Win Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is the first book in the hilarious new series by Stephan Pastis.  It’s perfect for those kids who love a good laugh, especially fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  You can read my review here on the blog and check out the very funny book trailers.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Walker Books Australia I have 3 copies of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made to give away. They’re nice hardback books that will survive being handed around lots of kids.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Wednesday 27 March (Australia and New Zealand only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners are Ash, Lynley and Chris.

The Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison

If you’re a long-time reader of my blog you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Barry Hutchison, from his creepy Invisible Fiends series to his short stories and his Afterworlds series. The first book in the Afterworlds series has just won the Older Readers category in the Scottish Children’s Book Awards (which is voted for by children so it’s a wonderful award to receive).  He’s one of those incredibly talented authors who can creep you out one moment and have you laughing out loud the next.  Barry’s latest book, The Book of Doom, is packed with those laugh-out-loud moments, and plenty of cringe-worthy ones too.  The thing that makes the book even more awesome for me is that the main character is named after me (I can’t tell you how excited I am about this!).  When you read your name on the page it’s even easier to imagine yourself in that character’s shoes and go on the adventure that they do.

Heaven has lost the most important object in existence and getting it back is gonna be Hell … The second hilarious book in Barry’s AFTERWORLDS sequence – comic fantasy perfect for fans of Pratchett and Douglas Adams. There’s panic up in Heaven. They have mislaid the BOOK OF DOOM – the most important object in existence. Oopsy. They think Satan might have stolen it, the sneaky little devil, so to save the world – plus, you know, quite a lot of embarrassment, fifteen year old Adam and his angelic guide Angelo are sent to retrieve it. Sadly directions aren’t Angelo’s strong point and they soon find themselves just as lost as the book, wandering through Afterworlds such as Valhalla and Hades and encountering some colourful characters along the way… Can the hapless pair make it to Hell and back?

The Book of Doom is absolutely fantastic and it’s the funniest book I’ve read for older readers since Barry’s The 13th Horseman. There’s something in this book for everyone, including an assassin monk, archangels involved in dodgy dealings, a boy who’s half-human/half angel, a demon with a statue made from the skin of his enemy’s children, singing and dancing Vikings, and a demon wearing roller skates and hot pants.  There are also four familiar gentlemen who pop up at one part (I really can’t get enough of these guys and I hope we see them again).  There are plenty of pop culture references in the story that you’ll be able to spot too, from super heroes to Star Wars.  I loved how disappointed Angelo would get when someone didn’t get his reference to a comic or a movie.

Barry’s characters are wonderful as always.  Zac is very cool and I’m honoured to be his namesake.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a thief who gets sent to Hell to retrieve a very important book.  He’s not fazed by much, even when faced with a demon who has eyes for nipples.  Angelo is one of Barry’s funniest characters and he gets all the best lines.  I cracked up laughing when he says ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’  He’s awkward, and a little bit clueless, but quite lovable too.

The banter between Barry’s characters was the highlight of Book of Doom for me.  The banter between Angelo and Zac made me laugh out loud so many times and my favourite part is when they finally reach the gates of Hell.  It’s the sort of book that you really want to read aloud because it would be even funnier to hear someone reading it.

The last few chapters of the book are especially hilarious and I loved the twist (which totally made sense when I looked back on the story).  The Book of Doom will keep you laughing long after you’ve turned the last page.

5 out of 5 stars

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Meet Timmy Failure.  He’s the founder, president, and CEO of the detective agency he had named after himself: Total Failure Inc., ‘the best detective agency in town, probably the state. Perhaps the nation.’ His business partner (and idiot best friend) is a 1500 pound polar bear, named Total, who is often not very helpful, and gets paid in chicken nuggets. There is no case too big or two small for Total Failure Inc., whether it’s solving the mystery of the missing Halloween candy or discovering who stole his mother’s Segway.  Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is the first book in the hilarious new series by Stephan Pastis.

Take eleven-year-old Timmy Failure – the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile – Timmy s mom s Segway – and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won t have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd” that he can t carry out a no-brain spy mission.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is the funniest book for kids that I’ve read in a long time.  The text by itself is funny, but add in Stephan’s cartoons and you get a book that has you laughing out loud.  The funniest parts of the book are when Timmy is explaining something and then he draws a picture to show you what happened.  There is a part when Timmy visits Molly Moskins’ house and he meets Molly’s cat, Senor Burrito, that made me laugh so hard (you’ll have to read the book to find out why).  Stephan’s illustrations of Total made me laugh every time too, because you wondered what he was going to get up to next or what Timmy would make him do. Reading this book is like watching a comedian with the best comedic timing.  It’s the combination of the text and the cartoons that will appeal to children, especially fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  I think Timmy Failure would even be great for those younger children (7-9 year olds) who might not be quite ready for Wimpy Kid yet.

One thing I loved about this book was the weird and wacky cast of characters.  First of all you’ve got Timmy, who is the one who is supposed to be looking for clues, but he’s completely clueless himself.  Readers will pick up the clues and solve the mystery way almost straight away, whereas Timmy has a completely different theory and tries to nab someone else for the crime.  He speaks like a detective and is always trying to convince his mother that his detective agency needs to upgrade their offices or get an administrative assistant to handle the paperwork.  Jimmy’s best friend, Total, doesn’t talk (because he’s a polar bear), but he provides some of the funniest moments of the story through his antics.  Molly Moskins is the weird girl that has a crush on Timmy who has mismatched pupils and a tendancy to use words that do not exist (like ‘wondermarvelously splendiferous’).  Then there is the ‘Evil One,’ Timmy’s nemesis and fellow detective, Corrina Corrina.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is only the first book in Stephan Pastis’ new series and I hope there will be many more to come.  I guarantee that your children will laugh out loud at least once while reading this book (I certainly did and got some weird looks for doing so).  I recommend it for anyone 7+ who likes a good laugh and quirky characters.

5 out of 5 stars

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Ever since I’d read that Melissa Keil would be the first author to be published as part of The Ampersand Project I was curious to read it.  The goal of the project is to help debut YA authors get published.  Life in Outer Space sounded wonderful and exactly my sort of book.  I was lucky enough to get to read it back in December and I fell in love with it from the first line.  I loved it so much that I’ve read it twice, and I loved it even more the second time around.

Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, worry about girls he won’t. Then Camilla Carter arrives on the scene. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his plan. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a plan of her own – and he seems to be a part of it! Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies. But perhaps he’s been watching the wrong ones.

 

I love absolutely everything about Life in Outer Space! It’s full of cool characters that you want to be friends with, great dialogue, pop culture references galore, and hilarious moments that will have you laughing out loud.  Reading Life In Outer Space made me feel like I was at a comic book convention or a book conference, because I felt totally surrounded by people who were just like me.

Melissa’s characters feel totally real and you can imagine seeing them walking down the street or waiting outside the cinema to catch a movie.  Sam’s voice is so authentic that I’m sure Melissa has a teenage boy trapped inside her.  Sam is an incredibly likeable character, from his extensive knowledge of movies and his ability to relate them to real life, to his loyalty to his friends. He’s got a great sense of humour, but he’s also quite awkward.  He says that ‘everything useful I do know about real life I know from movies,’ and I love the way that he proves this frequently throughout the book. All of the other characters stand out too, especially Sam’s friends.  Adrian is the clown of the group, Mike is Sam’s gay best friend, Allison is their tom-boy female friend, and then there is Camilla.  Camilla is the cool new girl who arrives at Sam’s school at the start of the story and quickly becomes part of his group of friends.  She has an unusual name, a British accent, a tattoo, she’s from New York, she has a great smile, and she’s objectively attractive, all of which means she scores highly in Sam’s ‘mental social scorecard.’ Not only this, but she also knows a lot about movies and she wants to be friends with Sam.  I found myself falling for Camilla and I just wanted Sam to hurry up and kiss her.

Melissa’s writing is witty, heartfelt and incredibly funny.  I clicked with Sam straight away and I loved his point of view.  I loved Melissa’s description of characters through Sam’s eyes, like this one of Sam’s dad,

“My father likes Harvey Norman, the Discovery Channel, and for some reason, lizards.  He last smiled in 2008, which is one of the few things we have in common…My dad also looks like me – i.e. sort of like a storm-trooper.  And not the cool Star Wars kind.”

The dialogue is witty and I had to put the book down a couple of times because I was laughing so hard at some of the conversations between Sam and his friends.

I loved all of the pop culture references in Life in Outer Space.  I’m a huge movie geek so I loved all of the references to Sam and Camilla’s favourite movies and their debates about the merit of different movies.  Everything from Superman and Star Wars to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead gets a mention. Every time they would mention a movie I hadn’t seen I wanted to write it down so I could add it to my list of to-be-watched movies.

Life in Outer Space will make you think, feel, laugh and leave you wishing that Melissa’s characters were real.

5 out of 5

Dinosaur Rescue: Scuto-stickysaurus

Like many boys around the country I look forward to a new Dinosaur Rescue book from the wonderful Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  Each book gives me my dose of prehistoric facts, disgusting dinosaur behaviour and wild adventures with Arg the brainy cave boy.  Arg’s latest adventure is Scuto-stickysaurus.

In Scuto-stickysaurus, disgusted by his family’s eating habits, Arg leaves his cave to search for the cause of the terrible noise that is filling the air.  He discovers a Scutosaurus, a very slow, heavily armoured dinosaur, and he sets off to save it from his tribe’s hunting party.  It’s not long before he finds himself stuck to the Scutosaurus with no way to pry himself loose.  It’s up to his good friend Skeet to rescue him and the Scutosaurus before it’s too late.

Scuto-stickysaurus has the perfect mix of fact, fiction and stinky dinosaurs that I love about this very cool series.  In this book you can:

  • Learn how to look like a Neanderthal,
  • Find out about a prehistoric trip to the dentist,
  • Get some jungle survival tips (Bear Grylls style)
  • Learn about dangerous jungle plants
  • Discover the perfect way to escape a Deadly Mouth Plant.

There’s also plenty of dinosaur poo and farts to go around, and when it comes to these, Arg is always in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It’s the combination of the story and the illustrations that makes this series so hilarious.  Scuto-stickysaurus is the 7th book in the series and it’s just as good as the 1st book, T-wreck-asaurus.  I hope that Kyle and Donovan have got plenty more ideas up their sleeves for Arg’s future adventures.

Thanks to Scholastic New Zealand I have 2 copies of Scuto-stickysaurus to give away.  You can enter here.

Win a Dinosaur Rescue Prize Pack

Scuto-stickysaurus is the latest book in Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley’s disgusting and hilarious Dinosaur Rescue series.  Each book gives me my dose of prehistoric facts, disgusting dinosaur behaviour and wild adventures with Arg the brainy cave boy.  You can read my review here.

Did you know there is an awesome new Dinosaur Rescue website?  Head to www.dinosaur-rescue.com to have a look at all the interesting information and cool activities.

Thanks to Scholastic New Zealand I have a Dinosaur Rescue prize pack to give away, including a copy of Scuto-stickysaurus and 2 other Dinosaur Rescue books .  To get in the draw all you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form below, and tell me 2 things that you can find at www.dinosaur-rescue.com.  Competition closes Wednesday 28 November (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Annette.

Interview with Gareth P. Jones + giveaway of Constable & Toop

Garth P. Jones is the author of the creepy, gruesome and funny new book, Constable & Toop (you can read my review here).  After finishing Constable & Toop I wanted to find out what else he had written and I discovered that we had his Dragon Detective Agency series and The Thornthwaite Inheritance sitting on our library shelves.  I love his writing style and I now want to go and read all of his other books.  Gareth very kindly answered my questions about his writing and his fantastic new book.

  • What inspired you to write Constable and Toop?
I was sitting in a coffee shop in Honor Oak (which is not far from my flat). The coffee shop is opposite an undertakers called Constable & Toop. At the time I was trying to come up with a new idea. I wrote down the name of the undertakers, which I found especially evocative. By the time I had finished my coffee the bare bones of the idea were down on paper.
  • Are any of the ghosts in Constable and Toop based on real ghosts?
As a non-believer, I am amused by the idea of real ghosts, but yes – some are. The Man in Grey is the best example. A tour guide by the name of David Kendell-Kerby (also an actor and writer himself) told me about several ghosts who haunt Drury Lane (apparently the most haunted theatre in the world). I liked the story of the Man in Grey best. The stuff about him being bricked up in the wall and possibly killed for discovering accounting irregularities is all ‘true’ although his name was unknown so I borrowed David’s. The part about him whispering to lines to actors is ‘true’ as well – a kind of spiritual teleprompter.
  • In your story there are different types of ghosts, including Enforcers, Prowlers and Rogues. What sort of ghost would you be?
Well, I have certainly worked for large organisations like the Bureau where you can hide the fact you’re not doing much behind all the processes and procedures so maybe I would be a clerk – although a far less conscientious one than Lapsewood .

  • The story is set in Victorian England and you really feel immersed in the period as you read. While researching and writing your story what was the most interesting thing that you learnt about this period?
I think mostly I was struck by how similar it was. I was interested in the South-East London suburbs where I live and where most of the action is based and, although there has been a lot of development, it’s not that different in terms of how connected to London you feel. One of the formative moments in writing was standing at the top of the hill between Honor Oak and Peckham Rye and looking down at London and I realised that the view probably wouldn’t have been dramatically different – give or take a few buildings here and there. There were lots of moments while wandering around London when I felt very connected with the city’s history.

  • One of the things I like the most about Constable and Toop is the mix of the creepy and gruesome with the lighter moments and witty banter between your characters. Was this how you originally planned the story or did you set out to write a more traditional ghost story?
I had a very tight deadline with this book and how no real time to stop and consider what I was doing. Happily the story flowed very quickly from my pen. Gruesome and creepy were necessities of the story and I always intended it to be funny. My editor had told me that she didn’t think my previous book (The Considine Curse) was very funny so I was determined to make sure this one was.
  • What exciting stories can we look forward to from you?

Hm, I’m not sure I’m ready to tell anyone yet. It looks like it will have a Victorian setting again though – at least in part. And It will probably have elements of supernatural and humour – but not ghosts again. I’ll save ghosts for when I do a sequel to Constable & Toop… if I ever do that is.

Win a copy of Constable & Toop!

I have 2 copies of Constable & Toop to give away.  To get in the draw just enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Wednesday 21 November (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.

Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds.  Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love.  I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it.  A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic!  Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.

Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ – there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle – will he be able to bring himself to help?

Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour.  Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much.  He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect.  It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story.  There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome.  The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.

There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly.  Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other.  Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.

The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world.  It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow.  If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down.  There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist.  In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license.  Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams).  He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.

If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones.  I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.

5 out of 5 stars

T-Rex Trying…by Hugh Murphy

If you’re looking for a great stocking stuffer this Christmas that will appeal to both children and adults, look no further than Hugh Murphy’s fantastic wee book, T-Rex Trying: The Unfortunate Trials of the Tyrant Lizard King.  The idea started as an inside joke with his family and friends, then became a hugely popular Tumblr blog, and he’s now collected each of his sketches in a book.

He might be top predator in the Jurassic kingdom, but in modern life, T-Rex’s comically short arms doom him to hilarious failure.

T-Rex has teeth the size of bananas and eats Triceratops for breakfast, but when it’s time to brush his teeth…

T-Rex is 12 metres long and 4 metres tall, but somehow he just can’t change that lightbulb…

And you can just forget about the vending machine.

Hugh has taken activities that humans can do easily and imagined what would happen if a T-Rex, with his huge body and short little arms, tried to do the same thing.  Ordinary, everyday things like trying to adjust an office chair, putting on a cardigan, climbing a tree, or even singing ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ are hilarious when a T-Rex tries to do the same thing.  My favourites are T-Rex trying to pick flowers, pull the ripcord on his parachute, trying to recline his La-z-Boy, and trying to play Peek-a-Boo.  Check out a couple of the sketches and a video below:

T-Rex Trying is perfect for young and old and will have everyone laughing out loud.  Whether you’re after a stocking stuffer or a Secret Santa gift that everyone will love, grab a copy of T-Rex Trying…by Hugh Murphy

T-Rex Trying: The Unfortunate Trials of the Tyrant Lizard King is published by Michael Joseph, Penguin on 8th November (21st November in NZ).

My hilarious interview with Ivy and Bean

Saturday 13 October is International Ivy + Bean Day, when we celebrate two very cool characters created by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall.  Book shops and libraries all over the world (including here in New Zealand) are having special Ivy + Bean parties.  I’m hosting one in my library, with activities, games, giveaways and a reading of the latest Ivy + Bean story.  Here is Annie Barrows to tell you all about International Ivy + Bean Day:

I sat down with Ivy and Bean to ask them a few questions about their favourite things and what they like about each other.  Thanks for joining us Ivy and Bean!

  • How did the two of you meet?

Ivy: Bean was running away from home.

Bean: I had to run away from home. Because of Nancy. That’s my older sister.

Ivy: You had to run away from home because you wiggled your behind at Nancy.

Bean: But I wouldn’t have wiggled my behind at her if she hadn’t been trying to get me in trouble.

Ivy: But she wouldn’t have been trying to get you in trouble if you hadn’t taken her twenty dollars.

Bean: But I wouldn’t have taken her twenty dollars if she hadn’t been such a tightwad.

Ivy: So really, it was Nancy who helped us meet.

Bean: Sometimes Nancy’s okay.

  • What do you like best about your friend?

Bean: She can cross one eye without crossing the other.

Ivy: One time, Bean ate wood for a dollar.

  • Who is the most annoying person you know?

Ivy: There’s this girl named Nellie in the book I’m reading who’s really annoying. She says mean things about the main girl’s dog.

Bean: She’s not real. You can’t say she’s the most annoying person you know, because you don’t really know her.

Ivy: I know her. I’m reading about her.

Bean: But she’s not real. She’s in a book. You have to say someone real.

Ivy: You.

Bean: You.

  • What is your favourite food?

Bean: Syrup! Or doughnut holes! I love doughnut holes! I can stick four of them in my mouth at once and then I smash them flat between my tongue and the top of my mouth. It’s great!

Ivy: Chocolate mousse. I used to think it was made out of moose.

  • What do you want to do when you grow up?

Ivy: I’m going to be a witch.

Bean: I’m going to write the fortunes that go inside fortune cookies. Or be an arborist. I haven’t decided.

  • What is your most embarrassing moment?

Bean:  I don’t want to talk about it.  Sometimes, people are thinking about other stuff and aren’t paying attention every single little second and they don’t exactly see where they’re going and it’s not their fault.

Ivy: It could have happened to anyone. It probably does happen to almost everyone, but maybe not when twenty-six other kids are watching.

Bean: And their parents.

Ivy: Never mind.  They probably would have painted that part of the room over anyway.

  • What’s the craziest scheme you’ve ever come up with?

Ivy: Crazy?

Bean: Crazy?

Ivy: Do we do anything crazy?

Bean: Nah. He must be talking about someone else.