Bruce’s Shelfies: The Book of Curious Lists…

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imageHello there! Today we’re getting up close and personal with another Shelfy, wherein I share with you some of the more interesting books on my shelf.  Today I have just the thing for the creatives among you and those who just love a good list.  Many years ago (well, maybe 5) I came across this darling little tome on the Book Depository:

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In case you can’t read it clearly, it is Curious Lists: A Creative Journal for List-Lovers published by Chronicle Books.  It was one of those books that I enthusiastically engaged with for a few months immediately after its purchase, and then put aside as other time-thieves took over my waking hours.  But the metaphorical chickens have come home to do some metaphorical roosting, because having picked it up again during out recent move, I found it was just perfect to share with you in this Shelfies feature as a little snapshot of Bruce as I was around about 2010.

Essentially, this is a sweet little hardback tome filled with prompts for creating lists.  But these are no ordinary lists, oh no.  These lists are strange, unexpected and sometimes just downright silly.  Let me demonstrate.

Here’s one of my favourite lists in the book: Collections of Things Beginning with the Letter S or O

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You can tell it’s one of my favourites due to the vigour with which I’ve approached the filling in of the list.  In fact, I was so enthusiastic about collections of severed limbs, that I’ve listed them twice. Such is the enjoyment that this little book brings.

Here’s another that got my mind whirring: Encumbrances for a Bike Rider

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I think it was the little illustration that piqued my imagination, but I found quite a bit of glee in mentally conjuring the image of a bike rider trying to balance a kennel of homeless puppies on his or her handlebars.  Or indeed, a couple of stone gargoyles.

Some of the lists I obviously used to demonstrate how hilarious I am.  Consider evidence A: Quotes Uttered at a Shakespeare Holiday Party

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Clearly I laughed like a drain when composing this list, no doubt wiping a granite tear from my eye as I did so.  And here’s another that I quite obviously was itching for someone else to read and enjoy, from around the time I was perched on a teacher’s bookshelf: Heartbreaking Words to Be Said to a Teacher

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The above picture also demonstrates that some of the lists had me baffled.  Cuisine Associated with Philadelphia remained sadly blank for the longest time until I happened to catch an episode of Dr Phil a year or two ago, in which the good Ph.D. visited Philadelphia and ate a cheese steak.  Of course I dashed off immediately to fill in my book of lists!

Other suggestions for this list would be gratefully received.  Of course, I could just google the information, but where’s the fun in that?  Apart from Philadelphian cuisine, here are some other lists that I’m stuck on:

Zip Codes in New York

Evergreen Shrubs of Ireland

Weeds that are also not Weeds

Beaches of Southern California

Rural Areas mentioned in Hemingway Stories

Any suggestions received will duly attract a “suggester’s credit” in my little book, of course.  While you’re thinking, here are two more lists that I filled in with only one entry.  Obviously I thought these single items were sufficiently hilarious that I need add no more!

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Equally hilarious suggestions will of course be gratefully received.

I’m interested to know if anyone else out there is in possession of this wondrous little list repository and if so, how it illuminates their life.  Or indeed if anyone has something similar, I would love to hear about it.

Until next time,

Bruce

A Small Fry Safari Wrap Up and….The Shelf’s NEW Reading Challenge for 2015!

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As we wrap up the year, it’s once again a time of reflection.  On triumphs and troughs. On goals achieved and on those that got away from us. In this vein, I have to acknowledge those who challenged themselves to read in unexpected ways this year by participating in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge.

small fry

It was fun, it was feisty and it gave each of us a little thrill when we came across a book that we could manhandle into one of the categories.  All in all, a very worthwhile endeavour.  If you would like to find out more about the challenge (which is still open until December 31st by the way, and therefore still very much achievable!), or see the entries that were hunted and tracked by those on the safari bus, simply click here.

If you were one of the intrepid travellers who managed to finish the challenge, feel free to grab yourself this awesome button for your blog, wall or trophy cabinet.  I will be having mine proudly made into a shelf-sized doona cover.  Feel free also, if you know about photoshop (or the old-fashioned method of literal cutting and pasting) to place an image of your own face over mine. To paste it on your blog, simply copy the code in the box below the image and paste it on your blog.

The Bookshelf Gargoyle
<div align="center"><a href="https://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress.com" title="The Bookshelf Gargoyle"><img src="https://thebookshelfgargoyle.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/image5.jpg" alt="The Bookshelf Gargoyle" style="border:none;" /></a></dimageiv>

But enough of Small Fry! Small Fry is soooooo 2014! Today I unveil my new, fresh off the boat, just out of the oven reading challenge for 2015.  It’s called the….wait for it…..

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I’m excited! Aren’t you? Of course you are.  This challenge will be a little bit different from the Small Fry Safari in that it will encompass ALL types of literature, not just Kid Lit.  If you are up for the challenge and want to find out more, click on the impressively attractive image above and all your questions will be answered.  Come on! Join in! It’ll be fun!  I’m also going to include some GIVEAWAYS for participants in the challenge in 2015, so share the news around – the more oddness the merrier!

In case you’re wondering, I’m going to attempt the challenge at the Audaciously Odd level.  Bet you’re intrigued now, aren’t you? Go on then, click the challenge button and find out more!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Festive Frivolity: Bruce’s Christmas Lucky Dip!

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It’s time once again for one of my favourite features – Bruce’s Lucky Dip! If you are unfamiliar with this one, it involves me typing a random word into the search engine of the Book Depository and presenting to you the best and most unexpected results.  Appropriately for the time of year, this lucky dip is focused around Christmas.  So if you are still searching for the perfect present for that hard-to-buy-for character plaguing your Christmas list, sit back and let my festive fossiking provide the solution to all your woes….click on the book covers for more information on each title.

Firstly, for the hardcore crafty crafter:

knits before christmas

For the religious hardcore crafty crafter:

knitivity

Unsurprisingly enough, these two are by the same author.

For the ungrateful relative of a hardcore crafty crafter (religious or otherwise):

ugly christmas sweater

Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

For the person who just needs a little assistance to manage that carefree, Christmas happy-tude:

funny christmas verse

For the party-pooping Christmas sad sack who needs more than a bit of funny festive poetry to get them in the mood:

christmas therapy

Let those elves psychoanalyse the holiday grumps away…

For the entrepreneur with a desire for wealth untold and rapid upward mobility:

trees for pleasure and profit 4th edition

Scoff if you must, but do note that this book is in its fourth edition, so the author must have made at least a little bit out of this harebrained scheme…

For the animal activist, or that annoying child that keeps begging you for a puppy:

christmas turkeys

Imagine the expression of joy on their little faces when you present this book and then lead them into the back yard, accompanied by the sound of festive gobbling…

For those for whom mulled wine is not enough to spice up the holiday:

affair before christmas

Now it doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I come across a book in one of these searches that makes me do this face:

confused smileyThis time I have found hands down the most inexplicable Christmas title ever.  Clearly, I move in sheltered shelfish circles.  This one certainly has a fun and frivolous vibe to it, but it ain’t my idea of traditional festivities.  And it’s certainly not for children.  If you want to see it on Goodreads though, just click here.

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Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? In fact, I bet you’re making the face right now.

And that’s my festive lucky dip for 2014 – I hope I’ve helped you with those tricky people on your present list….although if you’re buying that last one for anybody I don’t want to know about it.  You weirdie.

Stay tuned next week for a wrap up of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge, and a BRAND NEW CHALLENGE for 2015.  It’s going to be real bobby-dazzler!

Until next time,

Bruce

A Zombified Maniacal Double Dip (and an Fi50 reminder….)

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manical book club button  image  fiction in 50

Welcome to this (rather crowded) Friday post.  First up, a reminder to all those intrepid writers of mini-narrative, Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday for this month, and the prompt for October is….

the darker side of

You fill in the blank! To play along, just create a piece of fiction in 50 words or less and then come back on Monday and add your effort to the linky or leave a link in the comments.  For more detailed instructions and for future prompts, click here.  New players are always welcome!

Now onto business.  Today the Maniacal Book Club is going to attempt a double dip review. Please bear with us as this has never happened before and it could go horribly (and amusingly) wrong.  To add to the potential chaos, we have also chosen two books featuring the living impaired that would be perfect for middle graders (particularly boys) with an interest in combating undeath in all its stinky forms.  Let us begin with Mr Katz is a Zombie by M.C. Lesh.mr katz is a zombie

Twelve year old J.D. has a fairly interesting life – his parents are ghost hunters (as well as being perfectly ordinary people) and J.D. himself can see and communicate with ghosts.  When J.D. acquires an old book of spells during one of his parents’ ghostbusting jobs, he suspects it might lead to trouble.  This suspicion turns out to be correct when his friend Rodney accidentally reads a spell out loud and turns their teacher into a shuffling, stinky zombie.  Never one to turn a blind eye to injustice, J.D., Rodney and Rodney’s twin younger brothers take on the task of figuring out how to turn Mr Katz back into his non-stinky self before brains are splattered all over North Goethalsburg.  Cue action!   Cue adventure! Cue extra-large sacks of jam-filled doughnuts!

Dip into it for…

…a fun romp that features a remarkably sensible and compassionate protagonist, some well-meaning and inventive zombie-herding techniques and a general reminder to always read the fine print.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re not a fan of zombies.  Or fine print. Otherwise you’ll find this to be a light, entertaining read.

Overall Dip Factor:

maniacal book club guru dave

 Guru Dave says: The message of this tome is clear: Mess not with that which is beyond your understanding! Although if you must delve into the magical arts in a crowded public place, at least direct your spells toward someone who is NOT responsible for providing an in-depth report to your parents on your behaviour.

maniacal book club toothless

Toothless says: No dragons in this book. But there is one zombie and one ghost so that nearly makes up for it.  This was a fun book.  I would have liked to be running around with J.D. and Rodney and the twins, chasing after Mr Katz.  It would have been fun with more brain splatting too.  Oh well. The stinky bits were funny.

maniacal book club martha

Mad Martha says: While chasing zombies, four young boys learned magic spell books are not toys.

maniacal book club bruce

Bruce says: I ended up really enjoying this one for its snappy dialogue and the amusing narrative that J.D. keeps up throughout the story.  The second half seemed to move a lot more quickly than the first and the twist in the tail of the plot was  unexpected,  convenient and really quite funny.  I’d recommend this particularly for young male readers (although girls will like it too) and as this is the first of a series, I’ll be keeping an eye out for J.D’s next adventure.

Four thumbs up!

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Now on to the intriguingly named Ben Fox: Squirrel Zombie Specialist At Your Service by Daisy Whitney.

ben fox zombie squirrelsBen is really more of a dog person.  It’s not that he dislikes cats, but he just isn’t particularly enamoured of his own family cat, Percy – a haughty siamese that showers affection on Ben’s little sister Macy.  When the Fox family gets a new doggy door installed for their dog Captain Sparkles, things begin to get weird.  On investigating a strange noise in the night, Ben comes across a creepy, blank-eyed squirrel staring in through the doggy door…and as Ben continues to investigate, he discovers that a whole army of squirrels that have clearly succumbed to untimely death due to squishing by car, has been raised in his backyard and appears to be doing the bidding of Percy the cat.  With Percy’s intentions for his undead squirrel army unclear (yet obviously nefarious), Ben must rely on the one person he never thought he’d need if Percy’s evil plans are to be thwarted before the Animal Zombie Apocalypse begins right in his own backyard.

Dip into it for…

…a surprisingly original and engaging novel with a strong protagonist and a plot that doesn’t waste words.  And for the zombie squirrels. Obviously.

Don’t dip if…

…the thought of villainous zombie woodland creatures (or doggy doors) offends you.

Overall Dip Factor:

maniacal book club guru dave

Guru Dave says:  Once again, a book that appears flippant on the surface, carries an important lesson for young minds.  Sometimes we are so preoccupied fighting the Animal Zombie Apocalypse in our backyard, that we forget to notice the conflict arising in our own living rooms.  Those who wish to take up the mantle of zombie hunter would do well to dwell on the wisdom contained in this tome.

maniacal book club toothless

Toothless says: No dragons. Again. But zombie squirrels are super-awesome.  I haven’t seen zombie squirrels before.  And this book also tells all about other zombie animals like zombie raccoons, zombie dogs, and my favourite, zombie ducks.  I’d love it if Ben Fox could fight off the Zombie Duckpocalypse next! Quaaaaaaaaaaack!

maniacal book club martha

Mad Martha says: When fighting zombie woodland creatures, focus on their beastly features.  To defeat these undead rodents, requires planning that is cogent.

maniacal book club bruce

Bruce says: You could be forgiven for thinking, as I did when I requested this book, that a middle grade book about the Squirrelpocalypse set in motion by an evil feline overlord could well end up being a complete load of rubbish.  Thankfully, I can assure you that this particular book about the Squirrelpocalypse and its evil feline overlord is an undiscovered gem!  I really, truly enjoyed this book from beginning to end, and finished it off in two short sittings. 

The great strength of the tale is the totally believable main character, Ben, who really is an “everyboy” who happens to have Cerebral Palsy.  While this condition does factor in to some parts of the story, it’s not a big deal and it’s not emphasised – just as in real life, it just is.  I applaud Whitney on creating a character who has a disability, but whose disability is not in any way the focus of the story.

This book is fun, it’s got a solid plot underpinning the slightly ridiculous squirrely invasion, and there’s enough action and humour to keep you turning pages at a rate of knots.  It will appeal to both boys and girls, particularly if they have a pet cat or dog (or both) and can imagine at least one of these plotting to take over the world.  This could easily provide some very entertaining pre-bedtime read-aloud experiences, or it would be a great choice for confident middle graders looking for a fresh twist on the zombie/monster theme.

Five thumbs up! (Bruce added a second thumb)

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So there you are – two zombie treats for the middle graders (and older MG fiction junkies) who would benefit from undeath mixed with action and humour.

Until next time,

Bruce (and the Book Club)

* I received both titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley*

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2014: A Bookish Year in Review…

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So last year around this time I jumped in on a fun, bookish survey from Pop Culture Nerd – you can check that out here if you like – and this year I’ve decided to do my own bookish review of the year that has (almost) been!  Basically, I’ve come up with some sentences and I aim to finish them with the titles of books that I have read this year.  I can’t guarantee that I won’t cheat though and use some titles from last year. Or titles on my TBR pile.  I may even include more than one title per sentence.  Hold onto your false teeth, thrillseekers, here we go!

So far, I would describe this year as being: [a] Blur

I’m tipping that the next big thing in Reality TV shows will be: Extreme Dentistry

I could have cried when: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

blur  extreme dentistry  mirror cover

I would love to have some respite from: Baby Penguins Everywhere!

The most unexpected thing that happened this year involved: 100 Hungry Monkeys

My non-bookish friends would say I: [have a] SuperEgo

baby penguins everywhere 100 Monkeys superego

My motto for the remainder of 2014 is going to be: Never Underestimate a Hermit Crab

The thing I am most looking forward to is: [an] 8-Bit Christmas

One of my favourite dreams features: Duck, Death and the Tulip

never underestimate a hermit crab  8 bit christmas duck death and the tulip

If you looked under my couch you would see: [a] Slimy Underbelly

If I could no longer keep blogging, I would probably pursue a career in: The Indifference League

Something most people don’t know about me is: I Need a New Butt

 

slimy underbelly  the indifference league  i need a new butt

I’ve linked the Goodreads info to each of the pictures if you have suddenly developed an interest in any of these handy titles.  Feel free to jump aboard with your own Bookish Survey – I’d love to hear what other people’s literary year has been like!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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A Cheeky Read-it-if Review: I Need a New Butt…

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imageBoy have I got something for you today.  Now, admittedly, I am usually not the greatest fan of books that have anything to do with bums, backsides, pooh, farts or anything related to our sitting muscles, but after reading the blurb of today’s offering (and finding out that the author and illustrator are from New Zealand – hooray!) I decided to take a chance.

Today’s offering is titled I Need A New Butt by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird and after satisfying myself that it was not some kind of new-fangled exercise program aimed at fleshlings possessing large posteriors, but rather a picture book for the mini-fleshlings, I decided to give it a crack. (Pun intended).

What do you do when you notice your bum has a big crack in it? Start looking for a new one, of course!  The protagonist of this story is a young lad who needs a new bum to replace the (obviously broken) one that he currently owns.  His imaginative quest recounted in rhyme takes him through a whole series of wildly spectacular but not entirely practical candidates, until he realises that this cracked-butt business may in fact be occurring at epidemic proportions – his Dad’s butt has a crack too!

i need a new butt

Read it if:

* you have a boy (or manchild) in your house suffering from a crack in the bum area

*you enjoy books about embarrassing body parts

*you can see how a robotic butt fitted with extra hands could be both stylish and practical

*you would do anything to reshape the bottom you currently own (including selling your pet dog)

Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed this book.  The rhyme was spot-on, the illustrations are hilarious and the story had a nice narrative flow.  Normally, as I said, I’m not the greatest fan of bum books because the story can veer off into that particular category of ickiness that should only really be enjoyed by eight-year-old boys, but I Need a New Butt is both non-icky and quite inventive.  For instance, the main character tries out a range of new bottoms, and carefully considers their pros and cons before refining his choice.  For exapmle, after realising that a bum made out of a chrome car bumper would be nice to look at and useful (for the headlights), it would probably be too heavy to carry around every day.

This book is going to be a hit with kids in the picture book age range, and, it must be said, with the dads of the kids in the picture book age range who get to read it aloud.  Overall, I think it’s a fun, cheeky option for those who like this kind of content.

And, to add my two cents worth, if I had the option of a new butt, I would definitely want one that does this:

butt_cannon_1761
Until next time,

Bruce

* I received a digital copy of this title from the publishers via Netgalley *

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ARC Read-it-if Review and GIVEAWAY: Jackaby…

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Greetings fiction fans! Today’s offering got me quite excited – it has a little bit of mystery, a little bit of magic, a little bit of investigatory detectivism, a historical setting and a fun, pacey plot.  It’s YA fantasy/paranormal detetctive novel Jackaby by William Ritter.  Stay tuned at the end of my review for your chance to WIN one of TWO SIGNED COPIES of Jackaby thanks to the publisher Algonquin – woot!

It’s 1892 and Abigail Rook is fresh off the boat in New Fiddleham, New England.  In her search for work, Abigail comes across a sign advertising the position of assistant to a detective of sorts.  On answering the advertisement, Abigail meets one R. F. Jackaby and is immediately drawn into a grisly murder investigation with a paranormal twist.  Jackaby, while being masterfully gifted in the ability to miss obvious social cues, is also possessed of a sight that allows him to see beyond the bounds of regular vision and notice all manner of beasties that inhabit reality, but exist outside the vision of ordinary humans.  And it is clear to Jackaby that this particular murder has been perpetrated by a supernatural being.  Unfortunately the local constabulary do not concur with Jackaby’s expert analysis, and Abigail finds herself scorned, threatened with arrest and locked up before the police finally come around to Jackaby’s way of seeing things.  With a handsome, but mysterious, young constable catching Abigail’s eye, a banshee heralding the death of all and sundry, an assortment of odd new housemates (including, but not limited to, an exotic flatulent frog and a man who has been transformed into a duck) and the whirlwind that is Jackaby, it’s a wonder that Abigail can keep any part of her mind on the job.  But if she and Jackaby can’t unravel this mystery in a hurry, Abigail could well meet a sticky end on her first real adventure.

jackabyRead it if:

* you liked Holmes and Watson but you always wished that at least one of them had magic powers…or that their villains did

* you are, or ever have been, a plucky young girl in search of an adventure, preferably one requiring the use of a leather-bound detective’s notebook

* you are the sort of person that, on being warned “not to stare at the frog”, take it in the spirit of a well-intentioned optional guideline, rather than a piece of prudent advice given with concern for your future welfare

* you enjoy rollicking adventures with cheery, cheeky banter, a mysterious, dangerous murderer and an oddment of fascinating characters

I was pleasantly surprised by Ritter’s work here and even though this is touted as a young adult book, I would happily place it in the adult fiction category without a second thought.  There’s nothing here that marks it out as specifically for YA and I quite enjoyed not being constantly reminded while reading that this was a story for a teenaged audience.  About a third of the way in, I was favourably comparing Jackaby with Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud as both books seemed to have a similar pace and style of humorous banter between the main characters.  While this remained true throughout the book, Jackaby had a much greater focus on the intellectual, investigative part of the story, and the development of relationships between various characters than Stroud’s book, and also had fewer wild action sequences. By the end of the book, I was impressed with the way that Ritter managed to balance the various elements of the plot to produce a really engaging read and well developed characters within a historical detective story with a supernatural twist.

While I enjoyed the murder mystery part of the book, I did manage to guess the killer before the reveal.  This did diminish that part of the story a little for me, and if there had been a few more suspects to pick from, this might not have been the case.  On the other hand, as this could potentially be the first in a series (and I really hope it is!), a less complicated murder mystery allowed Ritter to give more space to character and world development, which definitely worked to the book’s advantage in my opinion.

If you are a fan of detective stories and murder mysteries, historical fiction or paranormal fiction, I think you should put this book on your radar.  It is the perfect book for snuggling up with under the covers, and as the book is being released in September this year, it’s just in time for you Northern Hemisphere mob to do just that! For us Southerners, we can spread out with it in front of the fan instead.

Now, to the WINNING! Algonquin have kindly supplied us with two, yes TWO, signed, yes SIGNED copies of Jackaby to give away.  This giveaway is open internationally and all you have to do to enter is fill out the rafflecopter below.  No cheating either. I’m watching you.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Until next time,

Bruce

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