Miss Mapp (Mapp & Lucia #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Miss Mapp
Series: Mapp & Lucia #2
Authors: E.F. Benson
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Humorous Fiction
Pages: 312
Words: 90K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Miss Elizabeth Mapp presides over the High Street of the seaside town of Tilling, keeping tabs on all of the gossip, and directing social activity. She competes in bitter rivalry with a neighbor, Godiva Plaistow, over dress-making, and observes the battles over golf and alcohol between Captain Richard Puffin and Major Benjamin Flint. There are further social wars over daylight saving time, bridge games, and the significance of a neighbor being recognised as a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

My Thoughts:

This felt very similar to Queen Lucia, in that a domineering and unsympathetic woman is the lead character and yet manages to amuse us, the readers, instead of making us rise in revolt and guillotine all such monstrosities.

While Mapp doesn’t have the airs of Lucia, she has that rock solid indomitableness of someone sure of their own rightness and superiority to every other person present.

In this story, Lucia isn’t present and the town is a different one altogether. I’m not sure how Mapp & Lucia will come together and even when/if they do, I am not sure how that will go. They’ll either be the greatest of friends presenting a united front against all others, or it will be a dynamite of a meeting with everyone else getting blown up by the meeting of the two titans.

I think the reason I am enjoying these is because the drama is so lowkey and absolutely meaningless to anyone outside of the town. It truly is a tempest in a teacup. I am not invested in who throws the best tea parties or who wears what dress, but I like seeing how people react to such things, because I know I react to such small things in my own life. If there is no drama in our lives, we will create it out of wholeclothe and bemoan it all at the same time. It’s amusing.

Also, keeping things around 300pages is just optimal in my opinion. An occasional big book is ok. Dickens for instance gets a pass. But not every author and not every time. Benson knows this and writes accordingly. I highly approve of his restraint and mastery.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The BFG ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The BFG
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 138
Words: 38K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Sophie, an eight-year-old girl in an orphanage, cannot sleep. Looking out of her window, she sees a mysterious giant in the street, carrying a suitcase and a trumpet. The giant sees Sophie, who tries to hide in bed, but the giant picks her up through the window. Sophie is carried to a large cave in the middle of a desolate land, where the giant sets her down. Believing that he intends to eat her, Sophie pleads for her life, but the giant laughs and dismisses the idea. He explains that although most giants do eat humans, he does not, because he is the Big Friendly Giant, or BFG.

The BFG explains, in a unique and muddled speech, that his nine neighbours are much bigger and stronger giants, who all happily eat humans every night. They vary their choice of destination both to avoid detection and because the people’s origins affect their taste. For example, people from Greece taste greasy, and so no giant goes there, while people from Panama taste of hats. As he will never allow Sophie to leave in case she tells anyone of his existence, the BFG reveals the purpose of his suitcase and trumpet: he catches dreams in Dream Country, collects them in jars, and gives the good ones to children all around the world, but destroys the bad ones. Since he does not eat people, he must eat the only crop which grows in his land—the repulsive snozzcumber, which looks like a cucumber.

When the Bloodbottler, one of the other giants, enters the cave, Sophie hides in the snozzcumber; not knowing this, the BFG tricks the Bloodbottler into eating the vegetable. Luckily, the larger giant spits her out and leaves in disgust. They then drink frobscottle, a delicious fizzy drink where the bubbles sink downwards rather than upwards, causing noisy flatulence, which the BFG calls “whizzpopping”. The BFG takes Sophie to Dream Country, but is bullied along the way by his neighbours, led by Fleshlumpeater, the largest and strongest. Sophie watches the BFG catch two dreams—while one would be a good dream, the other is a nightmare. The BFG uses it on Fleshlumpeater, who has a dream about a giant-killer named Jack and accidentally starts a brawl with his companions.

Sophie persuades the BFG to approach the Queen of England for help with the other giants. She navigates the giant to Buckingham Palace, where he places her in the Queen’s bedroom. He then gives the Queen a nightmare which closely parallels real events; because the BFG placing Sophie in her bedroom was part of the dream, the Queen believes her and speaks with the giant over breakfast. Fully convinced, she authorises a task force to travel to the giants’ homeland and secure them as they sleep. The BFG guides a fleet of helicopters to the sleeping giants. Eight are successfully shackled, but Fleshlumpeater awakes; Sophie and the BFG trick him into being tied up. Having collected the BFG’s dream collection, the helicopters carry the giants back to England, where they are imprisoned in a massive pit.

Every country that the giants had visited in the past send thanks and gifts the BFG and Sophie, for whom residences are built in Windsor Great Park. Tourists come in huge numbers to watch the giants in the pit, who are now fed only on snozzcumbers; they receive an unexpected snack when three drunks manage to climb the fence and fall in. The BFG receives the official title of Royal Dream-Blower, and continues bestowing dreams upon children; he also learns to speak and write more intelligibly, writing a book identified as the novel itself, under another’s name.

My Thoughts:

I have not re-read this book since the 90’s (I have no record of it since I started keeping track in April of 2000) and yet, I remembered it all. How does Dahl do that?!?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

George’s Marvelous Medicine ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: George’s Marvelous Medicine
Series: ———-
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 63
Words: 12.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

While eight-year-old George Kranky’s parents are out grocery shopping, his elderly maternal grandmother bosses him around and bullies him. She intimidates George by saying that she likes to eat insects and he wonders briefly if she’s a witch. To punish her for her regular abuse, George decides to make a magic medicine to replace her old one. He collects a variety of ingredients from around the family farm including deodorant and shampoo from the bathroom, floor polish from the laundry room, horseradish sauce and gin from the kitchen, animal medicines, engine oil and anti-freeze from the garage, and brown paint to mimic the colour of the original medicine.

After cooking the ingredients in the kitchen, George gives it as medicine to his grandmother, who grows as tall as the house, bursting through the roof. When his grandmother doesn’t believe it was George who made her grow so tall, he proves it by feeding the medicine to one of his father’s chickens, which grows ten times its original size. As they return home, George’s parents can’t believe their eyes when they see the fattest chicken ever and the grandmother. George’s father grows very excited at the thought of rearing giant animals. He has George feed the medicine to the rest of the farm’s animals, causing them to become giants as well. However, his grandmother begins complaining about being ignored and stuck in the roof, so Mr. Kranky hires a crane to remove her from the house. Her extreme height has her sleeping in the barn for the next few nights.

The following morning, Mr. Kranky is still excited about George’s medicine and announces that he and George shall make gallons of it to sell to farmers around the world, which would make his family rich. George attempts to recreate it but is unable to remember all the ingredients. The second version makes a chicken’s legs grow extremely long, and the third elongates a chicken’s neck to bizarre proportions. The fourth has the opposite effect of the first and makes animals shrink. George’s grandmother, now even more angry she’s sleeping in the barn, storms over and starts complaining loudly that she’s once again sick of being ignored. She sees the cup of medicine in George’s hand and erroneously mistakes it for tea. Much to his and Mrs. Kranky’s horror, and Mr. Kranky’s delight, she drinks the entire cup and shrinks so much that she vanishes completely. At first, Mrs. Kranky is shocked, confused and distraught about the sudden, and very strange disappearance of her mother, but soon accepts that she was becoming a nuisance anyway. In the last page, George is left to think about the implications of his actions, feeling as though they had granted him access to the edge of a magic world.

My Thoughts:

I am coming to the conclusion that this will probably be my final read of Dahl’s body of work for my own enjoyment. Not that I am disliking them but I do want “more” and these don’t offer that any more. I feel that in my multiple reads I have plumbed the depths of these stories and I would rather explore a new author or series than to re-tread material this familiar to me.

That is in no way a denigration of Dahl’s skill as a writer or a story teller, but I’ve realized that I’ve done a bit of growing up in the last 15 years and I cannot go back. Reading these books have been an attempt to see if I could actually go back, but as we all know, time only flows in one direction.

I have to admit, I am surprised this was published as is. George puts in a LOT of nasty stuff into his medicine and even I know that some of them would kill you outright. If I read this to a kid, I’d be keeping an eye on them for the next week or two to make sure they didn’t try to experiment on themselves or others 😀

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Netochka Nezvanova (The Russians) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Netochka Nezvanova
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevksy
Translator: Jane Kentish
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 248
Words: 67K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The plot unfolds in three distinct sections, corresponding to upheavals in the heroine’s life.

Chapters 1–3 are predominantly concerned with Netochka’s recollections of her childhood with her mother and stepfather in St. Petersburg, up until the time of their deaths. She begins with the background story of her stepfather, Efimov, a talented but self-obsessed violinist, whom she describes as “the strangest and most extraordinary person I have ever known” and a man whose powerful influence over her affected the rest of her life.[2] Efimov’s madness brings terrible poverty and discord to the family, and leaves the child with a premature and painful insight into the dark side of human emotions. This part of her life comes to an end when Efimov kills her mother, after which he himself becomes completely insane and dies.

Netochka is adopted by Prince X., an acquaintance of her stepfather, and chapters 4 and 5 are concerned with the orphaned girl’s immersion in this unfamiliar aristocratic world, focusing particularly on her relationship with the Prince’s daughter Katya. Netochka immediately falls in love with the beautiful Katya, but Katya is initially repelled by the strange newcomer, and is cruel and dismissive toward her. Over time, however, this apparent dislike transforms into an equally passionate reciprocation of Netochka’s feelings. Their young, unashamed love leads to an intimacy that alarms Katya’s mother, who eventually takes steps to ensure their separation. Katya’s family move to Moscow, and Netochka is placed in the care of Katya’s elder half-sister, Alexandra Mikhailovna. According to the narrator, Netochka and Katya will not see each other for another eight years, but as the novel remained unfinished, their reuniting is never described.

The final chapters describe Netochka’s teenage years growing up in the household of the gentle and maternal Alexandra Mikhailovna and her cold and distant husband Pyotr Alexandrovitch. She forms a deeply empathetic relationship with Alexandra Mikhailovna, but is troubled by her friend’s painfully solicitous attitude toward her husband, and by what appears to be calculated indifference and dissimulation on his part. Netochka suspects some mystery from their past, and eventually a clue presents itself in the form of a letter that she accidentally discovers pressed between the pages of an old book in the library. It is a letter to Alexandra Mikhaylovna from a distraught lover, lamenting the necessity of their final separation, and grieving for the irreparable harm he has caused her reputation and her marriage. Netochka’s discovery of the letter sets off a chain of events that bring Alexandra Mikhaylovna to the point of emotional breakdown, and Netochka to the point of womanhood as she confronts Pyotr Alexandrovitch with the truth of what he has done to his wife.

Several narrative threads, as with the relationship between Netochka and Katya, are left unresolved but with clear indications that they would be resumed in future installments of the novel. It is noticed, at first by Alexandra Mikhailovna, that Netochka has a beautiful singing voice, and arrangements are made for her to receive training. Her love of singing and its connection to her emotional life are examined in a number of scenes, but her artistic development is clearly only in its beginning stages. The novel finishes with an enigmatic exchange between Netochka and Ovrov, Pyotr Alexandrovitch’s secretary, that is suggestive of further development of the story relating to the love letter.

My Thoughts:

This was an unfinished work by Dostoyevsky and you know what? I’m ok with it not being finished. This was super duper ultra totally mega farfanoogan depressing. And if you don’t know what all of that means, well, think Hemingway and a Remington Tactical Magpull, heheheheehe. (I don’t like Hemingway, that’s why it’s funny)

What stood out to me was Netochka’s complete humanity. She loves her dad who uses her to steal money from her mother. She’s classic self-destructionist. It hurt to watch it unfold. But like many other Russian novels, that pain and suffering is cathartic instead of being the dark end of a Remington 😉

Why it affects me that way I don’t know, but I am thankful it does. Because otherwise I wouldn’t be reading this stuff and I LIKE broadening my horizons (well, a little anyway).

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Queen Lucia (Mapp & Lucia #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Queen Lucia
Series: Mapp & Lucia #1
Authors: E.F. Benson
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Humorous Fiction
Pages: 317
Words: 86K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Emmeline Lucas is the social queen of Riseholme, presiding over her community and directing their interests in art and culture. A pretentious show-off, La Lucia drops random Italian phrases into her speech, gives concerts to her friends of the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, dabbles in art, and plants Shakespeare-themed flower arrangements in her garden. Her neighbor, devoted faddist Daisy Quantock, has given up her uric-acid-free diet and Christian Science to focus on Indian mysticism, thanks to a mysterious guru who shows up at her door and offers to show her the Way. Lucia must decide how to annex the guru, and turn this into a social success for herself. Daisy then brings in a Russian medium, Princess Popoffski. Lucia has a harder time when opera diva Olga Bracely arrives in Riseholme for a visit, luring away Lucia’s devoted friend Georgie Pillson.

My Thoughts:

There was a distinct lack of Mapp in this book. I’m not really worried about that, as I’m sure whoever Mapp is will show up in later books. But it is annoying to me so I figured I’d vent my spleen before writing anything else.

So Lucia is a prima donna in a small town and rules the roost. She’s the social queen and is used to getting her own way in practically everything. That could be annoying, but Benson provides plenty of foils in the comedic vein so it is amusing rather than annoying.

This story was ALL about the characters. Lucia was just the fulcrum but all of the other main side characters were just as important. From the sham guru to the fake psychic to the very real opera singer to the best friend Georgie Pillson caught in the middle of it all. This is a set of character sketches in various social settings, all of them awkward yet amusing.

I did have to read this in smaller doses instead of all at once, but each story was pretty self-contained so it was easy to read about one instance and then take a break. I am really hoping that whoever Mapp is that I’ll meet her in the next book, because otherwise I’ll be changing the name of this series to “Lucia” and going off on a rant and do a lot of ree’ing like a little baby.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Fantastic Mr Fox ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Fantastic Mr Fox
Series: ———-
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 58
Words: 10K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Mr Fox is an anthropomorphic, tricky, and clever fox who lives underground beside a tree with his wife and four children. To feed his family, he makes nightly visits to local farms owned by three cruel, rude, wicked and dim-witted farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean, whereupon he seizes the livestock available on each man’s farm; chickens from Boggis, ducks or geese from Bunce, and turkeys from Bean. Tired of being outsmarted by Mr Fox, the triumvirate devise a plan to ambush him as he leaves his burrow, but they succeed only in shooting off his tail.

The three farmers then dig up the Foxes’ burrow using spades and then excavators. The Foxes manage to escape by burrowing further beneath the ground to safety. The farmers are ridiculed for their persistence, but they refuse to give up and vow not to return to their farms until they have caught Mr Fox. They then choose to lay siege to the fox, surrounding Mr Fox’s hole and waiting until he is hungry enough to come out. Cornered by their enemies, Mr Fox and his family, and all the other underground creatures that live around the hill, begin to starve.

After three days trapped underground, Mr Fox devises a plot to acquire food. Working from his memory of the routes he has taken above ground, he and his children tunnel through the ground and wind up burrowing to one of Boggis’s four chicken houses. Mr Fox kills several chickens and sends his son to carry the animals back home to Mrs Fox. On the way to their next destination, Mr Fox runs into his friend Badger and asks him to accompany him on his mission, as well as to extend an invitation to the feast to the other burrowing animals – Badger and his family, as well as the Moles, the Rabbits and the Weasels – to apologize for getting them caught up in the farmers’ hunt. Aided by Badger, the animals tunnel to Bunce’s storehouse for ducks, geese, hams, bacon and carrots, and then to Bean’s secret cider cellar. Here, they are nearly caught by the Beans’ servant Mabel and have an unpleasant confrontation with the cellar’s resident, Rat. They carry their loot back home, where Mrs Fox has prepared a great celebratory banquet for the starving underground animals and their families.

At the table, Mr Fox invites everyone to live in a secret underground neighbourhood with him and his family, where he will hunt on their behalf daily and where none of them will need to worry about the farmers anymore. Everyone joyfully cheers for this idea, while Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are left waiting in vain for the fox to emerge from his hole.

The book ends with the words “And so far as I know, they are still waiting.”

My Thoughts:

This was a very short story but much like any of Dahl’s stuff, it is just chockful of children’y goodness. If you smoke cigars, wear a monocle and wonder when Queen Victoria is going to get off her duff and kick some sense into little Charlie and his progeny, well, this might not be the story for you.

On the other hand, if talking foxes and badgers raiding chicken farmers makes perfect sense to you, then I’d say you’d better read this without delay. Get cracking slackers, I know you haven’t read this!

Because if you had, you’d be lamenting the fact that I haven’t even mentioned the existential crisis exhibited by Mrs Fox or the symbolic suffering represented by the Fox children who are starving to death. The dehumanizing representation of Boggis, Bunce and Bean is one the most clever ever shown in literature but at the same time falls prey to most representations’s common problem, ie, the Jungian ideals fall flat upon their backsides when examined in the light of chaos theory. Yep, you can’t beat Scyenze for figuring out how to make other people do what you want. Dahl was obviously a great Scyenzetist! Bow low you plebes before your lord and master!!!!!!!!!!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Witches ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Witches
Series: ———-
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 122
Words: 37.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story is narrated from the perspective of an unnamed seven-year-old English boy, who goes to live with his Norwegian grandmother after his parents are killed in a tragic car accident. The boy loves all his grandmother’s stories, but he is especially enthralled by the stories about real-life witches who she says are horrific female demons who seek to kill human children. She tells him how to recognise them, and that she is a retired witch hunter (she, herself, had an encounter with a witch when she was a child, which left her with a missing thumb).

According to the boy’s grandmother, a real witch looks exactly like an ordinary woman, but there are ways of telling whether she is a witch: real witches have claws instead of fingernails, which they hide by wearing gloves; are bald, which they hide by wearing wigs that often make them break out in rashes; have square feet with no toes, which they hide by wearing uncomfortable pointy shoes; have eyes with pupils that change colours; have blue spit which they use for ink, and have large nostrils which they use to sniff out children; to a witch, a child smells of fresh dogs droppings; the dirtier the child, the less likely she is to smell them.

As specified in the parents’ will, the narrator and his grandmother return to England, where he was born and had attended school, and where the house he is inheriting is located. However, the grandmother warns the boy to be on his guard, since English witches are known to be among the most vicious in the world, notorious for turning children into loathsome creatures so that unsuspecting adults will kill them. She also assures him that there are fewer witches in England than there are in Norway.

The grandmother reveals that witches in different countries have different customs and that, while the witches in each country have close affiliations with one another, they are not allowed to communicate with witches from other countries. She also tells him about the mysterious Grand High Witch of All the World, the feared and diabolical leader of all of the world’s witches, who visits their councils in every country, each year.

Shortly after arriving back in England, while the boy is working on the roof of his treehouse, he sees a strange woman in black staring up at him with an eerie smile and quickly registers that she is a witch. When the witch offers him a snake to tempt him to come down to her, he climbs further up the tree and stays there, not daring to come down until his grandmother comes looking for him. This persuades the boy and his grandmother to be especially wary, and he carefully scrutinizes all women to determine whether they might be witches.

When the grandmother becomes ill with pneumonia, the doctor orders her to cancel a planned holiday in Norway (she and her grandson had planned to go there). The doctor explains that pneumonia can be very dangerous when a person is 80 or older (she later reveals in the book that she is 86), and therefore, he cannot even move her to the hospital in her condition. Instead, about two weeks later when she has recovered, they go to a luxury hotel in Bournemouth on England’s south coast.

The boy is training his pet mice, William and Mary, given to him as a consolation present by his grandmother after the loss of his parents, in the hotel ballroom when the “Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children” show up for their annual meeting. When one of them reaches underneath her hair to scratch at her scalp with a gloved hand, the boy realizes that this is the yearly gathering of England’s witches (all of the other women are wearing gloves as well), but he is trapped in the room.

A young woman goes on stage and removes her entire face, which is a mask. The narrator realizes that this is no other than the Grand High Witch herself. She expresses her displeasure at the English witches’ failure to eliminate enough children, and thus demands that they exterminate the lot of them before the next meeting. She exterminates a witch who questions whether it will be possible to wipe out all of Britain’s children.

The Grand High Witch unveils her master plan: all of England’s witches are to purchase sweet shops (with counterfeited money printed by her from a magical money-making machine) and give away free sweets and chocolates laced with a drop of her latest creation: “Formula 86 Delayed-Action Mouse-Maker”, a magic potion which turns the consumer into a mouse at a specified time set by the potion-maker. The intent is for the children’s teachers and parents to unwittingly kill the transformed children, thus doing the witches’ dirty work for them so that nobody will ever find the witches because they are unaware that it was their doing.

To demonstrate the formula’s effectiveness, the Grand High Witch brings in a child named Bruno Jenkins, a rich and often greedy boy lured to the convention hall with the promise of free chocolate. She reveals that she had tricked Bruno into eating a chocolate bar laced with the formula the day before, and had set the “alarm” to go off during the meeting. The potion takes effect, transforming Bruno into a mouse before the assembled witches.

Shortly after, the witches detect the narrator’s presence and corner him. The Grand High Witch then pours an entire bottle of Formula 86 down his throat, and the overdose instantly turns him into a mouse. However, the transformed child retains his mentality, personality and even his voice – refusing to be lured into a mouse-trap. After tracking down Bruno, the transformed boy returns to his grandmother’s hotel room and tells her what he has learned. He suggests turning the tables on the witches by slipping the potion into their evening meal. With some difficulty, he manages to get his hands on a bottle of the potion from the Grand High Witch’s room.

After an attempt to return Bruno to his parents fails spectacularly (mainly due to his mother’s fear of mice), the grandmother takes Bruno and the narrator to the dining hall. The narrator enters the kitchen, where he pours the potion into the green pea soup intended for the witches’ dinner. On the way back from the kitchen, a cook spots the narrator and chops off part of his tail with a carving knife, before he manages to escape back to his grandmother. The witches all turn into mice within a few minutes, having had massive overdoses just like the narrator. The hotel staff and the guests all panic and unknowingly end up killing the Grand High Witch and all of England’s witches.

Having returned home, the boy and his grandmother then devise a plan to rid the world of witches. His grandmother, by impersonating the chief of police of Norway on the telephone, discovered that the Grand High Witch was living in a castle in that country. They will travel to the Grand High Witch’s Norwegian castle, and use the potion to change her successor and the successor’s assistants into mice, then release cats to destroy them. Using the Grand High Witch’s money-making machine and information on witches in various countries, they will try to eradicate them everywhere. The grandmother also reveals that, as a mouse, the boy will probably only live for about another nine years, but the boy does not mind, as he does not want to outlive his grandmother (she reveals that she is also likely to live for only nine more years), as he would hate to have anyone else look after him.

My Thoughts:

Yep, still as good as when I read it back in ’12 and the many times in the 90’s as well.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Esio Trot ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Esio Trot
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Short Story
Pages: 14
Words: 4.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Mr Hoppy is a shy elderly man who lives alone in an apartment, tending to his many plants, which have been the centre of his life since he retired from his job in a bus garage several years before. For many years, he has had a secret love whose name was Mrs Silver. She lives in the flat below his, and he frequently leans over his balcony and exchanges polite conversations with Mrs Silver, but his courage fails him whenever he prepares to hint at his true feelings for her.

Mrs Silver has a small pet tortoise, Alfie, who is the centre of her world. One morning, Mrs Silver mentions to Mr Hoppy that even though she has owned Alfie for many years, he has only grown a tiny bit and has gained only 13 ounces in weight. She confesses that she wishes she knew of some way to make her little Alfie grow into a larger, more dignified tortoise. Mr Hoppy suddenly thinks of a way to give Mrs Silver her wish and win her heart.

Mr Hoppy tells Mrs Silver that he — in fact — knows a way to make a tortoise grow bigger. He writes the following words on a slip of paper, and lowers it down to Mrs Silver:

ESIO TROT, ESIO TROT,

TEG REGGIB REGGIB,

EMOC NO, ESIO TROT,

WORG PU, FFUP PU, TOOHS PU,

GNIRPS PU, WOLB PU, LLEWS PU!

EGROG! ELZZUG! FFUTS! PLUG!

TUP NO TAF, ESIO TROT, TUP NO TAF,

OG NO, OG NO, ELBBOG DOOF.

Mr Hoppy explains that these magic words, when whispered in Alfie’s ear three times a day, will cause Alfie to grow bigger and bigger. Mrs Silver is doubtful, but agrees to try. (The words are, reversed, Tortoise, tortoise, get bigger bigger! Come on, tortoise, grow up, puff up, shoot up! Spring up, blow up, swell up! Gorge! Guzzle! Stuff! Gulp! Put on fat, tortoise, put on fat! Go on, go on, gobble food!)

Over the next few days, Mr Hoppy carries out the second part of his plan. He visits every pet shop in the city, and buys many tortoises of various sizes, but none that weigh less than 13 ounces. Mr Hoppy brings all the tortoises back to his flat and installs them in a makeshift corral in his living room. Next, Mr Hoppy builds a special tool to help him snatch the tortoise from Mrs Silver’s balcony. He fastens a handle to the end of a long metal tube, and a tiny claw at the bottom. By pulling the handle, the arms of the claw gently open and close.

The following day, when Mrs Silver left for work, Mr Hoppy selects a tortoise from his living room that weighs exactly 15 ounces. He carefully picked Alfie up from the lower balcony, and exchanged him with the new tortoise. When Mrs Silver returned home, she faithfully whispers the magic words in Alfie’s ear, but does not notice that an exchange has been made.

Over the next 8 weeks, Mr Hoppy continues to switch Mrs Silver’s current pet with a slightly larger tortoise, but she still does not perceive that her pet is growing in size. One afternoon, Mrs Silver comments to Mr Hoppy that Alfie seems a bit bigger, but can not tell for sure. Suddenly, Mrs Silver notices that Alfie can no longer fit through the door to his house, and exclaims to Mr Hoppy that his spell is sure to be working. Mrs Silver runs inside and weighs her pet, and is surprised to find that Alfie now weighs 27 ounces, more than double the weight he was before. Mr Hoppy summons his courage and asks Mrs Silver if he can come down and see the effect for himself. Mrs Silver, in raptures over her pet’s transformation, gladly grants his request.

Mr Hoppy runs down the stairs, nervous and excited to be on the brink of winning Mrs Silver’s love. Mrs Silver flings open the door, embraces Mr Hoppy, and expresses her admiration for Mr Hoppy’s magical spell. However, the tortoise cannot fit in the house now, so Mr Hoppy tells Mrs Silver to say the magic spell properly. On the next night he secretly replaces this tortoise with one slightly smaller one. His part works splendidly, and Mr Hoppy, suddenly emboldened by Mrs Silver’s warm smile, asks Mrs Silver for her hand in marriage. Mrs Silver delightedly accepts Mr Hoppy’s proposal, then adds that she thought he would never get around to asking. “All due to Alfie!” she cries.

Mr Hoppy secretly returns all the tortoises in his living room back to their respective pet shops, telling all the owners that they didn’t need to pay. Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver are happily married a few weeks later. The “original” Alfie is bought by a girl called Roberta Squibb after he is returned to a pet shop; moreover, after many years, he does indeed grow to double his size before.

My Thoughts:

You know, I ended up thinking the EXACT SAME THING as I did when I read this in ’12. An overly complicated solution to something that could have been sorted out in 5minutes. That’s not necessarily bad, but I was hoping for a new revelation (as it were).

Of course, being a short story of just 14 pages (with pictures mind you), it’s hard to get to the bones of the story, as it doesn’t have any 😀

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Flashman ✬☆☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Flashman
Series: The Flashman Papers #1
Authors: George Fraser
Rating: 0.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 231
Words: 100K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Plot introduction

Presented within the frame of the discovery of the supposedly historical Flashman Papers, this book chronicles the subsequent career of the bully Flashman from Tom Brown’s School Days. The book begins with a fictional note explaining that the Flashman Papers were discovered in 1965 during a sale of household furniture in Ashby, Leicestershire.

The papers are attributed to Harry Paget Flashman, the bully featured in Thomas Hughes’ novel, who becomes a well-known Victorian military hero (in Fraser’s fictional England). The papers were supposedly written between 1900 and 1905. The subsequent publishing of these papers, of which Flashman is the first installment, contrasts the public image of a (fictional) hero with his own more scandalous account of his life as an amoral and cowardly bully.

Flashman begins with the eponymous hero’s own account of his expulsion from Rugby and ends with his fame as “the Hector of Afghanistan”. It details his life from 1839 to 1842 and his travels to Scotland, India, and Afghanistan.

It also contains a number of notes by the author, in the guise of a mere editor of the papers, providing additional historical glosses on the events described. The history in these books is largely accurate; most of the prominent figures Flashman meets were real people.

Plot summary

Flashman’s expulsion from Rugby for drunkenness leads him to join the British Army in what he hopes will be a sinecure. He joins the 11th Regiment of Light Dragoons commanded by Lord Cardigan, to whom he toadies in his best style. After an affair with a fellow-officer’s lover, he is challenged to a duel but wins after promising a large sum of money to the pistol loader to give his opponent a blank load in his gun. He does not kill his opponent but instead delopes and accidentally shoots the top off a bottle thirty yards away, an action that gives him instant fame and the respect of the Duke of Wellington.

Once the reason for fighting emerges, the army stations Flashman in Scotland. He is quartered with the family of textile industrialist Morrison and soon enough takes advantage of one of the daughters, Elspeth. After a forced marriage, Flashman is required to resign the Hussars due to marrying below his station. He is given another option, to make his reputation in India.

By showing off his language and riding skills in India, Flashman is assigned to the staff of Major General William George Keith Elphinstone, who is to command the garrison at the worst frontier of the British Empire at that time, Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he meets a soldier who relates the narrow escape he made in November 1842, on the first night of the Afghan Uprising. After Akbar Khan proclaims a general revolt which the citizens of Kabul immediately heed, a mob storms the house of Sir Alexander Burnes, one of the senior British political officers, and murders him and his staff. The soldier, stationed nearby, manages to flee in midst of the confusion.

This tale sets the tone for Flashman’s proceeding adventures, including the 1842 retreat from Kabul and the Battle of Jellalabad, in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Despite being captured, tortured and escaping death numerous times, hiding and shirking his duty as much as possible, he comes through it with a hero’s reputation … although his triumph is tempered when he realizes his wife might have been unfaithful while he was away.

My Thoughts:

The byline by one paper’s review (on the cover but probably illegible at that size) is “Villainy Triumphant”. That is the most apt description for this book.

This was a vile piece of filth, a vomitorium of trash, something so wrong that it left me sputtering because I couldn’t finds to express my utter disgust and horror that something like this could exist.

Flashman lies, cheats, murders and rapes his way through this book and is not only unrepentant but glad he did everything he did. He also considers anyone not looking out exclusively for themselves as idiots of the first order. While Flashman might be a fictional construct, the author thought this up and I trust he will be judged in the end for having created something so vile.

Evil and vile are the two words that spring to mind. I am sickened and appalled that someone would write something like this for entertainment.

This month is not turning out well for me and books.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Series: Charlie Bucket #2
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 117
Words: 32K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story picks up where the previous book left off, with Charlie and family aboard the flying Great Glass Elevator after Willy Wonka has rewarded him with the ownership of his chocolate factory. The Elevator accidentally goes into orbit, and Mr. Wonka docks them at the Space Hotel USA. Their interception of the hotel is mistaken by approaching astronauts and hotel staff in a Commuter Capsule and listeners on Earth (including the President of the United States) as an act of space piracy and they are variously accused of being enemy agents, spies and aliens. Shortly after their arrival, they discover that the hotel has been overrun by dangerous, shape-changing alien monsters known as The Vermicious Knids. The Knids cannot resist showing off and reveal themselves by using the five hotel elevators (with one Knid in each of them) and spell out the word “SCRAM”, giving the group time to evacuate. As the group leaves, a Knid follows the Great Glass Elevator and tries to break it open, but to no avail, which results in the Knid receiving a bruise on its backside and hungering for payback.

Meanwhile, with the Great Glass Elevator’s passengers gone, the President allows the Commuter Capsule to dock with the Space Hotel. Upon entry by the astronauts and the Space Hotel staff, the Knids attack by eating fourteen of the staff, prompting an immediate evacuation by the rest of the group. The Great Glass Elevator comes back just in time to see the entire Knid infestation coming in on the attack, bashing the Commuter Capsule to the point where the retrorockets cannot be fired to initiate immediate reentry and the communication antenna cannot keep the astronauts in communication with the President. Charlie suggests towing the Commuter Capsule back to Earth, and, despite a last attempt by the Knids to tow the two craft away to their home planet Vermes, in the process the Knids are incinerated in Earth’s atmosphere. Mr. Wonka releases the Commuter Capsule, while the Elevator crashes down through the roof of the chocolate factory.

Back in the chocolate factory, three of Charlie’s grandparents refuse to leave their bed. Mr. Wonka gives them a rejuvenation formula called “Wonka-Vite”. They take much more than they need (4 pills instead of 1 or 2), subtracting 80 years (which reduces their age by 20 years per pill). Two become babies, but 78-year-old Grandma Georgina vanishes, having become “−2”. Charlie and Mr. Wonka journey to “Minusland”, where they track down Grandma Georgina’s spirit. As she has no physical presence, Mr. Wonka sprays her with the opposite of “Wonka-Vite” – “Vita-Wonk” – in order to age her again. Mr. Wonka admits that it is not an accurate way to age a person, but the spray is the only way to dose “minuses”. Upon leaving Minusland, they discover that Grandma Georgina is now 358 years old. Using cautious doses of Wonka-Vite and Vita-Wonk, the three grandparents are restored to their original ages.

Finally, the President of the United States invites the family and Mr. Wonka to the White House to thank them for their space rescue. The family and Wonka accept the invitation (including the grandparents who finally agree to get out of their beds) and prepare to leave.

My Thoughts:

When I read the Charlie Bucket books back in elementary, middle and high school, I always enjoyed The Great Glass Elevator more than Chocolate Factory. Back then I think it was because of the SF elements (space, spaceships, aliens, negative land, etc) in Elevator that simply weren’t in Factory. So when I read the duology this year (Chocolate Factory was read in January) I was expecting to like Elevator more once again. Imagine my surprise when I got done this book and realized that Chocolate Factory is not only the better book but also more enjoyable.

Part of that is that the premise to this book is beyond even ridiculous. It’s hilarious and I still love it, but it just hit me that it WAS ridiculous this time around and so my enjoyment was lessened. I wasn’t able to enter into the silliness like Dahl intended. The other thing that lessened my enjoyment was that the other 3 grandparents played a part in the story this time and they were stinkers. Made me shake my head and wonder how Charlie turned out so well.

Other than that, I enjoyed the ever living daylights out of this. Willy Wonka is a genius who is always in control no matter the circumstances and Charlie is a smart boy who THINKS before he reacts. More kids need examples like that in their entertainment.

Rating: 4 out of 5.