Sunday 23 January 2022

Reviewing the Classics #12 The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Goodreads Summary:

John Dolittle is a highly respected doctor in the village
of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, yet he loves animals so
much that his house is soon full of them. With all his
patients scared away, and the expense of feeding
his menagerie mounting, a friend suggests that the
Doctor become a vet instead.

With the help of Polynesia the parrot, Doctor Dolittle
swiftly learns the language of the animals so that he
can talk to all of his new patients. However, when
 a message comes from Africa, telling of a terrible
sickness among the monkeys there, the Doctor
and his animal friends depart on a thrilling and
dangerous adventure that they are never likely
to forget.

I think everyone has heard of Doctor Dolittle. No matter if they read the books as a child, or simply watched one of the movie adaptations, I think it would be difficult to find someone in the Western world who hasn't heard of him. I vaguely remember reading some of the books when I was younger, but when I think of Doctor Dolittle, I think of the movie adaptation starring Eddie Murphy. This was one of my favourite movies as a child and I still love it to this day!

The Story of Doctor Dolittle is the first book in the series, and shows us how the doctor first starts talking to animals, and his adventure in Africa to cure the monkeys of a sickness. Although the book is a short, quick read, it is pretty action-packed, and follows the doctor and his animals across oceans, through jungles and into foreign lands. It is a book that will definitely capture the attention and imagination of children even today.

I love that we are introduced to a menagerie of different animals with their own personalities. These personalities are captured perfectly and are exactly what you would expect each animal to say if they could talk. I especially loved Gub Gub the pig, who was constantly complaining and thinking about food. I also loved the fictional Pushmi-Pullyu, a rare two-headed deer. Even though the animal is fictional, I felt that mentioning it was now extinct gave an important message about poaching. Sadly poachers have driven real life animals into extinction, so I felt that it gave children the important message that endangered species need to be protected not hunted, or they were inevitably meet the same fate as the Pushmi-Pullyu.

Something that I have mixed opinions about is censoring books. There was a chapter in the book that felt a little too short and underdeveloped, and after doing a little research, I discovered this was because a large chunk of the chapter had been removed due to a scene where a black prince wanted the doctor to turn his skin white so that a girl would like him. My general opinion is that classics should be preserved as they are, as it gives us a more accurate insight into the time period they were written in. We need to understand that these racist themes are obviously not okay, but are a part of history that shouldn't be deleted, as I feel that we need to learn from the past not act like it never happened. However, as this edition is aimed at young children, I can understand why the publisher chose to censor this book. Children are more susceptible to things that they read, and this could be particularly harmful if a child were to read an uncensored book without a responsible adult to explain that what they were reading wasn't an acceptable way to talk. Something I did take issue with however was that any mention of race had been censored, even to the point where “white man” had been replaced with “foreign man” and the African men being described as black had been omitted. Black and white are not offensive words and are perfectly acceptable words to describe a person's race, so it made no sense to me why these words were omitted. Race is a topic that should be discussed not ignored, so I felt this was a bad decision on the publishers' behalf.

The book itself is a fantastic children's classic that is easy to read. I was actually surprised that there wasn't too much archaic language, and the few words that children may not understand were conveniently explained in a glossary at the back of the book. Doctor Dolittle is definitely a classic that will enthrall children for years to come!

Friday 14 January 2022

Top 5 Books of 2021

I really didn’t read as many books as I’d have liked to last year, and despite saying I wouldn’t, I still ended up paying more attention to review requests than books I wanted to read. I changed my way of thinking towards the end of the year, and to no one’s surprise most of the books in my top 5 are those I read at the end of the year. This year I definitely want to continue doing this! I don’t seem to get many emails from publishers or authors anymore which is probably due to how inactive my blog has been recently, but although I am sad about this, it’s given me the opportunity to stop worrying about reviews, and go back to why I started this blog in the first place. To read books I know I’m going to like and rant about how much I love them! You might find I’m not reviewing the most anticipated releases, but as there’s so many bloggers out there who do just that I’m sure it won’t matter too much! With that said here are the five books I read last year that I loved the most!

5: The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy

One of the things I did manage to do last year was read more Middle Grade, and this one really stood out for me! It follows Marina, a girl from a lazy British seaside town where nothing really happens. After seeing a light on in the abandoned hut at the end of the pier, Marina decides it’s about time she had an adventure! She soon discovers William, a boy around her age with claws for hands, and tentacles coming out of his head. I loved how the story revolved around love, family and acceptance, and how despite being different to everyone else in the village, William found a kind family who accepted him. I loved how it showed children the importance of accepting people who are different from them, and to always be kind to their peers.

 4: The Nightsilver Promise

This was a fantastic debut novel by author Annaliese Avery. It follows Paisley, a young girl who realises her track is leading her towards death. This book was action packed, and I loved every second of it! I loved the message about how we can choose our own fates, and that life isn’t a path that is set out for us. The sequel is coming out sometime this Spring so I’m super excited to read it!

3: Heartstopper

I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS BOOK! I’m a little late to the Nick and Charlie party, but I read the first Heartstopper graphic novel last summer and loved it! When I read Solitaire a few years ago I was intrigued by these side characters, so I love that they have their own story to tell. I’m super excited to read the rest of the series, and of course I’m looking forward to the show coming out. If you want a cute romance and a cute dog then I definitely recommend Heartstopper!

2: Six of Crows

After having this book on my shelf for literal YEARS, I finally read it last year. This book was super hyped up, and as I didn’t really enjoy the Shadow and Bone series I was reluctant to read Six of Crows. However I ended up loving it, and I absolutely adored all the characters, particularly Jesper and Wylan. I also watched the Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone, and honestly I think they got the casting spot on. ALSO I LIKED MAL???? In the books I found Mal super annoying but show Mal is actually a pretty chill dude. I was more interested in the Crows than the main story, but I will say Ben Barnes as The Darkling IS PERFECT! I’m super excited for season 2, especially since Wylan has been cast and the actor is honestly super adorable and seems perfect for Wylan. I’m also looking forward to reading Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars!
1: Wayward Son

1- So this comes as no surprise but my #1 is Wayward Son, the sequel to Carry On, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned 100 times before is one of my all time favourite books. Although it wasn’t quite as good as Carry On I absolutely loved it, and I was so happy to have Simon and Baz back. Honestly I should have read this one a little earlier in the year, as travelling across America in a convertible really seemed like the perfect summer read. Any Way the Wind Blows would have also made it onto the list, but as I didn’t quite finish it before the year was out I’m just going to save that one for my 2022 list.

 So these were the books I loved the most in 2021! Sadly this list was pretty easy to make, as I think I only rated about three books 5 stars the whole year. I’m going to make sure my wrap up for this year will be a lot harder by reading some amazing books! Let me know if you read any of the books on this list and what you thought about them, and feel free to give me recommendations on what I should read this year.

Monday 29 November 2021

Review on Can You Keep a Secret?


The dragons in Winnie’s village became extinct long ago… or did they? After being swept up by a gust of wind, Winnie finds herself on the back of a real life dragon! The dragon reveals it is the last of it’s kind, but will Winnie be able to keep such a huge secret?

 I was sent this gorgeous picture book from Scholastic and as I’m in a bit of a reading slump I thought I would put my usual YA books aside and read it. I immediately fell in love with the art style, as I adore illustrations where you can tell they’ve been hand-drawn. Although digital art can obviously be amazing, I just love the idea of traditionally drawn art. The art style is gorgeous and unique, and I spent a good amount of time looking at the details on every page.

The story follows a young girl called Winnie who grows up believing that her ancestors killed all the dragons. However, she soon finds out that isn’t true when a big gust of wind blows her away, causing her to land on the back of a dragon. Winnie soon learns that the dragon along with it’s friends the gryphon, the winged lion and the tree man are the last of their kind, and must stay hidden in order to avoid being killed by the humans. I loved how Winnie immediately sympathised with the creatures despite knowing how her parents felt about them. It’s important to teach children to listen to and understand those who are different from them, so I loved how this important message was shown.

 I loved that Winnie was shown to be from a multiracial family, something that I rarely see in children’s books, and YA for that matter. It’s important for children to be able to relate to the characters they read about, so I think it would be perfect for a child with a similar family to Winnie to come across this book. I absolutely love how we’re starting to see more diversity in picture books!

 This was a simple and gorgeous picture book with a clear message of acceptance and love, and how it’s important to overcome any prejudices we may have learned from our parents. I think it’s a brilliant starting point to teach young children about these important topics and gives parents a good starting point to teach them about love and acceptance


Monday 15 November 2021

Review on The Forest of Ghosts and Bones


The deadly rains have been falling around the castle ever since Beata can remember. The King and Queen were slaughtered when Beata was born, and ever since, anyone who tries to enter the castle is consumed by the rains. However, Beata has a secret she’s never told anyone. When she was young, she entered the rains and survived. With the help of Benedk, a boy who somehow has inside knowledge of the castle, Beata decides she will enter the castle and put a stop to the rains once and for all. However, things won’t be easy, as Liljana, a mage who has had to flee her country is on Beata’s trail after being promised a new life where she will be safe. Beata must discover who she really is while saving her hometown from the darkness threatening to consume it.

I was immediately intrigued when I saw what this book was about! I took part in the blog tour where I interviewed Lisa (you can find that post HERE) but today I want to talk about my thoughts on the book. I found out from briefly looking at other reviews that the book is inspired by Hungarian mythology which sounded super interesting! I know barely anything about Hungarian mythology but I did no a little research and was excited to find out how the book would use it.

 The story has an almost fairytale feeling to it, with Kings and Queens, cursed castles, an evil mage and a magical land beyond a door. I’ve always been a big fan of fairytales, so I loved being transported to a different world full of magic! The book is however much darker than most fairytales, as there’s some pretty gruesome murders and death scenes. The main villain Moros was pretty terrifying and would stop at nothing to achieve what he wanted, and h was pretty dark and twisted, much worse than your average fairytale villain!

 The characters were interesting, and I particularly loved Liljana, a mage who is on the run from the town she has lived in for years after the King starts to round up mages to slaughter them. After losing her best friend, Liljana becomes somewhat of an anti hero, as although we are rooting for her, she also does some terrible things and isn’t the typical hero who tries to save everyone. Liljana tries to preserve her own life at the expense of others, and even agrees to hunt down Beata to get what she wants. I adored her character development, as she starts out not caring about anyone but herself, but goes on to befriend Beata and Benedek and risks her own life to save the other mages. I was a little disappointed that her end goal never changed, as it almost felt like all her character development was for nothing. I always hate when the end of a character's journey has the same outcome it would have had had they not gone through everything, so I was disappointed that despite having changed so much, she still went through with her original plan. 

 Although Liljana was my favourite character, I also loved Benedek, a boy who Beata befriends after finding out he knows her secret. Although he isn’t a mage, Benedek has knowledge of the castle layout to him harbouring the King’s soul. I really wish Benedek had his own chapters to narrate, as I really wanted to know more about how that made him feel. Despite having no magic, he is still swept up in a world of mages, and I felt it would be interesting to hear some things from his point of view. I felt like this was a bit of a missed opportunity as his character had such potential, but he was often pushed to the side in favour of following Beata, who I honestly found to be the least interesting character in the book. He felt a bit like a sidekick to Beata rather than a friend or a love interest, and as he was carrying many of the same burdens as Beata, I was disappointed we didn’t hear more about his struggles. 

 The story lagged in places, but I found the story of how Moros came to overtake the castle really interesting! Moros was probably the character with the most interesting backstory, and I love how we slowly got to learn more about him throughout the book. For some reason he reminded me of Ansem from Kingdom Hearts, especially since he was trying to get through a door into another world and used dark creatures to do his bidding. I especially loved the final battle with him, and the terrifying Sarkul, a giant creature who easily devoured souls. It felt like an action scene and made it impossible to put the book down! 

 I feel like the book may be a stand alone, but I would definitely read more about this world. As both Beata and Liljana never really learn how to master their powers, I would love to see what they are truly capable of. I’m also really curious about Muranji, the world where Moros was from, and where mages are able to live in peace. None of the characters ever get to visit this world until the very end of the book, so as a reader we never get to experience it. I would love something like a spin off following Liljana as she navigates the new world. Although it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to seeing what Lisa comes up with next!

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Review on The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy


Marina Minnow loves to tell stories. The only problem is her friends never believe her, even when the stories are true! Living in a small seaside town means Marina rarely has adventures of her own, that is until she explores the old abandoned pier and finds William, a boy who has tentacles for hair and crab claws for hands! When Marina tells her new friends about William, they think he is just another one of her stories, but that all changes when William washes up on the beach. Marina must do her best to help William find the fisherman who looked after him before mysteriously disappearing and help him fit in. However, not everyone is ready to welcome him with open arms, and his very life could end up in jeopardy if he stays.

I was originally meant to be on the blog tour for this book, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take part due to a family emergency. However, even though this is super late, I still wanted to review this book as I adored it! The book follows Marina, a young girl who loves to tell stories. Growing up in a small fishing village, there really isn’t much for Marina to do, but when she meets William everything changes. I adored Richard’s writing style, as even when nothing much was happening in the book, the writing still managed to make it interesting.

 I loved the way each character had a completely unique personality, as these little quirks made each and every character interesting, and made me want to know more about them even if they were just a side character. I loved how these personalities and traits made us aware of which characters were good and which were bad. For example, Harold was made unlikable from the start, as he smelled horribly of fish due to constantly putting fish oil in his hair that attracted seagulls to him. The seagulls constantly pecking at his scalp was a funny addition that I think children would enjoy reading. It’s important to make both the plot and characters interesting in middle-grade books, and I think Richard achieved that perfectly.

 I loved how the book was equally character and plot-driven, as we’re interested in William’s character, but also in the adventure Marina and William go on in an attempt to uncover the truth. I loved how it was a bit of a whodunnit, as the main plot focused on finding out who abandoned William as a baby, along with finding out the identity of the fisherman who saved William and took care of him. I actually figured out who the fisherman was quite early on in the book, but I was surprised at the revelation of who had abandoned William in the first place. I loved how the book went back in time to explain the events leading up to William’s abandonment, as it gave us a good idea of the villains' motives. I won’t give away who it is, but they were such a great villain, and I absolutely despised them! I loved the stand-off between the villain and the children towards the end of the book, as it was super suspenseful and I just couldn’t put the book down until it had been resolved!

 I have to talk about the setting of the book, as I absolutely loved that it was set in a little seaside town in England. I adore visiting the coast, but as I live about an hour away from the closest beach I, unfortunately, don’t get to visit as much as I’d like. Merlington seemed like such a cute and cozy place to live and it honestly made me consider packing up and moving to work on the coast as a fishmonger. Even though seaside towns can seem a little sleepy especially once summer is over, it was hilarious how over-exaggerated this was, especially with literally every adult being either a fishmonger, a fisher, or a teacher who seemed to not teach the children about anything other than fish. It’s assumed all the children will stay in the town when they grow up and follow in the footsteps of their parents, so I loved how Marina’s plans were to defy this and do something else. As Marina loves telling stories it’s implied that she would rather be an author, so I loved how her plans went against what was expected of her. 

 The plot involving William actually reminded me of Edward Scissorhands, as he was locked away for looking different and was shunned by society when he tried to interact and fit in with others. I loved the message that it’s ok to be different and that if someone doesn’t accept you for who you are that’s their problem, not yours. I loved that William had a family to support him and look after him, and how they treated him with kindness and respect despite not fully understanding what he was or where he had come from. Marina’s friendship with William was adorable, and I loved how he accepted her stories rather than doing nothing but accuse her of making them up. 

 I overall loved this book, and thought it gave a positive message that it’s ok to be different. I wouldn’t recommend it for particularly young children as there is some violence towards William that younger children could find upsetting, but I think it would be perfect for any child who is confident reading at this level without assistance. I recommend this book to children and adults alike, and I would love to read more of Richard’s books in the future!

Saturday 28 August 2021

Review on Against All God's


Elliot only has one more chaos stone to find. The problem is that without the Olympians around to guide him, Elliot plans on handing them straight over to Thanatos in exchange for his mothers soul. Meanwhile, the God’s are preparing for the inevitable war with Thanatos and his demons, where they will be severely outnumbered. Will Elliot make the right decision, or will Thanatos succeed in his plans of ruling the world?

I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS THE LAST BOOK! I’ve loved this series and I’m honestly going to miss Elliot, Virgo and all the crazy Olympians. Elliot’s journey finally comes to an end after collecting all four Chaos Stones and handing them over to Thanatos in exchange for his mum’s soul. However, Elliot soon realises he has made a huge mistake, and after reuniting with the Olympians, decides he must take Thanatos down once and for all. I loved how action packed this book was, and how it took us through practically every emotion you could think of. There was plenty of humour of course, but there was also suspense, relief, sadness, forgiveness and so much more. This book made me laugh, cry and throw the book across the room (metaphorically of course I don’t actually hurt books!)

 I have no idea where to start talking about this book so first I’m going to focus on the characters.Elliot goes through a lot in this book, and after losing his mum his plan it to take Thanatos up on his offer. Elliot practically goes through the stages of grief, but finally comes to accept that bringing his mum back would only cause her more suffering. As Elliot has been pretty selfish in the past, I loved that he put his mum first despite it causing him pain. I thought the series perfectly showed Elliot’s grief, and how he was eventually able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

 One thing I was extremely happy about was we got Hermes back! The last book left a big Hermes shaped hole, so I was so happy we had him back to his old antics. Honestly I almost cried when Elliot was reunited with Hermes and Virgo. He was in such a vulnerable position and having his two best friends come to rescue him just when he needed them was heartwarming. I adore how important the friendships in this series are, and how despite pretending they don’t care about each other, Elliot and Virgo are constantly trying to save each other.

 I loved that we finally got to meet Elliot’s dad! SPOILER ALERT! The man who we believe to be Elliot’s dad in book three turns out to be Nyx in disguise, so in this book we have to drop all of our anger and hatred towards Elliot’s dad and give him a clean slate, and it turns out he’s actually a pretty nice guy! Dave Hooper spends the majority of the book searching for Elliot, who unbeknownst to him is busy trying to save the world. Dave Hooper is nothing like what we believed him to be, and I loved that he was able to get a second chance after coming out of jail. We seem to be living in a world of cancel culture, where people aren’t given the chance to learn from their mistakes and become a better person from them. I think that if someone is willing to admit what they did was wrong and work hard to redeem themselves, they should be given a second chance… I mean maybe not if they murdered someone but you get the idea! 

I’ve mentioned this series perfectly combining fantasy and reality before, but something I loved was how it was difficult to tell if the main villain was Thanatos or Mrs Porshley Plum. They both posed a huge threat to Elliot’s wellbeing in two very different ways, and although Thanatos was the bigger threat on a wider scale, I think I actually hated Porshley Plum more.Honestly she reminded me of Umbridge, and I think we can all agree that we hated Umbridge more than we hated Voldemort! She was completely selfish and self absorbed, and used others for her own gain. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Mr Boil, he at least realised what a horrible person Patricia was, and did the right thing by helping Elliot regain his house. Even though Mr Boil had treated Elliot horribly in the past, Elliot helps him to keep his job at the school. I loved how kindhearted Elliot was, and how a big part of this book was about forgiveness and becoming a better person. 

 I overall loved this series and although I’m sad it’s over, I think it ended perfectly and gave us an insight of what Elliot’s future would be like. Although Elliot sadly lost his mother, he gained some great friends. I loved how the God’s were practically like an extended family, and even though the God’s were leaving, it was heavily implied that they would regularly visit Elliot. I loved that Elliot finally had the chance to be a normal kid after having years of his childhood taken from him. I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for a distraction from the current crisis, as it really does take you on a journey. I hope anyone who decides to read this series ends up loving it as much as I did!