Heading the list, con brio,  is Happy Little Bluebirds by  Louise Levene . What a great champagne read! The book opens with grey, besieged 1940s wartime Britain, where newly widowed Evelyn Murdoch gets a merciful reprieve from her mother-in-law from hell, with an unexpected transfer to Hollywood, USA. Something to do with Britain’s war effort – the plot largely escaped me, but I didn’t care because I was enjoying the series of Hollywood vignettes that zipped along filled with colour, sunshine, OTT characters from the movie world, parties, cocktail, and waspish witty dialogue.

A complete contrast was provided by Nicola Barker’ s The Cauliflower, a novel based on the life of a mid nineteenth century Bengali mystic saint. Sounds like a weird topic for a 2021 novel, but trust me, you’ve never read anything like it. I certainly haven’t and doubt I will ever encounter the likes of it again. Unless Nicola Barker has more excitements hidden up her literary sleeve. I can’t wait to find out!

I’m conflicted about #3. I’m torn between an e-book series by Deborah Coonts, the adventures of Lucky O’ Toole in Las Vegas, which entertained me no end, saucy, fun and packed with mis-adventures and surprises. But  I will opt for The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox instead. A whopper of a Fantasy novel, skilfully weaving in Norse Mythology, the Sidhe ( forget about Disney’s Tinkerbell, this is the real deal), a Quest, 21st century murders and puzzles, it’s a rich and engrossing read.


The Cauliflower –  Nicola Barker. A wildly unusual novel featuring the Bengali saint and mystic, Sri Ramakrishna. I loved every page.  Devotees of Ramakrishna should probably avoid. But the rest of us will enjoy it enormously. I did.

Happy Little Bluebirds by  Louise Levene . A colourful, witty, entertaining read. I loved it. The novel made my day, if not my week. Such fun!  To quote Miranda’s mother (UK TV series) .

The Absolute Book – Elizabeth Knox. A rich mix of Norse legend, modern crime, the Sidhe, and a literary mystery. A must-read for Fantasy Fans.

A Spell of Winter – Helen Dunmore. Siblings Rob and Cathy, abandoned  by their parents, live in the country with their Grandfather, in his decaying  grand house. Rural England, prior to WWI is the setting. Beneath the idyllic country life are dark currents of obsession, madness, lust, bitterness and  loss, which start to play out. Superb writing. Highly recommended. 

The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett. It is 1968. Rose Clinton loves to drive her car. It’s the only time she feels free. She drives away from her dull husband and an unwanted pregnancy to St Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers, in Kentucky, to have the baby, leave it for adoption, and drive on. Only life takes her and others in  unexpected directions. A great read, including a psychic nun. For a debut novel, its excellent. A foretaste of the future excellent novels coming from Ann Patchett

Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller. Portrait of an unconventional marriage; husband Gil is  womanizing, selfish, a blocked writer ; wife Ingrid is young, hopeless and ultimately, missing, presumed drowned. Younger daughter Flora is completely  impossible. Thank goodness none are members of my family. This said, it was an engrossing read and well written. 

Maid in SA: 30 Ways to leave your Madam – Zukiswa Wanner. Maids and Madams is always a vexed topic in SA, and Zukiswa attacks the topic with piercing humour and satire. A great read, good for a wry laugh, but also has a Ninja section at the back, listing the CCMA’s offices and contact details. ZW comes down 100% on the side of the Maids.                                                                                                                                                                      

 Lucky O’Toole  Vegas Adventures – Deborah Coonts. e-book series. All the Vegas glitz, glamour and shenanigans you could wish for. Entertaining light read.                                                                                                                                         


The Café de Move-On Blues –  Christopher Hope.  I skimmed this combination of travel, history and review of modern South Africa.  Whether focusing on the past or the present, the grim picture is chilling.


THE ABSOLUTE BOOK – Elizabeth Knox

After reading the reviews, I was so looking forward to the book, which I recently received as a gift.  

I devoured the book. In  two days. A  hardcover door-stopper at 626 pages. I read until 11.30 at night, determined to finish. Because: what happened??  I’m not sure the ensuing book hangover was worth it.

Basically the book is a Quest/Riddle  Story. What is the Firestarter,  what does it contain and why do people and entities want it so desperately?

The book cover yacks on about ‘the value of reading and libraries’  (which is actually a sub-theme, when all is said and  done) ; says the book is a masterpiece – it may well be the jewel in the crown in EK’s oeuvre, but  a masterpiece? No.  Not for me.

That said, it is  undeniably a tour de force of the  novelist’s imagination.

Norse mythology underpins  the story. Then there’s a 21st century  crime story which is a major story strand overlaying the Quest material. It concerns the murder of  narrator Taryn’s sister, Beatrice.   In this section there’s a fiendish  death trap , devised by Taryn’s deranged assassin who had dispatched Beatrix’s murderer, but he then  tries to kill off Taryn. He, in turn, meets an unexpected and gory  end. 

Finally,  a major portion of the book contains a beautifully imagined exploration of the world of the Sidhe, their history and habits.  It’s a major creative  accomplishment. The Sidhe and their part in the Quest story are a major component, as is Taryn and her several back story elements, particularly her relationships.

The book is a complex strand of the Quest, the Crime and the Sidhe,  and I probably need to re-read it, at a more leisurely pace to fully appreciate it.  I read rapidly, swept along by book’s rich tapestry of action, quest,  myth, and relationship dilemmas.

Certain parts of the story were absolutely  horrific, which came as quite a surprise to me.  Perhaps it was the contrast between the idyllic world of the Sidhe and the action sections.

I’ve only read one other EK  novel, The Vintner’s Luck, which is much shorter, but it blew me away twenty years ago. If you can get your hands on it, read it. It’s brilliant!

Fantasy fans will love the book.


My TBR  shelf runneth over.  To put it mildly. And my credit card smoketh unhappily. The complications of a book addict’s life.

I ordered the Uganda and the Greengage book yonks ago –  late last year, in fact. Finally both have arrived.

As for The Theory of Flight  book, I read a review of the book last year, forgot all the details (old age, I regret to say) but knew I wanted to read Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu and then recently found a review of her second book, yay,  hello! serendipity.

So in order to take advantage of  the free delivery criteria  which is based on a certain sales figure before the free deliveries kick in, I ordered it. That was virtuously thrifty, I thought.

The two African writers fall into my Read-more-African Writers project. The Greengage Tree?  Reviews were enthusiastic,  and I was intrigued, hence my crumpled  credit card.

Watch this space for reviews.


I often have to wait months, and sometimes months, when I order books on line. The above wonderful trio was well worth waiting for.

I partially read Vesper Flights, before returning it to the Library, but knew I needed to have the book on my shelf, so I ordered a copy.

As for the other two books, I’ve always enjoyed Deborah Rodrigues and I’m fascinated by Morocco , so …

And as for the Cauliflower book: well, irresistible to me! My 20+ year history as a yogi, and my love of quirky books made this one a must read. Plus, it has a very unusual and quirky cover.

I wonder if any of you have read these books? if so, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

So: watch this space for reviews.

Early May book delivery happiness!