Category: Reviews (page 1 of 5)


As fairy lights twinkled in Casalinga’s beautiful restaurant last Saturday night, an expectant hush settled over the music lovers waiting to be treated to the latest chapter in the long and eventful tale of local rockers, WONDERboom. Continue reading

Book Club: The Mitford Murders – Jessica Fellowes

Things have been a little quiet on this site lately – I can’t really believe that over a year has passed since I last posted, but life has been a smidge chaotic. And this review, while not a year old, is a little overdue as well. The Mitford Murders, by Jessica Fellowes, was my first book of 2018, and it definitely got my reading year off to a good start. Continue reading

This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven

It’s taken me a couple of days to get my thoughts in order to write this review, because honestly, seeing the Pixies live at Rock on the Lawns was completely surreal for me. By the time I discovered and fell in love with the Pixies in the early 90s, they had pretty much broken up, so I really never expected to get to see them live – this made Saturday night’s gig even more special. Continue reading

Book Club: Forget-me-not Blues – Marita van der Vyver

I’ll start by admitting that I’m a bit late to the party on this one. More than three years late in fact, considering that Forget-me-not Blues by Marita van der Vyver was published in late 2012. It’s a strange thing…for someone who supports local music with an almost zealous fervour, I have read very little local fiction. A shameful oversight which I plan to remedy going forward, particularly since I loved every delicious moment of reading this book. Continue reading

EL VY – Return to the Moon

EL-VY-sq

I think at this point my love for The National and frontman Matt Berninger is fairly well established. So I was, of course, quite pleased when he formed side project, EL VY (pronounced, according to them, like it rhymes with hell pie) with Brent Knopf of indie rock band, Menomena in 2014. Brent also happens to be the producer of South African band Dear Reader’s album Replace Why With Funny, so there’s a bit of a local connection too. Return to the Moon, the band’s debut album, was released in November 2015 and was undoubtedly my favourite album of the year.

EL VY features the sublime (I think the technical term is panty dropper) baritone of Matt, making it instantly recognisable as his side project, and I suppose comparisons to The National are inevitable. While the vocal style is similar, with a few more forays into a higher register than we’d usually hear, the tracks are a lot more light-hearted than the dark beauty we have come to associate with The National. On Return to the Moon you can expect a mixture of upbeat indie-synth-pop and some really crunchy, grungy tracks, with one or two more melancholy numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place on The National’s last album, Trouble Will Find Me. A musician friend and fellow Berninger obsessive tells me that EL VY is all about the major keys whereas The National favours minor keys…I just take his word for that because the only thing I know how to play is the fool.

Whether you are a The National fan or have never heard of them (for shame!), if you love beautiful music and quirky, intelligent lyrics, you’ll adore EL VY, no matter who you compare them to. I’m hard pressed to choose a favourite song off this debut album as each of the 11 tracks has something special to offer. The title track, Return to the Moon, is probably the most upbeat and singalongable (totally a word), while I just love the dry humour and grungier sound of I’m the Man to Be. Need a Friend, No Time to Crank the Sun and Sad Case are also notable tracks for me, but really, it’s actually impossible to choose one I love best.

I hope we get to hear lots more out of the fabulously quirky EL VY. Definitely a highly recommended album.

 

Book Club: The Thing about Jellyfish – Ali Benjamin

I wouldn’t ordinarily consider myself a reader of the Young Adult genre but I received an uncorrected proof of Ali Benjamin’s debut novel, The Thing about Jellyfish, and it intrigued me enough to make me want to participate in the SA blog tour publicising the release of the book. I’m so glad I did. Continue reading

Book Club: Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

The name Gillian Flynn should ring a bell for fans of the extremely successful book (and movie) Gone Girl. I loved Gone Girl so I was very keen to tackle her previous work, Dark Places…and boy was I in for a seriously creepy treat! Continue reading

Book Club: Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

There’s been quite a lot of controversy surrounding this book. For those of you who somehow missed the lead up to its release, Go Set a Watchman was actually the first book Harper Lee wrote, but when she submitted the manuscript, she was advised against publishing that work and instead encouraged to rewrite the story as one that went on to become a seminal read for many people – To Kill a Mockingbird. It was certainly one of my favourite English set works in high school and I reread it as recently as last year. Love. The controversy arose for two major reasons – firstly, if the initial manuscript was ‘rejected’, would the book be any good, or was its release now just a money making effort, and secondly, since Harper Lee is 89 and has not only been notoriously media-shy since the remarkable success of To Kill a Mockingbird, but indeed swore that she would never publish anything again, did she even agree to the publication of Go Set a Watchman at all?

It was this second point that made me slightly hesitant to buy the book. After all, it seems as if none of the correspondence regarding the book’s publication has actually been with Lee herself, but rather with her lawyer. And why would she suddenly, after all these years, decide to publish a ‘failed’ manuscript? I’m not entirely sure I buy the story that it was lost or forgotten about and then rediscovered. I struggle to imagine the author that would forget any piece of work she had written, particularly one that bore the sting of rejection but ultimately lead to the creation of a hugely successful novel – the only one she ever published. Even more concerning is that her sister, who had previously acted to protect Lee’s interests, passed away in late 2014. Opportunistic timing or coincidence? Nonetheless, I could not resist the lure of finding out what happened to Scout and Jem after the closing chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I duly bought a copy of Go Set a Watchman (at ridiculous hardcover price too) a month after its release.

I think it can be both a blessing and a curse for an author to have such a stupendous success with a novel as Lee did with To Kill a Mockingbird. On the one hand, while reading Go Set a Watchman, I definitely felt an intense desire to like the book, purely because of the legacy of the previous work that I had loved so much. On the other hand, having subsequent work compared to a prior success can be unfair and a little harsh at times. I don’t know why the initial manuscript was rejected but I found the writing in Go Set a Watchman to be beautiful, if a little meandering in some places. Lee’s descriptions and characterisations are something to behold. I did, however, struggle a bit with the storyline. It felt a little rushed towards the end, a little like there was no real conclusion to the story. Or not one that satisfied me anyway.

Without giving too much away, Go Set a Watchman sees an older Scout, or Jean Louise now that she is a little too old for her nickname, visiting her father, Atticus, in their deep-South hometown of Maycomb. There isn’t a huge amount that happens, no major action or terrible events unfold. It’s more a gentle, but uncomfortable, tale of a young woman discovering that her father is not the moral compass (or watchman) she thought him to be. It rocks her very understanding of everything she has believed to be true about Atticus, herself, her childhood – her core. Maybe that’s why I struggled a little with the storyline too – Atticus was such a revered character in To Kill a Mockingbird, such a bastion of liberal morals that it was very hard to see him fall from his pedestal. Almost implausible. And the justifications for that fall, or Jean Louise’s perception of it, that conclude the book seemed a little hollow to me.

I suspect that if Harper Lee had been given the opportunity to do a bit of a polish, some of the meandering and inconsistencies would have disappeared. My fears that she may not be thrilled with the novel’s release into the public domain are tempered with my selfish pleasure in being able to read it. And it is definitely worth a read. The beauty of the writing outweighs any discomfort with the plot. After all, some books are meant to be uncomfortable – those are the ones that really make us think. And Harper Lee is certainly no stranger to that.

 

Go Set a Watchman

 

Book Club: Leaving Time – Jodi Picoult

Much like people, some books come into your life when you really need them. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult was one of those books for me. By default, it languished on my (rather substantial) To Be Read pile for a few months, after I was fortunate enough to attend a really lovely talk on the book by the author, and then I happened to pick it up at just the right moment, when what I needed most was catharsis. Continue reading

Brothers in Rock

For years one of the favourites (who happens to be the vocalist of the immense SA band, Sugardrive) and I have been saying how incredible it would be if Sugardrive, WONDERboom, Springbok Nude Girls and Prime Circle did a gig together. I still live in hope that a gig like that will happen one day, although it’s very unlikely, but last night the next best thing happened. Continue reading

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