The Ruins of Us

by Keija Parssinen (Faber & Faber) ISBN 970571282180

 

Rosalie is a Texan who was brought up in Saudi Arabia. She met and fell in love with Abdullah in the United States and then went back with him to Saudi Arabia where they married, had two children, and lived a wealthy and happy life for twenty five years.

 

That is until everything unravels. Abdullah takes a second wife and keeps it a secret for two years until a jeweller unwittingly lets the proverbial cat out of the bag.

 

At the same time, their confused sixteen-year-old son is being influenced by his radical best friend. He is also attending lectures with a sheikh who wants to see all unbelievers purged from Saudi Arabia.

 

This leads to a situation where everyone in the family is forced to examine their emotions, attachments, and needs, and make decisions about their future.

 

This is an interesting well-written novel with vivid descriptions and metaphors.

 

Amanda Blankfield

4/5

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Book Review - Firefly Lane

by Kristin Hannah (St Martin's Griffin) ISBN: 9780312537074


Firefly Lane is a poignant coming of age tale about two friends who meet during their adolescence in 1974 with all the music, clothes and fads that go with the era. 

As the years go by they help one another through the highs and lows of life. Tully is an extrovert with a troubled childhood, and Kate is an introvert with a loving old-fashioned family. 

They progress through school, and go to college. Tully dreams of fame and fortune and Kate dreams of marriage and children. They remain best friends and confidantes through it all with some rough patches in between. 

This is an emotional ride from the beginning to end with laughter and tears for the reader as the story unfolds. One feels as if one is part of the story and fully empathises with the characters. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Firefly Lane and could not put it down. 

Amanda Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
5/5 

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Hot Property

by Cheryl Ntumy (Sapphire Press) ISBN 9780795703911.

 

Keabetswe Rantao has made up her mind.

 

She is twenty eight years old and knows that her career as an estate agent is her goal in life, and she refuses to let men or the idea of motherhood get in her way.

 

She is so headstrong that she resents her best friend for quitting her career to start trying to have a baby right after her wedding.

 

However, the situation changes when she meets architect, Oagile Motsumi, who causes some waves in her ideals, making her consider if she has indeed made the right decisions. Kea is forced to examine her reason for not wanting to be a mother. She had an alcoholic mother who abandoned her at a young age.

 

This romance novel is very PG - a far cry from '50 Shades of Gray', but one with good values and morals, and a happy ending. A pleasant holiday read suitable for a woman of any age.

 

Amanda Blankfield

3/5

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The Silver Linings Playbook

by Matthew Quick (Picador) ISBN 9781447219897

 

Meet Pat Peoples.

 

Pat is having a rough time. He’s just been released from a mental institution. He has to move in with his parents when he is in his 30s, he is separated from his wife, and he does not remember what has happened in the last few years of his life, including what caused his breakdown.

 

Pat has only one goal: to be reunited with his wife Nikki because he thinks it was his fault that they are going through 'apart time'. This leads him to do self-improvement activities such as obsessively exercising and practising the art of being 'kind instead of right'.

 

Then his friend's sister-in-law, Tiffany is introduced to him, which leads to Pat becoming a dancer, getting a friend, and discovering the truth.

 

This well-written book has been made into a film with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as the two main characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this thought-provoking read.

 

Amanda Blankfield

4.5/5

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Terrorbyte

by Cat Connor (Rebel ePublishers) ISBN 9780986973147

 

Supervising Special Agent Ellie Conway has a new challenging case to solve.

 

Her husband Mac joins her in the case as a support. The case is similar to another incident where the murderer used Mac and Ellie's published poetry in the crime scene. The sales of the books had helped to set up the Butterfly Foundation which the criminals tapped into to speak to victims in a chat room.

 

Ellie had thought this new serial killer was a case of déjà vu, but this time with more dangerous and life-threatening consequences involving bourbon, chlorine, gold ribbons and surveillance cameras. The themes of mental illness, love, team work and perseverance come through.

 

Ellie uses her special psycho-prophetic talents and courage to lead her team to discover the crimes behind the murders and to stop those responsible in their tracks.

 

A gripping read with elements of intrigue, fun, violence and ultimately, tragic closure.

 

Amanda Blankfield

3.5/5

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A Common Loss

by Kirsten Tranter (Quercus) ISBN 978-0-85738-275-7

Five friends, Dylan, Elliot, Brian, Tallis and Cameron, meet in college. After graduation they continue to have their annual reunion in Las Vegas. This year is different though, as one of the five, Dylan, has been killed in a motorcar accident. This "common loss" reveals secrets about the remaining friends that change their friendship forever.

 

Dylan was adopted and has a younger brother, Colin, who lives in Las Vegas. Colin now wants his late brother's friends to help his brother keep his promises of helping him to elevate his social status.

 

The story analyses the feelings of Elliot who grapples with his loss and what his friendships and relationships mean to him - those lost, those on-going and potential new ones.

 

If you want to know what Las Vegas is like, this book describes it well - from the kitsch replicas of famous sights around the world to the gambling, sex, drinking and drug-taking.

 

An interesting concept, but written in a style that is not easy to read, with too many descriptions about unimportant scenery and flashbacks that are too detailed.

 

Amanda Blankfield

2/5

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The Blue Door

by Lise Kristensen (Macmillan) ISBN 978-0-230-76027-1.

 

This story exposes how the Allies were treated in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps during the Second World War in The Philippines. Gripping? Yes. Disturbing? Definitely.

 

This compelling read is a memoir written in the voice of the author from when she was a ten year old. Lise is Norwegian-blooded but a Java-born prisoner. The horrors that took place were shocking. Even more poignant was the courage and strength shown by little Lise as she helped keep her mother and younger siblings alive for three years under the most inhumane conditions.

 

Most people know about the German concentration and death camps where six million Jews were obliterated, but how many people know the number of Allies who died from starvation and torture at the hands of the Japanese in their strongholds? There were Europeans from Norway, Denmark and other countries living in The Philippines who were treated worse than rats. Yet nobody talks about them and the suffering they still go through emotionally, physically and financially. Adding insult to injury, the Japanese, unlike the Germans, never had to pay reparations.

 

A fascinating story written in an easy-to-read style although the subject matter is harrowing.

 

Amanda Blankfield

4.5/5

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Things I Thought I Knew

by Kathryn White (Umuzi) R180, 00 ISBN 978-0-4152-0122-0

 

Kathryn White lives in Johannesburg. She is the author of Emily Green and Me.

 

Her second novel is the story of two sisters: Lily looks white; Jules looks black. The time frame: From Apartheid South Africa through to Democracy. Before they drugged her, Lily knew things from the future and saw people from the past.

 

The novel examines, in beautiful and unique prose, the problems an interracial couple faced during the Apartheid era. The intriguing angle taken by the author makes this a refreshing look at a topic that has been covered by hundreds of authors.

 

The story accelerates to a crescendo. Reaching it, however, is not that satisfying. Luckily the journey is well worth it.

 

The author explores the cultural and ethical issues. Her vivid descriptions of Lily’s mental issues / psychic abilities, the love triangles, the sibling rivalry because of racial treatment, the exile and the emotional connections are compelling.

 

An interesting read.

 

Amanda Blankfield

3/5

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An Exclusive Love: A Memoir

by Johanna Adorján (author), Anthea Bell (translator) (WW Norton & Company) ISBN 978-0-393-0-80018

 

The book opens ominously: “On 13 October 1991 my grandparents killed themselves.”

 

Quite a depressing introduction, but one that sets the scene of a memoir of a granddaughter trying to discover her true identity by analysing the events that led to her grandparents’ suicide during her childhood.

 

Adorján, the granddaughter,  interviews family members and friends to try to piece together the events that led to that fateful day. The story delves into the atrocities of 1956 when the holocaust affected the Hungarian Jews, and later follows the couple as they become refugees in Denmark.

 

Only on Johanna’s grandfather’s 77th birthday does he tell her about his Judaism for the first time, which is confusing as she has never been exposed to this aspect of her culture.

 

This thought-provoking book has an element of fiction that runs through it – what would their last day have been like? What would they have done to prepare themselves to take their own lives?  And why did they choose this end? A worthwhile read.

 

Amanda Blankfield

4/5

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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

4/5

 

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