Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Monsters, Mythical and Otherwise” Edition…

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imageReading Round-Up is here again and today’s prey of choice is books about monsters.  Be they mythical or firmly accepted in reality, we’re on the hunt for monsters big and small.  But mostly big.

I’ve got two nonfiction tomes and two middle grade adventure novels for you today, all but one of which we received from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  The last we received from Bloomsbury Australia  Let’s kick off with some excellent nonfiction….

Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths (Darren Naish)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

Hunting Monsters is a thorough treatment of the state of cryptozoology today and the hunting monsterschanging face of this oft-maligned (by real scientists) field over time. It covers all your favourite monsters of lore plus some you’ve probably never heard of, including monsters from the African continent and Australia.

Muster up the motivation because…

Don’t let the naff cover design fool you – this is a remarkably engaging read that had me pondering various monstrosities days after I finished reading it.  The book is divided into handy sections – from sea monsters, to hominids, to giant mammals and more – so you can flip around to get the latest on your favourite cryptid, or alternately, as I did, read it cover to cover and fill up your empty brain space with all sorts of in-depth information.  I, for one, was unaware of the varieties of sea monster sightings on record, or of the purported existence of an enormous quadrupedal beast (other than an elephant or giraffe, obviously) getting around in Africa.  Naish also examines how no solid evidence exists  that withstands scientifically rigorous scrutiny that would point in favour of these beasts being actual living beings, but proposes a different direction for the field of cryptozoology regardless.  The only thing I wanted more of in this book was photographs – many “famous” photographs were mentioned throughout, particularly in the Loch Ness Monster section, but it would have greatly enhanced my experience if I’d been able to lay eyes on these photos, rather than having to go and google them later.  Nevertheless, this is a highly recommended read for those who are interested in monsters that may, but almost certainly don’t, wander about in the undiscovered wilds of our planet.

Brand it with:

Did you see that?; The truth is out there; If you go down to the woods today…

Now on to some middle grade adventure fiction with…

The Venom of the Scorpion: Monster Odyssey #4 (John Mayhew)

Two Sentence Synopsis:venom of the scorpion

Dakkar, Indian prince and agent intent on dismantling a group of brothers who are trying to take over the world, is accused of murder and drawn into a complicated web of goddesses, tyranny and violence. As the plot thickens, will Dakkar be able to trust those closest to him?

Muster up the motivation because…

Apart from the attraction of giant scorpions and a plot that reads like Indiana Jones, but without the archaeology, there’s something that no young lover of adventure could pass up featured in this book: Dakkar has his own steampunk-esque submarine!!  This is the fourth book in this series, but the first I have read, so I did find myself in the deep end considering much of the plot surrounding Dakkar’s mission to destroy an evil organisation run by a group of brothers is only glossed over here.  Similarly, not much quarter is given in allowing new readers of the series to get to know the characters and their background and relationships, so I would definitely recommend interested punters start at the beginning of the series.  There is action galore in this book however, so I can imagine it appealing greatly to young male readers who are happy to trade complex character development for the excitement of monsters, piracy, murder, desert cults worshipping giant insect gods, sea battles and the aforementioned steampunk submarine!!  I would be interested in going back and having a look at the earlier books in the series, because although this isn’t my preferred style of middle grade book, the character development and complex plot that are hinted at in this book indicate some high quality adventure in the earlier books.

Brand it with:

Is there a (giant) insect in my hair?; Young Indiana Jones; murder most foul

You’d like more nonfiction, you say?  Coming right up…

Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species (Jeff Campbell & Adam Grano)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

This is an in-depth exploration of giant species – loosely defined – that have become last of the giantsextinct, aimed at a secondary-school aged audience.  The book features recent and historical extinct species and examines how these extinctions can inform our conservation efforts today.

Muster up the motivation because…

You’ll definitely find out some things you didn’t know – or expect – while exploring the life patterns of extinct animals while reading this book.  I, for instance, discovered that Maoris of old apparently epitomised that “hangry” feeling and that if you happened to be a large, tasty reasonably defenceless sort of creature in the olden times, chances were high that you, and all of your relatives, would eventually end up as a human’s dinner. The Steller’s Sea Cow case study I found to be appallingly sad – it beggars belief the amount of times you humans have continued to eat a species until it was extinct! The most interesting thing about this book is that the author  has not just defined “giant” as “physically large”, but includes the Passenger Pigeon, due to its immense swarming impact, and the Tasmanian Tiger, due to its achievement of hanging on to top predator spot when other large mammals in the same location went extinct.  Overall, this is an interesting read with some concerning implications for the current state of the world’s wildlife…including humans.

Brand it with:

My, what big teeth you have!; dominant species; it’s the end of the world as we know it

And finally, one more middle grade adventure…

City of the Yeti (Robert A. Love)

Ten Second Synopsis:city of the yeti.png

It is 1922 and Danny and Rachel leave their home in India and travel to Nepal, pursuing Danny’s interest in the Yeti.  What they discover will change their ideas about humanity forever and plunge them into deadly battles, undiscovered cities and a search for their long-lost grandfather.

Muster up the motivation because…

City of the Yeti is historical fiction with a fantastical twist in a setting that is certainly not often seen in books for this age group.  There is plenty of action and excitement throughout the story, tempered with sections in which our young protagonists must make difficult decisions in an unfamiliar environment.  The one thing that really got my (mountain) goat while reading was that while this is obviously a historical novel, set toward the end of British rule in India, the language is not true to the period.  At one point, Danny’s father, a British aristocrat, says, “Well, uh, sure. That would be nice,” in a spectacularly uncharacteristic display of vernacular speech from a different time and place.  Similarly, the word “spelunking” is used, which, apart from not being coined until some twenty years after this story is set, is decidedly North American in tone.  While younger readers may not mind this so much, I find historical fiction that doesn’t accurately reflect the time that it’s written hugely annoying to read.  If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you however, and you are after an unusual and rollicking adventure that will have you thinking about differences in culture, then definitely give this one a try.

Brand it with:

Under the misty mountains cold; monsters with brains; untouched by civilisation

I will be submitting Hunting Monsters for the Alphabet Soup Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress toward this challenge, here.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: Words and Pictures…and a Top Book of 2016!

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imageIt’s our very first round-up of the year so I thought I’d go easy on you all and bring you one wordy book and two picture books.  We received print copies of all these delightful reads from Allen & Unwin and Bloomsbury for review.  Lassos at the ready? Let’s ride on in!

First up, from the master of linguistic gymnastics, David Astle, we have Wordburger: How to Be a Champion Puzzler in 20 Quick Bites.

wordburger

Ten Second Synopsis:

A kid-friendly guide to becoming a wordsmith, covering everything from homophones to palindromes and pretty much everything in between.

Muster up the motivation because:

This book will give you at least some of the skills required to prove you’re the smartest attendee at your next dinner party, even if it is aimed at kids.  The book is divided into sections, each dealing with a different peculiarity of the English language, for your learning pleasure. The sections also include some activities and mini-puzzles to get your brain working as you read. This is definitely not suited for reading aloud, and for the section on homophones, even reading it in your head to yourself comes with a severe risk of brain implosion.  I would recommend this one as the type of book you dip into when the fancy takes you because I found that trying to read the sections consecutively nearly brought on word-related psychosis.  On the plus side, when Letters and Numbers comes back to our screens (come on SBS!) I will now have some extra fact-based barbed prongs in my arsenal, instead of just an inflated sense of my own linguistic expertise.

Brand it with:

Hardcore linguists only need apply; tongue-twister-ific; cryptic captaincy

Next up, a biographical picture book and one of my picks for Top Books of 2016: Elephant Man by Mariangela Di Fiore, illustrated by Hilde Hodnefjeld and translated by Rosie Hedger.

elephant manTen Second Synopsis:

At the age of just a few years, Joseph Merrick begins to develop strange growths on his body and face that will lead to his being known as the “Elephant Man”.   Is there a way that people can look past his appearance and see Joseph for what he really is?

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a fascinating biography, sensitively told, that will pique the interests of the children that the book is aimed at, as well as the adults who read it to, and with, them.  The illustrations are a combination of drawn artworks and collage, featuring actual photographs of some of the main characters, and some of Joseph’s possessions, including a handwritten letter and a cardboard model of a cathedral.  Joseph’s life story is engaging and the tone of the text conveys the yearning that Joseph has to be treated like a human being.  An informative afterword is included that will definitely generate conversation – I for one want to know if Joseph left his skeleton to science and how it came to be on display at the Royal London Hospital museum – and all up, this book feels like a quality piece of work for middle to upper primary school kids.  I would have loved to have seen this work pushed out a little into a narrative nonfiction, middle grade chapter book offering as I think Joseph’s story could really pique the interest of independent readers in that age group (as well as adult readers of middle grade!).  Highly recommended.

Brand it with:

Bruce's Pick

Judging books by covers, facing up to diversity, forging friendships

And from the heartfelt to the zany, we have Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie…

stanley the catTen Second Synopsis:

Stanley is a committed, generous individual who knits accessories for all his friends.  But when he discovers the Woolly Wonders competition, his new creation may put a few noses (and tails) out of joint.

Muster up the motivation because:

It is well known that we here at the shelf are big fans of textile crafters and some of Stanley’s creations made us quite desirous to own such a piece (the bunny balaclavas particularly).  This picture book is a riot of colour and zany antics and little ones will be drawn to the busy page spreads.  We especially enjoyed one of the final pages in the book, the illustration on which required us to turn the book longways.  We were quite surprised to discover that Stanley’s solution to a lack of yarn for his competition entry was to unravel all the lovely gifts he had made for his friends – we’re not sure we can forgive him for that – but his final product for the competition is a gasp-worthy sight and one that will have the youngsters cheering for our knitting hero.  In fact, the tableful of knitted wonders had Mad Martha sneaking off to see when the textile competition specs for the Ekka and Pine Rivers Show go up – Stanley’s passion for creating epically yarn-tastic creations has rubbed off!

Brand it with:

felines in textiles, fashion accessory design, aeronautical uses of yarn

Thanks again to Allen & Unwin and Bloomsbury for providing the review copies.  I hope you’ve now roped at least one of these books onto your TBR list!

I am also submitting Wordburger and Elephant Man for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress for the challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Monsters, Widows and Random Body Parts” Edition…

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imageWelcome to another Reading Round-Up pardners! Today I have an eclectic collection of bookish beasts so hopefully there’ll be something to satisfy even the most fussy lariat-wielding reader.  I received all of these books from their respective publishers (two via Netgalley, one via Simon & Schuster Australia – thanks!) for review.  Let’s ride read!

Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse (Leslie Bulion & Mike Lowery)random  body parts

Two Sentence Synopsis:

This one does exactly what it says on the box: you guess which body part a cheeky verse is describing.  Some are blindingly obvious, and some take a little more deciphering, but all in all there’s a lot of fun to be had here mixing science and literacy.

Muster up the motivation because:

…it’s fun, funny and pitched perfectly for the middle to upper primary age bracket.  There are also plenty of illustrations, and a glossary and annotations so there’s a lot going on visually for those who get bored looking at print on a page.  Really, this book harnesses the brilliant (and educationally useful) idea of linking two subject areas that rarely see the light of day together, except in picture books for the early years, and executes it with vim and vigour.  *My kindle version did have a few problems in the formatting of the imagery with the print, but I got a good overall impression of the book despite this.  I would also love to see the finished version in print because of this*

Brand it with:

innovative educational text, shakesp-ears (and eyes and brains etc), poetry in motion

Read my Goodreads review here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1207887128

I’m also submitting this one for my Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge in the category of books with an odd language element.  To find out more about the challenge and join in, just click on this cute little button:

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 My Daylight Monsters: A Gothic Novella (Sarah Dalton)my daylight monsters

Two Sentence Synopsis:

Mary has been seeing visions of creepy ghosty-zomboid monsters since a devastating accident in which she lost some of her friends.  She checks herself into a psych ward for teens to get some respite, but it appears her monsters follow her even into the safety of daylight.

Muster up the motivation:

Overall this is a solid, psych-ward adventure-drama, with all the expected patrons in attendance and some unexpected ones also.  The ending got to be a bit unlikely for my tastes but the bulk of the storytelling is done well with some interesting twists and reveals.  As a novella, it’s also a quick read and a great opportunity to try the series before committing to the full length novels featuring Mary in other adventures.

Brand it with:

unhelpful helpers, daytime hauntings, tall-dark-mysterious strangers, take your medication

See my Goodreads review here!

 

 

The Widow’s Confession (Sophia Tobin)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  widows confession
Two American sisters come to Broadstairs, Kent in 1850 to hide from a secret in their past (and enjoy the bracing sea breezes and picturesque painting opportunities – obviously).  When the corpses of young girls start turning up, more than just sand is churned up as the townsfolk try to keep the past buried.

Muster up the motivation because:

…there’s plenty of broody atmosphere to go round, as well as a piecemeal approach to the reveal of past secrets as each chapter is preceded by parts of a letter of confession.  As a period piece and murder mystery, all the tropes are there – the holidaying dapper young gent, the worried vicar, the cold-hearted physician and the mysterious foreign lasses with a shady past.  If you are looking for a book that will make you feel like you’re really there, wuthering on the clifftop (being wuthered? Not sure of the correct verb usage there!) then cosy up with The Widow’s Confession and be blown back and forth with the changing tides as characters’ secrets are revealed.

Brand it with:

An American in Kent, pretty young things (deceased), blustery clifftop strolls, historical fiction

Read my Goodreads review here!

So there you have it. Three rather different books, but hopefully something there has piqued your interest.

Progress toward Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge goal: 4/16

I’m a quarter of the way there! How are others going in the Oddity Challenge? Anyone else want to join in? There’s plenty of time. Come on! Get on it!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

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

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

Henni (Miss Lasko-Gross)

HenniTwo Sentence Synopsis:

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

Muster up the motivation because:

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

Brand it with:

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

Read my Goodreads review here!

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

 Soppy: A Love Story (Philippa Rice)
soppy

Two Sentence Synopsis:

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

Muster up the motivation because:

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

Brand it with:

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

Read my Goodreads review here!

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

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

bad machineryTwo Sentence Synopsis:

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

Muster up the motivation because:

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

Brand it with:

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

Read my Goodreads review here!

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

Stay tuned for the odd round up on Friday pardners!

Until next time,

Bruce