Friday 29 May 2015

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

2 out of 5 stars

Lila is an orphan. Her story starts when she is rescued by Doll. The adventure that these women embark upon – struggling for survival in post-Depression United States is narrated, concurrently with Lila’s ending – which is in Gilead with elderly preacher John Ames.

I listened to this book on Audible, and found the story disjointed – the order jumping without rhyme or reason. It left me frustrated and at times, confused, and reluctant to continue.

Lila is born to atheists, and there is not much hope evident in her early years, which means that she comes to the Calvinist doctrines that Ames proposes more than a little jaded. The writing is beautiful – the prose exceptional, and it was for this reason that I persevered. Also worth reading was the gentle, warm relationship that blossoms slowly and surely – I found that beautifully told.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

It's the most wonderful time of the year

The morning looked and felt cold. Not the crisp cold of the Highveld with a promise of sun and warmth by mid-morning, but the damp coldness that could go either way. I dressed warmly, memories of that first Kingsmead Book Fair making me smile. It is always freezing cold or raining when Kingsmead College hosts a big function. Excitement was brimming in the chattering lips sipping steaming brews, surrounded by beautiful d├ęcor, patient prepared food vendors, and other early morning connoisseurs of all things literary.

Sunday 24 May 2015

The Missing Piece by Kevin Lings

Kevin Lings, chief economist at Stanlib, has analysed the South African economy for 25 years. His reputation is one of pragmatism, honesty, passion and dedication to his work. This is evident in his writing.

The Missing Piece is a detailed source of economic information on South Africa's development since 1994. A refreshing break from the political grandstanding we see too much of in the daily press, this is factually based and gives an objective assessment of where we stand today. More importantly, he tackles how South Africa could improve further. His style is straightforward and non-accusing, emphasizing that there is a lot of good news, and that the shortcomings, given priority and commitment, can be made up.

This is an excellent resource for those studying business degrees. It should be required reading for those of us in business who advise, make decisions, or invest in South African businesses. I would place it on the desks of each person in government economic policy development - if only they would read it.

You may also enjoy Green Giants by E. Freya Williams

Here are all my reviews and recommendations.

Friday 22 May 2015

Green Giants by E. Freya Williams

Green Giants tells nine stories of companies, their leaders and their passion for sustainability. Written in a style that is entertaining, the book is laden with facts and anecdotes, all contributing to the overall message: transforming your business on the basis of sustainability factors is risky, takes courage and conviction, but ultimately pays off.

The book examines these case histories from many different angles and through multi-colored lenses. In the business world, where there are as many protagonists for sustainability and whether this can translate into rewards for shareholders as antagonists, this provides a fairly incontrovertible case for the protagonists. Purpose-driven profitability is explored, as is the embedding of this culture into every aspect of the corporation. Further observations are the alignment that these companies discover with their clients, and how they can enter into better behavioral contracts with all their stakeholders.

Read this to be inspired that the goals of business are not in opposition to those in pursuit of a better world for future generations. Highly recommended reading.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for an advance copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Here are all my reviews and recommendations.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Shout, shout, let it all out!

Please note that certain expletives have been altered (but not harmed in any way) in the compiling of this blog so that you feel comfortable sharing it with your children, or your mother, without embarrassment

The voice droned on...“Or press star to return to the main menu.” Oh damn, what was the option I needed? Bored by all the choices, I had been scrolling through emails that I should have been attending to, instead of being on this call. Now I couldn’t recall what I meant to select. My uncertain finger hovered over 2 and 3 on my phone, terrified of picking the wrong one. That would take me into the cul-de-sac of “Sorry you need technical support, this is the general queries call centre. Please hold while I transfer you…” to that long beep, the signal of disconnectedness.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

The Last Letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes

3 out of 5 stars

Our female lead is Jennifer Stirling, who wakes up in hospital after an accident, not remembering any of her life. It is 1960, and we soon realise that her life was far more complicated than her family and husband would like her to believe.

This is, at its core, an enchanting love story. The letters make us nostalgic for the olden days, but the plot reveals that those were not easy times for married women.

Forty years later, a journalist - Ellie comes upon several of these romantic letters stored in the newspaper archives and her story commences. The emotions and characters are far stronger in the 1960s, and the two stories are not well connected – it felt a bit disjointed for me.

I listened to the Audible recording, and the narration was excellent. The only thing that really annoyed me was how many times we hear that Jennifer blinked. Good grief, there are other ways to express that – someone should do a count of those words!

If you like reading a love story, filled with tragedy and loss, but also happy moments this is for you.

You may also enjoy Past Caring by Robert Goddard, After You, or Night Music by Jojo Moyes

ISBN: 9780670022809

Here are all my reviews and recommendations.

Sunday 17 May 2015

The Abduction by Mark Gimenez

4 out of 5 stars

The Abduction tells the story of Gracie, who is abducted just after her soccer game. Her mother, an aggressive lawyer, her father, a nerdy IT geek about to list his company, and her grandfather, a retired war veteran are the family members desperate to save her.

As they come together to try to understand why Gracie was abducted and to try to get her back, we discover, as the story unfolds, what unique set of circumstances

Thursday 14 May 2015

It's a kind of magic

“Should we, shouldn’t we?”

“It’s quite a lot of work” Don’t laugh, but we had six adult and four children’s sessions to plan. We were stressed. All six of us.

“I would love a book fair.”

“Me too, but will it be supported?” We eventually decided we’d try it – just this once on 7 June 2011, and probably drop it the next year.

Still feeling very unsure, we started planning. We had two venues – one for kids and one for adults, and we panicked that the kids wouldn’t behave in the library.

Thank God for Killing Kebble. It was perfect timing and a huge story. We ran around for a few days telling ourselves “Mandy Wiener’s really coming”, hoping it was true, not believing our luck. Jenny Crwys-Williams agreed to MC, and suddenly, we started getting excited.

Monday 11 May 2015

Searching for the spirit of the Great Heart

We have experienced another spate of negativity in South Africa recently, with a wave of people leaving, citing Eishkom, Zuma and crime as some of the things that make living here unbearable.

What follows, inevitably, from the recently departed is a litany of FaceBook posts that laud the beautiful place they now live in, or numerous comments on every single (even slightly) negative story that happened in SA, and why that would never happen wherever they have chosen to be.

You can all relax, I am not going to defend why I choose to stay here. Mandy Wiener

Sunday 10 May 2015

Are you my mother?

You will be most relieved to note that this is not another book review. I did far too many of those in April, and you can read them here.

But you are right, this is a book, and it was one of my many favourites as a child. The story is of a little bird that falls out of its nest, and goes on a quest to look for its mother, asking a dog, cat, kitten and cow – “Are you my mother?”

I cried all the way through this story every time I heard it. Sitting on my own mother’s lap, with her melodious voice repeating the words, I got the tragedy. I was strange that way. I still remember the conversation:

“Beverley, are you sure you want me to read this book, you know it’s going to make you cry?”

“No, mommy, I won’t cry.”

“You know it ends well, right? So you don’t have to get upset.”

Friday 8 May 2015

Not my best day

“Oh no.” 



And this is how it starts. My least favourite game with my husband. I call it “Guess what’s gone wrong when he goes quiet”. I hate it even more than when he turns the light on in the dead of night to read, because he can’t sleep.

“No, no, no, no.”

I didn’t ask again. He said it quietly, which made it more alarming. He was trying not to panic the already hysterical teenage girls behind us in the back seat. They had not stopped giggling or shrieking since we’d left the villa half an hour earlier.

I leaned over and scanned the dashboard for clues. You can tell I’ve played this game before. The little picture of the car that I could see through the steering wheel had a circle on the top right that was flashing. A number next to it counted down – 2.8, 2.5, 2.3, 1.8, and I realized just as Wayne told me – the game a dead heat.

Thursday 7 May 2015

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark

2 out of 5 stars
I really wanted to like this book more. I will start with the worst things.

The story was told in a very laborious fashion, which frustrated me. Martha finds she is the unlikely heir of Elizabeth's house, which still contains all her possessions. The story of Elizabeth Pringle is told in parallel, through journal entries that Martha is not privy to. The story had potential, but the telling didn't suit it - the big reveal right near the end for instance just didn't seem to fit with the flow. I also felt annoyed that

Sunday 3 May 2015

Connecting and Addictions

It’s been a two week break. We left on 20th April for the South Coast of KZN in SA. We love this part of the world, because it is always warm – sun and sea, and there are a number of great beaches to swim at,  take walks, or just sit and read on. That is one of our family’s great addictions, reading. A friend of mine had a great deal of angst, because her daughter’s addiction was reading, while her son liked to play on the computer. She wondered why she seemed to discipline her son for his “obsession” more regularly than her daughter, when they were both addicted, albeit to different things. The daughter also never felt punished when sent to her room as all her books were there, while the son, receiving the same treatment, had no access to the computer. Makes one think, doesn’t it? I read a great post by Gail Schimmel on whether reading is actually a more noble addiction than any others, Read it here .

But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about. We get into a great holiday rhythm. My husband and I wake up and have a run – the speed inversely proportional to the number of waffles we have eaten. We then wake the girls, have a swim in the sea and have brunch together. After that, it’s work/read/nap until sundowners on the beach again – all together, and dinner, and then more reading/TV until we go to bed. It’s relaxing.

One of the reasons we all love the holiday so much is that we know there is enough time to connect, and space for each of us to do our own thing. We love to sit around eating together, teasing one another, and share the books we’ve been reading. We love to swim together, or even sit quietly on the beach together. Everyone is happy.

One of the things that interferes with our connecting is our social media interaction. We can’t really sit down without someone picking up a device and checking

Good Girl. a memoir by Sarah Tomlinson

2 out of 5 stars

Since reading an excellent memoir, Karma, Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris (Review here), I have been much more inclined to pick these memoirs up.

This one wasn't so good. I suspect that from now on, I will try out samples/read chapters in the bookstore before attempting the whole thing. It takes talent to write your own story in a way that others are interested. We all think that just because we have lives, they are interesting. That is only true if you are famous and have fans, and who wants a life like that?

This wasn't all bad. It was mildly entertaining, but a little too descriptive and self absorbed for me.

You may also enjoy Karma, Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris by Elaine Taylor or Miss Fortune by Albina Hume

ISBN: 9781476748962

Read my review on Goodreads

Second Life by SJ Watson

4 out of 5 stars

This is the story of Julia, whose sister, Kate was murdered in Paris. Julia, obsessed with finding out what happened, confronts the sordid world that Kate was a part of. Haunted by demons in her own past, but thinking she has overcome them, Julia feels she owes her sister the truth, so persists with her quest. As the tale unfolds, more evil emerges. The intensity builds. Manipulation, lies, twists and turns become a tumultuous whirlpool in which no one can be trusted.

I enjoyed the characterization of the addictive personality, and the contrasts between the real world, where values exist, but are not always upheld, and the cyber-world, where nothing is as it seems, personas are created, and lies are added in layers.

Sensitive readers will not like the sex, violence and subject matter.

The protagonist was mildly annoying, and slightly dim, but I had sympathy with her conflict.

The conclusion was inevitable. A good psychological thriller.

This book features in my recent best reads

If you liked The Girl on the Train, you will like this novel.

You may also like Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll or The Abduction by Mark Gimenez.


Friday 1 May 2015

My Review: The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

5 out of 5 stars

Don’t start this book unless you are prepared to suspend your life until you have finished it.

The story starts with a missing child. That is guaranteed to draw most readers in, and to keep them reading. The parents, Anna and James Buck are desperate and sad, and their story connects with the story of another missing child, from years ago. DCI Marvel (yes, really) and Richard Latham, the psychic, are both involved in trying to solve these mysteries.

The characters unfold, and the plot thickens.