Double Haiku Review: Everlost and Everwild…

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It’s Mad Martha with you on this fine afternoon! It’s been a while since I’ve popped out a haiku review, but really, it’s high time Neal Shusterman gets another outing given how much we enjoy his work over here in Shelf-ville.  After feeling devastated a number of years ago on finding out after finishing book one in his Skinjacker series, Everlost, that my library did not have any of the others in the series, you can only imagine my joy on randomly happening across book two, Everwild, while browsing at Booktopia.

image

And guess how much it was?

No, go on, have a guess.

Nope, cheaper than that.

Get this: $1.75. With FREE shipping!!

Of course I had to immediately buy it – in fact, such was my excitement that I accidentally ordered two copies, so now I have one for the week and one for Sunday Best.  You can see from the picture that I’m clearly beside myself over this serendipitous occurence.

In the first book in the series, teenagers Nick and Allie, after dying in the same car accident, find themselves in a sort of limbo for children known to its residents as “Everlost”. Everlost is entirely populated by the souls of children under the age of 17(known as Afterlights) who seemingly got distracted on their way down the tunnel into the light of the the proper afterlife.  In an interesting quirk of Everlost, the events surrounding each Afterlight’s death often become a permanent feature of their current appearance – for example, Nick had the misfortune to die while munching on a chocolate bar, and as a result now bears an eternal facial smear of the stuff.  Afterlights may also find they have gained particular abilities that can be a help or a hinderance in their new existence.  Allie for instance, discovers that she has the talent of “skinjacking” – the ability to jump inside living people, or fleshies, and make them do her bidding.  The book mostly deals with Nick and Allie’s attempts to come to terms with their new afterlife, and along the way they meet a varied crew of monsters, bullies and (supposed!) saints who are all putting their own personal stamp on their little piece of pre-Paradise.

everlost

Stuck forever young

in adolescent limbo

How low can you go?

In Everwild, we rejoin Nick and Allie as they separately work against the machinations of Mary Hightower, the self-styled ruler and mother-duck of Everlost, who has far-reaching visions of making Everlost her own personal paradise through some very ethically-dubious methods indeed.  The significance of one’s own self-image is ever-present as Nick and Mikey McGill discover the double-edged sword of celebrity, Everlost-style.  Allie meanwhile uncovers the incredible secret behind her ability to skinjack.  Add to this a few new characters struggling to define their sense of what is right in an existence with no rules, and the increasingly self-righteous actions of Mary Hightower and you’ve got yourself an eventful read!

everwild2

You are what you eat,

steal, remember or create.

Pays to choose wisely.

One of the things we shelf-dwellers love most about Neal Shusterman is his amazing talent for world-building.  Both in this series and in the Unwind series (soon to be four books long – seriously, if you haven’t encountered it before, get on it. Quick!) Shusterman manages to create totally engaging alternate worlds without having to resort to lots of explanation or tiresome, forced situations in which characters “discover” important facts about the world for the sole benefit of the reader.  Similarly, he creates teenage characters that, despite often having an obvious foible or flaw, are fleshed out and driven by motivations that are believable, if not always reasonable.  In addition, Shusterman is positively Mary Poppins-esque in the way he manages to squeeze so much content into ordinary sized books – on finishing one of his books I always feel like I’ve just slogged through a tome the size of Macquarie Dictionary and am continually surprised to find that all has been revealed within a scant 450 pages or less.

I’m both chuffed and frustrated to discover that there is a third book in this series – Everfound – mainly because my library doesn’t have that one either, and I can’t imagine I’ll be lucky enough to randomly find it for $1.75 and free shipping…although, one can always hope.

Yours in happy haiku-ery,

Mad Martha

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Ode to a Library: Mad Martha breaks with tradition…again

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Hello again my fellow blog-opolists! I have decided to make up for my protracted abscence by providing two pieces of poetic proliferation in quick succession.  Today I feel the need to wax lyrical on the glorious and fantastic phenomenon known as “the library”.  I am still amazed that there exists a place – indeed, multiple places! – from which one can literally walk out the door carrying 20 books, with the implicit trust on behalf of the lender that said books will return safe and sound.  Amazing! So please enjoy this Ode which was inspired partly by Bruce’s rambling and random recollections about a book of poems by CJ Dennis that may or may not feature in an upcoming edition of his Retro Reading series….

library card

Who’s the main appointee to lend books out for free?

Come on! Let’s hear it for libraries!

Who welcomes us all into crisp, tome-lined halls?

Give a cheer! Let’s hear it for libraries!

Whose fine, expert staff know their wheat from their chaff

and direct us toward reading glory?

So Stand UP! Lend your EAR!

Let your Voices ring CLEAR

As WE SHOUT OUT IN PRAISE OF

*click click click*

Ahem! Excuse me!

Oh. Yes?

This is a library. You’ll have to keep it down.

Oh, right. Sorry.

*click click click*

(Sotto voce):

So stand up! Lend your ear! Let your voices ring clear

as we shout out in praise of our libraries…

quietly.

And just in case those of you in the back thought you got away with it, Library Cat has something to tell you:

library cat

Consider yourself warned!

Mad Martha

Ode to an Author: Chris Priestley

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Good evening Possums! Mad Martha here, going just a little bit Dame Edna on you all.  Today I am waxing lyrical on one of the favourite authors amongst the denizens of Bruce’s shelf – Chris Priestley, author of Mister Creecher, The Dead of Winter, The Tom Marlowe Mysteries and our resounding favourite, the Tales of Terror Series!  This series features collections of short stories centred around a young protagonist (or two) who, through accident or design, has become the captive audience of some very odd and colourful storytelling. Starting with a delightfully atmospheric and eerie romp around Uncle Montague’s house and surrounds, this series blossomed into a veritable English country garden of creepy weirdness, with the followup titles Tales of Terror from the Black Ship (my personal favourite so far), Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth, and the limited release The Teacher’s Tales of Terror!  You may notice the differences in the cover art – the titles are available in both the pen and ink illustration covers and the more photographic style….We on the shelf prefer the pen and ink.

tales of terrorTOT black ship

TOT tunnelTeachers TOT

Priestley has an uncanny knack for creating an ambience that has you looking over your shoulder while reading.  Also, as many of the main characters in the short stories are less than endearing, it can be somewhat unsettling to realise that one may be secretly relishing the various sticky ends to which those characters succumb.

We are always keeping our eyes peeled for new titles in this series as they really are the cream of the crop in spine-tingling stories for people aged about 10 years and over. Our vigilance was rewarded recently when Bruce spotted a seasonal release, only available (annoyingly) as an ebook – Christmas Tales of Terror!

TOT christmas

So it was that Bruce attempted to read his first ever e-book – in fact, he read it aloud in one sitting for the benefit of all the shelf-folk, during a brief period in which the house fleshlings were away from the dwelling, leaving their precious electronified tablet unguarded.  While this is certainly not the best offering in the series in our opinion, (the first story, “The Green Man” being particularly weak), it is certainly another feather in the cap of the good Mr Priestley.  And for his services to the field of terror-inducement in minors and others, I present to him this Ode, in the form of a letter from a reader…..

Dear Mr Priestley,chris-priestley

Your tales are so beastly.

Your plotlines increas’dly mean characters cease-to-be.

Terror unceasingly fills my mind feastingly,

I beg for release from thee!

Yours (most dis-ease-dly),

An Appreciative Reader

I must admit, that one was a challenge.  Not many words rhyme with Priestley.  Further suggestions for rhyming words would be welcome.

But please do yourself a favour and explore the work of Creepy Chris….if you dare! Mwuuuhahahahhaaaaaaaa!

Ahem……Until next time lovelies,

Mad Martha

Ode to a…Publisher?: Mad Martha breaks ranks…

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Afternoon my sweeties! Today I have decided to do something a little bit different with my ode.  You may be able to guess what it is if you cast your eyeballs even briefly over the title of this post.  Yes, that’s right – instead of a single author, I am going to laud a whole publishing house! Bruce has already mentioned our love for Angry Robot Books in a previous post but I must reiterate that AR is fast becoming our go-to publisher when we are looking for something just a bit different.

Angry Robot

To give you an idea of what I mean when I say different, it’s something just a little bit quirky.  A tad odd.  Both funny ha-ha and funny peculiar.  They have superheroes with demon sidekicks.  Seven foot tall skeleton kings.  Houses with whole worlds hidden inside. And of course the usual, run-of-the-mill complement of robots, zombies, armies of people in various states of death and undeath, people with animal familiars and various telepathic abilities, and so on and so forth.  Our absolute favourite of their authors (and one of the first we discovered!) is Mike Shevdon, creator of the Courts of the Feyre series…..do go and buy it, won’t you?  We also like Lee Battersby, he of the Corpse-Rat King, and we have dallied with Chris F Holm, Matthew Hughes and Guy Adams to name a few…their works are pictured below:

sixty one nailscorpse rat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dead harvestdamned busters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

world house

 

And so, to the ode.  See if you can spot the intended pun in the fifth line!

 

For Zombies and Monsters and Weirdies, oh my!,

on Angry Robot I always rely. 

For the kooky, the freakish or old-fashioned gore,

this publishing house really comes to the fore!

Want bold savage tomes and a wild, novel quest?

Then grab ye a bookmark and raid AR’s chest!

I’m not sure why I went all pirate in the last line, but such is the effect of Angry Robot.  It makes one step outside the box…usually into another larger box filled with flesh eating caterpillars or some other such freakishness.  So if the sound of an aggressive larval Lepidoptera squishing under your boot is music to your ears (…..shame on you…you should take a good long hard look at yourself Mr…or Ms….) then this is the publisher for you!

Until next time,

Mad Martha

 

 

 

Ode to an Author: The Incomparable MEM FOX!

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Good evening all, Mad Martha here! I am utterly excited to be bringing you this ode today, as I have just met this most famous and fantastic of children’s authors, Mem Fox!  Yes, Bruce and I made a perilous journey to Chermside Library to see the lady herself (and the wonderful illustrator Judy Horacek, who collaborated with Mem on Where is the Green Sheep? and Goodnight, Sleep Tight) discuss all things literacy.  Alas, we did not manage to get a photograph with Mem or Judy, but they were kind enough to sign our copies of the two books on which they collaborated.  Here are some pictures:

DSC_0299     DSC_0304

You can really see the excitement on Bruce’s face.  It’s good to see him openly displaying his emotions in such a way. For my part, I was so excited that my hand was shaking as I took the photo during the signing.

Considering the incredible and widespread influence Mem Fox has had on children’s literacy in Australia, I thought it fitting to honour her with my very best efforts.  To this end, I have created an epic ode that references just a few of her 40 books.  I would like to offer this ode as my personal thanks to Mem for her passionate efforts to promote child-parent (or grandparent, or carer) bonding through reading.  I have titled this ode, “Time for a Story”.

It’s time to arise;

stretch and open your eyes!

Start the big day anew,

Oh I DO love you!

koala lou 2

It’s time for a bite;

first we’ve had since last night!

What would you like most?

Magic vegemite toast?

possum magic

It’s time to go out

and see who’s about.

What clothes will you choose

to match Grandpa’s red shoes?

shoes from grandpa

It’s time for your lunch;

here’s an apple to crunch.

But I’d rather drink juice

than say “Boo!” to a goose!

boo to a goose

It’s time for a play!

Should we draw or use clay?

Dress up like a cat?

Chase a magic blue hat?

the magic hat

It’s time for a scrub;

Quickly! Into the tub!

Oh you bold, cheeky child,

you just drive me wild!

harriet

It’s time now for bed,

cuddle up, rest your head.

But before we sleep,

Let’s find that green sheep!

green sheep

Sleep well little mouse,

You are safe in this house.

I’ll turn out the light,

now Good night, sleep tight.

time for bedgood night sleep tight

If you have never encountered Mem Fox before, firstly…you call yourself a reader? And secondly, get on to her work POST HASTE! You’ll be a fool to yourself and a burden to others if you don’t.

Adieu, adieu,

Mad Martha

Ode to an Author/Illustrator: Leslie Patricelli…

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Hello all, Mad Martha with you again! For today’s ode I have selected an author/illustrator who is close to my heart and frequently enjoyed by the youngest fleshling in the house….the wonderful Leslie Patricelle and her irrepressible Baby!  If you have not encountered these bright and batty picture books before, you are in for a treat.  They are ambrosia for the eyeballs, indulgence for the eardrums, manna for the downtrodden soul!  And so it goes…

Ms Patricelli,

I laugh from my belly;

I get so frantic

for Baby’s wild antics!

He cracks me up,

Such a cheeky pup!

But I have to say,

(Don’t take it the wrong way!),

I’m glad he’s not mine because he looks like a right handful…

.

Until next we meet, my friends, adieu!

Mad Martha

Ode to an Author: Alexander McCall Smith

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Mad Martha here with the week’s Ode.  This week I have chosen one of my favourites (and possibly the only one I’ve actually met) – Alexander McCall Smith.  An ode to him is well overdue, as Bruce has presided over a number of his hardbacks for many a long year.  This is the man who brought the phrase “traditionally-built” to rotund ladies the world over and they continue to thank him today.  He is also a great fan of tea and common courtesy (together or separately).  Also, anyone who plays the Bassoon in an ensemble called “The Really Terrible Orchestra” must be worth knowing.  But my favourite thing of all about AMcS is the fact that he is not afraid to laugh uproariously at his own jokes….this is a trait I share. So sit back with a steaming cup of Red Bush tea and mull over my Ode to Alexander McCall Smith:

 

 

No doubt to blame for his two second names are the parents of one Alexander.

A Scotsman for sure, he’s filled up bookstores with tomes that are worth a quick gander;

‘Bout Edinburgh’s cobbles, relationship squabbles, detectives who like to meander,

Vegetarian dogs, poems in epilogues and a woman, Irene – we can’t stand her!

So give him a try – it should satisfy, for he writes with great humour and candour.

A nice cup of tea, a biscuit or three and a story – now what could be grander? 

 

 

Ta-ra my dears,

Mad Martha