Sunday, 20 December 2015

IA Initiate by John Darryl Winston / Alla Osipenko by Joel Lobenthal / Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

IA: Initiate by John Darryl Winston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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I won a copy of IA Initiate and its sequel, IA Boss, from their author, John Darryl Winston, in a Goodreads giveaway run to celebrate the release of the latter.

IA Initiate is set in a slightly futuristic dystopian cityscape. The Exclave is recognisable as the rough end of any present-day Western city, yet is given a sense of difference through interesting use of language and descriptions of elements such as the hyperstores and the Helix train. The Market Merchants reminded me of the Chinese stores in practically every Spanish town - everything you could possibly want even though you don't know you need something until you see it there!

Naz Anderson is our thirteen year old protagonist, a head-down, stay-unnoticed kind of boy, orphaned and devoted to his younger sister, Meri. Winton's creations of both Naz and Meri are well done making it easy to envisage these children and to empathise with them. We learn of the trauma in their past and how Naz in particular is having problems due to these events. Other characters around them are more hazy, but may develop further in sequel(s) to this novella.

IA Initiate kept me interested throughout and I like Winston's understated style of writing. This is very much a YA novella, written by a teacher, and I thought it occasionally veered too close to overt moralising, but I enjoyed the read nonetheless. His created world has a hint of scifi without being bafflingly different and there are enough intriguing open threads to tempt me into its sequel, IA Boss. However, IA Initiate has a good story arc in its own right and A Proper Sense Of An Ending!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Darryl Winston / Young adult books / Books from America

Alla Osipenko: Beauty and Resistance in Soviet BalletAlla Osipenko by Joel Lobenthal
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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I received a copy of Alla Osipenko by Joel Lobenthal from its publishers, Oxford University Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. I hadn't previously heard of Alla Osipenko. Although I do like going to see ballet, I don't know many names other than the really famous dancers so I hoped to extend my knowledge through reading this biography.

Unfortunately Lobenthal's writing is very dry, with short journalistic paragraphs and absolutely no sense of flow or beauty to the prose - which is ironic for a ballet biography! The book does mention all the major and minor dance roles undertaken by Osipenko as well as giving details of her personal life, but it's like being faced with a great sheaf of notes that are yet to be properly integrated. There are numerous spelling and grammatical errors on every page too, some making sentences completely unintelligible, so I considered several times whether to actually bother finishing the read. It's a shame as Osipenko must have led a fascinating life, but it is not done justice to in this book.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Joel Lobenthal / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my WorldReads - Nigeria book choices.

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Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones
Buy the woven book sleeve from my handmade shop.

I bought Purple Hibiscus from the great Children's Society charity shop in Garstang over the summer. If you're local to there, they have an excellent book selection!

Purple Hibiscus is a Nigerian-set coming of age novel following fifteen-year-old Kambili over the months after a military coup in Nigeria is the catalyst for massive change in the country and also in her oppressive home life. I was reminded a little of the obsessively religious patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible who, like Eugene here, puts ridiculous strains onto his family in the name of his God. Eugene however has been so brainwashed by a particularly sadistic strain of Catholicism that he is simply vicious to his wife and children. I found several of the abuse scenes in Purple Hibiscus difficult to read and what makes it more so is Kambili's apparent quiet acceptance of her treatment. It is not until she experiences life with her aunt instead of her parents that she finds a hint of self-respect and courage.

I love Adichie's descriptive prose which really brings urban and rural Nigeria to life for me. She has a wonderful eye for detail and creates realistic complex characters that I could easily believe in, even when I didn't like them! The menace of the political instability surrounds every scene meaning that there is always a sense of unease - within the family or within the country, perhaps one is a microcosm of the other? The contrasts between our rich central family's lifestyle and that of their poor village back home are shocking. Even the forced frugality of Aunt Ifeoma, awaiting her university salary which hasn't been paid, made me realise how much I take for granted. At least our caravan generally has reliable power!

I think I liked Purple Hibiscus the most of Adichie's books that I have read so far, but it's only my third title so I still have lots more to discover!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / Contemporary fiction / Books from Nigeria


  1. Don't miss John Darryl Winston's Kickstarter campaign to take the IA series into schools:
    see my blog about it here!

  2. Don't miss John Darryl Winston's Kickstarter campaign to take the IA series into schools:
    see my blog about it here!