Dickens in December Event: A Christmas Carol readalong

Dickens in December

Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Delia at Postcards from Asia are organising the Dickens in December event. There is a read-a-long, a watch-a-long and there are of course book reviews.

I participated in the read-a-long of A Christmas Carol. It’s not the first time I’ve read it. I read it a few years ago. Also, I’ve seen movie adaptations more than once so I was pretty familiar with the story before I started reading this time around.

Questions for the read-a-long:

Is this the first time you are reading the story?
This was the second time, I think.

Did you like it?
Yes, I loved it. I found it so funny.

Which was your favorite scene?
When Scrooge calls a boy on Christmas Day and asks him to bring the biggest goose he can get. And he says to himself what a lovely boy this is, and how clever, etc.

Which was your least favorite scene?
In the beginning, when Bob Cratchit is described as having hardly a coal in the fire to keep warm while working. I felt so sorry for the poor man!

Which spirit and his stories did you find the most interesting?
I liked the Ghost of Christmas Present the most. I loved it when Scrooge wanted to join in with the jolliness he saw in the visions.

Was there a character you wish you knew more about?
I was wondering about Jacob Marley, what sort of person he had been. Was he just like Scrooge, or did he have a family? What was he like when he was alive?

How did you like the end?
The end was a bit quick. I’d have liked to spend a bit more time with the new Scrooge. Seeing in more detail how he spends his Christmas Day and how he visits his nephew and is all likeable and friendly.

Did you think it was believable?
Well, I don’t believe in ghosts, so: no. Also, I can’t see that someone would be so easily changed in the course of a (long) night. Most people would begin with defending their way of living, rather than quickly accept it’s not right. He converted a little too easily!

Do you know anyone like Scrooge?
I know people who are the opposite to Scrooge. They like to pay for everything. Which is actually pretty annoying! 🙂

Did he deserve to be saved?
Yes, of course. Especially now that he turned out to be a generous man, willing to help out other people.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) – very good

Pages: 91

First published: 1843

I got this book: bought it secondhand, a few years ago (re-read)

Genre: classic

Book Review: The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice by Nathan Leslie

The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice by Nathan Leslie

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Number of pages: 204
First published: 2012 (October 30st)
I got this book: from Atticus Books via Netgalley, ebook
Genre: coming of age, fantasy

This is my third book by Atticus Publishers. Without Netgalley I would not have found them. Their books, at least the ones I’ve read, are short, quirky and fun: about a man who becomes a hermit in a decorative garden (The Bee-Loud Glade), or about a man who discovers he has Eskimo blood and decides to go whale hunting (The Snow Whale) and then this book, The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice, about an orphan who is sent from crazy aunt to crazy aunt and finds a home nowhere.

The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice: What it is about

From the publisher’s website: “When Tommy’s parents abandon him as a baby, his grandmother Gaga takes him to her reclusive house at the top of Pike’s Peak. Gaga’s parenting methods are extreme, but Tommy soon learns her eccentricities are nothing compared to the rest of his family. As he’s passed between his outlandish aunts, Tommy’s journey takes him to the country homestead of Aunt Tess (who hides surprising objects in her voluminous hair), the four city houses of Aunt Penny (who prefers to communicate by ESP), and the cave-like desert home of Aunt Chelsea the coyote hunter. As his cross-country romp reveals how bizarrely different families can be, Tommy begins to wonder if the conventional home he’s dreamed of might not be for him after all.

The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice captures the unmoored feelings of young adulthood and the complexities of American identity. It’s a dazzling novel about the ineffability of childhood and the nature of family and relationships in the increasingly rootless American experience.

The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice: What I thought

The cover may make you think this is a children’s book, but it isn’t: it’s an adult book about a child. It certainly was a tall tale! At first, nothing seemed amiss but when Tommy’s aunt grabs large objects from out of her unruly hair, it becomes clear that the story has some rather tall tale elements. It’s all funny as well as heart-breaking: orphan Tommy isn’t accepted with any of his family members and is moved from one to the other.

Tommy takes it all in his stride and tries to adapt to living with each of his aunts as best as possible. This must be one of the most deranged families ever! I loved how Tommy accepted every new situation and made the best of it. And how sad when he was made to move on to the next aunt!

The story is funny and never boring. It’s told in the matter-of-fact way a child looks at the world. While the story is quirky, the ending is very original. Actually, which ending? The author offers five possible (and very different ways) to end the story. All discuss what happened after he left his final aunt and how he is doing now, at forty or fifty years’ of age. The reader chooses!

I loved reading this funny short book. It’s a story that isn’t easily forgotten.

Quick Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick NessThis book was on the shortlist for the Indie Lit Awards in the Speculative Fiction genre. I read this book because I was in the jury for this genre. I had read one previous book by Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go, which I enjoyed a lot.

This book was a children’s book. It has black and white pictures throughout the book, quite dramatic!

The book is about Conor, 13 years old, who is having nightmares. One nightmare in particular keeps coming back. But then one night, he wakes up to a real nightmare: A monster, looking like the yew tree that he can see from his window, is coming close up and looks very scary.

Conor’s mother is very ill and there are some doubts that she will get better, although everyone is putting on a brave face. At school Conor is being bullied, his grandmother (whom he doesn’t like) takes him in for a while, and at night he’s visited by a monster. Life is very difficult for Conor.

The monster that visits at night tells him stories from which it becomes clear that people aren’t just good or bad, as Conor has always thought, but that a baddie can do good things, and vice versa. This helps Conor in accepting his situation.

It was a very well-written book with a heavy topic. I’m not quite sure what age group this book would be most suitable for. My son (14) read it and seemed to enjoy it but we didn’t really get to discuss it together. I think he was a little ambivalent about the book.

I don’t read a lot of children’s books now that my own sons are teenagers, but I think this was a high-quality book, especially interesting for children who need to deal with a loss, or with guilt. Recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I got this book: from my on-line book store

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 216

First published: 2011

Genre: fantasy, children’s fiction


Quick Book Review: Just in Case by Meg Rosoff

Just In Case by Meg Rosoff

For the A-Z challenge, I needed a book with the title starting with a J. Not easy! Then I came across this book in the library. Maybe not a book I would have chosen otherwise, but isn’t a challenge for trying something different?

So, I read it and I liked it… a bit.

The story is about David Case who is fifteen years old and has a small baby brother. When he stops his brother from falling out of the window, he realises that one day, things may happen that he cannot control. He decides that Fate should not be able to get hold of him and so he changes he name (to Justin) and also his clothing and behaviour.

A girl he meets in a charity shop, Agnes, helps him dress differently (not like David, but like the new Justin) and takes pictures of him. She’s nineteen and he falls in love with her.

As Justin, David’s life becomes more interesting, but he realises that he still can’t escape Fate.

Fate has a role in the book, too. It talks with bold type face. Sometimes with Justin, sometimes to itself (or to the reader). It plays with Justin, trying to get him killed. But that is not so easy!

I liked the idea of the book: a boy changing his name and way of life to avoid Fate. However, it becomes unrealistic when he moves in with Agnes and his parents not minding at all. In fact, like in many children’s books, the parents are rather absent. They don’t play a large role in Justin’s life.

On the other hand, the whole idea of Fate having a (talking) role in a book is of course pure fantasy, so some allowances have to be made for the realism of the book. Even so, it went a little too far for me. And the book didn’t really keep my interest all the way through. At points, I had to plough through a few chapters, before I found the story interesting again.

But I liked it that in his new character, Justin was able to achieve things that David had never even tried.

I think there is the moral of the story: you can re-define yourself if you want, but you cannot escape Fate.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 234

First published: 2006

Genre: fantasy, contemporary fiction, children’s fiction, YA

A-Z Books Challenge

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