The Extraordinary Book of Doors by Anne E G Nydam #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Turn the page… Open the door… Enter the adventure…

book of books

 

When worrywart Chen Connelly finds a mysterious antique book beneath a park bench, his safe but lonely summer suddenly becomes exciting. Perhaps a little too exciting. A book of renaissance architectural designs may not seem very exciting, until Chen finds himself traveling through the pages of the magical book with Polly Goggin, the weirdest girl he’s ever met, as they race to solve a treasure hunt left by Benjamin Franklin, struggle to find their way through a maze of mysterious doors, and dodge far too many angry security guards. It doesn’t help that a murderous, strangely nondescript magician-thief is on their trail with a magic book of his own, willing to do whatever it takes to get his hands on Benjamin Franklin’s treasure and all three extraordinary books.It begins with a book. Where will it lead?

I discovered Anne Nydam during the A to Z Challenge. The theme for her blogs was traditional English language nursery rhymes, and their block printed illustrations. Discovering that we shared an interest in books and doors I had to read this delightful children’s book.

The heroes of this story are Chen Connolly, the adopted son of the curators of Cleveland museum of Art and Polly Goggin, the eccentric 13-year-old daughter of Miranda, owner of Goggin Antiques and Auctioneers. The two meet via the pages of copies of the sixteenth century book of doors. Each embossed leather book has a gold key on the spine which turns in the block printed doors on the pages. Once unlocked, Chen and Polly (and sometimes her cat, Uber) can pass through the doors into buildings spread about the globe. At first, they are unwilling companions but finding themselves threatened by Ammon Blank, a dangerous magician thief, they use their intelligence and bravery and the help of two others to stop Mr Blank’s robberies and to return the books to their rightful owners.

I was particularly interested in the connection made during the book to Benjamin Franklin. Not being American I knew very little about him, but I was prompted to briefly research his life which proved fascinating.  I would highly recommend this book to middle years young adults and people like me who love a good adventure story with a touch of magic.

Book2

The Extraordinary Book of Doors on Amazon UK

Anne E G Nydam

 Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to be a writer…  I was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  I loved it there.  In college at Yale I majored in linguistics, with a thesis at the intersection between historical and sociolinguistics.  I loved Yale and I loved linguistics.  After graduation, for reasons relating more to the desperation of a school’s staffing needs than my qualifications, I got a job teaching middle school art.  I loved teaching.  (Are you noticing a theme here?  It continues.)  Teaching art was how I became, de facto, an artist myself.  Along the way I got married, and when our children were born I became a stay-at-home mother, and realized that since I could no longer call myself a teacher, I had better make sure I could still call myself an artist and a writer.  And here I am, calling myself an artist and a writer, despite being essentially self-taught, primarily self-published, and inclined to be self-effacing. My other hobbies include gardening, playing cello, quilt-making, and failing to do housework.  Except when feeling grouchy, I love it all… And she lived happily ever after.)

https://nydamprintsblackandwhite.blogspot.com/p/curious-about-my-art-books.html

The Subtle Knife Book 2 of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman #TuesdayBookBlog

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I read Philip Pullman’s trilogy back in the late 1990s but after watching the first series of His Dark Materials on TV I decided I would like to reread The Subtle Knife.  On TV we have already been introduced to Will Parry in parallel to Lyra’s early story, whereas in print, he is introduced, initially as the main character in this second book.  But I was reassured to find that I still found this compelling series riveting, if often distressing.

Will is an impressive boy, old before his years, formed by the fear and loneliness of looking after his mother after his father’s disappearance.  It is heartening to see him gradually grow towards Lyra as she supports him. They are both inadequately parented and aware of the importance of their destinies.  It is good to come to know more about the witch Serafina Pekkala and the adventurous Lee Scoresby. The brilliant characterisation is the key to the conviction of this story.  The daemons, which those from Lyra’s world each have, participate more actively in this book and you cannot help wanting one as part of your own soul.

The bright exciting world in which Will and Lyra find themselves in this novel, soon reveals itself to be a place of grief and the subtle knife itself, a poisoned chalice.  There are so many interesting themes taken from Paradise lost and William Blake but recognising the allusions is not necessary to the appreciation of the vast panoply of ideas within the novels.  Although very much a middle story ending on a cliff-hanger, in many ways it is my favourite.  I am very much looking forward to seeing how The Subtle Knife is presented on screen.

The Doll Maker (The Viper and the Urchin Book 4) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Doll

Revolution in the streets.

A deadly weapon stolen.

A wardrobe too wide to fit up the stairs.

All is most definitely not well back in Damsport…

For Rory and her companion Longinus, this is an exciting time, a new beginning.  No longer is Rory a waif, a defiant pick-pocket given a place to sleep and guidance by the wise but eccentric assassin.   They are moving into a new home as equals. Rory believes she is paying her way, an independent young woman who helps the Marchioness when Damsport is under threat.  Longinus is in his element, decorating their new home stylishly and employing Tess, a maid, to take care of them.  But their happiness is soon disturbed when Rory discovers their friend Cruikshank, the skilled machinist, critically injured by brutes who have broken into her workshop.  A dangerous weapon containing a lethal explosive has been stolen and the whole city could be destroyed.

Rory must work with Varanguard, Raif, once more and this time she has come of age. She is prepared to recognise her feelings for the strong handsome young man. Together with Longinus they face terrifying events.  Rory participates in a thrilling duel on board Crazy Willy’s steamcoach and Longinus faces up to fears from his past when he enters the eerie rooms in Arthur’s Automaton Emporium.  He found,

“himself facing rows and rows of beady black eyes, all looking at him.  The eyes belonged to dolls. Rows and rows of dolls….

The doll’s eyes were as black and gleaming as beetle wings and so shiny they looked wet….

One had hair but no face so that its black eyes looked out from metal sockets above an articulated metal jaw, its joints held in place by vicious-looking screws.”

Will the Old Girl maintain her position as ruler of Damsport or will a popular rising, funded by bribery and lies, replace her with a corrupt, power-seeking aristocrat who only cares for himself?  Rory’s links to the underworld in the Rookery are essential if the city is to survive.

This is the best of all these exciting steampunk adventures.  The plot turns from one frightening situation to another problem which must be solved.  The characters the reader now knows so well, are courageous, loyal and enterprising and their personal development is believable and heartening.  A must read!

The Doll Maker on Amazon UK

 

T is for Dido Twite from Black Hearts in Battersea #AtoZChallenge #TuesdayBookBlog

Hearts  Black Hearts

Joan Aiken was an amazing writer of children’s fiction about the supernatural or alternative history. The long series of fat books which begin with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase are set in Britain in a version of late 17th century history where James II was never deposed in the Glorious Revolution, but supporters of the House of Hanover are active enemies of the monarchy. Wolves have invaded the country from Europe via the newly built Channel Tunnel. The child hero or heroine varies from one book to another, but my favourite appears first in book 2, Black Hearts in Battersea. Here I met Dido Twite, a poor ragamuffin girl who helps young apprentice painter, Simon and the wealthy, Sophie. Dido Twite speaks appallingly, dresses scruffily and is defiantly independent. She also proves to be loyal and brave.  The children deal with wolves, kidnapping and shipwreck.

Part of Dido’s endearing quality is her personal vocabulary.  In distress she exclaims, “Croopus!” Her friendly greeting is, “Wotcher my cully,” and we understand her meaning when she says, “betwaddled,” or “havey-cavey.” It is such a relief when this extraordinary girl reappears in Night Birds in Nantucket and other books in series.

Dido Twite

This will be the last of my #AtoZChallenges for two reasons. Firstly, because I am travelling for several days with limited Internet connection but secondly because I am uninspired by the last few letters of the alphabet.  Perhaps you can suggest suitable book characters you might have included in your list of favourites.

My A to Z favourite Book Characters

#AtoZChallenge : N is for Thursday Next #JasperFforde #BookCharacter

Thursday next   Eyre

Thursday Next is the heroine of an alternative twentieth century world. A bold, courageous woman, she has returned from a military career in the Crimean War to take up a post as a Literary Detective.  She has the ability to jump in and out of famous books and alarmingly, some of the characters can jump out of their novels, changing the plots.  In the first novel of this series Thursday changes the ending of Jane Eyre to the far superior conclusion we are familiar with.

At home in Swindon, Thursday lives with her pet Dodo, Pickwick, wondering what happened to her father, a special operative who may be trapped in another dimension.  George Formby is the first president of the English Republic, elected after successful liberation from the Nazis.  Thursday’s active life makes relationships hard to maintain but there is romance on the horizon.  Her story is full of humour, mishap, heroism and extraordinary situations which particularly appeal to a bookaholic.

Well     Lost

 

#AtoZChallenge : I is for The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

I am not sure whether this book is as well known these days but it has to be included in my A to Z of favourite book characters.

Iron

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where had he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows.

Taller than a house, the Iron man stood at the top of the cliff, on the brink, in the darkness.

In my early days of teaching in the 1970s, most primary schools classes read The Iron Man together. The length of a novella and with the essence of a folk tale moved into the 20th century, its unpredictable plot and simple messages appealed to boys and girls alike. As a poet, Ted Hughes was sparing in his words and how much he told his readers. The man made of metal is clearly described but we do not know where he has come from. Because he is eating tractors and farm equipment, the locals dig a large pit and a boy called Hogarth lures the Iron Man into it. But next Spring the Iron Man springs back out, so Hogarth leads him to a heap of scrap metal. They become friends and the Iron Man is accepted by the local community. Subsequently the Iron Man meets a “Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon” and together they help to restore harmony and peace amongst mankind.

“Haven’t you heard of the music of the spheres?” asked the dragon. “It’s the music that space makes to itself. All the spirits inside all the stars are singing. I’m a star spirit. I sing too. The music of the spheres is what makes space so peaceful.”

#AtoZChallenge : G is for Granny Weatherwax #TerryPratchett

I have long been a fan of Terry Pratchett, but my particular favourites are the books about the Guards, Death and the witches. If you’ve not read his books I wouldn’t recommend starting with “The Colour of Magic,” his first Discworld book. Try “Wyrd Sisters,” and meet the indomitable Granny Weatherwax.

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The best way to describe Granny Weatherwax is to list a few quotes from the books:-

  • It was one of the few sorrows of Granny Weatherwax’s life that, despite all her efforts, she’d arrived at the peak of her career with a complexion like a rosy apple and all her teeth.  No amount of charms could persuade a wart to take root on her handsome if slightly equine features, and vast intakes of sugar only served to give her boundless energy.
  • She was aware that somewhere under her complicated strata of vests and petticoats there was some skin, that didn’t mean to say she approved of it.
  • Granny’s implicit belief that everything should get out of her way extended to other witches, very tall trees and, on occasion, mountains.
  • Granny Weatherwax was like the prow of a ship. Seas parted when she turned up.

wisdom

‘If you can’t learn to ride an elephant, you can at least learn to ride a horse.’

‘What’s an elephant?’

‘A kind of badger,’ said Granny.  She hadn’t maintained forest-credibility for forty years by ever admitting ignorance

Quote

  • Looking into Granny’s eyes was like looking into a mirror. What you saw looking back at you was yourself and there was no hiding-place.
  • ​At home Granny Weatherwax slept with open windows and an unlocked door, secure in the knowledge that the Ramtops’ various creatures of the night would rather eat their own ears than break in.
  • She was a good witch.  That was her role in life.  That was the burden she had to bear.  Good and Evil were quite superfluous when you’d grown up with a highly developed sense of Right and Wrong.

ignorance

When all hope was gone, you called for Granny Weatherwax, because she was the best.

And she always came.  Always.

#AtoZChallenge: C is for Charlie Bone

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Charlie Bone is the hero of Jenny Nimmo’s fantasy school adventures written between 2002 and 2009.

After his father’s death, Charlie Bone has lived with his mother and her mother, in the house of his other grandmother, Grandma Bone. Looking at a picture of a couple with a baby and a cat, he suddenly discovers he can hear their voices. Although he tries to hide his new gift, Grandma Bone and her scary sisters soon find out, and send him to Bloor’s Academy where the evil head boy, Manfred, is constantly finding ways to make his life miserable. When Charlie discovers that the child in the photograph is being held, hypnotised, against her will, he and his new friends with ‘gifts’ try to awaken her. But they will have to overcome Manfred’s hypnotic power first.

Charlie is a thoroughly likeable boy who just wants to be ordinary but having been been given a gift he must use it for good. This endowment comes from his family since they are descended from the Red King.  When he meets the fiery cats, Sagittarius, Leo and Aries, he gradually learns more of his past and therefore his future.

Charlie may sound similar to Harry Potter, but this series of books remains suitable for middle grade children and the plot is very much driven by conversation.

Red Knight

 

The Wind Singer by William Nicholson #BookReview #YA

Wind Singer

William Nicholson was the playwright who wrote “Shadowlands” and “Gladiator” so it may surprise you to read that The Wind Singer is a children’s book (or at least young adults). It is a dystopian fantasy, centred on Kestrel and Bowman Hath, twin sister and brother who live in the city of Aramanth with their mother, father and baby sister. In Aramanth everyone is ranked and housed according to their success or otherwise in examinations. From the first toddler test to check whether a baby can identify colours and is out of nappies to the advanced tests for the father of the family.

The Hath family live in the Orange sector which we would identify as being for blue-collar workers although they are obviously intellectually superior but don’t toe the line. Kestrel is strong and independent and always protects her sensitive, fey, twin brother Bowman. The whole Hath family are closely tied by love and are torn apart by a mistake made by Kestrel. She and her brother realise that the city will only become whole and normal if they can find the missing part of the Wind-Singer a strange tower erected by another race thousands of years before. Their quest takes them on a long journey accompanied by Mumpo, a very simple boy who loves Kestrel. Their journey, bravery and adventures make up the rest of the story. It sounds predictable but it is a compelling read and this is both a complete story in its own right and part one of a trilogy with very different, more demanding events in the next two books.

I think this is essential reading for today’s constantly tested young people, especially the children of competitive parents, but it is also a very enjoyable read for any adult who enjoys a fantasy read.

The Wind Singer at Amazon UK

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman #FridayReads #BookReview

Masked City

After reading The Invisible Library I was looking forward to this second volume of the series in which Library Agent, Irene Winters, faces another challenging mission in alternative worlds.  Her handsome apprentice, Kai has been kidnapped and taken to an alternative Venice ruled by the Fae, therefore rampant with chaos.

Unaided, she must rescue Kai, before the Dragons, lords of “order,” declare war with the Fae.  Setting out to find him before it is too late, Irene makes unlikely alliances with a group of followers of important Fae patrons, as they travel on an incredible train which can move between worlds.  Adopting a carnival mask and an all covering cloak she attempts to move around the dark alleys and gloomy canals of Venice, incognito, but she constantly finds herself in increasing danger from the evil Lord and Lady Guantes.

The city is described in rich detail, maintaining its reputation for murder and fear.  Irene is a bold, creative agent who uses her story telling powers to create narratives which bend reality to her purpose.  Her powers of using the Library Language to open locks and change the state of matter, help her in her task, but cause her pain and exhaustion.  This colourful story is full of vivid images of the iconic buildings in Venice and the sumptuous mythical train, which are a delight to read.   Although all the essential background story is given, you will gain most by reading Book One The Invisible Library first.

The Masked City is available at Amazon UK

More about Genevieve Cogman and The invisible Library