It’s a nice feeling when reviews appear. Especially the good reviews 😀
These two from Niels Saunders – if you haven’t taken a look at his books you should – and Patricia Walker made me smile happy smiles.
* * * * * * * * 8 / 10
Frances O’Roarke Dowell
I had to buy the book called Chicken Boy. How can you not buy a book called Chicken Boy?
I was only a little disappointed it wasn’t about a chicken-boy hybrid monster that terrorises all who get in its way.
Tobin is a young lad whose mum has died, dad isn’t quite able to fill her shoes and Granny is not quite all there. He’s failing at school and has little hope for a future, until he meets Henry. Henry likes chickens.
It’s a story of friendship, having faith in your friends and in yourself, aimed at 11- 13 year olds.
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* * * * * * * * * * 10 / 10
What starts of as a fun trip to crazy town takes a dark turn into horrified fascination. Jonathan Doe is a con-man selling whatever it is you’re willing to buy, be that an assurance your plants will be fine while you’re away or that your octopus is in dire need of teasing. He’s brimming with self-assurance, fun, insane and somehow manages to bend the world to his will while at the same time failing hugely in whatever he’s doing.
The failing part is largely due to Caputo, the hotdog in the middle. Just as in what happens to the story, Caputo will take all your fun and crazy and twist it into something unpleasant and violent.
Jonathan Doe is charming and funny, at first appearing superficial but as he reels from one situation to another it becomes clear there’s more to him than meets the eye… while at the same time he continues to be… well, superficial.
So, today in conversation a good friend said something along the lines of: “We in Britain have it so much better than other many places in the world, and we ought to be grateful.” It was part of a conversation about the General Election coming up… which is part of a longer conversation about the fear that we are losing the NHS and welfare to chronic and deliberate under-funding along with the demonising of services and customers.
She’s right, of course. We do have it pretty sweet. We have the best healthcare system in the world, and will never (for now) face the worry of having to pay for that healthcare. It’s paid for through taxes, so yeah, we’re still paying and it’s not free and blah blah blah… but my taxes won’t bankrupt me and my cancer treatment would have… if I’d even been able to pay for all of it. I could well be dead in countries where healthcare isn’t a given.
We have workers rights, free education (yeah, I know, it’s not blah blah blah), a welfare system that actually helps people… we don’t have much to complain about. And I am grateful.
It’s just that I shouldn’t be. I know other places are worse. I know other countries may not have these benefits and rights. But that doesn’t matter. That other places are worse is no reason to be grateful. It ought to be a given, it should be a baseline to expect. The idea is to continue to want better and more; not to allow these things to disappear because other places don’t have them either. We shouldn’t be telling our kids to be more grateful, we should be glad that they have it better. We should let them complain because what they have isn’t enough and watch them make it better still. We should be leading the way, not holding back because other places think we have enough.
For all that though, we actually should be grateful for what we have and not forget that it could easily not be there.
In a poor attempt to make more sense:
I am grateful to be alive. But I should be able to take it for granted. My life is not something that I ought to feel grateful for, even though I should and do.
That’s cleared that up.
* * * * * * * 7/10
I don’t read many books of short stories, for no particular reason.
This one has a lot to offer. Some stories are sad, some frightening in their own way, some are hopeful. The common theme seems to be a battle of some sort or another. A few are battles be with yourself in doing the right thing, some with yourself to do the necessary thing.
The writing is good, the ideas in each story work well and for the most part they complement each other despite all of them being so different. There was one story, Finding Rose, that I just couldn’t get on with and to me seemed to stick out from the rest like a sore thumb. The rest of the book though was excellent.