Book Review - The Shadow Sister - Star’s Story

by Lucinda Riley (Macmillan) ISBN 978-1-4472-8860-2 


This is the third book in The Seven Sisters series, a family saga that begins with the death of the mysterious billionaire known as Pa Salt. His six adopted daughters, the D'Aplièse sisters, are each left a letter, an object, and a set of coordinates, which will take them on a journey to discover their true heritage. 

Lucinda Riley is a wonderful storyteller, and with Star’s story, the threads of past and present are skilfully woven as Star begins to discover herself and finally steps out of her sister CeCe’s shadow. Her journey takes her to an evocative old bookstore in London with a suitably brooding owner, and from there to a country estate in the Lake District. Along the way, Edwardian history comes alive with Lucinda’s rich descriptions and her brilliant use of real characters like Beatrix Potter and Alice Keppel. 

At over 600 pages, it seems a little intimidating at first. But Lucinda definitely holds your attention, taking you deeper into her characters’ lives, convincing you you’re going one way, and then surprising you with yet one more reveal that changes everything.  

I loved her characters, the richness of the settings and that feeling of being swept away by a storyline that keeps expanding. I just wish the next one was a little closer on the horizon! 

Judy Ward
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 - Africa Solo

my world record race from Cairo to Cape Town by Mark Beaumont (Bantam Press) ISBN: 9780593076330 


What makes a man decide to ride a bicycle down the length of Africa as fast as he can? For Mark Beaumont, it’s a follow up to several extreme adventures: cycling across America, smashing the time record for cycling around the world, and nearly drowning in a team attempt to row across the Atlantic in less than thirty days.  

To be this driven, you’ve got to be passionate. And a little bit crazy. Maybe the pain and adrenaline are addictive. I never did get to understand this man. I didn’t really even get to like him very much, but I did find the account of his attempt to set a new record in the Guinness Book of Records by cycling, unsupported, from Cairo to Cape Town in under 50 days, completely fascinating. 

Every day brings new challenges: The daily challenge of achieving the kilometres required, finding food and lodging in some of remotest places on earth, and negotiating bureaucracy. There are many warm encounters with the local people, quite a few temper tantrums, mainly with slow kitchen staff (long-distance cycling makes you “hangry”- that anger brought on by extreme hunger) and some hard cycling. 

The book also includes some of the photographs taken en route, which highlight some of the sights and experiences he describes – a great addition to an epic story. 

Judy Ward
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 - Never Go Back

by Lee Child (Bantam Press) ISBN: 9780857503497 


Another brilliant page-turner from Lee Child – another glimpse into the tall, dark and handsome loner called Jack Reacher, and another Number one best seller! 

And there’s a movie out, so why would I read this -simply because reading Lee Child is so exciting. He writes cinematically. The action sequences come alive without the need for sound effects; the maze of Washington D.C. is thrummingly real; the “baddies” are really bad; and the stakes are high. Every chapter ends on a sentence that simply drives you forward and I couldn’t stop until I got to the very last page. 

I can’t give away any of the plot line, but it’s everything one expects of the author, and of his legendary character, Jack Reacher. This is fast, engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable read - escapism at its best. 

Judy Ward
www.writerswrite.co.za
3.5/5

Review 2 (October 2013)

Jack Reacher has travelled to Virginia from South Dakota because he liked Major Susan Turner's voice when he spoke to her on the phone.

When he finally reaches his destination, he discovers that Major Turner has been arrested, and that he has two charges against him, one a 16-year-old homicide. He is told that he has been called back to active duty and that the army is in charge of his future. Anyone who reads the series knows the hero doesn't like being told what to do. Reacher and Turner escape from prison and decide to find out what is really going on.

Reacher is an enigma - of sorts. Lee Child has created a semi-unreliable narrator. We know what he's thinking but we don't know everything. Or maybe he isn't thinking. Maybe he is just an efficient machine determined to always win. 
It doesn't matter though, because Lee Child is very good at what he does. He writes entertaining thrillers that keep you turning the page. 

Amanda Patterson

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

Book Review - Die Laughing

edited by Joanne Hichens (Tattoo Press) ISBN: 9780994680518


This collection of South African short stories is the latest from the Short. Sharp. Stories Awards, supported by the National Arts Festival. It reminded me of the early Roald Dahl short stories: uncomfortable enough to make you think, delicate enough to touch your emotions, and cleverly twisted to keep you on your toes. 

Comedy can be a delicate line to walk – what’s amusing to one person doesn’t always tickle the funny bone of the next. I didn’t connect with all of them, but I really enjoyed the sheer variety of authors and approaches to humour. Some are light and witty; others are extremely dark and satirical. There are some brilliant twists, and some excellent writing. 

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be This Is Not A Joke, Maureen by Gail Schimmel because she made me laugh at the worst possible moments, and then question why I had. 

Die Laughing is not all fun and games, but laughing into the darkness sometimes brings the light. Definitely worth a read. 

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

Book Review - Lyle The Crocodile

by Dianne Stewart. Illustrated by Joan Rankin (Jacana) ISBN 9781431424139


What’s a crocodile with toothache to do, when he can’t get an appointment with a dentist? 

His friends take him to see Dr Molar, the lion, after hours - but Lyle doesn’t like the look of the equipment, and leaves with only a caution to clean his teeth to avoid decay. His bad breath gets worse and worse, until nature comes to the rescue in the form of Pippa, the Plover. 

Based on the myth that the Nile crocodile and the Egyptian Plover have a close relationship, it’s a tale intended for children, to encourage them to look after their teeth. But I found the illustrations of the dentist and his tools scary rather than amusing, as I think they were intended to be. (Childhood dentist phobia is strong with me!) 

However, award-winning illustrator Joan Rankin’s clever watercolours are quirky and interesting. If you can laugh at Lyle the Crocodile’s silly fears, you’ll enjoy reading this story with young readers. 

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

Book Review - Miss You

by Kate Eberlen (Mantle) ISBN: 9781509819942


“Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven’t met properly yet. And perhaps they never will…” 

A set-up like that tells you it’s a love story. What you get is actually three love stories, interwoven like a complex braid. There’s Tess, who had to give up her dreams of studying English and History at University in London to take care of her autistic younger sister. This thread is all about how that happened, how life can change forever in one short moment and the battle between conscience and individual will. 

When we first meet her, she’s on holiday with her family in Florence. And so is Gus. He’s reeling from the sudden loss of his brother and battling to meet the new expectations of his devastated parents. Tess and Gus have a beautiful encounter - but it is brief. 

The two return to their individual lives, and most of the novel is divided between them, their new beginnings, new attachments, new sadnesses. Two separate, charming stories. Running between it all, however, is the haunting possibility that they might meet again. Their lives loop around one another and intersect and pass by. I was beginning to think they would miss each other entirely. But that’s the thing about destiny – you never know when to expect it. 

It is escapist stuff – everybody needs a little. 

Judy Ward
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 - Angry Owl

by Kerryn Ponter (Struik Children) ISBN 978-1-43230-607-6 


This is a great little story for little children, written and illustrated by South African artist, Kerryn Ponter. 

Angry Owl is grumpy and fed up with the weather. Already crouched on his branch under a purple umbrella when we meet him, there’s a look in his eye that tells you exactly how he feels. He is caught in a storm of note, and each time he thinks it can’t get worse, it does.

The story explores many of the interesting, and sometimes scary, aspects of stormy weather. I landed up feeling quite sorry for poor Angry Owl – bedraggled and blown off his branch. But then, like a good kid’s story should, things take a turn for the better with the appearance of a beautiful rainbow. I was left with the belief that Owl wouldn’t be as scared or angry next time it storms, and that there are often wonderful discoveries at the end of a difficult time. 

I love the character Ponter has created, and I hope Angry Owl turns out to have a few more adventures in store for young readers. (This book is also available in Afrikaans as Kwaai Uil.) 

Judy Ward
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 - What Poets Need

by Finuala Dowling (Kwela Books) ISBN: 978-0-7957-0720-9 


This evocative South African novel was first published by Alison Lowry at Penguin in 2005. I didn’t discover it then, and I’m so glad I found it now.

It’s the story of John Carson, a poet who lives in a run-down old Kalk Bay house with his sister and niece. He’s trying to write, trying to find a “real” job, looking after his troubled niece, keeping the eccentric old lady in the cottage company, and worrying about the state of the house. And conducting an e-mail love affair with the woman who abandoned him to marry someone else.

Everything is seen through John’s slightly jaded yet ever-hopeful point of view, touched with an honest self-deprecation and wry humour. He is densely emotional and deliciously “Cape Town-ian”, although the story is universal in its themes and explorations. It is a joy to read. 

Judy Ward
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 - The Reader On The 6.27

by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, translated by Ros Swartz (Mantle) ISBN 978-1-4472-7646-3


What a delightful, funny and strange little tale this is! The Reader On The 6.27  is the story of a lonely man, Guylain Vignolles, who hates his job as the operator of a book-pulping machine (a monster of note) from where he 'rescues' random pages to read aloud on his train commute.

When he finds a memory stick containing the diary of a mysterious 'Julie', he begins a quest that brings meaning to his life and to many along the way. It has a cast of quirky characters - from a security guard who only speaks in Alexandrine quatrains, to a goldfish called Rouget the Fifth (actually the replacement for Rouget the second, third & 4th), some crazy old ladies, and the resident cleaner of a public loo.

It’s about the power of words, writing and stories to change even the most dire of circumstances, the magic of imagination and those small moments of rebellion that define us. It’s so unusual and immensely satisfying. The film rights have been sold to the biggest independent movie producers in France – so do read it before the hype takes over.

Judy Ward
www.writerswrite.co.za
5/5

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

Book Review - The Trouble With Mojitos

by Romy Sommer (Harper Impulse) ISBN: 978 0007559770 


If you like romance, this is it with a capital R - all the things you’d expect from an escapist romp that begins with a little too much alcohol… like waking up in a strange place, unable to remember how you got there. Plus, there’s a ring on your finger. 

Hidden secrets, secret sadness, jealous boyfriends and a sexy alpha male hero who is also connected to a royal family – it’s all there, and immensely readable too. Romy Sommer is one of our own South African writers who is making a name for herself in the romance genre. Her well-plotted themes could make you believe in Cinderella all over again. 

It’s not my best genre, but what’s not to like about a happy ending and a drop of champagne, right? (That’s my beef – not a mojito in sight!) 

Judy Ward
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.