All posts by suidi

Hotel Silence

By Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir (translated by Brian FitzGibbon)

I found this book compelling in a beautifully slow, artful way. Author Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir managed to keep me entranced. This was nothing like the fast-paced thrillers I usually find myself reading.  Instead, it was a gentle story about a 49-year-old Icelandic man, Jónas, who decides it is time to end his life. He sees no point in carrying on with what he now regards as a pointless existence. To spare his daughter (who he has recently discovered is not his biological daughter) having to deal with his suicide, he travels to an unnamed country, now at truce, but bearing the severe scars of prolonged warfare. I was hugely disappointed when he left Iceland as I had wanted to read this book because of where I thought it was set. (I adored Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, and have been after books set in Iceland ever since!) However, the new country proves the perfect destination for Jonas. The desperate lives of the survivors who hadn’t fled the war provide a stark contrast to Jonas’ own, and act as a catalyst for him to re-assess. I loved the writing style, (this was a great English translation); it was terse without being staccato, the author not wasting words on lyrical descriptions. I had to use my imagination to get into the heart and soul of the characters and their surroundings because not too much detail was divulged. And when an author inspires me to do that, he or she has written a great book in my opinion.

Book blurb:

JÓNAS FEELS LIKE HIS LIFE IS OVER.

His wife has left him, his mother is slipping deeper into dementia, and his daughter is no longer who he thought. So he comes up with a foolproof plan: to buy a one-way ticket to a chaotic, war-ravaged country and put an end to it all.

But on arriving at Hotel Silence, he finds his plans – and his anonymity – begin to dissolve under the foreign sun. Now there are other things that need his attention, like the crumbling hotel itself, the staff who run it, and his unusual fellow guests. And soon it becomes clear that Jónas must decide whether he really wants to leave it all behind; or give life a second chance, albeit down a most unexpected path…

Advertisements

Educated

By Tara Westover

Wow, what an incredible read! I was mesmerised by Tara Westover’s story and absolutely devoured this book. Tara is an amazing young woman who emerged from an uneducated, physically hard and often abusive childhood not as a damaged victim, but as an educated doctor of history with a strong sense of who she is.

Tara grew up in Idaho, the youngest of seven children of survivalist Mormon parents who didn’t trust doctors, the schooling system or the government (called the Illuminati by her father). Home schooling was abandoned after a vague attempt and Tara ends up working for her fundamentalist father in his junkyard. He is by turns cruel, tender, abusive and paranoid. Apart from her demanding and often dangerous job, Tara helps her mother with her herbalism and packs peaches for their post-apocalypse bunker.  One of her brothers becomes deeply disturbed, violent and abusive, causing Tara deep emotional scars, guilt and self-doubt. At 17, she decides to go to college, against her parent’s wishes and beliefs. There she discovers learning – and starts to explore a world she never knew existed. So successful is she that she’s accepted on a short programme to study at Cambridge, where it becomes even more obvious to her how much she doesn’t know and how distorted her family’s beliefs have made her thinking.  Her first relationship fails as she cannot bring herself to tell Nick about her family. How could she admit that when her father is seriously injured in a junkyard accident that hospital is never an option, and that he is treated at home by his mother? Instead of giving in to her parents and her background, Tara decides to take control of her life by becoming educated and questioning everything she’d been taught to believe. At the time of writing, she had been awarded a PhD in history from Cambridge.

This book is beautifully written and totally compelling. A must read.

Book blurb:

An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

Look for me

By Lisa Gardner

This is the first book I’ve read by Lisa Gardner and while it’s part of a series, it read fine as a standalone. A young girl’s entire family has been killed, and she is now missing – together with the family dogs. Is she a murderer on the run or is she running scared? The shockingly violent opening gripped me right from the start, and set the scene for a story about a number of victims: of murder, neglect, abuse and enslavement. It features Sergeant Detective DD Warren, a no-nonsense cop who loves her job – even though it takes her away from her husband and her beloved five-year-old son. There’s a wonderful contrast throughout this book between what’s going on in DD’s world as a policewoman (a massacre, a missing girl, foster care abuse) and in that of her son – who’s choosing his new dog. I really enjoyed DD – her witty observations, her cynicism, her passion and her relationship with those around her. When Flora Dane, a former victim who now devotes her life to helping other victims, becomes involved in the case it adds another dimension – and another string – to the investigation. I particularly enjoyed the obvious respect yet tension that played out between Flora and DD. Worth a read if you enjoy thrillers, but it may make more sense to start with the first book of the series!

Book blurb:

Detective DD Warren and Flora Dane are in a race against time to save a young girl’s life – or bring her to justice.

A family home has become a crime scene. Five people are involved: four of them have been savagely murdered; one – a sixteen-year-old girl – is missing.

Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister?

Detective D. D. Warren is on the case, as is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane.

Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.

 

Getting it Write: Common sense copywriting for your business

By Marilyn Messik

It’s so refreshing to read a guide/ ‘how to’ book that keeps you entertained and highly amused throughout. This is exactly what Marilyn Messik manages in Getting it Write: Common sense copywriting for your business. This is an extremely readable, concise guide to a variety of marketing-type writing skills for small- to medium-sized businesses. It’s packed full of tips, suggestions and downright common sense for both those wanting to try their own hand at writing and those wanting to employ professionals to do it for them. It brims over with humour, making it enormous fun and very quick to read. As the cover says, it’s not so much a ‘How to’ book, more of a ‘Why not look at it this way?’

The book is certainly not only about writing and I loved its sheer scope. It spans a host of subjects, ranging from body language, planning and EQ to advice about handling presentations and publishing books. The author’s wonderful humour is pervasive, and some of her headings are screamingly funny. As someone who’s been in the copywriting business for more years than I like to admit I can really recommend this – both as a good read and as one packed full of ideas for thinking about how you market your business.

Book blurb:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a book on Writing for your Business could guide you gently but firmly down the path to security, success, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Unfortunately, life’s no fairy-tale, so I wouldn’t lay bets on the pot.
Fact is, there’s never an approach to anything that suits everyone and writing’s no exception. What works splendidly for someone else, might not tick your boxes. Which is why, in this book, you’ll find no absolute rights, wrongs or rules, just plenty of options, opinions and suggestions including such weighty matters as:

  • ​Not Murdering your Message
  • ​Marketing Hits & Myths
  • ​Creating Killer Copy Lines
  • Public Speaking or Root Canal Treatment?

​I hope some of what I’ve put together will nudge you to approach things from new angles, encourage you to trust your own instincts, help avoid unpleasant pitfalls and give you some ideas on how to make words work harder for you.

 

The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in Power and Out of Prison

By Jacques Pauw

This was an excellent, extremely depressing overview of the sheer scale of corruption that invades this country from the top down. Author Jacques Pauw writes about the complex networks of criminality and sleazy webs of dishonesty with courage and clarity. A must-read, but be prepared to be devastated by just how widespread and deep the corruption, how totally disinterested Zuma and his cronies are in the country and its citizens, and the ease with which our president and his keepers have managed to run the country as if it were their private domain. Shocking and brilliant.

Book blurb:

Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw exposes the darkest secret at the heart of Jacob Zuma’s compromised government: a cancerous cabal that eliminates the president’s enemies and purges the law-enforcement agencies of good men and women. As Zuma fights for his political life following the 2017 Gupta emails leak, this cabal – the president’s keepers – ensures that after years of ruinous rule, he remains in power and out of prison. But is Zuma the puppet master, or their puppet? Journey with Pauw as he explores the shadow mafia state. From KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape to the corridors of power in Pretoria and Johannesburg – and even to clandestine meetings in Russia. It’s a trail of lies and spies, cronies, cash and kingmakers as Pauw prises open the web of deceit that surrounds the fourth president of the democratic era.

 

The Reunion

By Samantha Hayes

This was a really great read, with twists and turns aplenty. Samantha Hayes introduces us to a host of believable (though not necessarily pleasant) characters who come together for a reunion. The reason? Claire is worried about her father, who has Alzheimer’s, and believes a gathering of old friends and family – most of whom adored him – would reawaken his memories. Instead, the reunion takes a dark turn as first Claire faces an unnerving work experience and then a young teen goes missing – in a manner eerily similar to the disappearance of Claire’s own sister, Lenni, many years before. Her sister had never been found. Would Rain, the latest teenager to go missing, be found in time? The story is intriguing, compelling, surprising and full of secrets and lies. Samantha Hayes gives us little clues throughout, but not enough to make the outcome predictable. A solid 4-star read recommended for lovers of psychological thrillers.

Book Blurb:

They were all there the day your sister went missing…Who is lying? Who is next?

Then–In charge of her little sister at the beach, Claire allowed Eleanor to walk to the shop alone to buy an ice cream. Placing a coin into her hand, Claire told her to be quick, knowing how much she wanted the freedom. Eleanor never came back.

Now–The time has finally come to sell the family farm and Claire is organising a reunion of her dearest friends, the same friends who were present the day her sister went missing.

When another girl disappears, long-buried secrets begin to surface. One of the group hides the darkest secret of them all…

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

By Heather Morris

Author Heather Morris uses such a light touch to tell the harrowing tale of the prisoner of Auschwitz who became the tattooist. Despite the sheer horror of the setting, this is ultimately an uplifting story about love, survival and triumph. She came to know the tattooist, born Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg, over the course of three years, and this book is based on his story. In the book, he is a truly remarkable human being. Viktor Frankl-like, he absolutely refuses to be a victim and chooses instead to survive. Lale, who has to tattoo numbers onto the arms of all newcomers to the camps (those who are not sent immediately to the gas chambers), is smitten by one of the girls he has to ink. Then, against the awful backdrop of death, torture and deprivation, the love story between Lale and Gita unfolds. Beautifully written, disturbing yet compelling.

To read more about Lale, and this book, visit http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

Publisher’s summary:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story

 

On the Bright Side, The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

By Hendrik Groen

What a total delight. I hadn’t read the first book in this series, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, so wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for. What I didn’t expect was this screamingly funny, desperately sad and ultimately incredibly uplifting read. Hendrik’s short daily diary musings are often hilarious as he describes his life, what’s happening in the world around him, his friends and other occupants of the retirement home. He gives real insight into the indignities of old age – as well as the issue of care for the elderly. Hendrik and his friends are all in their eighties and most rely on something (a cane; a wheelchair) to get around. They are, however, determined to enjoy life rather than sit around complaining or being spiteful and judgemental, as are many of their fellow residents. Instead, they organise outings and get involved in running the home. They’re great fun, a joy to meet and just a little subversive. Adding a measure of mystique is the fact that no-one seems to know who penned these books. Whoever it is, I really hope there’s another in the pipeline!

Book blurb:

The new diary from one of literature’s most beloved octogenarians.

On The Bright Side picks up where The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen left off, at the care home of the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club where Hendrik and his friends are determined to enjoy their autumn years full of optimism. Written with his characteristic charm and humour  Hendrik proves, yet again, that age is simply a number.

Blood Moon

By Alexandra Sokoloff

Another cracker of a novel from Alexandra Sokoloff. I was full of trepidation as I set out to read the second in her Huntress FBI series.  I simply adored her first, Huntress Moon. Could book two even come close to it? Boy oh boy did this live up to the first!  Blood Moon is another suspenseful, all-consuming, gripping story that kept me totally intrigued and entertained. I found the profiling insights fascinating – FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is a former FBI profiler, and again ropes in his old mentor to help solve this new case. I was also drawn in by the continuing fascination Roarke has for the murderess he’s pursuing (which seems to be mutual) and by the increasingly urgent hunt for yet another serial killer who’s bound to wreak havoc when the moon becomes full – just days away.  Alexandra Sokoloff continues to build her wonderful characters, such as the slightly comic forensics twosome who work so seamlessly together. Epps and Singh, on Roarke’s team, although not always centre-stage, are finely wrought – I really felt as though I was coming to understand them and could start to predict how they would behave.

Book blurb:

Book II in the Thriller Award-nominated Huntress/FBI series

Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace.

The haunted child who was the only surviving victim of his rampage is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own, and Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt for her, despite his conflicted sympathies for her history and motives.

But when his search for her unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman Roarke seeks – and wants – may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath.

It is highly recommended that you read Book 1 of the series, Huntress Moon, first.

Deadly Intent

By Sheryl Browne

Deadly Intent really comes into its own during the second half  when author Sheryl Browne drags us along on a horrendous journey, in a claustrophobic, confined space, that at any moment could go horribly wrong. She delves into the dynamics of relationships: an estranged couple, pushed apart by tragedy; a ‘friendship’ based on blackmail, manipulation and distrust; and the frightening interactions between a drugged up psychopath and his prisoners. She brings all these interactions alive which made me feel I was really there. She does dialogue so well and manages to sustain the suspense. I continue to adore DI Matthew Adams, a decent, uncomplicated policeman who’s caring and empathetic. I’m pleased Sheryl didn’t feel it necessary for him to have a huge major flaw. Her other characters, however, are much more complex and I hated it when I actually started rooting for one of the ‘baddies’!  A great read if, like me, you enjoy psychological thrillers. Recommended.

Book blurb:

Tormented to the edge of sanity … 
Just when DI Matthew Adams thinks he’s left the past behind him, it comes back to haunt him once again; this time in the form of the Conner family.
Like Matthew, the Conners have lost a child in tragic circumstances – and they’ve also found themselves in the hands of one of the most depraved criminals to walk the streets: ‘Dead-eyed’ Charlie Roberts, a drug addicted low-life with a penchant for extreme violence.
Matthew’s greatest affinity lies with Daniel Conner, the brooding father who still blames himself for his youngest child’s death. But when Daniel’s wife and daughter are tortured and tormented by Roberts, can Matthew prevent him from completely ruining his own life for an act of revenge particularly when, once upon a time, that’s exactly what Matthew would have done too?