South Africa went down to level four lockdown during May, so life pretty much carried on with its crazy new normal. I read eight books this month, which is more than usual, but three of them were audiobooks and three of them were YA or children’s books, which are very quick and easy to get through. One book was South African (the first on the list), which I’m pretty scathing about below. It’s not as terrible as I make it seem, and I would consider giving at least one more in the series a try. Without further ado, here are my May reads.
Death on the Limpopo by Sally Andrew
This title immediately grabbed me, because it brought to mind Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. This made me think that Death on the Limpopo was surely also a murder mystery, hopefully with an amateur sleuth at its core. I was sort of correct. This book has murder, but it doesn’t hold a lot of mystery. It employs first person narration through its main character, Tannie Maria: foodie, agony aunt, and amateur sleuth. She is, however, so sweet and saccharine, that having her narrate the tale was like drinking a cup of tea with too many sugars. The book also can’t really decide what it wants to be. Along with the ostensible murder mystery element, it also tries to be a political thriller, a love story, and a family drama, never hitting the mark on any of these. The pace drags, while at the same time – due to the short nature of the chapters – never fully commits to any action or interaction. I do like the foodie element woven into the story and the character – and most of the recipes are even included, which is a great perk!
Only God Can Make a Tree by Bertram Roach
The 127th book for my challenge to read a book from every country in the world, this novel was my choice for Saint Kitts and Nevis. The main character is not particularly likeable, but Roach still elicits sympathy for him and every other character whose joy and pain he brings onto the page.
Cassie P Caribbean PI by Cecil Browne
The 128th book for my challenge to read a book from every country in the world, this novel was my choice for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. A lot of the books I’ve been reading for this challenge have been memoirs. It’s been difficult finding books in other genres, so I’m always excited when I do – especially when it’s one of my favourites: mystery books. This collection of short stories features a tough female PI, Cassie P of the title, and is set in contemporary times. I really enjoyed this collection – it was just too short! I wish the author had written more or made the mysteries a bit longer. It was only released last year, so hopefully there is more to come.
The Bobby Gold Stories by Anthony Bourdain
After listening to A Chef’s Christmas on Audible, read by author Anthony Bourdain, I wanted to hear more of his work, as read by him. I thought there was a whole slew of this available on Audible; while a lot of his books are certainly available there, they’re not all read by him, as I had previously thought. The Bobby Gold Stories, for example, are actually ready by David Colacci. And he’s fantastic! This series of stories by Bourdain are more noir thriller than murder mystery, but I enjoyed them and Colacci’s gravelly voice was perfect for the stories’ mood and the hard-boiled, bitter Bobby Gold. Bourdain expertly and organically weaves his love of food and experience of the kitchen into these stories and their characters. Each story stands alone, but they also all connect to tell one greater story. Just like every time I read a Bourdain book, I can’t wait for more.
Five on a Treasure Island and Five Go Adventuring Again by Enid Blyton
I downloaded what I thought was a podcast about English children’s author Enid Blyton, only to discover that it was actually an audiobook from The Famous Five series. I listened to the first two books , both of which I was familiar with. Growing up I owned two of the twenty-one novels about four intrepid children and their dog that get embroiled into the kind of dangerous situations that makes you wonder whether their parents were highly negligent or just completely free of helicoptering tendencies. One of the books I owned was Five on a Treasure Island. I think it may have been my brother’s copy; nevertheless, I read it several times, so was very familiar with the story. My brother and I also had three of the German audio dramas based on The Famous Five, on cassette tapes. The twenty-first audio drama, Fünf Freunde auf neuen Abenteuern, is based on the second book. Having listened to this tape endlessly – I would even go to sleep with it on – I was even more familiar with this story than the first one.
Sweet Valley High Super Edition #3: Spring Break by Kate William (created by Francine Pascal)
The bonus episodes of the Sweet Valley Diaries podcast cover the Sweet Valley High super editions. I had a few of these growing up – one of them being Spring Break – so I read this, then listened to the podcast episode. Spring Break is set in Cannes, France and since I’m learning French, it was fun trying to interpret the occasional French words and phrases that popped up. Creator Francine Pascal lives in France now, so I like to imagine that perhaps she’d fallen in love with the country long ago, inspiring her to include it as a setting.
The Castle by Franz Kafka
This was quite a bizarre read. I’ve read Kafka before, and although his stories can be unusual I’ve never found him to be this cryptic. His characters in The Castle also appear to constantly contradict themselves, which heightens the obscurity of the story’s mysterious village and the even more elusive castle of the title. Despite all this mysteriousness, the story is pretty straightforward and even feels like it could easily have been set in a modern-day corporate office with all its attendant bureaucracy. What I didn’t realise until I hit the note in the text, was that the book was published after his death and had not actually been completed. The copy that I have includes a “continuation of the text…as found among Kafka’s papers”. It doesn’t really add much in terms of the main character achieving his goal – he remains as frustrated in this as ever – but it does expand the character of Pepi and includes a delightful scene about the morbidly futile human evil that is paperwork.
Now it’s June and I’m already deep into Kindle and Audible with this month’s books!