Browsing Category:

Book Club

Book Club Review: Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald DahlTitle: Matilda

Author: Roald Dahl

Genre: Children’s Classic, Fiction, Fantasy

So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea.

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


review

In Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story, bright little Matilda is constantly overlooked by her abusive parents, and seeks comfort in the many books of her local library.  Things don’t get much better when she starts school – the wicked Miss Trunchbull loves to punish her students, and is quick to take a disliking to Matilda.  Developing magic powers to put these rotten adults in their place, Matilda decides to get justice for those who have been ill-treated, including her new friend and favourite teacher, Miss Honey.

Though Matilda may be a children’s book, there is much to enjoy for young and old alike.  You don’t have to be a child to fear the wrath of the Trunchbull, or to despise the fraudulant Mr Wormwood.  The book is about being strong in the face of bullies, and Matilda is certainly a good role model for tackling these issues.  Indeed, there are few bullies more villainous than Miss Trunchbull – her characterisation was incredible, and illustrator Quentin Blake does an excellent job of bringing her to life in his unique style.

The book is also wonderfully comical throughout, which is a trademark of Roald Dahl’s work.  Dahl doesn’t hold back with his humour, and constantly laughs at adults – I liked that this really built a connection between the reader and writer.  This is evident even in the first few lines of the book, which really sets a prescedent for things to come:

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers.  Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

Magial powers, a tyrannous headmistress and a young teacher with a heart of gold – it is a story that transcends both age and time, and has been widely adapted to film, audiobook and theatre.  It will be loved no doubt for many years to come.  Roald Dahl specialises in empowering children, and there is a message in Matilda for readers of all ages – not to underestimate children, because they are stronger and far more capable than you know.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)


Thanks for joining us for the Words & Geeks Book Club!  We’re having a break in November for NaNoWriMo, but you can keep up-to-date with Book Club news here.
Emma

 

 

 

 

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

October 31, 2016
/

Matilda: Halfway Checkpoint

words-and-geeks-banner

Matilda

Reading Status: Page 171 (Miss Honey’s Cottage)

So, this month we’ve been reading Matilda in celebration of Roald Dahl’s 100th anniversary.  And it has been wonderful!

I’ve been thinking as I’ve been reading about whether Roald Dahl intended for his books to be so appealing for adults too.  The humour in places is decidedly mature, but that’s just very much his style, I think, and what stands out more is how much he likes to laugh at adults, and give power to children.  That’s very much the theme of Matilda, and has been the source of many laughs.

I love how awful grown ups are in Roald Dahl’s world, and even though I know the story already, the Trunchbull and Matilda’s parents really are rotten to experience on paper.  Having seen the film, I know some excellent chapters are coming up, though nothing quite beats Bruce Bogtrotter and the chocolate cake.

My feelings are still mixed as to whether the book trumps the film (DeVito’s representation of Mr Wormwood is flawless), but there’s no question as to why it is considered a children’s classic.  I’m looking forward to finishing off the last few chapters now and finally ticking this great book off my TBR.


There’s still time to join the Words & Geeks read-along this month – tweet your progress on Twitter using the hashtag #WordsandGeeks!  Click here to find out more about Book Club and view previous books we’ve read.

Happy reading!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

October 15, 2016
/

October Book Club Introduction: Matilda

words-and-geeks-banner

This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl, and Words & Geeks wanted to join in the fun!  We’ll be reading Matilda this month as an excuse to revisit our childhoods, and because we firmly believe that you never outgrow a classic author like Roald Dahl.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Goodreads | The Book Depository


Summary:

(This is taken from the blurb of my copy of the book)

Matilda Wormwood is an extraordinary genius with really stupid parents.

Miss Trunchbull is her terrifying headmistress who thinks all her pupils are rotten little stinkers.

But Matilda will show these horrible grown-ups that, even though she’s only small, she’s got some very powerful tricks up her sleeve…


Author Bio:

Born in Wales in 1916, Roald Dahl loved adventure – he worked for an oil company so he could travel, and later joined the RAF.  As his children’s books became more famous, he began to work with illustrator Quentin Blake, who went on to illustrate almost all of Dahl’s books.  Roald Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74.


First Lines:

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers.  Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.


First Impressions:

It is difficult to have a first impression of an author you’ve known for as long as you can remember.  Still, of course my hopes are high for this one – I don’t really see how I can be let down; it is Roald Dahl, for goodness sake!  I also love the Matilda film, I love the snippets of the broadway musical I’ve seen online, and I’ve loved every other Roald Dahl book I ever read – what could go wrong?


Join us for October’s read-along!  Pick up a copy of Matilda and let us know how you’re getting on by posting a comment here or using #WordsandGeeks on Twitter!  Pop back midway through October for the Halfway Checkpoint post, where we’ll be discussing our thoughts on the book so far.

Happy reading!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

The Words & Geeks Book Club is a chance to read great books with fellow book lovers. Each month, a new book is chosen and followers can read-along together, with updates posted on Twitter (using #WordsandGeeks) and the blog.


You can find out more about the Words & Geeks Book Club, including past books we’ve read, by clicking here.

October 1, 2016
/

Book Club Review: Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker

25265574Title: Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Author: Mark Vanhoenacker

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel

Publication Date: April 2015

I try hard to remember that this is an unusual experience of the world – to have stood on the earth there, then there on it and there; then suddenly to find myself alone on an ordinary afternoon, quietly washing it from my shoes.

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

Skyfaring is a memoir of author Mark Vanhoenacker’s experiences of aviation, from his interest in flight as a child to his journeys through the skies as a qualified pilot.  I must admit that the book was a complete surprise for me.  I suppose I started out with some vague notion that it would be a very to-the-point and factual book for the most part, full of complicated terminology and technical descriptions, but I was quite wrong.

Vanhoenacker is an exceptional writer, and his resume is no less impressive – leaving a career as a management consultant, he trained to become a pilot, and now works as a Senior First Officer for British Airways.  He is also a columnist, and his writing ability is clear.  Skyfaring is nothing less than a work of poetry, and he manages to make flying sound almost romantic; I actually forgot at times that I was reading non-fiction.

Paired with this freedom is the opportunity to come to know the cities of the world well, and to see so much of the land, water and air that lie between them.

I have never dwelt too much on flying – I’ve always tended to have my feet rooted firmly on the ground, I think!  But Skyfaring made me wonder why I never thought about it more.  In particular, I thought the paragraphs about restricted airspace were fascinating, especially the Tower of Silence near Mumbai.  I never considered that the skies would also have their own rules, codes and boundaries.

Of course, nothing is perfect.  My one real criticism of the book is that I wish that each topic was elaborated on just a little bit more – Vanhoenacker was quick to flutter between experiences, and actually if you were to strip away a lot of the descriptive, fancy language, the actual real substance of the book was half the number of pages.  He never seemed to stay long enough on a story for me to get a true sense of the experience.  This also extended to the paragraphs about restricted airspace which I was talking about above – I would have loved to have read more about it, but the topic moved swiftly on.  What is there though is exceptional, and it was still very enjoyable to read.

On the whole, Skyfaring was an absolute pleasure to read – educational, fun, poetic, it is an impressive piece of non-fiction.  I wouldn’t think twice about picking up another of Mark Vanhoenacker’s books – whether it be about flying, or anything else, I’m sure it would fill any reader with as much wonder as Skyfaring did for me.

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)


Thanks for joining us for this month’s Book Club read!  Click here to find out what we’re reading next.

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

September 30, 2016
/

Celebrating Roald Dahl’s 100th Anniversary with Words & Geeks

words-and-geeks-bannerEverywhere has been celebrating Roald Dahl’s 100th anniversary over these last few months, so we thought we would jump on the bandwagon and join the party!  Dahl’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, so we’ve decided to choose one of his classic children’s books to read in October, a book that not only has been successful in print, but is also a much-loved family film and new stage production too.  Can you guess?

Arrow

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda

Goodreads | The Book Depository


Summary:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!


I don’t think we’ve ever read a children’s book for Words & Geeks before.  October will be such a treat; a trip down memory lane!  I was gifted a collection of Roald Dahl books when I was a child, and loved his stories so much.  The Enormous Crocodile was one of my favourite picture books for many years, and I know I’ll keep my old battered copy to pass down to my own children.   The Twits was also one of the staple books of my early years of reading, and I remember reading it again and again by myself and with family members.  I always used to cringe at the bits of food caught in Mr Twit’s beard (shudder).

Somehow though, I never did get to read Matilda, so I’m interested to see what it will be like now from an adult’s perspective.  I’m pretty sure that when it comes to Dahl age doesn’t matter, and I know I’m going to really enjoy delving into another one of his books again after ten years.

If you want to find out more about the various events on this year to celebrate Roald Dahl’s 100th anniversary, you can check out the website.

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

-Roald Dahl

Happy reading!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

September 20, 2016
/

Skyfaring: Halfway Checkpoint

Skyfaring

Reading Status: Page 21

After my action-packed week in Cornwall, followed by a week of flu, I’ve read a grand total of twenty-one pages of SkyfaringOuch.  Weirdly all I want to do when I am poorly is watch The Great British Bake Off, Hotel Inspector and YouTube videos, which doesn’t leave much time for reading!

Anyway, what I’ve read so far I have really really enjoyed.  I had no idea when I first picked up this book that it was going to be written with such passion.  Mark Vanhoenacker is quite clearly an exceptional writer, and his words often read like poetry.  I may not have read much, but I hope this standard continues for the rest of the book.

In the absence of more commentary, let me quote one of my favourite sections:

From aeroplanes we occasionally look up and are briefly held by the stars or the firmament of blue.  But mostly we look down, caught by the sudden gravity of what we’ve left, and by thoughts of reunion, drifting like clouds over the half-bright world.

Simply wonderful.

You can follow my reading updates on Twitter for the rest of the month, and don’t forget to check out The Geek Undergraduate for her Halfway Checkpoint thoughts!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

September 15, 2016
/

September Book Club Introduction: Skyfaring

words-and-geeks-banner

This post is up a tad later than usual as (appropriately, considering the book) I have been on my travels again.  I’m currently writing this from Cornwall, and will be sure to do a post about all the great places we visit whilst we’re here!  Of course I’ve packed my copy of Skyfaring, despite the fact a hardback book takes up a quarter of my backpack space – that’s Book Club dedication for you.

Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker

Skyfaring

Goodreads | The Book Depository


Summary:

Think back to when you first flew. When you first left the Earth, and travelled high and fast above its turning arc. When you looked down on a new world, captured simply and perfectly through a window fringed with ice. When you descended towards a city, and arrived from the sky as effortlessly as daybreak. In Skyfaring, airline pilot and flight romantic Mark Vanhoenacker shares his irrepressible love of flying, on a journey from day to night, from new ways of mapmaking and the poetry of physics to the names of winds and the nature of clouds. Here, anew, is the simple wonder that remains at the heart of an experience which modern travellers, armchair and otherwise, all too easily take for granted: the transcendent joy of motion, and the remarkable new perspectives that height and distance bestow on everything we love.


Author Bio:

Taken from his website, I really liked the informal tone of Mark Vanhoenacker’s bio:

I like writing about science, culture, flying, the unexpected, and the places I find myself. When I’m not writing, I’m usually on an airplane.

Skyfaring is my first book.


First Lines:

I’ve been asleep in a small windowless room, a room so dark it’s as if I’m below the waterline of a ship.


First Impressions:

I’m definitely looking forward to reading some non-fiction again.  The cover of my version is a bit uninspiring but the premise sounds good – I’ve never read anything like this before.  I’ve never really thought all that much about the life of a pilot, but I’ve become so inspired by travel over the last few years so I think it will be really interesting.


Be sure to check out Book Club co-host The Geek Undergraduate’s first impressions of the book too.  I’ll be sharing thoughts and book quotes on Twitter throughout September, and posting a halfway checkpoint post on the 15th.  Join the read-along, and share your thoughts with us too!

Happy reading!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

September 1, 2016
/

Book Club Review: Norwegian Wood by Murakami

Norwegian WoodTitle: Norwegian Wood

Author: Murakami

Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural (Japan), Romance, Contemporary

“Only the dead stay 17 forever.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


review

I will start by taking back everything I ever said about Murakami before picking up this book.  My experiences of The Strange Library left me so underwhelmed that I had almost written him off, but after being gifted a copy of Norwegian Wood by my brother, I thought it was worth trying his work again (especially as I had now been to Japan, and I had Emily at The Geek Undergraduate as my reading companion).  And I’m so glad I did.

Norwegian Wood takes us back in time to the university years of our protagonist, Toru Watanabe, as he battles with love, loss and identity.  Struggling to overcome the death of his best friend as a teenager, Watanabe is torn between Naoko, a girl from his past with ties to his late friend, and Midori, a quirky, fiery personality who offers him a different kind of future.  The book deals with an enormous range of issues, including mental and physical illness, and shows how wonderful, painful and unpredictable life can be.  As the translator, Jay Rubin, says in his note at the end of the book, “It is by no means “just” a love story.”

“You mean I’m really OK just the way I am?”

“I don’t know how you could change, so you must be fine the way you are.”

Watanabe was an exceptional narrator.  He offered witty dialogue and fascinating internal monologue in which he was honest and philosophical about the world around him.  And yet I often felt quite detached from him; he plays a passive role in his own life, and most of the plot is driven by the personalities around him – the crazy Midori, the charismatic Nagasawa, the vulnerable Naoko, the musical Reiko.  When alone, Watanabe tends to read, think and sit in coffee shops, but these characters drag him out of his comfort zone and push the plot along.  It is only really near the end of the book that he is forced to make decisions on his own, building up to an ending that left me quite shaken up!

I can’t recall the last time I read a book with such well constructed characters.  I kept thinking to myself, “how did Murakami even create these people?”  I would love to know if they are based off real people, because some of them – Midori and Nagasawa in particular – are so extreme and intrinsically realistic that they could only reflect real life personalities.  I felt the same way when reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and there are a lot of similarities between the two books – Nagasawa would no doubt be at home alongside that unusual, rich group of Classics students.  Both novels deal with characters of great intelligence, and I think this very much a reflections of the authors themselves – I think Murakami must be quite a remarkable man to have written such a book.

Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.

My only criticism is that at times it felt fairly obvious that it was a translated text – certain parts did not flow as well as others, but it didn’t particularly detract anything from the reading experience.  If anything, it added a sort of authenticity to the fact the book is based in Japan, and it gave me a lot of satisfaction to see references to places I visited on my own trip to Tokyo.

I think Norwegian Wood is a book I will carry with me for a number of years, and I am thrilled to know there are many more Murakami books waiting for me to read (plus, I just realised I can now tick one more off Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime list).

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Click here to see what we’ll be reading next for Book Club!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

August 31, 2016
/

Words & Geeks Book Club: September ’16 Book Announcement

With Emily at The Geek Undergraduate jetting off to Japan soon, we thought this book about a pilot’s experiences of flying would be the perfect September read.  Can you guess the book?

Arrow

Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker

Skyfaring

Goodreads | The Book Depository


Blurb:

Think back to when you first flew. When you first left the Earth, and travelled high and fast above its turning arc. When you looked down on a new world, captured simply and perfectly through a window fringed with ice. When you descended towards a city, and arrived from the sky as effortlessly as daybreak. In Skyfaring, airline pilot and flight romantic Mark Vanhoenacker shares his irrepressible love of flying, on a journey from day to night, from new ways of mapmaking and the poetry of physics to the names of winds and the nature of clouds. Here, anew, is the simple wonder that remains at the heart of an experience which modern travellers, armchair and otherwise, all too easily take for granted: the transcendent joy of motion, and the remarkable new perspectives that height and distance bestow on everything we love.


It is about time we read a non-fiction book for Book Club again!  As Emily picked this book out, I really don’t know all that much about it!  I haven’t read any extracts or reviews – I’m just really looking forward to starting it with no preconceptions.  The only hints I’ve had is what the blurb has told me, and the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, in which Mark Vanhoenacker says:

If you have a favourite photograph from the window seat, please send it along to me via the website ‘skyfaring.com’.  I would love to see it.

Isn’t that just wonderful?

Join us for an Introduction post on 1st September.  If you can’t wait that long, why not join us for the end of August’s book, Norwegian Wood by Murakami.  More info about the Words & Geeks Book Club can be found here.

Happy reading!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

August 20, 2016
/

Norwegian Wood: Halfway Checkpoint

Norwegian Wood

Reading Status: Page 161

August’s Words & Geeks read has been Norwegian Wood by Murakami.  My only previous experience of the author was The Strange Library, which actually really underwhelmed me, so I was hopeful yet cautious when I started this book.

I’m currently halfway through, and I’m left thinking “this Murakami is surely not the Murakami who wrote The Strange Library“.  It is completely different, a truly engaging piece of literary fiction with interesting characters and plot.  I also love recognising place names from around Tokyo (it adds a pinch of personal that I find really cool).

I still have absolutely no idea where the plot it headed.  Toru (our protagonist) has just vowed to help his old love Naoko recover from the events of her past, but I know from the blurb of the book that Midori (a quirky, free-spirited girl in Toru’s class) has a much larger role to come – which of these girls will win his heart?  Or is this book about more than that?  I’m just so curious to see what happens now!

You can join us for Book Club this month by reading the introduction post here, and don’t forget to check out The Geek Undergraduate’s thoughts on her reading so far!

Emma

Follow me on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

August 16, 2016
/