The Book Club Blog

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2017 Book Reviews Top 10

Goodness, I have been neglecting this little corner of books. I may not have done much writing in here, but I have done much reading.

2017 was a fabulous reading year. There were not many duds, though if I was reading something I really wasn’t enjoying, I put it down and started something else. There are way too many good books in the world, to spend time on books I am not enjoying. I give them an honest try but if they don’t tickle my tootsies, then I abandon them…

No 10

boundless sublime

The Boundless Sublime – Lili Wilkinson

This was a great a novel about a cult and how easy it is to fall into the trap of words. A superb YA novel.

No 9

caraval

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Thoroughly enjoyed the magical YA novel. It was a unique story and very well written

NO 8

more than this

More than this – Patrick Ness

Another YA, what makes you think I am a fan? But this was different and engaging and asked the questions, are we real? Do our thoughts define us?  I loved it.

No 7

the jewel

The Lone City Series started with The Jewel

I thoroughly enjoyed this series. Granted it was a little wishy-washy in places, but I thought the storyline was original and fun.  It was also super easy to read and kept me entertained through all three of the books. ( I went through a spate of reading books that my daughter can eventually read, this set has been saved for future reading)

No 6

beautiful

Beautiful broken things – Sara Barnard

Once again, this was not your straightforward YA novel, this one had some meaty bits and showed the power of friendship. Especially when we are young and feel things more intensely. A good read. And save for future reading.

No 5

fever

Deon Meyer – Fever

A South African author mainly known for his thrillers, brought this dystopian novel into the world of books, and thank goodness he did. It was great, and he hit the notes just right. Set in SA, with a wonderful twist in the end. If you are into Dystopian, then this should not be missed

No 4

conception

Ms Conception – Pamela Power

Another great SA author, new to me, but on my list of faves. This was hilarious and managed to tear me out of my reading slump that hit me this year. Her writing is funny, true and loved that I could relate to the book. Read it, its good.

No 3

bear

Beartown – Fredrik Backman

Wow, just wow. This one had me through the ringer. I cried big ploppy tears onto the screen of my kindle in this one. A story about family, life, and gender roles. This book Needs to be read.

N0 2

eleanor

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman

Another Wow. This book was an extremely well-written debut novel. I loved it, I loved the characters and I think Honeyman pulled it off with aplomb.

No 1

music

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

One of my all-time favourite authors, Joyce got the balance in this book just right. It was perfect, I loved it and you should read it. A book about life, and how we Don’t live and what happens when we don’t and how the small things are the big things and music plays an important part.

If you would like to see the rest of my book, you can find them on Goodreads. I struggled a little to decide which books to add to this list becuase out of the 50 books I read, at least 30 of them were great.

And now onto 2018. Where, while I am reading (Currently on The Boy with No Shoes, William Horwood’s memoir) I will also be writing the first draft of my book. I have joined a writing course with the author Joanne Fedler and I aim to have the #tragicfirstdraft completed by November. So keep an eye on this page….

Happy Reading!

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Two of my best reads for 2017(so far)

BeartownBeartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a page turner.

Unlike any of his previous novels in story but the brilliance of his writing is stark.

Beartown is a book that must be read. And by as many men as possible. Women too, but men need to read this book. This book will send you through the ringer, it will have you sobbing, gasping in disbelief, laughing, sharing joy, understanding regret, give you a sense of knowing, all set within the small town called Beartown. This is a story about belonging, about family and about the power of sport. It is about love and understanding, hate and desire, ice and heat. I loved it.

Please read it and then let me know what you thought.

Suffice to say, this is one of the best books I have read this year.

On par with Deon Meyer’s Fever. A dystopian novel set in South Africa.

 

FeverFever by Deon Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well. When I first realised that Deon Meyer’s new book was a dystopian novel my first thought was: but how can he change his genre of writing? Then my second thought was, how brilliant that he CAN change his genre. That he has the brilliance to write something other than what he has written before. And there is brilliance in this novel.

Set in South Africa after a worldwide viral outbreak where the survivors are few and far between, Nico and his father Willem are driving through the desolate landscape when they come to a stop in a town which is eventually christened Amanzi. Amanzi is their new hope, where together with other survivors of The Fever, they begin to rebuild their lives.

This is the story told from Nico’s perspective, and over a five year span. I was swept away into the world Meyer has created and felt both urged to read, and yet also to savour the journey. A believable and courageous story, which I highly recommend. Do not let the fact that this is a South African author, deter you from reading this book. You will regret it if you allow ‘prejudices of apartheid’ (which was always my one complaint in early SA writing, it was all the same, but I can honestly say, this is not) dictate to you over enjoying this novel.

 

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A Guide to the Birds of East Africa- a review

 

 

guide

What an absolutely delightful book! I read ‘ A Guide to the birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson, in a couple of days, and was the perfect companion during my short flight from Cape Town to East London. Again, this book was purchased from the lovely FB group which brings new meaning to book buying addict… and was the second to be read in my ‘pile’.

When I started it I thought surely I have read it, it sounds so familiar! Clearly, this was another book I had started and never got further than the first chapter. Fascinating how some books just don’t grab you the first time! The story was about two gentlemen who have a friendly contest on who can see the most birds, and new birds each day within 7 days, in order to ask a certain lady out on a date. The story was amusing, the characters were quite vivid and again, they have planted themselves in my mind for the moment. I loved that the story was set in Kenya, with references to England too. Though the most amazing thing was the amount of birds these gentlemen saw each day.

To sound a little ignorant( I have never been a particularly avid ornithologist ) I really didn’t realise there were so many birds in the world, never mind one country in Africa.  It made me feel a little excited at the prospect of bird watching in my garden, we have many many birds that pop in and sing us good morning. Not that I know what any of them are, but I think I could very possibly give it a go in the holidays and see how many different species I can spot in a day…..

The ending was lovely and fitting for the novel, no serious great shakes, just a gentle novel, about kindness and honour and grief and bravery and learning to get over ones self.

 

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Station Eleven – a review of sorts

 

station-eleven

I started this book about 6 months ago and didn’t even finish the first chapter.

I then subsequently bought myself a hard copy, from a book group on FB that sells second hand books at great prices, and you collect them at the post office, luckily, you can keep ‘piles’ with the various buyers and pay only one postage price. Its great! But can be rather detrimental on your bank balance, because even those R30’s add up….But back to the book.

Out of my ‘pile’ of books I decided to start with this one as I had heard fabulous things about the book- without having gone searching for reviews, the seller loved it and I generally give books a second chance if I didn’t manage it on the first. My verdict? I absolutely loved it. It had me rapt for a couple of days and I found myself reading when I really should not have been reading, but it was a case of ‘just one more minute, then I will get ready for work’ -Luckily I work from home so I do sometimes have a few extra minutes to spare….

The story is apocalyptic in nature, and so easily written about, that out of all the Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic novels I have read, this one was the most easily believable and almost relatable. The world succumbed to the Georgian Flu, whereby once the virus got you, you were man down and out within a day or two. I loved how the author describe the ending of the world, in fact one part which really plays with my mind is the aeroplane scene. This happens in the beginning so no spoilers to worry about. A group of airplanes and their passengers have been diverted from their original travel path and deposited at this airport whereby they end up living and forming a museum out of the left overs of the life that no longer exists and becomes a destination for travellers in the left over world. While they are in the arrivals department on one of the earlier days of the outbreak, a plan lands, but no one disembarks. And the plane stays  there for the rest of time. I found that one scene so powerful in its simplicity.

And, I found it quite haunting as I was on a aeroplane twice this weekend, and both times this scene came back to haunt me.

When I finished the book, I felt bereft without the characters and it took me a few days to process the story. As I said, I loved it, but the ending was not what I was hoping/expecting. That is the problem with some books, they are excellent and then almost let themselves down by their endings. Though I guess that is really the readers problem and not the writer. Why didn’t I like it? I have been pondering how to get it into words, so here is my attempt:

The ending was lovely in that it brought all the pieces of the puzzle together and how each character related within the weave of the novel. But I found it almost too tame. Which in hindsight of having been disappointed, life is quite tame in its labyrinth of who’s connected where. Its the rule of 3, that at least one person will know one person will know one person within your circle of people. I guess, because the story unfolded so gently I almost expected the explosion of the truth of the novel to be hurtled at me, and not gently put there.  I wonder if anyone felt the same way? I would love to know.

If you haven’t read it yet, do give it a go, and then come back here and let me know what you thought. I would have to say that is one of those books that lingers with you long after you have finished reading it.

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Seriously overdue post!

Wow! It is amazing how very quickly time zips by, one minute it is January, and in the blink of an eye we are in the middle of May already. Crazy the pace of life we live…! But even though life has been busy, the weather is winding down into Winter which means colder weather, hibernatory patterns emerging and reading more (my favourite part). I have to share one book that I have recently read and to me, it was a soul book. It was excellent. The writing was glorious, the story was sad but yet, uplifting, the relationships that were portrayed were realistic and all round good reading. What is it, you are screeching at me by now??

Take a look: then go out and buy it, seriously, go on, go do it now…

I’ll give you the sun by Jandy Nelson, was brilliant.

 

A YA novel, but yet so much more than that. Focusing on the relationship between two competitive twins Jude and Noah, and how through a series of misunderstandings and family tragedy their relationship breaks down. But it is the putting back together again, how they are two halves of a whole and yet two wholes within their twinship which I enjoyed exploring. The characters are real and you can almost feel the emotion in the pages as you read. I have to admit to a few tear drops here and there. It was a very Real book and the writing captures moments and memories and miscommunications and love and being true to oneself in such a way that you can REMEMBER these feelings (as an adult). As a young adult, I am sure that the book also sparks the emotions.

Jandy Nelson is an American author and this book was published in 2014.

Have you read it? What did you think?

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My Lion’s Heart by Gareth Patterson – my review

This book is a true account of Gareth’s work with both lions and elephants in Africa.

Firstly, thank you to Tracey Macdonald on sending me a review copy of this book, I do enjoy reading about people whose life work is to save and protect the animals.  It is  a worthy life cause and with so many people who either don’t care, don’t do anything, or worse, who even kill these animals for sport, it is an honour to know that there are people out there who care.

I have to be honest and say that I did struggle a little to read this book due to his writing style, it was quite jagged and hopped about a bit but apart from that it was an interesting and heart rendering read. If any of you have read The Elephant Whisperer, it is in the same vein. What intrigues me most about Gareth and his lion heart is that he literally became part of his lion pride. I think it would be awesome to have that sort of connection, both spiritual and physical, with a wild animal. I loved how he became part of them, how the lions knew that he was a part of the pride and showed him in ways that are just so special.

What is the most heart rendering is that here are these men, who do everything in their power to help the animals, to try to make other humans see sense amid the senseless act of killing for sport and yet, the government does nothing and when it does,( it takes reels of paperwork) the people do nothing and the killing still continues. That just breaks my heart. And what breaks it even more, is that it still continues. We all know of Rhino poachers, but there are lion poachers and elephant poachers too. Sickening and Saddening. That in this day and age it Still occurs and for such bizarre reasons that it just cannot make any sense.

I think that Gareth was called to work with animals, that he is spiritually connected to them and more specifically with lions and to read his account of his life was both awe inspiring and sorrowful.

Do read it, I think the more people who are aware of the situation the better and maybe one of us will be inspired to do the same.

You can find more about Gareth here and see the book trailer here.

Keep an eye out for our interview with Gareth coming to The Book Club Blog soon!

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Monday morning reviews to love or hate a book…

Wowser, so, we waited for this book for a long time, but the wait was definitely worth it. Classic Tom Robbins at his best, and with his very own story. I loved reading how he ‘became’ a writer, the thoughts behind his books and the stories of his life. I was inspired to watch Even Cowgirls get the blues though the movie has nothing on the book, but isn’t that usually the case?

Tom Robbins is one of my most favourite authors, I love his philosophical style mixed in with reality, I love how there is meaning in the mundane and his writing style is truly unique. I don’t think there will ever be ‘another’ Tom Robbins. A bit like there will never be another Haruki Murakami. Novels which are in their own style which can not be duplicated.

I think if you are a fan of Tom’s writing, then this is  a must read, and even if you are not, it is still an interesting read as his words are like a love story for the brain. He mixes metaphors and tears you away from the ordinary as you slowly savour each sentence. If you haven’t read anything by him, I would recommend Jitterbug Perfume as a starting point and work your way through his novels that way. Some say that your first novel that you read by him, will forever be your favourite,  I don’t quite agree, as once I read Jitterbug Perfume, it was love at first reading never mind the others I had read.

Verdict: Loved it!

So, what do you think? Have you read him? And will you, if you haven’t?

As for another book I tried to read, which has had brilliant reviews is A Girl Who is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear Mc Bride.

And to be honest, I don’t have time to read book which feel like work, when there are so very many others that I want to read. I gave it a good chance but found it so very difficult to read. Her writing style is completely different, and as I said, quite hard work. I am sure that it is a brilliant piece of writing, but I cannot fathom it. I may try again, when I am feeling braver, but really, when there are other more enjoyable books out there?

Verdict: So didn’t like it

Have you read it? What was your verdict? Am I being too hasty in discarding it to the not to be read pile, or should I persevere and get through it?

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BROKEN MONSTERS – Lauren Beukes -my review

I love my library! They are truly awesome at getting in new books to read, without a long wait or huge price tag. I received my copy of this to read last week and it took me a little while to read, due to the fact that I didn’t want to have nightmares so I didn’t read this book at night.

Saying that I was both compelled to read and yet forced to stop at turns during the reading of this book. I thought it was a brilliantly written novel, yet, novel, I have to ask how much of it really is a novel, this story is seeped in reality. What I found most disturbing about the book is that to me, it is a reflection on the world at the moment. A reflection on how our lives are online, how we are often afraid to speak, how work can dominate our lives and how there is such a breakdown of community that social media is the norm. How people become more broken, how utterly convinced of their own dream that nothing stands in the way of it.

I loved how Beukes weaves a tale of artists dreaming and how it is catching and that doors can open, and it seems to me that she captures this day and age perfectly in her book. So, what is it about? A serial killer in detroit who is an artist who is broken and where the dream inside his head takes over the human part of him and infects others who can ‘see’. It is about the relationship between a Police detective mother and her teenage daughter. It is the story of an online ‘self made’ journalist. A disturbing and rather dark novel set in the here and now, it captures the essence of our times.

Read it, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

To see my review on The Shining Girls go here and for those of you who have read her other books, do they all contain serial killers? Or is it just her last two that do?? And I am sure that even after I have pressed publish on this post, this book will still sit with me and percolate inside my brain….

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Some light hearted chick-lit for your Monday

The Hidden Cottage – Erica James

 

Erica James is one of my guilty pleasures, just like Penny Vincenzi and Maeve Binchy. I like how her books are easy to read and always have people at the heart of it. Her books are solid and dependable and even though there may be a tragedy stuck in her story for good measure, people generally make it out of it alive and with positivity.

A Passionate Love Affair with a  Perfect Stranger – Amy Robinson

A chick-lit book with a difference. This was not your usual chick-lit fair, it had good, well written characters, an interesting story line and was actually fairly amusing. It did have some boring bits which I did skim read but as a general whole, this was a fun and easy read for when you need some light heartedness in your life.

Night Music – Jo Jo Moyes

I really enjoyed Me before You so when I found this in the library, I decided to give it a go. Well, I have to be honest that it did not grab me one bit. I think I got a few chapters in and by then the characters had started to annoy me and the writing just did not pull me in. I have to, again, admit to having ditched the book and didn’t actually finish it. If you have read it, does it turn out good at the end? I know she has a new one out, which I am tempted to try, apparently its as good as Me before You…

Have you read any good chick-lit of late? I do usually enjoy Jane Green and Marian Keyes, but if you know of any other goodies out there, do let me know.

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Open – Andre Aggasi

I could not put this book down! Beautifully written, it opened my eyes to this one mans talent. Gave me new respect for tennis players and has my hooked on reading more about other players to see how their tennis journeys compared with his.

I remember Agassi when he won Wimbledon, I was in high school and I thought he was the bees knees! I don’t think I have ever watched Wimbledon in quite the same way ever again, blame it on my teenage hormones if you must;-) But to have read this book, really was brilliant, he was quite a tortured man. To think of doing something that you hate because you have to, I think many people in the world live like that, just maybe not quite so publicly.

I love that he eventually met and married Steffi Graf, I love how supportive she was of him and his career, and how she stood by him through both the ups and downs. I think that they must have  a truly awesome marriage.

I found this book quite reminiscent of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua in how Andre’s father was quite the tiger. Forcing not only one of his children but all of them into tennis because it was what he wanted. I am glad that all of them figured themselves out in the end though and became who they were meant to be without force. The fact, that there was no kindness in all of the forcing just makes me realise , again,what an important job we have as parents. I wouldn’t wish his father on anyone.

Have you read it? What did you think?

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