Haiku Review (and a giveaway heads-up): The Purple Girl…

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Good morning my bookish brethren and shelfish sisterhood, it’s Mad Martha with you today with a Haiku Review of another not-to-be-missed title.  Today’s fresh off the press offering is The Purple Girl by Audrey Kane.  I received a copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley – we thank thee!

The Purple Girl is a middle grade fantasy adventure that centres around Violet, a girl who was born …well…violet.  Violet’s skin is purple and everything she touches takes on a purplish hue for a few moments after she moves on.  Her parents keep her away from most ordinary folk for her own protection, but occasionally venture out amidst taunting and frightened looks to participate in usual village business.  On meeting a gypsy girl who promises to remove Violet’s purple for the small price of her voicebox, Violet is presented with a choice – should she blend in with those around her and live the life she imagines or is her voice too precious to lose?  Once Violet makes her decision, it seems that new opportunities pop up from everywhere to challenge her resolve and push her to be independent. After all, she’s growing up – surely it’s time for her parents to let her go?

Buy the book here

the purple girl

Little lilac lass

ventures over garden wall

seeks key to freedom

This book was completely out-of-the-box for me.  I read the blurb, expected a bit of a fairy-tale-ish, atmospheric sort of choreographed adventure and was blown away by the sensitivity with which Kane has created the characters and the story that unfolds for them in these pages.  This was an unexpected joy to read.

Violet, the protagonist, is neither a shy, retiring petal nor a swashbuckling, all action GI Jane – she’s simply an ordinary person with a less than ordinary …skin condition, I suppose you could say.  This was refreshing, I must say, as many books these days, especially those aimed at middle grade or tween girls, seem to rely on one or the other of those stereotypes (or one that turns into the other).  To have a rounded female with believable flaws really added to the book as a whole, and moved it away from that run-of-the-mill, all-been-done-before vibe that can happen so easily with books for this age group.

The story was at once complicated but simple.  There were a number of plot twists that pushed the action forward, but they occured gently and almost naturally based on Violet’s actions.  There are a lot of different elements to the plot – Violet’s encounter with the gypsy girl, her discovery of a mysterious jewelled book belonging to her father, the relationship between Violet and her first real friend, Frankie, and Violet’s ability to sing.  All of these elements contribute to the story, but none takes precedence over another.  It was a strange experience reading, because every time one of these plot twists arose, I immediately thought, “Oh, I know where this is going!” but not once was I right!  It’s a wonderful thing to be surprised more than once in a story that you think you probably already know, or could figure out from the blurb or the picture on the cover.

Oh, did I mention it’s illustrated?  Yep, it was a (lovely) surprise to me, but there are a few illustrated pages throughout and they have the same dream-like quality as the front cover.

This would be a fantastic read-aloud for tweens, particularly girls, as the action in the book is tempered with a certain gentleness in the telling.  It’s also a reasonably fast read, so could be completed over a few sessions easily.

The Purple Girl was released on the 8th of January, so it’s available to purchase right now – good news, hey! – and you can buy it for yourself at Amazon, by clicking here.

But even better than that – the author, Audrey Kane, who will be visiting the Shelf on Monday for a spotlight post, has also been generous enough to put up a SIGNED paperback copy of The Purple Girl for one lucky reader to win…and better than that, it’s an INTERNATIONAL competition! Hooooooorayyyy!  So be sure to pop back on Monday for your chance to win.

Adieu until we meet again, my many-hued friends,

Mad Martha

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ARC Read-it-if Review: Last God Standing…

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Well, it’s been a long time coming, but finally today I have for you a review of the finest book about god-wars and stand up comedy I have read in the whole of this year, Last God Standing by Michael Boatman.  I was luckyenough to unexpectedly wrangle a copy for review from Angry Robot books – thanks!

Last God Standing follows everyman and stand-up comedian, Lando Cooper, as he struggles with all the problems inherent in being the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition attempting to reside in a mortal, human guise.  As if regular human problems such as nagging parents and relationship dramas weren’t enough, Lando is coming under consistent attack from other disgruntled deities who seem to have tapped into some extra divine power.  After being warned about a mysterious being called The Coming who appears to wish Lando and all of humanity nothing but ill, things begin to spin out of control and (human) life as he knows it starts falling apart.  How, in His name, is he going to keep his parents and girlfriend happy, save the earth while trapped in a human body AND make it as a stand up comedian without going crazy? Well it ain’t my job to tell you – you’ll have to read the book.

last god standing

Read it if:

* you have ever felt that you should, in fairness, have been blessed with some kind of divine power in order to make up for the fact that your parents are certifiable – as in, riding around on an ostrich to advertise their small business certifiable

* you’re the type that loves to hop on to any new spiritual fad, while simultaneously denouncing your most recent spiritual fad for screwing up your chi/karma/angel guide dog/spiritual GPS/(insert spiritual-ish term here)

* you have ever thought that awkward, messy or otherwise unsavoury experiences should come with an internal reset function

* you’re the kind of person who lives for the “Boss Battles” in level-grinding games – just to reassure yourself that what you have always suspected about yourself is true – that you are, in fact, a god in the body of a mortal

Alrighty.  Last God Standing was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  The author, Michael Boatman, is a well known actor who has appeared on many shows that I have not seen.  His face is a bit familiar though.  Regardless, going into this without any expectations about the sort of comedy he might write was probably a plus I think.

There are a number of things about this book that I really enjoyed – Lando was a really likeable narrator and the other characters in the book are all pretty well fleshed out.  There’s also a nice mix of crazy deities and arguably crazier humans that brings a nice bit of variety to the situations that Lando finds himself embroiled in.    I particularly liked Lando’s inner voice, Connie (or Constant) who is the representation of a Native American Indian goddess (of the Navajo people, apparently)  known as Changing Woman.  I admit to having no knowledge whatsoever of Native American Indian deities, of Navajo origin or otherwise, but Boatman’s writing of this particular representation was fun and added a lot to plot twists that would otherwise have seen Lando monologuing a lot about his actions.  If you’ve read any of my reviews on Goodreads lately, you’ll know that excessive monologuing is currently one of my pet hates.  So a win for Boatman!

I was surprised how much I enjoyed what I’ve termed the Boss Battles in the story.  As mentioned, Lando has a number of encounters with deities of once-great religions (Zeus, Dionysus, and even Hannibal – who, while not a deity, does come equipped with a show-stealing quartermastodon named Persi) which involve a lot of action and whacking with sharp weapons and carnage and humiliating defeat.  Normally I’m not a big fan of long action sequences in books, but these really drew me in, possibly due to the amusing banter that went on alongside all the hacking and slashing and quartermastodon headbutting and so on.

There were a few things that did drag this down for me.  Well, not a few, specifically one thing. And that was the middle of the book.  I do not in any way wish to imply that nothing happens, or that the story drags or anything like that in the middle.  Essentially, I didn’t like it because things just get weird.  A whole lot of stuff started happening that seemed to come out of the blue and unless I applied great focus and concentration while reading, I had a tendency to lose the thread of what was going on.  Now towards the end of the middle, this became something of a problem, because there are certain things that happen at this point in the story that directly contribute to the climax.  So I found myself having to go back a bit and re-read in order to fully get a handle on the events at the most exciting point of the book.  At one point, I even considered putting the book down because it was all getting too confusing….

…BUT I’m glad I didn’t, because I REALLY liked the ending.  Somehow, after a spate of weirdness in the middle, things suddenly righted themselves and the last few chapters ended up being really quite exciting.  I really enjoyed the reveal – finding out about the nefarious being known as The Coming, finding out who was behind it, who was supporting it, how Lando was going to save us all from some very unpleasant business – and by the end, I didn’t want to put the book down.  Again, a win for Boatman!

So while there were a few blips on the “this book isn’t for me” radar, when looking back on it a few weeks after finishing it, I am pleased to find that there is a little feeling of fondness for Last God Standing.  In all honesty, I don’t think this book will be for everyone, but if you enjoy a bit of comedy, a bit of divinity, a bit of gratuitous carnage and some general silliness in your reading, I would recommend giving this one a go.

Last God Standing is due for publication on the 25th of March.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Read-it-if Review: The Ratastrophe Catastrophe (The Illmoor Chronicles #1)…

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imageGood morning my valued minions readers! Today I have a little ripper for you.  It’s been a while since I’ve brought you a little ripper.  But here one is. It’s a rippingly, shreddingly, gnawingly good read.  It is Book 1 of The Illmoor Chronicles…The Ratastrophe Catastrophe by David Lee Stone.  I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley, for which I am truly grateful.  You might have noticed the button over there indicating that this book is also part of my Fairy Tale Makeovers Review Series, as it is based on a fairy tale.  See if you can guess which…

The Ratastrophe Catastrophe follows a …colourful…cast of characters as they deal with a series of events that threaten to bring life in the city of Dullitch to a veritable standstill.  Simple farm lad Diek Wustapha is key to these events, in that it is he who is chosen by an ancient being of dark magic to be its new vessel.  After being commandeered by this ancient being, Diek finds that his flute playing suddenly ratchets up a notch (hooray!) but this newfound talent seems to come with the added complication of a compelling voice invading his thoughts and making him complete tasks that are somewhat ethically questionable (boo!).  Meanwhile, the Duke of Dullitch has his own problems. Big, hairy, rat-faced problems.  The city has been overrun by rats of all sizes and the Duke can find no other alternative than to advertise for mercenaries to neutralise the problem.  Enter Gordo and Groan, Jimmy Quickstint, Tambor the ex-sorceror and ex-town-councilman and of course the newly supercharged Diek, and you can be sure the problem will be dealt with in the quickest possible timeframe with the least amount of disruption to the people of Dullitch.  Or not.

ratastrophe catastropheRead it if:

* you don’t mind a bit of a rat infestation to liven up your town’s calendar of events (and drive out those pesky tourists)

* you’d happily swap some of the children around your dwelling in payment for a thorough and successful pest control program

* you’ve ever been considered woefully inept at a particular task…only to have your talent bloom like the last flower of the season to the astonishment, jealousy and mild-to-middling unease of those around you

* you adhere fervently to the motto “Never trust a simpleton with a flute and a parade of children trailing after him”

This was an unexpected fun, funny and surprising read.  I requested it thinking that it would be a dark, twisted retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story, but instead found it to be a complex and hilarious politico-slapstick comedy of (mostly) errors.  I expected it to be a middle grade read, but the language and the plot are tricky enough as to place it almost at adult level in some places.  There is some wonderful satire based on the internal workings of a town council, and much of the humour is extremely dry – incidentally just the way I like it! – but I can’t imagine a middle-grade audience settling into the humour in the way I did as a grown-up.

The characters are a parade of wonderfully flawed and suspicious individuals.  There’s the barrowbird, purveyor of insults and spurious advice to its unlucky owner; Burnie, the translator turned town councillor who could easily be one of the cleverest of the bunch despite being a troglodyte; the unfortunate, pint-sized Mick, unwilling associate of unsuccessful adventurer Stump; Vicious, the Duke’s pet dog (at least we think it’s a dog); not to mention the inimitable mercenery duo of Gordo Goldaxe (dwarf) and Groan Teethgrit (barbarian).  And that’s mostly just the supporting cast!

This reminded me of nothing so much as the early episodes of the TV series Blackadder, and there are certainly a few “cunning plans” bandied about throughout the pages of this book (with generally the same success rate of those dreamt up by Baldrick).  Now obviously, given that this is based on the story of the Pied Piper, the reader generally knows how the story is going to turn out.  The author has thrown in so many supporting characters however, that there really is plenty of new stuff here to get your teeth into.

small fry

I am very pleased that this is just the first in a series and I’ll be scouting about to get my hands on The Yowler Foul-Up which is book number two, and of which there is a small excerpt at the end of this edition.  Oh, and it would make the perfect choice for category eight of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with wordplay in the title.  Click on the attractive button for more information about the challenge and to board the Safari bus!

You want my advice?

(“Yes!” they chorused, “Tell us, Bruce!”)

Don’t bother with the middle graders – buy this one for yourself.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop: Win a Hardback copy of The Race for Polldovia…

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Lucky-Is-Reading-Hop

Morning all! I am very excited to be participating in the Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop that is being hosted by Stuck in Books.  The Hop will run from March 7th to March 21st and there are lots of blogs participating with a variety of awesome prizes so hop along after you’ve entered here!

race for polldovia better quality

I’m super-excited because I will be offering you the chance to win one of THREE HARDBACK (yes, you read that right – hardback!!) copies of middle-grade fantasy adventure new release The Race for Polldovia by James Rochfort, courtesy of the publisher, Book Guild Publishing, UK.  And even better, the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY!

In case you missed it, I reviewed The Race for Polldovia last week, and you can find that review here.

So here’s the rules for the giveaway:

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

– The publisher is responsible for shipping prizes – no responsibility will be taken for packages lost in the mail. Sorry.

– 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.

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Until next time,

Bruce

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Bruce’s Lucky Dip: My first book (of titles one wouldn’t expect in a My First book)…

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image

Morning all! Today I will be presenting a lucky dip, which involves typing a term into the Book Depository’s search engine and carefully mining, processing, polishing and presenting to you all the diamonds in the rough that you perhaps wouldn’t normally encounter in your day-to-day book searchery.

This time around, I thought I’d search for that perrenial favourite of children’s literature – the “my first” book.  You know the type. My First Book of Colours, My First Book of Horses and Ponies…..how odd, I hear you ask, could this search really get?  Well sit back my friends and enjoy My First Lucky Dip of My First Books for Odd Children and Others…

For the budding politician, thespian or other precocious child: 

My First Monologue Book: 100 Monologues for Young Children (Kirsten Dabrowski)….Initially I read that title as one thousand monologues.  Still, at 100 there’s probably about 95 too many here.  I can imagine this kid being a right old hit at dinner parties later in life, can’t you?

my first monologue

For the budding philosopher or pint-sized lover of classical literature:

My First Kafka: Runaways, Rodents and Giant Bugs (Matthue Roth/Rohan Daniel Eason) … actually, I wouldn’t mind this one myself. I’m quite happy to have classic literature dumbed down for me so I can look intelligent at parties without having to actually read the original.

my first kafka

For the budding sociopath:

Hack/Slash: My First Maniac (Tim Seeley)…admittedly, I don’t think this one’s for kids…

my first maniac

For the budding granny, grandad, craft or fashion enthusiast:

My First Cardigan Workbook: Knit Your Way to Success with 8 Top-Down Cardigans (Georgia Druen)….notice that the title indicates that success will come with the cardigans.  Who’d have thought – all this time people have been chasing success through money, hard work, cheating…when all they had to do was foster a love for the twin set.

my first cardigan

For the budding geneticist or evil cloning genius:

My First Book About DNA (Katie Woodard)..I can just picture a whole generation of small girls using this book as the first step in cloning a whole army of Dollies…

my first dna

And finally, for the slightly impressionable young Harry Potter fan:

My First Little Workbook of Wicca (Violet Rieth)…nope, I didn’t see that one coming either!

wicca book

If you know of any unexpected (yet welcome!) My First titles, please do share them in the comments!

Until next time,

Bruce

My Goodreads To-Read Pile: A Spine Poetry Special…

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Evening friends! Today I am going to dip back into some Spine Poetry.  For those unaware of this extremely complicated and delicately balanced art form, it basically involves using the titles of books (generally found on their spines) to create a piece of poetic brilliance.  Today I thought to myself, “I have approximately 120 books on my “Want to read” list at Goodreads, and over 700 on my Book Depository wishlist.  Why then, should I not use these languising bits of literature to create a poem?”

” No reason at all”, I answered myself.

And so I present to you a Spine-ish bit of poetry using some of the many titles on my Goodreads To-Read pile.  Enjoy.

“Level 2: The Sleepwalker’s Ball”

Into the grey shadows

Ugly beauty queens, texting the underworld

Divine freaks

Rude bitches make me tired.

Poltergeeks, redefining girly, jinxed beyond belief.

The lost boys, unsouled, control nefarious doings;

night vision a pleasure and a calling.

Elizabeth is missing before the full moon rises:

the vanishing season.

We are all completely beside ourselves.

Dead ends drawn.

The girl: breakable.

Unspoken whisper: the river of no return,

the skull in the wood.

The spin, the last word?

Department of Speculation.

For those who want to have a look at any of these titles, here are the covers in an attractive collage format.  You’re welcome!

image

Until next time,

Bruce

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