MG Haiku Review: Fat and Bones and Other Stories…

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It’s Mad Martha with you today and I bring to you a special little tome of interconnected short stories featuring a range of delightfully wicked characters, topped off with some wonderfully atmospheric illustration.  Take my hand and let’s enter the world of Fat and Bones…

Fat & Bones and Other Stories by Larissa Theule is a collection of short, interconnected stories set on Bones’s mother’s farm.  Before we go much further, it should be pointed out that Bones is a grown up and Fat is a tricksy fairy – so named because of his paunch.  The first story opens with the death of Bones’s father and the somewhat accidental commencement of open hostility between Bones and Fat.  As we delve deeper into this bizarre little world, we discover that Bones is fond of Pig Foot Stew, and as a result, most of the porkers inhabiting the farm are missing a little something below at least one ankle.  Other occupants of the farm that we meet along the way include a tea-loving spider who wants to be brave and a pair of flowers whose friendship is about to be sorely tested.  But who is the narrator of these tales, the spinner of these odd and unsettling yarns? You’ll just have to read and see!

fat and bones

If fairies were real

would they be starlight and charm?

Or lardy and sly?

As you can probably guess from the cover this book has a feel of magical realism, with strange and unexpected twists emerging in every one of the interlaced stories.  The characters are at once likeable and a bit off-putting, their actions two parts self-serving and one part self-sacrificing.  In each of the stories there’s a little bit of humour to offset the overarching fog of bleakness and decay that seems to surround the farm and its residents.

The illustrations perfectly complement the tone of the stories and are masterfully completed, really adding to the overall reading experience.  Once again I would recommend getting this book in print, rather than in digital form, because it was hard to get the full impact of the illustrations having to flick back and forth through digital pages to see the whole image in most cases.

The stories are short and interspersed with interjections from the mysterious narrator and I easily managed the book in one sitting.  As the book is for younger readers though, it would be perfect for a read-aloud as the tales provide obvious stopping points during which readers may muse about folk of the farm.  I very much enjoyed this book for its original characters and the atmospheric setting and narrative style.  The illustrations are just a beautifully crafted bonus.

This might be a good pick in the lead up to Halloween if you are looking for something a bit unsettling and odd, but not actually scary, in the middle grade age bracket.

Yours in delightful oddity,

Mad Martha

* I received a digital copy of this title for review from the publisher via Netgalley *

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Fiction in 50 September Challenge: A Worthy Adversary…

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Welcome to the September edition of the Fiction in 50 Challenge! We invite you to join in and compose a piece of writing in 50 words or less on our current prompt and then link it up to the linky, or pop a link in the comments so all can appreciate your prodigious talent.  I’ve also started using #Fi50 when I share entries on Twitter, so feel free to do the same!  This month’s prompt is….

a worthy adversary button

For more information about the challenge, just click here.  The linky below will be open for a month so you’ve got plenty of time to craft your masterpiece and join in.  Here’s this month’s linky:

And here’s my effort.  I’ve decided this month to tip my hat to that legendary poet of war, Wilfred Owen.  My work today is inspired by his poem Dulce et Decorum est, which you can familiarise yourself with here…but of course you already know it ;)

I have titled my piece….

Dulce 2.0

Bent double, muscles slack, I take up stance on the battleground. I am ready.

Centuries ago, international conflict evolved past such crude problem-solving as violence, bombs, indiscriminate death. Instead, we trip the light fantastic.

I am a soldier of the shimmy and sway.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria saltandi

 

Your turn! For those preppers amongst us, October’s prompt will be super-democratic in that you get to fill in the blank:

the darker side of

You choose! We had a lot of fun with the last fill in the blank prompt a few months ago and you can check out some of those entries here if you need inspiration.

Until next time,

Bruce

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A Kidlit Angry Haiku Review and a Fi50 reminder…

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fiction in 50

It’s Mad Martha with you today, firstly reminding you that everybody’s favourite mini-fiction writing challenge is kicking off again on Monday! The prompt for this month is…

a worthy adversary button

To join in, just create a piece of fiction, poetry or whatever in fifty words or less and then link up to the linky in Monday’s post.  Feel free to share the challenge with others who might be interested – we always welcome fresh meat new players!  Don’t forget to add the hashtag #Fi50 if you’re sharing about the challenge on Twitter.  For more detailed info about the challenge and a list of future prompts, simply click on the large attractive button at the beginning of this post.  See you all on Monday!

Now speaking of worthy adversaries…today’s offering is a charming little picture book that features one very irate Puffin.

The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young features the resident Puffin at an indoor aquarium.  All day long people press their noses against his enclosure and exclaim, “Oh how cute! What a happy little penguin!” as if puffins and penguins are exactly the same bird.  After one too many of such ignorant comments, the puffin snaps and begins to outline all the differences between the two to set the record straight.  But then the little puffin hears a voice – an angelic, educated, passionate little voice – and all his woes are swept away for one brief moment of happiness.

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Impotent with rage

crying for recognition

“Penguin I am not!”

This is one of those clever little picture books that is actually non-fiction dressed up in a fun story.  The best part about the book for me, apart from Puffin’s ranting and raging, placards all a-wave, was the way it included lots of factual information about Puffins without breaking the narrative pace.  Did you know puffins could fly? I didn’t, until I read this book!  The little guy actually looks quite majestic soaring through the ether,  especially in comparison to the penguins, left behind on their ice floe, looking a bit bewildered.  The illustrations are really delightful and I loved the way the penguins have been cast as slightly half-witted and awkward, while Puffin is granted superhero status at one point.

Admittedly, there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about this book, but it will most certainly appeal to those animal and bird obsessed children who thirst for knowledge in an accessible format.  It would be a fantastic read in preparation for an aquarium visit with the little ones too!  If you’re looking for a funny and charming read-aloud for your curious little nippers, you might like to give this one a go.

The Angry Little Puffin is due for release on September 28th and I received a digital copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley.

Now, I must fly (like a majestic puffin!),

Mad Martha

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Blind Servitude: A Haiku Review of a Modern Day Fable (plus an Author Interview!)

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It’s Mad Martha with you today with a special treat! I have a sweet little indie title for your perusing pleasure, made all the sweeter for its having an Australian author (yippee!).  Stay tuned after my review to meet David Chattaway and find out the inspiration behind this engaging little tale.

Blind Servitude by David Chattaway follows the story of Eli, a young boy who, along with his family, has lived his whole life in an underground mine, toiling for an unseen overlord.  When Eli accidentally discovers a secret passage that may lead to freedom (or certain death!) he is excited to tell his family.  But at the same time Eli is uncovering the mine’s secrets, a siren is sounding elsewhere in the mine – a siren indicating that his mother will never be returning from her work shift.  When Eli’s brother and sister are abducted in the regular “harvest”, Eli is more determined than ever to get his father to listen to his plan to find the secret tunnel and see if it leads to escape.  Along the way, Eli will have to dodge the guards, particularly the sadistic “Savage”, evade the creepy “Shadow” lady and rely on his father, blind old Jeri and his mysterious, silent friend Peta in order to risk everything for a slim chance at freedom.

blind servitude

Dwelling in darkness

cage bars built from despair

Will hope find a way?

Blind Servitude is a reasonably short story that has a definite feel of the old-time fable about it.  Eli, the young boy at the centre of the story, is the unlikely hero, shifted from the complacency of his everyday life collecting and repairing tools for the workers by a desire for something more, something adventurous.  He alone has the courage to believe that his mother and siblings may not yet be lost to death, after his discovery of a tunnel that shouldn’t exist, given what the mine-dwellers have always been told.

The story unfolds fairly slowly, given the short length of the book, and this isn’t an action-packed adventure story by any means, despite the fact that there’s climbing and breaking and entering and pursuit by malevolent creatures all bound up in this small package.  Instead the suspense builds slowly, all the time reflecting Eli’s personal growth as he faces challenges that cause him to question everything he has ever known and chases after a slim hope that there could be something better awaiting all the mine-dwellers provided they are prepared to risk letting go of their unhappy, but predictable lives.

The characters aren’t particlarly developed as individuals, but each plays a significant role in Eli’s journey, particularly the guard whom Eli calls the Savage.  The Savage is almost the personification of the mine-dwellers’ misery, subjugating the people  through violence and threats in order to uphold a system that is unjust and ultimately unproductive for all but those at the top of the chain.

Overall this is an ethereal tale that will have you reflecting on the power of hope and the playing-off between risk and reward.

David Chattaway has kindly offered two readers (Australian residents ony) the chance to win a print copy of Blind Servitude.  To enter, simply click on the rafflecopter link below where you’ll find Ts & Cs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Now it’s time to meet the generous and talented creator of this tale! Welcome, David, to the Shelf!

 

Blind Servitude is a thoroughly thought-provoking tome! Where did the inspiration for the book come from?

I wanted to write a story which was uplifting and had a positive message. It started as a very short story, focusing on a family’s desperation to escape an underground prison. Initially the story was far more science fiction with Aliens being the prison guards. As I began typing the story evolved and changed and I was left with a tale of a boys journey from darkness to light.
A lot of the characters seem to be flawed in one way or another – was this important to you when creating them and how does it impact on the way the story unfolds?
 
The story is about hope and overcoming adversity, but the characters are real and their situation is somewhat hopeless, especially at the beginning. I wanted the reader to relate to Eli, understanding the reasons that drive him to continue but also appreciating that he is challenging the nature of the world he had lived in.
Why did you choose Eli as your protagonist? Was it essential that he be young in order to accomplish his quest?
 
The story is dedicated to my Godson Eli and it was written for younger readers so I wanted to make the protagonist be young. One of the important aspects to this story is Eli convincing his father to believe his reasoning for escape and I felt that trusting someone young, especially when you’re almost blind and surrounded by danger was a message in itself. Eli represents the child in all of us, the innocent and trusting part which believes everything will be okay, that no matter how dark your life is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Who is the perfect reader for Blind Servitude and is there a particular message you’d like them to take away from the story?
 
The book is suitable for both young readers and the young at heart…
- Trust your instincts and believe in good prevailing. Seek the truth and never give up! That is the message of this book.
If you had to sum the book up in one sentence, how would you describe it?
 
Blind Servitude is the tale of a young boy’s journey to find his courage in a world where fear is used as a weapon and love is the only light.
Have you got any works in progress that we should watch out for and do you plan to feature gargoyles in any of your future writings?
 
I’ve completed the first draft of a paranormal fantasy novel named Mal’akh. It’s a story about Angels and Demons, good versus evil… it will be book one of a trilogy I have planned.

 

So there you have it.  You can find Blind Servitude on Goodreads here and for those whose literary appetite has been whetted, Bruce will be featuring another of David’s books on the blog in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.
Until we meet again, may the light of hope never be blown out,

Mad Martha

 

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A YA Read-it-if Review: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead…

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It’s back to some YA (well, closer to NA actually), teen drama goodness for today’s Read-it-if Review, with the cheerily titled Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James (Australian! Woot!).  I was kindly provided a copy of this intriguing tale of mystery and romance by Allen and Unwin in exchange for review.

The body of Cooper Bartholomew is found at the base of a cliff and all who knew him are shocked and devastated at Cooper’s tragic end, presumed to be suicide.  But what could possibly have caused good looking, charismatic, newly-in-love Cooper to end his life in such a way?  Told from multiple points of view and jumping between the weeks before Cooper’s death and the weeks after, the story of Cooper, his new girlfriend Libby, and old friends Claire and Sebastian unfolds to reveal some long-held secrets that might shed light on why Cooper died…and whether anything could have been done to prevent it.

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Read it if:

*you like a mystery that slowly unravels, leaving suspicion, doubts and a little bit of tangled yarn at the end

* you like your YA characters to be believable, rather than two-dimensional or stereotypical (or both)

*you’ve been waiting and waiting for a YA novel to feature the fates and fortunes of the post-high-school set in small town Australia

Straight off the bat, let me say how impressed I was with the overall experience of reading this book.  The plot is tight, the narrative style is interesting and well constructed and the characters – oh the characters! – are so believable it’s almost painful.  James has done an incredible job, in my opinion, of creating characters that represent pitch perfectly the range of vices and virtues that appear in all of us once school is over and done and we have to figure out who we’re going to be in this strange real world.  This was the greatest strength of the story for me and ultimately what kept me interested through the mushy romance bits between Cooper and Libby.  Well done Rebecca James *insert sound of stone paws clapping heartily here*

Another great bit about this reading experience is the narrative style that features multiple points of view and multiple timeframes.  Regular readers of this blog should know that I just love this writing style and once again it drew me into the story with short, engaging chapters introducing the characters and their relationships in a highly readable way.  In fact, the book opens with Cooper in his final moments pre-death and his surprisingly lucid musings are a great launching point to plunge (sorry, horrid pun in the circumstances) right into the tangled web of secrecy that has led to this point.

Regarding the plot and the elements of mystery surrounding Cooper’s seemingly happy life and strange and unexpected death, clues are thrown out fairly early for the keen-eyed reader but the whole situation is not revealed until the final few chapters, keeping the suspense high throughout.  I admit that I did have my suspicions about halfway through the book, and these turned out to be kinda right and kinda wrong, so in the end I was satisfied with both my level of sleuthery and the author’s level of tricksiness.

This book is going to appeal to a whole range of YA/NA fans – fans of standard contemporary romance, fans of mystery, fans of friendship dramas – and even if you aren’t a big YA fan, the writing and characterisation is strong enough to draw you in anyway, despite the age of the cast.  I expected that I would be fairly interested in this book, but it has far exceeded my expectations and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for James’ other work from now on.

Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is released in October.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop: Win Stuff!

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Welcome to my stop on the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop!

*cue streamers and balloons*

The Giveaway Hop is hosted by Stuck in Books and I am a Reader, Not a Writer and runs from the 20th to the 25th of September.  Don’t forget to scroll to the end of this post for a link to all the other participants.

Since we all have different opinions on what exactly makes a good book, I am offering ONE winner the choice of any book from the Book Depository up to the value of $10 Australian.  The giveaway is open internationally provided the BD ships to your country for free.  This giveaway is in no way related to rafflecopter, facebook, goodreads, the Book Depository, wordpress, or any other entity that is not me. Oh, and cheaters will be disqualified, so make sure your follows are verified.

Enter by clicking this link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here’s the link to the other participating blogs, so you can hop around and try to win more stuff. Stuff! YAY!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

 

Until next time, good luck!

Bruce

Lariats at the ready for..Bruce’s Reading Round-Up! (Quirky Edition)

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Welcome to a new feature on the blog – my reading Round-Up! This is where I very briefly drag into focus some great books I’ve had the pleasure of encountering and believe should be wrestled into the spotlight for a good bout of oohing, aahing and appreciative nodding.  Today I’ve got four titles that are fun and odd and quirky and highly readable, so saddle up, pop on your book-herding hat and let’s chase some wild tomes!

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest (A. Lee Martinez)15791459

Two Sentence Synopsis:

Helen, a teenaged minotaur, and Troy, an ordinary (extraordinary) lad reluctantly become questers after almost being sacrificed by their employer to a God made of animated hamburger meat.  While encountering funny and poignant quest tropes a-plenty, Helen and Troy must succeed or die – or alternately be violently murdered by a group of reluctant orcs.

Muster up the motivation because:

It’s funny, with well-rounded characters in ethical-dilemma-inducing situations.  It’s a YA featuring a positive, hairy, giant, female role model, which is rarer than gelatinous-blob teeth.  It also includes almost every possible questing stereotype ever written, so will appeal to those who are part of various quest-related gaming/reading fandoms.

Brand it with:

Fantasy, questing, mythical creatures, rampant silliness, vintage cars

See my Goodreads review here!

 

Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Time Traveller (Joanne Harris)

23157198  Two Sentence Synopsis:

The Third Doctor is on the run from an alien race intent on executing him, when he accidentally lands in what looks to be a quaint English village.  Something about the creepy toy parade and false cheeriness of the residents tips him off that this might, however, not actually be a quaint English village.

Muster up the motivation because:

It’s a brief Doctor fix that will certainly satisfy those who can’t be bothered with reading a whole novel or watching a whole episode.  The story has all the hallmarks of a classic D.W. adventure, with an ominous sky vortex, an unseen entity controlling the village and its residents, and a slightly rebellious companion known only as “The Queen”.  Plus, it’s a great introduction (or reacquaintance) to the third Doctor for those who haven’t encountered him.

Brand it with:

Sci-fi, timey-wimey, creepy monsters, horse chases

Read my Goodread review here!

Hildafolk (Luke Pearson)

9700137Two Sentence Synopsis:

A happy trip to draw in the mountains takes a frightening turn when Hilda accidentally discovers a troll.  After escaping to the welcoming warmth of home and hearth, adventure ignites when the troll comes knocking.

Muster up the motivation because:

It’s whimsy in the non-cliched sense, with art that catches the eye and melts the heart.  Hilda is accompanied by a range of odd characters, including the enigmatic wood man who turns up to Hilda’s house when the door is left open and silently lays by the fireplace.  Take a chance on Hilda who is one-part Pippi Longstocking, one-part Clarice Bean and a million-parts friend-worthy.

Brand it with:

graphic novel series, mountain adventures, artistic endeavours, cute woodland weirdies.

See my Goodreads review here!

 

Duck, Death and the Tulip (Wolf Erlbruch)

4009037Two Sentence Synopsis:

Duck notices a coy but persistent presence lurking behind her and invites it to make itself known.  Interesting conversation and friendship ensue, until the inevitable end of Duck’s story.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is an accessible, gentle and thoroughly matter-of-fact treatment of existential angst and how one can engage with it to one’s benefit.  The characters are sparse but recognisable, the plot features ordinary events overlayed with important conversations and themes of acceptance and friendship  abound.  This is a great picture book for adults who like to ponder on the big questions of life in no more than 32 pages.

Brand it with:

picture books, existentialism, life and death, kids’ books for grown ups

Read my review on Goodreads here!

These are just some of the books I’ve been reading and enjoying lately but haven’t found space for in their own right on the blog.  I do post a lot of review on Goodreads that don’t make it to the blog, so feel free to send me a friend request if you like to frequent Goodreads yourself.  What books have you been rounding up lately?

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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