Utopirama: Dogtology – Live. Bark. Believe.

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Welcome to Utopirama, the feature in which we present to you books that are guaranteed to uplift the weary of spirit and buff the corns of the emotionally downtrodden.  Today’s tome undertakes to prove once and for all the philosophical debate relating to whether humans’ appreciation of dog-kind has in fact attained religious status.  In Dogtology: Live. Bark. Believe, author and dog-lover J. Lazarus argues that it certainly has.

dogtology

Quick Overview:

Humanity’s love of canines is both universal and ancient.  In recent decades, at least in more affluent nations, the exaltation of our doggy friends seems to have reached a fever pitch.  Attentive owners purchase all manner of accoutrements for their pampered pooches, behaving in many cases as if their dogs were more important than their human relations.  Lazarus uses this tome to define and explain Dogtology: a religious belief system that retains at its core an unwavering belief in the goodness, connection and solace provided by Dog. After all, there could be good reason why dog spelled backwards is “god”.

Using humour and a light touch Lazarus spells out the ways in which human behaviour towards dogs has, over hundreds of years, developed to mirror the ritualistic practices associated with other world religions.  In clearly delineated chapters, the over-the-top actions of enamoured dog owners is flipped on its head and closely compared to other spiritual belief systems in an attempt to show how humanity has elevated humanity’s humble, shoe-chewing, face-slobbering, bum-sniffing companion to the status of a deity.  Non-believers be warned – the time of the Dogtologist is already upon us.

Utopian Themes:

Human’s best friend

“Normal” is relative

Sniffing out a connection

Spiritual philosophy for the layperson

Protective Bubble-o-meter:

protective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubble

Three bubbles for the comforting odour of a couch upholstered in dog hair

I am also submitting this one towards my Non-Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader.

Nonfiction 2015

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Fiction in 50 January Challenge: A Dawning Realisation…

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Welcome to the first Fi50 of 2015.  Thank you for joining us for another year of minifiction.  The prompt for this month is:

dawning realisation button jan2015

To participate, all you have to do is create a piece of fiction in fifty words or fewer and post a link to it in the comments so we can all appreciate your brilliance.  For more detailed instructions and later prompts, just click on the challenge image at the top of this post.

Now, ideflex from Across the Bored mentioned casually that this month’s prompt could be seen as a continuation or sequel to December’s prompt (which was, of course, Into the Great Beyond).  Being a reasonably lazy individual, I decided that rather than think up a whole new story, I would indeed pen a sequel to my effort from last month.  If you missed it, you can read that piece here…..

Go on, we’ll wait.

Up to speed? Great.  Because now I present to you Part 2 of the “On Hold” saga, which I have titled:

Call Connect

I pressed “2”.

“Purgatorial Enquiries…”

“There’s been a mistake.”

“Purgatory is the transitioning point between biological existence and its cessation, wherein the soul integrates the post-death experience with the deceased’s post-life expectations.”

“But I’m an atheist!”

“Yes sir.”

I stared at the receiver..

I shouldn’t be here.

I shouldn’t –

New players are ALWAYS welcome, so if you haven’t plucked up the courage/bothered to get around to joining in, we’d love to have your contribution.  There’s no time like the present.  Except maybe some bits of the past, so feel free to dig out any old story ideas and modify them to fit if you like.

Next month’s prompt will be….

sincerely yours

Until next time,

Bruce

Ghost Moon Night: A Spooky, Accursed YA Read-it-if Review…

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Happy Friday to you all! Today I have an engaging little offering that I snatched up with pleasure from Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, through her new website Ebooks for Review.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a nifty little idea that connects authors seeking reviews with readers who might be looking for a new book.  You don’t have to be a blogger to apply to read and review a book – you simply have to have an account on a social media site that welcomes book reviews – Goodreads, Librarything, whatever – and be willing to post a review after you’ve read the book. Simple and brilliant for those who want to get free books and don’t have a blog.  But I digress.

Ghost Moon Night by Jewel Allen is an atmospheric and unusual tale of a village suffering from a long-ago curse, set in the Philippines.  It was entirely not what I expected, but I actually enjoyed it more because of that. So let’s dive in.  Lanterns at the ready? Windows boarded and barred? Sitting comfortably as the undead rage and screech in the night? Then we’ll begin.

Seventeen-year-old Anotonio Pulido is just about to finish high school – the first in his family to do so.  His father wants him to help on the family farm, but Anotonio doesn’t want to be tied to his home when his best friend Jose gets to go to Manila on a basketball scholarship.  When a new priest arrives in the village, Anotonio is sent to escort him to the parish house…and inform him about one of the village’s more unusual events – Ghost Moon Night.  For one night each month, on the new moon, Dasalin village is besieged by creatures from beyond the grave, the langbaun, or flying undead.  Unless the villagers are safe behind locked doors and barred windows, they risk being torn apart or taken by the langbaun, and becoming langbaun themselves.  As Antonio and Father Sebastian are drawn deeper into the terrors of Ghost Moon Night, Anotonio knows that he must face down the langbaun once and for all, or die in the attempt.

ghost moon nightRead it if:

* you’ve ever wondered whether that deceased person you wronged long ago was truly dead…or just waiting for a new moon to turn up at your window, dessicated wings a-flutter and bony claws outstretched

* you’re consider yourself to be a person who honours their commitments…including grudges…and won’t let a little thing like death put you off hassling the person who wronged you

* you’ve ever been stuck a long way from home as night falls, wishing an empty taxi would turn up to ferry you to safety

* you’ve ever repeatedly made a fool of yourself in front of someone you really like
If you’re hoping for a creepy, flying zombie type of horror story then you’ll get what you are looking for from Ghost Moon Night.  If, however, you are looking for a reasonably complex coming-of-age tale that links spirituality, family expectations and choices to be made that will determine one’s character, then you’re in luck – because you’ll also find what you are looking for in Ghost Moon Night!  When I read the blurb of this book, I expected a fast-paced paranormal aventure with a bit of humour thrown in.  I certainly got that, but a whole lot more as well.

Allen has managed to create what is essentially a tale about a young man trying to find his place in a village where everyone has known him, and his family, since … well, since forever.  Punctuating Antonio’s very ordinary travails in finding a job, being a good son and all the rest of it are some genuinely creepy action scenes featuring flying zombies (some of whom are people that until very recently, lived in the village with Antonio!) with an abiding desire to tear flesh from bones.  So instead of just being a zombie, scary book, this is a strange yet satisfying tale with a lot to offer the reader of straight – as in, not paranormal or fantasy – YA fiction.

The Filippino setting and the background themes of religion and cultural tradition running through the book also provide a point of difference for anyone looking for a YA read that isn’t your standard, set-in-a-big-city, sort of a story.  There are lots of Tagalog words and phrases thrown in to keep the reader’s mind working and a glossary of these is included at the back of the book, although most are explained incidentally during the story, so there’s no need to panic if you aren’t a native speaker of Tagalog!

I ended up enjoying this story very much, as much for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of a young man trying to do the best he can and please the people who are important to him as for the freaky langbaun, who have shot up to near the top of my list of “creepiest fictional/mythical monsters”.  Definitely give this one a go if you’re looking for something a little bit different and out of the ordinary in the paranormal department.

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

A YA Indie Double Dip: The Power of One (Group of Like-minded Folk)…

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Welcome to another Double-Dip review, in which we select a few books of note and thrust them forcefully into the condiment of revieweriness.  Today I have two indie YA titles for you – one dealing with attacks on a united group from supernatural forces and the other dealing with a horrifying attack on two family groups and how they deal with the aftermath.  Let’s get dipping!

When Tyler and Chris find a half-drowned girl in their fishing nets, they know it’s going to be a strange morning.  The girl, Reese, while recovering in Chris’s fishing shack is able to summon a sword from thin air to destroy a demonic bat that flies through the window to attack her and that’s when the boys know – Reese is part of the Oneness.  Mysterious and deeply empathic, the Oneness is a group of individuals who are all connected to the Spirit, and have the ability and responsibility to defend ordinary humans from attacks from demonic forces.  But Reese claims to be an exile from the Oneness and this causes her untold grief.  Uncertain what to do, Tyler and Chris consult Chris’s mother Diane, who in turn calls in the local Oneness cell.  It’s apparent to all that there is something odd going on with Reese and when another member of the local cell goes missing, it is up to Tyler and Chris to jump into the fray and help the Oneness to find the source of the danger.  But while the Oneness possess all manner of paranormal abilities that give them the edge on the humans, this time the danger may be emanating from within.

exile the oneness cycleDip into it for…

…an action-packed paranormal romp that also features elements of spirituality and mystery.  This book was pitched as a “Christian paranormal fantasy” novel, but while there are undoubtedly elements that could be interpreted from a Christian context, they certainly needn’t be in order to understand the story. Those looking for the Christian flavour will certainly find it, but there is no explicit mention of Christian religion in the text, so those just hoping to enjoy a paranormal action-adventure shouldn’t be put off by any fear of overt spiritual preachiness or anything of that nature.

The plot rolls along quickly and while I struggled a little in the beginning pinning down some of the paranormal elements (as indeed, did some of the characters), the whole concept of the Oneness and how it works is explained well over the course of the book.  The characters are reasonably well-developed, with identifiable flaws, and as we discover more about the back stories of certain individuals we are given hints as to how the mystery might play out, before an action-filled climax.

Don’t dip if…

…you don’t like characters spending fair amounts of time engaged in various methods of soul-searching.  There’s quite a bit of introspection going on throughout the plot as some characters try to figure out who they are (or who they are meant to be)  and others attempt to atone for past mistakes.  If you’re not into that, I can imagine that certain parts of the story could end up quite irritating for you.

Overall Dip Factor:

I was happily engaged with this tale after the learning curve of the first few chapters and I appreciated the balance that the author has achieved between character development and relationships between characters, and demon-slaying, sword-swinging action.  There’s also a mystery to solve involving Reese and her original cell that adds a nice bit of intrigue and depth to the last few chapters of the book.  The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but as the other four books in the cycle have already been released, those who get sucked in to the story will be able to satisfy their curiosity without a long wait.  I’d certainly recommend this to lovers of YA paranormal who are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary in the genre.

Now onto The Singing Sand Story by Aussie indie author David Chattaway.  The edition I received is an anthology of the two parts of the story, Singing Sand and Quietus.

Jamal has finally found a safe home with the Nelson family after a traumatic incident did for both his parents. While on a family camping holiday with the Nelson family and their friends the Thompsons, Mary, the Nelson’s eldest daughter, is brutally attacked by two men. As Jamal and Michael, one of the Thompsons, attempt to get Mary to safety, the boys come across the men who attacked Mary and give chase. As events spiral out of control with deadly consequences, the families must band together and make life-changing decisions in an instant in order to stay alive.  

In Quietus, as the families recover from the traumatic events of their camping trip, Jamal’s past unexpectedly catches up with him. With his family plunged into danger once again, Jamal struggles to understand why this stranger is threatening his life. As the reasons become clear, Jamal must once again decide how far he is prepared to go to protect those he loves.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00099]

Dip into it for…

…a fast-paced drama that plunges its characters into an unimaginable situation – twice. There’s some real thriller material in these two short novels as two families are essentially taken hostage and threatened for reasons that are not immediately clear. The relationships between the characters are well-developed, although much of Jamal’s back story is a mystery even to him, and the plot unfolds like a chain of dominoes, with one decision affecting the next until the characters are between a rock and a hard place, having to make decisions that no reasonable person would want to face.

Don’t dip if…

…you aren’t a fan of real-life (as opposed to fantasy) violence in young adult books. These two stories have quite a bit of violence, and particularly, in the first book, violence against a young girl. If that’s not something you are prepared to encounter in your reading, you should best move swiftly on.

Overall Dip Factor:

This is another unexpected and original contribution to the YA genre. It may just be that I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction that features scary, real-life situations, but I suspect that there isn’t a great deal of it out there and so The Singing Sand Story is definitely worth a look. Apart from the action in the plot, there is also plenty of food for thought regarding how young people in traumatic situations go about healing and recovering from such events, and how difficult decisions can impact on identity. I’d recommend this one to YA lovers who are looking for something more gritty and realistic in their contemporary fiction.

So it’s been a week of indie contributions so far and I hope I’ve inspired you to step away from the big publishers once in a while to check out the little guys.

Until next time,

Bruce

A YA Fiction Double-Dip: Bobby Ether and Drawing Amanda…

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G’day folks and welcome to my YA Double-Dip.  I’ve got two YA indie fiction titles for you today (obviously) – Bobby Ether and the Academy by R. Scott Boyer and Drawing Amanda by Stephanie Feuer.  I received a digital copy of both books from the publisher (Bobby via Netgalley and Amanda via Hipso Media) in return for an honest review.  So let’s get cracking!

One minute Bobby is shooting the miraculous winning basket at his school’s basketball match and the next hebobby ether‘s being whisked away by a mysterious woman named Cassandra, with two large men in suits in hot pursuit.  It seems Bobby has a hidden talent – an ability to manipulate the energy in himself and in the outside world, in order to do extraordinary things – but this is the first Bobby’s heard of it!  Before he knows it, Bobby is stolen away from Cassandra by the suited men and taken to The Academy – a boarding school hidden high in the mountains of Tibet, run by monks and teachers with extraordinary abilities.  Bobby tries to blend in and slowly makes a few good friends, but the snooty Ashley and her thuggish sidekicks immediately begin to make Bobby’s life difficult.  And making friends with Ashley’s younger brother Jinx sure doesn’t helped that relationship.

As Bobby learns more about the Academy, he and his friends discover that there is something sinister going on that may reach all the way to the headmistress.  But can Bobby stay out of trouble long enough to uncover the secret? Or will Ashley and her friends always be there to get in the way?

Dip into it for….

…a very original premise.  I’ve not read anything much like this before in YA – the book has a real focus on power coming from the natural energy available within ourselves, as opposed to a paranormal type of talent.  There’s  a bit of focus on meditation and how to unlock the potential within and the monks in the book are a really interesting addition to the overall makeup of characters.  Master Jong, one of Bobby’s teachers, turns out to be quite the (metaphorical) ass-kicking, supermonk by the end of the story and ended up being one of my favourite characters.  The plot is also pretty complex, featuring a shady agency (the Academics) whose motives and intentions for the talented young people they educate isn’t exactly clear, and there are a lot of characters whose true loyalties are shrouded, making it difficult for Bobby (and the reader!) to know who to trust.

There is also a clear (but not cheesy) theme of the strength of friendship and the power inherent in knowing oneself that runs throughout the book, freshening the whole plot up a bit and helping it avoid descending into a teen version of a politico-psychological thriller.

Also, there’s a creepy bald kid with a malevolent ferret. You’ve got to admit, you don’t see that every day.

Don’t Dip if…

…you’re not into plots that take a while to unfold or plots that have a lot of twists and turns and red herrings thrown in.  I also felt that a lot of the mean-girl type bullying from Ashley and her goons was a bit contrived, given the setting (would super-talented kids trained in mindfulness and meditation locked away in the Himalayas (some since birth) really bother with petty schoolyard antics to such a degree?).  Some of the initial action which results in Bobby’s arrival at the Academy, and his responses afterward also didn’t ring true to me.  I can’t really elaborate much, due to potential spoilers, but Bobby’s behaviour didn’t seem in character for someone who had been through a recent personal trauma.

Overall Dip Factor:

Take a risk on something different.  Despite a few flaws, I was drawn in and despite feeling that I should put it down in a few places, I didn’t and was quite satisfied that I stuck with it because I ended up enjoying the adventure of the resolution.  Plus, Jinx is a cool character.  And of course there’s the malevolent ferret.

In Drawing Amanda we follow “Inky” Kahn as he struggles on entering high school afteDrawing Amandar the recent death of his father in a plane crash.  His mother has left him to his own devices and to manage his grief, Inky turns to his artistic abilities.  Amanda is new to school following her family’s migration from Nairobi to New York, and is finding it more than difficult to fit in amongst the various groups at the international school.  When Inky’s best friend Rungs gives him the link to a website developing a new video game, Inky thinks he might have a chance to show his art to a wider audience. Unbeknownst to Rungs and Inky, Amanda manages to copy the link and also logs in to the game-in-development, Megaland.  When Inky starts submitting his drawings for the game, based on his classmate Amanda’s looks, things start to get  complicated.  And when Rungs delves a bit deeper into the makers behind Megaland, it becomes apparent that things are about to get very tricky indeed.  Unless he can convince both Inky and Amanda of what he has discovered, both his friends may be exposed to more danger than either can handle on their own.

Dip into it for…

…a contemporary tale about fitting in, growing up and facing your demons.  This was a nice change of pace from my usual fare because I don’t often read books in the YA category that don’t have some kind of paranormal or fantasy or psychological twist.  This was a very straightforward plot and I enjoyed the simplicity of the story, while also appreciating the various trajectories of character development for the main four characters.  The setting of an international school gave rise to a diverse range of characters and I loved how Feuer managed to seamlessly work cultural and religious backgrounds into the story without making it sound contrived.  I even learned not to show the soles of my feet to a Buddhist if I wish to remain in their good karmic books!

Central to Inky’s character development is the idea of grief and bereavement, and the pressure that can be placed on the bereaved to “move on” and regain one’s former pace of life after a particular period of time has passed.  It was interesting to see this played out with both a male and female character simultaneously in the book, as Inky’s ex-friend Hawk is also recovering from the death of a parent.  The theme of creating one’s identity is also quite strong as Amanda attempts to find a new way of being in a context in which everyone else seems to have already cemented their place.

The underlying plot point about internet safety is played out with a fair amount of realism and Feuer manages to avoid preaching about it, instead demonstrating how easy it is for those who feel emotionally vulnerable to be taken advantage of by someone they think they know.

Don’t Dip if…

…you’re looking for anything particularly fast-paced or with a focus on action or romance.  It aint’ here.

There is however a fair chunk towards the end of the book that deviates from the main story arc and focuses on the main characters’ major assignment for the year.  While this section was interesting in itself, I felt it popped up at a weird place in the story because Rung’s investigation into the Megaland maker had just become exciting and this deviation slowed the pace a little bit.  This wasn’t reason enough to abandon the book by any means, but you might want to watch out for a few asides now and then.

Overall Dip Factor:

This will appeal greatly to kids in the younger YA age group, say 12 to 15 years, because it features very relatable characters and deals with the issues that many kids face when trying to stake out an identity in a crowded social arena.  Also, the story is simple and relevant to anyone who uses the internet for social activities – so I suspect this story will appeal to parents and teachers of readers in this age bracket as well.  In fact, it would probably make a great launching point for discussion in lower secondary classrooms about mindful internet usage amongst young people.

Until next time,

Bruce

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The Devil’s in the Detail: A Haiku Review…

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Top o’ the afternoon to all you lovely readers! It’s Mad Martha with you today sharing a haiku review of a tome full of the unexpected red tape and beauracracy that accompanies some unfortunates from this life into the next.  I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of this book for review through Great Aussie Reads, who specialise (in case you couldn’t guess!) in promoting fantabulous Australian authors and their works. Pop on over there to say hello and see some of the enticing contents of their virtual shelf – you won’t be disappointed!

The Devil’s in the Detail is penned by Melbournish author Matthew S. Wilson and revolves around one David Shepherd – middle aged London cab driver and all-round nice bloke.  After waking up in a prison cell in Purgatory, David is dismayed (to say the least) to find that he has died and must now face a court trial to decide where his eternal soul will end up, his choices being Heaven, or one of the ten circles of Hell.  For reasons unknown to David, Hell’s minions seem particularly enthusiastic about winning David’s soul for the home side, and in his trial, he must attempt to rebutt accusations that he has knowingly and willingly broken all of the Ten Commandments.  With only the mildly helpful angelic defence lawyer Olivia to assist him, David may just be facing the legal fight of his life….or indeed, death.

devil in the detail

What rewards await

the soul of the upright man?

It’s all gone balls-up

Having recently read a number of afterlife-y type books (and with a few more in the TBR pile), I felt very comfortable falling straight into Wilson’s world, which contained elements of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist religious traditions as well as some interjections from Dante and Greek mythology, and some wholly original bits and bobs.  I’m not sure what I expected on reading the blurb, but I was surprised by the reflective, philosophical nature of parts of the book.  The story is told partly in the present, as the reader eavesdrops on David’s trial, and partly through David’s memories, as he recalls the situations throughout his life that have led to the current accusations being levelled at him by Hell’s own prosecution lawyer.  The combination results in an interesting blend of action and intrigue, and slightly melancholic memoir.

Admittedly, as I was reading, I did begin to wonder a little at what the point of the story was, but it seems I had pondered too soon, because at the end of the tale a surprising little twist emerged that put a whole new spin on what had gone before*.  This twist was perfectly timed and a very nice way of wrapping up the story.  I must admit, as I got closer to the end of the book I did wonder how on earth the author was going to tie up the loose ends, but the ending here left me feeling very satisfied with my efforts at having perservered despite being unsure as to where it all might end up.

The Devil’s in the Detail ended up being a lot more cerebral than I initially expected, which while certainly not a bad thing, had me wondering who I would recommend it to.  Perhaps those who, like myself, enjoy a bit of speculation with a spiritual twist.

* As a side note, I must say that the cover of the book had me thinking that maybe David would end up having to be the Devil’s cabbie or something, but that’s not how things work out.  Perhaps Mr Wilson could consider penning a sequel to satisfy this thought.

To conclude, I have been asked by Bruce to display his latest “Obscure Proverb of the Day” from his Tumblr feed, as he believes it is appropriate to the theme of today’s book.  (For which I apologise – honestly, he shouldn’t be allowed out on his own, as this is the type of thing that ensues).  Here it is:

obscure proverb casket

Hilarious.  For more of this fare, as well as zombified children’s book covers, please form an orderly queue to click on the Tumblr button at the end of this post.

Bruce and I have also conspired to produce this small piece of political statement.  It won’t be a regular thing, just something we feel passionate about right at this moment:

hands off our abc

Until next time my sweets,

Mad Martha

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Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)