Adult Fiction Haiku Review: The Room…

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It’s Mad Martha with you today for another dip into oddity – specifically, the oddity of Jonas Karlsson’s translated, magical realism tale, The Room.  This one certainly qualifies under the “odd subject matter” category of the Oddity Odyssey reading challenge and also the “odd language element” category, as this one is a translation from the original Norwegian. For more info on the O.O. Reading challenge, just click on the image above.

Bjorn works in a government office as a public servant and discovers a room between the toilets and the lift on his  floor.  He finds that the room houses a perfectly ordinary office space, and as the space seems unclaimed, he begins to take his breaks in the calming quiet of the room.  When his colleagues refuse to acknowledge the existence of the room, Bjorn realises that an elaborate conspiracy must be afoot. Is it a strange, collective case of workplace bullying, designed to drive Bjorn (and his significant talent) out of the office? Or is it a more sinister plot to see Bjorn unhinged? Regardless, workdays in Bjorn’s office are about to get a lot more interesting.

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Anomaly in

Norwegian architecture

draws us into fray

Regular readers of this blog would know that Bruce does not have the greatest relationship with magical realism.  I can understand why. Is it meant to be an allegory? A metaphor for some greater meaning that’s going over his head? Or is it meant to be taken at face value? Just a bit of craziness in an otherwise ordinary setting, perhaps?

I experienced a bit of mild confusion after finishing this book, but decided that overall, I wouldn’t bother trying to assign deeper meaning to some of the odder parts of the story and just appreciate it as  a gem of weirdness in the midst of the mundane.  So Bjorn goes to work, finds a room in his office and hangs out there.  The other people in his workplace deny that there is a room at all.  Interoffice conflict ensues. And it’s eventually resolved in a satisfying (from my point of view, anyway) fashion.

The great things about this book include it’s brevity and the fact that the main character is just as puzzled about the turn of events as the reader.  Bjorn is a singularly unlikeable character – he’s arrogant, socially awkward and self-centred – which kind of added to the perversity of the situation for me. I certainly didn’t feel sorry for him or the predicament in which he finds himself, and I think that helped me just go with the magical elements of the story.  Bjorn is also so sure of himself throughout the majority of the crazy events that are happening around him that he just brings everyone else along with him and by the end everyone else is questioning their own sanity – including me, at some points.

This is a reasonably quick read, with short chapters and very few wasted words or scenes, which I also appreciated greatly.  There’s nothing worse than having to puzzle over nonsensical content while the author revels in their own superior, prescient knowledge of the outcome. Overall, I have to say I definitely enjoyed this story and, while magical realism won’t be going on my favourite genres list, The Room is definitely worth a look when you’re in the mood for something a bit unexpected in a totally mundane context.

This book is the perfect reading choice after a long, hard day working in your non-existent office.

Progress towards Oddity Odyssey Challenge total: 2/16

Ta-ra, m’dears!

Mad Martha

The Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge 2015: Where everything gets a little weird….

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As round about now is the time that everyone seems to be making resolutions, I thought I’d chime in with the Shelf’s reading challenge for this year – The Oddity Odyssey! Excitingly, we already have a number of takers who have committed to veer off from the middle of the road to take a walk on the odd side in their reading this year. Join us, won’t you?

In case you missed the original post about our challenge, here’s the information again, plus a little anecdote about how one strange little book inspired this whole escapade.

Let’s start with the anecdote.  So I was wandering around the local library and I happened upon this cheery little picture book tucked away in a section for confident young readers….

who burped Who Burped? by Ohara Hale

Amused as I was by the belching snail, it took me a moment to notice that this was a board book.  A  board book in a section for big kids.

It took me another moment to notice the little “Picture NF” tag on the cover.  This was a non-fiction book? Well, thought I, that explains why it is with the books for big kids.  This must be an illustrated, informative tome on the scientific specifics of the noble burp.

So I opened it.

And was confronted with this…

who burped page spread

Again, amused as I was by the cheeky illustrations and chuckle-worthy banter of the book’s inhabitants – the snail is making that comment in response to another creature explaining that one might cover one’s mouth during a burp – it took me a further moment to reach the conclusion that this was probably the least informative non-fiction title ever composed.  And shortly thereafter, having read the book, considered the librarians’ choice of shelving and label, and compared these factors to my extensive knowledge of book-reading, I came to the following conclusion:

“Well, that’s odd”.

And thus the Oddity Odyssey was born!

Cool story, eh?

Now unfortunately, as I read this one before the official start of the challenge, it can’t count towards my total, but I have high hopes that Ohara Hale will come through with the goods for me in one way or another.  I’ve already got my eye on the latest release by this author. Here it is:

pizza doing stuff

That’s got to be a winner, don’t you think?

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, here are the challenge particulars again.  We’d love you to join in!

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*Challenge participants will select a challenge level and attempt to read a particular number of books within the oddity categories listed below.

* Challenge participants can decide how they will attack the challenge. Participants can try and read books across all categories, or they can pick just one (or a small selection) of categories to focus on. It’s up to you how you want to indulge the oddity.

*Challenge books can include any genre and any age-range. So any books, from picture book to adult fiction are perfectly fine. Non-fiction is fine also. Audio books? No worries!

*Creative interpretation of the categories is encouraged. This challenge is all about finding books that are odd FOR YOU!

*To join this challenge, simply comment with “I’m in!” and what level you would like to aim for. Feel free to create a post on your blog, twitter, Facebook or wherever telling everyone what level you’ve chosen and include link back to this page so others can join in!

* Challenge participants can add the challenge button to their blogs if they wish. The code is available in the sidebar of this blog.

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1. Books with an odd TITLE:

Perhaps the book has the word “odd” (or “strange”, “weird” “unusual” or any other odd synonym) in the title. Perhaps the title is really unexpected (“Christmas Trees for Pleasure and Profit” for example). Perhaps the title is in a foreign language. Maybe the title has an odd number in it. However you want to interpret it, select a book with some sort of titular oddity.

2. Books with an odd AUTHOR:

Maybe the author is writing under a pen name. Maybe the author used to be a tour guide in the Amazon before taking up writing. Maybe the author is writing out of their genre or age-range for the book you’ve chosen. Maybe the author has the word “odd” (or strange or weird or any other odd synonym) in their name. This category is ripe with opportunity for those prepared to do a little research.

3. Books with an odd SUBJECT MATTER:

This could be as simple as reading some books in a genre you don’t normally read, or haven’t tried before. Or you could really branch out and use this category to explore some brave new literary worlds. This category could include new twists on familiar themes such as retellings, or books based on genre mash-ups.

4. Books with an odd LANGUAGE ELEMENT:

Here we’re talking about anything to do with language. Books that are written in languages that are not your own (including translations), books written in verse or stream of consciousness, wordless books, books heavy on wordplay…basically anything language-related that sets the book apart from the ordinary herd.

5. Books with an odd SETTING:

Again, this can be as broad as you like. It may be an odd setting in that it’s a real setting you’ve never visited, or it could be a setting that’s totally imaginary. Maybe it’s our world but not as we know it. Perhaps it’s set in a time not our own. However you choose to interpret it, this is all about time and space that’s slightly left of centre.

6. Books with an odd CHARACTER:

Guinea pigs that fly stunt planes. Librarians with werewolf-ism. Bearded ladies. Conservative politicians. This category probably provides the most fertile ground for successfully embracing oddity.

Remember, participants are free to work with books across categories, or to restrict themselves to one or a few categories. It’s up to you how deeply or broadly you wish to immerse yourself in the odd.

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1 – 3 Books : Occasionally Offbeat

4 – 6 Books: Common-or-Garden Weirdie

7 – 10 Books: Strikingly Strange

11 – 15 Books: Freakishly Fervent

16+ Books: Audaciously Odd

Being the creator of the challenge, I have naturally chosen to go for the Audaciously Odd level. That’s a little more than one book per month.
Totally do-able. Totally.
Join in! Or tell your oddest friend and get them to join in!
Until next time,
Bruce

 

 

A Small Fry Safari Wrap Up and….The Shelf’s NEW Reading Challenge for 2015!

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As we wrap up the year, it’s once again a time of reflection.  On triumphs and troughs. On goals achieved and on those that got away from us. In this vein, I have to acknowledge those who challenged themselves to read in unexpected ways this year by participating in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge.

small fry

It was fun, it was feisty and it gave each of us a little thrill when we came across a book that we could manhandle into one of the categories.  All in all, a very worthwhile endeavour.  If you would like to find out more about the challenge (which is still open until December 31st by the way, and therefore still very much achievable!), or see the entries that were hunted and tracked by those on the safari bus, simply click here.

If you were one of the intrepid travellers who managed to finish the challenge, feel free to grab yourself this awesome button for your blog, wall or trophy cabinet.  I will be having mine proudly made into a shelf-sized doona cover.  Feel free also, if you know about photoshop (or the old-fashioned method of literal cutting and pasting) to place an image of your own face over mine. To paste it on your blog, simply copy the code in the box below the image and paste it on your blog.

The Bookshelf Gargoyle
<div align="center"><a href="https://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress.com" title="The Bookshelf Gargoyle"><img src="https://thebookshelfgargoyle.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/image5.jpg" alt="The Bookshelf Gargoyle" style="border:none;" /></a></dimageiv>

But enough of Small Fry! Small Fry is soooooo 2014! Today I unveil my new, fresh off the boat, just out of the oven reading challenge for 2015.  It’s called the….wait for it…..

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I’m excited! Aren’t you? Of course you are.  This challenge will be a little bit different from the Small Fry Safari in that it will encompass ALL types of literature, not just Kid Lit.  If you are up for the challenge and want to find out more, click on the impressively attractive image above and all your questions will be answered.  Come on! Join in! It’ll be fun!  I’m also going to include some GIVEAWAYS for participants in the challenge in 2015, so share the news around – the more oddness the merrier!

In case you’re wondering, I’m going to attempt the challenge at the Audaciously Odd level.  Bet you’re intrigued now, aren’t you? Go on then, click the challenge button and find out more!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

ARC Haiku Review: Emily and the Strangers (The Battle of the Bands)

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The goodest of evenings to you word-lovers! It’s Mad Martha with you for another haiku review.  Today’s offering is a graphic novel featuring that odd yet loveable teen roguette, Emily Strange in Emily and the Strangers: The Battle of the Bands by Rob Reger, Mariah Huehner and Emily Ivie.  I received a digital edition of this graphic novel (though I wish it had been print!) from Dark Horse Comics via Netgalley – thanks!

Now, having admired Emily from afar for a good long while (on account of us having a similarly strange outlook on life) I eventually took the plunge and read all of the novels in which she features.  This, however, is my first foray into her adventures in graphic novel form, and I gotta tell ya – I’ve been missing out.

In Emily and the Strangers (Volume One), the lady of the strange enters a song contest to win the guitar of the late, great Professor Kraken.  In order to claim full possession of the prize though, Emily must form a band and compete in a Battle of the Bands contest.  Can the ultimate mistress of going it alone manage to  …*shudder*…play well with others…and win the object of her heart’s desire? Or will her cats wind themselves around her feet at the last moment, tripping up any dreams of rock goddess greatness?

emily and the strangers cover

Krakenish Guru

wields tentacular guitar

Can Strange measure up?

One thing that is almost synonymous with Emily Strange is awesome and complicated artwork.  I really think I’ve been missing out in just reading the Emily novels because while there is a lot of incidental artwork in those books, the graphic novel is really where it’s at for this character and her adventures.  Really, the art is eye-poppingly good.  Have a look at an example from inside:

emily_and_strangers_brain_1

Check out the complexity! Appreciate the ingenius design! Notice the wallpaperish background! It’s just fantastic.  I’ve often found while browsing graphic novels that sometimes I have to stop because there’s too much visual information on the page.  I found the same with this one, but it was a good feeling.  After reading the story, I went back and spent some time really appreciating the art because it is so worth having a second look at.  Another great feature is the collection of initial concept designs at the back of the novel that give the reader an idea about how the artistic decisions progressed over the course of the novel’s production.  There are also some alternative poster designs for the Emily and the Strangers band.

As usual with graphic novels, I wished the story was longer, but that’s just the format.  Unlike most of my forays into graphic novels, I actually felt pretty satisfied with the amount of story that was presented here.  I was also reminded how accessible and relevant to the target age bracket the stories are.  One wouldn’t necessarily think it to look at the character, but while there’s always some edgy stuff going down, there’s nothing here that’s really shocking or violent or unpleasant, so it does make for a fun and quirky quick read.  And even the swearing is psuedo-swearing (and therefore particularly amusing and repeatable – you zorking flabberfarks!).  I’d highly recommend sharing this with any young folk of your acquaintance who are happy to have a go at reading in a different format, who enjoy a strong, smart and strange female protagonist and who love a nice bit of eyeball stimulating artwork – you (and your young person) will not be disappointed!

I will certainly be adding Volume 2 to my TBR list. Emily and the Strangers: The Battle of the Bands is due for publication on May 27th.

Cheerio my fellow oddbods!

Mad Martha

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