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

[BONUS] Read and Review: CHILD TAKEN by DARREN YOUNG @darrenyoungbook #BookReview #CrimeThriller

[BONUS] Read and Review: CHILD TAKEN by DARREN YOUNG @darrenyoungbook #BookReview #CrimeThriller
  • Title: Child Taken
  • Author: Darren Young
  • Published: 2017
  • Date Started: Monday 13th February 2017
  • Date Finished: Sunday 26th February 2017

Child Taken is the brand new, debut thriller from Darren Young.

One summer’s day, a young Jessica Preston disappears from the beach where she was playing with her family. The police say she drowned, but her mother thinks otherwise. She thinks she was taken. 20 years later, another child goes missing, prompting a young journalist to uncover the mystery behind what really happened to Jessica. She finds someone with an explosive secret, which not only threatens to reveal the truth, but puts lives in danger.

After reading Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train last year, I’ve really grown to enjoy mystery and crime thrillers, and so it was a pleasure to read Child Taken, which follows a similar narrative style.

The chapters were a short length, which kept the pace moving, and helped easily switch between the two narrative perspectives of our female protagonists: Danni and Laura. This style heavily reminded me of The Girl On The Train, which tells the narrative through the eyes of Rachel, Anna, and Megan, and I liked this.

I particularly liked Laura, particularly because she works as a journalist, which is a position I’d like to be in myself one day, and the fact she uses her journalism to uncover a horrible secret reminds me of another Gillian Flynn novel, Sharp Objects, which is another favourite thriller of mine.

At various points in the book, there was definite, and well-crafted suspense – one Goodreads user said Child Taken ‘sucked me in and … spat me out’ – and I can definitely see its potential to become a book that people struggle to put down.

However, although some parts were genuinely thrilling, I felt other parts were slightly lacking – introductions of new characters were often followed by lots of background information which I found a bit unnecessary.

I really enjoyed Child Taken – by halfway through I was certainly “hooked” – and it’s an impressive debut novel. In places, it could do with a polish, but I think it has brilliant potential.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Child Taken will be available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from May 2017.

***

Thank you for reading my review!

Thanks to Darren Young and Red Door Publishing for sending me a proof copy to read and review for free! I’ll leave their links below:

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

– 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

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

New year, new book tag. I found this on tinyobsessions.wordpress.com and I thought it was appropriate, given it’s January. I’ve chosen my favourite questions to answer.

1. What was the best book or series you read in 2016?

I’d say my favourite book was something by Gillian Flynn. Despite really enjoying Gone Girl, I read Sharp Objects more times – at least two or three times last year.

2. What authors have you recently found and would like to read more of in 2017?

I’ve got 3 authors to choose from: Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and C.S. Lewis. I read some of their books the first time this year and I really enjoyed them. If you have a favourite book by this author, please leave a comment with it below and I can add your recommendations to my TBR!

3. What is your most anticipated book-to-film adaptation?

I don’t really know what is coming out this year, apart from Trainspotting 2. I think I’d like to see some more good period dramas on the BBC. They really help me read and understand classics better.

4. What are the top 5 books on your 2017 TBR?

I have far too many books on my TBR to pick a top 5! I’d say Finders Keepers and End of Watch, the sequels to Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. I also want to read some more Dystopian books, so I’d like to read The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

5. How many books do you hope to read in 2017? 

I worked out that in 2016, I read about 70 books which is absolutely crazy. I’d like to hit the same number again this year, or maybe beat it – perhaps I’ll aim to read 80 books?

6. Do you have any book or blogging themed resolutions?

A blogging resolution would be that I’ve considered doing some more creative writing. I’d also like to be able to read more for leisure, or at least get the balance right between reading for my studies and reading for myself.

Happy New Year! (Is it too late to still be saying that?)

Please ‘Like’ if you enjoyed this little book tag; what would your answers to these questions be?

– Judith

#RBRT [BONUS] Read and Review: GIRL IN A GOLDEN CAGE by LUCY BRANCH @lucyBranch11 #BookReview #CrimeThriller

#RBRT [BONUS] Read and Review: GIRL IN A GOLDEN CAGE by LUCY BRANCH @lucyBranch11 #BookReview #CrimeThriller
  • Title: Girl In A Golden Cage
  • Author: Lucy Branch
  • Published: 2016
  • Started: 19th December 2016
  • Finished: 31st December 2016

Girl In A Golden Cage is about Francesca Milliardo as she discovers she has an extraordinary and supernatural talent. She visits her rich father in Milan, and enjoys a life of glitz and glamour – a refreshing change from her home in the UK, but slowly begins to feel more unsettled.

From my understanding, Girl In A Golden Cage is the sequel to A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which I’m only just realising now. I haven’t read A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which, according to Amazon, is about Abigail Argent, a skilled craftsman, who can enhance the beauty in metal sculptures. She discovers her craft is linked the art of alchemy*, and uncovers a dangerous secret.

*Alchemy is a philosophical and protoscientific tradition with the aim of purifying certain objects. I had to look it up.

Although Abigail features in Girl In A Golden Cage, I don’t think I’ve missed out, despite not reading the first book. Francesca is a new character, and we explore the seemingly luxurious and wonderful Italian through her eyes – not Abigail’s – and watch her gradually uncover her father’s deception.

There are lots of Italian references (obviously) and a lot of artistic language and description. I didn’t really understand these parts – I’m not a very artistic or multi-cultural person, but I am confident Branch knows what she’s talking about. Amazon lists some of her achievements, such as studying at University College London, The Royal College of Art and Victoria Albert Museum and being a restorer of public sculptures and historic features.

My favourite aspect of this book were Francesca’s “out of body” experiences; they were supernatural, but not scary. While I don’t believe in “out of body” experiences in real life, I think it’s a fascinating subject to write fiction about, and made the storyline enjoyable.

While I liked the character of Lorin, I thought his motivations for involving himself Francesca were a little predictable. I didn’t feel that their connection was “real”, despite Francesca believing she was in a genuine and trusting relationship.

Also, I’m not sure what genre Girl In A Golden Cage is meant to be – it’s very difficult to pin down. There’s suspense, but it’s not wholly a mystery novel. There are some violent moments, and criminal activity does crop up, but I don’t feel like there’s enough to classify it as a crime novel. If anyone has any suggestions as to a genre which best fits this book, I’d be glad to hear them.

For me, the main let-down of Girl In A Golden Cage was a little too much unnecessary dialogue and the subsequent description of speech acts (e.g. he said/she said). I’m a strong believer in not overusing dialogue (or obvious narration) to convey basic information. For example (this is not lifted from the book, but an exaggerated example), I prefer to interpret a speaker’s body language, for instance, based on the way they speak and the character traits that have already been assigned to them, rather than a descriptive line of dialogue such as: “I am very annoyed” said the man, in a frustrated tone of voice, folding his arms and scowling.

On the whole, despite not reading A Rarer Gift Than Gold (oops), I managed to enjoy Girl In A Golden Cage and thought it was a good book, although I can’t put into words exactly why that is!

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

 A Rarer Gift Than Gold is available to buy as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

Girl In A Golden Cage is available to buy as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

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Thanks for reading! This is another bonus ReadandReview post, and another #RBRT review.

Thank you to Lucy Branch, who sent me a copy of her book for free. You can find her website here: www.lucybranch.com

If you enjoyed this review, please give it a ‘like’ or leave a lovely comment down below. Happy reading!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

Happy Blogmas! This is Day 2 of my 12 Days of Blogmas!

Today I’ll be thinking over some of the books I’ve read this year, and choose three characters have been Naughty and three characters have been Nice. My judgements were formed based on how deplorable (or not) their actions were, and how much I like them (either as protagonists or antagonists).

Nice

Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump (Winston Groom, 1986)

Forrest Gump is one of my favourite stories, and I think Forrest is well-deserving of being on Santa’s Nice list. He’s such a caring, thoughtful, and lovable character who tries to do right by as many people as he can, despite his limited intelligence. Of course, he’s not perfect – he is easily lead, struggles with addiction, and hurts Jenny deeply – but then again, nobody is. Forrest learns from his mistakes however, and I think this is his redeeming quality.

Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)

Colonel Brandon is an absolute gentleman in Sense and Sensibility, and is particularly contrasted with the seemingly brilliant, but deceptive, John Willoughby. Both men fall in love with Marianne Dashwood and while Willoughby leads Marianne to believe they are in a loving, courting relationship and then breaks her heart, Brandon behaves with nothing but grace, generosity and kindness towards the entire Dashwood family. Safe to say, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, Marianne returns Brandon’s affections.

Sir John Falstaff from Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 (William Shakespeare, 1597)

Falstaff is a kind of father figure to Hal, particularly in Henry IV Part 1, and provides much comic relief, through his exaggerated recounting of events, over-exuberant lifestyle and use of language. I particularly enjoyed Roger Allam’s portrayal of Falstaff in the Globe on Screen productions, directed by Dominic Dromgoole. However, ultimately, Falstaff is flawed. He is fat, vain, arrogant and cowardly, spending most of his time with prostitutes and drinking away stolen money, and thus is cast out when Hal becomes King. However, annoyingly, I still really like the character of Falstaff, which is why I’ve placed him on my “Nice” list!

Naughty

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (Charlotte Bronte, 1847)

For anyone who has read Wuthering Heights, this is an obvious choice. Heathcliff is vengeful, calculated and seemingly takes pleasure from others’ misery. However, as a character, I am still drawn to him; Heathcliff fascinates me. He seems capable of love, particularly towards Cathy, but it is an all-consuming passion which is ultimately destructive and dangerous. He strikes up a special bond with Nelly, and is a subverted father figure for numerous characters, such as Hareton, Linton and young Catherine. In short, Heathcliff is a complex and “fun” character to read about and talk about, despite his antagonism and he’s my favourite character from Wuthering Heights.

Brady Hartfield from Mr Mercedes (Stephen King, 2014)

Brady is a heartless killer from King’s thriller and murder mystery novel. He slaughters a queue of people at a job fair by driving into them with a stolen Mercedes and leaves clues for the police for the next year and especially taunting retired detective Bill Hodges with notes and possible evidence. I really enjoyed this plot and I thought Hartfield was really well-written. He simultaneously sounds like a petulant child and a dangerous killer, a dumb criminal and a calculated genius. I found him very creepy and naturally, given the events of the book, a horrific character.

Amy and Nick Dunne from Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, 2012)

After speaking of horrific and evil characters, how could I not mention the Dunne family from Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl? Amy is such a powerful character; she is manipulative, clever but scarily violent too. I was also fascinated by her “pregnancy” storyline too – I really like it when creators explore this subject for some reason, be it in books. films or television. Nick is equally flawed – he is an unfaithful liar and uses some pretty creepy language such as:

‘I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts.’

And that’s only on the first page!

Amy and Nick are a scary, subverted form of the ideal middle-class idea of marriage and I really like how Flynn played around with this. The Dunne family are certainly worthy of being on the “Naughty” list.


Those are my thoughts: do you agree or disagree with them? Would you place anyone else on the “Naughty” or “Nice” lists?

Happy Blogmas!

– Judith

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

Recently, I’ve been listening to a LOT of Taylor Swift, a singer I’ve been an on/off fan of since being a young teen. Yet for some reason, I’ve been listening to lots of her songs, so this Tag Tuesday, the Taylor Swift Book Tag seemed like an obvious choice. Let’s answer some Qs with some As then!

1. We Are Never Ever Getting Backing Together: Pick book you were sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with

I really liked the Twilight series as a young teen – I read them all in less than a week. In hindsight, I’m not sure they were the best books ever written. Plus, the franchise on a whole gets a lot of criticism, so it can be a bit embarrassing to admit that I liked them. (So I’m combating this by telling 300+ people that I liked the Twilight books… sure)

2. Red: Pick a book with a red cover

I’d have to choose my beautiful edition of And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (1939), which features the characters as portrayed in the 2015 BBC adaptation. If you haven’t read the book, you need to! If you haven’t watched the TV series, you need to! They’re both brilliantly made and very enjoyable.

3. The Best Day: Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic

This question reminds me of my My Life In Books Challenge, where I talked about different books I read and loved as a child. I would probably have to say The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911) because I loved it as a little girl, and I feel like I can connect to the book’s characters and events, given its Yorkshire backdrop.

4. Love Story: Pick a book with forbidden love

I really don’t read many love stories, and none with a sense of “forbidden” love. I’d probably have to choose the classic, Romeo and Juliet (1597) – which is also referenced in Taylor’s song!

5. I Knew You Were Trouble: Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love

There are so many! I love a good villain. I’d definitely say Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (1847). I’d also say Count Olaf, from the Series of Unfortunate Events books, O’Brien from 1984 (1949) or Camille’s mother from Sharp Objects (2006). Then there’s always Macbeth and Lady Macbeth too…

6. Innocent: Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for

I’m notorious for avoiding spoilers at all costs (unless I accidentally find out something myself). My brother ruined a lot of books and films for me as a child, although no specific memories spring to mind. He probably told me a lot of the Harry Potter storylines before I’d been able to read them for myself…

7. Everything Has Changed: Pick a book character who goes through extensive character development

My knee-jerk reaction is Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813). At the start of the book, Elizabeth is headstrong, but shows she can be sassy, judgmental and prejudiced (all three of which towards Darcy). In the same way, Darcy is proud, arrogant and reluctant to show his true feelings. Both characters learn to open up to each other, as well as other people, and they round out as characters towards the end of the book.

8. You Belong With Me: Pick your most anticipated book release

At the minute, I’ve heard Crystin Goodwin is working on a fourth book in her Blessings of Myrillia series. I’ve read all three and reviewed them (UnBlessed, Fire Blessed, Ice Blessed) and I really like the fantasy / young adult path Goodwin has taken the books down, and I can’t wait to read the next one!

9. Forever and Always: Pick your favourite book couple

I would either say Mr and Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813) because they’re such hilarious characters, or Henry and Clare from The Time Traveller’s Wife (2003) because they have such a wonderful, loving relationship.

10. Teardrops On My Guitar: Pick a book that made you cry

I don’t cry at books! I don’t cry at films either. I guess I’m just a cold-hearted, meanie of a blogger…

Those are my answers! Would you have picked different books?

That’s all for now!

– Judith