Book Review - Blacks Do Caravan

by Fikile Hlatshwayo (Jacana) ISBN 978-1-4314-2377-4 


When presented with the dubious opportunity of taking a three-month country-wide caravanning adventure with her family, Fikile finds herself initially balking at the idea. As a professional who worked hard to get to the top of her career, she can’t see herself spending months out in the sticks without her luxuries. However, it was either this, or being left alone at home to sulk. 

So with the decision made to go caravanning, Fikile, her husband, and their two young children take off on their journey. Quite unexpectedly Fikile starts to realise that material wealth is not nearly as enriching and satisfying as spending quality time with your family in the great outdoors. She also broaches the topic of why whites and, in particular, Afrikaans speaking whites, tend to dominate the caravanning market. She makes us question our need to remain a country divided by its metaphorical borders, when in effect; we all really want the same things out of life. 

Their journey begins on the 15th of September 2014 and this book includes interesting information relating to more than 60 of the caravan sites they visited. Blacks Do Caravan is an ideal book for folks who love travelling and exploring this beautiful country of ours. 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers
www.writerswrite.co.za
3.5/5

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

Book Review - The African Orchestra

by Wendy Hartmann (Jacana) ISBN 9781431423392


This children’s book is beautifully illustrated with captivating images of nature. 

The story takes the form of a poems and attempts to describe the various sounds one encounters in Africa. The metaphorical nature of the book and its attempts to illustrate onomatopoeia are lost on younger children, but it remains a delightful and cathartic read for older children and adults. 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers
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 - Flesh And Blood

by Riette Rust (LAPA Publishers) ISBN 978-0-7993-7500-8


Eileen de Jager and Roelien Schutte, better known as the ‘Blood Sisters’ are no strangers to the South African public. Through the media and their first book entitle ‘Blood Sisters’ we were made aware of this indomitable team of women who clean up various types of crime scenes, thereby rendering them inhabitable once again.  

You would be forgiven for thinking that this type of work is not really suited for women, but these sisters assure us that they are up to the task. They have been doing this work for the last 15 years, after they saw a gap in the market, and have worked at over 7000 scenes ranging from suicides, farm attacks and even at the homes of hoarders who kept years of used toilet paper.  

This is an eye-opening read into what these women encounter on occasion. It definitely isn’t work for the fainthearted but certainly leaves you feeling a certain amount of admiration for these unsung heroes who tread where others wouldn’t dare. 

I enjoyed the pace and chatty nature of the book, but found the expert advice at the end of each story a little out of place.  

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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

Book Review - Opening Moves

by Steven James (Signet) ISBN 9780451237767


This prequel is the sixth installment in the Bower Files series. We meet Special Agent Patrick Bowers ten years ago, when he was a Milwaukee homicide detective, still doing his post-graduate studies. A series of strangely familiar incidents occur on his watch, and Bowers is concerned that he may be dealing with a copy-cat serial killer. Someone who is paying homage to some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Jeffrey Dahmer who had only been arrested a few years previously.  

With the help of his new FBI friend, Ralph, and Bowers’ killer instincts, they attempt to track down the villain using facts from past grisly crimes such as those committed by Gein, Gacy etc.  A truly chilling and unyielding ride. While the book is macabre, I enjoyed James’ combination of fact and fiction to create a very real and thrilling journey.  Not only do you get to delve deeper into some of the crimes that shocked a nation, but you are astounded by the skills that Bowers employs in a bid to outsmart the individual who is intent on making a statement with his barbaric acts of torture.  

The only disappointment is that James jumps from third person to first person when dealing with Bowers as a character. This slowed down the pace of the story for me as I had to ‘acclimatise’ to the alternating styles with each chapter. A well-written book with an unexpected twist to the plot and enough of a fear factor to get the heart racing. 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers3/5

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

Book Review - The Bone Bed

by Patricia Cornwell (Little Brown) ISBN 9781408703458


Chief Medical Examiner, Kay Scarpetta is back for her twentieth appearance, together with Marino, Lucy and Benton. This time, however, Kay is completely unprepared when an email showing a severed ear makes its way to her computer.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Scarpetta’s personal life has taken centre stage as she worries about whether her husband, Benton, is having an affair, why her niece is keeping secrets from her, and whether Marion is responsible for the murder of a woman he made contact with on Twitter. Not her usually sharp and focused self, Scarpetta is unpredictably vulnerable.

This was not my favourite book from Patricia Cornwell, and I’m a huge fan of hers. While I have never liked the pretentiousness that surrounds Kay and her super-womanly powers that help her to not only put FBI agents in their place, but to whip up a meal worthy of a Michelin star chef, and still find time to add to her knowledge of French antiques, it’s become overkill.

The characters have become totally un-relatable. It was an uninspiring read and worst was if you tried to figure out who-dun-nit, you’ll feel sorely cheated. Time for Cornwell to go back to basics.

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers
2/5

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

Gone In Seconds

by A.J. Cross (Orion) ISBN 978 1 4091 4268 3

 

When the skeletal remains of Molly James are discovered five years after she went missing, the case is reopened by the UCU (Unsolved Crime Unit) based at the West Midlands Police Headquarters.

 

Dr Kate Hanson, who is consulting forensic psychologist on the team, becomes alarmed when a second set of remains nearby to the first set is unearthed. She starts to fear they might be dealing with a ‘Repeater’ - someone whose pattern of killing adapts over time.

 

When Kate starts to dig deeper into the archives, certain anomalies start to appear, as though someone deliberately tried to sabotage the outcome of the case. Together with her motley crew of colleagues, Joe, her love interest, Bernie, the slovenly side-kick, and Julian, her student helper, Kate attempts to solve the case.

 

This forensic crime story was an enjoyable read and towards the end I couldn’t put it down. However, its fundamental flaw is that it’s way too long and wordy. The first few hundred pages are off-putting, as the barrage of characters and other details is overwhelming. However, if you persevere you will be rewarded with a fairly plausible plot.  

 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers

3/5

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The Top Prisoner of C-Max

by Wessel Ebersohn (Umuzi) ISBN 978 1 4152 0179 4

 

Yudel Gordon, psychologist at Pretoria’s C-Max prison, home to some of this country’s most notorious criminals, doesn’t normally let his guard down.

 

However the arrival of Beloved Childe, an American researcher, not only causes Gordon to momentarily lose his grasp of the situation, but it gives Enslin Kruger, the prison’s top inmate, a chance to set up a challenge for his future successor. Kruger who is on his last legs, selects two men he feels are worthy to take his throne, and it’s a race against the clock to see which of them can reach Childe and slay her first.

 

Gordon, together with the help of Advocate Abigail Bukula, manages to figure out what Kruger is plotting and it’s a whirlwind of fast paced action to get to the marked woman first.

 

I was expecting more from the ending however and it found it to be a bit of a let-down. This book is the sequel to Ebersohn’s The October Killings but reads well as a stand-alone story. A thrilling ride that will keep you hooked. 

 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers

3/5

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Dead Rules

by R.S. Russell (Quercus) ISBN 978 0 85738 675 5

 

Do you believe in life after death?

 

Randy Russell believes you go to Dead School when you die. And that’s where our main character, Jana Webster, finds herself after a freak bowling accident leaves her dead. 

 

Even in death, Jana pines for her boyfriend, Michael, and obsesses about a way for them to be together again. She finally decides that she’ll have to kill Michael herself if he’s ever going to join her in Dead School and enlists the help of Mars Turncote. 

 

This book is a fun read, with a unique and outlandish take on death.

 

The characters are vivid and memorable. They all have unusual stories as to how they came to be in Dead School. The writing is easy to read. Dead Rules is definitely a book for young adults with a taste for the macabre.

 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers

3/5

 

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Bubbles

by Rahla Xenopoulos (Penguin) ISBN 978-0-14-353016-9

 

Bubbles is found murdered in a field in Johannesburg back in 1949.

 

While this story is mostly fictional, Rahla Xenopoulos has incorporated true events and woven them into a tale of childlike naivety and spine chilling darkness that leads to Bubble’s untimely demise.

 

Growing up in dire conditions in Lichtenburg, Jacoba “Bubbles” Schroeder believes she will find true happiness if she can become more like Mrs Botha, a wealthy lady who brings her grand dresses to her mom, who does laundry for a living. It is with this idea in her head that we follow Bubbles on her journey from poor waif to ‘glamour’ girl living in Johannesburg at the age of 16.

 

Bubbles believes she is truly on her way to realising her flights of fancy. A seedy character by the name of Barry takes her under his wing and shows her the real way to a man’s heart. However, not possessing street smarts and more obsessed with the trappings the upper crust has to offer, Bubbles never imagines the fate that awaits her.

 

A suspenseful read - the book held my attention from start to finish. Highly recommended.

 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers

4/5

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The Youngsters Series - Picador Africa

It Feels Wrong to Laugh, But…. by Anele Mdoda ISBN: 9781770102477

In My Arrogant Opinion by Khaya Dlanga ISBN: 9781770102460

Becoming by Shaka Sisulu ISBN: 9781770102507

South Africa: A Long Walk to a Free Ride by Nik Rabinowitz, Gillian Breslin ISBN: 9781770102491

 

Picador Africa launched a series of pocket books written by a batch of ‘well-known’ South Africans, to coincide with Youth Day.

 

Note that well-known is relative here, as I’m only familiar with three of the featured authors, and why these particular people were chosen is as equally unclear. They vary in their professions, political affiliations, lifestyles, attitudes, ages, race etc., and yet the sample is still too narrow to give a true voice for South Africans. 

 

The purpose of these books is confusing. The authors tackle different topics which vary from meaningful subjects to hair weaves. The books are badly edited and the chapters are randomly strung together. The books don’t blend as a series. The only common thing is the dubious cover art. Even the question section at the back of the book, conducted by Mandy Wiener, is not the same for everyone.

 

The most glaring inaccuracy of this series, is that the title is ‘The Youngsters’ and I would hardly classify any of these writers as youngsters by a long shot. Rabinowitz is 36!  Or are we using the ANC Youth League’s definition of youngsters?

 

Either way, if you’re fans of Anele, who writes as fast as she talks, and is extremely difficult to read, or want to read more about the late Walter Sisulu’s grandson, who has spent more time out of South Africa then in it, then you’ll probably look past all the inconsistencies.

 

I can only recommend Nick Rabinowitz’s little book which is a light-hearted, unbiased take on the history of our country.

 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers

1/5

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