Feb ’14 Book (July’s People)

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I JUST finished this book. February was short and I had many things to do. I’m amazed (and ashamed) that I’ve never read a Nadine Gordimer book before. Nobody recommended this one. I was at my favourite bookstore just looking for South African Fiction. July’s People jumped out at me.

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I have often wondered what would have become of South Africa if the ‘transition’ was not peaceful. Things got pretty violent before our first democratic elections. Much of the violence was between black people. I won’t give a history lesson because… Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Nadine Gordimer’s book goes to that place: What if there was a violent take over? The Smales, a liberal couple with 3 children, find themselves with nowhere to run. They are taken in by their servant July. He takes them to his village and suddenly they find themselves relying on July. For everything.

You know I’m not big on ‘spoilers’.

Writing: I am so happy to have finally read my first Nadine Gordimer. She writes beautifully. That is stating the obvious, I guess. They don’t just give the Nobel (Literature) Prize to anyone.

The story: Very very intense. I realised that I would often hold my breathe while reading it. There are so many aspects to the story that I feel like I should read this book again (later in the year). Some of the conversations that the characters have made me wish South Africans would do the same. There are many things that we haven’t been able to be honest about. A lot of misconceptions that lead to resentment. There is a lot of that in this book.

Verdict: Go to your library, bookstore etc. and get this book.

On to the next one!

Jan ’14 (Americanah)

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I’m at it again. Trying to read one book a month. To be fair. I started reading Americanah in December but I was at home and my family doesn’t give me ‘free’. There were so many wonderful reviews by magazine people and ‘real’ people about this book. I had to get it. Purple Hibiscus is also a very beautiful book, so I trusted the author.

This is a pic of me reading the book in the bath. It was December and that was the only time I could read.
This is a pic of me reading the book in the bath. It was December and that was the only time I could read.

Honestly, I wanted to love this book. This book is the ‘perfect’ guy that your friends try to set you up with. ‘He’s perfect’ they’ll say. You know, and like, his sister. “How different can they be if they were raised by the same parent?” you ask. The answer: VERY!

There is no doubt that Chimamanda Ngozi Adicihie writes beautifully. I enjoy her ‘way’ with words. She makes ordinary things seems so enchanting and yet brutally real. THAT is why I love her. It’s the story that I’m not all that crazy about. Love the writing. Not the story. Is it  a bad story? Not at all. Just not one that I enjoyed.

It is the story of 2 high school sweethearts who seem to have it all figured out. Of course, we all know that nobody has it ‘all figured out’ in high school. So life throws them some real curve balls. They find themselves on ‘opposite sides of the world’ and estranged. The book deals with how different ‘blackness; is for African (in this case Nigerians) than it is for ‘African Americans’. I enjoyed some of the insights. The main character Ifemelu becomes a ‘race blogger’ in the US and she adjusts (somewhat) to life in the US. But the desire to go back home is so strong that she finally makes the move back home.

I feel like I’m describing the entire book he he he. Read this book. It is beautifully written by an author that I love and respect. Perhaps you’ll enjoy the story. I haven’t met one person who didn’t.

Reading in 2013

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Reading in 2013

These are some of the books that I read last year. I promised myself at least 1 book a month and it went really well. I couldn’t put all the books I read in this pic. They had already been returned to their owners. You see? I’m good like that. I return people’s books ;)

If you want to find out more about the books. Just go here

September Book 2 (Red Ink)

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I’m just going to act like I didn’t take a bit of a break from the blogging stuff and move along swiftly to the second September book. I had never heard of the author (Angela Makholwa). I do this thing where I walk into a book store and search for SA fiction. I read the blurbs and hope for the best. Serial Killer stories are always intriguing, so a crime novel about one was bound to ‘get chose’.

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PR Consultant Lucy Khambule receives a call from a convicted serial killer (Napolean Dingiswayo). He would like her to write a book about his life. Lucy agrees but she gets ‘more than she bargained’ for and finds herself in danger. Although Napolean is behind bars, she begins to suspect that he may be involved. <—– That is a quick summary.

How could I not be intrigued by a story like that? Firstly I will say that I really enjoyed the story. But I’m not so sure that I enjoyed the story-telling. I’m not sure if that makes sense… I’m a sucker for serial killer stories & the story was interesting to follow. But I already knew all the story’s ‘secrets’ before they were revealed.

If you’re looking for a fun holiday read then this one is for you. It is that time of the year; people want to take it easy. If you’re put off by blood etc. Don’t worry, there is very little violence in the book. Weird. But true.

September Book 1 (The Whale Caller)

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September Book 1 (The Whale Caller)

I think we should just call 2012 & 2013 my Zakes Mda years. I was going through my books, hoping that I would find my copy of Ways Of Dying. Sadly, some swine really did steal my book. Aaarrgh! But I did find a copy of The Whale Caller. Then Marcee suggested that perhaps I swapped books with someone and have forgotten about it.

The book is indeed about a whale caller, not to be confused with Hermanus whale crier. The Whale Crier alerts visitors when there are whales nearby. Never been to Hermanus but I understand that people go there for whale watching. The crier let’s them know where the whales are by blowing his horn. Don;t ask me how people know exactly where to go though.

Back to the book: The Whale Caller is about a love triangle. One with a twist; man, woman and whale. I want to tell you more but I feel like I would be doing the ‘annoying spoiler thing’. If you’re familiar with Zakes Mda’s writing then you already know that this is a magical book. He has a way of finding the magic in the mundane.

August Book 4 (Animal Farm)

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August Book 4 (Animal Farm)

Let’s just ignore the fact that I disappeared for a month and focus on the fact that I read 4 books in August. I read Animal Farm at school & enjoyed it.

A friend of ours bought Marcee the book (a few weeks ago). When she was finished with it, I gave it a read. I’m so glad that I did because I felt like I understood it more. Most of this book actually had me gasping because it reminded me so much of what is happening in South Africa. I really don’t feel like going into it right now but I’m sure you can (easily) work it out.

August Book 3 (Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night)

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Don’t even ask me how I’ve had time to read 3 books this month. I don’t know how and I am just grateful for it. Really I am. Last month I was very sick (with a chest infection that wouldn’t go away) and I spent a lot of time in bed or running around trying to catch up. I’m grateful for my health and being able to wake up early (4:30 am) and read while the world is still quiet-ish.

Sindiwe Magona is a wonderful woman. I interviewed her a few times (when I was a radio person in my past life) and she is hillarious. She is also one heck of a speaker. I had never read any of her work and I wanted to remedy that quickly. It was almost a year ago when I bought this book. Anybody who knows me will tell you that I buy more books than I read (I’m working on my addiction). I never leave home without a book. A few mornings ago I discovered that I didn’t have a book in my bag. I ran downstairs to the dungeon and grabbed the first book I saw. Image

Living, Loving and Lying Awake is collection of short stories about Black Women during apartheid. In fact the first few short stories are those of domestic workers/maids. Those stories are everything that The Help struggled to be. I am absolutely taken with the way Sindiwe Magona writes. She is very honest and never afraid for the story to get ugly.

I wept when I read ‘Two Little Girls & a City’. It is a short story about 2 little girls who are murdered on the same day. One in the township and another on the Atlantic Seaboard. Both in Cape Town. Both had loving parents but their stories were treated differently.

This book is by no means depressing. There are stories of young girls who grew up in townships and their experiences. All experiences I could relate to. I laughed, cried (as stated before), clapped and even exclaimed (as though I was listening to juicy gossip). Sindiwe Magona told so many important, honest and touching stories. I want everyone to read this book of short stories. Do yourself a favour :)

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The incredibly talented Sindiwe Magona (image via Mail&Guardian click on it to go there)

August Book 2 (Sculptors of Mapungubwe)

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*It’s not often one can say they have become friends with one of their favourite authors. I also don’t think I’ve ever read an advance copy of an author’s personal copy. But now I can say that I have. He he he he. Look at me! I turn 30 and start rubbing shoulders with lovely people… And stealing their books. Well… I am returning it this Tuesday so don’t you judge me!

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After the first book of the month I was in desperate need of something that would MOVE me. Oh boy was I moved after I finished reading The Sculptors of Mapungubwe.

We are taken back in time (1223 CE) in the kingdom of Mapungubwe. The story is that of a rivalry between Rendi (Rendani) and Chata (Chatambudza). The 2 are raised as brothers even thought Chata is the son of one of Rendi’s father’s workers. The relationship of the 2 boys begins to strain when Rendi suspects that his father favours Chata.

Years later when Rendi holds the esteemed position of Royal Sculptor he still holds a grudge towards Chata. Chata on the other hand is unmarried (Rendani has 3 wives) and seems to only be interested in doing whatever he pleases.  I was absolutely drawn into this tale of rivalry between the 2 sculptors who once considered each other brothers. It is beautiful, tragic, magical and energetic.

What made me love this novel is the details (and descriptions) of the day to day lives of the people of Mapungubwe. In school we are not taught anything about South Africa before 1652 (Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival). I know it is not a historical novel but dammit it felt good to read about something way before 1652 (in South Africa). I love the book. It’s available on Amazon. Get it, you won’t regret it. This is one of my favourite reads of the year.

*This is not my first time on ‘The Internets’. I know how some of my opening lines can be misconstrued (by the bored and always offended) as boasting. Please believe that I was not boasting and it was all ‘tongue in cheek’ a.k.a ‘I’m such a dork’ b.k.a ‘you know I don’t believe any of that stuff’. So please don’t start something neh? I thank you.

August Book 1 (The 12 Tribes of Hattie)

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Someone I follow on twitter told me about a debut novel that was getting rave reviews. I’m always up for trying something new, so I thought “hey why not?” After going to 2 bookstores and being told the book is sold out… Well, I gave up. I can’t remember where I eventually found it but here it is!

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The title says it all. It is the story of a woman named Hattie and it follows how her family has grown and why the different children turned out the way they have. Hattie appears to be an ‘unloving’ mother. to her children. But she is a woman who is preparing her children for a world that will not be loving.

I enjoyed meeting Hatties many many children and seeing how parents sometimes break their children without meaning to. I can’t say this book was one of my favourites but I can see why Oprah said “I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me quite this way, besides Toni Morrison.”

I’ve read a lot of Toni Morrison. She is majestic and an absolute genius. Perhaps that’s why I was not as moved as Oprah was. But… It’s not a bad book.

July Book 2 (Kafka On The Shore)

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I have always wanted to read Murakami. I just never found the time. Since this is my 30th year on earth, I thought I would treat myself to ‘nice things’. So I got Kafka On The Shore. Admittedly I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of time was spent trying to decide which of his books to start with. I’m not sure what exactly made me choose this one.

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I will admit that my schedule was a little crazy so I ended up reading the first half of the book in a very disjointed way. This may have interfered with my understanding/enjoyment. On a flight to Johannesburg, I decided to give it another try.

It’s a story about two seemingly unrelated characters who couldn’t be any more different. The first is Kafka; a 15 year old run away. He is not running from anyone but a prophecy. The other is Nakata (one of my favourite characters); a man who can speak to cats but isn’t very intelligent. Their stories intertwine in a magical and bizarre way that left me saying “what the…”

I’ve read many authors but none like Murakami. He really trusts that you will follow him into a world where everything makes sense but not in a way that you might understand. It is raw, honest, beautiful, real and unreal. In one of my busiest months so far, I allowed myself to steal a few minutes (between meetings etc) and get lost in Murakami’s world.

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