Review: The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Witches is one of Roald Dahl's fabulous kids books that brings back fond childhood memories.

Interestingly though, I don't think that I ever read The Witches as a child. I remember reading The Twits over and over again, but I can't recall reading The Witches. I was, however, a big fan of the movie version of The Witches with Angelica Houston playing the Grand High Witch.

In The Witches, a young boy, Luke, goes to live with his grandmother when his parents pass away. His grandmother teaches him lots of useful things about witches, real witches, who live all over the world and who make it their business to kill as many children as they can. Eventually, he finds himself trapped in the witches clutches when he mistakenly gets locked into their annual convention and overhears their plot to turn all the children in the world into mice! Things go badly, and it then up to him and his grandmother to save the rest of the world's children from the evil fate that awaits them.

What's not to love about this book as child! There's magic, there's excitement, there's fear and there are the wonderful illustrations provided by Quentin Blake to go with it.

There's not a lot else to say about The Witches by Roald Dahl, except to say that even as an adult the story retained most of its magic. I wouldn't mind re-reading a lot of his other books and my new little addition (coming soon) might just give me the excuse to do it!

6 / 8
Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it

What was your favourite Roald Dahl book as a child? Did you enjoy The Witches or did it give you nightmares?

#6 Weekly Blogging Tip: Review Content

Content of book review posts

Last week's Weekly Blogging Tip was about keeping your blog design simple and clear in order to make your content more readable and encourage repeat visitors.

This made me think more specifically about the content/design (however you want to think about it) of our books reviews.

So this week's tip is:

Let the review itself be the main focus of your book review post.

What do I mean by this?

What I am referring to is what people often do (and what I used to do in all honesty) which is to start of every post with the full details of the book; the title, author, publisher, year published, number of pages, edition, paperback, hardback, ebook, audiobook etc.

Some blogs might commence with this information, and then include the blurb from the back of the book, and then maybe some quotes from the book – all before they have reached the actual review of the book.

I know I repeat myself a lot when I say this, but I do recognise that everyone has their own style.

Having said that, my own thoughts on this are that most people who are out there reading reviews on book blogs want to know what you thought of the book. What is your summary of what the book was about? Did you connect with the characters? What was the prose like? Were there any interesting issues or themes the book raised?

The potential problem I see with commencing your review post with all the additional information is that the post isn't focussed on the review itself – it contains a lot of other information before the reader even gets to what they are looking for.

Another way of looking at it is this. I am a solicitor who appears in courts before Magistrates and Judges. If I were appearing in, for example, a sentence matter I would raise my strongest points first. What does the Magistrate really need to know about this person? What makes this person different to other people that come before the court? If I can get the Magistrate's attention straight away with these strong points, they are more likely to stay with me throughout my submissions.

I think the same thing can be said of review posts. Get straight to the point – which is the review.

If you think that your readers might also enjoy reading all the publishing information about the book and perhaps they might also like to read the blurb from the back of the book – then why not include it at the end of the review? That way people can read the most important information first without being distracted by the less important information. If they want more information when they have finished reading the review, then they have some bonus information at the end of the post. If they don't, they have least read your thoughts and experiences on the book, which let's face it, is what we want to share with everyone.

That's why I say: Let the review itself be the main focus of the book review post. Don't distract your readers with information they may or may not want to know before they get to your thoughts. They are there for your wonderful thoughts, so think about giving your thoughts to your readers first up.

Given we are talking about the content of posts; I thought that it might be useful next week to talk about the frequency of posts.


Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.

#5 Blog design
#4 Third party commenting systems
#3 Commenting habits
#2 The obsession with followers
#1 The follower gadget
An Introduction

The Readers: A podcast for everyone

I just had to share my enthusiasm for this new podcast I have recently discovered.

When a I say recently, shamefully, I have known about it since it first became available. Unfortunately, due to my old laptop having my iTunes on it, and my sheer dislike of doing anything on my laptop because it takes so long, I only subscribed to the podcast in the last few days.

I can't believe I waited so long!

The Readers is a podcast by two book lovers, Gav from Gav Reads and Simon from Savidge Reads. I have followed Savidge Reads for a little while now, but this podcast has introduced me to Gav Reads which I am very much looking forward to reading more of.

In The Readers, Gav and Simon basically just talk all books. So far I have listened to them discuss the Man Booker Award, short stories and how to get out of a reading slump - amoungst many other things. So far, I have listened to them interview Carol Birch (short listed for the 2011 Man Booker for Jamrach's Menagerie) and Ian Rankin (most famous for his Rebus series).

I have enjoyed it so much that I listened to the first three episodes almost straight through. It's great because it's listening to two people just talks books and all things book related, just like you and I might do with friends, except that Gav and Simon know what they are talking about and have a wide range of interests and tastes which makes it incredibly interesting.

I will looking forward to listening to more of their podcasts and having a look through their show notes.

So, if you haven't listened to this podcast - please do. I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed.

Review: Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland (Australian)

Adrian Hyland's Diamond Dove came to me as a highly recommended book from some other bloggers. I also listened to a fascinating interview with Adrian Hyland on the ABC Radio National Book Show, where Hyland was interviewed about the sequel to Diamond Dove, Gunshot Road, and also spoke about his 10 year experience living and working with remote Aboriginal communities in northern Australia (click here to listen to the interview).

The books protagonist, Emily Tempest, was born to a white father and Aboriginal mother. Although she identifies as Aboriginal, she has always moved freely between the communities and has never been quite sure of where she belongs.

The book begins with her return to Moonlight Downs, the property on which she grew up and which the Aboriginal tribe to which she belongs has been awarded Native Title land rights over. Her return, however, is not smooth and she soon finds herself embroiled in an investigation when one of the elders, also her old friend, is found murdered and a mentally unstable Aboriginal man named Blakie is blamed for the murder. Initially, Emily sets out to help the police capture Blakie who disappears after the murder. Instead what she uncovers are a series of strange events and occurrences that lead her to think that Blake may not be responsible for the murder at all. So follows the story of Emily's adventures as she tries to solve the crime, and come to terms with her own identity in the process.

The story in Diamond Dove had a lot of promise, but sadly, for me, it just wasn't realised.

Hyland certainly did a good job of drawing upon his extensive experience working with outback Aboriginal communities to Hyland has clearly used that experience to provide the reader with (what I imagine is) a very honest and accurate portrayal of what life for the both the Aboriginal and white population in isolated areas can be like. In Diamond Dove, we see the clash of traditional customs and beliefs with the attraction of larger more urban communities and what they can offer. Hyland also uses the story to explore the practical side of native title land rights and what it means for the traditional and white owners.

My complaint is that the plot itself moved too slowly and lacked a sufficient amount of tension that would have been fitting for what is essentially a work of detective fiction. Perhaps Hyland was trying to mirror the pace of life in the outback for these isolated communities, but in the end I was willing the book to pick up pace. I also found the characterisation somewhat lacking. I wanted the characters to be more fully formed and a little deeper than they were.

Although the traditions of detective fiction are observed here and the story is not unique in that sense, I did appreciate the uniqueness that the outback setting and the Aboriginal characters bought to the story.

5 / 8
Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

Do you appreciate it when an author uses the conventions of a traditional genre, but sets their story in a more unique or unusual time or place?

Also, let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it. I would be very interested to hear your view on Hyland's depiction of this Aboriginal community.