Haiku Review: Hunter and Collector….

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And a Merry Easter season to fleshlings one and all! Mad Martha with you again, and although my review today would probably be better suited to the feast of All Hallow’s Eve, I will soldier on regardless.  Today I’ve got a little ripper of a book, Hunter and Collector, by S. Carey…Please note the fantastically punny word play of the author’s name….it took me a little while to notice it.

This is the first in a brand new Australian series for young readers, titled the Eerie series; obviously these stories are on the macabre side, but are sure to appeal as either read-alouds, or first chapter books for the slightly creepy mini-fleshling.

I was drawn to this series immediately due to the highly appealing cover art, and only later discovered the extra nugget of goodness in the books: an ongoing serial featured as a chapter at the end of each book, so that when all eleven stand-alone books are read in order, one ends up with a bonus story.  Another cute feature in the books is a little flip-picture in the top right-hand corner of each page.

So to the first book.  Hunter and Collector follows the exploits of appropriately named Mrs Hunter who is highly interested in young William for reasons unknown, but undoubtedly nefarious.  As the story progresses however, we find out that Mrs Hunter herself had better watch out, because young William seems perfectly capable of taking care of himself…..And so to the haiku review!

hunter-and-collector

Macabre contest ‘twixt

Alien and Predator

Hunter now hunted

At a mere fifty-four pages, this is a quick but satisfying read for horror-lovers of all ages (and hopefully, will turn out to be super-appealing to reluctant young male readers).  The first four books in the series have just been released in print and e-version, with more to follow later in the year.

Yours in sp-sp-sp-spookiness,

Mad Martha

Vote for MEEEEE!: Australian Best Blog Awards…

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Hello my pretties! You may or may not be aware that I have entered this blog in the Australian Best Blog Awards….the People’s Choice section has just opened, with voting open until Tuesday the 30th of April.  If you are feeling generous and would like to vote for little old me, the button below will take you to the voting page.

BB2013-PCA-vote

Blogs are listed alphabetically on the voting site, so I imagine thebookshelfgargoyle will be listed on page 5.

Many thanks to those of you who can be bothered to vote!

Bruce

Weekend Gargies: Congratulations go to…..

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Yes indeed, I have seen fit to spring a Gargie award presentation on you all!  In case you are unaware, the Gargie awards (also known by their official name, The Order of the Stony Groove) are bestowed upon those deserving individuals (fleshing or otherwise) who have served their community in some important way.

Official Gargie Award Badge

Official Gargie Award Badge

This time around it is a collective award.  Today’s Gargie goes to the hostesses of the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

kid-lit-blog-hop-button-sep-2012-e1349976901756

For those who don’t know, the Kid Lit Blog Hop happens twice a month and is a place for bloggers with any kind of interest in children’s literature or literacy to link up posts and mosey through the posts of others.  I am a regular linker-upper-er, and therefore it is high time I acknowledged the outstanding contribution of this particular hop to bloggers of a bookish persuasion.

The hostesses of this hop (and winners of this round’s Gargie) are listed below for your perusing pleasure:

Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

Jaymie @ Snacks for Max

Heidi @ Geo Librarian

Sue @ Kid Lit Reviews

Katie @ Youth Literature Reviews

Julie Grasso, Author of Escape From the Forbidden Planet/Blogger

Congratulations to all!  The requirements of the Gargie award are entirely non-onerous and optional, but for those who are interested and prepared to take on the challenge, here they are.

1. Display the award badge prominently  on your site….if you want…and link back to the person who nominated you…for courtesy’s sake.

2. Publish a post to inform the world of your great achievement…..unless you can’t be bothered.

3. Nominate some fellow bloggers (who have been outstanding in their field…figuratively or literally) and tell us the particular way in which they have excelled….if you feel inclined.

4. Indicate to your nominees that they have received the award….provided you have completed step three.

Now I must away and indulge in some form of relaxing beverage before the excitement causes my horns to fracture.

Until next time,

Bruce

Reading Challenge Re-booted: Smoke and Mirrors…

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Obstacle number 4 in the What’s In A Name Reading Challenge: Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman…

Taken from: the Non-Christie Listie

Category: Four – a book with fire or the equivalent in the title

Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of more than 20 of Gaiman’s collected short stories.  I always knew I wanted to include some Neil Gaiman in this challenge, and on opening this one up with great anticipation…..I realised I had already read it. Undaunted however, I decided to dive in again, and as the memories came flooding back with the stories, I recalled what is so great about Neil Gaiman generally, and this book specifically.

smoke and mirrors

This book’s Point of Difference:

This collection spans a really wide range of content and style, meaning there’s something here for everyone. 

Pros:

– There are so many stories here that if you find the one you’re reading doesn’t take your fancy, there are plenty of others to try.

– There’s a nice mix of humour and creepiness here, reflecting Gaiman’s usual approach.  From the charmingly quirky “Chivalry”, featuring a hen-pecked Galahad on his quest for the Grail, to the utterly bizzare and bawdy “Eaten”, you will find every oddity imaginable discussed in these pages.

– Gaiman’s introduction is a novelette in itself, and contains its very own impromptu short story.

Cons:

– This is definitely a book for adults, which may disappoint some of Gaiman’s younger fans.

– Some of the subject matter is really quite weird and creepy, which, if you aren’t expecting it can be a bit off-putting.

Teaser Text:

Mrs Whitaker found the Holy Grail;

it was under a fur coat.

If you’re a Gaiman fan, this will be an extra little nugget of goodness to digest at your leisure.  If you’ve not read any of Gaiman’s work before (for shame!), you may find it more satisfying to start with one of his excellent novels, such as The Graveyard Book, or for a briefer introduction, one of his picture books, such as Instructions (pictured below).

  graveyard book 2

instructions

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

An Important Update Relating to Previously Mentioned Instructional Guides….

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I come to you today with an important update on a previous, recent Bruce’s Lucky Dip post. The Book Depository is currently running a special offer on books with odd titles.  Not only does it feature a slew of brilliantly monikered “How To” tomes, but also presents a book with possibly the best title I’ve ever come across. Ever. I have pictured this book below.

don't know they're dead

In case you can’t make it out, it is called:

People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About it

Click on the image above to visit the full selection of Oddly Titled Wonders.

Cheers,

Bruce

Read it if: Cinderella Ate My Daughter….

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Now is that a great title, or is that a great title? In fact, it was a brief glimpse at the title of today’s book that fired my curiosity and ultimately led to my immersion in the topic, despite not having a daughter myself.  Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontline of the New Girly Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein delves into the baffling, overwhelming and generally difficult-to-negotiate world of parenting young girls in the modern era.  The book focuses around Orenstein’s own struggles and contradictory actions in balancing out a healthy, fun childhood experience for her daughter with her own philosophies and values around gender and identity.

For Orenstein, raising a daughter to be a strong, confident person with a diverse range of talents and interests and a healthy understanding of her own femininity and the numerous ways in which it can be expressed, was a simple and straightforward matter.  Then, of course, she had a daughter.  Let the befuddlement (and 5th birthday spa and facial parties) commence!

cinderella

Read it if:

* you have noticed that Disney Princesses, when depicted together, never make eye contact, and you are curious as to why that might be

* you shook your head in bewilderment on realising that Dora (intrepid explorer and wielder of the purple backpack of adventure) was suddenly dressing in fairy and princess garb

* you’ve suddenly noticed a lot more four-year-olds of your acquaintance wearing lip gloss and eye shadow

* you can’t remember when entire aisles at the toy store became swathes of pink….even in the Lego section

* you are the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher or carer of a female under the age of 18

 
I found this to be an enlightening read despite not having female offspring to apply it to.  Orenstein exposes some of the more insidious aspects of girl culture while acknowledging the difficulties parents (herself included) experience in finding a middle ground that allows kids to be shielded from incessant (and age-inappropriate) marketing drives, while still enjoying activities and toys that are important to their peers.  It’s also a reasonably quick and light read with plenty of humour, and with thought-provoking material in every chapter it’s the sort of book that provides value even when being skimmed, or picked up and put down.  Highly recommended.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Lucky Dip: Instructional Guides

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Well, it’s come around quickly, but it’s time once again to strap on the lead-lined gloves and plunge our collective paws into the bottomless lucky dip bag that is the Book Depository’s search engine.  Today’s search term: How to….

Quite frankly, the number of DIY/How-to instructional guides out there is astounding (even excluding titles in the “For Dummies” series!) but there are some untapped veins of awesomosity hiding in this oft-plumbed mineshaft.  So cast your eyes over, and enjoy, the following diamonds in the rough (or possibly the rough surrounding the diamonds) in the world of instructional guidebooks…..as always, click on the image for further details!

For the about-to-be-wed, or newly-wed woman as a gift to her man:

good husband

For the  thoughtful foolhardy husband as a gift to his wife:

good wife

For the asexual or prudish philosopher:

think more about sex

For the committed and forward-thinking parent:

discerning parentsFor the potty-mouthed, or female traveller respectively…or for the potty-mouthed female traveller:

swearing traveller

lady traveller

For that hard-to-buy-for weirdie on your Christmas list:

think like a bat

And my personal favourite:

For the owners of a polytunnel with hitherto unfulfilled potential during specific times of the year (you know who you are):

polytunnel

This is but a small selection of the goodness on offer for those in need of instruction.  Other notables include How to Keep Your Volkswagon Alive for the skint and/or passionate vintage car owner, and How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, for those with far too much time on their hands. And a willing dog.

Please feel free to share your own discoveries…I feel I have only scratched the surface of this fruitful search term and look forward to hearing of the fruits harvested by others!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Fun for a little one: Interactive Storybooks….

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Alright. You all know that I’m not a screaming fan of e-reading, particularly where children are involved…not least because the existence and popularity of ebooks threatens the very existence of my species. But when you can’t beat ’em, it often pays to join ’em, in a non-offensive, enjoying it in a well-at-least-it’s-educational sort of way.  Annoyingly for my anti-ebook stance however, the interactive storybooks I present to you today are not only educational, they are also quite fun.

I have three offerings for you that I have stumbled upon while snatching glances at the fleshling’s tablet, in an attempt to jealously ensure that ebooks are not becoming the reading mode of choice in the household.  (Luckily they’re not…something to do with the sensitive nature of the fleshling’s eyeballs and resultant inability to stare at the screen for too long. God bless your puny human anatomy).  Each of these books includes not only text to read alone or with a friend/parent/co-reader, but other enticing interactive features.  The first….

Pango

pango image 1

This charming little racoon creature features in about five separate story apps (plus other, non-story based games), with the added bonus that the first in the series is FREEEEEE! (No doubt one of the contributing factors to its ending up on this tablet).  Each app has a number of interactive stories that feature instructions for little ones to follow, such as “rub Pango’s tummy” 0r “pick up the toys and give them to Pango”.  On following these instructions the reader is rewarded with the dual pleasures of a quirky little sound and the related movement of plot in a forward direction.

The colourful illustrations and cute little animal characters are sure to be a hit with mini-fleshlings, but I confess to having seen the older fleshlings in the house playing with this one while the mini-fleshling was asleep, such is the appeal of the Pango package.  It’s available at the Google Play store…and maybe the Apple one too…this house only has an android device, so I’m not entirely sure.

Next is the adventurous little e-tome I’m Stuck in Your Kindle! by Wally Otto.

stuck in your kindle

This is a cute and humorous romp that combines rhyming text with the mutual efforts of reader and subject to forcibly remove the subject from his story-prison.  There are apparently a whole range of ebooks by Wally Otto in the same vein.  This one is not as interactive as the Pango series, but would appeal to slightly older children or younger ones reading with parents, as the text in itself is quite chuckle-worthy.  It’s available at Amazon and priced at $3.99 (although assuredly my fleshling owner got it on sale, as it is highly unlikely that nearly 4 dollars would have been expended on a book that doesn’t actually have pages).

Finally, we have Don’t Lend A Monster Your Favourite Toy by Elwyn Tate. 

dont lend a monsterAgain, this is one for slightly older children who are beginning to read on their own, but the rhyming text and fun monsters inhabiting the e-pages will appeal to a wide range of ages.  This cautionary tale features a few bits of interactive wizardry that allow kids to enlarge bits of the illustrations and get pop-up profiles on particular toy-wrecking monsters.  I must admit I’m a bit of a sucker for monster stories and stories that explicitly warn readers away from particular behaviours…because you just know that someone’s going to ignore the sage advice and suffer the terrible consequences…so here’s another reminder:

dont

never, ever, whatever the weather, lend a monster your favourite toy. It will not end well.  This one is also available at Amazon.

With this post I feel I have acquitted myself of any responsibility to promote reading in its various technological forms.  You can expect normal transmission to resume forthwith.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

Read it if: The Shattering…..

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Ahoy me hearties! Today’s offering is a little gem of New Zealand’s YA fiction, The Shattering by Karen Healey.  I must say I am developing a soft spot for Kiwi writing…I get a comforting, homely sort of feeling similar to the feeling I get reading Aussie authors, but there’s the added bonus of all the charming little Kiwi quirks that litter the stories. I didn’t realise when I picked up The Shattering that I had already read and enjoyed Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead, and both stories share a finely balanced mix of everyday dramas and out of the ordinary magic, or myth, or paranormal phenomena…

The Shattering follows the story of Keri, Janna and Sione, three teens who are linked by the fact that their older brothers were all victims of suicide.  When Sione uncovers some strange statistical patterns while investigating his brother’s situation further, he garners the help of Keri and Janna in an attempt to unravel what appears to be some sinister goings-on relating to young men in the seaside tourist town Summerton.

the shattering

Read it if:

* you’ve ever wished you could live in a place with perfect summer holiday weather….all the time 

* you’ve ever wanted to be part of a (somewhat) merry band of mystery-solving teens

* you enjoy books told from the perspectives of multiple characters

* you suspect that the fact that you have never achieved fame and fortune may in fact be the result of some form of voodoo practiced by jealous detractors

* you enjoy YA fiction that believably melds a bit of magic and mystery with the ordinary troubles and worries of young people

I really enjoyed this book – while some of the plot twists were a little too convenient for my tastes, the characters were well-drawn and the underlying social and personal issues experienced by the characters were believable and sensitively treated.

If you haven’t had experienced the delight of a good New Zealand author, Karen Healey could be the perfect starting point.

Until next time,

Bruce