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.

Bare Bones – Kathy Reichs

Finally, a new series I can get my teeth or eyes into.

bare bones

Dust jacket summary: It’s a summer of record-breaking heat in Charlotte and Dr Temperance Brennan is looking forward to her first vacation in years. She’s almost out the door when the bones start appearing. First there’s the little skeleton of a newborn found in a wood stove. Who put her there? The mother, hardly more than a child herself, has disappeared.

Next, a Cessna plane flies into a rock face on a sunny afternoon. Both pilot and passenger are burned beyond recognition, their bodies covered with a strange black substance. What could it be? There’s evidence that they may have had criminal purposes for the flight.

Most puzzling, though, is a cache of bones found in a remote corner of the country. Some animal, some human, the bones are enough the keep Tempe busy for a long time to come. All the pieces of the mystery seem to lead back to an isolated farm. But what happened there and who will be the next victim? The answers lie hidden deep within the bones – if only Tempe can decipher them in time…

First published: 2003

Rating: 5/5

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Deadly Decisions – Kathy Reichs

Deadlydecisions

I’m currently watching the TV series Bones and I have to say I’m digging it (no pun intended!). The series is based on Kathy Reichs’s books with the same main protagonist: Temperance Brennan. Or like Booth likes to say: Bones.

Dust jacket description:
A nine-year-old girl dies on her way to ballet class, caught in outlaw biker crossfire. Violence is spilling on to the streets of Montreal and Dr Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist for the state, has to pick up the pieces.

She knows she shouldn’t let emotion get in the way of her role as scientist, but when nine-year-old Emily’s body is wheeled into the morgue she cannot help but react. Tempe’s nephew, Kit, is mesmerized by motorcycles. Does he understand the dangers posed by the outlaw gangs?

An exhumation uncovers the bones of another innocent, hidden in a clandestine grave close to a biker headquarters. With her boss in the hospital and her sparring partner Andrew Ryan disturbingly unavailable, Tempe begins a perilous investigation into a lawless underworld of organised crime.

First published: 2000

Rating: 5/5

Bold statement: “Better than Patricia Cornwall” – Express on Sunday
Hmmm, not sure if it was better but definitely in the same league.

The Book of Joy

book of joy

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu with Douglas Adams

Dust jacket description:
Two spiritual giants. Seven days. One timeless question.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships – or, as they would say, because of them – they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.

In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu travelled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create this book as a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: how do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of the week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our times, and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.

First published: 2016

Rating: 5/5

Die Spioen – Paulo Coelho

Hierdie boek is geskryf deur middel van die Faction-tegniek. Faction is wanneer ‘n verhaal op ware mense of gebeure gebaseer vertel word, maar bietjie aangedik word met fiksie.

Die probleem wat ek met Faction het, is mens weet nie wat is feit en wat is versinsel nie. Die skrywer erken self in sy skrywernota: “Alhoewel ek probeer het om my roman te baseer op die ware feite van Mata Hari se lewe moes ek soms dialoog skep, sekere tonele saamvoeg, die volgorde van ‘n paar gebeure verander, en enigiets wat ek gedink het nie betrekking het tot die vertelling nie weglaat.”

Mata Hari het nie ‘n maklike lewe gehad nie. Sy is op die ouderdom van 16 verkrag, maar in plaas daarvan om op ‘n hopie te gaan lê en haarself jammer te kry, het sy besluit om haar sensualiteit en seksualiteit as ‘n wapen te gebruik. Iets wat uiteindelik tot haar ondergang en dood gelei het.

Agterblad:
Haar enigste misdaad was dat sy ‘n onafhanklike vrou was.

Toe Mata Hari in Parys aangekom het, was sy platsak. Kort daarna is sy besing as die elegantste vrou in die stad.

As ‘n danseres het sy gehore geskok en verruk, as ‘n vertroueling en courtisane het sy die rykste en magtigste mans van haar era betower. Maar paranoia as gevolg van die oorlog het Frankryk verteer, en Mata Hari se leefstyl het haar onder verdenking geplaas. In 1917 is sy gearresteer in haar hotelkamer aan die Champs-Elysées en van spioenasie aangekla.

Die Spioen is die onvergeetlike verhaal van ‘n vrou wat dit gewaag het om die konvensies van haar tyd uit te daag en die prys daarvoor betaal het, soos vertel in Mata Hari se stem in haar finale brief.

Eerste gepubliseer: 2018 (Afrikaans); 2016 (Portugees, Engels).

Aanbeveling: 3/5

Interessante feit: Mata Hari was die eerste danser wat heeltemal ontklee het.

Die-spioen

 

Reader’s Digest

readers digest

While going through our bookshelves in search of a good story I came upon these old Reader’s Digest editions with selected stories. Here are the stories I read in the order I read them:

The Suitcases – by Anne Hall Whitt
“Pack your suitcases, girls. You are leaving here today.” Anne Whitt and her two sisters heard these words all too often when they were growing up during the American Depression. Their mother had died and their father had abandoned them, and the three girls were moved from one foster-home to another without warning or explanation, never knowing what the next move would bring. When at last they found a permanent home, Anne faced a new struggle – to accept the healing power of love. This true story is vividly recollected and poignantly told.

Rating: 5/5 Very heart-breaking.

The Sound of Wings – by Spencer Dunmore
Airline pilot Adam Beale has been flying jets across the Atlantic for years without mishap. But now, suddenly, he seems to be blotting his copybook: seeing a plane which no one else sees, and hearing Morse signals. Is someone trying to tell him something – or is he simply heading for a nervous breakdown? When Beale starts to investigate he finds himself in deepening waters, and is horrified to find the girl he loves threatened too… Tension mounts as the clues begin to fall into place. Will the mystery be solved in time? A gripping adventure story, spiced with danger and romance.

Rating: 5/5 A fascinating tale that combines mystery and ghosts from the past.

Airframe – Michael Crichton
Why did a passenger plane pitch and dive repeatedly en route from Hong Kong, killing three passengers? That’s what Casey Singleton, accident investigator for Norton Aircraft, has to find out fast. But the press are against her, and so too are certain high ranking executives with a vested interest in keeping the aircraft’s safety record clean.

Rating: 5/5 A brilliantly detailed story, if you ever watched “Air Crash Investigation” this is for you.

The Partner – John Grisham
It has taken four years and $3.5 million, but Patrick Lanigan has at last been tracked down to a small town in Brazil. He is living very modestly for a man who, having faked his own death, has embezzled $90 million from his law firm and one of its clients. But then Lanigan has always known that he will be found – it’s all part of his audacious and cunning plan.

Rating: 4/5 A tale about a man who outsmarted everyone and still lost everything.

Birds of Prey – Wilbur Smith
It is 1667 and a naval war rages between the Dutch and the English. Sir Francis Courteney, his son Hal, and the crew of the caravel the Lady Edwina, lie in wait off the African coast for a Dutch galleon returning from the Orient laden with spices, timber and gold. So begins this magnificent story of high seas adventure, packed full of excitement, passion and treachery.

Rating: 5/5 Any book that incorporates the early history of South Africa gets a thumbs up from me.

 

 

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Yeah, I got nothing. No idea how to describe this book. It’s a diary by Bridget Jones (obviously). It’s somewhat similar to the film starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Here is the description on the back cover if you want to know what it is really about.

 

The book is written in diary format.

One thing I’d like to know, how much of it is exaggerated? I know it is a work of fiction, but if we (the readers) are to truly believe it is a diary then how and when did the character write about her day: as it was happening or afterwards? Because I don’t know about you, but a lot of what is written afterwards can be exaggerated. I often did that with my diaries – if I couldn’t remember something exactly I would just exaggerate it. Not that anyone’s going to read my diaries. For one, it’s not fiction.

Or maybe I’m just overthinking this.

First published: 1996

Rating: 4/5

One, two, buckle my shoe

one two buckle my shoe

Hercule Poirot is dreading a visit to the dentist… While there, he encounters a bunch of people. Later, he is informed that the dentist has been murdered.

Using the nursery rhyme “One, two, buckle my shoe” the detective must solve this mystery.

What I liked about the story: Just like with Crooked House, Agatha Christie takes a rhyme and bases a story on it. Each line from the poem brings us closer to the answer.

One, two,
Buckle my shoe;
Three, four,
Knock at the door;
Five, six,
Pick up sticks;
Seven, eight,
Lay them straight:
Nine, ten,
A big fat hen;
Eleven, twelve,
Dig and delve;
Thirteen, fourteen,
Maids a-courting;
Fifteen, sixteen,
Maids in the kitchen;
Seventeen, eighteen,
Maids a-waiting
Nineteen, twenty,
My plate’s empty

I also liked the fact that Hercule Poirot also hates going to the dentist. I can relate to that.

First published: 1941

Rating: 5/5

 

 

Two more novels by Agatha Christie

crookedhouse

Imagine you are madly in love with a woman called Sophia, but the only way you can be together is to solve the mystery of how her grandfather died. The whole family lives in a mansion and each one has a certain trait of ruthlessness. Everyone is a suspect.

It seems Christie likes to take nursery rhymes to base her stories on. This time she takes the rhyme about the crooked man who lives in a crooked house.

First published: 1949

Rating: 5/5

 

evil sun

Hercule Poirot is on holiday. The peace is disturbed when a woman is murdered and he must help solve the mystery. This woman has a reputation for being a harlot and it is confirmed that her killer was a man. But it’s not that easy, because both the husband and lover have a tight alibi. Who did it?

First published: 1941

Rating: 5/5

 

The Best Thriller Ever Written

And_Then_There_Were_None_US_First_Edition_Cover_1940

 

Ten people are lured to a remote island on false pretenses. There they find a rhyme of ten Indian boys and 10 ceramic figurines on the table. One by one someone dies according to the rhyme. The question is: who is the killer?

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.

Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.

Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.

Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.

Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were Five.

Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were Four.

Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.

Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.

Two little Indian boys were out in the sun;
One got all frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

The only thing I didn’t like was the ending. I felt cheated. Christie didn’t have to spell out who the killer was. She could have just ended it with that question.

First published: 1939

Rating: 5/5

Interesting fact: The original title was Ten Little Niggers based on a blackface minstrel show.

 

 

The Story of Thuli Madonsela

No longer whispering to power by Thandeka Gqubule

madonsela

Back cover:
Thuli Madonsela  achieved in seven years as Public Protector what few accomplish in a lifetime; her legacy and contribution cannot be overstated. In her final days in office she compiled the explosive State of Capture report and, two years before that, Secure in Comfort, the report on (then) President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence. Praised and vilified in equal measure, Madonsela frequently found herself on centre stage in the increasingly fractious South African political scene.

Yet despite the intense media scrutiny, Madonsela remains something of an enigma. Who is the soft-spoken woman who stood up to state corruption? Where did she develop her views and resolve? Thandeka Gqubule, journalist and one of the SABC 8 fired and rehired by the broadcaster, attempts to answer these questions, and others, by exploring aspects of Madonsela’s life: her childhood years and family, her involvement in student politics, her time in prison, her contribution to the Constitution, and her life in law.

Madonsela once described her role as Public Protector as being akin to that of the traditional Venda spiritual female leader, the Makhadzi, who whispers truth to the ruler. When the sounds of the exchanges between the ruler and the Makhadzi grow loud, Madonsela said, that is when the whispering has failed.

Rating: 3/5

First published: 2017

While I read the story of Madonsela something kept bothering me. Perhaps it was the author’s choice of words. One thing I hate about the news is that they (politicians and journalists) always use particular words over and over again: not because it’s particularly necessary but maybe because politicians think that’s what their followers want to hear. Words like “community”, “issues”, “institutions”, etc. I could just gag from all the political speak.

Another thing that bothered me as that the author is too subjective. I can’t recall that she ever gave a full character sketch of Madonsela: it’s always positive, the descriptions felt excessively sweet. Yes, she is a hero, but no one is perfect. I wouldn’t have minded to read about some of her flaws.