Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl

4/5 stars.
ebook, 100 pages.
Read from February 18 to 22, 2014.

If you’re like most people, you know Roald Dahl for his wonder contributions to children’s literature. What most people don’t know is that he published quite a bit adult content and there is nothing child-friendly about these pieces. The stories in Switch Bitch were actually written for Playboy and published separately in 1965. Also, on a complete side note, did you know that Roald Dahl wrote two scripts based off the works of Ian Flemming, the author of the notorious James Bond series. One was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the other was the Bond film, You Only Live Twice . With the Bond film, it was the one Bond movie that was the furthest away from the plot and story line of the actual book by Flemming. So there you have it, now you know that Dahl was a successful bad-ass adult writer as well. You were just likely too young to know that before. I know I was.

Knowing that these stories were written for Playboy really gives me a better understanding as to why these stories were so graphic. Yes all of the stories were about sex but that isn’t what made them graphic. It was that each one of the stories in this collaboration had a the undertones of a horror story. Like his other works of short stories, these continue to emphasize just how awful adults are and with this collaboration, specifically men.

In the story The Visitor, the main character of Oswald, whose womanizing adventures Dahl would eventually write a full length novel on called My Uncle Oswald, is one of the few stories in which by the time you finish the story you are satisfied and a bit less horrified with the outcome as Oswald is not a likeable character. Oswald is travelling in the middle east, where he has been bedding a lot of women and ditching them as soon as he can. In an effort to disappear from his last one night stand,  he finds himself stranded at a gas station in the middle of no where. The circumstances of the stranding are in themselves suspicious as the gas attendant appears to be physically suffering from a condition and is overly attentive to the weary Oswald who is terrified of catching whatever it is this man has. However, it appears to be Oswald’s lucky day as a rich man drives by shortly and offers for him to come and stay up in his mansion for the night while his car gets repaired. The man has a gorgeous wife and daughter. Outwardly, Oswald promises to be decent but inwardly he is already scheming to get one or both of the women into his bed. The events that follow are indeed maniacal and comical.

The Last Act, is by far the most cruel story in the book. I know that I felt particularly horrified and disgusted with the presumed ending of this story.  Anna Cooper finds herself widowed and it was like half of her soul was taken from her. She moves on but not willingly. After finding some moderate success in life after her husbands death she encounters the man who she was dating in high school before she met her late husband. What initially appears to be a promising romance turns into one of long held grudges and cruelty.

Honestly, there is something addicting about Dahl’s writing as I’ve devoured a few books of his short stories now. He is able to make his stories entertaining, funny and dark all at the same time. I believe he also has a great understanding of the human condition, both the good and the bad spectrum’s and he uses them to his advantage. If you are ready to shake up your childhood then I would highly recommend reading some of Dahl’s short stories and adult work. You can find one collection that compromises of the core of his short stories in, Twenty-Nine Kisses.

The Tyrant’s Daughter – J.C. Carleson

4/5 stars.
(ARC) ebook, 304 pages.
Read from January 20 to 29, 2014.

Thank you Netgalley for inviting me to read this novel, as I may not have come across it otherwise. This book is a gem in the YA genre and one that every young person living in this post 9/11 world needs to read. With all the hype that has come with America’s war on terror it’s easy to forget that there are two-sides to every story and while this novel is fiction it depicts the emotional side of the other story.

Laila is a teenage girl who was living like royalty in a middle-eastern country run by her father, that is, until he is assassinated.  Overnight Laila becomes a nobody and she is moved with her family to the USA which, is a world and a lifestyle none of them are familiar with. Laila has more worries and concerns than most US teenage girls do and while she does her best to fit in, her past has left her with unanswered questions. Her mother is up to something, scheming with people that they would not normally associate with and Laila wants answers. She is afraid of the truth but she has to know if the way her family is being portrayed in the American media is true and if she knows her family as well as she thought she did.

This book is riveting and, on an emotional level, so realistically depicted. It makes you take a look at the war that is being waged and the consequences it has for the people who are suffering through the ordeal first hand. It makes you wonder if we are really ever able to grasp what living in a world like the middle-east would be like? We are so unbelievably safe here and have practically all of our basic needs met. How could any of us possibly understand the culture and times of countries that have none of these things? Laila offers us an inside to this world and her struggles in coming to terms with who she is and where she is.

I think the only compliant I have with this book is that I highly doubt that the American teenagers depicted in this book would be as kind as they are described to Lalia, knowing her origin. I think in the real world, if these kids knew who she was and where she came from they would be unrelentingly cruel to her. I would suspect violence from teenagers and potentially other adults. Despite this potential falsity, the emotions felt and portrayed by Lalia in the book make up for this fact. Her inner turmoil and bravery are truly what make this book great.

A highly recommended read for any North American.

Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

3/5 stars.
ebook, 161 pages.
Read from January 09 to 15, 2014.

I picked this book up in anticipation of the movie coming out called The Seventh Son. I have heard that the movie is invariably different than the book and the book series itself which makes me a little bit sad but that is usually the case with book to movie interpretations. The book series, called ‘The Last Apprentice’ or the ‘Wardston Chronicles’ contains 12 books.

As a young adult novel, this story is not only extremely exciting but very dark at the same time making this story appealing to variety of age groups, which I think is what the movie creators saw. Thomas Ward is the seventh son of the seventh son and like all boys in this birth position he is sent off at to apprentice to become a ‘Spook.’ A Spook, is the person in charge of managing all of the evil and supernatural in the area, such as witches, boggarts and ghosts. The seventh son of the seventh son is sent for this position as they are born with special intuitive gifts that keep them in tune with the supernatural. The downside to all of this is that the work is very dangerous and lonely. Spooks are not well liked and all of the apprentices prior to Thomas have not lived to see themselves become the next Spook. Thomas finds himself in a pinch when he inadvertently has to deal with a very malevolent witch early on in his training.

There are a lot of different details in this book that make me want to continue the series: I have questions about Thomas’ mother and the strange friendship that Thomas builds with a young witch he encounters. Additionally, the writing appeals to readers of all ages as the author plays with the grey area between good and evil, where most us find ourselves in, adding that extra moral dilemma for the characters and the reader.  Also, the author, while making Thomas the hero, still manages to keep the physical and emotional age of Thomas in proportion. This makes the story more enticing and exciting as Thomas is facing obstacles that no boy his age should be but the author ensures that he reacts appropriately for his age in these experiences.

Overall, a solid young-adult fantasy read . I am looking forward to the next book in the series and the movie, even if it does end up being a bit a different from the book.