Deeper than Colour

by James Clelland (Jacana) ISBN 978-1-77009-925-8

 

James Clelland is the recipient of the EU Literary Award in 2010. 

He certainly is a compelling new voice in South African fiction. In this story his fiction is based on some truth. You cannot help laughing at what might be your own marriage.

 

The story is about Angus, an angry young man. He is married to Dinah whom he dreads making love to. He even counts the tampons in the bathroom to try and escape his husbandly duties.

 

So much shocked me in this book and yet I became inured to the language eventually. 

 

His Border Duty stories are real black humour.The fright and illogical need to be up at the Border is so well described that in spite of his innate selfishness you feel a need to have sympathy with him in his awful situation.

 

All that matters to Angus is his shrink, his peculiar mother and hidden movies of himself. It's difficult to give an assessment of the book because it is almost too modern for most readers.

 

I read on in spite of my old-fashioned misgivings and strangely enough I really enjoyed it.

 

Dee Andrew

4.5/5

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The Night Season

by Chelsea Cain (Macmillan) ISBN: 978 0 330 53562 5

 

The Night Season starts with a storm threatening a whole town and Chelsea Cain uses the setting to great effect in this atmospheric and gripping thriller. At times, you may feel you need a raincoat – even as the reader.
Homicide investigator Archie Sheridan is on the trail of a serial killer using the storm as the perfect cover. Reporter Susan Ward – tough, wise-cracking, chain smoking – gets in on the case due to her friendship with Archie.
Broken into pacy chapters, the novel has crisp dialogue often touched with dark humour and an economic descriptive style that doesn’t ever become demanding on the reader. 
It’s peopled with well-drawn characters and there are enough dead bodies and forensic detail to go round. Without giving away any details, the plot was a teensy bit far-fetched - although fun in a breathless CSI kind of way. 
The biggest soggy bit is the characterisation of the serial killer – this killer simply doesn’t come off as believable. If you’re looking for a quick read to while away a lazy weekend, this novel fits the bill.
 
Faith Parker
3/5

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Posted

Patchwork

 by Ellen Banda-Aaku (Penguin Books) ISBN 978-0-14-352753-4

 

Patterns of thinking and emotional behaviour seem to persist through generations.

 

Pumpkin, a nine-year-old girl, is living in Lusaka. We are led through her torrid journey and the way she perceives it.

 

Her mother a seemingly respectable and fashionable woman is secretly a drunk. Her father seldom sees them. She witnesses situations beyond her years, with some graphic descriptions. All Pumpkin yearns for is for her parents to be united in marriage.

 

In later years she begins to understand women’s insecurities regarding the men in their lives. Women get the raw end of the deal, especially when they love the same man. Material needs may be met but emotional riches are often lacking.

 

Pumpkin supports her father in his political campaign, which reveals some insights of that time. The book gains momentum towards the end, reaching its pinnacle at the right time.

 

The reader may well ask, “Can we patch up our mistakes?” People’s beliefs and cultures are revealed through the pages of this book. It’s an easy read.

 

Dawn Blankfield

3.5/5

 

 

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The Hummingbird and the Bear

by Nicholas Hogg (Corsair) ISBN 9781849016476 R216, 00 

‘I never understood why men went to war, why men would die in the corner of a muddy field…until I saw her at the wedding.’ 

Sam Taylor has escaped a childhood hell by the grace of his intelligence, his sporting ability and his capacity to love. Kicked out of his mother’s house by his stepfather at 16, he could have become a dropout. Instead, he escapes the haze of drugs, and the women who love him into the perfect life. 

He is a high-flyer. A London banker who dismantles banks in the financial meltdown before the last US presidential elections. He is engaged to the perfect woman, Jenni. Beautiful, blonde and intelligent. A woman with the family he wished he could have had. Jenni’s parents welcome him into their lives and into their home. 

Then Sam meets Kay, an American woman, married to ruthless New York businessman, Chris, at a country wedding in England. In a moment, in a second, a heartbeat he knows he has met the one who completes him. Sam drives Kay to Heathrow the next day and they fall into each other. There can be no other. Kay is as damaged as Sam, with a past to rival his. They are so perfectly imperfect for each other. She is the hummingbird to the bear in his dreams. 

Sam can’t stop thinking about her and leaves London two months later for New York. 

Their love is the reason for breathing, for their hearts beating. Kay leaves Chris, telling him she is going shopping and meets Sam at the airport. They fly to New Orleans, drive to Texas, heading for Mexico as her crazy husband pursues them. Jealousy kills. But even death doesn’t kill love. 

‘I feel so close to her that I can barely see her. Because she is in me, part of who I was, who I am. That I can’t escape.’ 

And if you think you know what happens, after reading that, you don’t. I read this book in a day. I fell into it. You may fall into it too – if you have ever found the one who completes you. 

Amanda Patterson
5/5

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Devious

by Lisa Jackson (Hodder & Stoughton) ISBN: 978 1 444 71341 1

 

Lisa Jackson is the author of twelve spine-chillers, with suitably creepy titles like Chosen to Die and Fatal Burn.  Devious, her new novel, opens with a gruesome taste of things to come – a young nun is found brutally murdered in a Cathedral and detective duo, Bentz and Montoya, are called to the scene.

 

The disturbing part is that the young novice was pregnant at the time of her death and Montoya knew her well. She was once his brother’s girlfriend. As other nuns are slaughtered, the hunt is on for a devious, depraved serial killer.

 

The maniac seems to know all the victims’ secrets, but the detectives are left cold as to his identity. Their prime suspect may not be the man they’re looking for – the only other possibility on their list is a man who died years ago. Or did he?

 

Devious takes the reader into the hushed, shadowy world of a New Orleans convent and to the heart of police procedure as the mystery unravels. The pages are salaciously loaded with intrigue, lust, revenge and even a bit of a romance.

 

Some may not care for the author’s sometimes choppy style of writing, but Jackson writes with intensity and keeps up a fast pace. Another minus point is that some of the plot threads weren’t tied up or resolved. All in all, it’s a juicy and creepy story to keep you up at night. Say your prayers, girls!

 

Faith Parker

3/5

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Born of Shadows

 by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Piatkus) ISBN 978 0 7499 5473 4

 

This book is badly written. I don’t say that often. No, wait that is not true. The point is, with most books, it is the boring plot coupled with the bad writing.

 

This book is different. The plot is Star Wars, the good one. The author doesn’t even pretend it’s not. I mean with all the storm troopers being shot with blasters I kept looking at the cover for the “Lucus Industries’” logo.

 

So it’s a story about a kid with dark secrets in his past and father issues who will one day save the world. So you really can’t go wrong with that. It has kept the Sci-fi industry going all these years. There are laser guns and weird DNA experiments.

 

That is another big tick in the space nerd check list.

 

So why does it fail so badly you ask? I know you didn’t actually ask but this was going nowhere so I’m speeding it up.

 

The only reason I can see is that when I read it out loud the overall impression is that Forest Gump is speaking to me. Now I know that an internal dialogue can be useful and informative in books. However, when that dialogue is saying things like “I’m in trouble now” while being shot at, it upsets me. I mean, really, what ever gave it away?

 

This book seems to be written for adults. And yet it assumes that “ya’ll” will need telling that being shot at is bad. It’s rather like me saying, “this book is insulting to your intellect". Intellect means how smart you are, sweetie. No, no, not Internet, intellect with two l’s. Ok, fine, let’s start from the beginning. "English is an Indo-European language… ”.

 

Christopher Dean

2.5/5

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Island of Bones

by Imogen Robertson (Headline Review) ISBN 978 0 7553 7203 4 R180, 00

 

The hanging of his brother in 1751, and a conspiracy of the era, sends Lord Keswick into seclusion.

 

Thirty years later, as Gabriel Crowther, he is called back to uncover the mystery of a nameless tomb discovered on the Island of Bones. Mrs Harriet Westerman, an intelligent widow escaping the sorrows of her past, and with a keen interest in the matters of mystery decides to joins him.

 

Additional bodies and missing persons escalate and Crowther is forced to dig up the demons of his past.

 

This book is written in the language and style of its time. It offers a number of viewpoints that may be disconcerting in the beginning.

 

Although it is a fictional novel, Imogen Robertson has drawn a great many things from history and adapted them to her needs.

 

As mystery and suspense increases so the reader is drawn into the essence of the story. I willed for answers to surface just as quickly as the main characters who were determined to seek them.

 

Lizette Breet

3/5

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Nightshade

by Andrea Cremer (Atom Books) R180, 00 ISBN: 9781907410277 

I do not like paranormal / fantasy / science fiction novels. Twilight was torture for me. Bella is a million miles from what I conceive a strong female character to be. The writing was poorly executed, and the plotting ridiculous. 

So I took Nightshade only because a good friend said I should read it. She doesn't like Twilight either. I'm glad she insisted. (Her review is in The Bluestocking Review as well.) 

Calla Tor is a werewolf, or a 'guardian', as she says. She is an Alpha, the beautiful blonde leader of the Nightshade pack. A strong woman with the nerve of a wolf and the heart of a human. She is to be mated with Ren Laroche of the Wolfsbane pack. The two Alphas are to form a new pack to protect the sacred site they patrol from the 'Searchers'. 

The guardians are ruled by the 'Keepers’ who apparently have the magic that keeps the world in balance. They are also slave masters beautifully disguised. Everything is going along swimmingly until Shay Doran arrives in town. He is human. And Calla saves his life when she is on patrol. A bear attacks him and she lets him drink her blood. He survives. 

This is Twilight in reverse, I suppose. But it's so much more than that. It is perfectly written by a writer who knows how to make you turn the page. The plot is supported by philosophy and mythology and history. Andrea Cremer is a history professor who has written about violence, sex, religion and power. She uses all this knowledge in this novel. 

The plot is, as it always is in this genre, the quest. The pacing is perfect. The suspense well-executed. The characterisation is what sets Cremer apart in a writing world swamped with Twilight lookalikes. Meet Bryn, Ansel, Sabine, Fey, Neville, Mason and all the others. Lumine, Effron and Logan will make your skin crawl. 

Nightshade is for anybody who loves a good read. It will remain with you. You will order Wolfsbane as soon as you are finished. Highly recommended. 

Amanda Patterson
4/5

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Plague Child

by Peter Ransley (Harper) ISBN 978-0-00-731236-8 R190

 

"As they lifted her skirt, they saw the baby hanging half out. They called for the cart to take it away.' 

 

The plague babies died a slow death in lime which ate their bodies away. But Mathew Neave, the plague cart driver realised that this baby didn't have the plague and was still alive. He hid him in his jacket and decided to raise him as his own.

 

All through Tom's life he is aware of people trying to kill him and he knows the reason is something to do with his birth. 

 

He spends his life searching for his father only to find he is related to nobility, in fact he is the grandson of a nobly born man.  He is always on a quest to find some objects that will give him his birth right. In the meantime the story tells of a bitter sweet romance that Tom has with Anne. From a low printer he becomes one of the highest in the land. 

 

Should he inherit the title, he may not marry his love, who is uneducated. London was grim in those days and people stank from lack of water and from sleeping and living in their dirty clothes. So well was this described that I almost sniffed the pages of the book.

 

This is a meaty book that takes time to read but it is worth it.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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This way up

by Paige Nick (Penguin) ISBN: 978-0-14-352755-8

 

Paige Nick is a regular columnist for the Lifestyle section of the Sunday Times. This Way Up is her second novel.

 

The story bumbles along. Conservative Stella dreams of becoming a feature writer. She wants to escape the Dr Dee column she has penned for two years, two months and nine hours, answering the letters of ‘deranged’ and ‘retarded’ people about their sexual problems.

 

Her life unravels when she tells a little white lie to her family. This lie snowballs, causing an avalanche in her life. Stella finds herself in unfamiliar territory when she has no home, her marriage is falling apart and her twin sister refuses to speak to her.

 

Stella’s story is in contrast to Poppy, who is travelling the world with her best friend, Buck. Poppy is young and adventurous and it is appears that Nick uses this story as a comparison between two different lives. This comparison is contrived and confusing.

 

The book is about family bonds and that despite bad things happening, it is just a phase and things will end up the way they should.

 

Nick tries to be humorous but fails to deliver.

 

This Way Up does not quite make it in the Bridget Jones’ Diary or Eat, Pray, Lovecalibre. It may appeal to people who are leading dead end lives.

 

Ulrike Hill

2/5 

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