In the beginning there was a book review

My first book review! (I feel that this warrants some scary or at least suspenseful music, but I haven’t figured out audio so you will have to use your imaginations. You can do it. I believe in you) 

But before I delve straight in, just a quick but VERY important and incredibly giant THANK YOU to all of you that have followed me so far and taken the time to visit my site. I am very grateful. Incredibly grateful. It helps me realise that I am not just talking to myself which I do often enough as it is. I do hope to keep you entertained. Ooh that reminds of me of Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator’ – awesome film. Where was I? – Do feel free to comment I am not unapproachable, ok  very occasionally grumpy in every day life (I can feel a group nod from my family and friends happening right now) but not with you I promise! It would be nice to hear from you. If only it is to say – ‘Less rambling please and more book reviews!’ On that note…

Ok, so I thought since all this is new to me why not, for the first blog, start at the beginning of my book journey with children’s fiction (don’t panic I will be covering most genres of books as many as I can muster and in no particular order because that is how my fickle brain works) 

However, on this occasion I have chosen books that I think children and adults will both enjoy. I have also slimmed this down by picking three books that reflect bravery and scary moments. It is October after all and I am still scared and nauseous from my first post. I am hoping that will eventually go away!

I will also be following on this same topic with some choices in adult fiction. 

Being scared is not new to me (big shock), when I was a kid I was scared of the dark…and rats…and spiders…and most insects – they all look like alien creatures to me – I’ve seen a wasp with two sets of wings – is that normal? – What is that?, and do not get me started on spiders, one actually landed on my face once. My face. No it does not just happen in movies. Unfortunately. They actually have no fear of me at all. I think they run towards me on purpose. It’s a game to them.

When I was little, my biggest fear of all of them was a fear of the dark and it got so bad my mum started writing letters to me from my toys and leaving them under my pillow for me to find. The letters went something like this: 

Dear Shelley

We know you are very scared, but there is nothing to be afraid of. If you do not go to sleep we can not play and have parties. Please do not worry we are watching out for you. 

Love The Toys xx 

There were quite a few letters like this over a period of time. I don’t know whether these letters guilt tripped me to sleep or reassured me. Either way they worked. Plus, my mum had to stop writing the letters because I had started to leave food (mainly Kit-Kats – but other chocolate is also available!) on the shelves next to the toys because I thought they were hungry. 

I think this also helped lead to my over active imagination. I would often think if toys were alive, then they must also go to work, because they cannot play all the time, can they? I had to go to school after all. It was only fair. What if they did work. What if they worked overnight at bakeries making breakfast pastries or they may even have a lost toy patrol to look out for lost toys?

Lost Toy Patrol

I guess we all have different ways of coping with our fears, some more imaginatively then others!…. and yes I did get over my fear of the dark. and no I am not still receiving letters from my toys. They are far too busy for that.

And so to the book reviews.. there are a lot of books out there with bravery as a theme so I was pretty much spoilt for choice, but after much deliberation here are my choices. 

So find a quiet spot and settle down its book review time. Ok that sounded better in my head and not at all like the start of a children’s storytelling session. Huh, that’s actually quite appropriate, I will go with it. 

Watership Down by Richard Adams

How could my first book review on my blog not be this book? It was just not possible. For me, I have grown up with it and I still love it today as much as I did when I was a child. 

For those of you who do not know, Watership Down is a tale of Fiver a young rabbit and his elder brother Hazel who lead a group of rabbits on a journey  when Fiver suspects danger is coming to their warren. Nice foresight Fiver. The story follows them and the many challenges and characters they meet along the way. I warn you some characters will not leave you long after the book is read. (In your head I don’t mean literally) 

I am going to be very honest (as I will in all my reviews) and say this book is a commitment, but a worthy one. It’s not the biggest book I have read, but it sure is up there and the writing at times can be a little long winded especially for the younger ones. I found some of the stories about El-ahrairah were a little long and therefore broke up the pace of the book. It is suggested for 9 years and up, but I would recommend to parents (aunties, uncles, grandparents.. I don’t want to exclude anyone here) it is always a good idea for you to read the book first to see if its suitable for your little one. Especially this book, it can be quite dark in places (but not as dark as the original 1979 film)  

What this book does deliver on is originality. It has a world so intricately created through description and language the likes I have only ever seen matched in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R Tolkien. I felt invested with the characters from the outset, all with their own personalities and abilities that become essential throughout the journey. This book, in my opinion, is must reading within schools. The plot is laden with examples of bravery, the importance of team work, survival against the odds and why you should never give up. It also, in my opinion, does a very good job of showing the different sides to a character or why they are the way they are. This book has a very dry wit that works well  mostly in part thanks to ‘Kehaar’ the seagull, (a personal favourite of mine) as well as ‘Bigwig’ the rabbit. 

Just a side note, do not judge the book on the films. I have watched both and neither, in my opinion, is a replica of the book. Rarely, films are. They both have altered or missed out certain characters and used a bit of artistic license with the storylines. I personally, did and still do enjoy the 1979 BBC version of Watership Down, but, in my opinion, read the book and see what the author intended you to see in its entirety. Let me know what you think on this. 

There is a reason I chose this book as my first review it is one of my favourite books of all time. It is epic and for me it is a must-read. So if you haven’t read it I do hope you look this up and please let me know what you think. 

Have you read Watership Down? If so, opinions please? 

The Last Unicorn the Lost Journey by Peter S. Beagle 

I know unicorns are very popular at the moment, what is with that? I have no issues with unicorns but how did they become such a big thing? Anyway that is not why I picked this book to review. To say I was familiar with the ‘The Last Unicorn’ animation film when I kid would also be an understatement I watched it many, many, many times.

This book, however, is the original story prior to the film being made. In a way it is as though I was revisiting a buried treasure only to find the reality is somewhat different to what I first believed, much like the Last Unicorn and the world she steps into. ‘The Last Unicorn the Lost Journey’, follows the Unicorn as she steps out of the wood – her home into the wide world beyond. She has a need and a curiosity to see if she really is the last of her kind. 

If my younger self had read this story I think I would have loved the descriptive language used throughout, for it painted a very visual story and my older self loved the dry humour. This a very short story – this by itself is not an issue for me, but the ending came a bit too abruptly for my liking. Or it could be that I’m just not overly enamoured by how the story ended. There were interwoven messages aplenty in this story, a naive unicorn struggling with her place in the world and not everyone is how they first appear to be. I am quite sad that I did not read this when I was younger, I think my nightmares would have had a field day with the likes of ‘Azazel’ and a few other elements of the story (she says trying not to give anything away)

Reading this story as adult, never has a fantasy book felt more real to me. The reactions and characters if you remove their fantastical nature seem to fit very well in the real world. A real world that isn’t as fairy tale as some of us would hope for it to be. 

This is a book that I feel a lot of adults as well as children would relate. I also felt the ‘Afterword’ section at the end of the book gave an interesting insight into how the story was first imagined. 

The Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher 

Now, to my most recent discovery. ‘The Umbrella Mouse’ written by Anna Fargher tells the story of a brave young mouse called ‘Pip’ and how her life is forever changed due to World War II. This book is aimed at children 9-11 years, but I personally think adults would love this too. 

I did want the story to be longer, but that was only because I was so invested in the characters. Also, I would have appreciated even more of the illustrations by Sam Usher as I thought they complimented the story perfectly. Do I sound greedy? 

This is a refreshingly clever, surprisingly emotional and heartfelt story. It has a small and feisty main character with a big heart which is only matched by her bravery and made even stronger by the allies she meets along the way. This book has a relaxed ease to the storytelling that makes it a thoroughly engaging read. The author handles a sensitive subject matter with a delicacy and consideration to the audience, but it doesn’t lose any impact because of this. 

This story acts as a reminder to us all and is destined not to be forgotten like the many heroes of World War II (animals and humans alike) to which this book is perfectly dedicated. 

I also love how this story came about – make sure you read the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end)

PS: I wrote this review on my phone first,  something that I think the author would have appreciated. (Read the ‘Authors Note’ and you will see what I mean!) 

This book is destined to be a classic and I shall never look at an umbrella the same way again! 


First set of book reviews done. Hoorah. More to come. Do let me know what you think. Enough said. I have reading to do!


  1. Linda Cooper

    Congratulations on your first book review and sharing with us your awesome childhood.

    These books are so inspirational and lessons are learnt by everyone.

    An incredible adventure is about to begin.

    I look forward to reading more.

  2. Catherine Basnett

    Well done on your first reviews, but most of all I love the bits you write about you! They are beautiful, wry, nuggets of joy. Keep it up my friend

  3. Donna Dunstan

    Really enjoyed reading your first set of reviews and seeing your amazing illustrations Hungry Bookling!
    Can’t wait to read more 😍

  4. Val Harbour

    How exciting Shelley. Really enjoyed reading your blog. Particularly loved the story about your fear of the dark and the letter from the toys etc.
    Look forward to more. Enjoy your hungry bookling journey.

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