Book Review

The Indian In The Cupboard – Lynne Reid Banks

Image result for the indian in the cupboard bookI’ve always loved to re-read old favourites…and I have a very bad habit of re-reading childhood favourites. My most recent one: The Indian In The Cupboard. I adored this book and movie when I was a kid, although I can’t for the life of me find the books themselves; I must have had them from the library. Anyway, I recently discovered the audiobooks, and was overjoyed! A very short 4 hour listen, read by the author herself.

All I could remember of the stories, was that Omri was given a toy Indian and a Cupboard for his birthday, a cupboard which turned toys to life! I had flashes of memory from the film too, and I’m pretty sure I remember it being American (I now need to find and watch it, just to be sure!). So I was delighted to find it’s set in the UK and read with a British accent; this is purely personal preference, I find it very soothing to be read to in an English accent!

So, on to the actual book after re-reading (listening?). Omri turns nine in the book, and I’d say that’s about the right age -group for this story, maybe a little younger. It’s got just the right amount of childishness in Omri’s character, slight selfishness and total innocence…and then he blossoms. You can see him change from a thoughtless kid into a caring and mindful one, all through having another human being rely on him completely. I loved that Omri not once judged ‘his’ Indian for any of his cultural differences, he was purely and totally fascinated by the whole thing, entirely willing to learn about anything and everything Little Bull had to say.

It was also nice to see that Little Bull was a fully rounded character, without being stereotypical. By that, I don’t mean stereotypical Indian; he could have been portrayed as being perfect…all knowing, all powerful, all unrealistic, just to be a blatant tool to make Omri considerate and humble. But this wasn’t the case; Little Bull was strong, and powerful, and clever, and hardworking, and had lots of good qualities, but he was also bossy, and rude, and judgemental (especially of Boone). His character could easily have been portrayed as plastic, but the author didn’t take that easy and boring route!

Boone was another different and clever character. I don’t think I’ve seen a crying cowboy in any other story, and definitely not one that again is a fully rounded character that you learn to love. I’m sure I’ll see Boone again in later books, he’s too good a character not to be brought back!

Patrick was my bugbear for most of this book. I hated him, and he was everything I hated in other kids when I was little! Loud and obnoxious and spoils everything because he has no patience and no sense of other people around him. Omri is proof that at that age those things should have worn off. However, it is heart warming to see him develop and shocked into changing his behaviour after it backfires. He’s shown very starkly the consequences of his own actions.

I’ve re-read a few old favourites recently, and have been disappointed by quite a few of them, they should have stayed in my childhood. This one, however, is not one of those. This stands on its own because of the story itself, because of the very subtle messages it sends about thoughtfulness, growing up, responsibilities, friendship and other cultures, and because of the fast paced writing style. I could easily recommend this to anyone looking for something to read with their child that they could both enjoy, or for any (not quite) grown up looking to re-visit their childhood.

I’m happy to say I still love this book! 7/10

Book Review, Uncategorized

The Visitors – by Rebecca Mascull

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written a review. No particular reason why; I think I’m simply inconsistent! However, I have read quite a few books in the meantime…even though none of them were ASOUE as I gave up on them. But that’s another blog!

This review, is oThe Visitorsf the last book I finished. The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull, was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Summed up, it is a story about a deaf/blind girl called Adeliza Golding, whose family own a hop farm in late Victorian Kent, England. I discovered this gem one day in the library, I’m not even sure what it was that caught my eye, but I picked it up and read the back and immediately was intrigued. I have always been, quite randomly, curious about how people must go about their lives if they are born or become deaf/blind. I even learned the alphabet in sign language as a kid and can still remember it to this day. Did you know there’s a difference between English Sign Language, and American Sign Language? It fascinated me when I was younger that there was an entire language created, which meant that just because you couldn’t speak, didn’t mean you could communicate. I felt the same about Braille; knowing that the blind were still able to enjoy the wonderful world of reading.

But what about those who are both blind and deaf? How could they sign if they can’t see? How do they read if they can’t be told what the bumps mean? How do they know their own name?? It made me sad to think about it. And then I found The Visitors. And I knew I had to read it to see if someone could explain how the world would feel to a deaf/blind individual.

I’m so glad I did. Aside from the story itself, which is full of love, friendship, family and warmth, Adeliza’s journey from ‘The Time Before’ to the woman she becomes is incredible. Considering the author herself is neither blind nor deaf, she puts you in Liza’s shoes in the most fascinating way. It’s impossible to describe how she does it, but Mascull shows you Liza’s world and how she experiences it like she’s been there herself. I cannot vouch for whether or not her writing is a true rendition of life as a deaf/blind individual, but I could not have hoped for a better curiosity quencher.

The Visitors themselves seem to be a secondary aspect of the book; although they are necessary to the plot and tie in nicely with everything going on, I don’t feel like they take away from Liza’s life story. They are a part of her, and so become a sideline, always there but just out of sight and out of mind.

I always enjoy a book that makes you aware of things you weren’t aware of before. Books about other cultures, other countries, other minds, other perspectives…they’re food for thought. I truly feel I put down The Visitors having learned something, and felt something.

I would highly recommend this! 8/10

Book Review

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Books 4 to 6

In continuing with my review of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, here’s the next three! Fair warning, spoilers ahead!

The Miserasoue-4-5-6able Mill

This one definitely takes some accepting of the strange and highly unlikely, which I was sure was going to happen. I absolutely cannot fathom why the children were sent to the Lucky Smells Lumbermill; where did Mr Poe find the place? Did he ask the owner if he happened to want to look after some children for a while? Was it on the list of approved carers the Baudelaire parents put in their will? It makes no sense whatsoever, and I can’t seem to let it go.

I didn’t particularly enjoy this one, I have to say. Paying employees in coupons, a man you can’t see through his own cigar smoke, forcing children to work at a mill, Sunny having a swordfight!? With her teeth?? I do know that most of the books are outlandish and unlikely, but this one I just can’t wrap my mind around. Hopefully, the next one will be slightly more believable.

The Austere Academy

I definitely preferred this one. Sending the Baudelaires to a boarding school is finally one of Mr Poe’s half decent ideas. The one he sends them to however, not ideal! This book moves back into disappointing misery, rather than outlandish happenings.

I really like the introduction of the Quagmire triplets, it’s great for the orphans to finally have people around them who are on their side. They add a lot more to the story, and bring you back to a plot compared with The Miserable Mill. We are finally introduced to V.F.D. and the fact that there is a mystery surrounding their parents’ deaths. I felt like giving up on the series after book 4, but this one made me care about the story again.

The Ersatz Elevat

The stories are finally getting back into being intriguing. I found The Ersatz Elevator much more suspenseful, and more mysterious. It felt a bit more thought through, there were reasons behind the weird and unlikely. I could forgive the Squalors being obsessed with what was ‘In’, because by the end you realise that it was Olaf’s way of manipulating his plan. I could forgive Sunny climbing a wall with her teeth, because by that point I just wanted them to find a way out.

Like the previous book, this one had more plot and gave hints about back story and future mysteries, which allowed for the unlikely parts. It gave a much better combination of both! I’m definitely persuaded to carry on with the series now…I need to know what happens!

Book Review

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Books 1 to 3

With the release of A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, I just HAD to re-read the books-1-3books!

I was given the first three as a birthday present when I was around 9 or 10, and I fell in love! I read them over and over until I could save up pocket money to buy the next one. I think they were the first books I’d read that weren’t “and they lived happily ever after”. They were odd, and twisted, and funny, and wonderful all at once. I’ve never read anything like them since, Lemony Snicket is a magician with words.

It’s been a very long time since I read the series, and I cannot remember what happens to the Baudelaire children in The End, so I’ve decided to start again. However, there are 13 books in the series, and that is a lot of books to review! So I’ll give it a go doing three at a time. Possible spoilers ahead!

The Bad Beginning

It’s difficult to tell how realistic the series is intended to be; there is obviously a childish element to the books as they are aimed at a younger audience. Adults are unrealistically irresponsible; Mr Poe for example, being entirely incapable of placing the children in a suitable home. However, I find this more of a Roald Dahl-esque way of relating to children on their level, than a critique. The more confusing elements are things like Sunny, described only as a baby who cannot speak yet (typically around a year old), but understands entirely her situation and is depicted as walking and running alongside her siblings.

On to the story. The books are shorter than I remembered, even for children’s/young adult books. I’ve managed to get through one every two or three days while working full time. But I find that
this does not take away from the books; Snicket manages to be descriptive, go off on tangents and pack in a lot of action within the bare minimum of pages. We see the Baudelaires become orphans, live with Mr Poe, survive Count Olaf’s chores and dinner parties, Sunny’s capture, Violet’s invention succeeding but causing her own capture, a fake wedding, and Olaf’s escape. That’s a huge amount of actual plot that he’s managed to fit in around intriguing tidbits of his own life, delightful character development and becoming a thesaurus…a word which here means ‘explaining random words that we already understand’.

The first instalment of ASOUE is a perfect introduction to characters that I feel for, like and wish the best for, despite being told to do otherwise!

The Reptile Room

I remember the second book to have made me the most sad, and so far I still feel the same. Again, despite being told not to get my hopes up, it’s hard not to imagine the children living a happy life with Uncle Monty and his reptile collection. I remember being gutted when Uncle Monty was killed, and re-reading it knowing that he would perish simply made me sad all the way through instead!

We are introduced to Count Olaf’s first disguise in book two, and although it is ridiculously transparent and the Baudelaires instantly see through it, no adult will believe them. This sets a precedent for the forthcoming books and alludes to the unrealistic aspect of the series…however I think this is the point. It is intended to frustrate the reader so as to feel more and more sorry for the children. It feels as though Snicket has managed to capture the typical pantomime villain and make him genuinely evil and scary.

I liked The Reptile Room, and I think it has a satisfying ending…the children work hard to outdo Count Olaf and deservedly succeed, despite the challenging circumstances.

The Wide Window

This is my least favourite of the first three books, I think mostly because of Aunt Josephine. Again, I think we as the reader are intended to dislike her. She is not necessarily a bad person, but it is made quite clear in the end that she is an unfit caregiver. She is unrealistically scared of everything and should never have been allowed to look after the Baudelaires in the first place. I can feel myself becoming frustrated with Mr Poe as I write this, and can only commend Snicket once more for how cleverly he has written; I genuinely believe this is the desired outcome and it takes someone with incredible talent to create such an odd and brilliant emotion in a reader.

The Wide Window has more of the unrealistic aspects mentioned previously;
man-eating leeches, children managing to sail a boat in a hurricane, and I can’t quite believe that Aunt Josephine’s hand written ‘will’ supersedes the Baudelaire parents’ one. However, if I remember correctly, the stories only get wilder from here on out, and I’m going to need to re-engage my childhood imagination to enjoy them to the fullest!

Book Review, Uncategorized

And The Mountains Echoed – by Khaled Hosseini

and-the-mountains-echoedI was visiting a friend for the evening, and as I was getting my coat on to leave, this book caught my eye on her bookshelf. Meaning, the name Khaled Hosseini did. I’ve already read ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, both of which are incredible. I didn’t even know he had another book out, and instantly asked to borrow it.

Hosseini’s latest creation is once again something that grips you and doesn’t let go. It is actually the book that inspired me to create this blog!

So, the story is set across different times, cities, countries, continents, worlds even. From the harsh village of 50’s era Shadbagh, Afghanistan, to the beauty of France in the 70’s, to modern day America. Each chapter gives a wildly different view point of many different characters, starting off with a little boy and his sister, whose story affects the lives of families across the globe. Hosseini has an amazing talent for writing from the perspective of so many different cultures, personalities and view points. The switch from an ageing Afghan uncle to a vibrant, French mathematician; from the cruel reality of a struggling father, to the innocent mind of a war criminal’s son. The way this man sees everybody’s world is something we can all learn from.

In all of Hosseini’s books, he uses connections and links between different worlds, and I find myself pulled by the heart strings in every one. I can’t actually decide if this is a positive or a negative, but I found myself desperately needing to find out more about the lives of these characters. There are far too many unanswered questions, untold parts of the story. What happened to Iqbal? How did Abe get from Shadbagh to Pakistan, to America? What is Roshi’s story? Despite the disappointment in not learning the whole story of these people, I think the intention is to show how many people’s lives can be touched and affected by one event, how one person’s decision can ripple out across the world. You may know nothing about it, you may see a glimpse or a flash, but you will never know the whole story.

I must say, I was slightly disappointed with the ending. I felt like the story was leading up to either a heartwarming finale, or a devastating heartbreak, or something! But it was all very slow to conclude; a little sad, yes, but on the whole missing something. Saying that, I would highly recommend And The Mountains Echoed to anyone and everyone, especially if you’ve read Hosseini’s previous works.

I’d give it an 8/10