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Grk and the Phoney Macaroni - Joshua Doder

Grk and the Phoney Macaroni; Joshua Doder; Andersen; 2012

Book Summary (taken from Amazon UK):Dognapped! Grk is walking happily through the park, sniffing trees and chasing squirrels, when he's suddenly snatched by two men in black suits. Where are they taking him? And how can Tim get him back? Tim and Grk's eighth amazing adventure takes them to the home of pizza, pasta and the leaning tower of Pisa. There they meet the Duke of Macaroni, a man with a terrible secret which he will do anything to hide.

(Last week Josh wrote an exclusive guest post for Literature for Lads on how the adventures of Grk are often based around where he wants to eat... To read it click here)

Literature for Lads Review:
Grk is a small dog with black eyes, white fur with black patches and a perky little tail.  Along with his owner Tim he has been on seven previous adventures (don't worry if you haven't read any of the previous novels, they each work as standalones), taking him all across the world.  In this latest adventure Grk is dognapped and flown to Italy leaving Tim to try and rescue him from the evil clutches of the Duke of Macaroni.

This is the first Grk book that I have read and it was thoroughly enjoyable! Full of adventure, suspense and it's fair share of laughs, Josh Doder ensures we are hooked into the story with an intriguing end to the 1st chapter.  Each chapter that follows is full of a good mix of action, mystery and humour, and all of this is usually crammed into 5/6 pages.  These short, sharp chapters make the book very readable and will appeal to younger readers who will enjoy the bite size nature of the chapters.

Younger readers will also enjoy travelling along with Tim on his mission to rescue Grk.  Although unlikely to find themselves in similar situations to those that Tim does, they will love to imagine that they could end up in a situation not too dissimilar. The fact that Tim has no magic powers or fancy gadgets to help him on his quest makes the story all the more realistic.  The lack of these elements is strangely refreshing and somewhat bizarrely gives the novel an element of originality. 

Like all good adventurers Tim does of course have a friend he can rely on and the character of Alessandara will ensure the book has an appeal to girls as well as boys.  The fact that Alessandara speaks on occasion in Italian adds a nice little learning element to the book. This is in addition to the many cultural (not to mention food!) references about Italy that the reader is exposed to.

The book moves along at a good pace and has plenty to keep young readers entertained, particularly a clever twist near the end of the book which I admit I didn't see coming.  The tales of Grk are good old fashioned adventure stories, something that maybe we are lacking at the moment. At a time when technology is king Josh Doder should be congratulated for being brave enough to ditch the gadgets and magic and concentrate on telling a right good story.

Marks out of 10: 7

Here is Josh talking about Grk takes Revenge, the 6th book in the series...


For more information on Josh and the other Grk books (including an interview with Grk himself!) click here

The Hunger Games - Film Review

Unless you have been living on Mars for the last month it's been impossible to avoid the ever increasing press coverage of the release of The Hunger Games movie. Based on the best selling book by Suzanne Collins the excitement amongst teenagers (and adults - myself included!) has reached fever pitch in the last week or so. 

And now the wait is finally over! The film goes on general release today, Friday 23rd March.  However I was lucky enough to get a ticket for one of last nights limited preview screenings! Does it live up to the Hype? Does it stay true to the book? Read on to find out...

Book Summary: The Hunger Games was one of the first in the current vogue of dystopian teenage thrillers.  Set in Panem, a near future version of North America destroyed by war, the country is now divided into 12 districts each ruled by the Totalitarian Capitol. Each year the districts are asked to send two tributes to compete in 'The Hunger Games' a reality TV, battle to the death and the Capitol's way of ensuring that the forgiveness they gave each district for the previous civil war and uprising, is never forgotten...

(Please be aware that if you have not read the book this film review may contain spoilers.)

Literature for Lads Film Review:
It can be a dangerous thing going to see the film of a book you have loved.  We have our own image of the characters, our own interpretation of events and can only hope that these are mirrored in what we see on screen.  Our dilemma becomes even more difficult if the film starts to receive rave reviews and the hype surrounding it reaches fever pitch.  Is it worth the risk of disappointment?  For fans of The Hunger Games the answer to this is a resounding yes!

Lionsgate and director Gary Ross have captured the essence of this book and brought to life one of the most exciting novels of this generation. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are both expertly cast as Katniss and Peeta, with each portraying an uncanny resemblance to how I saw them in the book. Katniss strong and rebellious and Peeta, brooding and deep.  Haymitch, previous  'Hunger Games' winner and mentor to Katniss and Peeta, is played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson whilst Donald Sutherland does a great job as the quietly spoken, yet dangerous President Snow. 

Other characters are equally well cast with  Lenny Kravitz capturing the tenderness of stylist Cinna and Stanley Tucci proving himself to be the expert chatshow host in his role as Caeser Flickerman.  Gale, Katniss' loyal friend back in District 12 and the other tributes also stay close to their book characterisation.  However it is little Rue who almost steals the show by ensuring the whole cinema has a tear in their eye with 'that' scene.

The images of District 12, the Capitol and the Arena itself are just as imagined in the book with the greyness and poverty of District 12 in evidence, just as the colour and greed of the capitol is. In fact at no point during the film was I ever thinking that's not how I thought it would be.  It's clear that Suzanne Collins has been involved with the screenplay as the film has not been hollywidised and stays almost entirely true to the book throughout.

The real strength of the film lies in the fact that Katniss takes us on her adventure without ever saying very much.  It's almost as if we are out hunting with her, quietly watching as our prey stalks around us. This is not to say the film is slow or lacks the intensity or brutality of the book.  This is still very much on show and the collective gasp from the audience when Thresh breaks the neck of a fellow tribute was evidence of this.

So often the film adaption of a book can go wrong and spoil our memories of the story.  The Hunger Games is not one of those films!  Staying true to the book and capturing everything that made the book such an amazing read this is one film that you must go and see.  You will be blown away all over again by the story that Suzanne Collins has created. Happy Hunger Games and May the Odds be Ever in your Favour!

Marks out of 10: 9

Still can't make up your mind whether or not to go and see it?  Watch the awesome trailer for The Hunger Games...


The Adventures of GRK!

Today I'm delighted to welcome to Literature for Lads the author of the popular GRK series of books, Josh Lacey. The GRK books have been shortlisted for both the Blue Peter and Branford Base awards and have seen GRK (a small dog with black eyes, white fur with black patches and a perky little tail) and his owner Tim embark on adventures all over the world.  

GRK's latest adventure, 'GRK and the Phoney Macaroni' takes them to the home of Pizza, Pasta and the leaning tower of Pisa.  Italy is a country Josh has visited many times and he loves the people, the culture, the weather and of course, the food! 

In an exclusive guest post for Literature for Lads Josh explains how the adventures of GRK are often based around where he wants to eat...

(Watch out for the Literature for Lads review of GRK and the Phoney Macaroni appearing later this week)

When I'm thinking about a new Grk book and deciding what to write about, only one question really matters to me. Where do I want to eat?

If you haven't met him, or read about him, I should tell you that Grk is a small dog who has (so far) had eight crazy, exciting and funny adventures in different countries around the world. He's climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. He's whizzed around in planes, trains, bikes, rickshaws and speedboats. And he's eaten a lot of food.

Grk has eaten hot dogs in New York, feijoda in Rio de Janeiro, spicy curries in Delhi and succulent chicken pie in Sydney. He has explored our planet through its tastes.

Wherever he goes, I go too, and I only want to travel to a place where I'm going to enjoy the food.

When I'm at home, spending my days with my computer, staring at the screen, writing the Grk books, I make sure that I carry on eating appropriate food too. When I was writing Grk and the Hot Dog Trail, I gorged on burgers. After I'd finished Grk Smells a Rat, I couldn't eat another poppadom for months.

My own favourite national cuisine is Italian, so you might have thought that Grk wouldn't waste a moment before heading to Rome, Naples or Bologna, but it's only in the eighth book about his adventures that he's finally got there.

While he was there, did he get the chance to eat some glorious pizza? Did he scoff plates piled with pasta, munch mouthwatering mozzarella, and gobble slices of parma ham and chunks of parmesan cheese? Of course he did, and I did too.

I haven't decided where Grk might go next. I don't even know if I'll write another book about Tim and Grk. But if I do, it'll have to be somewhere with delicious food.

I did ask Grk this very question, and he knew the answer immediately: he doesn't care. He loves food. All food. He'd happily chomp on Swedish herrings, Swiss fondue or South African biltong. There's only one thing he can't stand, and that's having an empty stomach.

Where should Grk - and I - go next? Where would be the best place for us to get a great snack? Which country has the best grub in the world? If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

You can contact Josh via his website http://www.joshlacey.com/ where you can also find out more about GRK and the other books Josh has written. 

Boxer Beetle - Ned Beauman

Boxer Beetle; Ned Beauman; Sceptre; 2011

Book Summary(taken from Amazon UK): This is a novel for people with breeding. Only people with the right genes and the wrong impulses will find its marriage of bold ideas and deplorable characters irresistible. It is a novel that engages the mind while satisfying those that crave the thrill of a chase.

There are riots and sex. There is love and murder. There is Darwinism and Fascism, nightclubs, invented languages and the dangerous bravado of youth. And there are lots of beetles.

It is clever. It is distinctive. It is entertaining.

We hope you are too.


Please note this book is intended for a 16+ audience

Literature for Lads Review:
'Boxer Beetle' is Ned Beauman's debut novel and has evidenced by the 'blurb' which appears on the back of the book, it's a little different! Discussing themes as far reaching as Anti-Semitism, Eugenics and Nazism, not to mention the Class System and New Towns this book is far from your average novel.  The fact that it comes from a first time novelist, who is only 26, should make you stop and think a little as you start your reading journey.

The book has two narratives running through it, one set in present day England, the other set in England just before the outbreak of the Second World War.  In the present day storyline Nazi memorabilia collector Kevin (who suffers from a very unfortunate medical condition) becomes embroiled in a violent adventure to recover a Nazi artefact.

Back in the 1930's Philip Erskine, a private school educated scientist with an interest in Eugenics, becomes involved in a relationship with the talented Jewish boxer from London's East End, Seth 'Sinner' Roach.  As the book progresses Beuman begins to link the stories together as we learn that the Nazi artefact at the heart of Kevin's adventure, was initially discovered by Phillip Erskine.

There is no doubt that this is an interesting book and it is clear that Beauman most definitely has a talent.  However as a novel it doesn't quite work for me. The historical story is definitely the strongest part of the novel.  It has a cast of intriguing characters; Seth 'Sinner' Roach is brash, violent, and at times just nasty. Philip Erskine is an eccentric scientist, in denial of his sexuality, yet yearning after Sinner. And let's not forget Millicent Erskine, a minor character in the book but one who is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud with her various quips.

The Modern day storyline in contrast is rather disappointing.  It appears infrequently in the book making it hard to follow what has happened previously. It's difficult to like the main character Kevin (and not because of the peculiar smell emanating from him) as we know so little about him. He is one dimensional, self pitying and with very few redeeming features. I almost feel the book would have worked without the modern day second narrative due to the strength of the Historical story. 

'Boxer, Beetle' is definitely not your average book.  It will make you  think and may even educate you as you read it. Beauman's research is meticulous and the the sense of the Britain in the 1930's is wonderfully evoked. The characters in the book are, on the whole far from likeable, and at times frankly offensive.  The book includes some rather offensive language and some scenes which many will find distasteful.  However I'm pretty sure that Beauman wants us to be challenged and feel uneasy reading his novels. He may not be out to offend but he is definitely out to make us think.

This book will not be for everyone but if you are looking for something a little different from the supermarket sold, formulaic fiction currently proliferating bookshops bookshelves, give this debut author a go.

Marks out of 10: 6

I was invited by the Scottish Book Trust to talk about 'Boxer, Beetle' as part of their Book Talk Podcast series along with Peggy Hughes from the Edinburgh's City of Literature Trust.  If you would like to hear Peggy and I in discussion, along with host Paul Gallagher, click here.

And thank you to Scottish Book trust for providing me with a copy of the book!

Here is Ned talking about 'Boxer, Beetle'...


For more information on Ned Beauman visit here and to visit the 'Boxer, Beetle' mini site click here

Delivered No.1

It's been a little quiet here at Literature for Lads lately and we can only apologise for failing to give you your regular fix of reviews and interviews. However we are back, with a new feature, and hopefully we won't be posted missing again anytime soon!

Delivered will allow us to share with you the books that publishers and others have kindly sent to us for review over the last little while. When I started the blog I didn't think for one second that we would be invited to review books by publishers but over the last few months there has been a steady stream of books popping through our letterbox. 

It seems only fair to share these with you - and give you a sneak preview of the reviews that will be coming up on the blog in the near future! If you have already read any of these books it would be great to hear what you thought of them so please do post a comment.

First of all thank you to Catherine Alport and the team at Scholastic for sending copies of Goblins by Philip Reeve and The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson.  Both of these look great!




Nina Douglas and the team at Orion Books were kind enough to send a copy of An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons and also a signed(!) copy of Hollow Pike by James Dawson.  We were so chuffed to receive a copy of Hollow Pike as we have heard such good things about this - and to get a signed copy was just awesome!


Next up Caitlin at Unbound gave us a copy of the 1st two books in the Hattori Hachi series by Jane Prowse. We are looking forward to reading these two adventure stories.





Our next book didn't come from a publisher but from the author himself.  Phil Earle kindly gave us a signed copy of his new novel Saving Daisy.  This is another book that we have heard great things about so can't wait to read it.
Finally thanks to Random House for a copy of Radio 2 DJ's Simon Mayo's first novel Itch.  Itch doesn't sound like your stereotypical superhero so it will be interesting to get to grips with him in this novel.