Friday, June 23, 2017

Rant Review: Looking for Group - Rory Harrison


Title: Looking for Group
Author: Rory Harrison
Publisher: HarperTeen (2017)

Dylan doesn’t have a lot of experience with comfort. His room in the falling-down Village Estates can generously be categorized as squalid, and he sure isn’t getting any love from his mother, who seemed to—no, definitely did—enjoy the perks that went along with being the parent of a “cancer kid.” 
His only escape has been in the form of his favorite video game—World of Warcraft—and the one true friend who makes him feel understood, even if it is just online: Arden. And now that Dylan is suddenly in remission, he wants to take Arden on a real mission, one he never thought he’d live to set out on: a journey to a mysterious ship in the middle of the Salton Sea. 
But Arden is fighting her own battles, ones that Dylan can’t always help her win. As they navigate their way west, they grapple with Arden's father (who refuses to recognize his daughter’s true gender), Dylan’s addiction, and the messy, complicated romance fighting so hard to blossom through the cracks of their battle-hardened hearts.

I was so excited for this book. It was supposed to tick all the boxes.

World of Warcraft!
LBGTQ representation!
Road trip!
Geekiness!

However, what I expected and what I read were vastly different things. Sure, there were all the WoW references by little gamer heart could desire, but that was about where the enjoyment stopped.

There was absolutely no fucking plot. None. Sure, the two protags had issues, but this does not a novel make. I felt like most of the time I was meandering around the confused mind of a teenager without a roadmap.

And, I am sorry, but the likelihood that a gay teen who has come to terms with his sexuality falling in love with a transgender female is pretty damn unlikely. Arden, for all intents and purposes, is a girl. Dylan feeling romantic feelings towards her is kinda like a giant middle finger in the face of her transition. It basically means he loves the boy parts about her and not the girl parts. This is pretty much how I see it anyway. And that is just plain unhealthy and also not something I think should be seen as an example of LBGTQ life. No. Just no.

I could be reading too much into it, but this is my opinion and I am sticking to it.

Plus, if a random boy rocked up at my house that I had only known online, I would probably call the cops. Not invite him him in for a stroll in Azeroth on WoW. Dylan just shows up and Arden is only mildly freaked for like three seconds.

I skimmed a lot of this. I was bored. I wondered when interesting things were going to happen. I got angry. I got bored. I got angrier.

This was also super John Green- like. Enough with the cancer sub-plot already. Enough with super special characters who are all sparkly, misunderstood snowflakes. I want realistic teens. I am not this old biddy who doesn't remember what those years were like.

Anyway, go read this if you want. If you like John Green, then you will probably enjoy this.

Review: Objects in Mirror - Tudor Robins


Title: Objects in Mirror (Stonegate Series #1)
Author: Tudor Robins
Self-published

Starving, starving... Grace is always starving these days. 
But Grace is also strong, and determined, and skinny. For the first time ever Grace is as thin as she wants to be – nearly – and there’s no way she’s giving that up. 
Except, what if she has to give up other things to be able to keep wearing her new “skinny” breeches? 
What if it comes down to a choice between all the horses she loves – Sprite, the ferocious jumper, and Iowa, the sweet greenie, and Whinny, the abused but tough mare – and the numbers on the scale, the numbers on food labels, the numbers always running through her head? 
Grace knows what her stepmother, Annabelle, wants her to decide. She knows what Matt – gorgeous, amazing Matt – wants her to do. She knows what the doctors think. 
But she also knows nobody else can make this decision for her. And sometimes she’s not even sure if she’s got the strength to do it. 
There is danger in living with anorexia, and there is also hope. Objects in Mirror is a truthful exploration of these extremes and of the struggles that lie between them.

When  I saw this book on promotion, I decided to grab a copy. It has been such a long time since I had read a horse book, I figured this one would be a great trip down nostalgia lane. To put this in context for those who don't know me, I am pretty horse obsessed and read all the horse books as a kid. Especially Saddle Club and the Thoroughbred series. To say I am familiar with the genre is an understatement.

But, I don't want you guys to think this book is only for horse-crazy types. Objects in Mirror is a poignant journey of a teenager and her battle with an eating disorder. I feel that this is something that isn't touched on too often and, when it is, it isn't approached in a realistic way.

I also loved that Grace was not this perfect wunderkind. Yes, she had a great relationship with Sprite, but I have known horses who prefer to have only one person ride them.

It was a fast-paced, easy read that I can highly recommend. I have not read too many self-published books as this is a new foray for me, but I was impressed with the quality of writing and overall formatting. This sounds like a stupid thing to mention, but there is a lot of crap out there.

If you are looking for a good read for your teenage daughter, this is a good bet. If you are wanting a solid book that deals with real issues without it being this super dramatic thing that is magically cured by love, pick this.

You can grab a copy off Amazon for your Kindle for less than $5 and there is a follow up in the works.


Friday, June 9, 2017

TBR Top 5: Big Books Edition


TBR Top 5 is a new feature I am going to try and do every Thursday. I have a pretty huge TBR pile and I thought to highlight some of these books and chat about them will help me get to them quicker than I have been doing. In theory, anyway. Plus, I really suck at sticking to monthly TBR shortlists, so at least I get to chat about books I am excited to read without breaking any promises to myself.

This week, I will be looking at the giants in the pile. Those books that are actually kind of intimidating because they are so big, but I want to get to anyway.



1. A Court of Mist and Fury / A Court of Wings and Ruin (Sarah J Maas)

The next two books in this series are huge, guys. Seriously, intimidatingly big. Probably the main reason why I haven't leaped on them like a hyena at a feeding frenzy.

If you don't know this series yet, get out from under your rock. It's pretty much the top fantasy read in YA at the moment. What started out as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast has become an epic, unique story with awesome characters.



2. Diviners / Lair of Dreams (Libba Bray)

This is a series set in 1920's America. The age of the American Dream. I absolutely love the setting and have read half of book one. Life got in the way, but I do plan to pick them up again very soon.

They are also super cheap at Reader's Warehouse. Going for just R69 each. They have both titles in stock.

Book three is also on the way at some point soon!


3. Passenger / Wayfarer (Alexandra Bracken)

These two make up a complete duology with time travel, romance, and mystery.

I confess that I did get them based on the covers alone, although they have gotten some mixed reviews on Goodreads.

I look forward to tucking into them soon, though!


4.Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)

This is the first in Brandon Sanderson's epic 10 book series. It weighs in at over 900 pages and I am so glad I have the smaller US edition, which is more compact in size than the UK version.

I am honestly not sure when I will read this, but it is on the TBR regardless. It's part of my mission to read through some of the best fantasy books as recommended by Buzzfeed.



5. Lady Midnight / Lord of Shadows (Cassandra Clare)

Cassandra Clare. In spite of her basically drowning in controversy, I really do want to read all her books. I have started with her steampunky series and am quite liking it so far.

These two are part of her latest series offering and reviews seem very positive. Many saying that her writing has seriously improved.

I am really excited to pick these up after I have finished up Mortal Instruments. And, as a side note, I will not watch the TV show. So don't even ask. It looks cheesy and awful.

What big books do you guys have lined up to read?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Hushed by Joanne Macgregor


Title: Hushed
Author: Joanne Macgregor
Publisher: Self-published (April 2017)

Would you sacrifice your voice for love? 
18-year-old Romy Morgan desperately longs to escape the boring confines of home, and explore the world. 
When she saves her celebrity crush, superstar Logan Rush, from drowning, Romy is offered a job as his personal assistant. She strikes a deal to reinvent herself in exchange for entering the exciting world of the movies, and love sparks between her and this prince of Hollywood. But Romy soon discovers that she has traded her voice and identity for an illusion of freedom. 
When Romy discovers a dreadful secret with the power to destroy Logan, she must choose between love, vengeance and finding her own, true element.
I was fortunate enough to receive a physical copy of Hushed for review. Thank you so much, Joanne Macgregor!

Hushed is a fun, modernisation of The Little Mermaid. It is set in Cape Town and I really love that. There are far too few YA books set in South Africa.

I literally cruised through this one in two days. I found the story and characters captivating and authentic. I also really loved Logan and how the author deals with the stresses of being famous. I felt it was probably what a lot of young celebs go through, especially having the pressures of maintaining a public appearance and the assumption that your fans know who you are as a person.

This book has some good themes which feature quite strongly. Such as self-identity and having the courage to follow your own path.

Romy is a fantastic character, too. She is not a special snowflake and has family pressures I am sure most teens can relate to. She is strong with her head screwed on properly. I also love that she is big into conservation!

In short, if you are tired of over-hyped YA contemporary with unrealistic characters, give this a try. You can grab the ebook off Amazon for less than $4 or, if you are local, find physical copies at Love Books in Melville.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Giveaway: Bad Seeds by Jassy Mackenzie



If you are a fan of Jassy Mackenzie's Jade de Jong books, then this is the giveaway for you!

I have one awesome US hardback edition that has been signed that needs a new home. :)

This title is not available in stores yet locally, so this is a great opportunity to get your very own copy before the rest!

About the Book
Johannesburg PI Jade de Jong has been hired by Ryan Gillespie, the charming security director at the Inkomfe Nuclear Research Center, to trace a missing employee, Carlos Botha, who vanished just days after an attempted break-in. But when Jade traces Botha to the quiet suburb of Randfontein, she discovers that he’s the target of a hit, and that she’s now in danger by association. It becomes clear that someone intends to use Inkomfe’s nuclear power to heinous ends, and Jade must figure out whether that someone is Botha.
Need more information on the book? Check out my review here!

How to Enter

Leave a comment below or tweet me @UrbanisedGeek naming one of the other Jade de Jong titles.

You must live in SA to enter.
I will cover the costs of postage for the winner.
Draw will take place on the 28th May 2017 via my impartial judge-rat, Vega.

Good luck!


5 Books Better than 13 Reasons Why


I am openly critical about the tv show ans book 13 Reasons Why and figured I might as well offer some constructive help here, too. It's all very well telling people that the show is bad, but to not offer alternatives is a little irresponsible on my behalf.

Of course kids need to talk about loss and grief. Of course they need to find media that is relatable and helps them understand complicated tragedies like suicide, rape and addiction.

I have put together 5 awesome books that deal with core issues in a responsible manner. These books really stand out for me as some of the best in the genre. Also, none of them are written by John Green.


1. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.
 
Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers. 
In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it. (From Goodreads)
The fact that the author actually experienced date rape herself makes this a credible and important read. It doesn't glamorize it for the sake of plot.


2. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank. (From Goodreads)
This is an awesome novel told in prose. It covers the struggles with addiction and identity. I really recommend this to any teen who has had exposure to drugs and even alcohol addiction.


3. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver's license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she's dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn't want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? (From Goodreads)
 This is an awesome, touching book that deals with themes of loss, grief and death. It shows a comforting view of the afterlife with an opportunity to learn and accept fate.


4. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. (From Goodreads)
I didn't like this book at first, but I realized it is actually pretty damn good as it really does deal with suicide and depression in a realistic way. Go read it instead of the offending book whose name I will not mention again. :P


5. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. (From Goodreads)
I adore this book. It left me with a major book hangover and weepy eyes. It's touching and has the best cast of characters. It's about family, sexual identity, loss and so much more. Just go and get a copy and thank me later after you have dried the tears.


Opinion: Are Literary Reviews Relevant In Today's Reading Landscape?

It is no secret that I am not a huge fan of literary reviews and will seldom chase after titles that critics have rated well with the upper echelons of literary critique.

He thinks you need more purple prose in your life.

There is this archaic misconception that only select books are considered "good literature". That reading anything other than these lauded titles means that one simply is not a real reader. This has irked me for years as I always felt that I was a reader! Readers, after all, read, do they not? It's in the name and everything.

It also said that reading these books is not supposed to be easy. That it should encourage thought and provide some mind-opening experience that will allow the reader to transcend the intellect of average mortals. "Read this!" critics proclaim. "Read this and have rainbows of superiority radiate from your nethers!"

Honestly, I feel that we live in the age of information. Where I can go from wanting a book to having its digital form on the device of my choosing in less than a minute. Where I have literally millions of books at my fingertips. Why would I want to slog through a book for the sake of literary snobbery? The world is hard enough, dammit. And yes, there is a place for difficult literature, but we need to shed the ridiculous ideals placed on the reading public.

I feel that these perceptions are damaging and, instead of promoting literacy and the love of reading, they can actually have the adverse effect. People should read for enjoyment and should have the liberty to pick books that appeal to them without their choices being frowned upon. Also, schools should have a look at their prescribed materials and determine if kids actually find these books fun to read. I know I would rather get papercuts than slog through Joseph Conrad's A Heart of Darkness, a book that was both mystifyingly short and long at the same time.

I have taken a look at a bestsellers list from 2016 and will highlight some of the results here for interest's sake.

The bestselling book of 2016 was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The reason for this is obvious. It's Harry Potter. It would sell even if it was the worst written book in history because the fans need more Harry. It clocked just under 1.5 million unit sales in the UK alone. This is hardly a literary masterpiece. The series has dominated best-seller charts for the past two decades because they are books that speak to the general public. There is a character everyone can relate to and fall in love with.

Hot on Harry's heels is The Girl on the Train, sales driven by the release of the film. I have read this book in one sitting. It is also far from being a literary work of art, but it has satisfying and addictive plot elements. It is also one of those hybrid titles that dips its toes into many different audience groups, including those of the snobbish variety. But, it remains an accessible read.

Go Set a Watchman, the newly discovered novel by Harper Lee, one she arguably never intended for publication, sits at number 70. This was a book that had set tongues wagging in all the high places, with readers clamoring for copies on the day of release. It's one of those books that you simply had to get because you would look good reading it. It was also bested by not one but three Wimpy Kid titles in terms of sales. Go figure.

Another example is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It managed to secure spot number 80 in spite of winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, ALA Alex Award and more. Certainly, it was not published that year, but one would think the accolades under its belt would have meant a higher ranking.

In 2012, The Guardian released a list of the top 100 bestselling books of all time.

The spots in the top ten that were not claimed by Harry Potter were taken by two of Dan Brown's novels (Da Vinci Code in the top spot) and Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades Darker sits in number 11 with Twilight in number twelve.

Here. Read these.

My point is simple. People read what makes them happy. It doesn't have to be verbose and "intelligent". Reading critically-acclaimed books should not be treated as a badge of honour. And no one, ever, should be judged by reading what they enjoy. The sales show the bigger picture. Critically acclaimed novels are not the ones that sell.

Literary reviews only cater to a very tiny, niche, upper-crust market. They actually mean very little in the grander scheme of things and should, quite frankly, not be taken very seriously at all. Well, unless you are the kind of person who needs this to define your own intellect and worth. Then, don't let me stop you. But don't point fingers when I laud my love of YA all over the internet, either!

If you think I am wrong or have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment below.