June 23, 2017

I'm conflicted

I am struggling with how to express my feelings about Grandpa's Great Escape by David Walliams. This is due to the fact that this man might actually be a bigger Roald Dahl fan than myself and his writing definitely reflects that. I don't think that Walliams makes any bones about this but I do think that if you've read Dahl's works it will be difficult not to compare the two which leaves Walliams falling a bit short. (Sorry!) Read on its own merit, it's a great little book which touches on topics which I think are really important in middle grade fiction. Our main character, Jack, has a very special relationship with his grandfather who was a fighter pilot in WWII. Their relationship is a unique one which is further complicated by the fact that his grandpa has Alzheimer's disease and believes he is once again in the midst of the Battle of Britain. Jack's parents are torn about what to do with the old man but Jack is adamant that he continue to spend time with him...until the vicar puts an idea into their heads about the old folks home beyond the moors. In typical Dahl fashion, Walliams fashions a slapstick comedy amidst flashbacks to WWII and serious discussions over elderly care and familial loyalty.

What I didn't care for:
  • What felt like blatant ripoffs of Dahl's works as well as his illustrator, Quentin Blake
What I legitimately enjoyed:
  • The approach and handling of serious discussions revolving around elderly care and Alzheimer's
  • The glossary at the back which discussed in more detail the topics touched on in the book such as the Royal Air Force, Battle of Britain, etc.
To get an idea of what I mean in reference to the illustrations I'm going to put an example of Quentin Blake's work for Dahl and following that a look at an illustration by Tony Ross for Grandpa's Great Escape. They definitely have different styles but they somehow evoke the same kind of whimsy and emotion. This is why I'm so conflicted about my feelings because truly it's like they're doing an ode to their heroes but...hmmm.

I'd love to know what you guys think so please check the book out and leave a comment below. :-)

Source: Yard Gallery
Source: World of David Walliams
**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 16, 2017

Am I no longer afraid of robots?

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown has both fascinated me and frightened me for at least 2 months now. I kept seeing the cover when I was shelving or visiting other branches and the image of the single robot standing on top of a pile of rocks kept leaping out at me. I finally gave up the fight when I decided that middle grade fiction was the way to cure my book reading blues. I'm glad that I did because The Wild Robot was a lot of fun to read (and it turns out it's the start of a series!) made even more amazing by the superb illustrations supplied by the author. [A/N Peter Brown is no stranger to creating books as he's a well-known children's picture book author/illustrator but this is his first attempt at middle grade fiction.] This isn't your standard 'robot story' but instead it's a look at climate change, the ever-evolving landscape of our world with the advent of technology, and what it means to be truly alive. In short, it's beautiful, thought-provoking literature. The illustrations peppered throughout enhance the story by adding depth to the characters (I love that they're black and white.). Roz is doing the best she can given her circumstances which is really all that anyone can do. The only difference is that she's an artificial lifeform living on an island without any humans. How will this shape her? Will her presence have any effect on the local fauna and flora? Brown's commentary on our world is perfectly geared for a younger audience but it wouldn't go amiss for the adult crowd either. ;-) I can't wait to see how this story continues to develop as Peter carries on with the series. 10/10

For a look at the book from the author's perspective check out this awesome post written by Peter about his process of getting his book published: "The Wild Robot lives!".

The haunting cover. [Source: Amazon.com]
Source: New York Times

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 13, 2017

Newly Released: That Crazy Perfect Someday

The lovely folks over at Wunderkind PR were kind enough to reach out to me and ask if I'd be willing to let you guys know about a new book coming out just in time for summer. I happily told them yes. :-)



Synopsis:
The year is 2024. Climate change has altered the world’s wave patterns. Drones crisscross the sky, cars drive themselves, and surfing is a new Olympic sport. Mafuri Long, UCSD marine biology grad, champion surfer, and only female to dominate a record eighty-foot wave, still has something to prove. Having achieved Internet fame, along with sponsorship from Google and Nike, she’s intent on winning Olympic gold. But when her father, a clinically depressed former Navy captain and widower, learns that his beloved supercarrier, the USS Hillary Rodham Clinton, is to be sunk, he draws Mafuri into a powerful undertow. Conflicts compound as Mafuri’s personal life comes undone via social media, and a vicious Aussie competitor levels bogus doping charges against her. Mafuri forms an unlikely friendship with an awkward teen, a Ferrari-driving professional gamer who will prove to be her support and ballast. Authentic, brutal, and at times funny, Mafuri lays it all out in a sprightly, hot-wired voice. From San Diego to Sydney, Key West, and Manila, That Crazy Perfect Someday goes beyond the sports/surf cliché to explore the depths of sorrow and hope, yearning and family bonds, and the bootstrap power of a bold young woman climbing back into the light. 


Excerpt:
Google Mafuri Long.
Click video.
And voila!
Thats me, surfing the monster of all wavesan eighty-foot beast. Im like a tiny knife slicing through a gigantic wall of blue thats rearing up behind me, a total H2O Everest. Scale? Picture me standing next to an eight-story building. In 2023, I became the first chick to win the Nike XX Big Wave Classic: one of the few women in history to surf a wave that big, the only one to do it officially. I followed Daddys advice before we left the dock for the open sea. Dont ride that horse with half your ass, he said, sending me off with a fist bump. Go after it, cowgirl.
The freaky part is that the wave is a hundred miles off the San Diego coast in the middle of nowhere. The surf spots called the Cortes Bank, where the fish around you are the size of Volkswagens and very big things can swallow you whole. The only way out there is in a decent-size boat, and the only way to be saved after a serious wipeout is to be rescued by that decent-size boat or plucked up by a Coast Guard helicopter, which one big-wave legend experienced firsthand after a three-wave hold-down. The bank sits just under the water and can kick up epic hundred-footers. Its one of the biggest, scariest waves in the world, and I mastered it: little five foot three sandy-haired me.
Youd usually have to wait until winter for a wave like that, but weather patterns are so crazy with the globe heating up the last few decades, its monumentallike, who can predict? I had no clue how ginormous the wave was. I mean, nobody anticipated itnot my surf coach, the safety team, the other surfers, or the pilots in the choppers circling abovebut a tiny voice inside and the never-ending elevator ride up confirmed it was going to be borderline cataclysmic. When the wave hit its peak, I was staring down a seventy-five-foot vertical drop, fear shrieking inside me. Ride or die, thats what I thought. Like, seriously, flinch on a wave like that and its bye-bye girly-girl. I went supersonic after that, faster than I had ever gone before, my legs feeling the boards feedback full force, completely in the zone, focused, the entire ocean an angry fist beneath me . . . Then I pulled out of the wave.
When the video hit social, it ping-ponged around the world, out into space, and back again, sending up a collective girl-power supercheer, pretty much locking up a ton of cash in surf-sponsorships and placing me on every news feed from here to Alice Springs. Jaxthat's what people call my dadsays I have a gift. He says he noticed it the first time I stood up on a wave in Sendai, Japan, back when I was five and we were surfing together, years before that tsunami leveled the place.
The sponsorship money let me set my marine biology degree aside for a while. I couldn't find a job in the field anyway. Let me restate that: I was offered one at SeaLand San Diego straight out of UCSD, basically to put on a carnival show with a thirteenth-generation orca after her act was reintroduced, but I passed because that isn't science, and a creature like that should be ambushing seals out in the ocean and not squeaking for mackerel treats in a man-made swimming pool for some spoiled kids' amusement. So the money lets me spend my days training, and my eyes are on the big prize when the Olympics begin on August 4.


© 2017 Michael Mazza, with permission from Turtle Point Press




Author Bio:
Michael Mazza is a fiction writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. His stories have appeared in Other Voices, WORDS, Blue Mesa Review, TINGE, and ZYZZYVA. He is best known as an internationally acclaimed art and creative director working in the advertising industry. Along with being named National Creative All-Star by Adweek, his work appears in the Permanent Collection of the Library of Congress. He has lectured throughout the country and abroad, most notably at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. He has attended the Iowa Summer Writers’ Workshop, the Stanford Creative Writing workshop, and the Wharton School Executive Education MBA program. That Crazy Perfect Someday is his first novel. Connect with Michael at his website: www.mazzastory.com or on Twitter and Instagram: @mazzastory

**You can pick up a copy of That Crazy Perfect Someday June 20th at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.**

June 9, 2017

Invisible food, shadow people, and a door with no obvious purpose

As you know, I haven't been having the best of luck with the books I've picked up this year. I decided the best remedy for this was to pick random books out of the middle grade fiction section of my branch in the hopes of picking some winners. I have to say that so far it's definitely doing the trick.

My first selection was The House of Months and Years by Emma Trevayne. This book follows a little girl named Amelia Howling who is uprooted from her 'perfect' house into the home of her cousins who have just experienced a tragedy. If you're anything like me, you'll have little sympathy for this bratty little know-it-all but that thankfully doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of this book. There's a mystery enveloping this new house which is strangely put together with doors that lead to nowhere and different climates for each floor (don't go in the basement!). Amelia is stubbornly determined to remain aloof from the rest of her family and instead gets swept up in things far more sinister than she at first realizes (despite her assurances of being so clever). For those who like a bit of darker fantasy now and again then this is sure to hit the spot. I'd say the ideal age range would be anywhere from 10-14 (although this is more of a suggestion instead of a rule). For me, I found the fantasy/mystery elements quite good and the imagery excellent. Amelia was the worst but you can't win them all. A solid 8/10.

This was primarily why I picked up this book. 😍 [Source: Goodreads]
Artist's website: Péah aka Pierre-Antoine Moelo (the artwork is GORGEOUS)
PS I just went to the author's website and I've decide to check out another book that she's written (in the hopefully near future) titled The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief and Sinister. Stay tuned for further developments. ;-)

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 2, 2017

Slice of life is fun to say

Not very long ago, I saw an article that had gone viral about a woman who knew that she was going to die and she wanted to make sure that her husband found someone (it was like a dating profile but way better). The author was one that somehow hadn't made it onto my radar before this time and I couldn't help feeling thankful that I had found her even though it was under very tragic circumstances. You might have guessed who I was talking about at this point but just in case it was Amy Krouse Rosenthal and the article I'm talking about can be found here. Ten days after the article was published she passed away. It turns out that not only was she a prolific writer of children's books but she also wrote for adults. I thought I'd start with one of her well-known adult nonfiction pieces called Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. It's somewhere between a memoir which depicts a slice of Rosenthal's life and a quirky encyclopedia. It's one of the most unique books that I've ever read and after doing some research into the author that seems to adequately describe her. She took the events and circumstances of the year in which she wrote the book to record alphabetically (as one would do in an encyclopedia) different aspects of herself (and the world around her somewhat). For example, under the letter J you would find information about her husband, Jason, with a "See Also Husband" at the end of the entry. It was a lot of fun to dip in and out of it and learn about this totally singular individual. It's a shame that I'm late to the game discovering Amy's work but I am certainly glad that I've found her now. 9/10

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 26, 2017

Fortunately, I've posted a new review

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Skottie Young is simply delightful. It's hard for me to decide which was more enjoyable: the writing or the drawings. Honestly, I think that the reason I enjoyed this book so much was that the two of them paired so well together. This is exactly the kind of story that an imaginative parent would tell their child and embellish over time. The main character of this book is a father who is left alone to watch the kids and who goes out to get milk for breakfast and takes forever to get back home.When he finally returns he spins an impossible yarn to explain his tardiness to his extremely skeptical children. Anyone who has read Gaiman's writing knows that he's an absolutely wonderful fantasy author but it's his sense of humor that makes this book unique. Maybe you've heard of 'dad jokes' before? Well, this is basically one big dad joke accompanied by super cute ink illustrations. 10/10 on all fronts.

I absolutely love the illustrations by Skottie Young. This is another one of those books where you want to hang up the illustrations on the wall of your house...at least I do. Here are a few examples so that you can see what I'm raving about. ;-)

Source: boingboing.net
Source: littlekulture.com
**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 23, 2017

Posting Schedule Update

As you may know, I've kept up a regular posting schedule for the last year and a bit where I post my reviews on Tuesdays and Fridays. (I announced this change on January 22, 2016 actually.) You might have noticed that this schedule has gone a bit wonky over the last couple of months. This is because of my new job. I just don't have the time or the energy to keep up the pace of a twice weekly posting schedule anymore. For one thing, my reading has dramatically decreased so I don't have the material for the posts. So I wanted to give you guys a little update and let you know that for the foreseeable future I will only be posting on Fridays. If I happen to accumulate more material I might make bonus posts here and there but for the most part it will be Friday reviews only.

I hope that this came out semi-coherently and that you guys get where I'm coming from with this. As usual, I welcome your feedback and I hope that you'll continue this reading journey with me. XD