A Foolhardy Reading Round-Up: Kidlit Titles for April!



Welcome to April and a Kid-lit-a-thon Round-Up!  Today’s Round-Up features three picture books and two middle-grade graphic novels.  One of these will be submitted for both the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge AND the Title Fight Reading Challenge, but you’ll have to read on to find out which.  We received all of these titles from Netgalley for review.  Now, let’s get (whip) cracking!

Little Red (Bethan Woollvin)

Ten Second Synopsis: little red.jpg

Red Riding Hood with a skandi twist, this book is a retelling with sass.

Muster up the motivation because:

There are a lot of fairy tale retellings getting around at the moment, but the bold, minimalist colour scheme, chunky woodcut-style illustrations and text that oozes subversive wit sets this one apart.  The general arc of the Red Riding Hood story is preserved here, but Red is presented as one independent and resourceful young lass.  The simple combination of red, black and white in the illustrations is incredibly effective and makes this book a joy to look at, as much as to read.  I’d love to see what is coming next from Woollvin and how she might tackle an original story.

Brand it with:

Girl power, Woodland Survival, You’re Axed!

Far Out Fairy Tales (Joey Comeau, Louise Simonson, Sean Tulien, Otis Frampton)

Ten Second Synopsis: far out fairy tales

This is a collection of fairy tale retellings with a definite pop-culture flavour.  Each fairy tale has been modernised with popular motifs, including zombies, ninjas and computer games.

Muster up the motivation because:

Apart from the graphic novel format, the point of difference in this collection is a neat summary at the end of each story giving the differences between the modernised version and the traditional tale.  While I found most of the tales a little bit too contrived for my tastes – the Cinderella ninja in particular gave me reading-indigestion – they are perfectly pitched for a younger middle grade audience and varied enough for at least one or two of the tales to appeal to every reader.  The standout favourite for me was the retelling of the Billy Goats Gruff, set inside a video game with boss fights and dungeon crawling, but the Snow White story featuring robots was also quite subtle and well thought out.  The illustrations are varied in style and because each retelling has a different author, the book has a sense of the original with each new story.  This would be a great pick for youngsters looking for familiar stories in a fun, graphic format.

Brand it with:

Zombies and Ninjas and Robots, Oh My!, graphic tales, fairy tales levelled up

Kuma-Kuma Chan’s Home (Kazue Takahashi)

Ten Second Synopsis: kuma chan

Kuma Chan is an unassuming little bear.  In this tale, a young boy gets an invitation from Kuma Chan to visit his home, resulting in a relaxed day of doing nothing much at all.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is another classic Japanese character that will have you flip-flopping between “Oh, so Kawaii!” and “What on earth is going on here?”  Apparently Kuma Chan, or Little Bear, is a big hit with mini-fleshlings in Japan and this is the second book in the series.  Kuma Chan himself gets around looking rather bemused most of the time, and nothing much happens in the book, aside from the boy’s journey to Kuma Chan’s house, but overall this is just a delightful read.  The fact that the boy and Kuma Chan literally just hang out together in silence for most of the book results in a calming sense of satisfaction with one’s lot.  I will definitely have to seek out the original book in the series and I would love to see what the Little Bear is up to next.  This would be a perfect choice for a reader of your acquaintance who loves books that defy conventional description.

Brand it with:

Chillin’ with my homies, Bear necessities, kawaii

Squirrel Me Timbers (Louise Pigott)

Ten Second Synopsis: squirrel me timbers

A pirate squirrel must follow a map to discover buried treasure.  Will the treasure live up to his expectations? And what’s a squirrel to do with all that booty?

Muster up the motivation because:

If you are a bit over the whole pirate thing that seems to be booming in children’s books these days, I can guarantee that adding in a squirrely twist livens things up nicely.  The rhymes are a little awkward to read aloud at times, but the cheeky illustrations and the unexpected “treasure” are fun and original.  Sammy is a very likeable protagonist and I did have a bit of a giggle at some of the twists in his nutty quest.  This should appeal greatly to young swashbucklers looking for a new perspective on what makes a pirate tick.

Brand it with:

Pieces of eight (nuts), X marks the spot, Treasure hunting rodents

Fluffy Strikes Back (Ashley Spires)

Ten Second Synopsis:  fluffy strikes back

Fluffy, sergeant in charge of Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel (P.U.R.S.T.) must come out of retirement to foil an invasion of aliens with spray bottles.  Will Fluffy be able to meet the challenge and rescue the pets in his charge?

Muster up the motivation because:

Despite the utter weirdness of the concept of this graphic novel series, it is actually a guffaw-worthy tale.  This is the second book in the P.U.R.S.T. series and I hadn’t read the first, so I didn’t realise that this was a graphic novel.  This meant I wasn’t prepared for the high level of visual humour contained within this tome.  The concept of the book is a little confusing when read – cats, dogs and other small animals working together in a secret (literally) underground organisation to save the world from aliens (insects) – but makes perfect (and hilarious) sense when absorbed visually.  The humour is actually pretty dry for a graphic novel aimed at kids, but there are plenty of just-plain-funny aspects as well, such as the entrance to the P.U.R.S.T. headquarters being accessed through a litter tray and the alien insects using spray bottles to ward off the cats.  I would definitely recommend this to mini-fleshlings or adult readers looking for a quick, off-beat and strangely compelling graphic novel series that doesn’t take itself – or anything else – too seriously.

Brand it with:

Alien Invasion, Notes from the Underground, Thankless tasks

Yes, you guessed it: I will be submitting Fluffy Strikes Back for both the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge and the Title Fight Reading Challenge.  It fits quite nicely into the first category: something related to fighting in the title.  For more info on the challenge, just click this attractive button!

Title Fight Button 2016


Also, you can check out my progress for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, hosted by Escape with Dollycas, here.

alphabet soup challenge 2016

Until next time,






Utopirama!: Consider the Clothesline…


imageToday’s Utopirama is sponsored by everyone’s favourite massive ball of incandescent gas, the Sun! And Echo Publishing, who kindly sent us today’s book for review.  When I saw the title of this gorgeous photo-filled coffee table book, it was instantly apparent to me that to pass it by would be a grave dereliction of my blogging duty.  I give you: Consider the Clothesline: Vibrant Images of Laundry and Life by Frances Andrijich and Susan Maushart.  Here is the blurb from Echo Publishing:

Photographer Frances Andrijich’s unusual fascination with the clothesline has made the world just a little brighter. Paired with Susan Maushart’s witty and illuminating text, these images are by turns whimsical, meditative and transgressive, and have all the intoxicating freshness of a basket of sun-dried sheets.


Quick Overview:

While an homage to the ever-growing washing pile might seem to be the antithesis of utopia for many people, a leisurely flick through this hefty tome, accompanied by a cup of tea, while the incessant churn of the washing machine providing background music, is certain to heighten your mood and have you revelling in the breezy, everyday joy of a chore well done.  The images in this book are absolutely beautiful and run the gamut from a string lashed between two trees to the iconic Aussie Hills Hoist and everything in between.  There are plenty of pictures taken in Australia’s various desert environments and having gazed upon the endless red dust that covers the land in these locales, it really is a wonder that anyone out that way gets anything clean at all!

The book also contains some fascinating little tidbits that absolutely boggled my stony mind.  Did you know that in some places it is illegal to hang out your washing? ILLEGAL!! Fancy denying people the right to use perfectly free wind and solar power to dry their washing and instead force them to use energy-sapping dryers!  Surely the reverse should be the default option: everyone should be required to air their dirty laundry unless they can show good cause as to why a dryer is needed. But I digress.

Although the topic might be one that doesn’t necessarily spring instantly to mind when selecting a tome to raise your mood, the mundane act of hanging out the washing, when captured in such stunning photography, really does provide a sense of serenity and good feeling.  This book should be distributed amongst the waiting rooms of counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists everywhere.

Utopian Themes:

Eco-friendly reading

The human condition

Summer breezes and seaside gusts

Mentioning your unmentionables

Protective Bubble-o-Meter:

protective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubble

4 out of 5 bubbles for the comforting snap of sheets in the wind

I am also submitting this tome for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge 2016, hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress toward that challenge here!

Until next time,




A Double-Dip Picture Book Review and Giveaway!


imageI’ve got two bite-sized pieces of picture book loveliness for you today, both featuring shifting perspectives and personal discovery.  Since I know you’ll have a tasty snack to hand, given that we’ve just experienced the Great Human Feast of Chocolate Worship (or something like that…) we’ll dip right in.  Oh, and keep reading to the end of the post for your chance to win one of the books featured in today’s Double Dip – you’re welcome!

First up, we have A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton, kindly provided to us for review from Hachette Australia.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A little girl rescues a strange beast in the woods and carries him safely home. But the beast is not happy and escapes! A funny and charming tale about seeing both sides of the story.

Dip into it for…a tale of two beasts

…a clever lesson in looking at things from someone else’s perspective!  Apart from the delightful illustrations and the priceless facial expressions of the squirrel-bat-wolf creature, this book has a unique format that tells the girl’s side of the story from the beginning to the middle, and then the squirrel-wolf-bat creature’s side from the middle to the end.  The illustrations are almost identical in each half of the book, with subtle changes in positioning and speech to reflect the viewpoint of the narrator. When all is said and done, a consensus of opinion is reached betwixt girl and creature and a delicate, joyful balance achieved.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re not a fan of ambiguity in animal identification.  And you don’t want to suffer a serious case of bobble-hat envy.  That little hat is so cute!

Overall Dip Factor:

The only thing that could have elevated this to Top Book of 2016 pick status for me is if the format had been changed so that the two stories both read towards the middle of the book, culminating in the same whimsical, night time romp.  That would have been perfect.  As it is, this is still a fun, subversive read that will have young ones pondering the meanings behind their pets’ facial expressions for days after reading.

Next up, we have Dave’s Cave by Frann Preston-Gannon, author of such greats as the Dinosaur Farm series, which we received from Allen & Unwin for review.  Here’s the blurb from A&U:

Dave loves his cave. Inside is decorated EXACTLY the way he likes it. Outside there is a lovely spot for a fire and the grass is always lovely and green. But, Dave is unhappy. What if there might be an even better cave out there? And off he sets in search of a new home. But it turns out that good caves are hard to find. They’re either too small, or too big, or too full of bats, until he finds one that looks MUCH more promising. Outside has the perfect space for a fire and the grass is greener than any he’s ever seen… But why does it look so familiar?

Dip into it for…daves cave

…a fun romp through the cave age that will prove the commonly held theory that the grass isn’t always greener (nor the stone shinier), on the other side of the cave mouth.  Dave is just a big, old, cave-dwelling sweetie with his big beard and stylish leopard print smock and, although he doesn’t seem like the kind of cave-guy to want more than he has, decides to check out what’s on offer in the way of local real estate.  The illustrations in this one are chunky and bright and deliver plenty of colour to the Stone Age setting, and the cave-talk text provides an opportunity for cave-dads to put on funny, cave-man voices while reading aloud.  Adult readers will see the ending coming a mile off, but its inevitability is part of the appeal and comfort of the tale.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re hoping for a tale with a twist.  This is a standard “grass is not always greener”, appreciate-what-you-have sort of tale, but certainly doesn’t suffer for that.

Overall Dip Factor:

I was so enamoured of Dave’s cute-appeal that I nearly handed this one over to Mad Martha in the hope that she would whip up a little crochet Dave and Cave playset.  Perhaps she’ll have time for that later. This is a real comfort story that will provide mini-fleshlings with that warm, fuzzy sense of feeling safe in a place you know you belong.  The opportunity to put on funny cave-man voices for narration is just a bonus.

Now for the GIVEAWAY!

If you would like to win a copy of one of these books, simply comment on this post with your choice and tell me why you should win it.

The giveaway will be open from the moment this post goes live (NOW!) until midnight on April 5th, Brisbane time.  The giveaway is open internationally and one winner will be chosen from the pool of commenters by a random number generator.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a new winner is chosen.  We won’t be responsible for prizes lost or damaged in transit.

Thanks again to Hachette Australia and Allen & Unwin for the review copies.

Good luck!

Until next time,




Fiction in 50 March Challenge!


Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTONIt’s Fiction in 50 for March, where we create a piece of writing in 51 words or fewer based on a prompt and then share it with the community!  If you’d like to find out more about Fi50, just click here.  This month our prompt is…

button (3)

And due to the proliferation of bird life around our way at the moment I have titled this month’s effort…

Morning Interlude

He’s back! 

Sat there, proud as punch.

Singing out now, not caring a jot for the peace of the neighbourhood.

They say you shouldn’t feed them but life would be a little greyer if he didn’t come to visit.

I’ve got some chicken mince today, my beauty. 

Only the best.

Next month we will be working on a “fill in the blank” prompt.   I always love seeing what people come up with for these ones.  April’s prompt will be…

born to...

(You fill in the blank!)

Don’t forget to add a link to your efforts for this month’s post in the comments below!

Until next time,






TBR Friday and a Fi50 Reminder…


Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTONBefore we kick off with another TBR Friday, allow me to remind you that Fiction in 50 for March opens on Monday, with the prompt…

button (3)

To participate, just create a piece of poetry or prose in fewer than 51 words and link it up or post it in the comments of the Fi50 post on Monday.  For more detailed instructions and future prompts, just click here.

TBR Friday

This month’s TBR Friday suffered a bit of a false start.  I started off the month with The Elegance of the Hedgehog, from my list of titles that I wanted to get through this year, but made the decision to put it aside after getting about halfway through.  While I did enjoy parts of it, I felt that it required too much attention for me to really appreciate just at the moment.  So I rifled around through my other options and came up with Tigers on the Beach, an OzYA title from one of my favourite authors, Doug MacLeod.

tigers on the beach.jpg

Ten Second Synopsis:

Adam’s grandfather has recently passed away. His parents are struggling to drum up tourists to rent the family’s holiday cabins.  His brother is doing nefarious things with beetles.  And his grandmother has taken to shouting at possums and upsetting the guests.  With all this going on, it’s a wonder Adam manages to find a girlfriend at all. As first love blooms between Adam and Sam, life goes on in Samsara and Adam must try and save his parents business, fend off overzealous real estate agent, stop his brother from causing toilet-related chaos and generally grieve for his grandfather all while trying to figure out some very peculiar jokes.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Since about May 2014


As a prize in a giveaway from Behind the Pages blog

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I knew I would probably enjoy it given the author, so I was holding it back until I needed a surefire enjoyable read.

Best Bits:

  • The humour is as dry as a dead dingo’s proverbial. This is MacLeod’s style and I was happy to fall back into it in this book.
  • OzYA by established Australian authors often has a certain atmosphere about it. It’s laconic and matter-of-fact and it is present in this book
  • The themes of grief are explored thoroughly and sensitively here, behind a façade of comedic happenings
  • Adam and Sam are well-drawn as believable teenagers, with mood swings, urges and embarrassing stories abounding
  • Adam’s grandmother is an absolute cracker of a character. I love her snarky attitude toward Adam’s younger brother.
  • Some absolutely hilarious “dad”-type jokes. The one about the goldfish still has me giggling days later.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • As with many contemporary books, it can be difficult to see what the point of the story is while you are reading it. The ending rectifies this beautifully in this particular case, but I do find that books about everyday events can lag a bit while I’m reading them.


On reflection, was this worth buying?

Seeing as I won this one, the point is moot.  However, it has reminded me how much I enjoy MacLeod’s work and so I will once again try and seek out a copy of The Clockwork Forest to buy.

Where to now for this tome?

It will sit on the permanent shelf for the time being.

This is another chink off the Mount TBR  Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block.

Mount TBR 2016

I’m also submitting it towards my Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress for that challenge here.

Until next time,


Death or Ice Cream? A Maniacal Book Club Review and International Giveaway!


Welcome to today’s Maniacal Book Club Review and giveaway! Today’s book is one that I have wanted to get my grubby claws on ever since I first saw it and I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy by Allen & Unwin (thanks Onions!)…but by that time I had already bought myself a copy, on account of not wanting to have to wait around like a chump to read it.  So that extra copy means….GIVEAWAY!  More about that in a minute.  I haven’t even told you what book you could be winning.

It is Death or Ice Cream? by Gareth P Jones, who brought you such middle grade gems as Constable and Toop and the Ninja Meerkats series.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Larkin Mills: The Birthplace of Death!

Larkin Mills is no ordinary town. It’s a place of contradictions and enigma, of secrets and mysteries. A place with an exquisite ice cream parlour, and an awful lot of death.

An extraordinary mystery in Larkin Mills is beginning to take shape. First we meet the apparently healthy Albert Dance, although he’s always been called a sickly child, and he’s been booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then there’s his neighbour Ivor, who observes strange goings-on, and begins his own investigations into why his uncle disappeared all those years ago. Next we meet Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man.

Make sure you keep an eye on Mr Morricone, the town ice-cream seller, who has queues snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavours Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. And Mr Milkwell, the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets locked up in his hearse. Because if you can piece together what all these strange folks have to do with one another . . . well, you’ll have begun to unlock the dark secrets that keep the little world of Larkin Mills spinning . . . 

death or ice cream  Want to win a copy?  Just click on the Rafflecopter link! Ts & Cs are in the entry form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here’s what the club thinks of it:

Guru Davemaniacal book club guru dave

Inspired by the title of this book, I too am called to question.  What is life? What is death? Is death the final ending for we mortals or does such a thing exist that can restore the dead to life? Is it likely that such an object could be related to poultry? The ending of this book raised more questions for me to ponder.  Not all the questions raised in the story were answered by the end.  This book should only be given to those who are willing to shut off the television and open their eyes.  Unless, of course, the competitive basket weaving championships are being televised.


maniacal book club toothlessThere are no dragons in this book.  But there is a super-cool egg and a creepy guy with hooves and a wax museum and a guy stuck in a statue.    I really liked Park.  She’s a cool, funny, brave girl who has to figure out some of the mystery.  It would have been better if the egg was a dragon’s egg. Kids who aren’t afraid of some really weird stuff should read this book, especially if they want something different with lots of murder and sneakiness and strange ice cream flavours.

Mad Martha

There once was a being called Larkin maniacal book club martha

Your doorstep just pray he won’t darken,

He joined up with Mills

In a battle of wills,

And a townful of oddness they’ve sparkened.


maniacal book club bruceWhat a strange and refreshing ride this book took us on!  I haven’t been this impressed with a book’s genre-bending originality since Ishbelle Bee’s John Loveheart Esq series for grown-up readers.  While Death or Ice Cream? doesn’t reach that level of carnage and mind-twistery, this is definitely not a book for young readers who are faint of heart, or who are used to middle-grade books that follow a traditional narrative format.

The  book begins with a series of seemingly unconnected chapters featuring various residents of Larkin Mills, including (my personal favourite) Olive and her unwanted accordion and Ivor and his missing artist uncle.  At first reading, it appears that these chapters could possibly stand alone as representations of the oddness of Larkin Mills, but the further one delves into the novel, the easier it is to see the links between the earlier chapters and the book’s climax, which ends up reading more like a traditional story format.

In order to appreciate this book, the reader needs to have acquired a taste for dry, dark humour and not be too bothered by unpredictable turns of events.  For this reason, this book will not appeal to every reader in the target age-group, but if you are looking for something different for a sophisticated upper-middle grade- or early-YA-aged fleshing of your acquaintance, you should definitely leave this lying around in their eyeline.  Having said that, it’s a great choice for adult readers looking for something layered, irreverent, quirky and fun.

The Book Club gives this book:


Eight thumbs up!

I’m also submitting this book for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check on my progress in that challenge here.

Until next time,


A Non-Fiction Double-Dip Review: Secrets, Wombats and Posionous Victorians…



Before you hoe into your chosen snack for today, I suggest you give it a bit of a sniff.  Check its colour.  Consider whether anyone you might call an enemy was involved in preparing it.  And make sure you aren’t bending over (or at least that you are wearing pants with a reinforced seat).  For today’s nonfiction Double Dip involves two secret worlds – that of the Victorian age poison murderer, and that of the bum-biting wombat.  We received the first of these books from the publisher via Netgalley and the second we picked up on a whim while browsing the bum-biting wombat section at our local library.  Extra points to you if you know under what Dewey number books about bum- biting wombats are shelved.  Let’s tuck in!

First up we have The Secret Poisoner: The Victorian Age of Poisoning by Linda Stratmann.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Murder by poison alarmed, enthralled, and in many ways encapsulated the Victorian age. Linda Stratmann’s dark and splendid social history reveals the nineteenth century as a gruesome battleground where poisoners went head-to-head with authorities who strove to detect poisons, control their availability, and bring the guilty to justice. She corrects many misconceptions about particular poisons and documents how the evolution of issues such as marital rights and the legal protection of children impacted poisonings. Combining archival research with a chemist’s expertise and a novelist’s eye, Stratmann charts the era’s inexorable rise of poison cases both gruesome and sad.

Dip into it for…the secret poisoner

an ultra-thorough coverage of the use of poison in Victorian age murders (mostly in England and France) and the advances in forensic chemical science that allowed the law to gain convictions for murder by poison based on physical evidence. The format of this book consists of collections of actual cases of murder, attempted murder or suspected murder from the time period, interspersed with information about the scientists and chemists whose discoveries allowed for more efficient and accurate means of detecting poison in the deceased. The cases are well selected to demonstrate how court cases succeeded or failed upon the strength of the scientific evidence provided – or in some cases, how public opinion swayed the outcome of certain trials when the science was not yet developed sufficiently to keep pace with the kind of evidence that would provide the jury with the information needed to reasonably acquit or convict. The book focuses also on the gender and class issues surrounding poison murders, with women and the poorer classes seemingly more likely to use widely available and easily accessible poisons (both mineral and vegetable) to commit dastardly deeds.

Don’t dip if…

…you are looking for a concise history on the topic.  While I was very engaged with the information early on in the book, by the halfway point, I started to feel as if I had seen all this before.  Each chapter follows the same structure, beginning with a case study and the assertion that this case was pivotal in advancing either the science of poison detection or the laws related to availability of poisons, followed by a look at the key scientists of the time and their work, succeeded by a bunch of other murder case studies.  Similarly, each murder case study followed a very similar format: the details of the victim and murderer, the instance in which the victim fell sick and died (or didn’t, as the case may be), the exhumation of the victim (and in some cases, other corpses that, in hindsight, may have suffered the same fate by the same hand), the court case, the conviction (or acquittal) and the execution (or transportation or getting-off-scot-free!).  Even though the introduction notes that the author left out many interesting cases that were too similar to the ones included, I feel that a good deal more slashing and hacking could have been done in the selection process for the various cases presented.

Overall Dip Factor

Despite the fact that the book is long and could have done with a bit more fussiness in the selection of the cases presented, I was nevertheless fascinated with some of the information revealed here.  Some of the cases, particularly relating to memorable murderers who seemed quite happy to top their own children (as well as any number of other people’s offspring) almost beggared belief, but serves as a good reminder as to how common infant and child mortality were during the Victorian age, such that communities might not think it strange that a woman’s husband, five children, three step-children and the next-door-neighbour’s cat might all die within a week of each other, for instance.  I would recommend this one for fans of forensic investigation TV shows, who are looking for a blast from the past as to how the experts got their man (or more commonly, woman) back in the Victorian day.

Next up we have The Secret Life of Wombats by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whatley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A non-fiction book that explores everything you’ve ever wanted to know about wombats. Jackie French loves wombats. She’s been living with and studying them for over 30 years, and they have been featured characters in many of her books. Now her beloved wombats take centre stage, as Jackie reveals everything you have ever wanted to know about them – from their zoological history to habitation and habits. Jackie also shares some personal stories from her experiences living with these wonderful creatures. there are also wombat Q&As and wombat jokes sprinkled throughout the book.

Dip into it for… secret world of wombats

an extremely amusing and light-hearted look at the things you never suspected about wombats’ behaviour. This book is marketed as being for seven to twelve year olds as a companion tome to the wildly successful Diary of a Wombat series by the same author and illustrator team, but as an adult reader I found it the perfect introductory tome about the wild and wacky world of wombats. The text doesn’t speak down to the reader by any means, so I never got the sense that it was specifically written for kids. Also, the book is full of unexpectedly hilarious anecdotes about the wombats that Jackie French has personally known, through sharing her outdoor living space with the furry little guys. Every time I recall her story about hearing sneezing coming from underground, I have a bit of a chuckle. Similarly, who knew that wombats had a penchant for biting bums (wombat bums and others), or indeed any other parts of the anatomy that aren’t kept out of the way of wombat teeth? Amazing.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re expecting some kind of scientific coverage of wombat husbandry or habitat. While I didn’t notice particularly that this was directed at kids, nor does it go into the kind of detail a book targeted at adults would on such a topic.

Overall Dip Factor

If you have any interest at all in wombats and their lives, I would recommend picking this book up and having a flick through.  The information bits are engaging and surprising and combined with French’s anecdotal evidence about wombats she has known, provide a light, fun, nonfiction break for youngsters interested in the natural world and adult readers who just really like wombats.

Now that our snack time is at an end, how are you feeling? Tummy rumbling? Tightness in the bowels? Bowl smashed by a wombat?  Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Until next time,


Mondays are for Murder: A Death at the University



Ah, Murderous Mondays, you roll around so fast!

This time around I have the first book in The Bookshop Mysteries, set in Canada: Death at the University by Richard King.  We received a copy from Netgalley for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

For fans of Agatha Christie and Midsomer Murders, A Death at the University is the first book in a new cosy crime series, introducing Sam Wiseman. Sam Wiseman runs an independent bookshop in the heart of Montreal. He leads a simple life – until the day he apprehends a shoplifter and strikes up an unlikely friendship with Gaston Lemieux, the investigating officer in the case. Later, when Sam discovers the body of professor Harold Hilliard – a long-time customer of the store – dead in his office at nearby McGill University, clutching a special order form from the bookshop, he is implicated in the murder. With the help of Lemieux, Sam must investigate the murder, and clear his name.

a death at the university

Plot Summary:

Sam is an unassuming, laid back kind of a guy – so much so that he is happy to leave the business he owns for hours at a time in order to help the police investigate the murder of one of his clients. While detective Gaston Lemieux does the official business, Sam potters around trying to sniff out leads and find that extra bit of information that may prove crucial to the whole operation. While Sam’s involvement in the murder is dismissed quickly, the body count begins to rise (slightly) and as unsavoury rumours about the deceased circulate, it’s up to Sam and Gaston to unravel the threads and find the killer.

The Usual Suspects:

This one has the quirky aspect of featuring Sam as a suspect early on, but this is put aside almost immediately, which I thought was unfortunate because it could have added some much needed suspense to the plot. Apart from Sam, the murder victim’s colleagues, students and multiple lovers are in the firing line.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

Unfortunately, I found this to be tedium itself. There is very little in the way of danger in the investigation and Sam seems to be able to wander into any suspects circle of awareness, ask some questions, get some reasonable answers and report them back to Gaston. The ending is also a bit lacklustre, with only the most minor of minor twists, which I imagine will be pretty disappointing to avid murder mystery fans.

Overall Rating:


poison clip art

 One poison bottle for the friendly warmth and hospitality of a bookshop run by Canadians

This book was a disappointing read. I would say “bitterly” disappointing, but I can’t even muster up enough emotion about it to be bothered being bitter. I was initially excited to read a murder mystery set partly in a bookshop in Canada, as I felt this was an interesting variation from my usual British cosy mysteries. The writing, and, it must be said, the main character, are as bland as the Americans would have us believe Canadians were born to be. There was far too much “telling” instead of showing in the narrative style and while Sam obviously has to have a big part in the investigation, being the protagonist, it beggars belief that a detective would let some ordinary Joe (or Sam, as the case may be), go around doing police work. One would think that this would prejudice the case somewhat.

I can’t really recommend this book simply because there are far more engaging examples of the genre floating around. If you have a specific interest in Canadian murder mysteries however, you might find something to enjoy here.

Until next time,


Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop!



Welcome to my stop on the Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bookhounds and running from March 20th to 27th.  It is not lost on me that it is not Spring at all down my may, but whatever season you may be in, it’s always a good time to dispose of a bit of clutter in a thoughtful fashion.

I am offering one winner their choice of one of the following books that are taking up space on my shelf:

As you can see, there are picture books, middle grade, YA, NA, adult fiction and children’s nonfiction to choose from! My giveaway is open internationally and Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter.  To enter, click on the rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget, this is a hop, so click on the link below to check out the other participating blogs:

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

Good luck!

Until next time,


A Fishy Read-it-if Review: Chip!


read it if NEW BUTTON

I hope you are not reading this review on an empty stomach, because if you are, you are in grave danger of salivating as you read.  You have been warned!  Today I present to you a delightfully summery picture book, featuring a determined seagull who won’t let a few do-gooding signs get in the way of a good feed.  I speak of Chip by Kylie Howarth, thoughtfully provided for review by the good folk at Five Mile Press.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Chip, like most other gulls, is wild about chips. He likes fat chips, skinny chips, sandy or crunchy or soggy chips. But, most of all, he loves Joe’s chips from Joe’s Chip Van beside the sea. Chip, like most other gulls, can be a little intrusive on his search for chips. So, one day, Joe erects a sign near his van warning people not to feed the seagulls. Chip is devastated, so he plans a way to get back into Joe’s good books, thus gaining access once more to his favourite food. Will Chip succeed, or has he gone too far this time?



Read it if:

*you’ve ever participated in the crazy, arm-flailing, shouty ritual familiar to anyone who has ever tried to comfortably enjoy their chips in the presence of hungry sea birds

*you’ve ever, in the throes of hunger and overcome by the smell of salty, fatty goodness, contemplated dressing as a seagull and sliding in at the back of the flock as it pesters the unsuspecting, chip-eating public

*you’ve ever been forced to eat something healthy and discovered you like it at least as much as the salty, fatty goodness you have been consuming

From the greasy-looking endpapers to the incredible, fold-out page spread in the middle, Chip is a book that will have you cheering for our gullish hero, before rushing out to feast on some fish and chips. The story follows Chip, a chip-loving seagull, whose chip supply is suddenly cut off when his (and his fellow gulls’) behaviour leads to the posting of signs warning visitors not to feed the gulls.

When multiple stealthy attempts to obtain those little sacks of salty potato delight are thwarted, Chip and his friends must think outside the box if they ever want to taste the goodness of free food again. Now before you leap onto your soapbox, proclaiming the wrongs of feeding human food to wild creatures, the surprise ending of the book gently conveys this message while ensuring that Chip and his friends can still enjoy the odd, free culinary surprise.

The illustrations are bright and breezy, perfectly reflecting the gusty, open-aired fun of a day at the seaside. As we roll into winter down here in the southern hemisphere, Chip is just the sort of book that will have you itching to get out of doors to discover a pesky seagull pack of your own, before Queensland’s blisteringly cold winter keeps you inside for…oh I don’t know…three days at most!

I recommend Chip as a fun, holiday read-aloud and the perfect preface to a family day out. And while you get on with that, I’m going to send Mad Martha off to the local chippy. I’ve got a salty craving all of a sudden.

Until next time,