Book Review - Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me

by Andy Martin (Bantam Press) ISBN: 9780593076620


The name Jim Grant probably doesn’t mean much to readers of fiction. How about Lee Child? This lanky Camel-smoking, coffee-drinking author is now on his 20th Jack Reacher novel.  Reacher, his highly popular hero, is a former US military man turns free-roaming investigator and fixer. You’ve probably seen the movie with Tom Cruise … but this isn’t what this book is about.

What goes into the creative process of writing a novel? This book – which will fascinate writers – is a dissection of the approach Child takes in creating his fiction. Andy Martin, a lecturer and author of books on diverse subjects, from Sartre to surfing, shadows the author as he sits down to write his new Reacher title, Make Me. It follows him from page one to the final draft.

Sometimes the text goes off down side alleys to explore issues that are perhaps more interesting to academics than fans of popular fiction. However, the style is very engaging and easy to read. The warmth of the friendship and ribbing between Child and Martin comes off the page.  If you’re a writer, this one is worth a read. 

Anthony Ehlers
www.writerswrite.co.za 
3.5/5
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Book Review - Rushing Waters

by Danielle Steel (Bantam Press) ISBN: 9780593069158


In Danielle Steel’s new release, a hurricane slams into New York and changes the lives of a group of individuals caught up in the chaos and the heartbreak– an interior designer and her mother, an investment banker, a young ER doctor, and two varsity students. 

As NYU students, sensing an adventure, I really enjoyed Peter and Ben’s storyline. The novel deals well with grief and loss, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The characters – as beautiful and successful as they inevitably are in a Danielle Steel novel – grapple with issues of ageing parents, relocation, divorce, and infertility. But the storm – its destructive power and its aftermath – make up the core of the story. 

Steel has written about natural disasters before – the earthquake in Amazing Grace springs to mind – so this isn’t really a ‘fresh take’ for this bestselling author. However, she creates characters and situations we can all relate to as readers. Even with a heavy subject matter, it’s still an easy read. Steel’s latest release should go rushing off the shelves. 

Anthony Ehlers
www.writerswrite.co.za
3/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The St. Tropez Lonely Hearts Club

by Joan Collins (Constable) ISBN 9781472122940

 
If you had to turn a trashy 80s TV miniseries into a novel, you’d probably end up with The St. Tropez Lonely Hearts Club. Filled with over the top characters – or should that be caricatures? – including a gigolo, contessa, a Russian oligarch – and an unbelievable plot, it’s not a novel to be taken seriously.  Luckily, it doesn’t ask you to take it seriously. 

Joan Collins, a veteran of the glitzy Dynasty, hasn’t forgotten what makes for a good soap opera – and she dishes out lashings of sex, viperous bitchiness, and Eurotrash glamour. The setting, an exclusive stretch of party paradise in the South of France, gives the reader a vicarious glimpse into the lives of the rich and decadent. The young female detective, Gabrielle, is our moral centre among the outrageous cast of characters – and she’s a likeable character. 

This is a frothy read if you want to escape the winter blues and idle away some time on a beach. 

Anthony Ehlers
www.writerswrite.co.za
3/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - I Am No One

by Patrick Flanery (Atlantic Books) ISBN: 9781782397960


Paranoia, obsession, fear, and loss of privacy – and even sanity – lie at the heart of this unusual and unnerving thriller.

Jeremy O’Keefe, a professor returning from the UK to his native New York, finds it difficult to adapt to a city radically altered post-9/11. When he believes a young man is following him, his life starts to unravel and nothing is what it seems. A mysterious package arrives; his phone is being monitored. Could there be a link to an affair with a student back in Oxford? The story is told in the first person, so we begin to doubt Jeremy’s paranoia and reliability as a narrator.

The novel explores prickly themes that are all too relevant for us living in a world where our lives are tracked – by video cameras on the street, social media, and government – but where self-examination is something we’re not comfortable with.

Sometimes the book suffers from long dry sentences and dense scholarly paragraphs, which slows down the pace. However, the story and the theme are strong enough for the reader to push through.

Anthony Ehlers
www.writerswrite.co.za
3/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Precious Gifts

by Danielle Steel (Transworld) ISBN: 9780593069035 


Paul Parker, a successful business man but absent father to his three daughters and son, has died peacefully in his sleep. As his children and ex-wife gather for the reading of his will, they realise that Paul has left them each a legacy that will face their future and destiny. 

As a plot premise, it all sounds very intriguing — but the story doesn’t live up to this promise.  After chapter after chapter of backstory, the narrative fails to come to come to life.  Most of the story focuses on Veronique, the ex-wife, which plays out every romance novel cliché to the point of irritation — and the three daughters are not developed as likeable characters. 

The story has all the usual Danielle Steel glamour and fabulous settings — Paris, Venice, and New York — which makes it an easy holiday read. But there are too many characters in the book for each to be developed properly. I’m a fan of Danielle Steel, but this wasn’t her best book. Precious Gifts is a hastily wrapped holiday present. You may find yourself wishing you could return it. 

Anthony Ehlers
www.writerswrite.co.za
2/5
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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

Crooked Halo

by Sinovuyo Nkonki (Reach) ISBN: 9780620512459

 

Petra is a bi-racial high school student in Johannesburg, a pretty girl and average student. She’s nothing extraordinary—yet Kevin has sought her out for seduction. What she doesn’t realise is that Kevin has made a bet with his buddies that he will bag and bed her before the year is out.  At just 18 years old, handsome Kevin is a heartbreaker and player—and Petra is about to learn her first painful lesson in heartbreak.

 

As a writer for young adults, Nkonki shows wonderful insight into her characters. Kevin is a complex character—showing respect for his mother, working hard to bring in money for the family but treating girls as dirt. Petra is a typical love-struck schoolgirl—her naïve nature will make you empathise with her. The dialogue between the characters comes across as authentic.

 

There’s no doubt that Nkonki is a naturally talented writer—but she is also a novice. This manuscript called for a heavier editorial hand to simplify the text and make it work. It is a sad when writers are lured into self-publishing without realising they may not get the guidance they need to make it in a competitive market.

 

Anthony Ehlers

2.5/5

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A Gift of Hope

by Danielle Steel (Bantam Press) ISBN: 97805930682501R250

 

After the suicide of her teenage son and her marriage falling apart, Danielle Steel decided to distract herself from her own grief by helping others.

 

With a friend, she drove an anonymous van into San Francisco on an icy cold night before Christmas to hand out new jackets, sleeping bags, gloves and socks to the city’s homeless. She thought it would a one-time thing—but what she saw on the streets made her realise that—more than basic supplies and a warm jacket—these people needed to know someone cared for them. Soon after she had funded and organised a team dedicated volunteers to expand the outreach programme called Yo!Angels. It ran for eleven years.

 

As America’s third highest earning author, Steel could easily have chosen a flashy charity to support. Instead, she chose to work one-on-one with the most forgotten and neglected people, those we don’t want to acknowledge—much less care about. Her team handed out supplies without asking in return. She felt she had no right to ask any homeless person his story, as privacy was probably the last shred of dignity he had.

 

Steel also delivers some pragmatic insight into the homeless dilemma: Sometimes homeless people end up on the street not because they have nowhere else to go, but because there is no other place they fit in. “Homelessness is not just about not having a job or an apartment,” she writes. “Too often it is due to a disordered mind.” In part, she wrote this book as an act of advocacy—as a call for mental health reform, a plea for compassion.

 

As a South African living in a big city, this book rattles the conscience. If there are 20, 000 homeless people on the streets of San Francisco, how many need help—and hope—in a city like Johannesburg?

 

Anthony Ehlers

5/5

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Divine Justice

by Joanne Hichens (Mercury) ISBN: 9780987005809

 

Sometimes the crime genre focuses on the cops, other times on the criminals. Mostly, it follows the pure, almost ritualistic theme of restoring justice. Beating the bad guys, basically.

 

What is great about this South African crime gem is that Joanne Hichens gives us multiple viewpoints—from the sexy rookie investigator, Rae Valentine, her beau, Mullet Mendes and her unreliable partner, Vince, right down to the classic villain with a Freudian mother fixation and even a collective viewpoint into the police and a thuggish right wing gang. This gives us insight into all the characters and their motivations.

 

From the harrowing opening scene atop a burning Table Mountain, to the nail-biting finish where Rae must fight for her life, Divine Justice is a gritty and fast-paced thriller that pits impossibly real characters against an outrageously over-the-top plot. 

 

Cape Town-based writer Hichens is the author of the critically acclaimed Out to Score andStained; she also edits regular anthologies of South African crime stories. Divine Justice would make a great movie or TV series.

 

Anthony Ehlers

4/5

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An Absolute Deception

by Lesley Lokko (Orion) ISBN: 978 1409 101758 R199.00

 

Anneliese Zander de St Phalle is a famous fashion designer—having created an international brand with just her talent, determination and beauty. While holidaying on her sumptuous island hideaway, an uninvited guest turns up, unlocking the Pandora’s Box of her past. It is a past she’s hidden from the world, the press—even her daughter, Callan.

 

From here, the novel flashes back and forth through time as we learn of Anneliese’s complex past and follow her journey as she claws her way to the top. These flashbacks break the narrative up in a fractured and confusing manner, making it hard to get into the story.

 

With her previous novels such as Sundowners and Rich Girl, Poor Girl, Lesley Lokko proved herself as a solid writer of glamorous blockbusters in the Barbara Taylor Bradford and Penny Vincenzi mould.  However, An Absolute Deception was a bit disappointing and left too many loose ends untied. It should’ve been better.

 

Anthony Ehlers

2/5

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The Power Trip

by Jackie Collins (Simon and Schuster) ISBN: 978 1 84737 980 1

 

Five celebrity couples are invited to cruise the Sea of Cortez on the 400-foor super-yacht of a powerful Russian billionaire and his supermodel mistress. It turns out to be a trip none of them will ever forget—as they will have to survive old jealousies, infidelity, storms and a band of pirates.

 

Cliff Baxter is an altar-shy movie idol who sees the trip as the perfect opportunity to dump his ex-waitress girlfriend—but she has no intention of giving up her privileged life as an A-lister’s consort. Flynn Hudson is a tough, cynical political reporter who doesn’t believe in personal connections—until someone from his past shows up on the trip.

 

Jackie Collins is not a superstar author for nothing. She has voodoo-like talent for getting you to turn the pages, dragging you into her world by the sheer force of her narrative energy , seducing you with her scandalous characters—most of them as  narcissistic, ambitious, manipulative as those you would find in your favourite soap opera.

 

Anthony Ehlers

4/5

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za

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