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 Aug 2018

Review: A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

Paul’s story almost ended abruptly. A professor of literature, he was nearly killed by a colleague when Paul happened upon the mathematics professor trying to dispose of two very bloody, very dead bodies. A heavy blow to the head and eight months later, Paul is trying to get his life back on track. While he has the occasional moment of forgetfulness or headache, he thinks he’s well on his way to getting back to work, and attempting to make peace with what happened to him. In a final effort to overcome the nightmares and confront the trauma, Paul decided to confront Kenneth Hoffman, the man who almost ended his life.

While contemplating how best to approach the situation and meet with Kenneth, Paul’s wife gifts him a typewriter for inspiration. Despite being the same model of typewriter Kenneth had used in his crimes, Paul is excited to begin. However, he soon starts to have strange experiences which seem to be linked to the typewriter, Kenneth, and the murdered women Paul glimpsed. As he struggles to draw the line between realism, the supernatural, and possible mental illness, Paul must uncover the truth while maintaining a firm grasp of his sanity.

Entering Paul’s world is like entering a dream – it’s nearly impossible to tell what is real, or imagined. Is the typewriter displaying supernatural properties, or has it all got something to do with those small moments that Paul can’t remember?  

Barclay has a little something of everything to offer; mystery, combined with the supernatural, and a love triangle and personal drama – A Noise Downstairs is so much more than just a whodunit. Though at times somewhat slow, this remains a gripping and unusual story. Through the use of a few clever and downright shocking twists, this story explores family, relationships, motivations for heinous acts, and the powers that link them all together. Barclay has presented a rather good answer for why people do what they do.

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay is published by Orion Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

26 Aug 2018

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Donatella Dragna may have rescued her sister Scarlett from their overbearing father and an arranged marriage, but she can’t celebrate yet. Despite Scarlett having won Caraval, the sisters are on their way to an unprecedented second game, in honour of the Empress’ birthday. This time, the game is not a means of escaping their father and hum-drum routine. After striking up an unlikely relationship with an anonymous criminal who can help Tella locate her missing mother begs payment, and the friend will accept no less than the true name of the master of Caraval, Legend. Having already promised the payment before the game opened, Tella must win in order to save her mother. However, this time, Caraval is different; the game is real, as are the consequences of playing. Failure to win Caraval will mean that Tella fails to save her mother, yet playing could also mean that she will lose more than just her mother.

Stephanie Garber has cleverly created a world which embodies the concept of magic. Narratives, characters and events are as sly as smoke, shifting effortlessly between the tangible and the imagined. Legendary is the definition of an intricate plot, so carefully cloaked in mystery and sprinkled with the impossible that it feels as though the book should leave glitter on your fingertips with the turning of each page. ‘Beautiful’ lacks the power to describe this story – it should be located among the extraordinary, impossible and marvelous.

It is near-on impossible to fault this book. Every aspect is polished, well thought-out and mesmerizing. The only thing better than the addictive storyline is the poetic prose of which it is comprised; unfailingly amazing and impressive. Garber has created a story which marries romance, adventure, intrigue and fantasy, and reads like literary fiction of the highest form – an impressive skill. Legendary is a love letter to magic, to Caraval, and to the reader who delves into both.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber is published by Hodder and Stoughton, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

16 Aug 2018

Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Mary Addison has spent most of her life in detention facilities for allegedly killing a baby. Sworn to silence on the night of the crime, the then-nine-year-old Mary refused to say what happened to the dead three-month old baby that had been in her mother’s care. Now, several years later, Mary needs to break the silence. When she finds out that she’s pregnant, and that her baby will be taken away because of the crime that led her to be a ward of the state, Mary decides to cast aside the years of silence and speak up. To ensure that another baby she loves is not taken away from her, Mary must bare her darkest secrets, and finally admit what happened all those years ago.

Allegedly is a thrilling and gripping read from the first sentence. Tiffany D. Jackson has an ability to reel a reader in with remarkable ease, making us hang on her every word. Mary’s story is so steeped in taboo and so shrouded in mystery that it is impossible not to want to know the outcome. As Mary’s pregnancy progresses, so does her determination to keep her own child, which leads to agonizing revelations, and desperate attempts at mending a soul long broken, in order to protect her dearest love.

It is unbelievable that Allegedly is Jackson’s first novel; this is a debut written with such sleek prose, and so well-crafted that it’s twists are as shocking as they are unpredictable. Jackson has set a high bar for herself, and for the YA genre as a whole. Her characters exude depth and unpredictability, and her story is gripping, riveting and downright shocking. Allegedly is the kind of book you pick up and only put down again after the final page – and believe me, it will leave you reeling. Smart, dark and addictive, this book is a must-read, and I dare you not to love it.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson is published by Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

9 Aug 2018

Review: Before Mars by Emma Newman

Dr. Anna Kubrin is on her way to Mars. A geologist and artist, she’s bagged a unique contract to work at the esteemed Mars Principia base to research the planet while painting it. Despite leaving her husband and daughter behind in Manchester, Anna can’t help but feel elated by the project.

After six months of gravity-free travel, Anna finally arrives. Yet before she’s even settled into her new quarters, she finds a note warning her against the base’s psychiatrist. As if that wasn’t strange enough, the note seems to have been painted by her, using her supplies which were in the cargo bay with her the whole time. Desperate to believe that her new colleagues are playing a prank on her, and that she is not going mad, Anna must continue her work while deciding who she can and cannot trust.

Before Mars may be the third book in a trilogy, but (as I discovered), reading the first two books is not necessary – Anna’s story is just as haunting and perplexing without additional background. The narrative switches skillfully between her recollections and memories and present struggles, creatively blurring the line between her reality and fantasy, making the unusual occurrences and prevailing sense of déjà vu all the more disturbing and all the more delicious. Emma Newman is extraordinarily talented, seamlessly stitching together a science fiction thriller with a pervasive sense of unease and distress, making this book near on impossible to predict, or to put down. In addition to a tense and intriguing plot, Anna deals with the suffocating emotions of not being enough – lacking as a wife, mother and friend, making her plight relatable and yet taboo.

Before Mars is refreshingly original amongst a barrage of interstellar science fiction currently doing the rounds – despite being in space, Anna’s problems and experiences are relatable Earth-bound and mesmerizing. Also in Newman’s favour is her impressive ability to tell a tale of such depth with such addictive yet easy-to-read prose – she is without a doubt a master wordsmith.

Before Mars by Emma Newman is published by Gollancz, an imprint of Orion Publishing, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

5 Aug 2018

Review: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

For Beartown, it doesn’t matter what the question is; hockey is the answer. In this small town where jobs are being lost, crimes committed and hearts broken, ice hockey remains a constant. That’s why the entire town throws all their devotion and passion behind the hockey team. It’s also why the town is so devastated when many of their star players transfer to the rival town’s team – to Hed hockey. Now, where jaunts were hurled and tempers flared between the two small towns, something far more sinister is evolving; a true form of hatred between the two communities, which will leave no family unscathed.

At the heart of this change is the Andersson family. When Maya suffered at the hands of Beartown’s star hockey player, it was her dad – the team’s manager – who made the call that broke the team apart. As Maya tries to eke out a normal existence as a teenage girl who has faced immense darkness, Peter tries to balance his love of his team with that of his family. Yet Peter’s fingers aren’t the only ones trying to get a grasp on his team – the hands of politicians are trying to grab strands to paint themselves a bigger, different picture, without thought of the casualties.

Fredrik Backman has an immense talent – not only has he delved into the psychology behind sports, and the true implications of teams and brotherhoods, but he’s penned a deeply moving book that is as wildly beautiful as it is emotional. Despite being the second book in a series, Us Against You reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel, in which the reader is thrown into unfamiliar territories which are governed by a myriad of striking characters and perspectives. There’s poetry in a tale that can so flawlessly be told from multiple viewpoints, each reinforcing the idea notion that no man suffers alone, and that no action is without consequence. Backman’s style is clean and unadorned, yet deeply poetic and whimsical. He flits between voices with an ease that is admirable, and proves himself a master story-teller. Who knew that behind an idea as seemingly superficial as a sport, lies so much chaos, redemption, hope and beauty. I look forward to more from Fredrik Backman, and hopefully more from Beartown, for no fictional community has ever felt so real and so tangible. Bravo, Mr. Backman!

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

3 Aug 2018

Review: Steve Woodhall's butterfly books

I’ve always considered myself a butterfly lover. There’s something magical about being propelled by paper-thin wings in various shapes and colours. Aside from their beauty, butterflies are also vital for a happy plant; they’re nature’s fairy godmothers. 

Struik Nature and Steve Woodhall literally have something for every kind of butterfly lover (including goodies to convert those silly enough not to love them). Being the incredibly lucky person that I am, I received a hamper of butterfly books from Penguin Random House. In a nutshell, I am in my happy place.

The Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa is an impressively comprehensive guide to literally all the butterfly species in the country – over 600 of them! This is like a textbook for butterflies – the perfect companion for those who are serious about spotting our winged friends. Containing everything from their life cycle, habitats, distribution in the country and how to watch and collect these insects ethically, its introduction is an entire reference book on its own. But wait, there’s more – thereafter start page after page of entries for the hundreds of species. Packed full of useful information, and brimming with stunning, crisp images, this is probably the only book you will ever need to identify South Africa’s butterflies. It’s a treat of a book that is as impressive as it is useful.

But if you’re not one for the scholarly approach to butterflies, or just want something that fits easily into a backpack while you’re out and about, Woodhall has another offering: The Pocket Guide to Butterflies of South Africa. As the name suggests, this book is the perfect size for portability. Featuring 250 of the most common species in the country for easy identification, it’s great for quick identification and research. Despite its small size, it does not compromise on quality of information.

If you’re still not convinced, or you’re a child of the technological revolution and have no time for paper, there’s an app. I kid you not – Steve Woodhall has an app for butterflies and it is one of the best things I have ever seen! With a whopping 806 species listed (yes, you read that correctly), there’s no way you’ll not be able to identify the butterfly before you. In addition, you can search for a specific species by colour, geography, name, location or time of year. The Butterflies of South Africa app is the ultimate investment for a butterfly lover on the go – it’s always where you are, dead useful, and super interactive. You can even tag where you find a specific species. What’s not to love?

Finally, if you think being able to identify a myriad butterfly species (while awesome) seems challenging in cities, think again. With Gardening for Butterflies, Woodhall and Lindsay Gray teach you what plants attract butterflies, enabling you to create your own butterfly utopia, and use your field guides in your garden, on your balcony, or next to a window box.

Everything about these books is top notch. They are informative, beautiful, useful and so filled with amazing pictures and inspiration. With Steve Woodhall’s help, you can bring the butterflies to you, and identify them from as early as egg stage. The only question that remains is why aren’t you out watching the butterflies?

The Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa, The Pocket Guide to Butterflies of South Africa Gardening for Butterflies and the Butterflies of South Africa app by Steve Woodhall are published by Struik Nature, an imprint of Penguin Random House South Africa.