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.

31 Dec 2017

Review: The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Arian, First Oralist and Companion of Hira, has been tasked with an immense responsibility. In a land on the brink of war, with the very existence of the written word being threatened by the warring Talisman, Arian and her fellow Companion Sinnia are tasked with retrieving the Bloodprint; the last vestige of The Claim.

Risking a journey fraught with danger, death and deception, Arian must retrieve the Bloodprint and return it to the Citadel of Hira, to the High Commander, before it falls to the hands of the Talisman. Thus tasked, and fueled by the loss of her sister to Talisman marauders years ago, Arian seeks to return successful, whatever the personal cost.

The Bloodprint is an epic adventure akin to The Lord of the Rings. It is filled with numerous details and intricacies which slow down the action, but are of vital importance to understanding the vast world created by Khan. While it crossed my mind many times that this book could have in fact been broken up into two shorter novels, as the pages remaining to be read decreased, the activity increased, holding me spellbound. It was with despair that I reached the conclusion, “HERE ENDS BOOK ONE OF THE KHORASAN ARCHIVES.” I feel cheated by that single line. I followed Arian through death, loss, discovery and magic only to be forced to have to wait who knows how long to learn of her fate. You are a cruel author, Ausma Zehanat Khan.

The Bloodprint is much more than an easy read – it requires time and dedication. It is a feast to be savoured, and requires the patience to do so. However, the prose is beautiful, the characters arresting, and the world contained within the book’s covers is rich and full of marvelous adventure.

The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan is published by Harper Voyager, an imprint of Hachette Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

23 Dec 2017

Review: Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet is an explorer and treasure seeker, and his prize is language. Tammet is uniquely qualified for a linguistic adventure, through his synaesthesia – the ability to interpret one sense as another. In his case, Tammet sees language as a visible construct – shapes, colours and textures. Initially fluent in the language of numbers (even composing poems of numbers), Tammet has always had a remarkable yet perhaps unusual relationship with words – they are more than pen strokes on a page, but physically represent a shape, feeling, texture or colour, arranging themselves in unusual partnerships and illustrating their links to their brethren through manners invisible to many.
Tammet’s unique experience of language thus illustrates to the reader the immense richness of any language, the amazing possibilities in prefixes and suffixes, the playful manner in which a language can be constructed and destructed, allowing one to see it anew. This rebirth of language in the mind of the reader is a moving a deeply rewarding experience, which Tammet gracefully and intelligently communicates.

Daniel Tammet has allowed me the opportunity to view my mothertongue anew, as a creature which constantly evolves, adapts and and translates. As he declares, “English never stops.” Through the book’s unique interpretation of words, sounds and the squiggles which indicate both, it becomes apparent that no language is fixed – while rules govern grammar and structure, the feelings and imagery inspired by a specific expression can be interpreted differently be many readers – in fact, it is safe to say that every person translates their own language, as well as that of others. Indeed, the author explains an incredibly powerful aspect of language and communication, “To be fluent, we must animate words with our imagination”.

Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing is a rewarding experience, a ticket to Tammet’s journey in search of what makes language just that, and the politics, history and evolution behind communication. His book truly has the power to change the way we view language as a tool which allows us to communicate.

Throughout its forages into the various complexities of language and communication, Tammet makes a point of leaving you with the realization that what is most important in this all is meaning, not the words or gestures you use to provide it.

Tammet’s is a book which makes scholarly investigation exciting, and which makes greater understanding possible. I cannot adequately praise his efforts, but I leave you with an instruction; he is a pathfinder, and we should follow him.

Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet is published by Hodder & Stoughton, an imprint of Hachette Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

22 Dec 2017

Review: Die Laksman se Dogter by Gerda Taljaard

I should preface this by saying that I have not read Afrikaans literature since High School, which is both shocking and telling. Afrikaans literature does not have the best audience in English South African readers, with preconceived ideas of diving into an elusive culture with a tendency for racism, high drama and heartache, but I want to participate in the movement to change this. We need to embrace local literature, in its entirety. For me, this meant foraging into the unfamiliar world of Afrikaans fiction, which was refreshing and immensely rewarding.

Rosaria is emerged in a state of grief. Having recently lost her daughter (a popular singer and poet with an unfortunate taste for heroin) and with a failed marriage and fractured career behind her, she is haunted by dreams of her past. The realisation that her daughter was slowly disappearing and evolving into a stranger long before her death rattles Rosaria, filling her with confused guilt. As she tries to make sense of her daughter’s decisions, as well as her own past, Rosaria makes discoveries that change not only how she sees herself, but her history and identity.

The imagery in Die Laksman se Dogter is unnervingly beautiful; re-read then re-read aloud to your partner stuff. It blossoms in the mind like a glorious fireworks display, leaving a brilliant imprint visible when you close your eyes. To call Gerda Taljaard’s style ‘poetic’ is insufficient in expressing her talent. The word is nothing but a two-dimensional scribble, while Taljaard’s story is a living entity, profound and wise. Taljaard provides us with a philosophical and unconventional view of motherhood, taboo choices, and regret. Rosaria is literally haunted by what was and what could have been, and is faced with the immense burden of history while deciding how to write her future.

Part of me desperately wants this to be translated and reach a wider audience, yet there is a voice in my head which mourns what this will do to Taljaard’s prose, and which asks that perhaps this is the key to getting English people to reading the Afrikaans language – a beautiful, unforgettable story. I discovered so much beauty in this novel, from its story, but more importantly, the writing itself. A new view of a language was revealed, and that, friends, is an amazing sentence to be able to type. My eyes have been opened. Do yourself and your culture a favour and read this book, whatever your language.

Die Laksman se Dogter by Gerda Taljaard is published by Penguin Random House South Africa.

19 Dec 2017

Review: The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

Through 12 short but immensely powerful stories, Jen Campbell can restore your faith in poetry, and in the beauty of the English language as an art form.

From replacing the hearts of your loved ones with those of an animal, and selling ghosts in jars with promises of luck or company, to recreating the world through thoughts and memories, to catching the devil in the form of sea crabs, Campbell’s stories are as varied as they are unique. Reminiscent of fairy tales with a philosophical shadow and often deliciously macabre edge, these stories are moving and living, a testimony to the evolution of the organism of language.

Campbell’s background in poetry serves her well, as she plays with language and prose to create a whimsical yet deeply profound collection of tales which will not only inspire your imagination and indulge your nostalgia, but will force you to reconsider the everyday, and look at the beauty behind rituals, myths and beliefs to ingrained into society that we take them for granted and no longer see them.

Let Campbell’s words wash over you as you delve into The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, and emerge feeling bemused, inspired and delighted. This book is beautiful, powerful, and great fun, and you need to experience it.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell is published by Two Roads Books (an imprint of Hachette Books) and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

17 Dec 2017

Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Elsie Bainbridge may be newly married, yet she’s to be in mourning for a year. Following the sudden death of her husband Rupert, Elsie and her late husband’s cousin, Sarah, are on their way to The Bride, the family home that Rupert was in the process of restoring when death felled him. However, what the ladies discover is an estate in dire need of attention, run down and ill-suited for their stay. The staff are few and hardly trained, and Elsie feels both anger and hopelessness as she realizes that staying at The Bridge is to be her fate.

Among the ruins of a formerly splendid estate, Elsie and Sarah discover links to the past. A diary of one of Sarah’s ancestors, forgotten and dusty, sets the scene for the misery that befell The Bridge two hundred years ago, leading to its current ruin.

The diary recounts deception, magic and shame, and despite the two centuries that have passed between the buildings occupation, Elsie and Sarah can’t help but notice that history seems to be repeating itself, and The Bridge is host to a series of misfortunes not unlike those experienced before. When deaths start occurring, Elsie and Sarah can no longer blame superstition or bad luck, but turn to the strange relics of Sarah’s ancestors; the silent companions.

The Silent Companions is such a marvelously penned gothic tale. Set in the 1860s, yet with a second narrative in the 1600s, it spans a time of superstition, mistrust, and witch hunters. As reluctant fear dawns in Elsie, so does the possibility of horrors from beyond the world of man – of ghosts, haunting and magic. Laura Purcell presents the reader with a subtle chain of events evolving from disbelief to sheer horror, and it is a delightful (albeit shadowy) trip. If romantic yet dark ghost stories or tales of witchcraft and woe are your poison of choice, this is an ideal read for you. If not, you should still give it a chance, if for nothing else but the poetic prose and delicately mounting scares.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell is published by Raven Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

11 Dec 2017

Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Aza is attempting to navigate the minefield that is life with an added complication, a tendency for her mind to work against her. Aza’s thoughts are home to a frightfully constant spiral of negative thoughts, which she cannot silence or escape. These are the thoughts which impede her relationships, cause her anxiety to flare, and which make seemingly easy tasks and situations insurmountable.

Despite the niggling negativities in her head, Aza and her best friend Daisy involve themselves in the disappearance of Davis Pickett’s dad, a corporate man on the run from fraud allegations. While they attempt to discover his whereabouts, Aza feels herself drawn to Davis, and the beginnings of love.

Turtles All the Way Down is uniquely moving experience – simultaneously filled with despair, hope, and love, it chronicles the voice of Aza’s greatest enemy – her own mind. Through careful explanations of the compulsive behavior and thoughts that invade her daily life, to the painful attempts of those she loves to understand her suffering, this is a story you can’t help but love.

The youthful banter does not seem forced with pepperings of outdated slang or tiring references to popular culture and sex, as can often happen in YA novels. John Green brings to life characters which are real, relatable, and human. They have faults, their lives can be both mundane and messy, and ultimately, they are all the more loveable for that.

There are often attempts by contemporary authors to document the minefield that is mental illness. However, these attempts are darkened and cheapened by the ‘and they all live happily ever after’ conclusion; mental illness that is suddenly cured, while the protagonist goes on to live a ‘normal’ life. Not so with John Green. Both melancholic and refreshing, Aza is not ‘cured’ come the final pages of her story, she is the same person with a mess of thoughts wriggling in her brain, only she’s learned to accept that it is her mess, and she needs to try live with herself, and not fall victim to herself. This is remarkably moving, and inspiring, and honest – a combination which guarantees warm hearts and wet eyes. Delve into unknown depths with this book, and to adore every sentence.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green is published by Penguin Random House.

10 Dec 2017

Review: City of Circles by Jess Richards

Danu has suffered an immeasurable loss; the death of both parents, gone within hours of each other. Victims to a disease which felled many others in the circus to which her family belongs, her parents’ deaths make her an orphan.

Danu’s grief is deep and wide, an ocean threatening to drown her at any moment, without hesitation. In an attempt to try distract herself and live, she decides to learn something new. This is how she comes to learn to walk the tightrope with Morrie, a talented teacher who soon proposes. However, Danu cannot love as he needs, for the grief which splinters her heart has left it hard and cold.

When the circus moves towards the famous city of Matryoshka (Danu’s birthplace), she feels the spark of love for the bright colours and complex architecture. In an attempt to connect with her parent’s ghosts, she decides to stay in the city of circles and uncover her past, and the secrets which enshroud it.

City of Circles is a sensory adventure; tactile and immersive, the reader can taste the smells carried on Matryoshka’s wind, hear the music and laughter within the city, and feel the unfathomable mourning which Danu radiates. The reader’s senses and heart are fully engaged in this book, unlike Danu’s heart, which she locks away. Jess Richards raises poignant questions of what it means to love and be loved, and what it means to live rather than simply being alive.

Complex characters, vivid descriptions and poetic prose make City of Circles a work of art which leaves the reader longing for the circus, for freedom, and for redemption. A masterpiece.

City of Circles by Jess Richards is published by Sceptre Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.