Review: The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story

The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story
The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story by Christopher Castellani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As Castellani says, “in devising and drafting a narrative strategy, an author makes all sorts of craft decisions that influence how the work will be read and enjoyed”. He adds that the language can seduce the reader, maintaining the staying power of the work. It’s both of these that won me over – the book opens with his account of an incident in Philadelphia, the quality of the writing and the questions posed made it clear that this book will be truly memorable. He goes on to analyse the work of other writers (E.M. Forster, Grace Paley, etc.), hardening his points by recommending other sources (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted talk, John Gardner’s book, etc.), to show how those narrative decisions can make or break a novel. The book becomes more academic towards the end, losing some of the passion of those early chapters, but it’s a must read for anyone interested in the construction of fiction.

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Review: Hunger

Hunger
Hunger by Michael Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite this second instalment having some good themes (anti-hero uprising, food shortages, etc.), I enjoyed it less that Gone. It’s turning into one of those series where you just know however bad it looks, the lead characters are going to emerge alive. Hopefully Lies will have more surprises. Still, it’s good stuff, so a solid 4 rating.

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Review: Gone

Gone
Gone by Michael Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this with my daughter, and we both loved it. Gone is a cross between Lord of the Flies and Akira – super powers affecting children in a world without adults, yet far smarter and better written that the recent splurge of YA dystopian novels. As with all super power books, you end up thinking, “Why didn’t so-and-so just use their power there?”, but, only a minor criticism, highly recommended. Stephen King likes this series, I’m not going to disagree with him!

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Review: The Ballad of a Small Player

The Ballad of a Small Player
The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the opening sentence, it’s clear Lawrence Osborne knows what he’s doing, that you’re in the hands of an assured writer. The writing is beautifully sparse, navigating the reader through the casinos of Macau, dipping into China’s culture. The only issue is that it’s hard to empathise with any of the characters. Like the ghost stalking Lord Doyle, the leads seem transparent without the definition needed for the reader to root for them, and the secondary characters come and go like Lord Doyle’s fortunes. Still, the quality of the prose compensates for these shortcomings. Recommended.

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Review: Raven Black

Raven Black
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn’t heard of Ann Cleeves, before my father-in-law gave me this book after attending Harrogat’s crime writing festival. First impressions weren’t good; the writing is simple and surprisingly clumsy at times. But, the story is a good one, and that helps smooth over those cracks. I’ll be reading White Nights next, the second book in the series, which is a pretty good indicator of what I thought of this one…

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Review: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting attempt to fictionalise a business book; interesting, though I’m not sure entirely successful. The storyline anchors the advice into the real world, showing how processes should be constantly reviewed and how the naysayers can be bought around, but without Alex Rogo’s struggling marriage I suspect the business element to this book could be squeezed into a pamphlet.

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Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in place of an honest review.

Straight off, without faffing around, I’ll confess that I loved this book. When I first heard about it, I thought, “ah, the world needs another trilogy chronicling a dystopian future.” Luckily this is just a single book, dense with wonderful characters, armed with a long list of positive reviews, so indeed it seems the world did need one more.

Emily St John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” nestles between the bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, and the accessible glut of YA heroines battling corrupt regimes – you know the ones I mean. Like those other books, the world has crumbled, society has fallen, anarchy rules the land, and yes, a heroine is wandering the land, but that’s not the focus of “Station Eleven”. Instead, the story flits between the now (twenty years after a virulent flu decimated the world’s population) and the few years leading up to that fateful day, or Year Zero as the survivors call it.

The story cleverly weaves numerous flashbacks, all linked by a dubious level of coincidence, but still remaining believable at all times. The writing is sparse, more is left unsaid than said, and that suits the world being described. It’s a dangerous time: anarchy rules, killing is the only way to guarantee survival.

This is an excellent book, worthy of the praise it’s received, and highly recommended.

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