We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Secret Supper Club - Dana Bate

Title: The Secret Supper Club

Author: Dana Bate

Pages: 480

Publisher: Canvas

Source: Review copy from Corsair

Other: This book was previously released in the United States as The Girl's Guide to Love and Supper Clubs.

The Synopsis

If twenty-six-year-old Hannah Sugarman had her way, she'd be whipping up carrot cakes and running her culinary empire. Instead, she spends her hours cooking up papers on the financial crisis. It doesn't help that no one in her life takes her passion seriously - not even her boyfriend. 

When her relationship implodes, Hannah decides to jump-start her life by hosting a secret supper club out of her landlord's flat. Her underground operation presents some problems. Running an unlicensed restaurant out of someone's home is not, technically speaking, legal. 

As the success of Hannah's supper club grows, so do the number of secrets she is forced to keep. Can Hannah keep her pop-up restaurant underground? When mysterious guests turn up for dinner, can she handle the heat? Or will she have to step out of the kitchen? A charming romantic comedy, The Secret Supper Club is a story about finding yourself, fulfilling your dreams, and falling in love along the way.

The Review

It is incredibly hard to write about a book that you have thoroughly enjoyed. This is the case for me and The Secret Supper Club. I got it last week Tuesday, and was immediately sucked in by it. I started reading and read well into the night, and had I not had to be responsible and wake up for work early in the morning I would have read through the night so that I could finish this book. But alas, life gets in the way of reading as much as we want to. I read 120 pages that night, and another 150 the Wednesday night. Then finished it Thursday night. I absolutely loved this book, and it has been difficult picking up a book since, my expectations have just been so high.

The Secret Supper Club is the perfect book for just relaxing and unwinding with, it is the sort of book that if it were a film would be in the same category as 27 Dresses - a lovely Rom Com. The characters are so very lovable and so well developed that you feel as though you know them. Our heroine Hannah is so lovely and very likable and in a difficult situation that is incredibly easy to relate to. It is a situation that many find themselves in, and I for one find myself there now. You know how it is, you have a dream, but it is not a dream that is wildly supported because it is such a whimsical career dream that no one with a 'proper' job can understand why you would want to give up your good, safe job for something that can give you no certainty. You feel stifled and need to get out, but can't because you are scared, and if anything goes wrong you are on your own. This is the gist of Hannah's situation. 

Her life changes quite dramatically after she breaks up with her boyfriend, but that is when the adventure truly begins, with a Secret Supper Club and other activities that make this book a roller coaster ride of an adventure that has an array of delectable and delicious dishes that you wish you could be in the book to taste. I for one would like some of that honey ice cream.

If you are in the mood for an escape with a book that is quite real and easy to relate to and that may actually offer you insight into your own life, then The Secret Supper Club is the book for you. And as an added bonus there are several lovely recipes for you to test out. Do be warned though, you'll be snacking a lot whilst reading this book, the food mentioned and made in this story will have your mouth watering - so be prepared.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


I cannot believe that we are in the final month of the year. I want to wail and ask how on earth this happened so quickly, but there is no point. When you are busy time flies.

Now is the time of the year to examine the past 11 months and try to plan the next 12 months. Decide what were the best and worst moments and list what you're anticipating for 2013. It is slightly terrifying when we get to this time of the year, because you also have to evaluate how well you've managed to do the things that you set out to do or how badly you've failed.

At the end of June I did a round up of the first half of the year, so later in December I shall do a round up of the second half of the year. But for now, I am going to look back at the month of November and my reading progress.

November was a fairly average month for reading, taking into account how busy I have been I am pleased that I managed to read 4 books. I also bought numerous books, but that is the topic for another post.
I am quite pleased that I have exceeded my goal number of books from my Goodreads challenge. I cannot wait for my holiday to start so that I can read like crazy, because during the year it is a case of so many books so little time - as Frank Zappa said.

So I have lofty goals for December. I signed up for O at Delaisse's December readathon and so far I have not done too well, spent a bit too much time reading newspapers. Well I shall definitely be spending the rest of today finishing Kisses from Hell and trying my best to finish Rumpelstiltskin and other Grimm tales. I am planning an epic fairy tale post for next year. I am actually buzzing with ideas, there are just not enough hours in the day to get them written down and taking action on them.

Here's wishing you all a productive reading December. I'll be posting on my best and worst books of 2012 as well as taking Jamie's annual end of year survey and then letting you all know which books I am highly anticipating for 2013. Happy Sunday everyone!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Review coming soon: The Secret Supper Club

Hannah Sugarman is a modern day every girl who seems to have it all. She works for an influential think tank in Washington, lives in a great apartment with her high-achieving boyfriend, ans is poised for an academic career just like her famous parents. The only problem is that Hannah doesn't want any of it. What she wants is much simpler: to cook. 

When her relationship collapses, Hannah seizes the chance to start fresh and that means starting an underground supper club out of her new landlord's townhouse. Though wildly successful, her underground operation presents some problems. First, running an unlicensed restaurant out of someone's home is not, technically speaking, legal. And she might have forgotten to mention it to her landlord - who just happens to be running for local office...

On top of all this, Hannah is faced with various romantic prospects, all of which leave her confused, parents who don't think cooking is a career, as well as her own fears and doubts that threaten her dreams, 

A charming romantic comedy, The Secret Supper Club is  a story about finding yourself, fulfilling your dreams, and falling in love along the way. 

Review coming to a screen near you 6 December 2012. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Fated - Alyson Noel

Title: Fated

Author: Alyson Noel

Pages: 448

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Source: bought

Other: Book 1 in Soul Seekers Series

The Synopsis

Strange things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Fearing for her daughter's sanity, Daire's mother sends her to live with the grandmother she's never met, but who recognizes the visions for what they truly are—the call to her destiny as a Soul Seeker—one who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead.

There on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire sets out to harness the powers of her ancestral legacy, but it's when she meets Dace, the boy from her dreams, when things take an alarming turn. Forcing Daire to discover if Dace is the one guy she's meant to be with...or if he's allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy.

The Review

I will admit, I dove into this book without knowing very much about it. I find that it is a very liberating experience doing that - going into a book with no expectations. I am so very glad that I did that, as I was quite pleasantly surprised by this book. I'll be honest with you, Alyson Noel for me is one of those authors that I automatically have on my TBR list, despite not having read anything except a short story of hers before this. (I'll be reviewing Kisses from Hell shortly, and you can read about it there). I will also tell you, that after reading Fated, Alyson Noel has earned a spot on my favourite authors list. I have all the Immortals books, and will slowly be collecting her other books too, since her books are so well written. I am even more amazed when you look at the short period during publications, 2 books from the Soul Seekers per year, leaves us with the whole series in 2 years instead of waiting an impossibly long 4 years. I do wish that more authors could do this. But enough about my rambling, and gushing and onto the important part... what I thought of the book...

I found Fated intriguing from the very start. The way we are introduced to Daire and her ability, and how it makes her seem crazy, to how the rest of it pans out. It is a very compelling story. Aside from the story line, the elements of Shamanism and magic and spirit animals is very fascinating and so well described. Alyson's research certainly paid off. Everything is written so exceptionally well that you can imagine yourself in Daire's shoes as she discovers this whole new world and her talents. This book managed to re-awaken my inner anthropologist, so I'll definitely be getting a few mythology books to read up and review soon. There are the twins - Dace and Cade, and I am certain that they will make the story very interesting, considering the story of their origins.

This is a book that you have to read, so that I can one day write about Fated again and include spoilers, as there is just so much I want to say but can't, because I don't want to give anything away and ruin it for you.

And Something Extra

If you would like to see some photos that Alyson took whilst researching for this series, click here. I cannot tell you how impressed I am by both this book and  Alyson. I hope to one day also get the chance to do a Shamanism course and find out my spirit animal, and all the things described in this book, because life is just too filled with fascinating things that have to be experienced.

This book is definitely a great example of why reading is so much more than sitting still and processing words, it definitely supports the quote that says that the person who reads lives more lives than the person who doesn't.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

50 Shades of Ick

I am ashamed to say that I succumbed to the curiosity regarding the popularity of 50 shades of grey. It was just an abstract concept until I saw them in bookshops, and saw it was real, and I just had to know what the big deal was. I know that I am late to write about the 50 Shades trilogy, but better late than never, right?

Yes, I read all 3 books in a weekend. Yes, I had to know where it was going. I am only human. No, I was not hot and bothered. No, I didn't blush. I found these books rather tame. I had a good laugh whilst reading them, and really I don't see what the big deal was. I thought I was going to be hot and bothered and 50 shades of blushed, instead I was annoyed by Anastasia's limited vocabulary, and she's supposed to be an English major? Honestly, if you want to read a book that will shock you and have you hot and bothered, and 50 shades of scarlet, then read Revenge by Sharon Osbourne - now that is a page turner! That is a book you can justify not being able to put down! 

I thought the whole BDSM thing was over rated when people spoke about it - really this stuff has to have been watered down. I expected it to be so much worse. Unless it was merely an incredibly bad case of exaggeration?

Now, let's get to the real stuff regarding 50 shades and why it's such a hit, obviously it's not the writing that has you wanting more. What it is, is the unhealthy Hollywood idea that for the perfect relationship you have to find a damaged man and fix him so he'll be yours forever. This doesn't happen. It is not real. You cannot change or fix a man. You certainly cannot transform someone who is so damaged. That's not real life, you're not going to get that, and if you do you're not going to have a happy ending.

So it sells because it fulfils a fantasy, and gives women an excuse to read erotica and be a bit more obvious like men, but it certainly is not what it's cracked up to be and sadly is leaving no classic safe with the emergence of erotica that can now be read in the open. I for one hope that it'll go gently into that good night because this is not a literary trend that'll do any good. It’s only popular smut.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

My Bookish Quirks

I have many bookish quirks, some you may be afflicted with too, but hopefully you are lucky and are not afflicted with too many. I'd love to know which of my quirks you share, and if you have some that are different from mine, do feel free to list them in the comments. I am quite an eccentric bibliophile, so where should I start?

Dust Jackets - I love and Loathe them. I love them because they are so pretty, and make me feel awesome for owning a hard cover copy, but how I despise them when I am reading that book. I get so anxious that I am going to tear or fold or some how ruin the pretty dust jacket that I end up taking it off and putting it in a drawer. This is not always good, as I am Ozzy and U2 by U2 have still not been reclothed in their dust jackets *sigh*

Much books have to match. In a pinch I'll get a none matching copy, but then I have to get a copy that matches too. I feel sad for the book that has to be the odd one out, but they have to all match. Never thought I'd be a book discriminator. 

You know how in each series of books you have that one favourite scene or one favourite book that outshines the others? Well I am unable to go to that favourite scene to relive it unless I have read all the preceding books and gotten to there as you are supposed to. My bookish OCD knows no bounds. So to get to my favourite scene where Fred and George leave Hogwarts in The Order of the Phoenix I have to read the preceding 4 books. 

This is a big issue and quirk of mine, I cannot stand having my books damaged. If I lend you a book and it is in pristine condition, I want it returned in pristine condition, If I can read my book without cracking the spines you have to be able to do that  too. If anyone is going to damage my books it is going to be me, and not the person who I lent it to. I hate cracked spines and dog eared pages. If you ruin my book I don't want it back and I am never lending you books again, so don't even look my way is my attitude. I lent Dead until Dark to a co-worker who ruined it. I could not stand to look at it, so I gave it and the other 4 books from the series that I had to the library, I cannot look at books that were new but were ruined by others. On that same note, another quirk I have is that when I buy a book, I have to be the first one to read it. It's great that you want to read it too, but wait your turn it is mine. My inner control freak really comes out in this quirk. The book eyed monster really jumps out of me. 

The odd thing is whilst I hate having my books damaged, I love second hand books. As long as they are not falling apart or written in, I will buy them. Even if their spines are cracked. It is a complete anomaly, but there is no rationality in this bibliophile. 

If I read about a book that you have loved and I happen to not be broke at the time I will immediately order it. I may not read it as soon as it arrives, but I HAVE to have it. 

And last but not least, my craziest quirk, I (sometimes) sleep with books in my bed. And I sleep with books next to my bed. Insane, I know, but it's a comfort thing. I love having books near me, and sometimes there are just too many books in and next to my night stand, and I am too lazy to put it else where so they end up in bed next to me. Also, it is nice to just wake up and have books next to you. Crazy I know, but I love books, and these are my quirks :) 

And now it's your turn... what are your bookish quirks?

Monday, 12 November 2012

Feeling inspired

Well, as the title of this post would suggest, I am feeling inspired. You of course know that I felt slightly burnt out not so long ago and had a leave of absence from my blog. You will ofcourse have noticed that a post went up this morning. I had scheduled it, as I was planning on returning to blogging today. When I thought about it yesterday, I still was not ready, but now I feel so very inspired!!!!!!

What has brought this inspiration you ask? Well, I got a catalogue from a publisher in the UK and seeing all the amazing books that are anticipated for next year, just got me all excited again! Sometimes I think we need to remind ourselves about how exciting it is to talk to others about books, and well it truly is exciting when you are a bibliophile. However, life has a way of taking the wind out of your sales, which I am sure I don't have to tell you can really leave you questioning things.

Life has still been pretty busy on my end since last I wrote a personal post, and I am still struggling to find some much needed balance, but I think it is good to evaluate things a little bit whilst you are feeling less than chipper.

So, I'm back! I hope that the inspiration lasts! I am going to ease back in and have only one post a week, so as not to crash and burn so soon after getting back into the swing of things.

I actually contemplated leaving Bibliophilia altogether and starting afresh somewhere new, but that just made me feel sad, because this has been my refuge for the last 3 years, my space for sharing my bookish thoughts with like minded people since there are no bookish people in my everyday life. I'd have to leave town to talk to someone about books, because you can't be on the phone all day to talk about books. And whilst I have bookish friends on twitter, in the flesh bookish conversation just cannot be replaced.

But now I am rambling... I think I should get back to some bookish talk. So here goes...

I am presently busy reading Absolutely by Joanna Lumley. I am enjoying how far back her book starts. I love being able to see that there is so much more to her than dear old Patsy Stone. Of course it goes without saying that I am dying to meet Joanna Lumley, so Joanna, if through some miracle you happen to be reading this (such wishful thinking) please come to South Africa! We would love to have you at Thicket Forum next year - it will be from 3 -5 September 2013 in Grahamstown. *Makes reminder note to self to get working on content for Thicket Forum website*

I am also still busy with my reread of Gone with the Wind. I have been reading really slowly, my brain is just a bit too bogged down by the audit, admin and the new project. The important thing though, is that despite it all I am still reading. I actually read most of Twilight last Monday - I was not particularly into it, but I just needed to read something that was words and was more substantial than the phone book and that didn't require too much thinking. Reading is my meditation, so I tend to feel a bit unhinged when I do not read enough.

Enough of my chatter, you could be reading a fabulous book instead of my crazy rambles. It's good to be back, and I look forward to catching up with you all in the next few weeks.

Much Bookish love.

666 Park Avenue - Gabriella Pierce

What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch... literally?

Title: 666 Park Avenue

Author: Gabriella Pierce

Pages: 307

Publisher: William Morrow

Source: bought

Welcome to the Upper East Side, where the socialites are witches.

The Synopsis

Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living in a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can't believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.
But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan's most feared and revered families, Jane's fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world - and herself - is upended. Now Jane must struggle with new-found magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.

The Review

When I saw this book among sale books on Kalahari, I was intrigued but I did not put it in my basket. A while later I read about a new series called 666 Park Avenue, and I thought it sounded familiar. So whilst I was browsing through the sale items again, and saw that this book was still available,  I had to have it. A book has to be pretty amazing if it's your debut and it gets turned into a tv series. 3 days later and the book arrived for me to read. I picked it up that weekend, and was quite intrigued, finishing it within the busy week that I had. But now onto the thing you actually want to know about... What did I think of this book?

In short I LOVED IT! This is definitely a book that you can relax with - the story allows you to get swept up into it and there is not too much thought required, so if you're looking for a book to kick back with this is definitely it. The characters are well developed with their own story lines, the story is well developed - never did I feel bored, it all unfolded very well. The plot and the intrigue was wonderful - it ended on a cliff hanger, so you know I have to get the next book, and for once, I am not dismayed by the fact that a book that I have read is not a standalone.

Malcolm is so swoon worthy, Jane is someone you just can't help liking, and like Jane from the very beginning you feel something is up with Malcolm's mother. This book, despite being about witches, was very believably written and honestly I wish more series books were written like this (YES, I am looking at YOU House of Night!!!!!). So if you're in the mood for a book that is a bit more grown up than YA but not as grown up as say Joanna Trollope, then get yourself Ms Pierce's debut - I promise you won't regret it.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

#9 Book - Of Mice and Men

"Uh-uh. Jus' a dead mouse, George. I didn' kill it. Honest! I found it. I found it dead."

Title: Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

Pages: 106

Publisher: Penguin

Source: own

The Synopsis

George and his large, simple-minded friend Lennie are drifters, with nothing in the world except each other - and a dream. A dream that one day they will have some land of their own, somewhere to settle and live in peace. Finding work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, they hope to stay long enough to get some money together. But kind-hearted, childlike Lennie is prone to getting into trouble - unable to control either his emotions or his enormous strength, he is a target for the casual cruelty of others. And when disaster strikes again, it seems that this time George may not be able to save his friend...

The Review

Of Mice and Men gave me what I like to call a Seymour Glass moment at the end. I saw it coming in the last 10 or so pages, but I didn't think it would end the way that it did.

I have not been so saddened or felt so scarred by a book since I read Wuthering Heights. Of Mice and Men just helps to highlight how unfair life is. You do realise that in using a similar scenario twice in the book that what George did at the end was really best for Lennie.

I do feel that a comparison can be drawn between George and Seymour Glass in their actions and rationalisation. George and  Lennie are both in very unfair situations. I am actually just overwhelmed by this book. It starts and moves along steadily, and you don't expect it to end the way that it does. It does make you wonder though, who is to blame? Can anyone really be blamed? What would you have done? And come to the conclusion that life is just really unfair.

I would not recommend this book for sensitive readers as it will scar you, but I do believe that this is a book everyone should read at least once in their lives. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Hello Goodbye

Well we're at that time of the year again when things get super busy and that is saying a lot because this year has been pretty busy, which you can tell by great periods of my absence. There is a lot happening at work for me right now and just in life in general, so I have even less time than usual for Bibliophilia. It makes me sad, but that's life. So I just came on to write this post, to say Hello, I am still alive, but also to say Goodbye for a little while whilst life is so crazy.

I have noticed all your comments, and I promise to visit your blogs to say hi when my time becomes my own again. So thank you all for reading and interacting on my posts, I am really sorry that I have not had the chance to interact with you all back. I do have some posts scheduled, so you will still see some flickerings of life around here, but I do promise that when life gets a little less crazy and I have time to really get back into my blogging groove, I will do a post to let you all know.

So for now I'll leave you with this, and wish you all happy reading for the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Do note, I love having a job as it enables me to buy the hundreds of books that I own, I just wish there was mandatory reading time in the work day!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Survival Training for Lonely Hearts - Elana Bregin

Title: Survival Training for Lonely Hearts

Author: Elana Bregin

Pages: 331

Publisher: Macmillan

Source: Review Copy from Pan Macmillan South Africa

The Synopsis

Kate is a burnt-out editor at the busy Centaur Press publishing house. Over forty and lonely, she is driven to searching for love on the Internet. There she encounters not a few daunting challenges - chief among them the realisation of impassable gulfs between the mindsets of the men who cross her inbox and her own personal non-negotiables.

When a small Nguni dog enters her life Kate is forced to acknowledge some painful home truths, and in order to find the intimacy she longs for she first has to let go of her own destructive patterns.

Part wry romance, part social commentary, Survival Training for Lonely Hearts tracks the personal and political complexities that characterise present-day South Africa, a wounded society caught between the collateral damage of the old and the emerging vibrancy of the new. Along the way, Kate loses her heart, finds her mojo and, as in all good quest journeys, discovers that the map is not the territory.

The Review

I was a bit skeptical when I read one of the reviews of this book that said you would skip work so that you could finish reading this book. I readily admit my skepticism, because if you are skeptical, I want you to rest assured... they weren't lying. I started this book on a Friday evening, and I finished it that very Friday night. I could not put it down. I would have finished sooner, but my sister kept coming to my room to chat, which was rather annoying as I just wanted to read this book!

From the very start you are drawn in, because this is a rather unusual book. And I do mean unusual in a good way. I can't say that I am well read in this genre, but I have not ever read a book like this. And the fact that it's a South African book makes it so much easier to relate to. More than that, I am sure we have all been in the same situation as Kate - lonely but not willing to settle for just anyone so you stay alone. What I really loved about this book, is that there are wise characters who tell Kate how silly she is in the aforementioned scenario. And really I think that this is a book that all of us in this situation needs to read so that we can learn and bend a  little so that we don't end up alone for ever. Sometimes you just need a reminder that you have to take a chance to find what you are looking for, and this book is that reminder.

Kate's adventure with online dating will regale you, her insights and aha moments will surprise you, and this book will please you. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to read a stand-alone book for a change!

So if you're in a relationship and want to be reminded of the drama of a singleton, read this book. If you are single, lonely, yet afraid to be hurt again, or are not willing to negotiate on certain qualities, read this book - it may just be what you need to help you get your groove back!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

#8 Book 7 - The Virgin Suicides

Virgin suicide
What was that she cried
No use in stayin'
On this holocaust ride
She gave me her cherry
She's my virgin suicide

Title: The Virgin Suicides

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Pages: 249

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Source: own

The Synopsis

In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters- beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys-commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family's fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. 

Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.

The Review

Like the boys who inhabited the same neighbourhood as the Lisbon sisters, I have long been obsessed with them. Every time I reread this novel, I feel like one of the narrators - reconstructing the story in my mind as I read. Trying to figure out how I could forget certain things. Reading this book is like rehashing a memory, because a spell has been cast on me and I too cannot forget those Lisbon girls, and I too am still looking for answers about why they did what they did. I look at the evidence like the boys did and glean information through their eyes and artifacts and try to theorise why it is that they saw  no other way out, but like the boys I seem to fall short, because like them I don't know what the girls were thinking. I don't know what the girls were feeling, and I certainly don't know what was happening in that house behind those closed doors.

All we know is what is related to us in interviews or personal memories, but the pieces of the puzzle will never come together to show the whole picture because there are large bits missing. I am of the opinion that their overbearing control freak of a mother Mrs Lisbon is to blame, she is distant and controlling and keeps them all on a tight leash, and she is so distant that we never learn her name. That has to say something, doesn't it?

The boys' story of the Lisbon girls starts on the day where Mary took her life. My story of the Lisbon girls starts in 2001 - introduced by a friend who I'll call A. A like me was one of those serious teens, you know we read serious books, we watched serious films and we had serious conversations. It is little wonder that she exposed me to The Virgin Suicides as directed by Sofia Coppola. I was immediately drawn in, and well it was also kind of cool how we had friends that fitted into the age categories as the Lisbon girls. A was Cecilia, I was Lux, L was Bonnie, D was Mary and in the absence of someone the age of Therese, we substituted her with R.

We felt so very cool, liking a film like this, but I think we were also drawn in by the romantic ideas brought about by the Lisbon girls' suicide - the 13 and 14 year old mind is still rather fanciful.

When I found out that it was a book, I hoped that the local library would have it, but alas small town libraries are hardly ever filled with the books you want. I had been keeping it on my radar and finally when I got to Rhodes University I found it in the library and I had to read it. I was blown away, and newly impressed by Sofia Coppola for staying so true to the story, especially with the dialogue. I became obsessed with the Lisbon girls in another way, and of course I had to own the book when I became a serial book shopper not so very long ago.

I have been thinking long and hard about how to right this review after my umpteenth reread. It is so difficult to decide what to say in it, because there is so much that I can say about the Virgin Suicides. Especially since this reread has been different for me. I cannot pinpoint the reason behind it right now, but something has changed. Perhaps it'll come to me soon, or perhaps I have to reread it soon to figure out what it is that has changed, but as with previous reads of this book I still have many unanswered questions.

Is it actually possible to understand the Lisbon girls? I don't think so, since it is all conjecture on the part of the neighbourhood boys. The only actual response from the girls is in Cecilia's diary. Also, as a reader you are merely a witness to the deterioration of their lives until they leave this world.

What led Cecilia and then the others to take their lives?

Why did no one intervene on the behalf of the girls who became prisoners in their own homes?

Many answers the reader will never know, because we are being told the story of the girls lives by those who have watched and obsessed over them for years. The girls remain silent, and form part of a memory that is the only proof that they were ever really there.

If I ever got to ask Jeffrey Eugenides I would ask Why did they do it? What was it that Cecilia could no longer bare? I just want to be able to understand. But I suppose the point is that you can  never understand and so you can never forget these girls that will be an enigma till the day that you die.

But now onto a more academic point of view. Jeffrey Eugenides said that if it were not for his surname, no one would have linked the narrator in the form of a plural to being part of a Greek chorus. Perhaps that is so, perhaps he had no intention of invoking such a thing. But what strikes me about The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex is that the books begin with enormous revelations. You know what the outcome will be before you really know what the story is or how it will be told. This can also be related to the Greek method, because at that stage of literature there were plays, and the plays often depicted epics or myths that were already popular, so you watch the play, but you know what the outcome is going to be before it starts.

Also, I noticed that Eugenides has a Greek grandmother in both Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, and Bursa is mentioned in both too. I hope that one day I'll be able to understand his writing a bit more, but that will require numerous rereads and hopefully getting to meet him in person.

Have you read The Virgin Suicides? Are you also obsessed with the Lisbon girls? Let me know what you thought.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness

Pages: 216

Publisher: Walker Books

Source: Review copy from Pan Macmillan SA

The Synopsis:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

WARNING: This post will probably contain spoilers, so read at your own risk. I do not want to try and censor myself in this post so I am not going to try very hard to not give too much away. I just need to say what I need to say.

The Review:

I always believe that books will find you when you most need them. This book came to me when I most needed it. Actually, to be completely honest with you, I think that anyone who knows someone who has cancer and is really suffering because of it should read this book.

A Monster Calls does not try to sugar coat what you go through when someone near to you gets cancer. In Conor's case it's his mum, and his whole world gets turned upside down, everything changes - people start treating him differently, because they don't know what to do.

Conor sees his mother's suffering, and he understands and sees as only a few of us really see when someone has been battling cancer for a really long time. He has the mind and heart disconnection when it comes to feelings. He wants his mum to get better, because he needs her. But he wants it all to end because he sees what it is doing to her.

I felt so angry on Conor's behalf at his grandmother for keeping him away from his mum, and at his father for not being a father to Conor but caring more about his new family in America. I suppose that that is just how the world is these days.

Conor's complex struggle dealing with this illness that is taking his mum away from him is so very unfair, and you sort of hate the world for the fact that this is happening to so many people everyday. An unfairness that many people are spared from and that won't fully understand even after reading this book.

A Monster Calls is not a happy book. It is not a fun book. It is a book of truth that teaches many lessons. A book that came from an idea of a woman who was being taken away from cancer. A book that everyone should read, because then maybe, just maybe people would change and learn to care more.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin

Pages: 452

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Source: bought

The Synopsis

When Mara Dyer wakes up in hospital with no memory of how she got there, or any explanations as to why the bizarre accident that caused the deaths of her boyfriend and two best friends left her mysteriously unharmed, her doctors suggest she starts over in a new city, at a new school, and just hope her memories gradually come back.

But Mara's new start is anything but comforting. She sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere and now she's started to see other people's deaths before they happen. Is she going crazy? as if dealing with all this isn't enough, Noah Shaw, the most beautiful boy she's ever seen, can't seem to leave her alone. But does he have her best interests at heart, or another agenda altogether?

The Review

I have a very unorthodox method for  choosing new books. I hardly ever read the back cover. I tend to take advice from my twitter bookish clique. Tammy had praised this book, so when I saw it at Van Schaik in Grahamstown I had to have it. I read it not long after purchasing it as I was intrigued - it got bumped right up the TBR pile. And I was definitely not disappointed. Tammy definitely knows a good book when she reads one!

What can I say about The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? Quite a lot actually - this book is gripping from the very start. It hooks you immediately - you want to know, you need to know why Mara is in the Witness Protection Programme. I found that I was especially intrigued by the very dramatic way that Mara is in hospital and can't remember anything. It is all so very well laid out that you cannot not wonder what is going on.

I felt very connected to Mara as the book developed. You feel a great sense of empathy, and wish that you could do something to help her cope with the PTSD that is plaguing her. It really is a lot to deal with - a new start, panic, fear, hallucinations, not being able to remember - I cannot imagine staying calm or sane through all that.

If you've read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer I bet you're wondering when I am going to mention the oh so charming and endearing Noah Shaw. I will say he reminds me a lot of St. Claire from Anna and the French Kiss. I wanted to be Mara -drama and all- just to get to be with this Noah Shaw that no real guy could compare with. I will admit to being a bit leery after that incident with Joseph - Noah Shaw is very charming and seems a bit too good to be true, so despite his amazingness, you do wonder about him. Ofcourse after you learn his sad life story - he becomes so much more endeared to you - which obviously does not help with the major crush you are likely to have on him.

Then there is that uncertainty and then the clarity when Noah and Mara reveal their secrets to oneanother - realisin that they are not crazy at all - just different. I won't elaborate more on this - it is a very well placed part of the story line.

The way that this book ends so dramatically on a major cliff hanger that makes it all make sense is fantastic. You will be on the edge of your seat waiting for The Evolution of Mara Dyer to be released next year. This is a really well thought out, written and plotted book. Though there are mixed reviews, it is definitely a book that deserves the attention it has received, and I am certainly a new fan of Michelle Hodkin.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

the times they are a-changin'

I don't quite know what it is that I want to say with this post, so it may ramble on a little bit. I don't know how to articulate the feelings and realisations that I am having - so they may come out a bit funny - but I feel I need to say it, because everything changes. Life changes. People change. The world is changing. You are changing and so am I. At first it was just a subtle nudging in my head saying that I am starting to see things differently, and now it is a real jostling that cannot be ignored.

I don't think it's so much changing as in becoming a different person - it is just a mental awakening to the universal bigger picture. Whilst it is possible to stay stagnant - not really think about things and just be happy - I am not able to do that. My mind is like a catepillar that is emerging as a new butterfly with new insights on life and the world, and I cannot be flippant about it. I can see all the shades of grey, where there should only be black and white. Why have we become complacent in accepting all these shades of grey where there should only be black and white? Why is there only black and white where there should be shades of grey? This might not make sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to me.

I look at Bob Dylan's song the times they are a-changin' and his words ring as true today as when he first sang them. All these different scenarios are emerging, and the question is always are we on the right side of the argument? Are we choosing what is right? Are we compromising ourselves for money or power or what is the reason that we choose the wrong thing for? I could make this a very political post but I won't - I'll leave it open to your interpretation. I just wonder how do we allow ourselves to be grouped into the group that sees what is being done or chosen is wrong but just go along with it anyway. It is easier to just go with it than it is to stop and say this is not right. You may not be popular, but you will have a clear conscience. Regardless of the issue - whether it be gay rights, gay marriage, the death penalty, poaching, climate change, education. What are you deciding? What are you going with? Are you kidding yourself? Are you being honest with yourself? Are you scared to go against the tide? Always speak up even if your voice quivers. Don't allow the wrong things to continue.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

What I'm trying to say in a way that make vex you greatly, is that we all know what is right and what isn't. We see the shades of grey when there should not be any. We must create the shades of grey where there is only black and white, but grey is needed. We must take action. We must fight for what is good and right, the change must start within. The change must start with you, or we'll be left with nothing. We cannot sit idly by, we have to do more. It is not just somebody's problem - it is everyone's problem. Demand more so that the right thing can be done, don't turn a blind eye  - stand up for  the person who can't. Care more, try to see the bigger picture and the world can be a better place. Listen to Imagine by John Lennon and Dreamer by Ozzy Osbourne and try to see what I want to show you even though I might not be making a lot of sense.

Friday, 28 September 2012

September Book Loot

It's been a while since I have taken the time to do a book loot post, but then I don't think I have had such a big haul in a long, long time. As some of you know, I spent a week in Grahamstown to attend Thicket Forum and just get away and out of my daily routine.

It was a wonderful week - I met so many new people - several lovely Europeans who are so interested in Thicket -, learnt many things, got inspired with ideas for doing my honours. Got to know my colleague Mike really well, spent time with 3 really amazing dogs, and had cocktails at Yellow House.

But onto what you want to know about... What books did I get?

The Thursday of my visit I went to Bargain Books - and was pleasantly surprised to see my dear friend Ceaser there! Of course it would happen that when we are both in Grahamstown and don't know it we'll bump into one another at a book shop!! We browsed together for a while, bought our books, and then sadly had to say goodbye. You have to check out Ceaser's blog.This is what I got:

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak, Moonlight Mile - Dennis Lehane, Die for Me - Amy Plum, Does the Noise in My Head bother You - Steven Tyler, The Language of Flower - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Friday, Mike and I went to van Schaik's to get him a book with his voucher, I saw this and had to have it! Tammy had said so many wonderful things about this that I didn't think, or read the book jacket, I just bought it. P.S. my review of this will be up on Wednesday.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michell Hodkin

After shopping at van Schaik on Friday we had lunch at Red Cafe which happens to sell 2nd hand books and I got these beauties for an absolute steal, and of course there were books there that I had been looking for like forever.

The Joy Luck Club, The Jane Austen Book Club, Villette, A Favourite of the Gods, Their Eyes were Watching God, The Corrections

Of course these books are just half of the books I brought home, I lent so many books from Mike that I'll have to do a separate post just so that I don't overwhelm you all. And these are books that were waiting for me when I got home that I had ordered from Kalahari.

Did you get any books this month?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Matilda's Cat - Emily Gravett

Matilda's cat must like something! But what?

Title: Matilda's Cat

Author: Emily Gravett

Publisher: Macmillan

Source: review copy from Pan Macmillan South Africa

The Synopsis:

Climbing trees, playing with wool . . . Matilda is sure her cat will love these things, but he doesn't seem very enthusiastic. Undaunted, she thinks up new ways to amuse her reluctant playmate. Tea parties? Dressing up? Or what about a nice bike ride? As the beleagured cat goes from nonplussed to terrified, Matilda gets more and more frustrated. After all, what use is a pet if it doesn't want to play?

The Review:

I'll admit, this is the first picture book I have actually read as an adult. I absolutely adored it. The illustrations are marvellous and it is really just so very cute! I like how even though it's a children's book I could enjoy it because it is not simply a children's book. It is very clever and well put across. If you do have the opportunity to read it I do recommend it. I certainly am a new fan of Emily Gravett, and will definitely be adding more of her books to my collection in the future.

I suppose what really endures this book to me is the fact that I am a cat person, and I know how it is when you want to do something with your cat but they are just not interested at all. That is one of the things that makes this book so great - it is real, not just made up. I felt like a kid again, marvelling at the illustrations, and I did giggle a fair amount. So let the inner child in you live a little and get yourself a copy of Matilda's Cat - you won't regret it. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A Tribute to Freddie on his 66th Birthday

"I'm not going to be a star, I'm going to be a legend!"

Today would have been Freddie Mercury's 66th birthday. I would like to use this opportunity to not only review a book on Freddie but also to pay homage to him, and what he has meant to me in my 24 years. 

I was born in 1988 - Queen was still around in those days with Freddie Mercury leading the charge. There was still a major hype about Queen in those days, because they were still actively creating music. Having said that, I grew up hearing the music of Queen - those were the days when music was still good, still had a fair amount of substance and was worth listening to - songs that became hits actually deserved it.  

 Bearing all that in mind, my love for Queen and Freddie Mercury goes back as far as I can remember. Whether it was Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites the Dust or Princes of the Universe, many of my memories have Queen songs as their soundtrack. Whilst my musical attention may have veered over the years, it has always come back to Queen and the multi-faceted voice of Freddie Mercury. 

"I've finally found that niche I was looking for all my life, and no fucker in this universe is going to upset it."

When I was in Grade 6 in 2000 I remember there was a documentary on Freddie Mercury on TV one night that I stayed up late to see, and I was enthralled once again. I have always had this feeling of kindred-ness with Freddie, that I have been unable to explain. There is just a kind of magic to him that makes him irresistible despite him being gone all these years. I don't know how to describe it, there is just something about the persona that Freddie Mercury embodied when performing that draws me to him, that makes him feel familiar - like someone I used to know. 

Even saying that,  I know that there was more to Freddie than the egotistical entertainer that the masses were drawn to like a moth to a flame. How could there not be, no one could be that way all the time without combusting from being that intense all the time. Reading this book has showed me the Freddie behind the stage Freddie. 
I remember in high school my best friend and I argued quite vehemently about who the best singer of all time was. He said that it was Whitney Houston, whilst I was resolute in my conviction that it was Freddie Mercury. This argument waged for days - with neither of us giving in, deciding to agree to disagree. After all this time I still believe that Freddie is the greatest singer of all time. No one has been able to do what he has done - it is impossible to cover a Queen song because the person trying to sing it is not Freddie. 

What I am trying to say in a roundabout way is that Freddie for me is the ultimate musician. He died before he reached his peak, and his music is standing the test of time. He was one of the greatest musical geniuses and I am so happy that we have had him for the little time that we did. You cannot argue - Bohemian Rhapsody alone is argument enough. And if that isn't enough for you, I want you to listen to The Show must Go On that Freddie recorded during his last days - you would not say that that is a dying man singing there. Whether happy or sad, I have always found my way back to Queen and to Freddie - his voice has been the perfect companion in good times and bad - offering not only comfort but encouragement. And whilst I may not have met him, I do miss him, and have been watching the Official 65th Birthday Video several times just to get a glimpse of the diverse man that he was. 

Today I just want to express my affection for a man who has been rather misunderstood, and misquoted often for sensation. No matter what he may have said or done, the only thing that matters is that his music is still around, and that in that way, he is a legend. Freddie, you are sorely missed - I do hope that many are thinking of you today, on this day where you would have been 66 and doing something fantastic had you not left us all those years ago.Your wish has certainly come true - you will always be remembered as a musician of worth and substance - no one was going to stop you, and no one can beat you.

"When I'm dead, I want to be remembered as a musician of some worth and substance. I don't know how they will remember me. I haven't thought about that - dead and gone. No, I haven't thought about it. I don't think, "My God! When I'm dead are they going to remember me?" It's up to them. When I'm dead who cares? I don't!"

Title: Freddie Mercury His Life in His Own Words

Editor: Greg Brooks & Simon Lupton

Publisher: Omnibus Press

Pages: 176

Source: an early half birthday present from my mom

"Most of the stuff I do is pretending... I think The Great Pretender is a great title for what I do because I am The Great Pretender! And, in my videos I go through all the different characters and I'm pretending again."

The Synopsis
 "People are apprehensive when they meet me and they think I'm going to eat them. But underneath it all I'm quite shy and very few people know what I'm really like."

Freddie Mercury - His Life in His Own Words is the closest thing there is to an autobiography by Queen's flamboyant and much loved lead singer.

Spurred on by an almost uncontrollable ambition, Freddie drove Queen to the heights of rock stardom and along the way became one of the most quotable rock stars of all time.

"Boredom and dullness are the biggest diseases in the world, dears. You can never say that life with me is boring."

The Review 

I adore Freddie Mercury. This book, whilst edited to make sense is snippets of interviews put into categories so that the reader can glimpse into the mind of Freddie Mercury. I think that the editors did a really great job with this, I was expecting something almost like Bono on Bono, but I am pleased with the content of this book. I have learned a lot about Queen, as well as Freddie Mercury and the making of their hits and albums. I learnt many things I might otherwise not have known, because you can only learn so much from Wikipedia.

Reading this book was almost like being in a therapy session with Freddie where he just talks uninterruptedly about various topics. I think that a book like this is the best way to learn about a musician, especially one as complex as Freddie Mercury. I had read in a magazine that Freddie was a cat person - he phoned his cats when he was away from home - reading what he said about his cats has only endeared him to me more.

Freddie with Oscar (left) and Tiffany (right)

"I'd love to have a baby, yes. But I'd rather have another cat."

But to be serious about this book and stop fawning over Freddie. I am glad that a book like this exists, because it helps the reader to understand Freddie better - he was very complex, and this book helps you to see into this man that had many sides to him. This book also gives you some behind the scenes looks at how songs were made into the masterpieces that they are. What certain songs are about is also revealed - I had no idea that Killer Queen was about a high class call girl, did you?

Freddie knew that it could not go on forever, he knew the hits would stop eventually and he had plans for that day. He lived life to the full, and I suppose he got what he wanted getting a dramatic death,  but it is awful that he had to die from a disease that we still don't have a cure for. It breaks my heart when I see  that last music video - he didn't deserve that death - it was very unfair, but he lived, he lived ridiculously and was okay if he died the next day.

"I don't expect to make old bones, and what's more I don't really care. I certainly don't have any aspirations to live to 70. It would be so boring. I will be dead and gone long before that."

This book has taken me back in time, and given me insight to a man whom I  have admired for a long time, but have never had the opportunity to get to know. If you are a fan of Freddie Mercury this book is a must, but even if you just want to understand him better this book is a must.

"Thank you, God bless and sweet dreams...you lot of tarts!"

Freddie Mercury - The Official 65th Birthday Video

Sunday, 2 September 2012

#7 Book 105 - The Reader

When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis. It started in the autumn and lasted till the spring. 

Title: The Reader

Author: Bernhardt Schlink

Publisher: Phoenix

Pages: 216

Source: own

The Synopsis

For 15-year-old Michael, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. Before they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems.

Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to find Hanna in the dock. The woman he loved is a war criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. Hanna must answer for a horrible crime, but she is desperately concealing an even deeper secret...

The Review

It is no secret that I have been feeling rather lost as a reader for the last month or so. I thought that reading a book like The Reader would help me to gain back some perspective and get my groove back as a reader, because being able to read and enjoying the art of reading are two of the greatest pleasures in life. I was right in thinking that The Reader would help to give me back my perspective, so if you are feeling a little lost as a reader, The Reader is just the book to help you find your way back.

I first read The Reader in 2009. I think I read it in one sitting, I was just so enchanted by it and I just had to know the story. Having said that, reading The Reader again this year, has made me realise that this is a book that I wish I could read again for the first time. Reading The Reader and knowing what Hanna's secret is does make you look at the story differently, but that first time, reading and not knowing yet what her secret is, is just something different. But now getting to my actual thoughts on The Reader...

The Reader is written in 3 parts, and each part is quite distinct in it's writing style. If you are reading this book for the first time, you may not notice it, but when reading more mindfully you see the development of the narrator Michael's understanding of the situation that he finds himself in. Bernhard Schlink does it so effortlessly in his writing that you can be forgiven for not noticing - this is precisely why this book is so easy to get into. It starts with short uncomplicated sentences in the speaking style - not with colloquilalisms - and easy thought pattern of a teenager, with limited insight to the situation. Moving on to part 2 where Michael realises Hanna's secret and that alters his view and understanding from his teenage years. Finally getting to part 3 where he sees the bigger picture and has a greater understanding of Hanna and why she did what she did. I realise I am being rather vague, but you have to have read The Reader to follow, and I don't want to give away any spoilers for those of you who have not read it yet.

This book is brilliant for many reasons, and it raises many questions that often we are not able to answer. This is a modern classic that has to be read, because it reminds us why the past wrongs should not be repeated, and makes us better people. If you have not yet read The Reader, I urge you to do so, as this is one of those books that you have to read, and please read the book before watching the movie! 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Agony Chef - Kate Sidley

Title: The Agony Chef

Author: Kate Sidley

Pages: 156

Publisher: Pan Macmillan South Africa

Source: Review copy from Pan Macmillan

The Synopsis

The Agony Chef is a unique concept in cookery books that puts hilarious, fictitious agony aunt columns alongside delicious, real recipes. Join Agony Chef Delilah as she shares her wit and wisdom, her opinions and recipes and her touching belief that food and humour can mend fences and hearts and solve the vexing problems of modern life.

The Review

Brilliant. Funny. Brilliantly Funny. If you had to read The Agony Chef in one sitting you would have to be admitted to hospital for abdominal pain from all the laughing, but you would probably have killer muscles after all the laughing that happens whilst you read this brilliant book.

Delilah, our Agony Chef is the kind of person that you want to be. She is well travelled, well read, and has fantastic stories and experiences. She is the kind of person you wish you knew. With this wonderful combination of traits, she is the perfect person to offer you advice and supply you with recipes that are perfect for your situation. She knows just what food will offer comfort, display gratitude and earn forgiveness or even seduce. Delilah is the best friend we all deserve. The best friend that we all dream of having or of being ourselves.

A word of caution: if you do not want people to think that you are crazy, do not read this book in public, as they will think that you are on drugs with all the silly laughing that will come from you, or that you have just lost your mind or that someone is drugging you with laughing gas.

But then you should share the stories that you read in The Agony Chef, because it is always so much nicer to have someone to laugh with you. My favourite problem and response in The Agony Chef is from Martin who is worried that his wife is having an affair, who confronted his wife and was duly given a black eye after being thrown with a muffin. The sharp Delilah offers advice on how to make harmless muffins, and confirms that Martin certainly has a problem with his wife. Of course my retelling is not nearly as funny as the experience of reading it. I could regale you better with that story in person using the cadence of my voice.

For now you'll have to trust me about how wonderful The Agony Chef is, and get a copy and see for yourself how brilliant this book is. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. I baked the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake that Delilah gave the recipe for on page 49 - and it was superb. So superb that it did not last a day. Luckily I managed to take a few photos before this delectable cake was devoured...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair - Nina Sankovitch

Title: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Subtitle: My Year of Magical Reading

Author: Nina Sankovitch

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Pages: 240

Source: bought

The Synopsis

Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch decided to stop running and start reading. For once in her life she would put all other obligations on hold and devote herself to reading a book a day: one year of magical reading in which she found joy, healing, and wisdom.

With grace and deep insight, Sankovitch weaves together poignant family memories with the unforgettable lives of the characters she reads about. She finds a lesson in each book, ultimately realizing the ability of a good story to console, inspire, and open our lives to new places and experiences. A moving story of recovery, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is also a resonant reminder of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading. 

The Review

Whilst I had been aware of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair for quite a while, I only recently took it off of my 'to buy' list and put it onto my 'own' list. I ordered this book to help me cope with the looming death of my sister, and whilst it was supposed to arrive at the end of July, it came on the day after my sister died. A message from the universe? Undoubtedly. This book was what I needed to take the first steps to recovery after the loss.

It is no secret that bookish folk like me look to books for the cues and expected reactions, and advice for how to react to things. I don't need to expand on this, but for those who do not understand what all reading gives us, I have to tell you. Reading is more than just an idle activity to pass by time. Those who read are not lazy. Reading is not used to hide away. Reading gives the reader so much more than a non-reader could know. Reading makes you more insightful and compassionate. Reading provides you with skills and insight. But now I feel like I am arguing, and that is the last thing I want to do. Also, I am digressing - what I am trying to say is that reading arms you with more knowledge and skills than watching TV or movies.

I felt particularly drawn to Tolstoy and the Purple Chair because the author and I had 2 things in common. 1. We both lost sisters to cancer. 2. We are both avid readers. Not very many people are willing to speak candidly of death and loss. I have mentioned this before in a previous post so I am not going to rehash that. This book, for me was almost like a guide for recovery, some hope in a dark time, and a friend that understood. Having said that, I did notice a flurry of posts around the blogosphere on Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, and the reviews I have read have been a mixed response to it. Having said that, I believe that at a certain time in your life, no matter how much you want to read a book, if it is not the right time for you, or you do not share the situation with the author, you are not going to be the ideal reader and you are not going to get the full value of the book.

The ideal reader for Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is obviously someone who enjoys reading, but aside from that the ideal reader has to have experienced a loss that they are presently dealing with, or should have experienced a loss that affected them greatly. This book is not meant to share only the author's experience, but it is meant as a part of a club that you can only join once you have lost someone close to you. If this is not you right now, do not read this book as you won't get what you are supposed to from  it.

The purpose of this book is two fold: 1. It gives you hope for your recovery from loss in sharing Nina's loss of her sister. She shares her insights, and one of my favourite lines in  the book is when she says that amidst the  sadness that you feel, you will still be surprised by the beauty that the world has to offer. This was something that I needed to hear, or in this case needed to read. This has been a point of reference, and it reminds me greatly of the words that J.K. Rowling gave to Dumbledore:

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

2. This book gives you something more to  think about as a reader. Why does reading mean so much to you? What does reading offer you other than an escape and a journey to another world? It allows you the reader as an avid reader the opportunity to see reading once again for the amazing activity that it is, and reminds you what reading means to you and the healing it can offer.

Books allow experiences to be relived, and allow lessons to be learned. P137

Nina Sankovitch was very lucky to be able to take a year out of life, and make reading a priority. I think it is a marvellous thing, because books can help you, books can heal you, books can show you the rainbow that was previously just dark clouds. But not just the cathartic and healing effect of reading, also the healing effect of blogging - your mind can become rather bogged down by all the thoughts that you fail to express. In blogging we share what a book has made us feel and see, we share it with online friends who often understand better than real life ones. This expression of the lessons we have learnt through the books that we have read often has blogging as our only platform - and Nina used her site ReadAllDay as her platform and her map on her road to healing. But then you all know that, and I am just preaching to the choir... 

And in reading, I discovered that the burden of living is the uneven and unlimited allotment of pain. Tragedy is conferred randomly and unfairly. Any promise of easy times to come is a false one. But I know I can survive the hard times, taking the worst of what happens to me as a burden but not as a noose. Books mirrored life - my life! And now I understood that all the bad and sad stuff happens to me, and that happened to the people I was reading about, is both the cost and the proof of resilience. P138

My only critique is that I wish the paperback and hardcover covers were the same!