Tag Archives: Novel

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka – my review

Overview (via Goodreads):

“Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukranian divorcee. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.”
When their recently-widowed father announces he plans to remarry, sisters Vera and Nadezhda realise they must put aside a lifetime of feuding in order to save him. His new love is a voluptuous gold-digger from the Ukraine half his age, with a proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, who stops at nothing in her single-minded pursuit of the luxurious Western lifestyle she dreams of. But the old man, too, is pursuing his eccentric dreams – and writing a history of tractors in Ukrainian.
 
A wise, tender and deeply funny novel about families, the belated healing of old wounds,the trials and consolations of old age and – really – about the legacy of Europe’s history over the last fifty years.


Product details (via Goodreads):
By Marina Lewycka
Paperback
Published 2012 by Fig Tree (first published 2005)
ISBN: 0241961823 (ISBN13: 9780241961827)

Click here for  Goodreads

My opinion:

This book was offered to me last Christmas. I had never heard about the author or any of her books. After reading the synopsis I thought this could be a funny story.
The story is about one family… sometimes it seems like a quite dysfunctional family.
As you can read above, after the mother died, the father falls in love again with a much younger woman. And that woman means trouble.
While we read about the present, we can also read about the past of the family, and the roots of the two Ukrainian sisters who try to help their father with the recent acquired girlfriend (the “gold-digger”). The sisters, Vera and Nadia, who usually don’t get along so well, have to unit against the new common enemy, since their father, Nikolai, is too in love to see what’s happening, thinking that Valentina is perfect and she doesn’t do anything with a bad intention. He seems like a teenager falling in love for the first time and writing love poems to the loved one. Valentina, the girlfriend, could really make me feel angry.

And when I thought “but why does the book have such a title?!”, there it started, the short history about tractors in Ukrainian, with the communism and exploitation of Ukrainian people and land as background, written by the father, who was an engineer. The jumping from present to past, to present again isn’t confusing at all, since it’s really well made. And the past memories are really well constructed, like the really memories of a real person.

I don’t think the book was totally hilarious like I thought it would be when I read the synopsis. It had funny part but also sad parts. The characters are well constructed and real, and that was one of the best things about the book.

I like the way the author wrote, with the necessary dialogs and the amazing descriptions, which I loved so much. That really kept me reading.

But sometimes it seemed like I read it before, all the problems, the drama, the situations. I can’t say it’s original; I feel the opposite, it’s just like many other novels, so it got me bored from time to time.
It’s a story about love, envy, greed and forgiveness.

 

My rating:

 

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling – my review

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Overview (via Goodreads):

A BIG NOVEL ABOUT A SMALL TOWN …

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils … Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations.

 
Product details (via Goodreads):
Hardcover
503 pages
ISBN: 0316228532 (ISBN13: 9780316228534)
Edition language: English
Original title: The Casual Vacancy 
My opinion:
I’ve heard different opinions about this book, and for different reasons.
Of course you can’t expect that this book is something like the Harry Potter sequel, but I guess some of us did. They can’t be blamed, since we’ve grown up reading Harry Potter.
I tried to keep an open mind. I knew this book would be different, so I couldn’t take the risk of making comparisons. To be honest, most of the times I forgot I was reading a book by J.K Rowling. I got used to her writing and fantasy stories with her previous books.
 
She is a great writer, and I think most people will agree with me, either they like this new book or not. She gives the right details, she can develop a story, she can built the characters really well.
 
I didn’t love the book, but I didn’t hate it. I don’t think it’s a light reading, specially because you have lots of characters and a main plot with several different stories that connect with the main plot, and sometimes it was a bit confusing, specially in the beginning, when I didn’t connect the names of the characters with their roles in the story.
 
It was an interesting story, but sometimes I would force myself to keep reading instead of jumping to the next chapter. I guess the chapters I liked the most are the ones with the characters I like the most.
 
I admit I read it because I was carried away by the general curiosity. I’m not disappointed, since I tried no to create any expectations after the opinions I heard and read about this book. I think that if I was expecting something like Harry Potter I wouldn’t be able to finish this book. When people say that it’s totally different… well, it really is; not a since line of fantasy and/or magical world. 
 
Not a “must read”, in my opinion. If you like the way she writes and you don’t mind reading about something totally different from a fantasy, magical world with characters that we knew for so long, I can recommend this to you. Not a bad reading after all. But if you think that J.K. Rowling will lose her magic with a “real story” style, with crude language, drugs, schemes and political issues, love and betrayal… well, I don’t think it’s a good idea if you try to read this.

I guess I could give it only two stars in my rating, but the way she writes and some parts of the plot made it interesting. Sometimes I would enjoy the story, but other times it would get really boring. It was hard to write this review… I didn’t know what to think when I finished reading the book. 

I chose three stars because of her solid writing, the way the she develops the story, with the different characters and different lives, and the way she builds each character. I’m not excited about this book, but I don’t hate it. I’m somewhat happy I finished reading this and I can read something different, even if I had a nice time reading it most of the time.
My rating:

Incendiary by Chris Cleave – My review

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Overview (from Barnes & Noble):
 
I am a woman built upon the wreckage of myself.
In an emotionally raw voice alive with grief, compassion, and startling humor, a woman mourns the loss of her husband and son at the hands of one of history’s most notorious criminals. And in appealing to their executioner, she reveals the desperate sadness of a broken heart and a working-class life blown apart.
 
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Product Details (Barnes & Noble)
ISBN-13: 9781451618495
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 1/11/2011
Edition description: Book Club Readers Edition
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)


My opinion:

To start I’d like to say that I liked the book, but I need to say something before jumping to my opinion more specifically.
 
The book is a letter to Osama Bin Laden written by a woman who, according to herself, is not very good with words and writing. But I think the way Cleave wrote the story (I mean, the way the character supposedly writes) is a bit exaggerated. I think she didn’t have to write things perfectly, but the way she writes… people don’t write like that. Maybe it’s a problem with the Portuguese version, and it makes sense in the English version, but really, in Portuguese that doesn’t sound right. She can spell all the words correctly but she can’t use and commas and other punctuation marks?! I don’t know how it is in the English version, but someone who doesn’t know how to used the punctuation marks doesn’t get the spelling all right… If some commas were used in a wrong part of the sentence, if some spelling was wrong, well, that would be more like the real thing. I don’t know is this was on purpose, maybe it was, but for me it doesn’t make sense. Maybe I’m just over-thinking about this detail.
I’ll say it again: I’m writing about what I read in the Portuguese version. I don’t know what changes or what adaptations were made from the English one. Maybe the English version makes sense. To be honest, I’m curious about it. I think I’ll try to look for an English version just to read a little bit.
 
But this is just a detail that was on my mind while reading the book and if some of you read the English version, can you please tell me if you think differently? 
 
The story itself is kind of sad, sometimes with a glimpse of happiness, sometimes totally depressive. Most of the times I can felt a dark sense of humor in the words I read.
I liked it. Not one of those books that I’ll read again and again, but I enjoyed reading it. I love the way the author makes descriptions and I think Cleave is a brilliant writer. I can’t deny, I think it’s a powerful story. We read about a woman who has to be strong enough to continue living after her husband and son died on a terrorist attack. She lives with the constant presence of that day, the incident, the flames, and of course the presence of her beloved son.
We can read about her life while she’s living a post-traumatic stress and grief period, which becomes so real because the way Cleave tells us this story. That woman, the main character, is  believable in her grief, and this is what I loved the most about this book.
I wasn’t expecting that ending and it kind of disappointed me. I think I was hoping for something else.
I loved Little Bee, the first book I read from this author, and that’s why I decided to read this one. Little Bee is one of my favorite books. But this book is different. If you read Little Bee and liked it, don’t assume you’ll feel the same way about Incendiary. It’s impossible for me to compare them because it’s two totally different stories with different powerful messages.
I liked this one but not as much as I liked Little Bee.
 
My rating:
 

Twelve days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley – My review

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Overview (Barnes & Noble)
 
Christmas has always been a sad time for young widow Holly Brown, so when she’s asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire moors, the opportunity to hide herself away is irresistible – the perfect excuse to forget about the festivities Sculptor Jude Martland is determined that this year there will be no Christmas after his brother ran off with his fiancée. He’s keen to avoid the family home. However, he will have to return by the twelfth night of the festivities, when the hamlet of Little Mumming hold their historic festivities and all of his family are required to attend.Meanwhile, Holly is finding that if she wants to avoid Christmas, she has come to the wrong place. When Jude unexpectedly returns on Christmas Eve he is far from delighted to discover that Holly seems to be holding the very family party he had hoped to avoid.Suddenly, the blizzards come out of nowhere and the whole village is snowed in. With no escape, Holly and Jude get much more than they bargained for – it looks like the twelve days of Christmas are going to be very interesting indeed!
 
Product Details (Barnes & Noble)

 

ISBN-13: 9780007412297
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/28/2010
Sold by: Harper Collins UK
Pages: 416
Click here for Goodreads.com
My opinion:

 

I really enjoyed reading this book. I don’t know if it’s because it’s almost Christmas but it felt so good coming home after work and just sit on the sofa with a blanket and a hot coffee while reading this book.
Holly Brown, the main character of the book, is a chef who also does house-sitting (and takes care of the animals). She was raised by her grandparents, mainly her grandma.
She lost some important people during the years and because of that and because of the education her grandma gave her, she sees no point in celebrating Christmas anymore.
So she goes to this big house to take care of the animals and look after the house while the owner, a man named Jude, is away and she ends up meeting people from the village, including Jude’s family. She loves the family but she doesn’t really like him when they speak on the phone, and everything she does for the others (Jude’s family) is because they develop a kind of special relationship.
And we can’t forget her grandma’s diaries, which she took to the house, expecting to have some time to relax and read them all. That diary brings a big mystery that Holly will try to unveil the secret.
It’s a good book; not brilliant. I think this was a good time to read it because it helped me getting into the Christmas spirit. While I imagined the cold snow that is described, I felt comfortable in my house, nice and warm.

 

I think it has too much “have to plan this”, “have to cook that”, “have to clean whatever” and sometimes that can kind of make the reader loose the story behind it.

 

Another thing is that the beginning made me feel really interested in the story, but the ending wasn’t a big surprise. Everything the author gave us in the beginning, with the past details of Holly’s life and everything, was lost in the middle of the book and the ending was, in my opinion, a little bit “naked”. But, in general, I liked it.

 

 
My rating 

 

(and because it made me feel the Christmas spirit):
 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne – My review

From Goodreads:

 
Berlin 1942
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
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Product Details (from B&N)

  • ISBN-13: 9780385751537
  • Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
  • Publication date: 10/23/2007
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.55 (d)

My opinion:
I read this book in less than 48 hours last year. It’s a little book, that can be read really easily. 
Bruno is an innocence little boy who lived in Auschwitz with his family. His father served as a commandant for the concentration camp. The little boy was forced to leave his best friends. In his new home he feels lonely until he meets another boy with the same, named Schumuel, who become his only friend. But Bruno and Schumuel, even if they have a lot in common, live in opposite sides of the fence and that will led their friendship towards devastating consequences.
The plot made me read the book from the first page to the last almost without breathing. I loved the connection with historical facts and I loved little Bruno and the way his friendship with Schumuel grows every day. Their conversations have the innocence, ideals and thoughts of the children. In the end, with the unexpected twist, I felt tears on my eyes. It’s a really beautiful book.
I didn’t watch the movie but I don’t really want to. Usually movies ruin the book. I prefer to read the story, image the characters and scenarios. I think I couldn’t feel all the emotions I felt while reading the book if I watched the movie instead.

My rating: