TBR Friday: I Am Princess X

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TBR Friday

It’s TBR Friday once again and I’m also sneaking in another notch off the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas, by getting finished with I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Best friends, big fans, a mysterious webcomic, and a long-lost girl collide in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen; illustrated throughout with comics.

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon—her best friend, Libby, who lives.

i-am-princess-x

Ten Second Synopsis:
May and Libby were best friends – until Libby died in a horrible road accident, leaving May behind with nothing but memories and their shared work on a comic book series “Princess X”. When May starts noticing stickers of Princess X around her home town, she is baffled: who could be drawing Libby and May’s character if Libby died three years ago?

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I’m not really sure.  At least a year, but not more than a year and a half.

Acquired:

Purchased from the Scholastic warehouse sale for a cool $5.00, or thereabouts.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Other books kept taking precedence.

Best Bits:

  • The format switches between novel and graphic novel, with actual parts of the Princess X comic included in the book.  They are printed in a gorgeous purple and grey colour palette too, which is a feast for the eyes.
  • The mystery was really absorbing, because in the beginning, May doesn’t realise that there are parts to Libby’s story of which she isn’t aware, for various reasons.  There are also clues left about for May to find which is always fun.
  • The pace is spot on, with not much dallying, and when the proverbial hits the fan, it’s a seat-of-your-pants ride to the end.
  • I really liked May as a character.  She’s authentic for her age, with flaws and all.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • In the beginning it seemed like the author was having a bit of trouble finding the right voice for her characters, but this cleared up by the middle.
  • There is a little red herring thrown out early on about what happens to the physical collection of Princess X comics and I wished that this had played a part in the mystery, but it didn’t.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Absolutely!  I got totally sucked in to this mystery and both the format and the content of the story are a change from the usual YA school-yard dynamics fare.

Where to now for this tome?

I loved it, but I can’t see myself reading it again, so I will put it out for sale at the next Suitcase Rummage I attend.

So that’s one more chink off Mount TBR and one more book to add to my Mount TBR Reading Challenge total!  I think I’m up to 13 or 14 now, but I’ll try and fit one more in before I do a wrap up post next month.

 

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday and a reminder for Fi50 October…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

 

Fiction in 50 for October kicks off on Monday with a democratic prompt:

with-great-comes-great

You fill in the blank!

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.


TBR Friday

In a herculean effort that involved reading really thin books, I have managed to knock over THREE tomes for the Mount TBR Challenge this month – hooray!

Let’s get cracking then.  First up was Oddfellow’s Orphanage by Emily Winfield Martin.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

What do an onion-headed boy, a child-sized hedgehog, and a tattooed girl have in common? They are all orphans at Oddfellow’s Orphanage! This unusual and charming chapter book tells an episodic story that follows a new orphan, Delia, as she discovers the delights of her new home. From classes in Cryptozoology and Fairy Tale Studies to trips to the circus, from Annual Hair Cutting Day to a sea monster-sighting field trip, things at Oddfellows are anything but ordinary . . . except when it comes to friendships. And in that, Oddfellows is like any other school where children discover what they mean to each other while learning how big the world really is.

oddfellows-orphanage

Ten Second Synopsis:
Delia arrives at Oddfellow’s Orphanage only to discover an array of quirky and whimsical inhabitants. Gentle adventures ensue.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Two years and six months.  I ordered it in April 2014.

Acquired:

Purchased from the BD.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I bought it because the cover was so beautiful, but then I read some critical reviews on Goodreads about it, so I left it languishing, afraid it would be terrible.

Best Bits:

  • It’s short, gentle, episodic and whimsical.  Nothing particularly bad happens and overall this felt like a hipsterish offering, but with good intentions.
  • Each chapter introduces a new cheerful adventure that is unconnected (for the most part) to the others, so the book can be read one chapter at a time over a long period.  This is how I approached it.
  • The black and white pencil illustrations are gorgeous and fill out the characters a bit.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • There’s no connected plot, just a collection of stories about the people who live in the orphanage, so there is no particular motivation to finish the book if you’re bored.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Nope.

Where to now for this tome?

Give away or sell at a suitcase rummage.

Next up, I read the first two books from Bruce Coville’s The Magic Shop series, starting with The Monster’s Ring.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Twist it once, you’re horned and haired;
Twist it twice and fangs are bared;
Twist it thrice? No one has dared!

Russell is sure that the ring he gets at Mr. Elives’ shop is just a silly magic trick, but he follows the instructions and twists the ring twice anyway–and becomes a monster!

the-monsters-ring

Ten Second Synopsis:
Russell has a problem with a bully at school.  When he unexpectedly comes across a magic shop after getting lost, he finds that the solution to his problems might be right within his grasp.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

One year and eleven months.  I ordered it in November 2014.

Acquired:

Purchased from the BD.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Laziness.

Best Bits:

  • This is a quick read, in which very few words are wasted on filler.  It really is the kind of middle grade book you can knock over in a night or two, which is what the author intended according to the author’s note that is included with this edition.
  • The magic shop is appropriately creepy and mysterious – exactly the kind of magical establishment that a middle-grade aged kid would love to stumble across.
  • The ending is a little unexpected and quite funny.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • This is a re-issue of the original book, so the boy on the cover looks absolutely nothing like the boy in the interior illustrations.
  • The plot is quite predictable for the most part, and there are a few moments when the solution to Russell’s predicament is bleedingly obvious – use the ring! – but for some reason he takes a while to figure that out.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I probably could have borrowed it for the library.

Where to now for this tome?

Give away to someone of the intended age group.

Finally, I finished the second book in Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop series, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Sixth-grader Jeremy Thatcher discovers a strange magic shop he has never seen before. He enters, and his life is changed forever. Buying what he thinks is a marble, he discovers he has really purchased a dragon’s egg.

jeremy-thatcher-dragon-hatcher

Ten Second Synopsis:
Jeremy Hatcher is a fantastic artist but his art teacher hates how he only draws imaginary things.  When Jeremy stumbles across a magic shop, he discovers that dragons may exist outside his imagination.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Six months to a year.  I picked it up sometime in 2015.

Acquired:

Bought at a second hand book sale because I knew I had The Monster’s Ring already on the shelf.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I hadn’t read the first in the series, so I was waiting until I had knocked that one over.

Best Bits:

  • This book is a little heftier than the first in the series and the characters were more fleshed out and felt more genuine.
  • There’s quite a bit of situational humour in this one, as well as the predicament of Jeremy having an unwanted love interest.
  • The problems that Jeremy has to face were pitched at exactly the right level for the middle grade audience, with friendships, forgiveness and facing criticism and disappointment some of the themes appearing in addition to the fantasy elements.
  • The scene in which Jeremy finds the magic shop follows the same scene from book one almost word for word, which I thought was a pretty cool way to link two stories in a series that are otherwise completely separate.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • The adult characters aren’t as authentic-feeling as the child characters.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I probably could have borrowed it for the library.

Where to now for this tome?

Give away to someone of the intended age group.

Count that as three more chinks off the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block and I have now achieved Level 1 of the challenge: Pike’s Peak, or twelve books!

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

 

TBR Friday + a Fi50 Reminder…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

As difficult as it is to believe, it’s time for Fiction in 50 for September – that’s right, September.  I hope, as well as planning your Fi50s, you’ve also got your end-of-year shopping on the go already because there are just under 14 weeks to go until Christmas.

Scared you there, didn’t I?

I also figured that out using a handy little site called Weeks Until, which has a tool for you to figure out the waiting time until any date you like.  Nifty!

But back to Fiction in 50 business.  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…

signs and wonders button

See you there!


TBR Friday

I feel like I’m doing well on my Mount TBR Challenge so far.  My aim was to knock over 12 books from my TBR shelf that I phsyically owned before the first of this year and to date, including today’s effort, I have managed to complete all the books from my original list!  TBR challenge list

This is excluding The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I decided not to finish, but including Hester and Harriet, which hadn’t arrived by the time I took this photo.  So hooray for me!  This means I will be able to add in a few extra contenders to make it over the #12 mark by the end of the year.

*crosses claws*

But let’s get on with today’s book, The Riverman by Aaron Starmer.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Alistair Cleary is the kid who everyone trusts. Fiona Loomis isnot the typical girl next door. Alistair hasn’t really thought of her since they were little kids until she shows up at his doorstep with a proposition: she wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into the mind of a potentially troubled girl. Fiona says that in her basement, there’s a portal that leads to a magical world where a creature called the Riverman is stealing the souls of children. And Fiona’s soul could be next. If Fiona really believes what she’s saying, Alistair fears she may be crazy. But if it’s true, her life could be at risk. In this novel from Aaron Starmer, it’s up to Alistair to separate fact from fiction, fantasy from reality.

the-riverman

Ten Second Synopsis:

Alistair doesn’t really know Fiona too well; despite the fact that she lives down the street, they stopped hanging out when they were about seven.  When Fiona chooses Alistair to be her biographer and tells him a story that is, frankly, unbelievable, Alistair will have to decide whether to risk believing in the unbelievable, or investigate what might be really going on in Fiona’s life.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I ordered it from the BD on the 3rd of February, 2015 so it’s been on there since a week or so after that.

Acquired:

Purchased from the BD.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Sheer laziness.  Plus, it felt like it might be a hefty read.  So again, laziness.

Best Bits:

  • I found this to be an extraordinarily good example of YA magical realism.  Or fantasy.  Both, really.  The story is complex and deftly woven and you are never sure whether Aquavania exists or whether it’s Fiona’s coping mechanism.
  • Even though the book deals with some grown-up issues, making it more appropriate for upper-end YA readers, Alistair is a perfectly authentic twelve-year-old protagonist, showing that combination of bravado, indifference and bewilderment common to kids of this age.
  • There’s a twist regarding the Riverman that was so unexpected as to be inexplicable – but this was okay because (a) it leads nicely into the second book and (b) it reinforced the atmosphere of confusion relating to the whole “is Aquavania real?” question.
  • The narrative style was absolutely engaging and provided a thorough exploration of the main characters, as well as the motivations of various others in the town.  I was super-impressed by how tight the story was and how expertly it had been put together.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • I can’t really think of any parts of the book I personally didn’t enjoy, but looking at it from another perspective, some readers may find the gaps in between the “fantasy” parts of the story too long.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Absolutely.  In fact, in no time at all I will procure the second book in the trilogy, The Whisper, and no doubt leave it on my shelf for a year or so, just for old time’s sake.

Where to now for this tome?

Straight to the permanent shelf.

If this has whetted your appetite at all, I will have another Aaron Starmer title for you next week – new release YA tome Spontaneous, which came to us with a free splatter jacket.  There might also be a giveaway to go with this one, but keep it under your hat!

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

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Thank Goodness it’s TBR Friday!

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TBR Friday

I’ve got a gently odd little offering for today’s climb up Mount TBR.  It’s adult fiction (memoir?) The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide and translated by Eric Selland.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.

One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.

The Guest Cat is an exceptionally moving and beautiful novel about the nature of life and the way it feels to live it. Written by Japanese poet and novelist Takashi Hiraide, the book won Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, and was a bestseller in France and America.

the guest cat

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Probably about a year?  I can’t say exactly as I didn’t buy this one myself.

Acquired:

Received as a birthday gift

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

It’s a very slim tome, so of course I put it off under the logic that as it’s so thin I could pick it up and knock it over anytime.  Also, the sensible, grown up, adultness of the subject matter had me a tiny bit intimidated, even though I asked someone to buy this for me because I wanted to read it.

Best Bits:

  • It’s rare to find such a gentle story in which the content is so limited, yet still engaging: this is literally a man reflecting on his life with his wife and the next-door neighbour’s cat.  I don’t think there’s any massive, deep analogy that I’m missing.  It’s a pretty straightforward reflection on life, relationships and loss. And the habits of cats.
  • The writing is … sublime seems too committed a word, but  maybe majestic could be a good way to describe it.  Majestic without being arrogant.  Rapturous but at the same time, quotidian.  There’s an elevation to the writing which makes the ordinary events being described feel like something important.
  • The book is slim and can be read quite quickly.  Alternatively, the content works well for just taking things a chapter at a time due to the lack of exciting action.
  • If you have a particularly deep love for felines, you will probably delight in the detailed descriptions of the cat’s cute idiosyncracies.
  • There is a section at the back with some notes that give context to some of the events that might be missed or misinterpreted by non-Japanese readers.  I found this quite helpful in re-examining a particular event toward the end.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • The print in this edition is teeny-weeny.
  • Without spoiling the events of the book for you, by the end of the book, the man and his wife seemed a little too attached to the cat to the point that it was interfering with their ability to move on.  Literally move on, since they move house.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Considering it wasn’t my money that paid for it, yes.  Particularly since it isn’t at all my usual type of read, and therefore it is unlikely that I would ever have bought it for myself.

Where to now for this tome?

I will probably pass it on to someone who will enjoy it. Or possibly sell it at a Suitcase Rummage.

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

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday…and an Fi50 Reminder!

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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

An Odd TBR Friday and Fi50 Reminder…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

Before we kick off with another TBR Friday, allow me to remind you that Fiction in 50 for April opens on Monday, with the prompt…

born to...

(You fill in the blank!)

To participate, just create a piece of poetry or prose in fewer than 51 words and link it up or post it in the comments of the Fi50 post on Monday.  For more detailed instructions and future prompts, just click here.
TBR Friday

I feel so productive on TBR Fridays!  I’m knocking another one off the enormous, ever-growing pile today and I feel this one counts double as it is a collection of short stories.  In fact, Oddest of All by Bruce Coville is the third in a series of short story anthologies from the aforementioned Bruce Coville.

oddest of all

Ten Second Synopsis:

This tome comprises nine short stories that all feature a bit of oddity.  All but one have a fantastical or sci-fi twist to them and the subjects range from werefrogs to unicorns to ghosts to doing what you’re told.

**Side note: I have just noticed something super weird – the cover in the image above says “Eighteen Odd stories” but the book I have in my hand (ostensibly the EXACT SAME edition), says NINE short stories…Odd indeed!**

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I can’t remember exactly, but I know I acquired this one in the dying months of 2015.

Acquired:

From the Cystic Fibrosis charity bookshop at Nundah that sells off all the books withdrawn from the BCC library’s collection.

Reason I Haven’t Read it Yet:

No particular reason except that other shinier newer books have taken my fancy.  It was one of those books that you pick up on a whim knowing that you won’t get to it immediately.

Best Bits:

  • The stories are all reasonably quick reads, with only one or two that stretch out a bit longer.  This is great because you can dip into a story here or there before sleep without too much difficulty.
  • Most of the stories had a humorous element to them so the collection reminded me of reading Paul Jenning’s brilliant anthologies as a mini-fleshling
  • My favourite stories in this collection were The Thing in Aunty Alma’s Pond, The Mask of Eamonn Tiyado and Herbert Hutchison in the Underworld because they all had a slightly creepy twist to them
  • Some of the stories here are shorter versions of a larger series, such as The Ghost Let Go, so there is scope for readers to continue the adventure in a longer reading experience

Less Impressive Bits:

  • I did feel that I had seen some of these stories before…not the actual stories of course, but the themes and plot twists.  I suspect this is because I have read quite a few short story anthologies aimed at this age group, especially from people like Anthony Horowitz and Neal Shusterman, who have covered similar topics

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Considering it was only $2, yes.

Where to now for this tome?

It will go to the permanent shelf at least until I decide I need more space or find someone who would really enjoy it.

That’s one more handhold grasped on my way up the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block!

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday: The D’evil Diaries…

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TBR Friday

Welcome to my new feature for this year: TBR Fridays!  I’ve decided to include one read from my TBR shelf on the blog per month; partly to whittle down the ridiculous amount of books that I bought because I had to have right that second and have then ignored (in some cases for longer than a year – eep!), and partly to ensure that I succeed with the Mount TBR Challenge that I am participating in at Pike’s Peak level (12 books).  If you want to know more about the Mount TBR Challenge, just click on this attractive button:

Mount TBR 2016

Now let’s get on, shall we?

Today’s book is The D’evil Diaries by Tatum Flynn, a middle grade fantasy adventure set in Hell.

devil diaries

Ten Second Synopsis:

Jinx, Lucifer’s youngest son, sucks at being evil.  Tommy is a young girl who shouldn’t even be in Hell to begin with (because children are NEVER sent to Hell. Ever).  When Jinx meets Tommy after running away from his father’s plan to send him to Hell’s military school, the two discover a plot that could tear apart the world as they know it.  Against all odds, the two must work together to beat the saboteurs at their own game before all hell (and Heaven) breaks loose.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Since October 2015

Acquired:

From the Book Depository, because I saw the sequel was due to be released, so obviously had to immediately buy both books.  I have the second one on pre-order.  It’s due to be released this month.

Reason I Haven’t Read it Yet:

Other newer, shinier books have taken my fancy.

Best Bits:

  • This was a bit of a slow starter but by the end of the book I was invested in the characters and the outcome
  • Illustrations!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Middle grade books are ALWAYS better with illustrations.  These ones are interspersed throughout, but they add to the reading experience.
  • One of Jinx’s closest friends is a sloth.  The quintessential Sloth from the list of seven deadly sins, in fact.
  • Jinx’s clever trick toward the end of the book to neutralise the main saboteur is definitely worth a round of applause
  • Flynn’s world-building is pretty slick.  There are lots of different sections to Hell, reserved for different types of sinners, and each has its own creatures and landscape, which added interest to the journey of the main characters.
Less impressive bits:
  • The first few chapters seem to be comprised mostly of telling, rather than showing.  I was a little worried that the whole book would be like this, but once Jinx decides to run away, the style seems to lean more towards showing.
  • This isn’t a complaint about the book per se, but the book cover says “Perfect for fans of David Walliams”. This seems inexplicable to me because the humour and narrative style are completely different to Walliams’ work.  The only similarity I can see is that the books are pitched at the same age group.  Overall, I think this effort outstrips Walliams’ works (excluding, of course, Mr Stink and The Boy in the Dress, which are right crackers).

On reflection, was it worth buying?

While I did end up enjoying the book, I probably could have just got this one from the library and been equally satisfied.

Where to now for this tome?

It will make the move to my permanent shelf because I’ve got the sequel coming.

So that’s the first handhold on Pike’s Peak gripped with a fist of stone!  What a cracking start I’ve got off to!  I’m pumped to continue climbing my enormous pile of unread books!
Until next time,
Bruce