Tag Archives: Mildred Hubble

Rounding Up The Reviews #2; Drivers Seats, Seas of Stories, Days of Deer and Wavewalkers

Both in preparation and as a teaser for the change in Savidge Reads next week, I thought I would round up some of books I have failed to review so far this year and start a new occasional series of posts where I give you a more succinct selection of books you might want to need. The good, the bad and the ugly! Before you think that they are all just going to be books I didn’t really like I can say that two of these books I really liked a lot. Such a tease, anyway, I am in danger of falling into my usual waffle territory so let’s get on with it…

The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark

Penguin Modern Classics, paperback, 1970 (2006 edition), fiction, 128 pages, bought by my good self

You know I love Muriel Spark, I know I love Muriel Spark so why would I put her in a round up post? Well my lovelies it is because I have read this book before and told you all about it then. But should you not be in the mood to pop and check that link, which would be frightfully mean of you, I will give you a little summary. I loved it as much as I did the first time.

Oh ok, that isn’t quite enough. Lise has pretty much lived the same day of her life every day for the last sixteen years. Yet she has decided to change all that by going away on holiday and leaving everything behind, in short she is going to transform herself and yet the transformation might not be the sort of thing we would go in for. As we follow her story though we soon learn that the adventure and journey Lise has in mind might not be the sort of thing we would go for either! It has been called a dark nasty little book; I think it is a dark little work of genius. Read it, then read it again. You can hear it discussed further here but beware of spoilers!

Haroun and the Sea of Stories – Salman Rushdie

Penguin Books, paperback, 1991, fiction, 224 pages, borrowed from the library

When Haroun’s mother leaves him and his father for her lover, who happens to be their neighbour (which I found all a bit grown up for a kids book but clearly I am a prude) everything changes. Not only for the family and the loss of a mother and wife but also as Haroun’s father changes almost overnight. Before his wife left he was one of the most witty and charming people around who made his living as a story teller, the Shah of Blah. Now the stories are gone and when he opens his mouth all that comes out of it is ‘Ark, ark, ark…’ Haroun must find the sea of stories and save them all. Which sounds very grand but is the purpose of the adventure that follows.

I think if I had read this when I was about 10 or 11 I would have looooooved it. As it was I kind of liked it. I think the problem really is me. I I like magical realism in general but for some reason in a kids book magic just tends to get a bit silly for me (with the exception of Mildred Hubble and Harry Potter) and it breaks the spell, pun intended. I had tried Rushdie’s other young adult/childrens book Luka and the Fire of Life and had the same issues there but Rob chose it for for Hear… Read This, so I blame him as I wouldn’t have read it otherwise, ha! It has made me want to read Rushdie’s adult works again though, not a complete loss for me, and many of you will love it – in fact on Hear… Read This most of them did.

The Days of The Deer – Liliana Bodoc

Corvus Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 320 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

It is known that the strangers will sail from some part of the Ancient Lands and will cross the Yentru Sea. All our predictions and sacred books clearly say the same thing. The rest is all shadows. Shadows that prevent us from seeing the faces of those who are coming. In the House of Stars, the Astronomers of the Open Air read contradictory omens. A fleet is coming to the shores of the Remote Realm. But are these the long-awaited Northmen, returned triumphant from the war in the Ancient Lands? Or the emissaries of the Son of Death come to wage a last battle against life itself? From every village of the seven tribes, a representative is called to a Great Council. One representative will not survive the journey. Some will be willing to sacrifice their lives, others their people, but one thing is certain: the era of light is at an end.

No I didn’t write that, Waterstones did. I had the most weird reading experience with this book. Firstly the writing style is at once completely wooden and clunky, though this may be the translation. Secondly, the author doesn’t feel like she is in control and as she goes will invent some magical/fantastical happenstance or monster or something to keep it all going. Thirdly, I don’t think she knows where its going. Fourthly, it is fantasy and I am not renowned for liking that genre. Well I read it. I just got on with it, I didn’t understand much of it, I didn’t really like it but oddly I was completely unoffended by it. I just read it, without rhyme, reason or any real reaction. It was a really odd experience, pure inoffensive nonchalance. Have any of you had that? Oh and if you can’t take my word for it even Gav, of Gav Reads, who chose it for Hear… Read This wasn’t a fan.

Wavewalker – Stella Duffy

Serpents Tail, paperback, 1996, fiction, 261 pages, bought by my good self

As with Muriel; you know I love Stella’s writing, I know I love Stella’s writing, so why pop it in a round up post. Well the honest answer is I just guzzled this down, like a chocolate bar you devour and enjoy but should have maybe let the flavour of linger longer. (This is by the way highly flattering; I never joke about great chocolate or great books or waste them.) To carry that analogy further and possibly to its limit, it is like when you finish inhaling a Crunchie (or Violet Crumble if you will) and you just loved it so much you just want another one. Well I have held off reading the bext Saz Martin because I should have dwelt on this one longer. I am pacing myself with her recently published short story collection at the moment.

To give you a brief synopsis, the second in the Saz Martin series (the first Calendar Girl, which I shockingly read six years ago, I also really recommend) sees Saz investigating a new craze therapy that has come over from America, San Francisco to be precise, employed by the mysterious Wavewalker who thinks Dr North’s practice may link with a cult group and an unusual spate of suicides in the seventies. As I mentioned I just ate this book up. It has great plotting, Saz Martin is a brilliant quirky lead character and there is quite a lot of lesbian sex to titillate you, pun not intended, as you read on. I am seeing Stella tonight and she may kill me for that, ha! All in all it is a great thriller and I would love Stella to bring Saz back!

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So that is your lot for now, one more round up on Saturday when we have a right old mix from Fairytales to Sex Criminals. If that doesn’t tempt you back nothing will. In the interim do let me know if you have read any of these and what you made of them! Also let me know if you have ever had the same instance as I did with The Days of the Deer where a book just leaves you utterly nonchalant, not good, not bad, just nonchalant.

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Filed under Liliana Bodoc, Muriel Spark, Review, Rounding Up The Reviews, Salman Rushdie, Stella Duffy

If You Could Be A Character In A Book, Who Would You Be?

I don’t know if you have been following it on Twitter (some of you might not have Twitter, I would urge you to join as it is far more booky than you might imagine) however #bookadayuk has been a daily joy for me. All through the month of June the folks at Borough Press, a new imprint of Harper Collins, have been asking us to tweet pictures of books that match a certain theme. There have been books we have never finished, the best book we have ever found second hand, the books we think everyone else should have read but haven’t, etc, etc. Today they have asked a question that has had me well and truly stumped… Which character in a book would you want to be?

Worryingly after a day of so or thinking about it I couldn’t come up with a single one. You see whilst there may have been many, many, many books which I wish I had been in (as an additional character or a bystander) there are absolutely no characters that I would want to swap places with because if they were my favourites I would rather hang out with them than trade places.

For example in the case of two of my very favourite characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, I wouldn’t want to be either of them but I would give anything and everything to be caught up in an adventure with them physically as I have mentally again and again over the years. The idea of being Holmes (an opium addict who plays my least favourite instrument ever) doesn’t do it to me at all, and neither would being his sidekick, I’ve never wanted to be a doctor and certainly not one in the Victorian period. However, hop into a handsome cab and head through the streets of Victorian London with a game afoot and I would be there with them both in a moment.

It has always been so for me, this isn’t my adult brain trying to be ‘realistic’. As a child I always wanted to be the best friend of Mildred Hubble aka The Worst Witch and share a dorm with her and Tabby. I wanted the Famous Five to be the Stupendous Six. I wanted to live in Whitby and be part of uncovering a gang of witches up to no good. I wanted to befriend Matilda in the library or be Miss Honey’s nephew who would visit. I never wanted to be a character, just join in as I was doing vicariously turning the pages and getting lost in the world.

Today though I am feeling like it is just me as I have seen people over and over mentioning characters they would like to be, so I thought I would share this thought with all of you and see if it is just me that is the freak or if any of you would rather be an addition character in a book rather than trading places with one (if you would like to swap places with a character the don’t be shy and share with us who it is) and being a part of the world the book creates?

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Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Worst Witch To The Rescue – Jill Murphy (When What You Need Is A Childhood Read Retreat)

You could be inclined to think that this post is a belated April Fools but its not, and I am sure some literary aficionados might judge this post and that’s fine too. True, I don’t normally review childrens books, I leave that to the likes of my kind volunteers The Bookboy and The Girl Who Reads Too Much. Yet while I have been having ups and downs on the health front of late and been somewhat of an invalid I have wanted certain comforts and that includes childhood ones. In fact whilst reading ‘The Worst Witch To The Rescue’ by Jill Murphy I was eating vanilla custard slices so I really was going back to my ten year old self. ‘The Worst Witch’ series was one of my absolute favourite series as a child and so when I saw that the latest one, as Jill Murphy has brought the wonderful Mildred Hubble back a few times since the first book in the 1970’s and second and third in the 1980’s, in the library I simply had to pick it up. It proved to be the perfect comfort read and as the series was such a huge part of me becoming a reader I wanted to report back on it as it had me spellbound yet again.

Mildred Hubble, to whom the title ‘worst witch’ refers to, is as the title suggests a fairly dreadful witch. Though when you say dreadful we aren’t referring to evil, she is just a bit hopeless. In fact her least favourite teacher Miss Hardbroom often refers to her as a ‘trouble magnet’. In this, the sixth and latest, instalment of the series ‘The Worst Witch To The Rescue’ the first day of a new term at Miss Cackles Academy for Witches all seems to be going unusually well for Mildred Hubble. Firstly she has managed to come up with a surprise summer project which is sure to impress Miss Hardbroom, who she knows is her sternest critic, she shows an incredible natural aptitude at a new subject and even her worst enemy Ethel Hallow seems to be being nice. Of course though this is the world of Mildred Hubble and nothing can stay that good for long can it?

I can’t really say any more than that on the book as I wouldn’t want to ruin how it goes wrong for Mildred in case you decide to throw caution to the wind and get this yourself, which of course you should do. It was wonderful to be reunited with Mildred along with her friends Maud and Enid, plus her faithful feline Tabby and indeed the scary Miss Hardbroom and evil Ethel. It had me feeling like I did when I was much younger and wishing I too was a student at Miss Cackles Academy (the fact I wouldn’t have been able to be a witch didn’t concern me and hey its fiction anything is possible) and could join in with these gentle and enjoyable adventures. I also love the pictures, they evoke a love for the series and reading that I had as a kid.

To say that I enjoyed this book would be a complete understatement. It’s very unusual that a book series you loved in your childhood is still going, there was a gap of a decade between book three and four and again between book four and five when Jill Murphy was looking after her relatives with dementia. I am hoping that there are plans for some more outings of Mildred Hubble as to spend an hour and a half (a real little one read reading treat) in her company is just the thing. 8/10

I took this book out from the local library.

If I had been on the BBC’s ‘My Life in Books’ (or indeed the wonderful series that Simon of Stuck in a Book is doing which I loved reading) then I think it would be highly likely that I would choose The Worst Witch as my childhood book, even over Roald Dahl surprisingly. Of course this post isn’t just about how much I loved the latest Worst Witch tale; it’s about the feelings that turning to your favourite children’s books can evoke. Its also been nice reading some of this book to my littlest cousins. Have any of you read The Worst Witch series? Do you have a series that does this to you too and if so which one is it, is it still going, do you turn to it often?

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Filed under Jill Murphy, Puffin Books, Review