Street Kid by Judy Westwater …. just read


One of those books that have been lying in my book shelf for about three years, and I have been meaning to read it but never quite got there.  Now that I have finished Game of Throne {I cannot wait for the next installment}, and have been committed to that series since October 202.

I really did need to read something else and my eye stumbled on this book I had borrowed from a friend ages ago and just have not got to yet.

Book Title:  Street Kid – One Child’s Desperate Fight for Survival

Author:  Judy Westwater

So what’s the book about?  A child has parents who can only be described as dysfunctional on the best of days and the parents go through a divorce.  The psychotic spiritualist father {who is the perfect candidate for a bit of mob justice} takes his youngest daughter, more as a means to spite his wife than his overriding urge to be a good/even mediocre father and decides to raise her.

He is a horrendous father.  His new wife/girlfriend is abusive and hates the little girl on sight.  The “new mom” treats the little girl a bit worse than you would treat a dog with mange – and Judy spends much of her childhood locked outside in the backyard, which may not be bad if you lived in sunny South Africa, but in rather cold and grim UK it becomes an exercise in survival just to make it through a day in the backyard and survive to be let in at night.

The book is a true story based on the author’s experience.

It is obviously a fairly grim story, with very little in the way of characters to redeem it or make it likable   I was constantly amazed by this little girl’s ability to survive and to overcome.  It did remind me a bit of Dave Pelzer’s story, titled “The Lost Boy”  which I read back in 2000.

It did make me think of the incidents of abuse and neglect that must be happening within 100 meters of us every day, and not necessarily in some isolated informal out of the way place.

Who told you about the book?  No one, I had actually never heard of the book, and have not seen a review on it either.

What resonated with you about the book?  I kept comparing her age to my children, and being amazed by her ability to adapt and survive.  I think she shows that the human spirit is so resilient, and the power to overcome is often more powerful than the urge to crawl into a corner and give up.

Overall Impression?  I was not swept away by the book.  I found something about the tone, and the way it was written a bit rushed.  I did not get into the real feeling of Judy.  It did feel like I was looking at this as a third party and the details were being glissed over with very little emotion, but maybe that was the way the story was meant to be – a chronicle of her journey, rather than an in depth expose on how she coped.

Time needed to read?  A fairly thin book, so I got through this in one day over the weekend.

Where did you purchase or obtain the book? Lent to me by a friend.

Would you save this book, pass it along to a charity store, or pass it along to a fellow avid reader?  I would probably add it to the charity store pile, but in reality I need to return it to Joyce who lent me the book about three years ago.  It is not a bad book, but it is not something I would remember in 6 months time, or recommend to someone if they asked me for my top three books in the last year.  It’s sort of okay …. yes a rather lukewarm review I am afraid.

Rating out of 5 stars : * * *

Little Face ….

I have read two books from Sophie Hannah and they were brilliant.  She writes brilliantly, and the best thing about her books is that “I don’t see it coming.”

I have been wanting to read “Little Face by Sophie Hannah” for some how never seem to see the book at a bookstore.  I saw a copy yesterday at my local “cheap and cheerful” bookstore and grabbed it. Cost R59.50.

Started reading it yesterday, and to say it was briliant would be a key understatement.

The short of it {no spoil alert needed} is a first time mom, Alice, gives birth to her baby following a complicated labour, and an emergency caesarian section.

Within the first two weeks of Alice being home with her new daughter Florence, she walks in to the nursery and a nightmare presents itself.

The baby lying in the cot is not Florence.  It is not the daughter Alice delivered. Alice is trying to convince her husband, her mother in law, and the police that her baby is missing, this usurper is not her Florence.

Cheese and vegetables, this is a great book.  I am not going to give anything away, except that this is a chilling, fast paced book.

Before you know it you are swept up in this gripping story.  The characters are a bit two dimensional, and I did feel the “police backstory” took away from the main story – and the characters were a bit extreme to be realisic, but this withstanding, it is still a great read.

Short’ish book – 357 pages, so you can kick it in a day or two and once you throw yourself in to it, you will tend to stop eating. drinking, using the shower until you have finished this book.

I dropped the kids off this morning, and had the book in my bag.  I had the last 27 pages to read, and I parked outside of Isabelle’s school after I dropped her off, and sat in my car absolutely soaking up this book.

Yike a doodle, it is a good one.

We need to talk about Kevin …

I read this book several years ago in book club.

Actually it was me who brought the book to bookclub.  I liked the book jacket, and I liked the blurb.

What I did not like was that it was written in first person and in a diary entry format.   And once I flipped through the book, I was reluctant to read it.

The result was it lay in book club, and no one touched it.  Finally I picked it up – like an unloved child – took it home with the other 4 or 5 books, and thought: “I might get to it if I have a gap ….”

I read the book …once I had got past the first few pages, and the character of Eva, the mom started to unfold, I was gripped.  She was the quintessential “reluctant” mother, and strangely I started to see certain aspects of me in her, which made the story feel more familiar.

The story strongly debates the age-old argument of nature versus nurture.

Did Eva’s lack of affection for her son shape him into the sociopath he was to become – or was his fate predetermined from birth?  Could she have “saved” him by being a better mother?  And what makes a mother, better, if you just don’t have the maternal gene?

The book looks back on Kevin’s life, his mother, Eva describes her coldness toward her son and his strange behaviours, in gripping detail.

The book does not open with a sucker punch, but slowly starts to unfold.  The entire time you are not quite sure what to make of the characters – so you reserve judgement, or at least try to.

Eva starts to question if her son is normal.  She sees and experiences him and something in her starts to question him.  Her son is alert and intelligent, and even as a toddler soon starts to get the upper hand in the relationship.

She is a first time mom, and totally out of her depth, so she is not sure if she is making assumptions because she is inexperienced, or because there is really something just a bit off about Kevin.

The book was TRULY brilliant.  Even years on, it is still one of the most powerful and thought-provoking books I have ever read.  It was a story that really sat with me, long after I had handed the book back to bookclub.

No matter how many books I read, and I do read several, this one still tips the scales as being the story that just sits with me.

I am not suggesting it is an enjoyable read.  It is very unsettling, but the characters feel real and the author shapes this family so well, that you can’t help finding yourself lost in the fiction.  .

I heard there is a movie coming out soon-soon, which I believe is brilliant, so very keen on going to see that.

If you are going to see the movie, try to read the book before you buy popcorn and a move ticket …..

We Need to Talk About Kevin

A Novel by Lionel Shriver

2003 / 400 Pages

Princess and the Penis ….. real book title …. honest

I like books, I really do.

Sometimes I read the odd book that is out of my genre of choice.

I love Alison Weir, Agatha Christie and Bill Bryson. I adore books about Sherlock Holmes and anything that deals with British Monarchy.  Right now I am reading a British Monarchy history dealing with the “War of the Roses” and also a Sherlock Holmes book.

Kennith suggests reading British Monarchy History it is like watching ENews, but with Lindsay Lohan as the Village Tramp and Paris Hilton as Queen Anne …. I don’t disagree.

But I find history books quite enthralling, and I do understand why other people fog over when I tell them about the plot, so I tend not to blab about my books too much …. any more.

<I also like movies set in World War II for some reason … and I “enjoy” reading books that have the holocaust as a backdrop ….>

I once even read a Chelsea Handler book, so I do think I am pretty open-minded regarding books and ones I pick up and “try” even though some times good sense should intervene.

I draw the line at Jody Picoult (hate, really I do) and Sidney Sheldon (hate it more, probably the seventy-seven paragraphs rambling about the scenery) and my personal cringe is Danielle Steele.

I am not suggesting you do not read them, please do.  Buy as many of them as you can.  The more you purchase increases my luck of them being sold out, and then I do not have to see them on the shelves.

Possibility of pure joy moment.

Yesterday on Amazon under Kindle e-books I saw “The Princess and the Penis…” its a book, and it costs $0.99.

I went to look at the reviews, as I was not quite sure if I had read the title correctly or this was a case of a really bad typo.

But it appears it is quite an “enjoyable read…” and “fast paced….”

The product description is described as: A beautiful, chaste, and completely naive princess encounters a strange lump in  her mattress. The lump soon morphs into a shape familiar to everyone but her, triggering her curiosity and her father’s greatest fears. He frantically tries to intervene, but having a large phantom phallus in a curious maiden’s bed is never a good combination.

I loved this excerpt from the one reviewer, which really at the end of the day sums up many romance novels:

After reading about 14,952 romance novels, a few things become clear. No matter what the story is about–a duke, a werewolf, a football player, a Carpathian vampire, a steampunky swashbuckler, a baker, a lawyer, a candlestick maker, or even an Orca shapeshifter–the real star of the show is actually…the p*nis. Yes, this is in fact true. It gets tons of attention, pages and pages of highly detailed description, and often saves the day.

So that is it at then end of it all.

Princess Amelia and her lumpy mattress and the relationship she forms with the mattress.

I am not sure if you left me for 100 years with a pen and a sheet of paper, or a keyboard I would have come up with this particular slant on a rather aging-but-classic tale…

Now who amongst us had not woken up before with a lumpy mattress in our back?

I can’t say I feel like a Princess at the time, but there we go, time to shift your thinking…… or get a double bunk.

If you want to download the book on your Kindle, pop down to:

Go the fuck to sleep ….

Finally a book that caters for the mother in me …. initially I thought this was one of those slightly clever photoshop things. 

Someone scanned in the original book in, edited the text a little, and then when it was really funny, saved the file and spammed it around a bit.

Lots of guffawing when you open the attachment, but we all know no one is actually going to say this out loud, let alone write it down, and find a publisher to publish it.

I mean really, where is the decency?

Being the sceptic that I am, I used the fine and not-undying art of google to look around and see where this came from.  True as nuts, there is the book and if you want the original you can pop along and purchase it at:

I have never heard of Adam Mansbach, but I can say that this book has peaked my interest in him and I might be looking a little closer at Adam from this point forward.

I see that Kalahari has this book available June 2011, so I have added that on my wishlist, and pretty much anyone who is pregnant of having a babyshower in the next few months will be getting one of these books as a present.

Anyway, this file is doing the rounds, and in case you have not seen it here, are a few pages for you – how brilliant is this book?

The illustrations are so divine, and this is such a cool cool book for your mommy-and-baby collection ….

<for the record, five people saw this and sent it to me saying “when I saw this I immediately thought of you….”)

The Slap ……

I completed a really interesting book last night – The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.

I got it from bookclub, and that was of course just after the slight sniffing and the rather judgmental statement of “it is never right to slap a child….”  That being said, I was first to grab this little beauty off the “new book” pile.

The basic premise of the book is this: an obnoxious four year old child does something faintly threatening at a family barbecue, and the father of the threatened child smacks the child. Everyone is so upset by this that the barbecue breaks up in a hurry, and within a day, the parents of the slapped child have the slapper arrested.  (there is no need for a spoil alert, as this is plastered on the book jacket as well)

On reading the jacket blurb your mind will immediately start thinking about how this person slapped this child, and what if it was your child, and then your cheeks will get red in anger. 

However then your mind will backtrack to the last time you were at the Spur, and you can think of at least three children (neither of them yours, or maybe one of them was) who you would have felt quite justified for standing up and slapping.

Actually it might even be fair to say you would get back into your car now, drive to the Spur and slap that child right now.

Each chapter of the book is written from a different person’s perspective.  Initially I thought it might be about how they each saw the event, but it is about how the event (the slap at the braai) effected these individuals in their lives after the event.  (pre-slap vs post-slap)

The really great thing about The Slap is that it cannot be neatly summarised. The book is about exploring the inner lives of these eight characters, four women and four men, ranging in age from 18 to 70. And each of these characters is a sharp observer of those around him or her, so many more lives are illuminated as well from a different characters perspective.

The book is not written from the standard American angle, of event, middle with lots of action and then closing where the good guy is vindicated.

The novel’s forward energy is unexpectedly overwhelming, you literally get sucked into the rather messy lives of these people, who at first glance seemed normal and ordinary.

You get to peek behind the facades and see how they are trying to keep their lives together while the sh&t is literally raining down on them.

No one is evil, no one deserves to be hit, or even judged negatively (but the reality is that we do judge, we might do it internally but we do judge).

Everyone means well, and everyone is doing the best he or she can; but then again, everyone is awfully angry, and everyone is just getting through thier days the best way they can.

I really enjoyed this book – it is not light and fluffy, but at the same time it is not a heavy brain drain either.  The characters and the flow is fast and furious  – I flew through this book, because I could not get enough of these people.

Excellent book!  (I dare you to judge the situation at the outset, like I did, and then review your judgment at the end, and realise that you have probably travelled a long road of understanding with these characters.)

Do I think it is right to slap a stranger’s child?  No.

Do I think that many parents do not adequately parent their children? Yes.

Do I think that many children become problems because they were not parented well, and did not learn the value of consequences? Yes.

Do I think Joan River’s show about her commenting on fashion on E Entertainment is hysterically funny?  Yes.

Is it correct to assume the last question has absolutely no relevance to the book? Yes.

Daddy’s Girl by Margie Orford

I read this brilliant book the other day, and I published the review on – but it really as a good book so I thought I would put the review up on my blog as well.

The main character in Daddy’s Girl is Dr. Clare Hart.  Clare is a profiler, who consults when police needing to understand the motives and characteristics of criminals in order to identify patterns of behavior.  She assists in narrowing the search in finding either the perpetrators or the victims before they turn up dead. Her specialty is crimes that involve children.

Clare is approached by the very intense character of Captain Riedwaan Faizal who is with Cape Town’s elite Gang Unit – he is a man in a desperate situation.  He is tough and streetwise — his marriage has crumbled and his wife intends to emigrate to Canada with their only daughter.    All these personal issues become pertinent to the weaving of this story.

Clare quickly becomes involved with him and assisting to solve his ordeal. (I do not want to give away too much of the story.)

Cape Town comes to life as it’s own character in this book.  It is messy, colourful and feels dangerously familiar.  The streets and descriptions of the locations of the crimes are familiar and if you have lived or ever lived in Cape Town, adds an authenticity to the story and the characters.

The story is fast paced, it is ugly and grim.  If you have children it will strike at your core.  The backdrop is the poverty on the Cape Flats, the 27’s and powerful men who cross the line between politics and crime syndicates, and control the city.

Your heart cries for the young girls, their families and the crushing poverty that forces them to make some dire decisions.

I cursed this story in the beginning.  I was reading 3 – 4 pages a day, and would keep putting it down, as it was just too much to bear.  I realized that this book is a bit like a plaster – you need to brace yourself and just get through the pain quickly.

This book is engrossing – it is disturbing, sobering, and makes you aware that there are things happening on your doorstep that we do not realise, and would rather not know about.  As dark and frightening as Daddy’s Girl is, you cannot deny how good it is, and what a brilliant author Margie Orford has proven herself to be.

A gripping, soul-exhausting but totally brilliant read!