A Rebellious Read-It-If Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club (and my first Top Book of 2016!)

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read it if NEW BUTTONI’m starting off the year in truly rebellious fashion by bringing you a TOP BOOK OF 2016 on the first day of the new year!  Yes, it is probably a bit early to be calling a Top Book of 2016, but this one really, truly is and I recommend that Bruce's Pickyou go out and acquire it immediately.  Today’s book, by an AUSTRALIAN author, features meticulously researched historical fiction combined with paranormal beast-slaying in a mash-up that works on every single level.  I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of today’s book from HarperCollins Australia during my attendance at the BTCYA event in November 2015.

Without further faffing about, may I present to you…Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

London, April 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her debut at the court of Queen Charlotte and officially step into polite Regency society and the marriage mart. Little does Helen know that step will take her from the opulent drawing rooms of Mayfair and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of missing housemaids and demonic conspiracies.

Standing between those two worlds is Lord Carlston, a man of ruined reputation and brusque manners. He believes Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred and secret duty. Helen is not so sure, especially when she discovers that nothing around her is quite as it seems, including the enigmatic Lord Carlston.

Against a backdrop of whispered secrets in St James’s Palace, soirees with Lord Byron and morning calls from Beau Brummell, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is a delightfully dangerous adventure of self-discovery and dark choices that must be made … whatever the consequences.

dark days club 2

Read it if:

*the thought of demonic creatures invading polite society is so grievous it has you reaching for the smelling salts in case you have a fit of the vapours

*you think the best hiding place for anything that must be kept away from the prying eyes of one’s relatives is down the front of one’s ballgown. 

*you like your Darcy-types brooding, dismissive and generally obnoxious – until they get their kit off in an unexpected situation that breaches all bounds of propriety

* you love period dramas and you also love paranormal ass-kicking adventures, and have been waiting, hoping and yearning for someone to put the two together in one thrilling, agitative adventure

I loved this book.

Plain and simple.

When I first read the blurb, I definitely thought that the content sounded like something I would enjoy, but I never expected to be thrust into such an exceptionally well-written work.  I truly can’t remember having such enjoyment in discovering a new fantasy series since I first stumbled upon Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy back in the early 2000s.  Happily, Alison Goodman is also an Australian author and so I can rest easy knowing that the future of Australian fantasy fiction for young adults will be just as worthy as its past.

The research that has gone into re-creating the Regency period here is just astounding.  From the details of clothing to the social interactions to the real-life celebrities of the time that have been slipped in here and there, my mind was thoroughly boggled at how the author managed to translate all that accurate information into a historical novel that also featured major fantasy elements.  Impressive, to say the least.  The accuracy of the period detail meant that I was immediately immersed in the historical setting and from there the fantasy bits, when they came, seemed a perfectly natural addition to the tale.

Lady Helen is a fully three-dimensional character of (reasonably) steady nerves and an abiding need to remain true to herself in a context in which social roles are ignored at one’s peril.  I adored Darby, Lady Helen’s stalwart lady’s maid and appreciated the depth of characterisation of the two main male protagonists, Lord Carlston and the Duke of Selborn.  Although it seems that these characters are foils for each other, they both possess personality traits that are largely hidden from public knowledge. While there is some romance in the book (which normally annoys me) it is not the simple love-triangle that we are so often subjected to and it is tempered by the historical setting.

I would have expected that given this is a mash-up of two usually separate genres, that one would be stronger than the other in the finished story, but the fantasy world that has been injected into the existing historical one is well-developed and it seems that there will be plenty more to discover about it in future instalments of the series.

It seems that I will have to now add Goodman’s back catalogue to my TBR list and I encourage you – whether you are a fan of historical fiction or fantasy (or just a bloody good read) – to get your hands on this one ASAP.  For your convenience, here are the alternative covers so you can keep a good eye out:

dark days club 1 dark days club 3

Until next time,

Bruce

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Bruce’s Lucky Dip: New Year, New Hobby?

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It’s been a ridiculously long time since I last posted a Lucky Dip, so what better time to do it than my final post of the year!  For those of you unfamiliar with my Lucky Dip feature, it involves me typing a random search term into the Book Depository’s search engine and bringing you the wacky, unexpected or just plain hilarious results.  Today’s Lucky Dip will feature that evergreen search term, DIY.  I invite you to sit back, relax and allow these offerings to inspire you to try a new (and eyebrow-raising) hobby in 2016.

First up, for those who like a bit of a tipple during the holiday season, it’s time to collect up all those wine corks and get cracking on….

DIY Wine Corks: 35+ Cute and Clever Cork Crafts by Melissa Averinos

diy wine corks

I would suggest springing this book on your guests AFTER they have imbibed said tipples and then see who can make the best crafty item from the book.  If corks are not your thing however, you can always fall back on good old stretchable rubber with…

The DIY Balloon Bible For All Seasons by Sandi Masori & Rachel Porter

the diy balloon bible

I’m quite impressed that this book markets itself as something for ALL seasons.  Much better value than a DIY balloon book that only features one or two seasons.

If art and craft seems a bit tedious to you, why not spice up your life with the…

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture by Robert Bruce Thompson

illustrated guide to home chemistry experiments

But don’t blame me when the police come knocking after they’ve been tipped off by alert (but not alarmed) neighbours who are worried about what you might be cooking up in your home lab.

Chemistry too mundane and pedestrian?  Looking for something totally wacky and unexpected?  Been wanting to refashion your leftover tinfoil into a stylish new hat? Well look no further than…

DIY Satellite Platforms: Building a Space-Ready General Base Picosatellite for Any Mission by Sandy Antunes

diy satellite platforms

I will be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what a space-ready general base picosatellite is, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing one could whip up at home.  Please someone buy this book, try it out and get back to me.

If satellites are a bit too airy-fairy for you and you’re looking for something more down-to-earth, I have just the thing. Literally.

Compost Toilets: A Practical DIY Guide by Dave Darby

compost toilets

The less said, the better, on this one, I think.  If, however, you are looking to move into a more environmentally friendly, chemical-free lifestyle in 2016, you may well be interested in taking a slightly less drastic step in the bathroom with…

DIY Toothpaste: Teach Me Everything I Need to Know About Homemade Toothpaste in 30 Minutes by 30 Minute Reads

diy toothpaste

 The perfect starter present for that friend who will spend hours bleating on about the dangers of modern living on every social media site going, but can’t devote more than 30 minutes to creating a solution.

I hope this Lucky Dip has inspired you to widen your horizons for 2016.  You can thank me later for jazzing up your list of New Year’s Resolutions.

And while you’re thinking of challenges to undertake in the new year, why not have a look at the reading challenge hosted by the Shelf-denizens: The Title Fight Reading Challenge 2016!

Title Fight Button 2016

We’d love to have you aboard!

Until next year,

Bruce

Fiction in 50 December Challenge: Venturing Forth…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

Welcome to the last Fiction in 50 Challenge for 2015.  We’ve been pretty light on for challenge participants this year but it has been great fun to read everyone’s efforts nevertheless.  If you would like to play along for this final challenge of the year, simply create a piece of poetry or prose in fewer than 51 words, based on our prompt, and link it in the comments at the end of this post.

This month our prompt is…

venturing forth button

and I have titled my effort…

To Thine Own Self Be True

Today her life would change. 

Plain old Jenny Malone would be no more.  Her new name would reflect the power she knew was inside her, waiting to burst out.  She’d overheard the words in a stranger’s conversation, and was certain.

Exhaling, she inked the letters onto the form:

Chlamydia Rampant


I haven’t yet prepared the prompts for the first half of 2016, but will have them ready for you by the first week of January.

Thanks to all those who have played along (and read along!) this year.

Until next time,

Bruce

Some Festive Frivolity: How to Draw Sharks…

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It may sound odd to you Northern Hemispherites, equating festive frivolity with sharks, but where I come from, having a shark intrude on your Christmas relaxation time is a very real possibility.  Provided you spend part of the Christmas break in the water. At the beach.

And of course, we all know that Sharknadoes could happen at any time.

Anyway.

Today I have a brief but shark-filled offering from the intriguingly named Arkady Roytman, from the publisher via Netgalley, that features everyone’s favourite ocean predator: How to Draw Sharks.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

With this step-by-step guide on how to create images of the marine world’s fierce predators, kids can learn to draw creatures from the top of the ocean’s food chain in just a few simple steps. This easy-to-follow book illustrates the use of basic geometric shapes to form 31 varieties of sharks, from the great white and the hammerhead to the tiger, bull, and saw sharks. Blank practice pages offer plenty of room to perfect your style.

how to draw sharks

I wouldn’t normally request such a book for review on this blog, as you loyal readers would well know, but for some reason I became enamoured of the slightly, not-very-inspiring-but-certainly-achievable image on the cover.  So I thought “What the heck! Sharks have a place on the Shelf after all!” and requested it.  And I even had a crack at drawing the cute little guy on the cover:

great white

And it would have been remiss of me not to include witty speech bubbles.

The Great White of the cover turned out to be pretty simple to achieve and so I had a crack at some of the other, more obscure shark breeds.  Here’s the Crested Bullhead shark:

crested bullhead

See what I did there?

And here’s the mildly-anxious-looking bamboo shark…

bamboo shark

…complete with a quote borrowed from Marvin the Paranoid Android.

To be honest, this isn’t the greatest step-by-step guide I’ve ever seen.  Sure, there are four steps to each drawing, but  the order of the steps is not immediately clear as they are not numbered.  Similarly, there are quite a few alterations at each step and inexperienced or younger readers may find it tricky to follow the steps without getting frustrated.  The first step for each drawing consists of a collection of basic shapes, which is easy enough, but subsequent steps include dashed lines and heavier lines that indicate line breaks or overlaps.  The meanings of these line breaks and heavier lines is never clearly articulated however, so it is left to the individual to figure out their meanings (and how they will render them on paper).  I will admit to having a bit of difficulty with the latter two drawings, but I got there in the end.

And I’m quite happy with the results.

One of the good things about the book is that apart from including a whole slew of obscure (to me) shark breeds, there are a range of different positions featured as well.  This means that you aren’t just drawing all sharks face-on or side-on, but have a variety of options to pick from.  Also, as there were some shark breeds here that I had never seen before, it encouraged me to actually do a bit of research and find out some more about these mysterious, toothy creatures.

Overall, I do feel that this is a pretty specific topic to base a drawing book around – I would have plumped for a “How to Draw Sea Creatures” title before I honed in on one specific species, ordinarily- but if you are a shark obsessive lover you’ll go head over fin for this tome.

And it’s a good starting point for generating your own hilarious shark-based cartoons. (See above).

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

The Round-Up to (Figuratively) End All Round -Ups!

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And so I’m back!  The laptop remains unfixed, but will hold out until after Christmas at least so I can round out the year with new content.  To kick us off, I will now bombard you with all the books that I was supposed to review in the last week – eight in all!  I’ve got fantasy, sci-fi, non-fiction self-help, YA, schlock horror, a graphic novel and some literary fiction, so if you can’t find something to tickle your fancy in this post, you probably actually don’t like reading all that much.  I received all of the following books from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s get into it while we’re still young.

Broken Prophecy (K. J. Taylor)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  broken prophecy

Despite appearances to the contrary, Ambit is determined not to be the Chosen One.  Things quickly go pear-shaped however as Ambit is burdened with annoying companions and bizarre coincidences that push him toward greatness against his wishes.

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

If you enjoy a bit of fantasy and don’t take yourself (or your fantasy tropes) too seriously, then you should find lots to enjoy in Ambit’s adventure.  Ambit is the quintessential anti-hero who, against his will, appears to be the Chosen One who will fulfil the prophecy and save humanity from the demon menace.  As Ambit’s best friend happens to be a demon, it is unlikely that motivation to act as the Chosen One is going to arise in him anytime soon.  Ambit is irreverent, dismissive of authority and generally perfectly happy to do his own thing and let destiny take care of itself.  Unfortunately, in his quest to not be the Chosen One, he becomes burdened with a bunch of companions with a diverse  range of irritating characteristics and for a while there it looks like destiny will have her way with Ambit regardless.  The only problem I had with the book was that in between the main action sequences, it felt like the author got a bit bored with the story and just wanted to hurry things along with some bland padding.  At one point, Ambit begins to remark on how, despite what he does, his goals start to be met and the right people pop up out of the woodwork, and although this is part of the spoof factor of the story, it doesn’t really make for interesting reading.   Overall, however, I found this story to be fun, full of comic situations and generally a solid choice for those who enjoy a bit of spoof of the fantasy genre.

Brand it with:

Marked by fate, band of companions, demons v humans

The Midnight Gardener: The Town of Superstition #1 (R. G. Thomas)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  the midnight gardener

Thaddeus moves to a new town and is entranced by a whistling gardener next door who only seems to work at night. After a chance meeting, it seems that the gardener may hold the answer to the disappearance of his mother years ago.

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

Garden gnomes. That’s why.  Yes, along with dragons, were-beasts and faeries, this book features garden gnomes, a group of fantastical beings that is woefully underused in my opinion, especially in YA.  This book has a nice blend of urban and traditional fantasy with the added bonus of a relatable main character and romance that isn’t overdone.  The people who populate the town of Superstition are all just a bit too good to be true and of course many of them turn out to be embroiled in the secrets surrounding the disappearance of Thaddeus’s mother and the reasons Thaddeus and his father have spent so many years moving from place to place.  It’s also refreshing to see a YA book featuring a father that isn’t a deadbeat, absent and antagonistic or generally incompetent in some way.  This is a strong YA offering alternating between mystery and heart-pounding action, that will appeal to readers looking for a book that features a mythical creature we don’t often get to see and a slow-burn adventure that really takes off toward the end.

Brand it with:

LGBQT heroes, Not-your-nanna’s-garden-gnomes, appropriately-named-small-towns

** I am submitting this book for the Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge under the category of Odd Subject Matter – garden gnomes being ones I have never before encountered in YA fiction**

The Tea Machine (Gill McKnight)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  the tea machine

Plunged into a violent battle against giant space squid, Sangfroid witnesses the deaths of her fellow soldiers.  Waking up after being rescued from a similar fate, she discovers that time is not what it seems and there may be a way to right the wrongs of her past, with the help of a time-travelling, inventoress named Millicent.

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

This story will greatly appeal to those who love being thrown in the deep end of an original, fantasy or sci-fi world.  I only received a few sample chapters of the full novel (which explained why the whole thing was so short!!) but right from the first page, the reader is plunged into gory, squiddy warfare in which only the toughest (quite literally) will survive.  I found the learning curve of the first few chapters pretty steep and just as things started to make a bit of sense, the sample chapters came to an end, which was disappointing to say the least.  This certainly looks like the promising beginning of a series that will be snapped up by those who love crazy, unexpected adventures laced with time-wimey stuff and strange, speculative worlds.

Brand it with:

Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey-beardie-weirdie stuff, squid soldiers, when in (speculative future) Rome…

F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice For Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems (Michael I. Bennett & Sarah Bennett)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  fuck feelings

A solid, well-categorised self-help guide to getting a grip on the problems that are stopping you from being at peace with your life (crap as it may be).  Essentially, this is the slightly, more in-depth version of Bob Newhart’s “Stop It” sketch.

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

This is one self-help book that actually does what it says on the tin.  Without resorting to technobabble or therapy-speak, the authors set out in an easy-to-follow format their theory for getting over “issues” and accepting life as it is.  Each issue – be it alcoholism (your own or others’), disconnection from family, social awkwardness or something else – is given its own little section, with dot points laying out why this is an issue in your life (or someone else’s) and what you can do (and think) to stop it leeching the living out of you.  There’s even a little script for each issue that you can say to yourself (or some other relevant person in your life) to reinforce the thinking that should help you accept that sometimes life will be sh*tty and there’s not a great deal we can do about it.  I wouldn’t recommend reading it cover-to-cover (unless you’ve got some serious problems!!) but it would be a handy tome to keep on the shelf to dip into and reference when life throws unexpected (or inevitable) sh*tstorms your way.

Brand it with:

Life sucks and then you die, Dr Phil on steroids, help is on the way (maybe. Probably not though)…

Demon Road (Derek Landy)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  demon road

Amber is an uber-ordinary girl with distant but adequate parents. Until she turns into a demon and her parents try to eat her heart. Then sh*t gets real.

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

This is a right little cracker of a read that will satisfy existing Landy fans and bring on board Landy newcomers.  I have only read the first of the massively successful Skulduggery Pleasant series (and that was years ago) but I immediately recognised Landy’s action-infused and subtly humorous style.  Readers looking for a fun, fast, bloodthirsty (in parts), fantasy road-trip adventure will lap this up and rightly so – it has all the elements of a fantastic, engaging read.  My only problem with the story was Glen – the most anti-stereotypical and annoying Irishman ever penned – and I would have been quite happy if he’d been eaten by some sort of mythical creature early in the piece.  The banter between he and Amber was just irritating to me and so I was quite happy when….spoilers, sorry.  I got sucked right into this from the early pages – which feature some quite shocking violence and stomach-churning, angry-making verbal and physical violence toward women (and specifically woman…Amber).  This is part of the story and not gratuitous, but it still got my adrenaline pumping for a rumble and therefore I was also majorly happy when …spoilers again.  This is definitely for the upper YA/adult market due to strong violence, language and a few sexual references.  Highly recommended for some demonical fun.

Brand it with:

You think your parents are tough?, Great American Road Trip, an Irishman walks into a bar

Monsterland (Michael Phillip Cash)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  monsterland

When Wyatt practices a good deed, he inadvertently receives an invite to the grand opening of the worldwide phenomenon, Monsterland – a theme park, the brainchild of inventor Vincent Conrad and touted as the new, humane solution to the worlds’ vampire, werewolf and zombie problems.  Vincent Conrad is Wyatt’s idol – but will seeing the park close up change Wyatt’s mind?

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

This is a wonderfully fun, schlock horror, gore-fest that can best be described as Jurassic Park with zombies, werewolves and vampires instead of dinosaurs.  Vincent Conrad plans to open multiple parks simultaneously across the globe, housing zombies (victims of a plague infection), werewolves and vampires, in an act of humane containment and providing the opportunity for research and cure of the poor unfortunates’ conditions.  All of the worlds’ rulers, presidents and government officials have been invited to said openings.  What could possibly go wrong?!  Plenty, as I’m sure you can imagine.  If you are expecting some kind of original twist on the “monsters breaking out of confinement and reigning merry hell on their captors and innocent bystanders” theme you’ll be disappointed.  If however, you are looking forward to the “monsters breaking out of confinement and reigning merry hell on their captors and innocent bystanders” theme playing out in a graphic and action-packed fashion, then this will be right up your street.  I thoroughly enjoyed it for what it is: good old-fashioned escapism at its pacey, predictable, “it’s behind you!!!” best.

Brand it with:

It’s behind you!!, I heart monsters, stragglers eaten first

Camp Midnight (Steven T. Seagle & Jason Katzenstein)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  camp midnight

Skye is sent to summer camp and is determined to have a bad time just to spite her father and stepmother – but she ends up on the wrong bus and bad times are about to catch up to her.  Finding herself in a camp full of (literal) monsters means that Skye is going to have to be extra crafty to outwit, outplay and outlast her fellow campers if she doesn’t want them to discover a human hiding in plain sight.

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

This is a fun and fast-paced story about friendship, family and getting your fright on.  Skye is a typical early teen with a surly stepmother who will do anything to get Skye out of the way on her annual stay at her father’s house.  Although ending up on a camp full of monsters wasn’t part of the plan, Skye discovers that the term “monster” is subjective and those that look like monsters may be harbouring some very down-to-earth wisdom behind a frightening exterior.  This is a pretty typical story arc, with Skye learning some lessons about herself by the end, but the narrative is presented with plenty of humour and middle-grade graphic novel fans should really enjoy it.  It is also a reasonably long read for a graphic novel, which is satisfying for those of us who always find this format too short.

Brand it with:

Stepmonsters, unhappy campers, born to be wild

The Children’s Home (Charles Lambert)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  the childrens home

Morgan, a recluse with a facial disfigurement, resides in his family estate far from civilisation with only his housekeeper Engel for company.  When children begin appearing at the estate one by one, it is the catalyst for Morgan’s re-entry into the world and his discovery that wilful ignorance is no guarantee that the truth will not find you in the end.

Muster Up the Motivation Because:

This is literary fiction that is thoroughly accessible to the non-literary fan.  While there are clearly elements to the story that are allegorical, symbolic of some greater issue or providing subtle commentary on humanity’s obsession with power and suffering, the tale can also be read as just a slightly off-kilter, mildly creepy examination of one man’s journey to self-acceptance.  Morgan, Doctor Crane and Engel are all very likeable characters and this really helped me to stay engaged with the story when things started to get weird.  One of the things that annoys me most about literary fiction is its tendency to be unnecessarily hefty, with pages and pages going by in which nothing happens but elliptical conversation or self-indulgent musing.  Thankfully, in The Children’s Home, time is not wasted on edit-worthy navel-gazing and there always seems to be something new happening – a new child coming into the home, an unexpected discovery in one of the rooms, some information about the characters’ back stories – to gently nudge the plot forward.  I think, for the right reader, this could definitely be a highly moving piece, with its themes of loss, disconnection, abuse, responsibility and personal morality in the face of injustice, but for me it ended up being just a deeply engaging story about some very interesting characters, some extremely unusual medical models and one supremely annoying young man (who comes good in the end).

Brand it with:

Unexpected parental responsibilities, personal growth, unusual gardening methods


Do your eyeballs feel like sandpaper after all that reading?  One of the advantages of being made of stone is that I can read for hours with little to no eyeball drying.  I hope you’ve found something within this herd to make you perk up a little.

I look forward to presenting you with a very exciting offering on Christmas Day!

And for those that are interested in participating, Fiction in 50 will be kicking off on Monday the 28th of December, with the prompt:

venturing forth buttonUntil next time,

Bruce

 

 

Blast From the Past #3: 8-Bit Christmas…

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This was a great festive read that I discovered a few years back.  Get your paws on it if you can!


 

Today I have a belated Christmas present for all you children of the eighties and contemporary eighties revivalists – the gem of nostalgic goodness that is Kevin Jakubowski’s 8-Bit Christmas.  I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review – thanks!

8-Bit Christmas is an epic roller coaster of a tale revolving around nine-year-old Jake Doyle and his soul-crushing, arm-twisting, sister-enlisting quest to get the brand new Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas, 1987.  Only one kid in Jake’s town has the power that comes with owning an NES (coincidentally, the richest and most spoilt kid in town) and he wields this power by forcing the neighbourhood kids to beg, borrow or steal their way into his house on a Saturday morning in the vain hope of securing a few minutes playing time.  After a tragic (and messy) event during one of these Saturday morning sessions, the parents of Jake’s town ban the purchasing of Nintendo systems, and the successful completion of Jake’s quest suddenly seems a lot less likely.  Cue Jake’s sister and her comparably crippling desire for a Cabbage Patch Doll, the collected baseball card resources of Batavia’s kid population and a whole lot of wishin’, hopin’ and prayin’ and Jake may just find that Christmas wishes do come true!   Or maybe not.  You’ll have to read to find out.

8 bit christmasRead it if:

* you’ve ever felt the keen, incisor-sharp sense of desperation for some new-fangled consumer product that is woefully beyond your ability to attain

* you’ve ever known the pain of having to kowtow to some jumped up little snot in your class/neighbourhood/(dare I say it) family in order to experience some tiny sliver of the joy that comes from owning the aforementioned new-fangled consumer product

* you were a kid in the 80s or are currently experiencing a sense of faux-stalgia for a time period in which you were not born, but feel you know due to the proliferation of pop culture references currently doing the rounds on the interwebs

*you can’t go past a book that so expertly conjures up the atmosphere of your own childhood, that you feel that you probably actually knew the author as a kid, but have somehow forgotten

I LOVED this book.  Jakubowski has somehow managed to reach through a wormhole and pull out the sights, sounds and yearnings of kids in the late eighties.  The pop culture references are spot on.  The descriptions of the social pecking order and the factors that really influence kid friendships are flawless.  It is a fantastic read.  If you were a child in this time period, particularly if you were a boy and especially if you know, deep in your heart, the excitement and desire created by Nintendo at this time, I daresay you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

If you are a child (or teen) TODAY, with any kind of interest in toys, gaming and pop culture of yore, I suspect you will also thoroughly enjoy this book.  Jakubowski has written this with such kid-knowledge, that even contemporary kids will recognise the importance of Jake’s quest and relate to the difficulties of getting one over on the adults to attain the object of your desire.

But the best bit is the ending.  I had already rated it a five-star read in my mind before I got to the ending. The ending pushed me over into the elusive (and some say mythical) territory of the six star review.  And I’m not telling you what happens.  But you should read it.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Blast from the Past #2: Colour Me Confused

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Considering the current trend for colouring books, I thought this ancient post might tickle the fancies of some of my newer readers!


As many of you know, I’m a great fan of the BookDepository.  Apart from their fantabulous range of books, low, low prices, and free international shipping (!), I find great enjoyment in their search mechanism. I get unfathomable delight from typing in a random word and casting my eyes over the numerous and unexpected titles that pop up.  It’s like fishing in Lake Oddball.  In fact, even an innocent word like “colouring” will turn up the most bizarre range of tomes.  Books that make you think, “now what publisher in their right mind thought THAT would be a big hit amongst the community of colouring-in enthusiasts?”

So today I will share with you some of the more exciting titles that have turned up in the fishing net of the Good Ship Catalogue Trawler.  These are but a small sample, mind, of the hilariously weird titles that lurk in the search engine, just waiting for their chance to be spotted by that niche-market colouring fan…please, enjoy:

  • Stewing over a birthday present for the Li’l Dawg or Li’l Shawty in your life? The Gangsta Rap Coloring Book may be just what the gang leader ordered!   In fact, why not follow the gift to its logical (and inevitable) conclusion, and give it in conjunction with the Police Station Coloring Book, which helpfully features “thirty full-page drawings introduce youngsters to a host of law enforcement professionals on the job”.  It’s never too early for youngsters to appreciate art imitating life.

gangsta rappolice station

  • If appreciating art’s contemporary forms is more your show, why not test your pastels on Body Art: the Tattoo Design Coloring Book?  This little gem features “men and women showing off tattoos on their arms, legs, and backs”.  That’s right!   For all you aspiring tattoo artists, this book will provide essential practice at colouring inside the lines – before you try it with indelible ink on your unsuspecting and probably drunk best friend.

body art

  • For those of a more sedate, and dare I say, modest disposition, here are two offerings to satisfy your bland and uncomplicated desires. If An Amish Farm Coloring Book doesn’t quite scratch that itch, I guarantee you will be transported to your happy place by the Historic Southern Lighthouses Coloring Book.  Thankfully, both of these books are part of a series, so you need not fear running out of Amish or Lighthouse related imagery to render in living colour.

amish farm  lighthouse

  • Finally, after constant hectoring from the Slightly Creepy Equine Enthusiasts Lobby, Dover Publications has thoughtfully made available the Horse Anatomy Coloring Book.  If you’ve ever thought that colouring in the outside of the horse was simply not enough, Dover has thoughtfully rectified this thorny issue by providing pages depicting the horse’s “skeleton, muscles, nervous system, and major organs” for your colouring pleasure.  Red and white crayons at the ready, kiddies!

horse anatomy

In case you thought these were the most bizarre, I have actually excluded the most inexplicable colouring book that I’ve come across.  That one is dedicated entirely to the reproductive hardware of female fleshlings. I would have included it here, but the title contains a word that is considered particularly rude and unsavoury amongst more civilised fleshlings.

I’ll let you all go now so you can make sure your colouring pencils are sharp enough to tackle the challenges contained in these tomes….Incidentally, if anyone owns one of these books, I’d love to see some finished examples.

Until next time,

Bruce