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.