Once upon a time

The First Book I Ever Stole.

“You’re stealing books, why?”

“Sometimes when life robs you, you have to rob it back.”

– The Book Thief

The first book I ever stole: Goosebumps.

I don’t quite remember the exact Goosebumps story I had acquired, or HOW I had acquired it as a matter of fact, but I vividly remember how it made me feel.

I remember the cover being black, with droopy, gooey looking bright green slime on the front and a surge of excitement bubbling in my chest as I sat on the bottom bunk of my bed, in my blue and purple themed room and tried my best to read.
I was around nine, not the best or worst student and had a pretty decent grasp of the English language.

I had a penchant for the fantastical and an imagination to suit, books seemed right up my alley.
It would however be years after that random, stolen Goosebumps book before I stole another, before, in fact, I read anything other than what was prescribed reading at school.

The next book came at a time when I needed it most, when my sense of adventure and fantasy had faded and become jaded by life and all I needed was a good tale to get it fired up again.

Through the series of upcoming posts, I will explain how a few gifted, a few stolen and a few bought books, saved my life.

xx – M.

COVID-19 – Flattening the curve with pj’s and a massive TBR pile.

Hi All,
Firstly, I’d like to extend my well wishes to everyone. It’s such a strange, difficult time and people are struggling. I hope you all get through this sane, healthy and with a smaller stack of books waiting to be read.

Just before the lockdown I went to a sale at the local book warehouse. (In Rand, here in South Africa, the average brand new book goes for about R150 – R200.)
For R500 each customer received a box, about the standard size of a moving box, just a little shorted and wider and we were let loose in the store. You could fill the box flat for your R500.

I managed to fix twenty six books in my box and significantly grow my TBR pile, which I am grateful for considering the current circumstances.

A list of the books I bought:
– American God’s – Neil Gaiman. (Already finished)
– Lady Killer – Martina Cole. (Already finished)
– Citadel – Kate Mosse.
– Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse.
– The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne.
– Rembrandt’s Mirror – Kim Deveruex (Already read, reviewed in my previous post)
– Hawley book of the dead – Chrysler Szarlan.
– Antony & Cleopatra – Collen McCullough.
– In Lucia’s eyes – Arthur Japin.
– Frankenstein – Mary Shelly.
– The Mermaid & Mr Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar.
– Fighting Ruben Wolfe – Markus Zusak.
– The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
– City of Dark Magic – Magnus Flyte.
– Windacre – Phillipa Gregory.
– The Kingdom of Little Wounds – Susan Cokal.
– Betrayal – Kate Furnivall.
– Hannibal Rising – Thomas Harris.
– Chosen – P.C & Kristen Cast.
– The Duke – Gaelen Foley.
– The book of speculation – Erika Swyler.
– The Prophecy of bees – R.S Pateman.
– The paytriot’s Churchill – Richard M Longworth.
– Aesop’s Fables – Aesop. (I read one or two of these every night or morning)
– Don Quixote – Cervantes.
– Far from the madding crowd – Thomas Hardy.
– Infinite days – Rebecca Maizel.

The box.
All the pretty covers.

Trying to stay positive and look on the bright side of this mess we’re in, I am thankful to have a job that allows me to work from home in sweats and no bra (it’s the little things that make this all bearable) and due the the fact that I’m not travelling, I have more time to dig into this haul and feel less guilty about staying up too late and reading as much as I want.
I know tons of people have had losses, jobs, relatives, friends…I extend my sincerest condolences and hope that you continue to stay motivated and focused. Don’t let the negatives get you down. Use every opportunity to find new ways of getting ahead, staying strong and supporting those who need it.

Comment of this post:
– What should I read next from the list above?
– What are you doing to keep busy and focused during these troubled times?
– What are you hoping to achieve once this is all over?
– And what are you currently reading?

Happy reading friends!

xx – M.

Review: Rembrandt’s Mirror.

Rembrandt’s Mirror immediately drew my attention, with the beautiful bright blue cover, gold detail and gold dusted edges.
I was excited and made sure to have it on my list of must reads for this COVID-19 business.

I started it with gusto, diving right in…and then very quickly lost all motivation for it.
It was a terribly disappointing read.

It seemed like the writer tried to lay the facts in a fictional type setting, peppering the pages with pretty prose in small increments, but lacking in the overall element of wonderful story telling – which is flow.

The book hops from one thought to the next without so much as a by-your-leave. The author seems to jump from one scene to the next, often leaving out vital characters, explanations and reason.

There were several times throughout the book that I became hopeful. The paragraph would start off beautifully, painting a wonderful scene, and then all of a sudden the author seemed to rush through the next few sentences, delivering a fact here and there, then jumping to the next scene again leaving the reader confused and dissapointed.
By page 200, I was constantly taking breaks simply to let The Boyfriend know how much I was HATING this book, and that’s truly hard for me to say, but it’s true.

The story had such potential.
Rembrandt, a real life famous artist, a wonderfully complex man with a wonderfully complex life, had a wonderful story to be told ad unfortunately the book was written by a hand that lacked the finesse and art the painter himself possessed.
The story itself is captivating, it’s unconventional and delves into the mind of a man with extraordinary talents, if available, I would find another book based on his life and work and read that instead, and hope for a better outcome.

My overall opinion is that the book seemed like a first draft that was skimmed over and put into print.
Kim Devereux has talent, but this book did not show the full extent of that talent.

The upside is that it looks might pretty on shelf.

Recommendation: Minette Walters.

Hello Friends,

Do I have a recommendation for you!
Do you love crime, suspense, complex characters and EPIC, brilliant writing?, well then keep reading – Minette Walters is your woman.

I came across Minette Walters by – you’ll never guess – Ah, you did – I stole it.
My dad, who isn’t quite into reading but sometimes picks up a book, had a copy of The Devil’s Feather. I found it in the bottom of a random cupboard in the house, snuck it off to my room and claimed it as MINE.

I finished the book in about two days and was instantly obsessed – I needed more.
I went on to find eight more of her books in the local bookstore – all bought and paid for, I swear and flew through them.

Whenever I am asked to recommend an author, she’s always first on my list, out of all the books I had read written by her, I have NEVER been dissapointed.

My thoughts:

The first novel I read by Minette.

Mini Synopsis:

The book follows bad-ass Connie Burns, as she trudges through war-torn country, fighting for the lost voices of the women captured in the midst of bloodshed.

Who will notice the emergence of a sexual psychopath from the ranks of the mercenaries?

– Blurb from Devil’s Feather cover.

The story has amazing flow, it’s super sensory and I often found myself on the very edge of my seat.

Knowing what I know now, this isn’t the book I would have started off with when it comes to Minette’s work – I would have started with The Sculptress, but it is a great introduction piece to her style and overall theme of writing.
Most of her books follow strong female leads, but not in the way that will intimidate male readers or make female readers feel – “less than”

She goes deep with fear – she highlights that even the most bad-ass people feel it, but trudge along anyway and it all results in an amazing showdown of nerve and determination.

The Devil’s Feather has a host of colorful – weird characters that stick with you for a long time after putting down the book.

Loaned to me by a friend – she came to get it from my house – I did try to steal it but no-go.

Acid Row was the second book I read by Minette and really cemented my obsession with her work.

It follows Sophie Morrison, a young doctor who finds herself trapped in a house with a pedophile, as the inhabitants of a rough council estate come looking for blood when a little girl, Amy, goes missing.

WOW guys, this book seriously had me glued to the pages. I distinctly remember trying to make a cup of coffee while reading this and being so immersed I clean missed the cup with the sugar, coffee and water!

Sophie is a strong, smart young woman, but I truly enjoyed how real Minette makes things.
Being stuck in a room with a pedophile – with a raging mob outside would terrify most people and that’s exactly how Sophie felt – and how the reader feels.

You sit through every emotion with this book, anger – fear – sadness – determination – relief.
It’s raw and very real. It highlighted issues that are out there and happening every day and brings to focus the need for action, all while keeping you thoroughly entertained.

Cliffhanger if I’ve ever read one!

The Sculptress is most certainly among my top five with Minette.
It follows Rosalind Leigh, a journalist investigating the case of – The Sculptress.

Its was a slaughterhouse, the most horrific scene I have ever witnessed…Olive Martin is a dangerous woman. I advise you to be extremely wary in your dealings with her.
– Extract from the blurb of The Sculptress.

Listen, this damn book guys – I can’t even explain it.
I spent about two days on the book and was never quite the same after – I often still think about it at the most random moments.

The Sculptress is a story that will leave you thinking for days!
It’s a fantastic battle of wits between two very different women, who both understand, but just quite can’t understand each other.

The characters are thrilling and smart-arsey and just overall amazing.
I was left confused and contemplating and worried and scared and constantly bouncing my leg on the edge of my seat.
It’s fast paced in a very flow-y sort of way – if that makes any sense.

I will warn you and say that the ending – to me at least – seemed like a bit of a cliffhanger, but in the most awesome way.

I feel like this work really showcases Minette’s brilliant mind and talent for writing. I will go far as to say it’s probably my favorite.

My second favorite.

I’m not quite sure form here on what books I read when – but that doesn’t matter.

The Ice House – by far – has the best characters.
It is my second favorite of her work that I have had the pleasure of reading, and is very much on par with The Sculptress, but wins with characters – where as The Sculptress wins with pure amazing plot.

The Ice house features three ladies as the center of the story and they are frikin’ amazing.
They are witty and smart and honest and eccentric, I truly enjoyed their personalities and constantly spoke about them to everyone I spoke to while reading the book.

It was evident, if there were no other entrances to the ice house, that the body had at some point traversed this thorny barrier…the big question was, how long ago? How long had that nightmare been there?

The people of Streech Village place blame squarely at the feet of the three above mentioned women when a body – nothing but bones and cobwebs – are found in an ice house on their property.

This book is a twisting tale of judgement and fight and secrets, murder and the ability to overcome, and not fall under the weight of others opinions – and most importantly love and friendship.
I was enthralled – following the journey of this mysterious murder, the myriad of typical small-town people, captured perfectly and the fight to stand up in the face of horrendous people and accusations.

It was truly a wonderful piece of work that I – just decided – will go back and read by the end of the year.

The above:

The Echo, Disordered Minds, The Breaker and The Shape of Snakes, were the other books I had read – over a period of about a year or so.
I realized I was probably making this post a bit toooo long, so decided to group them together as I went on.

These books were just as great and entertaining as the rest.
I had a bit of a struggle with Disordered Minds – as the beginning is a bit of information overload and drawn out, but about fifteen – twenty pages later it twists into something amazing and was such a joy to read.

I have seen some of Minette’s newer work – which seems quite different from the modern crimes stuff listed above and I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I plan on adding it to my TBR for 2020 and shall certainly let you all know.

Minette – in my opinion is a phenomenal writer. She is the definition of a story teller and keeps you entertained – thinking but simultaneously relaxed.
The overall experience of her work is eye-opening, witty, smart, real and raw.

She is my five star author.

WARNING – The books are extremely graphic and detailed. It might be disturbing to some.

Minette Walters –

Harry Potter!

A teary-eyed twenty four year old with her first Harry Potter set.

Hello Friends!
Twenty Fours Years!
Twenty four, long, long years, it took me to finally read Harry Potter.

Here’s why;

I have a thing about sets – if you read my post titled “The Grand Heist” You’ll know that I robbed a poor librarian in order to complete a set – which by the by, I just recently – as in yesterday, realized is still not complete! The search begins once more.

Anyway,

I realized that I had no patience to buy one book at a time, I need the full set, when available, or I can’t have it at all.
The problem with sets like Harry Potter – Possibly the only problem I could find – is that they are damn expensive!

So, I waited, and waited, and waited.
I would save money, specifically with Harry Potter in mind, then have to spend it on something or someone else more important, I could just never justify the purchase.

Little did I know, that my constant jabbering about the books and my insistence on having them, was driving The Boyfriend UP THE WALL! He was positively SICK of hearing about Harry Potter, so for my twenty fourth birthday, just passed in October 2019, HE BOUGHT THE SET FOR ME!

He usually refrains from buying books as gifts, as I get them from everyone else, including myself and he likes to make gifts fun and different.
He knew however, that having this set meant the world to me – so he came through with the prettiest damn, waxy cover set ever and I’m over the moon.

I finished the lot in three months – and seriously can’t wait to read them again.

My thoughts on the books:

The first two were a bit slow and kiddish – which I understand was the intention as Rowling was writing for a younger audience at the time – the above statement though doesn’t mean they were any less amazing.

I loved every moment of reading those books and constantly wish I could swipe my mind clean and read them for the first time all over again.

I must say,
I don’t walk around claiming a specific house or constantly making references – as much of the folk I know who first read the books when they came out do – No Judging – I’m just in a different phase of life and the fan-girl thing wasn’t ever the route I was going to go.
And to be honest, I love the total fan vibes and the constant references, I just don’t do them myself.

I had no criticisms for the books – I thoroughly enjoyed it all, but I was, and i must stress this, VERY upset that some of those who died – I won’t mention names in case someone reading this has not yet read HP – didn’t magic back to life, like what the heck man, you’re all wizards and witches – do something!

But alas, I made peace and moved on.

I often stare at the books and consider picking them up again, but for now my TBR pile is just to large to re-read anything.

This post is NOT meant as a review, but I will state that Harry Potter is a 5 star read (*****) and worth every cent. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a go – you won’t regret it.

Whether you read it as a kid back in the day when it came out, or you read it now as a twenty four year old, whatever the age – it stands the test of time and continues to be a work of brilliance.

xx M.



Book Review: Grown Ups – Marian Keyes.

Grown Ups – Marian Keyes and a glass of Tokara, Sauvignon Blanc .

Blurb:

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family.
Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much…

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets a concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

*****

Hello Friends!

I got this lovely, lovely book on Valentine’s day. Massive brownie points scored by The Boyfriend.

For weeks The Boyfriend had been asking, “What do you want for Valentine’s day?”
At which point I’d flap my hand nonchalantly and smile. “Nothing, no-thing at all. I don’t celebrate Valentine’s day, you know that. “

I’d also then proceed to talk about nothing else BUT Marian Keyes’ new book – Grown Ups. I flung the title around, made sure he knew it was the NEW book and come Valentine’s day morning, when we shared a kiss and a coffee, I started to regret my insistence on not celebrating the stupid holiday, perhaps he took me seriously??

Well, there I was, walking towards the bedroom to get ready for the day (Rather pouty, might I add) when The Boyfriend pops out of nowhere, thrusting the book at my face and smugly saying “There.”
I was slightly teary eyed as I asked him “How’d you know?”
At which point we both laughed rather loudly and I spent the next 15 minutes admiring at the book and thanking him repeatedly.


Now I must be honest and admit that I walked into this book with a bit of an attitude.
I had read Marian’s other books several times, each book was centered around a sister from the same family – The Walsh’s.
I LOVED that crazy family more than anything and was dying for another book involving them.

So, I opened up Grown Ups – Fabulous cover might I add – and started to get a feel for these “new people”.
I was slightly sneer-y and judg-y of these new folk, but soon found myself absolutely, wonderfully entertained.

Grown ups proved to be highly entertaining with a flurry of new, witty, smart-arsey characters that are easy to fall in love with and some easy to hate (as, I think, was intended – I’m looking at you Johnny).
I did find that the book wasn’t quite as funny as her previous works, but there were definitely moments that made me giggle.

My opinion on this book is that it wasn’t meant to be that funny . It’s a bit of an eye-opener piece of fun.
It kept me hooked and entertained, while simultaneously making me think about my own role in my family and how my actions impact others and what choices I needed to make to be happy and make happy.

I truly adored the book and spent Saturday reading the last of it in the Jacuzzi with a glass of wine – as grown ups do (wink, wink)

As always with Marian, I was sad when it was done and hungry for more of her brilliance.
I have a feeling I might be biased, as it’s hard for me to find “issues” with anything that Marian produces, but I truly did love the book and will continue to recommend it to anyone who’d listen.

I loved the family, the banter and the honesty, as well as the lies.
I found myself being hooked on the gossip and inner thoughts of the complex character’s and flipping through the pages at high speed, wanting to absorb all the goodness that is family drama.

Marian Keyes is a brilliant writer and I truly can’t see anyone being dissapointed by giving her work a go.
If you need some laughs, maybe a good cry and to know that sometimes – just sometimes – it’s okay to be a hot mess and a bit of an eejit, then Grown Ups – or any of Marian’s work to be honest, is the way to go.

xx – M.

Grown Ups – Marian Keyes.
Four star rating.

– Side note – The Tokara sauvignon Blanc – 5 stars for sure.

The Grand Heist

It was around the time I just turned eighteen that I went and got myself a library card.

I had walked into the wonderful smelling place, the hushed quiet soothing and went straight up to the counter to apply for my card, only to find that I had a fine from when I was 8 years old (Could this have been where I had stolen the Goosebumps book from?)
I happily paid the fine, which was next to nothing considering that ten years had passed, and got my brand new, laminated card (So shiny!). The possibilities were endless.

I did a slow walk through the shelves, at one point crawling along my knees to get a better look at the volumes on the lower shelves and began pulling books with sweaty hands and hysterical excitement – I kid you not, I was dizzy with the rush of it all.
A part of me knew this was a terrible idea, knew that I had no intention of bringing these books back, but I fought off the negative thoughts and continued pulling the books into my arms.

Now! All of a sudden I remembered two other books I had swiped from someone (More on this in the post to follow) and with overwhelming urgency went to ask the librarian if she had the third book in the trilogy available.

She looked at me from behind the counter with a debate clearly raging in her mind (Always follow your instincts dear), then leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially (even though there was not a soul around to hear) “I do, but we just got it in and it hasn’t been labeled yet. We were only going to put it on the shelves tomorrow.”

My face dropped. “Oh, okay thank you.” I was devastated. My obsession with the Brides of Culdee Creek trilogy had haunted me for months and the need to find the third book was overwhelming. I had been looking EVERYWHERE.

I began to move away when she hissed me back, waving her hand frantically to beckon me closer, her eyes darting from side to side. “I can let you take it, but you must bring it back as soon as you’re done.”

This is not my proudest moment and I still often feel ashamed (which is then swiftly swooped away by pure joy when I see the trilogy on my shelf) but I agreed, that as soon as I was done, I’d hurry the book right back.

It’s been seven years now and the book is still very much in my possession, but a generous donation was given to the library mentioned and I feel slightly better about my thievery.

The thing is, I slowly came to terms with the fact that I could never, ever, return a book loaned to me. I’m not proud of it, but the thought of giving books back/away, after I’ve invested time and fallen in love with them, is just unfathomable.

I, Momo The Book Thief, am a book hoarder.

On that wonderful day, my laminated card glinting in the sun, I stole six books in total and have never been back to the library, although the card is still safely tucked in a slot in my purse.

I now walk around with a clear warning label. People offer to loan me books or show me their own collections and I always, slightly sweaty and skittish, warm them to never do such a thing. “I’ll not give them back! I’ll rob you blind.” I tell them, at which point they either threaten death if I ever try or promptly never mention loaning books to me again.
The people that truly freak me out are the ones that simply shrug and say, “Sure, you can keep them, I usually give them away anyhow.” Uhm, excuse me…but are you mad?!

Now, your question must be, “Why didn’t she just buy her own damn books.”
Well, I would have loved to, but I had no money, had left school due to personal matters that were out of my control and was trying to find my way in life.

I have since paid for my sins. I don’t steal books anymore and often find ways to give back! I’m repenting. Saving my bookish soul!

I do however, have a fried with a lovely collection that’s tempting me.

Pray friends, pray for me!

The Gifted Books

I was around seventeen when my mom (stepmom) gave me a crate of books she had had in storage. Among them were most of Marian Keyes work.

I accepted the crate with a large smile, starry eyes and scrunched shoulders.

I read every available Marian Keyes book in record time and then read them all again, and again, and again! I was hooked.

These books came to me at just the right time. Funny, how often books tend to find their way into your life just when you need them.

I was about to be eighteen, I had left school at this point and was suffering from some sudden and severe anxiety. I had choices to make about my future and felt utterly terrified.

Marian Keyes is a brilliant, insightful, hilarious writer and she truly is never, ever disappointing.

I started with Watermelon, a witty, funny and heartwarming piece of fiction.

The story follows Claire, a average woman, whose arsehole husband decided to leave her on the day she gives birth!

She finds herself back home in the bosom of her large, loud and loving Irish family and she manages to recover from the shock, gracefully lift herself up and be better!

The family, the laughs, the bright luminous green cover, did my soul a world of good. Even though I wasn’t in the same situation as Claire, by far, I found myself connecting with her.
I found her sorry story reassuring. I found her recovery and strength motivating. I found myself utterly INLOVE with Marian Keyes and that still stands today.
Side note: I’m currently reading her latest novel – Grown Ups and my God it’s GOOD (as always)

That little gifted crate of dusty books had sparked a wild, passionate, obsessive love for reading within me and quite like my feelings for the lovely Marian, it’s never gone away.

I would go on to steal my next book, or as I say, to save myself the shame, I’m still currently just borrowing the book – about a year later. Oops.

I should state that I no longer steal books – I buy them with hard earned money – or request them for ever possible gift giving lift event, but we’ll get to this part of my story in due time.

xx – M.