Monday, 31 October 2016

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Beauty's Kingdom - Anne Rice, written as A.N. Roquelaure

It had been a while since I had read an Anne Rice novel, so I was quite excited when I picked up this beautifully gilded covered book, and boy, was I surprised. Being a Rice fan of many years, I've come to expect and appreciate the sumptuous and rich writing that is part of the artistry and mastery that is Mrs. Rice, however this, this I was not expecting. The first novel of the Sleeping Beauty series that I have read, this book is apparently written twenty years after the trilogy was introduced to humankind, before darker, ahem, pleasures became as commercial as it is today. Yes, flashbacks of you know what movie I'm talking about, however this would on another -ahem, ahem - licentious and dissolute level, making you know what seem almost chaste. Now I supposed one wholly expects this level lasciviousness from a cover that promises 'provocative and stirring', and by all means does it deliver with strong and unabashedly lewd versions of fairy tale characters such as Sleeping Beauty & King Laurent. Perhaps the pseudonym that this book is written under provides the reader with more than a literal indication of the change in the writers mind-frame. As with all Rice's books, the plot unfolds on a rich tapestry of dramatic characters and scene descriptions with a writing style that creates a special realism for a reader in the scenes -  feeling the warmth of flickering candlelight and stroking crimson velvet curtains. While the book theme is not what I'd call my cup of tea, I do as always, appreciate the richness of her writing and the complexity she invests into each character.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

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The Square Root of Summer - Harriet Reuter Hapgood

This is the story of Margot or Gottie, who comes of age by means that sounds like either severe anxiety or,  access to time- morphed of wormholes that only she can see.
Little Gottie and Thomas are best friends until he moves away with his family and they lose contact. Gottie belongs to a rather eccentric family and worships her grandfather, Grey. She grows up in this eccentric family - bell-bottom lip stick wearing singer brother, spaced out father, and then of course there was the uber cool Grey - and becomes a teenager. And as teenager girls do, she falls in-love with the rather cad-like Jason, her brothers band mate. Cue Grey's death, and a string of disappointments turns once normal Gottie into a worm-hole seeing recluse. But as good fortune would have it,the wheel of fate turns and results in the return of Thomas.
This is a great read for the teenage target market, turning the typical heart break story into something more substantial with a lot of science and an interesting and intelligent heroine, Gottie.
* Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan

Saturday, 20 August 2016

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The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory's The Other Queen provides a fictional narration on the historically factual people who played a role in the English captivity of Mary, Queen of Scots. One truly appreciates the research efforts that depict Mary and her cousin & rival, Queen Elizabeth as the complex women they may very well have been. One can't help but cheer for the apparently ravishingly beautiful Mary who, had events played in her favour, could have been a queen three times over. The events that lead to Mary's eventual execution in 1587 - after 16 years of captivity - lays a historically rich plot and the courtiers and captors that surround both queens are what makes it such an intriguing read as the high levels of influence they had were what swayed events. Now it could be my fascination with all things medieval that makes this book so enjoyable to me, however I do think that any reader would appreciate the first hand account provided by each arch character, specifically those of Mary's 'jailors', Bess and George Talbot.
The author of many well known books, two of which inspired a TV mini-series (The White Queen) and a movie (The Other Boleyn Girl), I look forward to picking up another read through the eyes of famous historical figures.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Nthikeng Mohlele - Pleasure

Having not read a Nthikeng Mohlele piece before Pleasure, I was quite surprised at the reflections so artfully documented in a book with a rather sensuous cover. By no means shying away from sensuality at all, the book in itself is less so about the act or pursuit of pleasure, rather than the notion thereof. Our protagonist Milton Mohelele (interestingly enough sharing our authors last name - a fact perhaps in need of further deliberation by someone more qualified than I) becomes obsessively consumed by a dream he has of a woman in 1945, and creates a character to couple with her who is imprisoned by Nazi's. A character who strangely enough, he would come to emulate in reality.
Milton frequently ponders on the women of his failed relationship's and while he is in his mid-fifties, he still finds himself in the shadow of his father who was an esteemed and brilliant author. He is a most ardent surveyor of human behaviour - the nuances in actions that create beauty or something worse and in those moments of raw emotion he see's pleasure. Too many of those moments coupled with the weight of the obsession, his fathers shadow and a string of failed relationships, eventually leads him into a life of recluse.
While not an easy-to classify-in-a-specific-genre type of book, Nthikeng has definitely created a unique literary work that gives the reader an impression of being a trusted sound board, or at least a getting a peek into a journal of internal reflection
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan

Monday, 23 May 2016

The subliminal theme of roots and family is what stood out most for me in Mohale Mashigo’s book that would take any reader – South African or not – on a life tour of what is the norm for most modern South Africans. That being, despite the career focused city lives that many cultivate, where and more specifically who you come from will always be the cradle of your consciousness. The books protagonist, Marubini, is an independent and successful city girl who starts to experience unexplained symptoms that remind her of the spiritual journey that her father took years back in the place of her childhood. After enduring seizures and frighteningly familiar voices of ghosts not forgotten, she returns home for a wedding and there learns the truth of her symptoms from her charismatic grandmother, Finally, she is able to submit to the yearning that her mind is forcing her to confront. Any reader could appreciate the ease of the inter-changeable traditional vs. modern scenes that are so uniquely South African in this book. Witty conversations and vivid flashbacks steer a story fused with equal measures of culture, sadness and life.
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Storm Sister - Lucinda Riley

I have a deep appreciation for the rich factual and historical cloth on which Lucinda Riley sets out her tales. The Storm Sister is the second - and considerably bigger - volume on the Seven Sisters series and, well lets just say it does not disappoint. Ally, - or Alcyone as she was named by Pa Salt -  is the second eldest of the D'Apliese sisters. Working as a sailor, she falls in love with a famous skipper and accidentally witnesses her fathers' secret and  very suspicious burial at sea. Thrown by the death of her beloved rock, she is buoyed by her love for Theo until tragedy sends her life completely spiraling. Similar to the previous book where her older sister Maia is overwhelmed by the death f Pa Salt and events out of her control, Ally is motivated to follow the clues Pa Salt left her in death as a coping mechanism and distraction. The clues lead her to the crisp and sophisticated cultural landscape of Norway where Ally discovers secrets, family and the love of music that stretches across lifetimes.
Even the Acknowledgement section of the books display the natural story telling ability of the author. I look forward to the book on Star, the next sister of the Seven Sister series.
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan
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Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Seven Sisters - Lucinda Riley

Dreamlike. That's how I would summarise this book into one word if I had to. The series is inspired by the Seven Sisters constellation and its female protagonists named after its seven stars - though mysteriously, there are only six sisters at this point.
Set in idyllic Geneva, the first book in the series tells the story of Maia D'Apliese, the eldest adoptive daughter of the world travelling - and frustratingly secretive - Pa Salt. After his sudden death , the sisters descend on Atlantis to pay their respects, and shortly thereafter the reclusive but linguistically gifted book translator Maia is once again the only sister left in the home of their childhood. Finding herself restless with the clues to her background that Pa Salt had left behind and ill at ease with the eminent and unwelcome visit of an ex-love, she makes an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision to leave and learn about her history and place of birth - in Rio, Brazil.
Steeped in rich historical and cultural tidbits, the book unfolds the life of her ancestors and how she came to be adopted in a somewhat heartbreaking way. With classic story telling ability, Riley perfectly encapsulated the femininity and subtle demeanor of Maia's character in a most charming way. I noticed this articulation as soon as I started reading the second book in the series, Storm Sister whose protagonist, Ally, is somewhat more expressive. Stay tuned.
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan

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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

What If There Were No Whites In South Africa? - Ferial Haffajee

Albeit a controversial book title, Ferial Haffajee writes more of a personal account slash research memoir than what the title may tell a potential reader.
As a reader, you appreciate the internal struggle that seems to drive her writing - question after question after interview and of course, the ever present battalion of current facts.
Not my usual genre to review, and because of the unrelenting tenacity with which she pursued these answers - which was clearly very personal to the writer - I found myself trying to absorb its many concepts and notions. It became mesmerizing how powerful personal experience meets political insight and journo savvy can be.
Not exactly what you'd call a light read, but definitely poignant and thought provoking.
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Man at the Helm - Nina Stibbe

Delightfully narrated through anxious and  insightful nine year old Lizzie Vogel, who, with her sister, desperately try to find their mother a new husband once their stuffy and austere father packs up and leaves the family for a relationship with a man after an embarrassing scuffle on the kitchen floor with their mother. Eventually evicted by their father from their fashionable city dwellings, they are shunted to a small town with a disappointingly low level of eligible bachelors which inspires the creation of the Man List. Mother, being a hopeless and pampered alcoholic, takes to play-writing every time another disappointment rocks her - a sure sign that things are bad- eventually succumbs to taking anti-depressants that make her tired and even less amenable. Convinced that only another man at the helm will cure their mothers depression and their fall from societal grace, the sisters strategically instigate meetings with potentials on the Man List. Woefully convinced that not only will the new man rectify mothers melancholy, but will also prevent their domestic decay into 'wards of court'. Dealing with unfriendly town residents and a series of unsuitable candidates while seeing to their little brother Jack, Lizzie amusingly narrates a matter-of-fact account of a children shouldering domestic responsibility.
A hilariously entertaining read, it really is one of those books you put down regrettably when it ends - it had me in stitches from the first page. Nina Stibbe nailed the frank and literal humour of an English child in the 1970's, and I lapped up every word until the end of the book.
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