Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu


Title:Moxie
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Hoddler Children's Books (September 2017)

Moxie girls fight back! 
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules. 
Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Firstly, a huge thank you to PanMacmillan SAfor providing me with a review copy of Moxie. I seriously appreciate the support you guys have given the blog over the years.

I really enjoyed this book. Moxie really pushes a strong feminist message and I think, in this day and age, that is really good for teens to have access to books like this.

There are a lot of other things to appreciate with this book, so it deserves bullets. I love bullets.

  • Vivian is no one special. She is just a regular teen who does something awesome.
  • All the teens in this book talk and behave like teens. 
  • It also deals with other issues like family and friendships.
  • Not all boys are bad.
  • Not all adults are perfect.
  • All relationships have issues. But it is up to us how we handle those issues.
I really don't want to go into detail, as it is so easy to give away elements of the novel which would add to the reading experience.

I will say this though. Read Moxie if:
  • You are tired of boys being the answers to girls' problems in YA.
  • You feel oppressed by the system and need a little motivation.
  • You want to engender some independence and self-worth in your own daughters.
  • You love books set in high schools.
  • You love realistic characters.
I hope this goes on recommended reading lists for schools. It probably won't because it will surely not be approved by all member of the faculty or even some conservative parents. But, I still hope it finds its way into the hands of teens, not just girls, but boys as well.

Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


Title: Turtles All the Way Down
Author: John Green
Publisher: Penguin (October 2017)

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. 
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
Those who have been following the blog for a while might have picked up that I am not the biggest fan of John Green. I was not excited for this book. I did not care that this was coming. But, I was also curious. I wanted to see if Green was capable of listening to criticism and if he was able to improve on the faults in his Stars.

I was also fortunate to have had R230 in Exclusive Books vouchers, so I basically paid R10 for Turtles. At least, even if the book was shit, I was going to get my money's worth.

When I picked the book up, I found I could not put it down again. I could relate to Asa on some weird level. While she is OCD and I am not, I am a chronic nailbiter, sometimes fiddling with my nails until I draw blood. Asa has a weird tick that she does with her finger and I found that so relatable. Just like I sometimes used my nails as an outlet for my stress, Asa treats her finger in much the way. And it is not something either of us has full control over.

I also found Green lost a lot of his eccentricities in his writing. His teens were a little more toned down, although Asa still felt like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl at times. I also enjoyed the simplicity of his writing. I felt he was simply getting the story out on the page with very little embellishment. This made me happy.

This book is about Asa and her struggles. The plot is secondary to that, so don't expect anything exciting to happen, but rather approach this book as one would getting to know a new acquaintance.

If you hated all the books Green wrote before Fault in our Stars, try this one anyway. And fans will enjoy it regardless.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Coloring-In for Adults 101: A Guide for South Africans


So the adult coloring book craze may have died down a little, but that does not mean that it is gone forever. There are still amazing books being brought into the market and this certainly does not seem to be a hobby that will disappear anytime soon.

The Appeal

I can only talk from my own experiences, but I really love sitting down with my pencils and working on a detailed picture, making it come to life.

I lead a pretty busy life with a demanding day job and various hobbies I try to do along the way. Add in friends, family, and other relationships and it feels like I am on the go all the time. This coupled with the occasional feeling that the world had gone to hell in a handbasket just adds to the appeal of coloring in a pretty forest or ocean scene.

It is something you can easily put down and then start again and only takes up as much time as you want it to. Sometimes, I will put but stuff away for weeks before the urge to use them kicks in again.

Also, some of the books out there are just so beautifully done. I flip through them for hours and this is even before any color has been laid on the pages!

Coloring in is something anyone can do, but it is also a skill you can improve upon with practice. This makes it even more satisfying as you can track your progress as you go.


The Books


When the craze hit, the market was completely saturated with options of varying quality. Now, mostly the most popular books have weathered the post-craze apathy storm which means this is the ideal time to get into it. Less choice and more quality!

Your best bet is the Queen of Adult Coloring-In Books, Johanna Basford. She is not only a skilled illustrator, she also ensures that her books are made from only the best quality paper, which is easy to color and holds the vibrancy of the pencils. Her books are also perfect if you are a fan of fineliners, as they will not bleed through the pages easily.



Current titles available for purchase include:

  • Secret Garden
  • Enchanted Forest
  • Lost Ocean
  • Magical Jungle
  • Johanna's Christmas
  • Ivy and the Inky Butterfly

Another go-to illustrator is Millie Marotta. Her books have intense detail that will keep the more pedantic of fans busy for hours and hours. They are also really good quality, with thick paper and solid spines.


Millie's titles include:
  • Animal Kindom
  • Tropical Wonderland
  • Wild Savannah
  • Curious Creatures
  • Beautiful Birds

Of course, this is just a percent of the options out there. Some other notable mentions include:
  • Animorphia by Kirby Rosanes
  • The Magical City by Lizzie Mary Gullen
  • Fantastic Cities by Steve McDonald

Books range in price from R150 - 280 odd and can be found in all good bookstores.


The Tools

The pencils and other media you use make a HUGE impact on how much you enjoy your coloring experience.

Some pencils are a fight to get any of the color to transfer to the page or the colors themselves are so dull, you will never be pleased with the end result.

Fortunately, there are some great options available that will fit into most budgets!

  1. Giotto Stilnovo by Lyra - set of 36 for R149 on Takealot.
    • These are soft, easy to use and have an excellent range of colors.
  2. Colleen - set of 36 for R169 on Takealot.
    • Great waxy texture, bright colors and easy to blend.
  3. Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor - set of 36 for R389 on Takealot.
    • Quality pencils with good blending ability, though lack the vibrancy of the Colleens.

I hope this helps some of your start of continue your colouring journey!

Please comment below if you found pencils or books you can reccomend too. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Film Review: Death Note (2017)



Title: Death Note
Director: Adam Wingard
Actors: Nat Wolff, Lakeith Stanfield, Willem Dafoe

The live-action remake of Death Note, based on popular Manga and Anime series of the same name, hit Netflix this past month.

I was pretty excited, in spite of fans complaining about the studio whitewashing the main character. This ended up being the least of the issues I had with Death Note.

The original story revolves around Light Yagami (Light Turner in the 2017 film) who finds a notebook that basically enables him to kill anyone he wishes simply by writing the name of that person in the book. There are rules, of course, which dictate how the book can be used. This notebook was placed for a human to find by the death god, Ryuk. The only reason why Ryuk did this is that he was bored.

The story then unfolds as Light goes on a mission to rid the world of people he sees as bad or unworthy. The police, stumped by the killings, bring in the help of L, a brilliantly-minded detective, to assist in tracking down Kira, the name the killer has become known by media.

The whole appeal of the original series for me was watching these two genius characters try to outwit each other as Light himself becomes further and further corrupted by the power of the Death Note.

And this was where the Netflix adoption fell short.

Here is what the film messed up when compared to the original story:

  • Light's character is so contorted, that he is an entirely different person with different motivations and reasons for doing what he does.
  • Ryuk is not even a character at all. He has zero relationship with Light in the film and played very little part in the unfolding of events.
  • The special effects used in creating Ryuk felt more like cheating. He was in shadow for almost all of the film and sometimes looked disproportionate. I was irritated the entire time because I could never see what he really looked like.
  • There was the introduction of a girlfriend, Mia, who played a greater role than she did in the books.
  • Everything was so rushed, that is was actually a little hard to follow at times.
All of the above points just seemed to move the plot further and further away from why I loved the Manga so much. The morals behind using the Death Note were never really addressed.

Also, Light was the golden boy who could do no wrong in the Manga.  He was a narcissist who thought the Death Note was the answer to the world's problems and he was the right person to make judgments. In the film, he was this bullied greaseball who constantly questioned the use of the Death Note.

I did like Lakeith Stanfield, though. He did a good job of bringing L's various quirks to screen. Even if I felt the choice to cast a black actor in this role was a misguided attempt to be more inclusive. 

Basically, the movie would probably be ok if you had no idea what the story was supposed to be about.

But if you actually want to have a proper experience, read the Manga or watch the original Animae series.




Monday, September 4, 2017

Giveaway: How We Found You by JT Lawrence


It is giveaway time again!

JT Lawrence, local author and playwright, is kindly giving us a copy of How We Found You, the second installment in her When Tomorrow Calls trilogy, to give away!

Here is the synopsis of the first book, Why You Were Taken to avoid spoilers:

There’s a reason Kirsten doesn’t have any childhood memories. 
Living in a futuristic city glittering with tension, Kirsten has an unusual gift and a fertility problem, but what overshadows these things is what she calls her ‘Black Hole’: A painful hollow feeling where her heart should be. 
Seth is a brilliant chemgineer and loyal member of Alba: an underground biopunk organization that exposes corporate bullies and black clinics. He has the hollow feeling too, but fills it with other things, like kink-club dancers and the high-tech drugs he designs. 
A troubled woman approaches Kirsten with a warning and a key and is later found dead. Was the woman just another victim of the Suicide Contagion, or is there something more sinister at play? The key leads Kirsten to the Doomsday Vault and a hit list of seven people — and her barcode is on it.  
Will the scarred assassin be able to stop them from discovering the truth about why they were taken?

If this excites you and you want your very own signed copy, here is what you need to do:


  • Comment on this post with the name of one of JT Lawerence's other books
  •  Share this post on any of your social media

Please note that, as always, this is open to SA Residents only.

I will be doing the draw via a random winner generator on the 30th September and will announce the winner on Twitter and Facebook.

Good luck!!!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Penguin (April 2017)

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. 
Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.  
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
Yet another book that has been so hyped, that I kinda question why I even bother watching BookTube sometimes. I thought I would give this one a shot because it and its predecessor, Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda, have gotten such great reviews and I realize now that perhaps basing my reading choices on the opinions of people who get PAID to talk about books from publishers is probably a recipe for disaster.

Kinda ironic, right? As I basically get review copies myself and talk about those books. But, I assure you, no money has ever exchanged hands and all my reviews are honest. Including this one.

This one totally missed the mark for me. I get it that the trend du jour is to be inclusive and have diversity of characters, but seriously? This book pushed it a little for me. It felt like this took precedence over plot and was used as a tool for getting reader kudos.

And Molly is super insecure and has serious body issues, but suddenly the love of a boy makes her love herself. It this the kind of message you want to portray? That having the attention of a boy means you really are beautiful after all? And all she does the entire book is whine about how no boys like her but she makes zero effort.

The writing... well. It tried too hard to be cute and quirky while actually falling really flat. But if you like John Green, then you will like this.

The moral of this story? Don't believe the hype, kids! And go read Alex, Approximately instead if you want a cute YA contemp. Or maybe Eliza and Her Monsters.

Teen Team: Call to Action


I have had the realization that posts from a slightly jaded, often grumpy 30-something are probably not the best way to get more kids reading.

And we need more kids to see reading as fun and to find books they enjoy reading because all it really takes is for the right book to land in the right reader's hands for them to be hooked for life. I am sure many readers out there can remember the exact book that got them hooked reading, but this is of course a post for another day.

So, I am looking for 4 teens who love reading and would be interested eventually getting into writing their own blogs. I m hoping that having some local teen voices will encourage others to give this reading thing a try beyond the boring textbooks they prescribe in schools.

Requirements:

  • 13-18 years of age.
  • Contactable on e-mail (this will not be shared publicly - can belong to a parent).
  • Must be able to read and review a book in a month. 
  • Must be (for the time being) based in Johannesburg, South Africa for logistical reasons.
  • Have parental permission to take part.

What's in it for you:
  • An established platform to get your content and name out there.
  • Guidance of a blogger and reviewer with seven years' experience.
  • Advice and templates for writing reviews and creating your own style.
  • Potential for getting review copies of the latest releases from the big publishers.
  • Opportunities to attend events and meet authors.
  • Assistance with setting up your own blog if this is exciting and something you want to do by yourself one day. I won't judge and am here to help!

The finer print:
  • Your safety online is my concern. I welcome the use of pseudonyms and discourage sharing of personal Facebook accounts because there are some weirdos out there.
  • All reviews written remain the property of the reviewer. If UrbanisedGeek is approached to share these reviews on other websites, permission will be asked from you first.
  • There is no timeline and no pressure, though the more reviews you write, the more books I will be able to motivate to get you. Simple as that.
  • There will be a dedicated tab with a page that will outline this project and the profiles of the teens reviewers. I will ask you to help me answer five fun questions about yourself so that people visiting the blog will know a little something about who you are and what books you like reading.
  • Parents can contact me at anytime!
If this is something that sounds exciting for you, get in touch with me on monique@urbanisedgeek.co.za and tell me what your favorite book is and why. That's it!