Night of the Perigee Moon: Lantern Review and Author Spotlight…

1

Greetings and salutations to you, my beloved associates in the pursuit of all things literary!  It’s Mad Martha with you today to provide you with a Lantern review of a fun and feisty new middle grade read featuring magic, mad cousins and monstrously large moons.  I give you Night of the Perigee Moon by Juliet Jacka!

Juliet is a Kiwi author.  And by Kiwi I mean that she hails from New Zealand, not that she is a cute, endangered, brown flightless bird with particularly advanced claw dexterity and a passion for literacy.  Although that would also be cool (and worth reading about).  We at the shelf love Kiwi authors. In fact, in a spectacular display of UnAustralianism, we are prepared to admit that we have a sneaking suspicion that New Zealand is an actual utopia, but until we can get Mad Martha stowed away in a suitcase heading for that delightful nation, we can’t confirm this positively.  Until then, we will continue quietly instigating the chilli-bin revolution. Join us, won’t you?

But back to the topic at hand! Once you have feasted your eyes on my poetical evaluation of this book, you can find out more about the author, who was brave enough to answer some (slightly self-centred) questions from Bruce AND THEN enter to win one of TWO PRINT copies of the book – woohoo! Since you are no doubt hyperventilating with excitement over all of that information, I will refrain from mentioning that the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, lest you pop a valve and have to be rushed to the hospital. If you would like to enter the giveaway, you can click this link here.  So let’s get to it.

Night of the Perigee Moon follows young Tilly Angelica in the days leading up to her thirteenth birthday.  Turning thirteen is exciting enough, but in Tilly’s family, the thirteenth birthday also marks the time when young Angelicas take ownership of  a shiny new magical ability.  Poor Tilly is dreading this however, and just wants to be normal kid and have a normal party – not a whole host of crazy, magical cousins, uncles and aunts turning up to celebrate her “changeover”.  If that were not enough to worry about, Tilly’s grown-up cousin Prosper (an enchanter) seems to be behaving in a rather sinister fashion.  Along with her cheeky younger brother Fergal, twin cousins Ninette and Pippi, and house cat Kit, will Tilly be able to take control of her emerging talent and use it to her advantage?  Or will creepy cousin Prosper use the power of the Perigee Moon to change Tilly’s life forever?

perigee moon

Twelve.

So much

safer than

thirteen for some

kids.

Night of the Perigee Moon felt to me like something Enid Blyton might concoct were she writing today.  It has that classic feel of a fun kids’ story full of magic, reasonably innocent adventure and a plot to be foiled close to home.  All that’s missing is the ginger beer, but there’s plenty of other food-related mayhem instead!  This book is going to be read and re-read by the younger end of the middle grade bracket and would be perfect as a read-aloud for a grade four or five class.  The real action with Prosper and the perigee moon takes a little while to get going because the first third of the book is devoted to Tilly as she waits for,  discovers, then begins to tentatively use, her talent.  When the action starts however, it is a non-stop ride to the end of the book, involving bell-wearing dogs, mad fighting bats and my personal favourite, spectacular home-made millinery.

Fergal, Tilly’s brother, is a joy to read about as his ingenious and hilarious antics turn the tide for Tilly against cousin Prosper, and Tilly’s best friend Olivia is exactly the kind of person you want in your corner when you have some embarrassing secrets to divulge.  There is also a scene involving some highly imaginative insults that you’ll want to pop in your back pocket for when the appropriate situation arises!  All in all, we on the shelf recommend Night of the Perigee Moon for confident readers (or as a pre-bed read-together) for all those seeking to find the magic in the ordinariness of family life.

If you’d like to win a copy of Night of the Perigee Moon, simply fill in the entry form in the rafflecopter link here.  The giveaway is open internationally, so all residents of planet Earth should be fine to enter.  Good luck!

Now just who is the mastermind behind this fanciful romp, I hear you ask.  Well, allow me to introduce you to Juliet Jacka!

Juliet Jacka was born in Wellington. She spent her university years in Dunedin, and then headed to Canada and the UK.Juliet Jacka (small)

She’s now back in New Zealand living in one of Wellington’s hilly suburbs in a red house by a railway line with her husband and two young girls.

Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

She started writing junior fiction stories when she was on maternity leave with her first daughter (who was luckily a good sleeper).

Juliet now juggles writing with work and family life. She has a BA in English and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.

To find out more about the brains behind Tilly’s adventures, we forced Juliet  to answer some of our inane, burning questions!

What was it about this story that compelled you to tell it, rather than any other ideas you had floating around? And are any of your characters based on anyone in real life? (Creepy cousin Prosper, maybe?!)

I’m a huge fan of books with magic and mystery in them, and got hooked by the idea of creating my very own magical world. It was jolly fun too – I had heaps of fun dreaming up weird and wonderful talents for the Angelicas.

I don’t know any creepy cousin Prospers in real life. Which is good. He’s a proper slime ball!

Did you ever consider a role for some gargoyles in Arial Manor? And do any Angelicas have any talents related to gargoylery?

Interesting idea! I’m sure Fergal would have fun getting up to mischief with a gargoyle or two. His changeover is coming up soon after all … he might just be a contender for an Angelica with a gargoylery-related talent.

What sparked your interest in the perigee moon phenomenon? Do you think there’s any truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon (especially a really BIG one)?

I was busy trying to get my baby to sleep one night when I noticed that the moon was bigger than usual. I did some research – and aha! It was a perigee moon.

From there I started wondering about the things that could happen when the moon is extraordinarily large. Although I was busy juggling work and two small children, I kept sneaking in moments to write about magic, mayhem and talking animals.

I think any excuse to go a little madcap comes in handy, so yes – of course I think there’s truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon. Especially a really, really BIG one …

What were some of your favourite books as a kid?

It’s great this question says“some” instead of “one” (the last favourite book question I had to answer asked me to pick one – mean!). Some of the some include: The Tricksters and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery,The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner and The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien.

Your story is an award winner – congratulations! Do they give you some kind of plaque or trophy for the award? And if so, where do you keep it?

It’s a fancy certificate with my name written on it in curly writing. I’m going to frame it and stick it on the wall.

So there you have it! Thanks to Juliet for putting up with us.  I should probably also mention that Night of the imagePerigee Moon would perfectly fit into category three – a book with a specific time in the title – of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge. Quite frankly, I wish I’d thought of that while I was reading it and I would have been one up on my challenge books. Never mind.  If you’d like to find out about the Challenge, simply click on the attractive button over there.

Now, go and enter the giveaway. Shoo!

 

Mad Martha

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Rump and Stiltskin: Fairy Tale Retellings for Young and Old(ish)…

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imageWelcome to another exciting episode of my Fairy Tale Makeovers review series!  Today I have two retellings of the same fairy tale – Rumpelstiltskin –  he with the penchant baby thievery and silly name-guessing games.

One of the retellings is a middle grade read full of adventure, laughs and a fresh, complex new take on the traditional Rumpelstiltskin tale, and the other is an adult fiction novel full of adventure, laughs and….well, you get the idea.  Let’s begin with the middle grade offering, shall we?

rumpRump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

Liesl Shurtliff

The Tome:

In Rump’s world, your name is your destiny.  Unfortunately, Rump’s mother died before she could get his full name out and so he has been stuck as the butt of many jokes ever since.  After accidentally finding out he possesses the ability to spin straw into gold, and then accidentally dooming the (greedy, selfish) miller’s (vacuous, unreasonable) daughter Opal to a life spent spinning gold for the king, Rump knows that he must step in to make things right.  But things take a turn for the (much, much) worse when Opal accidentally promises Rump her first-born son in return for his spinning.

Now, stuck with a magical ability he doesn’t want, a pre-emptive baby that he certainly doesn’t need, and a donkey that’s good for Nothing, Rump must use all his wits to overcome his expected destiny at the bottom rung of the social ladder.  With the help of his friend Red, some very unusual trolls and the power within himself, Rump might just be able to untangle this knotty dilemma…but he may have to fly by the seat of his pants to do it.

Why You Should Read It:

Shurtliff has done a great job here in creating complex, neatly interwoven plot threads that slowly build into a well thought out and satisfying narrative.  There’s a lot of humour in both the characters and the situation, and some fun new twists on the traditional tale.  I expecially enjoyed the trolls and their cheeky ploy to remain out of the way of humans.  All the elements of the original tale are here (except, possibly, the more violent bits) but they’ve been used in clever, creative ways to put the focus back onto Rump and how he will fulfill his destiny.

Makeover Point of Difference:

The main point of view here is Rump’s, and he’s a really likeable character.  With Rump leading the narration, this book will certainly be a hit with middle grade-aged kids looking for a familiar(ish) tale of magic with lots of humour to lighten things up.

And now for the grown ups….

StiltskinStiltskin

Andrew Buckley

The Tome:

Don’t let the rubber duck on his head fool you, Rumpelstiltskin is one cranky, murderous, rabbit-stabbing dwarf.  After escaping from The Tower in Thiside (the place where all the fairy tale mob live) with the help of the (clearly mad) Mad Hatter, Rumpelstiltskin immediately sets off to pass on a message to the unsuspecting Robert Darkly in Othaside (the place where us mob live).  On unexpectedly discovering said murderous dwarf in his bathtub, Robert is clearly somewhat distressed to discover that his world is about to get a damn sight weirder (and more dangerous).  And all this on the day that his girlfriend dumps him and he loses his job.

Luckily for Robert, he is immediately taken under the (metaphorical) wing of Lily (of the Agency) and introduced to the White Rabbit.  Along with a number of other (hitherto mythical) creatures, Lily and Robert must set out after Rumpelstiltskin and foil his dastardly plan before any more fluffy bunnies succumb to the unforgiving steel of his blade.  But what Lily and Robert are about to find out is that the Dwarf’s plan may go deeper than any of them had ever expected…

Why You Should Read It:

We love a bit of silliness around the shelf and this book has silliness in bucketloads.  Not just silliness though, oh no.  There’s a fair bit of violence towards sweet defenceless fairy tale creatures.  There’s warrior gnomes and random facts about the mechanics of sex between fairies.  There’s a smidgeon of old-ladies being subjected to hallucinatory shifts in reality. Really, there’s something for everyone over the age of eighteen to be found here, and a lot of it is pretty funny.  Buckley maintains a light, humorous tone throughout and there are many little asides that are designed to throw out your train of thought and give you an unsought-after giggle.  Rumpelstiltskin is suitably evil and the Mad Hatter is appropriately devious and conniving.  Robert is adorably clueless and the White Rabbit imposing in his managerial capacity.  Overall, it’s just a good, fun romp and you should probably give it a go if you’re into retellings. Or even if you’re not.

Makeover Point of Difference:

Once again, it feels like the familiar fairy tale character that we know and love (to hate), but there’s a strange and beguiling Urban Fantasy twist going on that reminded me of books like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Un Lun Dun by China Mieville but with a lighter tone.  It’s got an atmosphere all its own though and I’d like to see what other delights Buckley has/will come up with.

So there you have it.  Two takes on the famous Rumpelstiltskin, Esq.  I’d love to know about any other Rumpelstiltskin retellings out there because I’ve grown quite fond of the repugnant/redeemable little guy.

Until next time,
Bruce

*I received a digital copy of Stiltskin from the publisher, Curiosity Quills, in return for an honest review.

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Funny Strange and Funny Ha-Ha: A Double YA Read-it-if Review…

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Morning fellow book-a-sauruses! Or should that be book-a-sauri? Only if you’ve been reading too much in the dark…HaHAA, see what I did there? The funnies have already started!  Today I will be providing commentary on two YA new releases that are light, funny and the perfect thing for cheering up an otherwise frown-worthy day.  One is a cosy mystery (well, cosy enough, I suppose) and the other features a little bit of paranormal and I received both digital copies from their respective publishers via Netgalley – thanks! So set your emotionality regulators to “mildly amused” and let’s get this show on the road!

First up we have Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey. (Incidentally, isn’t that a great surname? I think so. Well done on that, Fantaskey family!).  Buzz Kill features high-school newspaper journalist Millie Ostermeyer as she attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the murder of Hollerin’ Hank Killdare, her school’s almost-universally disliked football coach. Unfortunately, due to his status as one of the least popular people around the school, Millie’s list of possible suspects is quite extensive and even includes her dad, the football team’s assistant coach.  As Millie tries to solve the mystery and win a Pacemaker (high school journalism’s highest accolade), she keeps running into mysterious (and handsome) quarterback Chase Albright and perky, annoying cheerleader and editor of the school newspaper, Vivienne Fitch.  Why do these two seem to be tangled up in every aspect of the crime? If Millie can’t find a lead in this mystery soon, it may be that someone very close to her ends up taking the rap.  So with the help of Nancy Drew, a good friend and a stinky but loveable dog, Millie is going to crack this case…or possibly die trying.

buzz killRead it if:

* you despise Phys Ed class and the many and varied humiliations that accompany it

* you think that being kicked in the backside while wearing a honeybee mascot costume could feasibly be perceived as cause to commit murder

* you’ve been waiting for the teenage Miss Marple to come along, although without the knitting and felt hats (I know I have!)

As soon as I read the blurb for this one the question arose as to why there aren’t more cosy-style murder mysteries aimed at this age group.  It’s such an engaging genre and Buzz Kill is a great example of it.  There was a distinctly light tone used throughout the book and Millie, our narrator, has a dry, self-deprecating humour that really colours the telling of the story.  All the characters you would expect are there: the unpopular murder victim who had wronged plenty of people, the over-zealous-but-not-very-accurate small town police investigator, the popular kids who were humiliated by the coach, the disengaged school principal…it’s your classic whodunnit tale set in a context very familiar to young people and readers of YA.

There’s also a bit of romantic undercurrent to the story with the tall, dark, handsome and mysterious newcomer, Chase Albright being the focus of Millie’s investigative attentions.  As an adult reader and fan of traditional and cosy murder mysteries, I enjoyed the familiar unfolding of the plot and the twist at the end was well-timed and unexpected.  The reveal of the eventual murder weapon is tinged with a bit of slapstick as well and made a very satisfying finish to the book.

I did find that my attention wandered a little towards the beginning of the last third of the book, as the focus shifted more to the developing friendship between Millie and Chase.  Although the mystery surrounding Chase had been set up early in the book, the eventual reveal about his place in the grander scheme of things didn’t really surprise me and I don’t think it will surprise many readers.  This didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story for me, but simply made that section drag a little.

I’m very happy to have read Buzz Kill and I hope Fantaskey or other YA authors (and publishers!) take a chance on more cosies like this one specifically for a YA audience.  Buzz Kill was released on May the 6th.

Now onto the “funny ha-ha”…

In Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski we are introduced to homeroom 10B, who, after receiving their flu shots at school one day, develop the ability to hear other people’s thoughts.  While for some individuals, this seems like a dream come true and the perfect opportunity to gain the upper hand in their studies or relationships, for others they would like nothing more than  a complete return to normal before they end up accidentally overhearing, for example, any more of their parents’ amorous thoughts.  As the days pass and the teens get used to being exposed to every possible overshare that one could think of (quite literally), some secrets emerge that would ordinarily have never seen the light of day and certain members of the group find themselves subjected to the ethical scrutiny of their peers.  When it becomes apparent that the authorities may be on to 10B’s special abilities, each of the “Espies” must make a choice – do they give up their telepathy for the sake of their health and sanity, or do they hold on to the quality that has turned them into (slightly) super humans?

Don't Even Think

Read it if:

* you have recently taken to wearing a stylish, thought-blocking tinfoil hat every time you leave the house because you suspect the teenagers that loiter in the stairwells of your building have telepathic abilities

* you were reluctant to share airspace with some of your grade ten classmates, let alone brain space

*you’ve ever been in a situation in which you’ve been unutterably grateful that no one could find out what you REALLY think about something

I love a book that’s an out-of-the-box surprise.  Particularly when that surprise is a pleasant one.  I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Even Think About It.  When I initially read the blurb, I wasn’t 100% sure that this would be to my tastes but I took a chance and I’m glad to say that I was rewarded with an original and highly amusing imaginative tale that blends typical teen angst and relationship drama with ESP to create a very appetising story-smoothie indeed.

The first thing that drew me in (and threw me off a bit, admittedly) was the use of a collective voice to tell the story.  See, by the end of the tale, the teens have become so used to hearing each others’ thoughts that they have adopted a sort of hive-mind, and this is reflected in the narration.  At the beginning this was mildly confusing but within a chapter or two I had it sorted and by the end I felt that it contributed to my experience of the book as original and a stand-out from others in the paranormal/romance YA genre.  After looking at other reviewers’ thoughts, this point stood out as a negative for some, so I suspect it might be a personal preference thing.  As a fan of dialogue-driven writing (as my Fi50 entries will attest!), the multi-character approach to narration appealed greatly to me.

I did have a few troubles in the first half of the book keeping some of the female characters straight, as a couple tended to blend into each other by having similar shy aspects to their personalities.  Other characters like Mackenzie, BJ and Pi stood out as strong voices in the narrative and really drove the story forward.  One drawback of having such a large ensemble cast of characters is that not many of them get time in the limelight and therefore some characters came off as a bit two-dimensional.  Whether this was intentional, as the book is the first in a series and there will be time later to flesh them out, I’m not sure but I can see how this would annoy some readers.  It certainly didn’t bother me however – I felt that the movement between characters added to the light tone of the book and allowed the plot, and the humour, to flow more freely.

As I said, this is the first book in a planned series, but I feel it works perfectly well as a standalone.  If you enjoy your YA light, with plenty of funny dialogue and embarrassing situations, a bit of teen angst and romance, and just enough paranormal to keep things interesting, give this one a go.

Don’t Even Think About It was released on May 1st.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Mad Martha’s Lantern Review: The Ghost Box…

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Welcome dear readers to my haiku review of a brand new book for the ghost story buffs among you (and I know there are more than a few in that category!).  It’s Mad Martha with you and today I will present to you The Ghost Box by Catherine Fisher. Yes, that Catherine Fisher. I received an ecopy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!

The first thing that grabbed me about the book was the stunning cover art.  Really, you could just blow that up and stick it on the wall for instant atmosphere, couldn’t you?  The second reason I wanted to read this book is the fact that the content is targeted at the 11+ age group, but the reading accessibility level is pitched at the 7+ age group, so it is designed to be a good choice for older kids who struggle with reading.  I’m always curious about these sorts of books, having sat on the shelf of a few classrooms in my day, because the search for interesting, engaging yet accessible books for older kids with emerging literacy skills is difficult indeed!

In The Ghost Box, Sarah is struggling to adapt to life in her newly blended family, comprising her mum, Gareth, her step-dad, and Matt, her annoying goth step-brother.  After one very strange night of dreaming, Sarah finds a silver box that has a lock but no key and is immediately curious to find out what’s inside.  When a strange ghost-boy appears and begs Sarah to find the key, Sarah thinks it’s a fairly straightforward task…but she doesn’t count on the inexplicable opposition she meets from the local jeweller, who refuses to open it.  What could possibly be so dangerous about an old silver box?

ghost box

Key:

it could

open the lock

or shut you out.

Choose.

The first thing I appreciated about this book was the fact that it felt, for all intents and purposes, like your average late MG/early YA read.  There was nothing about the writing to indicate that this was a book for kids still gaining literacy skills.  The dialogue wasn’t stilted, the characters were well fleshed-out for the limited word count and the content was appropriately atmospheric and engaging.  I suppose that’s what happens when you get an author who already writes for the age-group (and does it well!) – they don’t feel the need to patronise their readers, or sacrifice the content because of the need to restrict certain bits of the writing.

While the story related in The Ghost Box is fairly formulaic, Fisher has really set the tone beautifully with some fantastically suspenseful and creepy bits.  As I was reading (in the dark, incidentally…why the dark? It’s not like the lightbulb had blown…) a door creaked open, swung by the wind, and I got one of those spooky shivers down the spine that make you look over your shoulder as you read.  Score one, Fisher.  Score one, creaky door.  I also really enjoyed the relationship dramas that Sarah experienced weren’t forced, but evolved naturally as part of the story and appeared in the resolution in a believable way.

I would recommend this book for confident readers in the 9 to 11 age bracket who appreciate a good spooky story.  I’d also say that this should appeal greatly to that targeted 11+ age group who may struggle with reading, or those in the same age group who need something to bring them back into the reading fold.  Oh, and it would fit nicely into category two of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with a piece of furniture in the title…come on, a box is a furnishing, so it will fit… To find out more about the challenge (and sign up!) click on the button.

image

Yours in the pursuit of spooky boxes,

Mad Martha

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May I Suggest Giveaway Hop: Two Chances to Win!

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May-I-Suggest-Giveaway-Hop

Oh! The Generosity! Today I am pleased to be participating in the “May I Suggest…” Giveaway Hop hosted by Stuck in Books!  Because this hop coincides with my birthday, I’m doubling the generosity and giving you two chances to win. You’re welcome!

The idea of the hop is to give readers the chance to win a book that we think is particularly recommendation-worthy.  Don’t forget to hop along to the other blogs in the linky at the end of the post for your chance to pick up more fantastic prizes, because the hop will be running from May 3rd to May 16th.

So I’m doing two giveaways – one involves a game of skill for all you challenge-seekers, and the other is a plain old click-fest rafflecopter entry.  You are welcome to enter one or both giveaways, and best of all, both are open internationally, provided the Book Depository ships to your country for free.  Other details for the giveways are listed below the two contests.

Giveaway Number One: Guess that Book!

The Prize: A Random Book from my Goodreads Favourites Shelf

For this giveaway, all you have to do is correctly guess the title and author of one of the books on which Mad Martha is perched in this attractive photo:

image

You can make a guess for more than one of the books if you like, but it will still only count as one entry.  To enter, type your guess and your email into the rafflecopter form under that pink box. Good luck!

guess that book button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Number Two: Second Chance Draw!

The Prize: Winner’s Choice of Book Up to the Value of $15 AUD from the Book Depository

For this giveaway, just fill in the rafflecopter link under the green box below.  Good Luck!

 

second chance draw

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

The details of the two giveaways are as follows:

* Both contests are open internationally, provided the Book Depository ships to your country for free

* There will be one winner for each giveaway.  Winners will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond before a redraw occurs.  For giveaway number one, the winner will be chosen at random from the pool of correct entries.  For giveaway number two, only verified follows etc will count as entries

* We will not be held responsible for packages lost in the mail

* This giveaway is in no way related to WordPress, Goodreads, Rafflecopter or any entity or person that is not me.

 

Now, don’t forget to hop along to the other blogs and win yourself some stuff!  Click on the link below to see the list of participating blogs.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

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