Monday, May 25, 2015

Guest post: 15 ways to tell if you are a bookworm

I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of reading lists about being a book addict. Not only do they have me enthusiastically nodding along to every single point being made, but they always serve to remind me just how awesome it is to be such an ardent lover of books.

In today’s guest post, Tea Addict, a lovely friend of mine, shares her list of ways to tell if you’re a book worm.  I dare you to disagree with all of the points made.

1. You think vouchers to spend at a bookstore are an absolute win.  Family and friends stop asking what you would like for your birthday or Christmas as they already know the answer.

2. Your husband builds you a bookcase.  You couldn’t be more excited if he’d added a new level to your home.

3. When packing for a weekend away, you pack in a book (or two) before clothes.

4. Lending out your precious books almost causes physical pain.  You have devised a series of excuses when someone sees you reading and asks to borrow the book.  “Oh this book?  No sorry it belongs to my aunt’s friend’s cousin’s cat.”

5. You are one of those people who always has a book on them.  It is either in your handbag, or desk drawer or in your car.  You are never without something to read.  Ever.

6. You think libraries are beautiful.  You can spend hours in them and never get tired of going back. 

7. When a movie is based on a book, you are the person in the cinema whispering furiously “It wasn’t like that at all in the book.” People stop wanting to go to the movies with you when the film has anything to do with something you have read. 

8. You will only consider joining ‘serious’ bookclubs.  Where you discuss the book and the characters in-depth.

9. You make time to read.  It can be your busiest time at work but you make sure to dedicate some time to chill out with a book.

10. Books are a healthy form of escapism in your opinion.

11. The thought of being locked in a bookstore (with a comfortable chair and a kettle) is a secret fantasy of yours.  

12. Meeting someone who has loved a booked or character as much as you did is better than ice-cream.  With sprinkles.

13. You have your favourite authors but you are always keen to try something new. 

14. You think librarians are very fortunate people.  As are people who work in bookstores.  To be surrounded by books must be absolute bliss.

15. You are incapable of just browsing in a book shop.  Unless you buy a book (or two) you just don’t feel right.

What else would you add to the list? Do share yours – it’s always fun hearing from fellow bibliophiles.

Disclaimer: This post was originally featured on Women24.com.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Welcome to another mini book reviews edition of my blog.

In today’s mini reviews feature, I share my brief thoughts on one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year so far.

You can purchase a copy of The Girl on the Train via Raru.co.za


Summary from Goodreads (published by Doubleday, an imprint of Transworld publishers in 2015)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens.

She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed.

Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

What I thought:
Oh my aching soul. This review is going to be a jumble of tangled thoughts because I need to get these thoughts out of my head, and I need to get it out now (I may write a more coherent review at some point, but for now, my inner fangirl must come OUT).

The Girl on the Train is probably the best thriller I’ve read this year so far - and this by a debut author no less.

If you're looking for the kind of book that is anxiety-inducing, yet will force you to keep you reading, then you should look no further than The Girl on the Train.

Paula Hawkins has a remarkable knack for pulling you into the story; her messy, unreliable and brilliantly drawn characters leaving you perpetually unsettled and constantly on edge.

In fact, the portrayal of each character's neurotic obsessions and often paranoid delusions (are they really?), are so unnervingly real, you can't help but feel as if every single one of their doubts, fears and lingering suspicions have been imprinted on you, leaving you with the worst case of second-hand apprehension imaginable.

I am pretty sure I developed whiplash just from reading this book, as I was constantly chopping and changing my mind about the characters, their motivations and behaviour patterns.

Speaking of characters, if you’re going into this book expecting to feel any form of warm or fuzzy feelings for any of them, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.

They’re not the kind of protagonists you’d want to be friends with. Hell, these are probably the kind of people you wouldn’t want within reaching distance of you.

And yet, for all that, they do inspire sympathy, empathy and compassion in the reader... at least when they're not doing things that frustrate  you, or make you want to shake your head in pure despair at the level of absurdity of their actions.

Rachel, our heroine, in particular was a character I felt for on so many levels.

She's a complete and utter wreck. She teeters on the edge of self-destruction, and her alcoholism only adds to the fact that what she sees and experiences, is not conducive to her being a reliable witness.

And the more she tries to insert herself into the investigation that follows, the more questionable her behaviour becomes.

Still, in spite of the reckless and irresponsible things that she does, there was something about her that made me keep rooting for her to get to the bottom of the mystery, while at the same time, also had me hoping that she’d pull her act together. 

However, there is so much more to her story than meets the eye. And indeed, at the end of this book, I ended up seeing Rachel as much of a victim as anyone else.

Mostly thought, I saw her as a survivor, and one that was determine to do the right thing, even if it was at the cost of her sanity.

I did work out who the villain in the story was relatively early (and yet, I was still taken aback, that's how good Paula's characterisation of the culprit was), and watching this person unravel was as creepy, chilling and disturbing as some of the actions of the other suspects in the book. 

I won’t forget this antagonist, that’s for sure!

One of the most compelling, spine-chilling and thoroughly engrossing novels I've read so  this year so far, I know this is a book that will stick with many people for a long time to come.

After all, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is not just a book about secrets in the dark, but it's also a cautionary tale of what happens when lines between reality and illusion are blurred and already volatile situations are misconstrued, misinterpreted and taken apart before justice has even been properly invited to the party.

It’s a book that speaks to us about treading carefully with information, because what you think you see, is often not always what it actually is, and it’s a message (whether intentional or not) that is especially relevant in today’s society, where we’re so quick to judge and assume things about others – especially with the ease that social media networks allow us to.

Go out and get this book – it’s a corker of a read.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book talk: Would you read a book by an author who has lied about the story?

Disclaimer: This column originally appeared on Women24.com

Earlier this year, and according to The Washington Post, a Christian book publishing house recalled a book called The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey, after Alex admitted to lying about his near-death and subsequent heavenly experience.

The book, Washington Post goes on to add, sold over a one million copies and chronicles the story of Alex’s divine encounters following a car accident that left him in a coma for two months.

There are, of course, many visceral reactions that have stemmed from his confession. What adds to the confusion is that Alex’s mother was allegedly unhappy with the book for months, and never agreed to meetings with the publishers.

I’m not surprised by this.

Not because the book’s been made out to be a lie, but because this isn’t the first time an author has lied about the contents of his/her books.

I mean, who can forget the memorable interview with Oprah Winfrey and James Frey, after it emerged that he fabricated details in his memoir, A Million Little Pieces (you can read a transcript of that interview, which includes a follow-up interview five years later, here)?

Then there’s Forbidden Love by Norma Khouri.

Now this memoir caused quite the scandal.  According to Listverse.com, in this book, Norma reveals an account of how she acted as middleman between star-crossed lovers, Dalia (from a staunch and traditional Muslim family) and Michael (a British officer who also happened to be Roman Catholic).

The inevitable happens: Dalia’s father finds out and proceeds to stab her multiple times. Norma, who obviously fears for her life because of her role in this, is eventually smuggled out of Jordan.

Except that this never, ever happened. In fact, not only did it emerge that this memoir was completely made up, but there’s actually proof that she wasn’t even in Jordan during the timeline of the events in the book.

Another more recent example is Zoella, popular YouTube blogger (she has over 6 million followers), who recently debuted the novel, Girl Online.  For up to months, this book has been marketed in such a way that it led her fans to believe that she was the actual author of the book.

Not long after the book was published, did Zoe (real name Zoe Suggs) and her publishers admit that she had a ghost writer.

Ghost writers are obviously nothing new (I mean James Patterson actually has a ghost writing factory as it is), but misleading your target audience into thinking that you wrote the book, especially when you are an online brand and persona who has specifically stated, and I quote from The Independent,  that it’s "always been a dream of hers to write her own novel," well, then things become a little murkier.

For me, this obviously begs the following question: if an author has revealed that he’s lied about a book he has written (even if it’s just some parts), would you still read it?

I’ve posed this question to my lovely colleagues and friends and there’ve been some pretty mixed reactions. Some flat out refuse to, while others, including myself, find ourselves a little more divided on the issue.

As a rule, I generally prefer fiction over non-fiction anyway, but isn’t fiction, in simple terms, a beautiful lie made to fit into a scenario that makes that untruth a fantastical reality (Although, historical fiction that aims for accuracy would probably be the exception here)?

And let’s not forget that often, in fiction, authors create characters that are unreliable narrators.

That said though, I get that readers get upset when they find out that information that is supposed to be factual has been exaggerated.  In fact, I’m definitely not immune to experiencing outrage when this happens.

No one likes being duped. And many readers feel betrayed by the author, especially if it’s a book that is a personal account that they can or do relate to (It’s particularly awful if an author uses abuse or addiction in any form to manipulate readers).

In fact, in these moments I think it’s safe to say that some people find it really hard to separate the author from the book.

Personally, I like to think that I fall into the category of people who would give the author at least one more chance (Unless the author is a complete and utter jerk about it).

We all tell lies at some point (and if you claim otherwise then that is a lie in itself); it’s just that some are found out, while others still lurking underneath the surface are waiting to find their way out.

I don’t judge people who choose not to read an author’s work because of the author’s fallibility; I just prefer to remind myself that I come with my own brand of flaws.

But, that's just me. What's your take on it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.