Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)
Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury (August 2013)

I have decided to leave off the blurb for this review because of potentially spoiling Throne of Glass, the first book in this series.

Crown of Midnight basically kicks off shortly after the events of ToG and it really felt like one of those books that was written simply to set up book 3 in the series. There was a lot of fluff in between the revelations that made my attention wander, which is a great pity because Sarah J Maas is still one of my favorite authors.

But, let's be honest here. ToG was a tough act to follow and CoM has a very different vibe to it anyway.

I really did enjoy the slow development of the romantic plotline. The sexual tension was almost palpable in parts. I am also so crazy-fond of these characters that I can overlook the fluffy parts and keep going just to spend time in this world.

Having said that, I have just started book 3 and it's a cracker. So ignore the niggles with this book and read it to get to book 3! Because this series really kicks into high gear!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Opinion: On the Path to Feminine - How I Kickstarted my Girlification

It may sound crazy to some, but one of the hardest things I have had to accept is that at some point in my life I was am going to have to start caring how I look.

Perhaps I need to put all this into perspective for it to make sense.

Growing up, I was always a bit of a tom-boy. And by "a bit" what I really mean that I was super envious of boys. They had the best clothes, the best toys and seemingly more freedom in terms of what activities were considered "acceptable" by society. My poor mother was always trying to force me into some dress or frilly thing and the result was usually tears and me sulking in a corner longing for my SpaceJam t-shirt and shorts.

Said shirt was similar to this, but more awesome.

As a result, I had started to reject the idea of things I perceived as "feminine". I didn't want to be a typical girl and prance around in pretty dresses and have my hair done up all pretty. To add insult to injury, I developed a chronic nail-biting habit that followed me well into adulthood.

I just did not care and it felt liberating. It was a rare slice of defiance in my otherwise go-with-the-flow childhood.

Then puberty hit like a hurricane, leaving me feeling like the ugly ducking a sea of relatively image-obsessed girls. The pair of glasses I wore during this awkward phase were the kind that tinted in sunlight. The epitome of dorkdom everywhere. I thought that getting highlights would somehow make myself cooler and I realized that it was actually easier to be as unnoticeable as possible.

This worked well for the most part and I enjoyed the relative peace being unspectacular brought me. I read my books and got my kicks riding horses. Fitting in was never a key factor in my agenda.

This continued until my mid-twenties until I hit the corporate world and quickly realized that suddenly I had to start caring about what I looked like. I started grabbing desperately at the advice of others, mashing it together to form a version of myself that I was never entirely pleased with but assumed others were.

Unfortunately, I hadn't really considered my own identity and if who I wanted to ultimately be reflected what I looked like and how others perceived me. Let's face it, it's a pretty big deal when you are trying to not only figure out who you are but want to keep your self-respect in tact at the same time.

Towards the end of last year, I made the insane decision to cut off my hair. My hairdresser took a pair of clippers to my sides and back with much glee and gave me a textured fringe that, if styled indelicately, could look a little boyish. A few months later I had some highlights put in and suddenly I had a hairstyle that absolutely felt like me.

I couldn't keep dressing how I was, however. The hoodies, jeans and t-shirts combined with my new hair was a recipe for mistaken sexual orientation if ever there was one. I mean, I like P!nk, but I didn't LIKE like P!nk, you know?

I started to buy dresses. Good God, not the kind with frills and lace! Let's keep things real. I found decent, functional dresses that could be dressed up or dressed down and I found that I really, really liked wearing them. Because I had chosen them! How strange.

I started to grow up my nails with the help of Pink Armour and now keep them painted in some hue of pink / purple / blue. Once the length started coming in, a strange thing started happening. I started to not only use my hands more when I talked, but also caught myself admiring my hands and how PRETTY they suddenly were.

I was starting to feel... girly. And I liked it. A lot.

The one defining thing with this whole process was that it had all happened on my terms and my self-confidence is at record-breaking levels. And I realized there were ways and means to achieve this and still be myself at the end of the day. I could look good and STILL be my geeky self! Who knew?

Here is a list of my very basic beauty habits that have helped me. They might be logical, but they bear mentioning.

  • I use a loofah on my face without soap in the shower every evening to clear off dead skin and remove oil. Soaps can often cause more problems than they are worth, so I have been avoiding them (and acne) for the past three years. This is totally contrary to what the general thought is, but it's worked for me
  • I do regular maintenance of my eyebrows. Nobody like the Groucho Marx vibes! I pluck the tapered area under the brow to open my eyes up more and generally keep the shape neat and tidy. I discourage overplucking as this makes one look perpetually surprised. Also invest in good tweezers. Your follicles will thank you
  • Gym is now a part of my routine and seeing the results of my hard work has been such a confidence booster. Sweating also helps keep my skin nice and clear
  • A touch of make-up goes a long way. Don't coat the stuff on, but some eyeliner and a hint of lipstick makes the world of difference
  • Wear perfume. If you smell good you will feel good!
  • Don't be afraid to try new clothes, as you might find them to be more flattering than your current wardrobe and hide those part you find less desirable
  • Pore strips are your friends
Just be yourself and don't let past conceptions affect current choices!

Theatre: Queen: It's a Kinda Magic

I was privileged enough to attend the opening night of the epic Queen tribute show, It's a Kinda Magic, at Joburg Theatre last night.

I am a huge fan of Queen and some of my earliest memories related to music are associated with them. I remember when my parents broke the news about Freddie Mercury's death and how heartbroken I was. My seven year old self had big dreams of meeting the band one day.

I knew that, along with iconic bands like Nirvana, I would never be able to see Queen live and had come to terms with that, instead watching and rewatching music videos and their brilliant performances at Wembley Stadium and Live Aid.

When I heard about this show, I was cautiously excited. It takes a singer with real chutzpah to try and sing a Queen song let alone do justice to their legacy.

Bearing in mind I had also seen We Will Rock You when the international cast toured a good decade or more back. I had that experience in mind, as the vocalists honestly were not fantastic, though I did love the show overall.

Basically, Giles Taylor had pretty big shoes to fill.

While the first song was a little shaky due to sound issues, Taylor quickly hit his stride and I was completely drawn in. At times, his voice and inflections were so close to Freddie that it was almost easy to forget we weren't in 1985 seeing the master himself perform. And the show was staged perfectly, with the lighting and overall feel of a Queen performance in their heyday.

There is a lot of engagement with the audience and I spent a lot of the show on my feet clapping my hands like a maniac. It initially felt a little out of place in a theatre environment, but the audience soon forgot themselves and became part of the show themselves.

I am not going to give any spoilers regarding their setlist, bust rest assured all the favorites and a few surprises are there.

Queen: It's a Kinda Magic is worth watching and runs until the 7th February 2016 so grab your tickets now.

Ticket prices range from R160 - R200 and can be purchased here.

The Theatre does has a restaurant, Stages, which is very reasonably priced and drinks and snacks are available during intermission. There is also some awesome merchandise available for purchase.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Giveaway: Scarred by Joanne Macgregor

Welcome to the first giveaway post of 2016!

Local author Joanne Macgregor has kindly donated a PHYSICAL copy of her latest release, Scarred.

About the Book
"Life leaves you scarred. Love can make you beautiful." 

Seventeen year-old Sloane Munster is trying to reboot her life after a serious car accident left her badly scarred and emotionally traumatized.

Starting her senior year at a new school, she’s delighted to see Luke Naughton, a swimmer whom she once crushed on, in the class in front of her. But when he glares back at her with disgust and revulsion, she’s shocked and hurt, and assumes it’s because of her appearance. Despite misunderstandings, the chemistry between them sparks and love grows against a background of guilt, secrets, and mounting tensions at a school where bullying is rife and Sloane is not the most deeply scarred person.

Sharp with bittersweet humor, Scarred is an intense, beautiful, compelling story of life, death and fighting for love against all the odds.

About the Author

When not writing books, Joanne Macgregor is a Counselling Psychologist in private practice in Johannesburg, South Africa and deals mainly with victims of crime and trauma.

She started her professional life as a high school English teacher, and has also been an IT trainer, theatre dogsbody, and a “Big 4” business consultant (worst job ever!). She is a pretty good cook, which is good for her family but not for her waistline. (Goodreads Profile)

You can visit Joanne on her home on the web here.

If you would like to win a copy, leave a comment on this post with the story behind your most memorable scar.

You will get an extra bonus entry if you share this post and mention me @urbanisedgeek on Twitter.

Winners will be announced on the 31st January 2016.
Please note that this competition is only open to South African residents.

Good luck!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

click on cover to purchase

Title: Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey
Publisher: Atom Books (April 2015)

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known. 
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act. 
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it. 
But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
So I read this one a while back and totally forgot to review it.

This is one of those reads that will remind you of other books, so brace yourself for that. However, you should not be discouraged from picking this up anyway.

Melissa Grey has such an enchanting way of telling her story. I loved that her world-building was not just superficial fluff and I bought into the history of her characters.

Echo is really sassy and her interactions with the rest of the cast of characters are thoroughly entertaining.

While this does not quite match up to the glory that is A Daughter of Smoke and Bone, a book if often gets compared to, I highly recommend giving it a try for a fun weekend read.

The sequel, The Shadow Hour, is due out in July this year.
You can follow Melissa on Twitter at @meligrey.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company (USA) (September 2015)

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone... 
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.  
Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
 This is one of the best books I read in 2015. Without a doubt.

I have gotten into a monthly habit of ordering a few new releases from once a month or so as I am too impatient to wait for them to hit the local market. I suppose I could get the ebooks, but I am just not that kind of girl. I also have a huge thing for US hardcover editions because they look pretty and smell nice.

Anyway. Moving along.

Six of Crows is one of those books that was seriously hyped and came with the risk of being a huge letdown. Rest assured that this is, finally, a book worthy of all the great reviews. It is filled with a cast of awesome, unique characters, a smattering and romance and all the vibes of a fantastical version of The Italian Job (sans Mini Coopers).

I am not going to say any more as i really don't want to spoil any details.

If you are a fan of Fantasy (think Throne of Glass) then you should pick this up. I also recommend getting the US Hardcover version off Raru as it's only fractionally more expensive but is completely gorgeous with black-lined pages and quality binding.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016: The Year Ahead

Welcome to the new year everyone!

Along with some awesome personal goals to study and develop myself further, I have also resolved to focus more on my reading and the blog.

The reason for this is simple. Blogging and the opportunities it has generated for me have been some of the things have been most proud of on the past year. I also feel that in order for everything to keep thriving, I must put the time in.

I owe a lot to the great publishers and book reps who have supported me in 2015 and I will be churning out more reviews and hosting some awesome giveaways too. :)

The 2016 TBR pile
I have sorted out the books I am hoping to get through in 2016. There are 101 of them and this excludes anything I may get for review during the course of the year. There are a ton in the pile I am really keen to get started with!

Some of the TBR highlights include:

  1. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo - After reading the first book a few years ago, I was keen to wrap this series up. After reading Six of Crows, I am even more excited to get to these as that was one of my best reads last year
  2. The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas - I loved the first book and really need to get back into these as I do have all four.
  3. Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - This was one of the most raved about books in 2015 and I am really keen to get to this
  4. Queen of the Tearling - More awesome fantasy!
  5. Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raash - This was one of those random online purchases, but as this list has made quite clear, I am in a fantasy mood :D
I am also going to try not to buy books this year. I definitely have more than enough to read and also hope to save some money for studies!

So what are your goals for 2016?