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Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Mitty Bedford is a young woman who has spent her life under the rule of a god-fearing sect, including the indomitable and vindictive Aunt Charity. Escaping to the city to become a typist, she meets the kind and loving Col. But she is conflicted; her sexuality has been repressed and she is laden with feelings of shame and fear. As she sets out on her journey to self-discovery and independence in 1950’s Australia, she comes up against the sexism and classism of the day. To truly be free, she must challenge others’ prejudices and fight her own inner demons.

Choose Snakes or Ladders by Sally Forest is a book of many themes; love and loss, religion, shame, trauma, memory, gender, sexuality and the questionable nature of truth. Forest deals with these complex and universal topics with sensitivity and skill. Through her writing, she asks us to question our own biases and consider how relevant these issues are today.

Forest excels at writing place and her prose conjures up the setting of New South Wales incredibly well. Her descriptions of the seasons are particularly beautiful; the dirt, pollution and heat of summer mirror Mitty’s feelings of oppression and add to an atmosphere of heaviness, whilst the freshness of autumn coincides with Mitty’s new found confidence. Forest also invokes the time period expertly, and I enjoyed the references to old films and magazines which gave some historical context and showed how influential the invention of advertising and the media was on thoughts and behaviour at the time.

Mitty is an utterly believable and well-realised character. Much of the book consists of her internal dialogue, which gives us insight into her feelings of guilt and shame and makes her very relatable. She wants to be attractive to men and enjoys their gaze but she is also afraid of it and fears repercussions. Forest illustrates that female beauty and sexuality can be a poisoned chalice in a society where only women are castigated for the outcome of these things (this clearly has modern resonance too). The prejudice and ignorance of certain characters are well-drawn and had me seething with anger!

The dialogue is predominately realistic and natural. Forest uses dialect for some of her characters- possibly to infuse more authenticity into the narrative- but I would have liked a little less of this as it came off as contrived at times and distracted me from the flow of the narrative. Although there is quite a steady pace to the book, I occasionally felt that Mitty’s day to day life was rather repetitive and that the plot could have done with a little more substance. There was definitely enough suspense to keep me intrigued though, and I think that any plot issues were reconciled by Forest’s use of prose and by her complex and likeable characters.

Ultimately, this is a book about redemption. It is a moving and beautifully written story, which although full of challenging themes, eventually filled me with hope.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B075PXBHTZ

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GROND: The Raven High

GROND: THE RAVEN HIGH: (GROND Series Book 1)

GROND – The Raven High by Yuri Hamaganov is a sci-fi book set around 70 years in the future. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, there are no resources or clean water left, and the pollution has caused giant storms across the planet. Our main character is Olga, a young girl who is one of seven biologically engineered post humans called ‘The Changed’. They work in ships above Earth using their abilities to create nanomaterials that help remove the pollution below. This book follows on from the events of the first, and starts with our main character Olga in training.

The start of the book, and for parts throughout, is very dialogue heavy, and occasionally it can almost feel like a script with fast speech between the characters. However, this is no way a hindrance as the dialogue is interesting and smooth – you feel as if you are reading a real conversation between two people. Dialogue for writers is often hard to perfect, it can feel as if people either have the knack or they don’t. If this is the case Hamaganov definitely has the knack.

What makes the writing even more impressive is that the author also translates these books himself from Russian to English. Portraying dialogue and actions sequences in two different languages is no small feat and Hamaganov has executed it well. However, occasionally there are a few incorrect sentences or words in the book but these in no way make the novel unreadable and are easily forgiven.

The action in this book is enjoyable, and while it is happening you realise you care for the characters involved. Olga’s ‘nanny’, an android there to train Olga for her purpose, is an excellent addition to the character line-up who acts as a parent figure and genuinely cares for Olga’s success and safety. As a reader, this is a character who adds a caring and nurturing theme to the book, and makes you empathise more with Olga and any danger she may face.

Overall, if you are looking for a fun sci-fi novel to read, this is a good one to pick up. It’s fun and not too long, and you can be sure that if you enjoy it enough there will be another 6 books as the author plans to make this an 8 book series.

Pages: 190 | ASIN: B06XCFT4D1

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