Review: ARGO by Antonio Mendez

ARGOVerdict:
Title: ARGO
Author: Antonio Mendez
Publish Date: 25 October 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 320
Genre: spy, thriller, non-fiction, true crime, politics
Source: Spinebreakers (Penguin), finished copy

Me and spy stories never usually mix. I always expect a complicated plot which is focused on action, i.e. not my kind of genre. Thus: I try to stay as far away from them as possible, for example, I have never seen a 007 film in all my life. Continue reading

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Review: The Draft – Stories from the Warwick MA in Writing by Various

the draftVerdict:
Title: The Draft – Stories from the Warwick MA in Writing
Author: Various
Publish Date: 1 May 2011
Publisher: Ball Bearing Press
Pages: 252
Genre: anthology, short stories
Source: NAWE, ARC

Twenty-seven writers bring together an extraordinary anthology, demonstrating that fantasy fiction can still be conceived by the imagination.

In this anthology holds a collection of twenty-seven short stories, with three hopefully being transformed into novels, from this years talented literates of the Writing MA at Warwick. The book has been blessed by the contributing writers; with their dilute curiosity and passion for the written word, they interpret to the reader hours of bitter-sweet joy. They have all began from distinctive backgrounds, from various places all across the world, and have paved fresh walks of life for themselves, culminating in dynamic inspiration for some of their stories. This gives us an insight into their heritage and their existence as they contemplate us as humans and our capabilities in this wondrous universe. Continue reading

Quick Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

vanishVerdict:
Title: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Publish Date: 17 May 2007
Publisher: Headline Review
Pages: 288
Genre: drama, mystery, 1930s
Source: bought, finished copy

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face.

Esme has been labelled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?

(Amazon.com)

Why read this book?

  • The chapters use complex changing narratives with perceptions from various characters: Esme and Kitty both as children and in the present and Iris in the present.  The book reads like poetry, such beauty is described in an elegant style, especially in Esme’s chapters.
  • Esme was a unique child who did not conform to societies wishes in the 1930s and that is why she ended up locked in a mental asylum for the majority of her life. The Vanishing of Esme Lennox centres around this family secret and the difficulties it has caused through the generations.
  • Past civilisation and psychological mysteries is pretty fascinating and this book displayed a balance of both.
  • The journey through the story was very moving and it was definitely the devastating revelations and treatment towards Esme that will make you rage at this book.

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

greatgatsbyVerdict:
Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publish Date: 4 April 2013
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 208
Genre: drama, classic
Source: Spinebreakers (Penguin), finished copy

One of the most anticipated movie releases of 2013 was The Great Gatsby. Being the imagination idealist that I am, I was determined to read the book before I watched the Leo DiCaprio starring adaptation on the big screen. I’m glad I stuck to my guns. Why? Because I am hoping that the movie will be better than the book.

The 1920s is an era sugar-coated in superficial beauty. You can’t help but picture a wave of long gowns, cropped hair and sparkling jewellery flickering from females as they stampede into a grand mansion ready for an extravagant party to begin. In other words: it is the American Dream. This is the scene that Fitzgerald provides us with. Was that what the roaring 20s were really like? I can’t tell for certain, but the irony is that Fitzgerald has fashioned this blissful vibe for us in The Great Gatsby, rather than us knowing the history from the fiction.

Our protagonist, Nick Carraway, is a Yale graduate who moves to the fictional town of West Egg in Long Island. Here he is reacquainted with his cousin Daisy Buchanan and he becomes friends with her ex-lover and his new next door neighbour, the mysterious Jay Gatsby.

I had attempted to read this book years ago but sadly was unable to hold my interest, mostly because it was a dull stream of consciousness from our narrator himself. Although, this time I was able to move forward from the tenth page as the novel eventually kicked into focus by introducing a group of characters to us.

For me the book lacked a lot of substance. Not an awful lot happened within the novel and I think it would have been a much more thrilling read if the book focused more on analysing Gatsby and his impressive parties. From popular culture (and of course the title) it is locked into your mind that the book will all be about this fascination over Gatsby. Yet, I believe that too little time was invested into developing the charm of this character. It is as though the fantastic idea is there, but it does not flare out onto the page with everything it is worth. Gatsby could have been great, but he lacked insight that I think DiCaptio may be able to pull off in the move.

Fitzgerald deployed a very unique voice to Carraway, one which I am pretty surprised has not been cloned relentlessly by recent authors. His thoughts and emotions were extremely poetic and I’m sure Fitzgerald’s views are expressed thorough him. The drawback was that I felt distanced to the novel as most of the characters (one in particular) weren’t very nice.

It is no wonder that The Great Gatsby remains a classic, more because of the themes it displays rather than the content. The Great Gatsby was the symbol of how the American Dream is not what it is cracked up to be. It shows that we don’t really know the people we are around and the people we love. Also, the book connects with nostalgic teenagers as it tackles social class structures as well as what it means to be young and reckless.

I am glad to have finally read The Great Gatsby, but it was not what I was expecting and it didn’t live up to the hype.