City of Bones

by Cassandra Clare (Walker Books) ISBN: 978-1-4063-0762-7

 

There is a dark side to New York, the city that never sleeps. The mundanes (otherwise known as humans) cannot see the supernaturals that roam the streets and fight in wars. The shadow masters are a group of supernaturals who have to clear the city of demons.

 

Fifteen-year-old Clary Clay witnesses a murder at the Pandemonium Club committed by three teenagers. The problem is she has no proof. The body has disappeared. Worse still, her friend Simon cannot see the murderers.

 

When Clary returns home, her house is ransacked and her mother is missing. When she is attacked by a demon, she knows she is in trouble. No-one can help her but the shadow masters. She meets Jace - arrogant and attractive with scars that are not only caused by the demons he has fought. He decides to help Clary find her mother. Fighting side by side, they discover they have a strong attraction. The problem is their love is forbidden.

 

I loved this book. The characters are believable, heroic and memorable. The plot is interesting and keeps the reader in suspense. The ending was unexpected. It has me panting for the next book – the second in the The Mortal Instruments series. Definitely a book to curl up with late at night.

 

Ulrike Hill

4/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

How to be a good wife

by Emma Chapman (Picador) ISBN: 978-1-4472-1618-6

 

You’re advised to make time to read this wonderful debut novel by Emma Chapman in one sitting. It is an amazing roller coaster ride with few rest stops along the way and an ending that has you gasping for breath.

 

Marta keeps a clean home and is a good wife following the rules of the book How To Be a Good Wife, her mother-in-law’s wedding present. Her memory doesn’t go back further than the circumstances around meeting and marrying her husband, circumstances that he portrays differently to the outside world.

 

Her son leaving home creates an emotional upset. Martha decides to stop taking the pills that her husband insists she takes to keep her sanity. She wonders whether the presence she starts to feel in her home and the flashbacks she experiences are hallucinations or signs of her mind recovering memories of an earlier past. For different reasons, her husband and son become very concerned about Marta’s increasingly unsettled behaviour.

 

Marta realises that should the memories about her past be true, revealing them would have a great impact on her family. A difficult decision lies ahead.

 

Written in present tense and from a first person perspective this story grabs a strong hold of you and doesn’t let go until the very last word.

 

Josine Overdevest 

4/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

Into The Abyss

by Carol Shaben (Macmillan) ISBN 978-0-230-75803-2

 

This true story is chilling in every way. I felt as though I was sitting with the four men in the snow in front of makeshift fire in the middle of nowhere. Blanketed by clouds and thick trees is the wreckage of an aeroplane.

 

Only four men survived. Paul is a prisoner shackled to his guard, Scott. Paul decides this is the moment to run for it but he reluctantly helps the others who are in trouble around him. Erik, the pilot blames himself. He had been warned against flying for this aeroplane company but jobs were scarce so he took a chance. Larry, the politician is totally blind without his glasses which were lost in the wreckage of the plane and Paul guides him around. The desperate survivors give a cheer when they hear a helicopter. 

 

The book then moves into the lives of each man. They have a reunion every year and find themselves changed people. Paul, the hero who doesn’t want to be a hero, finds life in the outside world too tough. It is fascinating to read how he became a criminal.

 

This is a harrowing journey through the cold, wet and snow, but your get a warm feeling in your insides when each man cares for the other. An excellent, well written story and it’s all true. Don’t miss this gripping tale.

 

Dee Andrew

4.5/5

 

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

The Sealed Letter

by Emma Donoghue (Picador) ISBN 978-1-4472-0598-2

 

This story is indeed a glorious piece of Victoriana.

 

It’s well constructed and it’s also a great work of industry. I could well imagine a married woman who is married to a typical Victorian man, having to have affairs. The nail biting issue of “where” to meet and make love crops up all the time. 

 

Helen, married with two children, never managed to get my sympathy and in the end reveals herself to be selfish and using her friends for her own gain. Her great friend who is unmarried and starting to get women’s independence off the ground is called Fido. In her mannish outfits she is the absolute opposite of her feminine flouncy friend Helen. 

 

The court case at the centre of the story  is a revelation of the times. My heart ached for the mother, Helen, who belonged body and soul to her husband, as did his two children, who were never awarded to her.

 

This is a page turner and full of secrets and lies so true to the Victorian age. The author describes his characters so well that you almost feel you would know them if you bumped into them. It is a long story but well worth it in the end.

 

Dee Andrew

5/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness (Walker Books) ISBN 978-1-4063-3651-1

 

Patrick Ness has created an emotional story of innocence and acceptance.

 

Ten-year-old Conor is struggling to come to terms with his mother’s cancer. One night a monster appears to him, but it is not the monster he is expecting. It is not the monster from his nightmare. The nightmare so terrible, he can’t talk about it.

 

As the monster continues to visit, he tells Conor three stories meant to hold clues to help Conor understand his pain. Instead the stories confuse and anger Conor as the monster tries to convey the complexity of our human emotions. Conor is taken on a powerful journey of acceptance. He is finally forced to face the real monster, the scariest monster of all – the truth.

 

This novel will have you wiping away the tears. The characters are close to home and the loneliness of this little boy is heart breaking. There is a child-like innocence and a gentle humour elegantly woven into this story that makes it endearing.

 

Though A Monster Calls is described as a children’s book, it is so timeless and touching I would recommend it for young and old. The simplicity is masterful. A lovely read.

 

Victoria Malakou

5/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

Death of a Saint

by Lily Herne (Puffin) ISBN: 978-0-14-353007-7

 

Death of a Saint is about teen rebels Lele, Ginger, Ash and Saint otherwise known as the Mall Rats. These teens are not the usual type of heroes. They are dark and rebellious in a city where civilisation no longer exists.

 

The Mall Rats are exiled in post-apocalyptic Cape Town. The Resurrectionists control the city and the Mall Rats are on their most wanted list. The book is filled with zombies otherwise known as Rotters. The strange thing is that the Rotters do not attack the Mall Rats. Obviously, there is a reason for this. There are dark secrets and Lele is the one who knows what the secret is.

 

I found it a difficult book to read. The story jumps from the Lele’s viewpoint to Saint’s which made it difficult for me to engage with the two characters. I did not enjoy the characters’ dialogue that was filled with colloquialism. Reading ‘like this, you know, like it is cool’ becomes irritating.

 

Generally the writing style was good although I found the pace slow. I love the fact that South Africa has a YA series. However, Death of a Saint did not meet my expectations.

 

Ulrike Hill

2/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

If This Is Home

by Stuart Evers (Picador) ISBN 9781447217404

 

After winning the 2011 London Book Award for Ten Stories About Smoking, I found Evers’s novel not entirely successful. The story centres on Mark Wilkinson, alias Joe Novak alias Mr Jones, who is trying to come to terms with his past.

 

Eighteen-year-old Mark was a young man, impatient to leave his English home village to start a new life in New York. He convinced his girlfriend, Bethany to join him. She promised her father to be the carnival queen the night before they were to leave and then something happens.

 

Mark leaves alone and takes on a new personality. With his new friend O’Neil he becomes a successful businessman, selling dreams to the ultra-rich in Las Vegas under yet another name. Slowly he starts to crack down and his former life catches up with him. His memories of his youth and what happened the night before his departure are weaved through the story and in his imagination the ghost from the past becomes real.

 

Evers is a good writer and there is a trace of melancholy in his story, but it did not keep me up all night.

 

Pauline Vijverberg

2.5/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

What to Do When You Want to Give Up

Help for Entrepreneurs in Tough Times by Allon Raiz with Trevor Waller (Pan Macmillan) ISBN: 978 1 920434 32 8

 

Viable small and medium sized enterprises will contribute to a strong South African economy and create much-needed jobs. Entrepreneurship is widely encouraged and support programmes for entrepreneurs abound.  Among the multitude of advisors, Allon Raiz and his Raizcorp rate as one of the best.

 

In my opinion his main differentiators are a genuine interest in the person of the entrepreneur and making a point of asking tough questions that might not be comfortable to hear but will assist in bringing focus and clarity. 

 

The book presents Rachel, an entrepreneur who after struggling with her business for the past three years feels like a ping pong ball: little bounce and empty inside. In a number of conversations Allon takes her through the attributes of being an entrepreneur and running a business.

 

He starts by looking inside and finding her passion and commitment to the business before moving to its economic viability. They critically examine what value she actually offers to which market and how she makes money from this. Rachel finds new energy and charts her way forward to new growth levels for herself and her business. 

 

Written in conversation style, with the more theoretical content captured in separate blocks, the book is an attractive read. The experiences from Allon and people he’s worked with are an inspiration to any struggling entrepreneur.

 

Josine Overdevest

4/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za

The Agony Chef

by Kate Sidley (illustrations by Leigh Forrest) Macmillan ISBN 978177010269 9 R214 



The Agony and the Gastronomy. Have you ever wondered what to cook when your boyfriend’s dumped you? Run over a neighbour’s cat? How to make the perfect snacks for your kid’s first sleep over? 
Maybe you don’t see yourself as much of an amateur chef—and let’s face it, most of us spend more time watching Master Chef or Food Channel to dust the cobwebs from our Salton blenders—then maybe the answer to these culinary niggles is moot. 
But, come on, surely you’ve been curious as to the etiquette in asking for a doggy bag at a posh restaurant, or wanting to know which foods are considered aphrodisiacs? 

If, like me, you’re a lazy eggs-on-toast slob, then The Agony Chef has the answer to these cheeky questions and more—it’s the chic lit of cookbooks. Kate Sidley has created the irreverent and smart Delilah as an agony aunt, ready at the drop of a whisk to provide a recipe for whatever life throws at you. From comfort food to gourmet fare, there’s a recipe to match every mood, environment and occasion. I’ll admit the book hasn’t left my bedside—she’s a really funny writer—but one of these days I’m going to test out something in my narrow, pristine and unused kitchen. 

While I loved Leigh Forrest’s charming illustrations, the book could have done with some colour photos of the prepared dishes as inserts—nothing like a real life pic to get the taste buds watering. Still, it’s the perfect gift for that annoying foodie friend who has every recipe book from Julia Child to Jamie Oliver. When she’s not indulging her alter ego, Kate Sidley whips up a weekly column for the Sunday Times and other fun features for magazines. 

PS: Incidentally, I did know the answer to ‘What to cook when your boyfriend’s dumped you?’ His bunny. Duh. 

Faith Parker
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

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Tell The Wolves I'm Home

by Carol Rifka Brunt (Pan MacMillan) R195 ISBN: 9781447202134

 

Sibling rivalry, the taboo around AIDS in the eighties, and a teenager’s crush are central themes in Brunt’s first novel.

 

The famous painter Finn Weiss made a portrait of his nieces, June and Greta during the last few months before he died. June was very close to her uncle and is constantly clashing with her sister Greta. After the funeral, Finn’s partner, Toby writes June a note. He says that she is probably the only person who misses Finn as much as he does. Toby was denied contact with the family by June’s mother who kept her brother’s lover a secret. She accused Toby of being the cause of her brother’s death. 

 

The note confuses June, but she feels Toby is the only one who understands her. She receives a message with a gift from Finn and sets about looking after Toby. Why has he been so caring of her? And what happens to the painting?

 

It is the loneliness of these two grief-stricken people that moved me. I enjoyed reading this book.

 

Pauline Vijverberg

3/5

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, email news@writerswrite.co.za