Tuesday, 18 December 2018

My Favourite Books of 2018

I do this every year: write a blog post, listing out all the books I gave five-star reviews to during the course of the year. These aren't necessarily books that were released in 2018; just books I read during the course of the year.

And if you know anything about me, you know that I can be pretty anal. It's really difficult for any book to earn a five-star review from me.

This year, though, takes the cake. There are only two of them!

The two books I gave five-star reviews to this year are... (drumroll please) Dark Whispers by Jo Macgregor, and The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

I reviewed them both on this blog at the time, so click one of the covers below to visit the original post, read my review, and find out where you can grab a copy of the relevant book.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Year of the Dragon by Stephen Hayes (Book Review)

I honestly believe that this is a book that needs to be read. Set in Apartheid South Africa under the rule of Die Groot Krokodil himself, it tells the story of an old woman's death and the search for the secrets hidden within a Christian ikon of great significance.

Having said that, it isn't really a story about politics. Or, to put it another way, politics isn't the central theme or point of the story. At its heart, it's about supernatural power, and how God can (and does) use everyday people like you and me to further His goals.

The story is beautifully woven, and the pacing is brilliant. Fair warning, though: the first five or six chapters or so are nice and short (twenty to thirty screens of my e-reader, and I read on the largest font size), and you think "Hey, cool! This is going to be a nice quick read." But after those first five or six chapters, the story takes a dramatic turn. Everything gets deeper and darker. The stakes get higher, the characters get more serious, and the chapters double or triple in length. It can be jarring if you're not expecting it, but when you look back, you realise the timing was perfect.

From an editing standpoint, it's very good, although there are missing punctuation marks scattered throughout (most often question marks, which happened so often that I found myself wondering whether I'd missed something intentional), and at one point, some dialogue is attributed to a character who isn't present at the time. None of that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, though!

Also, in the early chapters, the language is a bit... stilted. Overly formal, somehow, or maybe old-fashioned--particularly in dialogue, where I found myself thinking that nobody I know actually talks like that. No, I don't think anyone spoke like that in the '80s, either. But it either got better as the story went on, or I just got used to it.

But I would strongly urge you not to let any of the above stop you from reading this beautiful story. Honestly, I learnt so much reading it, not only about our South African past, and Christian history, but about my own faith, as I was frequently forced to stop and re-evaluate some of my own beliefs.

Don't worry if you're not a Christian, though. This book isn't going to try and convert you; you'll likely just read it as a great fantasy (and that's okay).

I think if you love Christian thrillers, paranormal thrillers, or reading about South Africa's dark and terrible past, this is a book not to be missed.

My Review: 4 / 5 stars

Click the cover below to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.


About the Book

The year is 1988. 

For 40 years the world has been in the grip of the Cold War, and South Africa has been in the grip of apartheid. For 71 years Russia has been under Bolshevik tyranny. Though few suspect it, this is about to change for ever. 

On a farm in the picturesque southern Drakensberg of South Africa a woman dies, and a young lawyer, Richard Rutherford, and his friend Denis Walters combine business with a pleasure weekend in the mountains. They will visit the farm to take the first steps in settling the estate. They soon discover that others also have an interest in the estate, or at least some items in it, and that they are prepared to kill for them. 

The contentious items seem to be some old Russian ikons, but how they got to a remote farm and why others are so anxious to get hold of them is a mystery. The search for answers leads them to a strange hermit and an even stranger priest, and a drive of a thousand miles in search of King Lobengula’s legendary treasure.

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Short Stories Volume 2 by Thomas Ryan (Book Review)

These stories are great!

I remember mentioning when I reviewed the last book that the editing needed some serious work. Well, that's been greatly improved with this one. It isn't perfect, but the missing words and punctuation are mostly gone. Enough, at least, that I could focus on the stories.

Not all of these stories will be your cup of tea. That's to be expected. But I enjoyed most of them. The first one, Bedridden, is the perfect lead-in because it tells you exactly the kind of stuff you're going to expect. I had about half a dozen theories as I read it, about what the twist could be. Turns out, none of them was right.

Each one of the stories has a twist like that. At least one, but some have more.

In terms of genre, they're a mixed bag, ranging from comedy to thriller, to psychological, to paranormal murder mystery, you're sure to find some that you like.

(My review: 4 / 5 stars)

About the Book



Award winning thriller novelist, Thomas Ryan, is also a prolific writer of short stories and he brings more of his sense of fun and adventure to his new collection, Short Stories Volume 2. From the creepy ‘Gerry’ to the humour of ‘Holmes for Christmas’ and the human drama of ‘The Best of Times’, there is more than enough variety to keep readers captivated. 
Ryan believes all good short stories should have unexpected twists and turns and be entertaining to read. Applying his thriller techniques he manages to achieve this end with the suspenseful ‘Wooden Sword’ and ‘The Chest’ but it is in one of the short story’s ‘John Wayne’ Ryan displays his accomplished storytelling skills as he follows an episode in the famous actor’s life where he almost brought about an end to the Second World War and walked on a beach with Eva Peron. 
Quoting a recent reviewer of Thomas Ryan’s work, ‘these are very intriguing, original stories, all well written and enjoyable. Ryan really gets inside his characters and makes their world our world, whatever its moral code or unwritten rules. His stories are powerful and stay with you once you've finished them.’ Readers will find Ryan’s short story writing gripping and easy to read. Short Stories Volume 2 by Thomas Ryan are a must read. 

Click here to find out where you can grab a copy.

What's your favourite book of all time?

The New York Times and USA Today have their "bestseller" lists, but those are based on current sales. Goodreads have their Choice Awards, but only books published in the last twelve months are eligible. Can we please have an annual reader-driven list of the best books... of all time?


Fiction, non-fiction, genre, language don't matter. As long as it was published somewhere, it's eligible. So please tell us, what's your favourite book of all time?

All responses are anonymous. Please fill out the form below to make your nomination. Nominations will close on Friday 11 January 2019, and you'll be able to vote in the shortlist from Tuesday 15 January 2019.

Please share this post with all your friends and reading groups, book clubs, etc.

Attribution: The image above was created in part using the Book, mockup Vector image by @StarLine, on the site freepik.com. Click here to see the original image.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Remember My Colouring Books?

In case you've forgotten, my wife and I put together these beautiful colouring books.



(Click on the image above to visit the official website)

I've actually been rather amazed at how popular these books have proved to me with kids aged anywhere from three to seven years old.

If you buy them online, there may still be time to get them for your kids in time for Christmas, but if you live in or around Johannesburg, South Africa, you can always buy direct from me. I have limited stock available, but you can e-mail me to arrange.