Henry and the Incredibly Incorrigible, Inconveniently Intelligent Smart Human: An R-I-I Review, Author Interview and Giveaway!

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Cheerio my flesh and non-flesh friends and compatriots! I have a delightful little cross-species tale for you today, and for extra delightedness, it has a delightfully long title.  I speak, of course, of middle grade sci-fi adventure story, Henry and the Incredibly Incorrigible, Inconveniently Intelligent Smart Human by Lynn Messina.  The book was published in 2012 and it has been a grave disservice indeed that I have not been exposed to it earlier than this, for it is a fun, funny and very clever read.  So it was incredibly lucky that I received a digital copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!

The book follows the story of young robot Henry Jacobson, who has a tough time in Bot school due to a problem in his processor that causes him to shut down at inopportune moments when he is under stress.  As well as teasing at school, Henry has to put up with working with the drooling, stupid and frustrating human units that do the drudge work at his mother’s Beauty Salon.  After one of the human units goes beserko, smashing up the store with a mop and repeating nonsense at regular intervals, Henry finds himself teased even more at school when his mother gets the credit for sorting out the beserko unit and saving the lives of all the bots in the salon.  Things get even stranger for Henry when, after a mysterious visit from his father’s boss, an experimental human unit (the HueManTech ETC-420- GX-2) comes to live in his home.  After an initial period of distrust, Henry begins to discover that this particular unit seems to be able to do far more than just drool and threaten bots with household cleaning products.  Soon, Henry and E (as he comes to be known) are playing video games, making up new words and generally doing plenty of things that Henry would have thought were impossible for a lowly human.  When a threat is made to send E to be compacted, Henry knows that he must find out the truth behind this seeming superhuman who has become his friend.  Cue misadventure! Cue sneaking around! Cue the uncovering of secrets that will change the Bot universe….forever!!

Henry coverRead it if:

* you ever have days when you suspect that your reality affirmulator might be on the blink

* you have ever had fond feelings…the basis of friendship really, …for a household appliance

* you are acquainted with some human units who are capable of little more than drooling and mopping…on their good days

* you know a bot or two in their tweens or teens who can’t go past a good adventure based sci fi

I am so pleased that I was introduced to this story.  For a middle grade sort of a story, it is very, very clever.  There’s a lot to appreciate here for older readers, with lots of little wry observations of human nature, reflected back through robot society.  Henry is a very believable bot, with all the flaws and worries of any thirteen year old being and human unit E is laid back, quietly confident and a joy to read about.  The book is great fun with heaps of funny situations and some fantastic one-liners.

To top all of that though, there’s also plenty of action and suspense.  At one point, Henry and E break into a government agency and get chased by the authorities, get captured, uncover some shocking secrets and use their wits and wiles to save themselves from danger.  I was really worried for the lads during this part as there were some real challenges for them both to surmount.

If you’ve got young male readers around your dwelling, this is definitely a book you should add to your collection.  It will be thoroughly enjoyed by confident independent readers, but if you have to read it aloud to less confident readers, there is plenty here for grown ups to enjoy along with their mini-fleshling.

So who exactly came up with this highly read-worthy tome? Well I’m glad you asked because you’re about to meet her!

Lynn Messina grew up on Long Island and studied English at Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked at the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media), TV Guide, In Style, Rolling Stone, Fitness, ForbesLife, Self, Bloomberg Markets and a host of wonderful magazines that have long since disappeared. She mourns the death of print journalism in New York City, where she lives with her husband and sons. She is author of seven novels, including Fashionistas, which is in development as a feature film and has been translated into 15 languages.

You can find out more about Lynn’s work here, but for your convenience, I asked her some questions about Henry, E and her writing so you can be well prepared if you bump into her at a dinner party/sock hop/other impromptu social occasion.

Why Henry and E? What was it about their story that won out over other stories that may have been jostling for space in your CPU?

To be honest, my CPU isn’t as busy as you think it is. I find good ideas are really hard to come by, and when I get one, I run with it. I might not sit down and start writing immediately, but the idea takes up all my mental energy. So when I came up with the idea of robots inventing humans it was all I thought about for months. I jotted down notes about it everywhere. In fact, I was just cleaning out a drawer yesterday and found a scrap of an envelope from, like, six years ago on which I’d written some early ideas while at my day job.

Who do you picture as the ideal reader of Henry?

The ideal reader for Henry is the same ideal reader I have for all my books, and it’s the sort of reader I am: someone who will love the story enough to reread it at least once to discover all the little things she missed the first time around.

The title is absolutely astoundingly all-round alliterative…Are you a fan of wordplay? And how did you choose the title?

The title has been a problem for me from the start. The working title was Henry, ETC, and that’s the title under which I submitted it to publishers. When I decided to put it out on my own, I realized I needed a much more descriptive title, one that really said what it was about, so I threw in all the adjectives and made them alliterative because I think that’s so much fun. I wasn’t daunted by the long title because one of my favorite books when I was little wasAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Recently, however, a librarian suggested that the title was off-putting to young readers, and now I’m conflicted. But, yes, I love wordplay, and that was one of the things that made me really excited about the story. There were so many opportunities to turn words on their heads.

What are the best parts about writing for young readers?

I feel like the answer should be that writing for young readers allowed me be as silly as I wanted, but the truth is I love writing silly scenes and all my books descend into silliness at one point or another. The unique thing about writing Henry—and this was all the best part—was that it was science fiction. Henry was the first book I ever wrote that left the real world behind. I got to invent everything and make up all the rules (and change them when they no longer suited my purpose) and use my imagination freely. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

This is tough because I feel like the authors I mention should be relevant to the genre and I can’t think of many middle-grade writers I’ve read. Recently, I’ve been reading the Ivy & Bean series to my six-year-old and have been really enjoying it. I will say that J.K. Rowling (of course!) was a big influence because she’s so good with language and wordplay. I had Diagon Alley in my mind almost the whole time I was writing as a sort of talisman of the wit I was going for.

What do you imagine Henry will be doing when he reaches his 21st upgrade? And E?

This is an impossible question for me to answer. I have notes somewhere with ideas for two sequels and I’m fairly certain the trilogy ends with the entire transformation of robot society. But I can’t see beyond that. To be honest, I can’t even see that far because the ideas are so vague. I hope to write at least one of the sequels one day, but it’s been six years since I wrote the book and now there are definitely other things taking up space in my CPU.

And now, the giveaway!  We are offering one lucky reader the chance to win a print copy of the book and better yet, the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY!

Here’s the deets:

– The giveaway is open internationally, so provided you live on planet Earth and have a postal address, you should be right to enter

– One winner will be chosen at random via rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a redraw will occur.

– No responsibility will be taken for packages lost in the mail. Sorry.

– The giveaway is in no way related to WordPress, Goodreads, Rafflecopter, Facebook or any other individual or company that is not me.

– I will be checking entries, so be honest.

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I should probably also point out that the book would fit nicely into a couple of categories in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge…category four (a book with someone’s name in the title) and category eight (a book with wordplay in the title).  Click on this attractive button to find out more and jump on the safari bus!

small fry

In short? Get it, it’s clever. And we all know that there’s nothing better than a clever book that’s meant for kids but sneakily discovered by a grown up.

Until next time,

Bruce

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

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bannermiyuki

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

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

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

Layout 1

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

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Read it if:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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Litera-tees: Tees for Readers (#3)…

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Afternoon all – I present you with a lazy, consumerist post for a lazy Tuesday afternoon….here are some more tees for the literary-minded, plus some very convenient information on who designed them and where you can spend your hard-earned cash purchasing them. You’re welcome, shoppers!

First up, some Harry-related loveliness:

master-of-death

—we have Master of Death by Catch A Brick, available at RedBubble….

Just-As-Sane-As-I-Am

…and Just As Sane As I Am by the unnecessarily talented Megan Lara, also available at RedBubble…and if you like Megan Lara’s nouveau art, she has produced a whole range of tees in this style with various characters – Hermione and many of the recent Doctor Who companions to name a few.

For the Tolkien fans, apparently it is possible to simply walk into Mordor, if this tee is anything to go by:

simply-walk1

It’s titled Simply Walk, is designed by Tom Kurzanski and is available at RedBubble

For those who like to express their opinions on the classics:

moby dicky…we have Moby Dicky by Budi Satria Kwan available at threadless

For those who like a bit of film with their bookery:

read-a-book

…here’s Vader Read A Book available at WeLoveFine shop…

movies-ruining-the-book1

…and Movies: Ruining the Book since 1920 by Jayson Dougherty, available at threadless

And finally, just because I love it and want someone to buy it for me (Att: Santa Claws!):

grim-readers

It’s the Grim Readers’ Book Club by WinterArtwork, available at Shirt.Woot

Layby now for Christmas!

Until next time,

Bruce

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Top Ten Tuesday: Speculative Sequels…

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toptentuesday

A fine afternoon to you all – as you can probably guess from the title of this post, it’s time for one of my random occasional jaunts into meme territory, namely the ever-popular Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and The Bookish! This week’s topic is…..

BOOKS THAT I WISH HAD A SEQUEL

While most of these books are for the very young (or young at heart), I believe that they could all have done with a nicely marketed follow-up title.  I have given my suggestions (and in some cases, possible synopsises synopsi plot descriptions), but please feel free to add your own if any better ideas spring to mind.

oh the places youll go1. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss

This seems to be a perennial favourite on my TTT lists…I would like to see a sequel to this one that honours the parents and caregivers who read this one over and over to their offspring, titled….

Oh, the Places I’LL Go Once You Kids Have Moved Out

mrs queen 2

2. Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

This was a great little read, but I would like to see a sequel that is in keeping with the aftermath of most of my journeys on public transport, titled….

Mrs Queen Takes Two Aspirin and Has A Good Lie Down

guernsey3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary-Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This one, despite being a firm favourite of mine, is unlikely ever to get a sequel given that the author has since passed on, but I would like to see something to bring the story into the new millenium, titled….

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’s Organic Vegan Cookbook (for iPad)

goodnightmrtom4. Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian

A childhood favourite that I discovered (and loved!) as a grown-up.  Once again, in deference to the experience of parents everywhere, I would love to see a range of increasingly short and frustrating sequels to this one titled….

Mr Tom, Can You Read Me A Story?

Mr Tom, Can I Have A Glass of Water?

Mr Tom, I Need to Go to the Toilet…

and finishing up with Mr Tom Needs A Good Stiff Drink

 

curious incident5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

A bestseller if ever there was one, and I would love to see intrepid Christopher Boone turn his detective wiles to a sequel for the feline fanciers amongst us, titled….

The Puzzling Occurence of Cat Sick in My Slipper

phantomtollbooth

6. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I would love to see this classic of silliness and punnery followed up by something a bit more sensible and dour, titled….

The Ph-inancially Viable Tollbooth:  A No-Nonsense Guide to Beating Rising Travel Costs

wherethewildthingsare7. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Once again, I’d love to see this children’s classic tackle some of the problems that more modern children (and their imaginary friends) may be facing, in a sequel titled….

Where the Wild Things Were: Children’s Excessive Screen Time and the Demise of the Mythical Creature

harold and the purple crayon

8. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

The oft-told tale of the small child and his creative spirit….I would be hoping for a sequel in a sort of “Where is he now?” type of vein, titled…

Harold and the Neutral Paintbrush.…being a memoir of a young graffiti offender’s participation in community beautification programs

whereisthegreensheep

9.  Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek

For this fun and frolicky tale, I’d love to see the sequel that charts the farmer’s instant emotional reaction on discovering that s/he is missing a sheep, titled….

Who Left the Bloody Gate Open?

and finally,

neverending story10. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

I don’t have a suggested title for this one, but if it doesn’t have a sequel it’s just a case of false advertising really.

So that’s my two bob’s worth – feel free to chime in with your own suggested titles – I’d love to hear from you!

Oh look, here’s a large enticing button…

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Until next time, my friends!

Bruce

Fiction in 50: Night Terrors…

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Welcome one and all to the second Fiction in 50 community challenge!  This month’s theme or prompt is Night Terrors!

fiction in 50

The premise is simple: sometime during this week…or even this month – there’s no Fi50 time police to chase you up…post a piece of fiction based on the prompt in 50 words or less.  For those who like more official instruction, you can find it, and prompts for future Fi50s, here…or click on the very attractive image above.

So here’s my twist on Night Terrors…I call it:

Value for Money

I have this recurring dream.  I’m being smothered by a giant moth.  My therapist suggested I give the moth a name to make it less terrifying, more approachable.  He suggested the name “Gigglewings”. His fee? $150 an hour.

I’ve bought a herbal sleep remedy and a tin of fly spray.

 

So there you have it….I’m happy to share that my contribution this month was partly inspired by this hilarious text exchange between father and daughter:

image

Personally, I think that guy should win Father of the Year.

So what are you waiting for? Join in!  If you need some more inspiration, check out ideflex’s effort at http://acrossthebored.com/2013/07/26/fiction-in-50-night-terrors/

And for those of you who like to plan ahead, next month’s prompt is Famous Last Words,starting the week of August 26th.

Yours in teeny-weeny narrative,

Bruce

 

Bruce’s Lucky Dip: Paper Dolls You Never Played With as a Kid…

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It’s lucky dip time again, and have I got some ripping (pun intended) offerings for you today! For those who don’t know, my lucky dip feature involves typing a carefully selected term into the Book Depository’s search box and presenting you with the delightfully weird results.

So, paper dolls. Those favoured playthings of fleshlings fond of fun in two-dimensions. Who would’ve thought that scratching the surface of such an innocuous activity would  uncover a veritable treasure chest of oddity? Well, after the utter strangeness encompassed by the range of colouring books on offer, one probably shouldn’t really be surprised.  But one will be.

For your perusing pleasure, I present to you some of the real gems of paper-related play – click on the covers if your appetite for origami-esque shenanigans is whetted!

For the Buddhist who wants to add “right-dressing” to their list of rules for living:

dalai lama paper dolls

 

In a similarly religious vein, for the paper-doll enthusiast with a penchant for swift, undetectable revenge:

voodoo paper dolls

For the book enthusiast who really wants to get inside their favourite author’s head…and wardrobe:

literary greats paper dollsI’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’m only certain of Shakespeare out of that lot…can anyone enlighten me as to who the rest are? Is that Sylvia Plath in the straight jacket? Virginia Woolf? And the bloke on the right looks like a close relation of Colonel Sanders the KFC man, but I’m guessing is somebody more literary minded….

For the pet-lover whose real-life animal friend is averse to wearing cute little outfits:

lucky cats paper dollsFor the man in your life who always liked to play with his sister’s dolls as a little boy:

naughty girls paper dolls

And my personal favourite….***DRUM ROLL PLEASE****…..

For the political enthusiast who wants to recreate famous scandals in their own home:

richard nixon paper dolls

Now before you start scratching your head at the utter surreal-ness of the book immediately above, the BD has a whole range of paper doll books featuring American presidents and their families.  So whatever your political persuasion, there is a paper doll out there for you, voter!

If paper dolls are not your thing, I have also recently discovered two more fantastically different colouring books that I just had to share with you:

For the littlest scholar of feminist philosophy:

girls are not chicks colouring

And for the colouring enthusiast who can’t resist using one of those fancy rainbow pencils:

sometimes the spoon colouring book

 

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and flex your creative muscle! And be sure to chime in with any other exciting paper-doll or colouring related titles that we need to know about.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Bookshelf of the Damned: A Haiku of Frustration…

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I’m in the middle of a good-book drought.

For those lucky individuals who have never experienced such a thing, a good-book drought consists of a reasonably prolonged period of time in which one is seemingly unable to produce warm, accepting and genuinely affectionate feelings towards any book one attempts to read. 

Whilst mired in a good-book drought one may engage in such anti-bookish behaviours as repeatedly abandoning books without finishing them, reacting with excessive nit-picking or criticism to writing styles, plot devices and dialogue sequences that previously caused only mild discomfort, and nervous hand-wringing brought on by a gradual diminishing of hope that one will ever again be blessed with a fantastic and instantly loved read.

I suspect that the good-book drought is a temporary form of mild karmic imbalance brought on by past book-related misdeeds, such as dog-earing library books, using paperbacks as coasters and allowing food crumbs to be smushed between pages while reading.  Whatever the cause, it is a spectacularly frustrating experience.

Rather than continue to spend my time half-heartedly thumbing through, and then discarding, any more potentially great but currently not-cutting-it books, I have decided to create a frustration-based haiku in the hope that my reading karma will take a more positive turn.

evil flatpack 

 

Bookish kara-te

Oh! To feel the sweet caress

of new-loved pages

 

So, fellow travellers in the blogosphere, I hope that your book-droughts grow ever shorter or are at least broken by regular monsoonal activity that produces refreshing reading.

Until next time,

Bruce