Thursday, December 12, 2013

What a year it has been...

That it has. 13 has truly has been my lucky year. I look back to a year ago and while I couldn’t reach my Goodreads reading goal, something I never reach – talk about an all time FAIL.

This morning my Dad asked me what I thought about 2013, what had I really done – I assume this is some parenting tactic that he allows me to delve into to give me that push or inspire me to do more. So I listed the highlights of my year – it wasn’t a year that I pinned to a books, or wrote a book, or actually read a lot of books; compared to last year. I wanted to share them with you my reader, fan, liker and the anonymous internet.

1. I lost 20 kilograms
2. Graduated in BA (Hons) Publishing Studies
3. Read my first Ian Banks, The Wasp Factory, and loved it.
4. Reading totalled 39 books this year alone.
5. Changed jobs, and I love it.
6. Went on my dream holiday.
7. Stopped biting my nails.
8. Ran my first 5km and loved it.
9. Joined a bookclub that doesn’t read.
10. Saw Lady Gaga live.

It’s no life changing list, but it’s a list that truly makes me smile. But, let’s get back to the books. 2013 didn’t bring a flashflood of books to the arena, but there were some gems in the pile. Here are my top five books for 2013.

The Supreme’s at Earls All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore (find review here)
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (find review here)
Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (find review here)
The Secret History by Donna Tartt

So here is to 2014, may it be lucky, filled with books and way more laughs. Have a great festive season readers!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Night Film by Marisha Pessl

About the Book
Brilliant, haunting, breathtakingly suspenseful, Night Film is a superb literary thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster debut Special Topics in Calamity Physics.
On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself. Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.
The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.
Night Film, the gorgeously written, spellbinding new novel by the dazzlingly inventive Marisha Pessl, will hold you in suspense until you turn the final page.
I am never one for over-hyped novels – they always tend to leave me hoping I’d have discovered the book on my own in the depths of my bookshelf. With that said, it was Tamarin du Toit (IWantADodo) who changed my world with the recommendation of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Now let me just clarify the differences between Tamarin and I. 

So I took Tamarin’s word. I followed her blindly into the world of Cordova. A world so dark there were times when I slept with the light on, but a book this special, not just in plot and character, but in amalgamating pictures, newspaper articles and websites – transmedia trend personified. The world of books has changed, my view of interacting with books has changed.

Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, never lets up. When Ashley Cordova, daughter of renowned cult-horror-filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, is found dead, Scott McGrath needs to get to the bottom of it. Having pinned his career as an investigative Journalist on Cordova, and having failed helplessly; ruining his life, this is the story to save all for Scott.

A thriller with more ‘thrill’ and ‘chill’ than I hoped for, peppered with malignant photos that made the hairs on my arms stand up. This is a cat-chases-mouse-mouse-catches-cat-mouse-eats-cat with a complicated story that flips back on itself. It’s difficult to describe this novel that had my mind playing tricks on me.

This is a novel that will grip you by the throat and leaving you wondering what the hell happened.
About the Author
Marisha Pessl grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and now lives in New York City. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, her debut novel, was a bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. It won the 2006 John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize (now the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize), and was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. Her new novel, Night Film, comes out August 20, 2013.
Find the Author

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Confessions of a Book Whore: My To Be Read Pile

Firstly, let me apologise for not being ever-so present on the web as of late; my mind has been knee-deep in whimsical reading. Not to mention that this is the book industry's busiest time as it gears up for Christmas. But if you're anything like me, you forget about the frenzy and panic what you'll be reading during the festive season! There are SO many books to choose from, almost a lucky packet of literature.  I'll be heading off to the beaches of Mozambique, I need some entertainment for those long lounging hours.
So today I wanted to record my 'planned' reading for my holiday...
The Banned and the Banished series by James Clemens
The Banned and the Banished is a fantasy novel series by James Clemens and follows a girl named Elena, "who ripens into the heritage of lost power". Elena's journey throughout the series eventually leads to the defeat of the Dark Lord and an important process of self-discovery. (taken from Wikipedia)  
I started reading this series years ago, when I started out as a bookseller at Exclusive Books; I never did finish it, and a expanse of beach is the perfect place to delve into a fantasy series.
Girl Walks Into a Bar by Helena S. Paige
When your friend cancels on your girls' night out at the last moment, you suddenly find yourself all dressed up and alone at an exclusive bar.

What do you do now?

Will you spend the evening drinking tequila with a rock star? Or perhaps the suave and charming millionaire businessman is more your style? But the angelic young barman with a body made for sin has also caught your eye . . . Then there's the bodyguard who has the keys to his boss's sports car and is offering you a ride . . . Maybe you want to head home instead - to your sexy new neighbour.

Whichever way you decide to go, each twist and turn you make will lead to an unforgettable encounter. Can you choose the ultimate sensual experience? The power is entirely yours.
 Do I really need to say more? I cannot wait for this one!!
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacy of trauma, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, that returns readers to the compelling territory Amy Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, she conjures a story of the inheritance of love, its mysteries and senses, its illusions and truths. (Taken from Goodreads)
The Joy Luck Club was such an amazing piece of fiction, and yes it is the only piece of fiction I've read of Tan's.  The Valley of Amazement has buzz fizzing off the title alone this season - needless to say, I'll be diving into this one!
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
A remarkable literary debut -- shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! The unflinching and powerful story of a young girl's journey out of Zimbabwe and to America. (Taken from Goodreads)
Local flavour on the Man Booker Shortlist - I am lazy enough to delve into the select few that shine on the prestigious list.
I could go on forever with the books that need reading over the festive season, but then we'd run out of time and post space. I am interested in hearing what your Christmas books are?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Author's Pie: Mary Watson

I have been on diet - can you tell?  The lack of pie is my fault alone - the world of golden pastry and bubbling filling is enough to set my pant size to increasing at the drop of a chocolate bar.
Since it's summer and fruit is the poetry of food for this season, how could I not serve up some delicious pie this month. Today we have Mary Watson, author of Moss, a collection of interlinking short stories. Originally from Cape Town, she currently lives in Galway, Ireland. She won the Caine Prize for African Literature in 2006 and was shortlisted for the Rolex Protégé and Mentorship programme in 2012. Her novel, The Cutting Room was published by Penguin South Africa in April this year.
1) How would you classify The Cutting Room?

It’s something of a hybrid book. It has been described it as a literary thriller because it engages with genre while retaining features of a more literary novel. 

2) Why did you use the Haunted House as a predominant plot anchor for The Cutting Room?

I wanted to write a story about criminals, ghosts and buildings. A haunted house seemed good way to integrate some of my main ideas. And I love gothic fiction where run down old houses indicate a kind of inner decay.

3) What is your favourite scene in your novel?

Hard to say, but I quite enjoyed writing the scenes where the rot in Lucinda and Amir’s relationship begins to show. Perhaps the scene where she finds him reading about prisons in the middle of the night and they discuss tailor made punishment – it’s clear that they are disconnected, yet there is still something tender in their interaction with each other. 

4) What book changed your life?

Beloved by Toni Morrison made a huge impact on me when I read it almost twenty years ago. I love the way it combines social commentary, magic, ghosts, genre and prose. Most of all, I love the style of the book, how it uses words in way that is strong, beautiful and acrobatic. 

5) What is your favourite smell and why?
Jasmine at the beginning of a Cape Town spring; small children out in sun and grass then freshly bathed; traces of my mother’s perfume on her clothes.
Mary's Books
A dark, all-pervading sexuality haunts this beautifully wrought collection of interlinked short stories set against the backdrop of the diverse communities of Cape Town. The voice of the collection opens up territory that has only been gingerly approached in South African literature, tenderly probing the occult regions of the psyche in order to expose sexuality and repression, passion and inhibition, and joy and sin. The intriguing overlap of ambiguities and contradictions exposed by this gentle inquiry illuminates the rifts and tears in the tapestry of ardent yet unrecognized South African longings and desires.
The Cutting Room

When her husband Amir abruptly leaves home, film editor Lucinda is left angry and puzzled. Where has Amir gone, and why? In the months before he left, Amir seemed troubled and preoccupied and their marriage had become strained and tense. Now Lucinda worries that his departure could be her fault. Soon afterwards, Lucinda is brutally assaulted in a knife attack, which throws her even more off balance.

 Searching for composure, she finds a distraction in assisting an older friend, Austrian film-maker Thomas, with a documentary he is making about an old mission station which is allegedly haunted. But the experience becomes an unnerving one for Lucinda who finds Thomas’s growing obsession with the story behind his film worrying. As tensions build, so does the underlying mood of constant menace, until Lucinda is confronted with a disturbing revelation.

The Cutting Room is a thoughtful and provocative novel of loss and loneliness, longing and guilt, and the different ways in which people can be haunted.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Boeke October Selection 2013

This will be the last EB Recommends blog post for 2013.  This year is screaming to an abrupt halt and I cannot seem to keep up.  I won't bore you with my lack of posting, the lack of time and my slow up take of the next big fiction read but I will tell you, that for eight months, I have always had a book to read, some surprised me, others bored me, but all engrossed me.  So with a stray tear I give you the last EB Recommends for October... The winning book will be announced on the 25th of October - I'll keep you updated.

 The Round House is a tender story by Louise Erdrich that has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. One Sunday in the summer of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatised and reluctant to reveal the details of what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill-prepared. While his father endeavors to wrestle justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated and sets out with his trusted friends Cappy, Zack and Angus to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them to the Round House, a sacred place of worship for the Ojibwe. 

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick is the latest incredible novel from the author of The Silver Linings Playbook. Matthew Quick asks poignant questions about loneliness and friendship, and how society can so utterly forget its neediest citizens. On the day of his 18th birthday, Leonard plans a murder-suicide - he packs the Nazi pistol his grandfather brought back from the war and starts his school day with a plan, targeting his best friend turned bully. Creeping through the morning with this secret knowledge, he attempts to reconcile the lives that have gone wrong around him, and to savour the freedom that comes from his imminent demise. Ultimately this is a quirky story about hope, and how just a glimmer of something more can make a world of difference.
The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison, a long-awaited novel from one of the most popular writers of the last few years. Zoe Fleming is an American attorney working with an NGO devoted to combating child sexual assault in Lusaka, Zambia. When an adolescent girl is raped in the dark of night and delivered by strangers to the hospital, Zoe’s organisation is called in to help. Working alongside Zambian police officer Joseph Kabuta, Zoe learns that the girl’s assailant was not a vagrant or a paedophile, but the son of a powerful industrialist with deep ties to the Zambian government. As the rape trial builds to a climax and sends shockwaves through Zambian society, Zoe must radically reshape her assumptions about love, loyalty, family, and especially the meaning of justice.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is the first book in a seven-part series of dizzying imagination. The novel is set in the year is 2059 and features nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney who works in the criminal underworld of Scion London. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. Paige is a dream walker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing. The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut that is sure to be a huge success.

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore is a chilling thriller that will have you glued to each page. Set in Moscow in 1945, Stalin and his courtiers are celebrating their victory over Hitler when shots ring out. On a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl lie dead, but this is no ordinary tragedy and these are no ordinary teenagers. These are the children of Russia’s most important leaders who attend the most exclusive school in Moscow. Is it murder? A suicide pact? Or a conspiracy against the state? Directed by Stalin himself, an investigation begins as children are arrested and forced to testify against their friends – and their parents. Based on a true story and featuring real-life historical characters, this heartbreaking novel of passion, intrigue and betrayal takes you inside 1940s Russia with thrilling authenticity.
And the winner is...
The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Books I should have read, but didn’t.

This is the one list that plagues me on Goodreads, on my bookshelf and in any bookshop – especially when I am asked if I enjoyed one of these titles.  Oh, you can imagine the despised looks from my esteemed colleagues when admitting, rather timidly, that I have not read the below ten novels that should have paved my reading career.  After this slight admission, they give me that look, you know THAT look, of ‘Shame, she faked it till she made it in this industry’ – pity. That is the look.
I always figured the time would present itself when I indeed NEEDED to read one of these books, perhaps it will when my the dark stained wooden shelves are my only solace in my old age.
So before you judge me, I want you to know that I am fully aware of the ‘missing’ factor I experience everytime these books pop up... just so you know.
Magician by Raymond E. Feist

At Crydee, a frontier outpost in the tranquil Kingdom of the Isles, an orphan boy, Pug, is apprenticed to a master magician—and the destinies of two worlds are changed forever.

Suddenly the peace of the Kingdom is destroyed as mysterious alien invaders swarm the land. Pug is swept up into the conflict but for him and his warrior friend, Tomas, an odyssey into the unknown has only just begun.

Tomas will inherit a legacy of savage power from an ancient civilization. Pug’s destiny is to lead him through a rift in the fabric of space and time to the mastery of the unimaginable powers of a strange new magic.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell, by chance, into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. From his fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, Sauron's power spread far and wide. He gathered all the Great Rings to him, but ever he searched far and wide for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.
On his eleventy-first birthday Bilbo disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest --- to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard, Merry, Pippin, and Sam, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Boromir of Gondor, and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
The Shining by Stephen King

 Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel - and that too had begun to shine...
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg
 It's first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women -- of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.
 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins:

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
 Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." This 1945 satire addresses the socialist/ communist philosophy of Stalin in Russia.
Going Solo by Roald Dahl
The second part of Roald Dahl's extraordinary life story. Here he is grown up: first in Africa, then learning to be a wartime fighter pilot. It is a story that is funny, frightening and full of fantasy - as you would expect.
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she's directed, her mother gets described as a "tap-dancing child abuser." Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.
 Time to confess your unread reads...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

James Franco Book Covers

It's hump day, and I haven't had a whimsical blog since Lood took over the blog with his one post Book related thingies that make my face happy; with this morning's coffee I came across a Zite article on James Franco book covers - as you can imagine, when I see JAMES FRANCO anything I hope to all holy Gods that it is something with him half naked and calling my name.  It's a long shot but a girl can hope, right?
It all started when Keith Uhlich from New York Time Out, posted this tweet of a the As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner FTI - so Book Riot went one step further and decided James Franco should appear on all book jackets, here are the rubies of joy...




Love in the time of cholera featuring James Franco

letters from the earth featuring James Franco

 A Room with a View featuring James Franco

 Are You There God? It's Me Margaret featuring James Franco

Have a good Wednesday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sharp Edges by S.A Partridge

About the Book

Six friends attend a music festival in the Cederberg. Only five come back. For her seventeenth birthday Demi Crowley invites her five closest friends to join her at a music festival for a party to end all parties. But what was supposed to be the night of their lives soon becomes a nightmare none of them will ever forget.

Sharp Edges is a topsy-turvy tale of love, loss and friendship that will stay with you long after the final page has been turned, and leaves you questioning what you really know about your friends.

Sharp Edges is S.A. Partridge’s fourth novel for young adults.

I became a S.A Partridge fan back in the day when The Goblet Club took local YA fiction by storm, award-winning and thrilling, what more could you want.

Partridge is no stranger to this blog having graced us with an Author's Pie, guest post and a sneaky Confessions of a Book Whore. So it shouldn't be a surprise that there is now a review of her newest YA fiction novel, Sharp Edges.

Following the lives of five friends, each grieving, in their own way, for the death of a friend. However, this is S.A Partridge, it is never that simple. Each point of view takes the reader through a series of events, one slightly different from the other, all with the same result. Six friends head off to a music festival to celebrate the golden girl's, Demi, birthday. However, only five of them return.

This isn't a simple whodunit quip to add to the crime pile, nor is it the-sickly-sweet YA that seems to be flooding the market (forgive me, but its true). Partridge draws a map of an adolescent need for freedom, rebellion (even if in small and not so dramatic doses), jealousy, love triangle, and a muchly needed in a YA genre gay quiver relationship. Oh, how good this book is.

S.A Partridge is the rabbit you follow down the hole, the boy under the stairs, the race car driving frog, a hidden garden and the sliver of light behind the cupboard.

About the Author

Copyright Warren Talmarkes Photography 2013
S.A Partridge lives in Cape Town, South Africa and is the author of the award-winning book, The Goblet Club – a novel about a young man’s frightening experience in the world’s worst boarding school. The novel won the SABC/You Magazine I am a writer Competition in 2007, as well as the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel at the Mnet Via Afrika Awards in 2008. The novel was adapted into a school play entitled G.I.F.

Her second novel, Fuse, deals with the sensitive subjects of school killings, bullying and runaways, and is set on the streets of Cape Town and Pretoria. It was published in 2009 by Human and Rousseau and was shortlisted for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for youth literature in 2010. The novel was also chosen as Ibby South Africa’s English nomination for the Ibby International Honour Roll and will be showcased at the Ibby World Congress in 2012.

 Her third novel Dark Poppy’s Demise was published in 2011.

 She was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for 2011.

Find Author

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

About the Book

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie - magical, comforting, wise beyond her years - promised to protect him, no matter what.

A ground-breaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

I was put at a disadvantage as a kid without a Terry Prachett or Neil Gaiman on my bookshelf. Not to say that my parents begrudged my vicious need to read, but I roamed around with an imagination sewn together by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter – greats in their own right, no doubt; It wasn’t until I picked up Stardust to prove that the book was by far more superior than the movie, did I realise what I had been missing all this time – and I worked in a bookshop, for goodness sake. My world ceased to exist in reality as books became more survival and less luxury, Gaiman was always on the list – the list of books to save when the house sets on fire, the list of books to buy as gifts, the list of books to collect, the list of books that deserve mention.

So when The Ocean at the End of the Lane landed on my lap as if a sacrifice from the book Gods themselves, I sat back and waited for the dark to seep in around the edges of my imagination and weave its way into my dreams. Pitched as an adult novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is one of those books that I so respect in what publishers call ‘The Cross-Over genre’, made popular by Twilight and The Hunger Games.

Set in England. Our protagonist is escaping a funeral, an escape that leads him (and the reader) down the lane he grew up in. Parking his car he steps into a house that jerks his memory to life; a memory that starts off with a murder, a book-loving hero and, of course, the ocean at the end of the lane.

Gaiman, is a stalwart to the fantasy genre and while I was looking for a darkly-ridden tale more grotesque (because it is an adult novel), was far from disappointed; weaving together a young boy’s imagination (an imagination conditioned by books), a nasty series of events that turns the once timid boy into a hero. There is loss of a friend, the confusion of an affair, and the power of friendship.  

I would almost call this a coming of age tale, and I would be right, but there is just too many glowing aspects to fault Gaiman on the cross-over aspect, in fact, I’d see it as a winning combo. 

As summer begins in the southern hemisphere – grab this copy to read on the outskirts of sunlight, and be amazed at the power of a tale.

About the Author
Neil Gaiman, author, scriptwriter and creator of graphic novels, is British and lives in the USA. His diverse catalogue of books includes the novel The Graveyard Book, winner of the Carnegie Medal 2010 and Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009, Stardust (now a major feature film), the bestselling novel for young readers Coraline (now a major 3D-animated film), and the picture book The Wolves in the Walls, which was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Author's Pie: Emma van der Vliet

It's been a while since we've had pie - but since summer is slowly sneaking up on us, I couldn't resist offering up a morsel for you pie fans.  Today we have Cape Town-born author, she originally studied film, which gives the atmospheric element to her novels, but now lives in Observatory, Emma van der Vliet
Photo credit: Robert van der Vliet
1. Your novels are based around strong women facing a dilemma, what inspires you to write redemption for your female characters?
Hope? I encounter so many women who are so strong and warm and funny and who manage so courageously and with such humour despite the adversities that life throws at them. Women are bloody amazing. They deserve some redemption, even if it's only in fiction.
2. What do you love most about writing?
I love the sense of possession, the benevolent poltergeist that happens when characters take hold in my mind and began to have conversations - it's wonderfully entertaining during boring work meetings or while cooking fish-fingers or doing spelling homework. And I love the sense of being able to live multiple lives or parallel lives vicariously through the characters I write.
3. Name one literary character you would love to be?
I think I'd be Nancy Drew. A gay friend once told me, in a nice way, that I dressed like Nancy Drew, and ever since I've re-imagined her as a sexy geek gay icon I could aspire to. Either her or the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, so that I could shout a lot and lop off people's heads if they annoyed me. I think that would be very compatible with menopause. And most satisfying.
4. Chocolate cake or a creamy dessert?
Neither. I'd prefer a bracing boozy digestif followed by a cup of verbena tea. But I admit I'm a sucker for the occasional malva pudding or creme brulee...
5. Where would be your dream place to write?
Anywhere with a view of a wintery sea and the occasional encounter with a human or two to spark things off... But in reality I do most of my writing propped up on my bed with my laptop on top of me. The wonderful thing about writing is that your head can be anywhere.

Emma's Books

Past Imperfect

Clementine is in a rut. Overshadowed by her indomitable female relatives - her stern, politically correct mother, Claude, her foulmouthed racist grandmother Mac, and her sassy, brassy aunt Maddy - she spends her timing making props for the Drama school (for a pittance) and for her lover Kurt's art Happenings (for free). Months after graduation, she is still stuck in the Soup Kitchen which she shares gladly with her housemate, Angus, and less gladly with a horde of free-loading 'guests'. Even her friendship with Jack, her one-time drama teacher, is thrown into jeopardy when a male student accuses him of sexual harassment. When Clem returns early from a visit to her ailing but outrageous grandmother and discovers Kurt and one of his more dangerous disciples' locked in earnest discussion, their bodies radiating lust', she comes to the conclusion that the situation has to change. Homicide seems like a tempting option, but she opts instead for flight.
In a moment of bravado Clem books a plane ticket to Paris and accidentally embarks on a picaresque series of misadventures with unsuitable foreigners, which drives her to the brink of insanity and eventually makes her take stock of who she is and what she really wants out of life.
Alison seems to have life sorted. Despite her high-flying job producing commercials she still manages to keep her infant son on the breast and her daughter in Strawberry Pops. But her texts to her best friend Evie tell a much less glamorous story.
Beth is new to the ad industry and desperate to impress. But the more she succeeds at work, the more things seem to be unraveling at home. And to make matters worse, she’s finding it hard to resist the advances of a sleazy colleague.
Things get really messy when a shoot takes their team to an isolated hell-hole in the middle of the South African bush. Accidents happen and dark secrets are revealed, and soon both Beth and Alison are forced to face some home truths.
Saucy and smart, Thirty Second World is a funny, moving, real-world tale set in the unreal world of the South African film industry

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