“The Paul Street Boys” by Ferenc Molnar

The Paul Street Boys

(Author: Ferenc Molnar) + (Year: 1907) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Hungary)


Review:

I think that my age is above the target group of this book, but that surely did not stop me from enjoying it. To a certain degree. That is, knowing beforehand that it’s a children’s book, I was a bit shocked by the ending.

However, the style of the author as well as the setting and topic are lovely. The atmosphere is very consuming and the entire book can be finished in one reading, easily.

I was not aware of how old The Paul Street Boys actually is, and yet it did not strike me as such. It could have been set in any given time period and it would not have mattered. Because this is a book about values and values do not have an era.

It was a lot more than I expected to read – meant for children and yet able to speak to grown ups as well, because the ideas of courage, leadership and dedication will never get old and that is what this book is about. The characters all have their childish treats, yet they all possess a set of values which can be envied. Or maybe that is exactly what the author was trying to say, that in children we can find things that we ourselves have lost growing up. There were, of course, negative characters, and even they had dignity and honor.

The language was mesmerizing. The author paid attention to so many tiny details, the entire picture he presented to the reader was so intricate and delicate, I was truly delighted by his style. Not having experienced the 20th century Hungary, for obvious reasons, I still did not have any problems imagining the world of the little characters.

Overall, a lovely read, despite the sad ending. I don’t feel like going into that, but be prepared for it.

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“Neverland” by Shari Arnold

Neverland

(Author: Shari Arnold) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

So, so amazing! Honestly, this is a truly beautiful and heartbreaking little novel.

I’m so glad I stumbled upon this gem, and really, it was a stumble. I had promised myself to lay off of NetGalley, because exams are coming, but there this lovely cover was and I hit the Request button before I could stop myself. And I’m so glad I did it!

Neverland is a novel which I would have a hard time trying to explain to you. Whichever method of explanation I choose, I would be oversimplifying. There is magic in this book, but it’s not a book about magic, there is love, but it’s not a romance, there is cancer, but it’s not a cancer book, there is drama, but it’s not a tragedy.

In just 358 pages Shari Arnold manages to create such an intricate and beautiful world. She does have the help of one Mr J.M. Barrie, author of the not-so-beloved-by-me Peter Pan, but that’s not really the point of Neverland. It’s not a Peter Pan rip-off and Peter Pan is not the center of attention.

Neverland is actually a coming-of-age novel, a book about loss and the life which continues flowing after death, it’s a book about letting go, but it’s also a book about being happy.

I’m afraid that I cannot do Neverland the justice it deserves. It’s such a touching and imaginative piece of literature.

“There’s this feeling I get sometimes, that I’m displaced, like I’ve fallen and no one has noticed yet. If I stay real still they’ll avoid me, put up pylons around me like I’m a large pothole in the ground. Yes. That’s what I am. I’m a pothole. And until someone comes along and fixes me, I am dangerous. I am broken. I am not a part of this life and yet I’m still here.”

This is Livy at the beginning of Neverland. She has recently lost her little sister to leukemia and her entire family is broken by that loss. Livy is such an admirable person, after the death of Jenna, instead of staying angry and aggressive, she spends a part of every day reading to the other little kids at Jenna’s hospital. Her way of mourning is by letting a little bit of happiness and light into the lives of the other children with the same unfortunate diagnosis.

That’s how she meets Meyer.

“The thing is, I believe him. I believe he could fly if he wanted to, because in the matter of a few hours he’s made me feel weightless. So incredibly light that at any moment I could lift off. And that’s really all you need to fly, isn’t it?”

The reason this book is not getting the 5-star treatment is because I absolutely loved and was in awe by the fact that in the first half of the book you can feel the magic, it’s right there at the tips of your fingers, and yet it’s not there. In the second part of the book magic surfaced on its own and less attention was paid to the characters, which made me a bit detached and sad that this balance that I so liked was ruined.

There was a connection/comparison that I couldn’t help but make, though. In case you’ve read and remember The Brothers Lionheart, you are going to get a certain sense of deja vu. I remember the same feeling in that book as well, at first I was amazed by the unconditional love between the brothers, and then when they changed realities, their personalities changed as well. It’s not one hundred percent the same thing, but I did feel the similarities were there.

Nevertheless, Neverland is beautiful! It’s just beautiful. Just read it. Seriously. I don’t feel like I can explain full well how touching it is.

“Fish In A Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish In A Tree

(Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

“I want to give him an answer, but I have both too many words and not enough.”

To be honest, this book was an unexpected gem for me. I liked the cover and I was in for some new books from NetGalley, but I didn’t think it would be awesome, I expected a pleasant enough read at most. Turned out it was quite the amazing book after all.

Fish In A Tree tells the story of a young girl who can’t make the words and letters stay in place and always feels out of her depth in school because of that. Some of her classmates make fun of her and she is convinced that is really, truly stupid. Until a new teacher comes to school and makes her realize that her brain simply works differently and that many of the most brilliant minds ever had dyslexia, just like her.

As a whole, the book was very sweet and touching. It’s probably not going to win an award for most brilliant writing or plot, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. The story is simple but heartfelt.

At first I was annoyed with Ally because she seemed to be purposely failing, but I soon realized that that was not the case at all. I realized that she was actually struggling very hard to be better, though at the beginning that wasn’t apparent.

With time, Ally turned out to be quite the wonderful character, brave, even though she was failing, stubborn, even though it seemed hopeless. I really liked how she grew up in the course of the book and the big little person she became at the end. Most of all. I liked the final scene with her brother and the teacher, it really moved me.

The recurring characters were not a stroke of originality, of course – a band of outcasts, a posse of mean girls, a couple of kids not brave enough to stand up for the weaker ones until the weaker kids became willful enough to fend for themselves. But they were fun to read about. They also grew. along with Ally. I liked Albert the most. I was sad for him, but I was also proud of the way he carried himself and learned to live with his difficulties. Actually, come to think of it, I think he was my favourite character in the entire book.

Though Mr Daniels was also admirable. He presented a whole new field of ideas in this book. Setting the coming-of-age theme of the book aside, there was also the subject of teaching and education, which I think was equally as important. It really saddens me to see written what I know is true – that education is becoming a formalized activity which focuses not on the knowledge children should receive, but on results, no matter the cost. Most teachers don’t see teaching as a calling, as I think it should be, but as a way to pay the bills if you don’t have any other job opportunities. They don’t care about the learning differences kids have and they in no way find ways to nurture all of their students, on the contrary, the favourites are the ones that can keep up with the insane criteria for a successful student, and the rest are being oppressed, sent to the principle, declared stupid and even mocked by the teachers. I think that’s completely unacceptable. Once upon a time the teacher was a guide, a friend of his or her students, until our world developed to this point where you are good at something if you are making millions, and if you can’t do that, you become a teacher instead, you are bitter and mean and want to take it out on the children that you have promised to protect and teach. It’s a horrible and sad reality the results of which can obviously be seen in the thousands of school dropouts and especially in the millions and billions of children who struggle to memorize information in order to look like they know what they are doing but actually end up knowing nothing at all. It would be so much easier and helpful if teachers cared about what they were doing, that way children would also have a different attitude to learning and would actually do it with desire and would be successful. In that fashion, Mr Daniels reminded me of John Keating from Dead Poets Society, one of my favourite movies. I honestly hope that more teachers would be like that and that one day that profession will turn again into a calling and education will turn into something that people desire, instead of something they are forced into.

If you have ever felt like you didn’t belong, like you couldn’t keep up and the world was moving around you, like you weren’t smart enough or good enough, I think Fish In A Tree is the book for you and it can inspire you to work a little harder and to realize that through hard work you can achieve bigger things.

“It’s like birds can swim and fish can fly.”

“Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan

(Author: J.M. Barrie) + (Year: 1911) + (Goodreads)


Review:

How often do you have the opportunity to read a story you’ve known your entire life for the first time? Because Peter Pan is part of the lives of each and every one of us, and yet, with a little shame, I admit I never really read the original novel by J.M. Barrie. I’ve watched every single movie made, whether it’s a motion picture, an animation or even a TV show(Once Upon a Time, but still…). I’ve even seen the Johnny Depp movie about Barrie himself. Yet, until today this book remained unread.

And now it saddens me that I didn’t read it as a child, because I would have loved it, as I loved the movies and animations. However, as critical and over-analyzing as I am today, I couldn’t help but find some problems with this book. Honestly, I’m not even sure 3 stars is the right rating. I don’t know if there is a right rating. Grading a story which has left such a mark on your life is a hard thing to do. Because I was disappointed by the book, but I have so many magical childhood memories about Peter Pan himself. But since I’ve promised myself to be truthful in these reviews, I’ll honestly tell you the things that didn’t sit right with me.

– I’m not sure if this is the product of the fact that I’m not a child anymore, but I didn’t get the feeling that this was a proper children’s book. I actually felt that there were many sexual connotations, it was too grown up in a way, an therefore a bit disturbing.

For one, there was Tink’s attitude toward Peter, which seemed like the one of a jealous girlfriend, including her actual jealousy, and the fact that she curses a lot every time she appears, including things which are not explained, but it is made obvious that she is saying obscenities.

Then there was the whole kissing business, obviously:

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And especially: all of these kids playing at being mothers, fathers and their babies. Wendy and Peter as a couple, Wendy acting as a mother, the subtle discussions about babies and how they come to be. If this was a child’s play, like children often do, it would be one thing, but this novel is written by a man who, by that point, knew perfectly well where babies come from so it seemed wrong to read the way he embeds such talk and behaviour in small children.

– The book seemed disturbing and inappropriate in another fashion, too. Namely, all of the children become murderers at one point and that is described as no big deal. There is no moral dilemma, none of them even thinks twice about killing. I can’t see in what way is it normal to take murder lightly, and I don’t think it is so in most fairytales, brothers Grimm excluded, because their version today is much happier than it once was.

– The character of Peter Pan. I was sort of surprised when I found out that he is going to be a villain in OUAT, but after reading the book now, it’s actually not so hard to imagine. Peter is a volatile and egotistical character. He is bossy, and not in a nice way, and he often mistreats and humiliates his Lost boys(though I don’t remember them ever being called that in the book itself). Not to mention the entire business about him escorting dead children as far as he can on their way to the other side. Which, on its own, makes me question this entire book and makes me think a lot about dead children, much as The Brothers Lionheart. But maybe getting into this would be over-thinking it, so I’ll just leave it here as an idea for you too.

“Dreamwalker” by Rhys Bowen, C.M. Broyles

Dreamwalker (The Red Dragon Academy, #1)

(Author: Rhys Bowen, C.M. Broyles) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Dreamwalker is the first book of the Red Dragon Academy series. I want to stress on the fact that it’s a children’s book and it should be treated as such.

Just in my generation we have witnessed many books stamped as children’s, which have in them enough of well… everything, to make them a favourite read for not only children, but also grown-ups of all ages. Harry Potter is the first series that comes to mind and it very well speaks on its own.

Since “Harry Potter”, it has been hard reading books about magic and especially schools with magical children, without thinking of “Harry Potter” and making unfortunate comparisons. Same goes with reading fantasy and not comparing with Lord of the Rings. It’s hard! But in order to give this book a proper review, I’ll have to push myself to my limits in not comparing.

What happens in Dreamwalker is that we have a strange school with very unusual methods and eventually we find out that some of the pupils are in fact magicians of sorts. They don’t all possess the same abilities, but instead have set roles: Dreamwalker, Traveler, Whisperer and so on.

The seven main characters, among which the narrator is a girl called Addy, are as cliched as they come. Addy is ~special~ and immensely powerful, though we still don’t know the extent of her powers. Raj is a brainiac, who always relies on logic. Pippa is a spoiled brat who wants attention. Celeste: a French princess-wannabe who’s rude and demanding and has no other dreams than to be by her mother’s side and wear her Prada shoes. Gwylum: the lunch lady’s kid, who’s grown up on the school grounds and is shy and closed up. And Sam is a poor kid who’s been in the system for too long, going from one home to another and is not above stealing and begging on the streets. Kobi is from Africa, and everyone assumes that he’s going to be weird. So he speaks weirdly to justify expectations. Not much more is seen from him.

Wow, having written this down, I realized that it’s not only that we have certain personas represented, but also a certain view of countries and what their citizens are like, which is kind of chauvinistic and very rude. The horse-riding rich girl from team UK, the French snob, the Indian math genius, Gwylum(who is not English but Welsh, therefore a provincial character) goes for the cliche of a servant boy(only a hundred years after it became distasteful to call them that), and of course, Addy: a clueless American, who doesn’t even know that you drive in the opposite lanes in the UK. I’m a bit afraid to leave this here, it casts a bad light on a book which has many minuses, but is honestly NOT THAT BAD.

The problem with all of these, aside from the fact that you can see at least two of them in absolutely every cliche story, is that they don’t have many redeeming qualities(in this book at least). The reason for the reader to like them is simply because the authors chose to make them the main characters so you feel like you should find something in them to like.

Since everyone besides Addy is a bit shallowly written, I can mostly comment on her and boy, do I have something to say: She is stupid. I know that it’s not right to say that about kids at the age of twelve, but since she was written by two grown women, I assume in their attempt to make her seem normal, they made her stupid. In the first few chapters when she is with her aunt and when she’s supposed to be mourning, she is mostly bored. She has no hobbies aside from surfing and can’t amuse herself with anything besides her iPod. I remember that at 12 I was reading world classics. She seems to have read just “Alice in Wonderland”. She does not know what or where Wales is, or that there is a Wales, and not “whales”, at all. She doesn’t know what Prada is, which, though not mandatory for kids, is still weird. She goes through a mirror and she still can’t figure out she is in another world, EVEN after she speaks with the locals who do everything but spell out for her that this is not her own world.

Aside from that, it’s easy to get sucked in the story, it’s a typical the-few-good-guys-face-a-terrifying-bad-guy type of thing. For me, the most interesting thing was to find out about the mirror world, about the abilities, about the monsters. Dreamwalker does a good job at explaining those, at least as much as the authors deemed fit for the first book. I honestly loved the world-building, as opposed to the character-building – hence the 3 stars instead of 2. I think I would have loved this if I was still a child, I was not as selective and critical, especially as far as characters go.

While Dreamwalker is not a breakthrough and you shouldn’t expect Harry Potter v.2, if you are into this kind of books, you can give it a try. But I am warning you, don’t expect a character that will warm up your heart or make you feel as part of the story. Actually I think one of the problems is that there are too many main characters and none of them are as explored as they should be.

Should you get it for your kid? Yes, why not.

Should you, as a grown up and a fan of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the likes read it? If you cannot stop yourself from comparing them, don’t. Otherwise, maybe.

P.S. I admit, I’m going to be waiting for book 2.