About Me

My photo
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.

26 Nov 2018

Review: Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

Liba and Laya have spent their lives in a small Jewish village, tucked away in the woods. Their mother was a convert to the faith, and has not been readily welcomed into the village, despite that the girls’ father is well-loved. Yet their domestic complacency is interrupted when Liba’s father is told of his own father’s impending death. Her father and mother must leave for the arduous journey back to her father’s birthplace. However, before they depart, the girls’ mother informs the girls of their true history; of secrets that seem to unbelievable to be real, but which are sadly indisputable. Armed with the knowledge of what really flows in her veins, Liba is tasked with protecting Laya, yet it seems fate seeks to complicate this simple task.

When a group of fruit sellers arrive shortly after the girls are left to fend for themselves, Laya finds herself seeking freedom in passionate embraces and whispered confessions, while Liba desperately tries to do right by her parents and protect her sister, all the while trying not to give in to the emotions bubbling within her own heart. The sisters are left vulnerable to life, love and deceit, with nothing to guide them but secrets and myths.

Filled with magic and whimsy, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a modern-day fairy tale, set in a decidedly adult and dangerous backdrop. Interspersed among the fairy tale buffet is poetry, history and wonder. The combination makes this book so thoroughly enjoyable that it leaves you wanting more after its conclusion. Rossner has created a vivid, beautiful and menacing world with a dream-like quality and sparkle.

While each of the two sister’s narratives is unique and otherworldly, much like the sisters themselves, Rossner harbours the power of prose to create and populate a world that is disappointingly just beyond the reach of the reader. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is shrouded in secrets, magic, and the impossible, making it an altogether unprecedented experience of love, loss, and understanding. This book is as beautiful as it is mesmerizing, and will guide you through the shadowed woods, to sunlit possibilities beyond your imagining.

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner is published by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Group, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

25 Nov 2018

Review: I Always Find You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

As a boy, John Ajvide Lindqvist witnessed something strange; a young boy stumbled into his tree house, and had evidently been brutally mistreated. Deciding to house the younger boy for a time, John’s attempts at having a pet came to an abrupt end when the boy’s father, a policeman, found the tree house and threatened John; leaving a scar to buy his silence. Years later, trying his hand at being a magician harboured in a cramped and dank apartment, John begins to discover oddities which remind him of the boy, the treehouse, and the policeman with a knife.

Due to his sub-par housing, John must use a communal laundry room and rusted bathtub for bathing. As if an eerily abandoned and poorly lit bathroom across the courtyard didn’t have enough reason to be hair-raising on its own, strange happenings begin to occur in the laundry room, and his neighbours become embroiled in some activity behind the building’s closed doors – activities which alter their personalities and leave them adorned by a myriad fresh wounds.

Perhaps one of the most-frequently asked questions about true horror is what inspires the story? Bordering the line between realism and macabre fiction, Lindqvist’s answer is his own past, albeit it embroidered with a darker thread; a shadow that spreads behind the stitching. Lindqvist’s talent is so stark that it is often impossible to tell the line between his past and his imagination, making the story all the more powerful and sinister.

Lindqvist reels you in with easy style and dark humour, and what is heralded as the true story behind his career as a horror writer soon becomes impossible to believe, and disturbingly otherworldly. I am embarrassed to admit that part of me thought the author a madman, claiming horrific acts which shaped him into the world-renown weaver of tales he is today, so convincing was his writing and conviction. While, for the sake of his own ‘sanity’, I was relieved to scan ‘fiction’ in the book’s fine print, my utter speechlessness and distress at he content are one of many signs of Lindqvist’s talent as a creator and story-teller.

John Ajvide Lindqvist has a talent for making the morbid intriguing and classy, and dare I say stylish? He relies not on the shock factor which dampens many a promising horror, but on the pure threat that something impossible, something awful, could be real and unfolding in a damp corner of the world. It’s hard to resist his craft, particularly in the autobiographical offering of I Always Find You, and I daresay this book will leave you contemplating horror, nature and the weakness of the human mind when you are done. A brilliant, dark and addictive read – this is my kind of poison.

I Always Find You by John Ajvide Lindqvist is published by Riverrun books, an imprint of Quercus, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

18 Nov 2018

Review: Him by Clare Empson

From the outside, Catherine’s life looks to be on plan – she’s married with two children, and her family has just bought a cozy cottage in need of some TLC. Yet things could have been so different. Fifteen years ago, while studying, she met Lucian – a gorgeous and very wealthy young man who had caught the eyes of all her peers. The two fell deeply and quickly in love, believing the other to be their soul mate. However, Catherine suddenly ended the relationship with no explanation, and left Lucian reeling. All this time later, the pair maintains feelings for each other, and an unfortunate occurrence in Catherine’s life allows fate to push the two together again.

Now, older and more cautious, Lucian and Catherine decide to reconnect. While she spends time with Lucian, she realizes that her life could have been so different, and his too, if only she hadn’t walked out on him fifteen years earlier. Determined to not repeat her mistake, Catherine decides to live in the moment, with Lucian at her side. Yet it seems that fate has decided not to grant her happiness, and something unspeakable happens, sending her into traumatized muteness.

Him is not your average romance. Granted, there are several moments which will have your eyes misting over or your heart beating at twice its normal pace, but there are also currents of underlying horror which add a delicious amount of drama to the story. In addition to the modern take on the whole ‘Prince Charming’ tale, Empson has presented a gritty, dark and real background to a twenty-first century heroine’s story, making Catherine relatable and tangible; she is more than just her emotions.

An unexpected twist and feverish conclusion make Him a joyride from start to finish, and there’s no doubt that you’ll be left bored; in fact, you’ll want more.

Him by Clare Empson is published by Orion Books and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

17 Nov 2018

Review: A Double Life by Flynn Berry

Claire has spent her life looking over her shoulder. When she was a child, her father attempted to murder her mother. He was, thankfully, unsuccessful, but managed to escape and remains at large. Since that day, Claire may have a new name and a new home, but she forever feels his presence, lurking and haunting.

Nursing her suspicion that her father’s wealthy friends helped him escape, Claire has been watching them for years; hoping for clues. Yet when the police contact her to report a possible sighting of her father, despite her hesitancy, she decides to find him herself, which will mean reaching out to the very friends who have hidden him all these years. Concocting an elaborate plan, Claire goes in search of her father, and the secrets that he harbours.

A Double Life is an adventure from the first page. It is a stylish thriller that’s addictive and filled with unexpected twists, and a daring heroine who shucks her fear to seek answers. Berry has created a story that is exciting and dark, yet easy to read. A clever commentary on the class divide in matters of justice and an intriguing plot with a dash of the macabre and unanswerable questions combine to make this a mystery of exceeding complexity and riveting action. Berry completely reinvents the family drama in the best manner – from murder, death, and drugs, Claire’s family is anything but ordinary.

The unique mix of violence, mystery and suspense will undoubtedly give this book mass appeal – and deservedly so – it does not conform to any single genre, and is written with such a compelling style that it has something for everyone. A Double Life is an exciting, fast-paced story that I highly recommend – here’s hoping you enjoy it as much as I did.

A Double Life by Flynn Berry is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an imprint of Orion Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

13 Nov 2018

Review: The Colour of Lies by Lezanne Clannachan

When she was ten years old, Anna realized she wasn’t like other children. Where others relied on the conventional five senses, Anna’s world was made all the more vibrant by an extra gift; above the heads of others, and visible only to Anna, were crowns of colour. Anna could see emotion – a skill made possible by synaesthesia. Thus able to easily spot a lie, or jealousy, or guilt, Anna maneuvered through life with the ability to read people, unbeknownst to all but her older sister.

When Anna is unjustly accused of stealing and thus fired from her job, she finds herself at a loose end. Luckily, her sister Billie comes to her rescue with a possible job – being a helping hand to a family recovering from a loss. Gabriel and Suzie, along with their young son Daniel, are reeling from the disappearance of Lily, a willful and beautiful 19-year-old girl. Once Anna finds herself immersed in the life that Lily left behind, she can’t help but find herself piecing together Lily’s story. With her unique ability to read a person’s inner emotions, Anna may be better equipped than most to find out what really happened to Lily. However, she may be equally unprepared for the answers, as she learns that even her synaesthesia isn’t concrete evidence.

The Colour of Lies is such a refreshing and unique premise, giving a much-needed twist and colourful revival to the classic whodunit. The pioneering narrative, together with Clannachan’s ease of story-telling and vibrant descriptions, make this a thoroughly enjoyable book that is as clever as it is unpredictable. With her emphasis on colour, it was no surprise that red herrings abound in this story, but it was such a great adventure to be proven wrong countless times; to fail to predict the villain, and to rejoice in being delightfully blind-sided. This, in itself, is a triumph in a world where no story truly feels unique anymore. The Colour of Lies is a superb story with a refined plot that speaks volumes to its writer’s talent. If you are keen to dive into something new and exciting, this is a book for you.

The Colour of Lies by Lezanne Clannachan is published by Orion Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.