Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Held Up

Christopher Radmann's debut novel, Held Up, is a tragic and brutal journey into the darkness of a grieving, and guilty, mind.  Inspired by Radmann's own experiences, and that of family and friends, of living in South Africa, Radmann paints a vivid picture of a country that is divided not only by race but by wealth and violence.

On the way to meet his wife after purchasing a new BMW, South African Paul Van Niekerk falls victim to car jacking.  Paul survives, but after the shock of the incident wears off and he realises something important was left in the car: his nine month old baby daughter, Chantel.  What follows is Paul's attempt to retrieve his daughter, that takes him away from the comfort of his 'white' middle class neighbourhood and into the slums of Soweto, and his reflections of life prior to the incident.

 I felt that the blurb for Held Up was slightly misleading, as I was expecting a fast paced, ultra violent, thriller.  There are some violent moments in the quest to find baby Chantal, but overall I found this to be an impressive and unique take on a hijacking/kidnapping scenario.  Rather than having Paul become a full blown vigilante in the quest to recover his daughter, Radmann has portrayed Paul's journey as something more introspective, but is still commenting on the horrors that are committed within the 'new' South African community.
 Radmann's writing style, of short and blunt sentences, may be an acquired taste but I found it reflected Paul's state of mind and kept me hooked throughout the book.  An intelligent, thought provoking, and heartbreaking novel.

Week Ahead 23/07 - 29/07

The three books I aim to read by the end of this lovely sunny week.

Having read Janet Evanovich's Wicked Appetite earlier on in the year, I was happy to find it's sequel Wicked Business waiting for me on a library display.

Lizzy Tucker's once normal life as a pastry chef in Salem, Massachusetts, turns upside down as she battles both sinister forces and an inconvenient attraction to her unnaturally talented but off-limits partner, Diesel. 
  When Harvard University English professor and dyed-in-the-wool romantic Gilbert Reedy is mysteriously murdered and thrown off his fourth floor balcony, Lizzy and Diesel take up his twenty-year quest for the Luxuria Stone, an ancient relic believed by some to be infused with the power of lust.  Following clues contained in a cryptic nineteenth-century book of sonnets, Lizzy and Diesel tear through Boston catacombs, government buildings, and multimillion-dollar residences.  On their way they'll leave behind a trail of robbed graves, public disturbances, and general mayhem.
  Diesel's black sheep cousin, Gerwulf Grimoire, also wants the Stone.  His motives are far from pure, and what he plans on doing with the treasure no one knows...but Lizzy Tucker fears she's in his crosshairs.  Never far and always watching Grimoire has a growing ,vested interest in the cupcake-baker-turned-finder-of-lost-things.  As does another dangerous and dark opponent in the hunt - a devotee of lawlessness and chaos, known only as Anarchy.
  Treasures will be sought, and the power of lust will be unmistakable as Lizzy and Diesel attempt to stay ahead of Anarchy, Grimoire, and his medieval minion, Hatchet, in this ancient game of twisted riddles and high-stakes hide-and-seek.

Next is Lolita byVladimir Nabokov.   This was a spur of the moment pick, and the copy I have is part of the Penguin Essentials collection that are pocket sized with beautiful covers.

Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, frustrated college professor.  In love with his landlady's twelve-year-old daughter Lolita, he'll do anything to possess her.  Unable and unwilling to stop himself, he is prepared to commit any crime to get what he wants.
  Is he in love or insane?  A silver-tongued pet or a pervert?  A tortured soul or a monster?  Or is he all of these?

Last up Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiwan.  This is the first book I've ordered based on a recomendation through Good Reads.  If it's any good, I may have to try more of their suggestions!

To Meridia, growing up with her father Gabriel, who vanishes daily in clouds of mist, and her bewitching mother Ravenna, the outside world is a refuge.  So when, as a young woman, her true love Daniel offers her marriage, it seems an escape to a more straightforward experience.
  Yet behind the welcoming facade of her new home lies a life of drudgery and a story even stranger than that she left behind.  Aged retainers lurk in the background; swarms of bees appear at will; and, of course, there's he indomitable mother-in-law, Eva, hiding secrets that it will take Meridia years to unravel.  Surrounded by seemingly unfathomable mysteries, can Meridia unlock the intrigues of the past, and thus protect her own family's future?

Happy Reading! x

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Tender Morsels

Margo Lanagan's take on the Snow White and Rose Red fairytale was a massive disappointment.  Tender Morsels follows Liga, a young girl who lives in the woods with her abusive father, but branches out to tales of a witch and her greedy companion, and boys that turn into bears on 'bear day', the core story in Tender Morsels was hurt by the multiple POV's. 

Tender Morsels is brutal and doesn't shy away from giving characters the worst possible life (ever) but it felt that Lanagan kept on trying to ply her characters with obstacles without resolving previous ones.  Quite a few times plot lines are dropped and never spoken of again.  The ending felt rushed and confused, with too many ends left loose.  Which is bizarre, as the middle section felt overly long.  I struggled with this book, and it was hard work to keep reading until the end.  After finishing I had many questions including: Was the narration from the bears needed? The change for first person, to omniscient third person? Was this to highlight that only the men were in control of their own voices, while the women's life had to be described by someone else?   Unfortunately my main question was why did I bother?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Gil's All Fright Diner

In the style of a drive-in science fiction movie; a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire all come together to save the world from a hormonally charged young girl, who just happens to be a demon worshipper, and who intends to bring about the apocalypse.  A good, funny, quick read that stayed true to the genre.  Think along the lines of an American Hell Train and you won't be disappointed.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Totchili, a young Mexican boy, loves hats, samurai, and really wants a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus for a pet.  It is through his unique, yet sometimes obscure, observations that reveal Totchili does not have a normal family. 

 Villalobos has constructed a complete and fascinating world within only 70 pages.  In Totchili, Down the Rabbit Hole has a clear voice that leads the story into grey areas without losing focus of how a young boy would act, for example,  if he found out that his father had been lying to him.  An extremely enjoyable, quick, read that definitely deserves more than one reading.