Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category


I confess I’m addicted to stationery. . .

In Book Reviews,Business / Self Help,CannonballReadX 2018,Non Fiction,websites on March 11, 2018 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

StationeryI’ll start this post with a confession, I am guilty. 100% guilty. Guilty of being an absolute stationery addict – I geek out over a new colour highlighter, a unused pristine notebook, when I discovered washi tape I thought my life was complete. . . but just don’t get me started on fountain pens, because I’ll never stop.

I’m not sure where my fascination with stationery started, school lists perhaps? But now I guess I’m one of those who like to think that a new notebook might just be the start of that great unwritten novel. Perhaps an unhealthy interest in stationery no longer need be embarrassing . . . .

When a friend @childhoodgames loaned me James Ward’s Adventures in Stationery I was enthralled. I have dived in and out of this book over the longest time – I really should have returned it months ago, its one I’m not sure if I could read cover to cover but being able to dip in and out, devouring a chapter at a time was utterly refreshing.

I have subscribed to Ward’s blog ( ) and must admit would love to attend his annual Boring conference ( ) He promotes his collection of boring ( book / blog / podcast / events / conference ) as a”a celebration of the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked” – sounds so banal, but its got me well and truly hooked.

Ward’s writing is elegant, he writes in an understated way with just a dash of very dry humor thrown in for good measure – the books tone is just light enough to be entertaining. Its funny, charming and far more interesting that I was expecting and I was expecting a lot.

Each chapter tells the history of one type of stationery; the pencil, the pen, erasers, filing products, journals. . . and tells it in great detail. Who knew the minutiae of the development of iconic brands ( too name just a fraction; Parker, Moleskine, UHU, Tipp Ex, Stabilo, Sellotape ) could be so utterly fascinating. Throughout Ward provides a collection of interesting facts that will cause you to stop and think, to perhaps reassess your perceptions, well maybe not that deeply – but they will provide a good hearty chuckle.

The only thing I would suggest might trouble some readers is the overtly British sections, there are few but they could be totally un-relatable which might put a reader off, for me it was the icing on the cake – having spent a portion of my childhood at school in the UK I found the mention of the Berol handwriting pen ( ) brought back so many fond memories I spent a good hour trawling through the WHSmith website.

Wards conclusion is an interesting piece about the need for stationery in a technological age and the crossover that exists between pen & paper and the digital world – he argues that we still need the personal touch of a handwritten letter, a jotted post-it note and even a paper clipped file. So, If you’re a stationery addict, or if you live with a stationery addict then this book is for you – get amongst it.

As an aside, in his introduction Ward mentions Present and Correct; “the most wonderful stationery shop in London” I am absolutley obsessed with their asthetic, their product and their customer service. If you have ever wanted to purchase the quirkiest most unusual, most perfect stationery gift then look no further.



sound bitten

In Book Reviews,Business / Self Help,Non Fiction,websites on March 4, 2018 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , ,

inkEarlier this year I responded to a shared Jordan Peterson You Tube video with the sentiment, “Oh, for fucks sake” ( I may have included a gif . . . ) This dragged me kicking and screaming into a debate about postmodernism, gender, feminism and consent. Yip, pretty heavy stuff. I was both fascinated and terrified by this obtuse character I had never heard of – He was being painted as one of the most influential public intellectuals in the English-speaking world. A once obscure psychologist and universtity professor he is beloved by the alt-right and has given voice to the conservative silent majority.

His opinions cover every facet of modern culture and he has managed to package his wide ranging theories into bite sized sound bites – enough to grab a wide audiences attention. He has 886,000 you tube subscribers and 43,148,271 views across 275 uploads.

Now, the real reason Im writing this, he’s written a book. ( ) I really want to say I’ve read it and I can offer an only slightly biased review and move on. But I can’t bring myself to buy the goddam book. I’ve read a lot of reviews; both the salt of the earth goodreads rants & the more academic journalistic pieces, both positive and negative but no-one can convince me a) I’m gonna love or b) I’m gonna hate it. I’m not really mad that Peterson is writing books, I’m mad that such a book is getting so much attention and here I am contributing to that. . . .


The Wrong Girl?

In Book Reviews,CannonballReadX 2018,Fiction on February 4, 2018 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Ellies Oneill’s The Right Girl reads like a fairly standard chick-lit novel, its frivolous, whimsical and a little fluffy. BUT, it has the most fascinating under current – it raises interesting questions about our digital identities and our relationship with privacy.

Two years prior Freya, our protagonist, was a waitress with little or no direction in life, no hope of a partner and no money in the bank. Freya then signed up for the lifestyle app BBest – designed to streamline her life. She surrendered her digital footprint and BBest took her past search history, likes and dislikes and then gave her the best option, the first option – it knows her better than she knows herself. Our heroine no longer has to make those decisions for herself and thanks to Bbest she no longer makes mistakes. Freya becomes a first option chooser, she prefers to let BBest control her life and relishes in the success it brings. BBest chose her fiance, her career and her business model. Bbest told her what to wear, what to eat, what to watch on TV. . . . BBEst gave Freya her best life.

But what happens when Freya doesn’t choose the BBest first option? What happens when she actually makes a decision for herself? When she’s actually got everything she ever wanted what would make her risk it all?

An entertaining holiday read that gives you just that little bit more, perfect fodder for a dinner table discussion. Ellie O’Neills writing is not taxing, her narrative races along and her structure is well crafted. I was a little disappointed with how fast the story came to its conclusion and I wonder of more could have been made of the reveal. But, having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed The Right Girl – it reminded me of Dave Eggers’ the Circle but it is much lighter in tone, perhaps reminiscent of Lauren Weisberger or Sophie Kinsella.




Heather, The Totality. Brilliant.

In Book Reviews,CannonballReadX 2018,Fiction,Short Stories on January 21, 2018 by mrsdillemma Tagged: ,

IMG_3151Matthew Weiner’s first foray into fiction is one of the most striking works I have read, its very clever, very odd, but very clever. At 134 pages long it is more of a novella but still packs an enormous punch – a punch that comes in the most unusual format. The novel is written in a series of short choppy paragraphs with little to no dialogue – you will either love or hate Weiners first work.

Weiner sets his characters on what seems to be an inevitable collision course. New York 80s Power couple Mark & Karen Breakstone and their daughter – the eponymous, Heather, are on a trajectory headed straight for Newark born & bred, raised & incarcerated; Bobby Klasky. They are a collection of people tumbling towards an irrevocable breakdown, and in places, it is terrifying to read.

Weiner establishes the characters histories and their intentions; his writing has echoes of a Woody Allen-esque movie, a little un-funny and quite banal. He establishes, quite early, an underlying feeling of dread – there is something just awful coming but you don’t know what. Bobbys menace and malovelence just grows with each passing paragraph and the way in which Weiner creates the almost unbearable tension is beautiful, compelling and disturbing.

Weiners creative history ( a writer on The Sopranos then writer, creator, director and executive producer of Mad Men and most recently writer, creator, and executive producer of The Romanoffs – an anthology series expected to premiere in the northern spring of 2018 ) is second to none, he has crafted quality television and I wonder whether Heather: the totality was an experiment to see if his writing genius translated onto the page – I think it did, but you need to read it to see for yourself.


feminism wrapped in a glittery pink bow? #nothanks

In Book Reviews,Business / Self Help,CannonballReadX 2018,Feminism,Non Fiction,websites on January 20, 2018 by mrsdillemma Tagged:

CBR10.1At a time when gender politics are making headlines in every major newspaper every day Feminist Fight Club should be a must read, but I’m not so sure it is.

Bennett’s fight is against the patriarchal construct not against individuals but what that then does is reduce her ability to discuss topics that are really at the heart of workplace sexism; sexual harassment and pay disparity. Neither topic gets but the  briefest of mentions.

Bennett states that the Feminist Fight Club is about creating a more egalitarian environment for everyone and that is that stead she has created a set of tactics to fight workplace sexism – sometimes they are just good old fashioned common sense and sometimes they are more complex. One upside to the way she writes is that the book is a collection of vignettes that have no real connecting narrative thread so you can read the chapters in no particular order.

Feminist Fight Club is infuriating, at times its laugh out loud funny and full of what I call mantra gems – those things you’re supposed to say to yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning. . . but Bennett is writing for the buzzfeed generation, her turn of phrase and creativity with the English language is at times overtly stereotypical, she has created a millennial feminist slang that really doesn’t need to exist. The Feminist Fight Club is trying to be Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In for those just starting out.

You might find its tactics useful and relevant but they might not be – at a pinch, what it can do is open your eyes to the implicit, insidious and downright ugly behaviour we, as women, have ignored for too long.

Bennett’s content is aimed squarely at her target audience, the 20-30 something female that may not have been enticed by Lean In. It attempts to counter the Business Books are boring adage by engaging through quizzes, humour, illustrations and lists – but by packaging her ideas in the literary equivalent of a pink princess dress she pretty much lost me.

Reading Feminist Fight Club should have been a joy but it wasn’t but Bennett has made me rethink my interactions and check myself, and I guess for that I’m thankful – but tied up in a pretty pink glittery bow. No thanks. 


A chronicle of 10 short lives

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Non Fiction on November 12, 2017 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , , , , , ,

youngeAnother Day in the Death of America is an indictment of the lack of gun control in the United States, Its not a book about gun control but a book about what happens in a country where there is none. I chose this book to read on the plane during a couple of long haul flights across the globe, I chose the right book.

Saturday November 23rd, 2013 – An everyday Saturday on which ten children were killed by gunfire – the youngest was 9, the oldest was 19. Gary Younge, award winning political journalist and editor-at-large for the Guardian, picked this day at random, he then searched for their families and told their stories.

Through ten moving chapters – one for each child – Younge explores the way these children lived and lost their short lives. He finds out who they were, who they wanted to be, the environments they inhabited, and what this might tell us about society at large.

Not all of the children were innocents and as Younge allows their stories to be told he details the conditions which turn the powerless, disenfranchised and excluded into victims of gun violence. What emerges is a scathing portrait of childhood and youth in contemporary America. Younge’s mission is to make the statistics surrounding gun violence human – and he succeeds wholeheartedly.

I found this book so moving, I paused after the first chapter and then began to slowly and surely devour the rest of the narrative. Younge’s writing is second to none – this work stands out due to the strength of his analysis, He humanises the murder victims whose deaths went largely unoticed.

Younge himself states that none of the victims made the national news because it was just another day in the death of America.

POSTSCRIPT: After shopping at Shakespeare & Co I learnt Gary Younge was speaking there the week after I was in Paris – The postcast of this interview is available here and I simply cannot recommended listening to this enough, its an hour you will thoroughly enjoy.


destruction, decimation, desolation, devastation….. Annihilation.

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Fiction,Science Fiction on November 12, 2017 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , , , ,

anniSo, I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but, just look at how beautiful its cover is. . . . The artwork is utterly stunning. I found this spectacular edition staring up at me from a display table in Hatchards London at St Pancras. It is not what I would normally read but I could not resist the cover – odd really. Annihilation should open up Vandermeer’s writing to a much larger audience, he’s fast paced, unsettling and compelling, he’ll have you up late at night on the edge of your seat. . . .

Annihilation is equal parts psychological thriller, science fiction adventure, and dark fantasy horror. It’s a completely self-contained story, but it’s also clearly an introduction to a much broader mystery that VanderMeer will explore in the Southern Reach Trilogy sequels Authority and Acceptance.

Decades ago, an inexplicable environmental change occurred, a large swathe of land and sea, was sealed behind an invisible barrier and held under strict quarantine by a mysterious goverment agency. This clandestine agency is known as Southern Reach and they have sent 11, mostly failed, expeditions into Area X, Annihilation is the story of the 12th..

Annihilation focus on the experiences of the four scientists who are part of the 12th expedition, none of them are named, they are identified by their roles with the expedition team. There is a minimum of character development but it is not needed, these women are trimmed back to the bare essentials and we are only told what the narrative needs us to know. The richness in VanderMeer’s work is the environment – he brings the lush overgrown ecosystems of Area X to life, hinting at terrifying invisible animals in the distance. It’s a land of transitional, constantanly changing, even overlapping ecosystems – The expedition are tasked with experiencing and then explaining Area X to the folks back home – if they make it home.

You should all get down to your local bookstore and own it now….. 5 star review from me.