Saturday, October 21, 2017

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From is strange and powerful, and very apt for these uncertain times. I was moved, terrified, uplifted – sometimes all three at once. It takes skill to manage that, and Hunter has a poet’s understanding of how to make each word count. - Tracy Chevalier

Pre-empted by publishers around the world within days of the 2016 London Book Fair, The End We Start From heralds the arrival of Megan Hunter, a dazzling and unique literary talent. Hunter’s debut is a searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that’s familiar.

As London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place, shelter to shelter, to a desolate island and back again. The story traces fear and wonder, as the baby’s small fists grasp at the first colors he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.

Written with poise and poeticism, The End We Start From is an indelible and elemental first book—a lyrical vision of the strangeness and beauty of new motherhood, and a portentous tale of endurance in the face of ungovernable change.

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew

In a gripping novel set in present-day England under a Nazi regime, a sheltered teen questions what it means to be “good” — and how far she’s willing to go to break the rules.

Nazi England, 2014. Jessika Keller is a good girl - a champion ice skater, model student of the Bund Deutscher M├Ądel, and dutiful daughter of the Greater German Reich. Her best friend, Clementine, is not so submissive. Passionately different, Clem is outspoken, dangerous, and radical. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend, her first love. But which can she live without? Haunting, intricate, and unforgettable, The Big Lie unflinchingly interrogates perceptions of revolution, feminism, sexuality, and protest. Back matter includes historical notes from the author discussing her reasons for writing an “alt-history” story and the power of speculative fiction.

BOOK REVIEW by Cynthia Parten

I received the ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Okay, I have to admit that when I first saw this premise, I mistakenly thought this would be a story set in England during WWII. I have never been so happy to be wrong. No, this was Nazi England set in 2013. It was so scary to see what would have happened if Hitler had never been stopped.

The book had me hooked from the beginning. Jessika is a "good girl." She follows the rules and rarely questions authority. Her friend, Clementine, is a different story. Clementine was rebellious and always questioned everything. The author did an incredible job if building this world. First of all, it was kind of interesting the way they brushed over the Holocaust during WWII. According to the Nazis in England, all the Jewish people ran away to America and were never seen or heard from again. And everyone in England is extremely distrustful of Americans, to the point that they don't even allow any Americans on English soil. America was not in this story at all and I kind of loved that. There was so much Nazi propaganda and racism that it gave me chills. I know that people have felt this way in the past (and some still do), so maybe that's why it was so chilling.

The author was so adept at showing Jessika's confusion that I was even confused about some of the stuff happening. The reason for this confusion was due in large part to the author's subtlety. I could see that Jessika was struggling, not just with her sexuality, but with her parents and the rules set by her country. She begins questioning everything she was ever taught and I felt so sad for her. Everything that Jessika is told, she wants to believe. The reader sees and hears everything that Jessika does and she is not told everything, so the reader becomes as confused as Jessika. You kind of have to read between the lines at the author's subtlety to figure out what exactly is happening. Jessika begins to develop feelings for Clementine and is thoroughly confused about her sexuality. Her sexuality is another one of those things that you have to read between the lines . . . in the beginning, anyway. She kissed Clementine, but then also started a relationship with the young man. All of Jessika's struggles and fears were very, very subtle. There were times when she seemed genuinely attracted to this young man. But then something would happen and you would wonder if she had feelings for him or if she was just with him because it was what was expected of her.

The story kind of falls apart towards the end though. There came a time at about the 70% mark when the story just becomes dull. Nothing much happens. The last thirty percent of the book drags and then the ending seemed so hasty and rushed. I was not a fan of the ending at all and if not for that (and the slow pacing of the last part of it), the book might have gotten a higher rating for me.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Designed to Go The Distance

It’s Not About The Creativity. It’s About The Career.

Designed to Go The Distance touches upon many career and lifestyle issues specific to those in creative career fields – cultural topics that are not often talked about or adequately prepared for.

Think of this book more as a late-night barstool or coffeehouse conversation between two creatives. A creative “pep talk” so-to-speak. And just like any pep talk in life, these pages provide a healthy serving of food-for-thought, as well as a few tips along the way, too.

Whether you are a graphic designer, artist, fashion designer, songwriter or a solo entrepreneur - or even a non-creative who needs to understand the mentality and culture more in-depth, Designed to Go The Distance is sure to be an engaging and informative read. 

Chapter 1: Square Pegs in a World of Round Holes
Chapter 2: Introverts, Extroverts, and Creativity
Chapter 3: Getting Comfortable With Risk
Chapter 4: The Inconvenient Nature of Creativity
Chapter 5: Establishing a Philosophy
Chapter 6: Bridging The Creative Divide
Chapter 7: Your Obligation to Non-Conformity
Chapter 8: The Emotional Intelligence Advantage
Chapter 9: The Benefits of Boundaries
Chapter 10: Understanding Comfort Zones
Chapter 11: Understanding Burnout
Chapter 12: Balancing Career and Life
Chapter 13: Handling Criticism Like a Pro
Chapter 14: When Side Projects Just Make Sense
Chapter 15: Depression and The Creative Pro
Chapter 16: The Final Word: Paying it Forward

What Readers Are Saying About The Book:

“Solid advice without any fluff”
“Great coping tips for creative types”
“A must-read for all creative professionals”
“Very interesting information for a non-creative”
“Give to spouses/partners of creatives!”
“Highly recommended”



Mitch Dowell is the author of “Designed to Go The Distance: A Survival Guide for the Creative Professional,” and has been involved in visual branding, design and creative marketing for over 20 years.

After having worked for a variety of tech startups during the dot-com and post-dot-com boom, in 2008, Mitch founded Branding Experiences –  a consumer-facing marketing, branding and design company in the Baltimore/DC metro area – spending nearly a decade helping U.S. and Canadian small businesses in a wide range of business sectors leverage a mindset to better make a connection with their target audiences.

Among many marketing disciplines, his primary focus is on the initial, visual branding experience and leads organizations to adopt a more consumer-friendly, outside-looking-in marketing approach.

Mitch is often sought out by mainstream and business media for his expertise on the topics of marketing, branding and design, and is frequently booked for speaking engagements on similar topics.