Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Emperor and the Elephants

Upscale Shack readers will recall my 2014 review of Dr. Richard Carroll’s first book 2000 Miles around the Tree of Life, which recorded the author’s experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail from start to finish in the mid 1970’s. In his latest book, The Emperor and the Elephants (ISBN: 1935925709), Carroll recalls his Peace Corps service in the Central African Empire (today known as the Central African Republic, or CAR), in the late 1970’s, and his subsequent years working as a conservationist in Central Africa .

Continue reading Book Review: The Emperor and the Elephants

Book/Movie Review: Winter in the Blood

As book nerds, we commonly hold the rather snobbish opinion that movies based on novels are never as good as the book. There are good reasons for this, as each book reading experience is very subjective. We visualize the characters in our own way. We savor each detail. Film interpretations of novels often have to be ruthless in cutting details, lest each film run hours or days in length. Characters are often cast for their star appeal rather than their authenticity to the role. Avid literati often take offence at this. “How dare they cast Brad Pitt in that role? He’s completely wrong for it.” Or, “How dare they not include the scene at the refinery, that’s the key detail that explains the ending.Continue reading Book/Movie Review: Winter in the Blood

Book Review: Nervous Conditions

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (ISBN: 978-0-9547023-3-5, Ayebia Clarke Publishing, Ltd., 2004) was first published in 1988, but escaped my notice for many years. I kept seeing the compelling cover on the shelves of Exclusive Books in O.R. Tambo airport in Joburg and I finally decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. This is a very good novel.  Continue reading Book Review: Nervous Conditions

Book Review: Powder Necklace

It takes quite a lot of hubris to harshly review someone’s book. Writers agonize over every single word, the placement of every comma; through rewrite after rewrite, second guessing themselves endlessly, hoping they made the right choice when the book finally goes to print. A first novel is as precious as a firstborn child. Luckily, I can find no reason to be harsh in my review of Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond’s debut novel Powder Necklace (ISBN-10: 1439126100; ISBN-13: 978-1439126103). To put it simply, in case you are too busy to go on reading the rest of this review, I loved this book. Read it. Just do it. You won’t regret it.  Continue reading Book Review: Powder Necklace

Book Review: 2000 Miles Around the Tree of Life

Disclaimer: I know the author personally. He is a friend, and for 10 years he was my coworker and mentor. I make no claims of impartiality with this review. 

Today I’m reviewing 2000 Miles Around the Tree of Life, by Richard W. Carroll. (ISBN-10: 1935925512, ISBN-13: 978-1935925514), published by Peace Corps Writers, 2014. I have known Richard for ten years, and worked under his guidance for much of that time. I consider him a friend and a mentor, and so I was excited when I learned that he had published a memoir of his 1975 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Continue reading Book Review: 2000 Miles Around the Tree of Life

Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

New feature here at Upscale Shack. Occasionally we’re going to review books. It’s rare that I select a book based on a written review. Often, when I do read a book review, it’s after I’ve already read the book, usually to see if other readers have come away with the same impression I have, or if I missed some vital bit of information that someone else picked up. I’m going to strive to keep these reviews short and simple, to not be tempted to divulge spoilers and plot details in the vein of a 5th grade book report, but to hopefully offer something more substantial than the one-line reviews so often offered by the philistine trolls on Amazon. You’ve seen them: “Reading is hard. This book sucks, bro. This writer is lame.”  Continue reading Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden