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.

28 May 2019

Review: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis is a force to be reckoned with. A powerful businesswoman, a mother to four children, a wife, and a social influencer with millions of followers, she is owning it. Yet despite her fabulous aesthetic and seemingly flawless life, she remains so pure, so real. Here is a woman who uses her platform to improve the lives of others, through advice, support, conviction and empowerment.

Girl, Stop Apologizing is Hollis’ eighth book, and is a hard-hitting friend when you need it. This book is filled with truths (some harder to digest than others), tips, revelations, encouragement and so much love. Divided into three parts – excuses to address, behaviours to adopt, and skills to acquire – this book is a fun, easy to follow roadmap to personal success, whatever form that may be in your life. Step by step, Hollis takes your hand and shows you a whole new world (cue Aladdin music and anime eyes) in which you can be the best version of yourself, and encourage others to do the same. What I most admire is that despite being kind and loving, Hollis doesn’t mislead or sugar coat her message – she is the first to admit that the path to a new you is filled with obstacles, inclines, dark patches, and the occasional failure, but she is adamant that these pitfalls should not slow you down, nor stop you. That right there; priceless.

Rachel Hollis is officially my hero, and shall henceforth be known as my personal guru. I am well aware of the clich√© I’m about to unleash on you, but this book changed my life. I don’t think I have ever, with full sincerity, said that about a book before. I had to pause reading several times to attempt her challenges, to ponder, and to process. After reading this book, I felt as though someone had shined a flashlight into my brain, illuminating hidden things that so badly wanted to see the light of day. I have realized a goal I had not realized I had, and acknowledged that I am struggling with issues shared by women all over the world, only now I have the tools to begin working on them. I feel invigorated, relieved, and hopeful, and I owe that to Rachel Hollis, and the awesome publishers who decided to send me a copy of this book (which, in all honestly, I will be loaning to every woman I know and insisting that they read it).

Women (and men, we’re all friends here), please read this book. Absorb Hollis’ message that you are awesome and can do anything, and let her show you how.

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis is published by HarperCollins Leadership, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

27 May 2019

Review: Machines like Me by Ian McEwan

For the first time, Charlie Friend has come into some money. Not for the first time, he’s about to get rid of it. £86000 later, he is the proud owner of Adam, one of 25 AI humanoids produced globally. While he would have preferred an Eve, the female counterpart to his purchase, he remains enthralled by Adam. Charlie plans to personalise Adam’s clean slate of a personality together with his neighbor, Miranda. In so doing, he hopes to be drawn closer to her through this, their ‘creation’.  

As can be expected, Adam’s interpretation of the world is rapid, clean cut, and impressive. He takes to any task seamlessly, and is a constant reminder of the lightning speed that is technological evolution. Through his eyes, we learn anew what it means to discover, to love, and to grieve. As the trio falls into the rhythms of a new, shared life, we can only wonder at who is truly synthetic, and within whom true humanity resides.

There are many things to like about this novel, including an exhilarating look at an alternate 1980s England in which Margaret Thatcher is still the Iron Lady, and Alan Turing is alive and as mathematically brilliant as ever. These are, however, slightly dimmed by the presence of literary irritants, such as the long soliloquies about politics and personal frustrations at the hands of a somewhat boring narrator with a penchant for deluded narcissism. All the more annoying is that one can’t help feel that Charlie was designed to be disliked; a clever tool in a brilliant creation with a brilliant and mesmerizing overall effect. Charlie’s droning serves as a stark contrast to the enigma that is Adam, sneakily hoisting upon the latter the feelings we usually lovingly heap upon human narrators.

There is something fascinating and illuminating in questioning humanity, and the boundaries between real and unreal that makes a book like this an instant classic. Paired with Ian McEwan’s ability to get under the reader’s skin and cleverly guide our thoughts and emotions, Machines like Me is a delightful contribution to the existent body of related works. What sets this novel above its peers, however, is its unexpected ending, and its vastly imaginative world rooted in stark black and white.

Machines like Me is published by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

24 May 2019

Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is a notoriously witty comedian whose international success has led South Africans to claim him as a figurehead; a hero. However, his position in South Africa was not always as clear cut. For most of his youth, Trevor Noah was an outsider – different. A mixed raced child born to a Xhosa mother and Swiss father in the height of Apartheid, he often felt that he was never quite white enough, nor black enough, to fit in.

Born a Crime is more than a coming of age story or memoir – it’s an explanation of how circumstances can shape us, and how the world is so much more than what lies beyond our front door. In telling the story of his youth, Noah places a concept as large and foreign as Apartheid into relatable terms, a vital point of reference for today’s youth. Despite the immense setbacks that challenged his family financially, socially and economically, Noah is adamant that his life was no exception to a rule, that his circumstances were no better or worse than hundreds of other families. Born a Crime is an explanation of Noah’s history beautifully crafted in a background of South Africa’s history. This book should be recommended reading for all high school students; it is sharp, poignant, honest, and highly entertaining and thought-provoking.

This book was not something I would usually pick up to read, but I am incredibly glad I did. I have gained respect for a man I have never met, and for a generation of people that has won the right to share their stories through damn hard work, determination, and dreaming big. Noah’s book and the experiences recounted within it make you feel as though despite a climate that can be fueled by racial and political divisions, love for family and respect for others will always be cemented into our various cultures.

Despite his name on the cover, however, I cannot help but feel that Born a Crime is actually an ode to a powerful woman. Apart from marveling at Noah’s maturity, integrity and honesty (including in his retellings of crime and accidental arson), after finishing Noah’s book I was filled with a longing to meet his mother. The mother from his childhood is vibrant, strong, determined and hard-working. She is fearless, smart and loving, and shaped his life and his outlook with such love and care that she could be a role model to any South African, but particularly to the women of our country.

Thank you, Trevor Noah, for telling your story and that of your family with such style and insight, and thank you Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, for inspiring him to do it.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is published by Pan Macmillan South Africa.

22 May 2019

Review: Flowers over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti

Massimo Marini’s first day on the Traven√¨ police force begins with a gruesome murder. In the small village in the Italian Alps, no such crime has taken place for years. When a second victim is discovered, Superintendent Teresa Battaglia has no choice but to show the newcomer the ropes while she tracks a killer. Despite her decades of experience and almost clairvoyant understanding of psychopaths, Teresa soon realizes that these crimes have no basis in her books and studies; this killer is something altogether new, and just as unpredictable.

Hindered by her health, her new partner, and her unheard-of inability to understand the killer, Teresa has so much to resolve in so little time.

Flowers over the Inferno is beautifully dark; a perfect marriage of dazzling prose and a sinister plot. The characters are unique and refreshing; no stereotypical detective lads with their vices and broken families – here is a unique insight into the relationship of an unexpected duo. Our protagonists also unassumingly mirror the concepts of duality that appear regularly throughout the story. His youth and silence against her studied experience and crass outbursts make for interesting drama and welcome breaks in the tension created by a looming, faceless killer that remains an enigma to police and reader alike.

There is also immense satisfaction to be had in the search for the killer; through clever diversions and multiple well-crafted sub-plots, we’re immersed in adventure throughout. In concluding her story, Tuti manages to neatly skirt the pitfalls of predictable plots and anti-climactic finishes that have claimed the pens of many others.

If you read this book, make sure you’re comfortable – you won’t be stopping until the final page.

Flowers over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an imprint of  Orion Books, an Hachette UK company, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

16 May 2019

Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Hidden Oaks has fallen victim to a serial killer, again. Years after his release from prison for torturing and killing a series of young women, Owen Riley appears to have resurfaced. The women of Hidden Oaks are now on guard, prompted by a warning letter sent to the media from the killer. As the clock ticks down to the day Owen has claimed he will abduct another woman, the police and gossips alike are desperate to find Owen. Only one couple seems to be immune to the scandal, perhaps because they know more about the victims than they should.

When book covers claim that their contents are a marriage of two of your favourite things, you can’t help but pick them up. Heralded as ‘Dexter (the killer, not the cartoon, to clarify) meets Gone Girl’, I was hooked before I started. So, it was with great satisfaction that I got what was promised – a dark tale of deception, murder and a little psychosis. If you enjoy your murder mysteries with a touch of darkness and a dash of sexiness, you will not be disappointed in this offering. My Lovely Wife is the likeable over-achiever of the genre – fast-paced, unpredictable, intriguing, and a little glamorous.

I love a good dash of noir, and this book is delightfully dark. Equally worthy of praise is the sheer deception that has gone into the plot – there are so many twists you may just find yourself trying to predict the outcome only to be turned around so much you come full circle. There is a pure, innocent joy in not being able to predict the outcome of a story – in being so immersed, and so thoroughly fooled, that you’re forced to follow the breadcrumbs left by the writer. Samantha Downing has demonstrated her talent for the unconventional – for a dark story with heaps of tension that remains fresh, enjoyable and highly entertaining throughout – what a triumph!

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

11 May 2019

Review: The Woman of the Stone Sea by Meg Vandermerwe

Hendrik lost his wife. Five years ago, she walked into the ocean and disappeared. Despite this, he waits for her return, refusing to believe that she is dead, or has left him. With alcohol and his dog as his only companions, Hendrik’s ordered life as a fisherman soon spirals into one filled with hangovers, darkness and painful memories.

Despite his self-imposed misery, Hendrik’s lonely pining is punctuated by the arrival of an unexpected woman, or half woman, given that where her legs should be, she has a brilliant silver tail. Hendrik has found an injured mermaid. Unsure of what to do with the woman, but convinced that she has been sent by his wife, Hendrik takes the woman home to recover. Her presence brings good fortune, and while he revels in the change of affairs, he scrambles to keep her secret. The more he prospers, the heavier she weighs on his conscious, until keeping her may require a greater price than he can afford.

South African literature often has a primary focus on politics and race, and The Woman of the Stone Sea is no different. However, these concepts are dealt with so well, and cleverly interspersed with mystery, heartbreak and mythology that it is an overall delightful read. Meg Vandermerwe has proven that she is capable of handling a myriad of serious topics in a playful but heart-churning manner, with characters that cement themselves into the reader’s heart, and demand to be heard.

The Woman of the Stone Sea is penned in a hypnotic, beautiful prose that is broken only but occasional dives into Afrikaans which can be somewhat distracting, and are bound to leave international readers somewhat baffled. Despite this, there is no denying that this story is richly populated with imagination, creativity and flair. A testament to multicultural stories, this book will leave you wanting more.

The Woman of the Stone Sea by Meg Vandermerwe is published by Umuzi, an imprint of Penguin Random House South Africa.

9 May 2019

Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Hen and Lloyd have moved to a new home in a new suburb – a fresh start. With a shaky history behind her as a result of bipolar disorder, this move is just what Hen needs to focus on her career as an artist. After meeting their new neighbours at a local street party, the two couples decide to have a dinner party and get to know each other. However, when Hen is given a tour of Matthew and Mira’s home, she sees something that brings her back to her past, and a murder which took place. Convinced that her neighbor Matthew has something to do with the now aged crime, Hen decided to contact the police. Unluckily for her, the very past which allowed her to identify the evidence is also what causes her to be an unreliable witness. Without the support of the police, she has no option but to investigate Matthew on her own.

Before She Knew Him is a thriller of the best kind – a journey through madness, obsession and darkness, interspersed with tricks, doubts and mystery. The tone is deceptively bright for the twisted events which occur, lending the reader a comfortable reading experience. As Peter Swanson carefully unravels the story, feeding us enticing tidbits and insights, you can’t help but want more, flipping through the pages in a reading frenzy that leads your family to blame you for being antisocial (or, that might just be me).

This book is filled with a heart-gripping tension which is slowly fueled throughout the book, culminating in an unexpected but undeniably pleasing conclusion, with unexpected twists and an eye full of red herrings. If you are a fan of tense, unpredictable whodunnits, this is the book for you.

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson is published by Faber and Faber and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

5 May 2019

Review: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

In the small Californian university town of Santa Lorna, something is brewing. When Kara returns from a night out and won’t wake up in the morning, she’s taken to hospital. Later, several of her friends also fall victim to deep sleep from which they cannot be roused, and panic spreads. Soon, the illness spreads beyond the confines of the university, and people all over the town are collapsing into deep, prolonged sleep, from which no amount of pleading or medication can rouse them.

While the town is slowly drawn under the spell of slumber, speculation abounds about the cause of the mysterious disease, from those not yet affected and the rest of the country. However, when quarantines are implemented, with no further movement into or from Santa Lorna, the world can only watch.

The Dreamers is an incredibly original plot in which an inexplicable scenario is unfolded and gently probed in a careful and dream-like manner. Through gorgeous prose akin to a collection of poetry, Karen Thompson Walker reminds us that the unknown can house more than fear and doubt – it can shelter beauty and possibilities such as we could never imagine.

In addition to an original plot is a discussion on the differences between our waking and dreaming lives, and which has more sway over our emotions and experiences. The dual nature of dream scenarios and waking moments compounds the sense of wonder and mysticism that is carefully crafted throughout this story.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this novel is not just the magic of its prose, or the unique plot, but the feeling that remains with you after completing the story – that some things should remain unexplained, and that not every question can, or should, be answered. The Dreamers is a literary achievement – it is moving, thought-provoking and engaging, and you cannot help but become immediately entranced by its secrets and mysteries.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker is published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.