Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Game

The Game by Leigh Forbes

I first met Leigh online via our blogs, then joined an online writing group, then met her in 'real life' a couple of times, then went walking up Cairngorm with her in deep snow on an unforgettable day last year. Of course I was going to read her Kindle novella!

I read it during a long train journey last week. Lovely little book, and thoroughly recomended. Cecile is resisting a proposition by charismatic actor Jean-Luc. She's sure he just wants to get her into bed for the conquest, whereas she won't sleep with anyone she's not in love with. He's determined to make her fall in love with him - as he has, for her, as we gradually begin to realise. Good old-fashioned love story. Looking forward to more by this author!

The Things We Do For Love

The Things We Do For Love by Imogen Parker 

This is the second book of a trilogy about a fictional Dorset seaside town, Kingshaven. I saw the author speak at an event last year and bought the whole trilogy. They're great books - they read like a soap opera. Took a bit of getting used to the frequent changes of view point and very short scenes, but once you get into the book I rather liked this style.

The town hotel, the Palace, is run by the King family. They are like the British royal family in miniature, with parallel lives, and this of course gives you clues as to what will happen. The first book of the trilogy covered the 50s and 60s; this book covers the 70s and 80s, and I'm currently reading the third.

Like the best soap operas, it's impossible to summarise the plot in a few words so I'm not going to try. What I love most about this book is the sense of era you get - lots of little references to songs in the charts, fashions, world events. Brilliant.

Friday, 13 July 2012

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian  by Marina Lewycka

One of those books which has had such a buzz about it, you know that sooner or later you must get round to reading it. I got the Kindle edition.

Nadia and her sister are trying to cope with their elderly, eccentric father who after being widowed, decides to marry a much younger, tarty woman Valentina who's obviously only after the money she thinks he has. When the marriage inevitably breaks down, the sisters scheme and plot to get Valentina out of their father's house, get him a divorce, get her deported back to Ukraine. Throughout the novel are extracts of their father's book - on tractors. And the back story of the family - their horrendous experiences during the war, and how they got out from behind the Iron Curtain to the west, is gradually revealed.

Well, it's a quirky book - don't think I've ever come across anything else where the main characters are Ukrainian - and I suspect that's partly why it did so well. I liked it though not as much as I thought I would. The most likeable character is the old man, for whom you mostly feel sorry. He's manipulated by his wife and then by his daughters, and the author doesn't grant him a lot of dignity, poor man. Valentina is a bit of a stereotype. At one point I thought she and Nadia were going to become friends despite it all but that didn't happen, disappointingly. Valentina has several men-friends on the go, but the ending was a bit predictable.

What I did like was the old man's obsession with writing about tractors, given all that was revealed about his and the Ukraine's past. A banal history of machines, when he could have been writing a wide ranging and tragic history of a people.

Shakespeare on Toast

Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal

Great title, isn't it? Tells you the book is easily digestible yet good for you. Got this book on a whim after seeing something about it in Writers' Forum (I think).

The book teaches you how to understand Shakespeare. Why did he write in poetry, what difference does the metre make and why does it change, what's with all the thees and thous, how does he still manage to direct actors four hundred years after his death?

It's a quick and enjoyable read. I've read some Shakespeare but never seen any acted. This, according to the book, is a mistake as of course the plays were originally intended to be seen and not read, and make far more sense on the stage than on the page. Nevertheless whether you are watching or reading Shakespeare, this book will certainly help you understand the meaning and how the Bard intended the plays to be performed.

Worth reading for anyone interested in language, whether or not you're especially a Shakespeare fan.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


Meltdown by Ben Elton

I think hubby bought this as a holiday read a couple of years back - been lurking on my TBR pile since. As with most of Elton's books, it was highly topical when written (in 2009) - covers the credit crunch, the cash for honours scandal, the MPs expenses scandal, the banking crises.

Jimmy and his mates are rich and successful - making money faster than they can spend it during the 90s and early noughties. But when the crunch comes, futures trader Jimmy loses his job and finds himself several million in debt. He and his wife have to learn how to do without a nanny and a cook, how to clean their own house, how to survive on just a few quid a week while also trying to find a way to resolve their debts. Jimmy's MP friend is caught up in the expenses scandal, his bank chairman friend is caught up in the banking crisis, his architect friend can't get any work and his best mate, easy going Robbo has lost all his family's money and died in a car crash. Things can't get any worse (but they do...)

This is a typical Ben Elton novel - some great one-liners, funny and well-observed, and reasonably fast-paced. The main character is likeable and you do root for him. The novel is a bit preachy in places - some scenes seem to be included so that the author can tell us his views on state education etc. Would be good as a beach read.