Shouty Doris Interjects during…The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (plus Recommend Your Favourite Bookstore and Win Stuff!)

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Shouty Doris interjects

It’s Shouty Doris’s first outing of the  year and boy is she champing at the bit to interject on today’s book!  If you love books that feature books and/or bookstores then you’ll definitely want to prick up your ears for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, which we received from Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley.  We are part of the official blog tour, part of which is a sweepstakes asking readers to name their favourite bookstore and win prizes!  If you’d like to participate, just read on to the end of this post, where the information will be waiting for you.

Now let’s get into it. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…


Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town.

Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.the readers of broken wheel recommend

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a translation from the original Swedish.  Translations, in my experience, can be a bit iffy if not done well, but I don’t think the typical reader would even notice that English wasn’t the original language of the story if it wasn’t pointed out to them.

Shouty Doris interjects

I’m just glad the book came fully assembled and not in a flatpack.

I wouldn’t have minded, honestly.  Okay, I promise that’s the last Sweden = Ikea reference for the rest of this review.

Shouty Doris interjectsI make no such promise.

The second thing you should know about this one is that while it is definitely and unequivocally a book about books (and bookstores) it can just as unequivocally be labelled “chick-lit” with all the positive and negative associations that such a label might entail.  I was thoroughly drawn in by the concept of travelling across the world to meet up with someone who has just-this-minute kicked the bucket.  Oddly though, the loss of Amy (Sara’s penpal) was only explored obliquely, through Sara’s decision to open the bookstore using Amy’s vast personal library as a starting point.  Amy’s letters to Sara were also used throughout the book to give a bit of background information on the folk who populate Broken Wheel, which was a nifty touch.

Shouty Doris interjects

I would have preferred more Sweden and less Broken Wheel, if you want my opinion.  I’ve never come across such a depressing bunch of sadsacks as that Broken Wheel lot.  If I was in charge of the universe, I would have taken a tyre jack and replaced the whole town long before they could make it into a novel.

I’m trying not to think about the state the universe would be in if you were in charge of it, Doris, but be that as it may, you do raise a good point.  At the beginning of the tale, Broken Wheel and its inhabitants are a pretty morose lot, given that the economic future of the town doesn’t look so good.  As the story goes on, Sara’s activities in the town rally the residents to start some new projects and adopt some civic pride, but for the first third of the book, forming a bond with the Broken Wheel lot is a bit of a slog.

I loved the description of Sara setting up the bookshop, as it sounds like just the kind of place any self-respecting bookworm would love to inhabit.

Shouty Doris interjectsI’m surprised she didn’t use the Kallax square shelving system complimented with Tisdag lighting selections and the rounded, cosy couches of the Ektorp series.  It would have given the shop a chic, European feel.

Enough with the IKEA references now.

Shouty Doris interjectsSpoilsport.

Although for most of the book, I found it completely inexplicable that people – any people, anywhere – would be ambivalent, or openly hostile towards, the opening of a bookshop.  This was another reason it took me a while to warm to the inhabitants of Broken Wheel – I could honestly not fathom that a person exists in the world who would not be positively disposed to the sudden appearance of a bookshop in their midst.

Shouty Doris interjectsParticularly when their town is so depressing and lacklustre to begin with.

Yes, I think we’ve covered that.

There is a romance subplot here that fervent readers of chick-lit will just adore, between Sara and Amy’s nephew, neither of whom are willing participants to begin with.  Sara’s voice also generates a some fine moments of dry (and not so dry) observation that were quite amusing.

Shouty Doris interjectsI quite liked the bit about the gay erotica shelf.

Yes, that was a highlight for me too.

Bivald has peppered the story with references to all sorts of books, from classics to biographies to Bridget Jones, and I’m sure some readers will savour the chance of using these references to add more books to their TBR lists.

Overall, while I found the story a bit slow-going at times, I think this is going to be warmly received by those who are looking for a comfort read, or would like their faith in the power of reading to solve all of society’s ills bolstered.

Now, onto the sweepstakes!

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The “Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore Campaign” is inspired by the phenomenal support booksellers have given The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, which was selected as the #1 Indie Next Great Read for January 2016

Anyone can nominate their favorite bookstore at http://books.sourcebooks.com/readers-recommend-your-bookstore-sweepstakes/. Sourcebooks will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize; two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald’s fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa). In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, weekly giveaways for those who nominate will be held throughout the campaign. Voting began January 4, and runs until February 19, when the winning bookstores will be announced.

Until next time,

Bruce (and Doris)

Middle Grade Fantasy Spotlight and Giveaway: The Night Parade…

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NightParade-SMGraphicToday I am excited to present to you a new release middle grade fantasy tale from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky that delves into the complex and densely populated world of Japanese folklore and mythology.  The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary features all the struggles one would expect of a young lass having to spend a potentially boring holiday in the countryside, away from her friends and the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, combined with some delightfully unpredictable forays into the spirit world around the shrine in her grandmother’s village.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, and you could be lucky enough to receive a copy too, provided you read on and enter the giveaway!

But let’s get on with it.  Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

In the shadow of the forest, the Night Parade marches on…

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s remote mountain village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki, and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked…and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth- or say goodbye to the world of the living forever.

Night Parade cover

The Night Parade

By Kathryn Tanquary

January 1, 2016; Hardcover ISBN 9781492623244

 Publishers: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

 Now if you haven’t already been sucked in by that eye-poppingly gorgeous cover, allow me to point out some of the aspects of this book I really enjoyed.  Regular readers of this blog will know that we quite enjoy a good foray into books that have any kind of link to Japan, being that it is one of the few places that Mad Martha has had the pleasure of visiting.  (We’ve even got two more Japan-y books coming up at the end of January!) Clearly then, The Night Parade was a book that certainly caught my attention and I loved the wide variety of yokai (Japanese spirits) that made an appearance in Saki’s adventures.  Having recently enjoyed the series of guest posts over at Part-Time Monster featuring various Japanese creepies, including the Tsukumogami – or spirits of old, disused, forgotten inanimate household items, including umbrellas, sandals and lanterns – I was beyond excited to see these bizarre and quirky spirits get a whole section of the story for their own towards the end of the book.

The growing relationship between Saki and her grandmother was also a highlight.  Throughout the story, Saki begins to realise that the problems of a reasonably spoilt teenager are not necessarily the worst difficulties that one could be burdened with, and her developing recognition of the needs of others was neatly executed, without any corny preaching to the target audience.

The story is quite episodic, with Saki exploring a different part of the spirit world over the three nights that she is given to reverse her curse.  These “episodes” are all different in tone, with the first having the creepiest atmosphere, the second cramming in the most action and the third devoted to solving the problems of broken relationships.  Even the most jaded reader of middle grade fantasy could not fault the sheer diversity of fantastic and mythological characters brought to bear on Saki’s quest, and those who are looking for a change of scenery from the usual middle grade fare will appreciate the world-building – and the potential for further research into the plethora of Japanese folk spirits – found here.

The only thing that slowed the pace for me during reading was the inclusion of some fairly typical “teen angst” type episodes in which Saki grapples with the pressures of trying to fit in with the cool kids both at home in Tokyo and in her grandmother’s village.  While these sections are important in terms of Saki’s overall growth throughout the novel, they felt like the same old grist for the middle grade mill that regular readers of books for this age group will have seen ad infinitum.  With such a little-used and in-depth fantasy world playing out in the rest of the story, I was a bit disappointed that the non-fantasy part of the plot trotted out such a well-worn storyline.

Overall though, this is a breath of fresh air in the middle grade market and I hope some other authors jump on the bandwagon and treat us to some more adventures featuring the world of Japanese mythology.  For now though, you’ll have to be satisfied getting stuck in to The Night Parade, in all its quirky, creepy, expansive glory!

But don’t take my word for it.  Read some for yourself!

Excerpt from The Night Parade:

In the dead of night, she woke to three cold fingers on her neck.

Saki blinked in the darkness. The sliding door was open to the forest. The fingers pressed against her jugular, and bright, thundering panic surged through her body.

The fingers curled down toward her throat.

She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her jaw was locked shut. Her hands groped for her phone under the futon. Before she reached it, she touched her grandfather’s worn-­out charm. The three fingers retracted, leaving her skin cold and bloodless.

“Oh good, you’re awake.” She heard her brother’s voice.

Saki flipped around. Lying on her back, she stared up into a pair of eyes.

It was not her brother.

It knelt next to her on the tatami floor, knees brushing the edge of her pillow. Her brother’s futon was empty, and the blankets were flung around the room. It may have been Jun’s body kneeling there, but whatever stared back at her was not her brother.

The clouds shifted, and light fell through the open door, burning moon-­blue on everything it touched. Her not-­brother’s eyes reflected the light like a will-­o’-­the-­wisp.

“I thought you might sleep through it.” The creature smiled. Her brother’s teeth seemed sharper than usual.

Saki touched her hand to her jaw. It unlocked. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sleep through what?”

It leaned over. She stared into its will-­o’-­the-­wisp’s eyes.

“The Night Parade, of course.”

With a single movement, it was standing by the crack in the door. The forest stretched on into the night.

“Get up, get up! We’re late already.”

Saki scrambled to her knees. She pulled a blanket around her shoulders and clutched her phone to her chest.

“W-­what have you done to my brother?”

It rolled her brother’s eyes around the room and licked his teeth. “Impressive, isn’t it?” It opened its arms and looked down at the body it had taken. “Of course, beautiful maidens are traditional, but we must work with what we have, no?”

Saki eyed the backpack in the corner. It was heavy enough to swing in a pinch. “If you touch me, I’ll scream.”

The creature with her brother’s body became very serious. “Oh no, that won’t do any good. They won’t hear you anyway. This is your burden, little one.” It barked out laughter, eyes wide open, reflecting the moon.

“This is crazy. Jun, if you’re playing a joke, it isn’t funny. I’m telling—­”

“Why do you refuse to believe what you observe to be true?” it asked. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, girl. You invited me here.”

Saki blinked. “What?”

It dropped on her brother’s knee beside her. “Don’t you remember? On hallowed ground, you put your hands to the summoning table. You called out our names. You rang the bell. So we came to you, as we must. Well, I came to you.”

“You’re Kokkuri-­san?”

“No and yes. I am the first of three. The others will be along later.”

“Others?”

“Oh yes. I’m always the first, whether I like it or not. The third you will like very much. Everyone likes him. But the second…” It covered her brother’s mouth as a malevolent glee twinkled in its eyes. “Oh my. I daresay you will not like him at all. Very…scary.” It curled and uncurled her brother’s fingers.

“No,” Saki said. “No. No, no, no, no.” She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled into a ball on the floor. “This is crazy. This is insane. This is not happening. I am asleep and having a dream. When I wake up, it will be over.”

The creature sighed. “Very well. If that is your final decision…”

Saki waited underneath the blanket. The wind whistled through the cracks of the old house, but after more than five minutes, she heard no sounds of the stranger anywhere. Bit by bit, she peeled back the blanket and peeked over the top.

Her brother slept soundly on a mess of tousled blankets. His face squished against his pillow as he drooled a bit down the side. His eyes were closed and didn’t shine at all in the moonlight. Saki wrapped her blanket around her shoulders as she rose to shut the open door.

On the wooden walkway in full moonlight sat a fox with four tails.

Praise for The Night Parade:

“Wonder and imagination abound in Tanquary’s debut, a fantasy set in a contemporary Japanese mountain village; filled with respect and admiration for cultural tradition, it evokes both Grimm’s fairy tales and Miyazaki’s films…Vivid details and realistic situations ensure accessibility, and subtle teaching moments are wrapped in wide-eyed enchantment.” –Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

An entertaining mix of Japanese folklore and teen angst” –School Library Journal

“Highly imaginative, beautifully written and what a wonderful book that talks about becoming true to oneself. While reading this all I could picture was a Miyazaki film in my head, and it was beautiful!”–Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO)

Goodreads Link:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25821928-the-night-parade?from_search=true&search_version=service

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/SA2z1

Apple- http://ow.ly/SA6rO

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/SA2Tv

BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/SA3qk

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/SA45o

IndieBound- http://ow.ly/SA4tE

 

About the Author:Night parade author shot

Kathryn Tanquary is a graduate of Knox College with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She currently resides in Japan as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.

Social Networking Links:

http://kathryntanquary.com/

@KathrynTanquary

Now, onto the giveaway!  Unfortunately for us Southern Hemispherites, this one is only open to residents of the USA and Canada (booo!).  If you happen to live in one of those locales (lucky you!) you can enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below:.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Until next time,

Bruce
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An Engineer and a Philosopher Walk into a Time Tunnel: The Princelings of the East Blog Tour!

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the princelings trilogy

You know that old joke, don’t you? The one where the engineer and the philosopher walk into a time tunnel?  Well, if you haven’t heard it, let me be the first to introduce you to friend-of-the-shelf, indie author Jemima Pett’s adventure series for all ages: The Princelings of the East! We shelf-dwellers are very pleased to be participating in the tour, hosted by My Family’s Heart, to promote the first three books in this six book series.

Now, while I say that the tour is promoting the first three books in the imageseries, I only managed to get through the first two before my tour date crept up on me, so I’ll be focusing in on those two today. I should also mention that I acquired the trilogy by winning a competition run by Jemima herself a veritable age ago and this tour gave me the perfect opportunity to knock two books off my TBR and re-home them on my permanent shelf – hurrah!

To start us off, here’s the blurb for the trilogy from Goodreads:

Suitable for all ages, The Princelings of the East is a trilogy relating the adventures of unlikely guinea pig heroes Fred and George. Two innocents abroad, they solve problems caused by unintended consequences, commercial greed, and blind prejudice yet still find time to engage in troubled love affairs and nearly blow themselves up with their own inventions.

Oh yes, did I mention that the engineer and the philosopher are, in fact, guinea pigs? Sorry for the oversight. I suspect that the reason this trilogy has sat on my TBR unread for so long is because I am mildly wary of books based around anthropomorphic animals. I’m pleased to say, however, that the writing here is such that the guinea pig thing is hardly an issue and when I did remember I was reading about guinea pigs, the mental image always gave me a little giggle. Essentially, Fred, George and the gang definitely grew on me quite quickly.

princelings one

Book one of the trilogy is The Princelings of the East in which we are introduced to Fred and George’s world – a world made up of castles full of guinea pigs, each with their own royal lineages. In this book, the Castle on the Marsh (or Castle Marsh for short) is experiencing strange and highly inconvenient energy drains and Fred (the philosopher) and George (the engineer) decide to throw caution to the wind and venture forth from Castle Marsh to see if they can discover the cause of the Energy Drain.

Almost immediately the brothers are separated and while Fred is led onwards by a stranger with an unusual accent and plus-sized girth, George finds himself in a different castle that seems to be labouring under some very odd chronological anomalies. As the brothers puzzle out the mysteries that they are faced with in their separate situations, we are introduced to a host of other characters and must riddle out, along with Fred and George, who is trustworthy and who might not be who they appear to be.

I was surprised at the cerebral nature of the writing in what I originally thought was a middle-grade story. Much of Fred’s adventure is taken up with political to-and-fro-ing as high profile members from other castles become involved in solving the problem of the Energy Drain and diplomatic relations between various castles are carefully managed. George, in the meantime, is left to unravel the mystery of a tunnel that appears to transport its users to other times, while also assisting in the streamlining of production processes of a widely exported diet drink.

At times, during Fred’s story arc, I felt a bit like I was reading Jane Austen (for guinea pigs) and during George’s, I felt like I’d fallen into Back to the Future (for guinea pigs). While this might sound an unpromising match, it actually worked really well to keep me engaged. And as I mentioned before, whenever I remembered that these were guinea pigs – riding in carriages, fixing industrial vending machines and the like – it gave me a chuckle. It’s rare that you find a book that is pitched nominally at children that also has enough intellectual material in the plot to keep adults interested, but this is one of those books.

the princelings two

The second book in the trilogy is The Princelings and the Pirates which does exactly what it says on the tin, plunging Fred, George, some of the guys we met in the first book and some new furry faces into a good old, piratey adventure. This book had a much lighter tone than the first and the action – in terms of deck-swabbing, swashbuckling, kidnapping and the like – increases tenfold. The book opens with Princess Kira of Dimerie, a prime wine-producing kingdom, kidnapped by pirates – guinea pig pirates, obviously – and when the other castles send emissaries to find out why the wine supply has dried up, said emissaries, including Fred and George, are press-ganged into the pirate life.

As well as the general pirate business, there’s also a surprise in store for the brothers as they discover a certain bad seed nestled in the branches of their family tree, suffer some critical injuries and aid in the effort to subdue the pirate menace. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, being partial to tales set on the high seas and the whole “main characters are guinea pigs” thing really had me giggling as my mind boggled at some of the more swashbuckly battle scenes in which the characters engage.  This book also had many more touching scenes as friends, new and old, fall into dangerous situations and the thin line between life and death becomes a tenuous one to walk.

I really appreciated the diversity between the two tales and now I’m chomping at the bit (of lettuce) to get at book three, The Princelings and the Lost City, which as I mentioned, I didn’t get time to read before this post.

princelings three

Starting this series has been enlightening, and I feel I’ve been inspired to take another look at Brian Jacques’ Redwall series – if I can enjoy adventurous guinea pigs so much, surely battle-hardened squirrels will be right up my alley!

If you are looking for an adventure series that will give your brain and your funny-bone a work out, then I can heartily recommend having a look at the Princelings series. It’s certainly got a wider appeal than just middle grade aged readers.

If you’d like to find out more about the series, you can go here and if you’d like to check out Jemima Pett’s blog, you can do that here.

Until next time,

Bruceimage

Shouty Doris interjects during…Aussie debut novel The Bit in Between!

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Shouty Doris interjects

Doris has joined me today for Aussie author Claire Varley’s debut adult contemporary novel, The Bit in Between, which features two mildly confused twentysomethings trying to nut out identity, destiny and love in the Solomon Islands. We received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia as part of the blog tour for the book’s Australian release – thanks Pan Mac Aus!

As Doris is shelfside today, you can almost be guaranteed that a spoiler of two will slip out. I try to tell her, but you know how she is. You’ve been warned. But let’s get on.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately.

Inexplicably.

Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with ‘happily ever after’.

the bit in between

Now I know that I have a blanket policy of disliking romance books on sight – it comes from having a heart of stone, you see – but I do like to give an affirmative response when asked to review new release contemporary Australian books. This is mostly because I like to keep at least half an eye on what many people are picking up when they wander into a bookshop. So while I was interested in the Solomon Islands setting and the sun-dried tomatoes, particularly, I did have a certain sense of trepidation on entering this story, given that it is advertised as a love story of sorts.

I was happy to discover, however, that The Bit in Between is much more a story about relationships than romance. Phew. Oliver and Alison are an unusual pair, who sort of fall into a spontaneous relationship as much out of a shared sense of ennui as anything else. Oliver is a semi-successful published writer who hates what his publisher did to his debut novel, while Alison is adrift after an unsuccessful relationship with an attractive, narcissistic quasi-poet. I will admit that I didn’t particularly warm to Oliver at all throughout the book, but I became quite fond of Alison by the end.

Shouty Doris interjects

I didn’t like Oliver either. He needed a good kick up the backside with a pointy-toed shoe. Lazy sod. Instead of moping about and whinging about having writer’s block he should have spent his time getting a haircut and a real job. A bit of gainful employment and he wouldn’t have to worry so much about his girlfriend leaving him.

And that Alison! What a nincompoop! What on earth possessed her to take a fancy to that Ed character to begin with? And once she’d escaped from his tedious, self-absorbed clutches, why on earth would she go back?! Young people nowadays! It wouldn’t have happened in my day.

Ahem. Hold on there, Doris. I hadn’t even mentioned Ed yet.

Shouty Doris interjects

Well hurry up then. None of us is getting any younger. At my age, I’m lucky if I make it to the next commercial break.

Yes, well. Once the happy pair decamp to the Solomon Islands, the planned setting of Oliver’s anticipated tour de force, we are introduced to two characters who have the potential to be the most annoying creatures in contemporary literature. Rick is a loud-mouthed, thrill-seeking, hard-drinking American working for an NGO, who befriends Oliver and becomes an entrenched feature in the lives of the two Australians. Ed is Alison’s aforementioned ex-boyfriend who arrives in the Solomons unexpectedly and creates a fair bit of havoc (as well as some truly dreadful poetry).

Out of the two, I much preferred Rick. His interactions never failed to provide a bit of comic relief and I particularly enjoyed his plans to make his (as yet unnamed) band a sound to be reckoned with in the Pacific region and beyond. Similarly, his bout of malaria was quite amusing in both its outrageous enactment and the fact that one couldn’t help but indulge in a bit of schadenfreude. Ed, however, was just a pain in the proverbial. I have to agree with Doris, in that I didn’t find the storyline between Alison and Ed convincing at all, especially considering Alison’s personal growth throughout her time helping local women in the Solomons.

Shouty Doris interjects

A waste of space all round – both the storyline and the bloke.

The part of the book that I enjoyed the most was the inclusion of mini-narratives about minor characters – taxi drivers, passers-by, shop assistants – that gave a hint of these characters’ back stories and provided a bit of an interlude during transitions in the main story.

Shouty Doris interjects

I agree. All of the minor characters’ stories were more interesting than Oliver’s; I’ll tell you that for nothing. Even his ending was ambiguous – like the author couldn’t even be bothered to give him a definitive closing sentence. To be honest, I was hoping for the plane crash he was planning on writing.

That’s a bit harsh, Doris.

Shouty Doris interjects

I’d eject my own seat if I was stuck between him and Ed on a plane.

Well, your animosities for fictional characters aside, the ending to the story is quite ambiguous. I suspect that a particular interpretation is somewhat implied, but I was quite happy to deliberately ignore that interpretation and craft a much more satisfying (to me) ending in my mind. I think people will take what they want to out of the ending, depending on how they feel about the characters and relationships overall.

All in all, this was a strange beast of a read. It has elements of romance, social issues, personal growth, destiny versus decision-making, grief, loss, happiness, achievement and just a touch of something that could be magical realism. For all that though, the fact that I only really connected with one of the main characters made the read not all that it could have been. On the other hand, the variety of elements in the story, and the unexpectedness (unlikeliness?) of some of the events will keep readers on their toes in what will certainly be a great pick for those looking for a holiday romance novel with a bit of real life thrown in.

Shouty Doris interjects

Next time, there should be more about the women, who were the only ones doing anything meaningful, and less about silly blokes who couldn’t change a light bulb between them with an electrified light-bulb changing machine. Honestly, men just drag down a good story.

Present company excepted, of course, eh Doris?

Shouty Doris interjects

Definitely not.

Right. Fine.

Ignore the old bird, try the book.

Until next time,

Bruce

Unhappenings Review Tour…

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Welcome to my stop on the Review Tour for new release, time travel, sci-fi, adventure novel Unhappenings by Edward Aubrey.  Make yourself at home!  This tidy and complex little number is published by Curiosity Quills, from whom I received a copy of this book.

Feast your eyes on this gorgeous cover:

unhappenings coverIsn’t it beautiful? But of course, judging a book only by its cover would just be silly *cough*, so here is some further information to entice you:

When Nigel Walden is fourteen, the UNHAPPENINGS begin. His first girlfriend disappears the day after their first kiss with no indication she ever existed. This retroactive change is the first of many only he seems to notice.

Several years later, when Nigel is visited by two people from his future, he hopes they can explain why the past keeps rewriting itself around him. But the enigmatic young guide shares very little, and the haggard, incoherent, elderly version of himself is even less reliable. His search for answers takes him fifty-two years forward in time, where he finds himself stranded and alone.

And then he meets Helen.

Brilliant, hilarious and beautiful, she captivates him. But Nigel’s relationships always unhappen, and if they get close it could be fatal for her. Worse, according to the young guide, just by entering Helen’s life, Nigel has already set into motion events that will have catastrophic consequences. In his efforts to reverse this, and to find a way to remain with Helen, he discovers the disturbing truth about the unhappenings, and the role he and his future self have played all along.

Equal parts time-travel adventure and tragic love story, Unhappenings is a tale of gravely bad choices, and Nigel’s struggle not to become what he sees in the preview of his worst self.

And of course you’re now wondering what kind of finely-tuned, creative, literary mind could conjure such an audacious story, and so here is some information about Mr. Aubrey himself:

Edward Aubry is a graduate of Wesleyan University, with a degree in music composition. edward aubrey unhappenings tour Improbably, this preceded a career as a teacher of high school mathematics and creative writing.

Over the last few years, he has gradually transitioned from being a teacher who writes novels on the side to a novelist who teaches to support his family. He is also a poet, his sole published work in that form being the sixteen stanza “The History of Mathematics.”

He now lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three spectacular daughters, where he fills his non-teaching hours spinning tales of time-travel, wise-cracking pixies, and an assortment of other impossible things.

Find Edward Aubry Online:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

And ultimately, of course, you are waiting to hear what I thought of the book.  Well, wait no longer, weary traveller, for I shall now metaphorically spill the metaphorical beans on this very intriguing take on time travel and its consequences.

I haven’t read a good time-travel yarn in quite a while – I think the last one was Backward Glass and that was ages and ages ago (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that being the last one) [*update* I just checked my records and I’ve read at least four time travel jaunts since Backward Glass…obviously they didn’t leave much of an impression...] – so I was most pleased to jump back into one of my favourite sub-genres of science fiction.

Unhappenings is a highly original take on the well-trodden time travel path, and has a much greater focus on the consequences for human relationships from meddling with time than any other story I’ve read in the genre.  The book begins with Nigel recounting his early experiences with the mysterious and confusing unhappenings that occured at random intervals throughout his teenage years.  Essentially, Nigel began to notice that time seemed to move differently for him than for most people – he’d mention conversations or experiences that none of the other people involved seemed to remember, his teachers would suddenly disappear, alter or reappear without so much as a passing comment from his classmates, and in the most severe instances, people he became close to were retroactively wiped from existence.

This was a really intriguing premise and I fell right into the story as Nigel recounts the major incidents of these early unhappenings and reflects on the patterns he felt were forming at the time.  Of course, as the story is narrated by a much older Nigel, the reader is privy to a few extra intriguing tidbits that poor old teen Nigel is not.  This added to the puzzle solving element of the story for me and of course I became enthralled in trying to figure out what was going on before it was revealed.

This, however, turned out to be nigh on impossible.

The story is set out in parts, with each part relating to a different person in Nigel’s sphere of reference.  The early part is dedicated to Nigel’s experiences with a mysterious girl who appears at certain points in Nigel’s journey and gives him little to no information about what’s going on – except the fact that she too experiences these unhappenings.

Actually, before I get sucked into explaining the different characters and so forth, I’m going to abandon the attempt because I don’t think it’s the best way to describe the experience of reading Unhappenings.

If you are a fan of sci-fi, you will probably enjoy this book.  If you are a fan of stories featuring time travel, you will probably enjoy this book.  If you enjoy a book with a strong premise that is executed with precision and skill, you will definitely enjoy this book.  This is a story with a lot going on, both action-wise and relationship-wise, and there is plenty of bang for your buck with over 100 pretty meaty chapters.

Aubrey has done a stellar job at creating an original take on time travel that is highly complex, and best of all, he doesn’t let the mechanics of it all get away from him.  There are multiple time-streams in play here and Aubrey masterfully controls each and every one, so there are no points at which I was forced to go, “HEY! That couldn’t have happened because *insert plot hole here*”.  By the end of this mind-bendingly extensive tale, I was perfectly content that I had just experienced a fresh and daring take on an old favourite theme.

Overall, I was really impressed with this offering, and I suspect that Aubrey will pop onto a whole bunch of “one to watch” lists for those who are introduced to him through Unhappenings.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Attention Teachers/Parents/Librarians/Bookish Folk! Want to Win a Virtual Author Visit? Well, Have Stanley and Katrina got News for You!

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You may remember that a while back I reviewed a little epistolatory tome by super pet authors Stanley and Katrina – The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets! Well, those super pets are at it again, offering YOU and YOUR GROUP the chance to win a virtual author visit! Read on for details of how to enter….

Dear Teachers/Parents/Librarians/Principals/Superintendents/PTA Representives and Others: 

Stanley & Katrina’s paws are dancing because they are offering their Virtual Author Visit Package Giveaway for the second year in a row, as a part of the paw-some Children’s Book Week Kid Lit Giveaway Hop.

One winner will receive a 20 minute virtual author visit from Neighbour Girl (of Stanley and Katrina) for the group of their choice AND a Kindle copy of The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets for each member of the group!

All of the details are below. Scroll down to view the Rafflecopter entry form or click here to enter now, and then take a look at the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews & Youth Literature Reviews for many more children’s book giveaways going on this week. 

 

Thank you..

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post and visiting, today.

Prize: One winner will receive a 20 minute virtual author visit with Neighbor Girl (of Stanley&Katrina) via Skype or Google+ Hangouts for the group of their choice (classroom, family, homeschool group, etc.) AND a Kindle copy of The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets for every member of the group.* If the winner is located within the US, they will also receive one print and signed copy of The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets

*Group size is a max of 30 individuals for this prize. 
Contest Ends: May 18, 11:59 pm 2014, EST 
Open: Internationally, please note that Neighbor Girl only speaks English. 
How to Enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. 
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Pinterest. This giveaway is sponsored by Stanley & Katrina and is hosted and managed by Cool Mom/Christine. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send an email to StanleyandKatrina(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Read-it-if Review: YA Fantasy Novella “Miyuki” and a GIVEAWAY!

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bannermiyuki

Good morning to you all! Before we begin, I’d like you to have a look outside…what’s the weather like today? Any fires predicted for your tranquil bush home? Are there likely to be rockfalls rattle-tattling down your mountain-side mecca?  Is that the mother of all thunder storms cracking outside your window? Well if any or all of these are lurking on your weather radar, today’s book reviews are definitely something you should keep your eye on.

I am very pleased to be part of the blog tour for Veronica Bane’s young adult fantasy novella, Miyuki, which is book two in the Unusuals series.  The tour  is running from March 1st to April 1st, and I’m lucky last on the tour.  Which could also be lucky for you, as I’m also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win paperback copies of the first two books in the series – hurrah! Giveaway info is at the end of the post.

As today’s review is of the second book in the series, I’ll also give you a handy rundown on the goings on of book one, entitled Mara.  In Mara, we are introduced to a group of teens living in the less than idyllic town of Jericho.  Things have always been a bit off-kilter down good ol’ Jericho way, what with general dislike and persecution of the Natives, and some decidedly odd goings on throughout the years.  During this book, we meet Mara, a reasonably unlikeable young lass who is grappling with a difficult family history and trying to come to terms with the fact that she can manipulate fire. As in, throw flaming fireballs from her hands and such like.  Mara begins to seek out others of her ilk, and discovers that Jericho has its fair share of “Unusuals” – people with certain superhuman abilities – but that being an Unusual also comes with a good chance of an early death at the hands of some of Jericho’s haters.

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In book two, we pick up the story after Mara and some other Unusuals, Miyuki being one, find out who has been trying to pick them off.  Miyuki, manipulator of water and granddaughter of Katsumi, a long time resident of Jericho, has to learn how to use her abilities to fight in order to protect herself and the other Unusuals on her side.  Because, not every Unusual sees things the way Miyuki does.  Enter the mysterious and mixed-up Nayara and things are about to get violent. Fatally violent.

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Read it if:

– you’ve ever considered yourself a little bit…out of the ordinary

– you’re a misfit, a rebel on the run, and no one understands you…especially not your vengeful gun-toting brother, or the other thugs that have been hired specifically to kill you…yep, ESPECIALLY not them

– you suspect you may be in possession of very mild superpowers

– you enjoy your YA gritty, edgy and with a side dose of super-charged fight and flight

These two books felt very different from the general fare of YA fantasy being served up just at the moment.  The stories had some real suspense and  a pervading sense of fear woven into the mystery of just who is hunting the Unusuals and what they might want the talented kids for.  They are also reasonably quick reads, coming in at under 200 pages each, which is great if you’re looking for something that won’t bog you down for weeks on end while you plough through the previous book in order to get up to speed with the new release.

I was reminded of nothing so much as movies like the X-men while I was reading these two, and I would really LOVE to see these books in graphic novel format.  There’s a lot of action and the writing really paints a picture while you are reading, and I just feel that the characters and their story would work perfectly in an illustrated format.

These books would be the perfect choice for YA readers looking for a break from your standard high fantasy, but don’t want to bother with love-triangle romances or urban fantasy with a long, complicated back story.  Mara and Miyuki are the perfect novellas to jump into for a break from reality involving a bit of superhumanity, a bit of crash-bang-wallop and a bit of psychological thriller wrapped in a bite-size package.

So now for the giveaway! This one is only open to residents of the US (sorry non-US-ians) and the winner will receive paperback copies of both Mara and Miyuki.  To enter, just click on the rafflecopter link below (and good luck!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

small fryOh, and just for the record, these books fit right in to category four of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with someone’s name in the title. Just sayin’.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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