Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Charlotte Bronte & Eve Sinclair

About the Book

The classic novel with an erotic twist

When an eager and curious Jane Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall her sexual desires are instantly awakened. Who is the enigmatic Rochester whom she instantly feels attracted to, what are the strange and yet captivating noises coming from the attic, and why does the very air she breathes feel heavy with passion?

Only one thing Is certain. Jane Eyre may have arrived at Thornfield an unfulfilled and tentative woman, but she will leave a very different person…


I finally gave in. It took a display of heavy-petting books, a few jokes, and a reading rut to have me ‘All aboard the Mummy-Porn train!’ waving my arms in delight and hoping to close the book with a new found evangelism for this genre. I didn’t make it through 50 Shades, so why not this one...

I hopped on the mummy-porn-train, luggage in my lap hoping to be awed, disgusted or educated (I don’t know) – anything really, I really wanted to see what the hype was about. I opened Jane Eyre Laid Bare – having not read the original Bronte work, you can only imagine my expectations, especially after watching the 2011 film and countless BBC miniseries enactments.

I sat back, laid the pages bare, expected a different kind of ‘red-room’, and covered my eyes – peeping through my fingers – like one does when watching a horror film. I waited for the whips, chains, maybe guns and ripped corsets – what a letdown, or a godsend? I was greeted with a watered down version of an Austen novel, a few unrealistic steamy scenes and a gloomy Rochester that said ‘Ditto’... 

I see the merit in a genre that has reading thrill-seekers clamouring for books that talk taboo and all things that we daren’t chat about at the dinner table – 50 Shades of Grey, has made asking your colleague the question ‘So what kind of whip did you use?’ as comfortable as asking ‘Can I borrow that pen?’. Forcing society to speak in less hushed tones about sex and what women really mean – be it with a colleague or an awkward conversation with your Grandmother (yes that was my experience); we like books like these! 

I said this with Twilight, and I say it again, it gets people reading, so let’s not sweat the small stuff (i.e. carriage rides that end up being more than just horses and dust) and celebrate a new type of reader, slip them next to YA genre lovers, Sci-fi enthusiasts and Chick-lit dwellers; each to their own.

If you loved 50 Shades of Grey, Eighty Shades Yellow, Bared to Me, this book will leave you breathless and dreaming to walk around in a corset bellowing words like ‘The world be snatched from Beelzebub when this man looked upon me!’, however, if you didn’t enjoy 50 Shades of Grey, then give this one a skip...
About the Author
Eve Sinclair fell in love with the novels of Bronte at an early age and later went on to study English Literature. She has since worked as a copy-writer, journalist and editor and now divides her time between tending her English garden and travelling.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

About the Book               

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.
A novel of unsentimental charm, humour, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.
Alright, so this wraps up my Boeke shortlist – I introduce to you my top choice for Boeke (It actually won the readers choice see here).
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is one of those books that stood out for me – I hadn’t read a book so eloquent and delightfully uncovered since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  This book truly whittles down characters to their bare minimum and then leaves them to find their own way back.
While Harold Fry has come under some fire for being ‘too slow’ or ‘I wished he’d have walked faster’, I found a sense of calm and detail in the journey for Harold – no big epiphany comes with a walk to the Spar down the road. 
His journey recalculates bits of his past that he just hasn’t dealt with forcing him to face the reality of death, addiction and the need to redeem.
I found specks of hope in this gorgeous tale of one man’s journey to save a woman who saved him!
Buy this book for a friend, a boss, a lover or even yourself... but you must take this pilgrimage...
A worthy winner in my opinion.
See Tamarin du Toit’s review – she recommended that I read this book next in my pile!
And a big, cupcake filled Thank you to Exclusive Books for including me in this year’s Boeke!
About the Author
Rachel Joyce is an award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and won multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives in Gloucestershire on a farm with her family and is at work on her second novel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

About the Book
Marriage can be a real killer. One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn, takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. As The Washington Post proclaimed, her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit with deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
Employing her trademark razor-sharp writing and assured psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.
I have watched enough CSI and Crime Investigation channel to know that when a person goes missing the ending is never pretty.  So in my best Horatio Cane voice and sunglasses, let me tell all you crime lovers out there that is was a great pick number 2 for Boeke!
Gillian Flynn, a TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, certainly knows how to create a glass like shelter of a plot, intricate characters, only to throw you off the wagon of assumption and prediction!
Gone Girl is a great outlay of how we react to people, their behaviours and how they can ultimately deceive us; a sociopathic look into the mind of one person (I won’t tell you who) who seeks revenge...
This was different to any crime read I have read in the past; the characters were people I could relate to (which scared me); the plot not so much a ‘time is against us let’s find the killer’ but more a let’s torture my characters and see how they come out on the other end – let’s not forget the amount of hair lost and wine consumed by the reader to stay sane.
Flynn gives you an all-rounder read as characters pop up from the page and shake your hand in greeting and carves out a plot that will have you flop back and say ‘What the hell just happened?’ – This one got the Judges choice vote... Well deserved.
See Tamarin du Toit’s review here (again, we differ in many ways with this book), so let us know what you think!
Thanks to Exclusive Books for letting be a part of Boeke this year.
About the Author


Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.
Happy Reading

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

About the Book
Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic, or is she what she claims to be: a grieving young sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? Single-minded in her mission, she refuses to move from her spot on the field in full view of every soldier in the stark outpost. Her presence quickly proves dangerous as the camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil when the men begin arguing about what to do next.
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s heartbreaking and haunting novel, The Watch, takes a timeless tragedy and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan. Taking its cues from the Antigone myth, Roy-Bhattacharya brilliantly recreates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of battle, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers, their families, and by one sister. The result is a gripping tour through the reality of this very contemporary conflict, and our most powerful expression to date of the nature and futility of war.

This was my choice 3 for Boeke this year.  A choice 3 that shoved its way to the front and like a spoilt three-year-old it stomped its foot and demanded to be given a chance.  I usually shun away from military books that make me feel like I am an under-achiever and really give nothing to my country and the men who fight so boldly for it.
This book deserves a space on your bookshelf and in your heart.  Joydeep has a lyrical style of writing that allows each character to take their space upon the stage and act out their part with emotion, perception and crumbling lives; which this book so eloquently divides into – perspectives and voices (overlapping each other in time and event) that paint a picture, one not too cherry and refrigerator-worthy, for the reader to leave with what they will. 
The myth of Antigone is a unique scaffold in which to base this harrowing tale of characters and circumstances – one woman’s quest to bury her brother.  Roy-Bhattacharya weaves a bold character of a woman (I haven’t seen a character like this since Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone), one without legs that claws her way to the fortress of an American army base, one recovering from a night long battle, to request the body of her brother.  You immediately assume she is the enemy here (a black widow bomber).
So begins the unravelling of each of the soldiers as they question the woman’s intentions and each others.  A great impact and huge realisation that an army is not one face, man or body but many individuals – Joydeep gives each soldier a face – and that war makes monsters of men.
I don’t want to give too much away, except the advice to buy this book, enjoy it and then tell me about it.  I want to know if you loved it, hated it or merely used it as a coaster!

Tamarin du Toit from I Want a Dodo! and I differ hugely on this book, her review can be found here...
Thanks to Exclusive Books for including me in this year’s Boeke!

About the Author
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya was educated in politics and philosophy at Presidency College, Calcutta, and the University of Pennsylvania. His novels The Gabriel Cluband, The Storyteller of Marrakesh have been published in fourteen languages. He lives in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Author's Pie: Diane Awerbuck


Summer is upon us (in Johannesburg, at least) and so today's pie has a light, fluffy crust and pungent, ruby red strawberry filling.  So sit back, grab a piece of the pie and let's meet Diane Awerbuck.  Award-winning author, whose book Gardening at Night,  was awarded the Commonwealth Best First Book Award (Africa and the Caribbean) and was shortlisted for the International Dublin IMPAC Award.  She is a teacher of Narrative and Aesthetics, History, and English.

Thank you Diane for joining us on Author's Pie!

1. Your novel and short stories all carry echoes of growth. Do you grow with your character as you write the story? 
Characters can surprise their writers, I think. You start out with a glimpse of what someone looks like, or what they say - and then, if you're me, things take a screaming turn for the macabre and the characters find themselves stuck at the top of a fence or taken hostage in a library. They grow in the sense that they find out something about themselves they didn't know before. This is the essence of character development in writing - life, condensed. (Although, bear in mind that one of the rules on "Seinfeld" was: No learning; no hugging.)

2. Do you have any characters you hate to write?

No. Writing is just about the only place in your life you have control over what happens, and to whom. The only time I hate them is when their dialogue sounds klunky, posturing or plain unbelievable - the only really unforgivable sin.

3. What (fiction/non fiction/young adult) do you read in your spare time?

I review books, so reading has become quite fraught for me. For pure pleasure I read Ian McEwan, Stephen King, Bill Bryson's non-fiction. There's some good stuff coming out of South Africa, too. Thando Mgqolozana's Hear Me Alone is bloody brilliant. Finuala Dowling's Home-making for theDown-at-Heart is as near perfect as a novel gets. And I am DYING to read Lauren Beukes's new one, The Shining Girls, although I know I'll have terrible envy all the way through.

4. Who is your favourite character of all time?

I'm pretty fickle as a reader. When I was little I thought Scarlett O'Hara was the be-all and end-all. Anyone with a sword got my vote. I still like young characters like Neil Gaiman's protagonists, or Ray Bradbury's boys in Something Wicked This Way Comes: the sort of person who would never really exist.

5. Are you working on any new novels/short stories?

I've just finished Home Remedies, a novel out in September. I'd been looking for a place where Satanists, retirees, frogs, Saartjie Baartman and Mommy-mommy jokes could happily co-exist. Who knew it would be Fish Hoek??
Diane's Books
Joanna Renfield's life at The Fish Hoek Valley Museum of Natural History gets complicated when DNA testing links the museum's only claim to fame - a twelve thousand-year-old skeleton nicknamed Fish Hoek Man - with Saartjie Baartman. The media goes wild, the museum has a makeover, and Joanna gets a new Struggle veteran boss. She is here to teach Joanna a lesson - only it's not the one either expects.

Violence and tragedy lurk in this seaside town, and when Joanna's world is shaken to its core, it is up to her to find her own brand of muti. But how much of history is chance? And when does revenge become insanity?

Slipping down a rabbit hole at a costume party like Alice, feeling zero gravity like a spaceman kissing a fellow alien, or drawing blood in the library ... These short stories portray a reality that is often brutal, and probethe notion of personal responsibility? when should you intervene? Here is the lost history of the Observatory Library Lady; a swimming lesson for some Kimberley wedding guests; the secret tunnel beneath Beach Road in Sea Point. Part myth, part memoir, Cabin Fever details other people's dreams and terrors, and how they merge with ours.

Gardening at Night follows the unfolding of a young girl's life through a childhood filled with silences, through adolescence and young womanhood. It is about how much people are the total of their longings, how high drama can also be low comedy. It probes how much of the old century a girl should take with her into the new one, and examines the merging of families in the Eighties and their emerging into the florescence of the Nineties and beyond. It is especially the story of a girl's escape from a ghost town. The South African mining town of Kimberley was created over a hundred years ago when men with buckets scraped out the insides of the earth like a thousand black dentists. Now it is a place where the only tales are those of leaving.


See more Author's Pie Segments here

Till next time! Happy Pie Eating!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Confessions of a Book Whore: Books are my Life

Coffee-monger, mulit-published-author, editor, blogger and out-right kick ass gal, Nerine Dorman confesses how books are her life.  You can find Nerine on her blog as well as tweeting the weboshpere on twitter.  Her published works include Khepera Rising, Khepera Redeemed, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead, Tainted Love (writing as Therese von Willegen), Hell's Music (writing as Therese von Willegen), What Sweet Music They Make, and Inkarna.
Books are my life. Now that is the understatement of the century. And my house contains more books than I’ll read in three lifetimes. What’s worse, is that part of the reason why we bought a bigger house was so that we’d have space for all our books (not to mention the large garden where we regularly lose our dogs). 
This all started innocently enough when my mother bought a copy of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, which she started reading to me when I was a young and impressionable six.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

What a way to start a book, and while my mom didn’t finish reading The Hobbit out loud in its entirety, I went on to reading the entire thing by the time I was 11. I was that kid who preferred to hang out in the library during breaks, not just to get away from the kids who teased her unmercifully for being a “boff”, but also because the worlds contained within books have always been far preferable to the world as it is.
While studying graphic design I was convinced I’d eventually become a photographer employed by National Geographic, so I too could explore forgotten ruins in the Yucat√°n or stalk lion prides in the Serengeti. I settled for a less stellar career in print media, but I never quite recovered from my addiction to the written word. And eventually my travel writing did get me kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland, and cruising down the Zambezi River at sunset, so I can’t complain too much.
Books. I write ’em, I review ’em, I collect ’em.
The first question I get asked is, “Oh, so you’re a published author. You must have made lots of money.” 
Erm, no. I still have a day job. And I won’t be quitting it any time soon. I love writing, but I’m evidently not in it for the money, otherwise I’d be writing the next Fifty Shades of Smut. My head is full of stories and I can’t afford therapy, so I write to make the voices stop. Money’d be nice, of course, but jawellnofine, I’m happy to write the kind of stories I want to read.
Reviewing them? Oh hell yes. People pander to my sickness and throw books at me. Love ’em or hate ’em, I feel the need to write about the books I read. Sometimes the books editors at the newspaper publisher where I work will use my reviews. I still make little wriggles of delight when I see my byline in black and white. Sick little puppy that I am. Mostly I blog about the books I read. I put my reviews up on Goodreads and Amazon because I know authors love hearing what people say about their books.
Lastly, as fast as I try to empty my shelves to make space in my Treehaus, I invariably end up buying more books. Some are old, collectors’ pieces more than a century old. Others are cheap pulpy paperbacks. I’ll read ’em one day. No. Really.
Mostly, folks’ll see me on the train, my Sony Reader in hand. I can’t wait for the day when I get my first kindle. I don’t care in which form the written word exists. I’ll read it. Now, if only I could figure out how to get by without sleep.
Are books your life?  Oh please, 'course they are ... Tell us ...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Boeke 2012 Winner ...

This time of year rolls around every year.  Judges clamour to get through a pile of 'the best books' the year can give us and readers delve into more than just a recommended read (but a prestigeous one). 
Last years winners can be found here.
2012 marked the 18th annual year of the Exclusive Books Boeke a tongue-in-cheek South African take on the Man Booker Prize.  Each year 2 books are chosen from a pile of 6 (1 Judges choice and 1 Readers choice), each book a celebration of literature while still being incredibly accessible, you can find the shortlisted books here.

This year was vastly different from the other years, because Exclusive Books asked me to be a judge.  I settled in and read with such verve and speed it would make Speed-Runner cower in shame.  (Sorry, I haven't gotten to reviewing them, but you can check out Tamarin's Reviews here and all her posts on the Boeke 2012).

Enough rambling, here are the winners...


An exciting debut from a wonderful new fiction voice: this is the tender, comic, and utterly captivating story of Harold Fry who takes a walk to save a life and whose journey will prove life-changing for him, the wife he leaves behind, and the people he meets along the way. The novel was also featured on the Man Booker shortlist and is set to be one of the huge literary successes of the year.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what did really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was left in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed? In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war.
So that wraps it for this year's Boeke, please note that you can buy the winners from your nearest Exclusive Books...
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