Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A book a week in 2010: One Day by David Nicholls

Ah, the late 80s and early 90s. Days of vim and vigour. Of youth, fun and staying out past my bedtime. Oh the memories... *sighs*.

So, where was I?

Oh, that's right. One Day by David Nicholls. He of Starter for Ten fame. You know. The University-Challenge-in-the-80s story that was made into a film staring James McAvoy.

One Day charts the lives, loves and adventures of two friends from university: Emma and Dexter. Nicholls takes you back to visit them each year. Over a period of 20 years, we see them live their lives as friends, but always with the sense of 'what if...' between them.

Neither Emma or Dexter are perfect. Nicholls is a master of painting a warts-and-all picture of personality. He's also a master of recreating moments in time. My favourite scenes remind me of when I first moved to London in the early nineties and lived near Brixton.

I loved this book. If you're from this era, I have a feeling you will too. But others might not have quite so much fun. It could all be a little bit 'so what?'

And despite what I've suggested, it's not all rock and roll as there's a shock for you towards the end.

I gather Anne Hathaway has been cast in the movie adaptation, about to start filming. I'm not sure I approve, but let's give her a chance. Hope there aren't any Rene Zellweger Bridget Jones' style accents going on.

Monday, 14 June 2010

A book a week in 2010: Dark Fire by C J Sansom

My friend @danether originally recommended C J Sansom to me. Not usually a fan of historical or crime fiction, I was a bit sniffy, but he was right to suggest I try.

Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer. One time favourite of Thomas Cromwell, he finds himself embroiled in yet another mystery, surrounding the whereabouts of a mystical substance, Dark Fire, that is rumoured to be a terrible weapon, and one that Henry VIII is determined to own.

He finds his fate inextricably linked to Cromwell as the investigation criss-crosses London in a race against time: there are others that want to possess the dark fire and they will do anything - and kill anyone - to find it.

Sansom artfully recreates the sounds, smells and sights of sixteenth century London, skilfully weaving historical details around strong characterisations of historical and fictional people.

This is one of a series of five Shardlake mysteries. Recommended.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A book a week in 2010: Cityboy by Geraint Anderson

Cityboy is machismo on a grand scale. It stars epic amounts of alcohol and drug consumption, completely unfettered greed, selling your soul and complete and utter burnout. Articulated by an insider who got out.

Geraint Anderson worked in the City for 12 years. He got out before he burned out. Although, by his own admission, he turned into a monster and subsequently "needed to engage in 12 years' of repentance."

The writing is dodgy. Anderson chronicles everything that is wrong with the City in his own unique colloquial city-speak. This book is based on the column he wrote for the now defunct thelondonpaper.

Verdict: read this and weep. Literary fiction it ain't. Riveting, horrifying, compelling it is. If nothing changes from this account, we are doomed to bail out the excesses of the industry for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A book a week in 2010: 'Money Magic' by Alvin Hall

Do you know, I've never read a Quick Read? That's a bit of a poor show for someone who's worked in the book industry for 17 odd years (and yes, I am older than I look).

So I've tried to rectify this with the latest in the 'book a week in 2010' series.

Money Magic is one of this year's batch of Quick Reads: short books by top authors designed to encourage reading across a wide range of people.

It's written by Alvin Hall, one of television's higher profile money experts. A staple of breakfast TV and early evening magazine show sofas.

It distills the essence of what he does: simple, commonsense advice on how to manage your money. Most people will have been at a point when they have built up debt across credit cards, overdrafts and loans. Alvin gives you a gentle kick up the backside by suggesting you come to terms with your spending habits, acknowledge the points at which you succumb to temptation and get that bit of plastic out, and put in place some realistic plans to help prevent those situations arising.

It's not rocket science, but it gave me pause for thought as to bad habits I get into and how I ignore them on a daily basis. There is a risk it could come across as preaching, but Alvin manages to (just) avoid this as he speaks from personal experience, having gone through - and survived - extreme levels of debt himself.

All in all, a very timely and accessible Quick Read. I really hope this reaches a wide market. There's plenty of people who could do with this book. Priced at £1.99 , there's no excuse; go get your copy now.

You can listen to a podcast of Alvin Hall discussing Money Magic on the Quick Reads website.