I tend towards non-fiction books about Africa, perhaps to excess. I do read the occasional novel about Africa and usually enjoy them, but I was skepti...moreI tend towards non-fiction books about Africa, perhaps to excess. I do read the occasional novel about Africa and usually enjoy them, but I was skeptical when I picked up Mark of the Lion by Suzanne Arruda, as I was initially put off by some of the more quirky period language in the book. However, as soon as I got a few pages into the story, I quickly ignored the irritation in favor of the entertaining story.
The story follows Jade del Cameron, a particularly adventurous woman for the time period near the end of World War I. An American, she volunteered to serve in France as an ambulance driver in the war, before going to colonial East Africa to write magazine articles about Kenya and the exotic goings on there.
It doesn't take long before Jade is embroiled in mystery and danger in Nairobi and Tsavo stemming from a promise she made to a dying soldier. Jade holds her own in the frontier atmosphere and the author paints a vivid picture of the era of Karen Blixen's Out of Africa. Readers will find rich descriptions of the very early days of safari as they become immersed in Jade's adventures.
While some of the plot can seem predictable, Arruda weaves a story that keeps the reader interested, if not occasionally on the edge of their seat. The book is the first in a series, so if you enjoy it, there is the promise of more.
Check out Africa Adventure Consultants blog for more book reviews and recommendations.(less)
The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe is a damning account of the post election violence in Zimbabwe in 2008. After nearly 30 years in...moreThe Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe is a damning account of the post election violence in Zimbabwe in 2008. After nearly 30 years in power, Mugabe lost the presidential election to opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe denied the results and unleashed a brutal crackdown on the people of Zimbabwe. This is a disturbing and violent read, but at the same time the book highlights the incredible resilience of the Zimbabwean people.
The author, native Zimbabwean Peter Godwin, travelled to Zimbabwe during this post election violence at great personal risk to bear witness to the events that the world was largely ignoring. This book is most appropriate for people deeply interested in African politics, and those of Zimbabwe specifically.
Check out Africa Adventure Consultants blog for more book reviews and recommendations.(less)
A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson is a thoroughly charming read. It is about a widower named Mr. Malik and his unannounced love...moreA Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson is a thoroughly charming read. It is about a widower named Mr. Malik and his unannounced love of another widower, Rose Mbikwa. They live in Nairobi and met during a weekly educational bird walk of which Rose was the leader.
The story gets interesting when Mr. Malik finally decides to do something about his secret crush; he plans to ask Rose to a ball. Trouble arises when his childhood nemesis makes an appearance and announces his intent to ask Rose to the same event.
Amusement ensues as a wager is made to determine which gentleman be allowed to ask Ms. Mbikwa to the ball. I won't reveal anything else so as to avoid any spoilers. Suffice it to say, it's a very satisfactory story. It paints a vivid picture of Nairobi as well as many other parts of Kenya. It also introduces the reader to a very endearing character in Mr. Malik.
Somewhat in the tradition and feel of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but with its own special voice and characters; this book is sure to please.
Africa Solo takes readers on a journey from Algeria, through West and Central Africa, all the way to Nairobi, Kenya. Armed with only a backpack full o...moreAfrica Solo takes readers on a journey from Algeria, through West and Central Africa, all the way to Nairobi, Kenya. Armed with only a backpack full of belongings, author Kevin Kertscher walks, hitchikes, boats and takes buses on this bizarre and interesting journey.
During his travels, he meets exotic people in every locale, sleeps under a carpet of stars in the Sahara, takes a boat on the Congo river and visits mountain gorillas in Rwanda. It’s a journey of epic proportions, and not everything goes smoothly; the book wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if it had.
There is a bit more of Kertscher’s personal psychology than I’m interested in between the pages, but his visits to infrequently seen areas are intriguing. His contact with locals and their cultures is limited by his constant moving, which is unfortunate. The journey overall is certainly interesting and it makes for a good read. (less)
This book is set in expat East Africa. The main character Esme visits Africa and decides not to leave. She settles in suburban Nairobi and builds some...moreThis book is set in expat East Africa. The main character Esme visits Africa and decides not to leave. She settles in suburban Nairobi and builds something of a life there. Little has changed with racial attitudes in the expat community since colonial times and Esme and her contemporaries mostly lead lives of leisure and often excess.
When she meets a local journalist named Hunter, her ease dissapates. She is faced with the uncomfortable realities just outside her door that Hunter has witnessed during the war in Somalia and the genocide in Rwanda. Esme can no longer close her eyes to the larger goings on in Africa. She also loses her heart to the journalist.
The story follows the complex social web in Nairobi and the intensity of Esme’s relationships. The book is very engaging and the language evokes a strong feeling of place. The author captures the incredible natural beauty of Africa effortlessly with her prose. Highly recommended. (less)
The second installment of Suzanne Arruda’s Jade del Cameron mystery series, Stalking Ivory is a fun, if somewhat predictable read. We find Jade search...moreThe second installment of Suzanne Arruda’s Jade del Cameron mystery series, Stalking Ivory is a fun, if somewhat predictable read. We find Jade searching for elephants on a photographic assignment near Mount Marsabit in the northern territory of Kenya. She of course finds more than elephants – she finds rampant poaching.
Never one to leave things to authorities, Jade takes it upon herself (and thus her friends) to try to get to the bottom of the crime. She manages to have some close calls as well as getting herself into a few exciting spots of trouble. And it wouldn’t be a Jade del Cameron mystery without a bit of (chaste) romance.
Jade proves herself once again to be an interesting character. She is brave and admirable, and does not tolerate nonsense. The book is an enjoyable read with glimpses into the history of colonial Kenya. (less)
This children's book is formatted as the diary of a 12-year-old. It is educational and filled with adventure. The format is a bit unusual with photogr...moreThis children's book is formatted as the diary of a 12-year-old. It is educational and filled with adventure. The format is a bit unusual with photographs, illustrations and handwritten 'journal entries'. Carey Monroe has the chance to spend two weeks during summer vacation in Kenya with his aunt. While there he meets and becomes friends with a Maasai man and his son.
Each animal they see while on safari is presented to the reader with facts, photos and their Swahili name. Carey joins the Maasai father and son on their drive from Amboseli to the Maasai Mara that takes the three on an unforgettable safari. During the story, the author also shows how the Maasai are trying to preserve their land and way of life. The journal entry format is very appealing and enjoyable to read. The publisher recommends the book for grades 3-6. (less)
Rick Ridgeway’s ‘The Shadow of Kilimanjaro’ isn’t just a journey through Kenya, it’s a journey through time. The book begins with Rick and his traveli...moreRick Ridgeway’s ‘The Shadow of Kilimanjaro’ isn’t just a journey through Kenya, it’s a journey through time. The book begins with Rick and his traveling companions climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It is the beginning of a walking safari that will take them all the way to the Kenyan coast. He is accompanied by seasoned guides and trackers as well as rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Filled with the incredible adventures of meeting and observing animals while on foot, as well as descriptions of the stark beauty of Kenya’s magical parks, the Shadow of Kilimanjaro is a riveting read. Ridgeway deftly augments the stories of his adventure with stories of Kenya’s cast of memorable characters; the Sheldricks, Tsavo warden Bill Woodley, KWS founder Richard Leakey (yes – of those Leakeys!), and more. He tackles the oft-times controversial history of game management and poaching in Kenya, as well as the philosophical side of big game hunting.
The Shadow of Kilimanjaro is an armchair adventure that you won’t want to put down. It’s a must read for anyone planning a visit to Kenya and for those with a passion for Africa’s flora and fauna. (less)
Book three of the Jade del Cameron mystery series is as fun and intriguing as the first two. In The Serpent's Daughter, Jade finds herself in 1920's M...moreBook three of the Jade del Cameron mystery series is as fun and intriguing as the first two. In The Serpent's Daughter, Jade finds herself in 1920's Morocco, and true to style, she can't go anywhere without ending up neck-deep in adventure. She's there to meet her mother to try and mend their relationship, but not soon after her arrival, her mother is kidnapped. She traverses Morocco to rescue her mother and deals with multi-talented criminals and challenges all along the way.
Jade is tough as ever in this novel. I've heard her called 'the female Indiana Jones' - it's an appropriate moniker. Jade proudly takes care of herself and only reluctantly accepts help at her most dire moments. The storyline is a little bit formulaic at this point, but it doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Action packed from page one; it's a rollicking ride to the end. (less)
Desertion is a novel that weaves a tale tied together through generations. It starts in 1899 in Mombasa, Kenya with a local Muslim man coming across a...moreDesertion is a novel that weaves a tale tied together through generations. It starts in 1899 in Mombasa, Kenya with a local Muslim man coming across an Englishman in need of medical assistance. Their chance meeting eventually leads to a romance between the Muslim man's sister and the Englishman, which sets the stage for the fine threads that tie the remaining stories together and form the echoes of repercussions of the affair many decades later.
Gurnah is a wonderful, award-winning writer and his lyrical words bring the reader fully into the stories he creates. He paints an accurate, historical backdrop that sets the stage for the characters we can't help but be fascinated by. Culture and religion are weighty companions in these tales, and moral questions repeatedly appear throughout the work. The start is slow, but the further you get, the more intrigued you will be. Strongly recommended. (less)
Book four in the Jade del Cameron series finds Jade back ‘home’ in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to her unconventional work as a reporter and photojourn...moreBook four in the Jade del Cameron series finds Jade back ‘home’ in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to her unconventional work as a reporter and photojournalist, she takes on the job of helping a zoological company collect wild animals for zoos in the United States. The work has obvious dangers, but Jade skirts them with aplomb and gains the grudging respect of the men ‘in charge’.
Mystery and intrigue find Jade quickly when her friends find the body of a local shopkeeper on their plantation. The cause of death is murder and the prime suspect is Jade’s sweetheart, Sam. Jade launches her efforts to clear Sam’s name and finds danger and adventure at every turn.
Author Suzanne Arruda again paints a picture of the old British East Africa that brings the era to life for the reader. The story is never dull and the action doesn’t stop; Jade del Cameron lives up to her full potential as a quirky heroine. (less)
The 12th book in Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series is perhaps my favorite. Endearing as all of the others but especiall...moreThe 12th book in Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series is perhaps my favorite. Endearing as all of the others but especially poignant, it has the usual mystery, life lessons and charming conversations found in the rest of the series.
This story finds Mma Ramotswe investigating a crime against cattle; an especially egregious thing in Botswana where cattle are valued above all else. Clues lead to unexpected places and she meets many interesting characters along the way. Additionally, there is drama in Mr. J.L.B.Matekoni’s garage when one of his apprentices is presumed responsible for getting a girl pregnant. Mma Ramotswe has to help sort things out there as well.
Best of all, this book leads up to and eventually celebrates the wedding of Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti. The preparations of course involve the very careful selection of wedding shoes, shoes being a particular passion of Grace Makutsi.
These details are only a few of the stories interwoven in The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll especially like this book. They are formulaic, but that formula has made them incredibly successful. Definitely a feel-good read. (less)
This was a brief but entertaining read. The author buys a used Mercedes to drive from Europe to West Africa...don't forget that the Sahara desert is s...moreThis was a brief but entertaining read. The author buys a used Mercedes to drive from Europe to West Africa...don't forget that the Sahara desert is smack in the middle of that journey!
Van Bergeijk is not the first to take this type of trip nor will he be the last; his account is engaging though not ground-breaking as he weaves in history of others' journeys, the provinence of his particular used car and tales of his missteps along the way.
We'd rather be an armchair traveler on this kind of adventure; we're happy to enjoy this account from the comfort of our couch. A fun read that would be something you could start and easily finish on the plane ride to Africa. (less)
This was a fantastic read of a remarkable journey into Africa’s ‘broken heart’ – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The author was brave and ideali...moreThis was a fantastic read of a remarkable journey into Africa’s ‘broken heart’ – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The author was brave and idealistic at best to attempt the journey, and at worst he was self indulgent and stupid. That said, his journey makes for spectacular armchair travel.
Tim Butcher became interested in following in Henry Morton Stanley’s footsteps in charting the Congo River during a trip to Africa in 2000. He spent months and years planning and finally set off with a backpack and a few thousand in cash stuffed in his shoes. During his journey, he uses motorbikes, dugout canoes, a riverboat and his own two feet to travel thousands of kilometres through lands that are essentially off limits to most of the western world.
He meets a fascinating cast of characters along the way, some of whom help him immeasurably and with great risk to themselves, and some who are unsavory and bordering on the dangerous. Butcher weaves in history along the way, giving context to this modern day Congo; from colonial times to the free-for-all mineral based scramble for wealth that takes place today. It all makes for a gripping story that leaves you wondering if he will make it out alive (or at least intact).
This would be the first not-about-Africa book we've reviewed here, but it has ties to Africa. For those that have enjoyed Peter Allison's books (Whate...moreThis would be the first not-about-Africa book we've reviewed here, but it has ties to Africa. For those that have enjoyed Peter Allison's books (Whatever You Do, Don't Run! and Don't Look Behind You), How to Walk a Puma: And Other Things I Learned While Stumbling through South America is a natural segue. When he was nineteen, Peter flipped a coin to decide between going to South America and Africa; Africa won. After many (entertaining) years as a safari guide in Africa, he longed to explore the other continent that was part of his contest, so he headed to South America. This book shares his adventures there.
Mr. Allison does in fact walk a puma during his time in South America - over and over again - while trying not to get bitten in the knee too many times. He also rafts piranha- infested rivers, swims in snake infested waters and gets taken down by a wicked empanada. As with his other books, they don't go too deep, but he can craft a story that will keep you entertained throughout. He manages some good cultural observations and makes the reader wish for some of his adventures but certainly not all. A fun read that doesn't require much thinking. (less)
Tim Butcher's second travel book offering takes the reader on our journey through west Africa in the footsteps of Graham Greene. He and his traveling...moreTim Butcher's second travel book offering takes the reader on our journey through west Africa in the footsteps of Graham Greene. He and his traveling companion travel through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia by road, foot and boat, recreating a journey made by Graham Greene and his cousin Barbara in 1935 which eventually led to Greene writing 'Journey Without Maps'. As with his previous book Blood River, Butcher takes on considerable risk by choosing to make this journey in an area of Africa not well known for its political stability.
Liberia is more well known for blood diamonds and child soldiers than for travel, and Butcher delves into its history as he traverses the land and meets local people. He introduces the reader to local culture such as the 'devils' mentioned in the title; sorcerers with magical powers that still play a very prevalent role in today's society. He also draws obvious parallels between his journey and Greene's, with particular witness to the fact that many of the villages he visits in remote jungles are much the same and no better off than they were 77 years ago.
It is a journey very different from that in Blood River, but a bold and fascinating one nonetheless. Let's hope Butcher continues his adventures so we may continue to enjoy his work.(less)
Boyd Norton’s newest book is full of gorgeous photographs that take the reader on a stunning journey through the Serengeti ecosystem. This book absolu...moreBoyd Norton’s newest book is full of gorgeous photographs that take the reader on a stunning journey through the Serengeti ecosystem. This book absolutely overflows with captivating images that place the reader directly on the plains to witness Africa’s stunning displays of nature.
Serengeti isn’t only photos, if you can tear your eyes away from them there is a great deal of text that accompanies them. It is full of stories of Norton’s visits, anecdotes about the wildlife and history and facts about the ecosystem and its inhabitants.
It is also a story about conservation and preservation. Boyd has been a tireless conservationist and not only documents wild places and their environmental issues, he follows up with action; he is the founder of the non-profit Serengeti Watch. Much of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the charity.
Journey to Serengeti for the first time through these pages or take a visit once again – this book brings the magic of one of Africa’s most famous landscapes alive. Highly recommended.(less)
While not strictly about African travel, this is a great read about Ken Budd living through something of a mid-life crisis after his father's death an...moreWhile not strictly about African travel, this is a great read about Ken Budd living through something of a mid-life crisis after his father's death and the realization that he would not become a father himself. He deals with these crises through volunteer travel (not a bad outlet!). He visits six different countries and does a different type of project in each, though more than one is focused on caring for children. Ken visited New Orleans to help with post-hurricane clean up, taught English in Costa Rica, worked at a special-needs school in China, helped study the effects of climate change in Ecuador, visited the West Bank to assist refugees and finally worked in an orphanage in Kenya.
The reader can see the impact of each trip on Ken and how it helps him to work through his grief as well as towards becoming the kind of man his father was. It's a funny and touching read.(less)