A stunning, operatic, epic drama, like no other. Meet Hel, an ordinary teenager - and goddess of the Underworld. Why is life so unfair? Hel tries to
A stunning, operatic, epic drama, like no other. Meet Hel, an ordinary teenager - and goddess of the Underworld. Why is life so unfair? Hel tries to make the best of it, creating gleaming halls in her dark kingdom and welcoming the dead who she is forced to host for eternity. Until eternity itself is threatened.
Francesca Simon is best known for her Horrid Henry series of books. I never read them, but I know they are hugely popular with children in every library in Ireland, and the UK, and probably elsewhere. Recently she has branched away from Henry, and this book, The Monstrous Child is her first aimed at children 12+.
But the main reason I first noticed it was the cover. It's so eye-catching. I love it. And then once I picked it up I figured, sure I really should read at least one book by Simon. How can I call myself a librarian if I don't?
The "monstrous" child of the title is Loki's daughter Hel. Her older brothers are a snake and a wolf, so maybe she should count herself lucky that she at least appears like a person. Albeit one that is both dead and alive. Her legs are rotten and dead. But she is still a god, although one none of the other gods want around.
Of course, none of the gods really come across in any sort of a positive light here. Loki is his usual trickster self, but with no charm to waste on his monster children. He doesn't care about any of them, apart from when they may be able to help him. And Odin doesn't exactly endear himself to Hel, our narrator, when he banishes her to underworld. She may be the Queen of the dead, but she is also its prisoner.
It is an interesting book, but too little happens in it, and I'm afraid Hel is a tad on the boring side. All she does is whine and moan. She has reason enough, definitely, but at the same time it'd be nice to see her drive some aspects of the plot rather than constantly having to react to things. Or just put up with them.
I do sort of want to pick up her other Norse books, I'm not sure if this is part of that series, it certainly wasn't advertised as such on my copy, but although I didn't love this book it did enough to keep me entertained and intrigued enough to want to read more by Simon.
James Fielding was not at all happy when his parents decided to spend the summer in “the wilderness”, his plans had included girls and learning to talJames Fielding was not at all happy when his parents decided to spend the summer in “the wilderness”, his plans had included girls and learning to talk to them, not nature. But once he got over his stubbornness he discovered that he enjoyed the wild. The landscape, the animals. And especially one deer, a magnificent stag that he comes across in a hidden valley, and over time, as he brings it food, grows accustomed to James’ presence. Not only does it tolerate him, it comes to greet him.
And then he meets Diane, a vision in a pink bikini, and suddenly he learns that maybe his summer plans to talk to girls might come to fruition after all.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote over 40 books in her lifetime, 3 of which were named as Newberry Honor books, so I’m guessing that quite a few Americans might have heard of her, or read her books? I’d never come across her before this book, but I can certainly see why she was an award winning author.
It is, in many ways, a very typical “coming of age” story; boy meets girl and all that goes along with that. But it is also very well written, and it is very affecting.
James thinks of himself as very smart, smarter than he really is. And although the book is told from his POV, we can still see how much he is missing out, all the clues he isn’t picking up on, or maybe he is just choosing to ignore them.
At times it is a tad on the cliched side, and James certainly has some unflattering opinions of girls at times. But he is a teenage boy, and I think that Snyder does enough to show the reader that this is James’ opinion, and that he is often very wrong about the world.
Taking a quick look through the goodreads reviews I have to say I was amused by all the people commenting about the sexual aspects of the book. James is a 15 year old boy, and this is about his summer falling in love, so yeah, its going to come up. But nothing is ever described, and I think that even if younger children read it they won’t pick up on certain aspects that some adults might object to. Also, do none of these people remember being young themselves? Honestly, there is nothing wrong with anything in this book, stop being so prudish! ...more
Anna is adopted, a fact she’s always known, but now that she is getting older she is wondering about her “real” mam, or her nine-month mother as she rAnna is adopted, a fact she’s always known, but now that she is getting older she is wondering about her “real” mam, or her nine-month mother as she refers to her. She’s also wondering why she gets landed with all the housework, why can’t her brothers and younger sister help out. Why is she always the one bringing down their washing and tidying up after them.
And then, according to the blurb, “something terrible happens”.
Anna Who?I really enjoyed this story. I’m so glad that I gave into impulse and nabbed it. And I’m so glad that I spotted that tweet by Sarah WebbSarah Webb. (where I came across this book)
It would have been nice to read the book when I was younger, there aren’t a huge number that I can remember being set in Ireland. There was one about some girls who ran away from home and ended up in a bad situation in Dublin. And another about an actor called Buddy? Was that the name of the book too? And something about bicycle thieves…. But as I said, I was more into devouring sff at the time, of which I can’t remember any Irish authors back then. There must have been some, but not in my local library.
Anna is a great narrator, she’s so self-involved in many ways and yet so worried about taking care of everyone else in the family. And so obsessed with the notion that she doesn’t belong because she was adopted. She is smart though, and she recognises that others in the family feel like outsiders even though they weren’t adopted. She is also kind and interested in other people, and in what is going on in their lives. This is a book all about the little details in a person’s life, about growing up and dealing with all the huge dramas that being a teenager involves. You know, the ones that when you’re all grown up mean so very little, but when you are fourteen are everything.
And it was such a readable book, I’d sit down to read a few pages and before you know it I was half way through the story. Great writing, I’ll have to check out what else we have be Leach in the library’s stores as I think all her titles are Out of Print....more
Austar IV started life as a prison planet, over the generations and years it has evolved into a deeply segregated, almost feudal society. Jakkin was bAustar IV started life as a prison planet, over the generations and years it has evolved into a deeply segregated, almost feudal society. Jakkin was born free, but in order to survive his mother sold herself and her son into “bond”. Every bonder wears a bag, and when they fill this bag they will be free. They will be a master. But many bonders never make it that far. Jakkin is determined that he will fill his bag himself and he has a plan. He intends to steal a dragon egg, hatch it out, and raise it to be a champion pit fighter.
In a small town in America the teenagers run wild every full moon for three days while their parents, and everyone else locks themselves inside, safe.In a small town in America the teenagers run wild every full moon for three days while their parents, and everyone else locks themselves inside, safe. For three nights the teenagers “breach” and run and fight and fuck. Why it only happens here no one really knows, but in this town this has always happened. After a time the teenagers grow up and leave all that behind, allowing those following after to run wild themselves.
Luman has always been different to the other girls in her class. She is quiet. She is a good. She does what is expected of her. She believes that she will not breach. Her mother never did, her father tells her story as when Lumen was just a baby her mother died in a car crash. So Lumen believes that she will be as different as her mother.
And then she finds herself running naked through the night.
Lumen is the narrator of this story. Now she is married, she has a son, she is remembering growing up. She still feels like an outsider. She doesn’t understand how worried some mothers get at germs and cuts. She knows that bodies are tough, that they can take a lot of punishment and recover. But she still doesn’t really know who she is, or where she fits in society. She has yet to come to terms with herself and with her past. With her relationships with all those around her.
All her childhood she did what she was told, and even know she is fully prepared to be who others think she should be, to act as they think she should act. To be the person others expect her to be.
But every now and then something from inside her will break free and cause her do what others never expect. How is she supposed to reconcile the two Lumens?
When we were animals is a story about trying to find yourself when you don’t know where to look. About how families stifle children in their attempts to protect them, and make it so much harder to grow up. It is a coming of age story that highlights that adult fear of teenagers. Okay, so maybe these teenagers are more dangerous than regular ones, but that idea, that teenagers are capable of such darkness. And there is a lot of darkness in this novel. Violence is everywhere, but in some ways it is an innocent violence. Physically hurting people is just something that happens. But Lumen’s life is also affected by lies and misunderstandings, that lead to more lies and more uncertainty. The darkness that surrounds people and how they interact with one another. The masks people put on to go out into the world, and what those masks hide, and so, of course, what happens when those masks come off.
Danny Dragonbreath is having trouble with the whole Dragonbreath aspect of his name, in other words he hasn't yet managed to breath fire. Keep thinkinDanny Dragonbreath is having trouble with the whole Dragonbreath aspect of his name, in other words he hasn't yet managed to breath fire. Keep thinking hot thoughts, think about fire, his father tells him, but that isn't much use when the school bully is teasing you about your very existence. Dragons being mythical beings and all. Added to that is the fact that you just got an F because you made up your facts for your essay on the ocean and it makes for a not great day.
Luckily Danny's mother suggests that he contact his cousin, who just happens to be a sea serpent, and that way he can learn all about the ocean. It is where cousin Edward lives after all.
I may be biased, in that I am a big Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher fan, but I thought that this book was just great. It is a kids book, middle-grade (whatever that means to us non-USians) level, so it isn't as dark and haunting as some of Vernon's other work. What it is though is great fun. Danny and his best friend, iguana Wendell, have adventures under the ocean and even learn a bit about deep-sea life in all its weirdness. Plus they learn a little about how to hold off a school bully.
And awesome artwork. Highly recommended when you need something light and easy to read....more
Emilia and Teo live as though they were brother and sister. Teo’s mother Delia died when a bird hits the plane is flying, but Emilia’s mother, Rhoda,Emilia and Teo live as though they were brother and sister. Teo’s mother Delia died when a bird hits the plane is flying, but Emilia’s mother, Rhoda, the wing-walker survived. Devastated by the death of her best friend Rhoda returns to her parents farm and retreats to her bed while she mourns. Eventually, though, she begins to live again and decides that the family should go to Ethiopia. That is where Teo’s father was from. He died in WWI but Delia always wanted to go there, a place where Teo’s skin wouldn’t make him stand out. A country that was never colonised by Europeans.
And so Em, Teo, and their Momma head for the continent of Africa. But this is the 1930s, and war is coming. Mussolini is moving his forces in Africa and he has his eye on Ethiopia.
The story is told through a series of essays and flight logs that Em and Teo keep as they grow up. It details their life with Delia and Rhoda, and after, in America and in Ethiopia. But it begins almost at the end, with an introduction by Em, address to the Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, so you have some idea of where the story is going.
And as it is told by both our narrators it has alternating first person narration. If this is something you don’t like then you are missing out a great book.
I first read Wein when I read her Code Name Verity which is a book that you should read.((actually I should reread it because it was just plain great)) . This book isn’t as emotionally hard hitting, it is a much more complex book in some ways. It covers racism and prejudice as well as war and love and death and tragedy. And, as expected from Wein, characters that are just so real and alive you wonder how she managed to create them at all.
This is very different in some ways from Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire but it really does highlight the fact that I would read just about anything that Wein writes. I do still have to get back to her Arthurian/Ethiopian series, but I enjoyed the two books in that series that I’ve read so far. And I love that she has set so many of her stories there. It is a place that I am only familiar with in terms of marathon runners and famines, so it is great to see it depicted in such a positive manner. Not always positive of course, every where has its problems and flaws, but in a realistic manner, it is great to see books set in African countries, with actual African characters. I know, both Rhoda and Em are white Americans, and Em, in my mind, is the more dominant of the two narrators, but Teo certainly has a voice all of his own, and his own perspective on things....more
Rose often finds life hard. She has autism, or asperger’s, what they call “high functioning autism. She is slightly obsessed with homonyms and with pr
Rose often finds life hard. She has autism, or asperger’s, what they call “high functioning autism. She is slightly obsessed with homonyms and with prime numbers. She keeps a list of all the homonyms she herself has discovered. Sure, she could look them up, but where is the fun in that. Her own name is a homonym, Rose and rows. She named her dog Rain because her father found the dog in the rain, and also it is a homonym, Rain (Reign).
Rose gets a lot of comfort from her dog. Her dad isn’t the most patient of men. He drinks and isn’t around a lot. Her mother isn’t around any more. Rose often wishes she knew more about her but her father doesn’t like to talk about her.
She does get on well with her uncle, but there are tensions between the two brothers, her father is determined to raise Rose, not like his own father.
One day, in the middle of the worst storm her father lets Rain out to pee. And Rain gets lost.
I really liked this story. It is simply told, from Rose’s pov, so if you get frustrated with her constantly naming the homonyms she comes across this is not the book for you. You get a real sense of how hard the world can be for her, she can’t understand people breaking the rules, so much so that she is no longer allowed to get the school bus after giving out about the driver, among others, not using their indicators1 . Rules and routine are what make life easier for Rose.
I liked how the relationship between Rose and her father was described. Yes, he is a jerk who drinks too much and loses his temper far too often, but at the same time, he is trying. Or some times he tries. Which isn’t to excuse him for his actions. He is in the wrong far too many times.
I don’t think this is a book that will particularly stick with me, but I’m glad I read it....more
Thora is a newly hatched bee. The queen has just swarmed and those that are remaining in the hive are all awaiting their new queen. They continue to wThora is a newly hatched bee. The queen has just swarmed and those that are remaining in the hive are all awaiting their new queen. They continue to work and live, but their lack is always present. She, unlike most of the female worker bees, befriends some drones. They are full of their own importance. Drones do not work, they are fed when they demand it. Are groomed when they demand it. They see themselves as lords of the hive.
Thora’s friend Belle isn’t so sure. She just doesn’t see the point of drones. What use are they?
Last year I read Laline Paull’s The Bees and just after that I came across this book in our schools store at work. So I picked it up and left it onmy trolley. Only now am I getting around to reading it.
In many ways A Hive for the Honey-Bee is a very different book to The Bees, Lally’s book is aimed at children so it is a shorter story for one. It is also a simpler book. It was written before the current bee crisis was known about and so there is no sense of worry about the future in it. But I was surprised at how similar the two books were, even the names of the bees. Here the main character is Thora, in Paull’s it was Flora. Many of the same elements are covered in both books, invaders coming to steal honey, the role of the drones in bee society, the importance of the hive and the swarm above an individual bee. And both books start with the life of a bee and end with her death.
But I don’t mean to suggest that Paull copied this, just that I suppose there are only so many stories you can tell about a bee that lives in a hive when you are trying to stick to nature’s rules.
It probably isn’t really fair to either book to compare them but it is hard not to, there aren’t too many books out there told from the perspective of a worker bee. Or at least, not too many that I’m aware of, it isn’t something I’ve ever gone looking for so perhaps there are more out there?
Using bees as your central characters brings with it some problems or course, bees aren’t really individuals. Workers work til they die. Drones laze around and live off the workers until they are kicked out of the hive for the winter. Only the queen lives for any length of time and her purpose is to lay eggs. It is hard to make an engaging story out of that, but I think that Lally did a great job here. Sure, there is plenty that you could write about allegories and pointing out problems in human society, but I read it for the story. And on that level it really worked.
I’d have to say that I really enjoyed this book. And the ending was surprisingly moving despite you knowing what was coming all along. If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary I’d have to recommend this as a lovely, simple story....more
To be honest I’m presuming that the majority, if not all, of you are well aware of the plot of Dodie Smith’s novel. Perhaps more from the Disney filmsTo be honest I’m presuming that the majority, if not all, of you are well aware of the plot of Dodie Smith’s novel. Perhaps more from the Disney films than the books, but most people know all about Cruella De Vil and her plans for Dalmatian fur coats.
Life for Mr and Mrs Dearly and their dogs, Pongo and Misses, is going well. They live near Regent’s Park in London and are very comfortably well off, Mr Dearly having helped the government out with its sums, he doesn’t really have to worry about money any more. But one day they bump into an old school-friend of Mrs Dearly, Cruella De Vil, and she takes quite a shine to Pongo and Misses. She loves their wonderfully spotted Dalmatian coats, and when the dogs have puppies she becomes even more interested.
One day returning home from a walk the Dearlys and the Pongos are distraught to realise their fifteen puppies have disappeared! Stolen!
Mr Dearly at once offers a reward, but the dogs are not prepared to sit around and wait for their “pets” to find their puppies, they get the news out on Twilight Barking and pretty soon learn where the puppies have been taken to. Then they are off to Suffolk to rescue them. I would say I haven’t read this book in more than twenty years, if not longer than that, but as I was reading it I could remember it all so well. Every new dog that made its appearance was an old friend. I have no idea how many times I read and reread this book as a child. I know it was a lot.
But my familiarity with it did nothing to lessen my enjoyment of it. I simply love this book. Smith’s way of telling the tale is just such a delight to read. And while the gender roles might date this book quite a lot, I can’t see any reason why a modern reader wouldn’t enjoy this book. Especially if they were a dog lover. And Cruella, although not on stage a huge amount, is a wonderful villain. The threat she poses looms over the dogs and the whole story the whole way through. If you get a chance you really should pick up this classic and give it a go. If only for the illustrations. They are simple, black and white, but so effective.
This is my first book for this year’s Once Upon a Time reading challenge, it may not be an old folk tale or fairy tale, but it has that wonderful fairy tale atmosphere that I think is such a part of OUaT. Plus, you know, talking dogs really is fantasy fiction :)...more
I am miles and miles and miles away from being obsessive and compulsive, yet I do have a completion-ist streak in me. That is the only excuse I offerI am miles and miles and miles away from being obsessive and compulsive, yet I do have a completion-ist streak in me. That is the only excuse I offer for continuing to read this series of books. It isn’t that they are bad, or horrible. There is nothing Meyer-Twilight-horrific enough to keep me reading because I just can’t look away from the wrongness of it all. But at the same time, this is not a good book. Action and adventure and flying horses. That’s why I read the first one. Why I read the second… well, it could have improved. It didn’t really, but it was more of the same. Enough to let me know that while this series of books was perfectly adequate for certain tastes, it wasn’t for mine. I like character. Well drawn characters. This does not have that. It has a very simplistic plot and very simplistic characters. I don’t write that to knock the book. That is what it is aiming to be, I think and hope :) and there is nothing wrong with children’s books being just that. Of course the very best of children’s books have layers and complexity. This doesn’t. It is a simple story, and it is told in an entertaining fashion. With battles and action galore. It has people standing up for what they believe in, occasionally they may not do the “correct” thing, but they try to do the right thing. So it’ll pass an afternoon, and I think that if I was a child this would be a book that I would love....more
Monzo is a small dog, he usually recognises people by their footwear. He starts out life with “the cruel man” who docks his tale, but soon he comes toMonzo is a small dog, he usually recognises people by their footwear. He starts out life with “the cruel man” who docks his tale, but soon he comes to live with a new family where he starts to learn about life.
As you know if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time I’m a sucker for animal stories, especially dogs or horses. And when they are children’s books they usually make for quick reads, this is exactly that. It is a nice tale, with some nice illustrations. Although really I suppose it is a collection of stories, each being an adventure that Monzo experiences. There is learning from the neighbourly rabbit, who even speaks the cúpla focal as gaeilge((couple of words in Irish)) , as well as dealing with “bad dogs” who chase sheep and everything in between.
All in all, it is a lovely little story for any dog lovers out there, recommended for ages 7 to 9ish....more