Read and Review: Swallows and Amazons

Read and Review: Swallows and Amazons
  • Title: Swallows and Amazons
  • Author: Arthur Ransome
  • Published: 1930

Swallows and Amazons follows the lives of John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker as they stay at a farm near a lake in the Lake District during the school holidays. They borrow a boat named Swallow to go sailing and make a camp on a nearby island. Soon, they find themselves under attack from the fierce Amazon pirates [also known to some as Ruth and Peggy Blackett], who sail a boat named Amazon. The two groups of children have many outdoor adventures, including sailing, camping, fishing, exploration and general piracy.

I really enjoyed this book. Swallows and Amazons is just a good, a heart-warming, children’s adventure story, in a similar league to other popular children’s series such as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books (which I loved as a girl).

The children explore an island, forage for supplies, engage in a pirate “battle”, and learn about some buried pirate treasure.

Ransome’s writing style is witty, and this subtle humour permeates the narration and added to my enjoyment of the novel. His characters, although children, use sarcasm and sharp wit within their dialogue and this is brilliant.

When I started Swallows and Amazons, I was a little wary of, in a story set in the 30s, the 2 boys and 2 girls falling into simple and constrictive gender stereotypes. However, I was pleasantly proved wrong. Whilst Susan, as the eldest girl, is mostly responsible for the cooking*, all the other roles and responsibilities – such as tidying, fishing, sailing, washing up – are shared by the children as best they can. This is only amplified when the “pirates” Ruth (who’s pirate name is Nancy) and Peggy appear on the island, proving that little girls can be just as adventurous and pirate-like as little boys.

*Inner housewife moment: I actually really love the little details Ransome includes of the meals Susan prepares, the way the tents are made homely, and all the little supplies the children need. This was one of my favourite parts of the Famous Five series too, when Anne takes on the role of cook and homemaker.

I think my favourite thing about Swallows and Amazons is that, in Ransome’s narration, he takes the children seriously and never belittles their imaginative minds and games. For example, John Walker is not John Walker, he is Captain. The local village is not just a local village, they are savage natives.

This, I think, is the charm of older children’s books – from authors like Ransome, Blyton, and C.S. Lewis for example –  in contrast to children’s fiction nowadays. Yes, the childlike essence of the story naturally appeals to his primary audience of children, but the writing style, characters and plot are also incredibly enjoyable for older readers too, which I think modern children’s fiction lacks – it is written specifically with a 7 year old in mind, and no-one else.**

**Feel free to challenge me on this, this is my own experience: The modern children’s books I read when I was a 7 year old I’d never read again. The books that do stick in my mind as a 7 year old and I would read again are classics such as the Famous Five series, the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Little Women, and so on.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Swallows and Amazons and read it in just a few days. There are 11 more books in this series, that I will probably / most definitely read in the future.

If you didn’t read this book as a child, I encourage you to read it.

If you did read this book as a child, I encourage you to read it again.

***

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (6)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (6)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m not reading any novels at the minute!

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished Desperation by Stephen King; this one has taken me longer to get through – not because it’s not an enjoyable novel or a particularly long one, I’ve just been in a bit of a reading slump recently. I also read Humble Pie, Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

At this rate, as long as I read something I’ll be happy. I was recently gifted Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome, so that will be the next book I try and read.


I apologise for such a short WWW update; hopefully I get out of this reading slump soon!

– Judith

Read and Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge

Read and Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • Title: The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • Author: Thomas Hardy
  • Published: 1886

The Mayor of Casterbridge is dubbed a ‘tragedy’ novel. It is about Michael Henchard, a hay-trusser who sells his wife Susan and their daughter Elizabeth-Jane to a sailor on a drunken whim. Years later, Susan arrives in Casterbridge and, to her surprise, finds Henchard is the Mayor and is a reformed man. The pair reunite, but both Henchard and Susan are keeping secrets from one another, and the past refuses to stay buried.

In true Hardy style, multiple taboos are introduced quickly in The Mayor of Casterbridge, such as the maltreatment of women, drunkenness, fights, fake identities, and death.

The number of problems each character faced, and how these problems impacted upon the other characters made the book feel very much like an 19th century predecessor to The Jeremy Kyle Show!

I thought The Mayor of Casterbridge was okay, despite having a dislike for most of the characters; each character was selfish and deceptive in varying amounts, so it was hard to feel sympathetic for any of them.

The Mayor of Casterbridge has particularly witty moments, and I liked the Harry Potter-like language in this passage:

‘she [Elizabeth-Jane] no longer spoke of “dumbledores” but of “humble bees” […] that when she had not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next morning that she had been “hag-rid,” but that she had “suffered from indigestion.”’

(Chapter 20)

I think it’s still unclear as to whether this passage inspired J.K. Rowling, when it came to writing her best-selling children’s fantasy series. In an interview with Stephanie Loer for The Boston Globe, Rowling said:

“Some of the names are invented… Dumbledore […] is an Old English word meaning bumblebee. Hagrid, who by the way is one of my favourite characters, also comes from an Old English word – hagridden – meaning having a nightmarish night.”

Regardless, I liked The Mayor of Casterbridge (not as much as Jude The Obscure however) – not because of its maybe links to the Harry Potter books, but because of Hardy’s ability to simply tell a good story.

Thanks for reading! Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed.

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Georgia Rose

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Georgia Rose

Welcome back to another post in my new series, From One Blogger To Another, where I interview / chat with a different blogger or writer on a monthly basis.

This time, I interviewed Georgia Rose, a writer and blogger from Cambridgeshire, England.

Image result for georgia rose book

As well as reading and writing, she has a lifelong passion for horses, and her family. Her two dogs, Poppy and Ruby, delight in accompanying Georgia to book events.

In addition to writing, Georgia runs her own business, which provides companies with book-keeping and administrative services.

Her first book, A Single Step, was published in 2014. A Single Step was succeeded by Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water, forming The Grayson Trilogy. Georgia said: “They are a series of mysterious and romantic adventure stories, written from the point of view of my heroine, Emma Grayson.”

“Completing my trilogy is one of my biggest achievements. I struggled desperately getting the last one done as it was terrifically hard work, so it was an utter relief to finally have it finished. I loved the entire writing experience – even the difficult parts.”

All three books currently have at least a 4 star rating on Amazon or Goodreads, one of the most popular sites for book reviews.

However, Georgia agreed that negative reviews are as equally valuable as positive ones. “Negative reviews do exactly what reviews are meant to do, which is to inform potential readers.”

“For example, someone reviewed my book recently and complained about my use of the F word and the descriptive sex scene. It was a well written review and provided me with helpful feedback. If another potential reader read that review, and decide they don’t like that type of book, they can save their money by finding something more appealing to them.”

Georgia is a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, a group of readers and bloggers dedicated to reading new books and sharing their reviews. She also has her own blog.

“Someone told me I should have a blog, so I started one. I had no idea how it worked and I scrabbled around for quite a while trying to work out what I should put on it.” Georgia admitted. “My blogging style is a bit patchy; I post odd reviews and share others’ too. I think I’ve got better this year though, as I’ve committed to posting at least once a month!”

Georgia revealed her frustration with blogging to me. “I find that blogging is just something else that takes me further away from writing my next book. I see myself as an author first and a blogger second.”

Georgia’s favourite genres to read are serious romances, psychological or crime thrillers and mysteries.

“My favourite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ve always said Pride and Prejudice because I was converted into liking it, I think!” she joked. “I had to study it during my O Level years, and really disliked it at first. However, because I had to pay attention, think about it, and write about it, I grew to love it! I have reread it many times since.”

I asked Georgia which author she’d most love to meet. “There are so many!” she gushed. “If I had to pick one it would be Sue Grafton. I love her Alphabet Series and how she has managed to work her way through almost the entire alphabet, keeping the fabulous protagonist Kinsey Millhone intact. We would have so much to talk about!”

Grafton’s Alphabet Series are a series of crime novels, following the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Her most recent addition to the series, X, was released on the 2nd of August last year.

However, whilst I love finding new book-to-film adaptations to talk about, Georgia Rose isn’t so keen. “If I’ve ever enjoyed a book, I won’t watch a film adaptation because they always ruin it for me.” she explained. “There are some exceptions however; I’ve enjoyed both the books and films of the Harry Potter series with my children, and I think the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was utterly perfect.”

In her reading, Georgia also steers clear of the fantasy genre. “I soon get bored with the overly complicated place names and character names, and fictional creatures just can’t hold my interest.” she said.

“I’m also not keen on frothy romances; everyone is beautiful and you can see the happy ending from a mile away!” she continued. “I need something more than just boy meets girl, which is probably why I write romantic suspense.” Since the release of The Grayson Trilogy, Georgia also published a short story, The Joker, which expands the storyline of one of her characters.

Finally, I asked Georgia if she had any advice for aspiring writers who may be reading our interview today. She said, “Yes: stop calling yourself an aspiring writer!”

She explained, “If you write, you are a writer. Believe in what you do. If you want to write a book, stop putting it off – no-one else is going to write it for you. Sit down and start typing. It’s that straightforward.”

You can find Georgia Rose on Twitter at @GeorgiaRoseBook and her website is www.georgiarosebooks.com.

***

Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

We’re creeping ever closer towards Christmas, but unfortunately this blog post isn’t Christmas-themed (sorry)!

As I’ve already mentioned before, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a classic children’s story and film people enjoy watching at Christmas. However, I already wrote a film review of it here back in March, so instead I thought I’d watch and review its sequel instead.

  • Title:The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Director:Andrew Adamson
  • Released:2008

I remember seeing Prince Caspian in the cinema when it came out. It is about the four Pevensie children, who return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian (played by Ben Barnes) in his struggle with for the throne against his corrupt uncle, King Miraz (played by Sergio Castellitto).

I think Prince Caspian is a good sequel; I liked the fact the actors were older because it gives the characters more maturity and allows the director to explore darker themes, in a similar way to the Harry Potter films. Of course, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were good films, but by The Prisoner of Azkaban, there was more development, a higher sense of threat and you knew the characters could be tested more – which makes for a more interesting experience as an older viewer.

In addition, I found it easier to engage with all four main characters: Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes), Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) and Peter Pevensie (William Moseley) because they’ve all grown up, whereas in the first film, I always preferred Peter and Susan, as opposed to the more childish Edmund and Lucy.

I particularly appreciated the growth of Edmund’s character; he steps up and makes careful decisions, learning from his previous mistakes in Narnia, highlighting the change from his weedy and foolish character from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

However, I’m not sure how I feel about the eponymous Prince Caspian – despite the film being titled after him, it still felt like Prince Caspian was still more about the Pevensies, and Prince Caspian was just a “tag along”. Although, I did like the suggestion that he and Susan liked each other, and the competitive rivalry created between Peter and Caspian – this added for comic relief in more serious moments of battles and politics. Eddie Izzard’s Reepicheep also added humour.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Chronicles of Narnia without Aslan, and Liam Neeson reprises the role to bestow more wisdom on the children. I also love the theme music – you know something great is going to happen when the score begins to play.

When I talked about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I discussed some Christian themes from the first film, so it seems only fitting to do that here too. What struck me was Lucy’s fervent faith in Aslan (symbolising a Christian’s belief in God), even when some of her siblings begin to doubt and follow their own ways. This is developed further by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), as it is just Edmund and Lucy who travel to Narnia because Susan and Peter have become “too old” for the world of Narnia. Maybe I’ll write a review of Dawn Treader one day…

I recommend both The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian as good family-friendly films, great for watching at Christmas time. This is a lengthier review than my first Narnia blog post, but I really enjoyed writing it.

If you liked reading this post, please click ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ my blog for more posts. Stay tuned for Blogmas Day 10 tomorrow!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

Welcome back to Blogmas! Today I’ve been reading up on some lovely Christmas-themed quotes from well-known books I’ve read to share with you.

1. Marcus Zusak, The Book Thief 

“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”

When I first read The Book Thief, Zusak’s beautiful descriptions struck me; I think he writes in a very poetic way, which is unusual given that some of his characters are illiterate, and of course this quote is no exception.

2. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

“Always winter and never Christmas.”

This quote has quite sad undertone. It highlight’s Narnia’s cold, harsh landscapes under the reign of The White Queen that lack the joy, light and warmth of Christmas. It’s a relief, then, when Father Christmas finally arrives, giving gifts to the Pevensie children – followed by an even greater joy when Aslan returns.

3. The Bible, Luke Chapter 2: 10-11

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This is a quote from The Bible, from the Gospel of Luke. This part of Luke’s account tells us of the Birth of Jesus, the son of God. I think it is important to remember that Christmas is still a religious celebration for Christians around the world – this can be easy to forget in the midst of present-buying, food shopping and cheesy Christmas jumpers – and has a great deal of meaning. Christmas spreads a message of love, peace, joy and light – things I think we all need at the minute, given what’s going in our world.


I hope you enjoyed this little Blogmas post; please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ ReadandReview2016 for more blog posts.

If you want to read more Christmas-themed book quotes, I encourage you read this article from Barnes and Noble, from last year, – it greatly amused me: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/10-great-literary-quotes-to-add-to-this-years-christmas-card/

Thanks for reading!

– Judith

Read and Review: Little Women

Read and Review: Little Women
  • Title: Little Women
  • Author: Louisa May Alcott
  • Published: 1868

Little Women is the perfect book to write a book review about at this time of year, as it is set around the time of Christmas. Also, it was Alcott’s 184th birthday not too long ago (29th November), so it’s a nice coincidence.

Little Women is about the four March sisters who live with their mother and face Christmas without their father, because he’s away fighting in the American Civil War.  The March family recently moved to a new neighbourhood, but are living in almost-poverty after their father lost their money. The elder sisters work to support the family while the younger sisters help with work around the house.

I enjoyed reading Little Women as a girl because it’s a short, sweet story that has female protagonists (which is what I enjoyed most as a child – now it’s quite the opposite!): Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March and we follow their progression form girlhood to adulthood.

I also like the very noticeable differences between each sister; Meg has her beauty, Amy is charming, Beth is a musician, Jo is the impulsive tomboy.

The book is about the importance of family relationships and how love, friendship and quality time is worth more than money and presents*. We tend to reflect on these things more as we celebrate Christmas, but I think they’re important values to remember all-year round.

* You can tell we’re drawing near to Christmas, when sentimental topics are being blogged about!

Of course, modern-day readers may raise their eyebrows at certain scenes, such as Marmee’s declaration that having a loving husband and family is the greatest joy a woman can have. However, it’s important to read older books within their context**, and know that however unfortunate you find it, at the time, that would have been one of the best joys in a woman’s life. Personally, although I know I have more options now than a 19th century women would have done, I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with hoping to have a loving husband and family one day too.

** I raised a similar point when I talked about Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

I still see Little Women as a childhood classic and if you haven’t read it yet, you should definitely add it to your Christmas List 😉

Thank you for reading; if you enjoyed this book review, please give it a ‘Like’ and click ‘Follow’ to be notified when I write a new blog post.

That’s all for now!

– Judith