Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Giveaway! Melissa Delport Bundle



Hey guys!

I am giving away the following fabulous books by local author Melissa Delport in one bundle:

Guardians of Summerfeld Series - Books 1-4



The Traveler



These books have been kindly sponsored by Melissa herself! They are gorgeous, signed copies that will complement the shelves of any fantasy reader.

If you would like to find out more about these and other titles Melissa has written, please pop over to her website for information as well as handy links for ordering her titles.

The author, Melissa Delport.

So, now that I have spammed you will all the information, here is how you can enter!

Click on one of the links below to share this post to the preferred social media of your choice and hit me up with a comment on this post once it's been shared with the link as proof.

Alternatively, follow me on Twitter @UrbanisedGeek and re-tweet the giveaway post there with the hashtag #MelDelGiveaway.

Easy-peasy.

I will put all entries into a box and my impartial rat judge, Vega, will pull the name of the winner. 

Because August is SA Indie Month, this giveaway will be running until the end of August.

The draw will take place on Friday the 1st September 2017 at 18h00 SA time.


The Fine Print:
  • This giveaway is open to SA residents only
  • The prize will be shipped Postnet-to-Postnet unless face-to-face can be arranged
  • No alternative methods of shipping will be considered due to reliability



Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia


Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Publisher: HarperCollins (May 2017)

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try. 
Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. 
But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

This is probably going to be one of the best books I will read this year. Hands down. I loved absolutely everything about this.

I got a digital copy of this on the Kindle as a birthday present to myself and read it in close to one sitting. I do regret making the choice to get this particular book on the Kindle simply because the book is peppered with illustrations I never got to fully appreciate. All this means is I will be getting a physical copy at some point!

Eliza, the protagonist in this story, is a weird, socially awkward teen who just happens to run a hugely famous webcomic called Monstrous Sea. She keeps this secret to herself because the comic has a huge following and she prefers not having her real-life persona linked to that of LadyConstellation, her online moniker.

Wallace is the new guy in school. Huge. Jock. And a massive Monstrous Sea fan.

 You know where this is going, right?

The book focuses on Eliza and Wallace as they get to know each other and also deal with their own personal struggles. It sounds like a run-of-the-mill contemporary, but I can assure you that this book is anything but that.

I have not been so invested a cast of characters in a long time. I laughed with them and wanted to cry for them. I wanted to be their friends and geek out with them.

I also saw part of myself in Eliza and could seriously relate to a lot of her quirks.

This book also highlights the struggles of being the creator of a fandom and the pressures that fans place on this person to deliver and meet expectations. I think this is becoming more and more of a big deal because we sometimes forget that the person at the other end of the keyboard is just that: a person! I mean, look at the grief authors like JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer went through.

But, I digress. :)

This is an awesome book. I cannot fault a single thing with it.

In Summary:

Geeks. Fandoms. Realistic teens. If you loved Fangirl, you will love this. It's better.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June 2017 Wrap-Up

Hey, guys!

So, if you have been following the blog, you will have noticed that June was a really good month for me.

I not only managed to read a lot, but I was also able to get up quite a few reviews and posts here as well.

I am still so far behind my Goodreads reading goal of 70 books, that I don't see myself actually reaching a total of 70 books this year. I am only sitting on 20! But I have some cute romances and other quick reads sitting on the Kindle, so maybe I can make up for lost time in December and fly through some of those.



The books I read in June are:

  • Objects in Mirror by Tudor Robins
  • Looking for Group by Rory Harrison
  • Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
  • Clockwork Angel by Casandra Clare
  • Freeks by Amanda Hocking
  • Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
That is six books! I am hella proud of myself. I am working on getting reviews out for those I haven't gotten to yet, so keep an eye on the blog if you are keen to hear what I thought!

I also made some book purchases. Of course. These were:
  • Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
  • The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertelli
  • Ruined by Amy Tintera
  • Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
  • The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
  • Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier
  • King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard
Some I received as birthday presents. :)

Personally, I was sick for a bit of June. Which contributed to my reading time a lot! Otherwise, it was a decent, productive month.

Have you read any of the books I mentioned here? What did you guys think?

Friday, June 30, 2017

GeekMeets: Stitches Yarn and Thread Emporium



Location:
Shop 52A
Kyalami Corner Shopping Center
Cnr Main Rd and Pitts Ave
Kyalami

Contact Details:
083 440 0214
info@stitchesemporium.co.za
Website

Opening Hours:
Weekdays: 9am-6pm
Sat: 08:30am - 5pm
Sun: 9am - 3pm

Products:

  • Yarn
  • Embroidery thread
  • Knitting accessories
  • Crochet accessories
  • Quilting fabrics and accessories
  • Cross-stitch and tapestry
  • Classes



Knitting is one of those weird little hobbies I picked up as a kid in Grade 3. We had this overly ambitious teacher who thought knitting would be a legit skill to have. I remember sitting with my classmates in a big circle while we all worked on our little squares. even the boys were made to knit. Retrospectively, this was a pretty cool thing to do because why should only girls know how?

I picked it up again for a Rotary Interact charity drive in high school, where I passed on the basics to others. At that stage I was only able to cast on, knit a normal stitch and then cast off. Oh, wait. That is still pretty much the sum total of my skills today.

I have a whole box of knitting goodies, a lot of which my mother passed on to me and I decided it would be a good time to make some scarves. It is winter and all. it will also help keep my hands busy while watching Netflix.



I popped into this little shop called Stitches at Kyalami Corner to see what wool they had for me and was super impressed with the setup and the staff there. To the point where I am now kind of addicted to buying funky wools to eventually knit with. I also want to learn how to use patterns and the ladies there have kindly promised to show me all these new skillz to widen my knitting arsenal.

Yup. That's right. One of these days I may even learn the purl stitch.

So if you are in the area and have a crafting itch to scratch, go check the shop out. And they do not have what you are looking for, they will happily source and order it in for you!


Memes Only People Who Wear Glasses Will Understand

I went down the Google rabbit hole and found some awesome memes for all you glasses-wearing nerds. :P








Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Successful Formula For Self-Publication - A Customer's Perspective

I have seen it time again when new authors decide to self-publish their books but go in unprepared and then wonder why their title is not selling or getting reviews. I don't even mean good reviews, here. I mean any reviews AT ALL.

Having had a good look at the market and being an avid reader myself, I have noticed a few key factors that any self-published author needs to have nailed down before unleashing their creations into the world.

Please bear in mind that I am simply approaching this from a buyer's perspective. With memes.

1. The Cover


Every book needs a cover but putting your design skills to the test in MS Word is simply not good enough. It gives an awful first impression and makes your product look cheap. That's right, authors. In case you have forgotten, you are in fact selling a product and people want to pay for quality. They will not part with their hard-earned dollar if your cover looks like it was designed by a 13-year-old for book report day.

Also, do not rip-off covers of popular books because this will piss off fans and make you look lazy. Just don't do it.

Have the title in a clear font. It can be decorative, but it must still be legible. A good idea to theme your cover to the genre is to have a look at popular covers and look at font styles that they have in common. Your name should be in a smaller, simpler font. Sans-serif styles seem to be quite popular.

Keep the background simple, so that the key elements pop and are not lost in the noise. Often, the most effective backgrounds are plain white or black. Think Twilight. The reader doesn't want to feel that your cover reminds them of the Great Acid Trip of 1979.

Have one key image that draws the eye and is also memorable. Do not clutter the cover with lots of smaller images unless it works with the genre of the book and still has an overall universal appearance.

There is a rule in Photography called the Rule of Thirds. This should absolutely be applied to book covers as it is fundamental in producing a pleasing image. This is useful in determining the placement of your title and central image. The idea is that your canvas is divided into 9 equal squares, showing the key areas for optimal balance of the image. The same applies to designing a cover.


To use the grid overlay on a cover I have played around with, it is easy to see how key lines and features correspond with the grid and points of focus.

I will do another post in more detail on how the elements of photography will help you with cover design. It is a logical approach as photography and design follow the same basic principles of what the eye finds visually pleasing. 


2. Get an Editor



Your best friend as an author is your editor. And by this, I do not mean your editor is your best friend. You need an objective outsider to go over your work and suggest changes. Someone who actually does this job for a living and understands writing holistically.

Here is the problem. Most eReaders offer a sample of your book before people part with their dollar. If you cannot capture the reader in your first few chapters with your awesome writing and plotting skills, you will not convert that purchase into a sale. It is as simple as that. People will not buy the book in hopes it will get better. You do not take one bite of a disgusting burger and then try more. Unless you enjoy suffering. And most people don't. 

Do not assume your book is worthy of publication once you have finished your first draft. Go back and edit it. Read it out aloud. Edit some more. Then call in a professional.


3. Blurb



Next to the cover, your blurb is the most important selling point of your book. It should be captivating and punchy, telling the reader enough about the book without giving anything away.

It is not a place for you to word vomit your plot or summarize your book. It is also not an easy thing to write. That is why you have professional people who do this for a living. I seriously doubt JK Rowling sat and mulled over her own blurbs.

This is the one place where there absolutely cannot be any sort of errors. It is probably more important than the book itself and should not be treated like that aunt nobody wants to invite to the family lunch, but do because they feel obliged to fill that extra seat.

I remember when I was in school we had this really involved English teacher who made us read a book of our choosing and then write the blurb for it. This was a brilliant exercise, as he showed us how to identify the key elements of the story.

You need to introduce your protagonist and also make the reader want to crack open the spine by revealing little tidbits of the plot. Keep it short and true to the feel of your story. Do not mislead readers into thinking your book it something it is not.


4. Formatting



You need to go through your book with a fine-tooth comb and ensure that when it is read on any device, it does not have any funny gaps or bad alignment.

Any formatting issues make a reader feel like they have been cheated out of their money, as this reflects on the overall quality of the product.

Are all your indents consistent? Do all the chapter heading match? No unexplained blank pages between text?


Once you have all this in place, you are ready to send your book baby out into the world! Ensure that you are not rushing the process and that you have a quality, polished product!

Please do leave comments and suggestions below!













Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Harry Potter Means to Me #HarryPotter20



It was 20 years ago that The Boy Who Lived was first introduced to readers worldwide. This was after eight other publishing houses had rejected the manuscript, not seeing its potential.

Little did Bloomsbury know the goldmine they were sitting on. Up to now, Harry Potter has been translated into 67 languages, been made into a successful film franchise, has theme parks erected in its honor and has racked up numerous awards and achievements, becoming one of the most recognized literary characters today.

While I can speculate on the reasons behind the enduring success of this series, I think it is going to be better to touch on what Harry means to me. There are plenty of other sources which delve into the thematic appeal of Harry Potter and it's universal success.

It was in June 2000 that I received the first three books for my 16th birthday. I had very little idea who Harry Potter was or had any clue of the rising popularity of the series. My local Exclusive Books had them on display at the counter and I picked the first one up out of interest while I was standing there with my mom, waiting to purchase the next installment in my favorite horsey series.

My first impression was that it looked pretty boring. And weirdly marketed. The cover was not great and, while it looked to be aimed at kids, the writing inside was small with no pictures at all.

The manager of the store saw me holding Philosopher's Stone with a confused expression and assured me that they were very good and extremely popular. My mom, passively taking note, must have remembered this because I unwrapped the first three books for my birthday along with the latest Hanson CD from my brother.

I was skeptical, but I gave the books a shot.

One of the things I am most thankful for was discovering the books on the brink of national popularity. I was able to enjoy them and form my own relationships with the characters without being tainted by media and other people's opinions. My Harry, Hermione, and Ron have remained pretty much as I first envisioned them back then.

I enjoyed the first three books, but the fan mania really hit me when the fourth was due to be released and the hype became real. I remember standing in the CNA, looking at a poster with the new artwork for book four, even though the book didn't have an official title yet, and feeling excited.

When I finally got book four (I originally had the US edition thanks to parental travels), all I remember was how big it was! Suddenly, Harry's world had exploded in rich detail and depth and it was glorious.

When Order of the Phoenix was released in June 2003, midnight release parties were suddenly a thing. I got my copy online because, in those days, we were not used to books being available om the day of release and Take2 (now defunct) has promised release-day delivery. This was also the first of many online purchases.


Looking back now, I can still remember the days I received book 6 and 7 with clarity. Hermiting myself up until the books were finished so I didn't get spoiled. I read each of those in a day. And then started them all over again.

Harry was a big factor in my love of fantasy. These books opened up whole new genres for me. It was also amazing to be part of the fandom with each new book, possibly the largest and most diverse of anything ever.

I loved Hogwarts. I loved that each character had a place and was not just filler, but a well-rounded person. I felt like each time I picked the books up again, I discovered something new or made connections I had not noticed before. For me, that is what makes these books special. They grow with the reader and offer new experiences, even years later.

JK Rowling was also not afraid to handle her characters honestly. Let's face it. Sometimes Harry was not the nicest person and made terrible choices. But, it for this reason that I love his character as he learns and grows throughout the series.

The movies were just a sideline thing, They paled to the richness of the novels and, while fairly accurate, I much prefer the Hogwarts in my head.




For the fans, Bloomsbury has released the first book in awesome house editions! I will be getting mine (Hufflepuff) even though I already have the book in both the normal and illustrated editions. Because it's what you have to do.

I hope everyone will be celebrating 20 years of Harry. Even if it is just admiring your collections and remembering your first time. If you have any memories that stand out for you, please let me know in the comments below.