Book Review – The Mildenhall Treasure

TITLE: The Mildenhall Treasure
AUTHOR: Roald Dahl
ILLUSTRATOR: Ralph Steadman
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2000
NOTE: This was originally done as a story for the New Yorker just after WWII. It was redone into a children’s book in 1977.

The Mildenhall Treasure is the true story about a man named Gordon who is asked to plow a field because a man named Ford is too busy to do it himself. When plowing, Gordon finds a treasure trove of Roman silver. Unfortunately, Ford is a greedy crook and he cons Gordon out of it.

There’s not much to say about the story, and since it’s true I can’t really comment about much of the content. I will say that I was aware of the story beforehand, though, and I liked the presentation of this. I would, however, have liked to have actuall names of people and not just “a man named Ford” for the characters at play, but that was the writing style at the time.

Again, not illustrated by Quentin Blake, who did most of Dahl’s stuff, but the illustrations for this are in some cases actual oil painting, and they’re awaesome. I actually sat there wondering which ones I’d want on my wall if I were given a choice.

Still, it’s slightly short of perfect, so 4/5.

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Book Review – Matilda

TITLE: Matilda
AUTHOR: Roald Dahl
PUBLISHED: 1988 (Originally, my verson, i dunno, but they’re the same)
FORMAT: illegal eBook*

 

So, it may be cheating to pick a book that I’ve read no less than 100 times, but I’m okay with it.  The first time I read <em>Matilda</em>, I was probably 10, and Roald was probably already gone from this world, which makes me sad.  As voracious a reader as I am, I never even had a concept of telling him such, and it’s too late.  But that is a tangent, so let me attempt to stay on track.  On a mostly related side note, I once had a streak of reading this book so much that the librarian outright denied me the ability to check it out and started funneling me other books as soon as they were made a part of the library’s system.  (The Jenny Archer series comes to mind…) She ordered me to buy my own copy, which I did, and that did not deter me.  I liked – and still do – the feel of a hardback book that has been given the library treatment, cover coated, taped to the book, etc.  There was something special about the crinkle of the paper in my hands.  My local Waldenbooks didn’t have a hardback, so I settled for a paperback copy.  I was sorely disappointed.

Anyway…

Matilda Wormwood is a young girl who is totally ignored by her family and brilliant despite it all.  She’s also a bit mischevious and sweet and awesome and everything else.  I always related a little to her (I was the only one in kindergarten who could read going in, although I wasn’t quite at the Dickens level).  And I just genuinely liked the characters in the book.  In her story, she deals with the crap in her world the best she can and gets exactly what she needs in the end.

This time through, I decided to ask myself why I liked the story so much, and I realized just how brilliant Roald Dahl is, and just how awesome British society twenty-five years ago was.  For starters, the book is obnoxious and rude and mean and everything else – child after child gets outright abused by the headmistress.  She calls them foul, she tells them how they’re the boils on the buttocks of the world, she tells them they’re stupid and useless and everything else.  And then she grabs them by the hair or the ears or the whatever and flings them about.

I’m not saying I like an obnoxious and rude character – we’re not supposed to like Miss Trunchbull – but I liked that the characters aren’t dumbed down or sugar coated or whatever.  I don’t think this book would have flown past the censors today.

And I liked that the language isn’t stupid and rhymey and stilted.  I can name entire series’ of books that are so dumbed down for readers that the author refused to use contractions.  This book, though…. at some point in the story, Matilda and the librarian are talking about reading and not understanding everything.  The librarian gives the best gem of advice – let the words wash around you like music.  And that’s good advice for the readers too.  I don’t think that anything is going to be over the heads of your average eight year old, but if you don’t get it, just enjoy the ride.

That’s probably why this book has stood up so well.  There are plenty of children’s or mid grades books that I loved that if I read today, I’d be like “oh, that was a great trip down memory lane… ” but I wouldn’t care much for the book anymore.  But this book… I pick it up yearly at least – and mostly, it’s not for the nostalgia.  it’s because I genuinely love the story and want to read it again. And I think it’s pretty telling that the story works just as well for me as an adult as it did for me as a kid so many years ago.

I know this is a shocker, but 5/5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Earlier tonight, I searched online for a free eBook copy of Matilda, because I wanted to reference something.  I’m pretty sure (like totally) that it was an illegal eBook.  Before you get on me about it, the only reason I did it was because I was too lazy to move my laptop, stand up, walk from the living room, down the hallway, into the computer room/guest room/library and find one of at least three copies that I own.  The paperback and hardback of this book are all the same unless a special edition.  Trust me on this; I’m the closest thing to an expert since Roald himself.

Writer Wednesday – Julie Elizabeth Powell

Julie Elizabeth Powell is a London-based author.  From non-fiction and poetry to mystery to fantasy for children and adults, she writes a little bit of everything.

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?

Tell us (briefly) about you…
…and a bit about what you’ve written…
…and what you’re working on right now.

Hello. My pen name is Julie Elizabeth Powell and I’ve self-published eleven books so far. They range from fantasy (my preferred genre) to murder to humour, non-fiction and children’s books.

Here is the list:
Gone (fantasy)
S
lings & Arrows (non-fiction)
Of Sound Mind (fantasy)
Misadventures Of Fatwoman (humour)
A Murderer’s Heart (murder mystery)
Figments (short stories and poems)
st Shadows (psychological thriller /fantasy)
The Star Realm (#1 Avalon Trilogy) (epic fantasy for children about 12ish)
Invasion (#2 Avalon Trilogy)
Secrets Of The Ice (#3 Avalon Trilogy)
Knowing Jack (mystery adventure) (for children about 12ish)

I’m working on three stories at the moment: Changing Angels (a romance of sorts but with something extra /different), 13 (a collection of short stories that are linked by [secret]), and something else which is an experiment and another secret.

What are your earliest book-related memories?

Pure pleasure – just me and the story.

What are your three favorite books?

Apart from mine 🙂

Sorry, it has to be at least four… it’s very difficult to choose.

The Chrysalides by John Wyndham
Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz (if I have to choose, but I love them all)
Insomnia by Stephen King
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K Rowling (I enjoyed them all but this one was the best.)

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?

Because I review for other Indie authors, I read as many as I can, as fast as I can. If I’m really enjoying a story, it takes longer because it’s a pleasurable. My favourite author is Dean Koontz and I try to savour them for as long as possible. I’ve just finished the three ‘interludes’ of the Odd Thomas series (a branch from the main story) and have started 77 Shadow Street (Dean Koontz) – although it’s been put on hold due to me having a sudden influx of ‘please read my book’ from Indies.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___

(If it’s a good story)

…jump into the dimension with gusto, living a life otherwise impossible.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.

There aren’t many books I re-read but those I do, stay with me always.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

Not likely. I prefer to make up my own mind. That’s not to say I won’t take a look at a recommendation. I can tell within the first paragraph whether or not I’ll read it.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?

Very likely. For example, I’ve recently read a very good book called, Sins of the Father by RJ Palmer. As is another by Deborah Morgan called, Disappearing Home. Both are excellent stories (very different from each other) and extremely well-written. I have recommended them both wherever I could.

What do you look for in a good book?

Something that holds my attention. I prefer those that have that ‘extra ingredient’ – that which makes me think and wonder, filled with mystery and strangeness.

Why do you write?

I love it! Words are so beguiling and when put into the correct order, it’s pure magic. The ideas that fill my head demand attention, as do the characters. I recently read something along the lines that they [an author] would go mad if they didn’t write – yes, that’s what it’s like. I particularly like the feeling of the ‘zone’, where everything disappears and I’m in ‘my world’, part of the story, as if I’ve been teleported. Something magic happens between my mind and my fingers and ‘bam’, I’m there in all its glory.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

Insane! Though some say I’m already there. 🙂 I’d have to do something creative if I couldn’t write. I’d like to be a film critic – ah but then that’s still writing…

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everything and everywhere. Ideas come from dreams, people I’ve seen, a car, a plane, a place, a situation…the list is endless. As I like to write fantasy, my mind seems to have an abundance of all it needs and, again, the inspiration flows, as if by magic, onto the page.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

That my mind is capable of so much. I learned oodles from my stories and characters, and have been surprised at what I’ve done. It’s taught me that I can complete something and that I can achieve, even if others don’t think the same. It’s also taught me that there is always more to learn.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?

Because I haven’t been able to make money from writing (not for the want of trying), the people in my life encourage me, but I wonder if they believe how hard I work and if they really think of it as a hobby. I take it very seriously and would love to make a living from it.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?

There is a kind of war between Indie and Traditional writers and I think there are assumptions on both sides. In my opinion, there are good and bad writers no matter which route they take.

Just a few words /phrases I’ve known to be associated with writers:

  • When are you going to get a real job?
  • Lazy
  • Anyone can write
  • Deadbeat
  • You’ll never get anywhere in the Arts – Science is the way
  • Unrealistic – no point unless it sells millions

In some respects, these points can be true, but for me,

  • It does feel like a real job
  • There is nothing lazy about being a writer
  • Not everyone can write well,
  • I work very, very hard
  • There’s more to life than facts (I would say even more important than facts)
  • I have sold a few, and the point for me is producing a great story and written to the best of my ability. I believe in my work and maybe one day others may think so too (some already do, according to a few reviews).

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?

Commitment. It is not an easy process, but if you are determined, then do it.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?

Tons! Though in my defence, it has been proven that the human mind sees what it expects – that’s of course why it is so difficult to proofread your own work. And it’s always the most embarrassing stuff. :/

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?

Writing a book with Dean Koontz. 🙂

How do you deal with your fan base?

When I have one I’ll let you know. But for those who have followed me on Goodreads e.g. and say such wonderful things about my books – gee thanks…now spread the word. 🙂

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.

I am amazed by compliments.

Anything else we should know?

I’m getting old, I’m poor, I’d love to be a bestselling author soon, I’d… That’s it, thanks for ploughing through this interview.

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