Post Number 100!: A Double Read It If Review….

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Yes, that’s right – 100 posts! How the time has flown….

Well, after Tales of the Nunexpected in post number 99, I bring you read-it-if reviews of two books that turned out to be entirely different to what I anticipated.  The first of these is Moose Baby, by Queen of the Quirky, Meg Rosoff.

I found this one during a random browse, and while I wouldn’t consider myself a real fan of Meg Rosoff, I have read and enjoyed a few of her books.  Moose Baby seemed to promise a similar level of thought-provoking oddity that I had experienced in my previous Rosoff encounters.  I was wrong. Moose Baby broke the pointer on my homemade weird-o-meter.  Let me explain.

moose baby

Moose Baby is the story of a 17 year old girl who gives birth to a moose. Now on reading the blurb, I assumed that either (a) “moose” was a metaphor for something I would discover during reading or (b) the girl did not actually give birth to a moose, but had to look after a young moose in some kind of “Preparing for Motherhood” type school project.

Nope. She actually gives birth to a moose. The book follows the trials and tribulations of a young couple attempting to raise a moose baby in a world designed for humanoid bipeds.


Read it if:

* you’re looking for a cheerful, quick, light read – I finished this one in 40 minutes

* you’re a teenager who thinks it would be so awesome to have a baby right now

* you’ve ever experienced that awkward moment when deciding how to compliment the new parents of an unattractive baby

* you are a parent and you suspect that your sweet, intelligent, genial and well-behaved infant was accidentally swapped at the hospital and that’s how you ended up with this loud, energetic, misbehaving, dirt-magnet for your offspring 

While I personally found this book a bit too left-of-centre for my usual tastes, I think it would appeal greatly to its teenage target audience as it is a funny, engaging and not-at-all-demanding take on the young parent theme.

My second not-quite-what-I-anticipated read this week was Doll Bones, by Holly Black, of Spiderwick Chronicles fame.  I had been looking forward to this one for a loooong time as the blurb seemed to indicate an appropriately atmospheric and promisingly creepy story centred around a spooky haunted doll. Somewhat disappointingly for me, given the level of my anticipation, the blurb was….well, not exactly inaccurate, but emphasised minor parts of the story.

Doll Bones tells the story of middle-schoolers Zach, Alice and Poppy, who enjoy playing an elaborate role-play type game of their own creation after school.  When Zach’s dad throws out the action figures that are an integral part of the game in an attempt to make Zach “grow up”, the friendship between the three is tested. Faced with the disintegration of their game and a new prickliness in their friendship, the three set out on a quest to lay to rest the ghost of a young murdered girl that is trapped in the form of a china doll.  Cue adventure!

doll bones

If that explanation seems a bit disjointed, it reflects the narrative in Doll Bones – while the story itself is engaging and action packed, the horror and paranormal elements championed by the title, blurb and cover actually play a very small role in the story. The meat of it revolves around the relationship between Zach, Poppy and Alice and the challenges they face in maintaining their friendship as they experience the changes of growing up.

Read it if:

* you are certain that the creepy china doll in your mother’s/grandmother’s/aunt’s/neighbour’s cabinet is watching you…

* No, seriously. It just moved. Didn’t you see it move?

* you still like to indulge in certain childish activities…even though by all accounts you are way too old for them

* you’ve ever indulged in quite significant levels of theft to overcome minor problems with the full expectation that the rightful owners of the stolen goods would be perfectly happy for you to be using (and damaging) their stuff

* you are quite happy to pick up a book with the expectation that it will be a spooky ghost-ish story…only to find it is actually a road trip/coming-of-age tale instead

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book – very much in fact, and I think it would be greatly enjoyed by middle readers.  I do feel though that the blurb is significantly misleading – this is by no means a ghost story. My only other problem with the book was the theft mentioned above….

***SPOILER ALERT****

The characters willingly steal and capsize a sailing boat, then abandon it when it runs aground, and make up for this by saying that they’ll phone the marina when they get the chance to let the owners know where it is. As if this will excuse the possible charges of grand theft and wilful damage to property that could be coming their way.  Then they steal some bikes too.   I’m all for the adventure element in kid’s books, but as there was no consequence mentioned in the narrative for what is unquestionably a pretty significant crime, I felt that this was a bit of a stretch.  But maybe that’s because I’m a cranky old curmudgeon who can’t remember what it’s like to be young.

****SPOILER OVER!!****

Thanks to all who’ve joined in at some point over these last 100 posts – let’s hope I’ve got at least another 100 in me somewhere!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bruce’s Lucky Dip: Tales of the Nunexpected…

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Nuns. Those habit-wearing, good-habit-enforcing ladies of virtue.  One could be forgiven for thinking that a search for tomes about Nuns could turn out to be a banal and unrewarding exercise. As it turns out though, one would be mistaken.

For those unfamiliar with Bruce’s Lucky Dip feature, it involves my good self entering a particular search term into the Book Depository’s mighty search engine, and collecting the most interesting and unexpected results for your perusal.  To that end, I present to you some of the fruits of this most enlightening of search terms…..”Nuns”….arranged in ascending order of raised-eyebrow-height:

Nuns Having Fun Calendar 2013

nuns having fun

The perfect gift for those misguided souls who believe that nuns do little more than eat, pray and love.

Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art and Arson in the Convents of Italy

nuns behaving badly

I can only assume that the arson resulted from overzealous use of candles during Adoration.

Nun Bowling Kit

nun bowling

This delightful little kit provides the perfect post-Christmas-dinner activity for everyone from Great-Grandma Mary down to little baby Paddy.  As the tagline promises, “It’s Sinfully Fun!”

Flying Nuns Kit

flying nuns

For the slightly more irreverent nun-fancier, this kit includes a miniature catapult and Judgement Day landing mat.  Alternately, use it as a platform for giving expression to your repressed desire to be Sally Field.

Nun-Chuks Kit

nunchucks two

For the most extreme of nun ninjas (or nunjas, as I prefer to think of them), those with aggression impulse control issues relating to early experiences in Catholic schooling, or simply those who support the practical application of the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”, these nun-chucks actually have nun-shaped handles. Genius.

The Secret Life of Nuns

secret life of nuns

Nuns. In compromising positions. Not for good boys and girls.

So there you have it. Just a smattering of the nunexpected on offer for those prepared to delve into more spirited forms of book-hunting.  As ever, please feel free to chime in with your own nun-related tomes!

Until next time,

Bruce

Retro Reading: Finders Keepers…

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Today’s Retro Reading offering is, for me, a quintessential book of childhood.  I first encountered it as a school-aged stone, through a teacher’s (inspired!) choice for a classroom read-aloud.  I remembered it fondly and was very excited to dip back into it as a grown stone.  finders keepers

Finders Keepers by perennial Australian author Emily Rodda, (she of Deltora Quest and Rowan of Rin fame), follows the exploits of Patrick, a young lad who is contacted through a computer game and invited to take part in a mysterious game show and win fabulous prizes.  After accepting, Patrick is pulled through “the Barrier” separating our world from…well…another very similar world…and is tasked with finding three objects that have slipped through the Barrier and been lost by their owners.  Cue all the fun and suspense that goes along with any adventure in which a child is continually thwarted by perfectly ordinary problems – such as not having anyone to drive him to the shop where he suspects one of the objects may be found.

finders keepers 4

I am happy to report that re-reading this book produced everything I remembered and adored about it the first time round.  Emily Rodda possesses a remarkable ability to draw the reader in to the world she has created, even when crafting everyday domestic conversations or describing the simple problems faced by her young protagonists.  In Finders Keepers, she weaves suspense through the story beautifully and has crafted her characters – particularly Patrick and Estelle – in such a genuine way that one finds oneself glued to the page and cheering them along.

finders keepers 2

This story also features some riddles – a bit of a Rodda signature move – which are quite fun to solve and would appeal to its target audience.  Finders Keepers, having won the Childrens Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers in 1991, was followed up with The Timekeeper, and later made into a television series.  You can see a bit of it at the link below.  Incidentally, if you’re a fan of early 1990s fashion and culture in Australia, you’re in for a treat!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3Mnh_eJ54M&list=PL7A4147BF2FB6412F

This book is a perfect choice for any kid aged 8 and above.  Actually, seven-year-olds would probably get a kick out of it too.  It really is one of those rare gems that comes along and sticks in your memory, and is well worth hunting out, particularly for readers outside Australia who may be discovering it for the first time!

finders keepers 3As has been my wont recently, I have included all the different versions of cover art that I could lay paw on…my favourite is the first as it is the one I remember. The last one pictured (with backwards hat boy) is my least favourite…I think it makes the main character look like an individual lacking the capacity for independent thought….or any thought, really.  Do not let this distract you, book Finders – I challenge you to seek out this book, even if you have to cross the Barrier to get to it!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

What’s In A Name Challenge: Curtain…

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poirot 3

Obstacle number six (I think) in the What’s in a Name Reading Challenge: Agatha Christie’s Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case….cue melancholy music.

Taken from: the Christie Listie

Category: Two – a book with something you might find in the kitchen in the title.

Book rated according to:

Rate of Moustache-Twiddlage: The level of engagement with the plot as measured by the extent to which anxious body language emerges in the reader…

Red Herring Haul: relating to the level of mis-clues present…

Butler-osity: The complexity of the revelation at the end (based on the foundation level of non-complexity in which the Butler is identified as the one who did it)…..

Common-or-Garden-ness: the formulaity of the plot set-up, cast of characters and reveal. Otherwise known as the Retired-Colonel-Ometer…

Rate of Contextual Controversy: or the extent to which racist, sexist or other generally a-bit-off-by-today’s-standards references are casually scattered about the text

curtain

Poirot and Hastings and a cast of likely characters meet at a guest house at Styles, scene of Poirot’s first case.  Poirot, in poor health, tips Hastings off to the presence of a quintuple murderer in their midst and bids him discover the victim before the murderer can act. Shenanigans ensue. Hastings gets it wrong. As do we all. ‘Cept Canny Hercule. Of course.

Moustache-Twiddlage:  starswhite1-md

I found it hard to engage with this one for some reason – possibly because Poirot is (a) absent from most of the action and (b) smugly guarding the knowledge of whodunnit.  Quite frankly, I would have been quite happy to see all of these characters murdered in their beds. Except for Hastings.

Red Herring Haul: starswhite4-th

There are plenty of red herrings here, mainly due to the fact that Hastings has been told to search for a the kind of person who has a knack for pinning their dastardly deeds on others.

Butlerosity: starswhite4-th

This one is different from any other Christie I’ve read so far, because the murderer turns out to be someone who….no, I won’t spoil things for you. But it’s an unusual reveal, that’s for sure.

Common-or-Garden-ness: starswhite5-md

The entire cast is made up of Christie favourites…

.”Returned from service in India, you say?”

“Why, yes. Quite.”

Contextual Controversy: starswhite1-md

Nary a mention of any unpleasantness in this regard. In fact, Judith, Hastings’ daughter, is a bit of a feminist for the time period. She’s also a right old pill in my opinion, but that’s off the topic.

The Plot in a Poem:

Stopping this killer is far from certain,

so some will face the final curtain!

Overall:

As I said, I didn’t really find this one all that engaging and the ending was somewhat unsatisfying.  Luckily I have plenty of Poirot’s early career still to explore.

In other What’s in a Name news, having looked over my non-Christie-Listie I’ve found that some of my original choices are not yet available at my library, or in Australia generally, and are too pricey for my liking at my book buying place of choice.  For that reason, if anyone has any alternate suggestions for me for books in categories one (up or down), five (emotion), or six (lost or found), they would be seriously considered.

Until next time,

Bruce

Vanity of vanities etc: Awards and developments…

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It’s head-bloating time again friends, as ideflex over at Across the Bored (love a good punny title, me!) has seen fit to honour me with not one, but a whole bouquet of awards! Thanks!

The three awards comprising the bouquet (and their associated obligations) are as follows:

versatilebloggernominations-copyThe Versatile Blogger Award Rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award
  • Include a link to their blog
  • Select and nominate for the Versatile Blogger Award 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly
  • Tell the person who nominated you (and the rest of the world) 7 things about yourself

first-best-moment-award-winner1

The Best Moment Award Ethos and Rules:

Awarding the people who live in the moment
The noble who write and capture the best in life
The bold who reminded us what really mattered
Savoring the experience of quality time

  • Re-post the badge and acknowledgement completely with an acceptance speech (either a video or written post)
  • Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers worthy of the award
  • Notify them of the great news

sunshine-blog-award

The Sunshine Award Rules:

  • Include the award logo in your post or on your blog
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself
  • Nominate 10 other wonderful bloggers
  • Let the other nominees know they are nominated and include links to their blog
  • Link the person who nominated you

So really, there’s quite a lot to get through. Firstly, the bit everyone is most interested in – those lucky and talented few to whom I will pass the torch.  Instead of choosing 15 bloggers, I have decided to choose 5 extra special ones (because 5 blogs multiplied by 3 awards equals 15) that immediately sprung to mind when contemplating the award images above.  They are:

Kid Lit Reviews

3 Word Wisdom

WhY.A.Not? (Did I mention I love a good pun?)

The Library For Delinquents

and….

Winter Owls

Congratulations mates and thanks for all the great work you do. Feel free to choose one of the above awards or take all three. Or, if you’d prefer, you’re welcome to a Gargie Award (details relating to which can be found here!).

Alright. To the business. Instead of telling you seven things about myself and answering ten questions I will tell you about a plan that has been formulating in my mind recently…..

Fiction in 50….

No doubt someone is already doing this, but I plan to begin regularly posting some short fiction on a given theme….but each story must be completed in 50 words or less. I’d love to hear what others think about this plan and whether they’d like to join in.

But enough from me. Congratulations again to my bouquet recipients, and thanks again to Across the Bored for thinking of us here at the shelf.

Until next time,

Bruce (he of the big head)

Read it if: MWF Seeking BFF…..

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I must admit I had been looking forward to reading today’s offering since I first laid eyes on it’s acronym-laden cover.  I’ve become a bit of a fan of the year-long quest sub-genre of non-fiction that has recently seen a bit of a surge – think Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and A. J. Jacobs’ Year of Living Biblically – so could not go past Rachel Bertsche’s attempt, MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend.

bruce and fabrizioI  finally got my stony paws on a copy, cracked the spine and….it did not disappoint! Well, maybe it disappointed a little bit toward the end. But it also inspired me to initiate a social interaction with one of the denizens of the other shelf – the shelf that’s home to all the “keepers”.  Here’s a picture of Fabrizio and I getting acquainted amongst the hardback sets of Tolkien, Rowling and Lewis while discussing the relative merits of bookplates.

Bertsche’s tome details her response to the conundrum she faced after moving to a new city with her new husband.  With her closest friends living in another state, she decided that some new friendships would increase her satisfaction with life exponentially and duly commited herself to participating in 52 “girl dates” or friendship related meet-ups over the course of a year. That’s one a week.

imageRead it if:

* you’re a modern gal who is not ashamed to admit to having a few spare slots on her friendship dance card

* you have recently moved, or are planning to move, to a new town/city/state/country in which you have few social contacts

* you’re the kind of person who would sign up for a NaNoWriMo working collective for the friend-finding opportunities, and neglect to pen even a moderately engaging adjectival phrase during the entire month

you consider the idea of meeting 52 people, the majority of whom are complete strangers, on a par with slipping into the seventh circle of hell

Overall I found this book to be a highly useful guide for those of us who are not natural social butterflies, but who would welcome the opportunity to build some new friendships.  Note however that this book is particularly skewed toward female friend-finding.  Bertsche herself acknowledges that male bonding generally develops in different ways to female bonding and therefore this would not be as useful for gents on the friendship hunt.  Having said that, there is plenty of generic information in here that can be drawn from Bertsche’s experiences.

Until next time my friends, acquaintances and assorted lurkers on the periphery of my social circle,

Bruce

Haiku Review: The (Epic) Tale of a Library Dog…

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Good afternoon lovelies! I have an extra specialmartha and rhythm offering for you today from one of my very special blog-mates, and winner of the prestigious Gargie Award, Rhythm, the library dog!  Yes, today’s poem will honour Rhythm’s first (autobiographical!) tome, Reading with Rhythm: The Tale of a Library Dog. I was hoping she’d go for the pun and make it the “tail” of a library dog, but that’s just me.  The cover says it’s by Janet Mills, but she must have been the assisting typist as the content is very clearly in the voice of the puppy we know and love.

This colourful and appealing picture book delves into the lives of dogs who work for a living, be they therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, guide dogs for the vision-impaired, hunting dogs, guard dogs or library dogs (the best kind).  Alongside Rhythm’s explanation of the different working roles open to enterprising canines, is a little brief of what the grand lady herself enacts as a dog-about-the-library. Or school. Or Wherever, as the need arises.

The illustrations are very appealing and give the book a fun and engaging overall look.  You can read more about the illustrator, Paul Howell, here at Rhythm’s own blog. Here’s an example, followed by my review:

rhythm illustrations

Pups with a purpose

illustrate the old saying

working like a dog”

Had I been blessed with opposable digits, I would be giving this book two thumbs up.  Suffice to say, it will appeal greatly to the little ones, and would be an interesting side-discussion in early years curriculum relating to roles people (and fur-people) play in the community.

Rhythm’s book is available for purchase at Amazon, and while you’re clicking around, you can check out her blog (and fantastic flair with themed doggy costumes) at www.readingwithrhythm.wordpress.com.

Adios amigos!

Mad Martha