Hi again, my fellow blogger friends! Hope your week’s been going well 🙂
First and foremost, I would like to apologize to the author of this book for only getting to post a review on it now. I have absolutely no excuse other than being in the mood for other genres and postponing reading this one. But I finally read it and these are my thoughts on it.
Thank you very much, Fred, for providing me with a review copy!
- Title: The Ugly Teapot: Book One: Hannah
- Author: Fred Holmes
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
- Publication Date: March 25th, 2016
- Page Count: 250
Hannah Bradbury’s life changes when her photographer dad is suddenly killed in Baghdad. In between the many trinkets he has brought her over the years lies the weirdest and most fascinating of them all: the Aladdin’s lamp, which resembles an ugly, old teapot, but promises to take Hannah on the most unbelievable of adventures…
When the author first reached out to me, I was quite happy! I always love a good middle grade story filled with magic and fairy tale vibes, which this one seemed to have in abundance. Plus, I’ve always liked Aladdin and anything One Thousand Nights, so it was an easy pick.
I actually started the book last year and set it aside for a few months as I was not really in the mood for this type of story. I picked it up again a few days ago and finally finished it. So here we go!
I thought the story and plot were quite cool. There was inspiration drawn from Aladdin and One Thousand Nights, as mentiones, and possibly a whole other bunch of fairy tales and myths, which I really love, but everything the author wrote did feel genuinely interesting even if felt like something I’d already read before. The fact that some things felt really cheesy and predictable is explained later on, so no complaining there.
The catalyst for Hannah’s adventure was also believable and not forced at all, which I appreciated. I could tell the author had handcrafted it carefully and made sure it made sense.
The twist also came from nowhere and I was definitely not expecting the story to go that way. It was a way darker tale than I was led to believe, and even maybe a bit too much for a kids’ book. I’m fine with that, personally, but maybe be careful if you’re going to let a small child read this. On Goodreads, it’s shelved under Middle Grade and Young Adult alike, which sounds pretty accurate to me. There’s a lot of violence in this and even contains a bit of psychological horror, so be warned.
What I liked most about it was the magical realism, and how we’re kept wondering until the very end whether what happened is reality or not. The fact that it was also in motion at all times forced me to not spend too much time wondering about it, as there was so much going on.
The ending left me curious about how the next installments will play out, too.
Unfortunately, none of what I mentioned was enough to make me a fan.
I was not too invested in the story and ended up setting it down and picking it up multiple times. Was this the book’s fault? Not exactly. I did try my best to try and read it, it just never really spoke to me.
I never truly connected with any of the characters, for one. Hannah, our heroine, was a bit of a mess: she could be really mature and grounded at times, too much for her age, and then be incredibly childish to the point of sounding like a spoiled seven-year-old. Either way, I never really got the impression that she was fourteen. She didn’t speak like one, and she certainly didn’t act like one. I get that she was going through a really tough period in her life and maybe that was the reason for her erratic behavior, but it still didn’t feel right to me.
All the other characters, both adult and children alike, didn’t spark any emotion within me either. I felt so distant from them, like I was reading about a stranger’s story that I didn’t care much about, even if I could feel sympathetic towards them. I ended up forgetting all about their troubles, though, and moving on to the next scene, just like the characters themselves.
Which brings me to writing and pacing.
I understand the author is primarily a TV/movie writer and a very good one. I’m not going to contest that as I’m not familiar with his work. But what I do know is that’s mostly what this book felt to me like: a script. I also understand that it started as a script, so it only makes sense. But it seems like the transition from script to book didn’t quite hit the mark and turned out as a strange hybrid instead.
To me, this reading experience felt very staccato. It was scene-scene-scene, action-action-action, some nice dialogue and humor in between, some cool descriptions of these foreign, magical places, and then more scene-scene-scene, action-action-action. Do you know what I mean? There was no real introspection or some sort of inner musings to make me feel for the characters and really get inside their heads. Mostly, it felt very mechanic and to the point, more informative/descriptive than anything else, and with a clear goal in mind. Which is fine for some readers, just not for me.
The pacing was… Weird. I was really into the story at times, and would easily breeze through chapters. But there were also times where it was just not working for me. Part of the reason why I kept putting the book down and finding something else to read, I guess.
Overall, this was a bit of a slow ride for me. I did like it to some extent, but never really felt emotionally invested in the story or the characters. They were there, and I read about them, and had some interest in their affairs, but whenever I closed my reading app and went to do something else, everything vanished from my mind as though nothing had happened at all. Which is not what a reader wants to feel.
I could appreciate Holmes’s vision and how he worked to build this other world and mix reality with fantasy, keeping the reader guessing. It wasn’t completely original, but it was a great take on already existing tropes. I also liked how he took the risk of making it much darker than one’s expecting, even if it might not be the most appropriate for younger children. Really surprised me.
But as a whole, I felt this needed to be longer and have more meat in it. There were some very nice descriptions and cool dialogue, but everything else felt a bit lacking. I wanted to experience the characters’ pain and joy and fear and I never got that. There was no time, almost no commentary on their part. So I ended up simply going through the motions.
I could definitely see this as an awesome movie or TV show, full of action and adventure. But, unfortunately, as a book it didn’t quite work for me.
Thank you so much for reading and until next time!