MG Haiku Review: Fat and Bones and Other Stories…

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It’s Mad Martha with you today and I bring to you a special little tome of interconnected short stories featuring a range of delightfully wicked characters, topped off with some wonderfully atmospheric illustration.  Take my hand and let’s enter the world of Fat and Bones…

Fat & Bones and Other Stories by Larissa Theule is a collection of short, interconnected stories set on Bones’s mother’s farm.  Before we go much further, it should be pointed out that Bones is a grown up and Fat is a tricksy fairy – so named because of his paunch.  The first story opens with the death of Bones’s father and the somewhat accidental commencement of open hostility between Bones and Fat.  As we delve deeper into this bizarre little world, we discover that Bones is fond of Pig Foot Stew, and as a result, most of the porkers inhabiting the farm are missing a little something below at least one ankle.  Other occupants of the farm that we meet along the way include a tea-loving spider who wants to be brave and a pair of flowers whose friendship is about to be sorely tested.  But who is the narrator of these tales, the spinner of these odd and unsettling yarns? You’ll just have to read and see!

fat and bones

If fairies were real

would they be starlight and charm?

Or lardy and sly?

As you can probably guess from the cover this book has a feel of magical realism, with strange and unexpected twists emerging in every one of the interlaced stories.  The characters are at once likeable and a bit off-putting, their actions two parts self-serving and one part self-sacrificing.  In each of the stories there’s a little bit of humour to offset the overarching fog of bleakness and decay that seems to surround the farm and its residents.

The illustrations perfectly complement the tone of the stories and are masterfully completed, really adding to the overall reading experience.  Once again I would recommend getting this book in print, rather than in digital form, because it was hard to get the full impact of the illustrations having to flick back and forth through digital pages to see the whole image in most cases.

The stories are short and interspersed with interjections from the mysterious narrator and I easily managed the book in one sitting.  As the book is for younger readers though, it would be perfect for a read-aloud as the tales provide obvious stopping points during which readers may muse about folk of the farm.  I very much enjoyed this book for its original characters and the atmospheric setting and narrative style.  The illustrations are just a beautifully crafted bonus.

This might be a good pick in the lead up to Halloween if you are looking for something a bit unsettling and odd, but not actually scary, in the middle grade age bracket.

Yours in delightful oddity,

Mad Martha

* I received a digital copy of this title for review from the publisher via Netgalley *

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Fiction in 50 September Challenge: A Worthy Adversary…

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Welcome to the September edition of the Fiction in 50 Challenge! We invite you to join in and compose a piece of writing in 50 words or less on our current prompt and then link it up to the linky, or pop a link in the comments so all can appreciate your prodigious talent.  I’ve also started using #Fi50 when I share entries on Twitter, so feel free to do the same!  This month’s prompt is….

a worthy adversary button

For more information about the challenge, just click here.  The linky below will be open for a month so you’ve got plenty of time to craft your masterpiece and join in.  Here’s this month’s linky:

And here’s my effort.  I’ve decided this month to tip my hat to that legendary poet of war, Wilfred Owen.  My work today is inspired by his poem Dulce et Decorum est, which you can familiarise yourself with here…but of course you already know it 😉

I have titled my piece….

Dulce 2.0

Bent double, muscles slack, I take up stance on the battleground. I am ready.

Centuries ago, international conflict evolved past such crude problem-solving as violence, bombs, indiscriminate death. Instead, we trip the light fantastic.

I am a soldier of the shimmy and sway.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria saltandi

 

Your turn! For those preppers amongst us, October’s prompt will be super-democratic in that you get to fill in the blank:

the darker side of

You choose! We had a lot of fun with the last fill in the blank prompt a few months ago and you can check out some of those entries here if you need inspiration.

Until next time,

Bruce

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A Kidlit Angry Haiku Review and a Fi50 reminder…

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fiction in 50

It’s Mad Martha with you today, firstly reminding you that everybody’s favourite mini-fiction writing challenge is kicking off again on Monday! The prompt for this month is…

a worthy adversary button

To join in, just create a piece of fiction, poetry or whatever in fifty words or less and then link up to the linky in Monday’s post.  Feel free to share the challenge with others who might be interested – we always welcome fresh meat new players!  Don’t forget to add the hashtag #Fi50 if you’re sharing about the challenge on Twitter.  For more detailed info about the challenge and a list of future prompts, simply click on the large attractive button at the beginning of this post.  See you all on Monday!

Now speaking of worthy adversaries…today’s offering is a charming little picture book that features one very irate Puffin.

The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young features the resident Puffin at an indoor aquarium.  All day long people press their noses against his enclosure and exclaim, “Oh how cute! What a happy little penguin!” as if puffins and penguins are exactly the same bird.  After one too many of such ignorant comments, the puffin snaps and begins to outline all the differences between the two to set the record straight.  But then the little puffin hears a voice – an angelic, educated, passionate little voice – and all his woes are swept away for one brief moment of happiness.

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Impotent with rage

crying for recognition

“Penguin I am not!”

This is one of those clever little picture books that is actually non-fiction dressed up in a fun story.  The best part about the book for me, apart from Puffin’s ranting and raging, placards all a-wave, was the way it included lots of factual information about Puffins without breaking the narrative pace.  Did you know puffins could fly? I didn’t, until I read this book!  The little guy actually looks quite majestic soaring through the ether,  especially in comparison to the penguins, left behind on their ice floe, looking a bit bewildered.  The illustrations are really delightful and I loved the way the penguins have been cast as slightly half-witted and awkward, while Puffin is granted superhero status at one point.

Admittedly, there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about this book, but it will most certainly appeal to those animal and bird obsessed children who thirst for knowledge in an accessible format.  It would be a fantastic read in preparation for an aquarium visit with the little ones too!  If you’re looking for a funny and charming read-aloud for your curious little nippers, you might like to give this one a go.

The Angry Little Puffin is due for release on September 28th and I received a digital copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley.

Now, I must fly (like a majestic puffin!),

Mad Martha

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Blind Servitude: A Haiku Review of a Modern Day Fable (plus an Author Interview!)

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It’s Mad Martha with you today with a special treat! I have a sweet little indie title for your perusing pleasure, made all the sweeter for its having an Australian author (yippee!).  Stay tuned after my review to meet David Chattaway and find out the inspiration behind this engaging little tale.

Blind Servitude by David Chattaway follows the story of Eli, a young boy who, along with his family, has lived his whole life in an underground mine, toiling for an unseen overlord.  When Eli accidentally discovers a secret passage that may lead to freedom (or certain death!) he is excited to tell his family.  But at the same time Eli is uncovering the mine’s secrets, a siren is sounding elsewhere in the mine – a siren indicating that his mother will never be returning from her work shift.  When Eli’s brother and sister are abducted in the regular “harvest”, Eli is more determined than ever to get his father to listen to his plan to find the secret tunnel and see if it leads to escape.  Along the way, Eli will have to dodge the guards, particularly the sadistic “Savage”, evade the creepy “Shadow” lady and rely on his father, blind old Jeri and his mysterious, silent friend Peta in order to risk everything for a slim chance at freedom.

blind servitude

Dwelling in darkness

cage bars built from despair

Will hope find a way?

Blind Servitude is a reasonably short story that has a definite feel of the old-time fable about it.  Eli, the young boy at the centre of the story, is the unlikely hero, shifted from the complacency of his everyday life collecting and repairing tools for the workers by a desire for something more, something adventurous.  He alone has the courage to believe that his mother and siblings may not yet be lost to death, after his discovery of a tunnel that shouldn’t exist, given what the mine-dwellers have always been told.

The story unfolds fairly slowly, given the short length of the book, and this isn’t an action-packed adventure story by any means, despite the fact that there’s climbing and breaking and entering and pursuit by malevolent creatures all bound up in this small package.  Instead the suspense builds slowly, all the time reflecting Eli’s personal growth as he faces challenges that cause him to question everything he has ever known and chases after a slim hope that there could be something better awaiting all the mine-dwellers provided they are prepared to risk letting go of their unhappy, but predictable lives.

The characters aren’t particlarly developed as individuals, but each plays a significant role in Eli’s journey, particularly the guard whom Eli calls the Savage.  The Savage is almost the personification of the mine-dwellers’ misery, subjugating the people  through violence and threats in order to uphold a system that is unjust and ultimately unproductive for all but those at the top of the chain.

Overall this is an ethereal tale that will have you reflecting on the power of hope and the playing-off between risk and reward.

David Chattaway has kindly offered two readers (Australian residents ony) the chance to win a print copy of Blind Servitude.  To enter, simply click on the rafflecopter link below where you’ll find Ts & Cs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Now it’s time to meet the generous and talented creator of this tale! Welcome, David, to the Shelf!

 

Blind Servitude is a thoroughly thought-provoking tome! Where did the inspiration for the book come from?

I wanted to write a story which was uplifting and had a positive message. It started as a very short story, focusing on a family’s desperation to escape an underground prison. Initially the story was far more science fiction with Aliens being the prison guards. As I began typing the story evolved and changed and I was left with a tale of a boys journey from darkness to light.
A lot of the characters seem to be flawed in one way or another – was this important to you when creating them and how does it impact on the way the story unfolds?
 
The story is about hope and overcoming adversity, but the characters are real and their situation is somewhat hopeless, especially at the beginning. I wanted the reader to relate to Eli, understanding the reasons that drive him to continue but also appreciating that he is challenging the nature of the world he had lived in.
Why did you choose Eli as your protagonist? Was it essential that he be young in order to accomplish his quest?
 
The story is dedicated to my Godson Eli and it was written for younger readers so I wanted to make the protagonist be young. One of the important aspects to this story is Eli convincing his father to believe his reasoning for escape and I felt that trusting someone young, especially when you’re almost blind and surrounded by danger was a message in itself. Eli represents the child in all of us, the innocent and trusting part which believes everything will be okay, that no matter how dark your life is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Who is the perfect reader for Blind Servitude and is there a particular message you’d like them to take away from the story?
 
The book is suitable for both young readers and the young at heart…
– Trust your instincts and believe in good prevailing. Seek the truth and never give up! That is the message of this book.
If you had to sum the book up in one sentence, how would you describe it?
 
Blind Servitude is the tale of a young boy’s journey to find his courage in a world where fear is used as a weapon and love is the only light.
Have you got any works in progress that we should watch out for and do you plan to feature gargoyles in any of your future writings?
 
I’ve completed the first draft of a paranormal fantasy novel named Mal’akh. It’s a story about Angels and Demons, good versus evil… it will be book one of a trilogy I have planned.

 

So there you have it.  You can find Blind Servitude on Goodreads here and for those whose literary appetite has been whetted, Bruce will be featuring another of David’s books on the blog in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.
Until we meet again, may the light of hope never be blown out,

Mad Martha

 

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A YA Read-it-if Review: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead…

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It’s back to some YA (well, closer to NA actually), teen drama goodness for today’s Read-it-if Review, with the cheerily titled Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James (Australian! Woot!).  I was kindly provided a copy of this intriguing tale of mystery and romance by Allen and Unwin in exchange for review.

The body of Cooper Bartholomew is found at the base of a cliff and all who knew him are shocked and devastated at Cooper’s tragic end, presumed to be suicide.  But what could possibly have caused good looking, charismatic, newly-in-love Cooper to end his life in such a way?  Told from multiple points of view and jumping between the weeks before Cooper’s death and the weeks after, the story of Cooper, his new girlfriend Libby, and old friends Claire and Sebastian unfolds to reveal some long-held secrets that might shed light on why Cooper died…and whether anything could have been done to prevent it.

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Read it if:

*you like a mystery that slowly unravels, leaving suspicion, doubts and a little bit of tangled yarn at the end

* you like your YA characters to be believable, rather than two-dimensional or stereotypical (or both)

*you’ve been waiting and waiting for a YA novel to feature the fates and fortunes of the post-high-school set in small town Australia

Straight off the bat, let me say how impressed I was with the overall experience of reading this book.  The plot is tight, the narrative style is interesting and well constructed and the characters – oh the characters! – are so believable it’s almost painful.  James has done an incredible job, in my opinion, of creating characters that represent pitch perfectly the range of vices and virtues that appear in all of us once school is over and done and we have to figure out who we’re going to be in this strange real world.  This was the greatest strength of the story for me and ultimately what kept me interested through the mushy romance bits between Cooper and Libby.  Well done Rebecca James *insert sound of stone paws clapping heartily here*

Another great bit about this reading experience is the narrative style that features multiple points of view and multiple timeframes.  Regular readers of this blog should know that I just love this writing style and once again it drew me into the story with short, engaging chapters introducing the characters and their relationships in a highly readable way.  In fact, the book opens with Cooper in his final moments pre-death and his surprisingly lucid musings are a great launching point to plunge (sorry, horrid pun in the circumstances) right into the tangled web of secrecy that has led to this point.

Regarding the plot and the elements of mystery surrounding Cooper’s seemingly happy life and strange and unexpected death, clues are thrown out fairly early for the keen-eyed reader but the whole situation is not revealed until the final few chapters, keeping the suspense high throughout.  I admit that I did have my suspicions about halfway through the book, and these turned out to be kinda right and kinda wrong, so in the end I was satisfied with both my level of sleuthery and the author’s level of tricksiness.

This book is going to appeal to a whole range of YA/NA fans – fans of standard contemporary romance, fans of mystery, fans of friendship dramas – and even if you aren’t a big YA fan, the writing and characterisation is strong enough to draw you in anyway, despite the age of the cast.  I expected that I would be fairly interested in this book, but it has far exceeded my expectations and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for James’ other work from now on.

Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is released in October.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop: Win Stuff!

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Welcome to my stop on the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop!

*cue streamers and balloons*

The Giveaway Hop is hosted by Stuck in Books and I am a Reader, Not a Writer and runs from the 20th to the 25th of September.  Don’t forget to scroll to the end of this post for a link to all the other participants.

Since we all have different opinions on what exactly makes a good book, I am offering ONE winner the choice of any book from the Book Depository up to the value of $10 Australian.  The giveaway is open internationally provided the BD ships to your country for free.  This giveaway is in no way related to rafflecopter, facebook, goodreads, the Book Depository, wordpress, or any other entity that is not me. Oh, and cheaters will be disqualified, so make sure your follows are verified.

Enter by clicking this link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here’s the link to the other participating blogs, so you can hop around and try to win more stuff. Stuff! YAY!

Powered by Linky Tools

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

 

Until next time, good luck!

Bruce

Lariats at the ready for..Bruce’s Reading Round-Up! (Quirky Edition)

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Welcome to a new feature on the blog – my reading Round-Up! This is where I very briefly drag into focus some great books I’ve had the pleasure of encountering and believe should be wrestled into the spotlight for a good bout of oohing, aahing and appreciative nodding.  Today I’ve got four titles that are fun and odd and quirky and highly readable, so saddle up, pop on your book-herding hat and let’s chase some wild tomes!

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest (A. Lee Martinez)15791459

Two Sentence Synopsis:

Helen, a teenaged minotaur, and Troy, an ordinary (extraordinary) lad reluctantly become questers after almost being sacrificed by their employer to a God made of animated hamburger meat.  While encountering funny and poignant quest tropes a-plenty, Helen and Troy must succeed or die – or alternately be violently murdered by a group of reluctant orcs.

Muster up the motivation because:

It’s funny, with well-rounded characters in ethical-dilemma-inducing situations.  It’s a YA featuring a positive, hairy, giant, female role model, which is rarer than gelatinous-blob teeth.  It also includes almost every possible questing stereotype ever written, so will appeal to those who are part of various quest-related gaming/reading fandoms.

Brand it with:

Fantasy, questing, mythical creatures, rampant silliness, vintage cars

See my Goodreads review here!

 

Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Time Traveller (Joanne Harris)

23157198  Two Sentence Synopsis:

The Third Doctor is on the run from an alien race intent on executing him, when he accidentally lands in what looks to be a quaint English village.  Something about the creepy toy parade and false cheeriness of the residents tips him off that this might, however, not actually be a quaint English village.

Muster up the motivation because:

It’s a brief Doctor fix that will certainly satisfy those who can’t be bothered with reading a whole novel or watching a whole episode.  The story has all the hallmarks of a classic D.W. adventure, with an ominous sky vortex, an unseen entity controlling the village and its residents, and a slightly rebellious companion known only as “The Queen”.  Plus, it’s a great introduction (or reacquaintance) to the third Doctor for those who haven’t encountered him.

Brand it with:

Sci-fi, timey-wimey, creepy monsters, horse chases

Read my Goodread review here!

Hildafolk (Luke Pearson)

9700137Two Sentence Synopsis:

A happy trip to draw in the mountains takes a frightening turn when Hilda accidentally discovers a troll.  After escaping to the welcoming warmth of home and hearth, adventure ignites when the troll comes knocking.

Muster up the motivation because:

It’s whimsy in the non-cliched sense, with art that catches the eye and melts the heart.  Hilda is accompanied by a range of odd characters, including the enigmatic wood man who turns up to Hilda’s house when the door is left open and silently lays by the fireplace.  Take a chance on Hilda who is one-part Pippi Longstocking, one-part Clarice Bean and a million-parts friend-worthy.

Brand it with:

graphic novel series, mountain adventures, artistic endeavours, cute woodland weirdies.

See my Goodreads review here!

 

Duck, Death and the Tulip (Wolf Erlbruch)

4009037Two Sentence Synopsis:

Duck notices a coy but persistent presence lurking behind her and invites it to make itself known.  Interesting conversation and friendship ensue, until the inevitable end of Duck’s story.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is an accessible, gentle and thoroughly matter-of-fact treatment of existential angst and how one can engage with it to one’s benefit.  The characters are sparse but recognisable, the plot features ordinary events overlayed with important conversations and themes of acceptance and friendship  abound.  This is a great picture book for adults who like to ponder on the big questions of life in no more than 32 pages.

Brand it with:

picture books, existentialism, life and death, kids’ books for grown ups

Read my review on Goodreads here!

These are just some of the books I’ve been reading and enjoying lately but haven’t found space for in their own right on the blog.  I do post a lot of review on Goodreads that don’t make it to the blog, so feel free to send me a friend request if you like to frequent Goodreads yourself.  What books have you been rounding up lately?

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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A Cheeky Read-it-if Review: I Need a New Butt…

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imageBoy have I got something for you today.  Now, admittedly, I am usually not the greatest fan of books that have anything to do with bums, backsides, pooh, farts or anything related to our sitting muscles, but after reading the blurb of today’s offering (and finding out that the author and illustrator are from New Zealand – hooray!) I decided to take a chance.

Today’s offering is titled I Need A New Butt by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird and after satisfying myself that it was not some kind of new-fangled exercise program aimed at fleshlings possessing large posteriors, but rather a picture book for the mini-fleshlings, I decided to give it a crack. (Pun intended).

What do you do when you notice your bum has a big crack in it? Start looking for a new one, of course!  The protagonist of this story is a young lad who needs a new bum to replace the (obviously broken) one that he currently owns.  His imaginative quest recounted in rhyme takes him through a whole series of wildly spectacular but not entirely practical candidates, until he realises that this cracked-butt business may in fact be occurring at epidemic proportions – his Dad’s butt has a crack too!

i need a new butt

Read it if:

* you have a boy (or manchild) in your house suffering from a crack in the bum area

*you enjoy books about embarrassing body parts

*you can see how a robotic butt fitted with extra hands could be both stylish and practical

*you would do anything to reshape the bottom you currently own (including selling your pet dog)

Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed this book.  The rhyme was spot-on, the illustrations are hilarious and the story had a nice narrative flow.  Normally, as I said, I’m not the greatest fan of bum books because the story can veer off into that particular category of ickiness that should only really be enjoyed by eight-year-old boys, but I Need a New Butt is both non-icky and quite inventive.  For instance, the main character tries out a range of new bottoms, and carefully considers their pros and cons before refining his choice.  For exapmle, after realising that a bum made out of a chrome car bumper would be nice to look at and useful (for the headlights), it would probably be too heavy to carry around every day.

This book is going to be a hit with kids in the picture book age range, and, it must be said, with the dads of the kids in the picture book age range who get to read it aloud.  Overall, I think it’s a fun, cheeky option for those who like this kind of content.

And, to add my two cents worth, if I had the option of a new butt, I would definitely want one that does this:

butt_cannon_1761
Until next time,

Bruce

* I received a digital copy of this title from the publishers via Netgalley *

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ARC Read-it-if Review and GIVEAWAY: Jackaby…

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Greetings fiction fans! Today’s offering got me quite excited – it has a little bit of mystery, a little bit of magic, a little bit of investigatory detectivism, a historical setting and a fun, pacey plot.  It’s YA fantasy/paranormal detetctive novel Jackaby by William Ritter.  Stay tuned at the end of my review for your chance to WIN one of TWO SIGNED COPIES of Jackaby thanks to the publisher Algonquin – woot!

It’s 1892 and Abigail Rook is fresh off the boat in New Fiddleham, New England.  In her search for work, Abigail comes across a sign advertising the position of assistant to a detective of sorts.  On answering the advertisement, Abigail meets one R. F. Jackaby and is immediately drawn into a grisly murder investigation with a paranormal twist.  Jackaby, while being masterfully gifted in the ability to miss obvious social cues, is also possessed of a sight that allows him to see beyond the bounds of regular vision and notice all manner of beasties that inhabit reality, but exist outside the vision of ordinary humans.  And it is clear to Jackaby that this particular murder has been perpetrated by a supernatural being.  Unfortunately the local constabulary do not concur with Jackaby’s expert analysis, and Abigail finds herself scorned, threatened with arrest and locked up before the police finally come around to Jackaby’s way of seeing things.  With a handsome, but mysterious, young constable catching Abigail’s eye, a banshee heralding the death of all and sundry, an assortment of odd new housemates (including, but not limited to, an exotic flatulent frog and a man who has been transformed into a duck) and the whirlwind that is Jackaby, it’s a wonder that Abigail can keep any part of her mind on the job.  But if she and Jackaby can’t unravel this mystery in a hurry, Abigail could well meet a sticky end on her first real adventure.

jackabyRead it if:

* you liked Holmes and Watson but you always wished that at least one of them had magic powers…or that their villains did

* you are, or ever have been, a plucky young girl in search of an adventure, preferably one requiring the use of a leather-bound detective’s notebook

* you are the sort of person that, on being warned “not to stare at the frog”, take it in the spirit of a well-intentioned optional guideline, rather than a piece of prudent advice given with concern for your future welfare

* you enjoy rollicking adventures with cheery, cheeky banter, a mysterious, dangerous murderer and an oddment of fascinating characters

I was pleasantly surprised by Ritter’s work here and even though this is touted as a young adult book, I would happily place it in the adult fiction category without a second thought.  There’s nothing here that marks it out as specifically for YA and I quite enjoyed not being constantly reminded while reading that this was a story for a teenaged audience.  About a third of the way in, I was favourably comparing Jackaby with Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud as both books seemed to have a similar pace and style of humorous banter between the main characters.  While this remained true throughout the book, Jackaby had a much greater focus on the intellectual, investigative part of the story, and the development of relationships between various characters than Stroud’s book, and also had fewer wild action sequences. By the end of the book, I was impressed with the way that Ritter managed to balance the various elements of the plot to produce a really engaging read and well developed characters within a historical detective story with a supernatural twist.

While I enjoyed the murder mystery part of the book, I did manage to guess the killer before the reveal.  This did diminish that part of the story a little for me, and if there had been a few more suspects to pick from, this might not have been the case.  On the other hand, as this could potentially be the first in a series (and I really hope it is!), a less complicated murder mystery allowed Ritter to give more space to character and world development, which definitely worked to the book’s advantage in my opinion.

If you are a fan of detective stories and murder mysteries, historical fiction or paranormal fiction, I think you should put this book on your radar.  It is the perfect book for snuggling up with under the covers, and as the book is being released in September this year, it’s just in time for you Northern Hemisphere mob to do just that! For us Southerners, we can spread out with it in front of the fan instead.

Now, to the WINNING! Algonquin have kindly supplied us with two, yes TWO, signed, yes SIGNED copies of Jackaby to give away.  This giveaway is open internationally and all you have to do to enter is fill out the rafflecopter below.  No cheating either. I’m watching you.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Until next time,

Bruce

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Adult Fiction Haiku Review: When Mystical Creatures Attack!

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imageWelcome my dears, to another haiku review with me, Mad Martha.  Today I have a book for you that is bizarre, hilarious, tragic, poignant, silly and moving all at once.  Well, I suppose not all at once. In turns, perhaps.  Suffice to say that Bruce and I agreed it has been the strangest and most rewarding reading experience of the year for us.  Let’s take a stroll into this unusual story, shall we?

When Mystical Creatures Attack! by Kathleen Founds follows, in spectacularly disjointed fashion, the fortunes of (ex) high school English teacher Laura Freedman, and two of her (ex) students, Janice Gibbs and Cody Splunk.  Told through (amongst other things)emails, letters, school assignments, diary entries and psychiatric hospital workbook exercises, the reader is taken on a journey with Laura, Janice and Cody as their lives ebb and flow through lunacy, partial success and embarrassing failure.  Within these pages is a micro-level social history, depicting three individuals trying to eke out a satisfying existence in an uncaring universe…as well as a treatise on how mystical creatures could be harnessed to solve the problems of our time.

 

when mystical creatures attack

When life gives lemons

throw all but one at haters

then make lemonade

I know I’ve just said it, but this book really warrants saying it twice – this was both an utterly discomfiting and unutterably satisfying reading experience.  I have never seen a narrative format quite like this one. The style and the format will definitely not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you are looking for a read that is out of the ordinary and as deeply thought-provoking as it is silly, then I thoroughly recommend giving this one a try.

The book opens with a selection of essays from Laura Freedman’s English class, in which she asked them to write a story in which their favourite mystical creature solves the greatest sociopolitical problem of our time.  While reading essays titled, “How the Giant Squid Made Me Stop Being Pregnant” and “How the Cephalopod Balanced the National Budget”, I kind of got the feeling that this was going to be a funny book.  As the second chapter segues into sections of the welcome manual for the Bridges Psychiatric Wellness Solutions residential facility, and the third leads on to email correspondence between Janice and Laura, with Janice trying to find out why her teacher suddenly left school, it becomes apparent that this story is not all it appears on the surface.

I don’t want to spoil the story too much for you, so I’m not going to give you much more detail as to the content of the book.  I went into it fairly blind, requesting it for review mostly because of the title and the tantalisingly short blurb and I think that lack of knowledge really enhanced my reading experience because I got to discover the characters’ back stories without any prior knowledge.  Initially it was tricky to sort out what exactly was going on, as no two chapters follow the same format and the story jumps around in both time, place and point of view, but after a while it became easier to untangle who was who and what was what.  There was even a chapter written in the second-person perspective which was disorienting, but ultimately, all these twists and oddities suit the story and deeply complement the struggles of the main characters.

As a fan of books featuring themes about mental health and illness, I have to say that this was authentic in its portrayal of the far-reaching effects of mental illness and also beautifully captured the twinned senses of hope and despair that so often accompany those suffering from mental illness in various forms.

When Mystical Creatures Attack! is a beautiful piece of work that is daring in its stylistic audacity and ultimately both poignant and rewarding.  Give it a go if you’re an open-minded reader who doesn’t mind leaping into the literary as-yet unencountered.

Yours in exciting new narrative,

Mad Martha

*I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley*

 

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