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

 

 

Existentialism and Monster-Taming: Two Graphic Novels…

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Afternoon friends and hangers-on! Recently I’ve been meandering a bit in my reading tastes and have delved into some graphic novels as I am wont to do on occasion…On this occasion I took the decision to delve after meandering past a display shelf at the library containing a graphic novel of intricate and/or inviting cover design.  The two I have for you today range in target audience, content and just plain oddness, so in case you’re planning to use this post as a Christmas gift guide (and why wouldn’t you?), you’d probably better pay attention so you don’t end up giving the fun, kiddy one to your broody Emo-teen nephew Reginald, and the super-creepy and sociopathic one to sweet little seven year old niece Emmy-Lou. You’ve been warned.

The Fun, Kiddy One

cats cradle

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux tells the story of Suri, an orphan hanger-on to a travelling caravan who has dreams of being a monster-tamer.  After accidentally taming a terrifying monster held captive at the fair, she finds herself relentlessly pursued by some shape-shifting humanoid monsters for reasons unkown to her.  Luckily though, accidental monster-taming has its benefits and Suri ends the tale with at least one more friend that when she began.

The cover of this book drew me in immediately and I picked it up with absolutely no idea what the story was going to be about.  I often do that with graphic novels – I find I don’t need to know much about the story in order to be prepared to give it a go.  I’m glad I did (give it a go, that is), because the art and the story had me hooked.  Unfortunately, I finished the book in about 15 minutes and was desperate for more!  Luckily, I have just checked on the author’s website and book two is in the works. Hurrah!

Cat’s Cradle would be a perfect choice for reluctant readers of middle grade age, because the art and story are highly involving, easy to follow and draw the reader in.  With a female main character, this could also be a good choice for girls who are looking to expand their reading horizons and try something different from the standard fairy/fantasy chapter book.  Boys will surely enjoy this one too however, due to the themes of monster-hunting and magic powers.

See, this is why I love libraries – you never know what little gems are lurking in the stacks.  Book two in this series is called The Mole King’s Lair….I’ll be keeping my eyeballs out for it.

The Super-Creepy Sociopathic One

billy fog

I happened across Billy Fog and the Gift of Trouble Sight by Guillaume Bianco, as with Jo Rioux’s book, after spotting it on a library display stand.  Apparently, so the blurb (which I never bothered to read) goes, Billy Fog wears glasses, but when he takes them off, he can see all sorts of weird, creepy things that other kids can’t.  It’s probably good that I never read this blurb as that has little if anything to do with the story, such as it is, and I can’t even remember any pictures of him with glasses on in the actual book (although I’m sure they’re there).

No matter!  What really drew me to this one was the fantastic aged look of the cover and creepy, Burton-esque art style.  Check out some of the artwork – isn’t it just fantastically atmospheric and fun and oddly enticing?

Death-comes

SuperstitionWell, I thought it was.

Now. While this book has fantastic art, the content is just flippin’ weird.  So in the first few pages Billy’s cat Tarzan dies. He may have had something to do with it – that’s never made clear.  But basically, the book deals with Billy trying to make sense of that unwelcome, ever-present visitor hanging around in the shadows, death.  He even asks Santa Claus for some advice on the topic.  Other bits of the book feature Billy’s attempt at a bestiary of creatures that haunt dark spaces, and stories about other odd-bods that he has encountered in his young life.

I have to say it – this was a odd, creepy, unsettling book.  Strangely though, many books of this ilk have a weird sort of a pull, making it impossible to look away.  Billy Fog was no exception.  The weirdest part of the book was the really deep theme of existential angst running through the stories.  Essentially, while the main character of this book is a young child, the content is really for late teens and older.  The back of the book says 13+, but I think even that’s a bit optimistic.  You would not want to give this to a little kid, or indeed, a particularly sensitive kid – it would scar them for life and probably bring their nightmares to life – unless you want to instill in them a deep-seated fear of sleeping alone, that is.  You however, as a mature, open-minded and slightly anti-hipster-ish adult, will probably be intrigued by such a tome.

I have actually found a cover design for volume three of the Billy Fog saga, Billy Fog: The Boy Who No Longer Believed in Santa Claus that will give you a far better feel for the content (and is no less appealing, art-wise):

billy fog v3

See? Now you know what you’re getting yourself in for.

So there you have it – my little foray into differenetly-formatted fiction.  Sharp-eyed readers will also note that Cat’s Cradle would be the perfect choice in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014 for category two (a book with a piece of furniture in the title), while Billy Fog would suitably acquit both category four (a book with someone’s name in the title) or category six (a book with something precious in the title).  Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then click on the large and absurdly attractive button below to check out the challenge and join the Safari!

small fryUntil next time,

Bruce

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Bruce’s Lucky Dip: Paper Dolls You Never Played With as a Kid…

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It’s lucky dip time again, and have I got some ripping (pun intended) offerings for you today! For those who don’t know, my lucky dip feature involves typing a carefully selected term into the Book Depository’s search box and presenting you with the delightfully weird results.

So, paper dolls. Those favoured playthings of fleshlings fond of fun in two-dimensions. Who would’ve thought that scratching the surface of such an innocuous activity would  uncover a veritable treasure chest of oddity? Well, after the utter strangeness encompassed by the range of colouring books on offer, one probably shouldn’t really be surprised.  But one will be.

For your perusing pleasure, I present to you some of the real gems of paper-related play – click on the covers if your appetite for origami-esque shenanigans is whetted!

For the Buddhist who wants to add “right-dressing” to their list of rules for living:

dalai lama paper dolls

 

In a similarly religious vein, for the paper-doll enthusiast with a penchant for swift, undetectable revenge:

voodoo paper dolls

For the book enthusiast who really wants to get inside their favourite author’s head…and wardrobe:

literary greats paper dollsI’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’m only certain of Shakespeare out of that lot…can anyone enlighten me as to who the rest are? Is that Sylvia Plath in the straight jacket? Virginia Woolf? And the bloke on the right looks like a close relation of Colonel Sanders the KFC man, but I’m guessing is somebody more literary minded….

For the pet-lover whose real-life animal friend is averse to wearing cute little outfits:

lucky cats paper dollsFor the man in your life who always liked to play with his sister’s dolls as a little boy:

naughty girls paper dolls

And my personal favourite….***DRUM ROLL PLEASE****…..

For the political enthusiast who wants to recreate famous scandals in their own home:

richard nixon paper dolls

Now before you start scratching your head at the utter surreal-ness of the book immediately above, the BD has a whole range of paper doll books featuring American presidents and their families.  So whatever your political persuasion, there is a paper doll out there for you, voter!

If paper dolls are not your thing, I have also recently discovered two more fantastically different colouring books that I just had to share with you:

For the littlest scholar of feminist philosophy:

girls are not chicks colouring

And for the colouring enthusiast who can’t resist using one of those fancy rainbow pencils:

sometimes the spoon colouring book

 

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and flex your creative muscle! And be sure to chime in with any other exciting paper-doll or colouring related titles that we need to know about.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haiku Review: Noah Dreary…

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Evenin’ all! It’s Mad Martha with you again.  Today I bring you a haiku from a book with arguably the best opening page ever. See for yourself:

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What a cracker, hey? The book is Noah Dreary by Aaron Blabey.  I’d not bothered to read any of Blabey’s work before, despite knowing that he was a CBCA shortlisted picture book author/illustrator, and I must admit that this has been a grave oversight on my part.  I found this book’s humour scratched that itch we all have for that which is just plain odd.

This particular work follows the trials and tribulations of Noah Dreary, seasoned complainer and recent head-loser.  The illustrations are just fantastic – really, this book could retain it’s sense of weird humour even if the words were to be omitted.  In all honesty, if that first page hasn’t captured your interest, I don’t know how I’m going to coerce you….but here’s a haiku review anyway!

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Heads up, complainers:

Careful what you whinge about

Things could still get worse!

This book will appeal greatly to the kiddies, and to any grown-up who works in any occupation that involves dealing with incessant whingey-ness.

One word of caution though, for the faint of heart – as a younger stone I vividly remember being scared witless by any depiction of headlessness.  I particularly recall a television commercial for CCs corn chips that gave me the heebie-jeebies every time it came on (and put me off corn-chips for life).  Any illustrated versions of the The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were completely out.  If you (or your mini-fleshling!) gets a little freaked out over headless characters, this may not be the book for you.

Oh, and for your viewing (and possibly reminiscing) pleasure, here’s the link to the CC ad of which I speak:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh36xZqaz8U

Yep. It still creeps me out.

Oh, and Bruce has asked me to give you another heads up: July’s Fiction in 50 challenge is coming up soon!  The theme is Night Terrors and you can find out more about this intriguing concept here.

Adieu my friends,

Mad Martha

Bruce’s Lucky Dip: Kickin’ Knitting….

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Given the interest in my serendipitous search for slightly unexpected colouring books, I have decided to share the booty of my book-hunting jaunts  on a semi-regular basis…I will title these shared adventures “Bruce’s Lucky Dip” and feature a different search term and its resulting weirdness each time.

To kick us off, I present to you the weirdness lurking in the simple search term “KNITTING“… 

One may possibly expect a certain amount of blandness and predictability within the ranks of knitters and those who write for them.   Clearly one would be woefully mistaken in this prediction if Sock Innovation: Knitting Techniques and Patterns for One of a Kind Socks is anything to go by. 

sock innovations

I don’t really have a need for socks myself, but I would have thought that since pairing is of utmost importance in sock wearing (unless you happen to be Dobby), Two-of-a-kind socks would be more highly valued.

Looking for something saucier than socks? Then look no further than Knitting Lingerie Style: More Than 30 Basic and Lingerie-inspired Designs…

lingerie knitting

…because nothing says “in the mood” like fleecy merino wool.  Particularly in summer.

Feeling lonely when you come home to an empty dwelling because your landlord/significant other/parent refuses to allow you to have a pet?  Or perhaps your desire for a cuddly animal companion has been thwarted by crippling allergies?  The good folk behind Knit Your Own Dog and Knit Your Own Cat have anticipated your dilemma….unless you are allergic to wool.

knit catThe author has even been kind enough to provide patterns of pedigree animals, allowing you to avoid those awkward silences and sidelong glances that follow the owners of knitted pets of uncertain parentage.

Lacked the funds to visit the UK for the wedding of Wills and Kate? Recreate the pomp and ceremony at home with Knit Your Own Royal Wedding.

knit weddingExtra points if you can faithfully recreate Beatrice’s silly hat.

For fans of knitting, weight loss and the aforementioned sidelong glances, Knitted Fast Food is the tome of choice This title features twenty exciting meals to knit, including hot dogs, cheeseburgers, sushi and fried breakfasts.

knit foodknitted prawns

Reviews seem to indicate that prawns are the popular favourite from this tome. Obviously.

So there you have it. I was pleasantly surprised by the weirdness that resides in the hearts of knitters and I hope you were too.  Please feel free to join in my lucky dip and add your own titles to the list for the benefit of all fanciers of odd reading material.

Until next time,

Bruce

Are you Prepared for the Jam-pocalypse?: What’s in a Name Reading Challenge…

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Obstacle 2 in the What’s in a Name Reading Challenge: Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw…

This is the first title I’ve attempted from my Non-Christie-Listie, as well as the first title from Category 2 (something you might find in the kitchen) and I am happy to report that it has been successfully (and cheerfully) vanquished.

JamThis is Croshaw’s second novel, after Mogworld, and it certainly displays the same swift and silly plotting and characterisation.  Jam follows the story of Travis, a young man who wakes up one morning to discover that his city (incidentally, the one in which I also reside!) has been invaded by flesh-eating jam.  So begins a rollicking romp around Brisbane (Australia, not Texas) involving a cheeky tarantula, plenty of ironic ironicisms and plastic bag fashions a-plenty.

This Novel’s Point of Difference:

Um. I’d say it’s probably the jampocalypse aspect.

Pros:

  • One of Croshaw’s great strengths is silliness-in-appropriate-quantities and this book is jam-packed (pun-intended).with the same. There’s a lot of humour and laugh out loud lines in this book – it’s really one for when you need a bit of a chuckle or aren’t in the mood for anything too heavy in the thinking department.
  • It’s set in Bris-vegas….I quite enjoyed seeing the cityscape on the front cover and being able to recognise the Gotham City Building (I don’t know it’s actual name…since it was built everybody I know has only ever referred to it as the Gotham City Building)
  • It’s a fantastically welcome change from Zombie-related apocalypses (apocalypsi??), and scary, bring-us-all-down dystopian thrillers.

Cons:

  • It’s silly.  Now I realise I just put this in Pros, but I’ve read a lot of reviews (from people who are familiar with Croshaw’s work, weirdly) that panned this book because some of the events depicted were too silly to be credible.  I found this a bit odd, considering the whole premise is based on apocalypse by carnivorous strawberry preserve.  But I suppose, if you are after strictly believable scenarios, this is not the book you’re looking for.
  • I found it hard to recognise my own city in parts of this work….Croshaw faithfully recreates Brisbane landmarks and general layouts, except in the naming of two buildings in which most of the action takes place.  So the Myer Centre becomes the Briar Centre, and the Hitachi building becomes the Hibatsu building….but other landmarks, such as the Wintergarden and plenty of streets are given their proper names….as a local, I found this irritating as it got in the way of me picturing the action as it was occuring in places I know very well.
  • Croshaw uses plenty of American dialect words despite mostly Australian characters in an Australian setting – for example” ice pops” (we call ’em ice blocks here), “community college” (TAFE), “janitor” (cleaning staff), “middle school” (we only have primary and high), “wastepaper baskets” (bins)….I found this quite SPECTACULARLY annoying.

Teaser Text:

He sighed. “There isn’t much we can do without electricity, but my team has been researching alternatives.  One of my engineers proposed a system of fans powered by dogs in giant hamster wheels, but the major issue there is our limited dog inventory.  We’ll keep looking into it”.  p199

Although I have listed three cons, in honesty, if you are not a Brisbanite, it is unlikely you will even notice the specific local references (or lack thereof) that irritated me so.  If you’ve never tried Croshaw’s work before and you are open-minded, enjoy a bit of silly humour and particularly if you are aged 20 – 40 and interested in gaming, you should probably give it a go.

Oh, and here’s a link to some pictures of the Gotham City Building for your viewing pleasure:

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/tags/statelawbuilding/interesting/

Until next time,

Bruce

Colour Me Confused: Inexplicable Subjects on which to base a Colouring Book

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As many of you know, I’m a great fan of the BookDepository.  Apart from their fantabulous range of books, low, low prices, and free international shipping (!), I find great enjoyment in their search mechanism. I get unfathomable delight from typing in a random word and casting my eyes over the numerous and unexpected titles that pop up.  It’s like fishing in Lake Oddball.  In fact, even an innocent word like “colouring” will turn up the most bizarre range of tomes.  Books that make you think, “now what publisher in their right mind thought THAT would be a big hit amongst the community of colouring-in enthusiasts?”

So today I will share with you some of the more exciting titles that have turned up in the fishing net of the Good Ship Catalogue Trawler.  These are but a small sample, mind, of the hilariously weird titles that lurk in the search engine, just waiting for their chance to be spotted by that niche-market colouring fan…please, enjoy:

  • Stewing over a birthday present for the Li’l Dawg or Li’l Shawty in your life? The Gangsta Rap Coloring Book may be just what the gang leader ordered!   In fact, why not follow the gift to its logical (and inevitable) conclusion, and give it in conjunction with the Police Station Coloring Book, which helpfully features “thirty full-page drawings introduce youngsters to a host of law enforcement professionals on the job”.  It’s never too early for youngsters to appreciate art imitating life.

gangsta rappolice station

  • If appreciating art’s contemporary forms is more your show, why not test your pastels on Body Art: the Tattoo Design Coloring Book?  This little gem features “men and women showing off tattoos on their arms, legs, and backs”.  That’s right!   For all you aspiring tattoo artists, this book will provide essential practice at colouring inside the lines – before you try it with indelible ink on your unsuspecting and probably drunk best friend.

body art

  • For those of a more sedate, and dare I say, modest disposition, here are two offerings to satisfy your bland and uncomplicated desires. If An Amish Farm Coloring Book doesn’t quite scratch that itch, I guarantee you will be transported to your happy place by the Historic Southern Lighthouses Coloring Book.  Thankfully, both of these books are part of a series, so you need not fear running out of Amish or Lighthouse related imagery to render in living colour.

amish farm  lighthouse

  • Finally, after constant hectoring from the Slightly Creepy Equine Enthusiasts Lobby, Dover Publications has thoughtfully made available the Horse Anatomy Coloring Book.  If you’ve ever thought that colouring in the outside of the horse was simply not enough, Dover has thoughtfully rectified this thorny issue by providing pages depicting the horse’s “skeleton, muscles, nervous system, and major organs” for your colouring pleasure.  Red and white crayons at the ready, kiddies!

horse anatomy

In case you thought these were the most bizarre, I have actually excluded the most inexplicable colouring book that I’ve come across.  That one is dedicated entirely to the reproductive hardware of female fleshlings. I would have included it here, but the title contains a word that is considered particularly rude and unsavoury amongst more civilised fleshlings.

I’ll let you all go now so you can make sure your colouring pencils are sharp enough to tackle the challenges contained in these tomes….Incidentally, if anyone owns one of these books, I’d love to see some finished examples.

Until next time,

Bruce