A Japanese Double-Dip Review…and an Fi50 Reminder!

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

Before we get started on a double dip from the far East, allow me to inform you that our first Fiction in 50 writing challenge for 2016 kicks off on Monday, the 25th of January.  Our prompt for this month is…

dredging up the past

If you’d like to join in, simply create a piece of poetry or prose in fewer than 51 words and then post the link to your work in the comments of the Fiction in 50 post on Monday.  For more detailed information on the challenge and future prompts, click here.

Now onto our…

imageWell, I promised earlier in the month that I would be bringing you more books featuring Japan and today I deliver on that promise.  I have one middle grade classic revamped for a new generation and one adult contemporary fiction that is perfect for lovers of the quirky road-trip subgenre.    I received both of these from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s start with the one I liked most, which was the middle grade classic revamp: The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, first published in 1967 and translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

On the first floor of the big house of the Moriyama family, is a small library. There, on the shelves next to the old books, live the Little People, a tiny family who were once brought from England to Japan by a beloved nanny. Since then, each generation of Moriyama-family children has inherited the responsibility of filling the blue glass with milk to feed the Little People and it’s now Yuri’s turn. 


The little girl dutifully fulfils her task but the world around the Moriyama family is changing. Japan is caught in the whirl of what will soon become World War II, turning her beloved older brother into a fanatic nationalist and dividing the family for ever. Sheltered in the garden and the house, Yuri is able to keep the Little People safe, and they do their best to comfort Yuri in return, until one day owing to food restrictions milk is in shorter supply…

blue glassDip into it for…

…a bewitching and moving account of one family’s – and in particular, one young girl’s – attempt to care for others in a desperate situation.  I really loved discovering this story for the first time and I think other adult readers will enjoy it too, never mind the younger ones!  The text reads like a classic children’s story and, being historical fiction, the tale doesn’t have the action-packed pace that one might have come to expect from contemporary middle grade reads, but the story is a deeply engaging take on the theme of the Borrowers, with much to say to a new generation of children.  Yuri is a wonderfully relatable character and readers will be hoping for the best along with her as times get tougher, as well as cheering for her and the Little People as they develop some ingenious methods to overcome hardship.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking for fast-paced action and obvious magical themes.  This is a far more subtle offering, combining the hardship of war with the growth and changes of two families.

Overall Dip Factor

The Secret of the Blue Glass is an absolute winner, in my opinion, either as a read-alone for independent youngsters who aren’t afraid to take on some historical content, or as a pre-bedtime read-aloud serial for parents and their mini-fleshlings.  It was wonderfully refreshing to read a story that examined the goings-on of the second World War from a Japanese perspective, touching on patriotism, dissent and political propaganda  in wartime in a way that is accessible to young readers.  This is definitely worth getting your hands on, if you haven’t come across it before.

And now for the adult contemporary fiction, Yuki Chan in Bronte Country by Mick Jackson.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

“They both stop and stare for a moment. Yuki feels she’s spent about half her adult life thinking about snow, but when it starts, even now, it always arresting, bewildering. Each snowflake skating along some invisible plane. Always circuitous, as if looking for the best place to land . . .”

Yukiko tragically lost her mother ten years ago. After visiting her sister in London, she goes on the run, and heads for Haworth, West Yorkshire, the last place her mother visited before her death. Against a cold, winter, Yorkshire landscape, Yuki has to tackle the mystery of her mother’s death, her burgeoning friendship with a local girl, the allure of the Brontës and her own sister’s wrath. Both a pilgrimage and an investigation into family secrets, Yuki’s journey is the one she always knew she’d have to make, and one of the most charming and haunting in recent fiction.

yuki chanDip into it for…

…a chick-lit, road trip, finding one’s self novel with a difference.  “Charming and haunting” certainly sums up the atmosphere of this book, written in a strangely compelling present tense perspective.  Yuki is a likeable, if somewhat neurotic, heroine on a quest to find some peace with her mother’s untimely death in England, ten year’s previously and seems to collect experience that are by turns touching and awkward.  Readers of contemporary who are looking for a main character who is well-developed, but certainly not your average, should take to Yuki like a duck to water.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking for a no-brainer holiday read.  I felt like this one had me working quite hard –  whether from the unusual use of present tense, the oddity of Yuki herself of the injections of bizarre dry humour, or a combination of the above – and I suspect that this will take an active, on-form reader to appreciate it.

Overall Dip Factor

If you’d like a change of pace from whatever it is you’ve been reading lately, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Yuki Chan in Bronte Country will scratch that itch.  It’s a strange mash-up of ye olde world charm with an idiosyncratic main character and a very mysterious back story that will engage readers who are looking for something out of the ordinary and don’t mind leaving a book scratching their heads a little and wondering, “What on earth was that?”

alphabet soup challenge 2016

With such a handy “Y”-based title, I just have to submit Yuki Chan in Bronte Country for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge.  You can check out my progress in this challenge (and maybe suggest some books for the trickier letters!) here.

Until next time,
Bruce

An MG Double-Dip, A Top Book of 2015 and a Giveaway!

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imageWelcome to a very special Double Dip review and giveaway! Today I have two books for a middle-grade audience that were kindly provided to the shelf for review by HarperCollins Australia – thanks! – and that would make perfect stocking stuffers for a worthy young person of your acquaintance.  One of these is hands-down one of my TOP BOOKS OF 2015! Read on for details on how to enter the giveaway – I will be providing one winner with their choice of one of these books! Hurrah!

Let’s get on with it!

First up is my TOP BOOK OF 2015 pick – The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Archer B. Helmsley has grown up in a house full of oddities and treasures collected by his grandparents, the famous explorers. He knows every nook and cranny. He knows them all too well. After all, ever since his grandparents went missing on an iceberg, his mother barely lets him leave the house.

Archer B. Helmsley longs for adventure. Grand adventures, with parachutes and exotic sunsets and interesting characters. But how can he have an adventure when he can’t leave his house?

It helps that he has friends like Adélaïde L. Belmont, who must have had many adventures since she ended up with a wooden leg. (Perhaps a crocodile ate it. Perhaps not.) And Oliver Glub. Oliver will worry about all the details (so that Archer doesn’t have to).

And so Archer, Adélaïde, and Oliver make a plan. A plan to get out of the house, out of their town entirely. It’s a good plan.

Well, it’s not bad, anyway.

But nothing goes quite as they expect.

Dip into it for…

…a gently unfolding story of friendship and breaching self-imposed limits.  Before I get into dissecting the story, let medoldrums point out that the lovely hardback edition to which I was given access is illustrated throughout with FULL PAGE, FULL COLOUR illustrations that are just exquisite and lend that extra bit of specialness to the book.  The story begins by introducing us to Archer B. Helmsley, his unusual family circumstances and desire to break out of his mother’s overprotective clutches.  Soon enough, Oliver Glub (it’s good to be a Glub!), Archer’s next door neighbour and schoolmate, joins the fray, lending the voice of reason to Archer’s ill-thought-out plans.  Finally, just when the reader thinks they have learned all there is to learn about Archer and Oliver, and can predict how the story will unfold, we are introduced to Adelaide, French immigrant, ex-ballet dancer, and possessor of one wooden leg (possibly oak).  Adelaide was the real stand-out character for me and I absolutely adored the way that she was rendered by the author – confident but not sassy, self-possessed but not selfish and exceptional but not freakish.

The story is filled with dry, subtle humour and an atmosphere that suggests that anything is possible, despite the fact that most of Archer’s plans are foiled by fate or foe quite early on in proceedings.

Don’t dip if…

…you are expecting a story replete with action and conquest.  While there is some action in the story, not least of which being the unexpectedly life-threatening ending, the story focuses more on the developing friendship between the three protagonists and mystery surrounding the disappearance of Archer’s grandparents.  In a sense, Archer is caught in the doldrums in this story, and the adventure is more in the incidental surprises thrown up by an ordinary life rather than those encountered by well-travelled explorers.

Overall Dip Factor

Being a regular reviewer means that I am granted access, on occasion to some very high quality books.  The Doldrums really blew me away with how beautifully produced this hardback edition is – it’s something unusual and provided a wonderful print reading experience (which is why I’m not giving my copy away!!).  Just in terms of its look and feel, this book would make a great “Wow!” book to slip into a Christmas stocking.  The story is also unusual in that I expected, from the first few chapters, that the plot would quickly set up the mystery of Archer’s grandparents, provide some useful friends for Archer, and send them off on a whirlwind, whacky adventure.  Much more is going on in the story however, and it is definitely worth a look for young and older readers who enjoy subtle humour, a touch of the ridiculous and characters that you will want to be friends with, long after you’ve finished the book.

Now onto some Aussie middle-grade, also illustrated throughout and featuring a touch of the ridiculous – Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad and illustrated by Lucia Masciullo.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Olive has always dreamed of attending boarding school, but Mrs Groves’ Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers is not what she expected. To tell the truth, dear reader, it is not what anyone expected!


The headmistress is completely bonkers and Pig McKenzie, school bully and all-round nasty swine, is determined to make Olive’s life unbearable.


Olive, however, is clever, sweet and kind, and soon gains the loyalty and devotion of three rats, a short-sighted moose, a compulsive liar and a goose who faints at the sight of cherries.


But will friendship and wits be enough when Pig McKenzie puts his Truly Wicked Plan into gear? Or will Olive be cast out of Groves forever?

Dip into it for…

…the kind of school that kids have longed to attend since time immemorial.  Groves is a school in which explosions, mess, general naughtiness, high-flying acrobatics, and throwing one’s dinner around the room are commonplace.  It olive of grovesalso features a wonderfully diverse group of talking animals as students – including my favourite, the perpetually anxious goose, Glenda (Oh, mercy!) – and a headmistress who turns a blind eye to practically every strange thing happening in her school.  Olive is a charming, steadfast, courageous young lass who does a wonderful job of making the best of a very tricky (and in some cases, literally sticky) situation and with the help of her ratty roommates, sets about proving that she is not a perfectly ordinary girl and deserves a place at Groves, in all its diverse glory, even if she has to scale a highwire wearing only tatty old long-johns to prove it.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re expecting a story that makes a lot of sense.  I suspect that this is one of those stories that will appeal to kids much more than adult readers of middle grade (although its complexity did grow significantly toward the end), but if you’re not into characters that are over-the-top and general silliness abounding, then this book is probably not for you.

Overall Dip Factor

I can imagine Olive of Groves as a wonderfully cheeky read-aloud for a classroom of mischief-loving grade three or four children.  The book has a narrator that certainly does not mince words and provides a particularly amusing commentary on the antics of Olive and her friends (and nemeses).  Apart from the chaos and high jinx that seems to invade Groves’ every corner, this book also provides some solid inspiration for those needing to stand up and be counted when it seems that the world (or even just one Very Despicable Pig) is against you.

And now it’s……

Giveaway Time!

I am going to offer ONE winner their choice of one of these books.  The giveaway is open internationally and will run from the moment this post goes live (NOW!) until midnight November 27th (Brisbane time).  The winner will be chosen using a random number generator and will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a new winner is chosen!

To enter, just comment on this post with the title of the book you would like to win – either The Doldrums or Olive of Groves.

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

A YA Double Dip: When Good Religion Goes Bad…

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Today’s Double-Dip deals with those times when religion becomes mildly to massively unpalatable.  I’ve got two super-engaging YA titles for you here (both of which I received as digital titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley and Edelweiss), so grab a dip-worthy snack and your condiment of choice and let’s get dipping!

First up: Misdirected: A Novel by Ali Berman…

Fifteen-year-old Ben is resigned to the fact that he is moving across the country to a small conservative town in Colorado.  His sister has just moved away to college and his brother is serving in Iraq, so Ben knows that with just him and his parents, this move is going to be difficult.  What Ben doesn’t count on is the Christian majority at his new school.  In fact, it seems that nearly every student is a Bible-thumping, God-botherer who thinks Ben is some kind of devil-child because he has chosen to be an atheist.  While Ben tries hard to fit in and ignore the obvious differences between his beliefs and those of his classmates, barriers are thrown up at every turn – first, his only new friend Tess is forbidden from associating with him, then his Science teacher makes a fool of him for accepting evolution as fact.  As Ben’s school life spirals slowly downward, he has to ask himself the tough question – is it worth standing up for your beliefs when it means you’re left standing alone?

Dip into it for…misdirected 2

…a highly engaging and thought-provoking read that really gets to the heart of freedom of religion and the impact that this has on how people behave.  Ben is a fleshed-out character who is portrayed as a normal everyday kid who has been prompted to evaluate what it is he actually believes when he finds himself in an unexpected situation.  The other characters in the book also have strong back-stories and all the characters that pop up in the story – adults and teens and in-betweens – have believable flaws and blind spots that drive their behaviour.

As well as the main plotline about religious belief (or lack of it), the story also covers issues of alcoholism, friendship challenges, homosexuality, grief and loss, and the impact of war on returned soldiers.  And then there’s Ben’s skills as a magician.

Don’t dip if…

…religious and philosophical debate is not up your alley.  While it’s presented in a very accessible and engaging way, this book is about religious belief (or the choice to forego religious belief) and if that’s not your thing, this may not be for you.  This book is probably also best suited to an American audience, because I suspect that you may be the only place in the western world with such overt and influential Christian lobbies.

Overall Dip Factor

I got sucked into this one very quickly and read it compulsively to the end.  There were a few little niggles that I experienced with the plot points – would such open-minded parents as Ben’s, who seem to promote and encourage independent thought in their offspring really send their child to a school that teaches Creationism as scientific fact, for instance – but I was able to get over these pretty quickly, as Berman does a wonderful job of developing all the hanging plot points and tying up the loose ends.  I would highly recommend this to readers of YA who like to be challenged and who are looking for something with a different twist on the starting-a-new-school story.

Next we have Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie…

On what is supposed to be a fun out-of-town trip to celebrate a relationship milestone, Dee, her boyfriend Luke and Luke’s brother Mike run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere in the snow.  Desperate to push on and make their awesome night to remember, the three set off in search of a petrol station and help.  What they find is Purity Springs, a small isolated town that has everything any normal town should have – lights on in houses, meals on tables – except there is nobody in sight.  Creeped out and ready to return to the car, petrol or no, at first light the three are terrified to find themselves chased and then assisted by Joseph, a teen they don’t know if they can trust.  As things take a turn for the worse and the three friends fall under the control of Elijah Hawkins – religious zealot and self-proclaimed prophet – it appears that making it out of town alive is not a guaranteed outcome.  Seperated from Luke and Mike and unsure of how far she can rely on Joseph, Dee will have to fight to the death if she doesn’t want to end up shackled to Elijah and his brainwashed followers for all eternity.

creedDip into it for…

…a psychological thriller for the teen set that also has its fair share of gut churning cruelty.  I was surprised at how well this was put together as the initital few chapters had me questioning how high the quality of the narrative would be and whether I could hang in there with some pretty ordinary characters (that is, the main trio).  Despite the initial dialogue and thought-monologues that seemed annoyingly juvenile at first, the authors did a great job of setting up a sense of unease and lingering danger as the teens first encounter Purity Springs.

There’s also a genuinely psychotic older gentleman who makes life both horror-filled and quite icky for Dee, some henchman that ensure Elijah Hawkins grip is extended beyond the borders of one small town, and a whole lot of unsavoury happenings that generally have you wishing that someone would drop from the sky and rescue everyone, because you just know that it isn’t going to end well.

Don’t dip if…

…you like your psychological thrillers to be wrapped up neatly in the closing chapters.  The authors seem to have little regard for happy endings and the final chapter is somewhat ambiguous when it comes to the fates of those who emerge from Purity Springs.  This probably won’t be the book for you either if the thought of people being held against their will and sinister religious zealots who will do anything to retain control over their followers gives you the heebies.

Overall Dip Factor:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I got sucked into this story.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected – I think I was imagining some kind of paranormal threat in Purity Springs – but it turned out to be engaging in a gut-churning kind of way.  As I don’t read many psychological thrillers, the level of creepiness in this one suited my tolerance levels but if you are more accustomed to this genre, it may not be quite up to scratch.  I did find the characters (particularly Dee and Joseph) left me with a niggling feeling of irritation whenever I finished reading one of their interactions, but I would definitely recommend this one to teen readers at the upper end of the age bracket who are looking for something creepily atmospheric, rather than downright horrific, or those who like a scary-but-bearable level of disturbance in their psychological thrillers.

I hope I’ve convinced you to to dip into either or both of these….

Until next time,

Bruce

A Zombified Maniacal Double Dip (and an Fi50 reminder….)

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manical book club button  image  fiction in 50

Welcome to this (rather crowded) Friday post.  First up, a reminder to all those intrepid writers of mini-narrative, Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday for this month, and the prompt for October is….

the darker side of

You fill in the blank! To play along, just create a piece of fiction in 50 words or less and then come back on Monday and add your effort to the linky or leave a link in the comments.  For more detailed instructions and for future prompts, click here.  New players are always welcome!

Now onto business.  Today the Maniacal Book Club is going to attempt a double dip review. Please bear with us as this has never happened before and it could go horribly (and amusingly) wrong.  To add to the potential chaos, we have also chosen two books featuring the living impaired that would be perfect for middle graders (particularly boys) with an interest in combating undeath in all its stinky forms.  Let us begin with Mr Katz is a Zombie by M.C. Lesh.mr katz is a zombie

Twelve year old J.D. has a fairly interesting life – his parents are ghost hunters (as well as being perfectly ordinary people) and J.D. himself can see and communicate with ghosts.  When J.D. acquires an old book of spells during one of his parents’ ghostbusting jobs, he suspects it might lead to trouble.  This suspicion turns out to be correct when his friend Rodney accidentally reads a spell out loud and turns their teacher into a shuffling, stinky zombie.  Never one to turn a blind eye to injustice, J.D., Rodney and Rodney’s twin younger brothers take on the task of figuring out how to turn Mr Katz back into his non-stinky self before brains are splattered all over North Goethalsburg.  Cue action!   Cue adventure! Cue extra-large sacks of jam-filled doughnuts!

Dip into it for…

…a fun romp that features a remarkably sensible and compassionate protagonist, some well-meaning and inventive zombie-herding techniques and a general reminder to always read the fine print.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re not a fan of zombies.  Or fine print. Otherwise you’ll find this to be a light, entertaining read.

Overall Dip Factor:

maniacal book club guru dave

 Guru Dave says: The message of this tome is clear: Mess not with that which is beyond your understanding! Although if you must delve into the magical arts in a crowded public place, at least direct your spells toward someone who is NOT responsible for providing an in-depth report to your parents on your behaviour.

maniacal book club toothless

Toothless says: No dragons in this book. But there is one zombie and one ghost so that nearly makes up for it.  This was a fun book.  I would have liked to be running around with J.D. and Rodney and the twins, chasing after Mr Katz.  It would have been fun with more brain splatting too.  Oh well. The stinky bits were funny.

maniacal book club martha

Mad Martha says: While chasing zombies, four young boys learned magic spell books are not toys.

maniacal book club bruce

Bruce says: I ended up really enjoying this one for its snappy dialogue and the amusing narrative that J.D. keeps up throughout the story.  The second half seemed to move a lot more quickly than the first and the twist in the tail of the plot was  unexpected,  convenient and really quite funny.  I’d recommend this particularly for young male readers (although girls will like it too) and as this is the first of a series, I’ll be keeping an eye out for J.D’s next adventure.

Four thumbs up!

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Now on to the intriguingly named Ben Fox: Squirrel Zombie Specialist At Your Service by Daisy Whitney.

ben fox zombie squirrelsBen is really more of a dog person.  It’s not that he dislikes cats, but he just isn’t particularly enamoured of his own family cat, Percy – a haughty siamese that showers affection on Ben’s little sister Macy.  When the Fox family gets a new doggy door installed for their dog Captain Sparkles, things begin to get weird.  On investigating a strange noise in the night, Ben comes across a creepy, blank-eyed squirrel staring in through the doggy door…and as Ben continues to investigate, he discovers that a whole army of squirrels that have clearly succumbed to untimely death due to squishing by car, has been raised in his backyard and appears to be doing the bidding of Percy the cat.  With Percy’s intentions for his undead squirrel army unclear (yet obviously nefarious), Ben must rely on the one person he never thought he’d need if Percy’s evil plans are to be thwarted before the Animal Zombie Apocalypse begins right in his own backyard.

Dip into it for…

…a surprisingly original and engaging novel with a strong protagonist and a plot that doesn’t waste words.  And for the zombie squirrels. Obviously.

Don’t dip if…

…the thought of villainous zombie woodland creatures (or doggy doors) offends you.

Overall Dip Factor:

maniacal book club guru dave

Guru Dave says:  Once again, a book that appears flippant on the surface, carries an important lesson for young minds.  Sometimes we are so preoccupied fighting the Animal Zombie Apocalypse in our backyard, that we forget to notice the conflict arising in our own living rooms.  Those who wish to take up the mantle of zombie hunter would do well to dwell on the wisdom contained in this tome.

maniacal book club toothless

Toothless says: No dragons. Again. But zombie squirrels are super-awesome.  I haven’t seen zombie squirrels before.  And this book also tells all about other zombie animals like zombie raccoons, zombie dogs, and my favourite, zombie ducks.  I’d love it if Ben Fox could fight off the Zombie Duckpocalypse next! Quaaaaaaaaaaack!

maniacal book club martha

Mad Martha says: When fighting zombie woodland creatures, focus on their beastly features.  To defeat these undead rodents, requires planning that is cogent.

maniacal book club bruce

Bruce says: You could be forgiven for thinking, as I did when I requested this book, that a middle grade book about the Squirrelpocalypse set in motion by an evil feline overlord could well end up being a complete load of rubbish.  Thankfully, I can assure you that this particular book about the Squirrelpocalypse and its evil feline overlord is an undiscovered gem!  I really, truly enjoyed this book from beginning to end, and finished it off in two short sittings. 

The great strength of the tale is the totally believable main character, Ben, who really is an “everyboy” who happens to have Cerebral Palsy.  While this condition does factor in to some parts of the story, it’s not a big deal and it’s not emphasised – just as in real life, it just is.  I applaud Whitney on creating a character who has a disability, but whose disability is not in any way the focus of the story.

This book is fun, it’s got a solid plot underpinning the slightly ridiculous squirrely invasion, and there’s enough action and humour to keep you turning pages at a rate of knots.  It will appeal to both boys and girls, particularly if they have a pet cat or dog (or both) and can imagine at least one of these plotting to take over the world.  This could easily provide some very entertaining pre-bedtime read-aloud experiences, or it would be a great choice for confident middle graders looking for a fresh twist on the zombie/monster theme.

Five thumbs up! (Bruce added a second thumb)

image image image imageimage

So there you are – two zombie treats for the middle graders (and older MG fiction junkies) who would benefit from undeath mixed with action and humour.

Until next time,

Bruce (and the Book Club)

* I received both titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley*

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A Graphic Novel Double-Dip: Megalomaniacal Cats and the Highschool from Hell…

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Grab your savoury carbohydrate-based snack of choice and get ready to double-dip into the spicy relish of graphic noveldom, for today I have two of the same for your viewing pleasure.  The first is for the grown-ups, while the second is aimed at a YA audience.  Let’s get dipping!

I Was the Cat by Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey opens with protagonist Allison Breaking, investigative journalist and owner of the site Breaking News, being contracted to ghost-write the memoirs of someone that she has been assured is very unusual.  Enter Burma, a talking orange moggy, who is on the last of his allocated nine lives and wishes to record all the drama and excitement of his previous eight.  Once Allison gets over the shock of working for a talking cat, she begins to take down all of the fantastical claims that Burma asserts are true – for you see, it seems that Burma, in each of his previous lives, had a damn good crack at taking over the world.  Various circumstances managed to get in the way every time however, leaving Burma to recount his glory days to Allison in the comfort of his mansion-like apartment.  But as Burma’s tales become more outlandish and maniacal, and strange events start to occur around Allison, the question is begged: has Burma put his plans for world domination behind him, or is this just the start of a new Cat Empire?

I was the catDip into it for….

content that you wouldn’t normally find in a graphic novel.  This was an odd reading experience for me because the subject matter and storyline didn’t seem to suit the illustrated format, or rather, were not what I expected based on the graphic novels I usually read.  Admittedly, I only read graphic novels occasionally, but I normally like them to be at least mildly humorous, with a decent smattering of quirky oddness.   This didn’t really fit either of those categories and seemed to me that it would work better as a novella.

In terms of graphic novel-ish elements that one might normally expect, the art is reasonably traditional in style, there’s a fair bit of violence and there’s quite a bit of interesting stuff happening in the background of frames of scenes when Allison is out of doors.  But there’s a lot more story here than I would generally expect and the plot moves reasonably slowly, as Burma recounts each of his eight previous lives (with the same end result each time).

Don’t Dip If…

…you’re looking for a standard, fast-paced story with lots of action and unpredictable twists.  This one unfolds at languid, cat-lying-in-the-sun sort of a pace.

Overall Dip Factor:

Give it a go if you like cats, and need some tips on how to rise up the ranks to Overlord’s Favourite Pet when the inevitable Catpocalypse happens.  Otherwise, if you don’t mind a graphic novel that places the emphasis firmly on the “novel” part, this may be something you’d like to try.

Satan’s Prep by Gabe Guarente and Dave Fox follows unfortunate, young Trevor Loomis who has been sent to a high school in the bowels of Hell due to a clerical error after his untimely (and somewhat embarrassing) death.  As he moves through classes that are by turns humiliating, painful and painfully humiliating, and faces the attentions of demonic bullies, his only hope of release is through earning grades good enough to have him transferred to Purgatory.  After meeting the alluring Persephone Plumm, however, some things, at least are looking up for Trevor.  Torn between his own conversations with Persephone, and his friends insistence that she is a succubus sent to torment him further, Trevor doesn’t know how to proceed.  But sometimes, as Trevor learns, you’ve got to rise against the authority holding you down and become the posthumous hero you were born to be – even if it is only in your own lunch hour.

Dip into it for…

Stan's prep

confirmation that school, no matter where in the greater frame of reality it exists, can sometimes be hell.  This is a funny, fast-paced take on all the staples of school life that reek of horror and suffering including, but not limited to, icky science experiments, rejection by cliques with varying degrees of unsightliness, and dodgeball.  You can’t help but feel sorry for Trevor as he ploughs on through adversity, trying to make the best out of a bad business,  while simultaneously minding his own.  Some of the characterisations are quite clever and nicely reflect the bureaucracy and red-tape for that is present for those still living.  There’s even a feel-good ending that was quite unexpected and tied up the loose ends in a very satisfying fashion.

Don’t Dip If…

…tales featuring hell don’t float your boat.  Also, this is a comical sort of a comic, so if you’re looking for the real-life sort of violence and torment, you won’t find it here.

Overall Dip Factor:

This is going to be a hit with readers in the young adult age bracket.  It’s the kind of story that places a well-worn plot into a setting that has great mileage for putting quirky new twists on a familiar theme.  Trevor is also a very relateable anti-hero and will no doubt become the poster boy for those who just want to get through school with a minimum of fuss – demonic or otherwise.

 

Until next time, my art-loving double dippers,

Bruce

 

*I received I Was the Cat in digital form from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review*

* I received Satan’s Prep in digital form from the publisher via Edelweiss in return for an honest review*

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