Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Precious One by Marisa De Los Santos

"In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once. "

I tore through a paperback version of this, and for the time I was reading, it felt like I was on holiday. Firstly there it the very pretty cover. And to go with that - such a lovely story. That as you read, you realise is masking an undercurrent of pain so deep, and heartbreak so intense that you can't stop, and at times you feel like you can't go on.

Taisy - quirky, yet sad and nostalgic and Willow - innocent and apple of everyone's eye are the alternating voices here. This is a story of family - broken and healing, disparate yet joined by unseen bonds of love.

As the narrative unfolds, the remarkable thing is it's wonderful optimism, nevertheless. I'll be looking for more by Marisa De Los Santos.

A heartwarming escape.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780061670916

You may also enjoy Faithful by Alice Hoffman, or  Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Charlotte and Samantha Quinn live in a cabin on the edge of Pikeville with their mother. Dad is a notorious defense attorney - hardly ever home, too busy standing up for truth and justice and no respecter of persons - he'll defend anyone.

Their domesticity, as it is, is shattered one evening by an invasion of the most horrific kind. Thugs at the door, with malicious intent. Both girls take off, eventually, on foot into the woods, the thugs in pursuit. There more horrors abound, and eventually, it's over.

28 years later, and it's still not. Charlie and Sam are still scarred. Charlie has followed in Rusty Quinn's footsteps, to some extent, and Sam and Rusty now need her back in Pikesville.

There Charlie and Sam must face their ghosts, their demons and some of the self same people who are still mocking them and calling them names, Seriously.

With a name like Slaughter, Karin lives up to it in the gore department.  The body count is not for sissies, and neither are the various methods of torture.

Fortunately, to go with that is an epic plot - all over 500 pages of it were as gripping and enthralling as those that had gone before - and characters that make you want to move to Pikeville.

Sam is the impulsive, get-on-with-life, who gives a damn younger sister, and Charlie is the older, wiser, face down everything with courage person. I loved them both. Them and their not so Atticus Finch father. And the essence of a good Karin Slaughter book is these perfectly captured imperfect people. They bounce off the page with their snarky comments.

It's not often that I give a Karin Slaughter book fewer than 5 stars, and this is no exception - its jam packed with all that makes these books thoroughly enjoyable and unputdownable. even without Will Trent.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780062430267

You may also enjoy Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter or Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton.

More Books

Monday, 14 August 2017


Anyone relate to that today?

Yip, it's Monday, and time to get up and get moving.

Today I'm thinking about Scars. You know, the marks life leaves on you. Inside and outside, big and small. Ugly little reminders - of pain, heartache, weakness and failure.

In a nicer world, we tell ourselves that scars are a sign we made it, that grace was operational, that we are better than our scars. But they're still there, under our skin, ridged and raw, exposed and daring us to see them, and not to hate them. To embrace them as part of who we are.

Even though scars do fade when the angry dissipates - they (mostly) don't heal completely. Faded to pale pink or even white, we can touch them, feel them, remember all the horrid in a heartbeat.

So what to do? Well I'm thinking they're not going anywhere, so I'm going to love my scars today. Those reminders of pain that I'm no longer experiencing are also going to remind me that I'm stronger today and a better person because I'm dealing with the pain. I'm also going to see the scars in others and give them some space and mercy, instead of judgement and condescension. 

They're also reminders of our humanity - that we make mistakes, and that's ok, because it can also make us better at this being a human being thing. 

So run today, but not away from your pain, mistakes and humanity. Let it come with you. And as you go, the burden is lighter, Because we all have them, and I think they're beautiful.

Here's our song as we go....

But there's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark 
You should know you're beautiful just the way you are
And you don't have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful
Oh, oh, oh
Oh-oh, oh, oh
And you don't have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful

Last Monday Motivation - Wake me up!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

I know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen

Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles in their 12th adventure. And I haven’t even watched a TV episode yet. I’ll get there when I don’t have anything else to read - hahaha.

Medical Examiner Maura Isles’ scary and somewhat deranged biological mother makes an early appearance from prison in this book. You know - a “she knows what’s going to happen, because maybe it’s her” kind of appearance. But wait, let’s back up. It starts with a body. Cause of death not obvious, but the victim is holding her eyeballs in her hand. Yuck. But we don't read books with Detective Jane Rizzoli and ME Maura Isles without some gory corpses. It’s part of the deal. So Jane and Maura set to work, there MUST be a case of death, and there is, and so much more. It’s also part of the deal.

As is Father Daniel - bless him and his love for Maura. Only here he actually has a valid role to play. Will Maura call him?

There is so much of significance for Maura and Jane (her daughter now three, family dysfunctional as ever) to uncover. There is also a doppelgänger who is certainly involved as the murders stretch to another, and possibly another. Is the doppelgänger the murderer? Maybe.

These deaths are linked back to childhoods, the Apple Tree Nursery and secrets that need to be revealed. Or maybe not?

Typical Tess - the plot races, and the ride is exhilarating. I didn't even bother to guess, I was having too much fun, and it was over too quickly.

The mark of a good crime story is that there are no disappointments. None to report. Tess, Jane and Maura are back with a vengeance, and who cares if the TV series ends soon, when you’ve got the books to read, and re-read.

5 stars

ISBN:  9780345543882

You may also enjoy Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton or Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Friday Books - The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

New resolution - share the book you have been trying to read for the last four weeks. That one that you thought you'd love, but every time you pick it up, you shrug "nah" and reach for something else.  That's the one. Maybe if you share it, someone will inspire you to finish the damn book.

Hello again. It's time for...

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice

Both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

You are not going to believe the book I'm struggling with, people....

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Here's My Beginning..

She lived in the graveyard like a tree. At dawn she saw the crows off and  welcomed the bats home. At dusk she did the opposite."

Such a pretty cover (click it for the blurb), such a lovely looking book. And by the author who won the Booker for The God of Small Things. What's wrong with me? 

I did go and list it on Goodreads as "currently reading", didn't I? So it pops up and mocks me everytime I log on. Then it asks me how far I am. Can you feel my pain?

Here's My Page 56

"On his prescription pad Dr Bhagat wrote in tiny, neat handwriting: Patient formerly of outgoing, obedient, jolly-type nature now exhibits disobedient, revolting-type of personality."

I'll ask you, then - What is wrong with me? Why can't I get into this book? Why can't I even really try? Seriously, I need help.

Thank you for listening to my rant.    What are you sharing today? 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

"Are you just trying to be difficult, or don't you realise you are?" he said over my shoulder as I was paging through this enticing book in the bookstore. True story. What to do? Do I flip over to the cover and reveal that yes, I am a Difficult Woman - note exhibit 1? Wait, maybe he saw it already, and was being funny? No, and I was saved from my quandary by his huffing off to look at something else. I couldn't even remember what I'd done.

So of course I went back another day and got the book. With that coincidental introduction, we were meant for each other.

These stories were exceptional. The writing is effortless, yet rich, deep and chock-full of emotion. Here are some examples:

“She pressed her forehead against mine. Something wet and heavy caught in my throat. ‘Why him?’

‘I’d be no good to a really good man and Darryl isn’t really a bad man.’

I knew exactly what she meant.”

"She pushed Sal away, negotiating the complexity of making her point without getting fired.”

“They had been dating for four years and their relationship was mostly unremarkable. She was smart enough to want more but tired enough to accept the way things were.”

Comments on the book have ranged from - "Why are these women considered difficult?" to "I thought this was an historical account of women in history". It's neither. Because, if you are a woman, you have a innate sense of what Roxanne meant when she titled it thusly. So much. From "Life is difficult for all women" to "Is it not the difficulties encountered that make us so difficult ourselves?" and including "Make us a mould, then - see if we don't fit into it. Because we won't." 

I wanted to read this slowly, but I found I couldn't. I wanted more and more and then some more. On each page I found a piece of my soul.

Not an easy read,  some explicit and extreme imagery,  and plenty of anger and lots of pain, but worth every minute. This is an intense little book.

And please please please don't give me the excuse that you don't read short stories. Because - a) You should and b) Have I not yet convinced you how good this book is yet?

And from my opening paragraph, in case you're still wondering - Yes "difficult" is the word I use to describe myself in an interview when asked to talk about my areas for improvement. And to be honest, I don't really want to change that particular flaw. I kind of like it.

You may also enjoy Maverick by Lauren Beukes or anything by Emma Donoghue - The Wonder is great. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Now you see me by Sharon Bolton

The first book in the Lacey Flint series, Now you see me starts with Lacey Flint, a young female detective being caught up with a brutally stabbed woman. Then a journalist gets a letter with allusions  to Jack the Ripper cases, and links to Lacey. The plot is off to a cracking start, and it doesn't let up.

I love discovering an author like Sharon Bolton, and then going back and finding her earlier works - especially if they're a series, and starting from the beginning. Only here, I got it all wrong - Dead Scared is done already. There are 4 books in this series (6 if you read the novellas in between), and they're fantastic - well so far anyway. Which I didn't expect.

Lacey Flint is an unlikely heroine. She's also - gasp - a female lead who is not interested in a romantic  encounter, as she is more invested in solving the case. I know. Fancy that.

This is a darkly clever, amusing and fascinating book. I was gripped by the rip-roaring plot, the wonderful characters - I loved that we get to know Lacey and all her deep dark secrets on the way,  and an appearance by Detective Dana Tulloch (from Bolton's first stand alone novel - Sacrifice).

The best thing about reading any Sharon Bolton book is your lack of desire to do anything other than finish it until it's done. And then when it's done, and you're doing the dishes, or cooking a meal for your starving family, you will smile as you remember the fun you had. And how you're not even sorry.

4 stars


You may also enjoy Dead Scared  - the second in the series, or what about Daisy in Chains by the same author? Or if you want a different author, in the same genre - try Belinda Bauer's Finders Keepers.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Mischling ("mixed-blood" in German) was used in Nazi Germany to denote persons deemed to have both "Aryan" and Jewish ancestry. The word has the general denotation of hybrid, mongrel, or half-breed.
In this account, Pearl and Stasha arrive at Dr. Josef Mengele’s camp for twins at Auschwitz in 1944, delivered by their mother and grandfather. The horrors of the concentration camps are different for these twins. They believe they are better off, better treated, better fed, and perhaps they are. 
The dehumanisation of children - experiments that at best are weak attempts to stumble upon some “scientific” discovery and at worst, slow agonising torture of innocent victims. Characters are camouflaged by the appearance of medical knowledge, yet devoid of ethics and morals - this makes for difficult subject matter.
The author’s writing is attractive - there is lots of imagination and imagery in her style, but I kept hearing an older voice than the 12 year old twins doing the telling. The plot was well balanced, and held my attention for the best part.

I’m always hesitant to pick up another World War II novel.There have been many retellings, and it’s not easy to be original  in this genre. And it's difficult to review the story honestly, because it's so easy for others to say "How can you say - not another Nazi Germany book, I've had enough."

We cannot and should not forget the horrors that abounded from that time, but I fear that this rendition has nothing more to add, and unless it’s your first encounter with this history, is unremarkable.

ISBN: 9781786490841

You may also enjoy The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah or Lilac Girls By Martha Hall Kelly.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Friday Books - Johannesburg

Where has the week gone? Too much work, too little reading, that's where.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

I've finished this one already. Here's  the Goodreads blurb:

Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose

Gin has returned home from New York to throw a party for her mother's eightieth birthday; a few blocks away, at the Residence, Nelson Mandela's family prepares to announce Tata Mandela's death...

So begins Johannesburg, Fiona Melrose's searing second novel. Responsive to Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, the story follows a polyphonic course across a single day, culminating in a party and traces the fractures and connections of the city.

An irascible mother, a daughter trying to negotiate her birthplace and the people from her past, a homeless hunchback who takes his fight for justice to the doors of a mining company, a mining magnate, a man still haunted by his first love, the domestic workers who serve this cast and populate the neighbourhood, a troubled novelist called Virginia - these are the characters who give voice to the city on a day hot with nerves and tension and history.

Johannesburg is a profound hymn to an extraordinary city, and a devastating personal and political manifesto on love.

The perfect opening. Johannesburg, in December - this book plays out on a single day in 2013, when Mandela died - is renowned for its thunderstorms. So much atmosphere in two short sentences.

I loved this book. I love this city. I read it also in a single day, and enjoyed every minute.  Here's my review.

Thanks for the visit. What are you sharing today? 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose

Gin returns to Johannesburg from New York to hold a birthday party for her 80 year old mother. Her timing is perfect - she returns on the day that Nelson Mandela's death is announced, and the nation starts pouring out its grief, its pain and also celebrating with many wreaths, flowers, candles and pilgrimages his wonderful life and inspiring legacy.

It's a party, and of course we meet cantankerous Mrs.  Brandt. But also Mercy, the domestic helper, and Dudu her friend. September, the miner from Marikana, Peter, Gin's ex, and Juno - the family pet - all feature.

Set on this single momentous day in Johannesburg Gin's past and future, her supporters and detractors, her family with all its faults collide, and no one is the same after that.

Here's an example of the beautiful writing:

"Some of the platters had thin cracks no wider than an ant's foot. Mercy ran her fingers across the fault lines. She liked how they felt and liked too the confidence she had that they would not break. The older things had a strength to them that the newer stuff did not. The same was true of women and girls. Mercy's own daughters worried her. So here, so there and always more money and more things and no work."

The characters were somewhat bare. Not that they weren't well developed, more that they were  distilled to their essence. And this skill of the author's for distillation pervaded the whole little book. In Johannesburg, thunderstorms and hail batter tree lined gardens, filled with roses tended by gentle hands, hardened through years of pain. Eyes that meet at traffic lights that glance away - some guilt, more pain. It's all there, but never over told. It's so very real.

This book resonated with my soul in a true reading experience. I know that Fiona Melrose gets Johannesburg, like I do. And I hope that all my friends read this. They won't all get it. But those who do will look at me, and we'll know. We do.

"Johannesburg is a profound hymn to an extraordinary city, and a devastating personal and political manifesto on love". Read it.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781472152831

Fiona Melrose also wrote Midwinter, which I reviewed here. You may also enjoy Why you taken by Janita Lawrence, also set in Jozi.