Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Book Review)

29/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Sixteen year old Jacob has long ceased believing his manic Grandfather’s farfetched tales about a childhood spent with ‘peculiar children’ and hunted by monstrous beings. But a traumatic experience has Jacob questioning his own sanity, and whether there was in fact some truth behind the old man’s fictions. Punctuated with genuine, thought provoking photographs, this novel has a unique pulling power. Unfortunately the story’s substance fails to equal the eerie intrigue or excitement that its images suggest, with an inconsistent narrative voice hindering the characterisation of its central figure. Peculiar children is an overly ambitious children’s novel, which unfortunately fails to translate for an adult audience.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose (Book Review)

13/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Jac is struggling to supress mental health problems and save her ancestral perfumery from bankruptcy. But when her brother uncovers a familial artefact that may be the saviour of controversial Tibetan beliefs in reincarnation, Jac’s precarious sanity is put to the test by cryptic clues, murder and a reunion with a long lost love. The bizarre plot is not adequately addressed by even the supposedly sceptical characters. However, the mysteries that the reincarnation catalyst ignites are entertaining; enhanced throughout by Jac’s bittersweet romance.  The Book of Lost Fragrances whiffs of intoxicating insanity comparable to Süskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Book Review)

26/10/2011 § 2 Comments

Allow the perplexing associates of the Night Circus to guide you on a journey to uncover its many mysteries. Fuelled by a bizarre and sinister competition between two formidable magicians, Le Cirque de Rêves is swathed in curiosities and impossibilities. This novel boasts moments of brilliance, where the reader is dazzled by an intricate secret world. However, the overly ambitious plot overwhelms the characterisation and, at times, basic narrative skill. The repetition of words and narrative formulae leave the novel feeling rushed and unedited. Tragically unpolished with an air of an intriguing film pitch rather than a novel, The Night Circus is not quite brilliant.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Book Review)

03/10/2011 § Leave a comment

The Help is set in 60s America’s Deep South, told from the points of view of two black maids and a white society lady, Skeeter, whose journalistic ambitions lead her to confront the shocking realities of living a life of servitude for less than minimum wage. Skeeter’s project provides the novel with a conduit through which a wealth of anecdotes surface. Whilst numerous incidents are harrowing, many are brimming with love and humour. The three distinct but complimentary voices are perfectly drawn, and Stockett’s bold choice to adopt voices of black Mississippian women paid off superbly. It’s popularity is well-earned.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Book Review)

13/09/2011 § Leave a comment

Miller retells the Iliad through a Patroclus who is both companion and lover to Achilles. Together they journey through lives that culminate in the Trojan War. In focusing on the romantic element of the central relationship Miller diminishes Achilles into a swooning character more suited to the Twilight saga than a retelling of an epic poem. This novel adds nothing to the pre-existing story; rather using it as a template for an insipid love affair. It contains a few boastful references to peripheral knowledge of Homer that will slightly bewilder your average reader and do nothing to excite a classicist.

C by Tom McCarthy (Book Review)

24/08/2011 § Leave a comment

In ‘C’, McCarthy follows Serge episodically throughout his life; beginning in his family’s estate, which doubles up as a silk factory and school for the deaf, before travelling to Germany for WW1, then London and finally, Egypt. The entire novel feels like an overindulgent introduction, which centres hedonistically on the concept of transmission whilst leaving even its central character deliberately two dimensional and impassive. Serge as a character is merely a vessel for the author’s immoderate and dense philosophical musings. The overly literary style of this novel detracts from its own story telling, leaving the reader distant, unmoved and disengaged.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield Review

11/06/2011 § Leave a comment

Xeo is the sole Spartan survivor of the bloody battle of the Thermopylae, held captive so his defeaters may learn how 300 men kept the Persian hoards at bay, only to be vanquished by betrayal. Reading Pressfield, it’s easy to understand why producers of 300 considered basing their picture on Gates of Fire. The factual basis of the ultimate underdog story is expertly utilised to envelop readers in an alien world, where war and death were a way of life. Intimately researched, with a narrative as relentlessly engaging as its subjects, Gates of Fire is a gloriously rampant gore fest.

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