TBR Friday: Over My Dead Body…

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TBR Friday

Following hot on the heels of last week’s TBR Friday, I have another contribution for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017 climb! I’ve snuck in a sneakily short read that’s been sitting on my TBR shelf for ages.  It wasn’t on my list to get through this year but because it was so quick to read, and I’m behind on my review schedule, I thought I’d knock it over and at least feel like I was making progress toward some kind of reading goal.  This week it’s book two in Kate and Sarah Klise’s 43 Old Cemetery Road middle grade series, Over My Dead Body.

Ten Second Synopsis:

Following on from the events of book one of the series, 43 Old Cemetery Road, abandoned child Seymour Hope, cranky writer Ignatius Grumply and ghostly Olive C. Spence are dwelling happily at Spence Mansion, when nasty sort Dick Tater investigates the living arrangements, and throws Seymour in an orphanage and Ignatius in an asylum.  Determined to reunite, Olive must put her ghostly skills into action to defy Tater and bring her boys home.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Three years less a month.  Bought in July 2014!!

Acquired:

From the Book Depository.  I bought all four of the books in the series at the same time and have since left all but the first languishing on the shelf.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

It’s a short book so I’ve always had the feeling that I could rip through it any old time.  Of course, with its series brethren on the shelf there has always been the lingering sense that I’d have to read them all at the same time.  Still, this is no excuse, because I could probably get through all of them in less than two hours total.

Best Bits:

  • I had completely forgotten that these books are formatted as a series of letters, newspaper articles and illustrations (which means I’ll also be submitting it for the Epistolary Challenge – hooray!).  In fact, Olive, the ghost, ONLY communicates through letter writing (and interrupting other people’s written work).  The constantly changing fonts and heavy emphasis on illustration is a major strength of the series.
  • I had sort of forgotten what had happened in the first book, since it’s been three years since I’d read it, but it was easy enough to pick up again.  The book has a little illustrated recap at the start so any readers new to the series will be brought up to speed.  It was interesting to see Ignatius being not so grumpy this time around, but Seymour’s parents are even nastier and more conniving here, if that’s possible.
  • Once again, Olive is beguiling as the ghost of an elderly mystery writer.  I loved how the townsfolk help her out despite claiming not to believe in her existence.
  • I still think this series is an absolute winner for early middle grade readers.  The story is quick and engaging, the format is brilliantly accessible and the characters are quirky enough to keep the attention.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • This story didn’t grab me quite as much as the first book did.  The plotline of Dick Tater trying to burn books and cancel Halloween seemed a bit silly really.  Luckily, it’s such a quick read that even if the story was a bit underwhelming, the format and the brevity make up for it.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I’m glad I’ve got the series ready to go, because I want to see if the next book is as good as the first.

Where to now for this tome?

Not sure.  I might hang on to all the books til I’ve finished the series, then put them in Suitcase Rummage as a set.  Or donate them to the mini-fleshlings’ school library.

And with that, I have reached Pike’s Peak – twelve books – and my Mount TBR Challenge goal for the year.  I haven’t officially made the decision to extend my goal yet.  I’m going to ponder it a little more.  Stay tuned!  And you can check out my progress toward this year’s reading challenges here.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Fiction in 50 May Challenge!

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

Welcome to the Fiction in 50 challenge for May.  The point of the challenge is to create a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words, based on a monthly prompt.  If you’d like to know more about the challenge, just click here.  This month our prompt is…

button_that-old-wives-tale (1)

I’ve gone a bit outside the square with this one and have titled my contribution…

Passing The Torch

The opportunity to enliven the evening presented itself and Barbara sidled nonchalantly towards her replacement.

“Peta, daaah-ling!”

“It’s Petra”.

“George seems so happy lately!  Perhaps it’s that new secretary.  She does seem attentive, don’t you think?  I hear she’s due a raise….”

Being the old wife certainly had its moments.


I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else has come up with!  If you’d like to play along just pop a link to your contribution in the comments.  For those who like to be prepared, our prompt for June is…

a change in the weather

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

Fiction in 50 October Challenge: A Democratic Prompt

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image

Welcome to Fiction in 50 for October, where stalwart writers battle with words to wrangle a coherent story in fewer than 51 words – or just slap something together at the last minute!  For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click on the attractive button at the top of this post.

Our prompt for this month is democratic in the extreme:

with-great-comes-great

You fill in the blank!

True to my word last month, I have penned a story that is entirely free from heavenly hosts.  I have chosen…

With Great Reputation Comes Great Responsibility

…as my prompt-filler and have titled my contribution:

The Art of Adaptation

Mavis Jones, winner of nine years’ worth of championship sashes for baking, was struggling with the new competition guidelines.  She had wrestled with the nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, carbohydrate-reduced requirements, but the result was unworthy of her reputation.

This year, her cakes would take on all comers in the modern art competition.


I’m two words over the limit this time around.  Editing suggestions welcome!

I can’t wait to see what other players have come up with for their prompts.  For those who like to plan ahead, our prompt for November is…

an-offer-you-cant-refuse

Until next time,

Bruce

Fiction in 50 June Challenge!

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image

Welcome to Fiction in 50 for June, where stalwart writers battle with words to wrangle a coherent story in fewer than 51 words – or just slap something together at the last minute!  For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click on the attractive button at the top of this post.

Our prompt for this month is…

only certainty

I have titled my entry…

Words to Live By

“This too shall pass.”

Bollocks!  His therapist had no idea. You’re born, you get jilted, you die.  That’s how it was for people like him. 

He snorted at the exhortation to “be thankful each moment” as the lorry screeched through the red light toward his car.

Ironically, he died laughing.


I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with!  Our prompt for next month is…..to be announced because I haven’t got around to making them up yet.  Sorry about that.  I’ll get onto it as soon as possible, so check back here within the next few days.

Until next time,

Bruce

Fiction in 50 March Challenge!

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTONIt’s Fiction in 50 for March, where we create a piece of writing in 51 words or fewer based on a prompt and then share it with the community!  If you’d like to find out more about Fi50, just click here.  This month our prompt is…

button (3)

And due to the proliferation of bird life around our way at the moment I have titled this month’s effort…

Morning Interlude

He’s back! 

Sat there, proud as punch.

Singing out now, not caring a jot for the peace of the neighbourhood.

They say you shouldn’t feed them but life would be a little greyer if he didn’t come to visit.

I’ve got some chicken mince today, my beauty. 

Only the best.


Next month we will be working on a “fill in the blank” prompt.   I always love seeing what people come up with for these ones.  April’s prompt will be…

born to...

(You fill in the blank!)

Don’t forget to add a link to your efforts for this month’s post in the comments below!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

Fiction in 50 January Challenge: Dredging up the Past…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

Welcome to the first Fiction in 50 Challenge prompt for 2016.  If you’d like to participate, simply create a piece of poetry or prose in fewer than 51 words and post the link in the comments.  For more detailed information about the challenge, just click on the image at the top of this post.

The prompt for this month is…

dredging up the pastAnd I have titled my contribution…

After the Funeral

 “You shan’t quibble about grandfather leaving me the silver pitcher? “ My sister dithered.  “It’ll suit my decor.  You got his old tackle box, didn’t you?  More your style!”

Grandfather always said that a tackle box was as good as a bank for storing one’s life savings.

 “I shan’t quibble.”


It took me a while to manhandle that one into the required word count, but I got there in the end.  I hope not all the prompts this year will require such brute force!

Our prompt for next month will be…

raising the bar

To get the heads-up on prompts for later in the year, just click here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Fiction in 50 November Challenge!

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image

Welcome to the November edition of Fiction in 50, where the brave and the foolish attempt to create a readable narrative in fewer than 51 words.  This month our prompt is…

an unexpected arrival button

To join in, create a piece of fiction or poetry within the word limit, post it somewhere, and then pop your link in the comments of this post.  For more information and a list of past and future prompts, just click the challenge image at the top of this post.

Here’s my effort for this month.  I have titled it…

“As Blessings from God”

Another boy. Of course it was. Number seven.

She’d prayed for a girl; an ally in the fog of masculinity.

In her disappointment, she planned. Nappies and bathing were her responsibility alone. Her husband, sons, would never know.

Yes. She would do it.

This one would be her little girl.

Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!  Remember to share the challenge with anyone who might be interested and if you are sharing on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag #Fi50.

For those who like to be prepared, next month’s prompt (the last for the year!) is…

venturing forth button

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Fiction in 50 October Challenge: A Democratic Prompt…

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTONWelcome to all you literary thrill-seekers!  It’s time again for Fiction in 50, the challenge where participants try to squeeze big ideas into tiny word counts.  You may notice the new challenge button at the start of this post. I’ve been having a play around with the challenge button and this is what I came up with…not 100% sure I’m happy with it, but it will do for now.   If you’d like to know more about Fiction in 50 and how to join in, just click on said button and all will be revealed.  Anyway, today’s prompt is super democratic in that YOU, the challenge participant, get to fill in the blank with whatever you’d like to write about.  The prompt is…

beware the button

And I have chosen to make my prompt, “Beware the possibilities in an infinite universe”, which is a bit wordy, I know, but perfect for my requirements.  I have titled my 51-word piece (I just couldn’t edit any more!)….

Philosophy at Work

The livestock were restive.

“You know, I’ve heard they’re at least as smart as dogs.  Do you think they know what’s happening?”

“Nah.”

“Imagine if there was a planet where they were the dominant species and we were the livestock!”

Conveyor belts chugged.  Blades whirred.

 “Humans? Eating pigs? As if.”

I am just bursting to see what you have all come up with for this choose-your-own-adventure prompt!  For those who are organised, next month’s prompt will be…

an unexpected arrival button

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Fiction in 50 August Challenge!

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imageRoll up thrill-seekers, for the August edition of Fiction in 50, where risk-takers of all persuasions gather together to attempt the near impossible (or at least, really quite tricky): creating a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words!  If you would like to join in (and we’d love to have you!), simply compose a piece of micro-narrative and add your link to the comments of this post for others to enjoy.  For more detailed instructions, and past and future prompts, just click on that attractive picture at the top of this post.

Our prompt for August is….

calculated risk button

And I have come up with a school-themed story for you this time, which I have titled…

The Stench of Failure

Class 5B knew it would be touch and go. No-Neck Norris wasn’t a teacher you messed with.

That stink bomb flew straight down No-Neck’s collar.

We didn’t know he’d built up a tolerance; a trap for young players.

We changed his nickname after that: No-Mercy Norris

A warning to others.

Risky indeed! But boys will be boys, I’ve heard, just as experienced teachers will always be one step ahead.  You’ve got to hand t to them!

Right then, now it’s your turn.  And don’t forget, if you’re sharing on Twitter, use the hashtag #Fi50.

For the uber-organised, next month’s prompt will be…

life of the party button

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Shouty Doris interjects during…Aussie debut novel The Bit in Between!

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Shouty Doris interjects

Doris has joined me today for Aussie author Claire Varley’s debut adult contemporary novel, The Bit in Between, which features two mildly confused twentysomethings trying to nut out identity, destiny and love in the Solomon Islands. We received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia as part of the blog tour for the book’s Australian release – thanks Pan Mac Aus!

As Doris is shelfside today, you can almost be guaranteed that a spoiler of two will slip out. I try to tell her, but you know how she is. You’ve been warned. But let’s get on.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately.

Inexplicably.

Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with ‘happily ever after’.

the bit in between

Now I know that I have a blanket policy of disliking romance books on sight – it comes from having a heart of stone, you see – but I do like to give an affirmative response when asked to review new release contemporary Australian books. This is mostly because I like to keep at least half an eye on what many people are picking up when they wander into a bookshop. So while I was interested in the Solomon Islands setting and the sun-dried tomatoes, particularly, I did have a certain sense of trepidation on entering this story, given that it is advertised as a love story of sorts.

I was happy to discover, however, that The Bit in Between is much more a story about relationships than romance. Phew. Oliver and Alison are an unusual pair, who sort of fall into a spontaneous relationship as much out of a shared sense of ennui as anything else. Oliver is a semi-successful published writer who hates what his publisher did to his debut novel, while Alison is adrift after an unsuccessful relationship with an attractive, narcissistic quasi-poet. I will admit that I didn’t particularly warm to Oliver at all throughout the book, but I became quite fond of Alison by the end.

Shouty Doris interjects

I didn’t like Oliver either. He needed a good kick up the backside with a pointy-toed shoe. Lazy sod. Instead of moping about and whinging about having writer’s block he should have spent his time getting a haircut and a real job. A bit of gainful employment and he wouldn’t have to worry so much about his girlfriend leaving him.

And that Alison! What a nincompoop! What on earth possessed her to take a fancy to that Ed character to begin with? And once she’d escaped from his tedious, self-absorbed clutches, why on earth would she go back?! Young people nowadays! It wouldn’t have happened in my day.

Ahem. Hold on there, Doris. I hadn’t even mentioned Ed yet.

Shouty Doris interjects

Well hurry up then. None of us is getting any younger. At my age, I’m lucky if I make it to the next commercial break.

Yes, well. Once the happy pair decamp to the Solomon Islands, the planned setting of Oliver’s anticipated tour de force, we are introduced to two characters who have the potential to be the most annoying creatures in contemporary literature. Rick is a loud-mouthed, thrill-seeking, hard-drinking American working for an NGO, who befriends Oliver and becomes an entrenched feature in the lives of the two Australians. Ed is Alison’s aforementioned ex-boyfriend who arrives in the Solomons unexpectedly and creates a fair bit of havoc (as well as some truly dreadful poetry).

Out of the two, I much preferred Rick. His interactions never failed to provide a bit of comic relief and I particularly enjoyed his plans to make his (as yet unnamed) band a sound to be reckoned with in the Pacific region and beyond. Similarly, his bout of malaria was quite amusing in both its outrageous enactment and the fact that one couldn’t help but indulge in a bit of schadenfreude. Ed, however, was just a pain in the proverbial. I have to agree with Doris, in that I didn’t find the storyline between Alison and Ed convincing at all, especially considering Alison’s personal growth throughout her time helping local women in the Solomons.

Shouty Doris interjects

A waste of space all round – both the storyline and the bloke.

The part of the book that I enjoyed the most was the inclusion of mini-narratives about minor characters – taxi drivers, passers-by, shop assistants – that gave a hint of these characters’ back stories and provided a bit of an interlude during transitions in the main story.

Shouty Doris interjects

I agree. All of the minor characters’ stories were more interesting than Oliver’s; I’ll tell you that for nothing. Even his ending was ambiguous – like the author couldn’t even be bothered to give him a definitive closing sentence. To be honest, I was hoping for the plane crash he was planning on writing.

That’s a bit harsh, Doris.

Shouty Doris interjects

I’d eject my own seat if I was stuck between him and Ed on a plane.

Well, your animosities for fictional characters aside, the ending to the story is quite ambiguous. I suspect that a particular interpretation is somewhat implied, but I was quite happy to deliberately ignore that interpretation and craft a much more satisfying (to me) ending in my mind. I think people will take what they want to out of the ending, depending on how they feel about the characters and relationships overall.

All in all, this was a strange beast of a read. It has elements of romance, social issues, personal growth, destiny versus decision-making, grief, loss, happiness, achievement and just a touch of something that could be magical realism. For all that though, the fact that I only really connected with one of the main characters made the read not all that it could have been. On the other hand, the variety of elements in the story, and the unexpectedness (unlikeliness?) of some of the events will keep readers on their toes in what will certainly be a great pick for those looking for a holiday romance novel with a bit of real life thrown in.

Shouty Doris interjects

Next time, there should be more about the women, who were the only ones doing anything meaningful, and less about silly blokes who couldn’t change a light bulb between them with an electrified light-bulb changing machine. Honestly, men just drag down a good story.

Present company excepted, of course, eh Doris?

Shouty Doris interjects

Definitely not.

Right. Fine.

Ignore the old bird, try the book.

Until next time,

Bruce