Moth Girls and Crystal Cadets: A Double-Dip Review…

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imageGrab your snack of choice and slather it in a conglomeration of sauces because it’s time for the first double-dip review of 2016!  Today I have a YA, not-your-average-murder-mystery and a manga-style graphic novel for the younger middle grade set.  I received both of today’s titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s get dipping!

First up, we have Moth Girls by Annie Cassidy.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Helplessly drawn like moths to the light, two girls go missing in an evocative and gripping tale . . .

They called them the Moth Girls because they were attracted to the house. They were drawn to it. Or at least that is what is written in the newspapers that Mandy reads on the anniversary of when her two best friends went missing. Five years have passed since Petra and Tina were determined to explore the dilapidated house on Princess Street. But what started off as a dare ended with the two girls vanishing. As Mandy’s memories of the disappearance of her two friends are ignited once again, disturbing details will resurface in her mind.

Dip into it for…moth girls

…an in-depth examination of teen friendships, loyalty and the impact of disappearances on those left behind.  Needless to say, there are some twists in this book and I’m not going to say much about them lest I spoil the reading experience for others.  The story is told in a number of parts, some focused on the present and some on the time of the girls’ disappearance.  As more details are revealed, it is clear that the friendship between Mandy, Petra and Tina was rocky at times and there are other factors at play that contributed to the mystery surrounding the big house.  This is certainly one pitched at the upper end of the YA market for its complex interweaving of different storylines.

Don’t dip if…

you find mopey teens annoying.  Mandy is, admittedly, a bit of a pill and despite being the main character is the least interesting of the three girls.  Thankfully, the other voices and shifting timeframes generally compensate for this.  Also, if you don’t like a circuitous story, this is definitely not for you.  There are plenty of loose ends that are gradually tied up (although some are left hanging!), and the jumping between points of view requires some good memory on the part of the reader.

Overall Dip Factor

This turned out to be a solid, well-realised mystery story that ended with a twist that was simultaneously unexpected and completely logical.  I would definitely recommend this to those looking for a read focusing on younger characters, but featuring some pretty heavy issues, without any sense of “This is YA fiction” about it. 

Next up we have Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole, Katie O’Neill and Paulina Ganucheau.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Tantalizing and lively – Booklist Cadets Go! Join this team of darkness-fighting, world-saving, power-packed teen girls from all over the world on their first adventure! Zoe has always felt out of place; her foster parents are great and all, but she’s long felt like something was missing. That is, of course, until she discovers a mysterious gem left to her by her birth mother and her whole universe gets flipped around! When the crystal grants Zoe mysterious powers of light she becomes the Diamond Cadet, and she’s not the only one; suddenly she’s meeting new friends who shoot flames and glowing green arrows. It’s all fun at first, but when The Darkness possesses Zoe’s foster parents her only choice is to join this wild group of action-hero girls, traveling the globe to defeat The Darkness and find a cure!”

Dip into it for…crystal cadets

…an action-packed tale of girl power that will remind you of lazy hours spent watching Saturday morning cartoons.  The art is manga-style and will appeal, I suspect, to those who do like a cartoonish style and the characters are a diverse bunch of young ladies from various countries, all of whom have been chosen to be guardians of the earth.  The style and simple plot will appeal to the younger end of the middle grade market and the concept of all-powerful, butt-kicking young girls with the ability to summon cute flying mythical mounts in order to save the world is designed to draw in the female demographic.

Don’t Dip if…

…you’re after a graphic novel featuring an in-depth plot, or indeed, any real explanation of the workings behind the girls’ powers.  The storyline is devoid of much information regarding how these girls got their powers (apart from the fact that they have been “passed down” from their mothers) and each girl seems to accept her new powers without question.  There is also a bit of a corny tone to the plot with the “Darkness” feeding off bad behaviour – cheating, lying and bad manners, for example – and at times it felt a little bit too preachy for me.

Overall Dip Factor

I’m really unsure how current readers of graphic novels in the middle-grade age bracket will take this one.  While the action is non-stop from start to finish, the themes of female friendship, teamwork and “being good” feel a bit overdone and didactic.  This might be better engaged as a “gateway” read for non-readers of graphic novels at the lower end of the middle grade age bracket to bolster a positive perception of graphic novels amongst reluctant readers.

There we are then – two very different tomes, but hopefully something that might take you back for a second dip.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Some Festive Frivolity: How to Draw Sharks…

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It may sound odd to you Northern Hemispherites, equating festive frivolity with sharks, but where I come from, having a shark intrude on your Christmas relaxation time is a very real possibility.  Provided you spend part of the Christmas break in the water. At the beach.

And of course, we all know that Sharknadoes could happen at any time.

Anyway.

Today I have a brief but shark-filled offering from the intriguingly named Arkady Roytman, from the publisher via Netgalley, that features everyone’s favourite ocean predator: How to Draw Sharks.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

With this step-by-step guide on how to create images of the marine world’s fierce predators, kids can learn to draw creatures from the top of the ocean’s food chain in just a few simple steps. This easy-to-follow book illustrates the use of basic geometric shapes to form 31 varieties of sharks, from the great white and the hammerhead to the tiger, bull, and saw sharks. Blank practice pages offer plenty of room to perfect your style.

how to draw sharks

I wouldn’t normally request such a book for review on this blog, as you loyal readers would well know, but for some reason I became enamoured of the slightly, not-very-inspiring-but-certainly-achievable image on the cover.  So I thought “What the heck! Sharks have a place on the Shelf after all!” and requested it.  And I even had a crack at drawing the cute little guy on the cover:

great white

And it would have been remiss of me not to include witty speech bubbles.

The Great White of the cover turned out to be pretty simple to achieve and so I had a crack at some of the other, more obscure shark breeds.  Here’s the Crested Bullhead shark:

crested bullhead

See what I did there?

And here’s the mildly-anxious-looking bamboo shark…

bamboo shark

…complete with a quote borrowed from Marvin the Paranoid Android.

To be honest, this isn’t the greatest step-by-step guide I’ve ever seen.  Sure, there are four steps to each drawing, but  the order of the steps is not immediately clear as they are not numbered.  Similarly, there are quite a few alterations at each step and inexperienced or younger readers may find it tricky to follow the steps without getting frustrated.  The first step for each drawing consists of a collection of basic shapes, which is easy enough, but subsequent steps include dashed lines and heavier lines that indicate line breaks or overlaps.  The meanings of these line breaks and heavier lines is never clearly articulated however, so it is left to the individual to figure out their meanings (and how they will render them on paper).  I will admit to having a bit of difficulty with the latter two drawings, but I got there in the end.

And I’m quite happy with the results.

One of the good things about the book is that apart from including a whole slew of obscure (to me) shark breeds, there are a range of different positions featured as well.  This means that you aren’t just drawing all sharks face-on or side-on, but have a variety of options to pick from.  Also, as there were some shark breeds here that I had never seen before, it encouraged me to actually do a bit of research and find out some more about these mysterious, toothy creatures.

Overall, I do feel that this is a pretty specific topic to base a drawing book around – I would have plumped for a “How to Draw Sea Creatures” title before I honed in on one specific species, ordinarily- but if you are a shark obsessive lover you’ll go head over fin for this tome.

And it’s a good starting point for generating your own hilarious shark-based cartoons. (See above).

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: Graphic Novel Edition…

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Welcome to my first reading round-up of the week! On Friday we’ll be lassooing some of the odder titles roaming the literary plains, but today we’ll be focusing on a herd of bright, flashy graphic novels.  Hi Ho Readers, Away!

Henni (Miss Lasko-Gross)

HenniTwo Sentence Synopsis:

Henni lives in a society ruled by religious zealots.  Her father taught her to question, and when her natural curiosity threatens to undermine her safety, Henni sets off to find answers to her big questions.

Muster up the motivation because:

Apart from the striking black and white artwork and humanimal characters, there’s plenty of depth to be uncovered in Henni’s wanderings.  There are lots of social issues touched upon here and the reader can ponder upon them as deeply as they please, or just enjoy Henni’s coming-of-age story in a strange, original context.  There’s even a dissenter that Henni comes across, performing his own, scultpural version of yarn-bombing who I particularly identified with.

Brand it with:

Spiritual philosophising, curious cat-people, coming-of-age, flight from death

Read my Goodreads review here!

* I received a copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley*

 Soppy: A Love Story (Philippa Rice)
soppy

Two Sentence Synopsis:

This is a cute collection of cartoons featuring the author and her partner.  Perfect for a blue day pick-me-up, this title will best appeal to those who don’t have hearts made of stoney stone.

Muster up the motivation because:

The black, white and red colour scheme, coupled with the cutesy illustrations make this tome very easy on the eye.  There’s not a lot of text here either, so readers are not in any danger of having to think too hard.  I suspect that most fleshlings who have ever been in any kind of commited relationship will get a chuckle out of recognising themselves in Rice’s story.

Brand it with:

Heartwarming humour, whimsical to a fault, coupled sleeping positions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Read my Goodreads review here!

* I received a copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley *

Bad Machinery (#3): The Case of the Simple Soul (John Allison)

bad machineryTwo Sentence Synopsis:

A group of six friends have to find something to do during their summer holiday break after solving most of the mysteries in their village.  Luckily there’s been a spate of barn fires recently, and two of the friends stumble upon a troll-creature living under a bridge.

Muster up the motivation because:

Everyone needs a pleasant diversion from the cares and woes of modern life and why not spend that diversion with a group of six, slightly strange British teens?  There’s a lot of sarky, dry humour here if that sort of thing pleases you and the story doesn’t require too much of the reader.  But if the prospect of a hairy troll-man living under a bridge with a pet fox doesn’t convince you, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

Brand it with:

Understated teen drama, haters-gonna-hate (fire), unusual couplings

Read my Goodreads review here!

* I received a copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley *

Stay tuned for the odd round up on Friday pardners!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s still time!: Books to read before our impending doom….

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Hello my fellow doom-kittens! In the spirit of “one-last-hurrah”, I’d like to share this wonderful list of books provided by the Book Depository – it’s tailor-made for those who, in the face of impending non-existence, like to set some goals for personal achievement.

You can find this list by clicking the picture below:

mayan calendar gag

Until next time (touch wood!),

Bruce

Simply Gargoylicious: A cute tee for allies of gargoyle kind

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Just had to share this one. It has nothing to do with books. It has everything to do with gargoyles.

Vote for it to get printed at shirt.woot.com if you like, here: http://shirt.woot.com/derby/entry/66860/shy-pocket-monster

Until next time (which may be sooner than you think!)

Bruce