Review: Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So a kind of weird thing happened: I ended up enjoying this book. For me the story started out exceptionally slow and I kind of struggled to care about it at all for a long time. The popularity of this series kind of boggled me a little and even irritated me. I was probably a little bitchy about it. I can’t say why (and by “why” I mean why I wasn’t enjoying the book, not why I was bitchy – that I know the answer to). Perhaps it was not my scene. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it. Perhaps the beginning is actually kind of slow. But something happened during the last third of the book that took my rating from a 2 to a four. I can’t even quite explain it exactly, but I think there suddenly seemed to be a point to it all. I started to understand it a little better and it even kind of made me feel hopeful. Tris grows into a being of substance which is quite refreshing. I tend to read these sorts of books with my pre-teen daughter in mind. Am I ok with her learning from the protagonist of this story? Sadly the answer to that question is often no. But today it got to be yes. And that’s pretty cool.

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Review: Willful Creatures

Willful Creatures
Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this one but not quite as much as I did the others. I still can’t five it a lower rating because if nothing else I’ve been super inspired to write a few more short stories. That friggen counts a lot!

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Review: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m giving this book a 5 because I think that being the type of person who writes these sort of weird and confusing – for – most – people stories is kind of important. About 4 years ago when I read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake I did not love it as I expected to. I have kind of evolved since then. I have become more open to obscure voices sharing beautiful content. I have learned to set aside expectations and receive what I am given instead of bemoaning what I have not. I cannot help now but envy Ms. Bender. How free she is in spirit. How unconventionally wise. How odd. How exquisite. How real.

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Review: An Invisible Sign of My Own

An Invisible Sign of My Own
An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Feeling humbled by the (to me) unpretentious quirk that is Aimee Bender. How glorious when reading feels a little bit like falling in love – something that you instinctively understand but could not possibly explain. I must admit that for this novel a lot of the charm lay in the reviews of others. Indignant school teachers offended by an inaccurate portrayal of teaching and children. Fussy readers who cannot cope when a story is not “just so” – as if being “realistic” and “structured” is the only way to be when it comes to putting yourself on paper. And yet here I sit, grateful for strange minds that take me to different worlds, and especially grateful that my own mind allows for me to be taken there.

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DSCN8551I’m currently on a bit of a road trip through the Western Cape with my husband. We like to do this for ourselves from time to time. At the moment we’re a bit broke, but it was our anniversary on the third and I guess sometimes love needs to trump questionable bank accounts. As much as I adore being in my home (anyone who knows me well knows that I tend towards being a bit of a hermit sometimes) I do admit that combatting cabin fever becomes a delicate balancing act, which is best performed by leaving our fair city behind. These little road trips have healing powers. They have restorative powers. And to be a little too honest: they have marriage saving powers!

So my husband and I are road tripping, and we’ve been to an array of strange places over the last week. Letting my husband take control of the planning has lead to far stranger experiences than if I had been in charge. His relaxed approach to life is certainly more conducive to adventure than my uptight and systematic need for control is. Again, you see: balance. Last week we stayed in a tepee. This is a decidedly un-South African way to spend the night, of course, but it was a new experience nonetheless, and new experiences are the point. We even got to have the strange experience of stumbling upon a (possibly) biker bar in the middle of Prince Alfred’s Pass where the owner had a stuffed springbuck’s hind quarters set up on the wall (instead of a traditional hunting trophy head) and if that wasn’t bizarre enough, he had, for reason’s known only to the infinite cosmos, rigged it up so that whisky could be tapped from the poor creature’s lady bits. I learned of myself that evening that I am quite the prude and that there are some authentic experiences that I am happy to skip out on. The indignity of it all still haunts me, days later.

After the night of strange taxidermy and authentic American tenting, we spent the night on a lovely farm that is completely off the grid. This of course excited Ty no end because he just wants to live off the grid. Having a proper off-the-grid experience was a nice reminder of the possibility of it all.

We’ve actually been having a lovely time. We’ve driven through farm after farm. We’ve admired exquisite protea bushes and gasped at the beauty of the wine lands and marvelled at the brownness of the Cederburg area. I’ve taken a thousand photographs of clouds. And all the while I have been reminding myself: we are nothing without our farmers. These folks who make this all happen are our unsung heroes. We should thank them more often. I can barely grow tomatoes in my veggie garden, never mind feed a whole country.

And yet…there is something that is missing…

Please don’t get me wrong. I love our country. Our country is beautiful and magnificent and we probably have the best weather in the whole world. We have this beautiful diversity, which makes me smile. We have great food. We have our odd colloquialisms and our specific brand of humour. I love all of those things. And I miss them when I go away.

But when you’re road tripping in your own country you never really properly feel like you have left home. You never experience that exquisite spark of fear that is brought about by being faced with the unknown. You never get to stand still for a moment, look around you and tell yourself, “I have absolutely no idea where I am”. I must admit, I am addicted to that feeling.

I tried to tell myself the other day that I need to stop having lofty and impossible dreams about trips overseas that I cannot afford. I should just be quietly content to explore my own country. Exploring my own country is doable. But my other self only started to laugh at me. Because as much as I do love exploring the wonders of right here, my other self knows that there is something far more empowering about that feeling of not knowing where you are. Of feeling un-findable. Of being no one in the midst of everyone.

If you’ve ever read The Alchemist you might have noticed that there is a quote by Madonna on the back. It says “The Alchemist is a book about magic, dreams and the treasures we seek elsewhere and then find on our own doorstep.” To me this is a gross misinterpretation of the book. To me, The Alchemist is about how you should seek out adventure despite the fact that everything you need might be on your doorstep.

My own interpretation of the story sticks with me and causes my mind to scheme constantly. It is why, even though I am not wealthy, I have begun to stick small amounts of money away in a “flight fund”. And it is why I am constantly on websites like webjet checking out what it costs to fly where. Because it is important to know these things. It is important to know that if you don’t get yourself the latest iPhone, you could actually afford to purchase a ticket to Vietnam. It is important to know that if you save x amount of money for y amount of months that you could give yourself a trip to Prague.

Because you know what? As healing and restorative and marriage-saving as a road trip through the country might be, a plane ticket to anywhere holds within it a thousand times more power. And yes, everything I need might be on my doorstep, but the world outside of my doorstep is calling me. And I will keep checking on those ticket prices. I will keep working out how much to save. And soon I’ll be on a plane again.



Harry versus Christian: A suggestion on how to make things right.

download (1)OK so I admit that the 50 Shades stuff has me thinking too much about possibly more than I should be thinking these days but I just can’t help it. I have just shared my Goodreads reviews of the three books because I didn’t actually share them on here after I read them and because they’ve been getting a bit of attention lately so I re-read them and they sort of made me laugh. It takes quite a lot for me to be that nasty in a review. I know a lot of people are happy to leave exceptionally nasty reviews for every second book that they read, but I don’t do that. Perhaps I am too aware of just how much goes into writing a book. It feels like absolutely bad karma to be unnecessarily hard on someone’s life’s work and I try to find the up side in everything I read. In fact it is almost impossible to get absolutely nothing out of anything you read, so there should always be something good to say. The 2 (3?) years that have passed since I read the Fifty Shades series made me forget just how much I genuinely loathed that story, though. I definitely hated it more than I remember. There was nothing good to say. With the exception of Mr. Grey’s refreshing indifference to menstrual blood, I clearly could not find anything redeeming. Although I guess if I think about it now, it did teach me a lot about my own thoughts on this particular subject. My reviews may not have reflected that particular silver lining…

Anyway – I was thinking yesterday that the absolute worst part about the Fifty Shades nonsense is that the books sales surpassed those of Harry Potter. This strikes me as exceptionally ridiculous. The absolute work of art versus the barely edited Twilight fan fiction. What the hell, world? Have you all gone mad?!

I think us Potter fans need to do something about this. I think we should all go out and buy new sets of Harry Potter. Why? Because they keep bringing out new sets and we all need those pretty new sets to put on display. Or maybe we could make a pact to start giving Harry Potter books to all the 11 year olds in our lives. Then when they’re 12 they can get book 2. And so on. Or something!

Really. We need to reverse that thing where E.L James outsold our queen.

Please. Let’s do this.

Review: Fifty Shades Freed

Fifty Shades Freed
Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Oh dear Lord I have just finished reading this and I can’t stop laughing. At the end of the book there is an Author’s Note that states that the author is fully aware that you cannot walk into an American Bank and demand to draw five million dollars. Oh my ever loving hell. THAT is the part that you’re apologizing for?

I want to cry scream and throw things! These books make me feel like the world is irreversibly messed up. And no – not because of the sex. Have all the kinky fun sex you want. But this man BROKE people. Am I the only person who is not ok with that? You want me to believe that this successful man is “broken” himself because his mother was a “Crack whore” (fuck you for constantly calling someone that just by the way – the constant reference to his mother as the crack whore pissed me off just as much as the shoddy workmanship and bullshit pretentious over-use of puffed up vocabulary did)but I will NEVER accept that being broken is an acceptable reason to use people like toilet paper – something our supposedly irresistible Mr. Grey even admits to.

No. I’m sorry. All of this is fucked up. The writing is pathetic, superfluous and almost every second line in this series is redundant. Awesome – so a bunch of people read about kinky sex and now the riding crop and butt plug industry is booming. So happy you guys have all got your kink on. But please do NOT try and tell me that this is a “beautiful story”. It just fucking isn’t. The dynamic between these two people makes my teeth hurt. The idea that any woman would put up with being treated that way repulses me to no end. And Ana herself is just a bloody idiot. Take away the good looks and the money and you’re left with a creepy fucked up guy who should be in jail. You tell me he is all these wonderful things though give me no reason to believe you. Ana is supposedly this intelligent bookish person – and she narrated THIS load of crap? You tell me she is strong? I’m sorry but I see no strength. All I see is a bunch of books where sometimes stuff almost happens but nothing ever really does. Oh yeah with a lot of sex in it. Whoopdie friggen doo. If you’re into reading erotica then GREAT!! Go wild. Erotica is awesome and if nothing else it might help turn you on if your hubby can’t get you excited any more. But spare me the “it’s such a touching story and we care about Ana and Christian” crap.

I have a newsflash for you: You’re not in love with Christian Grey you just seriously need to get laid by someone who knows what they’re doing.

And let me tell you something else: no matter how good the sex is NO MAN is worth being treated badly. End of story.

Also: for all of you planning to indulge in this kind of unrealistically frequent sex life – drink Citro Soda. On a daily basis. Twice daily even. I don’t care how clean that man’s penis is you still need to look after your vag!

I have about a million other things to say but I’m actually too exhausted to even start going there…

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Review: Fifty Shades Darker

Fifty Shades Darker
Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I didn’t realize that I was nearly done with this book until it was done. The plot gave nothing away – possibly because there still isn’t one. If you read the last book and are planning to read this one – let me warn you that even the mildly exciting sex gets bland as hell to read about. I found myself skimming over sex scenes (what?! But sex scenes are so FUN to read?!! Aren’t they…?) and just being generally bored. The first book was kind of more “fun” to read because at least it had the shock/horror factor and the writer/editor in me had a million wtf questions to ask. Needless to say… I still don’t know what all the fuss is about, but I guess after book one you get kind of accustomed to it all being ridiculous. I still think both of these characters are idiots. And really it’s just a badly written girl-masturbation fantasy because seriously – what girl doesn’t want a rich good looking man who rocks in the sack? And if it comes with a house and a car and $100 000 an hour pay check then what’s the possibility of a little caning?

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Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I feel violated. I don’t know how else to put it. I feel like someone has come into my happy happy la la land and taken a big fat giant dump in the middle it. And strangely enough – if the “sexually enlightened” people in this book HAD actually taken a dump on each other I might feel better right now. I don’t quite know if I have the energy or the words to explain why…but it probably has to do with “if it was a little more far fetched then I could just leave it at that and not be feeling so frightened at this point”.

I don’t know how to talk about this book. The fact that it is so popular baffles me. It is written in that watered down way that so many YA books are written in…except that it’s not for kids! After the first twenty pages I found myself panicking at the low standard of writing. WHY is this kind of shoddy craftsmanship suddenly acceptable to the masses?

And then…well then all the sex started…

Now don’t get me wrong…I don’t read much erotic fiction but I certainly do not doubt its legitimacy. A well written sex scene can be quite an art…but even a badly written one can get ones nether regions groaning. It’s kind of like porn. Why bother with story lines and great acting when people are going to get off on it regardless?

I guess that I understand that it possibly stands on its own. I would love to say “it is just like xyz…” but I can’t because I don’t know what it is like. There is plenty of heavy erotic fiction out there…but the thing is…you don’t get to pick that stuff up at your nearest book store…and for the most part…all that hardcore erotic stuff doesn’t pretend to be something else. This does… It’s a “romance” story with all the bells and whips thrown in. Yay! Right?

So why can’t I escape the feeling that someone has just tried to convince me that domestic abuse is sexy?

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50 Shades of No

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 1.35.29 PM

I’m not sure if it was posts of the  State of the Nation or posts about 50 Shades of Grey that got the most attention on social media last night, but I actually just can’t even when it comes to any of the political stuff so: Fifty Shades of Grey it is.

I discovered last night that the ratings for this movie on IMDB are really low and I must admit that it made me feel kind of relieved. People are obviously chatting about this and are starting to see that “sexy” and “scary as hell” are not the same thing. This is good. It means that we can teach our daughters the difference. And our sons. Thank God.

One of my favourite friends went to watch Fifty Shades with her book club ladies last night and had a bit of an awkward experience. Now, I understand that Nu Metro does sort of a ladies night out thing every now and then, and of course I am sure they have been preparing for the Fifty Shades premier for forever. It was a chaotic disaster, of course. These mad cult things do tend to breed disaster sometimes. Anyway – my friend went with her book club, reluctantly, but happy to be out with her friends for the evening nonetheless. When they arrived they were denied their seats by a group of ladies who had decided that they wanted to sit there and that was that. How strange. But can you just see it. That snide you snooze you lose kind of smug Mean Girls attitude. My poor friend was quite upset by it.  Not because she missed the movie so much as by this group of adults who were basically just bullies. I understand her upset. I also get very confused when people are mean. We should know better, but we just don’t.

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Review: Esio Trot

Esio Trot
Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to introduce Noah to Roald Dahl this morning and thought he might enjoy Esio Trot. To be quite honest I’m not sure he understood what was going on, but to his credit he was very polite about it and kept assuring me that he liked the story and that I should go on. I think maybe he just likes listening to my voice, which I guess is fine. I wanted to start the morning on a pleasant note, instead of going straight to school work which more often than not just stresses him out. So a book and a cuddle to start the day worked out pretty well. He seemed much happier while trying to do his ABCs this morning.

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A Murder of Crows

vAOfG9wrN1chZHg2fCGTifkmDFaIt’s seriously weird rewatching a movie that you loved as a kid. I remember this movie being brilliant, and I guess it still is, but wow it was a little harder to watch than I expected. Cuba Gooding Jr is brilliant, of course, but the publisher lady was quite…meh…. Luckily I am dreadful at remembering plotlines so even though I had a basic idea of the movie I couldn’t remember the actual punchline so it was still kind of fun in that respect.

Review: The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this book, which is a little bit weird because I hated the main character. I think perhaps the feeling of “learning” as I read helped to negate the fact that I could not quite get behind this woman’s treatment of people. I don’t know why but that kind of self inflicted isolation always strikes me as weak. I imagine my annoyance at this exact brand of character possibly says a lot about me as a person, and most likely nothing good, but I just can’t help it. While I did feel a certain (limited!) empathy for Victoria, I could not help but be angered by the senselessness of her situation – but then again, without her toxic persona there would have been no story to tell, would there? There would only be an unhappy beginning with a perfectly acceptable resolution that spanned over a year instead of ten. Hardly bookworthy. I think perhaps I myself am addicted to others, despite my affection for frequent isolation. Love is one thing I have never shied away from, despite having had my heart broken on a number of occasions, not only by men, of course, but by people I have trusted as well. I think a capacity for heartbreak can overwhelm all of us, but I struggle to relate to the kind of brokenness that retaliates in the harm of others. I especially do not understand the compulsion to harm myself or others in the attempt to “protect myself”. It is such a strange thing to me. This means that I am most likely lucky, which is something I know and do not take for granted. While I believe that I am personally plagued and affected (often negatively) by my own past, just like many others are, for some reason it has never shut me off to love. Love I feel and embrace with my whole being. Always. Whether I find it in a book that I love, or art, or a partner, my child, my family, my friends. It is all consuming, and the exquisiteness of love has always, and I hope will always, trump its ability to bring with it the most excruciating of heartbreaks.

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Review: Eight Keys

Eight Keys
Eight Keys by Suzanne M. LaFleur

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A relatively sweet read for younger kids. For a while I was disappointed in the attitude of the main character but she turns out ok. There was one point where her aunt tells her to never doubt a mother’s love for a child and that sort of got me thinking. We say that a lot, don’t we? Because it sounds nice and it should be true. But it isn’t really true. Not always. And not nearly as often as it should be.

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Review: Because Of Winn Dixie

Because Of Winn Dixie
Because Of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is too beautiful. One of those gorgeous reads that smells of nostalgic childhood in the loveliest way. I love India Opal. She is the kind of sweet girl you rarely experience in real life but cannot help but believe in because she feels so extraordinarily real.

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