Jawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse….Read it if….

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Afternoon friends and hangers-on! Today’s offering is a little bit different to my usual fare – a concise non-fiction book for the young adult crowd.  Jawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse by Jolene Stockman is a short motivational book dealing with those tricky issues of adolescence (and let’s face it, beyond), identity and personal power.  I was drawn in by another blogger tipping us off about copies for review, and was promptly and enthusiastically rewarded by Ms Stockman herself speedily supplying me with an e-copy.  And so, to my end of the bargain – an honest review!

Stockman is a clever little Kiwi cookie as evidenced by her bio:

bio1 Jolene is an award winning writer, speaker, and an expert for Girlfriend Magazine Australia. She is a Master of Neuro Linguistic Programming, and one of the youngest in the world to achieve the Distinguished Toastmaster Award. Jolene is the author of Jawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse, The Jelly Bean Crisis, and Total Blueprint for World Domination. She lives in New Zealand and is currently workingon two new books. Learn more at www.jolenestockman.com ”"

I must admit I was a little intimidated in launching into Jawbreaker, but I was happily reassured after the first page or two that I was in safe hands for my journey into the oft-tangled thicket of personal insight.  I was also afraid that the motivational speaker-ese language of the introductory chapter would continue throughout the book, triggering my jump onto the first step of an escalator spiralling downward toward my own personal hell.  But it didn’t! Huzzah! Instead, I was treated to a highly readable and actually motivating tome that provided food for thought and practical suggestions across a range of personal circumstances, as opposed  to the many faux-motivational tomes out there  that are thinly veiled attempts to make you purchase the author’s DVD collection, week-to-a-view illustrated diary, essential oils travel kit and line of motivational lingerie.

Essentially, the book hinges around the analogy of the Jawbreaker – the idea that we all have a unique, special centre that is the essence of who we are, and that around this centre, by chance, habit or design, we build layers that become our identity.

3Djawbreaker

Read it if:

* you much prefer your many-layered, multi-faceted personality to be represented metaphorically as a tantalising, colourful, mouth-watering Jawbreaker, rather than a stinky, tear-duct burning, halitosis-inducing onion

*you are, or ever were, a young person who suspects that one’s position in the schoolyard social hierarchy will have little to no bearing on your life once you pass through the school gate for the final time

*you like your self-help to be palatable, easily digestible within one sitting and with a side order of sass

One of the great strengths of this book is the concise format – it really can be read in one sitting.  It is also divided into handy little chapters for those with short attention spans, or for those who are looking for an encouraging word in a particular area.  Another helpful thing about the book is the practical exercises that are offered with various topics – these are simple, quick activities that illustrate the points being made and allow the reader to apply the information as superficially or deeply as they wish.

For example, Stockman discusses “anchoring” positive emotions to particular objects, places, or smells as a means of easily recalling those emotions when you need a boost.  I found this a particularly helpful tip and immediately got down to some practice:

imageHere I am anchoring the feeling of comfort and calm to a beanie that Mad Martha kindly made for me. Now whenever I feel a bit out of sorts, I can don my beanie and immediately benefit from its association with positive feelings of peace.  Thanks, Ms Stockman!

Another concept discussed in the book is the idea of a personal Fuse, or the knowledge of a particular activity or pursuit that really speaks to your passions and connects you to that part of your identity that is most important and essential to who you are.  Again, the shelf denizens found this intriguing and began reflecting on the activities that light their own fuses….

mad martha crochet

Take Mad Martha for instance, who is particularly enamoured with the art of crochet.  Here she is making Christmas stockings for the mini-fleshlings in the dwelling.  See how she glows with happiness at the ability to express love and warm regard through the medium of yarn.  Clearly, this is her Fuse!

The whole book is chock-full of little snuggets of useful information, like those that got the shelf-denizens so worked up.  Really, this book would make a fantastic graduation present for older teens as they prepare to venture out into the world of “being a grown-up”.  Alternatively, I think there’s a lot here that would excite those in their early teens who have a certain level of personal insight and could benefit from a guiding hand in the form of some encouraging and challenging home truths.  And as evidenced by our enthusiastic participation, there’s also plenty in there for adults looking for a supportive nudge and someone to say, “Hey! You’re super!” (preferably in a Kiwi accent. I found it greatly enhanced the authenticity of the experience).

If I’ve whetted your appetite for personal development, you can purchase Jawbreaker, along with Jolene’s other books, here.

And may I casually point out, to those considering partaking of the Small Fry Safari KidLit Readers Challenge, 2014, that Jawbreaker: Unlock the (U)niverse, would make the perfect choice for category eight (a book with some form of wordplay in the title)?

Until next time,

Bruce

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ARC Read-it-if Review: Man Made Boy…

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Afternoon all! Today’s offering is one that, since seeing the fantastic cover art, I had been excitedly anticipating…and then I managed to score an ARC review copy from Allen & Unwin Teen in return for an honest review.  Serendipitous, no? So our thanks to the publishers for making my anticipatory wonderings a reality.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron is a coming of age tale with a twist – the twist being that the creature doing the coming-of-age thing is the son of Frankenstein’s monster and his Bride.  The inventively named Boy; stitched-together beastie and thoroughly likeable protagonist, lives with a slew of other “mythical” creatures in a community hiding in plain sight from human society in the form of a theatre group.  Boy also happens to be something of a tech wizard, and after developing a new form of artificial intelligence, accidentally sets in motion events that have the potential to reach cataclysmic proportions for all involved.  Simultaneous to this concerning development, Boy attempts to leave the theatre to make his own way in the world – hence the coming-of-age themes mentioned earlier.

9780670786206_ManMadeBoy_JK.indd

Read it if:

* you’re a sucker for a good YA/sci fi/modern mythology/coming-of-age/paranormal romance crossover novel

* you’ve ever had stitches (or indeed bolts) in a prominent place, and felt that this may have inhibited your ability to blend seamlessly into polite society

* you are, or have ever entertained the dream of becoming, a mad scientist who creates a sentient, yet fundamentally flawed, creature for your own entertainment and/or personal gain

* you can overlook some minor problems with pacing and plot provided that there is at least one character with a rhyming name.  (…Paging Shaun the Faun…your presence is required…)

As I mentioned, I had really high hopes for this book based on the cover art alone.  Yes, I am that judgemental.  Did this book live up to those expectations? Sort of.

There is much to like in Skovron’s work here.  The characters, although lifted from historical mythical tales and classic literature, are given an overhaul to suit the modern urban setting while retaining their authentic character.  The two (or should that be three?) main teen characters, Boy and Claire/Sophie Hyde/Jekyll, are relatable, charming and flawed in ways that are believable, without being stereotypical.  The world building, in regards to the hidden monster communities, is well done and provides some good launching points to drive the plot forward.

The main problem I have with the book is the technology plotline revolving around the artificial intelligence program that Boy creates and sends out into the world.  I can’t say too much here, as I think it would be too spoilerish, but for me, the parts of the book in which this plotline featured seemed forced and out of place.  I had the overwhelming feeling that Skovron had actually got all the ingredients for TWO great novels – one revolving around a young monster finding his feet in the world, and another, that had no fantasy elements but explored the themes of artifical intelligence and the role and pace of technology in society in a psychological thriller-type story.

Having said that, while the technology aspect of the plot didn’t really work for me, it didn’t diminish the overall appeal of the book to the point where I had to put it down.  For my money, if Skovron can maintain my interest for 300 + pages despite a plotline that grated on every stony, critical and pedantic nerve in my body, I’ll be very interested to see what he can come up with next.  Overall, I think this book will have great appeal to its target audience of older teens for its likeable characters and modern twist on some old favourites.

For those who are faint of heart, let me also flag a warning for language, grand-theft-auto style gratuitous violence and humour related to alien-implemented anal probes.

Until next time,

Bruce

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