About Me

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Tea-drinking introvert found either behind a book or within arm's reach of one. Book reviewer, and book sniffer. You may have seen me on W24, BooksLive, Aerodrome, Bark Magazine, CultNoise Magazine, or Expound Magazine.

28 Jan 2022

Review: Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

 


Rating: 4 Stars

Genre: Popular science, self-help

Themes: Emotions and how to use them to communicate

Ideal for fans of: Rhonda Byrne, Oprah

Get it in South Africa from: Penguin Random House South Africa

Atlas of the Heart is a compendium of 87 emotions and experiences – that means 87 different emotions and the thoughts that lead to them. They’re conveniently grouped by similarity of the feelings, and the responses they evoke.


Brené Brown is uniquely qualified to write about emotions – she’s had a lifelong interest in how these feelings effect our lives, and specially, how they change the way we communicate. Her interest eventually became a passion, and then a career. And it all started with some fascinating research on one of the world’s most complex emotions – shame. Despite this, Brown freely admits that she doesn’t have concrete answers to every question concerning emotions, but she does have a lot of data, and the help of fellow researchers.

Her conclusions are remarkable. Not only does she define every emotion and experience covered in this tome, but she gives the reader incredible information that leads to several “ah ha!” moments, starting from her assertion that a lot of what we think of as emotion is actually just cognitive responses – emotion is as much about thinking as it is a bout feeling.

But that’s not all.

Brown helps us distinguish between similar emotions (like envy and jealousy) because if you better understand what you’re feeling and why, you can talk about it, form meaningful connections, and learn from it. You can master your emotions.

This book is packed with astonishing insights, including how boredom is actually good for you, and that disappointment CAN be measured. But don’t feel overwhelmed – all the research and data is presented in easy to follow and easier to digest bite-sized chunks. Brown’s style is also refreshingly personal – she gives context to her research, but shares this with an honest how-to style, that feels more like you’re getting advice from a friend than getting cold hard science.

There’s more. You’ll also get three skillsets for using emotion to cultivate meaningful connection with other people – so you can take what you’ve learned, and actually apply it to make your life better. What more could you want?

Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown is published by Penguin Random House

26 Jan 2022

Review: The Unravelling by Polly Crosby



Alternate name: The Women of Pearl Island

Rating: 5 Stars (Masterful)

Genre: Literary fiction with a dash of history

Themes: Grief, family, love

Ideal for fans of: Natasha Carthew, Megan Hunter, Sara Collins

Get it in South Africa from: Jonathan Ball Publishers



After her mother’s death, Tartelin feels unmoored. She thinks with longing of her mum’s stories of the sea, and longs for closure. When she spies an advert for a job posting on a remote island off the English coast, it immediately catches her eye. Marianne Stourbridge, a lepidopterist, seeks an assistant, and Tartelin is looking for a way to escape and heal. With this job, she can be near the ocean her mother loved so much. It seems like fate.

Yet when she arrives, Tartelin realizes nothing is as it seems. The strangely deserted isle holds more than just the ruins of buildings once washed away into the sea – it holds a mystery, and Marianne is at the very scarred heart of it.

But there’s a catch. Miss Stourbridge is no longer used to company, and keeps her assistant at arm’s length. Yet somehow, the two women eventually become close, sharing their time, their grief, and finally, uncovering the island’s history, and the secrets it has hidden beneath its bleak exterior.

The Unraveling is more than a satisfying tale with a dash of history and suspense. It is an investigation into the nature of loss, and how this shapes not just a person, but their past and future, too. The carefully woven subplots of evolution and rebirth remind us that family isn’t necessarily a blood bond, but a meeting of like-minded souls and a desire to be seen and see.

Tartelin and Marianne are united by grief and loss, yet separated by so much else, not least of which their ages. Despite this, Polly Crosby reminds us that love and acceptance have no boundaries, and any playing field can be levelled with enough trust.

The mysterious and frightening history of the island and its inhabitants also serve to highlight the dark side of humanity, a start contrast to the hopeful sweetness felt throughout the novel. Crosby shows that man can be both creator and destroyer, and all that separates the two is motivation. Crosby gives tangible weight to the power of things left unsaid, making this book as much a story of loss and longing as it is of hope and happiness.

The Unravelling is poetic and beautifully written, but it is also an addictive story. It’s the kind of literary fiction that has a refreshingly satisfying and undeniable pull, making it sure to appeal to any reader. This is top-shelf prose made accessible through a brilliant story, and the effect is nothing short of perfection.  

The Unravelling by Polly Crosby is published by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers

29 Nov 2021

Review: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

Despite only being 17, Eleanor has not led an easy life. her mother passed away when she was just 9, but thankfully, she had Mrs Pembroke, who took her in and raised her like a daughter., but the relief was short lived, because after three years, Mrs Pembroke followed Eleanor’s mother to the land of the dead. And then everything changed. Instead of continuing her life as Mr Pembroke’s ward, Ella was made a housemaid, forced into a life of service and poverty, and constantly under the dark and oppressive shadow of the master of the house, who is a little too interested in the young women in his employ.

Despite this, she has one silver lining: the library. In the depths of night, Eleanor sneaks into the forbidden room to let her mind escape through stories.  And it’s during one of these midnight sojourns that Eleanor’s life changes completely.

She’s not alone in the library, this time. There’s a black-eyed woman with her, with a startling proposition: she will grant Eleanor seven wishes, in exchange for the young woman’s soul. Only, there’s a catch – each wish comes at a very steep price.

The premise of selling your soul to the devil is certainly not a new, but JJA Harwood might just make you forget that. Shocked by the carnage each wish creates, and the ultimate price she will have to pay, Eleanor strives to make something of her life without the assistance of any supernatural forces. But she can’t – each time she tries to resist the allure of that simple word, fate, or perhaps the woman with the black eyes, forces her hand, and soon enough Eleanor is down to a final wish, without much to show for her trouble.

Thankfully, she has a plan to ensure she never has to give up her soul, nor the final wish which ties it to her. But will it work?

The Shadow in the Glass is more than a cautionary tale of the dangers of ambition and the downsides of making a deal with the devil. Apart from being the literal embodiment of the warning to be careful what you wish for, it’s a tale of a desperation, with a strong social commentary carefully used as background. Eleanor’s gradual descent into depravity and desperation are starkly contrasted to the romance and bright future our protagonist longs for. The Shadow in The Glass is a page-turner and an exhilarating journey from the first sentence.  

The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood is published by Harper Voyager, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

15 Nov 2021

Review: Son of The Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Danso has found himself in a unique position. Despite not being High Bassai, he is a novitiate, and while his position in the guild is tenuous, he seems totally unconcerned with decorum. Instead, Danso seeks the truth behind stories, including that of his mother’s past. His fixation has landed him in hot water a few times, much to the ire of his intended, Esheme.

Yet when events beyond Danso’s control force the land of Bassa to close its borders, and for Danso to be expelled from his university, his life changes beyond recognition. But that’s nothing compared to his discovery of a strange warrior from a distant land, with the ability to wield magic, and a price-tag on her head.

Ands it’s that discovery, along with his insane desire to help this exile, that REALLY lands him in trouble, and places his life, and the lives of everyone he loves, in danger. Because it turns out Danso has a secret of his own, which could unsettle the very history upon which the kingdom of Bassa was founded.

African fantasy has just found itself a king in the form of Suyi Davies Okungbowa. I’ve yet to discover another writer who can effortlessly weave African mythology and history with a dazzling display of fantasy to create something new and delicious. Son of the Storm is more into just a foray into the birthplace of humanity (and probably magic). It is a cleverly crafted social narrative that exposes injustices and discrimination while the camouflage of epic fiction. Okungbowa has created a page-turner that is as addictive as it is compelling. He has reintroduced to the world to the power for Africa, and an African story, and I am hooked.

But there’s a downside.

Just as the characters start to feel like real people, and the trek across unknown lands really hits its stride, we are left with an (admittedly very good) cliffhanger, and the torture of waiting for the next instalment. Which means that we have what feels like an eternity to wait before the story continues. I hate that – I want more already, so excuse me while I learn to transform a sulk session into patience. In the meantime, join the party and grab a copy of Son of the Storm before Hollywood finds it first!

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa is published by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

27 Oct 2021

Review: Rabbits by Terry Miles

K’s a gamer, but he’s not your average gamer. Sure, he’ll dabble in arcade games and online roleplayers, but what he’s really into is something many of fellow gamers haven’t heard of: Rabbits. The pattern-seeking underground game is the cause of much speculation, because like Fight Club, you don’t talk about it. Which is why the purpose, players, and plot of the game are all such a mystery. All K knows is that it’s real, and it’s something he wants – no, needs – to win, and not just because the prize promises to be the winner’s most heartfelt desire.

But just as the next round of the game is supposed to start, the unthinkable happens. K is approached by a former winner, who requests his help to fix Rabbits, before something terrible happens.

And as he tries to help, he realizes that something terrible isn’t just forfeiting the prize – if K doesn’t fix Rabbits, the world as he knows it will end. Literally.

Rabbits is an ambitious project, and Terry Miles has accomplished a feat in world building. Despite a somewhat slow start, once it heats up, it’ll keep you flicking through the pages at a record rate. And part of the reason for that is that so much is happening. Truly, Rabbits is the definition of ‘something for everyone’. There’s conspiracy theories, technological advances and AI, a peek at the multiverse, a love story, a dash of adventure, and of course, a little murder and mayhem.

And this combination makes it feel familiar in the best way. It makes the reader think of shows like Fringe or Netflix’s Devs meets The Matrix vibes, with an added puzzle-solving and whodunit aspect.

And for that reason, I have one very important bit of advice for you: read Rabbits before it becomes the next Hollywood sensation, because Tinseltown would be crazy to pass up this story!

Rabbits by Terry Miles is published by Macmillan, an imprint of Pan Macmillan. And is available in South Africa from Pan Macmillan South Africa.