5 stars to Jacques Pouw and his shocking expose

The presidents keepers

Hard-hitting expose

First off, I need to disclose that I am a born and bred South African. I think this is important to mention because it means that I probably have some sort of bias already about the subject matter. Someone from another country might be able to read this book with cool detachment but let’s face it, it’s hard to remain unemotional when the money referred to comes from your own pocket and the flag is the one you proudly call your own.

From a writing perspective, Jacques Pouw has presented the facts in a neat, uncomplicated and practical manner. He is an award-winning journalist and it’s easy to see why. His research is thorough and his wording precise but fearless.

With regards to the subject matter, I have to say that this was probably one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read about South Africa. If even half of it is true, then the extent of the rot in our government is unprecedented and extremely frightening. The idea of my hard-earned tax money being wasted on drug-running, murdering, corrupt criminals while my fellow South African’s starve and live in tin shacks enrages me.

The knowledge that evidence exists, but has been buried beneath legal and political shenanigans depresses me hugely and I have to wonder – will these corrupt leaders ever pay for what they have done to my beloved country, or will I continue to have to fork out my hard-earned money while they play games with our economy and ultimately, our lives? Will my fellow South African’s see the light and use their vote in 2019 to make a positive difference? How long will it take to dig us out of this hole that appears to be much deeper and wider than the Presidency alone?

Jacques Pouw offers some optimism in the form of recent developments within our judiciary system and the pressure that civil society is putting on government to hold corrupt officials accountable, but it’s been over a decade and as a citizen, I have to ask – when is there going to be some action?

5 of 5 stars to “The Barrier Between” by Stacey Marie Brown

The barrier between

 

Tension, danger, betrayal, and romance

Zoey’s life has been irrevocably changed by the unnatural storm that has devastated Seattle and taken the lives of the only two people in the world she loved. Zoey discovers that Daniel, her DMG partner and the man she has loved for years, has left behind a devastating message for her, unraveling the truth behind the DMG and the experiments they have been conducting, not only on the Fae they hunt but even on their own hunters. Zoey discovers that as a result of one such experiment, she is dying. Now, it is a race against time to find someone who can help transfer the Wanders Fae powers back to Ryker before Zoe takes them with her to the grave forever.

Stacey Mari Brown takes her fantasy world to another level in this installment of the Collector series. The workings of the Fae world and the back stories are nicely fleshed out. The focus of the story remains the relationship between Ryker and Zoey. Brown has a definite talent for hiking up the tension as the attraction between them grows. Then, to the already boiling pot, Brown throws in the third point of a love triangle, creating a delicious conflict.

The story arches are neat, with some danger, intrigue and betrayal brought in with various supporting characters. The changes in setting and location also add some variation to the story and broaden the scope of possibilities. I’m thoroughly enjoying my immersion in this wonderful world of Fae.

5 of 5 stars to ‘City in Embers’ by Stacey Marie Brown

City in embers

Chemistry, fantasy, humor

Just when it seems as if everything in her hard life is finally coming together, Zoe Daniels is stripped of everything. A freak storm robs her of the only two people she cares about and forces her into the path of the ruthless Wanderer, Ryker. Once a collector of fae, Zoe becomes the hunted, and the only person she can trust is the one she has been taught to despise, to fear and to hunt.

If there’s one thing Stacey Marie Brown got right in his novel, it’s the chemistry! She is a pro at creating sizzling conflict between the main characters that starts out as animosity and slowly morphs into attraction.

But there’s more to this novel than just the heat. Brown has cleverly brought in humor and tenderness with the creation of Sprig, the mischievous, strange monkey-sprite. He relieves the tension at times and always seems to appear and disappear at the most inopportune moments. He’s just wonderful!

The fantasy world itself is masterfully created, with plenty of back-story, adventure, danger and reality. The character arcs are perfect, especially since there is no ‘love at first sight’. The attraction is gradual and more realistic. I haven’t been this drawn into a fantasy series in a while and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Ryker, Zoe and Sprig!

3 of 5 stars to Craving by Stephanie Summers

Craving

Chemistry

Sabine knows that there’s a good chance she’ll be chosen as the next sacrifice to fulfill the infamous Willow creek vampire treaty. Still, she is devastated when she receives the notice on her eighteenth birthday and realizes that she will never be able to live out her dreams.
When Sabine meets the vampire she will be paired with, she is horrified. Remy may be the favorite progeny of Bastion, Lord of the Willow creek vampires, but he is arrogant, selfish, rude and uncaring. She knows that she will never be more to him that a food source, and yet she can’t help or understand the growing attraction she feels every time they are together.

Craving was a pleasant read. I’m a sucker for romance, so I enjoyed the storyline which focuses mainly on the conflict and chemistry between the two main characters, Sabine and Remy. The characters themselves are pretty standard, lacking in depth at times, but there was a nice chemistry between them, and I quite enjoyed Remy’s snarky comments. The supporting characters were few and really did not play much of a role in the story beyond some cliched scenes. I felt that the plot could have been tighter. It felt thin and rushed at times with large periods of times elapsing in the space of sentences. I personally would have preferred fewer, more intimate scenes. The witty dialogue made up for some of the novel’s shortfalls though and I still found ‘Craving’ an easy, fun read.

Must read tool for self-development

Emotional intelligence

A practical guide to improving your EQ

With 90% of top performers high in EQ this book is a must for any person looking to grow and develop the skills that account for more than 58% of performance in any role.

With practical examples and clear research, Bradberry and Greaves examine the four pillars of EQ:
1. Self awareness
2. Self management
3. Social awareness
4. Relationship management

For each pillar, Bradberry and Greaves explain the basic concepts and explore simple and effective strategies for improvement.

One of the highlights is that this book includes a code where you can complete your own Emotional intelligence appraisal. The test identifies which area you most need to work on, and also allows monitoring and reassessment to determine whether the strategies you’ve employed are working.

This is a business tool I’m sure I will refer back to many times as I undertake my own journey of self development.

4 of 5 stars to “Forbidden” by Amy Miles

Forbidden

Chemistry and danger

Roseline Enescue has spent most of her immortal existence wishing she could escape the cruelty and violence of her husband, the infamous Vladimir Enescue. When the opportunity presents, Roseline escapes and flees to America, where she tries to establish a semblance of a normal life by enrolling in High school.
Rose, as her new friends know her, falls in love with Gabriel Marston and soon discovers that, no matter how much she may try and no matter how far she may run, the past has a way of catching up.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The writing is unique and particularly gripping, written as it is in third person present tense. There is a lovely flow and intensity to the author’s story-telling, although my copy was an Audible version, so I’m unable to comment on grammar. Some of the scenes, most notably the action scenes, were a little stiff and perhaps just a little too detailed for the pace, but they were still effective.

The focus of the story is definitely the two characters, Rose and Gabriel, and any other storylines take a back-seat to this budding romance. There is such chemistry between the two main characters that one can overlook the cliched peripheral characters. The back story and premise leaves me intrigued to follow the rest of Rose’s story.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Siege and Storm’ by Leigh Bardugo

siege-and-storm

Magical and religious society

Alina may have escaped the Darkling, for now, but she’ll never outrun the memories of that night on the Shadowfold. Riddled with guilt, she tries to make a new life with Mal across the true sea. But the Darkling is never far behind, and his powers have grown to terrifying new depths. Can Alina keep ahead of him, can she protect the man she loves, and can she really turn her back on her country and the people who, even now, look to her to save Ravka?

Bardugo extends her fantasy world even further in this second installment of the Grisha series. Once again, her descriptions of the environment and the complicated workings of an integrated magical and normal society are fascinating, detailed and riddled with uncomfortable situations. I loved the underlying political games and the religious aspects because they are so radical and unlike anything in our own society. It’s easy to get immersed and lost in this wonderful world of mythology and magic.

Alina’s character evolves throughout the storyline and Mal’s own transformation makes for some interesting inter and intra personal conflicts, which contributes a much larger portion of the storyline than in the first installment. There’s a whole lot of adventure and some intriguing twists in this installment. I’m still hooked on this series!