Odds and Ends: Double Haiku Review and Fi50 Reminder…

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Good morning to you, munchkins of Blogland! I have a bit of a mixed bag today – firstly, Mad Martha will present you with two haiku reviews for some great books we’ve encountered recently, and then I’ll provide you with this month’s Fi50 prompt, so you can all get working over the weekend on your micro-narratives.

Well, after a spate of middle grade and young adult ARCs, we shelf denizens have spent a little bit of time reacquainting ourselves with big people’s books.  Today’s first offering, Green Vanilla Tea by Marie Williams is a highly readable memoir in which the author reflects on experiencing the journey toward her husband Dominic’s terminal illness, alongside their two teenage sons.  Green Vanilla Tea recounts the experiences of this young family before, during and after Dominic’s diagnosis with early onset dementia and motor neurone disease in his early forties.  William’s memoir charts the confusing and sometimes frightening incidents pre-diagnosis, through the everyday struggles of caring for a young man in rapid decline, and the difficult decisions she faced around finding suitable end-of-life care for her husband.  One would expect the subject matter of this book to be harrowing and deeply depressing, but William’s honest reflections and use of humour lift the book out of that mire and result in a life-affirming and ultimately hopeful read that we highly recommend.  And we also give bonus points for being an Australian book.

Mad Martha’s haiku for this one is based on her favourite anecdote in the book…

green-vanilla-tea

Wife losing life’s love

asks, “How would you like your tea?”

Perplexed. “In a cup”

And while on the subject of hopeful, uplifting narratives, I recently discovered that shelf-favourite Alexander McCall Smith has released as an e-book The Slice of No. 1 Celebration Storybook: Fifteen Years with Mma Ramotswe, to celebrate this milestone of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.  As great fans of this series (that was introduced to us through the inspired gifting of a very insightful friend of the shelf!) we simply had to purchase this, despite it’s e-format.

The book is quite miniscule and contains two short stories with all the old favourite characters – nothing ground-breaking here, but certainly a happy addition to the series for long-time fans.  I’ve recently seen some reviews for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, panning the books because there simply isn’t enough mystery or crime-solving going on in their pages.  I can’t help but feel those people have missed the point of the books.  For my money, the books are about relationships, pure and simple; and how we can recognise and affirm each other’s humanity (or creaturely-ness as it were, depending on your origin) in the most mundane of encounters.  If you haven’t ever picked up one of these books, start at the beginning when you’re in the mood for something light and relaxing.

slice of celebration

Pride of Botswana

reaches jubilant milestone

Congratulations!

And finally, a reminder that the monthly Fiction in 50 (Fi50) Flash Fiction Challenge is on again starting next week from the 23rd of September!

fiction in 50

….the prompt for this month is…

…UNCONVENTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS…

So pick up your pen, stylus, keyboard or pointy finger and create a piece of fiction in 50 words or less, then post a link so we can all enjoy your efforts.  It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t even have to be insightful or serious, but it does have to be MICRO-SIZED!

For more information and a slightly more detailed explanation of the challenge and its requirements, click on the button above, or the appropriate page in this blog’s header.  Hope you will all join in!

Until next time,

Bruce and Mad Martha

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Read-it-if: Pathways to Illumination….

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Afternoon me hearties! Today I bring to you something a little bit different – poetry! No, not my own or Mad Matha’s spectacular efforts of poetic brilliance, but those of Christy Birmingham in her compact yet emotional, autobiographical tome Pathways to Illumination.  Initially, Mad Martha and I discussed doing a haiku review given the poetical content of the book, but quite frankly, Ms Birmingham’s work is of a far greater quality than our own, so we decided to defer to a higher talent when we see it and go with the Read-it-if instead.

Pathways to Illumination is a collection of poems relating Birmingham’s journey through a toxic relationship and out the other side.  The poems explore the various stages of moving through a relationship breakdown, and address domestic violence, control in relationships, emotional turmoil, depression and self-harm before moving on to the more hopeful outcomes including finding support and beginning again with a more healthy and positive outlook.  The poems are structured to be read sequentially, so that the book almost takes on the design of a verse novel, allowing the reader to experience the author’s journey and engage with her process of healing.

pathways to illumination

Read it if:

* you like a bit of poetry but don’t like random collections of poems on disjointed topics

* you’ve ever hitched your star to a wagon that looked fancy at the time…but who’s hard wooden seats gave you splinters, who’s hard wooden wheels ran over your toes, and who ultimately hooked up with another, more tawdry looking wagon despite promises to the contrary

* you have unabashedly adopted Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as your personal theme song

* you can’t go past an author who, in her own words, “inhales personal growth and exhales a passion for every new day”

While we shelf denizens do our fair share of composing (slightly dodgy) poetry, admittedly, we don’t read a lot of it.  Mainly because poetry, like a classic novel, can be a bit daunting and intimidating. Or overly pretentious.  Thankfully, those labels do not apply to the poems in this book.  Rather, if you pick up Pathways to Illumination you will find poems that contain striking imagery, relatable content and honest emotion in a very readable format.  Best of all, one will be left with a sense of hope and optimism to speed one on one’s way.

If you are interested in grabbing a copy of the book, you can do so here.  And if you want to connect with Christy herself, you can check out her blog at www.poeticparfait.com

And just for kicks, here’s Ms Gaynor herself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBR2G-iI3-I

Until next time,

Bruce

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Haiku Review: The (Epic) Tale of a Library Dog…

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Good afternoon lovelies! I have an extra specialmartha and rhythm offering for you today from one of my very special blog-mates, and winner of the prestigious Gargie Award, Rhythm, the library dog!  Yes, today’s poem will honour Rhythm’s first (autobiographical!) tome, Reading with Rhythm: The Tale of a Library Dog. I was hoping she’d go for the pun and make it the “tail” of a library dog, but that’s just me.  The cover says it’s by Janet Mills, but she must have been the assisting typist as the content is very clearly in the voice of the puppy we know and love.

This colourful and appealing picture book delves into the lives of dogs who work for a living, be they therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, guide dogs for the vision-impaired, hunting dogs, guard dogs or library dogs (the best kind).  Alongside Rhythm’s explanation of the different working roles open to enterprising canines, is a little brief of what the grand lady herself enacts as a dog-about-the-library. Or school. Or Wherever, as the need arises.

The illustrations are very appealing and give the book a fun and engaging overall look.  You can read more about the illustrator, Paul Howell, here at Rhythm’s own blog. Here’s an example, followed by my review:

rhythm illustrations

Pups with a purpose

illustrate the old saying

working like a dog”

Had I been blessed with opposable digits, I would be giving this book two thumbs up.  Suffice to say, it will appeal greatly to the little ones, and would be an interesting side-discussion in early years curriculum relating to roles people (and fur-people) play in the community.

Rhythm’s book is available for purchase at Amazon, and while you’re clicking around, you can check out her blog (and fantastic flair with themed doggy costumes) at www.readingwithrhythm.wordpress.com.

Adios amigos!

Mad Martha

 

Challenging Reads: January First…

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Ahem. Let me assume *serious reviewer mode* today as we delve into…..

Obstacle number 3 in the What’s in a Name Reading ChallengeJanuary First: A Child’s Descent Into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her by Michael Schofield.

Taken from: the Non-Christie-Listie

Category: Three – A book with a party or celebration in the title

January First is the memoir of Michael Schofield, father of January (Janni) Schofield, a little girl who has been diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia. It charts the extreme lengths that Janni’s family had to go to before her illness could be diagnosed and appropriate help obtained.  I was drawn to this book after seeing this family’s story on television – notably on Oprah and Dr Phil .

january first

This book’s Point of Difference:

That would have to be it’s unusual subject matter and the author’s voice…more about that below.

Pros:

– Well, it’s certainly an interesting read.  The author relates the day-to-day struggles of living with a child with extreme (and inexplicable) behaviours and I’m sure many parents would be able to relate to at least some of what he describes, if not to the levels exprienced here.

Cons:

– I had a couple of problems with this book. Firstly, I came to this book after having seen the family in documentary style tv shows….from those it was obvious that Jani had some major differences in behaviour from your average 8 or 9 year old, and required medical intervention.  Unfortunately, in the book, the way her father describes some of these behaviours makes it seem as if Jani is just the typical, naughty brat one might see in the lolly aisle of the shopping centre, screaming until it gets its way.  I found this off-putting, as part of the family’s struggle was getting professionals to understand that her behaviour was atypical and dangerous to herself and others. 

– Michael Schofield narrates the story with a spectacular disregard for his wife’s (Jani’s mother’s) abilities and level of caring about their daughter.  In fact, almost everyone in the book is depicted as having a far lower level of rapport and ability to manage Jani than Schofield himself. I’m not sure whether this was a deliberate attempt to relate the actual dynamic of the relationship and his real emotional responses to the situations they found themselves in – he does address this briefly towards the end of the book –  but I found his narration arrogant and coupled with my first con, it left me with the (unwanted and judgemental) feeling that it was unsurprising that he didn’t find the help Jani needed sooner.

Overall:

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I was hoping it would be an insightful glimpse into the lack of services available for mental health generally and children’s mental health specifically.  It did accomplish this to a degree, but I really struggled with building mental rapport with the author and this diminished my levels of empathy toward his situation.  If you would like to give this one a try (and it’s certainly worth a look, despite my cons) I would suggest doing so after viewing some of Jani’s story on video, to give you an idea of Jani as a person. 

Here’s a little bit of Jani’s first appearance on Oprah Winfrey, to start you off.

Oh, and if  you are wondering why I started off calling her Janni and changed to Jani, all will be explained in the book.

Until next time, campers!
Bruce

 

 

 

Read it if…: Deranged Marriage

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Something different for today’s review – a memoir!  Deranged Marriage by Sushi Das is an easy read, and a thought-provoking take on the author’s experience of growing up in Britain as the child of Indian migrants.  It’s also more than a little bit chuckleworthy, particularly in the way it addresses some of the more…colourful…oddities of British, Indian and Australian culture.

A continuing theme of the book is the author’s aversion to accepting an arranged marriage, and how this struggle affected her own choices and the lives of those closest to her.  One of the best (and sneakiest) parts of the book for me was the way Das managed to drop in facts and statistics and questions about arranged marriage around the world as compared to other types of marriage, without dragging the whole piece down into the mire of complicated and important ethical, cultural and legal issues.  Instead, the important questions are asked in the context of the author’s lived experience, allowing the thought to be lodged in the reader’s mind for consideration at a later stage, and the narrative flow to continue largely uninterrupted.

deranged-marriage

 

Anyway, this is supposed to be a review for the time-poor, so, READ IT IF:

 

* you are or have ever been a migrant, or you know someone who has – particularly one moving between cultures with glaring differences

* you have ever wondered why England has classes for its postal system (presumably the first class post gets to eat using the good silver)

* you are, have ever been, or are ever planning to be, a teenager with ideas

*you have even a passing interest in feminism, or cultural issues that involve or affect women

* you have ever wished you could change your name to something (preferably with new and interesting spelling combinations) to reflect your real, though hidden, identity

 

It’s a big dinky-di, you-beauty-mate two thumbs up from Brucey on this one.

Until next time,

Bruce