<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - YOUNG BLOOD]]>Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:24:40 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[THIRTEEN DAYS OF MIDNIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH LEO HUNT.]]>Mon, 12 Jun 2017 13:01:12 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/thirteen-days-of-midnight-an-interview-with-leo-huntInterview by Tony Jones
Today we have the pleasure of having an indepth chat with YA horror writer Leo Hunt who has just released the final book in his supernatural trilogy which began with Thirteen days of Midnight ​ which was first published in 2015. Before we introduce Leo here’s a very brief recap on this terrific trilogy

Leo Hunt graduated from UEA in 2014 with a First in Creative Writing and American Literature. He is now a full-time writer. His first novel, Thirteen Days of Midnight, was published in summer 2015 and shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's Prize 2016.

Thirteen days of Midnight is about  Sixteen year old Luke who inherits a lot of money from his estranged father ( a relatively well known celebrity magician) without realising there are some very nasty consequences to claiming the cash. Always read the small print when you sign a contract....  He soon discovers his father was really a powerful necromancer who had the power to control ghosts and use them as slaves. Luke is now the unlucky ‘Daddy’ to these ghosts, who really don’t like him and will do anything to break free and create havoc.... The interconnected trilogy expertly blends strong supernatural storylines with teenage angst, girl-trouble and small-town life.  Luke realises it’s tough fighting for your life when your GCSEs are just around the corner! Luke really grows as the trilogy develops, but little does he know before long he will have to do battle with The Devil himself.... 

GnoH: Welcome Leo. It’s a pleasure to discuss horror with you. The blurb on your novels states that you started writing horror fiction when you were a university student. Tell us how it all began?

Leo Hunt: I was 19 and I’d just started a course in American Literature and Creative Writing at UEA. We were doing short pieces of prose fiction for the Creative Writing classes but the tutors encouraged everyone to write longer projects outside of class time. Thirteen Days of Midnight was mine. I wrote the scene where Luke gets a letter from his father’s lawyer and it flowed from there. The first book went through roughly four years of revisions, but that’s where it all starts. I lived near to the university library so on nights where nothing was going on I’d walk over there and sit up writing. I really miss doing that.

GNoH: When you were studying Literature at University of East Anglia did you cover horror or weird fiction at all? I’ve found these types of courses pretty snobbish about genre fiction myself…..
 
Leo Hunt: I can’t say we did; the course was focused on the historical canon of American novels, and in my final year I studied contemporary fiction that related to the War on Terror and the W. Bush presidency. I’m not sure that I encountered much overt genre snobbery, but no, Stephen King isn’t on the undergraduate American Literature syllabus. I did study Science Fiction novels while on my year abroad and I think genre writing has a lot to offer academically as long as you approach it as a scholar rather than a fan.

GNoH: Did you read much horror or weird fiction as a kid? Who were your favourite authors when you were 13 or 14?
 
Leo Hunt: Absolutely. I was obsessed. In fact the idea of writing a YA horror was natural to me because of how keen I was on the genre at that age. I was really writing the Luke Manchett books for myself as a younger teenager. I was very keen on Stephen King, Lovecraft, some Peter Straub stuff. I also loved the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix, which is sort of fantasy/horror for YA readers.

GNoH: Which kid’s horror or other genre authors do you like to read? Ginger Nuts mainly focuses on adult stuff but we love teen stuff also….
 
Leo Hunt: My favourite YA horror novel is Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, which if people aren’t familiar is the story of a young girl who discovers another, darkly mirrored version of her house hidden beyond a strange door. The other house is ruled over by her Other Mother, as terrifying a character as exists in children’s fiction.

GNoH: Do you think many kids will realise that your trilogy is a riff on one of the oldest and most famous supernatural stories, that of selling your soul, or being tricked, to the Devil?
 
Leo Hunt: I hope some of them do! I suppose the thing about the Devil that I find interesting in folk tales is how active and present he is. God feels quite remote. He does speak to people of course, but He doesn’t roam around the landscape the same way the Devil does. Every village in England seems to have a rock the Devil rolled there or a field he ploughed as part of a wager or something of that nature. There’s this real sense in the old folk stories that he’s abroad in the world and could be right at your shoulder if you did the wrong thing. He could be waiting to meet you at any crossroads. I wanted Luke’s world to feel that way too. 

GNoH: The idea of ‘inheriting’ ghosts, as an initial premise, was a really good one. Was that a useful pitch in getting the novel picked up for publication?
 
Leo Hunt: It definitely helps to have a ‘hook’ for the story, a short description that will get people interested. I think the idea of inheriting a ghost collection is the hook for my story, and I’m certain that would’ve helped interest publishers.

GNoH: Luke Manchett is a pretty engaging main character, a pretty normal teenage boy. Was there something of you in him? He goes through a lot in two years…..
 
Leo Hunt: In the sense there’s something of yourself in every character you write then definitely. Luke’s a lot more confident and athletic than me. I felt like it was more interesting if he started the novel as an insider and was then drawn into this dark outside world. Elza Moss is the character I gave my actual hobbies and interests.

GNoH: I thought the trilogy would lend itself well to cinema, has there been any interest? I think different aspects of the books compressed into one film might work well?
 
Leo Hunt: I think so too, in fact my dream would be for the rights to be picked up by an online video streaming service like Netflix. You get less budget in TV but a longer screen time for character to develop. Unfortunately, although the series has been moderately successful sales-wise, I don’t think I’m at the level where you get approached with these kind of deals. I suppose it depends whose eye your work can catch.

GNoH: Kids are increasingly living in an online world and many no longer seem to be scared or intrigued by the world of ghosts and cursed books. But the supernatural world you have created is very well drawn and vivid. Where did your initial idea for a teenage Necromancer originate?
 
Leo Hunt: Various places, it’s hard to thread together exactly how it happened. I was in a nightclub in my hometown and imagined what would happen if I saw someone in the crowd I knew was supposed to be dead. That was the flashpoint. Of course in the end when Luke does go into the nightclub he’s the one that’s a spirit, but you change things up as you draft. The teenage necromancer thing also comes from stuff like Buffy and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but I tried to meld that teen paranormal genre with stuff that’s a little bit creepier to me. Stone circles and blood magic. Just enough so the spirit world feels genuinely threatening, I hope.

GNoH: You must be a horror film fan. What are your favourites? I noticed the sneaky “Herbert West Scholarship” in book 3, a reference to “Reanimator” if ever I saw one…..
 
Leo Hunt: I actually somehow haven’t seen the film Reanimator, Elza’s scholarship was a small reference to the original short story. I did enjoy Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond which is another of his Lovecraft adaptations. Very funny and gory, some great practical monster effects. I’d say I really love some of the classics like Alien, The Thing, Rosemary’s Baby, The Blair Witch Project, and so on. There’s been this wave of arty indie horror recently that I’ve adored as well, films like It Follows, The Babadook, The Invitation, The Witch. I was blown away by The Witch; I saw it three times in the cinema. The idea I talked about earlier, how in folk tales the Devil is present in the world, in the forest around you, is captured in that film perfectly.

GNoH: Do you read adult horror? Tell us about your favourites.
 
Leo Hunt: I recently read The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, which is fantastic folk horror story in the vein of The Wicker Man. I’ve also discovered the work of Thomas Ligotti this year thanks to his early books being reprinted by Penguin Classics. Shirley Jackson writes terrifying fiction. Perhaps my all time favourite ghost story, which I can’t talk about Luke’s story without mentioning, is Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel. The protagonist is an overweight psychic medium living in a rootless Blair-era Middle England town who’s something of an inspiration for Luke’s father. It’s fantastic work, if not quite conventional horror.

GNoH: Do you have any plans for an adult horror novel? Warning, Not many authors do kids and adult well…..
 
Leo Hunt: I can’t say that I do. I think if I ever wrote horror for adult audiences it would be a film script. I did have this idea about a Silicon Valley type tech innovator who creates this device that prevents him from having to sleep, so he can spend 24 hours a day being innovative and coding and such. Unfortunately after a few weeks of this he starts seeing the ‘real’ world around him and the nightmare consciousnesses that reside beyond the veil. Something along those lines.

GNoH: The dodgy and dangerous “Book of Eight” Luke inherits from his father almost threads the three novels together. What was your thinking here? There are lots of powerful books in classic horror fiction….
 
Leo Hunt: The Book of Eight has some pretty clear fictional ancestors: there’s Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, of course, which is the archetypal evil book. Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom books have their own Book of the Dead, which also has a green leather cover and can alter its contents. The other big influence is Jorge Luis Borges’ short story The Book of Sand, which isn’t strictly horror, but concerns a rare book dealer who obtains an otherworldly volume with an infinite number of pages. It’s written in a language he can’t decipher, but he becomes addicted to the tome and loses years of his life flipping through page after page.

GNoH: The location of the novel Dunbarrow is made up right? As are the surrounding towns mentioned? Why did you choose to do this?
 
Leo Hunt: Dunbarrow, along with Brackford, is an invented place. Dunbarrow is a mixture of Morpeth and Rothbury, the two towns where I grew up in Northumberland. Brackford is a version of Newcastle upon Tyne. As for why I did this, it’s mainly so I can play fast and loose with geography. There is no stone circle in the woods near Morpeth, but in Dunbarrow I get to have whatever I like. I also enjoy coming up with place and street names.

GNoH: Book one flows well into book two with only five months separating the plots. Did you always intend a sequel and was it sold to the publisher as a trilogy?
 
Leo Hunt: No, the first book was supposed to stand alone. I like open endings. The trilogy thing was my publisher’s idea, but I have to say I’ve found the world that got set up in the first book had more than enough going on to sustain further Luke stories. I’m glad you think it flows well because that was completely improvised.

GNoH: The location the ‘Devil’s Footsteps’ is important in the books. Were you aware that this was a VERY cool kid’s horror novel by a reclusive writer called EE Richardson who has disappeared from the scene somewhat? If you haven’t read it, you really should…..
 
Leo Hunt: I didn’t know this, mine was inspired by a river bend in Northumberland known as the Devil’s Elbow. I’m interested in this reclusive writer and their children’s horror novel now.

GNoH: Was your version of The Devil inspired by any other literary or cinematic creation? He reminded me of a cross between De Niro in “Angel Heart” and Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate”….
 
Leo Hunt: I actually haven’t seen either of those movies, but maybe my idea of the Devil being a lawyer comes from there. It’s quite difficult to track down where some of these tropes begin. I suppose I just felt like the Devil needed to be this handsome figure with enormous charisma. When I physically describe Mr Berkley I’m actually describing a photograph of a bearded George Clooney. Of course this charming lawyer persona is just his mask, and if you read the whole trilogy you’ll discover his inhuman, monstrous side in the later books.

GNoH: Personally I think YA horror in the UK is really in the doldrums, apart from William Hussey and a few others, there doesn’t seem to be much new stuff around. What do you think? Is there a renaissance around the corner?
 
Leo Hunt: I don’t read a great deal of YA so I’ll have to defer to your judgement on this one. If there is a lack of YA horror fiction, it might be because teenagers who like the genre have plenty of adult horror fiction to read which is perfectly accessible in terms of how it’s written. I know when I was 15 I mostly read adult horror novels. They’re more gory than I’m allowed to be and they often have lots of sex in them as well, which is a pretty appealing prospect at that age. If there’s a dearth of new material that might be part of the problem. That said, I think genres can always experience revivals, although I have to admit I’m moving away from horror myself with my new work, so if there is a YA horror renaissance coming to the UK I probably won’t be part of it.

GNoH: Do you have a particular daily routine for your writing?
 
Leo Hunt: I wish! I’m incredibly lazy and disorganised. The writing happens when it happens. I give aspiring authors lectures about self discipline and hard work and it’s really me I’m talking to. I don’t take my own advice.

GNoH: Have the novels seen any success abroad?
 
Leo Hunt: They’ve been published in foreign editions in America, Germany, Portugal, and Thailand. I don’t know that they’ve had any significant sales in those countries; that said, having an international reach is very humbling even if it’s a small one. I’ve had letters from young readers in places like the Philippines, Hong Kong, and South Africa, all of which seem like another planet compared to rainy old Northumberland where I set these books.

GNoH: What or whom have been the biggest influences on your writing outside of horror?
 
Novelist and editor Sol Stein wrote a book called Stein on Writing, which was a huge influence for me as I turned 18 and started getting more serious about storytelling and crafting prose. He taught me how to look for ‘bad’ writing and what to catch in your own paragraphs. He has his own prejudices and of course art is subjective but I think that book gave me a solid grounding in how to edit my own work and know what to cut.

GNoH: If you could erase one YA literature cliché what would it be?
 
Leo Hunt: The love triangle. We all know which one the protagonist will end up with. And I don’t think you should resolve that kind of plot line by having the werewolf character fall in love with a newborn baby, while we’re on the subject.

GNoH: If you were to branch your horror fiction into other areas are there any subjects you would never write about? Some of the most controversial teen novels such as Kevin Brooks “The Bunker Diaries” look at everyday horror, rather than supernatural fiction….
 
What would I never write about? That’s a great question. One horror film that I saw recently and loved but could never have written was Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which got a huge amount of attention, but in case anyone isn’t familiar with the film, it’s about a young African American man meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time and slowly realising there’s something really wrong with her family. So a topic like that, the horror that comes from insidious white supremacism in your society, I don’t think I’m well equipped to speak on, because personally I don’t experience that horror, I can only imagine it. I don’t mean to say I would never write about racism, but I couldn’t tackle the subject in comedic horror fiction the way Peele was able to.

GNoH: What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
 
Leo Hunt: He’s not an author but I often think about something the cartoonist Gary Panter said: “If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!”

To me what he’s saying that it’s impossible to escape having creative influences, so what you need to be doing is casting your net as wide as possible, taking ideas from all over the place, in order to create something that will strike people as feeling fresh or unexpected. Try to experience and engage with as much art as you can and incorporate that into your own work.

GNoH: The blurbs of your books compare you to Tom Hoyle and Derek Landy. Who would YOU compare yourself to?
 
Leo Hunt: Tough one. I want to say Neil Gaiman. He’s a hundred times more successful than I’ll likely ever be, but I think we have a shared interest in myth and the earliest forms of storytelling. He does this uneasy blend of the mundane world and the supernatural that I’ve tried to draw from.

GNoH: What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
 
Leo Hunt: I just finished Rick Perelstein’s book Nixonland, which is an exhaustive document of the political turbulence of the 1960s and Richard Nixon’s rise to power. Very impressed with that. Nixon’s not a figure I knew an enormous amount about besides Watergate, and I think Perelstein’s writing about the formation of modern American conservatism is really important in understanding where we’re at in 2017.

I’m much more comfortable talking about work I enjoyed than work I didn’t, but I have to say I was pretty disappointed last year by Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Purity. It just did not work for me in any way. He’s very good at depicting contemporary American culture, but then he sets large parts of the novel in 1980s communist Germany and none of it feels real.

GNoH: If you could kill off any character from any other book (not your own) who would you chose and how would they die?
 
Leo Hunt: I’m going to shoot Humbert Humbert execution style in the back of the head before that book even starts in the hope that Dolores has a happy life without him around. I’m sure he would plead for his life very eloquently before I dumped him in an unmarked grave.

GNoH: If you could live in any fictional world where would you choose to live?
 
Leo Hunt: I’m very into the videogame Overwatch, which has a bright and cheerful utopian science-fiction aesthetic, something that’s relatively rare in the genre these days. So if we’re opening up a portal to any fictional world I want to go there.

GNoH: What’s next for you? It’s been billed as a trilogy, but the ending was left open for Luke to return? Please don’t drag this trilogy into a tedious never-ending ‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ style series….
 
Leo Hunt: I haven’t read Skulduggery Pleasant so I can’t speak to that series but it does bother me when creators won’t call time on a story that’s run its course; although if a series is successful and you’re making a living from it then I understand the pressure not to do so. But yes, most narrative spaces have a limited amount of juice in them. I think there was enough juice in Thirteen Days of Midnight to warrant the two sequels; characters I really like such as Ash and Darren, or events like the journey through Deadside in the second book, would never have existed if my publisher hadn't pushed for a bit more from this world. But at the same time you have to know when to say goodbye and I think Luke’s story is over now. Everything that needed to happen has happened. Luke and Elza might be travelling on to something new but we won’t be going with them.

What’s next for me will be another YA novel, although it’s going to be cyberpunk rather than supernatural horror. I’m leaving the stone circles and ancient tomes behind and drawing from material like Neuromancer and Ghost in the Shell. I’m grappling with a first draft of this novel as we speak. It’s a big change of setting with a narrator who's a very different person to Luke. She’s a lot less sarcastic and jokey; I suppose with the world being how it is, I haven’t been feeling as comedic this year.
  • It’s been a pleasure chatting horror with you Leo. Ginger Nuts of Horror would like to wish you all the best for the trilogy and your work in progress.
Tony Jones
 

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A thrilling supernatural adventure: dark, funny, with twists at every turn. Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Prize 2016.
When Luke Manchett's estranged father dies suddenly, he leaves his son a dark inheritance. Luke has been left in charge of his father's ghost collection: eight restless spirits. They want revenge for their long enslavement, and in the absence of the father, they're more than happy to take his son. It isn't fair, but you try and reason with the vengeful dead.
Halloween, the night when the ghosts reach the height of their power, is fast approaching. With the help of school witchlet Elza Moss, and his cowardly dog Ham, Luke has just thirteen days to uncover the closely guarded secrets of black magic, and send the unquiet spirits to their eternal rest. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

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<![CDATA[STOKING THE FIRE: AN ALTERNATIVE GUIDE TO THE YA STOKER AWARD]]>Thu, 20 Apr 2017 11:24:31 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/stoking-the-fire-an-alternative-guide-to-the-ya-stoker-award
As one of the few horror websites to regularly feature YA horror we recently reviewed the novels that have been nominated for YA section of the Bram Stoker 2016 Awards. The overall winners being announced at the end of April. As the latest YA short list only features American novels this article presents an ‘alternative’ shortlist of six great YA horror which we gave great reviews on the Ginger Nuts of Horror site during 2016. We have nothing against our American horror friends and two of our six hail from the USA but were surprised their selection did not have a more international flavour. One wonders what that famous Irish writer Bram Stoker would make of the fact that an award which proudly wears his name has no British or Irish entries at all? Never fear Bram, we have an Irish author on our alternative Ginger Nuts list just for you…. So everyone raise a Guinness to Peadar O'Guilin and his fantastic ‘The Call’ novel, which is listed below

Horror really is a worldwide phenomenon, with our genre continuing to grow and thrive into an international horror community which interconnects 24/7 through social media where a chat with an author you love is often only an email away.  In the horror world everybody knows everyone and we believe the Stoker Award really needs to reflect the worldwide horror market more effectively. It should look beyond the American cabbage patch. There is great YA horror everywhere and some of our favourites are below.

I have been a horror fan all my teenage and adult life and a school librarian for more than twenty of them. The bread and butter of my job is recommending the books I enjoy to my school readers and the six listed below have been picking up rave reviews from my many teenage readers. They are a mix of clever and challenging fiction which deal with different aspects of horror through fantasy, science fiction, madness and fear.

Let’s stick with fear…. Our selection provides this ingredient in spades. Sadly the official Stoker YA list does not and although there are some pretty good books, genuine scares are lacking. Think back to the horror novels you remember best as a kid and the titles which leave the greatest impression are often those which ramped up the scares. Our six books most definitely do that; from the weird timeless house the teenage girls inhabit in ‘The Woman in the Walls’ to the terrific ghost story anthology in ‘The Wrong Train’ which harks back to the classics of the early 1900s to the madness and paranoia in ‘The Creeper Man’. There is something for everyone here. 

We present the ‘international alternative’ The Ginger Nuts of Horror YA horror, best of 2016...
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Amy Lukavics – “The Woman in the Walls” (America) – Absolutely terrific haunted house story about a sister and her cousin living in an isolated house. How the HWA neglected this book is a complete mystery to me. They MUST know who she is? Lukavics has written two terrific YA horror novels and is destined for greatness. Her debut novel, set in the prairies of frontier America “Daughters Unto Devils” was an exercise in fear and madness, her third novel “The Raverous” out next September is another horror. I can’t wait. HWA you are looking at the future of YA horror. You should take note for next year.

Ginger Nuts said: “The author doesn’t disappoint with another complex, character driven, and highly enjoyable supernatural tale which reveals its secrets gleefully slowly in an excellently paced novel which deserves to find a large with teenage and YA readers. Seventeen year old Lucy lives in a huge house in the countryside with her cousin Margaret, they rarely see anyone except for her distant and distracted father and Margaret’s mother, her aunt, who is more like a surrogate mother. Lucy’s natural mother died when she was three and there are hints of foul play in the murky family history. Most of the time her father is persistently occupied planning fancy dinners and events for a club which only ever seems to meet in their house, and don’t seem to do very much else except sponge from her family. But there is obviously more going on and part of the fun in this novel is the finding out.”

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Jeremy de Quidt – “The Wrong Train” (UK) – Everyone likes a good ghost story, right? Then look no further, a scary series of inter-connected supernatural stories lynch-pinned by a little boy stuck with a creepy old man at a deserted train station. Apparently De Quidt does not read horror, making this achievement even cooler. A great collection for kids.

Ginger Nuts said: “Behind a rather drab looking book-jacket lurks a truly delicious collection of eight short stories aimed at the teen/YA market, or anybody who enjoys a bloody good old fashioned scare…. And to be frank, if any adult horror writers (published or unpublished) out there want an A-Z lesson on how to construct supernatural stories for children, then look no further than this masterful anthology. Many of the tales sneakily play on the insecurities of everyday life, especially those irrational fears that put children on edge, from the outdoor light which randomly flashes on and off, to the smelly old photo album, not forgetting the strangeness of a new house or even the invisible friend who is just a tad too real. Jeremy De Quidt presses all the right buttons in building an overwhelming atmosphere of darkness which permeates throughout all unique eight stories.”

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Gregg Hurwitz – “The Rains” (America) – A great fusion of horror and science fiction, easily the best teen alien invasion/zombie novel I read in 2016. Perhaps the HWA might stick their noses up at a bestselling thriller writer turning to YA science fiction/horror? It’s well worth a closer look though, with fast paced zombie style action which would be brilliant for the bored teenage boy and once you get sucked into the breath-taking pace you’ll forget you even have a mobile phone.

Ginger Nuts said: ‘“The Rains” is a brutally successful mish-mash of horror, science fiction and adrenaline pumping adventure. In fact, you’re unlikely to find a faster paced YA novel this year if you tried. It stops for the odd breather, but on the whole is unrelenting from beginning to end and I found myself reading it very fast through the multiple mini-climaxes which keep the book moving at a furious lick, helped by the fact the plot plays out in just one highly explosive week.”

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Dawn Kurtagich – “The Creeper Man” (UK) – Almost impossible to classify. Two sisters escape an abusive home and live with an aunt who just gets weirder and weirder. Read very carefully to figure out what the hell is going on with one of the greatest unreliable narrators in teen fiction. In America this novel is known as “And The Trees Crept In”. Kurtagich really is an author to watch and I also highly recommend the equally strange “The Dead House” also written in a fragmented and challenging style.

Ginger Nuts said: ‘“Creeper Man” by Dawn Kurtagich, first published in 2016, is easily the cleverest YA horror novel I have read in a good while. It was challenging, twisty, unpredictable and layered in such an intelligent way adults would could enjoy it as well as any younger reader. It was very, very clever.  On the simplest level the plot revolves around two sisters who escape London and their violent father to live with an aunt in a remote country house in the middle of a forest. Something happens to the aunt and she seemingly shuns the girls and locks herself in the attic. The intimidating dense and surrounding forest seems almost alive and threatens the sanity of the girls, which is questioned repeatedly throughout the novel. For much of this multi-layered corker you can never really be sure whether there is a supernatural entity at work or whether everything is psychological. The Creeper Man of the title is a superb creation and is as effective as any bogeyman creation in most adult horror as he and the imposing forest move closer to the girls as the sanity of the elder girl disintegrates.”

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Peader O’Guilin – “The Call” (Ireland) – Humdinger fantasy horror, ancient fairies from Old Ireland to rip teenagers out of time for three minutes (‘The Call’) most are killed, but the heroine (who has cerebral paulsey) is too tough to die. An outstanding novel which fuses fantasy, mythology and horror perfectly. When I was in America recently I saw this novel prominently displayed in a couple of bookshops when I was recently in America, maybe it will qualify for a Stoker nod next year? I know kids gagging for a sequel….

Ginger Nuts said: “The Call” by Peadar O'Guilin was totally terrific on many levels and the finest mesh of horror and teen fantasy I’ve read in ages. It has a great plot: in this weird version of Ireland the country has been sealed off from the rest of the world by a supernatural barrier. In this Ireland teenagers can be ‘Called’, this means they are summoned to another realm where they do battle with the Aes Sidhe, the ancient rulers of Ireland before they were banished in a great war. These as very evil fairy creatures and down-right nasty creatures which are incredibly cruel and live to torture humans for sport. The way the ‘Calling’ works is really great, any teenager can disappear into thin air for three minutes and they reappear in the fairy world where they are hunted. Most are killed horribly, mutilated or tortured, only one in ten return unharmed. Although they are only gone for three minutes in the fairy world this is 24 hours or longer, so avoiding death is almost impossible. Kids no longer go to school, instead they go to battle schools where they are taught how to survive the ‘Calling’ which will happen sooner or later. The plot revolves around a girl called Nessa, who has polio, and so cannot run properly, so nobody gives her a sniff of survival, however she is one TOUGH cookie.

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Kenneth Oppel – “The Nest”  (Canada) – Strange and psychologically challenging tale of a boy who has a new sibling born prematurely, whilst coping with loneliness and his distracted parents he becomes obsessed with a wasp’s nest outside his window and can feel them talking to him. This brilliantly inventive author is forever coming up with new ideas and I was thrilled to see this terrific novel recently given away free by the National Book Trust in the UK to tens of thousands of children in a recent literature drive, billed as a ‘future classic’. Sorry National Book Trust, but Ginger Nuts championed it first when it first appeared in hardback!  Oppel was previously nominated for a YA Stoker in 2011 for “This Dark Endeavour” his great look at the young Victor Frankenstein.

Ginger Nuts said: “Straight off the bat I would like to point out that this is an exceptionally odd book, and because of this oddness it’s pretty difficult to gage who it is actually aimed at, or who might enjoy it. It’s one of those novels that when you read as an adult, you pick up on lots of subtleties that child readers will either miss or ignore. I have a ten year old who reads a lot and I think she’d struggle with this novel, so I’d probably recommend it to slightly older kids, twelve plus probably. Having said that, it’s one of those books which a parent and child could have fun talking about together as it deals with a number of complex issues including death, illness, loneliness and loss very sensitively. It’s not strictly a horror novel, but merges effortlessly into several genres.”
That’s it. I hope you find something to read from these six books, or something to try on a niece, nephew or any kid who needs to find the reading bug.
Tony Jones


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<![CDATA[STOKER AWARDS 2016: A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF THE YA SECTION]]>Thu, 13 Apr 2017 06:32:14 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/stoker-awards-2016-a-comprehensive-review-of-the-ya-section
This feature reviews all the novels featured on the YA Section of the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards Final Ballot, in which the winner is announced on 29th April along with all the other categories. We are also reviewing a couple which didn’t make the final selection. The YA category does not usually pick up a lot of attention, but since I’m probably one of a handful of horror enthusiasts to have read all the books Ginger Nuts of Horror casts its critical eye upon them. There are some top notch books here, a couple of mediocre entries and one real cracker which I have saved to the end. Sadly, what this list lacks overall  is good old fashioned fear and kids really do enjoy being scared, as adult life long horror fans will all recall from their old childhoods as an ingredient key to a successful horror novel.  Although there are some very accomplished books here, there really is nothing to keep your kids awake at night. I’m also always on the lookout for the next big think, or the next book I think the kids are going to love, but I doubt very much it is on this short list.

Another real weakness of this list is that it only features American authors. The Stoker is supposed to be an international award, but you wouldn’t know it from their shortlist. So we will shortly be releasing an international  list of great teen horror which has been reviewed on the YA section of the Ginger Nuts of Horror ‘Young Blood’ section in 2016.

Now to the books…..
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Jennifer Brozek’s “Last Days of Salton Academy” was previously reviewed on GNoH before Christmas and the first reviewer rated it much higher than I did. Set in an American boarding school, after a zombie apocalypse, the surviving teenagers and a few staff are stranded in the school whilst the rest of the country goes to ruin. I found this a pretty bland read, the first half centres on the dynamics within the school grounds, teen politics, relationships and eventually survival. It really lacked tension and I struggled to get into it, even though it was a pretty short novel. Considering the sheer amount and high quality zombie and apocalyptic novels written for teenagers in recent years I would not recommend this novel to any as it was very dull and uninvolving. How it made this shortlist is only a question the Stoker Committee can answer?

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Elle Cosimano’s “Holding Smoke” was an entertaining crossover urban and supernatural thriller, which although a solid enough read, failed to really hit top gear. John ‘Smoke’ Conlan is in a youth detention centre commonly known as the ‘Y’ for the double murder of a teacher and a teenager. The reader quickly realises he has been framed for the murder of the teacher and killed the other boy in self-defence, much of the long term thrust of the book is about ‘Smoke’ trying to prove his innocence. Of course, being banged up in prison this is pretty difficult, but due to an earlier near death experience he has the power to leave his body and watch other people and gather information to help prove his innocence. Because he’s a nice guy he also uses this to help other inmates who have become his friends. Little does he know the true murderer still has his eye on him, even in prison he is far from safe. The ability to leave his body is called ‘threading’ and Smoke does not realise the more he does it, and the longer he does it for, the more likely it is he will get lost and have his soul separated from his body. Whilst out of his body he meets a girl called Pink, who can see him, due to her own supernatural gifts as a medium. Although it was a decent read, having the ability to leave one’s body is nothing new and has been well used in teen fiction in recent years. It did not have anything to make it stand out from the pack except for an engaging main character and whether that would be enough to hook a teenage reader I am not sure.

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Snowed” by Maria Alexander, who won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, was a solid stab at a Christmas themed horror/fantasy, but I’m not sure many kids would swallow this twee tale? Initially the non-horror background to this novel had more intrigue than the supernatural element which is introduced after a murder. Sixteen year old Charity Jones is an engaging heroine, smart, outspoken, very uncool and overweight. She is also of mixed race, in an area of Oak County California, which is predominately white. In the opening stages of the novel Charity sets up a ‘Sceptics Club’ and receives lots of hostility from her mainly Christian schoolmates. Of course, in the UK nobody would bat an eyelid at an Agnostic Society, or something similar. Her parents foster a teenage boy, Aiden, who is a bit weird and Charity develops a crush on him. At the same time her real brother is having problems at school and there is a whole family drama going on which coincides with Charity finding the murdered body of a school mate. At this point the supernatural element of the story begins. Who is Aiden really? Who is the killer? And then we head into the world of the supernatural. I struggled with the supernatural aspects of this book and although  it is based upon a myth which raises its head from time to time, and was even featured in a successful horror film a couple of years ago, I struggled to swallow it. However, it’s written in a punchy and entertaining Buffy the Vampire Slayer style I would be interesting in hearing whether kids took to it, or whether they thought it was dumb.

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The Telling” is Alexandra Sirowy’s second horror novel, with a third horror thriller in the pipeline for later in the year. Although I had numerus issues with this book it certainly challenged me enough to seek out her “The Creeping” (2015) debut and “When We Were Four” when it eventually appears. So she is an author to watch.  In many ways it was a strange, complex and often dreamy novel, which in the end promised more than it actually delivered. Set on an island near Seattle, teenager Lana is out swimming and sunbathing with her friends and after diving into the pool finds the body of a dead girl, Maggie. They all know Maggie and the police suspect foul play as the autopsy shows that she had not been dead very long. Lana and her friends had been there swimming for hours. Why did they not see anything? The back story is interwoven into this main story thread. Maggie was the on/off girlfriend of Lana’s step-brother Ben, who had recently been murdered in a car-jacking, the crime was still unsolved. The relationship between Ben and Lana is crucial to the story, as Lana constantly flips back to when Ben was alive. They were very close and as Lana is trying to come to terms with his murder becomes a suspect in the murder of Maggie. But are they connected? The plot thickens as other bodies turn up. Although, in many ways it was beautifully written I was not convinced Lana had an authentic voice of a teenager, she came across as way too mature, reflective, and wise for her years. Having said that her relationship with her step-brother and range of bitchy friends certainly had their moments as Lana became more popular at school via her more popular step-brother. For much of the novel it was ambiguous whether there was anything supernatural going on and when all the revelations, and twist were revealed at the end I was unconvinced by the Scoobie Doo ending which was far too neat. But my main issue was that all the teenagers in this book were just so boring and bland they mixed into one. Who was who again? It was more of a dark thriller than anything else, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a horror novel and I’m sure there are teens out there who would enjoy it. 

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Lily” by Michael Thomas Ford was a delightfully well crafted dark fantasy which read like a warped fairy-tale. It was on the long-list for the Stoker, but has since been cut which is a shame.  Although it is a kid’s book anyone could read it and because of its strangeness is quite difficult to know who it is aimed at. I loved the weirdness of it.  I get the feeling it is also a tale which would be very good to read out loud, although it would probably scare younger children, but anyone aged between 10 and 14 might find much to enjoy in this odd read. When Lily turns 13 she seems to develop a strange ability she thinks is a curse. The ability to tell when someone is going to die, just by touching them. Upon realising this, and the imminent death of her father, but unable to prevent it, Lily becomes depressed and feels that her ability, her curse, is another person living within her. Along the way Lily attracts the attention of an ancient witch, Baba Yaga, every fairy-tale needs a witch and Baba Yaga is a terrific character as she stalks Lily as she feels her power but is unsure of its meaning. Magic seems to exist in this world, but much remains fuzzy and vague, this is one of the great strengths of the novel, fairy-tales don’t need to provide all the answers and explain themselves. As the reader accompanies Lily on her rather strange odyssey she stumbles upon a travelling evangelical revival tent where the Preacher Reverend Silas Everyman discovers her gift and wants to exploit it. It’s such a strange and beguiling book I think kids may well see it as a strange little fantasy novel.  It is just as smart and as good as Sally Gardner’s “Tinder” or Patrick Ness’s “A Monster Calls” which are amongst the best examples of dark fantasy with strong fairy-tale elements popular in the UK at the moment.

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Michael Brent Kelley’s “Keep Away From Psycho Joe” was also chopped from the final list and was an entertaining novel set in a small American town where not much ever happens. Ruby is pretty new to the town and having found himself in trouble at the local high school begins to explore his new neighbourhood. Much of the first half of the novel concerns the banter between Ruby and his new best friend Cludes and Cludes’s cousin, Justine, who Ruby has a big crush on. The ‘Psycho Joe’ of the title is one of Ruby’s neighbours, who has a very bad reputation, but nobody really seems to know what for. At a certain point Ruby and Joe cross paths, and eventually, swords. For much of the novel you are supposed to think Joe is some kind of nutter, and he might be, but the reader is also aware that Joe is much more than he seems and this is where the novel heads into the supernatural realms. The novel is littered with film references that most teen readers will not understand or find remotely funny, quotes from films like “Goodfellas” and so on. Ruby is a decent enough lead character and some of his observations through his ‘Encyclopedia Stupidica’ are funny if you get the author’s sense of humour, otherwise they might grate after a while. Overall there just wasn’t enough going on with the plot for a full novel. The book finishes on a cliff-hanger and there is another ‘Psycho Joe’ book in the pipeline. These days novels set in small towns with supernatural goings on always seem to have ‘Stranger Things’ as a point of reference, but this reminded me more of the early 1990s series ‘Indiana Eerie’ which pretty neat.

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The Jeyn Roberts novel “When They Fade” was my favourite of all the books, so if I was on the HWA panel this is the book which would get my vote.  Jeyn Roberts is probably the best known of this bunch of authors in the UK also, with the first two books in her excellent “Dark Inside” trilogy being published in this country and she previously featured in Ginger Nut’s “Festive Top Fifty YA Horror Novels” last Christmas. Incredibly I picked up a second-hand copy on Amazon withdrawn from The New York Public Library, a disgrace when you consider it was only published in 2016! In any event, I would be surprised is this excellent supernatural thriller which meshes a very realistic teenage story does not pick up an official UK publisher. It’s a complex and gripping story told through two convincing and distinct voices, firstly, Tatum, who is having serious problems at school. Her ex-best friend Claudette was having an affair with a teacher and having concerns for her friend Tatum tells their Guidance Councillor. When confronted Claudette and her boyfriend teacher turn the tables on Tatum and nobody believes her. Her life becomes a misery and much of this back story is told via flashback. The second character is Molly who is a ghost. Molly was murdered in 1970 by a serial killer not long after the Woodstock Music Festival and she reappears as a hitchhiker on the stretch of road close to where she originally disappeared. The rest of the time she lives in a kind of Purgatory with other spirits/ghosts. One evening Tatum is out driving and she picks up Molly and when Molly touches Claudette’s hand she forsees a horrible death for Claudette. From that moment on the two girls are interconnected, Claudette begins to research into the ghost and Molly believes she can find a way of changing the other girl’s future. The rest of the plot is too complex to go into, but it is a superb fusion of painful and realistic high school bullying, ghost story, thriller and even a believable romance as Claudette tries to confront her demons. In many ways this was the most mainstream of the novels on the list and the author does an excellent job of creating a gripping ghost story in a high school setting. New York Public Library… How could you? Throwing out such a good novel, only published in 2016, is both stupid and an idiotic selection policy   So well done Jeyn Roberts, who knows how many folks have read these seven long listed books except for me, but yours was my winner.

Overall we should applaud the HWA for having a YA horror section at all as it is usually neglected and rarely feature on mainstream prize lists. Although this is a solid enough list having a short list made entirely of American authors is hardly representative of the horror world. So stay tuned for the Ginger Nuts of Horror ‘alternative’ YA horror selection featuring six international YA horror/dark fiction novels reviewed on our site in 2016.
 
Tony Jones

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<![CDATA[TIME TO ROUND THEM ALL UP: A LOOK AT SOME OF  RECENT YA HORROR FICTION RELEASES]]>Fri, 10 Feb 2017 05:44:47 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/time-to-round-them-all-up-a-look-at-some-of-recent-ya-horror-fiction-releases

As an occasional feature I will provide you all with a roundup of the different YA horror titles which have crossed my path over the previous couple of months. The majority of these will be fairly new, however, I will also feature older books by authors I have enjoyed which have not been covered on Ginger Nuts of Horror in previous reviews. Many sure you read to the end, as the final book is a total 10 out of 10 knockout.

Creeper Man  by Dawn Kurtagich

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First published in 2016, is easily the cleverest YA horror novel I have read in a good while. It was challenging, twisty, unpredictable and layered in such an intelligent way adults would could enjoy it as well as any younger reader. It was very, very clever.  On the simplest level the plot revolves around two sisters who escape London and their violent father to live with an aunt in a remote country house in the middle of a forest. Something happens to the aunt and she seemingly shuns the girls and locks herself in the attic. The intimidating dense and surrounding forest seems almost alive and threatens the sanity of the girls, which is questioned repeatedly throughout the novel. For much of this multi-layered corker you can never really be sure whether there is a supernatural entity at work or whether everything is psychological. The Creeper Man of the title is a superb creation and is as effective as any bogeyman creation in most adult horror as he and the imposing forest move closer to the girls as the sanity of the elder girl disintegrates. You’ll find yourself asking questions, such as when is it set? Why don’t the girls go to school? Why are there no phones? Is there a war going on? And not all these questions are answered as this claustrophobic read has a truly remarkable unreliable narrator in Silla.  The merging of her delusions with reality play a crucial part of this exceptionally clever psychological horror novel which is fiendishly well plotted with a superb ending and very clever twist. I highly recommend this challenging novel which is teen horror of the very highest order. So good in fact I have another novel by the same author already on my rather large the ‘to be read’ pile….

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 Sarah by Teri Polen

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A solid, if undemanding, teen/YA read aimed at younger teens, or kids 12+, but in comparison to the previous title somewhat bland. In this American novel a teenage boy, who is a star player on his high school football team, ends up dating a popular girl he doesn’t really like and struggles to dump her as he’s too nice.  At the same time Cain doesn’t realise that his house is haunted and before long the presence of a ghost girl begins to make Cain do strange things which twists the story into some entertaining directions. It was a decent but slightly unchallenging ghost story which was a bit lightweight if compared to more complex YA horror writers, who layer their writing and avoid all the standard high school clichés which threads through this novel. I suppose it’s got some creepy moments and when the ghost begins to have a bigger part there are some very good sequences which will excite younger readers. However,  it’s unlikely to ignite the imaginations older teens who would probably be ready for proper adult horror or the previous title, but it’s a step up from the likes of RL Stine, so a perfectly satisfactory read for 11-13 year olds. Being a UK reader I do find it funny reading about Yanks and their “soccer” matches. This was Polen’s debut novel and I’ll be interested to see whether she continues to write horror. Also, the cover does the novel no favours at all as it is such a blatant rip-off of ‘The Ring’.

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Camp So-And-So by Mary McCoy

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A quirky blend of horror, thriller, with a smattering of the supernatural thrown in. Probably aimed at children, girls most likely, of the ages 12+ it played around with the standard horror film setting of teens on a remote summer camp, with something nasty going to happen…. However, I’m guessing the author is probably a horror film buff who has used her film knowledge to come up with an original and clever tale which should entertain younger teens. The camp is full of your average group of horror film teen clichés, drama queens, loners, those only interested in their hair and boys and lots of others. Split into cabins the dynamics of the rooms work pretty well and the tension builds when one girl disappears and rumours begin to circulate about nastiness happening in the camp in the past. The book has an odd structure which I think teens are going to have to concentrate on to follow the story, otherwise they might give up too soon. Along the way there are some decent twists, suspense and you can’t help but think you might be in a Friday the 13th flick and it was cool when the cabins actually begun to figure out what was going on. Actually, it reminded me of lots of other books/TV, but in a pop culture sort of way it most definitely turns into its own work as it runs with plenty of fresh riffs on this popular YA genre. Summer camps are very American, so I’m not sure whether a British audience with identify with it so much, but you will most definitely have a good laugh at some of the Councillors, one girl when she meets her leader is greeted with “If you bother me I will END you! Ouch. An American author to watch out for.  I think the author is a Librarian. A very cool job.

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Give Me A K-I-L-L by RL Stine

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Probably everyone reading this review of  Give Me A K-I-L-L by RL Stine has probably read a novel by this famous author at one time or another, but  this was the first Stine novel I had read in the best part of twenty years so I was interested to see if he had changed at all. And the answer is a simple NO. The formulae which has resulted in the sale of millions and millions of books is exactly the same. So it was pretty dull. This novel published in April was exactly the same as many of his others and read like an episode of Scoobie Doo, where for much of the time there is an obvious suspect, then another is uncovered before the inevitable double twist. This new ‘Fear Street’ novel did exactly that in a fairly pedestrian and A-B-C way in which all the characters are pretty bland and sketchily drawn. Gretchen, new to the school, and hoping to make the cheerleading squad tries out for the team and quickly falls foul of the team bully who for much of the novel we believe is stalking her, or even trying to kill her as there are unexplained accidents until we head towards the double twist. As I said Stine has been writing this sort of stuff for decades and in that period children’s and YA horror fiction has moved on. However, this novel has none of the characteristics of top quality horror or suspenseful teen fiction and is as bland as the cheerleading squad which dominates the story. However, the book isn’t aimed at me, and I suppose undemanding 10-12 year olds may find it entertaining on some level, as clues are thrown into the mix and it jogs along at a decent page turning pace. But you’ve read the same story a thousand times before.

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HAUNT ME BY LIZ KESSLER 

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I enjoyed Liz Kessler’s Haunt Me, a skilfully told ghost story aimed at teenagers probably aged 12-14 and although it has a few mature themes they are handled sensitively. It's a ghost story with a believable dose of romance, but certainly isn't 'paranormal romance' and doesn't fall in with any of the clichés the never ending list of books about angels, vampires and werewolves often do. Yes, it's supernatural, but it also reads as a very contemporary teenage novel. A family move into their new house, looking for a fresh start after their daughter was badly bullied in her previous school. After a freak accident she begins to see the ghost of a teenage boy in her house, and when the novel begins he is unaware he is dead. A strong friendship, maybe something more develops, and I really liked the way this relationship unfolded between these two very fragile teens. The story is told in alternative points of view until a third character is introduced a bit later and the teenage girl has some difficult choices to make. The school scenes were effectively played and I liked the fact that the characters were drawn together via stuff like poetry, very uncool to most. I guess an adult reader will see where the book is going, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It had real heart.

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THE BONE WITCH BY RIN CHUPECO

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Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch has picked up considerable pre-publication hype which for the most part fails to deliver upon. Personally, I don’t think making bold comparisons with the likes of “The Game of Thrones” does the book any good at all, as invariably it is going to disappoint. Sure ‘Tea’ is a pretty cool and engaging teenage lead character, but she really is no ‘Daenerys Targaryen’ and should not be compared to the ‘Dragon Queen’. George RR Martin is a giant of the genre, this author is just starting out, so let Rin Chupeco find her own legs. Much more fantasy than horror, “The Bone Witch” follows the story of a junior witch called Tea who travels the kingdoms with her mentor and her undead brother whom she has brought back from the dead.  For a teen novel it was pretty slow and heavy in parts, and I don’t think it has quite enough going for it to challenge the seasoned adult fantasy reader, so I’m unsure of crossover appeal.  This sturdy read spent ages on the world building and the story just moved along too slow for my taste. I much preferred this authors “The Girl from the Well” which was a straight horror novel and reviewed elsewhere on GNoH. Like the previous novel, this book has a lot of eastern influences in the story and it many ways that made this fantasy world very believable. As Tea progresses up the greasy pole in the world of magic, the dangers and intrigue also increase. It must be said that the dead brother was a pretty great character and has many of the novel’s best lines. As I said, it was more of a fantasy read and I would aim it at girls more so than boys, but if you’re expecting another “Game of Thrones” you will be sorely disappointed. Of course it finished for a sequel, but I for one will not be on the edge of my seat.

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THE CALL BY PEADAR O'GUILIN

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I’ve saved a totally fabulous book for last “The Call” by Peadar O'Guilin was totally terrific on many levels and the finest mesh of horror and teen fantasy I’ve read in ages. Sadly this brilliant book has been saddled with the dullest cover possible, we can only hope the publisher sees the error of their ways and rectifies it for the paperback. It has a great plot: in this weird version of Ireland the country has been sealed off from the rest of the world by a supernatural barrier. In this Ireland teenagers can be ‘Called’, this means they are summoned to another realm where they do battle with the Aes Sidhe, the ancient rulers of Ireland before they were banished in a great war. These as very evil fairy creatures and down-right nasty creatures which are incredibly cruel and live to torture humans for sport. The way the ‘Calling’ works is really great, any teenager can disappear into thin air for three minutes and they reappear in the fairy world where they are hunted. Most are killed horribly, mutilated or tortured, only one in ten return unharmed. Although they are only gone for three minutes in the fairy world this is 24 hours or longer, so avoiding death is almost impossible. Kids no longer go to school, instead they go to battle schools where they are taught how to survive the ‘Calling’ which will happen sooner or later. The plot revolves around a girl called Nessa, who has polio, and so cannot run properly, so nobody gives her a sniff of survival, however she is one TOUGH cookie. This book is quite simply brimming with fantastic ideas, meshing successfully Irish folklore with a totally fresh fusion of horror and fantasy. It was really violent and littered with believable characters and a totally terrific ending which is both satisfying for a standalone read and equally great for a sequel. Can you tell how much I loved this book? Nessa seriously rocked.
 
That brings us to the end of this first instalment of my YA horror roundup, do get in touch with Ginger Nuts of Horror if there are any suggestions for reviews or you want any YA horror advice. I hope to look at some of the titles on the YA section of the Bram Stoker Awards, it’s stacked with American titles by authors relatively unknown to British teen audiences, so that will be interesting.

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<![CDATA[EXTREME MAKEOVER BY DAN WELLS]]>Wed, 04 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/extreme-makeover-by-dan-wellsBy Tony Jones 
 
                              The end of the world begins with a hand-lotion….
 
We hope you’ve had the chance to read our recent accompanying Dan Wells interview. The interview mostly covers Dan’s debut cult novel “I Am Not a Serial Killer” (2009) and the super-cool 2016 film of the same name which has attracted rave reviews, recently arriving in the UK cinemas. So now we turn to Dan’s latest novel “Extreme Makeover” which was released by Tor in the USA in November.
 
As a long term fan of Dan Wells, I was looking forward to reading his latest offering, which was aimed at the adult market rather the YA audience his books are typically targeted at in the UK. Interestingly, in the end notes of “Extreme Makeover,” Dan comments that he had stop-started on this novel for many years while working on numerous other projects before eventually completed after much coaxing from his agent. I’m pleased to say it was well worth the effort, ‘pet-projects’ are often very different from an author’s normal literary output and “Extreme Makeover” certainly fits into that ‘something different’ category. It’s probably more thriller than horror, with a surgical implant of black comedy which revolves around a unique apocalypse.

 
This highly entertaining mix of science fiction, speculative fiction and satirical comedy opens with a count-down which decreases with every chapter, opening with ‘267 Days to the End of the World’. How the world is going to end you have no idea, but I can guarantee our little planet has never been completely shafted as it is in “Extreme Makeover”. Part of the fun is the journey, most of it undertaken with Lyle Fontenelle, who although is a very nice and likeable guy (one of the few in the book), is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse all rolled into one. Accidently, of course…..
 
Some of the novel satires the consumer society we live in, particularly the need to look beautiful, young, or have something similar to plastic surgery so radical it can create new identifies. So how does this happen? Lyle is a scientist who works for NewYew which specialises in beauty products, and he is pretty good at what he does. He accidently invents what he believes could be an amazingly successful anti-aging hand lotion cream. His bosses realise he has hit the jackpot as the lotion which could make them billions. In their lust for cash, they deliberately decide to forget about government laws on the testing of the cream and push forward with a massive launch. Meantime a rival company steals their lotion. Greed is one of the main themes of the book, and many of the disasters which follow are because of it.
 
However, as things begin to spiral out of control Lyle and NewYew, by a comedy of errors again realise, that the lotion is way stronger than they thought and can rewrite the human genetic code. The problem is as it was recreated accidently, nobody can recreate the experiment successfully including Lyle or the thieves from the rival company. Sensing, even more, money in the offing NewYew push the new product forward, now called ReBirth and the public start using this completely untested product in all sorts of horrible ways and we spiral towards the apocalypse. I won’t say any more about how it happens except that NewYew were blindsided completely by their greed….
 
I laughed quite a bit over the course of this 400-page novel. Lyle was a great character and no matter what he did nothing worked out for him. He was a real patsy. The novel danced a very fine line between thriller and comedy, which for the most part it pulled off pretty well.  There were all sorts of very selfish and unlikeable characters thrown into the mix and even as things got bleaker and darker all they saw were the dollar signs. As the plot lurched into the final third, the reader had to forget the ridiculousness of it all, shake their head, and continue reading. It was really, really stupid, but much of the best satire is exactly that, as it led into areas of human cloning and beauty products being used as weapons.
 
The countdown from ‘267 days’ to ‘The End of the World’ worked pretty well. At various times it makes some significant shifts downwards and often the latest disasters are revealed the last surviving members of the United Nations or the horrific consequences such as the concentration camps. Along the way, there are some great support characters, Susan, who Lyle secretly lusted after was top notch, as was a new age scumbag known as  ‘The Guru’.
 
The novel doesn’t overdo on the science and keeps the technology vague and so we never really get bogged down in the technicalities of how ReBirth works. However, it’s slightly unfortunate that the majority of the characters were so very unlikeable, but then again we do still have Lyle to root for. This is an elegant change of pace for an author who has written some top quality horror and fantasy novels and it is well worth a punt to the reader who wants to discover how a hand lotion can end the world. And what a journey.

Read our exclusive interview with dan wells here

​and read our review of the adaptation of his novel

I am not a serial killer here 

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<![CDATA[THE BOOK OF MY CHILDHOOD: ROBERT WIERSEMA]]>Tue, 20 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/the-book-of-my-childhood-robert-wiersema
When I was a kid, Lewis Barnavelt was one of my best friends.

We were introduced by Mercer Mayer. Mayer had done the illustrations for a series of books featuring one of my other best friends, J.D. Fitzgerald and his older brother T.D., The Great Brain himself. I had pretty much exhausted my relationship with J.D. (though I would, of course, revisit our shared early adventures pretty regularly) and was looking for a new companion in my elementary school library when I stumbled across The Figure in the Shadows. The artwork was familiar, Mercer Mayer at his best, and a description of the book sounded promising -- if scary -- so I knew I had to check it out, both literally and figuratively. The trouble was, The Figure in the Shadows was the second book in the series, and I knew, even at that young age, that you had to start with the first, even if it had pictures by some guy named Edward Gorey, rather than Mercer Mayer.

That night, I devoured the first three books in John Bellairs' series, and met the boy who would change my life: Lewis Barnavelt.

From our first meeting, Lewis and I seemed destined to be friends. After all, we had a lot in common. I wasn't an orphan like he was, but I was growing up in a small town much like New Zebedee, where Lewis is sent to live with his Uncle Jonathan as The House with a Clock in Its Walls begins. (Truth be told, my hometown bore absolutely no resemblance to New Zebedee, but why let a little thing like objective reality interfere with a new friendship with a fictional character?) More importantly, Lewis and I were both loners, given to reading and moping, fairly unpopular with our classmates, poor at sports and a little, well, chunkier than we should have been. And we were both cursed, oddly enough, with "purple corduroy trousers, the kind that go whip-whip when you walk."

It was easy for me to become friends with Lewis; I didn't even have to imagine it. When you're that age, the friends you make in books are more real than people in the "actual" world... I'm not sure that feeling ever changes, to be honest, but that's a thought that might require therapeutic intervention if I pursue it much further.

I will say this, though: friends like Lewis Barnavelt? J.D. Fitzgerald? The Three Investigators? Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace? Those are some of the best friends I ever had: always there for me. Always willing to hang out. Reliable. Resolute. Wonderful.

As I grew up, though, I didn't treat them particularly well. I discovered girls, and other friends, like Johnny Smith from The Dead Zone and Paul Atreides from Dune. I kind of forgot about Lewis, and his Uncle Jonathan, and their neighbour Mrs. Zimmerman, and, of course, Rose Rita...

I forgot, that is, until I had child of my own. I was wandering through the kids' section of a bookstore when we were on holiday and was stopped in my tracks by a chunky hardcover collection of those first three John Bellairs' novels: The House With a Clock in Its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. Of course I bought it. And of course, that night, when everything was quiet, I read those books.

I had forgotten just how scary they were. Bellairs apparently wrote the novels with adults in mind, then shifted the language somewhat to suit younger readers, while doing nothing to curb the at-times overpowering dread. And I had forgotten a lot of the specifics, of course: I had spent thirty-odd years reading horror novels, and the sounds in the walls and the curses on the jewelry had, I admit, blurred together a bit. I did realize, though, that it was the Bellairs novels that gave me my first taste of horror, and, in their way, shaped my future career. And my nightmares.

And my friend Lewis was there, on the first page, riding that bus into New Zebedee, wearing his purple cords and freaking out about the future.

He might not have known where he was going, but for me, it felt like coming home.


Robert Wiersema

BIO
Robert Wiersema is the author of five books, most recently the short story collection Seven Crow Stories. But he also worked in bookstores for over 20 years, coordinated author events for Victoria, B.C.'s Bolen Books in Canada and is one of the country's busiest book reviewers.
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A mysterious young woman rises from the sea . . . the ghostly wife of a country singer follows her husband from town to town, exactly a peculiar vengeance . . . a hitchhiker grants a boon to the young man who picks her up . . . the disappearance of a young boy changes the life of his older brother . . . the last circus comes to Henderson . . . the wildly successful prodigal son returns to the town where he grew up to find his first love waiting for him . . . an expectant mother is tormented by a crying within the walls of her home. . . . In his debut collection Seven Crow Stories, bestselling novelist Robert J. Wiersema draws on myth and folktale, ghost stories and fairy tales to share a glimpse of the worlds bordering our own.

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

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<![CDATA[THE WRONG TRAIN BY JEREMY DE QUIDT]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 03:47:53 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/the-wrong-train-by-jeremy-de-quidtBy Tony Jones 

Behind a rather drab looking book-jacket lurks a truly exquisite collection of eight short stories aimed at the teen/YA market or anybody who enjoys a bloody good old fashioned scare…. And to be frank, if any adult horror writers (published or unpublished) out there want an A-Z lesson on how to construct supernatural stories for children, then look no further than this masterful anthology. Many of the tales sneakily play on the insecurities of everyday life, especially those irrational fears that put children on edge. From the outdoor light which randomly flashes on and off, to the smelly old photo album, not forgetting the strangeness of a new house or even the invisible friend who is just a tad too real. Jeremy De Quidt presses all the right buttons in building an oppressive atmosphere of darkness which permeates throughout all unique eight stories...


I believe this highly original author deserves to be much better known that he is. And if you flick through our ongoing Festive Fifty of recommended YA horror novels you’ll find Jeremy on our first list. His spine-tingling debut “Toymaker” is a real favourite of mine, and so eight years down the train track it’s an incredible coincidence to be reviewing this September 2016 release, only his third in these eight long years. In a recent conversation with the author, I was very surprised to find out that he NEVER reads horror! He is obviously a rare breed, as most top writers of horror are almost always serious students of the genre also! To steal his comment on this from our email exchange: “I just carry a whole lot of that dark ink around in my head”. He sure does….

Did I say there were eight stories? The correct answer is really nine…. As the ninth story expertly connects this anthology together, that of an unnamed boy who stupidly gets off a train at the wrong station of the title. He finds it to be completely deserted and bumps into an old man who acts increasingly sinister as he begins to reveal the stories in the anthology. These tales are interspersed with the developing story between the old man and the increasingly frightened boy who feels himself being sucked into these incredibly realistic stories which he does not want to hear.

Christmas is traditionally a great time for ghost stories, so if you’re looking to buy a collection of stories for a child, niece or nephew then I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough. Please encourage the child to look beyond the rather flat cover which is obviously trying to recreate the train station of the lost boy who interconnects the story. Virtually none of the stories run for over twenty pages and could be ideal for reading out loud, however, they are pretty scary and are not aimed at primary school kids unless they do like being creeped out. There is little violence, and much is left to the imagination, which makes them even scarier, especially for children.

Although all the stories are standalone reads I would stick to the running order of the book as the interconnecting story between the old man and the unnamed boy is terrific and as it nears its end you just know something bad is going to happen…. This brings us onto the one thing all the stories have in common – their incredibly dark endings! No elder brothers or sisters come to the rescue, and no mum or dad appears to turn on the light and give reassuring hugs. Although the stories are very modern and use technology and modern themes, they also have the style of many of the great Edwardian ghost stories of the last century at heart and could easily pass for a century in age or older. 

I don’t want to go into any details on the particular plots, except for mentioning a few brief highlights because they were so cleverly unnerving…. The girl being stalked by her own mobile phone ... The girl kissed on the lips by her sly-looking little brother who is always covered in soot…. When dreams and reality can’t be separated, and your mum tells you that she loves her other son more than you…. The babysitter being stalked by the children with gigantic mouths…. I could go on; De Quidt turns everyday objects into something to be feared. These are stories to savour. 

Typically when I read collections of short stories, for adult or child, I read them in batches. Not so with “The Wrong Train” starting it on a Saturday and finishing it on a Sunday, so this is very high praise indeed and if you do decide to buy it for a kid who thinks “books are boring” remember to try a story or two first yourself! I bet you’ll read them all…..   

Tony Jones 
PURCHASE LINKS 

AMAZON UK 

AMAZON US 
Jeremy also features in today's Books of Their Childhood which can be found here. And the first  part of our Festive Fifty which can be read here 
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<![CDATA[THE BOOKS OF THEIR CHILDHOOD]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 06:28:28 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/the-books-of-their-childhood
In a complimentary feature to Our Festive Fifty series of articles, we are proud to bring you The Books of Their Childhood, Where authors tell us about their favourite book or books from their childhood.  Today we feature contributions from Kate Harrison, Moira Fowley Doyle and Jeremey De Quidt

Kate Harrison ON  Noah’s Castle by John Rowe Townsend and John Christopher's Empty World

 When I read this WAY BACK in the 1980s, I didn’t know the term ‘dystopia’ or think of it as a thriller – it just seemed like a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of a world on the edge. The opening is a little slow, and the sexist attitudes of the teen protagonist’s father are pretty offensive (but not at all unrealistic for when this was published) but the vision of conflict, food shortages and the decisions people take to protect themselves, meant it could only end in a nightmare showdown. It’s a book that has stayed with me, as has Empty World by John Christopher, a short but devastating book about a boy who is one of the few survivors of a horrific ageing disease. Neither of these books is stylistically perfect, but there’s something about the fears and ideas they stimulated, that means they linger longer in my memory than lots of other books that had ghouls jumping out of the wardrobe, or bloodthirsty demons feeding on humans.

Moira Fowley-Doyle ON Rachel Klein’s Moth Diaries & Stephanie Keuhn’s Charm and Strange


My favourite kinds of scary stories are the ones that creep up on you. The ghost stories that aren’t. The ones that make you question things. The ones that give you strange dreams. The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein is a story about a vampiric teenager in a girls’ boarding school… but also it isn’t. Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn is a story about a troubled boy with werewolf-like tendencies… but also it isn’t. Probably my favourite horror-book-that-isn’t is the lush and mesmerising White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, which is about a family living in a haunted house… but also it isn’t. It has ghosts and memories and several unreliable narrators including the house itself and it’s twisted and beautiful, the way all scary stories should be. All three of these books are about monsters (vampires, werewolves, ghosts) and secrets, or monsters as secrets, or secrets as monsters, or all of the above. The fact that you can never really know for sure is part of what makes them the perfect scary read.

Jeremy de Quidt on books, the dark and childhood
Amazingly Jeremy de Quidt doesn’t read horror so instead he shares this little anecdote from when a blogger (Andy) recently asked his the same sort of question…. However, he did also tell us that he was currently reading Stephen King’s Dance Macabre, and was feeling better informed, but no wiser!
 'Andy looked at me over his laptop.
 “You told Beth at Reader’s Corner that you never read scary stories when you were a child because you had nightmares?”
“That’s right,” I said.
He looked at the laptop, I could see him reading the tour blog post.
“So, scary stories were never your inspiration,’ he said. “You just pour it all out of that dark ink you carry round in your head now.”
“That’s right.”
He looked up.
“Do stories scare you, now?” He asked.
“Not really,” I said. “I don’t read scary things. If I do it’s to take them apart - admire all the ropes and pulleys behind the words. See how other people do it.”
“Some stuff must scare you, though?”
“Course it does,” I said. “Fear’s not rational. Once someone lets a story into that part of their head they don’t have the key to, all the dark things in there will get up and play with it.”
He grinned, turned the lamp round so that it was pointing directly at me and said.
“So, what actually was it scared you, kicked off all those nightmares, when you were a child?”
“Specifics?”
“Specifics,” he said.
“How many do you want?” I could see we were going to be there all day if I tried to give him the whole list.
“Three,” he said.
“Ok,” I said. “Three.”  
I thought about it for a moment and then held up a finger. 
“Number one.
Because I didn’t read or want to watch scary stuff, what I just glimpsed in pictures - in photographs in newspapers and magazines, on covers of books - they were a big way to let the bad things in. Some would be awful in the way that only those pictures can be - I remember seeing a photograph of Belsen in the pages of a history book an uncle had. Others were awful in a way intended to shock and entertain - there was a series of American Civil War bubblegum cards that were all gore and death.
What they did was put the image in that unlit closed-off part of my head that I didn’t have the key to - added it to the ones that were already there - and come nighttime and darkness all the bright lights went on in there and that dark imagination of mine would feed on it and turn it into something else, much worse.”
 I held up another finger. “Number two.
Being alone in the dark - bedroom light out, hall light out, dark. Especially in the dead of night. 
Home is supposed to be safe, but it didn’t feel safe and when everyone else was asleep they might just as well not have been there at all. All I was left with is whatever I wanted to fill up the dark with, and I was never short of ideas for that. They came creeping across the floor, around the doorpost, down the walls from the ceiling - tapped at the glass behind the curtains, hid in folds of cloth.” 
I held up a third Finger. “Number three,” I said.
“I listened too much and asked too many of the wrong questions. There’d have been a scary film on that I hadn't seen, and lamb to the slaughter I wouldn’t able to stop myself asking what it had been about. ‘What happened?’ I’d say, and even as I said it I knew that I was going to regret asking. Maybe not then, maybe not an hour later, but come the dark - come that bright light getting switched on in the locked room inside my head, boy was I going to regret it. And I did. Every time.
“Were you a timid child?” asked Andy.
“Not at all. I sawed a .410 shotgun cartridge in half on a stone step at infant’s school because I fancied the shiny brass bit at the end…”
“You what?”
“But you could say that was plain ignorance. And I put a .22 brass starting pistol cap in a brick wall once and hit it with a hammer and nail…”
“at infants school? A shotgun cartridge…
“And if there was anything of a bone breaking height to throw myself off or round, I was your boy. But dark imagination, that was a demon I had no hold on at all.”
I looked up at Andy and felt myself slowly smiling in what I hoped was a friendly way.
“Still don’t,” I said.'

Jeremy de Quidt's  article originally appeared on Ebookwyrms Blog cave 

Read our review of Jeremy's brand new collection here 


and please check put the Festive Fifty Articles 

Part 1 

Part 2 

​Part 3 
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<![CDATA[A FESTIVE 50 PART 3: A PARENTS BUYING GUIDE TO YOUNG ADULT HORROR FICTION]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 05:32:49 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/a-festive-50-part-3-a-parents-buying-guide-to-young-adult-horror-fiction
With Christmas fast approaching and the dread of all that Christmas shopping ahead of you, why don't you let Ginger Nuts of Horror take some of the pressure of you? With our four part guide to purchase horror books suitable for your precious ones.

Our Festive 50 is designed as a buying guide for parents who would love to introduce their younglings to the horror genre, but who might be a little concerned with exposing them to something that might distress them too much.  The books featured here have all been vetted and deemed suitable for teenage readers.   So read on for the final part of this massive countdown of the best YA horror fiction out there...

Laura Powell - Burn Mark Series 

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Witchcraft is an acceptable, but feared, part of modern society in this dark thriller set in a slightly skewered version of the UK today where witch  burnings are seen as popular entertainment on TV and where getting a job for the Inquisition is seen as a cool thing to do.  Glory is our main character, who hails from a family of witches, and is desperate to develop the 'Fae' and become a full witch herself. A funky update of ‘Witchfinder General’ for the teen generation maybe? “The Game of Triumphs” was another entertaining supernatural fantasy from this talented author who seems to keep a pretty low profile.

Chris Priestley - The Dead of Winter 

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 Sam finds out that things really do go bump in the night when he arrives at the house of his sinister and odd new guardian. This is a great example of an old fashioned ghost story set over one very cold Christmas holiday. Priestley writes this sort of fun and is a real master of the modern gothic ghost story. It’s short, accessible, has some traditional ghost story scares and perfect for kids who struggle with long books. Just don’t expect any presents…..

Thomas Taylor – Haunters 

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 This novel was a nice blend of SF, fantasy and the supernatural. Different kids are linked by their ability to time-travel. Using their dreams, they can appear like ghosts, wherever and whenever they want. The first is the genius who discovers dreamwalking. The second is a Haunter, a dream-terrorist, determined to change history for his own ends. The last is the novice dream-walker who must battle to save his family, and himself, from oblivion.

Lisa Stasse - The Forsaken Trilogy

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Alenna fails a genetic ‘test’ which predicts she has the genetic makeup to become a violent criminal. So she is sent to an island for the criminally insane she has to fight for survival and her own sanity. A fine mash of dystopia, thriller and horror and one of my favourites of the many ‘post Hunger Games’ reads which clogged the bookshops in recent years. It’s not that well known in the UK, but really deserves to be.  I’m looking forward to seeing what this American author does next.

Helen Grant - Wish Me Dead

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Steffi and her friends visits the house of a long-dead local witch and is seemingly given the power to make wishes come true. This is far from a blessing as she is soon plagued with locals wanting her to do their dirty work over the most trivial slights. It’s clever in that for a decent chunk of the novel you’re not 100% sure whether there is anything supernatural or not. Grant is a British author who lives in Germany, where most of her books are set, often playing with the supernatural and local German superstitions. Others I recommend are “The Glass Demon” and “The Vanishing of Katharina Linden” which was a highly successful novel inspired by the Pied Piper story.

Kim Harrington  - Clarity

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This is an enjoyable paranormal murder mystery with a teenage girl who has the power to see visions of the things she touches and after a local murder is sucked into the mystery, as is her brother who has a supernatural gift of his own. A lighter read for those who like an old fashioned heroine and the ‘psychic girl’ returns in a second novel “Perception”

Kate Harrison - Soul Beach Trilogy

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 Gripping supernatural thriller about a virtual cyber world full of dead souls stuck in an online type of Purgatory which has been billed ‘Facebook for the Dead’. Alice receives an email from her dead sister she assumes it must be a sick joke, but it includes details that only her sister would know. Later, Alice receives an invitation to the virtual world of Soul Beach which really is much more than it seems in this neat self-contained trilogy that plays around with social media.

Malorie Blackman - Stuff of Nightmares

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Frightening and scary novel which is really a collection of short stories which center on the small, irrational fears that affect us all whilst we’re having nightmares. These dreams are especially nasty after a train crash which badly injures Kyle who has the ability to ‘hop’ from nightmare to nightmare, where each dream plays out like a self-contained story. Former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman is probably best known for her “Noughts and Crosses” series, but I always had a soft spot for this novel. Some of the sections had previously been published as standalone short stories.

Darren Shan - The Thin Executioner

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 Few authors have contributed more to UK horror for kids than Darren Shan, who has been one of the leading lights since he was first published around 2000. He often writes pretty long sequences, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this standalone novel, one of his lesser known books, which is a lovely written coming of age tale which fuses together fantasy, sorcery and horror as a teenage boy fights to save the honour of his family and become the next ‘Thin Executioner’. I love it when authors change direction and with not a trademark vampire in sight Darren does it expertly here. A number of years ago I met Darren on a couple of occasions and he also is great with kids and has a very entertaining live show. 

Joanne Dahme – Creepers

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 Entertaining mix of thriller and ghost story in this clever tale of a house built beside an old graveyard. Thirteen year old Courtney and her family are the new occupants in the house and she is sure she can feel something lurking in the walls and when she meets decidedly dodgy neighbours she soon realizes this is a town with a history. Not at all well known, but an easy read for a young teen looking for a page-turning ghost story.

Tom Becker -  DarkSide Series

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Jonathan Starling's home has been attacked, his dad is in an asylum, he's running for his life, and there's nowhere to hide having  stumbled upon London's greatest secret, Darkside. It's a world of nightmares and secrets, where fear and evil rule, and Jonathan has to find a way out.... I have always been a big fan of this crossover fantasy/horror five book series which won the prestigious Waterstone’s Prize and also the author’s cool supernatural prison novel “Traitors”.

Kirsty McKay – Undead Series 

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A kick-ass teen-action-zombie fest which plays it for laughs in amongst the gore.  A group of teens returning from a Scottish skiing holiday run into a zombie plague.  An enjoyable read as Bobby tries to avoid being eaten by her classmates in this fun mix of teen angst and horror. Kirsty also wrote a serial killer thriller set in a boarding school called “Killer Game” which I also enjoyed.

Rachel Vincent - My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers Series)

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Great supernatural thriller about a girl who senses when someone near her is going to die and when she does involuntarily releases a deafening banshee like scream. This is a very enjoyable horror thriller series to try from a highly prolific author who likes to mix romance with her urban fantasy/horror.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the paranormal romance sub-genre of horror as a whole, but this was one of the better examples of those I did read.

G P Taylor – Shadowmancer

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 Many of you will have heard of “Shadowmancer” which meshes fantasy, adventure and horror together in an entertaining tale of an evil sorcerer trying to take over the world with only a few plucky kids standing in his way. This book was one of the earliest examples of self-publishing being really successful and then being bought in a bidding war in the quest to find the ‘next’ Harry Potter. Although I thought this book was fun comparing it to the mighty HP never did it any favours. Sales were helped along by an author who had a big personality and a colourful career ranging from policeman to vicar. An enjoyable read, best read if you know nothing of the hype which surrounded it on initial publication.  

Kathleen Peacock – Deadly Hemlock Trilogy

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 Lupine Syndrome, the werewolf virus, infects more and more people in this clever series which takes the werewolf story into the world of science and viruses and away from the supernatural. Never fear, it still manages to throw in some paranormal romance and an entertaining thriller along the way and book two picks up the story in a neat way.

Bekka Black – iDracula 

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It’s sad but true, many kids haven’t the staying power to read the original Stoker’s “Dracula”  these days so this  quirky modern rewrite of the legendary novel is an enjoyable speed read mostly written in text, email and mobile phone format ideal for those with a limited attention span or a reading ability which would struggle with the original. You could argue it cheapens the Stoker masterpiece, but if it’s going to get kids with lower ability reading ages familiar with the original I am all for it. 

Sarwat Chadda – Devil’s Kiss Series

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This excellent debut was wrongly punted at the Stephanie Meyer crowd when released in 2009, but it’s so much more. It’s a cross between urban fantasy, way before it was trendy, and an old fashioned horror novel with an approaching apocalypse and a plucky  teenage girl who is a descendant of the Knights Templar a mythical, but near extinct group, who fight demons, carry out exorcisms and battle fallen angels. It doesn’t help that fifteen year old Billy is of Muslim extraction and the Knights are an ancient Christian group of fighters. A sequel followed a couple of years later. It really is something different.

Steve Voake – Dark Woods 

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This pretty diverse author is a former primary school headteacher who usually writes for much younger kids, but once in a while pops out a supernatural thriller with a tasty dose of fantasy. Dreams can be turned into reality in a remote part of Montana USA, when a teenager out camping is sucked into what turns out to be a nightmare which takes him to the brink of death and are very, very real. Cool stuff, “Blood Hunters” is also highly recommended

Dayna Lorentz – No Safety in Numbers Trilogy

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This super cool trilogy is pretty well known in the USA, less known in the UK and builds the trilogy tightly around a group of teenagers trapped and later quarantined in a giant shopping mall after there has been some sort of biological germ attack which affects the air ducts. The exciting story is told via four points of view and is a riveting read of instinctual survival.

H E Goodhue - Zombie Youth Series

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 What will the survivors do when everyone over the age of twenty suddenly dies in a viral outbreak? Worse yet, what will they do when the dead refuse stay dead?  Some students  are left trapped in their school as the adults they once relied upon suffer strange symptoms and die, only to return and feed. Yes, the zombie fad really has had its day but I’ve got a soft spot for this rather obscure novel and its fun battleground between the living and dead. A couple of sequels have since come out.


READ PART ONE OF OUR FESTIVE FIFTY HERE 

READ PART TWO  OF OUR FESTIVE FIFTY HERE 

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<![CDATA[´╗┐THE BOOKS OF OUR CHILDHOOD]]>Wed, 07 Dec 2016 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/the-books-of-our-childhood
As  complementary feature to our exciting Festive 50 countdown, we bring you The Books of Our Childhood.  

We all have that one book that we hold dear to our hearts.  That one book that stands out in the mists of our memories as the book that first ignited our passion for reading.  For this reviewer, the book that springs to mind is Douglas Hill's The Galactic Warlord.  Yes on hindsight it was clearly cashing in on the Star Wars craze, but this tale of the last of a species of humanoids who thanks to generations of training and selective breeding became the most feared fighting force in the Universe. However, unlike so many other examples of this the Legionnaires as they were known as where a force a good, fighting tyranny and corruption throughout the cosmos.  Which is why The Galactic Warlord decided to wipe them out, with only Keill Randor surviving the initial assault but dying from a lethal dose of radiation, he is picked up by a mysterious race and cured of the radiation poisoning and given an indestructible skeleton and an enhanced healing factor.  

You can all stop shouting "Wolverine" from the cheap seats.  To a kid in growing up in St Andrews, it would be another 15 years or so before Wolverine would even make an appearance.  

The scope of this series of books and their simple moral code fanned the flames of an already burning desire to read.  Even now after close to forty years since first opening the pages of the books I still think about them.  Keill Randor I salute you. 

Read on to discover what other books have inspired some of our finest YA authors.  

ALEXANDER GORDON SMITH IN STEPHEN KING'S Pet Sematary

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Being asked about your favourite book from childhood is little like being asked, as an adult, which of your own children is your favourite. You say you couldn’t possibly choose, but secretly everybody has an answer. For me, my favourite (book, this is, not child, no way I’m risking that one) is one that came a little later in my childhood, so I’m not sure it even counts. But it had such a profound effect on me I’m going to talk about it anyway.


I grew up kicking around the same places most other kids did—Narnia, Middle Earth, the Lake District, Kirrin island and Treasure Island, venturing as far as Gormenghast and Baker Street. My early days as a reader were fairly conventional, and safe. I loved those stories, but by the time I was eleven I was skipping out of my room at night to spend nights in haunted houses (true story, although it turned out not to be a night but seven minutes before exiting through the window at speed vomiting in terror). I was fascinated by horror at that age, I saw horror as a quest to investigate the unfathomable mysteries of the world, an excuse to peek behind the skin of reality. Of course back then I didn’t truly know what horror was, because I wasn’t encouraged to read it. And it took a very special book to introduce me.

I kind of view my childhood as a glorious beach—warm sand, cool, blue water, the safety of shore almost close enough to touch. I vividly remember the feeling of drifting further out, of feeling the abyss yawning open beneath me, cold and dark and ancient. I can’t even remember where I got a copy of Pet Sematary from, my dad’s shelf, maybe, or at a car boot. I was drawn in by the cover, that graveyard of exotic stones, the skeletal limbs of a tree arranged to look like a face. I didn’t even know who Stephen King was. I can’t remember exactly, but I must have been about twelve, and this twelve-year-old me had a jolt of something—not quite panic, not quite excitement—when I picked it up and started to read. The waters were growing cold, I was drifting somewhere I’d never been before.

I read most of King when I was a teenager, and I’ve reread them all since—all except this one. I’m not sure why, it feels like sacrilege, somehow, like I’m walking on sacred ground just like Louis Creed does. It’s partly because I still remember the book like I read it last week, I still recall with absolute clarity that feeling of stumbling through the woods at night, the crack of branches, the thunder of my heart, and the stench of the mud, of the grave. It’s a more vivid memory for me than pretty much anything that I might have actually been doing at that point in my life. The creeping horror of each resurrection is etched into the fabric of my own childhood, I can feel that cold hand drop down onto my shoulder, the whisper in my ear--Darling--and it’s my life I’m remembering, it’s my past. I know I’ll never have to read this book again because I lived it.

And it taught me that I kind of liked swimming in those deeper waters, the ones where you might get dragged under at any time, where you couldn’t see that beach any more. I kind of loved it. I went from Pet Sematary to a book that I think was called Fungus (which traumatised me, in a good way) and from that to Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night, which remains today one of my absolute favourite books. And by that time I was writing horror stories of my own, the stories that would grow into the ones I write now. I wonder if I’d ever got here if I hadn’t opened that copy of Pet Sematary when I was twelve years old, if I hadn’t wandered into the woods to bury that damned cat…

CHECK OUT ALEXENDER'S BOOKS ON AMAZON 


DARREN SHAN ON Robert Cormier'S The Chocolate War

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Although it’s not, strictly speaking, a horror book, I’m going to choose The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, as it’s a book that sent a deep, dark shiver of dread down my spine. It’s about loneliness and grief, and the pressures that can come on us to conform, and what can happen when we take a stand against popular and powerful manipulators. A book that will leave you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the gut. Probably not the best book to read in December if you want to get into a nice, cheery, Christmas spirit!”

The bestselling controversial novel about corruption and misuse of power in an American boys' school.

The headmaster of Trinity College asks Archie Costello, the leader of the Vigils, a secret society that rules the school, to help with the selling of 20,000 boxes of chocolates in the annual fund-raising effort. Archie sees the chance of adding to his power - he is the Assigner, handing out to the boys tasks to be performed if they are to survive in the school. Freshman, Jerry Renault, a newcomer to the corrupt regime, refuses to sell chocolates. Enormous mental and physical pressure is put on him but he will not give in - the result is an inevitable, explosive tragedy.


JOHN CONNOLLY ON THE SECRET SEVEN 

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“Having exhausted at school the various adventures of Tom, Nora and Spot the Dog (Spot the Dog runs, gets ball; Tom and Nora are happy; no one dies) I can remember thinking that I might like to give this reading lark a try.  The first book I read unassisted was a Secret Seven adventure by Enid Blyton (a shed; seven young people, mildly secretive; no one dies).  I don’t recall the title, but I have a clear memory of struggling through the longer words phonetically, so that for many years I believed the word “cupboard” – which isn’t used in Ireland, where we call a cupboard a press (no, me neither) – was pronounced “cup-board”, which I rather liked.  Consequently, I spent many happy years asking my mother if she would like me to retrieve something from the “cup-board”, leading my mother to suspect that I might slowly be morphing into Little Lord Fauntleroy.  I also tried Enid Blyton's Famous Five novels, but I think the junior socialist in me may have baulked slightly at their life of privilege.  Sheds I could understand.  Everyone I knew had a shed.  (I did like Timmy the Dog, though.)  But that Secret Seven book set me on my path as a reader and, in all likelihood, as a writer, since the next step on from reading stories was to write stories of my own.  Mind you, it took a small boy at an event in Hay to point out that the first book I had ever read alone was a mystery novel."

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HELEN GRANT ON FEARLESS BY EMMA PASS 

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I'm going to stretch the definition of YA horror a bit to include apocalyptic YA, and recommend The Fearless by Emma Pass.

"When I was ten, the world ended." You have to love a book that starts with a sentence like that. Seventeen-year-old Cass is one of a small group of people living on a man-made island in the English Channel, while most of the rest of the world is overrun by the eponymous Fearless, terrifying and savage silver-eyed beings created by a wonder drug gone wrong. When Cass' little brother Jori, the only other surviving member of her family, is taken by the Fearless, she leaves the safety of the island in a desperate bid to get him back. The book is not only tense and gripping, it also has an alluringly dangerous Scottish hero, Myo. I loved this book, and live in hopes that one day Emma Pass will write a sequel to it.

​Check out Helen's books on Amazon


SAVITA KALHAN ON DARK MATTER BY MICHELLE PAVER 

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Dark Matter is most definitely not a book for the faint-hearted. Although Michelle Paver is best known for having written two series for younger teenagers - the brilliant Chronicles of Ancient Darkness and Gods and Warriors, I would warn you now that Dark Matter is definitely much more of a dark Young Adult read. Set in 1937, the narrative follows 28 year old Jack as he sets out on a boat from Norway with four other men and eight huskies on an expedition to the Arctic. They arrive at Gruhuken, an uninhabited island, where they will camp for the next year. But one by one the four men with Jack are forced to leave the island, and Jack is left alone as the perpetual darkness of the winter falls across the land. The sea soon freezes, making escape impossible, and Jack discovers that he may not be alone on the island. Something else walks in the darkness... Dark Matter is one of the most chilling ghost stories I've ever read!

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Cathy MacPhail ON UNDERWORLD 

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“I’ve always loved stories where a group of teenagers go camping by a lakeside, sun shining on the water, birds singing in the trees. Then darkness falls and they hear strange sounds in the woods and then one of them goes missing. Gets me every time and I always wanted to write a story like that. At first I was going to maroon my cast on an island till I remembered that had already been done, so instead I sent them down into the caves and trapped them there. My worst nightmare. I had the whole story mapped out until I visited a school and was asked what I was writing now. So I told them about Underworld and asked what else they would like to see in the book and almost every one of the class said ..a monster! Now, I don't do monsters , but I managed to get a monster into Underworld. If I could add one thing in the book I would have made more of the flashbacks and had more of those Nazis disappearing one by one!
 
[Of my other book your readers might like] ‘Another Me’ has just been made into a psychological thriller starring  Sophie Turner (‘Game of Thrones’, ‘XMen’) and a star studded cast. ‘Out of the Depths’ is a ghost story/ thriller/ whodunnit. A cross between ‘Buffy the Vampire  Slayer’ and the  ‘Sixth Sense’ and ‘Quantum Leap’!”

Check out cathy's books on amazon 

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