The Goddess Experience, by Gisèle Scanlon

The Goddess Experience is firstly a very beautiful book. The simple and elegant dustcover hides a metallic gold hardcover with delicate birds, while the first pages reveal how richly illustrated the book is. Each page is a riot of colour, filled with both moody ink illustrations and collaged images.

Apart from aesthetics, the actual book is pretty good too. It takes the form of a haphazard notebook, charting the writer’s trip through Paris, while grappling with notions of style, luxury, and our addiction to brands. The focus then moves from her trip, and we get a look into some of the know-how that Scanlon has picked up from years of working in the fashion industry. Gisèle devotes a few pages to prominent figures in both fashion and art as she interviews them with regard to what they believe is luxury, and what they think makes them happy. The writer also discusses different European cities with regard to where to stay, where to eat, and where to shop.

While the book does not follow a consistent format or style, this does not impede its worth: it is in no way a flaw. It seems rather that the jumpy layout adds to the feeling of it being the writer’s notebook: she covers different topics when the whim takes her.

Overall: A beautiful, richly illustrated but also engaging book. Perfect as a gift to anyone interested in style.

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Sea Kayak Navigation (2nd Edition), by Franco Ferrero

I haven’t seen the first edition, so I can’t say whether version two is any better or worse, but I must say I like it. This book is clear and concise, packing a lot of useful information into a rather slim volume. The book feels a little like a good quality school textbook, with glossy paper and useful diagrams. While perhaps not the most engaging of reads it certainly serves its purpose and hopefully will improve the navigational competence of an applied reader.

While many kayaking related books can be read for the enjoyment, this really is a practical handbook. No unnecessary frills are added, so it really would only appeal to a very niche market.

Overall: it does what it says on the tin, and isn’t particularly eloquent… but then again, who is going to buy a “practical manual” on sea kayak navigation for its prose?

After the Snow, by S.D. Crockett

Global warming has been the catalyst for a number of apocalyptic books and films. While some foresee the planet heating up, others such as The Day After Tomorrow choosing instead to freeze over the Earth due to ocean currents packing it in. While dystopia caused by natural disasters are popular at the moment, another oddly-enjoyed theme is the collapse or transformation of society to bring around a malfunctioning, diseased, scary (and usually totalitarian) world. This odd genre that the human race inexplicably loves usually involves heartbreak, fear, and cold desolation and hopelessness. This book grabs the screwed-up seas, the controlling and corrupt society, and adds an odd, isolated little kid to the mix.

After the Snow is set in a dystopian future, after the onset of another ice-age. The story opens with the narrator, Willo, abandoned and alone after his family disappears. The story and setting are slowly revealed in the unusual voice of Willo: his grammar and syntax are reminiscent of someone who has only been taught basic English. This style fits well with the setting, reflecting the reclusiveness of his upbringing and the lack of importance placed on academia. However, grammar was standardised and is enforced for a reason: it makes the reading experience much more enjoyable and adds clarity and sense. After around fifteen pages of Willo’s misuse of verbs your head starts to spin and you begin to dislike the child you should be flooded with pity for. It just gets a bit annoying.

However, much like a kind person with an dog-ugly face, you can learn to see past the books (intentional) flaws and feel the story. I think Willo’s lack of education could have been portrayed less annoyingly  in a different way, perhaps in the dialogue between him and his psychic dog-skull hat (that was weird too, I must admit).

It wasn’t really my kind of book, and even though it claims in the blurb on the back that it’s aiming to hit the same audience as The Hunger Games appeal to, the way in which the  harrowing story is presented seems a little juvenile; perhaps this endears some to it.

Overall: A great story, presented in an odd style that’s a little Marmitesque: you may love it or hate it, but contrary to popular belief it will leave most people shrugging and saying “meh”.