ARC Adult Fiction Lantern Review: The Indifference League…

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Good morning to you, you super reader, you! It is Mad Martha with you today, (AKA the Poetical Affliction!) with a lantern review of a book for the grown-ups.  Today’s offering is The Indifference League by Richard Scarsbrook.

The Indifference League focuses on a group of high school friends (although the term could be applied loosely) who have chosen to gather together in their collective 30th year to relive some memories and (maybe) rekindle some old flames.  But this is no ordinary group of friends, oh no….this is The Indifference League! You see, on finishing school, this group of friends decided to form a pact which involved the adoption of a range of made up superhero names, and a commitment to use these names exclusively whenever they gather together.  The name of the group may indicate to you that the plan, such as it was, did not extend to the friends actually doing anything else, above and beyond calling each other by these silly names when they get together.   So after being privy to the initial formation of the group, the reader is then akin to a fly on the wall as the present-day meeting of the Indifference League (and their associated spouses and girlfriends) descends into an interesting blend of reminiscence and competition to see who’s life has turned out the least worst.  Will Mr Nice Guy finally make the move from boy-friend to boyfriend?  Can the Statistician dampen the fuse on the Time Bomb before she blows? And will the Hippie Avenger ever win an argument against SuperKen and SuperBarbie? Stay tuned to find out – same Indifferent Time, Same Indifferent Channel!

the indifference league

POW!

In no

time at all

we all got old.

Sigh.

This was a fun, light read.  In fact, were it not for the fact that I particularly dislike the beach (sand in the sock dreadlocks is very difficult to remove), then I would class it as a perfect beach read for those who aren’t into fluffy romance, popular psuedo-erotica or chick-lit about the sassy divorcee starting over in a small coastal town.    The story is essentially about a group of people in the late twenty-early thirty sort of age bracket, who are just beginning to realise that their first flush of youth may be rapidly dulling into a faded, scratchy magenta.  All the expected existential themes are present and accounted for – the nagging discontent about marriage/job/direction in life (or lack of it), the dilemma of how to reinvent oneself while surrounded by old acquaintances, the disturbing realisation about not having moved up the social ladder since high school – and these are deftly depicted through the various superhero identities as they prepare and attend the gathering.

The story is told by focusing on one or two characters per chapter, so the pacing varies nicely and gives the reader a chance to really get to know each characters’ situation and how they fit into the overall picture.  I found the labelling of each character with a psuedo-superhero identity super-helpful while reading because it meant that I didn’t have to keep track of names, as the groups stretches to about nine at one point.  Also, the superhero names immediately encapsulated the characters’ personalities, meaning that there didn’t need to be a lot of individual character description and development which would have dragged the plot back. The book also contains little bytes of information in the form of collector cards at the beginning of each chapter, which I felt was a clever way of imparting information about the characters and their past interactions, and a quirky, appealing additionto the book.

While I wouldn’t say that this was a groundbreaking or outstanding read, it was peppered with funny situations and dialogue exchanges and the premise of giving the characters superhero identities was a fun, engaging twist on an otherwise fairly standard “hey we’ve all grown up” plot.  I will say however, that the ending for one of the characters (Mr Nice Guy, incidentally) was quite poignant and unexpected and ratcheted my good feelings toward the book up a notch.

Overall, I’d recommend this one to readers who want to experience the nostalgia of hanging out with a group of old (if not necessarily good) friends, or alternately, those who want a bit of inspiration for superhero names that they could secretly apply to certain “old friends” on the sly.

The Indifference League is released on September 1st.

Hi ho, Mad Martha, AWAY!!

*I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review*

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Night of the Perigee Moon: Lantern Review and Author Spotlight…

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Greetings and salutations to you, my beloved associates in the pursuit of all things literary!  It’s Mad Martha with you today to provide you with a Lantern review of a fun and feisty new middle grade read featuring magic, mad cousins and monstrously large moons.  I give you Night of the Perigee Moon by Juliet Jacka!

Juliet is a Kiwi author.  And by Kiwi I mean that she hails from New Zealand, not that she is a cute, endangered, brown flightless bird with particularly advanced claw dexterity and a passion for literacy.  Although that would also be cool (and worth reading about).  We at the shelf love Kiwi authors. In fact, in a spectacular display of UnAustralianism, we are prepared to admit that we have a sneaking suspicion that New Zealand is an actual utopia, but until we can get Mad Martha stowed away in a suitcase heading for that delightful nation, we can’t confirm this positively.  Until then, we will continue quietly instigating the chilli-bin revolution. Join us, won’t you?

But back to the topic at hand! Once you have feasted your eyes on my poetical evaluation of this book, you can find out more about the author, who was brave enough to answer some (slightly self-centred) questions from Bruce AND THEN enter to win one of TWO PRINT copies of the book – woohoo! Since you are no doubt hyperventilating with excitement over all of that information, I will refrain from mentioning that the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, lest you pop a valve and have to be rushed to the hospital. If you would like to enter the giveaway, you can click this link here.  So let’s get to it.

Night of the Perigee Moon follows young Tilly Angelica in the days leading up to her thirteenth birthday.  Turning thirteen is exciting enough, but in Tilly’s family, the thirteenth birthday also marks the time when young Angelicas take ownership of  a shiny new magical ability.  Poor Tilly is dreading this however, and just wants to be normal kid and have a normal party – not a whole host of crazy, magical cousins, uncles and aunts turning up to celebrate her “changeover”.  If that were not enough to worry about, Tilly’s grown-up cousin Prosper (an enchanter) seems to be behaving in a rather sinister fashion.  Along with her cheeky younger brother Fergal, twin cousins Ninette and Pippi, and house cat Kit, will Tilly be able to take control of her emerging talent and use it to her advantage?  Or will creepy cousin Prosper use the power of the Perigee Moon to change Tilly’s life forever?

perigee moon

Twelve.

So much

safer than

thirteen for some

kids.

Night of the Perigee Moon felt to me like something Enid Blyton might concoct were she writing today.  It has that classic feel of a fun kids’ story full of magic, reasonably innocent adventure and a plot to be foiled close to home.  All that’s missing is the ginger beer, but there’s plenty of other food-related mayhem instead!  This book is going to be read and re-read by the younger end of the middle grade bracket and would be perfect as a read-aloud for a grade four or five class.  The real action with Prosper and the perigee moon takes a little while to get going because the first third of the book is devoted to Tilly as she waits for,  discovers, then begins to tentatively use, her talent.  When the action starts however, it is a non-stop ride to the end of the book, involving bell-wearing dogs, mad fighting bats and my personal favourite, spectacular home-made millinery.

Fergal, Tilly’s brother, is a joy to read about as his ingenious and hilarious antics turn the tide for Tilly against cousin Prosper, and Tilly’s best friend Olivia is exactly the kind of person you want in your corner when you have some embarrassing secrets to divulge.  There is also a scene involving some highly imaginative insults that you’ll want to pop in your back pocket for when the appropriate situation arises!  All in all, we on the shelf recommend Night of the Perigee Moon for confident readers (or as a pre-bed read-together) for all those seeking to find the magic in the ordinariness of family life.

If you’d like to win a copy of Night of the Perigee Moon, simply fill in the entry form in the rafflecopter link here.  The giveaway is open internationally, so all residents of planet Earth should be fine to enter.  Good luck!

Now just who is the mastermind behind this fanciful romp, I hear you ask.  Well, allow me to introduce you to Juliet Jacka!

Juliet Jacka was born in Wellington. She spent her university years in Dunedin, and then headed to Canada and the UK.Juliet Jacka (small)

She’s now back in New Zealand living in one of Wellington’s hilly suburbs in a red house by a railway line with her husband and two young girls.

Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

She started writing junior fiction stories when she was on maternity leave with her first daughter (who was luckily a good sleeper).

Juliet now juggles writing with work and family life. She has a BA in English and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.

To find out more about the brains behind Tilly’s adventures, we forced Juliet  to answer some of our inane, burning questions!

What was it about this story that compelled you to tell it, rather than any other ideas you had floating around? And are any of your characters based on anyone in real life? (Creepy cousin Prosper, maybe?!)

I’m a huge fan of books with magic and mystery in them, and got hooked by the idea of creating my very own magical world. It was jolly fun too – I had heaps of fun dreaming up weird and wonderful talents for the Angelicas.

I don’t know any creepy cousin Prospers in real life. Which is good. He’s a proper slime ball!

Did you ever consider a role for some gargoyles in Arial Manor? And do any Angelicas have any talents related to gargoylery?

Interesting idea! I’m sure Fergal would have fun getting up to mischief with a gargoyle or two. His changeover is coming up soon after all … he might just be a contender for an Angelica with a gargoylery-related talent.

What sparked your interest in the perigee moon phenomenon? Do you think there’s any truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon (especially a really BIG one)?

I was busy trying to get my baby to sleep one night when I noticed that the moon was bigger than usual. I did some research – and aha! It was a perigee moon.

From there I started wondering about the things that could happen when the moon is extraordinarily large. Although I was busy juggling work and two small children, I kept sneaking in moments to write about magic, mayhem and talking animals.

I think any excuse to go a little madcap comes in handy, so yes – of course I think there’s truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon. Especially a really, really BIG one …

What were some of your favourite books as a kid?

It’s great this question says“some” instead of “one” (the last favourite book question I had to answer asked me to pick one – mean!). Some of the some include: The Tricksters and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery,The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner and The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien.

Your story is an award winner – congratulations! Do they give you some kind of plaque or trophy for the award? And if so, where do you keep it?

It’s a fancy certificate with my name written on it in curly writing. I’m going to frame it and stick it on the wall.

So there you have it! Thanks to Juliet for putting up with us.  I should probably also mention that Night of the imagePerigee Moon would perfectly fit into category three – a book with a specific time in the title – of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge. Quite frankly, I wish I’d thought of that while I was reading it and I would have been one up on my challenge books. Never mind.  If you’d like to find out about the Challenge, simply click on the attractive button over there.

Now, go and enter the giveaway. Shoo!

 

Mad Martha

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If it Rains Pancakes: A Lantern Review…and a Fi50 reminder…

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Cheerio my dears, it’s Mad Martha with you today for a brand new poetical review…and a reminder from Bruce about the Fiction in 50 challenge for this month.  April’s Fi50 challenge will open on Monday for your links and entries and the prompt for this month is:

only joking button

All you have to do is create a piece of fiction in any form in 50 words or less!  For more information on how to participate, click on the button at the top of the post.  New players are always warmly welcomed.

Today I am reviewing a poetry tome for the mini-fleshlings and to add to the excitement I have no doubt just generated with those tantalising words, the book focuses on my favourite type of poetry – Haiku!  It also has a second type of Japanese poetry that I will be trying out later in this post – the Lantern, or lanturne.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The book is authored by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated in alluring fashion by Andy Rowland, and bears the wishful title If It Rains Pancakes. I was very pleased to receive a digital copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!

The book is split into two parts, each dealing with one style of poem.  The poem type is briefly explained and then a good number of examples is presented, each with it’s own quirky illustration.  The haiku form gets first billing in the book, and my favourite example from this section is the beautifully descriptive:

My pet pig, Betty

in her full karate stance

performs the “pork chop”

The poem is illustrated with Betty in full karate gi, energetically pork chopping the air. Perfect.

The second half of the book focuses on Lantern (sometimes called lanturne) poems, which are also based on syllables and follow the form of 5 lines with one, two, three, four and one syllables respectively.  I had not heard of this form of poetry before and couldn’t wait to give it a bash.  So without further ado, here is my review of If It Rains Pancakes…

rains pancakes

Rhyme:

it’s not

needed when

hatching haiku.

Word.

(I hope you appreciate my little attempt to be down with da hip crew of mini-fleshlings with my blatant display of their colloquial use of the word “word”.  Subtle, wasn’t it?)

This would be a fantastic addition to the shelf of any teacher who either (a) loves poetry of all kinds and can’t wait to engage students in the joy of creating Japanese poetry or (b) is terrified of teaching poetry and can’t wait to find a book that will make the job easy for them.  The funny examples and the quirky illustrations make this a very user-friendly tome and one that will also appeal greatly to kids who may be labouring under the misconception that poetry is boring, tricky, too hard or just not for them.  As I can personally attest, there is nothing funner…er, sorry, more fun…than attempting to squeeze syllables into a particular pattern for the glory of having produced a witty little haiku.  They can become quite addictive, and this book will help give a whole new generation a poetry habit.  That can only be a good thing, in my opinion.

If It Rains Pancakes will be released on May the 1st.

Adieu until we meet again,

Mad Martha

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