Fiction in 50 December Challenge: Reflections….

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Good morning, cherubs of the blogosphere!  Today’s Fiction in 50 prompt, appropriately enough, is…..

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Now my effort this month isn’t particularly original in plot, for which I must apologise, but I feel it nevertheless accurately reflects the state of mind of many beings at this time of year, be they flesh or stone.  I call it…

The Art Critic (A Tragicomedy in One Short Act)

“Take it away.”

“But Sir, you specifically requested that it be placed here.”

“Nonsense! It’s grotesque! Why, you can hardly make out the face for the shadows cast by those wrinkles. Why would I commission such a hideous work?”

“But Sir, that’s a mirror.”

….

“Take it away at once.”

If you’d like to join in on the action, (and we all know you do!) simply create your own piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less and add your post to the linky, or post your fiction in the comments.  For more detailed instructions and prompts for upcoming Fi50s in 2014, click on either of the fancy Fi50 buttons.

fiction in 50  If anyone is interested in co-hosting Fi50 in 2014, drop me a line, I’d love to have a   partner (or a whole committee!) of Fi50 enthusiasts.

Our first prompt for 2014 will be….

fi50 jan button

Until next time,

Bruce

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Post-Christmas Tomfoolery: An Award and Fi50 Reminder…

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Welcome one and all to this very lazy Boxing Day (or St Stephen’s Day or whatever you like to call it) post.  To kick off, we denizens of the shelf have been honoured with an award from our good friend ideflex at Across the Bored  . Apparently I am considered a Versatile Blogger – hurrah for me!

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The rules for accepting this award include telling seven things about oneself and nominating 15 other bloggers for the award.  Given that it’s Boxing Day, my motivation to do either of those things is fairly low.  I will however promise to complete that part of the award in the new year and possibly throw around a few Gargies with it.  For now, I am just going to do the celebrating and basking in glory part of the award.

For those who have a bit of creative energy floating about after yesterday’s overindulgence, you’ll be pleased to know that Fiction in 50 is on again next week, starting the 30th!  Click on the button for instructions and prompt if you’d like to play along.

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This month’s prompt is…..

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So get those pens, pencils, half-chewed crayons or typing fingers ready and get some mini-fiction happening!  I will have my contribution and the linky ready to go on Monday.  Incidentally, if you are interested in co-hosting future Fi50s, drop me a line – I’d love to spread the tiny flash fiction love far and wide.  I’ll also have the prompts for the next six months ready to go by then.  Suggestions welcome.

Until next time,

Bruce (and all the gang)

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Talespins Blog Tour: Read it if and Giveaways!

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tale spins tour

“It’s become quite a trend to take a known story

and tell it a different way.

That’s all well and good, for we can assume

every author has something to say.”   

(Jack’d, Talespins, p 66)

Afternoon all!  I am chuffed as a chuffed thing to be participating in the blog tour for Michael Mullin’s new book Talespins, a poetic retelling of three traditional fairy tales.  Click on the link to check out the other blogs participating the tour, and then go visit!
Tour Schedule

Don’t forget to scroll down right to the end of this post too (after you’ve finished reading it all, word for word…obviously) for GIVEAWAYS! Hurrah!

Now I’ve mentioned before that I am generally not a fan of retellings of fairy tales in any form, but having recently read and enjoyed Scar and the Wolf, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with zombies, I felt that I should probably give this one a go.

Talespins features three short stories-in-verse aimed at an audience of middle grade and above.  The first story, 8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf, is narrated by Creepy (the aforementioned previously unmentioned 8th dwarf) and presents a well-known and oft-repeated lament of unattractive suitors down through the ages.  The Plight and Plot of Princess Penny relates the results of a hip young princess’s ill-advised scheme to wreak revenge on a bullying schoolfriend, and Jack’d presents the Giant’s side of the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk tale, with a guest appearance by Death.

I thoroughly enjoyed these tales.  In my experience of ferreting out fantastic ebooks for children and young people, I have found time and again that some novice authors grossly underestimate the difficulty of constructing GOOD rhyming text.   Good rhyming text has cadence.  It has meter.  It has a rhythm that allows someone reading aloud to perform the story, rather than just read it.  One of my major pet peeves is the creation and sale of books (usually in e-format, and usually self-published by people who have bypassed entirely any decent process of editing) by those who believe that just slapping two random sentences one after the other and chucking two rhyming words at the end constitutes good writing for children.  I am absurdly happy therefore, to assure you that to read Talespins is to experience GOOD rhyming text.

There are a few spots in which the meter is a bit out, particularly in the middle story of the three, but overall, Mullin has done a great job at sustaining the rhyme and rhythm throughout these reasonably long (for verse) short stories.

tale-spinsRead it if:

* you believe that not all fairy tales should end happily ever after

* you’ve ever been referred to amongst your group of friends, in word or thought, as “the one with the unfortunate face”

* you fervently adhere to the idea that every school’s bullying policy should allow for retaliatory use of potions moste potente by victims against their perpetrators

* you have a recurring dream involving magic beans, a poorly maintained elevator shaft, and the clammy hand of death on your shoulder

 Given that I have now enjoyed TWO fairy tale retellings in as many weeks, I should probably rethink my stance on rejecting them out of hand.  If you are looking for a quick, fun and feisty read for a young’un around your shelf these holidays, you could do a lot worse than securing a copy of Talespins.

Incidentally, Talespins would also be the perfect choice for those participating in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge for 2014, in category eight (a book with wordplay in the title).  If you have no idea what I’m on about, perhaps you should click on this large and attractive button, and enlighten yourself, sign up and set your thill-seeking missiles to FUN!

small fry

 Now that your participation in the Safari is all settled (welcome aboard!), you should have a look below at some more info about Talespins and its author, Michael Mullin.  Right at the bottom of the post, because I always save the best ’til last, are two giveaways – one for US residents only ….*sniff*…fine…us internationals know when we’re not wanted…*sob*….and one for the rest of us.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Tale Spins
A trilogy of alternative fairytales and retellings. Discover the real Snow White story through the eyes of Creepy, the unknown 8th dwarf! Meet a teen princess who hires “The Frog Prince” witch to get revenge on a Mean Girl at school! And learn how the giant, boy thief and magic beans tale truly went down!

Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Praise for Tale Spins

Not usually enamoured of either re-tellings or poetry I was totally taken aback by just how much I relished this trilogy of alternative fairytales and re-tellings aimed at the Young Adult market. ~Tracy (Goodreads)

TaleSpins was like walking into a vintage store and finding a true treasure. This book takes the fairytales we all grew up on and gives them an interesting and modernized version that I enjoyed. ~Rose (Goodreads)

mike mullin

Author Michael Mullin

Michael Mullin is a native New Englander living in Pasadena. He is the author of TaleSpins, a trilogy of alternative fairy tales and retellings for YA readers. TaleSpins stories (in the 1-book collection) are “8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf”; “The Plight and Plot of Princess Penny”; and “Jack’d”. Michael is also the co-author of the successful “Larry Gets Lost” children’s book series. His screenplay “Zooing Time” was recognized by the WGA’s Written By magazine. Before all this writing, he taught preschool and college, two positions he found disconcertingly similar.

Website * Facebook * Twitter

Tour Giveaways

Giveaway #1 – Open to US only

Mike Mullin Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway #2 $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 1/21/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Secret Santa Squirrels: A Cheeky Christmas Haiku Review…

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Feliz Navidad munchkins! It’s Mad Martha with you today playing the role of jolly little elf, with a haiku review of a cheeky Christmas-y picture book, just in the nick of time before the big event.  Carefree, pint-sized author Hazel Nutt asked whether I wouldn’t let you all know about this little gem and I have agreed, so without further adieu, I present to you, Secret Santa Squirrels!

secret santa squirrels

This book attempts to answer the age-old question: How does Santa deliver so many presents in just one night?  Does he use magic? A high-powered stocking-seeking present missile? Unmanned drones?

Nope.

Apparently it’s a combination of reindeer droppings and squirrel magic.  Bet you didn’t see that one coming!  Here is an image of the beginning of the process:

reindeer poo

And I can assure you, those aren’t chocolate rumballs being cheerfully cast aloft by those reindeer.

I will allow you to discover the details for yourself as you delve into this short, sweet, rhyming picture book, but allow me to say, it appears that Santa is onto a pretty eco-friendly and labour efficient method here.

Christmas news just in!

Think your gifts just appeared there?

Kindly wash your hands.

While some of the scanning in the rhymes is a little bit stilted, subversive kids of all ages will love the idea that their presents were once poo.  This would be a great pre-Christmas giggle for any slightly cynical little elves in your dwelling.

And for those who live in countries that don’t have squirrels – mine being one of them – I have been assured by the author that there is an entire underground network of creatures that take on local work for Santa at this time of year.  Sharp-eyed Australian and Kiwi residents might even spot some possums fulfilling poo-to-present duties if they glance out at the right moment on Christmas eve.

It’s available at Amazon if you want to be the first in your community to crack this Christmas secret wide open.

Ciao for now chums,

Mad Martha

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Existentialism and Monster-Taming: Two Graphic Novels…

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Afternoon friends and hangers-on! Recently I’ve been meandering a bit in my reading tastes and have delved into some graphic novels as I am wont to do on occasion…On this occasion I took the decision to delve after meandering past a display shelf at the library containing a graphic novel of intricate and/or inviting cover design.  The two I have for you today range in target audience, content and just plain oddness, so in case you’re planning to use this post as a Christmas gift guide (and why wouldn’t you?), you’d probably better pay attention so you don’t end up giving the fun, kiddy one to your broody Emo-teen nephew Reginald, and the super-creepy and sociopathic one to sweet little seven year old niece Emmy-Lou. You’ve been warned.

The Fun, Kiddy One

cats cradle

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux tells the story of Suri, an orphan hanger-on to a travelling caravan who has dreams of being a monster-tamer.  After accidentally taming a terrifying monster held captive at the fair, she finds herself relentlessly pursued by some shape-shifting humanoid monsters for reasons unkown to her.  Luckily though, accidental monster-taming has its benefits and Suri ends the tale with at least one more friend that when she began.

The cover of this book drew me in immediately and I picked it up with absolutely no idea what the story was going to be about.  I often do that with graphic novels – I find I don’t need to know much about the story in order to be prepared to give it a go.  I’m glad I did (give it a go, that is), because the art and the story had me hooked.  Unfortunately, I finished the book in about 15 minutes and was desperate for more!  Luckily, I have just checked on the author’s website and book two is in the works. Hurrah!

Cat’s Cradle would be a perfect choice for reluctant readers of middle grade age, because the art and story are highly involving, easy to follow and draw the reader in.  With a female main character, this could also be a good choice for girls who are looking to expand their reading horizons and try something different from the standard fairy/fantasy chapter book.  Boys will surely enjoy this one too however, due to the themes of monster-hunting and magic powers.

See, this is why I love libraries – you never know what little gems are lurking in the stacks.  Book two in this series is called The Mole King’s Lair….I’ll be keeping my eyeballs out for it.

The Super-Creepy Sociopathic One

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I happened across Billy Fog and the Gift of Trouble Sight by Guillaume Bianco, as with Jo Rioux’s book, after spotting it on a library display stand.  Apparently, so the blurb (which I never bothered to read) goes, Billy Fog wears glasses, but when he takes them off, he can see all sorts of weird, creepy things that other kids can’t.  It’s probably good that I never read this blurb as that has little if anything to do with the story, such as it is, and I can’t even remember any pictures of him with glasses on in the actual book (although I’m sure they’re there).

No matter!  What really drew me to this one was the fantastic aged look of the cover and creepy, Burton-esque art style.  Check out some of the artwork – isn’t it just fantastically atmospheric and fun and oddly enticing?

Death-comes

SuperstitionWell, I thought it was.

Now. While this book has fantastic art, the content is just flippin’ weird.  So in the first few pages Billy’s cat Tarzan dies. He may have had something to do with it – that’s never made clear.  But basically, the book deals with Billy trying to make sense of that unwelcome, ever-present visitor hanging around in the shadows, death.  He even asks Santa Claus for some advice on the topic.  Other bits of the book feature Billy’s attempt at a bestiary of creatures that haunt dark spaces, and stories about other odd-bods that he has encountered in his young life.

I have to say it – this was a odd, creepy, unsettling book.  Strangely though, many books of this ilk have a weird sort of a pull, making it impossible to look away.  Billy Fog was no exception.  The weirdest part of the book was the really deep theme of existential angst running through the stories.  Essentially, while the main character of this book is a young child, the content is really for late teens and older.  The back of the book says 13+, but I think even that’s a bit optimistic.  You would not want to give this to a little kid, or indeed, a particularly sensitive kid – it would scar them for life and probably bring their nightmares to life – unless you want to instill in them a deep-seated fear of sleeping alone, that is.  You however, as a mature, open-minded and slightly anti-hipster-ish adult, will probably be intrigued by such a tome.

I have actually found a cover design for volume three of the Billy Fog saga, Billy Fog: The Boy Who No Longer Believed in Santa Claus that will give you a far better feel for the content (and is no less appealing, art-wise):

billy fog v3

See? Now you know what you’re getting yourself in for.

So there you have it – my little foray into differenetly-formatted fiction.  Sharp-eyed readers will also note that Cat’s Cradle would be the perfect choice in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014 for category two (a book with a piece of furniture in the title), while Billy Fog would suitably acquit both category four (a book with someone’s name in the title) or category six (a book with something precious in the title).  Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then click on the large and absurdly attractive button below to check out the challenge and join the Safari!

small fryUntil next time,

Bruce

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Skin and Bones ARC: Read it if…

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Afternoon all! Today’s offering Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan is due for publication in March 2014, so this review will be based on an eARC obtained from the publisher via NetGalley – thanks!

Skin and Bones follows the story of Jack (aka Bones) as he spends some time in a hospital inpatient program designed for teens with eating disorders.  Ever since a shop assistant handed Bones a pair of “husky” jeans to try on, he has had a troubling relationship with food.  Bones enters the program obviously in need of a few good hot meals and some probing therapy and finds himself  sharing a room with Lard, a compulsive overeater who is learning the cooking trade.  While in the program Bones meets Alice, a ballet dancer and fellow sufferer of anorexia – although from Alice’s point of view, she glories in it rather than suffering.  The book takes us on Bones’ journey of inner discovery, with some comic relief on the way, towards his eventual return to the outside world.

skin and bonesRead it if:

* you can’t go past a novel set in any kind of pyschiatric facility (surely there is a word for this sort of compulsion?)

* you have ever wondered how you could repurpose an idle dishwasher for the task of low-fat cooking

* you have ever been accidentally (or deliberately) insulted by an unthinking shop assistant/relative/friend/passerby and considered changing your entire lifestyle as a result

* you have any kind of interest in eating disorders, how they manifest, and how one might go about addressing them

Skin and Bones was an enjoyable and reasonably engaging read from my point of view.  I happen to have the (as yet) unnamed compulsion of attempting to read any and all novels set in psychiatric facilities that I can lay hands upon.  From that perspective, this book is pretty formulaic.  You have the cast of slightly odd but loveable patients, the ward staff who range from motherly to smothering, and the head therapist who is inevitably considered inept and patronising by all his patients.  The point of difference for this book however is the particular disorders with which it concerns itself.

As noted at the end of the book, eating disorders are highly prevalent among young people and on the rise among young men in particular.  This novel then could really hit a chord with teen readers who have experienced, or know someone who is experiencing, issues with food and/or body image.  Having not a great deal of prior knowledge in this field, the wily tricks that Bones and Alice used to assist them in their constant pursuit of weight loss were quite mind-boggling, and a real eye-opener into the complexity of this disease.  Also, given the relatively small amount of attention given in the media to males who are battling with negative perceptions of body image, this book could have great value in shining some light on how our crazy modern world has adversely affected young men.

Overall I found this to be an interesting addition to the genre, but not one that particularly stood out from the crowd.  For those YA readers who are into a bit of realism in their reading, this book will scratch an itch and hopefully allow readers to gain some new insights into the spectre of mental illness and eating disorders.

Just out of interest, for those thinking of joining the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge for 2014, Skin and Bones could potentially be an ideal choice for category five (a book with something that comes in pairs in the title), or category seven (a book with something unsightly in the title).  Hint, hint!

Also, just a reminder that the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza is still running for another week – click here to enter my giveaway and see the list of other participating blogs!

Until next time,
Bruce

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Holiday WINNING!: Kid LIt Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza…

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kidlit giveaway hop extravaganza button

Hello all!  I am super excited to provide you with a chance for some holiday-related WINNING via the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop Holiday Extravaganza brought to you by good folks at Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews.  The giveaway runs from December 6th to 13th and there are lots of bloggers on the hop giving away holiday or winter themed books, gift cards, and all sorts, so don’t forget to hop around to exponentially increase your chances of acquiring free stuff.

I am going to offer one lucky winner their choice of one of two books that would have featured in my Christmas Lucky Dip feature, had I bothered to compile one.  These brilliantly bizarre tomes really sum up what Christmas is all about in my mind – terrified children being force-photographed with a stranger disguised with a false moustache and beard, and rodents in fancy dress.

Click on the book covers to be taken to their respective Goodreads pages.

scared of santaGoodreads synopsis:

Nothing says Christmas quite like innocent children shrieking with terror as a stranger dressed in red drags them kicking and screaming onto his lap. Now this time-honored rite of passage is celebrated with a hilarious collection of more than two hundred and fifty priceless photos of kids’ traumatic trips to Santa’s workshop. Scared of Santa offers a cornucopia of photographic funnies—from sixty-year-old family heirlooms to last year’s howlers—along with delightful commentary on those unforgettable childhood visits to scary ol’ Saint Nick.

guinea pig nativityGoodreads synopsis:

You know the story …Mary and Joseph make the journey to Bethlehem, only to find there’s no room at the inn. Then along come angels, shepherds and three kings from afar to worship the baby Jesus in the manger. A Guinea Pig Nativity is the classic Christmas story as you’ve never seen it before: with (you guessed it) guinea pigs photographed in the starring roles.

Here’s the skinny on the giveaway:

– The giveaway is open Worldwide, provided you live in a country to which the Book Depository will ship for free.  If you’re not sure, you can check out the list here.

– One winner will be chosen at random and will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a redraw will occur.

– The winner can choose ONE of the two books as their prize. Not both. Don’t be greedy.

– The giveaway is in no way related to WordPress, Goodreads, The Book Depository, Rafflecopter, Facebook or any other individual or company that is not me.

– I will be checking entries, so be honest.

**Please note: it is highly unlikely that the winner will receive their prize in time for Christmas this year. For that reason, I’ve chosen books that can no doubt be enjoyed all year round! **

click to enter button

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Click the link below to hop along to the other blogs and see what goodies are on offer.

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Until next time,

Bruce


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