Book Review – On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

So what is the story?  (Taken from http://www.goodreads.com)

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.


When I first looked at this book, I kind of put it one side, thought when I have nothing else to read, I will pick it up. I wish I never did that! I think I have only ever given one other book five stars, that being Water For Elephants by Sara Greun.

This story is broken down into 3 parts.

The first, you are introduced to Anna, and immediately you like her bubbly personality that hides her sadness, and then T.J is introduced and you have this feeling of sorrow for him, they meet at the airport where his parents have organised flights for them to join on a holiday in the Maldives, where she is spending her summer tutoring T.J.  I love her character, she is kind, caring, and genuine,  she has taken this job for a few different reason, thinking it will be a few weeks and she will be back to her normal life.  After weather conditions causes them to have a few hiccups in their travel plans, finally getting a seaplane to charter them, the pilot suffers from a heart attack, but what got me the most was Anna, and how that caring and genuine concern comes through in her character, she is concerned, she wants to help and most importantly she helps without thinking too much of herself. The plane crashes and proceeds to sink, Anna & T.J are the only survivors.  They have hopes of being found and for the first few days hang on to the possibility that the planes that fly overhead will see them.

Part Two of the story is the adjustment, the accepting that they now live on this island, how the two of them become bonded not only in tragedy but in the fact that neither of them would want to survive the island without the other.  Together they work on building proper shelter; they work out how to eat, gather water, keep hygienic and how to keep themselves occupied during the days.  Together they get through storms, through shark attacks and through T.J’s transition from being a 17 year old boy and becoming 20 year old man, and Anna growing older, being in her early 30ties, and how her dreams of having children and being married might never be a reality. The fear of T.J’s cancer coming back, the illness’s that are easily picked up on the island. The emotion from the two characters individually fascinates, but the emotions that the characters are when together are just electrifying.  As the days go on, Anna & T.J develop a connection that is so strong that saying they fall in love would not justify the true feelings.

Part Three, and if you don’t want the spoiler, you need to stop reading here!

One day a storm is brewing on the island, turns out a Tsunami hits the island, and Anna & T.J are finally rescued.  And now, for them to adjust back into a world that they were ripped from 4 years ago, so much changes in 4 years as they discover, Anna must deal with more sadness, T.J must deal with being a 20 year old “kid” again, together they have to adjust, wanting to help each other but Anna not wanting to hold T.J back and keep him from missing out on the life he should of been having and would still be having if they were never stranded on an island.  T.J doesn’t know how to be what is expected from him, and the journey of the two characters letting go and rediscovering their bond and now for their friends and family to adjust to who they are.

This to me is not a romance novel; it’s more a novel about change, the loss and sadness one can feel, isolation and survival, about finding out who you are when you are taken from a world you know, and finding that real human connection with someone.

Jodi Picoult’s latest offering, Lone Wolf, a must read

I was first introduced to Jodi Picoult books when I went on a trip to Washington DC and I desperately needed something to read on the plane, so I grabbed the first book available to me off the bookshelf at home, which was My Sisters Keeper. I never really started reading until after the trip as it was just to fun filled, but once I opened the book and read the first page, I was hooked!

When I heard the news that Jodi Picoult was launching a new book in February 2012, Lone Wolf, I was super duper excited. I really enjoy her work, for one reason alone…the emotions. I find with her books that you become each character, you have strong feelings for each character, whether it positive or negative feelings, you feel!

I so often read a book and don’t really connect with the characters and you kind of feel like you just reading the book, going through the emotions.

Lone Wolf, Picoult’s latest books got me from the start. It tells a story of Luke, who not only researches wolves, but integrated his life into a wolf pack for 2 years by living with them a pack, his daughter, 17 year old Cara who lives with him, his son Edward who left when he was 18 due to an argument with his father, and Georgie, his ex wife. Their stories entwine when Cara and Luke are in a car accident, and Edward needs to make the decision of whether or not to keep his father on life support or to take him off, and donate his organs.

The story unfolds very quickly, when Edward makes the decision to remove his father from life support, yet Cara believes their father has a chance to come out of his vegetative state, their fight with each other involves Joe, Cara’s new stepdad (Georgies Husband) who defends Edward, in the legal battle of who has the right to make the decision. Edward, who has not seen his father in 6 years, or Cara who is only 3 months away from being legally allowed to make this decision, yet who has lived with Luke and organized their daily lives together.

The story come out of how the car crash really happened, and why Edward really left in the first place, and the uniting of two siblings who were once very close, who now go to court to fight over whether to “kill” their father or not. To throw the mix out a little, a guardian of the state is called in to give a recommendation as to who she thinks is best suited for the decision.

From the get go, I disliked Cara simply because she is a typical teenager who thinks she knows it all, her lies and deceit is apparent from the get go, Edward kind of grew on me, as the story goes deeper, you realize he is just following his fathers last wish, but the best part of the book for me is Luke, and his story through all of this. He reveals his life, living with the wolves, a lot of research he has put into wolves. From the get go I knew the outcome for Luke, so that was no surprise, however the interaction of the two siblings captivated me and every now and then I thought one way and the story went another way.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story for those who want to read the book still, all I can say, this is definitely one of my top 5 Jodi Picoult books.
In no particular order, other recommendations of her books are My Sisters Keeper – the movie does NOT do it justice, Plain Truth – again, the movie does no justice to this book, Sing You Home, Harvesting the Heart and Nineteen Minutes.

Books, and the great value they hold in ones life…

I have always loved books, and have a small collection which is currently growing. I find books to be the most amazing gift, and value every single one of the books in my collection.

Most of my books are all boxed up from when I went overseas, and then moved to St Francis Bay, however I always have my cooking books with me.

8 years ago I was given my grandmother’s recipe book. My gran had a sight problem and couldn’t see anymore, she would often use a type of magnifying glass to see things, however, the recipe book had become impossible to read. This book was passed down to me as my mom doesn’t cook, so I have it in my possession. It has been among my growing collection of recipe books, and will always be a valuable part of my book collection.


I have dreams of one day, when we have our own house, to have a whole room just dedicated to books, I absolutely love being surrounded by books. The 3 years I spent in the USA, I lived in a town called Highland Park, just outside Chicago, and there was this wonderful library, which I use to spend a great deal of my time. I could sit for the longest time just paging through books, I think I get some of my greatest inspiration in books, not just when it comes to cooking, but life inspiration.

I recently purchased a Gobii e-reader, so my fiction book collection is now sitting on my Gobii, however, my most recent cookbook I acquired is Cooking With Jenny Morris.

Jenny is such a beautiful person, and I love how she makes being a chef fun. The love for food is what is most important and comes through right throughout the book, not the “image” of a chef where life is hectic and all you do is scream and shout in the kitchen, she is living the passion, and everyday falling in love with food. Thank you for being such a great inspiration Jenny!! Hopefully I will see you again at the Food &Wine Blogger Indaba 2012!!

Beautiful Books….what more could I ask for

Now that I have time on my hands, I have been busy with finalizing a few wedding plans, I happen to forget about some flowers, and in a slightly fast dialling motion, I quickly phoned my dad, who just laughed and told me not to worry, he will take care of it all. I am so very blessed that both my parents and my future parent in laws are so supportive, and very helpful in so many ways. But more on wedding plans in another post.

This post is dedicated to the wonderful gifts I received from my loved ones. They all know me so well, and know my great love for African inspired food, and all the wonderful ways of South African cooking. And along with this, my great love for books.
My wonderful fiancé gave me Justin Bonello, Cooked in Africa, it’s his older book, but the first one of his books I own, and the first of many which shall be in my collection of cook books.

Reading through it, two recipes jumped out at me immediately, firstly the recipe for Springbok Neck Potjie. WOW! Had me drooling all over the pages, I can just imagine this potjie going down in my house, all the wonderful friends and family around to enjoy and share it…it’s perfect for sharing with loved ones.

The other one, which is very unlike something I would normally cook up, is the breakfast bomb. Not being a huge fan of eggs for breakfast, I tend to lean away from these kind of recipes, however, this one grabbed my attention. Also something I shall be trying in the near future!

My parents in law gave me this book, such a great inspiration. 365 things every Woman should know. Every day I read one…today – The development and maintenance of our inner world should be our highest priority.

My parents gave me Kukumakranka – Khoi Khoin Culture, Customs and Creative Cooking. They understand my love for the African culture and their food ways. There are so many interesting facts in this book, from the music and dance, to the kitchen utensils used, to the kitchens built, it is really hard to choose what is my favourite part of this book.

The edible plants kept me intrigued, just the vast knowledge of what you can eat and what you can’t in the bush, and this recipe jumped out at me…goats cheese being a all time favourite in my books. A vegetarian dish made up of goats cheese, raw duiker root, boiled flowerbuds of Khoi-veldkoo, shredded slymstok stalks and wild leeks. Wow….mouth watering!

I was spoilt rotten this Christmas, along with all my lovely books, I was spoilt with flowers, and wine, and stunning wine glasses, and a beautiful photo frame full of lovely memories of our first year together, and the most important gift of all, the opportunity to spend time with Justin, my parents and my parent in laws, all the most special people in my life.