Thursday, 24 April 2014

Witch & Wizard : The Gift by James Patterson and Ned Rust

“Knowledge is valuable, but imagination is invaluable.” – James Patterson

 Witch & Wizard by James Patterson is a fantasy series that depicts the persecution of two magical siblings by the new totalitarian government, ‘New Order’. The Gift is the second instalment and it follows Whit and Wisty Allgood as they figure out how to better control and use their magic while trying to save everyone endangered – their parents, Whit’s girlfriend and all the brainwashed children. Meanwhile, the tyrannical leader is on the hunt for the Allgood siblings in order to take their gifts and be able to control everything and everyone.

I received this book as a gift and I’ve really enjoyed reading it. I can’t wait to read the next book, to figure out all the cryptic clues. However, I do feel that The Gift went in a circle; I don’t really know more than I what I got from the first few pages. It seemed that Patterson was trying too hard to extend the plot so that it could become a lengthy series; at one point, the plot became Whit and Wisty running away, then getting caught by the villain then escaping then getting caught – and it just wasn’t going anywhere! Really, none of the answers proposed at the beginning were answered. Maybe, this was because I skipped the first book and went straight into the second; the lack of background information could have hindered my immersion into the story. However, I don’t think this was too big of a problem as I didn’t even realise this was the second book until I started writing this post. Patterson managed to catch all the readers up to the full story quite easily, as there were so many references to the past, which I’m assuming mostly happened in the first book.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

1984 by George Orwell

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.” 

1984 by George Orwell is a science fiction story that attacks totalitarianism. The book is set in the superstate of Oceania, in the province called Airstrip One. Everything and everyone from the party is monitored all the time by Big Brother, the supreme leader. Anyone who shows any sign of rebelling against IngSoc (the government) is punished, tortured until they confess to all sorts of crimes and then killed. Winston, the protagonist, works in the Ministry of Truth. His jobs are to falsify records. Smith inwardly rebels and finds that there are others like him. However, the Party can see everything and so Winston is not as successful as he thinks and is ultimately betrayed by his co-worker in the end.

Should you read this book? Definitely! Not only is this book a classic and references to it all the time in media, pop culture and everyday life but it is surprisingly entertaining and easy to read. From the beginning, I understood everything and I was actually invested in the story, I say ‘actually’ because the classic novels are not always so accessible to modern teen readers and this was an exception. Although, I have to warn any future readers, that the ending is not a happy one and while this was necessary to prove Orwell’s point, I am never one to be satisfied with a sad ending.

George Orwell uses the novel to warn the readers of that time about communism and totalitarianism in general. George Orwell sets the story in 1984 - only 35 years after the publication date – so to warn the English public that this could easily happen to them if they didn’t ward off totalitarianism. The Cold War at that time had not escalated yet and so there were still some academic supporters. As Orwell put it, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and for Democratic Socialism as I understand it." Orwell was against the communist up rise in Russia and Spain and so sought to warn the British and Americans of this. Personally, I agree with Ben Pimlott’s introduction (Penguin publication) which stated that this book was also an attack on the direction of the British Labour government, at that time, into state socialism. Orwell may have been a democratic socialist but I don’t think he was pleased with the direction the Labour government was heading in. Mostly, because the name of the government in 1984 was IngSoc, meaning English Socialism in Newspeak. This meant that England/Britain was still the power house of Oceania; it wasn’t another country such as a Russia who had taken over England and turned it communist. [NOTE: Going back now, I really think George Orwell wrote about Totalitarian Russia. As I am studying Russia in Stalin's period, I see more and more similarities about the past Russia and 1984 - it is really shocking. Things like the no persons, trials for people who used to be part of the party and even thought crime occurred in Russia.] 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

JFK: The Smoking Gun by Colin McLaren

“The case is the perfect example of a riddle wrapped in an enigma and shrouded in mystery. And the solution is far more disturbing than any fanciful conspiracy could ever be. “– Colin McLaren

JFK: the Smoking Gun is Colin McLaren’s attempt to solve the mystery of President Kennedy’s assassination. McLaren describes himself as an “ex-detective sergeant/task force team leader”. He spent 4.5 years researching JFK’s death.  The book “proves, once and for all” that Oswald was not the only gunman. According to McLaren, Oswald fired the first shot but it was the shots fired by a novice Secret Service, George Hickey. Hickey was riding in the car behind the presidential limousine and was in charge of the AR-15 gun even though he was only trained as a driver. McLaren argues that the fatal shot was an accident and the Secret Service worked hard to hide evidence to protect its men.

The reason I first picked up JFK: The Smoking Gun was because of the cover. I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but the cover was so pretty and modern that I couldn’t help being attracted to the book! The only troubling thing was that the publisher and Christabella Designs decided to use a quote from Andrew Rule to promote the book. Andrew Rule is a bestselling author, not a historian, not a detective and not someone who seems to have analysed JFK’s assassination extensively. It seemed quite strange for me to use Rule’s words; I don’t think he is the best person to judge a historical book.

Overall, the book was quite easy to follow and comprehend and I quite enjoyed it. McLaren makes very strong arguments when discussing the bullets – the timing of the bullets, the difference in the behaviour of the three bullets and the metal fragments found in Kennedy’s brain. I also liked the use of photos to help illustrate the facts and to give a nice break halfway through the book.