Archive for December, 2017


by Maxine Case

This is my choice for Book 45: A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title.

I LOVED this book. It spans decades and tells the stories of a Dutch settler in the Cape in the 18th Century, and one of his slaves, Lena.

Geert Baardwijk is a rich man living the relatively easy life the Dutch had in the Cape. Lena is a young woman, sold into slavery by the chief of her village in Madagascar. We are led to their interactions through the telling of their individual stories.  I loved this part of the book because so few of us are aware of the lives slaves and indentured workers had before they became someone’s property. It is important that we remember and remain aware of the facts of this part of South African history.

South Africa did not start on 1652 as so many of us learnt at school. The Dutch did not sail in to rescue this land and its people from a lack of civilisation. And they only succeeded in creating a settlement through the hard work of people who hardly benefited at all.

All of this is in this book, but then so is love and guilt, emotional conflict and confusion. The characters are multi-dimensional and even ‘bad’ acts can be seen in the light of the times. Weak people do not go against society regardless of how they feel. And strong people will always survive.

This book also looks at love and betrayal, expectation and ownership. It is just full of wonderful themes and in the middle of all of that, delivers an interesting history lesson too.

As a South African I think this book is so important. While Case acknowledges that she could find record of Baardwijk quite easily, there is no record of Lena. This in itself is so telling.

As a result, Lena’s story is not the story of a specific slave but the story of so many. Lena is a character in Case’s family history but the journey she took to land up where she did was a journey similar to that forced upon so many people.

Every South African should read books like this to realise the depths of the system we are trying to move past. When white South Africans say it’s been 25 years, get over it – I wish they remembered that 300 years ago one set of our ancestors was buying and selling the ancestors of other members of the population.

A wonderful book on so many levels. Just beautiful.

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by Aldous Huxley

I have been meaning to read this book for years so it is Book 37. A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to.

I audiobooked this book and I am not sure that was the best idea.
I drifted between being really enthralled by Huxley’s ideas and loving his satirical poke at the cost of a ‘perfect’ society, and thinking it was really rather tedious and pointless. Maybe had I been reading rather listening this would not have happened. But I have tried to read it a few times and drifted off to other books so maybe its just not a good match – this book and I.

However, when I was enjoying the book, I really enjoyed it. I think the world Huxley created in the 30s is interesting and not completely implausible now. I really liked the revelation of the Director’s attitude towards the islands of banishment – showing, perhaps, that no one in society actually believes in the rules and mores of society, but rather choses to follow them for ease of life.

Even in a perfectly created world, in one where humans are designed and drugged and controlled – even then individual thoughts will occur. The human spirit will out.

That’s what I got from this book.

by Agatha Christie

I read this as the book set in the decade I was born – Book 36.

I have never read a Christie and this is not a typical one. No whodunit, no Miss Marple and no Poirot.

Instead a chilling, cold, calculated thriller with a twist I did no see coming, despite expecting one.

The story is about a poor man who marries a rich woman and they build their dream house. This goes wonky eventually but explaining what and how would be a terrible spoiler.

But what the book is really about is greed and love, murder and betrayal. Christie takes you down a not unfamiliar path – until she turns you around and you are not where you thought you were.

Most of the book is spent creating the world in which the actual story takes place at the end.

I will say no more – just go and read this

That is was published in 1967 is evident only in how much £300 is considered, in how woman are thought to need looking after and the now unacceptable way of referring to travelling people as gypsies in derogatory and stereotypical ways.

Beyond that, the themes, passions and events of the story are as relevant today as they were then. I felt occasionally that I could be reading a Barbara Vine or any other author creating twisted tales of undesirable human nature.

Well worth the time it took to read this 300 page book.

I really did like it.

by John Green and David Levithan

This is my book for one written by two authors – Book 18

What a wonderful book that left me grinning and feeling fabulous. It’s a YA book I guess, in that the characters are teenagers, but I don’t read much YA so I am not sure if that’s the criterion.

Anyway, the titular Will Graysons are two teenager boys with the same name who tell their own stories, each written by a different author.

Each chapter is a different boy’s story and the reader sees their lives rolling out until they collide. And when they do it is simply marvellous.

The supporting cast of characters are wonderful and the kind of people you wanted to know as a teenager. Their lives are messy and complicated but ultimately positive, like those of most teenagers.

The characters were believable as teenagers even as they dealt with some pretty grown up stuff – mental health, sexuality, loneliness, love, friendship, betrayal and musicals!

This book is about love and friendship, and song and forgiveness. It’s an absolute delight that I read over two days, ignoring all my chores and other responsibilities.

5 stars all the way!

by Bret Easton Ellis

This is my anti-hero book for the book challenge – Book 9

And boy is Bateman ever an anti-hero.

So much has been written about this book I think the only valuable comment I could make is my emotional reaction to it

It made me sad. Really really sad. Mostly for Bateman but also for all the invisible interchangeable people in the society.

I did the expected and predictable eeeeuw and shudder when reading some of the scenes, and I really was bothered by the casual abuse of animals but still, my over-riding emotion was not disgust or horror, but sadness.

All Bateman wanted to do was connect, to be seen and to see. And of course he was off his bloody rocker in a very real and scary way – but the vulnerability under his violence is what continues to haunt me, rather than his violence.

Even his obsession with what people wore waned towards the end of the book, growing less detailed.

The scene in the Hamptons made me want to weep for him – he says he tried so hard to be normal, to do normal things like play tennis and hike – and then ate scavenged sea life in the middle of the night. No one doing that is having fun – that’s a horrible internal torture.

What happens to a little boy that he turns into Patrick Bateman?
And how does a society exist in which people like him get lost in the mass of humanity? No one listened to him – and he told everyone over and over again.

It’s not fantasy to have people fall so completely through the cracks of society – it happens all the time. How much do we not listen to the cries of help from others because it may interfere with our lives?

Is one madman to blame or are we all, as members of society?

This book has really disturbed me but not for the reasons and in the way I expected from reading other reviews and comments. I am sad and ashamed of society for all the real Batemans who never are seen or helped until their lives spiral out of control and into deaths.

A most profound book.

 

 

 

by L.M. Montgomery

I completely missed this book as a child. I didn’t even really know of its existence until I visited Prince Edward Island a few years ago.

Fast forward to an audible subscription and the tedious task of unpacking a home and Anne became my companion for days of really unpleasant work.

And what a companion! One could not really ask for a nicer human being to spend time with while completing any task. Right from the start I was enraptured by the little Anne’s spirit. You just know that in real life she would drive you a bit mad but also make you smile and shake your head.

The joy of this book is not even really the narrative but rather the development and joy of Anne. She dominates it completely and what she does matters so much less than how she does it.

And she holds up pretty well in 2017 too – we need more Annes in the world really.

My best thing about this book though is that I sent a mail to my stepmother in Canada telling her how I enjoyed it. (Side note – she only became my stepmother when I was an adult and she married my mother.) She lived on PEI and her three daughters were born there and all love Anne. Her reply to me was

“Yay – now all my daughters are Anne-wacko”

Isn’t that such an Anne thing to think and say?

This is the book I have chosen as my book with alliteration in the title (book 22)  for the reading challenge for 2018 I started already

I experienced the book via audiobook.

 

I enjoyed this book and really enjoyed the audio rendition of it.

It uses the narrative technique of each character telling their own story as personally experienced. In addition, it jumps between before and after although what the point at which before becomes after is not revelled until quite far into the story.

 

It’s about a young woman, the titular girl, who is kidnapped and then hidden in a cabin with her kidnapper for months.

But what it is really about is secrets and convoluted family arrangement, and love – both the lack and presence thereof.

 

The story, and a complex set of emotions and relationships are slowly revelled as we work towards the moment of resolution. The story certainly kept me going towards that moment, wanting to understand what exactly happened. The before and after don’t match until you understand what that moment is. And then you are aghast.

 

But wait, that’s not all. In the last section of the book Kubica does not slack off but keeps you wide eyed and amazed.

Reading Challenge

I have got lazy with reading because Netflix, mostly
At the end of every year there is an abundance of  reading challenges for the following year. Some interest me more than others because I like structure and constructive parameters.

But for no challenge anywhere can i read a book with Fabio on the cover – life is too short to read what I consider crap. And all of the challenges include books, categories, genres or prompts I am simply not interested in.
Until I found the Popsugar challenge on Goodreads

1. A book made into a movie you’ve already seen – Primal Fear by William Diehl
2. True Crime – Living with Evil by Cynthia Owen
3. The next book in a series you started – Hooked by Fiona Snyckers, The Sigma Surrogate by JT Lawrence
4. A book involving a heist – Heist Society by Ally Carter
5. Nordic noir – Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo
6. A novel based on a real person – My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
7. A book set in a country that fascinates you – Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women edited by Jo Glanville
8. A book with a time of day in the title – Murder at Midnight by Marshall Cook
9. A book about a villain or antihero – American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
10. A book about death or grief – A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
11. A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym – The Angelic Avengers by Pierre Andrezel (Karen Blixen)
12. A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist – Gay Zoo Day by Mike McClelland
13. A book that is also a stage play or musical – The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett
14. A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zore Neale Hurston, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, American Street by Ibi Zoboi
15. A book about feminism – 50 Shades of Feminism
16. A book about mental health – Lost in the Reflecting Pool by Diane Pomerantz, An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
17. A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift – The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer 
18. A book by two authors – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
19. A book about or involving a sport – The Boy in the Snow by M.J McGrath
20. A book by a local author – Going Back to say Good Bye by Kenneth de Kok 
21. A book with your favourite colour in the title – The Rainbow has no Pink by Hamish Hoosen Pillay , The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
22. A book with alliteration in the title – The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 
23. A book about time travel – The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
24. A book with a weather element in the title – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, Shooting History: A Personal Journey by Jon Snow
25. A book set at sea – Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing Narrated by Simon Prebble 
26. A book with an animal in the title – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
27. A book set on a different planet – All Systems Red by Martha Wells
28. A book with song lyrics in the title – The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
29. A book about or set on Halloween – Halloween Poems
30. A book with characters who are twins – The Secret History by Donna Tartt
31. A book mentioned in another book – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
32. A book from a celebrity book club – White Oleander by Janet Fitch
33. A childhood classic you’ve never read – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
34. A book that’s published in 2018 – Hacked by Fiona Snyckers
35. A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner – Humpur winner in 2016 The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer 
36. A book set in the decade you were born – Endless Night by Agatha Christie, The Hill Fights by Edward Murphy
37. A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
38. A book with an ugly cover – Indiscretions of the Queen by Jean Plaidy 
39. A book that involves a bookstore or library – The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
40. Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges – Prompt 27 from 2016: A Murder Mystery P is for Peril by Sue Grafton
41. A bestseller from the year you graduated high school – Strong Medicine by Arthur Hailey
42. A cyberpunk book – 2054
43. A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place – Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller
44. A book tied to your ancestry – Master Harold…and the Boys by Athol Fugard 
45. A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title – Softness of the Lime by Maxine Case
46. An allegory – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
47. A book by an author with the same first or last name as you – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
48. A microhistory – The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe, Game of Crowns by Christopher Andersen 
49. A book about a problem facing society today – Blind Faith by Ben Elton, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
50. A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – The One Man by Andrew Gross

I will never read 50 books in a year – it is just not possible anymore
Because Netflix 🙂
and work, and life and family

so i am not doing this as a 2018 challenge, but as an as-long-as-it-takes-me challenge
And i am going to start reviewing again because i have missed that

Currently reading American Psycho for book 9, and listening to Anne of Green Gables for book 33
Wildly different experiences making my brain fizz and pop

Any suggestions are welcome