The Micro Reviews From Planet Procrastination: The Soulless OWL Thieves from the Pyramid Galaxy of Howzat!!!

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Last time on The Micro Reviews From Planet Procrastination:

Our curious adventurers were fleeing for their lives from a deadly beast on an alien planet covered in the blue dust of its previous victims. While they were not certain that the scream that sounded behind them moments before the fleeing was in fact the Bloodthirsty Giraffe from the Hunger Games Nebula (or its unfortunate prey) after the horrifying description of the beast by their Chief Cultural Advisor, they weren’t going to waste what could be the final moments of their lives debating about it.

If someone were to be placed conveniently above the blue planet, say, in a spaceship, one equipped with a large viewing window, for example, they would see a very peculiar and terrifying sight. Since the rest of the crew was in fact not-so conveniently placed haphazardly upon the surface of the blue planet, in a somewhat dented spaceship, peering through a large, dusty, viewing window at the terrain in front of them and the figures of their comrades in the distance, the sight they were seeing was even more peculiar and terrifying. As the hull of the ship, though crumpled slightly, was sound proof, the crew within didn’t hear the scream that could make ones blood separate into curds as if it were a dairy product. All they saw was a collection of silver-clad dots that was their exploration team go in one moment from a cluster that seemed to be having a pleasant chat, to a flailing stampede of limbs and blue dust coming toward them. It was another few moments before the cause of their sudden flailing came into sight, heralded by the Commander’s grumbled question (“What in Flerk’s name are they doing?”) metamorphosing into a gargle of fear and profanities in several alien languages.

Meanwhile, at the site of the fleeing, Chief Cultural Advisor Daydream McDillydally was expending most of his energy in running, while using the rest to quash his academic curiosity which was irritatingly telling him to look behind him. His brain – which was usually quite logical but also housed this academic curiosity – was having a debate with itself. On the affirmative team the speaker argued that as Chief Cultural Advisor he couldn’t waste this opportunity to view a rare beast, and gain some bragging rights to use against his Hunger Games Nebula “expert” colleague. On the negative team the speaker made a very sound point of “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR HRAKING MIND!!!” which was one of the best rebuttals he had ever encountered. As it turns out the debate was decided suddenly when one of McDillydally’s mutinous feet stepped upon one of his brethren and flung him over and flat on his back in the cold, blue death-dust. Before McDillydally could even comprehend that he was no longer running but was in fact in a very vulnerable and embarrassing position, he heard a strange CLONK noise and what sounded like an angry, warbled war cry. As neither of these sounds were similar to the scream of before, his curiosity annoyingly piped up again and he propped himself up on four elbows, and hurriedly cleaned his spectacles with his other two to see what was going on.

A large, glowing white shape loomed in front of him and before he could even lash out in self-defense (or more likely, cower in a quivering ball of pathetic-ness) the shape grew an arm with a big hand attached (or more likely it already had said appendage and simply brought it forward) and grasping him by the shoulder pulled him back to his traitorous feet. The white-clad beast then inexplicably turned his back on the flustered Cultural Advisor, took up a strange defensive stance, and yelled over his shoulder at him. As he was wearing his Wireless Universal Translator (WUT) McDillydally understood the strangers shouted words, but still only comprehended some of them. The words that came to him in perfectly translated Procrasti was this: “Run you daft bugger! I’ll hold off the blighter with me bat, you get yerselves onto yer ship and tell the captain to haul out of here! Ours is parked just outta orbit – tell ‘im to fly inta our hold. The beast’ll rip your ship to smithereens but ours has a field that stops the bastard! Go!”

With the main points of the white, yelling alien ringing in his head (RUN. BEAST. SHIP. GO.) McDillydally ran faster than his feet could even envision as another loud CLONK sounded behind him. To his surprise and the surprise of his feet, he reached the rest of the team (who were oblivious to his trip and his alien rescuer) and yelled out a few choice words of the message. As these words were RUN, BEAST, SHIP, and GO there was no resistance from the others and as one they sprinted the rest of the way to the ship’s waiting landing ramp, trying desperately the ignore the screams, yells and CLONKs behind them. When they were safely inside McDillydally didn’t need to ask the Commander to take off as it was raring to go as soon as the hatch closed, but he did hasten to the control room anyway to attempt to pass on the message of his white-clothed protector. As was to be expected the Commander wanted an immediate explanation of what had occurred and was still occurring below, but knowing there was no time for long status reports McDillydally was uncharacteristically abrupt and relayed to the Commander the most important points:

1. That there was a deadly beast down there that desired to turn them all into a fine dust.

2. That the glowy white beings (now they were above the surface he could see that there was not one but about half a dozen) somehow could fight the beast and they obviously couldn’t.

3. One of the beings had said (he thought) that the Micro Reviews ship was no protection from the beast, but theirs had some kind of protective force field.

4. They had to get their ship into their hold as soon as possible or they’d be eaten horribly.

In a similar uncharacteristically decisive moment the Commander ordered the gathering crew to fire up all shields (which could barely protect the ship from a slight breeze at that point, but it reassured him a tad just saying it), scan the surrounds for a waiting ship and head for it as fast as their dented engines could go. While the flimsy shields were creating a parody of protection and the ship was trundling toward the only craft near the blue planet – a strange, but quite intimidating giant dusty red orb with white stitches encircling its grand circumference – McDillydally rubbed some of the blue dust from the viewing window still facing the planet (somewhat unsuccessfully as to do so he employed the exterior wipers which were encrusted with even more disintegrated ex-inhabitant dust), adjusted the zoom on his spectacles to its highest setting and peered down at the scene below with equal parts inconsolable terror, guilty relief and intellectual joy.

Several of the  brave white beings were gathered in the same half-turned, splayed leg stance as his rescuer and were swinging their arms behind themselves and then toward the main reason for his terror, guilt and joy. The description he had given the team of the Bloodthirsty Giraffe from The Hunger Games Nebula was fairly accurate. A towering form that if it was next to their humble ship would dwarf/swallow it – check! Sickening serpentine neck that waved like a rabid python – check! A grossly cavernous mouth virtually crawling with an infestation of yellow, needle-sharp teeth glistening with a sickening silvery ooze that he didn’t want to think about too carefully – check! A collection of kicking, windmilling legs which didn’t stop flailing long enough to count but could easily equal in the hundreds – check! A mottled hide with the sickly, colourless look of a creature thought into existence (or rather the leftover excrement of thought) that had focused all energy on nightmare-ish weapons and had let any attempt at normal textures and appearance fall by the wayside? Well, that point hadn’t been relayed to him but it was so unsettling yet fascinating that he thought it deserved a check anyway.

As he teared his sextet of eyes (get your mind out of the gutter! It’s just a fancy word for six of something!) away from the beast he saw a single white-clad hero take a long run up, walking slowly at first and then gaining momentum as he neared his comrades. The crazed run up ended with a bizarre wide-legged step with a frantic overarm motion and a ball of dusty red light flew from his gloved hand, struck the blue ground with a bounce that sent dust everywhere and barreled straight into one of the beast’s blurred legs. In the next moment several of the others performed their stationary wide-legged arm-swing war dance and McDillydally saw identical dusty red orbs erupt from below their white gloves somehow connected to a long, oblong flash of light. All the orbs hit the same leg (or at least a blur that may have been around where the other blur was), the beast started to lose its balance and before its collective legs could get their bearings once more it toppled to the ground in a huge plume of blue dust. Despite being deaf to the sounds below McDillydally could tell that the white-clad energy-ball emitting warriors were performing some kind of victorious ritual complete with chants at the sight of their toppled foe, in the same way that he knew those odd CLONKS he had heard whilst on the planet had come from the red balls they somehow created, but from his vantage point it looked akin to a bunch of Boringball players carrying on after getting a Glor.

Before McDillydally could see if the beast recovered from its fall and attacked the celebrating warriors, two things happened almost simultaneously. Firstly the viewing window went dark and McDillydally realised that they were now contained inside the hull of the strange ball-shaped ship. Secondly a stunned hush went over the gathered crew who were out of ideas now that they were out of immediate danger and within the dark confines of an alien ship whose owners were absent and possible hostile. This palpable silence was broken by a loud outburst of “Right! This looks like a case for Shamrock House!” accompanied by the donning of an incredibly ugly hat and brandishing of a ridiculously large magnifying glass in one hand and a spiral notebook and pen in two of the others. The outburst, hat, magnifying glass, notebook and pen all came from one of the most useless, yet inexplicably arrogant crew members, a Mr Loafer Idleston who had adopted the name Shamrock House after their trip to the United Kingdom, Earth. The name was an homage to fictional detective Sherlock Holmes but had been mangled into nonsense after Idleston had sampled a local beverage, “whiskey” in the Kingdom’s smaller island, Ireland. Since adopting the name he had insisted on solving any strange happening that occurred, and since so far that had been limited to the case of who stole so-and-so’s protein pods out of the Food Containment Unit, the mystery of the salt in the sugar dispenser, and the scandal that was who wrote “Shamrock House is a dingbat!” across the self-proclaimed detectives ugly hat, the happenings on the Blue Planet was the most exciting case yet!

While Shamrock flitted around gathering statements from the exploration team, the Commander went on with the much more vital business of lighting their surroundings whilst pretending he was in complete control and being encased in a foreign ship was totally standard. Shamrock was just approaching McDillydally, notebook and pen poised, when there was a knock at the ships departure hatch. As one the crew froze and looked at the hatch and then at their Commander who was finding his fake look of control quite taxing to maintain. He approached the hatch with what he hoped was an air of command, and said a trifle squeakily “Whose there? Ah…I mean as Commander of this vessel I ah…demand you state your name and intentions!”. He was quite pleased with how official he sounded until the slightly muffled answer came from the other side. “It’s the guys that saved your asses, ya daft blighters! Open up so we can get ye into the craft proper and get the hell outta here!” Despite understanding only about half of what they said, the Commander gave the order to open the hatch and moments later they were face to face with six figures that by the amount of blue dust spoiling the clean white of their suits and helmets were probably the team that McDillydally had just seen toppling the Bloodthirsty Giraffe.

With a brisk “Follow us” the white-suited aliens turned and walked back through the hatch leaving the flustered Commander no choice but to lead his crew in a trail behind them. They went down into a dank holding space filled with crates and boxes, lit only by a glowing white orb held by the white figure leading the procession, then into the stark white interior of the ship. The crew looked around in awe as they followed the bare spiralling passages dotted with tall rounded doors and flashing panels, until they finally stopped at a dead-end with a huge and very shiny double door. As their white-clad leaders marched proudly into the massive room beyond, our overwhelmed crew shuffled awkwardly behind, every mouth hanging open and every neck craning to take in the sights.

The room was obviously the main control room, but it was so large and impressive it made their own control room look like a child’s cubby house. Everything was impossibly white and polished, from the clean, smooth floor, to the sparkling screens that covered almost every wall, shaped to fit the curved surfaces, to the dozen elegant, rounded white chairs. The only colour in the room came from more flashing lights that filled a large, round control panel in the centre, and a massive dusty red ball matching the ships interior which rose from the control panel on a flawless white pole. As they approached the control panel the twelve chairs swiveled toward them revealing twelve more aliens wearing spotless white uniforms, more sleek and authoritative then their blue-dusted escorts, and with two stripes of dusty red adorning wrists, waists and v-shaped collars. The seated aliens were also not wearing the white-domed helmets the others still hadn’t removed (which Commander Distraction thought was very rude and not the proper way to treat a man of his standing!) showing their round, dusty red heads complete with stitch-marks identical to the outside of the ship and the ball suspended on the pole, . Chief Cultural Advisor McDillydally had a moment of wondering whether they had modelled their ship and the ball on their own heads, or somehow vice versa before the alien sitting in the biggest and centralist chair rose and walked toward them.

If Commander Distraction hadn’t already guessed that this individual was their leader from the size of his chair and the intricate crest he wore on his uniform, he would’ve known from the way he strode with such purpose and authority, and he was instantly and irritatingly jealous. When he reached them the away team all removed their helmets, tucked them under one arm and gave their leader a short, respectful salute, making Commander Distraction even more jealous. “Captain,” The lead escort said. “We have subdued the beast but it won’t stay that way for long. No sign of survivors down there except this lot. Their craft is stowed in the hold and they’re obviously not armed. Wrong place at the wrong time by the looks of it.”

The Captain nodded once without even glancing at the bewildered Micro Reviews awkwardly gathered behind his crew members. “Right. Good job men. Lets get as far away from that damn planet while we still can eh?” the Captain said before turning toward the seated crew with a loud series of incomprehensible orders. The Micro Reviews looked at each other in confusion. What were they meant to do now? Was the Captain of these intimidating creatures going to even acknowledge their existence? Before the Commander could gather his thoughts, swallow his jealously, embarrassment and growing rage and address this too-perfect Captain, Shamrock House piped up. “Wait a minute! I think we all have a right to know what’s going on here! Who are you people? Why were you on that planet? And did you know that beast was there? We need answers!” The Commander was torn between outrage that that stupid fake detective had broken the silence when it should be him doing the liaising with these aliens, and relief that he had asked the hard questions so he didn’t have to.

Suddenly all the harsh dark eyes of the aliens were locked on Shamrock, wide with surprise. The Captain stopped his barrage of orders and walked calmly over until he loomed over the ridiculous detective and his ridiculous hat. “Are you their leader or something?” he said with disbelief. “Ah…No” said Shamrock, his bravado faltering a bit. “I’m a Detective!” (said in a way that clearly emphasised the capital D), “Detective Shamrock House, genius investigative mind!”. The Captain barely suppressed a smirk and chuckles could be heard from other members of the crew. “Well, Detective House, who is your leader then?”. Commander Distraction stepped forward, drawing himself up to full-height (even if it was a good couple of feet shorter than any of the white-clad beings) and sucking in his substantial gut. “I am. Commander Whatzat Distraction, Second Class Commander of the Micro Review Fleet, Inter-dimensional and Universal Travel Division of the Grand Conglomeration of Procrasti of the Planet Procrastination”. The Micro Reviews all looked highly impressed that their Commander had stated his full title without messing up once, and the Commander felt as if he had gained a bit more height with the accomplishment. “Hmmm…I see,” said the Captain looking a smidgen impressed. “I’ve never heard of the Procrasti but that all sounded very….official. I am Captian Beamer Twelveman, Captain and Head Bowler of Team 14387.13, Planet 8 in the 13th System, Twelve Tier of the Pyramid Galaxy of Howzat. Our reasons for exploring that planet are classified and we were not aware that the Thought-Beast colloquially known as he Bloodthirsty Giraffe from the Hunger Games Nebula had invaded it and decimated its inhabitants, otherwise we wouldn’t have sent a bloody exploration team down there! Thought-Beasts can’t break our hull because we have a force field which interferes with their patterns so once we’ve put some distance between us it’ll be safe to release your ship. In the meantime you could remain on our vessel, our of the way of our operations, or you can go back to your ship and wait for an update. Any more questions, perhaps from your ahem…detective?”

This time the Captain didn’t even bother suppressing his smirk, and he joined in on the crew’s chuckling. Commander Distraction felt his face start to colour from green to the bright aqua of shame. He hardly understood what this Captain Twelveman had said, but he knew that it made him, his motley crew, and maybe even the Grand Conglomeration of Procrasti sound small and foolish in comparison. He didn’t want to spend another second with these proud, successful, and superior beings so he gave a curt nod and decided to take the coward’s way out. “Ahem…Thank you Captain for accommodating us. If it weren’t for your men down there my exploration team, and likely my whole crew would have been nothing more than dust. We will retire to our ship and await your instructions.” And with that he strode with as much purpose and authority as his bruised pride could muster, out of the control room and back into the spiralling white corridors, his crew trailing meekly behind him. As the corridors had no corners and simply led back to the hold in one long, shining coil the crew had no trouble making their way back, and they respectfully didn’t question the Commander’s decision – not even Shamrock. He did however linger at the back and when the crew entered the hold he snuck back into the corridor and turned into the first door on the right. He didn’t know what he was looking for, but he knew something was up with these people and their “classified” mission, and as the ship’s genius investigative mind it was his duty to solve the case!

The room he entered was as stark as the corridors and control room, with just a simple white chair, some dials and lights attached to a round console and a smallish rounded screen on the wall in front of him. Shamrock took out his over-sized magnifying glass and peered at all the details of the room, but he couldn’t even understand what the dials, lights and screen were let alone how they could be used to find clues. He sat at the console in the white chair (which was made for a much taller and leaner figure and not equipped for more than one set of limbs, so a bit awkward) and got out his notepad and pen to document his findings so far. To get into a more comfortable position he stood on the chair with his six feet as close together as possible and leaned several of his elbows on the console while he wrote. Unfortunately the console was so clean and slippery that two of his elbows slipped and he fell face-first onto dozens of buttons, narrowly avoided a lever to the eye and ended up with a large dial shoved in his mouth. As a result the screen suddenly came to life and started scrolling through pages and pages of text before settling on a single entry.

As the text was likely in their native tongue it looked like mindless scribblings to Shamrock so he turned a tiny dial on the side of his magnifying glass (it was good for something beyond being comically giant!) and viewed the text through its lens, neatly translated in Procrasti. To his amazement the text was some kind of Captain’s log and if he was not mistaken the date at the top (formatted according to the Council of Universal Dates for Interplanetary and Inter-dimensional Travel) was very recent. He skimmed the page skipping boring accounts of the day-to-day running of a ship until he found something that made his detective senses tingle:

“We have information from a trusted source that what we seek may be found in the Azure system 158 light years from our current location. We have set course for the nearest planet in the system immediately.” Shamrock located what he thought was a tracking pad and tentatively scrolled down to the following entry:

“After a rather harrowing warp we arrived at the first planet in the Azure system, a underdeveloped rock called Biz inhabited by a dim-witted amphibious race who call themselves the Bizii. From our limited and frustrating communications with the Bizii we have gleaned that their neighbour planet Boz has recently received a gift from an alien race which sound identical to ours. We are heading to Boz to see if their mysterious gift was in fact OWLs.” The plot thickens! Thought Shamrock triumphantly. I wonder why they would have any interest is nocturnal bird-life…I didn’t think owls were even found anywhere other than Earth… He scrolled down to the next entry:

“We met with the Bozoo, who were even more difficult to communicate with than the Bizii! Eventually we discovered that something had been lost in gossip and conjecture – the planet that had been visited by the alien race (that I am almost certain were a Team from another Tier) was not Boz but the most distant planet in the system, Byz. As all the species of this system are primitive at best and have proved useless at providing accurate information we will be exploring the other three planets in the system before reaching Byz and if the gift is more than a rumor and it is in fact OWLs, we will stop at nothing to find them and take them by force if needed.”

Shamrock furiously wrote down this last find and went to scroll to the next entry when a shadow fell across the page.

“Well, well, well what have we here?”…

And now for the reviews:

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless_by_Gail_Carriger

An absolute cracker of a read! Set in Victorian London but in an alternative (and wonderfully steampunk) Victorian London where Vampires and Werewolves (and ghosts) are real, out in the open, and highly involved in politics and high society. I giggled most of the way through as the main characters are so proper (especially the vampires) and any impropriety is met with scandalised gasps and fanning, and the main characters have some spectacular strings of one-liners. Alexia Tarrabotti (the heroine) is an absolute hoot! Funny, spirited and certainly no simpering Victorian wallflower – I can tell that as this series goes on she will become one of my fave characters – and am so happy it is a series and not simply a one-off 😀

The Journey by Kathryn Lasky

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 2: The Journey by Kathryn Lasky

An action-packed second installment of this lovely children’s fantasy series where owls are the stars. This book introduced a whole host of new characters, settings and conflicts, paving the way for book 3. I loved the descriptions of the Ga’Hoole tree and the structure of the owls’ society, and I was impressed by how much factual information Kathryn Lasky weaves into her tales. I wish this series was around when I was a kid 🙂

Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood

death before wicket

Another fantastic Phyrne book, this time set in Sydney instead of Melbourne. Phryne has promised her assistant, Dot, that her little sojourn to the harbour city will be a quiet holiday of relaxing and watching cricket – one free of murder and danger. However when a couple of college boys beg her services to clear their friend’s name after the university’s safe is burgled she can’t resist. Throw in some new age magic, ancient Egyptian curses, blackmail, deception, prostitution, abduction and a search for Dot’s lost sister, and her holiday becomes a lot more than a few quiet afternoons of cricket!

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

the thief of always

A wonderfully imaginative children’s horror/fantasy fable which has some genuine scares and a solid moral behind it which is honest and not just a thinly veiled preach masquerading as a fun story. A good introductory course in the twisted mind of Clive Barker 🙂

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

pyramids

Another fantastic Discworld novel – this time delving into the ancient kingdom of Djelibeybi, a place of sand, camels, Gods, and of course, pyramids. As can be expected Djelibeybi is a Discworld version of Ancient Egypt (and a neighbouring kingdom is similar to ancient Greece or Rome) which means the story is filled with hilarious situations, stories and dialogue which pokes fun at some of the more ridiculous facets of ancient civilizations. This may not be my fave Discworld book so far, but it certainly provided plenty of chuckles 🙂

Well there you go my wonderful, persevering Bookbaggers! Finally the third installment of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination! This one was tricky to keep short (which is why it isn’t….) but I hope you enjoy it anyway 🙂

Stay tuned for the next installment in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future 😀

Happy Reading (and investigating)!

Video

Happy Birthday Maurice Sendak :)

This morning when I first googled something at work I noticed that there was a new Google Doodle. The doodles seem to get better and better each time (the one honoring Douglas Adams was amazing!) so I clicked onto it to have a play and saw that it was celebrating the 85th birthday of Maurice Sendak. Sendak, as most of you would know was the author and illustrator of the popular children’s book Where the Wild Things Are and another of my favourites as a child, In The Night Kitchen, as well as many others which he created from 1956 until his death in May of last year.

Maurice Sendak was an imaginative author that created unique, playful, and slightly creepy characters which have delighted generations of children, and hopefully will continue to delight generations to come. Good on Google for honoring him with this lovely doodle 🙂

If you’re seeing this after the fact here’s a video made of the Doodle in action:

The Micro Reviews From Planet Procrastination: Journey to the Blue(ish) Planet!

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Following our intrepid heroes’ thorough exploration of Uranus (snicker), the brave adventurers headed to the next stop on their tour of the Solar System – the gloriously blue Neptune. En route (which is French for “on the way” or “during the course of the Journey” and is completely redundant here as the Micro Reviews had never been to Earth’s France, or learned the language), all but one crew member decided to have a siesta (which is Spanish for “a little nap in the afternoon when the day is at its hottest”, which is also completely useless in this context as A. the Micro Reviews knew even less of Earth’s Spain then they did of its nearby neighbor  France; B. In space “afternoon” is not really existent; and C. It was perfectly climate controlled in the spaceship) and by a collective lapse in judgement (which happened fairly regularly) left the most incompetent crew member, Lieutenant Huh, at the helm.

Confident in the knowledge that the ship’s navigation system and auto-pilot had already been configured to their destination (a knowledge that was completely flawed as characteristically none of the crew members had actually gotten around to configuring the systems), Lieutenant Huh decided to take a nap also, Glark dammit! and gently rested his head upon the control panel. By another stroke of bad judgement and planning one of the most sensitive and dangerous controls – which opened up a compact wormhole for quick travel to far-off galaxies – had been placed front and centre on the control panel, with no labeling save a very tatty post-it note (the Micro Reviews had discovered this fascinating technology while undercover in an accounting company on Earth. Besides the post-it they had found no reason to continue their invasion recon as Earth offices were too boring even for them).  The Create Wormhole button (or Cre8 Wrmhol as it said on the post-it) had also been placed in the rather unfortunate area directly under  Lieutenant Huh’s face.

Upon waking from a very restorative nap, Huh found himself gazing at a large and brilliant blue planet, slowing getting larger and bluer as the ship approached it. He was quite pleased with himself. Obviously his nap had been quite productive and they had arrived at Neptune ahead of schedule! He was halfway through giving himself a hearty pat on the back with all six of his arms when he noticed something peculiar about the blue planet that was getting clearer by the second – it looked, well, a tad dead. From what he remembered about Neptune he wasn’t expecting a planet teeming with life – after all it was essentially a huge ball of frozen gases – but he certainly hadn’t expected a barren, decidedly un-frozen and un-gaseous wasteland of blue dirt with rather sinister looking black trees dotted about. He decided he should probably cease his back-patting, wake up his slumbering crew members, and investigate what the Hrak was wrong with Neptune and whether or not it was even Neptune at all…

And now for the reviews:

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Another entertaining and addictive installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I especially enjoyed the “coming out” of the weres and the further development of fae in the series’ plot. The main mystery had a satisfactory amount of twists and red herrings but in the end i was a little let down by the final reveal. Besides this it was an enjoyable and quick read and I haven’t lost interest in the series yet 🙂

Blue by Pat Grant

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A beautifully illustrated, quintessentially Australian graphic novel that deals with some of our country’s serious issues of racism and localism. The artwork and story were deceptively simple  (whimsical line/ink drawings in black and white with touches of blue, and hand-drawn lettering, with the accompanying tale of a trio of  teenage surfers skipping school to investigate a dead body near the train tracks) but cut right to the heart of the issues in a very unique way. The graphic novel was paired with a series of short essays by the author on surfing culture, comics and the like.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr Seuss

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories

A quality collection of Dr Seuss stories previously only published in magazines in the ’50s. Some are obviously beginnings of ideas which became classic Dr Seuss books (I’m sure I’ve read a full-length version of Gustav the Goldfish before, and The Strange Shirt Spot definitely inspired The Cat in the Hat Comes Back!) while others are completely new. My favourites were: the headlining The Bippolo Seed; and the hilarious fable, The Rabbit, the Bear and the Zinniga-Zanniga.

Curses and Blessings for All Occasions by Bradley Trevor Greive

curses and blessings

 

A highly giggle-worthy and witty humor/gift book. I like how Bradley Trevor Greive has shifted from the captioned animal photos of his previous books to funny little vintage drawings of animals that have been altered to match the text (in a similar vein as the Married to the Sea online comics which I adore) – it fits the subject matter like a glove. My favorite curses and blessings were: Blessing #3, 5, 13, 15 and 18; and Curse # 6, 7, 13, 21 and 22 😛 Now you have to read it to find out! MWAHAHAHA!

The Templeton Twins: Have An Idea by Ellis Weiner

the templeton twins have an idea

A very clever and amusing children’s adventure story. The narration, character and plot development were reminiscent of Lemony Snicket‘s Series of Unfortunate Events, which I loved so this was an enjoyable read. I especially loved the narrator, especially especially how he (or she?) explained words or concepts and the questions he (I’m almost certain its a he…) asked at the end of each chapter. The illustrations were also lovely, and I like the gray-scale and blue theme. I guessed all the twists before they occurred, but I am about 15 years older than the target audience, and I’m sure 9-13 year old me would’ve been kept guessing and loving every moment of it!

HUZZAH! There ends the first rebooted Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!! What did you guys think? Let me know in the comments, or any other (legal and non-creepy) way you’d prefer to contact me 🙂

Until the continued adventures of the Micro Reviews returns I hope you have fun imagining what befalls them on the mysterious blue planet (here’s a hint: its much less sinister than it seems 😉 ) and as always:

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Villains

Wow its been a while between Top 10 posts huh?

My humble apologies oh beloved Bookbaggers of mine! This was meant to be a companion piece to the Top 10 Heroes post, but at the time I got so distracted that it remained forgotten in my drafts – until now! And how fitting is it for a list of villains to rise again after lulling everyone into a false sense of security where they were content to live with the assumption that those dastardly devils had vanished for good?

Well I’m sticking with that convenient theory anyway.

1. Goth

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

I couldn’t have Torkyn Gynt on my Top 10 Heroes list without having his polar opposite in the villains category. Despite the fact that Goth is not the official grand-supreme-bad-guy which usually features in fantasy sagas (that title goes to Orlac, a God who Tor is destined to defeat should he escape imprisonment and wreak havoc on all mankind) he stands out as the most despicable and disgusting character in the trilogy. From the start of the first book, Betrayal, Goth establishes himself as a hate-able character as the Chief Inquisitor, a powerful individual elected by the king to inflict his brand of  cruel ‘justice’ on suspected Sentients (people with heightened mental powers like telepathy). He then further earned his villain stripes by brutally raping one of the main characters (also in the first book) and from then on kept topping himself with even more dastardly, deplorable deeds. A character that made me cheer when he finally got what was coming to him!

Goth looking mighty evil atop a pissed off horse

2.  Inspector Fumero

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Inspector Fumero is one of those villains who is so awful because he isn’t some crazy caricature of a baddie, he’s an example of someone who could very well exist – a corrupt, sadistic cop. Some of the most unsettling and painful moments in this beautiful book were the responsibility of Fumero and I very quickly started to hate him. But sometimes doesn’t that make a book more interesting? Books would be pretty boring without someone truly rotten to hate, and Fumero certainly met The Shadow of the Wind‘s rotten bastard quota.

I couldn’t find anything to represent Inspector Fumero so here’s a cover of The Shadow of the Wind that I don’t think I’ve posted before

3. Gorgrael

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Gorgrael is the perfect fantasy saga grand-supreme-bad-guy. Firstly he is the hero’s half-brother. Secondly he is also called the Destroyer, a powerful evil that Axis (the hero) is destined to defeat. This alone would make him a classic villain but since the first book of the trilogy (Battleaxe AKA The Wayfarer Redemption) starts with him being born by eating his way out of his mother’s womb, he goes straight to the upper tiers of evilness. Also he’s all horned and demon-looking which always helps when identifying a villain.

Since I couldn’t find a picture of Gorgrael, here’s another one of his nemesis Axis rocking yellow

4. Voldemort

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

Just like HP had to be on the Top 10 Heroes list so does his arch nemesis – and for very similar reasons. While Harry is a hero because at a tender age he faces the big bad over and over and over, Voldemort deserves the title of Big Bad because he just keeps coming back! Not only did he kill countless powerful witches and wizards and terrorise the entire magical world before Harry was even born, but when he meets his match he drags himself virtually back from the dead to kill an terrorise all over again! This is a man so evil that from his teen years he splits his soul into pieces to ensure that he’ll never truly die; lives off unicorn blood to stay somewhat alive; inhabits the back of another guys head and gets him to do his bidding; gets another minion to kidnap a couple of teenage boys so that he can reclaim his old form; forces another teen boy to kill his headmaster; and otherwise tries to bloody murder the crap out of as many people as possible. And he’s damn creepy to boot.

Ralph Fiennes is way too good at being creepy

5. The White Witch

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

The terrifying White Witch that terrorised the inhabitants of Narnia and plunged the realm into perpetual winter is one of the first villains that really gave me the creeps. Ever since I was a kid I always kind of pitied and rooted for the baddies in Disney films (I loved Ursula, Maleficent, and the Queen in Snow White), but there was something instantly hate-able about the White Witch. I remember reading the book and listening to the audio tape at my friend’s house, and shivering inside a little every time she popped up. Maybe it was how she used Edmund against the other children by innocently offering him Turkish Delight and cocoa (similar to the witch in Hansel and Gretel), or how she could turn people into statues that she grotesquely displayed, or just that she was so cold and heartless, she just seemed so evil and I couldn’t find a shred of pity. And it certainly didn’t help when I saw the film adaptation – Tilda Swinton played her way too well O.o

Tilda Swinton portrayed the perfect cold-hearted White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

6. The Queen of Hearts

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

My love of Alice related things has already been well established, so there is no way that this list could exist without a nod to the furious Queen with an obsession for beheading! I think turning a simple Queen of Hearts in a deck of cards into an insane tyrant is a fantastic idea (kudos Mr Carroll/Dodgson) and thanks to the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the outrageous monarch has been re-imagined in many terrifying forms. My favourites include Kathy Bates’ quietly seething majesty in the mini-series, Alice (2009) ; the fat, pompous, bad-tempered old  tyrant in the Disney film; the sinister Redd Heart from The Looking-Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor; and, even though I was slightly disappointed with Tim Burton’s 2010 movie, Helena Bonham Carter’s big-headed Queen was a hoot!

There are so many incarnations of the Queen of Hearts/Red Queen that I just couldn’t decide and went with somethin a bit different – Redd Heart from The Looking Glass Wars – truly terrifying!

7. Bill Sikes

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

When I said that the White Witch was probably the first villain that creeped me out as a kid, Bill Sikes would be the other contender. I’m not sure which one I encountered first, but as a child (heck, even now) if I was in a dark alley faced with the White Witch at one end and Sikes at the other, I very well might pick the Witch (maybe she’d make me one of her minions?). The scary thing about Sikes is that he’s so real. Unlike most of the characters on this list, in the time that Oliver Twist was written there was plenty of men (and women) like him – and there’s plenty today. Bill Sikes used young orphans and street urchins as portable burglary tools, and unlike their master, Fagin, he didn’t care a jot what happened to them. The clincher for me was when Sikes killed his lady, Nancy, the kind-hearted prostitute/bar-maid who is the only soul who truly loves him – especially because she was my favourite character 😥

Oliver Reed as Sikes in the 1968 adaptation, Oliver! That stare just… *shudder*

8. blueeyedboy/Gloria Green

blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one is tricky because I can’t really explain why I listed both without completely giving away the ending of the book O.O I almost didn’t include them because of this, but the book left such a huge impression on me because of the “villains” that I couldn’t leave them out. What I can say is that throughout blueeyedboy your mind is in a constant state of confusion over what is “real” (as in real within the story) and fiction, and who is the real villain of the piece. I can’t say any more but I would urge anyone who is intrigued by this to go read it – It’s a great book!

You wouldn’t think this little boy would be on a list of villains O.O

9. Big Brother

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Big Brother is a unique villain because he is so prominent in the book, without actually being physically present – in fact Big Brother may not even be a real person, but instead the face of the controlling Party. Nineteen Eighty Four and Big Brother has spawned so much pop culture since its publication, that were it not for George Orwell, the world today would be a very different place. On the one hand this would be good – I don’t think Orwell would be happy with the deluge of reality TV, especially not the insipid show named after Big Brother, and the ways our society is constantly monitored by CCTV, phone and online bugging and other technologies probably would chill him to the bone. On the other hand, his book has helped create a similar flood of post-apocalyptic and dystopic fiction which makes people question our current ways, which may have given Orwell some hope. Anyway, the whole concept of Big Brother is damn creepy…

10. Count Olaf

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Ah Count Olaf. He is probably the most ridiculous villain in this list, but nevertheless he is quite the crafty fiend! Through 13 books Olaf concocts a multitude of intricate and bizarre plans, complete with increasingly clever disguises, so he can get to the Baudelaire fortune (with most of the plans revolving around killing the Baudelaire children, aged between infancy and 14). While I of course despised Count Olaf and sympathised with the Baudelaire children, I did enjoy Olaf’s ridiculous antics and the series would’ve been much less fun if he wasn’t so villainous 🙂 Despite the film adaptation being a bit lacking (I would’ve liked to see each book explored more and squishing the first three into a film and ignoring the other 10 just didn’t satisfy) I thought Jim Carrey was spot on!

The adoptive parent from hell

Well, I hope the really, really, ridiculously long wait was worth it! I do plan on doing more Top 10 lists because I have plenty more ideas, but I think in 2013 I won’t attempt to do a pair each month as it just doesn’t happen. Fear not! They are not gone for good, and I will try and post at least one half of a pair (or a stand alone) more often, and perhaps after a while I will be able to do them at the end/beginning of each month once again 🙂

Until then, feel free to share your own favourite baddies in the comments, and as always:

Happy Reading!

Revenge of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!!

In this day and age a simple one-off book, movie or game has become old-hat, and a single sequel? Well that’s just passé! Why create just one or two works when you could release a grand Trilogy, Saga or Franchise into the world to wow generations and collect some extra coin? Sure the second sequel isn’t always a hit and with every new installment your original vision is watered down until it resembles a thin gruel, but on the other hand you may hit the magic point where a sequel surpasses its parent!

On that note, it is my pleasure to introduce a hopefully successful and non-gruely installment of the Micro Reviews Saga:

Revenge of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!!

Monster Blood Tattoo Book 2: Lamplighter By D M Cornish

Took me ages to finish as the story is so involved and the world is so intricate, but if you persevere it is a great second installment to a very unique trilogy. A good trilogy for children and young adults that enjoy fantasy worlds that they can really sink their teeth into, but would probably only hold the attention of kids that like a lot of detail. Prepare yourself for endless checking of the glossary and other appendices.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

A graphic novel that exceeds the form and a super hero comic which is unlike any super hero comic (or at least any I’ve read). Complex, intense and brilliant. Possibly not the best Graphic Novel to test the waters of the format (just like V for Vendetta) but one that will please Graphic Novel lovers.

Trick or Treat By Kerry Greenwood

Another fun Corinna Chapmen book. This one had Earthly Delights, Corrina’s beloved bakery, almost closing down, people drugged/poisoned with cakes, a Nazi Gold mystery and some suspicious witches. Not my fave so far, but still a treat, not a trick.

Adultery By Richard B Wright

Not exactly what I expected (certainly not a Mystery like the library spine label suggested) but a good read nonetheless. An exploration of grief and the consequences of ones choices – in this case the consequences of adultery is not simply hurting a spouse and loosing their trust, but the loss of a life and having to endure media attention and the grief of a family. There was so much more I wanted to know about the aftermath of the murder in this story, but it was still a cleverly simple book that was quite engaging.

The Girl Who Played With Fire By Stieg Larsson

As with the first Millennium book, this was hard to get into but once I did it was a wild ride! I was a bit disappointed with the ending as it didn’t wrap everything up like the ending of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I guess that’s because it continues into the next book. I can’t say much without giving important plot points away, but this series is worth a read if you enjoy a fast-paced thriller with complex, interesting characters.

So the Micro Reviews have had their sweet, sweet revenge! Will they be back once again?! Well all I can say is I only have one more planned (which finishes off the pile of Forgotten Reviews) but if there is enough demand I may make it a regular feature, kind of “reviews lite” for people who want to have a quick look at my recent reviews before (or instead of) reading the full-length ones.

What do you think? Do you Bookbaggers enjoy the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination or do you prefer just the regular reviews? Feel free to sound off in the comments 🙂

Happy Reading!

I don’t remember the name of the book….but it had a blue cover?

As a former Library Studies student and now a Library Assistant I have often heard stories which have become akin to urban legends in the library world. The biggest of these is the patron (or client, customer, member, insert synonym-which-is-acceptable-to-use-when-describing-the-users-of-the-library here) who approaches the desk and enquires about a book they may have borrowed or browsed in the past and when prompted for further details on said book says something like “Well i don’t remember what it was called or who wrote it, but I think it was blue?”.

This is baffling to library staff (probably book store staff also) because A. depending on the size of the library we could have anywhere from dozens to hundreds or even thousands of books with a blue cover and B. unlike titles, authors, publication information or even vague keywords, the colour of the cover is not something we can generally search for and unless the library is very tiny its hard to remember all books of a particular colour we have seen come in.

This is going to take a while…

I have personally never encountered the fabled Blue Book Enquirer, but I have helped many patrons who could remember very little about a book they need or want and I have noticed that cover colour and decoration are often what sticks. Because of this and my already established love of cover art, I usually am keen to notice what incoming books, or popular books look like, just in case. Who knows, perhaps one day a patron will come in with a life or death situation which requires a very rare book which they have only ever seen in this library and they have recently suffered a strangely specific form of amnesia where they cannot remember any details about things in their life pre-amnesia except colours, and my recollection of the textbook with a chartreuse cover and teal stripes could be the very moment that saves their life! Ok, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch but better safe than sorry right?

Anyway, because of this I generally pay attention to book covers in my day to day life, and especially the ones I’m reading (so much so that I try and pick the bookmark out of my bookmark collection that best matches the book I’m using it in…..shut up) and when all or some of the books are the same colour…I get a tad excited. This happened to me recently when I was after a few quick reads around my birthday and coincidentally the four books I chose had predominantly blue covers.

It all started funnily enough with a graphic novel called Blue by Pat Grant.  I was feeling a little bored with my current reads and just wanted something I could read in one sitting so i visited my local library and picked up a few novels (to get to later) and a few graphic novels. I chose to read Blue because the cover and inside art attracted me, I had never heard of it before and the other two graphic novels were volumes 2 and 7 of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and since I have never read the series in its entirety i wanted to go in order. Blue was an interesting and quirky little graphic novel that I read from cover to cover that afternoon, and it broke me out of my reading rut. The story explored racism and localism in a small coastal Australian town told through a trio of surfer teens, but the really interesting thing about it was how the race or races which were discriminated against were instead strange tentacled creatures with blue skin who doodled childlike yet intricate graffiti all over the town. The artwork was also really beautiful with hand lettering and ink-work completely in gray-scale with touches of blue. If you want to know more simply go to Pat Grants website, but I will also do a quick review at some point.

Definitely worth a look.

After finishing Blue I was still in the mood for another short read, and then I remembered that I still had The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr Seuss sitting on my desk since I received around my last birthday! Since my birthday was only a few days away I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that I had gone almost a year without reading a picture book which even 6-year-old me would’ve devoured immediately, so I quickly rectified this. As is to be expected from Dr Seuss the stories were a delight and even though I only dipped in in between doing other tasks around the house I had read them all within an hour or so (and I will also post a small review of them eventually). It was at this point that I noticed that both books were quite blue (as you can see) but as there was only two of them it was quite a small coincidence.

A few days later, on my birthday I stopped off at a few shops in Leederville (a hip suburb in Perth where I’m currently working) to buy myself some birthday presents. One of these shops was Oxford St Books one of my favourite book stores. After a very thorough browsing I left with City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (which is the forth Mortal Instruments book and the one I’m up to); Curses and Blessings For All Occasions by Bradley Trevor Greive (author of another blue number – The Blue Day Book and other funny little gift books featuring captioned animals)

How could you resist that happy looking whale?

and The Templeton Twins: Have An Idea by Ellis Weiner.

At this point my brain may have subconsciously been craving blue things :-\


I enjoyed Curses and Blessings For All Occasions that afternoon and evening and had a good giggle (again I’ll post a brief review soon) and then read The Templeton Twins (which was a hilarious children’s adventure in the vein of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, filled with lovely black, white and blue illustrations – review to follow) on the bus to and from work over the next two days. By then I was so chuffed by my collection of short, blue reads that I just had to share it with you, my beloved Bookbaggers 🙂

I hope you enjoyed my rambling and, as always:

Happy Reading!

Return of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!

I warned you all of their return and as we all know sequels seem to pop up quicker and quicker these days (says grandma Book Polygamist -_-) so make sure you’re sitting comfortably, your popcorn is safely in a hard-to-spill position and your hands are primed to grip the edges of your seat (or the poor soul sitting next to you) as i introduce the second installment in the Micro Review saga:

Return of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!

V for Vendetta By Alan Moore and David Lloyd

A unique and highly original Graphic Novel. Very dark, both in content and art style and also quite mysterious with the story being told purely through dialogue and poetic/cryptic monologues. The futuristic setting was really unsettling and prophetic as it was a highly monitored and controlled society. A classic of the Graphic Novel genre but perhaps not one to start off with.

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb

A cracking little mystery set in Victorian London (one of my favourite settings for a mystery) but with a supernatural twist. Action-packed but also filled with great character interaction and funny dialogue. The first of a series that seems very fun and appealing to children, young adults and adults that want a short entertaining read.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A beautiful little read. Very touching and the content on the Victorian meanings of flowers as well as the examination of the foster child system added depth. A bit sad in parts, and also a tad “chick lit” so might not be appealing to all bibliophiles.

Books of Blood Vol 1-3 By Clive Barker

A collection of three volumes of short stories, with each being twisted and disturbing in its own way thanks to the amazing imaginative horror-filled mind of Clive Barker. As with Coldheart Canyon this  certainly is not for those with a weak constitution, and even if you have a strong mind and stomach I wouldn’t recommend reading too many stories in one sitting, but if you love well-crafted horror that is definitely not predictable and definitely is original then the Books of Blood is an amazing read.

Grave Sight By Charlaine Harris

A fun and interesting mix of paranormal fiction and murder mystery with intriguing main characters in sister and brother team Harper and Tolliver. One for fans of Charlaine Harris or lovers of light, supernaturally-based mysteries.

So there we have it!

As sequels go this could either be a complete flop or a bigger success then its predecessor (or a big success because it was a complete flop),  but rest assured lovers of teeny reviews packaged together under a title straight out of the  Z-grade horror bargain bin at the back of a dodgy video store, the Micro reviews will be back for thier revenge!