How to Rid Your Swimming Pool of a Bloodthirsty Mermaid: A Maniacal Book Club Review…

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Welcome young and old to another meeting of the Maniacal Book Club.  Today we have a book for middle grade readers who are not afraid to be scared right out of their swimming pools.  We received How to Rid Your Swimming Pool of a Bloodthirsty Mermaid by Mick Bogerman through the Goodreads First Reads giveaways and how grateful we are to have been introduced (albeit through book number two) to this action-packed, thrill-filled story of monsters, mayhem and malevolent mermaidery.  This book is part of the Slug Pie Story series, which began with How To Navigate a Zombie Cave and Defeat Pirate Pete and is currently at How to Destroy the New Girl’s Killer Robot Army.  Clearly, we were drawn to both the fantastical content and the fact that these books hinted at providing helpful tips for conducting oneself in the aforementioned frightening circumstances.

bloodthirsty mermaid

Mick thinks he’s bartered a sweet deal when he trades seven mows of rich neighbour PJ’s lawn for seven swims in PJ’s pool. Since last month’s incident fighting zombie pirates in which Mick’s little brother Finley nearly drowned, Mick has decided to take no more chances and seize the opportunity to teach Finley to swim.  Things don’t go according to plan however, because when Mick and Finley accidentally feed a mysterious substance to PJ’s beloved sea monkeys, a large, deadly, scaly problem that no one could have foreseen suddenly surfaces to throw all humans in the vicinity into mortal danger.  The boys’ mistake somehow causes the growth of a real-life mermaid – not the lush-tresses, coquettish, tail-flicking sort of mermaid, but an enormous, gorilla-hairy, hypnotic-eyed, human-eating mermaid.  Now it’s up to Mick, Finley and the utterly inept PJ to find a way to get Marilyn (PJ’s choice of name) out of the pool before anyone else becomes her lunch, dinner or midnight snack.

maniacal book club guru daveGuru Dave

Friends, fellow-readers and lovers of acquatic life take heed! The Bogerman boys’ story is a cautionary tale for all those who do not read the fine print.  It is so easy to be seduced by advertising and fail to consider the consequences of our purchases.  Add to this the growing gap between rich and poor and the communication breakdowns that occur between those in the two camps, and before you know it a scaly, hungry water-demon has been unleashed to reign down merry hell on the hired help.

Let this story be a lesson for all those who send off for the offers at the back of vintage comic books.

maniacal book club toothlessToothless

No dragons in this book.  But there is a really scary mermaid who hypnotises people into the water and then EATS THEM!! That was pretty cool.  And her name’s Marilyn.  That was funny.

I like Mick because he’s fearless and does lots of cool stunts to try and get Marilyn back to the ocean.  Finley’s pretty cool too because he always thinks things through.  PJ is a bit of a baby.  But he turns out okay in the end.

I hope one of Mick’s next books has dragons in it. But the killer mermaid was okay as a substitute.

Mad Martha

Let us all heed advice from our mothersmaniacal book club martha

We should not judge the books by their covers

For like Disney’s she ain’t

This Mer-lass needs restraint

As with flesh-ripping death you’ll discover

maniacal book club bruceBruce

I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this tale.  The story is pitched at a middle grade audience, but Mick himself warns parents at the very start with a disclaimer that this book is not for the faint-hearted reader.  On the other hand, if you have a young male reader (or female, obviously, but particularly male) who loves action, fantasy violence, heroic actions, kids having to solve problems out of their depth (pun intended) and just general mayhem and adventure, then get them onto this series right this second.

Mick is a rough-as-guts narrator with a strong sense of right and wrong, and is highly protective of his younger brother. Finley is the thinker of the partnership, considering problems from all angles before making a decision.  And PJ….well, PJ learns some valuable lessons about moving out from under his rich parents’ shadow and thinking for himself.

I read this book in one sitting I was so riveted by the narrative style and the action and I think it’s a book that will have great re-reading value.  I’m excited to see what happens in the other adventures in the Slug Pie stories series as this seems to be a fresh, action-packed take on the standard middle grade fantasy genre. The back of the book features a handy little recap of all the tips and tricks that the boys have picked up for dealing with mermaids of the bloodthirsty variety, which was a nice touch.

What I liked most about this tale, as an adult reader, was the references to the retro sea monkey ads that used to feature in the back of comic books.  Like PJ, oh how I wanted a little kingdom of sea monkeys to brighten up my shelf, with their waving, webby fingers, and their happy capering amongst the fernery.  Really, it took me back. In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, here’s the ad that had me pining and yearning for such exotic pets.

sea monkeys

How did they get away with such false advertising I wonder? Oh, that’s right, it was the 70s.

I would definitely recommend giving this particular Slug Pie story a go – particularly if you are in summer right now, because there’s nothing better than reading a story about bloodthirsty pool-dwelling monsters in temperatures which demand regular swimming as an antidote to heat-related death.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

An MG Ghostly Haiku Review: Remembering Kaylee Cooper…

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It’s Mad Martha with you today for a poetical look at a new release middle grade ghostly tale from Curiosity Quills – Remembering Kaylee Cooper by Christopher Francis.  I only discovered after finishing the book that the author hails from my very own city of residence, so I had a moment of imagined comeraderie that he too was experiencing the ridiculous temperatures Brisbane turned on especially for the G20 summit…then I noticed that he no longer lives in Australia, so I silently cursed him for not sharing the ridiculous temperatures Brisbane turned on for the G20 summit.  But weather gripes aside, let us examine Remembering Kaylee Cooper.

From Goodreads:

Kaylee Cooper is certain that Alex will become friends with a ghost this year. Alex thinks that he is far too old to be listening to a first grader and encourages Kaylee to stop jeopardizing his important sixth grade social life. Kaylee doesn’t listen and finds awkward ways to spend as much time with Alex as possible, even if it means following him into the boy’s washroom.

Fed up, Alex develops a strategic plan to ultimately help him get rid of Kaylee Cooper for good.

However, he soon learns about the mysterious legend of Screaming Ridge that pulls an unlikely group of friends together, including the girl of his dreams, and the school’s meanest bully. When they discover that the legend is real, and that Kaylee Cooper is at the core of the mystery, Alex stares death in the face and helps save her from an eternal life of misery and confusion.

remembering kaylee cooper

Wouldn’t be seen dead

Hanging with a first-grade girl

Maybe vice versa 

Oh the mixed feelings about this book!  This is a quick, middle grade ghost story that is pitched at the perfect level for a young audience. There is just enough creepiness to satisfy those who enjoy a scare and just enough mystery for those who like a puzzle. Alex is a likeable protagonist and there is a palpable sense of comaraderie that develops between Alex’s classmates as the story progresses and the mystery deepens, which I particularly enjoyed.  It gave the story a bit of life and energy and opened up a sense of adventure.  The ghostly elements vary between being a bit predictable and hiding some unexpected twists and by the end I felt like everything had been wrapped up in a neat little package.  Depending on whether you enjoy your ghost stories with loose ends tied up, this will be satisfying or not so much.  I suspect though that middle grade readers will appreciate the resolution to the various puzzles that are presented in the story.

There was one inexplicable element to this tale that drove me nuts while I was reading and disrupted my ability to remain in the story world.   For some strange reason, the author has given ridiculous surnames to all the teachers in the story, and alliterative names to most of the kids (but not all). The teachers were called Stoolpigeon, Humblewick, Allthumbs and Monobrow….really? Monobrow? The kids were called Damian Dermite, Madelyn Mayfeather, Henry Horkenminder…Why? For me, the use of unlikely names just gave the characters a silly, cartoonish feel when the plot seems to be aiming for an atmosphere of mystery and slight danger.   This really affected my overall enjoyment of the book and I wish it hadn’t been the case.

This next bit is a bit spoilery, so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled!!

Another small niggle I had with the plot was the fact that Kaylee was supposed to have died in 1962, having been born in 1954. Why then, I wondered, was she described by more than one character as as being dressed as if she lived 100 years ago, in long dresses and leather boots with long stockings? This bit didn’t tally for me and as I’m a pedantic sort of a reader, caused me to be mildly cranky with the whole book.

Spoilery bit over – normal service resuming….NOW!

Putting aside my minor irritations, this is a solid ghost story that should appeal to fans of middle grade mystery of your acquaintance. There are a few elements in the plot that are fairly predictable, but also a few that come completely out of left field and add to the puzzle that Alex and his friends are trying to solve. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a light, fun read with a spooky twist.

Cheerio my dears,

Mad Martha

Fiction in 50 November Challenge: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

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Welcome to the November 2014 edition of Fiction in 50, where the brave and foolish are challenged to create a piece of fiction in a mere fifty words or less.  For more detailed instructions and to peruse future and past prompts, simply click on the image at the top of this post.  This month’s prompt is….

if at first you don't succeed

Participants, remember to pop a link to your post in the comments so that others can visit you and imbibe your literary genius.  I generally share all entries on Twitter using the hashtag #Fi50, so feel free to do the same.

Here’s my effort for this month. I have titled this story…

An Inch From Genius

“Off to the patent office again, love?”

“This idea’s a real bobby-dazzler, Gertie!”

“Oh yes?”

“This one will go down in history as indispensible, incomparable! It’ll live in the cultural memory as the best thing since…well, since ever!”

“Good for you love. What is it then?”

“Diced bread!”

Onward and upward then….next month’s prompt to round out the year will be…

into the great beyond

I look forward to reading everyone’s attempts!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Winners, Answers and an Fi50 Reminder…

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fiction in 50

It’s time again for Fiction in 50, the writing challenge that asks you to come up with a piece of amazing well-written thoughtful mediocre  readable fiction in 50 words or less! For more information about this challenge, simply click on that big button at the top of the post.  This month’s prompt is….

if at first you don't succeed

The challenge for November opens on Monday, so if you feel a tingle of narrative-based creativity starting in your fingertips, simply pop back on Monday to add your link to the comments of my Fi50 post.  And don’t forget to use the hashtag #Fi50 when sharing on Twitter.  Good luck!

Now for those who cannot bear to be without the answer to a previously-posed puzzle, I am happy to present to you the full list of books that were to be guessed in the Books I’m Grateful I Read Giveaway Hop that finished last week.

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The complete list of books and their associated blurbs etc, can be found here.  Congratulations to KitsuneNinko who won the giveaway with her correct guess of The True Meaning of Smekday.  Also, an honourable mention goes to Valentina B who was the ONLY person to correctly guess the last book (no easy task!) which was Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian.

And good fun was had by all! For those who missed out, I have another giveaway running right now that you can join in with here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Forbidden Fruit: An Adult Fiction, Cosy Mystery Haiku Review…

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It’s Mad Martha with you today to present a new, exciting find in the world of cosy mysteries! Well, it’s a find that’s new to ME anyway – the book we will be talking about is actually number three in a series.  Forbidden Fruit by Ilsa Evans is the third in Australian series the Nell Forrest Mysteries - Nell being the heroine of the books; the first two being titled Nefarious Doings and Ill-Gotten Gains respectively.  Now why did I start with number three?  Well I’d had Nefarious Doings on my want list for a while, ever since being enticed by its beautiful cover and when I saw a very similar cover pop up on Netgalley, I immediately pounced.  Besides, starting with the first in a series is overrated don’t you think?

Nell Forrest – middle-aged woman, magazine lifestyle columnist and mother of five daughters – has recently bought the house and shop that her family owned back when she was a wee one.  On attempting to plant an apple tree in her new (old) backyard, Nell inadvertently uncovers the skeletal remains of a mystery woman.  Nell’s involvement in a murder mystery couldn’t have come at a worse time – two of her daughters are due to give birth in the near future, with only one of the two prepared to keep their baby; Nell is facing pressure from her new beau to commit to something more permanent; and the Council has seen fit to name a street after her.   As the investigation starts turning up some facts that place the murderer worryingly close to home, Nell must deal with the return of her long-estranged father on top of everything else.  Worst of all however, is the discovery that old skele-bones may have been a swinger.  It’s questionable whether Nell can retain her sanity and solve this mystery – even with a self-promoting street sign in her corner.

forbidden fruit

Is Nell Forrest Close

or do suspects keep swinging?

Police are tight-lipped 

I found this to be a fun, funny, engaging and complex mystery and I am now very motivated to collect the first two books in Nell’s adventures and begin again at the beginning.  I didn’t have too much difficulty starting with book number three in getting to know the characters, although keeping the names, birth orders and current activities of Nell’s five daughters straight was pretty tricky during the first third of the book.  There is a reasonable amount of back story that I felt I was missing in terms of Nell’s family and marriage that I suspect had been dealt with in the previous novels but I did manage to pick up enough snippets and connect the dots well enough to be going on with and it didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of the story too much.

So Nell uncovers a skeleton in her backyard and things go pear-shaped from there.  The ensuing debacle involves the return of a happy-go-lucky father who abandoned Nell, her sister and mother 30-odd years ago, a set of in-laws linked to one of the expectant mothers  who cause a whole bucketload of inter-family dramas and the revelation that the small country town of Majic actually played host to vibrant swinging scene in the late 1960s.  You can see that there’s a lot going on in the story, aside from just the murder-mystery part and these extra bits just add to the fun and muddy the waters slightly in terms of discovering who the murderer might have been.  The beginning of each chapter begins with a short snippet that I assume is meant to reflect the letters that Nell receives as a columnist for middle-aged ladies and the majority of these I found hilarious.  I’m not sure how they related to the story overall but I’m glad they were included because I now have a fantastic new joke to rip out at shelf parties on the subject of mothballs.

The mystery element of the book is complex enough that I feel it would be hard to pick the murderer/s too early on in the proceedings.  I did have a hunch reasonably early on that turned out to be correct in a sense, but the ending is so surprisingly action-packed that there is very little chance that any reader could have seen it coming.

Once again, I’m glad to have finally engaged with Nell and her family and I am super-happy to have a new cosy-mystery series to turn to during reading slumps.  For those of you looking to relax during the upcoming holiday season (be it freezing or blistering), I can certainly recommend Forbidden Fruit as a great pick for a down-time read.

Until we meet again may all your skeletons remain deeply buried (or at least be uncovered in someone else’s yard),

Mad Martha

A YA Coming-of-Age Tale with a Beardy Twist: Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf…

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Let it never be said that I don’t give you something different every now and again, because today I have for you a YA fantasy tale that has bearded ladies, high stakes movie action, family drama and extreme sport all wrapped up in a charming little package.  Behold, Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, book one in the Ballad of Mabel Goldenaxe series by Sherry Peters!

Mabel has just been accepted for work in the mines of Gilliam and is now of age to begin looking for a mate and think about settling down to a life of mining and dwarflings.  Unfortunately for Mabel, she’s thin (a liability in Dwarf culture), her beard would need extensions to be considered thick and full, and for all intents and purposes, she would rather be throwing axes with her axe-throwing-champion older brother Mikey, than down the pub trying to win the affections of her male counterparts.  If that weren’t bad enough, Mabel’s best friend Emma seems to attract men like flies to fly paper and if Mabel doesn’t start pulling in the suitors soon, her Da may step in to do the work for her.  As Mabel tries to be true to herself, she is constantly being challenged by unexpected events – secrets about her absent mother seem to impact on her search for a mate in ways Mabel doesn’t understand, and Emma is behaving in an increasingly unfriendly way.  Just when Mabel thinks that things are becoming too much for one dwarf to bear, an opportunity arises that will force Mabel to choose between being her true self and doing what’s expected.

mabel the lovelorn dwarf

Read it if:

*you can’t go past a book with a strong, bearded female protagonist

* you believe that dwarven culture consists of nothing more than digging and drinking

* you’ve ever felt the expectations of a family legacy weighing down upon you like a rocky bed full of emeralds

* you prefer when the common themes of coming-of-age in YA fiction are played out against a backdrop of ale drinking, axe-throwing and the ever-present chip-chip-chip of a community of (mostly) happy miners

I really enjoyed this book while I was reading it – Mabel is an engaging character and the world-building and cultural aspects of Dwarven life were well-developed and added a genuine feel to the overall plot. Peters has played this pretty straight – it’s not a satirical or humorous take on the fantasy genre, but a proper tale of working out one’s identity where the lead character just happens to be a Dwarf.  It was refreshing to experience familiar YA themes in such a different context and the author has done a wonderful job of keeping Mabel’s experiences authentic in a fantasy setting.

The plot moves from episode to episode in Mabel’s life, forcing her to learn new things about herself as she overcomes various challenges that pop up along the way. The ending is nicely hopeful, with the way left wide open for happenings in following books in the series, but readers could be equally satisfied with the ending were they planning to read this as a standalone. So lots of good things to enjoy about the book.

There were a couple of things about this book that either puzzled or irritated me though.  For starters, the title is a bit….bland.  Admittedly, I can’t think of a better one so I really shouldn’t criticise, but after having read the book it seems that there’s so much more to Mabel (and the plot) than just being lovelorn, as well as the fact that Mabel spends a lot of her time not that bothered about how quickly she finds a mate that the title feels to me like it doesn’t quite fit.  A personal qualm, no doubt, but one that irritated me disproportionately to my enjoyment of the book.

Also, I found this book to have a lot of (in my opinion) rambling that slowed down the forward momentum of the plot. Many of Mabel’s thought processes were repetitious both within each particular section of the plot and across different sections. There seemed to be a lot of time spent just going about her everyday business, with not much happening to move the plot forward. I really felt that this book could have done with some serious editing, to chop out the long descriptions of day-to-day existence and overabundance of introspection on Mabel’s part and just let her actions speak for themselves.

As I said though, I really did enjoy this novel – particularly the sections that turn elf and dwarf relations on their head and the theme of gender image that runs throughout as Mabel struggles to fit in as a Dwarven woman when she doesn’t have the right “look” or ambitions. This is that special kind of YA novel that would appeal to a much wider audience than just the typical, targeted age group and lovers of the fantasy genre will find lots to like and plenty of new twists on the expected reading experience.

If you’re looking for a coming-of-age YA novel with a fun, well-imagined fantasy twist then Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf could be the book for you.

Until next time,

Bruce

Getting to Know You Blog Hop and Giveaway!

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I have jumped on board with Cuddlebuggery Book Blogs’s Getting to Know You Giveaway Hop.  This hop is about finding new blogs to connect with and will run from November 15th to 29th.  To find out about my giveaway, just scroll down a bit, but as this is all about getting to know me (and you…but mainly me), I’ve decided to repost my recent Bookish Year in Review Survey.  Possibly I peaked too early with that one. Enjoy!

So last year around this time I jumped in on a fun, bookish survey from Pop Culture Nerd – you can check that out here if you like – and this year I’ve decided to do my own bookish review of the year that has (almost) been! Basically, I’ve come up with some sentences and I aim to finish them with the titles of books that I have read this year. I can’t guarantee that I won’t cheat though and use some titles from last year. Or titles on my TBR pile. I may even include more than one title per sentence. Hold onto your false teeth, thrillseekers, here we go!

So far, I would describe this year as being: [a] Blur

blur

I’m tipping that the next big thing in Reality TV shows will be: Extreme Dentistry

extreme dentistry

I could have cried when: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

mirror cover

 

I would love to have some respite from: Baby Penguins Everywhere!

baby penguins everywhere

The most unexpected thing that happened this year involved: 100 Hungry Monkeys

100 Monkeys

My non-bookish friends would say I: [have a] SuperEgo

superego

My motto for the remainder of 2014 is going to be: Never Underestimate a Hermit Crab

never underestimate a hermit crab

The thing I am most looking forward to is: [an] 8-Bit Christmas

8 bit christmas

One of my favourite dreams features: Duck, Death and the Tulip

duck death and the tulip

If you looked under my couch you would see: [a] Slimy Underbelly

slimy underbelly

If I could no longer keep blogging, I would probably pursue a career in: The Indifference League

the indifference league

Something most people don’t know about me is: I Need a New Butt

i need a new butt

Now onto the winning! I am offering one winner a random book from my Goodreads favourites shelf.  They can choose either a picture book, middle grade fiction, YA fiction, Adult fiction or non-fiction title and I will sneakily pick one and send it off to the winner via the Book Depository.  That means this contest is open internationally, PROVIDED the BD ships to your country for free.  More Ts & Cs in the rafflecopter.  Now click on the link to enter and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now hop along Cassidy (or whatever your name is….nice to meet you, by the way :)) Here’s the list of other participants:

Until next time,

Bruce