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100 words on Libraries - Day 2

All of this week on the blog we are celebrating National Libraries Day, taking place on Saturday 4th February, by asking authors for 100 words on Libraries.  Today's contributions come from Scottish writers Cathy MacPhail and Julie Bertagna.  Cathy talks about her fond memories of libraries as a child, whist Julie compares libraries to lifeboats! More contributions tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Cathy MacPhail
"My mother was never out of the library. She was a widow with four little girls and three jobs to support them. She couldn’t afford to buy books so libraries were her lifeline. And where she went, her four daughters went too.  My mother loved reading, and I could never get over the fact that she could walk out of the library with a pile of books and didn’t have to pay for them. She loved a good murder-always headed for the crime section. Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammet, A.A.Fair- Now know to be Erle Stanley Gardner- I knew them all long before I knew about Enid Blyton . Libraries bring back so many wonderful memories of my childhood."
Julie Bertagna

"Libraries are lifeboats. Just think: you have access to all the books and ideas in the world - for free! That gives you great power - the power to understand the world, to imagine who you might become and what you could do. Books were my lifebelts when I was growing up. They took me on exciting journeys and gave me a sense of escape and possibility. Now I am an author and write books that you can find in your library. Free access to a local library all through my life helped me to make that dream come true."


 

100 words on Libraries


Libraries across the UK will be celebrating National Libraries Day on Saturday 4 February 2012 with a range of events for library users and supporters to enjoy.

The day is a celebration of the work done in school, college, university, workplace and public libraries to promote learning, literacy and the enjoyment of reading to all.  It is supported by a range of twenty-five organisations including the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, the Reading Agency, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, library campaigners and publishers.

National Libraries Day is a great reason to visit the library – whether it’s for the first time or you go every week. National Libraries Day want as many people as possible to discover something new about their local library and sign up for some of the great opportunities on offer. Even if people can’t make it to their library, they can still get access to a range of services through library websites.

To celebrate National Libraries Day on Literature for Lads I have asked a number of authors (and a few friends!) to write 100 words on Libraries. Each contribution is different but all contain reference to libraries and why they are important either to the individual or society in general. Among the many contributors are Alan Bissett, Nicola Morgan, Gillian Phillip and Jonathan Meres.  

There will be new contributions posted each day so please do check back regularly.  Todays 100 words on Libraries come from authors Nicola Morgan and Alan Bissett.

Alan Bissett

"Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent in libraries, discovering new books, losing myself in worlds, being surrounded by peace and calm.  My lifelong love of reading and writing was nurtured in those spaces.  As a student I appreciated libraries as somewhere to go to disappear out of the world, focus, and open up headspace that the world often denies us.  As the Manic Street Preachers once sang: "Libraries gave us power."

Nicola Morgan

"Books, wall to wall, floor to ceiling, free, shared. Good for readers, good for writers. Reams and rooms of goodness. And badness. Delicious badness. Edgy, risky, stretching, mind-opening, mind-blowing-wide-opening, eye-stretching, heart-singing. Let yourself go. Don't let them go."

For more information and to find out what is happening in your area for National Libraries day visit the National Libraries Day Website
You can also follow National Libraries Day on Twitter @NatLibrariesDay and keep in touch with the latest events with hashtag #NLD12 

Soldiers Game

Soldiers Game; James Killgore; Floris Books; July 2011

Book summary(taken from Amazon UK): Ross is fed up with being on the losing side, as Bruntsfield Primary football team suffer another humiliating defeat. But after football practice each week he goes to visit his grandmother, and this week she has a special present for him. Pat digs out a pair of old football boots and strip which belonged to her father, who once played for Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Ross is amazed that his great-grandfather, Jack, had played for the famous Hearts. As he finds out more about Jack, an incredible story unfolds -- a tale of Edinburgh's young heroes and a battalion of footballers and fans who fought in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme. Based on the true story of the 16th Royal Scots, otherwise known as the 'Heart of Midlothian Battalion', this moving book brings a fascinating moment of Scottish history to life. Jim Killgore interweaves the present day life of an ordinary football-mad boy with a story of young men who were sent to war. He focuses on the friendships that develop as the lads play football and learn to become soldiers together, making this remarkable story enjoyable and accessible for young people.

Literature for Lads review: 
Soldiers Game is a great little book which cleverly combines football and World War One, and in particular the story of the famous (in Edinburgh at least) 'Hearts Battalion' which fought at the Battle of the Somme. Killgore cleverly brings together the present day life of Primary 7 pupil Ross with the story of his Great Grandfather, Jack who not only played for Hearts but who also served his country.

This book had me the hooked from the end of the 1st chapter when a mysterious box is rescued from the attic.  The box once belonged to Ross' Great Grandfather, Jack Jordan.  Among the items in the box are newspaper cuttings and a Hearts football top, belonging to Jack.  Football and Hearts mad Ross is amazed to discover his Great Grandfather played for Hearts and he endeavours to find out his story.

Jack's story unfolds at Ross'regular Saturday morning visits to his Grandmothers.  However it's soon Jack's voice that we hear and not that of his Grandmothers. His story is absorbing, telling how a team of footballers who at the start of war were favourites to win the Scottish Football League, instead ended up in the trenches together along with players from many other Scottish teams. It's fascinating to watch the story unfold as Jack and his friends go from team mates to comrades in The Great War.

The descriptions of both the football and the battlefield in the book are excellent. Killgore writes in a way which allows us to create our own pictures, whether that be of a goal being scored or of a British Trench on the Somme.  He also touches on a number of interesting points in the story but it is never in a heavy 'text book' style and this is one of the many reasons why this book will appeal to young people.  In particular the issue of cowardice is one that he handles sensitively and in a completely nonjudgmental way. Many people at the time felt that young, fit and healthy footballers should have been out in the trenches much sooner than they were but this was a contentious issue and Killgore acknowledges this.

No matter what team you support you will be sure to enjoy this book.  It's engaging, moves along at good pace, and tells a thoroughly interesting story.  It's a must read for any football fan - however be warned there are no mega-rich Prima Donna's in this novel.

Marks out of 10: 7

For more information on James Killgore visit here

Information on the 'Hearts Battalion' from the official Hearts fc website here

This short video gives some more background information to the book...

 

Liz Lochead Live Broadcast

Although primarily a book review blog I am also keen to bring to our readers attention literature news and events which I think will be of interest to them.  Tomorrow's Liz Lochead Live Broadcast organised by the Scottish Book Trust most certainly comes under this category!

Scotland’s National Poet Liz Lochhead is to give a live broadcast to children from around the world during a special Robert Burns celebration on Thursday 26 January at 11am. The Scottish Friendly Meet Our Authors Special Event, run by Scottish Book Trust, will be streamed live from BBC Scotland in Glasgow and available after to watch again for free from the Scottish Book Trust website.

The broadcast will be most suited to children from P6 – S4 (9-16 year olds) and any fan of Scottish poetry.  It is estimated that 10,000 pupils across the UK and beyond will be watching the event live.  If you wish to join them follow this link.   Alternatively the event can be downloaded or streamed from next Thursday (2nd February) following the same link.

Liz will be celebrating the poetry of Burns as well as reading her own work and there is no doubt that this event will be really inspirational as no-one can make Burns come to life like Liz can!

Scottish Book Trust do loads of events like this every year: their previous events have featured authors such as Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo, Julia Donaldson, Eoin Colfer, Jacqueline Wilson, David Almond and many more. You can stream or download any of these events for free here.







Here's a short video of Liz Lochead showing Guardian Newspaper columist Sarah Crown around the Scottish Poetry Library and explaing why 'poets need no laurels'.


The Hunting Ground giveaway


We have two copies of 'The Hunting Ground' by Cliff McNish to giveaway.  This is a chilling ghost story which might just require you to sleep with the lights on in the future!  To be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book visit our competitions page and fill in the simple form. The giveaway closes on Friday 20th January at 11.59 pm.

This is Not Forgiveness

This is Not Forgiveness; Celia Rees; Bloomsbury; Feb 2012

Book summary(taken from Amazon UK): Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro. But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way. This taut psychological drama is the brilliant new novel from acclaimed Celia Rees.

Literature for Lads review:
Prior to 'This is Not Forgiveness' Celia Rees' novels have all had a historical theme running through them therefore this thoroughly contemporary, gritty, psychological thriller is somewhat a departure from what we have come to expect from her.  The change in direction however appears to have been a wise move as this is a gripping page turner of a novel. With reference to the war in Afghanistan and the student riots of the Summer of 2011 the book is contemporary in feel. It opens with an amazingly powerful and moving first chapter which cleverly entices us into the gripping story of Jamie, Rob and Caro.

The narrative of the book is told through the three alternating viewpoints of Jamie, Rob and Caro.  We hear the thoughts of Jamie; lovestruck yet naive, are given rare glimpses into the diary of Caro; teenage anarchist; and Rob fresh from active service in Afghanistan, shares his video diaries with us.  Each of the characters lives are cleverly entwined and it becomes clear that as the book progresses our three main characters are heading towards a inevitable collision.

After the intriguing first chapter we could be forgiven for thinking we are reading a love story as we watch Jamie's infatuation with the mysterious Caro play out. Convinced that Caro is 'out of his league' he watches her from afar.  However when Caro makes her intentions for him clear we realise that our story is about to take an interesting turn. It's soon apparent that Caro plans to use Jamie as a pawn in the game she is playing.

Caro is somewhat a loner and rebel. Disliked by Jamie's sister, Martha, she maintains an air of mystery.  With an absent mother and a father who is dead she has much more freedom than a normal teenager.  Young and impressionable she has fallen in with a group of anarchists and as Caro and Jamie's relationship continues, every so often we are given a glimpse into the life of Rob, Jamie's older brother. 

A soldier who served in Afghanistan, Rob has left the army on medical grounds and is struggling to adapt to life back on 'civvy street.'  Bitter about his experiences of war it's clear that his mental state is precariously balanced.  Manipulated by Caro for her own ends we slowly witness Rob's life spiral out of control.

Throughout the book we are only given small glimpses of Caro's thoughts but it is clear she is the central crux to this story. Through the thoughts of Jamie and with Rob's dialogue from his video diaries we discover that she is in fact emotionally involved with both brothers - both being manipulated for her own gains.

With Caro's rebellious instincts, impressionable mind  and Rob's precarious mental state, Rees creates a perfect storm.  She cleverly builds the tension as the impending tempest gets ever closer yet still manages to keep us guessing to what exactly Caro and Rob have planned. Only as the story reaches its conclusion do we begin to see the reasons behind the harrowing opening to the book.

It's fair to say that none of the characters in this book are likeable, in fact Caro is at points detestable, yet they are believable and engaging.  The plot is gripping and Rees has captured the tension and anarchy of the student protests from the Summer of 2011 expertly. In addition she raises questions not only about the war in Afghanistan but how soldiers can struggle to adapt to civilian life. These ingredients combine to make this book a real page turner which is sure to resonate with teenagers and proves that Rees made the right choice in embarking on a different angle for this novel.

Marks out of 10: 8

Here is the trailer for the book...


For more information on Celia Rees visit her website here

Friday 13th interview with Cliff McNish

Welcome to a special spooky Friday 13th author interview!  On this traditionally creepy day we are joined by Cliff McNish who first came to prominence with the 'The Doomspell Trilogy', subsequently published in 21 languages around the world.  In addition to writing fantasy cliff has also written two Ghost stories, 'Breathe' and 'The Hunting Ground', which was recently published in paperback (review here and your chance to win a copy in our giveway here). Here Cliff tells us what the ingredients are for a good ghost story, what's the scariest book he has ever read and whether he believes in ghosts... 

How would you describe 'The Hunting Ground'?

A story about 2 teenage boys who have to face an absolutely terrifying adult male ghost who intends to hunt them to death. 

You have said previously “…almost no one is writing what I would call genuinely frightening ghost stories of novel length for teenagers.”  Why do you think this is the case?
 
First, ghost stories of any length are tricky to write. Most people don’t have the skill to sustain the atmosphere. Mostly, I think it is the commercial market. Publishers are wary about making ghost stories too dark – they slip too easily into dark adult themes, are harder to sell to teens, whereas, say, gothic romance as a genre, has a much clearer and more obvious adolescent focus. There should still be more out there, but can you name me one that genuinely scared you and had teenage protagonists at its heart?

To give all those authors out there a hand, what are the ingredients for a good ghost story?
 
First and most important decide who your ghost is, and why have they decided to haunt the living. After all, there must be a good reason. We don’t see ghosts every day, do we? What vital unfinished business does your ghost have? Are they seeking revenge? Did someone treat them badly or hurt them while they were alive? Were they even murdered? If so, work out what happened, how and why they were hurt/killed, and slowly reveal that story to the reader.



Or is it the opposite – your ghost is returning to help someone? In Allan Ahlberg’s tender and gentle 'My Brother’s Ghost' a dead boy returns simply to support his grieving brother. Not all ghost stories have to be terrifying. 



And here’s a second big tip: if possible make your ghost as closely-related to the main living characters in your story as you can. Why? Because the closer the ghost is linked, the more likely readers are to believe a ghost would return from the dead to haunt/hurt/warn/help them. Plus a ghost story also feels so much more interesting and personal if the ghost is someone the living people knew well – especially if it was someone they felt passionately about, someone they loved or hated.

How do you draw the line between making your readers scared and making them genuinely frightened?

Actually, whatever an author might think or say, you can’t do that. Some readers are so sensitive that just saying a ghost is in the room is enough to make them genuinely frightened.  Another reader will grin through the same scene. My previous ghost novel 'Breathe' gathered every kind of reaction from ‘the scariest novel I have ever read’ to  ‘This was not scary at all, in fact I laughed all the way through.’ Readers are mysterious people. As a writer, you just have to trust your instinct about what makes you feel scared, but not to go so far that you utterly dismay or disgust or offend most readers. 

Despite writing ghost stories, you don’t believe in ghosts? Not even a little bit?

I’m afraid not. Hold on ...what’s that behind me...

What is the scariest book you have read?

Tough one. Factual books about real life crimes, especially on a vast scale like genocide, are always far more terrifying than any fiction. And is there anything more heart-rendingly frightening than Anne Frank’s diary when you know the outcome? But as for fiction titles ... the most frightening and brilliant novel centred around teenagers I’ve ever read is ‘Bloodtide’ by Melvin Burgess.

As a youngster you read graphic novels before your English teacher gave you a copy of ‘The Magicians Nephew’ and you credit this with developing your interest in reading novels.  What was it that you liked so much about this book?

The witch in it enthralled me. The wood between the worlds linked to pools and other worlds enthralled me. Aslan, the great lion, enthralled me. It was my first real exposure to fantasy that was deeply imagined and well-written, and I could hardly breathe.


   What are you currently reading and listening to? 

  While I write this I am listening to film scores by Bernard Hermann, who wrote the music for many of Hitchcock’s darkest movies, including ‘Psycho’ and I am reading ‘Love in the Time Of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

   
Other than your own books, do you have any recommendations of books that would appeal to teenage boys?


Yes, definitely. ‘The Witchfinder’ trilogy by William Hussey is great, fast-moving stuff. Also, I think Melvin Burgess’s books ‘Kill All Enemies’ and ‘Doing It’ are terrific at a grittier, more realistic level. But if you want one book that I absolutely loved and think all teenage boys would die for it’s got to be ‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card. An adult SF novel, but any teenager can read and love it. Nearly all the characters are boys and they are all involved in a future battle school to kick-ass some aliens. It’s brilliant.


The Quick 5

Supernatural or Superhero?

Superhero

Reading books or writing books?

Writing

Twitter or Facebook?

Facebook

Print book or e-book?

Print

TV or Radio?

TV

Thanks to Cliff for a great interview. If you would like to find out more about him visit his website here

To enter our competition to win a copy of 'The Hunting Ground' click here
 


World of Norm Competition

Here is the first of our January competitions!  The prize is a signed copy of the brilliant 1st book in the 'The World of Norm' series, 'May Contain Nuts' by Jonathan Meres. (Review here) To win we want you to tell us your favourite joke!

If you think you can make us laugh fill in the form on our Competitions page, remembering to include your email address.  The competition closes at 11.59 pm on Friday 13th January. Full details of our competition policy can be found on our competitions page.

Interview with Jonathan Meres

Jonathan Meres is the author of the 'The World of Norm' books.  The 1st in the series 'May Contain Nuts' was published in September 2011 (Literature for Lads review here, plus your chance to win a copy here) and the 2nd book 'May Cause Irritation' was published just last week. He has also written for TV and Radio, was once nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival and has even appeared on TV.  To celebrate the launch of the 2nd 'World of Norm' book we invited Jonathan to tell us what makes books funny for children, whether he has ever regretted anything he has done on a author visit and why he decided not to pursure a career in stand up comedy...

The World of Norm’ has been described as ‘Adrian Mole meets the Diary of a Wimpy Kid’.  Is this an accurate description of the series? 
I have absolutely no idea.  The Wimpy Kid thing gets mentioned a lot – but the truth is, I’ve never actually read it.  I’d never even heard of it when I wrote the first Norm – so any similarities are entirely coincidental etc, etc.  All I do know is that both books you mention also have words in them.  And that stuff happens.  Apart from that I really can’t say.

What makes a book funny for children? How does their sense of humour differ from that of adults?

I’m not sure there actually is one magical ingredient.  If there is, then I’m still searching for it.  Not all children find the same thing funny.  In the same way that not all adults find the same thing funny.   I actually try not to over-analyse stuff like this.  I think that if you do, there’s a danger of being too formulaic and predictable.   Also they say that if you need to explain a joke then it’s not funny.  So in summary?  Toilets.
You were once nominated for a Perrier Comedy award at the Edinburgh festival.  What made you decide to concentrate on being an actor and author and not continue with a career in comedy?

I’ve never had any kind of career master plan.  Just as well really!  The closest I’ve ever had to a ‘proper job’ was when I left school and joined the merchant navy.  The rest has just been a series of (mostly) fortunate events.  The stand-up thing was great and I did it for 10 years.  I guess it was a bit weird – packing it in less than a year after being nominated for the biggest award in comedy but it felt right at the time.  I’d just had my first child, (well, strictly speaking my wife had) and I really couldn’t face the prospect of being away from home for long periods.  I think there was also a sense of me wanting to do other things.  The comedy world back then (in the mid 90s) wasn’t anything like as big as it is now.  Maybe if I was doing it now it would be different.  Who knows?  Lee Evans won The Perrier the year I was nominated.  Whatever happened to him? 

During your author events you promise to dispel the idea that authors are boring by any means possible.  Have you ever done something at an author visit that you later regret?

Non.  Ne regret rien.  I’d rather cause some kind of stir or reaction than leave an audience going ‘meh.’  Not that I go out of my way to cause a stir or reaction.  There’s nothing more boring than someone going ‘Ooh, look at me!  I’m outrageous!’ I guess it’s the old stand-up in me though.  If there’s an opportunity for a gag I’ll go for it.  And if that involves snogging the head teacher then so be it.

What are you currently reading and listening to?
I’ve just finished ‘Much Obliged Jeeves’ by PG Wodehouse and I’m just about to start ‘Jane Eyre’ – one of those must-read books that for some reason I never have.  I absolutely love music - and an incredibly wide range of music at that.  Rock, pop, dance, hip hop, soul, jazz, world, folk, classical, you name it, it’ll be in my collection somewhere.  My most recent additions?  Kraftwerk, Arcade Fire, the new album by Kate Bush and a great Edinburgh-based folk band called Admiral Fallow.

Do you have a favourite joke?
I’m actually rubbish at remembering jokes.  Which is the real reason I stopped being a stand-up comedian.

Other than your own books, do you have any recommendations of books that would appeal to teenage boys?

Hmm – specifically boys?  Hard to say.  And to be honest I tend not to read much childrens’/teenage fiction in case I subconsciously get influenced and unintentionally start ripping people off!  If I haven’t read something I can’t be accused of trying to copy it!

The Quick 5
Actor or author? 
Author
Reading books or writing books? 
Writing
Twitter or Facebook? 
Twitter
Print book or e-book? 
Print
Brian Clough or Nigel Clough? 
Brian
For more information on Jonathan visit his website here

May Contain Nuts: (The World of Norm)

May Contain Nuts:(The World of Norm);Jonathan Meres; Orchard Books, September 2011

Book summary (taken from Amazon UK): Why on earth did Norm's family have to move, anyway? In their old house he'd never tried to pee in anything other than a toilet. And when Norm is in bed, he's kept awake by his dad snoring like a constipated rhinoceros! Will life ever get less unfair for Norm?

Literature for Lads review:

When Harry Hill is quoted on the front of a book saying its ‘Hilarious Stuff!’ it’s fair to say most people will be expecting a laugh out loud, highly amusing romp of a novel.  Does ‘The World of Norm’ deliver the bellyaches and giggles you would expect? You bet it does!  From the opening chapter where we meet Norm about to pee in his Dad’s wardrobe this is indeed ‘Hilarious stuff!’

Norm is a 12 year old boy in the mould of Harry Enfield’s ‘Kevin the Teenager.’ He’s just recently moved house, has two extremely annoying younger brothers and is broke.  Life according to Norm is ‘just so unfair’.  As we follow Norm’s quest to ‘pimp up his bike’ we are entertained by the many comical scenes and situations he ends up in.

Jonathan Meres has captured the feelings and motivations of adolescent boys superbly.  Norm is completely believable and almost annoyingly life like.  At times you feel almost as frustrated as Norms Mum and Dad as he once again expresses an amazing brand of teenage selfishness or stupidity! However you can’t stay angry with Norm for long because before too long you know that once again there will be another genuine laugh out loud scene.

The cast of characters in the book all contribute to the comedy contained within the book.  Mums addiction to shopping channels, Dad’s pulsating angry vein, and Grandpa’s trips to the bookmakers all provide the reader with funny moments.  Mere’s also makes reference to modern technology and current celebrities meaning the book feels fresh and modern. The book is also enhanced enormously by Donough O'Malley's illustrations.  The book is full of them, almost one a page and they very much add to the humour of the book.

Without a doubt this is an amusing and funny book but it does also touch on a more serious issue.  The impact a gambling addiction can have on a family, the whole reason Norm and his family have had to move house, is touched on briefly and puts across the impact something like this can have. (Although one could argue that Grandpa doesn’t really seem to have been affected by these recent events!)

‘The World of Norm’ is an entertaining, thoroughly amusing novel.  It’s full of jokes, comedy scenes, and rip-roaring laughs.  Teenage boys will love it and will easily identify with Norm – in fact they will probably think they are Norm!  However if Mum and Dad see this book lying around I suggest they read it as well.  It might just explain a few things! 

Marks out of 10: 9

Win a copy of the book here!

Here is the trailer for the book...


For more information on Jonathan Meres visit his website here

The Hunting Ground

The Hunting Ground; Cliff McNish; Orion Childrens; January 2012

Book summary (taken from Cliff McNish website):
Haunted by pure evil...When Elliott and his brother, Ben, move into old and crumbling Glebe House they don't expect to find themselves sharing it with ghosts. But soon sinister events are unfolding. An old diary reveals glimpses of the mansion's past - and of a terrible tragedy. A mysterious woman talks to the dead. And evil lurks in the East Wing - a hideous labyrinth of passageways devised by a truly twisted mind. Can Elliott and his family escape the clutches of Glebe House? Or will they be trapped in the maze of corridors, forever hunted by the dead?

Literature for Lads review:
Cliff McNish sets the tone for this ghost story from the very beginning with an extremely creepy, mysterious and sinister opening chapter.  Despite being only 3 pages long after reading it you are left in no doubt that you are about to embark on a chilling adventure which may require you to sleep with the light on in the future.

Brothers Ben and Elliot arrive at the once grand Glebe House along with their Father, employed to renovate the house to its former glory.  The house is typical of many old houses; far from quiet once the occupants have retired to bed.  In addition to the creaks and squeaks the house is also covered with self portraits of the house's former owner Vincent Cullyan, each demonstrating his hunting prowess. 

McNish wastes no time in starting the series of sinister events that will envelope Ben and Elliot as the story progresses.  From the off the house if full of weird noises and strange happenings not to mention the mysterious 'East wing' that has a magnetic draw towards it.  We soon realise that the dark secret the East wing harbours is utterly chilling.

The majority of the narrative is told to us through the eyes of Ben and Elliot however we are also told parts of the story via a diary written by a previous occupant of the house, Theo.  McNish uses the diary to give us the background on what has happened previously in Glebe house, although at times by fitting the diary into the story the flow of the book is lost somewhat.

The story moves along at a fast pace and is full of plot twists, suspense, and mystery.  As the reader we never quite know which direction the story is going to go and the book is at times really rather creepy. As Ben and Elliot try to escape from the Ghosts of the East wing we discover a maze of corridors, repeating rooms, hidden passages, darkness and strange noises; it's the ideal recipe for a horror story and some points of the story will definitely leave you feeling a little on edge.
 
Just as at the start of the book the end of the book is chilling however it does take a little longer to get there than I feel is necessary. The pace of the book slowed and rather than creating tension it feels more like we are going round in circles. After such a chilling start that delves straight into the action this middle section is a little disappointing.   

McNish has created an original and inventive idea for a chilling ghost story here and the book has all the ingredients - murder, suspense, history, a haunted house.  Although it might not give you nightmares it will certainly make you look twice next time you look in the mirror late at night.

Marks out of 10: 6

For more information on Cliff McNish visit his website here

Here is the trailer for 'The Hunting Ground'...