Friday, December 26, 2014

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1)
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: Harper (2014)

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him. 
Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

You ever have that experience where you are browsing through the shelves of your  local bookstore and you find a book cover that is to gorgeous that you simply have to own the book now?

This was pretty much that for me with this book. I mean, look at that cover! Just look at it. Complete perfection.

Just a damned pity the book didn't live up it its promises.

Firstly, this books reads like a while entire volume preceded it. We are thrown directly into the action and are expected to give two shits about our protagonist without a proper introduction. Completely unfair of the author, if you ask me. Oh you get backstory. Shuffled between the present and far too late for me to actually care.

There is also the niggling issue that what could have been a brilliant concept (inter-dimensional travel) is turned into a mushy love fest.

I also could not shake the feeling that Marguerite is far more concerned about her little love triangle than finding out who her father's killer is. She actually does not seem too bothered about the whole situation once the hormones kick in.

Honestly, don't be fooled by the pretty cover. This is badly written, poorly conceived rubbish wrapped in a nice package.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nandi Reviews: Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Lament (2008)
Ballad (2009)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic

LamentSixteen-year-old Dee is a cloverhand – someone who can see faeries. When she finds herself irresistibly drawn to beautiful, mysterious Luke, Dee senses that he wants something more dangerous than a summer romance.
But Dee doesn’t realize that Luke is an assassin from the faerie world.
And she is his next target.

BalladWhen his best friend, Dee, fell in love with a faerie, James realized she’d never feel the same way about him.
Trying to escape into music, James finds himself surrounded by more faeries than ever. Before he knows it, James is trapped in a dangerous game. One where the only way to win is to betray the one you love…

I don’t usually read novels set in the faerie world, but these two books sounded interesting and I had heard great things about the author, so I thought I’d give them a try. I was pleasantly surprised. I usually find faerie YA books difficult to get into because the background to the faerie world isn’t well established. Stiefvater, however, manages to explain the world in a well thought out and simple to understand way, making it easy for the reader to immerse themselves into the story she is creating. Stiefvater also has some great laugh-out-loud comic moments that add to the enjoyment of the books.

At the end of Lament, I was left excited to find out what happens next with Dee and Luke, as the story doesn’t have a long-term definitive conclusion. Soon after starting Ballad, I realised I probably wouldn’t find out what I wanted to know. Dee and Luke don’t feature very much in Ballad, and even though I knew the story was about James, I was still disappointed. The parts where they do feature adds to James’ story, without concluding theirs.

By the end of Ballad, I was left with numerous questions from both books. I felt like there should be a third book to conclude parts of the story that were left hanging, and I was rather frustrated that I didn’t have the end to the story. This was possibly because I read them one after the other without a break, so all the parts of the books I had questions about were compounded. I think it would have been better to wait a few days or weeks before reading Ballad, almost treating it as a stand-alone novel with some common characters from the same world.

Despite the questions I had at the end of the books, I thoroughly enjoyed them, and I look forward to reading more of Stiefvater’s work. The books were well written and entertaining, and explain the faerie world excellently.

(Review by guest blogger - Nandi Ziller. Thanks Nandi! Looking forward to your next reviews!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UrbGeek Outings: Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

Venue: Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

Location: End of Malcolm Road, Poortview, Roodepoort

Costing: Entrance is R35 for adults, R25 for pensioners and students and R12 for scholars

Run by SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute), the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens is a tranquil environment in the heart of Roodepoort, Johannesburg.

I am a fairly regular visitor to the Gardens as it provides a break away from the urban jungle and a great opportunity to get some photographs of birds and other wildlife. I enjoy taking a leisurely stroll along one of the Garden's many winding walkways. It is very easy to get lost and forget that I am still essentially in a city.

The Gardens were established in 1982 and have been a hotspot for local and international visitors since. With over 600 species of plants, 220 species of birds and other various fauna, it is the perfect spot to hone your knowledge and learn.

Be aware that the gardens have a "carry in, carry out" litter policy, so please do take your own bag for rubbish when you visit.


Of course, one of the main features of the Gardens is the Witpoortjie Falls, at the base of which is a lovely recreational area where you can set up your picnic in the shade of one of the trees,

If you are lucky, you will get a sighting of the Verreaux's Eagles that nest in the Roodekrans rock formations alongside the waterfall. Often, photographers can be found with binoculars and tripods in hand, hoping to get the perfect shot of these majestic birds.

There are several hiking trails for the beginner and more enthusiastic hiker. The Geological Trail is worth doing, but set aside a few hours for this and keep an eye out for notorious Highveld storms!

Some of the other features include:
  • Succulent garden
  • Cycad garden
  • Water garden
  • Fern trail
  • Arboretum
  • Geological Garden

There is a fun outdoor gym located in one of the nooks, where you can test your fitness on various types of equipment that work off your own weight.

For those who are feeling peckish, the Eagle's Fare Restaurant is a great place to stop and rest. They offer a reasonably priced menu with something for everyone and lovely, friendly staff. The manager is also present and attentive, which I like to see! The food is very good and I highly recommend something from their selection of gourmet burgers.

The Gardens also hosts many outdoor concerts, most recently of which was South African legend Johnny Clegg. It is quite something to watch great local talent with the backdrop of the waterfall and mountains.

And if you feel like creating or adding to your own personal slice of heaven, there is a nursery where many indigenous plants are available for purchase. The staff are very knowledgeable and have a selection of reference books handy should you have any questions.

Hints and tips:
  • There is no ATM, although the shops do have credit card facilities
  • Wear comfortable, closed shoes as some of the walkways are a little rugged, particularly if you want to head up one of the hiking trails
  • Sunblock is essential!
  • Picnics are welcome, but don't forget a blanket or camping chairs too
  • Get there early to ensure a good parking spot

Useful links:


Hello there!

Thank you for popping around. I do appreciate it.

This post marks the birth of Urbanised Geek, an idea that has been knocking around my brain cells for a while.

But first, a bit of background might be required. I have been involved in some form of blogging for almost a decade. Mostly in the form of book reviews, I have also written several guest posts for other blogs both locally and internationally.

While I do not plan to discard my much beloved book review blog Paranormalsphere, which has served me well for the past few years, I have found that I have been wanting to expand my horizons outside of books.

What I hope to do here is create a space where I can rant and rave about my various interests. Talk about places I have been and things I have seen. Share my somewhat diverse love for all things geeky. This will not be a fashion blog as I am not going to even pretend I know the first thing about fashion. I will leave that to other, more competent local bloggers!

I also hope to highlight some of the great places to visit in Johannesburg, South Africa and chat about some of my views on current events.

So it will be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades blog with a bit of something for everyone.

Urbanised Geek hence will represent my personal brand and also be an outlet for my writing which my other blogs were a little limited in providing.

So here's to great things!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski

Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkowski
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2014)

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 
The Winner's Curse it not something I would normally choose for myself, but there was something in the cover and the storyline that got me excited to read it.

I am so glad I did! I really enjoyed this novel, that had more of a historical flavor to it rather than fantasy.

Kestrel is a great character and a suitable role model in that she stands by her convictions. Arin is also interesting and the plot moves forward quickly, with enough going on to keep you interested.

This book is also competently written and certainly rises above the over-saturated YA marketplace. The world building is concise and I had very few questions at the end. I especially loved the different races and how their cultures were represented.

Give this a read this holiday season. You won't regret it!

I cannot wait until the sequel is out!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: We Were Lairs by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E Lockhart
Delacorte Press (2014)

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

I bought this on a whim, having remembered that it is one of the Goodreads winners this year. It was also pretty hyped on social media so I figured it would not be a mistake in buying it.

I don't know what I was expecting going into this book, but I was certainly expecting it to be better.

 One of the things that really stands out is the jarring and confusing use of metaphor throughout the book. Half the time, it felt that what was being described was actually happening to our narrator. And then irritation sets in as I realized it was a really shitty attempt at metaphor. The other half felt like purple pose written by a teenage who has discovered description for the first time.

The style it is written in is also really, really confusing.

I read. The book annoyed.
The plot failed.
Sentences were short.

If you were not aware, the book does have a plot twist. But, by the time I got that far, I felt so manipulated and fed-up by Cadence (our privileged narrator) that I just didn't care.

The good things about We Were Liars? It is nice and short. It has the potential to be an awesome story. Maybe if a more proficient writer like a Sarah Dessen had decided to tackle something like this, it would have gone better.

But this book has enough good reviews and don't base your opinion solely on my grumping about it.

I was in the mood for an awesome contemporary YA with a twist and this just did not deliver.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Film Review: Mockingjay Part 1

Title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Francis Lawrence
Lionsgate Films (2014)

So I went to go see Mockingjay on opening night (as any good fan would) and I was completely mind-blown.

Firstly, I was initially pissed off that they split the book into two films. They do that far too often and makes me think the studios are only in it for the money. To the doubters, this movie had to be split. There was so much going on. Not just with Katniss, but with the Capitol and the Districts. Never at any point did I feel the story was dragging and nothing was happening.

I love Jennifer Lawrence. Both as a person and as Katniss. She has this very real quality and I have rarely been so emotionally invested in a character. Lawrence has made a favorite book character come to life and her portrayal of the changes in Katniss' mental state throughout the films is simply amazing. For me, she is Katniss.

I am also so impressed with Josh Hutcherson. He does not feature much in this installment, but he is absolutely amazing when he does get screen time. I will say nothing, for fear of giving something away!

The sets and costumes were brilliant as always. There was hardly any focus on the outlandish Capitol fashions, but we got a closer look at District 13 and their military ways. Brilliant.

The odd thing for me is that Mockingjay was my least favorite book, but ended up being my favorite movie (so far! We are waiting for Part 2). I think it is because at this stage in the game, I am so invested in the characters and story that I am aching for things to work out for them.

One of my favourite parts features a song that was also included in the book. The Hanging Tree was a song that Katniss used to sing with her father. The scene with this was absolutely breathtaking and haunting.

(Here is a fan-made cut scene regarding The Hanging Tree song that I found while fangirling over Google that you should watch!)

Anyway, if you enjoyed the first two movies, you will not walk out of this one disappointed! I will say no more and simply send you on your way to your nearest cinema!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Carnegie Medal Nominees for 2015

Here is the list of Carnegie Medal nominees for 2015.

This is an annual award for outstanding children's / YA Fiction. I am quite excited to see who wins it!
Please visit their website for more information here.

The official longlist will be published in Feb 2015. Is your favorite here?

Angus, Sam. Captain
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447263029

Avery, Tom. My Brother's Shadow
Publisher: Andersen Press. ISBN: 9781849397827

Baldacci, David. The Finisher
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447263005

Barraclough, Lindsey. The Mark of Cain
Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books. ISBN: 9781782300199

Bedford, Martyn. Never Ending
Publisher: Walker Books. ISBN: 9781406329926

Bergin, Virginia. The Rain
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447266068

Black, Holly. The Coldest Girl In Coldtown
Publisher: Indigo. ISBN: 9781780621302

Blaxill, Gina. Saving Silence
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447208846

Booth, Anne. Girl With A White Dog
Publisher: Catnip Publishing. ISBN: 9781846471810

Bowler, Tim. Night Runner
Publisher: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780192794147

Boyne, John. Stay Where You Are And Then Leave
Publisher: Doubleday Children's Books. ISBN: 9780857532930

Breslin, Theresa. Ghost Soldier
Publisher: Doubleday Children's Books. ISBN: 9780857533050

Brooks, Kevin. The Ultimate Truth: Travis Delaney Investigates
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447238966

Butler, Heather. Us Minus Mum
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers. ISBN: 9780349124070

Buxton, Jamie. Temple Boys
Publisher: Egmont Books. ISBN: 9781405268004

Cain, Cate. The Jade Boy
Publisher: Templar. ISBN: 9781848772298

Camden, Steve. Tape
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books. ISBN: 9780007511204

Cantor, Jillian. Searching For Sky
Publisher: Bloomsbury. ISBN: 9781408846643

Carroll. Emma. The Girl Who Walked On Air
Publisher: Faber Children's Books. ISBN: 9780571297160

Cassidy, Anne. Finding Jennifer Jones
Publisher: Hot Key Books. ISBN: 9781471402289

Chan, Crystal. Bird
Publisher: Tamarind Books. ISBN: 9781848531239

Christopher, Lucy. The Killing Woods
Publisher: Chicken House. ISBN: 9781906427726

Conaghan, Brian. When Mr. Dog Bites
Publisher: Bloomsbury. ISBN: 9781408842539

Cotterill, Jo. Looking At The Stars
Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books. ISBN: 9781782300182

Creech, Sharon. The Boy On The Porch
Publisher: Andersen Press. ISBN: 9781849397728

Crossan, Sarah. Apple and Rain
Publisher: Bloomsbury. ISBN: 9781408853061

Crow, Matthew. In Bloom
Publisher: Much-In-Little Books. ISBN: 9781472105516

Crowe, Sara. Bone Jack
Publisher: Andersen Press. ISBN: 9781783440054

David, Keren. Salvage
Publisher: ATOM Books. ISBN: 9780349001371

Dawson, James. Say Her Name
Publisher: Hot Key Books. ISBN: 9781471402449

Day, Susie. Pea's Book of Holidays
Publisher: Red Fox. ISBN: 9781782952602

Dickinson, Matt. The Everest Files
Publisher: Vertebrate Publishing. ISBN: 9781906148928

Doherty, Berlie. The Company of Ghosts
Publisher: Andersen Press. ISBN: 9781849397292

Don, Lari. Mind Blind
Publisher: Kelpies. ISBN: 9781782500537

Doyle, Roddy. Brilliant
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447248804

Earle, Phil. The Bubble Wrap Boy
Publisher: Penguin Books. ISBN: 9780141346298

Easton, T.S. Boys Don't Knit
Publisher: Hot Key Books. ISBN: 9781471401473

Elson, Jane. A Room Full Of Chocolate
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books. ISBN: 9781444916751

Furniss, Clare. The Year of the Rat
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books ISBN: 9781471120275

Gaiman, Neil. Fortunately, The Milk
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408841761

Gardner, Sally. Tinder
Publisher: Orion Children's Books. ISBN: 9781780621494

Gavin, Jamila. Blackberry Blue: And Other Fairy Tales
Publisher: Tamarind Books. ISBN: 9781848531062

Gemin, Giancarlo. Cowgirl
Publisher: Nosy Crow. ISBN: 9780857632814

Gibbons, Alan. Hate
Publisher: Indigo. ISBN: 9781780621760

Gilman, David. Monkey and Me
Publisher: Templar. ISBN: 9781848773356

Gleitzman, Morris. Loyal Creatures
Publisher: Puffin Books. ISBN: 9780141355009

Green, Sally. Half Bad
Publisher: Penguin Books. ISBN: 9780141354309

Haig, Matt. Echo Boy
Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books. ISBN: 9781782300069

Hall, Tim. Shadow of the Wolf
Publisher: David Fickling Books. ISBN: 9781910200001

Hardinge, Frances. Cuckoo Song
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN 9780330519731

Haughton, Emma. Now You See Me
Publisher: Usborne Books. ISBN: 9781409563693

Hearn, Julia. Dance Of The Dark Heart
Publisher: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780192729309

Helsby, Genevieve. My First Orchestra Book
Publisher: Naxos Books. ISBN: 9781843797708

Howes, M.J. Feed
Publisher: Chicken House. ISBN: 9781908435965

Ho-Yen, Polly. Boy In The Tower
Publisher: Doubleday Children's Books. ISBN: 9780857533036

Inglis, Lucy. City of Halves
Publisher: Chicken House. ISBN: 9781909489097

Johnson, Catherine. Sawbones
Publisher: Walker Books. ISBN: 9781406340570

Laird, Elizabeth. The Fastest Boy In The World
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447267164

Landman, Tanya. Buffalo Soldier
Publisher: Walker Books. ISBN: 9781406314595

Lewis, Gill. Scarlet Ibis
Publisher: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780192793553

Lockhart, E. We Were Liars
Publisher: Hot Key Books. ISBN: 9781471403989

Mason, Simon. Running Girl
Publisher: David Fickling Books. ISBN: 9780857560582

Massey, David. Taken
Publisher: Chicken House. ISBN: 9781908435736

McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Middle Of Nowhere
Publisher: Usborne Books. ISBN: 9781409522003  

McGovern, Cammie. Amy and Matthew
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447239000  

McGowan, Anthony. Hello Darkness
Publisher: Walker Books. ISBN: 9781406337846

McKenzie, Sophie. Every Second Counts
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books. ISBN: 9781471116049  

Mitton, Tony. Wayland
Publisher: David Fickling Books. ISBN: 9780857560148

Moorhouse, Tom. The River Singers
Publisher: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780192734808  

Ness, Patrick. More Than This
Publisher: Walker Books. ISBN: 9781406331158

Nicholls, Sally. Close Your Pretty Eyes
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books. ISBN: 9781407124322

Pass, Emma. The Fearless
Publisher: Corgi Children's Books. ISBN: 9780552566155

Pratt, Non. Trouble
Publisher: Walker Books. ISBN: 9781406347692

Rai, Bali. Web of Darkness
Publisher: Corgi Children's Books. ISBN: 9780552562126

Reeve, Phillip. Oliver and the Seawigs
Publisher: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780192734556  

Riddell, Chris. Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9780230759800  

Rix, Megan. A Soldier's Friend
Publisher: Puffin Books. ISBN: 9780141351902

Robin, Stevens. Murder Most Unladylike: A Wells and Wong Mystery
Publisher: Corgi Children's Books. ISBN: 9780552570725

Robinson, Hilary. Where the Poppies Now Grow
Publisher: Strauss House Productions. ISBN: 9780957124585

Rosoff, Meg. Picture Me Gone
Publisher: Penguin Books. ISBN: 9780141344034  

Sales, Leila. This Song Will Save Your Life
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447252832

Sedgwick, Marcus. She Is Not Invisible
Publisher: Orion Children's Books. ISBN: 9781780621098

Sharpe, Tess. Far From You
Publisher: Indigo. ISBN: 9781780621654  

Slater, Kim. Smart: A Mysterious Crime, A Different Detective
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books. ISBN: 9781447254096

Smith, Alex. Devilskein and Dearlove
Publisher: Arachne Press. ISBN: 9781909208155

Smith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle
Publisher: Electric Monkey. ISBN: 9781405273411

Sutcliffe, William. Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books. ISBN: 9781471122552

Suzuma, Tabitha. Hurt
Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books. ISBN: 9781782300205

Symon, Andrew. Jack Shian and the Mapa Mundi
Publisher: Black & White Publishing. ISBN: 9781845027063

Walter, Jon. Close To The Wind
Publisher: David Fickling Books. ISBN: 9781910200056

Westcott, Rebecca. Dandelion Clocks
Publisher: Puffin Books. ISBN: 9780141348995

Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Title: Tease
Author: Amanda Maciel
Publisher: Hachette (2014)

Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault. At least, that's what everyone seems to think. 
Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who's ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she'll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

I recieved a review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review from PanMacmillan South Africa. Thank you!

Tease is one of those books that I would never have picked up had I found it in the shops. It does not meet my usual checklist of things that drives me to purchase a book (supernatural, dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi). But, I was pleasantly surprised by Tease.

Told from the point of view of a bully, it brings to light just how awful the high school experience can be. The peer pressure of fitting in, having a hot guy, being in the "cool" group of girls. Do not expect to like Sara. She is an awful person initially and she is supposed to be awful.

I think this is an interesting read in that it highlights some of the major problems found in schools today. It is also a difficult book to digest, especially if you have been at the brunt of high school nastiness yourself.

The writing is not bad and I do like how the story alternates between the past and the present. I would have liked Sara to have grown more as a person, though.

Well worth the read if you want something a little different and are tired of mainstream YA.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

So I have decided to participate in the upcoming 24 Hour Readathon this Saturday the 18th October. I doubt I will be able to read for 24 hours solid, but it is a good excuse to hit my TBR pile with a vengeance!

Pop to the website for more info and let me know if you are taking part!

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Indigo (2012)

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. 
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. 
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

This was actually a reread for me, but I see thanks to my new handy AZ Reviews tab, I have not actually reviewed it before. Whoops.

When I bought this as the original UK title "The Gathering Dark", I had no idea that I was actually reading the much-lauded Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo until I had put the book down and actually Googled it.

The awesome part in this was that I had zero expectations, And I mean absolutely NONE. I assumed I was reading some random, obscure novel that ended up on a clearance shelf due to poor sales.

Well, that is probably one of the best approaches one could take to reading a book. Expect nothing and you will get everything!

Alina, our heroine, is feisty and knows how to stand on her own two feet. She is no simpering Mary Sue and I loved that she grows in the book and knows her own weaknesses,

There is romance, but it is handles a little differently in a sense. I won't say much else, other than it was not the driving force in the plot and the story is strong without it.

What I really loved was how cleverly Leigh Bardugo created her world from existing cultures. The familiarity of the Russian influence is almost comforting. But, her own elements were unique and I felt like I was reading something entirely new and fresh at the same time. The result is this curious blend of history and fantasy that is memorable and engrossing.

My only real criticism is that I felt a lot more could have been done. Secondary characters could have been expanded upon and Alina's rivarly with one of her fellow students could have been dealt with in more detail. Sometimes, I felt that the potential of certain scenes and characters were not fully tapped into.

All in all, this is a keeper and I am already busy with the second in the trilogy, Seige and Storm.

Reccomended for fans of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Summer TBR Pile

Hi there!

So I have been a dreadfully bad blogger of late. I know.

But summer is here, Christmas vacation is around the corner and I am excited to work my way through my ever-growing TBR pile and find my next potential favorite novel!

What's on the pile:

  • Tease by Amanda Maciel

  • Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephanie Perkins

  • Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

  • Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

  • Fire and Flood by Veronica Scott

  • Mila 2.0: Renegade by Debra Driza

  • The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

  • Legend trilogy by Marie Lu

  • Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

And obviously this will chop and change!

I alos have some rereads planned:

  • Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy

  • The Hunger Games Trilogy

  • Divergent Trilogy

  • Vampire Academy series

So what do you guys think? What should I read first?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Usbourne Publishing (Jan 2014 - Dec 2010 in the US)

Anna has everything figured out - she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere... Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.
But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Etienne, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he’s taken – and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-missed end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?
Oh wow, a review! I know I have been slacking but I do sadly have a full-time job that fuels my book addiction.

I have had no desire to read this series (Anna is the first) but then I saw the gorgeous UK covers and was tempted into buying this one and the second, Lola and the Boy Next Door.

When I started this, I had no idea it would result in me simply not sleeping until the book was done. 

It is cute, funny and believable with fun, memorable characters. I actually wish this series will be the next YA novels to make it to the big screen, as I think it would translate really well.

I do not want to say much else. If you are a fan of Sarah Dessen and similar reads, pick this one up and then go buy the other two!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Young, Gifted and Dead (St. Judes Academy #1)

Title: Young, Gifted and Dead
Author: Lucy Carver
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (Oct 2013)

You can’t get into St Jude’s Academy unless you’re gifted, talented and supremely rich. New girl Alyssa is on a scholarship and feels like an outsider - she's not even that smart, apart from her photographic memory (and that's cheating, right?).  
Then one day her room-mate Lily is found floating face down in the lake. It looks like suicide, but, torn apart with guilt and grief, Alyssa is convinced that things aren't as they seem. Soon a jolted memory puts her on the trail of a sinister secret that might hold the clues to Lily's suspicious death. But Alyssa is in too deep, and she's being watched...
I received review copies of both this title and the sequel Killing You Softly. This in no way influences the opinions expressed on this blog. A big thank you to Pan Macmillan for being so supportive of us local bloggers!

This is not my usual fare, but I really enjoyed the mystery and the quirky narrative style of Alyssa. Set in a hoity-toity British boarding school, I enjoyed the change from the usual US high school settings of most contemporary YAs and found it easy to relate to. Of course, I have been to England and worked at a similar boarding school. It was not hard to picture everything!

Firstly, Alyssa must play the role of sleuth in uncovering the mysterious death of her friend. It helps that she can remember everything that happens around her! She must deal with other kids who have their own agendas and figure out what was going on in Lily's life as the girl has secrets of her own!

This brings the reader into contact with an interesting cast of characters!

One thing that was lacking was a meaningful romance. I find that romance is forced in YA these days and, while this book is not the exception to that, it has more than enough going on besides that to keep readers interested and playing sleuth themselves.

I am glad these is another in the series and I hope that Alyssa grows as a character.

This is great for fans of Pretty Little Liars and the Lying Game!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Bone Season
Author: Samantha Shannon
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2013)

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds.Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army. 
Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives. (Off  
I have been caught up in the hype surrounding this book, the first of a series. I waited ever so patiently to purchase a mass-market paperback copy as I don't enjoy the heavy trade paperbacks and find they take up waaaaay to much precious shelf space.

I didn't tuck into Bone Season right away, rather letting it mellow on my shelf for a few weeks. I felt that, if this book met the hype, I wanted to really savour the experience of reading it for the first time.

Well, Bone Season certainly was worth setting aside the time for.

Firstly, the author is a master at building a concrete world for her characters to have their adventures in. It is fresh and I loved the clairvoyance concept.

Paige is a strong-willed main character who follows in the wake of Katniss and Tris. She is capable and does not rely on anyone else to save her. I love this and we need more heroines like her in YA.

And, yes, this is YA. I have to go off track here on a bit of a tangent. Most of you know I live in South Africa, where we are somewhat less exposed to global hype surrounding books. As far as I am aware, this is a Young Adult novel that could be crossed over into the Adult section of bookstores. However, your average adult reader is NOT going to pick this one up unless they already love Hunger Games et al.

So why, for the love of all that is good, is this shelved as Adult Fiction? Is it any surprise that most bookstores only stock one or two copies if that? Of course the book is not going to sell unless it is correctly merchandised! I do not know why, but it seems to be across all bookstores. Perhaps it has been incorrectly merchandised on the system or incorrectly marketed. Either way, shelve this in YA and I am sure the sales of this title will rise dramatically!

I love The Bone Season so much that I feel as if it is being done an injustice. Merchandising is everything.

So, please do get a copy of this if you love the other titles I have mentioned here. It is something new that does not rely on romantic tropes to carry the plot through. It has a brave heroine and a great, well-conceived world. Just do it. Read it. And thank me later. :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Much Needed Update (and This Weeks' Book Haul)

Hi everyone!

Yes, I know I have been a very bad blogger. But there has been a lot things happening behind the scenes this month that means big things for Paranormalsphere!

Firstly, I am bringing on board a friend of mine, Nandi, who will be assisting in writing reviews of the massive stockpile of books I have managed to accumulate over the past few years. Nandi is a big bookworm herself and we spent many happy hours when we were younger reading in each other's company.

In doing this, I hope that we will be able to provide a constant, fresh stream of reviews of current, upcoming as well as classic novels.

Because of this, I have decided to dedicate more to an old project of mine. Springboeke was created last year to generate more awareness of South African literature. This fell to the wayside due to a lack of time to actually sit down and read and review current literature. Any local stuff just ended up being posted on here instead.

So if you are a local publisher or author looking to get more exposure, please do contact me regarding this! I know Springboeke can amount to great things and I have big plans for it with Nandi's help! Between the two us, there is no genre we won't read.

I am also in talks with Skoobs Theatre of Books to see if we can't get up a blogger networking evening. This is all to raise awareness of bloggers and possibly get some new names on board.

And, being the compulsive book buyer I am, I got the following books over this past weekend:
  • The Hobbit  - JRR Tolkien
  • The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  • Mila 2.0: Renegade - Debra Driza
  • ARC of One Kick - Chelsea Cain
  • The Drowning - Rachel Ward
  • Blood Red Road - Moira Young
I have also pulled the following from by TBR pile for review:
  • Mila 2.0 (reread for the sequel)
  • Shadows by Ilsa J Bick
  • Monsters by Ilsa J Bick
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
  • City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
  • Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott
  • Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu
So more than enough to keep me busy!

Nandi also has a hefty pile to get through:
  • Easy by Tammara Webber
  • Time Between Us by Tamara Island Stone
  • Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
  • You Don't Know Me by Sophie Bennett
  • Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Riot by Sarah Mussi
  • Banished by Liz de Jager
So lots coming up this August!

Please do get in touch with us with any suggestions. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Q & A with Greg Lazarus - Authors of Paradise

In the wake of the launch of their new collaborative effort as Greg Lazarus, Paradise, Paranormalsphere had the opportunity to ask local authors Lisa Lazarus and Greg Fried a few questions.

The gorgeous cover of the local edition of Paradise.

Your books have a very international flavour, it occurs to me that a reader from anywhere in the world would instantly identify with your characters, and love what they get up to. Why do you think your characters are so real?
Lisa: Thank you. We like our characters to get themselves into tricky situations that don’t always make them happy. Trying to carve out a little patch of satisfaction in hard circumstances seems like a challenge that resonates with many people.

Greg: We know a character is working if we start talking about her like she’s real, as if she’s our friend or enemy or frenemy or whatever.

You have said that you don't fight when you write together. So what happens when you're not writing?
Lisa: When we’re not writing, we’re arguing about who must look after the kids.

But we’re very pleased we fought a lot after having our first child, because it provided the stimulus for our first book, a memoir called The Book of Jacob, which was about our experience of having a child.

As our children started growing up, our books became lighter. Our first novel, When in Broad Daylight I Open my Eyes, is about a tortured psychologist who meets a strange philosopher – it’s a psychological thriller. I was pregnant when I co-wrote that book so no wonder. Paradise is lighter, funnier – a hopeful look at the world – and guess what, our kids are older, and our lives are slightly more settled.

Greg: But there are limits. Our books will never become serene, because we are not calm.

What do your families think of your books?
Lisa: I don’t think Greg’s mother enjoyed When in Broad Daylight – there was too much perverted sex. However, my parents seemed to like it a lot. They talk wistfully about its contents.

Greg: Yes, we based our characters on Lisa’s parents.

Your novels effortlessly straddle literary and commercial. Do you do that on purpose or is it an accident?
Lisa: Effortlessly!? Nothing is effortless when it comes to writing.

Greg: We love elegantly written, insightful novels that are easy to read. We keep trying to write one.

What are the top things you love about the South African literary scene?
Lisa: Going out for a drink with writer friends and discussing scandalously inappropriate things, and then berating oneself the next day for admitting to something strange, like enjoying gay male erotica (come on: the guys look good in it!).

Greg: I didn’t know you enjoyed that.

Thanks you very much for you time and the all the best with Paradise on our shores and across the pond!

The authors (photo from Books LIVE)

Greg is a philosopher at the University of Cape Town, and holds a PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge. Before taking up a post in philosophy, he worked as an IT consultant and business writer.

Lisa is a psychologist and freelance writer. She has Master’s degrees in educational psychology and creative writing, and a higher diploma in education. She has written for publications including Men’s Health, Femina, Shape, Cosmopolitan, Cape Town’s Child, Psychologies, and Mail & Guardian. Lisa tutors Magazine Journalism and Memoir Writing for SA Writers’ College.

The couple have co-written the memoir THE BOOK OF JACOB: A JOURNEY INTO PARENTHOOD (Oshun,2009) and the novel WHEN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT I OPEN MY EYES (Kwela,2012).

The new Greg Lazarus novel Paradise is out now.  It’s part art heist, part comedy, part adult coming-of-age.

About Paradise:

Maja Jellema is in Cape Town to do what she does best – steal. Her new employer wants a certain item from a building in Loop Street, and the only thing that stands between Maja and her prize is Hershel Bloch, the bumbling building manager. But what seems like the easiest job Maja has ever seen is about to get a whole lot more complicated . . .

Will Maja be able to finish the  job in time to save her no-good brother from large Dutch men with no sense of humour?

Can Hersh turn his topsy-turvy world around before he gets fired from Black Enterprises for being the worst estate agent in the history of the universe?

Will Surita finally make peace with her father and stop using her judo skills on people who just want to hug her?

Can the rage-filled waitresses at The People’s Republic – the greatest socialist coffee shop in all of Cape Town – produce even one cup of coffee without backchat?

Only time will tell. And it’s running out.

“Fast-paced and slickly written, it is both an uproarious comedy about lawlessness and a serious allegory about bondage. Greg Lazarus once again presents a cast of engaging, believable characters, not least of whom is the adorable klutz, Hershel Bloch.” - Finaula Dowling

“Laced with perfectly pitched black humour, and is populated with brilliantly drawn and unforgettable characters.” - Sarah Lotz

Broken Monsters Launch at Exclusive Books Sandton City

I have had the worst luck when it comes to attending Lauren Beukes' book launches. I almost missed this one too, as I only found out the day before thanks to following the publisher, Umuzi on Facebook.

I must say here that Lauren Beukes is absolutely making waves for South African fiction on foreign shores. She is a specialist in crossover genres, mixing the everyday with the macabre. I have been a fan of hers since Moxyland and have obsessively followed her progress and successes since 2008. It has been amazing watching her emerge as a writer and also inspiring for a dreamer like myself.

The launch was held at Exclusive Books Sandton City. They had an impressive collection of Broken Monsters and Lauren's earlier title, The Shining Girls, on display in anticipation of eager fans wanting to purchase and get their books signed.

I arrived early, as I was expecting a good turnout. I wanted to make sure I could meet Lauren and get my collection signed, as any good fangirl would do!

The catering service did a sterling job of providing food for everyone. While we waited I sampled red velvet cupcakes, the most amazing tomato and leek soup and a Thai curry served in cute little containers.

I also got ahead of the queue and asked Lauren to sign my books while we waited for the start. She is so down to earth and approachable. It was wonderful to meet her and have a chat. I even left my marker with her which I had bought especially for the signing as I believe no ballpoint pens should touch the pages of my precious books!

Ben Williams from Sunday Times hosted the discussion. He brought his knowledge of Lauren's work to the table, as well as a wonderful lighthearted manner which lead to an engaging discussion. Naturally, the focus was on Broken Monsters and the creative process behind the book. They touched on the setting of the novel, Detroit, and Lauren commented that it basically is Hillbrow. They spoke about taxidermy, child predators and the human condition. Ben also asked Lauren about writing sex scenes and we got a hint that one of the ideas she is pitching will have even more sex in it! And, of course, murder.

I was fortunate to get to ask Lauren if she had any idea how things would turn out pre-Moxyland. Lauren said that she actually expected success right from the start, but that she is glad things didn't turn out that way as she became a better writer in the process.

 It was a wonderful experience and so inspiring. Now I just need to get tucked into Broken Monsters!

 About Broken Monsters

Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. She’s seen stupidity, corruption and just plain badness. But she’s never seen anything like this.

Clayton Broom is a failed artist, and a broken man. Life destroyed his plans, so he’s found new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city.  And home to a killer who wants to make you whole again…

Out now in South Africa for R200 (reccomended retail price), 31st July in the UK and 16th September in the USA, Broken Monsters is the dark new thriller from the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling The Shining Girls.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fostering a Blogging and Reviewing Mindset in South Africa

So this article was published yesterday which references an article in the M&G and created a nice bit of discussion in Facebook which has prompted me to get my thoughts out and send them into the void. Basically, the debate revolves around the reviewing culture in South Africa and that there simply is not enough reviewing going on.

As others have pointed out, the writer of this article does raise some valid pints, but his point of view is very linear. Would my humble YA blog, for example, count? Should reviewers only promote local books or reading in general?

There are passionate book lovers in South Africa and many of them run blogs similar to this one. What they have observed is that the majority of hits come from outside our shores.

Here are the pageview stats of this blog in the past month:

United States
South Africa
United Kingdom

It is clear that my audience from the US is nearly double that of my SA audience and I do very little marketing that side outside of Goodreads.

Why is this? Firstly, no one quite does fanaticism like the Americans. They live and breathe their passions and have a massive book blogging community. They shout their fandoms from the rooftops!

Plus they have midnight launches of popular titles, blog tours, cover reveals and are literally on the cutting edge of what is happening in the publishing world. They host tons of giveaways and have ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) coming out of their ears. In fact, many bloggers have so many books for review, they end up having giveaways simply to clear space on their shelves. Now that is a problem I would love to have.

The problem, I believe is not that we in South Africa are not reviewing books. Or that we simply do not have that mentality. I believe the problem lies deeper than that.

We need to address the matter from a grassroots level. I personally feel very disconnected from the international blogging scene. I have very little access to giveaways and am fortunate to get one ARC a year. Often, by the time a popular title comes out in SA, it has already been out for a month or more overseas, enough time for the international audience to latch on and review and do all the work in terms of generating public opinion.

Plus, new releases are usually in the trade paperback or hardcover formats. So if I was to keep up to date and post relevant reviews of bestsellers, I must brace myself for shelling out R250 plus for a title. This results in my blog always been a little behind the global trends. This is not a complaint, mind you. Simply an observation. Books have become somewhat of a luxury in this economic climate.

Having said that, I can look at a shining example of where getting ARC's and support from publishers have helped the blogging community. I was one of the proud folks to receive an ARC of The Three by Sarah Lotz. My review was up a week before the actual publication and also appeared on Women24. Not only was I rewteeted by the author, the INTERNATIONAL publisher retweeted me as well. This did wonders for my Twitter activity and blog traffic. Why? Because I was able to review something pre-publication when the public interest was hot.

But that is just one aspect. I do get review copies from publishers. In fact, they have been amazing lately in terms of supporting bloggers and reviewers! This is a very important part of creating interest in reviews and reading in general and I thank all the publishers for this! Thank you! Whenever I get new books from publishers for review, they are usually mentioned on twitter, on a blog post and I always take a photo of the books too as they always have such gorgeous covers. Thus, great exposure before I even crack open the spine.

But, how do we expand the reach of reviews we write? I have some ideas.
  1. Have a review board in every bookshop where reviews can be posted and swapped around each week. Not just reviews from the booksellers themselves, but from the reader on the street. Provide opportunties for readers to voice their opinions on an easy platform.
  2. Bookshops can have a WhatsApp / Twitter handle where people in the shop can send quick, 140 character reviews of a book referencing a specific code. "Like this book? Tweet us your thoughts with #codehere"
  3. Exclusive Books had the ingenious idea of getting teens to review books by offering them a monthly prize in the form of a voucher. Brilliant! This gets kids reviewing and generates reviews on their otherwise review-sparse website. Plus reviews from the target audience are a lot more relevant than some 30 year-old blogger's opinion. Yes, that would be me.
  4. Bring back newspaper reviews in all forms of publications. Not just what the editor thinks is good but what the reader loves! And not just bestsellers that anyone can find in the bookstore's Top 10. Think outside the scope of what everyone else says we should be reading.
  5. Bloggers with established audiences can get non-bloggers to try their hand at blogging by writing guest reviews on books they themselves either don't have time to read or are outside of their interests (hey, if you're willing, pop me a line!).
  6. Bloggers themselves should network more. Go to bookshops and drink coffee and talk raucously about their favorite books within earshot of others. Do non-bloggers actively read blogs? How else can we gather interest outside of our usual communities?
The responsibility is in the hands of the publisher, blogger, reviewer and reader.

There is a guy on the streets of Johannesburg who offers up reviews and sells his books for small change. I am sure you have heard of him. We need more people like that who are not afraid to wave the banner for books they love. And we need to stop looking down on people who do not read "acceptable" books with "real literary value". If you love Twilight, why should you not be proud? At least you are reading and that is more than a lot of the country is doing.

So, there is my two cents on the matter. Drop me comments with your thoughts and ideas. I look forward to hearing from you!

Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Director: Josh Boone
Studio: Temple Hill Entertainment

I am always wary when seeing a film based off one of my favorite novels. There is so much that could go wrong. But I was so excited, I coughed up the R122 (including popcorn and coke) and treated myself to a movie night. I also went by myself, as I knew there would be tears involved.

Before I break this down into the Good, Bad and Ugly, a warning. I will be cross-referring the movie and the book so a BIG SPOILER ALERT if you haven't read or seen either.

The Good
  • The dialogue was faithful to the characters, a lot taken verbatim from the novel. I loved this touch, as it was really like the book had come to life.
  • Shailene Woodley clearly got the character of Hazel and captured her well for the most part. I saw no traces of Tris, another popular YA character from the book and film Divergent. She was suitably emotional and angry and sad. I loved her as Hazel.
  • Willem Dafoe was brilliant as van Houten. I couldn't believe that it was him at first, as he looked so different to his usual self. His dry delivery of lines and his whole demeanor was spot on.
  • Laura Dern as Hazel's mom. I remember her from Jurassic Park and am sad she hasn't done a lot of mainstream stuff since. She really did a great job capturing all the emotions and conveying them with a special maternal warmth. Loved her.
  • The little speech bubbles and the scene overlays to illustrate tests and e-mails.
The Bad
  • Ansel Elgort was not how I pictured Gus. And I know it has been said before, but he was Shailene Woodley's brother in Divergent. Perhaps if this had been released first, I would have been comfortable seeing them in different roles.He did get Gus's bouncy personality, but his delivery of lives sometimes came across as overly saccharine. Maybe he was also simply outshone by Shailene.
  • The soundtrack just didn't work for me. I expected sweeping, emotional songs and score and it was, frankly unmemorable. I did not walk out of the cinema feeling like I wanted to buy the soundtrack NOW.
  • Where was Hazel's scar from her surgery? and surely during the sexy scene, she would have had more scarring because of the drains and other procedures?
  • I wanted more of Isaac. I also wanted more of the Price of Dawn banter and Hazel's reaction to that.
  • I also wanted Hazel to meet with her friend at the mall, as that shows a glimpse of Hazel pre-cancer and how it affected her relationships with people. There was a lot left out in that sense that I felt could have bettered the characters on screen. Like why no mention of Gus' ex?
The Ugly
  • Honestly, there was nothing screamingly bad that stood out. So, yay TFIOS Movie Edition!
I loved this. Criticism aside, they did the best job possible with the film in keeping it faithful to the characters.

Folks who have not read the book can comfortably see the film. Even more so after my spoilertastic review! Yay! One of my colleagues, a tough guy in his fifties, was raving about it. So it does have a universal appeal.

As a side note, I know I am older than the target audience for this role when I found myself admiring Hazel's dad over Gus.

This is Sam Tramell, better known for his role in True Blood as Sam Merlotte. *clears throat* Okay.

    Monday, June 23, 2014

    Brithday Book Purchases

    So I turned 30 last week. Yay! I am embracing the dirty thirties and refuse to act older at the same time!

    Because it is not "right" for 30 year olds to read and love YA outside of Harry Potter. Whatever. I wave my YA banner high and with pride!

    I spoiled myself a lot this week, but also got some nice book vouchers from my wonderful friends. This is what I bought:

    Prodigy and Champion - Marie Lu

    Woohoo, I have the complete set! I loved Legend and and super excited to wrap this trilogy up!

    City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare

    I has it! The final book in The Mortal Instruments! It's super thick and I need to read books 4 and 5 but I will get there! I just had to get it and complete my collection.

    Splintered - AG Howard

    I am totally judging this one by this gorgeous cover! As it is by a lesser-known publisher, I was not expecting to find it in SA. If you are looking for a copy of this Alice in Wonderland tribute novel, hit up your local Reader's Warehouse. They have it for R79.

    The Waking Dark - Robin Wasserman

     I enjoy Robin Wasserman's writing and this was an absolute steal at R59 at Reader's Warehouse! Zombies!

    The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon

    I have been so, so excited about reading The Bone Season, but patiently waited for it to come out in a smaller format. Granted, it set me back R180 anyway, but totally worth it. And a nod to Bloomsbury for the stunning quality of the binding of this. It's top-notch and feels solid in my greedy little reader paws. I have been popping into bookstores for weeks hoping to find this and now I have it! Mine!

    The Fiery Heart - Richelle Mead

    I am a die-hard fan of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines. Really, I have no excuse for purchasing this so late. I am actually rereading the previous book in the series to prepare for this! Adrian POV!

    City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

    This book has been quite hyped by the book community and I love the concept. I put off buying it as it's hefty price tag (R220 for a normal paperback) seemed a little steep. But I had the vouchers and sucked it up and am really looking forward to picking it up. It also strikes me as a great read for a wintery evening.

    Fire and Flood - Victoria Scott

    Completely spontaneous purchase. I get that it will be similar to The Hunger Games, but I am looking forward to reading it and getting my own opinion. Plus the cover is gorgeous!

    I haven't been so excited about a book haul in AGES. I really hope these great titles will get me out of my reading slump.

    Any interesting book purchases over your weekends, folks?

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    The Fault in Our Stars: My Thoughts Before the Film is Released

    If you haven't heard about The Fault in Our Stars, duck your head out from under that rock and go grab yourself a copy of this amazing book.

    I reread TFIOS (as it is known by fans and follow bloggers) last week and I was so overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings that I really wanted to to express them. It warranted a blog post, I felt. People must know!

    But first, a little background is required. Cancer sucks. It has particularly touched my world lately. Three people in my life lost their battle to cancer this year alone. I have had several family members pass away as well of various forms of the disease over the years. It just seems like everywhere you look, cancer is staring you in the face.

    TFIOS deals with cancer. It deals with living with cancer and the imminent sense loss cancer brings. But it shines with optimism and hope in spite of this. For me, one of the most poignant messages is that life is short and we should live every day to its full worth. A cancer diagnosis is not the final chapter in life. Like Hazel discovers, there are experiences worth having and people who want to share in those experiences.

    After setting the book down, feeling quite shattered, I wondered if I could last through the film. It is just too close to home right now. But then I realized that is exactly why I should see it. Why everyone who is mourning the loss of a loved one should see it. Or read the book. Read the book first!

    It will break your heart, but in doing so it will also provide some sort of comfort and understanding too. Those who have not had cancer cannot know what it is like. Hazel's quirky narrative, which I hope will come through in the film, gives an often flippant look at cancer and how people with cancer are perceived by others.

    In this day and age where cancer is so commonplace, can we really afford not to open ourselves up to experiences such as TFIOS offers? There are also other books that should be read. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is one obvious example. Fiction provides a very gentle means of dealing with reality.

    What I am trying to say with this post is go read the book. See the movie. Cry. Get angry at cancer. Cry some more.

    Some TFIOS quotes that perfectly capture the book:
    • “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
    • “What a slut time is. She screws everybody.”  
    • "If the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
    • “Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”
    • “It seemed like forever ago, like we've had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”  
     I hope I have inspired someone out there not to be afraid. Never be afraid of grieving for fictional characters for isn't that ultimately the purpose of their creation at the end of the day? To help teach us about the nature of loss and how to cope with our own.

    Monday, June 9, 2014

    Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

    Title: Easy
    Author: Tammara Webber
    Publisher: Penguin (2012)

    Rescued by a stranger.
    Haunted by a secret
    Sometimes, love isn't easy...

    He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior...
    The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he'd worked so hard to overcome, and the future she'd put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

    Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth - and find the unexpected power of love.

    A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl's struggle to regain the trust she's lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy (from Goodreads).

    Sometimes I am just really in the mood for a soppy, emotional read. I had heard good things about Easy but had very little clue what it was actually about. Let me state right here that something going into a book completely ignorant is the best way as you allow the book and the characters to surprise you. Because of this, I am going to try not to go into too much detail as I really want you to have the same experience I did with this book.

    I also didn't realize that Easy is actually classified at New Adult, which would make this my first official New Adult review!

    Right, so I started this last night and flew through it, finally putting the completed book down just before midnight. What a freaking ride! There are characters worth loving and characters you want to beat into a pulp. There are wild emotions and gorgeous sexy moments that will leave the more prudish reader feeling a little hot and bothered.

    If Sarah Dessen had to write something for the NA market, I imagine it would be something like this. And that is saying something as I am a HUGE Sarah Dessen fan.

    I loved this book. It is worth every single moment and I know that I will be revisiting it at some stage.

    Do pick this up! But remember that it is not a suitable read for younger readers, even though it gets stuck in the YA section in most bookstores!

    Monday, May 19, 2014

    Some 2014 YA Releases on My TBR Pile

    So I am super excited to get stuck into some new releases this month! Expect a stream of reviews from me on the blog. It seems rereading an old fave (namely harry Potter) has kicked me back into a reading mood.

    What exactly have I got lined up to read?

    1. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

    This one looks like a refreshing contemp about a girl who writes letters to dead celebrities in order to cope with events going on her life. I expect tears and sadness, but am looking forward to it!

    2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

    *claps hands* The final book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series! YAY!

    3. Cress by Marissa Meyer

    I first have to read Scarlet. And I will, as I hear good things about the rest of this series! If you haven't discovered Cinder yet, I highly recommend it.

    4. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

    I haven't read anything by Jenny Han before, but I really like the idea of this. Imagine if all your crushes found out about your feelings all at the same time?

    5. What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

    I picked this contemp for the cover alone. And I am really missing reading something along the lines of  Sarah Dessen juicy.

    6. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

    This book has a Prom Queen Paladin in it. Enough said.

    7. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

    Completely taking the YA blogging world by storm, this is a look at what happened in Oz after the events of The Wizard of Oz.

    8. Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

    The cover is completely gorgeous and I adore anything futuristic.

    9. The Taking by Kimberly Derting

    What if the life you are living is not your own? Man, Kimberly Derting can tell a good story. Really looking forward to this.

    10. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

    A historical YA following the fictional story of Adolf Hitler's niece. I imagine this will be 2014's Rose Under Fire. It is great that new books are being published on these topics, giving new generations an opportunity to learn about the past.

    11. Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

    A psychological thriller following London's "Perfect Killer" and the rules and choices she makes.

    So... what new releases are you guys excited about getting stuck into?