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Book Bites: 12 November

Published in the Sunday Times

Blackwing: The Raven’s Mark
***
ED McDonald, Gollancz, R310

Multi-volume fantasy series are generally soap operas, but every so often there is an excellent series with a rich, complex story that’s simply too long for a single volume. Blackwing may be one such, set in a world with three moons, where energy is spun from moonlight, magic has replaced science, and The Deep Kings (evil sorcerers) battle against The Nameless (non-evil magicians). Captain Ryhalt Galharrow works for Crowfoot, one of the Nameless; his workplace is the blasted wasteland of The Misery, frontier between The Republic and the Dhojara Empire of the Deep Kings. Galharrow and his cronies win this battle, but the war is still to come. Riveting. – Aubrey Paton

100: A Lovely Spirit Here
****
Cynthia Kros

Written to commemorate the centenary of Parkview junior and senior schools in Joburg, the book traces their evolution from one small school for whites to two multi-cultural, racially diverse schools open to all. Parkview Government School opened in 1917, a difficult time in both South African and world history. Kros has built a picture of what the school must have been like then, with the discovery of a fragile admissions register unearthed at Parkview Senior. Fast forward 100 years and you have a Model C school known for its academic excellence. This is not just a book about a school but one about the sorrows and triumphs of South Africa. – Bridget Hilton-Barber

Reading with Patrick
****
Michelle Kuo, Macmillan, R330

In her early 20s Michelle Kuo was determined to teach US history through black literature. Instead, the reality of rural poverty and institutionalised racism slapped her in the face. She persisted, making progress with her students before leaving for law school. A few years later, Patrick Browning, her most promising student, landed in jail for murder. Kuo returned to the Mississippi Delta to tutor him during his incarceration, feeding his love of words. The memoir goes beyond their story, providing insights into US racism. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Book details

Eleven international releases to look forward to this November

Hit Refresh
Satya Nadella

From the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, comes this inspiring account of the transformation of an organisation and the coming transformation of humanity.

As told by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Hit Refresh is the story of corporate change and reinvention as well as the story of Nadella’s personal journey, one that is taking place today inside a storied technology company, and one that is coming in all of our lives as intelligent machines become more ambient and more ubiquitous. It’s about how people, organisations and societies can and must hit refresh – transform – in their persistent quest for new energy, new ideas, relevance and renewal. At the core, it’s about us humans and our unique qualities, like empathy, which will become ever more valuable in a world where the torrent of technology will disrupt like never before.

As much a humanist as a technologist, Nadella defines his mission and that of the company he leads as empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.

Also available in eBook format.

What Does This Button Do?
Bruce Dickinson

‘I was spotty, wore an anorak, had biro-engraved flared blue jeans with “purple” and “Sabbath” written on the thighs, and rode an ear-splittingly uncool moped. Oh yes, and I wanted to be a drummer…’

Bruce Dickinson – Iron Maiden’s legendary front man – is one of the world’s most iconic singers and songwriters. But there are many strings to Bruce’s bow, of which larger-than-life lead vocalist is just one. He is also an airline captain, aviation entrepreneur, motivational speaker, beer brewer, novelist, radio presenter, film scriptwriter and an international fencer: truly one of the most unique and interesting men in the world.

In What Does this Button Do? Bruce contemplates the rollercoaster of life. He recounts – in his uniquely anarchic voice – the explosive exploits of his eccentric British childhood, the meteoric rise of Maiden, summoning the powers of darkness, the philosophy of fencing, brutishly beautiful Boeings and firmly dismissing cancer like an uninvited guest.

Bold, honest, intelligent and funny, this long-awaited memoir captures the life, heart and mind of a true rock icon, and is guaranteed to inspire curious souls and hard-core fans alike.

Also available in eBook format.

Fools and Mortals
Bernard Cornwell

A dramatic new departure for international bestselling author Bernard Cornwell, Fools and Mortals, takes us into the heart of the Elizabethan era, long one of his favourite periods of British history.

Fools and Mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother, William. As the growth of theatre blooms, their rivalry – and that of the playhouses, playwrights and actors vying for acclaim and glory – propels a high-stakes story of conflict and betrayal.

Showcasing his renowned storyteller’s skill, Bernard Cornwell has created an Elizabethan world incredibly rich in its portrayal: you walk the London streets, stand in the palaces and are on stage in the playhouses, as he weaves a remarkable story in which performances, rivalries and ambition combine to form a tangled web of intrigue.

Also available in eBook format.

Bad Dad
David Walliams

The new heart-warming and hilariously brilliant story from number one bestselling author David Walliams. Beautifully illustrated by artistic genius, Tony Ross.

Dads come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

There are fat ones and thin ones, tall ones and short ones.

There are young ones and old ones, clever ones and stupid ones.

There are silly ones and serious ones, loud ones and quiet ones.

Of course, there are good dads, and bad dads . . .

A high-speed cops and robbers adventure with heart and soul about a father and son taking on the villainous Mr Big – and winning!

This riches-to-rags story will have you on the edge of your seat and howling with laughter!

Bad Dad is a fast and furious, heart-warming story of a father and son on an adventure – and a thrilling mission to break an innocent man into prison!

Also available in eBook format.

In the Midst of Winter
Isabel Allende

New York Times bestseller Isabel Allende returns with a beautifully crafted, multi-generational novel of struggle, endurance and friendship against the odds.

Amid the biggest Brooklyn snowstorm in living memory, an unexpected love blossoms between two people who thought they were deep in the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster, a lonely university professor in his sixties, hits the car of Evelyn Ortega, a young, undocumented migrant from Guatemala, and what at first seems an inconvenience takes an unforeseen and more serious turn when Evelyn comes to his house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz, a fellow academic from Chile, for her advice.

These three are brought together in a mesmerizing story that sweeps from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala to turbulent 1970s Chile and Brazil, and sparks a long-overdue love between Richard and Lucia, who discover within themselves, in the midst of winter, an invincible summer.

Woven with Isabel Allende’s trademark humanity,passion and storytelling verve, In the Midst of Winter is a vivid and unforgettable tale.

Also available in eBook format.

The Betrayal
Kate Furnivall

Could you kill someone? Someone you love?

Paris, 1938. This is the story of twin sisters divided by fierce loyalties and by a terrible secret. The drums of war are beating and France is poised, ready to fall. One sister is an aviatrix, the other is a socialite and they both have something to prove and something to hide.

Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage … and betrayal.

Also available in eBook format.

The Rules of Magic
Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic, to date Alice Hoffman’s biggest ever selling novel, became a major Hollywood film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman who played sisters Sally and Gillian Owens. In this sparkling prequel we meet sisters Frances and Jet and Vincent, their brother. From the beginning their mother Susanna knew they were unique: Franny with her skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, who could commune with birds; Jet as shy as she is beautiful, who knows what others are thinking, and Vincent so charismatic that he was built for trouble.

Susanna needed to set some rules of magic: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles and certainly, absolutely, no books
about magic…

But the Owens siblings are desperate to uncover who they really are. Each heads down a life-altering course, filled with secrets and truths, devastation and joy, and magic and love. Despite the warning handed down through the family for centuries – Know that for our family, love is a curse – they will all strive to break the rules and find true love.

Also available in eBook format.

Dork Diaries 12: Crush Catastrophe
Rachel Renée Russell

Nikki Maxwell’s adventures continue in the twelfth installment in the blockbuster #1 New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

In Nikki Maxwell’s newest diary, it’s the countdown to the end of the school year, and Nikki’s juggling some big questions about how she’ll spend her summer. She’s also facing an unexpected crush catastrophe–there’s a new kid interested in Nikki, but the last thing she wants to do is accidentally hurt Brandon!

It all comes down to a big decision Nikki has to make, and drama like she’s never faced before!

Also available in eBook format.

Sugar Money
Jane Harris

Based on a remarkable and little-known true story, Jane Harris’s third novel is both a heartbreaking trip into our troubled colonial past, and a stunning act of literary ventriloquism.

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission.

They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal. While Lucien, barely in his teens, sees the trip as a great adventure, the older and worldlier Emile has no illusions about the dangers they will face.

But with no choice other than to obey Cleophas – and sensing the possibility, however remote, of finding his first love Celeste – he sets out with his brother on this ‘reckless venture’.With great characters, a superb narrative set up, and language that is witty, bawdy and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.

Also available in eBook format.

Sleep No More
P.D. James

The acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’, P. D. James, was a past master of the short story, weaving together motifs of the Golden Age of crime-writing with deep psychological insight to create gripping, suspenseful tales. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories contained four of these perfectly formed stories, and this companion volume contains a further six, published here together for the first time.

As the six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail.

Also available in eBook format.

The Secret Life of Cows
Rosamund Young

Cows can love, play games, bond and form strong, life-long friendships. They can sulk, hold grudges, and they have preferences and can be vain.

All these characteristics and more have been observed, documented, interpreted and retold by Rosamund Young based on her experiences looking after the family farm’s herd on Kite’s Nest Farm in Worcestershire, England. Here the cows, sheep, hens and pigs all roam free. There is no forced weaning, no separation of young from siblings or mother. They seek and are given help when they request it and supplement their own diets by browsing and nibbling leaves, shoots, flowers and herbs.

Rosamund Young provides a fascinating insight into a secret world – secret because many modern farming practices leave no room for displays of natural behavior yet, ironically, a happy herd produces better quality beef and milk.

Also available in eBook format.

Book details

Launch: Song for Sarah by Jonathan Jansen (26 October)

In this, Jansen’s most personal and intimate book to date, South Africa’s beloved Professor contemplates the stereotypes and stigma so readily applied to Cape Flats mothers as bawdy, lusty and gap-toothed – and offers this endearing antidote as a praise song to mothers everywhere who raise families and build communities in difficult places.

As a young man, Jansen questioned how mothers managed to raise children in trying circumstances – and then realised that the answer was right in front of him in the form of Sarah Jansen, his own mother.

Tracing her early life in Montagu and the consequences of apartheid’s forced removals, Jansen unpacks how strong women managed to not only keep families together, but raise them with integrity.

With his trademark delicacy, humour and frankness, Jansen follows his mother’s life story as a young nurse and mother to five children, and shows how mothers dealt with their pasts, organised their homes, made sense of politics, managed affection, communicated core values – how they led their lives. As a balance to his own recollections, Jansen has called on his sister, Naomi, to offer her own insights and memories, adding special value to this touching personal memoir.

Song for Sarah

Book details

Listen: Sara-Jayne King and Sibusiso Mjikeliso discuss Being a Black Springbok

Thando Manana was the third black African player to don a Springbok jersey after unification in 1992, when he made his debut in 2000 in a tour game against Argentina A.

His route to the top of the game was unpredictable and unusual. From his humble beginnings in the township of New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, Thando grew to become one of the grittiest loose-forwards of South African rugby, despite only starting the game at the age of 16. His rise through rugby ranks, while earning a reputation as a tough-tackling lock and later open side flanker, was astonishingly rapid, especially for a player of colour at the time. Within two years of picking up a rugby ball, he represented Eastern Province at Craven Week, and by 2000 he was a Springbok.

But it isn’t solely Thando’s rugby journey that makes Being a Black Springbok a remarkable sports biography. It’s learning how he has negotiated life’s perils and pitfalls, which threatened to derail both his sporting ambitions and the course of his life.

He had to negotiate an unlikely, but fateful, kinship with a known Port Elizabeth drug-lord, who took Thando under his wing when he was a young, gullible up-and-comer at Spring Rose. Rejected by his father early in his life, Thando had to deal with a sense of abandonment and a missing protective figure and find, along the way, people to lean on.

Thando tells his story with the refreshing candour he has become synonymous with as a rugby commentator, pundit and member of the infamous Room Dividers team on Metro FM. He has arguably become rugby’s strongest advocate for the advancement of black people’s interests in the sport, and his personal journey reveals why.

As the editor of Kick Off magazine, Sibusiso Mjikeliso is one of the youngest editors of a national, monthly publication in South Africa. He has written on rugby, cricket, football and tennis for the Sunday Times, The Times, Daily Dispatch and Sowetan. He has also worked as the senior sports writer for Business Day. Mjikeliso spent time as an exchange reporter at the Sunday Mirror in London, where he wrote on Wimbledon tennis, English Premiership rugby as well as English Premier League football. His versatility as a writer and knowledge of different sporting codes has made him one of the most influential sports writers in South Africa. This is his first book.

Sibusiso recently discussed his book with Sarah-Jayne King on Cape Talk. Listen to their conversation here:


 

Book details

Prince Albert Leesfees: 3 - 5 November

Book lovers it’s almost time to head for Prince Albert in the Karoo.

The town’s sixth Leesfees takes place over the first weekend of November, with a list of writers, books and performers in a programme that offers something for everyone.

The theme this year is ‘The Soul of the Karoo ~ In die Gees van die Karoo’, with writers, poets, artists, musicians, a comedian and films in the lineup. The talks, presentations and stage experiences include discussions with crime and suspense writers, Rudie van Rensburg (Kamikaze) and Mike Nicol (Agents of the State), debut writers Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning) and Sara-Jayne King (Killing Karoline), as well as academic and novelist, Cas Wepener (Johanna).

Matters legal and political are the subject of Glynnis Breytenbach’s memoir, Rule of Law; she will be in conversation with Tim Cohen.

Our visiting author from Europe this year is Bart de Graaff whose book on the KhoiKhoin: Ik Yzerbek/Ware Mense (translated by Daniel Hugo) traces the experience of the earliest peoples of our land.

Artist Elza Miles has made a major contribution to the art scene of SA, with her historical works on various visual artists, she will be in conversation with writer and journalist Johan Myburg who will also speak about his new poetry anthology Uittogboek.

Rapper, Hemelbesem, Simon Witbooi will discuss his autobiography, God praat Afrikaans with Anzil Kulsen.

Joyce Kotzè and her translator, Daniel Hugo speak about her Anglo-Boer War novel: The Runaway Horses/Wintersrust, fiction based upon fact. Joyce relates how her forebears fought on different sides during the War. They will be in conversation with Carel van der Merwe, author of Donker stroom.

Local ornithologist Dr Richard Dean will launch his book, Warriors, dilettantes and businessmen – Bird Collectors during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries in South Africa.

Karel Schoeman’s contributions to South African literature will be the focus of a panel discussion with Nicol Stassen and Cas Wepener (author of van Die reis gaan inwaarts- die kuns van sterwe in die werke van Karel Schoeman) co-ordinated by Prof Bernard Odendaal.

New food celebrity Nick Charlie Key will reveal banting tips and how to enjoy a healthy lifestyle whilst indulging in decadent desserts, from his book Jump on the Bant Wagon with food-lover Russell Wasserfall.

Poets Gaireyah Fredericks, Daniel Hugo, Johan Myburg and local raconteur Hugh Forsyth will read some of their favourite poems in English and Afrikaans literature.

Two music and word highlights will be Tribal Echo with Huldeblyk aan Adam Small/Tribute to Adam Small and Afrika my verlange/Afrique mon désir: Laurinda Hofmeyr, Schalk Joubert, with six West African singers, in collaboration with the Cape Town Music Academy.

Our programme includes two films. Director and producer, Roberta Durrant, will attend the Karoo premiere of her award-winning film Krotoa. Eerstewater is a documentary film set in and around Prince Albert based on Hélène Smit’s book, Beneath.

We’ll look at the state of children’s book publishing in South Africa, enjoy an evening in the company of comedian Nik Rabinowitz, enjoy delicious meals at the on-site restaurant and generally savour the Soul of the Karoo.

The 2017 Leesfees is a festival you cannot miss. The full programme can be found on the festival website - www.princealbertleesfees.org – and the Facebook page www.facebook.com/princealbertleesfees – offers daily updates on the people, books, poetry and experiences which make up this great cultural event.

Tickets can be bought online at www.princealbertleesfees.org and at the Prince Albert Library, Church Street, Prince Albert. Tel: 023 5411 014. For information and enquiries: princealbertleesfees@mweb.co.za and WhatsApp: 073 213 3797.

Agents of the State

Book details

 
 

The Yearning

 
 
 
 

Killing Karoline

 
 
 
 

Rule of Law

 
 
 
 

Ware Mense

 
 
 
 

Uittogboek

 
 
 
 

God praat Afrikaans

 
 
 

Wintersrust

 

Die reis gaan inwaarts

 
 

Jump on the Bant Wagon

Book Bites: 1 October 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

King Kong  King Kong: Our Knot of Time and Music
Pat Williams, Portobello Books
****
Award-winning author Pat Williams documents the jazz opera King Kong. The musical is centred on heavyweight ’50s boxing champion Ezekiel Dlamini. Hailed as the unbeatable champ of those days, Dlamini was said to be dangerous, as William writes: “He would fight someone in the ring and then invite them to come outside and fight again on the street.” Fame turned to infamy when he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing his girlfriend. He later committed suicide, drowning himself in the prison dam. According to Williams it was thanks to King Kong that jazz legends like Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela found fame, and it was where Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu met and fell in love. Williams also describes the impact the opera had on her and on the show’s original cast. – Khanyi Ndabeni

The MayflyThe Mayfly
James Hazel, Bonnier Zaffre
***
A paint-by-numbers thriller that starts off with too much exposition but relaxes into a character-driven narrative. Protagonist Charlie Priest is large, handsome and clever, with more than the required number of flaws. Once a detective inspector, Priest left the police to start a legal firm for a handful of high-end corporate clients in London. As a result he is loathed by most of his former colleagues, one of whom happens to be his ex-wife. He suffers from bouts of dissociative disorder during which he cannot communicate, although it’s hard to see how his appalling social skills could get any worse. And then there’s his brother, a convicted serial killer with whom Priest plays Holmes-and-Watson observation games during visits to the psychiatric prison ward. Sue de Groot @deGrootS1

A Jihad for LoveA Jihad For Love
Mohamed El Bachiri with David Van Reybrouck, Head of Zeus
****
“Life no longer tastes the same to me, but the setting sun is still glorious,” writes Bachiri after his wife, Loubna Lafquiri, was murdered on 22 March 2016 in a terrorist bombing in Brussels. Bachiri’s raw grief seeps through the pages of this tiny book that is part poetry, part memoir, and part tribute. This varied collection comes together as an overall plea to the world to cease reacting with hate and to fight for love. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Book details