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.

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 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.

In Malice, Quite Close: A Novel by Brandi Lynn Ryder (Book Review)

15/08/2011 § 1 Comment

This artistically written novel opens with the shocking and beguiling account of the seduction of a fifteen year old girl by charming but perverse Frenchman, Tristan Mourault. Years later the working class girl has been reborn into opulence as her voyeur’s most prized work of art; preserved through lies and manipulation. This story, despite to soon giving way to narration by weaker characters, exhibits an intoxicating mystery to be solved, full of elegiac eroticism, decadence, forgeries and fakes. Every chapter creates a cliff-hanger, gradually exposing the reader to more sins and secrets than Tristan alone can be guilty of.

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.

My Friend Leonard by James Frey (Book Review)

25/07/2011 § Leave a comment

The follow up to Frey’s first successful and controversial quasi-memoir sees him dealing with life and death after rehab, guided by his gangster guardian and friend, Leonard.  Those who have read the first instalment will already know the fates of the characters who endure to the second. However, this does not detract from the poetically written, heart wrenching narrative. Less deconstructed language and reduced involvement in addiction sets this story free to centre upon James’ relationship with his outlandish and lovable friend. Tragedy and satire are combined brilliantly in a story that is to biographies what Picasso is to portraits.

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