Ellen Carr is a refreshing heroine. Departing from the usual breed of go-getters, smart-talkers and hard-as-nails characters that populate today’s boo...moreEllen Carr is a refreshing heroine. Departing from the usual breed of go-getters, smart-talkers and hard-as-nails characters that populate today’s books, Ellen is warm, enchanting and the epitome of the ol worlde English Nanny (albeit in a glorified role). Raised by a family of strident suffragettes in the early 1940s, Ellen surprises everyone by showing a love for all things domestic. Her inspiration is her grandfather’s Austrian help/partner Henny who teaches the young Ellen how to make 'Apfel Strudel' and others things practical yet pretty.
After Henny’s death.....Ellen moves to Austria to take up the job as housemother in a progressive school called Hallendorf. Hallendorf is a school unlike any other…supposedly meant to give free reign to the bursting talent of prodigious children. Infact it’s more like a dumping grounds for wealthy parents, whose children are parceled off and promptly forgotten. And the soft-hearted Ellen takes everyone under her wing…from the weary headmaster and the insecure children to the distinctly weird staff and their idiosyncrasies.Another character who intrigues Ellen is the handsome Marek...the groundman cum fencing master cum hero-of-the-masses. Love inevitably blossoms, but it is shrouded by the looming threat of World War2.
And soon Ellen discovers that Marek is a man under disguise. He is Marcus von Altenburg, a world famous musician who has now devoted his life to helping an assortment of resistances smuggle Jews to safety. A noble cause but a path laden with danger and the threat of things going seriously long.
From the minty-fresh air of Austria to the decadence of Vienna to the smoke-filled depression of WW2.....A Song for Summer is a full-fledged historical romance. While the book could have easily veered into mushy sentimentalism, Eva Ibbotson’s classic humour, funnily-flawed characters and smooth transitions lift it to a whole new level. The pain-staking attention to details of places and events would please history-buffs, but for me it was about Ellen and Marek.
While Ellen appears to be to-good-to-be-true, you realize that it has to be just so. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, you need a character who symbolizes hope and comfort. Marek, the unique combination of earthy woodsman and temperamental musician is the perfect foil for the practical Ellen.
Another memorable couple and a definite addition to all-time favorites.(less)
"Northern Lights (a.k.a. The Golden Compass)" ended on a note of infinite possibilties. Lyra's father, the saturnine Lord Asriel managed to rip an ope...more"Northern Lights (a.k.a. The Golden Compass)" ended on a note of infinite possibilties. Lyra's father, the saturnine Lord Asriel managed to rip an opening into a new world and Lyra followed through. Her main aim......to find out more about the elusive concept of "Dust".
While the first book was set in an alternate world very like ours, "The Subtle Knife" begins in our own world. It revolves around Will Parry, a 12 year old boy who lives in modern-day Oxford. Burdened with responsibilities and wiser beyond his years, his only wish is to find his Explorer-father, who went missing on an expedition to the North.
As he embarks on this seemingly impossible task, he comes across a startling discovery. A rent in the air, almost invisible to the human-eye proves to be an entry into a different world. And in this new world he comes across Lyra Belacqua (now called Lyra Silvertongue). Lyra with the help of her alethiometer, is to play a key role in the search for Will's father.
Along the course of their adventures, Will becomes the reluctant bearer of "The Subtle Knife".....a knife with extraordinary and devastating powers.....a knife capable of cutting across different worlds.
The second book is predominantly a passage between the first and the third of the trilogy. Will Parry is a promising hero...fuelled by an odd mix of bravery and desperation. Lyra reprises her role of the head-strong girl who is unaware of the great destiny in store for her.
The book also throws light on the main conflict. The eternal war is between two principles...that of Authority (God/ Rigid Destiny) and a Human's free will. Which shall reign supreme is something that we will know in the third and concluding part of "His Dark Materials" (less)
Em Watts; a grungy tomboy and Nikki Howard; reigning teen supermodel…both happen to be at the same place and time when a freak accident occurs and kno...moreEm Watts; a grungy tomboy and Nikki Howard; reigning teen supermodel…both happen to be at the same place and time when a freak accident occurs and knocks Em out. After being unconscious for a month, Em wakes up in the flawlessly perfect body of Nikki Howard. While Em Watts was declared dead, her brain had been transplanted into the body of Nikki Howard (who also conveniently happened to become unconscious at the same time as Em’s fatal accident).
A whole new body and a jet-set lifestyle…not what a computer geek in hoodies had signed up for. Now she has to honour Nikki Howard’s career obligations and be prepared to grace the covers of top magazines. She re-works several preconceived notions and deals with unwanted (albeit extremely attractive) suitors. And at the same time, she hopes to find out whether she can resurrect her friendship (and a wee bit more) with her best friend (in her past life as Em Watts),Christopher.
Confusing, yes. Tremendous scope for laugh-out-loud-moments.....didn’t happen. And that left me disappointed. After having read Avalon High, The Mediator and The Missing Series by the supremely funny and talented Meg Cabot.....you kind of have great expectations. But 'Airhead' seemed more like an introductory book with the sole purpose of providing a backdrop for a sequel. A bit of a let-down…but having said all that, I am still obviously going to wait for the next instalment :‘ Being Nikki’.
I'm finding it extremely difficult to write a review that justifies the innate honesty of this book.
After a long time, here's a YA Lit offering that m...moreI'm finding it extremely difficult to write a review that justifies the innate honesty of this book.
After a long time, here's a YA Lit offering that manages to make you snort with unbridled glee at the shenanigans of a small-town family AND make your insides twist with it's heart-wrenchingly sad moments.
Raven DeHead joins the ranks of my all-time favourite YA heroes.
A good story...a story that makes you laugh...makes you melancholic....makes you wish for a love that is sweet and yet believable....
The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I truly, Completely Lost It makes you want to fly and stay grounded all at the same time.(less)
Willafred ‘Willa ’Havisham is a 12 year old, cherry –cordial eating, book-reading, idealistic youngster. Her widowed mum, the beautiful Stella Havisha...moreWillafred ‘Willa ’Havisham is a 12 year old, cherry –cordial eating, book-reading, idealistic youngster. Her widowed mum, the beautiful Stella Havisham is a reputed wedding planner. But despite the romanticism of her chosen profession, Stella is stern and unbending. Losing her husband straight after the wedding night has left her embittered and brutally practical. Her life and Willa’s (unfortunately) are run by a set of strict rules. Stella has great expectations for Willa which do not involve waiting around for Prince Charming. Running from deeper emotions herself, the slightest whiff of a serious romance has Stella reaching for her set of red trunks and traipsing off to a new place…with the reluctant Willa in tow.
Never staying long in a single place, Willa rarely has the time to lay down roots and form lasting relationships. Her only solace lies in her books and the characters between the pages who seem to make reliable friends. Every birthday, as she blows out the candles, she wishes for the same thing: a father and the chance to settle down, once and for all. And every year, it seems that she could probably be the worst wisher ever in the history of candle-blowers!
But the tides are finally changing. Mother and daughter move back to their hometown – Bramble. And the sleepy líl seaport is littered with friends waiting to be made. Willa’s candy-making Nana; Mr.Tweed, the elderly book-store owner who calls Willa his kindred spirit and always has a book kept warm for Willa under his dozing cat; the gregarious Sulamina Mum, brighter than a peacock and always ready with a hug and quirky advice; Tina, the potential best-friend-in-the-making; Joseph Francis Kennelly (JFK), the cute boy who always has a shy, dimpled smile ready for Willa.....and best of all the new next-door neighbour Sam Gracemore, a handsome poet and Willa’s new English teacher. He seems to be perfect father-material and is smitten by the lovely Stella. To Willa’s delight, the feelings are reluctantly reciprocated.
But will Stella stick it out or run scared again? As Willa and the town-folk play cupid to the fledgling romance…….we get a tantalising glimpse into the charm and warmth of a small-town and it’s people. Murtagh weaves in the magic of the salty air, the cobble-stoned paths, the tinge of the setting sun, the feel of grainy sand between your toes, the taste of melting chocolate, the tartness of cherries and the romanticism of a night sky littered with sparkling stars.
The story could very well be the definition of heart-warming. Even the seemingly-sappy moments make you smile and have you rooting earnestly for Willa and her match-making efforts. With a lot of well-meaning homilies adroitly woven into the plot, you come away with a feeling of being inspired as well as entertained.
A perfect read for a drizzly day and a must-add on every pre-teen’s summer reading list. (less)
"Dear little bird! See Jo, how tame it is. I like peeps better than the gulls: they are not so wild and handsome, but they seem happy, confiding little things. I used to call them my birds last summer, and Mother said they reminded her of me – busy, quaker-coloured creatures, always near the shore, and always chirping that contented little song of theirs. You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone. Meg is the turtledove, and Amy is like the lark she writes about, trying to get up among the clouds, but always dropping down into it’s nest again".
With these whimsical comparisons, the shy Beth captured the individual essences of each and every March sister.
Little Women, set at the turn of the Civil War; explored the lives, loves, quirks, joys, disappointments, shadows and triumphs of the March family. Uncomplicated fare that continues to enchant it’s readers even today.
For me, this classic tale has always been about Josephine (Jo) March.
Right from Page 1 onwards till the ambiguous end, I remain a member of the *Jo Fan Club*. She was blunt, honest and a no-frills-raggedy-cat to boot. At a time when social graces were the order of the day, Jo clomped through her genteel surroundings with all the grace of the proverbial bull in a china shop. She loved her family fiercely and no sacrifice was too great or too small where it was concerned. She pursued her writing career with all the highs-and-lows that plague fledgling authors.
When I was younger, I had read only the first section. So when I heard that Jo had turned down the loyal and cheeky Laurie, I was a tad disappointed. Now, as the years have passed and I have read both sections in their entirety, I am content with this decision. Laurie's lovable, carefree boy of Part 1 dissolved into a sulky, wilful young man in Part 2. And Prof.Bhaer (for all his poverty, seniority, shabbiness of appearance and at times, regressive outlook) was a true hero. As Jo aptly puts it, “ Mother would admire him for his warm heart, Father his wise head. I admire both, and feel rich in my new friend, Friedrich Bhaer.” Once more, our mighty heroine makes the right choice and gives us further cause to bolster her position on her pedestal.
Every female mind with literary leanings and a tomboyish demeanour will associate with Jo. We see our failings mirrored in her. We see a glimpse of our backbones in her strident ravings. We wish to write the next Great Novel. We claim to not fall prey to the failings of romance and yet, are pleasantly surprised and befuddled when that ‘one great love’ breaks all our misconceptions. Loving the home-nest, aching to fly from it and fiercely protecting it’s thistlelike comforts from condescending outsiders....we all, at some time, totally and absolutely “GET JO”.
At the end of the day, the tale of the March sisters is a cozy read with a hint of defiance. The holiday season is the perfect time to dig out this little gem, sink into a cushy sofa and lose yourself in a world that was simplistic and yet light-years ahead with it’s stab at realism.
Arriman the awful, Grand Poobah of all things nasty and mighty dark wizard of the North has had many happy years of blighting, smiting and wrecking a...moreArriman the awful, Grand Poobah of all things nasty and mighty dark wizard of the North has had many happy years of blighting, smiting and wrecking a great deal of havoc. But there comes a time when even the darkest of wizards gets tired of the "monotony" and wants to pass on the mantle to a more sinister and deserving wizard.
The great hunt begins and Arriman creates a kindly, three-headed monster called the "Wizard Watcher" for the task. But with not even the faintest squeak of a dark wizard from any direction, Arriman decides that marriage would be the only way to create a suitable heir to carry on his illustrious heritage. Here's the tiny blip in plans......a wizard can only marry a witch and the local witches are a disastrous motley of the weird and the frightfully whacky! Covered with warts in unmentionable places, swarming with maggots, cackling evilly....they fulfil every "witchy" stereotype!
A contest will be held and the winner will be Arriman's blushing new (*shudder*) bride. The contestants are to be judged on their skill, finesse, imagination and grandiosity in executing their black magic. But among the brood of harridans is a single, lovely witch; Belladonna. Blue-eyed and golden-haired, Belladonna has always been a white witch. She could put a dozen Disney Princesses to shame with the goodness of her heart and generosity of spirit. She longs to be dark and dreary like the rest of her coven and be a powerful, black witch.....something that would make her an ideal wife for Arriman. And to help her achieve this goal are a líl orphan boy: Terrence Mugg, his pet earthworm: Rover and Arriman's long-suffering but obliging staff.
A hilarious book which embraces all things dark and sinister and revels in the ghoulish and the gory, "Which Witch" is a fine treat for all Potter fans. After tut-tutting over Voldemort's antics, it's nice to have an endearing, dark wizard like Arrimann. Despite his magnificent powers, he is basically a normal man quailing in his boots at the prospect of waking up every morning to a wart-covered, slime-wrapped, shrieking witch of a wife!! Laugh-out-loud and a definite treat for children (and adults) who never lose their fascination for magic and mayhem. (less)
My foray into the crazy world of Eva Ibbotson continues!
Platform 13 at London Station has remained shut since a very long time. But any attempts to ma...moreMy foray into the crazy world of Eva Ibbotson continues!
Platform 13 at London Station has remained shut since a very long time. But any attempts to make renovations always....always get botched up. The reason being that Platform 13 hides a "gump" : an opening to a secret, utopian island. It is a blissful place, ruled by a well-loved King and Queen and plays home to all kinds of humans, animals and magical creatures. However the gump opens once in nine years for nine hours only. So anyone who wants to crossover needs to be super-quick and get the journey done in the limited time period.
Tragedy strikes when the new born prince of the island is kidnapped by a rich, nasty lady called Mrs.Trottle, on a trip into London city . And since this happens just when the gump is about to close, the devastated baby-sitters have no option but to return empty-handed to the island. The grief-stricken islanders have to wait for another nine years before they can launch a rescue operation.
Finally the long wait is over and a search party comprising of the ancient wizard Cornelius, a sweet-tempered fey Gurkintrude, a yodeling gentle giant Hans and a small but willful hag Odge Gribble heads off to recover the lost prince.
Reaching the prince’s (who now goes by the name of Raymond Trottle) new home, the search party is delighted to meet a perfectly charming, well-behaved boy. But to their disappointment, he turns out to be just a servant-boy. The real “prince” infact has grown into a spoilt, over-weight, arrogant child. Rescuing the podgy, shrieking brat proves to be a Herculean task and the story proceeds with a lot of drama, mayhem and a multitude of intriguing characters.
Predictable though the story maybe and not as spontaneously funny as "Which Witch", ........"The Secret of Platform 13" is nevertheless entertaining and happily caters to all fantasy-world lovers. (less)
Island Of The Aunts is Eva Ibbotson's magical, sea-side fantasy with an environmental message.
Three oddball aunts; Etta, Coral and Myrtle live on a s...moreIsland Of The Aunts is Eva Ibbotson's magical, sea-side fantasy with an environmental message.
Three oddball aunts; Etta, Coral and Myrtle live on a secret island.....caring for a wide variety of animals ranging from ordinary chickens to mystical creatures like selkies, boobries and even a family of abandoned, oil-slick mermaids. But managing the ever-increasing menagerie is a full-time job and the aunts aren’t getting any younger.
So the best option seems to be to kidnap some children and bring them to the island. Without any malice whatsoever in their hearts, the three aunts capture a child each. Initially two of the children (Fabio and Minette) are scared, but the magic of the island and the multitude of animal life soon drives away their fears. They grow to love the island as their own and are as fiercely protective of each creature as the aunts themselves.
The aunts on their part, treat the children with affection and a firm hand. But the black spot in the whole scenario is the third captive, an obnoxious brat called Lambert who refuses to chip in and generally buzzes around like a irritating wasp. Things take an ugly turn when Lambert manages to get in touch with his father Mr.Sprott, whose money grubbing nature views the island as a golden egg waiting to be exploited. A struggle between good and the downright nasty ensues.....with many an unpleasant surprise.
This is an ideal book for animal lovers and the plea for environmental protection is slipped in without any sanctimonious preaching. Eva Ibbotson’s delicious writing style is loaded with her usual nuttiness and charm. The unlikely heroines (the aunts) are lovable in their eccentricities. The animalia is rich and varied and exhibit emotions so diverse that it’s hard not to empathise . As for the villians.....they are black through and through with not a smidgen of grey. You absolutely love to hate them and can’t wait to see justice meted out.
In all…a simple story with a deep message. One of Ibbotson’s finest and a definite must-have for all you nature-friendly people out there.(less)
Frieda and Fulton Snodde-Brittle are bursting with joy. Finally the rather gloomy but majestic Helton Hall seems to be theirs. But before they can sav...moreFrieda and Fulton Snodde-Brittle are bursting with joy. Finally the rather gloomy but majestic Helton Hall seems to be theirs. But before they can savour their inheritance, they have to deal with the sole surviving Snodde-Brittle, a small orphan called Oliver Smith who lives in a children’s home in London.
Oliver, an asthamatic and frail child is not exactly keen at the prospect of leaving his orphanage friends and taking up residence at the sinister Helton Hall. And Fulton and Frieda sense the perfect plan to scare the beejusus out of Oliver. They call up "Dial-a-Ghost". Dial-A-Ghost is an agency run by two kindly ladies who provide homes for misplaced ghosts.
Fulton has a clear request.....proper, fiersome ghosts who moan and groan and scream and curdle the blood in your veins. The agency, unaware of Fulton's devious scheme are happy that they have the perfect candidates: Sir Pelham and Lady Sabrina De Bone …a pair of thoroughly disgusting ghosts. Originally belonging to the aristocratic set, the couple had ‘A Great Sorrow’ which had driven them mad. Carrying their wildness into the after-life.....they are truly hideous and seem to fit Fulton’s requirements to the tee.
But a mix-up by the agency’s office boy leads the de Bones to a nunnery and causes the Wilkinson family to make an appearance at Helton Hall. And a nicer ghost family it is difficult to find. Warm and considerate…they provide Oliver with the love and family support which a lonely boy always needed. It's a Happy Haunting for all!
Things seem to be going splendidly, but what will happen when the Snodde-Brittles realise the faux-pas?....How long would it take for the scary spooks to leave the nunnery and take up rightful residence at Helton Hall?
One more fun read from Eva Ibbotson’s “Ghosts-aren’t-anything-to-scream-about” collection. She manages to talk about ooze and slime and severed heads and crumbling body parts and you still can gaurantee that any child who reads them would be hooked till the last page. (less)
"Those who think of the Amazon as a Green Hell bring only their own fears and prejudices to this amazing land. For whether a place is a hell or a heav...more"Those who think of the Amazon as a Green Hell bring only their own fears and prejudices to this amazing land. For whether a place is a hell or a heaven rests in yourself, and those who go with courage and an open mind may find themselves in Paradise" ~ Journey To the River Sea
This is the kind of book that demands an ‘atmosphere’.....a stack of sandwiches, a tall cold glass of lemonade ;topped at regular intervals…a wooden Easy-Chair (the kind your grandpa sat on and smiled genially from) placed in a small, airy room that has a single antiquated table-fan whirring noisily…and a wide window from where you can hear the gentle crackle of crickets.
Maia has lost her parents in a tragic accident and the only existing relatives appear to be the owners of a rubber plantation along the mighty Amazon. Quelling her initial fears of cannibalistic animal life and hostile Indians…Maia who is an optimistic young girl is soon ready to embark on the journey. She is accompanied by seemingly stern governess Miss.Minton and a fanciful imagination where her foster family will welcome her with open arms.
Well after that build-up, it’s obvious that Maia is in for a rude shock. Mr. Carter, his insecticide loving wife and the terrible twins seem to be straight out of a nightmare. Maia is barred from venturing beyond the clinical grounds of the Carter house. Sullen Indians…..the constant smell of Lysol in the house…..bland food that quivers/ melts and the nastiness of the Carter family …all combine to crush Maia’s grand hopes.
But then Maia meets Finn, a wild boy in a canoe…..a boy who’s wrapped in mystery and adventure and who will soon take Maia on an unforgettable trip into the fantastic and magical rainforest.
A book that is almost lyrically beautiful….’Journey To The River Sea’ is choc-a-bloc with exotic plants and animals and ably supported by well-etched characters. Eva Ibbotson had apparently written this book in honour of her late husband who was a naturalist. And she makes a fitting tribute. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that you can effortlessly picture the rainforest in all it’s wild, damp greenery as it unfolds with each chapter.
And a simple lesson at the end of the day…a place is what you make of it. Heaven or Hell…it’s all about shedding your prejudices and seizing the day. (less)
A mysterious adventure of four friends à la The Famous Five/ The Secret Seven. The only distinguishing factor : The story is set in 79 A.D. Rome
The fi...moreA mysterious adventure of four friends à la The Famous Five/ The Secret Seven. The only distinguishing factor : The story is set in 79 A.D. Rome
The first book in “The Roman Mysteries” series, 'The Thieves of Ostia' is more of an introduction to the four main characters. Flavia Gemina, daughter of sea captain Marcus Flavius Geminus. Nubia, the pretty little slave girl who is saved by Flavia and now lives with her. Jonathan ben Mordecai, Flavia’s new jewish neighbour. And Lupus, the mute beggar boy, who is sly and cunning…but a big help nevertheless.
Ostia , a seaport in Rome provides the setting for their first adventure. Someone is killing the neighbourhood dogs and lopping their heads off. One of the unfortunate victims is Jonathan's own watchdog, Bobas. Whodunnit, that's basically the premise of this book.
But what really appeals is the glimpse into ancient Rome.....the life and times, the settings, the beliefs, the culture and quaintly enough the manner in which the author has stuck to the whole theme. Dutifully provided with a reference scroll at the end of the story, the book is an interesting lesson in history.(less)
The only quotes that I liked and made sense in an otherwise rambling narrative:
"Nothing in the world is ever completely wrong. Even a stopped clock is...moreThe only quotes that I liked and made sense in an otherwise rambling narrative:
"Nothing in the world is ever completely wrong. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day" ~ Brida's father (Pg.99)
"What is now proved was once only imagin'd" ~ William Blake (Pg.174)
"I learned that the search for God is a Dark Night, that Faith is a Dark Night. And that's hardly a surprise really, because for us each day is a dark night. None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, and yet we still go forwards. Because we trust. Because we have Faith." ~ Brida (Pg.24)(less)
Mia’s mother is expecting a baby.....and the father is Mr.Gianini (a.k.a. Mr.G), Mia’s algebra professor. Wi...moreThe saga of her Royal Highness continues.
Mia’s mother is expecting a baby.....and the father is Mr.Gianini (a.k.a. Mr.G), Mia’s algebra professor. With a wedding in the very-near future, Mia has a new load of worries.
Her dear demented grandmère has decided that the wedding should be a grand affair hosted at The Plaza, attended by the crème de la crème of New York's celeb-scene and dignitaries from around the world. Unfortunately Mia is aware of the painful fact that all her mother wants is a simple, quiet function and will resist grandmère's authority with all her pregnant might!
Another blimp on the horizon is the fact that someone is sending anonymous gushy e-mails to Mia and she’s intrigued to know who her mystery lover is. She thinks (alright, hopes!!) that the sender is Michael Moscovitz, her bestfriends’ brother.
Another instalment of “synaptic breakdowns” and mass-hysteria for Mia and her entourage. Entertaining as ever and loaded with laughs.