Fiction in 50 October Challenge!

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Welcome to the very democratic October edition of Fiction in 50! To find out the skinny on the challenge just click on the image above.  Otherwise, we’d love it if you would join in with this month’s Fi50, which asks the stout of heart to respond to a prompt with a piece of fiction using 50 words or less.  This month’s prompt is….

the darker side of

You fill in the blank!

So it can be the darker side of whatever you like…cheese…beauty pageants…grain-fed triffids….anything!  Keen-eyed readers will notice I haven’t included a linky this month, but I encourage participants to leave a link to their contributions in the comments so others can hop around.  Also, if you want to share on twitter, you can use the hashtag #Fi50

Here’s my contribution – it’s a little bit spooky due to the proximity of All Hallow’s Eve. Enjoy! *Oh, and the (sing) is for singular and (pl) is for plural in case grammar is not your strong point.*

The Darker Side of Conjugations

I am hiding.

You (sing) are hiding.

We are hiding.

He, she or it is coming.

I am discovered.

You are discovered.

We are doomed.

He, she or it is biting.

We are bitten.

I am changing.

You are changing.

We are changed.

We are all coming.

You (pl) are doomed.

Don’t forget to add your link in the comments – I can’t wait to see what people have come up with! Oh, and new players are always welcome.

Next month’s prompt will be:

if at first you don't succeed

And if you are looking for other ways to kill some time in a literary manner, why not have a go at my Bookish Year in Review Survey ? It’s good for what ails ya! Good luck!

Until next time, may your hiding places remain undiscovered by shambling hordes,

Bruce

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Spooktacular Giveaway Hop! Win (Mildly) Scary Stuff!

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Spooktacular2014

Welcome to my stop on the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop! The hop is running from October 15th to 31st and is hosted by I Am a Reader!  Don’t forget to hop around the other 200+ blogs participating in the event, and try your hand at winning all sorts of spooky stuff.

I have decided to provide some spooky options for readers of all ages for this hop.  My giveaway is open internationally, provided the Book Depository ships to your country for free.  One winner will be able to choose ONE of the books below as their prize.  Click on the book cover to find out more about the book!

For the little horror buff:

sherlock holmes little primer

For the middle grade scare-fiend (one of my personal favourites):

uncle montague

And for the grown-up terror:

screaming staircase

Although, if the winner has already read/bought the first in the series of Tales of Terror, OR Lockwood and Co, I will be happy to substitute the second in the series if the winner so chooses.

To enter, click on this link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! And now here’s the list of other participating blogs – hop on my friends, and good fortune…

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Until next time,

Bruce

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A Little Ripper Read-it-if Review and GIVEAWAY: The Girl from the Well…

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It is not often that I get to bring you a book that is a hands-down, five-star, should’ve-got-it-in-print read.  Don’t get me wrong, I do bring you lots of wonderful, interesting, original and exciting books on this here shelf, but today I’ve got one of those special ones.  It’s a keeper. The kind you buy in hardback and keep on the “special” shelf (wherein lie the oldest knick knacks with the most sentimental value).  Basically, this one is a guaranteed re-re-re-re-read.  (NB: that last bit wasn’t a hitherto unencountered stutter that I’m developing, just a fancy way of saying “book that you will read multiple times”).

I give you….The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco.  This book has loose ties to the Japanese film The Ring, that was later remade in English and if you know anything about that film, you will immediately gain the understanding that this book is not all flowers and sunshine.  If you don’t know anything about that film, it is apparently spectacularly terrifying and psychologically scarring.  I haven’t seen it, because I am far too sensitive to expose myself to horror films of this ilk.  Having said that, I am SO GLAD I requested this book to review because it is fan-fugu-tastic (as they say in the Simpsons).  Allow me to synopsise synopsisise tell you about the plot.  And if you live in the US or Canada, stay tuned for a chance to win a copy at the end of this post.

Tarquin is a teen who has trouble fitting in.  His mother has recently been sectioned in a psychiatric hospital for (among other things) attempting to kill her son, he and his father have just moved interstate to try to start a new life and, oddest of all, Tarquin has to try and fit in to this new life while attempting to hide his tattoos.  The tattoos that his mother put on him when he was a little boy.  Callie is Tarquin’s older cousin, who works as a teaching assistant at the junior section of Tarquin’s new school.  When she’s not dealing with kids who have decidedly odd abilities, she attempts to watch over Tark and try to help him fit in.  Okiku is dead.  But she’s still here.  After a long, long, long time, she’s still here.  And she knows that there’s something weird going on with Tarquin and his tattoos.  As the story unfolds, the reader is treated to a tale filled with kidnap and murder, ancient evil, creepy dolls, ghosts hell-bent on revenge and happenings that lead Tark back to his native Japan.  But unless he and Cassie can find the right people to help them overcome a lurking, malevolent presence that is desperate to escape into the world, they may find that their lives will suddenly become a lot shorter than they expected.

the girl from the well

Read it if:

*you like a scary story that has the potential to be terrifying and psychologically scarring, but also has a few elements thrown in to ensure you won’t be dragged screaming and ranting to the loony bin after reading it

*you’ve always been creeped out by Granny’s collection of hideous porcelain dolls staring with their blank, dead eyes from behind their glass cases

*you’ve ever had (or seen, or been told about) a tattoo that you later thought was a spectacularly poor idea…and that’s before it starts bubbling and moving under your skin

*you’re looking for a lesson on Japanese culture, history and legend that is not the kind you’ll find in history classes at school

The first and best thing I can tell you about this book is that it is compelling.  Compelling is the word that I use to describe books that I either (a) can’t put down or (b) keep thinking about and being drawn back to whenever I’m not reading it.  This was definitely the latter.  The Girl from the Well is a chunky read that took me a number of reasonably long sittings to get through, but whenever I took a break I was thinking about the story, the characters and how the book was going to end.  That, in my opinion, is the mark of great writing.

There is so much going on in this book, and I think that’s one of the reasons I was so drawn into the narrative.  We start off meeting Okiku, a spirit who is on a mission to hunt down and murder those who have threatened or killed children.  Now, while this might seem immediately off-putting (or fantastic, depending on where you sit on the love-of-horror-o-meter), there’s a real vulnerability about Okiku that had me sympathising with her and her situation right from the start.  Then we meet Tarquin and his weird tattoos, Cassie and her kids that appear to have ESP, and a sinister man who one can only conclude is up to some serious mischief involving helpless children.  We meet Tarquin’s mother, and discover that Okiku is not the only murderous spirit getting around.  And when that part of the story gets resolved, the narrative shifts everyone to Japan where the action kicks off again with ancient evil aplenty and the aforementioned creepy dolls and slashing and hacking and terrifying action.  I can’t say much more because it would be a definite spoiler, but there is plenty to keep you awake at night in this book – and not just from abject terror, either.

Because really, the story isn’t that terrifying.  Sure, there’s horror-type stuff going down and a number of scenes of violence and murder, but I never felt like it was over the top or too scary that I had to put the book down – and that’s saying something, coming from Mr Scaredy Pants extraordinaire.  I think that because most of the book is narrated by Okiku, and even though she’s a vengeful, murderous spirit, there’s something comforting about her ethical. justice -driven approach, and the posthumous journey of personal growth that unfolds for her over the course of the book.

And finally, I loved the Japanese elements of the story.  It was thoroughly refreshing to experience a contemporary YA novel with such an integrated focus on an Eastern culture and their legends and history.

In short, get this book. Get it now! If you live outside the US or Canada,  preorder it now, because it’s not released until August 5th.  If you happen to live in the US or Canada, enter this giveaway and possibly WIN a copy now!  Simply click on the rafflecopter link below and cross your fingers:

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to SourcebooksFire for providing a copy of the book for this giveaway.

I, as an outside-the-US-and-Canada-dweller will just have to acquire it myself in print, as I received it as a digital copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

Until next time horror-lovers,

Bruce

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Mad Martha’s Lantern Review: The Ghost Box…

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Welcome dear readers to my haiku review of a brand new book for the ghost story buffs among you (and I know there are more than a few in that category!).  It’s Mad Martha with you and today I will present to you The Ghost Box by Catherine Fisher. Yes, that Catherine Fisher. I received an ecopy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!

The first thing that grabbed me about the book was the stunning cover art.  Really, you could just blow that up and stick it on the wall for instant atmosphere, couldn’t you?  The second reason I wanted to read this book is the fact that the content is targeted at the 11+ age group, but the reading accessibility level is pitched at the 7+ age group, so it is designed to be a good choice for older kids who struggle with reading.  I’m always curious about these sorts of books, having sat on the shelf of a few classrooms in my day, because the search for interesting, engaging yet accessible books for older kids with emerging literacy skills is difficult indeed!

In The Ghost Box, Sarah is struggling to adapt to life in her newly blended family, comprising her mum, Gareth, her step-dad, and Matt, her annoying goth step-brother.  After one very strange night of dreaming, Sarah finds a silver box that has a lock but no key and is immediately curious to find out what’s inside.  When a strange ghost-boy appears and begs Sarah to find the key, Sarah thinks it’s a fairly straightforward task…but she doesn’t count on the inexplicable opposition she meets from the local jeweller, who refuses to open it.  What could possibly be so dangerous about an old silver box?

ghost box

Key:

it could

open the lock

or shut you out.

Choose.

The first thing I appreciated about this book was the fact that it felt, for all intents and purposes, like your average late MG/early YA read.  There was nothing about the writing to indicate that this was a book for kids still gaining literacy skills.  The dialogue wasn’t stilted, the characters were well fleshed-out for the limited word count and the content was appropriately atmospheric and engaging.  I suppose that’s what happens when you get an author who already writes for the age-group (and does it well!) – they don’t feel the need to patronise their readers, or sacrifice the content because of the need to restrict certain bits of the writing.

While the story related in The Ghost Box is fairly formulaic, Fisher has really set the tone beautifully with some fantastically suspenseful and creepy bits.  As I was reading (in the dark, incidentally…why the dark? It’s not like the lightbulb had blown…) a door creaked open, swung by the wind, and I got one of those spooky shivers down the spine that make you look over your shoulder as you read.  Score one, Fisher.  Score one, creaky door.  I also really enjoyed the relationship dramas that Sarah experienced weren’t forced, but evolved naturally as part of the story and appeared in the resolution in a believable way.

I would recommend this book for confident readers in the 9 to 11 age bracket who appreciate a good spooky story.  I’d also say that this should appeal greatly to that targeted 11+ age group who may struggle with reading, or those in the same age group who need something to bring them back into the reading fold.  Oh, and it would fit nicely into category two of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with a piece of furniture in the title…come on, a box is a furnishing, so it will fit… To find out more about the challenge (and sign up!) click on the button.

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Yours in the pursuit of spooky boxes,

Mad Martha

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Putting the “Ha!” in Halloween: Three Fun, Creepy Reads…

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Good afternoon on this bright and breezy All Hallow’s Eve’s Eve!  Today I have three reads for the young and young at heart that are sufficiently spooky, creepy or icky as to qualify for the “Halloween Reads” category, while also having enough humour to satisfy those with a sissy sensitive consitution.

In ascending order of age-appropriateness, we have:

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children

by Lisa Wheeler and Sophie Blackall

spinster goose

Synopsis:

A cautionary tale in poetry warning children to behave, lest they be sent to learn proper decorum under the guidance of the horrid headmistress, Spinster Goose.

In case you’re wondering who might be sent to such a school and what their fate might be, the following verse from the tome will probably suffice to explain:

The pinchers get pinched,

and the pokers get poked.

The biters get bit,

and the smokers get smoked.

The takers get taken.

The sordid get sore.

The shakers get shaken right down to their core.       (p7)

So watch out.

Spook factor: A resounding 3 out of 5 screams for anyone who has ever attended (or is about to attend) school…

Laugh-o-meter: Giggle-inducing. Particularly if you are, or ever have been, a teacher.

Reading Age: Read-aloud-able from early school age

And next we have…

Sucked In! The Story of an Appendix on the Loose

by Paul Jennings and Terry Denton

sucked in

Synopsis:

A jaunty tale about a disembodied appendix that escapes its specimen jar and creates stomach-heaving havoc around the neighbourhood.

Spook Factor: 4 out of 5 screams for pure, unadulterated ingestion-by-appendix

Laugh-o-meter: Guffaw to Belly Laugh. 

Reading Age: Read-aloud-able from early school age, read alone for middle grade

And finally…

Demon Dentist

by David Walliams

Demon dentist

Synopsis:

Local kids begin finding unspeakable offerings under their pillows instead of the usual coinage, in exchange for loose teeth.  On a completely unrelated note, a new, slightly odd dentist sets up shop in the town.

Spook Factor: 2 out of 5 screams for the unspeakable offerings

Laugh-o-meter: Chortle-icious

Reading Age: Middle grade

So there you have it – three spooktacularly fun reads for mini-fleshlings.  Enjoy!

Until next time,

Bru -oooo -ce

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Haiku Review: Hunter and Collector….

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And a Merry Easter season to fleshlings one and all! Mad Martha with you again, and although my review today would probably be better suited to the feast of All Hallow’s Eve, I will soldier on regardless.  Today I’ve got a little ripper of a book, Hunter and Collector, by S. Carey…Please note the fantastically punny word play of the author’s name….it took me a little while to notice it.

This is the first in a brand new Australian series for young readers, titled the Eerie series; obviously these stories are on the macabre side, but are sure to appeal as either read-alouds, or first chapter books for the slightly creepy mini-fleshling.

I was drawn to this series immediately due to the highly appealing cover art, and only later discovered the extra nugget of goodness in the books: an ongoing serial featured as a chapter at the end of each book, so that when all eleven stand-alone books are read in order, one ends up with a bonus story.  Another cute feature in the books is a little flip-picture in the top right-hand corner of each page.

So to the first book.  Hunter and Collector follows the exploits of appropriately named Mrs Hunter who is highly interested in young William for reasons unknown, but undoubtedly nefarious.  As the story progresses however, we find out that Mrs Hunter herself had better watch out, because young William seems perfectly capable of taking care of himself…..And so to the haiku review!

hunter-and-collector

Macabre contest ‘twixt

Alien and Predator

Hunter now hunted

At a mere fifty-four pages, this is a quick but satisfying read for horror-lovers of all ages (and hopefully, will turn out to be super-appealing to reluctant young male readers).  The first four books in the series have just been released in print and e-version, with more to follow later in the year.

Yours in sp-sp-sp-spookiness,

Mad Martha

Some All Hallow’s Eve Reading Suggestions: From Teeny Halloweenies to Great Big Scaredy-Cats…

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Right then. The Eve of All Hallow’s is nearly upon us, sso Mad Martha and I have donned our festive witches hats and combined our knowledge to bring you some appropriately ominous reading suggestions for the whole family.

For the little monsters (0-6yrs):

These picture books all promise spine-tingling, knee-knocking terrors at a level that is age-appropriate for the littlest ghoul or ghostie.

Our favourites for this age group are the classic tale of witch and cat, Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski; and the terrifying cuteness that is The Scariest Thing in the Castle by Kevin Sherry.  We also recommend the gentle plots and warm fuzzy illustrations of Spooky Spooky Spooky by Cathy MacLennan and Boo, Bunny! by Kathryn O Galbraith.

Our PICK OF THE BUNCH for this age group however is

Fragoline and the Midnight Dream by Clemency Pearce

We defy you not to be caught up in the wild rumpus created by this fiery-haired little minx’s nocturnal adventure!

For Bigger Beasties (7-10yrs):

We are in agreeance for this age group that two stories stand out above the crowd.  The first is the cheeky tale of a grandfather with a penchant for carnivorous plants and feeding his family…to the carnivorous plants: The Bodigulpa by Jenny Nimmo.  Secondly, we could not go past the perennial favourite and highly relevant cautionary tale, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

For Teen Terrors (10yrs +):

Take a meander through the macabre with these suggestions for older readers.  First in this garden of ghostliness is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which follows the story of Bod, the child of murdered parents who is taken in and raised by the folk of the local graveyard.  Next, Kirsty McKay’s first offering Undead will scratch your itch for simple, gore-filled mayhem with her humourous take on teenagers holding out against the zombie apocalypse.  Finally, for a wander through territory that echoes with the howls of the damned, Neal Shusterman’s short story collection Darkness Creeping: 20 Twisted Tales cannot be left on the shelf.

Our PICK OF THE BUNCH for this age group however, is

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Christ Priestley.

This, the first in a terrifyingly terrific series, is a collection of short stories with fantastic twists and quirky characters that will linger with you long after the initial fright has faded.

For grown-up gore-fiends:

For an informative historical foray into death in the UK capital, Catharine Arnold’s Necropolis: London and its Dead, is just the ticket.  This non-fiction title escorts the reader through the fascinating world of London’s major burial sites, from plague pits and charnel houses to the spectacle of a royal funeral.  For a lighter factual read, Mary Roach’s Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife charts the bizarre and highly questionable  attempts that have been made to scientifically prove the existence or otherwise of life after death.

Our PICK OF THE BUNCH for this group is

The Small Hand by Susan Hill.

This short tale maintains a delicious atmosphere of creepiness as, during an unscheduled visit to an overgrown manor house garden, Adam Snow feels pursued and ultimately pressured by a ghostly small hand in his.

We hope that these selections provide some options for those craving seasonal spookiness.  Please feel welcome to add any more to this list if they occur to you.

Until next time,

Bruce and Mad Martha