It has been a good year for reading, that’s for sure, and for the first time ever I appear to be whittling my review pile down to something slightly manageable. It turns out there are a lot of good books out right now, not to mention a whole lot of authors were not wasting time during lockdown, but have been writing away and producing a load of good reads for us to enjoy.

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The Tearoom


by Gretchen Hayley

Firstly, I love and adore a good local read and this story is right up there on best books of the year… actually, best books ever. It is sharp, it is witty and it is an excellent story. Our main character, and somewhat delightful, Tubby, which is short for Thirapatheegadu Ezekiel Reddy, owns a tea room in the heart of Kwazulu-Natal. Now, a tea-room, is not a quite a restaurant, because the menu is extremely limited, limited to what the chef wants to cook on the day, however flavours are not limited and this book is loaded with good food descriptions. From the very start of the book one feels a sort of empathy for Tubby, who has a formidable and extremely demanding, and yet, not very faithful wife, and he can never really do anything right by her. He has a son who appears to have failed to launch, and a daughter who is living a secret life. Tubby decides that the time has come to stop dreaming about all the things he could be doing and to just get on and do them. The month before his birthday he decides to put a lot of plans in motion… his intentions may be well meaning but my goodness, one thing leads to another and things quite literally explode in his face. For Tubby, it is not so much about “What will the neighbours think?” but all about his heart… he follows his heart where it will lead and he endures the wrath of his vengeful wife over and over again. Until she crosses the line just once too many times… her own mid-life crisis scheming somewhat backfire, not to mention his children seem to be a lot nicer than he thought they were, once he gets to know them a bit better. Settle in, grab a good curry, make a pile of rootis or a stack of samosas and enjoy a lovely local read… that I kind of feel should have had a recipe or two somewhere between the pages. These is a five star read, look out for it, read it and enjoy it.

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The Fine Art of Invisible Detection


by Robert Goddard

So the father person and I went on a drive into the country recently and we like a good audible book for a road trip. Robert Goddard never disappoints. This is the story of Wada, a personal secretary to a private detective living in Japan. Her mother is dominating and her husband murdered, and her boss not very demanding. Her life is spun out of control when her boss asks her to travel to London on a quick errand… and while she is in flight he is brutally murdered in a hit and run… the culprits are powerful, fearless, and only vaguely pretend to make the murder look like an accident. Meanwhile, middle aged Nick, who was raised in a commune discovers that his father wasn’t who he thought it was and he is off on a quest to discover his roots. Wada and Nick are destined to meet, they are both looking for the same person, while Nick is somewhat aimless and driven by circumstances, Wada is the ultimate anti-hero. A somewhat understated little person, who doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers, but who unwittingly treads on toes wherever she goes… her natural curiosity leads her into locked apartments, across countries, through the Icelandic outback and yet she survives. There are thugs after her at every turn, but she is blissfully unaware of them (at first) and has a wiry knack of just missing trouble and taking exceptionally good care of herself in all circumstances. A delightful character… a tiny little twist in the ending and a thoroughly good road trip read!!!

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For Your Own Good


by Samantha Downing

This book is just another good reason to home school, just kidding a little bit!!! It is a thriller set in a well-to-do, up market town, in the United States. Kids have frightfully wealthy parents and are expected to go to an Ivy League College, no matter what… While the kids are a bright and intelligent collection of students and have no need of extra help from their parents, the interfering parents are there by the bucket load, and can become somewhat of a drain on the staff. And when one teacher appears to care so much more than the others, or do they. People start to die, and all is not what it appears to be at all… the poison that was intended for a teacher, is consumed by a parent, who may or may ot have deserved what was coming her way, but then so many other folk fall victim… how are they all connected. It is a puzzle to the characters in the story, but not so much for the reader… you desperately want to climb into this book and say, “What about..?” or “Have you thought of…?” The sinister character in this book is really very sinister and the sort of character that you would not want to be teaching your high school students, that is possibly the appeal of the book… what would your kids do in a situation like this. Turns out the main characters: Zach particularly, and his good friend Courtney, are not just going to be left to watch the story unfold and narrate it to us… they are going to get involved. This was a really good read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Suspects


by Lesley Pearse

Lesley Pearce is always a good read, you know it… In the novel, Nina and Conrad move into a quiet cul-da-sac, Willow Close. Only to discover that the night before their move, to their “perfect for starting a family” home, a thirteen year old child has been found murdered in the park at the end of the street. The community is outraged at the police, and all ready to point fingers and ask why they are taking so long on the case… but it turns out that all that is picture perfect on the outside is a lot less so for within… every household seems to be in some sort of crisis, every couple on the block appears to have some sort of criminal element. Nobody wants the police to unearth their hidden secrets in their investigation, or worse the neighbours to discover a couple of home truths. Nina and Conrad have literally landed in a hornets nest and they inadvertently trip over the culprit in their effort to help. It’s a great read… I stayed up way past bed time to finish it!!!

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Great Circle


by Maggie Shipstead

In a world that loves strong and feisty female protagonists this book is an epic, it is 600 pages long!!! I listened to this one on audible… and 25 hours worth of listening on audible… so I really felt like I was really getting my full credit’s worth of listening. I love a long book… and this was a fascinating one. It is the story of Marianne Graves, her entire life story, as she and her twin brother Jamie were rescued from a sinking ship as babies, her passion for flying, how she survived World War II, when so many of her friends did not… and how she went on to attempt to fly a great circle… in an era when flight was new and exploratory. As someone who has always been a little intrigued by everything antipodal… I was hooked. I wanted to know if she achieved this massive flight or not. As the book goes on, not a detail is left unwritten… her character is scrutinised and so is everyone she encounters along the way. Her friendships were fascinating, her relationships with her family intriguing, but the fact that the author seemed to need to write about every single relationship she ever had, made me wonder if the book could have said all that it had to say in half the time. That being said, it was a truly interesting read and read a lot more like fact than fiction… the book is narrated at the same time as a Hollywood movie star, called Hadley Baxter dives into Marianne’s character, to present her in an up and coming movie… the more Hadley learns about Marianne, the more we discover about Marianne. The two characters might be separated in age by half a century, but their personalities and lives overlap in so many ways. This reads like a long, fascinating and detailed biography during the discovery of flight, but the simultaneous movie-making preparations, keep reminding you that it is fiction. So its a good read, an interesting read, lots of well-researched facts, and if you like a good long book, then you have found it. That being said, loads of this book could have been left out and the actual story would have been just as good.

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The Night She Disappeared


by Lisa Jewell

I a just going to say Thriller… and it doesn’t ease up from start to finish. This is the story of a mom, whose teenage and her boyfriend go out on the town one evening, when she offers to baby sit their six month old, and they never return. I know I would be frantic… but everyone is kind of hesitant to start looking for them, surely a couple so young, with a baby, represent all that is irresponsible and why would they come home when they know mom is there to look after the babe. Only this mom knows that her daughter is devoted to her young son and nothing would stop her getting home to him. As the story unfolds, so we discover that some of her daughters college friends are less than responsible, and that her loving boyfriend is more controlling than loving and things are not quite as they seem. It takes the persistent and plucky girlfriend of the new head teacher, who is a crime writer, to pursue this “disappearance.” Tenacious is a word that comes to mind, she just won’t quit and seeks out the answers, no matter what they are… it turns out that in a world of online living and instagram, you can run but you can’t hide. Hopefully the long suffering detective on this case will learn that a mother’s intuition is something worth listening to… this was a riveting tale, I honestly couldn’t put it down.

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Not a Happy Family


by Shari Lapena

So here is a thriller and it’s a really good one. Meet the Mercer family of Brecken Hill, a wealthy family: Mom, Dad of retirement age and three adult kids. The oldest daughter appears to be perfect in almost every way, she and her husband have great careers and hope to inherit her parents home one day, but they don’t have kids. The middle child, a son, is in a financial mess… and hoping his parents will bail him out… read on, read on… it was his father who set him up for this financial crisis, so definitely no help on the cards from “the folks” then. And finally the youngest daughter, who is a wayward artist, who has yet to settle down and find her groove and is the cause of many, many grey hairs not just for her parents, but for her siblings too. This is a family where sibling war fair is a way of life and the friendly, somewhat worn out housekeeper, has been their all their lives and is in fact the family peacekeeper, not to mention surrogate parent in a home where “parenting” has nothing to do with raising kids and everything to do with making money, and lots of it. That’s the background!!! Within the first few pages there is a family dinner party that cumulates into some astonishing news for the children, who discover that while their parents may have accrued wealth, they certainly were not about to leave it to their greedy offspring. There is a massive fight, several rants and tantrums… and the kids head home, only for the house keeper to discover the brutally murdered bodies of the parents… the community os shocked, how could this happen amidst them, and yet as the all knowing reading… you know it has to be one of the kids, or the housekeeper, or a one of the kids’ best friends… it is somebody close, it is brutal… and the partners of the kids discover that the wealthy kids they may have married are not quite as genteel and sweet as they imagined. This is quite a read… right until the very end. Great entertainment, felt like a fast paced crime scene series. This is a fabulous weekend read if you enjoy thrilling crime…

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Walk in My Combat Boots


by James Patterson

A typical James Patterson is a fast and furious read, an unputdownable crime/thriller kind of a book. This is not your typical James Patterson Read… it is a collection of dozens and dozens of short and honest stories, retold from soldiers who have been in combat… soldiers, sailors and airmen. It is real live war stories, written from the front and hence the name: “Walk in my Combat Boots.” I am not the best at short stories but I read my way through it… because all of these stories demand our respect, lives put on the line, time and time again… friends lost in battle, heart wrenching stories of those left behind. I think the point is that these are true stories… and if there are any folk out there that are expecting any kind of glamour, they have come to the wrong place. It is harder than you could imagine, conditions are tougher than the participants ever let on and all in all it is heart wrenching. Read away, these are real stories, about real people… yes you can google them and find out more. If you like true stories, about brave men and women, who are willing to serve and protect their country at any cost… then this is a good book to stuck into.

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The Auschwitz Photographer


Based on the True Story of Wilhelm Brasse prisoner 3444
By Luca Crippa and Maurizio Onnis

Translated by Jennifer Higgens

Horrific. This is the true story of Wilhelm Brasse, a young Polish man who was arrested at the start of World War II and spent the duration at Auschwitz. The prison camp where no one expected to live longer than two weeks and several prisoners died within hours of their arrived. Conditions were appalling. The story is told through the lens of Wilhelm’s camera, and therein lies his survival… he was tasked with taking identity photographs of the prisoners and thus keeping records for the authorities. Records of their atrocious medical experiments and their carefully planned mass killings. This is a book of true despair, I read it because I never review a book that I haven’t read… that is the only reason. I hated it. There is no softening the blow or disguising the horrors of war, and there shouldn’t be… this book goes way beyond triggering and steps into the realm of traumatising.

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These books (except the audible books) were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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