Bruce’s Shelfies: We have come….to the end.

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Well. Sort of.  We haven’t come to the complete, grinding end, but it’s time to announce that I will be winding back my output for this blog over the next few months.  After nearly five years of blogging and nearly two years of posting five days a week, I have hit something of a wall in both reading and wanting to blog and I have therefore made the decision to ease off a bit.

It started with Fiction in 50.  At the end of last year I was unsure of whether I wanted to continue that feature because it felt like a chore more than anything.  I put the question to you good folk and some of you felt strongly that it should stay, so stay it has.  But my heart’s not in it.

Then over the past month or two I’ve had enormous trouble keeping up with my review schedule.  I just can’t seem to read fast enough to get through all the books I have scheduled.  And just when I get through one stack, a whole new slew of books arrives in the mail.  I’ve come to dread receiving book-shaped packages, to tell you the truth, which is a very sad thing for a Bookshelf Gargoyle.  I’ve been reading the same two books for a fortnight now and while I’m enjoying both, I don’t seem to be making much progress.

A few nights ago, instead of picking up my scheduled books, I started re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  I haven’t re-read it in years and for the last few days I have loved dropping back into that world.  I have ignored my reviewing responsibilities and I’m loving it.

I’ve also been having tech issues, with computers dying and troubles with posting on other devices.  Then there’s the fact that I really only get one day during the week to post, so I have to cram in five, sometimes six days worth of posts, into a few hours of sitting in front of the computer.

It has all begun to feel like too much work for something that is supposed to be a hobby.

So today I emailed the main publishers that I work with and asked that any requests for books that I have made for the rest of the year be withdrawn so I can sit back, relax and concentrate on getting through the books I have already received.  This was tricky to do because even as I looked through the list I thought, “Oh no, I can’t cancel THAT request, I just HAVE to read that book!” but I steeled my reserve and pressed send regardless.  And as if to illustrate the necessity of taking this action, I had no sooner sent the emails than the postman arrived with another book.

The crux of the matter is that for the next little while I will not be posting five days a week.  I may post once a week.  Maybe once a fortnight.  I will endeavour to post on the books that I have already received from publishers – about 14 in total – but I have completely ignored Netgalley for the last week and I don’t think I’ll get to the 20+ books on my Netgalley list.

I am taking a break.

And this decision has made me a lot more positively disposed toward the books already sitting on my shelf.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

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Challenge Checkpoint #2: Halfway Through 2017

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It’s halfway through the year already (*insert cliched statement about how time flies and where did the year go here*) and therefore it is time to review where I’m at with my various reading challenges.  Let’s have at it!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017 – COMPLETE!

Hurrah! I signed on at Pike’s Peak level – or twelve books – for this challenge this year and I am happy to say that I have now scaled to those dizzying heights!  You can check out the books I read here.

however…

since some of the books on the list are a little thin and I haven’t yet got through all the books I wanted to finish for this challenge when I signed on, I’m going to extend my goal and try for Mount Blanc level – 24 books by the end of the year.  This *should* be manageable, but I’ll have to really focus on getting those books read.

Epistolary Challenge – Progress Made!

10 Epistolary Books To Add To Your Winter Reading List

I feel like I’ve made some progress on this one in the last few months.  I’ve also acquired some epistolary novels in print copy or as review copies on Netgalley so I think this challenge is looking up. There’s no end goal or number of books to have read for this challenge, so I’m just seeing how I go at the moment.

Colour Coded Challenge – One Category to Go!

colour-coded-reading-challenge

This was never going to be a challenge that I failed, but I’m well ahead of schedule here.  I’ve only got the final category to go – a book with a pattern or rainbow on the cover – to complete the challenge, but I might extend myself and try to find more to fit the “any other colour” category.

Popsugar Challenge – Charging Ahead!

I’ve managed eighteen out of the 52 categories for this one and I’ve tried to really focus on this challenge in the last three months.  There are a few categories that I could really fit most of my books into (eg: a book published in 2017) and some that I can’t imagine I’m going to get done (eg: a book that’s more than 800 pages).  The trickiest part about this challenge is remembering to refer back to the categories each time I read a book.  Perhaps I should print out the categories now I have printer ink…..

Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge – stalled

wild-goose-chase-challenge-button

I’ve read one book to contribute to this challenge since the last update.  That means I’ve got three categories to go.  Doable.  Again, I just have to keep the categories in mind as I’m reading.

Have you signed up for any reading challenges this year?  How are you going?

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Bruce’s Shelfies: Christmas in (Almost) July!

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It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas, so today I am going to provide you with a round up of titles that I have my eye on for the second half of the year….you know, in case any of you feel like getting a little present for your friendly neighbourhood gargoyle.  These are books that I would love to get my grubby little claws upon had I a tad more disposable income and a bit more space on the TBR shelf.

First up of course is the hardback, illustrated, large format edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I managed to pick up a second hand copy of this edition of Philosopher’s Stone at a suitcase rummage late last year for $18.  BARGAIN!  Then I may or may not have recently splurged on this edition of Chamber of Secrets.  And in the same transaction I may or may not have ordered the hardback, 20th anniversary Ravenclaw House edition of Philosopher’s Stone.  And while we’re being honest, I may or may not have already actually put this edition of Prisoner of Azkaban on pre-order.  Because it’s releasing in October and you know, I wouldn’t want to be unprepared for Christmas or anything.  I regret nothing.

Next up is Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved A Family…

penguin bloom

I actually had plenty of opportunity to receive a review copy of this one back when it was released but at the time I thought it wasn’t really my thing.  Since then, the dwelling has had its own family of extremely friendly magpies come visiting on a regular basis and all of a sudden I desperately want to read this book.  The magpie in this one seems much more tame than even the highly trusting and relaxed birds that come almost into our kitchen when they visit, so I’m interested to read more about her.

Then there’s this atmospheric and creepy little number…

white is for witching

I can never go past a haunted house tale and White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi looks particularly enticing.

And then there’s Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw…

strange practice

I want this one so much I nearly pre-ordered it last week.  It’s got Helsings, a doctor to the undead, murderous monks and a murder mystery all in one.  How could I pass it up?

Then there’s Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans…

wed wabbit

I’ve read and enjoyed a number of Lissa Evan’s other books and this one looks like a bit of a change of pace.  The blurb sounds a bit subversive to me and I’m intrigued by that scary wabbit shadow on the cover.

Then there’s the Cool Japan Guide by Abby Denson…

cool japan guide

It’s a graphic novel travel guide!!  I haven’t given up on my dream of visiting Japan and following in Mad Martha’s footsteps, despite financial impossibilities and the difficulties of getting stone on a plane and I think this book would be the perfect inspirational tome.

Then of course there’s Ben Hatke’s entire back catalouge…

mighty jack and the goblin king

But I’d settle for Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, being the second in the Mighty Jack graphic novel series.  I reviewed the first one earlier this year and I am itching to get my teeth into this next installment.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start for Santa, don’t you think?  What about you?  What books are on your Christmas list for 2017?

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Bruce’s Shelfies: DNFs with Potential…

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A while ago I decided to take on a DNF (Did not finish) default policy for all books that came across my path, inspired by this post by Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings blog.  As a result, I no longer push myself to finish books when my interest is waning or I’m just not feeling the story….

…but…

…that doesn’t necessarily mean that because I decide to DNF a book, it’s because the book is bad.  Sometimes I DNF because I can’t push through fast enough, or I started off enjoying the book but then lost interest.  So it is for today’s two titles.  Read on to find out why I made the decision to put them down…and why you might like to pick them up.


 

built on bones

 

I received Built on Bones:15000 Years of Urban Life and Death by Brenna Hassett from Bloomsbury Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Humans and their immediate ancestors were successful hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, but in the last fifteen thousand years humans have gone from finding food to farming it, from seasonal camps to sprawling cities, from a few people to hordes. Drawing on her own fieldwork in the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, and beyond, archeologist Brenna Hassett explores the long history of urbanization through revolutionary changes written into the bones of the people who lived it.

For every major new lifestyle, another way of dying appeared. From the “cradle of civilization” in the ancient Near East to the dawn of agriculture on the American plains, skeletal remains and fossil teeth show evidence of shorter lives, rotten teeth, and growth interrupted. The scarring on human skeletons reveals that getting too close to animals had some terrible consequences, but so did getting too close to too many other people.

Each chapter of Built on Bones moves forward in time, discussing in depth humanity’s great urban experiment. Hassett explains the diseases, plagues, epidemics, and physical dangers we have unwittingly unleashed upon ourselves throughout the urban past–and, as the world becomes increasingly urbanized, what the future holds for us. In a time when “Paleo” lifestyles are trendy and so many of us feel the pain of the city daily grind, this book asks the critical question: Was it worth it?

Built on Bones is a nonfiction look at how our species evolved from roaming nomad hunter-gatherers, through a settled farming lifestyle to our current incarnation as urban couch potatoes and asks whether the trendy “paleo” way of living really is based on the actual way that hunter-gatherer societies functioned.  Hassett begins at the beginning, with the oldest remains of settled societies before moving on chapter by chapter toward our present-day urban living.  I put this one down after 109 pages – about halfway through chapter five – in the middle of an interesting discussion on equality and ways in which social power structures (in early societies as well as more modern ones) tend to shape who gets access to which food resources and how this then affects our understanding of historical societies when we dig up their bones.

This was a completely fascinating read, and one to use against that annoying “clean-eating, whole-food” aficionado that we all have in our social circle.  Hassett injects lots of humour into what is essentially an academic work, as well as plenty of footnotes that I came to think of as snide asides, and the only reason I have DNFed this as a review book is that it is taking me far too long to get through.  If you look at my Goodreads challenge you can see I’ve been reading it for over a month and I’m still only a third of the way through.  Seeing as the book is released this month, I really couldn’t see how I could possibly get through it all in order to give it a proper review in a timely fashion.

So this was a DNF for me review-wise, but I am certain that I will keep reading it until the end, although I can’t imagine how long that will take.  Definitely give it a go if you are interested in anthropology and how our access to and methods of making and consuming food impacts on our lifespan and general health.

carmer and grit

We received Carmer and Grit #1: The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.

In this story perfect for readers of the Lockwood & Co and Wildwood series, Sarah Jean Horwitz takes readers on a thrilling journey through a magical wooded fairyland and steampunk streets where terrifying automata cats lurk in the shadows and a mad scientist’s newest mechanical invention might be more menace than miracle.

This story is a complex steampunk/fantasy tale aimed at middle graders.  I enjoyed the initial chapters immensely, as they featured solid world building and a clean introduction to the problems that the characters were going to face later on, but I ended up putting this one down at 33%.  I have a hit and miss relationship with steampunk stories generally, but it was the magic elements of the story that put me off. I found that I was much more fascinated with the automatons that Carmer had dreams of building (and the mysterious, sinister automaton cat that appears early on) than with Grit, the fairy princess with a chip (and only one wing) on her shoulder.

While the mystery and the danger that the main characters would face was set up nicely, I just found my interest waning after a little while.  I can see this series gaining plenty of fans though, so if you enjoy your fantasy stories blended with another genre I would definitely give this one a go.


So what do you think?  Have either of these titles sparked your interest?  Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Bruce’s Picture Book Round-Up: Caves, Adopted Dinosaurs and Grumpy Frogs…

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Today’s picture book round up is a collection of wild and wacky stories for those who look forward to the unexpected.  Lassos at the ready to rope in a fun new read!

I Will Love You Forever (Tatsuya Miyanishi)

*We received a copy of I Will Love You Forever from the publisher via Netgalley*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  i will love you forever

While foraging in the prehistoric forest one day, a mother Maiasaura discovers an egg, which she takes back to her nest and protects alongside her own.  When the egg hatches and a tyrannosaurus rex emerges, the Maiasaura mama overlooks the danger and teaches the little T-Rex to be like a Maiasaura.

Muster up the motivation because…

…if you haven’t read any of Miyanishi’s picture books from the Tyrannosaurus series, you are missing out.  I’ve reviewed two of them on the blog previously and they are the most bizarre and beguiling picture books you could ever hope to come across.  I Will Love you Forever is no exception, presenting a heart-wrenching and tear-jerking story of adoptive maternal love, the nature vs nurture debate and the ways in which family influences identity.  The story begins with the heart-warming birth of two very different dinosaurs and their childhood raised as brothers.  When a passing ankylosaurus tips off one of the brothers that one of them might not be as harmless as everyone thinks, it sets off a chain of events that have the little adopted maiasuara-tyrannosaurus questioning his intrinsic nature.  Things come to a head late in the story and the tyrannosaurus is faced with a choice about his future and who he wants to become.  The illustrations are colourful and quirky (and Mad Martha still wants to make a plushie out of the tyrannosaurus!) and the text is set in blocks, allowing for good spacing between the pictures and words.  I highly recommend this series and I think this story is probably most accessible of the three I’ve read for those who aren’t looking for a totally out-there picture book reading experience.

Brand it with:

adoptive parents; nature vs nurture; it’s what’s inside that counts

Grumpy Frog (Ed Vere)

*We received a copy of Grumpy Frog from the publisher via Netgalley *

Two Sentence Synopsis:  grumpy frog

A frog will do anything to prove he’s not grumpy but has trouble tempering his temper when things don’t go his way.  When he meets a friend, he must decide whether his preferences are more important than having fun.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a chaotic, colourful jaunt into the world of likes, dislikes and how to behave when things aren’t as you would like them to be.  Ed Vere’s illustrative style can be loud and somewhat abrasive if you aren’t primed and ready for it but for those who enjoy expressive fonts, thick line drawings and characters with unmistakable facial expressions, there is a lot to enjoy in this book.  Frog is generally a happy guy, though he can sometimes lose it when things aren’t how he likes them.  Thankfully though, other people share this fault and with a bit of calm negotiation everyone can agree on an activity that will make everyone happy.  The arc of this story was a little disjointed for my liking.  I felt that the story switched from a fun “look! the frog says he’s happy but keeps getting angry!’ sort of light comedy, to a friendship/compromise tale which didn’t quite have the same giggle factor.  I think, overall, mini-fleshlings will enjoy this tale if only for the manic mood swings of frog from one page to the next.

Brand it with:

Pet peeves; losing it; win-win situations

The Cave (Rob Hodgson)

*We received a copy of The Cave from Allen & Unwin for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  

the cave

The Cave by Rob Hodgson.  Published by Allen & Unwin (Murdoch Books), 26th April, 2017. RRP:$24.99

A wolf is determined to coax a cave-dwelling mammal from its hiding spot…for perfectly innocent purposes, of course!  When the animal emerges, Wolf is in for a surprise and can suddenly appreciate the properties of a deep, dark cave for a hiding place.

Muster up the motivation because…

…there is a twist at the end of this story that turns the plot on its head and will have little ones considering the importance of perspective.  The Cave is a vibrantly illustrated tale of getting what you wish for and then wishing that you hadn’t.  The main protagonist is the stereotypically shifty Wolf, whose only goal is to eat the creature that dwells in the titular cave, and said wolf uses every trick he knows to make this happen.  Throughout the double page illustrations, young readers will have fun spotting the snail and the bowler-hatted worm appear in different, funny positions and the changing seasons, as well as the wonderfully expressive eyes of the cave-dweller, provide plenty of variety for the eye throughout.  I also love that this hardcover edition features a different image on the book cover to the dust jacket.  The twist at the end of the story didn’t quite eke out the laugh that I was expecting from the mini-fleshlings in the dwelling, but I suspect this is a book that will inspire repeat readings.

Brand it with:

If wishes were cave-dwelling mammals; powers of persuasion; every trick in the book

Do any of these take your fancy?  Let me know which books you’ve been rounding up to read lately!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Challenge Checkpoint: 25% into 2017

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Since we’re nearing the end of March, it’s time I fill you in on how I’m progressing on my multiple reading challenges for this year, because I know you’re dying to know all about it.  *Hint: If you’re that desperate, you can check here at any time to get all the goss*

Mount TBR Reading Challenge Checkpoint #1:

I am super pleased with how I’m going on this challenge.  My original goal was 12 books – or Pike’s Peak level – but at only three months in I’ve managed to knock over seven books, so I may upgrade to Mount Blanc level, which requires 24 books.  I’ll take stock again halfway through the year and make a decision then.

book-uncle-and-me chickenhare beastly-bones takeshita-demons return-of-zita time-travelling-with-a-hamster the-boyfriend

You’ll notice that some of these weren’t on my original list of books that I wanted to get through for this challenge:

2017-mount-tbr-challenge-books-2

…but I still plan on having a crack at all the books pictured.  I’m having a bit of trouble with The Bromeliad.  I started it in January, but found my attention wandering so I’ve put it aside for the moment.  Hopefully I’ll get it knocked over before the end of the year.

Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge:

wild-goose-chase-challenge-button

This, of course, is the Shelf’s own homegrown challenge and I’m doing pretty well so far.  I’ve knocked over three of the seven categories so I’m well on track to finishing this one in plenty of time, provided I can remember what the other categories are.

chickenhare 1230-from-croydon chilbury ladies choir

Colour-Coded Reading Challenge:

colour-coded-reading-challenge

I’m killing it with this one.  I decided to go with cover colours here, rather than colours in the titles because I’m already doing a title-based challenge with Wild Goose Chase.  I’ve knocked over every colour except brown, red and “implied colour” so far and I can’t foresee any troubles finding those colour books in the next nine months.  Here’s a selection of the covers so far.

time-travelling-with-a-hamster what-not-to-do-if-you-turn-invisible frogkisser deepdean-vampire ghosts-of-sleath book-uncle-and-me night shift ya

Popsugar Reading Challenge:

I’m not going too badly here, just taking it as it comes and occasionally checking back to see if my books match any categories.  So far I’ve knocked over books in ten of the fifty-two categories.

Epistolary Reading Challenge:

epistolatory-reading-challenge-2017

This is my slowest challenge so far, with only two books read – and one of those books is a bit of a stretch to be honest.  I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for any epistolary novels being released soon and I’ve got one sitting on my shelf ready to step into the breach, but I’ll need to search out a few more to really feel like I’ve had a good go at this one.  Suggestions welcome!

How are you going on your various challenges for the year?  Do you track your progress regularly or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of challengee?

Until next time,
Bruce

Bruce’s Shelfies: My Christmas, Unwrapped #Whographica # DoctorWho

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Since we’re among friends, I think it’s safe to make you all jealous by telling you how many books I got for Christmas.  Are you ready?  I think you’ll be shocked and amazed…

I got……

One.

Yup, you read that right.  One single, solitary book for Christmas.  But am I crying? No siree, Bob!  Because the book I received is an absolute cracker of a read – and best of all, I didn’t even know it existed!

So what was this intriguing, involving and all around excellent book?  Whographica: An Infographic Guide to Space and Time by Simon Guerrier, Steve O’Brien and Ben Morris.

whographica

Now, if  you aren’t a fan of Doctor Who you can probably switch off now because I’m not sure you’ll appreciate how kick-ass this book really is.  If you are still reading, I will assume that you too are a fan of all things Who, so here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Captivating, intriguing, beautiful and strange, Whographica explores the rich universe of Doctor Who like no book before it. Through creative visualisations, infographics, charts, maps and more, it offers a unique introduction to the extraordinary worlds of the show – from the Doctor’s family tree to the strangest weapons in the universe; from a star chart showing the exact co-ordinates of Gallifrey to a flow diagram of allegiances between Daleks and Cybermen throughout history.

Bursting with colour, expert knowledge, and fun, Whographica will delight new and long-term fans alike. And, like the show it celebrates, it will make you see the world in an entirely new way.

If you, like me, are a fan of Doctor Who and would like to extend your Who-related knowledge, but lack the time to watch every episode ever made or read long nonfiction texts about the series, its creators, its social impact and other bits of Who-minutiae, you should really get your paws on this book.  Every single page in it has an infographic about some fascinating aspect of the show – from the Doctors themselves to the actors who played them, from when and where particular episodes were screened, to the frequency of words used in their titles, from the comparative appearances of cybermen to daleks, to the percentages of male-to-female job roles in the production team – this book will tell you every little thing you ever needed to know about Doctor Who.

Best of all, for someone like me who likes a bit of variation in illustrative style, the infographic designs range widely.  There are some infographics packed full of graphs and bits and bobs, like the pages devoted to each specific Doctor:

whograhpica-two

Note the pictograph showing relative heights of each doctor!! There are geographical infographics galore – this particular one shows all the countries in which 50th Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor was simultaneously screened:

whographica-one

There are many infographics devoted to the Doctors’ companions, like this one about Sarah Jane Smith:

whographica-three

There are plenty of infographics that just have interesting facts that you may never have considered.  This one, for instance, names the six episodes in which every speaking character, not including the Doctor and his companion/s, ends up dead:

whograhpica-four

Don’t be too downhearted though, because this infographic is a companion to an earlier one, which shows all the episodes in which everyone lives.

For us bookish folk, there’s even a graphic showing the dominant colours on the covers of all the published Doctor Who novelisations!

Truly, I was immediately engrossed in this nifty, satisfyingly chunky book as soon as I unwrapped it and I have had it on my shelfside table ever since.  I will no doubt be dipping into this one for a long time to come yet and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who considers themselves part of the Doctor Who fandom.

Did the Annual Gift Man leave any book-shaped packages under your tree last year?

Until next time,

Bruce