Double Review: The Ersatz Elevator & The Vile Village

Lemony Snicket
Harper Collins
Published 20th February 2001/24th April 2001
Borrowed from my boyfriend's bookshelf

I never finished A Series Of Unfortunate Events as a child so every now and then (like when I finish my book or the tablet I was reading on dies) I will pick the next one or two off my boyfriend’s shelf and slowly continue to work my way through the series. Yesterday it was The Ersatz Elevator and The Vile Village that accompanied me on my train ride home.

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The Iron Trial

Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Series: Magisterium, Book 1
Publisher: Random House
Star Rating: 2/5
Date Read: September 8th to 9th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.

The Iron Trial is the first in a new five book series for middle grade readers. It is the story of a boy named Callum Hunt, or Call, who knows he has the potential for magic but his father has told him that he should want none of it. The Magisterium, the school for young mages, is the reason Callum’s mother is dead and his father has never recovered. But all potential mages must attend The Iron Trial, whether they want to or not, to test their abilities for acceptance into the Magisterium. While trying to throw his chances, Call, despite his father’s protests, is chosen to attend the Magisterium and is taken under the wing of Master Rufus, along with two others, Aaron and Tamara. Call enters a world where he is finally accepted, makes friends and uncovers the secrets of his past and that of the Enemy of Death, the cause for unrest in the magic world.

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The Austere Academy

Author: Lemony Snicket
Series: A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Book 5
Publisher: Harper Collins
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: August 12th, 2014
Read Count: 2
Review:
The woeful stories of the Baudelaire children continue in book five, The Austere Academy, when the siblings are placed in boarding school at Prufrock Prep. Violin playing Vice Principal Nero promises his advanced computer will keep Count Olaf why, even though the children don’t understand how it possibly could, while Violet and Klaus attend classes and Sunny works as Nero’s administrative secretary.

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The Miserable Mill

The Miserable Mill

Author: Lemony Snicket
Series: A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Book 4
Publisher: Harper Collins
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: August 12th, 2014
Read Count: 2
Review:
I feel like I just can’t help but enjoy these books. I am sure I read this one in my primary school days but I couldn’t remember it at all, so it was like I was reading it for the first time. I finished it in the train ride from my boyfriend’s house (where I access these books when I have nothing else to read) and was glad I had the foresight to grab number five as well, The Austere Academy, for the train ride home.

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Charlotte’s Web

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Author: 
E.B. White
Publisher: Puffin
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: July 2nd, 2014
Read Count: 3
Review:
I have quite a few review books to read, but I didn’t have any of them with me when I finished my last book on the train home from the city yesterday. But I did have this beautiful hardcover edition of Charlotte’s Web I picked up in a secondhand book store. If you’ve never felt sentimental about a pig, a spider and a rat (yes, I had a soft spot for Templeton!), then you should probably read Charlotte’s Web, no matter whether you are an adult, child or somewhere in between.

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Amir: Friend On Loan

Author: Amra Pajalic
Publisher: Grattan Press
Star Rating: 2.5/5
Date Read: May 5th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
Thank you to Goodreads and the author Amra Pajalic for providing me with a copy of this book.

Amir: Friend On Loan tells the story of Amir and Dragan, best friends living in Australia but with different ethnic backgrounds. This has never been a problem for their friendship, until the ‘Serbs’ invade Bosnia. Dragan is from Serbia and Amir from Bosnia. This causes all kinds of problems with their families and friends, and the boys find themselves not allowed to be friends anymore.

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The Wide Window

Author: Lemony Snicket
Series: A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Book 3
Publisher: Harper Collins
Star Rating: 3/5
Date Read: March 24th, 2014
Read Count: 2
Review:
I couldn’t believe it when, staying the night at my boyfriend’s, I reached into my bag for large, well-thumbed (despite only being the first reading) copy of War and Peace – only to find it wasn’t there. Great. I loathe being without a book. I had trains to catch the next morning, for crying out loud! Couldn’t believe I’d done something so rookie-like as to forget to pack a book. Off to the boyfriend’s bookshelf it was (even though I also don’t like starting a new book when I’m in the middle of another).

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A Little Bush Maid

Author: Mary Grant Bruce
Series: Billabong, Book 1
Publisher: Ward, Lock
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: September 20th to 22nd, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
I’d never heard of Mary Grant Bruce or the Billabong series until one day my grandmother started talking about the books she read as a child, some 70 years ago now. For all I knew she was making it all up because I had never heard or seen of it anywhere…until I stumbled across the first book A Little Bush Maid in a secondhand bookstore. I bought it immediately, and sat down to see what the fuss was about.

Of course, I loved it. How could I not? It’s Australia, it’s the bush, it’s history (though fiction I believe this portrays an accurate picture of rural Australia at the time), it’s a plucky little heroine who you can’t help but love and a whole other cast of characters. I can see why my grandmother loved this as a child and I only wish I, too, had discovered them at a younger age (being now about 10 years above the target age).

Many who read these books today may be shocked by some of the terms and behaviour used by even the children toward the Aboriginal stable boy. I think it is important to realise, while we should in no way encourage this behaviour, we also shouldn’t try to cover up that part of history. That was the way life was in the 1900s and is clearly very different to life in 2010s. Just to put my two cents in, I see no reason to politically correct any novels, including the Billabong series and also Enid Blyton books, which I believe have been ‘edited’. I think that adults shouldn’t be so shocked that those attitudes did once exist, and I also think that children who read the books should have an understanding of how life used to be different and why it’s not like that anymore.

But I digress! This book is wonderful and I look forward to scrounging around a few more secondhand bookstores to get my paws on the rest!

Tuck Everlasting

Author: Natalie Babbit
Publisher: Collins
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: September 25th, 2013
Review:
I didn’t read Tuck Everlasting as a child, though it is geared as a children’s book, in fact I’d never even heard of it til it popped up on my Goodreads recommendations and I then stumbled across it in a secondhand bookstore (they do wonders for me!). It’s not very long, only about 135 pages, and it only took me a train ride to the city to read it, but that does not make it any less impressive!

I don’t know what it was that so struck me about this book. I loved the descriptions, which painted a beautiful picture but weren’t overdone. I loved the characters – the Tucks and Winnie – the Tucks for their selfishness and their sadness, Winnie for her curiousity, her fierce loyalty, her willingness to help when she realised what was at stake.

I couldn’t help but wonder how the Tucks would perceive this world now, this fast paced world of technology and progress, as compared to the world in the early 1800s when they would have first realised that they would live forever. I wonder what they would think. Would it make them happy? Would they be disappointed at the way humans so carelessly treat their lives and this planet? Just a thought to ponder.

Bridge to Terabithia

Author: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: October 7th, 2013
Review:
I knew what I was getting myself into when I started this book. I had seen the movie a couple of times, I knew the storyline. I still decided to read this book. And in public.

Others who have read this book or seen the movie will shake their head at my futile belief that I could manage to stay composed will reading the final chapters. Needless to say, I did not and ended up trying to restrain my sobs while sitting next to a stranger. I don’t think anybody would want to share their commute with me after that!

If you haven’t read this or seen the movie, please don’t let my confession of my crying my little heart out deter you! And also don’t be put off by the fact that it is marketed towards young readers. Sure, the language is somewhat simplistic but within the simplicity is more complexity that older readers will pick up on, and I think the lack of description of Terabithia, which has sprung from the imaginations of Jesse and Leslie, actually adds to the magical qualities as the reader’s imagination is thrown wide open to create their own version of Terabithia, just as it is for our two young rulers – I love that. Their friendship and the world they have created feels special and the reader is invited to feel that too. I can see how this can appeal to young readers but also with its exploration of deeper themes, which is does flawlessly, integrating them into the story so subtly you may not even realise it at the time, it will appeal to older readers as well.

The character development in this novel is fantastic, as we watch Jesse grow and become more confident in himself in Leslie’s company. Although written in third person we see the story unfold from Jesse’s perspective and we have access to not only what happens, but what he thinks about. And we see the development in him, particularly when he builds the bridge to allow Terabithia to be open to the next generation of rulers, his younger sisters.

Keep the tissues handy!