The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Book Review)

12/08/2013 § Leave a comment

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Stimulated by the systematic delivery to academics of a cryptic book, Jon Ronson investigates the business of madness. Encountering belligerent Scientologists, psychopaths and disgraced and acclaimed psychologists alike, Ronson finds himself empowered with the ultimate psychopath spotting gismo; the Psychopath Test. Ronson’s most engaging anecdotes are regurgitations of the work of others (the Rosenhan experiment being the best example), but he does enlighten the reader to the madness that is inherent in some systems of psychology, as well as its subjects. The Psychopath Test is an entertaining and didactic documentary collection of case studies that will both shock and amuse.

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Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Book Review)

23/07/2013 § Leave a comment

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Sulky drop-out Raskolnikov commits the harrowing murder of an elderly shopkeeper. Ostensibly to spare his virtuous sister the obligation to marry for money, Raskolnikov’s motives are grounded in ego and ennui. Dostoevsky’s tale is spun via the construct of conversation, which dismembers the narrative just as Raskolnikov’s mind unravels with self-doubt. The inconsistency of the murderer’s psyche gives the impression of multi-layering, which is buffered by manifold stories and the illusion of guilt over brooding. Watch as the arachnid character is funnelled into his own web, and wonder whether Raskolnikov believes his tangled yarn to involve either crime or punishment.

Mystery Man by Colin Bateman (Book Review)

19/12/2012 § Leave a comment

Mystery man by colin bateman cover

An acerbic hypochondriac and reluctant purveyor of crime fiction finds himself, compelled by the prospect of reward and glory, filling the shoes of a missing private detective. But what begins as a harmless hobby soon transcends into a dangerous murder investigation, with Nazi conspiracies a go-go (albeit suffused with the feminine wiles of self-appointed sidekick, Alison). This novel doubles up as a cynically hilarious parody and genuinely enthralling mystery. The ‘mystery man’ is fantastic to get to know as he begrudgingly overcomes his reticence, and Bateman’s disclaimer about second edition revisions hints at a not-so-fictional basis for a sinister plot, veiled with humour.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Book Review)

31/08/2012 § 2 Comments

Six characters, whose lives traverse aeons, geographies and genres, are linked by disparate windows into one another’s worlds. This is not just another book jumping onto the multi-storyline bandwagon. Mitchell produces both quality and quantity by delivering an extravaganza of extraordinarily distinct narratives that are unified by cohesive themes. This novel reads like an all you can eat buffet; with generous helpings of humour, atmosphere, tension and philosophy. Readers will mourn the loss of one account only to fall in love with the next. Their richness will leave you pondering Cloud Atlas’ intricacies long after you’ve gobbled up the final words.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Book Review)

09/03/2012 § Leave a comment

This adult fairy-tale tells of a barren couple who, in an attempt to escape the misery of reality, build a solitary homestead in the bleak forest of 1920’s Alaska. Struck by fleeting frivolity they build a girl from snow, which is replaced in the morning by the child, wild and mysterious, that they have always wanted. Narrative devices skilfully play with the reader’s ability to discern fact from fiction and a consistent notion of the sinister makes this novel a haunting read. However, the extent of surrealism coupled with the detached solemnity of the narrative make the plot hard to embrace and not altogether enjoyable.

Before I go to sleep by SJ Watson (Book Review)

09/03/2012 § Leave a comment

Chrissie is unable to hold onto her memories as she sleeps. She is forced to trust the devoted stranger she wakes up to every morning, who tells of a terrible accident that robbed her of her history. That is, until Chrissie begins to keep a secret journal, the truths of which slowly unravel her fragile and transient existence, seeming to reveal everyone as dishonest and unfamiliar, including herself. An intriguing concept is subsumed by the necessarily repetitive narrative, which Watson fails to overcome. The anticipatory nature of the plot is dampened by consistent predictability making this a rather bland and feeble read.

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.

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