What to Read Next

Thin
Author: Ann K. Morris
Published: 10th March 2022
Goodreads Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewed: January 2023

Thin by Ann K. Morris is a fictional story that tackles the topic of anorexia. Told from the point of view of someone in the grips of the illness, it emphasises the workings of the unwell mind and the impact anorexia has on lives, both the sufferer and those around them. Seventeen-year-old Erin did not realise she had an eating disorder until her concerned GP spoke to Erin’s mother, who insists Erin see a psychiatrist. Knowing this would mean gaining weight, Erin runs away to Chicago.

In Chicago, Erin meets a couple of homeless teenagers who show her there is more to the world than being thin. Lin and Ari jump at the chance to eat a plate of food, not knowing when their next meal will be. While Erin believes she needs to lose weight to fit in with her friends at school, Lin and Ari keep away from most people, not knowing how to get out of their situation. The chance meeting between Erin, Lin and Ari allows the characters to choose a new way of life, but only if Erin agrees to accept help for her eating disorder.

Eating disorders can be self-absorbing, which the author demonstrates in Thin when Erin runs away without worrying about what her parents would think. Only through meeting her new friends does Erin begin to understand that her mum has difficulties too, especially married to a man who cares more about sports than his own family.

It is impossible to write a book about eating disorders without any potentially triggering material. Whilst it is not the author’s intention to write anything harmful, people with a severe eating disorder should not read Thin until they are on their way to recovery.

Thin is written almost like a poem with short sentences split over several lines. With only three to five words per line, it is as though the narrative is trying to make itself as thin as possible, just as Erin is doing in the story.

Ann K. Morris should be commended for writing an accurate novel about anorexia. Although it may be too difficult for some eating disorder sufferers to read, Thin will hopefully help others understand the illness and break the stereotypical beliefs many hold about anorexia and other mental illnesses.

Darkness
Author: Victoria Sadler
Published: 1st September 2016
Goodreads Rating: 3.67 out of 5
Reviewed: November 2016

“Violence always gets results.” But at what cost? Victoria Sadler’s dystopian novel Darkness explores an all too realistic scenario set in a not-so-distant future. The western world has fallen due to war and economic collapse. London has become a ghost city due to the death of thousands of people. Those not killed by bombs or deadly viruses succumb to suicide or death by natural causes – if the cold and starvation can be labelled natural.

Laura Lewis is the sole survivor in her block of flats and now needs to make her way through the dangerous streets to St Paul’s Cathedral, where what remains of the State will provide her with safety. Before she reaches her final destination, she is ambushed by an army of women, a threat to the nation, known as RAZR – Resistance Against State Reformation. Jane, the leader of the resistance, believes she has saved Laura from a fate worse than death. But, as Laura discovers, RAZR may result in an even crueller future.

RAZR was born from a hatred of men, a guerilla feminist movement seizing the opportunity to obliterate the patriarchal society. Since the beginning of time, men have oppressed women, regarding them as possessions with which they can do as they please. Despite the apparent equality achieved through past protests, the government (i.e. men) still controls the lives of women. RAZR focus on women’s rights to their own body and are angry at the State’s current use for women: to procreate.

Darkness is full of radical violence, often ending in the mass death of male soldiers. With barely a break to take a breath, the narrative goes from one action scene to the next, heightening the excitement as the novel reaches its climax. As the reader learns more about RAZR and the State, opinions are constantly changed. Who is good, and who is bad? Who can Laura trust? Then, to confuse things even more, Laura is not who she initially appears to be either.

The amount of violence in this novel is disturbing, particularly as the majority of deaths are caused without a guilty conscience. Darkness highlights the horrors of war and the wild nature of humanity. Without men and women living in harmony, there is no peace; on the other hand, complete equality is impossible. Furthermore, is RAZR feminist or terrorist? It is obvious that the human race cannot survive with merely one gender, so is RAZR doing more harm than good by fatally punishing all men?

Overall, Darkness poses more questions than it answers, yet it is a gripping novel. Women, particularly feminists, will enjoy the powerful messages expressed by RAZR, but equally, readers will understand Laura’s hesitation. With so many plot twists to get your head around, you will never get bored of this story. With such an ambiguous ending, it is unclear whether Darkness will remain a standalone novel or be continued with a sequel. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to read what the feminist, Victoria Sadler, comes up with next.

Kids of Appetite
Author: David Arnold
Published: 20th September 2016
Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewed: September 2016

They lived and they laughed and they saw that it was good.

Mosquitoland was the best book I read in 2015 and I was excited to discover what David Arnold would write next. I approached Kids of Appetite with mild trepidation; what if it did not live up to my expectations? I need not have worried – it was brilliant. Dubbed a “tragicomedy”, Kids of Appetite is a combination of realistic, heartbreaking experiences with intellectual humour.

The book opens mid-interview at a local police station where two teenagers, Vic and Mad, are being questioned about a murder their friend has supposedly committed. From there, the story backtracks a week and proceeds to bring the reader up to date. It all begins with Vic running away from home, distancing himself from his mother and her new partner. By chance, a coincidence – a bump, Vic would say – he is found by Mad, who introduces him to a small group of homeless friends. Vic may not have packed in preparation for life on the streets – or a greenhouse, as it turns out – however, he did grab the urn containing his late father’s ashes before racing out of the house. Along with the urn is a letter containing cryptic clues that lead to various locations where Vic’s father wished for his ashes to be scattered. Vic and his newfound friends make it a mission to put his father to rest.

It is not possible to label the general theme of the book. Kids of Appetite is a story full of stories. Each character has their own past, something that led them to the situation they find themselves in now. The group consists of five members – once Vic has been accepted. Baz, at age twenty-seven, is the leader: responsible, caring, and fatherly – until accused of murder. Seven years younger is Zuz, Baz’s mute brother, and finally, Coco, an eleven-year-old with the mouth of a foul old lady. It is Coco, amongst all her swearing and hilarious misuse of words, that coins the name Kids of Appetite, KOA for short, a play on words: they are not solely in want of food, they hunger for life.

Initially, it would appear that the main focus will be on Vic: his father’s death, his mother’s new partner, Moebius (facial paralysis) – a syndrome that results in a lot of bullying and discrimination – and, of course, his flight from home. Yet the remaining members of KOA equally contribute to the overall narrative. Mad, like Vic, knows what it is like to lose a father. Unfortunately, she also knows what it is like to lose a mother. Her life since the fateful car crash that left her an orphan has been full of abuse and uncertainty. Baz and Zuz, on the other hand, have escaped a traumatizing childhood amid the Congo Civil War.

Similar to Mosquitoland, Arnold’s second book is full of intellectual knowledge and humour, complete with references to highbrow material. Vic is obsessed with operatic songs and deeply interested in abstract art, particularly Matisse. He pulls the artist’s work apart in search of meaning and relatable truths. Like Vic, Mad has a particular song from which she draws comfort. The lyrics help her make sense of the world around her and help her to produce her manifesto – Madifesto. She is particularly fascinated by S E Hinton’s The Outsiders. With in-depth theories purloined from her favourite novel, she encourages and advises those around her.

It is essentially the characters that make Kids of Appetite such a fantastic work of fiction. Their background stories are all based on the real-life experiences of many people throughout the world; but it is their opinion of life, their terminology, and their reckless enthusiasm that impacts the reader. Kids of Appetite is a book to be read over and over again. So many phrases can be quoted to explain our own lives and feelings. The entire novel is one big quote to sum up life itself. Although there are many themes, stories and ideas, there is one clear message: Let go. Let go of the past. Let go of the things that hold you back. For Vic and Mad, it is the death of their parents; for Coco, it is abandonment; and for Baz and Zuz, to learn to let go of their violent childhood.

David Arnold is an extremely talented author, seamlessly flowing from one notion to another whilst sweeping the reader into a sea of pure emotion. He may overuse the word “ergo” and have an unconventional penchant for ellipses, but that only adds to the uniqueness of the writing. There may be an excessive amount of expletives but that is overshadowed by the pure genius of the story itself. Kids of Appetite is a book I want to recommend to all. The blurb likens it to authors Rainbow Rowell and Jennifer Niven – I would like to throw John Green into the mix – and should appeal to many Young Adult readers. I could write forever about this book, but I would rather you go and read it yourself. And whilst you read, remember:

They lived and they laughed and they saw that it was good.

Runaway Girl
Author: Casey Watson
Published: 20th October 2016
Goodreads Rating: 4.25 out of 5
Reviewed: November 2016

Casey Watson is a specialist foster carer who temporarily houses vulnerable children in emergency situations. Since working in this field for decades, she has documented her experiences in a series of books, each focusing on a different child. Her thirteenth and most recent book is Runaway Girl, aptly named about a (supposedly) fourteen-year-old girl running away from several distressing situations.

Adrianna arrives on Casey’s doorstep with no possessions, no English and no passport. Apart from knowing she is Polish, Adrianna is a complete mystery to the Watson family and the services involved. With her sixth sense tingling, Casey is certain there is something important that Adrianna is hiding, but despite all her attempts, it is not until an emergency hospitalization that the frightened Polish girl starts telling the truth.

With a background of abuse, homelessness and sex trafficking, Adrianna’s story will open readers’ eyes to the shocking situations in which many foreign children find themselves. Unfortunately, Adrianna is only one out of 5,000 girls in the last decade and a half to be brought to England illegally and forced into prostitution.

Fortunately, Adrianna is lucky to have escaped and found a safe place to stay in the Watson household. Without Casey’s care and determination to provide a future for her, Adrianna would have remained one of the “hidden children” that arrive in England every year.

Casey writes in a novel-like format, describing Adrianna’s circumstances from a carer’s point of view. Slowly revealing the secrets of Adrianna’s past, Casey keeps the reader interested in the same way a fiction author would with a clever plot line. Emphasising Adrianna’s difficulties – coming to terms with the abuse she has faced but also worrying about whether the authorities will allow her to remain in England – Casey appeals to the readers’ emotions, making it clear that, although Adrianna is here illegally, trafficked children have every right to be protected and looked after by British authorities.

Although Casey writes under a pseudonym and alters all names within the book, it is unclear how much of the storyline is true or whether the situation has been accentuated to capture the reader’s attention. Yet, this is not important – people will read this for entertainment, so the accuracy of the content is not as significant as how it is told. Runaway Girl, whilst shocking, is engaging and easy to read, with a satisfying ending.

The Last Dragon Slayer
Author: Jasper Fforde
Published: 1st December 2010
Goodreads Rating: 3.87 out of 5
Reviewed: January 2017

The recent (2016) dramatisation on Sky1 has prompted the release of a new edition of Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer, which appeared in bookstores six years ago. Fforde is perhaps best known for his Thursday Next series, a comical science-fiction story, but he proves he can equally tackle fantasy with this tale about an intrepid, young dragonslayer.

In the slightly fictional Kingdom of Hereford, part of the Ununited Kingdom, is a home and employment agency for mystical artisans. Over the past decades, magic has begun to diminish, leaving soothsayers and sorcerers struggling to find jobs. Jennifer Strange, although only fifteen, is temporarily in charge of running the agency, Kazam, and looking after the building’s cantankerous inhabitants. Although competent in her position, Jennifer soon finds herself out of her depth when wizards begin having prescient visions of the death of the last living dragon.

Able to ignore the prophecy at first, Jennifer becomes deeply involved once it is revealed that she is the foretold dragonslayer. Being both helped and hindered by friends and obdurate sorcerers, Jennifer desperately tries to prevent the shocking prediction from coming true. Yet, as she quickly discovers, it is impossible to outrun your fate, especially if Big Magic is involved.

The Last Dragonslayer is a fun book to read that, despite the slow build-up to the promised dragon story, is humorous and engaging. Jasper Fforde is a witty writer who uses genuine, intelligent, and often subtle puns rather than demeaning himself by resorting to crude jokes. Although some may dismiss dragons, magic and fantasy as fatuous nonsense, Fforde is writing for the more intellectual reader. Magic is a concept that has been written about thousands of times and also mocked in parodies of well-known literature. The Last Dragonslayer successfully combines fantasy and humour in a way that avoids ridicule.

Some may argue that The Last Dragonslayer is a young adult novel due to the age of the protagonist and the less highfaluting content compared to Fforde’s other works. On the other hand, Jennifer Strange is a character that appears a lot older than she is and is involved in events and satire that a younger audience may not be able to fully appreciate. 

I particularly enjoyed reading Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer. I found it engaging and amusing, loved the characters, and was slightly disheartened when the book ended earlier than I expected – that is the downside of having sneak-peek chapters at the rear of the paperback! Of the Jasper Fforde books I have read (The Eyre Affair, 2001 and Shades of Grey, 2009), The Last Dragonslayer has been my favourite. Perhaps the potential younger target audience prevented me from getting lost, unlike the complexity of the other stories. As long as you can forgive the author for his fish fetish and preoccupation with marzipan, you will love this book.


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Year in Review

Dear Reader,

Congratulations, you have made it through another year! I think Simeon gave a good report on 2022 last week, so I do not need to say too much. This time last year, I wrote, “my best friend, honorary family member and favourite Martin was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer” and had just undergone an operation. I am pleased to report he received the all-clear, and we have been able to restart our Friday trips to London. My favourite exhibitions this year include the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition, Small is Beautiful: Miniature Art Exhibition, and Raphael. I also enjoyed visiting places in Bath and Cardiff on a couple of holidays.

Last December, I set up a fundraiser for Bowel Cancer UK and raised a total of £750. Many donations came from friends of Martin, and I reached my £100 target in one day. This December, I set up a fundraiser for a different charity in honour of a very close friend, Stella. The charity is Beat, the UK’s leading charity supporting those affected by eating disorders. Stella and I met in 2014 when we were both hospitalised with anorexia. We were lucky (spoilt, even), although we did not realise it at the time, to receive NHS funding to stay in a private hospital. Since then, NHS funding has been withdrawn due to rising costs and a lack of government support.

Unfortunately, circumstances have forced Stella to return to hospital several times over the last few years, and she has experienced the results of reduced funding. Some hospitals have staff that lack eating disorder-specific training, and one is forced to discharge patients while they are still critically ill due to a lack of beds and understanding. Several deaths from eating disorders may have been prevented with the right support. Beat provides support for eating disorder sufferers by providing helplines, information and resources. They also campaign for increased NHS funding, reduced waiting times and better education for health and medical professionals. As of writing, I have raised £235 for Beat.

In June, I opened an Instagram account to showcase the photographs I took of Simeon on our various adventures. Simeon belongs to my friend Helen (Martin’s wife), and Martin suggested we take Simeon on holiday to Amsterdam in 2018. Since then, Simeon has visited many cities, completed many Treasure Trails, and posed for many photographs. I thought Instagram would be an easier way of sharing these pictures with my friends and family, but before I knew it, hundreds of accounts started following Simeon’s adventures. The majority of followers are also stuffed animals (or “plushies”), and I soon discovered a whole community of toys and teddy bears that go on adventures around the world.

In August, a sloth called Sammy (belonging to Martin and Helen) joined Simeon on his adventurers. In October, Ollie the Otter (purchased by Martin) arrived as the baby of the family. All three get up to a lot of mischief and like to visit other “plushies”, such as some of my cuddly toys: Hedgie the hedgehog, Vegas the monkey, Silly Billy the sloth (named by Simeon’s followers), Aurora the unicorn (also named by Simeon’s followers), and Dora Duck. To anyone who does not follow Simeon on Instagram, this probably sounds a bit crazy!

Simeon receives messages and comments from his followers almost daily. On Simeon’s birthday (17th November, if you are interested), one follower wrote, “Happy birthday to the sweetest plushie I have ever seen. You are one of a kind. We don’t know each other personally, but you have changed my life through your adventures!” Others have said similar things, often commenting on Simeon, Sammy and Ollie’s ability to be kind, thoughtful, sweet, cute and inspiring.

This year, I discovered the art of iris folding, which involves folding and sticking strips of paper to construct an image. I have made many greeting cards using this method, but for my Christmas card, I needed something I could photocopy and print several times. Inspired by iris folding, I drew a camel out of triangular shapes, thus moving away from my “safe” method of drawing – something my old college tutors tried to encourage me to attempt.

Goals for 2022
Continue blogging
Write more book reviews
Read the 40+ books littering my bedroom floor
Go to exhibitions in London (with Martin when he is well enough)
Go on holidays with friends (ditto)

Goals for 2023
Continue blogging
Write more book reviews
Read the 50+ books littering my bedroom floor
Go to exhibitions in London
Go on holidays with friends
Continue making people smile through Simeon’s Instagram page
Create more drawings

My fundraiser for Beat is about to end. If you would like to donate, you can do so on the Beat Website. There is an option to write why or in honour of who you are donating.

Wishing you all a happy new year! Thank you for continuing to read my blogs.


My blogs are now available to listen to as podcasts on the following platforms: AnchorBreakerGoogle PodcastsPocket Casts and Spotify.

If you would like to support my blog, become a Patreon from £5p/m or “buy me a coffee” for £3. Thank You!

What Should You Read Next?

Coggling
Author: Jordan Elizabeth
Published: 25th January 2016
Goodreads Rating: 4.08 out of 5
Reviewed: February 2016

Fifteen-year-old Edna spends her life looking after her brother Harrison whilst also working as a servant for a rich family. One day she is worried about Harrison’s uncharacteristic behaviour and is concerned to find him wearing a pocket watch that does not belong to him. Yet, when she snatches the watch away from him, he disintegrates into a pile of cogs. Panicked, Edna rushes out onto the streets in search of help, but naturally, no one believes her; no one but a thief, that is. Ike claims to recognize the watch as belonging to the hags – an evil, magical species – and says they must have stolen Harrison and replaced him with a cogling – an automaton changeling.

With Ike’s help, Edna is determined to rescue her brother, yet there are many incidents ahead for the pair to try and deter them. Not only that, Ike appears to have an ulterior motive for aiding her. Edna is also harbouring a deep secret.

Cogling is not based on a fairytale, yet it would not look out of place amongst the Grimm selection. It is full of adventure and magic, yet is darker than the stories told to children. When reading, I could not help but be reminded of Cornelia Funke’s Reckless on account of the similarities of strange creatures and settings – although that is where the comparisons end.

What I liked about Cogling is that it is a very modern fairytale in terms of its characters. Although set in a past where women were a lower caste than men, the heroine is not a helpless maid as in traditional tales. Edna and Ike are of equal ability and defeat the hags together, rather than Ike being the dashing prince rescuing the princess.

To begin with, Cogling felt like it was going to be fun to read but nothing special. The characters were a little annoying, but that added a slight humour. Then it got more interesting. As their lives became more dangerous, the story got much more exciting and hard to put down. The character developments were brilliant.

If you like fairytales, you will also love Cogling. Its steampunk approach makes it unique and fascinating. 

In A Land of Paper Gods
Author: Rebecca Mackenzie
Published: 28th January 2016
Goodreads Rating: 3.47 out of 5
Reviewed: March 2016

“My name is Henrietta S. Robertson. That’s my English name… My Chinese name is Ming-Mei.”

As the child of two members of the Interior Alliance Mission, Henrietta has grown up between two cultures: English and Chinese. From the age of six, she was sent to boarding school on a mountain in the Jiangxi Province, where four years later, she remains a small, pale, lonely girl.

For a girl as young as ten, Etta has a big imagination. She decides that God has called her to be a prophetess and encourages the other girls in Dormitory A to join her in a Prophetess Club. This results in Etta getting into all sorts of trouble as she naively goes about inventing prophecies; all the while, the Second Sino-Japanese War gets closer and closer to their mountain sanctuary.

Told mostly from Etta’s point of view, In a Land of Paper Gods is a hilarious historical novel about a young girl’s innocence. A large part of the story is about the missionary school rather than the ongoing war, so the focus is on Etta’s interpretation of the Bible and her understanding of the differences between Western Christian and Chinese cultures. Yet, once America joins the war effort, it is shockingly quick how the tale can go from humorous to heartbreaking.

The other character who plays a large part in this novel is Muriel, a dorm aunty who Etta regards highly. Muriel wanted to be a missionary but found herself working at the Lushan school instead, keeping an eye on the ten and eleven-year-old girls. Although most of the book is written in Etta’s first-person narrative, Rebecca Mackenzie has also included the occasional diary entry from Aunty Muriel. Since these are so few, it is not clear what their purpose is, as the story could easily continue without them.

Despite being a historical novel, In a Land of Paper Gods focuses less on fact and more on the impact the times had on a young girl. It is interesting to see the character development of Etta as she goes from a naughty, attention-seeking schoolgirl to a young woman who must fend for herself. All the while, she has her belief in God to resort to for explanations about the world in which she is living. The reader also witnesses the growth of the relationship between Aunty Muriel and Etta. To begin with, it is that of an adult and child, but it ends with them being equals in their suffering.

For some people, the Christian content will not mean anything, but it is possible to enjoy the novel without a religious background. For those like myself, who have a Christian upbringing, this aspect makes the story even better. Readers may recognize themselves or their childhood in Etta, particularly her understanding of the Bible.

Gratitude
Author: Dani DiPirro
Published: 13th September 2016
Goodreads Rating: 4.06 out of 5
Reviewed: June 2016

“Effortless inspiration for a happier life.” It has been scientifically proven that gratitude can benefit mental and physical well-being. It is also acknowledged that being thankful is difficult for many people due to negative circumstances or pessimistic personalities. Gratitude is a little, hardback book by writer and graphic designer Dani DiPirro, whose purpose is to encourage the reader to show and feel more gratitude in their lives. In a way, this is a self-help book.

Using quotes, written insights and activities, DiPirro guides the reader through several situations in which one can be grateful. The author’s insights are sensitive but to the point, suggesting that everyone faces these problems and does not isolate individuals. The quotes help emphasise the ideas, and the activities are simple and relevant.

The activities are nothing to be afraid of; they are not strenuous or difficult. They merely require you to think or complete a task that does not require you to go out of your way: “Reflect on the last time you experienced compassion or forgiveness.”

The book itself is simple yet beautifully designed. The red theme makes it feel bright and positive, but it may be more attractive to women than it would be to men. The print is large, clear and easy to read, suitable for all ages and backgrounds.

Although roughly 130 pages, it only takes ten minutes to read from cover to cover, yet this is not the author’s intention. To get the most out of the book, each section/task should be tackled individually to experience the outcome you are hoping for: feeling a sense of gratitude. This is a book that you can return to time and time again, whether you feel motivated or need a little pick me up.

At the back of the book, DiPirro has provided lists of the top ten ways to be grateful in different environments. These are useful when you are experiencing problems at home or work and need help stepping back and seeing the bigger picture.

Overall, Gratitude is a lovely, inexpensive guide to help people gain a more positive outlook on life. Other books in this series focus on different areas of life that people struggle with, e.g. forgiveness and living in the moment. Gratitude is the ideal book to give as a gift to a loved one or even to keep on your bookshelf or bedside table, accessible when needed.

There Will Be Lies
Author: Nick Lake
Published: 6th January 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.45 out of 5
Reviewed: June 2016

Award-winning Nick Lake has returned to the limelight with a young adult thriller so full of emotion that you will be gripped from beginning to end. There Will Be Lies starts with a happy relationship between mother and daughter, then rips it apart, revealing that everything you once believed is a lie.

From the very beginning, seventeen-year-old Shelby Jane Cooper warns the reader that bad things will happen. She speaks of death and a car collision that is about to occur within the first few chapters of the story. But this is not the climax of the story. It is merely the small stone dropped on the top of a mountain, causing an avalanche of questions, danger and the slowly unravelling truth.

All her life Shelby has been homeschooled, isolated from society and shadowed by her overprotective mother. After being hit by a car, resulting in a fractured foot, Shelby is ushered into a car by her mother and driven in the opposite direction from home. Supposedly an abusive father, a man Shelby cannot recall, is on their tail whom they must hide from to avoid a disastrous confrontation. Despite initially believing this story, peculiar things start happening to Shelby that suggest all is not as it seems.

The first quarter of There Will Be Lies follows a typical contemporary storyline, but as it becomes more thrilling, the author incorporates fantasy/American mythology into the mix. Finding herself slipping in and out of a dying, impossible world known as the Dreaming, Shelby begins to question the things her mother is telling her, especially after being warned that there will be two lies followed by a truth. Yet she cannot work out what they are, and what if the truth is something she cannot – does not want – to consider?

I loved this book from the very beginning. I loved Shelby’s character: the way she spoke, her sarcasm, her wit, and her intelligence. Despite being so sheltered from the world, she was not weird or awkward. What made it even better was discovering she was deaf. Readers will not even be able to guess at that for almost half the novel when Shelby reveals the fact herself. She is not portrayed as stupid or any less human for having a disability. Nick Lake has done a superb job of avoiding any forms of stigma or prejudice.

The fantastical elements, the American mythology, which gave it the appearance of a half fairytale, nearly ruined the entire book. I admit I liked the concept and enjoyed reading the scenes set in the Dreaming, but it seemed so out of place with the rest of the novel, as though Lake had written two different stories and decided to combine them instead of publishing them separately. 

As the story progressed, the relevance of the fairy-tale-like elements became clearer. You cannot say whether the Dreaming was real or whether Shelby was merely doing that: dreaming. The mythological storyline is a metaphorical way of revealing what Shelby was dealing with in the real world. In a place where she was confused about what was true, she needed the Dreaming to explain things to her, to make her understand her predicament.

There Will Be Lies is full of little metaphors, some that you do not notice at first but easily apply to life in general. It is a quotable narrative with beautiful phrasing. With two thrilling storylines that eventually merge, you are guaranteed to be gripped, wanting to know what happens, yet also not wanting it to end.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old
Author: Hendrik Groen
Published: 1st June 2014
Goodreads Rating: 3.94 out of 5
Reviewed: August 2016

Think Adrian Plass but with octogenarians, and this is the result. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old is a years-long journal beginning on 1st January 2013. Hendrik hates old people, an unfortunate predicament as he lives in a home for the elderly. He set himself the task of writing a daily account about the “life of the inmates of a care home in North Amsterdam,” with the purpose of it being read after his death by readers or “inmates” who wish to know what to expect in their old age.

Whether the contents of this diary are true or exaggerated does not matter, as what it produces is a laugh-out-loud story – a pleasure to read. From cake in the fish tank to complaints about leaky nether regions, Hendrik provides a brutally honest account of the highs and lows of being an OAP.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old encompasses a selection of unique and presumably real characters. Readers are bound to discover someone who reminds them of an elderly relative or even themselves! There is the diabetic, rude, gin-loving Evert – Henrdik’s best friend of many years – who is never without a witty comeback for the bossy, self-important director of the home. On the other hand, levelheaded Eefje, who Hendrik is rather fond of, shows a completely different view of elderly mentality. Despite the stereotypes associated with care home patients, Hendrik and his friends still have as much fun as possible; after all, they may be Old but not Dead.

Speaking of Dead, Hendrik makes several jokes and references to euthanasia, which may seem like poor taste to some readers. Yet, when all the friends around you are living the final years of their lives, why not joke about it instead of worry? Naturally, there are sad diary entries about the inevitable deaths of his contemporaries throughout the year, but Hendrik does not let it get him down for long. Hendrik and his close friends make the most of the time they have left, and if that involves speeding along the roads of Amsterdam on their souped-up mobility scooters, then that is exactly what they will do.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old is a gem of a book and comes highly recommended to readers of all ages. Hendrik‘s effortlessly funny, sarcastic remarks stress what the average citizen is too polite to voice. Once you begin, it is hard to put down. Unfortunately, a year is not long enough, and you will end up wanting more. Whatever the future holds, let us hope we become someone like Hendrik Groen.


My blogs are now available to listen to as podcasts on the following platforms: AnchorBreakerGoogle PodcastsPocket Casts and Spotify.

If you would like to support my blog, become a Patreon from £5p/m or “buy me a coffee” for £3. Thank You!

Another Five Book Reviews

Zeroes
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Published: 23rd September 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.76 out of 5
Reviewed: August 2015

The author of the Uglies series, Scott Westerfeld, has teamed up with co-writers Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti to create this exciting whirlwind of a young adult novel. Many people wish they had a superpower, but what if there really were people with them? Zeroes is a story about a group of teenagers with special gifts, but these unique abilities may be more dangerous than you imagine.

The superpowers in this novel are not as conventional as the famous comic heroes. Some can control crowds with their minds or destroy electricity, and one blind character can even see through the eyes of others. Collectively these teenagers are called the Zeroes, but only amongst themselves.

Despite how cool it may seem to have these powers, their gifts can get them into trouble. One of the teens, Ethan, accidentally finds himself involved with drug dealers and a bank robbery, resulting in the police taking an interest. Whilst trying to get him out of this mess, the rest of the team causes even more trouble, making things worse and eventually leaving Ethan in a life-threatening situation.

Told through six different characters, the reader gets the opportunity to learn about the individual powers and how each person deals with them. The novel is fast-paced with an explosive ending – literally. It is almost impossible to put it down. With an equal mix of male and female characters, it is suitable for all readers who enjoy Young Adult fiction. You will find yourself wanting more.

Mosquitoland
Author: David Arnold
Published: 3rd March 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.88 out of 5
Reviewed: September 2015

Now and then, a book comes along that renders you completely unable to explain how much you loved it. Mosquitoland is one of these. Sixteen-year-old Mary Iris Malone – although only her mother can call her Mary, so please refer to her as “Mim” – has had enough of her new life in Jackson, where she has moved with her Dad and Step-Mother. She is angry at her parent’s divorce and wants to see her mother, so that is exactly what she intends to do.

It is 947 miles from Mosquitoland – that is Mississippi to the average person – to Cleveland, Ohio, where Mim’s mother is. Mim’s objective is simple: “Get to Cleveland, get to Mum.” However, her reasons are beyond difficult to explain. On her journey, Mim attempts to clarify her reasons by writing letters to an unknown character named Isabel in her journal. Yet these letters are not the only significant parts of this story.

Taking a bus to Cleveland seems like a straightforward mission, but for Mim, many detours are in store. Events that could potentially ruin someone’s trip provide Mim with the opportunity to make new friends, examine what it means to love, and confront her demons. By joining up with two extraordinary characters along the way, we, as readers, get the opportunity to explore the lives of others experiencing similar situations to Mim and thus question how we define love and loyalty.

David Arnold writes with a certain amount of intelligence, making this book a pleasure to read. Although a young adult novel, Mim’s astuteness makes her appear older than she is, yet not in a way that alienates the target reader. Mim’s perceptions give the reader the ability to view life in a way they may never have thought about before. Arnold has managed to put unexplainable feelings into words, which are guaranteed to make the reader sit up and exclaim in delight that someone has finally understood their personal, complicated feelings.

Although the storyline in Mosquitoland only covers five days, so much happens, making Mim’s trip more of an odyssey. The ending, however, is not completely satisfying. By no means is it a bad ending, but it leaves so many questions unanswered, such as what happens to Mim’s new friends, Beck and Walt? Do they get a happy-ever-after? It is almost frustrating that we will never know.

As indicated at the beginning of this review, it is impossible to put into words how good this book is – but let us say this: Mosquitoland is sure to give top Young Adult authors, such as John Green, a run for their money.

Alice Takes Back Wonderland
Author: David D. Hammons
Published: 26th September 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.57 out of 5
Reviewed: November 2015

When a book starts with “‘Do you know fairy tales are real?’ asked the cat,” you know you are in for a magical ride. Nearly everyone knows the tale of the seven-year-old girl from nineteenth-century London who falls down a rabbit hole and spends a day of madness in the magical world of Wonderland. In David D. Hammons’ version, Alice was a young girl from twenty-first-century Missouri. On her return to the real world, she was diagnosed with ADHD and Schizophrenia and forced to believe that the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter were figments of her imagination. But ten years later, a white rabbit appears and leads Alice back to the world where nothing makes sense.

All is not well in Wonderland. The Cheshire Cat is dead, and the Ace of Spades is in charge. Barely anything is the way Alice remembers. Everything looks far too “normal” and similar to the real world. Ace is determined to remove the wonder from Wonderland and create a place where madness is forbidden. Alice has a big fight on her hands as she tries to end this former playing card’s tyrannous reign and restore Wonderland to its original insanity.

Alice Takes Back Wonderland is not purely a retelling of Lewis Carrol’s famous story. Although many well-known and loved characters appear in this book, so do others from a variety of fairytales: Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and various tales from the Brothers Grimm. As readers will discover, all is not exactly as it should be for these characters either. Despite the contrasting, magical stories, Hammons has imaginatively merged them all, resulting in a humorous Young Adult novel.

Although mostly focused on the goings on in Wonderland and the other fictional locations, it is also a subtle metaphor to describe what Alice’s life had been like back in present-day America. For a decade, Alice was forced to take medication to help her understand the difference between reality and fantasy. It got rid of most of the nonsense thoughts she picked up during her first visit to Wonderland. In a way, that is what the Ace of Spades is doing to characters he believes are mad. He is taking the wonder out of them, just like the pills took the wonder out of Alice.

Lovers of fairytales will love this book, especially those who grew up reading Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. In some ways, it is a continuation of the original tale, yet in other ways, it could be viewed as an alternative way the story could have gone. Primarily targeted at young adults, Alice Takes Back Wonderland is much darker than Carrol’s version and combines a mix of real life with fantasy. It also goes to show that no one is too old for fairytales!

Front Lines
Author: Michael Grant
Published: 16th January 2016
Goodreads Rating: 4.09 out of 5
Reviewed: January 2016

Michael Grant, mostly known for the Gone books, is back with this groundbreaking new series, Soldier Girl. This first book, Front Lines, begins in 1943, shortly after the Americans entered World War Two. Whilst a historical novel, Grant has fictionalized it with an alternative situation where women were allowed to join the American army. This tale, told by an anonymous woman, follows three teenage girls through their experiences in the early part of the war.

Rio Richlin, 16, Frangie Marr, 18 and Rainy Schulterman, 18, all volunteered to train as soldiers and play their part in the war effort. Being female, none of them believed they would be placed on the front lines, shooting and killing enemy soldiers. The first half of Front Lines describes the discrimination they faced during their training from their male contemporaries, whilst the second half, set in Tunisia, reveals the true horrors of war.

Grant did not solely focus on the gender controversy. Two of the characters had other traits that were widely discriminated. Firstly, Rainy was Jewish, and although anti-Semitism was not on such a grand scale in America, there were still occasions when she witnessed negative judgments of her religion. Secondly, Frangie was black. At this time in America, there were still many people who detested black people and thought of them as a subclass. Frangie was placed in a segregated section of the army specifically for “nigras.”

Front Lines ultimately reveals that in situations of life and death, everyone is reduced to a raw being – everyone is the same regardless of race, gender or beliefs. Grant illustrates that women can be just as strong as men and that people who are usually looked down on deserve the same amount of respect as the average person.

Whether due to its female voice, or the fact that Grant is writing with young adults in mind, this story was a lot more interesting and relatable than a large chunk of historical war novels. Despite the allusion to dates and chronological events, it was almost like reading something set in the present day.

Ultimately, there was not much to dislike about this book, although perhaps some of the love interests were unnecessary. I highly recommend this book to young adult readers. Although a fictional account, it educates the reader on the horrors of war and the bravery of soldiers. While nothing can compete with first-hand experiences, Front Lines gives a good sense of World War Two action.

Nineteen Minutes
Author: Jodi Picoult
Published: 5th March 2007
Goodreads Rating: 4.15 out of 5
Reviewed: February 2016

Your son says the bullying was unbearable. But his revenge was murder. What would you do?

Nineteen Minutes is perhaps Jodi Picoult’s most controversial novel, as well as one of the longest. Many things can happen in nineteen minutes, including a school shooting resulting in the deaths of ten people. This is what happens at the beginning of this book, leaving hundreds of teachers and students emotionally scarred for the remainder of their lives. Picoult explores the reactions of a community whose ideas of safety have been shattered, the grief of the victims and their families and, perhaps most importantly, the heartache of the parents of the shooter.

Seventeen-year-old Peter Houghton has had enough of the bullying he has endured throughout his entire school life. He has no friends, is constantly miserable, and possibly suicidal, so on a typical morning in March 2007, he decides to permanently fix the situation. But why did he go to such extremes? What circumstances in his life led to firing a gun as the only solution?

As the evidence is gathered in the lead-up to the court trial, many characters question their own involvement in Peter’s life. Firstly, there is Josie Cormier, a straight-A student who swapped her childhood friendship with Peter for popularity and her boyfriend Matt, a particularly aggressive bully. Secondly, there is Alex Cormier, Josie’s mother, who destroyed her friendship with Peter’s mother after finding their five-year-old children playing with guns in the Houghton’s basement.

If Peter’s father had never owned a selection of hunting rifles, would Peter ever have thought of guns as a way out of his predicament? On the other hand, Lacy Houghton blames herself for not noticing how badly her son was suffering, not just at school but at home as well, where he had to live up to the memory of his saint-like older brother who died in a car crash the previous year.

Naturally, a tragic event such as this changes people, but not always in a negative way. Relationships begin to blossom as characters realize how close they were to losing the ones they love. Alex takes a step back from her demanding job to comfort Josie in the aftermath, thus feeling closer to her than she ever had before. Alex, a single mother, also opens herself up to a romantic relationship, something she has had no time to seriously consider up until now. All the while, Defense Attorney Jordan McAfee, who some readers may remember from Salem Falls, fights a losing battle to get Peter acquitted by arguing and prying into Peter’s emotions to discover his reason for committing murder.

What I like about Picoult’s novels is that there is more to them than a simple storyline. While the story plays out and plot twists happen, the reader is learning something new. In Nineteen Minutes, Picoult provides insight into midwifery, psychology and economics – things that are not synonymous with the shootings.

Readers will constantly question whose side of the story they are on. Hundreds of people grow up being bullied and will understand how Peter felt, yet they would not pick up a gun. Likewise, by putting themselves in the victims’ shoes, readers will think about how they would feel in the same situation. Yet, would anyone be willing to admit that they made someone else’s life a living hell? There is no easy conclusion to Nineteen Minutes; someone will always lose. Nevertheless, Picoult’s fantastic writing skills provide an enthralling story of love and loss.

I cannot recommend this book to readers in general due to the nature of the themes found in the story. Gun crime and school shootings are sadly still an occurrence in the present time, particularly in America. There are thousands of people who have been affected by such an event, whether directly or indirectly as part of a local community. Some readers may find Nineteen Minutes challenging and upsetting, which is why I will not encourage everyone to read this book. Yet, Picoult has excelled with this novel, and it would be a shame for people not to read it. Fans will not be disappointed with her writing and will love all her characters, possibly even Peter!


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5 More Book Reviews

The Expatriates
Author: Corinne O’Flynn
Published: 16th October 2014
Goodreads Rating: 4.20 out of 5
Reviewed: November 2014

The Expatriates is the first book in the Song of the Sending young adult fantasy series by Corinne O’Flynn. Seventeen-year-old Jim knows he was not originally from this modern world. He can tap into animals’ minds and has friends with other abilities. Brought up to believe that his original world had been destroyed, Jim is shocked when he receives a message saying he is needed back home. Jim’s life is completely turned upside down, and he finds himself running for his life with his two friends, Sam and Charlie.

After discovering how to return to his homeland, he quickly learns that he has been told lies all his life. He never realized he was such an important person, nor that this put him in serious danger.

Jim’s story is fast-paced and exciting as things go from the relatively normal to the completely unexpected. O’Flynn has done a great job of contrasting modern California with the fictional medieval world, Bellenor. Not only does it seem like the three friends have stepped back in time, but the place becomes gradually more and more magical.

As well as his two friends, Jim has a tiger called Bak as a companion. He can connect with Bak’s mind, and it is clear that they share a close bond. Readers will fall in love with Bak and his toddler-like sentences as he converses with Jim. This was a nice touch to the general story.

The reader is only introduced to a couple of mythical creatures. Although one is familiar by name, they are a reimagined concept rather than the way they are typically portrayed in existing fantasy fiction. This uniqueness helps this book to stand out amongst others within this genre.

There was a romantic aspect to the story, but it felt a little unnecessary, although it may appeal to some readers. The pace of the book made it quick to read, which, by no means a bad thing, resulted in a lack of depth in some areas.

Overall, The Expatriates is a brilliant book. It appeals to people’s sense of adventure but also plays on emotions. Having an animal as a key character and being able to get into its thoughts is an interesting concept. It will be intriguing to discover what happens next.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Published: 20th March 2012
Goodreads Rating: 4.04 out of 5
Reviewed: December 2014

Recently brought to the big screen starring Academy Award Winner Reese Witherspoon, Wild is a true account of Cheryl Strayed’s epic hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). For three months, Cheryl treks from Mojave, California, through Oregon before finishing at the Bridge of the Gods.

Wild is a compelling story that reveals a young woman’s determination and bravery to complete her impulsive walk of eleven hundred miles. Ill-prepared and still struggling with her mother’s death a few years earlier, Cherly sets off, unaware of the strength she would need to complete her challenge.

As Cheryl writes, the reader learns how she survives the severe changes in weather conditions, her lack of food and money, and her damaged feet, including missing toenails. Cheryl Strayed’s story is an inspiration to readers as she proves that a human being can go above and beyond expectations in extraordinary circumstances. Despite having the truth laid out on paper, it is impossible to imagine the emotions and physical exertion Cheryl must have gone through.

A good thing about this biographical tale is that Cheryl’s narrative does not solely focus on the PCT but refers back to events of the past that have made Cheryl who she is today and influenced her decision to begin the trail. The reader begins to know the real Cheryl and understand what she is feeling and thinking at different points in the book.

Although reading about someone going for a long walk may sound unappealing, it is so beautifully written and full of raw emotion that it will be enjoyed by many readers.

All Fall Down
Author: Ally Carter
Published: 20th January 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.85 out of 5
Reviewed: April 2015

Ally Carter has become well known for her Gallagher Girls series and Heist Society series and is now back with a brand new young adult series: Embassy Row. After witnessing the death of her mother three years earlier, sixteen-year-old Grace is shipped off to Adria to live with her ambassador grandfather at the United States embassy. Well known for her daredevil, rebellious history, she is now expected to settle down, become more ladylike and attend international balls. Grace, on the other hand, has other plans.

Grace is convinced her mother was murdered and that she knows who the murderer was. The only problem is no one believes her: not her grandfather nor the many psychiatrists, and even her friends have their doubts. So, Grace does what any “self-respecting mentally unbalanced teenager” would do and takes matters into her own hands.

It is exciting to read about Grace putting pieces of the puzzle together by investigating underground tunnels, tailing a scarred man around the city and behaving like James Bond. As the plot begins to climax, it is difficult not to rush through the novel to discover how it ends.

As well as the mystery storyline, Ally Carter also explores the theme of mental health. Naturally, Grace has had issues since the death of her mother and finds herself, time and again, trying to convince people she is not crazy. Readers who have experienced mental health problems may relate to not being taken seriously and understand Grace’s frustration.

Overall, All Fall Down is a fantastic and exciting story to read. The air of mystery and the feeling of suspense keeps the reader on their toes as they race through the book. It is also refreshing to read a young adult novel that does not focus on a teenage love story. 

Extraordinary Means
Author: Robyn Schneider
Published: 26th May 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.94 out of 5
Reviewed: May 2015

Extraordinary Means is a coming-of-age novel by Robyn Schneider that promises to live up to the expectations of John Green and Stephen Chbosky fans. Set in the near future, Lane Rosen has spent his seventeen years studying and ensuring he achieves his best at school. With high hopes of getting into Stanford, he is distraught when he is sent to Latham House, a sanatorium in the Santa Cruz Mountains, after contracting tuberculosis.

Although in today’s society tuberculosis is curable, Schneider has invented a total drug-resistant TB, which is highly contagious and needs to be contained. Lane finds himself in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by other teenagers with the incurable disease. Here he meets Sadie Bennett, with whom, after a shaky start, he develops a close relationship.

Ironically, whilst suffering from an illness that could kill him, Lane learns there is more to life than school. With his new friends: Sadie, Nick, Marina and Charlie, Lane becomes more adventurous and starts to relax and have fun whilst they wait for scientists to come up with a cure. The only trouble with this waiting game is that the odds of some of them not living long enough to see this cure is very high.

Narrated by both Lane and Sadie, Extraordinary Means is a love story with a heartbreaking ending. Readers feel for the teens as they are separated from their families and forgotten about by their friends. Unlike other potentially terminal illnesses, they cannot have support from their loved ones because of the risk of spreading the disease.

There is an underlying sadness to the novel, as the reader knows that no matter how much fun the characters have and no matter what their hopes and dreams are, the chances are something dreadful could happen. With this in mind, the story becomes much more powerful and moving as Sadie, Lane, and friends are determined to keep on going and enjoy their lives on a day-to-day basis.

Schneider is an excellent writer who has created a contemporary romance with a unique setting. The imagination involved with tuberculosis could almost describe the novel as dystopian, minus the science fiction aspect. Extraordinary Means is the perfect novel for young adult fans, but a warning: it could break your heart!

Dreamland
Author: Robert L. Anderson
Published: 22nd September 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.53 out of 5
Reviewed: July 2015

“Dreams come true. So do nightmares.” Dea Donahue has spent her entire life travelling from one state to another, starting school after school and walking other people’s dreams to survive. Dea, like her mother, is a dream walker, but she must keep this a secret from everyone else. She must follow the rules: do not walk a person’s dream more than once, and do not let the dreamer see her; otherwise, the monsters will find her. Or so Dea’s eccentric mother says.

Dea’s mother is very paranoid, afraid of many things, particularly mirrors, and has a strange obsession with clocks. At any moment she may decide they need to pack up and leave, but Dea has had enough. Especially now that she has met Connor, the first boy to ever treat her nicely, the first boy she could call a friend. But when Dea’s mother goes missing, Dea needs to take a closer look at her mother’s obscure fears to track her down. At the same time, there are rumours going around suggesting that Connor may not be the nice guy Dea thinks he is.

Dreamland is both a fantasy novel and a murder mystery. It is as though Robert L. Anderson has written two different stories and then seamlessly merged them. The main narrative focuses on Dea’s predicament, but Connor’s life is constantly present underneath it. The real-life quality of the storyline makes the incidents Dea experiences all the more creepy.

Part three of the book becomes more fantasy-like, which is a little confusing, and it is difficult to see the setting in the way the author perceives it. The narrative eventually returns to the real world and progresses with Connor’s story. It is not until this point that the reader realizes that Dreamland is part murder mystery.

As a whole, Dreamland is a gripping read that is difficult to put down. Readers are plagued with questions and anticipation as they wait to discover why Dea can dream walk, the significance of the mirrors and clocks, and what happened to Dea’s mother. Once these are resolved, a whole bunch of new questions crop up.

The ending is mostly satisfying, although it is not completely clear what happens next. Although the reader knows where Dea and Connor both end up, it is up to the reader to interpret what their lives are like once the story ends. Yet, Dreamland is a worthy young adult book to read. It is different to other novels in the genre and brings a whole new concept to the table. 


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5 Book Reviews

Broken Realms
Author: D. W. Moneypenny
Published: 28th April 2014
ISBN13: 9780996076418
Goodreads Rating: 3.67 out of 5
Reviewed: August 2014

Broken Realms is a brilliant science fiction novel and the first instalment of The Chronicles of Mara Lantern by D. W. Moneypenny. Set in present-day Oregon, it deals with metaphysical ideas and bizarre creatures – a very intriguing read.

Mara Lantern is a young adult who has left school to work in a gadget repair shop, where her natural talent for restoring machinery is put to good use. At the commencement of the book, she is being driven to the airport by her New Age-obsessed mother in order to fly out to San Francisco to visit her father. Once the plane is airborne, it is clear there is something terribly wrong. Bright blue light flashes throughout the aircraft and the passengers around Mara appear to be distorting: growing fangs and snouts and changing eye colour. What is even stranger is a redheaded boy is running down the aisle, closely pursued by a clone of Mara.

In an attempt at an emergency landing, the plane crashes into the Columbia River – a crash impossible to survive – but everyone does. All the passengers and crew are pulled out of the river unharmed, all except Mara, who is found unconscious on the pavement with a head wound.

Detective Daniel Bohannon is assigned to the case to investigate the cause of the crash, but when some of the survivors start displaying super-human or animalistic traits, it becomes clear this is no ordinary situation.

Whilst the investigation continues, Mara begins to deal with what she saw on the plane. With the help of a fellow survivor, Ping, and the redheaded boy, Sam (who claims he is her brother), she begins to learn that her world, her life and human existence, in general, is not all she believed it to be.

Although Broken Realms is accurately described as a science fiction and fantasy novel, there were times, particularly during the police investigations, when it also felt a little like a crime thriller. There is nothing particularly bad about that, but to begin with, it was as though two different genres were competing with each other depending on which character’s point of view was being read.

What helped to make this book so great were the excellent writing skills of D. W. Moneypenny. It was written so clearly that vivid images came to mind whilst reading. The pace of the narrative was quick, and at no point did it stop being exciting.

Another good thing (admittedly others may not see it as such) was that there were no romantic attachments between the characters to detract from the main storyline. This meant the novel was completely focused on the plot without unnecessary interruptions.

Broken Realms is a highly recommended book for science fiction and fantasy lovers. It leaves the reader wanting to know what is going to happen next. So now the wait for the next book in The Chronicles of Mara Lantern begins.

The 100
Author: Kass Morgan
Published: 3rd September 2013
ISBN13: 9780316234511
Goodreads Rating: 3.57 out of 5
Reviewed: August 2014

The recently televised novel The 100 by Kass Morgan is the first in a unique dystopian series set centuries into the future. Cataclysmic nuclear and biological wars rendered Earth uninhabitable, forcing humans to create a new life in space on a large ship. Three hundred years later, scientists judge that the harmful radiation that destroyed Earth may have reduced or even completely disappeared, meaning that the planet would finally be safe for humans. To test this theory, the Colony sends one hundred adolescent lawbreakers with the mission to begin to recolonize Earth.

The novel is told from the point of view of four characters: Clarke, Wells, Bellamy and Glass. The first three are on the drop ship to Earth, but Glass escapes at the very last second and remains behind. Although there may be a hundred people on this mission, none of them has any idea what to expect or how to live on a planet. It does not help matters when the drop ship crash lands, leaving them, particularly Clarke, the only one with medical knowledge, in an even more difficult situation than they were anticipating. Meanwhile, back on the ship, Glass discovers that human life may be in as much danger there as it would be on Earth.

Each character has flashbacks to their life on the ship, which gradually reveals the events leading up to them being convicted as criminals and thus sent to their new lives or even possible deaths. Due to this, there was less action set on Earth than there could have been – there was not enough time for a Lord of the Flies situation to arise. Yet, it was fascinating to imagine their reaction to the first time they saw the sunset or felt the rain, being mesmerized by bird songs and enjoying their first-ever piece of meat.

As with most young adult novels, there is the inevitable romance theme consisting of conflicting feelings and love triangles. The overall situation some of the main characters found themselves in was due to actions they committed in the name of love. Sometimes this theme could get a little annoying and hinder the dystopian side of the story, but it would not have been able to function without these elements.

Kass Morgan concludes The 100 at the peak of the climax, leaving us desperately wanting to find out what happens next. This is a highly recommended book for young adult readers who love science fiction.

The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Published: 26th April 1993
ISBN13: 9780385732550
Goodreads Rating: 4.13 out of 5
Reviewed: October 2014

It has been over twenty years since Lois Lowry’s controversial children’s story The Giver was published, and it certainly deserves its status as an essential modern classic. Jonas has grown up in the perfect world of the Community whose survival relies on strict rules and rituals. Adults are assigned spouses and children (one boy and one girl) as they take up their roles within society. At the beginning of the book, Jonas is approaching the end of his eleventh year and feeling apprehensive about the Ceremony of Twelve, where he will be assigned a job for him to do for the rest of his adult life. Jonas gets selected as the Receiver of Memory – a very rare position – and begins to experience memories from humans who lived a long time ago. For Jonas, this is exciting until he begins to see the flaws in his perfect world.

Dystopian literature has become popular over the past few years, and it would not be surprising if it were The Giver that inspired these contemporary works. Lowry claims that she did not intend for The Giver to have a sinister feel about it; she was writing an adventure story and exploring the concept of the importance of memory, but it turned out to be much more thought-provoking. As the children’s novelist Margaret Mahy (The Haunting) pointed out, up until the publication of this novel in 1993, Lowry was best known for her funny stories about Anastasia Krupnik, resulting in The Giver being even more shocking and unexpected.

The Giver highlights that attempting to produce perfection can often result in the loss of good things as well as the bad. The notion of the ideal world may seem like a wonderful proposal, but in order to achieve it humans would have to do away with free choice. In ironing out the inequalities and injustices of the present world, everything becomes the same for each individual.

It is a difficult concept to grasp, particularly for a child. Although intended as a children’s series, The Giver and its following instalments are more suitable for young adults and older. The only issue with this is that the writing style was targeted at a younger audience meaning that the story is short and lacks depth. If written for older readers, there would have been the scope for it to become a much lengthier novel.

There are a lot of mixed reviews surrounding this book, although they have changed greatly since the original publication. To begin with, The Giver was banned in some areas, but the dystopian theme has become accepted in today’s society. What many people comment on now is the oversimplification of such strong ideas. Then again, as already mentioned, it needs to be emphasized that this book was aimed at children, thus the language reflects the reading skills of its target audience.

The Giver is a gem of a book that is not only enjoyable, but also educates the reader on the dangers of attempting a utopian society and why it is important to retain human memories – even the bad – in order that wisdom can exist. Those who have become fans of contemporary dystopian novels, for example, Divergent by Veronica Roth or Delirium by Lauren Oliver, will love this series.

Our Zoo
Author: June Mottershead
Published: 9th October 2014
ISBN13: 9781472226358
Goodreads Rating: 4.15 out of 5
Reviewed: October 2014

Many people in Britain may have recently watched the drama series Our Zoo on BBC1 about the Mottershead family who moved to Oakfield, Upton, in 1930 with the aim of building a zoo without bars. Based on a true story, the drama over exaggerated the difficulties the family faced in developing what became the famous Chester Zoo. Until 2010 when TV producer Adam Kemp approached her, June Mottershead had never thought about making her history available to the public. The truth had to be bent slightly for the television production with the removal of certain characters, added romance, and laws prevented chimpanzees from being filmed. So, June Mottershead has penned the true story, also called Our Zoo, which is just as fascinating as the scenes shown on screen.

June was only four when she moved to Upton with her parents, grandparents, her fourteen-year-old sister Muriel, and a selection of animals. The BBC1 drama only focused on her father, George, seeking permission to build his zoo despite the petition against it. In the book, this occurs within the first few chapters, then continues until June’s marriage to her husband Fred Williams in 1949. The period of the narrative also jumps around depending on the animals or events that June is describing.

A large chunk of the book focuses on the effect the Second World War had on the zoo. As can be expected, the rationing of vital products took its toll on the animals’ diets, and although the zoo never took a direct hit, the Liverpool blitz caused havoc by destroying the glass tanks in the aquarium. On the other hand, the number of animals rapidly grew, as it was not just humans that became refugees during the war.

It was a delight to read about June’s relationships with some of the animals, particularly Mary the chimpanzee, who was also June’s best friend as a child and behaved in a human-like manner. As well as the happy moments, there were the inevitable upsetting accounts of the deaths of some of the animals, either from old age, illness or accidents.

While Our Zoo cannot be described as a novel, it neither has the feel of an autobiography. The conversational tone of the writing made it a pleasure to read and easy to visualize the scenes. This easy-to-read book is a strong recommendation for those who enjoyed the BBC adaptation and wish to find out what happened next. It does not matter if you have not watched the drama, as it is still a fascinating story to read.

The Outcasts
Author: John Flanagan
Published: 1st March 2012
ISBN13: 9780440869924
Goodreads Rating: 4.38 out of 5
Reviewed: October 2014

The Outcasts is the first book in the Brotherband Chronicles about teenage Hal and his small team of misfit friends. Set in times when to be a warrior and be part of a crew on a wooden ship were some of the highest honours, all boys, when approaching the age of sixteen, have to endure months of exhausting training. The popular boys form Brotherbands containing the candidates with the most potential, leaving Hal and seven other social outcasts to form another group: the Herons. Despite their severe disadvantage, Hal must encourage the Herons to use their brains to outwit the strength of the other Brotherbands and defeat them at the challenges the instructors set and become the ultimate winners.

Hal is an instantly likeable character. He is talented, intelligent, kind and thoughtful, and makes an excellent and inspiring team leader. Although this book is set in a fictional historical period, there are many things that a young reader can relate to, for example, bullying and racial discrimination.

As well as the Brotherband training, there are a lot of ship and sailing references, which may appeal to male readers of a certain age. The author, John Flanagan, realises that many people today would not be familiar with the ins and outs of sailing and has included a glossary explaining numerous nautical terms used during the novel. These are defined in an easy-to-understand way, as the target audience is those aged ten and upwards.

There is a limited number of female characters, suggesting that these chronicles are written with male teenage readers in mind. Despite this, it is still an enjoyable, exciting book regardless of your gender. The character developments are excellent, and the Herons are an admirable team.

Initially, it took a while to get into the story. The reader does not meet Hal until part two of four because it begins twelve years before the main timeline. Throughout this section, the only characters are adults, to which the target audience is less likely to relate. For this reason, and due to some of the violence, I would recommend this book for ages thirteen and older rather than the “10+” suggested on the back cover.

Overall, Brotherband: The Outcasts is a brilliant book, and it was refreshing for a young adult novel not to revolve around a romantic relationship. The next book in the series promises to be as exciting as the first.


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Can consumer culture be environmentally sustainable?

The following essay was originally written in 2012 as part of the requirements for my second year studying BA Graphic Design.

The first part of this essay will explore and examine the effects of consumerism on current societies where people are indoctrinated into buying what they do not essentially need. (Lawson, 2009) It will also touch on commodities and explain how consumerism has contributed to waste disposal. It will then focus on the concept of sustainability and discuss whether consumer cultures can be environmentally sustainable, and if not, how things can be changed for the better.

Consumerism is not a new idea, it has been in existence since trading of goods began in pre-Roman times and shopping lists have been discovered from as far back as AD 75. In a way, the term consumerism has become connected with everything that people buy, from clothes to holidays, and health care to education. (Lawson, 2009) However, in contemporary culture there is a greater “demand for a wider range of goods” which has resulted in further competition between manufacturers that sell similar products. (Ambrose and Harris, 2009:p44) Consumer culture has made Western societies concerned with “‘having’ rather than ‘being’” (Julier, 2008:p56). Consumption prompts ideological beliefs of how humans should behave or what they should buy, what is good and how people should appear.

Since consumer culture has become a massive part of life for people all over the world, it is now a primary method for both individuals and groups to build their identities. (Julier, 2008) Life, for most people, used to be defined by what employment role they had and how much money they earned, however this definition has now progressed to what people do with the money their work generates. Certain people are now preoccupied with what they buy rather than what they do with their lives. (Lawson, 2009) People are constantly judged by what products they own especially, for example, items of clothing. Clothes in particular, but also other merchandise, indicate status which “also implies the existence of a group for whom a particular commodity has a particular meaning.” (Miles, Anderson and Meethan, 2002:p3) On the other hand, it has currently become the norm for certain people to be the owners of particular commodities which then affect how each individual is identified as many people begin to appear the same. This has affected cultures in general and it could be argued that “if we are all consumers of the same products then we are all the same culturally, no matter where we originate from.” (Corrigan, 1997:p69)

Loss of identity does not just affect individual humans; it can also affect brands especially when there are many brands selling similar items. Brand companies no longer focus on selling their product but rather focus on generating brand awareness so that customers throughout the world can identify with them. (Barber, 2007)

“Since the collapse of Eastern-style communism, consumerism has emerged as a global hegemonic idea.” (Grabriel and Lang, 2006:p97) There has been a revolutionary rise in commoditisation of everything throughout the world especially since brand identity has become so important and competitive, providing more products, more commodities, to grab the attention of the consumers. (Ambrose and Harris, 2009)

Commodities have become fetishisms for many people. Marx described a fetish as “anything which people like to select for adoration” (Jhally, 1990:p53) The intended use of objects has become less important to consumers, it is what these objects now represent that is more significant. Sue Collins quotes Varda Burstyn to demonstrate this in relation to sporting goods: “… it is the idea of the athlete the equipment represents, not the equipment itself that is so passionately emulated and identified with…” (2000) [Online] It is because merchandises are being commoditised that they become more appealing to the average buyers. (Benjamin, 1973)

Commodities have become progressively publicised through various means such as packaging and advertising. (Julier, 2008) Since the twentieth century, advertising has begun to reject the individual consumer and has focused, rather, on a society as a whole, transforming “‘class’ society into ‘mass’ society”. (Corrigan, 1997:p74) In this way, brands have been able to connect particular merchandise with certain groups of people such as feminists or those wishing to live a ‘green’ lifestyle in order that they can target their advertising towards a particular demographic. When advertising certain products the truth, including benefits of the product, is not always presented. People are not always told what the genuine positive impacts an item has neither on people or on the environment. Instead a fairly old method is often employed in which an idea or image, often unrelated, is connected with the merchandise. This may produce a positive subliminal message which then helps sell the product to the public. For example, in 1929 Edward Bernays was hired to create a campaign intended to encourage women to smoke. To do this he focused on the female movement of the period, the suffragettes, using images of women smoking ““torches of freedom” while marching in an Easter Day parade in New York City”. (Holland, n.d.) [Online] The connotation of freedom connected to smoking entered women’s minds on a subconscious level and triggered a rise in female cigarette consumers. “Smoking and freedom was in fact a totally irrational connection but it worked.” (Holland, n.d.) [Online]

Stores are promising various guarantees for their products such as “happiness, every label guarantees high quality.” (Miles, 2010:P98) Advertising not only includes promoting individual products or brands but is effectively a process “drilling into our collective heads” the idea that buying and owning more ‘stuff’ leads to success and happiness. (Hamlett, n.d. a) [Online] Slogans have been a way of subconsciously telling people that they need to buy a particular item or consume a specific brand. Seiko, a brand of watches used the slogan “Seiko. It’s your watch that tells most about who you are”. (Textart, 2012) [Online] Therefore it could be suggested that as well as watches Seiko is selling people an extension of their identity. In this sense, companies are constantly selling people their identities. (Lawson, 2009) Banksy argues that advertisers are effectively telling people that they are inadequate, not good enough, and not sexy enough. He concludes that they are bullying people with the advanced methods of marketing: “They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.” (Solomon, 2012) [Online]

Since consumer society has effectively prompted people to buy more things that they do not necessarily need the amount of waste produced is in turn rising. Many commercial items are now built with the intention that they will eventually be disposed of. This can be referred to as built-in obsolescence, “a method of stimulating consumer demand by designing products that wear out or become outmoded after limited use.” (Attwood, 2008:p115) This process has been embraced by a variety of industries since the 1950s. At this time Harley Earl declared that the process of obsolescence should be sped up “In 1934 the average car ownership span was five years; now it is two. When it is one year, we will have a perfect score.” (Whitely, 1993:p16) Obsolescence is what consumers want which is why disposable products are increasing.

There are obvious items such as razors that make it clear that they are to be disposed of regularly however other products which, in the consumers’ eyes, are expected to last, are also disposable in their own way. The average life of electrical products used to be around 10 years, yet now commodities such as computers are only built to last 3 years and people are replacing other electrical items, for instance mobile phones, every year or so which is not always necessary. Before, people used to repair damaged goods and make do with what they had, but these skills are disappearing from modern culture, which effectively in turn causes more waste. (Lawson, 2009)

It is not just about the amount of waste that is produced that has risen but the amount of unused products that are eventually thrown away. An example of this is food waste; people buy unnecessary items on impulse or in response to advertising. Food has become the largest commodity that is thrown away, totalling up to 21% of the total waste produced in Britain alone. (Lawson, 2009) A questionnaire, by Brian Wansink to find out why people buy items they never use, revealed that many people end up with unused items because the intended purpose the product was bought for never occurred. Over 50% of the 412 American homemakers questioned admitted that they end up just throwing away these unwanted items. (CNN, 1999)

Disposal of waste has become increasingly challenging in recent years, partly as a result of the growth of consumer society. However there are a wide range of disposal methods at hand today such as landfill, incineration, composting and recycling, including reducing and reusing waste. Recycling is one of the more environmentally sustainable methods of disposal which involves “collection, separation… processing of wastes into reusable, marketable products.” (Mansvelt, 2011:p454) Despite this, landfill is still the most common method of waste disposal throughout the world as a whole. (Mansvelt, 2011)

People tend to forget or are not aware that it is not just the disposal of the product that can be environmentally harmful but also the production. Just packaging alone can be a massive issue in terms of sustainability. It begins with the manufacturer producing the raw materials, which are then turned into the required material, such as cardboard. The packaging then needs to be passed around to several people to pack and sell to the end user. Finally the product can be recycled. (Computer Arts, 2007b)

The idea of sustainability is a more recent concept. People, in general, are becoming progressively aware of how unsustainable societies have become globally. Developments have been made in technologies without realising just their potential impact for the environment. In the past, individuals and communities were unaware that the world’s resources could run out. “Effectively, what we have done… is to treat the planet simply as an infinite resource at our disposal.” (Fry, 2009:p1)

For many people today, the environmental challenges that consumerism faces is finally clear especially since the world has provided evidence of shortages of resources that consumerist societies need, including “oil, water, land, soil, clean air and minerals.” (Gabriel and Land, 2006:p196)

These challenges, however, have not necessarily hindered the consumerist culture. It is apparent in some instances that companies have utilized this issue as a proposition to increase sales. Some businesses are openly dedicated to making the world a better, sustainable place. On the other hand, for some it is a useful message to make consumers buy. Consumption is “the leading device through which individuals construct their identities.” (Julier, 2008:p57) The ideological belief that everyone should be greener causes masses to buy the products that will make them appear in this way. Now increasing numbers of companies are constantly inundating the public with messages from various advertising campaigns instructing them to “buy our products… and you will end global warming, improve air quality, and save the oceans.” (Greenpeace, 2012) [Online] These companies are not necessarily sincere in these claims; their products will not necessarily end global warming. This process is called Greenwashing, which is a term coined by Greenpeace around 1990.

Greenwashing has been likened to whitewashing through which unpleasant facts are effectively covered up. (EnviroMedia Social Marketing, 2012) The reality is companies have spent time and money on logos, slogans and packaging to make them appear environmentally friendly, whereas they could have been using the same time and money to actually do something to make a difference to the world’s problems. (Greenpeace, 2012)

It has been shown through greenwashing reports compiled by TerraChoice that things are improving with the number of greener products rising between 2009 and 2010 however 95% of “greener” products identified are still committing at least one of the “sins of greenwashing”. (TerraChoice, 2010:p6)

The opinion has been voiced that “green advertising is fragile” (Tuerff and Davis, 2011) [Online] because convincing consumers to buy products based upon exaggerated claims can do more, unintentional harm to the environment. Businesses that are honest and use sustainable tactics will help to improve the world whereas greenwashers will hinder any developments by using money to make themselves look better in order to sell. (Tuerff and Davis, 2011)

“Good design respects planet, profits and people.” (Aiga, 2011) [Online] Designers can be hired to make a company show through designs, such as packaging and advertisements, that they are environmentally sustainable. Designers are open to challenges that are connected to environmental concerns. Sustainability is more relevant to the environment than design itself, however designers can use the opportunity to fulfil the clients wishes whilst causing no, or very little, damage to society. (Aiga, 2011)

Environmental concerns were already in existence back in the 1960s. At the time certain designers and philosophers, such as Victor Papanek and Ivan Illich, expressed the belief that designers ought to combine commercial needs together with environmental requirements. However there is still a concern today that designers are not in powerful enough positions to make a genuine impact, also the potentially higher production costs and prices of sustainable items and products can hinder both designers and consumers when trying to become environmentally sustainable. (Chapman and Gant, 2007)

Design as a profession has become regarded as a feature of consumerism. (Hamlett, n.d. b) However Jonathan Barnbrook suggests that designers need to stop thinking in only commercial ways. To become more sustainable and actually help people, designers need to be aware of exactly what is going on within their own communities and the rest of the world. Barnbrook argues that design is first and foremost about communication. (Penfold, 2008) “Designers have a responsibility to make clients aware of the environmental aspects of what they’re asking for.” (Computer Arts, 2007b) [Online] Designers need to know all about the production and disposal methods commonly used in order to use a minimal amount of resources.

In 2001 designers, in general were unaware of processes and the amount of resources needed especially for packaging of consumer goods. They were also unaware just how significant the impact cycle of packaging has in relation to the environment. Charter and Tischner suggest that a common rule within packaging design should be that the materials used should “be easily recyclable… or should be made out of natural materials that can be disposed of without causing any problems to natural cycles.” (2001:p135)

The problem then arises when selling to the consumer that may involve changing consumption patterns. As previously mentioned, consumer culture is a massive aspect of life for everybody as it has been used as a means of constructing identities. (Julier, 2008) Possible strategies to promote ecodesign are to make sustainable goods more attractive in order to appeal to and interest potential buyers. With packaging there is the opportunity for designers to provide details about sustainability. This can also be achieved through advertisements and education. (Charter and Tischner, 2001)

Being ‘green’ has been used by some as a selling point however this has become a widely used and recognised approach for promoting many brands. (Swift, 2008) This can cause problems, as mentioned previously, with certain companies employing greenwashing methods to convince people their products will change the world whereas, in reality, they will not. (Greenpeace, 2012) Swift (2008) [online] maintains, “green advertising is still searching for its visual language.”

Despite such potential setbacks, the designer Rick Poynor is convinced that designers have the ability to communicate and influence consumer societies through their work. They can “persuade, change behaviour, initiate and spread visual trends” (Poynor, 2012) [Online] in order to inform society about the environmental challenges that everyone is facing and what can be done about it.

In 2007, the British Design Innovation (BDI), who represent Industrial designers, conducted a survey that concluded that as little as 13% of design businesses had a sustainability policy. (Computer Arts, 2007a) One example of a design business that does have such a policy is Viola Eco-Graphic Design, based in Australia. They make the claim that they are “devoted to best practices in ecologically sustainable design” (Sherin, 2008:p115) Viola designers do not just concentrate on creating appealing designs for consumers, they also focus on what materials they will use including printers. By choosing sustainable technologies they effectively respect the environment thus when the product cycle reaches consumers they are also helping them to become environmentally sustainable.

Anna Carlile, the founder of Viola, believes that there is now a great opportunity for graphic design to impact on the current consumer society by working alongside recognised brands and companies that have made the environment their key concern. Carlile believes that “in the very near future sustainable thinking and a working knowledge of responsible production will be an absolute must for designers.” (Sherin, 2008:p116)

To conclude, it can be seen that societies have tried to become more environmentally sustainable. Companies have begun to adopt more ecological tactics and consumers have become more aware of the effects of waste disposal on the planet. However there are still problems such as greenwashing that mislead people in their attempts to be ‘green’. Although there is evidence of this improving the problem has still not been eradicated. Therefore in a consumer culture it is impossible to be entirely environmentally sustainable. There will always be the consumer demand for new products to replace the old; consequently the issue of waste disposal will never be solved. Sustainable items have become commodities themselves as they have become attractive to current consumers who want to be identified as eco-friendly. So unless consumers stop buying what they do not need and adopt a fully environmentally sustainable lifestyle, it is not possible for a consumer culture to do so. In spite of this improvements can be seen and there are individual companies such as Viola Eco-Graphic Design who are doing what they can for the natural world, nevertheless it will take entire communities to start behaving in the same way for any significant difference to be made. Therefore, to conclude, consumers have the potential to become environmentally sustainable, but currently consumer culture is not.

References:

Aiga (2011) Good Design Respects The Environment [online] Available from: http://www.aiga.org/landing.aspx?pageid=10592&id=52 [Accessed on: 26th February 2012]

Ambrose, G and Harris, P. (2009) The Fundamentals of Graphic Design, AVA Publishing SA, Switzerland

Attwood, J. (2008) Edexcel A Level Design and technology: Product Design, Pearson Education Ltd, Essex

Barber, B. (2007) Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, W.W. Norton and Company Ltd, London

BDI. (2011) About BDI [online] Available from http://www.britishdesigninnovation.com/about [Accessed on: 14th March 2012]

Benjamin, W. (1973) Charles Baudelaire: a lyric poet in the era of high capitalism, Translated from German by Harry Zuhn, Verso, London

Chapman, J and Gant, N. (2007) Designers, Visionaries and Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays, Earthscan, London

Charter, M and Tischner, U. (2001) Sustainable Solutions – Developing Products and Services for the Future, Greenleaf Publishing Limited, Sheffield

CNN (1999) Study Unravels Consumer Waste [online] Available from: http://articles.cnn.com/1999-12-08/nature/consumer.waste.enn_1_products-brian-wansink-answer?_s=PM:NATURE [Accessed on: 29th February 2012]

Computer Arts. (2007a) Be A Greener Designer [online] Available from http://computerarts.co.uk/features/be-greener-designer [Accessed on: 26th February 2012]

Computer Arts. (2007b) Green Sleeves [online] Available from: http://www.computerarts.co.uk/features/green-sleeves [Accessed on: 26th February 2012]

Collins, S (2000) “E” Ticket To Nike Town, Counterblast: e-journal of Culture and Communication [online] Available from: http://www.nyu.edu/pubs/counterblast/issue1_nov01/pdf_files/collins.pdf [Accessed on: 14th March 2012]

Corrigan, P. (1997) The Sociology of Consumption: An Introduction, SAGE Publications Ltd, London

EnviroMedia Social Marketing. (2012) What is Greenwashing? [online] Available from: http://www.greenwashingindex.com/what.php [Accessed on: 7th March 2012]

Fry, T, (2009) Design Futuring: Sustainability, Ethics and New Practice, Berg, Oxford

Gabriel, Y and Lang, T. (2006) The Unmanageable Consumer, Ed.2, SAGE Publications Ltd, London

Greenpeace. (2012) Introduction to StopGreenwash.org [online] Available from: http://stopgreenwash.org/introduction [Accessed on: 7th March 2012]

Hamlett, P. (n.d.a) Are We Sustainable Yet? [online] Available from: http://www.commarts.com/columns/are-sustainable-yet.html [Accessed on: 26th February 2012]

Hamlett, P. (n.d.b) Everything You Know Is Wrong [online] Available from: http://www.commarts.com/Columns.aspx?pub=2075&pageid=857 [Accessed on: 25th February 2012]

Holland, D. (n.d.) Being Human: Feeling Our Way The New Millennium [online] Available from: http://www.commarts.com/Columns.aspx?pub=4707&pageid=1454 [Accessed on: 25th February 2012]

Jhally, S (1990) The Codes of Advertising: Fetishism and the political economy of meaning in the consumer society, Routledge, New York

Julier, G. (2008) The Culture of Design Ed. 2, SAGE Publications Ltd, London

Lawson, N. (2009) All Consuming, Penguin Books, London

Mansvelt, J. (2011) Green Consumerism: An A-to-Z Guide, SAGE Publications Ltd, London

Miles, S, Anderson, A and Meethan, K. (2002) The Changing Consumer: Markets and Meanings, Routledge, London

Miles, S. (2010) Spaces for Consumption, SAGE Publications Ltd, London

Penfold, M. (2008) Jonathan Barnbrook [online] Accessed from: http://www.computerarts.co.uk/interviews/jonathan-barnbrook [Accessed on: 26th February 2012]

Sherin, A. (2008) SustainAble: A Handbook of Materials and Applications for Graphic Designers and Their Clients, Rockport Publishers Inc, USA

Solomon, B. (2012) Banksy on Advertising [online] Available from: http://thefoxisblack.com/2012/02/29/banksy-on-advertising/ [Accessed on: 29th February 2012]

Swift, R. (2008) ‘Greenwash’ is losing its shine [online] Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7251380.stm [Accessed on: 7th March 2012]

TerraChoice (2010) The Sins of Greenwashing Home and Family Edition [pdf] Available from: http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/findings/greenwashing-report-2010/ [Accessed on: 14th March 2012]

Textart (2012) Database of Slogans [online] Available from: http://www.textart.ru/database/slogan/2-watches-advertising-slogans.html [Accessed on 7th March 2012]

Tuerff, K and Davis, V (2011) On FTC Green Guides: The ad industry doth protest too much [online] Available from: http://www.greenwashingindex.com/commentary_single.php?id=4303 [Accessed on: 7th March 2012]

Whitely, N (1993) Design For Society, Reaktion Books, London

Secondary Resources

da Silva, T (2000) The Curriculum as Fetish, Taboo, Volume 4, Number 1, p:26-27


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5 Book Reviews

Looking at the Stars
Author: Jo Cotterill
Published: 30th January 2014
ISBN13: 9781782300182
Goodreads Rating: 4.18 out of 5
Reviewed: June 2014

Looking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill is a beautiful story targeted at older children and young adults. It handles serious themes that most readers would not have and hopefully will never face.

Amina is thirteen years old, living in a country where women have absolutely no power. She is prohibited from going to school, so she spends her days with her sister, Jenna, weaving baskets and rugs, which they sell to stall holders in the local market. The novel begins with the two girls witnessing the arrival of foreign soldiers. They are overjoyed, believing that all their troubles are over now that the liberation has begun. This, however, turns out to be a false hope.

Separated from their family, Amina and Jenna head to a refugee camp where they hope to find their younger sister, Vivie, and discover information about what has happened to their mother. To prevent them from succumbing to despair, both on the journey and living in the camp, Amina makes up stories about the stars in the sky – hence the novel’s title.

Amina and Jenna’s personalities are vastly different, meaning the reader should be able to identify with at least one of the girls and place themselves within the story. It makes us wonder how we would cope in these situations. Amina is the kind of person who asks questions. She wants to know why things happen and constantly asks, “what if?” Despite being a year younger than Jenna, she is the more confident of the two, and it is partly her determination that keeps them alive. Jenna is quiet, anxious, and always wants to do the right thing. Jenna “just wants everyone to be happy”. She is a realist, whereas Amina is a dreamer.

The storytelling aspect of this novel makes it unique from others in this genre. Many books deal with war, refugees and death, but Amina’s stories provide something extra. They are beautiful and bring hope and faith into such as bleak and dangerous setting.

Whilst this story is set in fictional towns in an unnamed country, it is not unlike recent civil wars in Syria and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of us can distance ourselves from these stories because, for us, they are just that: stories. They are not something we have to deal with every day. This novel, told from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old girl, reveals what it is like for the thousands of innocents caught up in war. The way it is written helps children and young adults understand and learn more about what is happening in these countries.

These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901
Author: Nancy E. Turner
Published: 3rd February 1998
ISBN13: 9780340717783
Goodreads Rating: 4.34 out of 5
Reviewed: July 2014

These is My Words is a magnificent historical novel by American author Nancy Turner, told through diary entries written by the protagonist Sarah Prine. For twenty years, Sarah wrote about her experiences, both good and bad, beginning when she was almost eighteen years old.

The first entry in 1881 reveals that Sarah and her family are travelling from Arizona to Texas, which proves disastrous, with her father and youngest brother dying along the way. Soon after they arrive, they decide they would be much better off back home and prepare to make the return trek through the “heathen land”. This time they join a train of travellers accompanied by soldiers to make them feel safer, although this by no means makes it any less dangerous. With constant attacks from Indians, many trekkers are killed or wounded, but thankfully Sarah’s family makes it through. Not long after settling back in Arizona, Sarah receives a marriage proposal from a childhood friend, which she gratefully accepts. Unfortunately, the marriage is not a happy one and ends with the untimely death of her husband, who probably never loved Sarah anyway. Later, a potentially fatal incident brings Sarah together with Captain Elliot, a soldier from the journey to Arizona, and her life takes a new direction.

Sarah is a very likeable character. Her innocence makes her a pleasant girl, but she is admired for her independence. Having grown up on a ranch with only brothers, she knows how to fight for herself and can fire a pistol better than any man. As the wording of the title suggests, Sarah has never been to school, and her grammar and spelling require improvement, which is witnessed throughout the progression of the novel. By being written this way, the reader gets a closer insight into Sarah as a person: the way she talks, the way she has been brought up, and her determination to learn and develop her reading and writing skills.

Initially, it is difficult to get into the storyline. The blurb suggests that the book is about the journey to Texas, but that is over in a matter of pages. Once they are on the return voyage, it is easier to understand, and there is a stronger connection with and appreciation of some of the characters. It is fast-paced, and most of the diary entries are short, only becoming considerably longer when something of significance is recorded. Towards the end, entries occur less frequently, resulting in the latter ten years flying by.

These is My Words is both humorous and heartbreaking. There is a romantic theme throughout the book from the very beginning, where it is clear that something is happening between Sarah and Captain Elliot, and the reader can only begin hoping that something will bring them together. This book can either make you laugh, make you cry or both – for a book to cause that amount of emotion, it must be good!

Unremembered
Author: Jessica Brody
Published: 28th February 2013
ISBN13: 9781250040022
Goodreads Rating: 3.68 out of 5
Reviewed: June 2014

Unremembered is the first book in a young adult science-fiction trilogy by American author, Jessica Brody. Set in current-day California, Unremembered is told from the point of view of a sixteen-year-old girl, Seraphina, who has no memory of anything before the first page of the book.

Whilst a first-person narrative by someone who does not know anything may hinder the telling of the story, it connects the audience with the main character. As readers, we also do not know what happened before the first page of the story. We learn everything as Seraphina does, the only difference being that we are aware of what certain items are – particularly technological ones – as well as being able to communicate and understand other people, not just through words but also with sarcasm and body language.

At the start, we learn there has been a plane crash into the Pacific Ocean with only one survivor, an unidentifiable girl with amnesia. Further on, it transpires that there was never any record of her being on the plane in the first place. This is where all the questions and mysteries begin. Temporarily given the name Violet, she is placed with a foster family, the Carson family, whose thirteen-year-old son Cody is intimidated by her flawless beauty. He begins to connect with her more after it emerges that she is a mathematical genius. So, another question arises, how can she remember how to solve complicated equations yet cannot even remember who she is?

There are also mysteries surrounding a peculiar tattoo on her wrist; a boy named Lyzender who keeps appearing, claiming to know who Violet, or should we say Sera, is; her uncanny ability to speak fluently in a range of languages; and the number 1609. What is the significance of this number? Not only is it the year Sera believes it is after recovering from the crash, but it is also engraved onto a locket she was wearing along with the initials “S + Z”.

Unremembered is a fast-paced novel with mysteries that get solved at the same time as more questions develop. It shows us how people with no experience of the modern world would struggle to understand the things we take for granted. It also poses the question of what truly makes us human.

A Song For Issy Bradley
Author: Carys Bray
Published: 19th June 2014
ISBN13: 9780091954376
Goodreads Rating: 3.7 out of 5
Reviewed: June 2014

A Song for Issy Bradley is the captivating debut novel of talented author Carys Bray. Set in modern-day Britain, this heart-breaking story shows a family’s struggle to overcome the loss of their youngest child whilst also adhering to the strict rules of their Mormon religion.

It begins with seven-year-old Jacob’s birthday, and Mum, Claire, is rushing around with last-minute party preparations whilst her husband, Bishop Ian, is off attending to his religious duties. Although Claire is aware that Issy is feeling poorly, she does not realize how serious it is until much later – too much later. After being rushed to the hospital with meningitis, Issy’s prognosis is not good. Despite Ian’s blessings and prayers, no miracles occur, and Issy passes away the following day.

The main storyline is about how the characters cope with this sudden loss. Claire hides away from everyone by remaining in bed for weeks and ignoring her duties and her family’s pleas. Ian, worried that Claire is not grieving in the proper Mormon way, throws himself even deeper into religion by focusing on what is expected of him as a Bishop rather than concentrating on his children’s needs.

Zipporah, the eldest, is expected to become the woman of the house until Claire returns to “normal”. As well as studying for her exams and doing the housework, Ian insists she attends all church events for people her age. Alone, she worries about love, marriage and falling into sin; she would really like to be able to talk to her Mum. Alma, on the other hand, is becoming more and more rebellious. Not only does he have a stupid name (Alma was named after a prophet in the Book of Mormon), his ambition to become a professional footballer is not conducive to living the gospel. Although he makes jokes and rude remarks about religious ideas, there is still a part of him that believes, and despite his attitude, it is clear he is deeply affected by Issy’s death.

Jacob’s reaction is the most heart wrenching of all. Being so young, he believes everything he is told, especially the Bible stories he hears at church. If Jesus can bring people back to life, perhaps Issy can live again? He puts his faith in God and waits in vain for his sister’s miraculous return.

The story is told through each of these five characters’ points of view, which allows the reader to see how each person’s actions affect the others and gives a greater insight into character development. It is gratifying to witness, albeit slowly, the family pick themselves up and begin to work together and carry on.

As to be expected with a story about Mormons, there are a large number of Bible quotations. Many are from the Book of Mormon, but there are numerous biblical references that Christians of all denominations will appreciate. The author was raised as a Mormon, so it can only be assumed that all the details are accurate. Non-believers should not be put off from reading this beautiful book: it is how people deal with loss that is important, and there is no preaching to the reader or attempts to convert.

The Atlas of Us
Author: Tracy Buchanan
Published: 31st July 2014
ISBN13: 9780007579358
Goodreads Rating: 3.68 out of 5
Reviewed: July 2014

It is hard to believe that almost a decade has passed since the Indian Ocean tsunami at Christmas 2004. Tracy Buchanan’s novel The Atlas of Us is set partly in Thailand during the aftermath of the natural disaster. Yet, this is not a story about the tsunami; it is a tale of love, relationships and motherhood, travel and mystery. Stay-at-home Mum of two, Louise, has flown out to Thailand in a desperate attempt to locate her missing mother. Although they did not have a close relationship, Louise is determined to find Nora and bring her home. An unidentified body was discovered with Nora’s bag containing her passport, but also a book titled The Atlas of Us and a necklace belonging to a woman named Claire Shreve. So who is the body? Is there a chance Nora survived? And just as importantly, how did Nora know Claire?

In between accounts of Louise’s frantic search is Claire’s story, starting from 1997 in Exmoor, where she meets Milo, the potential love of her life, and the rest of his family. But there seems to be more than meets the eye. After a disastrous event, Claire gives in to her wanderlust, and her story continues as she moves from country to country, including Serbia, Finland and Australia, where she writes award-winning travel articles. During this time, she slowly discovers the secrets that Milo has been harbouring that threaten to damage their relationship. This continues until she reaches her final destination: Thailand.

Buchanan creates a sense of foreboding as Claire travels and arrives in Thailand. The reader knows what disaster she will face there and that her chance of survival is slim; Claire, of course, is completely oblivious.

Louise’s first-person account gives an insight into the reaction of relatives of the missing as they take in the devastation left by the waves. Although she has not seen or heard from her mother for two years, there is a powerful need to find her. Louise also talks about her children and what it is like to be a mother, which helps her understand her own mother’s past behaviour and discover how much she loves her. By writing Claire’s section in the third person, Buchanan keeps the question of Claire and Nora’s possible survival unanswered until the very end. From Claire comes the perspective of someone who yearns to be a mother but is unable to conceive. She also explores the effects of the relationship with her father, the way she lives her life, and her passion for travel.

Despite the traumatic storyline, The Atlas of Us is a beautiful story with a lot of detail to keep the reader interested. One minute the focus is on relationships, and the next, a whole new world is opened up with descriptions of foreign places that could spark a desire for travel even in those usually content to stay at home. 


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The Woman Who Flew

Declared dead in 1939, Amelia Earhart became famous for her mysterious disappearance somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean. As of March 2022, no one knows what happened to the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and her navigator, Fred Noonan (1893-declared dead 1938). Despite her early death or disappearance, Earhart set many aviation records and helped promote commercial air travel, upon which the world heavily relies today.

Amelia Mary Earhart was born on 24th June 1897 in Kansas, where she developed a tomboy spirit of adventure, frequently climbing trees, collecting insects and hunting rats with a rifle. On one occasion, the girls’ uncle helped them construct a rollercoaster out of a ramp, which inadvertently gave Earhart her first taste of flying. After crash landing, tearing her dress and bursting her lip, Earhart exclaimed, “It’s just like flying!” Ironically, the first time Earhart encountered an aeroplane, she described it as “a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting.”

Throughout Earhart’s childhood and teenage years, she kept a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings about inspiring women aspiring to become one herself. In 1917, Earhart trained as a nurse’s aide with the Red Cross, which mostly entailed preparing food and prescribing medicine to wounded American soldiers. In 1918, while working at the Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto, Earhart caught the Spanish flu, which developed into maxillary sinusitis. The chronic condition frequently returned, which made travelling in aeroplanes challenging. She often needed a drainage tube to remove excess fluid from her sinuses.

After recovering from the flu, Earhart visited the Canadian National Exhibition, where she watched a flying exhibition. In an attempt to scare her, the pilot dived at Earhart and her friend, but Earhart remained fascinated by the vehicle and felt no fear. In 1920, Earhart had the opportunity to experience flying with Frank Hawks (1897-1938), a WW1 pilot. From that moment, Earhart knew she wanted to become a pilot. After saving $1,000 for lessons, Earhart began training on 3rd January 1921 with Neta Snook Southern (1896-1991), the first woman accepted at the Curtiss Flying School in Virginia.

After six months of gruelling training, Earhart purchased her first plane, a secondhand bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane, which she nicknamed “The Canary”. The Kinner Airster was designed by Bert Kinner (1882-1957) in 1920. It seated two people and could reach speeds up to 85 mph (137 km/h). In 1922, Earhart flew her plane to 14,000 feet (4,300 m), breaking the women’s world record. The following year, she became the 16th woman in the USA to be issued a pilot’s licence.

In 1927, American aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-74) made the first solo flight across the Atlantic ocean. Female aviator, Amy Guest (1873–1959), expressed interest in becoming the first woman to achieve the feat but decided it was too dangerous. Instead, Guest offered to sponsor the project and Earhart was nominated as the pilot. Inexperienced with aircraft suitable for flying such long distances, Earhart accompanied Wilmer Stultz (1900-29) on a flight from Newfoundland to Wales. Realising she knew little about the plane, Earhart felt like a passenger rather than a co-pilot.

Although Earhart needed a lot of training before taking on the solo challenge, her flight with Stultz gained attention in American newspapers and magazines. Dubbing her “Lady Lindy”, in reference to the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic, the press elevated Earhart to celebrity status, nicknaming her “Queen of the Air” and following her training progress. Soon, Earhart was giving lectures, publishing books and advertising merchandise. Cigarette, clothing and luggage brands paid Earhart to advertise their products stamped with her initials, A.E.

The money earned through advertising helped Earhart finance her flying. She encouraged other women to enter the field and became one of the first aviators to promote commercial air travel. Earhart invested both time and money in setting up flight services between New York and Washington D.C. and acted as Vice President of National Airways, which flew between states in the North East of America.

In August 1928, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. Following this, she entered the first Santa Monica-to-Cleveland Women’s Air Derby, nicknamed the “Powder Puff Derby”. Earhart finished third in the “heavy” division after the woman ahead of her crashlanded.

In 1930, Earhart joined the National Aeronautic Association and persuaded them to separate women’s and men’s records to give women a chance to set their own. Subsequently, Earhart set the women’s world record for altitude at 18,415 feet (5,613 m). Although some of these flying stunts were dangerous, Earhart proved flying was not just an activity for men. She became the first president of the Ninety-Nines: International Organization of Women Pilots, which provided mentoring and flight opportunities for women.

Between 1929 and 1930, George P. Putnam (1887-1950), the American publisher that nominated Earhart for the first female solo transatlantic flight, asked her to marry him six times. Despite refusing his many proposals, Earhart gave in, and they married on 7th February 1931, on the condition that they both have “dual control” of their relationship. Earhart also insisted on keeping her surname, causing newspapers to jokingly refer to her husband as “Mr Earhart”.

Finally, the day arrived for Earhart to attempt her first transatlantic crossing. With the help of her technical adviser Bernt Balchen (1889-1973), a Norwegian aviator, Earhart prepared her plane and plotted a route from Newfoundland to Paris. Earhart chose to fly a Lockheed Vega, which could usually carry six passengers. With a wingspan of 41 ft (12 m), the bright red plane could reach a top speed of 185 mph (298 km/h).

The flight, which lasted 14 hours, 56 minutes, did not go exactly as planned. Due to strong winds and mechanical problems, Earhart did not make it as far as France. Instead, the conditions forced her to land in a field in Culmore, near Derry, Northern Ireland. Two farmers witnessed the landing and asked, “Have you flown far?” To which Earhart replied, “From America.”

Following the successful flight, Earhart received many awards as the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic. The US Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross, officially a military badge given to those who distinguish themselves “by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” The French government gave Earhart the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor, and President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) presented her with the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society.

Earhart’s flight increased her celebrity status, and she became acquainted with many notable people, including Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), who became the President of the USA in 1933. The White House invited Earhart and Putnam to dinner, where Earhart developed a close friendship with the First Lady, Eleanor (1884-1962). During the meal, Earhart spontaneously suggested she and the First Lady take a flight to Baltimore and back, which they promptly did, still wearing their formal gowns.

Earhart continued to conduct solo flights, becoming the first aviator to fly solo from Hawaii to California in 1935. Later that year, she flew solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City, then Mexico City to New Jersey, where crowds turned up to watch her land. She also participated in the 1935 Bendix Trophy Race, finishing 5th after a journey of fog and thunderstorms. By the end of 1935, Earhart had set seven women’s speed and distance aviation records and fixed her eyes on her next challenge: circumnavigating the globe.

Aviators had already flown around the world before, but Earhart planned a longer route that followed the 29,000 miles (47,000 km) equator. In 1936, Earhart ordered a Lockheed Electra 10E to her exact specifications. Earhart asked Captain Harry Manning (1897-1974) to be her navigator. Manning was a mariner as well as an aviator and had captained the President Roosevelt. After a test flight, Earhart’s husband persuaded her to take on a second navigator, so room was made in the plane for Fred Noonan (1893-1937) to join the crew.

On 17th March 1937, Earhart, Manning and Noonan flew the first leg of the journey from California to Hawaii. Also on board was a technical advisor, Paul Mantz (1903-65), famous for his Hollywood plane stunts. After landing in Hawaii, the aircraft needed servicing due to problems with the propellor. After three days, the team were ready to continue their voyage, only for the landing gear to collapse during take-off. Earhart thought the tyre may have blown, but Mantz stated it was a pilot error.

After shipping the damaged aircraft back to the mainland, Manning and Mantz ended their association with the project, leaving Earhart and Noonan to make plans for a second attempt. Unfortunately, they discovered too late that neither was a skilled radio operator.

On 20th May 1937, Earhart and Noonan set off on their second attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Due to weather conditions, they chose to follow the plotted route in reverse. After setting off from California, they travelled to Arizona, Louisiana and Florida before leaving the States and landing in Puerto Rica. From there, they visited Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil, then headed to Senegal in Africa. In Africa, they stopped in French Sudan (now Mali), French Equatorial Africa (Chad), Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (Sudan), and Italian East Africa (Eritrea).

From Africa, Earhart and Noonan made the first-ever non-stop flight from the Red Sea to India. The journey continued to go well as they travelled through Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), the Straits Settlements (Singapore) and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). A monsoon delayed them for a few days before travelling to another part of the Dutch East Indies. Unfortunately, Earhart fell ill with dysentery on 25th June, so they did not fly that day. Instead, repairs were made to the plane, ready for their trip to Australia.

After landing in Darwin, Australia, where they made further repairs and removed the parachutes to lighten the plane, Earhart and Noonan travelled to Lae in New Guinea (Papua New Guinea). With only three more stops before reaching home, they set off to Howland Island, just north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean. They never arrived.

No one knows for certain what happened to Earhart and Noonan. During the flight, Earhart contacted the United States Coast Guard stationed at Howland Island, but it soon became clear she could not hear their response. The last message they received from the plane said, “We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait… We are running on line north and south.”

An hour after Earhart’s final message, searches were made in the vicinity of Howland Island for the missing plane. The information Earhart provided suggested they were flying North North West of the island, but the Coast Guard found nothing and extended the search to the North East and North West. After three days of searching, the US Navy arrived to assist. Believing Earhart must have been mistaken about her location, the search and rescue team directed their attention to the Phoenix Islands south of Howland Island. One theory was that the plane landed on or near Gardner Island (Nikumaroro), an uninhabited island, but the naval aircraft sent to scout the area found no signs of life.

After spending $4 million searching for Earhart and Noonan, the search and rescue mission was deemed too expensive and abandoned. They were “declared death in absentia“, but Earhart’s husband refused to give up. Putnam financed a private search of the Pacific ocean and its islands, including the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island (Kiritimati), Fanning Island (Tabuaeran), the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands. No trace of the plane or its occupants were found, and Earhart was declared legally dead on 5th January 1939.

The disappearance of Amelia Earhart remains a mystery. Several theories about her fate have developed. The crash-and-sink theory suggests the plane ran out of fuel and plummetted into the sea. By the time search and rescue teams reached the area, the plane may have been deep beneath the surface.

One hypothesis suggests the plane landed on Gardner Island, and the search team failed to notice them. Unfortunately, future searches of the island have not found any evidence to prove this theory. Conspiracy theorists propose the Japanese captured and executed the pair after landing on Saipan in the North Mariana Islands. Again, there is no evidence of this.

Another theory suggests Earhart turned back to Papua New Guinea but crashed before reaching the airfield. A more ludicrous idea is Earhart survived, returned to the United States and assumed a new identity. For a brief time, Irene Craigmile Bolam (1904-82) of New Jersey was accused of such allegations due to similarities of appearance, but after Bolam took legal action, the claim was dropped.

Due to her celebrity status, Earhart’s disappearance shocked the world more than the unknown fate of her flight partner. Following her death, Earhart has received more honours than during her short life, including being listed as a posthumous member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1968) and the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1973). Several places are named after Earhart, including the Amelia Earhart Centre And Wildlife Sanctuary in Northern Ireland, the SS Amelia Earhart (since wrecked), the Amelia Earhart Airport in Kansas, the minor planet 3895 Earhart, Amelia Earhart Bridge in Kansas, the Amelia Earhart Dam in Massachusetts, and the North Hollywood Amelia Earhart Regional Library.

Since Earhart attempted to circumnavigate the Earth, several people have completed the circuit in her honour. Ann Dearing Holtgren Pellegreno (b. 1937) completed the planned route in 1967 and dropped a wreath in Earhart’s honour over Howland Island. Linda Finch (b. 1951) followed suit in 1997. In 2013, the aptly named Amelia Rose Earhart (b. 1983) followed the flight path in a single-engine plane. In the same year, the young pilot established the Fly With Amelia Foundation, which grants scholarships to girls ages 16 to 18.

Earhart’s mysterious disappearance remains one of the world’s top unsolved mysteries. There is every chance her remains may be found in the future, but this will not end the world’s fascination with the pilot. Earhart’s achievements were not just for herself but for women as well. She proved that women could be pilots, could fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, could fly non-stop from one side of America to the other, and could circumnavigate the globe. Although she did not achieve the latter, she encouraged other women to attempt the feat. Jerrie Mock (1925-2014) became the first woman to do so in 1964, although following a different route.

Amelia Earhart will be remembered for her disappearance and achievements, whether in books, films or memorials. She remains an inspiration for female pilots around the world. Women make up only 9.02% of pilots and other aviation personnel. Yet, with encouragement from organisations, such as the Fly With Amelia Foundation, this number is destined to rise.


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The Genius of Hard Work

I know of no genius but the genius of hard work.” J.M.W. Turner

Lending his name to the Turner Prize, held annually at Tate Britain, J.M.W Turner is one of the most notable artists in British history. Galleries across the UK and further afield display Turner’s paintings, and Tate Britain devotes their Clore Gallery to a permanent exhibition of Turner’s work. Since 2020, a self-portrait of Turner has decorated British £20 notes, with a backdrop of his painting, The Fighting Temeraire. So, what makes Turner one of Britain’s most loved artists?

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in April 1775 in Covent Garden, London. He preferred to go by his middle name, William, the same name as his father, who worked as a barber and wig maker. Turner’s mother, Mary, gave birth to his little sister in 1778, who passed away shortly before her fifth birthday. Mary suffered greatly from this loss and spent time in St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics and Bethlem Hospital until she died in 1804.

Following his sister’s death, Turner went to live with his maternal uncle and namesake, Joseph Mallord William Marshall, in Brentford. The earliest examples of Turner’s artwork were produced at this time, before being sent to Margate, Kent, in 1786. While in Margate, Turner painted scenes of the town, which his father displayed and sold in his shop for a few shillings each, boasting that his son “is going to be a painter”.

In 1789, Turner started studying with Thomas Malton (1748-1804), an English painter of topographical and architectural views. Malton specialised in views of London and taught Turner by getting him to copy examples of his work and prints of British castles and monasteries. In the same year, 14-year-old Turner entered the Royal Academy of Arts, earning a place as an academic probationer the following year when he submitted a watercolour to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

During his first few years at the Academy, Turner focused on watercolours. He travelled around Britain to produce sketches of architectural buildings, particularly those in Wales and Cambridge. In 1793, he painted a watercolour of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge. The painting reveals the spires of King’s College Chapel hidden behind the hall and the River Cam flowing in front. Instead of submitting this artwork to the Summer Exhibition, Turner sent in The Rising Squall – Hot Wells from St Vincent’s Rock Bristol, which is now lost. Yet, comments given at the time suggest older artists were impressed with Turner’s “mastery of effect”.

In 1796, Turner turned his hand to oil painting and exhibited Fishermen at Sea at the annual exhibition. The artwork depicts fishermen on a boat upon a rough sea off the coast of the Isle of Wight. On the left, the Needles, a row of jagged, chalk rocks look threatening in the gloom of the stormy sky. The cold light of the moon shines through a break in the clouds, which contrasts with the warm glow of the fishermen’s lamp. Critics commented on Turner’s ability to combine the fragility of human life with the power of nature. The painting helped establish Turner as both an oil painter and a painter of maritime scenes.

Turner gained one of his earliest patrons in 1797 at the age of 22. Walter Ramsden Fawkes (1769-1825), a politician, invited Turner to visit him at Farnley Hall, near Otley in Yorkshire. Fawkes allowed Turner to explore the grounds belonging to the Hall and commissioned a series of watercolours of the area. In one painting, Turner depicted Fawkes and his companions grouse shooting on Beamsley Beacon in the Yorkshire Dales.

Around 1802, Turner travelled to Europe, visiting several countries, including France, Switzerland and Italy. While in France, Turner studied at the Louvre in Paris but also spent some time on the coast, capturing the stormy sea on canvas. He particularly enjoyed trips to Venice, where he combined two of his favourite subjects, architecture and water.

Turner did not always paint the landscape as he saw it. Instead, he imagined scenarios, such as Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps during a snowstorm, which he painted in 1812. Turner took inspiration from several places, including the Alps in Europe and a storm he witnessed while staying at Farnley Hall with his patron. Combining these elements with his imagination, Turner depicted the Carthaginian general, Hannibal (247-182 BC), leading his troops across the Alps in 218 BC. Whilst the general is not visible, the tiny silhouette of an elephant in the background represents his presence. According to the history of the Second Punic War, Hannibal invaded Italy with North African war elephants.

The stormy painting of Hannibal crossing the Alps shared parallels with the ongoing Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France. The conflicts began in 1803, shortly after Turner studied at the Louvre. Turner painted the scene three years before the end of the conflicts when the winning country remained uncertain. It is unusual for a British artist to depict their enemy as Hannibal, but Turner was referencing Napoleon’s crossing of the Alps in 1800. After already taking power in France, Napoleon was determined to seize parts of Italy.

Not all of Turner’s European scenes contained storms and he showed an equal talent for depicting calm skies. In 1817, Turner visited Dordrecht in the Western Netherlands, where he made sketches of the harbour. The following year, Turner produced a painting based on these drawings, which he titled Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed. Known as The Dort for short, the painting depicted “a canal with numerous boats making thousands of beautiful shapes,” as John Constable (1776-1837) recalled in 1832. Constable also thought it was “the most complete work of a genius I ever saw.”

After displaying The Dort at the Royal Academy in 1818, where critics rated it “one of the most magnificent pictures ever exhibited,” Turner sold the painting to Walter Fawkes for 500 guineas. This is the equivalent of more than £40,000 today.

Around 1820, Turner returned to Farnley Hall, where under the guidance of Walter Fawkes, he produced illustrations for the five-volume Ornithological Collection. Fawkes was a keen natural historian and animal lover, allegedly purchasing a wild zebra to live on his land. Turner’s watercolours of birds and fishes prove his capability for producing detailed, delicate studies, not only expressive landscapes.

Art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) praised Turner’s natural history drawings, particularly “the grey down of the birds and the subdued iridescences of the fish”. Whilst Turner also painted animal studies later in his career, particularly of fish, this style of artwork is often left out of biographies and exhibitions about Turner. Yet, those who come across these animal pictures are struck by the differences between these paintings and Turner’s landscapes. French artist Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), for instance, wrote enthusiastically to his son after seeing Turner’s watercolours of fish in the National Gallery.

Whilst Turner’s animal paintings are not amongst the artist’s well-known works, there is more information about them than his personal life. Turner had very few friends and spent the majority of time with his father, who worked as Turner’s studio assistant for 30 years. William Turner Senior’s death in 1829 greatly affected his son, who suffered bouts of depression. Much of Turner’s life is told through letters and accounts by other people, particularly artists at the Royal Academy, who either admired or despised him.

Turner allegedly had an affair with an older woman called Sarah Danby and fathered two daughters, Evelina and Georgiana. According to the 2014 biopic Mr. Turner, Turner refused to acknowledge and support the children. The film also revealed he spent 18 years living with the widow Sophia Caroline Booth. During this time, he went by the name “Mr Booth” to disguise his true identity.

Irrespective of his private life, Turner continued painting expressive landscapes, which became less detailed, focusing instead on colour and light. On the evening of 16th October 1834, a fire broke out at the Houses of Parliament, turning the sky dark with smoke. Thousands of people witnessed the blaze, including Turner, who felt inspired to capture the colours of the fire and sky on two canvases. Whilst the crowds stood on the other side of the River Thames, watching in horror as the fire spread rapidly throughout the building, Turner hired a boat to take him closer to the inferno, where he filled two sketchbooks with drawings from different vantage points. The watercolours on canvas are based on these sketches and were not painted en plein air.

By 1838, Turner’s reputation had spread to the continent, where King Louis Philippe I (1773-1850) of France presented him with a gold snuff-box. In the same year, Turner painted one of his most famous works, The Fighting Temeraire. The watercolour shows the HMS Temeraire, one of the last ships used in the Battle of Trafalgar, being towed up the Thames towards Rotherhithe. Some art historians believe Turner added symbolic meaning to the composition. The famous ship appears almost ghostly in comparison to the dark tugboat, potentially symbolising the ship’s fate. When the Temeraire reached its destination, it was broken up for scrap. The setting sun may also symbolise the end of the ship’s life.

Turner painted The Fighting Temeraire from sketches he made, which was Turner’s preferred approach. Turner’s Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, completed in 1839, is another example of this method. Turner visited Rome twice, yet spent twenty years painting views of the city. Modern Rome is the final artwork in the series, depicting a mix of Classical, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. In the foreground, Turner included an imagined group of goatherds and other modern workers, going about their work in a city rich in history.

Some of Turner’s landscapes involve events he did not witness, for example, Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, yet he usually combined elements from sketches made throughout his career to produce dramatic scenes. The Slave Ship, painted in 1840, is one such example. Originally titled Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhon coming on depicts a scene that only those on board the ship witnessed. In 1781, a slave ship owner ordered 132 sick and dying slaves to be thrown overboard so that he could claim insurance payments. The insurance policy did not cover slaves who died of natural causes onboard the ship.

The crew on the slave ship Zong kept quiet about the incident, but the British public soon learnt of the massacre after one of the surviving slaves, Olaudah Equiano (1745-97), confided in Granville Sharp (1735-1813), one of the first British campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. Sharp argued with the slave-owner, accusing him of murder, but received the response, “the case was the same as if assets had been thrown overboard.” Whilst a judge ruled that the shipowner could not file for insurance due to lack of evidence, the man got away with slaughtering innocent lives. Nonetheless, the incident inspired abolitionist movements and turned many people against slavery, including Turner.

In hindsight, Turner’s late landscapes bordered on Impressionism, an art movement that did not appear until the 1860s. Yet, Turner is never described as an impressionist, and his style drew mixed reactions from his contemporaries. When commenting on Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth (1842), one critic likened it to “soapsuds and whitewash”, greatly offending the artist. John Ruskin, on the other hand, wrote that the painting was “one of the very grandest statements of sea-motion, mist and light, that has ever been put on canvas.”

To some viewers, Snow Storm is a smear of dark, grey colours, and to others, it depicts a paddle steamer caught in a snow storm. Rather than using watercolour, Turner painted with oils but tried to replicate the same style. Instead of blending colours, Turner built the scene in layers, giving the picture texture. The monochromatic colours emphasise the darkness caused by the storm, but the steamboat is almost lost amid the swirling greys.

Whilst Turner always had a distinctive style, the looser, darker, indistinct paintings of his mature period coincided with the death of painter and clergyman Edward Thomas Daniell (1804-42). Despite the age difference, Daniell and Turner became close friends after the death of Turner’s father. Acquaintances suggest that Daniell provided Turner with the spiritual comfort needed to “ease the fears of a naturally reflective man approaching old age.”

Throughout his life, Turner always refused to let anyone paint his portrait. Before Daniell embarked on a voyage to the Middle East, he persuaded Turner to sit for John Linnell (1792-1882). Turner reluctantly agreed but only stayed long enough for Linnell to observe him during a dinner party. Linnell produced the portrait from memory.

Daniell set off to tour the Middle East in 1840, aiming to capture the foreign landscapes in watercolour. During the return trip in 1842, Daniell fell ill with malaria and passed away at the age of 38. Distraught at the news, Turner declared he would never form such a friendship again.

Turner’s paintings from the 1840s may represent his grief, but they also capture the changes in Britain. Turner lived during the height of the Industrial Revolution, which saw a rise in factories, machines and electricity. In 1844, he painted Rain, Steam and Speed, which depicts an oncoming steam train in the countryside during a summer rainstorm. In 1838, the Great Western Railway, engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59), ran its first trains. Turner captured the train travelling over Maidenhead Railway Bridge, also designed by Brunel.

Although the railway and steam train are the main focus of Rain, Steam and Speed, the hazy atmosphere almost obscures them from view. Art historians often comment that Turner was ahead of his time and among the very few painters who considered industrial advancement an appropriate subject of art. The blurred elements of the painting suggest the train is travelling at speed. It also symbolises that modern technology is advancing forwards at a rapid pace. At almost seventy years of age, Turner had seen more changes in Britain than any of his predecessors.

Not all of Turner’s later works were dark and stormy. Norham Castle, Sunrise (1845), for instance, shows an early morning view of Norham Castle from across the River Tweed. Turner visited the Northumbrian castle in 1797, where he produced a highly detailed watercolour painting. His later version of Nordham Castle is based on the original but much less refined with vague outlines of the scenery. The castle appears to be shrouded in mist, which the sunlight is fighting to shine through.

On 19th December 1851, Turner passed away from cholera while staying with Sophia Caroline Booth at her house on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. Royal Academician Philip Hardwick (1792-1870) took charge of Turner’s funeral arrangements after writing to friends and family “I must inform you, we have lost him.” Turner is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral near Sir Joshua Reynolds, who played a large part in establishing Turner as an artist.

Turner bequeathed his finished paintings to the British nation, leaving instructions for a special gallery to house them. After 22 years of debating the location of the gallery, the British Parliament allowed Turner’s paintings to be distributed and lent to museums and galleries, thus going against Turner’s wishes. Fortunately, the art collector Henry Vaughan (1809-99) purchased over one hundred of Turner’s watercolours, which he bequeathed to British galleries instructing they should be “exhibited to the public all at one time, free of charge”.

In 1910, a large number of Turner’s paintings arrived at the Duveen Turner Wing at the National Gallery of British Art, now called Tate Britain. In 1987, the gallery constructed a new wing, known as the Clore Gallery, specifically for their collection of Turner’s work. The gallery was met with approval from The Turner Society, established in 1975, who declared that Turner’s will had finally been carried out.

The prestigious Turner Prize, established in 1984 in the artist’s honour, annually awards one controversial British artist £25,000. Whilst many critics debate whether some of the entries count as art, the artists are encouraged to change the course of art history and step away from traditional methods. Turner’s work may appear traditional today, but at the time, many found his style controversial and modern.

In 2005, the BBC conducted a poll to discover Britain’s greatest painting. Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire won first place, followed by John Constable’s The Hay Wain. The Bank of England selected the same painting for the background of the first £20 British banknote printed on polymer, which came into circulation on 20th February 2020. The note also features Turner’s self-portrait from 1799.

Whilst Tate Britain boasts the largest collection of Turner’s work, his paintings and drawings belong to galleries throughout the world. In London, the British Museum holds several watercolours, and the National Gallery displays Rain, Steam, and Speed and The Fighting Temeraire amongst others.


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