by Henrietta Rose-Innes (Umuzi) ISBN 978-1-4152-0136-7 R150, 00


The central character, Katya Grubb, controls the overpopulation of insects in urban areas in Cape Town by removing them and reinstating them into their natural habitat.


She is asked to work at a luxury estate called Nineveh. While at the estate, Katya’s story unfolds. We discover her family issues and how this impacts on her job and relates to Mr Brand who has employed her.


The situations described lead us to ponder family life and the natural order. Katya ultimately questions her beliefs and philosophy – where she belongs in the world.


The author also makes reference to the ancient city of Nineveh, which succumbed to decay, and she suggests that Cape Town is heading the same way. The book is good literature with excellent descriptions. One feels the atmosphere and the reader is subtly drawn into its emotional impact. 


Be patient as it is a slow starter but you will like this book if you enjoy a human story with good descriptive writing.


Dawn Blankfield


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Dead Simple

by Peter James (Pan) ISBN 978-0-330-43419a-5


Michael's friends giggled as they screwed down the lid of his coffin and threw dirt over the grave. This was the idea of the best man who was organising the stag party before the wedding. 


Inside the coffin, Michael has his cell phone with him. He soon calls his friends up and says he wants to get out, now. A few hours later his friends are involved in a horrendous motor accident and they are all dead.


No-one else knows where the bridegroom is. Michael's love of his life, Ashley, turns out to be a person who would prefer Michael to stay where he is.The police have their work cut out, looking for Michael. They have no idea that he is buried alive in a forest.


This was a hard story to swallow as I hated the author's choice of a buried coffin with a live person in it being used as a joke.  I raced through the pages hoping that Michael would be found alive. The police try desperately to locate Michael. When the coffin is opened, they discover…   


Peter James certainly had me reading furiously to the very end.


Dee Andrew


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The Japanese Devil Fish Girl

by Robert Rankin (Orion) ISBN: 9780575088542


If you think this book has anything to do with Japanese devils or fish, then boy will you be in for a surprise.


If anyone reading this knows what the term Steampunk means then buy this book it contains all your nerdy requirements for the month.


The story is what makes this book good. The writing, while not without humour, is bland but very smooth and readable. The pacing is just not an issue because there is none.


This is an example. “London imminently threatened by invasion. Let’s have a wedding. Build up to wedding. More boring stuff about weddings. And then oh crap I forgot about the invasion… they’re here now. Wait? Oh right that I’d forgotten.”


But it’s not boring. There is a total disregard for anything resembling a plot but it manages alright without one. It’s like having a really angry bull on your high school debating team. You don’t need to make a meaningful point so long as the other team knows Big Red is ready to trample them if you lose.


It’s a bumbling stumbling mess through jungles of a mad man’s mind. And I can’t wait to read the next instalment


Christopher Dean


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Paper Sons and Daughters

by Ufrieda Ho (Picador Africa) ISBN 978-1-77010-168-5


This book begins with the arrival of Chinese people with illegal papers, to South Africa. These immigrants were hoping for a better life. They were escaping the terrible hardships endured in China.


However, South Africa was not the Golden Mountain they had envisioned, as more trauma and hardship ensued. The practice of their culture held the Chinese immigrants together. This thought-provoking book looks at how Apartheid affected the Chinese.


Despite the difficulties, the author’s parents managed to raise their children, and helped them to be educated and disciplined adults.


Ufrieda Ho was always afraid that her father would not return home at night, and later her worst fear was realised.


The story shows the transition to the new South Africa, which brings its own challenges and heightens the frustrations of Chinese citizens who still  feel they do not belong. The story concludes with a nostalgic heartfelt letter to her father.


It is an insightful personal view of facts and feelings, written in an easy-to-read style.


Dawn Blankfield


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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

 by Tom Franklin (Macmillan) R190.00 ISBN 978-0-230-75305-1


Winner of the Edgar Award for Mystery Writers, Tom Franklin brings us a novel of suspense set in small town Mississippi.


The title refers to a mnemonic that aids children in the southern states of the USA to spell the name of this state.


The book deals with the relationship between boyhood friends, one white, the reclusive Larry Ott, and one black, the former baseball hero, now constable Silas ‘32’ Jones.


The story is set against the background of two cases of teenage girls who disappeared twenty years apart.


Larry is a suspect in both cases. Silas is involved in solving the second. Matters become complicated when Larry is shot and only lives because Silas saves him.


The story is well crafted and beautifully written and yet I didn’t really get into it. I found it lacking in real suspense, the pace too slow. For me the two characters and their relationship lacked spark and depth, which is surprising considering the revelations about their past.


The pace might reflect the Mississippi pace with the extensive descriptions of people and surroundings. It does present a vivid picture of life in the rural South in the early ’80s and the early 2000s. This makes it an entertaining, but not thrilling, read.


Josine Overdevest


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A Widow's Story - A Memoir

by Joyce Carol Oates (Fourth Estate) R316, 00 ISBN 978-0-00-738818-0


Joyce Carol Oates is the recipient of many English Awards. Her husband, Ray was also involved with English. It seemed like a communion of great minds.  Until Joyce Carol Oates drove her very fit husband to the Princeton Medical Centre where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. 


Both Joyce and Ray expected him to return home within a few days. Joyce was totally unprepared for the death of her soul mate.  We all know loss and identify with her anguish, sheer confusion and loneliness of an empty house. 


This is an unflinching portrayal of grief by a great writer. 


My only comment is that it needed to be condensed. I accept that her grief was all consuming. I feel for her as I would for myself all the terrible things that you endure with grief. I think some losses are felt to be greater than others. The depth of their love for each other is so well written and the end pages are most interesting. 


We all have secrets and Ray's secrets were revealed after his death. His widow's jealousy of his youthful past is surprising.  But her sympathy for who he was, was filled with understanding. This is a very true portrayal of sadness when you lose the person you love the most in the world.


Dee Andrew


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Dark Poppy’s Demise

by SA Partridge (Human and Rousseau) ISBN 978-0-7981-5544-1


Jenna is sweet sixteen and never been kissed.


She is moody and dramatic and gets her only solace from the adventures of her online persona Dark Poppy. Her family is a mess. Her crush started dating the popular girl at school. Typical High School Musical plotline, right?


Wrong. What starts out like a teenaged coming-of-age drama turns into a horror story that shocks one more because of the previously mundane plotline. In the technological age, people can maintain anonymity and create their own personas, but this story is intriguing because the online relationship goes offline; with shocking consequences.


This eerie tale is a realistic account of how the desperate need to be loved can be detrimental.


I highly recommend this third novel by Cape Town author, SA Partridge, who won the I am a Writer and MER Youth Prize 2008 awards for her previous work.


Amanda Blankfield



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Dragon Haven

by Robin Hobb (Harper Voyager) ISBN 978 0 00 737609 4


Just because a person likes a book, it does not mean it is a good book. Now I like this book and I like Robin Hobb.


I have read her last five books and continued to read them even when, in my heart, I know she has gone over to the dark side. She can no longer sense what her readers want. She has become a literary author.


And here is my dilemma. She is still writing about the stuff I want to read about. There are Dragons and there is magic.


However, and this is the tell-tale sign of a literary book, as opposed to a real not-crap book, there are no heroes. This is the kind of book where the scenery is more important than character development. There is a 150 page description a wave. Yes, a bit of moving water gets a full act.


And I will buy the next book and it will be worse but I’m only doing it because Hobb made my teenage life better with her early books. The important thing is that you don’t have to read this book. If you do read this book do it illegally. It’s just not right that a person should be treated like this when they pay good money.


I just feel sad that one of the best has fallen so low. This book is bad. Its only redeeming feature is that it ends eventually.


Christopher Dean


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The Wreckage

by Michael Robotham (Sphere) R236.00 ISBN: 978-1-84744-221-5

In his seventh fiction production, Michael Robotham reacquaints us with Vincent Ruiz, a worn, imperfect but likeable retired London police detective, and Joe O’Laughlin, a perceptive psychologist. 
He introduces us to cast of other characters that ultimately collide after being launched into the story by a number of separate incidences. 
We have Ruiz in London, robbed by a young confidence artist and her traumatized soldier boyfriend; a journalist in Baghdad investigating a series of bank robberies; a UN auditor delving into Iraq reconstruction funding; and the wife of a missing London banker.
This ignites the story that follows Baghdad reconstruction funding all the way up the chain to source, pulling in bankers, state agencies, terrorists, criminals and other interesting characters along the way. 
Robotham constructs the novel much like an expert patch-work quilt maker. He starts by developing rich individual characters, settings and experiences. As the story progresses, he weaves the various components together. In a skilful manner, Robotham spends just the right amount of time on each instalment, leaving the reader disappointed that they have to move on, but looking forward to returning to each storyline. 
A great read that will keep you looking forward to picking up the book and jumping back into the action. 

Patrick Duff

I like Robotham's writing style. He understands the value of short sentences, lots of dialogue and beautiful white space on the right hand side of the page. And he understands that this suits the genre of political thriller writing. 
I would have found it difficult to be critical of this novel after meeting the author less than a month ago. He was a lovely, inspiring man, and I was grateful that his novel was really good. 
Written in present tense, based on true stories from Iraq and London, and cleverly woven together, you won't regret reading this. 
Robotham opens the book by alternating stories of retired detective, Vincent Ruiz chasing a thief, journalist, Luca Tarracini investigating robberies in Iraq, and Elizabeth North searching for her missing banker husband. 
How do they fit together? Read the book and find out. 

Amanda Patterson

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One Magic Square

by Lolo Houbein (Jacana) ISBN 9781770099111


This is the most useful and most beautiful book of the year. For experienced gardeners it is full of practical tips, but for people aspiring to grow their own vegetables, like me, it is a godsend!


Houbein takes you step by step from planning your vegetable garden on a square metre to a successful harvest with minimum effort.


She convinces you that growing your own vegetables does not need to be time consuming and you only need limited space. She shows you how important it is to reconnect with the soil and to reduce your carbon-footprint.


To start growing your own food without delay, put down this book, go out in the garden and select a spot in the sun’, is her first advice. From salad plots to curry plots: each chapter has its own design and the book is full of basic recipes.


Houbein grew up in Holland during the war and since surviving the hunger winter of 1944 she realised the importance of food self-sufficiency. Houbein has won several awards for her novels.


For One Magic Square she was shortlisted for 'Best Food Book' in the Le Cordon Bleu Awards 2010 and named 'Most innovative Cook Book in Australia' in the International Gourmand Awards 2009.


Pauline Vijverberg


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