Fiction in 50 Reminder!

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fiction in 50

It’s that time again – get out your pencil, keyboard or tablet-poking finger and get writing – Fiction in 50 is nearly upon us!

This month our prompt will be….

an-offer-you-cant-refuse

To participate, all you need do is create a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer  than 51 words, post it somewhere, then come back here on Monday and add your post link to the comments of my Fi50 post.  For more information and for upcoming prompts, just click on the attractive button at the top of this post.  New players are always welcome!

Until next time,

Bruce

Fiction in 50 October Challenge: A Democratic Prompt

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Welcome to Fiction in 50 for October, where stalwart writers battle with words to wrangle a coherent story in fewer than 51 words – or just slap something together at the last minute!  For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click on the attractive button at the top of this post.

Our prompt for this month is democratic in the extreme:

with-great-comes-great

You fill in the blank!

True to my word last month, I have penned a story that is entirely free from heavenly hosts.  I have chosen…

With Great Reputation Comes Great Responsibility

…as my prompt-filler and have titled my contribution:

The Art of Adaptation

Mavis Jones, winner of nine years’ worth of championship sashes for baking, was struggling with the new competition guidelines.  She had wrestled with the nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, carbohydrate-reduced requirements, but the result was unworthy of her reputation.

This year, her cakes would take on all comers in the modern art competition.


I’m two words over the limit this time around.  Editing suggestions welcome!

I can’t wait to see what other players have come up with for their prompts.  For those who like to plan ahead, our prompt for November is…

an-offer-you-cant-refuse

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday and a reminder for Fi50 October…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

 

Fiction in 50 for October kicks off on Monday with a democratic prompt:

with-great-comes-great

You fill in the blank!

To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.


TBR Friday

In a herculean effort that involved reading really thin books, I have managed to knock over THREE tomes for the Mount TBR Challenge this month – hooray!

Let’s get cracking then.  First up was Oddfellow’s Orphanage by Emily Winfield Martin.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

What do an onion-headed boy, a child-sized hedgehog, and a tattooed girl have in common? They are all orphans at Oddfellow’s Orphanage! This unusual and charming chapter book tells an episodic story that follows a new orphan, Delia, as she discovers the delights of her new home. From classes in Cryptozoology and Fairy Tale Studies to trips to the circus, from Annual Hair Cutting Day to a sea monster-sighting field trip, things at Oddfellows are anything but ordinary . . . except when it comes to friendships. And in that, Oddfellows is like any other school where children discover what they mean to each other while learning how big the world really is.

oddfellows-orphanage

Ten Second Synopsis:
Delia arrives at Oddfellow’s Orphanage only to discover an array of quirky and whimsical inhabitants. Gentle adventures ensue.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Two years and six months.  I ordered it in April 2014.

Acquired:

Purchased from the BD.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I bought it because the cover was so beautiful, but then I read some critical reviews on Goodreads about it, so I left it languishing, afraid it would be terrible.

Best Bits:

  • It’s short, gentle, episodic and whimsical.  Nothing particularly bad happens and overall this felt like a hipsterish offering, but with good intentions.
  • Each chapter introduces a new cheerful adventure that is unconnected (for the most part) to the others, so the book can be read one chapter at a time over a long period.  This is how I approached it.
  • The black and white pencil illustrations are gorgeous and fill out the characters a bit.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • There’s no connected plot, just a collection of stories about the people who live in the orphanage, so there is no particular motivation to finish the book if you’re bored.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Nope.

Where to now for this tome?

Give away or sell at a suitcase rummage.

Next up, I read the first two books from Bruce Coville’s The Magic Shop series, starting with The Monster’s Ring.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Twist it once, you’re horned and haired;
Twist it twice and fangs are bared;
Twist it thrice? No one has dared!

Russell is sure that the ring he gets at Mr. Elives’ shop is just a silly magic trick, but he follows the instructions and twists the ring twice anyway–and becomes a monster!

the-monsters-ring

Ten Second Synopsis:
Russell has a problem with a bully at school.  When he unexpectedly comes across a magic shop after getting lost, he finds that the solution to his problems might be right within his grasp.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

One year and eleven months.  I ordered it in November 2014.

Acquired:

Purchased from the BD.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Laziness.

Best Bits:

  • This is a quick read, in which very few words are wasted on filler.  It really is the kind of middle grade book you can knock over in a night or two, which is what the author intended according to the author’s note that is included with this edition.
  • The magic shop is appropriately creepy and mysterious – exactly the kind of magical establishment that a middle-grade aged kid would love to stumble across.
  • The ending is a little unexpected and quite funny.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • This is a re-issue of the original book, so the boy on the cover looks absolutely nothing like the boy in the interior illustrations.
  • The plot is quite predictable for the most part, and there are a few moments when the solution to Russell’s predicament is bleedingly obvious – use the ring! – but for some reason he takes a while to figure that out.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I probably could have borrowed it for the library.

Where to now for this tome?

Give away to someone of the intended age group.

Finally, I finished the second book in Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop series, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Sixth-grader Jeremy Thatcher discovers a strange magic shop he has never seen before. He enters, and his life is changed forever. Buying what he thinks is a marble, he discovers he has really purchased a dragon’s egg.

jeremy-thatcher-dragon-hatcher

Ten Second Synopsis:
Jeremy Hatcher is a fantastic artist but his art teacher hates how he only draws imaginary things.  When Jeremy stumbles across a magic shop, he discovers that dragons may exist outside his imagination.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Six months to a year.  I picked it up sometime in 2015.

Acquired:

Bought at a second hand book sale because I knew I had The Monster’s Ring already on the shelf.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I hadn’t read the first in the series, so I was waiting until I had knocked that one over.

Best Bits:

  • This book is a little heftier than the first in the series and the characters were more fleshed out and felt more genuine.
  • There’s quite a bit of situational humour in this one, as well as the predicament of Jeremy having an unwanted love interest.
  • The problems that Jeremy has to face were pitched at exactly the right level for the middle grade audience, with friendships, forgiveness and facing criticism and disappointment some of the themes appearing in addition to the fantasy elements.
  • The scene in which Jeremy finds the magic shop follows the same scene from book one almost word for word, which I thought was a pretty cool way to link two stories in a series that are otherwise completely separate.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • The adult characters aren’t as authentic-feeling as the child characters.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I probably could have borrowed it for the library.

Where to now for this tome?

Give away to someone of the intended age group.

Count that as three more chinks off the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block and I have now achieved Level 1 of the challenge: Pike’s Peak, or twelve books!

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Fi50 September Challenge…#flashfiction #signsandwonders

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

Welcome to the Fiction in 50 micro-writing challenge for September, with the prompt:

signs and wonders button

If you’d like to join in, just create a piece of prose or poetry in fewer than 51 words and link it up in the comments section of this post.  For more detailed information on the challenge and future prompts, just click here.

I have tried and tried but I just can’t cull my effort to under 53 words this time around.  Editing suggestions are always welcome!  I seem to have followed on with my afterlife theme from last month too.

Anyway, here’s my contribution, titled…

Mysterious Ways

Even after world governments confirmed the end was nigh, Grandad Will was sceptical.

During the rapture, he was one of the first to ascend.  His final words burn in my memory, as forgotten sins burn my flesh.

“It’s hooey, Billy! A conspiracy!”

Will, Billy…

I still wonder if Heaven made a clerical error.


I can’t wait to see what others have come up with for this month.  Next month we have a democratic prompt with…

with-great-comes-great

(You fill in the blank!)

I’ve already got an inkling for what I’ll do with that prompt – definitely no heavenly bells next month!

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday + a Fi50 Reminder…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

As difficult as it is to believe, it’s time for Fiction in 50 for September – that’s right, September.  I hope, as well as planning your Fi50s, you’ve also got your end-of-year shopping on the go already because there are just under 14 weeks to go until Christmas.

Scared you there, didn’t I?

I also figured that out using a handy little site called Weeks Until, which has a tool for you to figure out the waiting time until any date you like.  Nifty!

But back to Fiction in 50 business.  To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.  Our prompt for this month is…

signs and wonders button

See you there!


TBR Friday

I feel like I’m doing well on my Mount TBR Challenge so far.  My aim was to knock over 12 books from my TBR shelf that I phsyically owned before the first of this year and to date, including today’s effort, I have managed to complete all the books from my original list!  TBR challenge list

This is excluding The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I decided not to finish, but including Hester and Harriet, which hadn’t arrived by the time I took this photo.  So hooray for me!  This means I will be able to add in a few extra contenders to make it over the #12 mark by the end of the year.

*crosses claws*

But let’s get on with today’s book, The Riverman by Aaron Starmer.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Alistair Cleary is the kid who everyone trusts. Fiona Loomis isnot the typical girl next door. Alistair hasn’t really thought of her since they were little kids until she shows up at his doorstep with a proposition: she wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into the mind of a potentially troubled girl. Fiona says that in her basement, there’s a portal that leads to a magical world where a creature called the Riverman is stealing the souls of children. And Fiona’s soul could be next. If Fiona really believes what she’s saying, Alistair fears she may be crazy. But if it’s true, her life could be at risk. In this novel from Aaron Starmer, it’s up to Alistair to separate fact from fiction, fantasy from reality.

the-riverman

Ten Second Synopsis:

Alistair doesn’t really know Fiona too well; despite the fact that she lives down the street, they stopped hanging out when they were about seven.  When Fiona chooses Alistair to be her biographer and tells him a story that is, frankly, unbelievable, Alistair will have to decide whether to risk believing in the unbelievable, or investigate what might be really going on in Fiona’s life.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I ordered it from the BD on the 3rd of February, 2015 so it’s been on there since a week or so after that.

Acquired:

Purchased from the BD.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Sheer laziness.  Plus, it felt like it might be a hefty read.  So again, laziness.

Best Bits:

  • I found this to be an extraordinarily good example of YA magical realism.  Or fantasy.  Both, really.  The story is complex and deftly woven and you are never sure whether Aquavania exists or whether it’s Fiona’s coping mechanism.
  • Even though the book deals with some grown-up issues, making it more appropriate for upper-end YA readers, Alistair is a perfectly authentic twelve-year-old protagonist, showing that combination of bravado, indifference and bewilderment common to kids of this age.
  • There’s a twist regarding the Riverman that was so unexpected as to be inexplicable – but this was okay because (a) it leads nicely into the second book and (b) it reinforced the atmosphere of confusion relating to the whole “is Aquavania real?” question.
  • The narrative style was absolutely engaging and provided a thorough exploration of the main characters, as well as the motivations of various others in the town.  I was super-impressed by how tight the story was and how expertly it had been put together.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • I can’t really think of any parts of the book I personally didn’t enjoy, but looking at it from another perspective, some readers may find the gaps in between the “fantasy” parts of the story too long.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Absolutely.  In fact, in no time at all I will procure the second book in the trilogy, The Whisper, and no doubt leave it on my shelf for a year or so, just for old time’s sake.

Where to now for this tome?

Straight to the permanent shelf.

If this has whetted your appetite at all, I will have another Aaron Starmer title for you next week – new release YA tome Spontaneous, which came to us with a free splatter jacket.  There might also be a giveaway to go with this one, but keep it under your hat!

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

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Fi50 August Challenge!

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It’s Fiction in 50 time for August!  To play along, just create a piece of fiction or poetry based on our monthly prompt in fewer than 51 words, then link your post in the link-up here:

For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click on the attractive button at the top of this post.

Our prompt for this month is…

squeaky wheel

I have titled my contribution…

Waiting Period Served

Dear Mr Smith,

RE: Placement Confirmed

Recent complaints about your incessant whistling, tapping, clicking, sighing, groaning and slumping have resulted in your case being fast-tracked. 

Officials from Below are unwilling to accommodate such behaviours, so I am pleased to offer you a place in Paradise.

Sincerely,

Purgatorial Processing Commission


How’s that for some grease?!  I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with, but in the meantime, our prompt for next month is…

signs and wonders button

Until next time,

Bruce

 

A Love-Note to Secondhand Bookshops…and a Fi50 Reminder…

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imageBefore we crack on with an OzYA ode to bookstores and bookishness, allow me to gently remind you that Fiction in 50 for August kicks off on Monday with the prompt…

squeaky wheel

To participate, just create a piece of prose or poetry in fewer than 51 words, post it somewhere and then link it up to the linky in my post on Monday.  For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click here.


words in deep blue

Today’s book is a bit of an unusual choice for we shelf denizens, given its high lovey-dovey content, but we absolutely enjoyed diving into its unusual format and premise.  We received Words in Deep Blue by Cat Crowley from the publisher via Netgalley and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

You would be forgiven for assuming that a first-line like that one would cause me to immediately roll my eyes, gnash my teeth and run in the opposite direction, but I will admit to being caught by the second line.  The reference to readers writing letters drew me in and I’m glad it did because this really is a coming-of-age story worth getting stuck in to.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Rachel and Henry, ex-best friends who have drifted apart amidst deliberation (Rachel) and confusion (Henry).  Rachel has spent a recent stint away from the town in which she and Henry grew up, nursing grief for the sudden death of her brother and enmity towards Henry, for falling in love with a someone who isn’t Rachel.  Henry, meanwhile, has remained working at his parents’ quirky, failing secondhand bookstore, Howling Books, being tossed on the winds of love by his on-again, off-again girlfriend Amy, and wondering why Rachel is shunning him so completely.  In an unexpected turn of events, Rachel finds herself back in her home town and back facing Henry over a gulf of grief that she can’t put into words.  Henry finds Rachel just as Amy seems to have finally called it quits for good, and his parents mull over whether or not to sell their beloved bookstore, and with it, it would seem, the family’s one safe port in a stormy world.

There’s a real sense of warmth and innocence underpinning Henry’s parts of the novel.  While obviously a bit of a homebody who still needs the security of family and stability, Henry is thrust into some major life changes that are out of his control.  Rachel on the other hand, is prickly, standoffish, and bizarrely protective of her grief, to the point that she won’t reveal the fact of her brother’s recent death to anyone from her hometown.  Both the main characters (and all the others!) are gently flawed and I found a great appeal in seeing how they slowly move toward embracing or rejecting the new opportunities opening up.

The most fantastic non-human character in the story is, of course, Henry’s family’s bookstore, Howling Books.  The descriptions of it make it sound like the most comfortable, lived-in (both figuratively and literally), enticing little book nook that could ever be, and so the thought of losing it struck me almost as hard as it strikes Henry.  I absolutely adored the idea of the Letter Library – a section in the shop where customers can write letters to friends, lovers, strangers – whoever! – and leave them to be found within the pages of the Letter Library tomes.  There is a clever sub-plot relating to Henry’s sister George that utilises this method, and other characters’ stories are fleshed out through glimpses into the letters left within the pages of the books.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves books about bookshops, readers and literature changing lives.  The romance stuff isn’t rammed down your throat, even though it is a main focus of the book, because it feels like an authentic coming-of-age tale rather than a typical YA love triangle type story.  Despite the difficult themes of grief and growing up within the book there is an undeniable charm and geniality that exudes, I suspect, mostly from Howling Books, and keeps the overall reading experience buoyant.  I will think back on this one with fondness and make the startling (for me!) claim that if you only read one book featuring broken hearts this year, you could do a damn sight worse than this one.

Until next time,

Bruce

Fi50 July Challenge!

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It’s writing time again!  Get your pens, fingers and brains ready to rip out a fantastic bit of micro flash fiction for Fi50.  All you need do to participate is create a piece of poetry or fiction in 51 words or fewer and post a link in the linky here:

This month’s prompt is…

aged to perfection

I’ve gone a bit dark and broody this month for a change.  I have titled my contribution…

Best Served Cold

Finally, it was her time.

For years she had been cowed under his words, his fists, but time had taken its course and now he was at her mercy.  Age had made a fool of him, leaving him languishing, immobile, reliant.

She promised herself the opportunity would not be wasted.


I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with!  Don’t forget to add your efforts to the linky.

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday…and an Fi50 Reminder!

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

It’s that time of the month again – Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday!  To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.  Our prompt for this month is…

aged to perfection

Be there or be square!

TBR Friday

It’s back to YA for my TBR Friday effort this month, with A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”

Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve seen it. It can happen.

And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day …

bad day for voodoo

Ten Second Synopsis:

After receiving an unfair failing grade in a test, Tyler’s well-meaning but slightly deranged best friend obtains a voodoo doll of the teacher in question.  After a completely innocent poke that causes the teacher’s leg to fly off in a spectacular display of bloody cinema, Adam experiences an episode of paranoia in which he obtains a voodoo doll of Tyler, and the shenanigans begin in earnest.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I’m not entirely certain – It was published in 2012, but probably made it on to the shelf sometime in 2013 or 2014…or 2015.

Acquired:

Received as a birthday gift

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I really, really wanted to read it for ages and so relegated it to the shelf.  As you do.

Best Bits:

  • There were a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments in this one, particularly during the “teacher’s leg flying off” scene.  The writing is casual and full of banter and this is obviously meant to be a funny book, rather than a book with any serious subplots, so it was a fun, light interlude.
  • Tyler is a protagonist one can relate to, who, through no fault of his own, finds himself in a series of unlikely, but amusing, life-or-death situations
  • The voodoo sellers are pretty funny characters who almost steal the show.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • The banter-y style started to get old for me about halfway through the book.  By the last quarter I just wanted the author to get on with the story, as things become a race against time, but the obligatory banter kept up until the end, which I felt slowed the pace a little.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Considering it wasn’t my money that paid for it, yes.

Where to now for this tome?

I will probably pass it on to someone who will enjoy it.

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

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

Fiction in 50 June Challenge!

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Welcome to Fiction in 50 for June, where stalwart writers battle with words to wrangle a coherent story in fewer than 51 words – or just slap something together at the last minute!  For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click on the attractive button at the top of this post.

Our prompt for this month is…

only certainty

I have titled my entry…

Words to Live By

“This too shall pass.”

Bollocks!  His therapist had no idea. You’re born, you get jilted, you die.  That’s how it was for people like him. 

He snorted at the exhortation to “be thankful each moment” as the lorry screeched through the red light toward his car.

Ironically, he died laughing.


I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with!  Our prompt for next month is…..to be announced because I haven’t got around to making them up yet.  Sorry about that.  I’ll get onto it as soon as possible, so check back here within the next few days.

Until next time,

Bruce