Se7en Great Books That I Have Been Reading from Penguin Random House South Africa…

Se7en Great Books That I Have Been Reading from Penguin Random House South Africa…

Another week and another book stack, this time from Penguin Random House South Africa.

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The Dictionary of Lost Words

by Pip Williams

This is going straight onto my pile of best books ever. Honestly, I loved this book so much I wish I could read it for the first time again and again. It is the story of Essie, short for Esme, and her life as a daughter of a lexicographer, who worked on the original Oxford English Dictionary. The story begins when Essie as a very young child “works” under her father’s desk and discovers a lost word: “bondmaid.” She saves that word in a special box, under the bed of their household servant. Throughout her life, her tragedy and triumphs, she discovers words that are seemingly unimportant to the more professional “dictionary menfolk.” And so her collection of words grows, words that seem so unimportant in the world of men… and yet familiar and part of the everyday language of womenfolk. As her collection of words grow, so does her collection of unusual friends… who love finding exactly the type of words that will stir Essie’s curiosity. She loves, she loses and she grows up… we follow her entire life, from under the desk to a the worst kind of boarding school, through the suffragette movement and working for her father’s team of lexicographers, true love and tragedy, and World War 1. This book will wrench your heart, and you may even start a word collection of your own. The things is… I love a book with a feisty gal that overcomes, despite a world that appears to be against her for certain. Not only did I love this book for the feisty protagonist… but it really made me think. Are the words that we use everyday, the vocabulary that is our familiar… truly our own, or are they created by the “powers that be” that decide which words belong in the dictionary and which can be discarded into the dust bunnies under the desk?

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A Wedding in the Country

by Katie Fforde

I love Katie Fforde, honestly her books are really a holiday in the country every time… and I don’t know about you… but this is the season where we all need a bit of a break. I didn’t expect… a Katie Fforde set in the 1960’s, but it was timeless really and suitably sweet. The story is about a girl called Lizzy and a presumtive mum that is dead set on marrying her daughter off so that she can claim her parenting job “well done.” Lizzy, who has never really thought of doing anything except what her mother demands is shipped off to a cooking school in London, to better herself and to become “most suitable.” Of course Lizzy make her own friends and does her own thing and she is just delightful… defintiley not getting her mother’s approval, definitey getting into some tricky situations and being Lizzy, perfectly capable of get out of them too… so all is well, that ends well. Turns out despite her mother’s best intentions, Lizzy is a feisty young girl who by following her heart, finds her way. Loved it… she has some fabulous friends, it did take me back to student life and the crazy things we got up in digs… and really, just a happy little read, and exactly what you would expect from Katie Fforde.

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The 100 Years of Lenni and Margot

by Marianne Cronin.

Grab your tissues, settle in… this is an absolute keeper. I loved this book, it is an emotional roller coaster from start to finish and exactly the therapy I needed after the tumultuous year we have all been through. The book is about a gal called Lenni, who is terminally ill… and what a delightful 17 year old character she is. You know from the start that this book cannot end well, but Lenni is so positive and curious and just delightful. She discovers the hospital’s new art classroom, and instead of joining the class for folk her own age, she asks to be in the same class as Margot, an elderly lady with a heart of gold and a mischievous spark in her eye. Together the ages of Margot and Lenni add up to one hundred and the two of them decide to create 100 artworks to celebrate this. For each new addition to their collection we discover a new chapter in their lives… we learn about the life and times of Margot and slowly we learn about Lenni too. This story is too lovely… and really there is no such thing as an ordinary life. This is excellent reading and I can see exactly why it is touted as a bestseller and one of the best reads of the year.

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Behind Closed Doors

by Catherine Alliott

Behind Closed Doors is a really fun read, this book has everything… what looks like a nice happy book very quickly turns into a bit of a mystery… Lucy’s husband dies and she retreats to her parents in the country to recover. Her parents are at that stage where they are somewhat declining but refusing to acknowledge it… and so begins a new job for Lucy, parenting her parents… this is very very relate-able and amusing, and how has she managed to find herself in such a pickle. Meanwhile her parents are expecting a sad widow to be returning home and not really wanting anyone to take care of them quite so much… they are happy in their decline and would quite like to set her up with someone in the neighbourhood, just to get her out of their hair. Needless to say, the death of Lucy’s, “oh so perfect” husband stirs up quite a few things: bullying and wife abuse to say the least (trigger warning here). Lucy has a lot of things to sort out in her own life, and her retreat is not quite the restful retreat she was expecting. She finds relief chatting to the tenant of her previous home, she tells him all sorts of things, while trying to figure out what the neighbours can see into her home… there is mystery, there is drama, there is tension and there are some really funny laugh out loud moments… not to mention a little love thrown in for good measure. Like I said… this book has everything… I really loved it and will be looking out for more from Catherine Alliott in the future.

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Love Your Life

by Sophie Kinsella

You know that a Sophie Kinsella is going to be a lovely, light and funny weekend read… Love your Life certainly did not disappoint. There are two main players in this love story… Ava, who is sick of online dating and tosses dating to the wind and heads to Italy for a writing retreat… and Dutch, arrives on the same writing retreat with the intention of, well not writing a word. The two of them fall wildly in love and there are several delightful picnics full of even more Italian delicacies… you can just imagine, fresh bread, olives and plenty of chianti… and then they head back to London to return to their regular lives. Well Italy and reality are tow very different things and their relationship heads from a Mediterranean dream straight onto rocky shores. Those things that are so endearing when you are on a writing retreat, very quickly become something to endure when you are home again and having to pay the rent. Will they work it out? Well it is Sophie Kinsella, so most likely. Lovely weekend read, I thoroughly enjoy her books.

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The Searcher

by Tana French

This is a great read, a pleasant escape from the world and a definite holiday read. If you like a good mystery and you have a long weekend coming up, then this would be a great choice. The main protagonist is a worn out cop from Chicago called Cal Hooper. He retires to a small town in Ireland in the hopes of a peaceful life, fixing up his cottage and cosy evenings by the fireside at the local pub. Well within days of his arrival in town he realises that he has walked into somewhat of a hornets nest and the dream he was looking forward to does not actually satisfy his enquiring mind or his need for justice. I liked this story because of the lead player in town, who turns out to be a feisty gal, called Trey, she is afraid of nothing and is the younger sibling of one of the town’s actual successes. Her older brother was a kid who could go anywhere and do anything… that is until drugs arrive on the small town scene and his life turns upside down and inside out. There are loads of ins and outs and unexpected surprises not only for the reader but for Cal and Trey, who become firm friends as they combine efforts to find her brother. Loads of suspense, pretty unputdownable, stop scrolling and settle into a great read. Look out for more from Tana French, her books are always a good read.

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The Bomber Mafia

by Malcolm Gladwell

Massive Malcolm Gladwell fans in this household, and we have read all of his books… if your high schoolers haven’t read Tipping Point or Outliers, then put those on their “must read” lists. Meanwhile this one is a little different… Felt like a lockdown book while I was reading it, and it came about because he realised on his shelves he had several books about World War II, more than enough to generate a great story… and so he did. And being Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist at heart, this true story is eye opening. I found myself winding my way through the lives of several World War II flying heroes and wondering how he was going to pull it all together… we have Americans trying to figure out how to bomb extremely accurately, from dizzy heights with a completely different approach to their English allies. Leaders who want to wipe out the enemy, and leaders who want to destroy strategic targets… the war takes these men from the US, to the England, to Germany and on to the Pacific and Japan… it is horrific, a book like this would put any sensible person off war forever… the heroes are not so heroic, but really a political shuffle and it is only in the last pages where you are wondering how on earth he will pull all this together, that you get a good succinct idea of the big picture and why this book needed to be written. If you are a Malcolm Gladwell fan, or interested in political intrigue, need to understand the outcomes of World War II better… this is a must read. A completely different perspective to anything I have read before, it wasn’t an easy read… I felt I was wading through it at times… but my goodness the ending was spectacular, and worth it.

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These books were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. (I have bought the audible books myself). This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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