Mysterious Monsters #2: Alien – David Michael Slater

Illustrations – Mauro Sorghienti

🛸 The Truth is in Here! 👽

The Mattigan kids (Maddie – 12, Max – 10 and Theo – 8) accidentally disproved their sceptic father’s belief that Mysterious Monsters aren’t real in Mysterious Monsters: Bigfoot. Bigfoot now lives in the basement of the family’s mansion and their father is none the wiser. Unfortunately a video of the three children hunting Bigfoot went viral and put their father’s show in jeopardy, so in order to salvage both his reputation and television show the four Mattigans are on a family road trip to Las Vegas.

Rumour has it that the government have had an alien at Area 51 helping them understand alien technology and the Grey alien, J-Pod, has now escaped. The race is on to find J-Pod, with alien hunters coming out of the woodwork and taking over the desert in their search. Combine that with an extraterrestrial convention and Las Vegas is now overrun with people dressed up as Little Green Men and all of the other alien races.

While their father conducts his own investigation to disprove once and for all the existence of aliens, kids Maddie, Max and Theo are determined to find J-Pod themselves.

I enjoyed Alien almost as much as the first book in the series. There’s something special about a first book that’s difficult to recapture as the characters are all strangers to the reader and you’re not quite sure what’s in store for you story wise. Theo was the stand out character in this book but I still think Max will be my favourite of the series. How can I not favour the bookish sibling?!

This book felt more like I was an invisible fifth wheel with a family I’ve known for years but for some reason doesn’t acknowledge my presence. Perhaps it’s my invisibility? I didn’t see Mulder or Scully while I was in Vegas but it’s highly probable they were wearing alien costumes and blending in at the convention.

Besides too many aliens to count the Mattigan children also come across some zombies in Vegas, but not the type you’re thinking of. I thought the social commentary regarding the zombies was quite clever and dealt with in a child appropriate way.

I had to giggle each time the kids would encounter a new situation and Maddie pondered if that’s what is meant by ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. Naturally I expect (well, hope) this would go straight over the heads of kids reading this book but if your kid is reading it you may want to have an answer ready if you’re asked what it really means.

The family’s catchphrases that I’d been concerned would be nauseating by the end of this book were still cute and funny. While they were all still used in this book they don’t appear as frequently so they blend more into the rest of the conversations. There was the same sort of cringeworthy but fun dad humour as the first book and some good funny bits throughout; my favourite being the sign at the gas station. ‘EAT HERE, GET GAS FREE’ 😁

Easter Egg 🥚 : For those of you old enough to remember the movie Harry and the Hendersons, I found its inclusion in this book to be a lovely nod to the first book in this series. I won’t tell you how old I was when that movie was released but I adored it!

Once again I was in awe of Mauro Sorghienti’s incredible illustrations. I don’t have a favourite in this book but they’re all wonderful and match the feel of the story so well. I’m keen to see more of this artist’s work.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Incorgnito Publishing Press imprint Corgi Bits and Smith Publicity for the opportunity to read this book.

I’m looking forward to the third book, Vampire 🧛‍♀️ 🧛‍♂️, scheduled for release in fall. Woohoo!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

With Bigfoot safely stashed in their basement, Maddie, Max, and Theo Mattigan are off to Las Vegas with their dad. His plan is to prove there are no aliens on the loose there. But now that his kids know that Mysterious Monsters are real, they’re making plans of their own. 

They’ll need clever disguises, well-hidden walkie-talkies – and more than a few broken eggs – to find out, once and for all, what’s hidden in the notorious Area 51. 

Mysterious Monsters #1: Bigfoot – David Michael Slater

Illustrations – Mauro Sorghienti

I’d like to present this book with the coveted 🏆 I’m Excited About This New Series award for February 2018. 👏

The first in the Mysterious Monsters series, early reader chapter books for kids from 6 to 9 years, we’re introduced to the Mattigan family who live in Portland, Oregon, in the best Hide-and-Go-Seek house in the world.

While their father is in West Virginia to debunk the legend of the Mothman, siblings Maddie, Max and Theo get an unexpected visitor. They meet their Grandpa Joe for the first time and unlike their father, Grandpa Joe believes in monsters and brings his Mysterious Monster journal with him. Although their father has always maintained monsters aren’t real, it isn’t long before Grandpa Joe has convinced the Mattigan children to search the woods around their home for evidence of Bigfoot!

The Mattigan family are:

Father: Marcus, professional sceptic and star of “Monstrous Lies with Marcus Mattigan”. Appears to have a fairly advanced case of Dad humour.

Mother: Vanished two years ago… [cue The Twilight Zone theme]

Oldest Child: Maddie, 12 years old, likes being in charge of her two younger brothers and is adept at using both Eyeballing and Lecture Mode to keep her brothers in line.

Middle Child: Max, 10 years old, is frequently seen with his “spy-nocular” and adopting “the crouch”. Max loves maps and old books. His love of books obviously makes him my favourite character.

Youngest Child: Theo, 8 years old, loves watching Hansel and Gretel and doesn’t go anywhere without his sack of peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches.

This book has plenty of humour, adventure and mystery, and was a lot of fun to read. I really enjoyed David Michael Slater’s writing style and was surprised by how quickly I came to know and like these children. All of the characters have their own quirks and there aren’t any boring bits in the story.

The Mattigan family have a number of family and personal catchphrases which you’ll quickly become well acquainted with. My favourite catchphrase was Max’s variations of “If that’s your/his/my/our real name”, which made me smile each time I read it.

All of the catchphrases are used frequently and while they were amusing and cute in this book there is the potential for them to wander toward the ad nauseam end of the spectrum for adults after a couple of books if they continue to be used as much. However, adults aren’t the target audience so this point is basically irrelevant.

Mauro Sorghienti’s illustrations were jaw drop worthy. What a talented artist! I’d love to own a coloured copy of the illustration of the Mattigan mansion surrounded by the trees of Forest Park. There’s a mysterious and haunted quality to the building and I want to know when I can move in!

If this book is any indication of what’s to come this is going to be a super fun series. I need to go on some more adventures with this family ASAP and I look forward to telling you about them.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Incorgnito Publishing Press imprint Corgi Bits and Smith Publicity for the opportunity to read this book.

In the second book we will be finding out if the truth really is out there. I want to believe! [cue The X Files theme] 👽

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Mattigan kids don’t believe in things that go bump in the night. After all, their dad is famous for proving such things are impossible. But, when their long-lost Grandpa Joe shows up with his Mysterious Monsters journal, begging for help, the siblings find themselves drawn into a search for Bigfoot. 

Along the way, they’ll have to deal with meddling babysitters, suspicious psychics, a YouTube disaster, and their furious father. To solve this mystery, Maddie, Max, and Theo must rethink what’s possible – and make lots of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Monsoon Tide – Elsa Evripidou

Have you ever heard of a cBook? I hadn’t either. Monsoon Tide is the first cinematic book, an interesting blend of reading and watching a book. With only 15 short chapters, Monsoon Tide is a quick read/watch. Each chapter is followed by a video, furthering the story.

Set in England and India, we follow Anni on her journey to India where she plans to scatter her father’s ashes shortly after the 2004 tsunami. Through flashbacks we learn about Anni’s childhood and discover a mystery surrounding her mother’s death sixteen years prior. Upon learning that her mother didn’t drown like she’d been led to believe, Anni takes it upon herself to find out the truth. Her stepfather Charles, who is treated as an outcast, refuses to discuss her mother’s death. With secrets carried to the grave, unrequited love and suspicions her mother may have been murdered, this story follows Anni as she seeks answers.

While I loved the cBook concept and look forward to seeing how this reading/watching interplay unfolds in future novels, I felt this particular story needed to be fleshed out. While the story itself was interesting and mostly all there, except for a presumably still open police investigation, the characters didn’t work for me. There wasn’t enough time in the story to develop the characters enough for me to connect with them and I found I disliked a few of the characters, in particular Anni’s mother.

Some of the transitions between reading and watching were a bit disjointed but the story wasn’t so complicated that this created any confusion. Some of the acting came across as overdone but the script for the video segments didn’t give the actors a lot to work with as they were only telling snippets of the story.

Overall, this was an interesting introduction to a new concept and I’m glad I read/watched it. Thank you so much to NetGalley, Gatekeeper Press and Smith Publicity for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Monsoon Tide is the first cinematic book, bringing the best of the written word and film together in an exciting new concept. It combines a book’s ability to reveal a character’s innermost thoughts and motivations with film’s power to pull you right into the action and experience the sights, sounds and backdrop of the story.

It is the story of young aid worker, Anni who returns to her beautiful, tropical birthplace, Kerala in India in the wake of the Asian tsunami. There she encounters her reclusive and seemingly haunted stepfather in his isolated beachside house. She soon discovers that her mother’s death sixteen years before was not the accidental drowning she had been led to believe. It becomes her mission to discover the truth, whatever the cost. A haunting story of loss, love and secrets told in a unique way.

Choosing to Live: Stories of Those Who Stepped Away from Suicide – Clifford Williams

Content Warning: Please be aware that if you find a topic triggering, you will most likely find it in this book. Topics include alcoholism, drug addiction, self-harm, all kinds of abuse, domestic violence, bullying, eating disorders, and of course, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation.

I applaud the intention of Choosing to Live: stories of those who stepped away from suicide. This book is aimed at reducing the stigma associated with talking about suicide and is marketed toward anyone who has ever had or now has suicidal feelings, families and friends of those people, therapists and psychology students and professors.

I would like to give acknowledgement to the courage of the individuals who told their stories for this book, and compassion to the families and friends of Hannah and Alistair who are grieving their loss.

The stories in this book are from people ranging from 18 to 61, with various precipitating factors that led to their suicide attempt/s. The following questions were asked to each participant:

  • What led up to your suicide attempt?
  • What keeps you alive now?

Told in sections, the individual stories are grouped by themes of rejection, overwhelming stress, bullying, not feeling good enough, painful memories, teenage stresses, ups and downs, a strange impulse, parental abuse, depression and anxiety, break up of a significant relationship, ambivalence, lack of support, shame and addiction, dysfunctional relationships, suicide of a parent, medical conditions, and being in hospice care. Of course, there are overlaps with some stories fitting just as well in multiple categories.

The From Despair to Hope chapter towards the end of the book has answers from survivors to the following questions:

  • What did you feel like when you were struggling with despair and hopelessness?
  • What did you feel when you realised you were still alive?
  • What do you like most about living now?

There is also a chapter that asks survivors what they would have wanted someone to do or say to them when they were suicidal. Finally, there is a chapter giving tips on how to deal with someone who is suicidal and American phone and internet resources.

Overall the stories, while painful and heartbreaking, are definitely useful teaching tools for anyone who wants to understand what would cause someone to make an attempt on their life, what may prevent it from happening, and what may help after an attempt has been made.

However, there were a few pretty big concerns I had about this book.

  1. Specific mention is made in the introduction that none of the participants were interviewed while they were suicidal and they were reflecting on previous experiences. I was surprised when I read later in the book that some participants had only attempted suicide a matter of weeks prior to being interviewed and questioned the judgement used in choosing participants this soon after such an experience.
  2. I personally feel it is reckless to recommend a book to people who have been suicidal or currently are that contains so much detail about how the individual attempts were made. I understand that part of each person’s story includes the method they used but there are ways to do this without it reading like a ‘How To’ manual. Surely it would have been more prudent to say someone attempted suicide by overdosing rather than specifying how many tablets they took and which class of medication it was. Of course if someone is determined to die they will find a way to do it but in a book that is hoping to prevent deaths it just doesn’t seem wise to include such detail.

This last point is more a small marketing concern. If I saw this book surrounded by others on the subject I doubt I would pick it up. This sounds really petty but I really do judge books by their cover and the cover design of this book is clichéd and doesn’t scream, “Hey, you! Pick me! Pick me!” A more professional looking cover would help draw people to it.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Smith Publicity for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Choosing to Live contains stories about people who tried to commit suicide, told in their own words, based on the author’s interviews with them. Each story serves as a source of encouragement and speaks with a clear voice to all those who struggle with suicide to assure them that they are not alone. 

Choosing to Live is a must-read for individuals with suicidal feelings and for their relatives and friends who have suffered with them. Caregivers will gain new insights into the mental anguish that taunts individuals who battle the inner turmoil of facing each new day. 

The author believes that people crave to tell the story of their lives, even if it involves wanting to die. The names of the people involved have been changed, including identifying details, to preserve anonymity. 

Specific topics include: rejection, overwhelming stress, bullying, painful memories, teenage stresses, ups and downs, parental abuse, depression and anxiety, breakup of a significant relationship, lack of support, shame and addiction, dysfunctional relationships, and suicide of a parent. 

Choosing to Live provides a voice to those who have attempted suicide. It will serve as a valuable resource for psychiatrists, social workers, crisis counselors, clergy, medical practitioners, social welfare personnel, human service workers, and primary care providers.

Not F*ing Around: The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground – Jeff Leisawitz

This book in a nutshell? Stop dreaming and start doing.

If you want the experience of having gone to see a motivational speaker while sitting on the lounge in your pyjamas, then this book may be what you’re looking for. It read to me like a motivational speaker’s speech that basically went along the lines of ‘if you can dream it then you can do it’ along with other clichés and plenty of anecdotes.

What you’ll get from this book is common sense advice to move you from thinking about it to doing it, whatever your creative ‘it’ may be. I didn’t read anything revolutionary but it was a quick read. If you feel the need to read something positive to get your butt into gear, try this book. More power to you.

My favourite sentence:

“The more people who align their lives with love, passion and action, the better this world becomes for everyone.”

Biggest annoyance of the book? Following a statement about how we’re all on our own hero’s journey and an anecdote about Luke Skywalker saving a planet with a suggestion for how you can step up your own hero game … by fixing the photocopier again even though you didn’t break it … Really?

At times I felt like I was sitting around a campfire listening to a guy in a tie dye shirt chilling out and telling me, “The Universe will guide you towards your highest good” and that my inner critic is a “snotball” (actual quotes).

This book wasn’t for me and if I hadn’t committed myself to reviewing it I wouldn’t have made it past the first 20%, but just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean you won’t get something from it that launches you into creative overdrive.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Smith Publicity for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Can’t quite get your creative juices flowing? The day job sucking your soul? Fizzled out before you put the finishing touches on your amazing creation?

With relentless positivity, full-on authenticity and a punk rock thunder spirit, author Jeff Leisawitz pulls back the curtain on the creative process and reminds us that we are all creative SuperStars.

It’s time to get off the couch and get on the path. It’s time to tap into the cosmic heartbeat that thumps in your chest and shines from your soul. It’s time to get NFA!