Reader’s Nook: Diana Gitau

 Kerry’s Note: This week  in the Reader’s Nook,  I am glad to be hosting fellow  Book blogger, Diana Gitau of A Haven for Book Lovers.  I came across her blog on my WordPress feed when I was searching for consistent Kenyan  book bloggers.  Let us get to know Diana.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your reading habits/ reading journey.

black-and-whiteI am Diana Gitau, a Kenyan bookworm. I have been reading ever since I was a kid. My first books were the LadyBird  fairytales series. My parents bought me all the books from Cinderella to Snow White and I read and reread each one of them. I started ready the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley series in my early teens. However, the most memorable first novel that I read was The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. I was only 13 years old but that book is what got me started on reading novels.

Which books are you currently reading?

I read Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) mostly. These are books that I receive from publishers for review purposes. The last book that I finished reading last night was Dark Water by Robert Bryndza. It will be published on October 20th. I just started reading The Killing Game by J. S Carol after which I will read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah which is set for release on 21 November  2016.

Which books have been on TBR (to be read) pile for over one year?

I have quite a number of books that I have had for so long. My bookshelf has about a hundred books that I have not yet read. I tend to read more ARCs than my own books hence the overflowing TBR. Here is a list of some of the books that I have:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon), 
The Choice (Nicholas Sparks)
Twenties Girl (Sophie Kinsella)
Lucky  (Alice Sebold)
Atonement (Ian McEwan)
Five Days (Douglas Kennedy)
The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
Dust (Yvonne A. Owuor)
When It Happens (Susan Colasanti)
Looking for JJ  (Ann Cassidy)

As a bibliophile, how do you deal with reading FOMO?

I am not dealing with this very well. Currently my TBR is out of control while my NetGalley shelf has 15 books for review which all these have deadlines. Sometimes the pressure gets to be too much especially with the ARCs and we can’t forget the Book Club picks too. I have tried to ban myself from buying new books and requesting for ARCs but I have a serious addiction for books.

Which book do you read at least once a year?

I don’t usually re-read books but I have a daily devotion called Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach that I have been reading each year since 2012.

What are your thoughts on Goodreads?

I love Goodreads. Whenever I get a new book, I usually rush to the site to read the book’s reviews. However, I still need to learn more about how to use the site, especially as a reviewer. I don’t have many friends on the site and I am yet to participate in any group reads. I took the Goodreads reading challenge this year though. My target was to read 50 books by the end of the year but I am currently at 92 books. I also participate in Top 5 Wednesday but still, I really need to learn how to use the site more.

Hard copy vs e-book vs audiobook?

I have never listed to an audiobook. I do like both e-readers and hardcopies so that’s a tough choice. E-Readers are convenient in many ways. For instance; it is easy to check the meaning of words while reading the book. It is also easy to read at night whether in bed or while travelling. Nothing beats the smell of old or new hard copy books, though.

How has reading influenced your journey as a writer?

As a book blogger, I have to read and write reviews. This has helped me learn how to express my feelings about books and also know how to balance my reviews. I used to write short stories and I do believe that my love for books is what helps enhance my creativity.sho_hatakeyama_unsplash_bmarkham

Please tell us about your book blog A Haven for Book Lovers?

I have been blogging on and off since 2012. Initially, my blog was called Voices in my Head and I used to share personal updates and fictional short stories.  The blog wasn’t doing so well and by December 2016, I had only 43 followers. However, I soon discovered the book blogging community and my blogging changed. I started reading more and posting more reviews and interacting with the community. It is then that I decided to change the name of my blog to A Haven for Book Lovers and turn the blog into a book blog. The blog has been a blessing. I have met readers all over the world and ended up making some great friends. I have also interacted with authors such as Lola Shoneyin, Maria Padian, Mary J. Riley and Robert Bryndza who have given me feedback on the reviews I wrote for their books. I still get shocked when authors contact me asking if I’d like to read their books for review. The blog also led me to the world of ARCs so now I get new releases months before publication date. It still feels surreal.

A Haven for Book Lovers now has 632 followers (yeah from 41 followers in January) and averages at about 150 views daily. Being a book blogger has been one of the highlights of my year.

Do you have any tips for acquiring books (buying or borrowing)?

If you are a book blogger and you want to get ARCs for review then I suggest that you join the sites for reviews like NetGalley and Edelweiss. You will get access to books from all over the world but you have to read and review them. You can also opt to borrow books directly from publishers by emailing them.

If you are an ardent reader and you want to add more books to your shelf then I suggest that you make use of Inama Bookshops. These are the street vendors in Nairobi (I have heard that they are in other towns too). I have gotten a number of gems from these vendors including new books. They are quite affordable too.

I also borrow books from the library at my place of work so if you have access to a library then definitely make use of it.

If you want to borrow books from friends then please take care of them (I’m talking about the books) and give them back.

Is there a book (or books) that you are constantly referring to or that you have gifted your friends or family over and over again?

Interestingly, I have gifted a number of friends and family members, The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma. I have never read the book since it is not a genre that I read but it is so widely acclaimed so I always get it for others especially if they like motivational books. Luckily, my workplace has a bookshop that always has a copy in stock so it is easy to get it.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article on “The Classic Books that You haven’t read” in which people confessed which famous books they have not read. So confession time: which famous book haven’t you read?

There are so many. I don’t read classics as much as I’d like to. For instance, I have never read any of the Jane Austen books (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion). I have also not read any books by George Orwell (Animal Farm and 1984) and I am reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for the first time. I definitely need to read more classics.

What is your definition of being “well-read”?

Anyone who has gained knowledge from reading a lot. It could be any form of literature and in any genre. Knowledge is not just about acquisition skills but also mastery of language use.

Please share your favourite quote from one of your favourite books.

This is not really from my favourite book but it is one of my favourite quotes.

There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa — and as many books about it as you could read in a leisurely lifetime. Whoever writes a new one can afford certain complacency in the knowledge that his is a new picture agreeing with no one else’s, but likely to be haughtily disagreed with by all those who believed in some other Africa. … Being thus all things to all authors, it follows, I suppose, that Africa must be all things to all readers.

Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist’s Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just ‘home.
Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Any more questions for Diana?

Photo Credits: Unsplash

Readers’ Nook: Dora Okeyo

Kerry’s Note: I  am so excited to launch the Readers’ Nook Interview Series. This  has been on my mind  since the beginning of the year and I didn’t want to flip another calendar  page without getting to know my favourite  bookish people  from the internet. Since most of them, have  crazy, busy (and I am sure fulfilling) lives,  I wanted to get give my readers an opportunity to have  bookish coffee date of sorts with  bookish people.  In case you would like to  be featured in this series, please reach out .  

Dora Okeyo, a budding Kenyan author, blogger and bibliophile. Dora loves coffee, cake and all things books. She is the author of The Currents Series. You can keep up with her via  her blog, Nilichoandika or check out her books on Amazon but first  lets get to know her a bit better…Dora Okeyo

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your reading habits/ reading journey.

Jambo! I’m Dora and I love me some good story, so be it print or eBook, I’m going to read it. I always carry a book with me so as to read a chapter or two during my work break, but sometimes I find myself reading even while traveling to work. I’m yet to venture into sci-fi and read more books in that genre, but romance is always a pleasure, like a serving of chocolate cake and coffee.

 Which books are you currently in your handbag or backpack?

A Passage to India” by E. M. Forster and “Anthills of the Savannah” by Chinua Achebe


Which books have been on TBR (to be read) pile for over one year?

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, I am still stuck on page 117, I tell you.

Which movie screenplay did you prefer over the book?

Does the Harry Potter series count? The directors did a wonderful job, you can read and watch the movies without whining.

Which book do you read at least once a year?

Book?  I’d say books, and they are both by Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead”.

Goodreads- yeah or nah?

Definitely yeah-just don’t read the reviews before you read the book, someone else’s one star rating might be your four star rating.

What is your earliest book-related memory?

When I was nine years old, I found myself drawn to my mom’s bookshelf, before she would tell us folk tales and Luo proverbs,but when I picked All’s Well Ends Well by Shakespeare, she encouraged me to read story books and pick it up from there.

How has reading influenced your journey as a writer?

It has been very influential because in reading you understand the flow of a story and as a writer that matters. A story cannot be everywhere,it starts from somewhere and the progression is what would enable a reader to stick with you from page one to the last page. The other thing I’ve  learned from reading is that not everyone will love my book. The same book can be loved by one reader and disliked by another, I have no control over the opinions and experiences the reader brings to my book.

Please tell us about your book series?

The Currents Series419OY5W4jgL is a four part story. It is derived from the elements of nature and as such the books titles are: Fire, Water, Wind and Earth. With a Swahili theme evident in the characters names, it depicts a kingdom in East Africa, and the journey of a prince into leadership. It also has a drunk who spews more truth than the Seer and has a thing or two for wine, groundnuts and women.

Do you have any tips for acquiring books (buying or borrowing)?

Buy and borrow books, for when you buy you are responsible for the title you choose. It’s like picking one or two books that stand out among a pile of so many. It helps you refine your preferences. As for borrowing, you can enlist as a member of the Kenya National Library Services and get to borrow two books for two weeks at forty shillings, it is cheaper than buying and would expose you to various writers.


Is there a book (or books) that you are constantly referring to or that you have gifted your friends or family over and over again?

Any book by Chinua Achebe is a must have the way I see it. I often recommend to Christian friends, to definitely read the Bible, not as just a Holy book but as a story book, there are some stories there that are intriguing.

If you were to host a book club or articles club who would you invite and why?

I would definitely invite my friends who love books! I’d  also bring in a few who don’t take to reading and bounce a few chapters off of them. This way I’d have the fans and critics in one place, and consider it a little social experiment on reading blind.

What is your definition of being “well-read”?

I am at a loss with this, because have you come across the list of articles that always have the masterpieces? Like a hundred books every book lover should read and you realise you have read only one yet on good reads you’ve accumulated over five hundred books and suddenly you freeze, “what have I been reading?” So, being well read is having experienced the journeys of various books that have held their ground through time, and drawn insights from them. Does that sound bookish? 😂

Please share your favourite quote from one of your favourite books.

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark. In the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all, do not let the hero in your soul perish and leave only frustration for the life you deserved, but never have been able to reach. The world you desire can be won, it exists…it is real…it is is yours. 

-Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Have any questions  for Dora? Please engage with her below.





5 Important Work-Life Lessons You Need to Know from Les Miserables

Reading has become a chore in our digital age. We want information broken down into Instagram feeds or at the very least 140 characters.  However, I discovered the beauty of reading. Forget skimming through the dailies or watching E! to see what Lupita Nyong’o wore to the Met Gala. I mean relaxing on your favourite couch with a nice cup of tea while you get engrossed in the story.

I know the word “classics” brings to mind, dusty old books that would fall apart with the slightest turn of a page and the Shakespeare English does not help the situation.  Les Miserables has changed my perceptions   of classics.  Just to bring you up to speed, the story centres on the life of Jean Valjean who is released after being incarcerated for 19 years. He breaks parole and begins a new life as Monsieur Madeline but his former prison warden Javert makes it his life mission to hunt down and bring him to book.  Victor Hugo weaves in the life of single working mother Fauntine, who tries to support her daughter, Cosette whom she left under the care of the greedy Thenardiers.


After watching its 2012 movie adaptation, I am convinced this story has a wealth of lessons not only for literature geeks, but also for the Career Girl:

  • It is important to have someone in your corner: In the story, Bishop Myriel prevents Jean Valjean’s arrest after stealing his silver candlesticks because he believes in giving people second chances. Valjean uses this chance to make a fresh start and eventually becomes town mayor!

Find someone who will empower you to reach the next level. Let’s demystify these three terms. Mentors focus on the continuous development of a person. Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In emphasises on building natural and mutually beneficial relationships.  Coaches provide short term interventions to achieve a desired goal. For instance, losing weight or achieving work-life balance. These days, there are coaches for hire. Sponsors are people who use their power for the benefit of their protégées. Normally, a sponsor would reach out to a Career Girl that reminds her of her younger self.  But do not be afraid to approach someone with the potential to propel your career in the right direction.

  • Have a voice of reason. Enjorlas was there to show Marius that he needed to have realistic goals especially after discovering that he was in love with Cossette. Every Career Girl needs a friend who will give her a (friendly) smack down when she is not staying on the straight and narrow. This friend will provide her honest opinion with your best interest at heart. Here, I am not talking about those frenemies, but discovering rather someone in your circle of trusted friends who can keep you accountable.
  • It is important to forgive yourself: Through the years, Valjean tries to move on under various aliases but he is haunted by the ghosts of his past.

Do not let your past define your future. Career Girls can make mistakes even when they have the best intentions. However, we need to need separate ourselves from our actions and remedy the bad situation. Otherwise, we will always suffer from the Imposter Syndrome. You know, feeling like a phony and that you will be exposed despite actually being intelligent and highly successful. Isaiah Hankel, author of Black Hole Focus offers some remedies.

  • He’s just not that into you: There’s nothing as painful as unrequited love. From poor Eponine, I learnt that there is no need to stay glued to someone who does not add value to your life. In an article, Jason Womack provides tips on when to fire your mentor. I have encouraged you to get someone in your corner, sometimes relationships do not work out. There is nothing wrong with that. That person may have been in your life to help you go through a particular phase. So move on.
  • What are your values? Let’s also look at the Thenardiers. They milked Fauntine dry while mistreating her daughter Cossette.  A few years down the line, the tables are turned and they end up as common thieves while Cosette finds a father-figure in Valjean and marries the man of her dreams.

 “The accounts of these universe are probably well kept; everything finds its place in the long run” -C.S. Lewis

Be careful not to burn bridges and always treat people fairly regardless of their social status.  You never know whether the girl you bullied in high school will become your boss in future and have her revenge.

Editor’s note: Originally published on Career Girl Network

Photo credit: Goodreads