Category Archives: Books

Poison City by Paul Crilley

The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone’s mother than a cop. Don’t let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he’s a mean drunk.

Poison-City-by-Paul-Crilley-Crop

Naming a book after a strain of marijuana takes a serious set of stones! (or should I say stoners?)

Set in Durban, a grubby jewel on the East Coast of South Africa, Poison City is one the best urban fantasy novels I have read in ages! It joins a small yet growing pool of weird novels set in South Africa that are muscling in on the global fantasy stage.
Paul Crilley is obviously a fan of the city as he writes about it so well and only a person that has lived there can capture the atmosphere so accurately – he is a brilliant writer (even if he is a bit of a doos about Cape Town).

Look I am not sure why I am even trying to review this dirty, beautiful bastard of a book, when stars like Krysten Ritter give out such amazing quotes:
ritter poison city
Like many people I am a fan of Dog – Gideon Tau’s alcoholic, foul mouthed spirit guide “You forgot the sherry, dipshit” – seriously what is not to like?

By the way if you want to experience what the dog enjoys you can actually buy Sedgwick’s Old Brown sherry (sorry – fortified wine over here due to EU protected designation of origin status laws) at many of the fine South African stores around the UK. It is the perfect tipple for enjoying while you read!

Gideon is a tragic, seriously messed-up individual, with a gift for magic that may kill him if his self-destructive urges do not get that job done first but he has the misfortune to be a man who needs to do the right thing even if it is not necessarily a good thing!

Poison City is a fantasy crime novel soaked in the daily grind of South African life that can be a frustration for many as well as incorporating the mythology of Africa and beyond!

Seriously mythology, magic tattoos, monstrous angels, corruption and a threat of a war to wipe out humanity – there is something in this book for almost everyone!

Perfect for fans of Mike Carey, Lauren Beukes and Charlie Human!

poison city

#ChildrenofIcarus Blog Tour: If I could have a super power it would be…

Today I am fortunate to welcome author Caighlan Smith to Teen Librarian for today’s stop on the global blog tour for hew new novel Children of Icarus

Children of Icarus high res
If I could have a super power, it would probably be something boring and generic to everyone who hears the answer—that is, flight. But there are a bunch of reasons why this would backfire on me. First, is being able to fly really that practical in this day and age? Someone would see you, probably immediately, and before you know it you’d be snatched by a secret government organization dedicated to solving the super-charged mutations plaguing our DNA. Or the world would brand you a super hero and expectations would be at an all-time high. Either way, stressful. Plus, I have asthma. I get winded running uphill. Imagine what would happen when the air is literally being ripped from my lungs in a vicious current hundreds of feet above the ground. Taking all of that into account, maybe my power could be clean-bill-of-health, incognito flying?
Children of Icarus author pic_7 (1)
My new novel, Children of Icarus, features some flying characters, but I wouldn’t exactly call their flying a super power in this context. The novel’s protagonist is a sixteen year-old girl who is made to enter a labyrinth that will supposedly lead her to the land of the angels; to paradise. What she finds in the labyrinth is a far-sight from paradise, and soon the protagonist and a group of other youths find themselves struggling to survive. They don’t get any super powers—unless you count luck—but at least they aren’t asthmatic.

Zombie XI a novel by Pete Kalu

zombiexi
The ghostly players from the winning 1966 England World Cup team tell Leonard that if he follows their instructions, not only will he get off the bench – but Dulcie High XI will start to take control. Leonard obeys, and the team’s prospects surge. But what is the price of the zombies’ involvement? How high will the price be – and what pound of living flesh will they demand?

I have to be honest – I am not really a fan of football, the British teams leave me cold and whenever anyone asks me which team I support, I usually say the Kaizer Chiefs (the band is named after them) and then say that I am usually a rugby man.

But a funny thing has happened – I picked up Zombie XI, mainly because it had the word ‘zombie’ in the title and if you say one thing about me say that I do enjoy a good horror story.

Needless to say this book was not totally what I expected – it drew me into wanting to find out more about football in a subtle way and I am still not totally sure how it happened, I know more about the 1966 team now – the nuggets of history scattered through the book made me pick up a football encyclopaedia to follow up what I read about the players.

There is a streak of humour that winds its way through the story, from a hypnotism assisted attempt to stop smoking to poking fun at some of the more dubious facets of the modern game; the scene where the coach took the team to drama class for acting lessons made me snort out loud! Leonard’s complicated relationship with his family throughout the novel is my favourite strand of the story, and one that most readers will be able to relate to.

The diverse cast and the interpersonal relationships between them including the friendships, rivalries and insecurities are delicately handled and will give readers insight into communities that they may have limited experience with.

Yes, Zombie XI is a football book (with zombies), but it is not about football – it is about the people and their love of the beautiful game and how it unites us.

Peter Kalu is a brilliant author – he got me to care about football, I now know more about the game than I have ever done before and the feeling is not going away!

Zombie XI is the fourth book in the Striker series published by Hope Road Publishers

This book contains: football, drama (acting), more drama (family & interpersonal), friendship, humour and zombies

Recommended for: readers of all ages who love sport, humour and a bit of zombie action

Geis: a Matter of Life & Death

The chief matriarch is dying. Drawing her last breath, she declares a contest: let fate decide the one worthy to rule. Fifty souls are summoned in the night; fifty souls bound to the same fate. But this is no ordinary trial… And so begins the first task.

The first thing I learned was how to pronounce Geis – it is ‘Gesh’ in case you couldn’t wait to pick up the book!

It is a Gaelic word for taboo or curse (that I knew). When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. you might be prohibited form calling upon the aid of wolves, for example, or breaking into someone’s kitchen. If you ignore or break a geis, the consequences are dire.

But a geis is always broken.

As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.

The first thing I realised when I opened the book was that I already know Alexis Deacon’s work, he was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal for his illustration of Jim’s Lion and he wrote the award-winning picture book I am Henry Finch.

I was not sure what to expect when I picked it up, possibly an enjoyable fantasy romp through a fantasy world based on Celtic myth.

I was right about the fantasy world – but my God, this story is dark – beautifully illustrated, but utterly merciless! The protagonist is the Kite Lord’s daughter, a young girl who finds herself out of place amongst the high lords and ladies of the chieftain’s court, who are summoned and scattered to find a suitable soul to replace the chief. The desires and humanity of the characters are laid bare as they face the temptation of ultimate power, and as was once said – no good deed goes unpunished!

It is the first part of an epic trilogy – get this book now, trust me I am a librarian!

Geis_cover_rgb

How to Survive in the North

A brilliant graphic novel written and illustrated by Luke Healy:

Weaving together the true life historical expeditions of Ada Blackjack and Robert Bartlett with a contemporary fictional story. How to Survive in the North is a unique and visual narrative journey that shows the strength it takes to survive in even the harshest conditions – whether that be struggling for survival in the Arctic in the 1900s or surviving a mid-life crisis in the present day.

I finished this book with the impression that Vilhjalmur Stefansson was at best criminally inept and worst culpable for the death of the men he abandoned on two expeditions in the Arctic Circle.

Simply and beautifully illustrated it contains a wealth of history that made me research the histories of the characters once I had finished it. I love Luke Healey’s artwork and the changing colours to denote the different expeditions and the contemporary story is an excellent idea! The isolation of each of the characters throughout the book is the thread that binds the narratives together and the choices they make to survive and stay sane in the face of fraying relationships and loneliness makes the stories as gripping as they are tragic!

As with other Nobrow titles, How to Survive in the North is beautifully crafted and makes a bookshelf look better just by being on it!

HowToSurviveInTheNorth_cover

My Best Friend’s Exorcism: a Novel by Grady Hendrix

A novel of friendship, the ‘80’s and demonic possession
mbfe80s
1988 Charleston, South Carolina. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong Gretchen begins to act… different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby.

Abby’s investigation leads to some startling discoveries – and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question:

Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
 
 
 
 
 
 
I did a lot of my growing up in the 1980’s – South Africa instead of America, I would have been a few years younger than Abby and Gretchen and despite growing up in another country on a different continent I recognised a number of things that were similar to my growing up.

The first was I knew a family like Gretchen’s, overly religious with a habit of handing out holy writ as gifts as well as forbidding many popular television shows (my parents enjoyed watching The Thorn Birds), having religious road-shows come to my schools giving talks on salvation and the satanic panic, seeing the work of the devil in everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Bionic Six to back-masking and rock music being the devil’s music. My Best Friend’s Exorcism awoke some old, weird memories for me.

It was a fantastic and at times uncomfortable read, initially I was not sure where the story was going or if Abby was right in her suspicions or merely going off the deep-end as her friends abandoned her as so often happens in high school friendship arguments – it all seemed plausible and within the realms of normality and then Grady Hendrix started in with the gut-clenching horror that made me nauseous at the same time as forcing me to read further to find out what would happen next.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a ‘80’s, teen angst, horror novel with style! I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can create a playlist from the chapter headings and go on to read all night because once you have started you will not want to turn off the lights or you will start to imagine that you feel a soft touch on the back of your neck…

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: Not Living the Dream

blog image

About five years ago, I’d just graduated university with a shiny new degree and a heart brimming with hope for the future. Unfortunately, I’d gotten my degree in creative writing. And more unfortunately, I’d done so right when a recession smashed every hope my generation had of an economically prosperous future. So like many great writers before me, I went into food service.

I spent my early twenties slinging lattes for the one percent, and doing a number of other odd jobs besides. Slowly, through careful saving and a lot of luck, I turned my joke of a wage into a living. I found a good apartment, settled in with friends that felt like family, and slowly came into my own as an adult. I was a twentysomething creative in New York City, AKA the plot of at least one sitcom a year for the past three decades.

…and then I turned twenty-four and left behind everything I’d built for myself by moving to Los Angeles. And as I started to rebuild my life from scratch—learning new streets, or remembering how the hell I’d made friends in the first place—I did it while taking stock of what I’d done with my time in New York. And as I thought and remembered, I started to write. And after twenty-two days of writing when I should’ve been looking for a new job, I had a book: the very first draft of what would become Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge.

My heroine, Bailey Chen, is essentially my thoughts and feelings on my early twenties, as filtered through the lens of my mid-twenties. Like me, she was a good student who spent her whole life being told great things were waiting for her after graduation day. Like me, she found her life being pulled in a different direction—in her case, bartending—which she didn’t particularly want. And like me, her biggest challenge was learning to see the worth in what she did, even if others didn’t.

Unlike me, though, her other biggest challenge was using alcohol magic to kick demons in the face until they exploded.

Last Call drew from my lifelong love of fantasy, but it also drew from my attempts to reconcile my dreams of adulthood with the reality I graduated into. When I page through it, I can still see past-me’s frustration lurking underneath Bailey’s. When she grumbles about the unreasonable qualifications needed for an entry level job (“five years experience, two Olympic gold medals, and a phoenix egg in your personal possession”), that comes directly from my hours spent filling in digital job applications. And when the world challenges Bailey to see the value in a job she hates, it’s because once upon a time I was challenged to do the same thing.

Paul Krueger is the debut author of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, published by Quirk Books, and is available from all good books stores in paperback, priced $14.99 (US) and £11.99 (UK). For more information, please visit www.quirkbooks.com, or follow Paul on Twitter @notlikeFreddy.

How my addiction for Urban Fantasy led me to Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

So, I have to admit something: I am a fan of urban fantasy, there I have said it! I have been carrying around this secret for over a decade now and I am glad to get it off my chest.

It is all Laurell K. Hamilton’s fault! When I first began working in libraries in the UK (Thamesmead Library to be precise), I had a massive commute, and one evening as home-time beckoned I found myself in need of a book – nothing too strenuous as I like to relax on my train journeys so I picked up Guilty Pleasures by the aforementioned LKH as the cover looked suitably cheesy and fun. Rich in snark, witty repartee and lashings of human on monster violence I loved it and had finished it by the time I got back to work the next day.

I read all the Anita Blake books up to Narcissus in Chains where the increased raunch of the stories began overshadowing the elements that made me fall in love with the series in the first place – the books are still massively popular and I support anything that attracts people to reading but sadly I felt that they were no longer for me! I have recently read Dead Ice and mostly enjoyed it (I am tempted to tentatively pick up the series again when I have more reading time).

Post LKH I discovered the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher who remains one of my go to authors for fun action and adventure but (as many fans discover) waiting for the next book seems like an exercise in eternity!


Fortunately just before I was fully up to date with the adventures of Harry Dresden my buddy Shaun introduced me to Ben Aaronovitch at an all-day board-game session, Ben as many will know is the author of the best-selling Rivers of London series which became the next fix of urban fantasy that I was desiring (and The Hanging Tree is out in October – yay).white barrier

It was through Ben that I discovered the works of Paul Cornell, specifically London Falling; the first novel in the Shadow Police series.

white barrierLondon Falling was amazing, combining the grunt work of metropolitan policing with a team of the Met’s not-so-finest dealing with having unexpected and unwanted abilities to discern magic thrust upon them.

The follow-up Severed Streets was good but left me feeling as if something was missing and I was on the verge of giving the series a break when awesome PR person Jamie-Lee Nardone sent me a copy of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? as I was unable to make the launch due to dad duty.

What can I say about Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? except that it gave me a new appreciation of Severed Streets and a greater respect for Paul Cornell as a novelist!

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? tied together everything that came before in the first two novels and it made so much more sense! I realised that what bothered me so much about Severed Streets was a lack of understanding on my part rather than anything to do with the novel itself!

Opening with the murder of the fictitious ghost of Sherlock Holmes WKSH? drops us in the midst of an intricately plotted murder-mystery drawing in lightly fictionalised actors from the BBC’s and CBS’s television shows based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as giving the reader more insight into the revelations of Severed Streets while drip-feeding more information about London’s underground magical community while the team struggled to come to terms with what they have learned so far.

The only downside to being dazzled by such an intricately imaginative novel is waiting for book four*.

So if you find the need to get some of the filth of London under your nails and see how they cope with policing magical crime pick up London Falling, start the story at the beginning – you will not regret it, and you may just learn something new about London in the process!

*On the plus side I still have to catch up with Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series…

V for Violet by Alison Rattle a Review

v4violet

Battersea, 1961. Britain is entering the swinging sixties. the world is changing – but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She’s stuck in hr mum and dad’s fish and chip shop, where she can only dream of a more exciting life.

Then she meets Beau. Beau’s a Rocker – a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet’s grey little life, and she can’t believe her luck.

But things don’t go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet’s best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting.

Violet can’t believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He’s weird, and she feels sure he’s hiding something. He’s got a secret, and Violet’s got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all . . .

Dishing up a story rich in mystery, heartbreak, family drama, friendship crises, more mystery and a cast of characters that will hold your attention! Alison Rattle has given me my favourite mystery book of the year so far!

Born during Winston Churchill’s declaration that the war was over Violet has grown up in the shadow of the memory of her war hero brother. Now ages 16 she sees her life choices narrow to slinging battered cod and chips for the rest of her life.

In Violet we are given a protagonist and narrator who, although she may not be as good a judge of character or worldly-wise as she would like to think is incredibly engaging and worth rooting for as she navigates the mystery of her brother’s return, the threat of a murderer looming over Battersea and the tumultuous feelings of by first love and romance.

V for Violet has several mysteries that unravel slowly through the story and kept me guessing up until the very end. Somewhat appropriately for a tale involving a chippie there were several red herrings that fooled me and I kept changing my guesses as to whodunnit and why while I was reading.

If you feel the need for a genuinely engaging thriller that will keep you guessing then V for Violet is the book for you!

Published by the brilliant Hot Key Books, V for Violet is available from all good bookshops and on-line now!

The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill

currumpaw
I first encountered William Grill‘s work during my first year as a CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals Judge, his book Shackleton’s Journey won the 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal, this made William the second youngest recipient of the Medal.

His new book The Wolves of Currumpaw swaps the icy wastes of the Antarctic for the rich and fertile Currumpaw Valley of New Mexico. Based in part on Ernest Thompson Seton’s short story Lobo: King of Currumpaw and research about Seton himself it details the fate of a wolf pack and the man who hunted them, and in the process changed from a destroyer to protector of American wildlife.

William is a phenomenal artist, his work on Shackleton’s Journey is sublime, and I can honestly say that with The Wolves of Currumpaw he has surpassed himself. His attention to detail and humour in his sequential drawings is wonderful and expertise in showing the scale of the landscape and the enormous wide-open skies is sheer perfection!

The sense of movement and vitality that he brings to the wolves and other animals on the page is shows us that he is a master of his art!

The Wolves of Currumpaw is sad, beautiful and a wonderful introduction to characters whose work heralded the start of the conservation movement in America.

Published by Flying Eye Books, The Wolves of Currumpaw is out on the 26th May.