Category Archives: Book Reviews

I remember long ago my grandmother (now dead) once challenged me to keep a record of all the books I have read. I’m an avid reader and I have a few books that I’ve recorded this. Nowadays I get really irritated with my diaries, because they take up too much space. So I figured I might just as well put them on my blog. The “Books I’ve Read” category will depict mostly the back covers or excerpts from the books and a personal rating I’ve given the all over reading experience.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I read this book 10 years ago and decided to revisit it again. Still brilliant!

Backcover: Set in the closing months of World War II, this is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. His real problem is not the enemy – it is his own army which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. If Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions then he is caught in Catch-22: if he flies he is crazy, and doesn’t have to, but if he doesn’t want to he must be sane, and has to. That’s some catch…

If both Stephen King and Harper Lee recommends this book, then it must be good!

First published: 1961

Rating: 5/5

Image result for catch 22 book cover

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Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

jane eyre

I far more prefer a Mr Rochester than a Prince Charming. Mind you, if he had done the same to me as he did with Jane I would have kicked his ass!

I remember the first time I read this book, I fell completely and utterly in love with Mr Rochester and I was equally as heartbroken as Jane when the truth was revealed.

A second reading was no different, though I did pity him.

Dust jacket summary: 
Brontë’s infamous gothic novel tells the story of orphan Jane, a child of unfortunate circumstances. Raised and treated badly by her aunt and cousins and eventually sent away to a cruel boarding school, it is not until Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield that she finds happiness. Meek, measured, but determined, Jane soon falls in love with her brooding and stormy master, Mr Rochester, but is not long before strange and unnerving events occur in the house and Jane is forced to leave Thornfield to pursue her future.

My favourite quotes: 

The absurd conversation Mr Rochester has with Adele about him taking Jane to go live on the moon. (p.269-270).

“I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you – especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land some broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, – you’d forget me.”
Mr Rochester

*****

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”
Jane Eyre

*****

‘I could bend her with my finger and thumb: and what good would it do if I bent, if I uptore, if I crushed her? … Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it – the savage, beautiful creature! if i tear, if i rend the slight prison, my outrage will only let the captive loose.
Mr Rochester

*****

‘It is time some one undertook to rehumanise you,’ said I, parting his thick and long uncut locks; ‘for I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or something of that sort… your hair reminds me of eagles’ feathers; whether your nails are grown like birds’ claws or not, i have not yet noticed.’
Jane Eyre

*****

‘His appearance, – I forget what description you gave of his appearance; – a sort of raw curate, half strangled with his white neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-soled high-lows, eh?’
‘St John dresses well. he is a handsome man: tall, fair, with blue eyes, and a Grecian profile.’
(aside) ‘Damn him!’ – (to me) ‘Did you like him Jane?’
Mr Rochester and Jane

First published: 1847

Rating: 5/5

 

 

The Family Fang – Kevin Wilson

*Spoiler: This is not a vampire story. 

We have all had those moments. When we thought we couldn’t possibly be created by these people (mom and dad), there must be a mistake, families are the worst.

Well, you haven’t seen (or read) nothing yet. If you think your family is bad… Annie and Buster will tell you, their family takes the cake. How would you like to be known as Child A and Child B by your parents?

Dust jacket: The family Fang create art: performance art, provocations, interventions – call it what you like. And many people certainly don’t call it ‘Art’.

But as Annie and Buster grow up, like all children, they find their parents’ behaviour an embarrassment. They refuse to take up their roles in these outrageous acts. They escape: Annie becomes an actor, a star in the world of indie filmmaking, and Buster pursues gonzo journalism, constantly on the trail of a good story. But when both their lives start to fall apart, there is nowhere left to go but home.

Meanwhile Caleb and Camille have been planning their most ambitious project yet and the children have no choice: like it or not, they will participate in one final performance. The family Fang’s magnum opus will determine what is ultimately more important: their family or their art.

First published: 2011
Rating: 3/5
Reason: I’ve read this book a few years ago and decided to read it again, because for the life of me I couldn’t remember how it ended. Now, if you can’t remember how a book ended there must be something wrong with it?

King Henry VIII and Cinderella

I’ve recently finished reading “The Boleyn Inheritance” by Philippa Gregory.

boleyn inheritance

The story is told through the eyes of three women: two of King Henry VIII’s wives namely Anne of Cleves (fourth wife) and Katherine Howard (first Anne of Cleves’ maid in waiting and later the king’s mistress – fifth wive); and kinswoman Jane Boleyn, who betrayed her husband and his sister (Anne Boleyn – wife number three) and played a part in every wife of King Henry’s undoing except for the last one.

Reading this book made me think of the story of Cinderella. But this is no Cinderella fairy tale. King Henry VIII was a horrible human being. He was old, sickly (he had an open leg wound that stank up the whole palace), he was obese. His Achilles’ heel was beautiful women, but he was very paranoid and insecure believing there was a constant plot to kill him.

He had his first marriage annulled and was excommunicated by the Pope. This caused the church and state to separate.

Why any woman would agree to marry him is beyond me. Although, apparently Anne of Cleves’s childhood home and life was so horrendous she would have done anything to get away from her brother and mother.

Cinderella:

There are a few things that bother me about the story of Cinderella. After she runs away when the clock strikes midnight and the prince is only left with her shoe – why doesn’t he just find out what shoe size it is? Judging from many adaptations of the story, Cinderella has freakishly small feet (like me) and by knowing that, he could have saved himself so much trouble.

Also, how do you not recognize the woman you have danced with and fallen in love with? If it were a masked ball or if the people were wearing wigs, I could understand why he didn’t immediately recognize her, but seriously? How thick is he?

And I do not for one second believe that when Cinderella marries the prince she is free. She remains a servant by becoming the prince’s wife – who says he won’t treat her as such?

Toorbos – Dalene Matthee

toorbos

Ek het nie gedink dis moontlik nie, maar ek het ‘n nuwe gunsteling boek van Dalene Matthee en dit is Toorbos!

“Liefde is ’n lang leer met baie sporte. Moeilik om te klim, want ons trap dikwels mis…”

My gunsteling dele uit die boek is waar Karoliena haarself soos ‘n boom vermom, want sy wil weet hoe voel dit om ‘n boom te wees; en later waar sy Abel Slinger se olifantvoete/skoene leen, want sy wil weet hoe voel dit om in die voete van ‘n olifant te loop. En ek sou wat wou gee om ook die boomspook te sien!

Binnebladbeskrywing:
Karoliena Kapp is ’n alleenkind. Haar pa is vroeg-vroeg deur ’n weerligstraal doodgeslaan en sy het die bos aanvaar as haar oermoeder. Sy is mooi en word gou raakgesien deur Johannes, ’n boswerkerskind wat hom uit die wurggreep van armoede losgewikkel het. Nog voordat sy twintig is, word sy met hom afgetrou en moet sy haar plek as dorpsvrou volstaan.

Maar Karoliena gebruik die eerste kans om weg te loop. Die dag na die troue weet sy: Sy het verkeerd gekies. Sy het van die bos af weggevlug en haar vryheid verruil vir ‘n kou. Nou is sy bang, en sy vat die pad terug.

Terwyl die pietjiekanarie sonder ophou roep: Wie’s-jy, wie’s-jy.

Eerste uitgawe: 2003

Sterstatus: 5/5

Female Protagonists

I’ve recently read two books back to back with not just one, but several really strong female protagonists. It also shares the same themes.

secret life of bees

Female Protagonists: Lily, Rosaleen, August, June and May.

Backcover: Lily has grown up believing she accidentally killed her mother when she was just four years old. Now, at fourteen, she yearns for forgiveness and a mother’s love. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh and unyielding father, she has only one friend, Rosaleen, a black servant.
When racial tension explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is compelled to act. Fugitives from justice, the pair follow a trail left by the woman who died ten years before. Finding sanctuary in the home of three beekeeping sisters, Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother.

Thoughts: I absolutely adored this book. I love the idea of incorporating the metaphor of bees social life in the story. I also learnt a lot about bees. For example, I didn’t know most bees in the hive are female – I always assumed just the queen is female.

I also wrote a post a while back about bees committing suicide and apparently if they can’t find a new queen after the old one dies, they commit suicide.

First published: 2003
Rating: 5/5

the help

Female Protagonists: Miss Skeeter, Aibileen, Minny, Miss Hilly, Miss Elizabeth, Mae Mobley, Miss Celia, Constantine, the other maids, Mrs Stein.

Back cover: Enter a vanished world. Jackson, Mississipi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…
There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

Thoughts: It’s strange how many America and South Africa has in common. Sadly, in South Africa there are still a lot of black women working as domestic help and raising white children. The help have their own separate toilet and cutlery. They don’t sit at the same table as their employers.
I remember the woman who semi-raised me: Mina. I remember how she made us home-made “slap tjips” with lots of vinegar. She worked for my parents even before I was born. She was very hardworking and loyal. When we’d go away on holiday she would do house-sitting and feed our pets. I never asked her about her family.
Kathryn Stockett also writes about her own family maid, who raised her.

First published: 2009
Rating: 5/5

 

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

tattooist

For some reason when my best friend told me about this book, I thought the Tattooist was a German. But when I finally started reading it, I realised this wasn’t so.

There are so many accounts of people that lived and survived the concentration camps to tell their tale (except for Anne Frank), but not many where former Nazi’s tell their side of the story. I guess I was hoping for just one to show remorse.

This book is the real life story of Lale Eisenberg, a Slovakian Jew who could speak more than five languages taken to Auschwitz. There he becomes the “Tatowierer” forced to tattoo numbers on all the new inmates. It it there he meets his future wife, Gita, and takes risks to save him and his friends from hunger. He spends almost 3 years there.

Lale Sokolov (he changed his last name after the war) passed away in 2006.

First published: 2018
Rating: 5/5 An extraordinary story

 

Toiings – Mikro

toiings

Hoe skryf mens ’n resensie oor ‘n boek van ‘n tyd waar kolonialisme en rassisme hoogty gevier het? As ek sê ek het die boek terdeë geniet, beteken dit ek is ’n rassis?

Toiings is ‘n verhaal van ‘n bruin man wat as skaapwagter werk vir ‘n wit man. Die taalgebruik in die boek is eie aan ’n vergete era: toe plaaswerkers respek getoon het vir hul base deur hul “baas” aan te spreek; en na hulself te verwys as “klonkie” en “meid”.

Deesdae in ‘n vreeslike politieke-korrekte era, word dit nie meer toegelaat nie, selfs nie eens meer in die literatuur nie.

Maar dis juis die taalgebruik wat hierdie boek en karakter so gewild maak. Die skrywer draai nie doekies om nie, maak nie verskoning nie. Hy vertel dit net soos dit is. Woorde soos: stroois, Meraai-goed, omgesukkel, broekskeur gaan, ens. bewys net weer hoe mooi Afrikaans as taal is (as mens net die politiek kan opsy skuif).

Ek dink Toiings was een van die laaste boeke wat my ouma gelees het voor sy oorlede is.

Wie was Mikro?
Dit was die skuilnaam van ‘n skrywer en onderwyser wat oor ‘n 100 boeke gepubliseer het. Hy het glo sy bynaam gekry toe hy laat was vir ‘n biologieklas. Hy was Corlia Fourie se vader.

Ek het “Ruiter in die nag” wat ook deur Mikro gepen is, gelees.

Eerste Publikasie: 1934
Sterstatus: 5/5

 

 

 

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

night circus

Dust jacket: In 1886, a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire.

Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionadados, who call themselves the rêveurs – the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter’s daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer’s apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love…

I really liked the story line of Poppy and Bailey, I liked it more than the main characters’s story.

This book reminded me of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. The circus comes to life with magic. Imagine a circus run by or for the characters of Harry Potter…

The clock maker makes me think of Gepetto in the Disney version of Pinocchio.

What I found lacking about the book is that no explanation is given for the wager between the enchanter and sorcerer. Why are they doing this? What do they stand to gain?

The ending was a bit flat though.

First published: 2011

Rating: 4/5

 

Die Nes – Eleanor Baker

‘n Lekker soppy, soetsappige love story.

die nes

Boekomslag: In Die Nes kruip Karoline diep in haar gedagtewêreld vir die werklikheid weg na ‘n traumatiese ervaring. Dokter Duson moet ‘n manier vind om haar uit haar veilige nes te lok, sodat sy weer kan leer om te lewe, om lief te hê.

Gepubliseer in: 1993

Sterre: 5/5