Category Archives: Books

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

fohatIn Mary’s world there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan is the best zombie novel I have read in a long time! Set in a post zombie apocalypse world and narrated by Mary a young woman who is starting to question her place in the limited world of the village and the choices being made for her.

Every zombie-novel and film I have read or seen opens with the world in the throes of a zombie attack. This is the first novel I have read that takes place after the fact (or The Return as it is known in the world of The Forest of Hands and Teeth), where a group of survivors have built a village and thrived in their closed environment. The village life is run on theocratic lines by the Sisterhood who make up the ruling body and the Guardians who protect the village and maintain the fences. The villagers themselves do as they are told and on the whole are content. The portion of the novel set inthe village reminded me of M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village with its inhabitants living with strict rules to keep them safe, with the one difference being that in this book the villagers often come face to face with the Unconsecrated at the fence, and sometimes they are the people that they have loved and lost.

The village has been protected and kept safe for generations, but as any lover of the zombie genre will know – no location is safe forever against the undead. Mary discovers that an outsider entered the village through the fenced pathways and is being sequestered by the Sisterhood. She later comes face to face with the woman and that is where everything changes. Forced to flee with her fiancee, the man she loves and his girlfriend plus her brother and sister in law, Mary hopes to reach the ocean and to finally be safe.

I loved The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and particularly enjoyed nods to other books and films contained within the pages – specifically the shambling zombies of the original Romero films and the running zombie from the remake. The world creation was fascinating, the tale hinted of other groups of survivors who for some time at least were in contact. Reference was made to The Return and I am hoping to find out more about this world when The Dead-Tossed Waves is released next year.

Vermonia: Quest for the Silver Tiger by Studio YOYO

At the centre of the universe, at the beginning and end of all creation, sits the planet of Vermonia, ruled by Queen Fransinella. All worlds including the fragile Blue Star, orbit around her, following pathways of the net between galaxies, wherein the Turtle Realm also lies.

Queen Frasinella’s reign of harmony is ending in civil war due to the betrayal of the commander of her army, General Uro. Hungry for personal power, he seeks the Queen’s sacred Bolirium, fighting his own twin brother, the Lord Boros to obtain it.

As the final battle rages and Lord Boros suffers defeat at the hands of his brother, Queen Frasinella gathers her four most trusted ministers. She uses her magic to transform them, then bids them to flee in order to safeguard the wisdom of her world and to work for its rebirth.

As her final sovereign act, Queen Frasinella summons from deep within her the four Veras of her Spirit; these four will be reborn on a distant planet as four warriors who will one day restore her reign of harmony

So begins Vermonia: Quest for the Silver Tiger a new manga title by Studio YoYo, published in the UK by Walker Books. It is the first in a series, for all ages and illustrated in the shonen style. Nevertheless Vermonia will have a broad appeal amongst girls as well as boys.

The heroes of this tale are four friends (Mel, Doug, Kim and Naomi), who after falling out at their skating hangout each have an identical dream about a boy being strangled by snakes and pleading for help. The next day Mel is kidnapped by Gazso an agent of the evil General Uro. The group leave earth with the aid of the magical Satorin, a Squelp (the obligatory cute manga mascot), and waste no time in trying to track Mel down to free her, and also, they learn, the planet of Vermonia.

I was thrilled (and surprised) to receive a copy of this book in the post. I had been shown some early proofs of Vermonia when I visited Walker Books late last year. From a purely aesthetic point of view the book is beautiful, published in the traditional Japanese style to be read from right to left, Walker Books has also followed the Japanese habit of giving it a dust jacket and a semi-rigid cover. The contents do not disappoint either, the artwork by artist Saki Uchida who was discovered by Akihuro Miyata, the editor and publisher who nurtured the talent of the extraordinary Haruki Murakami, is stunning. The story is gripping and provides a perfect set up to the future volumes that will follow. The only downside is that the book ends on a cliff-hanger and I want to know what happens next but volume two is still a few months away.

Strange Angels by Lili Saintcrow

strange angels

Dru Anderson has been “strange” for as long as she can remember. She travels from town to town with her father, hunting the things that go bump in the night and eat the unwary. It’s a weird life, but a good one–until it all explodes and a zombie busts into her new house.

Strange Angels is Lilith Saint Crow‘s first young adult novel, and tells the story of Dru Anderson, the daughter of a (monster) hunter. When her dad ends up dead she has to use hard-learned lessons and smarts to stay alive long enough to find out who killed him and who wants her dead.

Throwing werewolves and vampires into the mix with her preternaturally gifted heroine, Lilith hits most of the paranormal urban fantasy genre’s stererotypes There is nothing wrong with this as she has managed to craft an excellent story. Her teen characters are well written and believable (within the bounds of the story) and she weaves suspense and horror together well to tell a tale that will keep her YA readers attention throughout the story. The book is the first title in a series about Dru that will appeal primarily to teen girls although boys should also find it gripping. I am a bit out of her target market but I do love paranormal urban fantasy – the more adventure-oriented style, not really the para-romance that is so popular these days and Lili hit the nail on the head with this one (for me anyway). I am currently eagerly awaiting the second volume Betrayal – due out later this year.

The Reformed Vampire Support group by Catherine Jinks

rvsg
People often think that vampires live in decrepit old castles, or mausoleums, or sprawling mansions full of stained glass and wood panelling. Unfortunately that is not the case.

Nina is 15 years old (and has been since 1973) when she was attacked by a vampire.Her life since then has been one of suffering from the effects of vampirism, living with her mother, fanging guinea pigs and every Tuesday attending the Reformed Vampire Support Group meetings. The group is composed of all the surviving vampires in Australia – including the vampire that originally brought the infection from Europe.

The Groups’ carefully ordered lifestyle is thrown into disarray by the staking of the oldest vampire among them. What follows is a desperate search by committee that will bring them face to face with a terrified slayer; into contact with the brutal world of werewolf fighting as well as Nina’s acceptance of being a vampire as well as finding a greater meaning to life (and love) after death.

I love monster stories and have a particular fondness for urban paranormal tales by authors like Jim Butcher and Lilith St. Crow (and the early Laurell K. Hamilton). Catherine Jinks’ creations takes the vampire myth in a (humourous at times) direction that I do not see often. They have all the weaknesses that traditional vampires have – burning in the sun, only able to feed of blood, death by staking and none of the strengths. So no transforming in to bats, no super strength none of the sexy vamp. lifestyle popularised by Twilight and the Underworld series – both referenced in this novel. The closest Nina comes to this `way of life is in the novels she writes (under an assumed name) about Zadia Bloodstone. Jinks’ vampires live the lives of junkies desperate for a fix but terrified of spreading their infection and of being discovered and being slaughtered by a population that is unaware of them living in their midst.

who is charlie keeper?

Classics Illustrated

On the 25th September 2008 the Classics Illustrated line of graphic novels were relaunched in the UK by Jeff Brooks of the Classic Comic Store. Originally launched in the 1940’s Classics Illustrated have not been published in the UK since 1970.

All the original artwork has been re-coloured with digitally enhanced covers and the series will be available in WH Smiths, Borders and other leading retailers throughout the UK. They will also be in stores in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Republic of Ireland. Published monthly, the first issues will be The War of the Worlds and Snow White followed by Oliver Twist and The Ugly Duckling in October.

These abridged texts are ideal to introduce reluctant readers to classic literature without putting them off due to the length or density of the original texts.

The books include a one-page biography of the authors as well as suggested themes and topics for post-reading discussion.

Each of the books ends with the text: Now that you have read the Classics Illustrated edition, don’t miss the added enjoyment of reading the original, obtainable at your school or public library.

War of the Worlds The man in the iron mask

Great Expectations

Classical Comics is releasing their second title by Charles Dickens – Great Expectations. As with most of their books it is available in two versions:

Original Text: The classic novel brought to life in full colour. The original text is set within a graphic novel format using as much of the text and dialogue as possible given the space allowed.

Quick Text: The full story in quick, modern English for a fast-paced read. This uses the same artwork as the Original Text version, but with fewer and simpler words to allow reluctant, younger and/or emerging readers to enjoy the book.

I am a fan of the books produced by Classical Comics, their graphic novels do not look out of place on the graphic novel display shelves in my library. The original and quick text versions are both incredibly popular with students, people looking to improve their level of English and people who generally enjoy graphic novels.

Skim by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki

Winner of the 2008 Ignatz Award for Best Graphic Novel, and appearing on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book List, Skim is being published by Walker Books in the UK.

Skim The story, told in the form of a diary and comic strip is seen from the perspective of Kimberly Keiko “Skim” Cameron, an aspiring Wiccan and goth who is coping with a broken arm and separated parents when the suicide of (a possibly gay) ex boyfriend of a classmate throws hers and everyones’ lives into turmoil.

Having to deal with a guidance counselor who is concerned about her state of mind (goths being prone to self-harm and suicide) and the antagonism of the girls in the Celebrate Life club; she also has to cope with the growing realisation that she is falling in love with her Englsih teacher Mrs Archer and the fact that her Wiccan circle also serves as a branch of the local AA.

Skim is a brilliantly told and illustrated coming of age tale that will appeal to young readers and adults alike. This book deals with a number of themes that are relevant to teenagers (including suicide, parental separation, youthful alienation, the journey to finding oneself, love and many others) the story is told in a way that is hilarious and heart-breaking in equal measure. Skim is a likable (if sarcastic) protagonist who draws you in and makes you feel what she is feeling and at the end leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

It has been described by Paul Gravett as one of the best comics of 2008 and is truly deserving of that accolade!

Skim is due out in May and is highly recommended for all Graphic Novel collections!

Twilight: Supernatural Sweet Valley High?

That is how the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer was described to me by a friend (who shall remain nameless lest his life be threatened by hordes of fangirls).  I have not read the series yet as the waiting list is over a month long in my local library, my name is down to receive the books when my turn comes round and I shall form an opinion once I have read them.  They are proving to be incredibly popular and as a colleague said in passing:  “Anything that gets teens to read has to be good for libraries!”

There is even a facebook site dedicated to girls who have decided not to wait for Prince Charming and instead are waiting for their Edward Cullen to arrive,  it has just under 50 000 members at present.  I have read that in America a number of bookstores and libraries have held Twilight midnight proms (to celebrate the release dates of the books).  Going by the level of popularity the movie version has been experiencing and by extension the book series, it should be possible to hold similar events in UK Libraries (pending health & safety checks of course).

Manga Genres

Bishojo: Japanese for ‘beautiful girl’, blanket term that can be used to describe any anime that features pretty girl characters, e.g. Magic Knight Rayearth.

Bishonen: Japanese for ‘beautiful boy’ blanket term that can be used to describe any anime that features “pretty” and elegant boys and men, e.g. Fushigi Yukgi.

Ecchi: Derived from the pronunciation of the letter ‘H’. Japanese for ‘indecent sexuality’. Contains mild sexual humor, e.g. Love Hina.

Hentai: Japanese for ‘abnormal’ or ‘perverted’, and used by Western Audiences to refer to pornographic anime or erotica. However, in Japan the term used to refer to the same material is typically Poruno or Ero.

Josei: Japanese for ‘young woman’, this is anime or manga that is aimed at young women, and is one of the rarest forms.

Kodomo: Japanese for ‘child’, this is anime or manga that is aimed at young children, e.g. Doraemon.

Mecha: Anime or manga featuring giant robots, e.g. Mobile Suit Gundam.

Moé: Anime or manga featuring characters that are extremely perky or cute, for example Little Snow Fairy Sugar.

Progressive: “Art films” or extremely stylized anime, e.g. Voices of a Distant Star.

Seinen: Anime or manga similar to Shonen, but targeted at teenage or young male adults, e.g. Oh My Goddess!

Sentai/Super Sentai: Literally “fighting team” in Japanese, refers to any show that involves a superhero team, e.g. Cyborg 009.

Shojo: Japanese for ‘young lady’ or ‘little girl’, refers to anime or manga targeted at girls, e.g. Fruits Basket.

Maho shojo: Subgenre of Shoujo known for ‘Magical Girl’ stories, e.g. Sailor Moon.

Shojo-ai: Japanese for ‘girl-love’, refers to anime or manga that focus on love and romance between female characters, e.g. Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Shonen: Japanese for ‘boys’, refers to anime or manga targeted at boys, e.g. Dragon Ball Z.

Shonen-ai: Japanese for ‘boy-love’, refers to anime or manga that focus on love and romance between male characters. This term is being phased out in Japan due to references to pedophilia, and is being replaced by the term “Boys Love”