Yarning with Mad Martha: Dumpling Cats

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Cheerio my dears! It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it, since we last sat down for a yarn so I am making up for that dearth of craft-related natter with a charming crochet book.  Dumpling Cats: Crochet and Collect Them All! by Sarah Sloyer is a book of amigurumi patterns based on that popular app and game, Neko Atsume, or Kitty Collector for the non Japanese-speakers.  We received a copy from Dover Publications via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Waffles is a relaxed feline who loves to read, and Cheeks just can’t get enough to eat. These fun-loving characters are just two of the 25 dumpling-shaped crochet cats in this whimsical collection. The cuddly crochet critters were inspired by the Pokémon™-like craze Neko Atsume, a game that enables you to attract cats to your backyard and “collect” them. Each little dumpling has a name and personality points that add up to big fun!

You don’t have to be an expert to crochet and collect these adorable kitties — the patterns are suitable for crocheters of all skill levels. Easy-to-follow instructions are accompanied by full-color photos and simple drawings. The directions explain every stage, from ears to tail, and some of the patterns include accessories and costume items. Plus, there are bonus patterns for a cat bed, food bowls, and more!

dumpling cats

As craft and pattern books go, this one is quite high spec.  The patterns are clearly set out with extra pictures showing how to assemble the pieces, which is always helpful for those who like to see things step by step.  Between the 25 kitty patterns are “bonus” patterns for accessories such as bowls and beds so crafters can provide a bit of comfort for their crocheted kitties.  I jumped in with the pattern for Dusty, who is pictured on the left of the cover, but since the mini-fleshlings prefer Pokemon at the moment, I modified the ears and tail to make an Eevee instead.

The beauty of this book is that it is perfect for beginner amigurumists, because the patterns are simple to follow and result in a small plush that can be created in only a few hours.  More importantly though, from an experienced crocheter’s perspective, the patterns are basic enough that they provide a variety of good base shapes that can be modified, if you have the skills, thereby opening up a whole range of creatures that could be made.  I’m already planning a Pikachu mod based on one of the plumper shapes.

Apart from the uses that I can see this having in terms of creating new spin-offs using these patterns, the book didn’t entirely work for me because I prefer working with larger sized plushies.  The small plushies produced here, that fit into the palm of your hand, aren’t as forgiving when it comes to little mistakes that can be made here and there while following the pattern.  Again though, the small sized pieces mean that a finished piece that looks pretty much like the picture is achievable for those new to the craft.

I can see myself coming back to this book to gain inspiration from the adorably squishy body shapes of the dumpling cats and I would definitely recommend it to beginners and more experienced amigurumists alike.

Yours in yarn,

Mad Martha

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An Unexpected Top Book of 2017 Pick: It’s All A Game

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I can honestly say that today’s book came out of left field as a Top Book of 2017 pick, andI never expected to be so absorbed and engaged by a book about the history of board games.  We received It’s All A Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to  Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Board games have been with us longer than even the written word. But what is it about this pastime that continues to captivate us well into the age of smartphones and instant gratification?

In It’s All a Game, British journalist and renowned games expert Tristan Donovan opens the box on the incredible and often surprising history and psychology of board games. He traces the evolution of the game across cultures, time periods, and continents, from the paranoid Chicago toy genius behind classics like Operation and Mouse Trap, to the role of Monopoly in helping prisoners of war escape the Nazis, and even the scientific use of board games today to teach artificial intelligence how to reason and how to win. With these compelling stories and characters, Donovan ultimately reveals why board games have captured hearts and minds all over the world for generations.

it's all a game

Upon reading the blurb for this one you may, as I initially did, think, “Hmm.  That sounds mildly interesting”.  On picking up the book and reading the introduction, which discusses the decline and rise of board game shops and cafes in various major cities around the world you might say to yourself, “How quaint! I wasn’t aware of those!”  And by the end of the second chapter, having read about the ancient game of Senet and the history of Chess, you would be forgiven for ignoring friends, family and important duties in your pursuit of further knowledge about the history of board games.

This book was bizarrely absorbing.

I struggled to put it down.

Since I finished it I have been pondering and planning how to (a) acquire more board games and (b) seamlessly integrate board game playing time into the lives of the fleshlings of the dwelling.

Honestly, this book is bizarrely, weirdly, totally absorbing.

I could not have predicted any of the fascinating and useful (for trivia nights, if nothing else) information about the creation of various board games.  Did you know Chess originated in India?  That Monopoly began its life as a game promoting the evils of capitalism?  Were you aware that the Japanese used table top board games to plan and role play the bombing of Pearl Harbour?  That rigged board game sets were sent to Allied prisoners of war in World War II in order to provide prisoners with tools they would need for escape?  That Cluedo originally had a bunch more characters?  That one of the most famed board game makers in America suffered from crippling paranoia that workers might leak developments in the factory?

I bet you didn’t.

I certainly didn’t, which is why I found this in-depth examination of board game playing and its social history endlessly fascinating.  The book is divided into chapters dealing with either specific board games (Chess, Backgammon, Monopoly, The Game of Life, Cluedo and Trivial Pursuit are all included, amongst others) or some aspect of society that has been influenced by the use of board games (the use of table top military manouvring games, the development of electronics and new forms of playing surface in board games, the rise of games for adults and “adult” **wink, wink** games, how characters or elements of games were switched to appeal to their cultural context).  The chapters have sections that are almost written in a narrative nonfiction style as the stories of the game inventors (and frequently their loss of expected fortune) are recounted.  Surprisingly, the stories often involve backstabbing, theft of intellectual property and not quite the number of rags to riches tales as you might expect.

What was most surprising, and inspiring, was the observation that board games and their variations are seemingly in high demand again as more people begin to look for non-screen-based ways to connect with family and friends.  If you have any interest at all in popular culture and the playing of board games, I highly recommend giving this book a read – mostly because I want to see whether it really is as endlessly fascinating as I experienced it – but also because by reading it, we might all kick-start a revolution toward face to face experiences again.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

A Middle-Grade Mystery Double Dip Review: Best Mistakes and Girl Detectives…

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I hope you won’t have to search out your snack to accompany today’s double dip review, because that’s exactly what is happening in today’s two middle grade mysteries…although, technically, it’s not snacks that are being hunted down, it’s secrets and trickery.  Let’s jump straight in with a girl detective, shall we?

We received The Great Shelby Holmes: Girl Detective by Elizabeth Eulberg from Bloomsbury Australia for review and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Meet spunky sleuth Shelby and her sports-loving sidekick Watson as they take on a dog-napper in this fresh twist on Sherlock Holmes.
Shelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She’s nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen—always using logic and a bit of pluck (which yes, some might call “bossiness”) to solve the toughest crimes.

When eleven-year-old John Watson moves downstairs, Shelby finds something that’s eluded her up till now: a friend. Easy-going John isn’t sure of what to make of Shelby, but he soon finds himself her most-trusted (read: only) partner in a dog-napping case that’ll take both their talents to crack.

Sherlock Holmes gets a fun, sweet twist with two irresistible young heroes and black & white illustrations throughout in this middle grade debut from internationally bestselling YA author Elizabeth Eulberg.

Dip into it for… shelby holmes

…a fun and tongue-in-cheek mystery featuring a strong yet quirky female protagonist and an honest and down-to-earth narrator.  I will absolutely admit that when this landed on my shelf I immediately rolled my eyes and thought, “Oh sweet baby cheeses, not ANOTHER Sherlock Holmes spin off”, but I genuinely enjoyed this tale and quickly warmed to the characters mostly, I think, due to the endearing and self-deprecating voice of John Watson, the narrator.  John felt like a pretty authentic young lad who has just moved to a new city (again) and is faced with the task of making friends (any friends) to avoid having to think about his dad’s disappearing act.  Shelby is supremely annoying in some parts, in true Sherlock Holmes fashion, but the author does a good job of pointing out (through John’s observations) her vulnerabilities and desire for camaraderie.  The story deals with a mystery involving a wealthy family and a disappearing dog which is solved eloquently in the end, leaving everyone something to think about.

Don’t dip if…

…you don’t like Sherlock Holmes rebooted for youngsters?  This story certainly wouldn’t have made it onto my TBR had it not been sent to me for review, but I will happily admit that this would have been my mistake.  Even if you are a bit over re-hashed detective concepts for middle grade readers, this one is genuinely warm and worth a look.

Overall Dip Factor

I would certainly recommend this to young readers who enjoy mystery mixed with humour in a setting that allows real-life issues – like making friends, dealing with parental separation and moving to a new city – to come to the fore.  The characters are well-developed enough to give the story a bit of depth and the mystery is interesting enough to have youngsters guessing along until the big reveal.  This is definitely one of the more accomplished Sherlock Holmes homages I’ve seen about.

I will be submitting this book for the Popsugar Challenge 2017Popsugar Challenge 2017 under category #27: a book featuring someone’s name in the title.  You can check out my progress toward the challenge here.

Next up we have a tale of vintage cars, dog-walking and another set of quirky friends in The Best Mistake Mystery by Sylvia McNicoll.  We received a copy of this one from the publisher via Netgalley for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Dogwalker extraordinaire Stephen Nobel can get a little anxious, but his habit of counting the mistakes he and everyone else makes calms him. His need to analyze gets kicked into hyperdrive after two crazy events happen in one day at school: the bomb squad blows up a backpack and someone smashes a car into the building.

To make things worse, that someone thinks Stephen can identify them. Stephen receives a threatening text. If he goes to the police, his favourite dogs, Ping and Pong, will get hurt. The pressure mounts when his new best friend, Renée, begs for Stephen’s help. Her brother has been charged with the crimes and she wants to clear his name.

Is it a mistake to give in to dognappers? How can he possibly save everybody? To find out, Stephen will have to count on all of his new friends.

Dip into it for… best mistake mystery

…a multi-layered mystery that can only be pieced together by someone who spends their time scanning the neighbourhood under the cover of dogwalking.  Stephen is a conscientious sort of a boy and Renee is a loyal friend with a rebellious streak.  Both kids need a friend and it turns out that hanging out with the “weird” kid needn’t be a bad thing.  The mystery in this one unfolds slowly, with different elements added as the days go on and it is not clear to Stephen and Renee – or indeed, the reader – how, or even if, certain pieces of the puzzle fit together. Every character has a backstory here, as one often finds in a small neighbourhood, and there are plenty of people who had the opportunity, if not the motive, to drive a car into the front of the school.  The same is true of the threatening texts that Stephen begins to receive – plenty of people could have had the opportunity – but why would anyone want to hurt Ping and Pong?

Don’t dip if…

…you aren’t a fan of dogs.  I’m serious.  There is a lot of dog-walking, dog-feeding and general dog-tending going on here, and that’s before Ping and Pong come under the threat of dognapping.  I will admit that this became tedious after a while.  I understand that Stephen, as a character, is totally committed to his doggy clients, but I didn’t feel like I needed quite that much detail as to how he went about looking after them.

Overall Dip Factor

This is certainly an original story with a mystery that will have even the most committed mystery-readers puzzling along with the characters.  There are plenty of red-herrings thrown in and lots of possible motives for all sorts of characters, and in the end things aren’t exactly as our two protagonists imagined them to be.  I enjoyed watching the friendship between Renee and Stephen grow.  The author has done a good job of letting the trust build slowly, while the bonds between the two are forged through trial.  This wasn’t an outstanding read, in my opinion, but definitely worth a look if you can handle lots of doggy description and enjoy a complex, neighbourhood-driven mystery.

I hope if you have a canine in the house that you provided them with a nice treat while you read the preceding review, but I suppose if you didn’t there’s still time to do it now.

We’ll wait.

So, do either of these take you fancy?  Are you sick of rehashes of famous detective stories too?  Have you ever read a dog-walking mystery before?  Let me know!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

A Fi50 Reminder and Gabbing about Graphic Novels…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

It’s nearly time for our first Fiction in 50 challenge for the year!  Fi50 for 2017 will kick off on Monday and out post for January is …

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To participate, just create a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words, post it and add your link to the comments of Monday’s Fi50 post.  For more information and future prompts, click here.


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It’s time to get gabbing about graphic novel goodness and today I have two options for you, each weirder than the last.  First up, there’s Chickenhare by Chris Grine.  I’m submitting this one for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017 and for the Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge under category two: a book with the name of a bird in the title.  You can check out my progress in all of my challenges for this year here.  Anyway, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Chickenhare: half chicken, half rabbit, 100% hero!

What’s a chickenhare? A cross between a chicken and a rabbit, of course. And that makes Chickenhare the rarest animal around! So when he and his turtle friend Abe are captured and sold to the evil taxidermist Klaus, they’ve got to find a way to escape before Klaus turns them into stuffed animals. With the help of two other strange creatures, Banjo and Meg, they might even get away. But with Klaus and his thugs hot on their trail, the adventure is only just beginning for this unlikely quartet of friends.

chickenhare

I’ve had this one on my TBR shelf for about four months or so after I impulse bought it because it sounded wacky.  Wacky it certainly is, and I didn’t quite expect how dark it would get in some places.  I’d have to say that while middle graders could certainly read and enjoy this, it’s probably more suited to slightly older readers who aren’t easily shocked (or grossed out).

So Chickenhare and Abe are sold to a taxidermist and in order to affect an escape, they must team up with a mad monkey (or is he?) and a strange girl creature with horns.  All is not so simple as it seems however, because Klaus, the taxidermist, has vowed never to let any of his “pets” escape since he lost his most beloved animal, a goat called Mr Buttons.  Whacking and falling out of windows ensues (on the part of the enemy) and while our heroic quartet manage to escape, it is out of the frying pan and into the fire as the team tries to navigate pitch dark tunnels that are plagued with Shromph, little trollish creatures with big pointy teeth.

And this is where the goat corpse comes in.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, but just be warned that the half decomposed corpse of Mr Buttons plays a major role in the denouement of this adventure.  I will readily admit that it is easily the best characterisation of a deceased goat that I have yet seen in children’s literature.

The story ends on a mild cliffhanger and while there were certainly parts of  this that had me going “Eeergh”, “Blaaagh” and “Oooh, that’s not cricket!” respectively, I do actually want to know what happens to our four friends because there is a bit of a suggestion that at least two of them may not be exactly what they seem.

Again, even though the art style is quite colourful and cartoonish, the content and tone of the book is probably best suited to the YA aged reader and above.

Next up I have the first volume of stories from the popular Adventure Time TV series, Adventure Time, Volume 1 by Ryan North, Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

It’s ADVENTURE TIME! Join Finn the Human, Jake the Dog, and Princess Bubblegum for all-new adventures through The Land of Ooo.

The totally algebraic adventures of Finn and Jake have come to the comic book page! The Lich, a super-lame, SUPER-SCARY skeleton dude, has returned to the the Land of Ooo, and he’s bent on total destruction! Luckily, Finn and Jake are on the case…but can they succeed against their most destructive foe yet? Featuring fan-favorite characters Marceline the Vampire Queen, Princess Bubblegum, Lumpy Space Princess and the Ice King!

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I picked this up from the library on a whim in the hope that it would allow me to find out the basic gist of the TV show without having to actually watch it.  Being a trendy sort of a gargoyle, I like to try and keep up with what the young folk are watching, if I can manage it.  While I do feel that having read this has given me a basic grasp of who’s who and what’s what, I can’t say for certain that I actually enjoyed the read.

Essentially, in this volume, a big, nasty skeleton warrior called the Lich turns up with a nefarious sack which has the power to suck all matter into its depths.  Unsurprisingly enough, Jake, Finn and all the inhabitants of the Land of Ooo (and then some), get sucked into the bag and end up in a desert landscape, from which there is no escape, let alone any sandwiches not actually made of sand.

As more of Finn’s friends (and enemies) get sucked into the Lich’s sack, it becomes apparent that they will all have to work together to save Ooo and the planet.  And that is exactly what they do.  Having not seen the show before, this graphic novel does give a good overview of who the important characters are and what their general roles and characteristics and catchphrases happen to be in the series.  There were a number of pretty funny scenes and bits of dialogue throughout, but I found a lot of the “catchphrase” type bits rather tedious.  I don’t think they translated as well to paper as they might in the actual TV series.

While I feel that I now do have a bit of an idea what the show is about, I would still like to know more…but I think I’ll just have to bite the bullet and actually watch the damn thing and save myself the bother of having to read pages and pages of high fives and such.

Don’t forget to join in with Fi50 on Monday!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

The Cult of Lego: A “Five Things I’ve Learned” Review

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Today’s book is one I picked up on a whim from the library, yet I am happy to report that upon reading it I learned lots of interesting new trivia about everyone’s favourite, foot-stabbing toy, Lego.  The Cult of Lego is a coffee-table sized, photograph-laden romp through the history of the humble, foot-stabbing Lego brick and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

No, this isn’t a book about joining some fringe cult. It’s a book by LEGO® fans, for LEGO fans, and you and your kids will love it.

In The Cult of LEGO, Wired’s GeekDad blogger John Baichtal andBrickJournal founder Joe Meno take you on a magnificent, illustrated tour of the LEGO community, its people, and their creations.

The Cult of LEGO introduces us to fans and builders from all walks of life. People like professional LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya; enigmatic Dutch painter Ego Leonard (who maintains that he is, in fact, a LEGO minifig); Angus MacLane, a Pixar animator who builds CubeDudes, instantly recognizable likenesses of fictional characters; Brick Testament creator Brendan Powell Smith, who uses LEGO to illustrate biblical stories; and Henry Lim, whose work includes a series of models recreating M.C. Escher lithographs and a full-scale, functioning LEGO harpsichord.

Marvel at spectacular LEGO creations like:

A life-sized Stegosaurus and an 80,000-brick T. Rex skeleton Detailed microscale versions of landmarks like the Acropolis and Yankee Stadium A 22-foot long, 350-pound re-creation of the World War II battleship Yamato A robotic, giant chess set that can replay historical matches or take on an opponent A three-level, remote-controlled Jawa Sandcrawler, complete with moving conveyor belt

Whether you’re a card-carrying LEGO fanatic or just thinking fondly about that dusty box of LEGO in storage, The Cult of LEGOwill inspire you to take out your bricks and build something amazing.

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And here are Five Things I’ve Learned From The Cult of Lego by John Baichtal and Joe Meno:

1. The first products out of the Lego factory weren’t little connectable bricks at all, but wooden toys – the most famous being a pull-along wooden duck.

2. Lego has been around for so long that its original patents have expired, which is why in recent years multiple products bearing the “Lego-compatible” mark have popped up around the place.

3.   The best selling of Lego’s products to date has been the Mindstorms robotics system.

4. Lego has been used to great effect in Autism therapy programs, as well as in corporate settings to encourage creative problem solving.

5. In accordance with Lego’s tagline, “build your dreams”, clever folk around the world have built everything from functioning ATM and vending machines to prosthetic limbs out of Lego…although my personal favourite creation is the working, floating bug killing device designed by two pioneering Kiwis (the people, not the birds) to overcome the problem of having an uncomfortable number of water insects inhabiting the family pool.

When I checked this one out of the library I expected that it would be the kind of book that I would idly flick through during points of boredom, but I actually ended up reading it cover to cover.  This was no mean feat given that the book is a hefty, coffee-table sized tome, but I like to think that holding it up for long periods counted as exercise.  Beginning at the beginning, the book takes a look at the fascinating history of the toy company that would eventually become the home of the ubiquitous and iconic Lego brick.  The company’s commitment to quality, amongst other things, is clearly one of the reasons why Lego has been around for so long, and has made such an impact on popular culture.

From Lego’s early incarnations, the book moves on to explore the extensive world of AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego, to the uninitiated) and the “cult” that has built up around the humble toy brick.  You may not be aware of this, but adult Lego fans are everywhere, with their own webcomics, literature, conventions, language, online forums and competitions and if you ever wanted to be part of a hardcore hobbyist community based around a children’s toy, Lego could certainly provide your entry ticket into such a world.  As well as the world of competitive building by adult Lego fans, the book takes a look at Lego as art, Lego as architecture and the ways in which adult builders have taken Lego to whole new levels that could not have been imagined by the company’s founders.   No book on Lego could be complete without a close look at the Minifig phenomenon, and these little guys play a big role in the cult of Lego, influencing everything from the scale of creations to the builders’ choice of avatar in the online and business worlds.

There is a section of the book devoted to Lego and robotics and this was a whole new world for me as I have never particularly dabbled in the Technic sets, let alone the Mindstorms system, which allows users to program robots for all sorts of purposes, from the aforementioned vending machines, to robots designed to solve Rubik’s Cubes.

The point of difference for this book is that it takes a focused look at how a simple interconnected building toy has made such an incredible impact on wider society.  At the same time, it uncovers the vast and complex subculture of adult fans of Lego and the many ways in which the brick has evolved beyond “toy” status, in the hands of grown ups with innovative ambitions.  If you are a fan of Lego, and indeed of social history, I can recommend this book as one to lose yourself in.

In a nod to those adult builders, below is a little selection of photos from the Brisbricks (that’s the Brisbane Lego Fan User Group) display that Mad Martha visited in June of 2016 at Strathpine:

Kudos to the builders that came up with squirrel herding and chickens escaping from KFC!

Until next time,

Bruce

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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Read it if: 8-Bit Christmas….

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Today I have a belated Christmas present for all you children of the eighties and contemporary eighties revivalists – the gem of nostalgic goodness that is Kevin Jakubowski’s 8-Bit Christmas.  I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review – thanks!

8-Bit Christmas is an epic roller coaster of a tale revolving around nine-year-old Jake Doyle and his soul-crushing, arm-twisting, sister-enlisting quest to get the brand new Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas, 1987.  Only one kid in Jake’s town has the power that comes with owning an NES (coincidentally, the richest and most spoilt kid in town) and he wields this power by forcing the neighbourhood kids to beg, borrow or steal their way into his house on a Saturday morning in the vain hope of securing a few minutes playing time.  After a tragic (and messy) event during one of these Saturday morning sessions, the parents of Jake’s town ban the purchasing of Nintendo systems, and the successful completion of Jake’s quest suddenly seems a lot less likely.  Cue Jake’s sister and her comparably crippling desire for a Cabbage Patch Doll, the collected baseball card resources of Batavia’s kid population and a whole lot of wishin’, hopin’ and prayin’ and Jake may just find that Christmas wishes do come true!   Or maybe not.  You’ll have to read to find out.

8 bit christmasRead it if:

* you’ve ever felt the keen, incisor-sharp sense of desperation for some new-fangled consumer product that is woefully beyond your ability to attain

* you’ve ever known the pain of having to kowtow to some jumped up little snot in your class/neighbourhood/(dare I say it) family in order to experience some tiny sliver of the joy that comes from owning the aforementioned new-fangled consumer product

* you were a kid in the 80s or are currently experiencing a sense of faux-stalgia for a time period in which you were not born, but feel you know due to the proliferation of pop culture references currently doing the rounds on the interwebs

*you can’t go past a book that so expertly conjures up the atmosphere of your own childhood, that you feel that you probably actually knew the author as a kid, but have somehow forgotten

I LOVED this book.  Jakubowski has somehow managed to reach through a wormhole and pull out the sights, sounds and yearnings of kids in the late eighties.  The pop culture references are spot on.  The descriptions of the social pecking order and the factors that really influence kid friendships are flawless.  It is a fantastic read.  If you were a child in this time period, particularly if you were a boy and especially if you know, deep in your heart, the excitement and desire created by Nintendo at this time, I daresay you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

If you are a child (or teen) TODAY, with any kind of interest in toys, gaming and pop culture of yore, I suspect you will also thoroughly enjoy this book.  Jakubowski has written this with such kid-knowledge, that even contemporary kids will recognise the importance of Jake’s quest and relate to the difficulties of getting one over on the adults to attain the object of your desire.

But the best bit is the ending.  I had already rated it a five-star read in my mind before I got to the ending. The ending pushed me over into the elusive (and some say mythical) territory of the six star review.  And I’m not telling you what happens.  But you should read it.

Until next time,

Bruce

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