The Hungry Bookling

A journey through books and the imagination

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!

Ok, so maybe I have always thought a little too much about books. I admit it. I am the personification of the hungry bookling. I am constantly on the hunt for the next book even when I already have a bookcase full of them. You see I buy a book for future me, I never know what mood I will be in, so when I pull a book from the shelf I need to know that I have a choice of them. So, I guess books are like a good bottle of wine. I need to let them age to perfection before use…well, I guess that is dependent on the kind of day I have had! Anyway books are a reliable comfort for me.

I was a lucky kid, my mum always wanted her daughters to be readers and to have access to books that she never did. I was three years old and my mum had already bought a second hand collection of Charles Dickens in the hopes that me and my sisters would one day read them. I still have that much loved collection today. 

It was inevitable that I grew up always with a book nearby. If I ever asked my mum for help with my homework she would simply smile and say “ Look it up – that’s what encyclopaedias are for!” 

That encyclopaedia set was heavy. 

When I ask my mum about it now she admits it was because she did not know the answers, but I like to think of it as she was teaching me to think and find the answers for myself. Thanks Mum!

I was definitely brought up with an appreciation for books. I still remember the very first book I bought for myself from a school fair – ‘Matilda’ by  (the genius) Roald Dahl. The first author who made me laugh out loud. I wish I could have met you Roald!

And so my journey with books began. 

Over the years I have had many ideas involving books…even owning my own bookshop one day. I have had thoughts of taking over an old abandoned subway and putting a bookshop in there. 

I would call it ‘End of the Line Books’ – what do you think? (FYI – I thought of that before the Kindle was invented)

The Subway Book Shop

Then there was the restaurant idea. 

Picture a restaurant where as well as food you would be handed a book menu with your coffee. 

Not to eat books of course. To read them. Just so we are clear. Somehow I can’t see it taking off – you would sit there with your coffee and book and take an age to leave the table, not really profitable is it?

How about filling a disused swimming pool with books and having just a few wingback chairs in there as well. You would have to wade your way through the books to get to the chairs of course…oh and watch out for the book shark. Ok so maybe that idea is a little far fetched. Anyway you are starting to understand my thought process now. 

And so we come to this blog. It was not my idea in the beginning, far from it. A best friend of mine (you know who you are!) suggested I start a blog, an idea that I quickly dismissed, for many reasons: 

Reasons I had not to start a blog: 

One: I had no idea where to start or what to write.

Two: I had become so familiar with writers block it was planning to move in with me. 

Three: It was on the internet – scary. 

Four: Strangers would judge me. Family and friends would judge me. Everyone would judge me. 

Five: I’m really quite anti-social in my personal life. A lifelong ambition of mine is to become a hermit. Hermit’s don’t use social media. Oh no…I would have to learn about social media. 

Six: It was a bad idea. 

Seven: It was a very bad idea. 

Eight: The worst idea ever and I have had a lot of bad ideas.

 

But my friend did not give up, last Christmas she bought me the book ‘Blogging for Dummies’, 6th Edition, by Amy Lupold Bair. My friend was clever, she knew I had to read it and read it I did. 

I began to have ideas, silly ideas. I know I thought…I could start a blog, but what could it be about?

So here I am, many months later (it has taken this long to build up the courage to do this, after all I do feel all the points in the above list still apply) I am about to embark on a book review blog, sharing my weird imagination, my love of books and my own poetry and writing (when my writers block steps aside) with the world. 

What could go wrong?

I can see the book shark circling now…

To all the ‘Hungry Booklings’ out there wish me luck!! 

PS: I don’t know what I am doing so kind of like me there may be a few links not working right, please be patient I am new to this and I am discombobulated (look it up it’s my favourite word..oh I’m turning into my mum)

Hungry Bookling Book Reviews

My book reviews do not use a rating system, personally, as a reader I go very little by these. I find they add little to a review and they are hard to make a consistent and fair judgement on. Therefore I like to try and be as fair to the author as I can be, they worked hard after all. 

Do you disagree with me on this? – Let me know what you think. 

I hope you enjoy reading my reviews and they are helpful to you. At the end of the day, they are just my opinion and I would love to know your thoughts on them too! All stories like art are not for everyone and where some of us may think a story is tedious others may love it. 

Therefore I am happy to discuss the books I review and I would love to know what you think. Also, feel free to critique my own writing and poetry too which is found on the Imagination page. (I have to overcome my fear of judgement or at least become numb to it) 

Before leaving comments make sure you check out ‘The Disclaimer’ section on the About page. Thank you!

Finding a quiet place to read can be difficult…