The Lost Boy: A “Five Things I’ve Learned” Review…

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Today’s book is a graphic novel for those who love a bit of creepy, atmospheric, magic-infused adventure, which, I am assuming, is all of you.  The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth is one that has been on my TBR list for quite some time, so when I spotted it at a great price in the Scholastic Book Club catalogue recently, I knew I had to grab it.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Some mysteries are too dangerous to leave alone . . .

Nate’s not happy about his family moving to a new house in a new town. After all, nobody asked him if he wanted to move in the first place. But when he discovers a tape recorder and note addressed to him under the floorboards of his bedroom, Nate is thrust into a dark mystery about a boy who went missing many, many years ago. Now, as strange happenings and weird creatures begin to track Nate, he must partner with Tabitha, a local girl, to find out what they want with him. But time is running out, for a powerful force is gathering strength in the woods at the edge of town, and before long Nate and Tabitha will be forced to confront a terrifying foe, and uncover the truth about the Lost Boy.

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And here are Five Things I’ve Learned From The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth:

1. It is a fact of life that moving to a new house will always lead to an exciting (and possibly slightly sinister) discovery, usually concealed under a loose floorboard or other enticing, secret space.

2. The probability of exciting (and possibly slightly sinister) discoveries are exponentially increased if said new house is adjacent to a wood.

3. If, upon moving to a new town, you notice something out of place (such as a grasshopper riding a dog, for instance) that others don’t seem to be able to see, you can assume that an exciting (and possibly slightly sinister) discovery is imminent.

4. When moving to a new town, always make friends immediately with the strangest and most oddball of your neighbours.

5. On moving to a new house in which exciting (and possibly slightly sinister) discoveries are likely, ensure you have access to a range of historical recording devices in order to be prepared in case your predecessor has left some audiological clues as to their sudden disappearance.

I am so glad I actually made time to (a) purchase this book and (b) read it, because it is such an absorbing and atmospheric read featuring a well-developed world and enticing mystery.  The book follows two parallel stories – those of Nate, and Will, the boy who lived in the house Nate has just moved to, but who disappeared years before.  Without giving too much of the story away, Nate discovers a recording left by Will that details some strange sightings and happenings that Will has experienced, and opens up the mystery of the circumstances surrounding Will’s disappearance.  After Nate meets his new neighbour Tabitha, who also knows something about the mystery of Will, it is obvious that the pair need to investigate.  When some extremely strange visitors come calling however (including a talking doll and a deadly tree), it is obvious that Nate and Tabitha are going to have to risk much – and possibly even their lives – if they want to solve any mysteries anytime soon.

The illustrative style is quite realistic, which lends a sense of authenticity, and more than a little creepiness, to the events.  I was sucked in almost immediately by the allure of a historical mystery and the author does a great job of drip-feeding information about the non-human characters in the story so that the reader has to keep going if they want to find out the truth about these diverse and strange beings.

I had thought I had seen somewhere that there was a sequel to this one, but I can’t seem to find anything about it now so perhaps I was mistaken.  It’s a shame though – such a world could do with a follow-up story.  You can see some preview pages of The Lost Boy at Greg Ruth’s website, though, to see for yourself how exciting the book looks.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Crushed Under a Mountain of Picture Books” Edition…

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On this, the second day of my very own Children’s Book Week, I have no less than five brilliant picture books for your perusal.  Let’s ride on in before they get away!

The Little Bad Wolf (Sam Bowring and Lachlan Creagh)

*We received a copy of The Little Bad Wolf from Hachette Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:

The Big Bad Wolf has retired and now his grandson wants to step in to take his place, causing havoc and general mischief.  Once again though, it seems like the pigs have one over on the wolves, and besides, what kind of trouble could a little wolf really cause?

Muster up the motivation because…

…the unusual formatting and detailed illustrations will have mini-fleshlings poring over the book as you regale them with the tale of one very naughty little wolf.  The story is laid out in a comic-style format, with each page featuring a number of different frames, with text in each.  The detail in some of the illustrations is impressive, and I’m sure young readers will love trying to find their favourite fairy-tale characters in the pictures.  The Little Bad Wolf truly is a naughty, naughty boy, harassing and threatening to eat Mrs Pig.  Mrs Pig looks like she’s heard it all before and laughs off Little Wolf’s antics until…he goes a bit too far, resulting in the now retired Big Bad Wolf getting involved.  There is a hilarious illustration during the scene in which the Big Bad Wolf is explaining why he gave up the pig-eating game featuring an aged woodsman on his motorised mobility scooter, still keeping an eye on his archnemesis!  In the end, it seems that Little Bad Wolf’s antics may have backfired, but it doesn’t look like he had learned his lesson just yet.  The highlight of this book for me was definitely the incredibly detailed and vivid illustrations, featuring everything from Baba Yaga and the Rock-a-Bye baby, to a bunch of elves picketing the Shoemaker for higher wages.  The complex page spreads really add depth to the world and the story.  If you are a fan of fairy tale reworkings, then this is definitely worth a good look.

Brand it with:

Historical vendettas; young rapscallions; piggy poise

Seek and Find Space (Emiliano Magliardo)

*We received a copy of Seek and Find Space from Bloomsbury Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis: Seek and Find Space

Find out about space while having fun!  Search for pictures on each page while learning interesting tidbits about the world beyond planet Earth.

Muster up the motivation because…

…while this isn’t the most informative title you’ll ever see on the subject of space, it would certainly have to be one of the most fun.  The book is structured in double page spreads that each relate to a different topic – the solar system, star-gazing, the space station, for instance.  Each page features a little snippet of information about the topic, a large illustration and a selection of images that mini-fleshlings can hunt for in the picture.  The illustrations are cartoonish and wacky, and keen-eyed youngsters will find lots of things to make them giggle, such as a gondolier singing to his loved-up alien passengers, and the iconic bear-shaped honey dispenser blasting off on the page about rockets.  My favourite page would have to be that of the Big Bang, with everything from cave people to a very cheerful looking crab being blasted into existence.  Again, this isn’t going to satisfy kids who really want to find out information about space, but it is certainly a fun distraction for those with an interest in all things extra-terrestrial.

Brand it with:

Extra-curricular extra-terrestrial; new discoveries; fun with finding stuff

Sir Dancealot (Timothy Knapman & Keith Robinson)

*We received a copy of Sir Dancealot from Bloomsbury for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  Sir Dancealot

Sir Dancealot defeats monsters using his dance moves, keeping the kingdom safe.  But what will happen when one of the monsters knows how to dance too?

Muster up the motivation because…

…this boogie-tastic little book has all the fun and excitement of So You Think You Can Dance?, with the added bonus of dancing dragons and ice skating.  The illustrations are bright and bold and the cover literally shines due to some glittery accents.  The rhyming text makes this one perfect for reading aloud and the dance-mad younger mini-fleshling in the dwelling immediately requested it to be read again as soon as it was finished.  Sir Dancealot is obviously a pretty fabulous guy, looking, as he does, like a young John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever, yet he doesn’t shy away from a challenge when the dragon challenges him to a dance-off…on ice!  There’s plenty of giggle-worthy imagery here to keep the mini-fleshlings happy and the twist at the end is worth waiting for.  I’d definitely recommend this to young readers who like their pre-bedtime stories fast, fun and funky.

Brand it with:

Boogie shoes; Strictly Come Reading; perfect pirouettes

Lucy and Company (Marianne Dubuc)

*We received a copy of Lucy and Company from the publisher via Netgalley*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  28665603

Lucy loves to play with her animal friends in the woods, sharing snacks and having adventures.  But don’t wake Anton the bear!

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is every bit as whimsical, joyful and charming as the cover would indicate.  The book actually features three short stories featuring Lucy and her animal friends, each one reading like a single picture book tale.  Of the three stories, The Hatchlings was my particular favourite as I found it to be the funniest and the most unexpected.  Adrian the snail steals the show, in my opinion (particularly while trying to brood some abandoned eggs!) but each of the stories is replete with warmth, adventure and humour.  The endpapers feature a gorgeous map of the woods showing where each animal lives and the illustrations throughout are filled with colour and exuberance.  I can see this being a book that young readers would ask for again and again, because even though the stories are very short, they are memorable and imaginative and fun.  I am super-pleased to have discovered Lucy and her company and I will  be looking out for any further adventures.

Brand it with:

Adventurous animals; fun with friends; don’t antagonise Anton

The Day I Became A Bird (Ingrid Chabbert & Raul Nieto Guridi)

*We received a copy of The Day I Became A Bird from the publisher via Netgalley*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  28665602

On his first day of school, a young boy falls in love.  In order to attract the attention of his beloved, he transforms himself into the thing he knows she will love most.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this unusual and beguiling tale put me immediately in mind of the work of Oliver Jeffers, with its quirky illustrative style and unexpected subject matter.  The boy in the book falls innocently in love with the bird-loving girl who sits in front of him at school, and makes himself a bird costume (despite its obvious impracticalities) in order to attract her attention.  There is something a bit ethereal about the story as a whole and the intended audience is not immediately clear to me.  On the one hand, it is a straightforward and quite cute story about a young boy’s first love, but I also sense that there might be something deeper going on within the pages that I am missing.  Whatever the case, this is a surprising and funny story with a distinct visual style and I would recommend it to any lover of quirky picture books as one to keep an (eagle) eye out for.

Brand it with:

Birds suddenly appear; unwieldy costumery; love takes flight

Surely, SURELY, my friends, there is something in this little herd to catch your eye!  Stay tuned tomorrow for an atmospheric and creepy graphic novel perfect for lovers of mystery and magic!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Children’s Book Week Chaser: Three Visually Stunning Australians…and a Giveaway (Int)!

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picture book perusal button

I know, I know, I’m a week late, but what I have for you this week is definitely worth the wait.  As you may or may not know, last week was Children’s Book Week in Australia and, never one to let the party end once the official celebrations are over, I am happy to announce that the rest of this week will be Children’s Book Week around the Shelf! Woo hoo!  You can expect new release (and a couple of older titles) perfect for the younglings in your life, right here, every day until Friday.

I am also pleased to announce that we’re kicking off with THREE (count ’em!) TOP BOOK OF 2016 PICKS!!

Bruce's Pick

As well as an International GIVEAWAY!!

Before you explode with excitement, let’s crack on!

Today I have three eyeball-burstingly attractive books for you from Australian authors.  One is a heartwarming book about numbers for the littlies, one is a steampunk cautionary tale for the tweens, and one is a jaw-droppingly incredible, atmospheric and significant piece of wordless storytelling for pretty much any age reader.  We should begin with heartwarming, don’t you think?

theres not one

There’s Not One (Jennifer Higgie) Published by Scribble, September 2016. RRP: $24.99

*We received a copy of this title from Scribble Publishing for review*

From Goodreads:

This joyous debut from well-known writer and editor Jennifer Higgie (Frieze Magazine) celebrates both the individual and the diversity of the world around us. In kaleidoscopic colour, Higgie takes young readers on a journey from some of life’s most important things (baked beans!) to some of life’s biggest wonders (stars!). The perfect early picture book for budding art lovers!

To give you an idea about how different There’s Not One by Jennifer Higgie is to your typical “counting” book for preschool aged children, here’s a glimpse of one of the double page spreads:

theres not one page spread

So much for the “One monkey, two bananas, three chunks of poo being flung” format you were expecting!  There’s Not One bypasses the smaller numbers and makes a beeline for those things which are, in many ways, quite difficult to quantify.  Raindrops, for instance.  Stars.  Colours.  Methods of transportation.  This book will attempt, in the most gentle way possible, to stymie your little one’s counting finger and open their mind to a broader perspective on number.  The eldest mini-fleshling in the dwelling seemed to take the phrase “too many to count” as a personal challenge and repeatedly attempted to count the individual stars on the star-counting page.  He happily gave up after a few attempts, and turned his attention to the page with “a zillion” baked beans instead, so in that regard, this is a great book for occupying the attention of the more stubborn younglings of  your acquaintance.

There is a completely unexpected twist at the end of this book that is the perfect way to round out the imagining of numbers of such large scale.  The aforementioned mini-fleshling, on hearing the last few pages of the book, stared off into the distance for a few silent moments, before slowly smiling in a way that indicated a revelation of incredible magnitude had just slithered into his consciousness.  It was quite the most heartwarming thing this stony old gargoyle had seen in quite a while and made the reading experience completely worthwhile.

I would recommend this heartily to those aged between three and maybe seven years; those children who are of an age to get a grasp on the fact that some things come in quantities to large to be counted with a child’s pointing finger.  Having said that, those younger than that will adore the bright colours and patterns, even if they don’t quite grasp the concepts being relayed.

Judging from the mini-fleshling’s reactions to There’s Not One, we have to note that Higgie is on a winner here.

mechanica

Mechanica (Lance Balchin) Published by Five Mile Press, 1st September 2016. RRP: $24.95

*We received a copy of this title from Five Mile Press for review*

From Goodreads:

In this field guide from the future, a dashing explorer—Miss Liberty Crisp—details amazing creatures known as Mechanica: human-created life forms designed to replace extinct species. 

Set in the twenty-third century, the book describes how Earth could no longer support wildlife. The warnings had been ignored. Corporations continued to expose the environment to chemical and radioactive waste, and many Earth species began to disappear. By 2200, vast areas of the world had become uninhabitable and wildlife extinct. In place of the lost wildlife species, the corporations began to create Mechanica. But the Mechanica escaped their confinement, and started to develop in the wild on their own. Filled with inventive and awe-inspiring images and details, this book is sure to spark readers’ imaginations! Kids will marvel at the steampunk-inspired renderings of mechanical bugs, birds, bats, snakes, and more!

Who doesn’t love awesomely inventive creatures repopulating a post-apocalyptic landscape?  No one, that’s who!  Mechanica, with its slightly larger than average hardback format is sure to pull in both reluctant and unstoppable readers alike.  The book begins with a few pages detailing the world in which the mechanica thrive and the circumstances in which they were brought about.  Each page spread features clear and detailed images of the mechanical creature under discussion, plus a brief description of how it came to be and where it is commonly found:

mechanica page spread

The effective use of white space means that younger readers shouldn’t become overwhelmed by the amount of text per creature, and the handy index at the back means that youngsters can look up their favourite mechanica in a snap.  As an adult reader, this is quite an absorbing picture book, given the history and background that has been created for each creature.  The brief descriptions bring to life the environmental chaos that has resulted from the actions of humans and the overall sense of the book had me bringing to mind the “life finds a way” mantra/warning from the original Jurassic Park film!

This book has so many applications for the upper primary classroom that teachers would be foolish not to pick it up.  Off the top of my head I can think of curriculum links for art, history, geography, science, drama and both creative and nonfiction text creation.  Curriculum links aside, though, this is quite simply a beautifully produced text with original and engaging subject matter that will draw the eye of discerning readers of any age.

small things

Small Things (Mel Tregonning) Published by Allen & Unwin, 24th August, 2016. RRP: $29.99

*We received a copy of Small Things from Allen & Unwin for review*

From Goodreads:

On the cusp of having everything slip from his grasp, a young boy has to find a way to rebuild his sense of self. An ordinary boy in an ordinary world. With no words, only illustrations, Small Things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with worries but who learns that help is always close by. An extraordinary story, told simply and with breath taking beauty.

Even before opening this book, it’s obvious that it’s going to be an eye-popping reading experience.  Perhaps it’s for the best then, that this is a wordless picture book and one from which readers will take their own diverse impressions.  Small Things follows a period in the life of a young boy who is obviously struggling emotionally at school and home.  Given that there are no words, it is not explicitly stated that he is suffering from depression or anxiety, but for those who have experienced these afflictions for themselves, the visual cues will be obvious.  As the book continues, the reader is given glimpses into why things might seem so bad for the protagonist – but there are also clues that hope and support are around the corner.

The page spreads range from single page illustrations to the more typical graphic novel format of multiple frames to a page:

small things page spread

I found that these multi-framed pages required a bit of time and energy to peruse, as I didn’t want to miss anything that might be tucked away in the corners of the images, or misinterpret the story because I was skimming.  The monochrome colour scheme is essential to convey the atmosphere of the boy’s headspace, but I found that it too required a more focused approach to “reading” the story.

Despite the end of the story offering some sense of hope and normalisation to the boy’s experience, I was left with a lingering sense of dread that may or may not be related to the personal mental health experiences of the she-fleshling in our dwelling.  Because I jumped straight into the book without first reading the press release that accompanied it, I was unaware that this book is published posthumously to the author’s suicide, and the final illustrations were completed by that giant of Australian story-telling, Shaun Tan.  I left the book with the feeling that the story was poised on a knife-edge, even though the boy’s demeanor indicates that things might be looking up for him.  This ambivalence is no bad thing I suspect, because the complexity of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety invite such contradictions and this is something that needs to be openly discussed and acknowledged.

Although I would recommend this for older children, say upper primary and above, as well as adults, I think readers will engage with this book on their own level.  The more disturbing nuances of the imagery will probably go over the heads of readers at the younger end of the age bracket, but they should still appreciate the need for a sense of belonging and support that the book conveys.  Similarly, older readers will be able to uncover much more complex themes in the visual journey.  Whatever the age and maturity level of the reader however, this is a story that deserves a conversation – so be sure to share your opinion once you have drunk it all in.

Giveaway Time!!

One winner will be able to choose one of the above books as their prize!

This contest is open internationally – hooray!

To enter, answer this question in the comments below: 

Which of these books would you most like to win and why?

Giveaway will run from the moment this post goes live (now!) until midnight, Sunday September 4th, 2016, Brisbane time.

I will select one winner from the pool of eligible comments using a random number generator.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a new winner is chosen.  I will not be responsible for prizes lost or damaged in transit.

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

Fi50 August Challenge!

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It’s Fiction in 50 time for August!  To play along, just create a piece of fiction or poetry based on our monthly prompt in fewer than 51 words, then link your post in the link-up here:

For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click on the attractive button at the top of this post.

Our prompt for this month is…

squeaky wheel

I have titled my contribution…

Waiting Period Served

Dear Mr Smith,

RE: Placement Confirmed

Recent complaints about your incessant whistling, tapping, clicking, sighing, groaning and slumping have resulted in your case being fast-tracked. 

Officials from Below are unwilling to accommodate such behaviours, so I am pleased to offer you a place in Paradise.

Sincerely,

Purgatorial Processing Commission


How’s that for some grease?!  I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with, but in the meantime, our prompt for next month is…

signs and wonders button

Until next time,

Bruce

 

A Love-Note to Secondhand Bookshops…and a Fi50 Reminder…

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imageBefore we crack on with an OzYA ode to bookstores and bookishness, allow me to gently remind you that Fiction in 50 for August kicks off on Monday with the prompt…

squeaky wheel

To participate, just create a piece of prose or poetry in fewer than 51 words, post it somewhere and then link it up to the linky in my post on Monday.  For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click here.


words in deep blue

Today’s book is a bit of an unusual choice for we shelf denizens, given its high lovey-dovey content, but we absolutely enjoyed diving into its unusual format and premise.  We received Words in Deep Blue by Cat Crowley from the publisher via Netgalley and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

You would be forgiven for assuming that a first-line like that one would cause me to immediately roll my eyes, gnash my teeth and run in the opposite direction, but I will admit to being caught by the second line.  The reference to readers writing letters drew me in and I’m glad it did because this really is a coming-of-age story worth getting stuck in to.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Rachel and Henry, ex-best friends who have drifted apart amidst deliberation (Rachel) and confusion (Henry).  Rachel has spent a recent stint away from the town in which she and Henry grew up, nursing grief for the sudden death of her brother and enmity towards Henry, for falling in love with a someone who isn’t Rachel.  Henry, meanwhile, has remained working at his parents’ quirky, failing secondhand bookstore, Howling Books, being tossed on the winds of love by his on-again, off-again girlfriend Amy, and wondering why Rachel is shunning him so completely.  In an unexpected turn of events, Rachel finds herself back in her home town and back facing Henry over a gulf of grief that she can’t put into words.  Henry finds Rachel just as Amy seems to have finally called it quits for good, and his parents mull over whether or not to sell their beloved bookstore, and with it, it would seem, the family’s one safe port in a stormy world.

There’s a real sense of warmth and innocence underpinning Henry’s parts of the novel.  While obviously a bit of a homebody who still needs the security of family and stability, Henry is thrust into some major life changes that are out of his control.  Rachel on the other hand, is prickly, standoffish, and bizarrely protective of her grief, to the point that she won’t reveal the fact of her brother’s recent death to anyone from her hometown.  Both the main characters (and all the others!) are gently flawed and I found a great appeal in seeing how they slowly move toward embracing or rejecting the new opportunities opening up.

The most fantastic non-human character in the story is, of course, Henry’s family’s bookstore, Howling Books.  The descriptions of it make it sound like the most comfortable, lived-in (both figuratively and literally), enticing little book nook that could ever be, and so the thought of losing it struck me almost as hard as it strikes Henry.  I absolutely adored the idea of the Letter Library – a section in the shop where customers can write letters to friends, lovers, strangers – whoever! – and leave them to be found within the pages of the Letter Library tomes.  There is a clever sub-plot relating to Henry’s sister George that utilises this method, and other characters’ stories are fleshed out through glimpses into the letters left within the pages of the books.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves books about bookshops, readers and literature changing lives.  The romance stuff isn’t rammed down your throat, even though it is a main focus of the book, because it feels like an authentic coming-of-age tale rather than a typical YA love triangle type story.  Despite the difficult themes of grief and growing up within the book there is an undeniable charm and geniality that exudes, I suspect, mostly from Howling Books, and keeps the overall reading experience buoyant.  I will think back on this one with fondness and make the startling (for me!) claim that if you only read one book featuring broken hearts this year, you could do a damn sight worse than this one.

Until next time,

Bruce

It’s Random Giveaway Time!

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If you happen to live in Australia, it’s your lucky day, because I’ve decided to throw a random, Australia-only giveaway!

Hooray!

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via GIPHY

I have a choice between two books for the winner.  The first is The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis, which we received from HarperCollins Australia for review.  The writing style just wasn’t for us even though from what we’ve read, the story seems to be a gritty sort of survival adventure.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

wolf road

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

The second choice was sent to us by Allen & Unwin for review and because it is just not my thing, I’m offering it straight up to a more loving home.  It’s Wild One by Jessica Whitman, a romance based around polo and chasing one’s dreams.  Here’s the blurb from Allen & Unwin:

wild one

Love, scandal and seduction in the glamorous world of polo

When Katherine ‘Kat’ Parker wrote and directed a blockbuster movie she became Hollywood’s ‘It Girl’ overnight – until with one flop she wasn’t. Now Kat is back living in Florida trying to find the inspiration to write what she hopes will be her comeback screenplay.

Despite being an exceptionally talented polo player, Sebastian Del Campo has never shared his famous family’s intense passion for the sport. He has, however, excelled at other polo-related activities – like partying hard and having liaisons with beautiful women.

When Sebastian meets Kat he finds her down-to-earth attitude refreshing. Keen to get to know her better, he regales Kat with stories of his trailblazing grandmother, Victoria, who was a pioneering polo player.

Kat’s imagination is fired by Victoria’s story and she realises she’d make a great subject for a screenplay. Seb agrees and the pair head to Hollywood to seek out funding for a film that could make or break both their careers – and their growing feelings for each other . . .

Fun, sexy and entertaining, this novel is about taking a risk to follow your passions in life – and love.

To enter this giveaway and win your choice of one of these two books, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter form…oh, and if you are going to leave an email, make sure it is one you check regularly because I have recently had a number of winners miss out on their prizes because they never responded to the emails I sent telling them they had won 😦

Good luck!

Bruce

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Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: Great Yarns for Tweens…

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It’s time to round up some reads for the young ones featuring outrageous babysitters, spies-in-training and a whole world of magic right under our noses.  Saddle up, let’s get after ’em!

Marge in Charge (Isla Fisher)

*We received a copy of Marge in Charge from Allen & Unwin for review*

marge in charge

Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher Published by Allen & Unwin, 27th July 2016. RRP: $14.99

Two Sentence Synopsis: 

Jemima thinks that being looked after by a babysitter will be boring, but she reckoned without rainbow-haired firecracker Marge!  Now Jemima has to work hard to make sure Marge doesn’t turn the house upside down.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is actually three stories, not one, featuring an old granny with more than a bit of life left in her yet.  In fact, the mini-fleshlings might find it hard to keep up with her spontaneity and sense of fun.  In these three introductory tales, Jemima and her little brother Jake are left in the care of diminutive Marge after their parents go out leaving strict instructions to follow the rules.  Marge, who is a blend of Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee and Fran Drescher, manages to stick to the spirit of the rules, if not the letter, causing chaos and excitement, as well keeping a few tricks up her sleeve in order to save the day.  The first story is our introduction to Marge on a regular night in, the second features a right royal knees-up at a friend’s birthday party, while the third story demonstrates why school visitors need to sign in to the office before attending class.  These stories are perfectly pitched at the 6 to 9 year old age range, being short, action-packed and illustrated throughout.  As a serial read-aloud before bed, or a quick dose of comedy for confident young readers, Fisher has managed to hit the nail on the head with a lovable and quirky old Marge.

Brand it with:

While the cat’s away; age is just a number; serial offender

Archie Greene and the Alchemist’s Curse (D.D. Everest)

*We received a copy of this title from Allen & Unwin for review*

archie greene

Archie Greene and the Alchemist’s Curse by D. D. Everest. Published by Allen & Unwin, 27th July 2016. RRP: $14.99

Two Sentence Synopsis:  

Archie returns to his apprenticeship at the Museum of Magical Miscellany before unexpectedly receiving a second, unforeseen firemark. After discovering that his destiny may require an important choice, Archie and his friends must work together to unearth the secrets of the past, before history repeats itself.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a richly imagined tale set in a thoroughly detailed magical world.  Let’s just get out of the way straight of the bat that there are marked similarities between this story and the Harry Potter series which will be obvious to anyone who has read the latter.  This didn’t put me off particularly though, because Archie is a different sort of a boy to Harry and there are different social and historical aspects at play in Archie’s world.  Within the first few chapters Archie receives a completely unexpected (and quite possibly dangerous) new apprenticeship mark, as well as being told in a highly public (and quite possibly ruinous) fashion that his destiny is cloudy at best.  I had high hopes that I would get sucked into this story in the same way that I did with the Potter series, but this one fell short just a bit – possibly because it is the second in the series and I haven’t read the first.  The author takes great pains to point out the salient bits of information that readers new to the series might need to know, and while this is helpful, it does slow the story significantly in the early stages.  If you can get past the informational asides however, there is a detailed world awaiting you with plenty of spirit and flair, as well as a historical mystery that appears to be replaying itself in the present.  I would be interested to go back to book one and start this series where it is supposed to begin because the writing is quite absorbing, the characters varied and the world thoroughly magical.

Brand it with:

Alternative Potter; Workplace Health & Safety; Destined for Weirdness

The Double Cross: And Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy (Jackson Pearce)

*We received a copy of The Double Cross from Bloomsbury Australia for review*

double cross

The Double Cross by Jackson Pearce. Published by Bloomsbury Australia, August 2016. RRP: $14.99

Two Sentence Synopsis: 

Hale is the most unfit spy at spy school and it doesn’t help that his parents are legendary field agents.  When his parents go missing in action however, Hale must use all his skills to track them down – and avoid the other spies while he’s doing it.

Muster up the motivation because…

…apart from being  a lovely change from the magic/fantasy genre, this is a book that deftly mixes action and humour to create a highly absorbing adventure.  Hale is an immediately likable narrator and we are introduced to him as he uses his brains to outwit his fellow spy-students and avoid the most heinous of punishments: extra push-ups.  There’s a certain unaffected confidence in Hale, despite his obvious physical failings in the fitness department, and when coupled with his sister Kennedy’s boundless energy and advanced spy-sills, the pair ensure that the story moves on apace.  There are layers of mystery to solve here and because everyone involved is a spy or spy-in-training, it’s not immediately apparent who the good guys are.  I’d definitely recommend this to young readers who love action that is blended with characters that don’t take themselves too seriously, in a setting that doesn’t need magic or fantasy to make it seem unreal.

Brand it with:

Saving the parents; constant vigilance; agents in disguise

That’s all I’ve got for you today, so let’s split up and meet back here once you’ve tamed one of these wild reads!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

wild beasts