The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Book Review)
12/08/2013 § Leave a comment
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.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Book review)
27/04/2013 § 2 Comments
Centenarian Allan Karlsson flees his retirement home-imposed birthday celebrations and, through cantankerousness and folly, winds up on the slipper-cloven-shuffle from the authorities with a suitcase full of cash and a trail of corpses in his wake. This books reads like a bad impersonation of a funny story. The title tries too hard to achieve quirky literalism, and it’s downhill from there. The result is a farcical yarn that trivialises murder and shoe-horns in ridiculously unlikely political figures; all without the laughs to back it up. With flaws that can’t be blamed on translation, this novel is lucky to raise occasional wry smiles.
Mystery Man by Colin Bateman (Book Review)
19/12/2012 § Leave a comment
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.
600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster (Book Review)
13/11/2012 § Leave a comment
Edward is a 39 year old Asperger’s and OCD sufferer living alone in Montana. Coping with solitude and a fraught paternal relationship, Edward relies on his stringent routine of diligently recording seemingly benign data and religiously watching episodes of Dragnet. That is, until an unexpected friendship with a nine year old and enlightening foray into internet dating proves more therapeutic than even the most logical of psychiatrists. 600 hours is to Mysterious Incident what the Wilderness years were to Adrian Mole. It may be less enthralling and inventive, but spending 25 days with Edward is still heart-warmingly hilarious and enlightening.
After My Own Heart by Sophia Blackwell (Book Review)
24/09/2012 § Leave a comment
Evie is left desolate after discovering that her long-term girlfriend has been cheating on her with a mutual friend. Her journey to recovery (with pit stops for sexual confusion, rediscovered friends, and self-pity) will resonate with anyone who has put on a sardonic brave face to mask heartbreak. Stunning one-liners make your stomach clench with the memory of when you, albeit less eloquently, thought them yourself. To describe this novel as ‘lesbian chick lit’ is to undervalue a relentlessly honest, witty account of post emotional-apocalypse. Blackwell expertly captures today’s London and the cynical humour of those that frequent its underbelly.
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.
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 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 Snow Whale by John Minichillo (Book review)
08/08/2011 § Leave a comment
This retelling of Moby Dick sees a contemporary John Jacobs turn his mediocre life inside out after learning (via a dubious DNA test) that he is of predominantly Inuit descent. The brave move to describe a modern American white man leaving an almost-happily married life in suburbia to hunt whales is, of course, utterly absurd. Sadly the novel isn’t quite funny enough to pull of its ludicrousness and Minichillo, like Melville before him, too late submerges the reader in engaging adventure. A quirky and readable homage for those familiar with its predecessor, The Snow Whale is otherwise unjustifiably ridiculous.