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Lover of literature and reviewer of books. Happiest where the words are.

21 Apr 2018

Review: The Bikini Body Motivation and Habits Guide by Kayla Itsines


I am quite sure I’m not alone in thinking I need to lose weight and get fit. Living a healthy life seems challenging, time-consuming and peppered with motivation I was certainly lacking. That’s why I instantly requested a copy of Kayla Itsines’ The Bikini Body Motivation and Habits Guide when I spotted it doing the rounds on social media, and I am so pleased I did. Firstly, the book’s name alone struck home – motivation and good habits? Yes, please! But it seriously goes beyond that; this book is filled to the brim with useful, helpful and awesome content.

Starting with the shortfalls of most types of motivation (see ‘time vs results’) and how to evolve beyond simply wanting to look good (but wanting to feel good, as well as be happy and healthy), we move onto how and why to form good fitness habits, and then onto the juicy part: meal plans (with recipes) and exercises. The meals are easy, accessible and appealing (three things usually lacking in my experience of dieting) and the exercises are easy to follow. It’s a winning combination.

In addition to the content being five-star stuff, the book looks amazing. The pictures are superb, and there is a lovely use of colour, creating this peaceful yet happy vibe throughout which is as inspiring and cheering as the content itself.

Finally, there’s a tear-out workout poster and access to downloads, which makes it possible to take Itsines’ motivation and praise with you wherever you go.

All in all, this book is beautiful, useful, and carefully laid out to maximize its message. I was thoroughly impressed by the look and feel, as well as the user-friendly nature of it all. As a person who struggles with motivation, and has a habit of being a lazy cook, this is the perfect kick in the butt I needed to start my own lifelong fitness journey. I’m also happy to report that two easing-myself-in weeks later, I’ve already lost weight. Thanks, Kayla.

The Bikini Body Motivation and Habits Guide by Kayla Itsines is published by Bluebird Books, an imprint of Pan Macmillan.

8 Apr 2018

Review: Darwin Comes to Town by Menno Schilthuizen


In a world constantly changing to meet the ever-increasing needs of humanity, it is simple to say that today’s cities and urban centres would be unrecognizable and impossible to imagine in years gone past. Indeed, there is a constant, low-thrumming hum throughout social media, news sites, and conversations about how humanity is literally changing the face of the planet, and whether this is to the detriment of the thousands of other species with which we share our homes. Opinions are divided, many will say that humanity is the earth’s single largest pest, that we are ruining nature and using up resources and committing ourselves to a bleak, green-less future. Yet, it seems that Menno Schilthuizen is voicing a somewhat unpopular yet unarguable fact – humans are actually part of nature, and it’s time we stop seeing ourselves as a separate entity, an enemy of the world and the ‘nature’ it encompasses.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that we are sowing seeds of destruction and endangering our own and our peers’ future. Yet, I was always of the fleeting opinion (even more solidified after reading Darwin Comes to Town) that we are not the terminator to nature’s Sarah Connor. In fact, nature as we understand it – as a separate entity to humanity – will evolve to grow with us, and I’ve no doubt it will survive us.

Menno Schilthuizen is what I consider to be a humanist biologist, and he’s got some interesting and profound observations to share.

The book’s core message is the visibility and impact of HIREC (Human-Induced Rapid Evolution) globally – how insects, animals and plants are evolving in spite of humans to stay suited to their ever-changing habitats. Quite simply, he argues that with the constant evolution, spread and growth of populations (both human and not), each urban species of life will encounter a similar set of urban cohabitants. Nature, to who we credit decay and oblivion by our hands, is a stronger entity than that. It is the counterpart to human change, occurring within and throughout our buildings, systems, and pollution. As we make changes to the environment, so, too, does the environment change itself.

To go into more detail would rob you the thrill of reading this book – and indeed, it is a thrill. Schilthuizen is witty, funny, bright, and easy to understand. His observations and findings are so beautifully and interestingly presented that you can’t help but reflect on and admire his content. In addition, he gives us a spark of hope, in that the creatures we share this globe with are not passively awaiting a fate at the dirty hands of humans; they exhibit strength and cunning beyond that, and it is glorious. Humans are undoubtedly causing uproar in the environment, and leading to enormous upset, but it’s not the end of the world; we don’t hold that much power.

Darwin Comes to Town by Menno Schilthuizen is published by Quercus Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

30 Mar 2018

Review: Knucklebone by NR Brodie

Ian left his days as a cop behind him, and is now a student; research has overtaken crime as his primary daily focus. However, when he's on a routine call out at the security company that is helping him gather research for his paper, things go awry. A panic button heralds two young men in an apparent robbery, in which one of the duo is pronounced dead on the scene. Yet when questioned, the deceased arrested partner falls into a diabetic coma. yet according to a nurse at the hospital, the young man is afflicted by more than low blood sugar. she tells Ian and Captain Reshma Patel that their suspect has been possessed.

Soon enough, the duo discover that the young man was training to be a sangoma, and that dark deeds previously isolated to urban legends and stories are, in fact, real. In uncovering the young man's history, from magic and mayhem through to muti and money, Ian and Reshma find themselves immersed in a world as far removed from ordinary policing as they could ever imagine.

I was initially hesitant to read anything that promised to marry a traditional detective drama with magic and demons, yet there's no beating around the bush here: NR Brodie has married the two in a union of literary perfection! Knucklebone is as dark and macabre as it is shocking and brilliant, and so cleverly and artfully written that the reader can hear the characters' voices in their head, and feel the goosebumps that appear after a particularly gruesome discovery among the pages. This book is sheer literary brilliance, and creates an immensely enjoyable, albeit horrifying, world.

NR Brodie artfully weaves a story of the ordinary in a backdrop of the extraordinary. Hers is a world in which magic and dark deeds dance beyond the notice of her characters, and yet the power of the inexplicable is both attractive and unavoidable. Furthermore, Brodie's characters are likeable and Sout African without being subjected to horrible bouts of colloquialisms and cliches. Brodie may really be heralding the start of fresh South African literature that honestly and seriously delves into the culture, myths and realities of this amazing country. Don't call yourself a true bibliophile if you've not read this, because it's brilliance begs to be read.

Knucklebone by NR Brodie is published by Pan Macmillan South Africa.

18 Mar 2018

Review: The Wife Between us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen


Nellie has met the perfect man; the pre-school teacher and part-time waitress has met a real-life Prince Charming. Richard is attractive, successful, rich, and sweet; he’s almost too good to be true. Through their whirlwind engagement, Nellie can’t believe her luck. While she knows that Richard’s last relationship ended badly, with an unpredictable ex-wife, she is sure that her relationship will be different. Yet when Nellie fails to fall pregnant and give Richard the family they’ve both dreamed of,  Nellie discovers the marriage require as much work as any other job.

Vanessa had a perfect marriage. Richard was everything she’d imagined in a partner and more. However, over time their relationship began to crumble, and soon Vanessa finds herself facing the prospect of losing Richard to a younger, perkier woman; her replacement. Desperate to prevent the inevitable, Vanessa is prepared to go to any lengths to stop another woman entering the life she was forced to leave behind.

In a flurry of perspectives and spanning multiple time frames, The Wife Between Us is nothing short of a literary accomplishment; it’s detail, complexity and plain excellent story make it an amazing read – one of the best of the year thus far. This is a narrative with style, that’s clever and imaginative. You need to read it.

The Wife Between Us is an incredibly polished, intricate story with a brilliant plot that’s as riveting as it is unpredictable. The sheer number of twists and unexpected events made it not only impossible for me to put this book down, but also impressed me immensely. To provide a more in-depth review would be a disservice to both reader and authors – you’ll need to read this book for yourself to uncover the surprises that await you.

The Wife Between us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is published by Pan Macmillan.

14 Mar 2018

Review: The Collector by Fiona Cummins


Brian Howley escaped police custody. While he has vanished, so too has the knowledge of where Clara, a kidnapped 5-year old, has been hidden. DS Fitzroy is more desperate than ever before to catch The Collector, and finally bring him to justice.

Unperturbed by his narrow escape from the police, Howley seeks to begin a new collection, and yet the signature piece remains the skeleton of Jakey, a six-year old with Stone Man Syndrome, and the twisted bones which result from it. After following Jakey’s family across the country to shadow their fresh start, Howley appears to have fate smiling on him, for not only is Jakey within reach, but The Collector has discovered an heir to his dastardly enterprise.

The Collector picks up immediately after the conclusion of Cummins’ first novel, Rattle, but remains a good stand-alone story if you’ve not read the prequel (though I urge you to read both). The continuation of the narrative cements this fictional world of dark deeds into the reader’s mind, which together with moving characters and a bold plot, make the story addictive and easy to read. Usually, one finds that continuations of a series can mean that the integrity of characters and stories erode over time, with each sequel slightly less impressive than its predecessor, but not so in Fiona Cummins’ world. Here, The Collector surpasses Rattle, and yet both are undoubtedly fun and excellent reads. That, in itself, is quite an achievement (and I don’t think I’ve experienced that before). In addition, Cummins’ shows her ability to display characters who have enough weight to be interesting a second time around. Read the books together, or read them apart, but you’ll definitely love every page.

Is escapism is what you’re after, you’ll enjoy this trip down the rabbit hole.

The Collector by Fiona Cummins is published by Pan Macmillan