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

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

When the muses leave you - an explanation for my silence...

I have been in a slump of late.

It has been a reading and writing slump.

It has been absolute agony to not be able to do what I enjoy.

I don't know what happened to cause it, but this morning all of a sudden I started to feel like my pre-slump self. I started reading a book that seems quite promising so far, and well right now the words are flowing onto my screen as my fingers fly across my keyboard.

It is almost as though my brain shut down for a bit, and I just couldn't get into any of the things I love. Then again, it could also be a depressive episode. Who can truly say. I am just glad that it is over.

So here is hoping that the muses have returned for good, and that I'll be back to posting here regularly again.

Till then, happy reading and let me know what you all have been up to!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Subject: Where'd you go, Bernadette

From: Terri Rens
Sent: Saturday, 17 August 2013, 08:00 AM
To: Reader of this Post
Subject: Where'd you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Dear Reader,

I had seen the cover of Where'd you go, Bernadette in many magazines since last year. I saw the title many times on the wall of The Good Book Appreciation Society. I was quite curious, and rather intrigued by this book so I ordered it. I ordered it without knowing what the story is about, because whilst I had seen writing about it everywhere (as one does about so many books) I did not take the time to read the thoughts of others about this book, as I just knew that I had to have and read this book.

I'll be honest with you, I didn't even read the book jacket. I just had that gut feeling that I would love this book, and I did. I firmly believe that it is a very good thing to go into the reading of a book with no idea of what the book is about, so you can allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

I ordered Where'd you go, Bernadette about a month ago, it arrived roughly 2 weeks later - I do love ordering books from the Exclusive Books website. With it being a long weekend last weekend, I decided that it was time for me to read this book that called out to me for so long. I took my copy of Where'd you go, Bernadette and went off to have lunch at Dulcè. I was there for more than 3 hours - absorbed in the pages of this wonderful book. I am quite certain that my waiter must have thought at one point that I was out of my mind because I was laughing so hard at this book. What can I say, this book is funny. Funny is a bit of an understatement, but let's just go for funny for the sake of not being overly dramatic. I finally left Dulcè having read almost half of Where'd you go, Bernadette and feeling quite wonderful having laughed so heartily.

It was not all moonshine and roses though, there is a darker aspect to this book too. You don't realize that there is a darker side until you are quite a way into the book. I suppose I should give you some idea on what this book is about, I took this from Goodreads:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner, to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. 

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle - and people in general - has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. 

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence - creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an  absurd world. 

What I really enjoyed about Where'd you go, Bernadette was that it is an epistolary novel. I shan't say too much more as I do not want to give anything away, but it is certainly the epistolary form that makes this such a brilliantly told story. In case you were unsure, an epistolary novel is a novel that is written in the form of diary entries, letters or a compendium of documents. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

I loved getting that AHA moment when it all comes together - it reminded me so much of Atonement by Ian McEwan and that quote that I love from Domino - 'What we see may not be the truth' - this certainly is the case in this wonderful epistolary novel. If there is anything that I got from this lovely book, it is that everything we see everyday is out of context. We see things and we make them make sense for ourselves, connecting the dots so that in our minds we have a rational explanation - despite our "rational explanations" being rather far from the truth of the situation. We judge rather harshly until we learn the truth and then have to face the sea of emotions or even the consequences that arise due to our wrongly connected dots.

I do hope you'll pick up a copy of Where'd you go, Bernadette.

Affectionately,
Your Writer

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Steve Boykey Sidley Press Release from Pan MacMillan

It's a wonderful time for South African writers. First The Shining Girls got critical international acclaim and has been optioned by Leonardo di Caprio, and now we have wonderful news regarding Steve Sidley!

On 12 August 2013, Pan Macmillan South Africa announced that Steven Boykey Sidley, award winning author of Entanglement and Stepping Out, has been signed to the prestigious French publishing house Belfond, which will be translating both books into French for sale in francophone countries. Belfond is the publisher of French translations of Lionel Shriver, Douglas Kennedy, Woody Allen, Kafka and other notable authors.

The deal was initiated and facilitated by Pan Macmillan South Africa's publisher, Andrea Natrass, through the French literary agency, Agence Michelle Lapautre.

Steven Boykey Sidley has divided his adult life between the United States of America and South Africa. He has meandered through careers as an animator, chief technology officer for a Fortune 500 company, jazz musician, software developer, video game designer, private equity investor and high technology entrepreneur. After releasing his debut novel, Entanglement in 2012, Sidley wrote his second novel, Stepping Out, which was released in February 2013. Sidley's third novel, Imperfect Solo, will be published by Picador South Africa early in 2014.

The arrival of Steven Boykey Sidley on the South African literary scene has been incredibly exciting with a Sunday Times fiction shortlist and the UJ Debut Award for Entanglement. It was only a matter of time before international publishers started to take notice, and Pan Macmillan is absolutely delighted that a publisher of the stature of Belfond has brought the French rights to both Entanglement and Sidley's second novel Stepping Out. "
Terry Morris, Managing Director of Pan Macmillan South Africa.  

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Warehouse Sale...

I have wanted to go to the Exclusive Books Warehouse sale ever since they started having them. It was never really a practical desire – but then dreams are hardly ever practical, are they. As fate would have it my life changed in 2013, with me relocating to the Western Cape; this of course had very little bearing on my desire to go to a Warehouse Sale, because they were usually just in Johannesburg. Again fate intervened, so lo and behold – 2013 became a year with a Warehouse 

Sale in the Western Cape too! It was destiny. It was serendipity. I had to go. And go I did.
I am very fortunate to work with some bookish folk; even more fortunate is that I share my office with Lara who understood the awesomeness of a warehouse sale where books were going for R50 a kilogram. R50/kg folks! That is like the bargain of the century. In this day and age where you don’t get any of the books that you really want for less than R120 a pop books at R50/kg is an absolute steal and you are a complete fool if you have the opportunity to go but don’t. But I digress.

Lara and I decided that we would feed our book loving souls by going to the Warehouse Sale. Neither of us knew where exactly this warehouse was, so we resorted to trusty old Google Maps for directions – we printed out 3 different sets in case things started to look familiar along the way. What an adventure we had with those 3 sets of directions. Do note folks, Google Maps doesn’t always give the simplest route – we went in a rather round-about way – heading through Athlone and past some rather nefarious areas – when really it would have been easier had we just gone to the airport and found our way from there. We did not lament this though, as it just makes for a more interesting story.

Finally we found Koets Street after taking the wrong turn at a round-about. Our spirits soared as we saw that we were at the right place as there were signs about the ridiculous bargain of books at R50/kg. When we stepped into the warehouse we were like kids in a candy store. An entire warehouse filled with tables full of books for us to go through and find some hidden gems. It was Nirvana! How wonderful it was to be surrounded by so many other bookish folk with the same intentions. How bad it was for anyone on a tight budget, but how wonderful it was to have thousands, yes THOUSANDS of books to choose from! It was a dream come true!!!

I could go on and on and on about the experience, but I would rather show you what I got, and urge you to go and check out the Warehouse Sale if you can because it is like Christmas for all bookworms.

And now, for the goodies that I got:

Audio Books:
-          Skulduggery Pleasant-Death Bringer – Derek Landy
-          As you Do – Richard Hammond
-          Drama –John Lithgow (so what if I am not an actor – you cannot help but love John Lithgow!)
-          The Infinities – John Banville
-          The Prince of Mist – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (narrated by the lovely Dan Stevens who we all know best as cousin Matthew on Downton Abbey)

Rocking books:
The British Invasion – Barry Mills
Rock – an illustrated history of artists and sounds
The Monster Book of Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll
Not very many people know that I am doing a course on the History of Rock through Coursera, so finding these books was just fate!

The Classics:

  • The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (after reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ I’ve been meaning to get a copy of this one)
  • Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  • The Doll – Daphne du Maurier (absolutely adored Rebecca so have to get more du Maurier books)
  • The Madness of Nero – Tacitus
  • The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  • Farewell Summer – Ray Bradbury
  • On Living and Dying Well – Cicero
  • Five Children and It – E. Nesbit

Penguin English Library:

  • The Confidence Man – and Billy Budd, Sailor – Herman Melville
  • Barchester Towers – Anthony Trollope
  • The Way of the Flesh – Samuel Butler
  • Daisy Miller and the Turn of the Screw – Henry James
  • The Warden – Anthony Trollope
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy
  • The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  •  The Murder on Rue Morgue and Other Tales – Edgar Allan Poe
  • Fromley Parsonage – Anthony Trollope
  • The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens
I really got a lot of Trollope books, have read about him on Allie’s blog and on Delaise’s blog – so when I saw these beauties on the sale table I had to have them.

Other:

  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
  • Bowie – Marc Spitz ( this just had to be fate because I dreamt about Ziggy Stardust the other week)
  • 30 Nights in Amsterdam – Etienne van Heerden
  • Oh Dear Silvia – Dawn French (the other half of the genius behind Absolutely Fabulous – I obviously HAD to have this one!)

  • Hallelujah the Welcome Table – Maya Angelou
  • Diabolical – Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Vanished Years – Rupert Everett
  • Ragnarok – A.S. Byatt
  • Pegasus – Robyn McKinley
  • Wake – Amanda Hocking
  • Fifty Sheds of Grey
  • Hidden – P.C. and Kristin Cast
  • Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
  • Beatrice and Vergil – Yann Martel
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Bubbles – Rahla Xenopoulos
  • The Science of Kissing – Sheril Kirshenbaum
  • James May’s Man Lab – James May
  •  Wouldn't Take Nothing for my Journey Now – Maya Angelou
  •      Between a Heart and a Rock Place – Pat Benetar
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
  • The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
  • How to Keep a Boy as a Pet – Diana Messidoro
  • The Vintage Teacup Club – Vanessa Greene
  • Blue Monday – Nicci French

These should keep me enthralled for a long time to come. I've already finished two of the books that I got at the Warehouse Sale. I am now putting myself on a book buying ban, because I truly have a book buying problem.


Did you manage to go to the Warehouse Sale? If you did what did you get? If you haven’t yet, are you planning on going?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Coming Soon: Black Widow Society - Angela Makholwa


Pan Mac Logo.jpg
Black Widow Society

widow6.jpg
Angela Makholwa
 In 1994 when South Africans were finally seeing the light of freedom and independence, three well-respected businesswomen – Talullah Ntuli, Edna Whithead and Nkosazana Dlamini – formed the Black Widow Society, a secret organisation aimed at liberating women trapped in emotionally and physically abusive relationships by assisting in ‘eliminating’ their errant husbands. For fifteen years the Black Widow Society operated undetected, impeccably run by The Triumvirate with the help of their suave and mysterious hired gun, Mzwakhe Khuzwayo, a slick ex-convict meticulous in his responsibilities.

But as the secret organisation recruits more members, the wheels of this well-oiled machine threaten to fall off. Will Talullah’s controlling streak or Nkosazana’s unfettered material aspirations jeopardise the future of the Black Widow Society? Or perhaps one of the new recruits, unsettled by the reality of the elimination of her former husband, will lose her nerve and expose the workings of the group after all this time?

As the tension mounts, Black Widow Society builds to a chilling and bloody climax that will keep you guessing and riveted until the very last page.

PREVIOUS PRAISE FOR ANGELA MAKHOLWA
Red Ink has everything that makes a crime thriller smoke: strong sexy characters, jazzy settings … It has suspense, violence, murder …
Makholwa has written a crime thriller that is going to keep the lights in Sandton’s suburbs burning way into the night.
And elsewhere in the country too, for that matter. Red Ink is one of those novels you can’t put down.’ – Mike Nicol, Sunday Independent

ANGELA MAKHOLWA lives and works in Johannesburg. Her debut novel, Red Ink (2007), is a gripping psychological thriller. This was followed by the entertaining escapades and sexual misadventures of modern women in The 30th Candle (2009).Black Widow Society marks a return to a thrilling, crime-ridden world.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Through the Eyes of the Narrator - The May Edition

Sometimes the narrator offers us a very limited view, other times the narrator offers us a blow by blow account of the story that they have to tell. Through the eyes of the narrator we can either see the whole, bigger picture, or just get a partial view, a mere glimpse into the life of the characters that we’re sharing a journey with whilst reading.

The eyes of the narrator largely impact how we feel about the characters we encounter. Our narrator will have certain prejudices or biases that will come into play, and often it is difficult to see things any differently to how our narrator perceives and experiences people and events and then relates it to us – just think about how you felt about Professor Snape in Harry Potter.

Let’s look at The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Narrated by the boys in the neighbourhood the Lisbon girls stayed in. For years it has been a mystery that I have been unable to solve. Why did those girls feel that committing suicide was their only way out? It has driven me crazy that I can find no answer to that question, until it dawned on my during my last reread that there is no way that I could ever solve the mystery of the Lisbon girls. I could offer theories, I could make guesses, I could infer meaning to their actions during their last weeks – but I could never find an answer. There never would be an answer because that is what Eugenides meant for the book to be. If 25 years after the tragic way that the Lisbon girls ended their lives, those who were most intrigued by them could not figure out why they did it, how could I? The boys, now men are still enchanted by those girls that they could not figure out – they still cannot figure them out. They still cannot get them out of their minds. How would I, who could never look at the before and after of the Lisbon girls since Cecilia’s death be able to figure it out? I can only see things as the narrators do, and they only had an outside view, not being able to intervene and save the girls. Even the information that they gather through the interviews that they conducted could never help them to piece the puzzle together – the information, was also from the outside - so it was a perspective or an opinion – not the actual truth. Our narrators didn’t see what it is that pushed those girls, or who suggested the mass suicide. We can never know, because the ones that do know are not alive to tell us.

On the other hand, we have 13 Reasons Why, and I assure you I’ll not only be looking at books with suicide, this is just to make a point. In 13 Reasons Why we know exactly why Hannah Baker decided to end her life. On the tapes that Clay receives, we hear the whole story as to why she did it, the catalysing factor that started this whole process is revealed to us. Whilst reading this book you feel like you are there listening to the tapes, on the one hand you feel like you are there with Clay as you go through the devastating truths of why she did it. You experience the way that Clay hears it and is impacted by it all; how Clay is the only one that didn’t really hurt her. On the other hand, you feel like you are there with Hannah, in her shoes – experiencing it all, listening and understanding why she did it. What Hannah wants you to see is that a lie, or insult, no matter how harmless it may seem at first can alter someone’s life forever, so you need to be careful – you don’t know what your words can do.

A similar thing happens in 10 Things We Did (and probably shouldn’t have). We get the full story, all 10 hilarious misadventures – from a hot tub to chlamydia, to the fear of being found out by the parents who believe that none of these things are happening, but that everything is above board. You feel like you’ve had the same crazy adventure that you could, maybe, tell your kids about one day and can relive with your friends for years to come, because that is how the narrator has seen and experienced it.

It is quite a different thing when we have an all knowing narrator, who knows how it’s going to end before it begins so can tell the story from many angles. Here I am thinking of Callie from Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. All knowing, Callie takes us through 3 generations of the Stefanides family so that we can see how it is that Callie came to be. There is also J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye – where we have Holden Caulfield who starts and finishes with the end of his story.

Then you get books like The Color Purple by Alice Walker where we have Celie – whose story we see through her journal entries. Her innermost private thoughts – that she puts down writing to God – perhaps the most open and honest narrator of all?

There are also instances of confusion, where your narrator is as lost as you are because of their distorted view of reality - being unable to distinguish what is real to what is actually fantasy. Here I am referring to Shutter Island, where we have the story of Teddy as he believes it to be, only finding out at the end that his reality is distorted, so you feel quite mislead and hoodwinked when you see what it is that really happened.

These are but a few narrators that have stood out for me over the years, I am certain that there are many others whose narrative style or story I have not touched on here. Who are your favourite narrators? Which narrative style do you enjoy or abhor? 

A narrator who I have immensely enjoyed is Odette from The Imagined Child by Jo-Anne Richards. I don't want to say too much as I do not want to give anything away, but I do hope that my review will regale you so much that you'll be so overcome that you'll go out today to get yourself a copy of this wonderful book. So without further delay...

Title: The Imagined Child

Author: Jo-Anne Richards

Pages: 330

Publisher: Picador

Source: Received from Pan MacMillan South Africa

The Synopsis

Odette leaves Johannesburg to make a new start in Nagelaten, a small Free State Town. A writer for a popular TV soap, she appears to be searching for a less complicated life. But others think she’s escaping – to a place where she knows no one and won’t have to share her secrets. Life in Nagelaten isn’t as simple as it seems. The town also holds secrets. Why do people insist there’s no crime, all evidence to the contrary? Who is the strange outcast, whom she feels sorry for, yet doesn’t quite trust? And why will no one tell her his story?

Odette is caught up in two deaths – a baby in the United Kingdom, whom her troubled daughter, Mandy, is suspected of killing – and a brutal farm murder. Both cause her ordered life to unravel, while a new friendship forces her to question the silences of Nagelaten. Events edge her towards the most courageous act of her life: facing the truth in order to save herself and her daughter.

The Review

I started reading The Imagined Child on the bus on my way to work – the 40 minute bus ride just flew by. I really wished that my bus ride was longer, I was so taken by this story that I needed more time to be in its world. How I wished I could just wheel my chair to a corner in my office so I could just keep reading, but alas – when you must work, you must work. I could not wait for my bus ride back to Table View so I could get back to The Imagined Child, and even that ride was way too short. Fortunately the weekend was very close, so I spent much of my Saturday relishing the pages of The Imagined Child – which is a marvellous book in that it does not give up all of its secrets at once.

The Imagined Child is a brilliant piece of South African fiction- it has made me wonder why I do not read more South African fiction. I actually think I shall have to start a feature on Bibliophilia showcasing more South African works.

I find myself struggling to tell you about The Imagined Child without giving too much away. There are so many things that I want to tell you about The Imagined Child, but I don’t want to take away any of the experience in the brilliance of the way that it unfurls itself for you. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so this is very hard to write.

The Imagined Child is a brilliant showcase of the immense talent that Jo-Anne Richards has – her writing style here keeps you guessing. I adore the way you are left to follow the dots, the way you see things when Odette does.  The way you take the same cues from social interactions as she does, and the way you are shocked when you discover things. Most especially the way you almost intuitively feel the guilt, the emotions that bubble under the surface of the calm, collected, together façade that Odette puts up. Most of all, the way that you are simultaneously finding things out about the town of Nagelaten and its citizens, but also the way that you feel that there is something that does not quite add up about Odette and the way she doesn't want to talk about what is wrong with Mandy. The whole hide, and reveal style of her writing is truly brilliant. Also the way that she works on a story line for the soap that she writes for that allows her to work through the what ifs of her situation with Mandy.

I was reminded quite a lot of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex whilst reading The Imagined Child – whilst not as long or complex as Middlesex, The Imagined Child is an Odyssey of sorts, and much like Middlesex, we are shown how genetic manipulations, and the actions of our parents, and even their parents have an impact on the person we become – not only when we are born, but in the way that we are raised.

I was also reminded of Ian McEwan’s Atonement in the way that Odette tried to fix things by telling, and sort of revealing the truth. Also, in the way that when we take situations out of context because we are wrongfully witnessing them they make us do things that we end up regretting, and will never be able to fix.

The Imagined Child is exceptional in the way that it explores small town life – the role of the church and the way that outsiders are viewed, and not entirely let in. The way that the Afrikaans community people accommodate the English speaking folk and the small grammar mistakes that fall into conversations. Jo-Anne really got it right – I could relate quite easily being from a small town in the Karoo myself.

On a completely unrelated note, I found it rather awesome that I know someone who knows Jo-Anne Richards – and who was thanked in the acknowledgements. Really small world, when you think of it – thanking Monty Roodt – my favourite Sociology lecturer from Rhodes for the use of his house.

If you are looking for a great local book that you can relate to, that will keep you thrilled to the very end, go and get yourself a copy of The Imagined Child – this is South African Fiction at its very best.

Monday, 8 April 2013

To Read or Not To Read - The April Edition



The days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do. Alan Bennett

Ask any bibliophile and they’ll quickly tell you that that is a stupid question. I would have said so too, but then things in my life changed, and well you do have to decide: do I read, or do I spend time with people? Do I read or do I take time to look at where I really am? Do I read and escape the reality in which I find myself, or do I enjoy where I am and escape when I leave?

6 Months ago I would have straight out said “Read! Why are you still asking?” Honestly, what is better than getting lost in a world that unfolds in your head at your pace; at your selection? At your control, instead of being sprung on you like things are in the real world? Is there a safer feeling than settling down in your favourite reading spot and escaping into the book of your choice?

But then, towards the end of February things changed a little bit for me. My time at home was restricted. It changed from indefinitely to 3 weeks. Sudden change like that brings about a certain change in perspective. I found myself having to ask, “Do I read, or do I spend time with people, enjoying the time I have left in Somerset East?”  This time reading got the short end of the stick. I can read any time  anywhere. I can be transported into the worlds contained within the pages in a book at any time I choose, but unfortunately they have not yet invented a way for teleportation to be possible, so I chose not to read. 


When settling down and finding my feet in Cape Town I will again be faced with the question, do I devote countless hours to reading or to living outside the pages of a book for longer than I am accustomed. So far reading has yet again gotten the short end of the stick as the time for reading has become less and less.

Reading is a refuge that both protects us from and prepares us for the harsh realities of the world. On the other side of the coin, reading is a solitary and selfish act that cuts us off from others whilst we are engrossed in the pages of the book we are reading. And yet, reading enables us to be more compassionate, empathetic and understanding of others and situations they may find themselves in, because we have friends in books who have encountered the same thing.

In his book -The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett examines this very situation. In An Uncommon Reader – the Queen goes to a mobile library, because well she is the Queen and to ignore it would go against One’s duty. The Queen actually reads the book that she borrows and finds that reading can be a pleasure, and not just something that one does because it has to be done. The Queen finds reading so enjoyable that she reads a great many books quite voraciously, and it becomes the only thing that she wants to do. Her duties become such a burden as it cuts into her reading time. Instead of being all present when driven to events, the Queen finds a way to read whilst being driven to events. This drives the King absolutely mad, not to mention all the advisers and members of staff that cannot understand why Her Royal Highness is so taken by such a frivolous activity such as reading. The more the queen reads, the more she wants to read. The more she becomes annoyed by the duties she has to perform. The more Her Majesty reads the more her view of the world changes, the more her interactions with others change. Her reading is certainly not taken well by many. The Queen finds it odd that there are not more people that are reading – she finds that diplomats and Heads of State are flabbergasted by her literary questions, and she does not understand why there are not more people that she interacts with that are as interested in reading as she is. Her Majesty is so transformed by all the reading she has done, and all the realisations that it has enabled her to have, that she makes a drastic change. Books certainly make many changes, and more often than not they are for the better.

I have been in Cape Town for 4 weeks now; and yet again reading has gotten the short end of the stick. Not because I have chosen to devote more time to getting to know Cape Town and to making friends, but because my day is structured so differently now that I am here. There is a very small window of time during the day for me to do some reading and so far weekends have been transitional. The whole 8-5 work day, 5 days a week is really draining. 45 hours of work, 15 hours of commute – it really does leave you feeling ragged. I sometimes read on the bus, but if I am standing, I would rather focus on not falling around in the bus than reading. It is really sad. I do hope that as time goes by I will become better at managing my time and will be able to read more.  It saddens me greatly, because reading is one of the best things in the world and one of my absolute favourite things.

Since arriving in the Western Cape I have only read 2 books, which is quite low for me – considering that this is the start of week 4 of being here. So read on for my two reviews for the April edition of Bibliophilia – two lovely books by South African Writers – one of whom I had the privilege of meeting last week.

When the Sea is Rising Red...

Title: When the Sea is Rising Red 

Author: Cat Hellisen

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Pages: 296

Source: bought

The Synopsis

In Pelimburg – city of storm and sea and spray – magic is power. Both are controlled by an elite class, who inhale scriven dust to enhance their natural talents.

As the only daughter of the city’s founding family, Felicita has a luxurious but narrow life, one that is ruled by a list of traditionally acceptable and appropriate behaviours. When her dearest friend, Ilven, throws herself over the cliffs and into the sea to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own suicide and escapes to the slums, leaving behind everything she’s ever known, including the means to practice magic. Soon she’s living in a squat, working as a scullery girl, and falling hard for charismatic renegade Dash while also becoming fascinated by the strange, thrilling magic of vampire Jannik.

Then translucent corpses begin to wash up onshore. As it becomes clear that Ilven’s death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic that the upper class with their scriven are powerless against, Felicita must decide where her true loyalties lie – with the family she’s abandoned, or with those who would harness this dark power to destroy Pelimburg’s caste system, and the whole city along with it. 


The Review

I absolutely loved When the Sea is Rising Red – a truly marvellous debut novel by Cat Hellisen. The world that Cat has created is remarkable, and so well described, that I could quite vividly see it all in my mind’s eye the whole time that I was reading it. The city of Pelimburg – despite the huge disparity between the High Lammers and Hobs – sounds like a very magical place. The different names used in this book are so wonderfully original – Jannik, Felicita, Ilven, Firrel – I love it when writers stray from the norm as far as names go – it certainly gave this book something more – it just made it belong to the world of Pelimburg so much more.

What really gave me a kick out of When the Sea is Rising Red is that despite the way the rich Houses look down on the poor there are things that are not frowned upon. Even though within Hob society there are those who are better than others there is one way in which inhabitants are not judged. Within the Houses males have a higher standing than females – despite this there is that one way where they sort of rise above it all by their acceptance. I really loved that it does not matter whether you’re a boy who loves a boy or a girl who loves a girl it is just accepted. No one raises an eyebrow. Even if you are a boy who loved a boy and now you love a girl or a girl who loved a boy and now you love a girl – it does not matter. I long for us to live in a world where love is not frowned upon if it strays from the supposed norm.

Cat has created a truly marvellous story, and whilst I am happy that it is a stand-alone, because everyone and their grandma’s are writing series – I do wish that despite the conclusion of this part of the story that there was another book to look forward – another stand-alone within in the world of Pelimburg that gives us a bit more of this wonderful world.

I absolutely adored the way that tea has been woven into this world – especially Red Bush tea which is a wonderful South African tea. Tea is one of the things that bind the castes together – whether rich or poor everyone drinks tea. I found it really cool that there were so many different teas that had different purposes.

I am reminded a bit of Amanda Hocking’s Trylle Trilogy by this book, and also a little of Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Dash and the Whelk Street crew remind me a bit of the people that Oliver finds refuge with. To a lesser degree obviously, because things are not at all for Felicita as they are for Oliver – but it just made me think of that.

I especially loved how this story ends – and I shall not say much more for fear of spoilers – it is so fitting and so lovely a conclusion. I truly shall miss my time in Pelimburg. I must doff my cap to Cat Hellisen for the way that she wove in some South African words spelt in an English manner. Very, very clever! Also, the different forms of magic that exist in this book are so exquisitely thought out that it is just brilliant!

If you are looking for a fantasy novel that is not just the usual, and is not transparent in its plot or unfurling, then When the Sea is Rising Red is just the book for you. 

I was lucky enough to meet Cat last week Thursday, she is so lovely! She has also informed me that there is more available so that we can extend our stay in the world of When the Sea is Rising Red. For a short story click here, and for some other extras click here.   


Dark Poppy's Demise...


Title: Dark Poppy's Demise

Author: S.A. Partridge

Publisher: Human & Rousseau

Pages: 183

Source: bought

The Synopsis


I walked to class humming a song Robert had suggested I check out on YouTube. He said the lyrics reminded him of me. I blushed thinking about it. Here was a real, honest-to-goodness stunner of a guy, and he was into me! It didn't really make sense, but then, who can argue with true love? It couldn't have been more perfect.
I should have known it was too good to be true. 


The Review


Before you start reading this, you should be warned that there will probably be spoilers in this review, as there is no way for me to do this book justice except for telling it the way I am going to tell it.
If I were in charge of the books that are set as part of the curriculum in schools I would definitely make Dark Poppy’s Demise on of the set books for high school. For English whether first or additional language I would make it compulsory reading for Grade 8’s as this book is so incredibly relevant, but it is also so great that everyone should, no,  everyone has to read this book.

Dark Poppy’s Demise is very relevant for the day and age in which we live – with broken families and parents who work so much that their children never see them. Even with the way we interact more and more with people online that we do not know. This book really does need to be read by everyone – especially with the increase in social media platforms that makes us more and more accessible by strangers than ever before.

Dark Poppy’s Demise is a story like so many others out there, yet it is also unique. Set in Cape Town, it is a story of the capacity of humans to inflict great harm on others for their own pleasure and amusement. Jenna is a social outcast with her own social circle – she feels very plain and like she’ll never ever find a boyfriend. But then she meets a boy online – Robert Rose who adores her photography, and says that she is beautiful – seducing her and finally meeting her in person, where he seems harmless enough – but you can’t help feeling that something is not right. You know, that niggling feeling that this may be a predator- yet you wonder if you’re just being silly. And you are being silly because despite your gut instinct you find yourself liking this predator. Humans: the only species that runs to, and not away from danger.

As the story unfurls and Jenna starts to wonder about Robert, and gets more sucked in by him – despite sensing some danger beneath the surface. He has toyed with her so much that she does not know if she is being silly or not in this strange feeling she has. Robert is getting to the end of his game with Jenna though, and the time for him to get what he wants draws near. Luckily Jenna, is a clever girl, and manages to escape – which is not the case for so many others.

Dark Poppy’s Demise is also a warning, and a reminder to us all. In this increasingly digital age where we are more and more isolated from real people and have more online relationships – we need to be vigilant. In this day and age where people seem to find more and more delight in being cruel to others we need to keep our guards up and trust that little voice that says – be careful.

Dark Poppy’s Demise is a great way to open up a dialogue with younger people about the dangers out there – lurking in the form of cyber predators, or even real predators. People need to be reminded that we need to warn others to be careful and be aware that there are people who are grooming their next victims. We need to be more open about the dangers out there, and we need to let people know that it is not ever the victim’s fault – that it was the predator’s plan all along. This is something very important, especially in South Africa with the current state of affairs regarding violence against women and children.
This is a book you  have to read, and you have to get other people to read it too, because the subject matter is very important, besides that it is a really great book. 


How do you manage to make time for reading when life gets crazy? Has reading had to take the short end of the stick in your life?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Silence is not so golden

As some of you may know, I relocated to Cape Town Middlemarch. Since then, life has been a blur of work and commute and well there have just not been enough hours. Life is crazy - as Black Sabbath sang - I'm going off the rails on a crazy train.

It pains me greatly that my blog is so silent, but I shall try valiantly to get more posts out in the weeks to come as I attempt to get a better grasp on the new demands on my time. It also pains me because I have so much to share with you all.

This is unfortunately a very brief post, as I must dash to do work, but I would like to know how you all are doing and what you are reading and what has interested you lately?

Looking forward to regaling you all as soon as I can.

Bookish Greetings,
Terri

Friday, 8 March 2013

My Favourite Things - The March Edition

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with string. These are a few of my favourite things" Julie Andrews

I thought that since this month is my birthday month, I would talk about some of my favourite things, and maybe, just maybe it would result in extra bookish gifts... just maybe.

There are many things that I enjoy, so I have many favourite things. Be prepared for a rather lengthy post, as I gush about my favourite things.

I'll start with the obvious...

Books

I have a great many favourite books, those who know me won't be suprised when I cite Jeffrey Eugenides and J.D. Salinger as being among my favourite authors. A Perfect Day for Bananafish is my favourite short story, the first time I read it my jaw literally dropped, and well as story that can elicit that kind of response from me is gold in my books. The Virgin Suicides has enthralled me for more than a decade - the mystery of the Lisbon sisters is one I still cannot get over. Middlesex still lives rather vividly in my mind - this modern Odyssey so marvellously crafted.

As far as the Classics go, I count The Great Gatsby, The Colour Purple, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Romeo and Juliet, Rebecca and The Catcher in the Rye as among my favourites. My all time favourite though remains Gone with the Wind. I expect that my list of favourite classics shall expand as I proceed with my journey reading the Classics.

But, as you know, I am not only a reader of serious books, some of my favourite YA books are Fated and Echo by Alyson Noel, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Ten things we did (but probably shouldn't have) Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The Mara Dyer Series,The Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking... I could go on for a while. One of my all time favourites though: The Harry Potter books - it's like Roald Dahl's awesomeness updated.

I also love Cozy Mysteries, and I have to say that Lorna Barrett and her Booktown Mystery Series is my favourite - cozy mystery + books = epic win!! And don't get me started on my favourite autobiographies and memoirs! You just need to look back at my February That's Life post to see my favourites!

From the Screen

I adore many films and series such as Mrs Henderson Presents, Moulin Rouge, Seabiscuit, Domino, The Little Mermaid, The Harry Potter movies, The Virgin Suicides, The Sound of Music, Grease, Ferris Beular's Day Off... There are so many more but these are at the top for me. Oh and Snakes on a Plane - it's so funny!! Don't get me started on my love for Downton Abbey, Absolutely Fabulous and Blackadder. British Comedies are in my mind the best of the best - Fawlty Towers, The Thin Blue Line, My Family... it doesn't get better than that. This does not mean I dismiss the comedy of the Americans - I do so adore Parks and Recreation, Frasier, Will and Grace, Greek and an old favourite - Everybody Loves Raymond. I also absolutely adore Boston Legal. And Fringe - I LOVE Fringe - John Noble and Joshua Jackson make the show! So it is no wonder that they and Fringe are some of my favourite things! Of the more serious variety - Revenge, Mad Men and the Good Wife are among my favourites. Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Smith, Judie Dench, John Cleese, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders, John Cusack, Rob Lowe, Nicole Kidman - these are some of my favourite actors.

Some other favourites
  • getting postcards
  • gelatto
  • red velvet cake
  • pumpkin loaf
  • cherries
  • prawns
  • cats
  • penguins
  • orchids
  • Knysna
  • Freddie Mercury and Queen
These are a few of my favourite things, and now for some reviews of my current favourite books...

The Archived - Victoria Schwab

Title: The Archived

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Hyperion

Pages: 328

Source: pre-ordered from Amazon

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

The Synopsis

 IMAGINE A PLACE WHERE THE DEAD REST ON SHELVES LIKE BOOKS.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
        Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
        Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous - it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archivem the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and all. In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain,  trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.                                                    FROM THE BOOK JACKET.

The Review

I cannot put into words how difficult it is to write a review of The Archived, because it is just so amazing. The idea of the dead being shelved as Histories is a very *novel* idea. Wonderfully written, with the past interwoven so effortlessly with the present - this is a wonderful sophomore offering from the lovely Victoria Schwab. The way we learn about Mackenzie and her Da and how she came to be a keeper in little snippets of memory is very clever.

I love the way that we learn the secrets of the Archive with Mackenzie, as opposed to her knowing all. I absolutely adore Roland, and well, I really like Wes. I'll not elaborate for fear of spoilers. The Archived presents us with a lovely mystery that will leave you angst ridden and rooting for Mackenzie and the others to get to the bottom of the disruptions in the Archive.

The Archived is one of those books that you can get lost in. I cannot wait for the next installment, The Unbound.

More to look out for by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch

 "The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. "
"If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. "
"And there are no strangers in the town of Near." 
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 
But when an actual stranger--a boy who seems to fade like smoke--appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. 
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him. 
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know--about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy. 
Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won't soon forget.


Ash Born Boy

Before he came to Near... 
Before he met Lexi... 
Before they faced the witch... 
Who was the boy named Cole? 

Follow us to Dale, a city on a hill, where in a matter of days fire will devour everything. Meet the Lord and Lady, and their son, the boy destined to inherit all...until everything turns to ash. Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe. 

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

It's time to learn the truth behind the stranger's story.

Vicious


 A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and
superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. 

Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?


The Unbound

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe. 

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.