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.

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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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You can find other Author's Pie segments here
Happy Pi-day!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Boeke September Selection 2013

As Exclusive Books Recommends, i.e. Boeke, comes to an end, I have to say relish in the great reads that were forced upon me - needless to say I was more than willing.  So for the second last time, I present to you the books for September.


Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, a charming and lovable first novel of mysterious books and dusty bookshops. It is a witty and delightful love letter to both the old book world and the new that will appeal to fiction fans who love a wonderfully written story. The protagonist is Clay Jannon, a web designer forced out of his job by the recession and into Mr Penumbra’s eccentric book store where nothing is as it seems. 
The Next Time You See Me is a debut novel about the people surprisingly connected to the discovery of a dead woman’s body in a small town. Their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves. 
The List of My Desires by Gregoire Delcourt tells the tale of Jocelyne who is 47 and runs her own dressmaking shop. She’s a bit overweight, her husband is very ordinary and her best friends are the twins who run the hairdressing salon next door. The twins persuade Jocelyn to enter the Euro million lottery and she wins 18 million euros. She could do anything with the money - change her life completely - but what does she really want? Without cashing the cheque she begins to write down her ‘list of desires’. Meanwhile, her dressmaking blog is taking off, bringing her new friendships as well as business. What if the money brings changes she can’t foresee?
The Glass Ocean is a story of becoming. Flame haired, six-foot-two in stocking feet, newly orphaned Carlotta Dell'oro recounts the lives of her parents - solitary glassmaker Leonardo Dell'oro and beautiful, unreachable Clotilde Girard - and discovers in their loves and losses, their omissions and obsessions, the circumstances of her abandonment and the weight of her inheritance. With a master artisan's patience and exquisite craft, debut novelist Lori Baker has created a gemlike Victorian world. 
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is set in Northern Iceland in 1829 where Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the months leading up to her execution on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force everyone to work side by side, the family’s attitude to Agnes starts to change. One winter night, she begins her whispered confession to them and they realize that all is not as they had assumed. Based on a true story, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told.
My Review of this title can be found here
The September Book is...
Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

You can find my Boeke 2013 posts here
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