It’s the October Kid Lit Blog Hop!

1

 

We want to welcome you to the October 2016 Kid Lit Blog Hop!

Fall is here and Halloween is in a mere two weeks…WOW! There are some really great Halloween and Autumn books out there for children. We have seen some listed already. How about you share some of those on our monthly hop or for that matter, any great kid’s literature. We love it all!

 
Have you seen the Kid Lit Blog Hopper Facebook fan page. This page has all the news and information related to the hop plus ongoing posts, giveaways, news articles, etc. related to Kid’s Lit. Check it out and of course, please like the page.

This monthly hop, is designed to engage a group of people who love everything that has to do with children’s literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers!

So for our hop, please make sure that your posts are related to Children’s literature only and add it to the linky.

(Please make sure to add your direct post only) If you are an author, feel free just to link to your blog.

Once you are done, then hop around to visit others. Please follow the co-host and visit at least the one or two people above your link. Please leave a comment when you do visit, we all like those.

Also, it would be appreciated if you grab the Kid Lit Blog Hop Badge and display it on your blog and/or your post. Note: Make sure you have the newest badge as the old one goes to the wrong page.

We would also be grateful if you tweet and/or posted on Facebook about the blog hop. Let’s grow this wonderful community.

Our next hop is still to be determined. We will let you know via Twitter and our Facebook page when the next one will be.

 
Thanks for sharing your great children’s books with all of us! The hostess will be around to see you.

Happy Hopping!

Reading Authors, Host

The Bookshelf Gargoyle

BeachBoundBooks

Cheryl Carpinello

Pragmatic Mom

The Logonauts

Spark and Pook

 

Click the link below to get hopping!

Powered by Linky Tools

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

Until next time,

Bruce

Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway – and some Creepy Crochet Monsters!

0
I’m excited to be participating in the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway hosted by Laughing Vixen Lounge!  This is a different sort of hop from the usual ones in which I participate, so make sure you have a good gander at the information below before you enter.  There are two awesomely generous prize packs and locks of fun spooky activities to indulge in leading up to the big, scary night.  Enjoy!  Don’t forget to check out Mad Martha’s review (below) of Creepy Crawly Crochet by Megan Kreiner, which we received for review from the publisher via Netgalley.  It’s chock-full of delightfully detailed spine-chilling cuties to crochet before Halloween!

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and the nights are getting spookier. Yes, it’s time for tricks and treats, goblins and ghouls, chills and thrills and huge amounts of sugary sweets. But at the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog it’s also time for the 5th annual Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway. Join Laughing Vixen Lounge and our bewitching co-hosts The Kids Did It, The Mommy Island, Herding Cats and Burning Soup, The Hopping Bloggers, Mama Smith’s Reviews and Women and Their Pretties for a spooktacular Halloween event.

Enter to win a $250 Prize Pack filled with goodies from 10 wickedly fabulous shops. All shops are offering Gift Cards or your choice of item(s) so there will be something for everyone. Many of the shops have items perfect for any book lover along with lots of unique, handcrafted and custom designs to choose from.

Visit the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog daily during the giveaway for the Halloween Movie Marathon. Test your movie knowledge with the Guess the Movie Game. Then try to solve the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt, if you dare! Each event will get you daily entries in the giveaway plus a special giveaway for the Scavenger Hunt. Find full details for these events HERE.

Yarning with Mad Martha about…Creepy Crawly Crochet by Megan Kreiner

yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

Well my dears, I think we have a new Halloween favourite here on the Shelf!  If you are a fan of crochet (and we know there are more than a few of you!), you would have to look far and wide to find a collection of more detailed patterns for a selection of your favourite monsters.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

They’re creepy but they’re cute and cuddly, too! Inspired by classic literature, film, and folklore, these 17 crochet monsters will delight everyone with a taste for old-fashioned thrillers and modern tales of horror. Detailed instructions include assembly diagrams for ease of construction along with full-color photos. The patterns are suitable for beginners, but advanced crocheters will find them irresistible as well.

These fetching fiends include Boo Boo the Voodoo Doll; Jack, the Headless Horseman, and his horse, Nightmare; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Carl of the Dead and Daisy, his Zombie Dog; and other sinister characters. In addition to their value as handmade keepsake treasures, these characters also make great gifts for fans of horror and science fiction.

creepy-crawly-crochet

Alas, I haven’t found time to make any of these scary shelf-mates yet, but I am just itching to get cracking on the Zombie Dog pattern for starters.  This is a remarkably well thought out pattern book.  Since I’ve been blogging about craft books in my Yarning series, I’ve been able to get a handle on what makes a craft book actually usable and what doesn’t, and this book has a number of features that set it apart as a book that you will actually USE to create the finished product.  

The finished products here look like they’ve been made from patterns that have been thoroughly tested, with all the kinks ironed out.  While this may mean that, at first glance, you might think “I couldn’t make that!!”, the thoroughness with which the patterns and instructions are set out means you can be confident that you won’t be left flailing about trying to figure out what goes where and how to get from (Round) A to (Round) B.  Kreiner has used a whole range of unusual needlecraft techniques that add plenty of character to her..characters and the patterns include illustrated diagrams showing how to create the features on the characters’ faces and bodies, so that readers can authentically replicate the finished product, rather than just get an approximation.  

There is plenty of variety in terms of types of creepy critters, from the undead to the never-alive to creatures from literature and folklore.  I loved the chubby-bellied werewolf and Frankenstein’s monster, but the Zombie Dog was my absolute favourite of the lot.  I couldn’t go past his withered skin and bony ribcage and think he’d make a great little guardian for anyone who is looking for a quirky desk companion.

I have to say that I think most of the patterns in this book are more suited to experienced amigurumi crafters, due to the wide range of techniques required, as well as the fact that many of the patterns require more technique than just crocheting a couple of different body shapes and stitching them together.  The Headless Horseman uses magnets, for example, to allow his head to come on and off as the user pleases, and while these are enormously handy skills to learn, they may put beginner crafters off a little.  The up-side of this is that the end product will actually look professional and reflect the level of skill that went into making it, so if you are game to give these a try, you will have something to really show off at the end.

I would heartily recommend this to those experienced in the art of crocheting amigurumi plushies who like to dabble in the dark side…mwahahahahahaaaaa!

So what’s your favourite Halloweenish book or movie?  Tell us in the comments!

You can start by entering the Rafflecopter widget below. To experience all the games, movies, shop features, giveaway info and all around awesome fun make sure to stop by the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog HERE.

The giveaway runs October 18th – November 1st and is open worldwide to anyone 18+. 1 winner will win the Prize Pack and 1 winner will win the Scavenger Hunt Prize Pack. Laughing Vixen Lounge is responsible for all giveaway details. Click HERE for full details.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js


Until next time,

Bruce (and Martha)

Crafting with Feminism: A Read-it-if Review…

1

read it if NEW BUTTON

Today’s book is one that is quite timely given recent happenings in the US and certain behaviours and statements from a high-profile man whose name rhymes with “dump”, “rump” and “where the hell did you Americans find this chump?”.  You know who I mean.  We received a copy of Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy by Bonnie Burton from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

This is what a feminist crafter looks like! Wear your ideology on your sleeve by creating feminist merit badges (like “started an all-girl band” or “rocked roller derby”). Prove that the political is personal with DIY power panties (“No means no”). Craft great feminist hero finger puppets (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Frida Kahlo) or googly-eyed tampon buddies. Fun sidebars provide background on (s)heroes of the feminist movement.

crafting-with-feminism

Read it if:

*you’ve been looking for a simple, visible and slightly absurd way to stick it to the (random) man

*you’re hosting the next gathering of your Stitch and Bitch group and would also like to use up the last bits of bleach, glitter and fluffy fabric lying around in your craft drawer

*no one has ever described you as a shrinking violet

All in all, this is a bit of a silly book, with outlandish craft activities and a decent amount of tongue-in-cheek humour.  But really, if there are craft books out there exhorting us to craft with cat hair or knit one’s own lingerie, why the hell shouldn’t there be a book featuring tutorials on creating vagina-shaped tree ornaments?  Each to her own, I say.

Squarely aimed at the more “out-there” sort of feminist who is not afraid of body parts or inflammatory slogans, the book has step-by-step instructions on everything from felt merit badges (“Leg hair, don’t care” being my personal favourite), to stained glass candle decorations featuring strong female role-models (crafter’s own choice), and a huggable uterus body pillow, as well as the aforementioned vaginaments.  The crafts mostly seem to be aimed at beginners, with no crochet or knit projects included (which Mad Martha found quite interesting), using basic sewing and other techniques that don’t need a lot of practice or preparation beforehand.

Between each project there are full-page quotes from famous ladies of history and handy lists of feminist-themed movies, books, songs and holidays, as well as suggestions for how to host a fun feminist crafternoon.  Templates and information on supplies are listed throughout.

I don’t want to get bogged down in how truly feminist or otherwise the book is, but the projects clearly lean toward the sort of female-only feminism that excludes males from the conversation (and therefore from assisting in the fight for equality), which may be considered by some to be an outdated focus of the movement.  On the other hand, it could be considered a champion of the safe-space, in which females are allowed to claim their bodies, voices and means of expression in whatever form they please.

Or, you know, it could just be intended as a fun, slightly outrageous crafting book and maybe we’re all overthinking it.

As craft books go, I’ve certainly come across weirder offerings, and as Mad Martha has already started rifling through the fabric box to find something suitably shiny from which to create her own “Feminist KillJoy” sash, I think I can safely say that this book will find a home with fun-loving ladies of a subversive nature.

Until next time,

Bruce

September Kid Lit Blog Hop!

0
KLBH-Button-FINAL.jpg

 

We want to welcome you to the September 2016 Kid Lit Blog Hop. Fall is finally here…YAY! There are some really great Autumn books out there for children. We have seen some list already. How about you share some of those on our monthly hop or for that matter, any great kid’s literature.

 

This exciting, monthly hop, is where we develop an engaged group of people who love everything that has to do with children’s literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers!

 

Have you seen the new Kid Lit Blog Hopper Facebook fan page? This page has all the news and information related to the hop plus ongoing posts, giveaways, news articles, etc. related to Kid’s Lit. Check it out and of course, please like the page.

 

So for our hop, please make sure that your posts are related to Children’s literature only and add it to the linky. (Please make sure to add your direct post only) If you are an author, feel free just to link to your blog.

 

Once you are done, then hop around to visit others. Please follow the co-host and visit at least the one or two people above your link. Please leave a comment when you do visit, we all like those.

Also, it would be appreciated if you grab the Kid Lit Blog Hop Badge and display it on your blog and/or your post. Note: Make sure you have the newest badge as the old one goes to the wrong page.

We would also be grateful if you tweet and/or posted on Facebook about the blog hop. Let’s grow this wonderful community.

 

Our next hop will be October 19, 2016.  Thanks for sharing your great children’s books with all of us! The hostess will be around to see you.

Happy Hopping!

Reading Authors, Host

Julie Grasso

BeachBoundBooks

Cheryl Carpinello

Pragmatic Mom

The Logonauts

Spark and Pook

Hits and Misses

The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Click Below for the Hop Link:

Powered by Linky Tools

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

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Utterly Magical” Edition…

6

image

Saddle up your most mythical beast because I have four magical titles for you today: three for younger readers and one for the grown-ups.  Let’s get cracking!

Not So Much, Said the Cat (Michael Swanwick)

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

Two Sentence Synopsis:  not so much said the cat

This is a cracking collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories well worth immersing one’s self in.  The stories span multiple fantasy worlds with humour and plenty of twists.

Muster up the motivation because…

…all of the stories in this collection reek of quality writing.  Swanwick clearly knows his craft because each story, though set in its own discrete universe, feels like a complete world in itself.  The opener, The Man in Grey, is a mind-boggling speculative piece steeped in humour that will have you questioning every set piece of your ordinary existence.  Some of the stories read like fables or fairy tales, others like cutting-edge science fiction.  There really is something for everyone here and as most of the stories span more than a few pages each, you can take the time to get lost in your particular little world without fearing it will be over before it really begins.  The best thing about these stories is that they don’t feel like they are variations on a similar theme or even slight twists on familiar tropes, but like actual original tales.  Our favourites of the bunch are The Scarecrow’s Boy, a bizarre but touching story about a child on the run, and Goblin Lake, a fairy tale complete with revenge, riddles, ruination and redemption.  I would definitely recommend this to lovers of all things left-of-centre.

Brand it with:

Tales of sadness and wo–ah, that’s a bit weird; sci-fantasy; speculative

Wildwitch: Wildfire (Lene Kaaberbol)

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

Two Sentence Synopsis: wildwitch wildfire

Clara always thought she was ordinary until strange, dangerous things start happening around her. Whisked off to learn the ways of the wildwitch from her aunty, Clara thinks she’ll be safe, if a little bored, but nothing could be further than the truth.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a delightful, timeless-feeling story of witchery and magic with a down-to-earth heroine.  There’s something charmingly old-fashioned about the style of narrative here, as the focus is entirely on the action, rather than establishing Clara as a child of a particular contemporary time.  It’s refreshing to read a middle grade novel that doesn’t faff about with done-to-death school bullies and all that rubbish and just sticks to the trials of the main character.  The villain of the piece is scary indeed, with a malicious streak that could spell disaster for Clara.  The book is quite a quick read and the pacing is spot on, with no time wasted as Clara is moved to her aunt’s house to begin her training.  I loved the particular magical world and lore that was built up in this story and I would be very interested to see what happens next.  I’d recommend this one to lovers of simple but action-packed magical stories and those who would just adore having their own magical familiar to hang out with.

Brand it with:

The trouble with cats; large wings don’t an angel make; born to be wild

The Monstrous Child (Francesca Simon)

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

Two Sentence Synopsis:  

the monstrous child

The Monstrous Child (Francesca Simon) Published by Allen & Unwin, 22 June 2016.  RRP: $19.99

Hel is a corpse child, born with a living body and dead legs, and destined to become the Queen of the Underworld. This is her story, from her humble and grimy beginnings to her humble and grimy end.

Muster up the motivation because…

…if you are a fan of Norse mythology, this will be everything you could hope for in a novel for younger readers.  I was unaware that this is actually the third book in the Mortal Gods series (the first of which, The Sleeping Army, I have had on my TBR list since it was published).  This may explain why the writing seemed so obfuscating; it seemed like Simon expected the reader to know more about Hel’s life and background than Hel was prepared to tell us.  I had trouble with this one because the narrative style, which sees Hel explaining her entire life to the reader, focused heavily on telling, rather than showing.  Hel, as a character, is also reasonably dire and grim, and so the reader isn’t exactly invited to engage deeply with her as a person (god).  Having not read the first two books in the series, I can’t say whether this is a departure or continuation from the earlier novels, but I would recommend reading the first two books before picking this one up, unless you are the sort that loves a challenging, and slightly discombobulating read.

Brand it with:

Norse code; Winners and losers; the unacknowledged child

The Changelings (Christina Soontornvat)

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

Two Sentence Synopsis:  the changelings

Izzy and Hen are forced to move to their grandmother’s old house in the most boring town in the universe, where their next-door neighbour is probably a witch. When Hen goes missing however, Izzy finds out that sometimes it pays to make friends with your (possibly witchy) neighbours.

Muster up the motivation because…

…if you enjoy your standard down-the-rabbit-hole stories based in Celtic folklore then this will scratch your itch.  The beginning of the tale is fairly typical for middle grade magical fare – kids move to a seemingly boring new home before discovering a magical world and being plunged into adventure – but there are so many interesting and quirky characters sprinkled throughout that the tropes can be overlooked a little.  Our heroines are immediately split up of course, leading to a two-pronged narrative attack, with Izzy on one side and the kidnapped Hen on the other, and historical, cultural and (magically) political motives coming into play.  Overall, this is a fun romp with some likable and unexpected characters, plenty of humour and exactly the sort of derring-do you would expect from a pair of kids lost in the land of faerie.

Brand it with:

If you go down to the woods today; grandmother’s secrets; fun with faerie

Take your magical pick, my friends.  Surely there is something here to entice you!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A YA Double-Dip: Italian Accidents and High Stakes Reality…

5

image

I would suggest grabbing a juicy, juicy snack for today’s Double-Dip review because we have two YA novels oozing juicy, juicy gossip.  Everyone knows I never repeat gossip.  So listen carefully as we dive on in!

First up, we have Nerve by Jeanne Ryan, kindly provided to us for review by Simon & Schuster Australia.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco–a high-stakes online game of dares turns deadly in this suspenseful debut

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the gameknows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it’s exhilarating–Vee and Ian’s fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they’re directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they’re playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE.

Dip into it for… nerve

…a reasonably unbelievable, but fun and fast-paced story for those times you need to take a break from adulting (or young-adulting).  Despite having very little in the way of character development and some plot twists that seem dubious at best, there was still something about this book that kept me hanging in there.  I don’t think this one will be claiming any prizes for sophisticated writing, but I still enjoyed the sheer unlikeliness of some of the events – simply because they were unlikely, and therefore unpredictable.  The ending ramps up the action and danger considerably and ended up being my favourite part in a bizarre, action movie type of way.

Don’t dip if…

…you enjoy books that feature characters with coherent back stories, and at least a basic explanation for why certain things are happening.  There are gaping holes here for almost every character, so it’s hard to really connect with any of them on more than a superficial level.  Vee, for instance, has obviously had a recent mental health issue (or is it?) that caused her to be hospitalised, and as a result of this her parents…..ground her.  I’m not certain in what universe a parent would think grounding someone is an appropriate response to an apparent suicide attempt (or is it?) but that’s the sort of explanatory black hole to which I refer.  There isn’t a lot going on in terms of world-building either, to explain the hows and whys and who’s of Nerve (the game) and the people behind it.

Overall Dip Factor

If you can suspend your disbelief and your natural sense of curiosity about certain characters and their motivations (’cause you ain’t going to find out anything about ’em), this would be a great choice for a lazy beach or Saturday afternoon read.  There’s some fairly predictable romance thrown in, but overall the pace of the book is quite quick, with Vee and Ian moving from one dare to the next within the space of a few hours or days at most.  If you think you might like to give this one a crack, just be aware that it’s more action than substance.

Next up we have With Malice by Eileen Cook, which we received from Allen & Unwin for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Wish you weren’t here…

When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. All she has been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…. wasn’t just an accident.

With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn’t the one to blame?

Dip into it for…

with malice

…a solid stab at the oft-used “amnesia” story-line with a quirky format to push things along and a cheeky ending that had me nodding with satisfaction at the unexpectedness of it.  I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but there do seem to be an awful lot of “person wakes up in hospital with no memory of how they got there and finds themselves accused of a crime” books getting around at the moment.  I found With Malice to be toward the top of the pile of books with this story-line that I have come across, mainly due to the formatting; rather than just a standard novel, the author has included bits of police transcripts, emails, blog posts and all sorts to drip feed new information to the reader.  The book follows a sort of “main character POV” chapter followed by alternative storytelling method” structure and I found that this really kept my interest in the story up.  The ending has a sense of inevitability about it, but a few twists in terms of motives and behaviours so that although the reader might be able to guess what happened towards the end, they probably won’t guess why it happened.  The incident also takes place in Italy, so there is a very slight sense of “abroad” about it all, which makes a nice change from the typical USA-set YA tale.

Don’t dip if…

…you don’t like amnesia stories.  Although there are quirks in the format and ending, overall this reads exactly as you’d expect it to as Jill tries to get her memory back and doesn’t necessarily know what to believe.

Overall Dip Factor

While I don’t feel that this is the greatest amnesiac murder mystery ever written, there was enough here to keep me interested.  I particularly enjoyed the police interview transcripts and the ways that minor characters viewed the event – what particular things they noticed and how their opinions on what happened differed from each other.  I’d say that this is another good candidate for a lazy beach read, with some unexpected quirks to spice up a familiar plot-line.

Well, did you manage not to spill the beans onto your outfit?  I hope one of these juicy little numbers has taken your fancy!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop!

55

Beach-Reads-in-August-Hop

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

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

26198206

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

To enter, just click on the link below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Powered by Linky Tools

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

Good luck!

Bruce

TBR Friday…and an Fi50 Reminder!

1

Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

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

aged to perfection

Be there or be square!

TBR Friday

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

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

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

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

bad day for voodoo

Ten Second Synopsis:

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

Time on the TBR Shelf:

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

Acquired:

Received as a birthday gift

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

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

Best Bits:

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

Less Impressive Bits:

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

On reflection, was this worth buying?

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

Where to now for this tome?

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

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

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

Monday Upliftivism: The Moonlight Dreamers…and a Guest Post from Author Siobhan Curham!

1

It’s been a bit of a tough few weeks for us round the shelf lately.  The winter plague has invaded the household and I can barely think, let alone read, for all the coughing, hacking, moaning and prayers for deliverance, or a speedy death.  This week therefore, will be spent catching up on reviewing a whole bunch of books that have been eagerly awaiting their spot in the limelight.

Kicking off the week, in case you too are plagued by illness or general despair at the state of the world, I offer some upliftivism with new release YA novel from Walker Books, The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham.  I should also mention that Siobhan has written a guest post for us about how to create authentic teen characters, which those budding writers amongst you (and I know there are a few!) will no doubt want to feast your eyes on.  Let me introduce you to the delightful and too-sweet-for-words, Moonlight Dreamers, which we received from Walker Books Australia for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

An inspirational, heart-warming book about four girls trying to find their place in the world. Siobhan Curham celebrates very different but like-minded friends in this captivating novel.

Amber craves excitement and adventure. Instead, she’s being bullied at school for having two dads, and life at home isn’t much better. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, Amber realizes that among the millions of people in London, there must be others who feel the same as she does; other dreamers – moonlight dreamers. After chance encounters with Maali, Sky and Rose, Amber soon recruits the three girls to the Moonlight Dreamers. It’s high time they started pursuing their dreams, and how better than with the support of friends?

moonlight dreamers

Quick Overview:

I have to say that if ever there was a book for younger readers that fit the Utopirama mould, then The Moonlight Dreamers is it.  While some unfortunate things do befall the characters in the novel, the overall feel of the book is so warm and subtly positive, that you just know that each girl will eventually find her way.  The book begins with Amber, a young woman with two dads who faces bullying at school, ostensibly because she is “different”.  Amber decides to take a risk and passes out invitations to form a secret society – the Moonlight Dreamers – to girls she encounters that look like they might share her desire to revel in uniqueness and go after their dreams.

The characters in the book struck me as particularly authentic creations.  Maali, the youngest of the group, possesses a wonderful naivety and sense of openness to the world around her – yet struggles with the simple task of talking to a boy.  Amber, on the outside, has all the makings of a confident young woman who isn’t afraid to walk to the beat of her own drum, but worries endlessly about being too different for people to like her for who she is.  Skye is still grieving the death of her mother and desperately wants to take the next step and perform her poetry in public, but is in conflict with her father over his new relationship.  And Rose, the accidental Dreamer, seems so worldly-wise, but desperately needs the approval of friends who are prepared to get to know her outside of her famous parents’ shadows, in order to gain the confidence to follow her dreams.

There’s something amazingly engaging about watching these characters tackle what are, for the most part, typical problems that many teens face.  The story is told in alternating perspectives so by the end of the book, the reader has had plenty of time to get to know each of the girls as individuals and watch how their interactions propel them towards facing their fears.  There’s a refreshing simplicity in the telling of the story that allows the characters to come to the fore without being shackled to the stereotypical portrayals that are grist for the mill of many contemporary YA books, where the focus is on predictable romantic relationships or fitting into expected social roles at school.  The author has managed to clearly show the girls as they are, and want to be, because the girls themselves – rather than their romantic interests or school troubles – are the focus.

If you know a young reader (or an older one!) who could really do with a bit of positivity in their lives and an affirmation that they are perfectly okay just as they are, then I would highly recommend getting a copy of The Moonlight Dreamers into their hands.  Apart from the fact that it will inspire you to pursue your dreams under fortuitous moonlight, it’s just a cracking good read and a story to soothe the fears and worries of the troubled soul.

Utopian Themes:

Books as solace for the weary heart

The wit and wisdom of Wilde

Friendship as a transformative power

Serendipitous discoveries

Youthful exuberance

Protective Bubble-o-meter:

protective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubble

Five out of five protective bubbles for the security of knowing that one is not alone in one’s difference.

Although this certainly isn’t the type of YA that I generally go for, I did thoroughly enjoy The Moonlight Dreamers and was left with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my stony jaded heart by the end of it.  It also got me thinking about starting my own secret society, but I haven’t decided on a theme yet, so until then, keep my idea under your hat.

Don’t forget to check out author of The Moonlight Dreamers,  Siobhan Curham’s guest post about creating authentic teen characters!

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s MG Reading Round-Up: The “Quite Frightening…ly Good” Edition…

1

image

Welcome, welcome, welcome to another Reading Round-Up (do you feel welcome?)!  Today we are going to encircle a collection of titles for the middle grade age group that are high on humour and jolly good fun.  And zombies and deadly necklaces and mummies and other slightly frightening stuff.  But I’m sure you’re up for the challenge, a brave thing like you!  Saddled up?  Let’s crack on!

Firalphabet soup challenge 2016st up we have Zombified: Outbreak by C.M. Grey, being the third book in the humorous Zombified series.  We gratefully received a copy from Harper Collins Australia for review and wish to offer them our ongoing warm feelings because they provided us with a book to fulfill the “Z” criteria of our Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge!  What a weight off our collective minds!

Zombified: Outbreak (C.M. Grey)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

zombified

Ben, twelve-year-old half-zombie, has his powers under control and life seems to be carrying on as normal, until his older brother, Michael, disappears, leaving nothing but his game machine and a cloud of glitter in his wake. When Ben and Sophie start to investigate, little do they realise that they are about to uncover some secrets that will blow their understanding of zombie issues right out of the water!

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a fun, adventure-filled zombie romp speckled with illustrations throughout and featuring some larger-than-life (or undeath) characters.  I have been keeping an eye on this series as books have been published but this is the first I’ve managed to pick up.  The back story is briefly explained and I found that I didn’t have any trouble picking up the thread of the story or the characters.  Ben is a super-likable young lad who just seems to want to get on with his half-life and keep outsiders’ knowledge of his “condition” to a minimum.  Sophie is a stalwart friend and I really enjoyed the loyalty that they show each other, even in situations where it may be in the best interests of each to cut ties with the other.  It’s refreshing to see a boy-girl friendship taking centre stage in an age bracket that is often plagued by “boy book” and “girl book” characterisation.  While this was a pretty amusing adventure, with some classic reveals, I think  it is one that will be best enjoyed by the target market, rather than adult readers of middle grade.  Having said that, I think I will be taking some time to seek out the first book in the series to see how Ben ended up as a half-zombie because he’s certainly personable (zombie-able?) enough to make me want to go back for another bite.

Brand it with:

Aaargh! Half Zombies!; Suspicious school staff; Family Secrets

Next up we have Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp, which we received with some trepidation from Bloomsbury Australia for review.  If you have chanced upon our review of the first in the series, Anyone But Ivy Pocket, you will understand from whence our trepidation sprang (sprung? springed?).

Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket (Caleb Krisp)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

somebody stop ivy pocket

Ivy Pocket is working for a pair of unsightly undertakers, reading poems for the about-to-be-deceased to ease them on their way. When Ivy’s necklace shows her images of Rebecca (the supposedly dead), Ivy must try to puzzle out a way into a whole new world and stage a rescue.

Muster up the motivation because…

…it might surprise you to hear, given our rather frosty reception of the series-opener, that I found this book considerably more tolerable than the first.  I will even admit to letting out a few guffaws at Krisp’s pointy, pointy dialogue.  While the inherently irritating Ivy is still up to all her old tricks, they didn’t seem quite so insufferable this time around.  I suspect that the story, which involves some very shady funeral directors, was closer to my preferred narrative in middle grade books.  Having said that, I still couldn’t say that I really enjoyed the book.  Ivy’s inability to take obvious hints with regards to major plot twists was still too infuriating to be borne.  There is something about the character of Ivy that is a bit like Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean.  Watching that television show was like watching a car crash in slow motion: everyone but the protagonist could see the outcome, but were powerless to stop it and forced to endure every agonizingly awful second of it.  Except I got many more laughs out of Mr Bean than I have from Ivy.  I suspect that Ivy and I are just too different to be friends.  Still, the lass is getting plenty of love from other quarters so don’t let my curmudgeonly attitude put you off.

Brand it with:

Social ineptitude; Deadly bling; Underhanded Undertakers

Finally, we have a super-engaging encyclopaedia of the damned, of a sort.  We received a copy of Frightlopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy and Spine-Chilling, from Arachnids to Zombies by Julie Winterbottom and Rachel Bozek from the publisher via Netgalley.

Frightlopedia (Julie Winterbottom & Rachel Bozek)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

frightlopedia

Frightlopedia is an easy-to-read collection of a diverse range of scary stuff. From vampires and zombies to bizarre burial practices and creepy insects, Frightlopedia has you covered if you are in the mood for learning about things that go bump (or slither or boo) in the night.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is actually a really well put-together, informative and fun non fiction text.  Far from being a “kid’s book”, I found myself drawn in to some of the interesting entries, such the monastery whose crypt contains the perfect conditions to naturally mummify corpses so tourists can wander through and have a look.  There are cryptids, bizarre buildings, deathly illnesses and nasty humans to explore and learn about and it’s all set out in an enticing format. Entries are organised alphabetically and there are plenty of absorbingly creepy topics to get one’s teeth into.  Each topic is addressed in one to two pages, accompanied by illustrations or photographs, and some topics even include an activity for kids to complete so that the frights keep on coming.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book and would highly recommend it to the  little creepy kid  fan of frightful happenings of your acquaintance.  It would make a fantastic gift book or the perfect tool to quieten kids down in the classroom!

Brand it with:

Boo-tiful Books; Learning Made Creepy; Faces and Places (you don’t want to meet)

I hope you’ve found something in this lot of frighteningly good middle grade titles and have duly lassoed at least one to drag home to your reading pile.

Until next time,

Bruce