At last a blog post all about all the books we have been reading lately…


I recently attended the launch of Jonathan Ball Book Publishers for the year ahead… lots and lots of lovely reads to look forward too. AS usual they chose a fabulous venue to share their books with the media… and the AVA Art Gallery was a wonderful discovery… a little gem in the heart of Cape Town.
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Lots to look at and explore, a lovely venue and I definitely need to return there for a closer look…

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Otherwise books, and a closer look at what South Africa has to offer as well. Dennis Davis got to introduce his book, Lawfare, that he wrote with Michelle Le Roux. This book takes a closer look at how South African Political struggles are resolved and how the frontline battles on the streets are taken to the courts.

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Loads and loads of fantastic reads to look forward to…

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Adult books and children’s books abound…

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And of course cookbooks…

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Se7en + 1 Books We Have Been Reading Lately

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  1. The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan and illustrated by Neil Packer:
  2. We are reading this book for school history and it is fantastic. World history from a completely different perspective. This book has been rewritten for children, from a very long adult version… it has been reduced to a very readable chapter book.

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    It is absolutely packed with beautiful illustrations, art through the ages: murals, tapestries, mosaics, paintings and of course maps.
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    This book is a journey, chapter by chapter… you learn about how different commodities, ideas, religions, and so on, travelled along the Spice Route… between Europe and Asia, over time.
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    From ancient times to modern times this book has been subtitled A New History of the World for a reason. It has been a fantastic read for us, its large format and fantastic illustrations, along with very readable text, makes this book an absolute winner and is firmly on our Best Books of the Year List. Peter Frankopan’s website can be found at this link.

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  3. Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister:
  4. I love this book… love love love… it is just delightful and for all the little twists and surprising turns, you kind of end up in lovely place. This book is a perfect long weekend, or holiday read… it is charming and feels like you are taking a trip to the countryside while reading it. Mr. Doubler is elderly, but not ancient, a potato farmer of the award winning kind and an elective recluse. He is a single parent that decided as that as soon as his children left home, he would never leave his potato farm on the mountain top again. He is completely self-sufficient, in the sense that he has organised deliveries and really never needs to leave the land that he loves, or his valuable potatoes… life finds a rhythm and he is happy with it. The words in this book are beautiful and thought provoking, for example, Doubler has learnt to navigate the extremely narrow path that separates solitude from loneliness. One he sought; the other sought him.

    He does interact with other people, his darling daily housekeeper, who he keeps him in conversation at least at lunchtime everyday; his adult children, and their children who come for lunch once a month. It appears that he is rather good at everything he tries and he is an excellent cook… to the point that his children assume the meal will be fantastic and don’t even consider it. But not all is quite as wonderful as it seems… and here in lies the story. His piece of land is surrounded by a land grabbing potato farmer who will do everything he can to get Mr Doubler’s property; His daughter is wracked with insecurities that she entirely blames on her father’s single parenting skills; His son, who appears to have such good intentions, is a money grabbing good-for-nothing, whose soul intention is to claim his inheritance long before he should.

    The book has a sense of waiting… his housekeeper falls ill, and this forces Mr Doubler to reconsider his reclusive status, we constantly wonder if his son will hoodwink him (not likely, but he could), and will the neighbour be victorious. Not to mention what did actually happen to his wife, and is he going to ever win his award and claim his scientific achievement as the world’s most incredible potato farmer. As he starts to head back into the world of people and interactions, for the sake of his housekeeper, he discovers that his problems are not entirely unique at all… and he becomes somewhat of a social fixer. There are lots of little surprises in this book… some really sad, grasping for the nearest tissue moments and other literally laughing out loud moments. This is a charming read, and a whole lot more about friendship than potatoes.

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  5. Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan:
  6. I have never read a Ruth Hogan before and now I am going to look for more from her. I am reading this at the moment… the characters are so rich, I am really enjoying it. The story has peaked my interest, it is about the relationship between a girl and her mum, and a mystery… where did they go wrong. The book is about a happy-go-lucky little girl, Tilly, who lives a somewhat unsettled life with her mum. Her father has vanished, and her mother is single parenting and battling. Fast forward in time, and the parallel story is about a grown up Tilly, a somewhat awkward adult, called Tilda. She has returned to her childhood home, because her mother recently passed away and she has come to “sort things out.”

    As we follow Tilly’s often hysterically funny childhood, viewed through the lens of a child, where she longs for her Daddy, and her mom’s life decisions are confusing, we read a parallel story about Tilda, who has never quite got over her lost childhood, things were bad and then her mum sent her to boarding school… and things got a lot worse. On arriving home, Tilda is invited to tea by the neighbour, who tells her how her mother loved her and was so proud of her… something doesn’t quite add up. Tilda then discovers a box of diaries under her mother’s bed… and another story joins the dialogue, as we discover Tilly’s childhood through the eyes of her mum. The story is sad, and optimistic all at the same time… a lovely read, putting the pieces back together… where did it all go wrong and can there be a happy ending. You can meet Ruth Hogan here.

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  7. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy:
  8. Well, this was a lovely surprise… and I know it has been turned into a Netflix movie, but I am not a huge movie gal, and always prefer the book. Can’t tell you a thing about the movie… but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. In the world of body positivity, Willowdean is a Southern teen, whose mum has been running the local town teen pageant about forever. Her mum calls her Dumplin’ for a reason… she is not your tall, slim fit model teen… and she certainly isn’t entering the local town pageant anytime soon. She is brainy and thoughtful and holds down a steady job in the local diner, she is loyal and lovely, and the kid most moms should be proud of. But… everyone pushes all her buttons, all the time. Her mum wants her to better than she is, thinner than she is, more “pagaenteer” than she is… and never ceases to let her know that she could be all round better. Her beautiful best friend, Ella, has decided that this is the summer that she and her boyfriend are going to go “all the way.” Willowdean has become the third wheel… not only that but Ella is working in a fashion store, and has developed some fairly snooty friends to go with the “skinny gal” price tag, and definitely cannot be seen mingling with a gal that works in a diner.

    Meanwhile, Willow rather fancies Bo, the local heart throb, who to her surprise, rather likes her right back. And in class there is a lad called Mitch, who is shy and nervous and a teen… and he also rather fancies her… because she is sweet and lovely and feisty and not at all hung up on all the “fat girl labels” that are slammed on her all the time. Mitch asks to be friends but wants to be more, she likes him… but with Bo there is a spark… so she never commits to Mitch, hoping that Bo will show just a little more interest. Teen love… and I am guessing that the movie would make it all about the fact that when her best friend and followers irritate her once too many times… she enters the pageant… not with the intention of winning but just to say “Anyone can enter a pageant.” This book is really about a girl, who is fine with who she is, happy to go to the local pool and swim… even if she doesn’t have the perfect body, and happy to try new things and is all round friendly… intermingled with the reality of being a teen and all the complications of teen relationships… it is a great read for older teens, there is obviously a little intimacy, which is why I wouldn’t let my tween gals read this, but that isn’t what the book is about, and the confidence that Willowdean exudes, and how she copes during those moments of insecurity, makes this book a really worthwhile read. The Author has a fabulous website, over here.

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  9. Siege: Special Forces Cadets by Chris Ryan:
  10. From Chris Ryan you can expect a fast paced page turner, packed with action and filled with excitement. This is indeed such a book, but instead of his usual more adult versions, this is part of a series for younger teens. Here’s the story: Undercover Agents of the teenage variety are required, they can infiltrate where no adult ever could, however the training is intense. In fact the training is gruelling and selection criteria almost impossible to achieve. Their first assignment is to rescue school kids in an inner city school lock down, hostage situation… they have to be elite, they have to be better than the rest and they have to succeed at their task. Our hero is Max, he is self-reliant and capable, and not one to be bullied into submission, it is almost as if his life was leading towards this. This is a great read for adventure loving boys who don’t love reading, it is not too long, and very exciting, the story will engage them all the way through. Good news is that this is the first in a series. Take a look at Chris Ryan’s prolific list of books over here.

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  11. Virus by Chris Bradford and illustrations by Angus Frang:
  12. This book is a must for kids who love online gaming, and even those who don’t, but who are looking for a very fast and gripping read. Chris Bradford, of Young Samurai fame, has definitely mastered the market for older kids, who would not call themselves readers, and who need something more interesting than a beginner chapter book, but at the same time, they don’t want to be overwhelmed by miles of words. His books are a great step into this exciting genre, and will capture the hearts of readers and non-readers alike. Virus, is about an online game that plays out in real life… a virus has been planted in an virtual game, called Virtual Kombat. The book opens with our hero running down the street with a Wasp after him. A killer wasp, an electronic wasp and this is so much more than a game. Tense, exciting and desperate… unputdownable!!! You can visit Chris Bradford’s website here.

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  13. The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie:
  14. Imagine finding an extremely unusual tree in your grandpa’s garden, and when you take one of the fruits indoors and leave it on your desk, and you later discover that it was a dragon waiting to hatch… this is what happened to Tomas. Dragons are beautiful, shimmering beasts that glide through the sky, well that’s the grown up version of a dragon. Unfortunately, there is a training stage… and much like a very naughty puppy, only a bazillion times worse and with a mouth full of burning fire, and you pretty much have the premise for the book… Naughty, naughty dragons in training, and how Tomas copes with this responsibility. This is a lovely read and if you are looking for a good chapter book to read together at bedtime… then this would be perfect. Andy Shepherd has a great website here, and dozens of Sara Ogilvie’s artworks here.

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  15. Bear Grylls Adventures by Bear Grylls and illustrated by Emma McCann:
  16. Where have we been that we did not know there was a junior series of Bear Grylls books. Bear Grylls writing is inspirational, my older kids have read his biographies and adventure series and loved them. We were thrilled to discover this just more than an easy reader, beginner chapter books really, written for the younger set. These books are fabulous adventure stories for potential rangers, scouts and all out explorers because they are packed with snippets and detailed tips on how to escape, prepare, and survive almost anything.

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    The first one we read, The Cave Challenge, is about a boy called Harry, who is a bit of an indoor kind of a kid and he really doesn’t like getting dirty. At all. Well the story quickly escalates and Harry finds himself in a cave, and with Bear Grylls there to help and encourage him, he is able to overcome his fear, and maybe not embrace the dirt, but at least endure it (!). In The Mountain Challenge a friend of Harry’s, Lily… who battles to speak out in a crowd, finds herself on a mountaineering adventure of a lifetime, not to mention a flash flood, with Bear Grylls there to help all the way. She returns to safety with a new found strength and finds that making sure that she is heard is not as impossible as she thought it would be. So each of the children in the series, has some sort of an issue that they are dealing with… the go on some sort of a survival adventure with Bear Grylls and they return home stronger than when they left. These are great confidence building books, not just reading confidence, but confidence in life. They are fast paced, packed with short chapters and they are illustration rich, so your young reader will not be overwhelmed, but rather encouraged to read on. My youngest two loved these and highly recommend them. You can meet Bear Grylls on his website here.

    All of these Books Are Available Through Amazon

    Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the opinions are as usual my own.

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