The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon (Review)

The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon

Blurb

Sailors don’t talk much to other men, especially not to policemen. But after Captain Fallut’s body is found floating near his trawler, they all mention the Evil Eye when they speak of the Ocean’s voyage.

Review

This Maigret book was so good I could not put it down. I had no idea who the killer was or even the full extent of the crimes that had taken place but Maigret worked them all out. 

The start of the book had me giggling straight away. Maigret is about to go on holiday and Mrs Maigret is just finishing the packing and looking forward to spending her holiday with her family making jams and preserves. Maigret however has just received a letter which is asking for his help in solving a crime and obviously Maigret can’t resist so poor Mrs Maigret has to go along with the plan and go somewhere else for her holiday. She also knows that she will be spending her holiday mostly alone because Maigret will be busy investigating the crime. 

As soon as Maigret arrives he goes straight to where the sailors go to get drunk and sits there observing until he starts asking questions. Even though Maigret is not officially investigating the murder case he throws himself straight into the investigation and has no fear of mixing around the rough sailors. He also puts his wife to good use by getting her to look after a young woman who is connected to the case. 

The pieces of the puzzle that Maigret gathers looked completely random to me and one piece I hadn’t even noticed. However at the end Maigret explains everything and it all becomes clear. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would have loved it if had been a bit longer but sadly it  is typical Maigret length of approximately 150 pages. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

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Sovereign by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

Blurb

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for the Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age…

Review

This is the first Shardlake book that I have struggled with slightly but I am glad I persevered with it as I really enjoyed the book, especially the ending. 

We find Shardlake trying to live a quiet life fighting legal cases with the help of his assistant Jack Barak. Cromwell is now dead so Shardlake has been living his life as a normal lawyer would without being sent off to do any missions for the Crown. However, that promptly changes when Shardlake is summoned before Archbishop Cranmer who then gives Shardlake a mission. 

Shardlake finds himself joining the King’s progress to the North where not only will he be assisting with the legal work of processing the petitions to the King, he will also be ensuring the welfare of an important prisoner who needs to be interrogated in London. This is the last thing that poor Shardlake wants. 

Most of the book is in York and I must admit after the discovery of the secret papers the book did drag on for me and I really did want it to move along a bit quicker because it was at times rather dull. However, once Shardlake left York and got onto the boat things moved along at a much quicker pace and the story picked back up again and then I couldn’t put the book down till I had finished it. 

I wish this book had shown more of Guy who is one of my favourite characters but sadly he was only mentioned in passing and didn’t feature at all. We did get some new characters though. Giles is the lawyer from York who helps Shardlake with the petitions. He is an old man but still upright and very sharp of mind. He also comes across as rather a cuddly character and a man who would help anyone in need. 

The character I really couldn’t stand was Tamasin and at times Shardlake felt the same way. I really didn’t like her ways and found her far too pushy and brazen. She also had rather a big chip on her shoulder. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and even when I had guessed who the suspect was I was still hooked. If the middle of the book had moved at a quicker pace I would have given this book a higher rating but sadly it was just too much of a drag for me. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

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Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins (Review)

Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins

Blurb

Since they were kids, Edie, Jake and Ryan have been the closest of friends. It’s been the three of them against the world. Edie thought the bonds between them were unbreakable. So when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan accused of the crime, her world is shattered.

Edie is alone for the first time in years, living in the remote house that she and Jake shared. She is grief-stricken and afraid – with good reason. Because someone is watching. Someone has been waiting for this moment. Now that Edie is alone, the past she tried so hard to leave behind is about to catch up with her…

Review

I do love a Quick Reads book. The series has introduced me to so many amazing authors and sometimes I just fancy a quick book that I can basically read in one sitting. 

This book centres around the character Edie. Edie is married to Jake but since she was a child she has always been best friends with Jake and Ryan. The three of them are a team, Edie believes there are no secrets between any of them but when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan is accused of the murder her world starts to unravel. 

Edie is left alone, living in a remote house that she shared with Jake. She is left with mounting bills, the debts she finds out that Jake had secretly taken out and the prospect that one day the house will fall off the cliff it is on. Edie has no job, no real friends and she is afraid. She is afraid because it soon occurs to her that someone is watching her, someone knows her every move. Edie’s past has come back to haunt her. 

I really enjoyed this story but I did find Edie very annoying. Edie was one of those people who happily ignores what is right at the end of her nose because it suits her circumstances. She is oblivious to anything other than herself or Jake and Ryan and anything outside of the trio she does not want to know. This way of thinking has been going on since childhood with damning consequences. 

I had no clue who the murderer was in this book until I got towards the end and started to have my suspicions. Considering the book was so small it kept me hooked and constantly wondering what would happen next. It was brilliantly written and I will definitely be reading more by Paula Hawkins. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragon. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Paula Hawkins (1972) is a British author best known for the novel The Girl on the Train.

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A Crime in Holland by Georges Simenon (Review)

A Crime in Holland by Georges Simenon

Blurb

When a French professor visiting the quiet, Dutch coastal town of Delfzijl is accused of murder, Maigret is sent to investigate. The community seem happy to blame an unknown outsider, but there are people much closer to home who seem to know much more than they’re letting on: Beetje, the dissatisfied daughter of a local farmer, Any van Elst, sister-in-law of the deceased, and, of course, a notorious local crook.

Review

I will be honest, I struggled a little bit with this book and I think it was because Maigret was held at a disadvantage because the language barrier that he encountered when investigating. I did eventually get into the book and loved the storyline. 

Maigret finds himself sent to a Dutch town to investigate a murder. The reason he is investigating a murder in a foreign country is because the accused is a French professor. Poor Maigret is definitely out of his comfort zone in this book. He can’t go into a French cafe for a nice drink to help him think, the streets he walks are not the streets he knows so well and he finds himself having a go at crossing a canal by jumping on the floating logs, which would never happen on his normal beat.

As Maigret investigates the murder he soon finds out that there are a lot of potential murderers. There is the annoying Beetje, who is a terrible flirt who hates being the daughter of a farmer and feels trapped at home. Then there is Any van Elst, the sister-in-law of the victim and who Maigret keeps reminding us is not a good looking woman. There is even the wife of the deceased and of course the accused French professor. Then for good measure there is a local who is known to make his living in underhand ways but who was a good friend of the deceased. 

As Maigret tries to piece together the events of the evening that saw the murder happen he is hampered by deliberate red herrings and secrets that the locals wish to keep hidden. In the end Maigret decides to recreate the night of the murder, with himself playing the deceased, to force the murderer out. 

The descriptions of the different locations in the book and the atmosphere that Simenon creates are the things that I love most about this book. You can easily imagine Maigret who is not a small man attempting to cross a canal using floating logs as stepping stones.    Once I got into this book I did enjoy it and give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

To find my other Maigret reviews please visit Maigret Challenge.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Women of Holy Week: An Easter Journey in Nine Stories by Paula Gooder (Review)

Women of Holy Week: An Easter Journey in Nine Stories by Paula Gooder

Blurb

In the style of her bestselling Phoebe, Paula Gooder uses her extensive biblical expertise to retell the events of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension through the eyes of nine female characters she imagines accompanying Jesus during these momentous days. Accompanied by nine colour illustrations, each story brings to life the tension, drama and shock of the events of Holy Week, banishing any over-familiarity and helping readers enter into the Passion narrative in a deeper, more meaningful way. Originally given as a series of addresses at Southward Cathedral during Holy Week 2021, these nine stories are for all who long to encounter Jesus afresh through the Easter Story. 

Review

I read about this book on a Twitter account and thought it would be an interesting read on the run up to Easter and I was not disappointed. 

The women in Jesus’ life are quite often overlooked in the bible. This is partly due to the period in which the bible was written and how women were valued and treated in that time and also because certain books have been removed from the bible. However, Jesus did not underestimate the women who were in his life, he valued them. These women never left him, they were there at his death and they were there when he had risen. 

The book contains nine stories of different women, some are named in the bible and some are given names by Gooder. Through these stories we get an insight into the last week of Jesus’ life. Some of these stories are quite well documented in the bible but for some of the stories Gooder has used a bit of poetic licence but one thing is for certain all these stories are possible. 

I really enjoyed this book, I found it interesting and thought provoking and I also enjoyed the extra notes that Gooder provides at the end of the book. The notes give the bible readings that go with the stories and extra details about the history of the bible readings. I even used one of the women’s stories in a service I took before Easter and it worked really well. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and will be reading more books by Paula Gooder. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Paula Gooder is a speaker and writer on the Bible, particularly on the New Testament. She began her working life, teaching for twelve years in ministerial formation first at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford and then at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. Following this she spent around eight years as a speaker and writer in biblical studies travelling the country and seeking to communicate the best of biblical scholarship in as accessible a way as possible, after that she spent six years working for the Bible Society as their Theologian in Residence and then for the Birmingham Diocese as their Director of Mission Learning and Development. She is currently the Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

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The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins (Review)

The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins

Blurb

Wilkie Collins is rightly regarded as one of the nineteenth century’s most eminent writers. Although many Persephone readers will know The Woman in White and The Moonstone, he in fact published twenty-one other novels. The New Magdalen (1873), Persephone Book No.138, is about a ‘fallen woman’, Mercy Merrick, attempting to rehabilitate her character and her reputation; and the (often reprehensible and unkind) attitude of some of those around her.

Review

I love The Woman in White so I had high hopes for this book and I was not disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will be honest I have never rooted for someone who should be seen as the bad guy so much and disliked the good person so much. 

Mercy Merrick has had a terrible life and in the eyes of society she can’t sink any lower but Mercy has been trying to rebuild her life and make herself respectable again but society won’t let her achieve her dreams and keeps knocking her down. The story begins with Mercy working as a nurse in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. However, during this period Mercy happens to meet Grace Roseberry and they exchange stories. Grace is going to England to become the companion of a rich lady and has all the papers and evidence she needs to achieve this. However, Grace is killed by a shell and Mercy sees her chance at a different life. 

Mercy is a wonderful character, she has had a terrible childhood and adolescence but none of this was her fault. It was the fault of a society that did not look after its poor and vulnerable. Mercy tries to better herself though and refuses to go back to the life she once led. She works hard in whatever job she is in and strives to always do her best. But it isn’t just the fact she works hard it is the fact that she is good and kind and always thinking of others. Other people could have been made bitter and angry by a past like Mercy’s but this is not the case with Mercy and this is why Lady Janet and Julian Gray love her so much. 

Lady Janet is an extremely wealthy woman who is very lonely. She has no children and her marriage we are told was loveless. For all her wealth she has had no love in her life apart from the love of her nephew Julian Gray. Julian Gray is a reverend of some renown, his sermons are legendary and he is known as being rather different from his fellow clergy.  He does not judge people and will try to help anyone in need. 

Grace Roseberry and Horace Holmcroft were my least favourite characters of the book. Grace was pure evil in my eyes, she might appear the perfect lady but she was shallow, unfeeling, selfish and judgemental. Horace Holmcroft spent his life surrounded by his mother and sisters and he was very much a mommy’s boy. His character is also exactly like Grace’s but Collins does not show us his true character until later in the book. 

This book is beautifully written by Collins and so clever that I did not want to put it down. The book really shows that true love can be blinding, it can be all forgiving, it can make you completely change your opinions, true love can really conquer all. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I can’t wait to read my next Collins novel. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was an English novelist and playwright known especially for The Woman in White and The Moonstone.

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Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey (Review)

Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey

Blurb

A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.

Review

Well each time I read an Expanse novel I keep saying I have a new favourite and yet again I have a new favourite. I loved this book! 

This book is very different from the previous books because the crew of the Roci are split up and living their own storylines instead of all being on the Roci sharing a storyline. I really found this interesting because you see the four main characters in a different light when they are on their own. 

Naomi leaves Holden and goes off to try and correct the things she sees as sins in her past. Whilst she is on this mission we learn about Naomi’s past and how she ended up on the Canterbury. I really felt for Naomi in this book, she has real horrors in her past and she was sorely wronged and now she is having to go through them all again. We also learn in this book that Naomi has struggled with her mental health in the past and now has a battle to make sure these mental health problems do not return. 

Amos goes off to Earth for personal reasons and this also shows another side of Amos. We have learnt that Amos is clearly a dangerous character from the previous books but what we really see in this book is just how dangerous he is and what he has to do to make sure his violent side does not take over. Amos comes across as a character without feeling who doesn’t really understand human emotions, such as someone wanting to hold his hand. But what we also see is that in his own way he does care and will try and protect people even ones he has only just met. Amos still remains my favourite character who always makes me laugh and in this book I particularly liked his relationship with Avasarala. 

Alex is on Mars where he ends up helping out an old friend in the form of Bobbie. Bobbie and Alex end up on the Razorback trying to find missing ships, avoiding terrorists and helping in the odd rescue mission. I love the relationship between Alex and Bobbie, they are true friends and I don’t think Bobbie had realised this until this book when Alex refuses to leave her behind. Alex treats Bobbie like family and it is wonderful to see. 

Holden finds himself left behind in this book, his crew have all gone off on their own missions and you can tell he feels left out and lonely. But this doesn’t mean he doesn’t see his own share of the action. Monica comes along and asks for his help and against his better judgement he can’t help but be interested and to try to solve the problem of these missing ships. 

I really enjoyed seeing these different sides of the Roci crew and it really gave a different feel to the book from the previous books. I found myself desperately wanting to know what would happen next for each character. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Product Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

James S. A. Corey is the pen name of fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, George R. R. Martin’s assistant. They both live Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon (Review)

The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon

Blurb

Maigret has been interrogating Carl Andersen for seventeen hours without a confession. He’s either innocent or a very good liar. So why was the body of a diamond merchant found at his isolated mansion? Why is his sister always shut away in her room? And why does everyone at Three Widows Crossroads have something to hide?

Review

I have watched the episode of this where Maigret is played by Rowan Atkinson so I found it quite a shock to see just how much extra had been added into the TV adaptation which was not in the book. Even though the storyline is more complicated in the TV adaptation I found myself much preferring the book due to the simplicity of the storyline.

The story begins with a frustrated Maigret trying to get the answers he needs from Carl Andersen. In typical Maigret fashion this involves a lot of pipe smoking and a lot of beer drinking when he isn’t interrogating. Carl Andersen does not give Maigret the answers he requires so is left back at square one in trying to solve the murder and with more questions than answers. Maigret ends up going to the scene of the crime at the Three Widows Crossroads and this reveals even more mysteries for him to find answers to and more crimes. 

The novel moves at a break neck speed with Maigret performing his usual excellent detective work but at times it did feel rushed and I just wanted a bit more detail. I will be honest I found Andersen’s sister quite annoying in the book but I only felt pity for Carl himself. The fact that everyone at the Three Widows Crossroads seems to hold a secret made me want to keep reading which meant that I read the book in one sitting. 

This was a good book with a solid storyline but it did feel rushed at times and not to the standard of some of my favourite Maigret books.  Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury (Review)

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury

Blurb

Friends Big Panda and Tiny Dragon journey through the seasons of the year together, day and night, in rain and in sun. Travelling through nature, they find hope and inspiration in the world around them, realising that even in the darkest of days, Spring will always return.

Feel the calming influence of Big Panda, who reminds us of the bigger picture while appreciating the simplicity of small moments.

Explore your surroundings with the inquisitive eye of Tiny Dragon, our friend who is big in heart if not in stature.

And on their journey through the ever-changing seasons, join these two friends as they learn how to live in the moment, be at peace with uncertainty, and find the strength to overcome life’s obstacles, together. 

Review

I saw this little gem when I popped into the local WH Smith to get some stamps. Yes, I can’t resist a book when I see one. 

This book is adorable and one that I will return to again and again. This little book is full of gorgeous illustrations and perfect little words of wisdom. The book tells the story of a panda and a little dragon. These two unlikely friends go on adventures together and help each other through any problems they are having. They also get lost at times but this never bothers them as they just see it as a blessing. 

The book has five chapters that are Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring again. Each chapter covers the trials and tribulations that can come with the different seasons and always looks for the positives that can come out of each season. 

This little book has so many pearls of wisdom about seeing the good things in everything, even when things seem really bad. The illustrations are amazing and help get the messages across. My particular little favourite illustrations are the uses for leaves that Tiny Dragon comes up with. I also like that a nice cup of tea can help with most problems which is something I can completely agree with. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will be returning to it when I need a pearl of wisdom to help me see the positives in a bad situation. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

James Norbury is a self-taught artist and writer, who lives in Wales.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien (Review)

Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien

Blurb

J.R.R. Tolkien’s earliest children’s story.

While on holiday in 1925, four-year-old Michael Tolkien lost his beloved toy dog on the beach. To console him, his father J.R.R. Tolkien improvised a story about Rover, a real dog who is magically transformed into toy, and his quest to find the wizard who can return him to normal.

The adventures of Rover, or ‘Roverandom’ a he becomes known, include encounters with an ancient sand-sorcerer and a terrible dragon, by the king of wordplay, the story underwent a number of revisions and was originally considered for publication in January 1937, the same year as The Hobbit, was abandoned when the publishers asked instead for a sequel, which culminated in The Lord of the Rings. Roverandom was finally published in 1998.

Review

I love Tolkien and I have read The Lord of the Rings more times than I can count. So when I saw this in Waterstones I knew I had to get it and I was not disappointed. 

Roverandom is all about a little dog who due to being a little bit rude and not minding his manners to a wizard he ends up as a small toy dog instead. Roverandom ends up being taken from his home and his beloved ball and goes on all kinds of adventures meeting wizards, dragons, mer people and much more. 

This story is typical Tolkien but doesn’t flow with his usual style but I think this is because it wasn’t refined for publication by Tolkien. You can also clearly see that the wizards in this book were the starting points for Gandalf as Artaxerxes is a little bit similar to Gandalf. 

This is a wonderful little story that you can just imagine Tolkien telling his distraught son to help with the loss of his beloved toy dog. The story also has a very clear moral about the consequences of not minding your manners and being polite. Roverandom goes on his adventures and learns to be a better dog, a dog with manners who is polite and kind and thinks of others. It really was a beautiful little read that I give 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January 1892 in Bloemfontein. He moved to England when he was three years old and was home schooled with his younger brother and taught by his mother. Tolkien served in the First World War and after the war he established a distinguished academic career and was recognised as one of the finest philologists in the world. He is best known as the creator of Middle Earth and the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was awarded a CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University in 1972. He died on 2nd September 1973 at the age of 81.

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