Matilda by Roald Dahl (Review)

Matilda by Roald Dahl

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About the author

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Roald Dahl was born on the 13th September 1916 and was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter and fighter pilot. He passed away on the 23rd November 1990.

Blurb

For hundreds of kids “The Trunchbull” is pure terror—for Matilda, she’s a sitting duck.

Who put superglue in Dad’s hat? Was it really a ghost that made Mom tear out of the house? Only sweet, gentle Matilda knows. Because she’s the one playing all the jokes! She’s a genius with idiot parents—and she’s having a great time driving them crazy. But at school things are different. At school there’s Miss Trunchbull, two hundred pounds of kid-hating bully. Pull a trick on “The Trunchbull” and she’ll string you up. Get rid of The Trunchbull and you’ll be a hero for every kid in Crunchem Hall. But that would take a superhuman genius. Or may a sweet, gentle—crafty—genius?

Review

This is another book off my summer reading challenge and a childhood favourite. I must admit it was nice to read a book I have not read since childhood. I still remember when my big sister bought me this book, most of my Roald Dahl books I got off PG Tips boxes but Matilda my sister bought from the local bookshop and I remember wanting to read it straight away. My copy is very well read and getting very fragile.

I love the story of Matilda, I always loved the fact that a small child could reek revenge on adults who think they know more than a child just because they are adults and quite frankly most of the time that adult is an idiot. I remember quite clearly as a child not being listened to or ignored because I was a child and I always swore that I would listen to children when they want to tell me something, and as a teacher I always try to do this and hey I have actually learned a lot.

Matilda is a very gifted young girl who is very different from her family and because of this her family especially her parents do not understand or appreciate her. Matilda soon realises life is unfair but to make it bearable she decides to get revenge in a way the adults would not work out it was her.

The main message of this story was to stand up to bullies and when you do you will realise they are cowards. This is a delightful story that I will always love and I highly recommend it to children and adults because it gives you a feel good feeling and makes you realise that against the odds you will triumph. I gave this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Review)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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About the author

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Henry James, born 15th April 1843, was an American-British author. He is best known for his novels dealing with social and marital interplay, in his later years his novels became more experimental. He passed away in February 1916.

Blurb

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

Review

This was the last book I completed on holiday and to be honest it was a massive disappointment. I just could not get on with James’ writing style and found the whole story to be extremely boring.

The story centres around a young woman who is hired to be the governess of two young orphans. The uncle of these children does not want to know anything of their upbringing or of any problems, he wants to live his life to the full unhindered by these children. The governess goes off to a large country estate to look after these children and she immediately starts to hear and see strange things.

Now my first reaction was that this governess is very young for such responsibility and inexperienced. Her imagination could easily be running wild, and turning the sounds of an old house into something more. The housekeeper does not help instead of giving the girl a good shake she just blindly accepts what the governess is saying.

Then the two ghosts start to appear that only the governess has seen but she is convinced the children have seen them too but the children are not afraid of the ghosts.

At times I did wonder and still do whether all of this was in the governess’ head because it just was not a very convincing gothic horror story. It just felt forced and sloppily written, and there were certain things that got on my nerves, for instance why did she just ignore that the boy was expelled from boarding school, why did she not found out why he was expelled or find him another school? The only good point was the description and setting the scene of the gothic style manor house.

The final straw was the ending which just annoyed me no end and just confirmed to me that the book had been a massive waste of my time, I was just thankful it was rather short. I gave this book 1 out 5 Dragons.

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Details of book I read

Page count: 124

Format: Kindle

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Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor (Review)

Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor

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About the author

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Andrew Taylor was born in 1951 and is a British author best known for his crime novels. He has won the Diamond Dagger which is Britain’s top crime-writing award.

Blurb

BROKEN VOICES

It’s Christmas before the Great War and two lonely schoolboys have been forced into companionship. Left in the care of an elderly teacher, there is little to do but listen to his eerie tales about the nearby Cathedral. The boys concoct a plan to discover if the stories are true. But the Cathedral is filled with hidden dangers, and curiosity can prove fatal.

THE LEPER HOUSE

One stormy night in Suffolk, a man’s car breaks down following his sister’s funeral. The only source of light comes from a remote cottage by the sea. The mysterious woman who lives there begs him to leave, yet he can’t shake the sense that she somehow needs him. He attempts to return the next day but she is nowhere to be seen. And neither is the cottage.

THE SCRATCH

Clare and Gerald live a perfect life in the Forest of Dean with their cat, Cannop. Then Gerald’s young nephew comes to stay. Jack is from another world – active service in Afghanistan. The experience has left him outwardly untouched, but for a scratch that won’t heal. Jack and Cannop don’t like each other. Clare and Jack like each other too much. The scratch begins to fester.

Review

This book is not on my summer reading challenge and to be honest I read it by accident. I did not want to take my Kindle to the beach so I borrowed one of the books my husband had brought on holiday with him. My husband has read a lot of Andrew Taylor’s books but this one is a first for me and will not be the last.

This book has three stories is in it, so I will review them separately.

Broken Voices

Out of the three, this is my favourite story and feels the most Gothic to me. The story is based around two schoolboys who cannot go home for Christmas so must spend the season with an elderly teacher. They hear an old legend about the Cathedral and so decide to see for themselves whether it is true and they attempt this in the middle of night, adding to the mystery and drama. I must admit the two boys are braver than I, as I could never go in to a Cathedral in the middle of the night, too many ghosts for my liking.

Taylor sets the scene perfectly, it is just like a gothic novel from the Victorian period. He describes how the building looks different in the night, how the shadows flicker in the candlelight and how they might not be alone. At the end of the tale I was not entirely sure if it was all real it felt like a dream that one of the boys had when they were young. The story left me pondering somewhat.

The Leper House

This story was my least favourite and to be honest rather forgettable, I had to remind myself what happened in it before writing the review. I enjoyed the story but wouldn’t read it again as it did not really have anything special about it.

The story is about a man who meets a mysterious woman in a cottage which has no power and no comforts. This woman is a complete mystery to the man and he has to see her again, even when she tries to push him away. However, the next day he goes to find the cottage again and nothing is there, just some ruins.

This story was rather a confusing read and just felt more complicated than it needed to be. The characters were also rather unremarkable and nothing really stood out for me. The one thing I was really happy with at the end was that in my opinion he made the right choice.

The Scratch

This was a creepy read, especially for a cat owner and one of those cats is black. I was not entirely sure what to make of this story but really enjoyed reading it. There were a lot of What Ifs in the story and it left me pondering again.

I also enjoyed how Taylor included one of the main characters as a PTSD sufferer who has come back from being in the army and is struggling with getting back into the world again. I must admit I have not read many books tackling this issue and it was good to see Taylor including it in this story.

I did not really like Clare, I’m not sure why but she just got on my nerves. Gerald is obviously a hard working man who has always worked hard for his family and is a caring man who is happy to try and help his nephew where he can.

The story was really good and kept me hooked and I liked the ending and especially Cannop the cat, although I felt sorry for him for his name. I would have liked a bit more Gothic though.

Overall, I enjoyed the three stories and it has lit the spark for me wanting to read more of Taylor’s books. The only reason the book did not get the full 5 Dragons and only got 4 was because I wanted more Gothic from the last two stories. A very good beach read.

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Jaws by Peter Benchley (Review)

Jaws by Peter Benchley

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About the author

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Peter Bradford Benchley was an American author best known for writing the novel Jaws and co-writing the screenplay for its highly successful film adaptation. The success of the book led to many publishers commissioning books about mutant rats, rabid dogs and the like threatening communities. The subsequent film directed by Steven Spielberg and co-written by Benchley is generally acknowledged as the first summer blockbuster. Benchley also wrote The Deep and The Island which were also adapted into films.

Blurb

The classic, blockbuster thriller of man-eating terror that inspired the Steven Spielberg movie and made millions of beachgoers afraid to go into the water. Experience the thrill of helpless horror again—or for the first time!

Review

This is a book that has been sat on my TBR list for way too long and because I was going to be swimming in the ocean and sat on the beach a lot I thought I had better read a book about a man-eating shark.

I have always loved the film adaptation of this book and the book did not disappoint me. From the very beginning of this book I was hooked. I think the main thing that immediately caught my attention was the fact that Benchley has written the shark’s perspective in the book and he has not done it in a corny manner but in a realistic way that a shark would think.

The character I did not like was Ellen, she was in my humble opinion a vile woman who did not deserve the life she had. She did not appreciate her husband or the life he is working so hard for. She was never happy and made her long suffering husband unhappy as well. All Chief Brody wants is to make his wife and children happy and his kids ignore him and watch TV and his wife takes sleeping pills rather than talk to him.

Chief Brody is a typical town chief trying to keep his town safe and happy but never in his life expecting to deal with something like a man-eating shark. I really liked the character of Brody because he was down to earth and just a generally likeable guy.

Hooper is another character I am not keen on, he is cocky and arrogant and a clear trouble maker. I could have happily lived without him in the book. However the character of Quint more than made up for Hooper. Quint was a real character and quite disturbing at times but this just added to his character. He was a man that has lived on the sea hunting for the biggest catch and the biggest payday and that is all he cares about. Quint made me laugh quite a few times in this book.

I must admit I did find the book a bit tummy turning at times and certain parts of the book I had to skim through, maybe I am too squeamish for these things. I really enjoyed this book and did not take me long to read. I would happily read it again and recommend it to friends and family. I gave this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. DUUUUU NUN DUUUUN NUN DUN DUN DUN DUN.

Details of the edition I read:

Format: Kindle

Pages: 340

Published: 2012

 

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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (ARC Review)

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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About the author

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Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

Blurb

You thought they were just staying for the weekend. They looked harmless enough – with only two suitcases and a cat in a wicker box.

But soon things turn very, very dark. It happens slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly.

Now you and your sister must find a way to survive…

Review

Firstly, a massive thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for letting me read this book for an honest review.

From the very first few pages of this book I was gripped, it was truly amazing and kept me guessing right till the end. I could not put this book down and if it wasn’t for sleep and work I probably wouldn’t have.

This book switches from the past to the present and slowly the reader works out the connections and how it all fits together, but there are always certain elements left out so it is not all completely clear till the very end.

Libby is the character in the present who on her twenty-fifth birthday inherits a massive house in Chelsea that will change her life forever. However, Libby is adopted and knows nothing of her childhood – can this house tell her more about her past and where she came from?

The other main characters are the people from the past Henry and Lucy Lamb who were children in the Chelsea house all those years ago. The story is told between Libby, Lucy and Henry.

This story is incredibly well written and an amazing thriller, Jewell has a real gift for keeping you on your toes. At the beginning of the story I was not entirely sure what was going on and I did find it a little confusing but I stuck with it and it all made sense and I soon adjusted and got used to how the story flitted from one character to another. However, I imagine it is a book that once you have read it and know the outcome you do not need to read it again because knowing the ending spoils the reading experience.

I found this story really creepy and because I could not work out the ending my imagination ran wild with other possibilities which seemed to make it even creepier! I thoroughly enjoyed all the elements of this book and plan on reading more by Lisa Jewell. I was so happy that by chance I saw this book on NetGalley and my request was granted.

I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good thriller.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Review)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

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About the author

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Capote was born in New Orleans in 1924 and was raised in various parts of the South. He left school at the age of fifteen and worked at the New Yorker which provided his first and last regular job. Capote wrote many novels in his lifetime and died in August in 1984.

Blurb

It’s New York in the 1940’s where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany’s. And nice girls don’t, except of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexed, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly ‘top banana in the shock department’, and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

Review

This is a book that I have been meaning to read for a very long time but have never got around to it. I only wanted a thin book to read and when I went mooching through my many book piles I found it. I did not realise that this book also has three extra short stories, so that was an added bonus.

I enjoyed the book but I also found it rather annoying at times and frustrating. Holly is making the best of things and trying to improve her life till she gets her dream life and she really does not care who she steps on to get there, that also includes her friends.

Holly has many men falling over themselves to be with her and she uses them to her own ends. Her neighbour, who is also the narrator, she names Fred although that is not his real name but we never find out his real name. Fred is rather strange in my opinion and at times a little creepy. He is obsessed with Holly, to the extent he goes through her rubbish to see what type of person she is, that in my opinion is stalker behaviour.

I found Holly to be really selfish and uncaring and I really did not like how she treated people, she didn’t even bother to learn Fred’s real name and tended to treat him like dirt. However, at times she did suddenly show a caring and considerate side that showed you she wasn’t all bad.

I have not seen the film but really want to, especially after reading the book, I imagine the movie to be very glamorous possibly more than the book. Audrey Hepburn makes anything look glamorous and the character Holly does nothing but smoke and drink which will be interesting to see on screen.

I enjoyed the story but it did annoy me at times and for that reason I only gave it 3 out of 5 Dragons. I recommend it to everyone as a must read as Capote is an excellent author.

The three extra short stories were lovely little stories, especially the last one which brought a tear to my eye.

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Charity Begins at Home by Jeffrey Archer (Review)

Charity Begins at Home by Jeffrey Archer

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About the author

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Jeffrey Archer was born in England in 1940, he is a former politician and author. Archer was a member of parliament from 1969-1974 but did not seek re-election due to a financial scandal that almost bankrupt him. Facing bankruptcy Archer began to write and in so doing revived his fortunes. Archer’s political career has been filled with scandal and in 2001 he was sent to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice, in 2003 he was released. All his life experiences influence his writing and make for interesting reading.

Blurb

By all estimates Henry Preston lives an uneventful existence – an accountant with no prospect of making partner and single with a sedate home life. That is until he meets Angela Forster, a fundraiser who specializes in charity events. As he begins overseeing Angela’s accounts, Henry spots an opportunity to live a life he previously thought impossible. With everything at stake, does Henry have the nerve to gamble with their futures for the chance of a better life . . .

Review

Another little short story that I read last week during a gap I had between teaching piano. People who read my blog will know by now that I am a massive fan of Jeffrey Archer’s short stories.

This short story was a nice little read but not spectacular, it just filled some time and kept me amused for twenty minutes, but I could have easily not bothered with the story as well. Basically it did not have me riveted to the story.

I really liked the character of Henry and felt rather sorry for him, he has always been Mr Average and does not expect anything spectacular with his life. However, he may have finally found an opportunity to correct his life from average to good. The problem is can he get away with it?

The character of Angela Forster is of a hard working woman who has not had the best of lives so far, her husband leaving her and she having to start her own business to make ends meet. Otherwise she comes across as a hard working average woman with a good business. Not Archer’s usual striking women who turn all men’s heads.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with this story line as it does seem to push the line of crime pays and if you want a better life crime is the way forward.  Overall I could take it or leave it as a story and so have only given the story 3 out of 5 Dragons. A good little read to fill a spare twenty minutes.

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