September has been an excellent month, in terms of a holiday, a Family Visit and other diversions but it has not been a good reading month, as you can see below. But it has been an excellent month for buying books, due to a windfall, plus birthday book vouchers.



I’m eagerly waiting for  the courier van to bring me two of the 2018 Man Booker Short List  nominations, plus a quirky book of postcard stories; consisting of short-short stories written on the back of postcards. I’ve been involved in a similar project for the past year, with a lovely Dutch lady called Gonny, in the Netherlands (but that’s a story for another day). I’m keen to see what the originator of the postcard story format, Jan Carson, wrote.

Plus two non-fiction books on order. Another recipe book with beautiful photos and text, from the Buddhist Retreat Centre at Ixopo  – and a local columnist’s hilarious hunt through the outer shores of the Self-help universe.
Quiet Food – A Recipe for Sanity
John Strydom, Antony Osler, Chrisi van Loon, Angela Shaw, Claire Clark

Self-Helpless – A Cynic’s Search for Sanity – Rebecca Davis

I am gingerly exploring the vast world of Amazon’s Kindle, cautiously ekeing out my dollar gift voucher. Thus far I have succumbed to Exit West – Mohsin HamidTBR.
Currently I am reading Less- Andrew Sean Greer, 72 pages in,  I am vastly amused and enjoying the story enormously.
And I won’t even begin to list the downloaded Samples on my Kindle – devilishly devious those Amazon marketers. Resisting these goodies is worse than turning away from chocolate. On to more mundane matters , like my monthly reading report.

I’ve decided to continue the revamped monthly review format, no star ratings, but divisions into Fiction/Non-Fiction/YA, books listed in my order of enjoyment. The star rating was a continuation of the Goodreads system and like all systems, it had its pros and cons. So often a book hovered between rating categories, or presented other dilemmas, e.g. the writing quality was excellent, but I hated the storyline, etc.
I’ve been reading cookery books again. I get hungry in winter, what can I say? And I find the genre extremely relaxing.

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles. Reviewed on this blog, 15 September. What a wonderful, satisfying read. Highly recommended. P.S. I’m in love with Count Rostov. Why have I never considered adding a charming, elderly Russian aristocrat to my life ? the Towles novel has pointed me in a new direction!

Packing my Library – Alberto Manguel. Books, reading and literature. See review on this blog: 8 September. A slender book, elegantly written and not to be missed for book lovers. I shall be re-reading it many times in the future.

Return to Corriebush – Lynn Bedford Hall. Illustrations by Tony Grogan. The sequel to Fig Jam and Foxtrot, our introduction to Karoo life, people, love and food. Life’s necessities. Four delightful stories, some very boozy recipes – who knew rum featured in Karoo cookery? Old Brown Sherry, yes: a perennial Cape Winter standby, but the rum came as a surprise.








Count Alexander Rostov is everything we’d like a Count to be : a tall and imposing build, elegant moustachios, impeccably dressed,  an expert marksman, an  aristocratic cosmopolitan, charming, beautiful manners, a refined palate in wine, food and women, but above all – he is the quintessential gentleman. But alas, in Moscow in 1922 he is declared persona non grata, and exiled. He becomes, in Communist-speak, a Former Person.


However, the unflappable Count adjusts to his new situation with fortitude, grace and a healthy dose of guile. We follow his changing fortunes right up until 1954, where the book ends. En route we follow the path of Russian history as it slowly changes into the powerful and feared Communist Russia of Nikita Kruschev.


Towles skilfully gives us a 30 year history of modern Russia, but in a painless way, and often with a patina of wry humour, skilfully weaving the information into the background of the  story.  I would love to know if he actually met and talked to any of the exiled  Russian aristocrats who decorated Paris and Prague in the 1930s. I suspect they are long gone, but  Towles gets the tone exactly right, whatever his sources.


But the book really is the story of the marvellous Count Rostov and the many people who cross his path in the years of transition. And what a varied assembly they are: hotel staff, Party officials, friends, writers, children, lovers , providing a rich novel that never falters . I read the book slowly, savouring the story. In fact, I didn’t want it to end.
What a rich, satisfying read. On the whole, I am not a huge fan of Historical Novels.But, this said:  I loved the book and wholeheartedly recommend it.

P.S.  I realised, in retrospect, how very clever the jacket photograph was. Kudos to whoever designed it.






I have been spending brief periods with that most charming of men, Senor Alberto Manguel. Brief, because he’s a busy man: he’s obliged to move from his French home and this means he has to pack up his private library of thirty-five thousand books. And do not for one minute think the books were chucked any old how into packing cases. Oh no. Au contraire, as he would doubtless say.


The books are individually wrapped and carefully packed in a specific order in categories in labelled packing cases. This is state of the art  packing of his treasured library.
Senor Manguel can and does write endlessly about books . They are his passion. I own two of his books*, and recently bought a third, Packing My Library. I love reading books about books, and that’s his niche.

How I wish I could have dinner with the man. He’s erudite, without being stuffy; cosmopolitan; always entertaining. A reviewer described his love of books as : He is a Don Juan of libraries. Manguel loves books, and I love his books.

* A Reading Diary
*A History of Reading






Another varied reading month. I was away on a 12 day break, and had the time to read more than I usually do. What a pleasure! As ever, my print input during the month has been wildly varied. I’ve decided to revamp my monthly review format, no star ratings, but divisions into Fiction/Non-Fiction/YA, books listed in my order of enjoyment.
I rashly visited the Kloof SPCA Bookshop and emerged with five wonderful bargains, one of them being Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, a book I’ve long wanted to read. Plus two Carl Hiaasen crime novels. He is, without a doubt, my favourite crime writer. Why? Because he’s entertaining and makes me laugh. All that gloomy, bleak Scandi Crime genre leaves me stone cold (pun intended).


I know this is heresy, but after reading my first full length Ali Smith novel, I’ve decided she’s not for me. She’s awarded and applauded , but not all writers are to every reader’s taste, and that’s the way life goes.

DNF – did not finish; YA – Young Adult


The Power – Naomi Alderman. Dystopian feminist novel. Great premise, gender roles are reversed, women have the upper hand. Off to a cracking start; a confusing, disappointing ending. Regardless of which gender has the upper hand, humanity manages to muck it up. A disturbing and challenging read.
Shampoo Planet – Douglas Coupland. Published 1992 – on being 20 years old and dealing with life in the USA, the gap between hippie 60s parents and their wannabe cool cynical 80s kids. Funny, social commentary. I enjoy Douglas Coupland. You either do or you don’t.

How to be Both – Ali Smith . This was almost a DNF , I skimmed through the last fifth at King Shaka Airport, whilst waiting for my flight. I didn’t enjoy the novel’s fragmented writing style or it’s two part story structure.
DNF – City of Saints and Madment – Jeff Vandermeer. After reading three quarters of the book, I gave up. Consulting Wikipedia and Goodreads reviews I discover JV is at the forefront of the Weird writing movement and post-modern metafiction. I enjoyed the first section for its lush descriptive writing but the remainder of the book: no. Too fragmentary, too clever by half. On the one hand, I can admire JV’s startling imagination, his inventiveness and his output but on the other hand, I prefer a more conventional narrative form. To each their own!

Flush – Carl Hiaasen. Another Florida crime romp. A brother & sister combo succeed in bringing an enviro-wrecking greedy businessman to justice. Good fun. A quick easy read on a 2 hour flight Cape Town/Durban.
Wabi Sabi for Writers – Richard R Powell. An invaluable resource for writers who want to write about the natural world, or compose Haiku. I shall be re-reading the book for many years to come. Highly recommended.

Working with Karma – Gill Farrer-Halls. Another Kloof SPCA bargain. Big format, glossy paper and plenty of pics; informative content. A useful book to work through, and keep for reference.