Females are strong as hell | Spire Book Review

Spire, Fiona Snyckers' latest release, was one of the of those books I went into knowing very little about, yet it grabbed me by its icy fist from the very first page. Caroline is a virologist who has travelled to a remote site on the South Pole to spend the winter conducting experiments on a petrifying arsenal of diseases. She is young, beautiful, accomplished and excited to prove herself. However, from the moment she arrives, things go wrong.

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The map is not the territory

In another lifetime, I sat in a social worker's office with an old bar heater rumbling between us as we tried to talk through my sexual assault. Like many women in my situation, I didn't feel I deserved to be there, I didn't feel like my reactions followed the script or that I was 'recovering right.' It was my most acute experience of how pre-defined the experience of womanhood could be, and how I often fell flailing outside those lines. The social worker, an incredible literary woman who would later help me recover through books and poetry, said something to me I will always remember: 

The map is not the territory. 

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Your next book club read just got a lot more chilling

My walk through Delta park this past Sunday was a little different. As I wound my way past the cluster of bright jungle gyms and children's parties I looked a little closer at the families playing there, imagining each of their stories, scratching at the surface of their domestic bliss. It's no wonder, because this is where my latest read, The Park, has its chilling beginning. 

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Good Me Bad Me - My thriller of 2017

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land is not a comfortable read. It's a compulsive, read-through-the-night-while-drinking-all-the-hot-chocolate read. But isn't that what you want from a thriller? 

I have been on a steady diet of psychological thrillers while finishing up the edits to my own. Usually I tear through them and forget the plot (and even the title) entirely. But Good Me Bad Me has stuck for a number of reasons: 

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The biggest lesson I have learnt as a writer

After months of writing and editing, hunched over my computer with the devil-may-care attitude of someone who is consciously disregarding their spasming neck, I have finished my latest book. My days are no longer spent muttering dialogue under my breath or boring my closest friends and family on the latest plot kink I have worked out. The end came with a swell of jubilation. A few wonderful, respected agents are reading the full manuscript, and my readers are saying everything I hoped they would say about the new version. 

And yet, I find myself feeling empty.

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Author Interview | Gail Schimmel

Gail Schimmel writes the kind of novels that grab your hand and tug you through the story. They are the kind of books you want to have on hand when you need to buy a book to relax with on holiday, or to read when you are struggling to keep your eyes open on a Thursday night. 

In fact, I had to tear myself away from Gail Schimmel's latest release, The Park, to write up her interview. I enjoy a good domestic suspense thriller under any circumstances, but even more so when the unsettling atmosphere is created somewhere close to home. Gail's story revolves around a park somewhere in Johannesburg, where three mothers meet with sinister consequences. 

I met with Gail a few weeks ago to discuss her novel and writing process. 

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Books I'm looking forward to in 2017

Hey friends. 

2017 has begun with a lot of questions. Politically, socially, environmentally, it is easy to look around and wonder 'are we going to be OK?' I can't predict what Trump is going to do next or which celebrity is going to pass away, but I can make sure you're reading something great when the apocalypse comes. I've found some amazing books by local, African and international female writers, that all have a cracking plot in common. 

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Meet the author | Mike Nicol

Mike Nicol is, without a doubt, one of South Africa's most prolific authors. His works have been published across the globe, and his uniquely South African brand of crime and espionage thrillers have a loyal following. Yet for all his success, he is not seduced by the hype and remains humble on the subject of his career and his writing process. As a new writer, it was a privilege to sit down with a master and hear how its done. 

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Meet the author | Jolyn Phillips

A few months ago I walked into The Book Lounge for the first time. Eager to buy a piece of the store's atmosphere and of Cape Town itself, I picked up a thin short story book with a sunny, brightly coloured cover. I knew nothing about Jolyn Phillps then, but felt an affinity toward this small South African book. Only later when I read it later did I realise that its size was misleading - I didn't have a book in my bag, I had a world. 

Jolyn's stories mainly capture the characters of Gansbaai. Her musical, urgent phrasing is unlike anything you have read before, but it is not idiosyncratic or gimmicky. Rather, her voice pulls you instantly into her world. She answered these questions for me from somewhere in Genadendal, and I am so happy to bring more of her words to you.

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Why getting a literary agent is a lot like dating

In the hazy days before I met Rhys, I was pretty open about my dating life. All my friends, and the many acquaintances befriended at bar counters and pub bathrooms knew the intricacies, hilarity and outrage of my dating exploits. In a certain corner of the Internet, you'll even find a book I've  written about it under a top secret pseudonym. Thankfully, I learned a lot through those experiences, and have found myself finding parallels between dating and finding a literary agent.

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Novels to restore your faith in humanity

I think it is safe to say that, for many of us, life in the outside world feels a little raw at the moment. Society is inflamed and burning hot with outrage. Everything feels sore to the touch. Most of the time, I try block it out, I disengage because I don't know how to fix it. I'd say most of my Internet consumption centres around video clips of cute, unlikely animal friendships. 

So last night, Penguin Random House hosted a hashtag where you could ask a real, live librarian for a book recommendation. I asked for suggestions on beautifully written books that would restore my faith in humanity, and my, my the book geeks of the Internet (90% sporting profile pictures with comfortingly stereotypical horn-rimmed glasses) delivered. The suggestions were too good not to share, so here they are...

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Meet the author | JT Lawrence

It feels like local writer JT Lawrence is everyone on the local book scene at the moment. Everywhere I turn I see someone recommending one of her novels, or her collection of short stories. Her stories range from domestic thrillers, dystopian imaginings and a raw, hilarious memoir of her own struggle with infertility. Best of all, she is one of the many writers forging a new path in indie publishing, reaching readers and creating a career as a professional writer in the process. In between publishing books at the speed of light, she gave me a few moments to discuss her career to date. 

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What I've been reading lately

You know, I love a good book list as much as the next person. However, at this stage of the year I find myself struggling with how impersonal and repetitive these online lists can be. I miss the lived experience of a book, the feeling of someone saying "I read this at this point in my life, and it helped me, it distracted me." So here are a few of the books I've been reading and loving lately, and what moment in my life prompted me to read them....

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Rejection | Why it's OK (and important) to be told 'no'

How much of our lives is geared towards avoiding rejection? Whether in love, the workplace or simply booking a table at a popular restaurant, us human animals seem to be allergic to hearing the word, 'no.' The grief and humiliation of no extends it's sticky tentacles deep into our past, touching those bruised places where we were bullied, laughed at or ignored, prodding that uneasy sense that yes, you were right all along, you are not good enough after all. 

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