The Long Earth

by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (Doubleday) ISBN 978-0-857-52009-8

 

This is the most well written book I have ever read.

 

That aside, the plot is not novel and its ideas are old. But who cares? At the pace you will be turning pages in this book you won’t have time to have long thoughts like those. This book grips you from page one and drags you through its story like a hyperactive child desperate to show off a new toy.

 

The Long Earth is your classic multi-dimensional science fiction story. Many versions of earth have suddenly appeared none of them seem to have any human life on them. Why is this? Humanity sets out to find out the answer to these questions. The story as I say is rehashed and feels a bit like a Frank Herbert story mixed with Douglas Adams’ humour. In this way I guess it is a novel idea in bringing the two styles together.

 

The important thing is, unlike so much fantasy, I felt for the characters. I liked and hated them. The dialogue was exceptional. It was not just a romp through a well imagined world. The authors made it feel as if I were the main character. And that counts for more than pretty scenery that you have to imagine anyway.

 

Christopher Dean

5.5/5

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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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Divergent

by Veronica Roth (HarperCollins) R98, 00 ISBN9780007420421 


Beatrice is 16. Born into a world with five factions, it is time for her to decide where she belongs. She turns her back on her world. She feels as if she is not the same as her parents and her brother, Caleb. Or is she? She does not feel as if she belongs anywhere. 

Known as Tris in this new world, her choice takes her on a brutal journey, filled with violence and the discovery that nothing is as it seems. She falls in love with Four, the instructor who seems to take her under his wing. She discovers how brave she really is and makes new friends and new enemies. 

Roth writes well. The book is interesting. It is a good read. But it lacks the magic that sets it apart. It feels hollow to me, although I am not sure how I would improve it. A good enough Young Adult Dystopian read.   

Amanda Patterson
3/5

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Phantom

by Jo Nesbo (Harvill Secker) ISBN: 9781846555220

 

Harry Hole returns from Hong Kong to investigate a murder which is already considered solved. This leads him to investigate the underground world of drugs.

 

Although Phantom is well plotted and the story is deftly weaved together, I don’t think the author managed to pull off the dual narrative in the book. The large sections of monologues were tedious, at best.

 

Being a translated text I tried not to be too critical on the use of English. I was left wondering whether the author’s writing style was “telling rather than showing” or whether the writing style was something that was lost in translation from the original text.

 

The success of The Snowman and The Leopard may have carried this book. For someone who did not read the previous books I found the story and plot solid but the use of English and the writing style ruined the experience for me.

 

Michele van Eck

2.5/5

 

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Between a Mother and her Child

by Elizabeth Noble (Penguin) ISBN: 9780718155377 R195 



Maggie & Bill have a good life. Wealthy, privileged, and still in love after 20 years, their marriage is almost perfect. Isn’t it? 
Then Jake, their eldest son, dies. Maggie sacrificed her career as an Australian Olympic swimmer for Bill when she became pregnant. She moved to London with him and settled into her new role. She never regretted it. But now, after their beautiful son’s death, what does it all mean? 

Two years later, their daughter, Aly continues to achieve. Stan is a special needs child, and Maggie and Bill deal with that too. But the loss exposes cracks in their relationships. Tiny fissures that weren’t noticeable before. But the new emotions push through relentlessly, and change whatever is left of those bonds as well. 

Maggie asks Bill to leave. He copes by talking, and doing. She wants to be left alone. Olivia, Maggie’s sister, arrives from Australia for Christmas, and a slow healing process takes shape.  Elizabeth Noble has tackled a difficult subject. She dissects the layers of grief through a parent’s worst nightmare - the death of a child. There is a truth in her writing and you will feel heartbroken, and then hopeful, after reading this novel. 

Amanda Patterson
4/5

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A Bosman Companion

by Craig Mackenzie & Tim Sandham (Human & Rosseau) ISBN 9780798152532

 

Herman Charles Bosman is one of South Africa’s best known authors and story tellers. His creation Oom Schalk Lourens, an old Boer farmer, is undoubtedly one of the best loved characters in South African literature.

 

A Bosman Companion covers all aspects of Bosman’s life and work in short, informative, alphabetically arranged entries.

 

This alphabet of Bosman’s life and times covers even the unseen drawings that he did which are so precious. Personal memories of how when he was late for Jeppe School, he told the teacher he had to chop wood first thing every morning.  Most of the boys came from middle class homes and laughed at his explanation. No matter where he was he was always the odd man out and yet he did so well in life.

 

However there is more than just Bosman here. The dictionary of South African words made me remember all sorts of sayings when I was growing up in the Free State. What a lot of hard work went into this wonderful book, along with insight into the character and great respect and love for his memory.

 

This should be in every Bosman collection. Craig MacKenzie edited 10 volumes of Bosman’s stories amongst many other works, and he and Tim Sandham a teacher, a TV writer a part time playwright, are the authors of this book.

 

Dee Andrew

5/5

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Fallen in Love

by Lauren Kate (Random House) ISBN: 978-0-857-53164-3

 

Fallen in Love is a glimpse into the emotions of the characters who are part of Daniel and Luce’s cursed love story.

 

Readers of the Lauren Kate trilogy will know the characters. Miles, Shelby, Arian and Roland have walked alongside Luce and Daniel’s doomed love. The setting in all the stories takes place in medieval England on Valentine’s Day.

 

An Announcer dumps Miles and Shelby in medieval England. Out of place and out of sorts, they have to depend on each other. In their story snapshot, they find that there is an attraction growing between them.

Arian and Roland land up in medieval England as well but find that love is not dependable and can be torture; rather like Daniel and Luce’s love.

Finally, Daniel and Luce come face to face in medieval England. Not surprising, their reincarnated visit shows that their love is strong and everlasting.

 

The stories will make no sense if readers have not read the books from the Fallen series. This book feels like a filler – meant to satisfy the gap before the big meal. It fails dismally and detracts from Daniel and Luce’s tragic love story.

 

I felt lost and disappointed. I wanted to know how Luce would end the curse. Not worth the effort. Perhaps Kate’s next book Rapture will end the ‘torment’.

 

Ulrike Hill

2/5

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Sarah House

by Ifeanyi Ajaegbo (Picador Africa) ISBN 978-1-77010-219-4

 

 What needs to be mentioned, primarily, is that this book, which has a female protagonist, was written by a male author. 

 

He highlights the abuse of women who are used only as commodities to be bought and sold: young girls become sex slaves of pimps, thugs and brothel owners. Thumbs up to him for capturing the essence of the how a woman in this situation would feel.

 

This is also an expose of criminal activities concerning organ transplants. People are used in any way possible to make money, even by so-called respectable politicians.

 

The protagonist is Nita, a young girl from a Nigerian village whose boyfriend promised her a work opportunity in the city. She wakes up in a locked room with other girls and has no idea where she is or what has happened. We are taken on her often harrowing journey that gains momentum compelling the reader to discover what happens to her.

 

The book is very readable and although a first novel, it is exceptionally well written with good insights into the subject.

 

Dawn Blankfield 

4/5

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Entanglement

by Steven Boykey Sidley (Picador Africa) ISBN: 9781770102149

 

Words are magic. Consider this brilliant title: Entanglement. It means a complicated or compromising relationship and in science, particles that interact with each other, regardless of the distance between them.

 

What a pity that the author has only lightly touched on the meaning and has not used its magic. The only page in the book I liked, was the last one, when he explains the word entanglement.

 

Jared Borowitz is a science professor with no respect for the fools in the world. His mentor is dying and his ex-wife is gay. Sounds interesting, but despite Kevin Bloom’s and Rian Malan’s raving words on the cover, I could not find respect for Steven Boykey Sidley.

 

His debut is pretentious. The protagonist thinks, wonders and imagines too much on every page and the endless summaries and explanations are tedious. Sentences sometimes take up to 9 lines, with words that I have to look up in a dictionary.

 

Occasionally there is good writing, the dialogues flow: then I see what the author was trying to achieve, but most of the time, he is so self-absorbed and has so little respect for his reader, that I think Sidley should stick to whiskey-fuelled dinner party debates or polish his writing skills and give his characters more depth.

 

Pauline Vijverberg

1/5

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