Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop!

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Beach-Reads-in-August-Hop

Given the unseasonably warm winter we are experiencing here in Brisbane…warmer than our usual unseasonably warm winters, that is…it would be remiss of us not to join in with the Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop, hosted by Stuck in Books and running from August 1st to 14th.

My recommendation for a recent release, relaxing beach read (if I enjoyed the beach that is.  I don’t.  Too much sand in odd places.), would be Siobhan Curham’s delightful The Moonlight Dreamers.  You can see what’s so great about it by clicking on this cover image:

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But on to the giveaway!  I am offering one winner their choice of book up to the value of $15 AUD from the Book Depository.  My giveaway is open internationally, provided the BD ships to your country for free.  Other Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter.

To enter, just click on the link below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a hop, so don’t forget to visit the other participating blogs to see what’s up for grabs!  Click the link below to see all the participants:

Powered by Linky Tools

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

Good luck!

Bruce

Level UP With Some Graphic Novel Goodness for Your Friday…

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level up

Well, it’s Friday and I’m in love with Gene Luen Yang’s graphic “coming-of-age while being harassed by imaginary supernatural beings” memoir, Level Up.  We received our copy from PanMacmillan Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Nothing is what it seems when life collides with video games.

Dennis Ouyang has always struggled in the shadow of his parents’ expectations: Stay focused in high school, do well in college, go to medical school, and become a gastroenterologist.

But between his father’s death, his academic burnout, and his deep (and distracting) love of video games, Dennis can’t endure. He’s kicked out of college. And that’s when things get . . . weird.

Four adorable—but bossy—angels, straight out of a sappy greeting card, appear and take charge of Dennis’s life. He’s back on track to become a gastroenterologist. But is he living the life he wants?

Partnered with the deceptively simple, cute art of Thien Pham, Gene Yang has returned to the subject he revolutionized withAmerican Born Chinese. Whimsical and serious by turns, Level Up is a new look at the tale that Yang has made his own: coming of age as an Asian American.

There’s nothing better, during a run of large, hefty novels, to kick back with a graphic memoir and revel in the brevity of the text.  Having said that, Level Up is probably best enjoyed in two or more sittings, just to allow the pain and indecision of “new adult” angst to sink in.  Dennis Ouyang is an all-round good egg it would seem, who is torn between fulfilling his parents’ wishes and chasing his video-game-glory-shaped dream.  For a fair bit of the book it feels like poor Dennis can’t do anything right, because whether he is achieving excellence in the field of pixellated reality or intestinal correction, he is plagued by guilt, or the ghost of his father, or general early-adult insecurities about the permanence of one’s initial course choices at university.

I particularly enjoyed how Dennis changes his mind multiple times throughout the book as different information, and family secrets, come to light.  It’s quite satisfying and reassuring to know that the choice that Dennis eventually makes is the right one for him, despite the fact that it evinced so much agonizing and drama in its attainment.

I feel the need to mention that Level Up is another addition to the “diversity” canon, as apart from the first-generation Chinese immigrant perspective, there are also Indian and Latino characters making up Dennis’s core group of friends.  The differences between Dennis’s life and family responsibilities are highlighted when Dennis’s Caucasian friend can’t understand why Dennis would pursue such a massive undertaking as medical school simply because it’s what his parents expect.

While I haven’t yet mentioned the ghostly, imaginary angels on the cover of the book, this is not because they do not play a major part in the story.  These four certainly sit at the creepier end of the angelic spectrum, and demonstrate an unshakable belief that Dennis’s true destiny lies in the field of gastroenterology.  To aid him in attaining his destiny, the tiny cherubs cook, clean, wash and generally sort out Dennis’s living arrangements to allow him to concentrate on study.  While this may sound like a boon for Dennis, the benefits go hand in hand with the demonic freak-outs to which the angels are prone when Dennis dares to defy their wishes.  The angels are an interesting plot device and we discover, in hilarious and unexpected fashion, the real purpose behind their existence toward the end of the novel.

Level Up was both a great brain-break in between much heftier reading responsibilities, and an endearing and authentic snapshot of early adulthood, with all its opportunities and uncertainties.  I’d definitely recommend it for when you need a quick reminder that you aren’t the only one wandering around wondering what on earth you are going to do with the rest of your life.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Poison City: An Adult Fiction Read-It-If Review

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read it if NEW BUTTON

After a week of kidlit, I’ve got a grown-up book for you today, full of supernatural menace and shady police work.  We received Poison City by Paul Crilley from the publisher via Netgalley for review and were quite amazed to find out how closely it resembles one of our favourite supernatural police series….at least in the opening chapters.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone’s mother than a cop. Don’t let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he’s a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine – I solve crimes, I search for my daughter’s killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I’m called out to the murder of a ramanga – a low-key vampire – basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There’s even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except… the face on the CCTV footage? It’s the face of the man who killed my daughter. I’m about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can’t do both.

It’s not looking good for the world.

Poison City is the first in a fantastical new series for fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz and Stephen King.

poison city

Read it if:

*you think there should be more supernatural police dramas set in South Africa

*you suspect your dog might have a problem with alcohol

*you wish there was a clever narrative device springing from which, when a favourite character dies, is a cheeky method of slotting them straight back into the story

*for you, diversity in literature means opening up the floor to gods, goddesses, spooks and ghouls from every nation and creed

*you are really just hoping to find a gritty, edgy, funny, violent, unexpected police series that happens to feature vampires, orishas and the Almighty

Poison City was an unexpected find.  Having seen a brief review of it and become intrigued by the possibility of an alcoholic, talking dog, I knew it was only a matter of time before I laid claw on it.  What I didn’t expect was how much it reminded me of Ben Aaronovitch’s DC Peter Grant series.  This is one of the Shelf’s favourite series ever (and we can’t wait to receive book six, The Hanging Tree, on pre-order any day now!).  Honestly, the first few chapters of Poison City read exactly as if Peter Grant had moved to South Africa, suffered a great personal tragedy, and taken to hanging out with an alcoholic, talking dog.  While this felt a bit weird to being with, it certainly helped me to ease into the story.

The book features the (mis)adventures of “London” Tau, who works at the police department’s Delphic Division, solving crimes that involve creatures not of this world.  Or at least, not of the human part of this world.  The alcoholic, talking dog is his slightly sub-par spirit guide, who spends most of his time sleeping and generally not being very helpful. I had high expectations for the dog, but I feel he was a bit underused, as Tau spends most of his time, rather unsurprisingly I suppose, solving mysteries with his partner.  Police partner, that is.

The book is far more violent and edgy than the Peter Grant series, with some pretty graphic scenes of gore and hearts being ripped out and so forth.  If that’s not your bag, you probably aren’t going to want to venture into this one.  By the end, I was a bit put off by all the violence, but I have to admit that the last few chapters certainly culminated in some surprising revelations about who was behind the dramas causing headaches for Tau.

Overall, this was a fast-paced, action-packed read, punctuated with humour and twists that I certainly didn’t see coming.  If you are up for a fairly graphic police procedural with an ungodly twist, then I can definitely recommend Poison City as a worthy choice.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Waking the Panda? Well that would be PANDAMONIA! (+an AUS giveaway!)

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pandamonia

Did you hear the one about the writer and illustrator who walked into a zoo?  No, neither had I until a copy of Pandamonia by Chris Owen and Chris Nixon landed on our shelf, kindly provided by Fremantle Press!  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When visiting the zoo, whatever you do, DON’T WAKE THE PANDA! Join
in the fantastic fun as one grumpy panda sets off a frenzy of wild partying.

Fremantle Press seem determined to outdo themselves with picture books that might inspire a less scrupulous reader to find the nearest box cutter and carefully remove individual pages in order to frame and display said pages on the wall as works of art.  The artwork in Pandamonia is certainly worthy of such display, from the monochromatic endpapers, featuring the titular panda in a variety of somnolent poses, to the inner pages that become increasingly crowded with bold, cheeky prints of animals of all descriptions.  I can safely say that I have never seen a cuter tapir, nor indeed a more striking and noble yak as those contained within these pages.

The text takes the reader on a journey through a remarkably extensive zoo, all the while exhorting the reader not to wake the panda, under pain of wild rumpus from the zoo’s other inhabitants.  Beginning with the near-negligent threat of some jumpy hippos and tickly termites, the dangers become ever more complex as more animals and birds are added to the mix.  For teachers looking to introduce the concept of onomatopoeia to enquiring young minds, one could do a lot worse than to read them this tome as it is replete with yowling, screeching, yakking, humming and all manner of words that bring the sounds of the zoo to chaotic life.

The rhyming text begs to be read aloud and the changes in rhythm throughout allow the reader to speed up or slow down the pace as the need arises.  The amount of text was just slightly too much for the eldest mini-fleshling at 5 years old; he was desperate by the halfway point for the panda to awaken!  But as with all rewards worth having, good things come to those who wait and the reveal at the end was satisfying and funny.

The only thing that could have made this perfect for me would have been the inclusion of a few images of the sleeping panda throughout the book, as a counterpoint to the building cacophony of the other animals.  As it is though, Pandamonia is a marvellously visual picture book that neatly showcases the power of the read-aloud to incite controlled anarchy and joyous din for mini-fleshlings of an adventurous (and slightly subversive) countenance.

To ensure that the anarchy is spread around, I am offering one Australian reader the chance to win a copy of Pandamonia, thanks to Fremantle Press.  To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

Prepare to be Grossed Out with The Nose Pixies!

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picture book perusal button

I’ve got the pick of the bunch for you today (pun intended!) with a delightfully disgusting and ingenious new release picture book from HarperCollins Australia.  The Nose Pixies: A Cautionary Tale by David Hunt and Lucia Masciullo is just the thing for the rogue nose-picker in your life, be they three or thirty years old.  We can never go past anything that is labelled a cautionary tale, so here’s the blurb from HarperCollins Australia:

This is a book with a grossness that kids will love, and with a message that parents will adore.

Oliver has a bad habit. A very bad habit. He just can’t keep his fingers out of his nose, which is a big problem for the tiny pixies who mine his ‘nose gold’ to keep their cities running.The Nose Pixies return to their kingdom with empty handkerchiefs night after night. And unless their luck changes, they’ll be out of a job … or worse!

A wickedly funny, deliciously clever cautionary tale from award‐winning creators David Hunt and Lucia Masciullo.

the nose pixies

While I take issue with the use of the word “delicious” in the blurb, I can’t help but agree that this is a very clever bit of work. Better yet, it is by an Australian author!  I’m not entirely sure whether nose-picking is a more developed habit in Australians than others, but I’m quite proud of the fact that we are pioneering solutions to this age-old problem.

If you can get past the first three pages without throwing up, you will be treated to a funny and seasonally appropriate story (in the southern hemisphere at least) with a cast of adorable little pixies who could really use a good trade union.

The illustrations in this one, though cartoonish, evoke the hellish reality of nose-picking, with close ups of the dastardly deed within the first few pages.  Some readers will be put off by these no doubt, but for those that can stomach such representations, I am certain the book will be a regular on the bedtime request list, simply because it cleverly creates a problem that can only be solved the nose-picker – and could well provide some food for thought for any sneakily nose-picking young readers.

Hunt and Masciullo have created quite an epic adventure for the poor little nose pixies, who have to hunt high and low for nose gold thanks to Oliver’s nose-picking tendencies.  The double-page spreads give a great feel for the sheer effort that the pixies expend in trying to fulfil their nose-gold quota and avoid the wrath of the nose pixie king, from hunting through discarded tissues to plumbing the depths of the loo.

Don’t even get me started on the Bottom Pit.

For those that don’t mind a bit of bodily grossness in books for mini-fleshlings, I can definitely recommend The Nose Pixies as a tale of adventure and derring-do that places the fate of the nose pixies firmly in the hands (or more accurately, fingers) of the reader.

The Nose Pixies is released on August 1st

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Fi50 July Challenge!

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It’s writing time again!  Get your pens, fingers and brains ready to rip out a fantastic bit of micro flash fiction for Fi50.  All you need do to participate is create a piece of poetry or fiction in 51 words or fewer and post a link in the linky here:

This month’s prompt is…

aged to perfection

I’ve gone a bit dark and broody this month for a change.  I have titled my contribution…

Best Served Cold

Finally, it was her time.

For years she had been cowed under his words, his fists, but time had taken its course and now he was at her mercy.  Age had made a fool of him, leaving him languishing, immobile, reliant.

She promised herself the opportunity would not be wasted.


I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with!  Don’t forget to add your efforts to the linky.

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday…and an Fi50 Reminder!

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

It’s that time of the month again – Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday!  To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.  Our prompt for this month is…

aged to perfection

Be there or be square!

TBR Friday

It’s back to YA for my TBR Friday effort this month, with A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”

Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve seen it. It can happen.

And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day …

bad day for voodoo

Ten Second Synopsis:

After receiving an unfair failing grade in a test, Tyler’s well-meaning but slightly deranged best friend obtains a voodoo doll of the teacher in question.  After a completely innocent poke that causes the teacher’s leg to fly off in a spectacular display of bloody cinema, Adam experiences an episode of paranoia in which he obtains a voodoo doll of Tyler, and the shenanigans begin in earnest.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I’m not entirely certain – It was published in 2012, but probably made it on to the shelf sometime in 2013 or 2014…or 2015.

Acquired:

Received as a birthday gift

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I really, really wanted to read it for ages and so relegated it to the shelf.  As you do.

Best Bits:

  • There were a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments in this one, particularly during the “teacher’s leg flying off” scene.  The writing is casual and full of banter and this is obviously meant to be a funny book, rather than a book with any serious subplots, so it was a fun, light interlude.
  • Tyler is a protagonist one can relate to, who, through no fault of his own, finds himself in a series of unlikely, but amusing, life-or-death situations
  • The voodoo sellers are pretty funny characters who almost steal the show.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • The banter-y style started to get old for me about halfway through the book.  By the last quarter I just wanted the author to get on with the story, as things become a race against time, but the obligatory banter kept up until the end, which I felt slowed the pace a little.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Considering it wasn’t my money that paid for it, yes.

Where to now for this tome?

I will probably pass it on to someone who will enjoy it.

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

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce