Headhunters

by Jo Nesbo (Harvill Secker) ISBN 978-1-846-55593-0 R215, 00

 

A fast paced thriller. Nesbo seems to have researched all the ins and outs of fraud, gangsters, international art and guns.

 

Roger Brown is in love with Diana, an art gallery owner. He decides to include Norwegian, Clas Greve in his schemes, only to find Greve double crossing him with Diana. She longs for a child and will stop at nothing to become pregnant.

 

In the early days of his relationship with Diana Roger persuaded her to have an abortion. He couldn't bear to share her with a third person. Diana regrets this bitterly.

 

Roger turns out to be a skilled art thief. He can judge a canvas easily as the real thing or a fake. He hides his thieving from Diana but she ultimately gains as a gallery owner. Roger sees his chance to become richer than his wildest dreams and starts preparing his biggest heist. 

 

Greve owns one of the most sought after paintings in the world. Roger's plans unravel in ways that not even he would have predicted.  The hunter becomes the hunted.  There is a shoot out of note between the two men. Only one of them lives to tell the tale. In the meantime Diana has fallen pregnant.

 

The author is a terrific action writer. 

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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The Tempest Prognosticator

by Isobel Dixon (Umuzi) ISBN 978-1-4152-0161-9

 

I think that when selecting a book of poetry, it is almost impossible to gauge the real meaning of it just by standing at the shelf and browsing through it. Poetry is deep writing and sometimes the meaning escapes you on first reading it.

 

I started reading Isobel Dixon's poems and put the book aside. Then, on another occasion when I finally managed to lift the veil on her works, I became intrigued.  A lot of poetry is written in the subconscious mind so the reader has to read and re-read to find the meaning.  And then you have this wonderful moment of revelation and find that some of the poems are telling you how to see the world anew. 

 

The fact that the poet grew up in the Karroo makes you think she has a so called clean slate to write upon. No interference from the outside. And that gives her clarity of vision that we sometimes have to search for. The ostriches in the lucerne field have me carrying a photograph in my mind of those blowsy ballerinas pecking away to the music of Swan Lake.

 

Each poem carries a questing intelligence that makes you think, until at last you understand the meaning. Of course a quote from JM Coetzee endorses the fact that she must be a very worthwhile poet. I love poetry and enjoyed her anthology.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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Little Star

by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Quercus) R228, 00 ISBN 978-0-85738-511-6

 

Whether I wanted to or not, I couldn't put this unusual book down. I needed to find a point from which I could unravel the author's thoughts.

 

A corner of a plastic bag moves in the snow. It contains a new-born baby. She is taken in by a loving family, so how does she become abnormal?  Or are people simply fashioned like that in spite of good upbringings.

 

I have never read a book like this. Evil stalks a beautiful girl with the singing voice of an angel. Or is she evil incarnated? There must be people out there who thrive on this sort of terror. After all, the book is published and runs to 500 pages. And you cannot stop reading.

 

A hammer nails into the four corners of a coffin that holds a living, breathing little girl. Does she survive?

 

Premeditated violence plays a huge part in this story. The massacre scene at the concert will live with me forever. In the background you hear the little Star singing beautifully in her pure voice. 

 

There is no sanity in this book but you keep reading and should someone try and take the book away from you, beware; the reader wields a hammer. Thank heavens for the diversity of story tellers and that we have free choice.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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Birkenhead Blooms - The floral art of Alyson Kessel

by Alyson Kessel (Struik Lifestyle) R180, 00 ISBN 978-1-770007-851-2

 

I was blown away by the detailed photography of each arrangement. The most useful thing about this book is that it is like an easy step by step recipe book for arranging flowers. You know exactly what you need from the shape of the vase, to the ribbon, to the scissors and coloured cellophane paper. 

 

Every arrangement large or small is a tribute to the artiste's perfection.  The simplicity of where each bloom is placed makes you wonder if you will achieve the same simple arrangement.  Blending of colours and types of blooms used, amazed me. Who would have thought to combine those specific flowers in that kind of vase? 

 

Simplicity is the name of the game. Even floating flowerheads of different sizes and hues makes for an appealing kind of art.  A lemon at the bottom of a vase adds sunshine to the arrangement. Reeds over a shallow bowl form a grid pattern, add a couple of slices of lemon and loose flowerheads and it is impossible to describe how this layered floral art can impress. Fill a narrow vase with frozen peas and add flowers of your own choice and you have a most unusual vase of lovely colours and textures. Using pared down proteas and roses you can use raffia strands or even narrow antique velvet ribbon for a really shabby-chic effect.  Even the "drowned rose look" is in a class of their own.  Make your serviettes pretty and festive with flowers and woven lavender (you are told how to do this)

 

Alyson Kessel spent 30 years in garment design. The past six years she had been the contract florist for the Birkenhead House and Villa in Hermanus. With no floral formal training she is not bogged down by rules. Her style is minimalistic yet luxurious, quirky and pretty stunning.

 

Dee Andrew

5/5

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Scorpia Rising

by Anthony Horowitz (Walker Books) ISBN 979-1-4063-1049-8

 

I was so sorry to learn that this was the last of the Alex Ryder books.  It certainly is fabulous and the story pulls you along page by page.  How the author manages to get his hero out of very tight spots is a tribute to his wonderful imagination. 

 

Alex is a spy who is fifteen years old and no longer wants to be part of a spy organisation but he is too valuable to be left alone to get on with school.  His skills are legendary

 

If you think this is a book only for the youth, think again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the plot and the scorpions that strike, flooring you with their cleverness. Don't miss this book, it is worthwhile. 

 

A light read that you can get through in a day.  From England to Cairo the author writes so well about each country, you feel as if you have been there. Very enjoyable.

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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The Stranger’s Child

by Alan Hollinghurst (Picador) ISBN: 9780330483247 R190, 00

 

This is an awesome read, covering a few generations of how the British Aristocracy lived. 

 

The central character, Daphne is bowled over as a sixteen year old by the poet Cecil Valance. Cecil writes her a poem which becomes a touchstone for generations. He is the week-end guest of his chum, George Sawle in George's parents' home called "Two Acres".

 

Cecil is the central character throughout the book. Dead or alive, everyone finds him fascinating as a poet and a person. Even George finds himself seduced by Cecil's charm. This story describes many interesting moments by the people who live the lives of English snobs. The conversations are so true to life and the descriptions of the soirees which they have after dinner, cover everything from classical music to Keats and other poets. 

 

The author must have a following who will enjoy this book enormously. It is based on a past that is colourful and sincere and yet shows how insincere people have to be. The characters linger in my mind as if I had known them.  What a huge body of work this is. One can only admire the author for writing it down so well.

 

Dee Andrew

5/5

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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

5/5

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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

4/5

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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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Book Review - A Private Affair

by Lesley Lokko (Orion) ISBN 978-1-4091-0173-4

I thoroughly enjoyed this book about girls married to army officers, whose lives are ruled by the dictates of the army. The wives can be alone for months on end and the men have to keep quiet about top secret affairs when they come home. 

Samantha is desperate to be married and adores her good looking husband until she finds he is a beast in bed. But in spite of that she still tries to validate her feelings for him. She was an ugly duckling in her past who grew into a lovely swan. She is very insecure in spite of her personal success. 

Meagan is swept off her feet by the dashing officer, Tom and she is glad to escape her loathsome family. Dani suffers in her marriage but hangs in there. And Abbey, the model wife who carries a dark secret threatens to pull her well-ordered life apart. 

I became totally absorbed in all their lives, so well does the writer get your attention. I must admit I couldn't put the book down and in the end all is revealed and you don't know whether to be relieved or not.  

A stunning, well written story. I would recommend it for book clubs. 

Dee Andrew
www.writerswrite.co.za 
5/5

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