Saturday, 19 October 2019

Gravity's Arrow - be careful what you wish for

Gravity's ArrowGravity's Arrow by Jack Mann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a young adult space adventure. The protagonist is 12-year-old Fhiro who thinks of his life as pretty mundane - hemmed in by parental rules, envious of an older brother who has so much more freedom, and pestered by a younger sister who is as irritating as only a younger sister can be. He yearns for adventure.

Fhiro has no clue that his whole family has been living on a knife-edge, a hair's breadth from calamity. When the axe falls, it falls suddenly and hard, and they are all running for their lives. When Fhiro wished for adventure, this was emphatically not what he had in mind.

Gravity's Arrow is fast moving and wide ranging with plenty of drama.

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Monday, 27 May 2019

August extravaganza in the making

This is where I'll be mid August, by the sea, looking out over one of the East Coast's biggest expanses of sandy beach. Both a popular destination (for those in the know) and also something of a hidden gem.

And in a quiet corner amidst the drone racers, the virtual reality gamers, the retro board gamers, the escapers, the nerf warriors and large contingents from the casts of Star Wars, Dr Who, Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen, will be a crop of newly hatched fiction - five brand new titles, I'm not allowed to say which (but must remember to edit this blog as soon as authorised) plus several titles launched before the event. Mostly Sci-Fi and Fantasy for the FantastiCon launch of course, but a gripping mix all in all.

#fantasticon #onwards

Thursday, 11 April 2019

The Dark Side of the Modern Student

Chasing an Amazon link for someone who wanted a copy of Preparing for Higher Education Study, I couldn’t help noticing the “Customers who bought this item also bought” section. I know that the book has sold a good few copies, yet only one book sits in this section. Why might that be?

1. Students don’t buy books from Amazon – unlikely.

2. Students buy textbooks one at a time, thus their other purchases don’t show up in this section – maybe, but who knows? I certainly don’t know how Amazon’s background processes work, but I rather hope this is the answer.

3. Reason no 3 requires exploration of the link between those wanting a higher education and their choice of reading matter.
Preparing for Higher Education StudyThe Dummies’ Guide toSerial Killing. OK, let’s just not go there and assume the solitary book-buying habits behind reason no 2.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

The Rocking Horse Diary

The Rocking Horse DiaryThe Rocking Horse Diary by Alan Combes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alan Combes tackles a key 21st century topic in this one. Told through the diary of an 11-year-old boy, it charts the gradual decline into dementia of his beloved granddad. Sounds bleak but it's actually full of laughs. It has had a lot of reviews from schoolchildren. The general view averages around "Sad but funny, and I loved the bit where..."
The author says people, especially children, need to know about dementia. It is becoming a large part of our 21st century world, and he's right. This is something that a lot of young people will be forced to confront, and knowledge will counter fear.
The illustrations are superb.

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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Makeover by Barbara Lorna Hudson

MakeoverMakeover by Barbara Lorna Hudson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Makeover is women's fiction dealing with some difficult topics including abuse and addiction. The characters are cleverly drawn. They match and they clash. Tables get turned in very subtle ways. The book left me with vivid mental images of Lucille and Walter and also of parts of Oxford beyond the traditional old college context. It was an intriguing read. Light without being lightweight. I recommend it.

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Thursday, 17 January 2019

The dangers of becoming disorientated in deep water

Our health services are chronically under-staffed after years of austerity (for which no one ever made a credible case, but that’s a different debate) and we desperately need to train up all the capable people we can. And there are plenty of very capable people, many of whom are already in demanding responsible health-related jobs. They want to take a step up, to take on more senior roles, to gain the skills and knowledge that a healthcare professional needs in the modern world.

They queue in droves to make the leap on to the healthcare professional career ladder by going back into higher education to gain the relevant qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience.

But for many it can seem a leap too far. These are the people who, for a variety of reasons, haven’t been in higher education (or maybe in any kind of formal education) for many years. Some struggled through school battling undiagnosed conditions such as dyslexia, and ended up feeling inadequate, as though their inability to learn the same way their peers did was all their fault.

There is a gap to bridge. Operating at higher education level is not simply a matter of stepping through the door and taking education on board. Basically, it involves reading, writing and thinking. We can all do all three – so how hard can it be?

Consider this: you’ve never done any scuba diving but you’d like to. You know how to swim because you go to your local pool occasionally and do a few lengths; you know how to breathe; you’ve been doing it all your life. So if you wanted to scuba dive in the ocean, all you would need to do is take a boat out to deep water, strap on a tank and jump in. Right?

Wrong (of course). You’d be lucky to survive the experience.

Stepping up to higher education is the same, but the negative effects of getting it wrong are not quite so immediate as the scuba diving example.

You won’t drown or die from the bends or get disorientated in deep water and never see the sun again, but you will feel a sense of drowning in words if you don’t learn ways to read, absorb and critically evaluate huge amounts of information; you will despair at ever putting together a coherent argument if you don’t hone your thinking skills and learn to distinguish fact, from opinion, bias from evidence, and to recognise the tricks that are used to derail logical thought.

Your ability to read, write and think had better take a huge leap forward if you are to keep your head above the higher education waterline.

Preparing for Higher Education Study isn’t just a book title, it’s something you need to do if you want to emerge from the deep waters of higher education unscathed, stronger and ready to take on the world.