<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - YOUNG BLOOD]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:30:17 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[YOUNG BLOOD'S END OF SUMMER ROUND UP OF YOUNG ADULT FICTION.]]>Mon, 18 Sep 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/young-bloods-end-of-summer-round-up-of-young-adult-fictionBy Tony Jones 
It seems to have been a quiet time for YA and kid’s horror and dark fiction this last few months. However, there are still some great nuggets out there which are well worth seeking out for your child, niece, nephew or even yourself. Here are some of my favourites, and in no particular order…
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I’m going to start with AF Harrold, this colourful author has written two top-notch and decidedly creepy and highly imaginative novels aimed at the top end of primary school over the last couple of years. Although not strictly horror, he is strikingly creative and has very high levels of oddness which kids should find very engaging and fresh. I truly adored “The Imaginary” about a sinister bogeyman type creature that feasts on children’s imaginary friends. I wasn’t the only one to love it, and my eleven year old daughter devoured it also. Harrold followed this novel with another beauty “The Song from Somewhere Else”, a moving tale of a bullied schoolgirl Frank who makes friends with her would be saviour Nick, a classmate who has no friends. They bond, but Frank is intrigued by the weird but intriguing sounds coming from Nick’s basement once she visits his house… Again, it’s not really horror, but a supremely well told tale of loneliness, friendship and a totally enchanting out of this world experience.  (AGES 9-11 for both books)

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens (23 Oct. 2014)

purchase a copy here
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I was totally blown over by David Owen’s “The Fallen Children” which is a very clever update of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos”. However, this superb revamp is not set in a quaint English village, the action takes place in a London estate aptly called Midwich Tower.  In a single night, many inhabitants of the Midwich tower block loses consciousness, when they wake up, four girls are pregnant. Answers are hard to come by - what happened to them? What does it mean? When the pregnancies start developing much faster than they should, time is short, and everything changes. It’s a great teen novel which meshes horror and science fiction with the troubles the girls face, the shame, the name-calling, and having to tell parents. In its own way it was pretty explicit for a teen novel, but the conceptions are handled really well. “The Fallen Children” pays considerable respect to the Wyndham novel, but it really does run on its own two feet and is no copy. Owen is one to watch and his previous novel, his debut “Panther” also set on a south London housing scheme about a teen with weight issues and an obsession with a creature stalking the night streets of his estate was also top notch. (AGES 12+)

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Atom (4 May 2017)

purchase a copy here
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We previously featured Peadar O'Guilin’s “The Call” in an earlier article, but it is now available in paperback, so we are giving it a fresh plug. Book two is coming in 2018, and I cannot wait! This is what our previous review said…  “The Call” 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. (AGE 12+)

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: David Fickling Books (1 Jun. 2017)

purchase a copy here
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Burning” is the debut novel of Daniella Rollins which has the catchphrase “Chilling new YA, perfect for fans of Orange is the New Black and Stephen King” and although this is a very decent teen read, those it is aimed at should really be graduating to the real thing, Stephen King! So if you forgive the fact that the plot is pretty similar to “Firestarter” you’re good to go, but most thirteen year old readers will not ever realise…  Angela has been in and out of juvenile prisons for stealing with some of the plot picks up her backstory. As we follow her daily prison routines and friendships she is intrigued by a much younger girl, Jessica, who arrives in her wing under seriously heavy guard. Why?  Eventually the two connect and you have a very readable paranormal horror thriller. (AGE 13+)

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books (5 April 2016)

purchase a copy here
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Red Eye continue to be the only publishing group seriously dedicated to horror and Sharon Gosling’s “Fir” is a decent addition to their catalogue.   A teenage girl is disgruntled to be uprooted from Stockholm to remote northern Sweden – especially when never ending fierce storms cut the family off from civilisation. Hints of classic horror, full of creepy children, a housekeeper who the family ‘inherit’ when they move it, coupled with atmospheric snow scenes make this new take on the Scandinavian werewolf legend a solid and engrossing read. (AGE 12+)

Paperback: 384 pages Publisher: Stripes Publishing (9 Feb. 2017)
 ISBN-10: 1847158234 ISBN-13: 978-1847158239

purchase a copy here
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I read “13 Minutes” a while ago and tapped the author Sarah Pinborough for a potential visit to my school, sadly she was too busy preparing for the release of her adult thriller “Behind Her Eyes” and she turned me down! However, she very kindly sent me three signed copies of this really great psychological thriller which is just as hair-raising as any horror, mainly as it deals with a clique of really bitchy, often unpleasant, teenage girls. The very clever plot revolves around a near-death experience after a girl falls in a freezing cold river stops breathing for 13 minutes before being revived. When Natasha wakes up, she can’t remember events that led her to be there. The novel moves to Becca, and the plot explores how she used to be best friends with Natasha but then they drifted apart. But after Natasha’s near death experience their friendship once again thickens. It tackles very mature themes, has a fair bit of sex, and has a great twist and is one of the best novels I’ve read in a while which explores the complicated relationships girls have with each other. Of course Pinborough also wrote “The Death House” one of my favourite ever teen novels and one of these days I will entice her to my school… (AGE 13/14+)

432 PAGES
PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ (21 JULY 2016)

purchase a copy here
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Robin Jarvis has recently released “Time of Blood” which is book three of the “Witching Legacy” series and if a fine return to form for one most successful kids writers of the 1990s. Some of you may even have read his “Deptford Mice” series or the “Whitby Witches” books when you were kids yourselves. The new series is a fast paced mix of fantasy and horror, which of course, is set in Whitby… Magic is afoot right from the outset when the local witches realise that an ancient curse has been revived by a magical artefact. All three books are interconnected by the sinister bad guy “Mr Dark” as children, supernatural beings and friends try to fight the darkness threatening Whitby. I’ve always liked the way Jarvis fuses ancient Whitby myths with his own stories and this new series also moves with the times with new characters connected to newer cultural references such as steampunk. Make sure you read the books in order, with book one being “The Power of Dark”. (AGE 10+)

Paperback: 256 pages
 Publisher: Egmont

purchase a copy here
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 “Gwendy’s Button Box” by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar probably sounds like a weird selection for this roundup… Not so, this is a short, punchy, non-violent easy to read and assessable introduction to Stephen King. Gwendy is a slightly chubby and self-conscious girl who wants to lose weight before starting Middle School, so she daily runs up a set of very steep steps known as the Suicide Stairs. One morning she meets a strange man called Richard Farris who gives her a button box, she knows she shouldn’t take it but Farris nevertheless convinces her. It looks a bit like a jewellery box, but has properties which are far from normal and in their own spooky way help Gwendy. The buttons and levers on the box have different functions, pull one lever and it produces a tiny piece of chocolate. The chocolate tastes beautiful and has properties I will not go into….. A further lever gives Gwendy a valuable silver Dollar from 1891. There are other buttons which are perhaps much more sinister and a crucial part of a story which many children may find to be a gripping and slightly sinister read. (AGE 12+)

Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

purchase a copy here
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Suzanne Young’s “The Program” series started way back in 2013, but in the time since then has picked up some legs, with two sequels and a couple of novellas and a further book due in 2018. It starts with a very clever idea, teen suicide is an epidemic levels though some unknown illness which the government has named ”the sadness”. If any teens show any likely signs of depression they are entered into ”The Program” which is a type of brainwashing and characteristic killing process. So no matter what teens are feeling, they have to hide it, any side of twitchiness and “The Program” awaits… The novels are all interconnected, with the novellas introducing new characters and the origins of ‘The Program’. It’s a terrific teen read, which is more dystopian thriller than horror, which deserves to be much better known in the UK.  (AGE 12+)

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse

purchase a copy here
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<![CDATA[BOOK REVIEW: FROZEN CHARLOTTE & CHARLOTTE SAYS BY ALEX BELL]]>Tue, 05 Sep 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/book-review-frozen-charlotte-charlotte-says-by-alex-bellBY TONY JONES

“Let’s play the ‘Stick the needle in your eye game!’”

 
 
Ginger Nuts of Horror was honoured to interview the fantastic Alex Bell recently ( read our interview here) , which was  perfect timing as her latest chiller “Charlotte Says” hit the bookshops in early September. This is a prequel to “Frozen Charlotte” which premiered on the YA horror brand Red Eye a couple of years ago, latterly picking up considerable buzz when it was featured on the ‘WH Smith Zoella Book Club’.  You may well have seen it sporting a brand spanking new cover, on high visibility Zoella displays, in many WH Smith shops.
 
So to prepare you for our wide ranging interview we have with Alex, here’s a double review of both her excellent “Charlotte” novels…
 
I always get excited when I catch a great teen horror novel as I don’t read too many, but “Frozen Charlotte” really hit the horror hotspot in some style.  Alex Bell’s dark and unsettling tale of tiny porcelain dolls, the size of two pence pieces, is an edgy, tension rich read for the age group 10-14, probably girls more than boys. Right from the opening pages it builds into an outstanding page-turner with these evil little creatures whispering from behind a locked glass cabinet and in their words they have the power to kill.  Equally demonic, the Charlotte’s have the ability to control and influence others to do their bidding, sneaking around a vast haunted house sowing horrible plans and turning characters against each other.
 
The novel begins with Sophie and Jay fooling around with a séance app on his phone, when asked who to try to contact from the world of the dead Sophie instinctively calls for her long dead cousin Rebecca who died in a horror accident years earlier.  She really, REALLY shouldn’t have… Quickly they realise something is not right and Jay dies in a freak accident that night. This tragic event leads to Sophie visiting her surviving cousins, whom she has not seen for many years, on the isolated and windswept Isle of Skye. Apart from her beautiful cousin Piper, who is very welcoming, everyone else is a bit of an oddball and secrets soon bubble to the surface. Very soon strange things begin to happen and the reader finds themselves knee deep in a terrific ghost story which has a number of entertaining twists and turns.
 
Loaded with atmosphere, with a superb setting, a huge house converted from Dunvagen School for Girls which was closed in 1910, poor old Sophie is sucked into a mystery which takes her all the way back to 1910.  But first she must solve the mystery of what really happened to her dead cousin Rebecca.
 
Bearing in mind this novel is aimed at kids around 10-14 it has some hair raising scenes, these nasty little dolls, once they escape from their cabinet even blind one of the characters with their “stick a needle in their eye game”. However, some of the nastier scenes are character driven, rather than perpetrated by the dolls. The pace moves fast, the characterisation is strong and the combination of mystery and the supernatural is finely balanced. It’s perfectly pitched at children who like a good mix of horror, thriller and mystery.
 
Now onto the prequel “Charlotte Says” –
 
Often I get the feeling that prequels are often either a tad forced or redundant, however, this certainly isn’t the case with “Charlotte Says”. The reader could quite easily read this book before “Frozen Charlotte” as they complement each other perfectly. This new novel provides us with a very convincing backstory on the origins of the Frozen Charlotte dolls and what occurred way back in 1910 in the Dunvagen School for Girls. This is the house where Sophie visits in “Frozen Charlotte” and there are lots of clever cross references between the two books, such as when Sophie discovers an old school photo from 1910 and one of the girls is wearing a blindfold. We find out why…
 
Seventeen year old Jemima is an engaging and punchy central character, and we pick up the story when she arrives at Dunvagen School for Girls for her new job as Assistant School Mistress. She quickly finds it to be a horrible place with a cruel Headmistress whom she does not get on with and punishes her along with the girls. She is responsible for a large group of little girls aged 7-10 who have either been abandoned by their families, or have no families at all. Strange things begin to happen when she receives a large package in the post containing many tiny porcelain dolls which may be connected with Jemima’s old life before arriving in Skye.
 
This brings us to the second strand of the story which is told in flashback from the previous year. Jemima is from a family of fake mediums and they made a living pretending to be able to contact the dead. This strand of the story connects to the present when Jemima’s mum marries a man who is mourning the loss of his daughter and has his own dark agenda.
 
Both story strands are woven together particularly well and Jemima is an engaging character who readers will empathise with strongly, particularly girl readers. The little girls she cares for are sympathetic characters and of course the dolls play an increasingly bigger role as the story develops. There is even a dash of romance thrown in as Jemima reconnects with an old childhood friend who also lives on the island.
 
Like with “Frozen Charlotte” there are chills all the way as the dolls start to play their horrible games including the “throw the teacher down the stairs game” and Jemima tries to unsolved the mystery which is interconnected to her own past, whilst trying to deal with an increasingly unhinged Headmistress. Writing horror for kids is not easy and both “Charlotte” books hit the nail on the dead, having an excellent balance of fast placed plot, the supernatural, characters you care about, and nasty little dolls that will have your kids looking under their beds at night. It’s easy for adult horror readers to pick holes in horrors aimed at kids, but in the end of the day you need to try and visualise the book through the eyes of a child.
 
In the time I have been working on the interview I have given “Frozen Charlotte” to my reluctant twelve year old to read, and managing to pull herself away from watching reruns of “Stranger Things” she read the book in two days flat. My daughter is a very fussy reader, so that’s high praise indeed. Both books are highly recommended.
PURCHASE ALEX'S BOOKS HERE

RELATED POSTS 

READ GINGER NUTS OF HORROR'S INTERVIEW WITH ALEX BELL 

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<![CDATA[AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ALEX BELL GETS ALL FROZEN CHARLOTTE]]>Tue, 05 Sep 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/young-blood/author-interview-alex-bell-gets-all-frozen-charlotteby Tony Jones
Today we have the pleasure of having a long chat with YA horror writer Alex Bell who is the author of the successful chiller Frozen Charlotte, which in early September is joined by her fantastic prequel Charlotte Says. It’s been an exciting time for Alex as Frozen Charlotte has been highly visible (a rare honour for a horror novel!) in the WH Smith chain for a number of months now after being featured on the Zoella Book Club last year.

Alex Bell, welcome to the Ginger Nuts of Horror

GNoH: Tell us how you ended up writing horror for kids and young teens and the YA horror Red Eye brand in particular?

Alex Bell: My agent had heard about the new Red Eye series and asked me if I’d be interested in submitting something for it. I’d always enjoyed reading horror, especially as a teenager, so I was keen to have a go at writing one of my own.

GNoH: Are you a full-time writer? Fantastic Fiction says you studied to be a lawyer “off and on”?

Alex Bell: I didn’t actually study to be a lawyer as such, but I did do a law degree at university. I also started the LPC, which is the professional qualification you need to become a solicitor, but I dropped out before completing it as I realised it definitely wasn’t something I wanted to do. I did write full time for a while but now I also work three days a week at the Citizens Advice Bureau. I really like the mix of writing and having a day job. Writing full time is too reclusive for me, even though I’m a total introvert.

GNoH: Did you read much horror or weird fiction as a kid? Who were your favourite authors when you were 13 or 14?

Alex Bell: I did read the Point Horror books when I was a teenager, but I read a lot of other stuff too. My favourite books were definitely the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. I was very unhappy at secondary school and these books were much-needed escapism for me. I also had a bit of a Charles Dickens phase around this age.

GNoH: I absolutely loved both Frozen Charlotte books. The idea that horrible miniature dolls come alive and blind children with tiny needles was very unpleasant and I imagine has readers looking under their beds. Did you have any direct inspiration for these creations? It’s obviously an area well covered in horror fiction, fairly recently for example with Susan Hill’s Dolly or Adam Nevill’s The House of Small Shadows. The latter I highly recommend if you haven’t read it...

Alex Bell: Frozen Charlotte dolls are actually real. They were popular during the Victorian and Edwardian era. I stumbled across them accidentally one day whilst doing research about dolls online. I loved the fact that they were supposed to be corpses and yet they were playthings for children. It’s so typical of the Victorian taste for the macabre. Also, I hadn’t come across them before so I thought it would be a nice twist on the scary doll theme which, like you say, has been covered many times before. I haven’t read either of the books you mention but am always looking for recommendations so will definitely look them up!

GNoH: The first Frozen Charlotte book has a phone App for an Ouija board and the prequel has séances, did you muck around with this sort of dodgy stuff as a kid?

Alex Bell: My friends and I went through a phase of making our own Ouija boards out of paper, but I don’t think we were ever brave enough to get them out at night. We mostly just used it to entertain ourselves at school during break time. I’m a bit of a wimp about stuff like this, actually, so I would be pretty wary about going near a real Ouija board.

GNoH: Sometimes I think prequels are often pretty redundant, however, that wasn’t the case with Charlotte Says, the 1910 backstory on the origins of the dolls was really convincing and it also reads as a terrific standalone novel. When you were writing Frozen Charlotte at what stage did you realise there was more to come, or did the publisher prod you for it?

Alex Bell: After Frozen Charlotte was published, quite a few readers emailed me saying they would have liked to know more about where the dolls came from, what made them evil, how they first came to be in the school house etc. So when my publisher asked if I’d be interested in writing a prequel I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore their origins a little more.

GNoH: You must surely be a horror film fan... What are your favourites? I think I read you were a Vincent Price fan? What’s the last horror film you watched at the cinema and when were you last truly scared watching a film?

Alex Bell: I just love horror films, although I scare really easily and tend to scream out loud whenever anything jumps out, which must be pretty irritating for anyone watching the film with me! The last horror film I saw at the cinema was A Cure For Wellness. It was terrifying in places, and I absolutely loved the setting of a remote sanatorium for a horror film. And, yes, I am partial to a Vincent Price schlock horror film, cheesy though they are.

GNoH: Do you read adult horror? Tell us about your favourites? Influences?

Yes, I do read adult horror. I love Stephen King, of course. Recently, though, I’ve really enjoyed Thin Air by Michelle Paver and also Rawblood by Catriona Ward. They were both incredibly atmospheric and understated. My all time favourite is probably The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

GNoH: Do you have any plans for an adult horror novel? Warning, Not many authors ‘mix’ kids and adult writing particularly well…..

Alex Bell: I’ve already written an adult horror novel, actually. I wrote it a few years ago but it’s one of the (many) unpublished manuscripts hidden away in my desk drawer. Perhaps I’ll get it out again one day.

GNoH: I’ve read all the Red Eye horror novels and a few of them remind me of the popular Point Horror brand from the 1980s and 1990s a little bit too much. I did find your Haunting novel to be one of the better ones. When you were writing or researching this particular at what stage did you decide the main character was confined to a wheel-chair?

Alex Bell: I actually really enjoyed Point Horror when I was a teenager! (Although some of the books were better than others). As for The Haunting, I always knew that Emma, the main character, was going to be in a wheelchair. That’s just the way she appeared inside my head. 

GNoH: Tell us a little bit about your fantasy novels? They’re for younger children right?

Alex Bell: My first middle grade novel (8-12) is called The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, and is going to be published this November. It’s about a group of junior explorers who get separated from the rest of their expedition in the snowy Icelands and have to face yetis and snow queens all by themselves.

GNoH: Adult horror readers, often of an older and more cynical age, sometimes comment that YA horror is a waste of time and kids should just make the natural job to adult horror without the teen stuff at all. What do you think? Don’t do yourself out of a job…

Alex Bell: I don’t agree. When I was a teenager I was happy to read adult fiction but I also sometimes wanted to read books where the protagonist was a similar age to myself. You can engage more with a character if they have some of the same problems and concerns that you do, and this is more likely if they’re the same kind of age. Plus, teenagers don’t have the same autonomy that adults do and are constrained, to some extent, by authority figures like parents, teachers etc. This is useful for horror because it means you can trap your characters in situations that they can’t easily escape from. A teenager with no job or money can’t just decide to leave the haunted house they’ve moved to, for example. 

GNoH: Although I think YA horror does need an injection of new authors, there are most definitely some highly underrated teen horror writers out there. Two of my favourites are Amy Lukavics (The Woman in the Walls, Daughters Unto Devils) and Dawn Kurtagich (The Creeper Man, The Dead House) neither get much exposure or appear on teen prize short-lists but are putting out amazing stuff. Can you recommend us some good YA horror, either authors or specific titles?  Are you connected with any reading/writing groups which benefits your own work? 

Alex Bell: Jekyll’s Mirror by William Hussey is a wonderful horror book that focuses on cyber-bullying, whilst drawing some inspiration from the famous story by Robert Louis Stevenson.
I’m not part of a reading/writing group as such, but I do have a small group of authors who I am good friends with, and we meet up semi-regularly in London to share our experiences, talk books, drink booze and share the ups and downs of the writer’s life. It’s great to have that support and friendship, both when things are going well, and when they’re not.  

GNoH: Do you have a particular daily routine for your writing?

Alex Bell: Not especially. I just try to make sure that I write at least 2,000 words if it’s a writing day. Normally I’ll get up and try to get started straight away, then have a break in the middle of the day to do some pilates or yoga before going back to work in the afternoon. But it does vary a bit.

GNoH: Moving away from horror for a moment, what else do you read?

Alex Bell: I read anything and everything! Adult, YA, middle grade. New books, classics. I love ‘em all.

GnoH: What or whom have been the biggest influences on your writing outside of horror?

Alex Bell: I think you’re influenced to some extent by all the writers that you read. But there are a few that I think are just phenomenal and even if I spent the rest of my life learning and improving, I would never be as good as these writers. Cassandra Clare, Dennis Lehane, John Boyne and Frances Hardinge all come under this category.  

GNoH: If you could live in any fictional world where would you choose to live?

Alex Bell: It would have to be Harry Potter. Who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts? I’d want to be put straight into Ravenclaw.

GNoH: What’s next for you? Do you intend to continue mixing up the genres?

Alex Bell: I have two dark fantasy novels coming from Stripes and three middle grade books from Faber over the next few years. After that, we’ll see. I’d definitely like to write more horror in the future, though.

GNoH: It’s been a pleasure chatting horror with you Alex. Ginger Nuts of Horror would like to wish you all the best of success for Charlotte Says and a speedy return to YA horror. I am also pleased to say that in the time taken to conduct and process this interview my twelve year old daughter has since read Frozen Charlotte and did so in two days without taking much of a breath…
 

RELATED POST 

GINGER NUTS OF HORROR'S REVIEW OF FROZEN CHARLOTTE AND CHARLOTTE SAYS 

PURCHASE ALEX'S BOOKS HERE
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<![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.

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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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