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.


Attractions:


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:

Welcome!

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.