Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

 

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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.

99 Red Balloons

By Elisabeth Carpenter

I loved this psychological thriller. 99 Red Balloons is a clever, well-written debut novel that caught me up right from the very beginning. When asked to describe her novel in one sentence (by author/blogger Sam Carrington), author Elisabeth Carpenter says, ‘two girls go missing, decades apart, and family secrets are slowly revealed’. The story gallops effortlessly along with a large cast of very believable characters and great dialogue. Elisabeth skilfully blends a number of different threads, each told from a different point of view. She led me totally astray – cleverly misleading me for most of the story. It’s a great ride – a skilful, suspenseful roller coaster of a book which left me breathless. Highly recommended if this is your genre.

Book blurb:

Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

The Praying Nun

By Michael Smorenburg

The Praying Nun is a novella based on a horrendous part of the history of the Cape coast – the slave trade. Part one describes Michael Smorenburg, the author, and his wonderfully colourful mate, Jacques, diving a wreck off Clifton beach.  The authorities think it is the wreck of a coal barge and the divers think it’s a ship laden with gold bullion. It turns out to be that of a slave ship which ran aground in the late 1700s en route from Mozambique to Brazil. The author becomes obsessed with what looks like a giant tooth sticking out of the ancient wreckage. I absolutely loved the first half of the book – Smorenburg made me taste the salt, feel that freezing sea and imagine I was right there under water. I was totally caught up in the excitement of the treasure hunt.

Part two is a dramatisation of the true story of the voyage and shipwreck of the São José de Afrika, which was carrying hundreds of slaves, in 1794; a tale of horror and brutality, combined with human courage. I think I would have preferred the two halves of this book to have been intertwined, so that the reader was taken from the present to the past and back again. I found it a little jarring – almost like reading two short stories. Despite this reservation, I found The Praying Nun really fascinating, and enjoyed watching YouTube videos about the wreck’s subsequent salvage by an international research partnership. The artefacts from the sunken slave ship now reside in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the US.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhJUEOQzYDg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgj9KYtyanA

Book blurb:

The Praying Nun – A Slave Shipwreck Saga

A TRUE STORY OF DISCOVERY AND EXCAVATION, 1985
A LOVE STORY OF TERROR AND TRAGEDY, 1794

1794—Naked and shackled, Chikunda, a newly wedded man who cannot hold his tongue is heaved aboard the slaver São José off the coast of Mozambique, bound for the slave markets of Brazil.
Once below decks, down in the stinking holds with 400 naked captives, he instinctively knows that it will all be over… Faith, his new bride, will be lost to him.
Chikunda desperately needs a plan… and Chikunda always has a plan.
But on this voyage, fate has other plans.

 

The Walls

By Hollie Overton

Wow! I’ve just finished Hollie Overton’s The Walls and it’s a complete cracker. It kept me totally enthralled the entire way through. Kristy’s grim work environment – as a prison public relations officer she spends long hours dealing with death row matters – contrasts with her happy home life.  She’s a single mum who lives with her teenage son whom she adores and her sickly dad who’s always been there for her.  Life looks set to become even better when she meets charming, gorgeous Lance. Now she has it all. Or does she? The suspense is relentless as this book hurtles towards the inevitable, and challenges its readers with tough questions about murder and the death sentence. This is not for the faint-hearted – the description of the lead-up to execution by lethal injection in Texas, where the death sentence still applies, was very tough.  But despite the grimness, the book is full of wonderful humanity and is by no means depressing. In many ways it’s uplifting.  And the ending – which I absolutely didn’t see coming – was just totally, totally satisfying.

Book blurb:

What if murder is your only way out?

Single mom Kristy Tucker works as a press agent for the Texas Department of Corrections handling everything on death row from inmate interviews, to chronicling the last moments during an execution. Her job exposes Kristy to the worst of humanity and it’s one that’s beginning to take its toll.

So when Kristy meets Lance Dobson, her son’s martial arts instructor, she believes she’s finally found her happy ending. She’s wrong.

Kristy soon discovers that Lance is a monster. Forced to endure his verbal and physical abuse, Kristy is serving her own life sentence . . . unless she’s willing to take matters into her own hands. Perfectly poised to exploit the criminal justice system she knows so well, Kristy sets out to get rid of Lance – permanently.

Beneath the Surface

By Sibel Hodge

This is a stylish thriller that I really, really enjoyed. It’s well-written, pacey and packed with great characters. Just out of a traumatic relationship, Holly has returned to her hometown and a dead-end job. She’s drinking too much and wallowing in the past. And then she finds a cause.  Suddenly she’s pitted against a mighty pharmaceutical company in a David and Goliath-type battle – and her life, and those of her loved ones, are under threat. Beneath the Surface is an intelligent, wonderful read with several surprises.  Sibel Hodge really has a knack of creating characters that stay with you, no matter how small a part they play.  I can’t wait to read more of her books.

Book blurb:

Dean Hudson didn’t look evil…so what could drive an ordinary boy to kill?

When the teenage son of Holly Gold’s school friend brutally murders his parents before killing himself, her sleepy home town is rocked by the sudden tragedy.

Appalled, Holly investigates. What could have caused the happy-go-lucky boy she remembers to commit such a heinous crime? When another teen commits suicide, she uncovers a horrifying link between the recent deaths and a dark conspiracy to hide the truth.

But someone doesn’t want Holly asking questions and, as she hunts for evidence to prove her theory, she’s dragged into a nightmare that threatens her life and her sanity. Then tragedy strikes again—and this time it’s closer to home…

Beneath the Surface is a gripping psychological suspense-thriller from the bestselling author of Duplicity, Look Behind You and Where the Memories Lie.

The Summer Son

By Craig Lancaster

I cannot possibly do justice to this astounding book. Rich and insightful, it’s the beautiful yet tough story of a man reconnecting with his father, a complicated and difficult man. In the process, he’s working his way back into his own disintegrating marriage. It’s in a league of its own and I absolutely loved it. The Summer Son is not for those wanting a fast-paced, easy read. This is a tale that Lancaster unfolds gradually in his perfect prose. I didn’t want it to end and found the personal essay about Lancaster’s own father at the end added immensely to the read. Highly recommended – it’s a stunner.

Book blurb:

Mitch Quillen’s marriage and career are failing, and his relationship with his father has been a disaster for decades. Approaching forty, Mitch doesn’t want to become a middle-aged statistic. When his estranged father, Jim, suddenly calls, Mitch’s wife urges him to respond. Mitch heads to Montana and a confrontation that will alter the course of his life. Amid a backdrop of rugged peaks and valleys, the story unfolds: violence that triggered the rift, thirty years of miscommunication, and the possibility of misplaced blame.

In The Summer Son, award-winning author Craig Lancaster delivers a powerful novel that invites readers into a family where conflict and secrets prevail, and where hope for healing and redemption abides.

This second edition of the book, a finalist for the 2010 Utah Book Award in fiction, includes a foreword by the author and a personal essay about family.

Fierce Kingdom

By Gin Phillips

I read this wonderful book in one sitting, and was blown away by the beautiful depiction of that incredible bond between mother and young child. Gin Phillips perfectly captures that pure love and fierce determination to protect. I found this book delightfully original in that it takes what’s unfortunately become an all-too-familiar situation but sets it in an unusual location – the zoo, as night falls. Three young gunmen have entered the zoo, just before closing time, to massacre people. Joan does absolutely everything in her power to protect her child, four-year-old Lincoln; all her mothering instincts kick in as they find themselves in an utterly terrifying situation. Can Joan save Lincoln from these Columbine-style youngsters out for notoriety? Gin’s portrayal of Lincoln makes him totally real; his speech, the way he thinks and behaves, are absolutely spot-on and I really felt I knew this little boy. As she tries to save herself and her son, Joan faces some horrific choices. This is a fast-paced read. It spans only about three hours during one horrific evening but left me drained and breathless. Thank you Netgalley for the chance to review this book.  5 stars.

Book blurb:

An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?