Saturday, 24 September 2016

August's Reads

Best talk about the books I read in August before September actually runs out...

Translation of love not pictured
Right August was spent decorating all of the hallway and most of the living room. I do still need to finish off two walls. I could fill up this blog post with excuses of why I haven't finished painting my living room but by the time I had done that I could have actually moved all of the heavy furniture and slapped paint across the wall. But, I have been revised my novel too...getting back into the groovy.

In August I munched my way through three novels and a play. The novels were all great and the reading the play just made me want to see the play more than anything else.

Translation of Love - Lynne Kutsukake
This debut novel is impressive, exploring the cultural clashes in occupied Japan after WWII. You can read my review here.

The Good Guy - Susan Beale
This novel is Richard Yates meets Mad Men so obviously I loved it. Beale looks at the push and pull as society changes after the war where people have more freedoms and how this can cripple lives. Will be writing a review very soon.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling
I'm not going to reveal any of the plot so you don't need to look away but all I can say is that it was good to be back in the Harry Potter universe. I now really really want to see the play as the set direction sounds amazing.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August - Claire North
Loved Time Traveler's Wife? Or even Doctor Who with all of its wibbly wobbly timey wimey bits?
Then you'll love this - this has been recommended to me many times and I now know why - wished I had read it sooner. One thing I've noticed about time travel books is that the protagonist always seems to be male. Must look out for a book where the main character is a woman or alternatively, write one!

Right a question for you (one reader)... do you Instagram? If yes, leave your username in the comments and I will follow you.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Book Review: The Translation of Love

The Translation of Love
By Lynne Kutsukake
ISBN: 9781784161149
Published by Black Swan
Available in paperback and ebook

Lynne Kutsukake's debut novel, The Translation of Love is a powerful story of cultural and generational clashes

After World War Two, during the American occupation, the citizens of Japan are encouraged to write to General MacArthur if they have a problem. Day after day letters arrive begging for help, offering their services.

Kutsukake explores the bewilderment after WWII with America bring democracy and a new way of life. There is the push and pull between tradition and the new expected ways of society. There are characters who are finding it hard to adjust to the 'American' way of life while there are others who have been repatriated, forced out of their adopted country and back to Japan who need to adjust to the Japanese style of life. Cultural barriers  created conflict and tension between the characters.

Fumi, 12, wants to find her sister who hasn't returned home in a long time. Her sister became a dancer in a club, dancing for the American soldiers,  bringing back money and food but slowly the time between visits became infrequent until she stopped coming. All Fumi wants is her sister to come home, her father to own his bookshop once more and for them to be a proper family. She writes a letter to General MacArthur begging for his help. Weeks pass, and Fumi decides to take matters into her own hands...

This is a book about loss - a delicate and quiet type of loss, lingering under the surface as the characters pretend to embrace change. There is the loss of friends, family, a dying culture and customs and a loss of belonging. the unknown has infiltrated the lives of both American soldiers and the population of Japan.

The Translation of Love is an impressive read that not only gripped me with the plot but also taught be more about the occupation of Japan after WWII. This book is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy from the publisher.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Welcome to Procrastination Station

Welcome to procrastination station – offering more ways to avoid writing that novel.

I haven’t really been writing recently
I have been thinking about writing so that counts
I have submitted a short story here and there so that counts
I have been making notes for redrafting chapter 27 so that definitely counts.

I’ve been reading and there’s a stack of books on my desk which are all screaming out for reviews – some of them are great reads so I shouldn’t really be sitting around ignoring them when I could be telling you about them.

I have been procrastinating by painting rooms with the majority of the paint on the walls but splashes on the carpet, on clothes, on the sofa (oops) and in my hair - anything to banish the peachy-magnolia walls. I’ve been taking down shelves that look so 1990s and not the good stuff from the 90s. Filling holes, sanding back, and painting and painting and painting. Falling off a ladder, and dragging the already broken blind down with me.

Baking, eating, and going to the gym, burying myself with work, enjoying long baths until my hands are wrinkled, going to a festival at Fulham Palace, enjoying seeing friends. I’m doing all of this to keep busy and take my mind off things as it has a tendency to wander. A couple of weeks ago would have been my wedding anniversary. Nowadays it all feels like the previous year happened to someone else but the other week was quite sad. I kept painting though. The place feels fresher, and I like the way the light shines differently in the room.

Today, four years ago, I would have been on the maid of the mist, getting soaked by Niagara Falls, and drowning my camera with spray from the falls. So keeping busy is the number one thing at the moment – kick start this blog with some scrummy reviews, catch up with some reading. I have also managed to rewrite chapter 27 from scratch in different notebooks and bits of paper so I need to fit it all together and see if it works as a chapter.

Also binge-listening to my favourite band’s* new song – looking forward to their new album.

*but somehow I own the CD cover for the first album but no longer the CD…

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Book Review: Moonstone

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

By Sjón
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Publishing by Sceptre
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Sometimes you request a book for review based on the author's reputation (Sjón in big business) or even the front cover (and this book has a very atmospheric cover) but for me, I picked this book because of the location as one of my many plans in life is to head to Iceland - the geoogy of the place makes it feel mythical and mysterious which also adds to this novel.

Set in 1918 in Reykjavik, Sjón's incredible novel, Moonstone tells the story of 16 year old Máni who seeks to find his place in society on an island which is on the brink of change. The Spanish flu rages war through the city, changing the heart of the community. He is rebellious, unable to find common ground with the people around him as he hides in the shadows out of sight, and is at odds with society's expectations.

Máni is an outsider who prefers to enjoy going to the cinema rather than interact with reality, with a passion for surrealist films like Les Vampires. He has lost his parents and lives with a distant aunt who doesn't pay him much interest and spends all of his money at the cinema. His film addicition is paid for by sleeping with men, down dark alleys, out on the barren landscape, trying to escape the watchful eyes of society. While sleeping he dreams about the films, threading these into his own life.

For me, Iceland is the main character with ash bellowing from the volcano, changing the landscape into a dream like place, the dramatic cliffs and an ash cloud plunging the island into darkness, tucked away from the Great War but threatened by the flu. Iceland is going through a major change internally and also trying to find its place after independence. Like Máni, Iceland is like an outsider, watching events as a spectator. Moonstone sees both characters become part of the action, with Máni helping at the hospital was the flu spreads around the city, and Island become a more key player.

This short novel tells of clash of life and death, reality and imagination battle for dominance and where personal isolation comes up against the island’s isolation, both struggling to find a place in the world. Moonstone packs a big punch. 

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Book Review: Martini Henry

Martini Henry
By Sara Crowe
Published by Transworld
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Cross between Adrian Mole and a younger version of Bridget Jones's diary, Martini Henry, Sara Crowe's witty second novel, tells the story of Sue Bowl as she tries to find her place in the world.

Sue is only 18 years old but thinks she has life sussed and knows exactly what will happen in her life - she will inherit her aunt's house, she has a boyfriend and she wants to be an epic writer. Yet reality seems to get in her way...

Having been on a writing course in Crete, she is called back to England as her stepmother is having a baby. Leaving behind her fellow students and an idyllic spot on the beach, she rushes back to be with her family. Back at home, living in a crumbling stately home with her aunt and lodgers, Sue is waiting around for her life to begin.

Yet, she soon discovers that for her life to begin she must take the first step. The glitzy life she imagines is just out of reach so she must embark on an adventure to get to her imagined life. She is determined to get an internship at the local newspaper and while on this quest ends up working as a waitress, complicating her love life and also becomes tangled up with finding out about the history of her aunt's home. The reader follows Sue on her mishaps as she forges a path through life's wobbles as she soon realises that reality is much harder than she first thought. Yet at no point in the novel does she become cynical and jaded - she is still optimist and positive as she deals with whatever life throws at her.

Written in the form of a diary and letters, there are also extracts from a biography of London Taylor who in the Victorian age worked in the home that Sue shares with her aunt. Both characters are trying to find a place in society and both are finding that the things they are doing doesn't necessarily fit with society's expectations.

This is a charming coming of age novel, full of funny antics and also times where you just want to shout at Sue to grow up and to face reality.

You can buy Martini Henry from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy by the publisher.