It has been a fantastic year of reading for us, piles and piles of books have been devoured. I have book stacks on almost every flat surface, and then spent a month dealing with coughs and splutters and splutters and coughs, round and around the family. An entire month of it… But we are on the mend and it is definitely time to get back into blogging. I am starting back at it with a book stack of reads that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading lately. Cape Town winter has settled in, pick a book and do the same… the time has come!!!
Lessons in Chemistry
This book goes straight to the top of my Book of the Year List, it is a magnificent read. Having studied in the science faculty at a large, local university it is with great sadness that I can say that I absolutely and one hundred percent relate to the heroine, Elizabeth Zott. She is the female protagonist in the male dominated world of science in the sixties… not too much has changed and I found myself outright laughing at some of the absurdities, and not laughing because, “say hello to the actual truth.” Elizabeth Zott is an outstanding character, she is incredibly clever and does not understand limitations on any level. Aside from work at Hasting’s Research Institute, life is sweet… she is in love with the quiet and reserved head of department and Nobel Prize winner, and an exceptional rower. Her work goes completely unrecognised, several twists and turns of fate later she finds herself raising her child as a single mum… and horror of horrors is denied a job because of it. Elizabeth is way to clever for the “men’s club” and finds a way to get her work done and how to get paid for it. Quite by accident she becomes a TV chef, teaching women all over the United States how to cook and quite unintentionally science. She is massively loved and becomes a national sensation. The supporting characters in this book are just as delightful as Elizabeth… especially her feisty daughter called Mad, and her delightful dog called six-thirty, and many more. This book is laugh out loud funny… and yet also a very distinct message… you don’t have to accept the status quo. Elizabeth Zott is possibly one of my favourite protagonists ever, she doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone… this book is an unexpected read, every time you expect something to happen, something else happens. I loved this quirky read.
The Milk Tart Murders
I wish there was more Tannie Maria and her Milk Tart Murders… love love love them, honestly this series cannot get written fast enough. These books definitely have a permanent spot on my shelf of favourite reads ever. Tannie Maria is an agony aunt, who lives in the heart of the Karoo. Her solutions to real-life problems tend to end up in a recipe… she has a recipe for absolutely every kind of heartbreak. As you turn the pages, and you will have to turn them fast… because there always is a murder to solve, you will wander through the dust Karoo, smelling the aromas of South African eats and treats on a grand scale. I love that the book not only contains endless descriptions of fine South African flavours, but it includes recipes at the back of the book as a hidden bonus.
In this book, The Milk Tart Murders, Tannie Maria is out to find out what happened to the town’s elderly and more than a little eccentric antique dealer, Oom Frik. The dealer, with a passion for Marilyn Monroe and who changed his will more often than most was more than a little paranoid that someone was after his junk collection. Tannie Maria finds her self on a treasure hunt, searching through attics and rooms of precious and not so precious junk. As she gets nearer and nearer to the truth, so the need for speed and urgency increases. It is only her excellent baking skills that get the usually reticent town’s folk to speak.
There are well over a dozen recipes in this book including: the famous Diesel and Creme Burger with Mustard Mayonnaise, as well as Frikkadels and Tamatiesmoer with Kapokaartappels. Also, Spekboom Ice Cream, Karoo Zoo Biscuits and Creamy Fudge and Grapefruit peel and Dark Chocolate and many many more.
A Wedding in Provence
A Wedding in France is your typical Katie Fforde novel, it feels like you are taking a lovely holiday in the country, even if it isn’t really. Alexandra is fresh out of cooking school, young, adventurous and confident… her extended family want her to complete her education in Switzerland at a finishing school for young ladies. On her way to Switzerland, she stops in Paris with a friend and a chance meeting leads to her becoming a tutor, if not governess in the French countryside, which turns out to be for a couple of months. The children she is caring for… don’t immediately fall for her, she has to work extremely hard to win them over, not to mention there is a grandmother with the children’s’ best interests at heart and even a character that we can call “the wicked stepmother.” This does read like somewhat of a fairy tale, the children’s’ father, Antoine, is away on business more than he is present… and just happens to be tall, dark and handsome. Think “The Sound of Music”… It is a Kattie Fforde, everyone will live happily ever after… but it will take a good while and lots of twists and turns, lots of gasps – “this can’t be happening moments” until you read your way to the final conclusion.
So Again Rachel landed on my review pile, and it is actually the sequel to Rachel’s Holiday. And though they say the books can be read independently, I am so glad I went back and read all the way from the start. Honestly, I love and adore Rachel… she is the most charming character of all time. I got the audible versions of both, and Rachel became my driving companion for a couple of weeks.
In the first book Rachel is a twenty something old and her life is spiralling, “just a smidge,” out of control and those nearest and dearest to her decide that it is time for a certain amount of intervention and suggest she return from New York and the love of her life, Alex, to Ireland. On returning home she discovers that her family think it would be a great idea for her to get a handle on her addiction troubles and settle her into a rehab facility… and sweet naive Rachel is all too keen to head to the rest farm, where she expects: spa and beauty treatments, health and gentle fitness… not to mention several celebrity crushes. Her expectations couldn’t be further from the truth… but love prevails and she and Alex are brought back together, or are there… little bit of a cliffhanger and you will immediately need to press play on book two… where Rachel’s downward spiral continues to entertain…
Rachel’s Holiday ended on a bit of a cliff hanger… and this book begins by bringing everyone up to speed and introducing us to the hilarious Rachel, who has a slightly different view of life, love and everything else. While it looks like she has been forging ahead and making progress, getting a degree and working full time in the very rehab centre that saved her life, reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Things appear to be going from good to bad fairly rapidly, and the downward spiral… well it’s a really down down down and down kind of a spiral. Will she find the love of her life once again, possibly… but there is so much hurting and healing that she has to go through first. Rachel remains upbeat, positive and rather funny throughout. Everyone needs a fabulous friend like Rachel in their life… someone who makes you laugh when you want to cry, but isn’t afraid to cry alongside you. I adore her. These books were absolutely fabulous and exactly why Marian Keyes is one of those authors who you can rely on to produce great reads, time after time.
One Step too Far
A hiking book… and neither the first or the last that I have read this year. In the past a group of young chaps head out on a stag night… and the “groom to be” does not return with the party. Every year after the party, the groom’s father leads the group back to the camp site in search of their friend. You have no idea if he thinks his son is still alive, is he taking the group, because he wants them to take responsibility for his son’s death… there are a lot more questions than answers. Enter our heroine, Frankie Elkin, who I have met before in Before She Disappeared. Frankie is extremely talented at finding missing persons, she has no experience on the trails, she has literally never hiked in her life before… but she is streetwise and savvy, and believes that she will be able to figure things out as she tags along with the group. She very quickly discovers that this is not your average walk in the country… in fact from the very get go… things start to go strangely and absurdly wrong. Is it wild animals stalking their group, or a pack of hikers trying to scare them off or is it something much more sinister trying to sabotage the search party. Into Frankie Elkin style, she marches into the situation, completely unaware of what she is getting herself into… she finds herself getting to know each of the characters and all their mixed up motives. This is a cracker of a read, tension reigns throughout. You might want to just stop and enjoy the hike and the countryside, with the sweet and friendly working dog, Daisy, that joins the team, but somehow the quest to find their friend and return to civilisations safely means that there is a sense of urgency throughout, which makes this read un-put-downable.
This book was published with much acclaim, and I was eager to read a book that claimed to be filled with vibrant characters. Well they weren’t wrong, the main players in this book sure are dynamic and extremely energetic. Three working girls: Ronke, Simi and Boo are all Engilsh girls with Nigerian backgrounds, they are best of bestest friends and they lead very different lives. They meet up together a lot to share and confide about the ups and downs and ins and outs of their everyday lives. And then Isobel enters the story, for some reason she is overly pushy and with her extra generous gifting and playing one character off against another one cannot help but wonder if she doesn’t have sinister intentions. To be honest, this fizzled for me after reading seventy five percent of the way through and lots and lots of drama in their lives. The ever present threat of Isobel still hadn’t come close to fruition and I abandoned ship/the book. That doesn’t happen often… but I just couldn’t… Wahala was a DNF (did not finish) for me… possibly the Isobel drama errupts into an actual thing but after reading and reading and nothing worse than dividing and conquering with a hint of gossip… I just couldn’t go the distance.
Masters of Scale
So along with a whole lot of fiction, it is important to pop in some non-fiction from time to time… and when Masters of Scale crossed my desk I knew I was onto something. Firstly, you can listen to all Reid Hoffmann’s ideas and many chapters of his book on his podcast over here, and if you love audible, as I do… then that is a good place to start. The book is about starting and growing a business… and as a homeschool mom, you may wonder why I need to read a book like this… well raising eight kids is basically a mini-corporation. There are a lot of ideas in the world of business that carry over into life, love and everything else. He interacts with several leaders, from the business world: Airbnb, Netflix, and so on. Pioneers, who have changed the way the business world “thinks” and performs, it is an amazing read… and probably the biggest takeaway: Stop waiting for things to happen – Take the leap and they will happen. If you like chapter after chapter of motivational ideas, if you want to be inspired to make a change in how you run your life, if you want to get out of the mid-year slump… then seize the day, grab this book or listen to the podcast. It may be just the input you are looking for.
Amazon Affiliate Links for Books Mentioned in This Post.
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.