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it would have been better for him if he’d died. . . . .

In Book Reviews, CannonballreadIX 2017, Short Stories, YA literature on June 25, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged: , , , , ,

This title is only 80 pages long and can easily be read cover to cover in one sitting. It is aimed at older teens and is a psychological thrill ride wound up in a short story. It is part of a collection of Dyslexia friendly titles produced by Barrington stoke. ( https://www.barringtonstoke.co.uk/ ) What makes a book dyslexia friendly you ask? Well, the typeface, the layout and the colour of the paper stock all make it much much much easier for someone with dyslexia to read.

Jon for short is the story of a 14 year old boy recounting a grizzly hospital visit in which he faces confusion, turmoil,  malevolence and even amputation.  Whilst in hospital he is sedated and under sedation he repeats the same dream, his dream gets progressively worse throughout the story and the chapter is repeated whilst revealing a little more each time we encounter it – an utterly brilliant story telling device!

Blackman’s writing is superb, the right amount is left unsaid building the horror through until the last page. The writing is eerie, its fairly dark and probably not for the fainthearted, but her ability to create an un-put-down-able suspense filled short story is second to none. The sense of foreboding, the out of left field plot twist, the creepy way in Jon’s choice of words helps us create those characters in our minds and the amazing illustrations that exist throughout the story, ( Vladimir Stankovic ) make it something that teens with a penchant for horror really should pick up.

The reason Jon is in hospital will chill you to the core. . . if you’ve never read a short story or a YA title then this could well be the one for you!

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The aliens are invading silently. . . should I care?

In Book Reviews, CannonballreadIX 2017, Childrens Chapter books, YA literature on May 28, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged:

silent invasionThe Silent Invasion – spores from space, plants, animals, humans all becoming part of a vast alien intelligence, 2 girls fleeing to the zone – this all sounded like fun, wrapped up in a neat little bundle, packaged in a YA wrapper. I hadn’t read any science fiction recently and I thought this could be a nice little foray into the genre which could lead to more. . . . or it could put me off forever.

James Bradley has produced a post apocalyptic tale following Callie, and her younger sister Grace, fleeing authorities across eastern Australia in an effort to reach the mysterious zone. We are told that Grace has become infected and according to law should be immediate quarantined, we know she and Callie are running from this quarantine but we are never really told why, or what they are hoping to achieve. This lack of direction hampers Bradley’s storytelling and the narrative is very slow moving, I would not hesitate to call it tedious in parts.

Bradley’s story is a little cliche, Callie becomes romantically involved but it seems somewhat pointless, if that portion of the text and the unnecessary violence ( especially the scene in which a dog is tortured ) were removed it could make a great adventure sci-fi read for a slightly younger age range. The Silent Invasion is just trying to hard to be relevant to young adult readers, the writing is clunky and overly wordy, the characters dreary and the plot; all to familiar ( the 5th Wave anyone? )

Perhaps if Bradley had written the Silent Invasion as a standalone title and not the first in a trilogy I would have enjoyed where the story could go, but as it stands, I do not care enough about the characters or the story line, to read volumes 2 and 3.

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“Because, when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.”

In Book Reviews, CannonballreadIX 2017, Feminism, Non Fiction on May 14, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged:

CBR15Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a writer whose voice should be heard by all, yes all, and heard loud and clear.

Her latest work is entitled “Dear Ijeawele; or a feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions”. It grew out of a letter written to a friend who had asked for advice on raising her daughter, Chizalum, to be a feminist. This work feels more personal than her previous writing, it feels more urgent and unfortunately more necessary.

When I read Adichie I feel empowered, I feel strong, I feel purposeful but above all I feel hopeful. I read Dear Ijeawele with pencil in hand, underlining ideas, nodding to myself, scribbling notes in the margins, It provided me with a grounded concept of a utopia, but a utopia that can and will actually one day exist. That’s how much hope I feel.

This work is one that is so compelling, it is a call to arms. Its suggestions are invaluable, direct and perceptive. They are important for raising a daughter, or for that matter a son, but they are also important for all of us as human beings. Adichie gets right to the heart of sexual politics in the 21st Century, she writes with an aura of authority, you can’t help but take on board what she has to say – not just about raising children but about being a good adult.

I thought I might highlight one of the suggestions to provide a glimpse of what Adichie is espousing; The third suggestion is to teach Chizalum “that the idea of gender roles is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should or should not do something because she is a girl. ‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.” She goes on to discuss the differences in expectations of the sexes; cooking and domestic work, the absurdity of gender neutrality in children’s clothing and toys, individuality and self reliance.

There are a couple of sentences that leapt off the page at me and are already making an impact on my life, less that 24 hours after I finished reading them. I’m going to finish with one in particular – “Because, when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.” Let that sit with you. Let it ruminate around in your head as it has done in mine and then get up and have a conversation about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“High heels on the mossy path. Tippity-tap. Toddle on.”

In Book Reviews, CannonballreadIX 2017, Fiction, Short Stories on May 7, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged:

CBR9 16Hilary Mantel, twice winner of the Man Booker Prize, released a collection of short stories – titled The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher and other stories –  in 2014 and I have finally finished the compilation.

This collection peruses a host of difficult topics; misogyny, culture shock, adultery,  alternate realities and much more. While the subject matter is different across each story there are similarities that occur throughout the collection; Mantel has a great eye for the minutiae  of suburban life, the dreck of urban reality and even the bleak but often unsettling sunshine of the very English countryside.

There is no doubt Mantel is a master storyteller – every word moves her story forward and every word she uses is chosen and serves a purpose, sometimes, even more than one. I wouldn’t say her writing is ‘wordy’ because, well it isn’t, every word is valuable, Her writing is taut, controlled and acerbic.

The Plot can at times be secondary to the dialogue, and sometimes, even to the environment in which the action is taking place but when this happens it is all in the name of advancing the story, it is done with a  greater purpose in mind. The denouement in most of the collection appears a little forced which can come across as unsatisfying but on a second read is actually completely genius.

Overall I was underwhelmed with Mantel’s collection, I thought she could’ve made more of a number of the stories. While the titular story was provocative, profound, funny and by far the best of the lot the rest were still above par. I went into this the first time round with very high expectations and was disappointed but on that second reading, I loved every word.

 

 

 

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I’ll be Mrs Messy Then! – Tim Harford’s Messy:The Power Of Disorder To Transform Our Lives

In Book Reviews, Business / Self Help, CannonballreadIX 2017, Non Fiction on April 22, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged: , , ,

CBR9 15Tim Harford’s Messy is an exploration of how the highly valued human qualities; creativity, collaboration and resilience can all benefit from a little bit of mess. By embracing the by-products of disorder and confusion we can grow, develop and flourish.

Each chapter outlines a specific topic that can benefit from a little bit of mess; perhaps by creating a new path which leads to improved outcomes. He provides concrete examples to back up his theory, he identifies what the mess disguises itself as ( no, its not always just the pile of washing on the chair in the corner of the bedroom. . . . ) and how it could help in our everyday lives. Harford also includes scientific research from fields as diverse as the neurosciences, psychology, anthropology and social sciences to back up his claims.

One example really stood out to me; Imagine that you live in London and catch the same train at the same platform at the same time every day to get you to work. Then imagine that a strike closes 171 out of the Tubes 270 stations – This happened in 2014 and 1 in 20 of those who developed a new route out of the mess that situation created continued to use that route; it was either cheaper, faster or in some way preferable to their old route. All they needed was a little bit of mess to seek out something better.

Harford’s writing is academic but not overtly so, it is easily read and not at all difficult to understand. His message is powerful and will find you searching for examples of mess in your own life; he proposes an counter-intuitive idea that our mess can contribute to our success.

Now get out there and get messy!

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There is no such thing as Perfect. . .

In Book Reviews, CannonballreadIX 2017, Feminism, Fiction, YA literature on April 16, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged: , , ,

Perfect is the conclusion of the duology which began with Flawed, it is their author Cecelia Ahern’s first time writing for a Young Adult audience.

The narrative is set in the not-too-distant future, in an unnamed European country where anyone deemed to have transgressed the social rules is branded – literally – as Flawed. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been on the run. Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. Can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?

Ahern’s writing is crisp, well paced and packs an emotional punch. Her take on a done-to-death YA genre is fresh and refreshingly simple. All of the classic YA story-lines are there but they are not over stated; yes; the good girl goes bad but she’s not really bad after all. . . Celestine’s story is so so much more than that – her character growth and development are superb.

Ahern provides us with what I would call a YA futuristic thriller – there are enough nail biting scenes and out of left field plot twists to keep any thriller fan happy. Perfect is often described as dystopian but Ahern has said she doesn’t regard it as so, whilst it does appear to meet the definition of said genre, I see her point. She has said she sees it as part social commentary on how our global society is becoming more and more judgemental, as a reaction to society’s finger pointing culture.

I think this is a work young ( and not-so-young ) readers should devour and then discuss – I think it is a ‘perfect’ book club read. I think Ahern’s message; That there really is no such thing as perfect, we all make mistakes – is one that needs shouting from the rooftops.

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off to bed with a good book. . . .

In Book Reviews, CannonballreadIX 2017, Fiction, what i'm reading now. . ., YA literature on April 9, 2017 by mrsdilemma

CBR914

It’s 8:45 on a Sunday night and I am off to bed with what I hope will be a good book; Perfect – the second in what I imagine is a trilogy from Irish powerhouse Cecelia Ahern.

The trilogy opened with Flawed – the world in which the series is set is defined simplistically ( in Flawed ) through this quote from the protagonist, Celestine; “Before I was born, there was a great recession in this country, banks folded, the government collapsed, the economy was ravaged, unemployment and emigration soared.” In addition to the criminal code there is a moral code by which society lives, the moral code is in response to what was believed to be the moral causes of the great recession. If you break this code you are branded; flawed.