Book review: Power by Naomi Alderman

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

Goodreads book synopsis calls Naomi Alderman’s Power extraordinary, and yet, I cannot bring myself to call the novel something other than average. Or maybe a bit more than average.

Naomi Alderman does deliver an intriguing concept. At a certain point in time women become powerful – all of a sudden, the bodies of young girls all around the world can produce electricity. All the babies are born with it. The older women get the power from younger ones… The world is turned upside down, all the concepts of male-dominated societies go crashing down as women get the chance to fight back against opression.

The book follows a set of characters. Allie’s power comes through as her foster father is raping her. She kills the man and runs off, ending up in a covent and all of a sudden becoming a prophet of a female God. Btw, Allie hears a voice in her head that keeps driving her actions. Roxy is an illegitimate child of a British mob boss, her power comes through the moment enemies of her father come to kill her mother. Margot is an American politician, who receives the power from her teenage daughter Jos. Tunde is a Nigerian kid who becomes a journalist and a keen observer of the events that changed the world.

 

At some points towards the end of the novel I found myself skipping pages as the storylines got me questioning more and more how did Power get a 4* average on Goodreads. It’s hard not to question how so many readers got this book so wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Naomi Alderman’s writing IS good, but is not exceptional. At least not just yet. She depicts violence against women, she depicts violence committed against men, she writes about rape and abuse, about drugs, about power and the ways it corrupts people. Some part of the storylines reminded me of bad fanfiction. Power is ok, but it definitely isn’t a book that deserves another read.

Overall grade: 3*

Book review: Power by Naomi Alderman

Book recommendation: The Silence of the Sea by Vercors

This isn’t a review as such, because reviewing something that was written during the war by a member of the French Resistance is inappropriate. Imprinting your vision or opinion on something that was written by a witness is, in my view, utterly inappropriate.

The Silence of the Sea is exactly the story that would have been branded as inappropriate in our parts of the world. Some places in Eastern Europe are still obsessed by their vision of history, the glorified past washed to the shining bone… Germans were bad. The Soviets were victims. Sometimes the Soviets are branded as the only victims. A disdainful opinion “What do they, the Westerners, know of war?” is still heard all too often. Education is to blame, and not the lack thereof. The ones that are a decade older than myself have studied World War II in great many details during the history and literature classes. Instead of being taught reason – that war isn’t black and white, that the ones that are dragged into it aren’t always good or bad – many, many people from the former USSR were taught that the Germans were the big bad wolf. A short story about a good German is something too fantastical to be true for many conservative minds. This is what the Silence of the Sea is in fact.

It is a story about a girl and her elderly uncle, living in a small provincial town invaded by the Germans. Werner von Ebrennac is a German officer that they are forced to host in their own home. In an act of resistance, the French family treats the foreigner, the despicable Nazi with silence… Werner – the well-mannered, cultured and respectful officer does all the talking, and as his monologues unfold we learn that still and silent waters hold secrets…

I recommended this short story to a Ukrainian friend some years ago. When I saw her the next day, she said: “I hate you. I cried” 

Book recommendation: The Silence of the Sea by Vercors

Book review: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer

The most suffocating part about my previous job – and I understood this quite recently – is the fact that it suffocated my reading. The inspiration and the motivation for enlightenment have gone for a long walk… I switched to fiction. I love fiction, don’t get me wrong, but what I love even more is a book that makes me discover things and makes me crave for more knowledge.

 I am thrilled to say that The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer reminded me about the things that I was missing.

Few of us are aware of the visual biases and behavioral patterns that influence our thinking when we’re on our laptops, iPads, smartphones, or smartwatches. The sheer volume of information and choices available online, combined with the ease of tapping “buy,” often make for poor decision making on screens. Using engaging reader exercises and provocative case studies, Benartzi shows how digital designs can influence our decision making on screens in all sorts of surprising ways.

Continue reading “Book review: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer”

Book review: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi and Jonah Lehrer

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Never have I ever thought that I would write a 2* review on a Harry Potter play, but as it turned out, one of the most eagerly awaited books of the year is a grand disappointment. First and foremost, it is essential to point out that my opinion of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was by no means influenced by the fact that it is not an actual novel. Amazingly, some of the readers have missed out the Cursed Child is a script, but journalists are quite seriously to blame for this one. They also are to blame for the fact that almost every media outlet mentions something in the lines of “J.K.Rowling’s latest Harry Potter book… etc etc”. J.K.Rowling did NOT write the Cursed Child. The script is based on the original seven novels, and obviously, J.K.Rowling has given her go-ahead for the use of the beloved characters from the series and contributed to the story development together with John Tiffany, but she did not do the writing. Jack Thorne did.

Continue reading “Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Review: Tell the wolves I’m home by Carol Rifka Brunt

 12875258Two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life – someone who will help her to heal and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. 

As the events unravel, the reader begins to see that June’s love for her uncle has grown into an unhealthy obsession. Not in a maniacal sort of way, but still not quite right. Even her sister Greta used to tease June that she was in love with her gay uncle and by going through the first half of the book, it’s hard not to question whether in fact it was true. Sure thing, June grieves about the loss of her closest friend and confidant, but her loss becomes a sort of compulsion.

She gets jealous – four-year-old kind of jealous – of a life that Finn has led without her. The character is slow to realize that Finn was gay. As it turns out, Finn’s sister (June’s mother) put her brother before a choice – he could keep in touch with the girls only without the involvement of his boyfriend.   June questions why would Finn keep his boyfriend secret, and while the homophobic attitudes of the family the answer is quite obvious. At one point June even gloats that Finn did not take his boyfriend Toby to the Cloisters Museum, where Finn and June used to go on their Sundays together.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home touches on many topics, perhaps too many to make it likable. It’s slow, at some points quite painfully so. June’s journey of self-discovery drags on and on, and the things that happen to her and the other characters (unfairness of life, judgments, loneliness etc etc) are quite tragic and yet Tell the Wolves I’m Home is no first-class drama, it’s a “meh” kind of book that did not leave either a positive or negative impression. It’s not a book that I would recommend, re-read or go see in cinemas if it gets an adaptation.

 

 

Review: Tell the wolves I’m home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Review: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan

John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.

Marley quickly grew into a barreling, ninety-seven-pound streamroller of a Labrador retriever, a dog like no other. He crashed through screen doors, gouged through drywall, flung drool on guests, stole women’s undergarments, and ate nearly everything he could get his mouth around, including couches and fine jewelry. Marley shut down a public beach and managed to land a role in a feature-length movie, always winning hearts as he made a mess of things. Through it all, he remained steadfast, a model of devotion, even when his family was at its wit’s end. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms

If you love dogs – Marley & Me is guaranteed to make you cry. Of laughter and sadness in the end. Me, I ended up wailing in the public transport. None of my pooches were even remotely as naughty (understatement?) as Marley, a dog-loving heart cannot stay calm and not emphasize while reading the last of John Grogan’s memoir. It’s touching, it’s fun and if you have a “world’s worst dog” it would probably make you feel less alone.

Continue reading “Review: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan”

Review: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan

Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler.

There are books that draw you in and weave magic between the lines, there are books that25907472 are good, just good – not stellar that is, and then there are books that have brilliant storylines but lackluster execution. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin is one of those.

Yael’s experiences in the concentration camp made her forget her face, but etched the pain and sacrifices on her soul, making her a loose the grip of her emotions. The life in hiding also made Yale forget what it’s like to deal with humans, the interactions and emotions that come with. While she has been preparing for her insurgency for years, her first mission, and the fact that she has to deal with the results of actions of Adele Wolfe, the young woman whom she is impersonating.

Continue reading “Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin”

Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin