Books Issues Non-Fiction Reviews

Sometimes, life commands death to stay its hand

TITLE: Hop Skip and Jump

AUTHOR: Scholar V. Akinyi


AVAILABILITY: Nuria Bookstore and Cheche Bookshop

REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

Hop, Skip, and Jump is a story based on the 2007/8 Post-Election Violence (PEV) in Kenya. Told by three children, Bobo, John, and Vena, it explores the horror that happened after the elections and how it affected the children and their families. The children look forward to Christmas, they dance, they write letters to girls they like, they take care of their siblings, they watch TV.

Until they don’t. 

Suddenly, they are no longer safe. There is an enemy everywhere… the worst part is, they don’t know the face the enemy wears. It may be their neighbour, it may be the father or mother of the children they play and go to school with; it may be a stranger’s face. The violence they see on their television screens has spilled into their neighbourhood and the life they knew is no more. New and unfamiliar homes, running through unfamiliar burning streets with borrowed names, hospitals, pain and camps are the new norm.

The innocence, personal touch and rawness in emotion that Scholar weaves into her story, is its most interesting aspect. The PEV, to many people, was merely statistics: the losses (human and property), the displaced persons… This book, however, takes the reader back to the theatre, where it all happened, but now you experience it through the eyes of the children, who lived through it.

The ones everyone says will grow up and forget. The one no one cares to ask, what if they don’t remember to forget? What if they don’t know how to forget… what if they just don’t know how to forget.

The soft delivery in Scholar’s writing makes this an appropriate read for all ages. The violence bit is narrated ever so delicately; yet so powerfully, you can’t help but be impressed. Child soldiers, arson, violence, rape are some of the themes explored in this book. Perhaps the book’s greatest victory is how successfully and accurately it has managed to show the state of affairs in the aftermath of the elections and from an angle most people rarely look at. Children’s point of view.

In a country whose emotions flare up with politics, I hope this book serves as a reminder of what happens when things are taken too far. I hope it reminds us that we are all capable of violence and that so many things can go wrong when we alienate other people based on their political alignment and tribes. Above all, I hope we remember the children. That they may never be able to heal completely from the aftermath of the violence.

They may never be able to jump.

Highly recommended.  For everyone.  For those who seek to know, to remember, to be cautioned.

Moraa is a young woman navigating life. Author of Beautiful Mess… Co Author of Dreams and Demons and I’m Listening 2021 edition. She is also the winner of Kendeka Prize of African Literature-2022. She can be found with a book or two. When she’s not fighting to stay afloat, she is daydreaming, writing poetry or reading.

Books Issues Non-Fiction Releases Reviews

These two books hold the key to your financial breakthrough

TITLES: Should I? and How Much

AUTHOR:  Florence Bett

REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

AVAILABILITY: Nuria Book Store

If you ask most people about money and investments, you will likely realise that they are clueless about what they are doing and what is going on. If you ask about inflation and investments, most people will fumble, trying to explain what they understand by that.

The only thing they know about investments is buying land. Because their fathers told them so. Because during their grandfather’s time, that type of advice worked well. More often than not, they are wrong, they are unsure and they need help. And that is where Florence Bett comes in with her books, Should I? and How Much

Explained in an easy to understand manner; in a question and answer format, you are likely to find many of your questions, on investment, in this book. Your eyes will be opened and you will see the light. You will, in effect, break free and as Florence says; “your money will start working for you.”

In Should I?, Bett teaches about budgeting, how to avoid being broke before your next pay day, where to start your investment journey, how to handle love, sex and money. She also addresses the topic of Saccos; what they are and how they work. Also addressed in the book, is the question on why you should consider saving in a money market fund instead of a bank.

Other areas include whether or not you should buy a car, what you need to know about bonds, what you need to know about starting a side hustle, among many other issues.  She breaks it down into palatable portions and when you finally put the book down, the cobwebs will be removed from yours.  The beauty about her style of writing is in the way you can put yourself into the scenarios she describes and the simplicity of the steps she encourages the reader to take.

In her second book, How Much, the reader can reap from her experience as a personal finance columnist, a business owner, a certified accountant and former financial auditor. In this book, she explores the murky waters of money and marriage, managing family finances and current issues with regards to making money, such as social media, agriculture, pyramid schemes, and recovering from loss. There is a high probability that if you have wondered about any nagging financial issue, Florence Bett has probably written about it. 

The humour in her tone also makes it easy to go through the books, thus making this an interesting if not fun experience.

The books are highly recommended for young people fresh out of school and who don’t know where and how to start managing their finances. It also comes in handy for for employed people, who live pay check to pay check, as well as for people wondering on whether to start their business, to parents trying to educate and take care of their children

Above all, these are books for anyone who is seeking financial freedom.

The books are relatable, educative and beautifully written.

Moraa is a young woman navigating life. Author of Beautiful Mess… Co Author of Dreams and Demons and I’m Listening 2021 edition. She is also the winner of Kendeka Prize of African Literature-2022. She can be found with a book or two. When she’s not fighting to stay afloat, she is daydreaming, writing poetry or reading.

Books Issues Non-Fiction Reviews Short Stories

The emotions expressed are too raw and life-changing


AUTHOR: Joan Thatiah

REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

AVAILABILITY: Nuria Bookstore

After Confessions of Nairobi Women book 1 and 2, Confessions of Nairobi Men is a breath of fresh air. Finally, we are getting something from the men who are always closed up, afraid to let the world see where it hurts. Afraid to share what happened.

Joan Thatiah has not disappointed with this one.

Confessions of Nairobi Men is a collection of 15 short stories that tell the stories of 15 men. From men who give everything and still get their hearts broken, men whose dreams were killed before they even had a chance take flight, men who have been humiliated so badly, they break at the slightest trigger; to men who search for their identity in the cracks between time and in the faces of the strangers they meet, Joan brings it all out in the painful yet graceful strokes of her pen.

From this book we learn that all men have a story.  They may wear their manhood like armour but deep down they are looking for home; for a safe space to rest their tired wings and the least we can do is to be kind as they figure this out. Reading this collection was as eye-opening as it emotionally wrenching. It is a gift, getting to read and experience these lives who come alive in these pages and whose stories will always remain etched in our minds.

If you are easily triggered, this may not be the book for you. The emotions expressed are too raw and life-changing. If you decide to pick this read, do so with caution because the humane way Thatiah picks up these stories and puts them together is so heartbreakingly beautiful and it may send you over the edge.

Books Fiction Issues Reviews

A walk into the dark side of power and wealth

TITLE: Old Money

AUTHOR: Charles Chanchori

PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press

REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

Old Money by Charles Chanchori slowly brings you in, wraps its hands on your throat, grips you and does not let you go until the end where it lets you down slowly, heaving and coughing as you try to crawl back into its pages but it is sadly… the end.

                The story revolves around Rita the billionaire matriarch of the Mugambi family. She has made it her life’s goal to run her family the same way her heart runs… like a business; without emotions and with an eye on the profits.  People tremble at the mere mention of her name and scamper to perform her demands. She has everyone at her palm, the rest in her pocket. Her sons. Her husband. Politicians. The police.

                Her husband attempts to get away from her only to realise that you never get away from Rita Mugambi. Her sons, Zain and Bahati, in a bid to seek freedom, also realise just how hard it is to get away from the mother. Because once Rita has sunk her claws into your skin, you will have to crawl far and even bleed before she can let go.

                The characters are well developed with the author able to garner support and empathy for all his characters. As much as you try to hate the main antagonist, you can still understand her, respect her and even empathize with her.  The writer also helps you see how the extremely rich in Nairobi live as well as how the poorest in the slums survive.

                Set in the city of Nairobi, the book aptly captures the country we live in. Where who you know matters and where mnyonge hana haki. Where police brutality is rampant and where power reigns supreme with humanity taking a backseat. Different themes such as politics, ambition, power of the internet and social media, corruption, justice and power are explored.

                If you are looking for an easy but well-crafted read, then this is just the book for you. The emotions are well balanced so you are still able to walk away without feeling like your soul just got darker.

Moraa is a young woman navigating life. Author of Beautiful Mess… Co Author of Dreams and Demons, I’m Listening 2021 edition and This Heart of Mine. She is also the winner of Kendeka Prize of African Literature-2022. She can be found with a book or two. When she’s not fighting to stay afloat, she is daydreaming, writing poetry or reading.

Books Issues Non-Fiction Releases Reviews

These harrowing tales will make you a better person

TITLE: Confessions of Nairobi Women Book Two

AUTHOR: Joan Thatiah

REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

There’s something about secrets and confessions that makes everyone’s ears perk up, listen a little harder and be more curious. That is what Joan Thatiah’s books do. They make you crave what is inside the pages. They make you pay attention

 Confessions of Nairobi Women Book Two is a sequel to the first series. It contains twelve, raw, painful but brilliantly written stories. They are also page turners. You just can’t stop reading; every story just keeps you yearning for a little bit more.

As harrowing as the tales are, in the end, they are worth it because they leave you looking at the world differently; Looking at the women you meet in different situations with kinder eyes. They are a harsh reminder of the adage, ‘walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you dare to judge’

From a woman who tried so hard not to be like her mother only to end up realising the path her mother chose was the best, to a lawyer whose life was destroyed in car jack; the stories leave you trembling with horror. Because they are just ordinary women who you wouldn’t look at twice if you met them. You would actually think they are pretty well off and have no reason to complain. From the horrors of addiction, prostitution, FGM, crime, and many more; there is no dark place the writer has shied away from.

These stories deserve to be here. If you come across this book, pick it up, immerse yourself in it. When you bring your head up for air, you will be a changed person, I hope a better and kinder person too.

And that is what books are meant to do. Make us better.

This book comes highly recommended.

Books Non-Fiction Personalities Reviews

No grace: the shameful exit of Robert Mugabe

TITLE: The Graceless Fall of Robert Mugabe

AUTHOR: Geoffrey Nyarota


REVIEWER: Scholastica Moraa

Like most people, I have always wondered what happened to Zimbabwe.  What led to one man holding on to power for so long? I have always wondered if there wasn’t a better person to lead Zimbabwe.  Through Geoffrey Nyarota’s book many of these questions are answered and so much more is revealed.

Non-fictional books tend to be boring but not this one. Nyarota’s flawless style of writing makes sure of that. Books that cover political situations tend to be skewed towards one side but Nyarota goes through this narration objectively with his ideas supported with facts and on occasions where he is not sure, or does not have hard evidence, he lets the reader know that.

‘The Graceless Fall of Mugabe’ follows the journey of one man; Robert Mugabe and how he led to the fall of a once prosperous nation, Africa’s Jewel, as described by the late Julius Nyerere.  Robert Mugabe inherited a really healthy economy, compared to what Tanzania and other countries, like Mozambique, got. He however, diverted funds, meant for development, to personal use.

Mugabe, according the book, used violence to stay in power, as evidenced by the assassinations of his opponents. Joshua Nkomo, Edgar Tekere, Morgan Tsvangirai are just a few of the people he successfully subdued for having divergent opinions. In the Gakuruhundi massacres, thousands of Ndebele civilians, who didn’t support him, died forcing Joshua Nkomo to sign an agreement with Mugabe, to stop the killings.

In operation Murambatsvina, thousands of urban families that didn’t support him were displaced in a bid to weaken Morgan Tsvangirai, leading to mass unemployment. A miscalculated land program to kick out the whites, left huge tracts of land in the hands of corrupt politicians and unskilled farmers, who didn’t have the technological know-how nor the financial means to run the farms, thus leading to a hungry nation depending on UN handouts.

Drastic steps taken by the military under the leadership of General Chiwenga was the reason Zimbabwe was able to wrestle power back from the Mugabes. The jubilation in Zimbabwe was clear evidence of how tired the citizens were and the relief they experienced after Mugabe’s exit. However, the question of whether the new leadership will do better still stands to be answered.

This book captures the situation in many African countries, where presidents and other leaders misuse funds meant for the welfare of their people, advocate for policies that lead to the oppression of their people and generally lead to destitution of African countries.

The land invasions in Zimbabwe brought about painful sanctions, that paralysed the country’s economy and rendered the Zim Dollar useless, to date. Recently, Kenya witnessed something close to what happened in Zim, when paid goons invaded the expansive Northlands Farm belonging to the family of retired president Uhuru Kenyatta. It would appear that some lessons are hard to learn.  

Nyarota’s book offers excellent examples for ‘misgovernance’ and comes highly recommended.

Books Non-Fiction Personalities Reviews

The enchanting story of the late Yusuf Dawood

Title: Nothing But the Truth

Author: Yusuf K Dawood

Publisher: East African Educational Publishers

Reviewer: Scholastica Moraa

I started reading this book enthusiastically; with a desire to know the man behind the thrilling Surgeon’s Diary in the Sunday Nation newspaper. The book did not disappoint and since the beginning I have read on, feverishly flipping the pages. Excited to see what is on the next page and the next.

Yusuf Dawood uses just the right amount of words, in just the right way to express himself. The humour in some of his stories found me laughing out aloud. It is really magical learning about this great man and where he has been, what he has done, why he is the way he is. From Bantwa, to Miraj, to Britain to beloved Kenya, I followed his story and marvelled at his growth and experiences. I mourned the death of his mother, I froze with him in Britain, I happily met and loved Marie, I went with him in Karachi. I held the scalpel with him too.

The surgeon has wielded the pen so beautiful that a reader steps in his shoes, you meet his patients, you feel his emotions, you step into theatre rooms with him. But the other astounding bit, is the amount of history the book holds. And all from the eyes of a man who experienced it first-hand. He tells his readers about the separation of Pakistan from India, the evolution of medical practice, the growth of Kenya from independence, the evolution of Nairobi, the infrastructure too.

Through his book, a reader is able to comprehend the kind of man the doctor was. Through his life we learn about the importance of family, of values and how far love can take someone.  This book is a gift to anyone. And for an autobiography, it is a thrilling one at that.  We read about great men so we can learn that it is possible to be one. And through them we learn that real life stories are sometimes better than fiction. A thoroughly enjoyable and unputdownable read.

Books Fiction Reviews

The People of Ostrich Mountain

Title: The People of Ostrich Mountain

Author: Ndirangu Githaiga

Reviewer: Scholastica Moraa

Some stories leave after you read them, but some stay long after the last page. This was one such book. It lingers on like a fond memory. ‘The People of Ostrich Mountain’ tells the story of Wambui during the colonial period and as Kenya gained independence, her life in Alliance Girls High School, love for numbers, friendship with a British teacher Eileen Atwood and the lives of her children. Spanning decades, Ndirangu tells the story in a beautifully and simply written style that would be appealing to so many readers. From the foot of Mount Kenya, to Alliance Girls, to Nairobi and the streets of Chicago, the story grips you and never wants to let go.

 It tells the story of mathematically talented Wambui, who has to grapple between different choices on a quest to give her family the best. The choices she has to make between her dreams and her love for her family. Her children, Muthoni and Ray, flourish abroad with Ray contending with different odds to become a medical doctor abroad. Ndirangu’s profession as a physician may be the reason behind a really enlightening exploration on the tribulations of a medical student both in Kenya and abroad.

The book also explores the life of Eileen Atwood, whose belief that her destiny lied in Kenya led her to live in the country for forty years shaping the lives of hundreds of girls in Alliance. Although the story is fiction, one cannot help but connect with the various characters in the story. The feeling of belonging, the struggle for independence, finding of one’s purpose, struggles with immigration, ruthless use of power, are but some of the issues we all deal with on a daily basis.

Apart from the desire to want the story to be fleshed out a bit, which may be just be a need from a thirsty reader, ‘The People of Ostrich Mountain’ is a beautiful read that I’d recommend to anyone looking for something African, relatable, beautiful and unputdownable.

Books Non-Fiction Reviews

Who hurt you?

Title: Confessions of Nairobi Women

Author: Joan Thatiah

Reviewer: Scholastica Moraa

I will be lying if the catchy title did not light in me the desire to read this book. Confessions… secrets … scandals have always held an appeal to everyone. Joan Thatiah did not disappoint. The fact that the stories are true makes the experience otherworldly. I love the fact that Joan was asking the question so many people want to be asked.. who hurt you? What are you afraid of? When did things start going south? what pain are you trying to hide behind that smile?

Joan Thatiah steps into the shoes of these women and takes us with her. She dunks us in the lives of these women and their fear and pain seeps into our souls too. The stories are written in a simple yet beautiful style and are ideal for people looking for easy yet appealing reads.

We meet Atemi whose husband is infertile but asks too much from her. In another we meet a woman whose father broke her mother and who is afraid of becoming her mother. We meet a girl whose father took advantage of her and turned her into who she is now- a beautiful woman bleeding on the inside.

We also meet a pregnant teenager who clawed her way to where she is now but whose demons cling to her skirts and just can’t let her go. We meet women who have undergone violence and are still piecing their pieces together. We meet conwomen and prostitutes.  Businesswomen and wives. Mothers and daughters. Reflections of who we are. Of what we go through. A mirror of what the society has done to women.

The book is a candid reflection of what most women go through, why they make the decisions they do and how they feel about them. Most people make decisions based on their experiences or the experiences of their loved ones…

Reading these stories, I would really love to say I don’t know these women. That these stories are not real. But how can I when I know tens of women exactly like these ones? How can I when they are my friends? How can I pretend that their stories are not real when their demons cling to my soul?

This is a beautiful read. Not just to women who make the largest percentage of Joan Thatiah’s readers but to everyone who can read. Because through pieces like this… we understand.  And maybe if we all understand, we will be kinder. We will leave our judgemental stuff by the door when we meet other people.

Totally unputdownable. Met and exceeded expectations. Would highly recommend any day.

Moraa is a young woman navigating life. Author of Beautiful Mess… Co Author of Dreams and Demons and I’m Listening 2021 edition. She is also the winner of Kendeka Prize of African Literature-2022. She can be found with a book or two. When she’s not fighting to stay afloat, she is daydreaming, writing poetry or reading.

Books Culture Non-Fiction Personalities Reviews

The making of a phenomenal black woman

Title: Finding Me

Author: Viola Davis

Publisher: HarperCollins

Reviewer: Scholastica Moraa

Viola Davis. The woman who set our screens on fire with her act in ‘The Woman King’. Picking this book was a search for who she is, for who she became; for the intricate pieces of what makes this phenomenal black woman.

Finding Me is a biography of one woman’s search for who she is. That eight-year-old girl, who kept running until she decided to run no more. Without holding anything back she shows us her family, in all its ugly, delicate and awfully beautiful edges. I fell in love with MaMama – her mother ‘with the -and stuff like that in tha’.

I honestly think no words can bring out the rawness with which Viola Davis brought out her story.  She fought so many demons her pain and shame are palpable. For people who cry easily, this can make you cry. Her violent father, the utter poverty… the struggle. But then these kids dreamt their pain away.

Viola Davis’ story is not the typical caterpillar that morphed into a butterfly. But rather a butterfly that never really knew how beautiful it was.

From a crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, this little girl clawed her way to the stage in New York City and beyond. From a girl struggling with bedwetting, running from bullies and being totally unrecognised, Viola has risen to become a household name. A woman we look up to. Someone black girls want to be. It is raw how she says that people did not expect someone who looked like her to take leading roles… but she did and excelled at it. Once she stopped running, once she went down on her knees, her prayers were answered. Some took longer than she expected; but they were answered.

Anyone would have understood if she had given up. But this woman did not. She rose to win several awards including an Oscar and graced our screens with her talent. An inspiration to any little girl who dares to dream. That it doesn’t matter where you start from. It doesn’t matter the odds stacked against you. You will get where you need to.

I totally recommend this read. A million times.

Moraa is a young woman navigating life. Author of Beautiful Mess… Co Author of Dreams and Demons and I’m Listening 2021 edition. She is also the winner of Kendeka Prize of African Literature-2022. She can be found with a book or two. When she’s not fighting to stay afloat, she is daydreaming, writing poetry or reading.