The Witches by Roald Dahl

This Roald Dahl classic tells the scary, funny and imaginative tale of a seven-year-old boy who has a run-in with some real-life witches.

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We have all read fairy tales about witches, haven’t we? Witches that wear silly black hats, black cloaks and ride broomsticks. Well, that is why they are called fairy tales. This story is about real witches. You see, real witches are all around us, looking just like us. It might be your pretty school teacher, or that friendly lady in the supermarket or even your mother( I always add that when I read it to daughter, and the first time I did it, she did get a little scared).

The witches in the story are evil women who lead totally normal everyday lives, with little to tell you their real identity. And they HATE children.

A little boy goes to Norway to live with his grandmother after his parents die in an accident. He adores his grandmother, and in some ways was closer to his grandmother than his own mother. In order to keep the sadness away, she starts telling him stories. The Grandmother is  a wonderful storyteller, and all her tales kept the boy, rapt. However the stories that he was completely enthralled with, were those about witches. Now, the grandmother was a retired witch hunter. She was one of the few people who knows all about witches and of how to identify them. All the stories of the witches that she told him were real tales, cautionary tales so that he knew what to do in case he ever encountered witches.

Now, the thing about real witches is, that you can’t figure out who is a witch and who isn’t. They hate children, the smell of children is like stink for the witches. Since they hate the ‘children smell’, so grandmother recommended that the boy went without baths, so that his smell could be masked. And she told him a few things that would help him in case he ever met a real witch.

They were living happily in Norway, when they got to know that according to the boy’s father’s will, grandmother would be the guardian, but, she would have to bring him up in England, in the house he lived with his parents. Now, Grandmother doesn’t want to leave Norway, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. There is also another reason why England could be more dangerous. Apparently, while Norway had lots of witches, England didn’t have so many, BUT, English witches were the most vicious of them all. They were known to do the cruelest of things to children. The boy would have to be extra careful in England, you never knew when you would come across a really vicious witch.

As luck would have it, the boy does run into some witches. Did grandmother’s tales and tricks help him in the end? You’ll have to read to find out, and have a fun time while you are at it.

It is a wonderfully funny book. Daughter and I absolutely had a ball, reading it. If you like Roald Dahl’s books, you are sure to like this one too! It might be scary for some children, so I would recommend that you read it first before reading it to your child, or letting them read it.

This review has been cross-posted at Indian Moms Connect.

About the Author

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer,poet and screenwriter who rose to prominence in the 1940′s with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world’s bestselling authors. Dahl has created some of the most loved children’s books ever.

This book is available at Amazon and Flipkart.  

No Child of Mine by Susan Lewis

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Alex Lake is a social worker living in a seaside town of Britain. Her job is not just a job for her, it is an essential part of who she is. The frustrations and the dangers that she encounters in her job are all worth it when she sees that she has made a real difference in a child’s life.

She has a history of her own, which makes her empathize with the people she meets in her job. She does whatever she can, to ensure that all the children that come her way are taken care of. Sometimes, however, it means that she angers their families and get into the wrong books of some dangerous people.

One day, she receives an anonymous call from a lady reporting that a child might be in danger. It turns out that her colleague had received a call earlier and had discounted it as a fake caller. Something about the case didn’t feel right and Alex goes on to investigate. She comes in contact with Ottilie Wade, a three year old, who is very quiet. Something is not quite right in the Wade household, but Alex is unable to put her finger on what was actually wrong. On the surface, Ottilie is just an extremely shy child, but why does Alex feel that there is more to it? Alex investigates, despite her superiors not taking the case seriously. She gets drawn into the case, and towards the helpless little child who seemed to start to trust her.

Is Alex just blindly following her gut instinct, could her own past be clouding her judgement? It is a interesting book. One that I enjoyed, I could empathize with what Alex was going through, and Ottilie Wade, no child should ever be in that position. Alex’s involvement was understandable, but wasn’t she also a bit over-involved? Some of the other characters could have had more flesh, and some felt very black and white. The other issue I had with the book was the ending. While it was a completely unexpected ending, it felt just too improbable, and unreal. The basis of the story was great, but it could have been handled and edited better, I suppose. It is a heart-wrenching tale, and a sad reality for those who live that life. All in all, it was an interesting read. It certainly gave a perspective of how the lives of social workers are. It is such a thankless job, and yet a job that makes a difference to so many lives.

I would give it a 3.5/5.

This book is available on Amazon and Flipkart(India).

Seven in One

Although I try to do regular book reviews, some times, some books reviews never get written. Which is a shame, when I would have loved to share what I thought about them. I have been planning to do a mini review for ages, so what better time than now, when I can do a ‘seven in one’.

Durbar by Tavleen Singh
Genre: Non-Fiction
I am an equally opportunity reader, I read all genres, all types of books. And absolutely love political books. When I read excerpts of Tavleen Singh’s Durbar, my interest was piqued. Luckily, I was in India at that time, and easily got hold of it. The book spans from around 1975 to the Rajiv Gandhi coming into Politics. It is less of a political commentary, more of a book born of Singh’s observations and experiences at a time when she was close to the powers that be, in the centre. She writes of the Nehruvian era of her childhood, the Emergency of her youth and the political shifts that followed. Of the birth and evolution of insurgencies in Punjab and Kashmir, the blood spilt in assassinations and massacres, of crises internal and external and the clumsy attempts to set things right. A very interesting book. A page turner, and not a boring moment in it and I think it gives you a perspective, maybe from the author’s point of view, but still, a perspective worth having, I would say.

Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita
Genre: Non-Fiction
This has to be one of the most heart-wrenching books I have read. Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old in 1990 when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits: the Hindu minority within a Muslim majority Kashmir that was becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of ‘Azadi’ from India. The story of Kashmir through the eyes of the people forced to leave their home land. It is a heart-wrenching read, and one that gives you a perspective that is almost completely missing in modern commentary. Recommended, if you like books on political situations, but it is so easy read.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
Genre: Historical Fiction
Set in China’s Forbidden City, at a very turbulent time in China’s history, Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid, enters the Forbidden City as a minor ranking concubine. She soon realizes that life in the Forbidden City is not easy. She realizes that she has to play her parts right if she wants to survive. As a minor concubine, the only way, if she wants to rise in the hierarchy is to bear the emperor an heir, which is easier said than done. It takes more than a pretty face to get the emperor to come to the concubines. Orchid slowly learns the ways of the court and bears him a son. Little did she realize how even that is going to come with other complications.Nothing is simple is a court where power is supreme. It kept my interest throughout, especially given the fact that it is about history which I knew next to nothing about.

The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony
Genre: Historical Fiction
Of all of Capella’s book’s this is probably the one I enjoyed the least. Having said that, it is still a good book. Robert Wallis was leading a life which his father didn’t approve of, but had to finance. As a poverty struck poet, he believed that it was the way of poets. One day, having a cup of coffee at a London coffee house, his other talent is discovered by Samuel Pinker. His discerning palate which allows him to taste the different flavours of a cup of coffee. He is immediately employed by Pinker, much against his wishes, but given that his father had refused to support him, Robert had little choice in the matter. This employment of his takes him on a journey, filled with love, disappointments, travel and of course, various flavours of coffee. An interesting book. I found the latter part of the book far more engrossing and interesting. Especially the part with the suffrage movement and the way it ends. Definitely a worthy read.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Genre: Historical Fiction
A spare and haunting, wise and beautiful novel about the endurance of the human spirit and the subtle ways individuals reclaim their humanity during a ravaging war, says the blurb. And that is exactly what this book is all about. A musician sees twenty two of his friends killed in one shot, during the siege of Sarajevo. He picks up his cello and resolves to play it, come what may, for the next twenty two days, in their memory. Its a tale that moves you to tears, both by the desperate courage of the people as well as for the lives that are lost in so many wars. The small ways that people try to keep their lives normal, is touching and heart-wrenching. A beautiful book, but not the easiest of reads.

The Mummyfesto by Linda Green
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

This was a book which I picked on a lark, but it turned out to be a surprisingly interesting read. Three young women, regular mums, campaign to save their children’s school lollipop lady, they are asked by a TV reporter if they fancy standing in the general election.  What a crazy idea! But sometimes it is the craziest and the most improbable ideas that work. It was a really nice read of how three women, all with problems and issues of their own, took a chance and huge risks to make a difference. It made me wish it were true, and not fiction. I loved it, but then I love books on politics and books which hold out hope that regular people like us can make a difference.

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
Genre: Fiction

I love Joanne Harris’ writing. I don’t think I’ve been disappointed by any of her books. Blackberry wine is was no different. As a young boy, Jay Mackintosh had an old friend, Old Joe. Years later, Jay purchases an old farmhouse in France, without even seeing it. Something pulls him there. Turns out that the farmhouse is just like the one Joe wanted to buy for himself. Jay finds Joe there, and a solace which he had been seeking all along.  A rich and magical(if that’s the right word), story. One that compels you to read on. I love Harris’ descriptions, her characters, her plots. If you like Joanne Harris’ books, you will love it too. If you want to read a proper review, head here! This another of TGND recommended books and she never goes wrong with her recommendations 🙂

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013.

Write Tribe

Hilawi by Ritu Lalit

Ritu has been someone whose writing I’ve always enjoyed. I have been a silent lurker on her blog, mainly because I don’t have much to add, but I’ve always loved the way she writes. Her books have been on my wish list, but somehow I didn’t end up picking them up when I was in India. But when I found it on Kindle, I went ahead and got it. It then sat on my kindle for ages, because I gravitate towards proper books most of the time. Only during the holidays does the Kindle get to see the light of the day. So this last holiday, I went through all my pending reading on the Kindle.

Now, I have had the not so greatest of experiences with bloggers turning authors.  I haven’t read too many but the ones I did, well, wasn’t as great as I expected.  Once, I came across this blogger who actually asked me if I had read her book, and it was a bit embarrassing because I had, and I did not enjoy it as much as everybody else seems to have done. So I was squirming a bit, hoping to find a way out. I normally do not review books I don’t like, so it got a little awkward for me.

Since then, I try not to mention if I am reading a book of someone I might know. I needn’t have worried, this time.

hilawi

Gargi(Gigi) and Yaduvir(Vir) Ojha are twins living in London. Despite being twins, they are nothing like each other. Yaduvir, is  calm and mild mannered man, while Gigi is a feisty, young woman. Gigi, Yaduvir and Madhur, Yaduvir’s girlfriend Madhur are inseparable and great pals. Their regular, smooth life is suddenly interrupted when a sudden phone call summons them back to India. As soon as they land in India, they realize that something is very wrong. Their grand-uncle is not just having old age related delusions. Everything that they had taken for granted changed instantaneously. They are apparently, the guardians of ancient shield, Hilawi which is guarded very carefully, because of its sensitive and dangerous nature.

Hilawi is supposed to bring luck and prosperity to those who possess it. That makes it very lucrative to a number of people. The Ojha women are supposed to be true guardians and just like her mother before her, Gigi is the chosen one while Vir is the protector. Things start to change rapidly, not just around them, but within them as well.  Before they know it, they are plunged into the unknown, and they have to use all their wits to work their way out. Not only do they have to safeguard Hilawi, they also have to outwit several others who are out to get their hands on it. They have to figure out for themselves who is evil and who is not.

A taut story line, well-etched characters and a fast paced narrative makes this book  a  quick and interesting read. The mythological story of Hilawi was very interesting. It had me hooked from the beginning to the end. It is fantasy thriller and I have to say, I love the author’s imagination.

I especially loved the way it ended. So much so, that I wish it had a sequel. So would I recommend it, of course! I would give it a 4/5.

About the Author

Ritu Lalit is a successful author of three books, A Bowlful of Butterflies, Hilawi, and Chakra, Chronicles of Witch Way. She also has a very popular blog. She lives in the National Capital Region, with her two sons, daughter-in-law, three dogs, a cat, fishes and a water turtle.

This book is available on Amazon and Flipkart.