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Books

JT Lawrence Grey Magic review

February 9, 2017
JT Lawrence Grey Magic review

In terms of reading for leisure, 2016 hasn’t been a good year. In total I read a whopping 2 books, hence the lack of reviews on the blog. I read Coffee by Little Angels by Port Elizabeth author Nadine Rose Larter and the new Harry Potter book. This JT Lawrence Grey Magic review will be short, as I don’t want to write about any spoilers (or at least any big spoilers).

Due to my reading hiatus, I struggled to get into this book. I literally carried the book everywhere with me, in an attempt to read it. When the cover started peeling and a chunk of pages fell from the spine, I knew that it is now or never. So when I went on an impromptu trip to East London in January, I took the time away from distractions to read and managed to get it half way done. I managed to finish the book on another road trip to King William’s Town.

JT Lawrence Grey Magic review

Raven is a thirty something, modern witch living in Gauteng. She has a website and a very active twitter account. She’s a modern witch who runs into trouble with the law.  She’s kind of hardkoppig, (afrikaans for stubborn), which leads to a lot of her misfortune. If she just had to listen to people, she would have spared herself a lot of misery. But at the same time,  there wouldn’t have been a storyline if she did and she wouldn’t then have grown as a person.

I feel like this book should come with a warning for adult content. The scenes pop up unexpectedly and are quite explicit. Seeing that vampire and witch stories are currently quite popular among tweens and teens, one might pick up Grey Magic.

Without revealing too much of the story line, this is my review of the book.

For a copy of Grey Magic and JT Lawrence’s other books, check out her website. Check out more book reviews here.

Books

2015 Goodreads Challenge

August 10, 2015

I enjoy reading, but since going into the working world, I’ve found it somewhat challenging to read as often as I used to. Goodreads has an annual reading challenge, where at the beginning of each year you set an amount of books that you would like to read. The last time I attempted this challenge, which was in 2013, I set a crazy amount of books (30 books) and only managed 20. This year I decided to one again participate in the challenge, but set a realistic goal of 12 books, which would be one book per month.

Eight months into the year, I’ve read 12 so in essence I’ve completed the challenge. This is partially due to the fact that I’ve started listening to audio books. They’re not the same as reading a book, but I’ve found them quite enjoyable and a welcome change when I don’t feel like listening to music during my 30 minute drive to work. Here’s a list and short review of each of the books that I’ve read so far.

Doctor Sax by Jack Kerouac
I picked this book up on a whim at Bargain Books. Despite being a thin book, I find Kerouac’s writing rather complex, so it took a while for me to read. It is about Kerouac’s alter ego, Doctor Sax, which he had as a child. The story is a mixture of fantasy and realism, best suited for die hard Kerouac fans. I rate it 3 out of 5 stars.

You against me by Jenny Downham
This is one of the books I won in Exclusive Books 1 Minute Red Trolley Dash so it has been sitting in my bookshelf for a while. The book deals with sexual assault and I enjoyed the way Downham navigates around a difficult and complex situation. The main characters of the book, Mikey and Ellie are in a very peculiar situation, Mikey, whose younger sister, Karyn, is a victim of sexual assault and Ellie, whose older brother, Tom, is accused of sexually assaulting Karyn. Initially Mikey and Ellie end up friendly to one another to assist their siblings in the rape case, but they end up falling in love. Ellie plays a central role in the case, the information she has, can potentially destroy Karyn or her brother’s life. I may or may not have cried while reading this book. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The first time I read this book was so long ago that I could not 100% accurately recall the complete storyline, particularly the ending. I downloaded the dramatic version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Librivox (it’s free and as far as I know, legal for us in South Africa). The dramatic version is very entertaining. If you’re going on a road trip with children, I suggest downloading it to help keep them entertained. I rate it 4 out of 5.

Leaving by Karen Kingsbury
Wow this book is a bore. Leaving is the first book in the Bailey Flanigan series and I bought it along with the second book as a gift for my mom. Well she never read either. She enjoys Francine Rivers’ books and a lot of people who enjoy her books also enjoy Kingsbury’s work. So I thought she’d like it. The book was just lying in the bookshelf, gathering dust so I picked it up and boy, was it boring. I can sum this book up in one sentence. Bailey Flanigan is perfect and perfectly boring, the End. I rate it 1 out of 5 stars and will not recommend it to anyone.

Yes Please! by Amy Poehler (audiobook unabridged)
As a comedian, Amy Poehler is hilarious. There were many mixed reviews on the written version of Yes Please! So I decided to try out the audio book. She reads the bookshelf, with some assistance from various other people. In the audio book she really brings out her character and although I was entertained, it does not make me want to read the written version. I rate it 4 out of 5 stars

Gingham Mountain, Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy (The Lassoed in Texas series)
The Lassoed in Texas series consists of three books and each book features a different woman. I picked up the third book in the series, Gingham Mountain, at CUMBooks for R15. It was cheap and I was looking to read something different. This story is about Hannah Cartwright, a schoolteacher who is determined to prevent a farmer from adopting orphans to work on his farm. I enjoyed Gingham Mountain so much that I downloaded the Lassoed in Texas boxset (it was cheaper) onto my Kindle. The first book in the series, Petticoat Ranch, is about Sophie Edwards, a widow with four daughters who ends up marrying the identical twin brother of her dead husband. Weird I know, but the rest of the story is rather interesting. Calico Canyon is the second book in the series and it tells the story of Grace Calhoun, a schoolteacher who is fired from her position due to the six sons of Daniel Reeves, and due to the backwards rules of the time, she ends up marrying Daniel. As the titles suggest, the series is Western Romance, but it has a biblical theme to it, but it’s not the main theme of the books but considering that I bought it at a Christian bookshop it should not be a surprise. The books were fun easy reads. I rate each book in the series 3 out of 5 stars.

Best White and Other Anxious Delusions by Rebecca Davis
Read my review of Best White here, where I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (audiobook unabridged)
When I downloaded this audio book, I vaguely remembered some reviews I watched on Youtube that mentioned Never Let Me Go, is a really good book. It’s a good thing that I did not recall that it is a science fiction novel and I did not read the book contents before downloading, or I may have never listened to it. Never Let Me Go is possibly the first science fiction book that I willingly read (in high school we read some science fiction stuff, but I cannot recall what it was as it did not interest me and to me The Hunger Games felt more like fantasy than science fiction). The book tells the story through the eyes of Kathy, a student at the boarding Hailsham, but Hailsham is no ordinary boarding school. Early on in the story I noticed that Kathy never mentions anyone’s parents or going home for vacations, but that because the children at Hailsham do not have parents and no home, for they are clones. That’s right clones, but not any clones, they are created for the sole purpose of being donors, and not your regular blood donors and organ donors who give their parts after they have passed on. Nope, your parts are extracted while you’re still alive and if you’re a good donor, you can go through three or four donations, which is a euphemism for death. This audiobook is so poignant and it is a well told story. If you’re like me, someone who doesn’t have a keen interest in science fiction, but would like to just try out the genre, this would be a good book to start with. Actually, even if you’re not interested in trying science fiction books you should read this. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (audiobook abridged)
I Capture the Castle is one of those classic books that everyone is supposed to have read at some point in their adolescent lives. I listened to the abridged audiobook a few weeks ago and the story is told through the diary of the protagonist, Cassandra Mortmain, who lives with her writer father, glamorous step-mother and siblings in poverty in a rundown castle. It touches on a number of issues that many go through when they go from being a teenager to a young adult (unfortunately living in a rundown castle is not a common issue for most teenagers). I enjoyed it so much that I would like to read the written version, just not right now. There’s too many other books I still need to get to. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

The Raven Saint by MaryLu Tyndall
After enjoying Gingham Mountain I went back to CUMBooks and purchased The Raven Saint, which is also the third book in a series (the Charles Towne Belles series) and also a mere R 15 (on a side note, publishers and bookstores I see your sales tactics). This book is about the daughter of a British governor who gets kidnapped by a French mercenary. The religious theme in this book is more apparent and although I enjoyed it, I don’t think I enjoy it to the extent to also purchase the first two books. I rate this book, 3 out of 5 stars.

Just because I’ve read the amount of books that I’ve set out for the year, it does not mean that I will stop trying to finish a book a month. I’m currently reading the first book of The Lord of the Rings, the I’ve read it before in high school, but to be honest I do not remember much of it as I found it too much of a challenge back then. I’m glad I decided to give it another try as I am really enjoying it this time around. I only managed to read the second LOTR book, The Two Towers, a third of the way before giving up. I think I might tackle it again in December or early next year. I also plan on beginning Alex van Tonder’s This One Time in the next few weeks. What books are you currently reading? Do you have any good suggestions?

Books

Best White and Other Anxious Delusions by Rebecca Davis

July 5, 2015

Best White and Other Anxious Delusions

Rebecca Davis is a South African journalist who has written for various publications, and is known for her witty coverage of the Oscar Trial. When the trial began I first followed Rebecca, Barry Bateman and various other journalists on Twitter. After a while I decided I was too heavily invested in the trial and unfollowed her and the rest of the journalists. This did not last long as I soon followed Rebecca and Barry again, but not the others. Barry provided minute by minute coverage, but Rebecca’s tweets and daily articles were by far the most interesting.

When she announced that she will be releasing a book, Best White and Other Anxious Delusions I knew I had to get a copy. As soon as it was released I went around to various book stores in Port Elizbeth and none of them had a copy (shame on them). A week or two later I was about to order a copy on line, when I found one by chance in CNA. Although I have loved reading from a young age, I never paid full price for books. I always got them via the library, on sale or second hand at markets. Also for the most part I only download free or discounted Kindle books. So at R249.99, Best White is the first book (with the exception of text books and books that I had to buy for university) that I paid full price for. That is how excited I was to get a copy. Now onto the review.

Best White is a collection of essays, wherein Rebecca masterful covers a variety of topics, including issues such as the future of reading, women’s struggles, race relations and Africa’s cultural history. Rebecca’s writing has a witty style and the tone varies from essay to essay, but one thing remains consistent, she never becomes preachy. Between fits of laughter, I found myself nodding in agreement to many of her statements.

As some of the essays are autobiographical, we get to learn more about Rebecca. She relates that she worked as a packer in a fruit factory and what I found very interesting, the time she worked as a pseudo member of a dating website. In the entertaining essay ‘A Royal Encounter’, she writes about the time she was invited to a party at Buckingham Palace, where she met Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, before proceeding to get royally wasted. Way to go Rebecca.

I would describe each essay as bite-sized. They were quick to read, which I found really convenient, as these days I don’t have long periods of time to read. I enjoyed being able to finish an essay in less than 15 minutes. Some of my favourite essays are ‘Women, Fire and Dangerous Things’, ‘Don’ts for wives’ and ‘Desperately seeking Mandela’.

Naturally I gushed to everyone who would listen about how amazing this book is, but after one session of discussing it with a co-worker I stopped. The thing is, she wanted to borrow my copy after I finished reading it. I do realise that this is incredibly selfish of me, but I don’t want to borrow my copy to anyone. You see, I can be very obsessive when it comes to my books, particularly books that I enjoy. If anyone had to look at my bookshelf, they would think that I had not read this book. There’s no creases in the spine, no dog ears or stains. It still looks brand new. Through experience, I know that other people do not share my obsession with keeping my books neat.

I give Best White five out or five stars. Support Rebecca and our local industry by buying a copy.

Books

Buffi’s Dress Design: Sew 30 Fun Styles review

November 11, 2013

Pink dress and shoes vector

I was given an advanced reader copy of Buffi’s Dress Design: Sew 30 Fun Styles: Make it, Own it Rock it to review. This book is written by Project Runway contestant Buffi Jashanmal from season 10 where she placed 12th. I haven’t seen Buffi’s season of Project Runway, it’s one of those shows that I’ll watch if it’s on, because I can never remind the schedules of any of the show’s I like. I’m not a professional seamstress by an means, but I have sewn some clothing items. Okay I’ll admit they were for my Barbie dolls, but it counts as sewing right?

Buffi’s Dress Design is described as a fun, hip and easy-to-follow guide to create custom patterns from three basic dress shapes. These shapes are the sheath, the shift and princess seam. As the titles states, there are 30 fun styles to choose from.
The layout is bright and eye catching with watercolour accents. I feel that the dresses are aimed at people on a beginner to beginner-intermediate sewing level as it explains basic concepts such as common fabrics and what you’ll need in your tool kit. Jashanmal also explains five different body types and what type of dress design looks best on them.
Don’t expect to get a design for a fun frock that you could find in Vogue, as the styles that Buffi designed are all very basic. Some of the design changes aren’t that major from the basic shape that she gives, like one is just adding a stencil to the hemline or adding studs to the neckline. The book doesn’t have the actual patterns, you’ll have to draw them yourself. The last time I tried to draw a pattern, it did not vaguely come out as it was supposed to. It does however explain how to draw the patterns.
My favourite styles would be the Tinker, Tailor, Sew a Sailor, the Flirty Flare, the Belle of the Ball and Sweetheart Sundress. Jashanmal also models many of the designs and will feature on the final cover.
It’s a straight forward book that is best aimed for women who want to learn to sew and make their own frocks. I know it’s a craft book, but I feel that sometimes it lacks personality and feels like it’s just a manual. I’m hoping to try out one of the designs, but due to time constraints it may not seem likely. I give this book a rating of 3 out of 5.
You can pre-order Buffi’s Dress Design: Sew 30 Fun Styles: Make it, Own it Rock it from Amazon.  It’s due for release on 8 January 2014 so if learning how to sew is on your New Years Resolution list, you’d might want to consider picking this up.
I have another 14 books to review, so remember to pop by again. Till then, connect with me on these social networks:

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Image source: Public Domain Pictures

Books

The Summer We All Ran Away by Cassandra Parkin

September 1, 2013

Chapmans Peak

A view on Chapman’s Peak

I received the Summer We All Ran Away a while back, but I only managed to finish it recently due to two reasons. Firstly, I haven’t had much time to read lately and secondly, I found the book difficult to get into. I think I reread the beginning two or three times. It was only once I got to the third or fourth chapter that I became hooked on the book. After that I could not put it down and finished it over a few days.

The story is sent in a beautiful, but unfinished mansion. The mansion is filled with secrets and it is owned by Jack Laker, a superstar musician who is misunderstood by his agent. The story set in the present summer with flashbacks of when Jack last lived in the house.

In the present day, Jack’s home is inhabited by a group of people who have one thing in common; they have nowhere else to go. Each person ran away from either society, religion, their family or from their fears.
Over the course of the summer the secrets of the mansion are uncovered and we learn more about the socially outcast inhabitants. The characters are intriguing, flawed and for the most part, well developed.   The storyline is good, but I didn’t like the structure of some of the sentences.

Out of five I would give this book a 3.8, not quite a four, but it deserves more than a 3. The main reason for this rating, I did not like the ending. The next part is a SPOILER ALERT.

It has a happy ending and as someone who normally loves happy endings I felt disappointed. Honestly I felt that it had so much more potential, then it ended with the predictable route, it has an average happy ending where everyone gets what they want. Nevertheless, The Summer We All Ran Away is a very promising début for Cassandra Parkin.

You can buy this début novel by Cassandra Parkin on Amazon.

Disclosure: I received The Summer We All Ran Away by Cassandra Parkin for review from Legend Press via Netgalley.