Children’s Book Week Giveaway Hop!

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Hooray! It’s Children’s Book Week somewhere in the world, so we couldn’t resist jumping on the bookwagon and offering a giveaway through the Celebrate Children’s Book Week Hop hosted by Bookhounds and running from May 1st to 8th.

Our giveaway is open internationally, provided the Book Depository ships to your country for free.  We are offering ONE winner their choice of children’s, middle grade or YA book from the Book Depository up to the value of $15 AUD.  Ts & Cs are in the link below.

To enter, just click on this link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget, this is a hop, so click on the link below to visit the other participating blogs!

Powered by Linky Tools

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

Good luck!

Bruce

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Utopirama: Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth…

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It’s Utopirama time again and today’s guaranteed mood-lifter is the perfect coffee table book for those times when your internet connection is dodgy and your access to funny animal videos is cut off.  We received Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth by Guinnevere Shuster from the publisher via Netgalley and you’ll be pleased to know that inside the book you can expect to find exactly what it says on the cover.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Man’s best friend! What better way to showcase adoptable dogs than by letting their true personalities shine in a photo booth! In the tradition of the best-selling dog photography book, Underwater Dogs, Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth wins the heart of all dog lovers.

Often seen as sad, rejected, and behind cold metal bars, it’s no wonder people would avoid images of shelter dogs awaiting forever homes. From talented photographer (and now public figure and adoption champion) Guinnivere Shuster comes Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth, a guaranteed-to-make-you-smile photo book featuring shelter dogs in a brand-new light. Get ready to see the cutest canine portraits you’ve ever seen! Guinnevere’s fantastic photos went viral  and have been featured on websites, in magazines, and on television programs all over the world: Good Morning America, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, Time, The Daily Mail . . . even celebrities have gotten in on the action: Amy Poehler, Cesar Millan, and Zooey Deschanel have made statements and posts declaring their love of Guinnevere’s work. After the adorable and up-for-adoption photos of these furry friends were seen and enjoyed by millions, adoption rates at Utah’s Humane Society skyrocketed.

The book features 100 dog photo booth style photographs, each accompanied by a short story about the dog’s personality, how the dog ended up in the shelter, and the adoption date. A follow-up will conclude the book, with photos of some of them with their new families.

A portion of the proceeds of this book will benefit the Humane Society of Utah and Best Friends Animal Society.shelter dogs.jpg

Quick Overview:

There’s not much to say about the content of this book that you can’t already infer from the title, but each page features a different shelter dog with four images and a little blurb about how it came to be in a shelter in the first place. If you’re a dog lover, the book is worth it for the images alone: some are pretty funny, like the one on the cover, while others are more subdued.  They portray a wide range of breeds and personalities however, and having a quick peek at the next dog becomes a bit addictive after a few idle page flicks.  The end of the book shows some of the dogs in their new forever homes with their new families which is a nice touch and no doubt goes some way to fulfil part of the book’s purpose – to encourage people to adopt shelter dogs rather than buy from pet shops or sellers who may be engaging in inhumane practices like puppy farming.

The only thing that I found dystopian about the book were the excuses given for the dogs ending up in the shelter in the first place.  There were far too many “owner had to move and couldn’t take the dog with them” type stories for my liking, which begs the question, “why didn’t you think about that before you bought the damn dog?” or alternately, “why can’t you find a dog friendly place to move to?”

As well as all the cute dog pictures, proceeds of the book’s sales go to help animal rescue centres in the US.  Winning!

Utopian Themes:

Human’s best friend

From despair to hope

Saving the day

Smile for the camera

Protective Bubble-o-Meter:

protective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubble

Five out of five protective bubbles for the joyful flapping ears of a rescue dog heading to its forever home with its head out the window of the car.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

A YA, Road-Trippin’ Double Dip of Lies and Desolation…

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I hope that you have selected a snack that is easy to transport for today’s Double-Dip because if you haven’t, there’s a high probability that you might be wearing it by the end of the trip!  Both of today’s YA titles feature road trips and nicking off in a big way, so hold onto your snacks and let’s hit the road.

First up we’re travelling with Desolation, the second book in the Demon Road trilogy, by Derek Landy.  We gratefully received a copy of this one from Harper Collins Australia for review.  In case you missed our review of the first book in the series, you can check that out here.  And here’s the Desolation‘s blurb from Goodreads:

Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.

Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.

And that night is coming.

Dip into it for…  desolation
…another adrenaline-fuelled trip featuring violence, banter and a whole bunch of new characters.  The tale takes place in Desolation Hill this time around, a small town that might offer protection from the Hounds of Hell, and as small town oddities go, Desolation Hill has the mother of all quirks.  I won’t spoil it for you by revealing what it is, but I can tell you that Amber isn’t the only supernatural being getting around the place this time around.  I enjoyed the plethora of new characters that were introduced in this book, which include (but are not limited to) a Scooby-esque supernatural crime fighting squad that travels the Dark Highway in a van, some town officials that are older than they look, two old actors in the middle of a personal feud, a very shady police department and a character from urban legend come to terrifying life.  The fact that the story unfolds in one place means that more space is given over to developing characters and delving more deeply into the nature of Amber’s demonhood.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re not up for face-shredding violence and general debauchery.  If you’ve read the first book you’ll notice that apart from the violence, Landy doesn’t shy away from including really horrible misogynistic and/or generally depraved characters.

Overall Dip Factor

I felt that this book had a bit more of a male skew to it, with some token lesbian action and more of the poor attitudes to women exhibited by many of the male characters.  While I enjoyed the changes in the story and the interesting possibilities generated by the twist at the end, the general tone of this book felt more adult and grimy that the first.  It’s certainly a series for the upper end of the YA bracket, merging into the adult market, rather than for younger readers.  I’m expecting that the final book in the series is going to shake things up even more.

Next up we have There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake, which has been shortlisted for the 2016 Carnegie Medal.  We received our copy from the publisher via Netgalley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

In four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car.

Shortly after, she and her mother will leave the hospital and set out on a winding journey toward the Grand Canyon.

All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands. And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past—and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.

Award-winning author Nick Lake proves his skills as a master storyteller in this heart-pounding new novel. This emotionally charged thrill ride leads to a shocking ending that will have readers flipping back to the beginning.

Dip into it for…  there will be lies

…an unscheduled road trip that will leave you wondering what’s real and what the future holds.  There is an awful lot going on in this book including a mysteriously protective and manipulative mother-daughter relationship, some magical realism with a possibly North American indigenous twist, and the limitations (and advantages) of disability.  Shelby is certainly an authentically teenage narrator who is obviously working things out along with the reader.  The ending is quite satisfying in a strange, unexpected sort of way – at least I was happy to see Shelby making decisions for herself, even if they were a bit odd from an ordinary person’s perspective.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re hoping for a straightforward contemporary with some mysteries along the way. When the story begins to alternate between Shelby’s journey in the real world and her quest in the strange dream-state, I felt a strong preference for the bits anchored in reality.  In my opinion, the dream-state bits felt contrived and didn’t particularly add anything to Shelby’s actions in real life.

Overall Dip Factor

Overall, I was quite engaged with the real-life bits – which featured enough twists, reveals and unexpected surprises to carry the story on its own merits – and could take or leave the dream-state bits.  This is certainly an ambitious way to tell a story and I’m sure some people will love the parallel narratives of Shelby’s life, but for me there was too much interference from flights of fancy in what was essentially an absorbing read about a teenager with an atypical past discovering who she is and who she wants to be.

If you’re in the mood for a road-trip featuring violence and/or the supernatural, you could do worse than pick up one of these two new release offerings.  Let me know what you think!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Bruce’s Shelfies: It’s a DNF-a-thon!

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The “Did Not Finish”.

It’s the bane of many reviewers’ lives.  Are we obliged to finish books we receive for review?  Is it simply good etiquette to do so?  Are those who decide to cast a review book aside woefully lacking in moral fortitude?

The DNF is an issue I’ve pondered since becoming a reviewer and I have only just started to become comfortable with the idea that I don’t have to finish EVERY SINGLE BOOK that crosses my path just because I’ve received it for review.  According to my Goodreads tally, I’ve already knocked over 82 books this year so far, so leaving a few by the wayside probably isn’t that great a sin.

Then I came across this mind-blowingly sensible article from Anya (On Starships and Dragonwings), challenging us to consider making the DNF our default option for reading.  It would certainly save time.  Theoretically, it would ensure that we were only reading the books that we were really invested in.

So I got on board.  And now I have a slew of DNFed books to share with you.

*I should note that I don’t plan to make a habit of DNFing copious amounts of books.  I just seem to have hit a bit of a pile of books that were DNFable for me in the last month*

Here they are then folks: the books I have recently DNFed.  Perhaps amongst this collection you will find your bookish heart’s desire.  I truly hope so.  Click on the covers to be taken to the book’s Goodreads page.

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat (Paul Tobin)

how to capture an invisible cat

Categories: Middle Grade, science, fantasy, friendship, tea, secret societies

DNF’ed at: 29%

Comments:

I was actually really enjoying this one to start with.  There is a particularly touching friendship between Delphine and Nate that develops early on.  There’s plenty of banter that I’m sure middle graders will love.  I DNFed just as the secret society bit was coming into the story, so obviously there’s some mystery and danger involved.  Essentially, as an adult reader, I just lost interest.  Definitely worth having a look if middle grade humour/fantasy is your bag though. (And tell me how it ends)


The Smell of Other People’s Houses (Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock)

the smell of other people's houses

Categories: YA, historical fiction (1970s), indigenous issues, Alaska, coming of age

DNFed at: 29%

Comments:

Overall, this felt just a bit too depressing for me.  That enticing cover drew me in and I was interested in the Alaskan setting and characters of indigenous heritage but I just wasn’t compelled to keep reading.  Unusually for me, the alternative points of view in the narrative left me finding it more difficult to keep the characters straight.  This one would appeal to those who enjoy fiction featuring recent history, with a pervading atmosphere of realism and struggle.


Riverkeep (Martin Stewart)

Categories: YA, fantasy, death and dying 9781101998298_Riverkeep_HC_CvLib.indd

DNFed at: 11%

Comments: 

It felt like I read a lot more than just 11% of this book.  That astonishingly lovely cover drew me in, along with the blurb, with promises of a boy whose job it is to drag corpses from a river, but I just couldn’t get my head around the world-building.  The main character wasn’t particularly charismatic either, and I felt like his confusion and despair became my own.  Early on I got the sense that reading this was going to be like wading through molasses, so I made the decision to put it down.  This one would probably appeal to those who like high fantasy and epic tales that require total immersion in a new world.


Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts (A. K. Benedict)

Categories: Adult fiction, mystery, paranormal, police proceduraljonathan dark

DNFed at: 19%

Comments:

I think that in another time and place I could have really enjoyed this one.  It features two intersecting storylines – one involving a police investigation of a blind woman (who is not really blind, by the way) being harassed by a stalker, and the other involving a bloke who can see ghosts.  There seemed to be a whole ghostly world going on in this second storyline which I may have become more interested in, but the police procedural part just seemed too dense and slow.  Having said that, I may pick this up again later on if I feel like a bit of a challenge.  I’d recommend this for fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series and those who enjoy a bit of a paranormal/murder mystery mashup.


There Will Be Stars (Bill Coffey)

Categories: Adult fiction, paranormal (?), family relationships, redemption there will be stars

DNFed at: 7%

Comments:

What a journey of confusion I set off on during the 7% I read of this book.  I honestly had no idea what was going on for most of that 7%; a feeling made considerably worse by the irritating dialect in which the dialogue was written.  By the time I decided to put this down I couldn’t bear to see another “ain’t nothin'” or “y’all” or pithy cheesy cliched saying.  The book features a sort of groundhog day reliving of a tragic event in the life of the protagonist, but I decided I didn’t even want to experience it the first time around and so placed this one to the side.  I’d say this would appeal to those who like a quirky narrative style and don’t mind working to unravel the plot threads early on.


So there you have it.  A DNF-a-thon indeed.  I do hope you have more success with these tomes than I did.  You might even persuade me to have another crack at one!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Don’t Get Caught: A YA, Five Things I’ve Learned Review

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You wouldn’t necessarily think that one could learn much from a book about professional-level pranking, but today’s book puts that misconception to rest.  Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan is a contemporary YA that dispenses with “all the feels” (hooray!) and gets straight down to the nitty-gritty…the nitty-gritty being pulling epic pranks on friends, neighbours, colleagues and schoolmates.  We received a copy of Don’t Get Caught from the publisher via Netgalley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

10:00 tonight at the water tower. Tell no one. -Chaos Club

When Max receives a mysterious invite from the untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, he has to ask: why him? After all, he’s Mr. 2.5 GPA, Mr. No Social Life. He’s Just Max. And his favorite heist movies have taught him this situation calls for Rule #4: Be suspicious. But it’s also his one shot to leave Just Max in the dust…

Yeah, not so much. Max and four fellow students-who also received invites-are standing on the newly defaced water tower when campus security “catches” them. Definitely a setup. And this time, Max has had enough. It’s time for Rule #7: Always get payback.

Let the prank war begin.

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And here are Five Things I’ve Learned from Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan:

  1. When committing a prank, always wear some kind of protective hand covering.  Not only does this ensure your fingerprints remain anonymous, but it also guards against picking up residual mess from pranksters trying to out-prank you.
  2. Always have a Plan B.  Preferably one that involves undergarments of some description.
  3. The decision to use livestock in pranking should not be undertaking lightly.  Nor should it be undertaken without recourse to the appropriate livestock-lifting safety harnesses.
  4. The leader of the pranksters is always the one you least suspect.  Or the one you most suspect.  Or someone you hadn’t suspected at all. Take your pick.
  5. Even the most public bout of humiliation can provide inspiration for new and original pranks.

Sometimes you just need a book that doesn’t take itself, or the business of being a teenager, too seriously.  Don’t Get Caught is the perfect book to fill such a need.  It’s light, it’s a lot of fun, it has a great mix of characters (albeit mildly stereotyped to begin with) and it never pretends that its dealing with anything other than a snapshot of time in the lives of a group of teens.  While the basis of the book is an in-house prank competition set up by the “Watertower Five” – the five kids invited to an ill-fated meeting with the infamous Chaos Club – the plot has a secondary focus on identity and revenge.  Without ever getting bogged down in too much seriousness, it is obvious that Max is questioning who he is and who he wants to be, and whether the end justifies the means, where revenge-based pranks are concerned.

Dinan has done a great job of dropping in some excellent adult characters, including artistic drop-out type Uncle Boyd, deputy principal and commanding officer of the fun police Mr Stranko, the long-suffering but really quite accommodating principal Mrs B, and the never-give-you-a-straight-answer philosophy teacher Mr Watson.  Even Max’s parents make a believable couple, and it’s not often you get to say that about adult characters in YA books.

The pace is generally quick throughout and although there is space given over to the more issues-based aspects of the plot – including social labeling, personal accountability for mistakes made, leaving a personal legacy – rather than slow the plot, these interludes save the whole book from spiralling down into one big crazy prank-fest.  There are a couple of fantastic twists at the end of the story – one or two I suspected might be coming and others that appeared out of the blue – and while I wouldn’t recommend reading it as an instructional guide to public mischief, overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read for those who enjoy a bit of subversive jollity.

Highly recommended.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Fiction in 50 April Challenge!

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

April’s Fiction in 50 is a bit of a “choose your own adventure” lark, with a prompt allowing you to fill in the blank!  To play along, just create a piece of poetry or prose in fewer than 51 words, based on our monthly prompt, then post it and link back to your post in the comments.  For more detailed information on how to play, just click on that large button at the top of this post.

So April’s prompt is…

born to...

(You fill in the blank!)

I decided to use the prompt as my title for this month, and so my contribution is:

Born to Leave His Mark

Ned dreamed of being influential. 

His vehicle?

Town Planning.  

Ned’s favourite job was naming streets in posh parts of town.  Arm Road crested Pitsmell Street. Greyhair Avenue projected at an unsightly angle from Nasal Passage.  

His greatest achievement was the waterfront.

All those mansions, with pristine views over Pudendal Canal.  


I can’t wait to see what others have come up with this time around!

For those who like to be organised, next month’s prompt will be…

mixed messages

Until next time,

Bruce

An Odd TBR Friday and Fi50 Reminder…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

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

born to...

(You fill in the blank!)

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

I feel so productive on TBR Fridays!  I’m knocking another one off the enormous, ever-growing pile today and I feel this one counts double as it is a collection of short stories.  In fact, Oddest of All by Bruce Coville is the third in a series of short story anthologies from the aforementioned Bruce Coville.

oddest of all

Ten Second Synopsis:

This tome comprises nine short stories that all feature a bit of oddity.  All but one have a fantastical or sci-fi twist to them and the subjects range from werefrogs to unicorns to ghosts to doing what you’re told.

**Side note: I have just noticed something super weird – the cover in the image above says “Eighteen Odd stories” but the book I have in my hand (ostensibly the EXACT SAME edition), says NINE short stories…Odd indeed!**

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I can’t remember exactly, but I know I acquired this one in the dying months of 2015.

Acquired:

From the Cystic Fibrosis charity bookshop at Nundah that sells off all the books withdrawn from the BCC library’s collection.

Reason I Haven’t Read it Yet:

No particular reason except that other shinier newer books have taken my fancy.  It was one of those books that you pick up on a whim knowing that you won’t get to it immediately.

Best Bits:

  • The stories are all reasonably quick reads, with only one or two that stretch out a bit longer.  This is great because you can dip into a story here or there before sleep without too much difficulty.
  • Most of the stories had a humorous element to them so the collection reminded me of reading Paul Jenning’s brilliant anthologies as a mini-fleshling
  • My favourite stories in this collection were The Thing in Aunty Alma’s Pond, The Mask of Eamonn Tiyado and Herbert Hutchison in the Underworld because they all had a slightly creepy twist to them
  • Some of the stories here are shorter versions of a larger series, such as The Ghost Let Go, so there is scope for readers to continue the adventure in a longer reading experience

Less Impressive Bits:

  • I did feel that I had seen some of these stories before…not the actual stories of course, but the themes and plot twists.  I suspect this is because I have read quite a few short story anthologies aimed at this age group, especially from people like Anthony Horowitz and Neal Shusterman, who have covered similar topics

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Considering it was only $2, yes.

Where to now for this tome?

It will go to the permanent shelf at least until I decide I need more space or find someone who would really enjoy it.

That’s one more handhold grasped on my way up the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block!

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce