Barbara Erasmus reviews Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker in the Sunday Times

Local eco-romance novel will blow you away

There are no blurred lines between the good and bad guys who all get their just desserts – cynical readers must bear in mind that Volker’s genre is romance rather than noir

By Barbara Erasmus

Many South Africans will identify with the heroine of Melissa Volker’s debut novel Shadow Flicker – she experiences panic attacks.

But unlike the gender-based violence currently grabbing the headlines, hers aren’t triggered by rape or murder – they date back to a grisly shark encounter.

This is not the only unexpected aspect in this absorbing debut novel, the first release by Karavan Press, the publishing house recently established in Cape Town by Karina M Szczurek, editor, writer and critic.

Publishing books is a brave venture in an industry struggling internationally in the face of the digital onslaught but Szczurek is well-known in local literary circles, not only through her marriage to André Brink. She is determined to nurture writers who may have been overlooked by mainstream publishers.

Shadow Flicker_LR for web

Shadow Flicker, the novel selected to kick-start this new venture, is classified as an eco-romance, a deserving winner of the Strelitzia Award in 2017, given to the most promising manuscript by ROSA – the local Romance Writers organisation.

Volker explains that the difference between a love story and romance is that the latter has a happy ending – a refreshing change in the current gloom. Her novel has the obligatory romantic ingredients – a good-looking, sexy hero and heroine ranged against a cast of suitably corrupt predators, out to enrich themselves by any means possible. Evocative descriptions lift the story above the commonplace, as well as the well-researched environmental issues it explores. Volker also writes a regular blog about surfing and skilfully incorporates her knowledge of the sport into the novel…

Continue reading review: Sunday Times

John Maytham reviews Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch

Breaking_Milk_Dawn_Garisch_COVER_SMALLTake a listen to the three book picks for the week by CapeTalk’s John Maytham, among them a wonderful review of Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch: Books with John Maytham

DESCRIPTION

So many women down the ages have lain awake in the earth’s great shadow, insomniac over their progeny, their sons and daughters intent on escaping their mothers’ intractable worry.

Don’t come, Kate is told by her only child. Jess is keeping her mother at a distance on the day that her own children, conjoined twins, are to be separated during high-risk surgery in London.

Kate wakes on her farm in the Eastern Cape, torn between respecting Jess’s wishes and a longing to rush to her estranged daughter’s side.

A former geneticist disillusioned by the pressing ethical questions posed by her job, Kate is now an award-winning maker of organic cheese. She relies on the farm’s routine and the people and animals in her life to hold steady as her day teeters on a knife’s edge.

Meanwhile, her employee Nosisi’s son is undergoing initiation. Forbidden to have contact with him during this traditional passage into the world of manhood, his mother anxiously awaits his return.

Breaking Milk, Dawn Garisch’s seventh novel, is an evocative exploration of the divisions and connections between humans, animals and the environment.

ISBN: 978-0-6399942-2-2

Review competition: Caroline Gill reviews Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker

Shadow Flicker_LR for webDrawn[ing you] in from the start, Shadow Flicker weaves an entrancing cocoon around the reader, educating them on the hotbed issue of wind farms, and illustrating how communities and individuals respond to life changes, and how it [all] impacts on both sides of the issue. The joining of fiction and environmental issues, with a twinge of romance and mystery, is certainly a genre that is becoming a worthwhile read, and this book is no exception.

It is such a pleasure to read a work that smacks of home, with local dialect and slang sparsely interspersed in an encapsulating story set on our sunny, yet windy South African coastline. The author’s familiarity with the area allows for such a thoroughly descriptive rendition of it, that we are left feeling as if we had just consumed an article from a local travel mag. This story had me sitting with my phone’s map app open, looking up the places and wanting to bucket list them!

The characters are supremely believable, they are our everyday heroes, just going through the motions of life, and trying to make sense of the burdens they carry individually. The plot twist in bringing the two main characters together and the ensuing drama reads like the ebb and flow of the tide.

I find myself wanting to go back into their world, and [to] see how they are doing; always wondering what would be next in their lives as they move forward.
Truly an enjoyable and engrossing read, neither heavy nor too light, and certainly one that I have enjoyed and learnt from!

Review also posted on Goodreads.

Review competition: Caroline Gill reviews A Fractured Land by Melissa A. Volker

A Fractured Land_LR for webA Fractured Land_2018A Fractured Land rapidly encapsulates the reader in the vast expanse of the starkly beautiful Karoo setting. We become happily familiar with the well-rounded characters and their whimsical ways in a one-horse town, while they are like many of us, struggling for a chance at love and life.

It proceeds at a pace akin to the land it is set in, yet leaves your heart searing with emotion and turbulence of the drama as it unfolds. It also skillfully travels between the lands and cultures of the main characters, showing deep connections and knowledge of two completely opposite lifestyles, enhancing the storyline by the differences as they are shared.

There is a delightful smattering of life’s necessary daily activities, emotional and environmental issues and a well-dished up round of suspense woven throughout the novel, tightly connected with some lovely hooks and twists to keep you wondering if anything will ever work out.

Melissa A. Volker has a gift of carefully exposing the emotions felt by her characters, which inevitably mirrors those felt by her readers ⁠— we just don’t have the same finesse at expressing them as she does!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, was immediately transported into the story and enthralled with its development, and devastated when it had to come to an end!
I will be one of the first in line for her next offering as it comes off the press!

Review first posted on Goodreads.

Review competition: Natasha Alexander reviews A Fractured Land by Melissa A. Volker

A Fractured Land_LR for web A Fractured Land_2018I love a good romance but this book is so much more, filled with suspense and a gripping story, to say the least. Melissa’s scenic description is so wonderfully written, you can almost smell the dust and feel the blazing Karoo sun on your skin.

The two main characters are Carter from Texas, a former musician, trying to start over in the family oil business; and Lexi going back to her Karoo routes to rebuild her life, after a heart-breaking divorce which left her bankrupt. Their paths cross, at what seems, the worst possible time but as their story unfolds, Melissa keeps you hooked through their journey. Another character that kept me on the edge of my seat was Paul, the best friend/infatuated admirer of Lexi. Don’t want to give too much away, but his story/journey was brilliant too.

This is a must read, 5-star novel and I can’t wait for Melissa’s next one. (So, please hurry…no pressure.)

One more thing, LOVED the music references, Jack Johnson and Pearl Jam, two personal favourites.

Thank you for an awesome read, Melissa A. Volker.

Review first posted on Natasha Alexander’s blog.