TBR Friday: Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns…

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TBR Friday

I desperately needed a quick read to squeeze in another book to keep up the momentum in my Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017  and lo and behold, there was Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns by Doug MacLeod sitting on the shelf waiting to step into the breach.

sister madge

Ten Second Synopsis:

The blurb at Goodreads tells us only that this book is “A collection of stories of life behind the walls of the Convent of Our Lady of Immense Proportions” and that should give you pretty much all the information you’ll need to help you decide whether or not you’re going to pick up this book.  In case you need more convincing, this a collection of fictional poems written by a fictional nun about all the other fictional nuns living at their fictional convent.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

A year, roughly?  Probably longer.

Acquired:

I had this book on my Goodreads TBR list and then I came across it on special at Booktopia so decided to snap it up.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Sheer laziness.  Or, in more biblical terms, rampant sloth.

Best Bits:

  • The fact that the convent is called “Our Lady of Immense Proportions”.  Honestly, that’s enough of a laugh in itself to justify buying the book.
  • The poems take up about a page each and are accompanied by amusing illustrations.  There is enough variety in the personal vices of the nuns presented here – from feeding small children to zoo animals, to reading Women’s Weekly magazine, to riding motorbikes through a corner store – to amuse and delight even the most staid of religious zealots.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • This is a niche sort of a book that doesn’t necessarily warrant much of a re-read although it would be good to pass around to like-minded friends and colleagues.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I suspect I could have had similar enjoyment from this one had I just borrowed it from the library.

Where to now for this tome?

To be sold at suitcase rummage.

I’m glad I’ve finally got this one out of the way, even though it is such a short book that I could have read it any time.  I promise that at the end of this month I’ll have a longer TBR book for you – Greenglass House is what I’m aiming to have read.  You can check out my progress toward the Mount TBR Reading Challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday and a Fi50 Reminder…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTONBefore we kick off with another TBR Friday, allow me to remind you that Fiction in 50 for March opens on Monday, with the prompt…

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To participate, just create a piece of poetry or prose in fewer than 51 words and link it up or post it in the comments of the Fi50 post on Monday.  For more detailed instructions and future prompts, just click here.

TBR Friday

This month’s TBR Friday suffered a bit of a false start.  I started off the month with The Elegance of the Hedgehog, from my list of titles that I wanted to get through this year, but made the decision to put it aside after getting about halfway through.  While I did enjoy parts of it, I felt that it required too much attention for me to really appreciate just at the moment.  So I rifled around through my other options and came up with Tigers on the Beach, an OzYA title from one of my favourite authors, Doug MacLeod.

tigers on the beach.jpg

Ten Second Synopsis:

Adam’s grandfather has recently passed away. His parents are struggling to drum up tourists to rent the family’s holiday cabins.  His brother is doing nefarious things with beetles.  And his grandmother has taken to shouting at possums and upsetting the guests.  With all this going on, it’s a wonder Adam manages to find a girlfriend at all. As first love blooms between Adam and Sam, life goes on in Samsara and Adam must try and save his parents business, fend off overzealous real estate agent, stop his brother from causing toilet-related chaos and generally grieve for his grandfather all while trying to figure out some very peculiar jokes.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Since about May 2014

Acquired:

As a prize in a giveaway from Behind the Pages blog

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I knew I would probably enjoy it given the author, so I was holding it back until I needed a surefire enjoyable read.

Best Bits:

  • The humour is as dry as a dead dingo’s proverbial. This is MacLeod’s style and I was happy to fall back into it in this book.
  • OzYA by established Australian authors often has a certain atmosphere about it. It’s laconic and matter-of-fact and it is present in this book
  • The themes of grief are explored thoroughly and sensitively here, behind a façade of comedic happenings
  • Adam and Sam are well-drawn as believable teenagers, with mood swings, urges and embarrassing stories abounding
  • Adam’s grandmother is an absolute cracker of a character. I love her snarky attitude toward Adam’s younger brother.
  • Some absolutely hilarious “dad”-type jokes. The one about the goldfish still has me giggling days later.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • As with many contemporary books, it can be difficult to see what the point of the story is while you are reading it. The ending rectifies this beautifully in this particular case, but I do find that books about everyday events can lag a bit while I’m reading them.

 

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Seeing as I won this one, the point is moot.  However, it has reminded me how much I enjoy MacLeod’s work and so I will once again try and seek out a copy of The Clockwork Forest to buy.

Where to now for this tome?

It will sit on the permanent shelf for the time being.

This is another chink off the Mount TBR  Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block.

Mount TBR 2016

I’m also submitting it towards my Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress for that challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Mind your own delusions: YA Fiction mixing mental health and fantasy themes…

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I am not abashed to admit that I spend a reasonable amount of time reading in the arena of Young Adult fiction.  This is a metaphorical arena, by the way, not a literal one. Just in case you were picturing my stony folds perched brightly on a stadium seat, clutching light refreshments, while adolescents, and authors catering to the same, fought it out in gladiator garb with paperbacks of varying thickness.  Not that such a spectacle would be necessarily negative, of course…it just wouldn’t be my scene.  But I digress.

Recently crossing my path have been a number of YA titles that combine main characters struggling with issues of mental health (or illness, depending on your viewpoint), with elements of fantasy or science fiction, with varying degrees of sucess.  I would now like to present three of these novels to you for your consideration.  Each offers something to engage those of you who, on seeing one more teen novel with a vampire/angel/demon/werewolf love story, would be prepared to enter the YA arena and fight to the death.

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson centres around Alison, who has been placed into a psychiatric facility in connection with the disappearance of a school-mate.  The story initially follows Alison as she comes to terms with her current predicament and attempts to make sense of her partial memory loss, and the strange and overwhelming sensations flooding her brain. Consultation with the young, handsome Dr Faraday reveals Alison to be experiencing synesthesia – a neurological condition in which multiple senses are stimulated for single sensory input – and this has contributed to her recent difficulties.

The element of science fiction that is thrust into this story happens so unexpectedly that on first reading I felt as if the publisher had somehow mistakenly printed halves of two different books into the one binding.  I won’t give any clues here as to the nature of the fantastical element that is injected into the story because while it was a surprise to me, I felt the sudden change of direction enhanced the overall narrative.  Thus, revealing it may take away from the experience of first-time readers.

Anderson has created here a very different and engaging novel that combines well-drawn characters with a sufficiently intriguing setting.  The unexpected twist in the tale happens late enough in the piece to ensure that readers have cast their lot in with the main characters and will happily suspend disbelief for the ride to the finish.  I highly recommend this novel for teens (anyone, really) looking for something a bit different.

The Shiny Guys by Doug MacLeod centres around Colin, a young person who also finds himself in a psychiatric facility due to his admission that he can see creatures resembling giant, upright cockroaches at the periphery of his vision.  These are the “shiny guys” of the title.  During his treatment, Colin gets the chance to meet the shiny guys and finds that they are real and in need of his assistance.  The story follows Colin’s journey as he attempts to carry out the instructions given to him by the shiny guys.

By the end of the novel, the reader is left to decide how real Colin’s shiny guys are and this could leave some readers feeling uneasy about the character they have come to know.  However, this story, while presenting a dark and ultimately ambiguous ending, is enfused with a gentle humour throughout that endears the reader to Colin and the other young people sharing Ward 44.

Admittedly, of the three books presented here, this was far and away my favourite.  It is definitely worth a look as it presents a realistic look (despite the giant insects) at the experiences of young people dealing with mental illness. Extra points for an Australian author also.

 Shift by Em Bailey relates the story of Olive, a teen returning to school after spending some time in a mental health clinic, and her self-imposed exile from her old, popular friends.  She now spends school days with new friend Ami, avoiding the malicious intentions of her ex-best friend, and the friendly advances of the new boy.  Enter Miranda, another new student, who Olive and Ami believe is a shapeshifter, slowly stealing the personality and position of her victim until she is the most popular girl in school.

This story is easily the weakest of the three presented here – it is Bailey’s first novel for the teen market and she may have been somewhat overambitious in what she was trying to achieve here.  This story did not have the genuine feel needed to provide an anchor for the reader when casting off their disbelief.  The characters seemed two-dimensional and some elements of the plot – including the death of one of the featured characters – seemed glossed over, without the emotional impact that one would expect for such events.

Despite this, Shift provides plenty of elements that would be attractive to the early teen reader – friendship dramas, the difficulties of establishing one’s identity in front of peers, tentative young love.  The fantasy elements also, while mostly overshadowed by normal human dramas, and at times unwieldy, give this novel its point of difference.  For that reason alone, I recommend it as a breath of fresh air for those tired of the standard boy meets “girl/boy turns out to be undead/girl meets similarly undead, but hotter boy etc” fare.

So, launch yourself into the arena if you haven’t already – and be armed with these recommendations…for it is dangerous to go alone….I’ve heard.

Until next time,

Bruce