Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism

Molly MoonIt took me long enough to read this book, but that’s not a reflection on the story, the writing or the author. As you know, I’ve had personal issues to deal with, which stopped me from reading for quite some time.

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng is a children’s book that breaks all the rules. When an agent or a publisher tells a writer that they cannot write about people smoking, or about children doing naughty things (like stealing and running away)…don’t listen to them, because this book has all these things and more.

The author tells an interesting story about an orphan girl who finds an old book on Hypnotism in the local library. The girl’s name is Molly Moon and she discovers that if she puts the lessons from the book into action, she can literally get anything she wants. She uses this art to better herself, in quite a selfish way, and at the expense of others. However, all the “bad” things she does lead to a lesson to be learned and I felt the author tackled these issues quite well.

The story is humorous, unusual and well written. It’s an adventure with loads of twists and turns, which are neatly brought together for a satisfactory ending. There are two other books in the series – Molly Moon Stops the World and Molly Moon’s Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure.

What am I reading next? The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Recommended to me, some months ago, by Sherry Ramsey.

Book Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog

to say nothing of the dogWritten by Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog is “related” to Doomsday Book. I say related because the two stories are set in the future, and involve time travel, but the characters are different. Whilst Doomsday Book is set in medieval times – in the middle of the plague – To Say Nothing of the Dog is set in 1888 (mostly).

The author is talented in many ways. Her strengths are developing complex characters, who make you feel for them; settings that are so realistic, you feel like you are actually there; accurate details when it comes to historic information; so many twists and turns, that you never quite know where the story will go next; and, of course, bringing everything to a nice, tidy close.

To Say Nothing of the Dog is a prime example of all these things. This book had lots of humour in it too, which even I found amusing (and I’m a grumpy old woman; well, I’m not that old, but I am grumpy, you can ask my sons). Honestly, if you haven’t read this book, or this author, you should.

Now, here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

Ned is suffering disorientation, maudlin sentimentality and a tendency to beocme distracted by irrelevancies: classic syptoms of excessive time travel. And no wonder. Oxford’s history department has just pulled him out of World War II and Ned’s barely had time to wash off the gunpowder when he has a straw boater shoved on his head, a carpetbag in his hand and is thrown straight into Victorian England. For a holiday.

But an impossible accident makes it hard to relax. Ned’s holiday becomes a mad struggle to put together a historical jigsaw puzzle involving a cat, a diary, young lovers and the mysterious bishop’s bird stump. If he can’t make all the pieces fit it could mean the end of history itself.

Shimmer

I started reading Shimmer by Kathryn Deans. She’s an Australian writer (by night) and works in a bank by day. Now, this is no reflection on the writer or the book, but…I stopped reading it. I’m not all that keen on trolls, ogres, dwarves, elves – and this story has all of them. I only read the first 20 pages and I found that my mind kept wondering. I just wasn’t in the mood. I can tell you that the author writes with a humourous flow, which I liked, and the main character was well crafted. I’ll put the book back on the shelf and will come back to it at a later date. It’s also been taken out of my sidebar and replaced with another book I’ve started reading instead.

Book Review: The Pit

thepitThe cover of The Pit by Ann Pilling captured my attention straight away. I knew by the “bird man” that the plot involved the plague and I was right.

Briefly, the book is about Oliver, who lives in London. He’s a 12 year old boy who has a fascination with all things spooky – horror films, spooky comics, death. He’s a bit of a loner, so doesn’t have a lot of friends. A girl tries to befriend him but he’s not really interested, but somehow gets talked into having a “shared” rat for a pet (even though he knows his mother will be angry if she finds out about it). At the same time a strange old man moves into his parents boarding house. Then, things start getting strange.

A “darkness” keeps coming for him. It takes him back in time to 1665 when London was experiencing the plague. He experiences life through the eyes of a five year old, whose family is struggling to stay alive as thousands of people die around them. For several weeks, Oliver lives two lives – awake in the present day; and, at the oddest moment he passes out and is taken back in time. Can he solve the riddle that brings the events of the past and present together? Is he strong enough to handle the truth? Will life ever be the same again?

The first two chapters of the book were mediocre, but after that it came alive. Being interested in the historical references, I knew the author had done her research. Yet it wasn’t until the end that I discovered that the idea for the book came about from a real event written in the diary of Samuel Pepys, who lived in London during the plague and recorded the daily events and happening of the people. This diary is referred to in many books and does exist.

The subject matter drew me in, and the plot held me. I liked the way the author put real events into the present day. I enjoyed following Oliver’s journey and his sense of discovery. And I learned that, in children’s books, you can write about death, suicide and mangled bodies and get away with it.

This is a book for young readers. Yet all readers will reach the end of the story and know what life was really like in 1665, during the plague. It was a great read. I wasn’t disappointed.

Assassin’s Apprentice

Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, #1)Last night, I finished reading Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1) by Robin Hobb. There were things I loved about this book, and things I hated.

First, a short blurb on the storyline (so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t read the book, and don’t want it spoilt). Fitz is a royal bastard (as in born outside of wedlock). At age five his mother’s family deliver him to the royals and abandon him. The boy looks just like his King-in-Waiting father, but this doesn’t win Fitz any favours. His father, and his wife, abdicate and move away from the castle, leaving Fitz to be tended by the stable master. Over the years, Fitz is treated badly, but one day the king finds a use for little Fitz, and he is apprenticed to Chade, the king’s assassin. From here everything that can go wrong, does, but I’ll let you read the book to find out how it turns out.

I loved the characters and the plot. Both were deeply woven together. There were a number of surprises, some of them tear jerkers. It is written in first person, but Robin Hobb did a beautiful job with this. She allowed the reader to get right inside the main characters head, and this paid off, because I really felt connected with him – I felt his pain and loneliness. It was enough to shatter the heart.

As I said, Assassin’s Apprentice was written in first person, so the author felt she had to include a short passage at the beginning of each chapter (ranging from a few lines to one and a half pages), which explained the history and other characters. These were things that the main character didn’t know and was mostly “telling”. This is the main thing that I disliked about the book. I found it distracting and…well, boring. After reading the first few, I stopped reading them and I feel I didn’t miss anything. The story was just as rich without these “info dumps”.

There were places where the author also described too much. For example, it took something like five pages to describe a city. By the time I’d read 3 pages, I was well and truly over it and just wanted the story to continue – so skipped the rest of the description. Other sections were over described too, but not as bad as the section I just mentioned. These long descriptions were also distracting and managed to pull me out of the story I was thoroughly enjoying.

Taking these things away, this book is excellent. The story and characters are so real that the reader has no choice but to “get over” the bad things and move on. I did, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is the first book in a trilogy, but it is also a stand alone novel. I don’t have to read the next book, but I will because I want to see where the story will go (and how the author improves because, I believe, this was her first published novel).

Highly recommended; and, I think it will gain a place in my top ten books. 😀

Book Review: The Star of Kazan

The Star of KazanThe Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson is a young adult novel. The first chapter was excellent and pulled me right in, but I found the following few chapters a bit lacking. They all served a purpose but I felt it took too long to get to the point and my attention started to wonder. However, once the ‘set up’ was over and the real story began, I was drawn back into the characters and was held tight.

Warning: Spoilers may follow, so if you haven’t read the book but intend to do so, you may want to stop reading now.

Yet this post is to do with titles, and how they relate to the story. In the case of The Star of Kazan — which was a set of jewels left to a foundling who befriended an old, sick woman but naturally circumstances kept the girl and the jewel apart — I was greatly disappointed because the Star of Kazan played such a small role that I felt the title was misleading. Up to the very last page I expected the young foundling girl to end up with the jewel but she only ever set eyes on the thing once and she never saw it again. To me, this felt like a broken promise.

Sure, the title is catchy but I would have preferred the author to use a title that was fitted better, that didn’t leave me feeling cheated. Perhaps other readers don’t care about this type of thing, and to be perfectly honest I’ve never cared in the past, but on this occasion the title felt wrong. The title should have been connected with the foundling.

Overall, the title was misleading, but the story (after an extra long lead in) was captivating.

Enchanted Forest Chronicles

I’ve been reading this series by Patricia C Wrede and must say that this writer is good. She’s taken all the old fairytale elements and crafted an interesting and funny series out of it. It’s so easy to read, and really entertaining.

The first book – Dealing with Dragons – is about a not so typical princess who runs away from home to live with the dragons. The second book – Searching for Dragons – is about the king of the enchanted forest, who with the help of the princess (well, that’s what he wants to believe anyway) is trying to find the King of the Dragons. The two have a great adventure and there’s a bit of romance blossoming too.

These books are perfect examples of how a writer can take what’s been done before and put a new spin on it. Patricia Wrede does an excellent job of doing just this.

Book Review: School of Wizardry

Last night I finished reading School of Wizardry (Circle of Magic, Book 1)by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. This were slightly like Harry Potter…hang on, I checked the publication date and must change that to Harry Potter is slightly like School of Wizardry (first published in 1990).

The boy has no training but suddenly finds himself a wizard apprentice. There’s the “can’t do the spells” thing, the fiesty girl and the nasty master wizard but other than that it had a different feel to it – more medieval. I liked the way we got inside the boy’s head and although this was book 1 of 6, I liked the way it ended too. It was obvious what the next book will be about but with the addition of a couple of paragraphs, I felt satisfied with the ending and don’t have to read the next book. I hate being forced to do so, so this gave the book an extra point.

The book was entertaining. I enjoyed it.