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

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!