Bootleg – Alex Shearer

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Alex Shearer lives with his family in Somerset. He has written more than a dozen books for both adults and children, as well as many successful television series, films, and stage and radio plays. He has had over thirty different jobs, and has never given up trying to play the guitar.

Bootleg was made into a successful three-part BBC TV drama that was shown in 2002.

The book in one sentence: Dictatorial political party the Good For You Party has banned chocolate and all things pleasurable from the country to help people lead healthier lives, but this ruling is not to taken meekly by Smudger and Huntly, who eventually became bootleggers for chocolate and had chocolate ‘eateasy’ parties!

Who would you recommend it to: Doubtless, chocolate lovers! Can you imagine a life without chocolate? No? Read this book then.

OK bits: Love the concept of the book.

Boring bits: Nothing particularly boring.

Verdict: This book is just like chocolate – guilty pleasure. It’s not a literary book but it sure is enjoyable, reading about people who love chocolate so much that they do whatever it takes to have them, even if it means breaking the law! The ending is a bit nonsensical to me, but it is a children’s book and so you should just let your imagination run free.

Bookish Christmas Wishes

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This time, the FAIL blog got it kinda right about books (sorting)! (Previously they thought book rental stores are a stupid concept.)

That aside, so what books are you wishing for Christmas? And what books do you plan to give out for Christmas?

My List

Give
Any Roald Dahl book

Get
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Any books by Edward Monkton
Quidditch Through the Ages – Kennilworthy Whisp (Trying to complete my Harry Potter collection, heh) Got it from warehouse sale, yay!

Penguin asked the same question to a group of authors recently. Here’s what they chose: More

Books That Define Your Childhood

For some, it might be Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. For others, it might be Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, or the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland.

As for me, my childhood was defined by Enid Blyton’s books. My parents used to buy me those hardback books of short stories, like A Hole in Her Pocket and Other Stories from garage sales. I even owned a tome consisting 5 stories from The Famous Five series. My favourite Enid Blyton books were the ones about The Faraway Tree, of course, as well as The Wishing Chair and Amelia Jane stories. There is one particular book I enjoyed reading, called The Three Brownies. I lost that book and till now I can never find this title at bookshops or even online. ­čśŽ

Enid Blyton books were my staple from when I was seven till about ten years old. During then, I also got hooked to a Singapore series called The Bookworm Gang. This was about as local a children’s series as I could get. I love the colourful characters who I could relate easier to than the Western counterparts written by Ms Blyton, terrific though they were. I wonder what happened to my collection of those books…

In my tween age, a friend introduced me to The Sweet Valley Twins and Friends, which I felt was the real catalyst to my reading habit, despite having devoured many Enid Blytons. Besides introducing me to Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, it was through my friend which I learn about the concept of book rental stores. It wasn’t long before I ventured into one of these places to borrow some books, and later on it became a weekly trip for me and my dad as he chatted up with the owner while I grab the latest titles.

At the book rental stores, I was exposed to Archie comics, R. L. Stine’s Fear Street and Goosebumps, Christopher Pike novels, Love Stories series… basically junk food for reading. But you know what? I believe they help teach me a lot about life, besides keeping me entertained on my own.

What books do you remember from your childhood? Do you still keep them? Do you read them again every now and then?

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The Eyes of the Amaryllis – Natalie Babbitt

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The book in one sentence: Jenny Reade stays with her grandmother Geneva for a few weeks to care for her while her broken ankle heals, but Geneva has a different task in mind for Jenny to accomplish; something she has been waiting from the ocean.

Who would you recommend it to: A reader who’s looking for a quick, summer romance story without the mushy bits.

OK bits: I like the romance in the story; very old-fashioned and sweet.

Boring bits: Nothing particularly boring.

Random review quote:

ÔÇťIndisputably one of our gifted writers… The Eyes of the Amaryllis is a ghost story concerned with real-life “things you can’t explain.” – Selma G. Lanes, The New York Times Book Review

Verdict: I thought the ending is a bit of a cop-out, at least where the grandmother was concerned, but overall I thought it’s a sweet, haunting story.

The Cay & Timothy of the Cay – Theodore Taylor

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The books in one sentence each: Phillip Enright survives a shipwreck, stuck on a cay blind, with an old Negro and a cat, to go through a life-changing experience. The prequel-sequel describes how Timothy the Negro came to be the man he was and how Phillip regains his sight and visits the cay he has lived on for 3 months.

Who would you recommend it to: Anybody; this is good young children’s fiction stuff, and apparently based on a true story recounted to the author.

OK bits: How Phillip becomes independent, even though he’s blind, and how he grew stronger mentally from this experience.

Boring bits: I don’t really bother much about the descriptions. I also don’t really like reading about Timothy’s background in the second book, but it’s just my personal tastes.

Random review quote:

ÔÇťInnocence vs. wisdom, black vs. white, growing up and surviving… forcefully portrayedÔÇŁ – Library Journal

“Anyone who enjoyed The Cay will want to read this stunning prequel-sequel” – The Sacramento Bee

Verdict: I just love these two books… totally heartbreaking yet so inspirational. And I love the ending of the prequel-sequel… Heh, you can tell it’s a happy ending. ­čśŤ But I think it’s a good ending on its own, nevertheless!

The Trumpet of the Swan – E. B. White

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E. B. White was born in Mount Vernon, New York, in 1899 and was graduated from Cornell University in 1921. After five or six years of trying many sorts of jobs, he joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine. The connection proved a happy one and resulted in a steady output of satirical sketches, poems, essays, and editorials. His essays also appeared in Harper’s Magazine.

Mr White is the author of thirteen books of prose and poetry. His two previous children’s books, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, are modern classics, for which he has been given the 1970 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.

The book in one sentence: Louis the Trumpeter Swan is born without a voice, but leads an extraordinary life despite his disability.

Who would you recommend it to: Well, if you’ve read the other two E. B. White children’s book, you might as well read this and complete the set.

OK bits: Nothing I particularly like in this book.

Boring bits: I found Louis’s father very annoying and pompous.

Verdict: I just didn’t enjoy this book. It was all too goody-two-shoes for me; there wasn’t a real bad guy in the book!

Sing to the Dawn – Minfong Ho

Minfong Ho is a Singaporean who grew up in Thailand and now makes her home in Ithaca, New York. She is also author of Rice Without Rain, The Clay Marble and Maples in the Mist. She also co-authored Sing to the Dawn, the musical based on the book.

The book in one sentence: A simple story about a simple girl living in rural Thailand fighting against the odds to study in the city.

Who would you recommend it to: Anyone looking for a quick but meaningful read.

OK bits: The protagonist Dawan and her brother Kwai.

Boring bits: The Buddhist monk who tries to discourage her from studying in the city with the reason that everything is temporary and will not last.

Verdict: I usually do not enjoy stories with an Asian setting very much. This is one of the few that I did. I love how Dawan is a strong female character that refuses to be discouraged by the people around her about the horrors of the city; yet, she is fully aware that it is not necessarily a better life she will lead when she gets there. This book was the winner of the S. E. A. Write Award 1996 and won 1st prize for the Council of Interracial Books for Children, New York (though I’m puzzled because there wasn’t any interracial content).

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