BOOK REVIEW: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – by Lewis Carroll

Title: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: July 4th 1865
Publisher: Puffin Books
Finished reading: August 29th 2017
Pages: 160

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”

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I still can’t believe I have never picked up the original version of the famous Alice In Wonderland retellings before! Or at least that I can remember… However it be, I’m glad I finally decided to do so. Because even though Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is a classic and written back in the 19th century, I was surprise by just how easy the prose was to read and how entertaining the story was in general. Sure, there isn’t much of a plot to talk about and nothing really makes sense. Sure, the characters are not really all that developed. Sure, I would have liked to see the whole Wonderland setting more developed. But there is just something about this story that made me smile. Could it have to do with the fact I have been familiar with most of the details around this story since I was little? Maybe. But I had a great time reading this little bundle of nonsense and absurd fantastical ramblings. These words ment only in the best possible ways of course! Do I like some of the retellings better where the worldbuilding is way more extensive and there is actually a plot? Probably. But I’m glad I finally read the original version as was written by Lewis Carroll all those years ago.

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One day Alice follows a peculiar White Rabbit down a rabbit hole, and suddenly finds herself in a completely different world where nothing makes sense. It’s filled with creatures like the Mad Hatter, a disappearing Cheshire Cat, talking animals, the Queen Of Hearts… Nothing is as it seems in this strange world called Wonderland, something that Alice will find out soon enough.

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I kept the summary supershort since I’m positive just about everyone will already be familiar with this classic in the first place. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is surprisingly easy to read for a classic and quite short as well; I was able to fly through it in a blink of an eye. There isn’t much of a plot to talk about and basically nothing really makes sense, but in the end this story was able to bring a smile to my face and sometimes that is just the most important thing. I do realize now most of the retellings are way more detailed than the original story… Something that has truly surprised me.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Jungle Book – by Rudyard Kipling

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1894
Publisher: Random House UK
Finished reading: August 14th 2017
Pages: 248

“The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him.”

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I’ve been seriously neglecting my classics this year, but didn’t want to force myself to read something complicated to avoid worsening my slump either. That is when I remembered I had a copy of The Jungle Book on my kindle, and decided to read it on the spot. I must have seen the Disney movie a hundred times when I was little and still remember some of the songs to this date… So I was really looking forward to finally read the original story the movie was based on. And let me tell you, the people of Disney have interpreted Mowgli’s story VERY loosely. I personally didn’t mind that much since it has been ages (read: 15-20 years; damn I feel old!) since I last saw the movie in the first place, but I can imagine true fans of the movie will be surprised when they start reading the classic. I really liked Rudyard Kipling‘s story of Mowgli though and was surprised by how easy it was to understand the prose. It shows in the dialogue this story was written in the 19th century, but the rest of The Jungle Book didn’t feel dated at all. I really enjoyed reading the original version of Mowgli and probably would have rated this book even higher if it wouldn’t have been for the other stories included afterwards. I’ve seen others like those four stories about seals, the mongoose, an elephant and animals used in the army better, but I personally prefered Mowgli. All in all this was definitely still a very positive experience reading a classic and I’m glad I made time to read The Jungle Book.

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A young man-cub barely escapes the claws of the greedy tiger Shere Khan as he is found by Father Wolf and Mother Wolf in the jungle. Shere Khan demands the wolfs to hand the man-cub over, but Father and Mother Wolf are determined to protect the little one and decide to raise the child as their own. Little Mowgli grows up among the wolves, but there will come a time the pack can no longer defend him… And Mowgli will have to learn the secrets of the Jungle in order to survive.

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I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to read this classic. Sure, the dialogues felt a bit dated, but the rest of the writing read naturally and made it really easy to enjoy Mowgli’s story. The other four stories included afterwards weren’t as enjoyable for me and lowered the rating a bit, but all in all I can definitely recommend The Jungle Book to those who are looking for an easy and entertaining classic. The songs at the beginning of the chapters were a nice touch!


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ARC REVIEW: The List – by Patricia Forde

Title: The List
Author: Patricia Forde

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: April 16th 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Finished reading: July 14th 2017
Pages: 336
(Original title: ‘The Wordsmith’)

“There’s always truth in dreams. Don’t you know that? We have to learn what they mean, that’s all.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit I wanted to read The List as soon as I saw that absolutely stunning cover; yes, even before I read the blurb which only confirmed my desire to read this story. The List was actually originally published two years ago under a different title, but will be republished next month with this stunning cover. Now I have read it there is no doubt that this debut novel by Patricia Forde is based on a very fascinating concept. The List is set in a dystopian world where most of the world is destroyed by the Melting, most people now forced to live in the city of Ark and their surroundings because there is nowhere else left. The founder of Ark is Noa (see the biblical references yet?) and he has restricted the use of language to just 500 approved words… His belief of humanity being able to use/abuse words and words bringing doom to the human kind is fascinating and I would definitely have given The List a full 5 stars for originality. The so-called List speak is fascinating (although that might just be the philologist in me talking) and the List itself plays a central role in the story. The worldbuilding is intriguing and even though the plot itself isn’t all that exciting I’m sure it will be fitting enough for the age group. The List is ment as a Middle Grade read and I admit I don’t have a lot of experience reading stories for this age. Still, I do believe the tone doesn’t always felt right (too adult) and I personally had difficulties connecting to the writing style. As fascinating as the concept of this story sounded, I don’t think I enjoyed actually reading about it as much as I would have hoped… I also struggled to connect to the characters and personally didn’t like Letta at all. She seemed quite bland as a main character and I’m not sure if she will be able to win over the target group either; this has most likely to do with the lack of character development in general. The ending itself wasn’t really satisfying either and it took me a lot longer than expected to finish this story. In short, while I loved certain elements of The List (the concept, the List-speak), I also struggled with other elements and all in all unfortunately I ended up having mixed thoughts.

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After the Melting, only the lucky have survived and most of them live in the city of Ark. To keep things running smoothly the founder Noa has speech constrained to 500 approved words; if you speak outside the approved lexicon you will face banishment. Only a few people are able to speak freely, and only in private: the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta belong to that group. When her master dies, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith and charged with collecting and saving words. But she doesn’t realize something sinister is going on in Ark… Something that will have devastating effects if not prevented.

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The List is without doubt based on a very fascinating and original concept I would easily have given the highest rating for. The language elements are very interesting as well and this was definitely my favorite element of the story. That said, it did take me way longer than expected to read this Middle Grade story and I had difficulties connecting to both the writing style and the characters. I ended up having mixed thoughts about The List, but I guess the story can go either way for you.


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BOOK REVIEW: Furthermore – by Tahereh Mafi

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Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magic
First published: August 30th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 16th 2016
Pages: 416
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“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

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I have been wanting to read Furthermore ever since I first heard about it. I admit I haven’t read Tahereh Mafi‘s popular Shatter Me series yet (mostly because of the mixed reviews I’ve seen out there), but this new story seems to be totally unrelated to it. Furthermore is a typical middle grade story that reads like a fairy tale and is full of adventures and a worldbuilding that is both creative and well executed. In fact, both the new world Tahereh Mafi created where color is currency and the plot itself are probably the strongest features of this book. The main characters are ok, although they did feel a bit underdeveloped at points. I loved the symbolism behind Alice though. As for the pace of the story: the beginning was quite slow and didn’t grab my attention right away, while the ending felt quite rushed. In other words, Furthermore lacked the right balance in pace and I would have liked to see a better ending. The story is well written though and I can see why middle graders would enjoy reading this story full of magical adventures. The chapters are not too long either, which makes it a great read to read out loud as well.

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Ferenwood is a world where color is currency and the sign of magic as well. The more colorful the inhabitants are, the more powerful they seem to be… And that’s why Alice Alexis Queensmeadow doesn’t seem to be popular at all. She was born all white from top to bottom, and even though she desperately wants to fit in, everybody seems to treat her indifferently. Well, everyone except for Father, but he disappeared three years ago and nobody knows where he went. Alice is determined to find Father, and one day she gets help from an unexpected source. It turns out she will have to travel through the mythical and dangerous Furthermore to find him, and it will take all her wits to fulfill her quest.

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Maybe my expectations were set too high, but while Furthermore was a very entertaining read I did have some minor problems with it. The biggest flaw might be the pace, which was too slow in the beginning and felt way too rushed in the end. The adventures itself were cute enough and I simply loved the worldbuilding and the idea of color as magic. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but I liked Alice and I have no doubt it would be a big success in the target group.

BOOK REVIEW: The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer – by Mark Twain

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Title: The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
Author: Mark Twain

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Middle Grade
First published: 1876
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: October 20th 2016
Pages: 225
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“Can’t learn an old dog new tricks, as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what’s coming?”

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Like most people, I already knew most of the details around the life of Tom Sawyer and I think I might have seen a TV series at some point, but I’m ashamed to admit I had never actually read the original story as it was written by Mark Twain all that time ago. And since I needed to read more classics in the first place, I thought it was a great excuse to finally pick up my copy of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. Unfortunately I can’t say I fell in love with this classic. I’m not saying it is a bad read, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem might be that I read it too late; I would probably have enjoyed this story a lot better fifteen to twenty years ago. That said, I did think there were too many religious references to my taste, although that can probably be explained by the fact that it was written back in 1876. But classic or not, I did have a hard time to get a proper feel for the story and it only started to get more exciting after their ‘graveyard adventure’.  Slow start and stronger ending; I guess it would still make a great middle grade, especially for boys.

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Tom Sawyer is not like most of the boys in the Mississippi River town where his lives. He doesn’t really feel like behaving and doing as it is told by the adults around him, and is always looking for a way to escape his tasks. Tom is without doubt very clever, and is able to convince the other boys of just about everything. From the fun in whitewashing a fence to the games they play and the things that happen at school, Tom Sawyer is always a busy boy that normally means he will ends up in trouble. Trouble that might be turning into a really dangerous situation after what happened at the graveyard… But even trouble and danger cannot make Tom to stay away from his adventures and the creativity of his own mind.

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I guess I either read this story at the wrong time or it just wasn’t for me, because I can’t say I was convinced by especially the first part of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. It’s not a bad read and I can see why especially younger readers would love this story, but I had a hard time getting into the story. The last part is a lot more exciting though, and the story is quite readable even though it’s written back in the 19th century.

ARC REVIEW: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn – by Dana Simpson

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Title: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure
(Heavenly Nostrils #4)
Author: Dana Simpson

Genre: Graphic Novel, Children, Humor
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: August 10th 2016
Pages: 184
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“”My dad speaks ‘nerd’.”

“It’s good to be bilingual.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have been wanting to explore the graphic novel/comic genre for a while now, but with so many options out there it’s really hard to decide where to start. Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing offered the great opportunity to try my hand at my very first graphic novel this year with Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure. I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the cover. It’s just so colorful, fun and I simple love the artwork! This graphic novel is perfect for young girls from the age of 8 to 12 years, both because of the graphics and the simple, but funny and relatable stories. Dana Simpson has found the perfect formula in the friendship between little Phoebe and her best friend Marigold the unicorn. The interaction between both characters is great even at those pages where there isn’t happening much plotwise, and I love that it shows young readers that it isn’t necessarily bad to be different. Razzle Dazzle Unicorn shows a range of typical childhood events like the holidays, school assignments, summer camp, frenemies and chores. Phoebe’s childhood is quite typical except for the fact that her best friend happens to be an extravagant unicorn and she frequently runs into other magical creatures. Contemporary with a dash of fantasy,  and so much fun to read! I can definitely recommend this graphic novel for younger (female) readers.

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Phoebe and her unicorn are back with more adventures and more sparkly than ever! In this fourth volume, Phoebe and Marigold talk about the holidays and NY resolutions, confront trouble at school, frenemies and messy rooms. Marigold also has a nasty case of ‘sparkle fever’, and they both go to music summer camp to meet up with Phoebe’s friend Sue and her friend Ringo the lake monster… And they are reminded that being weird is WAY more fun than being normal.

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I fell in love with this graphic novel as soon as I saw the cover art. The graphics in Razzle Dazzle Unicorn are just too cute, colorful and adorable in general! They will lure in even those children that might need a little push to start reading, and Phoebe and Marigold the unicorn will put them under their spell from the first page. The stories themselves are simple, but quite entertaining and funny. It will be easy for the younger readers to relate to Phoebe and it has an interesting underlying message that will encourage kids to use their imagination and not be afraid of being different. The glossary in the back and the final section are a nice touch as well!

BOOK REVIEW: The Little Prince – by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Title: The Little Prince
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Genre: Middle Grade, Classics, Fantasy
First published: 1943
Finished reading: May 27th 2016
Pages: 98
(Originally written in French: ‘Le Petit Prince’)
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“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.

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I think this is one of those cases where I should have either read this classic 15-20 years ago or have waited until I have kids of my own to read the story to… Because I didn’t enjoy The Little Prince as much as I thought I would. Sure, it’s an interesting enough middle grade story with illustrations and all, but I have to be honest and say I wasn’t exactly blown away by it. It is a quick read and I’m sure children will enjoy it, but I can’t say the story sticked with me. In fact, only a week after reading this story which was originally written in French, I’m having a hard time remembering specific details… Which isn’t exactly a good sign. I’m not saying The Little Prince is a bad read, but I do think this classic has to be read at the right time and wasn’t really ment for adults in the first place.

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A little boy decides to leave the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, even though it means he has to leave behind his precious flower. He travels from planet to planet and learns more about the strange behavior of adults through the persons that live on those planets. Afer a long journey he finally ends up on Earth and meets the writer of this story in the middle of nowhere… And the writer is so moved by this meeting later on, that he decides to write down the little boy’s story.

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I have been trying to read more classics lately and The Little Prince was high on my list. I somehow never read this middle grade story when I was younger (as far as I can remember), and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this read as much as an adult. It’s not that the story is badly written and the illustrations will work perfectly with children, but I just didn’t find this classic by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry memorable at all. It might be the most translated book in the French language, but it sure isn’t my favorite.