Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: When the Sax Man Plays: Part 1 - Making It by Yvonne Marrs

When the Sax Man Plays is a story about a young music tutor who finds himself forced to put together a band in order to compete in a talent contest. He puts together a group of unlikely characters and they find out that they can perform surprisingly well.

The strength of this book is its readability, written in a flowing style with always enough hint of what is to come to ensure the reader quickly progresses through the book, there is a constant temptation to take a quick peek at the last page to see what will happen.

The characters here are very distinct too and quite likeable, enough to want to read more about them in Part 2, however, for readers who enjoy richly developed characters this book falls a little short as what we discover about them is conveyed in rather too brief a fashion. Similarly, although the plot is engaging it is only the bare bones that are relayed to the reader and certain incidents are described in a slightly hackneyed style.

Even taking into account its faults, When The Sax Man Plays has a certain appeal that is difficult to put one's finger on; maybe it is a certain raw talent from this first-time author which mirrors the fresh, unsophisticated style of her character's music.

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I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy an easy read with a good story. I would also encourage readers who like something a little different from the best-seller style to try this book and support the author so that Part 2 materialises.

Score: 6/10

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Books to be Reviewed: The Seven Gifts That Came To Earth by John Mellor

Thanks to John Mellor for sending me a copy of his book, The Seven Gifts That Came To Earth, for reviewing. This is a story of a boy, charged by an Angel, to deliver seven gifts to earth, but first he must discover what they are.

"Seven precious gifts are bestowed on the Earth but not revealed. A young boy is charged with finding them."

"The singer emerged and his music raged across the land, a wild, swirling cloud of chords, laying waste like locusts to all that was soulless before it."

"I come not to bring peace, he said."

A review will soon follow here, until then readers can order a copy on John's website; The Seven Gifts.

Book Review: The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer

The Castle in the Forest is a semi-fictional history of Adolf Hitler's family and upbringing, narrated by a minor devil who had the responsibility of influencing events to bring out the worst in the young Adolf to mold him into an instrument of evil.

The premise of the story is intriguing and the early chapters draw the reader into a fascinating, but sordid history of the Hitler family with a literary, but readable style which, together with the innate fascination of the subject, turn this into something of a page-turner quite early on. However, at some, hard-to-pinpoint, stage the tale loses its way, as if the author lost his train of thought.

At two points the fanciful fiction of how Adolf Hitler became evil digresses to the point of irrelevance; once when the narrator rambles on about his role in Russia and for a second time where over 100 pages are devoted to Adolf's father's bee-keeping activities which draw the reader to create parallels with concentration camps but is then told that this is far to simple and explanation - why then make such a point of it?

These failing aside, Norman Mailer succeeds in weaving a picture of a child inherently evil, an evil nurtured by devils and his father's behaviour, with acts of coprophelia, sexual deviance, carelessness and domination to give the reader what they expect. What the reader does not expect, though, is such a weak ending whereby the story is wrapped up in a hurry, just at the point where Hitler is about to exhibit the results of his upbringing; a very unsatisfying conclusion that seemed to result from the author losing interest in the tale.


Whilst The Castle in the Forest is a very readable book and contains some interesting ideas, ultimately it is a real disappointment. Those interested in Adolf Hitler will certainly find something of interest here and anyone who enjoys thought-provoking stories will find some interesting ideas on the nature of evil, but those who wish to read a well-rounded tale will need to look elsewhere.

Score: 6/10