I have settled into a big read lately… going to bed early to read, and then getting up early to read some more… declaring “reading days” and even “reading weekends.” Winter didn’t feel like winter… it just never rained, so I didn’t get my usual hibernation. I missed it and I am making the most of these spring days before true summer settles in. Anyway I thought I would bring you a couple of books that I have been reading lately… it is an eclectic mix, something for everyone and in no particular order… just as I read them.
My Latest Reads
Tannie Maria And the Satanic Mechanic, by Sally Andrew: A Tannie Maria Mystery… If you are a South African living overseas then Tannie Maria books will take you straight home to the wide open plains of the Karoo. Page after page of delicious food will be revealed and the story will be quietly interwoven around it. Last year I read Sally Andrew’s first novel, Tannie Marie’s Recipes for Love and Murder and absolutely loved it. Wonderful to find a contemporary mystery writer, who writes in our very own South African context. Once again you find Tannie Maria cooking comfort food in the heart of the Little Karoo… but quickly enough the mystery sets in. The book carries on from the previous one, though you could read it totally independently, with Tannie Maria and detective Henk Kannemeyer working on their new relationship. The book opens with a court case, the local San people have won a land claim case against the local diamond magnets. And then the winner/underdog is murdered… and detective Henk gets busy on the case. Meanwhile, Tannie Maria finds her life literally unravelling as she suffers from PSTD as a result of her previous husbands abusive behaviour. She realises that to get her life back in order and to continue with her new relationship that it is going to take some work and she joins a help group for fellow sufferers led by Ricus, affectionately named the Satanic Mechanic after the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of course you meet and get to know all the interesting characters in her group… and some how her group and the case get intertwined and the ins and outs of her relationship with Henk gets somewhat complicated as he tries to keep her out of it and she once more finds herself unwittingly in the heart of another murder. This is a lovely mix of the very heart of Africa and small town life. I love a mystery that takes you to the very last page… and this one certainly does that… you cannot possibly figure out how this is going to end… until it does. There are one or two bedroom scenes in this book, just saying. I love how Sally Andrews integrates the unique flavour of Africa, wildlife and small town politics. The book is filled with all the fine flavours of Africa… and of course some recipes at the back… Ouma’s (grannie’s) Karoo Lamb Pie and Aunty Sandra’s Malva Pudding.
Instrumental by James Rhodes: This book is the autobiography of James Rhodes, a classical musician of the incredible kind. Click on the link, and listen trust me you will be riveted… and then read his story. It is a harsh read, a difficult read and you will have to dig deep to read on… as a young lad, from age 5 and for years, he was brutally abused by a teacher, and though people around him suspected something, they did nothing to rescue him. A lifestyle of abuse continued as he changed school and his life spun into a pit of self-destruction. Every time he started to get back on his feet something would trigger him, and so the destructive cycle would begin again. Music was the staple thing in his life, and in a desperate attempt to be “normal” he gave it all up for a regular job and a wife, with whom he has a son. His life spiralled away again and he found himself in a psychiatric institution. Understandably, his marriage could not survive the roller coaster. But his son is his world… and he returned to music, music it turns out was his lifeline. This book is a shocking reflection of the world so many people are living in, in a world where abuse is considered taboo, where the victims have to relive and be publicly shamed in order to get a conviction, or even an acknowledgement of the crime… James Rhodes has been through enough and is gutsy enough to speak out. The one thing that saved him, through years of chronic abuse was music… he had an undeniable talent that had to get out… a handful of friends were able to stand by him through thick and thin and he is the man he is today, because they stood by him. A difficult read but a hopeful read… This book literally comes with a health warning in the introduction: “… A quick caveat before you read any further: this book is likely to trigger you hugely if you have experienced se.xual abuse, self-harm, psychiatric institutionalisation, getting high or suicidal ideation…” This book represents his personal journey, there are details that mean it is really not for the faint-hearted. It is precisely because stories like these don’t get told that the crime against children persists, good for James Rhodes for sharing his story, stories like these need to be told. It’s not just about abuse… it is a book about classical music, and is written to a soundtrack each track (chapter) begins with a little bit of an introduction to the musician behind it, a real life look at the crazy lives and eccentric lives of genius musicians. Listen to his Ted Talk… and if that doesn’t inspire you to listen to five minutes of classical music a day then nothing ever will.
Ravenspur, Rise of the Tudors. Part IV in Conn Iggulden’s War of the Roses Series: I have literally been reading this series for years… as each book comes out I am immersed. And if you are looking for a great holiday read a series of great big fat books to escape into then these provide just that… I reviewed the whole series here before. The series is really the story of the Civil War in England during the 1400’s and you will find yourself immersed in History… layers of facts and drama twisting and turning. In the final book, two furious and resentful houses rise up to destroy each other and everything in their wake. This book begins with a young Henry Tudor being rescued from Wales, and returned to London to reclaim the throne for the House of Lancaster. The princes of York return to England to conquer the throne for the House of York. There are very few characters that have been there all along, Warwick managed to stay the distance through the series… through trickery, good luck, and friends in high places, his character continues to stir the pot, so to speak. And Margaret of course, the little princess from the first book, is now a formidable force to be reckoned with. So much power, so much honour and so much to fight for… medieval battles fast and furious, and history carried along. This is yet another fascinating read and tells tells us that the Tudor’s will emerge victorious. I am sorry this book ends the series. History goes on of course, if only Conn Iggulden could write for us. I confess I enjoyed this series so much that I am now downloading the audio books month by month and listening my way through them again.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This book should come with a warning on the cover… “Impossible to put down.” It is the story of Rachel, who is drowning her sorrows in an alcoholic spiral… she has lost her job and her husband, and to keep up the pretence she still gets on the train everyday and heads into the city to maintain the facade that she is employed. The train rolls past her previous home, where her ex-husband appears to have the picture perfect family: a baby and a wife, the woman that he left Rachel for. Rachel understandably has quite a few issues, anger issues, boundary issues, oh so many issues. Rachel has a chance to see “her family” everyday, she also watches an apparently happy couple from down the street as she passes by and builds a whole fantasy about who they are and what they do. Rachel begins to drink more and as she does so the line between reality and fantasy becomes more than a little bit blurred. One day she sees something from the train that she wasn’t meant to see… something happens on the deck of the house of the young couple, and while she is processing this information, the young woman is reported missing. Pretending to be a close friend, Rachel gets embroiled in the police investigation that sends all the characters spinning into a web of deceit and anger. The nature of the story is that all the characters are somewhat flawed, and all the while you are reading on hoping for one of them to do something heroic. It literally took to the last page to figure it all out. Without giving it all away there are parts of this book that are somewhat eerie, it is not call a psychological thriller for nothing.
Bridget Jones’s Baby The Diaries by Helen Fielding: To be honest I have never read a Bridget Jones book before, always watched the movies and of course loved Mr Darcy and loathed Daniel… for obvious reason. Recently after a particularly trying day, I climbed into bed and red this book right through. Oh you have to love Bridget’s self narration all the way through as you read your way through her diary… and just how she unwittingly gets so deeply into trouble time after time. In this book she finds herself “with child” and has no idea whether the father is her long time love Mark Darcey, or her flame Daniel. Don’t ask me to explain her predicament, the book can and does very well… suffice to say that dolphin friendly condo.ms did not do the trick… why oh why did she think they would? Her entire life seems to revolve around far too much attention from rivals Daniel and Mark, or absolutely no attention at all, and of course all the swooning that goes with that… I laughed my way through this, with just enough righteous anger at the how annoying these guys were being and where she finds herself, always loyal but not always treated right by her collection of endearing and enduring friends. This book is about love and loyalty… and of course there is a baby thrown in the mix… but that only arrives right at the end after several chapters of cheesy potatoes and antenatal visits have been endured. You are reading a diary and there are splutterings of bad language throughout… so if that’s not your thing, leave it well alone. This book is a quick read, its funny, its not going to exert your intellect in anyway and yet it is amusing and just the medicine I needed after a somewhat trying day.
I was given these books for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa, this is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely my own.