Malice in Blunderland by Jonny Gibbings (Book Review)

15/12/2011 § 3 Comments

After being surreptitiously dumped Gibbings’ protagonist life goes on an asphyxiated downward spiral, with cataclysmic results. Being blackmailed by the mafia and wanted for sex crimes isn’t even the worst of it. No, a week in the life of this loser would have James Frey running for cover. Malice in Blunderland, like many of life’s pleasures, should come with a health warning. Crossing the proverbial ‘line’ more than once, it will have you stifling laughter before guiltily glancing around to make sure no-one is reading over your shoulder. Wonderfully sardonic and intelligent writing with which Guy Ritchie would have a field day.

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.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Book Review)

28/11/2011 § 1 Comment

Aomame, a feminist assassin, and Tengo, an aspiring author, are bound together by fate within 1984’s alternate reality; 1Q84. In this world their lives become dominated by a cult and the quirky and intoxicating teenager who has escaped it with a story to tell. Murakami’s deadpan writing style insists on minimal descriptions of an unfamiliar environment and is overwhelmed by character’s speech and thought, which is often patronisingly simplistic and repetitive. Disconcerting sexual forays and unrewardingly bizarre fantastic elements make this lengthy, long winded novel an un-enjoyable read. 1Q84’s omnipresent “Little People” simply don’t measure up to Orwell’s “Big Brother”.

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.

Dark Matter: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver

17/10/2011 § Leave a comment

Investigate the ‘phobic disorder’ of Jack Miller, a young disenchanted scientist who participates in an ill-fated expedition to the artic in the 1930’s. As his journal’s pages turn the tone alters from excitement to eerie disconcertment amid rumours of his destination’s penchant for ‘bad luck’. As the mission’s members are picked off by fate, the eternal darkness of the arctic begins to permeate Jacks very being. This atmospheric novel’s plot centres upon the value of companionship and the disastrous consequences of isolation. Read this alone by lamplight and you too will begin to wonder at what lurks in the shadows.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (Book Review)

12/10/2011 § 3 Comments

Rebecca is the story of a young girl’s transformation from lowly companion of an insufferable Lady to wife of Maximillian De Winter and mistress of Manderly, a grand coastal estate. Far from a rags to riches romance this brooding gothic tale centres upon a naïve girl haunted by the memory of her recently deceased predecessor, the interminable Rebecca. Du Maurier draws upon Bronte to create an eerie and quietly brilliant landscape polluted with paranoia and self doubt. Likeable characters may be kept in the background but the heavily flawed antiheroes simply make the novel all the more enticing.

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.

Pets in a Pickle by Malcolm Welshman (Book Review)

22/09/2011 § 1 Comment

Join Paul Mitchell, a newly qualified vet, as he embarks upon his first job at Prospect House Veterinary Hospital. Along the way you will meet a multitude of hilarious and bizarre characters with afflictions including baldness, bites and obesity. And that’s not just the animals. Pets in a Pickle is a light-hearted romp that will certainly appeal to animal lovers and provide some genuine laugh out loud moments. Welshman has Paul’s veterinary experiences play out as pun-tastic thematic comedy sketches. The wordplay may be a little cringey at times, but that’s all part of the light hearted and frivolous fun.

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.

Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso (Book Review)

05/09/2011 § Leave a comment

This memoir of child abuse that doubles up as a deranged love story begins when Margaux was 7 and her molester, Peter, was 51. The writing style is tainted by the victim’s own numbness and detachment, resulting in some inelegant over-narration. This instils the intrusive sense of reading someone else’s diary. Tiger, Tiger is an education in child maltreatment and manipulation that is perversely engaging despite, or perhaps because of, some moments that are truly difficult to read. Purposefully controversialist, this book is worth the few hours it takes to read for those whose curiosity gets the better of them.

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