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Archive for April, 2010

Definitely don’t read The Graveyard Book to your younger children, it’ll give them nightmares for the rest of their lives. Start with children around the age of eight or nine and you should safe, but even they may have a scare. Just as Neil Gaiman targeted Coraline toward the middle grades and young adult audience he has done the same with The Graveyard Book.

The Graveyard Book mixes just the right touches of sweetness and fear to bring you the tale of young Nobody Owens, a “boy” raised by ghosts and other wonderful creatures in an old graveyard. Nobody comes to Mr. and Mrs. Owens as a toddler after some tragic events unfold. Given time Nobody Owens learns to wield the power of the graveyard as his own and is given free access to all of its hidden places, and things. Slowly, Nobody reaches maturity in the graveyard, but then trouble comes stalking him. Will he be able to escape? I leave that for you to discover.

I must admit that even as an adult I enjoyed this book. I passed it on to my son and his wife to read and they thought is was very good. Gaiman seems able to bridge the age gap with his books so adults can enjoy them almost as much as the younger audience. It is a rare talent that has not been ignored. Gaiman presents a long line of titles that bridge the same gap and The Graveyard Book is only one of many.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman text copyright 2008. Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019 http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com ISBN 978-0-06-053092-1, US $17.99, Canada $19.50

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Sometimes the system fails and when it does, it’s catastrophic. Damaged by Cathy Glass is the story of one such failure and the little girl involved, Jodie. Cathy is a carer, the English equivalent of a foster parent, with twenty years of experience. Jodie comes to live with Cathy when she is just under eight-years-old and while there makes a series of startling revelations to Cathy. The first thirty pages or so are back story, but keep reading, it’s well worth your time.

Damaged is the true story of Jodie and the way the way the system fell apart, failing her in the most dramatic ways, keeping her in a dangerous home, where she suffered multiple injuries requiring emergency treatment, while they monitored the situation for nearly eight years. Her social services file was so extensive none of her social workers had ever read it in its entirety. What follows is a terribly sad scene from the book:

“ …suddenly I was awake, with my eyes open and my senses alert. I turned and looked at the clock: it was nearly 2:15 a.m. I listened. The house was silent. Yet something told me all was not well; a sixth sense from years of looking after children.

I eased my feet from the bed and felt for my slippers. The house was cold, as the heating had switched off for the night. I fumbled to get my arms into my robe, tied it loosely, and opened the bedroom door. Suddenly, I gasped in shock. Jodie was standing outside the door, her face covered in blood.

‘What is it? What have you done?’ I frantically searched for the source of the blood. ‘Where are you hurt? Tell me! Come on, quickly!’ I couldn’t find anything, but the blood was fresh.

In a trance-like state, she slowly raised her hands and showed me her palms. They were smeared with blood, but I still couldn’t find any sign of a cut. I pulled up her pajama sleeves, and then I saw it. She had a cut on her left forearm, about an inch long, which was lightly seeping blood…

No one had mentioned anything about self-harming, but I doubted this was the first time she’d done it. I looked closer, and saw there were other fine, pink scar lines running up both arms. How recent they were was difficult to tell.”

Cathy is the sixth carer to take Jodie in during a four month period. She is aggressive, developmentally delayed and difficult to manage. After Cathy takes her in her aggression is manifested toward Cathy and her three children, but Cathy stands by her, knowing she is Jodie’s last chance at avoiding institutionalization.

Damaged by Cathy Glass is published by HarperElement, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 77 – 85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London, England W6 8JB, copyright 2006, ISBN 978-0-00-723634-3. Available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble as well as other online book dealers, it  may additionally be purchased local your local book store and several book clubs.

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MageSign by Alan Baxter is the second volume in a duology that began with Baxter’s RealmShift. The character of Isiah must pursue a personal vendetta with no assistance, or direction, from the force he usually serves, known as the Balance. MageSign is a fast paced ride through the depths of darkness a human soul can hold. Intensity builds with a mystery involving a dark and twisted cult that leaves you longing for more, while building a deeper sense of dread that leaves you nearly afraid to turn the pages.

A sample of the darkness, from the early pages of the book that made my skin crawl follows:

 “…’What am I doing?’ the Sorcerer asked quietly. ‘I’m feeding the baby, of course.’

With one swift motion the blade swept around and straight across Colley’s thin, pale throat. Immediately blood poured from the broad gash in an arterial flood, showering over the child. The Sorcerer muttered the words of his magic, holding tightly as Colley bucked once, twice, before collapsing limp. As Braden screamed the baby stretched its arms up into the waterfall of blood, clutching and grasping at the hot, red fluid. The blood poured over the child and into his mouth and the child gulped and gurgled, swallowing as much of the blood as he could. Little arms and legs squirmed and writhed, his small body arching up into the flow, desperately drinking deeply, the movement of the newborn unnatural. ‘He entered this world in a bath of his virgin mother’s lifeblood,’ the Sorcerer whispered, ‘and his first meal is swallowed from the bloodbath of another. We begin here the creation of untold power.”

 While MageSign can be read alone I highly suggest reading the first volume of the series RealmShift, which provides an in-depth back-story for MageSign. After reading MageSign I found myself yearning for more of Isiah’s adventures, which may perhaps include a few other characters from the book. Stand alone volumes that have nothing to do with the duology or a trilogy would be fine, just give me more Isiah!

MageSign by Alan Baxter, First Edition 2008 by Blade Red Press, ISBN 978-0-9805782-1-8, Second Edition April 2010 by Gryphonwood Press ISBN 978-0-9825087-5-6 Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, online bookstores as well as local book retailers. For more information see the author’s website at http://www.alanbaxteronline.com

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There are some people’ whose heads you really don’t want to be inside and dark fiction author Alan Baxter is one of those people. In Realm Shift Alan Baxter takes you from blood sacrifices to the varied realms of hell and back again, battling demons, gods and Lucifer himself in a gore fest that makes your head spin. 

Not only does Baxter spin a tale of life on the dark side, he questions, quite soundly, the basis for all religions, modern and ancient, treating all with the same irreverence and offering an alternate viewpoint that is so valid it’s almost frightening. It’ll challenge your deepest held beliefs. Belief creates reality and Baxter’s reality is full of magic and darkness, evil and good, but a good that lies easily to serve its own purpose and with the full backing of the universe and all the power behind it. 

Baxter’s fight scenes are intense. They get your heart pounding, leaving you on the edge of your seat. With Baxter’s own martial arts training the scenes are realistic, sometimes so much so that you find yourself wondering if Baxter himself has ever crushed someone’s head or slit a throat and heard the blood gurgle and the breath hiss as his victim lie dying. Baxter draws you along a knife’s edge of tension from the first page to the last, leaving your heart thumping and sweat on your brow. 

A good example of the supernatural element in Baxter’s writing, his use of imagery and his ability to write a good fight scene follows: 

“Samuel could do nothing but watch helplessly as the battle began. Isiah’s fingers were pressing with immense force into the devil’s face. Samuel could hear the creak and crack of bones fracturing, Isiah’s middle finger and thumb slowly sinking into the hollows of Lucifer’s temples, dark black blood leaking out, running down his cheeks. Satan’s own nails were drawing blood from Isiah’s forearm, Isiah’s skin taut and white under his grip. The devil lashed out with his other hand, clawing for Isiah’s face. Isiah caught his hand with lightening reflexes, his hand wrapped around the devil’s closed fist, squeezing. More of Lucifer’s bones began popping.” 

RealmShift is phenomenal.  If it’s not already on your bookshelf it should be. 

RealmShift First Published 2006 by Alan Baxter, Second Edition, 2008 by Blade Red Press. ISBN 978-0-9805782-0-1 available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, other online bookstores, as well as local book retailers. For more information see the author’s website at http://www.alanbaxteronline.com

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