Top 5 books set in your country

This week for Top 5 Tuesday, we are sharing the books that are set in our countries. I have chosen to talk about books set in my country of birth, South Africa. The books I am sharing with you are ones that I have read even though I no longer have copies of them.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

This book is Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. I read it about a decade after the first democratic elections in  South Africa and it describes Mandela’s life from childhood up until the time he became the first black president of the country. I found the description of his life from the time he was released from prison interesting as those are the moments that I lived through in my life as an adult living in the changing country.  

The Last Trek, A New Beginning by F. W. de Klerk

De Klerk was the last president of the National Party in South Africa and he was the one who oversaw the release of Nelson Mandela. It was under his leadership that the beginning of change began in my home country. I read this autobiography after Nelson Mandela’s and it was interesting to compare the two experiences – and to read history from a different viewpoint. 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

This book is another autobiography but this time of a comedian who was born during apartheid and grew up mostly in a post-Apartheid South Africa. When reading this memoir, it was interesting to compare his upbringing with what I had myself experienced as well as with what I had observed when teaching at a school after the first South African democratic elections. I loved, too, that his sense of humour permeates the writing. I am curious to know whether non-South Africans would understand many of the references that I did as a South African-born reader. 

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

This novel was one of the set books that I read when I was at university and it is one that resonated with me. It is a deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, this novel is one of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man. While doing research for this post, I saw that the book had been published with a newer edition. It is time, I think, to consider re-reading it. 

The Covenant by James A. Michener

This is an epic tale of adventurers, scoundrels, and ministers set in the South African wilderness. From the Java-born Van Doorn family tree springs two great branches: one nurtures lush vineyards, the other settles the interior to become the first Trekboers and Afrikaners. The Nxumalos, inhabitants of a peaceful village unchanged for centuries, unite warrior tribes into the powerful Zulu nation. And the wealthy Saltwoods are missionaries and settlers who join the masses to influence the wars and politics that ravage a nation. This novel is a story of courage and heroism, love and loyalty, and cruelty and betrayal, as generations fight to forge a new world. I read this book over 25 years ago so I cannot remember the details – but I remember being swept away with the epic nature of the story. Not only does Michener tell his story, but he throws in a bit of South African history too.

Other South African Authors

There are many other South African-based stories that I have read in the past. However, I am unable to remember the titles of the books. Some South African authors of note are: Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Olive Schreiner, and J. M. Coetzee. 

Have you read a story based in South Africa? If you have please share the title and author in the comments. 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Bionic Book Worm and the Top 5 Tuesday challenge. This week we are listing the top 5 books in your own country).

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Top 5 Book Spines

I love seeing the books I have set out on my bookshelves. Their colours are aesthetically pleasing to me – especially those books that have beautiful covers and spines. I have noticed that a number of new releases are competing with some of the older copies on my shelf. And the spines of Fantasy books? Sometimes they have no competition from the other genres.

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon

I fell in love with this spine from the first moment I saw it on Instagram. The beautiful orange contrasts well with the blue. The hint of a dragon across it definitely adds to its beauty. When I received my pre-order, I saw that the spine looked as beautiful in my hands as it did on social media.

ENCHANTEE by Gita Trelease

I love anything related to Paris – a city I have spent a year in and that I loved visiting. This beautiful spine highlights the colours of the French flag and seems to fit perfectly the story within. I have not read the book yet but the spine will encourage me to pick it up when I am in the mood for something French related.

THE CERULEAN by Amy Ewing

From the first moment that I read the synopsis for this book, I knew that I wanted to read it. What a bonus when I saw the beautiful cover – and the spine certainly looks attractive amongst the other books.

THE SWORD OF SUMMER by Rick Riordon

The Magnus Chase books all have beautiful spines. My daughter has the entire collection on her shelf and they look stunning together. I have put the first in the series on my TBR shelf as I have been curious about these stories for a while now.

NIGHTBLOOD by Elly Blake

The spine of the third book in the series by Elly Blake looks absolutely stunning next to book 1 and 2. The Frostblood Saga is yet another series that I am hoping to read during 2019. I had the opportunity to hear Elly Blake speak last year and could not resist getting to know her more through her story.

I know I will get to read these beautiful books sometime but, until then, I will admire their beauty on my shelf.

Which book spines are among your favourite?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Bionic Book Worm and the Top 5 Tuesday challenge. This week we are listing the top 5 books that beautiful spines). 

Favourite Read of the Month: December 2018

During the month of December, I read a total of 10 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing me to a final total of 94. I was able to read so many books during this month because I was on a two week break from work. Even though I spent time with my family during the Holiday period, I was able to spend a couple of hours each morning reading on the sofa.

The titles I read in December are listed below. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title in the following list:

  1. Ahab’s Return by Jeffrey Ford – historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.
  2. Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye – historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  3. The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton – psychological thriller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  4. One Day in December by Josie Silver – contemporary romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  5. The Gown by Jennifer Robson – historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  6. Christmas at the Little Clock House on the Green by Eve Devon – romance  ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  7. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe – contemporary Young Adult  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  8. I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan – psychological thriller ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  9. Bad Angels by Rebecca Chance – romance ⭐⭐ 2 stars
  10. The Woman Who Met Her Match – romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

I read a nice mix of genres: romance, thrillers, and historical fiction. As you can see, my favourites were The Gown (historical), The Perfect Girlfriend (thriller), and One Day in December (romance). I loved all three of these novels and would recommend them with no hesitation. As my favourite for the month I would have to pick The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton because it was so twisty and surprised me more than once.

What was your favourite read in December? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book Review: Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye

So many of us know The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have seen different versions of the story in film and animation, as well as beautiful book editions of the tale. Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye tells the story of Jacob Marley and the circumstances that led to him becoming a tormented ghost.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb: 

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.

And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…

In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

My thoughts: 

Miss Marley is a beautifully written novella that is a wonderful addition to the Christmas stories that we read at this time of the year. The story is told from the point of view of Clara Marley and is written with a sensitivity that embraces a personality which is the antithesis of what Jacob Marley is to become.  The novella traces the path of these two siblings, showing the reader that different responses to similar obstacles in life may have different outcomes. Both Clara and Jacob have had the same experiences (hunger, extreme poverty, rejection) and yet their response towards other people once they are able to change their circumstances is different.

I enjoyed reading this well-written piece that does justice to the original Dickensian story. It captures the heart and encapsulates the Christmas spirit.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 85th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

I decided to pick up the second of the B. A. Paris novels that my colleague had lent me. The Breakdown was the second novel that had been published by this author. As I had enjoyed her debut novel, I was looking forward to reading this one.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Blurb: 

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

My thoughts:

The Breakdown was an interesting read, though not as good as the debut novel written by B. A. Paris. The story begins slowly and, in the first part of the novel, the description of the main character’s thoughts (Cass) is a bit repetitive. The novel becomes interesting, however, when it is suggested that not all is as it seems, that her illness may not be what is suggested. The clues that are dropped to suggest this, encourage the reader to try and work out what is actually happening. I love reading mysteries and thrillers when the changing scenarios keep the readers on their toes, so to speak. The start of this novel does not encourage this but, once the tidbits are dropped, the reading experience of the novel improves.

As all good thrillers do, the novel ends with a twist – half of which was unexpected for me. I enjoyed reading the way in which the protagonist experiences the revelation of what had happened to her and it ends with a satisfying conclusion. I would not label The Breakdown as B. A. Paris’ best novel; but it is an enjoyable thriller nonetheless.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 75th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

I was talking books with a colleague of mine and she mentioned her favourite author, B. A. Paris. The next day she handed me the copies of her books to read and I decided to begin with the first one, Behind Closed Doors.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb: 

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

My thoughts:

While reading this novel, I agreed with my colleague. This novel is full of suspense and twists. I loved it! The story is given to the reader slowly and each crumb of information takes the reader down a different thought process. I enjoyed that the novel kept me guessing right up until the end.

While reading this story, I thought about how we present a different scenario to the world than the one we experience. As outsiders, we can never really know the intimate details of what happens in a person’s life and in their relationships. As this novel indicates, we can only really know what people decide to tell us. The novel also suggests the theme of domestic abuse – and how this may present itself in different ways. Behind Closed Doors is an interesting way to encourage us to think about these issues.

I enjoyed this psychological thriller by B. A. Paris and look forward to reading the next one on the pile next to my bed. This novel is definitely a page turner and I managed to complete it in one day.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 73rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Favourite Read of the Month: August 2018

During the month of August , I  read 12 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing my total for read books this year to 58 books. Can you believe it? Yes, I did read a lot – especially in front of the fan on extremely hot days. When I am on a break from work, I tend to fill many hours doing one of my favourite things. I read a variety of genres and introduced myself to a few new authors. A very varied reading month.

The titles I read in August are listed below. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title in the following list:

  1. Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reed – a non-fiction read on Jane Austen ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars
  2. Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – women’s fiction, romance  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  3. Little Green by Tish Cohen – women’s fiction, contemporary fiction  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  4. The White Devil by Domenic Stansberry – noir, psychological thriller  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  5. The Mistake by K. L. Slater – psychological thriller  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  6. The Guilded King by Josie Jaffrey – young adult fiction, fantasy  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  7. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molly – psychological thriller  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  8. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – young adult, romance  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  9. Find You In The Dark by Nathan Ripley – psychological thriller  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  10. The Woman Who Upped and Left by Fiona Gibson – romance, women’s fiction  ⭐⭐⭐️ 3 stars
  11. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – women’s fiction, contemporary fiction  ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  12. The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristen Harmel – historical fiction, romance

I read so many good books during the month of August and after I read many of them them I thought I had found my favourite for the month. Yet when I look back on my list I cannot help but choose The Guilded King by Josie Jaffrey. This indie author has created a world that not only drew me in, but also made me want to read her other books. While reading her novel I could not believe that she was self published – that is how good her writing and story is. The second installment in this series is coming out soon – watch this space as you can be sure I will read the novel.

What was your favourite read in July? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Bookstagram: September TBR

The new academic school year begins in September and I know, once school begins, that I will not have as much time to read. In my TBR pile for September I have moved over one book I intended to read in August but did not (Heartbreaker by Claudia Day). The rest of my pile comprises of ARCs that I have been lucky to receive during the month of August (mostly at author events). The first book I have started to read is The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest as it the sequel to the book I completed on Saturday – The Black Witch.

What  does your reading pile look like for the month of September?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Bookstagram: Canadian Authors

This year I have been fortunate to have met some Canadian authors at events organised by Harper Collins Canada Publishers. Meeting the authors has been inspiring, and has given me an added understanding of their writing.Have you met any Canadian authors?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(I have started to participate in a photo challenge on Instagram created for people who love books and reading. I have decided to share my photos on my blog as well.)