Why I love this authentic collection of short stories

A thing you must know about the people here in the scheme is that we go to sleep early. If the day goes to sleep, we all sleep and if something interrupts it, people lose their chickens, you know, like in they go bedinges.

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Growing up in a multilingual country has it’s advantages. Most South Africans are fluent in at least two languages, so it’s not uncommon for people to code-switch in everyday conversation. And it’s not always because you can’t find the English or Afrikaans word for something. No, we simply fuse different languages into one. In her debut short story collection, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories, Jolyn Phillips captures the multilingual heart of average South Africans.

Initial Insights

Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories is a whimsical collection of tales set in the fishing villages around Gansbaai, South Africa. Using memorable characters, witty dialog, and a charming background, Jolyn takes the reader on a journey of loss, laughter, and sheer calculated silliness.

What I liked

I enjoyed Jolyn’s writing style. I could read her writing every day. In a world of dragons, hobbits, and dark lords, it’s refreshing to find writing I can relate to. Each story filled me with nostalgia for childhood days spent playing in the neighborhood until streetlights signalled it was time to go home. A street with nosey neighbors, unfortunate dogs, and the messiness of small-town life.

Jolyn also explores themes like mental illness, secrets, poverty, rape, and molestation with an authenticity that I appreciated. My favorite stories in this collection were The Photograph, Secrets, The Fire, The Big Box, and The Legend of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries.


What I didn’t like

This collection is multilingual and although I understood the references other readers may not, so I would have liked to see a glossary. At times Phillips translated phrases and colloquial sayings into English which was annoying at times. Some of the stories fell flat and could have used a bit more punch.

Final Thoughts

I believe good writing should invite the reader to visit the locations described in the prose and Jolyn did just that. Her words painted landscapes on the canvas of my imagination. For the brief moments between the pages of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries, I traveled the streets of the small fishing villages of the West Coast. I would definitely recommend Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories.

My Dusty bookshelf rating
Rating: 4/5 Stars

About the Author

Jolyn Phillips was born and bred in Blompark, Gansbaai, South Africa. Her debut collection of short stories, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories, was published to great acclaim in 2016. She is currently studying towards a PhD at the University of the Western Cape. She lectures part-time and is also known as a singer. Radbraak is her first collection of poetry.


Vertigo – an epic poem about love, loss, and freedom

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“When a mountain begins to smoke,

rest assured an ancient fire

has begun a holy pilgrimage to the surface”

– Analog de Leon, Vertigo


Initial insights

Vertigo: of love and letting go, was a breath of fresh air. Chris Purifoy, writing as Analog de Leon, transported me into a world of vibrant color, engaging images, and a captivating tale of love, loss, and letting go. This epic poem chronicles the journey through the start and end of a relationship and unearths the wreckage left in the aftermath. The protagonist struggles with heartache, denial, and anger until he finally experiences the freedom that comes with forgiveness and letting go.

Image result for vertigo of love and letting go

What I liked

Vertigo is the best of both worlds: poetry and prose. Each poem weaves into the next from start to end like a Shakespearean plays of old. Yet each poem is strong enough on its own. Most of the poems were short one or two stanzas. But de Leon infused a variety of styles and techniques creating a unique reading experience. Vertigo was such a pleasure to read. The rhythm of on each page translated well as I read. I often found myself racing and jumping and falling as the words quickened, slowed, and exploded in my consciousness. There were also little surprises on the paper, something I’m quite a fan of.


What I didn’t like

I enjoyed Vertigo. The accompanying website offered a virtual tour and playlist, neither of which I cared for. The pieces were really short and I kept hoping a long form poem would be lurking on the next page. Having said that, the selected pieces added perfectly to the rhythm, theme, and message of Vertigo. A long form poem would have taken away from that.


Final thoughts

I’d like to thank Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for sending me a free copy of Vertigo in exchange for an honest review. My own experiences with love and letting go were echoed by this raw and authentic epic poem. The grief that accompanies breakups is not something you toss aside and get over. It takes time. It comes in waves and just when you think it’s over it hits you like an unexpected wave. Vertigo translated that exceedingly well and is definitely a poem worth experiencing. I recommend reading it in one sitting with the suggested playlist or music that you feel suits the moment.

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Rating: 5/5

Buy Vertigo on  | Going Vertigo | Amazon

About the author

Chris Purifoy (aka Analog de Leon) is a writer with more than 200k followers online, a technology architect, and one of the pioneers of a global subculture of modern poetry. He speaks in global forums about the slippery slope of progress and the importance of art with purpose. Chris is the Co-Founder of Lost Poets, an organization dedicated to this resistance, with leadership ranging from entertainment powerhouses such as Gregg Latterman and global policy leaders such as Ana C. Rold.

Creative Ways to Skyrocket your Productivity all Day


Creative ways to skyrocket your productivity

There’s nothing quite like being in the zone. You know the place. When you’re undistracted and words pour onto the page like summer rain. All the world fades away and there’s nothing but your thoughts, the keyboard, and an increasing word count.

Being in the zone is magical. But all magic comes at a price. And soon your happy place turns into a black hole; sucking every last ounce of energy and imagination out of you until your completely drained and it’s not even 10 a.m.

All work and no play makes Robyn a dull writer. You’ve probably heard this a million times. Perhaps from friends inviting you to hang out after work or over a weekend. But the saying is not only true for “after hours”. It’s true for working hours too. Our bodies and brains need a break every now and then. To relax and reboot so you can end your day without feeling like your head is empty. Here are five tricks I use to sustain my productivity during a workday.



A colleague and I usually go for a midmorning walk. Sometimes around the block. Sometimes we walk to the Company Gardens or we stop by one of the many coffee shops around the office building. The change of scenery, chitchat, and activity are like pushing restart.



If coffee isn’t your thing tea or WATER work just as well. The aim is to put distance between you and your desk. Just standing away from your desk waiting for the kettle to boil offers relief to the tired worn out mind. It’s like coming up for air.


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For me, it’s admin. Believe it or not, organizing spreadsheets energize me. I don’t know why. So when I need a little boost after lunch I update one of my many trackers, my Goodreads TBR, or if I have nothing to update, I create a new tracking sheet. The break from whatever task you were doing gives your brain time to rest.



Desk stretches are good for posture, meditation, and they reduce stress. Simple movements like stretching your neck or swinging your arms can help release tension that builds up while you work.



My last resort is checking my e-mails, messages, and Instagram. Remember to keep it brief though. The goal is to take a short break to boost your productivity for the next stretch. Or sometimes I type a quick note like this one. In fact, this post was drafted during one of my mini-breaks.

What are your go to productivity boosters? Do you prefer regular short breaks or one long break? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Failing Maths and My Other Crimes: A Review

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See how the grass grows, no matter

what? We grew up like that,


– Thabo Jijana

This week, My Poetry Corner looks reviews Failing Maths and My Other Crimes. A debut poetry collection by South African poet, Thabo Jijana. The collection has been on my bookshelf for almost a year.


What I liked

Failing Maths and My Other Crimes read like a short story. Each poem weaved into the next, creating a storyline that allows the reader to journey with the character from childhood through adolescence to adulthood and beyond. His clear narrative and use of imagery create a world for the reader to live in. It felt authentic and touched on a variety of themes such as culture, politics, religion, manhood, childhood, parenthood, the deaths of Steve Biko and Brenda Fassie. It read really well from start to finish.

Jijana used a variety of styles in this collection. From shorter to long form, free-form and classic structured poems. His voice carried through each of them. One thing intrigued me though. I realized that the actual poems read like prose poetry despite the variety of structure and length. Overall a cohesive, captivating collection.


What I didn’t like

Although the overall piece was lovely, there weren’t enough stand out moments. Most of the poems blended into the overall story but weren’t memorable enough on their own.


Final thoughts

Thabo Jijana is definitely a voice I read again. He’s a captivating storyteller and uses techniques similar to my own. His style and clarity communicate his values and thoughts well. A good read.


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Rating: 3 out 5

About the Author

Thabo Jijana, born in 1988, was the 2011 recipient of the Anthony Sampson Foundation Award and the 2014 winner of the Sol Plaatje/European Union Poetry Award. In 2014, he published his first book, Nobody’s Business, a memoir. Born and raised in eNgqushwa, Thabo currently lives in Port Elizabeth, where he works as a writer. In 2016 Thabo Jijana was awarded the Ingrid Jonker prize for his collection Failing Maths and my other crimes.



Review: Eat.Pray.Hustle by Havilah Cunnington


The only way to truly leave a lasting legacy is to live as a Dream Chaser. We can’t forget our dream is always connected to the big dream of God. God’s dream is for the family. It’s for lasting fruit, and He wants our story to be connected to His GREAT story.

It’s official. I’m a dream chaser. I’ve wanted to do the Eat.Pray.Hustle bible study since the first time I stumbled across the author, Havilah Cunnington’s YouTube page. Somehow, I never made it past the first week – until now.

Initial insights

eatprayhustlecoverEat.Pray.Hustle is a practical guide to creating a lifestyle that enables you to pursue your aspirations. This 20-day devotional tackles four aspects of dream chasing: being a dream chaser, discovering your dream, sabotaging your dreams, and protecting the dream until it is fulfilled.

What I liked

Havilah’s anecdotes give the devotional a personal touch. Drawing on her experiences chasing her goals, she provides tried and tested tips that helped me face my fears.

Each chapter is based on a section of Abraham’s life and she unpacks the biblical principles of dream chasing with clarity and simplicity. At the end of the chapter, Havilah recaps the main points and lists discussion questions that challenge the reader to delve deeper into their own reality.

The chapters are short and divided into four sections with five chapters each. That’s a perfect daily devotional for anyone who wants to do bible study but can’t find the time.

What I didn’t like

Personally, I’m a bit bias where Havilah is concerned since I enjoy shorter, practical devotionals. However, if you’re interested in lengthier theological discussions, this one isn’t for you.

Final thoughts

I’m glad I waited this long to do the Eat.Pray.Hustle devotional. It’s inspired me to take myself seriously, to set realistic goals, and to go after those goals. I’ll probably re-read chapters when needed.

Favourite quotes

“Part of partnering with God is doing your part well and leaving God’s part to God.”

“Everything we do is training.”

About the author

Havilah is a wife, mom, and author who has been in full-time ministry for over 18 years. She has travelled throughout North America and beyond speaking at conferences, retreats, church gatherings and events equipping the church to live with passion, purpose, and power. With their four young sons, Havilah and her husband, Ben, reside in Redding, California, where they currently serve together as the Directors of Truth to Table.



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Rating: 5/5


Buy this on Havilah’s website or on Amazon


My Poetry Corner: In a Language that You Know by: Len Verwey – a review

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“I’d recognize you now

in an instant

yet I’d struggle to describe you to a

friend as you were then.”


This week I’m introducing My Poetry Corner where I’ll review chapbooks, literary magazines/journals, and other poetry collections. And I might add one of my own pieces from time to time.

In this week’s Poetry Corner I’ll be reviewing Len Verwey’s In a Language that You Know which is scheduled for publication later this year.

Let me start by showing my appreciation to NetGalley and the Publisher for sending me a free copy of the book for in exchange for an honest review.

My initial judgment of a book is usually based on the cover. That’s what caught my attention as I browsed titles on NetGalley. The artwork was intriguing. However, I requested this one because of the title, In a Language that You Know AND because it’s part of the African Poetry Book Series. One of my reading goals is to consume more poetry, especially by South African poets. After all, great writers read.

Initial insights

In a Language that You Know is a collection of poetry that paints the life of a man whose life was shaped by his experiences in Southern Africa. I say Southern Africa, because several poems reference Mozambique. The poems are grouped by life cycle: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood. Collectively, the poems tell a beautiful coming of age story complemented by the author, Len Verwey’s, well-constructed prose.

What I liked

Verwey’s style, which is mainly prose poetry, gave the collection a narrative feel. The pieces flowed so seamlessly that at times I forgot I was reading poetry. I suppose that’s what prose poetry is meant to do. In several areas, he used titles to set the scene for the next section. Poems like Coast, Experts, Sunnydale, and 1999 ground the reader in the stage of life and era being discussed.

The poems about the Apartheid era are also different from others I’ve read. Verwey’s selection narrates someone who lived his life amid the civil war. He did what he wanted, other times he did as he was told, and in the midst of it, made money when he could. The love poems were sweet and definitely a few of my favorites.

I must say that Verwey writes great endings. There are a few non-rhyming couplets that were really captivating.

What I didn’t like

Although there were some lovely pieces, most of the poems aren’t the kind that stay with you long after you’ve turned the page. There were several moments when I got to the end of a poem and had forgotten what the poem was about.

The forms used are analogous, mostly because of the style. They are almost entirely prose poetry with variations of free form and a few other variations but for the most part, prose broken into verses. Personally, I would have appreciated more variety.


Final thoughts

In a Language that You Know was okay. There are one or two pieces I’d go back to and even recall from time to time but overall it was a nice story. Would I recommend it? I don’t know. Maybe. Depending on whether or not you appreciate prose poetry. I do think it would make an interesting mini-series or perhaps even a short film.


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Rating: 2.7/5



And that’s it for this week’s Poetry Corner.

From Cape Town with Love,


Review: The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth (Book 1) By N.K. Jemisin

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“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

I’m reading The Broken Earth series with the lovely folks over at the Fantasy Buddy Reads Group on Goodreads.  Beyond Middle Earth and Westeros, I haven’t explored the world of fantasy fiction much. Nevertheless, since I enjoy the genre on both the big and small screens, I took the plunge. And am I ever glad I did.


Initial Insights

The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin. In this epic dystopian fantasy, Jemisin narrates the events that led up to the end of the world and the effect it had on the inhabitants of the Stillness.

In The Fifth Season, Jemisin gracefully explores what it means to be human and how ignoring our innate worth can have severe consequences.

“That we’re not human is just the lie they tell themselves so they don’t have to feel bad about how they treat us.”

As a start to the series, it introduces the geography, history, and politics of the Stillness. The Fifth Season also shapes the main characters, giving the reader a look at their humanity and brokenness. It also provides an intro to orogeny which is a valuable but dangerous super power. By the end of The Fifth Season, the reader knows that the world has ended, who caused it and why.

What I liked

I enjoyed Jemisin’s narrative style – which switches between second person and third person depending on the POV. It reminded me of Toni Morrison’s style in The Bluest Eye, which I’ve actually missed in the books I’ve read of late. Jemisin’s ability to weave story lines and arc in an engaging way is remarkable.

Each storyline developed at a great pace filled with action, romance, and suspense. Each character developed through the challenges they faced and the secrets they discovered about the world, the Stillness.

The visuals were great too, from the obelisks to Yumenese and the islands, Jemisin paints lovely and gruesome pictures that allow the reader to escape into Stillness and experience life with the characters. The nature of orogeny and the extent of an orogene’s capabilities is revealed in stages, which lets the reader discover new capabilities with the character.

The foreshadowing in the novel is another well-written feature. There’s an appealing balance between what is revealed and what remains a mystery.

Alabaster was definitely my favourite character other than Syenite. Reading the Fifth Season was also fun because it felt African. The dreadlocks and complexion aside. For instance, there’s a scene where Damaya’s mother calls her “Dama Dama” and it felt like reading something homegrown. It was refreshing.


What I didn’t like:

It took a while for me to realize that the story is set in three eras. This made the geography confusing at times. I didn’t care much for the love triangle.


Final thoughts

The Fifth Season starts with the end of the world and then moves on to more interesting things. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the Stillness and its people, and Jemisin’s writing. The Fifth season is definitely making my top ten list. The Prologue was also confusing at first. However, when I finished I re-read portions of it and it made more sense.


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Rating: 5/5



Buy this On: Exclusive BooksAmazon

Favourite quotes

This read had so many memorable moments and tweetable quotes. Choosing my favourites proved difficult. But here they are:

“He takes all that, the strata and the magma and the people and the power, in his imaginary hands. Everything. He holds it. He is not alone. The earth is with him. Then he breaks it.”

“Nothing to do but follow your crazy, though.”

“The source of the glow is beyond the mountains, as if the setting sun went the wrong way and got stuck there.”

“neither myths nor mysteries can hold a candle to the most infinitesimal spark of hope.”

About the Author

N. K. Jemisin is an author living and writing in Brooklyn, NY. This is fortunate as she enjoys subways, tiny apartments, and long walks through city parks. Her short fiction has been published in a number of magazines and podcast markets, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award. She won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.