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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Book Bites: 18 February

Published in the Sunday Times

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky
*****
Lesley Nneka Arimah, Headline, R305

Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut is a vibrant collection of 12 compelling stories set in the US and Nigeria. From fantastical myths to a post-apocalyptic world, all the shorts are varied but cleverly connected by the theme of complexities in relationships, focusing on women in particular. “When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out in the world, he did not know what the world did to daughters. He did not know how quickly it would wick the dew off her, how she would be returned to him hollowed out, relieved of her better parts.” Women find themselves in extraordinary situations: a daughter whose mother’s ghost appears to have stepped out of a family snapshot, another woman, who, haunted by childlessness, resorts to fashioning a charmed infant out of human hair. Arimah is a new literary talent to watch out for. – Nondumiso Tshabangu @MsNondumiso

Can I Speak to Someone in Charge?
***
Emily Clarkson, Simon & Schuster, R285

Emily Clarkson was tired of seeing clothes that only catered for size 12 women. She was surprised at the emergence of online trolls and, like many women, had tons of thinspiration. So, she started a blog, Pretty Normal Me, which led to this book. It is a series of letters to herself, Hollywood, trolls and, well, just about everything and everybody who is living and affected by various societal norms. It’s often funny, sometimes sad but always honest. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Keep You Safe
***
Melissa Hill, Harper Collins, R285

Hill jumps straight into modern-day controversy, pitting anti-vaccination parents against pro-vaccination. Two five-year-olds come down with the measles. The first is Clara, whose parents didn’t vaccinate their children due to personal choice. Three days later, Rosie, who is allergic to the vaccination, is ill. But unlike Clara, Rosie doesn’t get better and ends up in hospital fighting for her life. Tension fills the small Irish village while internet opinions explode: should Clara’s parents be held accountable for what happened to Rosie? A fast-paced drama with twists. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

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“Walters creates a sense of claustrophobia and fear which is compelling” – Margaret von Klemperer reviews The Last Hours

Published in The Witness, 12/02/2018

The Last Hours

Minette Walters
Allen & Unwin

Minette Walters, better known as an author of psychological crime novels, has moved into new territory here – back to the 14th Century and the arrival of the Black Death in southern England.

The results, the loss of around half the country’s population and with that, a mortal blow to the old feudal system of serfdom, are well documented historically and form an important backdrop to what is planned to be a two novel saga.

In the manor of Develish, the brutal Sir Richard of Develish is planning to ride to a neighbouring estate to arrange a marriage for his deeply unpleasant 14 year old daughter, Eleanor. He leaves his wife Lady Anne in charge, and while he is away, news of the rapidly spreading plague arrives.

As the bodies mount up, Lady Anne bars the estate to all comers, including her dying and unlamented husband and his entourage. Only when the survivors are out of quarantine (she has considerable medical knowledge, considering her era) does she let them return. But besides the plague stalking the countryside there are other dangers: starvation and marauding bands of dispossessed and chancers.

Walters creates a sense of claustrophobia and fear which is compelling – her work as a writer of psychological drama standing her in good stead here. She also draws a hierarchical and patriarchal society, ruled by an often corrupt church.

Tensions rise within the barricaded estate as serfs begin to realise there will be advantages for them once they can sell their labour. Their loyalty to their mistress keeps things on a more or less even keel – she has protected them against her horrible husband, and, maybe a trifle anachronistically, taught many of them to read and write.

Once a group of lads, led by the bastard Thaddeus, heads out to see what is happening beyond their boundary and to look for desperately needed food, the story divides into two parts, and loses a little of its tension. But it still rollicks along, and should delight fans of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and the like.

My main criticism would be that the goodies are so good and the baddies so bad that there is little room for nuance. But Walters produces a suitably cliffhanging ending so that there will be plenty of readers keen to find out the further fortunes of Lady Anne and Thaddeus, and even nasty little Eleanor. - Margaret von Klemperer

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Fiona Snyckers’s first book in a new series is fun, fast-paced and features a strong female protagonist, writes Tiah Beautement

Published in the Sunday Times


 
 
 
Hacked
****
Fiona Snyckers, Indie Publishers,
Available on Amazon, R40

This fun and fast-paced read is the start of the six-book Eulalie Park murder-mystery series, which includes a hint of romance.

Private investigator Eulalie Park is used to working alone. But the new chief of police, Donal Macgregor, is not easy to ignore, especially after he accuses Park’s best friend of murder. As Park sets off on her cherry-red Vespa to prove her friend’s innocence, sparks ignite between the detective and the chief.

“Chief Macgregor is a series regular,” says Snyckers. “I like to think he would be played by fellow Scot James McAvoy if this series made it to the big screen.”

Hacked is set on the fictitious Prince William Island, near Madagascar.

“I’m fascinated by the way in which parts of the world were carved up on paper by Europeans sitting at a conference table thousands of miles away,” says Snyckers. “I wanted Prince William Island to be a real melting-pot of cultures, with a strong Francophone influence.”

The novel’s pacing is smooth, keeps readers guessing, and the narrative avoids deus ex machina to resolve the case.

“It is very important that readers should feel satisfied after reading a murder mystery,” Snyckers says.

“You don’t want want your readers actually to solve the mystery themselves, but you want them to look back on the build-up of evidence in the book and to feel as though they could have solved it if only they had been a little more alert.”

Snyckers’s long-time fans expect stories that feature strong and intriguing female characters. Park is no exception – a heroine with larger-than-life abilities, she’ll be admired by readers young and old. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie


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Start the year off celebrating three timeless and tasty works of fiction

Did you know that Jack London, James Joyce and Charles Dickens, who count among the world’s most iconic authors, would have celebrated their 147th, 136th and 206th birthdays respectively during January and February this year? They may be gone but their words are widely read and revered by literary enthusiasts from around the globe.

In honour of these icons and their birthday anniversaries, visitors to Social Kitchen & Bar can pay tribute to their works by sipping on tailor-made, book-inspired cocktails named after each of their most famous works of fiction.

Ulysses by James Joyce

 
Heralded by some as the best novel in the English language Ulysses has inspired a cocktail that matches the book by taking you on a long journey of flavour. Beginning with light floral and raspberry notes, then moving into a touch of nuttiness and finishing off with delicate vanilla and caramel, this cocktail will make you want to continue the odyssey.
 

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

 
Much like the book, our Call of the Wild cocktail is for adventurers and nature lovers. This earthy cocktail, with cucumber water, a touch of elderflower and a splash of apple soda, is then brought to life by Ketel One vodka. A true adventure for your mouth.
 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

 
The best of cocktails. Wine purists might tell a tall tale about this one, but when they taste the extraordinary combination of crisp South African wine, fresh apple juice and vanilla, shaken together with Ketel One, they will only have reason to pronounce themselves living, truly, in the epoch of belief and the season of Light.

So, now that it’s a new year and dry Janu-worry is over, don’t delay. With such a delicious variety of book-inspired cocktails on offer, be sure to visit Exclusive Books’ Social Kitchen & Bar in Hyde Park. Not only is it Johannesburg’s best restaurant to share conversations and hand-crafted food, but it completes the epicurean adventure with inspired cocktails and a view fit for royalty.

Social Kitchen & Bar can be found in the heart of Hyde Park Corner – level six, inside the Exclusive Books store. For reservations call them on 011 268 6039 or email reservations@socialkitchenandbar.co.za. For more information, visit www.socialkitchenandbar.co.za.

Ulysses

Book details

 
 

The Call of the Wild

 
 
 
 
A Tale of Two Cities


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Book Bites: 28 January

Published in the Sunday Times

Manhattan Beach
***
Jennifer Egan, Corsair, R315

The US has finally joined World War 2 and women are working in jobs that were once the exclusive domain of men. In a Brooklyn naval yard, Anna Kerrigan, supporting her mother and disabled sister, fights to become the first woman diver. After work one evening, she visits a nightclub and runs into Dexter Styles, known gangster, and her absent father’s former boss. The encounter reopens old wounds and raises new questions. Egan crochets the three stories – daughter, father, gangster – into an interesting tale inspired by actual historic groundbreakers. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Logical Family: A Memoir
****
Armistead Maupin, Doubleday, R340

A delight for fans! Who would have known that Armistead Maupin, author of the wildly popular Tales of the City series detailing life in San Francisco from the late ’70s to today, replete with spliffs and gay sex, was a southern Republican conservative? Maupin’s autobiography surprises: growing up white in North Carolina in the ’40s and ’50s is strikingly similar to growing up white in South Africa in the ’70s and ’80s. There’s also his fraught relationship with his parents, his discovery of his gayness, serving in the US Navy during the Korean war – and revelations about some of the people who inspired the characters in Tales of the City, including the identity of the closeted Hollywood A-lister with whom he had an affair. One does get the feeling that Maupin holds back though, perhaps for another installment of his life story. One can only hope. – Russell Clarke @russrussy

Promise me, Dad
*****

Joe Biden, Macmillan, R300

Former US vice president Joe Biden cemented a name for himself as Barack Obama’s second-in-charge and for his role in negotiations with global leaders. This book, however, gives readers a touching portrayal of the man behind the scenes. Biden’s son Beau was diagnosed with a brain tumour during Biden’s term in office and this beautifully crafted story tells of how the family rallied together during those months and how, even after Beau’s death, they remained firm in the face of sorrow. His friendship with Obama is well-known, but here we get an inside glimpse of their dynamics. – Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

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Mike Procter’s autobiography a witty, concise read on the events that shaped his life after his storied career as a player, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku

Published in the Sunday Times

By Khanyiso Tshwaku

Caught in the MiddleCaught in the Middle
***
Mike Procter, Pitch Publishing, R370

The title of Mike Procter’s autobiography Caught in the Middle is an apt one considering he found himself at the centre of two of cricket’s hairiest moments in the mid-2000s. Those events were the “ball tampering” Oval 2006 test match between Pakistan and England and the infamous “Monkeygate” New Year’s test between Australia and India in Sydney in 2008.

On both occasions, he was the match referee. After those acrimonious tests, the International Cricket Council changed the rules to ensure certain infractions were dealt with at a level higher than that of a match referee.

In the 2006 encounter, the Pakistan team led by Inzamam-ul-Haq refused to come out after tea on the fourth day after being accused by the abrasive and controversial Australian umpire Darrell Hair of altering the condition of the match ball.

The 2008 issue centred around Indian offspinner Harbhajan Singh racially abusing Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds, who is of West Indian descent, by calling him a monkey.

These two moments are the centre of the well-crafted 239-page book, which focuses on Procter’s career as referee rather than player.

Procter said the incidents in London and Sydney changed his outlook on the game.

“The Darrell Hair thing was part and parcel of cricket. It was very unusual but that’s something you’d expect to see in cricket once in a while, but the Harbhajan Singh one, I would’ve preferred not to deal with that one,” Procter said.

It’s a book that can be devoured easily, thanks to Lungani Zama’s brevity and Procter’s witty but concise tone. With this book being Procter’s third, it was a smart move to speak less about his storied career as a player – cut short by anti-apartheid sanctions – and focus more on the events that shaped his life afterwards.

It’s worth remembering he was South African cricket’s first post-isolation coach, from 1991 to 1994, a tenure that included the five-run win over Australia in Sydney in 1994. – Khanyiso Tshwaku @kaymorizm

Book details

  • Caught in the Middle: Monkeygate, Politics and Other Hairy Issues; the Autobiography of Mike Procter by Mike Procter, Lungani Zama
    EAN: 9781785312168
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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“If you read, there’s no limit to what you can do”, writes the prize winner of the Nal’ibali/Sunday Times Storybook competition, Mangaliso Ngomane

BooksLIVE, in collaboration with Nal’ibali, recently ran a giveaway competition, offering 10 lucky readers the opportunity to win a copy of Storytime: 10 South African stories for children.

The first Sunday Times Storybook was launched three years ago to allow children from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience the magic of stories, especially in their own languages.

The Sunday Times has distributed two million copies of the first book in all 11 official languages free of charge to school, libraries and reading clubs across the country.

We asked readers to tell us why it’s so important to nurture a love of stories and reading among school children who have limited access to books.

Read Mangaliso Ngomane’s winning response:

Reading exposes a child to the avenues of their dreams so that they may be opened to the many available possibilities.

Thankfully there are many age appropriate stories in their own indigenous language to assist in early childhood development by relaying salient principles in a relatable way that they can understand and appreciate from a tender age.

Like our dearly departed president Nelson Mandela once said “talk to a man in his language and it goes to his heart”. That is especially true about a child reading in their language and thus taking pride in their cultural heritage and it also preserves their culture for future generations.

Considering all of this it is inconceivable that there are still children that have limited access to books and not just books but interesting books to nurture their love for reading

I for one have a toddler daughter for whom I’m always trying to get books and establish a library for in either siSwati (our home language) or isiZulu (the next best thing: both are Nguni languages).

I read to hear now and when she’s old enough to read on her own there will be a smooth transition into siSwati literature and an overall love for reading.

I recognize in myself, I love speaking siSwati and reading it now however because I picked up on siSwati as a First Additional Language in high school I had to work a little bit harder at it specifically and at reading any language generally.

I’m trying to correct that in her because if you read, there’s no limit to what you can do so I want to equipment her mind with the best possible tool with which to navigate the world.


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Jacket Notes: Frans Rautenbach on how a conversation with his son motivated him to write South Africa Can Work

Published in the Sunday Times

South Africa Can Work
Frans Rautenbach, Penguin Random House, R250

My son’s statement hit me like a blow to the gut. We were enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We debated the #FeesMustFall movement, and I ventured the view that the problem was the government’s economic policies. I reiterated my mantra that free enterprise was the way to go to save South Africa.

That’s when Stefan said it: “I no longer believe in your arguments. Trickle-down economics does not work…”

While I battled to suck air into my lungs, protesting that I had researched the topic for years, Stefan added that I only read that which confirmed my prejudices.

I realised that no sensible continuation of the discussion would be possible without a thorough re-examination of my premises. Thus the book was born.

The soul of the book is freedom, in particular economic freedom – a policy many might see as less than politically correct. So shoot me, I’m a contrarian. In the introduction I confess: “As a lawyer I still marvel at the beautiful words of Lord Justice Megarry in the case of John v Rees: ‘As everybody who has anything to do with the law well knows, the path of the law is strewn with examples of open and shut cases which, somehow, were not: of unanswerable charges which, in the event, were completely answered; with inexplicable conduct which was fully explained …’”

As in law, so in life. But while often against the mainstream, I am not so just for the sake of being otherwise. As a student politician I relished the thought of pulling both apartheid and capitalism from their pedestals. Intellectually the former proved easy, but nowadays the thought of defending communism or socialism fills me with despair.

People often ask me how I managed to spend so much time and energy writing a book arguing that a free market will save South Africa. My best answer is that I cannot do otherwise.

Seeing our society being led to serfdom while the evidence of a better way is so abundant, is like observing a patient with a mental disorder self-inflicting pain, day by day. I cannot keep quiet…

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“Stories are in our DNA” – local publisher, Charles Siboto, on South Africa’s reading culture

Local publisher, Charles Siboto, on our reading culture, competing with international titles, and reading as tool to raise our standard of education


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The South African publishing scene is a strange one, consisting of many peculiarities and oddities. The first thing that you notice is that it’s not representative of the country and its diverse range of cultures. There are many factors that lend to how lopsided our reading statistics are. The biggest factor is that as a nation we don’t read much and there are no books in most households, so a reading culture is never fostered. I have worked in publishing for four years and can testify that books are luxury items for most households because they are expensive, especially local books. Publishers would love to make books more affordable but the reality is that publishing books is expensive, with the highest cost being printing. In order for publishers to survive, they have to print enough books to cover the cost of producing the books when most of that print run sells. The more books publishers print the cheaper the cost of printing and thus the cheaper the book for buyers, but if those books don’t sell they sit with excessive stock and pay warehouse costs for that stock, which eventually will have to be pulped. The South African publishing scene, thus, is a fine balancing act of publishers trying to make books as accessible as possible while making enough money to continue existing so as to publish more books. Now, as both publisher and reader, I am thinking we can all do more to promote diverse South African literature, especially as readers.

South Africa already has a model of what a healthy, local reading culture looks like in the form of Afrikaans books. Afrikaans publishers are the biggest in the country and Afrikaans readers buy books. The Afrikaans community does have more buying power than most other language groups in the country but the other thing they have is pride in their language. Afrikaans speakers can still largely get by in our economy without having to learn English. Parents know that the country is constantly becoming more and more English but they still don’t stop placing an emphasis on children speaking and reading Afrikaans. In many cases, English is more the supplementary reading. With the other language and culture groups in the country the emphasis is more on English than on the mother tongue, and for the most part, we all know why and I will touch on this later.

Having spent some time reading books by local black writers in English, I know this is by no means a bad thing and it allows for more people being able to enjoy those books. There is an increase of the black middle-class and publishers realise that they have to tap into this market. Young, black and especially female writers are also on the rise and this makes for a great recipe to produce local books that are entertaining, informative, address social issues, expands minds and are just straight up ‘woke’. The problem with publishing in English is that people still buy more international titles than local ones in English. I am one of those people and I have made conscious decision to buy more local titles and readers who can afford to should do this. Afrikaans publishers usually do publish in English and to a smaller scale some of the other local languages but they have realised long ago that they cannot compete with the international market and have opted to focus on their strength, publishing Afrikaans books. Competing with international publishers is difficult because as a country we are not yet confident enough in the power of our own stories and this should not be so. South African publishers publish books of a high caliber that can compete with titles from the UK or the US but they get lost in the crowd. Publishers have had to be much more creative in their marketing a can continue to do so, but as readers, we should also come to the party.

We have great stories as a nation, our cultures are rich in stories that deserve to be shared with the world. I am in no way asking people to stop reading international titles but simply saying that you can read both local and international. It is refreshing to read stories where the heroes and villains are people you can relate to and people that you can imagine meeting when you walk down the street, stories where the lovers and their secrets are people like you. Local books are still expensive to produce but if we all do a little to support the local reading scene it goes a long way. We can do a lot simply by each person in a circle of friends buying one book and then swapping the books among themselves until everyone has had a chance to read every book in the circle. These are things that help to nurture our reading culture. The stronger our reading culture becomes the cheaper and more accessible books will be and publishers will be able to work with more new writers adding their voices to the tapestry of our stories.

The last thing I want to mention, especially having spent most of my publishing career working with children’s books, is that we have to promote our children reading in their mother tongues. This is way easier said than done because the resources are scarce. Resources aside, many black households are afraid to focus on children reading in their mother tongue because they might then miss out on learning English. This is not so, children who can read their own language well can better transition into a second language and excel at it. Being a multilingual society is complex but we gain more when we allow people to read in their own language and learn English in addition. This makes for more people who are truly bi- or multilingual, in the sense that they are equally proficient in multiple languages. This will take some time and resources to fully implement, though. Some publishers do prioritise publishing books for younger readers in multiple local languages and that is a great start and a process that we should support where we can. I come from a family that does not read but I was lucky to fall in love with books because we lived near a wonderful public library when I was a child so I understand that many families are too busy with the business of surviving from day to day to worry about books. But if we are to raise the standard of education and want to invest in a society of knowledgeable people we have to nurture our reading culture. Resources like public libraries help with making books accessible but all of us can add something to the culture. We can do things like buying local books if we can afford them, sharing books, giving away old books or just telling people about the magic of stories. Stories are in our DNA as a species and adding to that collective pool of knowledge only helps us to progress as a nation and as human beings.


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Book Bites: 24 September 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Let Go My HandLet Go My Hand
Edward Docx
, Picador
****
Larry Lasker is dying. Louis, his youngest son, is taking him in a camper van on the kind of road trip they enjoyed as a young family. Except that this time, the destination is Switzerland, to Dignitas, to discuss ending Larry’s life. Lou’s two half-brothers join them, and together they rifle through the baggage of their collective past. It all sounds rather bleak, but in fact, while it’s poignant, the novel is often funny. It is thoughtful and inquisitive – how could it not be, in the shadow of death? – but it wears its philosophy lightly, with surprising and enjoyable detours through matters of love, duty, family and the big question, how to live and how to die. Perhaps as these men do, enjoying the simple pleasures of food and wine, music, connection and companionship – on their way to the inevitable end. – Kate Sidley @KateSidley

Operation RelentlessOperation Relentless
Damien Lewis, Quercus
****
Lewis’s latest book raises interesting questions about “The Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout, labelled as such due to his infamy as a global arms dealer. Was Bout simply a shrewd businessman who flew anything and everything, or was he indeed a Lord of War? And if so how did he obtain US government contracts to bring freight to Iraq? Lewis takes us on the mesmerising journey of Bout’s rise and fall – culminating in a 25-year sentence following a US Drug Enforcement Agency sting operation. Operation Relentless reads like a James Bond thriller yet it is also an intense look at one of the world’s most reviled personalities. – Guy Martin

Bad SeedsBad Seeds
Jassy Mackenzie, Umuzi
****
Fans of PI Jade de Jong will be delighted their kick-butt heroine is back. The security of a nuclear research centre in Joburg is under threat and Jade is called to investigate. But fate places her in the company of the No1 suspect. As the body count climbs, Jade finds herself running for her life alongside a potentially deadly criminal. Fans will adore Jade’s emotional arc along with the plot twists. But do not fear, crime fans, if you have not read earlier books in the series. Bad Seeds is a page-turner that can stand alone and be enjoyed by all who love thrillers. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

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