A bit of Friday Horror: Bottled Abyss (Read-it-if…)

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Welcome to another Read-it-if review, this time with a little horror on the side. I received today’s novel for grown-ups through the LibraryThing member giveaways and although it’s taken me a little time to get to it, it was worth the wait. Bottled Abyss by Benjamin Kane Etheridge is an atmospheric and twisted tale featuring some Greek mythology, common-or-garden grief and loss and a spattering smattering of violent retribution.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Herman and Janet Erikson are going through a crisis of grief and suffering after losing their daughter in a hit and run. They’ve given up on each other, they’ve given up on themselves. When their dog goes missing, Herman resolves to find the animal, unaware he’s hiking to the border between the Living World and the Dead. Long ago the gods died and the River Styxx dried up, but a bottle containing its waters still remains in the badlands. What Herman discovers about the dark power contained in those waters will change his life forever.

bottled abyss

Read it if:

*you enjoy boating or have ever harboured a desire to be a Venetian gondolier

*you would happily add any strange looking, rare coin to your extensive collection, citing the fact that you obtained it through less-than-honourable means as a value-adding feature

*you can quite easily think of a handful of people you would tag without a second thought to suffer an unexpected and spectacular punishment

*you can’t help but indulge in a little schadenfreude now and then, particularly when it pertains to someone for whom a comeuppance has been wanting

If you’re a fan of Greek mythology, particularly stories featuring Charon and the Furies, then this book will seriously float your boat. Sorry, had to get that pun in. Bottled Abyss is a contemporary urban fantasy/horror tale that features elements of these myths in an original and genuinely creepy way. The opening scene, in which Herman bumps into an evasive (yet supremely helpful) Charon, drew me straight in and I found Etheridge’s writing style to be pretty engaging throughout, despite the fact that towards the middle there is a good deal more violence and unsavoury goings-on than I’m used to in my reading.

The blend of reality, myth and fantasy will certainly appeal to a lot of readers who enjoy the feel of urban fantasy with an edge. I quite enjoyed the character development of a number of the main players – particularly Janet, who certainly makes a change from the grief-stricken drunkard that she appears to be at the beginning of the book – as events become stranger and the worlds of the living and the dead start to blend together. There are a number of characters that readers will no doubt love to hate also – my unfavourite being the odious childcare teacher who isn’t what she appears, closely followed by the thuggish and brutal Vincent. I found it satisfying that many of the characters are linked in ways that aren’t immediately apparent, even to the characters themselves. I felt this was the mark of some clever narrative planning and added to the reading experience overall.

While tending toward more violence and visceral suffering than I generally like to see in books, Bottled Abyss certainly delivers on both the fantasy and horror elements of the tale. I found myself still thinking about the story a few days after finishing, so obviously this is more than just a blood-splatting, clichéd yarn, so if you are stout of heart (and stomach) and enjoy a bit of mythology and horror in a contemporary setting, I’d definitely suggest trying this one out.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

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Mondays are for Murder: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

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Welcome to my new murderous feature for 2015, which will replace my Mondays with Marple series from last year – Mondays are for Murder!  I have grown so fond of murder-mysteries over the past few years that I decided I couldn’t just restrict myself to Agatha Christie (although I will certainly still feature her works) and had to branch out into other murder-filled tales.

You may also notice another bright image at the top of this post – when you see this image on one of my posts this year it will indicate that the book being discussed is from somewhere in my teetering TBR pile.  I really let things go a bit last year, pre-ordering and winning and gathering more books than I was able to get to and now things have gotten a bit out of control.  So this year I am committed to working through the pile, even as I gather more tomes.  Wish me luck.

Today’s Monday is for Murder features a Victorian murder mystery for the YA market: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry.

When Mrs Plackett, the headmistress of St Etheldreda’s School for girls drops dead in her roast dinner, swiftly followed by her brother Aldous, her seven young charges make an impulsive decision to hide the murders (as they undoubtedly appear to be) in order to prevent being sent home.  But this is easier said than done, when a whole host of guests turns up at the door moments later expecting to be admitted to Aldous’ surprise birthday dinner.  After fending off the unwanted intruders and keeping their macabre secret safe, the girls are then drawn in to the practicalities of disposing of the bodies, putting off the hired help, and running the school on Mrs Plackett’s dire finances.  As problems (both living and deceased) pile up around them, the girls are no closer to catching the murderer – but will a dalliance at the Strawberry Social shed light on the riddle of the dead Placketts? Or will the girls’ cunning venture be uncovered as their plans go awry?

scandalous sisterhoodThe Usual Suspects:

Well, aside from the seven young ladies, whose names are helpfully prefixed with adjectives to assist the reader in separating one from t’other, we have the slightly distasteful local Doctor, the farmer’s boy who harbours a romantic attachment to one of the young ladies, the weasel-faced solicitor’s assistant whose intentions no one is sure of, the hired help whose mother is ailing, the landlady of Aldous’ boarding house and the un-put-offable matronly friend of Mrs Plackett, plus a variety of hangers-on and village folk.  Oh, and there’s a mysterious and handsome young man who makes a few appearances to muddy the waters (although keen-brained readers – and I include myself smugly among their number – may well figure out who he might be before it is officially revealed).

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

Right at the beginning of the story, Mrs Plackett and her brother Aldous are murdered (or so it would seem) by poison. The resulting chaos that hiding these murders causes rather puts the hunt for the murderer on the backburner for most of the book.  In fact, while I was reading I often forgot that the girls were intent on investigating these murders given all the other dilemmas they found with which to occupy themselves.  I suspect that solving the murders wasn’t high on their to-do list either.  But eventually, the murders are in fact solved. But not in the way one might expect from a whodunnit type of story.

Overall Rating:

poison clip art poison clip art  poison clip art

Three poison bottles for a mildy disorienting reading experience

While I generally enjoyed this book, its focus is more on the hiding of the deaths than on solving any murders.  The first few chapters read like a Victorian “Weekend at Bernie’s” with a comedy of errors playing out as the girls attempt to hide their newly deceased guardians from a parade of pushy adults.  I did get a perverse giggle out of the burial process selected by the young ladies and there were a few other points in the book at which I released an audible guffaw.  The reveal of the murderer and the supposed “riddle” of the doubloons definitely took a backseat to the developing comaraderie of the girls and I felt the book suffered for that a little, but if you go into this knowing that the mystery isn’t the main element of the story, you shouldn’t find much to dislike.

I did, however, pick up – don’t ask me how, perhaps it was some bizarre sixth sense of Britishness – that the author was not British, despite this book being set in England and this subtle disorientation annoyed me at various points throughout the story.  Irrational, I know, but there you have it.

This story is definitely worth a look if you enjoy historical fiction with a good dose of general silliness and interference with a corpse. Or two.

Until next time,

Bruce

Starting 2015 with a Bang (and a few shrieks!): A Murder of Crows…

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Welcome to my first review of 2015! Are we all rested after that 24 hour break? I am. I always get a nice early night on December 31st, but some hooligans in the area always think it’s funny to let off fireworks at midnight. Rapscallions!

I’m a great subscriber to the old exhortation to “start out as you mean to go on”, so to start the year I bring you a highly intriguing and very well-constructed anthology of short stories with a horrorish theme.  A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre by DeAnna Knippling is a frightfully good collection of scary stories weaved into a larger narrative framework that in itself is positively unease-laden.  Allow me to explain.

When Machado the crow and his flock save a young girl from the questionable magic-based antics of her mother, they drive out the cold by telling her stories.  Admittedly, the stories aren’t necessarily what one would consider appropriate for children, but telling stories is part of the crows’ culture and this particular child has seen many things that would not be considered age-appropriate.  When a mysterious monster known as the Crouga is released into the flock and begins to wreak murderous havoc, it signals the girl’s moment to take revenge on her mother.  But the thing that her mother has unleashed may be stronger than even the Crouga – and even if the girl survives the damage her mother has wrought, will she ever be able to heal?

Murder of crows

I have read quite a few short story anthologies and collections that are interwoven about a central narrative, but I have to say that this book is an extremely good example of the genre.  Putting aside the content for a moment, Knippling has created a tight, thoughtfully constructed collection here that subtly links each story to the greater narrative and covers a great variety of horror-themed tales.  There’s a nifty little zombie narrative, in which humans and the undead coexist in an uneasy sharing of geographical space, stories of changelings and fey interference in human affairs, tales of summoning what should not be summoned, particularly where revenge is involved and stories featuring objects imbued with a power not their own.  I was surprised and impressed by first the number of stories included here, as well as their quality – while the content of some was a little beyond my horror-tolerance, they were all remarkably well written and engaging, something that is not always the case in longer anthologies.

As the subtitle suggests, there are seventeen short stories within the greater narrative and they are all quite hefty in themselves and therefore the reader won’t be left wanting in terms of reading time.  Like I mentioned, some of the stories, especially toward the end became a bit too realistically violent for my tastes, but I suspect they will please more experienced horror-buffs than I.

I particularly enjoyed the characterisation given to the various crows, from the elders to the chicks, and the backstories that coloured both the stories the crows shared and their attitude to the unfolding monster-based crisis.  Machado particularly had a very relatable voice and I enjoyed his musings between the short stories.

This was an out-of-the-box, quality find for me and I will no doubt end up seeking out some other examples of Knippling’s work in the future.  If this tome is anything to go by, I will not be disappointed!

I received a copy of this title through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

Until next time,

Bruce

After Me Comes the Flood: Read it if…

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So it has come to this. My final review of 2014.  I wish I had something more epic for you, but unfortunately it’s just a plain old read-it-if.  Let’s get on with it quickly so you can get back to planning what incredible activities you’re going to get up to tonight to ring in the new year.  I’ll be in bed by 8, in case you were wondering.

Today’s book is one for the grown-ups – After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

One hot summer’s day, John Cole decides to leave his life behind.  He shuts up the bookshop no one ever comes to and drives out of London. When his car breaks down and he becomes lost on an isolated road, he goes looking for help, and stumbles into the grounds of a grand but dilapidated house.

Its residents welcome him with open arms – but there’s more to this strange community than meets the eye. They all know him by name, they’ve prepared a room for him, and claim to have been waiting for him all along.  As nights and days pass John finds himself drawn into a baffling menagerie. There is Hester, their matriarchal, controlling host; Alex and Claire, siblings full of child-like wonder and delusions; the mercurial Eve; Elijah – a faithless former preacher haunted by the Bible; and chain-smoking Walker, wreathed in smoke and hostility. Who are these people? And what do they intend for John?

after me comes the flood

Read it if:

* you like your literary fiction very literary indeed

* you enjoy novels based on characters with mysterious pasts, who are not very forthcoming about their motivations

* you don’t really mind when the blurb doesn’t give an accurate feel for what the story will be about

* you really, really like literary fiction

The keen-eyed observer may well detect a little bit of apathy in my read-it-if dot points today.  It must be said, that despite having very high hopes for this book, it just didn’t do it for me in the end.  About half way through I started getting the feeling that I had been seriously mislead by the blurb as to the goings-on in the story.  To me the blurb hinted at some sinister plot revolving around the main character – in reality, the characters don’t seem to have any particular intentions for John, the main character.  Well, apart from that of involving him in long, meandering conversations and cups of tea.  I think because I was expecting something very different from what was delivered, I felt much more disappointment with this book than had my expectations been otherwise.

Unfortunately, instead of finding the characters deep, mysterious and fascinating, I found all of them to be reasonably tedious.  An exception to this was Elijah, the ex-preacher who has lost his faith – I did eventually tire of him too, but of all of them, he was the one I felt least antagonistic towards, mostly because he seemed to actually have a backstory that had some depth.

If you enjoy books in which characters have (supposedly) deep philosophical conversations and an atmosphere that hints of events being stopped in time, then you may enjoy this book more than I did.  For me however, it was all just a bit airy-fairy.

I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley.

So that’s it for 2014. Thanks for sticking with me this far, those of you who have, and stay tuned for Friday – I’ve got an absolutely ripping little collection of short stories to share with you to kick off 2015.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

A YA Double Dip: When Good Religion Goes Bad…

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Today’s Double-Dip deals with those times when religion becomes mildly to massively unpalatable.  I’ve got two super-engaging YA titles for you here (both of which I received as digital titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley and Edelweiss), so grab a dip-worthy snack and your condiment of choice and let’s get dipping!

First up: Misdirected: A Novel by Ali Berman…

Fifteen-year-old Ben is resigned to the fact that he is moving across the country to a small conservative town in Colorado.  His sister has just moved away to college and his brother is serving in Iraq, so Ben knows that with just him and his parents, this move is going to be difficult.  What Ben doesn’t count on is the Christian majority at his new school.  In fact, it seems that nearly every student is a Bible-thumping, God-botherer who thinks Ben is some kind of devil-child because he has chosen to be an atheist.  While Ben tries hard to fit in and ignore the obvious differences between his beliefs and those of his classmates, barriers are thrown up at every turn – first, his only new friend Tess is forbidden from associating with him, then his Science teacher makes a fool of him for accepting evolution as fact.  As Ben’s school life spirals slowly downward, he has to ask himself the tough question – is it worth standing up for your beliefs when it means you’re left standing alone?

Dip into it for…misdirected 2

…a highly engaging and thought-provoking read that really gets to the heart of freedom of religion and the impact that this has on how people behave.  Ben is a fleshed-out character who is portrayed as a normal everyday kid who has been prompted to evaluate what it is he actually believes when he finds himself in an unexpected situation.  The other characters in the book also have strong back-stories and all the characters that pop up in the story – adults and teens and in-betweens – have believable flaws and blind spots that drive their behaviour.

As well as the main plotline about religious belief (or lack of it), the story also covers issues of alcoholism, friendship challenges, homosexuality, grief and loss, and the impact of war on returned soldiers.  And then there’s Ben’s skills as a magician.

Don’t dip if…

…religious and philosophical debate is not up your alley.  While it’s presented in a very accessible and engaging way, this book is about religious belief (or the choice to forego religious belief) and if that’s not your thing, this may not be for you.  This book is probably also best suited to an American audience, because I suspect that you may be the only place in the western world with such overt and influential Christian lobbies.

Overall Dip Factor

I got sucked into this one very quickly and read it compulsively to the end.  There were a few little niggles that I experienced with the plot points – would such open-minded parents as Ben’s, who seem to promote and encourage independent thought in their offspring really send their child to a school that teaches Creationism as scientific fact, for instance – but I was able to get over these pretty quickly, as Berman does a wonderful job of developing all the hanging plot points and tying up the loose ends.  I would highly recommend this to readers of YA who like to be challenged and who are looking for something with a different twist on the starting-a-new-school story.

Next we have Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie…

On what is supposed to be a fun out-of-town trip to celebrate a relationship milestone, Dee, her boyfriend Luke and Luke’s brother Mike run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere in the snow.  Desperate to push on and make their awesome night to remember, the three set off in search of a petrol station and help.  What they find is Purity Springs, a small isolated town that has everything any normal town should have – lights on in houses, meals on tables – except there is nobody in sight.  Creeped out and ready to return to the car, petrol or no, at first light the three are terrified to find themselves chased and then assisted by Joseph, a teen they don’t know if they can trust.  As things take a turn for the worse and the three friends fall under the control of Elijah Hawkins – religious zealot and self-proclaimed prophet – it appears that making it out of town alive is not a guaranteed outcome.  Seperated from Luke and Mike and unsure of how far she can rely on Joseph, Dee will have to fight to the death if she doesn’t want to end up shackled to Elijah and his brainwashed followers for all eternity.

creedDip into it for…

…a psychological thriller for the teen set that also has its fair share of gut churning cruelty.  I was surprised at how well this was put together as the initital few chapters had me questioning how high the quality of the narrative would be and whether I could hang in there with some pretty ordinary characters (that is, the main trio).  Despite the initial dialogue and thought-monologues that seemed annoyingly juvenile at first, the authors did a great job of setting up a sense of unease and lingering danger as the teens first encounter Purity Springs.

There’s also a genuinely psychotic older gentleman who makes life both horror-filled and quite icky for Dee, some henchman that ensure Elijah Hawkins grip is extended beyond the borders of one small town, and a whole lot of unsavoury happenings that generally have you wishing that someone would drop from the sky and rescue everyone, because you just know that it isn’t going to end well.

Don’t dip if…

…you like your psychological thrillers to be wrapped up neatly in the closing chapters.  The authors seem to have little regard for happy endings and the final chapter is somewhat ambiguous when it comes to the fates of those who emerge from Purity Springs.  This probably won’t be the book for you either if the thought of people being held against their will and sinister religious zealots who will do anything to retain control over their followers gives you the heebies.

Overall Dip Factor:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I got sucked into this story.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected – I think I was imagining some kind of paranormal threat in Purity Springs – but it turned out to be engaging in a gut-churning kind of way.  As I don’t read many psychological thrillers, the level of creepiness in this one suited my tolerance levels but if you are more accustomed to this genre, it may not be quite up to scratch.  I did find the characters (particularly Dee and Joseph) left me with a niggling feeling of irritation whenever I finished reading one of their interactions, but I would definitely recommend this one to teen readers at the upper end of the age bracket who are looking for something creepily atmospheric, rather than downright horrific, or those who like a scary-but-bearable level of disturbance in their psychological thrillers.

I hope I’ve convinced you to to dip into either or both of these….

Until next time,

Bruce

The Thinking Person’s Double-Dip Review: Therapeutic Felines and The Mysterious Brain…

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Welcome to a brainy edition of the Double-Dip Review! Today I have two low-fat, high-firbre options for those interested in the workings of the mind and its more tangible cousin, the brain.  Engage your central nervous system and let’s scoop up the dish on these two informative reads!

Purr Therapy: What Timmy and Marina Taught Me About Love, Life and Loss by psychotherapist Kathy McCoy delves into the little known and not-often-encountered practice of cat-assisted psychotherapy.  While most people have seen or heard about dogs assisting in various therapeutic enterprises (such as in the nursing home, which you can find out more about here), McCoy, to her surprise, accidentally discovered two cats perfectly suited to assisting her clients and so her foray into animal-assisted therapy began.  Throughout the book, McCoy relates the story of how Timmy and Marina came to live with her family and how each cat took on the mantle of therapy-feline in unique ways.  McCoy features some specific clients (names changed to protect the innocently guilty, of course) and outlines how the cats’ individual natures changed the course of the therapy journey for clients dealing with a range of issues such as anxiety, grief, marital difficulties and parenting troubles.  The book concludes with a round-up of the important lessons that McCoy has learned through working with animals in her personal practice.

21817417Dip into it for…

…a well-documented recollection of how cats (yes, cats!) can cut the mustard against their canine counterparts in deeply emotional situations.  Being more than mildly interested in psychotherapy and other forms of treatment for mental illness and emotional trauma, I was clearly going to be positively disposed to this book from the start, and it does provide a good insight into the benefits of using an animal to assist people in emotional distress. Because McCoy came upon the idea of using cats in her practice due to serendipitous circumstance, she provides a good overview of the issues she ran into initially, such as how to manage when and where the cats would work, how to deal with clients with allergies and fear of cats, and how to ensure that every client who wanted to, was able to engage with the cats.

The book is broken up into parts, the first of which focuses on Timmy – the first cat McCoy took into her therapy room – and his journey into McCoy’s family and practice.  The second part of the book focuses on Marina, McCoy’s second therapy cat, the differences between Marina’s approach and Timmy’s and how each cat was suited to particular client needs.  Each part is wrapped up with a handy summary of the most important learnings that McCoy took from her experiences working with the cats and how she applied these to her own life.

Don’t dip if…

…you don’t like books in which animals die. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say, because McCoy mentions it very early on in the book, but BOTH CATS DIE UNTIMELY DEATHS.  You’ve been warned.  The deaths of Timmy and Marina, and McCoy’s and her clients’ emotional reactions to the deaths are dealt with in surprising detail.  I actually found the recount of Timmy’s unexpected illness and death quite distressing – which was no doubt a reaction to the distressing nature of the actual event as experienced by McCoy and her husband – so if you don’t like to read about animals suffering and/or dying, this might not be the book for you.  Or perhaps you could skip those bits, although they do take up quite a significant portion of each cat’s story.

Overall Dip Factor

This is a very accessible and, for the most part, interesting read that really opens up the conversation as to the benefits of using cats in therapeutic situations.  It’s going to be a hit with cat-lovers and fans of real-life animal stories and would be good to keep on the bedside table and dip into at leisure.  I was hoping for a bit more focus on the therapy part of the deal, but while McCoy does feature a number of clients’ stories per cat, I felt that the therapy part was glossed over a little in favour of the cats’ antics.  This was bearable for most of the book, but by the time I got about halfway through Marina’s story I was beginning to doubt the veracity of McCoy’s recollections – surely no cat could have such astute timing and such perfectly anthropomorphic reactions as these two! Nevertheless, apart from that slight irritation, I’m glad I delved into this book, for the novelty value of cats bucking the stereotype of indifference to human suffering if nothing else.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease by Dr. Allan H. Ropper and Brian David Burrell comprehensively explains, through the lived experiences of a number of patients, the complex and sometimes utterly bizarre nature of the brain and the things that can go wrong with it.  In a completely accessible way, Ropper recounts stories of the strange and heart-breaking, from the salesman who is found driving round and round a traffic roundabout, seemingly unable to get off, to the young mother diagnosed with ALS forced to make profound decisions about continuing on despite being unable to move anything but her eyes, or breathe on her own.  With a liberal dose of humour, Ropper delves into the challenges and triumphs experienced with and by these patients, and relates the difficulties inherent in diagnosing diseases of an organ that can play tricks on itself. 

19286537Dip into it for…

…the most accessible and gripping book about neurology that you will ever read.  I know that’s a big claim, but I’m assuming that only a tiny percentage of those of you following this blog are qualified neurologists or neurosurgeons, so I feel quite justified in making it.  I was initially quite reluctant about requesting this for review because I thought it may be quite dry and technical and not turn out to be very readable at all. Thankfully, I was completely wrong, and I found myself glued to the book, reading at least a chapter every night before retiring.

Together, Ropper and Burrell have hit on a fantastic and engaging narrative style that is matter-of-fact, personal and touches on all the existential fears floating around in the human psyche relating to the potential for death or permanent disability and how one might reasonably (or unreasonably) face these fears.  Another interesting point in the book is Ropper’s up-front acknowledgement that doctors and medical professionals are not infallible and are subject to the same pressures, doubts and muck-ups that plague the rest of us.  In one memorable story, Ropper recounts how, in a spectacular stroke of cumulative bad luck, one mistake by a clinician incorrectly reading a scan, followed by a number of unlikely follow-up mistakes by subsequent medical staff assigned to the case, caused a patient to be initially misdiagnosed and delayed the discovery of the actual cause of his illness until it was too late to administer any really effective treatment.

This story is in the minority however, as most of the situations recounted demonstrate the commitment of medical staff working in a difficult field and the resilience or othewise of their patients as they come to terms with the scary possibility that there might be something wrong with their brain.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re not into recollections of medical procedures, potentially life-threatening illnesses and more than one patient death.  Really, I suspect this book is going to have a niche audience of people interested in either particular neurological disorders, or neurology in a general sense, and if that’s not you, you should probalby move right on by.

Overall Dip Factor

I was really surprised at how deeply I got into this book, and how much of its content has popped up in my thoughts since I finished reading it.  Coincidentally, the ALS/Motor Neurone Ice Bucket Challenge started hitting the internet while I was making my way through this book and while I already knew a small amount about the disease, it was nicely topical to be able to read into the topic more deeply just at that time.  If you’re a fan of Michael J. Fox (and who isn’t, really?), it turns out that Ropper has been involved in treating and advising Mr Fox through his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, so there’s a bit of bonus celebrity-related material in here too. While I was engaged and challenged by the more emotional and worrying patient stories, I also very much enjoyed the initial chapters of the book which aptly described the range of bizarre cases that can pop up in the neurology department and the interesting and unexpected ways in which medical staff go about trying to figure out what’s wrong.

All up, if you’re interested in the brain in all its mysterious glory you should probably keep this book on your radar.

So there you have it – from mind science to brain science, I hope you’ve found something to fire some neurons in this double-dip!  I received both of these titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley.

Until next time,

Bruce

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A Kidlit Angry Haiku Review and a Fi50 reminder…

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It’s Mad Martha with you today, firstly reminding you that everybody’s favourite mini-fiction writing challenge is kicking off again on Monday! The prompt for this month is…

a worthy adversary button

To join in, just create a piece of fiction, poetry or whatever in fifty words or less and then link up to the linky in Monday’s post.  Feel free to share the challenge with others who might be interested – we always welcome fresh meat new players!  Don’t forget to add the hashtag #Fi50 if you’re sharing about the challenge on Twitter.  For more detailed info about the challenge and a list of future prompts, simply click on the large attractive button at the beginning of this post.  See you all on Monday!

Now speaking of worthy adversaries…today’s offering is a charming little picture book that features one very irate Puffin.

The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young features the resident Puffin at an indoor aquarium.  All day long people press their noses against his enclosure and exclaim, “Oh how cute! What a happy little penguin!” as if puffins and penguins are exactly the same bird.  After one too many of such ignorant comments, the puffin snaps and begins to outline all the differences between the two to set the record straight.  But then the little puffin hears a voice – an angelic, educated, passionate little voice – and all his woes are swept away for one brief moment of happiness.

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Impotent with rage

crying for recognition

“Penguin I am not!”

This is one of those clever little picture books that is actually non-fiction dressed up in a fun story.  The best part about the book for me, apart from Puffin’s ranting and raging, placards all a-wave, was the way it included lots of factual information about Puffins without breaking the narrative pace.  Did you know puffins could fly? I didn’t, until I read this book!  The little guy actually looks quite majestic soaring through the ether,  especially in comparison to the penguins, left behind on their ice floe, looking a bit bewildered.  The illustrations are really delightful and I loved the way the penguins have been cast as slightly half-witted and awkward, while Puffin is granted superhero status at one point.

Admittedly, there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about this book, but it will most certainly appeal to those animal and bird obsessed children who thirst for knowledge in an accessible format.  It would be a fantastic read in preparation for an aquarium visit with the little ones too!  If you’re looking for a funny and charming read-aloud for your curious little nippers, you might like to give this one a go.

The Angry Little Puffin is due for release on September 28th and I received a digital copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley.

Now, I must fly (like a majestic puffin!),

Mad Martha

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