake Harker is an outsider, a loser whose nose is always in a horror comic. That is until horror stops being fiction and the Pale Man and his demon Mr Pinch stop Jake on a dark, deserted road. That night, under a tree called the demon’s dance, Jake will learn the true meaning of terror . . .

‘Twas the day before Christmas
and as I lay on the beach
Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide
Lay within reach.

I picked it up
to read a few pages.
Next thing I knew
I had been reading for ages!

In each generation
blood must be shed.
All this and more
I learned as I read.

Demons lie trapped,
they wait to be freed
by a coven of witches
a dangerous breed!

The Elders oppose them
the Demontide to deny.
To halt the invasion
an innocent must die!

Jake Harker (aka Horror Boy Harker) is a 15 year old loner and horror fan and makes a credible hero of this new series that combines magic, demonology, horror and cutting edge science. Jake will appeal to readers of all ages and genders but will grab the attention any readers who feel like outsiders (and seeing as this is written for teens there will be many).

No punches are pulled in the telling of this tale, the horror is visceral but never feels forced and none of the characters are two-dimensional caricatures. The lack of black and white morality makes the story far more interesting as shades of grey always have more depth. The story twists and turns like a spider on a pin and I was never sure of the motivations of all the players until the closing chapters. Dawn of the Demontide is a chilling read on a hot summers day, it will be even better late at night with a winter storm howling outside the window.

William Hussey is being heralded as one of the new masters of dark fiction, and with this book his ascent begins.

Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide
by William Hussey will be published in March 2010 by Oxford University Press

We Need to talk About Kelvin : chapter 11

Earth’s full, go home

How the fact there are aliens on Earth is telling us either we are the first intelligence to arise or some unknown factor prevents the evolution of space-faring civilisations

Sometimes I think we are alone, sometimes I think we are not. Either way, the thought is staggering.
Buckminster Fuller

I’m sure the Universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.
Arthur C. Clarke

One striking feature of the world is so obvious that, like the darkness of the sky at night, it is almost never remarked upon. It does not matter what country you live in, what continent you are on, where at all you are on the planet. There are no aliens. They are not loitering on street corners, coasting angelically through the clouds above your head or materialising and de-materialising like crew members of the “Star Trek” Enterprise.
The fact there are no aliens on Earth is widely believed to be telling us something profound about intelligent life in the Universe. Unlike the case with the other everyday observations in his book, however, no one is quite sure what that profound thing is.

Over the years, many people have realised that the lack of aliens on Earth is a deep puzzle. However, the person who articulated it in the most memorable way was the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. One of the last physicists to combine the roles of front-rank theorist and an experimentalist, not only did Fermi come up with a theory of radioactive beta decay, which predicted the existence of the ghost-like “neutrino, but he constructed the first nuclear reactor – on an abandoned squash court under the west stand of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. Fermi’s “nuclear pile”, which went “critical” on 2 December 1942, made the “plutonium” for one of the two atomic bombs dropped by America are on Japan. Those bombs were tested in the desert of New Mexico. And it was, while visiting the bomb lab at Los Alamos in the summer of 1950, that Fermi made his memorable observation about extraterrestrials.
He was having lunch in the canteen with Herbert York, Emil Konopinski and Edward Teller, the “father of the H-bomb”. The physicists had been discussing ETs because of a recent spate of newspaper reports of “flying saucers”. Although the discussion had turned to more mundane subjects, Fermi had gone quiet, deep in thought. Suddenly, in the middle of the ensuing conversation, he blurted out: “Where is everybody?” The others around the table immediately knew what he was referring to – ETs. They also recognised that Fermi, a man with a reputation as a deep thinker, had articulated something important and profound.
Fermi was a renowned for his back-of-the envelope calculations. For instance, at the explosion of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo in the New Mexico desert on 15 July 1945, he had dropped a scrap of paper from shoulder height and watched how it was deflected by the shock wave from the Bomb. Knowing that Ground Zero was 9 miles away, he estimated the energy of the blast – the equivalent of more than 10,000 tonnes of TNT.
Implicit in Fermi’s “Where is everybody?” question was a similar back-of-the-envelope calculation. How long it would take a civilisation that developed a star-faring capability to spread to every star system in our Milky Way galaxy?
Fermi never revealed the details of his reasoning. However, more likely than not he realised that the most efficient way to explore the Galaxy would be by means of self-reproducing space probes. Such a probe, on arrival at a destination planetary system, would set about constructing two copies of itself from the raw materials found there. The two daughter probes would then fly off and, at the next planetary system, build two more copies. In this way, the probes would infect the Galaxy relatively rapidly like bacteria spreading throughout a host.
Using plausible estimates for the speed of such probes and the time required to make copies, it was possible to estimate how long it would take to visit every star in the Milky Way. And the answer was surprisingly modest – between a few million and a few tens of millions of years. Since this was a mere fraction of the 10 billion-year lifespan of our Galaxy, one conclusion was unavoidable. If a star-faring race had arisen at any time in the history of our Galaxy, its space probes should be here on Earth today. So, in Fermi’s immortal words, “Where is everybody?”

Fallen by Lauren Kate

My Love Lies Bleeding by Alyxandra Harvey

loveliesb
Looking for something to sink your teeth into? Need a new hero to get your pulse racing? Waiting in ‘vein’ for another Twilight book? Look no further – the Drakes have arrived . . .

Solange Drake has always known she is a vampire, but she’s not just any vampire. She is the only female vampire ever born; she is destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy and become queen. The trouble is, a lot of people and vampires want to kill her because of this, and those that don’t just keep falling in love with her. To top it all off, Solange doesn’t really want to be queen and would rather concentrate on surviving the excruciating, and possibly fatal, change from human to vampire that occurs on her 16th birthday. Right now, life sucks for Solange.

Lucy is Solange’s human best friend. So when Solange is kidnapped Lucy is determined to come to the rescue with the help of Nicholas, Solange’s sexy older brother. Can Lucy save the day and resist the charms of Nicholas?

Try the prologue and first chapter here

Bloomsbury has created a Facebook fan page for ‘fang-tastic’ My Love Lies Bleeding this will be regularly updated with news, competitions and more. Access the fan page here.

Strange Angels: Betrayals by Lili St.Crow

BetrayalsPicking up immediately after Strange Angels ended, Dru is thrust into yet another dangerous situation.

Placed in a Schola for her own protection, she does not know who to trust or who is trying to kill her. The Schola is riven by factions, the Wulfen who welcome Graves, her loup-garou friend and look upon him as a prince of their kind, and the Djamphir, part-Vampires, whose disdain for the Wulfen is almost palpable. The Wulfen mistrust her and the Djamphir see her more as a tasty snack than a potential saviour.

Surrounded by secrets and lies, Dru learns that she does not know everything she thought she did, and must rely on her own instincts and skills to stay alive.

What are Christophe’s true intentions, and to whom does he owe his loyalties? Why is she being kept sequestered in a reform school for the supernatural? Who are her friends? Who is the traitor in the Order and why has she been lied to and misled? What is her full name?

We start finding answers to some of these questions in Strange Angels: Betrayals, the second book in the Strange Angels series by Lili Saintcrow.

One thing is for sure – she is not at Hogwarts, and no-one can be relied on to protect her.

Betrayals is an excellent follow up to Strange Angels, a kick-arse heroine, supernatural politics, more mystery than you can shake a stick at and just enough information is dropped during the book to make me want the third book NOW! I loved it – even more than Strange Angels, and can see this series going far

Lili Saintcrow captures the high school atmosphere and transfers it to a setting where the characters can sprout fur (natural for teens) and fngs (slightly less natural) and are expected to draw blood in their lessons. It gives new meaning to high school being a warzone.

Betrayals can be read on its own but will be more enjoyable if read in sequence.

The Making Of ‘Grandville’ And The Anthropomorphic Tradition – a talk by Bryan Talbot

Bryan Talbot is the award-winning creator of The Tale of One Bad Rat, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Alice in Sunderland and more recently Grandville – a graphic novel which is a Victoriana/Art Nouveau steampunk tale of murder and intrigue (with added badger). He has also illustrated many other graphic novels including Slaine, Nemesis the Warlock, Sandman, Hellblazer and Teknophage.

Mr Talbot has a talk he can give for older audiences, called ‘The Making Of ‘Grandville’ And The Anthropomorphic Tradition’.

Bryan can be contacted for more info via… bryantalbot at btinternet dot com

Free eBook offer from YA author Jonathan Zemsky


YA author and all-round excellent bloke Jonathan Zemsky has released his first novel Beyond the Shadows of Summer into the wilds as an eBook.

Download the book here: Beyond the Shadows of Summer

It is one of the first books I reviewed, you can read the review here.

Did I mention that it is free? Get downloading! It is a fantastic read and an excellent introduction to a brilliant writer!

Sea Djinn by Linda Davies

Fear one thing in all that is… Fear the Djinn – The Wishmaster

seadjinn

In writing Sea Djinn Linda Davies has created a book that takes you inside the story and makes it real. The description of the sand, sea and surf in the opening chapter made me long for the ocean and to feel a surfboard move gliding me over the waves, it was then that I knew I was hooked that Sea Djinn had hooked me!

Set in Dubai, Sea Djinn mixes 21st century Teens with the myths and folktales of the Emirates. Finn Kennedy lives in Dubai with his aunt and cousins and attends a prestigious local school with Georgie and his friend Fred. His life is changed when he comes face to face with Triton a Djinn of the Sea. Triton tells him that his parents have been kidnapped by Hydrus – the evil sea Djinni and that he Finn is a descendant of the royal blood of Atlantis and is an important part of the fight that is brewing between the forces of Light and Darkness.

Mixing mythic encounters into contemporary life is not a new concept but Linda Davies has created something special here, adding in human greed and intrigue as well as ecological awareness into a fast-paced adventure no part of the story feels forced or false. The characters are fleshed out through the book and even the (human) villains are more than two-dimensional caricatures that often populate YA books as foils for the heroes. The twists in the story are artfully done and I did not see them coming until they were happening. The sense of the fantastic is present throughout the book but magic never comes to dominate the story instead it is the humanity of the protagonists (mortal, animal and mystical) that shines through and leads the story.

I loved it and am eagerly awaiting Fire Djinn which is due out next year.

I also learned that Djinn is plural and Djinni is the singular. They are beings of fire and not to be trifled with even if you have a hankering for some free wishes…