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Chrestomanci (UK)

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Whispering to Witches
Whispering to Witches
by Anna Dale
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magical Adventure, 5 April 2005
This review is from: Whispering to Witches (Paperback)
Initially, I was surprised to see Bloomsbury publish a book about a young boy's adventures in a hidden magical world of witches. Surely this was just another Harry Potter clone, I thought. But no - this is a truly excellent little book, which seems to have been somewhat overlooked amidst the recent hype over other less well written children's novels. The pacing is brisk, the characters are well drawn and the multi-stranded plot will keep you guessing to the end. Furthermore, it couldn't be more different than the Harry Potter novels - yet is certain to appeal to many young readers in exactly the same way.
The story starts aboard a train, where Joe Binks finds himself in a carriage with some rather odd people; one of them plants something on him, then manoeuvres him off at the wrong station. Unaware of what he's carrying, he stumbles upon a coven of witches, and meets Twiggy, a teenage apprentice witch who helps him solve the mystery he finds himself suddenly embroiled in. It's lots of fun and there's plenty of clues and shoals of red herrings along the way!

No Time Like Show Time
No Time Like Show Time
by Michael Hoeye
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Continuing Adventures of Hermux Tantamoq, 7 Mar 2005
This review is from: No Time Like Show Time (Hardcover)
'No Time Like Show Time' is the third adventure of watchmaker and mouse, Hermux Tantamoq. Hermux is called to the Varmint Theatre (to install alarm clocks in the dressing rooms), but soon finds himself roped into designing the stage set and solving a baffling murder mystery.
As in previous volumes, the plot is engaging and the writing witty. Favourite characters from the first two books, (like aviatrix Linka Perflinger and beauty-product megalomaniac Tucka Mertslin), make a welcome return - and we meet a whole cast of colourful newcomers: Fluster Varmint the theatre manager, Nurella Pinch a mysterious aging film star, and a very peculiar ventriloquist. Hermux's pet ladybug, Terfle, also takes a starring role in the plot - and the touching relationship between mouse and bug is as charming as always.
This is perhaps my favourite book of the three - but it also has to be said that some of the plotlines might perhaps be rather 'grown-up' for the very youngest: murder, love triangles, an unwed pregnancy, an abandoned single parent ... all softened under mouse-fur and whiskers, but there none-the-less. Such themes are commonplace in contemporary teen fiction, but surprising in anthropomorphic bedtime stories for the under nines - and at times seemed a little surreal. In all probability it'll go over the heads of most youngsters, and it didn't bother me - but some parents might want to read the story through first.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Children's Edition
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Children's Edition
by Mark Haddon
Edition: Paperback

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why is This Called the Children's Edition?, 28 Feb 2005
This review is specifically for the children's edition and is intended to clear up any misunderstandings.
Let's get one thing absolutely clear: there are two editions of this book, and the only difference between the adult's version and children's version is the cover design. The children's version is NOT simplified in terms of plot, (for those who bemoan that they've "ONLY read the children's version"), it is NOT modified in terms of content or language (ALL the swearing and numerous four letter words are intact); it is quite simply the adult's book with an alternate cover featuring child-friendly artwork.
The language content is perfectly consistent with the narrative and characters - and is nothing unusual for an adult's book. Whether you feel this book is something suitable for a child is not something I wish to comment on; that decision is up to each individual parent to make based on their own values and parenting codes. Just be fully aware: the children's version is NOT an abridgement of the story edited to tone down the adult content.

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
by Kate DiCamillo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Depressing Book - Devoid of any Feel-good Factor, 18 Feb 2005
This book was recommended to me - but I have to confess that I did not particularly enjoy it. I found it relentlessly miserably (and not in the witty tongue-in-cheek-way of a Lemony Snicket, just dull misery without end). I found most of the characters unpleasant and unsympathetic - and the illustrations dreary and indistinct.
Above all else, I found the style of writing thoroughly irritating. Stylistically, it depends far too much on the over-use of the authorial voice - it sounds horribly condescending and out-dated (like 1950's Jackanory episode), and soon alienates the reader by continually saying things like: "And what do you think happened next, Dear Reader?" or "And so, Dear Reader, they decided to..." and so-on ad nauseum.
If you want a (cheerful and light-hearted) story about mice, (one that will not reduce the younger reader to tears of misery and boredom), then I recommend "Time Stops for No Mouse" by Michael Hoeye. This book and it's two charming sequels are a delight from cover to cover.

The Dreamwalker's Child
The Dreamwalker's Child
by Steve Voake
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.40

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing idea � well handled, 18 Feb 2005
The basic concept of 'The Dreamwalker's Child' is original: that a race of tiny people who fly insects like aircraft live in a world parallel to our own. They can enter our world through a portal, and their role is to maintain the harmony of nature on earth. Their own kingdom is divided - and a rebellious faction plans to spread a deadly virus on earth (via piloted mosquitoes), with the intent of wiping out all human life. However, an ancient prophecy foretells that a 'Dreamwalker's Child' will have a significant effect on the outcome of events. When young Sam is involved in a near-fatal accident, he finds himself transported to this parallel world, and it appears that he is destined to fulfil prophecy. In an attempt to thwart matters he is swiftly caught and imprisoned, however, the daring young aviatrix, Skipper, sets out on a dangerous mission to rescue him.
Mr Voake's writing is very contemporary, and proves that not all teachers are stuck in the dreaded high-school-English-composition mode that most feel obliged to write in. The pacing is swift and the dialogue convincing. The lead characters have real depth - especially Skipper, a wonderful creation; brave, loyal and full of boundless optimism and life. I will probably never look at insects in the same light again!

by Ricky Gervais
Edition: Hardcover

32 of 69 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor�s New Flanimals!, 18 Feb 2005
This review is from: Flanimals (Hardcover)
Never before have I come across a book less deserving of praise than 'Flanimals.' The text reads as the immature ramblings of a teenager, and proves anyone can write a best seller (at least anyone already a celebrity; non-celebs wouldn't get away with such garbage). The illustrations are unimaginative.
Despite these obvious flaws there are countless glowing five-star reviews. I suspect an 'Emperor's New Clothes' scenario, where many readers are afraid of voicing their genuine disappointment, out of fear of being considered 'out-of-touch' with contemporary culture. If anyone IS laughing - it must surely be Mr Gervais - laughing all the way to the bank with your wasted money, after writing this one rainy afternoon when there was nothing on the telly!

The Various: The Touchstone Trilogy
The Various: The Touchstone Trilogy
by Steve Augarde
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Book, 17 Feb 2005
An enjoyable story about 12 year-old Midge, who comes to stay on her cousin's farm and discovers a fairy world in a soon to be demolished forest. These are not the Enid Blyton twee fairies - or the gun toting elves of Artemis Fowl - but something much more believable. There are several races/communities each with their own cultures living in uneasy alliance with one another. When Midge rescues a tiny winged horse, she is invited to share her knowledge of the forth-coming demolition with the Fairy Queen (described as a tubby little creature in faded finery), and so doing, puts her cousins in mortal danger.
The author has created a believable world, paying immense attention to detail. However, this strength means that the book is quite lengthy for its intended age group and at times the pacing is rather slow. Illustrations are pleasant, but rather too few. I like the notion that the race of Fairies considered to be of the lowest rank are, in fact, the only ones who have learnt to read and who appreciate art and music. Their world, however, is in danger - and it is up to Midge and her cousins to save the day. But only if they can escape the bows and arrows of those faries who believe their intrusion is a threat rather than a rescue mission.

The Scarecrow and his Servant
The Scarecrow and his Servant
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover

58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 21st Century Classic, 17 Feb 2005
This delightful book tells the story of a scarecrow brought to life when it is struck by lightning. He is a pompous, blustering fellow, yet likeably in his naivety. Wanting adventures and to see the world, he employs a young boy, Jack, to be his servant. The story is told in lots of short chapters, each a mini adventure, in which one of the scarecrow's body parts is either lost, broken or stolen ... and then replaced. This raises an interesting question (and plot-twist) when, by the end of the book, everything about him is different: is he still the same scarecrow or not?
As with all Philip Pullman's books, the writing is a delight. Not a wasted word. The subject matter is probably best suited to younger readers 7 - 10, or as a series of bedtime stories for 5 - 7 year-olds. Charmingly illustrated by Peter Bailey.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 26, 2014 12:01 PM BST

The Phantom of the Opera: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2004)
The Phantom of the Opera: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2004)
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £12.00

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 17 Feb 2005
A truly wonderful recording, featuring a full orchestra rather than the usual 28 piece orchestra used for theatrical cast recordings. As such, it has much greater depth and resonance - and is heartily recommended.
There are two versions available. The standard 'Highlights' version featuring the main songs from the show - or the double CD Special Edition. Which you choose depends on what you want from your listening experience.
I chose the Special Edition - but on reflection feel this was a mistake. It's rather like listening to a DVD of the film but without the pictures. For example, "Think of Me" has about 2 or 3 minutes of dialogue before the song; great once or twice as you relive the film, but eventually becomes irritating if you just want to listen to the songs as you can't 'jump' to the beginning of a piece.
If you're planning to buy the DVD eventually, then I'd recommend waiting to enjoy the dialogue complete with moving pictures - meanwhile, enjoy the equally good, (yet much less expensive) standard 1 CD 'highlights' edition.

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials)
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials)
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Also Known as Northern Lights - Why Change the Title?, 13 Feb 2005
The Golden Compass
If you've already got a copy of 'Northern Lights,' then you needn't buy a copy of 'The Golden Compass,' as they are the same book with alternate titles.
The question you may be asking is: why has this book been called something else? Is this some ploy to prise hard-earned cash out of the unwary public?
Well, when overseas publishers buy publication/distribution rights, they occasionally change a book's title if they feel this will work better for their target audience. Remember how J K Rowling's 'Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone' became 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' when released in America? Another example is 'Charlie Bone and the Blue Boa' also published as 'Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy.' This particular edition of 'Northern Lights' is precisely the same kind of thing.
That being said ... if you haven't read 'Northern Lights' A.K.A. 'The Golden Compass' ... then why not? It's a jolly exciting read! The first part of a hugely successful trilogy, the adventure starts on page one and never lets up. However, if you're new to Pullman's books, and intend to start reading them, begin with 'Northern Lights;' or better still, why not chose one of the compilation editions containing all three books together. They're great value ... and after reading the first instalment, you'd simply have to read the other two!
Alternate titles can be very confusing - but hopefully, by reading the Amazon reviews carefully, you should be able to avoid buying the same book twice!
Enjoy your reading!

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