Book Review: Coraline (Neil Gaiman)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

I cannot overstate how much I adore this book.

TL;DR – A truly creepy tale.

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RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional

Why I read it…

I got this book signed at a talk Gaiman did at Ely Cathedral years ago – it’s the pride of my book collection! I read it again today (all in one sitting) because I’ve been trying to read books aimed with a younger audience in mind (as I am trying to write a book for younger audiences) and this is probably my favourite of them all.

The Story…

Coraline Jones is bored. She has just moved house, her parents are busy working, her toys are not fun anymore and there is nothing for her to do. Until she discovers a doorway to another world – a world full of colour, with attentive parents, delicious food and excitement by the bucket-load.

But all is not what it seems, and Coraline must learn the a lesson in the hardest way possible. The grass ain’t always greener on the other side – and if it is, it’s probably poisonous!

Why I love It…

I freely admit I am biased. I adore Gaiman’s work, but there is a reason for that. I like the way the man writes. It dances merrily between serious and silly, formal and informal. Behind it’s sometimes playful wording, lies a seriously creepy tale of terror. It’s the kind of thing I wish I’d been read as a child, or alternatively, wish I had a child to read it to.

I love Coraline (the character). Her motivations are so believable, boredom, curiosity, and a vague sense that nobody is really interested in her or her thoughts lead her to dive into this new and exciting world. But she is also clever, brave, resourceful and ever so caring. It would be so easy for her to have just stayed in the Other world (except, perhaps, for having buttons sewn onto her eyes), but instead she risks her own safety to save the souls trapped by the Other mother.

I also love the supporting characters. Gaiman has a knack for making characters interesting in as few words as possible. It’s a skill I infinitely admire, and am super jealous of. Characters such as Mr Bobo (Bobinski in the film), and his all-mouse circus.

‘The reason you cannot see the mouse circus’ said the man upstairs, ‘is that the mice are not yet ready and rehearsed. Also, they refuse to play the songs I have written for them. All the songs I have written for the mice to play go oompah oompah. But the white mice will only play toodle oodle, like that. I am thinking of trying them on different types of cheese.’

One paragraph and Mr Bobo and his world have come instantly to life. I can’t think of many authors who can make me so interested in the inner workings of a supporting character in so few words – heck, many can’t do it in a whole book.

I would also love to talk about how much I love the ending of this book – specifically the part about the picnic – but I can’t think of a way to do so without spoiling the ending for those who haven’t read it, so you’ll just have to trust me that it is wonderful.

Recommended For…

I recommend this book to everyone. Everybody should read this book at some point. It’s fun, it’s creepy and it’s brilliantly told. It is a beautiful example of the art of writing. Although I should point out that it could scare the impressionable youngsters (depending on their temperament), but they should read it anyway and just accept that being scared is a price well paid for such excellent and fun reading.

Final thoughts…

I love this book. The children I used to work with (primary school) loved this book. My sister saw the film this book inspired, and was completely (and hilariously) traumatised by how scary it was. It is truly excellent. Read it. Immediately.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves (Robin Talley)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

“A stunning novel about love, race and finding the truth..”

TL;DR – A book about integration and the struggles POC faced in the late 1950’s. A very good read although I’m not so sure about the romantic angle.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I read this book because it was recommended to me by a very good friend. Her judgement in books is (usually) on point, so I agreed to read it.

The Story…

This book is set in Virginia 1959 at the peak of the fight for civil rights. Sarah Dunbar has been picked to be part of a group of ten black students to be sent to Jefferson High School, a previously all-white institution. She is such a strong character and through it all, her, her sister Ruth and their friends stick together. Her and her peers are subjected to days of constant abuse from the white students and teachers (except the music teacher Mr. Lewis).

One of these white students is Linda Hairston, daughter of one of the town’s biggest segregationists. All her life she has been taught that the races should be kept separate and, until she meets Sarah, she almost believes this. When Linda and her best friend Judy are forced to work on a French project with Sarah, the reader begins to see the cracks and doubts Linda has about her and her father’s views. Over the course of the book, we see Linda drifting away from the segregationists and closer to Sarah. They fall in love and at the end of the book, they go off to college together for a fresh start.

What I liked…

I loved all the strong, beautiful and brave characters created in this book. All of them: the secondary characters like Chuck, Ennis, and Ruth; the main characters like Sarah, all of them. They really show great courage.                                                                                                                                                                          Ruth is Sarah’s 15 year old sister. She is treated as though she needs the most protection, but in reality, she shows some of the greatest spirit and resilience in the book. I love how this book really makes you feel and understand what it’s like to live with a mark, to be different, to be ashamed of who you really are, not just people from a different race but for LGBTQIA+ people too. I think if more people read and wrote books like this, books that give people this understanding, the world could be a much better place than it is now. The power and fire behind the messages of this book are morals that everyone should have to learn.

I also really liked seeing both Linda developing as character as well. At the start, she was not likeable at all. But as the book progresses, you see that in no way is this her fault. Growing up in a society like the one she lives in with an aggressive father who is the voice of the towns segregationists cannot be easy and by the end, her having such courage amid all the evil she’d been brought up to believe in was very honourable indeed.

What I disliked…

While I do like the development of the characters and completely support the friendship between Linda and Sarah, I do not see any reason for Sarah to have loved Linda. I completely understand why Linda could fall in love with the beautiful, strong character that Sarah is, but I don’t agree with how quickly those feelings are requited. I feel like their should’ve been much more time. I mean, by the end of the book they had only known each other for about 6 months, half of which were spent having arguments, debates or avoiding each other. In my opinion the friendship was already a huge step between the two girls and the relationship between them just came on too quickly.

Final thoughts…

I very much enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction, equality, civil rights or just a very good read.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I borrowed this books from the library for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book of the Month (April 2018)

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This just in!!

The Ragdoll Reads Book of the Month pick for April 2018  is:

questionChildren of Blood and Bone 

by Tomi Adeyemi (2018)

Recommended for: Teens and up. Magic / fantasy lovers.

See the full review here: Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Everyone should read this book immediately, it is amazing. A superb book to kick off our Book of the Month series.

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Goodreads LinkTomi Adeyemi Website

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Book of the Month (April 2018)

“Oh my goodness, this book is AMAZING! You have to read it!” ~ My sister (Age 15)

TL;DR – Buy this book, read it, then buy it for all your friends.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I’ll admit right off the bat there were 3 reasons I bought this book:

  1. It sounded pretty cool (Can’t go wrong with a bit of magical fantasy).
  2. It was published this year – 2018 (Reading challenge category)
  3. My library (with the exception of manga) is pretty monochromatic, both in terms of authors and characters.

I mention this to begin with for one reason. Because I initially struggled with this book.

I know I’m not the only person in this world whose book collection consists of almost exclusively white authors. It’s not intentional – but there is no way justify that fact that doesn’t sound terrible. And it IS terrible. The amount of POC (or any minority) authors I have been exposed to is comparatively small – and that’s a damn shame.

When I started reading, I was plunged into the world of Orïsha, and I am ashamed to say I struggled to picture it consistently. My frame of reference is ‘white people’ and it shouldn’t be. Every so often I found my image of these characters reverting to what I shudder to call my ‘default’.

BUT, not for long.

I usually struggle to imagine characters without reverting to the handful of famous actors I really like – but this wasn’t an issue while reading this book. The world and it’s characters were bought to life by Adeyemi, and by the end of the first few chapters I had a beautiful (and cruel) new world whirling around in my head.

The Story…

Orïsha was a world of magic – until the Raid. Now Zélie wants to bring the magic back.

It’s a story about magic, evil kings and heroic teenagers – but it’s also a story about oppression. People with the capacity for magic (divîners) are born with white hair – before the Raid, this was seen as a good thing – since then, it’s has been something to hate. The peoples connection to the gods has be severed, and as a result, the magic is gone. Now divîners are ‘maggots’, heavily taxed and massively abused.

A young divîner, Zélie, soon learns of a secret ritual which could just bring restore her connection with the gods, and bring the magic back to Orïsha. She sets off, with her brother and a princess, on an epic quest to right the wrongs of the kingdom.

What I liked…

As I’ve mentioned, this book took me far out of my comfort zone, and plunged me into a beautiful, magical world. The writing is wonderful – it’s easy to read and the story is gripping. I finished it in 2 days – I think my sister read it all in one sitting. We were both hooked, from start to finish and begging for more!

I usually find I enjoy the plot more than the characters in most stories, but this wasn’t the case. The characters in Children of Blood and Bone and amazing. The two main characters (Zélie and Princess Amari) are strong women – both physically and spiritually – and the supporting cast is full of strong women too. This is also a refreshing change from the usual mostly male cast and (if you’re lucky) supporting damsel dynamic. But they are also beautifully written. The characters feel real – you understand their motivations and their desires and their pain. This is true of all the major characters – none of them feel like ‘set dressing”.

The premise is fun – magic and fantasy are an enjoyable medium – but it has this strong theme of resisting oppression that is really compelling. At no point would you say this story was ‘frivolous’ or a ‘fun romp’, it’s set in a fantasy setting, but the issues are hard-hitting and real.

One of my favourite elements of storytelling is world building – if an author manages to construct a world that you can really believe it is a joy. If an author leaves you begging to know everything about the world, the mythology and the people it is a treasure – and on these points Adeyemi really delivers! There is so much about the world of Orïsha you want to explore (and a whole world beyond). The mythology she has created (and I must admit mythology is one of my true pleasures) is beautiful in it’s presentation, and I could happily read any number of books detailing the creation stories and magical practices that are part of this book.

Finally, the ‘villains’. I am a firm believer that a good villain is not someone you are told is bad, and are left to hate without reason. The villain is important and the writing should reflect that. The ‘villains’ of this story – King Saran and his armies – are as well written as all the other characters. You see their motivations, their desires and fears – you are led to try and understand their position and I suppose, to make up your own mind.  Well written villain makes for a compelling story, and this book does not disappoint.

(On a playful note – I also loved the word “Baboonum” (sp?), and have chuckled to myself several times as it randomly resurfaces in my brain!)

What I disliked…

I wasn’t a fan of some of romantic elements – however I must stress that this is because I find romantic plots uninteresting personally, not because they were badly written!

Other than that, I really can’t this fault this book.

Final thoughts…

Basically, I adored this this book. It is well written, highly engaging and left me wanting more. I have been able to recommend it to my younger sisters, and they have also loved it. It is listed on Goodreads as a ‘Young Adult’ book, however I would strongly recommend this to any adult who wants a gripping, fantasy action novel.

If you like magic, rich worlds and strong characters – buy this book immediately.

I cannot wait for the sequel!

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!