WannabeHacks.co.uk Guest Post

20/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Rather outdated, but here’s a link to the Guest Blog post (‘Stumbling into Journalism’) that I wrote back in June 2011 for the website Wannabe Hacks (a site for aspiring journos).

http://bit.ly/J1seDF

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt (Book Review)

20/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Polly, a fundamentally average lawyer, and her brother, a profoundly lazy musician, are embroiled in a catalogue of transdimentional cock-ups, which begin with a missing pig and escalate into perpetual time loops, teleporting dry-cleaners and a group of chickens with a serious identity crisis. But it’ll all be fine, provided nobody mentions the ‘M’ word. A chaotic plot where the emphasis of jokes leans towards quantity not quality evolves into a cleverly ridiculous piece of good fun writing. Holt may be a poor man’s Douglas Adams, but a shadow of the Hitchhiker’s Guide still makes for a pretty entertaining read.

Pure by Andrew Miller (Book Review)

30/03/2012 § 1 Comment

In 1785 a young engineer is instructed to remove the vast cemetery of Les Innocents in Paris, which is poisoning its city; literally and figuratively. As he commences his work John-Baptiste and those around him are consumed by the hellishness of their task; to purify the dead whilst fearing becoming them. This novel is enriched with parable and metaphors without being buried by them, and from the ashes rises a quirky story that is poetically written, often quote-worthy, and wickedly funny. Miller makes the engineer’s plight against madness and toward modernity a pungently gripping and compulsive must-read.

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.

To Kill a Mickingbird by Harper Lee (Book Review)

16/02/2012 § 2 Comments

Scout narrates as her and her brother are wrenched from a childhood spent fascinated by their mysteriously clandestine neighbour and engulfed by the baffling and infuriating world of adulthood. Scout observes with enchanting naivety as her stalwart father, Atticus, mounts a case for the defence against a black man accused of raping a white girl in 1930s America’s Deep South. Full to the brim with intricately drawn, likeable characters this novel is abundant with charm and humour that enhances its profound subject matter. Scout is a timelessly relatable tomboy and Atticus is perfectly characterised as endearingly magnanimous and infinitely lovable.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Book Review)

15/02/2012 § Leave a comment

In 1951 Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer on a ‘black ward’ in Baltimore. But her cells lived on. Taken at a time when consent wasn’t required by law Henrietta’s cells, named HeLa, were the first to become immortal in culture. Trillions were produced, helping scientists develop vaccines, cures and millions of dollars. HeLa’s development is paralleled with the hitherto largely unknown woman behind the medicine and the young family she left behind. Scientific elements are explained well and the Lacks’ are elaborately characterised, enamouring the reader to their plight. Despite some overzealous fictionalisations and an author who insists on edifying the reader of her own ingenuity, this book is a great human interest read.

Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum (Book Review)

29/01/2012 § Leave a comment

This non-fiction work retells the early history of England’s first criminal lunatic asylum, Broadmoor. Using its recently released archives as source material, Stevens creates a complete picture of the institution within the Victorian period that includes portraits of its staff and (in)famous ‘guests’ as well as escape attempts, births and deaths, all of which occurred within the confines of this eminent and progressive component of the judicial system. Retold in a readable and engaging manner this unexpected gem is an eye opening quick read for anyone intrigued by mental health, criminology or the justice system. And if you own a kindle, it’s free!

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.

Sherlock Holmes – The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Book Review)

05/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Watson, after the death of his beloved companion Sherlock Holmes, sets out to recount one of his early ventures with the most famous of detectives; one too monstrous to be released to a contemporaneous audience. It’s abundantly clear why The House of Silk was officially approved by the Conan Doyle estate. Horowitz has succeeded in capturing the essence of Homes and the narrative style of Watson to create an entirely original adventure. Horowitz satisfies modern bloodlust with controversy unthinkable to Conan Doyle, but remains faithful to the original characters and style. This novel is impeccably researched and a cracking mystery.

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