Almost everyone is blogging about their summer reads… and half the world is actually in the middle of winter. We have had a huge pile of reads to these are the latest and greatest reads that we have been reading our way through as we survive the long winter… Hope you enjoy this heap of reviews.
The Skeleton Cupboard, stories from a clinical psychologist by Tanya Byron. There are so many books out there about folks personal experience with a psychologist, and their own journeys with mental illness, but this one is different… it is written by “the psychologist.” Tanya Byron is renowned psychologist and TV personality, she is lovely and tackles folk and their problems directly, no airy fairy solutions, and that’s what drew me to read her book. This book is her journey fresh from graduation to where she is today. She writes eloquently about the taboo topic of mental illness, cracking open all the labels that we use to soften the blow of actually taking notice of the reality and treatment of mental illness today. This is a fascinating read as you follow her journey, you become more than a little attached to her patients… well I could pass on the fairly terrifying sociopath Ray, who would have turned most young twenty somethings away from this choice of career forever; but twelve year old Imogen…you can’t help wondering what happened to her.
I love that Tanya Byron shares her feelings and her interpretation of the journey… revealing a side of psychologists that, in their efforts to remain impartial, we don’t often see. You can’t help wanting her to succeed, to persevere and get through the trial of training. This is a hard calling and instead of hiding behind her title, she has chosen to bring the people involved into the light, reveal them for who they are… real people in a real and complicated world. This book is intriguing, beware of starting a chapter when you are busy, you will happily read forty pages straight through, while the sink overflows next to you. The patients she describes are not real people, how could they be, but she has very carefully composited together individual patients and used them to tell not only her story but theirs. I have really enjoyed this read, from a childhood speckled with family members dashing off into the “oh-so-secret-world” of psychologists and heaps of closed doors and nobody ever mentioning “anything about anything” this book was a breathe of fresh air, not the topic so much but the honesty and the openness: “this is what the problems are, this is how we deal with them, this is what we battle with…” and so on. This is a really worthwhile and a fascinating read.
The Hoods Are Reading…
Two All-Action Adventures by Bear Grylls: Facing Up and Facing the Frozen Ocean. Bear Grylls is a recognised name is most homes around the world today and if you have any family members dead keen on any kind of survival then he is most likely an invisible member of the family: “Bear Grylls says,”…” and then on another matter, well, “Bear Grylls says…” Turns out he is not just a survivor of life threatening accidents, and a great teacher of outdoor survival skills, he is a great writer. This book contains two books:
The first book is Facing Up: If you have ever wanted to climb Mount Everest then this is the book that will take you there. Two years before his epic climb Bear Grylls broke his back in a parachuting accident, most of us would be glad to have survived and potter on our way, and Bear Grylls would have none of that. You will find yourself on the mountain face… you will feel the crunch of the snow, you will feel the fatigue, you will laugh and cry and possibly more than anything, you will want to push on and all the while you will wish you could step off and rest. He writes about his experience, the highs and lows of getting there.
The second Book is The Frozen Ocean: This is another epic story of another great adventure, a journey across the north atlantic in a rigid, inflatable boat. A classic case of all the plans you make going awry when faced with reality…. Bear Grylls and his team could never have predicted what they were headed into, wild and incredible storms. this is a great big fat read… more than 600 pages of gripping stuff. Packed with life lessons and inspiration, if you know someone who is ready for an adventure then they will love this book.
For any impending athletes this is a must read… While it is “a week a spread” diary, it is just packed with running, health and exercise tips. Fifty Two Weeks worth of journal pages, certainly enough time to get into a good excercising habit. Each journal page interspersed with double spreads: autobiographies and beginner tips. Each spread contains a training, nutrition and injury preventions tip, as well as an inspirational quote. Each of the se7en blocks for each day of the week, has a place to fill in the route, distance, time and notes and any other training you might have done. There is also a beginner programme to get you up off the couch and moving. I have to say that this book may well be used by my senior students for school this year… I predict lots of challenges on the cards.
Rock War, Robert Muchamore: A completely new and different type of read from the author of the Cherub Series, Robert Muchamore. This book revolves around three talented young musicians, who are entering a reality TV show: a guitarist, Jay… a lad with se7en siblings; singer Summer who is crippled by nerves and a reluctant producer Dylan, who is there to avoid rugby practice. This book is about the passion behind the artists in a reality TV show… a popular them in the life of teens, but a new and refreshing theme on the “teen reads shelf.” This book is very real and while it is a topic that would interest many preteens… it is really a read for older kids. This author has no problem telling it like it is and a look at life through less than rose tinted glasses provides a a great backdrop to the impending and desperate competition. This book is a very real look at the life behind the scenes in a reality tv programme, so many teens dream of this and here is their chance to find out about, dare I say, the nitty gritty, behind a reality show.
Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddel: When a book is so beautifully created that you spend ages just looking at it: It is a a small, hardcover delight; a beautifully lined cover; the pages have shimmery purple edging; the secret little book “Memoirs of a Mouse” tucked into the back cover… and the absolutely incredible illustrations. You just can not beat Chris Riddel, for incredibly detailed, intricate pen drawings… pages and pages of them. When you start reading the book you, you just can’t put it down and read it all the way through and when you get to the last page, you don’t even pause you turn straight back to the beginning to read it through again. This is the most delightful Goth Girl and the Ghost Mouse. This is the story of a young girl, Ada Goth, who clumps about the ancient family manor in galumphing boots, because her father, Lord Goth, insists that children should be heard and not seen. She is lonely gal and finds friendship with a recently deceased mouse… hence the ghost mouse. This book is full of weird and wonderful characters, a mysterious plot, plenty of amusements and really just delight between the covers. Everybody will want to read this book. This is a book that you have to hold in your hands… folks that say books just aren’t made like they used to be, just haven’t met Goth Girl.
Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon Series: Totally powering his way through these. For a slow and steady reader these are fantastic… What a talent is the author, illustrator Cressida Cowell. Absolutely everything you ever wanted to know about dragons… pure rocking fun, through the eyes of a young viking called Hiccup. Hiccup is a very unassuming hero and quite honestly the exact opposite of what you would expect a Hero to be. These books are jammed packed with explanatory illustrations… and to be honest you can crack open any of them anywhere and have a fabulous read. These are so fun and if you haven’t dived in yet, then this could well be the time to take the leap. These books are just such fun that you can’t help wanted to keep on turning the pages, long after bedtime!!!
Famous Five Colour Reads by Enid Blyton: You may have wandered into a bookshop recently and noticed that there is an Enid Blyton revival on the go… And these are such fun. In the olden days, when I was young, you read terribly dull phonics readers until the penny dropped and you lurched tentatively onto real chapter books like Secret Se7en and The Famous Five. Well kids have it a whole lot easier now… these books are the link between long picture less chapter books and those beginner books. Filled with fun, full colour illustrations… these books are short chapter books, just above the level of easy readers. Short manageable chapters… with the Famous Five Team in full adventurous swing. Bumbling upon little mysteries and solving them of course. These are just great reads, fairly tame, and most certainly read a lot better than a lot of the mass readers out there. If you are looking for fun easy readers then these are a fabulous choice.
We have finally, finally arrived in the world of Alex T. Smith’s Claude. I knew these would be fabulous, but they are better than that. We all totally loved Claude. He is delightful little dog of the plump variety and lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes. Everyday his owners head off and do whatever the owners f dogs do and Claude and his pet sock, Bobblysock, have the sweetest little adventures. He is slightly risqué in places, as he packs his undies to go on vacation, and so hysterically funny. Claude’s disappointment when he can’t get a “bone flavoured ice-cream cone” is shortlived, when he is given three multiple cones instead. This is witty on every level… funny for your kids and certainly an easy reader would love it. But my pre-readers could not get enough of Claude and we have been reading and re-reading them at bedtime every single night for a couple of weeks – without pause.
Sugarlump and the Unicorn by Julia Donaldson and LydiaMonks: In true Juliadonladson Rhyme and Rhythm… I thought this book would be a bit “pink” for our sturdier tastes… I needn’t have worried its a great story. This is the story of a rocking horse, Sugarlump, who wishes he was a real horse… Each time he wishes he was different kind of horse, the unicorn transforms him… from a farmer’s horse to a racehorse, even a circus horse. Of course we don’t always wish the best for ourselves… and the unicorn knows that and makes the right wish come true. Everyone lives happily ever after and it is a very sweet little person’s book. The illustrations are charming and the farm and the circus are all worth pouring over… not to mention their is glitter on every page, which totally makes it a keeper!!!
And the se7en + 1th Books:
The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers: Oh this is lovely… Rabbit wakes up on a glorious day, filled with anticipation. But there is a shadow over his day… like a cloud he cannot shake off, literally. The black rabbit follows him no matter where he goes and no matter what he does… until rabbit seeks refuge in the deep dark wood. He is nibbling on a carrot when he realises again that something is watching him… a hairy scary (delightful) fox. Rabbit runs as fast as he can the tension rises again… and he gives up, closes his eyes, and waits for the pounce. But nothing happens. One look at the BIG BLACK RABBIT and fox runs away… rabbit and the black rabbit bounce off into the sunset. This book has the most expressive little eyes in a rabbit I have ever seen. My little guys loved this story, and he had a laugh at the twist in the tale every single time. I think some tender-hearted young listeners might be slightly wary of this story the first time round, but once they have seen the story through to the end they will love it.
And this is only part one, in this collection of reviews… look forward to another jam-packed edition next week.
We would really like to thank Pan MacMillan South Africa for providing us with a fantastic pile of books to review for this post. We would like to declare that we were not paid to do these reviews, just provided with books. All the opinions are as usual, entirely our own!!!