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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.

21 Dec 2020

Review: Two Months by Gail Schimmel

One Thursday morning in February, Erica wakes up excited to see her friend Caitlin for lunch. However, when she spots her husband anxiously watching her from the foot of the bed, she’s understandably surprised. And when he informs her that it’s actually a Saturday in April, and she’s forgotten the last two months, she’s suitably shaken.

According to Kenneth, he and his wife had a car accident the day before, and she seems to have blocked out the last two months as a result. Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened – when Erica was a child, she blocked out two weeks of memories following a car crash. Maybe it’s her brain’s way of protecting her, or maybe there’s something fishy going on. As erica tries to recall everything she’s forgotten, she’s shocked to discover that not only has she lost the memories and the time, but she’s lost her job. The more she tries to recall, the more Kenneth insists that she rest and leave things be.

With Kenneth’s strange behaviour and reluctance to let her remember the last two months, Erica realizes that her husband has something to hide. Determined to get to the bottom of the whole mess, she plays amateur sleuth, only to discover that the events leading up to her memory loss were far worse than she could have ever imagined.

Two Months is an extraordinary book. Part whodunnit, and part hair-raising thriller, it’s loaded with enough tension, drama and suspense to guarantee you’ll have no fingernails left at the last page, but it’s so worth it. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes this book such a success – a brilliant story, catchy prose, or a unique narration style – together, the whole thing just works so well! There’s an unreliable narrator, and then there’s the amnesiac narrator of Two Months. The effect is truly unsettling, as the reader has no idea what is real, or who to trust. And it’s amid this aura of mystery and extreme tension that Gail Schimmel delivers a thriller that’s basically a punch to the gut. What’s not to love?

Two Months by Gail Schimmel is published by Pan Macmillan South Africa.

16 Dec 2020

Review: The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk

Mitzi has a very unique talent that’s invaluable to the film industry. The secret to taking a film to the next level lies in the details, and this is where Mitzi comes in – she’s responsible for the sound effects in a film – from a head being smashed in, to a stab wound – she knows just how to mimic the right sound to leave the audience traumatized and wanting more. But what the producers who furiously bid millions of dollars for her sound clips don’t know is that Mitzi has a special talent for getting her work to be so realistic. It’s murder.

Each hair-raising soundbite that Mitzi releases into the world started off as a recording of a real murder, and Mitzi has a collection of hundreds of clips, some of which were made by her father, before she got into the profession.

So when Foster Gates hears what he thinks is a clip of his long-missing daughter screaming in a film, he tracks Mitzi down to question her, and doesn’t like what he learns.

Chuck Palahniuk has a vastly underrated talent – he makes the macabre fascinating. As he delves into a possible underbelly of a well-known industry like Hollywood, he sows seeds of doubt and derision, and it’s glorious. Few writers have the skill to make a seemingly implausible storyline so convincing and engaging, and yet Palahniuk does it every time he writes a new book.

That’s not necessarily to say he’s glorifying the seediness of the world, but in making readers uncomfortable, he’s starting important conversations and raising an important point; there’s no escaping the ugliness of the world. Reading a Palahniuk novel often feels like a bad trip – situations and events are turned on their heads, and a quiet unease permeates the storyline, but that’s exactly what makes his work so appealing. Simply put, he’s a pioneer, and the world he’s creating is a dark mirror or truth.

The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk is published by Corsair Books, an imprint of the Little, Brown Book Group, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

14 Dec 2020

Review: The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Four years ago, Lee’s life changed forever. While on a monster hunt with her best friend and better half, Mal, the two girls are separated, and Mal disappears without a trace. Over the years, Lee has tried to maintain her sanity while searching for Mal, despite never having a trace of evidence. Until suddenly, Mal returns, amid an unusual break in at a scientist’s home, and she has some strange company. For four years, Mal has been skipping across space and time with a decidedly unhuman posse. And she has bad news.

Elsewhere, Julian Sabreur of MI5 is dealing with a national threat to security, as a top government scientist has been attacked, and losing her isn’t an option. Yet when he tries to make sense of the attack, he finds only strange leads that lead him directly to Lee and Mal, and their otherworldly company.

There’s very little to fault about this book. There’s something about a carefully written story that believably warps our sense of space and time that I can’t resist, and The Doors of Eden is not only a contender in this genre, but a heavyweight. Literally.

But don’t be intimidated by the size of this tome. The prose is so elegant, and the writing so snappy, that you soon forget you’re making your way through a 597-page monster. As the story unfolds, the pain in your wrists will be replaced with joy – at a truly mesmerizing story, and a serious FOMO for earths that never were.

Tchaikovsky has a unique talent: he writes science fiction that reads like real science. Between each chapter of this book, there’s a clever trick – a chapter from a biology text that not only gives weight to the strange creations that have sprouted from the writer’s imagination, but manages to make all these seemingly outlandish theories not just possible, but believable. By the final chapter of The Doors of Eden, you’ll have been so cleverly primed to believe in the extraordinary, that you’ll no longer notice that faint line between reality and fiction – it’s abolished, by sheer good writing and epic story-telling. That kind of magic alone is what makes The Doors of Eden worth reading – it’s as much an experience as it is a journey through space and time.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky is published by Tor Books, a Pan Macmillan company. 

3 Dec 2020

Review: The Gilded Cage by Camilla Lackberg

When Mathilda left for Stockholm, she thought she’d left misery behind her. It was the start of a new chapter, and a new life. So that required a new name. Faye was everything Mathilda was not – she was a smart student, attractive, and confident. So when she met Jack Adelheim, an atrtractive, powerful young man at university, she thought they would be perfect together. Fast forward a few years, and Faye seems to have everything she could ever want. She’s a wife to one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Sweden, she doesn’t have to work, and she has a beautiful daughter. But Faye is hiding secrets.

Over the years of their marriage, Jack’s adoration has turned to resentment, and their marriage is far from the perfect picture the world sees. in fact, what was once a life of luxury is nothing more than a gilded cage. And it’s getting worse – the more distant and resentful Jack becomes, the more Faye panics and despairs, because Jack is her world.

So when Jack suddenly decides that he’s done with Faye, she needs to pick up the pieces of her life. She needs to remember that she was once smart and powerful in her own right, and that she doesn’t need Jack. What she needs is revenge – she needs to destroy him.

The Gilded Cage is an unexpected delight. Hidden among the drama of a failing marriage is a dark secret. Camilla Lackberg has also presented a surprising knack for making a thriller dead sexy – this book is everything that 50 Shades wishes it could be – a mature, dark sexuality pervades a hair-raising thriller that results in a narrative that tugs at every emotion, becoming the equivalent of literary crack, It’s that good.

Lackberg has also managed to sneak important messages in between the action of her tale. We’re afforded a sly look into the world of abuse in its many forms – from physical to psychological – in an attempt to explain how a life can slowly be unwound and poisoned, until only a shell remains. With nothing to lose, we can go to extraordinary lengths to protect ourselves. Fast paced, clever, and sneaky – this book is everything you need for the ultimate escapism.

The Gilded Cage by Camilla Lackberg is published by Harper Collins, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.