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.

20 Feb 2020

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

One day, Kya watched her mother walk away from their home and never return. Soon thereafter, her brothers and sisters begin to move away, until Kya remains alone with an abusive father. However, he soon leaves, too, leaving the little girl completely alone in a run-down shack in the swamp. While she tries to survive on her own, and keeping her distance from the townspeople who disparage her family, Kya becomes a recluse shrouded in mystery, earning her the name ‘The Marsh Girl’.

Despite her isolation and loneliness, Kya’s world is filled with beauty and adventure through the marsh that is her home. While she never goes to school, she creates her own education in nature, becoming an expert in the animal and plant life that surrounds her. In addition, she is tutored in reading and mathematics by a local boy, who realizes Kya’s intellect in potential through the tiny glimpses he is afforded into her life.

Despite her shaky relationship with the townspeople, and her unusual lifestyle, Kya grows up into a beautiful, smart young woman, who catches the eye of Chase, the local heartthrob. When Chase’s body is discovered in the marsh, the police and townspeople are convinced that Kya is responsible. Suddenly thrust into the spotlight, Kya must overcome her aversion to the town and prove her innocence.

Where the Crawdads Sing is nothing short of a triumph. Owens has created something that merges different styles, genres and topics into a solid, polished gem. Kya’s story is a clever coming of age novel and whodunnit, playing on the reader’s emotions to such an extent that Kya feels real and tangible; a friend you welcome into your life. Owens has a talent for creating characters that are complex, challenging and human – both flawed and fantastic. Equally impressive is her ability to create tension of the best kind; it has you yearning to skip ahead a few pages to see what happens and know more.

Kya’s relationship with nature is an additional attraction – Owens' descriptions and imagery make you feel as though there’s a budding environmentalist in you, inspiring a sense of adventure into the unknown marsh waters, and appreciation for the wild.

There’s nothing to fault in this book, and I cannot praise it enough – everything from characters to setting to plot is impressive, convincing and moving. This book will speak to the hearts of any reader, and will no doubt linger in your thoughts long after you finish it; a sign of a truly great book.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is published by Corsair Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

18 Feb 2020

Review: Bunny by Mona Awad

Samantha has been admitted to a prestigious writing programme but finds herself unable to write. Despite being in an all-female class, she feels isolated from her cohort and finds refuge in her friendship with rebellious artist, Ava. Together, the two revel in a cloud of cynicism directed mainly at Samantha’s fellow students. The four women in her class are preppy, rich, and more than a little obsessed with each other, leading Samantha to dub them the ‘bunnies’. As time passes, Samantha’s writer’s block begins to morph into a desperation which affects her grades and her participation in class.

One day, the Bunnies invite Samantha to join them at a ‘smut salon’ – a writing circle that focuses on the writing of others, and the creation of new stories. Despite her skepticism, Samantha finds herself enjoying the evening, and becomes draw to these strange, confident women. Soon, she, too, becomes a bunny.

The longer Samantha is part of the group, the more her life seems to unravel. Her friendship with Ava suffers, and she finds herself participating in some unusual workshops in which the Bunnies create something far greater and scarier than literature.

There is something delicious and ‘meta’ about a book concerning writing and the creative process; a strangely layered perspective of the work that goes into creating something from nothing. In addition, Mona Awad has presented a narrative that is poetic, emotional and easy to follow, filled with wit, sarcasm and cynicism. The storyline, however, is where the real treasure can be found. This book is the personification of bringing art to life, and the delicate balance between beauty and horror.

Also present in this remarkable story are the themes of oppression, hubris, the human condition, and the plight of the modern woman. It is delightful to have serious topics such as these cleverly worked into a rabbit hole of a narrative – once you enter, you are drawn down to the dark heart of it.

Bunny is a unique, refreshing tale of creating the intangible, and of blurring the border between reality and fiction. Awad’s flair for the unexpected is enviable and highly entertaining – placing her firmly in a league of her own, as queen of the storytellers. I do not think it possible to read this book without being impressed, nor to put it down until you reach the final page.

Bunny by Mona Awad is published by Head of Zeus, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

16 Feb 2020

Review: The Warehouse by Rob Hart

The world is not what it was – unemployment rates are sky high, the Earth has been ravaged by climate change, and a global corporation called Cloud seeks to change that. Apart from being the largest global retailer, the company has stakes in security, government, travel, and technology; its influence is felt everywhere. This also makes them the largest and most stable global employer, with entire cities built to house its workers and serve the public.  

However, getting a job at Cloud is not that easy – of the millions that apply, those who are successful are held to incredibly high standards, and are expected to live and breathe their jobs. Cloud strives to be more than their employer – it wants to be their savior.

The size of the company makes them untouchable, and the more they grow, the more other retailers and industries are slowly removed from the market. In a cutthroat world of corporate espionage, Zinnia has infiltrated Cloud in order to steal secrets for the last of the company’s competition. Despite Zinnia’s experience and skills, she can’t help but be surprised at the sheer enormity of her new employer, nor the myriad secrets hidden away behind firewalls and office doors. The closer she gets to the heart of Cloud, the more dangerous her mission becomes.

Among the other recruits to join Zinnia is Paxton, an inventor forced out of the marker in the early days of Cloud’s expansion, who was forced to work in security to stay afloat. Now, with employment so hard to come by, Paxton has no choice but to work for the people who ruined his life, and help them keep a tight ship.

As we’re given a first-person view into the inner workings of the company, all that’s left to decide is whether Cloud is a savior, or the cause of the world’s problems.

The Warehouse is a clever social commentary that goes beyond an Amazon-esque insight into the intricacies of retail giants and their associated sway in the world’s economies or politics. Here, we are treated to the nightmare that is monopoly – what happens when power is not dispersed, and when accountability becomes an in-house act rather than a moral viewpoint. The answer; chaos, abuse of power, greed, and suffering.

Hart has penned a gripping adventure with more twists and unexpected horrors than you could imagine from the cover. The Warehouse is an eye-opening foray into a world without democracy, and where money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy privilege, power, and despotism.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart is published by Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, a Penguin Random House company, and is available in South Africa from Penguin Random House South Africa.

14 Feb 2020

Review: Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer

In a dying world in which the Company has a monopoly on genetic experimentation, anything is possible, in any number of ways. Indeed, for Grayson, Chen and Moss, each iteration of the world is similar, yet eerily unpredictable and discordant. As the trio jump between space and time, they routinely emerge in a different version of the world they know, yet always with the same goal: stop the Company. However, this is easier said than done when faced with a massive corporation with endless resources and several questionable moral and ethical views.

Yet no story occurs in isolation, and our astronauts are not the only characters with agency and import. The many converging and diverging realities we’re herded through are home to a variety of equally charismatic antagonists in the form of decidedly unhuman genetic composites. This deviation from traditional fiction – both physical and ethical – serves as a stomach-churning and brain-prodding rebellion against conventional notions of the inner workings of the Other.

Dead Astronauts features no preamble and opens immediately into an established, chaotic world. From the first page, the reader is in the middle of already active plot. While this is at times confusing, it also gives the reader an opportunity to play detective – to establish exactly what happened to turn the world on its head, and why. Vandermeer’s decision to throw readers into the deep end of literary waters forces us to surrender our comfort, necessitating hyper-vigilance to navigate this strange world without feeling overwhelmed or abandoned. Simultaneously, it emphasizes the loss of control and order that result from humanity’s hubris in attempts to play God. Indeed, the confusion bred from the trippy timelines and events quietly molds us into a silent fourth astronaut, desperate to make sense of our surroundings.

A writer of considerable skill, Vandermeer compounds his challenging narrative with an impressive display of literary and linguistic gymnastics. Vandermeer seems to believe that just as a storyline can be warped and made to follow unusual patterns, so too can its prose. The effect is a dream-like surrealism that tickles every part of your brain, and ensures you work for your reading pleasure.

Occasionally, you come across a writer that shatters boundaries and defies belief; someone whose words lodge in your brain; stray lines and phrases nestling in your heart. Jeff Vandermeer is such a writer. He is a revolutionary who abolishes literary norms, taunts convention, and creates something new and inexplicable. Vandermeer holds sway over more than just words; he is the keeper of the unexpected and the conductor of vivid emotions

Dead Astronauts is not a book for everyone – it requires dedication, effort, and more than a little suspension of disbelief. It is not an easy read. However, it is an immensely satisfying journey that will be the ultimate reward for language lovers and fans of experimental fiction alike. Luckily, I fall within the latter category, and found this book to be a true delicacy. If you are willing to follow a dark and twisted path to the unknown, Dead Astronauts will be your guide.

Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer is published by 4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

4 Feb 2020

Review: The Enumerations by Maire Fisher

Noah Groome finds safety in fives. Diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, Noah’s habits and quirks usually revolve around multiples of five. However, when the security afforded by his preoccupation and routines bleeds out into other aspects of his life, and causes problems at his school, it is decided that Noah should participate in a three-month residency programme at Greenhills. Here, he meets fellow teens with various issues of their own. As friendships slowly blossom, and Noah begins to address his fears and preoccupations, he begins to understand just how his OCD started, and what is feeding it.

Noah’s road to recovery is peppered with challenges; the chief among them being a horde of secrets from his father’s past. Longing to understand his father’s (and thus his own) history, Noah keeps probing until the truth comes out, and what he learns could destroy his family completely.

If forced to describe The Enumerations, the word that charges to the tip of my tongue is ‘remarkable’. Through clever prose and gripping storylines, Maire Fisher creates a world in which the unseen is afforded weight and heft. In this world, what we cannot see can cause far more damage than those things we can see. Noah is the embodiment of isolation – through his diagnosis and the resultant prison of his own mind, he goes beyond the common trope of misunderstood teenager to pure anomaly. Similarly, his story is testimony to the incredible power of family – however, whether this power is used for good or evil is up to the wielder.

Fisher tactfully and delicately handles the minefield of mental illness; in so doing, she affords these illnesses redemptive powers. While the teens and their families may suffer alone, together – through their connections, their blood, and their experiences – they are linked through their challenges and flaws.

The Enumerations does not portray mental illness as a crutch, a damnation, or a blight, but rather, as a result of some concrete cause; something that is unintended, despite its destruction. This rather refreshing viewpoint serves to cement Fisher’s message that we are greater than the sum of our parts, and that in all things, we are connected. Despite this, there is comfort to be found in Fisher’s dissection of the unknown – light can always shine through the smallest crack, and no secret can put a stop to love.

The Enumerations by Maire Fisher is published by Umuzi, an imprint of Penguin Random House South Africa.