2015 Reading Number 10 – Matilda by Roald Dahl

Synopsis:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

Quick Thoughts
This isn’t the first time I have read Matilda, it was a book I loved as a child, and I am pleased to say I enjoyed it just as much as an adult! The book is fun, a little bit naughty and funny. Roald Dahl sucks you in and you find yourself cheering Matilda on. I remember enjoying the film as a child too, plus a couple of years ago I saw the musical on the West End and loved that too. There is nothing to dislike with this book!

Rating:5 out of 5

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Addition: Review e-book from Netgalley

Genre: Young adult, fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

Ash, former prince of the Winter Court, gave up everything. His title, his home, even his vow of loyalty. All for a girl… and all for nothing.

Unless he can earn a soul.

To cold, emotionless faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.
Then Meghan Chase—a half human, half fey slip of a girl— smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.
With the (unwelcome) company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end— a quest to find a way to honor his solemn vow to stand by Meghan’s side.
To survive in the Iron realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. At least, no one has ever passed to tell the tale.
And then Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that turns reality upside down, challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Review:

This is number four in the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa – and although perhaps not as good as the others, still a great read. I have been waiting what seems like an age for this book, and squealed when I received an email telling me it was available from Netgalley. This time the book is written from Ash’s point of view, not Meghan’s and we follow his story – barely getting a glance at what was happening in the Iron Realm. At the end of book three Meghan banishes Ash for his own safety – as fey he can’t survive in the Iron Realm. Yet he made her a promise: to be her knight. He loves her and is determined to keep this promise and the only way to do that is to become human. There is only one way to do this – go to the End of the World and complete the tasks. With the aid of Puck, Grim, the Big Bad Wolf and a seer, Ash sets off; but will he succeed? And if he does, will Meghan still love him?

I really enjoyed this book – although I missed Meghan. She does feature in the story, but not heavily. We walk with Ash and only glimpse Meghan and her world occasionally. I found this book to be more graphic and gory than the others – there seems to be more bloodshed in this adventure. Yet the book was exciting and fast paced. There doesn’t seem to be a dull moment in this story – once one foe is defeated, another seems to come along quite quickly. There is a lot of energy in this book which kept me hooked.

All the way through this series I have been Team Ash – and that didn’t change in this book either. It was nice to get a better look at Ash, although at times that was a touch heartbreaking. One trial he has to go through is examining his conscience and relieving everything he had ever done – all the hurt he had caused people. There were a few incidents described and it was sad that Ash is not the perfect prince I imagined him to be. This was an honest portrayal though and we saw his struggle with the anger and hate that come from being part of the Unseelie Court.

I loved Puck as well. Although I was always rooting from Ash, I loved that Puck stuck around and was there to help Ash because he loved Meghan so much. He is funny and kept me entertained throughout the book. There were other characters I liked too – Grim is fabulous. He is sarcastic, clever and I love how when trouble arises he vanishes! The Big Bad Wolf was entertaining too – I enjoyed the attitude between him and Grim.

There is a big surprise halfway through the book that I wasn’t expecting. It added to the book and Ash’s torment and made for some great reading! I won’t add in a spoiler but suffice to say – it was good and added another dimension to the story.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like about the book – I missed Meghan – she is a key character and we didn’t see a lot of her – and Kagawa’s writing seemed different – simple and sometimes not completely engaging. However, the good completely overthrows the bad, and this is a great read and a great instalment to this series.

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Addition: Hardback, library book

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Will is thirty-six, comfortable and child-free. And he’s discovered a brilliant new way of meeting women – through single-parent groups. Marcus is twelve and a little bit nerdish: he’s got the kind of mother who made him listen to Joni Mitchell rather than Nirvana. Perhaps they can help each other out a little bit, and both can start to act their age.

This book is great! It is funny, engaging, and really worth reading. This is the second book by Nick Hornby I have read, and I think if he is a new author to you, you should start with this book.

The story has two central characters: Will, a thirty-something who has never worked a day in his life. All he does is live off his trust-fund and look out for himself. The other character is Marcus. He is twelve and a touch peculiar. He sings in class, without realising he is doing it, and does not dress like his peers, or like what they like. The two meet when Will has a great idea to find new women to date. He decides the way forward is to pursue single mothers. That way, they won’t be able to have a long relationship, and they will do the dumping, so he won’t be seen as the bad guy. Will is dating Susan when she introduces him to Marcus. Susan is a good friend of Fiona, Marcus’ Mum, who suffers from depression. Occasionally Susan will take Marcus for the day, and on this fateful day, when they get back Marcus discovers his Mum has attempted to commit suicide. Will is thrown into the deep end, and from that point on Marcus starts hanging around Will. The two eventually form a funny friendship and bond, which helps them both in their lives.

This book is extremely well written and very entertaining. Hornby develops both Will and Marcus well, and the story is split equally between them. Some chapters are told from Will’s point of view, and others through Marcus’. From this we get a full picture of how the bond forms and the trials they both face. The dramatic irony in the book is great fun, and adds a wonderful and amusing level to the reading.

I think the storyline is incredible. I don’t know how Hornby came up with this idea, but it very well executed and original. I loved the twists and turns and the crazy characters in the story. Having seen the film first I did find myself visualising the actors used, but the film is very well cast and picturing Hugh Grant as Will was perfect. I loved Will, I found him hilarious. He has no morals but seeing him change – albeit slowly – out of his selfish character was very entertaining. I think Marcus definitely sits on the autistic spectrum, but he was very well written.

This is a great read and I highly recommend it.

It is worth noting that the film is very true to the book and very entertaining. If you can, do check it out!

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As promised: the interview with author Andrew Oberg and the review of his superb book Randolph’s One Bedroom.

Interview:

1.       Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m originally from the state of Minnesota in the U.S., but have been living in Japan since 2001 (with a short break in 2003). I teach at two universities here and am basically waiting for my chance to get a full-time job at one of them (my application is being processed as we speak…). My wife is a photographer for a prefectural magazine, and we have no children yet but are planning to try very soon. I’m also a huge fan of the Grateful Dead. 🙂

2.       Tell us about Randolph’s One Bedroom

“Randolph’s One Bedroom” is a bit like watching TV, I suppose; all the stories revolve around one central character and setting, but are not necessarily related to each other. The book has been described to me as, “Coffee shop stories short enough for one latte” and “Kind of a cross between ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Twin Peaks'”. I think both of those descriptions are great and wish I had come up with at least one of them.

3.       Where did the idea and the characters come from? Did any of these stories actually occur?

No! (lol) Thankfully none of the stories actually happened. The setting is based on a real job I had years ago and the neighborhood I lived in at the time. Winter is a strong element in the book, as it is in Minnesota–and believe me, it really does get that cold–so in some ways I guess the reality of what very long and harsh winters do to people was a point of inspiration for me.

4.       Who was your favourite character to write?

I’d say Dave was the most fun. He’s pure id, constantly reacting to the world around him with no forethought whatsoever. A bit like Homer Simpson, really. And who doesn’t love Homer?

5.       Which story was the most fun to write and your favourite?

Probably “A Discovery”. The whole idea is just so ridiculous, and I love the interaction between the characters in that one, too.

6.       I would class this as comedy fiction, how would you classify this book and is this the genre you favour when reading?

I’d say comedy fiction as well. Most of what I read is actually non-fiction, though. I tend to go for Eastern religion, Western philosophy, history and anthropology books. I am a massive nerd!

7.       How did you get into writing?

I’m not sure. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, and my preferred way to do so is through writing, so I guess I’d say I just naturally fell into it.

8.       Is there anything else in the pipeline?

I’ve just started a new novel on one man’s journey through metaphysics. It’s still very much in the early stages, but I envision it developing along the lines of Hesse’s “Siddhartha”, Huxley’s “Island”, and the “Bhagavad Gita”. Ideally, I’d like it to be a blend of the feel of those three great works while effectively communicating my own thoughts.

I also have a graphic novel about the medieval Norse settlements in Greenland for sale on my site, and am hoping to find an artist soon for an Old West themed graphic novel that I’ve got tucked away.

Review:

This is a book that consists of 20 short stories, all of which revolve around Randolph. They are random and quirky, but funny! The stories are not all linked in one linear story line, they are just glimpses or episodes in Randolph’s life. He works in a coffee shop, so a lot of what occurs take place in that setting, although some of the stories are set in his home. Randolph lives in a place where it is winter for the majority of the year. This means people are trapped indoors and weird things happen as people suffer from cabin fever.

I liked Randolph. He seemed like an ordinary bloke that just comes across strange things – such as the Neanderthal man buried by the rubbish bins outside work. He smokes, swears, drinks and dabbles in drugs – but these aren’t the main things about him. He is a funny guy – he has wit and he isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, even if it is inappropriate.

My favourite character wasn’t Randolph however. As the majority of the book is set in the coffee shop there are other regular characters. My favourite was Dave – the new assistant manager who got his position by sleeping with his superior. He is not all there, a bit odd, struggles under pressure and is nosey. He was so funny to read. His actions and words just made me laugh, and I can see why Oberg enjoyed writing him the most. The other character I loved was the Pastor. If he didn’t get his way or didn’t like something he damned everyone to hell. He just made me laugh!

I don’t think I have a favourite story, I liked them all. The crazy lady who lived upstairs was funny, as were most of the scenes in the coffee shop. Anything that involved Dave was great – especially when the shop was being robbed and even then he couldn’t do what was being asked of him!

This book is not long, and neither are the stories. They are funny and enjoyable. I didn’t like the swearing or the pot smoking but other than that this is a great book. I read it in one day – I just couldn’t put it down. This comedy fiction at its best and I recommend it to everyone.

4/5

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Synopsis:

The Heroine: Tiffany Aching, incipient witch and cheese maker extraordinaire. Once saved world from Queen of the Elves. Is about to discover that battling evil monarchs is child’s play compared to mortal combat with a Hiver (see below). At eleven years old, is boldest heroine ever to have confronted the Forces of Darkness while armed with a frying pan.

The Threat: A Hiver, insidious disembodied presence drawn to powerful magic. highly dangerous, frequently lethal. Cannot be stopped with iron or fire. Its target: Tiffany Aching (see above).

The Nac Mac Feegle: A.k.a. the Wee Free Men. Height: six inches. Color: blue. Famed for drinking, stealing, and fighting. Will attack anything larger than themselves. Members include: Rob Anybody, Daft Wullie, and Awfully Wee Billy Bigchin. Allies to Tiffany Aching (see above).

The Book: Hilarious, breathtaking, spine-tingling sequel to the acclaimed Wee Free Men.

I am giggling even as I sit here and write this review – this is another genius book from Terry Pratchett. It is number 32 in the Discworld Series and the sequel to the Wee Free Men. The star of this story is Tiffany Aching, a very young yet powerful witch. She is fearless and happy to fight anyone. And who wouldn’t be, when your side-kicks are the Wee Free Men – angry, small, blue Nac Mac Feegle. They will fight anything – nothing holds them back. In this book the Hiver is trying to take over Tiffany, and she has to protect herself and others from it. The witch she is staying with can’t help her, so in comes Granny Weatherwax. Granny must teach Tiffany how to be a witch, and that way she will win.

This book is hilarious. I love Granny Weatherwax – especially when she is “borrowing” and has the sign “I aint’en dead!” She is clever and to the point, and very funny. Pratchett has started to show her frailness and age in these novels, which means sense as she is an old witch, but it would be a shame if she was to disappear from the Discworld. Tiffany is another fun character. Her focus on how she is good at making cheese is entertaining, and watching her discover herself is interesting. I like that even at 11 she is headstrong and determined, and so powerful! She is a good character. The best people in this book however were easily the Nac Mac Feegle. Rob Anybody is so funny! I love that they don’t need any encouragement, they just fight – it is genius! Their actions and words are hilarious. They are some of the best characters Pratchett has created I think.

Like all the other Discworld books, I was gripped from the start and thoroughly enjoyed myself as I was immersed in this world. There is adventure, fighting, magic, stuck-up little girls, drink, scary Nac Mac Feegle wives and Granny Weatherwax – everything a good book needs! Pratchett is not short of imagination, and this book is testament to that. He is descriptive so you feel like you are there watching the action and his humour is awesome. I laughed a lot during this novel. I always find it so easy to recommend his books because they are extraordinary in so many ways. Pratchett is intelligent, witty and a gripping writer. His books are never dull, there is always something funny going on and the characters are unique and often very special. I can easily give this 4/5. What would have made it better was Nanny Ogg alongside Granny Weatherwax, and maybe a larger role for Death!

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Review Does Contain Spoilers!

Synopsis:

Lena has lived her whole life near the beach—walking for miles up and down the shore and breathing the salty air, swimming in the cold water, and watching the surfers rule the waves—the problem is, she’s spent her whole life just watching.

As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena vows she will no longer watch from the sand: she will learn to surf.

But her father – a former surfer himself – refuses to allow her to take lessons. After a near drowning in his past, he can’t bear to let Lena take up the risky sport.

Yet something lures Lena to the water … an ancient, powerful magic. One morning Lena catches sight of this magic: a beautiful woman—with a silvery tail.

Nothing will keep Lena from seeking the mermaid, not even the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.

And soon … what she sees in the mermaid’s mirror will change her life …

I had seen this book around and saw it had good reviews, so I was very pleased when I found I could review it! My copy comes from netGallery.

The star of the story is Selena, or Lena as she is known to her friends. She is an ordinary girl but seems to be experiencing weird goings-on. She often spaces out completely and regularly sleep-walks to the beach. She has always been drawn to the sea, and really wants to learn to surf. Her dad won’t let her though, so she learns in secret. But her reason for learning, and then taking on waves at one of the most dangerous coves is because she has seen a mermaid, and she wants to meet her properly. When the mermaid comes to her rescue she gives her a gold key. Lena finds the box it opens, and with it the discovery of the mirror and why she is drawn to the sea will change her life forever.

This book is written for young adults but will be enjoyable for adults too. The book contains adventure, sea, love, magic and fantasy. I would class this a woman’s read, but I really enjoyed it. The story was gripping from the start, and intriguing. I found myself wanting to know why she was sleep walking and about this mermaid. The identity of the mermaid was easy to guess, as was the ending, but that didn’t spoil the book for me.

There are two worlds explored in this book – land and sea. I liked how when Lena was on land we caught just a glimpse – the odd paragraph at the end of a chapter – about the sea world, and vis versa when she was in the sea. Both worlds were fascinating and full of characters you couldn’t help but like. I liked that Madigan didn’t create an underwater world similar to that in The Little Mermaid. She created a modest village made out of rocks – there were no castles or anything! I think I preferred the land world to the sea world because I didn’t like the cloak that Lena had to wear to survive. It took away her memories so she couldn’t remember her family or friends – it was quite manipulative, keeping her in the sea world, taking away the option of land.

The book was full of great characters. I loved Allie, Lena’s step-mum, because although she married Lena’s dad Brian when Lena was 9, she had slipped into such a good mother’s role that Lena called her Mum and they had a great mother-daughter relationship. I loved Nix, the merman.  He was very easy to fall for. I was gutted that he didn’t follow Lena to land. Their love had to end, and although him becoming human might have been too far-fetched and predictable, I would have really liked it. I did like Lena, although she could be stubborn sometimes, and I didn’t like how she sneaked around. My favourite character was easily her 6 year old brother Cole though. My heart melted for his character. He was so cute. He was eager about sports and adored Lena. I loved their relationship and I was glad it was Cole that Lena came home for.

I got very involved with this book and really enjoyed it. I laughed and at one point nearly cried. I was hooked and read this in under 24 hours. I would give this 4/5.

This will be book number 10 in the Romance Challenge for me:

Books Read:

  1. Nicholas Sparks: The Wedding
  2. Sarah Dessen: Lock and Key
  3. Debbie Macomber: 44 Cranberry Point
  4. Judy Blume: Forever
  5. Rachel Hore: The Memory Garden
  6. Elizabeth Noble: The Girl Next Door
  7. Debbie Macomber: 50 Harbour Street
  8. Allison van Diepen: The Oracle of Dating
  9. Sarah Dessen: Along For the Ride
  10. L. K. Madigan: The Mermaid’s Mirror
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Synopsis:

Polly becomes Private Oliver Perks, who is on a quest to find her older brother, who’s recently MIA in one of the innumerable wars the tiny nation of Borogravia has a habit of starting with its neighbors. This peevish tendency has all but expended Borogravia’s ranks of cannon fodder. Whether Sergeant Jackrum knows her secret or not, he can’t afford to be choosy, as Perks and her/his comrades are among the last able-bodied recruits left in Borogravia. This collection of misfits includes the aforementioned vampire (reformed and off the blood, thank you), troll, and macabre Igor, who is only too happy to sew you a new leg if you aren’t too particular about previous ownership. Off to war, Polly/Oliver learns that having a pair of, um, socks is a good way to open up doors in this man’s army.

This is number 31 in the Discworld series, and one of the better ones 🙂 The star of this story is Polly, who has disguised herself as her dead brother Oliver so she could join the army. She wants to go fight in order to find her older brother Paul. She thinks she is the only girl in the regiment, but then someone gives her a pair of socks to use as an area of her anatomy, and she starts to suspect there is another girl amongst the men, but who is it? Along with that, Polly and her comrades have become feared, after taking out a group of bandits. Polly sets off to war, and learns many things along the way.

This book had me laughing most of the way through. Terry Pratchett wrote another book that is full of adventure, humour and imagination. This novel is all about girl-power, coffee and a pair of socks! There are several images that will stay with me for a long time I think – such as Malachai the vampire having caffeine withdrawal symptoms, which I found very funny!

Again, Pratchett wrote a book full of weird and wonderful characters. I liked Polly, she was headstrong and clever; and I loved her band of brothers. Working out who was female was fun, and they were all funny in their own ways. I don’t know how Pratchett came up with characters like vampires who like coffee not blood or Egors, who mend themselves with other people’s body parts. His imagination is incredible.

I really enjoyed this book. It is one of my favourite from the Discworld series and I would highly recommend it.

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Synopsis:

Stardust is an utterly charming fairy tale in the tradition of The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story. Neil Gaiman, creator of the darkly elegant Sandman comics and author of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, tells the story of young Tristran Thorn and his adventures in the land of Faerie. One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love. His adventures in the magical land will keep you turning pages as fast as you can–he and the star escape evil old witches, deadly clutching trees, goblin press-gangs, and the scheming sons of the dead Lord of Stormhold. The story is by turns thrillingly scary and very funny. You’ll love goofy, earnest Tristran and the talking animals, gnomes, magic trees, and other irresistible denizens of Faerie that he encounters in his travels. Stardust is a perfect read-aloud book, a brand-new fairy tale you’ll want to share with a kid, or maybe hoard for yourself. (If you read it to kids, watch out for a couple of spicy sex bits and one epithet.) –Therese Littleton

This is the first Gaiman novel I have read, and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t a long read but it was full of imagination and fun. The story follows Tristran as he goes through The Wall to catch the fallen star, to bring her back to his “true love”. Except, the Star is not overly happy to be joined to Tristran, especially when he saves her and she is in debt to him. They encounter all sorts of fantastical creatures, including trees that gave out advice, and witches who changed people into animals.

This was a great book. There is so much imagination and life in this book – and I liked the Star most. I thought it was great that she was so stubborn – not what you would expect. Tristran was a great read too. I liked how his character changed and matured. There were so many different characters in this book which all added to the story, I loved it! There were other stories that ran through book, including the witches who wanted to be young again and the brother’s fighting to rule the kingdom – but they were all linked by the star. I liked that there were sub-plots throughout the book, made for a more interesting read. And I found the ghosts of the brothers hilarious!

Gaiman reminds me of Terry Pratchett – and I know they have worked together. Both have amazing imaginations and write thoroughly entertaining books. Some of the creatures they both create I would never have dreamed of, but now I have encountered them and love them! I will be reading more Gaiman I think, because this was a fun, exciting, gripping book. Gaiman’s descriptions are very good and his characters are so much fun! If you like fantasy and humour, this is for you.

This is also a film, which I thoroughly enjoyed 🙂

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Synopsis:

Time is a resource. Everyone knows it has to be managed. And on the Discworld that is the job of the Monks of History, who store it and pump it from the places where it’s wasted (like the underwater – how much time does a codfish need?) to places like cities, where there’s never enough time. But the construction of the world’s first truly accurate clock starts a race against, well, time for Lu Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd. Because it will stop time. And that will only be the start of everyone’s problems. THIEF OF TIME comes complete with a full supporting cast of heroes, villains, yetis, martial artists and Ronnie, the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse (who left before they became famous).

This is number 26 in the Discworld series – another one I read out of order. Since reading this novel I have read over a dozen other novels, and as I sit here to write the review, this does not jump to the front of my memory. This is a shame because I love Pratchett’s novels, and this is the first time that I can’t fully remember the novel.

There are many things I do remember however: I loved Ronnie. The idea of the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse made me laugh. I liked all the Horsemen to be honest. It made me laugh that while Death was trying to round them up they couldn’t be bothered to ride out, and that their wives were holding them back. Genius!

Of course, I love Death. Every time I meet him in a book I laugh. I liked that Granny Ogg got a mention – I always enjoy the witches. And I love Susan, especially her interactions with Death. She always seems exasperated with him, she reminds me of a reluctant, moody teenager.

Like I said, I don’t really remember the story but the characters do stick out and I think that is important. For me, this is the weakest Discworld novel and that is a shame.

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Waterstones Synopsis:

Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all. But now he’s back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck…Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion. There’s a problem: if he wins, he’s got no wife, no child, no future…It is a discworld tale of one city, with a full chorus of street urchins, ladies of negotiable affection, rebels, secret policemen and other children of the revolution. Truth! Justice! Freedom! And a Hard-boiled Egg!

This is number 29 in the Discworld novels and one of my favourites. In fact, I have just noticed that on the Terry Pratchett website, this is voted the number one book!

In this instalment we follow Sam Vimes as he travels back in time to help his younger self in the great battle. I loved this. I really enjoyed both Sam’s. The younger is naive and sweet, always thinking about what his Mum would say; and the older is much more cynical but we see a wonderful caring side as he looks out for his younger self.

I thought this was a great novel. It was full of excitement and action. And of course, all of Pratchett’s humour. I could only laugh at the way the old force thought. The picket line was a great example of how Pratchett’s mind works – pure genius. There is fighting and death and some great villans – and a young Fred Colon and Nobby Nobs. I laughed most of the way through this and was gripped. This is definitely one of the best in the series. Top notch!

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