Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin

Although perhaps at first glance this book may seem a  little childish it is in actual fact a classic. The Doll people are like the borrowers except they don't 'borrow' anything. In fact they can't, if they did they might end up in permanent doll state and that would even more boring than being an alive doll. Annabel is eight years old, at least that's the age Kate wanted her to be. In fact Annabel had been eight for over a hundred years, however the only interesting thing that had happened to her in her whole life time was when Aunt Sarah went missing, that was around forty years ago.

This book has a very interesting take on how dolls live and it is not as free and easy as we might imagine. Unlike many other authors who have written about living toys this author describes it in a way that makes it feel like it could be true. Dolls who make the promise have to be careful, not every toy is alive and if they make too many mistakes or are spotted too many times then they could end up like that too. The danger is that after you've been living over a hundred years there are plenty of opportunities to be spotted whilst moving or when you are out of place.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Wolves are one thing, governesses are another. Bonnie is overjoyed when her quiet cousin Sylvia comes to live with her after the death of Sylvia's parents. Both of them acknowledge the terror of the wolves, neither of them expect Miss Slighcarp, their second cousin and governess.

I like the characters of the two girls best because they both depend on each other for different things. Bonnie is by far the stronger physically but Sylvia has a better control of temper and a more ladylike upbringing. The two have to use their different talents to escape death and although they may already have all the evidence they need to find out who they can give it to.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a short, easy to read book with a gripping story line. If you are not a book lover this would be a good book to start on.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson

You might have heard the plot of this story before or at least have read or seen a tale that is similar. Like Lassie or Homeward Bound this is the story of a faithful little dog who will not leave his masters grave.

Although very touching and defiantly a good classic this book can be very hard to understand as the characters talk in Scottish accents and it can tend to feel as if the story runs on a bit too long as it takes a long time for anything to happen. A good thing about this book is that Eleanor Atkinson  describes everything vividly so that you do not have to imagine very hard to be with Bobby running through the streets of Edinburough .

While I was in Scotland I found out that because Greyfriars Bobby was so faithful Canada sent us a statue of their faithful dog Bum in return we gave them a statue of Greyfriars Bobby.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Bells on their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth JR. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Bells on Their Toes is the sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen and describes the adventures of the 11 siblings. Great as a standalone or read as a pair these two books are great classics for any age.

This book doesn't focus on any one character as the main character but focuses on them all sharing all of their individual mishaps and adventures. From old fashioned swim suits and new style kitchens there is no adventure missing in these two books. I defiantly advise you to read both of these.

Unfortunately if I told you the plot of the second book it would give away all the secrets of the first book. So you'll have to just trust me that it is an amazing book. Imagine having to line up every time you wanted to  wave goodbye to someone or if the only way for you to go on a date is for your dad to come along too. Sometimes amusing, always heart warming this book is great as a read aloud as well.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Pegasus and the New Olympians by Kate O' Hearn

Emily discovers that humans are making clones of the Olympians! There are already some on the loose, if Jupiter finds out then her world will be destroyed. Emily and her friends journey back to earth to stop the clones but what seemed a simple task no longer makes any sense. Paelen is charged with burglary and Diana has been seen burning up houses, Pegasus is a famous race horse and if they got Emily, the flame of Olympus, and copied her DNA, everything would be over. Everything they had ever fought for. She has to stop it, and fast!

Joel, Paelen, Pegasus and Emily are a gang. Emily and Joel are from earth while Paelen and Pegasus are Olympians. As the Flame of Olympus it is essential for Emily to stay protected at all times, that's why Alexia had to come too, even though her and Emily don't get on.

These books are great stand alone books, as I discovered when I read Pegasus and the New Olympians, I had not read any of the others yet but I was still able to get the gist of what had happened so far.

Nineteenth Century Short Stories

Nineteenth Century Short stories covers a range of different tales and genres making every story differ from the next. All the tales are engaging and each one has an exciting adventure waiting for you to discover.

I really enjoyed this book because it is easy to pick up and put down.The tales are gripping, short and each one is different from the next. My favourite story was The Yellow Wallpaper because at the end you know just as much as you did at the beginning and only through careful study of the story can you understand what it means.

One of the best characters in this book is that of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock is a detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many tales have been written about Sherlock but only one short story   appears in this book. The reason I like Sherlock Holmes so much is because he is a very intelligent guy with a very serious sense of humour. He doesn't  ever do anything particularly funny just the way he does things feels humorous.

Robinson Crueso by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe was a little of a disappointment because I had been excepting more action. Robinson Crusoe is a very similar story to that of the Swiss family Robinson however the Robinson's are able to have more conversations and tend to have more gripping adventures. After the first initial disappointments I did find Robinson Crusoe very interesting if not gripping.

Robinson Crusoe is alone on a desert island after being shipwrecked on some rocks nearby. At first he gives up all hopes of  survival but then he discovers that things are not as bad as they seem and he still had a  good chance of life.

I don't really have a favourite character in this book because for most of the time there is only one character anyway. Robinson Crusoe is a determined man who strives to get things done and is not scared of working hard. Using many amazing and often challenging equipment he makes himself a home to live in until he dies or is rescued. This sort of determination is very inspiring and makes me long to do things even if they take a lot of effort.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall

From Albion and Brutus right up until the famous rule of Queen Victoria, Britain has had intriguing and often gory history. Sometimes History books dull this down and what once was a tale of bravery and challenge becomes a list of dates and facts this book isn't like that, it really brings history alive. Every character is real to you and when the Britain's are conquered you morn with them and rejoice when the victors are destroyed.

My favourite 'story' is probably the tale of the two princes in the tower. I like this one because it is such a mystery. Why would any one kill two innocent young boys? Every time I read the tale I can come up with a different reason for their capture and then subsequently their death. My favourite character is King Richard III in this story because he has such a deep character. He wants the crown so much he is prepared to murder his two innocent nephews.

This book is a great read and a fun way to learn the history of Britain. I thouerly enjoyed reading it and have read it three times already.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Harry Potter Series by J.K.Rowling


I don't think Harry Potter really needs any introduction, you've probably read or watched it,  have seen the Lego sets, the museum or maybe just the adverts but just in case you have somehow missed out...

Harry Potter is an ordinary boy, so why do strange things keep happening. Somehow he can understand snakes and sometimes things just happen, and then there's the scar was it really made by a car crash? Bullied and unloved Harry lives in London with the Dursleys. Dudley his oversized cousin and his Aunt Petunia and her husband Uncle Vernon are all trying to keep it secret but finally there is no more hiding it.

The whole series of Harry Potter is great, although, my favourite books are probably Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The reason I like the first one is because it describes everything in much more detail than in other books. The reason I enjoy Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is because there is a lot more action and questions solved.

My favourite characters in the Harry Potter series are mainly Fred and George. I like them because whatever happens they always have a laugh. Other characters that I particularly enjoy reading about are, Snape and Ginny. The reason Snape is one of my favourite characters is the depth of his character, Snape is very intriguing and I like Ginny because she is a girl version of Fred and George.

You may be wondering why X years after it's publication I am still on the last book and it's simply because J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter is a great book to read aloud.   For us, Harry Potter has been a family event and although it does take longer to get through than if you read it to yourself you are able to appreciate the cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter. For example, those who have read Harry potter might recognise this, if a chapter ended 'THEY ARE COMING' you would automatically read on and so the atmosphere of the cliff-hanger would loose it's  power.

PS  Alnwick Castle in the background!

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

The Neverending Story is the tale of Fantasica the magical land of all the stories ever written and ever to be written. Bastian Balthazar Bux is one of those lucky few who can reach Fantasica and give the childlike emperor a new name but how. He isn't a likely hero he is fat, week and timid so with the help of Atreyu he has to save them all from the Nothing.

My favorite character was Atreyu because he was brave, not just in fighting wild beasts but in doing what is right for his friends and protecting them even if they don't like it. Atreyu had to go through many hardships and points where he felt he couldn't go on but for the sake of all in Fantasica he risked it all.

The Never-ending Story is a great read and it also has a good film to go with it. The film sticks to the book very accurately but if you do not like the film do not be put off. My suggestion is read the book first and then watch the film because they are both excellent.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows is a great book for anyone aged 8 to 80. It would also be a great read aloud for those under 8, however, it might be better to wait as there are so many other amazing childhood classics that you might miss out on. For example A.A. Miles' Winnie the Pooh. This is one of those books that you definitely shouldn't judge by the title (or the first few chapters). The basic premise is all about a boy who wants two hounds. That doesn't sound like a great story, but persevere because you will be rewarded.

Billy is a persistent boy and he isn't giving up, even if it takes him years. He wants a dog and not just any dog, a hound dog and on top of that he wants two of them. The problem is his family can't afford it. So Billy has to find a way.

I like the character of Billy because he is determined, faithful and hard-working. No matter what, he tries his best even if it seems impossible.

Boy by Roald Dahl

Boy is about Roald Dahl's childhood and it includes everything about his life from birth right up until his first job. Nothing important is missed out, even the first time he was whipped is included in this book.

I like this book because, despite the sometimes unhappy content, Dahl has a humorous way of putting things and making his life story interesting and he certainly didn't need to add anything. From the time of the goat droppings tobacco and all the various beatings he ever experienced he manages to keep the reader engaged. 

As you'd expect from Roald Dahl this autobiography isn't like your average autobiography - and much more of an easy read like reading fiction.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Black Harvest by Ann Pilling

This is the first horror I have ever read and if you want to try something light from this genre then this is a good choice as it isn't too gruesome.

The Blakemans are extremely poor so when offered a free holiday in Ireland they can hardly wait. When they get there everything seems perfect, a modern bungalow, lovely beach and gorgeous surroundings the only obvious problem is Oliver and he is easy to deal with. But when other things start happening they aren't so sure.

The character I find most easy to sympathise with is Colin because he is often left in charge, unlike Oliver he isn't all brains but then he isn't imaginative like Prill. He likes to clime and swim and when he hears of Prills dreams he laughs but then he starts seeing things too. Colin also has a temper which makes him a more interesting character because he can make mistakes because of anger.

Overall the thing I like best about Ann Pilling's book is the way she makes it so real, nothing seems unrealistic and unbelievable, it all feels true.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Anderson's Fairy Tales byHans Cristian Anderson

Hans Christian Anderson tells many well know tales such as the Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid and Thumbelina but unlike many other fairy tales not everything always ends with a happy ever after. Some stories have morals and some are just pretty fairy stories but each shows that the 'good guys' don't always win and although good the Disney interpretations are not the same.

There are a lot of different characters in Hans Christian Anderson' book but I have found they are all easy to sympathise with because he describes them all so well. Each one becomes so vivid that you feel you know them personally.

The only story I feel different about is the stories of the moon where the moon tells a little boy stories I find some of the stories quite dull and because of the speed and shortness of the story I don't have time to sympathise with the characters.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Anne of Green Gabels Series by L. M. Montgomery (including Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson)

This is a series of nine books, Anne of Green Gables being the most well known and loved.  This and the other eight books (Anne of Avonlea; Anne of the Island; Anne of Windy Willows; Anne's House of Dreams; Anne of Ingleside; Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside) follow the story of Anne an orphan girl who turns up at the Cuthbert's home instead of a boy. Anne is an amusing friendly aspirational girl that I can personally relate to. Whether dying her hair green or getting stuck under a bridge Anne has a great laugh but she has her faults too and has to learn to work through her temper and pride to achieve the best.

Anne of Green Gables is set on Prince Edward Island north of the Nova Scotia peninsular.  Anne was not always from there she is a Nova Scotia and was born in a little yellow house. Before Green Gables, penned by Budge Wilson, is the prequel to Montgomery's books about Anne and describes Anne's neglected childhood and pleasant moments. Wilson has succeeded in joining the books well so that it feels like they link and has remembered to include all the details given in any of the other books by L.M. Montgomery and including some of his own.

As there are quite a few books in this series you might not be able to read them all. If not I would definitely suggest skipping to Rilla of Ingleside because it is amazing and I cried bucket loads. Even though the story is no longer based on Anne, Rilla, her youngest daughter shares the same passionate love of life and even through the horror of the Great War and the various tragedies she has to face Rilla has to learn to keep a smiling face.

Personally I love them all and feel I can really sympathize with Anne and her children because they are realistic characters in a realistic setting where not everything goes right.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Rescuers

The Rescuers is a charming tale of three mice who sent by the prisoners aid society journey to the Black Castle in order to free a Norwegian poet held captive there. Their mission is full of danger and it takes all the courage they have to face the Persian cat and to attempt to free a prisoner from the dungeons. It has never been managed before how will three tiny mice manage?

I enjoyed the Rescuers loads especially the fact that these mice are tiny and insignificant why should they be able to rescue a human prisoner? They are small so they are not noticed and can get were humans can/t but how is that going to get a human out of the dungeons. I like the idea of non ideal heroes because it gives you good encouragement and helps you to realise no matter what size or who you are if you work hard you will succeed.

The Rescuers has also been made into a film which although totally different from the book is good in its own right.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew is a teenage detective who will not let any question rest unanswered. Along with the occasional help of her friends she strives to gain the truth even if it means potential danger or death.
When a little girl named Judy bangs her head on a rock Nancy's first adventure begins The Secret of the Old Clock, can she discover the truth?

Carolyn Keen is the author of the Nancy Drew series and The Dana Girls . With the success of  The Nancy Drew novels Carolyn Keen also wrote The Nancy Drew Spinoff, River Heights and the Nancy Drew Notebooks.

Personally I find Nancy a perfect character of the book as she is brave, strong and determined all good character traits for a detective and also a personality you can look up too and sympathise with.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

'Off the Shelf' - Eagle of the Ninth - 11th March 2015
The Eagle of the Ninth is a historical novel about the Romans in Britain. Rosemary Sutcliff links fact with fiction making a engaging tale describing the life of Marcus, a newly recruited soldier. Along with his faithful partner Esca he strives to find out what became of the Ninth Eagle.

I really enjoy the mystery of this book and the 'normalness' nothing subnormal happens no one has powers or special abilities they survive in ways that people do today completing their mission with brain and will power not force. Rosemary Sutcliff also adds a slight romance to the story subtly enough to ignore but there to make the life of Marcus seem more real.

Marcus is very easy to sympathise with as although somewhat stern from his soldier career he has a warm heart and a sturdy character which shows through his dealings with other people of different status. I like this quality in Marcus as sometimes it is hard to sympathise with characters who are not humble or forgiving.

Rosemary Sutcliff has also written a range of other books including The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers both of which slightly link to The Eagle of the Ninth but can be read as standalone books as well.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Mathematicians Are People Too by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer

Mathematicians Are People Too is a very easy read it can be read in about half an hour straight or if you do not like reading much you could read a chapter a day. All the stories are different and are quite short so it is an easy book to pick up and put down.

Each story is about a different famous mathematician for example Isaac Newton, Sophie Germain and Blaise Pascal each has a different story about how they discovered their talent and passion for maths. Whether in a school fight with a bully or having a bad toothache these geniuses managed to find out many amazing mathematical facts.

Personally I find maths quite boring and extremely difficult so people who are good at and enjoy maths can seem very unnatural. However this book isn't mathematical at all and tells mainly of the interesting experiences these people had in their lives which are 'normal.' For example their struggles in mathematics and their eagerness to learn.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Wreck of Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo

The Wreck of Zanzibar is a fairly easy read so if you want a break from something a bit heavier, for example the Arabian nights, you can pick this up. Michael Morpurgo writes this story in the 1st person which makes the story seem to have more meaning and depth as you can really familiarize yourself with the character.

Laura, the main character in Morpurgo's  book, is quite easy to sympathise with she seems friendly and kind to almost everyone. She has big dreams which she knows she will fulfil but sometimes things just look too hard and she has to find strength to carry on just like us.

Michael Morpurgo is a popular author of children's books. Some of his best works include the classic tales of War Horse and Private Peaceful.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

'There was no possibility of taking a walk that day...'This starts the classic tale of Jane Eyre. I find this is a moving book mainly because Jane's character can be easily sympathised with, she is a poor orphan whose life is not easy but who still strives to learn and become better even through various mistakes.

Jane's parents both died when she was a baby and so her uncle adopted her. However her aunt hated her and after the death of her husband (Jane's uncle) she decided to get rid of Jane and send her too a orphanage for girls where Jane stayed for 8 years before moving to be a governess at Thornfield.

Although I am only on chapter 14 Charlotte Bronte has already crammed mysteries, tragedies and trials just around the corner ready to jump out and scare you. This book is very emotional and in that way it can feel very real.  It's not full of happy endings and no surprise there are real pains that normal people face it brings you face to face with brutal facts and I find that quite engaging.

Everyone can sympathise with Jane more or less at various points in the story for example younger children can sympathise more with her early childhood and compare it to their own this can be followed right up into adult hood so this book can always be a favourite to read again and again.

NB: Jane Eyre can be read as an adult book so you may want to wait until you have read the millions of other children's books before you read this classic tale.      

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

'Off the Shelf' - The Outsiders - 28th January 2015
I think the Outsiders is an amazing book that brings to light to fact that whether you are rich or poor you will face problems. This a tale of a battle between the Socs (higher class people) and the greasers (lower class people) This book is one of those that can be shoved on a dusty shelf and never read because its not well known.

The Outsiders could be classed as romantic but it doesn't have one line of love running through it instead it's actually more to do with the rivalry between the socs and greasers and the heartache this causes for both sides. If you take this to a bigger scale this could represent war and the damage it does us on all sides.

The Outsiders is a short book so if you are not a big fan of reading it is a quick read and has a very griping story line. The main storyline is about friendship and sticking up for each other no matter what and that fighting or beating people up because they are a different social class than you doesn't change anything.

The greasers and socs in The Outsiders do smoke, drink, etc. but S.E. Hinton does manage to steer clear of most of this. One thing I noticed when reading the book was that the middle class people are the only ones who don't generally get drunk as they don't have enough money to waste and don't have so little money they want to drown their troubles.

I find it very easy to sympathise with the main character Ponyboy because he is so different from the other greasers, for example, he doesn't like fighting, he likes to read and he is enthusiastic about learning these are all good skills and so like Ponyboy, whatever your situation, I advise you all to stay gold.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Mirror Chronicles: The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone

Even before chapter 5 of my new book,  The Bell Between Worlds, the characters are gripping and the story line already capturing.  When I first heard the book was going to be similar to Harry Potter I wondered how the author would manage to do it as well as JK Rowling's books.  I thought that the magical world of Harry Potter had already been done and could not work as well again.  Now I've read the book I can rest assured Ian Johnstone managed.

I like the authors style of placing a lot of questions and mysteries at the beginning of the book which engages you and makes you want to read on and discover the answers.

The history of The Other (which is the magical world) is extremely deep.  It makes you feel as if every character has a vivid past of which you can only scratch the surface.  In this way The Bell Between Worlds is similar to Tolkien's Middle Earth where middle earth seems to have been going on thousands of years before Bilbo Baggins or Frodo and even when the mission has been completed it feels as if they have a long future and hard times to come. This differs to C. S. Lewis' world Narnia as even though there is a recognisable gap of significant time between each book there is a book which tells us about the beginning and a book which tells us about the end and this makes the history span seem less. In contrast  to all of these Harry Potter seems to have quite a recent history which only starts at the time of Voldemort. 

In The Bell Between Worlds, the main character Sylas Tate seems to have a mission in which he has to save the world, likewise Frodo is on his mission to save his world.  I like these kinds of characters because from the world's perspective they are not super heroes.  Sylas Tate is a young boy and Frodo is only about knee height and likes food (not exactly your idea of saviours of the world).  It gives you a sense that ordinary people can make a difference, maybe not on such a large scale, but you feel able to give it a try.  Ordinary people have been heroes like Sylas Tate and have saved the world in their own right but not all of them have been remembered.

Another reason I like Ian Johnstone's  book is the whole idea that the other world reflects ours and that different famous landmarks are in the same places in each world and that the people themselves could be reflected and yet somehow be different. It is interesting how the other world is greener and fresher and somehow more alive because they do not have factories and their magic works with nature whereas in Thoth's cities he is changing the other, he has stolen ideas from our world and looks set to destroy everything.

The first book ends answering some of the questions - leaving you wanting to read the next book in the trilogy so that you can find out more about Sylas and who he is. Frustratingly this is the longest I've had to wait for a book, before I have had brief breaks in-between series but the books have always been on the shelf for me to pick up later but this time I physically can't as it hasn't been published yet.



Thursday, 13 June 2013

Arabian Nights translated by Sir Richard F. Burton

I think this book should definitely be read but I understand that it is really tough. A good way to get around this is to have it read aloud. This means that you do not have the strain of reading the tough words (although whoevers reading will) and it gives your brain time to let things sink in.

Arabian Nights has an on going story through out but that one thread can be easy to loose as sometimes there is a story in a story in which there is another story and this can make things very confusing and sometimes you can forget what story you are in.

The Arabian Nights is amazing for learning about ancient civilisations and superstitions. The books included jinni's, princesses, Persians, sailors, thieves and unfaithful friends. Each story is different and tells you about another character so it is an easy book to pick up whenever.

This book is very anti- Christian for example they believe all Christians are cruel and that each of them should be struck down by Allah.

Some fascinating stories are found in the Arabian nights that are often referenced to in other books. You will know many of the stories as they are very famous. Some have morals, some love and often death or tragic partings which are all interwoven into the fascinating tales of The Arabian Nights.

Because of its difficulty Arabian Nights might be better read in chunks, don't be fooled this book is nothing like Disney's tales of Aladdin.

(Just a note of warning Sir Richard F. Burtons translation of Arabian Nights is more adult in nature and includes some tough vocabulary so as a read aloud or for a younger child it might be better to use Edmund Dulacs illustrated translation instead).

Friday, 7 June 2013

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is based in America, Mississippi, just after the slave trade has been banned. There is still a lot of tension between the blacks and whites and Cassie seems to come up in the middle of it.

I don't know whether Mildred D. Taylor wants us to sympathise with Cassie or not but Cassie seems similar to any preteen and comes across as very angry and headstrong rather than following the good examples of her parents. Although I agree that the world she lived in was very challenging rather than trying to make a difference Cassie wanted to fight and that only made things worse. I personally find it much easier to sympathise with a lesser character called Jeremy who try's much harder to make things right.

Mildred D. Taylor writes this book in a gripping style she leads you along Cassie's path as she fights to survive in Mississippi in the 1930's. The book tells you a lot about the inequality that ordinary people faced every day and the torture of being treated as a lesser being when really you were exactly the same. That just because of your face colour you got paid less or had less privileges. In Mildred D. Taylor's book it tells you how one girl copes.