Archive for December, 2015

Single White Vampire

December 21, 2015 - 6:12 pm No Comments

Author: Lynsay Sands
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 25th Feb 2010
Page count: 369pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

“Dear Reader
Lucern Argeneau”

For those who have read this book, those words make sense and will raise a wry smile. For those yet to discover this book, oh, the treat that awaits you! Writing as Luke Amirault, Lucern writes family biographies that are mistaken for as vampire romance, which have become incredibly popular. Ignoring all correspondence from his editor Kate, she has enough, and turns up on his doorstep. Her mission? To get the handsome, yet surly writer to agree to interviews or a book tour. Not realising what he’s agreeing to, he says yes to the ‘RT thing’ and is soon angry when he realises it’s the Romantic Times five day conference. Of course, there could be complications with Lucern’s allergy to the sun, his liquid diet and his gruff manner.
As a regular convention attendee I loved the shenanigans that take place as part of the conference and could really relate to the experiences; the dress up balls, book signings, stalkerish fans. It was also incredibly humorous.
The chemistry Sands delivers is palpable and with each instalment in this series, every couple is different.
The Argeneau family is also incredibly entertaining adding to the fun. I’ve read five of the Argeneau vampire books so far and none have disappointed. Great fun


December 21, 2015 - 6:01 pm No Comments

Author: Mercedes M Yardley
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Page Count: 308pp
Release date: 11th December 2015
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Luna Masterson, like her Daddy, could see the dark shadows at night, unlike her Mom and brother. At a birthday sleepover when a young child, Luna is the only one awake as the demon walks through a room of girls, tasting them.
The demonic love the taste of little girls.
When Luna starts screaming and shouting, Luna the Lunatic isn’t invited to another party.
Her Dad has to teach her how to keep quiet and not let the world know she can hear the voices. Not that it always works.
As an adult, there is only Luna and her brother Seth left, and after Seth’s wife, Sparkles, leaves him, Luna moves into his to help take care of his daughter Lydia. Lydia also has nightmares and Luna fears it’s hereditary.
Of course, everyone including her brother Seth, just thinks Luna is bonkers. At work as a phlebotomist, Luna loses it one day whilst taking blood samples from Reed Taylor, and when he demands to know who she was telling at, she tells him. Bad move.
However, Seth decides to bit the bullet and ask her about the demons. It’s a useful exposition technique, which allows Yardley to tell us that in the majority of instances demons have to be invited in, like mythical vampires. And demons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, including smart and dumb. Thanks to Luna’s powers, demons are no longer able to see into Seth’s house.
Taking Lydia to show off at the supermarket, Luna runs into Reed again, as well as a demon leaching her power, and an invisible presence Following Reed that steps in to save the day. Who or what is the presence? Is it on her side? And what does Reed have to do with all of this?
Luna’s voice is strong and sarcastic, poking fun in the only way she can, in order to deal with the things she sees. The humour in this is rife, apart from the, argh, creepy bits, of which there are a few. Some of the various demonic character voices are really quite funny, particularly that of Mouthy Demon. My only real critique is the constant repetition of the name Reed Taylor, which interrupts the flow of the narrative somewhat. I understand the reasoning behind this but it doesn’t quite work.
On the plus side, there’s a helluva twist at about 70% ebook level, that adds a whole new dimension to the novel.
This is the most interesting and entertaining “I see …” Urban Fantasy I’ve read since Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series. Top notch stuff with a great cliffhanger. A marvellous book. I am eager to read the next book in the series, out July.

Dead Funny

December 13, 2015 - 2:31 pm No Comments

Editor: Johnny Mains & Robin Ince
Publisher: Salt
Release date: 1st Oct 2014
Page Count; 224pp deluxe hardcover
Reviewer: Jonathan Butcher

Dead Funny is a pleasingly unique horror anthology, with the twist being that each ghastly tale is written by a comedian. Being a huge fan of both comedy and horror I was excited by such a prospect, and while there are some weaker tales the pace remains fun, varied and enjoyably written.

While I was expecting the stories to lean heavily towards the comedy element, I was surprised to find that there were plenty of unnerving moments lurking amidst the mirth. The collection begins with one such story, “Dog”, penned by the reliably black-souled creator of League of Gentlemen and Inside No. 9, Reece Shearsmith. Risking controversy, this genuinely nasty piece revolves around a young man’s vicious revenge upon those he holds responsible for the blinding of his younger brother: a selection of dog owners, and their pets. It’s not a tale for the easily shocked and functions as a warning for readers expecting the book to be a barrel of light-hearted giggles.

Following this was another of my favourites, another bleak and laughter-free entry by Sara Pascoe entitled “Spider Remember”. Short yet far from sweet, it’s a story of love, madness and arachnid abominations. This was one of the most thought-provoking and thoughtfully written stories in the book.

While I was hoping for Matthew Holness’s entry to be a knowingly-inept tale penned in the style of his fictional horror writer Garth Merenghi, it proved to be a truly unsettling piece about a disturbed man’s relationship with his grotesque homemade hand puppet, perhaps to parallel the decidedly serious theme of mental illness.

Further highlights included Katy Brand’s unpredictable, inspired and tragically touching take on precognition, “For Roger”, Rufus Hound’s ingenious jigsaw puzzle “Fixed”, which only unveils the truth amongst the existential weirdness in its closing paragraphs, and Michael Legge’s sweetly hilarious tale of psychic crime-solving, “The Dream of Nightmares”.

As with any collection written by a large variety of authors there are a couple of weak links, but this is to be expected. While I adore him onstage, Stewart Lee’s offering “A View from the Hill” was too meandering and ended with the proverbial damp squib, and Al Murray’s “For Everyone’s Good” gave me little to chuckle or shiver about. Phill Jupitus brought a wicked immediacy to his prose in “Anthemoessa”, but a disparity between the surrounding tale and its conclusion left me with the sense that the “twist” had merely been tacked on.

However, as previously mentioned, this is a strong collection of grisly guffaws, and for the most part left me feeling extremely satisfied.

Highly recommended!

Newcon Press Merry Christmas

December 11, 2015 - 5:26 am No Comments

Dear All

A message from NewCon Press this Silly Season.

Weaver of Wondrous Words.

I’d just like to draw your attention to the fact that, ahem… NewCon Press has a brand new website:

To celebrate the site’s launch, I’m unveiling special offers on a whole raft of titles. Since this is Christmas, a fantastic time of year, the more fantasy-orientated of NewCon’s titles are being discounted for a limited time only — from now until December 20th… Sort of NewCon’s very own 12 Days of Christmas. There are heavy discounts on some older titles, but several of the latest releases are also included, in the spirit of the season.

(If you click on ‘Books’ at the top of the site, you’ll see a ‘Special Offers’ option, where all titles that feature in the offer are.

Thank you, and for those I don’t see in the meantime…

Merry Christmas!! (in a purely non-faith specific have a fabulous time sort of way…)



Alison Littlewood Double Bill

December 4, 2015 - 4:25 pm 2 Comments

I love Alison Littlewood’s work, and rated A Cold Season back in 2013 as one of my top books of the year, so when I heard she had two books coming out this autumn, I just had to take the opportunity to interview her and review both of those books. The first, is her instalment in the successful and innovative Stephen Jones’ creation, the Zombie Apocalypse series, whilst the second book is the eagerly awaited sequel to that 2013 Judy and Richard book club selection, A Cold Silence. So, firstly, here are my thoughts on these books followed by an interview with the supreme lady of horror herself.

Zombie Apocalypse: Acapulcalypse Now
Author: Alison Littlewood
Publisher: Robinson
Release date: 29th Oct 2015
Page count: 309pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin


Going loco down in Acapulco as the zombies rise! Yes, prepare for fun and zombie goodness as Littewood brings the franchise to Mexico… Where the Hotel Baktun, shaped like a Mayan pyramid, is getting ready for its grand opening. Waiter Iktan, or Mick, as his badge says spots a stranger milling through the workmen and other crowds, whilst Celeste, wife of singer Colton Creed, has just arrived at the hotel with rich socialite Louisiana, from Leicester. Stacy Keenan arrives at the resort to run security. She was supposed to be running security for the New Festival of Britain, until her boss Moreby, distant descendant of All Hallows’ Thomas Moreby, drags her to Mexico.
When we get there, that’s when the fun really begins as a Russian luxury liner can’t let its passengers onto the island due to a food poisinong outbreak, bringing sickness to the island as some of the Russian tourists just don’t know how to stay down.
Littlewood has expertly captured the vibe, religion, culture and atmosphere of Mexico in this novel, including that of the criminal underworld, which makes an appearance. The Mayan ruins and artifacts also add a sense of Hammer-esque mystery to the book, almost a Vodoun or Egyptian vibe. The novel is interspersed with a selection of excellent and grim ‘photos’ depicting the events in the book, however, as usual it is Joe Robert’s vibrant, gruesome and fun cover art that stands out. Every cover he’s done throughout the entire series is marvellous.
When the zombie – cross that – HRV (Human Reanimation Virus) carnage kicks off, guests and staff split off into factions fighting for survival and the blood, gore, humour and action is gloriously OTT. The chapters are written in multiple points of view, which are instantly recognisable from each other; Stacy, security expert, Mick the waiter, Francisco the criminal, Ethan the teenager, adding the kind of tension and variety experienced in such cinematic classics as The Poseidon Adventure. The dichotomy of a sun-laden resort and the palpable fear and bloodshed works really well, and is emphasised by Francisco’s thoughts; “He had heard pain like that before, but here, in this open, shining place, he could not take it in.”
As the diverse groups try to escape or find out what’s happening, relationships are formed, unexpected bonds are made and the character yet interaction is fulfilling for the readEr
The short chapters, with varying narrators adds pace and tension to the novel, which increases throughout the last quarter.
For those specifically after zombie goodness, there is plenty of gore here, noses, hands, cheeks, lips, stomachs; all sorts of flesh being ripped apart. The lead up to the ending escalates the violence rapidly leading to a very satisfying conclusion. Great fun, with a hint of more to come.

Next up is, drumroll:

A Cold Silence
Author: Alison Littlewood
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Release date: 3rd September 2015
Page Count: 368pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Different in tone from the Zombie Apocalypse novel, A Cold Silence, the sequel to A Cold Season, is creepy from the start. It is a cold, winter night and Ben is walking home towards his Mum’s, convinced there are footsteps following him.
Ben had never been able to leave his mother alone for long, not like his sister Gaila. All day long his mother Cass would paint, stark wintry landscapes and snowy hills. Ben hated the snow, though he didn’t know why. When a friend dies in their old home of Darnshaw, Cass is desperate that Ben stay away from the town. But sure his Mum won’t find out, he heads to Darnshaw for the funeral.
Atmospheric and lyrical, A Cold Silence carries on with the story of young Ben, now an adult, who can’t remember what happened to him as a boy. His return to his old home following Jessica’s death is a journey for him, and there is a new evil lurking.
In every way, Littlewood delivers in this book, though I am loathe to give too much away, so this will be a short one. Suffice to say it’s a gripping book and I envisGe awards in its future. Bravo.

1) Tell my readers a bit about yourself

Well I’ve been writing short stories for years now, so I’ve been hovering around the indie presses for some time. In 2012 my first novel, A Cold Season, was published by Jo Fletcher Books and got picked up for the Richard and Judy Book Club, which surprised no one more than me! Since then I’ve kept on writing novels and short stories, and am loving it.

On a personal level, I was born and bred in Yorkshire, and still live there with my other half, Fergus, in a very old house with suitably creaking doors and crooked walls. We also have a mad dalmatian called Dexter who keeps me busy (and gets me out of the house, which is no bad thing).

2) You’ve joined the Stephen Jones Zombie Apocalypse series. How did the shared world process work?

I’d already produced a short story for Steve for Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame, one of the mosaic novels. So when he asked me if I’d like to write a whole zombie novel set in Mexico, I already knew it would be a lot of fun. I didn’t find the shared world too onerous, as the series is essentially set in our world; it was simply a case of matching up events in the zombie invasion, and occasionally touching on what established characters were doing. Steve made some suggestions in that regard, while I came up with others after a close read-through of the other books in the series.

So the process really offered massive possibilities rather than limitations! As an example, many of the zombies are the shambling variety you’d expect, but there are others who are more intelligent and provide an organising factor. And I had lots of freedom to create my own characters and scenes. Since it was set in Mexico, I’ve added onto the ZA! scenario by combining it with Mayan mythology and ancient gods. There was such huge scope in that, waiting to be tapped into.

I had a whale of a time writing the book. I’d never have thought of writing a zombie novel, but particularly combined with the Mexican setting, it just offered massive potential for scares, laughs, and indeed heart-rending moments. The first draft was pretty quick to produce – I usually hit a wall partway through writing a book, but it just didn’t happen this time round. It was even more fun that I’d expected.

3) A Cold Season got rave reviews and put you on the genre map, what inspired you to return to that world in A Cold Silence?

It was never my intention to write a sequel to A Cold Season, but after it came out, readers started to ask what happened next! It did finish in quite an open-ended way, but it wasn’t until people asked that I began to wonder myself. The problem was, of course, that I didn’t really know, and I didn’t feel I could write a sequel until I had an idea that was big enough to carry a whole other book. I’ve never written anything for the sake of it – I have to get my head and my heart engaged first, or I just wouldn’t see the point.

It took a few years, but eventually I hit on the idea of Acheron, the impossible computer game in A Cold Silence. The first book is about deals with the devil. How much easier would it be, if Faustian pact began to insinuate themselves into technology? And so Acheron puts the player into different scenarios, offering them whatever they desire, but there is a price to pay . . . one unique to each individual.

The novel is set some years after the first book. It’s essentially about the young boy, Ben, when he’s grown up, playing out the consequences of his seriously messed-up childhood. I guess that might disappoint some people, but I always knew, if I did a sequel, it would become his story; the tale has moved on, as I’ve moved on as a writer. Cass is still a presence, however, and each of the main characters has some part to play and a suitable ending to discover. I hopefully got there in the end, and did them justice, though of course that will be for readers to decide!