The Unforgettable What’s His Name: A Maniacal Book Club Review…

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It’s been a number of years since I’ve read a book by Paul Jennings, so the Book Club was more than delighted to receive a copy of The Unforgettable What’s His Name, by Mr Jennings, and illustrated by Craig Smith, from Allen & Unwin for review.  Before I unleash the Club on this quirky and heartwarming tale, here’s the blurb from A&U:

Now you see him, now you don’t – an action-packed adventure about a boy who just wants to blend in, from a bestselling author/illustrator team.

Even before all this happened I had never been like the other kids. I tried not to be seen. If I climbed a tree or hid among the bins, no one could find me. ‘Where’s What’s His Name?’ they’d say.

Then, one weekend, I got what I wanted. First, I blended in with things. But on the second day I changed.

I mean, really changed.

The hilarious story of a boy with an unusual problem, from children’s book legend Paul Jennings. Includes fantastic look-and-find colour illustrations.

 

The Unforgettable What's His Name by Paul Jennings & Craig Smith.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October, 2016.  RRP: $14.99

The Unforgettable What’s His Name by Paul Jennings & Craig Smith. Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October, 2016. RRP: $14.99

And here’s what the Maniacal Book Club have to say on the topic…

Guru Davemaniacal book club guru dave

When the eyes of the world are watching, will you step into the limelight or shrink into the shadows?  This is the dilemma faced by young What’s His Name.  To stand up and be counted, or overlooked, like a single monkey amidst a herd of leaping banana-chewers: only you can make the decision to be seen as you truly are.  We would all do well to take a lesson from young What’s His Name.  Blending in with your surroundings may solve your problem in the short term, but eventually, one must show one’s true colours, or risk remaining forever like a statue over a pond, while the moss slowly grows over one’s head.

To0thless

maniacal book club toothless

 

There are no dragons in this book.  There are a bunch of crazy monkeys that run all over town though, and a dog with no ears and a motorcycle gang, and even a boy who can transform into lots of cool things.  It sounds like a cool superpower but most of the time it isn’t very convenient for What’s His Name.  One time, one of the monkeys even tries to pee on him! They call that monkey the Big Pee!

I really liked Sandy the dog too.  This book has a lot of funny things in it and I think kids who like wacky adventures and unexpected things will like this book.  It would be fun to have a teacher read this book out in class because I think all the kids would be laughing.

Mad Martha

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This poem is inspired by Simon and Garfunkle’s folk hit Feelin’ Groovy.

Hello lampost, whatcha knowing?

It appears you have two ears growing.

And is that a hair or three?

Do, do, do, do, do

You’re transforming!

Bruce

maniacal book club bruce

 

Paul Jennings, it must be said, is a master of magical realism, with a narrative style all his own.  Whether it has been two weeks or twenty years since you last read one of his books, I can guarantee that you’ll fall straight back into his familiar way of storytelling.  The Unforgettable What’s His Name is a book about a boy who wants to fade from sight.  Painfully shy, the boy gets the jitters whenever he thinks people are watching him and this leads to some unique and giggle-worthy problems.  All the expected Jennings features are included here: unexpected and hilarious situations involving our protagonist, things going wrong at exactly the wrong moment, characters who aren’t necessarily what they appear to be on the outside, and at least one reference to pooh.

The book didn’t seem to me as laugh-out-loud funny as some of Jennings classic works, but there are certainly a range of events that will have readers cringing with embarrassment and wriggling with glee as all sorts of silly situations unfold, requiring skin-of-your-teeth escapes and some truly innovative solutions to problems.  The book is illustrated throughout with both black and white line drawings and double-page spread, full colour illustrations, which add to the magical aspects of the book.

Putting aside the craziness of being able to turn into a human chameleon when anxious for a moment, this book is at its heart a story about facing one’s fears and carving out a place to belong.  As in most of Jennings’ work, the bottom line notes that you don’t have to be the same as everyone else in order to fit in somewhere.

I’d definitely recommend this as an insta-buy for classroom libraries or as a treat for fans (new and old) of the quirky, unexpected mind of Paul Jennings.

Until next time,

Bruce and the gang

 

Choose Your Own Adventure for Big Kids: Superpowered (Click Your Poison #3)…

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Hold your horses! Stop the press! Today I’ve got an early Christmas present for anyone who wants to feel like they did way back when, as they flicked through a Choose Your Own Adventure tale. But today’s book is designed specifically for adult readers.  Intrigued? Come on, of course you are!  I was lucky enough to snag a copy of today’s tome through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and I am glad I did, because I haven’t had such a fun experience with an ebook for a long time as I had with Superpowered by James Schannep, the third offering in the Click Your Poison series.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

You know the superhero fantasy. What would life be like if you had superhuman abilities? But really, given the choice, would you save the world or conquer it? In SUPERPOWERED, the choice is yours.

After a bizarre experiment leaves you with one of three superpowers (play the book multiple times to explore all three!), you must ally with or confront the other two test subjects while the fate of Mercury City–nay, the world!–hangs in the balance.

Live your own interactive comic book adventure and Get SUPERPOWERED!

3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question… Will YOU Be a Hero or a Villain?

 

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This was a light, fun read that immediately had me thinking out my old-school strategies for how I would approach the story.  I initially took the path of least resistance, which resulted in a quickly ended storyline, and then I backed up and got my head in the game.  There are three superpowers you can choose from once the story gets going and I took my time deliberating – you don’t want to end up choosing a sucky one and having to start all over again, after all. Or maybe you do, if that’s the way you want to play it!

Once it becomes apparent that you are no longer an ordinary human, paths unfold that allow you to choose whether you will be a bleeding heart hero with designs on making the world a super place, or a black hearted villain with no regard for the common people.  The thing that impressed me the most about this book was the smooth and responsive “click your choice” format in the Kindle edition that allows the reader to click on the chosen option to be taken straight to the corresponding page.  I admit, I did wonder how the author was going to get past all the flicking forward and back of the traditional print CYACs in the electronic format, but it worked like a dream and kept me focused on the story.

I did find it was tricky to go back once you’d made a selection – I learned to take note of the prior location in case I muffed it up – but that was a minor drawback to something that really delivers an enjoyable, nostalgic experience in a modern, adult-friendly format.

There are two other adventures in the Click Your Poison series – one a murder mystery and the other an apocalyptic plague zombie survival adventure – and I would be interested in checking them out.  I reckon that this series is perfect for those who enjoyed the CYAC format as a youngster and are looking for a fun, interactive reading experience to brighten up their daily commute, boring appointment waiting time or other tedium from which there is no physical escape.

I’m submitting this one into my Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge under the category of Odd Language Element due to the interactive format.  For more information about the challenge and to join in, click here.

Progress Toward Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge Goal: 11/16

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Read-it-if Review: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain…

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Howdy superfriends! Today I have a very different YA novel for you filled with action and gadgets and cool outfits.  It’s Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain by Richard Roberts, and I received a digital copy of the book for review from the publisher, Curiosity Quills, via Netgalley – thanks!

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain is told from the point of view of Penelope, a young teen with superhero parents who is anxiously waiting for her own superpowers to appear.  Her friends, Claire and Ray, are similarly eager to come into their superpowers, and when Penelope unexpectedly builds an incredible machine that responds to her every command, without quite knowing how she did it, it appears the dream has become reality for at least one of the trio.  After some usual teenage unpleasantness involving another girl at her school, Penny and her friends seek revenge by using their newfound powers for evil, rather than good, and in doing so they inadvertently style themselves as supervillains rather than heroes when their antics (but not their identities) are caught on camera.  Working under the name The Inscrutable Machine, the trio venture out onto the town – but is it ever really too late to make a new name for yourself as a superhero? Or is it true that supervillains just have more fun?

please don't tell my parents

Read it if:

* you have a secret identity that you keep hidden at all costs…down the back of your undies drawer with your super-stretchy super-lycra superhero suit

* you’ve ever suspected that, if they found out the truth, your parents may be slightly disappointed in your chosen (or potential) career path

* you believe your teachers when they tell you that advanced mathematics has numerous practical applications in everyday life

* you believe that the ability to be cute and charming in order to get your own way is, in fact, a superpower

Now I first requested this title because (a) the cover is eye-poppingly awesome and (b) the title had me instantly interested.  Unfortunately, the book didn’t 100% live up to my high expectations.  Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of bits I enjoyed and I appreciated the unusual premise, but the execution didn’t get me that excited for some reason.  Let’s start with the positives though.

I suspect that this book is going to be a hit with discerning readers in their early teens who are looking to move on from the prolific middle grade market, but also want to read a book with ordinary teen problems played out with action and humour.  The thing that really stood out for me while reading the book was the fact that the premise is so different form anything else that’s out there at the moment.  The superhero content seems to be an area that isn’t really featured in a lot of books for this age group just now, and it should certainly be a drawcard for younger readers, as it was for me.  There’s also plenty (PLENTY!) of action in the book, with superhero-versus-supervillain clashes aplenty, as well as some great one-liners and comedy woven into the action.  So in that regard, I think this will be a book that appeals to both genders, as there’s something for everyone here.

I think the main reason this didn’t grab me in the way that I thought it would is that I suspect it’s a bit overly long.  It takes a reasonably long while for Penny to unleash her superpower and then after she gets a handle on her newfound talents, it takes another reasonably long time before the first showdown occurs.  For some people this may not be a problem, but I felt that there could have been a bit of judicious editing here and there to tighten up the flow of the story and keep it moving at a steady pace, particularly as this is a book aimed at the young adult bracket (read: those of us with shortish attention spans…ooh, a shiny thing!).  Also, I suspect that the book will require readers who don’t mind a bit of explanation – there’s a lot of jargony, computery, mathsy, type language in there (due to Penny and her father having superpowers relating to the field of mathematics and computation) and that may put off those who just want the guts of the story without having to wade through such specifics.

So overall, I don’t think this one is for me unfortunately, but I think that there will definitely be a fan base out there for whom this is exactly the type of quirky YA action-adventure they’ve been waiting for.  I’ve also had a look at some of Richard Roberts’ other works, and there are definitely some in there that I want to get my paws on despite not quite loving this effort.

Until next time,

Bruce

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

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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.

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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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