Friday 30 March 2012

Review - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The hopeful view

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time baffled me before I read it. I’d seen it variously described as a children’s book and not. It’s spine in the bookshops suggested it could have gone either way but when I pulled it off, I literally stepped back with a sharp intake of breath. A red dog on its back impaled by a gardening fork? If ever there was a cover to put me off a book, this was one of them (See end of review for a newer cover!).

But the reviews on the whole were attractive. After all, it was an award winner and on all sorts of book prize lists. And the writing from page one was compelling.  Yes, this could work for adults and older children alike, I thought (quickly hiding the cover)…

…and then I read the whole book in a single sitting.

Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is narrated by fifteen year old Christopher Boone.  His behaviour probably falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum. After discovering a dead dog on a neighbour’s lawn, he starts to write a murder mystery novel.  Determined to find the murderer, Christopher lands in all sorts of awkward and difficult situations.  Seeing them through his eyes though, they make perfect sense and the rest of the characters’ behaviour towards him seems unfair and even unkind.

There were a few aspects of the novel that mesmerised me.  The poignant comedy (which I often find with first person narration) takes you along on Christopher’s journey.  And yes, his character develops but it is the increasing revelation of the adult characters’ darker sides that linger………

It is one of those reads that stays with you……uncomfortably.
Overall, I would recommend this as an excellent read – but not for children. There are words of hope - but they are just words. I did not really feel the hope. Yes, poor Christopher, will he ever feel safe again? But really, poor, poor Wellington. Dog lovers will want to call the RSPCA.

On second thoughts, the cover is appropriate. If it makes you gasp, your response as a reader may be similar to mine.

Publication details:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, 2004, Vintage, London, paperback.

Our copy: purchased from an independent bookshop with the help of a £1 World Book Day token.


Okay, okay....but my eyes are closed!
The front cover for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Note added 1 August 2012: Here is a new edition from the Vintage Children's Classics range. This front cover is a bit more pleasing to my eyes!

Sunday 25 March 2012

In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox @ The Story Siren

We're really excited to show you the books we've recevied this week and to join the Story Siren's In My Mailbox for the first time. 

We love to get books and sometimes find it hard to choose so few. This week we have 4 books, all for Little M.

Little M enjoyed the first in the Maximum Ride series so much and she was delighted to borrow a copy of Maximum Ride School's Out Forever by James Patterson from a school friend.  But by the time of writing this IMM, she'd already finished it!

The next book was received as congratulations for a couple of things. Lauren St John's Dolphin Song looks just up her street - an adventure and animals by an author she knows she likes.

The final two were picked up in Oxfam.  She's read the first in Monica Dickens' World's End series and has been desperate to read some more so World's End in Winter and Summer at World's End are sure to go down a treat. They're no longer in print and these editions were published in 1972 and 1973! They've been recommended by me as books I enjoyed reading when I was at school.  It's about a family of children who live in a derelict house with a bunch of animals...What more could you ask for?

Saturday 24 March 2012

Little M review - Maximum Ride #1

“These kids don’t need broomsticks to fly.”

Maximum Ride took me on an adventure of a life time going from being in cages to fighting Erasers.
Max, Iggy, Fang, Nudge, the Gasman and Angel are on the run (aged from 6-14). They never want to be put back in cages or be tested on. They only want to be free.
These kids are 98% human and 2% bird. They grew up in dog cages in a lab, which is quite hard to imagine. Max and the rest of the flock now have to save the world whilst Max keeps getting a voice in her head which leads up to a meltdown.
Maximum Ride by James Patterson will make you cry and laugh like when Iggy tries to unlock Max’s wardrobe that has six locks and when Angel gets kidnapped. You will just want to keep on turning page after page. When I first started to read Maximum Ride I just couldn’t put the book down, so I ended up reading it in about 5 days.
Iggy was my favourite character because he is blind but at the same time he has the best hearing and can be extremely funny. Max is my second favourite character because she could keep the flock under control if they started to be a bit out of control. She is the leader of the flock and has an extremely strong will, so if an Eraser tried to get Max to come with him she would just give him a broken rib and maybe a broken jaw too.
This is the first book in about eight. The second book is called Maximum Ride School’s Out Forever. At the time of writing this review, I have just finished the second book and am looking for the third one. It is called Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports.

Published in paperback in 2006
London, Headline
Pages: 468
My copy:  Got it on my birthday in a restaurant.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Review - My Name is Mina

“My name is Mina and I love the night.  Anything seems possible at night when the rest of the world has gone to sleep.”

My Name is Mina is the prequel to David Almond’s much acclaimed Skellig.  As with all good prequels, you don’t have to have read Skellig first. I haven’t read Skellig.  I saw it as a play.  And Mina’s character was riveting – who wouldn’t like to spend a lot of time up in a tree?

My skin prickled with delight when the book turned up on the doorstep – a gift for Little M.  But Little M laughed.  Of all the characters in Skellig, Mina was her least favourite. “Mina just goes on and on about birds.”  As a result, I was the one to read it first. And my task was to see if there’s more to Mina than birds.  Well, of course there is…..

The novel is told in the first person through Mina’s journal. She’s angry, frustrated and confused about a lot of the changes going on in her young life. And it comes out beautifully in her journaling. A young girl, Mina writes a parallel account about past events that led to her home-schooling alongside current events that lead to the beginning of Skellig. Her journal includes different types of entries, one of my favourites being Extraordinary Activity, a must for all explorers of the world. Turn a page in My Name is Mina, and you’ll more than likely find a surprise.

Quite intentionally (you’ll know why towards the end of the novel), it lacks the narrative pace that adventure or dystopian novels often provide. But its exploration of the inner soul – that which novels can do best – is utterly sublime. Mina had me smiling, had me wondering, made me laugh, and I even had to wipe away a tear. Yes, she goes on and on about birds.  But go along with her. See them as wings that will let you fly across the seven seas.

My name is not Mina – and I would love a tree like hers. And I would like to be her friend.

Publishing details:
2010, Hodder Children’s Books, London

Monday 19 March 2012

Review - Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth
For any parent who’s read along with their child from babyhood, perhaps helping them to build a book library or sort through the bookshelves in the library, there comes a time when you wonder if you’re guiding their reading choices too much. We’re getting to that stage.

When Little M mentioned that she thought she’d like to read Twilight, I probably took a deep breath and said, “Aah”.  I didn’t know much about Twilight but I realised Little M was ready to move on in her reading. She’d even shown serious interest in Jane Roger’s The Testament of Jessie Lamb. For that, I hope she’ll wait a few years so that she can appreciate its delights. By then she’ll be ready for Margaret Atwood too.

So I looked into Twilight - and recommended Divergent. The feminist controversies surrounding the characterisation of Twilight’s Bella could be argued relatively well by either camp. It was definitely the writing that clinched it for me.  Casting my eye over a few pages of Twilight made me cringe whereas Divergent had me hooked from the very first page. I wanted to know more about the choices Beatrice and her peers had to make.

I enjoyed reading Divergent.  For the size of it, it was a surprisingly quick read and so I can only describe it as compelling. I particularly enjoyed a central thread that explored how individuals developed personal understandings and ways to live out and conform to the values of their factions – or not.

Characterwise, I liked Tris but my favourite character was definitely Four.  I think he was pivotal to Divergent.  And Tris’ mum! I want to know more about her.  Does she have a name?  Did I miss it?  There’s certainly scope for a prequel.

A few quibbles.  Too much unnecessary violent detail for my liking. And I’d have left much of the romance for the sequel.

Overall, a big thumbs up to Veronica Roth.  She’s provided a reading bridge that is welcomed by me and an introduction to a different reading world for Little M.  I’ll definitely read the sequel when she gets her hands on it. See here for Little M's review.

Friday 16 March 2012

Little M Review - Divergent

This book is the first book in Veronica Roth’s trilogy about Tris and the world she lives in. 16 year old Tris has to make her choice. It happens to every 16 year old. They have to decide which faction they should go to. There are five factions and they are Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Amity and Dauntless. She currently is in Abnegation, she can’t look in mirrors or be noticeable, but her choice will decide how to look and how to act after that. She has to choose where she should spend the rest of her life. Once she has made her choice she can’t turn back otherwise she will be factionless (homeless).

I really like Tris because she has a brilliant working mind and can be very strong willed when she wants to be.

The story will keep you trying to guess what will happen next, but you might not be that right. It will make you laugh and cry at different points, but it will make you SO want to read the next book.  Before you know it you will have finished the book and will desperately want the second.

I first came across the book via my wonderful Mum when she was looking for books for herself and me. And found this book on Amazon she told me about it, but said it wasn’t out in paperback. But a few months later we were in Waterstone’s in London and bumped in to it. So that’s how I found it.

Gripping, heart pounding can’t put down book. Amazing writer, full of emotion and romance. Brilliant for teens and young adults. There is a bit of violence, but is not too gory. Good for 12 years and up.

Let me know if you think you might read it.

The second book has not yet been published but is coming out on the 1st May 2012.

Publisher details:
Harper Collins, 2011, London

We sat down.......

We are M & M, a mother and (almost) teen daughter who are starting to find that we are happily discussing the same books. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. But either way, we're enjoying it.

It started a few months back when we all attended a local stage production of Skellig (based on David Almond's novel).  Since then, 'my name is mina' has become a private meme in our household - and we'll tell you more about that some other time.

So the two of us sat down on the brown sofa and We Sat Down was born.

The idea for We Sat Down is quite simply a record of the books we've read and a place to share our thoughts, to recommend good authors and to provide ideas for books to read. And most of all, we hope it will be fun.

The initial focus will be on books that older children, young adults and adults can both enjoy.  Because that is where we are right now.  Things may change along the way.