A Small Fry Safari Wrap Up and….The Shelf’s NEW Reading Challenge for 2015!

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As we wrap up the year, it’s once again a time of reflection.  On triumphs and troughs. On goals achieved and on those that got away from us. In this vein, I have to acknowledge those who challenged themselves to read in unexpected ways this year by participating in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge.

small fry

It was fun, it was feisty and it gave each of us a little thrill when we came across a book that we could manhandle into one of the categories.  All in all, a very worthwhile endeavour.  If you would like to find out more about the challenge (which is still open until December 31st by the way, and therefore still very much achievable!), or see the entries that were hunted and tracked by those on the safari bus, simply click here.

If you were one of the intrepid travellers who managed to finish the challenge, feel free to grab yourself this awesome button for your blog, wall or trophy cabinet.  I will be having mine proudly made into a shelf-sized doona cover.  Feel free also, if you know about photoshop (or the old-fashioned method of literal cutting and pasting) to place an image of your own face over mine. To paste it on your blog, simply copy the code in the box below the image and paste it on your blog.

The Bookshelf Gargoyle
<div align="center"><a href="http://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress.com" title="The Bookshelf Gargoyle"><img src="https://thebookshelfgargoyle.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/image5.jpg" alt="The Bookshelf Gargoyle" style="border:none;" /></a></dimageiv>

But enough of Small Fry! Small Fry is soooooo 2014! Today I unveil my new, fresh off the boat, just out of the oven reading challenge for 2015.  It’s called the….wait for it…..

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I’m excited! Aren’t you? Of course you are.  This challenge will be a little bit different from the Small Fry Safari in that it will encompass ALL types of literature, not just Kid Lit.  If you are up for the challenge and want to find out more, click on the impressively attractive image above and all your questions will be answered.  Come on! Join in! It’ll be fun!  I’m also going to include some GIVEAWAYS for participants in the challenge in 2015, so share the news around – the more oddness the merrier!

In case you’re wondering, I’m going to attempt the challenge at the Audaciously Odd level.  Bet you’re intrigued now, aren’t you? Go on then, click the challenge button and find out more!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

A Timey-Wimey Double Dip: Doctor Who Novellas…

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Tardis-worthy snacks at the ready, readers, for a Doctor flavoured double dip! Let’s forego the pleasantries and just rush straight in, shall we?

Doctor Who: The Anti-Hero (Stella Duffy)

From Goodreads:

Arriving at the ancient Musaeum of Alexandria, the Doctor is keen to explore. He might find some new recorder music, and Jamie might discover a new porridge recipe, while Zoe will love the antiquated ideas about astrophysics. But once inside, they all find rather more than they bargained for, and it soon becomes clear they may never leave the Museaum alive…

Dip into it for… image

…a second Doctor story with an Ancient Greek flavour.  There’s comedy, action, cross-dressing, recorder music and all the things we’ve come to expect from a good Who story.  There’s also the obligatory “important piece of human history actually being related to alien activity” theme that we know and love.  If you’re a recent convert to Doctorism, think Pyroviles, but less deadly and more scoldy.

Don’t dip if…

…you aren’t a fan of history-based Doctor episodes.  This is also a fairly benign offering in terms of running, slaying and deadly suspense, so if you’re hoping for a real nail-biter, this probably won’t satisfy.

Overall Dip Factor

I found this to be a fun, frivolous Doctor story that gave me a good sense of what the second Doctor and his companions are all about.  I’d certainly be interested in reading more of this Doctor’s adventures.  Overall, this was a pleasant, escapist (literally, for e characters!) interlude.

Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect (Malorie Blackman)

From Goodreads:

When the TARDIS lands on Skaro, the Seventh Doctor and Ace are shocked to discover the planet has become the universal centre of learning, populated by a race of peace-loving Daleks. Ever suspicious of his archenemies’ motives, the Doctor learns of a threat that could literally tear the universe apart…

Dip into it for… image

…another in the 50th anniversary series of novellas, this one featuring the seventh Doctor and Ace.  With the intriguing premise of kind, philosophy-loving daleks spreading learning throughout the universe, this quickie gives one a lot to ponder.  The situation gives the Doctor and Ace a chance to chew over their own prejudices and blind-spots and make the decision about whether or not kind daleks have a place in the greater scheme of things.

Don’t dip if…

… You’re sick of dalek episodes (they have been overused in the last few seasons, in my opinion) of you don’t like alternate universe stories.

Overall Dip Factor

Another fun, quick dalliance in the Doctor’s world. The nice dalek premise was intriguing and the minor characters in the story had enough depth to give the overall reading experience the feel of a longer story.  This would be a great introduction to the seventh Doctor for newbies – his character, and that of Ace, seem to have been captured quite faithfully.

So two more Doctorish stories for the ever-growing collection. I must say I’m loving these novellas – there the perfect chance to acquaint ones’ self with Doctors one hasn’t yet encountered, and they’re so quick that you can knock them over in one sitting.  I received the first title from the publisher via Netgalley and I’ve had the second one sitting on my kindle for ages.  I’ve just downloaded the Ten adventure in the 50th anniversary selection, so stay tuned for that one soon enough.

On Wednesday I’ll be unveiling my reading challenge for 2015.  Hold onto your false teeth readers, it’s going to be epic. In a mild, achievable sort of way of course.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive Frivolity: Bruce’s Christmas Lucky Dip!

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It’s time once again for one of my favourite features – Bruce’s Lucky Dip! If you are unfamiliar with this one, it involves me typing a random word into the search engine of the Book Depository and presenting to you the best and most unexpected results.  Appropriately for the time of year, this lucky dip is focused around Christmas.  So if you are still searching for the perfect present for that hard-to-buy-for character plaguing your Christmas list, sit back and let my festive fossiking provide the solution to all your woes….click on the book covers for more information on each title.

Firstly, for the hardcore crafty crafter:

knits before christmas

For the religious hardcore crafty crafter:

knitivity

Unsurprisingly enough, these two are by the same author.

For the ungrateful relative of a hardcore crafty crafter (religious or otherwise):

ugly christmas sweater

Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

For the person who just needs a little assistance to manage that carefree, Christmas happy-tude:

funny christmas verse

For the party-pooping Christmas sad sack who needs more than a bit of funny festive poetry to get them in the mood:

christmas therapy

Let those elves psychoanalyse the holiday grumps away…

For the entrepreneur with a desire for wealth untold and rapid upward mobility:

trees for pleasure and profit 4th edition

Scoff if you must, but do note that this book is in its fourth edition, so the author must have made at least a little bit out of this harebrained scheme…

For the animal activist, or that annoying child that keeps begging you for a puppy:

christmas turkeys

Imagine the expression of joy on their little faces when you present this book and then lead them into the back yard, accompanied by the sound of festive gobbling…

For those for whom mulled wine is not enough to spice up the holiday:

affair before christmas

Now it doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I come across a book in one of these searches that makes me do this face:

confused smileyThis time I have found hands down the most inexplicable Christmas title ever.  Clearly, I move in sheltered shelfish circles.  This one certainly has a fun and frivolous vibe to it, but it ain’t my idea of traditional festivities.  And it’s certainly not for children.  If you want to see it on Goodreads though, just click here.

……

Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? In fact, I bet you’re making the face right now.

And that’s my festive lucky dip for 2014 – I hope I’ve helped you with those tricky people on your present list….although if you’re buying that last one for anybody I don’t want to know about it.  You weirdie.

Stay tuned next week for a wrap up of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge, and a BRAND NEW CHALLENGE for 2015.  It’s going to be real bobby-dazzler!

Until next time,

Bruce

The Kaboom Kid Series: A “Five Things I’ve Learned” Review…

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Welcome to my brand new review feature! I have thoughtfully titled it the “Five Things I’ve Learned” review and within it I will (in rather obvious fashion) reveal five things I have discovered while reading the featured book!  It’s going to be great.

The books I have chosen are particularly topical at this moment, given that the first test against India has just started as I am writing this and the co-author of the featured books, David Warner, is currently sitting on 77 from 73 balls.  If you have absolutely no understanding of my previous sentence, then I am guessing that you know very little about the sport of cricket.  Or, perhaps, you can’t stand cricket.  Never fear intrepid readers, if you are part of the former group these tomes will introduce you to the sport, and if you are in the second group (of which I am a card carrying member) keep and open mind as you read on.

So today’s offering is the first two books in a new series for 8 – 12 year olds, The Kaboom Kid by David Warner, J.V. McGee and Jules Faber.  These are the next in a current trend for pairing a famous sports person with an author to create series of books that kids – and particularly boys – will enjoy. The AFL did it. Rugby League has just popped out a series featuring Billy Slater (QUEENSLANDER!) and now Cricket Australia are at it.  The books feature loveable larrikin Davey Warner, who loves cricket and can’t get by without his beloved bat Kaboom, his best friend Sunil, and his stinky dog Max.

Let us stride confidently onto the pitch and face the first two balls from this new sporty series, shall we? *Richie Benaud impersonations optional*:

kaboom kid 1  kaboom kid 2

The Big Switch:

Davey Warner and his grade six friends are mad for cricket and just want to play it every moment of the day.  His team has a big game coming up against arch-rivals, Shimmer Bay, so they need to get in all the practice they can.  But when the boys end up in Mr Mudge’s class for this year they know they’ll have to tread carefully – old Mudge hates cricket and won’t allow any mention of it in his classroom. After a run in with class bully Mo Clouter leaves Davey in detention, it looks like all his practice time will be taken up picking up rubbish.  But Davey’s got a brand new trick up his sleeve that he thinks might win them the big match – if only he could get time to practise!

Playing Up:

Davey doesn’t mind practising with his big brother Steve, provided Steve gives up on his constant stream of advice about how Davey can improve his technique.  But Davey will put up with it for now – the selectors for the representative side are coming to Sandhill Flats and Davey wants to make sure that he and his lucky bat Kaboom give a performance that will impress.  When Davey plays a silly stunt in the classroom and Mr Mudge confiscates Kaboom, all his hopes of impressing the selectors goes up in smoke.  Davey cheers up a bit when Steve asks him to play up in the older boys’ team, but without Kaboom, Davey will probably mess that up too.  But Davey hasn’t counted on his teammates ability to band together when the chips are down.

Ah, cricket.  The gentlemans’ game.  The game that inexplicably requires players to stand for hours in the blazing, sunburn-inducing, melanoma-causing, sweaty, sweaty heat of an Australian summer.  Really, who’s idea was the last bit? Surely we would be better off playing cricket in winter. Anyway, you may have guessed by now that I am not the greatest fan of the game of cricket as a spectator sport.  I don’t mind playing it, but watching it is akin to having one’s skin peeled off in 1cm strips by teeny tiny wallpaper scrapers.  In my opinion, anyway.

BUT!

I actually got sucked into these books!

Yes!

I willingly read the first and quite happily picked up the second to continue Davey’s adventures.  And you know what? They actually turned out to be pretty fun little holiday reads! Amazing!  So here’s…..

Five Things I’ve Learned From….

The Kaboom Kid #1 and #2

1. Cricket is far more interesting to read about than to watch

2. The Australian selectors should probably consider including dogs as specialist fielders to improve the test side’s performance

3. Playing by the rules on the cricket pitch is non-negotiable. Playing by the rules in the classroom however, is entirely optional

4. A grumpy old teacher is almost always going to have a hidden passion for some obscure sport or activity that they will then attempt to force upon their students (possibly in response to learning #2)

5. It is actually possible to love cricket so much that you want to play it all the time…although as this is a work of fiction, I’m still not entirely convinced of this

Davey reads like a modern day Ginger Meggs, and the multicultural friendships and the feeling of the cricket lovers being “misunderstood” reminded me very much of that other Australian award-winning, cricket-based children’s novel, NIPS XI by Ruth Starke.  There’s a lot in the books that kids will enjoy – the boys get up to all kinds of hijinks and Davey’s stinky dog Max provides a plenty of comic relief.  I was a bit put off (having sat on the shelf of a few teachers in my time) by the casual blackmail applied by Davey’s team mates to his teacher Mr Mudge, in order to get back a bat that had been confiscated as a punishment for Davey breaking the rules in class.  Not quite sure what Warner is suggesting here, but one would have hoped that fair play in life is just as important as fair play on the cricket pitch.  I suspect kids won’t be beating themselves up over the ethics of that one, though.

The chapters and paragraphs are short and well-spaced and there are illustrations throughout, so the books are visually quite appealing, and not too overwhelming for younger or struggling readers.  The Aussie flavour and slang of the books will resonate nicely with those looking for a read from down our way and I found that you don’t have to know too much about cricket to be able to follow the action in the games.  (*Pointed aside* In fact, the whole first book is based around a trick shot from Davey that I thought was against the rules of cricket.  I have since discussed this with others who are more knowledgeable about the sport than I, and they agreed.  But unless David Warner contributed nothing to this book but his name on the cover, one would assume that  they would have got the rules of the game right and therefore we are all wrong. Input on this would be welcome from others who’ve read the book).

If you’ve got a cricket-mad (or just generally sports-mad) young person around your dwelling who is wandering around bleating about being bored this holidays, I can heartily recommend these first two of the Kaboom Kid series.  They’re quick reads that won’t cause any headaches from requiring too much, and will return plenty of enjoyment.

And they’re completely sun-safe. (Provided you read them in the shade. Or while wearing a broad-brimmed hat).

And they’d fit nicely in a Christmas stocking.

Just sayin’

I received a copy of these books (without even having to ask! They must have assumed that with a name like Bruce it would be unAustralian for me not to enjoy cricket) from Simon and Schuster Australia in return for an honest review.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

An Adult Fiction Haiku Review: Tita…

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It’s Mad Martha with you today presenting a very unusual little offering in the world of literary fiction.  I was lucky enough to win a review copy of this one through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program and because of this have been introduced to a little gem of a read that is a perfect pick for holiday hermit reading.  The book of which I speak is Tita by Marie Houzelle.  Here is the blurb, from Goodreads:

Tita is seven, and she wonders what wrong with her. She has perfect parents. She puts on plays with her friends, spies on adults, challenges her teacher, and even manages to read forbidden books. She should be happy. But she dreams of a world without meals, and keeps worrying about her mother’s whereabouts, spoiling her own life for no reason at all. Tita wants to be good – but how?
As her small town vibrates to age-old Latin rituals on the verge of slipping away, Tita finds refuge – and a liberation- in books.

TitaPoppet muses on

life and certain adult themes

in multiple tongues

Now I usually make up my own description of books that I review, but I have slacked off today and used Goodreads’ blurb because I really can’t think of how to describe the happenings in the book, as they are a distant second to the characters’ relationships.  Tita is a precocious seven-year-old who is greatly interested in the workings of the adult mind and the way the social world works.  Fortunately for the reader, while Tita is precocious, she manages to be so without the usual irritiating attitude that goes along with it – in a sense, Tita knows how much she doesn’t know and is perfectly happy to annunciate the gaps in her knowledge in order to fill them.  Our fleshlings happen to be Catholic, so the references to Catholicism and its traditions and Tita’s schooling were both familiar and amusing.  If you don’t know much about Catholicism, I’m not sure how you’ll take those passages – hopefully they’ll give a good measurement on the ole’ odd-ometer.

I can best describe this book as charming.  Tita is a sensitive and astute narrator and the reader is left to ponder her observations, particularly those relating to the relationship between her father and mother, from an adult perspective.  I very much appreciated the introduction to French culture and language that I received in reading this book – I have always considered it a particular failing that of the many languages that I have studied, French was (and is) conspicuously absent.  Houzelle has redressed this to some extent, as the French language and its influence are threaded through almost every scene in this book.  There’s also a little glossary at the back, so non-French-speakers can better understand particular phrases or references.

This is a gentle read, where events move at the pace of a Sunday morning breakfast and I suggest that’s exactly the sort of feeling you should bring when embarking on Tita’s journey of musing.

Au revoir mes chers,

Mad Martha

 

Ghost Moon Night: A Spooky, Accursed YA Read-it-if Review…

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Happy Friday to you all! Today I have an engaging little offering that I snatched up with pleasure from Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, through her new website Ebooks for Review.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a nifty little idea that connects authors seeking reviews with readers who might be looking for a new book.  You don’t have to be a blogger to apply to read and review a book – you simply have to have an account on a social media site that welcomes book reviews – Goodreads, Librarything, whatever – and be willing to post a review after you’ve read the book. Simple and brilliant for those who want to get free books and don’t have a blog.  But I digress.

Ghost Moon Night by Jewel Allen is an atmospheric and unusual tale of a village suffering from a long-ago curse, set in the Philippines.  It was entirely not what I expected, but I actually enjoyed it more because of that. So let’s dive in.  Lanterns at the ready? Windows boarded and barred? Sitting comfortably as the undead rage and screech in the night? Then we’ll begin.

Seventeen-year-old Anotonio Pulido is just about to finish high school – the first in his family to do so.  His father wants him to help on the family farm, but Anotonio doesn’t want to be tied to his home when his best friend Jose gets to go to Manila on a basketball scholarship.  When a new priest arrives in the village, Anotonio is sent to escort him to the parish house…and inform him about one of the village’s more unusual events – Ghost Moon Night.  For one night each month, on the new moon, Dasalin village is besieged by creatures from beyond the grave, the langbaun, or flying undead.  Unless the villagers are safe behind locked doors and barred windows, they risk being torn apart or taken by the langbaun, and becoming langbaun themselves.  As Antonio and Father Sebastian are drawn deeper into the terrors of Ghost Moon Night, Anotonio knows that he must face down the langbaun once and for all, or die in the attempt.

ghost moon nightRead it if:

* you’ve ever wondered whether that deceased person you wronged long ago was truly dead…or just waiting for a new moon to turn up at your window, dessicated wings a-flutter and bony claws outstretched

* you’re consider yourself to be a person who honours their commitments…including grudges…and won’t let a little thing like death put you off hassling the person who wronged you

* you’ve ever been stuck a long way from home as night falls, wishing an empty taxi would turn up to ferry you to safety

* you’ve ever repeatedly made a fool of yourself in front of someone you really like
If you’re hoping for a creepy, flying zombie type of horror story then you’ll get what you are looking for from Ghost Moon Night.  If, however, you are looking for a reasonably complex coming-of-age tale that links spirituality, family expectations and choices to be made that will determine one’s character, then you’re in luck – because you’ll also find what you are looking for in Ghost Moon Night!  When I read the blurb of this book, I expected a fast-paced paranormal aventure with a bit of humour thrown in.  I certainly got that, but a whole lot more as well.

Allen has managed to create what is essentially a tale about a young man trying to find his place in a village where everyone has known him, and his family, since … well, since forever.  Punctuating Antonio’s very ordinary travails in finding a job, being a good son and all the rest of it are some genuinely creepy action scenes featuring flying zombies (some of whom are people that until very recently, lived in the village with Antonio!) with an abiding desire to tear flesh from bones.  So instead of just being a zombie, scary book, this is a strange yet satisfying tale with a lot to offer the reader of straight – as in, not paranormal or fantasy – YA fiction.

The Filippino setting and the background themes of religion and cultural tradition running through the book also provide a point of difference for anyone looking for a YA read that isn’t your standard, set-in-a-big-city, sort of a story.  There are lots of Tagalog words and phrases thrown in to keep the reader’s mind working and a glossary of these is included at the back of the book, although most are explained incidentally during the story, so there’s no need to panic if you aren’t a native speaker of Tagalog!

I ended up enjoying this story very much, as much for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of a young man trying to do the best he can and please the people who are important to him as for the freaky langbaun, who have shot up to near the top of my list of “creepiest fictional/mythical monsters”.  Definitely give this one a go if you’re looking for something a little bit different and out of the ordinary in the paranormal department.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

A Festive, Kid Lit Read-it-If Review: The Gift…

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Today’s offering from Book Guild is the perfect tale for parents (or grandparents) and their wide-eyed offspring to cuddle up with on the couch, be it before a wintery, roaring fire or in the still, warm air currents of the southern hemisphere, under the artificial but oddly comforting glow of indoor Christmas lighting, to share as part of a pre-Christmas calming ritual.  The Gift by Susan Cowell is an illustrated story for all ages, but best suited for kids aged 6 and up.

Chania is the daughter of innkeepers in Bethlehem.  When Caesar orders a census, the town is filled almost to capacity and Chania must fight the crowds on her way too and from the market to get supplies for her parents’ hungry guests.  Tired and hungry, Chania returns to the inn only to have her mother saddle her with one more chore – deliver a blanket to the couple in childbirth in the stable.  On arriving at the stable, Chania sees that the baby has already arrived and the family invite her in to meet the new addition, Yeshua.  When other visitors arrive to meet the new baby, Chania promises herself that she will return tomorrow, to bask in the strange sense of calm and comfort that surround this new little family.

the giftRead it if:

*you are looking for a Christmas tale that tries to faithfully recreate the comings and goings of the people in Bethlehem during the events of the Nativity

*you like your Christmas books to be accompanied by beautifully rendered watercolour style imagery

*in a time traditionally reserved for stress, bustle and consumerism, you can’t go past a book that exudes a strong sense of peace and the simple joy of being with those you love

Admittedly, this is more heartwarming fare than I usually go in for, but Cowell has done a wonderful job recreating the sights, smells and sounds of a bustling market in Bethlehem and the everyday business of the people who live there.  Her descriptions really bring the atmsophere of the place to life – the heat, the crowds, the dust and the hurry to get things done before night falls on the town.  For teachers in religious schools or those looking for a book that recreates a more authentic sense of what life might have been like at the time of Jesus’ birth, rather than some of the more traditional imagery that we’ve come to expect about Christmas, this book would be an astute choice.

The illustrations are detailed and the warm earth tones of the desert environment contrast nicely with the more colourful clothes of the people and the items on offer at the market.  While there were one or two aspects that jarred a little with me – Jesus having blue eyes, for one – I suspect that littlies won’t notice or care about greater theological and/or anthropological arguments relating to the Jesus story and will simply appreciate the gentle tone and sense of warmth that draws the reader into the joy and excitement of a baby’s birth.

I’d recommend this as a special yearly read for those who want an authentic imagining of the nativity story.

I’m also submitting this book as my entry in categoy six of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014 - a book with something precious in the title.  And with that – I’ve finished the challenge!! *does little happy dance*  If you’d like to find out more about the challenge, read about participants’ challenge books and hey, join in yourself (there’s still time!), just click on this attractive button:

small fry

Until next time,

Bruce