Sunday, 13 March 2016

Anhedonia by Nico Reznick / Villa Normandie by Kevin Doherty / Open And Read by James P Burns III

Anhedonia by Nico Reznick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my Top Ten Books for IndiePrideDay 2016.
One of my Top Ten Books of 2016.

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I downloaded a copy of Anhedonia by Nico Reznick when I noticed it mentioned on Twitter in a #TuesdayBookBlog promotion. That was last year and I am kicking myself for not getting around to reading it sooner. I loved every minute of Anhedonia!

Reznick has created a wonderfully flawed and vulnerable lead character in Alex. Unable to experience any form of emotion, his only release is to tap into the intense grief of recently bereaved women, inventing temporary personas in order to trick them into sleeping with him. That sentence makes Alex sound like a hateful person, but don't let his actions put you off this novel because he is far more complex than a single compulsion. Instead add in a best friend that he doesn't really like, a family with whom he struggles to communicate, a job he despises, and an amazingly darkly portrayed Cotswolds setting that never once comes close to its famed chocolate box idyll.

Narrating his own story, Alex occasionally slips away from What Happened Back Then to give us a glimpse of himself as the author of his tale. I thought this an excellent device, especially for observations such as the potential heartbreak of apostrophe placement. Reznick has a poet's eye for both detail and language so her scenes are alive with unexpected observation. Even mundane settings become interesting and the bizarre dream sequences are great fun. I enjoyed the nods to influences such as Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and the narrative style sometimes led me to wonder if Alex was named for A Clockwork Orange.

A fascinating storyline peopled with thoroughly believable characters, set on the darker side of life and with plenty of just my kind of black humour made this a perfect book for me. I have already downloaded Reznick's first volume of poetry and fervently hope that she will write another novel too.

Villa Normandie by Kevin Doherty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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I received a copy of Villa Normandie by Kevin Doherty from Endeavour Press to read ahead of their virtual Historical Fiction Festival in April.

Villa Normandie is set in a small town in Occupied France during 1944. The tide of war is turning in favour of the Allies, but German troops are still resolutely in control of Caillons. Doherty shows the horrors of this occupation through many eyes, French and German, civilian and soldier, as well as portraying how the instinct for self-preservation pits many of Caillons' residents against each other. He crams a lot into this relatively short novel, cataloguing many atrocities that I am sure must have been committed in real life, so there is always plenty of action, but I often felt this was at the expense of genuine character creation. It was difficult to empathise with many of the large cast several of whom came across to me as generic stereotypes. I didn't think the ultra-convenient 'happy ending' wrap up in the final chapter was convincing either.

As a light wartime adventure, Villa Normandie frequently has tense and exciting moments, but I would have preferred to read a deeper treatment of this subject in order to truly understand why these people acted as they did under such extreme circumstances.

Open and Read by James P. Burns III
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Open And Read by James P Burns III was recommended to me by fellow book blogger Olivia Savannah. The book is a poetry collection, but one with a difference as each of the hundred short poems, plus a final longer work, is a motivational composition themed around various positive thinking aspects. Titles such as Life Is Not Fair and You Can't Please Everyone mean that there is no need to try and 'understand' the poetry, each one's meaning is clear and there is often an overlap between poems which helps to reinforce the book's overall message. For an American book there is surprisingly little religion and the focus is very much on individual self-belief.

Burns intends for Open And Read to be dipped into on days when its reader is feeling discouraged or hard-done-by. Read in this way, I can see how it could provide a useful burst of encouragement. I, of course, read it from cover to cover in an afternoon which provided a different but also interesting experience more akin to reading an epic poem. All the individual short poems share the same rhyming and rhythmic structure so they easily flow one into the next and I only rarely noticed jarring word choices. If you're into motivational verse and writings or have a friend who could use a lift, I would definitely suggest Open And Read as a potentially successful purchase.

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1 comment:

  1. Anhedonia by Nico Reznick is currently free on Amazon for a limited time. Download it here: