Monthly Archives: September 2016

BOOK REVIEW – Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

nina-is-not-okI know this has been classified as Young Adult reading, but it should also be read by all parents as a cautionary tale! It should also be prescribed reading for all high school learners – perhaps in a slightly watered-down form (teachers tend to get slightly embarassed).
Shappi Khorsandi doesn’t hold back in this bare-all, brutally honest telling of the downward spiral of Nina, a 17-year-old girl on the brink of complete and utter disaster. It’s all here … drink, drugs, sex, friends, back-stabbing friends, self-esteem and lack thereof, parental issues, peer pressure, boyfriends. I see you there, nodding along and thinking “blah, blah, yadda, yadda, heard it all before’ … but you haven’t; not this way.
Khorsandi has made it one hundred percent real, and any parent reading this should quake with fear!
And the scariest thing? Nina isn’t actually a bad girl! Nope, she isn’t. She’s a really sweet, big sister who just can’t cope with the fact that her dad (an alcoholic – it’s hereditary you know) died a few years ago, her mom remarried, she’s not keen on her stuffed shirt of a step-dad or that her mom’s become a different person now that she’s married him, and her one true love is now on the other side of the world – and is now in love with someone else. But she adores her little sister, Katie and will go out of her way to protect her, and the image Katie has of her bit sister.
And doesn’t everyone else drink anyway? How else do you have a good time when you’re 17 and you’re partying your life away? Well yes, go on and justify it all you like (as teens are wont to do), but everyone else isn’t being thrown out of nightclubs for performing lurid sex acts on others, arriving home in a taxi with no clue of how you got there, screwing strangers in the park just so they’ll buy you a drink, and drunk messaging the love of one’s life (yes, the one who now loves someone else) an untold number of times a night (regardless of the fact that he still hasn’t replied after the last untold number of nights that you did this)!
So it would seem that no, Nina is not OK.
Compile a collage of all your teenage angst and embarassments. Now compound that a hundred fold once you’ve added the complication of an alcoholic haze that allows you to misbehave so diabolically, that once your hangover mist lifts, you want to disappear into its loving embrace once again, if only to forget the truly cringe-worthy things you’re reading about yourself, splashed for all the world to see on social media.
This is Nina’s reality, played over and over, again and again. And in a way, is she grateful to social media for answering her questions about what she gets up to when the liquor takes over and all becomes a blur?
This is an extremely powerful commentary on an all too common scourge of society – after all, look around you, alcohol is so very easily and readily available. It’s thought provoking, and will hopefully encourage much-needed dialogue.
Like driving past a bad accident, where you know you shouldn’t look, but you just can’t tear yourself away, this is one of those books that begs attention. As much as you feel like you’re imposing on Nina’s life, you want to keep reading to see how much worse it’s going to get … while at the same time, you’re silently cheering her on to pull herself together and get through this truly horrendous phase of her life.
I loved this book, as much as it horrified and terrified me, it has to be read. So thank you to THE Book Club on Facebook for bringing it to my attention, and to NetGalley and Ebury Press for sending me the ARC in return for my honest review.

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BOOK CONFESSIONS

I was tagged by the wonderful Pamela Power (thanks for the homework Pamela!). You can see her book confessions on her Vlog – Between the Sheets with Pamela, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkRuUYkhypo#action=share

1. Have you ever damaged a book?

Not that I can recall. I would feel absolutely awful if I did! Books are precious – no really! And in South Africa especially, where literacy is something we take for granted. Even more so if we buy books by international authors – have you seen the exchange rate!!! Those books should be wrapped in bubble wrap, we pay so much for them. They’re worth every cent though.

  1. Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

No!! We used to have such issues with this at one of the book clubs I used to be a member of. I’m quite horrified at how casual people are with items that don’t belong to them. Other members had absolutely no qualms about returning books with coffee mug stains all over them, and various other stains that I wouldn’t want to get into discussions about!

  1. How long does it take you to read a book?

It all depends. I do have quite a fondness for psychological thrillers and those that are well written can grip you from the first paragraph. Books like that can take just hours to complete! Others can take a day or two. And some can take a bit longer, depending on how much life gets in the way.

  1. Books you haven’t finished?

Too many to mention or name. Life’s too short to waste on books that aren’t the right fit for you. That doesn’t mean they’re not good books, or that they’re badly written; just that they’re not suited to you. Not every reader is a good match to every book, and I’ve learnt that’s okay.

  1. Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?

The 50 Shades books. I plodded through the first one feeling like I was being forced to read a setwork. I finished it, started the second one, read a couple of chapters and then told myself I didn’t need to do this

  1. Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

I can’t actually think of one! And if there was one, I’d still tell people, just to see their reactio

  1. How many books do you own?

A LOT!! And does my Kindle also count?! Oh my goodness – I have a very, very long TBR list!!

my-bookshelf-14-09-16

Shopping for a new bookshelf!

  1. Are you a fast/slow reader?

I’m a fast reader, and I generally hate ‘skimming’ over pages. I like to read every single word!

  1. Do you like to buddy read?

Not really, although I do love discussing books with other people, especially books that we’ve both enjoyed. There’s nothing worse than absolutely loving a book, and discovering that the other person thought it was just ‘meh

  1. Do you read better in your head/out loud?

Definitely in my head! Although when I was much younger, and planning to be a great actress, I did love acting out and performing all the ‘roles’!  *blushes*

  1. If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

That’s like asking me which one is my favourite child!!! I think, possibly The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin. It has a little bit of everything in it – empathy, compassion, such incredible humour and depth … and it’s Irish! I love all things Irish.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

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BOOK REVIEW – The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

the-devils-workSophie Greenwood has decided that the time is right to return to work after taking time off to be a full-time mom to 4-year old Daisy. She’s found her dream job at Jackdaw Publishing (I even found the name a bit sinister), but on day one, she has an unnerving experience. If she thinks that it’s just an isolated incident, she’s sorely mistaken, and so begins a well-constructed meandering tale in which Sophie (and the reader) is led further and further into a frightening and confusing maze of deceit that trails back further than she could have imagined.

Set in the offices of a publishing company (which in itself will intrigue any avid reader), the insular workplace environment will be familiar to anyone who’s ever worked closely with a team of colleagues. The back-biting, the wrong-footing, the gossiping … it’s all there, magnified to the maximum levels! And when you’re the ‘new girl’ you feel like everyone’s out to get you, except this time, maybe someone really is!

As the book alternates between Sophie’s, increasingly fragmenting current life, and her very obviously complex past, we realise that something is most definitely off-balance in Sophie’s world. How is she going to reconcile with her past so that she has any chance of having any type of future, let alone a happy one?

I’m sure Mark Edwards must have whiplash from the razor-sharp twists and turns he incorporates into every single one of his acclaimed psychological thrillers. This one certainly doesn’t miss the mark. There’s a reason why he has a loyal following, which I’m sure is about to increase in numbers with this new addition.

If you’re a lover of plot-twists a-plenty, surprises galore, and a good game of guessing whodunit then you’ve come to the right place. This book delivers all of these, and then some! I can highly recommend it, but maybe not at night, or when you’re home alone!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for my advance copy.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

The Woman Next DoorHortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours in the affluent (fictitious) Cape Town suburb of Katterjan Estates. They’re both getting on in years, struggling to deal with their past successful careers that they can no longer use to define who they are, and using the Estate committee meetings as the battleground for their intense dislike for each other.

Both are embittered by the deep disappointments that life has dealt them: marriages that weren’t what they anticipated; for Hortensia, the lack of children, and for Marion, four children and the undeniable realisation that she has failed dismally at motherhood. They are unable to leave past hurts behind them. Marion cannot get over the fact that Hortensia is living in the perfect house that she designed in the heyday of her architectural prowess, while she, Marion is living next-door to her. But what irks her the most is that Hortensia dared to come and live in Marion’s neighbourhood, snubbed her when she first arrived, and still has the nerve to behave as if she’s as good, if not better, than all of those who’ve lived there much longer than she has, when she’s not even white!

In post-Apartheid South Africa, this is really the crux of the feud between these two women. Because Marion is a racist snob, and will go out of her way to point out to anyone who will listen that when the fine balance of things gets tilted, the entire world can spin off its axis. She therefore feels that it’s her civic duty to maintain order in her little empire of Katterjan Estates. If that means waging war with Hortensia then she’s fully prepared to take her on.

However, she doesn’t quite reckon on someone who’s just as bolshie as she is! And both of them also forget that the universe has a funny habit of throwing us curveballs when we least expect them. I couldn’t help wondering what Hortensia and Marion would have been like had they lived in another place and time. What would their relationship have been like? This question continues to intrigues me, and I can’t help imagining them quite differently, almost in an alternate universe!

This is an intricate, profound novel about the complexities of growing old and the desperate need to cling to long-held beliefs and philosophies, even when hit by the rising dread that these might be wrong. It delves into how we’re moulded by family, country and political sublimation, despite our adamant claims that we’re free-thinkers.

Omotoso’s writing is intense, dignified, moving and provocative, as are her characters. She will challenge you to think and to question; to look deep inside yourself and examine your interactions and relationships with those close to you, as well as your reactions to those who are different from you.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I highly recommend this book!

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