Over to You by Roald Dahl

3/5 stars.
ebook, 164 pages.
Read from December 16 to 24, 2013.

This collaboration of stories emphasizes Dahl’s experiences as a flying ace for the RAF during World War II. I imagine that Dahl used many personal references and emotions in these stories, though from what I can find, from my very brief internet search, nothing specific has been directly referenced in the stories. Please feel free to comment if you know of a specific experience that has made it in one of these stories.  Additionally, I also wonder if writing these stories was a method he inadvertently used to deal with his own dreadful experiences in the war. Regardless, his renditions of the flying ace at war are detailed and provoking.

Beware of the Dog was by far my favourite in this collaboration as it brought a situation to my attention that I would not have even considered, having never been a solider, and the sheer terror that would follow. The character in the story finds himself in hospital and he isn’t sure what has happened, though he believes his plane has crashed. The nurse then proceeds to tell him where he is but other warning signs tell he may be elsewhere, like in enemy territory. In typical Dahl style, the reader is left not knowing if the main character is indeed in enemy territory or if he is just delusional and paranoid from the plane crash.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to see a more adult side to their favourite childhood author or anyone interested in WWII experiences.

Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl

3/5 stars.
ebook, 240 pages.
Read from December 09 to 16, 2013.

Even as an adult this man’s writing continues to captivate me. However, with this adult collaboration, Dahl has emphasised the disturbing in a less than friendly fashion by having the central theme of these stories be completely about how awful adults are to each other. So take the quirkiness of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the despicable characters in The Twits and then mash them together with some realism and adults and you have Kiss Kiss

Out of all the stories I would have to say that “Royal Jelly” truly caught me off guard. I don’t know if I’m slow or if Dahl is that good at writing but I truly did not see the ending of this story coming and I recall my jaw dropping when I read the last paragraph.  The story is a depiction of a couple that has had a baby who is struggling to get enough to eat. The babe just refuses to eat and as a newborn it is wasting away.  This is the first child the couple has had after failing to conceive before. The mother is severely distressed and exhausted so it makes what the husband does even harder to bear.  The husband works with bees and in an act of desperation, despite knowing in a way what the effects would be, feeds his withering baby royal jelly, which is the food used to produce and create the Queen bee.  Firstly, what I found so disturbing about this story was that a father would use his own child as a type of science project, though sadly, I don’t think is completely unheard of. Secondly, when trying to explain to his frantic wife that what he has done is a good thing, the wife calms a bit but as a reader I felt far from consoled! I could just see that this story was going to turn into a horror, and it did, the ending was truly ghastly.

After reading so many pieces of Dahl’s work I absolutely adore the way he is able to leave the reader hanging at the end but always in the best way possible. He leaves the reader inquisitive and allows them to draw their own conclusions without absolutely gutting the reader. Even while writing about how awful adults are, he still manages to provoke his adult readers to use their imaginations which is what I still truly treasure with Dahl’s writing. Whether you are a child or an adult Dahl still finds away to stir your imagination and provoke curiosity. I believe it was this gift that made him such a phenomenal writer.

Recommended read for Dahl lovers and those who appreciate quirky and creepy reads!

Separate Kingdoms: Stories by Valerie Laken

3/5 Stars.
(ARC) Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from December 07 to 08, 2013.

I’d like to thank Goodreads for free ARC copy of this book. This is a refreshing collaboration of intricate and intriguing short stories. This book was a quick read and I enjoyed the similar themes of division, loss and love and the emotional depth that each story contained.  The author played with the dynamics of how each of these themes affect us. No matter who you are, where you are from and who you are with we all share the same pursuit for love and will all be faced with our own losses and divisions in that pursuit. Some of the stories are heart-retching while others make you feel a bit uncomfortable but I believe that is the desired effect.

I found the story of the woman who lost her leg particularly touching.  The story is narrated from the point of view of the husband as he struggles to reconnect with his broken wife who has yet to come to terms with the loss and actually embrace and love the body she now has.  What was particularly effective was how you were able to get a perfect idea of the spite and hatred the wife had for her own position despite the story having been narrated from the husband’s point of view. It just details how well the husband knows his wife. It’s torture to see what the husband has to deal with in terms of being mindful of his wife’s turmoil but in also trying to address his own needs to reconnect with his wife and ultimately help her improve her well-being. The story’s ending was, thankfully, hopeful.

The story involving the adoption of a child I found difficult. There was so much tension between these two very different women over the selection of which child they were going to adopt together. This story was narrated from just the one woman in the relationship so I felt the need to take her maternal side (despite having not children) as her partner seemed eager to have the process over with and didn’t seem to be too bothered with which child they ended up taking home with them. The couple’s predicament felt very real and in a way and had a sense familiarity to it. The overwhelming urge the narrator had to adopt the one specific child, while the story never went there, was going to have explosive implications for the couple and Laken did an excellent job in depicting this.

Overall I enjoyed Laken’s writing and would recommend this novel for anyone with an appreciation for well-written short stories.