Ode to a…Publisher?: Mad Martha breaks ranks…

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Afternoon my sweeties! Today I have decided to do something a little bit different with my ode.  You may be able to guess what it is if you cast your eyeballs even briefly over the title of this post.  Yes, that’s right – instead of a single author, I am going to laud a whole publishing house! Bruce has already mentioned our love for Angry Robot Books in a previous post but I must reiterate that AR is fast becoming our go-to publisher when we are looking for something just a bit different.

Angry Robot

To give you an idea of what I mean when I say different, it’s something just a little bit quirky.  A tad odd.  Both funny ha-ha and funny peculiar.  They have superheroes with demon sidekicks.  Seven foot tall skeleton kings.  Houses with whole worlds hidden inside. And of course the usual, run-of-the-mill complement of robots, zombies, armies of people in various states of death and undeath, people with animal familiars and various telepathic abilities, and so on and so forth.  Our absolute favourite of their authors (and one of the first we discovered!) is Mike Shevdon, creator of the Courts of the Feyre series…..do go and buy it, won’t you?  We also like Lee Battersby, he of the Corpse-Rat King, and we have dallied with Chris F Holm, Matthew Hughes and Guy Adams to name a few…their works are pictured below:

sixty one nailscorpse rat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dead harvestdamned busters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

world house

 

And so, to the ode.  See if you can spot the intended pun in the fifth line!

 

For Zombies and Monsters and Weirdies, oh my!,

on Angry Robot I always rely. 

For the kooky, the freakish or old-fashioned gore,

this publishing house really comes to the fore!

Want bold savage tomes and a wild, novel quest?

Then grab ye a bookmark and raid AR’s chest!

I’m not sure why I went all pirate in the last line, but such is the effect of Angry Robot.  It makes one step outside the box…usually into another larger box filled with flesh eating caterpillars or some other such freakishness.  So if the sound of an aggressive larval Lepidoptera squishing under your boot is music to your ears (…..shame on you…you should take a good long hard look at yourself Mr…or Ms….) then this is the publisher for you!

Until next time,

Mad Martha

 

 

 

Decisions, decisions: 2013 Reader’s Challenge Prep…

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Afternoon all.  No doubt some of you are still sleeping off some recent gut-busting feast-related behaviour, so I thought I would make this a fairly gently post out of respect for your continuing processes of digestion.  To that end, I thought I would float my current ideas for responding to Beth Fish’s “What’s In A Name” Reading Challenge.  Given that the challenge only has six categories, and given that I am perfectly capable of reading at least 25 times that number of books in a year (probably), I have decided that I will attack this challenge twice.

But why, Bruce, why?  What benefit could there be in submitting yourself to the same challenge twice? Well frankly, I’m glad you asked.  And I’m touched by your concern….thank you dear reader!  I have decided to respond to this challenge with a regular, run-of-the-mill, list of books that meet the requirements…..and then repeat this feat with books by or about Agatha Christie!! Brilliant! Long-time readers of this blog will be aware of my Christie fandom, and this seemed like a perfect excuse…ahem….opportunity to get some more Christies under the belt.

So here are my choices (at present) for each category, for my Christie Listie, and my Christie-less List.

Category 1: A book with Up or Down (or its equivalent) in the title

death in the cloudsblue jay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category 2: A book with something you might find in your kitchen in the title

curtainJam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category 3: A book with a party or celebration in the title

 

murder is announcedjanuary first

I should probably point out that while there are other Christie titles that more obviously fit this category, such as Halloween Party and After the Funeral, I have already read them.  So I had to be a bit obscure instead (insert evil laugh here).

Category 4: A book with fire or its equivalent in the title

 

chimneys

smoke and mirrors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category 5: A book with an emotion in the title

sad cypresshopeless maine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annoyingly, Sad Cypress seems to be the only Christie title with an emotion in the title I can find.  If anyone can find another, please feel free to let me know – I like to have options!

Category 6: A book with lost or found or its equivalent in the title

missing daysarchived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m being a bit cheeky in this category too: see, if something is archived, it is to allow it to be FOUND easily and prevent it from being LOST…..

Well, if anyone has any suggestions or feedback about these lists feel free to chime in.  They aren’t set in stone (heheee, geddit? Gargoyle? Set in stone? Ahh, I crack myself up…..heheeeeeee! geddit? Stone? Crack Up?  Ah, excuse me while I wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes….)

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

Retro Reading: Tikki Tikki Tembo and cultural sensitivity….

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It’s that time again! For those Joany- or Johnny-come-latelies to my musings, I am currently undergoing something of a personal quest to re-read some tomes from my distant past to see whether any new insights come to mind in so doing.

The next book in my meander down memory lane is one that has always stuck in my mind due to its amazingly catchy refrain and the challenge it presents for those who enjoy tongue twisters and saying things really really fast.  It is, of course, Tikki Tikki Tembo, a retelling of a supposedly traditional Chinese folk story, by Arlene Mosel, illustrated by Blair Lent.

tikki tikki tembo

Essentially, this tale claims to explain why Chinese first-born sons are traditionally given short names.  I say “claims” because, not having spent any time inancient China (or indeed its modern counterpart!) I cannot vouch for the validity of this tale as a traditional folktale, as opposed to something some Westerners made up because it is stereotypically amusing and fun to say.

I am quite, well, sensitive, to addressing cultural sensitivity in printed matter and believe that wherever possible, items that offend (when looked at in hindsight, or otherwise) should be re-worked to better fit a contemporary audience.  To that end, I was greatly relieved to discover the Little Golden Book edition The Boy and The Tigers had been re-worked both in content and illustration, from its now cringe-worthy 1970s incarnation titled Little Black Sambo. Although having said that, the original version by Helen Bannerman is still in print. I wonder, then, to what extent Tikki Tikki Tembo might offend the sensibilities of contemporary audiences….

boy and his tigers

Debates over cultural appropriateness aside, this book charts the significant difference in the emergency response times elapsed in the rescue of two young brothers in (separate) near-drownings in the town well.  Chang (son number two, as indicated by his short, not-very-honourable name) is fished out in a jiffy, while the unfortunate, fortunate-first-born Tikki tikki-tembo no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo has to wait considerably longer for help to arrive.

Re-reading this tale has been just as enjoyable as its initial reading. Just one glance at the distinctive illustrations – particularly those eye-catching kites and the bearded Old Man With The Ladder (an prototype for David Hasselhoff’s Baywatch character, perhaps?) – took me right back to my youth.  I could feel the urgency of the poor old second son, Chang, as he stutters over his brother’s ridiculously long (though fun-to-say!) name, while time is ticking away.

All in all, I was very pleased to find this story still in print and available for the new generation of readers who appreciate rhythm in their reading.  At the same time I wonder whether this tome needs a little re-working too, to bring it in line with modern standards of inter-cultural folktale appropriation.  Perhaps something as simple as removing the completely untrue bit  about the name Chang meaning “little or nothing” would suffice?  If nothing else, that bit is deeply hindering to anyone attempting to learn other languages through incidental mentions in children’s literature.

I would love to hear what others think about this – particularly how flesh-parents might go about explaining such issues to their mini-fleshlings!

Until next time,

Bruce

There’s still time!: Books to read before our impending doom….

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Hello my fellow doom-kittens! In the spirit of “one-last-hurrah”, I’d like to share this wonderful list of books provided by the Book Depository – it’s tailor-made for those who, in the face of impending non-existence, like to set some goals for personal achievement.

You can find this list by clicking the picture below:

mayan calendar gag

Until next time (touch wood!),

Bruce

Read it if….: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

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Greetings fleshlings! This is a “read-it-if….” I’ve been wanting to post for a while, but has been shoved aside for more recent reads.  But no longer!  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce became an instant favourite and must-own tome as soon as I read it….although admittedly, I don’t actually own it yet.  I’m hoping a Christmas miracle might occur in a few day’s time and the secret wish of a silent, sentient gargoyle to own such a tome might be granted.

I must admit I am a sucker for a quaint, charming story set in the English (or Welsh, or Scottish) countryside so I was pre-disposed to like this one, but the tale of OAP Harold Fry (that’s Old Age Pensioner for those in the know) and his spontaneous quest to walk miles and miles to deliver a letter to a dying woman and rekindle a deep and significant friendship imprinted itself on my stony heart just a few pages in.  I am not ashamed to admit that, had I tear-ducts, I would have shed a drop of water or two at the events in this tale.

harold fry

Read it if:

* you are a sucker for quaint, charming tales of the English countryside

* you enjoy (and understand) dry British wit

* you have ever felt an inexplicable urge to spontaneously set out on a personal Quest-with-a-capital-Q, despite having done no planning, being woefully underprepared in the footwear department, and having neglected to inform your spouse or significant other where on earth you’ve got to

* you have ever felt an inexplicable urge to join in somebody else’s Quest-with-a-capital-Q, despite etc etc

* you need a bit of encouragement…or just some good, old-fashioned courage….to do what’s important

A month or so ago I came across this fantastic news story about Britain’s “Naked Rambler” .  It reminded me of Harold Fry and his adventures (although I can’t recall any specific mention of nude hiking in the book!) simply due to the persistence of old nudey no-pants to keep walking despite numerous prison sentences…

But I digress…..truly, I loved this book and highly recommend it.

Until next time,

Bruce

Ode to an Author: The Incomparable MEM FOX!

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Good evening all, Mad Martha here! I am utterly excited to be bringing you this ode today, as I have just met this most famous and fantastic of children’s authors, Mem Fox!  Yes, Bruce and I made a perilous journey to Chermside Library to see the lady herself (and the wonderful illustrator Judy Horacek, who collaborated with Mem on Where is the Green Sheep? and Goodnight, Sleep Tight) discuss all things literacy.  Alas, we did not manage to get a photograph with Mem or Judy, but they were kind enough to sign our copies of the two books on which they collaborated.  Here are some pictures:

DSC_0299     DSC_0304

You can really see the excitement on Bruce’s face.  It’s good to see him openly displaying his emotions in such a way. For my part, I was so excited that my hand was shaking as I took the photo during the signing.

Considering the incredible and widespread influence Mem Fox has had on children’s literacy in Australia, I thought it fitting to honour her with my very best efforts.  To this end, I have created an epic ode that references just a few of her 40 books.  I would like to offer this ode as my personal thanks to Mem for her passionate efforts to promote child-parent (or grandparent, or carer) bonding through reading.  I have titled this ode, “Time for a Story”.

It’s time to arise;

stretch and open your eyes!

Start the big day anew,

Oh I DO love you!

koala lou 2

It’s time for a bite;

first we’ve had since last night!

What would you like most?

Magic vegemite toast?

possum magic

It’s time to go out

and see who’s about.

What clothes will you choose

to match Grandpa’s red shoes?

shoes from grandpa

It’s time for your lunch;

here’s an apple to crunch.

But I’d rather drink juice

than say “Boo!” to a goose!

boo to a goose

It’s time for a play!

Should we draw or use clay?

Dress up like a cat?

Chase a magic blue hat?

the magic hat

It’s time for a scrub;

Quickly! Into the tub!

Oh you bold, cheeky child,

you just drive me wild!

harriet

It’s time now for bed,

cuddle up, rest your head.

But before we sleep,

Let’s find that green sheep!

green sheep

Sleep well little mouse,

You are safe in this house.

I’ll turn out the light,

now Good night, sleep tight.

time for bedgood night sleep tight

If you have never encountered Mem Fox before, firstly…you call yourself a reader? And secondly, get on to her work POST HASTE! You’ll be a fool to yourself and a burden to others if you don’t.

Adieu, adieu,

Mad Martha

Top Ten Tuesday: Bruce Jumps on the Bandwagon…

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TTT3W

Hello again my lovelies….today, in a spirit of social interaction, I have decided to participate in The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday.  In case you haven’t heard of it, this is a weekly linky list based around a book-related top-ten list.  I won’t be participating every week, just when the topic takes my fancy.  This week’s topic is……(drumroll)…..

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors That I Read in 2012!

In no particular order…

Mark and Rowan Somerset

…are a pair from New Zealand (otherwise known as Hobbit-land), who have penned a fantastically funny and subversive pair of picture books: Baa Baa Smart Sheep and I Love Lemonade, which feature a turkey being outwitted, to his great detriment, by a sheep…..Can I interest you in some smart tablets anyone? No? What about a cookie?

Kirsty McKay…

…won me over with her feisty, feverish festival of fetid zombieflesh, Undead.  It’s pretty typical group-of-teens-running-away-from-mysterious-plague-that’s-turning-everyone-into-undead-monsters fare, but has some lovely comic moments to balance out the mandatory gory violence.  I’m looking forward to the sequel, Unfed.

Ben Aaronovitch…
…is the author of my latest “series to watch”, beginning with Rivers of London (Midnight Riot is the US title), the first of Constable Peter Grant’s magical policing adventures.  I have just loved all three of the books in this series so far (with a fourth coming next year…pre-ordering….NOW!).   Of course, since Mr Aaronovitch also writes for Doctor Who (the television show, not the Timelord), there was no question of me loving his work.

smart sheepundeadrivers of london

 Edward Gorey…

yes, I knowIt is tantamount to criminal that I have not discovered this genius of quirk and oddness earlier.

William Kuhn…

…author of Mrs Queen Takes the Train (and visitor to this very blog, no less!) has become a firm favourite due to his lovely, British, gently comic writing style.  And of course, he’s utterly polite.

AJ Jacobs…

…I have to thank The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhhhhh for putting me on to Mr Jacobs. In undertaking a number of personal experiments, including, but not limited to, following the Bible literally for an entire year and trying to finish reading the encyclopedia, he has endeared himself to the denizens of the shelf.  He also pens some extremely amusing anecdotes.

tiniesmrs queen  living biblically

 Leslie Patricelli…

…subject of one of Mad Martha’s Odes to an Author; her baby character is too cheeky for words. So I won’t go on about him.  Suffice to say, her work is well worth a look, particularly for those with mini-fleshlings in their dwelling.

Mike Shevdon…

…is another writer of a fantastic urban fantasy series: The Courts of the Feyre.  I stumbled across his work in a general browsing session and took a punt.  I’m happy to say the punt passed safely through the goal posts and I am now the proud guardian of all three books in the trilogy.  They sit neatly on my shelf…although the publishers changed the cover art between the second and third tomes, and admittedly, this makes the whole set look a little silly. Sigh.

Lee Battersby…

…along with the aforementioned Mr Shevdon, is one of Angry Robot’s stable of authors (stable? Is that the right term? Probably not. A bit too horsey really) and creator of The Corpse Rat King.  Isn’t that a cracking title? Doesn’t it make you wonder what on earth the book’s about? Well it did for me….and now I’ve pre-ordered its sequel, The Marching Dead. Only 105 days to go!

Michael Boccacino…

…yes, he of the cheese-like surname! I encountered his quite delightful, fantastical and scare-laden effort, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling earlier this year and couldn’t put it down.  Well, I could, but I didn’t want to.  I am definitely going to keep at least one eyeball out for any further efforts from this author.

no no yes yes    sixty one nails   corpse rat   charlottemarkham

Looking over this list, it appears I developed a penchant for creepiness, oddballity and general mayhem and subversion this year.  Will the trend continue into 2013? I will no doubt keep you posted!

Until next time,

Bruce