Putting the “Ha!” in Halloween: Three Fun, Creepy Reads…

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Good afternoon on this bright and breezy All Hallow’s Eve’s Eve!  Today I have three reads for the young and young at heart that are sufficiently spooky, creepy or icky as to qualify for the “Halloween Reads” category, while also having enough humour to satisfy those with a sissy sensitive consitution.

In ascending order of age-appropriateness, we have:

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children

by Lisa Wheeler and Sophie Blackall

spinster goose

Synopsis:

A cautionary tale in poetry warning children to behave, lest they be sent to learn proper decorum under the guidance of the horrid headmistress, Spinster Goose.

In case you’re wondering who might be sent to such a school and what their fate might be, the following verse from the tome will probably suffice to explain:

The pinchers get pinched,

and the pokers get poked.

The biters get bit,

and the smokers get smoked.

The takers get taken.

The sordid get sore.

The shakers get shaken right down to their core.       (p7)

So watch out.

Spook factor: A resounding 3 out of 5 screams for anyone who has ever attended (or is about to attend) school…

Laugh-o-meter: Giggle-inducing. Particularly if you are, or ever have been, a teacher.

Reading Age: Read-aloud-able from early school age

And next we have…

Sucked In! The Story of an Appendix on the Loose

by Paul Jennings and Terry Denton

sucked in

Synopsis:

A jaunty tale about a disembodied appendix that escapes its specimen jar and creates stomach-heaving havoc around the neighbourhood.

Spook Factor: 4 out of 5 screams for pure, unadulterated ingestion-by-appendix

Laugh-o-meter: Guffaw to Belly Laugh. 

Reading Age: Read-aloud-able from early school age, read alone for middle grade

And finally…

Demon Dentist

by David Walliams

Demon dentist

Synopsis:

Local kids begin finding unspeakable offerings under their pillows instead of the usual coinage, in exchange for loose teeth.  On a completely unrelated note, a new, slightly odd dentist sets up shop in the town.

Spook Factor: 2 out of 5 screams for the unspeakable offerings

Laugh-o-meter: Chortle-icious

Reading Age: Middle grade

So there you have it – three spooktacularly fun reads for mini-fleshlings.  Enjoy!

Until next time,

Bru -oooo -ce

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Fiction in 50 October Challenge: Monumentally Awkward…

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fiction in 50

Morning all! I hope you’ve got your mini-tales or viewing eyeballs ready to go, because it’s Fi50 time again.  If you haven’t prepared, fear not! There’s still time – all this week in fact..or all month if you’re tardy.  All you have to do is create a piece of fiction in 50 words or less. For more detailed instructions on how to join in, click on the large attractive button above!

This month’s (appropriately spooky) theme is….

monumentally awkward button

…because there’s nothing scarier than an unexpected and horribly awkward moment.

Due to a clerical error (ie: my being unable to read the instructions that I initially wrote), I actually completed this challenge accidentally last month.  To salvage my work though, I decided to write a two-parter.  So this month’s effort completes the tale that began last month with the “Unconventional Relationships” prompt.  If you are one of those people who just can’t jump into a “series” without reading the first instalment, perhaps you would like to catch up here.

So, part two in the teeny-tiny-saga, I have titled …

Their Finest Hour (The Optimist #2)

She was the one. I could feel it.  It was only our first date, but sometimes, you just know.

A smudge of lipstick on her cheek. I tenderly wipe at it….

And again….

Oh.

I chuckle, “My grandma had a facial birthmark. An absolute whopper!”

I can hear the bells.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other monumentally awkward moments can be described in brief, yet enticing detail!

Our prompt for next month is…

past regrets button

Until next time,

Bruce

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Haiku Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods…plus a Fi50 reminder

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Hello again my dear, sweet, chirpy little blog munchkins!  It is your trusty (and attractive) chaperone, Mad Martha, taking your hand today and guiding you ever deeper into the world of the shelf.  Today’s offering, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is the debut effort by Gavin Extence and I must tell you that it is an impressive and thought-provoking attempt indeed!

The book follows the fates and fortunes of Alex Woods, a young lad with a surprisingly eventful life story, as he comes of age amongst some very unusual circumstances.  Protagonist and narrator, Alex introduces himself to the reader while attempting to re-enter the UK with the ashes of his recently deceased best friend on the passenger seat and a bag of medicinal marijuana (also belonging to said recently deceased best friend) in the glovebox.  Oddly enough, we first encounter Alex at the end of his story, and are subsequently invited to accompany him on a typical period of adolescent growth, cheerfully accented with rogue meteroids, a mother with extrasensory talents and the founding of the secular Church of Kurt Vonnegut.  Really, it’s not your typical YA fare.

universe vs alex woods

Young man, off kilter,

meets ethical dilemma

and finds his centre

Extence’s novel provides a lot of food for thought.  Dealing, as it does, with the ethical quagmire relating to an individual’s perceived right to die, the reader is both invited and challenged to accompany Alex as he is forced to confront issues that would bamboozle those with far more life experience, and choose a path that he can live with in good conscience.  Given that the book deals with these fairly advanced concepts, and contains substantial references to drug use, it is definitely one for the upper end of the YA spectrum and adult readers.  It’s also a great candidate to take one’s time over, as much as to give one a chance to digest the highly eventful plot line as much as anything else.

I highly recommend this to any reader who is looking for a read that provides something to chew over after the last chapter, is happy to confront their own values related to the end of life and wants to be pleasantly surprised by an author that might possibly become a new favourite.

So that’s that my pretties….except that Bruce has asked me to remind you all that October’s Fiction in 50 challenge will be open on Monday, for entries on the prompt:

monumentally awkward button

If you want to play, simply create a piece of fiction in fifty words or less and post a link to my prompt post sometime next week.  For more instructions and information, click on this satisfyingly large button:

fiction in 50

The more the merrier!

Cheerio until next we meet poppets,

Mad Martha

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favourite Character Names…

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TTT3WTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme over at The Broke and The Bookish.  Today I have elected to participate and share my list of favourite character names from literature.  I have chosen these because they are (a) rhyming and therefore funny, (b) alliterative and therefore funny or (c) generally ridiculous and therefore funny. Unfortunately I only have five, because of short preparation time, but you can find some of my other favourites here. In no particular order, they are:

* Soren Lorenson *

(Lauren Child / Slightly Invisible (Charlie and Lola series))

slightly invisible

* Shaun the Faun *

( Jon Skovron / Man Made Boy)

9780670786206_ManMadeBoy_JK.indd

* Slartibartfast *

(Douglas Adams / The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

hitchhikers guide

* Tim Somebody *

(Alexander McCall Smith / Corduroy Mansions)

corduroy mansions

* Horatio Hornblower *

(C. S. Forrester / Mr Midshipman Hornblower)

hornblower

So who’s on your list?

Bruce

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ARC Read-it-if Review: Man Made Boy…

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Afternoon all! Today’s offering is one that, since seeing the fantastic cover art, I had been excitedly anticipating…and then I managed to score an ARC review copy from Allen & Unwin Teen in return for an honest review.  Serendipitous, no? So our thanks to the publishers for making my anticipatory wonderings a reality.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron is a coming of age tale with a twist – the twist being that the creature doing the coming-of-age thing is the son of Frankenstein’s monster and his Bride.  The inventively named Boy; stitched-together beastie and thoroughly likeable protagonist, lives with a slew of other “mythical” creatures in a community hiding in plain sight from human society in the form of a theatre group.  Boy also happens to be something of a tech wizard, and after developing a new form of artificial intelligence, accidentally sets in motion events that have the potential to reach cataclysmic proportions for all involved.  Simultaneous to this concerning development, Boy attempts to leave the theatre to make his own way in the world – hence the coming-of-age themes mentioned earlier.

9780670786206_ManMadeBoy_JK.indd

Read it if:

* you’re a sucker for a good YA/sci fi/modern mythology/coming-of-age/paranormal romance crossover novel

* you’ve ever had stitches (or indeed bolts) in a prominent place, and felt that this may have inhibited your ability to blend seamlessly into polite society

* you are, or have ever entertained the dream of becoming, a mad scientist who creates a sentient, yet fundamentally flawed, creature for your own entertainment and/or personal gain

* you can overlook some minor problems with pacing and plot provided that there is at least one character with a rhyming name.  (…Paging Shaun the Faun…your presence is required…)

As I mentioned, I had really high hopes for this book based on the cover art alone.  Yes, I am that judgemental.  Did this book live up to those expectations? Sort of.

There is much to like in Skovron’s work here.  The characters, although lifted from historical mythical tales and classic literature, are given an overhaul to suit the modern urban setting while retaining their authentic character.  The two (or should that be three?) main teen characters, Boy and Claire/Sophie Hyde/Jekyll, are relatable, charming and flawed in ways that are believable, without being stereotypical.  The world building, in regards to the hidden monster communities, is well done and provides some good launching points to drive the plot forward.

The main problem I have with the book is the technology plotline revolving around the artificial intelligence program that Boy creates and sends out into the world.  I can’t say too much here, as I think it would be too spoilerish, but for me, the parts of the book in which this plotline featured seemed forced and out of place.  I had the overwhelming feeling that Skovron had actually got all the ingredients for TWO great novels – one revolving around a young monster finding his feet in the world, and another, that had no fantasy elements but explored the themes of artifical intelligence and the role and pace of technology in society in a psychological thriller-type story.

Having said that, while the technology aspect of the plot didn’t really work for me, it didn’t diminish the overall appeal of the book to the point where I had to put it down.  For my money, if Skovron can maintain my interest for 300 + pages despite a plotline that grated on every stony, critical and pedantic nerve in my body, I’ll be very interested to see what he can come up with next.  Overall, I think this book will have great appeal to its target audience of older teens for its likeable characters and modern twist on some old favourites.

For those who are faint of heart, let me also flag a warning for language, grand-theft-auto style gratuitous violence and humour related to alien-implemented anal probes.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Spine Poetry #2: The Rime of the Deadly Pepperpot…

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Afternoon all! After much pondering and concentrated appraisal of the titles on my shelf, I am once again prepared to indulge in a little spine poetry.  For those not in the know, spine poetry involves creating a poem using only the titles of books and displaying the result in photographic form…presumably in order to prove that the book titles you’ve used actually do exist.  I got this idea from someone in the blogging world, but unfortunately can’t remember who, so if you think it’s you, feel free to make yourself known and take the due credit.

Todat’s attempt has been inspired by my good blog buddy Ste J’s recent reflections on that juggernaut of entertainment, Doctor Who.  It is part respectful ode to a deadly foe, and part instructional guide for those who have trouble with being assertive. I have titled my effort:

How to Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons

spine poetry dalek

I am a Dalek;

the Great and Dangerous.

Don’t look now:

Unrest, cringe, fade to blue….

And then there were none.

And for the highly curious among you, here are the books that I used to create this masterpiece of wordsmithery:

       how to keep people from pushing buttonsi am a dalekgreat and dangerousdont look now

unrestcringefade to bluethen there were none

Until next time….EMERGENCY TEMPORAL SHIFT!!

Bruce

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World Mental Health Day: A Cheeky Lucky Dip…

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Happy World Mental Health Day everyone!  I’m very pleased (especially in the current circumstances round the shelf) that the powers that be only require us to have one mentally healthy day per year, so that’s as good a reason to celebrate as any.

Today I present to you a Book Depository Lucky Dip that hopefully suits the occasion – for the uninitiated, the BD Lucky Dip involves me typing a random search term (or terms) into the Book Depository’s search engine and picking the most surprising or giggle-inducing results for your viewing pleasure.

So in thinking about Mental Health (or lack thereof), the terms that sprang immediately to mind were cats, irritating musical instruments and crafting.  Please, sit back, relax, and make yourself feel better by  perusing a lucky dip that may have you questioning the sanity of others and affirming your own….or vice versa.

For the sufferer of paranoia who is also handy with a ball of yarn:

kyo moKnit Your Own Moustache: Create 20 Knit and Crochet Disguises by Vicky Eames

For the person who appreciates the profound mystical connection between heavy metal music and diminutive stringed instruments :

metallica uke

Best of Metallica for Ukulele by Steve Gorenberg

For those who laugh in the face of hypoallergenic craft supplies:

crafting with cat hair

Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with your Cat by Kaori Tsutaya

For the hunting enthusiast who believes fur is murder:

craftydermy

Craftydermy by Tracey Benton & Ziggy Hanaor

For those who like to ponder life’s big questions:

would you eat your cat

Would You Eat Your Cat?: Key Ethical Conundrums and What They Tell You About Yourself by Jeremy Stangroom

And finally, for the ultimate thrillseeker:

fun with accordion

Mel Bay’s Fun with the Accordion by Frank Zucco

Clearly, I have acquitted myself of my duty on this most important of days, to contribute to the ongoing mental well-being of my readers with this varied and enticing collection.  You can all thank me later.

Until next time, may all your brain receptors be flooded with feel-good hormones,

Bruce

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