Friday Meets 15 December 2017

Friday, December 15, 2017

How many Fridays do we have left? Before Christmas? After Christmas? I am seriously suffering from a bit of Scrooge syndrome the past couple of weeks. In more ways than one. Some good, some bad. But I do believe it is Friday and that means we can talk books. I can still do that. 

Meet me on Friday @ Friday 56 for a bit of Book Blogger Hop to kick-start the weekend with Book Beginnings

Let's start with Book Beginnings for a change. Why leave new things for the new year when trying them out in the old year is just as good? This weekly feature is hosted by Gilion @ Rose City ReaderEvery Friday we share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

I've got a good old Christie listed today. And it comes with a confession. I've read and re-read so many Agatha Christie books. I especially enjoy reading the book and then watch the adaptation. There's been numerous adaptations of her work and most of them are also of such good quality that you can watch them again and again. So here comes my dreadful confession:

I've seen just about all the adaptations for Murder on the Orient Express, but I've never, ever read the book. Please forgive me, for I know that must be a gravely punishable sin. 

Image result for murder on the orient express adaptations  Image result for murder on the orient express adaptations  Image result for murder on the orient express adaptations

I haven't seen the latest adaptation yet and I am desperate to do so, but my strict Dutch Reform conscience is weighing hard on me. So I've decided to read the book before I run for the popcorn giggly-tasty machine coca-cola.

9571725Book Beginning: (I'm skipping the first paragraph, it's the second one that makes your bum get cozy in the seat)

By the step leading up into the sleeping-car stood a young French lieutenant, resplendent in uniform conversing, with a small man muffled up to the ears of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward-curled moustache.

Next stop is at Freda over at Freda's Voice for Friday 56. Just bring the following:

  • Grab a book (Yes, any book. But it might get you to your other Friday activities a bit quicker if you just grab the book you are currently reading)
  • Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader
  • Find a sentence or two (your other Friday activities might determine this)
  • Post it!
  • Remember to post your link on Freda's Voice and to visit the other guys in the linky.
  • And don't forget to list the title of the book and the author as well.
A couple of months back, I couldn't stop talking about Tannie Maria. The leading character in South African author Sally Andrew's Tannie Maria mystery series. I honestly can't explain what is the most entertaining of these books. The characters, the writing style, the quirky Afrikaans translations or the recipes. In In recipes for love and murder, the food is to die for. Me and some of my friends have tried a few of her recipes, and jislaaik - it's delicious! The second book in the series, The Satanic Mechanic, is just as entertaining. I am at (believe it or not! Okay, I planned it) exactly 56%!


I put the malva pudding in the oven, and we sat next to each other at the stoep table and ate to the sound of crickets and frogs, and Kosie munching his celery. (Malva pudding is a traditional South African pudding made with apricot jam. It reaalllly is delicious. Kosie is a pet lamb.)

Our final stop for today is The Book Blogger Hop hosted by Ramblings of a coffee addicted writer. Every week they will pop a question that you need to answer. Post your answer to your blog, enter your post to the linky provided, make yourself a cup of coffee and go visit the other blogs in the list. 

Today's questions: Which book(s) would you like Santa to bring you this year?

Dear Santa,

Please can you bring me an illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It will be greatly appreciated if you can find an edition with a mirror stuck on the first page or just behind the cover. So that I can look into it and get a serious fright. Not for the 3 ghosts lurking in the background, but to remind me not to be such a Scrooge. It really isn't that bad. And that Christmas is a time for peace and love and giving and forgiving. I will send you a private note for other recipients I believe can do with such a book.  

Love always,



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Top Ten Favorite Books for 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Image result for scrooge readingThe year is just about at an end and not to sound like Scrooge, but bah humbug to that. Not that I am ungrateful, in fact I am extremely grateful to join The Broke and the Bookish once again for Top Ten Tuesday and that I managed to read more than 10 books this year so that I can at least make a selection of my Ten Favorite Books for 2017. 

As with most books, my selection is strictly based on personal experiences. None of my favorites for 2017 are actually published in 2017. In fact I have two books on my list that were published in the previous century! But that is the wonder of books and the magic of reading. It is always in the present tense the moment you open the book. 

I don't really have an ascending order from most favorite to least favorite list for this year. Each of the books listed meant something to me through a really tough year. Let's have a quick look at the books that made my list: 

18816603Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult Okay, this one is actually my favorite for the year. It's my blanky book. A book that brought comfort and peace and understanding from a rather strange, but wonderful source. 
"The moral of this story is that no matter how much we try, no matter how much we want it.... Some stories just don't have a happy ending"
That's life, I guess. Sometimes, we don't end up with a and they lived happily ever after. And sometimes, that's just the way it is. Sometimes your grief is as big as an elephant. Sometimes the only consolation is an elephant. 

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra  and The perplexing theft of the jewel in the crown by Vaseem Khan Seriously, you have no idea how much comfort a baby elephant can bring. 

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Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty Those things that almost happen. But didn't. The places we come back from and those we return to. Such insignificant things that carries so much weight. 

The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman "That sort of experience either gives you a taste for death or a thirst for life"

The mirror crack'd from side to side by Agatha Christie No matter what happens or do not happen, you cannot put a year behind you without at least one Agatha Christie on your reading list. I do believe that all the answers you might ever be looking for can be found in The Bible. And in Agatha Christie's novels. And if you are still uncertain, just go with 42. Or Yes, please. 

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20910157Yes Please by Amy Poehler I've read this one twice. Once as an audio recording read by the lovely author herself (so worth the listen) and I've read the physical book as well. With the cute notes and quirky family photos and the glossy paper and that stunning cover of course. 
It's called YES PLEASE because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please. 

All the ugly and wonderful things by Bryn Greenwood The most disturbing book I've ever read. But gosh, it was excellent. Don't think I would have read it though. The audio recording of this book was magnificent. 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman If you haven't read it, I'm not going to tell you about it. Because it sounds absurd and wicket and extremely evil and totally inappropriate for children to read. But so does Harry Potter. And we all know how that turned out. 

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25480342A monster calls by Patrick Ness The most quotable book of 2017. And what is a book if you can't make little notes and copy numerous phrases and passages into another little book? 

“You do not write your life with words...You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” 

“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.” 

“Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.” 

Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right-thinking? How can a parson be wrong-thinking but good-hearted? How can invisible men make themselves more lonely by being seen?
"I don't know," Connor shrugged, exhausted. "Your stories never made any sense to me."
The answer is that it does not matter what you think, the monster said, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day. You wanted her to go at the same time you were desperate for me to save her. Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.” 

What books are your Top Ten Favorite for 2017?


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Queen of Spades by Michael Shou-Yung Shum

Saturday, October 28, 2017

34638913Title: Queen of Spades
Author: Michael Shou-Yung Shum
Published by: Forest Avenue Press
Publication date: 10 October 2017 
Genre: General Fiction, Suspense
ISBN:  19424363319
Mareli's rating: 3.5 stars
Recommend to: If you have a gambling problem - stay clear. This book reveals the 'magic' of a casino and the luck of the card. 
Description: Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that rivals the best Hong Kong gambling movies, Michael Shou-Yung Shum’s debut novel delivers the thrilling highs and lows that come when we cede control of our futures to the roll of the dice and the turn of a card. Forest Avenue Press

"We can never know anything for sure", the Countess replied. "for what we speak of is gambling"

What an intriguing tale involving gambling, casinos, card dealing, taking high stake chances and card games I never even heard of......I'm still not much the wiser, but I was mesmerized by the magical and oh so addictive turn of the cards. 

Hard to believe that this was Michael Shou-Yung Shum's debut novel. But if you take a look at his life story (so far), this man sure has some delightful tales to tell:

 Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Shou-Yung Shum eventually found himself dealing poker in a dead-end casino in Lake Stevens, Washington. Two doctorates bookend this strange turn of events: the first in Psychology from Northwestern, and the second in English from University of Tennessee. Along the way, Michael spent a dozen years in Chicago, touring the country as a rave DJ. (Forest Avenue Press)

It's thus safe to assume that many aspects in this novel was based on the author's vast knowledge of gambling and all its contingencies. It also revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name. I haven't read any of the Pushkin's stories myself, but Google has and according to my trusted friend, the essential premise does stay the same: An obsessed gambler; a mysterious but ridiculously old Countess; and a fatal game of faro.

Image result for faro card game  Related image
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The book is also a much longer version than the original short story by Pushkin, dealing with more characters and a far more intriguing plot. Such wonderful characters we met in and around the Royal Casino. Some had a sad, lost and hopeless feel around them. The only thing that gave meaning to their lives were the thrill of winning and the luck of the draw. Inside the casino, or on the racetracks, or standing in line to buy a lotto ticket - turned these characters into winners and royalty. The risk of losing hardly ever occurs, until the reality of loss hits them. 

I know next to nothing about cards and casinos, but I was definitely swept up in the magic of that ultimate faro game. (Trivia: I honestly never would have thought that dealers like gambling as well.)

Queen of Spades is one of those food for thought books. A quick,enjoyable read that lingers for a couple of days. I will recommend this one to just about everybody. Unless you have a gambling problem. It might be better to stay clear. 

Thanks again to the lovely Laura Stanfill for providing me with an Advance Reading Copy of this novel. Much appreciated! 


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The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

Monday, August 28, 2017

28233082Title: The Girl in the Ice
Author: Robert Bryndza
Published by: Bookouture
Publication date: February 2016
Read: August 24 - 27, 2017
Genre: Mystery; Thriller
Pages: 396 (kindle edition)
Series: Detective Erika Foster #1
Mareli's rating: 2.5 stars
Recommend to: Readers of fast paced thrillers. Or if you watch crime series with female detectives, you might like this one as well.
Description: When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London. What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika. The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?
A page-turning thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Karin Slaughter, discover Robert Bryndza’s new series today. 
Watch out for more from DCI Erika Foster. Goodreads

Like most other avid Goodreads followers, I consider the annual Goodreads Choice awards as a treasure map for the next year's list of good reads. The 4 and 5 star ratings.  So how is it possible that my rating for The Girl in the Ice came in below the majority? Let's think about it - The Girl in the Ice has all the trimmings that a really good mystery thriller should have:
1. A gruesome murder
2. Secrets 
3. High-flying family with titles and dysfunctional members
4. Leading detective with a past
5. Trafficking and prostitution

Great, great key elements! This should have been sooooo good. And maybe it was. I might be too old school and look at all the nitty gritty details the way that Poirot or Miss Marple or Columbo or Jessica Fletcher would have. And that's just wrong. Their time has passed. In the modern day's detectives' defense, neither of the above mentioned detectives had to deal with Iphones or tiny little nickers. 

Image result for Poirot with a shocked expression Related image

The Prologue. Page 5. Gosh, it bothered me for the next 390 pages. Where exactly did she hide that phone? Yes, it was a clever and an attention grabbing effect to open the book from Andrea's last point of view. It worked. It had my attention immediately. It's just that damn phone and the thong. Then again, glitzy Andrea did proof to have a few glitches. 

You know who would have been able to figure that one out? 

 Image result for Castle facial expressions

Richard Castle. He would have came up with a very clever and a quite plausible explanation. Castle brings me to other small problem I had with this highly acclaimed thriller. 

The leading lady. DCI Erika Foster. 

Just like Kate Beckett in the hit tv-series Castle, Erika also has a troubled past (like they all do). She says whatever she wants to whom ever she wants and doesn't always follow orders. She also tends to wander off on her own without telling anybody where she is going. You would expect ladies who know exactly what goes on out there to know a bit better, won't you. Both are beautiful (although I really did struggle to get a clear picture of Erika in my mind), but neither have a whole lot of charm or tact. And that's where Erika starts to fall short. Unlike Kate, Erika is friendless and teamless. Erika needs Castle's charm, Esposito's shady-past-too-I-understand attitude and Ryan's good manners. Without a friend or a team and a rather aggressive personality, you don't have much on your side, do you?

Granted, this is the first book in a series, so there are a number of slots that can be filled. The potential is definitely there. Detectives Peterson and Moss (Kate Moss, yes, that is right) showed strong character development and there might just be a strapping team lurking here in future.  My below average rating does not mean I won't be reading the rest of this series. 

I did enjoy the story line and the dysfunctional Douglas-Brown family was well depicted. I also tend to follow my gut instinct and the way that Erika followed her hunches were realistically portrayed. If only she would wait for backup. Or at least call it in. Stupid, stupid stupid. You know there's a figure lurking out there, looking for you..... 

The pace was fast and strong and if I can get the image of the phone and the thong and the sexless cat out of my mind, it was a decent crime thriller. 

The Girl in the Ice was a read-together with the lovely Esther from Bite Into Books. Hop on over to her website as well to see her thoughts on this book. 



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Where the sweet bird sings by Ella Joy Olsen

Saturday, August 26, 2017

33369334Title: Where the sweet bird sings
Author: Ella Joy Olsen
Published by: Kensington Books
Publication date: 29 August 2017 
Genre: General Fiction
ISBN:  9781496705648
Mareli's rating: 3 stars
Recommend to: Lovers of adult fiction that deals with loss and grief
Description: People respond to tragedy in different ways. Some try to move on. Some don’t move at all. A year after her young son’s death due to a rare genetic disease, Emma Hazelton is still frozen by grief, unable and unwilling to consider her husband Noah’s suggestion that they try to have another child.
As the future Emma once imagined crumbles, her family’s past comes into sharp relief. Searching for the roots of her son’s disease, Emma tries to fit together the pieces in her genealogical puzzle. Hidden within an old wedding photograph of her great-grandparents is an unusual truth Emma never guessed at—a window into all the ways that love can be surprising, generous, and fiercely brave . . . and a discovery that may help her find her own way forward at last. (Netgalley)

"You asked why a person would lie? I'll tell you. It's because you can't bear the weight of the enormous mess you've made, because you pray things will work out for the best, or they'll change given enough time. At first, it's avoidance of pain, but the truth drifts away, the distance between reality and the original lie are so far removed from one another, the situation can't be bridged with words. Soon, the lie is the truth. The lie dictates how things are in reality."
I've requested this book from Netgalley and Kensington Books at the beginning of this year when I went through a similar heartache as Emma. I hoped that this book would help me to deal with my own sorrow and pain. That it did. What a beautiful written book! 

Emma's emotions and thoughts were captured very realistically. Her inner struggle and despair were heartfelt. She was a strong leading character, maybe a bit too strong as a couple of the other characters came across as part of a puppeteer show. Especially the "historical" characters. Loved the plot and story of her genealogical heritage and the way that Emma went about to uncover her family history had a strong ring of truth.

 Although it kept my attention and I desperately wanted to uncover the truth alongside Emma, it just never became real. Alternating story-lines might have captured it. The truth about Emma's grandfather was a lovely and heartbreaking story and it ones again proofed just how strong a family can be.
"There are many things that connect one person to another. It could be shared history. Or biology. It could be blood. Or it could be love."
I haven't read the companion to Where the sweet bird singsRoot, Petal, Thorn, but I will try to get my hands on it. Although the two novels are not a sequel, I do believe it might be to the reader's advantage to read both of these. 

Ella Joy Olsen has a beautiful writing style and there were a number of beautiful truths captured between the pages of Where the sweet bird sings. I will carry these words of comfort and providers of hope with me for a long time. 

A big thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read and review this novel and to Ella Joy Olsen for her lovely words.
"It's not what happened to you years ago, it's what you do from this point forward. The next step is more important than dwelling on past mistakes".  
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House of Maria - Feel His Grace


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The Memory of Water by J.T. Lawrence

Thursday, August 17, 2017

35901776Title: The Memory of Water
Author: J.T. Lawrence

Format: Audiobook (Audible)
Read/listened: August 4 - 9, 2017
Genre: Thriller; Black Humor (is that a genre, or just preferred reading?)
Mareli's rating: 3.5 Stars (loved the story, didn't care for the narration much)
Recommend to: If you find Jay Gatsby an intriguing character, you will have a field-day with Slade Harris
Slade Harris will do anything for a story, including murdering the woman he loves. Slade doesn’t think twice about jumping out of a plane or conducting disastrous love affairs to gather material for his work, but his self-indulgent life is catching up with him. Stumbling through his late thirties hopeless and a little drunk, Slade has a dazzling, dangerous idea which will change his life forever. It’s going to be Slade’s ultimate story ... and all he’s hoping for is to survive it. Goodreads

We've all heard the theory:

Image result for jack and jay gatsby theory

I am such a sucker for conspiracy theories, murder mysteries, Cluedo boardgames, Dallas, Twin Peaks.... You get the picture. And obviously J.T. Lawrence also got the picture. And she did so not disappoint me!

Jay Gatsby kills Hemingway in the library with a porcelain knife and they chat about it over a drink while picking up ladies in a dodgy bar. 

Yes, that is exactly what is happening in this enticing story by one of the most versatile authors I've ever had the pleasure to read. Wait, that makes me sound like a gypsy fortune teller. Let's try again: Whose work I had the pleasure to read. 

I came across this beautiful South African author a couple of months ago. I know, I know - how is it possible that I haven't devoured all her books years ago? I am convinced that I was withheld these books by somebody or a secret organisation who wished me ill book-health. No other explanation can be plausible.  

I've bought The Memory of Water along with all Janita's other books after I've exposed the vindictive party who withheld these books from me (Although I have no idea how I managed that). When Janita send a request for reviews for the audio recording of The Memory of Water, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. 

Download Audible. Check
Download The Memory of Water (make sure it's the one by J.T. Lawrence. Yes, there are more than one book by that title). Check
Pick a new color-by-numbers. Check
Sharpen pencils. Check
Pour a glass of wine. Just bring the bottle. Check
Press play. Check

Now I am not very good with audiobooks. Yet. I have listened to a couple of the classics on Librivox and that is okay, because if you lose a chapter or two, you haven't missed much. And if you don't like the narrator, you can easily switch to another reader. And I am Afrikaans first language, so no, I do not realize when a word might be mispronounced. Actually, more than once I've realized that I have mispronounced some words for years. In public. In well-to-do company. 

So maybe it wasn't the best idea to listen to a South African book read by a non-South African narrator. Although Austin Moran had a very good type-cast voice for Slade Harris, he might have benefited to grasp the pronunciation of certain South African words and phrases. My opinion. No conspiracy against Austin Moran III. 

I so wish that I've read this book before I've listened to it. I am sure that it would have been a solid 4.5 star rating from me. This story is a roller coaster ride. Full of twists and turns and loops and screaming people. Even the occasional motion sickness makes an appearance (although it might be a bit more the morning after). And then of course there is the ending. Whoo hoo!! What a ride.

Image result for jay gatsby gif

Yes, Janita can definitely be toasted for this one. Bravo bravo!


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Thursday Quotables #7 - A Monster Calls

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Image result for A monster Calls

An opening line like that has the same effect on me as: "You had me at hello"..... 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is one of those Russian-doll books.  A gift within a gift that leads to yet another gift. So I just have to share it on Thursday Quotables hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies. This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage during your past reading week. Whether it's something funny, startling, gut-wrenching or just really written beautifully - this is where you must share! Just remember to link back to 

Gosh, I love books that are just so much better than therapy and almost as good as chocolate. Some are even a bit better than chocolate. A Monster Calls is like hot chocolate. It makes you warm and sweet and it lingers. It speaks the truth. Like you should.

This is a monster of a book and movie and I don't think I will ever shut-up about it. And the quotes, the quotes are like gold. I am sure you will be able to trade with some of these:

Image result for Quotes from A monster calls Image result for Quotes from A monster calls

Image result for Quotes from A monster calls Image result for Quotes from A monster calls

Image result for Quotes from A monster calls

We've watched the movie last night and it was like a double-choc-shot. The perfect companion to an amazing book. 

Have you read A Monster Calls or watched the movie? 


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