Thursday, 29 September 2016

Book Review: The Good Guy

The Good Guy

By Susan Beale
Published by John Murray
Available in Hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Susan Beale's debut novel, The Good Guy, is one of those books that you can't put down once you start. The characters are compelling, the time period is interesting, the style of writing lures you into the plot and makes you care about the characters, EVERYTHING is great.

I'm getting carried away. Lets start at the beginning...

This is the story of love, marriage and self deception in suburban New England in the 1960s. Ted is a car-tyre salesman who takes a promotion and gets alot of admiration from his colleagues, success is an addiction and he wants to be the best. His wife, Abigail, is at home with their baby but she craves being at college, learning and earning a wage. Beale creates these two characters, and alternates between their viewpoints, showing their frustrations with the life they are expected to live against the life that they both crave.

After a business dinner, Ted meets Penny, falling in love with her and her carefree attitude to life. He creates himself a more successful past, creating a new life when he is with Penny. The deception and tension builds as Ted falls deeper into their alternative life he is building. His good intentions and self-deception build, pushing all three characters to the extreme.

The Good Guy is a combination of Mad Med and Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road where society is changing and evolving and the characters are caught between the older and newer generation. This push and pull not only forms relationships, bringing people together in this interesting time period but also ripping apart families when people start forming regrets and resentment.

Beale explores the pressure to conform to social convention where Ted and Abigail are caught in the middle of the change. People are shunning the way of life led by their parents, wanting to break away. The prosperity of the post-WWII is changing society with new freedoms but gender roles remain clear and there are strict morals at the core. Society's expectations have yet to catch up with these new freedoms and each generation is trying to find their way. The Good Guy doesn't just tell the coming of age story of Abigail and Ted but also of a new America, on the cusp of change.

Fans of Mad Men, Revolutionary Road and Raymond Carver will love this book. This book is fantastic, either read it now or buy it in paperback as this really is a book you don't want to miss. You can buy a copy of The Good Guy from your favourite bookshop.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy.

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…