After lots of blogging about wintry getaways, I am ready to hibernate and settle into the massive pile of review books I have been reading. I am going to be blogging books and more books over the winter holidays. Let’s begin with the Adult Books that I have been reading from PanMacmillan South Africa. This has been a fantastic year for reading, and here are some of my favourite reads so far.


Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

I loved this book. It is a story of bravery and courage from an unexpected place, in the heart of London, during World War II. Some books take a little while to get into the story, this is one of them, but the humour pulled me in. Our heroine is a gal called Emmeline Lake, she has a turn of phrase that is surprising and unintentionally funny. She really, really wants to be a war correspondent, in an era when that would have been a little improper. More than that she wants her writing to make a difference, and it turns out that it does… but not in the way that she ever expected.

The book begins when Emmeline sees an advert for a job opening, she tells all her nearest and dearest that she is off to fulfil her dream, only it isn’t quite as straightforward as she expects… She ends up writing for an absolute terror, and not so much frontline journalism, but rather the Agony Aunt Column, and worse, she wasn’t “allowed to write anything improper, whatsoever.” But the rebel inside her had to emerge… and my goodness she takes on the world’s problems and conquers them… she does more for the war effort through her writing than most. And there’s more… there is a sweet love story and, you are in the midst of The Great War, there is grief and pain and tragedy… but sweet ….. And her unconquerable, spirit will leave you filled with hope, even during the most dire times, some folk just can’t be put down, Emmeline Lake is one of them.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

If you are looking for an all consuming and harrowing read, one where you forget the world around you and get completely pulled into the story, where the problems are way bigger than your own… then this is the book for you. I listened to the audible book of this one as I drove to and from my Two Oceans Training… I would listen all the way there, run as fast as I could, just so that I could jump back in the car to listen all the way home again. I loved it from start to finish… though there was very little that was lighthearted in this book. This is the story of survival… Leni’s survival. A thirteen year old girl and her coming of age, whose mum had raised her, while they dreamed of the happy family they once were. Her father returns from the Vietnam war and he is damaged, he suffers from PTSD, he is violent and his nightmares rage. Circumstances lead to an opportunity and they decide to head off to a new life in Alaska… life is surprisingly hard. It is tough in the extreme… not just the cold, the snow, the months of darkness, wild animals and just the nitty gritty of daily life…

Leni is battling, not just against the elements, but against her parents tumultuous relationship. There are loving and concerned people near at hand to help her, but how under the ever watchful eye of her father, could they help her. As she grows up she relies more and more on her best friend Matthew, and inevitably they fall in love… under the cloud of Leni’s life. Things go from bad to worse, and when you think things couldn’t get worse… they do. Much worse. This book goes straight onto my list of best reads of 2019. Don’t expect a happy ending… and when I say harrowing, I meant it. However, Leni’s tenacity and endurance… struck a cord in my heart… I needed her to “make it,” I needed her to survive, I needed to get all the way to the end of this book.

Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond:

And now for something completely different. A lovely weekend read about the ins and outs of a large family’s relationships. This book is full of surprises… I thought is was the story of a gal, called Frankie, who discovered that the life she lived was not exactly what she thought it was… and while it is about her… she is but one component in a large wheel of interlocking family relationships: loves and loves lost… and a sharp reminder that all that seems wonderful about family life to the outside world is not necessarily wonderful within the four walls of home.

The Mortimer Family of York and their four grown up children, seem to have everything sorted… the perfect homes, the perfect marriages, the perfect children and even the perfect grandchildren. And then Frankie throws them a slight curve ball as she arrives at their fiftieth wedding anniversary celebrations… one thing leads to another and things seem to be falling apart in every direction… some relationships emerge stronger and others not so much. If you love a story that winds in and out of family life, through the good times and the bad times, then you will really enjoy this.

The Accident by Gail Schimmel

Local is lekker, and I was thrilled to see a new Gail Schimmel land on my “to be read” pile. I previously, read Gail Schimmel’s The Park and really enjoyed it, I have been looking out for her books ever since. You can read my interview with Gail Schimmel here. Meanwhile, her latest book, called The Accident, has proved to be just what I needed to read. A gritty true to life story, that will definitely distract you from any work you need to get done.
I absolutely love a review book that comes with a package

This book is written from the perspective of each of the main players. Short, precise chapters and no words are wasted. It is a biting good read… and you will want a friend to read it, because you can’t not talk about it. The main player is Julia, she grew up in an extremely dysfunctional home… she had everything except a loving connection. Julia’s childhood has left her reeling and the people in her orbit are reeling too… Claire is Julia’s best friend, and happily married to Daniel. Daniel is the real villain of the book, portrayed as a bumbling and self-absorbed idiot, and really not even slightly concerned with anyone in his realm, which is quite a good way to portray the villain. And then there is Julia’s mum, Catherine… who is a little bit disturbed and understandably so… twenty-six years ago she was in a horrific accident, along with her husband and child. The repercussions of that accident echo down the years, they left her as a shell of her former self, but somehow through this book she finds a semblance of healing. Love, betrayal, loss, and the ultimate truth that there is no such thing as a “normal” family.

Little Big Love by Katy Regan:

This is a book where the main characters are so delightfully funny and flawed, and just so genuinely nice, that you want to be part of their story, tragic as it is. The book is written from different characters perspectives within the story and it provides an interesting depth as the story rolls along. The main character is ten year old Zac, I love him… just a great kid, who loves facts and food. He wants to be a great chef one day and unfortunately all his favourite people in the world reward him, comfort him and nurture him with food… which leads to the problem that he is overweight. Not only is he bullied a lot, and horribly, but the “health and safety brigade” have started to send letters home from school. His mum, the other main character is just as delightful… her struggle is real. The father of her child left really early on, she is raising him alone, has never had another good relationship… her parents help her, but things aren’t great. In fact dysfunctional would be a pretty good description of their family life. But Zac and Juliet are close, their relationship is strong.

After a terrible night out she confesses to Zac that her dad is the only man she ever loved. He decides to go on a quest to find his dad and to return him to his mum. Meanwhile, the bullying incidents send her on a quest to get Zac to live a healthier life and this leads to her own self-discovery, why has she just given up on life? Both pf them are on their own journeys, unbeknownst to each other, and get they are a really close pair. This book is genuinely easy reading, of course there is undercurrent of tragedy, but the brave and feisty protagonists will win your heart. This is not light-reading so much as “just one-more chapter” reading. If you like poignant… then this is one of the most poignant reads I have read in ages. I flew through this book… really enjoyed it.

Good to Go by Christie Aschwanden

And this post wouldn’t be complete without a non-fiction title. This one is all about sport and recovery. A collection of essays, regarding popular ideas about post-race recovery, and definitely something I wish I had known a lot more about before I ran my first half marathon earlier this year. The thing is, there is a lot of pseudo-science out there and “facts” about what we should do and when… to speed up recovery, to go, go, go and get back on the road again. You may discover after looking at the actual evidence, that you don’t really have to sit in an ice-bath for recovery, and the benefits of that post-run lager may not be quite as beneficial as you thought.

The one topic that really spoke to me was sleep. It doesn’t matter how many intervals you are doing or how much carrot juice you are quaffing down, if you don’t sleep and worse if you don’t think you need to sleep then you are not going to perform, even close to your best. I have become a sleep advocate over the last two years and I couldn’t agree more, sleep is essential not only for recovery, but for training as well. It was very interesting to read about what Olympic Athletes eat when they are far from home… If you are an armchair athlete or the real thing, this book is packed with nuggets of wisdom and genuine gems of information. The point is, even for the most ardent athlete, a lot more time is spent “not running” than “running” and this book is all about how best to spend those hours and hours, when you are not actually running. Just a good solid read, and it can be read chapter by chapter in easy to digest sections. Highly recommend this and very giftable.

Books to Look Forward Too

My Next Read… The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber

This book is set in the 1800’s in Utah Territory, it looks like a desperate story of survival and I can’t wait to get reading. Not to mention I definitely do judge a book by the cover.

Otherwise, there is a new Jessie Burton coming out, The Confession. I loved her previous books: The Minituarist and The Muse.

And The Girl Who Reads on the Metro… looks exactly like my kind of book… and is going on to my… I definitily must read this list…

We would like to thank PanMacmillan South Africa for providing us with these books for review. This post is not sponsored in any way and the opinions expressed are as usual our own.

2 Replies to “Books I Have Been Reading Lately, From PanMacmillan South Africa…”

  1. Oh wow, you write so compelling. Some of these I want to read, and some I’m running from, no happy ending! and yet…it kept you in it’s grip. Now which one to read first..of to my library catalogue to see what they have

  2. Hello Erin, I am so glad you enjoy the book reviews, I write them in my head for ages… it is just sitting down at a computer and getting them into a blog post that is the actual tricky part. It has been a fantastic year for reading so far and I have tons of reviews to post… just looking for some actual computer time to get them written!!! Hope you are having a fantastic week, loads of love from Cape Town!!!

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