Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge: Quidditch Through the Ages…

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alphabet soup challenge 2016

I’m inching closer to completing the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge for 2016 hosted by Escape with Dollycas, with only Q and A left to assign.  Happily, I realised that I hadn’t actually ever read JK Rowling’s faux-text Quidditch Through the Ages, so I grabbed it from the Kindle store and whipped through it to draw a line through the Q part of the challenge.  While reading, however, I got a message from the library that The Mysterious Mr Quin by Agatha Christie was waiting to be picked up, and I remembered that I had actually put that on hold to be my Q title.  Oops.  Anyway, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Did you know that: there are 700 ways of committing a foul in Quidditch? The game first began to evolve on Queerditch Marsh – What Bumphing is? That Puddlemere United is oldest team in the Britain and Ireland league (founded 1163). All this information and much more could be yours once you have read this book: this is all you could ever need to know about the history, the rules – and the breaking of the rules – of the noble wizarding sport of Quidditch.

quidditch

If you are a die-hard fan of the Potterverse, then it would be remiss of you not to read this book.  It’s certainly one that you can fit in to a lunch break or two, coming in at well under 100 pages.  The book was originally penned to raise money for Comic Relief, so it isn’t any deep exploration of the game of Quidditch, but rather a mostly-humorous look over the game itself and how it came to be, as well as dropping a bit more information about the Quidditch league for those Potter fans who like to go the extra mile, trivia-wise.

The most enjoyable part of the book for me was reading about all the different international Quidditch teams and how they came to be.  I was surprised to learn that the Americans have their own spin-off of Quidditch called Quod, which is at least as exciting and deadly as Quidditch itself.

I wouldn’t go out of your way to read this if you haven’t already, but if you’ve got a spare half-hour with nothing to fill it, this would be a suitable way to pass the time.  It may also have kindled my interest a bit more regarding finding out about the new Fantastic Beasts movie/screenplay and deciding whether or not I will bother with it.

Q – I dub thee, completed!  If you ‘d like to see how my Alphabet Soup Challenge is progressing, you can check it out here.

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday: I Am Princess X

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TBR Friday

It’s TBR Friday once again and I’m also sneaking in another notch off the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas, by getting finished with I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Best friends, big fans, a mysterious webcomic, and a long-lost girl collide in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen; illustrated throughout with comics.

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon—her best friend, Libby, who lives.

i-am-princess-x

Ten Second Synopsis:
May and Libby were best friends – until Libby died in a horrible road accident, leaving May behind with nothing but memories and their shared work on a comic book series “Princess X”. When May starts noticing stickers of Princess X around her home town, she is baffled: who could be drawing Libby and May’s character if Libby died three years ago?

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I’m not really sure.  At least a year, but not more than a year and a half.

Acquired:

Purchased from the Scholastic warehouse sale for a cool $5.00, or thereabouts.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Other books kept taking precedence.

Best Bits:

  • The format switches between novel and graphic novel, with actual parts of the Princess X comic included in the book.  They are printed in a gorgeous purple and grey colour palette too, which is a feast for the eyes.
  • The mystery was really absorbing, because in the beginning, May doesn’t realise that there are parts to Libby’s story of which she isn’t aware, for various reasons.  There are also clues left about for May to find which is always fun.
  • The pace is spot on, with not much dallying, and when the proverbial hits the fan, it’s a seat-of-your-pants ride to the end.
  • I really liked May as a character.  She’s authentic for her age, with flaws and all.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • In the beginning it seemed like the author was having a bit of trouble finding the right voice for her characters, but this cleared up by the middle.
  • There is a little red herring thrown out early on about what happens to the physical collection of Princess X comics and I wished that this had played a part in the mystery, but it didn’t.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Absolutely!  I got totally sucked in to this mystery and both the format and the content of the story are a change from the usual YA school-yard dynamics fare.

Where to now for this tome?

I loved it, but I can’t see myself reading it again, so I will put it out for sale at the next Suitcase Rummage I attend.

So that’s one more chink off Mount TBR and one more book to add to my Mount TBR Reading Challenge total!  I think I’m up to 13 or 14 now, but I’ll try and fit one more in before I do a wrap up post next month.

 

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge 2016: Voyage to Magical North

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alphabet soup challenge 2016

After a brief period during which I forgot all about the reading challenges in which I am participating, I am pushing ahead to finish off the last few letters that I need to complete the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge for 2016 hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.  Even though the challenge allows you to bend a bit for the trickier letters, choosing books that have that letter anywhere in the title (rather than heading up the first word of the title), I’ve done my best so far to stick to the letter of the law, as it were.  Today’s book completes the “V” requirement of the challenge, with middle grade fantasy adventure, Voyage to Magical North (The Accidental Pirates #1) by Claire Fayers.  I bought this one after hearing some trusted blogs raving about it and noticing that shining golden V in the title.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.

voyage-to-magical-north

I picked this one up on the promise of humour, quirky characters and an adventurous story and I am happy to say that the book delivered on all three.  As far as the plot goes, it’s a fairly typical quest to find the hidden “treasure” while defeating an apparently unkillable villain, but where this book stands out is in the telling.  The characters all have strong traits and obvious flaws and for most of them, a bit of growth is the order of the day by the end of the adventure.  Brine, the protagonist, is brave and able to make the most of certain unpleasant situations; Peter, Brine’s fellow servant (although really an apprentice magician), is by turns unsure and cocky, and liable to be easily led.  Cassie O’Pia, the pirate queen of the Onion (the boat which should have been called the Orion, but for an unfortunate spelling error) flies by the seat of her pants while maintaining the facade of absolute pre-planning.

There’s also an epic and mysterious library staffed entirely by women, a back-from-the-dead magical villain to rival Lord Mouldy Shorts himself, a colony of telepathic (and unusually ravenous) ice birds and a collection of other slightly-left-of-centre characters to add flavour to this piratical soup.  The humour is wry and dry and exactly the sort that will appeal to adult readers, as well as the age of reader at which the story is targeted and all in all, this is an impressive series opener, with the promise of completely new directions for the team’s next adventure.

I did find that the pace of this one was a tad slower than the average middle grade fantasy adventure I’ve read, mostly due to the fact that the characters tend to do a lot of reflecting on who they are, where life is taking them, and what on earth they’re doing stuck on a pirate ship with a deadly magician.  The point of view alternates between Brine and Peter, so there is a bit of variety in both the focus of the action as well as the mood of the book, with Brine seeming to throw caution to the wind (or at least make the best of a possibly bad lot), and Peter exploring how deeply his own vein of potential villainy may flow.

Overall I found this to be a fun and absorbing read with some original aspects and plenty of side giggles.  I particularly enjoyed the snippets from “The Ballad of Cassie O’Pia” which headed up a number of chapters and wouldn’t mind composing a little tune so I can sing them now and again when I’m feeling particularly piratical.   I recommend this one for middle graders who like an adventure into which they can sink their teeth and adult readers who like middle grade reads that are anything but run-of-the-mill.

If you are interested,  you can check out my progress in the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge for 2016 here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Alphabet Soup Challenge: Useless Bay

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alphabet soup challenge 2016

It’s getting to the pointy end of the year when I start to look back over the challenges to which I’ve committed and start to panic that I won’t finish them.  Thanks to a bit of blind luck, I’ve got the perfect entry today for the 2016 Alphabet Soup Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas, for the letter “U”: YA mystery suspense novel Useless Bay by M. J. Beaufrand.  We received our copy from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

On Whidbey Island, the Gray quintuplets are the stuff of legend. Pixie and her brothers have always been bigger and blonder than their neighbors, as if they were birthed from the island itself. Together, they serve as an unofficial search-and-rescue team for the island, saving tourists and locals alike from the forces of wind and sea. But, when a young boy goes missing, the mysteries start to pile up. While searching for him, they find his mother’s dead body instead—and realize that something sinister is in their midst. Edgar-nominated author M. J. Beaufrand has crafted another atmospheric thriller with a touch of magical realism that fans of mystery and true crime will devour.

useless-bay

Although the cover of this edition puts me in mind of a middle grade targeted story, this is definitely one for the young adults and older readers.  The story is a strange combination of murder mystery, magical realism and family drama and at times I felt that the author couldn’t quite decide which genre they wanted to focus on, so chose instead to flick between them and see what happened.

The Gray quintuplets have lived on the island all their lives and are constantly described in almost mythical terms, but when it boils down to it, it appears that they just happen to be above average height with a strong familial connection and a fiercely independent streak.  Pixie, from whose point of view half of the story is told, comes to be responsible, almost by accident, for a bloodhound who turns out to be brilliant at finding lost people; and it seems like there are a lot of lost people to find on the island and a steady stream of work available for Pixie and her dog, unlikely as that may be.  Henry, from whose point of view the other half of the story is told, is the son of a famous, rich man, and the family’s connection with Useless Bay itself -and the mystical Gray quintuplets – is the result of some serendipitous real estate brokerage.

Overall, I did enjoy the mystery and drama of the story but much of the book felt a bit unwieldy, switching between the grim reality of searching for a lost child (presumed dead) and the odd levity of Pixie’s foray into paranormal historical hallucinations.  The overall atmosphere is quite despondent, but this is tempered with scenes of pacey action and the revelation of unexpected secrets.

I can certainly say I haven’t come across such a hybrid of genres and interesting mix of characters and setting for quite some time in a YA novel, so for that reason alone it is worth picking up.  I think this would appeal to those who enjoy a quirky mystery that blends reality with unexpected paranormal twists.

In case you’re wondering how I’m going with the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, you can check out my progress here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s MG Reading Round-Up: The “Quite Frightening…ly Good” Edition…

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Welcome, welcome, welcome to another Reading Round-Up (do you feel welcome?)!  Today we are going to encircle a collection of titles for the middle grade age group that are high on humour and jolly good fun.  And zombies and deadly necklaces and mummies and other slightly frightening stuff.  But I’m sure you’re up for the challenge, a brave thing like you!  Saddled up?  Let’s crack on!

Firalphabet soup challenge 2016st up we have Zombified: Outbreak by C.M. Grey, being the third book in the humorous Zombified series.  We gratefully received a copy from Harper Collins Australia for review and wish to offer them our ongoing warm feelings because they provided us with a book to fulfill the “Z” criteria of our Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge!  What a weight off our collective minds!

Zombified: Outbreak (C.M. Grey)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

zombified

Ben, twelve-year-old half-zombie, has his powers under control and life seems to be carrying on as normal, until his older brother, Michael, disappears, leaving nothing but his game machine and a cloud of glitter in his wake. When Ben and Sophie start to investigate, little do they realise that they are about to uncover some secrets that will blow their understanding of zombie issues right out of the water!

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a fun, adventure-filled zombie romp speckled with illustrations throughout and featuring some larger-than-life (or undeath) characters.  I have been keeping an eye on this series as books have been published but this is the first I’ve managed to pick up.  The back story is briefly explained and I found that I didn’t have any trouble picking up the thread of the story or the characters.  Ben is a super-likable young lad who just seems to want to get on with his half-life and keep outsiders’ knowledge of his “condition” to a minimum.  Sophie is a stalwart friend and I really enjoyed the loyalty that they show each other, even in situations where it may be in the best interests of each to cut ties with the other.  It’s refreshing to see a boy-girl friendship taking centre stage in an age bracket that is often plagued by “boy book” and “girl book” characterisation.  While this was a pretty amusing adventure, with some classic reveals, I think  it is one that will be best enjoyed by the target market, rather than adult readers of middle grade.  Having said that, I think I will be taking some time to seek out the first book in the series to see how Ben ended up as a half-zombie because he’s certainly personable (zombie-able?) enough to make me want to go back for another bite.

Brand it with:

Aaargh! Half Zombies!; Suspicious school staff; Family Secrets

Next up we have Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp, which we received with some trepidation from Bloomsbury Australia for review.  If you have chanced upon our review of the first in the series, Anyone But Ivy Pocket, you will understand from whence our trepidation sprang (sprung? springed?).

Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket (Caleb Krisp)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

somebody stop ivy pocket

Ivy Pocket is working for a pair of unsightly undertakers, reading poems for the about-to-be-deceased to ease them on their way. When Ivy’s necklace shows her images of Rebecca (the supposedly dead), Ivy must try to puzzle out a way into a whole new world and stage a rescue.

Muster up the motivation because…

…it might surprise you to hear, given our rather frosty reception of the series-opener, that I found this book considerably more tolerable than the first.  I will even admit to letting out a few guffaws at Krisp’s pointy, pointy dialogue.  While the inherently irritating Ivy is still up to all her old tricks, they didn’t seem quite so insufferable this time around.  I suspect that the story, which involves some very shady funeral directors, was closer to my preferred narrative in middle grade books.  Having said that, I still couldn’t say that I really enjoyed the book.  Ivy’s inability to take obvious hints with regards to major plot twists was still too infuriating to be borne.  There is something about the character of Ivy that is a bit like Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean.  Watching that television show was like watching a car crash in slow motion: everyone but the protagonist could see the outcome, but were powerless to stop it and forced to endure every agonizingly awful second of it.  Except I got many more laughs out of Mr Bean than I have from Ivy.  I suspect that Ivy and I are just too different to be friends.  Still, the lass is getting plenty of love from other quarters so don’t let my curmudgeonly attitude put you off.

Brand it with:

Social ineptitude; Deadly bling; Underhanded Undertakers

Finally, we have a super-engaging encyclopaedia of the damned, of a sort.  We received a copy of Frightlopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy and Spine-Chilling, from Arachnids to Zombies by Julie Winterbottom and Rachel Bozek from the publisher via Netgalley.

Frightlopedia (Julie Winterbottom & Rachel Bozek)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

frightlopedia

Frightlopedia is an easy-to-read collection of a diverse range of scary stuff. From vampires and zombies to bizarre burial practices and creepy insects, Frightlopedia has you covered if you are in the mood for learning about things that go bump (or slither or boo) in the night.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is actually a really well put-together, informative and fun non fiction text.  Far from being a “kid’s book”, I found myself drawn in to some of the interesting entries, such the monastery whose crypt contains the perfect conditions to naturally mummify corpses so tourists can wander through and have a look.  There are cryptids, bizarre buildings, deathly illnesses and nasty humans to explore and learn about and it’s all set out in an enticing format. Entries are organised alphabetically and there are plenty of absorbingly creepy topics to get one’s teeth into.  Each topic is addressed in one to two pages, accompanied by illustrations or photographs, and some topics even include an activity for kids to complete so that the frights keep on coming.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book and would highly recommend it to the  little creepy kid  fan of frightful happenings of your acquaintance.  It would make a fantastic gift book or the perfect tool to quieten kids down in the classroom!

Brand it with:

Boo-tiful Books; Learning Made Creepy; Faces and Places (you don’t want to meet)

I hope you’ve found something in this lot of frighteningly good middle grade titles and have duly lassoed at least one to drag home to your reading pile.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarning with Mad Martha about Nobody Likes a Goblin (+ a free crochet pattern!)

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yarning with mad martha_Fotor (2)

Cheerio my dears!  Today is a red-letter day because not only do I have a wonderful picture book and pattern for you, I can also reveal that today’s book – Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke – is a Top Book of 2016 Pick!  The perfect choice for little (and large!) dungeon-crawlers everywhere, this gorgeous picture book turns RPG adventuring on its head and presents events from the point of view of the supposed villain.

Bruce's Pick

After having seen the tome on Netgalley and writhing in agony because it was offered by First Second Books, who don’t accept review requests from outside the U.S., we spotted it in PanMacmillan Australia’s catalogue and were THRILLED to be lucky enough to receive a copy.  Honestly, you should have seen Bruce leaping and twirling when the book turned up on the shelf!  I won’t keep you in any more suspense however – here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Goblin, a cheerful little homebody, lives in a cosy, rat-infested dungeon, with his only friend, Skeleton. Every day, Goblin and Skeleton play with the treasure in their dungeon. But one day, a gang of “heroic” adventurers bursts in. These marauders trash the place, steal all the treasure, and make off with Skeleton—leaving Goblin all alone!

It’s up to Goblin to save the day. But first he’s going to have to leave the dungeon and find out how the rest of the world feels about goblins.

nobody likes a goblin.jpg

I cannot praise this book highly enough.  Putting aside the charming and fun illustrations for the moment, the text of this book is incredibly sympathetic to Goblin’s plight, as his home is rudely invaded by adventurous “heroes” and the little introvert must take to the big wide hostile world for the sake of those he values.  My favourite part of the tale is when, after rescuing his friends from the hands of the adventurers, Goblin and his stalwart mate Skeleton are pictured quietly sitting together in the mouth of a cave, “awaiting their doom” while angry, pitch-fork wielding townsfolk amass above.

There’s something really touching about Goblin and the bonds of friendship he forms by the end of the tale.  For young readers who enjoy the RPG gaming world that encompasses the tropes that are reversed here, this will be a wonderfully affirming story that will provide a link between their reading and screen-based worlds.  It has already become a firm favourite amongst the mini-fleshlings in this dwelling, with the youngest (two and three-quarter years old) often calling out for “Nobody don’t like a goblin” as the preferred bedtime story.

We unanimously voted this a Top Book of 2016 pick and we think that Goblin and his friends will fill that special place of all memorable characters from childhood reading experiences.  For that reason, my dears, allow me to provide you with a free pattern to make your very own amigurumi crochet Goblin, so you can oppose anti-goblin sentiments while creating a cuddly little friend !  Read on for the pattern.

goblin and bruce 1_Fotor

We are also submitting this book for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out our progress toward that challenge here.

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

goblin and book 2_Fotor

Free Crochet Pattern – Goblin

This pattern is a bit fiddly, so is probably best suited to those with some experience of amigurumi.  The pattern is written using US crochet terms.

You will need:

Yarn (I used acrylic) in brown, blue, green, white, black, yellow.

4 mm hook

2.5 mm hook

Yarn needle

Scissors

Head/helmet:

Using brown yarn and 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

  1. Sc 6 in the ring.
  2. 2sc in each sc (12)
  3. *sc in next sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (18)
  4. * sc in next 2 sc, 2sc in next sc* x 6 (24)
  5. sc in each sc around (24).  Switch to green yarn.
  6. sc in each sc around (24)
  7. sc in each sc around (24)
  8. *sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog* x 6 (18). Begin stuffing head.
  9. *sc in next sc, sc2tog* x 6 (12)
  10. *sc in next sc, sc2tog* x 4 (8)
  11. sc2tog x 4 (4).  Sl st in next st, snip yarn and thread yarn tail through last four sc.  Pull tight and fasten off.

Helmet guard

Using brown yarn and 4mm hook, chain 20.  Slip stitch in the first chain to form a ring.

  1. sc in the next 10 ch, dc in the next 10 ch, sl st to the first sc
  2. Ch 2, turn, dc in next 10 stitches
  3. Ch 2, turn, hdc in next 3 stitches, dc in next 4 stitches, hdc in next 3 stitches.

Fasten off, leaving a long tail, and stitch to the bottom rim of the helmet, with the longer section at the back of the head.

Horns (make 2)

Using white yarn and a 2.5 mm hook, chain 6.

  1. Sc in 2nd chain from the hook and in each chain (5)
  2. Ch 1, turn, sc in each sc (5)
  3. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc, sc2tog (3)
  4. Ch 1, turn, sc in each stitch (3)
  5. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc (2)
  6. Ch 1, turn, sc in each stitch (2)
  7. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sl st to FO.

Whip stitch the two sides of the triangle together and sew onto either side of the helmet.

Eyes (make 2)

Using white yarn and a 2.5 mm hook, make a magic ring.

  1. Sc 6 in the ring.  Sl st to the first sc to close.

FO, embroider a black pupil in the centre and sew to face, slightly overlapping the rim of the helmet.

Jaw

Using green yarn and a 2.5mm hook, chain 13.

  1. sc in second chain from the hook and in each stitch across (12)
  2. Ch 1, turn, sl st in the next 3 sc, dc in next sc, sc in the next sc, sl st in the next sc, dc in the next sc, sl st in the next 3sc.

Fasten off leaving a long tail.  Attach to the bottom of the head, and using brown yarn, embroider along the top of the lip.

Nose 

Using green yarn and a 2.5mm hook, ch 4.

  1. sc in 2nd chain from the hook and in each chain (3)
  2. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog, sc (2)
  3. Ch 1, turn, sc2tog (1)

Fasten off and whip stitch two sides of the triangle together to form the nose.  Attach to face.

Body/Legs

Using brown yarn and a 4mm hook, complete pattern for the head up to and including round 4.

1-5. Sc in each sc around (24)

6. Switch to blue yarn.  Sc in each sc around (24)

7. Sc in next 12 sc, skip next 12 sc, sl st in the 1st sc (12)

8-10. Sc in next 12 sc (12)

Change to brown yarn.

11. Sc in next 12 sc (12)

12. sc in next 5 sc, 2sc in next 3 sc, sc in next 5sc (20)

13. Sc in the next 8 sts, dc in the next 4 sts, sc in the next 8 sc (20)

Stuff leg and body.  FO, Cut yarn and whip stitch bottom of leg closed to form boot.

Attach blue yarn in the first remaining sc on the body and repeat pattern from row 11 to form second leg/boot.

Arms (make 2)

Using blue yarn and a 4mm hook, make a magic ring.

1.Sc 6 in the ring

2-4. Sc in each st (6)

5. Switch to brown yarn. Sc in each st (6)

6-7.  Sc in each sc (6)

Stuff the arm, squeeze the opening shut and sl st across the opening.  Ch 3 picot 5 times to form fingers.  FO and attach to body.

Shoulder guards (make 2)

Using blue yarn and a 4mm hook, chain 7.

  1. Sc in 2nd chain from the hook and in each ch across (6)
  2. Ch 2, turn, hdc in each st across (6)
  3. Ch 1, turn, sc, dc in the next 4 sts, sc (6)

Fasten off and attach to the top of the arm.

Belt/Armour

Using brown yarn and a 2.5 mm hook, chain 30 and sl st with the first chain to form a ring.

  1. Ch 1, sc in each chain (30)
  2. Fur stitch (long) in the next 5 st, sc in the next 5sc, fur stitch in the next 5 st, sc in the next 5 sts, fur stitch in the next 5 sts, sl st to first st. (30)

FO, leaving a long tail.  Snip the loops of the fur stitch and sew the belt to the tummy over the join where the blue yarn changes to brown.Make sure the fur stitch sections are at the front and back, not the sides.  For the shoulder strap, chain the required length (to fit from belt, over shoulder, to belt at the back), ch 1, sc in each chain, then FO and sew shoulder strap into place.

Crown

Using yellow yarn and a 2.5mm hook, chain 30 and sl st into the first chain to form a ring.

  1. Sc in each chain (30)
  2. *Ch 5 picot (sl st, ch 5 and sl st in the same stitch), sc in the next 3 sc* repeat to end.  Sl st in final st.

FO, weave in end.

goblin and book 1_Fotor

 

 

 

 

 

Mondays are for Murder: Peril at End House…

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I’ve fallen back on an old favourite this month, since it’s been ages since I last got into a Poirot mystery.  The copy of Peril at End House by Agatha Christie that I borrowed from the library had obviously been subjected to a series of borrowers who clearly enjoyed a cigarette (or seven thousand) while reading, and I subsequently suffered a reading experience that included itchy eyes, runny nose and a general pervading stink…but I soldiered on and quite enjoyed the story.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Hercule Poirot is vacationing on the Cornish coast when he meets Nick Buckly. Nick is the young and reckless mistress of End House, an imposing structure perched on the rocky cliffs of St. Loo.
Poirot has taken a particular interest in the young woman who has recently narrowly escaped a series of life-threatening accidents. Something tells the Belgian sleuth that these so-called accidents are more than just mere coincidences or a spate of bad luck. It seems all too clear to him that someone is trying to do away with poor Nick, but who? And, what is the motive? In his quest for answers, Poirot must delve into the dark history of End House. The deeper he gets into his investigation, the more certain he is that the killer will soon strike again. And, this time, Nick may not escape with her life.

peril at end house.jpg

Plot Summary:

It’s a classic Poirot-comes-out-of-retirement story here, with Poirot and Captain Hastings inadvertently stumbling onto a life-threatening mystery while on holiday.  The standard set-up applies: a strange event draws Poirot in, a murder happens despite his best intentions and then Poirot goes full bloodhound mode until the murderer is found and the iconic “get everyone in a room and reveal the murderous fiend’s identity” unfolds to the delight of the reader.

The Usual Suspects:

This one has a good range of expected suspects.  There is the slightly mysterious and cold best friend of the threatened protagonist, her rich (or is he?) boyfriend, the true-blue Aussie renters on the block with some connection to the previous master of the house, the beyond-reproach military man who is fond of the protagonist, the family lawyer with a possible claim on the protagonist’s residence, and a collection of servants who may or may not be acting as the “person on the inside” for the killer.  Poirot actually writes a handy list of all the suspects at one point, including a mysterious unknown person who may or may not be involved.  Or actually exist.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

I’d have to say that this is a pretty straightforward example of a Poirot mystery, with exactly the expected amount of red herrings.  If this was the first Christie you had ever picked up, I expect you would be drawn in by various twists and turns, but for the seasoned Christie fan, the hunt unfolds just in the way you would expect it, with plenty of clues dropped that will allow canny sleuths to form a viable theory of who the murderer/s might be.  Prepare for a lot of self-flagellation on the part of Poirot and the usual amount of Hastings-baiting.

Overall Rating:

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Three poison bottles for the truth in the old saying that bad things happen in threes.

Since it’s been such a long time since I’ve picked up a Poirot, I probably enjoyed this more than I would have otherwise.  It’s a textbook Christie, with all the plot twists you would expect (if you’re an experienced Christie reader) and a reveal that I probably could have guessed had I really pressed the little grey cells, but was completely satisfied with regardless.  The strange thing about this book compared to other Poirot stories I’ve read is that Christie seemed to leave obvious clues in plain sight.  I actually picked a few up as I was reading them, rather than my usual of thinking back to them later in the story as things start to come together.  Even though there was a bit of a sense of “been there, read that” with the story, I still found it really enjoyable as the characters are personable enough and the dialogue of the Australian characters was faintly hilarious.

I’d recommend this as a good starter if you haven’t read any Poirot mysteries before, or if you are looking for a fun Poirot romp that won’t make you work too hard, but will leave a satisfying aftertaste nonetheless.

I’m also submitting this one for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress toward that challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Inherited Disorders: A Read-it-if Review…

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read it if NEW BUTTON

Today’s Read-it-if Review focuses on an anthology pertinent to fathers and sons and the oft-complex relationship betwixt the two.  We received a copy of Inherited Disorders: Stories, Parables and Problems by Adam Ehrlich Sachs from the publisher via Netgalley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A son receives an inheritance from his father and tries to dispose of it before it destroys him. Inherited Disorders tells this elemental story in over 100 hilarious, witty variations.

Adam Ehrlich Sachs’s Inherited Disorders is a rueful, absurd, and endlessly entertaining look at a most serious subject—the eternally vexed relations between fathers and sons. In a hundred and seventeen shrewd, surreal vignettes, Sachs lays bare the petty rivalries, thwarted affection, and mutual bafflement that have characterized the filial bond since the days of Davidic kings. A philosopher’s son kills his father and explains his aphorisms to death. A father bequeaths to his son his jacket, deodorant, and political beliefs. England’s most famous medium becomes possessed by the spirit of his skeptical father—who questions, in front of the nation, his son’s choice of career. A Czech pianist amputates his fingers one by one to thwart his father, who will not stop composing concertos for him. A nineteenth-century Italian nobleman wills his ill-conceived flying contraption—incapable of actual flight—to his newborn son. In West Hollywood, an aspiring screenwriter must contend with the judgmental visage of his father, a respected public intellectual whose frozen head, clearly disappointed in him, he keeps in his freezer. Keenly inventive, but painfully familiar, these surprisingly tender stories signal the arrival of a brilliant new comic voice—and fresh hope for fathers and sons the world over.

InheritedDisorders_cover11k

Read it if:

*you are a father or a son

*you have a father or a son, and would quite like to have a good laugh at them

*you like your short stories to be exactly that

*you enjoy being alive for no more complex reason than that life affords you the ability to amusedly observe the burdens of others – and the more ridiculous the burden, the greater your appreciation of your ability to observe it

* you are, or have, a father who will not be thwarted in passing on an absurd legacy to ungrateful offspring

Inherited Disorders in one of the more unusual short story anthologies that I’ve come across of late.  For a start, the stories are all considerably shorter – some less than a page – than what one might usually find in a short story collection.  Being a purveyor of micro-narrative myself, I found this quite refreshing and perfectly suited to the dip-in, dip-out situation necessitated by having too much to read and too little time in which to read it.

Each of the stories possess a significant element of the absurd and I found this to be the key factor in chuckle-elicitation as I was reading.  For the reader not prepared for a voluminous collection of stories that each promote the most ridiculous aspect of the father-son relationship, this dry yet quirky style of humour may end up leaving a bad taste in the reader’s mouth.  I, however, loved it.  From the book’s opener, The Nature Poet, in which a poet’s attempts to describe a fern are continuously misinterpreted as coded commentaries on his father’s brutal Nazi past, to the cyclical legacy of commentaries from which successive sons cannot extract themselves, to the respective burdens of the famous mountain climber’s/sea kayaker’s/skydiver’s sons, each story here has been designed to draw the reader in to the inescapable nature of the intagible inheritence each one of us receives from our parents.

The only downside I found in this collection was that as there are so many stories included, some of them had themes or motifs that seemed too similar and therefore felt somewhat repetitive.  There are at least two stories featuring the frustrated sons of famous mountain climbers, for instance.  There are multiple stories featuring the sons of accomplished fathers, who wish to achieve in a different a field.  I suppose the benefit of this is that there is no pressure to read each individual story, knowing that they all feature the same theme, but to pick and choose those that appeal.

I’d recommend Inherited Disorders to those looking for a funny, quirky collection that pays homage to this ridiculous experience we call life, through the medium of father-son relationships.

I’m submitting this one for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress toward that challenge here.

Until nex time,

Bruce

 

Mondays are for Murder: Beloved Poison..

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I honestly didn’t think we’d get a Murderous Monday in this month.  Things were looking a bit shaky – time was running out, I’d had a crack at two separate candidates and found them lacking – but then along comes Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson, kindly provided by Hachette Australia for review, and all of a sudden we have a dark, stench-laden, historical, medical, gender-bending murder mystery on our claws.  Brilliant!  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Ramshackle and crumbling, trapped in the past and resisting the future, St Saviour’s Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors the doctors bicker and fight. Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.

Six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary’s old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgottenpast – with fatal consequences.

In a trail that leads from the bloody world of the operating theatre and the dissecting table to the notorious squalor of Newgate and the gallows, Jem’s adversary proves to be both powerful and ruthless. As St Saviour’s destruction draws near, the dead are unearthed from their graves whilst the living are forced to make impossible choices. Murder is the price to be paid for the secrets to be kept.

beloved poison

Plot Summary:

Jem Flockhart is a young woman pretending to be a young man, working in the apothecary of (architecturally) condemned hospital St Saviour’s, under the guidance of her father and a host of unsavoury medical men.  When Will Quartermain rolls up as the man in charge of overseeing the relocation of interred residents of St Saviour’s graveyard, prior to the hospitals’ demolition, Jem is annoyed at having to share her sleeping quarters and worried that personal secrets may come to light.  While showing Will around the hospital chapel, Jem unknowingly unearths some strange, disturbing relics that will set off a chain of events that threaten nearly everyone Jem holds dear.  One murder follows another and unless Jem and Will can make some links between the past and the present, Jem may well end up accused of the crimes and facing the gallows.

The Usual Suspects:

Pretty much everyone who works at St Saviour’s hospital is a suspect in this unusual murder mystery.  The main doctors, Magorian, Catchpole and Graves, all have motives and shady pasts; the wives and daughter of two of the doctors may well have their own reasons to commit murder; and there are servants, prostitutes and street urchins who could all have played a part.  Given that this is a historical fiction with certain darkish overtones, nobody is entirely blameless of wrong-doing of one sort or another and most of the characters are hiding some sort of secret they’d prefer was kept from the public.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

This is a bit of an unusual pursuit, given that the first murder doesn’t happen until quite a way into the book.  Before that, the focus is more on figuring out the meaning behind the strange relics that Will and Jem discover.  Once the first murder occurs though, people start dropping like flies and the hunt is on in earnest.  It’s tricky to pinpoint the killer/s ahead of time though, because salient information is drip-fed throughout and relationships between characters are all important in unravelling the mystery.

Overall Rating:

poison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip art

Four poison bottles for the steady drip, drip, drip of an alchemist’s retort

If you love a good murder mystery format but are looking for something with a sinister twist and more secrets than you could poke a rag-covered stick at, then I definitely recommend picking up Beloved Poison.  There is so much more going on here than in your typical murder mystery that it actually took me a while to figure out that this was actually going to involve hunting for a murderer.  There’s cross-dressing, graveyard excavation, limb amputations, lady almoners, poisons and potions, degenerative diseases, executions, bizarre rituals, mental asylums, prostitutes, ghostly presences and surgery practiced without regard for cleanliness and hygiene.

If I had to boil this one down though, I’d say that it was about secrets and masks.  We find out early on that Jem is playing a gender-swapping role for reasons that are fleshed out (although not, in my opinion, entirely believable) as the story unfolds, and is assisted in this by a large facial birthmark.  Jem’s father has some secrets of his own, not least of which relating to the death of Jem’s mother in childbirth.  The doctors of the hospital are all playing their own agendas, and each have habits, mannerisms and methods of working that are decidedly unpalatable, and their wives and lovers are just as bad.

The best thing about this book is the pervading atmosphere of bleakness and unrelenting gloom that Thomson has set up.  The historical aspects are faithfully recreated and some of the medical details described in stomach-churning detail.  While the atmosphere is thick with a pervasive miasma of sinister goings-on, the book itself isn’t a depressing read.  Jem and Will, and even apprentice apothecary Gabriel and servant Mrs Speedicut, inject a certain sense of fervour and hope that provides a neat counterpoint to their unsavoury surroundings.  Even if you don’t pick this one up for the murder mystery aspect there is plenty to uncover as you peel back the mud-encrusted layers of the lives of St Saviour’s residents.

I was also happy to see that this appears to be a standalone novel.  After all the shocks and “blergh” moments in this one, I don’t think I could stomach a second foray into London’s stinky historical underbelly any time soon!

I am also submitting this one for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress toward that challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

A Foolhardy Reading Round-Up: Kidlit Titles for April!

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Welcome to April and a Kid-lit-a-thon Round-Up!  Today’s Round-Up features three picture books and two middle-grade graphic novels.  One of these will be submitted for both the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge AND the Title Fight Reading Challenge, but you’ll have to read on to find out which.  We received all of these titles from Netgalley for review.  Now, let’s get (whip) cracking!

Little Red (Bethan Woollvin)

Ten Second Synopsis: little red.jpg

Red Riding Hood with a skandi twist, this book is a retelling with sass.

Muster up the motivation because:

There are a lot of fairy tale retellings getting around at the moment, but the bold, minimalist colour scheme, chunky woodcut-style illustrations and text that oozes subversive wit sets this one apart.  The general arc of the Red Riding Hood story is preserved here, but Red is presented as one independent and resourceful young lass.  The simple combination of red, black and white in the illustrations is incredibly effective and makes this book a joy to look at, as much as to read.  I’d love to see what is coming next from Woollvin and how she might tackle an original story.

Brand it with:

Girl power, Woodland Survival, You’re Axed!

Far Out Fairy Tales (Joey Comeau, Louise Simonson, Sean Tulien, Otis Frampton)

Ten Second Synopsis: far out fairy tales

This is a collection of fairy tale retellings with a definite pop-culture flavour.  Each fairy tale has been modernised with popular motifs, including zombies, ninjas and computer games.

Muster up the motivation because:

Apart from the graphic novel format, the point of difference in this collection is a neat summary at the end of each story giving the differences between the modernised version and the traditional tale.  While I found most of the tales a little bit too contrived for my tastes – the Cinderella ninja in particular gave me reading-indigestion – they are perfectly pitched for a younger middle grade audience and varied enough for at least one or two of the tales to appeal to every reader.  The standout favourite for me was the retelling of the Billy Goats Gruff, set inside a video game with boss fights and dungeon crawling, but the Snow White story featuring robots was also quite subtle and well thought out.  The illustrations are varied in style and because each retelling has a different author, the book has a sense of the original with each new story.  This would be a great pick for youngsters looking for familiar stories in a fun, graphic format.

Brand it with:

Zombies and Ninjas and Robots, Oh My!, graphic tales, fairy tales levelled up

Kuma-Kuma Chan’s Home (Kazue Takahashi)

Ten Second Synopsis: kuma chan

Kuma Chan is an unassuming little bear.  In this tale, a young boy gets an invitation from Kuma Chan to visit his home, resulting in a relaxed day of doing nothing much at all.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is another classic Japanese character that will have you flip-flopping between “Oh, so Kawaii!” and “What on earth is going on here?”  Apparently Kuma Chan, or Little Bear, is a big hit with mini-fleshlings in Japan and this is the second book in the series.  Kuma Chan himself gets around looking rather bemused most of the time, and nothing much happens in the book, aside from the boy’s journey to Kuma Chan’s house, but overall this is just a delightful read.  The fact that the boy and Kuma Chan literally just hang out together in silence for most of the book results in a calming sense of satisfaction with one’s lot.  I will definitely have to seek out the original book in the series and I would love to see what the Little Bear is up to next.  This would be a perfect choice for a reader of your acquaintance who loves books that defy conventional description.

Brand it with:

Chillin’ with my homies, Bear necessities, kawaii

Squirrel Me Timbers (Louise Pigott)

Ten Second Synopsis: squirrel me timbers

A pirate squirrel must follow a map to discover buried treasure.  Will the treasure live up to his expectations? And what’s a squirrel to do with all that booty?

Muster up the motivation because:

If you are a bit over the whole pirate thing that seems to be booming in children’s books these days, I can guarantee that adding in a squirrely twist livens things up nicely.  The rhymes are a little awkward to read aloud at times, but the cheeky illustrations and the unexpected “treasure” are fun and original.  Sammy is a very likeable protagonist and I did have a bit of a giggle at some of the twists in his nutty quest.  This should appeal greatly to young swashbucklers looking for a new perspective on what makes a pirate tick.

Brand it with:

Pieces of eight (nuts), X marks the spot, Treasure hunting rodents

Fluffy Strikes Back (Ashley Spires)

Ten Second Synopsis:  fluffy strikes back

Fluffy, sergeant in charge of Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel (P.U.R.S.T.) must come out of retirement to foil an invasion of aliens with spray bottles.  Will Fluffy be able to meet the challenge and rescue the pets in his charge?

Muster up the motivation because:

Despite the utter weirdness of the concept of this graphic novel series, it is actually a guffaw-worthy tale.  This is the second book in the P.U.R.S.T. series and I hadn’t read the first, so I didn’t realise that this was a graphic novel.  This meant I wasn’t prepared for the high level of visual humour contained within this tome.  The concept of the book is a little confusing when read – cats, dogs and other small animals working together in a secret (literally) underground organisation to save the world from aliens (insects) – but makes perfect (and hilarious) sense when absorbed visually.  The humour is actually pretty dry for a graphic novel aimed at kids, but there are plenty of just-plain-funny aspects as well, such as the entrance to the P.U.R.S.T. headquarters being accessed through a litter tray and the alien insects using spray bottles to ward off the cats.  I would definitely recommend this to mini-fleshlings or adult readers looking for a quick, off-beat and strangely compelling graphic novel series that doesn’t take itself – or anything else – too seriously.

Brand it with:

Alien Invasion, Notes from the Underground, Thankless tasks

Yes, you guessed it: I will be submitting Fluffy Strikes Back for both the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge and the Title Fight Reading Challenge.  It fits quite nicely into the first category: something related to fighting in the title.  For more info on the challenge, just click this attractive button!

Title Fight Button 2016

 

Also, you can check out my progress for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, hosted by Escape with Dollycas, here.

alphabet soup challenge 2016

Until next time,

Bruce